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


All In Good Measure — A New Year Special

The kettle started to fizz slowly, the sound creeping up as it started to heat the water. A cup of tea was a good excuse to have some gingerbread men I had for Christmas and the biscuits were a good excuse for a cuppa. The kettle was soon rumbling violently, it was like thoughts coming to fruition.

New Years Eve is a strange feeling. It’s not like Christmas Eve full of thoughts of snowy pine forests, dazzling razor sharp white fairly lights and misty eyes. It’s more fresh. The cold light of day. A bit like New Year’s Day but without the hang over — or less of a hang over at the least. The eve is the last throws of the year. Every last thing we want to finish that is part of our routine but knowing we can’t really fit it in all one day. It’s silly when we think so much of the change of the year as if it’s one huge event but it’s just another day and the world turned one more time, just about, but we just do and why not. It gives us something to look forward to and reflect and decide on changes. That’s the big event.

Like I’ve said before I like to think of my resolutions as adjustments. I do it though out the year and when it comes to New Years resolutions I look at what has made me happy through the year and decide what I will keep and what I will adjust rather than make a set on huge goals that might just get on top of me and I’ll just fail at them. If I just made one huge resolution, right now, to go and sort the whole gender thing fully and whole heartedly then I would probably fail. It’s too big and not thought out. I certainly couldn’t make big decisions based on five minutes of thought.

That said, it can be a time to push a little further. Think of how I might go one step further and make myself more content and happy. Throughout this year I have achieved in my running more than I ever thought I would. My running time had fallen dramatically and I’d never felt so proud of myself as much as I felt so proud to be wearing the type of running things in front of other people, friends — even family! The knock on effect, from a superficial clothing perspective, means I’m now looking for new running clothes like a new set of running tights to add to my others because I want to and not just buying cheap because I worry I’ll not wear them or I’m not worth it. I’m looking at slight more expensive ones with a design I like, a shape I like and of better quality that will last. All this rather than lots of cheap and shoddy running tights. It’s about self worth and buying female things that are worth more make me feel worth more. Worthy and validated. That’s what it’s all about. There is nothing worse than buying cheap and realising I’ve just bought it for the sake of it.

I’m quite happy with what I’ve achieved this year and my experiences. It was the one year I was short of money, while taking a year out, and in that time I’ve done things that were new to me. I spent time working in the music industry for a few months and seeing things I’d never thought I’d see. I took long bike ride adventures along the valley seeing small old villages and stunning views of rugged landscapes and more oxygen in my lungs than I ever have had. Watching the sun set and forgetting time. I continued my piano journey and moved my playing on a quantifiable amount and enjoyed it. And the gender thing — oh so subtly moved on a little here and there. Feeling more comfortable in myself and just being rather than thinking quite so much.

I want more of that next year. I want to run in more amazing places. Travel and find other sunset finishing spots and just feel at one with the world for those twenty or thirty minutes or so as the sun fades over a silhouette of trees breaking up the horizon. Just talking about it to you I can feel that warmth on my face fading and a cool evening setting in. Zipping up my jacket to stop the frost catching my skin. Breathing in every ounce of pine filled air before having to leave.

I want to spend time with these things rather than waste time in front of the tv or social media but at the same time all in good measure. I want to cook new foods to refresh my pallet and rejuvenate meal times once again so they’re not an after work chore but and experience full of colour, flavour and scent.

While I feel like my New Years Resoladjustment should be full of turning up the saturation just a little on the good things I already do I also want a certain amount of surprise and spur of the moment thinking. Nothing feels more planned than having a plan and may be part of my gender identity journey will be just like that. Moving on a little when the moment takes me. I know it will happen just, when it happens.

The new year for me is more about freedom, enjoying me, enjoying the female side whether it be clothes or inner personality, the stronger side of being female with achievement and self belief that would have once been associated with being masculine. Building on what happiness I found this year and improving how I spend that time. Finding adventure from time to time and not letting life just slip by in a typical British way.

The sun almost set, only visible because of the single colour blanket of grey that’s been covering our skies, is slowly dimming and the Christmas tree lights slowly and barely perceivable becoming the glow in the room. Family members falling asleep from the late nights of Christmas week. Today isn’t one of those adventure days. It’s a slow day of spending time with loved ones but from tomorrow the adventure, freedom, the standing on top of a mountain and letting the breeze blow over my face and flutter my hair. Sitting on a hill side and watch the world turn from the sun. Walking bare foot on the sand and letting the shallow cold sea wash over them. Feeling comfortable in my clothes as well as my own skin. Feeling that rush of endorphins after an energetic run and feeling like I could just do anything I wanted at that very moment.

Whatever you want for the new year I hope you find it; because it is out there.

Until next year.

Hannah x

Her Name Was Hannah – A Christmas Special

She wandered, undisclosed, along the Christmas market stalls. The smell of the German sausage hut over powered any other food being cooked for several hundred yards. There was no Christmas snow hunched against the pine wood walls of the huts and no slush underfoot, it was just winter damp. It wasn’t raining but it was just damp. There was no heat on the street and not enough wind to dry the ground; it just clung like a permanent condensation.

She briefly moped up a slurry of spicy tomato sauce from her ice white t-shirt that had dripped in one big splodge from the sausage in the long bun as she had bitten into it. It was typical luck but she shrugged it off because it was just like her to take such little care with this kind of food that she reserved for the Christmas holidays or a day trip somewhere. It just happens and there were worse things that could have happened. She folded up the tissue, put it in her pocket and made her way into one of the little stalls.

It was full of wooden carvings on shelves and around the outside of the hut, lining the edge of the roof on either side to its peak, were lanterns made from hammered steel with stained glass and a door to put in a tea light candle, both modern and vintage-looking at the same time. She looked along the shelves of the wooden animals that all had their own place on the shelf, not too far apart that they looked lost and the stall empty, but also not close enough that it would have been too crowded to discern between them. They could easily be considered much like reading a book with double line spacing and clean crisp text – everything could be easily examined without too much effort.

There were plenty to look at but one small cute wooden animal stood out and would make a perfect present for someone special amongst all the modern day commercialised presents she had already bought. It was smaller than most of the carvings but it was just perfect. It’s warm waxed wood colour felt inviting and its darkened patches in the ruts of the carving just made it all the more special. Hannah moved to the back of the hut and pulled a note from her wallet, desperately trying to grip the note with her gloves on. The woman at the back of the hut raised her head with a smile from the book she had been reading and thanked Hannah for her purchase, “Enjoy the rest of the day.” she said in a bizarre knowing-way. Hannah smiled, it was just another polite person she had encountered that day that just made her a little happy inside.

She left with the little wooden animal wrapped in red tissue and placed in a small box with a lid that fitted just right and all placed in a small tort paper bag with handles made from twisted paper. Old fashioned in design but a hint at the modern world with small print at the bottom that said “Lovingly made from recycled paper.”

It made such a change from trawling the clothing shops where she would hold up a garment, may be a pair of trousers or a skirt, and consider it as a present as it hung from the plastic shop hanger and realise within seconds that she was no longer considering it as a present and wondering whether it was herand imagining herself wearing it; like drifting off into a day dream in work and realising she’d not listened to a word during a meeting for the last five minutes.

Hannah decided to make one last call. It was one of those small basement bars that was rented out from the shop above. The stair case down was stone and was like something from the eighteen hundreds but, with care taken walking down the steps, came a room bustling with people socialising after work or during a lunch hour, unwinding and chatting which would fill the room just right. It felt noisy but not loud. It was kind of like walking into a place, shaking off your umbrella and hanging your rain coat on the stand and cosying-up to the log fireplace in one of the comforting arms chairs with a cold condensation clad glass of Prosecco, a cold ale or a coffee – whichever makes you feel wanted – and you’d instantly feel at home. Everything about what would have been a cold dull damp basement was removed and the room left with a heart. This is why Hannah felt she could sit there on her own as it was just that sort of place.

She opened the door from upstairs and made her way down the hard steps but it seems a little different. She couldn’t hear the noise from downstairs coming up the staircase as it normally would – all muffled and reassuringly exciting and familiar. The light was a little dull and yellow creating shadows on the steps and what felt like a cool breeze gently rising up. She pushed the door open gently enough to peer into the bar but instead of being hit by the usual wall of noise the room was quiet and darkened. ‘It must be shut for some reason.’ she thought to herself.

Hannah opened the door fully and stepped in. The bar itself was lit as were some of the logos on the taps. The chairs were out, nothing was put away or stacked. She checked her silver watch, it was well past opening time. She needed the loo, ‘I’ll pop in there for a second and if the staff show up when I come out then I’ll stay.’ she thought to herself. It felt a bit strange but may be it was just one of those days and she just felt like her hour treat of sitting next to the warm fire, if they light it, was too good and rewarding to miss. She just hoped that people would turn up because people-watching was all part of the experience; unless she was meeting a friend.

She headed over to the toilet door. There was a piece of paper taped to the door over the gender sign; it was an invoice for a delivery. Across it written in blue pen it said, “Hannah, your choice awaits…” Her brow inverted quickly at the paper, both with a little worry but also intrigue. She pushed the door open and walked through the door and down the corridor. It got colder quickly. She wrapped her scarf around her neck again; it was always falling back down. At the end of the stone corridor was an opening that seemed like it was the backyard of property but ivy hung from the opening and outside were pine trees and it seemed to have started snowing.

It was beautiful and despite the strangeness she felt at home. She walked between the trees with roots sticking up from the snow that had settled and the damp muddy earth path soon turned to undisturbed snow. As the path entered a clearing in the trees she was presented with a horizon of dark snow topped mountains in the distance with a slither of orange sunset silhouetting the mountains and trees.

Something was very wrong. ‘This must be a dream’, she thought, ‘which is just typical because this means I’ve been dreaming the whole damn day and I’ve not finished my Christmas shopping, andit means the Christmas stress isn’t over and…’ she shook herself as hard as she could which is what she did whenever she was in a dream she didn’t like that she had become lucid to – usually nightmares. It didn’t work. Something else was also different. She looked down and realised she was wearing her favourite skirt and top, with a jacket thankfully, because it was snow-cold despite the stillness that had fallen in the air. The only thing that was the same was her scarf, and that wasn’t particularly male or female, but all her male clothes were no more.

She looked around at the amazing scenery. The glow from the horizon just seemed so warm and although the wax was close to the bottom of the candle that was the sky she felt the sunset would last forever. She looked at her clothes again and just thought for a moment that it felt so right and that she should have been shopping in these clothesfor herselfrather than her appearance for other people she didn’t think would accept her, but the reality was it was just her own insecurity she was worried about.

May be it would be easier if she just stayed in this place forever. It was so serene and she just felt she could be herself. But in that moment the serenity of silence became just a little lonely as well. As much as she liked this place, lovedthis place, there were no people or animals and nothing interacts like a pine tree.

Why couldn’t everyday life feel this way. Clothes weren’t really thatimportant but it was validating for every time she felt that way. It was no good. She knew she would have to go back. If she did, she thought, at least it would give her some thinking time as to what to do. It’s not like she had to make a decision there and then and despite it’s bizarreness she knew that place would probably still be there. With the height of the mountains it had probably been there for years and would remain for a very long time, if not forever.

Hannah turned to the entrance back to the bar. A small round wooden table that didn’t even reach her knees, just like one she’d seen at the market stall, stood in front of her and on it a single mince pie sat on top of a small piece of paper. She picked up the mince pie which was hot to the touch. On the paper it said, “Please pay at the bar.” This was just insane.

She dashed through the corridor and opened the door to the bar and was hit by a thick fog of noise, people drinking and chatting, smiles and laughing. She headed to the bar, standing up on the brass pipework that ran along the foot of the bar for extra height and held the mince pie up to the barman that met her with a smile and a nod. She briefly looked down and noticed she was in her old t-shirt complete with dull stain of spicy sauce and trousers, but she still had on a pair of boots that had appeared in the forest. “Eat up.” said the barman, “You have all the time in the world.”

Merry Christmas.

Until next time,

Hannah x

What Would’ve

I sat looking out of the cafe window. Shoppers darting back and forth much like the sheets of rain wafting across in the strong gusts of wind destroying any use of an umbrella and leaving those forced to Christmas shop with wet legs and soggy socks. I contemplated where I was, not just sat in a warm cafe over a hot chocolate, but the decisions I’d made of the years that took my life on this path to where I am now.

It’s so easy to think what might have been if I’d made some decisions sooner in my life. May be sort the whole gender thingwhen I was eighteen and probably had been much more on my way in my early twenties, I think we all think that way at some point, but what if I had done nothing. Nothing at all. No telling certain people about my gender identity. Not experiencing and expressing myself around others. The list would go on.

I suppose if I hadn’t told Maddie well over a decade ago we’d still be together. We’d have naturally got engaged and married. Another celebration for both families to attend that didn’t happen. An expensive well-cut suit that would have fitted extremely well butjust didn’t fit. Some time later the natural urge to have children would have taken over us and my internal guilt would have become a plaster too super-glued to my skin to pull off. That plaster would be stuck for life and I would have been eternally trapped with my gender identity on my own.

I think back to how hard it was to tell Maddie all those years ago and even harder for both of us, emotionally, that it eventually broke our relationship but I also think how terrible it would have been keeping a secret like this in a relationship and even a marriage. Some people manage it, some even feel no guilt and some feel the guilt but the problem is just a little greater than the guilt.

I wouldn’t be wearing some of the things today, that make me – me, without that decision way back then. But even more importantly I wouldn’t be socialising with people in quite the same way I am now. The thing is, there really was no right or wrong decision. Both directions in my life would have been painful in some respect. It is what it is, it happened how it happened and I wouldn’t have thought in a million years I’d be where I am.

What ‘would’ve’ didn’t happen though and the pain of that decision has long since faded. Things are good. I still have my health as my Nan would have once said. I still keep in touch with Maddie and we remain close. She was able to move on with her life. I have been able to work through who I am and my gender and getting comfortable with that in small portions.

While there is some time for self acceptance of the feminine parts of me that I previously would have felt guilty and embarrassed of, there is also acceptance of the masculine that in itself can feel like self defeating traits that really can, in their own twisted way, be validating as female – the strong woman, the inspirational woman, the active woman and confident woman. Being female doesn’t have to be all pink.

In finding my own acceptance of both sides of the gender coin I have found validation. It wasn’t a ‘would’ve’ or even ‘should’ve’, I didand that was the outcome. Finding which parts of me were genuine and allowing the rest to fall to the wayside. I guess much of this comes with age and maturity as much as it comes from self discovery. With maturity comes thinking of ones self more than what others might be thinking.

My cup was near empty, just a concentrated milky mud of chocolate and it’s sugars that I finished, grabbed my coat and ‘hooded-up’ dashing out into the rain and headed back to work. The paving stones shining gloss and that game of chance of whether the next paving stone would tilt and eject a clump of rain water from underneath carefully targeted at seeping through my shoes and into my socks of the afternoon. A twisted umbrella sticking out of a city street bin – a victim of the winter Christmas eve-week wind. The only thing that I ‘should’ve’ that day is take a spare pair of socks to work.

Until next time,

Hannah x

November Christmas

Long sticks of coal glowed in a bundle with colours from white ash to deep infrared sat under the grate with heat I could feel on my face all the way from the counter. German sausages lined up in their tens and coming off the rack and slotting into long bread buns as fast as they were hitting the grate raw. The cold air around me accentuated the warmth on my skin and added to that feeling that it was November-Christmas; that subtle time where Christmas is hinted at with market stalls selling wooden sculptures, berry gins and lanterns but without the crayon thickness of Christmas tunes, mostly from the eighties, in December roaring from department stores full of the hard sell.

With guests visiting for the weekend I spent at least two hours catching up on my vacuuming, dusting and frantically washing work clothes, includethose gender-thing trousersfor the week after before they arrived for the weekend. I’ve still yet to understand how Garlic paper finds it’s way to the bedroom floor, let alone the front hallway or living room. May be one for the New Year Resolution, ‘check floor for garlic skin after cooking.’

It was a far away scene from the working week stuck on crowded trains. It’s hard enough being hot from a rainy walk to the station but, if I’m lucky to get on the train, it’s a place of people pressed against the doors and a line filling the aisles end to end. Cattle shipped to work and back each day. When it’s like that a thought passed briefly, that moment when everyone is finally jammed on this already late train and the doors close and I wait for that little bit of silence before the engines start and I would shout, “tickets please!” Somehow I don’t think it would go down well at seven something in the morning. I suspect I would be lynched from the nearest luggage rack if anyone was able to move more than a spare arm across the chest.

I kind of enjoyed the return to commuting. I felt like an observer. As if it was a temporary thing that I wanted to see how the commuterarti lived. Like Jarvis sang, ‘I want to live like common people.’ except I wanted to travel like the working middle classes. But with the crowding so bad it was hard to people-watch like I might in a cafe over a hot chocolate topped with cream. Looking how people felt in the morning by the look on their faces and how people dressed for work in the winter, especially with Christmas coming up. In fact what I did see of those morning faces they, at least, didn’t look too bad, certainly not like those on the Tube in London. There’s nothing more winter-certain than a patterned scarf and dark coats or long dark hair over a warm red coat.

I can’t help myself looking at other women’s shoes and thinking, ‘I wonder if I could get away with wearing those’ or a pair of trousers and wondering if that pattern and colour would be my next purchase for work. It may take longer to get to work by public transport and, my god, is it more expensive than driving, but there are some times when people-watching is as much entertaining as it is comparing and looking for ideas and lifestyles.

I pulled my phone briefly from my pocket to check the usual cycle of email, text, Instagram and what have you, one day last week and then I realised – I was missing out on the scenery going by and just life. I sit in front of a screen most of the day and have plenty of other times to check my phone. I put it away and glanced around. It was difficult to find anyone that wasn’t glued to a small screen. Watching some video, listening to music or endlessly scrolling through Facebook. I thought for a moment, ‘Is that what it looks like from the outside? Twenty minutes fixated on that little ice white rectangle of light.’ I felt privileged to have realised that sometimes it’s good to put it away. For some, I guess, it’s to keep themselves shielded from the depressing obscurity of monotonous late and cancelled transport.

It was the weekend though and when my guest, Maddie, arrived – Maddie, my ex-who-knows-from-a-decade-or-so-ago – I felt all my stresses fall away. A weekend of hints of Christmas in the air, a visit to a National Trust manor house and coffee in the cafe allowing time to just float away. It’s at times like that the gender-thingjust kind of takes a backseat and I just am. That is, I’m not worrying about it or thinking about next steps and stuff like that.

You know, I think it’s another one of those moving on a stepkind of things, where if I mull over some of the advances I’ve made in the last year or so in who I am and how I present myself and where in the past I would have been a bag of nerves about it – I now just sort of smile to myself how good I feel about it. It’s slow progress but it’s my pace and in my own time and that’s what matters.

I think my heart would have stopped at the very thought of say, wearing my running clothes at my parents after one of the running events, yet a few weeks ago I was sat across the table in a cafe, my three quarter length running trousers, from my Mum over a coffee and having one of our chats. Just another little more at a time.

Until next time,

Hannah x

Above It All

Traffic passed along the carriage way slowly but at least moving. I stood on the side of the road, keeping warmed up, waiting to cross. The sun long gone with the winter sunset times and headlights beaming in the cold air of the early evening. I started running again through a break in the traffic and headed down the old quiet road between the fields and towards the small village on the hill. The road soon became devoid of street lamps only a patch in front lit by my mobile phone. Flashing lights on my trainers lighting the tarmac behind and warning unlikely drivers on this near dead road of my presence. A brief patch of light approached from a lone street lamp along side the cemetery beaming through the old iron black fence and then back into darkness for a short while until I reached the well lit road at the bottom of the hill that snaked upwards into the old village.

At the junction at the bottom, which was surprisingly busy with modern cars commuting home, stood a boarded up building, an old workshop of some sort and next to it a tiny cottage with painted boarded up windows. Not the usual chocolate box large cottage that serves as a farm house or a typical English thatched roof cottage from an oil painting but a small Welsh shoe box cottage with dark black Welsh slate in the shadows and quarried stone work. It looked just a little too unkempt to be saved but too old and frail for anyone to pull it down guilt-free. It felt like an introduction to the little village on the hill where the road climbed steeply enough for me to take a breather from my run.

I stopped half way up for a moment and looked across the land that fell away to smaller flatter countryside that stretched ten or so miles to the sea. The difference running on a dry winters evening was the view of darkness and the lands bumps, dips and woodlands only suggested by the pins of lights. It started just at the bottom of the side of the hill, a small town crowded with white lights and hints of colour from branded shops. The lights then spread like arteries into the darkness with pairs of lamps flowing towards the far reaches of darkness carrying people home.

I stood their in my running tights thinking, ‘I think it’s about time, given it’s winter and all that, I should get some full length ones.’ It wasn’t cold enough to worry about it that-night but I knew colder nights were probably coming and thinking this way instead of taking a stiff upper lip attitude to making dowas a sign of the new job I had started and having money again.

It wasn’t the only thing that the new job had created. I was now wearing to work size 12 trousers rather than 32. Inches were now a dress size for trousers and while I’d always wanted to try them and take that part of me to the working day and work place I wasn’t sure how I would feel about it. Like I had said before, start as I mean to go on, and I did just that on day one and things just felt right. They may be black but it made me feel like the day was in colour rather than grey scaled and it wasn’t that hard. I’ve spend so long wearing skinny jeans and running gear in ladies styles during my free time that it just felt like another day – without the saddening effect of wearing dull same as the next pairof mens trousers.

It started a few weeks ago in the run up to starting my new job. I flicked through rails of trousers both mens and ladies and I felt torn. Was I kidding myself being able to bring that part of me to my work life. In one shop I found a pair I liked. They felt like a good start, a basic pair of nice black trousers that would be good for an office job – but they didn’t have my size. I desperately tried the next size up in the changing rooms in the hope that their sizing was different, but they weren’t. I looked through the mens trousers but that feeling of being their before, the style, the colour, that straightness. Don’t get me wrong, these trousers look fine, just on other people. I felt, well, bored by them.

A few days later with time running short towards my start day, and while looking for those bootsin the city, I visited another branch of that store where I found those trousers I liked – and there they were, in my size, reasonably priced, and they fitted. I still felt a little on edge about whether to get them. I hadn’t started work yet and while money was tight and a pay day would of course come along, I still hadn’t started this new work and until it was in my hands it didn’t feel real. I really needed to know that I wanted them and that I wouldn’t end up putting them in the cupboard and not wearing them. But I bought them. I still wasn’t sure but something inside just said do it.

I feel so much better about myself now, a few weeks later, wearing them and retiring the remaining work trousers that had hung around, with a half life of several years, since my last office job over a year ago. Now that I realise how much better it makes me feel about myself I feel I’ll be getting more and may be this will make me feel good about the working day; after all we spend so many hours of our week in work.

I set off again up the hill running around the road curving into the village into a narrow road between tall old houses overshadowing the pedestrian walkway that narrowed even more so. I took a lane away from the road, my ankles taking the strain of the uneven cobble stones and spartan lane lamps that peppered the floor with a spill of light into darkened walls that bordered the gardens. I was soon clear of the old houses and cottages that clung to the side of the land, many of which had been there long before the last century, the path lead through a cattle gate under a tree and out onto the wild tough grass that took the brunt of the climate that came from the sea hitting the Welsh countryside.

I may have not seen the sun set but the darkened view with the moon cutting through what little cloud glowed orange around it was as inspiring as the oxygen that had bought me a couple of miles. I stood there for ages. I had imagined what I wanted at the destination of my run and it didn’t disappoint. Seeing people rushing around in their cars and the last of the workers in the shops below having to work on into the evening. It was serene being above it all. It was energising evening after a tiring day. I hoped it was a sign of things to continue. To take an opportunity when the mood took me and to feel good about it. All I had to do now was run back.

Until next time.

Hannah x

A Thousand Feet, Ten Miles Apart

‘Round laces –’ I sighed to myself, ‘try them anyway.’ I pulled on those leather boots, I say leather but they weren’t, I searched the entire boot but the only label said ‘Made in China’ and ‘Fabriqué en Chine’ and several other languages but it was clear that it was completely unclearwhat they were made of – just not leather. It was long gone lunch time and I was hungry and just a little tired. Hungry and tired made me irritated that getting new boots for a new job was just so frustrating.

Leant over on a low stool in a middle of a department store amongst shelves of black mass manufactured blobs made to look like a shoe but failing on most of the specification. I glanced up as I struggled to push my foot in as another shopper squeezed past me all looking to over-spend on products with a race to the bottom on price with quality following just shy behind. This particular pair I struggled with because those laces had been annoyingly laced in that, black and forth with one end while the other just lazily strung from the bottom eye to the top one diagonally; I think these are the same people who put the loo roll on with the end directed to the wall.

I spotted a zipper on the side, ‘thank god, now it makes sense, a zipper would make it a lot easier and it makes them a little more stylish’ I thought. I tried to pull the zipper down the side of the boot but it felt jammed. ‘Damn it. I just can’t get a break with these boots, the zip is already jammed and I’ve not even taken them to the counter.’ I looked inside on the back of the zip to look why the zipper was jammed and it was fairly obvious, the top of the zipper was surrounded by a box of stitching – a fake zipper. But hold on, if you’re going to go to the trouble, as a manufacturer, of fitting a zip, why actually stitch it up and stop it working? I mean no money saved. By fake I mean it was non functional but the zip itself was real. It was there.

I needed these boots badly though and persevered. It would be hard enough to find ladies boots, being a size just one above most ranges, but these were mens boots; the cutest I could find at least in a generic gender way. Pulled the laces out and eventually slid my foot in. These did it just the same as the several boots from several other shops had done and just dug into the back of my heel again. Annoyed I slotted the boots on the self with a clunk in defeat and moved to another shop.

If they had red stitching that made them look different, they were too narrow. If they looked from the outset they would be just right, they didn’t have my size. I wasn’t winning. I decided on one last shop, which wasn’t much of a choice because I had exhausted every shoe shop and department store in the city and my head was spinning not from lack of choice but a void of food.

I trailed along the shelf looking at the styles that seemed to be much like the other shops but with just a little changed to allow them to sell pretty much the same thing but at their own price off a dice roll. I found a pair of boots. They were cute. I could get on with these. The front weren’t too long and the shape and colours… I slipped it on – and there is was, the back again pushing into my heel. I think I literally shoved the mystery material in the shape of a boot onto the shelve determined to head straight to the car and telling myself ‘there are other days between now and Monday to find boots.’ The reality was that I was unlikely to go to the shops again for a fruitless search for my feet. May be everyone else just had different shaped feet to me. It was pointless to buy boots that would be more uncomfortable than the mildly uncomfortable boots I already have.

I suppose the thing with starting a new job is that I was in two minds on what I would wear. ‘Start as you mean to go on’ is what some say and I think starting wearing something that’s a little more for the feminine side is a whole lot easier than wearing some standard shirt, trousers and plain old masculine shoes office expectation and at a later date start wearing something that makes people question what’s going on.

At home, finishing off some long overdue lunch and with the kettle on along with my cute boots I already had, walking around the kitchen I realised that I should just use what I have for now. The boots I already had were that start as a meant to go onas were the work trousers I bought. It didn’t matter what the end goal was once I had worked there for a few months, all that mattered was being happy and work was just a small slice of a nice chocolate cake.

It had only been a day ago that I was in a place that was devoid of silly stressed about how my feet would be protected from the elements and how my feet would look to others. Stressed about fit, price and being part of the retail therapy jungle.

The hill was hard going. The road had been hard going but riding up this hill was even harder. The further I went the steeper it seemed to get. A cold day but the few miles to get there in my sweater had made me hot. The grass was short and hardy set high up, dotted with sheep poo and kept by the sheep themselves nibbling all day. For every few feet I climbed on my bike the view became more and more spectacular and my legs deciding enough for now. I walked the last stretch of the high mound that stood at the top of the mountain pushing my bike by the handle bars with the bell tinging over the odd small bump in the ground. As I reached the top the wind from the north blew a chill over my exposed legs below my three quarter length trousers. It bit hard.

The sky felt closer with wispy clouds blending grey into the cold autumn blue to the horizon connecting to the sea in the distance. I felt like if I raised my arms as high as I could I would be able to drag my fingers through the clouds and leave trails for people to see miles around. Every direction had a view that dug deep into the soul and created temporary amnesia for any problems I had. Green hills to the north dipping into each other with little villages dotted in the gaps and to the west a forest with a carpet of leaves still hanging on in yellows, browns and deep autumn reds.

I had planned to stay there until sunset and watch the world change through light alone but the breeze had taken at least ten degrees off the temperature. It was unforgiving like much of the world but what was important is that once again, at that moment I felt like I was in another place both physically and culturally and yet just a few miles from home silly little problems like whether a pair of boots would raise questions in a new job or the type of trousers I would wear, it was just work, just clothes, the important bit is just being me and I had already proved to myself when it comes to running on the weekend with other runners that people like people for who they are mostly; work should be the same.

When I think about the difference of deciding what I want to wear to being on the top of a mountain surrounded by natural beauty then it’s just a case of reordering priorities. What is important. What makes me comfortable and when to push myself a little out of my comfort zone whether it’s deciding to wearing something new or climbing upwards on a mountain bike.

Until next time.

Hannah x

At Least For Now

The rain beat against my face. It wasn’t hard or particularly soaking me but September had started to make my fingers so cold they felt like clay only moving slowly. My knees with a little pain and the cold contracting my leg muscles that I felt I just had no energy to run. Being amongst other runners on a rainy Saturday morning just felt better than staying in bed, at least the alarm clock had woken me from a particularly disturbing dream on the border of a nightmare that had got the better of the quality of my sleep; socialising with other runners, despite the cold, was just where I wanted to be.

It was only twenty or so minutes before that I had been standing at the hand drier in the cafe toilets trying to dry my hands in a time that would mean the would be dry by at least lunch time by rubbing them in all sorts of random motions which appeared to just spread the water around my hands and between my fingers. The door opened and a man stood there, looked briefly at me standing their at the dryer, three quarter length running capris and a light coloured hoodie pull-over with my hair in a pony tail, “Sorry – I… must have the wrong…” he said while turning to the gender sign on the toilet door and then seemed frozen on the spot while his logic conflicted with his eyes and remained paralysed as to whether leave or not.

‘It’s happened again.’ I thought at that moment, ‘Oh, let’s make it easy for him.’ The single cubical within the toilet was locked, “It’s locked, I think someone is in there.”
“Oh, thanks.” he said in a sort of way that seemed to make him think, ‘that should make sense so it probably does.’ I decided damp hands were better than wet hands and left making it much easier for him to enter without feeling some kind of worry about whether he really was going into the right toilet.

From time to time it will happen and usually when that door opens I at least try to stand side on rather than the back of my head which just shows long hair which feels like it might be an even worse way of making someone feel awkward or feeling they’ve come into the wrong toilet – but what I have really noticed is it’s happening more often.

Why when in recent years, as I age, I feel that I’m loosing my feminine traits, apart from my hair, and probably feel I don’t come across as female so often that this is happening more? It’s simple I suppose. As I’ve become a little more confident I’m wearing the things I want to wear and as I’ve become more comfortable with that then that confidence shows outwardly. They do say that people who want to appear as the opposite of their ‘birth gender’ fare better when they take an attitude of just getting on with things. I think that is what’s happened here and did it creep up on me how often.

I tried taking in the big breaths I needed to try and get my legs working against the cold but for some reason, today, they just didn’t want to work that hard but still the bushes passed me by as did the tarmac path and I passed runners who’d started way to fast and faster runners passed me as usual and I was still glad to be there. It is one of the few things I have in my life right now.

When I compare to what I had before I told my girl friend all those years ago I guess things are just different. It’s a hard comparison because I am now older. Nearly twenty years older since I met Maddie. It was two years into our relationship when I told her and at the time, while one of the most difficult things I’ve ever said, it was also a huge unloading for me but also a big switch in the direction of our futures and a terrible weight for Maddie to take on. We may have stayed together several years more but the inevitable happened.

History has happened and what we have both done since then is play our lives out in a way that wasn’t as we’d planned; she married, I didn’t. Sometimes I can think ‘what if’ but I rarely think about it now because it’s so far on that may be things could have been worse from some terrible fate.

Despite this it is hard not to feel some guilt about not being completely the person who Maddie thought I was and our mapped out future was suddenly broken. There are times I feel like I was the Vince Pinner to Penny Warrender, while I didn’t stand Maddie up at the altar, telling her that I had gender problems was as good as not turning up to the church in its impact. Over a decade on though, as our lives took their own directions and that split of our relationship and how we have moved onI find myself feeling like Emily in Hampstead. Stuck amongst the memories decaying around me and not replacing them quick enough with new warm meaningful days and people.

I sprinted the last few yards with anything I could find and the standing water flicking up off my trainers up my uncovered calves. As I paced through the finish line and stumbled to a halt, bending over trying to catch my breath and hoping not to have to catch volumes of sick, I realised that at least I had people like these in my life. I have my friends, I have my close friends, and I have my running friends. May be it’s enough, at least for now.

The Longest Deepest Breath

I had cut the grass the day before all to perfect height and it had recovered from the harsh summer that had left it that sandy white colour of death to a fresh green that would give most golf greens a challenge in saturation with a luscious feel under on the soles of the feet. The sun had come out bright and strong enough to feel the burn and enough to look for that half used bottle of factor twenty that I thought might have been on the shelf until next year. Summer had returned and it was still here despite the over due calendar turn for September. Even the air was warm and gone was that artic cutting edge from the north last week.

I laid out the blankets on the grass. I could actually walk bare foot on the spring fresh grass that would have spiked me on every step just a few weeks ago in it’s hay stiffness. A couple of cushions scattered, a hot cup of tea and a book. I stopped reading for a moment. It seems mad that just a week ago my life was in a totally different direction. Work consisted of excitement but intermittent and barely paid. The gender clinic was just a few weeks away of another appointment, the third of which I would have nothing to offer with progression and a cancellation on it’s way to them. My running achievements were ever upward but more importantly my direction had felt lost. I just didn’t seem to be able to put together some cohesive positive forward movement that felt like I had a future and one that I was looking forward to. It’d been lost.

Now I’m contemplating starting a full-time office job with a stable future and old ground that I have tread so many times over the last two decades; I am just a little conflicted. I had applied for the job out of desperation. Partly to fulfil my obligation to the job centre but also to myself and my family – financially and, I suppose, emotionally; worry. The thing is even though I have been working the shifts are few and far between, underpaid and very antisocial hours and I find my bank balance slowly topping up over the weeks only for a huge chunk sliced away at the end of the month on rent. Slowly my money was disappearing and I didn’t want to be draining on other people.

It had been the start of a new week and that morning I had an interview. Back in my old new media industry with the only thing on my mind was that it would pay the bills at least. I pulled the shirt off the hangar and slid on a pair of trousers I’d probably not worn in two years or more. I sorted through the ties and looked at what would suit the shirt and whether it was soft enough to soften out as much trace of masculinity as I could. I felt my face drain of happiness as I saw some masculinity return.

If it wasn’t for my hair straighteners that created a beautiful straight and shiny ponytail from my long hair and the cute pair of chelsea boots I was wearing I think I would have held onto that disappointing feeling of regression for the rest of the day. Those cold air days of the last week had also meant I wore a warm smart coat and although it may have, to a little extent, added to the tie and shirt morning,I did at least feel smart walking through the city on my way to the interview. People look at you differently when you’re dressed smart and while it’s not a favourite past time of mine, give me some cropped running capris and a yoga top anytime, it made me feel a little worthy – of something.

I imagined for a moment how smart would translate to feminine clothing for work or an interview. Somethings just aren’t as different as I would imagine. Trousers that are just more curved or shaped nicely rather than hang from waist with minor pleats to make them seem interesting in a masculine way. Shirt becomes a woman’s shirt or blouse which is a little more fitted. I just had to put that thought aside for today though. Go to the interview, for which I studied solidly to get back up to speed, and think about the fact that within an hour or two I’ll be on my way home and whether or not they offer me the job the control of my fate, ultimately, is in my hands.

It seemed strange after the interview. I felt like they wouldn’t hire me because I felt they were probably reading my lack-lustre by the tonne and I wasn’t sure if they were really into it themselves. I was just glad to be on my way home and ditch the interview attire.

It was one of those decision moments that had hit me that day. If I’m offered this job what do I do? Do I continue with my current job barely supporting me but find a way through while trying to find that illusive something elsethat I’d rather be doing and really chase it, or do I take this job and at least have money to buy new jeans when I need them, feed myself properly and have petrol for the car to go to places I can’t afford to go to right now? At first it seemed obvious that I should take a better paying job and think about that something elsemove while I’m there. Then I thought about it again. I’d been here before – this situation. I’d taken a safe office job in the past and ended up in the same place again, feeling dulled by the lack of instant excitement.

Several days passed and an answer came. An e-mail pinged on my mobile phone while I was out at an evening event with my best friends. “We’d like to offer you the job. Please get in touch if you would like us to send you a formal offer.”

Those thoughts of which direction I should take came rushing back. I knew I had around twelve hours to respond before it became impolite and I had to make a solid decision.

I remembered how I felt when I walked into that office for the interview. I could feel the policies and procedures of the terms of employment contract oozing out of the walls and the veneered perfunctory desks. It was no good. The drink had been flowing that evening and I couldn’t make a rational decision, intoxicated, about my future that could be anything from six months to six years of my life. If I’m intoxicated enough to be doing a pros and cons list when I got home that evening then making a sound decision that moment would be a bad idea. I would literally sleep on it.

In the morning my head had cleared. There was a rational inspired mind-set that had returned over breakfast and tea. ‘All I needed to do was accept the job. Wait for the offer to come in. If it’s not right I’m not tied to it.’ I thought to myself.

As much as I hate changing my mind and letting people down, not doing this in the past had not served me. I had to play this for me as much as I could. Over the coming hours I felt good about the decision. I wasn’t just doing this for me I was doing it for people around me who worry given how close I have been sailing to the financial wind.

It felt hard to think I would have to give up the other job where no two shifts would ever feel the same. The famous people I had seen and some of the crazy stories I had heard. I was also giving up having to cover my feet in plasters to protect from all the blisters of walking in those work-boots and the days of getting home at six in the morning too wired to sleep. It suddenly didn’t seem so bad and may be this new job, much like the old one, would get me by.

❤ –

What if I ended up staying. How would I feel about the gender thingat this office job. Could I go through a change of gender there and how would I feel about it? I think I’ve always asked myself that question whichever job I’ve started. I usually start by thinking, ‘Yeah, no problem, I reckon I could do it.’ and then, as the months pass by and I get to know people and they know me, some kind of identity protection kicks in and I feel nervous about the idea.

The difference these days though is that I now remind myself that whenever, if I do§, it won’t matter where or who sees the change, because it has to happen somewhere. May be that’s part of the plan I should have, rather than decide when is best to transition based on how confident I feel at that place, decide where I want to be when it happens and find that place when the time comes and do it there. That’s probably not a great way to decide on a new career but may be the whole thing will come together that way.

I laid my head back on the cushions and spread out on the blankets. The sun still shining hot but felt like it was in it’s last throws of the day now that early evening was closing in. I drew a long breath. It felt like the longest deepest breath I’d had for months. I could almost feel the oxygen racing down my veins in drenched blood and my stomach relaxing as if it had been tense since last year.

As the light started to fade I decided to light the chiminea. That foraged wood that I had been hanging on to so long burnt clean with flames that danced captivatingly. The breeze howled inside the chiminea intermittently as it drew over the fire and upwards feeding the flames. May be I hadn’t left things standing too long after all.

Until next time,

Hannah x

Shelter For Woodlice

The wood sat in a pile on the decking like it had for the last year since I had foraged it. Thin twigs for kindling, some thin branches to get things going and a few big logs for the duration. In the darkness they sat there getting dampened by the fine pouring relentless rain unused when all I could think of was the popping and crackling of the warm reds and yellows of the flames in the chimenea that would have been nice for a Saturday night.

Instead I had kept the wood there in a nice pile saving it for the right night but of course all I had done is left it there for a year providing a shelter for woodlice and missing every opportunity to actually sit in front of the fire because ‘just in case I used it all up.’ Fuel, like opportunity in life, is there to be used and like a film run end to end. Had I left myself on the decking for the last year?

I thought about it for a moment. Did it really compare to allowing some wood to rot on the decking and missing out on the warmth. Should I have done some more about the gender thinglast year. Given it much more priority. There again there was something warming about leaving the wood on the decking. I had, at least, provided a temporary roof for the woodlice between the hot days and the wet. I may have not gone as far as I’d have liked but in retrospect I’m out running with a group of people partly the way I want and not giving a damn and to some extent around my family too. Some things really can’t be rushed. The last thing I want to do is over cook this gendercake and end up with little ingredients left to try again.

May be some wood is meant to be left; not to rot but to mature. The time being right for one person is different for the next. Burning fast and bright isn’t for everyone and may be that’s what will happen in the end anyway but things tend to play out as they should.

I find myself in August writing another appointment cancellation letter to the GIC in London. I kind of started looking for signs that I shouldn’t be moving another appointment, which will be my third, I mean even the ink in the printer started running out when I tried to print it. I thought may be that was a sign, no ink, no letter, no cancellation. I looked for reasons to not cancel it, may be I should get up there, find the money some how and at least make some progress but that triggered some thoughts above the financial.

I realised that I wasn’t ready to go back. What sort of progress would I make with another appointment in my current situation. There was little point really. Appointments really aren’t the be-all-end-all. Certainly not at the GIC anyway. I would exclude counselling and therapy from that but the GIC are to some extent gate keepers, as much as I hate to say that, because they can and do help people but I think that help is limited. When I last went one question thrown at me was, “So what do you want from us?” I guess it’s a valid question, with what seems an glaringly obvious answer, but it’s just a question to see where on the check list of things they can do for meI am and then tell me what I need to do next to get there. The thing is – I know what’s on that check list, I know where I am and there isn’t much point in trying to check any more boxes until I do some more box checking of my own at home.

So it’s a case of refilling the ink cartridge and letting someone else take my spot who is ready to check another box. In the mean time I still have much that will distract me from doing anything towards any more box checking like finding a better paying job without dreading the thought of being underwhelmed by being in a boring office doing dry dull things in a professional manor.

It’s that old catch twenty two of being too worried about money to do much else at the moment and once thats no longer a worry being too busy and tired after work to do something towards a different career. Either that or may be I just don’t try hard enough.

I guess I’m at a big junction in my life much like when I turned thirty, which seems a life time ago, but rather than just moving up a notch in a career I now find myself at a junction between later youth and early maturity with options open to me but finding it hard to pin down what I want to do or those things that I know I’d like to do but not having the confidence to think I could be good at it. I may be talking about my career or occupation but may be it applies to my gender too.

So. If you happen to get a call from the GIC in London offering to bring your next appointment forward to September – raise a glass or an ice cream to your friend Hannah and her thoughts that make her take her time over these things.

Until next time.

Hannah x