It's been a while since I wrote anything. Life has been busy.
I am currently in Sussex with my mother. I'll return home to Newcastle on Thursday, just in time for the end of term, having been away for almost the whole of a month.
So what's going on? What follows are some of the negatives. Some of them. There are positive things too. Just at this moment they seem outweighed. And today there was more to add to the unbalance. I'll come to that below.
Actually, gender is a positive and learning last year who I am and jumping in at the deep end to live as me is at least one of the best things I've ever done, if not the best. Getting married was great. Meeting daughter was great. But the transformation and healing last year probably beats all the other good things.
I'm still waiting for an appointment at which I might be diagnosed as being me. But I'm by no means alone in that. It's frustrating though - not because I've been waiting over a year now since asking the GP to refer me to gender clinic but because for most of that time I have been full-time. I have, as they call it, "real life experience". I took full control of every aspect of my transition in terms of the mental, emotional and social sides. I have done pretty much all that it is possible for me to do without breaking the law to repeatedly get illegal supplies of female hormones. But I have no control whatsoever of so much of the physical side of transition and that is difficult - for me and for many people, whether full-time or not.
According to NHS guidelines after a year of that I can be referred for surgery. Here I am, with the diagnosis process incomplete, and with a GIC (Gender Identity Clinic) that won't even think about referring for surgery until someone has been steady on HRT for a year. So in terms of my treatment in the future the fact that I transitioned so quickly and arrived at the GIC having already done it is pretty much irrelevant.
In terms of my life though it has made a big difference. A massive difference. Just think, if I'd waited for someone to officially diagnose me or even longer then I'd still be living as a man now. I'd have missed out on so many good things. I'd have probably missed out on some of the difficulties and the abuse I used to receive so often but they were worth it for all the good things involved in living the last year as the person I am.
I have heard a lot of trans people say that they wish they had gone full time sooner. I haven't exactly heard many (none so far) say they wish they had waited longer.
Let that be a lesson: If possible,live as yourself because otherwise you're wasting your life living as someone else. Be authentic. Because what is worse than any negative consequences of being yourself are the negative consequences of not being yourself. That's not transgender life advice. It's life advice. In the end, which is worse: being rejected for being who you are or being accepted for living a lie? The answer depends on which we value more, the applause of others or a life of reality and freedom. Yes, it can be a challenge but it's an incredibly worthwhile challenge.
I talk so much of gender because it is easier than other subjects and completely to do with my own life. By talking of gender I don't feel I'm intruding into the stories of other people that in some ways are only theirs to tell. And gender is easy - I am me. I live as me. And in the course of time the under-funded gender clinics of the NHS will sort out the rest.
When I say "I am me" that's a very earthbound view. Many philosophies, faith systems and religions would query my loose definition of "me". Which brings me to
Religion, Faith, Spirituality, Call it what you will
I based my life, or a vast proportion of it, on my Christianity and found meaning there. I no longer have that Christianity. I no longer have the supernatural ear of a God to talk to. And the temptation arises to ask the question, like so many before me, "Is there any meaning outside of that God?" But I know the answer is yes. It'll take a while to find where I belong and how wide a range of stories and apparently contradictory views I can hold in balance. But with all else that's going on my old religion would have made a great crutch and a comfort, regardless of its objective or subjective truth.
My dad has frontal lobe dementia/Pick's Disease. Last November he drove up to Newcastle with my mum and we were able to have good days, going out and doing things. Of course things weren't right and help was being sought but we could still live. The progress of the illness has been swift since then and my mum has had to cope with a vast amount. My dad is now in a good care home and that's where he'll stay. I saw him a few weeks ago and it was not easy at all. He's seemingly quite happy but the illness has done so much. I may see him again next week before returning home. And I know there's always that chance it may be the last time he knows who I am.
My mother had to cope with my dad while struggling with her own health and getting progressively more ill. She's documented much of these struggles on her own blog. She has cancer and it's spread lots. Chemotherapy begins next week. She is physically weak due to the illness and getting out of the hospital bed in the lounge to do anything at all is very hard work. Things are not good at all but somehow she generally remains mentally strong and relatively content. I could write a lot more, a lot more, but I don't want to say too much on a public blog.
My wife and daughter
I'm not going to say much at all. I am fortunate to have my wife and daughter. But ...
My wife has some health problems. They're nowhere near as serious as those of my mother but they can be annoying, painful and physically and mentally draining.
My child is thirteen, a geek and had parents who weren't exactly ideal models of being comfortable socially. Any thirteen year old has issues and difficulties. She has them too. I had plenty; at school I was in the "withdrawal unit for maladjusted children" for much of that academic year. Hopefully we'll be able to help with any problems that arise and can encourage them to be theirself and be proud of who they is. And hopefully by fifteen they won't have disintegrated like I did by that age.
Our cat, Isaac
Our cat died today.
I reckon that in the last 15 years that cat has been the creature with whom I have spent the most time. He was an annoying creature but we loved him and gave him a good life, a life that got off to a bad beginning in which he and his brother had to be rescued from bad homes twice.
My poor wife has had to deal with him getting rapidly sicker in the last days, with taking him to the vet and with seeing him slipping away. But in the end he died at home, peacefully and in the place he wanted to be.
I'd post a picture but with the internet router in this house being what it is it will be a semi-miracle if this posts even without pictures.
There is still lots wrong with our house in terms of walls, floors, ceilings, the roof and so on. We don't have the money to fix it.
So this summer I plan to sign up for local agencies and once term starts in September get on with seeking some work. Unfortunately I'm not sick enough to get any vocational help from anyone and I'm not well enough to get any vocational help from anyone. But I need to work whether I'm ready to or not because our financial situation just gets worse. We had precious little money when we lived in Wales and now, three and a half years on, we have less than that and much higher bills. The accounts don't really work. Well, they're fine until something breaks or we have to maintain the building. The government official figures say that if we had about an extra £3,500 a year - an extra £70 a week - then we could afford a 'basic' standard of living. So I need to work and hope that my mental health will be able to deal with that after all these years when coping with a job just wouldn't have been a foreseeable option.
If anyone in Newcastle has a suitable job for me, let me know!
So those are some of the negatives. There really are too many of them at the moment and some days a custard tart or a new (charity shop) purple dress from Fat Face don't quite balance the scales. Maybe I should do a blog post of positives. Thirteen years ago I was in an online support group for something and many of us tried to write lists of "pozzies" every day. Sometimes it could take an hour to write a list containing one positive. There are many stresses at the moment but I could still write a good list of positives.
Or maybe positive and negative are both illusory value judgements? Maybe. But it's hard to be neutral when witnessing the suffering of loved ones and hard to be neutral when witnessing their joys.