Latest Entries »

kings-speechHello – it’s been a while. If I’m honest I’ve needed a little break from blogging. I do love doing it, and I’ve not run out of things to talk about (yet!) but my head has been in a funny place recently. My natural reaction to that sort of feeling is to crawl into bed and stay there, but Society will insist that I keep on going, so that is what I’ve done, albeit paring down on a few of my commitments.

That’s not to say I’ve been a hermit – tempting as that might have been. I’ve been doing a beginners’ climbing course at my local wall, which has been a lot of fun. I’ve discovered that after a lifetime of being not-terribly-strong, I now have muscles that will propel me from one small chunk of plastic rock to another if I ask them nicely (or tell them, dammit). Thank you very much, Mr Testosterone, for that one. Oh, and thanks are probably due to the weeks of eating well and going to the gym, which have resulted in biceps that make me happy, and leg muscles that have earned me the nickname ‘Thunder Thighs’ by my climbing partner. I’ve not, I confess, been able to stick to the strict regime the way I wanted to for a full 12 weeks. However, I did pretty well for 6 weeks, and I am trying to get my head around the concept of starting another 6 week stint soon. If in doubt, do things in chunks.

Possibly the biggest thing that has happened this month is a visit to a speech therapist about my slightly-deeper-than-it-was-but-definitely-still-female voice. After 2 years and 4 months *most* (but definitely not all – transition is not an exact science) people have a significantly more masculine voice than I do. Not necessarily deeper, but resonating differently. I did have a very high voice to start with, plus as a (cough) ‘older’ person, my voicebox has been used to doing what it does in the same way for a very long time.

I spent a long time assuming things would just sort themselves out, and it’s true that my voice is still getting lower as time goes on. However, it has become the thing that ‘gives me away’ in terms of people recognising me as male. I look pretty androgynous, which is fair enough, but that, coupled with the voice…no chance, or at best, much confusion.

I spoke to my GP about the issue in the end, because I spend a high-ish proportion of my time at work on the ‘phone, and I do get very down being mis-gendered on every third ‘phone-call. Despite giving my name clearly at the start. My GP referred my to the Ear Nose and Throat team at the local hospital, and much to my amazement, I was invited to make an appointment. Big up to the NHS.

I honestly thought the speech therapist would laugh me out of the room, or give me a stern lecture about there being people with REAL problems out there in the waiting room, and I was wasting their time. However, she has been wonderful. Enthusiastic, honest about what she does and doesn’t know about FTM voice issues, sweet, encouraging, and, let’s face it, I’m a little bit in love.

Far from giving me a photocopied sheet and sending me packing, she spent an hour working on solid, practical ways to change the sound of my voice without sounding silly. And it is working. My work this month revolves around the ‘Mmmm’ sound, as it helps me find a good pitch, a bit like a tuning fork. Try it – if you hum ‘Mmmmmm’ at what feels like a natural pitch, it should feel ‘right’. I then have to add on vowels (MmmmmMAY, MmmmmmmME, etc.) then ‘M’ words (MmmmmMARMALADE). This has really helped me find a lower sound to my own voice, and when I think about ‘setting’ my voice, it works a treat. Of course, as soon as I forget all about it and start chatting away as normal, the squeakier, less ‘grounded’ voice comes back.

I have started answering the ‘phone at work with my Mmmmmm voice, and I’ve only been called ‘love’ and ‘darling’ by one man in the last 3 weeks, which is a distinct improvement. I’m hoping the barman in my local hasn’t noticed the ‘Mmmmmmm’ before “I’d like a pint of Old Fisherman’s Sock, please”.

If this is the improvement I’m able to get in 3 weeks, I’m very much looking forward to what 2 more appointments will bring. Perhaps we can slowly get the body and the voice to match, and at least reduce the confusion a lot of the Great British Public experience on meeting me.

In other news, I will soon be guest blogging for ‘Original Plumbing’, an online spin-off of the OP magazine, “dedicated to the sexuality and culture of the FTM trans guy”. Their website is relaunching on 1st August, and I should be doing a piece once a month. Check out my introduction on there when the new website’s up – I’ll put a link on this page a bit closer to the time. Yeah, I’m the one going on about Hong Kong Phooey.

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.

 

28th April 2013I’ve written before about having lost weight, and generally feeling a lot better about my body than previously. That all still holds true, but I’m at another corner in my bid to be the best possible me. My weight has been creeping back on, and my gym has resorted to emailing me to see if I’m still alive (well, entice me back, but I like to think they care). My man fat is starting to exert itself again, and a steady diet of sugar, carbs, booze and fat is making me feel low and lacking in energy, plus my skin is terrible.

Next week is a big week for my partner and I – 1st May is the 5th anniversary of us being vegan. I don’t want to celebrate this biggy knowing that I’m not treating my body as well as I should, so I’ve decided to make a stand.

I currently weigh 10 stone 7 pounds (I’m 5’5″), and as you can see from my picture, I have love handles. These, seen sideways on, are looking suspiciously like a paunch. I’m not publishing a picture of my paunch. There are limits. As of tomorrow, I’m embarking on a ’12 week transformation’. I’m cleaning up my diet, ditching the alcohol, and doing meaningful exercise. Will this just be a phase? I hope not, and Will has promised to bully me if I decide it’s all too much. Will I become a Ripped God? Unlikely, but I wouldn’t say no to being leaner and stronger looking. And getting rid of that paunch.

MatrixBluePillRedPillI have a number of health issues, most of which will not magically disappear because I have made the decision to transition. I am bipolar, I have hypothyroidism, I suffer from anxiety, and I have gout. I get extremely grouchy if my blood sugar drops, I have a long-term problem with insomnia and I get odd aches and pains which I reluctantly believe may be arthritis-related. All in all, I am not exactly a poster-boy for good health.

Those of you who have known me a long time will know that my health ‘stuff’ has occasionally got the better of me. I’ve had time out of the workplace, claiming disability benefits when my bipolar teamed up with my anxiety to make life very difficult. I have resorted to walking with a stick when my thyroid problems teamed up with extreme stress to render every movement painful. I caught every cough, cold and lurgy going. In my last couple of teaching jobs, I took far too much time off sick, when body and soul succumbed to stress and made it impossible to do anything but stay at home and feel like a failure.

On April 4th I celebrated two years in my current job. More significantly for me, I clocked up two years without a day off sick. Not one. This was a personal triumph that has largely gone unnoticed, but for me it was a huge deal. In those two years I have dealt with starting testosterone (I had my first dose just over a fortnight before I was taken on permanently), had chest surgery (saved up my holiday for that) and probably had just as much stress on my plate as before. However, my body hasn’t ‘acted out’ my stress the way it used to, and I haven’t felt the emotional need to take refuge at home.

So what has changed, really? Testosterone is not magic – it doesn’t cure illness, or soothe a troubled soul. Chest surgery, whilst it made me the happiest boy in the world, isn’t a sure-fire route to health and good times. I guess that in the same way my body used to manifest my stress, depression, anxiety and general inability to cope in a physical way, it is now doing more or less the same, but for good. These days I am calmer, more able to manage the anxiety and stress (most of the time) and whilst my bipolar black dog does still up and bite me in the bum periodically, I feel more able to deal with it. As for the coughs and colds, who knows? Can one’s immune system really respond to feeling positive and fulfilled? Or maybe 5 years of veganism has actually done me some good, despite my critics on that score!

I was asked by a friend around the time I started transitioning, as a joke “Will you stop moisturising now?” I laughed like a drain, because I was never the moisturising type. Occasionally I would have a flurry of guilt-ridden conformity to what I thought, as a ‘woman’, I *should* be doing. I’d buy eye cream, body butter and ear-lobe rejuvenator, slather the stuff on for a few days, and then give up. Dry skin could go hang – I was self-harming regularly anyway, so why bother trying to look after what I had? I just didn’t like myself enough to care.

I thought that once I was identifying openly as male I would just continue neglecting my poor body, but at least feeling less guilty about it. Quite the opposite is true. These days I take far better care of my body than I ever did before. I’m still not great with the skin care routine, but it’s a heck of a lot better than it used to be. I can’t claim that the self-harm has gone away, but it’s much reduced. I get my hair done regularly, I buy clothes that fit, and flatter me, I ‘manscape’ the Enchanted Forest that is my newly sprouted hairy bits. I’ve got contact lenses. I watch my weight (successfully, rather than anxiously). I walk into a pub feeling good, not looking for the darkest corner to lurk in.

You could argue that all of this is simply down to me finally, at the age of 41, discovering that I quite like myself. Who knows if I’d have reached that realisation without ever transitioning? Either way, I am enjoying the sensation, after all this time. My sick-record, skintone and dusty walking stick seem to reflect that.

4 months before T2 years on TAs many of you will already know, I’ve just passed my 2nd Transiversary, marking 2 years on testosterone. I’ve already talked about this a bit on my YouTube channel (MrHerbertTurtle – check it out by following the link on the top right of this page) and I suppose I don’t have any super-wise words to say.

Of course there has been a lot of change in 2 years. From a physical point of view my body has changed radically. Broader shoulders, slimmer hips, wider jaw, general hairiness, greater strength: all the things that we are led to expect from taking testosterone have come to pass, more or less. Emotionally, it’s become quite hard to judge how I have changed, simply because whilst I know that my emotional reactions and general outlook are now very different, these things are now so ‘me’ that I can’t really remember how things were before. Or even if there *has* been a change.

It’s fair to say, though, that I am calmer than before, quieter, with less of a need to be included or liked or approved of. I still get stressed out, of course. I’ve spoken before about my problems with anxiety, and they haven’t suddenly evaporated, but then testosterone is just another hormone, not a Magic Potion.

I confess that when I started on this journey, I did think that by the end of 2 years I’d be ‘done’ (like that transgender popcorn I’ve mentioned before). I think I hoped I’d be more unequivocably ‘a man’, at least to look at, than I actually am. As one who still gets ‘love’ and ‘she’ on a regular basis, I look with some jealousy at the guys who just seem to slip into their masculinity like an old jumper.

I’m told this is partly because of my age. Ok, I’m no pensioner, but my body has spent 4 decades being a certain way, and realistically my 2 years on a new fuel won’t have had that much of an impact on muscles, hair follicles and other bits and pieces used to thriving on oestrogen. Everyone changes differently – sadly, as in every other facet of life, we are handed labels and expectations as soon as we identify a particular way, but our genes don’t listen to expectations. My genetic history doesn’t really scream “Big Hairy Butch Fella” – even if it did, 2 years is still a very short time for my body to channel its inner caveman.

What those 2 years has given me is confidence, body positivity, self-acceptance, peace and a hefty dollop of happiness. They’ve given me the chance to work out who exactly I am, and to accept that whilst I may never conform to the world’s definition of ‘manly’, at least I can live the rest of my life being myself.

 

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.

.

.

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.

****************************************************

Dedicated to my daughter, and my own lovely mum xxx

.

.

rejectionYesterday my daughter was sweet sixteen. This is a Big Deal Birthday, if the likes of MTV are to be believed. I wasn’t invited, or involved in any of the preparation. In fact, let’s be honest, I have no idea how she celebrated her big day. I sent a present and a card, of course, but I’m not expecting her to acknowledge either. I texted in the morning to wish her a wonderful day. Unsurprisingly, I didn’t get a reply.

The last time I heard anything at all from my daughter was a year ago, when she sent a ‘Thank you’ note for her 15th birthday present. That arrived after I emailed her father to see if the gift had actually arrived. Otherwise, I suspect, the stony silence would have remained. I haven’t seen her or heard her voice since July 2011. Over the last 18 months, I can count the number of times she has replied to one of my regular texts or emails on one hand. With a couple of fingers chopped off.

Almost everyone says ‘she’ll come around’ and I am sure they are right, but that doesn’t make the silence any easier to bear. I could write a very long post detailing the searing pain that I feel every day at the thought that my daughter has chosen this path. But that much pain in one place wouldn’t help anyone, least of all me, and it would probably just make everyone feel uncomfortable.

If I had a pound for every time someone has said ‘she’s just being a teenager’, I’d be pretty rich by now. Of course, we all know that the teenage years are tricky, and I’m sure that plays a significant part in the way she has chosen to act. However, this dismisses what I, and other trans* identified parents go through when our children try to erase us from their lives. Everyone out there with a ‘tricky’ teenager, imagine for a second if that person left you for so long you cannot remember what they look like properly, who rejects all attempts at contact, and who you cannot even argue your case with, because they won’t let you that close.

Sixteen years ago, I was sat in hospital with a baby girl with eyes big enough to reflect the Universe and soft cupid lips, who proceeded to sew her heart to mine. However hard she has tried to unpick those stitches, they still remain, and always will.

 

Those of you who know me on Facebook will recall that recently I found an unfamiliar lump in my bottom, which turned out, on bemused exploration, to be my tailbone. On this occasion I wasn’t such a hypochondriac to imagine it was anything that shouldn’t be there, plus I did learn enough in Biology lessons at school to realise that I was poking a bit of skeleton. However, the genuine shock was feeling it there at all – for the last 41 years my tailbone has stayed happily padded, tucked away from sight and general poking by a pretty generous fat layer. Which it would seem has gone. Well, substantially reduced, anyway.

Changing shape is such a bizarre thing. Those of us who take testosterone usually do so with a bit of research, and it wasn’t like I didn’t expect things to change. However, finding unexpected bits of coccyx when sitting down in the bath is a bit…well, unexpected.

Hudson’s FTM Resource Guide, a very useful resource on all things FTM, provides a good list of expected changes for someone born female-bodied taking testosterone. Of these, the Guide refers to “Migration of body fat to a more masculine pattern (i.e., fat deposits shifting from hips, thighs and buttocks to the abdomen area)” However prepared I was for this ‘migration’, though, I still can’t quite believe that it’s happening.

I should point out here that the emergence, turtle-like, of my tailbone, is due partly to testosterone, but also to weight-loss. The thing is, as my fat cells went on the march, protesting against living conditions in my thighs, hips and bum, they decided that my abdomen would be a great place to settle down. Suddenly I could actually see most of my fat, in one place, and that, my friends, is great incentive to eat less, and exercise more. Which I have, with some success.

So here I am, just over a stone and a half lighter than I was 2 years ago, with fat in way different places than it used to be, and my poor brain is having trouble keeping up. I’ve written before about struggling with self-image through the changes, and I’d reiterate what I’ve said before about still not seeing myself ‘properly’ when I look in the mirror, thanks to my brain having got far too used to me being a shape that I didn’t like. I do very much enjoy my new slim(mer) line bod, and am marvelling at being able to buy size Small clothes, and 32″ waist trousers. However, as love affairs with my body goes, I’m still definitely in the stages of being amazed this slim new Man Body is hanging out with me, rather than feeling head over heels in love with it just yet.

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…

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.