Lots of Little Amounts

I’d forgotten how elegant and smart it was. Black and just above the knee, smart enough for smart occasions and smart-casual to wear anytime I might like. Two cute vertical pockets either side of the front each with a single button and just a couple of pleats falling to the bottom of the skirt. It had been lost to the pile of unused clothes at the back of the wardrobe.

I tried it on but the tasteful zip down the one side, rather than straight down the centre of the back, wouldn’t do right up to the top. I mean it was always just-about okay and it was never a perfect fit but now I doubted if it ever did do right to the top. I could zip all the way but I knew that it was so tight that it would probably move a few vital organs in my body around until the zipper broke.

I laid it out on the bed. It was covered in lint. I found my roller and tore off a used sticky layer exposing a new sticky surface and cleared the skirt of all the bits that even the washing machine would probably ignore. It looked as good as it did the day I bought it – but I still wasn’t going to fit into it properly.

I found a wooden hanger with skirt clips and hung it neat from the handle of the wardrobe. It hung there as a reminder of what I wanted, to loose a little weight. It was more symbolic than specifically about fitting into the skirt. I go on long double digit bike rides, once, sometimes twice a week but single thirty-mile bike rides just don’t seem to be enough to shift that inch from the morning chocolate that goes with my tea when I start work each day.

It wasn’t just age but also working from home since March and the cancelled weekly running events until further notice. The walk from the car after the morning commute helped a little to keep things at bay but with that walk now reduced to the kitchen to the study, bike rides were the only exercise I needed, but still not enough to find what I really wanted – to feel good about my body.

I had to make a decision now though. With working from home being in my foreseeable future and winter approaching I needed a plan. I need lots of little amounts of exercise each day, even if it’s ten minutes aerobic dvd or a kilometre around the village. Lots of little amounts to work on. The skirt on the hanger reminds me that if I want to feel better about myself then I need to make it happen, as long as making it happen also feels good.

Things don’t need to be just sorted on the outside. I need something on the inside. I took a break away from home for a few days in the city. Sometimes I find cycling around the countryside refreshes me with those breathtaking mountains and hills but sometimes I need that city life injection of energy and its innate electrification.

The hotel came with a gym, a good place to at least continue my dedication to the skirt shrine. It also had a pool where I could happily remind myself what I wanted to get rid of and be in total admiration of those who already had been able to keep the pounds off. Of course there were some guests who weren’t thin or shapely but the difference was that the shape of me with a little more around the waist and belly meant a more masculine beer induced shape. I wanted back what I had ten years ago, if that is possible. It just would be nice if it took it away from the stomach and felt free to leave what it felt like in the bum.

The next morning I walked out of the hotel early to find a newsagent. The streets were near deserted and it had that low noise that cities have on early mornings where you know the city itself hasn’t quite woken up or it’s at the breakfast counter, city eyes half open, having a Bagel. I found a newsagent and got somethings that I’d forgotten to take on my break in the rush to get ready for the last minute decision to go away the night before.

On the way back to the hotel I decided to pop down to the walkway bridge over the river that flowed either quickly heading towards the sea or fighting against the tide as it pushed against the river curdling and creating whirls. This morning it was in between those states, just still. It was nice looking out to the silhouette of the high rise buildings as the sun broke a little from behind the thin broken pebbles of clouds in the distance. The only noise now, apart from the city trying to wake up, was a small boat burbling its way underneath the bridge leaving soft ripples behind and the scratch of metal against tracks as an early train departed one side of the river for another. It was time for a few minutes reflection of the dream I’d had during the night.

I’d had a dream like this about a month or so ago but the difference was stark. The previous dream I’d woken from theoperation, but things had been half done and I remember thinking, ‘oh no, have I made a mistake, it’s not right.’ and not wanting for it to be half measures. But during the night, and may be it was just down to disturbed sleep from being in a new bed for the first night, but I had, once again, been in for an operation but this time it was after it had been done and it was right, it would change back, then back again (lets not going into detail). It was like the dream saying, ‘here you go, how do you feel about that’ which I would feel wow, that’s right. Then it would change back and it was like the dream was saying, ‘Don’t worry though, leave things as they are for now if you prefer.’

I think the difference between the two dreams were about changing outward gender not going right versus being content with what will come of it. Not specifically about the physical changes but about all the changes, social, psychological as well as the physical. As strange as dreams are, and specifically this new dream was strange enough, it was kind of comforting. It kind of felt like it was going hand-in-hand with my holiday and how I would feel being female during a happy time like that.

I returned to the hotel to wake properly myself and get on with the rest of my break. The essence of the dream stayed with me. I felt good about it for some reason. I felt like I’d made some emotional progress, not within the dream but because of the dream and how I felt about it.

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

Exposure Thing

I stepped out onto the pavement, still damp but at least it wasn’t raining. It was dark, past twilight, but there was a hint of a darkened electric blue on the horizon where the rain clouds were broken and the sky delicately illuminated from over the horizon. I locked the front door, tucking my door key into my pocket sleeve on my wrist, and set off into a jog.

I hadn’t run on a weekday for months. My exercise had consisted of weekends with the running community on Saturdays and cycling, a sort of binge sweat. I had to do something though during the week. It had been my foot injury that had restricted me to just weekends, using the week to recover it ready for that hit on a Saturday morning. It was about exercise, health and the gender thing. The more I’m out of the house the more I’m out there. An excuse to get the three quarter length running tights on and to feel that at least some of my life is more female than the male, or may be more accurately more feminine than the masculine.

During the day I’d wandered around the shops for a new winter hat. I’d had one in mind for a few weeks, something winter fun, a softer coloured and textured beany or even a bobble hat that would be the topping for when I go Ice Skating in December; an annual diary date with Maddie. But there it was on the shelf. Amongst all the sale hats and it was the only one left. I slipped it on, looked in the shop mirror — it fit. A dusty darkened pink with a grey fake fur bobble and a nice comforting lining.

I popped it back on the shelf and walked out of the shop thinking I’d want to sleep on it. I don’t like to rush into some purchases in case it’s an impulse buy — a reflection of my attitude to gender identity. I walked through the shopping centre thinking about it and thinking whether it would be the hat I really wanted and what the price was as it was unmarked. I stopped for a moment and checked their web site on my phone, there it was, on sale. I quickly turned and headed straight back to the shop with a wry smile on my face.

When I got home that evening, sorting the junk mail, actual post and vote begging letters, I pulled my hair tie out and let my ponytail fall, grabbed my new hat from my bag and headed to the mirror, pulling the hat over my head with my hair falling out the sides of the hat. It really did fit and it did make me a little happy.

I left it on the arm of the sofa for the evening and I caught myself looking at it briefly. There was a thought that went straight to my head thick, fast and concentrated — “there’s a female hat in the house.” It was a strange thought. All those clothes I already have and what was I really thinking? Why was this different? It was my hat. Sure, I still had the label on top with it’s little clothes hanger-for-hats still attached in case I changed my mind, but it was mine.

I worked it out very quickly. I hadn’t just bought this for my use around the house like say a skirt or a dress that I wouldn’t, at least not yet in my gender journey, use day to day but this was something for any day, like my running clothes, my work trousers or my mini ruck sack. These were things that, alone were not hugely obvious or significant but as a collection they were something different. The power of a collective.

It felt like more of me was on show than it had ever been before and I’d not even worn the hat yet. More of me was metaphorically pink than grey. It was nice, satisfying and warm but also a little scary. It was a borderline being crossed. A point of possibly no return. It seemed such a little thing physically and yet something hugely changing.

It was the reason for the dream that night I suspect. A recurring dream from time to time. One where I am going about my day as I want wearing what I want without a care but then sometime later I suddenly become very self aware that people have seen that side of me.

It’s a simplistic symbolistic dream for worry of being over-exposed too soon. Worrying about people seeing the real me. But what is that worry really? Is it worry that people are seeing me in a skirt for the first time or that I’ve not realised I’ve been wearing it when I normally wouldn’t or is it just worry about first times? May be it’s a blend of all three. There again it could be natural doubt about doing something out of my comfort zone. The future usually resolves these things.

The exposure thing is funny because with some of the progress I’ve made so far I’ve just done them and felt happy and normal about it and not that vivid ‘naked moment’ feeling in the dream. The difference though is that the dream is falling straight into some huge massive change all at once; afterall dreams are just dreams. Progress on the other hand is generally steady and incremental — at least for me.

Running the far side of the village, passing houses with warm dimly lit front reception rooms and delicate minimal Christmas lights oozing middle class, and only a week to December shy of a Christmas tree, I realise I am still trying to find my way and finding that the little increments are ever more pushing towards a tipping point. The days still come each morning and a new day begins with new thoughts of “what next.”

Until next time.

Hannah x

Reinvent

‘What happens after? I mean it’s not a hard border line where one life stops and the other starts.’ I thought. The rain had gone and the paths had been left with lethal soggy leaves and the temperature had dropped so much that gloves, hat and a coat were compulsory. Even though this weather had brought me the wrapped up warmth and comfort, I was still in a place of wondering, confusion and a little lost.

It doesn’t matter how far down the gender thing journey you are there are always those moments when you just wonder what next and loosing our way a little. It sometimes feeling like I need to open GenderMaps and figure out where I am and may be on occasion ask for directions because I’d forgotten them — even if I’m just asking myself and not having to see the gender identity clinician again to get that reset feeling.

The thing is if I just sit there allowing the thoughts to accumulate and race around my head I just end up feeling all fogged up. There is no coherent line of thought or planning. The gender thing ends up being all over the shop and I don’t find myself getting back on track with a clear vision and the confidence that I need to go with it.

That’s where I’ve been for a few weeks, loosing my way and not sitting down for a moment and sorting things out. I like to write lists. Not just come up with a list of things, but actually write it down on paper so it’s in blue and white, on the page, not to be forgotten and ordered. And from a list of things that are on my mind, whether it’s work, clothes, hobbies or sports and anything else that is gender-related, I can bring together a couple of paragraphs of what I want, how I should go about it or just refresh and remember the things I was going to do which had got lost in that fog in my head.

I have yet to put aside the time to do this recently. I’ve left it go so I loose my way a bit and allow the daily trudge of wake, work, dinner, bed cycle get in the way; that and cleaning the house, taking crap to the tip and generally getting other things in order rather than myself. That’s not to say de-hoarding isn’t important, it really is, and that moment when I realise I’ve cleared a whole space isn’t just cleansing of the garage but cleansing my head too — and that’s just as important.

But it’s giving enough time to both. I found myself thinking what I would want to do when all the gender thing is done and out of the way, whatever that end point actually is. I realised I would probably want to go on holiday to some of the places I’ve been to before, go to the same restaurants, cycle the same places, the only difference is I would be experiencing them all over again but as me — fully. I have this notion that it would feel as fresh and as exciting as the first time I went.

I would enjoy it with a new view point. I would feel at one with the way I present, well, either all that or I would feel awkward, uneasy and uncomfortable. May be that’s part of the planning though. Instead I would think about what could possibly be a reason for feeling uneasy and then work my way though these issues before going so I don’t feel that way. That said may be at that point insecurities would be long behind me and I would just get on with things. It would be just a matter of getting into the right frame of mind so it becomes fun, enjoyable and even needed.

I would probably want to do new things too. New pursuits much like my recent cycling on longer adventures. I would find other activities but start them with Hannah being on the booking form. “Hannah! Hook that belaying rope in or you’ll break your neck if you fall.” “Hannah, you’ve left your parachute on the chair, don’t jump yet.” “Miss James, we’ve upgraded your room to the penthouse suite, is there anything else you’d like? Champagne?”

Just talking about it feels therapeutic but yet at the same time, without writing down some realistic plans, it feels a bit like the millionaire syndrome. You know when you talk with your friends and discuss what you’d do if you won the lottery or come into millions through genuine success. You come up with ideas of where you’d go, and what car you’d arrive in while wearing something expensive bought in Kensington. That genuine exciting feeling that it could happen starts to build inside like caffeine from a strong coffee, but when it’s over and the conversation changes the excitement fades and reality draws in like dusk over a sunset.

It’s at that moment we realise the odds are so slim that the feeling fades but with the gender thing it’s not all down to luck. It’s also down to planning, confidence and the life tools to deal with whatever comes our way.

Much like the house it’s about cleaning up, getting things in order and making space so we can move. Not destroying our past but keeping the things that are important and clearing away the things that weigh us down without feeling any unfair guilt of destruction.

Its not to say that the end goal of the gender thing will cure the daily pattern. One of the first people I ever spoke to who were transgendered, some twenty five years ago or so, said “your life problems don’t go away —” and even though that was in the mid nineteen nineties when being trans was still to some extent difficult and acceptability was only just starting to bloom, and in today’s climate I guess it’s just a little easier to transition, put the gender identity problem behind us and address our life problems, they are still there. Even so with a clear vision of what we want in our future we can make it happen. We just need to want it and put time to it.

Until next time.

Hannah x

Vain

It didn’t seem that cold riding around the lake. It wasn’t that far from home really but even so I wrapped up with a large hooded jumper and even long fitness leggings to make sure I didn’t feel worse than I already did for most of the week. The pathway opens up from the trees at the corner of the lake, the sun a November watery hue with a sharp enough edge to produce long clear shadows from the line of trees on the lawn to the side.

A quiet place on private hotel land that turn a blind eye to walkers on a Sunday and where guests rarely roam. It’s so quiet that I felt surprised to past enough people to say ‘good morning’ to. The one side of the lake is a gravel path following along near the waters edge with the polar opposite west side winding tight between dense woodland on a thick carpet of autumn leaves. It was a quintessential British autumn scene and right on my doorstep.

I had taken my camera with me because I knew it would likely be a warm scenic place in a cold environment. I decided to set up a photograph of myself, something to send to my parents with the castle in the background and a full autumn bloom ancient tree on the side in pure tan tones. I lifted my cycle helmet off and placed it on my bag on the bench, setting the bike to the side, popped the camera at the end of the path and allowed it to time a self-indulgent photo.

I reviewed the photo. It was ok but with my hair tied back it didn’t feel like me. It was me and obviously looked like me but it felt like I’d hidden away a little bit of myself. I might have had my running tights on but even so, sat on the bench with my knees together, my warm jumper and gloves I felt something was still missing.

I pulled the elasticated bronze hair ribbon from my ponytail and slipped it onto my wrist allowing my hair to fall. A little rustle with my hands and I quickly jogged to the end of the path again, set the timer and ran back to the bench counting the ten seconds in my head and panicking that I wouldn’t get to sit down in time. I assumed it clicked and reviewed myself again.

“Oh wow, my hair has grown so long.” I thought for a moment. I mean it really did seem long. I knew it was due a bit of a trim to get rid of those split ends that the straighteners seem to help along, even so it seemed longer than I thought. Dangling down way past my neck and onto my chest with an ever so slight smile on my face I felt a little bit validated this time.

I guess it’s like the difference between a pair of trousers and a skirt. Trousers can say female by the way they are cut but a skirt is, by design, inherently female, with few exceptions. How was this different with a ponytail though. Surely a high ponytail with length says exactly what the skirt says?

It does in so many ways but with a head on photograph the ponytail, unless I turned my head for a bizarre photograph, was barely visible if at all. With my hair down, it’s length and thickness also said a similar femininity but was blatantly obvious to the camera. It said what I wanted without having to change the set up of a photograph.

I thought about wearing my hair down with my cycle helmet on but it didn’t look right at the time, slightly messy. I wasn’t sure if I just needed a bit more time to sort my hair out or whether it needed styling to make it tidier and give the same affect.

That’s the thing with photos, they are a representation of who we are. I can think back to the days when I used to go on nights out with other transgender people (or people as I like to call them) and photos would say all sorts of lies or masks. Thick make up covering growth and shadow, outwardly obvious clothes to disguise our true current physical disadvantages. It’s similar in everyday life. We all want to look nice in photos. Look how we feel inside.

Adjusting, correcting and altering our appearance to feel a bit happier about ourselves. It’s not really vain as such but just self recognition, introspection and alteration. That’s what it is. It’s our way of finding our way. Much like the rest of our journey in opening up, finding clothing style, introspection of our personality and looking at our future and the path we would like to follow.

So next time you’re out and about and want to take a photo of yourself, don’t be afraid of being vain, embrace it and find out where you are. Enjoy being you and who you want to be.

Until next time.

Hannah x

Pretty Little Thing

The autumn leaves were almost blizzard like in their collection along the pathway. All brushed up in a long winding Great Wall of Sycamore, and with those leaves come long pale grey winter coats and soft feminine scarves. That’s what I see in the city on the way to work. Office workers with freshly poker straightened hair from a Tresemme advert and smart winter wear. That, and the odd person who braves it in a skater dress that became unsuitable over a month ago — jealousy.

When we first discover our gender identity issues we can easily jump straight to what we think we need to be feminine, soft colours, florals and dresses or skirts way too short — some never let that go either, even into old age. But much like someone born psychically female we usually find our way after a period of rights of passage. The difference is those of us who don’t tell our parents don’t tend to get the support and guidance through those years so it’s all amplified through a lonely passage of self discovery.

Those who find the norm sooner than later, fair well. Finding clothes that are comfortable and colours that suit the situation, feel good and don’t shout out loud like a fire alarm. That said, clothes are just a small factor. A realisation that it’s about who we are internally and also physically. Born with some parts that seem strictly male are another part of our right of passage and sometimes feeling pretty doesn’t mean having to look uber pretty in a sickly sweet manufactured way. It can just be about feeling attractive in the way we want, pretty rather than handsome, but then again you can feel handsome as a women — it doesn’t need to be a male trait, just a masculine trait as such.

I look forward to autumn. It’s a beautiful time of the year to feel that edgy crisp air and to wrap up and change to winter fashions and explore that side of femininity. Coats and scarves. Boots and tights to fill them. New red or cream knit gloves, or picking off the balling on last year’s gloves. Glossy eyes in the cold darkening evening with car lights glaring like a Christmas tree. The smell of burning logs from one of the village cottages as I get home after a working day.

The clothes and presentation is just a part of autumn life but it’s still part of the recipe and no matter what our presentation is, whether it’s hardened outdoor rugged clothes or of a pretty little thing of ultra femininity — it’s all valid. I find that some days I want to look one way and another day it’s something else. Remember the other day when I just couldn’t wear my new checked trousers to work? Just a few days later, the night before work I decided, tomorrow is the day. I got up and it was the day. I chose the clothes that would go with them and for some reason all the worry from the days before had just floated away.

I’ve no idea where it went. I was feeling a bit better physically and may be that was something to do with it but also it was my mood. I was in the mood for skinny trousers that were different. Today I’m not in that place and so it’s black trousers. This is the thing. Having to deal with the gender thing means that when it comes to people seeing us and our presentation, there can, on occasions, when those people know about the gender difference, that there is a perception of what they see becomes their judgment.

If you’re on a ultra feminine day, are they going to see a trans-person who is ‘trying too hard’ or will they just see someone that is dressed the way they want because that’s what they want. If you’re on a day where you’re dressed in something that’s just understated and genderless, straight trousers, hips nowhere to be seen, empty finger nails, no rings and hair a mess from that autumn breeze and humidity of the rain the hour earlier, what will they see then? Someone who looks like a women but they’re not actually sure? Enough curiosity that they approach you and ask you that question, “Man or Woman?”

It’s happened to me a few times. Even back in the day, a day where I thought I was dressed feminine and some bloke approach my friend and I one evening in a pub, “Are you a women?”, “Always?”, “What, since birth?” — “oh.”

I think the point is, should we really care how we present ourselves to the extent that it affects how we really want to look and feel that day? ‘That skirt would be nice today, but, mmmm, may be I should just wear jeans again.’ We all conform to some extent in society, it’s how we all get along so we don’t annoy each other but presentation is just not part of that when it comes to people who don’t have gender identity issues so why should it to us? The thing is, it probably doesn’t really matter that much.

Most of these insecurities are in our own mind and you can look around you in a busy place and generally people are doing their own thing. Sat in a coffee shop they’re eating their cake, sipping Earl Grey and chatting about ‘that bitch in work that leaves the bowl in the sink covered in oats that’s gone concrete.’ Those people that do look over from a table for a moment, well, everyone does that from time to time and it’s just rarely anything to do with a gender identity query. Sometimes it is, sometimes it’s not.

You know I’m sat here in the cafe and think that I’m quite disappointed in myself. These work trousers I’m wearing felt like an achievement in my journey several months ago. It was daring because I knew that anyone who looked for long enough could easily tell but now I’m just here in work trousers that I wear day to day without a thought. May be that’s the thing about the journey, each step becomes normal and when it does, may be its time to move along, just a bit more. There again, may be what we aim for is just — normal.

Until next time.

Hannah x

Little Voice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time.

Hannah x

Fifty-fifty

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“She’s had a coil fitted.”

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

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

Until next time.

Hannah x

Social Cycle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— ♥ —

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

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

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

Until next time

Hannah x

She is Hannah Also

She could have been me twenty years ago, no really, she is that age now. She wears the things I like to wear and some of the things I wish I could wear while running and, I hope, I would have had the confidence to present myself that way. To top it off, her name is Hannah as well.

We don’t get to talk much, she has a different circle of friends at the run, but I see in her what I see I could have been. I think I might have even looked a little like her, once hormones had kicked in. At least that’s what we all seem to wish when we find someone we can see ourselves in and admire as a sort of female role model.

But there is no need for me to dwell on what might have been. I’m not quite over the hill yet. If I’m taking Hannah as one of my internal images of myself in how I present to others then I’m not that far away, despite my age. My hair is as nearly as long as hers. Some of my running clothes are already very similar in style where our tastes already cross over before we even met.

Her voice is actually probably a little deeper than mine which was a surprise when we first spoke and I guess we both look tired after a week of work when we pull on our trainers on a Saturday morning and dig deep inside to run five kilometres. She also introspects and talks a lot; sound familiar?

There are the parts of her presentation that feel like the bits of myself that I have yet to complete. May be a certain style of top I just can’t pull off right now, wear my hair in a certain way she does some days and me getting my weight back down so I get back a bit of that slender.

But that all said, this doesn’t mean I want to be her. Sure sometimes I can look at another woman, and like most of us think, ‘I would want to be her in a heart beat.’ Do we really mean that? I don’t think so. There is being like her, or looking like her, but being her is something else. Imagine taking on everything she has, her friends, family, career or job, her likes and dislikes, anxieties and physical health.

When I was in my teens and probably my early twenties as well I would have said, in a heart beat, without even thinking any further whenever I had seen someone that I would like to be like, but that is the key, be like, not be.

There are parts of my life, my experiences and the people in my life that I wouldn’t want to trade. I remember way back in my childhood, may be 6 or 7 years old, I saw a film, Heaven Can Wait. A man gets taken from life ready to go to heaven but was taken by mistake. He was, for intents and purposes, taken by Death early.

The only way heaven could return him to life was to take the place of another, a professional American footballer whose life was about to end because it was just him time.

He would get his dream career and the girl, but as he was returned to Earth and entered into that players body his knowledge of who he was would fade and he became the footballer without knowledge of his previous life. I remember thinking, at the age I was, I don’t think I would want that. It very eternally sad he would forget.

That was the difference. I guess in that specific situation, with the choice of death or living as the person you want to be and forget your own life, well that’s a bit of a no-brainer, but the idea is there that changing everything for just one this isn’t necessarily the answer. This is, of course, about role models and not character appropriation.

— ♥ —

I guess this all applies in life and our choice of changing gender. How we might loose our past self. A death, like in the film, of our previous personality but I think that doesn’t have to be the case. We can choose to embrace who we were and remember that we are still the person we were we just have some outward amendments that express it better.

Then there is the death of our previous selves in the mind of others who see how they’ve lost the past you. That’s something we can’t change, it’s down to the other person who see us the way we were and now are. But may be that can be managed in some respect. None of us are who we were as children. We look different, we act different, we learn from our experiences; even many of our physical cells have changed, replenished, hair grown and lost; yet no one grieves for that part of us lost may be with the exception of parents who miss having their ‘children’ as they were to hold and teach.

My Mum once said to me that she can’t imagine me without my ponytail. May be given a change as slow as it took my pony tail to rise from the bottom of my head to the top or my running trousers to rise to three quarter length then the gender thing will be a celebration to be missed than grieved for.

Until next time.

Hannah x