Category: Emotional Matters


rejectionYesterday my daughter was sweet sixteen. This is a Big Deal Birthday, if the likes of MTV are to be believed. I wasn’t invited, or involved in any of the preparation. In fact, let’s be honest, I have no idea how she celebrated her big day. I sent a present and a card, of course, but I’m not expecting her to acknowledge either. I texted in the morning to wish her a wonderful day. Unsurprisingly, I didn’t get a reply.

The last time I heard anything at all from my daughter was a year ago, when she sent a ‘Thank you’ note for her 15th birthday present. That arrived after I emailed her father to see if the gift had actually arrived. Otherwise, I suspect, the stony silence would have remained. I haven’t seen her or heard her voice since July 2011. Over the last 18 months, I can count the number of times she has replied to one of my regular texts or emails on one hand. With a couple of fingers chopped off.

Almost everyone says ‘she’ll come around’ and I am sure they are right, but that doesn’t make the silence any easier to bear. I could write a very long post detailing the searing pain that I feel every day at the thought that my daughter has chosen this path. But that much pain in one place wouldn’t help anyone, least of all me, and it would probably just make everyone feel uncomfortable.

If I had a pound for every time someone has said ‘she’s just being a teenager’, I’d be pretty rich by now. Of course, we all know that the teenage years are tricky, and I’m sure that plays a significant part in the way she has chosen to act. However, this dismisses what I, and other trans* identified parents go through when our children try to erase us from their lives. Everyone out there with a ‘tricky’ teenager, imagine for a second if that person left you for so long you cannot remember what they look like properly, who rejects all attempts at contact, and who you cannot even argue your case with, because they won’t let you that close.

Sixteen years ago, I was sat in hospital with a baby girl with eyes big enough to reflect the Universe and soft cupid lips, who proceeded to sew her heart to mine. However hard she has tried to unpick those stitches, they still remain, and always will.

 

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Those of you who know me on Facebook will recall that recently I found an unfamiliar lump in my bottom, which turned out, on bemused exploration, to be my tailbone. On this occasion I wasn’t such a hypochondriac to imagine it was anything that shouldn’t be there, plus I did learn enough in Biology lessons at school to realise that I was poking a bit of skeleton. However, the genuine shock was feeling it there at all – for the last 41 years my tailbone has stayed happily padded, tucked away from sight and general poking by a pretty generous fat layer. Which it would seem has gone. Well, substantially reduced, anyway.

Changing shape is such a bizarre thing. Those of us who take testosterone usually do so with a bit of research, and it wasn’t like I didn’t expect things to change. However, finding unexpected bits of coccyx when sitting down in the bath is a bit…well, unexpected.

Hudson’s FTM Resource Guide, a very useful resource on all things FTM, provides a good list of expected changes for someone born female-bodied taking testosterone. Of these, the Guide refers to “Migration of body fat to a more masculine pattern (i.e., fat deposits shifting from hips, thighs and buttocks to the abdomen area)” However prepared I was for this ‘migration’, though, I still can’t quite believe that it’s happening.

I should point out here that the emergence, turtle-like, of my tailbone, is due partly to testosterone, but also to weight-loss. The thing is, as my fat cells went on the march, protesting against living conditions in my thighs, hips and bum, they decided that my abdomen would be a great place to settle down. Suddenly I could actually see most of my fat, in one place, and that, my friends, is great incentive to eat less, and exercise more. Which I have, with some success.

So here I am, just over a stone and a half lighter than I was 2 years ago, with fat in way different places than it used to be, and my poor brain is having trouble keeping up. I’ve written before about struggling with self-image through the changes, and I’d reiterate what I’ve said before about still not seeing myself ‘properly’ when I look in the mirror, thanks to my brain having got far too used to me being a shape that I didn’t like. I do very much enjoy my new slim(mer) line bod, and am marvelling at being able to buy size Small clothes, and 32″ waist trousers. However, as love affairs with my body goes, I’m still definitely in the stages of being amazed this slim new Man Body is hanging out with me, rather than feeling head over heels in love with it just yet.

InterrogationI was sipping tea at the end of a meditation class, when I became aware of a conversation going on next to me between a trans* woman and one of the other group members that made me very angry. Given where I was (the local Buddhist Centre) and that the woman in question hadn’t asked for intervention, I kept my mouth shut. But that didn’t stop the steam coming not-so-gently from my ears.

The gentleman this woman was talking to had, after ‘discerning’ that she was transgender, decided it was ok to ask her a series of increasingly personal questions about her transition, right down to ‘will you be having the Full Monty?’ – his words. Over tea in the Buddhist Centre.

Now she was answering those questions, so perhaps the whole conversation was fine with her, but it did get me thinking about all the questions that people feel are really quite ok and appropriate to ask on learning that we’re trans*. I’ve asked my good buddies on Facebook to give me the questions they are most asked, so read them, weep, and make a note not to ask any of these things unless you are extremely sure of your context, and the person you are asking. And even then, consider just not bothering. Please.

1) What was your name before?

This may be totally motivated out of curiosity, but really this is never an appropriate things to ask a trans* identified person. My old name is irrelevant to your interaction with me now – why will knowing it help you to understand me better?

2) Has your sexuality changed?

Some people’s sexuality does become more fluid after transition, often because of increased confidence and comfort with their body and responses to it. Many other people carry on being turned on by exactly the same type of people they always did. Again – why ask this question? Curiosity is not a sufficient reason to pry about someone’s bedtime preferences.

3) How far are you going to go?

For a start, this implies that transition is a straightforward linear process with an exact end point, and a series of jumping off points along the way. Not true. But actually, you just wanted to ask about my genitals, didn’t you?

4) So does that mean your partner’s sexuality has changed?

This question is often wrapped up as ‘concern’ for an existing relationship. My partner’s sexuality did not just flick like a switch the day I first said ‘I’m not a woman’, but fortunately for me, her love for me triumphs over society’s more salacious expectations that we’ll fall apart as a couple over my transition. It’s just another kind of voyeurism, and if there ARE any changes/problems in a relationship like ours, due to the politics of sexuality or anything else for that matter, why on earth would I be discussing it with anyone except those in whom I choose to confide?

5)Will you have sex with me?

To be honest, if you’re asking me in this kind of context in the first place, the answer is probably no. If you want to add ‘slept with a t****y’ to your list of achievements, run away now before I hurt you. If you like the idea of sleeping with someone your own gender, but without those awkward tell-tale bits (eg: ‘it won’t make me gay because you’ve not got a penis’), sorry, but there’s professionals for that kind of thing.

6) How does your partner feel about you changing?

What do you want to hear? That everything’s brilliant, in which case, fair enough. I can appreciate that people who love us will want confirmation that “we’re ok”, but it’s an odd question coming from a stranger. Are people actually trying to find out if a couple are going through a really hard time, and maybe receive confirmation of their own that ‘transition harms relationships’? Either way, it is, quite simply, none of your business.

7) Can I have your X when it/they have been chopped off?

I know, I know, it’s a common joke when trans* people are contemplating surgery. But being common, we’ve all heard it a few hundred times, and it gets a bit tiresome. Besides, it makes what we’re going through into a cartoon situation. This is not some kind of advanced Mr Potato Head.

8) Have you always felt like a [insert chosen gender here]?

We all have very diverse internal histories when it comes to identifying as trans*. Having to explain our journey in a social setting is not what many of us want to do. As a result, a lot of us have to hand a potted one-liner to sum up the ride so far. Mine is “I knew there was something wrong, but didn’t identify what that was until I was in my 30s”. There, easy. The trouble is, that makes the psychology of transition seem over-simplified, even childlike. Besides, why exactly do you want to know what my gender identity was aged 10, 18, 27, etc…?

9) Why do you want to do this to yourself?

Well, I was bored one weekend and thought I’d spice things up a bit by questioning my gender identity, jumping through countless hoops for the medical profession, taking life-changing medication and undergoing elective surgery. Why do you think?? If there were a different way of becoming the person I know I am, I’d be doing that instead.

10) When you’ve had surgery, can I see?

Did you want to see my genitals before? Have I indicated any desire to play saucy show and tell with you? Why are you so interested now? Are you going to give me marks out of ten? Ok, sarcasm aside, it can be helpful for people considering surgery to see the results of someone else’s, but really, unless you have a vested interest in seeing what a modified body looks like, it’s not very polite to ask. There are a million pictures online. Go (go)ogle them.

11) Which way round are you going?

Surprisingly common, this one, and in a weird way it is almost a compliment. However, I’d advise that if you really can’t work out ‘which way’ someone is going, just keep quiet, use the name they’ve asked you to use, and reflect on whether it really matters for you to know.

10) Are you sure?

By the time most of us tell our family, friends and wider acquaintance of our intention to transition, we have spent endless months and years weighing up the decision. If you mean ‘are you sure you’re a man?’ well consider your own gender identity. Are you sure you are a man? A woman? Genderqueer? How do you know, and how can you be sure? I bet it’s not because of what is dangling between your legs. Of course we’re sure. Or as sure as anyone else can be about how they identify, and that’ll just have to do.

I’m sorry if this week’s post seems a little angry. I know sarcasm is the lowest form of wit, but I guess I’d rather be sarky and a touch bilious than outright furious. Because sadly, trans* identified people are subjected to questions like this all the time, all over the place, by people they have barely met as well as those who are closer to them. You might think it’s unfair of me to say ‘Don’t Ask’, because it does help to understand someone if you ask about their journey, but please, I beg of you, choose your words carefully, choose your timing, and examine your motives. Most of all, consider whether you actually need the answer to a particular question to be able to support someone on their journey. And if you’ve just met someone, it does NOT show empathy, support or acceptance if you ask intrusive questions.

Most of us will answer questions when we’re pinned in a corner, but it can be humiliating, uncomfortable and stressful, even when we still have a smile on our faces. Please consider that perhaps empathy, support and acceptance comes in NOT asking these questions.

New Year2012 was a quietly difficult year for my partner and I. Whilst there was no major drama, and nothing that was all that visible from the outside, there really weren’t many highlights or ‘ups’ to counteract the ‘downs’.  Both of us were working through a lot of personal issues, and whilst there was never any fear that our relationship would falter, there were times when we seemed to be living parallel lives rather than forming equal parts of a unit. In Will’s words, it was ‘a year of trudging’ – just keeping on going whatever happened, and hoping that we’d get there in the end.

However, we made it through, relatively unscathed, and it’s nice to look at the year ahead with a bit of hope for improvement. I was never brought up to think that things would be handed to me on a plate, though, so I’ve tried to come up with a few ideas for how I can be the master of my own destiny, and iron out some of the creases that seem to have formed in my day to day happiness.

Yes, New Year’s Resolutions. We all know they’re made to be broken, but I like to think that starting 2013 with the right frame of mind will help shape the year, and perhaps get my head in the right place to deal with the inevitable crappy bits to come. There’s not much SMART about these targets, for all you teaching or business types out there, so apologies for any fluffiness! Here goes:

1) I will be good to my body.

The better I treat my body, the better I feel about myself. I’ve been losing weight steadily over the last few months, and it’d be nice to continue that, and lose the wobbliness that is my stomach post-testosterone-induced-fat-movement. I want to go to the gym more, too, in the hope I’ll come out of 2013 as a lean mean buff machine. Failing that, I’ll just be trying to keep moving, and hopefully stop pretending that beer and sugar are food groups!

2) I will be good to my head.

I’m a delicate little flower, emotionally, and experience has proved that unless I keep a sharp eye on how much I am taking on, and how much that stresses me out, I find it hard to cope. There have been times in the past when I was so stressed out I couldn’t choose a pair of socks in the morning (I kid you not) and fortunately those days have gone, but I promise faithfully to myself that I will prioritise, and remember to say ‘no’ a bit more often.

3) Get away from the keyboard and actually meet people.

I know a lot of people online. Not that this is a bad thing – I have a support network spreading from Canada to Australia, via some pretty cool places in between. Online relationships can, contrary to popular belief, be very genuine. I met my lovely partner online, after all, so there’s proof positive that the internet isn’t just full of weirdos (she might disagree). All that said, though, I’d like to make 2013 a year in which I actually meet some of my online buddies. Perhaps not those who are in far-flung corners of the earth, but starting at home. Real human contact is good stuff, and as socialising has never been an easy thing for me, I figure meeting people I already *know* will be valuable.

So those are my resolutions. Those are the things I am going to try to do to make 2013 less of a trudge, and more of a pleasant saunter. In return, there are just three things I’d like. Call me shallow, and impatient, but if I could have these, my life would be even better!

1) Voice changes:

You may have gathered from my blog that I have been having problems with my voice. After nearly 2 years on testosterone, I still sound like a chirpy girl, and that needs to change, for both professional and personal reasons. My doctor has recommended speech therapy, which I am reluctant to pursue, as I just wanted my voice to do its own thing, but now, perhaps, I’m more willing to agree that the hormones need a helping hand. Could this be the year that Mark finds his Manly Growl?

2) Masculinisation:

What a long word for a simple thing. I always knew that starting transition at my age, my body wouldn’t just bounce into masculinity. Sadly, though it’s easy to see changes, the best I can really claim is androgyny. Whilst I don’t have too much of a problem with that as a concept, it would really help if my body could spend the next few months coming up with some more masculine pointers to help people out when they’re trying to work out ‘what’ I am!

3) Lastly, but never least, I have gone another year with no contact from my daughter. I can only hope that things will change in 2013.

Happy 2013. May it be a good one.

 

 

RashI’m the first to admit that I’m a bit of a hypochondriac. At the faintest whiff of a symptom I’m off to Dr Internet to work out what on earth could be wrong with me. Recently, I was finding it very uncomfortable to swallow, and could feel a definite swelling  at the base of my throat. It did, indeed, feel like I was gargling golf balls. Cue panic, mental re-writing of my will (that didn’t take long) and much tapping at my keyboard. Of course, I am also a sensible person, and concluded, on the basis of previous experience, that my throat issues were just the result of testosterone doing its job. Again. When the pitch of my voice dropped a note or two a couple of days later, everything fell into place.

The thing is that with the knowledge and experience I have, I am able to discern sensible reality from hypochondriac panic relatively easily. But my own reactions to feeling ‘not right’, even on such a small scale, beg the question of how many trans* identified people hit the internet before their GP’s office before coming to the knowledge (sorry, diagnosis) that they are, in fact, suffering from gender dysphoria.

I have a history of going to see my GP with a fairly clear knowledge of what might be wrong with me, and this has led people to think that I am, in fact, a bit of a charletan, in that I pick an interesting sounding diagnosis, then convince the doctor that this is what I have. That gives a lot of credit to my long-term acting skills, but does rather cast me in the role of attention seeker and fraud.

I like to assume that the various professionals I have seen over the years haven’t just looked at my original diagnoses, scratched their chins, and decided to go along with it. Over time I’ve been told that my bipolar diagnosis wasn’t true, contrary to, I think, the opinions of 4 psychiatrists, countless therapists, and a CPN or two, not to mention the entire staff of 2 wards in a fairly prestigious mental hospital. Conversely, it has been suggested that I’ve only been diagnosed with gender dysphoria because I was on a bipolar ‘high’ and therefore unstable enough to convince myself, 2 GPs, a psychiatrist, a specialist counsellor, a gender specialist and a surgeon, that I was right. I’m good, folks, but not that good.

The trouble is, when coming to your own realisation that perhaps the gender you were assigned at birth, validated by apparently having all the requisite ‘bits’ for that gender, is not the same as what resides in your head, heart and soul, being told that this is just some sort of extreme hypochondria can be terribly hard.

The diagnosis of gender dysphoria relies so much on the person involved being honest about their thoughts and feelings that the medical profession has put in place many gate-keepers, all of which are designed to ensure that the medical and psychological help being given is appropriate, timely and necessary. Some people do realise on their journey that they have taken the wrong path, and I respect the courage they have to face that and change their route. However, for those of us who find happiness, strength and fulfillment in our new roles, please save words like ‘Hypochondriac’ for when we’re complaining about sore throats.

 

 

120724-111653I am not generally a giver-upper. However, sometimes you just have to admit that a decision wasn’t the right one, and look at the best way to resolve things.

I started off using Testogel, and was overall really happy with the physical changes I was experiencing, and the fact that my moods were distinctly more even with testosterone as my main fuel. As I have Type 2 Bipolar disorder, it is super important for me to feel in control of my moods and emotional reactions.

However, my initial feeling of being Master Of My Own Destiny rubbing on a sachet of gel a day started to warp into a serious case of dysphoria. When you have to apply a medication every day to be the person you already know you are, it can get to you, and how. See T and Me for a full description.

As you’ll know from this blog, I decided to speak to my doctor about Nebido – an injected form of testosterone that you have every 12 weeks. It sounded perfect: every 3 months, go to the nurse, have a jab, and go back to the business of living a normal life. Theoretically, I couldn’t lose. However, I didn’t count on my body’s apparent reluctance to work with testosterone given over such a long interval.

I didn’t have the best of starts – no loading phase meant that my T levels plummeted during my first cycle. My description of how that felt can be found in my post Running On Empty. My GP suggested I have the injection after 10 weeks, rather than 12, and I hoped that this would fix the problem. Sadly, it didn’t. After 8 months, I was experiencing debilitating drops in my mood, reflecting low T levels.

The trouble is, when you already have a mood disorder, it’s impossible to tell whether feeling depressed, paranoid, tearful etc. etc. is “just” low testosterone, or if it’s a depressive episode. I used to experience bad PMT, and I was experiencing very similar feelings on a grand scale for around 3-4 weeks out of 10. Not. Good.

I rely on those around me to let me know when my mood is deteriorating – most manic-depressives have to do this, as often we don’t see changes until long after those close to us do. I bit the bullet and asked my partner to tell me honestly how I’ve been since I started Nebido.

“Your moods have been much more up and down, you’ve been more down, mopey and angry than usual.”

Feeling so lousy, knowing that it has been affecting my partner, and other people in contact with me has not made for a pleasant few months. My job involves constant contact with other people, in person and on the phone, and I know that I haven’t been doing my best. When a problem is affecting home and work, something needs to change.

I was due to see my doctor in London yesterday anyway, and I think I knew what I wanted before I even saw him. I know that I could spend time fine-tuning my Nebido injection to minimise the problems I’ve had, but honestly, I don’t have the emotional energy. Looking at the sheaf of blood test results I’d brought with me, he agreed that with my mental health history, and the way my body seems to use testosterone, I’d be better off with the ‘little and often’ approach of using Testogel. Let’s not forget that he put me on the gel in the first place for very similar reasons.

So, I will soon be going back to the ritual of slathering on cold gel, and doing the Testogel Dance to dry off before getting dressed. I’m not sure how I am going to deal with the dysphoria I experienced before, other than just to suck it up. There are, of course, other alternatives than Nebido, but right now I need to be back on the level with enough testosterone in my system to keep me well and healthy, both physically and mentally. Watch this space.

***Trigger Warning – Murder and Suicide***

I lead a privileged, pampered life, where any abuse I receive about my transgender status is veiled in humour, or empty claims that I am delusional, blasphemous or a bit ‘icky’. I am lucky.

On 20th November 2012 it will be the 14th Transgender Day of Remembrance. Once again, this day will be marking those people who have been killed because they are transgender. I wrote about this last year, and I’m not sure I can match the fire of the words I wrote a year ago, so I shan’t risk diluting them. Please read Transgender Day Of Remembrance and reflect that a year later there are yet more people added to the list of the dead, and who knows how many more who were never found, identified, or deemed worthy of becoming a recognised statistic.

For information about those people who campaigners have been able to add to the list of those who died between 20th November 2011 and 20th November 2012, please go to Memorializing – 2012 where you will also see links to some useful, if sobering, information about this day, and why it is marked.

In my post a year ago I touched on suicide as a leading cause of death in the transgender population. This doesn’t make it onto the Day of Remembrance  statistics, though it is something that has probably impacted most of us on a personal level in some way.

It’s hard to get ‘true’ statistics about suicide amongst trans* identified people, for a number of reasons. Someone may never have come out to anybody before killing themselves. If they had, their families may be reluctant for their gender identity to be discussed or identified as a factor in their death. However, the prevailing figures seem to be that somewhere between 31% and 50% of the trans* population has attempted to kill themselves. How many succeed? Too many.

It’s easy to speculate on why these figures are so high, but for my part I would look to the way we are treated by others, socially, personally and institutionally. We are ridiculed and misrepresented by the media, regarded as misfits, weirdos and even perverts by many other people, and made into legal outsiders by the governments of our countries. The thing is, if you tell somebody they are wrong enough times, it is possible they will start to believe it. We are not all revolutionaries and rebels, after all.

Of course, it’s easy for some to say “oh, those poor mixed-up people! If they’d just been content with the body they were born with, none of this would happen! Of COURSE they were unhappy – they were trying to mutilate themselves to achieve something that wasn’t even possible!” Sorry, but we don’t just need hugs and a good ticking off to put us on the right path, we need appropriate support for those who do struggle with reconciling their identity with what the rest of the world is telling them. Internal demons will always play their part, but where are those demons born? And how do they grow up so strong?

In a world where the casual murder of transgender people is an ongoing reality, suicide will continue to take lives too. I have said it many times before, and will probably be croaking it on my deathbed –  the values of this world have got to change.

I am afraid of getting old – not, perhaps in the way you’d first imagine, and which people older than me scoff at (“cor, wait until you’re MY age, and THEN you’ll have something to be afraid of…what are you worrying about, youngster??” or words to that effect).

I’ve never been afraid of Mother Nature’s aging process. Wrinkles don’t frighten me, or grey hairs, or liver spots. Young people not respecting me I hope I’ll be able to deal with when the time comes, and I’ve had enough aches, pains and health problems so far in my life to know what they feel like.

What I am deathly afraid of, and what I lie awake at night worrying about, is ending up in a care home where I am known as ‘the gentleman who fusses about his food and doesn’t have a…you-know-what’. I’m pretty sure that by the time of my life where giving up my own home might be a necessity, the testosterone will have worked its magic sufficiently for me to look 100% male, but if and when personal care is necessary, I cannot bear the thought of being an oddity. Being an oddity at home, on my own terms, is just fine, but not like that. And no, I’m not getting a phalloplasty solely so that 17 yr old care assistants don’t gossip about me. No offence to 17 yr old care assistants, but you get my drift.

Of course, my partner is 10 years younger than me, so if all goes well, I’ll have her by my side, and on my side. But if she’s not, how do care homes deal with queer residents? No doubt sexuality and gender identity are an important part of any care facility’s policy making, but how on earth does that translate to everyday life for someone whose sexuality and gender are not clear-cut? Just as with many other jobs involving people skills and understanding, some have it, and some really don’t. I dread being stuck in a vulnerable position with someone who doesn’t. There will always be people inclined to disregard policy and guidelines in favour of their own beliefs on how ‘people like me’ should be spoken to and treated. Which I can fight now, and no doubt will for many years to come, but my fear is of a time when I no longer can.

I used to have a pipe dream about running a care home for lesbians, back in the day. I suppose I could strive now for a care home for trans* people, but let’s face it, that wouldn’t work. As I’ve said before, 30 trans* identified people put in a room together will have no more in common that 30 random people plucked simultaneously, Star Trek style, from anywhere in the world. It would be care home carnage.

Segregation, whilst a fleetingly comforting idea, is not the answer. Legislation probably is, to a degree, but as I mentioned earlier, it doesn’t always trickle down to those at the pointy end. Understanding, equality, fairness and openness would make up at least part of the ingredients required, but I cannot foresee a big enough shift in the way people treat each other on a fundamental level to allay my fears just yet.

I’ll be 41 in a few weeks, which is barely teetering on the edge of middle-age, I know. I recently had test results from the doctor confirming that my blood-pressure is nicely normal, my cholesterol is minimal, and according to some super-scientific calculation, I am currently at 1.7% risk of heart disease. So if all goes well, and the winds of life stay in the right direction, I’m alright for a while.

Strange that when I was 40, it was exciting, affirming, a landmark, and cause of all sorts of celebrations, balloons and bad jokes. 41 isn’t much older, but is definitely not heralded in with quite so much enthusiasm. I probably shouldn’t worry about what the future holds, but looking around at the world as it is now, my natural pessimism fuels those middle-of-the-night soul freezing fears for the future me.

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There is still no cure for the common birthday.  ~John Glenn

 

 

There’s often quite a long period between ‘coming out’ as trans, and actually receiving any sort of medical help with transition. In many cases this is intentional, as doctors like us to complete a period of ‘Real life Experience’, that is, living full-time as your identified gender in a ‘normal’ variety of social situations. I believe this is intended to make sure we know what we’re doing, mean what we say and appreciate the difficulties that may lie ahead for us. Much as I see a need for doctors to ascertain that a trans person isn’t just some sort of fantasist, the RLE is extremely controversial, and can put trans people into a position of rejection and danger at a time when they are extremely vulnerable, and yet still receiving no medical intervention. Trans groups in the UK are appealing to those who “write the rule book” to find a robust, safe method of working with trans people pre-transition, but this is going to take years.

Fortunately for me, the period of my RLE was a matter of months rather than years. Going into a new social situation armed only with the knowledge of your own gender identity, an extra-short haircut, a male name and clothing bought in the men’s section is terrifying. Let’s face it, after 18 months of testosterone and chest surgery I am STILL taken as a woman more often that not, so what chance did I stand back at the beginning?

I remember a colleague of mine saying some weeks after I started, that when the supervisor brought me over and asked if there was a seat for Mark, she looked around and behind me to see where Mark was. People’s minds are not sufficiently nimble to work out what’s going on, however kind they might be. Part of my decision to be very out and open about who I am stemmed from situations like this – I’d rather if people are talking about me behind my back that they’ve got their facts right.

So how do you cope with this interim period? In my case I tried extra hard to match my behaviour with what I felt was ‘male’ behaviour. Yes, I tried to match my walk with the men I saw in the street, and tried to squash 39 years of social conditioning as a woman. The trouble is, I wasn’t very good at it, and I was told (much) later by a friend “We thought you were trying too hard, but didn’t want to say anything”.

Going on testosterone, whilst having had a dramatic effect in some ways, has not made me look as undoubtedly like a man as I thought it would. It’s early days yet, and my age does count against me. Youngsters transitioning ‘ping’ into shape much more quickly, as their bodies seem much more susceptible to hormone treatment, and change generally. Transitioning at my age still “works”, of course, but this not-quite-middle-aged body has been set in its ways for much longer. No ‘ping’ing for me!

In many ways, then, I face the same trials I had before I started medically transitioning. I helped a woman off the train yesterday, and she was keen to tell her son all about ‘this nice young lady who carried my suitcase’. What can you do? I smiled and wished her a nice holiday.

I guess the difference now is that because of the hormones and surgery I’ve had, I feel a lot more comfortable in my body. I also feel that if questioned, I’ve had more time inhabiting the male sphere than I had at the beginning, so feel less defensive over my right to be there. In truth, though, I just can’t be as bothered as I was to try to look, act or sound a certain way. I’m told I’m rather camp, which doesn’t bother me. I’m told I’m hard to read, as I seem to fuzz between male and female, which is fine. I would love to start looking more definitely male, but if my behaviour doesn’t fall into most people’s definition of ‘manly’, well, who cares.

I am in the privileged position of having male hormone levels and a flat chest. I am also fortunate enough to know exactly who I am, and I am not being forced to prove it on a daily basis. Others earlier in their journey don’t have it quite so lucky.

Those of you who know me may have noticed that I haven’t really been myself recently. Even the online me has been a bit subdued, though I’ve tried to keep things upbeat. After all, who wants to go on Facebook and read a load of mopey statuses (statii??) about how down I’ve been feeling? At work I’ve tried my best to get on with my job and not make too many stupid mistakes, but all in all, the last couple of weeks have been a bit of a slog.

I’m bipolar, or manic-depressive if you prefer that term, and having periods of bleakness rather comes with the territory. Saying that, as the years have gone by, and I’ve been happier generally, more able to manage the downers when they happen, and the pills have done their job, I don’t get as horribly sad as I used to. Maybe that’s why this last fortnight has been so hard, wondering why on earth I felt like this when everything is going so well in my life.

Now let’s cut to ten and a half weeks ago, when I had my first Nebido injection. Doctors recommend having this every 10-14 weeks, and I was told to make an appointment for 12 weeks later. Nebido is a depot form of testosterone, which means that the ‘good stuff’ is released slowly without a really big peak. It does, however, start to peter out towards the end of the dose.

I had a blood test a week or so ago. I have these every 3 months, checking all sorts of levels. It’s kind of nice to know on a regular basis that my kidneys are still doing their job, my Lithium levels aren’t too high, my body is still welcoming the thyroxine I feed it, and so on. More to the point, it gives me a chance to make sure my testosterone levels are in the normal range for a male. Which they have been steadily for the last 17 months.

I got a call from the GP surgery a couple of days ago saying I had to see a doctor ASAP, as they’d got my blood test results back, and something was amiss. They wouldn’t say what, so I was eager to see what the doctor had to say. Lo and behold, my testosterone levels are really low – it would seem that 12 week doses are too far apart for me. The symptoms of low testosterone, in both bio-men and transmen who take testosterone as part of their transition can be, amongst others:

  • depression
  • mental fogginess/fuzziness
  • difficulty concentrating
  • anxiety
  • a general feeling of not caring about anything
  • feeling like you just “exist”
  • a decrease in feelings of pleasure and desire

Look at all familiar? No wonder it felt like the Black Dog was in my life again. Fortunately, I have a good GP who made sure I had a right buttock full of Nebido within an hour of me walking into her office. And strict instructions to come back in 10 weeks, not 12. Getting the Nebido from the chemist next door over a week early, and squeezing me in with the nurse did briefly turn into a bit of an Ealing Comedy, but I shan’t bore you with the slapstick details. Suffice it to say, I have now got my preferred fuel back in my system, and I hope all those horrible feelings will soon disappear. On the first anniversary of taking testosterone, I got 4 stars tattooed on my arm, representing my feeling that after a lifetime of running on  unleaded fuel, I have finally found my 4 star. Going through the last couple of weeks has reminded me just how much I rely on getting the right fuel, and the disturbing consequences of it running low.

If there’s a moral to this tale, it’s twofold: rely on your feelings, and get regular bloodtests. If you’re feeling down, weak and hopeless, it might not be ‘just you’. It’s difficult for me because if I feel down, it’s natural to assume it’s the bipolar kicking me in the teeth, or even my hypothyroidism rearing its ugly head. Many people have *something* in their lives that they can blame for feeling that way, but if you’re on T, get your levels checked.