Nail Varnish, Mascara and a Flame – A Christmas Special

The flames licked the inside of the glass tube surrounded in a tall thin pyramid cage – partly to keep out the fingers of drunk stupid people. It lit the table orange and kept a hint of warmth in the cold December evening. It might seem madness to sit outside on such a crisp night with single figure temperatures, bobble hat, gloves, scarf and more layers than normally acceptable but the modern little village bar was full which meant sitting outside was the only option. Everyone had to be sat down in the current situation, on their own tables between their own clear plastic screen separators keeping us protected as much as possible from that damn virus.

It was the only night I could be there as well because it was a Friday – you know, thatFriday, before national lockdown where alcohol would no longer be served and besides it would all be last orders by six. But, like my effort to get out and exercise more, I also wanted to socialise more. This was the last chance until who knows when and with work being so hectic and working from home now, I needed just some time out, even if it was just an hour and a half outside in the chill.

He looked over from the next table, the one around the other side of the flame heater, “Didn’t I used to work with you? Where did you work?”
“Oh god, how many do you want me to list?”

It turned out that I hadn’t worked with him but he had been a client of a place I had once worked several years ago. I hadn’t even been on that project but somehow he’d remembered me. We chatted until lockdown decided to end the bar opening time and it turned out our places of work had crossed at other times without even personally meeting. It seems that getting out to socialise and meet new people, a quote I remember from someones CV once, had actually worked. 

The one time I’d visited that same bar in the village weeks before, I had ended up chatting to an American woman who had only been in the country for several months and had plenty to say, slightly tipsy, about how Americans would never accept country-wide lock-downs like the UK. Her British boyfriend joined us soon after and divided the conversation. She dropped items from her purse on the way out without even realising, the effects of strong alcohol, until I informed her. Seeing people in these ways that we normally take for granted had helped a little.

It wasn’t just work though that had pushed me out for a couple of hours with locals, it was that last session with the gender clinic in London. It had kind of passed me by, the time between that and the last one that was actually in Hammersmith, this time it was over the internet, a “Zoom Meeting”.

Last time we talked about what the clinician wanted me to do next. It was pretty much everything you could think of rather than just one or two next steps. It was too much but whenever I speak to some kind of clinician or psychologist I usually end up bouncing out of there with a tonne of confidence that slowly fades as the weeks go on. It’s the sort of thing that either needs to be jumped on straight away or boosted once a week – regularly recharged like an overly hungry mobile phone.

I said to her last time I was there, “The thing is I’m worried that I’m not progressing and I’m tying up your time and resource.” or something along those lines.

“Don’t worry about that, this is what we’re here for. It takes as long as it takes.” may be not word-for-word.

I waited for my three o’clock appointment. Laptop set up, plenty of light and privacy in my own home. Zoom all ready to go and waiting for the other person. Nothing happened. Three passed by as did ten past. I gave it fifteen minutes and decided to call. It’s probably just her last session over-running as they normally do at the actual clinic. “She’s probably still on her previous patient, they tend to get delayed through the day.” said the receptionist at the other end of the old-school phone call, “Give me your name and address and I’ll send her an e-mail to let her know you’re waiting.”

I gave my name, my male name, after all that is the name they’ll still have in my records and it seems pointless confusing the matters, and my address. Within five minutes zoom sprung to life and there was a clinician on the screen.

“Hi, have you changed your name.” she said straight away?
“No?” I said confused.
“You called just now didn’t you, and gave a name of –”, now for privacies sake, insert any street name here. That’s right, she seemed to think my name had now been changed, by Deed Poll, to the name of my street. I would have laughed at the ridiculousness of it, the street isn’t the name of a person, it made no sense what so ever, if it wasn’t for the fact she seemed annoyed at me. I was utterly confused.
“No, that’s my street address.” I said incredulously.

We started to talk about what she said we were going to do by next session, I hadn’t done any of them, I’d prepared for some and even tried, but nothing achieved. I got the feeling she had just read the notes from my file, may be they were a set of bullet points and expected me to have ticked them all in real life. I don’t expect them to remember me specifically from all the others they see over such a long break but this is where the system is broken. All emotion and understanding is lost until I go over things again, my fears and concerns, my broken confidence. It just doesn’t work.

It’s not worth trudging through the whole session again but it ended long short of my allocated forty five minutes. “I’m going to discharge you. I think you need to see someone, may be a counsellor or psychologist locally to help deal with those issues. Do you agree?”

I did of course agree. I couldn’t meet their expectations and it probably wouldn’t be possible over a long distance to London. “You have a local Gender Clinic now so in my letter to your GP I’ll recommend gender counselling locally and hopefully they’ll refer you to them. In fact you could contact the gender clinic yourself and at least you’ll know. You’re not justsaying you’re ok with it are you because some people say yes and then go away and feel differently.” I agreed. It seemed right, it made sense. It felt like I had somewhere to go and not have to commit to expensive long trips to London in the future.

When the call ended I wrote to the new local gender clinic right away. I wasn’t sure quite how I felt, I know I felt exhausted by the past year or so of not knowing where I was with this whole thing. It’s almost like I felt like I needed a holiday from being transgendered. Two days later a reply came back.

“Hi Becca,” Becca! I know I’m confused about my identity but this really doesn’t help. I wrote back and they were more than apologetic, but “Unfortunately we do not provide counselling services. Your GP may be able to refer you to your local community mental health team or may be ask London if they can provide therapy.”

Suddenly I felt a bit… abandoned. I remembered what the therapist had said the last time I spoke about worrying I was taking up their time but this time I was discharged because they could no longer help. The two sessions were chalk and a very short bit of chalk. I wrote an email to the reception of the London gender clinic for the attention of the therapist informing them that the local clinic will not be able to help. Of course I received no thank you or no reply.

Some weeks later I received a copy of the letter by email, by email – that nice secure form of communication for very personal matters like this, from the London gender clinic to my GP, the discharge letter if you will. “..the patient has not embarked on his social role..”, “He has said that he had..”, you get the idea, I was misgendered nearly twenty times through the letter, come on – basic gender identity rule one. There were of course mistakes about me in the letter as well. 

I think it was at that point that I really lost faith in the London gender clinic and that I’d exhausted their use and what experience they have with gender identity issues didn’t really seem to go as far as I thought it might. The fact that clinicians come and go between sessions, ever increasing waiting list for referrals, the awful handling of appointments and paperwork.

When I first went on the waiting list from a referral by my local hospital mental health unit, by the time it came to my turn London had no record of my referral and said I’d have to wait another year. Only when a high position staff member from my local hospital proved the referral had been sent did I get a date that I still had to wait some time for.

It’s a shame, but once faith is lost in something that is supposed to support you then it would be difficult to gain that trust again. I’m just glad that at present I feel mentally solid enough to move on in some way but I also worry about those who are vulnerable or fragile and will be joining them – relying on them for support.

–– ❤ ––

I found myself at the supermarket. The last visit before Christmas. All my Christmas present shopping had been done early, I didn’t even need wrapping paper – it was all done, and so I found myself thinking about myself. May be a little treat just to make the weekend feel better and may be melt away the tense working-week. A quick browse of the make-up isle. ‘Nail varnish, something sparkly that feels like partying and Christmas. Crystal Rocks.’ A clear vanish packed with extremely shiny silver flakes that reflect colours like crushed diamonds. ‘Ooo, Mascara. Haven’t had that for a long time.’ – one of those things bought, used, hardly used, gets thrown out because it’s past it’s opened time. ‘Which treat though. Oh get both for god’s sake.’

There are some tips though;

  1. Spend on decent varnish. It goes on better, it comes off better, it looks better.
  2. Mascara. Get whatever. It’s probably going to be under-used and in the bin soon enough.
  3. When putting Crystal Rocks varnish on, remember to put a regular coat of clear varnish down before you start.

Some days after the weekend and enjoying the sparkle of toes sticking out of the froth of bubbles in the bath I decided to try to remove the varnish, protect my nails from wavy growth caused by old coats. Of course knowing to put down a clear coat first came from experience and I should have remembered. Cotton balls soaked in varnish remover and toes soaked in cotton balls soaked with varnish removerlead me to twenty minutes of rubbing and scraping, covering fingers in silver flakes and leaving nails with a mat unhealthy looking finish. So remember this, when it says top coaton the bottle, they really mean it. The mascara seem to disappear all by itself. May be don’t get the cheaper?

However you find your Christmas sparkle this difficult time, Merry Christmas.

Until next time.

Hannah x

Aspirations of September

Horse shoe prints in the morning damp earth amongst the wild grass of the common land or foot prints in the sand disappearing into the approaching surf. Both had the same effect of brief moments away from the trapping of working-from-home and the inability to travel far at the moment. The evening had that opposite resting affect with pale blue twilight sky to pale sunset yellow over the houses topped by a low crescent moon. September still felt like a summer evening; especially with a candle flickering on the table in the garden.

I realised this week that aside from my diary, my fridge is my noticeboard for my aspirations. Pictures under holiday magnets depicting what I want in my life next. A photo of a beautiful music room in a shop where I wanted to purchase an instrument has long since been filled. The instrument sits in my house being played while the photograph has fallen lower on the fridge door over the years to make way for new aspirations. The picture now spattered a little with food things where I’d rushed to cook and the fridge door opened and swung shut. A photo of a stunning swimming pool at a nice hotel that I have since frequented many times and still enjoy that aspiration.

I wondered where my gender aspiration was on the fridge door. There wasn’t much room left amongst the many postcards from family and friends and fridge poetry magnetic words but the only thing I could find was a cardboard label off a rucksack I purchased a while ago that had the female symbolon a purple background. It was just a label on a string that signified made for womenbut I quite liked it and hung it from one of the larger magnets. It was part aspiration and part some sneaky fridge thing in full view that no one was going to notice.

I wonder if I should do something more. The fridge door of aspiration seemed to work for other things that at the time seemed financially, timely or mentally unobtainable. A piano. A five start hotel. A distance trip. Somehow fait stepped in and made these things possibly after a couple of years of hanging on the door, meal after meal. May be I should put something a little more significant on there. Something that will give me much more focus.

I seem to be reminded of the gender thingquite a bit recently. There is the new advert for a coffee chain that have included a trans-woman as part of their name on a cup gives you identitytheme. It’s quite good if a little gender-for-sale and then a Channel 4 documentary, ‘100 Vaginas’. I can’t remember if the advert preceded the documentary or not. Social media showing me adverts for the bra-free bra and another for Vagisan – I feel they may have jumped the gun a little in profiling me on that one. And of course there were those dreams a few weeks ago. It’s certainly on my mind and I’m being well reminded from various places.

What to put on my fridge door for a gender identity aspiration though. I certainly don’t want a photo from an operating room or a picture of Miss Rachid or Mr Suporn and neither do I want a photo of a clothes shop or a selection of make-up. These aren’t really my goal and besides, this is too big an aspiration. It needs to be more granular. Bite-sized chunks. After all gender identity is a whole book and I need just another chapter on the door.

One of my aspirations was the need to loose a little weight. I set out a few weeks ago to exercise regularly, nothing major but regular exercise that would add up to something substantial and hopefully, that skirt that hangs on the wardrobe door much like the aspirational photos on the fridge, will fit again sometime soon. Even if it doesn’t fit properly I would be happy if it was just less tight so that I knew I had achieved something towards feeling better about the shape of my body.

Since then I have run, walked, cycled, I even went away to the city for a couple of days and got to row on the machine in the gym and swim in the pool. Writing down each day what I had done and not being afraid to write down ‘rest day’ when I felt I needed to. Writing it down reminded me of how much I had done and how much I hadn’t. Not to inflict guilt but to show myself what can be done and what needs to be done and what the last several months have been like since lock-down March.

I went to the beach last week. I rushed down after work to catch the tide before the beach completely disappeared and before what little space was taken by floating surfers. I pulled on my short wetsuit at home and let the top half hang from my waist so that when I arrived I could just pull the top on rather than wrestle in the car trying to keep out of sight in the carpark.

I got out of the car and hobbled bare foot across a mixture of sea-side grass and asphalt where I had no choice with a board under arm. When I got to the sand I walked straight into the water. I knew that if I paused for even a moment I’d delay going in as much as possible to avoid that initial cold shock around the legs of British waters that feels more arctic that it actual is – but it was ok.

I looked around at other surfers wading in or laying on their boards waiting for the waves to pick up and felt that initial jealousy of other women who look much better, even if I was wearing a female wetsuit there is only so much clothing does for shape. 

I looked down at myself and I noticed that my wet suit no longer showed a belly, even without breathing in.The difference was subtle, after all it was only a few weeks since I decided to up my exercise when I could, but it was different. A little bit of me had changed. I was on the right track. May be this is the first aspiration I needed for the fridge door, but then I didn’t really need one there, that aspiration was already hanging from the door of my wardrobe.

Until next time.

Hannah x

That’s Something

A Saturday night in. I mean that’s not unusual these days but it was also a Saturday in. I just couldn’t shake my headache that had been repeating itself and I just had to find a way to stop. A way to relax for a day without making myself do something that I had-to, in my mind, be productive for the weekend. Besides, I wasn’t going anywhere with a head full of ache and sinuses blocking the way.

The first thing I decided was to have a nice breakfast for the day. I sat outside with a French pastry, Greek Yoghurt and a sparkling water. It felt like a Champagne for the morning and the weather had turned for the better. It was at least a little bit of outside air that I would get. Working from home has it’s great benefits in so many ways but being in the same environment for at least five days of the week can sometimes feel a bit like a mission to Mars.

I say stuck in all week, there is the weekly supermarket shop. I wore a face mask, just to at least do something towards the current situation, whether it actually does something or not it was the gesture that counted. I remember wondering this week whether it would make a difference to my perceived gender. After all with my hair in a high ponytail, like it is most of time, and a face mask covering any possible beard shadow – even after the closest of close five bladed shaves – and recently manicured eye browse, whether people would react to me differently?

The problem is I never really seem to interact with anyone in the supermarket these days. I mean who does. I go in, traverse the isles in more or less the same order each time, avoiding any impulsive purchases, then float into the self service queue and be on my way. Even the alcohol age check is done at a distance of two metre paces at the moment.

After a morning a flicking between the two cookery morning programmes and catching up with my running friends, virtually, I found myself wondering what do to next. I’d have to take my mind off being stuck in all day.

Amongst a pasta pesto lunch and watching some inspirational Youtube until I exhausted everything I could out of it I decided to have a bath. It would be in the afternoon so I would have my evening free for a rom-com movie in the evening. I hung small bright white led lights on the wall and lit the only remaining tea light candle I could find. I’d burnt through the last of my store of tea light candles throughout lockdown and I would be damned if I was going to queue the forty minutes plus at Ikea just to get my favourite pack of vanilla.

I slipped into the bath and listened to music. I’d had baths recently but it had been a long time since I’d actually taken the effort to find the right music and to slow down and enjoy the moment. It wasn’t while I was in there that I realised I felt better about making time for myself but it was after, when I got out. There wasn’t even any wine involved. Just some purple Radox and may be a little chocolate.

When the evening came and I sat on the floor in front of the sofa, a movie, the play button and a couple of slices of Pizza, my mood had already changed. Something at the end of the afternoon had clicked inside me and switch my mood. I’d become a bit retrospective and a bit sad. Thinking about change, not just potential change that may come but the changes from the past and what I’d lost in the process. Of course I’d gained plenty but when I’m in that frame of mind and I start to feel I need to dwell a bit I then start to wonder about whether it was worth it, ending up content but yet alone, life passing by and age quickly flowing by.

I remember the exact moment it had started yesterday. I was finally sorting out the one bedside tables that had become cluttered with all the things I normally throw on there, hair bands, brush, keys, watches, with the intent of, ‘I’ll tidy that later.’ Of course it slowly turns into one of those shelve coin pusher machines from the beach funfair arcade and when something new goes on, something else gets pushed off the side like a bottle of perfume or a bookmark. The only difference being that I don’t actually win anything other than a messy bedside table and dust.

When I finished dusting the tabletop and put some of the things back on that I thought should be there and put other things away in the drawer like the nail polish that doesn’t need to be there but I quite like it being there so it doesn’t get forgotten, I found myself a bit sad. It was looking a bit bare or minimalist and I could see more wall. I think it was that I felt I’d lost something. I’d lost a bit of me, a bit of the past.

I know when I get like that I’m useless. Throwing things away that need to be thrown away becomes a horrific emotion rollercoaster from that same funfair and I’ve learnt just to finish up and stop. Come back another day. Come back when I’m in a hard emotionless colder more efficient and forward looking person state. I get days like that and those are the days to do it.

I put the movie on. I thought this would be the best way to finish off my evening. A film with all of the check boxes, warmth, laughs and sadness. Get through the emotional state by provoking it with a romcom-stick – with a glass of Rioja this time – and go to bed. And provoke it did. I don’t think I’ve been in a mess like that for a long time, but, it’s just one of those things to work through. I’m not quite there yet but I expect by tomorrow, or at least a few days into work, I’ll be the forward thinking person deciding what I want to do to stop my life from passing me by.

I found a tall candle in the study. It had been on the windowsill being decorative for probably two years, a gift. I decided that may be it was time to usethat candle and enjoy it. It sits here on the table in the garden while I write, the night sky firmly in place and dancing in the intermittent breeze. Rather than let it’s time pass by it is alive. That’s something I have to do.

Until next time.

Hannah x

Purify and Detox

I started by cutting my nails. My toe nails first, they seemed the most unkempt, with the tips split into two layers, topped with out-growing clear varnish that, once again, had been left on too long. Then my finger nails. They hadn’t grown much in two weeks but anything to make it feel like I was tidying up and refreshing myself. Then an exfoliating wipe over my face in the hope it might shave twenty years off – mentally at least.

It wasn’t going to make a migraine go away but I had run out of ideas to make myself feel better. Sleep hadn’t really helped and paracetamol only took the edge off. I couldn’t go running feeling this way and it would probably have had a negative affect, all I could do were things to make me feel refreshed and relaxed. May be I should be doing a little yoga which I may have done if it wasn’t for the lethargy that limited how much I could really be arsed to do.

Then I moved onto the mirror, tweezers and plucking those lockdown eye browse that had become a little like the untrimmed bay tree in the garden. The biggest surprised was only the one grey, which has lost the bet against my head in who can grow the most greys since March. My scalp has won that hands down.

This all makes me feel a bit refreshed and new. Purified and detoxed but it also makes me think about my future. On my current course I ask myself when will I have honey coloured hair, even if that would never quite suit me and so the feeling is revived about what I actually want to do next and whether my laxness with my feminine side and lacklustre is all about a comfort zone, discretely planting some regrets in the queue ready for when I hit my senior years.

But this is me all over. Indecisive. I miss the sea and coast at the moment with the restrictions we have had but if I lived close enough to visit the sea in the mornings before work I’d probably miss the hills and valleys that I can cycle around and the stunning views that come with it.. This isn’t about where I live, of course, though this is always part of things I question right now. But this is unlikely to be about missing city life and it’s buzz but probably more about not having someone else around the house.

Yesterday’s moth was still on the wall. A little thing, “Are you still here?” I asked wondering why he hadn’t left via the open window in the afternoon and what he could possibly want that made him stay here. I could have got a cup and gently evicted him into the rainy dark night but it felt like the one bit of non-conversational company I needed right now. At least I probably needed some kind of conversation given I was asking questions to a moth.

The gender thing is a fine balance. A balance between allowing myself to feel I’m able to just get on with being me while at the same time not allowing it to be the centre of everything. Getting on with other things, going places, exercising, working, cycling, running, seeing family when I can. The trick seems to be able to allow things to meld and interlace into every day life while, conversely, not allowing the gender thing to dissipate into the background so I can actually appreciate who I am and enjoy it.

We had a meeting in work. I say in work, like many people who aren’t furloughed, I am working-from-home. Meetings are across the internet and thankfully due to the economy of bandwidth that our ‘organisation’ needs, video conferences are rare and things remain audio. This means I don’t have to make too much of an effort in the mornings for daily meetings. Sure, making an effort each morning would probably be good for me but it suits my lazy side right now.

“So we can do that Wednesday.” said Geoff to the team, “ and then he –” referring to me, “can pick up the work in the afternoon. Sorry, I didn’t mean to call you he.”
I took a chance, “You can call me she if you prefer.” The team laughed, we all knew Geoff was referring to not using my regular name but of course like the whole team, no one (yet) knows about me in gender identity way.

It’s a moment like this, though, that reminds me how far I also haven’t come. Sure, there are plenty of people who have an inkling of some kind but there is nothing official I’ve done. But who knows. May be all this lockdown stuff has been the thinking time I’ve needed. More time not commuting giving more time thinking, or may be more time watching TV.

I have been stuck in a rut in recent months. Work and fatigue the biggest distraction and trying to adjust to our current way of life while finding replacements for some of the things that we can’t do right now. But something this week has reignited in me to change things a little more in some way or another. I’m not sure what it will be at the moment, I have some ideas, but it will be something different. Things are going as well as can be expected and what better time to shake things up than now?

Until next time.

Hannah x

A Gap For A Friend

I sat at the breakfast table at his parents house. It must have been over ten years ago. It was a sort of farm house, you know, with low solid dark wooden beams ready to hit your head on a the bottom of the stairs and different caverns of staircases and short corridors leading to the various bedrooms with the clunk of floorboards below.

The two dogs wandered around the table almost certainly looking for scraps toast falling to the floor or may be bacon was a regular thing that I wasn’t aware of. They were huge dogs. The one was grumpy and sauntered around and walked off to the living room looking for somewhere to lay while the other was more active and would go anywhere it pleased. I love dogs but these pair made me just a little nervous and a breed that give good reason to be, so I’ve heard. The only things that prevents any further fear of that pair is that I’m unlikely to ever visit that place again and the dogs are probably now – dead.

At the end of the kitchen was an AGA cooker that looked well used and not just some upper middle class shiny thing to show off to their friends. I got the distinct impression his parent didn’t really have friends over that often and were comfortable in their own company, in fact they were so remote that I doubt many people made that sort of journey very often and the very few locals were the ones who they spoke to.

I remember getting to the house in the first place, a short motorway journey followed by a length of dual carriage way, through a small village in the countryside and then through narrow lanes passing fields for miles on end until I reached a small triangle junction with the hamlet postbox offering one of a limited ways to talk to the outside world, at least at the time. Then just passing a few old cottages and there it was, probably complete with an oil tank for winter heating I suspect – it was proper remote for our country.

I only remember this because my friend’s photo appeared in my feed on social media – he was back in the country. We haven’t spoken in over ten years and I always wondered if I was too demanding for keeping in touch and that’s why he stopped talking as our friendship fizzled away. But when I saw this photo pop up out of the blue I thought for a moment about whether our friendship ended because may be he just knew about the gender thingand that it wasn’t something he could deal with and may be just found it weird. I’m pretty sure he knows for reasons I’ve spoken about before.

When things were going quiet between us his ex-girlfriend and I started speaking. Over the internet of course, I’d never met her, he’d only spoken about her when he was briefly back in the country and photos would pop up in my feed, when we were actually socially connected at the time, and she was some five thousand miles away. She liked to bitch about him and I couldn’t help reciprocate. Nothing horrible or nasty, just the niggles we both had and I think we both got it out of our system. May be he heard about our niggles and that’s why he was fed up. That’s where I thought it had gone but then I started thinking that these are things we get over and surely we’d have spoken again since – or may be there was more to it?

He was a hint of a ‘girl in every port’ sort of person as he globe hopped and while I was missing his energy, enthusiasm and ideas, as time went on I realised there were something I don’t miss either. We had all met at University in the nineties and while we hung around in a group socialising when we graduated and got jobs, about four or five of us, they all slagged him off when he wasn’t around and I always stood up for him. I guess that’s why I’m a bit peeved at least I was until recent years when I just moved on – then this social post reminded me.

So was it gender stuff that he didn’t like or was it me airing my thoughts to his ex? Who knows. He speaks briefly to one person I’m still in contact with but I think even that is few and far between as he finds new people every time he moves on. But may be that is just it – moving on. People do move on in life and people out-grow their friends either because interests change or intellect continues to grow for them where friends find a place and settle for that routine and things just aren’t compatible anymore. I know there are good friends I had in my school days that I don’t keep in touch with and them not with me either. It happens and may be that’s just it.

It was a peaceful day that time I stayed at his parents house. I remember some of it so clearly yet I’ve no idea why I actually stayed there. I remember the layout of the living room, the garden with it’s rockery and the fields beyond where we got chased by sheep that thought we had food for them. It was one of the calmest days I think I’d spent with him, may be being around his parents or in the countryside had that affect. Practically every other occasion was either marred with some drama queen disaster (because it sounded cool to have a drama – I think you understand), there were many, or had to be exciting in some way, which sometimes was good.

Whether he knows about my gender identity issue, which at that time was a really hard time for me, doesn’t really matter. By tomorrow I’ll have forgotten about him once again and not being linked in social media anymore I’m unlikely get reminded any time soon. But whatever the reason was it’s a reminder that may be there is a gap for a new friend.

Until next time.

Hannah x

Wells of a Paint Palette

I lay on the blanket looking up at the blue sky full of charcoal soft grey cracks as floaters drifting inside my eyes obscured the purity of wispy clouds on a spring day. Things spinning for a moment as pressure from my head drained to the ground and the tension in my gut fell away like drops from a shower head.

Being VE Day I found myself talking to neighbours as they passed in the street and even neighbours from the other end that I hadn’t spoken to in years. What struck me was that the way I was dressed, my casual three quarter length jogging bottoms and a loose check over-shirt that would have terrified me years ago, is something those people stopping and talking to me thought nothing of; at least they thought not to mention it or pull a face or not speak to me.

It struck me that people were seeing my inside and talking to thatperson and not someone who sees too much of the female side of androgyny for their liking. Even my neighbour who came out to share some water meter reading earlier this week, “Had your water bill as well?” he said as we kept that two metre distance and alternating between reading the meter in the pavement that themselves are only a foot apart. “I can’t read it.” he said getting up from the floor.

I returned and looked at his, “There’s a cap over it, hang on I’ll have a go.” I pulled spider webs away and put my hand down the hole feeling braver than I normally would, which surprised me, my own meter had a little black shiny spider that I wasn’t keen to invite in the house for a pot of tea.

I pulled the cap off my neighbours meter that had obscured his view and read off the numbers for him and got a basil plant with huge leaves in return for my trouble. All this while laying on the pavement in another pair of comfort jogging bottoms that I couldn’t run away from and neither did I want to. It made me realise, when I went back inside, that it’s not bravery that we need, well may be a little, it’s personality, niceness and warmth. If we give it, we might just get it back.

Things for me are now about feeling and finding that comfort spot rather than how I particularly look. It’s like the dressing and presentation side is just a thing that is just a part of every day, in fact so much so I’ve become a bit lax and let things go from time to time. ‘Painting nails, I forgot about how much that can cheer me up.’ and then proceed to leave it on for far too long and get bumpy nail growth or a cami-top I’d forgotten about and some how got pushed to the back of the shelf ‘I haven’t worn this in an age.’ and then remember it’s hand-wash and expensive so make the most of it today – so normal everyday life.

I thought this week though about those that might be where I was ten or fifteen years ago or even those I knew back then who do the same thing today because they’ve not progressed or just don’t want to. Popping out on a Saturday night presenting the way they want to is enough for some people.

Some just aren’t even transgendered, it’s just something that feels right for them though I remember one person I used to know who was adamant she was simply a crossdresser yet there came a time when even she questioned it and even went to see a counsellor – a Gestalt Counsellor whatever that was. I asked her what that meant, “So you tell them absolutely everything and then you can work out what you really want.” Kind of sounded like a quick-fire version of regular counselling with a fancy name to make it more appealing to a certain type of person. In retrospect may be some interesting reading?

But what is happening to these people during this lockdown who need that outlet for whatever reason? For some there won’t be that going out night each week or month that is so important to who they are whether it’s just a release at the end of the week like a payday Friday night out for others. We all have to cope with the isolation for our own reasons whether they’re gender related or not and each week I find myself having to cope in different ways whether one week is taking advantage of the exercise allowance and taking a ride, the week after running or taking time to lay on the decking in the garden the week after that if the sun or warmth of the air decides to allow it.

A couple of stay safe stay sociallydistancedstreet parties popped up during the afternoon and one still going into the evening in a small close just around the corner. Music bumping through the thick humid warm air that feels like the thick of summer. It was a little rare to have such vibrant life being set in the countryside and I thought about popping over and may be even meet some people I don’t know. But I wasn’t in the mood. I’d been feeling drowsy all week and pollen seems to be taking its toll as I spend time outside whether riding or laying in the garden. It was just nice to lay here and hear the chatter echoing around the houses, kids playing and birds still chirping in the trees as the sun decided to go to bed just a little bit later than usual.

On Thursday evening, eating dinner a little late, I heard clapping. ‘Is it that time already?’ I dashed out to the front door and joined the NHS clapping just in time. A family in the next street looked over across the junction and all waved to me. I don’t even know them in passing so it was nice to have that contact with new people. It felt like in the face of the terrible deaths caused by this virus that out of it we really are coming together in some way and if that gives me, Hannah, just a touch of gender exposure at a time when we’re mostly alone then all the better.

For now though I’m content. What little horizon cloud that there is, is slowly turning tones of orange and pinks that only seem right in the wells of a paint palette and I’m laying in the warmth of the evening writing and waiting for the stars to shine.

Until next time,

Hannah x

The Fame Thing

It was so quiet. Even the distant motorway was now just the odd rustle of tyres here and there rather than a long grey noise that would catch the wind. Saturday nights in the garden were usually cars racing off the lights on the carriageway just outside the village echoing through the night every now and then but now, nearly ten pm with the stars trying to cut through the thin misty atmosphere the only thing I can hear, apart from the dull hum of next door’s new lock-down hot tub, is the ringing in my ears. So loud that it was hard to know if anything quiet and distant was making any sort of noise.

I had put out the tea light candles along the edge of the decking early evening knowing that once I’d finished my dinner at my wooden cafe table that the night would descend slowly and as neighbours disappeared inside along with their Alexa music I would need something to glow and make the darkness something inviting. And when even the tea lights were not enough, once twilight had finally given up, I pushed a desk lamp out as far as it would go to light the lawn and cast shadows off the trees at the back. The warm slight hint of yellow in the lamp made the garden feel just a little inviting, much like the private communal garden scene in Notting Hill. It made the night somewhere to be, not somewhere to retreat from.

Scrubbing off last weeks colour off my toe nails, tidying up with clippers and applying a light silvery blue while food oven-cooked slowly over coals I wondered how things might change in a few weeks or months, depending how this all goes. So many people saying, “Things will never be the same.” and “I think people will appreciate the simple things in life, family, friends and leave behind material needs.” I suppose in some ways thing may happen a little though I think some people underestimate the British public and their need for normality, comfort and lacklustre.

But what about me and what about the gender thing? It’s still a thing and while everything is on hold in some way, not updating my wardrobe and not having much in-person contact with people makes it feel hard in some ways to feel. When I think about it, really think about it, it’s hasn’t changed that much and I am experiencing things, it’s not on hold – as such. It’s what I’mthinkingthat is my gender experience at the moment.

Thinking back to old friends I used to know on the gender scene. Reminiscing about some of the fun times we had and the learning process, feeling that utter terror going out for the first time. Adjusting the recipe of how to dress and what should and shouldn’t be worn. Pushing a little further each time and finding out who I am. Travelling ridiculous distances just to experience this gender thing in a safe environment and allowing other people to take all sorts of advantages of your friendship just so they can do these things too. You’ll know what I mean if you been in this situation. People wanting to change at other peoples houses before a night out and getting lifts. Using friendships and every ounce of ‘tether.’ Sounds mundane in just those short words but there are so many silly and funny stories attached to that, not just things I’ve experienced, but other people’s experiences too. We all ‘use’ in some ways to get what we need to experience.

Those things are in the past and I’ve not thought about them for quite a long time. I parked them some times ago so I could move on and in some ways most of those friends parked me and we lost touch. I think it came about because now I have time to think about these things in my past I’ve been able to compare where I was and where I am now. This introspection happens all the time in some form or another every so often and here I find how different things are.

I thought recently how far we, the gender collective if you will, would go just to experience some time in our chosen gender. Whether it was going over to Bristol for a few hours or travelling to London, the other side of the country, just for a few hours out and driving home and getting back at silly hours in the morning. I’ve said it before that it was exciting and so different to anything you could experience socially with a double-life slammed on top that only you and those in your crowd knew about and they like-wise would know very little, if anything, about your life outside of these times – but it wasn’t real.

Like fame there is a difference between the fame thingand real day to day life. With those nights out they were the fictional side where nearly everything was perfect and happy and when it came to normal life things seems so bland. That fictional time would only go sour if something from the real-life stepped in, like being in a pub and someone asking ‘So, are you a man.’ This is where we as the gender identity confused (when we are at that stage) have to decide whether we actually want realor not.

The only way to decide if real is what you want is to try it. It seems bit mad at first to say that when you might think ‘of course I want real, it’s all I’ve ever wanted’ but you really need to experience that day to day trudge of all the mundane things you normally do in life but in that gender you want. Interacting with people in that clothes shop, the supermarket, taking the car for an MOT which is horrific enough in any gender.

I am far from experienced in experiences but I know I’ve moved on from those days of the fame thing. Those safe-place nights out are a separate part of life, they just happen to involve the gender thingbut it’s not completely about gender dysphoria, it’s just an introduction. It’s like a class and being asked to take part in a role play exercise. Some people prefer the exercise and that’s where they are, others – not.

The one thing I will say that is different about day-to-day compared to just Saturday nights. That favourite skirt that hits the washing machine on Sunday and is then stored away until next time – it no longer lasts for years. Wash after wash and the threads start to come out, the colour fades and the debit card comes out once again.

Until next time. Stay safe.

Hannah x

With Time on Our Hands

Empty roads and motorways stripped bare of life like the supermarket shelves of food and the storms a past memory for the many. Commuting now just a few metres via the breakfast rather than a dash of dual carriageways and parking spot hunting. It’s another world we have been transported to and our daily routines changed.

My working week now carried out from home with meetings online and my kettle and coffee machine rarely cool. But it’s not the remaining indoors for the best part of the day that is the challenge but finding little bits of routine from my normal working day and fitting them in at home. That little chocolate bar with a cup of tea when I’m an hour in. Taking regular breaks away from the desk in the study to switch off for a few minutes – in the kitchen or a breath of fresh air in the garden. Starting and finishing at the same time and switching off, and I really mean switching off.

As much as I’ve taken some routine home there are also some differences that I have tried to embrace. The single hour a day allowance of exercise that we have been given is something I’ve taken advantage of, nearly everyday. Using my bike to go on local cycle rides to keep fit where I am no longer walking to work or walking at lunch times and to also clear my head. See other people, at a distance of course, and remain anxiety-free.

I have had several weeks of putting the whole gender thing aside. With the pressure of work and fatigue, a poor combination, I’ve had to take some time out from many things in my life. Now I’m at home with a little extra time to do things around the house and the garden with that short commute to another room at the end of the working day, I have a bit of time to think about things. I’ve been able to reconnect with that part of me that’s been filled with doubt and lacklustre. Trying to find a little bit of confidence, that I seem to have so much more of several months ago, that has dissolved a little and that I can no longer see.

It helps that we’ve had some blues skies and sunshine, even if it has come with a little snowy chill from the north. I don’t know how long being at home will be ok for me mentally. I’m already about three weeks in and I feel quite settled in some ways. A reasonably safe job that is necessary in these times means I don’t have that weight of financial worries to add to everything else. Missing family that I can keep in touch with is always going to be hard as weeks are likely to turn into months.

The one place where I can express a little of my feminine side, running each weekend, is something that I’ve missed while the impact is subtle its a source for the start of being able to express that side. But I’m not one to dwell on what I don’t have under difficult circumstances like this. I need to look at what I can do. I can go for a walk, a run or a ride. I can explore my village and find places I’ve not been before or not appreciated in the same way. The lack of so much interaction is the difference but there is something there. Saying hello to people I’ve not met before in passing, well, at least passing at two metres or more.

It seems that I’m reconnecting with enjoyment of each day and trying to bring in gender is something that may be I can do with my limited outside time whether it’s a spaced-out queue at the supermarket each week or riding along a flowing river with the leaves flourishing in the trees and birds sounding louder than ever now that the carriageways are devoid of traffic for most of the time.

What really changed my state of mind today was a photo I came across. It was me with the girls at running last Easter. All of us with bunny ears walking back from the event smiling. At the height of bringing my femininity to running I look at the photo and I look my most feminine in – probably, the last fifteen years. It felt naturally so. I also look happy and that’s the goal with the gender thing isn’t it – happiness?

It’s a different time to be expressing ourselves and may be not the most important thing right now but mental state, anxiety control and happiness are also part of our survival through this hard time. May be it’s time that we can use to think about where we are with things and what does actually make us happy and be who we want to be around people while there are few people around us.

Until next time, stay safe.

Hannah x

Gender Exhausted

Another morning. Driving at the start of the traffic, busy even before rush hour. Crosseyed at the desk and then back home, cook, a few hours that pass in minutes and back to sleep. The weeks seemed to pass by in a similar way, work days, weekend in a minute and back to work Monday.

I think the only thing that had been keeping me sane was the sharp sunrise that I could see from my desk. Looking across the city with the outline of buildings and structures in sharp black contrast against crayon orange twilight.

My head wasn’t just mentally drained. I was drained from feeling just unwell for months that would make me sleep badly and that would drain me mentally. A circle of fatigue that would push the gender thing right to the back of my priorities. I was just finding it hard to cope with getting through each day and function in a job that, while can become mundane in it’s everyday function, actually means a lot to me. The first job I’ve probably ever had that what I do actually means something. People rely on it and the importance in doing it right is extremely high. Unlike many of my jobs in the past, while I enjoyed some of them to an extent or inspired by their clients, it felt much like what Chandler in Friends once said, “If I don’t input those numbers… doesn’t make much of a difference.”

I still had running but it was down to a minimum. I still had cycling but the weather has been terrible. With much of the gender thing at the lowest point it’s been in so long I questioned whether there was anything left there. Dreading every letter posted through the door might be the next appointment for the Gender Identity Clinic and I had nothing I could have taken them other than lacklustre, indecisiveness and disorientation.

But no letter has turned up. In fact I may have been forgotten; it has happened before. My mind started wandering, wondering after reading another BBC news article announcing the long waiting times at gender clinics throughout the United Kingdom, that they might have decided that my indecision wasn’t worth any further help and that they might have struck me off their books. I shook the stupid, split-second, conspiracy thought from my head. This is, of course, not what was happening. It was more likely that a letter had got lost, I’ve missed my appointment and I’ve been struck off. I shook another silly thought away. It’s just another referral to wait for, a referral that I have very little to take with me.

Since the new year it just all went to the background. The gender thing was actually still there but it was on tick over. Kept alive by a small battery that needed replacing. It wasn’t until I had a little time off that I started to recover; not physically so much, I’m still one hundred percent knackered without enough hours in the day, but things started to wake up.

Seeing things in myself that are female that make me who I am and what I want. Seeing that may be there is still something I can do and may be it’s not all over. The problem is with feeling gender-exhausted comes self doubt and not necessarily doubt that I am who I am, I think that exposes itself as no more than a dent, but doubt that I can actually move forward anymore than I already have; just through the exhaustion of everything.

I’m not sure what triggered the wake up. I was still wearing some of my female clothing running, using my daily female shoulder bag (yes, it’s just a bag), but as these are normal daily things to me I couldn’t feel who I was anymore. I think I was feeling a bit numb. There was a moment today when I removed some old clear nail varnish from my toes. There was a gap where my nails had grown that you could measure in months but it was the removal process, rather than painting my nails, that triggered something.

It was kind of like a light bulb moment where I could suddenly see again. I don’t think it was directly what it was either. It wasn’t the you’re wearing nail varnish thing, to me it was just nail varnish, but it was more, I have something to do to remove it. It was like a sort of daily habit that I suppose men, on the whole, just don’t do that and it reminded me of who I was. Kind of like a feminine habit that was a sole preserve that echoed back who I was, even though technically it’s not necessarily a female preserve.

It could have been anything really that triggered it, may be if I saw I had small feet and that made me feel more like women; I don’t have particularly small feet. Or girly finger nails, or my long hair; I do have long hair – ding! In the weeks before that trigger moment I had taken to straightening my hair to heat-death just to try and bring myself back to normal like an addict trying to find that high again.

It hasn’t just been a gender lack-lustre, it’s been most things. Cooking to eat and not just to enjoy the experience. Enjoying others company but not always feeling quite there because I just need my bed or sofa; whichever I have the energy to reach first. I’ve had more gender dreams in the last few weeks than I think I’ve had in the last five years.

I’m hoping this moment of finding myself again will turn into my desire and confidence that I felt just six months or so ago, because without it I just wonder who I actually am anymore.

Until next time.

Hannah x

 

Ice Cold Warmth – Christmas Eve Special

Plated hair and leggings. The scratching sound of a blade dragging along the ice to stop. Dark mascara and glossy eyes. Floating along the ice that had been freshly laid but still wet where hired boots had been rushed onto the rink. Music filling the wonderland and Christmas trees hanging from the roof.

I wore my new bobble hat, gloves and ripped jeans and got as close as I could to what made me feel right ice skating at Christmas but I was lacking the mascara and the dusty purple coloured leggings I imagined I’d have worn. Poker straight hair may be falling from the rim of my bobble hat in a cute winter warm look.

I love gliding around just allowing the ice to take me at an easy pace. Dodging around those wobbling and holding the hand of someone wobbling even more so and those with a wet mark down their thigh from an earlier fall.

Despite seeing those women looking and expressing the way they want to be I didn’t feel jealous of envious, well may be a little envy. I felt that I was some way along the path towards that sort of thing.

A yearly skate on the ice has become almost tradition for me, finished by a mulled wine and some Christmas market food but each time I feel a little more along the way to enjoying the skating how I want. At the moment it’s a bit of a journey and to some extent a challenge to step outside my comfort zone for comfort. I see other women the way may be I’d like to be and may be one year, next year, it will be the mascara and soft berry lipstick.

Earlier in the week Sarah in work approached me, “Have you seen this app? It turns you into a women, look at John.” She showed me a swipe-full of staff that had been changed gender. “Let’s do you.”

Sarah lined the phone up with my face and allowed it to process me. It softened my face up with light foundation with a blush of red warming my cheeks and dark mascara, upturned lashes with a digital eyelash curler. It plonked different hair on my head, which seemed pointless given my hair is approaching half way down my back at the moment but in a ponytail so we’ll let that little android off the hook. It was certainly a women in the finished process. In fact it made me look a little like Victoria Derbyshire, how it got to that I don’t know.

“There you go! How about that.”

“Can you turn me into a man now?” I joked. Kevin laughed from his desk.

The funny thing is, she clicked a button and the fabrication disappeared and I returned on the screen. I hadn’t felt that deflated and masculine for a long time. I’d come falling straight back to earth and hit a soft brick surface.

The thing is that app makes a women by softening features and rounding the face and then hiding everything else with thick virtual makeup. It’s an over-idealised image to make you appear female. It’s a night out with the girls look. The problem with these things is they can give a false let down. It can take away what we made the best of with what we have in a heart beat, but it doesn’t have to.

It didn’t take long to realise this and I didn’t latch onto the deflation. I reminded myself of what I have, how far I’ve come but more importantly how far I can still go, if I want to.

The difference between reality and idealism is something to try and go with and find somewhere between rather than fighting it and expecting the ideal. We are surrounded by idealistic images of what a women is, especially around Christmas with clothes expertly hung on size eight models, so it’s easy to get hung up on wanting to be like them and feeling a failure or false when we feel we can’t achieve that perfection.

Sometimes we might even buy those clothes on sale just for that reason and then realise they just don’t hang well on us and feel that we’re not achieving that perfection. The thing is most women go through this too. They, I say they when really I should say we but we need to differentiate without having to use that Cis word, they go through all the same fears, doubts and hits to confidence.

We all do for the same reasons. We have gender identity specific issues to deal with but we are all hit by some of the same things and we can share these things with other women if we can for support.

With the worry about how I look I also worry about whether I lead my future in the right way. Alone. A fear that may be I won’t meet anyone else now, especially if my gender identity continues to progress. I enjoy my own company but it’s always in the back of my mind that in the years to come, will I regret not returning to a real loving relationship.

Several years ago I headed down to Cannes on a holiday on my own. In the evenings there were hoards of people walking the promenade in June lit by warm street lighting. French locals playing chess on a mobile table, small arts stalls and flash young men burbling past in hired Ferrari.

I would wander to the edge of the promenade that divided the walkway from the beach. The small wall was topped with a slightly sloped plane that formed a bench the length of the bay. I sat with a copy of a Stephen Fry autobiography and hooked over the top a clip-on book light and read page after page amongst the noise and life in the south of France. At that time I enjoyed every minute. I felt like I had time to do it. All the time in the world.

Would I do something like that again if I was living full time? Sometimes people have opinions of a woman spending time alone. That said we live in a time of self confidence and adventure. Going out and doing the things we want to do and may be we, The Gender Dysphoric, should lead the way. For now, I’ll do whatever I can.

Until next time,

Merry Christmas.

Hannah x