hrt, identity, transgender

Wait, I was transitioning? (15+ months HRT)

The Prostap Nightmare

I spent the first 14 months of HRT living a nightmare.  The T-blocker I was on (leuprorelin acetate sold as Prostap SR) crushed and suppressed my already failing mental health.  I have read stories of people who take it for endometriosis and other ailments who have had their lives destroyed on it as I have.  Some people react fine to it, all things considered as a t-blocker it has less side-effects than the others.

Now I am on Spironolactone, a 100mg tablet, twice a day.  All of a sudden the dark clouds have been lifting around me and I begin to reassert a sense of personal identity.  Some people conversely react as badly to Spiro as I did to leuprorelin, so I am saying to you now, if you have a blocker and your mental health is failing for no discernable reason, please look into it.  Furthermore, I already pee quite a lot, and Spiro exacerbates this to the extent that I can barely make a 90 minute car journey without having to stop at least once to pee.  In my case it seems I’m actually allergic to Spiro as evidenced by the rashes and hives I’ve been getting since starting.  Anti-histamines help but I’m asking a lot from my body to process all these drugs.

Changing a male bodied physiology in terms of removing testosterone is asking a lot of the mind.  On top of the depression, my libido was castrate – let me clarify, it wasn’t a low sex drive, it was a complete removal of a sex drive.  If you know unfettered male bodies then you’ll know that quite regularly it will make sexual demands and get frequent erections in anticipation of the natural release. This is much less likely to happen on HRT, as such one’s neurology has to play catch up to the new information it is being fed against the template it was set at birth.

On Spironolactone, my sex drive is coming back, very slowly.  It’s different now, visualization is an insufficient fantasy – there has to be a story, there has to be a connection.  When it comes to sexual activity I can no longer just get ‘up’ and go.  This works fine for me because as a demisexual I am only attracted to people I have a close connection with.  This experience is not universal, some trans women experience a significant increase in sex drive as they are now free to experience sex more honestly.  Pleasantly my infrequent erections have ceased to become as painful as they were a few months ago, though not necessarily from any change in my behaviour that way.

Surgery as a stick where the carrot should be

The grossest impediment to gaining a healthy sexual functioning (aside recovering from personal experiences of abuse and betrayal) is the configuration of my genitals.  Not long ago I had my pre-op consultation with Mr. Thomas from Nuffield Hospital in Brighton.  This process involves filling in a lot of forms, and speaking with a nurse who will be offering first hand care, who provided information sheets about the many things that must be done for GRS to be a success.  She showed us the dilators which aren’t as big as I feared, although try telling me that after the operation.

Next, a meeting with the surgeon himself.  He makes a brief explanation of what will happen in surgery and the likelihood of complications.  He offered an 80% of things being fine, 15% acceptable, and 5% of something going wrong.  For 100% of people, things can and will go wrong randomly, especially if you don’t follow procedure to the letter.  He asked me to lie on a bed, take my trousers and pants down, put a sheet over my genitals and left the room to allow me to do that.  He came back in, removed the sheet and handled my genitals so he could know what he was working with.  We continued our conversation as he was touching me, so be prepared for that.

Then came the hammer blow.  Because I am circumcised there is less material to work with in creating a vagina, therefore I need laser hair removal on my scrotum to give him more material.  Those who are uncircumcised may not need any hair removal at all.  As a consequence these women already have dates for surgery less than 6 months later and I am back in limbo after thinking I was so close to getting this whole process over and done with.

As much as anything it’s my own fault, I should have known, I should have been privately getting hair removal for the past two years and this wouldn’t have been an issue.  See, the GIC won’t sign off on funding for hair removal until the surgeon makes his assessment, and when the surgeon makes his assessment he is ready to operate as soon as his conditions are met.  Since, I have liaised with private laser therapists and electrolysists.  The woman who lasered my face at a private clinic as I was waiting for NHS facial hair removal was happy enough to zap my scrotum, however she needed to know what the surgeon wanted. ‘Three fingers from the base of the scrotum’ Mr Thomas said, although he has pretty thick fingers so I’m saying four.

Now I’m on the NHS pathway and counting down the weeks. 6 weeks until consultation, followed by 6 sessions of laser spaced around 6 weeks apart. 42 weeks. Then, most likely a further 12 weeks with an electrolycist to clear up the remaining hairs. 54 weeks.  Another YEAR of waiting.  If you want to be sure you are smooth down there, electrolysis alone will take two years.  Some time can be saved however.  Mr Thomas said to get in touch with his secretary for setting a date when hair removal was ‘nearing completion’ and I know some people try to set the date so that surgery comes just a couple of weeks after the last hair removal appointment and the area has had time to heal.

I really have always hated my balls, they’re disgusting things, and to feel held hostage by them, to feel my destiny is in limbo because of hair on them is extremely frustrating. More people have seen my genitals in the past few months than lovers do over years, although it’s only uncomfortable if you make it uncomfortable.  Getting my balls lasered was nowhere near as painful as getting my face done, in a sick way it felt a bit nice, and for a change I could have a conversation with the consultant without screaming due to the big laser in my face.

This is the biggest miscalculation I have made in my transition so far, so if you are circumcised and want GRS then you may want to consider starting genital hair removal no sooner than 2 years before surgery is anticipated.  Be wary though, some women have had GRS and been left with patchy hair patterns because they removed too much hair.

As a result of all this I’ve had to be a little more forward with the GIC, because it’s not just the waiting, t-blockers are poison.  I let them know of my anger in putting trans folk though so much unnecessary medical treatment.  The general health of a trans woman is considered to be better post GRS due to not having to take extra daily medication (I actually think that a large part of the elation after GRS is the rejuvenation of health from not having to take blockers).

I told my GIC therapist that ‘a friend’ who attended the clinic had been feeling depressed and was scared to bring it up in case they were denied service.  She reassured me and I was able to then admit that it was me who had the problems.  For any stories I’ve heard of her stopping medication she informed me that this mostly happens when a patient is clearly in a place of extreme distress.  In explaining my situation calmly she had no reason to deny me.  The next appointment I admitted to her that it’s possible I have Borderline Personality Disorder and she has offered to help me with it, because it is separate from my experience of being trans.

The medical stuff is hard.  It’s important to put the fears of ‘transition takes years’ into perspective.  Yes, this all takes a long time, slowly chipping away at the physical characteristics and growing into a new way of being.  Throughout all that is a comfortable window in which to come to terms with your situation and take care of whatever legal issues you have as well as figuring out how you feel you want to socially transition and then doing it, in earnest.

Oh yeah, wasn’t I supposed to be transitioning?

So, what does that social change look like after over two years out and 15 months on HRT?  It’s not what you likely expect, it’s much much less than that, depending on perspective.

You are already you.  First you let go of what you’re not, then do you on a radical scale.  That may or may not look like very much internally or externally, but for an adult trans person there is a body of work that will take years even if it just simmers.  Understood and cherished concepts may go completely out the window as you come to learn about the experiences of life as another gender in a world where men and women are kept separate in the extreme.  For non-binary and some intersex people comes yet another layer of awareness to the complexity of our gendered constraints.

Personally, I still don’t get the whole thing.  I’ve been in too vulnerable a state the past year that I haven’t actively done anything to ‘transition.’  The good news is that regardless of HRT, transition happens automatically as you gain lived experience; every day brings a new experience, lesson or challenge of belief that locks you further into your identity, if you so choose.

When I buy clothes, I’m not transitioning anymore. When I put on make up I’m not transitioning anymore.  Transition may last forever but there is nothing I’m actively doing aside allowing the concrete to set on my identity.  Honestly, I just don’t care that much about presentation, I mostly wear jeans and a t-shirt – I can’t afford lots of female fit clothes and I still have plenty of good male clothes.  Obviously I look more masculine wearing the male clothes but it doesn’t seem to be an issue because people are looking at my face and hearing my voice.

When I speak I am very much still transitioning.  By all accounts my voice seems to be ‘good enough’ – I’m trying to be objective here…I can deduct that it’s not a male voice even though I kept my masculine parlance; it’s not really a gender neutral voice, because people’s brains assume gender automatically and the brain is seemingly only wired to say ‘male’ or ‘female.’  I work passively with my voice – through simple awareness of speaking – as an option because I spent 8 long months of intensive daily practice working on it and there is still a lot of fine tuning to do.  The fun thing is, as soon as someone has that automatic assumption of your correct gender, it can take quite surprising amount of obvious male gestures to get them to question it.

I am constantly carrying out overt and covert social experiments to understand the boundaries of layman gender understanding.  Maybe it’s a dangerous game but I seem to get away with it.  I am often quite cocky in public (I’m a total poser), even alone, I walk often with a masculine gait, and I think that confidence deters people who are determined to involve themselves in my day.  That and wearing pretty scruffy clothes that leave little room for extreme gendering.

I can do this because I know how lucky I am.  HRT has done wonders to feminize my face, and since it is many people’s first identifier I have an advantage for an easier life until society catches up with the notion that a woman, or a trans woman, shouldn’t be judged for her looks (see Mia Violet’s article Transgender Liberation Means an End to “Passing”).  Also 15 sessions of laser hair removal over the last 2+ years has made a massive difference.  If so inclined I could count problem hairs on my face and they would number less than 100, which is more than enough to make my face smooth.  When I finish laser some hair may eventually start to grow back, then it’s either top-up laser or electrolysis.  I can go a couple of weeks without shaving, even then it’s only because of those few little hairs annoying me.

To illustrate these changes I took a photo of my face every day for my first year of HRT. For your awareness I already had 7 laser treatments when the first photo was taken.  Here are the results:

1yearhrtmonthsv2

Attractiveness isn’t exciting

Around 14 months HRT I had to make the conclusion that in general I look like a woman, and it’s a pretty good feeling, though it is relative.  It doesn’t do anything to improve my life however, in fact I find it quite annoying at times.  My looks have become a focal point of praise for who I am, and I just don’t think my looks are an interesting topic except as a study into human behaviour.

I ‘pass’ most of the time now, in fact I haven’t been misgendered in quite a while, somehow.  The infrequent odd looks I would get from people don’t happen at all really, although people stare at me for acting weird the same way they did whilst living as male.  What I have noticed though, is that the rare times I do go out wearing a dress or a little bit of make up it’s almost exclusively men, not looking, but staring at me…if I was more confident I’d say they were checking me out.  On the one hand I can strongly assume I’m passing at that time but on the other I have all these guy boring their eyes into me.  I can totally see why some women get annoyed at the sense that these men are not just objectifying, but almost trying to impose ownership on women’s bodies.

Aside from a blatant sexual assault over the summer (a story for another time) I have guys coming up to me in bars and other public spaces.  I forget that I’m not being seen as a guy; they aren’t coming up for a chat or a fight, they’re coming for a woman, and if they can get away with it, to impose on my personal space.  It’s jarring to have to live this experience I’ve seen from the outside with apoplectic anger since I was a teenager.  Women aren’t oppressed? Try being one.  I’m still waiting for the first decent man to come and talk to me, aside friends of friends.  I was imposed certain principles of what a man is growing up – it was somewhat misogynistic but with honourable intent, as in respect for all people, especially women, to protect women, and to not touch them without consent.  Even in general, you don’t get into someone’s personal space ever without their permission.  Just another perspective on the puzzle that is people.

Body changes happen also in the mind

On a more pleasant note, I have been noticing the changes on my body more and more.  Now it’s my body I look at in the mornings rather than my face.  My breasts, though still not ‘dropped’ are much bigger than I ever expected they would be and I actually feel a weight behind them.  They look very small but they feel much bigger, and personally I’m satisfied, all I have to do is wear a bra and there’s no dispute that’s they’re probably breasts.  I’m almost pushing a C cup, surprising since both sides of my family have pretty small boobs.

They don’t look great but they work for me, the same as when I do look at the changes in my body I do it with the affirming knowledge that I have a woman’s body, on a male frame.  That’s what being trans IS.  You must, at some point, come to a place of acceptance of your born state.  Even though I envision myself as looking indistinguishable from a (certain kind of, cis-) woman naked, I still allow myself the peace of what I am, what I have strived for, rather than what I can’t change.  My hands will always be suspiciously large, my shoulders will always seem a little broader, my feet may seem larger than is expected of a woman in the cis world.  Again, we’re talking centimetres here, that is the difference between male and female bodies, not whole worlds.  In reality this isn’t something I think about often, I’m just trying to explain what can happen; I’ll give my breasts a little squeeze at the end of the day and glow in the light of my determination.  Regardless of how much you may know you need to go through all this, it takes a special human grit, and we all have it in us regardless of circumstance, remember that!

I am in the market for a slimmer waist, a fairly unreasonable goal.  As much as it hasn’t gotten slimmer at all, my hips continue to grow, further creating the illusion of a narrower waist.  That said, some mornings when I look at my body before eating I become shocked by the extent of apparent changes.  With the presence of my breasts it creates a figure that I would find attractive in a woman, so I concluded as humbly as possible that therefore I can be attractive.  Sometimes I still don’t like my body, especially with, you know, a penis in the mix, but that’s totally normal.  It means I’m at the point where my sense of body image is dependent on my self-confidence, not the sense of my own inevitable masculinity.  I could compress my waist with a year or more of corseting, but corsets are deeply uncomfortable and remind me too jaggedly of the aspects of transition I don’t really need to achieve that badly through struggle.

With so long to wait still until surgery I’m trying to put it out of my mind for now.  Soon will come a time where I must get stronger, healthier, fitter and happier to maximize my chances during recovery; quit smoking, come to terms, prepare etc, but that isn’t now.  All I can really do now is keep working on my voice and keep learning, every day.

Misery doesn’t have to stop transition

Finally, I know I don’t post much, I have a lot of topics aside these general updates that I really want to write about, but to be honest, I’ve been in a very bad emotional state for a long time.  A large part of it was down to the t-blocker I was on.  I thought it was just how HRT worked, that I could tough it out, and I have no idea how I coped with it for so long.  However the root cause is personal experience, a really horrible dragged out ending to a relationship with my first love over two years ago, and foreknowledge about losing the best job I ever had, coalescing to become the catalyst for me to realise I am a transsexual all happening within a few weeks.

Transition ironically became moot to me, it was something I had to do that I have invested the minimum amount that dysphoria directs me to do – by that I mean I have been assertive in organising transition related appointments for as soon as possible and going to every single appointment no matter how inconvenient, whilst letting every other aspect of my life fall apart – but I’ve been dying inside throughout the whole process with a broken heart and broken dreams.  My mental health is improving, but I still don’t have any reason in my life, and while that is the case transition just hasn’t been a priority.  I’ve still done all I could to speed up the process because I just want to clear the path to deal with these more pertinent issues.  Being trans isn’t everything, it’s one thing.

Transition has never been the top priority in my life, and I’ve done it with a constant intense feeling of hopelessness for the fate of my life that severely depressed people go through.  I’m trying to be kinder to myself, and I have a better chance on the new t-blockers, but the life I want to rebuild isn’t as a woman, it’s as a successful person.  What I’m saying is, you can still feel awful through transition, you can be totally broken, and you can still do it as well as you want to.  I haven’t had the motivation or the reason to do anything for over two years now, there’s no joy in it for me, but somehow I just kept allowing my dysphoria to push my journey and it has worked out.

I was lucky enough to have a relationship with a woman this year – it didn’t last because frankly I’m just too messed up (we’re still on good terms), but she showed me that I really can meet someone who treats me right, who respects me, who listens to me.  For all the shock of transitioning, it’s such sweet solace every time something or someone grounds you back to reality in a way you thought was lost, to the point now where I consider myself as secure and unconcerned with my identity as a woman as I was with being a man before I had my realisation.

On top of everything, I have a fantastic network of incredibly supportive cis and trans friends, and my immediate family are amazing.  I’ve spent my life investing in my personal relationships so much as I am able, and the payoff is loving friends who stick by you, regardless of the adversity you face together as transgender person, and public ally.

I’m a very lucky woman.  And if you’re preparing for this journey, or on your way, you can feel this way too.  Just keep going and it will come, in your own way, for you, to share with the people you love, and who love you.

Amy Xx

P.S. If you would like to see some of the physical body results, or are just a pervert, feel free to visit @wrathoftran on Twitter.  Here I post about body and sex issues, so it has a few nude photos of me that I have posted for education and my own satisfaction.  Be warned this feed has a lot of swearing and potentially undesirable content on it. Or visit my main Twitter @unexpectedamy for trans information, experiences and affirmations almost daily.

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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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hrt, male to female, transgender

MTF HRT 2 month+ update

TRIGGER WARNING AND DISCLAIMER– Depression, Suicide, Sexual Function.

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My transition has been unremarkable thus far.  Hormones work in a similarly unremarkable way.  However, over time one realises that things have changed, and it’s not a case of missing the alterations, it’s just that they are each so miniscule and consistent that it takes up too much energy to record or even stay aware of each little thing.

It’s not a bad thing, focusing on thinking too much about gender can create a tangled mess of dysphoria.  Rather, feel it:  Breathe in – feel the turmoil inside, all the words, possibilities, permutations.  Breathe out – Let as much of it as you can go.  Focus on the important things, not all the little things, they’ll take care of themselves as products of appreciation borne from a simple, guided, determined intention.

I cannot dismiss HRT as an interminably important force in transition, but as expected, I’ve found it is more difficult to wait for them with shining desperate eyes than to deal with the reality of the tectonic pace of change.  Unless one is prepared to stare into the mirror all day every day with a magnifying glass scouting for changes, hormonal transition actually makes up for very little of the day.

Mentally however, the flux of completely replacing one set of sex hormones for another can be a massive tumult.  My experiences seem indicative of puberty: my moods are very fragile and subject to change; I’m incredibly insecure sometimes; I like sitting in my room listening to loud music in the dark writing about how I hate everything; lamenting how no-one understands me; being obviously upset but when asked how I am, replying ‘I’m fine.’  However settled I may feel at times, there’s no telling when the next uncontrollable emotional episode is on its way.  Sometimes I can wake up and know that it’s going to be a hormonal day, but even then the malaise can be sneaky, trying to turn physical symptoms into mental wars.

According to my therapist, many transfolk on the Testosterone blocking injection of Leuprorelin (Prostap SR) suffer from listlessness and therefore an increased incidence in depression.  I understand this well, having fallen into a deeply anxious self-imposed hate cycle without any reason to feel that way, isolating myself at home, my transition fading, my hopes dwindling.

It all came to a head on Hallowe’en.  It was to be my one year celebration since my first proper public outing as trans, and it was a disaster.

I had regained enough resource in my spirit to attempt presenting truly again, making my plans and readying them for action.  On the day of Hallowe’en I was to meet my Mum and Nan in town, giving my Nan a first chance to see how little I think I’ve changed.  Instead of getting up early to get appropriately dressed and put on my make up, I opted for a sleep in, put on the dude jeans and t-shirt basics and left the house.

I’d never felt so bad, this wasn’t me.  I couldn’t cope with being seen simply as some cis-male.  My mood plummeted to new depths and the afternoon was deeply troubling.

Later, I was to go out clubbing with a whole bunch of friends.  Instead of embracing this opportunity, I sat in my room, in the dark, bawling, and my friends were freaked out.  At one point I left the house to stand by the road wondering how fast a bus or a van would have to be going for me to step in front of it.  Later I was found by a friend sitting in an alley sobbing.

I assured everyone I was fine and they went out to party.  Then I made this video:

TRIGGER WARNING – Depression, Suicide

Soon after this, I was made aware that there would be a house party in a few hours and that I was invited.  Something clicked; I told myself that there was still a chance to make tonight work.  So, I pulled out of my slump, I ate, I washed and I got ready the way I should expect myself to get ready.  I didn’t want to be a stereotype, I didn’t want to be a statistic – I know my experience is very average but I wanted to inspire and be inspired so I decided I would make this happen.

I made this video soon after the first, to show that there is always a way back from the brink, there is always a silver lining.  Sometimes, the best yielded seeds are sewn in the aftermath of a disaster:

It wasn’t the best party ever, it didn’t need to be, it was an opportunity and I took it.  I decided afterwards that I could embrace my identity again and I’ve been feeling stronger everyday since.  We can all make this happen, what opportunity will you grasp that you thought you would let slide by?


As far as physical changes…it is so hard to describe sensing that maybe something might maybe maybe possibly almost maybe be changing, trying to decide if it’s real or a trick of the eye.  However, I know things are changing.

I know how interested I was about the effects of HRT before I even thought they were a possibility, so I share my personal log of changes.  There is no real pattern of regularity as to the frequency and qualitative properties of noticed differences, but each one raises a special smile only for me.  Or mostly manic laughter, it’s so strange!:

Day 42 – Leg hair seems to be growing in more slowly and sparsely.

Day 44 – I felt a little lump under my left nipple.

Day 45 – The lump feels hard under my areola.

Day 49 – Lump now visible at top of areola. Still no feeling on the right side.

Day 55 – Veins seem less prominent on my hands at rest.  I haven’t had a release in a while, nor a single erection I haven’t coaxed as a weekly necessity.  Ejaculation doesn’t necessarily equate to orgasm, and I’m pretty sure I have no idea what I’m doing when it comes to that department anymore.

Day 56 – Left nipple much harder, the lump has moved past my areola.  It has been nearly two weeks and no feeling in the right.  It feels odd, but in the grand scheme this is no time at all.

Day 61 – I look decidedly less male.  The crying thing isn’t an issue so much anymore but the depression is harsh.  Right nipple where the left was about three weeks ago.  I seem to be getting more back fat than hip fat.

I actually noticed a few days ago that my handwriting has changed a little.  There are more diagrams, more colours, whilst even some of my lettering has changed, the sharp stabbing lines of a ‘w’ now more often a curved ‘uu.’  This isn’t contrived, I just sometimes feel like maybe brightening up the drab walls of black text.  Which I know I should work on with this blog too.


I haven’t been out in the world too much this month, it has been very difficult.  I am cheating a bit because I’m closer to 3 months but just including notes up to the two month mark.

The hormones really did a number on me, that was a tough tough month, but I’ve been feeling better.  Can’t let those bad times define you.  The night out on Hallowe’en helped.  Writing to myself afterwards, I decided to write as if I was having a conversation with my own sense of hope, if it still existed (it always does because hope never dies).  When you listen to your heart through a depression it can be a powerful moment.  It takes a long time to push back through, trying to have a sense of holding on long enough until the next chance to beat it comes along.

Next blog we’ll have lots of positive fun, ok?!

Thank you for reading 🙂

Amy Xx

 

 

 

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hrt, transgender

The Bell Tolls

It’s ok to make mistakes.  It better be, otherwise I’m screwed.

After the most gruelling month of waiting, I finally had my appointment with the endocrinologist on Wednesday past.  Turns out I didn’t need to bring pee in a cup; they just have that as a formality in the letter.  It was a notoriously quick chat with the doctor.  How long have you had gender dysphoria?  Do you understand the risks?  A brief explanation of what may happen over the next few months.  There and then he wrote a treatment form for blockers and estrogen.  What, so I just go cash this in?  Yip.  They took some blood and I have to go back in three months.

So, on Thursday I rang my GP and faxed across the prescription to be made, and made an appointment with the nurse on Wednesday coming to stick a needle in my bum.  The next day, I picked up the script, went to the pharmacy, and they gave me HRT medication.

I was prescribed ‘Prostap SR’, a leuprorelin drug, which is an injectable testosterone blocker that must be administered by a nurse.  The only time a male should ever use this drug is for prostate cancer, because that’s the only time the benefits of taking it outweigh the risks.  The leaflets are an anthology of side effects and risk factors letting you know that even if you don’t have a major ailment, chances are you might, and well before the at least 2 year limit before potential surgery.

They gave me Progynova, which is estradiol, 2mg once a day, a 12 week supply.  It is used for easing the symptoms of menopause, which is again not something a male body should be taking.  I was going to start today but I bailed.  I’ll do a proper starting hormones post soon, this isn’t my usual blog.  I have a friend who was prescribed on the same day and I’m hoping we can do some compare and contrast posts to give readers a range.

I was expecting to have another appointment in at the very least two weeks before getting the prescription, but there you go, Two days.  I’m…not ready.  What I mean is, in terms of dysphoria I would have started munching without pause, but in terms of general life.


Trigger warning – suicide

I signed a year contract on the house, so I’ll definitely be in the city for another year.  I am doing everything wrong though.  I am an utter slave to nicotine, when I try to quit smoking, I try to quit life.  I have become pretty insular and depressed and I’m struggling to deal with it.  As a result I haven’t been looking for work.  It has all come together to drag me down big time and I’m not sure how to get out of this mess at the moment.

I mentioned in my last post a new friend who gave me butterflies.  I got to meet her only a few times and she killed herself about a month ago.  It’s devastating.  I was talking to her a lot in her last days; I didn’t even know her well enough to know how bad things were for her, I just knew on instinct that she was an amazing human being.  She was only 25 and had a kid; I’ve met some of her friends since who have told me about her.  It’s so sad, we should be helping each other right now.

Out of the initial group of people I trusted to tell I was trans, I’ve told only a few about hormones, as well as a couple of friends I’ve made this year.  To be honest, I don’t even feel like telling anyone when I start.  It’s difficult to do because I want to be as transparent as possible, but it doesn’t seem like it will benefit anyone.  I figure my best bet for now is to talk about trans stuff in the company of other trans people, whether in real life or online.

I’ve spent the past few days claiming to be tying up loose ends.  It’s like I want to say goodbye to a part of myself without thinking of what I’m now able to greet into my life.  I want to be as prepared as possible, but how do you do that?  Sure, take pictures and measurements, then make your lifelong commitment.


It’s hard to know what to do here.  I feel so bad that I worry hormones will put me at even more risk.  I’m worried smoking will make my brain explode.  I’ve heard the opinions that starting the HRT could actually calm me down and bring me more to my centre.  I don’t know what to do, I feel I am doomed either way.  It’s less to do about transition, and more about the best way to maintain my mental health.  Take the plunge.  I don’t want to stop if I start, it’s all in or nothing.

Overthinking.  Putting too much pressure on myself.

This morning I had a nice dream, where I was my assertive, confident, loving self, where all this bounced off me and I was able to engage meaningfully with others.  I woke up to the reality of my circumstantially enhanced chemical malaise.  I was going to take my first hit of blue poison but I just don’t feel like I have what I need.  When then, will I be ready?

There has been a lot of soul searching, I’ve lost a lot of myself, gazing at the ruins of the mental fortresses, wondering where to start rebuilding, with no tools, no blueprints, and not enough help.  In the middle of all this I must make the biggest life-changing commitment of my life up to this point.

In a losing battle, what are one’s words on that last suicidal charge?

This is not a good way to start HRT, I know this, but I feel doomed either way, my mental strength is hidden from sight, it must be found somehow, no matter what. I’m taking a risk, so I wonder how this story will go.

Hang on tight.

Amy Xx

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depression, self love, transgender

Consent to Nightmares

Often I find that when I am at my most self-loathing I am most unlikely to express it.  It is exactly the most important time to express it.  My brain calls me undeserving, unworthy.  Who wants to listen to all that negative crap?  Why should I burden anyone else with my difficulties?

It’s simple really, this is when my self-love is tested, my empathy to myself.  This is when I’m challenged to respect the ones I love and allow them to help me.  To allow those I love to help me is to allow them the chance to show their love for me.  It’s easy when things are going well, but more difficult in hard times, problem is, there is so much less to gain when things are going well compared to when things are bleakest.

When that voice tells me how much of a failure I am, how useless, how undeserving I am, it leads me to mistrust others, unwilling to seek their help, I cry invisibly for them to notice and lament alone for assistance I would reject anyway.  I automatically assume people are sick of listening to my crap, even though I don’t tell it to them.  They rarely ask, and when they do, I reject it.  I have a poor attitude.

I write a positive post and I am a fraud.  Do not take the word of someone who cannot apply lessons to themselves, those who say they know the path but do not lead along it.

What has been a month of brutal anxiety, anger and panic attacks has roiled over into a depression.  I may take that as a positive, depression I understand, how that part of the primal mind with nothing to hunt must make up reasons to feel inadequate.  Quite often the depressed state is wrong, ‘Ooooh, no-one cares about me’, and all of a sudden I realise someone does, then I cry, feel guilty and ashamed for being so silly and find a new way to be unhappy.  It’s a very difficult chain to break, especially when you know and expect it to return.


All of it boils down to one thing, self-love.  To think of the perception of how others perceive me is impossible and immensely damaging.  With self love, the perception of how I believe other people see me is irrelevant; with depression, it becomes auto-cannibalistic, because it is a deflection from the self.

A friend of mine told me about her relationship paranoia, and I said I believed it was because she also had a lack of self love.  I opined that a good, stable relationship must have four factors:  Your partner loves you, your partner loves themself, you love your partner, YOU LOVE YOURSELF.  Without all four, there is trouble.  Her response was along the lines of ‘Oh dear, so the relationship will be unworkable if I don’t love me?’ the only reply I could give was ‘You say it like just loving yourself isn’t a consideration.’

If only I treated myself like I treated the ones I love.  I love to help them, I love to give to them, and I love to spend time with them.  Instead I give my heart away, rather than giving what my heart is, and it can never be returned in as good a shape than if I cared for it myself. A lack of self-trust.  One person, one heart, full responsibility.

If only I believed they could think to treat me in the same way – Can it be so hard to believe?  That my loved ones love to help me, they love to give to me, and they love to spend time with me?  To believe anything else is either fear or arrogance, to prevent them from doing this is to deny their expressions of love.  Put simply, by not loving myself, I am being selfish in refusing help, in refusing to be vulnerable, I am being a bad friend in not allowing them to know me by not giving them that chance to grow mutual, irreplaceable love.

It is selfish to not allow good friends the opportunity to enhance our friendship through gaining trust in adversity, but in expecting their help when I refuse to help myself, I show a lack of self-respect for my own capabilities.  I feel that if I take help then I owe someone, it creates a heavy pressure and makes relationships transactional rather than human.  After all, why would someone help me unless they thought they were getting something from it?  Why would someone help me at all?  So stupid, it’s not just about me, sometimes people do get the same joy out of helping me that I do in helping them.  Self-loathing negates the value of this and takes so much away from relationships with others.

What a twist this puts the depressed mind in.  ‘…if I don’t love me’, how could I when my mind says I suck and don’t deserve it?  It becomes a spiral.  There is only one direction to look to find the answer I believe, inwards, lest everything else becomes a reflection to self-despair.


I am in the midst of some of the most difficult few months in my life in one of the most dejected mental states.  For well over a month now there has been no joy, just a continual grind to try and make my life better whilst embracing none of it.  How could I possibly expect to make my life better with success when success tastes like ash?  Yes, I do things because they need to be done, but ultimately, there is no point if it means nothing to me.

I’ll be honest; this transition has become a nightmare.  The more intense and real it gets, the more I pull away from myself, the more I try to go alone, the further I get from understanding and embracing my identity.  Exercise, healthy diet and so on are great tools, but tools are useless without confidence of the wielder.

Yesterday I signed the consent form for hormones, the most major medical decision I’ve ever made and in all likelihood, the forbearer to a stroke in an orange pill bottle.  In two days I put my only hope of genetic offspring into the hands of strangers with the risk of losing it all.  So so so so heavy.  This coming week I have laser, a voice lesson, and a pro make-up session which is a terror all of its own.

On top of this is the soul-destroying voice practice.  Morning, noon, evening and night, they remind me that there is no rest anymore, no relaxation, and for each shade of personal darkness I drop a semitone, compounding the difficulty.

I’m preparing to move house and town in just over two weeks, even though I am far from ready to being capable of employment, have limited funds and few friends.  The only time I see friends is when I make the effort to go to them, so I know they won’t make the effort, and I wish I could say that was only self-defeat, but it is recorded true from experience.

At a point the load becomes ever more difficult to bear, but like I quoted in my last post, it’s how I carry it.  Still, I feel utterly crushed, alone within myself.


Oh yeah, gender transition.  Woopy-do.  The therapy session yesterday was difficult.  We discussed potential changes on hormones and got caught up in a debate about breasts.  She asked why I don’t care about them and I explained about my dysphoria being a sub-conscious deal rather than conscious.  She argued that many/most transfolks feel their gender consciously, and transwomen want breasts and so on to feel their femininity.  She challenged that if I’m not that bothered about my body, then why should I even want hormones.

I don’t care about my gender, I care about dysphoria.  However on the way home I thought a lot about it.  Two words came up, bright and bold.  SHAME.  GUILT.

I’ve rarely felt through my life that I have deserved anything for myself, this is why I give away so much more of myself than I have to give, destroying myself and close relationships.  This is why I never took my dysphoria seriously.  It is why even now I feel that I don’t deserve to have the body, mind, soul of what my heart tells me I am.  I am ashamed to want any of this treatment for myself, the same as I am ashamed to present my true self because my negativity asserts that my true internal self isn’t worthy of expressing.  A lot of the time, I don’t feel I deserve to live, though what’s the alternative.

I feel guilty complaining about all the appointments that I go to, knowing that there are people who are incredibly physically sick, missing limbs and so on who must go through even more intense treatment programs, yet I am completely healthy and going to appointments which will ultimately destroy me whether I endure or not.  I feel guilty that I would get any treatment at all, when I could just keep trying to find a way of dealing with this even though I don’t think there is any other way.  I can’t think of a more bizarre medical treatment option for a situation.

Some of these feelings seem reasonably typical at this point in transition, when reality begins to take its’ toll, when the limits of endurance are pushed, when the determination of resolve is tested.  Dysphoria is the only constant.


I feel like I’ve totally screwed this up, that instead of a time for freedom, openness, expression, love and joy, it has become a nightmare of depression, anger, panic, loneliness, anxiety and self-loathing.  I still think too much and feel not enough.  No success is a victory for the self-loathing – for example, I will have quit all forms of smoking for a month tomorrow, I have such reason to be proud, yet I don’t care.

The only salve is to somehow love myself again, to make time for it beyond anything else, to make it more important than anything else.  It is not selfish, it is selfless.  It has been said since humans could speak, ‘Love thyself to love another.’

I cannot love outwards unless I love inwards first.  If I am hollow, my intentions outwards are loving in intent, but they are still hollow.  If I am full, the love I give is full.

The truth is, we are all equal, so when I disrespect myself, I disrespect others.  When I respect myself, I respect others.  Once again, it is arrogant to hold myself to a different standard than others’, it is unreasonable to expect myself to be so much more capable, and to be able to cope with more.  It is unreasonable to say I should receive special punishment for mistakes no-one is invulnerable from committing.  A counsellor one asked me, ‘What have you done that is so bad that you don’t deserve to be as happy as anyone else?’

Alternatively I’d take a cuddle and a cry but neither of those seem forthcoming, and I’d refuse that too, I’d need someone to force me into their arms, to not let go as I crumple into teary anagnorisis.  I am afraid to be vulnerable, I am afraid of the rejection of experienced all too often, yet I know I have to keep trying to bare the open wounds to see who might sew them in positions that I cannot.

At this point I’m so lost that I don’t even really know much about my identity, I don’t know how other people could help me more, and I am really struggling to find a way to help myself.  For so much as I despise myself, the most despicable thing I can do is to not make time to confront who I am once again.

I feel like I am so busy that I can’t make time for this most singularly important need.  How ridiculous that I can fret over all matter of minutiae and neglect the core of being.

“I have so much to accomplish today that I must meditate for two hours instead of one.”- Ghandi


Depression is a temporary state, just like any authoritarian regime the lies and oppression will come to an end when I demand my freedom.  The tyranny of despair will end when I fight for my happiness.  I don’t need to know how, I just need to know to never to give up, to expect and move past failures, to ask for help, to not know just that I can get there, but I that I will.

♣ Amy Xx ♥

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transgender

How to Crash and Burn

Warnings – Depression, frank discussion of suicide.

Mind-states are such fickle, vulnerable things at times, a heart worn so visibly now and becoming threadbare.  Depression can break through great walls, razing years of intricate works in moments like the old Mongols.  Now back inside the dreaded depresso world of constant self-oppression I realise that the worst part about depression is not how awful it feels, but how it takes away the willingness to do anything about it.  The mind is saying ‘There’s a big problem in here, and you better be ready before coming in again.’  The healthy mind has no time or inclination for this crap.

I don’t know what happened, about three weeks ago I just fell into shards, the perceived injustices and betrayals to my heart festered and became a scar on my soul.  Like a broken poet, I just go over and over the same horror in my head.  ‘Why didn’t she love me?’,  ‘Who will ever love me now?’, ‘How come these people do horrible things, yet still receive romantic love and compassion whilst I’m left alone to deal with this?’, ‘I don’t know how I can ever get over this’ Blah blah blah!

When the symptoms start, everything becomes a nightmare.  I was supposed to be moving to the city with a friend but he’s got a few extra years now in a good place, so I’m stuck.  ‘I can’t move alone, I can’t afford it/I’ll never get a job/I’ll get killed’ Blah!

Such is the way a flawed thought process runs. I love outward then lose inward, when I should love inward then love outward, yet with brown-tinted glasses I stupidly see a presumed paradise for others from my presumed hell.  And it’s nothing to do with being trans, that’s just another facet, amplifying my problems with serious real life complications and pushing me over the edge.  Life threatening?

On a day last week, my growing suicidal idealation turned from silly thoughts into considerations about actual means.  I tried to talk to people whilst simultaneously pushing them away and being scarily vague, as is common.  But here’s the thing, when I got to the point of thinking it was a good idea and I should just go do it, I got in touch with a friend I could trust and said ‘Look, I’m going to kill myself.’ ‘I’m coming round’, he said.  If things ever get to that point call someone immediatelyPhone a friend, ring your national suicide hotline, do something! Never stop trying.

He came over and we chatted for many hours.  He told me again of a friend he had, she killed herself, she said nothing.  I don’t know her circumstances but I know the feeling, not from this incident, but from a long long time ago.  He is so cut up because he could have done for her what he did for me and saved both our lives.

I’m lucky, it’s not that true people come out of the woodwork, they are there, and they help when help is needed to be given.  I have really worried all the people closest to me, to see tears in their eyes breaks my heart as they see me meltdown into complete blackness unable to truly appreciate the love that I always complain about not feeling.  The mind says ‘Learn to appreciate the love that others give, especially when it is difficult to, and then you can come back in.’

Yet with all this I cut friends off because I literally can’t cope at all with the drama.  Being trans just overcrowds an already totally packed brain space. For two weeks I distanced myself from the girl who has supported me so well like a sister recently and it was horrible for both of us.  I saw her at the weekend and although we didn’t speak for a while she came and hugged me, and just talked to me like normal and that meant a lot.

But I have depression.  I calculate it as being two weeks symptomatic.  It has struck hard, the voice in my mind that is an automatic defence system of general contentment has retreated, waiting for orders for a counter attack!  For all the fighting talk though, it’s just words.  Ha, I don’t need oestrogen to be able to cry every day.  And so eyes roll.

I would say in order of intensity it feels like depression, gender dysphoria, loneliness.  Loneliness is the worst one, nothing to do with having anyone, but the feeling that eats you. The most brutal form of self-punishment, and the most unavoidable. The mind is literally saying ‘If you do not love yourself, then you will be less likely to find a partner who will.’ It’s all biology.

I found out today I’m going to be losing my job pretty soon, much earlier than I expected, making the work transition moot.  How it all seems to fall away, what a meltdown I had, trying to stay hydrated so I could keep crying and screaming because I believe I have nothing and I will never have anything or anyone again.  It wasn’t about it being embarrassing, I’m scaring people.  I’ve always been hung up on the ideas of a secure employment and relationship because it’s not something I’ve truly come across, I’ve pretty much lost both, and in transitioning these are the two things probably most affected, aside getting head smashed on bathroom lino/chopped up and placed under floorboards etc.

So things just became a lot harder.  I’m older now, so I have more tools to deal with this, it just took me by surprise.  Instead of thinking everything is over, it’s possible I could think of it as a clearing, everything is open to me now.  To be honest, I could probably do with a few months off to actually get on top of all the heavy stuff that has been going on.  It’s a bit of a spanner in the transitions works apparently, yet as Jim Carrey’s Dad said ‘You can fail just as easily at what you don’t want to do.’

I don’t think I’ll get a job or a relationship regardless of whether I’m trans or not.  I could say it has all fallen apart, but maybe my perfect partner is only there for the real me.  Maybe I can only find my true calling in transition, like I could find simplicity and pain in pretending to be a man.

Just because everything sucks doesn’t mean every thing sucks.  It’s an unhealthy state of mind and I know it.  With circumstantial depression such as this, that part which is awesome is merely dormant, and apparently depression is dormant when everything seems fine.

The only way awesome will let you in is to be awesome, not to a standard, but your own truly expressed, individual, unique awesomeness.  Hold it tight for you, content is a personal responsibility.

I can’t give up, I have to fight back.  I have to beat these repetitive self-sabotaging thoughts.  Dysphoria doesn’t want me dead at least, it just wants me to be a female so my brain can make sense of my biology in a clearer fashion…I hope.

I’m so grateful for the genuine human love I have received recently.  It’s scary sometimes trying to gauge what others think, we can never know, does everyone secretly hate us or everyone?  Is it a front?  What would they do for you?  You can’t know, and it’s not our business to know, that’s what trust is for, that when we ask we can believe the truth even if conflicts with our disillusionment.  I may be shaken, but I see that obviously people care.  I ought not to want, for it is the ire of content.

Depression is a zombie that just keeps coming back, so I’m gonna need a bigger spade.

Let’s all try to find one needlessly self-defeating thought today to smash to make room for one genuine self-affirming belief.  You are so worth it.

Amy Xx

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