Category: February

I’ll start with an apology – those of you expecting a post about masculinity today, which I did promise, will be disappointed. That post is on the way – it is, as artistes might say, a ‘work in progress’. However, it’s been a lousy emotional week, so I’d rather delay a little longer, and write it properly over a longer period, than dash it off when my heart and head aren’t in it.

So yes, it’s been a hard week, emotionally, but I’ve coped, in ways I’d never have dreamed of a year or two ago. If nothing else, a few days of feeling wretched have served to remind me how much I have changed, in terms of my emotional response.

I used to be a crier. Oh, how I cried. Though once or twice in my life I have been accused of crying deliberately to make people feel guilty, that actually couldn’t have been further from the truth. It was just that in the days when oestrogen was my primary fuel, tears really were my natural response to…well, just about everything. I used to joke that I had a reservoir sat behind each eye, ready to burst forth at the slightest provocation.

I hated reacting like that – I felt it made me seem weak, unable to cope, manipulative. An ex partner once said “how can I ever argue with you, and put my point across, when you just end up crying?” And it’s true – by the time someone is awash with tears and snot, you can’t really bring whatever issue was being raised to a satisfactory, mutually agreeable conclusion. Well, I never could: there’s no joy in knowing a partner has given way on an issue simply because they couldn’t bear knowing they’d upset you to the point of crying. Not to mention your face looking like a swamp.

My lachrymose ways followed me into social situations, work situations, watching films, reading the newspaper…just about everywhere. Arguably this is because I spent a lot of years quite unhappy, stressed, and emotionally raw. However, even as I was experiencing the warm tweaking at the eyes that heralded another bout of tears, I wanted desperately to be able to react differently. After all, I was intelligent, articulate and more than capable of holding my own; why have all of that hidden under a bright pink nose and eyes like mini-doughnuts? That’s the other thing – I was never a dignified crier. Oh no. The shame I felt at crying was compounded by knowing that for a good couple of hours afterwards, the world would KNOW I’d been crying. And how.

Taking testosterone has lots of effects – many physical, more than you’d think emotional. It’s hard to describe how the way I perceive things, react to them and deal with them has changed, but I know I feel very differently from how I did before, and that is reflected in the way I react to things.

I think some people perceive that testosterone somehow stunts or removes someone’s emotional response, but that’s certainly not true in my experience. It’s still there, but different. Overall, I feel a lot calmer, less inclined to react to things that would have bothered me before. I find it a lot easier to view a problem or situation objectively, and rather than get upset, try to work out solutions. My anger brews much faster than before, but goes away as quickly as it came. That’s something I’m learning how to manage, but I’ll take it over the crying, any day.

I last cried on 17th July 2011.

For me, this is liberation. I’ve heard other transmen who have experienced this say they miss their tears, but I really don’t, not at this stage. It has to be said that not everyone taking T stops crying, but I consider I am one of the lucky ones. I love that my emotions aren’t written across my face in wet tracks. I feel that I am able to process what’s upsetting me much more easily if I can do it privately, within me, and react appropriately at the time so that I can go sort any emotional mess out after the event.

But, and there’s a big but, lack of tears does not mean lack of emotion. Don’t think that because I’m not crying over something upsetting that I am not upset. All the feeling is still there – it just doesn’t translate into tears. Some might consider being able to cry as a release I am missing out on, but I honestly prefer dealing with things differently. Feeling stronger and in control helps me a lot in processing emotional stuff, and my past relationship with crying has meant that I see that as a very negative thing in myself.

And before I have rotten tomatoes thrown at me, yes I know that Real Men Cry. This is not about a quest to be a stereotype, a super manly man or anything like that. I’m not saying men shouldn’t cry – anything but, as it can and should be a positive release. But for me, the tears were a burden, and I am revelling in how it feels NOT to cry.

Ironically, the only time I get a touch of wetness in my eyes is watching things like DIY SOS Big Build. But the wet eyeball is as far as it ever goes, and I am grateful for a new way of dealing with things.







No, I am not. Nor do I ever plan to be. However, some transmen do, for a variety of very valid reasons, choose to bear a child. Whilst this is rare, it’s not actually that rare. We only see those cases where the man in question has come under public scrutiny, either by choice, or through media intrusion. Other transmen and their partners have chosen not to seek out media attention, and so the public at large are still inclined to believe that That Sort Of Thing only occurs once in a blue moon, and far far away in heathen countries.

Which brings me to the point of this post. Somewhere in the UK, a transman has given birth recently. The press in general, and Sun journalists in particular are desperate to find out who that person is. Desperate to the point of contacting Trans support groups and asking if they know him, desperate to the point of nosing around trans organisations, and inviting members of the public to ‘out’ the man in question. A large box is displayed on The Sun’s online article about the issue saying “Do you know the man? Call The Sun newsdesk on 020 **** 4103” The paper also kindly provide an email address for people to contact them with the name of the man they’re looking for. I’m not that well versed in press practices to know if this would be rewarded with money – what’s the odds?

Now let’s get this straight – this man isn’t a murderer, rapist, paedophile or Great Train Robber. He’s someone who, to the best of my understanding, with his long-term partner, has made what must have been an immensely difficult decision. A new parent, who must currently be terrified. Natacha Kennedy of Trans Media Watch compares the behaviour of some journalists with their own claims following recent action over controversial methods used to gain information: “The Sun…claims that its journalists are subject to a witch-hunt. If this is not a witch-hunt par excellence, I don’t know what is”.

Whatever your feelings are about a transman giving birth, and mine are very mixed, that isn’t really the point. I believe passionately in an individual’s right to choose their own path. Some people choose to go about their business in the media glare, others do not. This transman has the right to respect, privacy and protection.

To paraphrase Kennedy, as trans people, supporters of trans people, and just plain old supporters of a human being’s right not to be hunted down, it is important that the press are told nothing, so that this man and his family can get on with living their lives.

Anybody being hounded by any journalists on this issue can contact Trans Media Watch for support and advice or call the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) 24 Hour emergency advice line on 07659 152656.

Conversation with doctor:
“So, is your partner bisexual?”
“No, she’s a lesbian”
“Oh, not even a little bit attracted to men?”
“No, definitely not”
*long pause*
“That’s going to present big problems for your relationship as you transition.”

Well, that doctor wasn’t the first to suggest that me transitioning would signal the end of my loving relationship of (at that point) six years, and certainly won’t be the last. I’m not so naive that I don’t realise that historically not that many relationships make it after one half of the couple goes through transition. I do realise that as we change emotionally and physically, our relationships change too, sometimes just moving too much away from the core that held the couple together in the first place for the relationship to stay viable.

I know this. But as it’s nearly Valentine’s Day, I want to make a plea…don’t write us off. Don’t assume the worst. Don’t sit by the phone waiting for the bad news. Because it doesn’t happen to everybody.

I’m not going to go into the ins and outs (fnar) of my sexuality, and that of my partner. I think we covered that in my earlier post So, does that make you both straight now? Suffice it to say that I identify as queer, and my partner identifies as a queer lesbian. For a definition of what the word ‘queer’ means to us (and won’t necessarily for everybody), please see the Glossary I posted a while back. Sexually, yes, we’ve had a steep hill to climb in terms of my physical changes, and also the changes in the way I relate to my own body. But that hill hasn’t necessarily been a bad one to climb, and we’ve quite enjoyed some of the views to be had along the way, if I can stretch that metaphor a little further!

Emotionally, I have changed, and that has led to a lot of renegotiating (and me being b*tchslapped by Willemina pretty regularly). But all in all, I am still the same person I have always been, only happier, more relaxed, more comfortable, more confident than ever. I am finally feeling like the person I always wanted to be, and that’s actually done our relationship a whole lot of good. Let’s face it, would you rather your partner was uptight, depressed, stressed and uncomfortable, or the opposite? Some of the changes we have faced really have been a good thing for both of us.

We’re an odd couple, I know, a transman and a lesbian. But for us, it works. We don’t do anything special, we’re just very, very lucky. Relationships either work or they don’t. Some do break down because of transition, some because of other stuff. If you have friends in a relationship, and one is just starting out on their transition journey, please don’t assume the relationship will crash and burn. Of course, it might, but my point is that it’s horrible to assume, and unfair to say to anyone that’s embarking on their transition that what they are doing will lose them their partner. Just support them if that does happen, and please, avoid “I told you so’s”, because these things are NOT inevitable.

It’s been about 7 years since Willemina and I first met, nearly 18 months since we had our Civil Partnership ceremony (more of that, and the legal issues around it, at a later date. Not now – I’m feeling romantic). We are still together, and strongly so. I can’t guarantee we’ll be together, forever, until the end of our days. Who can? But we have pledged to be together until the point where we stop being happy with one another.

So Willemina Velvetina Pelicina, I love you with all my heart. You are my strength and the arms that hold me when I worry. You are warmth and giggles and craziness. Your smile makes my brain explode, and your farts are the stuff of legend. I’m yours.
***stop press***
New video up on YouTube – interview, romance, and me failing the latest manliness test in spectacular fashion! Just click on MrHerbertTurtle up on the right hand side of this post.

Those of you who have read my earlier posts about my breasts will know that for most of my life I have had a rocky relationship with my body. Remember ‘Men in Black’? The bit where the alien ‘borrows’ the body of a hapless human? He can’t get the body to fit right, and spends half the film trying to hitch it round into a comfortable position. That’s a pretty good metaphor for how I have always felt about my body. Discomfort, and that nagging feeling that something ‘wasn’t quite right’. Clothes never felt good, and I was never happy with how I felt or looked. In short, I was uncomfortable in my own skin.

It’s been 5 months since I had chest contouring surgery. Over the course of a few hours on September 12th 2011, my D-cup was transformed into a chest suitable for a man. I’m not flat as a pancake – as my surgeon pointed out with a wry smile, what man my age and weight has a flat chest? Instead, I have a chest that feels and looks right for me.

I have been left with long welts of scars, stretching from my armpits to nearly the centre of my torso on both sides. They’re not pretty, but I don’t care, and I know they’ll fade. What’s far more important than a couple of scars is that the stress, discomfort and horror I used to feel looking at my own body is also beginning to fade. It’s not an overnight process – you can’t just miraculously disappear issues years old – but it’s happening.

I can run now. Not fast, or with any diginity, but without automatically folding my arms across my chest to a) stop people seeing my flying boobs b) avoid doing myself a damage and causing pain. I still occasionally catch myself clutching my chest, to run up the stairs, then realise half way up that it’s no longer necessary. The feeling I get at those moments is enough to make me want to cry. Happily, in relief, and huge gratitude to myself that I’ve made the decisions I have.

Before my surgery, I knew how desperately I wanted to rid myself of my breasts, and anticipated I’d feel better for doing so. I could have had no idea what a dramatic longer-term effect my surgery would have on my self-esteem and body-image. It’s mind-blowing. My posture still isn’t all it should be (I’m a huncher) but it’s improving, and damn…I look and feel good! (Ironically, as I type this, the radio is playing ‘Sexy and I Know It’…well, I’m working on that)

With my surgery 5 months behind me, and nearly a year into testosterone therapy, I am starting to feel comfortable in my own skin for the first time in my life. The feeling is beyond compare.