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.
These last few weeks in my new job have been wonderful – being stealth, being Jonathan without any questions, hesitations or doubts has been so affirming, helping to dampen down the dysphoria and sense of being an impostor. In contrast, there’s so much of my past life which is inevitably carried over into my new identity. Friends and family can be ‘dealt with’ in quite a short space of time with a coming out announcement and official organisations such as HMRC, DVLA, banks, etc. are an administrative process which can be churned through. However, I feel I’m now at the point where incidental things are tripping me up.
We’re going on holiday next week to Scarborough – returning to a hotel we booked while we were there last September. The owner was pretty chilled about us returning to celebrate our 25th anniversary as a lesbian couple but now I’m facing going back there with a beard and a new name. I’m almost sure that she’ll be pretty chilled about it all (and to be fair I don’t really give a flying fuck if she’s not) but it’s the awkwardness, the explaining and feeling like I have to justify myself which I’m dreading. When we get back from holiday I’m going to need to call a plumber – I think the shower pump may need replacing but again the last time I saw him was Autumn 2017. I’d prefer to use him because I trust him and we’re comfortable with him in the house but again I’m really not looking forward to that awkwardness. And let’s not talk about the fact that I’ve been avoiding the window cleaner for the last nine months, paying him by BACS transfer and moving from room to room as he does.
It’s incredibly tempting to jettison everything non-essential from the past and create a brand new reality from scratch but that’s not really the answer is it? I’m socially awkward at the best of times, this is just another layer of discomfort to tackle and work through.
A week has gone by and I was starting to wonder whether my father had decided not to pursue a relationship with me after all. However, when I woke up this morning I found this through the door.
I rang up to thank him for the card and present and he apologised for the last attempt. I’m hoping that his contrition will be turned into actual effort to address me properly. I understand the difficulty of turning back 40+ years but all I need him to do is to try.
It was my birthday yesterday – the first one as Jonathan. I was quite looking forward to it but then I woke up to this on the mat. It spoiled the whole day and I couldn’t get it out of my head so I decided to return it with a letter.
20th May 2018
I’m returning the card because I’m not sure what you were thinking about when you picked it, wrote it and sent it to me. I’m going to explain why I was so hurt by it. This letter is me giving you the benefit of the doubt. I’m making a couple of assumptions here 1) you don’t understand why I’d be upset and 2) you actually care about my feelings. If neither of these two assumptions are true then you can stop reading here and forget I even exist because we will no longer have a place in one another’s lives.
I have gender dysphoria (and have had for probably the most part of 40 years) – this has been diagnosed by two medical experts and I am receiving treatment for it. This treatment is lifelong and involves permanent, irreversible changes to my body – there is no going back from it and nor do I want to. I’ve tried to explain to you how I feel but I’m not sure you’ve grasped it so this will be my final attempt – I’m writing it down so you can keep referring to it if you forget.
Ever since I began to realise what it was to be a girl or a boy I knew something wasn’t right. I understood that body seemed to be a girl but in my mind that didn’t make any sense at all because I was a boy. Before puberty it didn’t really matter that much because Mum let me wear what I wanted and I could play ‘boys’ games with Stephen and Richard – everybody assumed I was just a tomboy. At junior school I even did PE with the boys (did you know that?) playing football in winter and cricket in summer (Cricket was always my favourite sport – I even got selected for the school team in high school but couldn’t play because the inter-school rules didn’t allow it so had to content myself with practice and only scoring the actual games). The only times it really caused me any trouble was when I had to dress up girly – Auntie Marion’s wedding I cried for over an hour because I didn’t want to wear the bridesmaid dress (and then played football in it after the wedding!). My first holy communion – another traumatic hour of carrying on at the bottom of the stairs refusing to put the dress on – screaming blue murder that if Jesus really loved me he’d let me wear my red tracksuit with the white stripes, only being pacified by Mum letting me wear my boys’ chunky stainless steel bracelet watch which I stared at and played with all throughout the mass.
When I went to high school things carried on much as they had done – playing football with the boys at break times, etc. But then something devastating happened – my body betrayed me and puberty happened – I grew breasts and became a ‘woman’. I became a loner – I didn’t really socialise with anyone, go to or have parties because I didn’t have any friends. The boys didn’t want to know because who wants to hang around with a girl? I didn’t have anything in common with the girls – fancying boys, make up, hairstyles – all a mystery to me. There is truly nothing worse than not fitting in – everyone knew I was different (although not why), so I was bullied and tormented at school for being different. My only solace was that Stephen and Richard would let me hang about with them during the holidays, etc. I started shaving my face at 12 years old but was gutted that no matter how often I did it I still couldn’t grow the beard I so desperately wanted.
My mental health declined, I became depressed, my school work suffered – I was a straight A student but I couldn’t be bothered making the effort so both my GCSEs and A-levels were very lacklustre. I was seeing a community psychiatric nurse regularly by the age of 14. Puberty was like flicking a switch and pressing the self destruct button – for the next 10 years or so I spent most of my time trying to hurt myself. Ironically I saw my first consultant psychiatrist at 15 years old and he asked me did I think I was a boy – I thought it was a trick question and replied “of course I wasn’t”. He asked me did I want to be a boy and I told him that I didn’t want to have to go around the cross country track twice. Maybe life would have been different if I wasn’t such a lazy bastard, eh? But I didn’t know it was a thing that could be fixed. It’s not like Catholic school in the 1980’s was going to be a place to learn about alternate lifestyles. I just assumed that something was wrong with me and I had to get over it.
I went to college and at least I could wear what I liked but I still didn’t fit in. By this time I was on antidepressant medication but I was pretty much fucked in the head, I was drinking heavily – turning up to lessons drunk having been drinking down by the lake during break times. It was at college that I took my first overdose – I didn’t see any reason to carry on living, I was emotionally numb, overwhelmed by the pointlessness of my existence. Having your stomach washed out in A&E is very unpleasant but it didn’t put me off trying to kill myself several times again over the next few years. This depressive clusterfuck continued through to university and eventually I ended up on a psychiatric ward for 4 months. As you know I met Chris there and it’s no exaggeration that she saved my life. We fell in love and she gave me a reason to hold on through the negativity and the overwhelming urge to destroy myself.
Adulthood has been slightly easier to bear. I could wear whatever I wanted and as a butch lesbian I could adopt a more masculine identity, finding a place even on the margins of society where I could fit in. Even though this was significantly more comfortable for me, the nagging feeling of unease never left. Although I could be ‘manly’ my body still betrayed me. Every month I was reminded that something was fundamentally wrong with me. I still hated myself and it was still a stranger looking back at me in the mirror. I kept pushing it aside, swallowing the pain inside but eventually I had to do something to fix it. I could not live the rest of my life feeling like this. I am incredibly fortunate that Christine is supportive, she loves me as a person whatever the physical wrapper. Since I made the decision to transition I feel like a weight has been lifted. I am Jonathan, I like me and I can look in the mirror and can recognise myself for the first time.
I understand that my transition may have come as a surprise to you but that’s mainly because you don’t really know me. I get that you’ve only had six months with the idea but I’ve had nearly a lifetime with it. Can you imagine what it is like to feel ‘wrong’ for 40 years, 14,600 days of discomfort, 350,400 hours of distress, 21 million minutes of hating myself?
It was my first birthday as Jonathan. Your card – I really don’t get it. Was it an insult? Are you trying to prove a point? Are you just being a dick? Did you honestly believe that I would like something which reinforced everything I’ve ever hated about myself?
I am not your daughter – I am your son.
I have never been your little girl. I was always your son. My body was wrong. When you say that I will always be your little girl – you are condemning me to a life of misery and hurt. I refuse to accept that.
When you call me Helen/JD it’s like you’re humouring me because you thinks it’s a phase or I’m being stupid. I have legally changed my name to Jonathan Declan Brindle – Helen no longer exists. I have told you that a number of times but you still persist in this dual name ritual. I find it incredibly disrespectful that you cannot call me Jonathan or Jon. I thought JD might be easier for you to bear but you can’t even call me that most of the time.
I am going to let you consider this letter for a few days. In that time I won’t be answering the phone or the door to you. I want you to think about whether or not you’re prepared to accept me as I am. If you don’t want to or if you can’t then I will respect that decision and will withdraw from your life. You can let me know either way with a note through the door.
As soon as I had my change of name deed notarised I dashed around to the GP surgery to register my new name. The receptionist gave me the forms to fill out and took photocopies of the deed. Everything to seemed to go swimmingly and it was satisfying to complete the form as Mr Jonathan Brindle.
I’ve just checked my Emis app to see if it’s been updated with the new details. It has sort of – Mx Jonathan Brindle. Mx? What fuckery is this? I’m all super pissy about it because I’ve looked it up on Wiki and it isn’t a typo it’s an actual title for people who identify as non-binary. Don’t get me wrong, if you identify as non-binary and want to use a weird title then knock yourself out but I don’t. I am a man, I am Mr Jonathan Brindle not some unspecified inbetweener. Of course it’s stupid o’clock at night and I’m all wound up – someone is hijacking my identity and dictating who I am. Chris suggests journalling to channel my frustration and I also post on the Facebook group.
Ok, ok, time to calm down. I’ve had some replies on the group and apparently this is a common thing. I’ve learned that NHS numbers are gender specific to enable targeted screening programmes for things such as cervical smear tests and the like, so Mx is the best that can be done for me because the system won’t allow Mr. I will need a new NHS number issuing to change gender on my medical records. The doctor can apply on my behalf and it should be a simple enough thing to do but I’m holding back at the moment because I don’t want to interfere with any referrals that are carrying my current NHS number – I’d be upset to lose my place in a treatment queue just because I want to be a Mr not a Mx.
We went to the solicitors today to have my change of name deed notarised. He said he would have preferred a statutory declaration or a deed poll but was happy to sign it and provide certified copies. I know that this document works as Chris used it to change her name.
First job was to go the bank and get the accounts updated. TSB and Santander were great – very respectful and no problems whatsoever. The Royal Bank of Scotland was something else. The guy was obviously uncomfortable and disappeared for ages. He came back and told me that the bank might not change my name because the deed wasn’t an official government document with a serial number. Not sure how I kept my temper but I suggested that if the bank didn’t change my name then I would close the account. Apparently this resolves any issues with missing serial numbers……