Sleeper, awake

oestrogen earringsI haven’t said a lot lately about my own transition. I’ve been taking stock this week, so I thought I’d scribble a bit about it. (Hmm, quite a lot in the end, sorry…)

Here we are in February 2013, then, and in a week’s time, I’ll have been transitioning for 2 years. Significant things tend to happen to me on 24th February, and that time 2 years ago, I’d just spent a weekend in Bristol with friends, found myself wondering why I felt so out of place listening to an LGB choir I used to belong to singing We Are Family… and told a friend “This is it, I’m not doing this any more, I need to transition.”

I’d been thinking about it for several months before that, but that was just because I’d been so firmly convinced that I didn’t know what I wanted, I felt obliged to take the time first.

Anyway, within 2 months I’d had my first laser session and my first appointment with a gender psychiatrist. Five months later I began taking oestradiol (I’m sticking with British spelling, I like the connexion to Oestre) and anti-androgens.

Here we are in February 2013, then. I’ve changed every bit of legal paperwork I can change to reflect my female gender and my chosen title of Ms. I’m out to everyone significant now, even to my landlords at the pub I live above, as of last month. The only people I still haven’t told that I want to tell are the nice folk who run my local wholefood shop!

There have been a few hiccups in my hormone treatment – last summer, I had a horrible testosterone spike when I was taken off anti-androgens, so I put myself back on them. Since then I’ve been having triptorelin injections, which do the same job better than the tablets did. But my oestradiol levels didn’t go back up very high, and for the last 6 months, I haven’t seen any change in my boob growth.

A couple of weeks ago, I got to see the doc at the gender clinic, after a much longer gap than was normal (not his fault). He decided to up my oestradiol dose, and my boobs are already growing again. I’m particularly relieved that my right one is growing, as it’s a lot smaller than the left, due to something I’ve after 50 years only just found out is called Poland’s Syndrome. Smaller bones, some undeveloped or missing muscles in my upper right quadrant (especially the large chest muscles). And a smaller nipple!

What I’m finding fascinating is that after a lifetime of being more or less self-conscious about my asymmetry (as a teenager, I felt that I must be sickening to look at), my transition is making me look more and more symmetrical – I’m losing muscle bulk on my left side, and gaining fatty tissue on my right side where there was just skin and no muscle before, so I really do look as well as feel more like my true self, more balanced.

The other significant thing in my conversation with the gender clinic doc was that I mentioned how the more my body feminises, the more impatient I get to have my GCS (Gender Confirmation Surgery, also known as Sexual Reassignment Surgery, but I don’t like the implication that someone else is reassigning me). The doc could see that what I needed was reassurance and some information. He told me he’s very happy with my progress and my “outness”, and he told me a piece of very good news.

In April, there’s a big change in the NHS system in England and Wales, where regional funding bodies known as Primary Care Trusts (PCT) are being disbanded. This is a very good thing, from the gender clinic’s point of view. Up until now, everything they agreed to do for each of their clients – hormones, laser treatment, surgery, etc., even taking them on as clients in the first place – required them to apply to a board at the PCT for funding, and then wait for that board to convene and make decisions and allocate money. From April, the clinic will simply have a budget, and it will allocate that itself. So I’m to be referred to a psychiatrist in April for a “second opinion” on my female nature and transition, which is a requirement for surgery. As soon as he gets this, the doc will refer me to the surgeon for a consultation, and as soon as that’s happened, I’ll be on the surgery waiting list.

I had been under the impression I’d be very lucky if I saw surgery before next year, but now I’m told it could happen as soon as September.

I am deeply happy to be told this, and for the affirmation that went along with it. Of course, I’m not counting my chickens, anything could happen. But it’s funny how being told this, and also having my oestradiol dose upped, has made me settle more easily into myself once again. And a consequence of this is that I’m getting more strangers gendering me correctly, which still surprises and quietly delights me.

A curious thing (though not entirely unexpected): I’ve told my friends that this might be happening sooner rather than later, and I’ve noticed them mostly taking me more seriously as a result. The power of the Clinical Voice From Above. It has, however, clearly in a couple of cases unsettled friends all over again, as they’d sort of had it in their minds “Oh well, that’s not happening for a while yet…” and were not entirely dealing with me and where I’m headed. So lots of interesting conversations lately!

Meanwhile, in the world of me and PTSD and EMDR (and other 4-letter acronyms…) I’ve now had 4 sessions of EMDR, and I can definitely feel myself (and others have noticed me) changing. I am more bold, less of a “victim”, and am starting to be able to contemplate one day being fit for work again in the future. I’m just beginning a distance-learning course to get properly qualified as a proof-reader, something I’ve been doing untrained for over 20 years (I seem to have a natural talent for spotting wonky patterns of spelling, punctuation, or sense) but getting this qualification will mean I’m much more employable at this. I also have some currently still nebulous possibility of working on a team with other Buddhist women near here, helping them to run a therapy centre they want to put together. It’s very affirming to be invited to be part of a women’s collective, cultivating an ethical team-based livelihood. And would mean I wasn’t just sat on my own with my page-proofs all the time!

*****

I suppose I’m saying all this to say: despite the insane flume ride that the last 2 years have been, I feel more and more as though I’m getting at last to grow into my female body, as my female body grows on me. Two and a half years ago, I was (I still can’t think of another way to describe this) visited by a goddess with peacock feathers in her hair, who helped me to wake up and step out into my woman nature. Here I am, pretty damn awake and out, and the world is bearing more witness. I’m more grateful than I can say.

Waterdrops___Peacock_Feather_3_by_Purpl3S0ul[the top picture shows oestrogen earrings, which look fun but uncomfortable (just like oestrogen, then) – and the peacock feather is by Deviant Artist Purpl3S0ul.

I have this funny habit, for a proof-reader, of posting my blog-things and then reading them through properly and correcting errors. In my defence, it’s very hard to proof-read your own writing…]

An out-and-out scoundrel

bizarre_forest_doorI wrote this in response to a call for contributions from Butch Wonders‘ blog. You’ll know some of this already, if you’ve been reading my blog-thing, but it feels like a good update for a new year.

*****

This is The One About Identity Interaction, I think…

So let’s see: I’m a singing, drumming, Buddhist trans woman from England, I’m 50, and I’ve now come out 8 times. Seriously. (And that number went up from 4 during the writing of this. Seriously. Self-revelation is fun.)

1) in my 20’s, as a “gay man” – in fact, I wasn’t gay (I was bi, but scared not to be part of The Gang, and it seemed simpler at the time – plus it was an excuse not to be stereotypically masculine); nor was I a man, but that took another 25 years to sort out.

2) in my 30’s, as a “bi man” – eh, it was a start. I blame/praise Almodóvar’s Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down for making me admit to myself – and others – that I liked girls too.

3) in my 40’s, as a trans woman. Okay, late 40’s, this was 2 years ago. I’d known consciously since I was 23, but it went way back further. Why did it take so long to surface? Because I was being abused at home, and I was trying to keep my girlself in a protective coma. Why did it take me so long to come out and get on with it? Because I was abused at home (and then bullied and beaten up later in life for being indefinably “different”) and needed to heal up somewhat first. Oh, and also because I was ordained into a Buddhist order that turned out to be pretty transphobic (they’ve matured since then). Oh, and because…

4) a year ago, as a trans tomboy. See, it took me a while (once I’d admitted that my gender was incongruent with my body) to feel like I was a “real trans woman”. Why? Because the Revised Standard Version of the Transgirl Bible says some variation on “Yea verily, for even before I was potty trained, I knew I was a girl, I wanted to play with dolls and dress like a princess…” and so on.

There were a lot of expectations placed on me by the local Transmatriarchy – and you’d be amazed just how binary-obsessed and homophobic and conservative many trans women can be. So I looked back, and couldn’t see my girlhood through those spectacles. It took me some time to realise that yes, I had indeed always been a woman. It was just that the women I’d always wanted to be like were not girly princesses, they were what I like to think of as The Trouser-Wearing Adventuresses. My first ever crush, at 6, was on Amelia Earhart (true story).

The world in general expects me to want to be Olympia Dukakis, when I want to be Shane McCutcheon! Basically, I’d always been a closet dyke (I leave it to you to decide whether a dyke is by definition strictly gay – to me, it’s not just an orientation thing, it’s something broader about sense of self – dykes just are the people I feel most akin to, and they seem happy to feel the same about me). I’d spent decades confused by how often I’d fall for women who turned out to be dykes. Well, duh. And yet…

5) sometime last year, as a polysexual tomboy. (Fucking labels, how do they work?) I suddenly got fed up with the label “bisexual”, because even though there’s a growing movement to have it mean something less binary than “likes both men and women”, it still pretty much means that to most people. And as I came to terms with my not-so-binary nature, I noticed with some delight that I’m attracted to certain people, and at the time of attraction, I don’t necessarily always know what gender they identify/present as (and if I’m attracted, I don’t actually care). Hence polysexual. I don’t like “pansexual” because people seem to assume that means “oh, you just fancy everybody.” Like everyone else, I have my preferences. And tomboy is handy shorthand for “I’m female but not feminine, okay? …and pretty queer.” And, so…

6) sometime later last year, as an out-loud non-binary trans woman. Somewhere in the probability field that I think gender is, I am what I call Womandrogyne. Essentially, I’m currently a very genderqueer woman with incongruent anatomy. By the end of this year, after surgery I’ll have as congruent anatomy as I can reasonably expect to have. But I’ll still be a genderqueer woman, who will even, at times, quite possibly pack (as in: Yes, I may be just pleased to see you, but there’s also a “gun” in my “pocket”). And being this, and being queer as well as genderqueer, doesn’t make me any less of a valid woman – there are billions of kinds of woman, I’m this kind. And then…

7) 2 months ago, as actually kind of asexual. This is a big deal for me. As a consequence of abuse, I’d been left thinking I was obliged to be sexual in order to get love. Then more recently, I decided that I was obliged to be non-sexual, since every time I was sexual with someone, we both got strafed by my past-shrapnel. Then I noticed neither of these were choices – so I chose instead to think of myself as Closed For Repairs until I’d finished transitioning and sorted out some of my history (I’m also living with PTSD, at least for the moment).

And in the space that created, I came to understand that I don’t like sex. I love everything that can go with it – intimacy, affection, touch, sensuality, passion, humour and so on. But actual sex leaves me scared and messed up, if that doesn’t kick in actually during the sex. So it’s kind of impossible to tell whether I ever might like sex – I have no way of knowing what causes what, but I’m now very comfortable thinking of myself as asexual, but polysensual instead. When I’m attracted to people, I may not want sex, but I really, really want to touch and be touched by them. Still figuring out the ramifications of this. And of course…

8) last but not least, as a butch trans woman. The thing is, I’d always associated butchness with a sort of stereotypical machismo that was definitely not me (you can thank the media for that “model”). But since exploring further, and amongst other things coming across the Butch Wonders blog (and a conference of very, very diverse Butch Trans Women on youtube), I’ve come to realise that butch means something way bigger than that, for many of the people who identify that way.

I’m becoming more inclined to think of myself as butch as well as a tomboy. What’s the difference? Damned if I know. But the more (loosely-speaking) masculine aspect of me is emerging, the more I transition and become myself. The more I feminise physically, the more I like dressing in jeans and boots, button-down shirts and waistcoats and skinny ties (waistcoats and skinny ties rule). The more assertive I am. That’s in no way meant to be a Definition Of Butch, but it’s a stab at saying why I’m out as butch these days. It somehow fits. Thanks for listening. I wonder what I’ll come out as next.

Amelia-Earhart-Plane

[images: forest-door by MirandaRose, and Amelia Earhart, from Popperfoto/Reuters]