Town Girl Lives in Countryside

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time.

Hannah x

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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

Emotional Twenty-Two

There it is again. Just ignore it and keep typing, “During my time at the digital agency..” Again. Go away. Rising up my face and sinuses with what feels like the side of my nose, inside my face, trying to clench onto the pressure to stop it happening. Damn it, how on earth would I manage if I had female hormones if I’m like this now. It was no good. Whatever I did I was going to well-up and for no particular reason. It was just a place my body was in either from lack of sleep or strange work patterns or may be just because.

I was sat at the dining table, the doors to the living room open which made the house feel bigger than it was but it was the silence that had made me feel like a small person in a large room alone. I had switched off the TV so I could concentrate on this job application form online and I hadn’t realised that the silence had echo’d my emotional state back to me amplified ten fold. It’s happened in the past plenty of times but I seemed yet to find a way to cope with it. Sure, I knew the one thing I shouldn’t do at times like this was go through old possessions that I want to throw away because nostalgia and the hoarding fairy would quite clearly win – outright, but that was about it.

The thing is I was filling out an online form for a job application. ‘Add Employer’ it said, and I had to fill out every single employment I’ve had over the last twenty years. It seemed to be taking forever to repeat everything from my CV into their perfect-fit boxes but as I got further down my CV in the descending order of years, remembering managers names and their positions, trying to remember addresses of the offices which they had probably departed some fifteen years ago, it started to come over me. The welling-up. It’s not particularly those places I worked that I was longing for, in fact only one, may be two I can think of I would, rose-tintedly, feel I missed, but just the times around them.

The one place I worked at fell dramatically in the dot com crash in 2002. I went out to lunch one day and came back to several people missed due to redundancy. It was cold, horrific and axe-lead. I was one of the lucky ones being freelance I was served a good warning well over a month with another renewal promised. The poor girl opposite was invited to the hotel next door for a meeting, “oh, bring your bag with you.” I never saw her again. When my time ended there were staff enthusiastically moving to another part of the office in one of those, “let’s move the desks around to refresh and rejuvenate everyone.” Sometime later the whole place was shut. It was the place that seemed to have so much promise. The place I worked with the most well known names. The place I saw police walk in the office and arrest a member of staff for stealing books. The place I saw the Twin Towers fall thatmorning while everyone watched in silence around the office cafe television.

I guess with that particular place what I felt was a missing end. When I’ve left somewhere in the past it’s been down to a new and better opportunity or because I can’t stand the politics anymore. But with that place it ended because no one could stop it. Rose-tinted indeed though. Things had become quiet in what had been a very vibrant and post-modern work-place of the noughties. I liked most people there and the politics rarely ever affected me because I wasn’t a permanent employee despite being there for two years.

The place still reminds me of having admirations of the Web Producer. I just remember how confident she appeared and important she looked. Talking to clients and then bringing that to us. It seemed an exciting role and place to be, especially as a woman, but that wouldn’t have been an aspiration I could have worked on at the time being extremely secretive about the gender thing, in a relationship that I didn’t want to loose and, well, I was a contractor, disposable, no career path – worse still lacking the confidence to do anything about it. Now I feel so much older and past that youthful optimism, an expression I recently read in a job description.

I couldn’t take it anymore. That silence was cutting into me like a knife for every emotion rush in my face. I switched on the Hifi, turned up all the knobs and found some music dangerously from the time period. It was like the loudness of the music overruled the emotion. The neighbours were out and shaking the walls just wouldn’t matter. I thought picking music from the period would either shout the emotional state away or it would make it ten times worse but get it out quicker. It did neither other than mask it; but it was something.

I think this is a little more than nostalgia for times past though. I think there is more to it. I think the emotion reflects where I am now rather than where I was. Here I am applying for an office based job, somewhere which will be fraught with structure, business ethics and dryness, though good pay and holidays, but also leaving a job where I see exciting venues and working for famous people but for very little money and zero security. When I mix that with my current gender situation I think, “What am I doing?” Doing it all over again going back to something that’s dull but respectable and ignoring what I should be doing with the gender thing. Surely by now I should be applying in my female name?

Then I also feel like I’ve been ignoring my female side. When was the last time I remember putting on a skirt, yet when not actually paying any attention to it, surely that’s the normality of living a female life? That’s the reality of it. I go running I wear my female running shorts and whatever else goes with it, it doesn’t have to be unbelievably obvious. I mean, that’s what it feels like, it feels normal and so that’s what’s making me feel like I’ve not been giving enough time to it. A catch twenty-two of feeling guilty about not giving enough of my feminine side but wanting things to be normal and genuinely natural.

When I think about it I realise that the subtle place I’m in of femininity isreality. It’s normal, but more importantly genuine and innate and may be all this emotion I’m feeling today is just a normal natural cycle that is part of that which sometimes we like to think of as a natural feminine trait. May be what I need to do is get my head into a state of what I want next. Where do I want to be not just in employment but also how I live that female side of life and how far I go. Do I stall here for a while or move on a little more. The thing is I know this is a passing emotional moment. It’ll be gone in a few hours. Tomorrow I might be on for a positive and enthusiastic high with all my goals and wishes as clear as spring water.

What I know I should do is pin up the past on the cork board of things I did in my twentiesand be happy about them. If they fall off again, pick them up, take a look, smile and pin them back up. Forcibly put a metaphorical full-stop on them so that the end of them is very clear. Move on to new things that will over-shadow the things of the past with happiness and contentment.

I went into the garden for a moment. My bare feet feeling the roughness of the concrete slabs and tufts of grass, where the cement had broken away, had grown between them over the last few days of rain. The sun was shining again, hot on my face and amongst the green weed leaves, yellowed grass and a few yellow flowers, a single white bloom of seeds of a dandelion. I know I don’t want to be readywhen it was too late. I didn’t want to have gone to seed when the other flowers were already out.

Until next time,

Hannah x

Split Second

Waves gushing against the manufactured coastal protective rocks and a breeze as constant as the passage of time blew away days of pollen from my eyes. Even though the sun was still shining bright and hard with heat the sea air had blown away as much of my soggy head as it could. It was medicinal and even though this was just a walk to the cafe to get some ‘work’ done on the laptop, I really felt like staying and sitting on this rock all day just watching the white sea foam wash the rocks and the cormorantsdive into the sea and pull out lunch in a twentieth of the time it would take one of the fishermen on the harbour wall.

I’d brought my own salad lunch of mixed leaves in a box with Spanish omelette quarter on top, ham and a drizzle of olive oil. I found a spot, sat and eat my lunch with the drama of the sea in front. It felt good that I could do this and I imagined how I would do this sort of thing if I lived along the Mediterranean, lunch watching the sea and running in the morning along the coast. If I would do that if I was there then why don’t I do that here?

We’ve been truly and sort ofseasonally lucky with our heat wave early summer in the UK these last few weeks and I’ve been easily duped into feeling I can enjoy this sort of moment whenever I want. The problem, I am expecting, is that in a week or so we’ll have a few rainy days and the temperature will drop and things will feel just a little cooler and greyer. I’m not saying there aren’t times where I can sit in the back doorway of the house or in a cafe and watch and listen to the rain – but those times I want to do that are fewer than the days of blue skies and warmth. Blue is the natural anti-depressant, grey is the influencer and fuel of deeper thoughts.

The other part of the illusion is that my current ad-hoc work schedule leaves me with a lot of time during day-light hours where I can don’t have the rush to get ready for a daily commute let alone time to fit in a morning run along the sea thats half an hour away. In fact without some serious motivation I’m unlikely to be able to go wake, run locally, shower, commute, work. The temporary job, as defined by me, is just that; it’s a means to an end and the end will come soon as I mustmove on to survive financially. If and when the regular nine to five thirty returns then time in the morning to take in sea air before a days work will vanish; unless I relocate to the expensive sea-side locations and become financially and spatially less well-off.

Once I had finished my salad lunch and a few extra minutes of taking in just how amazing the sea was at reviving me I continued onwards to the cafe. With a free voucher for a latte I was soon on a financially frugal office consisting of a round metal table, a cigarette ash tray with an ash dune sprinkled with stubbed cigarette ends that I deployed with grace to a vacant table. Coffee cup down with a metallic clang and a near full laptop battery I worked on my own project happily and willingly. Whether the sea moment had given me fresh motivational head or that I was just more free of pollen near the water I don’t know – but it worked.

Battling these little things that bother me, like finding ways to take time out and destress before the stress starts, seems to be working. Free of my injury at the start of the year I am still running and that Saturday running event is something I feel I live for, both the elation and the friendly chat from others who are also experiencing the same endorphin rush whether they are at the back of the run or one of the insane people who practically sprintthe whole five kilometres.

I grabbed a photo someone had taken of me during the run. It had been so hot, even at that time of the morning, and my skin was glossy wet so much so that you could probably measure it in millimetres. I posted it to Instagram where I share like-minded thoughts with other runners from all around the world. Within a minute I had a few random ‘likes’ from other runners and then from a women’s 5K running training group out in Hong Kong. I smiled to myself for a moment. It was a ‘like’ from a group hoping to entice another runner along but they had mistaken my photo, which I suppose is kind of androgynous.

The thing was I thought the misgendered but correct genderedscenario didn’t amuse or validate me anymore but I suppose the truth of it is, it still does. What’s more validating than the narcissistic posting of my photos on social media and getting misgendered but correct gendered; it hadn’t been the first time. I suppose it’s all down to as I progress with the gender thingthat the validation need dissipates as we feel more genuine internally and more accepted by others. It’s just there will be times where I still need a little validation from time to time; who doesn’t, gender identity or not.

At the end of the run someone approached me with a bright smile, “Hiya, how are you doing, how did you do?” A friend of a friend that I had met once several weeks before. As we chatted in the shade to avoid any further heat and sweat still dripping from our arms I couldn’t help notice that every few words he would flicker a glance at my legs. It was as if he was fighting between looking and not looking. My legs without hair with my now summer running shorts. I guess with those who don’t know about the gender thingand are who are only aware of my birth gender there is an idle curiosity to what is going on – even if just for a split second.

Until next time.

Hannah x

Too Settled

It was just a film where the protagonist walked out onto the balcony of his luxury old building apartment in the morning with a vista and vibrance of the city. So busy and full of promise you could taste the coffee in the air. It’s been ten or fifteen years since I lived in an apartment and suddenly it had hit me that I might just be settled – too settled. I’ve thought recently how I couldn’t imagine going back to the city and an apartment with it’s space seemingly reduced by clothes drying on a stand, noises from above below and the sides and it’s restrictions of strictly no pianos. This film though had made me question, at least for a short moment, had I settled too much.

Of course when I look at that scene it’s the excitement of a living city I miss rather than the abode. The difference is instead of being able to walk out onto a balcony in the evening and soak up the noise of the city and people almost always around, in the house I can lay on the decking with the darkness of the countryside and watch the stars in full panoramic view. The city where sparrow hawks and buzzards are replaced by seagulls and discarded hamburgers. It seems to be yet another fork in my life where I question, just for a moment, whether I continue in one direction or switch to another, even if it’s something I’ve done before. Both are inspiring – just in different ways and are always what you make of it. Should it just be one or the other though?

I took a temporary job a few weeks ago on a whim of interest and in the hope to at least take the sting out of dwindling finances and an increasing credit card balance. Comfort decorating and packing up for international stars. I saw another world where one minute I’m arranging a dressing room for a double-platinum awarded celebrity the next I’m walking along a quiet city street back to the car wondering if that really just happened.

I had a telephone interview for a new-media job. In my financial desperation I had applied left right and centre to get back to the industry, which I had left behind last year, which would make me comfortably well-off again without the need to worry about enough money for the rent and whether I should downgrade my tinned tomatoes any further but just as he started talking acronyms and personal development I suddenly felt uneasy. I thought for a moment, ‘how on earth would I handle this.’ While he spoke a thought flashed in my head of being sat at a desk, immobile, staring at a computer screen with the murmurer of other people in an office and the clock ticking down the seven or eight hour stretch with the hour hand holding back the minute hand and the second-hand bouncing on the spot like the battery was in it’s last throws of death. It was a far distant quiet monotony away from hanging velvet drapes and moving a chesterfield leather sofa so an A-list rock star can feel comfortable for a couple of days soaked in incense drenched air. This was a real fork in the road. One big bright letter Y shouting clearly in a thick American accent, “This way or that? Wadaya want!”
“Don’t take too long though, the offer closes in two days.” my insecurity would warn.

One would pay well with security and regularity. The other paid badly and the long hours and late, chopping and changing between day and all night which would leave me drained but in the knowledge I had worked for every single penny. Why did it have to be a perfect two prong fork in the road though? Why could it not have many fingers stretching out to different opportunities and in the mean time I would do what I could to tame the bank and all it’s direct debits. Whatever my decision I don’t have to let the whole gender thing dictate what that might be.

Walking home through the city streets in the early hours of the morning after work lit by modern sharp white street lamps with young drunks in doorways clad in sequins and nylon barely able to stand with a stolen wine glass in hand. Conversations outside a bar over a thick wooden table in the night air with the lead in conversation casually holding a cigarette in one hand and adorned with a ironic beard. I realised I was missing those going-out days. Sure I socialise with people who matter to me from time to time when I can but there was something missing from my life, I don’t know if it’s mingling with people from work – after work, or those days of the people I would socialise with who also struggled with the gender thing, ‘friends of circumstance’ as I would like to think of them eventually, and even though most of them would appear to not be suffering at all and on a night out would appear confident and fun, I could tell from what they would say off-line from the night out that things were still difficult whether it be internal conflict or relationship conflict all just because of gender.

There again when I see that care-free socialising around the city I do wonder if it’s just that I’ve matured and things have moved on for me. My twenties long since gone with my thirties not too far behind. I don’t think I have any regrets from those days of socialising regularly out on the town but, may be, neither do I need to return there. May be I just see people free to socialise as who they are and that may be I still don’t quite have all that freedom yet. Then again the changes in recent years have been so subtle that may be I haven’t realised I am more me that I care to think.

I think whatever I do next I will at least have things to write about and stories to tell in the future. I need to be true to myself and hopefully have the energy and enthusiasm to sustain it. Sometimes, when I’m thinking about a decision like this, in the same way some people say “When you’re eighty years old and look back, what would you have hoped to have done with your life?” I quite like to think, with a more in the presenttense, “if I had enough money that I didn’t have to worka regular boring job, what would I do with my time.”

Until next time.

Hannah x

Twenty Past Nine

Twenty past nine I walked the length of the patio in the garden. It wasn’t summer warm yet, it was even enough to raise goose bumps on bare arms, but the sound was just that bit heavier. The sun had left the air somehow denser and the noise of Saturday evening was just that bit different. I took a sip of some mild smooth wine from an oversized glass. I noticed a twitch of curtains from one of the neighbours a few houses down, they paused with a look and then quickly shut the curtains when they realised they were spotted as if they had innocently continued to close them. What was so interesting? A person wandering around their garden with a glass of wine? Curiosity?

A solar lamp plinked on as dusk set in. It had been a day of everything and nothing. I thought about how I felt before the running this morning and after it. Before, it can be whatever confidence I have minus self doubts but after it was like some kind of enlightenment. I know I’ve experienced it before but it still amazes me even now how the rush of oxygen around my blood flow and probably endorphins seemingly make my feminine side seem indestructibly confident.

After the run I sat there sipping from my chain cafe latte cup and taking a bite from a pastry treat that, in my belief, makes me run at least a minute faster. In my running tights and hair tied up in a high ponytail thinking how normal things are, still, without a thought. Only now am I thinking about it in retrospect. Those endorphins in little over twenty minutes seem to do what a year of therapy might do much like learning a language in the country of origin can do in the space of two weeks compared to six months of a head in a teach yourself book and a CD repeating out ‘useful’ phrases.

That southerly star seemly plinked-on low in the sky as dusk turned to a dull of no return. Back again bang on time. I almost felt like raising my glass to the star in a kind of hello nod; “you again.” While I had sat at that cafe I noticed a woman, sat not so far away, take a sneaky glance at my hairless legs below my cropped running trousers. In times past I might have urgently hid my legs around a chair somehow or had got up and moved before they could focus but now it was just something I’d noticed and thought ‘Well I know what she’s looking at.’ and not even flutter my heart rate. The only thing fluttering heart rates was the coffee.

Despite everything and how far the journey has gone and confidence has been absorbed there are still doubts about the gender thing. There will probably always be doubts, no matter how small, because after all we don’t know what the root cause is, if in-fact there is one, of gender dysphoria; another phrase slowly becoming a hint of uncomfortable and unpopular. Gender Affirmation seems to be the new black and why not when the second half of it is positive all by itself. When we don’t know what the cause is then all we have to go on is our own innate core feeling. Driven by the heart rather than science or the head; of course there will be doubts.

I pulled the pattern ribbon hair tie let it slide the length of my ponytail and allowed my hair to fall for the first time since the morning. I realised what that meant. My hair relaxed and loose was like how I felt when I come to terms with the gender thing, just like those moments when rather than hiding away I let those people look. That was it. It wasn’t that I was now complete and that everything was now sorted, far from it, but I was in a place where I let myself, on most occasions, relax about it. That’s not even to say it doesn’t cause stress at time but it’s not like it was. It is what it is and these things will take as long as they take and for each and every person going through this will have their own time to figure things out.

I guess the journey is one without an itinerary. Who knows where it will end and may be that place will be one that differs to what I think it would be. I have these little plans to introduce little parts of me to important people in my life as a way of increasing awareness of this other part of me but at the same time I’m reminded of that scene in the first Bridget Jones movie. Shazza, you know, the journalist who likes to say fuck a lot, when she says “I mean there’s been all these bloody hints, but has he ever stuck his fucking tongue down your fucking throat?” Of course she’s talking about something completely different but the essence is the same. All these hints of three quarter length running tights, but has he actually said what it’s all about?

For some people going through the whole gender thing they want this done over night. They want to tell the world and they want it done now. For others they want to drip feed it little by little because it’s more comfortable. I fall towards the latter in a well thought out and methodical way. Either is fine and, because it’s what suits me, may be I should enjoy that part of the journey and not worry about taking my time.

The darkness fell completely across the patio and the wine glass dregged empty. Twenty past eleven.

Until next time

Hannah x

Throwing Silver Stars of Confidence

It darted about seemingly random in the ever increasing dusk and just as my eyes could focus, like a shooting star, it was over before I could think about it. The bat flew like it was on the edge of being able to remain airborne fluttering it’s wings in a way that was between moth and bird. I sat their quietly in the garden. A small drop of wine in an oversized wine glass sat on the ice white table cloth. With rising moisture from the fields in the distance and the dusk falling heavily the warm dusty grey-orange along the horizon of hills changed to greys like an incoming fog but of darkness with dotted sheep and lamb clearing their ground returning home.

The tea light candle with a flame that had been barely noticeable was now bright across the linen feeding steadily from the wax and fluttering when the gentlest of breeze would wander across the table. Peace and quiet, stillness and calm. It kind of summed up how I had felt this week and the weekend. I had attended the running event again but with a family member. It didn’t cross my mind whether I should or shouldn’t use my female running clothes that I had grown accustomed to wearing. It was just natural and innate and I’d be wearing them with someone who mattered and who hadn’t seen them before. I checked with myself, ‘should I be worried? Should I be making some self-informed decision?’

Comfort had overwhelmed any question, in fact I didn’t even carry out that self check. The thought went along the lines of ‘put those three quarter lengths on and go and enjoy your run as normal.’ In fact when it came to getting out of the car for that split second moment when there was no going back, and it didn’t even feel like a no-going-back moment, the only thing it came to was a brief glance at my legs – and that was that. No conversation, no foul sour looks, nothing. Just an enjoyable day and while it seems like such a small insignificant moment it was a big telltale non-reversable pin in the life and journey board.

It was beyond questioning and introspection and, while there was still such a huge journey ahead, if I continue with this ticket, I felt something I’d not really felt quite so vibrant before and that was a confidence with how I decide to present myself for myself. Happiness in the form of comfort. Less about other people and what they would think. A pace of change that seems to be just at the right speed to feel right about it even if, like many, I want it all tomorrow.

It is also not just about no longer being able to imagine going back to a fully male life of shirts and hairy legs it’s also not going back to those early days of odd special nights out to be me only to return early hours of a Saturday night and Sunday morning only to put that part of me away again, not just clothes in the cupboard but pushed to that hidden locked away part in my head.

I cherish some of those early days of being able to get out and about, as I think I would, with friends who were in a similar dual life role of secrets and street light nights. Pounding hearts moving between bars or from the car to the door of and even more public pub. It was an exciting and self discovery time but as much as the actual moment felt right at the time it was far from real. An extension-closet as one of my friends had once said and that I have mentioned before. Those times are now solidified in my history and I genuinely feel I have moved on from that time; as relevant and needed as they were. Real life and real times, real people who really matter. Occupation of my time in the way I want to be.

It crossed my mind today while I was on another run and now my running clothes were normal to me that would this be as good as it gets? Would this be where it settles rather than the journey continuing; after all they do say that happiness is in the journey and not always the goal. Did it really matter if I did settle at this point and there were no further inroads to make? It would certainly have a lot of positives, no distressing getting used to Hannah for more friends and family or painful operation if it went that far.

I think the answer is that the time my conflict ends will be when my inner mental self image aligns with my outer shine. When all the simple things I wish I could do that have some connection to my outward gender have been fore-filled and that I can do regularly and not just do those things but do them without questioning and not even be self aware about it. It’s about self consciousness or self confidence in fact. What more could I really want other than being and being it confidently without fear. That fear has diminished so much in recent times so much that sometimes I feel like someone is watching over me waving a little shiny wand throwing silver stars of confidence at me just when I need them but not so much I become spoilt and lazy with it.

I woke early automatically on the bank holiday expecting the thumping on the stair of the noisy early rising kid next door but it was silent. I pulled the curtains and opened the window to gauge the six am temperature. A gentle honk of a lone goose call echo’d in the morning air as it flew over the houses with it’s neck out far in front guaranteed to arrive long before the rest of it’s body.

Running was a big part of my mental health right now and the crazy idea of running early through the forest just felt right. I pulled on my most comfortable running tights and wriggled into a loose white crisp t-shirt and headed for the trees and medicinal morning pine air. The carpark was empty and I was too soon at the peak overlooking the country side through the cutting where the forestry had been hard at work turning trees into logs. It felt like a moment of change, partly through the outward hints to family but also just that oneness that had been so together recently. I placed the mobile phone on the floor taking time to patiently balance it against my water bottle and set the camera to record that moment of a natural high in nature.

Until next time.

Hannah x