Category: Other People and What they Say/Do

Mark032018It is a novelty to be back blogging…but as what I want to say would make far too long a post on the usual social media, here I am. On March 15th 2018, I will have been taking testosterone for seven years. Easy to remember…the Ides of March, and in some ways just as ominous for me as it was for poor old Caesar. Sorry – I’ve got me an MA in Classical Studies since I was last on here, and I do love to show off.

So, seven years on T, and here I am, seven years older, and I’d like to think seven years wiser, but that is probably wishful thinking. I am far less involved in ‘transgender stuff’, such as politics, campaigning, running a support group, etc. than I used to be. Partly because health problems have reduced the amount of energy I have to expend on anything except the essentials, and partly because I just wanted to live my life as me, rather than a ‘representative’. Not a decision I am really proud of, but at the end of the day happiness (and not being exhausted) is key, right?

Seven years on, I am still misgendered regularly enough to cause me major self-doubt. Back at the beginning, I hoped, like everybody does, that all those hormonal changes, combined with chest surgery, would render me fully masculine to the eye. Now don’t get me wrong, I know for an absolute fact that I am masculine (even if my version of masculinity doesn’t always match up with everybody else’s…cue me singing “I am what I aaaam” at the top of my voice…) and that is not the thing that is in doubt.

I have amazing friends and colleagues who reassure me that the Mark they know and love is definitely not a thinly disguised girl, but sadly, that is often how I feel, and whatever anyone tells me, that is what I still see in the mirror. After seven years of hormones, my beard still looks like I’ve transplanted a handful of pubes to my chin, and glued them in place; my voice, though now more or less in the male register, is still more Pinky and Perky than the Hulk. Dammit, I am pretty. My decision not to consciously try to adopt ‘male behaviour’ is a two-edged sword. I am far more comfortable not trying to be ‘big and butch’, and trying to act in a way that just isn’t me is really exhausting, so I don’t. However, it has been suggested that if I did ‘work at it’, I’d probably have fewer incidents where I get called ‘she’. Or would I?

In the last two days, I’ve experienced two pretty typical encounters. Yesterday, I went to fill a prescription.

Pharmacist (talking to me, with my prescription ready to hand over, looks at name, then looks at me): “Does he pay for his prescriptions?”
Me: “No, I don’t”
Cue speedy fumbling to hand over pills, both avoiding eye contact. Not a big deal really, but depressing, nonetheless.

Today, I went to pay money into the bank…put my card into the reader at the desk…

Cashier (loudly) “OH! This isn’t your card!”
Me (getting out driving licence to wave at her) “Yes it is – does my ID help?”
Cue speedy fumbling to hand over receipts with lots of loud exclamations of “Gosh, I don’t know where I got that from!!” both avoiding eye contact. I leave, to peals of laughter. Theirs, not mine.

Again, not a big deal, but can you see that when stuff like this happens regularly, even after seven years of ‘being Mark’ it does nothing at all for my self-esteem. It’s all very well to try to ‘believe in yourself’ and all that kind of stuff, but sometimes I feel like one of the creatures in that fairground/arcade game that gets whacked with a mallet every time they pop up. The temptation, eventually is just never to pop up. The rejection can be too much.

Which brings me neatly to my next moan. Yeeessss, I’m blogging for the first time in ages, and I’ve got all sorts of negativity just itching to get out. As any of you who have delved back in my blog at all (or who have known me a while), my last relationship ended nearly five years ago. Not by my choice, might I add, a little bitterly. However, nearly five years on, I am still single. Five years. Single. Yes, the author of the bizarrely popular How To Have Sex With A Trans Man is absolutely single, and NO I’m not loving it. Ok, I enjoy my own space. Let’s rephrase that…I defend my own space with a nail-studded club. I enjoy my own company, mostly. Sometimes I say stupid things, even to myself. The trouble is, and I’ve blogged about this before, people like me are a bit ‘niche’ in the dating game. I’m attracted mainly to men, and I’ve yet to find a gay man willing to take on my physical ‘peculiarities’. Maybe I’m looking in the wrong places…Norfolk isn’t really a dating capital, whatever your genital geography.

Online dating terrifies me…remember how I feel when the bank cashier makes me feel silly, then multiply that by a bazillion as to how scared I am of the potential humiliation of putting myself ‘out there’ on a dating site. Besides, I’ve tried. Really hard, on more than one site. No Responses At All. Maybe I’m not that pretty, after all. I’ve tried actually meeting guys and being honest, at which point their faces fell, arrangements to meet suddenly dissolved, they stopped calling, texts/facebook responses went from chatty down to the occasional ‘lol’, and if it was mentioned at all, I was told they couldn’t really ‘deal’ with me as I am (which was equally honest of them, after all). And you wonder why I’m not super-confident?

Well, I think that’s enough of the violin-scraping session. I’ll be back. I have an appointment at Charing Cross (that’s the gender clinic, FYI) later this month, so I may have some more positive stuff to share soon.


IMG_0536Nor do I want to dress like a man. I do not want to act like a man, and I am not crazy about the idea of passing as a man.

People go through a lot of mental gymnastics to fit me into the way they view the world, and I am grateful for the most part that they do this. I have always maintained that people understand the trans* experience on a number of levels, and I try to be kind to those whose understanding is still at the level of “oh, so you’re having a sex change, then”. However inaccurate and insulting that statement might be.

I would rather poke myself repeatedly in the eye with something sharp than agree with the common suggestion that “I was born a girl and now I want to be a boy”. Not because it makes me want to shake whoever is saying it to within an inch of their life whilst simultaneously apprising them of the latest theories of gender identity. No, because of the word WANT. I do not want to be…I AM.

I do not dress like a man. I am a man, and dress what I would consider appropriately (if not stylishly). I do not act like a man. I am a man, and act in a way that is reasonably appropriate (albeit I don’t live at the butch end of Man Town). I do not ‘pass’ as a man. I am a man, whose genetic make-up means people get mixed up about his gender.

This all may sound a little incongruous if you consider that I have never agreed with gender being a binary thing. Is my statement ‘I am a man’ at odds with my philosophical ramblings about queerness and acceptance of my history? No, it’s not. I may not tick many of the stereotypical ‘masculinity’ boxes, have grasped ‘male privilege’ with both hands, or insist that feminism is for the girls, but nevertheless, I approach all the issues about which I talk and, let’s face it, life, from my own point of view, which is that of a man.

I get increasingly fed up of being misgendered because as time goes on, I feel more and more comfortable in myself, and in my rather fragile male identity. It is increasingly ridiculous to be called ‘she’, ‘her’ and ‘girl’, and every time this happens it feels like, perhaps, I really am just pretending to be something I’m not.

Fortunately, or I don’t think I’d ever leave the house, I know better. I do not dress like, I do not act like, and I do not pass as, a man. I am no fraudster or actor, nor am I deluded. I am a man.


Birthday Beer2I started writing this blog for two main reasons. The first was as a form of cheap therapy, and the second was to try to help family and friends understand what on earth “transition” actually involved. I didn’t really have any grandiose plans for the blog, though of course I still fondly imagine how it would feel to be offered a ‘proper’ writing job as a result of someone important reading my efforts and being inspired! Equally, I’d love it if a publisher contacted me to say I am wonderful, offering a book deal. Yeah yeah. We all know these things don’t happen.

Still, what started out small has got much bigger. For the first few months, the average number of ‘post views’ on my blog was around 400 a month. By ‘post view’ I mean one viewing of one of my posts, not how many people. So one person could visit, look at three posts, and you have three post views.

I started in March 2011, and by the end of the year, I was averaging nearly 1000 post views a month. Now that figure has grown to nearly 1500 a month. The scary thing is that I’ve halved the number of posts I publish, but the numbers keep going up.

What started as friends and family has spread to friends of friends and beyond. Other bloggers have created links to my blog, and I’ve been fortunate to have my details on, ‘The Internet’s Magazine for Transgender Men’ (NSFW in places, if you plan to take a look). I self-promote in a small way, on Facebook, but contacting was the first time I’ve really actively sought to get my blog ‘out there’. Now I am seeing the effects of people reblogging what I write, and I am losing track of who is reading my posts. It’s frightening.

I am still surprised when people I know say that they enjoy my blog. I’ve once had a complete stranger bound up to me in a pub and say “You’re ftmark!” (turns out he was a friend of a friend). That freaked me out, and I must admit that the way my blog has grown and blossomed is doing the same now.

I feel like I ought to be writing about ‘proper’ subjects and addressing ‘issues’ and being ‘representative’. Suddenly me talking about rogue nostril hair and how cheesed off I get with ignorant people seems a bit…well, trivial. I’ll be honest, dear reader: my confidence has taken a bit of a knock.

It does seem a ridiculous reaction, I know. I should be pleased that people are reading what I write, and hopefully taking something useful away from it. This may, I realise, come under the ironic Twitter hashtag #firstworldproblems. But I think that it’s going to take a bit of time before I can get my head around the concept of a wider audience, and get back to feeling confident writing about what comes from my heart.

On a lighter note…BEER. My lovely partner and I have 2 nights booked in a suspiciously cheap hotel, just up the road from the National Winter Ales Festival. We used to go to a lot of events like this, being beer lovers, but this will be my first as Mark. Beer gatherings tend to be very male-dominated, and Will and I have often been referred to at events like this as ‘girls’ (not women, even though at that time we both identified as such. Girls.) I am sorely aware that I will probably be misgendered  a lot in the coming weekend, and I really hope it doesn’t detract from enjoying the frothy brown loveliness. Will did suggest she could enhance my chin fluff with eyebrow pencil, or we could just go the whole hog and use that pencil to write ‘I am a man’ across my forehead. I will let you know how it goes…

InterrogationI was sipping tea at the end of a meditation class, when I became aware of a conversation going on next to me between a trans* woman and one of the other group members that made me very angry. Given where I was (the local Buddhist Centre) and that the woman in question hadn’t asked for intervention, I kept my mouth shut. But that didn’t stop the steam coming not-so-gently from my ears.

The gentleman this woman was talking to had, after ‘discerning’ that she was transgender, decided it was ok to ask her a series of increasingly personal questions about her transition, right down to ‘will you be having the Full Monty?’ – his words. Over tea in the Buddhist Centre.

Now she was answering those questions, so perhaps the whole conversation was fine with her, but it did get me thinking about all the questions that people feel are really quite ok and appropriate to ask on learning that we’re trans*. I’ve asked my good buddies on Facebook to give me the questions they are most asked, so read them, weep, and make a note not to ask any of these things unless you are extremely sure of your context, and the person you are asking. And even then, consider just not bothering. Please.

1) What was your name before?

This may be totally motivated out of curiosity, but really this is never an appropriate things to ask a trans* identified person. My old name is irrelevant to your interaction with me now – why will knowing it help you to understand me better?

2) Has your sexuality changed?

Some people’s sexuality does become more fluid after transition, often because of increased confidence and comfort with their body and responses to it. Many other people carry on being turned on by exactly the same type of people they always did. Again – why ask this question? Curiosity is not a sufficient reason to pry about someone’s bedtime preferences.

3) How far are you going to go?

For a start, this implies that transition is a straightforward linear process with an exact end point, and a series of jumping off points along the way. Not true. But actually, you just wanted to ask about my genitals, didn’t you?

4) So does that mean your partner’s sexuality has changed?

This question is often wrapped up as ‘concern’ for an existing relationship. My partner’s sexuality did not just flick like a switch the day I first said ‘I’m not a woman’, but fortunately for me, her love for me triumphs over society’s more salacious expectations that we’ll fall apart as a couple over my transition. It’s just another kind of voyeurism, and if there ARE any changes/problems in a relationship like ours, due to the politics of sexuality or anything else for that matter, why on earth would I be discussing it with anyone except those in whom I choose to confide?

5)Will you have sex with me?

To be honest, if you’re asking me in this kind of context in the first place, the answer is probably no. If you want to add ‘slept with a t****y’ to your list of achievements, run away now before I hurt you. If you like the idea of sleeping with someone your own gender, but without those awkward tell-tale bits (eg: ‘it won’t make me gay because you’ve not got a penis’), sorry, but there’s professionals for that kind of thing.

6) How does your partner feel about you changing?

What do you want to hear? That everything’s brilliant, in which case, fair enough. I can appreciate that people who love us will want confirmation that “we’re ok”, but it’s an odd question coming from a stranger. Are people actually trying to find out if a couple are going through a really hard time, and maybe receive confirmation of their own that ‘transition harms relationships’? Either way, it is, quite simply, none of your business.

7) Can I have your X when it/they have been chopped off?

I know, I know, it’s a common joke when trans* people are contemplating surgery. But being common, we’ve all heard it a few hundred times, and it gets a bit tiresome. Besides, it makes what we’re going through into a cartoon situation. This is not some kind of advanced Mr Potato Head.

8) Have you always felt like a [insert chosen gender here]?

We all have very diverse internal histories when it comes to identifying as trans*. Having to explain our journey in a social setting is not what many of us want to do. As a result, a lot of us have to hand a potted one-liner to sum up the ride so far. Mine is “I knew there was something wrong, but didn’t identify what that was until I was in my 30s”. There, easy. The trouble is, that makes the psychology of transition seem over-simplified, even childlike. Besides, why exactly do you want to know what my gender identity was aged 10, 18, 27, etc…?

9) Why do you want to do this to yourself?

Well, I was bored one weekend and thought I’d spice things up a bit by questioning my gender identity, jumping through countless hoops for the medical profession, taking life-changing medication and undergoing elective surgery. Why do you think?? If there were a different way of becoming the person I know I am, I’d be doing that instead.

10) When you’ve had surgery, can I see?

Did you want to see my genitals before? Have I indicated any desire to play saucy show and tell with you? Why are you so interested now? Are you going to give me marks out of ten? Ok, sarcasm aside, it can be helpful for people considering surgery to see the results of someone else’s, but really, unless you have a vested interest in seeing what a modified body looks like, it’s not very polite to ask. There are a million pictures online. Go (go)ogle them.

11) Which way round are you going?

Surprisingly common, this one, and in a weird way it is almost a compliment. However, I’d advise that if you really can’t work out ‘which way’ someone is going, just keep quiet, use the name they’ve asked you to use, and reflect on whether it really matters for you to know.

10) Are you sure?

By the time most of us tell our family, friends and wider acquaintance of our intention to transition, we have spent endless months and years weighing up the decision. If you mean ‘are you sure you’re a man?’ well consider your own gender identity. Are you sure you are a man? A woman? Genderqueer? How do you know, and how can you be sure? I bet it’s not because of what is dangling between your legs. Of course we’re sure. Or as sure as anyone else can be about how they identify, and that’ll just have to do.

I’m sorry if this week’s post seems a little angry. I know sarcasm is the lowest form of wit, but I guess I’d rather be sarky and a touch bilious than outright furious. Because sadly, trans* identified people are subjected to questions like this all the time, all over the place, by people they have barely met as well as those who are closer to them. You might think it’s unfair of me to say ‘Don’t Ask’, because it does help to understand someone if you ask about their journey, but please, I beg of you, choose your words carefully, choose your timing, and examine your motives. Most of all, consider whether you actually need the answer to a particular question to be able to support someone on their journey. And if you’ve just met someone, it does NOT show empathy, support or acceptance if you ask intrusive questions.

Most of us will answer questions when we’re pinned in a corner, but it can be humiliating, uncomfortable and stressful, even when we still have a smile on our faces. Please consider that perhaps empathy, support and acceptance comes in NOT asking these questions.

RashI’m the first to admit that I’m a bit of a hypochondriac. At the faintest whiff of a symptom I’m off to Dr Internet to work out what on earth could be wrong with me. Recently, I was finding it very uncomfortable to swallow, and could feel a definite swelling  at the base of my throat. It did, indeed, feel like I was gargling golf balls. Cue panic, mental re-writing of my will (that didn’t take long) and much tapping at my keyboard. Of course, I am also a sensible person, and concluded, on the basis of previous experience, that my throat issues were just the result of testosterone doing its job. Again. When the pitch of my voice dropped a note or two a couple of days later, everything fell into place.

The thing is that with the knowledge and experience I have, I am able to discern sensible reality from hypochondriac panic relatively easily. But my own reactions to feeling ‘not right’, even on such a small scale, beg the question of how many trans* identified people hit the internet before their GP’s office before coming to the knowledge (sorry, diagnosis) that they are, in fact, suffering from gender dysphoria.

I have a history of going to see my GP with a fairly clear knowledge of what might be wrong with me, and this has led people to think that I am, in fact, a bit of a charletan, in that I pick an interesting sounding diagnosis, then convince the doctor that this is what I have. That gives a lot of credit to my long-term acting skills, but does rather cast me in the role of attention seeker and fraud.

I like to assume that the various professionals I have seen over the years haven’t just looked at my original diagnoses, scratched their chins, and decided to go along with it. Over time I’ve been told that my bipolar diagnosis wasn’t true, contrary to, I think, the opinions of 4 psychiatrists, countless therapists, and a CPN or two, not to mention the entire staff of 2 wards in a fairly prestigious mental hospital. Conversely, it has been suggested that I’ve only been diagnosed with gender dysphoria because I was on a bipolar ‘high’ and therefore unstable enough to convince myself, 2 GPs, a psychiatrist, a specialist counsellor, a gender specialist and a surgeon, that I was right. I’m good, folks, but not that good.

The trouble is, when coming to your own realisation that perhaps the gender you were assigned at birth, validated by apparently having all the requisite ‘bits’ for that gender, is not the same as what resides in your head, heart and soul, being told that this is just some sort of extreme hypochondria can be terribly hard.

The diagnosis of gender dysphoria relies so much on the person involved being honest about their thoughts and feelings that the medical profession has put in place many gate-keepers, all of which are designed to ensure that the medical and psychological help being given is appropriate, timely and necessary. Some people do realise on their journey that they have taken the wrong path, and I respect the courage they have to face that and change their route. However, for those of us who find happiness, strength and fulfillment in our new roles, please save words like ‘Hypochondriac’ for when we’re complaining about sore throats.



***Trigger Warning – Murder and Suicide***

I lead a privileged, pampered life, where any abuse I receive about my transgender status is veiled in humour, or empty claims that I am delusional, blasphemous or a bit ‘icky’. I am lucky.

On 20th November 2012 it will be the 14th Transgender Day of Remembrance. Once again, this day will be marking those people who have been killed because they are transgender. I wrote about this last year, and I’m not sure I can match the fire of the words I wrote a year ago, so I shan’t risk diluting them. Please read Transgender Day Of Remembrance and reflect that a year later there are yet more people added to the list of the dead, and who knows how many more who were never found, identified, or deemed worthy of becoming a recognised statistic.

For information about those people who campaigners have been able to add to the list of those who died between 20th November 2011 and 20th November 2012, please go to Memorializing – 2012 where you will also see links to some useful, if sobering, information about this day, and why it is marked.

In my post a year ago I touched on suicide as a leading cause of death in the transgender population. This doesn’t make it onto the Day of Remembrance  statistics, though it is something that has probably impacted most of us on a personal level in some way.

It’s hard to get ‘true’ statistics about suicide amongst trans* identified people, for a number of reasons. Someone may never have come out to anybody before killing themselves. If they had, their families may be reluctant for their gender identity to be discussed or identified as a factor in their death. However, the prevailing figures seem to be that somewhere between 31% and 50% of the trans* population has attempted to kill themselves. How many succeed? Too many.

It’s easy to speculate on why these figures are so high, but for my part I would look to the way we are treated by others, socially, personally and institutionally. We are ridiculed and misrepresented by the media, regarded as misfits, weirdos and even perverts by many other people, and made into legal outsiders by the governments of our countries. The thing is, if you tell somebody they are wrong enough times, it is possible they will start to believe it. We are not all revolutionaries and rebels, after all.

Of course, it’s easy for some to say “oh, those poor mixed-up people! If they’d just been content with the body they were born with, none of this would happen! Of COURSE they were unhappy – they were trying to mutilate themselves to achieve something that wasn’t even possible!” Sorry, but we don’t just need hugs and a good ticking off to put us on the right path, we need appropriate support for those who do struggle with reconciling their identity with what the rest of the world is telling them. Internal demons will always play their part, but where are those demons born? And how do they grow up so strong?

In a world where the casual murder of transgender people is an ongoing reality, suicide will continue to take lives too. I have said it many times before, and will probably be croaking it on my deathbed –  the values of this world have got to change.

I am afraid of getting old – not, perhaps in the way you’d first imagine, and which people older than me scoff at (“cor, wait until you’re MY age, and THEN you’ll have something to be afraid of…what are you worrying about, youngster??” or words to that effect).

I’ve never been afraid of Mother Nature’s aging process. Wrinkles don’t frighten me, or grey hairs, or liver spots. Young people not respecting me I hope I’ll be able to deal with when the time comes, and I’ve had enough aches, pains and health problems so far in my life to know what they feel like.

What I am deathly afraid of, and what I lie awake at night worrying about, is ending up in a care home where I am known as ‘the gentleman who fusses about his food and doesn’t have a…you-know-what’. I’m pretty sure that by the time of my life where giving up my own home might be a necessity, the testosterone will have worked its magic sufficiently for me to look 100% male, but if and when personal care is necessary, I cannot bear the thought of being an oddity. Being an oddity at home, on my own terms, is just fine, but not like that. And no, I’m not getting a phalloplasty solely so that 17 yr old care assistants don’t gossip about me. No offence to 17 yr old care assistants, but you get my drift.

Of course, my partner is 10 years younger than me, so if all goes well, I’ll have her by my side, and on my side. But if she’s not, how do care homes deal with queer residents? No doubt sexuality and gender identity are an important part of any care facility’s policy making, but how on earth does that translate to everyday life for someone whose sexuality and gender are not clear-cut? Just as with many other jobs involving people skills and understanding, some have it, and some really don’t. I dread being stuck in a vulnerable position with someone who doesn’t. There will always be people inclined to disregard policy and guidelines in favour of their own beliefs on how ‘people like me’ should be spoken to and treated. Which I can fight now, and no doubt will for many years to come, but my fear is of a time when I no longer can.

I used to have a pipe dream about running a care home for lesbians, back in the day. I suppose I could strive now for a care home for trans* people, but let’s face it, that wouldn’t work. As I’ve said before, 30 trans* identified people put in a room together will have no more in common that 30 random people plucked simultaneously, Star Trek style, from anywhere in the world. It would be care home carnage.

Segregation, whilst a fleetingly comforting idea, is not the answer. Legislation probably is, to a degree, but as I mentioned earlier, it doesn’t always trickle down to those at the pointy end. Understanding, equality, fairness and openness would make up at least part of the ingredients required, but I cannot foresee a big enough shift in the way people treat each other on a fundamental level to allay my fears just yet.

I’ll be 41 in a few weeks, which is barely teetering on the edge of middle-age, I know. I recently had test results from the doctor confirming that my blood-pressure is nicely normal, my cholesterol is minimal, and according to some super-scientific calculation, I am currently at 1.7% risk of heart disease. So if all goes well, and the winds of life stay in the right direction, I’m alright for a while.

Strange that when I was 40, it was exciting, affirming, a landmark, and cause of all sorts of celebrations, balloons and bad jokes. 41 isn’t much older, but is definitely not heralded in with quite so much enthusiasm. I probably shouldn’t worry about what the future holds, but looking around at the world as it is now, my natural pessimism fuels those middle-of-the-night soul freezing fears for the future me.

There is still no cure for the common birthday.  ~John Glenn



I’ve been called ‘mate’ quite a lot recently, which is rather nice, as around here the word ‘mate’ is a sort of universal shorthand for recognition of masculinity. Or a way of registering that the person you are calling ‘mate’ wishes to be recognised as male.

I live in a small city in a rural area. The area surrounding my city is often the butt of jokes about country living, funny accents and doing unspeakable things to the local sheep and/or your sister. It’s not a place you’d normally think of as cosmopolitan. The city itself is a lot more liberal than many places in the UK, and one reason we came to live here is because overall it’s a place where difference seems to be accepted. Not all the time, or in every part, but generally we’ve had less abuse hurled at us here than where we’ve lived before.

For all my home city’s liberalness (liberality?) I’ve sometimes thought that maybe, as a queer transguy married to a lesbian, I should consider moving to London or Brighton  – somewhere where queer culture is more recognised. Again, don’t get me wrong – I’m fully aware that in some parts of each of those places, people like me are given a very hard time. In my fantasy moving plans, though, I’m focusing on the good bits.

However, I’ve discovered a very strange thing. I seem to be recognised as male a lot less in supposedly more accepting communities. In Brighton recently I was called ‘she’, and Will and I were referred to ‘girls’ (as in ‘goodnight, girls’ when leaving the pub) much more often than I ever encounter here at home.

The only conclusion I can come up with is that in places where there is more general acceptance of same-sex couples, people are far more likely to look at me and see a lesbian, particularly when I am with Will. On the other hand, where that sort of acceptance is maybe a few years behind, people are more likely to do their gender maths differently, and ‘read’ me as male.

I read somewhere, and I’m sorry that I can’t remember where to quote properly, that one woman on the Indian subcontinent had challenged local clothing conventions by dressing in trousers and a shirt. She reported that she was almost universally addressed as a male when dressed in male clothing. Not because she looked particularly masculine, but because the gender equation that went on in people’s heads led straight to the conclusion that dressed in that sort of clothing she *must* be male.

I mentioned the problems that are created when my identity endangers my partner’s identity, and vice versa in Lesbiaaaans! and I in no way want to upset the delicate balance we have created. I do get a buzz from being called ‘mate’, though, and being recognised as male, and each time I am included as one of ‘the girls’ it does hurt. Quite apart from the fact that we love living where we do, maybe living in a less cosmopolitan, metrosexual place works in my favour after all. We’ll keep the bright lights for holidays and special occasions…at least until I have a big pirate beard of my own, or get round to knitting one.

There’s often quite a long period between ‘coming out’ as trans, and actually receiving any sort of medical help with transition. In many cases this is intentional, as doctors like us to complete a period of ‘Real life Experience’, that is, living full-time as your identified gender in a ‘normal’ variety of social situations. I believe this is intended to make sure we know what we’re doing, mean what we say and appreciate the difficulties that may lie ahead for us. Much as I see a need for doctors to ascertain that a trans person isn’t just some sort of fantasist, the RLE is extremely controversial, and can put trans people into a position of rejection and danger at a time when they are extremely vulnerable, and yet still receiving no medical intervention. Trans groups in the UK are appealing to those who “write the rule book” to find a robust, safe method of working with trans people pre-transition, but this is going to take years.

Fortunately for me, the period of my RLE was a matter of months rather than years. Going into a new social situation armed only with the knowledge of your own gender identity, an extra-short haircut, a male name and clothing bought in the men’s section is terrifying. Let’s face it, after 18 months of testosterone and chest surgery I am STILL taken as a woman more often that not, so what chance did I stand back at the beginning?

I remember a colleague of mine saying some weeks after I started, that when the supervisor brought me over and asked if there was a seat for Mark, she looked around and behind me to see where Mark was. People’s minds are not sufficiently nimble to work out what’s going on, however kind they might be. Part of my decision to be very out and open about who I am stemmed from situations like this – I’d rather if people are talking about me behind my back that they’ve got their facts right.

So how do you cope with this interim period? In my case I tried extra hard to match my behaviour with what I felt was ‘male’ behaviour. Yes, I tried to match my walk with the men I saw in the street, and tried to squash 39 years of social conditioning as a woman. The trouble is, I wasn’t very good at it, and I was told (much) later by a friend “We thought you were trying too hard, but didn’t want to say anything”.

Going on testosterone, whilst having had a dramatic effect in some ways, has not made me look as undoubtedly like a man as I thought it would. It’s early days yet, and my age does count against me. Youngsters transitioning ‘ping’ into shape much more quickly, as their bodies seem much more susceptible to hormone treatment, and change generally. Transitioning at my age still “works”, of course, but this not-quite-middle-aged body has been set in its ways for much longer. No ‘ping’ing for me!

In many ways, then, I face the same trials I had before I started medically transitioning. I helped a woman off the train yesterday, and she was keen to tell her son all about ‘this nice young lady who carried my suitcase’. What can you do? I smiled and wished her a nice holiday.

I guess the difference now is that because of the hormones and surgery I’ve had, I feel a lot more comfortable in my body. I also feel that if questioned, I’ve had more time inhabiting the male sphere than I had at the beginning, so feel less defensive over my right to be there. In truth, though, I just can’t be as bothered as I was to try to look, act or sound a certain way. I’m told I’m rather camp, which doesn’t bother me. I’m told I’m hard to read, as I seem to fuzz between male and female, which is fine. I would love to start looking more definitely male, but if my behaviour doesn’t fall into most people’s definition of ‘manly’, well, who cares.

I am in the privileged position of having male hormone levels and a flat chest. I am also fortunate enough to know exactly who I am, and I am not being forced to prove it on a daily basis. Others earlier in their journey don’t have it quite so lucky.

I was in the pub last night with a friend – a gay bar, no less. It was quiet, but there were enough people in to people-watch which, for me, is one of the best bits of going out.

So here’s the thing – even though I have a very lovely partner at home, I still like to think that I “still have it” in sufficient quantities to be eyeballed when I go out. Go on, admit it – we all like to get a bit of attention.

As previously mentioned, I’m not attracted to people because of their gender, or to be more accurate, I don’t rule people in or out of being attractive because of their gender identity. I guess that’s why I get a bit peeved if people pass me over because of what they perceive MY gender to be (or lack of it).

Now of course I’m not everyone’s cup of tea, and I can take being dismissed as unattractive because of physical traits, people thinking I’m boring, etc. etc. You know the sort of stuff that puts you off someone. But what I do find depressing is receiving the kind of look that might be translated as “what IS that person??” and people not bothering to stick around long enough to find out.

It’s ironic, really, if you consider that I see my own gender and sexuality as very fluid, that I really don’t like being physically ‘unidentifiable’. I know some people enjoy that state of physical flux, but I would rather be seen as male, and yes, seen as an attractive male.

Ok, there’s only so much I can do to change what Mother Nature gave me, and the changes testosterone is making are ongoing, but my transformation into that gorgeous hunk of burning love that I just know is right there and ready to meet the world are very, very slow.

I’ll put my hands up, I’m impatient, but I’m really looking forward to turning heads for the right reasons on a future trip to the local gay bar.