Category: April 2012


I was bullied throughout my school years. Well, most of them, anyway. The war of spite, put-downs and vicious mockery started when I was about nine. Not so coincidentally, about the same age I started self-harming, but that’s another post. The bullying continued whatever school I went to, so I reached the seemingly obvious conclusion at an early age that it was me that was doing something wrong, and that other people were justified in whatever they were saying or doing to me. Not good for a little head.

After a few years of that, I think my brain started putting up a filter, so that I was able to go about my business in some ignorance of what was going on around me. An example of this is one occasion where I got off the school bus, aged 14 or 15, and someone I knew asked “Are you ok?”. I replied that I was fine, and asked why. She looked at me a little oddly and explained that throughout the journey a group of my schoolmates had been shouting comments at me, laughing and joking at my expense, with an audience of the whole of the lower deck of the bus. I genuinely hadn’t heard a thing, and there’s not a lot wrong with my hearing. Thank you, brain, for filtering that one out.

Whilst I was still having problems with bullies when I left school at 18, adult life brought relief. Over the years, as my self-confidence reasserted itself, and I didn’t need the filter any more, it gradually disappeared. And I grew to miss it, as I once again became aware of the negativity that goes on everywhere.

A lot of people hold strong views about trans people, and all too many of them think it’s ok to direct their venom at us as a community, and at individuals. I am fortunate in that people I know and mix with have either had the courtesy not to say anything hurtful to my face, or at least lacked the guts to.

However, without my filter against the world, I am very sensitive to whispering and stares, but with the wonderful advent of MP3 players, I have managed to create a reasonably effective filter for myself – music. By creating my own personal white noise, I find myself much more able to zone out others around me, and help the Paranoia Monster lay down and sleep for a while. I firmly believe that all the people who go through life with earphones permanently attached are probably doing much the same thing as me.

Sadly, I can’t do this all the time, particularly not with social networking, the internet generally, and the media skewing and attacking wherever it can. The trouble is, I tend to take criticism of my community generally very personally, and this snaps me straight back into being a child.  If someone somewhere in the world posts an article claiming that parents who decide to transition are selfish and disgusting, I start wondering if they’re right, despite being a logical(ish) intelligent person who knows that’s just a personal opinion, and a bigoted one, at that. Reading that another trans person has been vilified by their family fills me with fear that the acceptance I have been offered by my family isn’t genuine. The more ‘evidence’ I see that very many people consider my path in life to be wrong, the more that I feel everyone must think that about me. And so the Paranoia Monster operates.

There are a couple of logical solutions to all of this – firstly, put things in perspective, and secondly, don’t read it. To look at the second first (!?), I do try to limit what I see online. I ‘hide’ stories or pictures on Facebook that set off an unwanted emotional response, and avoid the Daily Mail Online like the plague. It’s actually not all that often that an online newspaper says anything so stupid it can’t be written off to lousy journalism, but the comments below any article to do with LGBTIQ stories are often horrendous. So much hatred and mockery, directed at people like me, or like those I love, is far too triggering, so I leave well alone.

But I am an “out” trans person. By writing this blog and making my own YouTube videos, as well as contributing to a collaborative channel (details to the right of this page) I am putting myself to some extent into the public sphere. I don’t want to build myself a little cocoon and hide in it forever, as I feel it is important for me to fight for the rights of people like me (and those unlike me, too). To do that, though, you need to know what’s out there, and respond it it. Otherwise, the haters really will win the battle and scare us into submission. To face up to these challenges, though, you need to have some sort of filter in place, or you’ll fall apart. Just as my childhood brain recognised.

So, perspective must be important, and it is this that I am working on, as my adult-style filter. You know that saying “It’s not all about you”? When seeing things online, or hearing them on the street (if they’re shouting loudly enough to drown out the Red Hot Chili Peppers) or reading them on Facebook, I have to reaffirm that it’s not all about me.

Funnily enough, some recent trolling on one of my videos bothered me not one bit, despite the comment reading something along the lines of “People like you shouldn’t be allowed to make videos. You’re disgusting, you f****** f****t”. Why would that not upset me, but someone commenting elsewhere online that ‘trans people are clearly mentally ill and should be locked away’ make me feel attacked?

I’ve a long way to go on this one, and I’d be interested to hear how other people keep their heads when all around them are losing theirs.

If you’ve read any of my earlier posts, you will know that I am not all that keen on discussing the contents of my pants. This is partly because it’s often the only thing that people consider important in terms of a transgender person’s transition, and partly because, well, it’s nobody’s damn business.

However, on this occasion, I’m willing to break my own rule to an extent, to discuss a very specific issue. Peeing.

Now don’t get me wrong here – I don’t feel a need to pee standing up in order to prove my manliness, look more macho, or anything like that. I appreciate that for some transmen, being able to use the bathroom in a way that fully reflects their gender identity is very important indeed, but my feelings on the subject are driven more by practicality.

In the majority of situations outside of the home, using a stall to pee is fine, though I still haven’t really acclimatised to the filthy state of many men’s public toilets. Sane, sensible, polite, reasonable men do seem to turn into filthmonsters in a public loo. If I ever find out which specimen of manliness feels a need to pick his nose and wipe the bloodied result repeatedly on the toilet wall where I work, I will have words.

However, as I said, that aside, I’m quite happy to plonk my bottom on a toilet seat and spend a few minutes contemplating my naval, without any sort of gender dysphoria kicking in.

The time when I really would like to be able to pee standing up are on a night out, or when using unfamiliar toilets, particularly those with one stall, a broken lock, and poo on the floor…I mean, come on guys…who misses the toilet entirely?? Under these circumstances, I would love to be able to unzip, pee and run.

Also, as men use the stall to empty their bowels, they take their time about it. So if I’m stood in the gents waiting patiently behind 2 people for the stall, with 6 empty, shiny urinals  just a few steps away, I know I’m going to be there for a while. And really, do YOU like hanging around in toilets, trying not to catch anyone’s eye??

So what’s the answer to this? Three letters: STP, or to be more formal, a Stand To Pee Device. Used mainly by transmen, and occasionally by women, they enable someone with female anatomy to pee standing up, without weeing down their own leg. Or at least, that’s the theory.

STPs are often combined with packers. A packer being a soft squidgy object shaped like a penis and balls, which sits in your pants to give the impression of male anatomy. I think the psychology and practicality of packing deserves a whole blogpost of its own, so forgive me if I stick to the basics here and now. An STP packer has a wider ‘catcher’, into which you pee, and a tube through the penis to the outside world. It is, to put it mildly, a knack.

I own an STP packer, which also has the interestingly euphemistic third function of ‘Play’. Yes, it can be used for penetrative sex. Waahay! It is also, allegedly, one of the easiest designs to use for peeing. Hmmmmmm. As someone said when I first raised this question, “Practise in the shower. Lots”. This I have done, but my experience is that whilst something is pretty easy with no clothes on, and no audience, doing it in a crowded pub toilet is something else again.

When using an STP, you have to have very good control over your flow. I know I did all my Kegel exercises after having my daughter, but let’s face it, I’m 40, post-baby and not terribly toned ANYwhere on my body, let alone ‘down there’. To avoid backing up your STP, the flow must be even. Add nerves and a couple of pints into this equation, and you’ve got a problem.

The other issue is clothing. I just don’t have the guts to risk peeing all over my clothes in public (definitely not my fetish, chaps!) and haven’t yet got the hang of exposing just enough of myself to be able to fish around and get the STP in the right place, and pee, without looking like I’m having a little fondle in front of the urinal…

Because of all this, I’d sort of given up on the standing to pee, but having spent one too many embarrassing times waiting outside stalls, and far too many times wishing I could levitate inside the stalls, the time has come to get this nailed.

So, my mission is to work out the logistics of peeing, standing up, in public, in a nonchalant manner, without having to carry spare trousers, underwear, socks and shoes…I will report back. Any suggestions very welcome!

This is a hard post to write, as I feel I’m going to come across like a spoiled child. Do you remember how it felt to get a new toy when you were a kid, and you played with it, and played with it, and then not long afterwards, the toy didn’t seem so great?

Let me elaborate. When I first saw Dr Curtis, he recommended I use Testogel, an alcohol-based gel that is applied every day, absorbing into the blood-stream via body fat over a 6 hour period. The gel has a lot of advantages. It is quick and easy to apply, and delivers a steady dose of testosterone, without the peaks and troughs sometimes associated with other methods. It seems to be offered to older transguys, though I’m not sure why that is, and I understand that my bipolar was also a factor in deciding that Testogel was to be the T for me. As bipolar causes me to have emotional highs and lows more marked than those without the condition, avoiding a type of T that is associated itself with emotional highs and lows seems pretty sensible.

And how I have loved my Testogel. The feeling of ripping open that first little sachet and applying the stuff carefully to my skin was unparalleled. I was master of my destiny, and had control over my own transition with every blob of hormone-laden gel. What was even better was seeing and feeling the changes that the gel brought about, and revelling in the resulting empowerment. Heady stuff. And so it remained for many months, until those little sachets stopped being my friends.

There are a number of reasons why Testogel (and any other gel-based T on the market, of course) is a pain. The 6 hour period when the gel has to be on your skin takes getting used to, and needs to be planned around. Living with a woman means extra care must be taken not to get the stuff on her. I play at chasing her around with testosteroney hands, but all joking aside, using a gel does mean you need to be careful for a few hours after application. She wouldn’t thank me for a receding hairline and baritone voice. I’ve not tried it on the cats. Testogel is pretty efficient stuff, quickly absorbed into the system, but this does mean that you have to apply it often and at regular intervals to keep your T levels up, and can be easy to forget. Some people argue that changes are not so fast with gel T, but I’m not sure if there’s any scientific evidence for that. I have no-one to compare with, as it’d take an identical twin using another sort of T, and living the exact same life as me to have a fair point of comparison. Which would be rather spooky.

The thing is, all of the things in the last paragraph are ok by me. I’m careful about application of the gel, put it in places that will be covered with clothing and avoid getting jiggy whilst within my 6 hours. I’ve never forgotten my dose, and the Testogel has clearly affected my body in the ways I wanted, and expected it to.

No, the problem is with my head. You see, the act of tearing open that sachet and rubbing on the gel has become a daily reminder that this is what I need to do to be me. To be reminded every single day that without the stuff in the packet I would remain “a woman” but for in my heart, mind and soul, has become increasingly difficult to deal with. When I first started to feel like this, I felt so guilty. After all, this is what I dreamed of, cried about and fought for, and now I’m complaining that putting a blob of gel on myself once a day is messing with my head. Diddums. But it’s a real problem. I want to be able to get on with my life living as me. Having to undergo a daily ritual, however benevolent, is getting in the way of that. It’s so hard to explain, and though I have wracked my brain for an analogy, I can’t find anything that seems appropriate.

The crazy thing is that I take tablets every day that are just as much of a reminder of my own weakness and fragility. Every day for the past 12 and a bit years I have taken medication for my bipolar. Every day for the last 4 years I have taken medication for hypothyroidism. I am a doctor’s dream, taking my meds obediently and regularly. I have no choice, really. But the daily Testogel is the thorn in my side, and here I do have a choice, of sorts. Whilst some forms of injectable testosterone would not, I believe, be very suitable for my needs. However, a form marketed as Nebido may tick the boxes for me. It is a 3 monthly injection, administered by your Practice Nurse. Four painful jabs a year, and then to go away and get on with life, sounds very appealing.

I wouldn’t be the first person to transfer from the gel to Nebido, and for much the same reasons as I have described. A problem that I thought was completely personal, and confined to my odd little mind would seem to be reasonably common. Completely by chance, I came across a video on YouTube describing the initial excitement and euphoria of using the gel, followed by increasing frustration and dysphoria related to the daily reminder that this hormone is not naturally yours. It was a huge relief to realise that I’m not being petty, or going mad, or being ungrateful, or at least that if I am, I’m not alone.

I have contacted my doctor about a change. Watch this space.

I haven’t been swimming for years. A whole host of issues surrounding my body and transition effectively ruled out swimming for me.

The number one problem was what to wear. Swimming is one of the few sports where there is a distinct difference in the way men and women dress. And anybody not identifying with either of those poles has to make a decision which way to go, swimming cozzie-wise. Easier said than done, when your body says one thing, and your brain very definitely says another.

Technically, of course, I could have continued wearing a woman’s swimming costume. But in reality this would have been far too much of a mind-f*ck. Having my breasts on display in skin-tight lycra would, psychologically, have been disastrous. I contemplated wearing a T-shirt over the top, but let’s face it, once water hits a T-shirt, everything’s still clingy.

I know that in other parts of the country, it is more common for people to swim in T-shirts, or rash vests, but round here that seems to be less common (in my experience) and the last thing I wanted was to draw attention to myself.

I did briefly contemplate going swimming wearing my binder, and then a T-shirt, but bearing in mind how hard it was to breathe in a binder, and how close the whole scenario was getting to that part of your swimming badge where you have to jump into the pool in your pyjamas, I gave up.

Fast forward to the present, post-chest-surgery, and a little further on in my body’s slow but steady creep towards the stereotypically masculine. My bum, hips and thighs are smaller, I have a ‘treasure trail’ creeping up my stomach, no breasts, man-sized nipples, oh, and quite a lot of tattoos (which, whilst playing no part in my actual transition, do seem to mark me in people’s eyes as less feminine. Ridiculous, but true.) My hair is a shade short of a buzzcut, so most things are pointing, at a casual glance, towards me being a man.

There is the small issue of scars. I have a purpley-red raised scar running from not-quite the centre of my chest to my armpit on both sides. It’ll fade with time, but given my track-record with scars, probably not entirely. It was suggested to me that I wait to go swimming until the scars were less obvious, but sometimes you’ve just got to bite the bullet, haven’t you?

Besides – what could anyone possibly say that would stop me in my track? “Cor, you’ve got big ugly scars!” Yes, yes I have. “I saw that Transsexual Summer programme, and they had scars like that! Are you a tranny [sic]?” Close. I prefer the word transgender. “That’s disgusting!” You’re entitled to your opinion. “Woah! Were you in a car crash?” Yes, yes I was – they had to operate to reconstruct most of my ribcage. Etc.

So anyway, I decided recently that it was Time. I purchased my first pair of swimshorts – which contrary to my promises to friends are NOT covered in palm trees and scantily clad ladies. Remember the bit about not wanting to stick out? I sat at the computer plotting my movements, checking the timetable, price, etc. I decided to go to a particular pool as it has a unisex ‘Changing Village’, so no immediate ‘what are you doing in here’ issues, hopefully. I also had to plan when to put on my testosterone gel, as it has to stay on your skin for 6 hours, so that went into my bag. Deciding whether or not to ‘pack’ at the pool was an easy one. Quite apart from not feeling it was necessary, I had horrible visions of something coming loose, and my little silicone buddy floating off towards the shallow end (or doing the front-crawl, depending on how imaginative I was feeling) so that also had to go in my bag. It was like packing for a military campaign.

I walked down to the pool, feeling far more nervous than I had anticipated. Visions of being laughed at, pointed at, etc. filled my mind. I was having to do a serious job of calming myself down. After all, what could possibly REALLY go wrong?

The pool was shut. A pool cover problem meant no swimming til it could be repaired. I was devastated.

Which is ridiculous – this was just a trip to have a swim, but for me it meant far more. I was finally going to do what I’d never done before, courage girded, and suddenly couldn’t. As I was close to work, and it was raining, I called the boss, and arranged to start work a couple of hours early, and sat at my desk in a sulk for the rest of the day.

I tried again the following day, this time phoning to check all was well with the pool cover. Changing was no problem, but that moment when I unlocked my cubicle to go put my stuff in a locker took an unreasonable amount of courage. The other problem I had is that I take my glasses off to swim, and prefer to leave them in the locker, so I was flying blind. This could be an advantage, as if anyone had stared at me, I couldn’t see them! It did mean, though, I couldn’t work out which was the gents toilet (the sign was at the top of the door…too far away), and anyway, there was no way I was going into the loo barefoot without being able to see the contents of the floor, so I saved it for later (and no, I DIDN’T pee in the pool!!)

Getting into the water was a dream come true. It was cool, embracing, and on ME, not cloth. Amazingly, I could still remember how to swim (just – I’m a one-stroke-and-not-all-that-good-at-that kinda guy) but honestly most of my time was spent just enjoying how good the water felt, and how good I felt. How free. I stopped worrying about how I looked after the first 2 minutes. Having achieved a real dream has given me a huge confidence boost. And swimming 30 lengths, albeit slowly, made me feel pretty pleased with myself.

Having got myself out of the water without losing my shorts, and changed, and testosteroned, etc. I decided to treat myself to a cup of dodgy coffee and some crisps. I’d just sat down with my goodies, and was giving myself a mental pat on the back for surviving the experience, when the fire-alarm went off, and the whole building, including the pool, was evacuated. Had that happened 15 or 30 minutes earlier, I can leave it to your imagination how I’d have felt…