Category: Going into the Big Wide World


accountability-savage-chickens13 years as a teacher have left me thoroughly prepared for target setting. My New Year’s Resolutions are SMART – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound. Not for me the “I will be a better person” type resolution. Oh no – I have lists, tables, negotiated steps. Will my resolutions work out? No guarantees.

I took delivery this morning of a set of weights, with the intention of losing the lard I’ve put on in the last 5 months, and regaining my ‘gym shape’. They’re still sat looking heavy on the hall floor, while I find things to do to avoid opening the box…

I am having the healthiest online shopping order I’ve ever bought delivered tomorrow. To give you an idea, the first three items are celery sticks, seed mix and oat flower, lavender and chamomile teabags. Given that my body is currently groaning and moaning about the amount of fat, sugar and alcohol I’ve squeezed into it during the Festive Season (oh, ok, let’s be honest here, since July), I’m quite looking forward to reverting back to healthier eating.

I am, however, the Prince of Planning, the Emperor of Procrastination – the Demigod of talking the talk, and yet the Baldrick of walking the walk. I’m pretty sure that I will end up healthier than I am at the moment, but whether I’ll stick to all those SMART targets? Well, I’ll keep you posted.

Health aside, there’s something much more important I have resolved to do this year – to apply for my Gender Recognition Certificate. For those of you outside the UK, this is the way someone like me can apply to be legally recognised as male, and be issued with a new birth certificate. It’s a clunky process, has some costs attached and for me, at least, can be an emotionally challenging bit of paperwork to face.

I know for a lot of people in my position, apply for their GRC is the first thing they do having lived as themselves for two years, the legal minimum recognised by the GRC panel. For many trans* people, going through this legal process is hugely important so they can finally be properly recognised, and hold a new birth certificate. I’ve been procrastinating – not because I don’t think it’s important for me, but because it scares me.

Like my weights in the hall, I have metaphorically been staring at the boxes for nearly 3 years. I’ve read through the paperwork umpteen times, decided to get going gathering paperwork as evidence…and done nothing.

To a certain extent, the way I was living before did make a difference. I was in a civil partnership, so going through the process of being recognised legally as male would have caused a lot of upheaval. In the UK, a civil partnership is only currently permissable between two people of the same gender, so we would have had to dissolve our partnership before I could be granted a full Gender Recognition Certificate, then either marry as man and woman (which neither of us was that keen on, but which it’s fair to say would have had the biggest impact on my partner) or just carry on once more as unmarried/unpartnered. There was a time in our relationship where we were planning having a child, and the implications of our relationship status on whose name went down on the child’s birth certificate, and therefore my rights as a parent, was a serious factor impacting my decision to seek legal recognition of my gender.

Those factors aside, I have never been one to try and pretend that the past hasn’t happened. I feel strangely fond, and extremely protective, of the girl who is named on my birth certificate, who struggled for so long to work out why she felt so ‘wrong’ in this world. No, that doesn’t mean I am not 100% sure that I am Mark, but it does make me reluctant to erase any part of my past. A new birth certificate is what I need to achieve legal standing as a man, but I do not wish to be disrespectful of my old birth certificate, let alone pretend it didn’t exist.

So I’ve been staring at the paperwork for a very long time, and finding things to do instead. For those of you who are curious, I need to:

*Have proof that I have dissolved my civil partnership.

*Provide evidence that I have “lived in my acquired [*see below] gender” for at least two years (eg: driving licence, payslips, bank statements, utility bills, etc.). Apparently 5 or 6 documents will usually do. [*NB: ‘acquired’ is not my favourite word, as I don’t feel it reflects my experience or that of a lot of other trans* identified people, but it’s legalese]

*Give evidence of all changes of name.

*Provide 2 medical reports – one from “a doctor [or] psychologist specialising in the field of gender dysphoria” and one from my GP “including specific details of [my] treatment”.

*Send a cheque for £140 (this does vary for people on lower incomes).

So as you can see, it’s not actually that arduous a procedure, but I’m still sat staring at all the paper, and doing not a lot. Financially, I just need to find the fee, any charges my doctors will make for a letter, and, of course, the cost of the dissolution of my Civil Partnership. The ironic thing is, of course, that now I am no longer with my partner, I’d have had to face this at some point soon anyway. Well, there’s nothing like necessity to sharpen the resolve.

So let’s get all teachery on myself. My biggest New Year’s Resolution is to apply for my Gender Recognition Certificate. Is that Specific? Yup. Is it Measurable? Yes – I’ll either have done it, or I won’t, or be in the process of getting bits of paper together. Is it Attainable? Well, others have managed it, so let’s hope so. Is it Realistic? Yes – I’m not planning on jumping off the moon here. Is it Time-bound? I’ll be honest and say that I don’t know how long the whole process takes, but I should probably aim to have all my bits of paperwork ready to send to the Gender Recognition Panel by a specific date, so let’s say, for the sake of argument, 1st April 2014. April Fool’s Day.

Why do all this? A big part of me says that I don’t need a bit of paper to say I am who I say I am, or a Gender Recognition Panel to recognise my gender, thank you very much. However, to quote from the Ministry of Justice website: “If you are successful in your application for Gender Recognition, the law will recognise you as having all the rights and responsibilities appropriate to a person of your acquired [sic] gender”. I know exactly who I am in myself, and it would be nice for that to be recognised on a legal level. Not just the rights, but the responsibilities too. And that is why I have to make this New Year’s Resolution work.

Happy New Year, everyone – let’s hope 2014 is better!

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IMG_0881[1]It’s certainly been a while since I ventured near my WordPress account. I’ve had all sorts of guilty feelings about not writing, and an equal number of depressive-type thoughts along the lines of ‘What have I got to say, anyway?’ Silly Mark. Lately, though, I’ve started doing what I’ve done in the past for this blog…thinking thoughts, noting them down and pondering if I might be able to say something interesting about them. The Muse returneth.

Life has been what is politely known as ‘a challenge’ for the last few months. I have been living alone for the first time in many years, in a slightly chilly flat, watching the world go by, and being entertained by the antics of the people I can see out of my window, not to mention rather ‘eccentric’ neighbours. I’ve done my best to bury my hurting head and heart in work, though I wouldn’t recommend trying to be polite and perky to complaining customers on the phone for  5 or more hours at a time as an antidote to feeling sorry for one’s self.

I was starting to resign myself to the life I’d begun to carve out – my flat’s not so bad, and I’d only have to work in the office for another 20 years to get a half-decent pension. But now everything has changed again – the cat is, as they say, amongst the pigeons.

I have been offered the job of personal assistant and carer to a gentleman with a spinal injury. I’ve know him a little while, and we get on, and he’s looking for someone to live with him, do the stuff he can’t, enable him to do the stuff he can, cook, clean and generally be a modern-day Jeeves. I’ve accepted. What, let’s face it, do I have to lose?

However, moving AGAIN means I am currently surrounded by boxes for the second time in 4 months; I am trying to wrangle my paperwork into a recognisable format; trying to work out how to get greasy blu-tack stains out of paintwork, and generally going a little bit mental.

I have a week and a half left of my office job. I’ll miss some of the people I work with, but generally I’ll be a happier bunny for not donning ‘officewear’ every day and dealing with all the difficulties that working in a customer services setting brings. It’ll be good to work in a completely different environment, where I can be me. I know that a change of career scenery won’t solve all the problems I’ve had recently, but you never know. Maybe when life stomps on you, you need to take the hint.

So will I be back up and blogging more regularly? Yes, I hope so – I don’t promise my previous weekly or fortnightly offerings, but it’s about time I embraced by inner Blogmonster again. After all, in the time since I last wrote, people don’t seem to have stopped visiting, and I’m now up to 40,105 post views, which is altogether awesome!

I’ve been sorting out my driving licence today, and got some new photos done. I also, in my search for bits of paper, found the last one I had done, 3 years ago. I was pleasantly surprised by the changes – they’re subtle, but definitely there. As I am convinced, every time I look in the mirror, that I haven’t changed a bit during this journey, sometimes it’s good to see that the change is there, and possible.

 

IMG_0536Nor do I want to dress like a man. I do not want to act like a man, and I am not crazy about the idea of passing as a man.

People go through a lot of mental gymnastics to fit me into the way they view the world, and I am grateful for the most part that they do this. I have always maintained that people understand the trans* experience on a number of levels, and I try to be kind to those whose understanding is still at the level of “oh, so you’re having a sex change, then”. However inaccurate and insulting that statement might be.

I would rather poke myself repeatedly in the eye with something sharp than agree with the common suggestion that “I was born a girl and now I want to be a boy”. Not because it makes me want to shake whoever is saying it to within an inch of their life whilst simultaneously apprising them of the latest theories of gender identity. No, because of the word WANT. I do not want to be…I AM.

I do not dress like a man. I am a man, and dress what I would consider appropriately (if not stylishly). I do not act like a man. I am a man, and act in a way that is reasonably appropriate (albeit I don’t live at the butch end of Man Town). I do not ‘pass’ as a man. I am a man, whose genetic make-up means people get mixed up about his gender.

This all may sound a little incongruous if you consider that I have never agreed with gender being a binary thing. Is my statement ‘I am a man’ at odds with my philosophical ramblings about queerness and acceptance of my history? No, it’s not. I may not tick many of the stereotypical ‘masculinity’ boxes, have grasped ‘male privilege’ with both hands, or insist that feminism is for the girls, but nevertheless, I approach all the issues about which I talk and, let’s face it, life, from my own point of view, which is that of a man.

I get increasingly fed up of being misgendered because as time goes on, I feel more and more comfortable in myself, and in my rather fragile male identity. It is increasingly ridiculous to be called ‘she’, ‘her’ and ‘girl’, and every time this happens it feels like, perhaps, I really am just pretending to be something I’m not.

Fortunately, or I don’t think I’d ever leave the house, I know better. I do not dress like, I do not act like, and I do not pass as, a man. I am no fraudster or actor, nor am I deluded. I am a man.

 

Birthday Beer2I started writing this blog for two main reasons. The first was as a form of cheap therapy, and the second was to try to help family and friends understand what on earth “transition” actually involved. I didn’t really have any grandiose plans for the blog, though of course I still fondly imagine how it would feel to be offered a ‘proper’ writing job as a result of someone important reading my efforts and being inspired! Equally, I’d love it if a publisher contacted me to say I am wonderful, offering a book deal. Yeah yeah. We all know these things don’t happen.

Still, what started out small has got much bigger. For the first few months, the average number of ‘post views’ on my blog was around 400 a month. By ‘post view’ I mean one viewing of one of my posts, not how many people. So one person could visit, look at three posts, and you have three post views.

I started in March 2011, and by the end of the year, I was averaging nearly 1000 post views a month. Now that figure has grown to nearly 1500 a month. The scary thing is that I’ve halved the number of posts I publish, but the numbers keep going up.

What started as friends and family has spread to friends of friends and beyond. Other bloggers have created links to my blog, and I’ve been fortunate to have my details on Transguys.com, ‘The Internet’s Magazine for Transgender Men’ (NSFW in places, if you plan to take a look). I self-promote in a small way, on Facebook, but contacting Transguys.com was the first time I’ve really actively sought to get my blog ‘out there’. Now I am seeing the effects of people reblogging what I write, and I am losing track of who is reading my posts. It’s frightening.

I am still surprised when people I know say that they enjoy my blog. I’ve once had a complete stranger bound up to me in a pub and say “You’re ftmark!” (turns out he was a friend of a friend). That freaked me out, and I must admit that the way my blog has grown and blossomed is doing the same now.

I feel like I ought to be writing about ‘proper’ subjects and addressing ‘issues’ and being ‘representative’. Suddenly me talking about rogue nostril hair and how cheesed off I get with ignorant people seems a bit…well, trivial. I’ll be honest, dear reader: my confidence has taken a bit of a knock.

It does seem a ridiculous reaction, I know. I should be pleased that people are reading what I write, and hopefully taking something useful away from it. This may, I realise, come under the ironic Twitter hashtag #firstworldproblems. But I think that it’s going to take a bit of time before I can get my head around the concept of a wider audience, and get back to feeling confident writing about what comes from my heart.

On a lighter note…BEER. My lovely partner and I have 2 nights booked in a suspiciously cheap hotel, just up the road from the National Winter Ales Festival. We used to go to a lot of events like this, being beer lovers, but this will be my first as Mark. Beer gatherings tend to be very male-dominated, and Will and I have often been referred to at events like this as ‘girls’ (not women, even though at that time we both identified as such. Girls.) I am sorely aware that I will probably be misgendered  a lot in the coming weekend, and I really hope it doesn’t detract from enjoying the frothy brown loveliness. Will did suggest she could enhance my chin fluff with eyebrow pencil, or we could just go the whole hog and use that pencil to write ‘I am a man’ across my forehead. I will let you know how it goes…

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.

***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.

To celebrate nearly 20,000 post hits on my blog, I wanted to write about something that maybe isn’t often talked about in the way it should be. Sure, lots and lots of people are obsessed with what’s between a trans guy’s legs, and what ‘they do with it’, but that doesn’t help those lucky folk who happen to find themselves in bed with a trans man.

To be honest, you don’t really need to read further than number 1). Everything else I have to say comes back to that. The other thing to remember is that, as in everything in life, we are all different, and what is true for one trans guy will be the complete opposite for another. Just be aware of those differences, and refer back to number 1).

1) Talk to your man. Ask him about his body, and how he relates to it sexually. Find out what turns him on, turns him off or turns him into a quivering wreck (in either a good or a bad way). Communicate BEFORE you hit the sack – there’s a time and a place for “if I do X to you, will it make you feel dysphoric?”, and I recommend before, not during.

2) Find out what language he uses for his genitalia, and for what you’re doing in bed. Apart from the fact that you’ll both be more relaxed using terminology you’re happy with, if he suddenly yells “suck my [insert nickname for bodypart here]” it pays to know what he’s talking about.

3) Don’t assume that because your partner identifies as male that he will necessarily scorn sexual contact usually enjoyed by female-bodied folk. Some trans guys do have a problem with touching that involves what they see as inappropriate ‘female’ anatomy. If this is the case with your beau, make sure you talk things through to find his sexual comfort zone. However, a lot of guys enjoy vaginal penetration (if they call it that…who invented the word ‘vagina’ anyway? No-one with any aesthetic sense, that’s for sure). That doesn’t make them ‘confused’ or somehow not doing transition ‘properly’. It just means it feels good.

4) Be prepared for some super-sensitivity. Testosterone androgenises the clitoris (or the bodypart formally known as clitoris), making it larger, and often a LOT more sensitive, though equally, sensation may be patchy. A lot of change is going on down there, and it takes a while for everybody with a stake in the area to get the hang of what’s going on (including, I suspect, Mother Nature). If you have been with your trans guy pre-T, you may find you have to modify your technique now his anatomy is changing, or you might just find him clinging on to the ceiling by his finger nails mid-sex.

5) Strap-ons can be a blessing and a curse. Be aware that even for those of us who don’t yearn after our very own dick, attaching a fake one (however pretty/all singing, all dancing/guaranteed to satisfy/etc etc) where we can’t actually feel what we’re doing properly can be hard (pardon the pun). On the other hand, I’ve yet to meet the trans guy who hasn’t done a little manswagger on donning a strap-on. Let him enjoy his moment, and save the Freudian analysis for another time.

6) As hard as it will be, try to accommodate his body issues. If your loved one is pre-surgery in the chest area, he may want to wear a T-shirt during sex. Equally, if he is very unhappy with his genitalia, he may not thank you for staring lovingly at them, and describing what you’re doing to him in graphic detail. BUT, please realise that the way he feels about his own body does not reflect on the way he feels about yours. If you’re a girl, I’d bet a lot of money that he adores your breasts, and would be happy to play with them til dawn. Distaste for his own genitalia doesn’t mean he dislikes yours. If you’re a guy, whilst he may envy your flat chest and male genitalia, that won’t stop him desiring you and all your bits, because he finds you sexy.

7) Playing sexy dress-up, or getting into role-play, may feel uncomfortable for a trans guy – for some of us, it wasn’t that long ago that we were ‘expected’ to conform to ‘female’ dress codes. But you know what, if your fella wants to see how it feels to wear stockings, why not? It doesn’t mean he’s not actually serious about being a man, just that he’s comfortable enough with who he is to play around.

8) A common picture of trans guys is that they suddenly acquire a sexual appetite the size of Mount Etna. This is sort of true, and sort of not. Yes, one’s sexual appetite does change, and you may find your favourite trans guy indulging in a lot of…ahm…Self Love, but overall you won’t find he’s turned into a Sex Monster. If he didn’t have a very high libido before T, you may find it’s increased, but not necessarily as much as you’d expect. Those guys who end up very aroused a lot of the time may not find it a good thing, so try to talk it through.

9) Lots of lovely lube. T can, in many cases, dry things up a little. Bearing in mind what I was saying earlier about things also being Very Sensitive, I’d definitely recommend purchasing plenty of good-quality lube. If you’re using silicone toys, or your partner has a silicone ‘playing packer’, avoid silicone-based lubricants, and if you’re using condoms, don’t use oil-based lube.

10) Be safe. Bear in mind that it may still be possible for your partner to get pregnant. However sure you both are that his ovaries have been fried, it does still happen. Use a condom. Whatever your gender, STIs can still be spread however you like to play. Keep your sex toy hygiene high, and if you’re with a new partner, or have an open relationship, get a quick check-up. That way, you can relax and enjoy sex with your beautiful sexy trans man.

In every sexual encounter or longer-term relationship, there’s a lot of ‘shaking down’ to do, and because transition is necessarily a time of change, that can be very hard for all concerned. However, in my newly adopted role of ‘Uncle Mark’ I’ll just say, stick to number 1), respect each others’ bodies and minds, and enjoy it when you get it!

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

 

 

I’ve been called ‘mate’ quite a lot recently, which is rather nice, as around here the word ‘mate’ is a sort of universal shorthand for recognition of masculinity. Or a way of registering that the person you are calling ‘mate’ wishes to be recognised as male.

I live in a small city in a rural area. The area surrounding my city is often the butt of jokes about country living, funny accents and doing unspeakable things to the local sheep and/or your sister. It’s not a place you’d normally think of as cosmopolitan. The city itself is a lot more liberal than many places in the UK, and one reason we came to live here is because overall it’s a place where difference seems to be accepted. Not all the time, or in every part, but generally we’ve had less abuse hurled at us here than where we’ve lived before.

For all my home city’s liberalness (liberality?) I’ve sometimes thought that maybe, as a queer transguy married to a lesbian, I should consider moving to London or Brighton  – somewhere where queer culture is more recognised. Again, don’t get me wrong – I’m fully aware that in some parts of each of those places, people like me are given a very hard time. In my fantasy moving plans, though, I’m focusing on the good bits.

However, I’ve discovered a very strange thing. I seem to be recognised as male a lot less in supposedly more accepting communities. In Brighton recently I was called ‘she’, and Will and I were referred to ‘girls’ (as in ‘goodnight, girls’ when leaving the pub) much more often than I ever encounter here at home.

The only conclusion I can come up with is that in places where there is more general acceptance of same-sex couples, people are far more likely to look at me and see a lesbian, particularly when I am with Will. On the other hand, where that sort of acceptance is maybe a few years behind, people are more likely to do their gender maths differently, and ‘read’ me as male.

I read somewhere, and I’m sorry that I can’t remember where to quote properly, that one woman on the Indian subcontinent had challenged local clothing conventions by dressing in trousers and a shirt. She reported that she was almost universally addressed as a male when dressed in male clothing. Not because she looked particularly masculine, but because the gender equation that went on in people’s heads led straight to the conclusion that dressed in that sort of clothing she *must* be male.

I mentioned the problems that are created when my identity endangers my partner’s identity, and vice versa in Lesbiaaaans! and I in no way want to upset the delicate balance we have created. I do get a buzz from being called ‘mate’, though, and being recognised as male, and each time I am included as one of ‘the girls’ it does hurt. Quite apart from the fact that we love living where we do, maybe living in a less cosmopolitan, metrosexual place works in my favour after all. We’ll keep the bright lights for holidays and special occasions…at least until I have a big pirate beard of my own, or get round to knitting one.

I got called ‘hot’ the other day, by a guy. And not because he thought I was a girl, and goes for the butch type, but because he’s a lover of men. All of this caught me a little bit by surprise, because I’ve never considered myself to be ‘hot’ in my life. Not in that way. On a good day, when my self-confidence is above its usual ebb, and the wind is blowing right, I think of myself as ‘ok looking’ – more ‘luke-warm’ if you will. Definitely not sexy, or anywhere near it.

I wrote about this before, in I’m so vain. I lived for a very long time as someone who was unhappy with their body and dismissive of any attempts by loved-ones (or strangers) to reassure me I really was attractive. It’s really hard to get out of that mind-set, so being called ‘hot’ was, well, a bit nice!

Being complimented by a man was even nicer, I think, because it’s a very long time since my gender presentation screamed ‘pretty, sexy available girl!’ so I’ve not been at the receiving end of a male sexual compliment for well over a decade. In many ways my recent encounter made me feel that I had been recognised as a man, and even more so, an *attractive* man. I have no real idea what I will look like once the Trans Popcorn Maker has popped all my kernels, and whilst, let’s be honest, I’ll be happy to live my life as a man as the most ordinary looking chap around, it’s good to know that something is going right. Saying that, though, feeling sexually attractive is very unusual for me, and something that will take a while to get used to.

When embarking on transition, there’s lots of things you expect, difficulties catalogued by those who have gone before, and a zillion and one websites, blogs and YouTube videos to help you know what’s coming. But there’s some very odd, quite subtle things that no-one ever seems to talk about.

Size, for instance. Not all transguys are short, but a lot are. Short for men, that is. I’m 5’5″, which made me an average sized ‘woman’. However, I now find that I am ‘small’. That sounds so obvious, and unimportant, but going from average to small in one fell swoop takes some getting used to. I’m having to reposition myself physically in the world. Some years ago I used a walking stick to get around from time to time, and I found that a similar social process went on when I had my stick. Physically, and on a deeper level, I related differently to the rest of the world.

I have also had to realign things like shoe size. I’m a 7, which used to be considered quite big  (“Shoes like barges”…you know who you are!). Just as suddenly, I have small feet. It’s not something that seems even remotely significant in the grand scheme of things, but it is a clear example of the ways in which trans people have to redefine themselves: to others, to themselves and in their core ‘story’ or beliefs. Just as I am having to consider that I may be more attractive to others than I have ever believed in my life.

Transition is not just about the big, obvious changes. We are also faced with a myriad of repositionings. It’s hard work!