It has been a year – happy bloggiversary! Well, it was on the 5th March, anyway. I’ve been posting every week, and occasionally in between when I got particularly over-excited. I have now produced 66 posts, of varying seriousness, usefulness and quality, and now I’d like to share my amazing secrets. Please don’t get me wrong, I know that there are WAY better blogs out there, dealing in the same issues that I raise, with far more panache, from a much more educated perspective, and getting a gazillion hits a week. However, I acknowledge my own brilliance, so these are my gems of wisdom…

1) Don’t try to “represent”.

One of the biggest things I have learned through speaking to, mixing with, following online and reading about people who come under the heading of FTM, is how completely different we all are. And I mean completely. I have never met anyone who shares exactly my aims, experience and beliefs regarding transition. I try really hard to make it clear that what I say in my blog relates to me, and whilst there’s a lot of stuff FTM people have in common, it’s not fair or accurate to try to speak for them.

2) Be honest.

I’m a terrible liar, and also have a core belief so deeply-seated that it’s probably become an internal organ by now, that I have to tell the truth. This has got me into trouble on numerous occasions, but I’ve learned to work with it. Society does, after all, require a certain amount of bending of the truth and omission in order to get by without dipping oneself in the sh*t, or hurting others. Anyway, this isn’t a post about telling the truth, but I did promise myself that this blog would be truthful, and that I wouldn’t censor what I said according to who I think might be reading. That said, if I’ve been really torn over something, I’ve developed a policy of “not now but maybe later”, as it may be that later on, talking about something may be easier, or more appropriate. Which leads me to…

3) Draw your boundaries, and stick to them.

I was chatting to someone in the pub a while back, and we agreed that sometimes it is possible to say more than you are actually comfortable with about your transition, particularly given the very searching questions people ask (and my personal honesty fixation). As I put it then: “Oh god, yes, I get carried away, and the next thing I know I’m talking about my clitoris”. In writing a blog about anything, but particularly personal stuff, decide right at the beginning what you WON’T be talking about. For me, it’s what’s in my pants.

Sure, there have been times where I think that others might benefit from knowing in more detail about genital changes through testosterone use, or the different paths available regarding genital surgery (or the lack of it). I do have opinions on these things, but actually, that’s not something I feel comfortable about sharing just now, and I’ve stuck to that. I’ll certainly make reference to things when appropriate, but really feel that just because this is often one of the first questions people ask about FTM transition, that does not mean it should be the first to be answered.

4) Think carefully about the words you use (general).

Talking about anything can be a linguistic minefield. As I’ve discovered over the past year, it is easy to get things wrong. ‘Transgendered’, for instance, was a word I used to use, until I learned that that’s just not a correct term, so made sure I used ‘transgender’ from then on. It’s tempting to go back and change early posts, but after all, this is the story of a transformation, in more ways than one. I feel that each post was the product of how I was feeling, and where I was on my particular journey at the time. I also used to refer to myself as transsexual (still do under certain circumstances, but that’s a whole post of its own) but now, knowing myself better, and appreciating the connotation of that word, tend to steer clear. The word ‘trans’ works well for me when referring to myself or others, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that one word can fit all. Some use ‘trans*’ to denote an umbrella term with the possibility of a number of endings according to the individual. Just be careful that language that you use and feel fine using does not have a different meaning or context for someone else. Tricky.

5) Think carefully about the words you use (naughty).

I made the mistake, being a bit of a comedian, of entitling a post “You typed in Cute Pu**ies and got WHAT?” Only with s instead of a *. You get it. Now, this post was looking at some of the referrals that search engines have sent me. It was largely a humorous post, but also challenged the reality that often people come to my blog because they want to see an FTM pen*s or something along those lines. This would have been fine, but me using the word pu**y has meant that that post has amassed the most individual hits of any of my posts, all year. Even changing the title hasn’t made a difference. I don’t think the picture of the shocked cat, apparently caught watching po*n helped…

6) Be aware of where your pictures may end up.

I like to have a picture on my posts, and they are often of me. That’s fine, as I don’t mind people knowing what I look like, or my partner for that matter. I make sure I have her permission to publish pics of the two of us. That’s all well and good, but I do know that quite a lot of ‘random’ traffic to my blog comes via G**gle Images. Occasionally I put one of the search phrases that has been identified as leading to my blog into an image search, and there are a lot of pics of me on there. How hard I laughed when I put ‘hot ftm’ into an image search, and just a few pics down was a picture of me, topless. That didn’t weird me out too much (though I nearly cracked a rib laughing at being labelled a hot ftm) as I have chosen to put these pictures ‘out there’. Just be aware, expecially if you are stealth.

7) Stay focused.

I challenged myself to write a post a week, and most of the time, that’s been pretty easy, as the nature of transition is that there’s usually something changing/bothering you/to look forward to, plus it’s a time when you are super selfish, and therefore convinced that everything you have to say is important. Which of course it is. What also helps is deciding right at the start what you will and won’t include in your blog. I don’t mean as in point 3, so much as generally. My blog is about my transition, and related topics. It’s not about the great night out I had last night, unless that had some relation to my transition, or how I feel about badger culling. I have edged into talking about my bipolar, where I feel it’s connected to my gender identity and/or medical treatment. Apart from that, I’ve tried to stay very focused.

8) Be prepared.

At the risk of sounding like a teacher (Flashbacks! Aaaaargh!) it helps to know roughly what you’re going to write about before you start. Don’t get me wrong, I mostly start with a rough topic in mind, then write off the cuff after that. I’m not a planner. But I always like to avoid that ‘oh no, I’ve got to do a blogpost and I don’t know what to talk about’ moment. I’ve made a habit of writing things down during the week, so I always have a stash of ideas. I use the ‘notes’ section on my phone, which is full of weird, wonderful and downright stupid ideas for posts.  Just looking now, there’s “You’re history, no good to me”, “More defence than Villa” and “You have the Rights to remain silent”. These may or may not ever be used, if I can even remember what I meant. Many of you will know I’m not a good sleeper (I’m terrible in bed…) and a lot of my note making is done at 3am. What makes perfect sense then tends not to the next day. Witness my weirdest note: “Elastical”. Hmm.

9) Find an audience.

I started this blog for friends and family. Quite selfishly I figured it would be a good way to avoid having to say the same thing over and over. ‘Look at my blog, here’s the address’ probably sounds a bit pompous, but does save repetition. Use the tags facility – I’m not very good at this, but tagging your post will help bring people to your blog who are interested in a particular topic. The stuff I mentioned earlier about G**gle etc can work in your favour, as those search engine people are very clever, and will pick up key words. Just make sure it’s things like ‘ftm’ and ‘transition’ rather than ‘pu**y’, as we’ve established.

Facebook is, of course, a powerful tool, and Twitter too (did anybody hear an owl?) Publish a link to your newest post. Hopefully your FB friends and Twitter followers will be interested rather than annoyed – I suppose it depends how aggressive you are! Word will get round – I’ve bumped into ex-colleagues that I haven’t spoken to for over a year who’ve said, ‘I read your blog’. That is weird, but good. Try linking to other, similar blogs, as people often want to ‘read around’ a topic.

10) Enjoy it.

Oh, I know it’s a cliché, but there’s no point pouring your heart out if it’s not fun. There’s only been a couple of times when I felt I didn’t want to do a post, and I do get a bit stressed, wanting to write something ‘good’ (well, don’t we all?) but otherwise, I love doing this. The whole process is very therapeutic, and I like to think that for a few hundred words a week I am A Writer. Of course, it would be cool if thousands of people suddenly became terribly interested in my blog (how DOES that happen?), but that’s not why I do it. I’m terrible at keeping a diary, but this way, I can see for myself how far I’ve come, and how far I still have to travel.

I have currently had 9576 hits on my blog, with 4993 of those on the home page. I never in a million years thought I’d be looking at nearly 10,000 hits in a year. I am undecided at the moment whether to continue doing a weekly blog, or perhaps try fortnightly, to keep things fresh. My transition is at a point where nothing very dramatic is happening, and as happy as I’d be to rant about gender issues every week, I feel that would skew the focus of the blog. I’m going to see how I feel when I get to 10,000 and re-assess.

My next blog will be on Thursday 15th March, to celebrate One Year On Testosterone…my Transiversary! All 1st Birthday greetings and vegan birthday cake welcome 🙂