Brushing up the Static and Stale

Every breath of air just one degree above freezing felt worthwhile not just for the view but the breathlessness of it all. The gravel crackling and popping under the tyres of my cycle. The stillness where, thankfully, no breeze blew on the top of the hill between giant wind farm turbines towering above that lay dormant. That unbelievable silence in such a vast open space – you can’t do anything but have thoughts.

It was all part of that blending in of last year to the new year. Enough of a change to feel like there is change but not in such an abrupt way that within a couple of days get fed up with it all, drop all motivation and return to old habits, ‘out with the old, in with the old.’ No way.

Like I said about coming from the gender identity clinic and jumping right onto things straight away before confidence fades, New Year and the refreshing need for changes for the positive, I want to make a start now. Dust those tables and clear the clutter. These new year resolutions of mine aren’t January fads waiting to be broken but continuations and corrections of what I was already doing with a sprinkling of new ideas to make life and the year feel fresh and new.

A few days ago I opened last years diary to finish off what needed ending. A few notes about Christmas week and things that had happened. I neglected the rose gold diary too much last year, but then I can only write in my diary when I have something to say or feel I can. I just hadn’t been in that place to feel to write about things, but may be if I’d forced myself even just on a couple of days it would have helped with stresses and problems.

That week after Christmas day comes with a sense of renewal. I don’t know what it is, may be someone gives a gift of something I’ve never tried before and that starts some kind of sense of trying new things. That with the approaching new year gets my ideas of new year resolutions. It’s never strict resolutions but just making some tweaks and anything new I might have time for that will make me feel more positive.

I started with some basics. My first twenty-twenty-one run during my work lunch break. It was bitterly cold, even hatted and gloved-up my lungs were filled with cutting cold air, but it was something. I wish I’d been able to run over the Christmas week, I even took my running leggings and top to my parents but I just didn’t feel well enough. Bunged up a bit with a headache and a light cold, it just wasn’t going to happen.

My first January day of work started with all the computer equipment thrown on the dining table which was great for having the sun rise through the window and easy access to the kettle and coffee machine but it was temporary. Not being able to close the door on work at the end of the day isn’t mentally good in the long term and clearing the dining table at the end of each working day didn’t appeal to me. 

My next basic new year mental clean out was to dust my desk in the study (spare bedroom with a desk, plants and plenty of lighting), tidy up, shift my blank art canvases that were stored behind the desk and regularly took up my foot space, reset my clean surface attitude and vacuumed the carpet. Finishing up by plopping a little air freshener pod thing on the desk. I returned all the work-computer equipment to the study and a nice environment waited for me the next day.

It didn’t seem much of a start but when I really thought about it, it was a step towards starting the new year with a new hope and cleaner mind. I sat on the sofa that evening after all the cleaning up and decided to clean myself too. I grabbed a pack of face wipes from the bedroom, sat on the floor of the living room and cleansed my face. I still felt a bit bunged up in my sinuses from that afternoons run and so this felt like a way of making me feel at least as good as I could before the end of the day – the first normal day since the new year began. I say that, the Christmas tree is still up, I never believed in that January the 6th nonsense. 

Starting work that next day in the refreshed study felt so cleansing. It felt spacious and chilled and even though work that week was extremely stressful due to the type of work we’re doing right now I hate to think how I would have felt without that clear of clutter. The challenge this year will be to keep that mental cleanliness by keeping a physical declutter.

But for my gender identity this will be extremely important. I found over the last year with everything everyone has had to go through along with everything in my life that feels like a weight, I’ve had the perfect excuse to put my identity on the shelf only bringing it down when I felt like it for a brief look before putting it back. A thin layer of dust had settled on my gender identity and it felt it had become static and stale.

I really needed to do something about all those distractions and while there is still a lot to do around the house and a few things to clear up in other areas of my life, some things out of my control that will remain too, I will hopefully have a clearer mind to deal with my gender identity. Question it further if I need to. Decide what is denting my confidence. Think about what I really need.

It’s funny but when I have a good day with something, whether it’s the elation of forcing myself on that frosty cycle ride into the hills and feeling euphoria with something with no cost or just a successful day at work that reaffirms why I work there, whatever it is, sometimes at that moment I think, ‘that’s what it’s like to feel good about something that’s not about my gender.’

Until next time.

Hannah x

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

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

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

Doves In A Glass

It was strange. We were in an old music record shop in London and I was flicking through some vinyl. I said to my Dad, who looked a bit bored, “What’s up?” I said, “Do you want to do something else?”
“I’d like to see something funny in Amdixon.”
“Amdixon? Where the hell is Amdixon?”, was it some suburb south of the river that was known for it’s cultural nightlife – much in the theme of Camden, north of the river?
I tried to work out what something funny was. Was it a comedy venue he wanted to go to or was it a statue in the centre of ‘Amdixon’ that was the centre of attraction?

I woke rather drowsily. I’d not dreamt like this in a little while and most dreams fade away as the morning hue through the curtains fades-in and for the life of me I wouldn’t be able to remember what the dream was about. But that moment stuck like it had actually happened and that name, ‘Amdixon.’ I pushed myself to sit up, cleared my sleepy eyes and grabbed my iPad. ‘Amdixon.’ Was it spelt like that, like Dixons or was it Dickson. No, definitely an ‘x’. I remember thinking that in the dream.

Of course there was no such place and to wake on my birthday with such as strange dream was one thing but to actually go to the effort of searching the internet to see if there was a place was probably just as bizarre.

It was a setting for my day though and my worry was, despite feeling quite high and happy that moment, that spending a birthday alone, due to this lockdown, that things would get low and I’d feel depressed, bored and unable to motivate myself to do anything paralysed with fear of anything I do would be disappointing.

I had a feel though that it wouldn’t be that way. Family and friends had sent birthday cards in plenty of time and I even had presents delivered in some form or another. I had something to open and we had video phone, each person using a different media to call me.

Sometimes with my birthday it feels like I need to do something for myself, something girly that reaffirms my gender identity and celebrate it at the same time that makes my birthday have that cherry on top – affirmation. Whether it’s wearing those nice shorts that I’ve nearly worn through to the thread, painting nails or plaiting hair – just something. For some reason this year it was neither of those. It was a large bottle of Prosecco and a tall fluted Champaign glass chilled ready for the evening; luckily a warm evening that was like summer.

While the air was still spring fresh and my best friend and his wife video called. An opening of birthday presents and a long chat and laughs that set the day the way it should be. Later in the morning a couple of hours video chat with my Mum and Dad while sharing a virtual coffee, it was just like our coffee days.

In the afternoon while the sun kept things hot I rode my bike across the fresh green Welsh fields and down around the outsides of the village to an old small viaduct with water rushing through underneath, all within our ‘once a day for one hour’ limit. If it were another time it felt like I’d have wish I’d bought a book and something small to sit on and read for a few hours while the sun light trickled through the trees and caught sparkles on the crystal clear water.

By the evening I was into my third video call with Maddie, if you’ve not read here before – ex-who-knows-now-best-friend, and we shared an impromptu virtual dinner. We timed our meals to finish the cook so we would dine together. It was never going to work, how would we time this, one hundred miles apart with two different meals, one in the oven and the other in the frying pan. Somehow the stars aligned and we were timed perfectly with me blowing a candle out at the other end.

We spent an age online chatting and my day had just melded into a new day and evening as things became fluid and spur of the moment. We said our goodbye later on and I decided to finish my birthday as I had planned. The one thing I had planned was going to happen.

The evening was still warm and dusk wasn’t too far away. I flung a thick blanket on the decking in the garden, set up candles dotted along the perimeter and moved the table aside that I had virtually dined with Maddie. I slide out the door with the big television putting it in the corner of the house outside where televisions don’t go and scattered cushions about the place. It was time for an alfresco movie. It had to be a classic. Something comforting and comfortable. Something funny but warm. Something I liked.

I filled my glass again for the umpteenth time with the Prosecco that, whether because it was my birthday or because it was a good bottle, was the best I’d tasted. I pulled a few DVDs half way out along the shelf which became a make-shift short list. I considered a few that I loved but I knew in my hearts of hearts that I’d be watching Notting Hill. The DVD played and the darkness crept in silently around me while the candle lit the bubbles in my glass rising happily to the top almost like they were doves being set free.

Laying back on the cushions while the film played out, surrounded by candles that were now the only source of light, I glanced up at the night sky. The stars were out and The Plough was straight above shining down like it had come to visit. In all these years, despite being the birthday I’ve been most alone, I’ve never felt less alone; perfect.

Until next time, stay safe.

Hannah x