Town Girl Lives in Countryside

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time.

Hannah x

Advertisements

Fatigued

A white ceiling slowly rolled-by alternating with large roman tiled beams. Large round pillars titled in an old roman style with a modern twist drifted alongside. It was my place from everywhere. You wouldn’t think it was there buried deep in the centre of one of the biggest cities in the world while the world rushed around outside. I pushed the water slowly again with my arms and kicked my feet once to push myself again floating on my back in the swimming pool.

Further below tube trains raced packed, even with the financial district switched off and the weekend fast approaching, through the centre of the arteries of the city that, somehow, manage to keep flowing without a heart attack.

It wasn’t particularly a plan to get away but more that I needed to fill my time off or I’d waste it and come to the end and think ‘what on earth did I do?’ I’d cobbled together a trip away with a bag of clothes and toiletries and within a few hours I was slowly floating away my problems in the hotel swimming pool just staring at that ceiling. Pains and aches had gone and a zest to do things had surfaced.

Weeks on from that day I feel drained again. Fatigued. I still go to work each day. I still get up early and I still run when I can but the fatigue itself is draining. It’s hard to get through the day let alone think about and deal with the gender thing. But this is physical fatigue. Plop on top the politics of gender identity and things get a bit heavy.

Sometimes I find it’s best to just turn off from the mediaopinion on gender. Only the last couple of weeks we’ve heard of a school pulling a book from the children’s learning that teaches about trans people; fear for some reason. It’s always easy to knee-jerk when children are involved but then what is wrong with teaching children about the real world. No amount of teaching will ever makea child something they’re not, people are who they are, there is only discovery. In my day it was about race. We learnt about cultures and skin colour and this is the kind of thing that make us better as a society by starting at the beginning.

The problem with reading and watching the news about these things I find I can easily become blinkered to what the world is for transgendered people daily. It’s one view and usually concentrate and highly defined which can feel negative and daunting. I’ve learnt to let go of the news in this respect. It’s freeing to just realise that while there can be dangers from those who aren’t tolerant, those who are of an opinion really just amount to just that, an opinion. And some of those people are in it just for a career in controversy and hate without consequence for themselves. Let’s not name names.

Yet, when I’m running at an event amongst other people, I’m a world away from all that nonsense what some people think about gender identity. I just run. I just chat to people. I am me without worrying about whether people have an aversion to transgendered people or not. If I had to deal with that during times like that then I would be more than fatigued and drained.

Even talking about it now feels negative and draining. Yet if I just ignore it I rarely see or hear it from day to day. That time in work a several weeks ago was the first I’d heard negative transphobia in a very long time and a little this week elsewhere that I guess would generally be put down to banter.My thought at the time was, ‘how little you know.’ and put it down to that with a secret wry smile.

So I think I’ve found a way of dealing with light weight transphobia by just brushing it off and doing without it and may be that’s good preparation for if the time comes that it becomes directed at me rather than just idle gossip in the air. And all the hard-line terrifying transphobia seems to be held in the news, the media and social media, which has an off switch. It’s a bit like turning off the TV and going outside for a walk in the sunshine. You kinda just leave it where it is and it goes away.

All this was a million miles away as I lay floating on the surface of the water in the quiet swimming pool and the sound of trickling water. If switching off the TV was the escape then this place was where things like this were forgotten. I know that my time was short there but that hour felt like it was lasting forever and even though I knew I would have to pack up and leave that weekend that once again I would likely return and you never know how much I’ll have changed by then.

Until next time

Hannah x

Permission to Shiver – A Five Year Anniversary Special

I sat in the cafe, noisy and busy. A cheap coffee in front of me that was just about this side of dish water and the right side of a pound coin to make it worth drinking. An upstairs view across the housing of the west of the city and a table full of runners – post run. It had been damp and the rows of charcoal grey old tiled roofs were drying in the wind that had hit us head on that morning. I hugged my cup with the rest of my comfort from a delicious chocolate muffin that stood off-centre on the plate.

Five years. Five years since I started writing about my thinking and looking back at my first I wouldn’t have said back then, that right now I’d be sitting amongst other runners while wearing the long running tights that I’d always wished I could wear and a high ponytail without feeling anxious and fraught with butterflies and too afraid to move. It makes me wonder where I’ll be in the next five years. I sat there, which today happened to be with the other women, and listened to the conversation.

“My fingers are sooo cold still.” Karen said clenching her fingers. She hadn’t even been running this week, helping out marshalling the course; standing around, still, can be even more freezing than an oncoming wind.
“Try this.” said Lea, handing Karen a small rectangle material hand warmer. Lea was an older women of a generation above. Karen took the hand warmer and clasped it between the palms of her hands.
Beth jumped into the conversation from across the table, loud and coarse, “You know she’s been keeping that warm on her fanny.” Lea smirked embarrassed and shy. This was Beth all over, this was a girls conversation, just as much as men’s conversation can be similar female chat can be just the same with just some slight differences. People of different genders might be different, but we’re not that different.

It hadn’t been the first time. The week before about four of us were milling around at the end of the run doing stretches to warm down, or cool down depending on which way you like to argue. One of the younger women was lunging, stretching her legs out long and low. Someone mentioned, “That’s a great stretch that is, I’ve heard about that.” Beth cut in, “Great for stretching yer fanny.”
We laughed, I felt I had to ask, “I don’t think it’ll help stretch mine.”
“Good for your balls.” she replied. Great.

I think about how things have changed from five years ago and also what I have achieved. One of those things is what I’ve buried. Not my male past but actually part of my female side, or at least a part of the experience of finding my way along my gender. Back in the early days I had started meeting similar people in another city. A chance to get out at night and experience part presenting as what I felt people needed to see. I’ve talked about it at length many times and the definition, as my friend Sarah had said, was those nights out were just an extension closet. I hate the word closet used for talk of gender issues but it clearly, succinctly, defined the limits of what those nights were. They were of limited progress, great for building confidence, but it wasn’t real. It wasn’t real life. It was a fancy dress party without the fancy dress.

What I had done over the proceeding years, since I had stopped meeting with those friends of circumstance, is talk about it to put it in the past. When I had stopped all that I had left was a hole in my life and in part of my social calendar. All that excitement and enjoyment had gone. Take away something so strange as a double life, sort of, and there would be a gap. As time went on I could feel that need slip away and the reality of my gender thing was there and needed to be dealt with. Writing about those nights out really helped to put it to bed and away forever.

I remember my last night out. It was kind of a one-more-time thing after I hadn’t seen some of my friends for quite a while. We went to this odd pub just outside of the city centre. “It’s a great place.” Sarah said trying to be reassuring in case she thought I’d bottle it and not want to go. “People dress in all sorts, Vagabonds and Beggars this week I think.” It was a strange place. It encouraged people to dress in a way that was out of the norm. They had a small stage area near the door with a few stage lamps creating sharp shadows and a spot for performers. The acts were odd, poetic without the poetry and it was so left-field you could have put cows in it and call it a farm. Despite Sarah’s excitement at going and her wife for company we didn’t stay there as long as I thought we would. Before long we were onto another pub where we sat in a beer garden in what should have been a warm summer night but the coolness would get to your legs in no time.

This is an absolute example though of not real life. It may have been an extremely straight bar but it had the thing about a dress code of dressing in far out ways that it was giving me the pass to dress how I wanted but all I wanted was to dress the way I want and be accepted as normal, in everyday life, not be given permission to do so. This was not everyday life, as enjoyable and a bizarre place it was. While I have the memory of that time in my life and it wasn’t all bad, I’m happy that its now over ten years behind me.

In the last five years I have told a counsellor, doctor, psychiatrist and physiologist about the gender thing. The counsellor was the hardest one to tell. I had only been going for stress and depression. When the first session ended, which I found so helpful, I remember thinking on the way home how mad I was at myself for not saying that I was transgendered. I could have kicked myself. I had bottled it. Looking back now though I needn’t had been so hard on myself. It was probably one of the biggest moments for me because when I did eventually tell her at the beginning of the next session it made talking about it so much easier in the future.

I’m still not quite where I want to be but may be where I want to be isn’t quite so far as I think. Writing though can be one of the best parts of self-help therapy. I would recommend it to anyone whether it’s on the web or in a paper diary in your top bedside draw. I thank all those who take to the trouble to write to me, you the reader, while there aren’t many public comments I receive private messages and comments on forums all the time. If you weren’t reading then this would also likely be on paper in my top draw. So thank you for reading regularly and coming back. Also a thank you to T-Central, a blog directory that have kindly given me feature place on a number of occasions that without I wouldn’t have quite so many visitors and for the kind words of Calie. There are many well written blogs there. Lastly to my RL friends. You know who you are.

Thank you for reading.

Until next time

Hannah x

Fog Obsession

“Oh no, not another day of thinking about it.” My eyes open and my head foggy way before my alarm on a working day. Even the sun hadn’t brought a gentle glow to the dark curtains and if I listen very carefully I can hear, almost distant, the sound of next door snoring through these modern walls. It’s when I’m super tired I think it. It’s not that I suddenly at that moment not want to change my outward gender but just feel entirely fatigued about having to go through another day of half compromises and worrying about which way, through the day, people will find me.

Of course it’s not a thought that lasts. Within half an hour or so, once the fog of a restless sleep clears, I’m once again back to normal. The curtains are open, the fresh light of a delicate sun clears the air like it clears my head and I feel that I know who I am again.

It’s a worry when these thoughts while very tired, which is a relatively new thing for me, had come to the foreground. It was like being super-tired was making me tired of being gender identity incomplete. It was a worry that may be the feeling of being the wrong outward gender had passed and that it was no longer a thing. A few decades of my life that would come to an end and the gender thingwould just float away and be a thing of the past.

The worry wouldn’t be about feeling that I was wrong or had wasted my time; after all the whole reason to think through about something so important – fully, like a change of gender, is so valuable no matter what the outcome is. The worry actually was that if the conclusion was that I no longer felt I identified as female, or at least somewhere mostly in that direction, that I would feel I’d loose a huge part of who I am. I’d no longer be expressing myself through character and clothing. No longer enjoying things that people find feminine and no longer enjoying interacting with people that pick up on my feminine side and react accordingly. It would be an eternally sad thing to loose something that plays such a big part of my life.

The brief negative thought of not wanting another day having to deal with gender identity was in itself more telling. It made me realise how much it is a part of me and how much of it is natural and just being explored and allowed to come forward. It’s unlike when people first question their gender identity and think ‘what do I need to do to become female (or male)?’ and then promptly do things that are hyper-feminine or hyper-masculine which ends up being over the top and unnatural. Some thinking they should start speaking falsetto or laughing with ‘teehee.’ It does happen.

The realisation actually comes, though, when we start being natural and allowing the subtleties of gender to come through rather than to draw it in thick crayon in the form of makeup and stereotypes. When this happens the real discovery of whether this is a genuine discovery of actual gender, rather than an obsession, though the dealing with the question itself can be an obsession, then this natural discovery is when things become normal again and life is still life as it was before. We get on with the things we enjoy, the work we do to survive, the tired mornings having to get up at silly-o’clock, the walks on high mountains taking in panoramic views, the breeze along the sea shore, happiness, pain, elation.

I do wonder if there will be a day that becomes a decision-day. A time where a specific decision has been made to commit to being female. A day of no return rather than a day of transitionthat is more about saying to myself ‘Yep, this is it, I’ve reaching the goal. From here on in it’s womanhood – as I am.’ The very idea makes me feel like I should grab a big fat cigar (I don’t smoke) and celebrate. Not to celebrate leaving behind maleness but to celebrate the combining of the parts of us that are both masculine and feminine. We all have it to some extent but this would be a moment of self acceptance and knowing from here on in. I will be what I always want to be and an acceptance of the little bits of the masculine side that will remain. To throw those away would just be being untrue to myself, throwing away would be that falsetto voice or a teehee moment. The cigar of course is figurative, besides, it would take a huge toll on my running, coughing my way through five kilometres.

A disconcerting thought when waking up one working day has changed to an enlightening moment. Another moment of self discovery and confirmation. And the next time I find myself in a moment when my gender comes into question with others I’ll know that being genuine and true to myself, allowing myself to be me naturally, then I’ll be rest assured that what I’m doing is right.

Until next time,

Hannah x

Outgrow

It flickered sharp blue, lilac, ice white and pink randomly. I watched that star for a moment as it captivated me as it always does. Two stars entwined with each other and burning bright for more time than we could ever imagine bound by some unimaginable force. It was the one thing I didn’t have at the moment was that bond with someone in that same binary way. At that moment, though, I was content. I also had a bit of a cold and even though going to bed a little early I was in doubt that I would be at a running event in the morning.

I woke early. Too early. Twenty past five showed on the clock when I whacked the top for the time to light up, looking with heavy eyes half open. I groaned and pulled myself under the blanket to hide from the ice outside and the sun that would be turning that black sky a dark blue hinting at the day to come. Nothing more than drifting became of my duvet cover antics and I was soon opening the curtains with a sharp day of minus temperatures and the possibility of wearing my new running tights.

Within half an hour I was parked up and walking to the start of the run event that sits on one edge of the city amongst some green scrub land. It’s a fresh walk to the start. A time to acclimatise to the fresh air and to enjoy those new long running tights that keep me just warm enough and to add a little more feeling myself for once. I thought about those stars the night before.

It has been over a decade since I have had a proper relationship. One part of the wholegender thingis, once that relationship had ended from the realisation that it just wouldn’t work, unless I’d had unlimited confidence that was completely blind to any fears then going into another relationship was just so unlikely but also self for-filling. Even more telling, right now, was whether I actually wanted one.

Sure I misshaving that person at home to share everything with, eating together, enjoying hobbies, watching the tv together, going places and enjoying the indoors and outdoors, but when I think about it, think what it would mean after all this time it would be just as much as an upheaval to my life and my home. It sounds really defeatist and selfish but thinking about it, it runs much deeper.

There is always the worry of having to go through the whole tellingonce again with someone new and whether it will be a problem for them personally. After all transgender in the wider understanding is still relatively new. But may be these are just blockades being erected by myself to stop me having to go to the effort of working for a relationship. The reality though is a little more simple. Relationships seem to just spark when you meet someone and if something is going to happen it will just happen naturally. When I think about some of the people I meet at running events and socialise with them, anyone who is likely to take an interest in me, and if I were to take an interest in them, it would be pretty obvious by the way I dress and present myself that something is different. Either that someone is going to guess from the outset or they’ll not be quite sure and when they’re told the reaction would probably be more just “oh – right.” A bit like the reaction of the first counsellor I told about my gender identity issues.

My morning walk so pleasant. Other people going to the same place for the same reason to run and wake up for the weekend. I may have a bit of a cold but that softened to the background by the thought of running once again. Every footstep was more meaningful and exciting than ten taken on every other ordinary day.

It had been an odd week because out of the blue I had two social media friend requests from two separate people. Neither of which I had seen, in person, in about twenty years and neither of which had, until this week, made any attempt to get in touch. One from my school days and another from my university days. The person from my schools days was someone I had long since left behind many years ago. We’d briefly been in touch a few years ago via the internet but they left social media with me feeling used. They’d asked me for advice and once I gave it, they silently disappeared without so much of a thank you.

The other I had been forewarned about by a friend I still keep in touch with. She had told me how this person had been going through some kind of bad patch and was only now contacting each and every one of her old friends. “I doubt she would get in touch with me, christ it’s been what, twenty years?” I said thinking this was not going to be any issue for me.
“She even contacted Kim.”
“Kim! Christ, I thought they’d fallen out?” I said, “besides, Kim moved to Italy didn’t she?”
I was still unconvinced that she would contact me, but sure enough a friend request came along just a day or so later.

What struck me though was my thoughts hadn’t gone towards wondering if I were to end up in conversation with them whether I would one day tell them about my identity and what they would think; after all there is nothing more potent about wanting to impress of our life successes than a ghost from my school past. Neither did I feel the need to contact them and feel the need to offer my generous help if they needed it.

They were both people from my past that had passed. They were people who had naturally drifted away from me and my feelings about them as friends had long gone. When these occasions come up, rarely I might add, when people from my past that were a negative influence on me I no longer feel the need to go a mile for them.

I briefly compare them and the effect they might have on being in my life with what my life is now and what it means to me. The times I spend with myself exploring new places or the run I’m about to attend with new people I socialise, with similar interests in activities that make us feel good about ourselves. If they were to find out about my identity then may be I would just feel proud about it, but it wouldn’t change how much I would want them to be a part of my current life. The thing about getting older, moving on, progressing our lives in every way and not just our gender identity, we change, we move on, we outgrow some people just as they outgrow ourselves.

Until next time,

Hannah x

All Clear

Box after box just piled high in the corner of the garage. Handling them they felt just a touch damp, cold and soft even though the garage doesn’t leak. They just seemed a little neglected. I have plenty of reasons that I can say they haven’t just sat there for the decade or so since I moved in, one reason was half of them were in the shed, until that almost fell down some years later after a storm, that and a mouse getting in there and so eventually moving my junk to the garage.

Hoarder, small hoarder, more like Monica from Friends hiding things away in the cupboard to keep the rest of the house tidy and less so than a hoarder with piled high newspapers in the house that have to be navigated by compass, climbing boots and belaying equipment. But enough that it has to go — somewhere.

I had to go to the hardware store to buy some ladders to allow me to push most of this stuff into the loft. It might sound like hiding hoarded junk away but it will allow me to see the space it will create and to judge how much better I will feel for that space. Once that time comes I’ll be able to get a box down, one at a time, and sort through and recycle whatever I can. It’s a method that any hoarder, minor or extreme, will need to get through and accomplish the goal, to clear space and to let go.

The hardware store with long isles piled to the ceiling was populated by married couples sheepishly browsing things that will make their home feel better and execute some new year resolution plan, and men pushing large trolleys and loading up things that can be sawn, drilled or hammered. Nothing gets more manly than bashing things into position and having tools with features, accurate numbers and power. The look on their face is usually one of being on a mission and purpose, though secretly disguising huge satisfaction that they’re about to build something; and, if they’re lucky that the job requires it, get to use a drill which is the nearest thing to being Clint Eastwood in Western Europe. That’s not to say women don’t get the same satisfaction from DIY but for men it’s a rite of passage.

I must admit, born with testosterone running through my veins, I have probably succumbed to that at some point but with ladders under my arm and some bits and bobs I was heading to the checkout. There was no browsing the cement isle trying to think of an excuse to buy some. I would leave that to the men.

The problem I have with sorting hoarded boxes of my past is I have to do it at the right time, when I’m not low, tired or feeling nostalgic. If I’m not in the right state of mind I can become emotional about the things I’m clearing and deciding whether to bin can become painful. Quite simply anything could trigger it and these days when I know it’s triggered I stop and finish for the day.

I stop when emotional because it’s not the junk that’s important but the memories those items hold. More powerful than any relationship break up. They hold grief. Every time I pull an old toy from my childhood it’s as powerful as if I were to see a relative that had long since departed, just for moment, before being taken away again. It’s a resurrection, a ghost, no matter how pleasant the memory, in fact the more meaningful it is the more powerful and emotive it will be. If it were bad memories it would hit the wheelie bin immediately. The memories make me grieve for my childhood and for the lost moments. Some of these things I can even remember when they were given to me, whether it was a birthday present, Christmas present or just a kind gift. This makes changing my gender identity, in the eyes of others, more difficult than it already is.

But at the same time I am already different. I’m an adult, more mature (some might say), I have found more of myself and expressed it. If I wasn’t that different then I wouldn’t be grieving and feeling emotional at the sight of things that, to anyone else, are simply junk but to me more valuable than any precious metal. If I hadn’t changed and left those things behind they would still be just the things I own and not these items in a grave yard of memories in the back of a cold garage. Yet despite their emotional value they aren’t kept in exquisite condition in air tight, dirt-tight containers in a regulated temperature away from anything harmful. They’re just piled into cold boxes.

I must cut down on things. Some things will be thrown away once I find the point of view and positive reasons that will come to allow me to do so. They are the memory corpses that need to be buried, permanently, so they can no longer be resurrected and hopefully I can remember my memories through rose tints with the aid of photographs, memories and stories. I’ll be able to continue to move on and make my future my way without the guilt of the past. It’s one thing to tussle with the problems of gender identity but even harder when your past is a wall of boxes full of reminders.

Amongst the Christmas gifts I had this year was some scent free wipes in a packet. It was from my Mum knowing I like to use scent free soap for the most of the time and a thoughtful gift it was. Laying on the sofa I glanced at the coffee table. I spotted the packet still unopened and sat up and smiled at that little extra present with a lot of thought and something that would never end up in a box in storage. It was a gift for now, different to all the hoarded toys and teenage presents in the boxes I’d seen while clearing the hoard through the day. I held the pack and read the smaller print on the label ‘cleaning facial wipes’ and underneath, ‘removes waterproof mascara.’ Well, I guess my gifts as an adult take on a whole new meaning.

Until next time.

Hannah x

All In Good Measure — A New Year Special

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next year.

Hannah x

Her Name Was Hannah – A Christmas Special

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Merry Christmas.

Until next time,

Hannah x

What Would’ve

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time,

Hannah x

November Christmas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time,

Hannah x