Vain

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time.

Hannah x

Pretty Little Thing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time.

Hannah x

Little Voice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time.

Hannah x

Checked-Mate

I’d wanted some for ages. Seen them around in the shops but they were never quite perfect. The lines were either too big, or not quite the right colour or the shape was just not right for me. Then I’d see a women with the exact pair that would be perfect but there was no way I would stop a complete stranger in the street and say, “Excuse me, where did you get your trousers from?”

The weeks had passed by and the idea just sat there in the back of my mind. Trawling the shops looking for those checked trousers that would be just right was a fruitless exercise and so I just let it be that if I came across them then it would just happen. They were for work so I had something alternative to just boring colour-match-friendly black.

It was just last week when an email came in from a clothes retailer and one of the offers showed the model wearing a top, that was on offer, but wearing the trousers that I just really wanted. I clicked through and the website showed what else the model was wearing. “They look okay —” I thought, “may be not perfect but they seemed as close as damn it and they wouldn’t break the bank either, even if the quality probably wouldn’t be as good as I’d prefer”; but then when is it?

It was a Saturday, just before lunch time, and that shop in question had a mini ruck sack that I really wanted. A gender challenge to myself to buy something that might push the boundary just a little bit more whether it be in work or amongst my friends and relatives. In fact it was a boundary probably a little bit further than I’d be comfortable with but if I didn’t do something even that simple I’d never get anywhere.

‘Eleven thirty. Got to get to my parents and take Mum for coffee. —’ I thought, ‘If I quickly get up to that shop now I’ll be able to grab the ruck sack and take it to coffee, a little test may be to start a conversation.” I dashed to the shop, found the shelf, one remaining. I looked over the mini ruck sack, black with a quilted panel on the back and thin mat straps and cute short cord hanging from the zippers that looked like rock climbers belaying rope.

It was on sale, I’d seen it before, but today I’d made my mind up to just get it. It was exactly what I had imagined I’d wanted. While I was there I decided to look at those checked trousers. I grabbed a pair in the nearest size I thought I’d reasonably get into on first try without taking multiple pairs, one size up, one size down. I slid them on in the changing room and they just fit. Slim fit they made my legs theoretically longer. I pulled the slight turn-ups down that had been put in place as an idea, you know, a bit like a serving suggestion on a cereal box.

I looked in the mirror pre-empting that they would just look like man in young trousers with a belly pushing the button to breaking point — but they didn’t. They were right. Just right. My first thought was, ‘screw work, I’ll wear these out.’ Hoping that sometime soon there would be the right social occasion to give them some use.

With cash on the counter and an offer of “would you like a bag for your — bag” I was heading home and adjusting the straps on the bag from the shop-default and trying on the trousers again to make sure I really was ready to permanently remove the labels.

I hung the trousers over the banister and left them there. I guess I didn’t want to wear them yet. I was going for coffee and the bag would be the talking point. I didn’t need an extra item to question or they might both get lost in the mist of gender identity flags. Besides, Mum might wear something similar.

I tossed all my things into the bag, genderless wallet, deodorant, phone, water with a tight cap that wouldn’t leak, lip balm. It might have been easier in hindsight to have opened the top zipper and just pour the contents of my tiring shoulder bag into the ruck sack but that would have also taken the bits of cardboard that had flaked off a packet of paracetamol and an open sweet wrapper that just wasn’t needed in my new shiny purchase.

We took our long walk to the coffee shop via the park amongst the trees and kicking through the autumn leaves on the smooth tarmac path with my new unmarked ruck sack. Nothing was mentioned. My Mum usually notices new things but she had plenty on her mind which we talked about. Even over hot drinks and small rich slices of cake it didn’t come up. Eventually, at the end of the afternoon, as the coffee shop emptied as did our cups I mentioned it, “I bought this new mini ruck sack, one of my shoulder bag straps has frayed and is about to break.” and placed it centre place on the table.

“That’s nice.” She said, but nothing more. Usually something that was obviously not from the men’s range would spark some conversation, and something like this I thought might spark the right conversation, but she was obviously distracted that day and that made it not the time.

It came to the working week once the short weekend, that felt unbelievably shorter than usual, was over but when it came to each morning I just felt, for some reason, that each day wasn’t the right day to wear the new checked trousers, or use my new bag for that matter. I couldn’t put my finger on it. Where had all my confidence gone?

I’d previously decided to get those black trousers before that had pushed the boundary a little more at the time and even my shoulder bag was now something I just used everyday without a thought and with full comfort. Why suddenly were these things that only pushed the boundary a little more such a problem? Then it hit me, I was feeling under the weather. I had been for days.

When I’m not well all I want is to wrap up in a blanket and stare at the TV at some comfort entertainment or stay in bed; but I have to go to work and with that the last thing I want is to feel I’m out of my comfort zone for a little while, which may or may not be the case. Immediately I felt at ease realising that things need not be rushed or pushed for the sake of it and my trouser and bag will still be there tomorrow.

For now I’ll be wrapping up, eating chocolate when I don’t need to and concentrating on staying warm.

Until next time.

Hannah x

Fifty-fifty

Fine rain continued to fall like sand in a perpetual egg timer but we felt locked away in the Manor House. Surrounded by honey coloured Bath Stone walls and a bolt-on modern squared glass atrium we sat there, cosy, in boil-washed white robes and slippers, eating thick clotted cream stuffed scones and sipping on a delicate flute of champagne, looking across the green fields surrounded by old oaks.

The thing is — a spa day feels like one of those typical expressions of being female and yet, at the moment at least, it’s a catch twenty-two, of half and half. It might seem a sweeping generalisation to say a Spa Day is a female activity, it certainly is not, but at times you can visit a place and everything is slanted towards women. The magazines in the relaxation room that supposedly catered for women, Wedding Planner magazine, the slippers that are barely a size 7, the spa day deal names, Celebration Spa Day, Mum To Be Spa Day, and of course the other groups of women in the wellness building doing the same thing. That all said, it’s not a female only pursuit, but it does feel a bit like it in some places.

The catch twenty-two is the fact that I’m not in that out-out situation where I can feel like one of the girls. It doesn’t matter how long my hair stretches behind me in the pool as my hair ribbon tie falls out, I’m still going to be addressed as “Sir” while in my bathers.

It was different to the last time Maddie and I went on a spa day. This time we were given our back massages in different rooms. We compared notes after our sessions as we sat back on comfortable chaise longues when we returned to the relaxation room that was dimly lit to keep that mood. “Did she ask you what pressure you wanted?” I’d been asked if I wanted soft, medium or hard and whether I had any problem areas that needed attention. I’d chosen medium given it was only the second time I’d ever had it done and that was perfect.

“I asked for hard.” She said. Maddie doesn’t mess around with this sort of thing. She wants it done properly with effort to sort out her back. The proper fingers between the ribs — hard. “I got to select the scent of the oil as well.”

“I didn’t get that option. It was nice anyway.” I wondered why I didn’t get the option to choose, whether it was just an oversight or whether it was a thing of catering for a male compared to women. I had noticed the days before that there was a male menu for the treatments separate from the rest of the menu. I thought for a moment that may be they don’t get as many men as women in for treatments and so don’t have a selection of oils. I did wonder whether it would have been different if it was Hannah that they were aware of. It didn’t really matter of course but it makes me wonder how things really would be different from half way to all the way?

The gym is a different matter to some extent. The swimming pool is a dead give away to where I am in my journey but in the gym I can wear the shorts I want to wear, a running t-shirt that is neither one or the other and the swishing ponytail does make some other gym users look out of curiosity. It’s a complex time being in that fifty-fifty place. In some ways content and in other ways feeling that the contentment is, to some extent, only temporary and timely.

We made our way through the tiers of small, pinkie-out eat, sandwiches, scones and deserts finished with a pot of tea. Our voices echoed in the atrium and the rain lightly crackled on the glass. Maddie seemed distracted. “What’s up?”

“Shhh, I’m nosing in on the conversation.” A group of women on the other table continued to chat energetically that would probably be more accurately called nattering. “What are they talking about?” I asked covertly as I took a bite from one of the mini cakes.

“She’s had a coil fitted.”

“There’s one girly chat I don’t think we’ll be having. At least not until I’ve finished the cakes.” Not that it put me off my dessert. I think we quietly chuckled every time the one women mentioned something incredibly personal, not so much by the subject but the loudness that she may not have been aware of.

Still in our robes and the slippers, which had now expanded enough for my toe nails to poke through the open-ends, even if it meant my feet did look a touch purple, we felt like we could stay there forever. Outside the trees were statue-still as if time itself had stopped. The tea pot was so big on our small square ice white cloth covered table that it felt bottomless. This mini-mansion house hotel felt like it was saying, “don’t go, you don’t need anything else.” That’s the thing with mini-breaks, they hold you for just enough time to take you away from things.

Until next time.

Hannah x

Social Cycle

It wasn’t cold. I wore an activity t-shirt to wick away the heat and sweat while the sound of the tyres buzzed against the tarmac of the path. The small town that lay in the recess of the valley had slowly drifted downwards and away and the noise of the traffic on the carriageway was replaced by near silence of the wilds. Just as the grey buildings of the town was replace by the rolling green steep valley fields the mobile phone bars were replaced with “No Service.”

My rejuvenation for cycling had sent me on journeys miles from home that felt like another continent and reconnected me with the outdoors where types of trees and birds thrive that just don’t exist in the city. What had amazed me was the faith in humanity I could still have. On my two wheeled journey, except for the interim train ride, on the weekend I don’t think one cyclist passed me by without saying “hello”, “hi” or even a knowing nod. There is something special about connecting with a stranger, even if for just a short greeting, where we are sharing the same delight and nothing else really mattered; our politics, standing in the community and, for my own interest in self introspection, gender.

I had worn my cycle shorts, pontytailed my hair that stuck out the back of my cycle helmet just like a baseball cap with hair jetting out from above the buckle. A ruck sack full of things to survive any change in the climate and my three quarter length running tights over the cycle shorts just for that extra wind protection. I was a mix match of gender clothing where my running T-shirt was nearly neutral gave a message that was probably confusing to others.

Despite this people still said hello. A teen comments on my bike. The train guard thanked me for my ticket on inspection, though he did say, “Sir.” Still, it showed that even with this gender unspecific presentation where I could be one or the other, depending on what part of me that person was focusing on, didn’t really cause me any harm, lack of respect, politeness or just plain ignoring me.

This all said there was the odd stare on the train, usually at my running tights and then a look at me. Usually when they realise they’ve been spotted looking they’ll look away and pretend they weren’t looking. Only when I look back a moment later they’re doing it again, and get caught out again. It’s a fun game.

In some ways I don’t really care about those type of moments. To think ten or fifteen years ago that would have terrified me, now I kind of absorb it as a kind of verification and validation of where I am in my journey and who I am. At the same time I sometimes wish on the day that this happens, when I am that indeterminate gender, that I’d tried may be a little harder. Rather than go in the half and half comfortable place that I should push myself into a slightly more out of my comfort zone. Get myself towards the female side so that I am recognised as who I want to be recognised as.

Pushing myself a little more on those occasions would help my journey forwards than just continuing on at the point I’ve reached. It’s a hard compromise, especially when there are the days where I feel I’ve put in very little effort and someone says, “she” or “her.”

A few weeks ago on the Saturday run I heard some guys running behind chatting. “The one on the left, they’re fast — ” talking about a women running off to the side of me, and then “her in front, she sprints the end, I wonder why she doesn’t run that pace the whole time?” I could feel the glee rising throughout my body, even though I know it could have been because all they could see, from their point of view, was the swishing hazel ponytail from behind.

Even as I sit here in a cafe writing, an older women stood from the table, with her husband and another couple, looked at me as she struggled to find that other sleeve of her padded winter coat and gave me a sour look of confusion for a moment. Second guessing those thoughts though mean very little in reality and may be the best action is to just carry on as I am.

— ♥ —

I reached the lake surrounded by steep sides lined with bright green grass and thick dark shadowing pine trees. The wind puffing in my ears intermittently and an October bird squeezing scarcely. I could have been that whole continent away from life where the intricacy of gender didn’t matter so much, as long as things were right for me.

The mountain stood domineering on the horizon with a thick mist of rain clinging to its hidden peak. The ripples in the water lapping the waters edge tactile. There was both a serenity and stormy seriousness about the place as I stood amongst this very real natural landscape.

The mountains soon delivered their rains. I put on my waterproof and headed back. Fine rain hitting my face hard, the water running down my legs and soaking my feet was hardly noticeable as nothing seemed to upset this moment. I couldn’t do anything but smile. It would just have been a cherry on the mountain if I was just that little bit more complete.

Until next time

Hannah x

She is Hannah Also

She could have been me twenty years ago, no really, she is that age now. She wears the things I like to wear and some of the things I wish I could wear while running and, I hope, I would have had the confidence to present myself that way. To top it off, her name is Hannah as well.

We don’t get to talk much, she has a different circle of friends at the run, but I see in her what I see I could have been. I think I might have even looked a little like her, once hormones had kicked in. At least that’s what we all seem to wish when we find someone we can see ourselves in and admire as a sort of female role model.

But there is no need for me to dwell on what might have been. I’m not quite over the hill yet. If I’m taking Hannah as one of my internal images of myself in how I present to others then I’m not that far away, despite my age. My hair is as nearly as long as hers. Some of my running clothes are already very similar in style where our tastes already cross over before we even met.

Her voice is actually probably a little deeper than mine which was a surprise when we first spoke and I guess we both look tired after a week of work when we pull on our trainers on a Saturday morning and dig deep inside to run five kilometres. She also introspects and talks a lot; sound familiar?

There are the parts of her presentation that feel like the bits of myself that I have yet to complete. May be a certain style of top I just can’t pull off right now, wear my hair in a certain way she does some days and me getting my weight back down so I get back a bit of that slender.

But that all said, this doesn’t mean I want to be her. Sure sometimes I can look at another woman, and like most of us think, ‘I would want to be her in a heart beat.’ Do we really mean that? I don’t think so. There is being like her, or looking like her, but being her is something else. Imagine taking on everything she has, her friends, family, career or job, her likes and dislikes, anxieties and physical health.

When I was in my teens and probably my early twenties as well I would have said, in a heart beat, without even thinking any further whenever I had seen someone that I would like to be like, but that is the key, be like, not be.

There are parts of my life, my experiences and the people in my life that I wouldn’t want to trade. I remember way back in my childhood, may be 6 or 7 years old, I saw a film, Heaven Can Wait. A man gets taken from life ready to go to heaven but was taken by mistake. He was, for intents and purposes, taken by Death early.

The only way heaven could return him to life was to take the place of another, a professional American footballer whose life was about to end because it was just him time.

He would get his dream career and the girl, but as he was returned to Earth and entered into that players body his knowledge of who he was would fade and he became the footballer without knowledge of his previous life. I remember thinking, at the age I was, I don’t think I would want that. It very eternally sad he would forget.

That was the difference. I guess in that specific situation, with the choice of death or living as the person you want to be and forget your own life, well that’s a bit of a no-brainer, but the idea is there that changing everything for just one this isn’t necessarily the answer. This is, of course, about role models and not character appropriation.

— ♥ —

I guess this all applies in life and our choice of changing gender. How we might loose our past self. A death, like in the film, of our previous personality but I think that doesn’t have to be the case. We can choose to embrace who we were and remember that we are still the person we were we just have some outward amendments that express it better.

Then there is the death of our previous selves in the mind of others who see how they’ve lost the past you. That’s something we can’t change, it’s down to the other person who see us the way we were and now are. But may be that can be managed in some respect. None of us are who we were as children. We look different, we act different, we learn from our experiences; even many of our physical cells have changed, replenished, hair grown and lost; yet no one grieves for that part of us lost may be with the exception of parents who miss having their ‘children’ as they were to hold and teach.

My Mum once said to me that she can’t imagine me without my ponytail. May be given a change as slow as it took my pony tail to rise from the bottom of my head to the top or my running trousers to rise to three quarter length then the gender thing will be a celebration to be missed than grieved for.

Until next time.

Hannah x

What does it matter?

The nights were already setting in dark early with September upon us and added to that it was nearly midnight and the London streets were just a cast of shadows with stark street lighting in the square mile. That time of night the streets are quiet anyway, apart from adhoc bits of traffic, the financial district is more or less closed on the weekend. Just the odd pub or bar that might spill out onto the litter free clean pavements of the city.

I had, as I usually do, spent my time around the Westend, Covent Garden and Soho when in London but that one particular night seemed like a bust. The bar I wanted to stay for the night had, unusually, been a bit quiet and the music was, well, poor. It seemed like a perfect opportunity to leave the noise of the Soho streets and head back to the financial district, grab my camera and take some night time photos that I had so wanted to but didn’t want to break a nice night out to do it.

I carefully wandered the shoreline of the Thames that cuts through the life veins of the city with its currents fighting the tide, covertly covering my camera and staying as much to the busier pavements of people staggering home as some of the surprising early pub licence times expired for the night. I had reached The Shard and stared up in amazement at it’s tall stance in such a small plot of land and taken back at how more difficult the cuts of glass at the top were to see the closer I got to it’s entrance.

I wrapped my white stripe scarf around my neck again to protect from that slight coolness that had set in and headed across one of London’s many bridges. I returned to the north side of the embankments and headed back towards the hotel, taking photos as I went whenever something seemingly mundane would appear starkly different in the greyness of street lamps and empty office lighting.

An anonymous high street of endless office blocks placed somewhere not far from The Bank of England, devoid of traffic due to road works and just a couple walking hand in hand away from me some hundred yards or so away and a drunk man in a light grey suit in front, swaying on the spot and seemingly unable to workout how he was going to get home.

Just as I approached him I noticed a great photo opportunity. I stopped short and crouched down to focus the camera quickly; keeping an eye on Mr Swaying.

“Are you okay?” He blurted out.

“Fine thanks, just taking a photo.”

I continued on realising that I should be quick and move on, it was still very quiet apart from me, a phone box and my new drunk friend.

“Oooooy!” I heard behind me. Sounds like my drunken suit clad white collar worker had found his girl friend or something. “Ooooooooy!” He continued.

“Ooooooooooooooy! You.” I turned and looked, he was stooped over looking at me and shouting for an answer from me. “Oy, you. You a man or woman?”

I thought for a split second, which was probably a life time to our new found friend. My thought was straight to indignant. “WHAT DOES IT MATTER?” I replied snappily. I finished up and walked on quickly heading back to the hotel.

It had struck me that his thought was probably, given his eye sight was too beer goggled to see I had a camera in my hand, that I could have been a damsel in distress and was going to save me, or if I had answered “man”, he wouldn’t have given a shit and moved on or may be something else?

I got back to the hotel easily and that was that. Navigating through the corridors of this complex hotel I arrived back at the room and entered, locked the door and sat for a moment kicking off my shoes.

That was when it hit me. My indignant natural reaction could have been something much worse. May be I should have used intellect and talk my way past the situation as I normally do. “I’m fine buddy, see you later.” It struck me then how, for the first time ever, I found this character not just some drunk bloke that seemed quite funny but now someone a bit creepy. I don’t know what was so different and the feeling didn’t clear until the next day. I suppose I didn’t know his intentions and may be I dropped my guard more than I should have; I said what I said because that’s how I felt at the time and I don’t regret it.

— ❤ 

It was just a small part of my time in London. Those few days were full of places and treats. Visiting glossy shop fronts for the rich, dining amongst vibrant people in a small vibrant restaurant and treating myself to that perfume I kept putting off buying for the last two years because it was about time I did.

While I feel a little defined by my concentrated break away at home I’m finding even my presence on the Internet defining me and slowly changing. We’ve all experience the way we are categorised on the Internet. Whether it’s a highly targeted advert on Facebook or Instagram just because you once browsed something on some retail shop.

These days I’ll get an email from Newlook or Under Armour and four in five times I’ll be promoted female clothes and running tights or the latest sports top. They almost have me to a T (or crop sleeve T?) While much of the time the targeted marketing can become overwhelming as all those shops I’ve signed up to on my last purchase fight it out for that slither of my attention, it does sometimes raise a smile when I suddenly feel a little validated. It seems crazy to be validated by an algorithm but then we are becoming automated.

Until next time.

Hannah x

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

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