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.

Jolly Holiday

Just come back from Scarborough after a fabulous week away to celebrate our 25th anniversary.  It was difficult returning to the same hotel – walking in I felt awkward, self-conscious and embarrassed.  Chris dealt with the check in and the discomfort only lasted a few minutes.  Most of the problems stem not from transphobia or nastiness but from the exact opposite – people not wanting to say or do the wrong thing, walking on eggshells, desperate not to cause any offence.  I feel awful that people are uncomfortable around me and that makes me uncomfortable.  Louisa said she’d seen the change on Facebook and didn’t have an issue with it.  As the week progressed things got easier as everyone got used to the idea that I’m the same person just hairier.

Coming out again (and again and again….)

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.

 

Dieting

I’ve got to lose some more weight.  Last year I had great success with the 8 week blood sugar diet managing to lose over ten percent of my body weight.  This diet (originally designed to reverse Type 2 diabetes) is a VLCD (very low calorie diet) involving restricting your intake to 800 calories a day and removing all simple carbohydrates such as sugar, pasta, bread, rice and potatoes.  Despite wanting to do another round of eight weeks I’ve found it very difficult to commit to starting again.  At my heaviest I’ve been 18 stone and did manage to get down to just over 14 stone.

Since starting hormone treatment I’ve noticed a significant increase in my appetite and I’ve given in to it.  Combined with a period of intense misery at work I’ve consumed a ridiculous amount of crap food and put on a stone.  Also due to the injections this has gone straight to my middle giving me an even more pronounced beer gut which I hate.  My starting weight is over 15 stone.

Screenshot_20180618-143939

If I’m to have any chance of being able to have surgery I need to reduce my BMI.  Most surgeons insist on below 30 but I want the best results from my chest surgery and minimise the need for later revisions.  To do this I’m going to try to get a normal BMI then I can work on improving my chest definition before going under the knife.  To make this happen I need to lose at least 4 stone.

Chris and I have watched a programme about a VLCD that used meal replacement products instead of food.  We decided to try that approach as a springboard to getting back on plan and starting to lose weight again.  We opted to use the products in the programme from Exante.

Time to go

I’ve left my accounts job after nearly five years.  I’ve been miserable for sometime and even though it will mean a reduction in money, I’ve got to leave.  I submitted my resignation at the end of April and was persuaded to withdraw it and go back but that was a mistake.  It became increasingly clear that my colleagues had no respect for me or my transition constantly deadnaming me and slagging me off behind my back.  I can no longer cope with the dysphoria this triggers and I need to move on to somewhere I can be me.  It hurts that things have come to this.  I really thought that I had a future there and I’m hugely disappointed that the people I thought were my friends turned out to be nothing of the sort.

I’ve contacted the place that offered me a job at the beginning of May, they are still looking for people and seem genuinely pleased that I will be accepting a job with them.  I start on June 26th which seems a long way off but it will give me chance to get my head straight.

Dear Dad

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

Dear Dad

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.

Voice coaching

Went to Lancaster today to the transmasculine voice coaching workshop organised by Lancashire LGBT.  I wasn’t really in the right head space having received father’s birthday insult before we set off.  The guy delivering the seminar had also transitioned so clearly knew his stuff but his manner just got on my nerves.  We had to go individually around the group trying various exercises and he would critique our performance.  He accused me of trying too hard and forcing my voice.  I was just trying to follow his instructions but “you must relax” wasn’t really helping.  The whole thing was rather excruciating and  I left it feeling quite wound up.

We had a banana and Nutella crepe from the food market followed by a walk by the river which cheered me up.  The Vue cinema in Lancaster is only a fiver so we treated ourselves to a movie (Life of the Party, a comedy starring one of our favourite actresses Melissa McCarthy) and popcorn – the first time we’ve been to the cinema in about 20 years!