Category: June


A Hairy Question…

Help me out here, please. I’ve been shaving like a good’un for decades. Not because I really wanted to, but to keep the rest of the world happy. Now my underarm shrubbery has reached Kew Gardens status, it’s getting a bit unruly. I don’t go round looking at other men’s hairy bits, so I’m relying on you for help! Please vote in this poll….

I never liked my birth name. Even as a child I didn’t like the way it sounded, so soft, girly and weak. Sorry, Mum and Dad. I know it was given to me in love, but from a very early age I did not associate it with my Self. For years, though, it didn’t even occur to me that I could do anything about my name – I just assumed that your name was your name, and that was that. Around eight years ago,  I started using a shorter, much simpler, more androgynous name, a spin off from my old name. This had power for me because it was a name I had given myself, and it did not immediately label me male or female, weak or strong.It was simply a name that allowed me to be.

I used that second name for a long time, but a few people were never happy that I had changed, clearly not taking my desire to be referred to a certain way very seriously. I will never forget family coming to see my partner and I, and visiting the local village fete – full of old ladies, home-made jam and a flower arranging competition. Everybody there knew me by my chosen name. However, one member of my family told every single person she was introduced to “You know that’s not her real name, don’t you? Her real name is X”. It was destroying.

Yet again I have changed my name, to Mark. I chose it because it’s short, unassuming, undeniably masculine, and is similar to my Dad’s name. The majority of my friends and family have made a monumental effort to call me this, and I am more grateful than they can possibly imagine that they are trying their best. My choice of name is core to my being accepted for the person I am. I respect the fact that some people still think of me by my birth name, but I cannot stand it being used. What is worse is when people try to make a joke of it, or explain why they have got it wrong. Please, if you slip up and call me the wrong name, just say sorry, correct yourself and carry on. Don’t go into a long-winded speech about how difficult you find it calling me by the right name, or make an embarrassed joke. I might be smiling, and saying it’s ok, and doesn’t matter, but it does.

As I’ve said, most people are now pretty cool with calling me Mark, but pronouns are clearly more of an issue. I identify as male, and choose to be called he, him and so on. I’ve listened to far too many excrutiating statements a little like this: “Mark would like that new album. She’s into that kind of music, isn’t she?” It’s as if people can wrap their brains around the idea of me being called Mark, but somehow stall at using the correct pronouns. Look, even I get it wrong sometimes, when referring to myself in the third person (I can’t think of an example just now) but it’s easy enough to say “oops, I meant he” and carry on.

A friend of mine found that people claimed they “weren’t ready” to call her partner by the right name and pronouns when he transitioned, but I’m afraid that when the person transitioning asks you to call them by a particular name, and use particular pronouns, THAT is the time you should do it, not at some hypothetical future point at which you may be ready to. Sorry if this sounds harsh. I know that accepting my name change and choice of pronouns is difficult, but it’s been nearly six months, and I need the reassurance that the changes I am making are being taken seriously.

I have been asked by people who have only recently met me what my “real name” is. Here is one of the cardinal rules of treating transgender people with respect: Do. Not. Ask. Us. What. Our. “Real”. Name. Is.

Because my real name is Mark.

WordPress allows me to see the terms that people have put into search engines to get to my blog. Some of them are pretty predictable. Things like “ftm operation”, “ftm surgery”, “ftm penis” and “transman genitalia” do kind of bear out what I’ve said before about the world’s seeming obsession with what’s in my pants. Others are kind of bizarre, and I can only guess how shocked or disappointed people were to be referred to my blog. Here are some of the best:

“boy ankles” – Can anyone enlighten me as to why ANY sane person would type this into a Google search? A cub scout fetishist, perhaps?

“does taking oestrogen gel curb my appetite” – No idea, but good luck finding out.

“how can I tell if I am retaining water” – Yeah, I know I did a post on my water retention issues (classy, me) but I’m pretty sure I wasn’t what this person was looking for.

“hairy cankles” – Ummm…a Cub Scout Leader fetishist this time??

“are you talking to my boobs?” – Who was this person asking? Me? The computer? Her invisible friend?

“the characteristics of the most feminine body” – Bwahahahahaaaa. I am so the wrong person to be asking for those!

“my boobs are evil” – I hear you. I mean, not necessarily yours…I’m sure from the outside they’re very lovely…unless they’re possessed…I’ll shut up now.

“images of hairy fairys” – Really? I mean, really??

And the top three searches since I started this blog? Drum roll, purlease….

1)     “transman penis” (Doh)

2)     “transgender transition” (Fair enough)

3)     “pictures of transgender transition mtf” (These people must have been gutted when instead of pics of gorgeous transwomen, they got me gurning about the state of gents’ toilets)

And my own personal favourite? “Vegan ftm”, because for once I may have been just the person that searcher was looking for. I like to think so, anyway!

On 14 March 2011 the Government launched Working for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Equality: Moving Forward, which sets out the actions the Government is taking to tackle lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender inequality.  They recognise transgender issues are often distinct and sometimes need to be addressed separately.

Their first e-bulletin, issued on 11 April, included an online survey asking for our views and ideas. This received a large number of responses which will apparently help to inform the development of the first ever cross Government transgender equality action plan, to be launched later this year.

The second Government Equalities Office transgender e-bulletin has now been released. One of the findings of the first survey was that health was the top priority for respondents. To gather more insight into this important area, this e-bulletin contains a more focussed survey just on health. The e-bulletin can be found here: http://www.equalities.gov.uk/pdf/2nd%20transgender%20e-bulletin.pdf

When I first started transitioning, I was quite  blasé about the idea of using the gents’ toilets. Frankly, I thought the least of my problems would be negotiating my way into a slightly differently furnished bathroom area.

It’s turned out to be more difficult than I thought. On a superficial level, I hadn’t credited just how filthy a lot of men’s loos would be. Mostly, though, the problem had nothing to do with the state of the cubicle, it had to do with me. I was always terrified I’d be challenged, laughed at, or thrown out. I’ve only just managed to use the gents at Liverpool Street station, despite going through there fairly regularly, because there’s a big tiled expanse of floor between the door to the ladies’ loo, and the door to the gents’. I just couldn’t face being called out by the attendant half way across that gender delineating tiling, and having to explain myself in the face of lots of curious people. So for a long time, I skulked into the ladies.

I’ve now got to the point where I sort of maybe pass, if you squint at me sideways, which has eased up the whole loo issue.  If I look confident, and move fast enough, I can get in and out without the other men (or attendant) clocking me. There’s the added bonus that most men DO NOT LOOK in toilets, so few will register that I am anything but a short, fast-moving man.

I am now the master of near-silent peeing. I know some men pee in the cubicle, but I’d rather not draw attention to myself. My standards of public bathroom hygiene have dropped massively – where once I recoiled in horror at smears and puddles, I am now happy to use any loo that doesn’t have those things on the actual seat.

I may be getting over the toilet issue, but gym changing rooms are a nightmare. I do not use the women’s changing area, as I don’t feel that’s appropriate, or comfortable. At the same time, as I still have breasts, I don’t dare use the men’s changing area. Besides, it’s full of hugely pumped blokes wandering around in the nudd, which I’m not very comfortable with myself. I spoke to the manager of my gym, who said I can use the disabled changing room, but then I have nowhere to put my stuff, as there’s no lockers in there. The one time I tried leaving my things in there, they nearly ended up in Lost Property. Apparently I can leave my bag at the personal trainers’ desk, but there’s rarely anyone sitting there, so it’s not a secure solution. Also, staff turnover at the gym is pretty high, and I really don’t want to have to explain to someone new every time I go why I can’t just use one of the changing rooms.

My solution to the whole changing room dilemma is to change at work, which is just over the road. Not ideal, as it involves changing in one of the aforementioned smeared, puddly cubicles, and I can’t shower til I get home, but OK. On seeing me in my gym kit, a couple of my colleagues and I ended up discussing the problem. I was a bit taken aback when one of them said “Well, at least you can use both the women’s and the men’s if you want to. You can pick and choose”. No. No, I can’t.

The idea that as a transman, I can choose which gender I’m going to be today annoys me. It implies that I’m either messing around, or trying to gain privilege on both sides. People who are transitioning simply need to have access to facilities that are appropriate, safe and comfortable. We shouldn’t have to explain ourselves, or ask permission to use a particular toilet or changing room. In the ideal world which I have all mapped out in my head, it really wouldn’t matter where I got changed, or took a pee, because everybody would be comfortable enough with their own and other people’s differences for it just not to be an issue.

PS: New YouTube video up today!

Times, they are a-changing…

11am – young man knocks on door, selling double-glazing. I open it and he says:

“Good morning, Sir! Erm, good morning, Madam!”

11.45pm – walking through town my partner and I are accosted by a woman trying to persuade us to go into her nightclub:

” Hello Ladies….and Gentleman!”

I know these may seem like nothing much, but it proves that at least on first glance, I pass as male, even if the glancer then corrects themself. And the lovely nightclub lady obviously read me as male enough to get confused. At least she stuck with gentleman after calling us both ladies initially.

It all makes a difference. And made me smile like an idiot.

Yes, another song reference – it’s a habit, both when talking and writing. Have a look back through my posts, and you’ll spot them. Top marks if you got the ‘pretty piece of flesh’ reference in FTM Q&A. My partner didn’t get that one – apparently she just thought I was being weird again. Again?? I’m hurt.

So, back to the breasts. I have had a week chock full of visits to doctors. I went to see the doc in London last Friday, who has declared my progress ‘hunkydory’ – good to know. Also went to see the doc here in Norwich – more of that later. Both have agreed to refer me to a surgeon for ‘top surgery’. I’m over the moon excited about this, but at the same time in shock. When you start a long process like this, you really just have to prepare for everything to take ages. As I am transitioning courtesy of the NHS (National Health Service), I am bound by their timetable, and their funding availability. So I’ve had it in my head that I’d be looking at chest surgery sometime in 2012. Now it looks like I may be able to get it done this year.

I have hinted previously at my hatred for the Evil Twins, aka my breasts. Don’t get me wrong, I am a great lover of breasts, in all their warm wobbly glory, just not attached to me. They cause me huge feelings of dysphoria, and I wear layers of painful restrictive nylon and lycra to keep them out of sight. Chest surgery will be freeing – I can throw on a t-shirt in the morning without worrying about my shape; I can go to work without being turned cross-eyed by midday by my binder; I can go swimming again; I can take my top off without fear of arrest.

Those of you who know me from way back when will know that I have already had chest surgery once. I used to be a 32FF, and those enormous puppies were the scourge of my existence. I felt like a dairy cow, could never get clothes to fit that weren’t tents, and had to get used to people either talking directly to my tits, or just bringing them up in conversation like that’s ok. I had a reduction, largely to reduce back and neck pain, but mainly to give me a little sanity. Now I am a D cup, but dream of having no breasts at all, just a clean, manly chest. Of all the things that transitioning involves, this one is the most important to me. For my self-esteem, body-image, and ability to face the world with my head high. They give me no pleasure (literally, as since my reduction the whole area is numb) and I cannot wait for the day I wake up without them.

I need to wait to have my funding confirmed before I book a consultation with the surgeon, but from then, we’re talking a handful of months, which is nothing to wait after years of toting around the Evil Twins.

On a tangent, I learned a valuable lesson earlier in the week when I visited my Norwich doc. Never, EVER admit where you work. For the record, I work in the Customer Relations department of a railway company. When people write or email in to complain, it’s me that answers. I like to think of myself as a writer – after all, I spend time delicately honing my words, playing with nuances of meaning and crafting a (hopefully) perfect response. More often than not it boils down to “no, you can’t have a refund because the train toilet was smelly”.

My doc asked how work was, and I told him about my change in jobs and how well it was going. I only had to mention the words ‘railway company’ and he was off. Of a 30 minute appointment, 15 were spent with him giving me his opinion on the company I work for. I just wanted to know about my chest surgery…

 

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Cartoon courtesy of the very talented Jiro. Check out Jiro’s work at The Bosoms (link on the right)