Belle Epoque

I dropped my bag on the floor just to the side of the dining table. I could have easily slumped onto the dining chair and fallen asleep right there. Work had really taken it out of me. My mobile buzzed it’s way along the table top which appeared to be trying to reach the charger cable; it was almost tea time after all. It wasn’t the phone that was hungry though but an unidentified number on the screen while it rang. I couldn’t work out whether to take the call or not, probably yet another recruitment agent with nothing but empty promises to line their commission box on their next pay slip. ‘Wait.’ I thought, ‘It could be the hospital.’ I answered it.

“Oh hello, it’s Dr Shanklin. How are you.” came that sweet Asian accent.
“Hi Dr. Shanklin. I’m fine thank you.”
“That’s good. I’m calling because you asked about your blood tests for one of the results that was still pending.”, thank god. ‘At last.’ I thought. “I can tell you that the result is absolutely fine.”
“Can I ask what the value was?”, I was genuinely interested. Even so the result would mean nothing to me. Dihydrotestosterone. An easy one to Google, and the range easy to find but what it meant in combination with all those other flavours of hormones and levels means next to nothing to me. It’s just not something I can bring together a comprehension without proper medical study.

“Two.” he said quite plainly and factually as if I’d asked for the odds on a horse at the last race at Chepstow.
“OK, thank you.” I said writing it down though unlikely to forget a simple, two.

He gave me the range for which I was well within but then he spoke about some other blood results that Dr Neil hadn’t mentioned despite having access to the same information. In fact neither had my GP. Something was a little over to do with my liver.

“It could be to do with medication.” he said, “Are you taking any medication at the moment.”

I am on medication. Nothing to do with gender dysphoria or body shaping hormones. No self medicating secrets, just plain old general practitioner prescribed medication. My new psychiatrist was actually taking interest in my entire health. This was nice. This was someone looking at my health in great detail and listening to my concerns about how sensitive my body seems to be with any medication. As my GP says, “Well they don’t do half doses.” Dr Shanklin asked me how I was generally. Even on the phone he was still checking-in with me.

The call finished and I laid the hungry mobile on the dining table and thought for a moment. I felt cared for. I was getting more care than many get and a doctor going above and beyond. Yet, despite this, I also felt a little lacklustre in progress. Dr Neil, before his departure to other work, was going to be getting the ball rolling and get my case reviewed and then hopefully before a panel for funding to move to the next stage of discovery but nothing had happened.

Dr Shanklin had now taken over but had to pick up where Dr Neil had left off. He had to chase up the next step. More months had been wasted. I’d heard other people talk of impatience with waiting lists, psychiatrists and medication. This had never been so for me. I’ve never been in a rush about it. It must be at my pace. The problem is that it’s been over two years of discovery at the right pace but now chunks of time have been sliced out and slowly melted over a pan of hot water and trickled away down the sink. It took it’s toll on me a little. In the coming days I felt a little down. May be it was just an anti-climax after all the progress I had made or may be it was just the stress and emotion of the whole situation and this break from the psychological care was what I needed despite what I felt at that moment.


The 8am Mediterranean sea glistened and sparkled at my eyes laser-like supernova on azure waves in the sunlight. The air was fresher and the promenade only populated with joggers, fast walkers and those opening up the sea front cafes cleaning the coffee stains from day before. There was nothing more care-freeing than a run on the coast of the Cote d’Azur in the South of France cleansing all the stress of booking the holiday in the first place.

It was the first holiday I’d had with my parents abroad in over a decade or possibly even two. Booking the holiday was a case of taking my clothes or taking my parents and what I didn’t want was the whole gender issue dictating the time I could spend with my parents. And so I took my parents.

I kept my breathing steady and controlled as I turned into the harbour and ran along the wall remembering how I packed my case before I’d left. I’d put all the essentials in the case, my hair brush and toiletries. My socks and a stack of t-shirts. I grabbed one of my favourite pairs of shorts from the top shelf of the wardrobe. A pair of Dorothy Perkins pale urban camouflage of flowers with flat sandy coloured pull cords hanging from the front and cute turn-ups. I looked at them and felt disappointed that the chances of me having any sort of confidence to wear them with my parents around were a lot slimmer than I was.

It wasn’t just the shorts that would be obvious but my bare legs, cleanly shaven as they have been for probably ten years or more. I wrestled with the idea in my head in total conflict. I didn’t want to leave them at home but neither did I think in a million years would I be wearing them either. In the end I put them in the suitcase anyway neatly folding them in half and packing them amongst a couple of other things like my short-shorts for running and my white linen trousers with the zipper access on the left side. It may have been silly but it was the only way to get over the stressful en-prisoned conflict and in the process convincing myself that I would actually wear them; even though I knew I wouldn’t.

I got to the end of the harbour wall, took a beautiful breath of clean sea air that drifted off the surface of the water, and took a panoramic view of the bay. Stretching along the Belle Epoque hotels that decorated the seafront which merged at the far end into the silhouette of distant hills in varying pales of humid greys. My troubles were gone. I wasn’t thinking of work or the hospital. I wasn’t even thinking about my gender-future. Any thoughts I had were purely positive and revolved around personal future happiness. The sky really was the limit for that moment.

Back at the hotel I walked the corridor back to my room breathlessly after my run up road, hopefully just in time to join my parents for breakfast. Our rooms were next to each other and as I approached the room my Dad opened the door. They were just about to go for breakfast and there I stood in my black short-shorts. High on oxygen I didn’t care. I did think about it for a split moment but it didn’t matter. I was more embarrassed about how Brit-just-arrivedwhite my legs were. It was only a moment and the shorts aren’t exactly a huge give-away but then my legs were. Whatever it was, it was a start and nothing was said.

Later that week was another clone of a beautiful day. Burning hot sunshine and a golden beach of sand gently lapped by the sea of curious little fish awaited. I opened the wardrobe of the my air-conditioned hotel room to decide what to wear. Laid out flat were my camouflage shorts that I’d brought with me just to settle my head. I felt that feeling again. The need to enjoy what I would like to wear and to express that subtle feminine side; especially so in such a beautiful location. I looked at my legs. Over the few days they’d already started to take on an orange glow of a tan that had been carefully created with factor twenty and aftersun at the end of the day.

The head clearing air of those morning runs had suddenly changed me. Something indescribable had happened. It changed me. It was a marked change. I wore the shorts. I sat on the beach in them and forgot about them. Enjoyed them for what they were, just a pair of shorts that I like and so, it appeared, did my Mum, “I like your shorts.”, she said, “They’re gentle and not over the top.”

Until next time



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