Twenty Past Nine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time

Hannah x

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Throwing Silver Stars of Confidence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time.

Hannah x

Reverse Masculinity

I stepped out onto the decking and felt the lines in the wood through the bottom of my ankle socks. Sharp pin holes of light cut into the newly blackened clear sky and the air cool but still thick from the first real hot day of the year. The sound of a racing motorbike echoed through the countryside from the dual carriage way and a hint of alcohol drifted from the top of my glass of spirit.

It may be late-ish on a Saturday night out in the sticks-ish, but the air felt full of life. The thump of a taxi door. People shouting “byeeee” and the hum of a car bouncing off the houses as it pulled away. The grey sound of the carriageway so detailed that it felt like I could almost hear the individual tread of tyre on tar. I looked around the surrounding houses. A warm orange glow through the closed curtains and open windows of a darkened bedroom to release the captured heat of the sun that had built through the day. The rest was just street lights, shadows and the night. A particular star to the south near the horizon beamed so bright and hung as if it were nailed to the sky giving solidity and security knowing that while many things might change the chances are that it would be there right on time the next night, every night.

It’s funny but the night air, especially when after a long warm day, can kind of make me contemplate what may happen in the future. What had sparked it off was a photo I saw that a runner had posted to Instagram, just simply a ‘mens’ deodorant. It’s not unusual for women to use mens products and even clothes; christ even some female clothes are styled as Men’s fit, though still essentially shaped for women – the Boyfriend Shirt, with it’s big lapel pockets and over length or jeans in a straighter cut.

What would this mean for me. Would I, if leading a fully fledged female life, want to reverse hints of my gender? Would I want to buy a bottle of spicy ‘Men’s’ shower gel or wear an oversized shirt in a female wearing male clothing ironically kind of way? How comfortable would that actually be spending all those years getting over the anxiety of being able to wear anything like clothing and eau de perfume only to then, on occasion, switch back to certain hints of masculinity to then be anxious that other people might think that I was no longer authentic.

I think the answer is more simple than I would at first feel. The one thing that happens when becoming more confident about expressing femininity is accepting ones self to such a degree that confidence means not caring what other people think; and the chances are that most people either didn’t care to think about it or really don’t mind. Loading up with all that confidence and being at one with yourself just means that anything I would be doing that would seem to reverse a little of my gender I know I would be doing it for myself and meant little more than just liking whatever it is. Besides all that, I don’t really like narrow cut jeans but sometimes an oversized check shirt is just nice to slum it in.

Sorting out the whole gender thing is really more than just changing gender. It’s about being comfortable with all the decisions I make and the things I do and not worrying about what other people want out of me. I may have a way to go still but it’s so clear as that night sky that what is built up in that transition is a comfort about myself that is not reversible. Sure we may have small set backs and dents, but the steps forward are usually in credit to those backwards.

It’s not just confidence in showing femininity in presentation but in expressing myself in so many other ways. When I had those sessions with the psychologist a few years ago I said how I played piano but how I didn’t feel I could call myself a musician – I really couldn’t even write it down. A profile on some social media, I might if I felt brave enough say, “play a little piano.” By the time those sessions had finished I was able to play in front of other people without feeling self conscious about it, I really could write down “Musician” and not feel I was faking it. This goes across my whole life from work to socialising. May be it’s just part of getting older and maturing and it just so happened to coincide with the gentle process of a transition but for me the barriers were so strong and vivid I knew there was an actual change in myself that I was aware of.

So there is more to changing gender than just gender and it’s not about changing who I am, it’s about bringing out those parts of me that are suppressed. We all have the masculine and feminine and we are all balanced with that in different amounts to each other. It doesn’t matter what part of the masculine that is reintroduced, if at all, what matters is happiness, comfort and oneness.

I took another look into the night sky now devoid of any hint of twilight and only polluted by the distant city glow. That star still hung there and reminded me how far I had come and how solid my changes were. How irreversible those changes are because they’re things I want. That star was just a little higher than it was earlier. Moving firmly and poetically upward. Hopefully, like the star, I will return tomorrow evening feeling exactly the same but may be just a little higher and brighter.

Until next time.

Hannah x

Il Tempo Non Esiste

I rubbed my finger slowly along the top of the TV. The dust collected under the tip of my finger and I brushed it off and let it fall randomly to the table. The dust was there and only I could clear it. Each day that I looked at it and thought, ‘That needs doing’, and just guilted myself on how much greyer it looked as another fine layer was added. I grabbed a duster and wiped the top, the back, side to side across the screen like a professional window cleaner removing that layer of water much like, in turn, a barber with a cut throat razor. It was thoroughly cleaned and I felt better for it but I wasn’t clean inside and whatever it was that was paralysing me from doing anything was still hanging on.

Time to do everything but too scared to do anything. Learn Italian or relearn French? No, I’ll do neither and sit around worrying about my future. Write and record the rest of those songs so I can at least try and do something with them. No, the pianos not in tune enough. Get on with telling some more people about the gender thing. No, I have money and a job to sort out. On the face of it I probably have my priorities correct; spending time looking for work to support myself rather than these things of interest and putting a pin in the whole gender thing for now because it will just add more stress to an already complex stressful time. The thing is I feel I need something that is progress to make me feel worthwhile and as if I have purpose.

I was watching a short film and the Italian actor said, “Il tempo non esiste.” It was just at that moment when that unravelled for me. It was what I am searching for in life. It’s not so much about slowing down or ducking out of the fast lane. It was exactly that, Time does not exist. A life where pace is at the same pace as me. Not struggling to catch a breath or barely breathing while a problem is solved. A life where time doesn’t matter because life is good and nearly each moment is enjoyable as the next. It brings pictures to my mind of freshly ripe tomatoes, peppers and pasta dusted with flour. Ripe lemons and bunches of olives hanging from trees in the morning sun. Bright houses and blue skies to light them. People who always say hello and have a moment for you.

The problem in my western culture is that the majority seem to like to accept the nine to five, which in reality is now eight to six basic and you’ll go when we say you can go. That majority trudge to work each day, process everything we have to process for society to function in it’s machine-like fashion, and go home to do what little we can before the rinse–repeat for the weekend. It’s safe but who is working who, society for us or we for the machine society. It works, that’s the problem, but when will the machine run so fast that it falls apart. Life should be challenging but it shouldn’t be destructive.

–– ––

I flung the curtains open. It was blue skies and puffy white clouds. Breezy and still a chill but it was a sign of some better weather. I quickly got showered and changed. Three quarter length capris and a loose t-shirt. I sat in the car and turned the key, nothing. “Damn.” I pulled the bike from the back of the garage where is sat propped against all the cardboard boxes as if the front wheel was using the rest of the bike as a unicycle. I set off on the mile or two ride to my destination.

Each foot scrapped on the gravel in that kind of crunch way that it does on the drives of those rich enough to gravel them but here the wind brushed over my face making my cheeks red and the my senses heightened to the noise of a trickle of a small brook with a waterfall and the smell of the pine trees either side of the path that rose upwards presenting it’s own challenge to me. I had been here before either walking or riding but the spur of the moment and the elation of imagining what it was going to be like to run through the pine forest early(ish) on a sunny day and then the reality being just like the thought, it was incredible. It was an Il Tempo Non Esiste moment. Time really didn’t mean anything at that moment. I wasn’t thinking about jobs and no money. I wasn’t thinking about my future or worrying about my past. There was just the present. The way we should really live.

Running, for me, is what keeps me going at the moment. It’s not just the endorphins making me feel better or helping me to think through my problems at times, it’s the place I can be myself. A place I can wear things for running and be happy about it and totally comfortable and to some extent feel like who I will be if I ever complete my journey; at least complete to where the new journey begins. It’s around other people as well and now it’s second nature how I feel at that moment and in the moments leading up to it, then I really am in the right place, “Il tempo non esiste.”

When I returned to the carpark and walked to my locked bike an older gentleman walking around his van looked at me perturbed. “Is that your bike?” He asked concerned.
“Yes it is.” I said wondering why he was so interested.
“You want to be careful. They’ll have that.”
“I was a bit worried leaving it here but it’s old and not worth much.”
“Doesn’t matter to them.”
“Thanks. May be I won’t leave it here again.”
“They’ll have it because it’s there. You get some right wankers around here.”

Tempo restituito.

Until next time.

Hannah x

I am Somewhere

The living room hadn’t changed size but it felt like the walls had slowly closed in at an imperceptive rate like the moon across a black sky. Shining bright but too blinded to see the change. It was the return of nostalgia that did it. I don’t know what started it off. May be I was just in that place, you know, when the stars align or in my case emotion plus situation plus time to think, et al.

I had been mucking around on the piano and played a tune from the nineties and later on, while making my dinner, I played that tune on Youtube and Youtube decided to playlist me everything else from the nineties. The Aloof, Oasis, The Verve, Manics; they came one after another. I thought I’d buried the medicinal hit to my sadness of missing the past – for good the last time I’d written about nostalgia. I thought it had gone but it was back for a brief visit.

It’s idiotic when I think about it. In the nineties and noughties I wasn’t free to express my femininity restricted by my own guilt and now I’m free to express it I’m haunted by the times I seem to miss.

I think this time though the music was the carrier rather than the trigger; the trigger would have been my circumstances. Months on and still no change of career or even a job. While the music carried on it brought back memories of when I worked and lived in Bristol city. Security, confidence and ‘happiness?’ I thought for a moment whether I should forget the idea of some utopian job, where I’m quick to rise in the morning looking forward to work and even quicker to get to bed the night before, and may be return to somewhere like Bristol in a well-paid new media job and end up in modern apartment living on one of the quay sides.

It was solidly rose-tinted though. How can I build a new life in an old place surrounded by empty ghosts. It makes me eternally sad for something that probably wasn’t that good. When I think back hard about specific days back then, sometimes it was more dystopian and boredom. I’ve been hear before but I’d put it to bed some time ago. I suppose I’m looking for the easy way. Returning to places that I know and experienced in. Walking through that same park at lunch time for a coffee and an unhealthy lunch from a fast-food cart full of butter and salt. Stuffing my face full of sugar energy rich flapjacks through the day to burn fast and bright. Churn out work and down tools and hit the bars with work colleagues, return to some post-modern apartment only to start the next day all over again.

The thing is I’m fast approaching twenty years since Bristol and those nights would be returning to an empty flat, living alone in cold quarters. The people I knew back then were no longer there. Christ, even the company was long gone – destroyed quickly by the dot com crash. It would be a different place, a different time and I wouldn’t have the zing of optimistic youth on my side. It would just be the same old shit.

It was clear to me as the weekend approached that this was all being driven by a little depression setting in as the days had passed and it was just something I had to shake. The nostalgia was passing, it was like it had been the flu vaccine – it had the same structure but didn’t have the potency to keep me stuck in that sadness of the past, but it had left behind some damage. Running had fixed this type of thing before and it was pretty much all I had right now to put things right.

–– ❤ ––

I woke as early as I possibly could for a Saturday so I could at least eat a little and get to the running event. I checked the alarm clock and by some miracle it was early enough that I’d beaten the alarm. I pulled the curtains and looked along the roof lines of the other houses, through the gap that revealed the country field and trees up to the clouds that hung like sodden sponges on edge of letting go delivering the rain that had been forecast. May be I would be lucky and wouldn’t get soaked through.

I had doubts whether the morning run would be the prescription I would need to shake these blues that were trying ever so hard to let the black dog in. I chose the running leggings that were the most comfortable – a Ben and Jerry’s tub of ice cream in the form of sports clothing. I pulled the sock basket out looking for my ankle socks and noticed the various sets of everyday black socks. You know the ones. A multipack bought for Christmas each with a little splash of different colours so you know which ones pair up. Blue, Green, Pink, Yellow. When I’m picking a pair of those socks I don’t just grab a pair and wear them. I look at that little colour logo and decide which colour represents how I feel that day.

It’s not a thought process that is at the forefront it’s just instinctual but I’m aware of it. If I’m in a logical business-like mood, may be thinking about my finances that day, blue. If I’m feeling more feminine than usual, pink. St. Patrick’s Day, green. No other socks to choose from, yellow. It’s a bit mad but at the same time, looking at it from a gender view, I don’t think it’s the colour that is important here to indicate a female perspective but the fact that I do this is probably more telling. I think if I had more choices of my running ankle socks the dictation of choice would apply there too – in fact it does I just can’t quite connect why I pick the aqua blue and green socks some days over the black white and purple. I just do and I like that I do.

I got to the run earlier than I thought. Those Easter Saturday morning roads to the city were quiet but at the start people gathered with energy and happiness oozing from groups of people socialising before the stop watches were clicked to go and people with optimism of a personal best. Already I could feel those blues lifting just from being around other people all with the same idea to run and feel good. The rain had held off though the cold had clung on enough to keep my gloves and wooly hat on.

By the end I was happy again. I felt sociable which I hadn’t most of the week. I felt worth something. I felt it was worth putting in some effort to find me again and shake off the past because the future had something worth living for. I think as I find those little bits of me I haven’t been able to express in the past that it’s much more comfortable than I thought it might be and while I still have so much to sort out, at least for now, I am fixed, I am somewhere.

Until next time.

Hannah x.

Little Bit of Warmth

Looking through the mottled glass window of the front door into the night falling on the street that appeared black oil as the rain glossed the tarmac and the sharp street lamps added shine. My mood fell in an instant and only for a moment. Black and Dire. There is something about late night when everyone is locked away and the rain is all that is moving. Washing away the surface. It should be rejuvenating like a flowing river gushing over hard rocks but it’s gloomy, solitary and abandoned.

A week later I found myself on a cold quiet bleak bus stop alone in the countryside not far from my home. Not even eight a.m. on a Saturday, a little snow floating around, air barely above freezing creeping around my calfs below my running trousers and regret that fingerless gloves were the wrong decision.

It was a contrast between the gloomy and the bleak and, while both should have given me the same feeling inside, the bleak didn’t make me feel abandoned. I was going to the early morning running event in the city and it was me that was going. A kind of day where I wear what I want and I am who I am but without making some kind of effort to ensure that the right gender is perceived. It’s a take me as I am day and let’s see what happens. Nothing is official, at least not yet, and only a handful of people know about me – or at least a handful of people I know know about me plus a few people who I suspect do but I don’t know for sure; you get the idea.

I stood there in my hooded sweatshirt and mixed colour three quarter running tights pleased that I brought an extra hoodie which I soon pulled from my plastic bag of things not worth nicking that I’ll leave at the start. Ankle running socks and a plaited leather anklet tied with a bow that probably made me feel me more than the all my other clothes. It was the full stop at the end of a sentence.

It was hard to believe that ten years ago I would be crossing the road and avoiding a bus coming up the road. Now I was wishing it to hurry up so I could get out of the cold, buy my expensive return ticket and enjoy the hello and thank you. Getting on with my own business and enjoying life. Even the bus trip seems quicker. Before I knew it I was pressing the stop button and walking along a busy road of traffic towards the event.

There is nothing worse than the whistle going, starting the run and within twenty seconds realising that the glass of water after waking was all stored up sloshing about in an impatient bladder. Being the city it was easy to nip in to the supermarket nearby with all the other runners. I don’t know what seems so unnatural about lycra tops and trouser crowds walking through the fruit and veg isle en-route to the toilet. It feels like a black tie outfit in a rough pub.

It was the Men’s. It had to be. It wasn’t an effort day. I wouldn’t be kidding anyone, pink hat or no pink hat. But that all said, while standing at the hand dryer chasing water around my hands, I counted two men who walked in, looked around, walked back out to the door, walked back in again, looked at the urinary in a confirmatory fashion and finally made a decision to stay; one of which decided to wait for a cubical. May be I was kidding people more than I thought – at least a little.

In fact the week before at another event I was speaking to another runner. An older-than-me lady that I’d spoken to a few times. “It’s warmer than I thought it would be today. I’m going to get a coffee after this.” she said.
“I’m cold this morning.” I said holding onto what heat I could. “I’m going to need a coffee too.”
“Are you showing – ” she looked down at my running trousers, “Yes you’re showing some… legs… today.”

The answer to her query then silently seemed to answer a different question. Nothing was said but it’s one of those moments where I wondered did she just like my trousers or kinda questioned them in her own mind. It was the pause that did it.

But as the weeks go on these moments become less noticeable and when I do I just let them run. I no longer constantly worry about what I’m wearing – I just wear and forget. I wear and enjoy. I wear and be. I might look at another female runner at the start and still wish, just for a moment, and then realise the wish has sort of been granted and the worry or disappointment just floats away.

Whenever I had spoken about the change of identity with my psychologist a few years ago he would talk about subtle changes and he was so right. While I have always been who I am inside there is a kind of change because as I become more comfortable with bringing my identity to the outside my identity changes when it comes to confidence, comfort and happiness. It still amazes me, even now, there are still subtle changes I hadn’t noticed say a few weeks or months before. Little bits of warmth inside when I suddenly recognise comfort in myself when I’m doing the things I love.

When it comes to making a decision about my future, isn’t this comfort a really important decision-making evidence. Worthy of supported documentation. In fact, when I think about it, it’s pretty much one of the most important, real, genuine and authentic gender things. I can’t think of much else that gives such an on-the-nose, qualified reasoning, other than what makes someone happy and function well. Running makes me physically healthy, my gender identity makes me mentally healthy – that’s when I get to be that gender.

Until next time.

Hannah x

A Gender Thing

It may have been a chain cafe that was third inline to the cafe-king throne but beyond the branding it fitted in with the market town that, beyond the typical high-street checklist of stores that are rubber stamped throughout Britain, the cafe’s brown leatherette arm chairs could have been right out of the dusty genuine antique shop around the corner. The coffee was strong and bitter and the window seat gave us a chance to gaze out of the window, recover from the day trip drive to this town and decide where to spend our time after the people watching and coffee. I always want to spend my time wisely without taking away the excitement of spontaneity and discovery, especially so when I take a day trip with my parents. There is also a certain amount of redaction of ideas because, really, they like their comfort zone.

It was midweek, coming to the end of winter and a lack of tourists. Everything was just normal. A worker in a sharp grey suit nipping out of an estate agent for a premature baked pastry lunch at Greggs and a coffee to keep that youthful energy even more unnecessarily hyper. The upper half of the high street buildings were Cotswolds old and the bottom half branded with the likes of Boots, Starbucks, Dorothy Perkins and White Stuff. As a tourist it was a case of looking above the shops to work out what was old and what was not. What had been rebuilt in-the-style because the carved date under the roof was 1980 rather than 1880.

We exhausted the historic town hall and the local pristine church of pale stone set within regimental two inch high lawn shadowed by two hundred year old trees on a day that had a full blue sky but still a cold edge to the February breeze. My Mum had disappeared around the corner of an alleyway. She had found something and called me. She called me a few times ever louder each time until I came. Around the corner was a single large covered market stall.

A display of glassware made locally. Expensive glassware. My Dad had wandered down soon after me and wandered straight in. I returned to the entrance as I just didn’t want to get straight into conversation with the man who wandered over to chat with my parents and, I expect, attempt to sell something. I looked at the items around the doorway.

“Hello, wonderful aren’t they.” he said in a west-country accent that was less farmer than Bristol but still recognisably so. My Mum as always was polite to engage, “Oh this one is lovely.” My Dad nodded while I, with my back to them, still continued to look at a purple glass decanter thing that caught my eye.

“What about the young lady? Does she like this sort of thing?” he asked. I may have not been looking but a sixth sense kicked in and I could just feel the confusion from my Mum.
“The young lady, your daughter?” he suggested.

Happiness and a smirk rose and spread edge to edge of my face. “It is your daughter isn’t it?” he said trying to nudge a reply from my Mum.

Mum had remedied the confusion, “Oh that’s my son.” she said nicely. I flicked my ponytail with my fingers as I turned and remarked “It’s the hair.” in some kind of effort not to make the man feel awkward about some kind of mistake.

The moment was, of course, over within a flash. The man was a nice man. Not just because he kind of made my day but he was funny, interesting and didn’t feel embarrassed by my Mum’s correction. While we walked around the town for the rest of the afternoon there was an alfresco elephant in the room. I thought about joking about it but then I didn’t want the gender thing to become a joke. It’s not the first time this has happened around my parents but it’s rare that it’s so obvious. Dare I mention it though. If I bring it up what possible reason would I be bringing it up for and what would I get out of it? If I joke about it, it makes it a joke.

There was no point in saying anything. I’ll just smile to myself inside and let it ride out. I know I get technically misgendered which to me is correctly gendered – plenty of times. I suppose that on this occasion it was around people who mattered to me but it wasn’t really a time to talk about it and after all was it anything special, what had happened, other than an amusement to me because I know something other people don’t?

We got into the car ready to set off for the journey home. Seat belts on. Car started. Travel sweets ready. Pay-and-display ticket pulled from the dash and stored somewhere else in the car which in retrospect would have been better off left on the dash. “Daughter.” Mum chuckled. “I wouldn’t swap you for a daughter for anything.” she ended. Ouch.

I made light of it again later that day when she retold the story to someone else in my family and I wondered to myself why I had even stuck to that moment. After all it happens a lot and it was nothing new. I guess when it’s around my parents it’s a little bit of a litmus paper. A little check to see what they might think. The problem with these moments is those tests can give magnified false positives either way. I suppose I was also pleased that it wasn’t just the man seeing the back of my hair because he had seen me before when I first walked in. There was something of a little acceptance.

It was only a week or so later when out running that I realised my phone had just fallen out of my pocket. I frantically looked amongst the almost black dead leaves on the side of the path under the park trees that made the grass almost black looking for a black phone. I stopped one of the other runners. “Excuse me, do you have a phone on you, I’ve lost my mobile.” I asked desperately.

“Yes. You might have left the ringer off though.” he said almost squeezing out what little hope I had left to find my phone.

I gave him my number and he typed it in. The screen said “calling” and I heard the music jingle from within the leaves and earth but I didn’t look around straight away. I spent just a second or so mesmerised at his mobile screen, “Calling, Hannah James”.

‘Do I know him?’ I thought, ‘No, only one person who knows me as Hannah would be likely to have me in their mobile phone as Hannah and I didn’t recognise this man. I recovered my phone and we walked along the path with his friend that had been running with him. I thanked him and he started telling me about an app he has on his phone. “Yeah this is great, so like when I called you it showed Hannah, I can tell who is calling me even if I don’t know them and calling numbers I don’t know. They collect the details from all sorts of places, other people with the app I expect.”
“That’s really handy.” I said. He hadn’t said a word about ‘Hannah.’ He didn’t say, ‘was it correct?’ or ‘is that your name?’ or ‘why it’s showing Hannah I don’t know. What’s your name?’ It appeared that Hannah was just accepted. There was a genuine correct-gendering and it felt nice – even if technology is insisting on telling the world about me.

Until next time.

Hannah x

Shards of Chocolate

A wave of the wind became louder as it approached across the top of the forest like the sea rushing towards a beach. A rushing noise getting ever closer echoing in the valley. I pushed the pedals hard to get up the incline that ran on the rubble path through the cutting. Pine trees so dense that pitch-black darkness fell in just a few metres to my side. The middle of a Sunday afternoon of February that just got colder as I climbed in altitude.

There were very little people along this forest path. Only the couple on their romantic walk that I had passed a few minutes ago and the rest that had filled the carpark had gone the other side of the forest. I clicked down a gear again but it was no good. I just couldn’t go any further. The incline had got the better of me; actually it was a mental issue, looking at the length of path in front of me before any sign of levelling out, that had done it. That and the air that was getting colder in the branches of my lungs.

I stopped for a moment to catch my breath and looked back across the clearing in the trees that revealed hilly green fields and wiry oaks dotted in spaces around a farm house in the distance. I looked down at my three quarter length capri trousers and promised those several-inches of legs that I wouldn’t let them get scratched by thorns and sticky-out branches today to be left healing for a few weeks – again.

I walked a few yards on the white gravel pathway and then jumped back on my bike and continued to the top of the forest. I hadn’t been at this part before. It was quieter with what looked like a dry cutting of stream running between a gap in the trees and leaving roots showing bare above the earth. They were bumpy to ride over throwing the handle bars left and right but I pushed on to get to the final bit of day light and a metal gate. For all this pastoral in the distance and wilds of the forest it had become still and solitary.

I unlatched the small metal gate and pulled the bike through. I was free of the darkness of pine but now greeted by cobbles of natural rock running along the barbed wire fence and tufts of grass land before another forest that crept even higher and ever more difficult. The rocks and mud turned to flowing water from a natural spring and now my legs that were one of the few uncovered parts weren’t thanking me for long thin slices of mud dashing my skin.

As the water gave way to a dryer, harder grassy pathway I had finally found myself at the peak. I turned and looked to my side. A bitterly cold hard wind hit me from another valley brushing the tops of the hills harsh where I stood and plunging a wind-chill temperature into minus figures. I turned to the other side, my ponytail now flowing forwards along the side of my face. I saw the land pour downwards until it reached the bottom of the other valley, onwards for several miles and then to a distance grey coastline of England over the sea.

I struggled my bike over a stile into the next field and rode towards the edge of the steep flow and downwards a little out of the hillside to stop for a moment out of the wind. Without the wind the land fell completely silent. Not a single noise. No traffic or birds. Just an open land.

I looked at my calf. A scratch. Great. Alway happens. Always some twig or thorn. I rolled my leg around and examined it. ‘oh and another.’ It could have been worse, I could have really had a nasty fall when I almost lost my balance on those stones coming up that last path. It could have been worse. I had cancelled my next gender clinic appointment just a few days before. But despite the disappointment in myself I thought, well, that could have been worse. The truth was I had so much on my mind at the moment, worrying about money and employment. It wasn’t just about not being able to afford the stupidly long three hundred mile round trip to what is really just a doctors appointment to put it in pigeon holed terms, it was becoming about survival and what next for my life.

Sometimes there really is more to life than the whole gender thing and really, thinking about it, I don’t think I would have achieved much going there this month with everything on my mind. I took a simple selfie last time I was there. Just before the appointment while I was waiting in the park just down the road. I had time to kill and the weather was okay. I took it as a moment for me. It was a significant moment even if it really wasn’t. A silly contradiction that needed some evidence. I would either keep it to remind myself of how far I have come or just delete it. It was only for me.

I came across it the other day by accident and it was coincidence and fait that I found it around the time I was cancelling an appointment. It couldn’t have been better because I had phoned the gender clinic to tell them but the person told me to write-in and gave me an obscured ‘donotreply’ type e-mail address that didn’t inspire confidence in the message getting through, and we all know what happens to a referral if you don’t show without cancelling. I took the side of caution and wrote a letter explaining why I wouldn’t be able to make it and to ask for an appointment later in the year.

I had dropped it at the post office with a recorded delivery, which past experience had taught me well, but had still worried about whether they would take issue with my cancelling. Funding and time is ever so precious to that clinic but that photo – the selfie from last time – it reminded me that this was about me. Not about them or red tape, forms, procedure, box ticking. That might well be the case for them, and I would always do the courtesy of keeping them informed, but this is my life and I have to do things in my time when it suits me, my family, my situation, my everything.

I don’t think it was just that photo that showed me how far I had come. It was also remembering how I felt at that moment. How there was no pretence. It was a serious natural matter I was dealing with and at that moment I was confident about knowing who I was and what my problems were and might well be.

The silence broke with the cry of a Sparrow Hawk. I couldn’t see it but the sound was enough. It was the dusting on a cappuccino. The shards of chocolate on a tiramisu. Up here on the top of the hill that to me was a mountain, these problems just seem so small and down there at home so big. At least at this moment I could enjoy who I was and remember that this was free and the ride back would all be downhill at least.

Until next time.

Hannah x.

Eggs Benedict

I opened the kitchen cupboard and a waft of all the herbs and spices came out in an invisible cloud. Nothing distinct just everything in one big mix. I pulled up the little jars one by one from the second row back. The row of herbs and spices that were used sometimes. Found it – Coriander seeds. I only needed six which I dropped in the mortar bowl and crushed them releasing the fragrance with the pestle. There may have been just a few special ingredients for such a simple meal but I couldn’t work it out – why didn’t I make Eggs Benedict more often?

At least I was going to start one new year’s resolution. I cracked another egg to start the Hollandaise sauce while juggling with grilling a slice of Bacon and trying to work out when to drop the other egg in the pan of hot vinegar-water to poach. It was then I realised it was all such a faff. It seemed to be taking forever and the recipe from the well-known chef said the Hollandaise doesn’t keep so can’t be made in advance and I had to keep it warm and disturb it if the top forms a skin. May be this is why I haven’t done it for so long. I persevered though with positivity that it would be worth while; and it was just that.

The yoke burst just as the photo on the recipe showed with the Hollandaise coating over the top, down the sides of the egg, the bacon, the English muffin and spilling into a seasoned-yellow pool on the plate. The taste combined with all layers, which when you think about it should be just an egg and bacon sandwich with fancy sauce, was out of this world, or at least out of my kitchen. A zing from the acidity of the lemon and vinegar in the sauce against the savoury. It just worked. It was a lesson in one bite. All good things come to those who wait.

I suddenly realised how rushing some things just didn’t achieve what I might be setting out to do. I had taken my time and it might have just been for lunch but the outcome was worth the effort. They say that happiness is not necessarily in the goal but the journey, but in this case it was kind of both. The goal had justified the journey and made that journey more happy than it should have been. I thought for a moment about my journey. My gender journey.

I have an appointment in February at the gender clinic but with my finances now dwindled to just the most important things to survive, like food, bills, rent – taxes, but not all of those particularly important to me, I would have to cancel my appointment. A three hundred mile round trip for an hour with a clinician would just have to wait.

But I really wasn’t that bothered by the thought. I didn’t feel ready. There were so many things that hadn’t happened, at least yet, that we expected to happen by this next appointment that there didn’t seem much point in going into debt for chat in the west of London. Besides, all good things come to those who wait.

All good things – my destination to be happy with my gender; whatever point it might land at. To those who wait – why not wait? I know where I am in that journey and I know I don’t want to be on hold anymore but what is ‘being on hold?’ It’s not progressing and everyday I am progressing. If not in obvious outward ways at least internally and every ounce of internal progression shows externally eventually like water leaking from a sponge. Growing who I am and the unbelievable comfort in who I am that I couldn’t have dreamt that, several years ago, I would feel this way now. How many demons have gone and are locked out forever. A simple meal had made me reflect so profoundly and feel at ease at what I needed to do, just take my time.

– ❤ –

I rolled out the pink and blue mat on the grubby-seasoned oak flooring in the dining room along the patio doors. I moved the plants and table from the window. Shifted the book case. The sun had already set and left the sky destined for midnight blues down to a burnt orange glow behind the sharp silhouette of trees, fencing and the roofs of the other houses.

I was still unable to run due to my injury but things were looking up. I had finished the medication and I didn’t feel too much pain. Things were improving but I needed something to fill that void where I was once de-stressing and finding some mild spiritual thinking time that running had given me; there is only some much you can get out of Eggs Benedict.

I propped the tablet screen against the wall above the skirting at the end of the pink-side of the mat and typed ‘Yoga’ into Youtube. The first result just seemed to be the right one. A pleasant location and basic Yoga, just like I had done at the complimentary class back in the days when I could afford the membership of a gym some years ago. I remembered how it gave me time to myself. It was kind of like switching your mobile phone off and not being able to switch it back on for an hour – all while making my body more supple and staying just a little bit fitter.

Having that time to myself and not being distracted cleared my head. The location in my house with a view of the sky at that time of day just seemed to add more to it. Clearing the space so that I wouldn’t be bumping into things, like I might have in the living room, just made sense. Clearing spaces, clearing the mind. I quickly plaited my hair down my back and tied it off with my beige stretchy ribbon hair tie. The gentle introduction back into Yoga was a gentle reminder of my body and how it felt. Stretching and finding soft limits and what felt right. I surprised myself on how much I could do – it felt good. It felt good to be able to do these things. It felt easier than when I had done it those years ago. There is nothing like staring at dark purple painted toe nails and managing to get my hands flat on the floor. May be all that running last year had paid off. Even my injury felt okay.

The next day I rearranged the dining room so that it would be more easy to set up for another Yoga session by the doors. A vista just seemed like a requirement. May be in the summer I would have both the weather and courage to do it on the decking in the garden. All I had to do now was slide a plant out of the way and roll my mat out. It was cloudy and it was cold out. It was one of those days that just looked still and frozen in grey as if the weather had clamped down and was about to stop time. It might have normally become a negative day for me but it didn’t because I knew I could have time to myself in this part of the house where I would feel clear minded and at one with my body. The weather outside, that frozen grey blanket in the sky, was like watching nature pass by. The yoga felt like it could move that sky. I felt like everything was just how it should be – may be with just one or two minor physical things that just didn’t matter right now. The new year had started and I had three new resolutions to continue, Egg Benedict, Yoga and oneness.

Until next time.

Hannah x

Cotton In The Breeze – A New Year’s Eve Special

The cafe was a mess. Used takeaway cups on tables. Opened sandwich wrappers left unattended for others to clean up. I scrubbed at the cold steel kitchen work surface until it was clean enough to operate on and getting into all the edges and corners. I was detailed in my detailing. I loaded the dish washer to the brim and set it off while I moved onto cleaning the commercial-grade cappuccino machine ensuring every part of this instrument was pristine and free of bacteria.

It was my first day but I was going to remain in the kitchen until it was clean. There is no way this cafe was going to operate before it was thoroughly cleaned and there was no way I would go out onto the shop floor to serve until that was the case. I sprayed at everything and rubbed hard with the cloth. Endless surfaces. Sink, worktop, more brushed-steel machines, a large heavy door fridge. You name it, I cleaned it. It must have been early because the few staff that should be there were not to be seen. Probably wondering why the new person was stuck in the back of the cafe cleaning there rather than clearing the shop floor or opening up.

Eventually I wandered out onto the shop floor and looked at the mess on the tables. ‘Lets get this lot sorted.’ I thought to myself. I wandered in and stacked cardboard cups with brown milky dregs at the bottom, why people had cardboard cups when they drink-in I really didn’t know. May be the price was cheaper. Wrappers cleared and crumbs on every table satisfactorily wiped clear in a circular motion. It was inspiriting.

I wiped another table, I paused for a moment, looked down and noticed. I stood up again and looked to double check. I was a waitress. It was the black skirt that gave it away. Short enough that I knew it was something that would be noticed by others, workers, customers, may be even a friend that might just come in for a latte. I wasn’t going to be able to hide this away. It was pretty obvious who I was presenting myself as and that’s how I would be working. My heart beat increased a little, just for a moment, and then for some reason it was alright again. There was no need to worry. I questioned it for a second, as always, ‘what would people think’ but this time it was answered by something like ‘this is who I am, let’s carry on. Just another day’ and that is what I did.

It was some kind of branded coffee shop I think, Costa may be, but just as messy as a Starbucks, unusually set somewhere in a small town or village in the countryside. The Cotswolds may be. It could have been Surrey. Quiet – no city noise. I had woken but it had stuck like few dreams do. It was vivid and saturated in bright clear colours. It had felt so real and honest.

I had felt so at ease working at a job that had satisfaction and it felt stress free and then like adding a dash of salt to finish the seasoning of a cooking meal the dream threw in a little gender thing. It’s so rare I have a dream that addresses the feminine side so vividly but when it does happen it doesn’t ever seem to argue against or challenge my gender choice internally, it’s just sort of honest and clear of problems. Besides, was it really a choice or just a self-acceptance? No judgment, sometimes nervousness followed by it’s all okay, carry on.

“Go get it then, Madam.” my Mum said before a cognitive pause, “Sir.” she said correcting herself as I got up to get something or other from the living room. I don’t even remember what it was I was doing, it was the madam bit I’d remembered from a day over the Christmas week – and then on New Year’s Eve, standing in the kitchen while my Mum was talking to my Dad, something along the lines of “oh she was just… he was just saying…” Mum said stumbling over the he bit. A brain freeze, genuine mistake, a slip of the tongue because she knows a little already about the gender thing, but not a testing-the-water thing.

They’re silly little things and I don’t grab onto them anymore like little trinkets of validation but when they happen it is a little insight into what things could be like. I imagine the reality would be a mix of pronouns bouncing between the masculine and feminine much like how parents mix the names their children in conversation. Any use of he, him, man wouldn’t be nonvalidation, it would just be years of habitual use, but every her would be worth ten of him.

The morning started dark as I woke at something-past-seven. The sky slowly turning grey as the hidden sun rose and every now and then a crackle of rain hitting the window hard in gusts of the breeze. Only blessed with a hint of sun early afternoon when a break of blue sped above my parents home on New Year’s Eve. It was like the world was saying, you’re going to have to be patient for a clear and spiritual new year and, while a lovely blue crisp day would make me feel better from the start about the coming year, all I needed were words to know what should happen next. Those new year resolutions.

I don’t like to put big hard resolutions with unrealistic expectations where a black ballpoint pens the words so hard they can be read by indentations on several pages of that brand new diary. A soft blue pen with curves on the rounded letters is just so much more appropriate and a produce of my feminine side. May be I should write something down in my new diary I had for Christmas. I have ideas. Some obvious like finding a new job that doesn’t just pay to keep expensive me but something I enjoy and really care about; whether that’s a new career or fore-filling my literal dream of working in a cafe in a Rachel Green countenance, without thinking about it, is another matter.

Progressing myself as a pianist, a word I use loosely, is an obvious one that goes without saying just as getting my injury sorted and getting back to running for fitness and the community spirit that goes with it. All good for mental health. Eggs Benedict. For some reason I want to make that again, important enough to put it down on a new year resolution.

I want change. I want changes that benefit my mental health and my spiritual health. I want to clear parts of my house with things in storage that will lift weight off my shoulders and hoard less deferring memories to photos rather than silly little receipts or flyers. Rid of those things kept because I might need them one day. Clean kitchen, a clean mind.

I should go to the beach more in the winter when it’s devoid of tourists, rich in ozone, sea salt air and optimism rather than just a few times here and there. Miles of dark golden sands and a long tide that reveals wide open spaces and closes to dramatic crashing waves on the rocks. I sometimes forget how lucky I am.

Continue a progression towards bringing everything gender to a centre ground and feel that freeness and freshness when I’m who I want to be, inside and out. Plus, in typical NYE fashion, loose a little weight I’ve gained since not being able to run and stuffing ones face with mince pies; my clothes do not like this.

I want to be more read. I still have a little passion for learning and expanding my knowledge in so many ways. I want to be awake and I want every minute count without feeling anxious about the minutes that aren’t counting. I wish for a clouds to disperse, in their own time, and continue my journey.

Until next year.

Happy New Year.

Hannah x

A Thank You

I started this blog in March 2014 and with a comparatively small but loyal following, I would like to thank you the reader for taking your time to read what I have to write and to all those who took the trouble to write a few lines to me either personally or through the comments and more so on other websites; without this I would not be coming up to four years of writing. Thank you!

Also a thank you to the following websites, Angels Forum, Nutty Cats and last but certainly not least T-Central for both listing my blog but also on more than a few occasions making my blog entries the feature article with such kind words. It means a lot.

t-central.blogspot.co.uk
nuttycats.com