Student Loans

I’m pretty sure that Alanis Morissette would have mentioned this on her list of ironies – I received my first letter from the Student Loans Company in my correct name today informing me that my loans have been cancelled! FFS, if I’d realised that I was close to having them expire I wouldn’t have wasted so much time over the last three years trying to get them to change it.

Surgical consultation

Just had my surgical consultation for top surgery with Mr Peter Kneeshaw at Spire Hull. In the middle of nowhere, the hospital is a lot smaller than I expected but seems quite well equipped.

We arrived in plenty of time and I’d just got a drink when I was called in early. Mr Kneeshaw was very friendly and professional. He checked my referral and we discussed what surgery I was hoping to have. He examined me and took photos then explained the procedure (bilateral inframmamory fold with free nipple grafts known as a double incision or DI). He went through all the potential complications and gave me the opportunity to ask questions. He booked me in for the first available slot on April 28th 2020.

The operation will require a two day stay in hospital and I will be discharged with drains which will be removed at a post-op appointment ten days later. My plan is to stay in Hull for the whole period rather than risk travelling with the drains in. I was concerned about my weight but he said that he’d operate on me tomorrow if he could and that he wasn’t concerned about it. I explained that I was trying to lose weight and he said that was fine but I didn’t need to go mad!

Due to my age and family history of breast cancer he wanted me to have a mammogram to make sure everything was OK. He said this was precautionary as he hadn’t felt anything during the examination. I had the mammogram straight away. It wasn’t physically painful but made me incredibly dysphoric and uncomfortable in my own skin (this lasted for several days and I found it really difficult to get over). Mr Kneeshaw rang me a couple of hours later that evening to let me know that everything was OK with the scan which was very reassuring. Mr Kneeshaw said that the cost would be included with the procedure but the technician mentioned that I would be charged approx. £180 for it.

Surgery referral

Went to see Dr Myskow in Edinburgh today. With one thing and another it’s been a year since I’ve seen her but she was satisfied with my blood test results. She’s happy to refer me to Mr Kneeshaw for top surgery in time for my consultation with him in December. We talked about getting a Gender Recognition Certificate and she’s agreed to complete any of the paperwork required.

Always

In the news this last week, Procter and Gamble have announced that they’re removing the venus symbol from the packaging of their sanitary protection products in an attempt to be more inclusive of non-binary and transgender people who menstruate.

Personally I don’t really care about the packaging and it’s certainly nowhere near the worst thing about having periods but boy have the bigots had a field day. Social media has been swamped with bullshit and insults which is rather depressing, especially from people who you thought would be more tolerant.

I’ve been a bit disappointed that a couple of my co-workers are among those who’ve been sharing offensive memes and posting small minded opinions. I don’t generally get involved with this sort of thing online so I’ve just been unfriending people to avoid being sucked into all the negativity. However, it’s made me uncomfortable at work but it’s something I can’t talk about to anyone.

It’s debatable whether P&G were actually trying to help LGBT+ people or whether it’s just a cynical marketing ploy but either way it’s exposed a wide seam of transphobia and intolerance within society.

Turning a corner?

I went last week to the gym and booked an induction with one of the personal trainers for the following day. He gave me a program of exercises to develop my upper body strength and hopefully provide definition for surgery as well as contribute to the weight loss efforts.

Starting this week I’m going three times a week to do the following routine.

Chest press 3 sets of 12
Shoulder press 3 sets of 12
Lat pulldown 3 sets of 12
Deltoid row 3 sets of 12
Leg press 3 sets of 12
Bicep curl 3 sets of 12
Tricep dip 3 sets of 12
30 minutes of cardio (treadmill/bike)

Had my first session yesterday and it felt good. Feeling a bit more positive about things so hopefully I’ll see my mood improve.

New Year, same me

A fortnight into the New Year and I’ve hit a bit of a slump. Maybe it’s just post-holiday blues but I’m struggling with my mood.

My eating habits are terrible and I just can’t seem to get my head back in the game. I’ve put weight on and not only can I feel it at work it has made me super aware and self conscious about my body – ramping up the dysphoria to pretty much unbearable. I feel so tired all the time and despite a thousand good intentions I haven’t been to the gym since Christmas. I need an injection of positivity but I haven’t found it yet. 2019 was meant to be my year but so far it doesn’t seem all that different from any of the last few.

I’m wallowing in a sense of hopelessness which seems to be turning into a vicious circle. I feel tired so I can’t be bothered trying to eat properly and exercise which is making me feel even more tired. My goal of having top surgery early next year was supposed to be the incentive to commit to losing weight and developing my physique but that has been derailed by financial pressures. A new boiler and water pump at £2,500 wiped out everything I’d saved so far for the surgery. The house almost certainly requires more maintenance this year to sort out the plastering and floorboards and having done 180,000 miles the car is likely on borrowed time so the ability to pay for surgery feels even more remote. Why bother losing weight and risk accentuating my chest if I can’t then get the surgery?

I can’t see how things are going to get any better at the moment.

Giving Blood

My latest round of blood tests revealed elevated haemoglobin levels which is a potential side effect of the hormone treatment.  I need it re-testing in the next few weeks but in the mean time to reduce my levels I decided to give blood.  This was more difficult than I imagined it to be.  I registered on the website but couldn’t find any appointments within 20 miles for three months.  I rang them to see if there were any drop in sessions and they managed to squeeze me in at my local centre.  The process itself was quite straightforward and took about an hour (most of which was hanging around).

They have an Android app which records when you donated, when you can next donate and lets you book your next appointment.  It also told me my blood type (B positive!) and I got a text saying that my blood has been sent to Manchester Royal Infirmary.  I thought that was a cute thing to do because it makes you feel part of something important and useful.

Glamping

The missus and I have just returned from a few days away at Gorsebank Farm in Dalbeattie near Dumfries. It was our first attempt at glamping and was great. The site facilities were excellent and the camping pod we stayed in was clean, warm and comfortable. The hot tub was just an indulgence but satisfied the primal urge of man makes fire.

We went walking through the forest which borders the farm picking up a couple of geocaches along the way. The scenery is stunningly beautiful especially in autumnal colours with the added bonus of the occasional red squirrel.

The farm also has four fishing lakes and on the last day I had a couple of hours fly fishing, which I haven’t done for years.

These few days away brought into sharp focus how the last few years have sucked the life blood from me with very little respite. It has been wonderful to remember and re-engage with all the things that used to give me pleasure – getting out into nature and soaking up the peace and tranquillity.  It has re-energised me and rekindled a desire to enjoy my life, spending time with my wife doing more things that give us pleasure.

Attending the trans residential weekend

Just got back from the trans residential organised by Lancashire LGBT.  It was an overnight stay at Borwick Hall with a series of workshops on both Saturday and Sunday.  I can’t go into too much detail of what went on as we agreed to a confidentiality pact to protect all the participants but I’ll provide a brief overview of the weekend and it’s activities.

Day 1 of the programme kicked off with an induction session outlining the objectives of the weekend and an introduction with the other participants.  There was a cross section of ages and a mix of transfeminine, transmasculine and non-binary folks.  The first workshop was Gendernauts presented by Sal Harris which explores gender identity and expression in a safe and inclusive space.  The next workshop I attended was a jam packed information session about hormones and surgery for transmasculine folk.  This was super useful and gave a lot of insight into the process and pitfalls of different medical procedures.  It was also excellent to have the opinions of people who’d actually had the procedures.  The evening was an opportunity to socialise within the group and enjoy music from singer/songwriter Ellie.

Day 2 started with a seminar on personal presentation and dressing for transmacsuline folk debunking the myth that trans guys should dress exclusively in multiple layers of black, baggy clothing while slouching!  This was followed by a session about promoting good mental health.  The weekend programme closed with a debriefing session.  There were other workshops over the two days aimed more specifically at transfeminine people so it had a broad people for all the participants.

The accommodation at Borwick Hall was somewhat basic but the food was excellent.  The weekend was both informative and thought-provoking as well as providing an opportunity to meet a wide range of like minded individuals in an informal and relaxed environment.

Trans pride

I’ve been pondering a lot lately on the notion of transgender pride.  It’s a hot topic on some of the Facebook groups I’m part of – some of the lads are very into it and very proud to be trans.  There’s even a flag for it!

Trans Flag

At the risk of being controversial and I’m not trying to be offensive, I’m going to make a confession – I just don’t get it.  I’m not proud to be trans.  I’m not ashamed either.  It’s not an identity for me, it’s a matter of fact – like having blue eyes or mousy brown hair (the bits that aren’t grey anyway!).  I wouldn’t say I was proud to have blue eyes or mousy brown hair so why would I be proud to be trans?

In fact the whole transgender label makes me vaguely uncomfortable.  When people describe me as a trans man or trans guy it makes me cringe like the scraping of fingernails on a chalkboard.  When I first came out I struggled to describe to other people what was happening and define who/what I was.  I initially chose ‘gender reassignment’ but that didn’t feel right as it sounds like I just fancied a change.  So then I opted for ‘undergoing treatment for gender dysphoria’ but that necessitated explaining what gender dysphoria was which got tedious.  On the upside though it did tend to legitimise the experience by framing it as a physical ailment, a type of birth defect, rather than a choice or even worse, a kind of crazy.  In fact, it is only in the latest incarnation of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) released in June 2018 that gender incongruence has been de-classified as a mental health disorder.

As time has progressed I’ve gotten comfortable with not feeling the need to justify or define myself.  When applying for jobs I proved my eligibility to work in the UK with my birth certificate accompanied by my change of name deed.  I handed them both over without comment and never received any comment in return nor did I expect to.  I don’t feel the need to disclose at every opportunity and I only explain when it suits me to do so.  In my experience it’s only an issue for people who don’t know if you make it one.  I guess for some people being stealth like this would be a betrayal, as for them trans pride is about increasing awareness and visibility – proving our existence to those debating whether trans is actually a thing!  However, I still find this notion problematic as this is my life not a sociological experiment or a discourse on gender politics and I’ve got an awful lot of bills for someone who doesn’t exist.