Category: July


I attended the Norwich Pride celebrations yesterday, which were fab. I did, however, wish I had worn a T-shirt saying “Not A Lesbian”. Being at a very “in-betweeny” stage, most people are very unlikely to identify me as a transguy, let alone simply male.

We all rely on context to tell us more about people we don’t know, and in the context of a Pride Parade, holding the hand of my partner, most people will have read me as a lesbian. Not that that’s a bad thing, really, as that was how I identified for a long time, but it did get me thinking about the signals I put out.

At work, dressed in a man’s shirt, smart trousers, dress shoes and, weather depending, a tie, I am much more likely to be read as “Not Female”, though male still might be pushing it. Out and about, I wear men’s clothes, but let’s face it, loads of women wear T-shirts and jeans, so how do I need to dress to be read as my true gender?

T-shirts are easy – fitted is a no-no, and I try to avoid perceived girly colours. That does seem ridiculous when so many men happily wear light, bright pastels, but I have to be wary of giving out confusing signals, where a 6 foot guy with a five o’clock shadow probably doesn’t need to worry. Like I said, it’s all about context and signals – if someone looks at another person, and is a little unsure of their gender, they will look at context (is that person having drinks with a crowd of women in a lesbian bar…) or signals (is that person wearing baby pink socks and a fitted T…). Please don’t jump down my throat here – I know that sock colour isn’t the key to someone’s gender or sexuality – but in my situation, it’s easier to try to give out what other people should read as masculine signals, to avoid being misread, especially in male spaces, such as bathrooms.

I’m going to have to wait until I am physically more obviously masculine until people simply start working out my gender from my face and body, rather than the colour or cut of my clothing. I bumped into an old acquaintance yesterday, who I haven’t seen for four years. Last time we met, he was transitioning, at about the stage I am now. Yesterday he was unrecognisable – handsome, hairy and undeniably a man. I bet he can get away with baby pink socks…

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When I was young, a researcher came to our house and asked me lots of questions about my influences. One thing I remember her asking was which public figure I most looked up to. I replied ‘Margaret Thatcher’. Really, Past Me? Really?? If you have any idea about my politics these days, this is a very good example of how we change as we grow up!

Remembering this did get me thinking about the people who have influenced me  and people who have had an impact on my ideas of masculinity. In no particular order, here they are:

Mr Norris:

I was at primary school in the 70s, and Mr Norris was my teacher around the age of nine. He had a big beard, wore hairy jumpers and played the guitar. He taught us how to sing ‘War is Over’ in two parts and gave us spelling tests with words like “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”. He didn’t smile much, and could be pretty grumpy, but he was kind, and I remember thinking that he was unlike any man I’d ever seen. Last time I heard, Mr Norris is still going strong, playing in a folk band. He was lovely.

Judd Nelson/John Bender:

I nearly wore out a VHS tape watching The Breakfast Club over and over. I’d sneak 10 minutes of John Bender in whilst eating my breakfast, before leaving for school with memories of his rebellious scowl etched on my brain. How I wanted to be him, to possess that casual sexuality and disregard for authority. I was a stickler for doing what I was told as a youngster, and the thought of being someone who could flaunt the rules with smouldering eyes and a hint of stubble was almost too powerful. I hope he really did wear Molly Ringwald’s earring. Maybe he just pawned it…

Terry Pratchett:

I have always loved Pratchett’s books, working my way through them all in order, then starting again, over and over. I enjoy his sense of humour and the way he plays with words like juggling balls. His recent books are darker and far more difficult to read. I was devastated when I first heard of his Alzheimer’s diagnosis, as I couldn’t bear the thought of his beautiful mind starting to defy him. The reason he has been such an influence on me,  has little to do with his actual writing. I admire the openness and honesty with which he is facing his condition, and the frank way in which he has brought the issue of euthanasia to people who may never have considered it relevant to them. Whether you agree with his views or not, he is willing to share them and have them dissected in the public arena.

Nick Krieger:

Nick is a writer, and also transgender. I first came across his writing when he guest blogged for a transmasculine lifestyle magazine’s website. In an attempt to understand what I am feeling and doing, I have trawled all sorts of literature, from psychology-lite, to heavy gender treatises, to blogs. Through all of this, I found it hard to relate what I was reading to my actual feelings and self-perception. Nick Krieger is one of a very small handful of people who has been able to articulate his feelings about gender and transitioning in a way to which I can relate, writing without the black and white thinking so often associated with these issues. He has recently published Nina Here Nor There: My Journey Beyond Gender, a very accessible and honest account of his experiences of being transgender. At the risk of sounding like I’m on commission, it’s well worth a look if you or anyone you love is questioning their gender identity.

Stephen Fry:

Fry has a lot of critics, as well as a burgeoning fan-base full of people who relish his word-wrangling and sharp tongue. Although I enjoy his humour, I admire him primarily for the honesty he shows over his bipolar disorder. I too am bipolar, and there’s relatively few positive role-models for us manic-depressives. The media is full of sensational stories about celebrities who have the condition, or claim to, and the world awaits with bated breath what weird and wacky thing they will do next. I like that Stephen Fry does not claim to be in some sort of magical super-control of his bipolar, and is honest enough to talk about how he manages it, without making it sound like the end of the world.

Lucas Silveira:

If you have ever visited my YouTube channel, you’ll see a selection of videos by Lucas Silveira. He is a singer I could listen to all day, has some very cool tattoos, and also happens to be transgender. I discovered him really early on in my transquest, and was bowled over to find a transman who is approximately my age and looks great. I also love the way he has managed his singing voice whilst taking testosterone. I know I’m unlikely to ever look or sound like him, but you know, we all need our poster-boys, and Lucas is mine.

Dr Curtis:

How many of us will ever have the privilege of being treated by a doctor who really knows what we are going through? I am lucky enough to have been referred to Dr Curtis by my PCT (Primary Care Trust) and he is the man in charge of my ongoing treatment. He makes no secret of the fact that he is transgender, but as far as my memory serves me, he has never actually brought it up in a consultation. There  is just the unspoken knowledge that when we’re talking feelings, symptoms or how others are reacting, he has a pretty good idea about what I’m saying, and isn’t backward in telling me when I’m fussing about nothing. Dr Curtis is a success in his field, dresses sharper than a knife, and gives me hope that one day I’ll be able to squeeze my girlcurves into an Italian suit.

Last but never least:

The greatest male influence in my life is my Dad. I have always been quietly like him, but this has become more apparent since I started identifying as male. If I end up half the man that he is, I’ll be happy.

According to the dictionary, an apologia is a  formal written defence of one’s opinions or conduct. An apology is a regretful acknowledgment of an offence or failure. This is designed to be a little of both. You decide how much is apologia, and how much apology. And don’t judge my terrible Latin…

I am sorry that sometimes I am selfish. Well, quite a lot of the time at the moment. Transitioning is a process that relies totally on self-knowledge, which means I have to prioritise myself and my own thoughts and feelings. I need to focus on myself and my own needs, which is not something I’ve always done, and I apologise if that means that I don’t give other people the time and attention that they need.

I am sorry that I am obsessed with my transition. This is the biggest, most far-reaching decision I have ever made, and it takes up my every waking hour. It gets into my dreams too. Whilst life undoubtedly goes on, the changes that I am experiencing are affecting every part of that life, and how I relate to it. I apologise if that means that I find it hard to disengage sometimes.

I am sorry that I get angry. I am generally very mild-mannered, but that does not mean that I am not entitled to lose my temper sometimes. It’s not pretty and I’m not proud of it, but sometimes these things happen. Bear in mind that I am often overheated, uncomfortable, awash with testosterone and misunderstood. At the same time, don’t just automatically blame my temper on those things. Ordinary people get angry at all sorts of things, whatever their hormone-mix. I don’t always have to be nice, and I apologise if that spoils the image some people may have of me.

I am sorry that I am not always happy. People often ask of my transition “But you ARE happy now, aren’t you?” And yes, I am. I feel more complete, grounded, comfortable and fulfilled than I ever have. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to have a permanent smile stuck on my face. If I’m having an off-day, it’s not fair to assume that this is down to some problem connected to my transition, or that “becoming a man” (sic) is making me unhappier or more moody. I apologise that I do not always reflect the success of my life-choices in the size of my smile.

I am sorry that I do not show more emotion. Taking testosterone has blessed me with a calmer attitude, and I am much less prone to big emotional flare-ups. I haven’t cried for nearly four months. That’s a good thing for me, as I feel better, more rational and in control. I still feel a range of emotions, still process things emotionally, just don’t really show them. I know that this is a big change in me, and I apologise if  my apparent lack of emotion seems scary or sad.

I am not sorry that I am transitioning. I know that there’s a lot of people out there who find what I’m doing weird, unnatural, unnecessary and repulsive. I know that there’s plenty of folk who would rather this wasn’t happening, and would prefer it if I just went back to being who they think I was. I will apologise for a lot of things that I do and have done in life, but I will never apologise for being who I am.

Went to the loo at the Science Museum yesterday. Walked past a woman to go into the gents. My daughter waited outside. I was unaware of the conversation that took place outside the door until later:

Woman to my daughter: “She does know that’s the gents toilet, doesn’t she?”

Daughter to woman: “Actually, that’s a man”

Woman: “Oh? OH!” (scurries off)

Well done that teenager! Why is it that at that age she is capable of dealing with that situation as cool as a cucumber, and yet if I get asked awkward things by people, my brain melts and I start burbling. I’m proud of my strong, gorgeous offspring!

You know, there’s nothing quite like looking back through the photo album to help you realise how far you’ve come. This photo was taken in January 2008, back when I was still trying to be girly, was considerably heavier than I am now, and had the self-image and self-confidence of a fava bean.

I have tried to recreate the pose, Heat magazine style, to allow comparisons. Please note I am wearing the same hoodie three years on. An old friend did once accuse me of hoarding crappy old clothes. Well, they feel nice.

Without sounding too self-pitying, I have never, ever felt attractive. I have not, for most of my life, caught glimpses of myself in the mirror and given myself a mental thumbs-up. I did not, until very recently, feel sexually attractive. If ever I have been paid any sort of attention, it’s always caught me completely by surprise. To this day I have absolutely no idea how my partner can be attracted to me physically. And that’s not false modesty, or fishing for compliments. When you have an appallingly low body image, it doesn’t matter how many times you’re told you’re sexy or attractive, it doesn’t get past your self-imposed filters. On the funny side, I am completely oblivious to flirting, which has caused some confusion in the past. I don’t spot flirts, however outrageous they’re being, because I can’t imagine that anyone would ever want to flirt with me. I just think they’re being nice. Hmmm.

None of this is helped by the simple fact that out of the *coughety-cough* people with whom I have shared intimate pleasures, only two actually initiated the relationship. I have always been the one to ask people out, and certainly never believed they took me up on the offer because of my body or looks. I’m pretty good at laughing people into bed – isn’t that often the case with people who don’t relate well to their own bodies? I’m also pretty nifty at cooking people into bed – I can cook up a storm, and who can resist after being softened up with a three course meal and a bottle of wine? Alcohol is a great leveller, and one of the reasons I don’t drink very much these days is the memory of self-hatred that often comes along with getting physical when neither of you was as in control as you should have been. Not good for the pride.

Now, don’t get me wrong – even in my most self-loathing moments, I know that I have bits that’re ok. I like my eyes, for instance. My mouth I used to hate, even as a child, with its soft, pouty, fleshy femininity. However, I’ve been told it’s one of my good bits, so I’m learning to like it. Whether it quite goes with my increasingly masculine appearance, only time will tell.

Recently I went to London, and was genuinely shocked at how many women gave me the hard eye. I don’t know about the men – my radar hasn’t re-attuned to them yet. Now I do get stared at a fair bit when out and about, because my transition is at the stage where people are trying to figure out whether I’m a girl or a boy. So all these women in London could have either been thinking “Wow, who is THAT gorgeous creature”, or “What the hell is THAT?”. I prefer to think the former. I was shocked that they were looking at me because I have only recently entertained the thought that I am attractive enough for people to want to look at. It made me feel pretty good, though a little scared.

Things are improving, slowly. Transition is necessarily a business that makes you think very hard about yourself. I’ve had to dig deeper into my own psyche than I’d really like, but overall my transition does mean that I am able to start seeing my body in a much more positive light. I still have a lot of my old issues, but as the testosterone changes my body, as I have changed the way I present myself to the world, and most important of all, since I started liking myself , it is as if I have given myself permission to be a confident, physical, sexual, attractive being.

Alongside my new found attractiveness, I still retain my ability to make others laugh, and my cooking skills are undiminished. So if ever I crack a joke and offer to cook you Chocolate Upside Down Pudding Cake, watch out….!

This is a question that my partner and I have been asked quite a few times now. Most people have asked with a degree of respect, others haven’t. One notably ex-friend asked my partner this in a message after she was told I was trans. It was the first thing she asked. Not ‘how are you both?’ or ‘is there anything I can do to support you?’, just ‘so, does that make you both straight now?’

Telling people I am transgender does seem to make them think that suddenly my sexuality is up for discussion. A lot of assumptions are made, based often on very old-fashioned ways of recognising and categorising gender and sexuality. Let’s face it, cisgender people can be gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer, or none of the above. So can transgender people. In the same way that this world really needs to come to terms with the fact that gender is not a binary, there has to be recognition that sexuality itself is not a neat package that can be easily labelled, and never changes.

Let’s rewind a little to look at my life. I grew up assuming I was heterosexual. I had no reason to think otherwise, and if I’m honest, I did not see myself in any sort of sexual context, so I went with the flow. I briefly came out as a lesbian in my late teens, after a couple of crushes on girls, then popped myself back in the closet because I was so afraid of being different that that seemed the best option. I slept with men, and married a man, but identified as bisexual, as that was the easiest way for me to acknowledge my continued feelings for women as well as being married. At 30, newly single, I came out as a lesbian (again!). I eschewed all ideas of men being attractive, and enjoyed living as a lover of women. I met my beautiful partner, fell hopelessly in love, and there I remain.

So that all rather begs the question, am I a straight man? Absolutely not. Yes, I am emotionally and sexually attracted to women, and am in a long-term relationship with a woman, but I refuse to identify as straight. I am transitioning because I feel far more masculine than feminine. I love and embrace the changes that testosterone, and identifying as a male have brought. I am the happiest I have ever been, but I cannot and will not be shoehorned into a category that does not fit. Straight-identified men, by my definition, are predominantly only attracted to women.

Long before I started taking male hormones, I realised that my previous understanding of both gender and sexuality had been blown out of the water. In order to identify as ‘straight’, I would have to accept very narrow definitions of gender. As someone who has come to realise that gender is fluid, the idea of being ‘straight’ becomes rather ridiculous. Because I cannot base my emotional and sexual attachments on Society’s definition of ‘man’ or woman’. It’s a real cliche these days to say ‘oh, I’m attracted to the person, not the gender’, but surely that should be the case for all of us? I find many women sexy and beautiful, I find many men sexy and beautiful, I find many transmen and transwomen sexy and beautiful. I find many people who don’t identify in any particular gender category sexy and beautiful. And that’s not the making-me-terribly-horny testosterone speaking – this has been my feeling for a long time, but as usual, I felt I had to conform to the ‘best fit’ I could find in my situation.

So how DO I identify sexually? I identify as queer. This is a word previously used pejoratively towards LGBT people, but now many of us use it as an umbrella term for those accepting of fluidity in both gender and sexuality. Which suits me very well, thank you!

What about my lesbian partner? I’ve asked her to contribute to this post, as it wouldn’t be fair to try and speak on her behalf. From a personal point of view, I know that she identifies very strongly as lesbian, so for me to make a song and dance about being ‘The Man’ in our relationship, forcing us both into new stereotypical roles would kill our love in a very short time. Over to Willemina:

1              How and when did you first identify as lesbian?

I didn’t know the word lesbian or that I was a lesbian, but I can remember from about the age of 8 or 9 having feelings which were different. Looking back on experiences and feelings I can remember clearly, it was obvious but I didn’t know then. When I was 12, I had my first crush (that I can remember) but I didn’t tell anybody. I tried to be a ‘normal’ teenager and I never told anybody, not even my close friends, about my feelings and thoughts. I ‘came out’ in dribs and drabs. To some friends when I was 19, and then to my parents. It felt good to come out. Finally everything made sense. I know that Mark gets exasperated with me because I forever have the worry that I am not a proper lesbian, or that I am not lesbian enough. This is how I feel but I know in my heart of hearts it isn’t true.

2          What do you think of the popular question “How do you know you’re a lesbian if you’ve never been with a man?”

I find this type of question offensive and intrusive. Nobody has to take a test. Nobody has the right to ask me this question. I can’t remember ever asking anybody how do they know if they are straight. I just know I am a lesbian. Why do I need to have sex with a biological man? I don’t worry about who knows better than me because only I know me best. I don’t have to have sex to know what my sexuality is because it’s how I feel about people, not a list of people I’ve had sex with.

3              Is being lesbian more than just sexual preference to you?

Yes. I don’t know what it is, but my whole experience and feelings and emotions are lesbian. It’s not just about sexual preference, although that is at the core, but along with that come other aspects. I love being out and proud and feeling a part of a large community who share something. Lesbians approach life at a different angle. Yes, that’s a sweeping generalization but I feel it is 99% true, in my experience.

4          Are you concerned that people will see you as straight as Mark transitions?

Honestly – yes. I can’t understand why people would suddenly assume I am straight. Society is still in a place where that is seen as the ‘norm’. And most of the time, it isn’t. We are still a willingly blind society/culture. Open your eyes and see that everybody is different and live their lives different and nothing is ever what it may seem. I am not, and have never been and never will be, straight. That is not me. It will make me angry, upset and feel like shit if people see me as straight but this is due to a number of insecurities I have about myself. I know that I place a large importance on how people see me and how I come across at any time. I am a highly insecure person, and unfortunately this is an aspect which I am finding difficult to come to terms with. This is something I will definitely be working through with my therapist ;p

5              Have your feelings towards Mark changed due to his transition?

I honestly and truly don’t know. I feel our relationship has shifted in a good way as Mark emotionally and physically transitions. With more than 6 years together, we are constantly evolving and changing. Together. Neither he nor I are the same people from when we first met. And that applies to everybody in the world. People are not stagnant beings. I love him more every day, and I love the way he is changing. It’s like watching a caterpillar becoming a butterfly. At first, I was confused and scared and had absolutely no idea how I was going to be with him and cope with the transition. It has initiated many discussions and thoughts I haven’t had before and, at first, didn’t know how to deal with. We just keep talking and talking and I am now embracing my new feelings and ideas, and I am actually happy with that. When it is just me and Mark, I feel safe and happy. When we are with people who we know and who understand, I feel safe and happy. When we have to deal with the larger world, I feel insecure and sad and confused. However, I have never had those feelings when I think of Mark, or when I am with Mark. With him, I am truly, truly happy. But when his transitioning started, this happiness did not happen overnight. Like I said, I had to work and am still working through things.

6          How are you coping as Mark’s body becomes more masculine?

He looks better. He knows this and I freely tell him this. He just looks, and moves, right. And he definitely still does it for me. His body is becoming more masculine, but differently. I can’t put my finger on it. I guess I do have a thing for sporty, muscular types, and I’m getting that from Mark. It’s odd seeing his body developing muscle and becoming streamlined without making daily trips to the gym! Although I’m not into biological men, I am actually enjoying the changes to Mark’s body. He is now exuding confidence in his body and I find that sexy.

7          Do you ever see yourself becoming the wife to his husband?

No, because I don’t wish to conform to stereotypes or what society expects of me. I became Mark’s civil partner because I wanted to declare my undying love for him in front of the most important people in my life. I wanted them to share a tiny fraction of the joy I feel inside by being with Mark. I wanted to make a very public statement, because I have felt sidelined for a lot of my life. I think because of how I present myself due to my insecurities, I rarely get taken seriously. I tend to make light of things. I therefore felt that having the civil partnership would solidify our relationship in other people’s eyes.

8          Does Mark’s transition make you straight?

Here are the facts: Yes, I am in love with him. Yes, I am in a relationship with him. But no, that doesn’t make me a straight woman. I am a lesbian and that doesn’t change.

I found this website which might be helpful… http://www.forge-forward.org/handouts/Transpositioned.html

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We are who we are – she a lesbian, me a queer transman, and for us, that works. We have to work hard, and talk harder, and re-learn each other’s bodies and responses, but ultimately I believe that when you can be honest with someone, and your tummy still goes funny when you see them, all is good.