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accountability-savage-chickens13 years as a teacher have left me thoroughly prepared for target setting. My New Year’s Resolutions are SMART – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound. Not for me the “I will be a better person” type resolution. Oh no – I have lists, tables, negotiated steps. Will my resolutions work out? No guarantees.

I took delivery this morning of a set of weights, with the intention of losing the lard I’ve put on in the last 5 months, and regaining my ‘gym shape’. They’re still sat looking heavy on the hall floor, while I find things to do to avoid opening the box…

I am having the healthiest online shopping order I’ve ever bought delivered tomorrow. To give you an idea, the first three items are celery sticks, seed mix and oat flower, lavender and chamomile teabags. Given that my body is currently groaning and moaning about the amount of fat, sugar and alcohol I’ve squeezed into it during the Festive Season (oh, ok, let’s be honest here, since July), I’m quite looking forward to reverting back to healthier eating.

I am, however, the Prince of Planning, the Emperor of Procrastination – the Demigod of talking the talk, and yet the Baldrick of walking the walk. I’m pretty sure that I will end up healthier than I am at the moment, but whether I’ll stick to all those SMART targets? Well, I’ll keep you posted.

Health aside, there’s something much more important I have resolved to do this year – to apply for my Gender Recognition Certificate. For those of you outside the UK, this is the way someone like me can apply to be legally recognised as male, and be issued with a new birth certificate. It’s a clunky process, has some costs attached and for me, at least, can be an emotionally challenging bit of paperwork to face.

I know for a lot of people in my position, apply for their GRC is the first thing they do having lived as themselves for two years, the legal minimum recognised by the GRC panel. For many trans* people, going through this legal process is hugely important so they can finally be properly recognised, and hold a new birth certificate. I’ve been procrastinating – not because I don’t think it’s important for me, but because it scares me.

Like my weights in the hall, I have metaphorically been staring at the boxes for nearly 3 years. I’ve read through the paperwork umpteen times, decided to get going gathering paperwork as evidence…and done nothing.

To a certain extent, the way I was living before did make a difference. I was in a civil partnership, so going through the process of being recognised legally as male would have caused a lot of upheaval. In the UK, a civil partnership is only currently permissable between two people of the same gender, so we would have had to dissolve our partnership before I could be granted a full Gender Recognition Certificate, then either marry as man and woman (which neither of us was that keen on, but which it’s fair to say would have had the biggest impact on my partner) or just carry on once more as unmarried/unpartnered. There was a time in our relationship where we were planning having a child, and the implications of our relationship status on whose name went down on the child’s birth certificate, and therefore my rights as a parent, was a serious factor impacting my decision to seek legal recognition of my gender.

Those factors aside, I have never been one to try and pretend that the past hasn’t happened. I feel strangely fond, and extremely protective, of the girl who is named on my birth certificate, who struggled for so long to work out why she felt so ‘wrong’ in this world. No, that doesn’t mean I am not 100% sure that I am Mark, but it does make me reluctant to erase any part of my past. A new birth certificate is what I need to achieve legal standing as a man, but I do not wish to be disrespectful of my old birth certificate, let alone pretend it didn’t exist.

So I’ve been staring at the paperwork for a very long time, and finding things to do instead. For those of you who are curious, I need to:

*Have proof that I have dissolved my civil partnership.

*Provide evidence that I have “lived in my acquired [*see below] gender” for at least two years (eg: driving licence, payslips, bank statements, utility bills, etc.). Apparently 5 or 6 documents will usually do. [*NB: ‘acquired’ is not my favourite word, as I don’t feel it reflects my experience or that of a lot of other trans* identified people, but it’s legalese]

*Give evidence of all changes of name.

*Provide 2 medical reports – one from “a doctor [or] psychologist specialising in the field of gender dysphoria” and one from my GP “including specific details of [my] treatment”.

*Send a cheque for £140 (this does vary for people on lower incomes).

So as you can see, it’s not actually that arduous a procedure, but I’m still sat staring at all the paper, and doing not a lot. Financially, I just need to find the fee, any charges my doctors will make for a letter, and, of course, the cost of the dissolution of my Civil Partnership. The ironic thing is, of course, that now I am no longer with my partner, I’d have had to face this at some point soon anyway. Well, there’s nothing like necessity to sharpen the resolve.

So let’s get all teachery on myself. My biggest New Year’s Resolution is to apply for my Gender Recognition Certificate. Is that Specific? Yup. Is it Measurable? Yes – I’ll either have done it, or I won’t, or be in the process of getting bits of paper together. Is it Attainable? Well, others have managed it, so let’s hope so. Is it Realistic? Yes – I’m not planning on jumping off the moon here. Is it Time-bound? I’ll be honest and say that I don’t know how long the whole process takes, but I should probably aim to have all my bits of paperwork ready to send to the Gender Recognition Panel by a specific date, so let’s say, for the sake of argument, 1st April 2014. April Fool’s Day.

Why do all this? A big part of me says that I don’t need a bit of paper to say I am who I say I am, or a Gender Recognition Panel to recognise my gender, thank you very much. However, to quote from the Ministry of Justice website: “If you are successful in your application for Gender Recognition, the law will recognise you as having all the rights and responsibilities appropriate to a person of your acquired [sic] gender”. I know exactly who I am in myself, and it would be nice for that to be recognised on a legal level. Not just the rights, but the responsibilities too. And that is why I have to make this New Year’s Resolution work.

Happy New Year, everyone – let’s hope 2014 is better!

Happy Mothers Day!

mumAs you can probably guess, Mother’s Day is a really hard day for me. However, I refuse to wallow in my own pity juice, so I’ve written a poem in celebration of those less conventional mums out there.

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All the mums

Hot mums, cool mums, embarrassing at school mums.

Rock mums, frock mums, watching the clock mums.

Beardy mums, weird mums, bio-engineered mums.

Mellow mums, irate mums, borrowed from a mate mums

Power mums, flower mums, charge by the hour mums.

Trans mums, cis mums, big sloppy kiss mums.

Big mums, slim mums, friendly with the gin mums.

Straight mums, gay mums, roll in the hay mums.

Young mums, older mums, there with a shoulder mums.

Absent mums, there mums, tearing out their hair mums.

Mums to be nurtured, however hard.

Mums to be valued for who they are.

Perfection be damned – there’s no ‘Good Mum’s Guide’

Love your mum as they are, with your heart open wide.

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Dedicated to my daughter, and my own lovely mum xxx

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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 Transguys.com, ‘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 Transguys.com 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…

Do you remember those books that were popular in the 70s and 80s – with titles like “The Vegetable and Herb Expert”? They taught us how to nurture our plants and help them grow into strong, beautiful things. I wanted to make this something similar, but thought “The Trans Expert” might be overreaching myself a little. Besides, I’m no expert.

There’s a million and one issues involved in living with another person – be they your partner, child, parent, sibling, house-mate, etc., let alone when that person identifies very differently to you. Personally, I find other people quite ‘tricky’, and frankly, it’s a miracle that my partner has put up with me as long as she has. But she has, which is all that counts.

There’s an assumption, when someone comes out as being trans, that suddenly there will be a lot of drama, upheaval and heartache. I’m going to be looking at the impact of this on personal relationships sometime around Valentines Day, so won’t go into that side of things too heavily now. However, it needn’t all be about drama. Here are a few things to help you look after the trans person in your life:

1) Don’t assume ANYthing. Sure, read about trans people, watch the documentaries, check out Chaz Bono’s book/TV programme/etc. if that does it for you, but please don’t assume that YOUR trans loved one will necessarily conform to all, or any, of the things you read/see/expect. We are all individuals, and just as (say) every person with blonde hair is different, so is every trans person. Despite the jokes made about both groups of people.

2) Don’t call us ‘brave’. I’ve talked about this before, but really, I’m just me and I can’t say I’m particularly brave. Going to the dentist last week practically made me wee myself, and I’ve never rescued a small child from a burning building, so no, no bravery here. Feel free to focus on your loved one’s specific acts of bravery (eg: coming out to a family member who has traditionally had an issue with LGBT people, for instance) but please don’t call us brave just for being who we are. And on a related note…

3) Don’t call us ‘inspiring’. I’d love to think I’m inspiring, perhaps through my writing, or my YouTube videos, or because someone I know has found me helpful at some point. But please don’t call me ‘inspiring’ just because I’m trans. Focus on someone’s actions, specifically what they have done or said that you admire, not just the fact of their existence. Trans people just exist.

4) Appreciate that if we are taking testosterone we are going through a lot of changes, but that we are still basically the same old people. Don’t let people get away with sh*t because they’re transitioning, but at the same time, be prepared to accept that life can be a bit roller-coastery for us at times. And remember that, like anyone, sometimes we need a big hug, and sometimes we need space. Talk to us if you want to know which.

5) As much as you want to be involved in helping us match up our outsides with our insides, be very wary of giving us advice on “how to be more like” the gender with which we identify. Just because I ask you whether my new shirt makes me look manly or not doesn’t mean I’m giving you free rein to say “well, whilst I’m at it, you look really girly when you stand like that”. Sometimes I do ask my partner for pointers, but this is negotiated, and you won’t make your trans loved one happy by pointing out to them on a regular basis how UNlike the gender with which they identify they currently look/act.

Most of all, though, please do what Elisha Lim and Rae Spoon sing in this video. And yes, the first few seconds are minus sound…don’t adjust your sets.

Sorry about the dodgy title. I do like to entertain myself with post titles from songs, but try as I might, I couldn’t find any decent lyrics about hairloss.

Yes, I’m losing hair. Not in big dramatic lumps, but by regular sprinkling. Wherever I go, I leave little hairy calling cards, sprinkle by sprinkle. When I wake up, there’s little hairs all over my pillow. When I wash my hair, the bath needs epillating afterwards (and no, they’re not *that* sort of little hair). At work, I tend to run my hand through my hair when I’m thinking, and as a result there’s usually a good sprinkling of the little blighters whenever I look down at my desk. The same goes for the desk at home, which is conveniently white so that I can see all the escapees clearly.

None of this is entirely surprising – I take testosterone, and one of the known effects is hairloss from the head. I suppose I thought that I wouldn’t be affected. After all, my Dad has a full head of hair. On the other hand, we’re told to look to the male relatives on our mother’s side for clues on how we’ll look regarding hair loss. It’s not an exact science, but I don’t think the only close male relative I have on my Mum’s side of the genetic fence would mind me outing him as Not Having Much Hair. So potentially, my sprinkling could just be the beginning.

Everything I’ve read on FTM hair loss points to ‘Male Pattern’ hair loss – you know the sort of thing, with the forehead becoming steadily higher at the sides, then meeting up with the bald spot that’s appeared on the crown. Not all FTMs go much beyond the receding hairline stage, and I hope that’s the case with me, but to be honest, what will be will be, and I’m not going to panic and start massaging my hair with cowpats, or shelling out hundreds of pounds for a forehead weave. I know that many men find hairloss to be traumatic and damaging, but as I have taken a clear decision to make my body masculine, accepting the good and the bad that comes with that, I’m in no position to complain about my hairloss.

It would appear that I am losing a handful or so of hair a day, from all over my head. There’s no discernible change of shape to my hairline, and certainly no bald spots. I do have a LOT of hair to start with, so all I can do is carry on sprinkling and see what happens.

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On a slightly more serious note, I am aware that in the last few blog posts I haven’t really been giving my all. A few weeks ago I came under fire from more than one person for what I’m doing, the impact it is having on others and the way I have chosen to deal with it. I won’t go into details, but I came out of a very rough week wondering whether I should just shut up, be a model person, and try to do whatever other people want. When I started this blog, I swore to myself that I would be honest, whoever was reading it, and recently, I have found that difficult, resulting in a blog that was more ftmark-lite, than honest. Of course, nothing I’ve said has been a lie, but I have been holding back. So I’m sorry, and I’ll try to get things back to where they should be. If there’s anything you’d like me to write about, I’m always open to ideas, though I reserve the right to say no, politely.

No more ftmark-lite.