For almost a week now, I've been arguing with our IT service desk about how my company email address needs to change.
They want to add my new name as an alias which isn't what I need. They also just want to change the name that is displayed to people. Both of those changes would leave my old, dead name visible for anyone to see. I don't want that.
I want my dead name to disappear. That isn't unreasonable. I don't want someone to stumble across my dead name a couple of years from now.
They don't get it. Someone has just changed my displayed name and if anyone clicks on it they can still see my dead name. I have explained to them FOUR times now that this is incorrect. They have tried to close the request on me four times and I keep reopening it because they still haven't got it right.
The latest insult is that I could see the notes that someone had written against the request. "User is not happy. She wants her name to be changed everywhere."
I'm gonna cry before the week is over.
I had a chat today, with my manager, and we're drawing up a plan of who to tell, how to tell them and when to tell them.
It's scarily daunting. It's not only the people I work with, such as my immediate team; it's the people I interact with or the people I see every day. Such as the woman in the restaurant who makes my hazelnut latte each morning, or the guy who delivers parcels to our desks, or the security guards at reception, or the cleaners. Those people don't know me but they see me and they talk to me and they think they know me - and they will be surprised (shocked?) by the upcoming name change. So I can't avoid telling them; not really.
The guy I sit next to... we're on a first name basis and I know he likes cycling and he knows I like cycling and we've had chats about the Tour de France and the Vuelta and the Giro... but that's about it. He knows nothing else about me. But I still have to tell him.
Everyone at work will know. And I mean everyone. As soon as my email address changes... well, everything changes. People I don't actually know will see my dead name disappear from the directory and a new name appear. And therefore I have to be prepared to receive enquiries and questions from a bunch of people who thought they knew me and a bunch of complete strangers too. And I'm talking about a company that has 100,000 employees.
Bring it on!!!
So, I told my dad and my brother that I am going to transition.
There was the expected silence, and then I waffled a little more to fill in the silence, not entirely sure what I was saying but I knew I was rambling. And then I asked if they had anything to say.
My dad said, "It's your life and I wouldn't dream of trying to tell you how to live it. Do whatever makes you happy."
My brother said nothing, but I did notice he suddenly found the rugby on the television rather fascinating. So I said, "You're very quiet. What are you thinking?"
And he turned to me and had a go at my husband, blaming him. That was totally unexpected and, I think, a little unfair. Admittedly, while I was considering moving out - thinking about splitting from my husband - I did talk to my brother about it. I've moaned about things my husband has said and done in the past, and so it's more than likely my fault that my brother now has a lower opinion of my husband than I'd like. But my brother's words were pretty venomous. Not what I was expecting at all. He blew up, spouted a load of hurtful stuff and stormed out of the room.
I decided not to go after him, having realised that it was probably better to give him some space. My dad said, "Give it time; he'll be alright." Then he told me it's going to take a while for him (my dad) to get used to it, too. He said he wanted to apologise up front in case he still calls me by my old name occasionally, because it's going to be a hard habit to break.
My brother returned and repeated what he'd said previously and then he left the house. My dad and I stared at each other for a while and then we started talking. Initially about my plans to transition and then onto other things. My dad talked about my childhood and how he'd noticed plenty of times that I was never really a girl and how it all kind of makes sense really although he will never fully understand it. He said that all he ever wanted for his kids was for them to be happy and then he talked about his own childhood; about how his parents fought all the time but that they loved each other madly and they loved their children. We did a lot of reminiscing and then he reiterated that he wants me to be happy, before I decided it was time to leave.
I haven't seen my brother since that day. I don't really know how long to leave it before I approach him. But I did receive a message from him where he apologised for the words he'd used. I replied to say it was fine (which it wasn't really but that wouldn't have helped) and that I thought he should concentrate on himself and his family and forget about me for a while. He replied to say it was just a lot to take in. And I suppose that's exactly it. It is a lot to take in. It's a lot to process. I've had forty years to come to terms with what I am and what I was going to do about it. It's only in the last three years, give or take, that I've actually thought that I could do something about it.
People around me have known, to varying degrees, and for varying lengths of time, what I am. But now that I'm actually doing something about it, from their point of view I suppose it's a major shock, and they're facing a new reality that they never expected. It's just that, from my point of view, that happened the wrong way around. I expected my brother to be the one who said, "Fine; go for it." I expected my father to not understand and to be upset and to reject what I said. But to have my father say it's fine and my brother to storm away, well, that was unexpected.
So, I spent a fair amount of time on the web yesterday, researching the various ways I can change my name. While there are some very simple ways to do it, there seems to be one best way that is accepted as 'official' with regards to obtaining a passport and driving licence in the new name, so I reckon I'll have to go with that.
And then it got me thinking about names. For years, I thought I would be going for James as my new name. It just seemed like "me". I can't explain it any other way. Then I liked Jamie for a while too - and with Scottish blood in my family line, James gets converted to Jamie quite often in Scotland, so if I went for James as my official name, I could still let people call me Jamie, I suppose, if that was what I wanted.
For the purposes of registering on this website, I called myself Jay. And I realised I like that name lots too. Last night I came to the conclusion I was still undecided on what I'll end up choosing, although all my favourites begin with J. My birth name begins with J so maybe it's for that reason that I'm seemingly sticking with something beginning with J. My signature could remain the same, if I have a first name beginning with J. My last name isn't going to change any time soon, it would appear, now that my husband is backing me in my desire to transition. But I'm pretty sure that's not the reason I initially decided on James, all those years ago. Changing a signature isn't a big thing. Changing a name is. Choosing something that will work for the rest of my life is a big deal.
But there are millions of names out there to choose from, so how does one choose the perfect new name?
I work for a company that has over 100k employees. There is only one other person, in the whole of the company, who has the same last name as me. Given the size of the population, that's a little surprising. Guess what his first name is? It's Jay. I only remembered that fact last night while lay in bed, staring at the ceiling, unable to sleep.
But today, I think I'm a James, after all. And I think I always have been.
I’m not gay. Someone once asked me if I was, having spied the rainbow-coloured bangle that I kept hidden under the sleeve of my shirt. I laughed nervously, shoved the bangle back up my arm and replied, “If only it was so simple.” That’s not to say that being gay is simple. It’s just that, sometimes I think that being gay would be simpler for me. I am attracted to women and men. I am attracted to people. I fall in love with people. I used to think of myself as pansexual, until I read a definition of that term which made me wonder if that was what I really was. I don’t like men and women equally. I prefer men to women - physically speaking. I’m attracted to both, but I’m more attracted to men. Emotionally speaking, I’m attracted to all areas of the gender spectrum. I can fall in love with men and women, and people who land somewhere in between. How do I know this? Because I have.
The physical attraction to the gender spectrum definitely leans towards the male form. But that hasn’t always been the case with me. When I was younger, much younger, I was almost exclusively physically attracted to the female form. Or, at least, I told myself that. Over the years, that has changed. Today, far more often than not, it’s the male form that catches my eye. So what does that mean for my sexuality? It’s often easier to refer to myself as bisexual even though I don’t believe that term really applies to me. People seem to “get” bisexuality a lot easier than other terms such as panromantic or pansexual or poly-something-or-other, or all the other terms that people use to try to define themselves and each other. Although, a lot of people don’t “get” bisexuality either.
So when it comes down to it, I’d rather not label my sexuality. But what I do now label is my gender identity. I am transgender. And I always have been, even if I denied it to others and to myself. I’m not gender-fluid. I’m not non-binary. I know what I am; what I have always been, even though for too many years I pretended it wasn’t the case. My body is female but the rest is not. And it’s not the case that sometimes I feel female and sometimes I feel male. It’s not the case that sometimes I feel like I don’t fit into either sex. I know what sex I’d rather be. What sex I should have been. I have never felt female. But I was given a female body.
Tomorrow, I'm talking to my team. They know I'm transgender but they don't yet know I'm transitioning. We all work in different locations, so we're a virtual team. I haven't seen two of them since February, one of them since some time last year, and my manager since maybe June.
A couple of weeks ago, I hinted, none-too-subtly, to my manager that it might be a good idea if we could all arrange to meet, in the same location (probably London), before the end of this year. I suggested we could make a thing of it, planning our work for 2016, going out for a meal and a drink in the evening, and while we were all there together, I could tell the whole team, face to face, about my plans. Unfortunately, the getting-together in the same location part hasn't worked out. So tomorrow, I'll be in Manchester while the rest of the team will be in London and Edinburgh when I tell them, via telephone, what my plans are.
Plans that are already well under way.
I may or may not have already mentioned that I was assigned a 'specialist' HR case worker by the company I work for. It's his job to help me with stuff like getting my name changed on all the HR and IT systems. It's his job to help with guidance and 'awareness training' for those who need it - my colleagues, I mean, not me - I'm fully 'aware'. He is supposed to be able to help me with the planning of communications, whether it's via emails or face to face meetings or briefings. He's supposed to explain to people the company policy regarding transitioning in the workplace, diversity policies, reiterate what's acceptable and what's not acceptable with regards to how they treat me. He's supposed to be available to explain to people and plan the practicalities of such things as using toilet/washroom facilities. He's supposed to be assisting me, basically.
So far, he's been useless.
I'm not sure if it's only my perception, but I get the impression he's uncomfortable talking to me. Or uncomfortable talking about the subject. I have to keep chasing him for information.
I fired off an email to him before I left the office today, asking him to update me on progress with the changes to HR systems. If I don't have a reply waiting for me when I get back into the office tomorrow, I'm going to request that someone else is assigned to me. It's stressful enough without having to wonder what he's up to and what progress he's making.
My manager has been great. He even said to me yesterday, "I want to make sure you understand I'm there for you; 100% with you in this. I think what you're doing is really brave and I know the whole team will support you. And I completely support you. And I'm not just saying that because I'm your manager and it's supposed to be my job to support you."
So, tomorrow, I tell the team. And then I want to tell a few other people around the office; people I've had some kind of working relationship with over the years; people who will be sharing the toilets/washrooms with me soon, even though they don't yet know it.
And then I'll have to tell the security guards, because if I don't, they'll wonder what's going on when a new ID badge appears with a new name on it and I go to the reception area to collect it. They're a generally nice bunch of guys that I've had a laugh with over they years, but they don't know about me. And they're all incredibly big and masculine, as security guards tend to be, so I'm not sure how they're going to take it. But I shouldn't really care about that, I know. It's not really their concern what I do with my life, as long as I flash my badge and follow the procedures and do the job I'm employed to do.
And that sums it up, really, doesn't it? These are a bunch of people that I have become acquainted with over the many years I've worked for that company. They don't know me, really, and I don't know them. They're not my friends. We don't hang out after work. We don't socialise. I know all of them enough to say hello to them and to ask whether they had a good weekend. And they do the same to me. And as long as I continue to do the job to the best of my ability, the job I get paid to do, then whatever else is going on in my life is not their business.
That's what I keep telling myself. So, why is it that I find myself rehearsing conversations with all of them in my head, night after night, keeping myself awake?
It can't last forever, surely?
Two days ago, I composed an email to be sent out to selected people at work. I was going to send it out myself but then my mentor (I call her that, because she's been helping me a lot) suggested it might be better if the email was sent by my manager, with a few words from him to show he's supporting me. So I sent my composed email to him along with a list of people that I wanted him to send it to, and he wrote a very nice intro to it and sent it for me.
Almost immediately, I received three replies from senior managers, saying stuff like, "Well done" and "I'm proud of you" and "I'm here if you need anything".
Today, I arrived at my desk and a guy came over and said, "Thanks for sending me that email. Thanks for including me on the list because I could tell you chose that list of recipients carefully. So I thought maybe that means you see me as a friend." One of the reasons I'd sent it to him was because I can tell that he's pretty influential at work. He's not a senior manager but he's well respected. And when my mother died, he was the only person to say "I'm sorry" and offer me a hug. So I suppose I see him as someone I respect and I kind of hoped he might be on my side when he found out what I'm doing.
And he confirmed that he is on my side. He said, "If you need anything, if anyone gives you any sh*t, if you want to talk to someone, I'm here."
So I said, "There is one thing..." And I explained that, in January, when I will be full-time male after the HR systems and the IT systems have been changed, and my new name is there for all to see, I fully intend to use the male toilets from day one. He said, "And so you should!" But I explained that, because I haven't ventured in them yet, I don't know the layout and I want to know where the stalls are and where the urinals are so that, when the time comes, I can just walk in and go where I need to go, without looking like I'm lost. And without feeling like an intruder.
So he took me inside and showed me around
He said that when I go full-time in January, if I feel I need some backup, especially at the beginning, he'll go to the toilets with me. isn't that nice?
So far, everyone who knows (and it's not a very long list yet) has been incredibly supportive.
At work, anyway.
The only fly in my ointment is my brother. He's still having a hard time with this. He's the only one who has had anything negative to say. I hope that changes soon.
It's raining - again.
It's the middle of summer here... "Summer" is a relative term. It means it isn't freezing cold but it doesn't mean we necessarily see the sun. I haven't seen any blue sky for around a week.
But I received a reply from the online doc who told me that they "don't have any reservations about proceeding".
It seems I might have passed their assessment process - or at least, I passed that part and I'm moving on to the next part of the process, whatever that is. So I didn't blow it completely, with my questionnaire responses and with the content of the conversation I had with the 'assessment counsellor'. I think that means I might be allowed to think that the doc is going to write me a prescription at some point.
In my dreams, I've always been male. I don't often remember my dreams - not unless I'm woken up in the middle of one - but when I do remember them, my image of myself is how it should be. I remember telling a friend about that when I was a kid and they laughed at me and thought it was weird that someone with a girl's body saw themselves as a boy when they were asleep. Apparently, that wasn't 'normal'. Most people didn't dream like that, it seemed. When I got laughed at, I decided to keep that little nugget of information to myself for many years.
This morning, I was woken from a dream when our dog barked. At the point in the dream where I left it, I was looking in the mirror. And I had a very nice beard.
Too eager? Most definitely.
I don't like the term 'passing' because it sounds to me like I'm trying to fool people. I'm not 'passing' as male because as far as I'm concerned, I am male. These aren't 'tips for passing' as such, because it's just how I am and what I do, and my way of doing things won't work for, or resonate with, every trans male out there. I think we each need to find our own way of feeling comfortable with what we are and how we present that to the world. There is no right or wrong, and what feels natural for me won't necessarily feel good for another trans man. But here are my thoughts anyway.
My husband has told me, more than once, that I have always 'walked like a man' - whatever that means - so I thought I'd try to describe what that is for me. I have never attempted to walk in a consciously masculine or feminine fashion. I have to admit. I just walk. When I asked my husband to describe my walk to me, he said I take longer strides than the average cis woman, and I don't sway my hips. He also said I walk purposefully, as if I know where I'm going and want to get there. Since I ditched my last piece of 'female' clothing last year, he said he's noticed that I pull my shoulders back more and that sometimes I 'strut' when I walk. I'm not entirely sure what that means.
I do think I'm more comfortable in myself, now that everyone knows who I am, and now that I don't have to dress in any female clothing anymore for appearances' sake, so maybe that extra comfort has made me a little more confident.
I've never worn high heels. I've always been more comfortable in flat shoes and boots. Maybe that has influenced my walk.
My hair is short. I cut it myself. I trim the back and sides with an electric hair trimmer and I cut the top with scissors. I admit that I haven't yet found the confidence to walk into a barbers' and ask them to cut it for me. But I hardly ever went to visit a 'female' hairdresser, even before I came out. I've always cut my own hair.
I don't wear makeup and I didn't like to wear makeup even before I was out. Lipstick, on the odd occasions I wore it in the past (such as on my wedding day), never lasted more than ten minutes before I wiped it off - it always made my lips feel funny. I was never very good at putting on makeup when I had to and I always felt wrong in it, so it was something I avoided.
I've always had a thing for aftershave rather than perfume (I think it smells nicer, generally) and I've bought 'male' deodorant for years because I preferred the scent. There's a thing I did discover, many years ago, about the difference between 'male' and 'female' deodorant. When I was supposed to be female, I shaved my armpits, as 'women' are encouraged to do in our society. If I had 'female' deodorant and used it after shaving, it stung horrendously - and women were supposed to buy special 'no sting' deodorant (which was more expensive) if they wanted to avoid that particular discomfort, not just use any old female deodorant. But here's the thing - 'male' deodorant doesn't sting after you've shaved your armpits. Whatever they put in 'female' deodorant that they don't put in 'male' deodorant is the culprit. But male deodorant smells nicer anyway so I've used that for years. And I stopped shaving my armpits a long time ago.
My clothes are mostly casual. I have a couple of suits, dress shirts, ties and the like, but they don't come out often. Mostly I'm in jeans with button flies (I like button flies far more than zips) or chinos. I will wear a t-shirt over my binder and a long sleeved shirt over that. Sometimes I will button up the shirt but usually I like to leave it unbuttoned. I rarely tuck in my shirts. I find that if I tuck in a shirt, it's a little more obvious that my hips are larger than my waist. I haven't been taking the T long enough for it to have had a noticeable effect on the shape of my body (although it is happening, slowly - my waist is thicker and my thighs are thinner than before I started the hormone). When I do need to tuck in a shirt, I wear something over it, such as a jacket or waistcoat. My jeans and trousers sit on my hips, not my waist.
Obviously, I wear a binder. Not only is it there to change my shape, it makes me feel more comfortable and confident. I've been wearing binders for years but only started wearing them seven days a week last year. It's probably more psychological than physical, but I feel more 'me' since I started wearing them full-time. I've bought binders from three different manufacturers but I prefer one of them over the others. It's easy to get them, too, because they're available online from a stockist in this country. I wear a packer, too, and they're available from the same stockist. That's also a psychological thing, I've found. I feel better when it's there. I feel bereft when it's not. When I bought my first packer, I soon realised that the one I'd bought was too big. I switched to a smaller size soon after and I tend to re-order the same 'make and model' when I need to.
I have, in the past, spent a lot of money on STP devices - some very expensive ones have turned out to be a complete waste of money - but I didn't know that until I'd tried them. These days, I make my own. I know what works for me, now, but it did take a little experimentation.
I don't think I'm 'fooling' anyone with how I look and behave and dress - but I do now feel more at ease with myself. Whether other people think I'm female, or male, or neither, doesn't matter to me as much as how it makes me feel to be presenting myself as me.
And I'm not trying to be a 'typical male' - because there is no such thing.
I haven’t had very much sex in my life. Not compared to others. I haven’t had many partners. I don’t like having sex.
I don’t like my body. In fact, I hate my body and everything it stands for. For me, it’s just wrong. I don’t like to be photographed. I don’t like to look at photos if I'm in them. I don’t like to see myself in the mirror. I don’t like people looking at me. I don’t like people to see my body and I don’t like people to touch my body.
My body is a constant reminder of the fact that I'm female. There have been many times when the sensation of someone touching me has made me feel physically sick. There have been times when I have pushed my husband’s hands away, as he will confirm. And I know how that must have seemed to him. He would have taken that as a rejection; an invalidation of his prowess, his masculinity, his love. And I hate myself for that. It was never my intention to treat him so badly. I loved him. I thought I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him. And part of that life would include sex and I thought I could do it, if I loved him enough.
But I've failed. He will confirm that we haven’t had anywhere near the amount of sex that a normal, happily married couple should have. I know that. I'm well aware of it. It’s just another thing to feel guilty about. But I still can’t bring myself to do it, even if it would ease the guilt a little. It isn't his fault. It’s mine. He’s a good lover. He’s attentive and caring. I'm the one who is useless in bed.
My body has been fat and it has been thin. At one point I was a UK woman’s size eighteen and I didn't care. Because it meant that people wouldn't look at me. Or, if they did look at me, they would probably look with disgust. And I deserved that. Because my body is disgusting. Around a year ago, people started to tell me I was too thin. I know that I had lost a lot of weight but I wasn't concerned and I didn't care because it didn't make my body any nicer. Not to me, anyway. But when they told me I was too thin, I weighed myself and found that I was less than nine and a half stone. What’s that in American terms? 130 lb maybe. I hadn't been that light since I was twelve or thirteen. So I started to eat more to put some weight back on. Not to make myself feel better, but to shut people up. Because, if they were pointing out that I was thin, then they were looking at my body. They were noticing me. I don’t like to be noticed.
Not wishing to be noticed has caused problems at work. In a company where you’re supposed to sell yourself to get ahead, to get promotions, to receive praise and rewards, I have avoided it. I know my pay packet has suffered because of it. I know there are people who work there, who have been there for much less time than I have, who earn plenty more than I do. But that’s because they seek out the opportunities to get themselves noticed. They are welcome to the additional money. They have sold themselves to earn it.
My manager is frustrated by my lack of enthusiasm to try to progress and “put myself out there” to be noticed. But he doesn't understand how much I hate standing in front of a room full of people and speaking or presenting on a topic. He doesn't understand why I don’t want to do it. He thinks I'm shy or nervous about public speaking, but that’s not it at all. Years and years of hiding myself away so that people don’t see the things I don’t want them to see, that’s the reason. I've taught myself to stay in the shadows and it’s a hard habit to unlearn.
I know what they see and what they perceive. They see a woman and they treat me accordingly. I don’t want to be treated like that, but at the same time, years of hiding and denying (even to myself at times) what I am means I'm still too scared to fully come out and tell people about me. So, what do I do? I get annoyed when I perceive that I'm being treated as a woman. Which is ridiculous, I know, because why would they act any differently when they don’t know? I have never really allowed anyone to know the real me. That’s what it boils down to. And that is nobody’s fault but mine.
So how, after all these years of pretending, denying, faking, do I finally come clean? I don’t know. My main fear, now, is that people just won’t believe me. Why should they? I've done a pretty good job over the years of covering all of it up. It started with my mother refusing to discuss it. She denied it all those years ago, and that, combined with Paula’s rejection, made me think it was safer to keep all of it to myself.
So I suppressed it all for a while. Only when I went to university did I allow a little of the real me to show. I even saw a doctor, while I was there, and tried to explain it all. And I was surprised to find they were sympathetic. I began to be more male. I dressed accordingly; I behaved more like I really wanted to behave. But people started asking questions and I still wasn't comfortable with the idea of telling them what I was and it stressed me out. I failed my exams. I retook them and failed them again. I failed at university. And at the time, I blamed it on the fact that I was trying to be more “me”.
I had to go back home to the parents, because I hadn't gained the qualifications I needed and I had no job prospects. And I had to put away the men’s clothes. I gave them away to charity shops. I was miserable. I managed to secure poor jobs that didn't pay very well and I had no prospects. I met other people with poor jobs and no prospects and problems of their own. I fell in with that crowd. They were a bunch of people who saw themselves as misfits, and I was definitely one of those. I had always been a misfit so finally I fitted in somewhere. I used to drink with them. I used to take drugs with them. A pattern of behaviour that I can see now was very destructive and didn't help anything at all. But, if nothing else, it gave me something more to be ashamed of.
Shame and guilt. Fairly constant companions, really. Shame at what I was. Guilt at the way I have treated people over the years, because of what I was, or because I was so busy denying what I was.
My temper is terrible. I explode when I'm angry. I can get annoyed at the most insignificant and trivial things. Meaningless things. I get offended at things that I perceive as a slight, even when it’s pretty obvious that they were never intended as a slight. I'm the only one who would ever have seen them that way and maybe it’s because I was looking for them. Looking for them to prove what I already know; that I'm not a nice person and that I'm unworthy of anything other than slights. I read a book, a while back, where the author suggested it’s all about validation, or lack of validation. Not receiving the validation that a person needs causes anger; regular invalidation turns that anger to a deep seated rage. I realise that I need validation of what I am but I don’t receive it. Well, I wouldn't receive it, if nobody knows what they’re supposed to be validating; I understand that now.
So I've caused this mess. I have failed to progress at work. I have failed in my marriage. I have failed at multiple relationships - with family and friends. I have always failed to hold onto friends. That’s probably because I'm not a very nice person, deep down. I have twisted myself into this bitter, resentful, quick-tempered individual who locks away feelings until they find the wrong kind of outlet. I have lied, I have covered up, I have faked and I have denied. How can people like me if they don’t even know me? How can I expect people to love me if they have never known the real me? I'm essentially unlovable.
My first relationship was with a girl. At the time, I told myself that it was alright to be with a girl; in fact, I was supposed to be with a girl, because inside I wasn't a girl. I never told her that, though.
During my teenage years, I convinced myself it would be okay if everyone thought I was a lesbian. It was preferable to the truth. I looked female and, if I was with a female, I could play the more masculine role in the relationship. And I did. It was only years later that I realised that I had been using women in that fashion. Guilty secret.
My first relationship with a man happened when I was nineteen and at university. I never told him I had been with women. He had long blond hair and he had a slim build. He was quite feminine-looking, although I didn't think, at the time, that had an influence on me. But maybe it did.
I was also attracted to a woman named Pippa at university. She was the girlfriend of one of Mike’s friends. A year into the relationship with Mike, I discovered they had been secretly seeing each other. I split with Mike. Pippa found out that I knew and she ended her relationships with both men. And then we got together. But it didn't last long. Eventually I returned to Mike, after seeing a few people in between. I told some of those people that I was bisexual and invariably that caused problems. Issues that made me regret disclosing that aspect of me, too. I was still with Mike when I met my husband.
Looking back, I can see that none of my relationships were especially healthy. I was never very good at them. And I can blame all kinds of things for that but I know it’s me. My opinion of my own body gets in the way. I can playact at things for a while and then it gets too much to bear and I stop pretending. That means the other person in the relationship stops getting the things they need from me. And for a lot of people that’s a rejection and invalidation.
It’s funny that I know I need my own validation but I'm very good at dishing out invalidation to others. That’s wrong and I understand that now. And I also know now that I could never have received the validation I needed because my persona is based on lies and deception, because I've never really been straight with anyone.
Sometimes I wonder whether my attraction to women is real. Sometimes I wonder if I've constructed it to give myself opportunities to act out my male-role fantasies. Sometimes I wonder, because I've always been attracted to the male form even though I threw myself into relationships with women first.
And sometimes I think about something else that scares me. If I think about the possibility (an extremely remote one, I know) of undergoing gender reassignment surgery, and if I ever received the male body that I always wanted, I would still be attracted to men, first and foremost. And what gay man would ever want me, when there’s a whole bunch of attractive, real gay men out there that they could have instead? I would still be a freak. I'm always going to be a freak, no matter what my body looks like.
I was awake before 3 am, having had one of the most disturbing dreams I've had for some time. I didn't get back to sleep; instead I got up and browsed the internet then I read for a while. And now I'm back on the internet.
Yesterday was a good day for some reasons and a bad day for other reasons.
Good: I got another appointment with the doctor for the end of this week. I got assigned a specialist trans* case worker by our HR department. I bought a train ticket and reserved a room in a posh hotel for a trip to London next week.
Bad: I got stuck at work longer than I'd hoped for and this meant I hit the traffic when I finally finished. I then got stuck in more traffic heading into the city and realised I wasn't going to make it in time for my monthly FtM group meeting in the city centre so I had to abandon thoughts of attending, turn around and go home, which made me angry. I'd been looking forward to that session for three weeks.
This morning I feel weird. I feel full of doubts. I'm questioning everything I've done recently. I'm questioning everything I've set in motion. The dream has caused these feelings, I know. I dreamt of my mother. She said to me, in the dream, "You're so self-absorbed. This is the most selfish act of your life. You're going to ruin everyone's lives. Everyone around you is going to suffer because of what you're doing. You're going to kill your father. He won't be able to cope."
I know what she was referring to, even if she didn't actually say it in the dream. She could only have been talking about one thing. And of course I know it was only my own subconscious mind. But now I'm thinking, "Am I going to kill my father? Am I doing the wrong thing?"
Well, I'd better log off and get ready for work.
My husband has really changed his opinions and outlook since that chat we had back in October. I can't quite get my head around how supportive he's being. And even though he'll probably never read this, I want to thank him. He's being wonderful.
The other night, while I was at my FtM meeting, he went to a pub to watch the football, but they wouldn't let him in because the place was crowded already. So he wandered back to Canal Street. Canal Street is the heart of the 'Gay Village' here in Manchester. In the past, my husband wouldn't have gone there altogether voluntarily, by which I mean it wouldn't have been his suggestion to go there. But on Monday, I took him there before my meeting and took him into one of my favourite bars. After the bouncers wouldn't allow him in the pub of his choice, he went back to Canal Street and visited a couple of bars, then went back into Taurus (the bar I'd taken him to).
Inside, one of the barmen recognised him from earlier and said, "Hey, weren't you here before, with your wife?" My husband replied, "No, I was here with my husband."
He told me all this after I left my meeting and met up with him. He said they'd had a great chat and the barman had welcomed him as if he'd been a regular at the place.
We visited another place before we headed home - Churchills. My husband had never been in there before, either. It's the kind of place he probably wouldn't have dreamed of setting foot inside, only a few months ago. Saturday nights in Churchills are a riot of diversity and I love them but it's not really my husband's thing. Or, it wasn't. Before we left, he suggested I should take him back on a Saturday night.
When we got home that night, he said he'd really enjoyed himself in the bars on Canal Street and that we should go more often. I've been going there for years but not with him. But it seems that's going to change.
Here in the UK, the Women & Equalities Select Committee (a government thing) has been conducting an inquiry into trans* issues for around six months. Last week, they published their much-anticipated report on their findings and their recommendations. Rumours had already abounded regarding the recommendations their report was likely to make, and it turns out most of the rumours were true.
So, maybe life will get a little easier for trans* people over here, if any of those recommendations are taken forward by the government. I certainly hope so.
I spent a couple of hours yesterday, reading through the report from start to finish. It took a while because it was lengthy, but they seem to have covered most of the things I was expecting, such as how the National Health Service is failing us, and in fact, discriminating against us, how the Prison Service needs to be reformed, how education - in schools, colleges, universities, the NHS, the government departments - everywhere, basically - has to improve. How non-binary people are discriminated against in ways that are just too heartless for me to find the words.
Most of their recommendations are sensible, long-overdue, and not difficult to implement. Other countries have already implemented such simple changes as self-determination of gender identity, making the processes in England (and Wales to some extent) outdated and discriminatory.
Currently, as the process stands here, I will have to wait 17 months for my initial appointment at the Gender Identity Clinic that I've been referred to, rather than the required maximum waiting time for any NHS appointment of 18 weeks. Once I finally get to see someone at that GIC, I then have an assessment process that will take between three and six months, after which someone will decide whether I have 'gender dysphoria' and am in fact transgender, as I claim to be. They will decide that - not me - and their decision will determine whether I get any treatment. That means, time elapsed could be close to two years before someone tells me whether I'm a good candidate for testosterone treatment. Then, as I understand it, they will suggest to me that - if I am hoping for any kind of surgery - I should try living 'in role' so that I can prepare myself for how it will feel to be 'male' for the rest of my life.
I believe I know what it feels like to be male. That's the whole point! And I've been living as male for a f'kin long time already! I may have only 'officially' changed my name last November, but what's a name anyway? I could have chosen a gender neutral name if I'd wanted to. And, at the moment, while I'm already dressing in my male clothing, with my male haircut, and my male mannerisms and my male name, I wonder if I should have done that - chosen a gender neutral name. Because I know what people see when they look at me. Because I can still see it, too. I have a female face. I look like a drag king. Or maybe I look like a butch lesbian. Or perhaps, to some people, I look androgynous. I don't know. But what I do know is that I'm actually getting more anxious now, knowing that I am on a waiting list and that it's such a f'kin long wait. My 'dysphoria' (I hate that word!) has actually become worse as I think about how far away that appointment is. I spent a chunk of time yesterday looking online for what I know is illegal T. And looking for the so-called 'natural' alternatives to T. I need to do something. I can't wait two years.
Dammit! What started out as a fairly positive post ended up as a miserable one. I'm sorry. My original purpose when I started to write this was to say how pleased I was after reading the Inquiry report. How optimistic it had made me feel. How, I had started to think that, by the time I do get to see someone in the GIC, the laws may have changed, or the waiting lists may have shrunk. Or that the government and the medical profession might have actually stopped thinking of 'gender dysphoria' as a mental illness. I'm not mentally ill. I'm certainly not mentally unstable. My problem is that I have the wrong sex organs, that's all.
I logged on here a couple of hours ago to post something, because it's been a few days since I last visited this site. I've been busy at work this week and too lazy to log on in the evenings. And I started reading instead of writing. And then I got totally distracted by a Twitter notification *rolls eyes*
Last week, one of my all-time music heroes favourited one of my tweets and I was beside myself with excitement and glee (I know, I'm easily pleased!)
Tonight it happened again. Different all-time music hero, same effect *rolls eyes once more*
Is it just me? Or do other people do that? (Get excited, I mean, not roll their eyes...)
I wanted to tell someone. I wanted to tell anyone who would listen. "He favourited my tweet! HE favourited my tweet! He read my ****ing tweet!"
Anyway... I took part in that call at work today. The one where I talked to over 100 strangers about being transgender. I was nervous as hell last night (couldn't sleep), worried in case I was going to make a fool of myself. I was nervous as I waited for my turn to speak. And then when I opened my mouth I just couldn't shut up. I talked about some of the things I've already blogged about here - my mother, my brother, my husband, how they accepted me (or not) and how I've spent half my life hiding what I was and how I can't do that any more. I told everyone that I have to be me at work from now on; that I can't hide it any more. It's too tiring; it's too draining to lock it all away. I hinted that I'll probably be transitioning while I work there (and of course that's entirely dependent on whether I get the help I need from the medical profession - I have an appointment next Monday and my husband is coming with me).
After the call, I was flooded with emails from people who had heard me speak. All of them were using words like "inspirational", "brave", "role model" and I felt like a fraud while reading them. How could they possibly think those things when I'm guilty of denying all of this for so long, terrified of how people would react? I can't get my head around it. I was even asked to attend a meeting in December to talk about the subject again in front of a bunch of execs - C-level suits. I quickly declined that offer.
But the best thing to come out of it was an email from a guy I met in February. We attended a course together back then and he had told me how, after years of marriage (to a woman) he had finally admitted he was gay and they had amicably divorced and he had turned his life around. He heard me speaking on the call today and wrote to me to congratulate me. It really meant a lot to me to read his words. Back in February, I had been calling him brave and today he used that word on me. I accepted that word from him, because I admire him. It was him, and people like him, who had made me realise that I needed to do something with my own life and that it was always possible to turn your life around. It's never too late to do something that will help you reach for your dreams.
...Smashwords... because I just did...
I just went on there to check on my story downloads - and they have almost doubled since I last looked at the stats.
I've never uploaded a pic on here before so I hope it works. Knowing me, I've probably got it wrong.
But this is some of that positive reinforcement we could all use now and then. I took a leaf out of someone else's book on here because, well, why not!
It made me feel good, seeing those download stats. We all need to know we're loved, don't we?
I know what works for me. The best therapy for me is immersing myself in my music or my painting or my writing. So I just bought myself a new synthesizer. It was either that or download a shed load of new music. And I've spent quite enough money on music downloads lately.
I seem to have lost my muse when it comes to writing. The stories are in my head, but they aren't making it onto the virtual paper of my computer screen, for some reason.
It's annoying; having all these tales rattling around inside my brain but unable to get them out. I have this one story on my mind at the moment that is almost perfectly formed. I have the characters, the storyline, a lot of the dialogue and most of the action between the two main protagonists, but each time I sit down to write it, there's a block - and I sit, staring at the screen, thinking, "How do I start?" It's stupid. I know the whole story; I know how it starts, how they develop their relationship, how their tale ends. But can I get it out of my brain? Nope.
The last time I had a block like this, I worked out what I'd done wrong. On that particular story, I had backed myself into a corner, leaving me with a chapter I knew I had to write, but unable to get it out. So I went back and changed the previous two chapters, allowing me to then attack that next chapter differently. It worked. But now, if I can't even make a start on this new story, I can't get myself out of the corner. And these two characters are occupying my dreams as well as my waking mind, so I have to do something about them soon. Otherwise, I may have lost one of my therapies for a while.
Maybe that's why I'm rambling on here. Sorry
I'm looking outside as I type this and the clouds have just rolled in - and they're black. I think we're in for one huge storm any minute. Yesterday, we had one. The rain was monsoon-like. It flooded everywhere, and yet the water had all disappeared half an hour after the rain ceased. Presumably because we've had a couple of weeks of almost unbroken sunshine.
I know I'm rambling about inconsequential rubbish but it's because I don't know how to articulate what I want to say. I've been away for a while. And now that I've remembered to come back, I feel like I need to apologise. That may be a little weird, really, considering I don't actually know anyone on here, although I did convince myself for a while that I did know people.
The reality is, I'm here for a distraction because I'm angry. Although I had been told, six months ago, that I had maybe between 73 and 84 weeks to wait before the Gender Identity Clinic sent for me, I recently discovered that wasn't accurate - and it's more likely to be over two years. Now, that might be only an additional 20 weeks, but that's another four or five months. And I changed my name and went full-time last December. Without a sniff of any hormones. And it's driving me mad, because I'm constantly meeting new people, or speaking to strangers on the phone, and feeling somewhat obliged to explain the situation to them. Which I don't want to do - not to complete strangers, because it's none of their business. And it's awkward and it makes me feel uncomfortable.
Here comes the rain.
I feel like people at work are looking at me, waiting to see changes that aren't happening. Everyone's being polite and they're using my name and the correct pronouns, but I see them looking at me questioningly. I have to keep reminding myself it's probably strange for them, and a new experience. Although I know there are other trans* people who work for the company, none of them are in the same location as I am, so I'm something of a novelty. And I may be wrong about this, but I believe I'm the only out trans male at work. All the other out trans* people I know at work are either non-binary or trans women.
So I decided I couldn't wait much longer. I couldn't wait for the GIC to send for me in another 18 months or 2 years from now. I have looked into private treatment and I have discussed it with my GP, who agrees that would be a good move, at least in the interim, while I wait and wait for the GIC. And I found someone who is willing to treat me - prescribe the T for me - if I pass her assessment process. So far, all the correspondence has been via emails. But I've just sent an email that was difficult to write.
A couple of days ago, the remote doctor sent me a bunch of questions to answer, as a prelude to an appointment with an assessment counsellor. The questions were very probing, rude at times, and bordering on offensive in some cases. Now, I expected to have to answer intrusive questions in a one-to-one assessment scenario, face to face with a trained individual, but I didn't expect to have to sit down and compose responses like I just have, and send them via email. The experience has left me very wound up and angry, and at the same time I'm wondering if I've just dashed my chances of receiving treatment from her. What if my answers tell her something about me that make her think I'm not suitable for treatment? What if I've just messed up big-style?
I'm worried. But I'm also still annoyed at the impudence of some of the questions. I need to find a way to calm down and just wait for her response. So I'm going for a walk in the rain.
I hope everyone is ok. Take care of yourselves.
How do you spell 'woohoo'? is it 'woohoo' or is it 'woo hoo'? One word or two?
I've just had confirmation that the Dr is going to write me prescriptions for testosterone.
Not sure which emoticon to use...
Well, nearly. I ordered my first month's supply two days ago and received confirmation yesterday that the order had been fulfilled. It's on its way.
When I was getting ready for work this morning, after spending entirely too much time watching the news and the discussions about the UK referendum and the decision to leave the EU, I looked at myself in the bathroom mirror. That's something I don't often do - not unless I have to - and I realised, with something of a jolt, that I look like my brother.
People have occasionally in the past told me that I look like my dad but I've never been able to see that resemblance. I have thought that my brother looks like my dad, though. And then suddenly, today, I could see my own resemblance to my brother. After all these years, I don't understand why I could see it today. Maybe I'm looking at myself differently somehow? Maybe I just looked properly for once. Maybe it was there all along and I never saw it.
To me, my brother bears a striking resemblance to Matt Dillon. I've always thought that about him but never told him. I'm kind of glad I kept my mouth shut now. But I certainly wouldn't mind looking like that one day.
I've been seeing a psychotherapist for a few weeks. It was a recommended course of action by the psychiatrist at the GIC and so I signed up.
AI couple of weeks ago, I had a moment of clarity in one of our sessions. Yesterday I had another one.
I have to give myself more time to grow into myself. Into the 'new' me.
I've spent so much time and energy in the past year trying to speed things along, with GPs and the medical profession; trying to prove to others that I need treatment and I need to transition; trying to convince everyone that I am what I say I am, that I haven't given myself time to experience it.
To feel it.
I am changing - and I have refused to acknowledge or even recognise those changes. I've been so wrapped up in trying to get from A to B that I haven't stopped to admire the scenery or enjoy the ride.
So I am slowing down. I'm not going to get anxious about the T not affecting my body as rapidly as I'd hoped. Because, it IS affecting my body. And it's affecting my mind. My personality and my disposition.
Last month, my prescription was late. The delivery of the hormone was late. I went five days without it. At first, I was annoyed and anxious. By the time it arrived, I had realised that I was actually calmer and less aggressive than I'd been for a few months.
That was a surprise at the time. I hadn't noticed how much it had bumped up my aggressive tendencies until it was gone. I explained to the therapist that I had noticed this about myself. Guess what she said?
"That's why the RLE is so important. It's not just about proving you mean what you say to the medical professionals. It's about giving yourself time to experience and understand the changes you're making. To your personality as well as to your body. You're becoming a different person even if you've always thought of yourself as that person."
That was a bit of a light bulb moment for me. Sounds silly, but I really hadn't thought in those terms before.
I'm a little embarrassed to admit that.
I had always thought that I knew who and what I was. I thought the RLE was a step I had to take to prove who I was to others.
Now I know it's more important to me to view it as a step to take to learn and accept who I'm becoming.
It wasn’t until I was seven years old that I had it pointed out to me that I was different. Prior to that, I had never considered myself to be anything other than a happy child who played with all the boys who were my friends, and I enjoyed life. I hadn’t ever consciously thought there was anything odd about the fact that all my friends were boys, just as I hadn’t ever consciously thought that I didn’t behave like a typical girl. Looking back, I know now that it could have seemed odd to others but it never occurred to me that anything was amiss. I didn’t play with dolls and tea sets, even though my parents had given me plenty. I spent my days playing in the mud with the boys, climbing trees and making dens and I used their toys; the cars and fire engines and toy swords and guns that boys were given to play with. And I was perfectly happy with that until I was seven, when the mother of one of my friends pulled me away from the game we were all playing and she took me home, where she handed me over to my own mother and said she thought there was something wrong with it.
I overheard the whole conversation even though I don’t believe they thought I could hear it. Or maybe they didn’t consider that I would understand what they were saying. But I did. My friend’s mother told my mother that it was wrong that I played with the boys. My mother defended me at the time - I remember so clearly - by saying I was “just a tomboy” and that there was nothing wrong with that. She said I was too young to know any better and I would grow out of it. And she told my friend’s mother to mind her own business. Their voices became raised and I recall feeling guilty because I had caused the argument.
I wasn’t allowed to play at that boy’s house again.
When it dawned on me that someone had thought my behaviour was wrong, and that I had been punished for it by losing a friend - my playmate - I began to change. I didn’t go in the opposite direction; I didn’t suddenly start playing with the girls’ toys, or take up any girly hobbies. Instead, I just stopped playing with my friends. I became introverted, although I didn’t know it at the time. I didn’t realise that until years later. Instead of playing, I used to read. I kept myself to myself. I kept my thoughts to myself. Realising that I missed the boys made me realise I missed what we’d had; that camaraderie that we had shared, the comfort of being with people like me - because I had thought they were like me and I was like them. That was when I first began to really consider that boys and girls were different and that we had our roles to play and that I wasn’t fitting at all well with the “girl” role I had been given. The role that was expected of me, I realised. I remember thinking how unfair it was.
At ten years old, I hit puberty. I can’t possibly put down in writing how disgusted it made me feel. There was so much wrong with it. I found the whole thing gruesome and it made me feel dirty and I didn’t want it. As my body began to change I began to hate everything about it and I began to hate myself. That hatred of my own body has never gone away. I don’t like to have my photograph taken. I don’t like to be filmed. I don’t like to look at myself in the mirror. And, as my partners over the years can attest, I have never liked other people seeing my body or touching my body.
At school, my friends were still male. The people I talked to, connected with, were male. That was the case until the age of eleven when I changed schools. My secondary school was an all-female affair. And I didn’t connect with anyone for a year or more. My teachers thought I was shy and quiet. School reports regularly had something written on them, by one teacher or another, suggesting that I needed to make friends and “come out of my shell”. I preferred not to be noticed. I kept my head down.
I was never bullied at school. But I did eventually make friends with a girl who was being bullied. For some reason, I had felt it was my responsibility to step in, one day, and stop an act of bullying that I witnessed. I had felt the need to protect her from her tormentors. It was uncharacteristic behaviour for me, because it got me noticed. But it also got me interacting with females for the first time.
Eventually there were three of us who always hung around together. Paula had most definitely gone through puberty in a major way. She had the body of a woman at the age of twelve, and she knew it and flaunted it. Voluptuous is the word I’d use to describe her. Huge boobs that most of the girls were envious of. Especially Debra, the third member of our little group. Debra was lithe and flat chested. I was somewhere in between the two, although I envied Debra’s body, not Paula’s. But while I wanted Debra’s body for myself, insofar as I wanted my own carbon copy of it, I appreciated Paula’s. I was attracted to Paula’s. Paula was my first crush.
While, by this time I obviously wasn’t unaware of the fact that I was “female”, in our little group of three I was the closest thing there was to the alpha male. Both Paula and Debra deferred to me in the decision-making department - always - and I was in charge. Whether they knew it or not, they both managed to reinforce my feelings of being male and my desire to be male in body as well as spirit and mind. And that, if I’m honest, is the main reason I hung around with them. It wasn’t for their girly chats or their feminine pursuits.
And that is an awful thing to admit, because it means I was using them. And it wouldn’t be the last time I used females to make me feel better about myself. That realisation, when it occurred to me, filled me with guilt for many years, because even though on some level I knew I was doing it, I never stopped myself from doing it. I feigned interest in their feminine activities, even though those activities bored me rigid, because it allowed me to remain a part of the group.
I fancied Paula. There was no two ways about it. That was another reason I hung around with the two girls. And one evening, I plucked up the courage to tell her. Debra was missing that night. She was sick, if I recall correctly, and so it was just Paula and I. And while I was scared of what I was about to do - coming out for the first time - the guilt was eating at me and I had a compulsion to explain myself to someone I thought I trusted.
So I told her. I told her I was attracted to her, and when her face betrayed her thoughts - confusion and then revulsion - I jumped in to explain further. I said it was alright because I wasn’t a girl. And I went on to explain what I meant by that. Paula walked away. And I didn’t go after her.
Looking back, I can see now how much that rejection affected me. The knowledge that she found me revolting, after I’d told her what I was and how I felt, coupled with the fact that, back at school the next day, she immediately told anyone she could find to listen, made me take the decision not to share like that ever again. I also know now that it reinforced the feeling I’d had since the age of seven, that there was something wrong with me; that I was defective. I felt bad about losing friends again - because I did lose them - and I felt bad that the cause of it was me and the way I was. The way I am. And the fact that I’d opened my mouth. I should never have opened my mouth.
I went back to being a loner. I withdrew to my bedroom every evening after school and I decided I didn’t need friends. It was too much hard work trying to cultivate friendships, especially when I was defective. Everyone could obviously see those defects so the best thing to do was to hide them. Initially I hid them by hiding myself away and not interacting with people, above the bare minimum required of me. Later, I would hide them by denying them.
By the age of fourteen, my mother was sick of me hiding away in my room and not acting like a normal teenager. Whatever a normal teenager is supposed to act like, I obviously wasn’t doing it, according to her. She dragged me to see a doctor. The pair of them discussed me as if I wasn’t there and I tried to pretend I was ignoring the conversation. I wasn’t, though. I heard it and I was getting annoyed by what they were saying because they didn’t have a clue. Eventually the doctor turned to me and asked me what was wrong. Frustrated by all the ridiculous conclusions they had drawn - one of which was that I was struggling at school (not true; my grades were good), another was that I was having “boyfriend trouble” (not true; I hadn’t even looked at a boy in that way at that age) - I told them what was wrong with me.
My second disastrous attempt at coming out. My mother said I was too young to know what I was saying. She said I was talking rubbish. She got very angry and upset. The doctor backed up my mother. He said that I was just confused and that I could put that confusion down to puberty. My body was changing; the hormones were very active. It was normal to be anxious and confused but things would settle down in a year or two. In the meantime, take this prescription. That will sort you out.
I later found out the medication was to treat anxiety and depression.
Two attempts at explaining, to someone I trusted, what was going on with me and how I felt. Two rejections. Two reinforcements that I was most definitely broken. I wouldn't try it again for many years.
After my mother died, I spent a few months feeling guilty and a few months thinking about myself - perfectly selfishly, I realise. I needed to get my head around a few things.
At work, the company started to make a big thing of diversity. The law was changing; gay marriage was grabbing all the headlines because it looked as though it was going to be legalised in the UK. Trans issues were also hitting the headlines. A few high profile sportsmen had come out as gay. The whole LGBT+ thing was out in the open, on the television, in the newspapers - and at work.
In 2013 I joined the company LGBT network. I didn't tell anyone, but those who were also members of the network could see that I had joined. I started to get involved on the network discussion board. So, effectively, I came out to other members of the network. Initially, I just hinted that I was bisexual. I involved myself in discussions about that topic. Later, I admitted that I had an interest in the “T” as well as the “B”. Eventually, I openly discussed being transgender as well as bisexual, within the confines of the network’s private discussion board.
One day, I accidentally let something slip to a member of the team I work for, via something I said in an email. Panicking, and worried in case he said anything to the rest of the team, I immediately sent him another email, saying something along the lines of, “I think I just outed myself. How good are you at keeping secrets?” He responded by sending me a photo of him and his boyfriend. We had a short discussion and he told me that our manager was perfectly fine with him, when he’d come out. So before the end of the day, I came out to my manager.
It took quite a while before I had the courage to come out to the rest of the team, but I did. And there wasn't one negative response. In fact, two were extremely positive. One guy told me that my revelation to him had inspired him. So much so, that while he usually ensures his nail polish is removed before turning up for work Monday mornings, that weekend he made the decision to leave it on, and the following Monday he arrived at work sporting sparkly blue nails.
The man I had been most worried about telling sent me an email, simply saying, “High five!” and then he followed it up with another email saying, “That must have felt like jumping out of a plane without a parachute and then discovering you could fly. I'm so pleased for you.”
Not one negative comment. Not one rejection. Plenty of support. I can’t explain how that made me feel.
Contrast that with another time that I plucked up the courage to tell someone at work that I was bisexual. This was back in 2002. My husband and I had split up for a while and I had begun chatting with strangers online, partly because I was bored and miserable, partly for other reasons. Through the online chats I got to know someone called Sam that, initially, I thought was male but turned out to be female. She asked me out and I said yes.
Back at work, a day or two later, at lunchtime, a colleague asked me what I had planned for the weekend. I thought about what I should say and then decided on the truth. I told her I was going out to meet a woman for drinks. She didn't say anything, so I asked, “Did you hear me?” to which she replied, “Yes, I heard. Do you mean like a date?” I nodded. She stood and walked away and she avoided contact with me after that. I don’t believe we have ever spoken since. I know she saw me as a woman (obviously) and therefore was probably shocked that I was meeting a woman. But that made me keep my mouth shut for another eleven years.
The avatar image on my profile - here and elsewhere - is a phoenix. I have a reason for that. Well, two reasons.
After my mother died, I began to feel freer, more able to express myself. My husband said I changed after she died, and he was right, but not for the reasons he'd assumed. Because my mum was the person who knew, most of my life, what I was frightened to tell others (and I was frightened to tell others because of her), he assumed I had lost an ally when she died. But I hadn't. I didn't see her as an ally. I saw her as the reason I hadn't done things I'd wanted to do. I saw her as my blocker.
It was like I was reborn after she'd gone.
It's awful to admit that out loud but I know it's true. I didn't want her to go but when it actually happened and there was nothing I could do about it, I took advantage of it. Not altogether consciously, but I did. I started to express the real me more and more each passing day.
Unfortunately, that coincided with my relationship with my husband getting worse. Or, more probably, our relationship got worse because I was feeling freer to express myself - and my husband didn't like the changes. And we didn't communicate well, which made things even worse. We had stopped communicating properly years ago and had become entrenched in a relationship where we took each other for granted, stuck to the same routine, started to ignore each other.
My husband dislikes tattoos. Intensely. For years, I thought I didn't like them too. But over the last couple of years, I've changed my mind about that. Eventually it got to the stage where I was seriously considering getting a tattoo. The only thing that stopped me was the knowledge that my husband didn't like them. But when our relationship got so bad that I started thinking about moving out, I realised I didn't need his permission anyway. It's my body, not his.
I don't know why it took me so long to work that out.
I got my first tattoo in July. It's a phoenix. It's around 8-9" long by around 4-5" wide, spread across my right shoulder blade, in red, orange and yellow. The tip of one wing peeks over the top of my shoulder, pointing at my clavicle. The artist did a great job and I love it.
I told my husband I was going to get the tattoo. He huffed and didn't respond. When I got back from the studio, I asked, "Do you want to see it?" He said, "No." So I didn't show it to him.
After our lengthy discussions on Thursday, when we cleared the air and came to an understanding of each others' views and thoughts, when he told me he would support whatever I did, we went to bed. For the first time in over a year. He saw my tattoo for the first time. Grudgingly, he said it was good.
I'm considering getting a dragon on my left shoulder. That's mainly because I was born in the Chinese Year of the Dragon. as was my mother.
The other reason I use a picture of a phoenix as my avatar image all over the web is because there's no way in hell I'd ever post a photo of me. Not that there are many photos of me to choose from, anyway.
Monday morning, first thing, I had an appointment with a GP. Not my GP but one at my practice. She was lovely. She was also not 100% surprised when I told her I was trans and that I wanted her to refer me to a GIC. She said that I was the third person in the past couple of months who had approached her about the same thing.
There's more of us around, these days, it seems... Personally, I think it's just people like me, getting braver or at least less scared to poke their head above the parapet.
The doc then went on to suggest that "Gender Services" in my area (those were her words, not mine) are really poor (I knew that already, of course, having done some research) and that it would take a while to get an appointment with gender identity specialists, but, in the meantime she would do two things. Firstly, she would get me an appointment with a psychologist, asap. I kind of expected that, although I'm not too thrilled about the thought of analysing my life with a stranger, only to have to do it all again when I do get to sit in front of a gender specialist. Secondly, the doc said she would call a meeting with all the other docs in the practice and work on a strategy for trans people who approach them in future, because she knows these docs are not being as useful as they should be right now. She wants to get all the GPs together to agree to a unified approach and get them all up to speed on what's available, what they should be doing, providing, etc. Which can't be a bad thing. So, although I'm still no better off, the fact that I turned up on Monday and she knew she couldn't help immediately means she has been spurred on to do something about it. Hopefully that will happen. I'm gonna make another appointment to see her in a couple of weeks.
Monday night, I attended my first FtM group meeting at the local LGBT centre. There were around eighteen of us, and when the guy who was running it asked, "Who's new tonight?" around half of us stuck our hands up. So I didn't feel out of place on that front. I did feel out of place on the age front - they were all so much younger than me. But I was pretty pleased about that, in a funny way. Because, when I thought about it, that meant they had most of their lives ahead of them to live in the way they were supposed to live - as men. Me? I've lived over half my life already. Faking it as a woman.
It was a really good evening. Everyone was so nice and friendly. I'm going to make it a regular thing. They also have social evenings where significant others can join. My husband's looking forward to that.
Work was crazily busy this week. Again. For two solid weeks, I've hardly had time to breathe. I've been falling asleep in front of the TV at night. But I feel more relaxed, even with the pressure of the workload. I'm sleeping better than I have in ages.
The "coming out" call at work (the one I did last week) was recorded at the time, and this week the LGBT network sent out the replay details to everyone, so I've had a few more emails, messages and phone calls about it. All very positive and encouraging, which was nice. They're going to run a follow up call in early December and they've invited external speakers from Stonewall and GIRES as well as other helpful bodies who can provide advice. I've been invited to take part again; they want to run a Q&A session. Goodness only knows what kind of questions I'll be asked. Hopefully only polite ones.
Since I started to come out more and more, I've had a couple of awkward questions. Well, frankly, rude questions. One person asked me how I have sex. I told them it was none of their business. Another asked me how big my d**k is. For a moment, I was tempted to ask, "Which one?" Just to confuse them. In the end, I settled for, "It'll never be as big as yours, because you're just one huge d**k, aren't you?"
I know, I know. I need to get myself in check. I'm sure I'll be asked worse things than that before all this is over.