Some Me Time

I was standing close to the end of the platform waiting for the train. Some calf high boots, probably suede, shapely black skirt above the knee, short in fact, not a belt but certainly not long and casual top, not too casual because I was going to work. I stood there on the spot just waiting and while it was the mundanity of commuting I felt somehow at peace. You know, like when you get a day when everything is just clicking together. You wake up with a little zest for the day. Breakfast tasted good and just looking forward to the day, even if it was just another day at work.

I think it was Hamstead Heath overground station. It was definitely a suburban station in London, even if it wasn’t packed to the rafters on the platform, it was definitely London and if it wasn’t Hampstead it wasn’t far away. I don’t live in London though, and I don’t work in London either. In fact I don’t even work in the city or an office since the lockdowns. But that’s dreams for you. Never quite concise and if you are lucky enough to remember a dream, especially a good one, the details are never always that clear.

The dream stuck with me the whole day because I felt at one at that time. Unquestioning, everything about it was just a ‘normal day at the office’, wherever that office is. Being able to have that kind of calm, that knowing that the day is going to be good and being happy about the way everything is seems like some kind of utopia but in some kind of ‘may be obtainable way’, even if that utopia seems, strangely, to be commuting in London, which I’m sure wouldn’t be in any way quite so appealing on a rainy October day when the day light hours are short and the platforms full.

But the chances of being able to work in London in the way that would feel utopian is very unlikely. Jobs in London are highly competitive, I’ve tried three times to get into the city in the last twenty years but always been pipped to the post by sheer talent that’s out there. At my age now I don’t have that pure energy needed to put up with all the toxicity and competitiveness that goes with it. Besides, the dream of living somewhere like that would require some typical London house on the edges of Primrose Hill with a roof-top terrace to lounge about on – something no typical national average wage is going to pay for – in fact no average millionaire could probably afford either.

I would also miss having the access to the stunning scenic mountains and forests that sit not far from where I live now and would miss them in much the same way as I miss having vibrant night life of the city as I do now.

I was sat outside in the garden the other evening. The parasol up and a small wooden table, a bottle of something strong and the evening well on it’s way enough to light a couple of candles. I heard something from a side window from a neighbouring house “Sometimes looks like a girl and sometimes looks like a boy..”

It was about all I heard from two kids in that room. It came from an open window that doesn’t quite overlook my garden but if they were looking out, well then may be they were referring to me. I didn’t hear any more of the conversation – it was all background as the voices disappeared inside that room with the open window.

I wasn’t sure what to make of it at first. Was it about me, was it about someone else completely. It really could have been anything about anyone really but the co-incidence was enough to make me think about it and for a short while worry about it. It certainly is the difference between living in the anonymity of the city and the closeness of the countryside.

It’s been a long time since something like that has been pointed out directly like that, at least in the form of ‘isn’t she or is he’. The last time I can think of something like that was probably in about 2007 or there about when some bloke approach me and my friend at a table in a bar and said, “so have you alwaysbeen a woman.” I’m sure I wrote about this some time ago so not something to go over again but you get the idea. On the one hand it felt ‘read’ but on the other hand it was a compliment.

The thing is whether it is anonymity of the city or the lack of it in the countryside it shouldn’t really matter. Yeah sure one is easier but almost in a cope-out kind of way. I think within half an hour the whole matter was settled in my mind and I just carried on with my evening in the warm summer humid night sipping a sprit by candle light. In fact I kind of felt like if it was about me then it’s a good thing. A chance to find out if Im accepted as a citizen no matter what my gender issues are.

I went to the beach on the weekend. I mean it’s the thing you do when it’s hot, but rather than stay amongst the tourists and local beach dwellers I headed to a wild beach. Miles of sandy coast line, stretching to a horizon of grey hills in the haze, where I could wander the waters edge and only the odd person here and there doing much the same apart from the fishermen at the far end. The tide firmly turned and heading in, hitting the rocks where they jetted out at the point spraying salt water into the air.

It was a chance to wear what I wanted to the beach. My favourite turn-up denim shorts that are now near threadbare but I just can’t find any quite so cute to replace them. And a very beachy-like Hollister top that rarely sees anywhere outside of the house or the garden. A hoodie tied around the waist in case those arms get too much sun and sun glasses propped up on top of the hair.

My hair was down. It spends so much time tied-up in a ponytail of some kind that I’d not realised how long it had got and I could feel it half way down my back. It felt freeing to just walk in the off-shore breeze as the sea air hit my hair and made it wavy and curly as it always does at the beach. Some me time.

But it wasn’t that walk in the water on the wild beach that was quite so revealing or mildly liberating. It was the return walk back along the coast passing people on the pathway as I headed back towards the busy beach. The sea breeze had been blowing my hair all over the place so I put a hair tie in, low down and allowed my hair to drape over my left shoulder. With that top and my hair in it’s more feminine form there was no hiding that femininity away. It was there on show. I was lightly saying something, a picture forming a thousand words as they say.

What was different was that I wasn’t nervous about it, it was what-it-was. It was nice to relax. To chill out and just enjoy the day, the walk, the people, my clothes. “Thank you.” As someone let me pass on the narrow path. Interacting with people. It felt like that top was getting used where it should be and that I was enjoying it for the reason I bought it for in the first place. It wasn’t so much about the detail though, it was that it was another step. Something I hadn’t felt for a long time. May be things are heading in a direction after all.

Until next time.

Hannah x

Little Voice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time.

Hannah x

Checked-Mate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time.

Hannah x

Fifty-fifty

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“She’s had a coil fitted.”

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

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

Until next time.

Hannah x

Social Cycle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— ♥ —

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

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

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

Until next time

Hannah x

A Bigger Boat

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time,

Hannah x

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

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