Lucky One

The helicopter flew over chopping away at thick heavy humid summer air that had descended the last few weeks and as the sun dulled away over the horizon of houses the flying ants took to the ground and dusk was allowed to hint. It was hard enough to take a breath in this air but at least the evening was bringing some relief and so I took a breath as much as I could to clear my spinning head.

Body image is one part of the gender thingthat comes and goes as much as the fear and confidence and at that moment, standing still on the decking looking across at the sky fading from hazy blue to a dusty pink hue and the only noise remaining was the grey distant hush of the carriage way and the cyclic squeaking of the neighbours boiler outlet, I felt that body image oneness – well at least some kind of contentment with my current shape and build followed by ‘with a little bit of work – may be.’

That is to say that I felt the feeling that I had lost for a few weeks being in a state of knowing exactly what I would like to happen without any hinderance and loss of confidence or self doubt. I stood there in a loose summer top and some denim shorts and wondered if I would be standing here next year in a similar way on a pleasant evening thinking the same thing with the same contentment only with those slight man-boobs being growing actual-boobs or would my face be pressed against the window watching the rain pour down and drips fall on the surface of the door wishing I had done more about my situation.

Just as I think that I can feel a stomach butterfly of ‘oh no!’ form that wasn’t there before I thought about it. Just the very thought of something that was no-changeeasily turned into something a little negative and almost self prophesying. While taking that decision to not-do-anything doesn’t need to be a negative thing of disappointment it would just mean getting on with life and finding meaning in life elsewhere but if that was the choice I made then it would have to be genuine – and right now that doesn’t feel like a genuine decision for me.

Telling people, in particular family or more precisely – parents, about thegender thingis about giving up some control over what they think of you, not what theyactually think of you but how youthink they think of you. It feels like a big leap of faith in the people you love and keeping some lottery-fingers crossed that they’ll still love you and understand why and, even better, feel how genuine it all is. Most parents want what’s best and all they want is for you to be happy, but for some the cost can seem too much.

Dusk had really got hold of the evening air with a single star in the sky starting to pierce through and a pair of bats fluttering in seemingly random directions with each other just over head. While the trees and bushes at the bottom of the garden turned to deep shadowy shapes just one plant of bright flowers still fluoresced dimly from the gaining darkness.

How lucky am I though at this moment to have such choices in what I can do with my future and still at an age to make it worth while. There are always days when it feels like the complete opposite, ‘why didn’t I do something sooner?’, ‘Why am I not more feminine?’ et. al. But then something will trigger a different point of view, a certain angle in the mirror, a different perspective on the size of my fingers, seeing a women with a bigger nose than me (me-ow). A friend said the other day ‘My god, you’ve got little boys hands.’ Well, half way there I guess.

With darkness well and truly descended and only one light switch for it to click I closed the doors and flowing white curtains and felt at least a little more content than I did today. Above all I remember this one thought and that’s would I want my parents to never know this other side of me properly that is so innate, true and strong.

Until next time,

Hannah x

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A Bigger Boat

The cafe, eight thirty in the morning. I wasn’t running with the group but volunteering. Getting over a cold seemed to be continuing with no end in sight. I plonked my reusable cup on the counter, “Hot chocolate please, take away.” A couple of check marks on a label and then stuck to the side of my cup before punching my order into the till.
“Three sixty five please.”
“Three sixty five?” I said politely–confused but knowing a large size had probably been put in and my reuse discount not applied.
“Sorry, I’ve put it in wrong.” she said pausing for a moment with my change in one hand and the other hand holding the till draw open. “Hold on.” she quietly grabbed another member of staff for help in sorting the correct price and change.

The other barista paired with her at the till. “So, shegave you five pound and she ordered a regular. So you need to put in her order like this – now you give hertwenty five pence discount for herreusable cup and then give herthe difference in change, so she should have an extra…” I just shut up and let them continue. It was worth the money I was short for this gendering–misgender–not–misgendered thing that had happened. “So give hertwo pound sixty.” My day had just been made after a couple of weeks of fading confidence. The funny thing is, one of my run group friends standing next to me in the queue didn’t even seem to react to it either.

I may have been waterproofed to the hood with an umbrella as well but even though, when we made our way to the start, the rain came down enough to normally make you wish you’d stayed in bed but I really didn’t after someone using those pronouns had turned the rain from grey to life giving for the price of a hot drink. It’s not like I was in my running gear. Just plain old skinny jeans and a waterproof but I guess sometimes there is a bit more to it. May be first thing in the morning is my time.

The day after I was telling my Mum about the price I was almost charged for a hot chocolate. It crossed my mind for a moment, back and forth, shall I tell her what the Barista had said? Would she react, would she wonder why I was telling her that detail and whether I ‘corrected’ them? I guessed if there was a good enough time to test the water that was it. It certainly wasn’t the time to actually get onto the subject, given the other family members around at the time, and make any big announcement. So I told her what had happened, in detail, accentuating each gender pronoun. She smiled, laughed a little, but it just seemed to be part of the story. Nothing said. It was a start.

In the scheme of things these are small things, or at least appear small, but they are important things for self confidence. Sometimes those with gender identity, conflicts can have set-backs from the smallest problems, either the way someone has said something or just by looking in the mirror in the morning and feeling a fraud. Sometimes it’s the other way around and we seen in ourselves what we feel inside. It’s just down to perspective at the time.

When all my female work trousers prematurely wore out, one from an accident with the iron – when it reads ‘one-dot’ on the care label, it doesn’t mean ‘two-dots’, at least not when you pay fifteen pounds for a pair. At that point I couldn’t find anything in the shops to replace them with that I was prepared to pay for that I would know I would feel good about them and so reverted to the one pair of male work trousers I had left until I could replace them otherwise.

I didn’t mind wearing them at the time but as the days went on I felt just a little low, as well as struggling with the washing and dry in time and wearing my jeans on the day I was allowed to, I also realised I had lost a little part of me. A little comfort had gone. I felt like I’d been forced to wear what I didn’t want to and when I’m working over thirty seven hours a week that’s over thirty seven hours of wearing something that I didn’t want to be a part of me for that much of my weekly life. I pushed myself out one lunch time, bought two pairs of trousers that weren’t that expensive that would at least get–me–by. The days that followed I just felt the clouds lift. Such a small thing but such an important one.

Like the heavy rain on the weekend just small drops of positive things from other people, whether knowingly or otherwise, and everyday things, like clothes, allowing us to feel whole again can create a lake of well-being and washing away negative feelings.

Living with gender identity is a wave on the ocean with highs and lows, sometimes predictable and sometimes surprising. Sometimes it’s best to go with the flow and sometimes, when the conditions are right, it’s time to get a bigger boat.

Until next time,

Hannah x

The Awaiting Smoke

I pulled my house keys from the outer pocket of my ruck sack to put them into a safer pocket inside. They jangled in a way that I instantly knew they were my keys. I don’t know what it was, the quantity of keys, the size and material that made a particular recognisable finger print of a sound that I knew they were mine and that made me, briefly, a little home sick; which is odd as I never get home sick travelling to London.

Sat on the train the trees, bushes and electric rail pylons were a blur while the countryside of England moved by in sets of perspective. For some reason it felt rushed. One minute I was getting up and popping to the supermarket for petrol for the journey, the next I was at the railway station booking a ticket because the car had a problem.

There was no choice really. Appointments to the gender clinic are few and far between and in some ways I’ve never been more settled about this particular visit compared to the past. A latte bought on the station comforted me in my train seat and a baguette, bought in my home city, kept London lunch prices at bay.

The day was a bit grey and some rain had started to hit window of the platform shelter in my home village. The thought of a long drive to London in this weather didn’t quite appeal to me but the cost of the train can sometimes be a bit off-putting; the train is so much faster though. In no time I would be in the big smoke and grabbing a tube train to Hammersmith. No parking meters to worry about and the ticking time I remember from last time having to second guess how long I would be in the clinic.

Trying to find a parking space for a clinic that’s literally a few doors down from Charing Cross Hospital I’d expect it to be near impossible but despite how busy you would expect it to be I always found a space. But the traffic. Getting off the motorway and waiting on that roundabout. I remember one of my appointments they had phoned me while I was stuck in traffic, at the roundabout which is just down the road, “I’m literally around the corner, I won’t be long.” I wasn’t quite sure why they rang, it’s not like I was late at the time and given they would know I lived over 150 miles away that if I’d forgotten about my appointment then it would be a bit late to do anything about it. It’s not a complaint but there were times when the phone wasn’t answered when I would call that would drive me mad. Those days though seem to be gone. My call to confirm my appointment the day before, departing with lots of money for rail tickets, was answered quickly.

This brief home sickness, though, was not about going away from home it was about being away from comfort. It was the destination that was the lack of comfort zone. Going back to the clinic to talk about thegender thing, in some ways, I was wondering if I really needed to talk about it anymore. I suppose I felt a little unprepared in some ways but in other ways I was more prepared, comfortable and relaxed. A contradiction of thoughts as always.

They say that you don’t need to show your feminine self by the clothes you wear to these appointments and that is true in so many ways but there has been an undercurrent of it being part of the assessment. This was proved to me by the letter sent to my GP after the last appointment which included everything about me, what I had said and a full description of what I had been wearing like it was relevant. It’s a difficult one to decide whether it really should be mentioned.

This time it would be different though. I decided to attend wearing my running clothes. I might have a chance to have a run after the appointment but not just that, my running clothes have been the source of my wearing what I want over the last year or more and where I felt comfortable in my presentation and I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to show that, even though it wasn’t important, it was part of the recipe.

I returned to that small triangle park just up the road from the clinic, that I’d written about some time ago, as I had arrived so early. It wasn’t the empty peaceful patch of land it once was, sitting landlocked in central multicultural Hammersmith, but filled with the machinery of a travelling fairground. I sat for a few minutes sorting my bag out and checking my phone but it wasn’t a place to sit and feel I could watch life go by and besides a waiting room would be warmer.

The clinic hadn’t changed much, the toilets were still underfunded with a dangerous slice across the seat but the inspirational large posters of ‘transgendered people’, which portrayed successful transitions, had disappeared off the corridor walls in reception and the first appointment waiting list was now “24 months”. I can’t imagine what a person with gender identity issues and depression would do in the mean time who had yet to get any support.

The update notice on reception continued “Number of referrals received in March 2019 : 283. An increase of 8.43%.” and “clinic appointment letters are subject to a backlog of 4 week” and “2 to 3 weeks for administrative letters.” May be things had changed more than I thought, the waiting list was certainly a lot worse, a whole year more than when I joined the waiting list.

I’ve never felt like gender-radar had been so solidly switched off. I probably only saw 3 patients in reception. It was hard to tell where they were on their time line and which direction they’re going. I suppose I would be the same to them. I sat waiting feeling a bit bored. Collecting my thoughts. Mentally dismantling the reception desk trying to work out how it was put together with that round wooden wall thing. I thought to myself how I was less caring about being there and how I wanted to get on with my day. But I also realised all I wanted was to discuss where I was and what I’d done. Those were the thoughts I’d collected. Thinking about what made me happen and not what I thought should make me happy.

Eventually the psychiatrist, who I’d never met previously, appeared from the corridor and called me to the room. The door shut and she asked me to take a seat.

– ❤ –

I grabbed the hand rail in the tube train and held onto that moment. I suddenly realised I was enjoying the excitement of London, the bustle and rush; but I had to go though. It didn’t matter how much the train rocked or the lights flickered I had to get off at the next stop and catch that train. It was time to move on.

I had been pleasantly surprised by the psychiatrist. She was warm and tailored the session to me. To some extent they always did but for some reason it didn’t just feel like a box-ticking exercise. I felt it was about me and my situation, my concerns and my lack of confidence. I actually felt like I came away with something positive and things to get on with. I came away with a bunch of support leaflets that actually gave me information that was useful and that would help me both physically and mentally; I didn’t have to just rely on my memory trying to remember exactly what she said as it would fade over the next hour.

I stood on the busy Southern express train that I had caught with just minutes to spare. Suits and commutes filled the seats and the only guarantee of a window were the doors. I pulled my mobile phone from my pocket and quickly noted down the key points from my session. All the things she felt I should address – in fact, all the things wefelt I should address. It would be so easy to think I could remember those important points and go home and realise I’d forgotten something important and end up not moving forward.

I came away feeling I’d regained some confidence that had slipped away almost unnoticeable since the last time I visited Charing Cross. I’d drifted from what I really wanted to do and got comfortable. That’s not to undermine the progress that I had made and still feel great about. I had also found a psychiatrist that I felt I bonded with and had my best interests. The two previous psychiatrists had both left for private practice. She asked if I wanted to see her again next time or whether I wanted someone else. It was a resounding“Yes”from me. If you ever find a doctor that you bond with well and can discuss things with openly and feel they are working for you then do everything you can to keep them.

Opposite me in the train carriage were three women discussing something that came into focus. “You can’t pretend to be someone else, you are who you are and then I know who you are.” said the women in the centre, five years older than me, which I know because she said so later on. Whatever they were discussing it seemed to fit but proverbs are to be taken with a pinch salt anyway. For a start it could be interpreted either way. Are you the person you are born, or the person on the inside that wants to change the outside. The view is yours.

It was funny to hear it though. Their conversation continued, “you don’t have to be lazy, you spend the time with the people you want to.” The little group of three sat in the vestibule of the train home were having a good chat about friendship and it was so nice to hear.

It’s a short life, just get on with it.” said the one with the long dark hair leaning against the side of the toilet cubical.
“Life is short so either spend it wallowing…” It was crazy. It was like some fait thing said, ‘Let’s just make sure Hannah remembers a few things about her situation.’ I didn’t need it but it did make me smile for a moment. It had got more relevant by the word.

Taking in the scenery of rolling English hills I finally got a seat as people departed en mass at one of the major towns. Waiting for the people to depart a young boy eagerly tried to move past me for a seat, his mother putting her caring hand on his shoulder and said “wait a minute, let the lady go first.”

Until next time.

Hannah x

Town Girl Lives in Countryside

A Jar of Strawberry Jam, the one with the seeds in and that tastes of Strawberries and not just dissolved sugar in red jelly, a bag of Granola with some red berries in that I couldn’t tell you what they were without looking on the packet and a jar of Olives. The ones with the pimento stuffed inside which look pretty but don’t really add any taste that’s totally disguised by the brine – and I only went in to get my debit card back which I’d stupidly left in the self service till; again.

If there was ever a good start to an Easter Bank Holiday Monday then I guess getting my card back from the supermarket was a good start, that and the blue sunny sky amongst a bit of hazy cloud and the fact that my legs had recovered from the long bike ride to the mountains the day before.

Riding up to the mountains was amazing. It was hot but I’d slathered on the sun cream and reapplied every few stops to catch my breath and avoidedt-shirt neckand permanent socks. The sky was an ultimate blue that just gave out happiness by looking at it and the breeze, when going down the downhills, just felt freeing. I’d picked a lightweight ice white t-shirt with cropped sleeves and the more comfortable and thinner pair of my three quarter length running trousers. I’d curiously thought for a moment, as I cycled, about what I was wearing. Had I grown too confident and should I be embarrassed. Seemed silly to think this given how long it had been since the last time I’d felt this way and how I generally didn’t care anymore, it had felt normal now, but I guess from time to time these thoughts will make a regressive come-back.

But I entertained the thought. The question was more along the lines of, “Why am I wearing these particular things today.” I didn’t think about the alternatives which would have probably been some baggy male long-shorts in drab colours and a rugged top of some kind; which I don’t own anyway. I suppose I was wondering what I was getting out of it. I mean why should I get anything out of itat all other than feeling comfortable and happy, and that was the first answer that came. The clothes were comfortable, they were right for the weather, with a hoodie tucked away in a bag just in case, they felt light which made me feel lighter and freer. Unrestricted physically and emotionally. Feminine for outdoor pursuits.

And that was the end of that. The thought came and was answered immediately and thoroughly and I was happy with that answer. It felt honest and authentic. That’s all I needed. I carried on.

Gravel pinged under the tyres of my bike as stones flew aside and a satisfaction of making progress along the land free of any fuel charges, under my own steam, with a little help from gravity and a banana. Sheep in the adjacent fields of this old disused railway line – now a european funded cycle path – made that sheep noise in a way that sounded like grown men in sheep suits making sheep noises, it just doesn’t sound real. Town girl lives in the countryside.

I suppose the reason that thought crossed my mind, especially at a time when I should be distracted by riding steep hills and stunned by stunning mountain views is that with another delayed visit to the Gender Clinic pending soon I’m wondering what progress I have made since I saw them last and what I really need out of them. The last time I went they asked that question ‘What do you want from us.’ Help, seems the obvious answer and guidance is probably a more descriptive one. I struggled to answer last time because I really didn’t know what I wanted from them. The ball was firmed in my court, placed by them succinctly in a particular place and orientation and they had no intention of moving in anyway until I played some move.

If they ask me this time then I think I’ll be stuck in the same place, in a rut doing the same thing. I’ve thought about whether to make some more progress now, before I go, or on the other hand am I happy where I am and should I just go along and say, “thanks so much so far, I’ll be in touch.” Of course if I do that I’ll get signed off I suspect and if I decide I want more help from them I’ll be back on the waiting list which I believe is now well over a year. Waiting lists though and having to make progress shouldn’t be a thing that anyone must do. The gender thingshould always be at your own pace and with your rules. The problem with the gender clinics, and this isn’t a criticism as such, that they have a proverbial check-list, Have you told your family and friends? Have you told work? Have you changed your name? Here are some hormones, you’ll see the surgeon in N months. Thank you and goodbye.

Okay, it’s not quite that brutal and some of the clinicians are interesting and have a certain stance on gender identity but there isn’t quite the digging and support you’ll get from a good psychologist. I guess I’ve been there though and the gender clinic is just a gateway to make things more official and, if decided, more physically countenanced. May be I should just leave the gate-keeper aside until I know what I want for sure and free their time up.

As I climbed the long steep road, now much slower with most of my energy sapped, long freshly laid asphalt with lashings of thick white dashed road paint, the view had gone from stunning to breathtaking with hard grey dependable rock cliffs to the top of the mountain surrounded by wild green weather hardened grass and moist pine trees that make me think of Canada. I felt like I was a million miles away from home and my problems but also a long road away from an answer.

Until next time.

Hannah x

Fatigued

A white ceiling slowly rolled-by alternating with large roman tiled beams. Large round pillars titled in an old roman style with a modern twist drifted alongside. It was my place from everywhere. You wouldn’t think it was there buried deep in the centre of one of the biggest cities in the world while the world rushed around outside. I pushed the water slowly again with my arms and kicked my feet once to push myself again floating on my back in the swimming pool.

Further below tube trains raced packed, even with the financial district switched off and the weekend fast approaching, through the centre of the arteries of the city that, somehow, manage to keep flowing without a heart attack.

It wasn’t particularly a plan to get away but more that I needed to fill my time off or I’d waste it and come to the end and think ‘what on earth did I do?’ I’d cobbled together a trip away with a bag of clothes and toiletries and within a few hours I was slowly floating away my problems in the hotel swimming pool just staring at that ceiling. Pains and aches had gone and a zest to do things had surfaced.

Weeks on from that day I feel drained again. Fatigued. I still go to work each day. I still get up early and I still run when I can but the fatigue itself is draining. It’s hard to get through the day let alone think about and deal with the gender thing. But this is physical fatigue. Plop on top the politics of gender identity and things get a bit heavy.

Sometimes I find it’s best to just turn off from the mediaopinion on gender. Only the last couple of weeks we’ve heard of a school pulling a book from the children’s learning that teaches about trans people; fear for some reason. It’s always easy to knee-jerk when children are involved but then what is wrong with teaching children about the real world. No amount of teaching will ever makea child something they’re not, people are who they are, there is only discovery. In my day it was about race. We learnt about cultures and skin colour and this is the kind of thing that make us better as a society by starting at the beginning.

The problem with reading and watching the news about these things I find I can easily become blinkered to what the world is for transgendered people daily. It’s one view and usually concentrate and highly defined which can feel negative and daunting. I’ve learnt to let go of the news in this respect. It’s freeing to just realise that while there can be dangers from those who aren’t tolerant, those who are of an opinion really just amount to just that, an opinion. And some of those people are in it just for a career in controversy and hate without consequence for themselves. Let’s not name names.

Yet, when I’m running at an event amongst other people, I’m a world away from all that nonsense what some people think about gender identity. I just run. I just chat to people. I am me without worrying about whether people have an aversion to transgendered people or not. If I had to deal with that during times like that then I would be more than fatigued and drained.

Even talking about it now feels negative and draining. Yet if I just ignore it I rarely see or hear it from day to day. That time in work a several weeks ago was the first I’d heard negative transphobia in a very long time and a little this week elsewhere that I guess would generally be put down to banter.My thought at the time was, ‘how little you know.’ and put it down to that with a secret wry smile.

So I think I’ve found a way of dealing with light weight transphobia by just brushing it off and doing without it and may be that’s good preparation for if the time comes that it becomes directed at me rather than just idle gossip in the air. And all the hard-line terrifying transphobia seems to be held in the news, the media and social media, which has an off switch. It’s a bit like turning off the TV and going outside for a walk in the sunshine. You kinda just leave it where it is and it goes away.

All this was a million miles away as I lay floating on the surface of the water in the quiet swimming pool and the sound of trickling water. If switching off the TV was the escape then this place was where things like this were forgotten. I know that my time was short there but that hour felt like it was lasting forever and even though I knew I would have to pack up and leave that weekend that once again I would likely return and you never know how much I’ll have changed by then.

Until next time

Hannah x

Permission to Shiver – A Five Year Anniversary Special

I sat in the cafe, noisy and busy. A cheap coffee in front of me that was just about this side of dish water and the right side of a pound coin to make it worth drinking. An upstairs view across the housing of the west of the city and a table full of runners – post run. It had been damp and the rows of charcoal grey old tiled roofs were drying in the wind that had hit us head on that morning. I hugged my cup with the rest of my comfort from a delicious chocolate muffin that stood off-centre on the plate.

Five years. Five years since I started writing about my thinking and looking back at my first I wouldn’t have said back then, that right now I’d be sitting amongst other runners while wearing the long running tights that I’d always wished I could wear and a high ponytail without feeling anxious and fraught with butterflies and too afraid to move. It makes me wonder where I’ll be in the next five years. I sat there, which today happened to be with the other women, and listened to the conversation.

“My fingers are sooo cold still.” Karen said clenching her fingers. She hadn’t even been running this week, helping out marshalling the course; standing around, still, can be even more freezing than an oncoming wind.
“Try this.” said Lea, handing Karen a small rectangle material hand warmer. Lea was an older women of a generation above. Karen took the hand warmer and clasped it between the palms of her hands.
Beth jumped into the conversation from across the table, loud and coarse, “You know she’s been keeping that warm on her fanny.” Lea smirked embarrassed and shy. This was Beth all over, this was a girls conversation, just as much as men’s conversation can be similar female chat can be just the same with just some slight differences. People of different genders might be different, but we’re not that different.

It hadn’t been the first time. The week before about four of us were milling around at the end of the run doing stretches to warm down, or cool down depending on which way you like to argue. One of the younger women was lunging, stretching her legs out long and low. Someone mentioned, “That’s a great stretch that is, I’ve heard about that.” Beth cut in, “Great for stretching yer fanny.”
We laughed, I felt I had to ask, “I don’t think it’ll help stretch mine.”
“Good for your balls.” she replied. Great.

I think about how things have changed from five years ago and also what I have achieved. One of those things is what I’ve buried. Not my male past but actually part of my female side, or at least a part of the experience of finding my way along my gender. Back in the early days I had started meeting similar people in another city. A chance to get out at night and experience part presenting as what I felt people needed to see. I’ve talked about it at length many times and the definition, as my friend Sarah had said, was those nights out were just an extension closet. I hate the word closet used for talk of gender issues but it clearly, succinctly, defined the limits of what those nights were. They were of limited progress, great for building confidence, but it wasn’t real. It wasn’t real life. It was a fancy dress party without the fancy dress.

What I had done over the proceeding years, since I had stopped meeting with those friends of circumstance, is talk about it to put it in the past. When I had stopped all that I had left was a hole in my life and in part of my social calendar. All that excitement and enjoyment had gone. Take away something so strange as a double life, sort of, and there would be a gap. As time went on I could feel that need slip away and the reality of my gender thing was there and needed to be dealt with. Writing about those nights out really helped to put it to bed and away forever.

I remember my last night out. It was kind of a one-more-time thing after I hadn’t seen some of my friends for quite a while. We went to this odd pub just outside of the city centre. “It’s a great place.” Sarah said trying to be reassuring in case she thought I’d bottle it and not want to go. “People dress in all sorts, Vagabonds and Beggars this week I think.” It was a strange place. It encouraged people to dress in a way that was out of the norm. They had a small stage area near the door with a few stage lamps creating sharp shadows and a spot for performers. The acts were odd, poetic without the poetry and it was so left-field you could have put cows in it and call it a farm. Despite Sarah’s excitement at going and her wife for company we didn’t stay there as long as I thought we would. Before long we were onto another pub where we sat in a beer garden in what should have been a warm summer night but the coolness would get to your legs in no time.

This is an absolute example though of not real life. It may have been an extremely straight bar but it had the thing about a dress code of dressing in far out ways that it was giving me the pass to dress how I wanted but all I wanted was to dress the way I want and be accepted as normal, in everyday life, not be given permission to do so. This was not everyday life, as enjoyable and a bizarre place it was. While I have the memory of that time in my life and it wasn’t all bad, I’m happy that its now over ten years behind me.

In the last five years I have told a counsellor, doctor, psychiatrist and physiologist about the gender thing. The counsellor was the hardest one to tell. I had only been going for stress and depression. When the first session ended, which I found so helpful, I remember thinking on the way home how mad I was at myself for not saying that I was transgendered. I could have kicked myself. I had bottled it. Looking back now though I needn’t had been so hard on myself. It was probably one of the biggest moments for me because when I did eventually tell her at the beginning of the next session it made talking about it so much easier in the future.

I’m still not quite where I want to be but may be where I want to be isn’t quite so far as I think. Writing though can be one of the best parts of self-help therapy. I would recommend it to anyone whether it’s on the web or in a paper diary in your top bedside draw. I thank all those who take to the trouble to write to me, you the reader, while there aren’t many public comments I receive private messages and comments on forums all the time. If you weren’t reading then this would also likely be on paper in my top draw. So thank you for reading regularly and coming back. Also a thank you to T-Central, a blog directory that have kindly given me feature place on a number of occasions that without I wouldn’t have quite so many visitors and for the kind words of Calie. There are many well written blogs there. Lastly to my RL friends. You know who you are.

Thank you for reading.

Until next time

Hannah x

Fog Obsession

“Oh no, not another day of thinking about it.” My eyes open and my head foggy way before my alarm on a working day. Even the sun hadn’t brought a gentle glow to the dark curtains and if I listen very carefully I can hear, almost distant, the sound of next door snoring through these modern walls. It’s when I’m super tired I think it. It’s not that I suddenly at that moment not want to change my outward gender but just feel entirely fatigued about having to go through another day of half compromises and worrying about which way, through the day, people will find me.

Of course it’s not a thought that lasts. Within half an hour or so, once the fog of a restless sleep clears, I’m once again back to normal. The curtains are open, the fresh light of a delicate sun clears the air like it clears my head and I feel that I know who I am again.

It’s a worry when these thoughts while very tired, which is a relatively new thing for me, had come to the foreground. It was like being super-tired was making me tired of being gender identity incomplete. It was a worry that may be the feeling of being the wrong outward gender had passed and that it was no longer a thing. A few decades of my life that would come to an end and the gender thingwould just float away and be a thing of the past.

The worry wouldn’t be about feeling that I was wrong or had wasted my time; after all the whole reason to think through about something so important – fully, like a change of gender, is so valuable no matter what the outcome is. The worry actually was that if the conclusion was that I no longer felt I identified as female, or at least somewhere mostly in that direction, that I would feel I’d loose a huge part of who I am. I’d no longer be expressing myself through character and clothing. No longer enjoying things that people find feminine and no longer enjoying interacting with people that pick up on my feminine side and react accordingly. It would be an eternally sad thing to loose something that plays such a big part of my life.

The brief negative thought of not wanting another day having to deal with gender identity was in itself more telling. It made me realise how much it is a part of me and how much of it is natural and just being explored and allowed to come forward. It’s unlike when people first question their gender identity and think ‘what do I need to do to become female (or male)?’ and then promptly do things that are hyper-feminine or hyper-masculine which ends up being over the top and unnatural. Some thinking they should start speaking falsetto or laughing with ‘teehee.’ It does happen.

The realisation actually comes, though, when we start being natural and allowing the subtleties of gender to come through rather than to draw it in thick crayon in the form of makeup and stereotypes. When this happens the real discovery of whether this is a genuine discovery of actual gender, rather than an obsession, though the dealing with the question itself can be an obsession, then this natural discovery is when things become normal again and life is still life as it was before. We get on with the things we enjoy, the work we do to survive, the tired mornings having to get up at silly-o’clock, the walks on high mountains taking in panoramic views, the breeze along the sea shore, happiness, pain, elation.

I do wonder if there will be a day that becomes a decision-day. A time where a specific decision has been made to commit to being female. A day of no return rather than a day of transitionthat is more about saying to myself ‘Yep, this is it, I’ve reaching the goal. From here on in it’s womanhood – as I am.’ The very idea makes me feel like I should grab a big fat cigar (I don’t smoke) and celebrate. Not to celebrate leaving behind maleness but to celebrate the combining of the parts of us that are both masculine and feminine. We all have it to some extent but this would be a moment of self acceptance and knowing from here on in. I will be what I always want to be and an acceptance of the little bits of the masculine side that will remain. To throw those away would just be being untrue to myself, throwing away would be that falsetto voice or a teehee moment. The cigar of course is figurative, besides, it would take a huge toll on my running, coughing my way through five kilometres.

A disconcerting thought when waking up one working day has changed to an enlightening moment. Another moment of self discovery and confirmation. And the next time I find myself in a moment when my gender comes into question with others I’ll know that being genuine and true to myself, allowing myself to be me naturally, then I’ll be rest assured that what I’m doing is right.

Until next time,

Hannah x

Outgrow

It flickered sharp blue, lilac, ice white and pink randomly. I watched that star for a moment as it captivated me as it always does. Two stars entwined with each other and burning bright for more time than we could ever imagine bound by some unimaginable force. It was the one thing I didn’t have at the moment was that bond with someone in that same binary way. At that moment, though, I was content. I also had a bit of a cold and even though going to bed a little early I was in doubt that I would be at a running event in the morning.

I woke early. Too early. Twenty past five showed on the clock when I whacked the top for the time to light up, looking with heavy eyes half open. I groaned and pulled myself under the blanket to hide from the ice outside and the sun that would be turning that black sky a dark blue hinting at the day to come. Nothing more than drifting became of my duvet cover antics and I was soon opening the curtains with a sharp day of minus temperatures and the possibility of wearing my new running tights.

Within half an hour I was parked up and walking to the start of the run event that sits on one edge of the city amongst some green scrub land. It’s a fresh walk to the start. A time to acclimatise to the fresh air and to enjoy those new long running tights that keep me just warm enough and to add a little more feeling myself for once. I thought about those stars the night before.

It has been over a decade since I have had a proper relationship. One part of the wholegender thingis, once that relationship had ended from the realisation that it just wouldn’t work, unless I’d had unlimited confidence that was completely blind to any fears then going into another relationship was just so unlikely but also self for-filling. Even more telling, right now, was whether I actually wanted one.

Sure I misshaving that person at home to share everything with, eating together, enjoying hobbies, watching the tv together, going places and enjoying the indoors and outdoors, but when I think about it, think what it would mean after all this time it would be just as much as an upheaval to my life and my home. It sounds really defeatist and selfish but thinking about it, it runs much deeper.

There is always the worry of having to go through the whole tellingonce again with someone new and whether it will be a problem for them personally. After all transgender in the wider understanding is still relatively new. But may be these are just blockades being erected by myself to stop me having to go to the effort of working for a relationship. The reality though is a little more simple. Relationships seem to just spark when you meet someone and if something is going to happen it will just happen naturally. When I think about some of the people I meet at running events and socialise with them, anyone who is likely to take an interest in me, and if I were to take an interest in them, it would be pretty obvious by the way I dress and present myself that something is different. Either that someone is going to guess from the outset or they’ll not be quite sure and when they’re told the reaction would probably be more just “oh – right.” A bit like the reaction of the first counsellor I told about my gender identity issues.

My morning walk so pleasant. Other people going to the same place for the same reason to run and wake up for the weekend. I may have a bit of a cold but that softened to the background by the thought of running once again. Every footstep was more meaningful and exciting than ten taken on every other ordinary day.

It had been an odd week because out of the blue I had two social media friend requests from two separate people. Neither of which I had seen, in person, in about twenty years and neither of which had, until this week, made any attempt to get in touch. One from my school days and another from my university days. The person from my schools days was someone I had long since left behind many years ago. We’d briefly been in touch a few years ago via the internet but they left social media with me feeling used. They’d asked me for advice and once I gave it, they silently disappeared without so much of a thank you.

The other I had been forewarned about by a friend I still keep in touch with. She had told me how this person had been going through some kind of bad patch and was only now contacting each and every one of her old friends. “I doubt she would get in touch with me, christ it’s been what, twenty years?” I said thinking this was not going to be any issue for me.
“She even contacted Kim.”
“Kim! Christ, I thought they’d fallen out?” I said, “besides, Kim moved to Italy didn’t she?”
I was still unconvinced that she would contact me, but sure enough a friend request came along just a day or so later.

What struck me though was my thoughts hadn’t gone towards wondering if I were to end up in conversation with them whether I would one day tell them about my identity and what they would think; after all there is nothing more potent about wanting to impress of our life successes than a ghost from my school past. Neither did I feel the need to contact them and feel the need to offer my generous help if they needed it.

They were both people from my past that had passed. They were people who had naturally drifted away from me and my feelings about them as friends had long gone. When these occasions come up, rarely I might add, when people from my past that were a negative influence on me I no longer feel the need to go a mile for them.

I briefly compare them and the effect they might have on being in my life with what my life is now and what it means to me. The times I spend with myself exploring new places or the run I’m about to attend with new people I socialise, with similar interests in activities that make us feel good about ourselves. If they were to find out about my identity then may be I would just feel proud about it, but it wouldn’t change how much I would want them to be a part of my current life. The thing about getting older, moving on, progressing our lives in every way and not just our gender identity, we change, we move on, we outgrow some people just as they outgrow ourselves.

Until next time,

Hannah x

A Thinner Skin

There wasn’t many people in. I get in early myself to miss the busy commute and there is nothing like leaving work early. The view out the window was a misty grey winter haze in the distance with a pale sun barely cutting through the cloud. It was a welcome scene to start a working day.

At the back of the office the noisy three chatted, as they normally do in the first hour before everyone joins the working day, talking about everything domestic. The kids having their troubles in school, why ‘he hit the other boy’, the argument with the assistant in the electrical store over the television set that had gone all blue; it wasn’t something I wanted to listen to but the open-plan office space and the overly vocal baritone boom was difficult not to focus on.

I only heard little bits here and there, snippets and sound-bites, but it was fairly clear what I had heard. I tuned in immediately when I heard the wordgenderstand out like a light house on a clear night. “I’m not PC at all.” she said in that manor of I like what I say and I say what I bloody well like. That kind of, I’m entitled to my opinion and I’ll say it, but without any reasoned thought, argument, evidence or well thought out constructive criticism. It was just an opinion for opinions sake and just based in, well, prejudice.

“This whole gender… –” she continued with a look to her colleague with expressive body language “I think it’s a load of crap.” The other two didn’t outwardly give some kind of agreement, they just continued to gives examples of how little Johnny knows exactly what gender he was.

I was immediately hit by internal sadness and offence. I’ve laughed at transgender jokes by comedians and sitcoms. Why was this offensive to me, especially when I didn’t know exactly what her point was in-context; was it about transgender identity that she didn’t believe in or was it about genderless identity, or more popularly know as gender neutrality? I think my problem was more disappointment.

This person was someone who I felt was one of the nicest people I had met at work. She was experienced in her particular job and she was the sort of character you need talking to the clients. She has a way of talking to people in a diplomatic way and with a short flick of the tongue she had dismantled and destroyed everything good I thought about her. She had destroyed this image in my head. One of the other problems of course is that our workplace possibly has some of the strongest policies for equality which goes beyond just policies, everyone has compulsory training covering equality with an extended section on transgendered people. It’s at the very core of our workplace.

I felt conflicted. On the one hand I felt offended and disappointed and felt that the whole idea of this could be the placeif I were to go full-time. On the other hand I felt like I had a skin that needed to be thicker. It wasn’t physical abuse, it wasn’t mental abuse directed at me personally and she doesn’t know that I am transgender. What if she did know, that everyone knew and that I was working there outwardly as female and with everyone aware of my conflicting birth gender? Would she have said it then. Would she have said it so loud or would the conversation be dropped to a low whisper so I couldn’t hear but with a little hint that she was about to talk about it from a small look across the office to check who was in hearing distance. Would she have just not said anything because the nice part of her personality and understanding part would have kept her opinion to herself.

I grappled with the thoughts of what this meant and whether I should do anything about it given the high expectations on its employees. I mean should I report this so that they know that this sort of opinion expressed very loudly across the office actually hurts people. What if they had said ‘This whole gay thing, it’s a load of crap.’ What if she had said, ‘These disabled people needing their own toilet facilities, whats the point of that.’

At the same time there was another part that was still telling me that it could be so much worse and, not so much that was I actually offended, but shouldI be offended? A little bit of guilt that I would feel if I had reported it as something unacceptable. The thought that had decided my actions was the simple one – it wouldn’t change her opinion. It’s one thing hearing someone say something but once you know what they think you know they’ll still be thinking it.

The only things that changes opinion is probably education or personal experience. I certainly don’t want to be the one giving a one hour awareness course for the department. I’m just not in that place at the moment.

I took a wander to the break room and placed my cup under the outlet of the coffee machine, the usual cappuccino with the strength turned down. I looked out the window while the coffee and milk poured into the cup in the background. Thoughts churning around and, well, just waiting for the dust to settle in my head.

I looked at the notice board for a moment. Amongst the flyers pinned neatly square with drawing pins was a notice about an up and coming presentation about ‘LGBT+ issues’. I sighed for a moment. It crossed my mind what use that actually would be if some people were of the kind that what they think is all that matters and nothing will change their mindor may be I’m just underestimating the intelligence of this particular person. Besides, what would motivate someone like that to go along?

It was only a couple of hours before I felt better about it and let it go. The sad thing is though, I don’t feel I have the time for this person now. I have to speak to her, and I speak respectfully, I work with her every day but I just feel I won’t go that extra mile for her anymore. Still, it’s better than processes and procedures and having-words.

Until next time,

Hannah x

All Clear

Box after box just piled high in the corner of the garage. Handling them they felt just a touch damp, cold and soft even though the garage doesn’t leak. They just seemed a little neglected. I have plenty of reasons that I can say they haven’t just sat there for the decade or so since I moved in, one reason was half of them were in the shed, until that almost fell down some years later after a storm, that and a mouse getting in there and so eventually moving my junk to the garage.

Hoarder, small hoarder, more like Monica from Friends hiding things away in the cupboard to keep the rest of the house tidy and less so than a hoarder with piled high newspapers in the house that have to be navigated by compass, climbing boots and belaying equipment. But enough that it has to go — somewhere.

I had to go to the hardware store to buy some ladders to allow me to push most of this stuff into the loft. It might sound like hiding hoarded junk away but it will allow me to see the space it will create and to judge how much better I will feel for that space. Once that time comes I’ll be able to get a box down, one at a time, and sort through and recycle whatever I can. It’s a method that any hoarder, minor or extreme, will need to get through and accomplish the goal, to clear space and to let go.

The hardware store with long isles piled to the ceiling was populated by married couples sheepishly browsing things that will make their home feel better and execute some new year resolution plan, and men pushing large trolleys and loading up things that can be sawn, drilled or hammered. Nothing gets more manly than bashing things into position and having tools with features, accurate numbers and power. The look on their face is usually one of being on a mission and purpose, though secretly disguising huge satisfaction that they’re about to build something; and, if they’re lucky that the job requires it, get to use a drill which is the nearest thing to being Clint Eastwood in Western Europe. That’s not to say women don’t get the same satisfaction from DIY but for men it’s a rite of passage.

I must admit, born with testosterone running through my veins, I have probably succumbed to that at some point but with ladders under my arm and some bits and bobs I was heading to the checkout. There was no browsing the cement isle trying to think of an excuse to buy some. I would leave that to the men.

The problem I have with sorting hoarded boxes of my past is I have to do it at the right time, when I’m not low, tired or feeling nostalgic. If I’m not in the right state of mind I can become emotional about the things I’m clearing and deciding whether to bin can become painful. Quite simply anything could trigger it and these days when I know it’s triggered I stop and finish for the day.

I stop when emotional because it’s not the junk that’s important but the memories those items hold. More powerful than any relationship break up. They hold grief. Every time I pull an old toy from my childhood it’s as powerful as if I were to see a relative that had long since departed, just for moment, before being taken away again. It’s a resurrection, a ghost, no matter how pleasant the memory, in fact the more meaningful it is the more powerful and emotive it will be. If it were bad memories it would hit the wheelie bin immediately. The memories make me grieve for my childhood and for the lost moments. Some of these things I can even remember when they were given to me, whether it was a birthday present, Christmas present or just a kind gift. This makes changing my gender identity, in the eyes of others, more difficult than it already is.

But at the same time I am already different. I’m an adult, more mature (some might say), I have found more of myself and expressed it. If I wasn’t that different then I wouldn’t be grieving and feeling emotional at the sight of things that, to anyone else, are simply junk but to me more valuable than any precious metal. If I hadn’t changed and left those things behind they would still be just the things I own and not these items in a grave yard of memories in the back of a cold garage. Yet despite their emotional value they aren’t kept in exquisite condition in air tight, dirt-tight containers in a regulated temperature away from anything harmful. They’re just piled into cold boxes.

I must cut down on things. Some things will be thrown away once I find the point of view and positive reasons that will come to allow me to do so. They are the memory corpses that need to be buried, permanently, so they can no longer be resurrected and hopefully I can remember my memories through rose tints with the aid of photographs, memories and stories. I’ll be able to continue to move on and make my future my way without the guilt of the past. It’s one thing to tussle with the problems of gender identity but even harder when your past is a wall of boxes full of reminders.

Amongst the Christmas gifts I had this year was some scent free wipes in a packet. It was from my Mum knowing I like to use scent free soap for the most of the time and a thoughtful gift it was. Laying on the sofa I glanced at the coffee table. I spotted the packet still unopened and sat up and smiled at that little extra present with a lot of thought and something that would never end up in a box in storage. It was a gift for now, different to all the hoarded toys and teenage presents in the boxes I’d seen while clearing the hoard through the day. I held the pack and read the smaller print on the label ‘cleaning facial wipes’ and underneath, ‘removes waterproof mascara.’ Well, I guess my gifts as an adult take on a whole new meaning.

Until next time.

Hannah x