gender, transgender, Uncategorized

When dysphoria calms

Finally the hormonal malaise seems to be settling down.  I’ve gone a few weeks without major ups or downs, I feel ok, I feel….normal.

I feel now for the first time as regular as I did two years ago before my life situation and mental health rapidly deteriorated, before I even realised I was transgender.  Dysphoria is again a background noise rather than a thudding hammer in the fore of my consciousness; because I’m aware of it and accept it, because I have taken the medical steps I believe necessary, it cannot do the same damage.

Of course, it will change, and this game is far from over – dosages will increase and planning for surgery will become a reality rather than an abstract ideal.

It is around this time that some transwomen may consider that HRT is no longer necessary. After all, the symptoms feel as though they are dealt with so much as they can be.  However, often enough these women may stop treatment and dysphoria will make an unwelcome return as the wound up springs of hormonal change unravel and testosterone attempts to renew its’ mighty hold.

In feeling ‘normal’ again it is somewhat juddering to my gender identity.  Since I feel as I did when I thought I was a man, does it mean I am male?  Does it mean that the consciousness I experienced my entire life has been female?  Or, what I believe more likely is that I feel more balanced as an individual and gender doesn’t come into play quite so much, which was my initial hope from this process.

I can’t deny the possibility that someone assigned male at birth could experience gender dysphoria, remain male, but be on HRT anyway, simply as a way of dealing with mental incongruity.  After all, there are plenty of men in the world flooded with an over-abundance of estrogen.

As such, my goals are being realised, gender is much less of a concern than it has been for the past 18 months. Truly now I reclaim my old clothing even though my jeans barely fit over the growing mound of fat on my hips.  I have a sense of calm identity that is privately my own, and anywhere I can take the sting out of residual dysphoria I will do to my own standards.

I figure I must be polygender.  My experience of gender is like letting a three year old play with a dimmer switch.  I can totally understand why some might think my gender experience is based on a conscious whim, but in fact it is controlled by unconscious whim.  I cannot describe how my gender changes because gender cannot be described as a concrete form of being.

The testudinal pace of physical changes has slowed even further to the point where I feel my features are remasculinizing.  With an ever more finely toothed comb, masculine aspects seem more especially prevalent – my facial hair seems to be growing in stronger, I feel my face looks less feminine, my breasts hurt less.  I feel now is the time to up the dose, yet it has been nearly six months since my one and only endocrinologist appointment and still without the results of initial blood work, or a date set for my next appointment.

The temptation to up my dose is the same as the temptation to start HRT without medical consent, and the results would be the same because I would still be cut back to square one.  The system sucks, it doesn’t feel safe, but I’m still accepting it is as my best bet for a successful medical transition.


 

Sexuality

My sexuality is becoming more of an annoyance to describe.  I know I am still in a pupal stage, and I claim myself to be on the asexual spectrum without being fully asexual.  I call it ‘Notsosexual’.  For my entire life I have very very rarely been sexually attracted to anyone, nor have I had an explicit need for sex.

Yet at the same time, I have physical needs which can be totally crippling when not met.  I believe strongly in touch as a necessary connection between humans, and I find it strange that affectionate/intimate non-sexual touch contemporarily can only come within the territory of a sexual relationship.  Most common relationships are seen as the only status where affective non-sexual touch is ‘allowed’, yet touch is a hunger like food, water and sleep that must be sated, and I believe it is this lack of touch that makes so many monsters and failures out of people, it is a damaging conflation.

We live in a society where one night stands and friends with benefits are not seen as particularly morally offensive, yet having a cuddle-buddy may seem taboo.  I feel asexual because I find it hard to make that connection where intimate touch between two people leads to the mashing together of genitals.  I get it, we are a rutting species under the yoke of survival mechanisms, but I don’t accept that sexual urges must be acted upon simply because they are felt and the senses compel.  Sometimes sex isn’t what is necessary, it just feels that way.

This personally helps me; I spent a lot of time as a male feeling ashamed about the behaviour of other men, and of my own natural physical sexual desires.  All I ever wanted for was a woman to see me and to not think I’m some slobbering beast trying to get into her pants when I’d much rather touch hands.  I still suffer a little of that shame, however with my sexuality as it is, I can safely deign that any sexual inference whether by words or actions in my liaisons with other human beings is totally on them, not me.  This notion gives me so much safety and relief, because I know I’ve never been the threat, in fact, it has been the amorous nature of others that has hurt me.

A working solution has been physical therapy, massages etc, chances to share and revitalize energies and auras in a professional setting with experts.  No fear of lust, no complications of romance.  In fact, it was a massage two weeks ago, the first in a long time, that has spurned this more positive attitude.


 

Self-Love

I have to leave 2015 behind.  It was too intense and I lost my way.  I leave my failures and hurts behind like the old life that it is.  I’m not ignorant or delusional as to the effects they still have, but I leave the past where it belongs.  A heart can be raw and vulnerable yet still whole, and that’s where I am.

Most mornings now I wake up and feel my body, because it is soft and comforting.  A few days ago as I was contemplating how female-like my lower back feels, a term popped into my head: ‘Self-appreciation’ and I think that is beautiful.  Though I still look entirely masculine, I’m aware that I am not, and that is because of my skin.  If you feel my skin, you are feeling female skin; if you kiss me, you are kissing female lips; you may not be able to see my breasts, but if you were to feel them, you would be feeling female breasts; if you were to feel my genitals, you would know that it is a female penis regardless of how much that sounds like an oxymoron.

Although transition still takes up more points on my list than anything else, I feel finally that I can be more relaxed and playful with it, without yet fully embracing it.  Over a year full time I still don’t know what a bobby pin is, and I don’t really care.


 

Gender Theory

As my gender becomes calmer I become more perplexed about the cisgender overestimation of what gender is.  I believe from a lay point of view that the only difference between cismale and cisfemale is hormones.  I used to say the history of social constructs are also to blame, but I reduce these to be the result of hormones as well.  Aside those, the differences between males and females cannot be reduced to the extremeness of gender constructs we experience.  For non-binary individuals, while I accept I don’t have the understanding, I make the reasonable assumption that their gender(s) are no less different than those experienced by any individual that they should lead to an outcast feeling of ‘otherness.’  What I mean is, male and female are about as opposite as Coke and Pepsi, it’s the same stuff, and non-binary folks are made of the same stuff too.

Gender isn’t this big thing that cisfolks might believe we view it as because we spend a lot of time trying to figure its’ properties out, or how we see gender as a spectrum, or how we change our presentation.  It might seem extreme, but it is not, and I’ll apply what I said earlier in a different way – any sense of sexual perversion about transpeople comes purely from cis individuals, not us.

As much as general cis views on gender are overestimated, the general view on transition is underestimated.  It may seem a contradiction, because if gender is so similar, then why does transition seem so complex?  Usually it is because of the binary world of assumptions made about sex and gender that force us into little boxes that don’t always fit, it leads to repression, and with freedom comes seemingly foundational change. For example, clothing does not have a gender; it is a tool, not an objective, yet this is not seen as simple awareness.

In a world where gender isn’t a concern, not everyone would be transgender.  Men would still be men and women would still be women, and if you called yourself all, neither or in-between it wouldn’t matter.  Trans folks would still transition, and society would not fall apart.  Nor would it be confusing if we can open ourselves to understanding that people are who they are, not who they are told they must be. Our mental processes are not the result of our sexual biology.

So, here is a radical notion.  Instead of gender being a characteristic of our natal sex, how about having gender as a characteristic of our individuality?

Just remember, there is only one way to do gender. Your way.

Thanks for reading,

Amy Xx

P.S. Thank you to all the beautiful bloggers out there who share in my story and let me be part of theirs.  You know who you are, I’m so grateful and emboldened with love for your existence.

 

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gender, transgender

Estrogen makes you calm and crazy

I am sitting on an emotional swing.  Each day it gets more intense.  Genetic females have had a lot longer than me to come to terms with the rollercoaster of moods but everyone who experiences it has to start somewhere.  I can’t ‘man it out’ anymore, 40 days and 40 nights of HRT and I’m already losing subjective cognition of my testronic existence; slowly the maleness falls from grasp.

I’ve had to ask friends to remind me sometimes that I’m just going through the side effects.  Again, I don’t know if it is because I started hormones, or their actual effects, but doors are unlocking in my mind.  I’ve really learned about friendships I’ve needlessly strived for that are beyond their sell by date – I visited one of the old friends I’m having to let go of and noticed for the first time in a long friendship the light behind her eyes that process any way to avoid talking about either of our real issues.  A year after the fact I finally recognized the emotional abuse that is still a large cause of suffering from my last relationship – I told those close to me and they say they knew for a long time, they tried to tell me.

There are other revelations now that force me into a new life.  A cornucopia of general life issues coupled with constant hormonality combine into painful birth squeezes of a new life; the water broke, the contractions are more frequent, powerful – there’s no stopping it, it is coming.

My aesthetic transition is really suffering now, not just because of facial hair but because of the emotional pressure.  I spoke to a woman who apparently had GRS but lives satisfactorily as a male without heavy dysphoria, content in the knowledge she is female.  Hearing this struck a chord and she said there were only a few in many years she had met who are like this.  Again, when I was a young child I wasn’t thinking about sneaking into my mother’s room for clothes and make up, I was trying to get rid of my penis, not as a Skoptic, but because I was female.

I don’t really care often enough who knows I am female so long as I do, and the people I care about do.  It still hurts to be called by masculine terms, but I feel I’m constantly facing off between constant counterbalancing weights of dysphoria.  It’s less urgent, but I’m still thinking about and I wonder if I can ever come to peace.

After some diligent sleuthing by Mia, we found that this woman had in fact de-transitioned because she had passing issues and other issues that are her business.  I myself am not trying to cop out of transition, although it really is taking time finding my way.  There is much more to the story with this woman for another time.

The point I want to make here is that it is important to be gentle with yourself.  On top of everything going on in life, there are also the unquenchable effects of cross sex hormone therapy and trying to figure out how to transition and do it in a world that isn’t always happy to let you live your life.  Even without external grief, the internal experience is such a battle that I can understand putting oneself at risk.

I feel the level of personal risk is the same, but different in nature.  I’m just as on edge, I’m crying like crazy, freaking out, hating the world.  I was so wrong about the crying; cries feel different, more frequent, because as before I cried when I was desperate, now I cry because I need to cry.  It needs to come out just as I need to talk more about stuff – if I don’t vent, I break down.  I’m notoriously bad for talking about my issues with people, now I have to.  Afterwards, I don’t feel as bad as I would before, sometimes I just switch and I feel good again for a while.

I have less violent urges, lower sex drive, lower sexual functioning.  After a week without an erection or a real desire for release I decided to try and force it.  After a long time of distraction and confusion about what I was doing with what I was touching I got there and it was as arbitrary as expected from something so forced.  Straight afterwards I grabbed a toffee crisp from the fridge and bit into it.  The chocolate made my senses explode!  I loved chocolate and was iffy about sex anyway but the gulf widened considerably and that’s just what happens sometimes. Now I don’t have ‘morning wood’ so much as I have ‘morning tofu.’

I was naive in not listening to other women way ahead on HRT, I thought I was special, aware enough, emotionally centred enough to beat back the waves of hormonal change.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s only like that sometimes, often enough I feel as good as I ever have.

I was really worried about how much my emotions would intensify and whether it would put me in more danger, and it is hard, it is very hard.

My mind is working overtime absorbing all this new emotional information.  Sometimes I panic, other times I am just a sponge for information and beautifully contemplative thoughts that will take a long time to unravel.

Tough as it is, I rejoice in the new challenge, the new lease of life.  This is a perfect time for realisations that lead to effecting positive personal change that will fuel hopefully the release of a lifetime of untapped potential for the rest of my lifetime’s emotional strength.

This is only the beginning, it has to hurt to get better, this is how we heal.  We show ourselves now in survival so we can prosper when we come to truly thrive.

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gender, hrt, transgender

Waning of the Honey’d Moon

A thousand words for your silent thoughts.  All the things you wanted to say but didn’t and forgot, written on an invisible page.

Red moons’ eclipse shines dark, a trillion stars within the tear of a galaxy.  A thousand tears for your silent thoughts; you are Mars as a girl.

A moment not to think, so precious and unaware of it.  A thousand scars for your silent thoughts, etched into those forgotten memories.

Planets do not decide to shift or spin, invisible forces do not act on whim.  A thousand truths for your silent thoughts; you are Mars as a girl.


Let’s get straight into the good stuff my appreciated readers! (Disclaimer – Talk of sexual functioning)

HRT Update

Day 21 – Sexual thoughts could be nice.  Masturbation could be fun but I can’t actually be bothered.  The last push to erotic drive isn’t there; no flying mast exists to pitch my flag.  My sex drive feels like how it did during the terror of my revelation – almost non-existent.  I would have to force it. Use it or lose it they say, otherwise atrophy over the years is an actual concern.  Gross, but those are the physical propensities.  In coaxing an orgasm (how beautifully sentimental ;P) it felt different again, more layered rather than pointed, but to only a small degree of difference.

Another slight example of weepiness, where tears fall without becoming fully fledged crying.

Day 22 – My pubic hair seems furrier, the only hair that seems to have been effected so far.

Day 23 – My tear ducts looked drier and more deeply set.  My eyeballs seemed a different shape and didn’t look as though they fit as correctly within the socket, not in a good way.  Eye changes are documented on HRT, so I will keep, er…an eye on it and consider eye drops if it gets any worse.

Day 29 – I did some heavy exercise 4 days ago and am still suffering muscle fatigue.  I literally only tapped my shin with a tennis racquet by accident and have this massive bruise to show for it (which stayed longer than any bruise I’ve ever had) – I’ve done this loads of times and never got anything other than a tiny red cut.  My upper arms look smaller when not flexed but still defined, whilst my forearm is still as big, which looks weird.

Had a few cries.  It’s around that time of the month for me anyway, although there were a few sobbing, weeping tears that were new to me.

Day 31 – My face looks much softer.  My mum says the angles of my face seem less harsh.  I can look at my face and kind of see it, even with facial hair, but only looking straight on.

Day 32 – Definitely got some back fat growing. I’ll embrace this until I get to the point where I hate it like any other bodily insecure woman…Embrace the back fat my curvy beauties!

I realise I haven’t had morning wood in a while, sexual thoughts are much less frequent, and more appropriately sensual for me personally, which I think is just an individual trait.

Day 34 – I wasn’t exactly crying when I woke up, but the feelings towards crying were new.  I felt morning sexual desire but it’s easier to turn off without having an incessant erection tripodding all round the place.  It’s slightly frustrating but it works for me because it no longer demands I take action.

Day 35 – I feel my emotional repertoire growing.  Emotional statements and events seem more powerful in how they affect me.  I was wrong about the tears.  As much as I cried and nearly cried often before HRT, now, during even simple emotional moments, I have to fight if I want to hold back the tears.

Just the pressure of putting a kettlebell against my arm when working out now leaves me with bruises.

It took a friend to remind me of the hunger HRT brings; I’ve been munching constantly without knowing why. Losing fat is much more difficult on HRT, in fact, the female body needs a lot more fat than the male body in general so it makes sense that my body wants me to eat. Now I know why women must be so disciplined and obsessive about diet and exercise to have a body they can be comfortable in.

Here is the video version of my One Month HRT update:


I have been told that the effects come in waves, and I’ve certainly noticed that in between the long periods of imperceptible change that there are moments when I know something is happening.  Living in one’s own mind and body for so long, these changes, however slight are very recognisable and welcome.  Dysphoria has become more of a physical issue rather than a mental one.

I have been spoiled by the laser sessions I paid for because I know what it feels like to have a hair-free face.  My first NHS laser appointment was only a patch test, with an IPL laser and an alexandrite laser like I’d been getting privately.  It was much more impersonal than the private treatment and they didn’t mess around.  I was told each session would be for 20 minutes every 6-8 weeks, whereas the previous sessions took about 45 minutes.  They told me it would hurt more on HRT……they were very right, it was almost unbearable.  My skin was singed for a couple of days afterwards requiring much more stringent aftercare with SPF 30 moisturizer and Vaseline rather than the pure Aloe Vera I’d been using.  Thankfully I was prescribed EMLA cream which is a topical anaesthetic, but I’ve been advised it’s still going to hurt.

The horrible thing is, whilst general dysphoria may lesson over time, incidents of dysphoria can become more severe.  Having to deal with facial hair the past two months has basically kept me at home, I hate it.  I don’t want to attempt to cover it with make up because I don’t think I can, although my trans friends say this is silly.  I haven’t presented fully nor worn makeup once since starting HRT because I hate my face hair so much and it is really putting me back.

Things have been tough recently – I almost gave up being public about my transition as I feel I’ve lost so much support in the year since I’ve come out.  These are problems relating to the relationships I have with people rather than specific trans stuff, but being trans does play its part.  Going through what is the biggest change in my life, I want to share my experiences because objectively I think they are pretty fascinating.

However, people have their own stuff to deal with, sometimes they don’t want to talk about it, often enough they don’t know what to say.  Some people have never brought the topic up, maybe because they feel it is disrespectful, that it’s none of their business, or that they simply don’t care. After a while of bringing my issues up without any response I have given up, although there may come a time when I start blurting it out again and people can deal with it, or not.

As much as I try to make my trans experience as low key as possible, I still need to talk about it with people, I need to bounce ideas off people, so I’m learning that aside my closest friends who even no amount of education my information could prepare them for, having trans friends is absolutely necessary.  Throughout these very difficult times I want to thank Mia and Faith on WordPress for their friendly ears, empathy and support, along with the other fantastic women I’ve been sharing experiences with all over the world.

If you haven’t reached out yet, do so – knowing other people are going through almost identical experiences at points is entirely heart-warming and refreshing and plenty of us want to share it, even in very intimate details only transfolk could truly appreciate. Many exciting and unique secrets are shared when the transfolk get together.

Whilst I am it, can I ask if anyone reading this knows where Rimonim is? His blogs are beautiful but he has just fallen off the map since July and I can’t get in touch with him.  Rim, if you are reading this let us know you are ok!


Myself, I have had to give up entirely on my hometown.  Trust can be a tough sell for me at the best of times, and I’ve learned the hard way the difference between mere acceptance, vocal support, and actual help.  Being trans is not a pitiable situation, I do not feel humbled by the fact someone would accept me and use appropriate pronouns etc; to do so would make me less of a person in others eyes’.  Respect for my situation is a standard that does not need to be earned – I used to think trans activists were being aggressive when they said this but now I understand.  As much as our new trans friends help us, those who have been with us on our life journey so far need to step up and play an active role because that’s what good friends do. And good families.

Being trans seems to not only be a detector for unpalatable strangers, it is also an indicator of who is really going to stick up for you in this life; it’s seeing which people would visit you in hospital without actually having to go to hospital.  It has taken a year and a serious breakdown to realise just who is there for me.

There are big losses, but it made sense to spread my net wide to give myself a better chance of reeling in the keepers, so although I am sad, I don’t regret my courage in trusting more people than I could expect to be trusted in the long run.  I am lucky to have a couple of lifelong friends at my side, so I can say that anything else is trimming fat, even in losing friends I’ve had since I was a teenager.

I decided I would not be forced back into the closet, that I would trust others to live up to their own nature and announced my medical transition to the world.  What I decide to share is not because others ask, but because my freedom cannot be bound.

What I have learned is that transition is such a personal journey that the best resource we have by far is ourselves.  In understanding and loving ourselves we can appreciate the changes much more, we can celebrate the goals we have worked so hard for even if no-one else knows how much we sacrifice.  We can ground and connect ourselves so much more to the world around us and get a deeper meaning about what out experience on this earth is.

If there were ever a time in life to seek out those most solid and enlightening mental, spiritual and emotional resources that will help carry me through the rest of my life, this is it.

I have learned that I can stick to a task as I have been practising my voice at least twice a day, EVERY day, for the past six months.  It is very slowly getting there, I’d say I’m at about a 5 out of 10 now – my voice is gender neutral, or sometimes like a fake whiney female.  I still smoked through this process and made some ok progress but when I’m not smoking it sounds so much better.

It is a gruelling process, listening back every time to a voice that just isn’t right, but just keep going anyway.  I have ONE recording out of hundreds over the past six months where I heard MY voice;  not a glimpse of what I might sounds like, but what I intend to sound like as my ‘genuine self’.  I cannot replicate it yet but it is the single most encouraging thing so far.  Recording each session makes a real difference, because although my voice still sounds wrong I can hear the tiny little bits of progress over weeks and months.  I’ll have a new blog with lots of voice tips as soon as I can get to it.


I thought the honeymoon was over, that the initial euphoria I experienced starting HRT was forever over after having a major emotional slip.  I almost gave up on everything and everyone. I almost deleted this blog.  Instead I feel myself growing stronger, more resolute.  I am finding solutions within myself for my problems and growing closer to those who help me.  My mind isn’t necessarily clearer, but I am gaining a truer understanding of myself by hormonally being the person I was always supposed to be.  I won’t give up, because this is just the beginning of a new life, and the hormones haven’t even truly begun to work their magic yet!

Starting HRT is a brave step – it is a lifelong commitment, it is a sacrifice of all that I have been and never should, it is saying to myself with clarity and passion that I know who I am and that I will do whatever it takes to get there.

Hopefully got some real good blogs coming up soon on voice, sexuality, and all that I have learned on my first year of transition, so stay tuned. A massive thank you to everyone who has shared in my story this past year, and everyone who has let me share in theirs.

Peace and love,

Amy Xx

P.S. Here’s something a little extra I recorded, hopefully a little uplifting and affirming….or just weird and stupid 😛

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gender, holidays, transgender

Trans Adventures in Barcelona!

Story time!

This is less of a travel guide and more continuing evidence that one’s own fears often go unrealised.  There are a lot of pictures, so I apologise if I destroy your computers 😛

So what happens when a stressed out, Irish, rainbow-haired, obviously trans woman filled with trepidation goes on the holiday of a lifetime?  She has the holiday of a lifetime!  I was with the two men in my life, amazing friends who have supported me through thick and thin, I knew I could rely on them.

I had spent months getting ready for this trip, eyeballs deep in transition with hardly a clue of how to prepare.  The days leading up to the trip were filled with the stresses of packing whatever I needed into one small rucksack and getting it right.  I finished packing literally at the very last second before I left for the airport.  Trying to fit all the cosmetics I believed to be necessary into one of those little plastic airport security ‘bomb material’ bags was a nightmare.

I wore a new dress out, something that usually creates anxiety over how I look, especially when I’m not known for wearing dresses.  It was going to be at least 30*C so jeans weren’t really an option.


Day 1 – To Barcelona!

The first trial was of course airport security.  I didn’t want to get pulled over, patted down, or put through the body-scanner so I did all I could to ensure I had no metal on my person: earrings out, belts off, shoes off, my denim jacket with metal buttons off.  As I stood in line waiting to pass through the metal detector I thought ‘Crap, bra clasps! Aren’t they metal?’  I had dressed as ‘femme’ as possible to avoid awkward questions or pat downs, and while I didn’t panic, I expected the alarm to whoop, to have all eyes on me.  I passed through the detector…….not a sound.  I grabbed my luggage and moved on.  Phew!  The holiday can begin.

Actually wait, I need to use the bathroom before we get on the plane.  I was still copping out so I joyously used the disabled toilet as an alternative, no fuss, no muss.  Time to go to Barcelona!

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We arrived at Barcelona airport around 8:30pm.  I’m a nervous pee-er, so as soon as we got off I had to go again.  I wasn’t sure what to do; I was all dressed up and had never used the women’s bathroom before.  Another disabled toilet, thank crumbs. (FYI: Please keep an eye out for any actual impaired person who may be on their way to use the disabled bathroom; it’s made for their requirements after all.)

Stepping out of the airport we felt the Iberian heat and crushing humidity instantly.

Outside Barcelona airport

Outside Barcelona airport

We hopped in one of the taxis and made it to our apartment without incident, taking in the wondrous sights.  The apartment was beautiful – for me, it was safety.  I wasn’t on edge, but to have that private space helped keep me calm.  We had our own private patio with all modern decor, a home away from home.

Lads :P

Lads 😛

My boy Sean

My boy Sean

My boy Chris

My boy Chris

Blah

Blah

Our living room. Sleek :D

Our living room. Sleek 😀

Our mission for the night was simple, go check out our surroundings, get food, get beer.  The whole time leading up to this trip I figured I would have Catalonian bigots shouting ‘él es transexual‘ and chasing us at every corner, but no.  We found a little cafe just before closing time; they served us beer and free croissants with warm smiles and friendly chatter.  On the way home we met a couple of young American backpackers, invited them back and got wasted late into the night.  What a good sign for things to come.


Day 2 – Exploration and beach

I woke in bountiful spirits, saved from a deserved hangover thanks to the heat.  I had to get up before the boys to get ready for the day of exploration.  I nervously got dressed and applied my make up to the best of my ability since I rarely wear make up.  For all the intensity of the heat I had to be covered head to toe, I didn’t want to show off my man skin because it would make me feel very paranoid, very dysphoric.

Not bad :) Time to explore!

Not bad 🙂 Time to explore!

The plan for the day was simple, embrace Barcelona!  The boys went out briefly bringing back breakfast and beers (what alliteration!) then we made our merry way just after the noon sun had passed.  We walked for hours, stopping regularly at cafes and bars.

I had my eyes open the whole time, aware of any dangers to my obvious transness.  I observed the Barcelona women, mostly wearing conservative tops, denim shorts, and bare legs.  I had to laugh, my problem wasn’t passing for a woman, my problem was passing for a tourist.  It was a style blending fail but I could not care less, rather a badly dressed tourist than an obvious transsexual for all the dangers I invented in my head.

There are so many amazing, intricate monuments in Barcelona.

There are so many amazing, intricate monuments in Barcelona.

Saaaannngrrrriiaaa!!!

Saaaannngrrrriiaaa!!!

Sangria by the Ramblas

Sangria by the Ramblas

We got some tasty local seafood from a restaurant on the Ramblas, and I found a saviour in the gender neutral toilets.  Next we made it to the beach.  As soon as we sat down, getting back up was out of the question, it was just too nice.  Sure, I got a somewhat dysphoric as the women without care lounged in their bathing gear and swam in the waters, I was jealous that I couldn’t just strip off and run into the sea with no attention directed at me.  Nothing half a dozen mojitos couldn’t fix for now.  One day I will be able to wear that bathing suit with confidence, and I’ll have a better time than anyone with that freedom.

There was a line for the toilets, male and female cubicles where the signs didn’t matter and whichever door opened first, the next person went in.  When I got near the front of the queue, bursting from too many watered down drinks, a girl came out of a female cubicle and the man in front of my gestured for me to go ahead of him.  A pass!

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Chris wussed out on the sea too.

Chris wussed out on the sea too.

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When we had our fill we went to a nearby park overlooking Las Ramblas for a smoke.  A couple of French ex-pat guys came over, offering herbs of a sort.  Soon after, a drunken local came over and talked to us, he shook Sean’s hand, shook Chris’ hand, then proceeded to plant two slobbering kisses on each of my cheeks. ‘So, ah, you like boys?’ He asked.

View towards Las Ramblas

View towards Las Ramblas

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The French fellow asked if we were looking for anything else, herbs or spices, if you get me.  One of my boys wanted something special for the festival coming up, so we went adventuring with the stranger.  One piece of advice we were given was to not go into anybody’s house.  Our new acquaintance took us on a dizzying tour of the city to which point we had no idea where we were, but we were on our way to someone’s house.

My friend wanted to go in alone, but the two of us were worried and tagged along, into a dingy set of apartments.  We climbed a flight of stairs and the French guy delivered a certain knock.  A giant of a man answered the door with a threatening look.  He let us in and went to sit on a chair in the middle of the kitchen, looking intently at the door.

We went into a small living room where a slight, off his rocker looking fella got into an exchange with our French friend.  We didn’t understand their conversation, but it was along the topic of ‘Why did you bring all these people here?  I told you not to bring people here.’  Not a good place to be, especially being trans, but it was a good opportunity to use a bathroom again.

Anyways, we got what we needed and scraped back down the scenic yet intimidating alleyways back to civilization.  We drank a bunch more sangria before parting ways with Mr. French and set about finding our way home….and pizza.  I had my iphone for directions back to the aparetment, searching google maps whilst my friends covered me from potential muggers.

Soon there will be giant pizza slices.

Soon there will be giant pizza slices.

For all the fears of muggers, we rarely felt watched or threatened, though we remained vigilant.  For all the talk of snobbish residents refusing to speak English, most shop patrons were very friendly and prepared to meet us halfway along the language barrier.

On the way home we picked up a bottle of rum and somehow an Argentinean man.  Another night of heavy drinking in the 3am warmth.  At a point I was drunk lying on the couch, being purposely unresponsive.  The Argentinean asked my friends, ‘I don’t mean to be rude, but is this a man or a woman?’  My friends paused, before offering a non-committal response ‘That’s up to you, she’s whatever you think.’  More education is needed here; the best answer would have been simply ‘she’s a woman’ spoken with certainty and indignant authority.  Even with that, he was confused but didn’t care and I offered all the subtle and not so subtle cues when I came back to life, to show him who I am.

Classic Sean >_<

Classic Sean >_<

Dragging Sean to bed was an adventure of its own, too much rum.  Time to rest up for another day!


Day 3 – Theme Park!

The plan for Friday was set in stone, get the train to Salou to visit Portaventura theme park.  I dressed down because I didn’t want to be flying around roller-coasters in a dress all day.

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We lucked out in the best way, even for being the height of summer, the park was almost empty, and the longest queue had a 20 minute wait.  The first ride we came to was Furious Baco.  Chris had never been on a roller-coaster before so we made sure to get front row seats.  We had no idea what to expect, I figured it would be the usual, trundle up high on the tracks before tumbling down, but instead it went from 0 – 80 mph in 3 seconds.  It was terrifying at the start, the intensity of the G-force but afterwards I couldn’t stop laughing, however Chris was traumatised and said he wouldn’t go on anymore rides.

Chris no likey.

Chris no likey.

Furious Baco!

Furious Baco!

We walked about the park, eating and getting drunk again.  The two boys were too chicken to go on many of the rides, so thanks to the minimal queues I gleefully went on rides again and again running around like an excited lost child whilst they patiently waited and enjoyed the scenery.  After a while I managed to get Chris on one more ride, the Dragon Khan, which still haunts him to this day, and Sean came with me on the Giant Shambala.

Shambala!

Shambala!

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At a point, the dread came, I needed to pee.  Unsurprisingly there aren’t many disabled toilets in roller-coaster theme parks.  Fudge it, today has to be the day.  I walked into the woman’s toilet, I walked in as if I had been there a thousands times before, like I was supposed to be there, because I was supposed to be there.  You know what happened in there?  The big shock?  I went in, took a pee, washed my hands, fixed my make up and left.  Other women were in doing their business and they weren’t concerned at all.

We stayed late until the last train, and I was as happy as could be, loving my friends more than ever because they knew how important this all was to me, and the let me have my fun.

My guys ^_^

My guys ^_^

Best friends!

Best friends!

Too many pictures, Amy!

Too many pictures, Amy!

We went back to the cafe from the first night for custom cocktails and things got out of hand again.  Still for all our boisterousness nobody commented on me, no-one called me out, no-one looked.  Drinking in Barcelona is a chilled affair, everyone happily chatting outside, nobody bothering anyone else.  The makeup was as set as it was going to be on my face, and any touch ups were done in a drunken haze.  Too much blusher?  Fudge it.

No idea what was in those cocktails, except a LOT of alcohol.

No idea what was in those cocktails, except a LOT of alcohol.

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Tooo much booze.

Tooo much booze.


Day 4 – Festival!

Saturday is why we came, for the ‘Be Prog! My Friend’ festival at El Poble Espanyol.  The music ran from 5pm to 5am, so we had plenty of time to do more exploring.  We hopped on a tour bus, saw the Nou Camp, Casa Bastilo, Park Guell and La Sagrada Familia.  The intense beauty and design, and sheer size of the city was mind-blowing.  Our feet all ached from so much walking but we powered through.

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Finally it was time for the gig.  I wore the same red dress as our first day of exploring with all the embellishments I could muster whilst remaining still covered head to toe.

Ready for heavy metal \m/

Ready for heavy metal \m/

Disclaimer and trigger warning – recreational drug use.

We got a taxi to the venue, passing on the way the ‘Magic Fountain.’  Unfortunately I don’t have a picture of it, but it was a series of mind-blowingly giant waterfalls, leading up a massive array of steps to the huge ornate museum in the distance.  It was both spectacular and surreal.

After a little language trouble getting into the venue, we made it just in time for the Devin Townsend Project, followed by Camel.

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During Camel, at around midnight, the boys decided to consume the spices we got in the scary apartment a few days ago.  You’ve read this far, it was MDMA.  I was a little worried because I wasn’t really up for taking it myself, but after a few more drinks and seeing them really start to enjoy themselves, I decided to take my dose.

I’d never taken this drug before, and it took about 45 minutes for it to start affecting me.  We went and sat beside the crowd with a bunch of other people, surprisingly not being crumpled.  The come up was intense, I remember closing my eyes and breathing a lot, just trying to cope with the sheer energy of the drug.  By 1am, we were all completely banjaxed.

And they didn't run off with the camera!

And they didn’t run off with the camera!

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My confidence soared.  Any experience I’ve had with drugs since my realisation has reaffirmed my identity as female, yet this is rarely the case with other transwomen I’ve discussed the subject with.  They mostly say it makes them much more dysphoric, but I have found the opposite, it cements my identity and all but removes the aspect of feeling male.  I don’t recommend testing this out for yourself, drugs are stupid.

I got my guys to come to the bathroom entrance the first time to keep an eye out but there was no need.  I went into the woman’s bathroom, did my business, and spent a long time looking in the mirror trying to fix my make up and for a change embracing how I look.  I felt quite safe as women came in and out, cheerily standing beside me as we made our touch ups, it was wonderful.

Then the crescendo came, Meshuggah!  The concert was to run from 1:30am to 3am.  The air was hot, the lights were bright, and it was just the most amazing circumstance to party to a band we’d all been waiting years to see.  We made our way to the front and just let loose.  For all three of us, the memories of the set were fragmented, but it still all pieces together into a whole.  It was almost too much to take and was without doubt the most fun I’ve ever had at a gig.

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Can't believe I had to foresight to ask Chris to take this photo.

Can’t believe I had to foresight to ask Chris to take this photo.

After it finished there was an after party and I danced my wee buns off to The Algorithm at 4am with anyone else who still had the energy, while my guys again waited on me to have my fun.  As we all got kicked out and the music died down, we became the loud drunken Irish folk we are, grabbing people to dance and sing along with on the way home.  They spoke no English, we spoke no Catalan, but we communicated through music, turning a lot of heads as most others were walking more quietly out.

Somehow we acquired a German friend and we all walked back to our apartment, thanks to the direction of Chris, otherwise we would have been doomed in our drugged up states.  Back at the house we drank heavily again into the tiny hours.  At a point, Sean went out alone for an adventure, and Chris went into the living room for a lie down, leaving just myself and the German guy outside.

Hmm!

So, earlier inside we were talking about what German we know, all I remembered from two years of classes was ‘Ich habe eine lange schlanger’ which means ‘I have a large “snake”‘, to which our German friend said, ‘I hope not!’

Hmm!  I was passing.  I was passing all night because of my confidence.  I wasn’t the gnarly obvious transsexual that night, I was the crazy rainbow-haired girl in the red dress dancing and shouting around everyone, having too much fun.  My voice was shot from all the screaming, frivolity and drugs, yet I was still passing because my presentation was so female that there was no reason for it to be doubted.  And, we were all drunk, as well as partially deafened from the music.

Hmm!

So, there we are, I’m off my face, and I’m thinking, let’s try something out.  I looked at him and tilted my head and gave him what I infer to myself as a sexy look.

‘Do you think I’m pretty?’ I asked

‘Yes, you are very beautiful.’

I giggled and maintained eye-contact, whilst still acting coy.  I shuffled about in my seat looking at him and pointed to my lips.

We kissed.  I’d never kissed a boy before.  It was different.  Whereas with any woman I’ve been with we danced our tongues, this guy was like a pit viper chasing a mouse down a hole.  Whatever, it was fine.

We sat there for a minute, smiling at each other, and he said ‘Again?’  Why not.

It was far from the best kiss ever but I felt ok about it.  There was no attraction, it was just a bit of fun.

Soon after, the guys came to and I started to crash out.  I made my excuses and flopped down on my bed still fully clothed and made up, just in case German guy came in later and I ruined his night.  He went away, while Chris and Sean stayed up all night chatting and getting more wasted.  What a day!


Day 5 – Home

We were all in a sorry state in the morning.  Our bodies were in tatters and our feet blistered, it was time to go home.  We cleaned, and gathered all our stuff.  The boys went out again to get us breakfast.  I was too scared to go out alone to the shops the entire trip even though it would have been fine, and I’m so thankful they went out of their way to look after me.

I donned my travel dress and we made our way home to not-so-sunny Northern Ireland.  The fears for airport security were heightened this time, I was dealing with folks who didn’t even speak English, this was the final hurdle.  I followed the same routine as before and got through without any problems.

Grumpy sleep boys...

Grumpy sleepy boys…

...and a fresh faced Amy ;)

…and a fresh faced Amy 😉

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Goodbye Barcelona!

Upon arrival we realised that the annual 12 of July festival was being held on the 13th this year because the 12th fell on a Sunday.  It was raining and it was cold as we walked a couple of miles back to my house through drunken hooligans.  They were bloodied, violent, obnoxious, destructive and I was more scared to be back home than I ever had been on holiday.  Thank goodness my outfit was red, white and blue, otherwise it could have gone badly, because if they smelled a transsexual, they would be on me like the hyenas they are.

We got back to my house and it has been raining ever since.


I hope you enjoyed the story of our holiday.  You may wonder, what was the point in just detailing everything that happened?  I want to show that it was just a normal holiday.  Take out the word ‘trans’ from anything mentioned and it has the same quality of excitement and relaxation as any holiday a cis-person could have.  Heck, this was basically a perfect holiday that few could match.

I can’t thank Chris and Sean enough.  They didn’t say it loud, but I know they made a special effort to look out for me, they knew how big a deal this trip was, how scared I was.  They are absolute legends and have been protecting me ever since I came out.  For the loss of any relationships in transitions, the ones that remain become so much stronger.  Love you guys. ♥

It just goes to show that whilst being trans there are some unique challenges, but with well considered preparation we can go away and live as our best selves; that whilst we need to remain aware and vigilant, we can have these amazing times, and not let dysphoria, or the attitudes of anyone else stop us.

Instead of worrying about the potential fears, this has been the most amazing opportunity to learn about myself, to show that I can do all the things I thought I’d never be brave enough to do.  It shows that you can do it to!

I haven’t been in a male bathroom since, and with any luck I’ll never have to use one again.  My confidence when interacting with people has accelerated whether I pass with them or not.  I understand how the pieces of the transition puzzle fit so that instead of searching for unattainable perfection we can find what is good enough, and let the rest of the chips fall where they may.

So long as dysphoria is not the most active factor, we can push it away with the other worries and stresses of life and just bask in the shining glow of our true identities.

Go out and discover the world as you always wanted to, have no shame, embrace your pride, and show everyone what a badass you are!

This girl IS fire.

This girl IS fire.

Peace, love and happiness,

Amy Xx


P.S. Here’s a video from the Meshuggah concert.  The guy filming was just to the right of us.  This video really helps piece together the memories, makes the hair stand on the back of my neck, and gives me goosebumps every time.


P.P.S Don’t think I’ve forgotten about you Chris, you can’t complain about what you don’t read 😛

Mwahahahaha!!!

Mwahahahaha!!!

FIN

Standard
gender, mtf, transgender

Not Born, Not Bred, But…

Disclaimer – Talk of bodily sexual functions

Throughout all of human history there has only been one effective way of dealing with fear – Face it.  When one moves past trepidation into the concentrated focus of action, fear has less room to spread its’ gnarled branches.

That’s what I’ve been doing, I wrote down a list of the fears that wish to feast eternally upon my soul and one by one I tear them apart like the paper tigers they are.

It has been a very stressful, hectic few months, trying to get ready for a holiday and moving house in the same week, yet here I am now in my new digs, freshly sunned by the Iberian summer, letting myself bask in new successes.  One thing transitioning doesn’t lack is a plethora of opportunities to discover yourself, to challenge yourself, to be yourself.


Fertility Preservation

The one factor that was holding me back from medical transition is that I want kids someday, so a trip to the fertility clinic for storage was a must. The first step in preparation was what I affectionately called an ‘ejaculation timetable’, a good sample should be between two and five days old, and given some of the difficulties I have around that it was interesting having to force it in anticipation of the appointment. Too much info I know, but transparency demands it.

Anyways, the day came (no pun!) and I went to the hospital in perspiration, declaring myself as Amy the female, here to give a sperm sample.  The staff were professionally diligent as I was led into a room with a single leather chair, a crusty box full of what I assume was adult material and a tiny vial that I was somehow supposed to get my deposit into.  Tip: avoid the chair and crusty box.  I did what needed to be done and imagined as expected that this was conception, or at least the closest I will ever get.  I got my aim right thank goodness; aiming an ejaculating penis into a tiny cup without spillage is like trying to sneeze with your eyes open.  Like most things, it’s a scarier experience in your head and when it’s done it’s not so bad.

It was deflating.  I had to take the cup of semen marked ‘Amy’ through a hall to the nurse, hiding it under my jacket so no-one could see the transsexual with the sperm, handing it over with the reddest face.  A few hours later I had to call back, everything was normal and 15 ‘straws’ have been saved for the next 55 years for when I have the opportunity to have children.

It’s a double edged sword, this is 15 attempts at IVF, the quality is obviously decreased in freezing, however now it doesn’t matter how long I wait, it will be a 29 year olds sperm not subject to the grief I would put my body through until the opportunity to have a child presents itself.  This is as good as it’s going to get, I have to accept it, hope for the best and move on.  I don’t want to think about how a severe power cut could ruin everything.


Make-up lesson

I’d been encouraged to go to a make-up counter for some professional advice, makeup is expensive and it becomes worthless if you have the wrong gear (give it to someone who could use it!), so it makes sense to get it as right as possible.  I went a step further and booked an appointment at a pro makeup store for an hour long lesson.  Scary stuff, walking in seeing all these overdone yet still beautiful women in their faces.  I was put in front of the lights and sweat the bit out.  Thankfully my consultant was very nice and guided me along like the beginner I am, teaching me about skincare, skin tones, brushes, techniques, concealers, contouring, highlighting and so on.  I was even brave enough to let her draw eyeliner on my water-line, which just seems unhealthy.

I came out beaming with confidence, even with the still present beard shadow.  She gave me a sheet of instructions for what she did and recommendations for products. Ever since, my makeup game has really improved – CC cream for eyes bags, appropriately toned concealer, smokey eyes.  I feel I actually understand what makeup is about now, I can make adjustments, compromises, repairs, and more so I can sometimes observe others and get an idea of what they’ve done, even how they’ve got it wrong.  Importantly, I now understand the limitations to the extent flaws can be hidden and learned to accept imperfection.

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Moving to the city

I feel so lucky to have escaped my hometown if only for a couple of months.  Gone are the home comforts, but they are replaced by independence, self-worth and the opportunity to grow my life.  I’m living with two other girls and it’s amazing; we blether late into the night in the house, and we go out and enjoy the social life I’ve been missing the past year and a half.  I made sure to bring only newer clothes, to remove the temptation of slipping into boy-mode because it’s ‘easier’.  With such limited outfit choices it surely is an adventure trying to look in any way acceptable for leaving the house, but for some reason I’m not as scared about it as I was…….provided I have something to wear.  Clothes usually necessitate makeup for me, so I’m trying to learn the value of being pre-prepared in case something comes up at short notice, though usually I’m too lackadaisical.

I wear my breast forms as a habit now, regardless of company so there can be no illusions.  Consistency is the key, not only for public perception but for my long term emotional well-being.  I can’t describe why some plastic pink moulds make such a difference for me, but I try not to argue with dysphoria.  It could be called a cop-out, but when dysphoria cannot rationally, logically, or intellectually be refuted it is simpler to allow myself to be happy in assuaging its demands.  I understand the difference; depression may seem like it wants you to hate yourself, anorexia may tell you that you’re fat, but dysphoria just wants you to be yourself without fear of repercussion.


Work

I did a couple of shifts in the local library to earn some extra money for the holiday and to test the waters of employment.  Work is work, no-one commented on the disparity between my name and my clothes, from my face and my voice.  I was there to work and it was more boring than stressful.

Now begins the real job hunt so that I can afford to stay in the city.  Being trans doesn’t phase me, it’s what I might wear to an interview and to work that scares me, my initial image I feel will make a very important impact, and I am just not on top of my image game (time to book a stylist appointment then).  A couple of months HRT wouldn’t hurt either, but unfortunately that’s not within my timeframe.

I have until the end of August to find a way of making enough money to pay the bills.  I can’t move back to my hometown, I just can’t.


Hormones

My endocrinologist appointment is less than a month away.  I still haven’t done adequate research on HRT by my own standard, I will, but it won’t change my mind.  So far as I know I’ll get a bunch more blood sucked out and told to come back in [hopefully] a month to start treatment.  For some reasons they asked me to bring a urine sample with me rather than take one there, which is pretty strange.  Since getting the appointment letter time has slowed to an unbearable pace.  I tried calling up to benefit of a cancellation but it seems the clinic only runs every fortnight, and the session before mine is “already overbooked.”  Any setback now would be more massive a blow than anything so far.

I try to downplay HRT in my mind as much as possible, but there is no point denying the desperation I feel to get started.  I am so firmly entrenched as being in this perceived female ‘role’ that hormones are the one immediate thing that can make a life’s worth of difference.  I try to convince myself that they won’t do anything, trying not to let hopefulness spill over into an unquenchable need that can never be sated.

The more time goes by; with the benefit of laser, a decent skin care routine, and a sweet hairdresser I can look at myself and already start to see it.  Even as my harshest critic I can sometimes look in the mirror and not see a man even without makeup.  I want to count myself lucky, I may not pass for an attractive male or an attractive female, but I will dub myself a ‘hot human.’

I’m going to try to embrace the testosterone while I have it, there is no denying its power, before the muscle sheds away and physical vulnerability becomes a major concern.


Coming out to the rest of the family

I am a very lucky, very grateful, very thankful woman.  My friends have been great, my mum is a superstar, but wow was I scared about telling my grandparents.  They’re rural types, not strictly religious but regular church goers, a retired, sensitive Nan, and a gruff quiet grandfather who spends a lot of time in a big shed fixing machinery for fun.

I had the worries anyone would in this situation, and I was pretty surprised by their support.  I called my gran and though she didn’t ask or say much when I told her, she rang up the next day saying she’d been scouring the internet and asking me questions.  My granda was totally fine with it just saying to make sure I was certain before I started getting any surgeries.  Of course, they haven’ seen me yet, so I’m holding out before I can call it a big win.

Also my aunt and her fiancée know and made the switch to female pronouns instantly.  We’re a pretty small family, so apart from distant relatives I barely know that’s that.  Good for me, I wish we all could have it as good but we don’t, and I ought use this energy and support to help those who do not have it.


Operation ‘Find the Transgenders’

Part of the reason I moved to the city is to interact with other transfolk.  I’m still not really able to avail of support groups due the isolation of my age (29), but I’ve been able to get in contact with a couple of new people through Facebook and have arranged to go for coffee with the organiser of a new 25+ AFAB group to get some insight on how I might start up a group for 25+ AMAB people.  I must find the transgenders, otherwise how will I be queen?

It doesn’t matter how you find you support, but what does matter is that you reach out to seek it.  I think I’d be screwed without the internet to help guide me, but I really need to meet some real life trans people.  I went with a bunch of girls on a crazy night out to the gay bar last week and I didn’t see any other obviously possibly trans people.  Either they are all awesomely blended in or they weren’t there.  Of course, how are you supposed to know what a trans person looks like, how we seem to gender each other is often based on an automatic assumption.

People look at me, some see trans, some see man, some see woman, this is evidenced in my interactions.  Restaurants seem to be good places to get passes, I assume at the courtesy of waiting staff.  Other trans girls have intimated similarly, so maybe that’s a good place for new transfolks to get a boost.

On the night of the gay bar I was introduced to an awesome girl who took me shopping the next day and managed to get me the whole way round a clothes shop without running away, which is very impressive.  She gives me butterflies, a feeling I’ve rarely experienced.  It inspired a dream where I finally stopped treading the same path the blue haired girl showed me, allowing me now to find a new way.  To feel in myself that I could have romantic inclinations again is a real boon, and as much as I feel getting involved with someone right now isn’t the best idea no matter how much I’d love a cuddle, I’m very happy to have hopefully made a new friend!  Hopefully I can contain my emotions and not do anything stupid, a date with me is like finding a dead jellyfish on the beach, it may seem dead but it can still sting you and mess up your day.


Holiday to Barcelona

So, I drove myself mad getting ready for this holiday, I had to get it right.  All I had was cabin baggage so I needed to fit everything into one backpack for 5 nights, and fit all my cosmetic stuff into one of those airport security bomb material bags.  It had been so long since I’ve been on any kind of holiday, let alone to actual summer sun, let alone going as a female!

I don’t know how I did it, but I aced it and brought everything I needed.  Against all odds, the entire holiday went off without a hitch.  It was amazing.

I’m going to write about it in a separate post since this one is getting a bit bedraggled, and once I can upload the photos I’ll do a nice holiday story time post.


Voice

Eugh.  I sound bad.  I’ve plateaued with what I’ve learned, the glimpses are rare.  I took a week off practice for going on holiday and it’s put me back a lot.  My voice therapist says it will be around Christmas before I have anything I would consider worthwhile.  Through watching lessons online I’ve developed an American inflection rather than that of my natural dialect.

A possible upside I think I’m noticing is that the rate of a passing voice is partially proportional to aesthetic appearance.  That is, the more obviously femme I am in passing situations, the more I can get away with vocally.  I can’t say that for sure, but it’s certainly conceivable .


Future

I’ve gone from living at 100mph to sauntering now at a casual run.  The unending lists have somehow been mostly completed in a frantic, determined daze.  The word is:  Persevere.  People, I never believed I could get this far, I’m not particularly motivated, industrious, feminine, confident and so on, but I’ve still been able to make these big steps, and it hasn’t even been a year since the reality of my identity clicked.  I’ve had no choice, except to live in an eternal gender purgatory.  To think I could get this far without much understanding or self-belief shows me how far I can go to get where I need to be.  It motivates me to believe that anyone reading this in a similar situation can get where they need to be.

Let’s keep moving forward together, keep each others backs, leave no-one behind.

Amy Xx

P.S. I forgot to mention I made an email for this blog unexpectedamy@outlook.com, so if anyone has any questions or something they want me to talk about or help with please totally feel free to get in touch, I’d be happy to try to help!

Standard
gender, hormones, transgender

When you can’t calm the waves, ride the storm.

There are always going to be low points, really low points, in anyone’s life.  Transition is a neon bug-catcher around the neck, the buzzing swarms of fear, anxiety, stress and panic crackling away, dying and brought back to life in never ending attempts to torment.  What matters is what you can do now, even if in screaming and crying through the whole process you can do what you need to do, it shows not weakness, but the highest level of courage imaginable.  The harder the process is, the braver you become.

Through it all, remember and celebrate each little success, for they are beautiful, and incomparable to what most people will ever know. Rejoice in your unique experience, the quality of self-knowledge, and the enlightenment of your understanding of the world at large.

At the moment, I only really know three emotions – stress, anger and panic.  In the past year I’ve developed somewhat of an anxiety disorder, mostly through the stress of work, cruel betrayal and heartbreak by loved ones and feelings about my situation in life. At times it is greatly exacerbated by the sheer weight of the transition process.  I dealt with depression for a long period in the distant past, but anxiety is a different animal; it doesn’t make me unhappy, rather it makes me feel like I’m not in control of my shifting emotions and how I express them.

I have a bad habit of comparing my life situation to that of others’, and being trans for me unfairly highlights my shortcomings in a more profound way than ever.  This way of thinking can never work, one is only ever comparable to oneself and what I need in life is relevant only to me.  If you’re also just a regular Jane, you probably notice that many people consider their lives sucky to an extent – working for just enough to pay the bills; having problems with partners; watching as friendships are lost to the realities of adult responsibility, work, marriage, kids.  All the things teenagers say they’ll never do; how we’ll never lose touch or ‘be like that’, yet we follow the exact same path each generation does.  Life goes on, as we either grow closer to ourselves, or further away.

‘It’s not the load that breaks you down…it’s the way you carry it.’ – Lena Horne

I used to pride myself on being able to deal more effectively with more difficult problems than those I would try to help; now I see myself on the other end.  I want to be stronger, I need to be stronger.  In a lot of ways I am ashamed of my attitude, I see videos of little kids in hospital beds waiting to die and I bawl my eye’s out at their simple insurmountable strength in the face of doom.  I read about a woman who didn’t know she was born with XY chromosomes who had to suffer serious medical and social indignity through puberty and developed osteoporosis amongst other ailments just for being born with the condition, whilst I complain about a bit of facial hair and a masculine voice.

I’ve spent the last year preparing to build my life back up from scratch after losing everything – my apartment, my job, what I mistook to be a loving relationship.  It’s only now that things are picking up for big positive change, and there are a lot of big changes coming.  An opportunity has arisen to move into an apartment in the capital city (Belfast) without having to sign a contract, with a good friend. I’m taking the risk with my savings to move up at the end of this month in the hope I can find work and stay there.  The plus to this is that most of my trans related appointments are in the city anyway, but the downside is that I have so many appointments a day job would not be sustainable.  By moving up with the money I have, I’m basically putting myself on a timer to find a reliable source of income or I’m screwed, but if it somehow works, possibility can bloom.

Also in a month’s time, I’ll be off to Barcelona for nearly a week, my first holiday in a long time, and I’m trying to prepare for it in consideration of my place in transition, which is pretty stressful.

‘What do you mean, every month?!’

The crux in this is the appointments.  Gender therapy, laser therapy, voice therapy, fertility appointments, and soon endocrinology appointments, each of these building pressure on top of each other and taking up massive chunks of time and money trying to get there and back.

Voice therapy is humiliatingly embarrassing and feels like no progress is being made, so it’s important to take as much humour as possible, and to realise that the only way to get there is to persevere, to never give up because it will take a long time for any of the progress to feel like progress. The constant daily practice is incredibly draining. Keep going though, it is the only way.

I had my first fertility appointment, where it was explained to me the various risks should I ever get the opportunity to have a child.  Waiver after waiver was signed, informing me that freezing could irreparably damage the sperm, that the machines could break down, and that IVF will be my only method of having genetic offspring.  These are huge risks for me and enough to unsteady my commitment to the medical pathway, because having my own kids is more important to me than my gender.  The catch-22 is to show those future children the way to live in fear of themselves by not being resolute in myself.

This first appointment was only a consultation, at which I gave blood to test for hepatitis and HIV.  At the second appointment I will have to give a sperm sample to check for viability before freezing and then I assume a third appointment to give the sample for freezing.  Two words I never thought I’d hear together ‘Ejaculation Timetable.’  It will be interesting to work on because my sex drive is still basically non-existent. Another stressor is that these appointments are normally attended by couples, and the whole sperm sample thing generally by cis-men, not transsexual women, so it’s not a fun waiting room.

Hormones on the way?

All of this is in anticipation of Hormone Replacement Therapy.  The minimum wait for diagnosis in Northern Ireland is six months, with the Gender Identity Clinic here apparently notorious for making people wait at least a year.  I got diagnosed at exactly the six month mark, I wonder why.  I think it’s because I’m very clear, rational and unwavering as to what my transition goals are: to abate so much as possible the impact of dysphoria, and to be able to get on with my life.  I’m not doing it to have boobs or a cis-normative seeming body; I don’t need hormones to be a woman, I don’t need to label myself; I’ve been through enough crap in my life to hopefully be able to deal with it; I’m aware of the risks and limitations.  Hey, it would be nice to blend in flawlessly, but I accept that it will never happen, no matter how amazing I may look, no matter if I ‘pass 100%.’

Now is the time for deep research.  When the decision to take oestrogen is made, life branches off on a new path and the old paths close forever.  The clock starts ticking, with initial decisions for bottom surgery in my opinion needing to be made concurrently.  You can jump on this ride, but you can’t jump off and hope for things to be as they were.  This decision for me has never been ‘OMFG I’m finally getting ma hormonez!!’ No, it’s come to Jesus time, honey.  This isn’t someone else’s body; this isn’t watching transition videos on YouTube or meeting with other transgender successes.  What this definitely isn’t, is the ideals in your mind dysphoria have created about how you would hope to be.

Hormones will not change you in the ways that you dream, they may do a lot, but they will never do enough.  My hope is simply that hormones are a hammer with which to beat down dysphoria effectively.  This is the process of attempting to align our bodies with our minds, not our minds with our bodies, so no amount of modification on its’ own can beat dysphoria, you will only ever be able to ultimately cage (not vanquish) it with your heart, your soul and your mind – not medicine, not surgery.  Being a woman is not a special achievement, having boobs and a vagina is not a special achievement, this is a normalization process, not specialisation.  Being a woman will only get you as far as women go, and if you are trans, it quite likely won’t even get you that far. However, remember always that we are all equal and we can all go as far as our determination carries us.

I’m not trying to be brutal, but you have to understand the likelihood of realities here.  Medical transition can and does make unbearable lives into exceptionally amazing lives for some whose lives are unbearable because of extreme dysphoria only.  It is not a perfect treatment, is extremely risky and requires lifetime maintenance.  If you are quite unlucky, oestrogen will give you deep vein thrombosis, a stroke, or a pulmonary embolism.  The hormonal shifts might drive you to madness or worse, the surgery may leave you inorgasmic and feeling mutilated creating a new nightmare of intolerable suffering.  You don’t have to do any of these things to be the gender you experience yourself to be.

Please note that I haven’t done my research to the level I feel comfortable discussing intricacies, and I’m not trying to instil fear, I’m just saying there are some fatal scenarios and that whilst for some there is no choice, if there is a choice, be aware of the negative possibilities.

Life doesn’t wait.

Another thing that is holding me back is simply the lack of real life support.  Yes, I have plenty of amazingly supportive friends and family, and while I don’t expect them to understand exactly what I’m going through, I worry for their knowledge of what I’m about to go through.  The attitude I get is usually ‘Good for you, I’m so happy you are finally getting the chance to be yourself, I’ll do whatever I can to help.’  This is beautiful, I love and appreciate it so much, but what it feels like to me sometimes is a template, that they don’t understand these dangers, that they don’t challenge my decisions, that they don’t ask me about transition unless I bring it up, and even then I can tell they know basically nothing about transgender people, and for me that’s dangerous, especially for my decision making since I cannot do it alone. I understand their reticence, it is my issue, my journey, and they do what they can, and they do so much for me.  I need their help because I trust them, I rely on them.

One of the stressors I have is that my friends are all isolated from each other; they don’t meet up or talk to each other so the only thing that is holding my network together is me.  Because of this I find myself running around like crazy trying to maintain these individual friendships and it takes too much energy on top of everything else.  I feel like they support, but they are unable to help. I totally understand; everyone is busy with their own lives, they don’t want to be offensive, they don’t know what to say, they expect me to educate them, and I maybe expect too much. One thing I am is completely grateful for the impact they have on my life in general, how I am accepted and cared for, and I know I am so lucky to have just that simple acceptance, when they could so easily have abandoned me. If anything, I have to try harder for them, to be more open, more vocal, because they know I don’t like being made a fuss of.

The best thing for me would be to have some real life support from other trans individuals, yet every time I reach out in my community my confidence gets raked.  Each time I build up the nerve to speak to a trans-person in this country, or a support group, I’m met with overawing awkwardness, coldness, misery and most generally silence which really impacts on my confidence and emboldens the idea of feeling like an outcast within the community and instilling an unhealthy lone-wolf attitude.

The most reasonable transfolk I’ve knowingly encountered have been through this blog and on YouTube, and I am indebted to those who so freely share their stories and encouragement. I’m hoping when I move to the city I’ll be able to foster some new vital bonds.

However, currently without this feeling of help, taking HRT now is going to be a difficult path, yet with therapy rules in the UK, I could put myself back by months or years if I fully indulge in my issues which will have the ironic impact of extending the duration of the difficulties that impact me daily. Problems like this can’t be let lie, so I’ve arranged for a regular counsellor to help through these issues. Never be scared to talk to someone if you have to, and if you are, do it anyway.

You’ve got male.

One struggle I have noticed is that of testosterone and male anger.  I feel I can distinguish between regular anger, and the anger brought on by testosterone, though it’s only hyperbole.  When I get the male anger, I want to be violent, I envision scenarios in my head where someone might say or do something disrespectful or dishonourable enough that I would get to inflict damage upon them, a seething rage to hunt, kill and screw.  I have to do some serious exercise and mindfulness to help abate these feelings as they have always been scarily abhorrent to me, but they are getting harder to control.  Indeed, I’ve often considered the sign of a strong man to be his ability to quell these very natural emotions and inclinations.  I’ve spoken with male friends and many accept they have these same impulses and agree they must work to supplant the urges to conquer, to destroy.

The anxiety has been brutal, I am not myself, in some ways I am less of a person than I was before my realisation, but at the same time I can’t say that I wouldn’t have felt like this anyway if I weren’t trans due to how I feel about my position in life.  Going through transition however is basically like trying to maintain the workload of two lives within the space of one.  For everything I think of, note down and try to do, I can think of about a dozen other things to do.  When I write my daily to-do list, it ends up becoming non-exhaustive and it can be very difficult sometimes.

Still, persevere.  There is a lot to do and there will be lots more to do, with ever more life changing decisions to be made.  Cisfolk don’t understand the nature of how transition impacts almost every aspect of life.  Every time I open my mouth, I’m transitioning; every time I get dressed, I’m transitioning; every time I leave the house, I’m transitioning; every new situation I introduce myself as female in, I’m transitioning, whether it’s relevant to the situation or not; any time I think of where my life is going, I’m transitioning.  Any time I do any of these things, I am facing fears, both new and entrenched.

Feed. Me. More.

I have a list of simple fears, and I am going to eat them, fears that a cis-person would generally never even conceive of as a need for concern. Things like using a public bathroom; shopping for clothes; getting my makeup done; going swimming; going to a support group; wearing clothes that show any of my skin other than my face and hands; using a changing room. I embrace the challenge, even if I am not up to it yet.

There is great strength to be earned through all this – the more fear we face, the less fear can impact us;  the more pain we endure, the less that can hurt us; the more we commit to our understanding of ourselves, the less we need to question who we are;  the more we do, the more we can do; the more we surprise ourselves, the more we realise how deep the wells of our capabilities are; the more we decide to take care of ourselves and our dreams, the more we realise what we are individually worth.

Doing it through pain, tears and fears, is still doing it. The toughest journeys make the best stories. Life is a battle that can never be won but must always be fought. We learn that when times get tough, we can be tougher, and that when we can’t always calm the waves presented by both our internal and external lives, we certainly have the ability to show our true resolve and ride the storm.

Amy Xx

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gender, transgender

Free Pass

It’s a classic story told on the road by many sparkling travellers, the occasion when one is gendered correctly for the first time by a stranger.  Likely it comes when least expected, for preceding it is the scary period when the pessimist inside says: ‘Nobody will ever see me for who I truly am.’  For as often as hopes are dashed, it’s important to realise that similarly our doubts are quashed, because how we perceive is only one view of how things are.

A few days before I came across this little comic on Transgender Graphics:

It made me sad, as sad as listening to ‘La Valse D’Amelie’ whilst watching couples hug close together on bridges during the still cold nights.  ‘This will never happen to me’, I thought, almost defiant in accessing future failures.

The fates care not for emotional whim.  A few days later, in the midst of that four or five day period each month I feel utterly despondent (hmm!) I met one of my girlfriends who convinced me to go out to dinner with her.  It was a horrendous day so we arrived at the restaurant with big coats on and I was too sad to wear any make up, I looked and felt decisively ‘unfemale’.  The hostess at the front desk greeted us briefly and signalled a waiter to take us to our table.

“Just a second and we’ll show you ladies to your table.”  Huh?

The waiter comes over and ushers us to the table, hands out the menus,

“So, have either of you girls eaten here before?”  What?!

My friend of course heard this as well and we both enjoyed the surreal moment.  I say surreal because dude…..

Lady looks like a dude…

Lady looks like a dude…

A funny thought I’ve had since, that if I were a man, I’d have been pretty damn offended at being misgendered, and if that’s the case, why am I so passively lenient to those who would misgender me?

So what happened?  I’m calling it a fluke, a ‘free pass’.  I consider this whole passing thing to be a rate rather than a fixed value depending on personal success, and I really have to call perception into question.  I could make all sorts of excuses to try and invalidate myself but I’m going to take it, and use it to show that a transitioner isn’t always the one who knows how well they are doing.  It can become typical to get negative about physical appearance, and I think we need these little boons from others to lift our heads from the grey stone to look once more at the path we travel.  I am so grateful for my loved ones and friends.

I finished my 6 session private laser therapy not long before all this, coming across a new craze for tweezing out the hairs from dead follicles (not recommended =D).  I tweezed just about every single [dark] hair out of my face, which didn’t hurt as much as you’d think since the hairs have been basically cauterized half a dozen times.  It makes a massive difference to how I look, no shadow, just the few fine greys and skin.  A perception is, that adult males are generally considered to have at least a little beard shadow at all times, take that away and the doors of ambiguity creak open a little. Way too much of the hair grows back though, it’s only good for one clearance after a laser session. Again, not recommended.

Also, I don’t know why in male upbringing, we are made to avoid anything that could be considered not macho, so much so that we ruin ourselves to maintain the image.  I said I’d refrain from giving actual transition advice, but I’m going to give some simple life advice – moisturize.  My skin has improved as much in the past couple of months with a learned skincare routine as I see at the two month point in most transition videos.  My skin is bright and alive, because I treat it so much better now, and people notice this.

Appointments, The Lasers! The Voices!

Looking for solid work at the moment is almost pointless.  From home, my monthly/six weekly laser appointments were a 2 and a half hour round trip; my fortnightly therapy appointment at the gender clinic is a 4 hour round trip; now I’ve started voice therapy, which is now a fortnightly 5 hour round trip.  Upcoming is an unknown appointment for fertility storage that I rush downstairs in hope for every morning, and then all the appointments hopefully testing for and prescribing HRT.  That’s too many appointments to take on a new hire, not that it will stop me trying.

Each little appointment is progress, inconvenient, but not an effort.  However, the voice therapy was terrifying.  For my first appointment a couple of interns were present, three cis-women, and me, hitting falsetto.  Basically it was only an assessment, I was asked what my goals were, what my issues were, what my habits were.  For future comparison I had to read a pre-written paragraph into a dictaphone, and do various basic exercises to monitor my breath and voice placement.  For example I was asked to go ‘shhhhhhhh’ for as long as possible, I was made go ‘eeee’ to check my pitch, and then again to see if I could modify the pitch.  It was all just making fundamental noises to give the therapist a baseline to individualise my treatment. It succckkkeeeedddd, it’s going to continue to suuuuuccccckkkkk, and it’s my number one priority, even over HRT.

As I’ve written before, the voice thing scares me.  I’m no longer scared of the changes to my identity and so on, nor scared of the exercises – like many aspects of transition I’ve noticed, the recalcitrance fades away because the train never stops.  I’m just scared of sounding stupid, having that cartoon squeaky trans voice.  You know what I learned?  Too bad.  It’s a real-time transition, not a time warp, the reality is, you have to plough on right through the horror.

‘If you’re going through hell, keep going.’ – Winston Churchill

Homework number one is simply motivation, dedication, commitment.  The process is to permanently stretch the vocal chords and say goodbye to the old voice.  Transwomen say they can keep their male voice but in many videos I’ve seen them try to show this it leads to uncomfortableness and coughing fits.  So are ya ready?

The notes I got were:

  • Increase fluid intake, WATER, avoid alcohol, fizzy drinks, dairy
  • Avoid spicy foods
  • Practice humming at different pitches, feeling for a buzzing in the face/lips
  • Don’t clear your throat unnecessarily
  • Avoid answering by shouting when upset or anxious (or in general)
  • Warm up your voice if you are going to use it for a long time
  • Observe cis-females in real life in terms of: presentation/image, pitch, resonance, ‘femaleness’
  • Consider female role models and how they carry their voices.

I’ve been doing voice practice through youtube video’s, doing the paid programs, using the apps, using a spectrograph etc, but I have no idea what I’m doing and how to achieve that, and I’m hoping voice therapy will help this.  Step one for me is simple, speak with a voice located above the throat.  As a natal male, my voice had sunk down into my chest, giving that rattling ‘bricks in a cement mixer’ kind of sound, which leads to all those downward inflections at the end of sentences and other vocal maladies.

I asked, what is a female voice, and she didn’t know, because such a thing doesn’t always specifically exist on a bandwidth, all there is, is a commonality.  I’ve made my commitment and now I am using a new voice all the time.  It sounds as stupid as I feared, but I don’t feel as stupid as I feared.  I’m making myself do this now all day, every day, because it’s the only way I know that is fully involved, it is the only way for it to become automatic.  There is no magic technique of ‘male voice off’ to ‘female voice on’, it has to go in stages – Very Male, Somewhat Male, ‘Gender Neutral’, Somewhat Female, Very Female.  Each step must be taken, each lesson must be learned on its own and put together, just like anything else that must be learned.

Remember, laser and voice are creating permanent changes.

Cis-gender dissonance

I met an old friend last week for the first time in years, a cis lesbian woman.  She told me about her gender struggles throughout life.  As a kid she was referred to as male regardless of how she presented, and she didn’t mind.  As an adult, she often wondered if she was a man, or was supposed to be a man.  A while back she had a couple of years dealing with a real gender identity crisis, but was unable to conceptualize the idea of dysphoria.  She didn’t and doesn’t understand it, but the feelings subsided, she came to realise she is just a woman who likes to screw other women.  She has male traits 614-629 and female traits 1646-2042. You know what I mean? She is who she is.

This is where I have some empathy towards a little trans criticism, and wonder where the lines are between being transgender, and having dysphoria.  For example, I could be as feminine as I want, moreso than I ever will be as a real life transwoman, think about being a woman every day, dress as a woman every day, do all that stuff, but without dysphoria, what would I be?  The term transgender consists of an overlap of personal gender freedom and medically understood gender dysphoria.

Each are valid, though ‘wants’ are very different from ‘needs’, and as with my friend, if there isn’t a long term problem, then maybe there are better long term solutions than transition.  Accepting oneself in ones gender doesn’t always need a change in gender self-perception.  Listen to the transitioned when they say it – if you can avoid transition, avoid transition, there is no glamour, and the price is too high if all you want to do is look in the mirror and see a pretty face.  Additional or removal of breast tissue is a consequence in aid of soothing the tumultuous mind, not in looking good, although the results often seem generally pleasantly congruous.

…and finally

I know my posts are too long. Shush, they are essays 😉

My passport arrived a few days ago.  The Sex says ‘F’.  I am officially, legally female… a bit, there’s still the two year wait for a Gender Recognition Certificate.  Now I can get all my other documents changed and that’s another kind of fun yet frustrating chore out of the way.

I guess a key thing for me right now is consistency.  Dysphoria is a constant annoyance, and I am rolling with it rather than resisting, and the things I’m doing are what my body asks for.  I know to expect a lot of different types of changes.  From the revelation, so much changed instantly and it takes a long while to untangle that giant clusterfudge into intentional components.

There are a lot of weights and balances in my experience, gradualisation.  I gain a little more self awareness, I commit a little more to voice, a little more to make-up (bleh), a little more to my presentation.  Though I moaned and scorned about it, I wear breast forms any time I’m going to be around people, because, you know, boobs don’t come on and off like that, and strangers don’t know they aren’t real, soooo… I’m not working by some sort of guide I read, it’s really what makes this experience more tangible and quite truly it helps, it all helps, and it’s bloody annoying.

The medical wait continues, but I continue to take power back, to claim, reclaim, and expand my life, and it’s working.  People notice the changes, they know it’s not a phase when they see it day in, day out, I notice, and I’m starting to feel it. I’m starting to look in the mirror and go, hey…..maybe.

Amy Xx

May be I'm a woman, but I ain't no lady.

May be I’m a woman, but I ain’t no lady.

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