Subtleties of the Stars

I sat on the decking at lunch. It was burning hot and summer had definitely arrived even if it might be only for a coupe of days but there would be no shortage of vitamin D for me, even if it meant putting up with a little hay fever, the lapping of the water and the squark and laughing calls of sea gulls and chirps of little sparrows hoping around cafe tables waiting for generous patrons to carelessly drop crumbs from a fat saturated croissants and hot cheese goo cafe paninis.

It was nice, at least, and despite being sat on the floor, to lay back against the cold stone wall for a moment, close my eyes and just listen to those sea front sounds. That glug of the diesel boat waiting for tourists fares was even relaxing. I had felt a bit lost the last few weeks. Ups and down without explanation and a laissez faire attitude to the gender thing despite feeling elated at the end of those weekly park runs.

A small ex-fishing boat bubbled it’s way across the near flat water of the bay with a mother and daughter sat at the front royally and a sailing boat in the distance slowly made its way over in replacement. A US citizen grabbed her camera and pointed it down at the water from the metal railings several feet above the waters edge and exclaimed to her ‘couple’ friends in a thick Californianesq accent, “Look! A swan! On the ocean!” We were a few hundred miles from the ocean and it would probably be difficult to know whether the still water was even part of the sea, but the surprise and almost child-like glee at something that seemed so simple on the surface was something to behold. Life shouldn’t always be so deep, sometimes appreciating the supposed simple things the world has to offer is the key to happiness. It was by chance a social media post popped up, right now, by the great Paul McKenna, “Take a moment each day to step back, evaluate the task in front of you and let your thoughts flow.” It doesn’t get more true than this, and I know this, I just have to remind myself to ‘remember’ this.

I think one of the main things I tend to think about these days is age. I know people sort their gender identity out at any age and like most I wish I’d done something about it when I was 20 but each morning I’m sure I find another grey hair. It’s not like I have lots of grey roots and the rest is dark, I’m dark all over with full length grey hair strands amongst the rest. I found my first grey the day before my 30th birthday, which itself seems so long ago, and ever since they’ve been sneakily populating their way amongst my hair. If I use straighteners after washing my hair, I’ll see them all easily. I felt like I wanted to catch them now rather than going all grey and then one day miraculously everyone will see I’m brunette again.

I had mentioned it to my Mum a few weeks ago and after some colour matching the week before I decided to go ahead and get some permanent colour done but it was funny the day before how I suddenly questioned it much like any other gender identity change I might suddenly decide on. How was I really going to feel about this? I looked in the mirror. I had been for a run and so my hair was still damp and it looked dark. Did I really need this. Would I suddenly feel fake? The last thing I wanted was to feel fake, non-genuine and unauthentic. I always felt so lucky that unlike some male family and friends that I have kept my hair. Not just long but actually kept it. It hadn’t decided to buy a one way ticket for retirement in some island off the coast of Thailand. I was also proud that it was still thick, luscious and generally, on the whole dark brunette with gold streaks bleached by the sun.

I kind of went into automatic. I couldn’t come up with an answer and before I knew it I was sat in a chair in my Mums kitchen having permanent dye syrup painted onto long strands from root to tip and twenty minutes later with my head over a bowl having it washed out with the bowl water slowly turning brown. It was done. “Don’t worry –” she said while I was looking at a bowl of small choppy waves centimetres away and froth trickling down my face, “the brown on your skin will wash right off.”

“That’s ok.” I said, “As long as you didn’t mix it up with a tube of Veet and I’m going to suddenly see a bowl of brown hair.”

I checked in the mirror once my hair was dry. It was fine, subtle, barely noticeable until I got home. I don’t know what it was about the large gold painted framed fancy mirror in my hall but I could suddenly see the difference. Natural but I felt like I’d gone back in time. It wasn’t a typical, ‘do you feel ten years younger?’ It was just like I’d been repaired. It was like I’d replaced an old t-shirt with a brand new one that had fresh thick screen print on the front and the smell of fresh unwashed factory dyes.

A weekend – a week later – I found myself at sunset on top of the hill just a mile or two down the road watching the crayon saturated orange sky sink behind silhouetted forest lined hill tops. Things were still changing. They were slow and so subtle that they were nearly unnoticeable. Like watching the tide coming in or the moon and stars move across the sky, you can see them move if only to take the time to stare and watch long enough. It’s the same with moving with identity. Take that deck chair out into the 10pm night sky, lay back and, just for a moment, take in the change and enjoy finding that happiness.

Until next time,

Hannah x

Rise

I sat with a multicoloured Japanese style umbrella in one hand and a computer tablet resting on my knee as the rain set in. I wasn’t going to let a short sporadic shower of fine rain move me front that waterside bench. The ever increasing circles peppering the flat water took on its own beauty that I’d not really absorbed at my lunch spot before. It spread into a white noise on the surface as the rain became heavy and I stayed cosy and dry while others dashed to fill the humid cafes and bars. When the rain finally stopped I lowered my umbrella down and water poured from tips. I was the only one left, the only one who’d seen through the storm with a dry circle left around the decking and the bench. It seemed to have told its own similar story.

It couldn’t have been more than five minutes before another sprinkle of rain returned to the surface of my tablet and my umbrella was once again flung up to shield me. It got me thinking. Was this what I would be in for with the whole gender thing. Would I have moments of euphoria and beauty with moments of dirt that I would have to protect myself from or just shield myself in a going with the tide mentality.

– ❤ –

Little fragile white flowers protruding from thick green leaves of wild garlic that flourished along the roadside in the glimmering sunlight through the woodland. The smell of garlic was pungent where the rain had fed the ground well.

It had been a week since I had sat on that bench thinking about the similarities of ups and downs and it had still been good for me despite that constant gloom of weather but by Friday afternoon, without warning, a sudden depression. It came out of nowhere and clouded over thicker than the rain outside. I left work as soon as the day was finished and got home and slumped on the sofa and tried to let it pass. Go with the flow I thought. Float along that fast steep river until the worst had passed but it was difficult. It always is when you can feel yourself slipping downwards into a cavity that feels like a never ending lilting fall in stages. Even writing about it now, a week on, I almost don’t understand it myself, but I do know how it felt.

Trying to ride it out seemed like the best way to cope and it certainly was. By Saturday morning I felt better enough to get on the bus and join a group of runners first thing in the morning in the city park. The elation at the end itself helped blow away those clouds and once again I felt a bit more like myself. I had my new running trousers on that I was bravely wearing to the event and things just felt normal. I didn’t hide them away and change out of them at the last minute and I didn’t cover them up for the trip home. I just took a celebratory drink of my water and bit into a thick cinnamon bagel filled with Nutella and probably undone that 5km run.

I admit I did think for a minute how I felt about travelling home on the bus in three quarter length mixed grey running tights that had a logo in pink writing but the answer came quick with no doubt that I felt confident to travel home that way and that I really wanted to. It helps having a pint of adrenaline pumping through my veins.

– ❤ –

Sitting here on the end of the jetty into the water with a warm morning late spring breeze blustering everything feels okay. Everything feels right. I don’t know for how long. What I do know if that those ups and downs don’t just apply to the gender stuff. They apply to all parts of life. People and places can let us down. They say life would be without colour without challenges. I think it can depend how strong we are to be able to take those challenges. To add to the confusion those challenges are relative. Small problems for some are huge for others.

Having a change of mind set on the outlook of everything presented to us, even those bad things, can help us lead a better life. To deal and cope with things. There are some moments though, like that Friday I had, when there seems to be no reasonable explanation and not knowing how to pull ourselves out of those low rut moments.

The answer is other people. While other people can make things worse or cause our problems, there are others who can help and be there for us. The ability to choose and filter those who we spend our time with is key to finding that happiness.

Until next time.

Hannah x

English Rose

The small waves lapped gently against the shore under the decking as a small tour boat tooted by with its air whistle. The water and the sky looked electric clear through my sunglasses. Kinda unreal in a crystal clarity and gloss. A whole group of tourists stopped in front of the bench while a tour guide gave them a brief description in German and while they didn’t block my sunlight I felt like they were blocking the serenity of this early-summer lunch break. They moved on quickly tottering on in unsuitably warm clothing. The weekend I’d had with Maddie had felt like it had moved on just as quick.

I had been in the heart of the English Rose countryside. You couldn’t get anymore quintessential England. A white pub in a thatched hat, a marquee and horses trotting by on cue. It could have been a film set where the director had shouted “action” and with that – Englishness would descend and as would the sunshine. The upper middle classes would arrive for Sunday lunch with kids and a puppy dog in tow and spotted dick served with thick perfect custard that sparkled gloopy in the sun. The outdoor tables sprawled between the pub and its decorating matching annexed thatched barn. It was idyllic and almost fictional. It was as Bridget Jones as it gets in it’s setting.

Maddie, if you remember, my ex girl friend from several years ago who knows about the gender thing, pulled her mobile out and tapped and swiped at the shiny screen before handing it to me. “This is him.” She showed me a photo of the new man in her life that she had seen a few times. Immediately I spotted that smile on her face that I hadn’t seen in quite a few years, a genuine brief glimpse of happiness. Don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t mean she is beyond ecstatic with the way life was going for her but there was, for me at least, hope in that smile that I hope she can latch on to.

“Alright isn’t he, looks a bit Cambridge-Oxford.” which was the immediate way I could describe him. He had that look that he would be the sort of guy that would be on the river taking part heroically in the traditional boat race or, at the very least, barge polling tourists down the river and bullshitting them with fictional history of the pre-victorian universities.

Maddie looked at me with a smirk at my view of her guy that I didn’t even know. “You know – that look.” I said clarifying the picture, “What’s his education like, I don’t mean that offensively.”
“He’s not degree educated, I think he stopped after Senior school.”

It wasn’t important but I guess I just wanted to know where he was and how he might match up to Maddie’s intellect. It wasn’t hard to be happy for her that she had met someone new and that she might have actually found someone that there might be a future with. Christ, it has been so long since we had been together and even though we still care for each other her happiness is more important than any stupid jealousy that would be beyond my adult view – besides, I’m not in that place and never will be. It did have an effect though. Immediately I felt a little left behind, not with my friendship with Maddie but on reflection of my own life and lack of any relationship or even an encounter in years.

The large tourist boat sat under the pier bubbling the water and filling the air with invisible clouds of diesel fumes that caught the back of my throat and lined my nose. I reached into my bag for the cure of my past depression, at least it could be. I’ve had three lots of base line blood tests from the gender clinic. The first was at my local hospital but by the time the eighteen or so months had passed to get to the front of the queue for the gender clinic in London the results were no longer relevant for them. They ordered another set but when the results eventually turned up one test couldn’t be completed so they ordered another. The second test had indicated my vitamin D was just a little low. I asked my GP about it and he said he would look at the next results. They were even lower.

I had read that low vitamin D can be the cause of many things including depression, and since then I’d even read that aching bones and joints can be a problem. I’d had a letter a week ago from the GP saying that I should book a telephone appointment to discuss the results and one week later the phone had rung in work. I dived out of the office for privacy which oddly meant the hallway behind the main door that was probably quieter than the office.

The signal broke a little as I got to the doorway and then I could understand him. “So your vitamin D is low, I recommend you take a vitamin D supplement which you can get from that Boots just up the road from you.”
“You can get it over the counter can you?” I knew you could get vitamins off the shelf but I thought vitamin D was a special case.
“Yes you can get it at a pharmacy without a prescription.” This of course meant that despite living in Wales and getting free prescriptions this would be an exception. I didn’t mind though, the problem doesn’t seem immediate enough to me to warrant sticking the NHS for a prescription and besides, I’d rather pay the £2.99 than letting them get charged the £8 or whatever it is; we all pay for it in the end.

“You also have results for Testosterone, that’s fine. Prolactin, that’s fine – ” said the GP as the inside door went and a young man with a typical low-rent ironic beard exited the building. “Are you receiving gender reassignment therapy of… sorry to ask… ” it wasn’t my usual doctor and it must have been pretty obvious that the list of several unusual blood tests that included female and male centric hormones.

“That’s ok.” I said, and I explained the whole gender clinic thing and how my results should be passed to an endocrinologist that apparently will write to me, or the doctor with any concerns about my results. Whether I would actually get anything from them was as unsure as whether I or the GP would get anything.

By lunch time I found myself with a rattly bottle of small pills that I would take at least until we have a reliable chain of sunny days that would provide my main source of vitamin D and return to them in the winter to chase away the blues. May be this would be the source of my joint pains when I run sometimes.

I left my waterside lunch home and caught my reflection in a shop window. Wow, did I need to loose weight. I didn’t feel thin or slender, I just felt a bit short and stomach bloating outwards. I really did have to get to a place where I would feel my reflection matched me. I diverted myself into the bakery before heading back to the office and plonked an almond croissant into a thin bag and ignored what I’d just seen.

Until next time.

Hannah x

Quite Simple Really

My chest had a thumping deep inside that I wouldn’t normally notice. The spitting of rain had stopped and the air was clear and cool. I kept a steady pace. I didn’t want to burn myself out in the first five minutes. People passed me quickly while I passed just a few but I knew it would pay off. I hadn’t run for several weeks, let alone enter a Parkrun event, it had been a couple of years, but I had to do something. It was only earlier that week that I had dreamt of the chance to run any distance was passing me buy with legs pains and colds but when I woke on Saturday morning I just knew I could do it and I knew I had to do it.

I had got up and flung together everything I needed. That old long and neck-stretched t-shirt that was a kind of comfort zone top for running. Ankle socks that cost extra because they were for running but the bright colours felt nice. A decision on which hoodie to wear given the threat of rain that would eventually come to very little. Then the decision of which running trousers to wear, the three quarter length regular baggy things that don’t suggest anything remotely feminine other than visibly shaved legs that would be underneath or the capri style three quarter length that I’d so confidently worn when I would run from home.

All this confidence the last few years suddenly in question over one pair of trouser because there would be several hundred people running along with me. I applied the question rule to myself, “If it didn’t matter what I thought other people might say, think, look, what would I want to be wearing today?” A question that filters and banishes any reason that would be linked to, ‘just wearing it to look feminine’. I ask myself this question because I don’t want to be wearing things just to prove to others or myself who I am. I want to do the things I do – because I want to. I get fed up of having to do certain things that I’m doing to constantly win approval from myself. The answer to the question was simple, the obvious capris because I like them better, they’re more comfortable and I just like them.

It felt good to be just getting in the car in the things I wanted to wear and get down to the city and join the others. When I arrived there were pockets of people walking to the park in numbers all in running gear, dated marathon tops of their last phenomenal achievement and equally baggy old comfort t-shirts. The start had that murmur of crowds-of-people chatter and that alone felt freeing.

The organiser made a speech of instruction and encouragement on a megaphone that was typically incomprehensible for the first two minutes until he exclaimed, “can you all hear me ok?” Before too long we were off and I held a steady pace like driving a road lined with speed cameras. I knew given how long it had been since I’d run. I would need every ounce of energy for the end and a few calories for worrying about who might notice my clothes and me and make some sort of odd calculation to what I was about. There was nothing to worry about, of course, and besides which people were concentrating on their own goals – it really isn’t all about me.

The well in bloom trees arched over the park path creating a pedestrian tunnel along side a scenic fast flowing river. The smells of spring and the morning thick. The park a line of runners meandering with the flow of the path and five kilometres in front of me to tread. An gentle pain in my lung and a weakness in my ankles just didn’t top the feeling of elation, not just for my identity but just getting some morning vitality into my veins and sharing it with other like minded people of all types.

I didn’t think much about the gender thing through the whole event. Apart from reminding myself that ‘the wall’ doesn’t exist and if it should confront me then I would simply smash it down, promising myself that if I couldn’t sprint the last few yards then it wouldn’t matter today, I was here and that’s all that matters, apart from that, it was just a glancing feeling that things were right. Things were clarified. Doubts put to rest, at least for now, and knowing what I want was actually, quite simple, really.

What it is about running, or any exercise for that matter, that clarifies thoughts and doubts I don’t know. The rush of adrenaline or stirring up nutrients in the body, who knows, but it works. That’s the moment I know what I am and what I want. Blockers just don’t seem to exist.

The end of the run was approaching. I couldn’t see the end, there were a few swirling bends in the path blocking the view, but I could tell by the people who were starting to tire. Breathing in and out through the mouth, that time when controlled breathing had been flung into the river by most. I had kept control of my breathing. Keeping my run realistic. Every pounding foot to the floor felt a bit heavier and the chances of a sprint to the end were unlikely but a good finish time and taking part was all that mattered to me.

The trees cleared and the time keepers came into view. I crossed the line with many. As if I had ordered it spartan spots of rain started cooling my face as I came to a stop evaporating from the heat of the skin on my cheeks, breathing in huge breaths and my fingertips tingling with lack of oxygen. I’d done it. A small victory for running and another for identity.

Until next time,

Hannah x

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