Buddy Mate Pal Fella Top-Man Dude Sir He Him…FaaaackArfff

Life is stressful. In fact most trans people I know online suffer with their mental health. I would like to say that transitioning has improved mine immeasurably, but whilst it has in some ways, I still get depressed and still suffer with insomnia. Like many peeps in this part of the hemisphere I also get S-A-D.

There are other life stresses going on in our family which are difficult to cope with. I work 12 hour day & night shifts which whilst I love my job, it does sap a lot of energy and partly due to interaction on the telephone and my appearance in work attire (think Van/PPE and Spanners/Screwdrivers/Multimeters etc. Do not think Joan Collins in Dallas) several of my colleagues frequently forget the gender thing, as do customers who know me along with 99% of customers who do not.

Non of the work related stuff is malicious I may add (although like any work environment there are some wankers) but it does chip away at my beans, particularly on occasions when I am feeling down anyway. The one positive from work is that I know that customers think a lot of me & it is nice to be appreciated.

In the last few weeks I missed a meeting due to over sleeping, on my first dayshift after a run of nights I fell asleep towards the end of the day when sitting down for a coffee (no crime imho because my customers didn’t suffer & I was totally fooked) and was an hour late on my fourth & final day shift last week due to oversleeping from insomnia.

You could say that periodically things catch up and currently they are overtaking. My manager hauled me in for a chat on Thursday and I told him that never mind the trans issue…currently my private life is shit because as a family we have an autism issue that is taking us through the mill because of general incompetence & cutbacks within ‘the system’. As it happens we may have just turned a corner with that particular issue having just maybe won a battle with an EHCP. But that is another story entirely about which a book could be written!

Anyway, amongst other things Mr Boss offered to arrange a chat with a company chaplain which I may take up. He also suggested a few other work related things but being a distrustful sort of tran with 25 years experience in my department, I will meditate on those.

I am also long overdue a catch up with HR. Think that will have to be arranged for on a day off as day shifts are mega busy and if I am being perfectly honest, presenting in work attire may be a chunk of the problem that needs taking out of the equation if I am going to open up and they are going to see the real me rather than Him.

Trans life innit.

Xx

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Coming out to my Parents

On the whole, coming out has been a positive experience.

Suffering from dysphoria is horrid and summoning up the beans to deal with it is difficult to say the least, so upon learning of your situation, it is great when people are supportive.

A few of those closest to me have found things difficult and that isn’t nice on two counts:

i) I have unintentionally caused them emotional turmoil.

ii) Seeing people hurt by your actions is difficult to deal with, especially on top of dealing with the very personal issue that is the cause of their hurt.

Whereas my Mum has been accepting and a veritable rock to lean on, Dad on the other hand has found this whole situation really hard.

He knew I wasn’t in a good place when we had a blazing row at the end of summer, 2015.

It was this argument that led to me seeking counselling initially through a local service via my GP. I made both my parents aware of this. Unfortunately the counselling wasn’t much help and several months later I had made the difficult decision to go back to the Doctors to discuss things further with a GP. The counselling sessions had taken place over the telephone and consisted of me nervously explaining to a stranger how un-male I felt, but scared witless as to what to do about it. The equally nervous & dumbfounded voice on the other end didn’t have a clue. The result was a discharge letter suggesting I seek Psycho-sexual help & interaction with suitable support groups. I booked the next available appointment with my own GP for 6 weeks later with the intention of telling him what I thought of the counsellors and what the heck was he going to do about it?

I also had a nosey online and found a support group in Manchester who met a couple of Wednesday’s a month at the LGBT Foundation HQ. Attending one rainy afternoon I met some lovely ‘out’ trans women who made me feel completely at ease and shared their varied journeys. The organiser, Lynn, offered some pretty sound advice. She said that as waiting times were ridiculous, I should get a referral to a Gender Identity Clinic as soon as possible as there would be lots of time to try & sort my feelings out between now and the first appointment. Her second bit of advice was to get all my close friends & family around the house one evening to come out to them all, then pick up the pieces afterwards.

The second bit of advice was left unheeded. I am sure it could work for some people but having two children to consider, I thought better of it.

Anyway, it had taken 5 months to get this far from the argument with Dad. Both my parents were concerned and were regularly enquiring how things were & asking ‘Did I want to talk?’ Mum asked me one last time over a cup of tea one afternoon & fed up with all the drama, I said ‘Ok. But you won’t like it.’ Reading the discharge letter from the counsellor, she was upset but not completely surprised. She also recalled the panic attacks mentioned in the last blog post and said that she had always regretted not pursuing it further back then. She gave me a big supportive hug, offered to tell my Dad (gratefully accepted) and we chatted further. At this stage I wasn’t at all sure about transitioning socially, being scared of what it would mean and I was completely messed up inside so no future plans were discussed.

The news unfortunately didn’t go down too well. Whilst I was in work, they both convened with my Wife, talked and shed a lot of tears. Amazingly though, they then went to see their GP for a chat who as it happens had some prior experience with a patient in transition. He offered to see me much sooner than my own GP so I gratefully accepted his offer. This was a really positive thing and at the appointment we discussed my history of dysphoria. He suggested a referral to a GIC, and having already researched waiting times online, I chose Nottingham. He also prescribed Sertraline to help with my anxiety.

At home I began to relax a little and buy a few more casual items of clothing to wear on days off around the house when the girls were in school, along with more androgynous items from the ladies wear aisles that I could wear in public without raising too many eyebrows. Dad wasn’t too impressed, eventually calling around not for a cuppa, but instead for a (hashtag) Chat.

The thing is, both my parents were under the impression the GICs role was to help me deal with the dysphoria and carry on as before. The GIC no doubt would do just that if asked, but whilst I still lacked the outright confidence to admit even personally where things were heading, I was coming around to the idea that even some kind of part time arrangement to be myself was happening at the very least. I had been unsuccessfully trying the first option and it was making me ill!

The (hashtag) Chat consisted of Dads concerns that I appeared to be basically ‘running with the idea of transitioning’, that I ‘have a family to consider’, bemoaning that people were constantly asking awkward questions as to my state of being, and lastly that I needed to pull myself together and buy some male clothes because wearing women’s clothes was just ‘wrong’ and ‘perverse’. Not pleasant considering that until the bubble burst we were more best mates than father & son. I have friends who had been less close to their parents who were openly jealous of our relationship.

So from that moment on we became distant. Everybody deals with things in different ways. My Dads way, at least outwardly from where I was sitting, was to not see the situation paternally as it was his child with a problem who needed support. He now appeared to see it as it was he who had the greater problem in need of a man-hug i.e: ‘Our *** thinks he is a woman…what will people think? Woe is me!’

Gee thanks Dad. Try living in my shoes for f***s sake.

Time is a healer and things are now much better. There have been quite a few other exchanges of words but in the end, taking up the ‘like it or lump it’ stance meant that he had to try and deal with it. I think what has really helped is that outside of our bubble at least 99% of people have been fine. The other 1% have been outwardly okay too, are not rude and don’t matter that much to lose sleep over anyway.

The final hurdle was my name change. I can understand this from being a parent myself as choosing baby names is a deeply personal experience. Mum was upset but being accepting of my transition, could see how it was all part of the process. With Dad still struggling though this was bound to be difficult for him and was, but I am happy to share that 2 1/2 years after being told I was trans, we are now getting along much much better.

I am sorry that Mum has often had to play piggy in the middle but am so grateful for her being there because she has been amazing and without her presence I don’t think that Dad & I would still have a relationship. It still isn’t fully hunky dory but we are getting there. I still love him loads and I think he reciprocates, we just haven’t found the words to tell one another yet but we will 🙂

I don’t think the problem has been my Dad. It is the society he has lived in for the past 68 years that has shaped his hopes & fears. This is why I am so grateful for every single trans person who has been brave enough to live openly and be proud in a hostile environment to try and change that.

Time is precious and life is much too short xxx

Long Exorcising 3rd Blog Post (that could be laid out better but is an outpouring so apologies in advance)

So, I am a 43 year old trans person who went full time 6 months ago. It has been a long journey that really culminated aged 39 3/4 when stress got the better and after an explosive argument with my Dad, led to beginning the process of searching for help to sort out and unpick some feelings that have been there almost since I can remember, that something wasn’t quite right.

Every trans persons story is different and there is no common thread to ‘when someone knew’ they were this, that or the other. Even though I pretty much knew from my mid teens, accepting it was a decades long roller coaster. Self-acceptance didn’t come fully until half way into a 2 year wait to see a Clinician at a Gender Identity Clinic. That may sound a bit mad but it is true, I guess in part because I was afraid of what coming out of the closet in public would be like.

Some of those early experiences were hella confusing and I am sure many people who are comfortable in the skin they were born in have shared some of the same, but linked together they have all lead me to a place where I can now look forward feeling some contentment.

In pre-school nursery there was a female teacher I identified with, in that way that when grown up I would want to be like her.

In the first year of infant school I had a toilet accident. There must have been no spare boys underwear so I was sent home wearing girls. My parents made a joke about it and I can recall feeling ashamed. They weren’t to know of course but I have never forgotten that feeling.

The following 5 years were interspersed with little experiences of not always feeling at ease amongst my male peers. A little AVON Cosmetics promotional calendar my Mum was given found its way to a corner of a bedroom wall because I secretly saw myself as some of the models upon it. Boy George – okay I know he is male – hit the charts and just Wow! James Bond films came & went, and despite not wishing to be snogged by Roger Moore et al, to be a woman being kissed rather than being James doing the kissing always struck a chord. I always felt jealous of the girls in my class doing each others hair into plaits or ponytails. I loved some of the strong female TV characters during the ’80s and was attracted to a good number of them too, but it wasn’t as simple as that – they were like role models. There were many male role models on TV too but it wasn’t quite the same. I enjoyed the character of Jim Bergerac, but it was Susan Young and Philippa Vale who I wanted to be like.

One morning in the penultimate year of Primary School, a classmate decided to play class bully. In a quiet but animated voice he asked ‘Are you Gay?’. I was stunned and others in earshot noticed. This became ‘a thing’ over several days where supposedly under the teachers radar during lessons, the question was repeated constantly and it felt horrible. I was pretty fucking sure the teacher was aware of what was going on but either didn’t know how to handle it or just chose to ignore instead. Twat.

With the house empty until early evening, I used to go to my Great Aunts flat after school, and by the Friday at the end of my tether, I broke down & told her. Unintentionally, she told me not to listen to the bullies and that I should think ‘nice thoughts’ rather than think I was Gay…yep that helped…not. If I was, as sure as eggs are eggs it obviously would not go down well.

She did tell my Mum though & miraculously the bullying at school stopped so Yay!

That episode left me scarred and it wasn’t until befriending a gay man at work in the late ’90s – incidentally the first open lgbt person I knew in real life – that I felt completely at ease with Gay men. I am not proud to say that this was likely a fear of being seen as ‘one of them’. Fragile or what? That is how such experiences can leave you. Just as ignorant as the bullies.

What that classmate had seen was something in my character that rang an alarm bell. In those days boys were boys & girls were girls. He wasn’t the only one. At least one other childhood friend up until our early teens used to occasionally hint, and even state, that he thought I was gay. It wasn’t that I was gazing longingly at boys because I wasn’t (honest!) There must have been some underlying quality though that I wasn’t consciously aware of.

This was AIDS hysteria time by the way and careering towards Section 28, in a hetero-normal environment of elders with conversations littered with casual homophobia.

High School began in late ’87 and soon after began male puberty. Yuck. Don’t get me wrong, discovering orgasms was a hoot but I didn’t feel overly comfortable. Being left home alone occasionally I answered a pang to try on some of my Mums clothes and whilst they always felt wonderful, a little shamefully at the time they sometimes felt sexy also. I feel less shame about this now in that taken into context, bubbling male hormones and an increasing awareness of women who were…well…sexy…I can now see that those experiences were just a teenager exploring feelings.

A holiday around this time to Puerto Pollensa, Majorca exposed me to my first experience of Transphobia. We holiday’d annually with a family we were close with. Walking along the front towards a restaurant one evening, my otherwise lovely surrogate auntie had overheard a conversation from a couple walking towards us that there was a ‘man dressed as a woman’ sat outside one of the hotel bars. It was the Hotel Romantica…these things have a habit of etching themselves to memory…and as we neared, our party & several other nosey bastards gazed into the hotel garden where sat a lone mortified trans woman (although I didn’t possess the language at the time) trying her hardest to remain composed & avoid looking back towards us.She was visibly embarrassed and aware she was being glared at and the experience makes me feel sick to this day that I was stood amongst onlookers triumphant that the ‘man dressed as a woman’ hadn’t fooled them.

A couple of years into High School and not fitting in particularly well with my peers, I spent a short spell experimenting with getting high from aerosol cans as I had seen others do on the School Bus – basically solvent abuse. This led to a series of panic attacks at home. The ‘high’ with an aerosol is a huge rush where your nerve endings jingle & your heart races. A feature of the ensuing panic attacks were heart palpitations that mirrored that aspect of the getting high & I was terrified some damage had been done. In hindsight I am amazed it hadn’t.

The attacks initially happened in private, although a particularly bad attack in front of my Parents & our next door neighbours wouldn’t end. They bundled me into their car and raced to A&E at the local hospital where I hyperventilated and passed out several times. Whilst unconscious apparently my heart rate stabilised leading the Doctor to conclude I was physically okay. With my Parents out of the room a Nurse calmed me down and asked what was worrying me. I confessed to the solvent abuse and shared that I thought I might be gay. This calmed me down. She shared this with my parents who reassured that things would be okay and we went home.

I spent the following couple of weeks off school. The ‘Gay’ thing wasn’t discussed. A day was spent wearing a heart monitor, along with a follow up appointment with a doctor at the hospital who said my heart was fine, and was anything bothering me. My parents were gazing in my direction and the answer was no. Don’t get the wrong impression…my parents aren’t bad people and weren’t coercing me…but I didn’t feel comfortable discussing feelings in front of them back then & just closed up.

The first day back at School began at Register where the Form Tutor welcomed me back and asked if everything was okay. I thanked her and explained the panic attacks & hyperventilating because something had been worrying me. Unwittingly, she asked if I would like to share the source of worry with the Form! With all eyes gazing, I nervously declined.

A few weeks later in an awkward Father & Son chat that Dad seemed keen to get out of the way, he bumbled through explaining that it was normal to feel a bit strange when growing up. Somehow (!) misinterpreting this to be a reference to getting high, I replied with something along those lines and we quickly moved on. It was only whilst going over all this in my head years later that I realise what he was referring to.

So, with some of the confusion aired and abated for the time being, the world carried on turning and good ol’ puberty carried on in the wrong direction. Through masturbation I discovered how amazing the prostate can feel when stimulated and yes, being uneducated in such matters and the prostate being located in the Ass region, I wrongly associated this with gay sex. Any masturbation involving such stimulation always came about by desire, but always ended with feelings of shame because I was confused, afraid, and I didn’t find my male peers or men for that matter sexually attractive. Another thread was seeing myself as female in my sexual fantasies. Isn’t that what a certain obnoxious Dr refers to as (BS medical terminology alert) Autogynephilia? Whatever.

All of this was internalised. Not good, and not surprising that the more acceptable method of getting occasionally wasted – alcohol – became a thing from mid teens onward.

Having all that confusion, white noise & shame bouncing around in a persons head ain’t healthy. Being uncomfortable in your skin & self image doesn’t equal being an outgoing confident kind of person either. Friendships slowly dissolved and new ones became difficult to develop. Six months or so into the early adult world of work, your Tran here was someone lonely without any social life as such, until a change of employer and some great new colleagues who remain friends today began to coax me out on the weekend.

These new social adventures always involved excess alcohol, although physically I was in good shape thanks to plenty of visits to the gym along with some running & cycling. On one such evening of ending up in a local nightclub, before getting wasted & falling asleep I caught a fateful glimpse of a lovely girl and moved in with some cheesy chat up lines that I am grateful she saw through. We did click though. I escorted her home, we arranged a date later that week and the rest is history 🙂

Around this time I was in the early stages of flying the nest. In the event, by the time the conveyancing was completed, we were so close that moving in together happened pretty quickly. The desired new found freedom to explore my feelings in private though had gone but suppression didn’t last long and within a year or so I couldn’t avoid sharing some of this. We explored things occasionally as a fetish, and sometimes just wearing what felt right around the house. It was towards the edges of the envelope where she found things worrying, asking ‘Are you Gay?’ (aaaaarrrrgggghh!!!) and telling me on one crushing occasion that ‘You are not a Woman’.

That latter comment was passed during an intense period where I had begun to pluck my eyebrows and was experimenting with a home electrolysis kit from Argos(!). The cheapo electro didn’t work, but did result in patchy facial hair growth for a while along with some of my work colleagues noticing. One colleague who has since retired, patted me on the shoulder one day and made a faux reassuring comment about what I was doing with my appearance – not a nasty comment by any means but just to let me know it was noted & being discussed. Naturally that lead to what is known in our community as a ‘purge’, where suddenly some extra space had reappeared in my wardrobe.

This cycle was repeated over the following 15+ years including a wedding and twice becoming a parent, up to the point where my blood pressure was raised, due likely to the anxiety & depression that now dwelt in my head. Everybody has a pressure relief valve and mine was wearing out.

Our wedding day incidentally was wonderful apart from that one nagging detail inside and I remember my best friends partner at the time, a woman I adored for her character, looking into my eyes and holding my gaze for a long few seconds across a table as she read that something wasn’t 100%. We are no longer in touch as they separated a few years ago but I have always wondered what she saw in that moment, because I felt emotionally unwrapped.

After attending three funerals of family friends in close succession, the first of whom I am pretty sure was Gay but closeted to most of the outside world, I was getting a crash course in mortality and asking myself some heavy questions. One in particular was that I couldn’t see myself in the future – not ‘dark thoughts’ as such but a pretty good indicator that I was treading the wrong path. Jim who I am referring to above by the way was someone of my parents generation who was loved by all and whilst I respect his privacy if that was the case and that he had friends in that part of his life who loved him equally, I am saddened that we likely didn’t truly know him for reasons of what was seen as being ‘okay’ for his time.

Jim loved music, and during my unsociable dark spell he struck up a conversation at a family get together that lead to him dragging me along to the Manchester Apollo one weeknight in 1994 to chance buying some tickets to see the Black Crowes. We lucked out in getting 6 rows from the stage and it is without doubt the best gig I have ever been to – a young band in their raw prime and I am forever grateful for him giving me the chance to see them.

Approaching the age of forty with a lovely Wife and two amazing Daughters I cracked and drew the line in the sand. I confessed to my Wife of the state my head was in and where things were likely heading. She was upset but supportive. Eldest Daughter wasn’t far behind, closely followed by my Parents.

It hasn’t been an easy couple of years, but having just turned forty three as an ‘out’ trans woman who is finding her feet, things are slowly getting better and importantly, I can now see a future. I identify as a Lesbian*, maybe Pan*, definitely Gay*, Queer*, Whatever so my early peers were partly on the ball. It is a shame I couldn’t find myself much earlier and I hope the journey is easier for the younger generation. I am grateful for my little family though and in that respect am content in my Mums belief that ‘sometimes things happen for a reason’

Xxx

* Wife as it happens identifies as none of those things but is still fab

An update of sorts

It has been TWELVE MONTHS ALMOST!!!

So how have things panned out?

Pretty good actually.

As you may recall, the previous post was a reflection on one of our early family therapy sessions at CAMHS that hadn’t gone smoothly. Within our household, both Wife & youngest Daughter were struggling with the Trans bombshell and in the midst of all this I felt frustrated and alone.

A week ago we attended our final session. We are still together in a fashion – somewhere around the bff/sibling kind of spectrum – raising our two daughters, the youngest of which told an educational psychologist recently that she was proud of her trans Dad and found her journey empowering. Trans Dad needless to say is so so proud of her family 🙂

My Inlaws are supportive, our neighbours are too, my friends & work colleagues have been fantastic, and since May 23rd I have officially been known as Isla-Wren!

Things took a positive turn after the first appointment came through at Nottingham’s Gender Identity Clinic in March. I am guessing that subconsciously in all our minds things started to become real. That the gradual process of ‘coming out’ went generally well no doubt helped too.

The only people still unawares are some of my distant family and Wife’s work colleagues – she isn’t too close to them but she accepts that they will probably find out eventually.

Where will life lead? Who knows? We are living it though and isn’t not knowing sometimes part of the fun?

I endeavour to fill in some of the gaps on here eventually – there are some positive experiences that may help others – but until then Ciao for now Xxxxxx

This probably isn’t the best way to start a blog

This morning Wife & I attended our 2nd Family Therapy appointment at CAHMS. The session began with the affirmation that she married a man & had the perfect family life until I dropped the Trans bombshell. It continued with lots of tears, accounts of sneering strangers, how unhappy I have been since coming out to her as I seemed so happy before, and culminated in her telling me that ultimately she couldn’t live with me as a woman. She also shared how unhappy our youngest Daughter is with the whole thing, how equally unhappy my parents are, how cruel people can be and that she is dreading anybody finding out because, well, what will they think?

For the record, the ‘trans bombshell’ includes that in our twenty years of being together, for 19 of those she has been aware of my feminine side as it’s been explored in various ways & pushed back into the closet many times over.

Also for the record, I was sat alongside her wearing plain leggings & a ladies t-shirt, a unisex puffer jacket & trainers, face lasered & moisturized to the best condition it’s been in for the last two decades, and long hair partially crowned with a ladies bobble hat,. Apparently non of this counts because I wasn’t wearing a skirt, a dress, tights or high heels, and because after transition I will apparently resemble a bad take on Marilyn Monroe…because you know…Woman. I’d love to occasionally wear some of those items but she rarely does. It’ll likely be rare for me to wear them too, being somewhat on the non-binary end of the spectrum, having a fairly physical occupation & being an outdoorsy type of person.

Her take on things isn’t because she’s a transphobe or a terf because trust me she’s neither. In fact she is absolutely bloody lovely and that I am so obviously causing her hurt that she bottles up makes me feel shit. So too does that I am hurting members of my family. having to constantly battle with her about my appearance. About having to run upstairs to change when people call around unannounced. That I’m on a loooong waiting list to see a GIC. That ever since stopping going for monthly haircuts over two years ago, people have asked repeated questions about my hair. About the shame of our whole situation, and what narrow-minded people who aren’t worth giving a flying shit about think about us. How daily life keeps flipping from the self loathed to the hated by others and back again.

Since accepting my self & opening up, life has mostly been a barrage of incoming fire. Much of it was expected. However, that it’s all been heard now several times over and is relentless just wears me down. Prior to coming out…you know…when I was exuding happiness from every pore…my GP prescribed anti-depressants. I’m thankful he did because they have probably helped me to cope somewhat with what you have read in the previous paragraph. If appearing unhappy to her at times, is it any wonder? It’s because when it piles up, I am unhappy.

My hope for the future is that we can still be a family. We are great together as a unit, if a little dysfunctional in a few good ways. That we could at least coexist as parents who remain close friends would be a second best. At the end of todays appointment though there was a cloud over both outcomes. The therapy is the only time she opens up & my hope for the outcome of the therapy is that her doing so will help her work through things to get to a place of acceptance.

I’m writing this blog to put thoughts on a page. It’s my first attempt at keeping a personal journal and thus far has taken an hour to write. Is 42 years old a good age to begin?