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.
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!
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.
I had my screening appointment for the Leeds gender clinic this morning. It was a telephone chat with one of the outreach workers and was a lot more in depth than I’d anticipated. It consisted of a review of my transition progress and my medical history as well as a chat about the care pathway through the clinic and anticipated waiting times.
He seemed satisfied with the steps I’d taken so far. The current waiting times to first appointment is approx. 18 months with approx. 8-10 months between appointments. I’m so grateful to be able to initiate hormone therapy through a private clinic because it seems to be a minimum of 3 years through the NHS at the moment.
Had my telephone appointment today with Dr Myskow to review my hormone levels. She mentioned straight away that my voice seemed much lower and was pleased that I’d got a new job. She was satisfied with the blood test results. Although I thought they seemed a little low, she explained that it was better to have levels at the lower end of the range. This ensures that the peak levels aren’t excessive which would result in the testosterone being converted to oestrogen causing all sorts of havoc. She advised that my injection intervals should be 14 weeks going forward and asked for a full set of bloods prior to the next injection which she will review at the end of November.
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.
I’ve had a couple more injections since April and I thought I would explore the changes I’ve experienced as a result of the hormone therapy in preparation for my review appointment with Dr Myskow tomorrow.
- Happy – I’m definitely happier, whether or not this is actually the hormones or just the fact that I’m moving forward with the transition, is unknown. I’m considering reducing my anti-depressant dose but I want to ensure my hormone levels are stable before tinkering.
- Irritable – everything annoys me especially rude people (which appear to be multiplying in numbers every day)
- Spatial awareness – clumsy is now my middle name, I’m banging into things and dropping stuff quite a lot. I’m hoping this will subside once I’m further along in the puberty process.
- Confidence – in some respects I feel more confident especially in new situations which I expect is due to feeling more comfortable within myself. However, I’ve taken a bit of a step backwards facing people from my previous life. I seemed to be actively avoiding engaging with people who aren’t aware of my transition and when forced to confront them I feel embarrassed and ill at ease.
- Voice – my voice has definitely dropped and according to the voice pitch analyzer app is firmly within the male range from the androgynous range that it started in.
- Hair – I am increasingly furry on my torso and particularly on my legs and bum! My moustache is improving and the sideburns are drifting towards filling into my beard. I suspect I’ve got a long way to go before my beard is bushy but the signs are encouraging.
- Bottom growth – things are definitely getting bigger down there and a lot more sensitive.
- Libido – this has generally increased but waxes and wanes which is quite weird.
- Hot flushes – during the hot weather this was particularly unpleasant but generally manageable.
- Tiredness – I feel quite tired a lot. I’ve no idea whether this is specifically hormone related but I could sleep for England at the moment.
- Increased appetite – this is becoming a bit of an issue. I’m just ravenous all the time which is really impacting on my weight loss efforts.
- Fat distribution – things seem to be shifting round a bit and heading towards a beer gut which is getting me down a bit at the moment. I think I’ve got some movement of fat from my hips as my trousers seem to be hanging differently.
- General growth – my feet seem to have started to grow a little so I’m desperately trying to wear all my favourite pairs of trainers while they still fit. I feel like I’m also growing taller which seems rather ridiculous so perhaps it’s just improved posture as a result of increased confidence.
- Acne – I’ve got some acne on my chest and back which is pretty sore and uncomfortable but fortunately, despite the skin feeling more oily, I’ve had nothing on my face with the exception of the odd pimple.
- Menstruation – this seems to have calmed down and fingers crossed if my levels stay stable I shouldn’t have to endure this again.
What a load of drama that was! I needed a blood test before my second 12 week injection to check my testosterone levels. The blood needs to be taken same day before the injection to give trough levels. My injection was booked for 10.40am so I arrived at Chorley hospital at 9am – plenty of time in my mind. Unfortunately, when I arrived and pulled a ticket mine said 83 and they were just doing 47. Two hours I waited before being called – I had to cancel my appointment at the doctors and there was a bit of panic when the receptionist said there were no other appointments. I explained that I had to have the injection that day so she offered me the chance to sit and wait for a free slot. Dr Patel gave me the injection, moving the needle once to change injection site which meant that it hurt considerably less than last time.
Emailed the medical secretary to ask her to email the results over when they came in and she sent them last week – 12.5 nmol which is not bad but probably a little bit low so Dr Myskow may consider increasing the frequency of my injections to raise the levels slightly.
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.
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.
Just booked on a residential weekend specifically for Trans people in September. It’s a free workshop based programme run by Lancashire LGBT. No idea what it’s going to be like so I’m a little nervous but it’s relatively local and I’m taking the car so I’ve always got options to go home if I really don’t like it.