Gold Tailored Thoughts

“Queen’s birthday today, but she doesn’t say how old she is.” said the elderly gentleman in his magnolia rain coat after the elderly couple stood up ready to leave their waterside bench.
“Well, I think she’s about ninety one, may be ninety two?” I said without hesitation as if I had known the couple a long time and had been in conversation with them just as long.
“Ninety Two I think”, said his presumed wife.
“I think you’re right.” I said.
“Typical of a woman not to give her age.” he said in a typical man versus woman banter, “now, I’m about –” he method-acted a face of thought, “ninety two.”
“Don’t lie” she said nudging him in his side as part of their long running comical double act.
“Well, I’ll be 90 next month.” he said staring at me in a statement like way, he was now being serious about his age.
“90, really!”
“Yes –” he said “and she’s 90 now.”
“That’s amazing.” I said, and it truly was. By old standards of assumptions I would have put them in their seventies. Their skin was healthy as was their movement and sharp frame of mind. A true wonder of the health changing times for people born in the nineteen twenties.

We chatted as if we were old friends and yet the only previous contact we’d had was a glance between benches lunch time the day before. We were in the same club, regulars of the benches by the sea.

They left for their journey back home. A starling fluttered down and sat besides me on the bench for a moment bravely looking around for food. Dark with beautiful patterns of gold tailored stitches that would ornament any regency home. Her beauty was in her splendour and stance but also that she stayed for a moment not scared off by the person sat next to her dwarfing her size. Neither had the elderly couple been scared off. They started a conversation with me, a stranger, and continued on for a good five minutes. If I am as acceptable in my current glass half full state then may be when the glass is to the brim with the gender thing then nothing will be different. May be the people I think that stare just aren’t doing so for the reason I think they are. One of my worst fear-traits of feeling outed rather than accepted.

Considering how far things have come, looking back to just a few years ago, and how much easier things are now, may be when that glass is full I’ll be totally content with myself and my life. May be I won’t be the drinking-myself-to-oblivion-to-forget-my-troubles kinda girl and then throwing it up into the toilet with my long hair acting as a sieve.

When gender identity is such a huge part of our lives, thinking about it every day and possibly every minute of that day, then there is that trap that when it’s finally sorted and we’re at one with our gender, whichever way we decide to live, then what do we do then? What do we do with our lives and our time? Our occupation. What do we think about – passionately.

The danger of simply throwing ourselves into a decision and acting on it at speed is that we can end up simply thinking, ‘what now?’ It was a worry for me when I had heard about some people who had transitioned their gender identity and found themselves with the same problems in life. I first heard about this back in my early twenties when I was in University. E-mail and the Internet to the general public was in it’s infancy yet I was able to talk to people, electronically, who had gone through a gender transition. I remember the one friend I had made, who I have never met to this day, from Australia who made one strong point, ‘Your day to day problems don’t go away.’

I never forgot it. It didn’t bother me. In fact it probably took a good few years to appreciate it. A number of years ago I decided that I wanted to act upon my day to day problems, my stresses, anxieties and lows. I didn’t want to go through any change or more accurately an outward change of identity, after all I’m not going to change myself, where I would suddenly be dumped on a load of day to day problems and no gender thing to distract me.

Within a couple of years I quit my day job. Attempted to follow a dream. Improved as a musician. Wrote creatively. Wrote blogs. Went to places I wanted to visit. I cleaned up my daily trudge and cut out the mundane. It was hard but it was a start. With a good foundation of life and my occupation of time my life had improved and with those little changes made – my confidence had grown. I had grown as a person. Without these things that solidify who I am and, more importantly, who I want to be I wouldn’t be able to cope with any change in gender identity.

I returned to the bench today. The couple weren’t there and the colder cloudier weather had driven away all but two. I clutched my hot chocolate with both hands with a return to fingerless gloves. The water calm with a gentle glimmer of dulled sunlight trying but failing to reach through the climate. I took a sip from the plastic topped cardboard logo’d cup. I looked around the serenity of nothing happening. I felt content. I felt ready for whatever was next.

Until next time

Hannah x

White Sky of April

Paving that seems to stretch forever through the urban main road sprawl that seemed well kept but lifeless other than the commuter boxes keeping the air carbon dry. The kind of housing that you could have used as a filming location for any British suburban sitcom of the nineteen eighties. Wiry branches of juvenile green summer awaking bliss givers passed overhead as I wandered aimlessly killing time.

Black wrought iron wide gates open on the other side of the road enticing me in. The fence with a single, cable tied, plastic poster for The Moscow State Circus was the only thing vaguely commercial. A triangle bordered by traffic. An escape but not idyllic. It was, at least, my escape for half an hour. A typical park with the typical path lined with equally spaced ageing trees.

There was a thought of ‘was it all worth it’. Not the gender thing, that’s here to stay and there isn’t a lot I can’t do about that, but the process. That process of having to come all the way to London for an appointment for someone to reflect back at me – whatever I say I am – all to satisfy a process just in case I need some kind of surgical intervention or medication. That’s not to say what they do is not valuable but I sit here on a bench alone, a breeze with an edge to cut goosebumps, totally shattered and not feeling particularly well on top of a long journey and not quite sure what I’m going to get out of this that couldn’t be done over the phone or through a Skype call.

Another jet has flown over. Four engines howling in a drone reminding me how close to Heathrow and how far away from home I was. Not envy felt for the exotic location those people might be travelling to. At this moment in time all I can think about is home and a hot chocolate. Comfort where I live. The park might be a rest stop that I need but it’s still cold.

I look at the traffic slowly trickling down the main road edging inches here and there. My normal curious self would be taking in the hustle and bustle of busy people all in a rush to go somewhere slowly while I sit amongst the early spring leaf trees. Yet all I can think about is the traffic I’m going to have to join for the trip home.

If I’m not ready now for full time outward gender identity then I ask why am I doing this now. Going through all this? Why don’t I stay home and once I’m ready go private for whatever I need. I think looking back all I wanted to do was push myself forwards to make sure I didn’t stall and get on that stupidly long waiting list that got even longer through maladministration.

A police van fills the void of little else that the rumble of traffic with sirens bouncing off the London stock brick buildings. Nothing changes though. The traffic still moves slowly without choice. I have choice. I suppose that’s what keeps me looking forward and thinking about me as the years pass.

It’s nearly time to go. My fingers are frozen as is my state of mind. I should be on the sofa with that chocolate and a few hours later alcohol to numb my fears. On a hard park bench, an orange band keeping my hair tied as it lay down the front of my shoulder and over the front of my black denim jacket. One or two runners lap the park passing by on the grass. I look up and the branches cut through the white sky of April.

There is a man and a woman. They must have seven or eight dogs. All small and yappy running around the centre of the park. I seem to be attracting a group of pigeons pecking around the grass while some strange bird up in the trees is making similar yappy noises as the dogs in a sub tropic impression. Ten minutes to go and suddenly the park seems interesting. Either that or I’m finding ways to normalise my day. I like interesting days. I like excitement but I suddenly want normality. A sea of contradiction. A trip to a gender clinician over one hundred and fifty miles away just doesn’t feel like normality. Today it feels prescribed.

The waiting room was quiet. A young couple chatting in what seemed to be that nervous jokey chat that people do in new situations to make themselves feel at home or appear outwardly confident. I recognised one of them from walking down the high street, a bright silver jacket that was unmistakable. I caught the eye of someone else sat at the far end opposite me who seemed to acknowledge my recognition of that nervousness.

My session was hard without seeming challenging on the surface. While I was straight and upfront about some of the things I wanted next my decisions were challenged by the clinician. Not so much in a negative way but digging deeper than in my first session. Presenting new modern concepts like non-binary and fluidity when it came to gender. I found it had an effect on me. It started my introspection. Questioning my own authenticity and allowing me to give answers that were not quite the full story because I was no longer sure if I felt confident enough to give them. I left the room after our time was up with one half of me feeling a little lost and lower. I felt I hadn’t been quite forthright enough.

I sat back in the waiting room to fill in that questionnaire before I would leave for the long trip home that was even longer in the easter traffic. I glanced up before starting to circle the feedback. The room was nearly empty apart from someone at the far end who caught my eye and smiled. Someone who wore a small section of green hair in a way that most people couldn’t. It was as if they were saying, ‘don’t worry, it’s all part of the course’ with just a look.

The golden evening sunlit gateways of the Severn Bridges were revealed as the top of the motorway gave way to the horizon that was painted with the Welsh hills in the greys of the distance, an entry to Celtic culture and the place where I grew up.

I randomly stabbed at the car radio as I got lost in the menu system which started Oasis equally randomly. Somehow comforting. I don’t know why. I only have two of their albums and one of those is a best of. May be it’s because it takes me back to uni days where I was so self assured with an outlook on life that anything could and can happen.

Gender fluidity is strong at the GIC, looking at people in the waiting room and making assumptions or the explanations that come from the clinician on how modern times have changed. A day later I’m suddenly more comfortable with myself and who I am; my identity expression. The onset of confusion and self doubt had lifted and left behind a foundation of clearer thoughts and a little more confidence. I wore my hair how I wanted that day in a way that was just a little more revealing of my identity than the last time I changed my hair to be more me. It continued to the weekend. Here and there little things I stopped worrying about and new attitudes to my expression. The challenged talking therapy had a positive effect even though it wasn’t directly what we had talked about. I move forward once again.

Until next time.

Hannah x

No need to be tense now

It was quiet. It was just like being at work late on a Friday when nearly everyone has gone and only those who were left were themselves locking doors, putting things away and grabbing coats. It was a Friday but the only difference was that I was sat in an empty waiting room for my late appointment. It even felt like that gap that sits between commuter time and going out time. It’s that moment that most people are either home or nearly home but not yet going out. An almost indescribable something that sits somewhere between 6 and 7pm that is only experienced by people still somewhere where normally most people wouldn’t be. The last to lock up the office feeling.

I slipped over to the reception desk and pinged the bell on the desk. It might be a modern doctors surgery with it’s lcd flat screen in the waiting room for the next patient announcements and it’s up to date website, but somewhere amongst all the things that have been routinely updated, the hotel service please desk bell in it’s dull brass hue is as traditional as the senior partners that run the place. I hit the mechanical bell button with the palm of my hand but grabbed the bell to dull it with my fingers instantly in that way that says, ‘I wan’t your attention but I’m trying to be polite about it.’ kind of way. I just had to check that I’d not been forgotten by the system. I don’t mind the wait but what I didn’t want was to be sat alone in the waiting room to see my GP exiting his room with a warm coat, brief case and his car keys in hand.

If that had happened what could I have done? Let him go and explain at reception I had been forgotten or stop him with “Excuse me, I’ve been here for forty minutes, are you not seeing me today?” Better to ask first and avoid the problem. He was running behind which is to be expected at the end of a busy day that was at the end of a busy week.

Within a few seconds of returning to my chair, the same one even though I had a choice of about twenty or so, my name appeared on the screen and I was soon sat with Dr Richards. I like most of the doctors at my surgery but Dr Richards has a great, chair-side manor and nothing surprises him. He’s probably younger than me and yet he still inspires the confidence I need from a doctor.

There was no assumption as to why I was there but I suspected he knew as the gender thing had been dealt with carefully by the practice manager. I gave him the briefest of brief history of my situation. I have a tendency to have to go through my entire history given the change of psychiatrists at the local hospital but I made sure I would keep it short and not turn into a copy of Stephen Hawkins’ A Briefer History of Time which is still probably only relatively briefer than the other book.

“I was referred from here to the local hospital for gender identity issues a few years ago..” I explained going into no detail.

“Okay.” he said in his understanding manor.

“They referred me to a gender clinic in London who took some blood tests but they need them redone because they didn’t take enough and they also sent a letter to Dr Peters with a couple of things to look at, but I’ve never seen Dr Peters.” I explained this to the Practice Manager the week or so before and she had said I could see any doctor about it but as I’d seen Dr Richards quite a few times would I like to use him. He seemed like a good starting point.

He trawled through my history until he found the letter from the gender clinic and read through the important section that was headed something like ‘Care Plan.’ Being in Wales means that everything comes with a condition – if they will fund it. The they is some kind of panel that decide on cases to fund when referrals go to England or for funding anything out of the “ordinary.” I was under no misapprehension that anything requested by the clinician at the gender clinic could have been instantly met with a response of ‘we won’t fund that’, but it wasn’t. Doctor Richards said he would get someone to look into these things and if I would talk to the gender clinic when I next see them then may be certain things could be done, but of course it might depend on funding.

I brought up the issue of Vitamin D that was in the original blood tests that was a touch low and to see if it was something to be concerned about. He brought up the results from the blood that had been taken just a couple of days before. They had obviously put these through as a priority but even so the Vitamin D result wasn’t in yet but I felt reassured. My local GP and the surgery, despite not dealing with gender identity before, were neither dismissive or slow to deal with me. I felt quite lucky.

It may have been gone 6pm, closing time, but he didn’t rush through anything and left me feeling relaxed and able to breath out. I walked to the car. The woman who was just before me in the waiting room was just getting into her car and an elderly foreign lady with a young boy that I had seen in the waiting room was getting into the taxi with the driver that had dropped her off earlier who claimed to me in the waiting room, while the lady had struggled to give her name to the member of staff, “Is that the name she’s going by now?” I didn’t ask. Apparently I needed to know.

I went home and finally felt back-on-track. I felt there was a least some direction in being supported. When communication breaks down from the gender clinic, which it does nearly all the time, I can sometimes feel a bit let down or confused about what I really want out of everything. Is it worth all the stress. They’re improving slowly.

I cooked a meal and sat eating in the garden at candle light while I watched the clouds turn pink and the dusk gather slowly with a stillness in the air that kind of said, ‘no need to be tense now.’

Until next time.

Hannah x

Think a Thought For Fate

I opened my eyes. The curtains were black. Surely it wasn’t time? Even with the clocks going forward those dark curtains should be struggling to filter the morning sun. I turned over and tapped my fingers hard around the bedside table until I found the top of the clock and gave it a tap until it lit. Three-bloody-thirty. I hit the clock off wrapped my self in the duvet until I fell asleep again only waking for four thirty, five thirty, six thirty and then by seven realising there was little point in trying to stay in bed; first day adrenaline was completely in control.

It seems whenever I decide to find a new job, with the exception of changing career completely, I kind of present my order to the gods of fate and it’s delivered. I’m not saying it’s easy, and I’m certainly not religious, it takes some nerve to wait on the right job while money dwindles rapidly. To get that job that suits the way things are in my life at that time is like watching a clock countdown to disaster, but it’s happened so many times it just seems odd and I seem lucky. May be at one time I would want a job with less pressure and in a certain location or may be something a bit more pressurised and exciting that involves big clients. I just sort of order it up roughly in my head, sometimes without being completely aware of what I want, and eventually it just happens.

I wanted something quickly this time. I wanted something I knew I could do which would pay the bills while I continue to hunt that new career and, like I’ve mentioned before, wouldn’t it be nice to work by the sea. There it was. An advert for a job. Just in the right location for just enough money and the right amount of work. I applied, got an interview, prepared and got it within a week. I may not be that novelist or screenplay writer yet and I have to extend this career a bit longer but once again I was handed what was right for the moment.

–♥–

The surface of the bench was warm. It was like it had invited me to sit facing the sea and explaining to me how lucky I was to have been delivered that fortune of fate that was as gentle a return to working life as it could be. I hugged the cardboard cafe take-out of hot chocolate in both hands and watched the clouds clear enough space for the water to catch the rays and sparkle them back at me. The sun warm on my face I thought for a moment how now I had time to breath a little. Time to think about myself for a moment.

With an appointment at the gender clinic coming up, a second appointment, I decided I had to at least sort out the mess that was the failed blood test they did. It was only one of the tests that they couldn’t complete but they asked for them to be all taken again. It meant asking my local GP surgery if they would do it and not being in England meant there could be a funding issue – these things are never easy. It was either that or travel the one hundred and fifty-odd miles to queue for an hour at charing cross ticketed waiting room just for a blood test. I took a deep breath some hours later and contacted the practice manager.

Despite it ‘all being a new thing’ for them, she was very understanding, helpful and proactive. It was like I had dialled the number for that fate line and what I needed was delivered by same day courier. Within the week I was at the surgery having several vials of blood taken. “Now, I’ll just make sure I do this properly.” the nurse said labelling up the containers carefully, “I’ve never had to take blood for some of these tests before.” she said excitedly.
“It was only one test that couldn’t be complete but they want the whole lot done again.” I explained.
“This is good. It makes it an interesting day for me.” she said pleased as if her job was suddenly less routine and matter of fact.

I was just pleased that the surgery, which appeared to be dealing with gender identity for the first time, were quite interested rather than shocked, horrified or dismissive. I felt cared for. “You’ll just feel a little sting now.” I’ve had so many blood tests these last twelve months that I wasn’t really bothered but either way that initial sting was still there and this time the needle would remain in my arm for what felt like at least two or three minutes. I never look. I don’t mind blood unless it’s my own, at least not until the caps are on those vials and they’re all laying on the metal tray in all their deep rose glory.

The needle was out and the cotton held on, which is probably the part I most like, before the surgical tape is stuck down presenting everything trophy like for the rest of the morning – daring to pull it off to see if it’s dried but knowing that once it’s off, it’s off, and blood test day is over. “The needle came out clean.” she said reassuringly, “You might get a bit of a bruise later though. Would you like a drink of water before you go? I’ve taken quite a bit of blood.”

It was fine. It probably wouldn’t compare to the bruise I got from the trainee at Charing Cross anyway. There was a knock at the door before I left. A woman walked in and spoke to the nurse. I had a sneaky suspicion it was the practice manager I had spoken to on the phone. I had notice her pop in to the room while I was sat in the waiting room. I think she was overseeing that everything would be dealt with properly. Not how I was dealt with particularly but at the very least administratively as she knew how important these tests got to the gender clinic before my next appointment. It was comforting to know.

I sat in the car and grabbed my bottle of water. She was right. I sat for a moment, my lips tingling. I’d never had that before. It was, at least, done. One down and one more to go, my GP. The practice manager had kindly fitted me in to see the doctor I had generally seen because no one had discussed that letter the gender clinic had sent them last year. You know the one. The one that mentioned how I had “presented androgynously” which doesn’t matter really and, may be compared to some people, I did. Jeans and a t-shirt wasn’t quite the dress I had seen one person wearing in the waiting room that time I suppose. It hadn’t changed their summary diagnosis in one way, but it was mentioned.

Within a few days I was sat in the GP waiting room again with an echo of nerves I had the first time I ever told a medical professional. I took a breath, a pause for thought about how I’m an adult and I need to stop worrying – and then it just all went away. I sat there on a late Friday afternoon watching the large TV screen that gave advice on the latest medical conditions patients should be thinking about, prostates, bladder infections and cancer. Patients came and went as they filtered in and out of the surrounding doctors’ rooms. A doctor with a smart long black coat that hung well on his shoulders left for the day with a black leather brief case and the waiting room slowly emptied until it was just me.

Until next time

Hannah x

Cafe By The Sea

The sand golden – coloured by the rising sun. Recently combed by a machine ready for the next set of sun worshipers. Long shadows from the thatched sunbrellas proving I was up early. Plastic heavy duty sunbeds stacked purposefully in batches. The metal shutters still down on the seafront Spanish shops and a gentle lapping of waves barely breaking the morning serenity apart from the small cafe on the small rocky land sat next to the sand. The sound of clanking porcelain cups and the rattle of spoons with the steam gushing from an espresso machine with the lone server setting up for the day before the chairs and bar stools are filled by slow drinking horizon watchers.

She pulled chairs and tables out on to the surrounding cafe patio that tapered to the rocks, sand and sea water. A colourful tattoos draped, tastefully, from her shoulder and down her arm. There were little other people, other than the joggers that were the only other bravest to wake to see the sun rise above the hilly coastline, where most tourists were still in bed sleeping off the drink of the night before and the most energy they would exert that morning would be the panic to get to the hotel breakfast room before they shut at ten and, with heavy eyelids, downing buckets of tea and coffee.

I stood looking at the sea in the warm air, a loose t-shirt and running shorts taking in every breath of salty ozone-rich air that I could while I had the chance. It was one of those moments when I thought this could be my life or more accurately, this could be my routine. It was one of those millionaire moments when you can imagine what you’d do if you’d won the lottery or something of equally obscene payout but the fact was, I didn’t need to be horrendously rich. The only thing that stopped me is the hesitation of risk, commitment and trepidation.

I had sat in that cafe on the rock by the sea as many times as I could that holiday and I had taken a few mornings for a walk or run, or whatever I energy I could find, to relive that half hour or so by the sea when it was serene on that island in the Atlantic. Some people might not aspire to being a waitress or barista at a cafe but at that moment, when I saw that woman serving by the sea I could see an idyllic life. Up early setting up shop before the customers came. A slow pace of life serving treacle-thick coffee and simple toasted sandwiches under the sun providing serenity to those who take a fortnight out of the manic complexity of life in the ‘first world’. It wouldn’t pay much and life would become material-less. Would that really matter? I had bought things throughout my life, objects that were ‘dream’ objects but since having done that I have found I am left with a different outlook on life. While money will always be a need, personal riches now lie elsewhere.

May be life behind the counter would change the magic, may be not. May be the dream is the place and the dream job of writing for a living could be done from the cafe by the sea – adding to the fulfilment.

I have found that I am now looking at the gap between what is my life right now and another life that I could live just like being a waitress at a cafe in the sun. In the last few years I have already rejected much of the career goal oriented life. I had taken time-out from work after saving for months on end to re-evaluate what I actually want. It’s not just down to the gender thing, that is just a part of my life and if that comes with me on my trip to changing the way I live then so be it. That said it is still a big part of who I could be if I were to find that serene way of life that I desire.

I am comfortable in my home, don’t get me wrong, I like where I live. I can drive to a beach early in the morning if I wished but things aren’t quite that easy. My work can be a little mundane, that is the work I do to keep me going but that I have slowly been trying to leave behind over the last four or five years. The beach is far enough away that to visit before going to work would be unmaintainable. I look out the window now, dull light coming from pure winter grey clouds and a fine constant reliable sheet of misty rain falling, and realise it’s not quite enlightening – comfortable and safe, but not spiritual.

Sure, a life in another land serving coffee isn’t going to service a villa and yoga next to the pool in the mornings but I have to ask myself what is it to feel rich that is beyond money and possessions. So far that appears to be simplicity of whatever I would do for a living in a nice location and the ability to see the serenity of the morning near the sea, regularly, and an expression of my gender at the same time. To me, when I write it like that, it doesn’t seem that unobtainable. If that’s not too hard then may be bringing gender identity to a balanced conclusion isn’t quite so hard after all.

Until next time

x

Purples and Pinks of Bayswater Road

It was one of those late night curiosities. You know, you finished watching a film and recognised somewhere that you think you been and want to flick through some old photos to see if it was that place. Of course flicking through photos for me now, or at least at the time these particular photos were taken, were well into the digital age of mobile phones becoming as clear as a traditional cameras though mobile phone videos were still clunky when there was any suggestion of movement. Rather than pulling out a number of albums from the book shelf, or loft depending how old those photos you want are, and blowing off the dust and that strange of scraggly grey hair that no one in the house possesses, it was a case of opening iPhoto and scrolling to two thousand and seven and looking for photos amongst the small thumb nails that might suggest ‘London’.

Right towards the end of the stream of The West End, the London Eye and a glowing parliament building in the hot August night, was a curious photo. A part of my foot in life-style trainers and the bottom of my jeans. I remembered it well. Mid afternoon laying with my back to an old mature tree and sat on the thick green fresh grass of Hyde Park, a guitar propped against the bark and a small suitcase for the three days I had been there. Behind me the rumble of Bayswater Road drifting between the black victorian railings that keep the contents of the park from the towering flats, regency buildings and the fumes of black cabs. The view in front seemed to capture the stillness of time when time to relax seems to make the day just stretch on for as far as it would seem possible like the stretch of green that seems to never end – I don’t even remember being able to see The Serpentine that felt like it was over the horizon and even my pending train at Paddington seemed like it was weeks away.

There was something blurry-eyed about that afternoon and that moment. It was like time to breath. I had recently walked out of my employment due to unbelievable anxiety that taught me what stress really was and London seemed like the escape I had needed even if it meant spending a months rent. I almost cancelled going but at the last minute I dived out of the house and headed to the station. Even to this day that moment in the park was a full stop on one part of my life and a whole new chapter was to begin; even if it wasn’t a huge change it was about control in my life.

That photo – the one of my foot, that wasn’t an accident. It wasn’t one of those “whoops I’d clicked the shutter button” photos only to discover it weeks later when the film was developed. They just don’t happen these days when cameras have to be switched on and we have to wait that infuriating delay while the camera pops down the shops for a coffee and the event has passed or the fiddling around trying to unlock a photo or trying to remember the shortcut to take a photo without unlocking.

It was a photo with purpose. It was a place I was in at the time, and I don’t mean Hyde Park, but how I felt about myself. Between my jeans and my trainers was a visible slither of sock. Thin stripes of pinks and purples with some interlaced foil-silvery strands. Female socks. My little way of wearing something secretly that helped me be true to myself. It just seems so mad now thinking back to then that I had to do this – wear something that was unlikely to be seen by anyone and that I would be nervous that someone would notice my socks and suddenly shout or point. It was a place I was in though at the time and while two thousand and seven is, holy christ, ten years ago it’s also only ten years ago.

Was I really like that then? So worried about wearing soft-colour socks with some kind of femininity to them. So much so that I had to take all these little victories just to win over my true self and keep that authentic self quiet and content. Hell – I was even taking a photo to remind myself what I had done, worn feminine socks, and got away with it to make myself feel happy. As crazy as it was to do that I have to thank that part of me for taking the photo because now I look at it I realise how through all the subtle changes over the past several years I have made that when combined they become huge changes. So much less afraid of those little things and now being confident to express that side of me openly; even if I’m not completely there yet, I am further than I am not.

I don’t need to take a photo to prove to myself that it actually happened and that to some extent is freeing. May be something is being lost if photos are fewer and far between as they once were in the beginning of that self discovery. Hard times but also exciting times with an amount of teenaged-styled innocence which for many with gender identity issues is experienced in their twenties or thirties or so. May be photos help keep track of that progression much like photos from childhood through to adulthood; after all coming to terms with the whole gender thing is much like growing pains it just happens at an unpredictable time. Looking at ourselves in some kind of past introspection may be just a health way of seeing how far we’ve come and who we’ve become.

Until next time.

x

Bridget Malaise

I would have been about twenty six, may be twenty seven. A time before Facebook and mobile phones didn’t have cameras. My career was at it’s height in a kind of not-really-achieving-much way but working on projects for huge name clients. I remember, when thinking back without the rose-tint, how bored I was becoming in work but nights out with friends was fun, Hannah-time, a nice house if only booked for a period of time like a hotel room. I remember being out one evening with a whole bunch of friends and we had to pay to get into this bar. One of my friend’s-friend didn’t want to go in, “I can’t afford this, I’ll go home.”
“I’ll pay, just come in.”
“You sure?”
“Hell yeah, this gravy train won’t last forever.” she didn’t know what I meant.

I knew at that point the writing was on the wall. I remember a little light just blinking dimly in my head just after I’d said it. My workplace in the city were already making scores of permanent people redundant. I would get back from lunch and someone would be missing. “Where’s Molly?”

“She got a phone call to go to the hotel next door. Told her to bring her bag with her.” and that was the last I saw of her. I knew it was coming for me too in about a month with a quiet word from my manager, “I’m going to renew your contract for another month, but after that – you know, with all the redundancies.”

On that night out I remember knowing this was coming but it strangely didn’t bother me on the surface. It was just a thing that was happening and I would deal with it when it happened.

Bridget Jones’s Diary had been released months before. It struck a chord with me. Something different about it compared to other films. It was something inside the film that I related to. There were similarities. The place she worked, feeling undervalued and not really performing the way they wanted; distracted by a social life. But putting aside the comedy and the going-out and getting drunk scenes it would be a few years later that I would relate dangerously to the serious plight the film described of Bridget, thirty-two feeling old before her time. A depressed spinster with no future happiness in sight. It was talked about in the newspapers of the time and how it had resonated to so many women.

I had left that city and the company which soon after emptied it’s office of the entire staff, office-scooters and toys and disappeared with many others into the obscurity of the dot com crash. I found myself living in an apartment on my own with a new job, eventually, but without realising that within just a few years I would also find myself slowly sliding into the same situation, coincidently aged thirty-two and feeling a bit empty much like the bottle of red on a Saturday night in the living room. I found that I had something more in common with that story of Bridget and I didn’t quite see it coming. I so wish I had.

I promised myself, in the early part of my thirties, and by early I mean.. well – my thirtieth birthday eve, that I would do something about the gender thing once and for all and just make a decision one way or the other and just stick to it and get on with everything else. I gave myself until New Years Eve; a new years resolution of the unfulfillable kind. The problem was I didn’t really give myself the reality of pace. Everyone has their own pace. For some it’s just as quick as flicking on the light switch in the kitchen and for others it needs careful consideration and time to come to terms with themselves.

I felt so disappointed with myself through my thirties that I hadn’t made that decision. I would mentally beat myself up over it. Bully myself of how I’d failed my own ability to make a decision and act on it; let alone not doing something at thirty I’d not done anything in my early twenties either.

Thankfully as I hit thirty-eight or so I did make a decision to speak to a professional about it. Get help. Talk it through. Demand the right person to discuss this with in an intelligent, open, honest, almost academic way. Like a conversation between two psychologist academics in leather wingback chairs discussing over a metaphorical brandy by an equally metaphorical fireplace flicking light onto the walls of the room, except it was in a plain room with just a couple of chairs, a notice board, a dull computer terminal, and a set of blinds; but the discussion was much the same. It wasn’t just progress, it was also permission to stop the internal conflict and disappointment. I finally was allowed to actually feel okay about who I was.

–♥–

Outside, right now, midnight, the road a glossy oil black street, drips clinging to the windows and the occasional rush of wind against the window dying off slowly. The street in silence of a relative lack of life of an urban sprawl in the countryside. While I now have the kindness of being released from self abuse of guilt by seeking help I feel my life, aside from the gender thing, really hasn’t changed much and just seems to be getting quieter and a little more hollow as the inside of a seed rots away and leaves just a husk. Things could be so much worse, I know, but then to live is to grow and enjoy. When days are just passing me by I feel, much like those days in 2002 when I knew the writing was on the wall at that company I worked, that I’m starting to feel that I’m already recognising that in several years time, may be ten or so, that I will suddenly realise I should have done so much more right now and I’ve missed my chance – at whatever it is I should be doing with my life. At least this time I seem to be more aware that long slow days are passing quicker than I realise.

It doesn’t help when outside the remains of a storm is still dousing the estate with grey and rain. Even if it were a warm starry night I would still have to do something with it to feel warm inside and that every moment is worthwhile. The problem is I feel so paralysed by the future that I feel too nervous to be sat by a log fire with a good book without feeling I was wasting time. A contradiction if I ever wrote one.

Until next time.

x

Bonding Between Us

When a relationship starts simple mental strands bond together. You go out and when you’re apart you think about each other, another strand attaches. Then one of you declares your love and the other confirms and more strands connect. Then you move in together. You share life experiences. That romantic film you saw together that you repeat phrases and laugh in reminiscence of for which holds so many parallels in your relationship. The deep orange from that candle on the table lighting their face.

When you break up one or two of those strands break under the stress and cause pain but every other strand remains firmly connected from years of bonding and strengthening. That is the difficulty – an emotional mourning loss that can’t be disconnected overnight with even a few strands between you years later.

The first time telling a partner about a gender identity disorder can be the most painful and naive moments in life with everlasting effects. I had lived with the gender thing since I was about three with an accumulation of experience and feelings but still a lack of understanding of what it actually is, why it is and the causes which none of us know I was probably naively expecting her to understand, even though telling her about it was the hardest thing I had done until that moment.

I had read from experiences online with suggestions such as ‘don’t rush into things’ but given the pressure cooker that had built up to that moment that made me tell her about it I had taken to my newly assigned freedom. It could have been both the worst and best mistake I had made. Taking things slowly allows for acclimatisation and spared feelings. Taking things quickly gets the truth out in the open and decisions on the future of the relationship without wasting further time; quickly pulling the sticking plaster off the cut. We weren’t married and we didn’t have children and in some sense this made things easier but the strands were still just as strong as they would have been.

It has to be coming up to ten years ago when it happened for me and the hurt that it caused, one of the few bad parts of the gender thing, has long since passed and lives have moved on apart but I still see the same situation everywhere. I see people online in forums and in blogs going through the process. Opening up to wives and children, then closely following limitations put on so-called being that other personality that the partner insists on in an attempt to limit how far it will go. A pressure cooker without a valve further pushing that other side to grow and become. Then the final decision, separation and divorce which in so many cases is the inevitable; after all the partner never fell in love with the person you are inside but the person they thought you were as a whole. It’s heart breaking.

I don’t regret telling her about it and I wish I could regret the relationship ending but it was, like many, inevitable without living a lie. I still don’t know how those who keep it from their partners deal with the pressure of not being free to be who they want to be whenever. I suppose they have moments where they can release that pressure from time to time and those odd days every month or week is enough for them to be content. Jenny on the weekend, John at work. For me the more I move forwards the less I want to go back and the more freedom I want.

This is what is essential for those who are deciding to do this now. I don’t think the decision is really whether someone wants to risk their marriage or relationship and trying to decide whether it’s a real genuine authentic thing that someone wants; it’s one of the hardest things to acknowledge unless they are without question one hundred percent sure. One possible way to decide though might be based on whether the problem is getting worse internally. Are you getting more stressed? Is the desire to be becoming too great to handle? Is it eating away at you every day, every minute? This might not be enough alone to decide on telling something so personal that might change your whole life but it might be enough to recognise whether you should get some help through counselling, psychiatry and psychology before then moving on. Then again I have met some people who are perfectly happy in some kind of mild form of gender identity where they are content to be who they are from time to time and the jack just has no intention of coming out of the box; and that is also fine.

Recognising that fact and making the decision to just remain exactly where you are – as you are is a life changing decision in itself. It can give you the ability to move on with your life in other areas and allow you to enjoy everything else. The important thing is the choice being yours and being true to yourself. There will always be ups and downs in whatever choice is made, some huge, but the important thing is to get the right help and the right outlook on the future and why you’re doing whatever it is you decide to do.

Until next time

x

Salt in the Recipe

People around the table, all friends, laughing and chatting about times past, a bad day had at work. What started as a ‘Hi, come on in. Dinner is cooking.’ gradually becomes louder through the evening with glasses emptying and the bottles closely following behind. A candle on the table dashing back and forth in the light currents of air provided by the glowing conversation around the dinner table.

It’s funny that when I think about it, in our society – at least here in Britain, where drink is generally consumed from moderate through to just getting pissed out of our heads in an attempt to dull away the tedious sides of our lives and that alcohol is to our personalities that salt is to the recipe. Sure there is drunk which is that time where inhibition is suspended which takes away a part of our personality that makes us whole but before that, the band of tipsiness, which enhances who we are to others; the only time that may be we know we’ve gone too far is the day after when soberness asks, ‘did I really say that last night.’

I don’t drink that often anymore and when I don’t I realise that things aren’t really that different. I can enjoy a great movie that I love with or without a glass of red, the film will still have the same immersive effect on me, I just might not be quite so wide eye’d at the end. Yet there are times that I know if I’ve had that glass that I will feel just that little bit more immersed emotionally with whoever the characters were and the story. Things will be just a bit more contrast, saturate and the emotion will be wider and deeper.

If we do this with alcohol then what do those with the whole gender thing who go that step further with replacement hormones that the body can’t provide take from it. Part of it is medical and physical to make those subtle changes but some people have spoken about small changes of mood and approach to life. At what point do we take this as a change of personality or just a difference in outlook. Someone many years ago told me that they wondered if it changes who you really are and I thought about this on and off since. I do wonder if really there isn’t a change. It’s the same person, the same recipe, the only difference is the heat. A cold spaghetti bolognese is just a cold Italian inspired meal. May be it’s the person’s reaction to being happier and so more relaxed and a positive outlook on life or may be more stressed from a new life and the way some people react. I guess we will never know for sure but the important thing is that whatever the salt we add or the temperature we serve ourselves we just need to feel happy in ourselves, whether it’s identity, work, friends, the books we read or the beach we sit in the summer.

Coffee has much the same effect as alcohol in it’s ability to change how I react. I know I talk faster and ideas must be met quickly under the influence of an espresso. That said my timing in music flies out the window and goes on holiday for several hours. Neither coffee or alcohol are subtle in their changes in our personalities and I wonder how subtle everything we consume is and so who are we really? Are we just the person we are at a particular moment in time or is there an innate thread that runs through us and everything else around it are just clouds of vapour that come and go depending on our moods.

Many years ago, not long after I had graduated and had enough money to travel on the weekends with my friends I would drive us to other cities and towns just for a wander. We went to Cheltenham once and spent more time chatting walking the regency lined streets than really doing much else. It seemed aimless but it was time to spend with a group of friends that over the years we gradually drifted into our own lives. I think how I’m a different person now in how I was around those people then and how they were. We’ve matured and become subtly experienced.

We would leave in the early evening and I would drive the black ribbon country road, the sun seemingly taking forever to drop away with just a red and orange powder on the horizon and the calmness in the slowly flowing River Severn that would come into view as the road swept in and out of the country to the riverside. I discovered a compact disc that I used to listen to in that car on the way back and instantly I remembered the sky, the river, the remoteness of where we were and the warmth of a moment that already felt drenched in nostalgia even then. Even as the seemingly different person I am now that inner thread is still the same. I see the world in a similar way and it has a similar effect on me. The thread changes very little and only the shell matures. We can change the bits we want to change whether it’s coffee, wine, medication or just self improvement. As long as we are genuine and authentic in our reasons then the changes themselves really are a part of our personality. Change is who we are.

Whatever you decide to do each day you can decide what is authentic. Honesty with yourself will tell you and if you’re not sure then you’re not ready for the answer – may be.

Until next time.

x

The Sand Between My Toes

Five pm the horizon lined copper, the freezing air filtering through my hooded jogger and a single pin hole of starlight in the weakening blues hung low above the village church. The only noise was an evening bird and the background grey noise of the motorway in the distance until it was cut bluntly by an ageing moped roaring by in a cloud of blue smoke. On the way back a clatter of salt rushed along the road from behind. A gritter kindly moving to the other side of the road as it passed so my legs weren’t stone-chipped.

My run wasn’t far, not as far as late last year at least, but it was a symbolic milestone that my whole run was without a stop. The tops of my legs had grown colder, even at pace, as if they were two slabs of steak just starting to solidify in the freezer. I might enjoy running but even so the thoughts had run through my head faster than I was running, “was this a good idea today?” and “why did I take my wooly hat off before I left the house?”

You would think that at a time of my life when I have every option at my feet, the choice to do practically anything, or at least give anything a go, that I would be feeling at my most free and breezy; but it’s taking a lot to keep feeling that way. I’ve had to pull on every thought provoking and clear mind routines that I know of to keep a clear and worry-free outlook.

For the whole gender thing, well it’s just there. I had to go to an appointment at my local hospital for some kind of support that they are giving since I’ve been referred to London but as usual it was another new psychiatrist. The lack of consistency feels like something is missing from my care but I suppose to some extent I’m past having to be cared for, even though I should be. It was rather administrative than talking about feelings but I’d already done that for two years.

They hadn’t received anything from the gender clinic in London as it had all gone to my GP and so I was more up to date than the psychiatrist. I didn’t think they would really need anything anyway but as it turns out if they don’t receive documentation from London then they might have a problem with the funding they’re providing. Getting gender identity care in Wales, administratively, is a bit like England – in the 1980s.

While that whole thing is parked, for a better word, my career is at the forefront of my problems or options. Still exhausted on a career that just doesn’t light me up anymore and freelancing whenever the work comes up I am at a point where the world is open to what I do next. The question is what do I do next. I’ve yet to write as a profession and while I work towards that the rent still needs to be paid.

I’ve spent too long reliving ghosts of the past hoping they will reappear and invigorate my life, old friends I no longer hear from or work places and the people that filled them that the comfort zone contains as a solution to just go back. It doesn’t work that way though. The reality of those people has been blinkered by the passage of time and rose spectacles. I may be on the edge of having little money left but I have the opportunity to look to the future, look for change, act on it and finally dispose of the old career that has seen me financially well but has run it’s course and the enjoyment and satisfaction that is running on empty.

I have so many options and when I start writing I feel that warm glow inside that makes me want to continues for years with the financial reward being a pleasant side-effect. When I create a song I feel a creative buzz that would have the benefit of the expensive instrument purchased in the summer paying for itself. We hear about people who take that leap of faith, changing their lives in positive television documentaries, success stories of the riches or in self-help books of which I am a faithful collector, but that leap, the actual push of the button that commits fully to a change is more difficult than most appreciate and that’s why so many people fall back to that comfort zone, “Well I tried” or “It won’t happen for me.” For me the worry is cementing that change and knowing I must commit to solidifying my new creative skills professionally. You could rubber-stamp this outlook onto the gender thing; change, change of gender, commitment to a new life. Why should it be so hard though. If it doesn’t workout just go and try something else or go back to where you were. It’s a shame gender isn’t quite so simple even though on the outside it can seem so binary, but we know it isn’t.

It’s a fight to make the changes to my life happen between those positive almost caffeinated enthusiasm moments to make progress towards a new career and that of the low points when my head feels almost hungover with little energy to produce anything. There are times when I can be driven and, like a cat that’s like a dog with a bone, I won’t let go until something is achieved or I reach a goal, either that or I fall asleep from exhaustion at stupid o’clock in the morning, and then there are times when I can barely lift a finger towards it and time is spent thinking about what I can do and dreams of what it might be like or fighting hand to hand with internal doubts. I have learnt that the way to deal with it is flow with the tide. Deal with the churn and work when I can apply myself and when I hit a low point, accept the low point and ride it through until the clouds clear and golden sunlight glints of hope and enthusiasm and the breeze flows controlled again.

I live for those up-days and for the down-days I hope for blues skies.

Until next time.

x