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.

Smoke free

I’ve just realised that it’s nine months today since I gave up smoking.  I’ve been smoking since I was 19 years old – I started when I was in hospital for four months (everyone used to be in the smoking room so it was a way of socialising and something to do to break up the days!).  I did manage to give up for 3 years in the early 2000’s before my mum got sick and I relapsed.  Since then I’ve tried several times to give up but not managed to make it stick for more than a few weeks at most.

Research I’d done on the internet suggested that giving up smoking would reduce the risks associated with testosterone such as blood clots, stroke, etc.  I’ve been surprised at how easy it’s been and I haven’t missed it all that much but as I said to Dr Myskow, when she asked me how I’d found giving up, I didn’t like smoking so much that I was prepared to jeopardise my chances of being prescribed testosterone and having surgery.

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.

New beginnings

It’s the end of my first week at my new job.  It’s more physically demanding than my previous work – being on my feet for eight hours, constantly on the go – but I love it.

Everyone is really friendly and I’m really enjoying being ‘stealth’ – my beard is still patchy but all that does is make me look younger than I am – I am Jonathan and no one thinks any differently.

I dropped a bit of a clanger while chatting to someone during lunch.  We were talking about school days and I mentioned something about when I was a little girl (duh, knobhead), one person definitely noticed but no one batted an eyelid or said anything.  I need to be more careful in future – I’m not ashamed about being trans but I don’t want it to be the thing that defines me in people’s mind, I would much prefer to generally remain stealth.