Category: December


2012 Here I Come!

I’ve been in two minds about how to approach today’s post. My initial plan was to write a chirpy up-beat post about New Year’s resolutions, talk about mine, mingle in a bit of talk of SMART targets (yes, that’s for you, all you educationalists out there) and wish everybody the most brilliant of all years to come. Done.

The trouble is, I’ve always found New Year a very difficult time. More often than not I spend those few minutes around midnight crying, rather than roaring “HAPPY NEW YEAR!!” in people’s faces, and allowing bleary beer-soaked revellers to kiss me. And not because I’m drunk.

So why so glum of a New Year? I’m not all that good at major celebrations, full stop. I know how much birthday and Christmas celebrations mean to people, and I am heartily jealous of those who can fling themselves into the seasonal mêlée with abandon. There’s rarely much to be gained from publicly airing your discomfort, so I’ve made a habit over the years of getting as involved as I can, and staying quiet about the stupid stuff rolling around inside my head.

At New Year we tend to look back over the year, remember the good times, mourn for the bad times, and move on. I like the idea of a celebration of moving forward, onwards and upwards, but I do find it very difficult to get my brain to behave, and think positively. In my pessimistic mind-set, New Year marks the point where all those past events, emotions and experiences are sealed forever in the past, with no hope of redemption, and I cry for the dashed hopes of the year gone by, remembering how eagerly we all wanted better times a year ago.

Actually, though, 2011 has turned out to be a pretty marvellous year for me, so perhaps I need to ditch my usual ‘glass half empty’ attitude and embrace the New Year celebrations for what they are – a time to celebrate survival, growth, and the ability of human beings to bounce back from even the hardest situations.

In terms of my transition, 2012 is a year full of hope – In March I will have been on testosterone for a year, and it is during this coming year that my appearance will become more and more masculine – leading, I hope, to less social discomfort. I don’t hope or wish for anything more than that for my transition this year.

I do have some specific New Year’s resolutions, but rather than list them, I would prefer to offer you a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson, which sums up the thinking behind the resolutions I have made this year:

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us”.

As for tonight’s celebrations, I will be spending the evening with my partner and her best friend – two of the best people I can think of with whom to bid 2011 a farewell. There’s a bottle of vodka in the freezer, and a bottle of something sticky, purple and alcoholic in the fridge. Forward, onwards and upwards, and hopefully this year I won’t cry.

Wishing everybody the most brilliant of all years to come.

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An Online Christmas Carol

Once upon a time, on Christmas Eve, old Mark Scrooge sat busy in his office writing his ftm transition blog. It was very cold outside and in Scrooge’s office it was not much warmer either. Suddenly, a cheerful person entered the office. It was Scrooge’s partner, Will.

“A merry Christmas, Mark!” Will said.

“Bah!” said Scrooge, “Humbug!”

“Christmas a humbug!” said the eager-faced Will. “You don’t mean that, I am sure?”

“I do,” said Scrooge. “What’s Christmas time to you? You have to pay bills without money! You’re a year older but not an hour richer!”

When Will left, two gentlemen came in to collect money for the poor who had no place they could go. Stingy Scrooge, however, didn’t give the gentlemen any money, because they wouldn’t accept Paypal. When it was time to close the office, Scrooge talked to his clerk, Bob Scratchit.

“You want all day off tomorrow, don’t you?” said Scrooge.

“If that is okay, Sir,” answered the clerk.

“It’s not okay,” said Scrooge, “and it is not fair. After all, my YouTube stats will still need compiling. But if it must be, I want you to start work even earlier the following morning.”

Scratchit promised that he would; and the two went home.

Scrooge lived in an old house. The yard was very dark and scary that night and rather spooky, but Scrooge was not frightened easily. “Humbug,” he said, opened the door and walked in. He locked himself in, however, which he usually didn’t do. But then he felt safe again and sat down in front of his computer, powering it up whilst pondering on what to Tweet about his day.

Suddenly, Scrooge heard a noise, deep down below, as if somebody was dragging a heavy chain. The noise came nearer and nearer, and then Scrooge saw a frumpily dressed, but strangely familiar ghost coming right through the heavy door.

“Who are you?” said Scrooge.

“I am the ghost of your younger self, Markina Scroogetta.”

“But why do you come to me now?”

“I must wander through the world and I wear the chains because I was so unhappy in life. Three spirits will come to you. Expect the first tomorrow, when the bell tolls one.”

When she had said these words, Scroogetta’s ghost disappeared; and the night became quiet again. Scrooge went straight to bed, without undressing, and fell asleep immediately.

When Scrooge awoke, it was still very foggy and extremely cold, and there was no noise of people in the streets. Scroogetta’s ghost bothered him. He didn’t know whether it was a dream or not. Then he remembered that a spirit should visit him at one o’clock. So Scrooge decided to lie awake and wait to see what happens.

Suddenly, the clock struck one. Light flashed up in the room and a small hand drew back the curtains of his bed. Then Scrooge found himself face to face with the visitor. It was a strange figure – like a child: yet not so like a child as like an old man. Its hair, which hung about its neck and down its back, was white as if with age; and yet the face had not a wrinkle in it.

“Who, and what are you?” Scrooge asked the ghost.

“I am the Ghost of Christmas Past. Rise and come with me.”

The ghost took Scrooge back in time, to a place where his younger self, Scroogetta, was a child. There Scrooge could see a sweet-natured girl reading books, playing with friends and listening to music on a record player. Scrooge shook his head – those really were the Stone Ages before Kindle, Skype and Spotify. How had he made it through childhood – no wonder he was so messed up these days.

The spirit also took Scrooge to a University, where Scroogetta was a student. Scrooge saw the merry times they spent in the student bar. There was drink and music and dancing and Scrooge could see Scroogetta spending the night before essays were due in drinking copious amounts of Thunderbird and typing up her work on a twin-floppy machine. The thought of those days before available Internet made him shudder. “THIS is why I’m so mean”, he thought to himself before the Ghost of Christmas Past led him onwards.

Then the spirit took Scrooge to yet another place. Scroogetta was older now. She was not alone, but sat by the side of a wholesome young husband.

“It is sad to see,” he said, softly. “that another love has displaced me – the love of The Sims. I think it is better for us to part.”

“Spirit,” said Scrooge in a broken voice, “Take me back! I cannot bear it any longer. Stop rubbing all these memories of my broken past in my face!”

He struggled with the ghost to take him back. And finally Scrooge found himself in his own bed again. He was very exhausted and sank into a heavy sleep.

Scrooge woke up in the middle of a snore, just before the clock struck one again. He sat up in his bed and waited for the second ghost to come. And there it was – the Ghost of Christmas Present. It had curly brown hair, sparkling eyes and it wore a simple green robe with white fur, endorsed with the logo ‘iGhosts’. Its feet were bare and on its head it wore a holly wreath with a single green apple on the crown, one bite missing.

The ghost took Scrooge to Bob Scratchit’s house. In the kitchen you could see Mrs Scratchit preparing Christmas dinner. Her children were cheerfully sitting playing Gears of War on the Xbox. Then the door opened and Bob Scratchit came in with Tiny Tim upon his shoulders. Tiny Tim was Bob Scratchit’s youngest son. He bore a little crutch and had an iron frame around his limbs. He stared intently at the screen of his mobile phone.

“Come away from Facebook for a while, Tiny Tim”, said Scratchit, “You’re starting to remind me of Mr Scrooge”.

“In a minute, Dad, I’m just poking some hot girl in America.”

“Ok, Tim, but no Angry Birds while you’re at the table. And kids?” he called to the other children, “You’d better not be playing that on my profile!”

Then Christmas dinner was ready, and everyone sat down at the table. As the Scratchits were very poor, it was not much they had for Christmas dinner. But still everyone was joyful and you could feel that they all had the Christmas Spirit in their hearts.

Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas Present visited many homes in many places: they saw sick people who were cheerful; couples whose love spanned the miles, poor people who felt rich that day – all because of the Christmas Spirit.

“Maybe,” thought Scrooge, “Just maybe, Christmas Spirit is more important than all the technology that I thought I couldn’t live without?”

The bell struck twelve. The Ghost of Christmas Present disappeared. And at the last stroke of the bell, Scrooge saw the third ghost coming towards him.

Slowly and silently the ghost came nearer. It was very tall and wore a deep black piece of clothing, which covered its whole body and left nothing of it visible but one outstretched hand.

“Are you the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come?” asked Scrooge, “I fear you more than any other spirit.”

The ghost did not say a word, and Scrooge was really scared. They wandered through the city and Scrooge heard some men talking about a massive Facebook server meltdown. Scrooge felt a pain in his guts and wanted to find out what they were talking about. But the ghost moved on, and Scrooge thought once more of the Christmas Spirit.

After that, the ghost led Scrooge through streets that were familiar to him; and as they went along, Scrooge looked here and there to find himself, but nowhere was he to be seen. They entered poor Bob Scratchit’s house and found the mother and the children by the fire. Quiet. Very quiet. The noisy little Scratchits were as still as statues. When Bob Scratchit came in, the children hurried to greet him. Then the two young Scratchits got upon his knees and laid their little cheeks against his face and said, “It’s the Red Ring Of Death, father. What shall we do?”

The ghost moved on and took Scrooge to the window of his office. The spirit stood and solemnly pointed to a dark hunched figure sat at the desk. Scrooge slowly went towards the window, and following the ghost’s finger saw himself, weeping incoherently, clawing at a computer screen that read only “Application returned no data. This may be expected or represent a connectivity error.”

“Spirit!” Scrooge cried, “hear me. I am not the man I was! I will not be the man I must have been so far! Why show me this if I am past all hope? Good Spirit, I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year, rather than spend all my time online! I will live in the past, the present, and the future. The spirits of all three shall be within me. I will not ignore the lessons that they teach. Oh, tell me that I may change my fate!”

Full of fear, Scrooge caught the spirit’s hand. But the spirit suddenly changed – it shrunk and faded and finally turned into a bedpost.

Yes! And the bedpost was his own. The bed was his own, the room was his own. Best and happiest of all, the time before him was his own, and he could make the best of it. Scrooge immediately hurried over to his PC to write a blogpost about his experiences, or at least post a Facebook update, then stopped himself.

“I will live in the past, the present, and the future.” Scrooge repeated, walking away from the computer without turning it on. “I don’t know what to do! I am as happy as an angel! I don’t know what day of the month it is. I don’t know how long I’ve been among the spirits. Hallo! Hallo there!”

He ran to the window, opened it, and put out his head.

“What’s today?” cried Scrooge, calling downward to a boy in Sunday clothes.

“Today?” replied the boy. “Why, Christmas Day! Are you mental?”

“It’s Christmas Day!” said Scrooge to himself. “I haven’t missed it! The spirits have done it all in one night. Hallo, my fine fellow! Do you know the Wholefoods at the corner? And do you know whether they’ve sold the big tofu log that was hanging up there?”

“What, the one as big as me?” returned the boy. “It’s still hanging there now.”

“Is it!” said Scrooge. “Go and buy it! I am in earnest. Go and buy it and come back with the man that I may give them the direction where to take it. I’ll give you £50 for it. Come back with the man in less than five minutes and I’ll give you a copy of the X factor winners album!”

The boy was off like a shot, returning briefly only once as the tofu log was £85.

“I’ll send it to Bob Scratchit,” whispered Scrooge cheerfully. “It’s twice the size of Tiny Tim.”

Scrooge then went to church, which had been turned into a beautiful art gallery, and looked at the pictures for a while, then walked through the streets, and watched the people. He had never dreamed that anything could give him so much happiness.

But Scrooge was early at the office next morning. Oh, he was early there. If he could only catch Bob Scratchit coming late. And he did it; yes, he did. Bob was full eighteen minutes and a half behind his time. Scrooge sat with his door wide open, that he might see him come in.

“Hallo!” growled Scrooge, in his usual way. “What do you mean by coming here at this time of day? I am not going to stand this sort of thing any longer. And therefore,” he continued, jumping from his stool, “and therefore I am about to raise your salary. A merry Christmas, Bob.”

“Well actually, Mr Scrooge, I just came in today to hand in my notice. PC World is looking for staff, pays much better than you, and frankly I’ve always hated this job. Sorry, mate.”

Scrooge was shocked. “But what about that wonderful tofu log I sent you?”

“Mrs Scratchit sold that on eBay last night. We bought an Iceland Prawn Ring, and the rest of the money’s going towards the new Xbox. Cheers, anyway. See you.” And at that Bob Scratchit left Scrooge’s life for good.

But despite all of these setbacks, good reader, did Mark Scrooge become a better person? Did he learn that Christmas Spirit was far more important than social networking? You will have to decide for yourselves, by reading his future blogposts, viewing his YouTube videos, or catching him on Facebook.

Merry Christmas, one and all, wherever you and your loved ones are.

I have never been what you might call a snappy dresser. I hid in oversized clothes for years, and most attempts at dressing up just added 20 years to my age and a sense of huge discomfort. I did try, especially in the last few years, to dress in a femininine way, particularly at work. Largely because I felt so unfemininine inside, and was convinced that somehow it would leak and People Would Know. So I did my best, wearing make-up every day, choosing dangly earrings and accessorising furiously. There’s nothing wrong with any of those things, but for me every little spray of Impulse, every touch-up of lip-gloss in the Ladies’, every compliment I got on a blouse I had bought reluctantly, was another death knell to the little person hiding inside of me.

That does sound a bit over-dramatic, doesn’t it? Clothes are just clothes. Baubles are just baubles. But when the image you are projecting is so drastically different from that scared inner self, clothes are as much prison as armour.

I started binding during the summer of 2010, flattening my chest, and very much improving the way I felt about the way I looked. At around that time, I stopped trying to pretend that I was this feminine being, most notably at work. It was due to be my last term of teaching, and I was desperately unhappy, and just couldn’t keep up the pretence of court shoes and eye-shadow. Of course the students at my school noticed. I increasingly became the butt of lesbian jokes, despite the fact I’d recently got married and changed my name to Mrs. Ok, ok, you and I know I married a woman, but that wasn’t common knowledge amongst my pupils. Though they sure as hell suspected it. So I dressed reasonably smartly and androgynously, and put up with comments like “She’s just bitter cos I’ve got what she’ll never have” (male student pointing to his dick).

Finally, leaving the classroom, I could present myself as male full-time, which led to a whole new problem – I dressed like my grandad.  Of course, jeans and a t-shirt are fine for down-time, but being smart for work was tricky for me. Men’s trousers sit strangely on feminine hips, tending to ride upwards, so I’d end up with a very high waist. Hence my newfound celebration of sleeveless jumpers, covering the waistline, and also helping to disguise the bound chest. All very well – clothing as armour, yet again, but not very sexy.

Testosterone is slowly changing my body – my shoulders are broadening, my hips are getting smaller, as is my bum (well, so I’m told: it’s a bit hard to see round there). My tummy is a little bigger (think man smuggling mini-wok), but I’m keeping my weight down, so hopefully I won’t end up looking like Andy Capp over time. As a result of all this, trousers are fitting far better, and the reliance on sleeveless jumpers has practically disappeared.

Chest surgery has, of course, made a huge difference to the way I feel about myself, and changed how clothes fit and feel. As much of a stereotype as this may be, my outside and my inside are starting to match up, and this has made shopping for clothes far less of a trial. In terms of trying things on, I now look in the mirror and think “wow – you look pretty good”, rather than “oh god, it’ll do”, which is far healthier for the soul.

My final problem remains – the clothes may be fitting properly these days, but I still have no style! Beyond jeans and a funky t-shirt for casual, and shirt and tie for work, I am clueless about what to buy. So many years experiencing buying and wearing clothes as a chore have led me to become a nudist have given me a deep-seated distrust in my ability to get it right.

Ages ago I asked a couple of lovely friends to take me shopping, but never had enough money to do it. Thanks to my birthday, I think the time has come to hit the shops in earnest…

 

Hurrah! I’ve made it to 40! And I would like to take the opportunity first of all to say that I do not feel my age. I was chatting recently to a lady who I don’t think would mind me describing as “older” (I’d guess she’s in her 70s) and we got to talking about how perceptions of age have changed over the years. We agreed that whereas in the past, 40 was definitely seen as the age where one started to slow down, settle down and start the gentle roll down into old age, this is no longer the case.

Certainly when I was a child, I saw 40 as old, and as I grew up, still considered 40 as ‘middle-aged’ which can have very negative connotations. 40 has, to me, always implied sensible clothing (think M&S and Viyella), grown-up leisure pursuits (think golf rather than skateboarding), mid-life crises, and the onset of middle-aged spread. Also, it is drilled into women that if they get to 40 without having had a baby, Time Is Running Out. But for just about everyone these days, the negative messages about this age are increasingly out of sync with how people actually live.

For a start, we are *generally* in better physical shape in our 40s than our forebears, and overall the average age at which people die is creeping up and up. So 40 is becoming less a gateway to old age, and increasingly just another age, albeit at the upper end of young.

Statistically, a lot of people my age have had a number of partners, and are far more likely to be on a 2nd or 3rd major partnership by the time they hit 40. At which point most of the ‘middle-aged and married’ jokes do lose their point a little, and it is probably fair to say that most people of my generation have enjoyed a much more flexible approach to relationships.

The same goes for jobs. Very few people that I know are still doing the same job at 40 that they started out doing. The economy has become a place for temporary work, short-term prospects and flexibility. So again that image of the 40 yr old with a steady job-for-life and 2.4 children is waning.

And me? Well, apart from the ‘not feeling 40’ thing, on a personal level, and also when considering my life against the stereotypes I grew up believing, I am currently going through a 2nd puberty. Which at my age is a touch undignified, but can be quite fun. I have more spots than a Domino’s pizza, have the sex-drive of a crazed rhino, am inclined to slam doors, and spend endless time trying to express my thoughts. However, I also get hot flushes, whether due to the testosterone, or my ovaries giving up the good fight is hard to say. Believe me, combining puberty with menopause-like symptoms all makes for an interesting 40 yr old life, very different from my childhood expectations.

As for middle-aged spread, despite generally eating more now than I used to, I am still the same weight that I was before starting hormone therapy. My muscles are growing bigger by the day, despite my exercise regime being rather sporadic, my face changes practically every week and I am stronger and more energetic than I have ever been. When so much physical change is going on, and I’m in good physical shape as a result, I think I can postpone middle-aged spread to my 50s, or even 60s.

So, 40. The goalposts have definitely changed – firstly because despite still clinging to outdated stereotypes of what 40 year olds are like, society has changed. Secondly, because by changing my body, outlook and happiness, I have removed myself from the expected path through life. I rather like that I am no longer expected to conform, though as I mentioned in a recent post, I do still hold on to my own, ridiculous, expectations of success, and it is these, not anyone else’s, that I need to focus on kicking into touch.

Some jokes about being 40 that are about as far from the truth as you can get:

At 40, you get two invitations to go out on the same night, and you pick the one that gets you home the earliest.

At 40, every time you suck in your gut, your ankles swell.

At 40, I realize that I was built for comfort, not speed.

 

Yeah, right. Speak to me again when I’m 50.

Here’s a poem I wrote a while back, about labels. I am not fond of them, yet I can lay claim to every label below. This was designed to be performed rather than read, but I’ll let you read it however you like.

 

 

 

 

 

MOTHER

TRANS

TEACHER

BIPOLAR

LESBIAN

WIFE

CRETIN

PARANOID

LOVER

OCD

DAUGHTER

SON

BORDERLINE

BORDERLINE

BORDERLINE

DISORDERED

Some days

I like labels.

They define,

Give purpose,

Comfort,

Include.

Other days,

When my soul refuses to be squeezed into the space provided,

I want to smudge each letter,

Ruffle the boundaries,

Turn my labels into a blurred mess,

Like a charcoal drawing brought home by a school-child.

Ill-defined.

Harder to understand.