Monday, 7 April 2014

Quick Changes, More Overcoming of Fear and Waiting For the Great Leap Forward

I've had a speech therapy appointment today.  It seems that the bulk of male-to-female transsexual speech therapy can be summed up as follows:

  • Speak higher
  • Modulate with a feminine rise and fall
  • Just do it
While I was there I asked about the appointment I'm waiting for with a gender specialist, the person who can give me a diagnosis.  Until I am officially diagnosed I can't be referred for hormone treatment or laser hair removal.  Since I have lived full-time as myself for the last eight months this is difficult.  (full-time in this context means living at all moments in one's preferred gender 'role' - it also gets called 'real life experience'.)

I can't complain too much though, it was only recently that someone like myself would have had to be full-time for a period before being referred for treatment - it's only in the last few years that the NHS has moved towards removing that mandatory period.  And the waiting times for appointments used to be much longer - indeed, in other parts of the UK they are still much longer.  I talk to people who transitioned more years ago and their stories are even harder.  A woman I know could not be diagnosed at all until she had lived as herself for a year and then had to sit before a panel of psychiatrists and fight tooth-and-nail for that diagnosis.

Socially, the process of transition was much harder then.  The stories of suffering dwarf anything I've experienced in the last year.  Every transsexual person who transitioned back then amazes me for the things that they had to go through.  And I thank them for what they've done, that their actions and courage and, often, campaigning have been big steps to making the whole process comparatively far easier today.

But it's still hard to do this.  I've heard people ask, "How did people manage to go full time without hormone treatments?"  Answer: you just do and you cope with the difficulties that come your way as a result.  At least that's my experience.  But my experience is not anyone else's experience - there isn't any single right way or right experience in gender dysphoria.

One thing I find hard is not having control over the process.  I had almost complete control - and support of family - in moving from living as him to living as her.  I could choose times, places, clothing, levels of comfort or discomfort, the levels to stress I was prepared to face head on and overcome.  I could choose who to tell and when.  I could choose the speed of the process.  Most of it in any case.  It did speed up after my mother accidentally let things slip a bit too publicly.  In the end that worked out well because people were not shocked or dismayed and it meant that I got the whole process of coming out over with in a much quicker burst than I might have done.  It was stressful, but the stress of not telling people and the fears of what might happen are almost always far worse than any consequences of telling them.

Early in the process I saw a video on youtube.   Click here for the link if you feel like watching it too.  I haven't turned into a transgender video addict but there have been some useful ones.  The video was about fear overcoming fear.  The fear is normal.  But inaction doesn't tend to remove fear.  And it doesn't remove many of the barriers that seem to stand against oneself and positive action.  Yes, we're back to overcoming fear but this isn't the blog post I've been meaning to write about it.  Sorry about that.  Maybe I'll have to let that post slip away.

The question was asked:  "Which is worse, the possible consequences of being yourself or never being yourself?"  That's not just a transgender question.  That's a question we can all ask ourselves.  Is what people might think of you worse than being yourself?  And if you're not yourself who are you going to be?   It turns out that many people's reaction to me has been based on this question.  They say things like "You can/only be yourself."   "You only live once - so live."  They don't generally say "Eeeuurrrrgh!  Go away and hide in a box."

At the start of June last year I quoted the video on my facebook account - of course without saying where the words were from.  Lots of people liked it.  I'm sure people could find lots of problems with the video - people generally do - but in those days of early June it helped me immensely.  The video helped in my decision to run with my identity and live it to the best of my ability.  If we could all be inspired to do that for ourselves and let others do the same for themselves then society would be transformed in amazingly powerful ways.

Most of you are not transgender.  But take these words to heart and be courageous.  Go out.  And live.

"Don't let fear stop you. 
Because it will take away the minutes of your life
and then hours, and then days,
weeks and years
when you could have been you, 
when you could have been happy."

And no asking "what about people who want to murder or rape?"  People always ask questions like that, just before asking one of the most common questions asked in any discussion group: "What about Hitler?"  Probably none of you want to do those things and none of you have become who Hitler became so there's no problem.  People ask questions like that seeking an excuse to not live for themselves.  In any case, murder and rape are not start points.  They are end points that very often arise in people who have not been allowed or allowed themselves to be themselves.  The truth is suppressed whereupon it mutates and what may have been a perfectly natural bit of anger or an attraction to another human being goes mouldy, strengthens and emerges again in a far worse form.

Anyway, as I said, I asked about the appointment I'm waiting for with a "medically qualified" specialist - because (she said cynically) you need to study for years and have a certificate on the wall before you can spot the profoundly obvious.  Anyone else who meets me can correctly diagnose me in two minutes even though they may not have a certificate.

When I contacted the clinic in February I was told the appointment would be late March, which is what I'd been told back in November at my initial clinic appointment with a "non medically qualified" therapist - someone who can have a different certificate on the wall.

A month ago I was told that my appointment would be in early May or possibly in late April.

And today I was told that my appointment would probably be in May, unless anything happened and it got knocked back.

It's frustrating and tonight I'm just a bit grumpy because they tell me one thing, then they tell me another thing, then they tell me another thing and at this point there seems to be no progress in how long the wait will be.  In reality I'm further up the waiting list but it feels a bit like being left on hold indefinitely, just much worse.  And each day I live as myself - I wouldn't have it any other way - but there are some challenges doing that.  I said I like to have some control.  I have control over my name, outward gender, clothing, reading, jewellery, perfume, and so much that has changed in the last year.  I have no control over my appointment - and no control as to whether an "expert" will even be able to diagnose me during that appointment or whether I'll have to wait even longer to get the help to begin to live the life I'm already living.  I controlled the practicalities of social transition and I'm very happy with the result and with the still ongoing process of self-discovery.  But nobody can control the NHS!

I didn't really have a choice - it was either live as me, quickly, or die again.  Or rather, I had choices but only one was acceptable.  Maybe it's because I'd so thoroughly squashed the truth that, realising it and pretty much healing and understanding my life in three weeks, I couldn't not jump in.  If I hadn't mainly successfully covered up who I am and rapidly stamped on any clues, if I'd been more aware of it all and more used to it then perhaps I'd have had a choice.  I don't know - as we can only really know our own experience.

So it was fast!  Swapped clothes totally in weeks, told everyone - family, friends, neighbours, strangers, church quickly, which meant weeks of hyper-adrenalin and stomach pain.  Got barred from the things I was doing in the church - which had been leading into much more official ministry.  The parish were supportive but I was told that word had come down from on high!  In this diocese that's not a big surprise.

And verbal abuse in the street was very regular:  I can't say I recommend the experience of walking as female before laser treatment and after having a short male haircut, while not being good at faking some bravado.  Abuse wasn't going to stop me - I could not go back, horrific thought (ah, my screwed up psyche!) and fortunately nobody attacked physically.  Nowadays that verbal abuse is pretty rare - wouldn't say I "pass" but I don't obviously "not pass" (to use that problematic term).

I tried to delay for a bit - I thought I should save my mother the stress because she was dealing with some big problems and I didn't want to add to them (I thought I was a problem).  And so there were lots of people I couldn't tell without risking her finding out from them.  But I couldn't bear not being truthful with her and having to lie on the phone about such a big part of life.  Glad I told her.  She accepted the news pretty easily.  And if I had delayed due to her situation I'd still be delaying now - that situation is still there, and worse than it was.  It also meant I could visit my parents last summer in my clothes not his clothes - which would have hurt so much.  Of course I didn't really know how to dress then and some of the photos are quite scary!  Happier face, terrible dress sense.

That's enough writing.  More than enough.  This is essay length - 1,800 words.  Sorry!  Congratulations if you've stuck with it to the end.  You deserve a medal.  Or at least a hug.


  1. You make me profoundly thankful that I was able to go privately, even if it was to the now slightly notorious Russell Reid, and get hormones straight away - in fact my GP was supportive too so I got them on the NHS. I was able to have surgery - again privately, funded by moving to a less expensive house - after only a year of full transition. It's all been a great success, never a moment's regret and now thirteen years of feeling comfortable in my own skin. At least I was able to take the Dept. of Work and Pensions to court and win to get my pension at the age for a female!


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