Wild Brush and Autumn Breeze

I stood on the top of the moorland amongst a thriving crop of dandelions, chrysanthemums, daisies and wild grasses bound with thistles. I turned slowly taking in the panoramic view of the hills to the west carpeted in forests with the carriageway cutting along its edge delivering traffic to the city. The green land faded into modern urban blocks of apartments as sharp and functional as a razor blade lining the waters edge and a quiet white noise of tyres on tarmac filling to air.

It was the perfect end to the morning run event. I had done all the chatting at the end that is so enjoyable. A community spirit in this one morning each week that I can really be myself without any judgments or negativity. An escape from people with people. Even so the walk to the view was inspiring. Burning sun between spacious kettle-fresh clouds, it was the right place, the right time, a moment captured that any other time just might not have produced the same feeling. A feeling that time just wouldn’t move – providing I stayed on that spot.

Who would have thought in such a short a space a time as three or four years I would be standing in my home town in the running gear that I want to wear with the way I want my hair and interacting with people without a care of what they might think and, it would appear, they don’t think anything, at least nothing bad. Accepted amongst people with a similar interest in keeping fit.

It’s funny how I feel so comfortable there now without a thought of worry and yet the odd moment elsewhere I can, at times, feel a bit frozen, not like years ago, but I guess its all part of the dipping-the-toe in the water kind of thing when it comes to gender identity and once I find the shallows of the lapping tide is summer-tepid everything become clear.

It would seem a huge departure to the rest of these last few weeks. A return to my career, at least a short return to keep me going for a year or so, became poison and toxic once again. It wasn’t long before I found myself tending notice. Despite the looming count down of my bank balance and limited time to figure out what I will do next I find that standing amongst the wild brush, and the August breeze that had a hint of September about it, I was calmed and reassured that things just happen and as long as I’m honest with myself, not just about the gender thing but also with what I do with my time. Forty plus hours is a lot of time to spend in a mix of hot and cold toxicity, especially one where I certainly wouldn’t see myself progressing to any kind of gender contentment.

I suppose this year could well be the most important in my life in every way possible and be as subtle as standing alone in the sun in exhilaration after running a few miles. There was a brief moment when I thought of that famous line, “I could die here.” It wasn’t the place, take away the sunshine paint across that grass and the pathways cut by feet, and replace it with a grey sky, rain and some drunk scumbags and suddenly it’s not that place. But it’s not just the place at that time, it was the feeling – at that moment and at that place. Contentment and oneness.

Isn’t this is what life should be about. Finding those moments of contentment and being able to recreate them.

– ❤ –

Every key press feels like blocks of wood talking for my heart. I feel and hear the fibres in the felt on each hammer scratching at each metallic string shedding a tear for all the memories. The piano, an outlet for memories of the last ten years all wrapped up in a few two or three minute solo songs. When I play I play with emotion and allow myself to express feeling through the varying tempo, and yet it is only when I play it back I realise what is behind those songs.

I suddenly realise that what I have written in music without words is telling a story. The welling-up of the high notes with their plinky delicate shade of sombre and the thunderous low notes of the tears and sadness that have ever fallen.

Expression through music is an enhancing and liberating experience just like a pen on a diary or the exploration with a psychologist. I feel gifted to have been able to find the ability to write through music and yet it can also feel like watching the pain on playback listening to my past self telling me what I had been through in my thirties from self female discovery and the loss of a long relationship ending with living alone with my own memories and company.

It is a life of depth of thought. Nights of glowing candles and intellectual reasoning with myself. Hannah, always thinking – again. There is a choice of course. Do something else, something to move a little further forward, or stay where I am. Settle on a comfort spot. A gamble just a like a game of poker.

Isn’t moving and change what makes life – well, life. Without movement nothing happens, darkness, stillness, frozen, yet a painting, as far as our observation is concerned, still and locked in a moment of time and yet can say so much. I find myself at another subtle junction in my life and a time where I see life racing by. I sometimes feel like for every heart beat others have beat ten times.

I suppose it comes down to this. When I look back in twenty or forty years time, am I going to say to myself, “if only” or will I raise a small smile and a small glass and say – “great choice.”

Until next time,

Hannah x

Dreamy Days and Wandering Minds

I sat down at the metal table that felt like it would clang like a gong as my cup of decaffeinated Americano hit the surface. The chairs equally metallic and functional. The summer sun, as they had promised for today, had departed replaced by a grey misty sky but it was still warm enough to sit outside the cafe under the cover.

I took a sip of the coffee, the texture powdery dry and bitter, and glanced across the paving stones ‘outside’. The paving was peppered with wet spots and the rain had just begun and, while I was technically outside, being under cover felt cosy. I love watching the rain when I’m in that mood. To feel the change in the air, the smell of dried salts perfuming from the ground and sometimes, if I’m sat close enough to a door or the outside, the gentle spray of a few rain drops. If I’m lucky I’ll hear the splattering of the rain on a hard floor. Best suited to dreamy days of the wandering mind.

My umbrella leant perched against my chair and so I was prepared for the walk back to work after my lunch break but I had misplaced my other umbrella last week. I don’t know whether I’d left it in the delicatessens or one of the shops where I’d purchased a birthday present for someone the week before. I tried a few places but the message was the same, it wasn’t there and I was soon impulse-buying in these places. It’s not like it should be that important, my spare umbrella was damaged on one corner capable of blinding a member of public in an instant and a little discoloured in places, but it was old and it was strong. It had survived years of strong winds. I hate loosing things, even if they should have been long retired. It got me thinking. Thinking about how I hate loosing things – loosing the past.

I get attached to things so badly but it’s not, in reality, the object I’ve lost that I’m attached to but the memories that they hold. Memories attached to objects for me are so strong, some happy, some sad or even embarrassing but the emotion is much like that brought to fruition like a smell that emotes rose tinted memories of the past.

I thought about what would happen to those male clothes that I still have left in my wardrobe in abundance should I decide to be outwardly female full-time. Would I really be able to get rid of them even if I knew I would never wear them again? I think though, much like every possession I hate to loose, throwing away my old clothes would feel like throwing away my friends, my family members, that best holiday ever, that point in my life where everything felt good or even my childhood.

It will be difficult I know but I also know that life never stands still. Our world never stands still even the most still things in life move and change even if so slowly it’s beyond our perception, but things change. The flowers grow, the stars move and the tide comes and goes. Memories only fade if we let them or we falter. We can pass on our memories to other people or record them in photographs, videos or stories. Our only challenge is to keep them preserved as best we can without letting them rule our future in some kind of shrine of denial. I think my only way to get through that is to remind myself that I don’t need possessions to keep hold of my past I just need something and that I need an ability to let-go a little. Allow the sand to filter through my fingers enough that the sensation is there but I’m not controlled or committed to it.

I didn’t have a particularly bad male past and so I don’t want to deny my past but I also have a future that I want to make mine, before it’s too late. I am a confusion of conflict between never letting go, a hoarder, with an opposite desire to move forwards and find things new whether they be possessions or the intangible like how I occupy my time. They seem almost entirely incompatible but when I think about it I am also eclectic. Sometimes people admire some of my possessions. Admire a musical instrument or a feature of furniture in my house but when you look closely, I tend to just have one of those things and if I’m happy with it I keep it. I keep things simple and enjoy things for what they are to the full rather than chase the next best thing. May be I apply that to life too. To less materialistic things like memories, emotions, and people I’ve met and all those three things together. Savouring those things much like I would with the material things.

Where does this leave me with the split between the masculine and feminine, that we all possess to some extent, and what I leave behind? It’s a difficult question to answer. I suppose as time goes on my constant introspection eventually brings together some kind of answer and allows me to cherish the parts of my masculine past but not to feel a guilt to have to continue to live that past – especially not for other people.

These things don’t have to be this complicated but they just are. I have to work through them because I know if I ignore them they’ll bite me in the future. When I’m in the right frame of mind and I think back, as I do from time to time, and I have mentioned this before, I don’t have to think that far back, five or six years the changes that have happened are huge. Changes to how I present myself to others and being honest to myself are so vast and yet subtle over time that I wouldn’t have thought in a million minutes that I would be where I am now. The thing is – I wonder now what things will be like in a years time?

Until next time,

Hannah x

Nettles and Pollen

It was a run. Not the weekend run event, an evening run, alone and self introspecting. I left just as dusk fell and the mood had taken me. Just a kilometre or less and I was at the fringes of the countryside overlooking the village. A slash of neon orange hung slowly fading over a distant forest lined hill like a candle at the end of its wick and the neon amber street lamps lit in time with the falling darkness. It was so still and almost painted fiction as three swans few with long slow wafts towards the sunset and another followed on a minute later, alone, just like me.

With the last glow of the sun to the west, humidity at my skin and thick dense and fussy clouds to the east it looked as if the storm promised for Wednesday was on it’s way. A thick smell of fuel oil hung in the air and in the distance between me and what natural light remained a haze that was reminiscent of a November Guy Fawkes night only warm.

I ran down to the bridge and found bats fluttering fast and circling trying to catch dinner above the water. It felt almost fictional and so still it was as if the scenery was oil painted and all motion would stop when it dried.

I felt fitter. The weeks of running regularly were starting to pay and my stamina had increased. Not all my ailments had been fixed and certainly not my gender identity. It wasn’t as if running an extra mile or so would suddenly give me gender reassignment. It’s funny that term – gender reassignment or that old term the tabloids cling on to – sex change. It’s not like we’re changing gender, for those of us who are truly gender dysphoric, we’re already that gender inside. There are just some technicalities to sort out. I suppose that’s why reassignment is as near as it gets as a description, reassigning physical parts to match the soul. I like to think of transgender of being a state of decision, not a permanent label.

Two days later I ran the same route again only it was gently raining. Not heavy but large spots and enough to dampen my skin. It was different. Earthy. Rain raised smells of wild garlic, cow parsley and salts. The bats still fluttered over the stream and under the stone bridge but it felt darker and forest-like. One difference in the weather had made a huge difference to me. It reminded me of how things had changed in the last ten to fifteen years where sporadic double-life going-out had been replaced by real life. More subtle but real each day rather than saving it up for one night when everyone wanted to meet up miles from home in a protected shell in the back street bars of Bristol.

After my down patch last week I thought about people I used to know either in person or a little over the Internet that had a gender dysphoria of some kind. Four of them were dead. One I was told had “died on the operating table” but the truth had eventually come out she had taken her own life. I didn’t really know her, I met her once or twice but it was still truly sad. Another had a brain tumour. I had met her a few times, she always seemed troubled even after transitioning and living female full time. It was so sad. One girl I remember who ran a blog and was well known in music. The day I had come across her website the opening page had simply been replaced by a message that said something like “I’ve had enough, goodbye everyone.’ I quickly put a call out on a forum to see if anyone knew her and thankfully someone did and I was reassured friends were with her and she was now fine. The future didn’t hold well for her though when she was found having taken her own life. People that weren’t just in the news. They were real as was the depression.

I find it hard sometimes when a clinician at the gender clinic says how times have changed and how much better things have become, and to some extent they have changed a lot and for the better but it isn’t truly free and easy, sunshine and roses. I’ve been told so many times how things have changed with the gender identity clinics and how they look past the clothes, it’s not like twenty five or more years ago where if you didn’t turn up in your grans best floral tea dress you wouldn’t be taken seriously. ‘Wear what you like, you don’t even have to present female.’ and yet as another letter was delivered to my GP from the Gender Clinic in London the letter still contained a detailed description of what I’d worn that day; even if it was rather feminine, and there was no question as to what I was trying to be, I suppose it serves as a record of how I was that day.

It was quite nice that they had referred to me, in that letter, as Ms which I think was probably the first genuine time I’d been referred to that way, even if it did precede my first male name and later with my surname which seems a little more normal. I suppose in many ways these are little things not to worry about and after all one or two 45 minute sessions isn’t really enough to get inside of someones head to know how they feel, what they want and how they want it, whether it be the contents of a letter or how they should present with clothes. Does this stuff really matter, I mean when we look at the bigger picture. They are after all only facilitators even if technically they’re ‘gatekeepers.’ Taking a realistic look on how life is changing, hopefully for the better, through whatever path we take is really the important thing and providing they give enough support to help us through those low patches and avoid anymore losses, then the contents of letters and expectations is just icing sugar on the table ready to be blown away and forgotten.

I attended another weekend running event. It was warmer than expected. A long t-shirt over black three-quarter length running tights and ankle socks. Now the rain from the week had cleared and a morning hot sun was warming the weeds, trees, nettles and grass that lined the path through the city common land I felt the pollen and smells fill my lungs. As I got to a bend in the path, standing on the side was an old school friend watching. As I passed he called my name and I shouted back hello as I continued on. I didn’t care about my appearance, it didn’t even enter my mind. It seems bizarre that the one time I didn’t actually run away from a situation like this, I was actually running away.

Until next time,

Hannah x

Paint My Nails for Another Day

Something is wrong. Given that the first real proper low I had a few weeks ago was out of the blue and I hadn’t had anything quite like it in a couple of years I thought it was a blip. Something that I would see through, pass and carry on. A dark cloud of incoherent thoughts and feelings in the form of a storm with no clear thinking amongst a fog that threatens a happy life. It happened again. Lower than low. I blamed my job, a trigger at least I think. Sure it filled in the gaps I left on that mental note of a form of what that job should be, average pay, average expectations, by the sea, access to cafes at lunch and water breezes and paying the rent, but once the honeymoon period had ended it was the same old crap in the same old career, just worse pay and just as much responsibility and expectation beyond the pedantic and the poison toxic thread that runs rife through the industry. It wasn’t the job that was wrong, it was the career that I’ve hung onto by a dangling thread.

I thought I had done my running away chasing a dream years ago. But unlike Shirley Valentine, after my week in the Côte d’Azur, I didn’t stay on. I went back. I tried again by taking time out of my career and spent several months writing a speculative script with the vague hope of following a dream and spending relaxing days overlooking the med while thinking of my next, and while I was proud of the small recognition I had, nothing came of it and I soon ran out of money. I ran back to my career like a twenty-something crashing back at their parents.

It wasn’t just the job, it was obviously more than that, something chemical inside me. An imbalance that clouded my judgment and happiness, stopped me eating properly for two days and left me questioning everything – the job situation had amplified it. It had reminded me how I was still doing the same old thing that I should be proud of and get fulfilment from, especially given how many hours I put in each week – but I wasn’t. Why am I wasting my life doing this when the only reward is money. Life is more than money, it helps but it’s not the be-all.

I thought about that cafe by the ocean I had looked out from early in the morning on holiday last year. I thought for just a moment that serving treacle thick bitter coffee for a few months to people who wanted to watch life go by on a subtropical island might just be an answer. Time to think. Time to simplify. Time to give myself to actually think about the gender thing. Time to Shirley Valentine myself and decide what actually is important and act on those pure ideals that would bring contentment without tension. To watch a dozen sunsets with a glass of wine over a calm evening ocean and never get bored of it. Escapism without running away. A break from life that isn’t just a holiday but a re-evaluation.

When Saturday morning came there was, at least, a clearing of those black dog clouds in my head. I came back from the weekly run event and found another letter dangling precariously from the back of the brush trap letter box. It was from my GP. The second letter in the space of a week. The first asking for a follow up blood test linked what they had done previously for the Gender Identity Clinic in London. It was, oddly, only one specific test of the many they normally do. I looked at my previous results and researched the possibilities of why. I came to the simple speculative conclusion that it was health related in some form given I was slightly over the range. It felt good that things were being tracked and looked at, at least by my GP and more so than the gender clinic. Friday I allowed my arm to be drained a little once again and less painfully than the horse fly that had bitten a chunk out of my leg a few days earlier in the garden.

Another letter had arrived in the days before my blood test. There was no covering letter or clue from who had sent it but it was a copy of a letter from the gender identity clinic to my GP outlining my last session a few months ago and her recommendations. While it wasn’t one hundred percent accurate it was close enough and despite how I felt challenged by the clinician at the time it would appear I was listened to. It also noted how nothing had been written and sent by the endocrinologist that supposedly studied all blood test results. It was only me who had previously raised the question of my low vitamin D and only the GP that was looking into one of the other results. It was a getting-blood-from-a-stone situation only that it was from an arm with plenty on offer.

But back to Saturday. I returned from my weekly run event. Damp running tights and an uplift from the few dark days I’d had I came home with a faster time and bit of an endorphin rush that had probably saved me from falling further. I pulled that letter from the door and set it on the table while I pulled damp knee supports from my bag and wrote down my latest run time. I picked the letter up again, sealed and double sealed with a strip of tape. It opened in three parts as most letters seem to, either that or ripping right down the middle and leaving the actual letter in a creased unkempt state. It was another from my GP, “We have recently received a letter from the Gender Identity Clinic dated April 2017.” April! That’s how slow some of the administration of health care runs. The letter had suggested to my GP that I should speak to my GP about things we’d spoken about. My local general practice was more proactively caring for me than the gender clinic could be and proactive about gender identity.

And so I paint my nails the colour of French wine for another day. Any little thing that gets me through the next few weeks so I can decide what to do with the rest of my life. Not just gender identity but everything that occupies my time. It doesn’t have to be spectacular it just has to be contentment and if contentment is spectacular then that’s fine.

Until next time.

Hannah x

Subtleties of the Stars

I sat on the decking at lunch. It was burning hot and summer had definitely arrived even if it might be only for a coupe of days but there would be no shortage of vitamin D for me, even if it meant putting up with a little hay fever, the lapping of the water and the squark and laughing calls of sea gulls and chirps of little sparrows hoping around cafe tables waiting for generous patrons to carelessly drop crumbs from a fat saturated croissants and hot cheese goo cafe paninis.

It was nice, at least, and despite being sat on the floor, to lay back against the cold stone wall for a moment, close my eyes and just listen to those sea front sounds. That glug of the diesel boat waiting for tourists fares was even relaxing. I had felt a bit lost the last few weeks. Ups and down without explanation and a laissez faire attitude to the gender thing despite feeling elated at the end of those weekly park runs.

A small ex-fishing boat bubbled it’s way across the near flat water of the bay with a mother and daughter sat at the front royally and a sailing boat in the distance slowly made its way over in replacement. A US citizen grabbed her camera and pointed it down at the water from the metal railings several feet above the waters edge and exclaimed to her ‘couple’ friends in a thick Californianesq accent, “Look! A swan! On the ocean!” We were a few hundred miles from the ocean and it would probably be difficult to know whether the still water was even part of the sea, but the surprise and almost child-like glee at something that seemed so simple on the surface was something to behold. Life shouldn’t always be so deep, sometimes appreciating the supposed simple things the world has to offer is the key to happiness. It was by chance a social media post popped up, right now, by the great Paul McKenna, “Take a moment each day to step back, evaluate the task in front of you and let your thoughts flow.” It doesn’t get more true than this, and I know this, I just have to remind myself to ‘remember’ this.

I think one of the main things I tend to think about these days is age. I know people sort their gender identity out at any age and like most I wish I’d done something about it when I was 20 but each morning I’m sure I find another grey hair. It’s not like I have lots of grey roots and the rest is dark, I’m dark all over with full length grey hair strands amongst the rest. I found my first grey the day before my 30th birthday, which itself seems so long ago, and ever since they’ve been sneakily populating their way amongst my hair. If I use straighteners after washing my hair, I’ll see them all easily. I felt like I wanted to catch them now rather than going all grey and then one day miraculously everyone will see I’m brunette again.

I had mentioned it to my Mum a few weeks ago and after some colour matching the week before I decided to go ahead and get some permanent colour done but it was funny the day before how I suddenly questioned it much like any other gender identity change I might suddenly decide on. How was I really going to feel about this? I looked in the mirror. I had been for a run and so my hair was still damp and it looked dark. Did I really need this. Would I suddenly feel fake? The last thing I wanted was to feel fake, non-genuine and unauthentic. I always felt so lucky that unlike some male family and friends that I have kept my hair. Not just long but actually kept it. It hadn’t decided to buy a one way ticket for retirement in some island off the coast of Thailand. I was also proud that it was still thick, luscious and generally, on the whole dark brunette with gold streaks bleached by the sun.

I kind of went into automatic. I couldn’t come up with an answer and before I knew it I was sat in a chair in my Mums kitchen having permanent dye syrup painted onto long strands from root to tip and twenty minutes later with my head over a bowl having it washed out with the bowl water slowly turning brown. It was done. “Don’t worry –” she said while I was looking at a bowl of small choppy waves centimetres away and froth trickling down my face, “the brown on your skin will wash right off.”

“That’s ok.” I said, “As long as you didn’t mix it up with a tube of Veet and I’m going to suddenly see a bowl of brown hair.”

I checked in the mirror once my hair was dry. It was fine, subtle, barely noticeable until I got home. I don’t know what it was about the large gold painted framed fancy mirror in my hall but I could suddenly see the difference. Natural but I felt like I’d gone back in time. It wasn’t a typical, ‘do you feel ten years younger?’ It was just like I’d been repaired. It was like I’d replaced an old t-shirt with a brand new one that had fresh thick screen print on the front and the smell of fresh unwashed factory dyes.

A weekend – a week later – I found myself at sunset on top of the hill just a mile or two down the road watching the crayon saturated orange sky sink behind silhouetted forest lined hill tops. Things were still changing. They were slow and so subtle that they were nearly unnoticeable. Like watching the tide coming in or the moon and stars move across the sky, you can see them move if only to take the time to stare and watch long enough. It’s the same with moving with identity. Take that deck chair out into the 10pm night sky, lay back and, just for a moment, take in the change and enjoy finding that happiness.

Until next time,

Hannah x

Rise

I sat with a multicoloured Japanese style umbrella in one hand and a computer tablet resting on my knee as the rain set in. I wasn’t going to let a short sporadic shower of fine rain move me front that waterside bench. The ever increasing circles peppering the flat water took on its own beauty that I’d not really absorbed at my lunch spot before. It spread into a white noise on the surface as the rain became heavy and I stayed cosy and dry while others dashed to fill the humid cafes and bars. When the rain finally stopped I lowered my umbrella down and water poured from tips. I was the only one left, the only one who’d seen through the storm with a dry circle left around the decking and the bench. It seemed to have told its own similar story.

It couldn’t have been more than five minutes before another sprinkle of rain returned to the surface of my tablet and my umbrella was once again flung up to shield me. It got me thinking. Was this what I would be in for with the whole gender thing. Would I have moments of euphoria and beauty with moments of dirt that I would have to protect myself from or just shield myself in a going with the tide mentality.

– ❤ –

Little fragile white flowers protruding from thick green leaves of wild garlic that flourished along the roadside in the glimmering sunlight through the woodland. The smell of garlic was pungent where the rain had fed the ground well.

It had been a week since I had sat on that bench thinking about the similarities of ups and downs and it had still been good for me despite that constant gloom of weather but by Friday afternoon, without warning, a sudden depression. It came out of nowhere and clouded over thicker than the rain outside. I left work as soon as the day was finished and got home and slumped on the sofa and tried to let it pass. Go with the flow I thought. Float along that fast steep river until the worst had passed but it was difficult. It always is when you can feel yourself slipping downwards into a cavity that feels like a never ending lilting fall in stages. Even writing about it now, a week on, I almost don’t understand it myself, but I do know how it felt.

Trying to ride it out seemed like the best way to cope and it certainly was. By Saturday morning I felt better enough to get on the bus and join a group of runners first thing in the morning in the city park. The elation at the end itself helped blow away those clouds and once again I felt a bit more like myself. I had my new running trousers on that I was bravely wearing to the event and things just felt normal. I didn’t hide them away and change out of them at the last minute and I didn’t cover them up for the trip home. I just took a celebratory drink of my water and bit into a thick cinnamon bagel filled with Nutella and probably undone that 5km run.

I admit I did think for a minute how I felt about travelling home on the bus in three quarter length mixed grey running tights that had a logo in pink writing but the answer came quick with no doubt that I felt confident to travel home that way and that I really wanted to. It helps having a pint of adrenaline pumping through my veins.

– ❤ –

Sitting here on the end of the jetty into the water with a warm morning late spring breeze blustering everything feels okay. Everything feels right. I don’t know for how long. What I do know if that those ups and downs don’t just apply to the gender stuff. They apply to all parts of life. People and places can let us down. They say life would be without colour without challenges. I think it can depend how strong we are to be able to take those challenges. To add to the confusion those challenges are relative. Small problems for some are huge for others.

Having a change of mind set on the outlook of everything presented to us, even those bad things, can help us lead a better life. To deal and cope with things. There are some moments though, like that Friday I had, when there seems to be no reasonable explanation and not knowing how to pull ourselves out of those low rut moments.

The answer is other people. While other people can make things worse or cause our problems, there are others who can help and be there for us. The ability to choose and filter those who we spend our time with is key to finding that happiness.

Until next time.

Hannah x

English Rose

The small waves lapped gently against the shore under the decking as a small tour boat tooted by with its air whistle. The water and the sky looked electric clear through my sunglasses. Kinda unreal in a crystal clarity and gloss. A whole group of tourists stopped in front of the bench while a tour guide gave them a brief description in German and while they didn’t block my sunlight I felt like they were blocking the serenity of this early-summer lunch break. They moved on quickly tottering on in unsuitably warm clothing. The weekend I’d had with Maddie had felt like it had moved on just as quick.

I had been in the heart of the English Rose countryside. You couldn’t get anymore quintessential England. A white pub in a thatched hat, a marquee and horses trotting by on cue. It could have been a film set where the director had shouted “action” and with that – Englishness would descend and as would the sunshine. The upper middle classes would arrive for Sunday lunch with kids and a puppy dog in tow and spotted dick served with thick perfect custard that sparkled gloopy in the sun. The outdoor tables sprawled between the pub and its decorating matching annexed thatched barn. It was idyllic and almost fictional. It was as Bridget Jones as it gets in it’s setting.

Maddie, if you remember, my ex girl friend from several years ago who knows about the gender thing, pulled her mobile out and tapped and swiped at the shiny screen before handing it to me. “This is him.” She showed me a photo of the new man in her life that she had seen a few times. Immediately I spotted that smile on her face that I hadn’t seen in quite a few years, a genuine brief glimpse of happiness. Don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t mean she is beyond ecstatic with the way life was going for her but there was, for me at least, hope in that smile that I hope she can latch on to.

“Alright isn’t he, looks a bit Cambridge-Oxford.” which was the immediate way I could describe him. He had that look that he would be the sort of guy that would be on the river taking part heroically in the traditional boat race or, at the very least, barge polling tourists down the river and bullshitting them with fictional history of the pre-victorian universities.

Maddie looked at me with a smirk at my view of her guy that I didn’t even know. “You know – that look.” I said clarifying the picture, “What’s his education like, I don’t mean that offensively.”
“He’s not degree educated, I think he stopped after Senior school.”

It wasn’t important but I guess I just wanted to know where he was and how he might match up to Maddie’s intellect. It wasn’t hard to be happy for her that she had met someone new and that she might have actually found someone that there might be a future with. Christ, it has been so long since we had been together and even though we still care for each other her happiness is more important than any stupid jealousy that would be beyond my adult view – besides, I’m not in that place and never will be. It did have an effect though. Immediately I felt a little left behind, not with my friendship with Maddie but on reflection of my own life and lack of any relationship or even an encounter in years.

The large tourist boat sat under the pier bubbling the water and filling the air with invisible clouds of diesel fumes that caught the back of my throat and lined my nose. I reached into my bag for the cure of my past depression, at least it could be. I’ve had three lots of base line blood tests from the gender clinic. The first was at my local hospital but by the time the eighteen or so months had passed to get to the front of the queue for the gender clinic in London the results were no longer relevant for them. They ordered another set but when the results eventually turned up one test couldn’t be completed so they ordered another. The second test had indicated my vitamin D was just a little low. I asked my GP about it and he said he would look at the next results. They were even lower.

I had read that low vitamin D can be the cause of many things including depression, and since then I’d even read that aching bones and joints can be a problem. I’d had a letter a week ago from the GP saying that I should book a telephone appointment to discuss the results and one week later the phone had rung in work. I dived out of the office for privacy which oddly meant the hallway behind the main door that was probably quieter than the office.

The signal broke a little as I got to the doorway and then I could understand him. “So your vitamin D is low, I recommend you take a vitamin D supplement which you can get from that Boots just up the road from you.”
“You can get it over the counter can you?” I knew you could get vitamins off the shelf but I thought vitamin D was a special case.
“Yes you can get it at a pharmacy without a prescription.” This of course meant that despite living in Wales and getting free prescriptions this would be an exception. I didn’t mind though, the problem doesn’t seem immediate enough to me to warrant sticking the NHS for a prescription and besides, I’d rather pay the £2.99 than letting them get charged the £8 or whatever it is; we all pay for it in the end.

“You also have results for Testosterone, that’s fine. Prolactin, that’s fine – ” said the GP as the inside door went and a young man with a typical low-rent ironic beard exited the building. “Are you receiving gender reassignment therapy of… sorry to ask… ” it wasn’t my usual doctor and it must have been pretty obvious that the list of several unusual blood tests that included female and male centric hormones.

“That’s ok.” I said, and I explained the whole gender clinic thing and how my results should be passed to an endocrinologist that apparently will write to me, or the doctor with any concerns about my results. Whether I would actually get anything from them was as unsure as whether I or the GP would get anything.

By lunch time I found myself with a rattly bottle of small pills that I would take at least until we have a reliable chain of sunny days that would provide my main source of vitamin D and return to them in the winter to chase away the blues. May be this would be the source of my joint pains when I run sometimes.

I left my waterside lunch home and caught my reflection in a shop window. Wow, did I need to loose weight. I didn’t feel thin or slender, I just felt a bit short and stomach bloating outwards. I really did have to get to a place where I would feel my reflection matched me. I diverted myself into the bakery before heading back to the office and plonked an almond croissant into a thin bag and ignored what I’d just seen.

Until next time.

Hannah x

Quite Simple Really

My chest had a thumping deep inside that I wouldn’t normally notice. The spitting of rain had stopped and the air was clear and cool. I kept a steady pace. I didn’t want to burn myself out in the first five minutes. People passed me quickly while I passed just a few but I knew it would pay off. I hadn’t run for several weeks, let alone enter a Parkrun event, it had been a couple of years, but I had to do something. It was only earlier that week that I had dreamt of the chance to run any distance was passing me buy with legs pains and colds but when I woke on Saturday morning I just knew I could do it and I knew I had to do it.

I had got up and flung together everything I needed. That old long and neck-stretched t-shirt that was a kind of comfort zone top for running. Ankle socks that cost extra because they were for running but the bright colours felt nice. A decision on which hoodie to wear given the threat of rain that would eventually come to very little. Then the decision of which running trousers to wear, the three quarter length regular baggy things that don’t suggest anything remotely feminine other than visibly shaved legs that would be underneath or the capri style three quarter length that I’d so confidently worn when I would run from home.

All this confidence the last few years suddenly in question over one pair of trouser because there would be several hundred people running along with me. I applied the question rule to myself, “If it didn’t matter what I thought other people might say, think, look, what would I want to be wearing today?” A question that filters and banishes any reason that would be linked to, ‘just wearing it to look feminine’. I ask myself this question because I don’t want to be wearing things just to prove to others or myself who I am. I want to do the things I do – because I want to. I get fed up of having to do certain things that I’m doing to constantly win approval from myself. The answer to the question was simple, the obvious capris because I like them better, they’re more comfortable and I just like them.

It felt good to be just getting in the car in the things I wanted to wear and get down to the city and join the others. When I arrived there were pockets of people walking to the park in numbers all in running gear, dated marathon tops of their last phenomenal achievement and equally baggy old comfort t-shirts. The start had that murmur of crowds-of-people chatter and that alone felt freeing.

The organiser made a speech of instruction and encouragement on a megaphone that was typically incomprehensible for the first two minutes until he exclaimed, “can you all hear me ok?” Before too long we were off and I held a steady pace like driving a road lined with speed cameras. I knew given how long it had been since I’d run. I would need every ounce of energy for the end and a few calories for worrying about who might notice my clothes and me and make some sort of odd calculation to what I was about. There was nothing to worry about, of course, and besides which people were concentrating on their own goals – it really isn’t all about me.

The well in bloom trees arched over the park path creating a pedestrian tunnel along side a scenic fast flowing river. The smells of spring and the morning thick. The park a line of runners meandering with the flow of the path and five kilometres in front of me to tread. An gentle pain in my lung and a weakness in my ankles just didn’t top the feeling of elation, not just for my identity but just getting some morning vitality into my veins and sharing it with other like minded people of all types.

I didn’t think much about the gender thing through the whole event. Apart from reminding myself that ‘the wall’ doesn’t exist and if it should confront me then I would simply smash it down, promising myself that if I couldn’t sprint the last few yards then it wouldn’t matter today, I was here and that’s all that matters, apart from that, it was just a glancing feeling that things were right. Things were clarified. Doubts put to rest, at least for now, and knowing what I want was actually, quite simple, really.

What it is about running, or any exercise for that matter, that clarifies thoughts and doubts I don’t know. The rush of adrenaline or stirring up nutrients in the body, who knows, but it works. That’s the moment I know what I am and what I want. Blockers just don’t seem to exist.

The end of the run was approaching. I couldn’t see the end, there were a few swirling bends in the path blocking the view, but I could tell by the people who were starting to tire. Breathing in and out through the mouth, that time when controlled breathing had been flung into the river by most. I had kept control of my breathing. Keeping my run realistic. Every pounding foot to the floor felt a bit heavier and the chances of a sprint to the end were unlikely but a good finish time and taking part was all that mattered to me.

The trees cleared and the time keepers came into view. I crossed the line with many. As if I had ordered it spartan spots of rain started cooling my face as I came to a stop evaporating from the heat of the skin on my cheeks, breathing in huge breaths and my fingertips tingling with lack of oxygen. I’d done it. A small victory for running and another for identity.

Until next time,

Hannah x

Gold Tailored Thoughts

“Queen’s birthday today, but she doesn’t say how old she is.” said the elderly gentleman in his magnolia rain coat after the elderly couple stood up ready to leave their waterside bench.
“Well, I think she’s about ninety one, may be ninety two?” I said without hesitation as if I had known the couple a long time and had been in conversation with them just as long.
“Ninety Two I think”, said his presumed wife.
“I think you’re right.” I said.
“Typical of a woman not to give her age.” he said in a typical man versus woman banter, “now, I’m about –” he method-acted a face of thought, “ninety two.”
“Don’t lie” she said nudging him in his side as part of their long running comical double act.
“Well, I’ll be 90 next month.” he said staring at me in a statement like way, he was now being serious about his age.
“90, really!”
“Yes –” he said “and she’s 90 now.”
“That’s amazing.” I said, and it truly was. By old standards of assumptions I would have put them in their seventies. Their skin was healthy as was their movement and sharp frame of mind. A true wonder of the health changing times for people born in the nineteen twenties.

We chatted as if we were old friends and yet the only previous contact we’d had was a glance between benches lunch time the day before. We were in the same club, regulars of the benches by the sea.

They left for their journey back home. A starling fluttered down and sat besides me on the bench for a moment bravely looking around for food. Dark with beautiful patterns of gold tailored stitches that would ornament any regency home. Her beauty was in her splendour and stance but also that she stayed for a moment not scared off by the person sat next to her dwarfing her size. Neither had the elderly couple been scared off. They started a conversation with me, a stranger, and continued on for a good five minutes. If I am as acceptable in my current glass half full state then may be when the glass is to the brim with the gender thing then nothing will be different. May be the people I think that stare just aren’t doing so for the reason I think they are. One of my worst fear-traits of feeling outed rather than accepted.

Considering how far things have come, looking back to just a few years ago, and how much easier things are now, may be when that glass is full I’ll be totally content with myself and my life. May be I won’t be the drinking-myself-to-oblivion-to-forget-my-troubles kinda girl and then throwing it up into the toilet with my long hair acting as a sieve.

When gender identity is such a huge part of our lives, thinking about it every day and possibly every minute of that day, then there is that trap that when it’s finally sorted and we’re at one with our gender, whichever way we decide to live, then what do we do then? What do we do with our lives and our time? Our occupation. What do we think about – passionately.

The danger of simply throwing ourselves into a decision and acting on it at speed is that we can end up simply thinking, ‘what now?’ It was a worry for me when I had heard about some people who had transitioned their gender identity and found themselves with the same problems in life. I first heard about this back in my early twenties when I was in University. E-mail and the Internet to the general public was in it’s infancy yet I was able to talk to people, electronically, who had gone through a gender transition. I remember the one friend I had made, who I have never met to this day, from Australia who made one strong point, ‘Your day to day problems don’t go away.’

I never forgot it. It didn’t bother me. In fact it probably took a good few years to appreciate it. A number of years ago I decided that I wanted to act upon my day to day problems, my stresses, anxieties and lows. I didn’t want to go through any change or more accurately an outward change of identity, after all I’m not going to change myself, where I would suddenly be dumped on a load of day to day problems and no gender thing to distract me.

Within a couple of years I quit my day job. Attempted to follow a dream. Improved as a musician. Wrote creatively. Wrote blogs. Went to places I wanted to visit. I cleaned up my daily trudge and cut out the mundane. It was hard but it was a start. With a good foundation of life and my occupation of time my life had improved and with those little changes made – my confidence had grown. I had grown as a person. Without these things that solidify who I am and, more importantly, who I want to be I wouldn’t be able to cope with any change in gender identity.

I returned to the bench today. The couple weren’t there and the colder cloudier weather had driven away all but two. I clutched my hot chocolate with both hands with a return to fingerless gloves. The water calm with a gentle glimmer of dulled sunlight trying but failing to reach through the climate. I took a sip from the plastic topped cardboard logo’d cup. I looked around the serenity of nothing happening. I felt content. I felt ready for whatever was next.

Until next time

Hannah x

White Sky of April

Paving that seems to stretch forever through the urban main road sprawl that seemed well kept but lifeless other than the commuter boxes keeping the air carbon dry. The kind of housing that you could have used as a filming location for any British suburban sitcom of the nineteen eighties. Wiry branches of juvenile green summer awaking bliss givers passed overhead as I wandered aimlessly killing time.

Black wrought iron wide gates open on the other side of the road enticing me in. The fence with a single, cable tied, plastic poster for The Moscow State Circus was the only thing vaguely commercial. A triangle bordered by traffic. An escape but not idyllic. It was, at least, my escape for half an hour. A typical park with the typical path lined with equally spaced ageing trees.

There was a thought of ‘was it all worth it’. Not the gender thing, that’s here to stay and there isn’t a lot I can’t do about that, but the process. That process of having to come all the way to London for an appointment for someone to reflect back at me – whatever I say I am – all to satisfy a process just in case I need some kind of surgical intervention or medication. That’s not to say what they do is not valuable but I sit here on a bench alone, a breeze with an edge to cut goosebumps, totally shattered and not feeling particularly well on top of a long journey and not quite sure what I’m going to get out of this that couldn’t be done over the phone or through a Skype call.

Another jet has flown over. Four engines howling in a drone reminding me how close to Heathrow and how far away from home I was. Not envy felt for the exotic location those people might be travelling to. At this moment in time all I can think about is home and a hot chocolate. Comfort where I live. The park might be a rest stop that I need but it’s still cold.

I look at the traffic slowly trickling down the main road edging inches here and there. My normal curious self would be taking in the hustle and bustle of busy people all in a rush to go somewhere slowly while I sit amongst the early spring leaf trees. Yet all I can think about is the traffic I’m going to have to join for the trip home.

If I’m not ready now for full time outward gender identity then I ask why am I doing this now. Going through all this? Why don’t I stay home and once I’m ready go private for whatever I need. I think looking back all I wanted to do was push myself forwards to make sure I didn’t stall and get on that stupidly long waiting list that got even longer through maladministration.

A police van fills the void of little else that the rumble of traffic with sirens bouncing off the London stock brick buildings. Nothing changes though. The traffic still moves slowly without choice. I have choice. I suppose that’s what keeps me looking forward and thinking about me as the years pass.

It’s nearly time to go. My fingers are frozen as is my state of mind. I should be on the sofa with that chocolate and a few hours later alcohol to numb my fears. On a hard park bench, an orange band keeping my hair tied as it lay down the front of my shoulder and over the front of my black denim jacket. One or two runners lap the park passing by on the grass. I look up and the branches cut through the white sky of April.

There is a man and a woman. They must have seven or eight dogs. All small and yappy running around the centre of the park. I seem to be attracting a group of pigeons pecking around the grass while some strange bird up in the trees is making similar yappy noises as the dogs in a sub tropic impression. Ten minutes to go and suddenly the park seems interesting. Either that or I’m finding ways to normalise my day. I like interesting days. I like excitement but I suddenly want normality. A sea of contradiction. A trip to a gender clinician over one hundred and fifty miles away just doesn’t feel like normality. Today it feels prescribed.

The waiting room was quiet. A young couple chatting in what seemed to be that nervous jokey chat that people do in new situations to make themselves feel at home or appear outwardly confident. I recognised one of them from walking down the high street, a bright silver jacket that was unmistakable. I caught the eye of someone else sat at the far end opposite me who seemed to acknowledge my recognition of that nervousness.

My session was hard without seeming challenging on the surface. While I was straight and upfront about some of the things I wanted next my decisions were challenged by the clinician. Not so much in a negative way but digging deeper than in my first session. Presenting new modern concepts like non-binary and fluidity when it came to gender. I found it had an effect on me. It started my introspection. Questioning my own authenticity and allowing me to give answers that were not quite the full story because I was no longer sure if I felt confident enough to give them. I left the room after our time was up with one half of me feeling a little lost and lower. I felt I hadn’t been quite forthright enough.

I sat back in the waiting room to fill in that questionnaire before I would leave for the long trip home that was even longer in the easter traffic. I glanced up before starting to circle the feedback. The room was nearly empty apart from someone at the far end who caught my eye and smiled. Someone who wore a small section of green hair in a way that most people couldn’t. It was as if they were saying, ‘don’t worry, it’s all part of the course’ with just a look.

The golden evening sunlit gateways of the Severn Bridges were revealed as the top of the motorway gave way to the horizon that was painted with the Welsh hills in the greys of the distance, an entry to Celtic culture and the place where I grew up.

I randomly stabbed at the car radio as I got lost in the menu system which started Oasis equally randomly. Somehow comforting. I don’t know why. I only have two of their albums and one of those is a best of. May be it’s because it takes me back to uni days where I was so self assured with an outlook on life that anything could and can happen.

Gender fluidity is strong at the GIC, looking at people in the waiting room and making assumptions or the explanations that come from the clinician on how modern times have changed. A day later I’m suddenly more comfortable with myself and who I am; my identity expression. The onset of confusion and self doubt had lifted and left behind a foundation of clearer thoughts and a little more confidence. I wore my hair how I wanted that day in a way that was just a little more revealing of my identity than the last time I changed my hair to be more me. It continued to the weekend. Here and there little things I stopped worrying about and new attitudes to my expression. The challenged talking therapy had a positive effect even though it wasn’t directly what we had talked about. I move forward once again.

Until next time.

Hannah x