Category: Month by Month


Dec 2014Please be warned, lovely readers, that in this post I will be talking about menstruation. Just so you know, as the ‘m word’ is not a favourite for a lot of trans* men. I shan’t be referring it to Shark Week, or The Red Menace, or anything else that sounds like a comic book villain, though I appreciate why people sometimes find that easier to deal with.

I officially stopped menstruating in March 2011, the same month I started taking testosterone. I was over the moon, and very happy never to have to negotiate the sanitaryware aisle on my own account ever again. The average time it takes for testosterone to stop menstruation is 6-12 months (with much variation – so if you are still waiting, try not to panic). I was exceptionally lucky.

Scroll forward to Summer 2014. Life has changed a lot, I am rarely taken as a woman, can still count my chest hairs on one hand, and am happy transitioning gently as I contemplate my upcoming 43rd birthday. This year seemed like a good time to try and sort out a few nagging health issues that are unrelated to transition. Right up there at the top of the pile was my anxiety. I’ve mentioned it before, so won’t go into the gory details, but anxiety is a constant, crippling, sleep destroying part of my life. I’d had enough, had tried every method I could think of, and many other people suggested, but the Anxiety Monster was taking over, so off I went to my GP.

My doctor has so far seemed very good regarding the issues I have, with a very balanced approach, a desire to learn and the ability to recognise that I’m not thick, and DO know myself and my body. After much debate, he prescribed Pregabalin, which, apart from a variety of other uses (eg: epilepsy, nerve pain management) is apparently very good for anxiety. I started on a super-low dose, and escalated up to a dose that was still barely in the therapeutic range. But it actually seemed to work.

The trouble is, that as my anxiety was beaten down to a manageable level, I started feeling really rotten, both physically and mentally. Now as I’ve previously mentioned, when you have a number of diagnoses jostling for position, it is very hard to untangle why you’re not feeling so good.

Then the bleeding started. Whether you call it menstruation or ‘break through bleeding’, I was having it. You’d think I’d have freaked out, but I felt weirdly calm about the whole business. I figured it was one of these things, and that it would go away. There was even an odd pride that my little ovaries still packed a punch. I went and bought pads (ironically, buying them at the same time that I collected my next box of testosterone from the pharmacy). Of course I spoke to my doctor, who ordered blood tests, the results of which were a bit of a bombshell. My testosterone levels are normally healthily within the male range (9.9-27.8nmol/L) at around 20. This time, however, they were 7.4, despite being on a full dose of testosterone. It certainly explained how I was feeling. See Running On Empty for more information about that.

I contacted my doctor in London, who calmed me down, and suggested that the Pregabalin may be interfering with the way my body metabolises testosterone. Now this is not him, or me, for that matter, suggesting that there is anything wrong with this drug. If you are already taking it, don’t just stop. You have been prescribed it for a reason. I would, however, recommend that if you have any reason to think that it is affecting your hormone levels, go and have a chat with your doctor. I chose to stay on it, initially, and my doctors agreed that I should increase my dose of T by 50% to compensate.

I menstruated for over 6 weeks, before the increased dose of T seemed to bring my body back into line, though my brain was haywire. I’ve now made the decision to come off the Pregabalin….carefully, with my doctors’ help. It seems like I’m stuck with the Anxiety Monster for now, and it looks like it will be a long road back to normality. The moral of the tale, if any, is that even drugs that same entirely unrelated may mess each other up. Testosterone therapy is a bit of an unknown territory for many GPs, so I guess it’s up to us to keep an eye, literally and metaphorically, on our own bodies and minds, and act on what we see.

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!

TwitterAre you a UK based trans* identified man, a man with trans* history or someone with experience of the NHS as a person assigned female at birth who identifies as male, trans*, genderqueer or questioning your identity? The NHS are hosting a twitter club for trans* men on Wednesday, asking people to participate in a live debate about how the NHS and GICs can improve services for us.

This looks like an interesting opportunity to have our say. More information can be found here  http://aedanjwolton.wordpress.com/2013/11/15/nhsgenderid-nhs-england-host-gender-identity-twitter-clubs-to-improve-services/

Check out what Aedan has to say about this, and please pop along to Twitter to take part this coming Wednesday – 20th November 2013. Oh, and spend a bit of time looking at Aedan’s blog while you’re over there – it’s good stuff.

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.

 

Rainbow FishIt’s been a long time since I last blogged. I’ve been trying to think of things to write about that aren’t a) me bleating about how lonely I feel as a singleton or b) an obvious attempt to write about something other than a).

I have now been officially single for 7 weeks. I have spent much of that time purchasing household goods, drinking rather a lot and thinking of things to do to fill the hours. It’s funny that, thinking back, my partner and I rarely ‘did’ things together to fill the evenings, but somehow having someone else in the house makes the hours go by faster. So I am now reading more, trying to force myself to sit down and watch TV and films (I’m not good at settling in one place for too long), colouring and accepting any invitations that come my way for social interaction.

I’m not a big ‘go-er out-er’ but even in my current state I recognise that talking to people is probably Rather A Good Thing. It would be easy to become a hermit, but I’m quite sensible really, and try to get out of the cave when I can. I’m not even quite such a Facebook Fiend as I was. I’ve not really had the get-up-and-go to engage even with social media with any sort of sparkle. Plus, of course, the temptation to stalk is high, so I’m best keeping my typing fingers to myself for now.

I am fortunate in having very good friends, and my family have rallied round in true family style. With the best will in the world, though, I really wish people wouldn’t say things like ‘There’s plenty more fish in the sea’. You see, I don’t really want another fish. I was quite happy with the Rainbow Fish I had, and I can’t imagine finding another sea creature quite like her. You don’t live with someone for over 8 years without becoming used to the way their scales glint in the sunlight, the way their fins move, the way they react when they’re dancing with the shoal, or when a shark approaches.

That’s not to say that I can’t imagine that at some point in the future a passing haddock with a glint in their eye may tempt me. But at the moment I cannot imagine trusting a new fish, and more immediately, I cannot face the prospect of having to explain myself, my gender identity, my sexuality, my physical peculiarities, my head space and my habits to anyone else. I’d got too comfortable, perhaps, and starting again is terrifying.

I am assured by the very lovely people in my life, both ‘real’ and online, that given a few months I’ll start to feel better and want to peer out of my patch of sea-weed and check out the passing traffic. In the meantime I shall be concentrating on keeping well and keeping on swimming.

chickenroad2It’s been a tough old week. July 12th marked two years since I last saw my daughter. I sent her a card saying I missed her, and that I’d like us to get to know each other again based on who we are now, not who we were 2 years ago. I’ve not had a reply, but to be honest I didn’t really expect one. Still, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and processing, and I know that whatever happens with her, I’ve done nothing wrong and I must, above all, be me. Beating myself up for being myself will get me nowhere. I have a little mantra when the internal pain starts to knot up too much: I Am Who I Am, And I Will Be Who I Will Be. Cheesy, perhaps, but it works for me.

On Tuesday, my partner sat me down and explained very gently that she felt our relationship was at an end. We had both noticed that we were starting to live parallel lives, and whereas I thought it was a blip that would sort itself out, she has apparently felt for a while that the road to happiness is not with me. Is it a transition thing? Not really, though of course I have changed a lot, both physically and emotionally. I’d like to think that this has happened because of the normal wear, tear and change that happens in any relationship, not because I became Mark. Perhaps I’m kidding myself, probably I’ll never know, and ultimately, it doesn’t really matter.

So here I am, single again after (give or take) 11 years. I have always been a bit of a serial relationshipper – I’m not sure if that was out of some sort of fear of being alone, or just good luck. I am sort of looking forward to spending time with myself after all these years, though the flip side to this is sheer terror. I’d mapped out my life to a large extent – I’d assumed that the status quo would remain into the future, but here I am, on my tod, trying to work out what the f*** just happened.

I have very good friends and family, who I know will pick me up and dust me off if necessary. In the meantime, I have to start unpicking all the details of my life from my ex (I can’t get used to saying that) and work out how to face a new future.

Here is a brief musical interlude – forgive me a little teenaged angst and head-banging.

kings-speechHello – it’s been a while. If I’m honest I’ve needed a little break from blogging. I do love doing it, and I’ve not run out of things to talk about (yet!) but my head has been in a funny place recently. My natural reaction to that sort of feeling is to crawl into bed and stay there, but Society will insist that I keep on going, so that is what I’ve done, albeit paring down on a few of my commitments.

That’s not to say I’ve been a hermit – tempting as that might have been. I’ve been doing a beginners’ climbing course at my local wall, which has been a lot of fun. I’ve discovered that after a lifetime of being not-terribly-strong, I now have muscles that will propel me from one small chunk of plastic rock to another if I ask them nicely (or tell them, dammit). Thank you very much, Mr Testosterone, for that one. Oh, and thanks are probably due to the weeks of eating well and going to the gym, which have resulted in biceps that make me happy, and leg muscles that have earned me the nickname ‘Thunder Thighs’ by my climbing partner. I’ve not, I confess, been able to stick to the strict regime the way I wanted to for a full 12 weeks. However, I did pretty well for 6 weeks, and I am trying to get my head around the concept of starting another 6 week stint soon. If in doubt, do things in chunks.

Possibly the biggest thing that has happened this month is a visit to a speech therapist about my slightly-deeper-than-it-was-but-definitely-still-female voice. After 2 years and 4 months *most* (but definitely not all – transition is not an exact science) people have a significantly more masculine voice than I do. Not necessarily deeper, but resonating differently. I did have a very high voice to start with, plus as a (cough) ‘older’ person, my voicebox has been used to doing what it does in the same way for a very long time.

I spent a long time assuming things would just sort themselves out, and it’s true that my voice is still getting lower as time goes on. However, it has become the thing that ‘gives me away’ in terms of people recognising me as male. I look pretty androgynous, which is fair enough, but that, coupled with the voice…no chance, or at best, much confusion.

I spoke to my GP about the issue in the end, because I spend a high-ish proportion of my time at work on the ‘phone, and I do get very down being mis-gendered on every third ‘phone-call. Despite giving my name clearly at the start. My GP referred my to the Ear Nose and Throat team at the local hospital, and much to my amazement, I was invited to make an appointment. Big up to the NHS.

I honestly thought the speech therapist would laugh me out of the room, or give me a stern lecture about there being people with REAL problems out there in the waiting room, and I was wasting their time. However, she has been wonderful. Enthusiastic, honest about what she does and doesn’t know about FTM voice issues, sweet, encouraging, and, let’s face it, I’m a little bit in love.

Far from giving me a photocopied sheet and sending me packing, she spent an hour working on solid, practical ways to change the sound of my voice without sounding silly. And it is working. My work this month revolves around the ‘Mmmm’ sound, as it helps me find a good pitch, a bit like a tuning fork. Try it – if you hum ‘Mmmmmm’ at what feels like a natural pitch, it should feel ‘right’. I then have to add on vowels (MmmmmMAY, MmmmmmmME, etc.) then ‘M’ words (MmmmmMARMALADE). This has really helped me find a lower sound to my own voice, and when I think about ‘setting’ my voice, it works a treat. Of course, as soon as I forget all about it and start chatting away as normal, the squeakier, less ‘grounded’ voice comes back.

I have started answering the ‘phone at work with my Mmmmmm voice, and I’ve only been called ‘love’ and ‘darling’ by one man in the last 3 weeks, which is a distinct improvement. I’m hoping the barman in my local hasn’t noticed the ‘Mmmmmmm’ before “I’d like a pint of Old Fisherman’s Sock, please”.

If this is the improvement I’m able to get in 3 weeks, I’m very much looking forward to what 2 more appointments will bring. Perhaps we can slowly get the body and the voice to match, and at least reduce the confusion a lot of the Great British Public experience on meeting me.

In other news, I will soon be guest blogging for ‘Original Plumbing’, an online spin-off of the OP magazine, “dedicated to the sexuality and culture of the FTM trans guy”. Their website is relaunching on 1st August, and I should be doing a piece once a month. Check out my introduction on there when the new website’s up – I’ll put a link on this page a bit closer to the time. Yeah, I’m the one going on about Hong Kong Phooey.

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.

 

28th April 2013I’ve written before about having lost weight, and generally feeling a lot better about my body than previously. That all still holds true, but I’m at another corner in my bid to be the best possible me. My weight has been creeping back on, and my gym has resorted to emailing me to see if I’m still alive (well, entice me back, but I like to think they care). My man fat is starting to exert itself again, and a steady diet of sugar, carbs, booze and fat is making me feel low and lacking in energy, plus my skin is terrible.

Next week is a big week for my partner and I – 1st May is the 5th anniversary of us being vegan. I don’t want to celebrate this biggy knowing that I’m not treating my body as well as I should, so I’ve decided to make a stand.

I currently weigh 10 stone 7 pounds (I’m 5’5″), and as you can see from my picture, I have love handles. These, seen sideways on, are looking suspiciously like a paunch. I’m not publishing a picture of my paunch. There are limits. As of tomorrow, I’m embarking on a ’12 week transformation’. I’m cleaning up my diet, ditching the alcohol, and doing meaningful exercise. Will this just be a phase? I hope not, and Will has promised to bully me if I decide it’s all too much. Will I become a Ripped God? Unlikely, but I wouldn’t say no to being leaner and stronger looking. And getting rid of that paunch.

MatrixBluePillRedPillI have a number of health issues, most of which will not magically disappear because I have made the decision to transition. I am bipolar, I have hypothyroidism, I suffer from anxiety, and I have gout. I get extremely grouchy if my blood sugar drops, I have a long-term problem with insomnia and I get odd aches and pains which I reluctantly believe may be arthritis-related. All in all, I am not exactly a poster-boy for good health.

Those of you who have known me a long time will know that my health ‘stuff’ has occasionally got the better of me. I’ve had time out of the workplace, claiming disability benefits when my bipolar teamed up with my anxiety to make life very difficult. I have resorted to walking with a stick when my thyroid problems teamed up with extreme stress to render every movement painful. I caught every cough, cold and lurgy going. In my last couple of teaching jobs, I took far too much time off sick, when body and soul succumbed to stress and made it impossible to do anything but stay at home and feel like a failure.

On April 4th I celebrated two years in my current job. More significantly for me, I clocked up two years without a day off sick. Not one. This was a personal triumph that has largely gone unnoticed, but for me it was a huge deal. In those two years I have dealt with starting testosterone (I had my first dose just over a fortnight before I was taken on permanently), had chest surgery (saved up my holiday for that) and probably had just as much stress on my plate as before. However, my body hasn’t ‘acted out’ my stress the way it used to, and I haven’t felt the emotional need to take refuge at home.

So what has changed, really? Testosterone is not magic – it doesn’t cure illness, or soothe a troubled soul. Chest surgery, whilst it made me the happiest boy in the world, isn’t a sure-fire route to health and good times. I guess that in the same way my body used to manifest my stress, depression, anxiety and general inability to cope in a physical way, it is now doing more or less the same, but for good. These days I am calmer, more able to manage the anxiety and stress (most of the time) and whilst my bipolar black dog does still up and bite me in the bum periodically, I feel more able to deal with it. As for the coughs and colds, who knows? Can one’s immune system really respond to feeling positive and fulfilled? Or maybe 5 years of veganism has actually done me some good, despite my critics on that score!

I was asked by a friend around the time I started transitioning, as a joke “Will you stop moisturising now?” I laughed like a drain, because I was never the moisturising type. Occasionally I would have a flurry of guilt-ridden conformity to what I thought, as a ‘woman’, I *should* be doing. I’d buy eye cream, body butter and ear-lobe rejuvenator, slather the stuff on for a few days, and then give up. Dry skin could go hang – I was self-harming regularly anyway, so why bother trying to look after what I had? I just didn’t like myself enough to care.

I thought that once I was identifying openly as male I would just continue neglecting my poor body, but at least feeling less guilty about it. Quite the opposite is true. These days I take far better care of my body than I ever did before. I’m still not great with the skin care routine, but it’s a heck of a lot better than it used to be. I can’t claim that the self-harm has gone away, but it’s much reduced. I get my hair done regularly, I buy clothes that fit, and flatter me, I ‘manscape’ the Enchanted Forest that is my newly sprouted hairy bits. I’ve got contact lenses. I watch my weight (successfully, rather than anxiously). I walk into a pub feeling good, not looking for the darkest corner to lurk in.

You could argue that all of this is simply down to me finally, at the age of 41, discovering that I quite like myself. Who knows if I’d have reached that realisation without ever transitioning? Either way, I am enjoying the sensation, after all this time. My sick-record, skintone and dusty walking stick seem to reflect that.