Gender Exhausted

Another morning. Driving at the start of the traffic, busy even before rush hour. Crosseyed at the desk and then back home, cook, a few hours that pass in minutes and back to sleep. The weeks seemed to pass by in a similar way, work days, weekend in a minute and back to work Monday.

I think the only thing that had been keeping me sane was the sharp sunrise that I could see from my desk. Looking across the city with the outline of buildings and structures in sharp black contrast against crayon orange twilight.

My head wasn’t just mentally drained. I was drained from feeling just unwell for months that would make me sleep badly and that would drain me mentally. A circle of fatigue that would push the gender thing right to the back of my priorities. I was just finding it hard to cope with getting through each day and function in a job that, while can become mundane in it’s everyday function, actually means a lot to me. The first job I’ve probably ever had that what I do actually means something. People rely on it and the importance in doing it right is extremely high. Unlike many of my jobs in the past, while I enjoyed some of them to an extent or inspired by their clients, it felt much like what Chandler in Friends once said, “If I don’t input those numbers… doesn’t make much of a difference.”

I still had running but it was down to a minimum. I still had cycling but the weather has been terrible. With much of the gender thing at the lowest point it’s been in so long I questioned whether there was anything left there. Dreading every letter posted through the door might be the next appointment for the Gender Identity Clinic and I had nothing I could have taken them other than lacklustre, indecisiveness and disorientation.

But no letter has turned up. In fact I may have been forgotten; it has happened before. My mind started wandering, wondering after reading another BBC news article announcing the long waiting times at gender clinics throughout the United Kingdom, that they might have decided that my indecision wasn’t worth any further help and that they might have struck me off their books. I shook the stupid, split-second, conspiracy thought from my head. This is, of course, not what was happening. It was more likely that a letter had got lost, I’ve missed my appointment and I’ve been struck off. I shook another silly thought away. It’s just another referral to wait for, a referral that I have very little to take with me.

Since the new year it just all went to the background. The gender thing was actually still there but it was on tick over. Kept alive by a small battery that needed replacing. It wasn’t until I had a little time off that I started to recover; not physically so much, I’m still one hundred percent knackered without enough hours in the day, but things started to wake up.

Seeing things in myself that are female that make me who I am and what I want. Seeing that may be there is still something I can do and may be it’s not all over. The problem is with feeling gender-exhausted comes self doubt and not necessarily doubt that I am who I am, I think that exposes itself as no more than a dent, but doubt that I can actually move forward anymore than I already have; just through the exhaustion of everything.

I’m not sure what triggered the wake up. I was still wearing some of my female clothing running, using my daily female shoulder bag (yes, it’s just a bag), but as these are normal daily things to me I couldn’t feel who I was anymore. I think I was feeling a bit numb. There was a moment today when I removed some old clear nail varnish from my toes. There was a gap where my nails had grown that you could measure in months but it was the removal process, rather than painting my nails, that triggered something.

It was kind of like a light bulb moment where I could suddenly see again. I don’t think it was directly what it was either. It wasn’t the you’re wearing nail varnish thing, to me it was just nail varnish, but it was more, I have something to do to remove it. It was like a sort of daily habit that I suppose men, on the whole, just don’t do that and it reminded me of who I was. Kind of like a feminine habit that was a sole preserve that echoed back who I was, even though technically it’s not necessarily a female preserve.

It could have been anything really that triggered it, may be if I saw I had small feet and that made me feel more like women; I don’t have particularly small feet. Or girly finger nails, or my long hair; I do have long hair – ding! In the weeks before that trigger moment I had taken to straightening my hair to heat-death just to try and bring myself back to normal like an addict trying to find that high again.

It hasn’t just been a gender lack-lustre, it’s been most things. Cooking to eat and not just to enjoy the experience. Enjoying others company but not always feeling quite there because I just need my bed or sofa; whichever I have the energy to reach first. I’ve had more gender dreams in the last few weeks than I think I’ve had in the last five years.

I’m hoping this moment of finding myself again will turn into my desire and confidence that I felt just six months or so ago, because without it I just wonder who I actually am anymore.

Until next time.

Hannah x

 

A Rose Gold Diary – New Years Eve Special

Runners appeared through the morning mist in the sharp pale winter sunlight that pierced through. Dark evergreen leaves lined the pathway glossy with droplets that had clung from the slowly clearing early fog. Every breath lingering in the air as a cloud of steam behind as the kilometres mounted.

The social atmosphere was as vibrant as the climate atmosphere. Running at Christmas time with others is even more special than the other weeks. Everyone is in a positive mood with the approach of the new year and helped along by a little sunshine and blue sky somewhere above the mist.

And this applies to Christmas day where we express our relationship with people through our gifts to each other. To some extent showing how we view that person and buying a present we think they’ll like because it’s them and sometimes giving a present that we like, as the giver, because we want to give a part of ourselves.

Each year that has passed by my presents have moulded somehow. Certain things have become more feminine, some not so much. It is as clear as a summers day that how my feminine side has come to the forefront, as I’ve become more confident enough to express myself outwardly, that people, in this case my parents, have expressed their gifts as a reflection of who I’ve become to them.

A beautiful hamper of bathroom things with a bath body puff, shampoos and gentle on the skin soaps as well as a couple of those mens toiletries I still need. It’s almost like a bathroom expression of exactly where I am. Amongst my presents was a rose gold diary.

I could have had a utilitarian black diary with “2020” written on the front that would be at home on a study desk. Instead I had a diary with an embossed floral fractal design that spread from the front to the back hard cover with yellow gold highlights and a strap that secured the book shut to a gold clip. It would be more at home on my bedside table which is where it will probably reside for much of next year.

Last year I had a beautiful diary with pale monochrome scenic views of mountains and inside messages on the title page of each month that expressed positivity and a black and white photograph that appealed to active people that painted walking, adventure and yoga. It was me. It expressed exactly who I was for that year and who I still am.

The new diary took that expression one step further with it’s pink patterned inlay pages and inspired wording on the introductory and monthly pages. It showed femininity and inspiration. It was very much me. Heck, I flicked through the pages and it stopped and landed on International Women’s Day; the irony.

I’m not saying that every present should be feminine based, perfumes and dresses, bath bombs and makeup, but having that hint of it says everything to me. I don’t know a man that has had a rose gold coloured diary for Christmas and that to me says a lot of where I am and how my parents see me. That means so much to me and helps me feel more comfortable and confident about where I am.

With a new diary comes a new year. Twenty twenty. A new decade. In the universe of things it doesn’t really mean anything. It’s just another day and things are changing but for us and society we make it something special and that’s a good thing. It gives us a chance to reflect and make lots of promises to break.

But may be that’s the promise to make, not to make promises you can’t keep or at least stick to them and yet also be flexible and fluid about our promises. If they’re not for us may be swap that promise, when it doesn’t workout, for something even better. Don’t like that gym membership by February? Find another gym or another exercise. Changing, alone, can be the inspiration that we need.

I promised myself a few years ago not to make resolutions that were unrealistic for things I didn’t want to do and do the things I really wanted, even if that meant being a little out of my comfort zone and that doesn’t mean I’ve completed everything I’ve promised but I do feel so much better for it.

I’ve made some gender identity progress since last new year and I’m happy with that. It would be amazing if I’d made some huge leap and everything was as rose gold in life as it is on the cover of the new year diary but life isn’t like that and some of that fluidity is about accepting my place as it is for the time being and if I want more change then I have the freshness of a new year that starts in less than a day from now.

I’ve cleaned other parts of my life, that are not gender related, my exercise routines, my cycling adventures starting, clearing the garage, clearing the clutter. Cleaning other parts of my life is what takes away some of the weight that allows the gender thing to blossom without all the added stresses from other parts of my life. Everything in your life that’s not gender related is as important to the gender thing as the gender identity itself.

I feel good about the year that has past. Bumps were ironed out. The bumps that remained were challenging and interesting for that reason. I want the new year to continue this way. I want to feel that elation of cycling to the top of a mountain and being inspired by the view in the other parts of my life. I want to feel my expression of femininity without having the withdrawal when I see my face in the mirror in a different light and see a return of something masculine; I want to remain at that sweet-spot instead.

When I came to the end of that run, during Christmas week, I crossed the line with most of the mist raised. I didn’t feel that I was running a fast pace but my time was quicker than for many weeks. I had been duped by my own thoughts being faster than I realised. We can get duped by our thoughts a lot. Like many at the run though I felt the elation just from running but I thought for that moment, “That’s how I want twenty-twenty to be.”

Until next year.
Have a happy new year and make those gender things happen for you.

Hannah x

Ice Cold Warmth – Christmas Eve Special

Plated hair and leggings. The scratching sound of a blade dragging along the ice to stop. Dark mascara and glossy eyes. Floating along the ice that had been freshly laid but still wet where hired boots had been rushed onto the rink. Music filling the wonderland and Christmas trees hanging from the roof.

I wore my new bobble hat, gloves and ripped jeans and got as close as I could to what made me feel right ice skating at Christmas but I was lacking the mascara and the dusty purple coloured leggings I imagined I’d have worn. Poker straight hair may be falling from the rim of my bobble hat in a cute winter warm look.

I love gliding around just allowing the ice to take me at an easy pace. Dodging around those wobbling and holding the hand of someone wobbling even more so and those with a wet mark down their thigh from an earlier fall.

Despite seeing those women looking and expressing the way they want to be I didn’t feel jealous of envious, well may be a little envy. I felt that I was some way along the path towards that sort of thing.

A yearly skate on the ice has become almost tradition for me, finished by a mulled wine and some Christmas market food but each time I feel a little more along the way to enjoying the skating how I want. At the moment it’s a bit of a journey and to some extent a challenge to step outside my comfort zone for comfort. I see other women the way may be I’d like to be and may be one year, next year, it will be the mascara and soft berry lipstick.

Earlier in the week Sarah in work approached me, “Have you seen this app? It turns you into a women, look at John.” She showed me a swipe-full of staff that had been changed gender. “Let’s do you.”

Sarah lined the phone up with my face and allowed it to process me. It softened my face up with light foundation with a blush of red warming my cheeks and dark mascara, upturned lashes with a digital eyelash curler. It plonked different hair on my head, which seemed pointless given my hair is approaching half way down my back at the moment but in a ponytail so we’ll let that little android off the hook. It was certainly a women in the finished process. In fact it made me look a little like Victoria Derbyshire, how it got to that I don’t know.

“There you go! How about that.”

“Can you turn me into a man now?” I joked. Kevin laughed from his desk.

The funny thing is, she clicked a button and the fabrication disappeared and I returned on the screen. I hadn’t felt that deflated and masculine for a long time. I’d come falling straight back to earth and hit a soft brick surface.

The thing is that app makes a women by softening features and rounding the face and then hiding everything else with thick virtual makeup. It’s an over-idealised image to make you appear female. It’s a night out with the girls look. The problem with these things is they can give a false let down. It can take away what we made the best of with what we have in a heart beat, but it doesn’t have to.

It didn’t take long to realise this and I didn’t latch onto the deflation. I reminded myself of what I have, how far I’ve come but more importantly how far I can still go, if I want to.

The difference between reality and idealism is something to try and go with and find somewhere between rather than fighting it and expecting the ideal. We are surrounded by idealistic images of what a women is, especially around Christmas with clothes expertly hung on size eight models, so it’s easy to get hung up on wanting to be like them and feeling a failure or false when we feel we can’t achieve that perfection.

Sometimes we might even buy those clothes on sale just for that reason and then realise they just don’t hang well on us and feel that we’re not achieving that perfection. The thing is most women go through this too. They, I say they when really I should say we but we need to differentiate without having to use that Cis word, they go through all the same fears, doubts and hits to confidence.

We all do for the same reasons. We have gender identity specific issues to deal with but we are all hit by some of the same things and we can share these things with other women if we can for support.

With the worry about how I look I also worry about whether I lead my future in the right way. Alone. A fear that may be I won’t meet anyone else now, especially if my gender identity continues to progress. I enjoy my own company but it’s always in the back of my mind that in the years to come, will I regret not returning to a real loving relationship.

Several years ago I headed down to Cannes on a holiday on my own. In the evenings there were hoards of people walking the promenade in June lit by warm street lighting. French locals playing chess on a mobile table, small arts stalls and flash young men burbling past in hired Ferrari.

I would wander to the edge of the promenade that divided the walkway from the beach. The small wall was topped with a slightly sloped plane that formed a bench the length of the bay. I sat with a copy of a Stephen Fry autobiography and hooked over the top a clip-on book light and read page after page amongst the noise and life in the south of France. At that time I enjoyed every minute. I felt like I had time to do it. All the time in the world.

Would I do something like that again if I was living full time? Sometimes people have opinions of a woman spending time alone. That said we live in a time of self confidence and adventure. Going out and doing the things we want to do and may be we, The Gender Dysphoric, should lead the way. For now, I’ll do whatever I can.

Until next time,

Merry Christmas.

Hannah x

Girl On The Screen

It wasn’t the magical setting of the large manor or that it was the only long sunny day of the week that had that run-up to Christmas feel. Neither was it the gardens that were being tendered by volunteers this winter day digging in the soil and pushing wheel barrows. The estate sparsely populated with very few visitors.

It wasn’t the warm humid greenhouse full of special flowers still in bloom only metres away from the cold outdoors. The Christmas trees dotted around the grounds to fit in with this festive time or the grandiose piano in a glorious room that I was allowed to play with sunlight flittering through the windows that displayed a panorama of the large gardens spanning to the old trees at the end. It wasn’t any of that, it was that I was with someone sharing that day.

I could have gone to that place for the day, to look around how a family lived in such a large home and with success in the eighteen hundreds, and I would have enjoyed every minute of it. I enjoy my own company and I travel alone a lot but sharing a day with my parents makes it just that bit different. There is an extra enjoyment, a special day that we share, chatting, photos, lunch and coffee. That is special.

The worry is with the gender thing is whether, when we decide to outwardly show our gender identity and live life in the gender we feel we best fit, if we risk loosing those people that we enjoy sharing a day with. Will they be able to cope on those days even if they accept you. You get introduced to one of their friends they bump into, “Oh this is my So… Daughter.”  Or just, this is my daughter, and their friend looks at you and loudly via their facial expression emit, “REALLY!” Or even worse, “Christ!”

I’m sure with my parents I’m in a position that they would except me whoever I become and in fact that might well go for most of my family but it’s one of those things that still play on the mind. I have friends that know about my gender identity and they’ve been good about it and it’s just not really a thing, not right now. It was funny when I was with my best friend, we were coming back from some night out in a car, me in the front passenger seat and him and his other mate, both very drunk in the back seats, singing The Lumberjack Song. Through the chorus he lent forward and gave me three large pats on the shoulder. I laughed at his typical drunk humour, and the fact his friend didn’t know and didn’t notice. But that’s him and that’s a way of coping and dealing with the baby elephant in the car.

I had a video call on my tablet some weeks ago. My Nan, she taps around on her tablet until something happens, usually on social media, but sometimes she calls me by accident. “Hiya.” I said loudly.
“Oh! I didn’t realise I did that. How did that happen?”
“Can you see me?” I had the camera switched on and I could see that at my end in the corner of the screen but hers was switched off.
“No, all I can see is a girl.”
“How are you Nan?”

I smirked for a moment but I didn’t follow it up with “No, thats me.” I suppose I could have but what would it have added to the call. She enjoys chatting to me and I think probing what she was seeing would be fruitless. It was what it was and it was quite nice to feel that someone in my own family saw a girl on the screen. I suspect the screen might have been a touch small anyway for her to say that or full of finger smudges, it’s not like she wouldn’t recognise me.

I still even get that thing, usually when I’m standing in a public toilet washing or drying my hands, and a guy walks in, stops and either walks out, double checks the sign on the door or just stands there for a moment trying to decide whether to come in and whether I’ve made a mistake or he has as to which toilet we’re in. It’s quite flattering in a weird way because as I’m getting older I feel like I’m loosing what femininity I had in my looks yet this has happened more in the last year than ever before.

I guess it could be confidence and the way I carry myself or more likely I’m more confident about the things I wear and how I wear my hair and how much I prepare myself that day. Impossible to know and probably not worth introspecting.

I’m not naive about my current presentation. I know I’m not one hundred percent ‘passing’, far from it, and not being treated female all the time, in fact rarely in comparison to every day but there is a foundation there. Sometimes those foundations in my mind have cracks or shift a little while I examine my own fears and feelings then eventually they’ll settle when I find ways to feel happy about those fears and confidence comes back a little more.

The most liberating, confidence boosting and progressive with this girl on the screen thing is in what little social media I still take part in. It’s one thing, turning up to the weekend running group as I want or going cycling how I wish to present myself outwardly, but posting photos of myself during these times, showing how i’m dressed, my hair straightened and long or high ponytail or even my hair falling down one side of my shoulder tied at the bottom in a loose ponytail – that is something else.

Social media is there for anyone to see. It’s unrestricted unless I become reclusive and lock it down. It’s open to people from my past that I’ve not seen in years that may have not had the build up to changes and have decided to lurk in my profile and flick through what I’ve become. The funny thing is my social media presence isn’t something I’ve worried about. I post photos where I’m already confident in my appearance and so it just blindly goes out there, and that is progress.

Until next time.

Hannah x

Inspired Destiny

Another dark evening. The houses now decorated even more so with December rushing in like a wave on a long winter beach. Some delicate white lights tastefully still in garden hedges and some dancing like a disco in the 1980s. Some gardens and windows lit with minimalism and some with a glowing snowman and reindeer bright enough to attract landing planes from the US.

The cool air brushed past my face and condensation grew on parked cars that would be breathed on by frost over night. December really felt it was here and despite feeling pretty rubbish all day I had forced myself to go for another short run around the village to see if it would improve my sleep and make me feel just that bit better the next day. Give my mind a chance to rest from Christmas present thinking and the usual gender thing daily obsession.

The gender thing can be an obsession in the sense that while things are being sorted it’s a constant thought process weighing things up back and forth. This week, during clearing things in the house, I decided to sort through the small basket of makeup that has been sat in my bottom draw for years. Different eyeliners and lipsticks came and went, well they came, but much of the time they didn’t go. Only a handful of dried up nail polish bottles have ever been thrown out and so it steadily built a little. Some had even split in two like oil and water but clear varnish and hardened colour; they are always the oldest.

I pulled the basket from the draw and placed it besides me on the bed. The basket itself was a bit battered with twigs of weave falling into the carpet waiting to be forgotten and stab me in the toe later on. I clawed through the contents. Mascara, open lid symbol with ’36 months’ written on it. Well I’ve not bought mascara in the last 3 years so that’s out. Ink black wet eyeliner, ‘6 months.’ I’ve had that longer than the mascara! Out it went.

A chrome lipstick tube with at least a quarter of lipstick. I remember buying it and I remember the evenings years ago that I used it on nights out in Bristol City. A green nail varnish, a dark purple varnish, a sky blue one, ‘True Blue’ — “that’s completely dried up, out it goes, I don’t care what the memories are.” It seemed so easy that day to throw things even though many had links to the past for some reason or another but I guess that was a mark of progress.

This wasn’t purging. This was clearing the deck. Washing the branches up the beach to the shore line and leaving it there at the tide line. Purging, as some will know, is that dreadful time in the early days of dealing with gender identity where either guilt, denial or both take hold and you decide throw everything away and ignore it, hoping that it goes away forever. That is until it returns and then you have to start all over again and feel terrible about all those nice things you threw away.

This was not that. I only ever had a real purge once in my life in my early twenties and there were reasons behind it that felt right at the time but it was with a vision of starting again rather than of leaving it all behind. This was sorting and keeping things that I thought I may use again or wanted to hang on to a little longer until I was sure.

Much like clearing out my old makeup clutter my running clears my head a little. It’s medication without the prescription and having a clear small collection of things like makeup, having less to think about, is itself cleansing.

It’s about baggage and reducing its load but not necessarily letting go of the memories so we can experience new things without that weight holding us back. I’ve spent this year trying to experience new things, as well as my gender identity progression, and being able to let go of some of my past without actually destroying it feels much more free.

As I approach the end of the year and feel the count down to twenty-twenty I see something of change. I don’t know what that change will be but a letting go of some fears and finding myself in a different way that I have in the past. Less trepidation and internal embarrassment and more taking the lead of my life.

When I see people who I feel influence my life that I see as a kind of role model I also think about those transgender people and which of them I feel is a role model for me. I could name people who are famous for being transgendered from the early years of gender identity coming to the forefront of the public eye and their bravery in hard times or the new set who have made themselves public that were famous for their career and suddenly told the world who they really are.

While they are incredible people I think about “Tom”, the young barista at a cafe in the city. In his early twenties serving me my drink with politeness and without a flinch of whether he feels accepted or not, for me he is my role model. In a new world of gender identity he has decided to become male and even though female to male role transition has its differences to male to female, in the few times I have met him and the little I know about him, I feel in awe of that confidence at that age with their future ahead of them compared to mine that is so many years late.

With just that little amount of information about Tom it is enough for me to find some comfort, hope and positivity from them without even talking to him about his issues. I’m not so clueless to realise that things might well be extremely difficult and challenging for Tom but sometimes ignorance really is a bliss for me and to see someone from behind the counter is the gloss on gender identity that I need.

Until next time.

Hannah x

Exposure Thing

I stepped out onto the pavement, still damp but at least it wasn’t raining. It was dark, past twilight, but there was a hint of a darkened electric blue on the horizon where the rain clouds were broken and the sky delicately illuminated from over the horizon. I locked the front door, tucking my door key into my pocket sleeve on my wrist, and set off into a jog.

I hadn’t run on a weekday for months. My exercise had consisted of weekends with the running community on Saturdays and cycling, a sort of binge sweat. I had to do something though during the week. It had been my foot injury that had restricted me to just weekends, using the week to recover it ready for that hit on a Saturday morning. It was about exercise, health and the gender thing. The more I’m out of the house the more I’m out there. An excuse to get the three quarter length running tights on and to feel that at least some of my life is more female than the male, or may be more accurately more feminine than the masculine.

During the day I’d wandered around the shops for a new winter hat. I’d had one in mind for a few weeks, something winter fun, a softer coloured and textured beany or even a bobble hat that would be the topping for when I go Ice Skating in December; an annual diary date with Maddie. But there it was on the shelf. Amongst all the sale hats and it was the only one left. I slipped it on, looked in the shop mirror — it fit. A dusty darkened pink with a grey fake fur bobble and a nice comforting lining.

I popped it back on the shelf and walked out of the shop thinking I’d want to sleep on it. I don’t like to rush into some purchases in case it’s an impulse buy — a reflection of my attitude to gender identity. I walked through the shopping centre thinking about it and thinking whether it would be the hat I really wanted and what the price was as it was unmarked. I stopped for a moment and checked their web site on my phone, there it was, on sale. I quickly turned and headed straight back to the shop with a wry smile on my face.

When I got home that evening, sorting the junk mail, actual post and vote begging letters, I pulled my hair tie out and let my ponytail fall, grabbed my new hat from my bag and headed to the mirror, pulling the hat over my head with my hair falling out the sides of the hat. It really did fit and it did make me a little happy.

I left it on the arm of the sofa for the evening and I caught myself looking at it briefly. There was a thought that went straight to my head thick, fast and concentrated — “there’s a female hat in the house.” It was a strange thought. All those clothes I already have and what was I really thinking? Why was this different? It was my hat. Sure, I still had the label on top with it’s little clothes hanger-for-hats still attached in case I changed my mind, but it was mine.

I worked it out very quickly. I hadn’t just bought this for my use around the house like say a skirt or a dress that I wouldn’t, at least not yet in my gender journey, use day to day but this was something for any day, like my running clothes, my work trousers or my mini ruck sack. These were things that, alone were not hugely obvious or significant but as a collection they were something different. The power of a collective.

It felt like more of me was on show than it had ever been before and I’d not even worn the hat yet. More of me was metaphorically pink than grey. It was nice, satisfying and warm but also a little scary. It was a borderline being crossed. A point of possibly no return. It seemed such a little thing physically and yet something hugely changing.

It was the reason for the dream that night I suspect. A recurring dream from time to time. One where I am going about my day as I want wearing what I want without a care but then sometime later I suddenly become very self aware that people have seen that side of me.

It’s a simplistic symbolistic dream for worry of being over-exposed too soon. Worrying about people seeing the real me. But what is that worry really? Is it worry that people are seeing me in a skirt for the first time or that I’ve not realised I’ve been wearing it when I normally wouldn’t or is it just worry about first times? May be it’s a blend of all three. There again it could be natural doubt about doing something out of my comfort zone. The future usually resolves these things.

The exposure thing is funny because with some of the progress I’ve made so far I’ve just done them and felt happy and normal about it and not that vivid ‘naked moment’ feeling in the dream. The difference though is that the dream is falling straight into some huge massive change all at once; afterall dreams are just dreams. Progress on the other hand is generally steady and incremental — at least for me.

Running the far side of the village, passing houses with warm dimly lit front reception rooms and delicate minimal Christmas lights oozing middle class, and only a week to December shy of a Christmas tree, I realise I am still trying to find my way and finding that the little increments are ever more pushing towards a tipping point. The days still come each morning and a new day begins with new thoughts of “what next.”

Until next time.

Hannah x

Reinvent

‘What happens after? I mean it’s not a hard border line where one life stops and the other starts.’ I thought. The rain had gone and the paths had been left with lethal soggy leaves and the temperature had dropped so much that gloves, hat and a coat were compulsory. Even though this weather had brought me the wrapped up warmth and comfort, I was still in a place of wondering, confusion and a little lost.

It doesn’t matter how far down the gender thing journey you are there are always those moments when you just wonder what next and loosing our way a little. It sometimes feeling like I need to open GenderMaps and figure out where I am and may be on occasion ask for directions because I’d forgotten them — even if I’m just asking myself and not having to see the gender identity clinician again to get that reset feeling.

The thing is if I just sit there allowing the thoughts to accumulate and race around my head I just end up feeling all fogged up. There is no coherent line of thought or planning. The gender thing ends up being all over the shop and I don’t find myself getting back on track with a clear vision and the confidence that I need to go with it.

That’s where I’ve been for a few weeks, loosing my way and not sitting down for a moment and sorting things out. I like to write lists. Not just come up with a list of things, but actually write it down on paper so it’s in blue and white, on the page, not to be forgotten and ordered. And from a list of things that are on my mind, whether it’s work, clothes, hobbies or sports and anything else that is gender-related, I can bring together a couple of paragraphs of what I want, how I should go about it or just refresh and remember the things I was going to do which had got lost in that fog in my head.

I have yet to put aside the time to do this recently. I’ve left it go so I loose my way a bit and allow the daily trudge of wake, work, dinner, bed cycle get in the way; that and cleaning the house, taking crap to the tip and generally getting other things in order rather than myself. That’s not to say de-hoarding isn’t important, it really is, and that moment when I realise I’ve cleared a whole space isn’t just cleansing of the garage but cleansing my head too — and that’s just as important.

But it’s giving enough time to both. I found myself thinking what I would want to do when all the gender thing is done and out of the way, whatever that end point actually is. I realised I would probably want to go on holiday to some of the places I’ve been to before, go to the same restaurants, cycle the same places, the only difference is I would be experiencing them all over again but as me — fully. I have this notion that it would feel as fresh and as exciting as the first time I went.

I would enjoy it with a new view point. I would feel at one with the way I present, well, either all that or I would feel awkward, uneasy and uncomfortable. May be that’s part of the planning though. Instead I would think about what could possibly be a reason for feeling uneasy and then work my way though these issues before going so I don’t feel that way. That said may be at that point insecurities would be long behind me and I would just get on with things. It would be just a matter of getting into the right frame of mind so it becomes fun, enjoyable and even needed.

I would probably want to do new things too. New pursuits much like my recent cycling on longer adventures. I would find other activities but start them with Hannah being on the booking form. “Hannah! Hook that belaying rope in or you’ll break your neck if you fall.” “Hannah, you’ve left your parachute on the chair, don’t jump yet.” “Miss James, we’ve upgraded your room to the penthouse suite, is there anything else you’d like? Champagne?”

Just talking about it feels therapeutic but yet at the same time, without writing down some realistic plans, it feels a bit like the millionaire syndrome. You know when you talk with your friends and discuss what you’d do if you won the lottery or come into millions through genuine success. You come up with ideas of where you’d go, and what car you’d arrive in while wearing something expensive bought in Kensington. That genuine exciting feeling that it could happen starts to build inside like caffeine from a strong coffee, but when it’s over and the conversation changes the excitement fades and reality draws in like dusk over a sunset.

It’s at that moment we realise the odds are so slim that the feeling fades but with the gender thing it’s not all down to luck. It’s also down to planning, confidence and the life tools to deal with whatever comes our way.

Much like the house it’s about cleaning up, getting things in order and making space so we can move. Not destroying our past but keeping the things that are important and clearing away the things that weigh us down without feeling any unfair guilt of destruction.

Its not to say that the end goal of the gender thing will cure the daily pattern. One of the first people I ever spoke to who were transgendered, some twenty five years ago or so, said “your life problems don’t go away —” and even though that was in the mid nineteen nineties when being trans was still to some extent difficult and acceptability was only just starting to bloom, and in today’s climate I guess it’s just a little easier to transition, put the gender identity problem behind us and address our life problems, they are still there. Even so with a clear vision of what we want in our future we can make it happen. We just need to want it and put time to it.

Until next time.

Hannah x

Vain

It didn’t seem that cold riding around the lake. It wasn’t that far from home really but even so I wrapped up with a large hooded jumper and even long fitness leggings to make sure I didn’t feel worse than I already did for most of the week. The pathway opens up from the trees at the corner of the lake, the sun a November watery hue with a sharp enough edge to produce long clear shadows from the line of trees on the lawn to the side.

A quiet place on private hotel land that turn a blind eye to walkers on a Sunday and where guests rarely roam. It’s so quiet that I felt surprised to past enough people to say ‘good morning’ to. The one side of the lake is a gravel path following along near the waters edge with the polar opposite west side winding tight between dense woodland on a thick carpet of autumn leaves. It was a quintessential British autumn scene and right on my doorstep.

I had taken my camera with me because I knew it would likely be a warm scenic place in a cold environment. I decided to set up a photograph of myself, something to send to my parents with the castle in the background and a full autumn bloom ancient tree on the side in pure tan tones. I lifted my cycle helmet off and placed it on my bag on the bench, setting the bike to the side, popped the camera at the end of the path and allowed it to time a self-indulgent photo.

I reviewed the photo. It was ok but with my hair tied back it didn’t feel like me. It was me and obviously looked like me but it felt like I’d hidden away a little bit of myself. I might have had my running tights on but even so, sat on the bench with my knees together, my warm jumper and gloves I felt something was still missing.

I pulled the elasticated bronze hair ribbon from my ponytail and slipped it onto my wrist allowing my hair to fall. A little rustle with my hands and I quickly jogged to the end of the path again, set the timer and ran back to the bench counting the ten seconds in my head and panicking that I wouldn’t get to sit down in time. I assumed it clicked and reviewed myself again.

“Oh wow, my hair has grown so long.” I thought for a moment. I mean it really did seem long. I knew it was due a bit of a trim to get rid of those split ends that the straighteners seem to help along, even so it seemed longer than I thought. Dangling down way past my neck and onto my chest with an ever so slight smile on my face I felt a little bit validated this time.

I guess it’s like the difference between a pair of trousers and a skirt. Trousers can say female by the way they are cut but a skirt is, by design, inherently female, with few exceptions. How was this different with a ponytail though. Surely a high ponytail with length says exactly what the skirt says?

It does in so many ways but with a head on photograph the ponytail, unless I turned my head for a bizarre photograph, was barely visible if at all. With my hair down, it’s length and thickness also said a similar femininity but was blatantly obvious to the camera. It said what I wanted without having to change the set up of a photograph.

I thought about wearing my hair down with my cycle helmet on but it didn’t look right at the time, slightly messy. I wasn’t sure if I just needed a bit more time to sort my hair out or whether it needed styling to make it tidier and give the same affect.

That’s the thing with photos, they are a representation of who we are. I can think back to the days when I used to go on nights out with other transgender people (or people as I like to call them) and photos would say all sorts of lies or masks. Thick make up covering growth and shadow, outwardly obvious clothes to disguise our true current physical disadvantages. It’s similar in everyday life. We all want to look nice in photos. Look how we feel inside.

Adjusting, correcting and altering our appearance to feel a bit happier about ourselves. It’s not really vain as such but just self recognition, introspection and alteration. That’s what it is. It’s our way of finding our way. Much like the rest of our journey in opening up, finding clothing style, introspection of our personality and looking at our future and the path we would like to follow.

So next time you’re out and about and want to take a photo of yourself, don’t be afraid of being vain, embrace it and find out where you are. Enjoy being you and who you want to be.

Until next time.

Hannah x

Pretty Little Thing

The autumn leaves were almost blizzard like in their collection along the pathway. All brushed up in a long winding Great Wall of Sycamore, and with those leaves come long pale grey winter coats and soft feminine scarves. That’s what I see in the city on the way to work. Office workers with freshly poker straightened hair from a Tresemme advert and smart winter wear. That, and the odd person who braves it in a skater dress that became unsuitable over a month ago — jealousy.

When we first discover our gender identity issues we can easily jump straight to what we think we need to be feminine, soft colours, florals and dresses or skirts way too short — some never let that go either, even into old age. But much like someone born psychically female we usually find our way after a period of rights of passage. The difference is those of us who don’t tell our parents don’t tend to get the support and guidance through those years so it’s all amplified through a lonely passage of self discovery.

Those who find the norm sooner than later, fair well. Finding clothes that are comfortable and colours that suit the situation, feel good and don’t shout out loud like a fire alarm. That said, clothes are just a small factor. A realisation that it’s about who we are internally and also physically. Born with some parts that seem strictly male are another part of our right of passage and sometimes feeling pretty doesn’t mean having to look uber pretty in a sickly sweet manufactured way. It can just be about feeling attractive in the way we want, pretty rather than handsome, but then again you can feel handsome as a women — it doesn’t need to be a male trait, just a masculine trait as such.

I look forward to autumn. It’s a beautiful time of the year to feel that edgy crisp air and to wrap up and change to winter fashions and explore that side of femininity. Coats and scarves. Boots and tights to fill them. New red or cream knit gloves, or picking off the balling on last year’s gloves. Glossy eyes in the cold darkening evening with car lights glaring like a Christmas tree. The smell of burning logs from one of the village cottages as I get home after a working day.

The clothes and presentation is just a part of autumn life but it’s still part of the recipe and no matter what our presentation is, whether it’s hardened outdoor rugged clothes or of a pretty little thing of ultra femininity — it’s all valid. I find that some days I want to look one way and another day it’s something else. Remember the other day when I just couldn’t wear my new checked trousers to work? Just a few days later, the night before work I decided, tomorrow is the day. I got up and it was the day. I chose the clothes that would go with them and for some reason all the worry from the days before had just floated away.

I’ve no idea where it went. I was feeling a bit better physically and may be that was something to do with it but also it was my mood. I was in the mood for skinny trousers that were different. Today I’m not in that place and so it’s black trousers. This is the thing. Having to deal with the gender thing means that when it comes to people seeing us and our presentation, there can, on occasions, when those people know about the gender difference, that there is a perception of what they see becomes their judgment.

If you’re on a ultra feminine day, are they going to see a trans-person who is ‘trying too hard’ or will they just see someone that is dressed the way they want because that’s what they want. If you’re on a day where you’re dressed in something that’s just understated and genderless, straight trousers, hips nowhere to be seen, empty finger nails, no rings and hair a mess from that autumn breeze and humidity of the rain the hour earlier, what will they see then? Someone who looks like a women but they’re not actually sure? Enough curiosity that they approach you and ask you that question, “Man or Woman?”

It’s happened to me a few times. Even back in the day, a day where I thought I was dressed feminine and some bloke approach my friend and I one evening in a pub, “Are you a women?”, “Always?”, “What, since birth?” — “oh.”

I think the point is, should we really care how we present ourselves to the extent that it affects how we really want to look and feel that day? ‘That skirt would be nice today, but, mmmm, may be I should just wear jeans again.’ We all conform to some extent in society, it’s how we all get along so we don’t annoy each other but presentation is just not part of that when it comes to people who don’t have gender identity issues so why should it to us? The thing is, it probably doesn’t really matter that much.

Most of these insecurities are in our own mind and you can look around you in a busy place and generally people are doing their own thing. Sat in a coffee shop they’re eating their cake, sipping Earl Grey and chatting about ‘that bitch in work that leaves the bowl in the sink covered in oats that’s gone concrete.’ Those people that do look over from a table for a moment, well, everyone does that from time to time and it’s just rarely anything to do with a gender identity query. Sometimes it is, sometimes it’s not.

You know I’m sat here in the cafe and think that I’m quite disappointed in myself. These work trousers I’m wearing felt like an achievement in my journey several months ago. It was daring because I knew that anyone who looked for long enough could easily tell but now I’m just here in work trousers that I wear day to day without a thought. May be that’s the thing about the journey, each step becomes normal and when it does, may be its time to move along, just a bit more. There again, may be what we aim for is just — normal.

Until next time.

Hannah x

Little Voice

I don’t know whether it was the cold air that had switched on this week, enough to bring out the fingerless gloves from storage and the scarf that speaks volumes about rustic leaves carpeting the ground through the park. There was something that triggered it without preparing myself or expecting it. I’d ordered the pot of tea, paid and it was the simple expression “Thank you.”

I’m not saying I have the most masculine voice. It depends what mood I’m in, how much sleep I’ve had, how bad a cold I may have or how much I have unusually had to drink the night before. Whatever the circumstances, that day I simply made an order at the cafe and as I spoke this little soft feminine voice came out and said “Thank you.”

I swear, if I had a full-on summer dress and ribbons in my hair it would have been the cherry on the iced bun in the cabinet of passing; of course if it was a summer dress I’d have probably have been shivering from autumn frosted air. I smiled and took my tea to the table along with my newly discovered little voice.

There are so many ways I can see affirmation about who I am, or at least like to be, whether it be clothes, hair, body language, interests, expression, nails, body shape, scent — toes nail! but when it’s something like the voice, one of the last few fears of rejection, especially without thought and without trying, then something so simple becomes so valuable for validation.

What would be so amazing is if this little voice was something that could be so easily tapped into like an undiscovered talent for playing music, or an ability to paint that once found it can never be turned off and is so natural, genuine and authentic. A voice that didn’t have to be thought about and pushed like a falsetto and then dropped when stressed or not where I felt it mattered. Like Hinge and Bracket when one would drop her voice to lower tones — briefly; it was funny because it wasn’t about affirmation but entertainment.

My voice is one of the few things I haven’t done anything about. Sure, the Gender Clinic wrote a letter to my GP recommending vocal counselling of some kind but I already knew, while the psychiatrist wrote it on her notes to send a letter from London, that it wouldn’t be funded and if that was something that would happen it wouldn’t be through my GP, I would have to go private and pay for it myself. “My local NHS won’t fund that —”, I said, “They won’t even fund hair removal.” Though it was possible to get hair removal prescription cream off-label, that in itself was a bit of a waste of time and money.

“Let’s put it down anyway. It couldn’t hurt to try.”

Then again, the one thing I’ve learnt from my journey in the last several years, especially when being around other transgender people in the past and their experiences, is the number one thing to remember — be yourself. Do we really have to alter our voices to suit others just to justify who we are and our gender? In essence we don’t need to do anything of the sort and by that nature it makes the gender clinic’s methods seem antiquated.

The gender clinic though do what they do for good reason. For instance, the clinic in London usually insist, unless pushed with good reason, that hormones are not started until you’ve told your significant others, work place and generally being female fully time. They don’t do this to be difficult or out of malice but because their research and experience has shown that it makes for an easier transition of your life. This is a bit of a catch twenty-two, of course, because some find it hard to live in the role without hormones because they are on the whole masculine and that in itself presents difficulties.

With the voice I think it’s no different and like our catch twenty-two those with lower tone and less varying voices might find it difficult to be out there without any vocal coaching. I have been blessed in some respects that my voice is somewhere between and may be I have something to work with but for those without this then may be there needs to be a tailored approach, with every aspect of “deportment“; a word I hate when it comes to gender identity.

When I think of the transgender people I’ve known in the past, those who I’ve known from both their male and female presentation where it’s felt like I’ve met two people, or another where it’s just Jeff in a Dress, or some where I could see that it was just one person that just happened to wear different things at different times and then someone who I’d only known in their female role and to me they were always a women without doubt. I couldn’t see the male in them what so ever.

Different people on different journeys and some surprising outcomes and some who just stayed on the same track they were always on. For some they are happy to be who they are and just present as female as possible and get on with their lives where as others had changed, fundamentally, who they are to become someone else entirely.

For me it’s about just being me and some of that means opening the filter and allowing through the rest of me that’s being held back to keep others happy and life simpler. May be part of that is finding that little voice again and allowing it to progress and become part of that identity coming through the open filter. That said, there is more to a conversation than just “thank you”, but it’s a starting point.

Until next time.

Hannah x