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.

Advertisements
Standard
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!

SAM_1751 SAM_1748 SAM_1752 IMG_3335

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!

SAM_1784

Chris wussed out on the sea too.

Chris wussed out on the sea too.

SAM_1782

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

SAM_1798

SAM_1792

SAM_1794

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.

IMG_3389 SAM_1831

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!

SAM_1853

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.

SAM_1895

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.

SAM_1906 SAM_1909

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.

11100924_1612553155680798_2979033743922850691_n 11742959_1612553579014089_6241498859964301294_n 11753274_1612553285680785_8010310039022839814_n 11745946_1612553195680794_1647459150984973980_n

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!

11242065_1612553679014079_1427996360374247638_n 11693822_1612553619014085_4306473966570355824_n 11745590_1612553625680751_3967052872209944683_n 11745783_1612553725680741_1896199575635964131_n

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.

11252682_1612553872347393_9019901127753465494_n

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 😉

11751470_1612553919014055_6187766643284935178_n

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, 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.

Standard