Tuesday, 31 December 2013

3102 In Reflection

2013 was the year the question "How do you feel?" became difficult to answer.
To me it seemed the answer was obvious. I could hardly be expected to feel happy that my husband was slowly suffocating to death could I? That I was glad that he was dead? That I like living every day without the man who made every day seem special?
Thus I would much rather have never been asked as I disliked feeling compelled to lie so as not to offend.
However, almost 9 months after he died, I now feel ready to answer the question.
The overwhelming thing I feel about 2013 is that I simply cannot comprehend all that has happened to me this year.
I do know, however, that I'm not the person I was at the beginning of the year because I'm now unemployed, a widow, a homeowner and financially well off.
I think my name's still Claire but I seem to be subjecting myself to analysis again at Charing Cross so who knows what they'll discover about me that I didn't already know myself!
What is strange though is that, even though I wept buckets and screamed at the walls, I feel happier now that my husband's died than I did during the last 6 months or so of his life. 
Adding to my confusion is the feeling of being overwhelmingly sad that he died whilst, at the same time, glad that his death brought an end to his suffering.
But, by way of contrast, I've refused to end my own suffering by dying and opted instead to live. Obviously, what was good for my husband isn't good enough for me!
My opinion on the world around me also seems to have changed this year. 
These days the warm glow I feel in my heart on seeing others in love seems to be accompanied by feelings of jealousy and bitterness.
And, now the answer has become less obvious, people have stopped asking me how I feel! Just what does that say about them exactly??
I also have to wonder why I still have so many good friends in my life when I've not been anyone even I would want to spend time with! Does that indicate extreme compassion on their part or extreme idiocy?
2013 has brought me few certainties.
I can't even be sure that I've been through the worst year of my life when I've achieved so much and found so many things to live for! Maybe it's actually the best year of my life in disguise? After all, this year I've qualified and gained work as an educator, been to 5 different Prides and hugged Peter Tatchell and, as mentioned, become financially wealthy and an outright homeowner! What's not to like about all that?
So what conclusions can I draw about 2013 when I'm not even sure what my reality is?
I can't be certain but I think the answer is I can't be certain; not about my past, not about my present and particularly not about my future.
So, as 2014 approaches over the horizon, I conclude 2013 with the thought that, if life is intrinsically uncertain, then it is best lived with a mind open to it's infinite possibilities - especially when life seems impossible.

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Merry Christmas!

Last night I went to Midnight Mass with Tony and Julie.
Now before you all die of shock let me just say that I didn't go for religious reasons but in search of something heartwarming and meaningful for, like many, I am firmly of the opinion Christmas has become too commercial. I want my Christmas to mean more than a broken bank balance!
So I thought I'd go to Midnight Mass and see if it gave me what I was looking for.
On entering the church I was dazzled by the splendorous depictions of the saints and the towering ceiling. Being an educated person, I was very aware of the power plays being enacted upon me and they continued into the service itself: The congregation were sinners and were to ask Christ and God for forgiveness. The communion was to accept Christ, The Saviour, within oneself (a cruel person may jest that the communion is cannibalism) to purify their soul, etc.
I was left in no doubt that I was to consider myself lowly and Christ and God as infinitely superior but, more so, The Church was also superior since it was their messenger service.
Having been educated in the Christian faith, this rankles with me because, to my mind, Christ was a socialist. I believe he wanted to give the power to the people not any Church. But in the past 2000 years, no matter what Christian denomination you are or are not, The Church have very much muscled in on the act.
However in 2013, I would say there are also very many Christians who are not Church goers and, although it may annoy The Churches to see their power base slipping away, I am all in favour of that.
The Church gets in the way of Christians practicing their faith as Christ would want. With their bigoted pronouncements, they also give Christians a bad name. And, in short, I believe The Church (of whatever denomination) is about as anti-Christian as any organisation gets! (And surely it is a sign of how wayward The Church has become that many Christians are now nervous about being out and proud about their faith?)
However, I did have one revelation whilst at Midnight Mass - I am a Christian. I believe in the idea of Christ and that his legend was created for good reasons. I also believe the ideals he espoused (having love and charity in your heart, taking responsibility for yourself, etc) form all that is good about the society I live in.
Thus, when I returned home this morning, I outed myself as a Christian, summing up my belief as follows, "I believe in the idea of Christ and the ideals of Christ but no church of Christ".
Incidentally, I don't proclaim myself to be a Christian to be disparaging about any other faith. I do not believe Christianity is the one true faith. Rather, I claim myself to be a Christian because that is the one faith I was educated in and know anything about. I fully acknowledge that I could be a Muslim or a Bhudist or whatever if my circumstances had been different.
So, anyway, today is the celebration of the birth of Christ and, in good faith, I wish you all a Merry Christmas! xxx

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

I Find Myself Trapped Within Myself And Thus Desire Myself To Be Myself

Unbelievably, even though I, myself, am Trans, I don't feel I know all that there is to know about being Trans! (I know! Unbelievable isn't it!)
So I like to educate myself periodically however I can in hopes I'll expand my knowledge and find some answers to my many questions. Certainly, I have never found a single thing said or written about Trans identities to be boring!
My Transgender Punk Rock Story, certainly was no exception. Presented by Paris Lees, (The Independent On Sunday's Most Influential LGBT Person Of The Year), it was an overview of Laura Jane Grace, who is a Punk Rock singer for a band called Against Me! and both Paris and Laura were informative and eloquent in what they had to say.
I came away with quite a different conception of Punk Rock (who seem far more tolerant of Trans identities than supposed "polite society") and a better understanding of myself for I now identify with the phrase "Trapped in the wrong body".
In the past, rather than feeling "trapped in the wrong body", I have felt trapped by expectations to be male.
However, with a train of thought started by this program, I have concluded that I am indeed "Trapped in the wrong body".
My own sense of self dictates that my body is male but my identity is female. Knowing that my body can be changed but my identity can not, persuades me that it is my body where the error lies rather than with my identity. Thus I conclude that I am trapped in the wrong body.
I am also persuaded that society - when it knows that I have a male body - expects me to be male even if my identity is female and that failure to meet these expectations does not go unpunished. And so, again, I feel that I am trapped in the wrong body.
As you might imagine, being trapped in a conflict within myself and with society isn't much fun and thus I have concluded that I must break free of the trap. In doing so, I have answered my long burning question about whether I really wanted to be on the "gender reassignment pathway" or not.
To that regard, I expect to be having a short stay in Brighton within the next few years.

Saturday, 14 December 2013

How Life Is With Me Right Now At This Moment In Time Of My Life

An update...
At the end of November I moved to a new house. I have bought this house outright with John's life insurance so I am now a bonafide homeowner. 
Financially it is great as I no longer have a hefty rent taking a great chunk out of the only income (John's pension) I've had these past eight months. 
I feel better for the move emotionally as well. Having less financial commitments is part of that (despite all the money I've spent - and still have to spend - on the house) but so too is living somewhere without constant reminders of my loss.
It is not something I intended when I bought the house but it is happening none the less. Being me though, I worry that I am forgetting John but I should give myself a break because not constantly thinking of him is not the same as forgetting him. I will never forget John.
I will never stop loving him either. I still get emotional when I think of him and miss him hugely. I don't understand how life could treat him so cruelly and it still angers me greatly when I remember how cruelly it did treat him. So I try to avoid dwelling on that. Whether that is healthy or not I'm none too sure as it remains a problem unresolved ready to poke it's way into my thoughts at any given time but, on the other hand, not constantly beating my head against an unsolvable problem seems a sensible thing to do.
I also feel guilty (even though I know I shouldn't and feel others would probably agree that I shouldn't) that I am now a homeowner at John's expense (in the worst possible way). I have achieved one of my life's ambitions but it has only been made possible because my husband died and had life insurance. 
I'm sure most people when told that they're about to be given a cheque for thousands of pounds would be happy but I burst into tears when I was told how much John's life insurance was worth. It is not what I want. I don't want money. I want John. No amount of compensation is worth the life of the man I love.
I was tempted to never claim that money or to simply give it away but sense got the better of me. Having been born with deformities, having transitioned from pretending to be male to openly living as female, having watched the man I love get ill with an incurable disease and then not even being there when he died, I know life is not something I can control. That the only thing I can do with the life I have is to make the best of it. Thus, whilst I would much rather have John in my life than thousands of pounds in the bank, I can only make the most of the reality. So I claimed the money and spent the vast majority of it on a house, thus making my life comfortable for the foreseeable future.
I also feel that John would approve of me making the best of my circumstances. Even though he faced his illness and death with great acceptance, he worried greatly about how it affected me (and to think I was his first concern, even when faced with his own death, is hugely humbling). Thus he went to great lengths to ensure I was as comfortable as could be and instructed me that I was always to make the best of my life. 
However, I was hugely reliant on John. Whenever anything went wrong, John was the person I asked to fix it. Now John is no longer here to ask. My support network of one person has disappeared. So who do I ask now? Who can I rely on to be there for me at any given time? Everyone has their own lives to live. So I manage as best I can and of that I'm sure John would approve but, being wet behind the ears, not everything works out as I hoped. And, again, I would've gone to John to comfort me but now he is no longer here so, again, I have no one to comfort me when things go wrong. So I'm struggling with life.
But that is the important thing - I am struggling; I'm not giving up. Even though I have been tempted more times this year to do just that than I have in the entire 40 years before it. However, as well as not wanting to let John down or create two tragedies out of one, I quickly realised that I didn't so much as want to end the misery as rediscover happiness. There is no happiness - or much of anything! - in death. I want desperately to be happy and I am far more happier now than I've been for the previous 8 months (The worst has happened. As miserable as I get, I can never be as miserable as I was on April 5th 2013 when my world caved in) but I do not believe I will ever be as happy as I was when I shared my life with John. I also feel that I can never be in a relationship with anyone else ever again as to do so would mean pushing John out of the space in my heart he currently occupies and I do not believe I can ever do that.
So if I'm never to be as happy as I once was and am destined to remain without someone to hug and comfort me for the rest of my days, what is the point in continuing with life?
The answer I've come up with is: Life is unpredictable so why not strive for the possibility of what I desire instead of responding to certainties I do not have? And, besides, if I give up on life I am and have nothing and that is to lose everything, not just past glories.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Open Letter To The Ghost Of Lou Reed

Dear Lou,
I heard yesterday morning that you had died and it saddened me not just because you were one of my favourite songwriters but also because you influenced my life for the better and I never got around to thanking you for that.
You see, Lou, I am Trans.
And, yes, Lou, it was Walk On The Wild Side that struck a chord with me and, yes, Walk On The Wild Side was the song that got me into your music and encouraged me to rent out, and subsequently buy, the Transformer album.
But I didn't stop at the Transformer album. I also got your greatest hits and the Coney Island Baby album and the Berlin album (which, for me, is your masterpiece) and the New York album (The Great American Whale and Strawman are still some of my favourite songs) and the Magic And Loss album (You should've seen my gran's face when she heard the lyrics of Harry's Circumcision!) and then I investigated the Velvet Underground recordings and then I checked out some more of your other recordings like Metal Machine Music and The Raven and The Bell and...
Every single one of them gave me a feast for my ears and also my brain!
But the song that always stood out above all the others from the moment I heard it; the song that struck a chord, lit a lightbulb, and knocked me sideways(!) is a song on the Transformer album.
No, not Walk On The Wild Side or Perfect Day or Satellite Of Love - all undoubtedly great songs - but a song you entitled, Make Up. 
You see, Lou, where Walk On The Wild Side was a document of gay and Trans culture in New York, to me, Make Up is more than a document - it is a song of love. A love of being feminine; a love of wearing make up; a love of wearing pretty clothes.
And, Lou, when I heard that song as a 15 year old boy, I understood the love of being feminine, wearing make up, and wearing pretty clothes...
But I did not understand that I could also be loved. 
I believed I was a freak, at best a curio, but on Make Up, you, Lou Reed - one of Rock's infamous tough guys - sang about your desire for a Trans girl!
And then, for the chorus, you sang
Now, we're coming out
out of our closets
Out on the streets
yeah, we're coming out
So not only could I be an object of affection but I could also stand proud in the spotlight as well!
You did more than rock my world with this song, Lou. You gave me hope! You gave me a dream!
And now I'm living that dream and I feel, in some way, I owe you my life because you let me know my life didn't have to be a dream but could, in fact, be real!
So, Lou, I am sad that you are no longer able to create music that I can hear but I am indebted to the music you've already created and can still hear.
I am also thankful that your music has been recorded for posterity for others, a little bit like me, to discover and be similarly rescued from the darkness.
So thank you, Lou. Thank you!

Claire xxx

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

In Peace And Intolerance

This letter makes me sad. It makes me sad because a mother has chosen to disown her son. It makes me sad because her father has followed her example and chosen to disown her. The hurt and anger contained in this letter makes me sad.
However, as part of the human existence we will be hurt. Things will happen to us that we find painful to endure. I don't believe that will ever change.
Some of those things will leave us powerless. We will not be able to change them no matter how much we try.
My husband's death is one of those things. I can not bring him alive no matter how I try. So what is the point of me being angry at his death? What does my anger achieve?
Well, the fact is, not everything in life has a point to it. Some things are downright senseless! But just because they are senseless does not mean that they do not exist.
My anger exists and I can either contain it or release it. As I would rather not hold onto my anger, I allow myself to release it. 
However, my way of releasing my anger in the wake of my husband's death hurt my friends which in turn hurt me. I am fortunate that my friends are forgiving and that I also discovered a more positive way of releasing my anger through art journaling.
Through my art journaling I am able to release my emotions without harming anyone else.
Through my art journaling I am able to use my emotions to create "pretty pictures" which people can admire for their aesthetics and perhaps, also, for the message they contain.
Through my art journaling I am able to be "peacefully intolerant"; I am able to refute what I know to be bad without resorting to anger or violence.
"Peaceful intolerance" is not a new concept. Mahatma Gandhi and Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr were fine exemplars of it. But we need not be human rights campaigners; there are many ways for us to be "peacefully intolerant".
We can choose who we socialise with, which political causes we support, which activities we partake in. The options are infinite.
For example, if we wished to protest at Guido Barilla's homophobia, instead of, as has been encouraged, spending our money with one of Barilla's competitors, we could perhaps learn to make our own pasta and increase our self-sufficiency.
Or, returning to the letter above, why has it's author not opted to enact a course of action other to one he states he does not approve of?
There are always choices to how we deal with life's events no matter how challenging they are and it is thus important that we choose the right one.
We do not create peace by creating war and we do not create love by creating hate. So we need to be mindful what kind of intolerance we wish to impose.
I would prefer an intolerance of war and hate but I can not sway the whole of humanity by myself.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

To Hell With Tolerance!

On the face of it, tolerance is a good thing. After all, tolerance is meant to be a virtue, isn't it?
Surely it's not a good idea to get into an argument with someone just because I disagree with what they say? Surely, it is better to tolerate differences of opinion?
Well, not really. What if that opinion was that all Muslims in the UK should be deported? Tolerating that would not be virtuous.
What if that opinion was that all children should get a good education? I could hardly tolerate that because toleration is a frame of mind formed from allowing disagreement to occur. I do not ever recall thinking, "That's good but I wish it were bad but I shall tolerate it anyway"!
So tolerance is always about allowing things we don't agree with to happen.
How is that a virtue? Bad things - whether we or anyone else is the originator of it - need to be challenged.   
So why are we taught different?
To my mind, there is only one reason why a society needs to be tolerant - to allow the bad people to get away with it.
So it may seem odd that I, as someone who wants to make a better world, am now calling for society to be intolerant but I hope the above explains why.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

I Am Not A Penguin

Dear reader,
If I were to tell you you aren't you, you would probably correct me and state that, yes, you are you.
Somewhere deep inside you, you know who are, don't you? You don't need proof of who you are. You just know it! Certainly, the least likely of all scenarios is that you would agree with me that, indeed, you are not the person you know yourself to be.
For example, should you happen to identify as a penguin then you are a penguin. Just because you are not my idea of what a penguin is does not automatically make you not a penguin. Perhaps I am misinformed or simply don't have enough knowledge to recognise you as a penguin?
So who am I to argue with you? You are you and I am I and we are not the same. So who am I, when we have two separate brains, to argue and attempt to force my opinions on you?
Our knowledge of who and what we are is what defines us - not the knowledge of any other person.
And that, I feel, is the deep flaw within the NHS's "gender reassignment pathway".
Far from allowing the psychiatrists to assess whether they're suffering from a mental illness or not, a patient will be required to justify their identity.
And, yet, we know deep within ourselves that this is just intrinsic knowledge. And how on earth do you convey intrinsic knowledge when a person does not share that knowledge?!!
Thus a psychiatrist does not share my intrinsic knowledge of who I am any more than a bus driver does! And, yet, a psychiatrist's opinion of who I am is given credence because of what exactly??
Because they judge me sane??? Well, perhaps they can judge me sane but they can not judge me a liar (without, perhaps, a lie detector test which, as far as I know, are not used at Gender Identity Clinics!).
They can even judge me insane but doing so holds no sway over what my gender is. I can be an insane woman just as easily as I can an insane man! 
Thus, it baffles me why psychiatrists are used to judge a person's gender. More so, it baffles me how any psychiatrist feels qualified to argue with any patient's self-definition of who they are!
But this is exactly what is happening. There is ample evidence that psychiatrists in the UK's Gender Identity Clinics regularly: 
  • Decide for you what your gender identity is and argue how you succeed or fail to fit into their perceptions of that gender identity.
  • Decide for you what your sexuality is and argue how that succeeds or fails to fit into their perceptions of your gender identity. 
  • Argue how your name does or does not fit into their perceptions of your gender identity.
  • Deny the existence of non-binary gender identities even when there is ample, worldwide, evidence of their existence.
  • Argue that anyone who disagrees with them is in denial/delusional.
And I suspect that there are many who think this is reasonable behaviour. After all, a psychiatrist is an expert on the way people think. So who better to judge transgender people than a psychiatrist?
Well, when the population as a whole feels it acceptable to allow a psychiatrist to judge their gender and/or sexuality perhaps I will feel it acceptable for them to judge mine.
Until then, for the reasons I give above, I can only conclude that to single out transgender people for this treatment is prejudice with the cloak of acceptability that the psychiatric profession gives it.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

"It says so in The Bible"

Thanks to this video, "gay marriage" is once again being debated.
Now, although R.E. was one of my strongest subjects at school, I'm no theologist and my knowledge of The Bible is limited but it has occured to me that Christians overstep the mark if they use The Bible to justify their homophobia.
To explain what I mean, here follows, in my experience, the most quoted Biblical texts used to decry homosexuality and defend prejudicial acts against it...
Leviticus 18:22 "Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination."
Leviticus 20:13 "If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them."
Romans 1:27 "And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet."
So, using popular interpretation of those texts, it looks pretty clear that The Bible has some pretty grim opinions about homosexual acts.
Those opinions are:
  1. A homosexual act is an abomination.
  2. The expected outcome of a man commiting a homosexual act is for that man to be put to death.
  3. A male homosexual act is unseemly.
  4. Males commiting homosexual acts shall be punished.
However, nowhere in those texts does it encourage any action towards homosexuals.
Those texts merely state opinion - divine opinion, perhaps, but opinion all the same.
So no person, Christian or not, can use those texts to justify their action(s) towards homosexuals.
Leviticus 20:13 does not say that it is justified for us to put a man who has committed a homosexual act to death and neither does it encourage any of us to put a man who has committed a homosexual act to death. It merely states that this is the expected outcome and, because The Ten Commandments forbade us from killing, presumably God is the one to carry out the action rather than ourselves.
Similarly, Romans 1:27 does not justify nor encourage us to punish any male committing a homosexual act. It states that such a person shall receive in themselves punishment for their act. So, again, we are required to do absolutely nothing towards homosexuals.
In fact, if any Christian were to look a little further they would find sandwiched in between Leviticus 18:22 and Leviticus 20:13 the following instruction...
Leviticus 19:18 "Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbour as yourself."
and if we looked a little further past Romans 1:27 we would find this instruction...
Romans 13:8 "Owe no man any thing, but to love one another"
Now, I am not a Christian and nor do I believe in the Christian God and so The Bible is all words to me. Some of those words form sentences I agree with more than others but, really, they're all just words. However, none of those words justify homophobic action and so I can only conclude any homophobe claiming to be Christian is a heretic.
I don't want to be a doom monger but it stikes me that a heretic pining for the times of Christ is a bit like a turkey pining for the times of Santa Claus. Sure, Santa Claus may bring them lots of presents and general happiness but others may want them at the supper table for another reason.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Bring On The Convalescence!

With the aid of recent counselling I'd begun to truly feel at ease with myself. I'd begun to recognise that Trans is just another way of being as any other. Then this week I had an uncomfortable awakening from this fallacy.
The trouble with being Trans is that, prior to transition (that of changing from your birth gender to your real gender identity), Trans people have usually built whole lives (e.g. a family, a career, a social network) around their birth gender. A life in which perhaps everyone they have ever met assumes they are of the birth gender they presented their self as.
This is also true of people of a non-heterosexual nature - they are often, prior to "coming out", assumed to be of a sexuality - heterosexuality - at odds with their true sexuality.
Thus, from my perspective, it seems those of a non cisgendered heterosexuality are often in the position of crowbarring their way into the consciousness of everyone that matters in their life (i.e. their family/career/social peers) and so the notion that we are people just the same as any other is a fallacy. 
Yes, in theory, we are the same: homosexuality is a sexuality the same as heterosexuality, bisexuality and a multitude of others are - the same as transgender is a gender identity the same as cisgender, pangender and any other - but it so does not work out that way in reality.
Far too often those of a non cisgendered heterosexuality grow up feeling at odds to the far more common cisgendered heterosexuals of this world. Far too often we grow up feeling that we are less than their equal. Far too often we feel like we have to apologise for our existence or to get permission to exist publicly within their lives. Far too often we receive abuse - physical and/or verbal - for being different to the cisgendered heterosexual. None of which helps us realise the true variety of sexual and gender identities.
My uncomfortable reminder of this reality arrived this week (and many weeks prior) when non cisgendered heterosexuals in the UK found their right to form relationships of their choosing being argued and voted on by our two houses of parliament.
In my opinion, every person's right to form relationships of their choosing should be down to no one other than the individuals concerned. How is arguing for permission to do so meant to make any of us feel equal? Especially when, as it was, it arrives in a limited form and continues to compound the inequality by having different rules for different people!
No, this does nothing to make me feel the peer of a cisgendered heterosexual. Instead it serves to remind me that I live in a dictatorship in which their identity is portrayed to be of more worth and validity than mine.
This was compounded yesterday when I sat through a presentation on a "road-map" to transitioning from birth gender to true gender identity.
Every minute of that presentation served to remind me that I need permission from my family/career/social peers for a successful transition. I need them to be in accordance with my transition or risk it being negatively affected. 
Again, this does nothing to remind me of the truth of the variety of gender identities. And, again, the problem stems from the dictatorship in which we live. 
It seems to me that I live in a society where it is a fallacy that a non cisgendered heterosexual identity is the same as any other but it is also the truth: a non cisgendered heterosexual identity is but one combination of the multitude of possibilities and thus the same as any other!
So, if the reality is different from the truth, which of us are sane exactly? Is it the people who permeate the reality or the people who permeate the truth? Or perhaps the people who permeate the fact that reality has separated itself from truth? 
Whichever it is, sanity does not automatically equal a mind at ease. 
It is painful to acknowledge that people have views opposite to ours; views that, in their own way, are equal to our own. It is painful to have to justify our worth and validity. It is painful to be aware that our lives hang in the balance of the mind of our foes.
As a result, my life is a painful existence and those who fit the cisgendered heterosexual identity will never truly appreciate that and, to be honest, I am glad for them that is the case.
However, I would be happier if more of them made the effort to appreciate how painful a life those who do not fit the cisgendered heterosexual identity are made to suffer. Perhaps then we can move away from the dictatorship we live in and move towards a democracy in which everyone is on a level playing field; in which everyone has a say that is equal to everyone else; in which no one is made to feel compelled to hide their true identity (we are not superheroes (even if we do have superhuman abilities!)).
Perhaps the vote on same-sex marriage is evidence we are moving towards that world? Perhaps enabling ourselves to transition from birth gender to true gender identity is evidence that we are moving towards that world? But I would so much have preferred it if it had never been necessary in the first place.
I would so much have preferred it if reality had never torn itself apart from truth. The process has brought nothing but pain and, even whilst we seek to reunite the two, that pain continues. 
I so want an end to that pain and I so long for the days of blissful convalescence.

Thursday, 20 June 2013


Amongst my former friends there is a thinking that if Trans people 'act and dress appropriately' they minimise the chances of getting hassle. Their quest, in their own words and actions, is to aim for 'normalcy' and be accepted by effectively 'blending in' and disappearing in the crowd. They fear that if they do not they will make themselves targets for transphobic behaviour...

Last night I had just come out of Waterloo train station in Merseyside and was making my way towards my car when a group of middle aged men and women, probably worse for drink, deliberately got in my way. One chap in particular kept swerving to get in my path and stared me directly in the eye. I brushed past him, telling him to get out of my way and, as I cleared the group, another of them shouted, "I guess this means she doesn't love you!".
I was initially shocked, scared and pissed off but in the time it took me to walk back to my car I started wondering what I had done to provoke them - was I dressed provocatively? Was it because I'm Trans? Was it the way I walked?

...So, I hope you see these two apparently separate things, have more in common than might first appear:

They place responsibility of other people's behaviour on the victim instead of the people who carried out the act and, in so being, is the same kind of thinking which places the blame for rape on the victim instead of the rapist.

It is not up to us to accept responsibility for people acting appallingly - whether that be taking the piss out of us, jostling us, or, heaven forbid, raping or murdering us - those people need to accept responsibility for their own actions.
The kind of thinking that says "well, if you will dress/act that way, what do you expect?" is also part of this victim blaming.
Personally, I think it would be a shocking state of affairs if everyone treated me like those bunch of twats last night! And I know for a fact that they don't because it is the first time since I was 21 that a group of strangers hassled me for no reason whatsoever other than they were a bunch of twats! That is an interval of 19 years! So, in reality, twats are very few and far between.
So I am not going to tarnish the 99.9% of people who would've passed by without any incident taking place whatsoever with the same brush as I would for those twats who wouldn't.
Furthermore, I am not going to let twats govern how I live my life.
The twats in this world aren't going to stop be being openly Trans, they aren't going to stop me dressing how I like, and they aren't going to stop me acting as I believe to be right.
That would be a gross overreaction to the problem and, as explained above, it would be taking responsibility off them to behave well. That is not how I intend to live my life.
Instead I intend to be the best me there is because there is only me who is me and thus I feel it is my duty to represent myself as best I can.
In short, I have no intention of being a twat.

Footnote: My foot hurts! No... I reported the incident to Merseyside police last night and it has been logged as an incident of anti-social behaviour. They've forwarded it to Lancashire police and I'm hoping to meet one of their officers about the incident.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Living On £18 A Week

I'm not going to put any 'spin' on this as it doesn't need one. It's from an official government publication and was written by Helen Goodman, Labour MP for Bishop Auckland...

I was so shocked when I read what my constituents wrote to me about the implications for them of the bedroom tax, and about how little they would have left to live on, that I decided during the week of the recent recess to see if I could survive on £18 a week, which is what they will be left with to buy their food after 1 April. That figure of £18 is entirely based on the experiences of my constituents, in particular women on employment and support allowance who are about the same age as me, but who had to stop working owing to chronic health conditions, perhaps after 20 years of working life. Out of their £71.70, they have to find £10 for electricity, £20 for heating—gas or coal—£6 for water rates, £4 for bus fares in the case of those who live in villages and have to get to the main town, and £10 for the bedroom tax, which left them with £23 for weekly living expenses.

That £23 has to cover more than food, of course. We did a calculation, and set aside £5 for all the non-food things everyone has to buy—soap, washing powder, washing-up liquid, toothpaste, loo paper—plus a small amount in order to save £50 a year for clothes or a pair of trainers, or in case the iron breaks. That leaves £18.

I therefore took up the challenge of trying to live on £18, and I want to tell Members what it is like. It is extremely unpleasant. I had porridge for breakfast every morning, as I usually do, but I make my porridge with milk; now I was making it with water. I had to eat the same food over and over and over again. Single people are hit particularly hard, because cheap food comes in big packs. I made a stew at the beginning of the week, and I ate the same food four nights a week. I had pasta twice a week. I had baked potatoes. I had eggs on six occasions. It was completely impossible to have meat or fish; that was out of the question. It was also impossible to have five portions of fruit and vegetables a week.

I therefore also have a message for the Under-Secretary of State for Health, the hon. Member for Broxtowe (Anna Soubry), who is responsible for public health. She was criticising people on low incomes for obesity. Of course people on low incomes are more likely to have that problem; they have to fill up on toast and biscuits.

I found myself waking up in the middle of the night absolutely ravenous, having to make cups of tea and eat biscuits. I had a headache for five days in that week, and I was completely lethargic and exhausted by 4 pm. Some people are on jobseeker’s allowance and are looking for a job. Looking for a job is a job in itself; it takes time and energy. The people whom DWP Ministers want to do workfare are being expected to work 30 hours a week, yet they are not going to have enough to eat properly.

Most shocking of all was the fact that come Sunday I ran out of food—there was literally nothing left to eat that night. If Ministers are happy with the notion that 660,000 of our fellow citizens are literally not going to have enough to eat by the end of the week, all I can say is that I pity them because they have no pity and no conception of what they are going to do to the people in our constituencies who will be faced with this bedroom tax.

The Minister has been very free and easy in talking about all these wonderful alternatives, such as the fact that people can move. In my constituency more than 1,000 people will be affected by the bedroom tax, but there are fewer than 100 smaller properties to which they could move. In my constituency, it is not possible for all these people to increase the number of hours they work, as seven people are chasing every job; people are in part-time work because they cannot get full-time work. Government Members have shown their complete ignorance of the benefits system by saying, “You just have to work a couple of hours a week on the minimum wage.” Of course that is not true, because these people would get then into the tapers and the disregards, and their benefits would be cut or they might find themselves paying tax. The numbers simply do not add up.

Of course some individuals or couples have properties that are larger than they need, but the so-called under-occupancy is in one part of the country and the overcrowding is in another. It simply is not credible to suggest that all the large, over-occupying families in London will move up to Durham, particularly given that the unemployment rate there is more than 9%. What would they be moving to? What would they be moving for?

I made a video diary of my week, so I got a lot of feedback from people affected by this policy. Interestingly, they said, “Yes, this is the reality of our lives. We are not able to survive properly now and things are going to get worse to the tune of £10 a week from 1 April.” In 2006, I did the same experiment under the previous Labour Government, living on benefits to see what life was like for young people on the lowest rate of income support. I found that difficult, but there was enough money to get through the whole week. I wish to point out to the Minister that we have reached a new low, because the £21 that people had in 2006 is equivalent to £28 now, and that should be compared with the £18 with which people are going to be expected to feed themselves.

The Minister has made much, too, of the discretionary housing benefits, which many hon. Members have questioned. In County Durham, £5 million of income will be taken out of people’s pockets and out of the local economy. The size of the discretionary fund is half a million pounds, so once again there is a huge gap between actual need and the resources being given to people to deal with it.

Many hon. Members have pointed out the unfairness of the policy for people who are disabled and need to sleep separately, be they adults or children; people who have children in the Army; foster carers; and separated parents. This policy is a fundamental attack on the poorest people in this country. People are going to lose between £500 and £1,000 over the course of next year, through no fault of their own. But the really disgusting thing is that on the same day that the bedroom tax is being introduced millionaires are being given a tax cut that will be worth £1,000—not over the year as a whole, but every single week.

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Everything In It's Right Place

There's a saying that "Britain is a nation of shopkeepers". Well, I don't know about that any more but it dawned on me last week that "Earth is a planet of librarians" for it seems to me the natural inclination of everyone is to sort everything they come into contact with into the relevant section of the library that is their memory.
Doing so helps us make some kind of order out of the chaos that is all around us. This, in turn, leaves time to enjoy something of our lives without having to constantly work out who or what everything is every time we want to do anything.
But I find it interesting how we classify things.
For instance, if we believe the movies, people who are creepy, untrustworthy or just plain sinister look something like a young Michael Caine and, yet, it never stopped the real Michael Caine being a leading man and heart-throb!
And isn't it interesting how we're far more willing to re-classify good people as bad rather than re-classify bad people as good!
Also - as in the case of Jimmy Saville - the death of a person does not necessarily mean that their story has been told and that we won't have to re-classify them at some point in the future.
So we're finding we constantly have to re-order our libraries/memories which is just plain... annoying!!
If we have to move the book marked "Lance Armstrong", for example, from the shelf marked "Biography" to the shelf marked "Fiction" (as one Australian library joked that they would) then what does this mean for the other books in our library? Will they all have to be moved as well?!!
Then, sometimes, finding the book to re-shelve can be problematic in itself! In the case of a trans person, for example, the book may very well not just have a different title but a completely different cover as well!
Isn't it just far easier to leave things as they are - even if they are wrongly filed - than repeatedly having to go to the bother of re-ordering things about and run the risk of everything descending into chaos as every book keeps getting moved around! It'd certainly be far less time consuming!
So I can quite understand people's reluctance to constantly re-ordering their library/memory (and the evidence of this understanding is the chaos that is my house!).
Some people complain, some refuse, and then there are some who are only too willing to re-order their library... by thinking the worst of someone! (e.g. a daughter may find themselves disowned when they come out as a lesbian)
And what can you say about such a person who is so willing to think ill of someone?
Are they worthy of our respect?
Are they worthy of our sympathy?
Are they worthy of our hatred even?
Decide and classify.  
This is what we do on this planet of librarians and why, whatever the actual words used are, the complaint you'll most often hear as a minority (LGBT, black, muslim, Pole, etc, etc...), from friend and foe alike, is "Stop messing up my filing system!".

Friday, 18 January 2013

There Are Only Two Kinds Of Transsexual

Note: This blog post requires patience and toleration and a far better exploration of the subject can be read in Julia Serano's Whipping Girl...

The Theory: Transsexuals fall into two groups: Those that wish to be attractive to men (homosexual) and those that wish to subsume women (heterosexual).

Except not all transsexuals are "male to female". Some are "female to male".

...but I suppose we could broaden it out to make a similar distinction...

Transsexuals fall into two groups: Those that wish to be attractive to the same sex (homosexual) and those that wish to subsume the opposite sex (heterosexual).

Except, if that were true, then transsexuals would be a very unique section of the populace being compiled of only two sexualities when the rest of the populace are compiled of at least 5 (Heterosexual, Homosexual, Bisexual, Pansexual, Asexual).

...but transsexuals are a tiny minority of the populace and perhaps this is why - it only affects those who are Homosexual or Heterosexual.

...or maybe the other sexualities are bogus and are just people who are greedy/undecided/unconfident.

Except that some transsexuals are "intersex" which would not seem to fit the theory because, biologically speaking, how can someone who is "intersex" be pinned down to either male or female and thus fit into a Heterosexual or Homosexual definition?

...but many "intersex" people don't see themselves as transsexual. In fact some consider the only thing that makes them a transsexual is the operation that was carried out on them in their childhood without their consent to make them fit into someone else's idea of what their gender was. So, really, "intersex" people shouldn't be classed as transsexual at all.

Yes, but, if transsexuals were so pre-occupied with sex as to wish to change their bodies to get the sex they desired, then surely the number one topic amongst transsexuals would be that of the sex they desire and how they're going to get it and, yet, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, when compared to other groups of people, the subject of sex hardly features at all. The vast majority seem to be far more interested in science and technology than sex (to the point of geekism) but I suppose it figures that those who consider themselves 'wrongly made' would be pre-occupied with how things work.

...but, maybe, they just don't talk about that kind of stuff when you're there.

You know, I was always taught that a good scientist derived a conclusion from the known facts. But the theory "Transsexuals fall into two groups: Those that wish to be attractive to men (homosexual) and those that wish to subsume women (heterosexual)." appears to require far too many "if"s, "but"s and "maybe"s to make it work.
It is not one proved in fact and thus could only ever be claimed to be fact by a prejudicial mind.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Turning A Blind Ear(!)

It's been an interesting couple of days.
It started on Sunday when I leisurely wandered downstairs at 11am, made myself some breakfast, sat down on the sofa and opened up Facebook on my iPad (a very expensive birthday/Christmas present from my generous parents).
One of the first posts I noticed was from a Facebook friend who had linked to an article written by Julie Burchill entitled Transsexuals Should Cut It Out. Said Facebook friend warned that it used inflammatory language but I thought, "Come off it! It's The Guardian! How bad can it be?!!".
Well, when I managed to pick my jaw up off the floor, I had my answer - unbelievably bad. In fact, probably the most hate filled thing I have ever had the displeasure to read (and that includes competition from Richard Littlejohn, Melanie Phillips and the BNP website!). Hell! It didn't even pretend to have journalistic standards!
I was staggered at how this could've got past the Editor and be published in a supposed respectable newspaper (which, I should say, turned out to be The Observer rather than The Guardian - they share the same webspace, hence the confusion). Surely, if nothing else, an Editor has a duty to protect his newspaper from a criminal conviction? Whereas, this article laid it wide open to one - for committing a hate crime!
However, up until Sunday, I had only ever felt it necessary to contact the police twice before - once when I found a man in the street who I believed to be dead and the other when my friend was suffering some domestic abuse. So I hardly regard myself as reactionary or "trigger happy".
Having a background in the newspaper trade (once as an Editor for a local news website - but mostly in what they call the "Production" department (aka dogsbodies)), I'm also pretty well acquainted with how newspapers work and how low they'll sink to sell themselves (despite what anyone else will tell you, newspapers aren't about investigative journalism - or any kind of journalism for that matter - but making money for which they need to sell lots of their product that contain lots of paid for advertisements for other people's product in them). So when I see these articles from the aforementioned likes of Richard Littlejohn, Melanie Phillips et al I know what the real motive is - money - and so I take them with a pinch of salt.
However, when someone flat out breaks the law by committing a hate crime with the evidence on display for all to see, as Julie Burchill did with her article, it appears there is not enough salt in all the world that will stop me from reporting said crime to the police.
Thus Julie Burchill's article is now registered as a Hate Incident... and I hope it will follow with a conviction for Julie Burchill for committing said hate crime.
So should you see some of the follow up articles that harp on about "Freedom of speech", I hope you will have a better understanding of the circumstances.
For this much talked about "Freedom of speech" doesn't actually exist because, as has been illustrated, you are not free to speak (or type) as you please.
Also, when journalists reminisce about this much lauded "Freedom of speech" with misty eyed sentimentality, you also ought to be aware that "Freedom of speech" has never ever existed (in anyone's living memory at any rate)! There have always (in living memory) been consequences to speaking unjustly about someone.
So why would the newspapers suggest otherwise? Surely these bastions of morality, such as The Daily Mail, would never seek to mislead their readership?
Well, one theory could be that there has been a report into the goings on in "newspaper land" called The Leveson Enquiry. In this report some journalists were found to be wanting in certain qualities such as honesty and lawfulness. As a result there was a public backlash and a politically supported clampdown on the freedom of the press (as limited as it already was).
So, of course, the press don't like these measures - it makes their job of doing a thoroughly researched article before deadline even nearer to impossible than it already was (as can be evidenced in any daily newspaper you care to read)!
Now these deadlines aren't going to go away and nor is the pressure to make money in this atmosphere of 'new' competition (only 20 years old and going strong) from online media and the reduction in disposable income for disposable newsprint as a result of recession after recession.
So what would any self-interested newspaper publisher do?
Perhaps they seek a way to slither from underneath this oppressive atmosphere by changing the rules??
Perhaps they seek to gain something they've been denied up until now?
Perhaps they seek the freedom to publish what they damn well like with impunity??
A freedom that the newspapers could snappily call, "Freedom of speech".
No need to worry about lawsuits for slander, libel, misrepresentation... or prosecution for committing a hate crime then! Not when you've got "Freedom of speech"!
But a savvy newspaper publisher would know damn well that no one's gonna give that to them! Why on earth would the public give them the freedom to slander, libel, and incite hatred?!!
Well, not unless they're convinced that they actually want this freedom too, that is!
So perhaps the newspapers set about manipulating the public into thinking they do want this freedom and print a whole sheaf of articles beseeching it??
But, think about it, when does the topic of "Freedom of speech" ever come up in our daily lives?
Do we have a row with a neighbour and accuse them of infringing upon our "Freedom of speech" when they tell us to "F off!"?
I think it far more likely we respond in kind rather than harp on about being "bullied into silence"!
Do we think, "You know, I really should be allowed to accuse Mr Singh of being a terrorist if I want to. He is Asian, after all!!"
No, I think it far more likely our conscience sways us towards a more honest course of action.
So why should there be a different set of standards for our newspapers? Especially when it's been shown conclusively in the last year that we want our newspapers to behave honestly and responsibly!
For what a "Freedom of speech" amounts to is a licence to act dishonestly and irresponsibly and I see no reason why we should support that.
So, should they ever ask us to, I think we should turn a blind eye (or ear) and instead demand that our newspapers give us a service that benefits us, rather than one that benefits them.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

A Dose Of Reality

It may come as no surprise that we don't live in an ideal society (whatever your notion of an "ideal society" is) but that should not stop us striving for one.
Ideals, after all, are dreams and dreams give us something to strive for and stop us becoming lethargic and ignoring all the bad stuff that goes on.
But ideals can also be dangerous if they lead us to being oppressive and unforgiving.
For instance, one of my ideals is that no one should be judged by their appearance.
But if I were to force that ideal on to others who didn't share it then I would be being oppressive. If I then damned them for not living up to my ideal I would then be being unforgiving.
Neither of those qualities (being oppressive or unforgiving) are ones I value and thus I find it even more damning when I use them against myself - when I force myself to live up to other people's ideals and/or give myself a hard time for not living up to my or someone else's ideals.
Thus it seems a far better thing to do to show compassion by injecting a dose of reality.
So, whilst I think no one should be judged by their appearance, the reality is that it's a mode of thinking that's ingrained into us from the moment of our births.
We are constantly bombarded by adverts that encourage us to define beauty and, through doing so, 'appreciate' that we are lacking in worth as a human being because we don't match that definition (that often has no basis on reality). We are repeatedly told that we must wear something "suitable" or "fashionable" or that only a certain look is acceptable (e.g. "Black tie event"). People are judged on what sex/gender they appear to be (and "never the twain shall meet"!) and expected to live up to the different standards set for each. Whole countries go so far as to define their national identity - even down to defining a "national costume"! - and thereby define those who look different as "other" and thus not their equal.
So it is quite clear the reality is that every minute of every day people are being judged by their appearance.
Thus it seems to me that it is far better for me to appreciate that the reality is what it is and have my ideal as a goal to aim for - not one that I insist is met at this very moment.
Doing so is difficult. It means I have to tolerate - even if only at a surface level - the mockery and social exclusion that goes on in the name of "fitting in" - the mockery and social exclusion that often exhausts our capability and our willingness to survive.
However, in showing toleration of what the reality is, I am offering compassion to my fellow human beings and resist the temptation of replacing one tyranny with another.

Thursday, 10 January 2013


(In reference to the #TransDocFail 'campaign')
There's no way I can boil my experiences with the NHS to just 140 words so here is the full story to date...

Things started in the Spring of 2009. I saw my GP and explained that I believed I had gender dysphoria and thus wanted to have counselling to help me come to terms with what was troubling me. At that appointment she offered me hormones(!) which I said I didn’t want and said she’d organise some counselling for me. Months passed and nothing happened and because nothing happened I had to fund my own counselling at £40 ph which turned out to be counterproductive as my counsellor suggested my dysphoria was in fact internalised homophobia.
Not having any confidence that my counsellor was deluded or had overstepped the boundaries of a professional counsellor, I continued this counselling for ten sessions until May 2009 when I stopped seeing him and went back to my GP to ask again about NHS counselling – which is when she confirmed that she had forgotten to ask for counselling for me but would get it sorted this time.
However, I was again left to fend for myself and things came to a head and I started cross-dressing (androgynously) full-time.
During the summer of 2009, as I have “club feet” and problems with my ankles, I contacted my local NHS Foundation Trust’s Disablement Centre to arrange to have footwear made to help with my disability.
For every appointment with the Centre, I presented as female and stated that I wished to be referred to by my female name, “Claire”. I state “every appointment” as, despite asking them to amend my records and change my name, they never did so. So for every appointment I received a letter in the post and was referred to during my appointments by my male name, which was deeply embarrassing considering, as I say, I was presenting as the female I believed I was. Furthermore, I was pulled aside by the manager of the Centre after one of my appointments and was questioned about my presentation and received the explanation that they could not change my records, refer to me as female or use my female name without a Deed Poll evidencing the change of name (which I subsequently found out goes against guides for good practice). I was thus glad when I got my footwear and was not required to visit the Centre any more.
In October 2009 I was glad to receive a home visit from a mental health nurse who promised to “fast track” me as I had already waited so long. However, this promise appeared laughable when I received a letter shortly after promising a 4 to 5 month wait for NHS counselling! So I decided to fund my own counselling again, this time with a specialist gender counsellor in Salford (which is a 60 mile round trip from my home).
This counselling continued until February 2010 when, approx. 1 year after asking, I received a letter promising NHS counselling in March 2010.
I had asked for – and been promised - a counsellor with Gender Identity Dysphoria expertise but I guess they must be scarce on the NHS as my counsellor didn’t even understand what I was talking about! She did, though, help me come to terms with what was troubling me so I am happy to vouch for the success of NHS counselling (it’s just the waiting time and inherent expense, both mentally and financially, of that waiting time that I find bothersome).
Thus, having come to terms with the fact that I was a transsexual, I realised I needed to put myself on the “gender reassignment pathway”.
Which reminds me – I had sought NHS funding for laser hair removal in February 2010 but was denied said funding on the premise that I was not at that time on the “gender reassignment pathway”. To this day I can not fathom out why laser hair removal on the face should rely on the willingness to have my genitals removed and find such a condition on funding little less than barbaric! I also found out subsequently that, even if I had been on the “gender reassignment pathway”, funding would not have been guaranteed.
Thus, finding my facial hair intensifying my unhappiness, I had to self-fund my laser hair removal – treatment that I still continue to this day, 2 and a half years later (at an average of £100 a session!).
So, going back to July 2010, I asked my GP to refer me to a GIC and waited…
In August 2010, I realised I could no longer live androgynously and transitioned to live full-time as the female I believed I was. Doing so made me realise I needed speech therapy and so, in October 2010, I went to my GP and asked for her to refer me to an NHS speech therapist.
Also in October 2010, I finally got to see a psychiatrist who, hopefully, would refer me to a GIC and I could get the help I so desperately needed.
In that meeting, he seemed incredibly distracted and nervous by my presence and hardly asked me any meaningful questions at all – a point Charing Cross GIC seemed to confirm when we first met and commented that my notes were somewhat lacking in detail – but I left that meeting feeling reassured that my referral was a mere formality… if only that had been true!
In November 2010, having received no information in the 6 weeks since my appointment the previous month, I phoned the psychiatrist’s secretary for an update. She claimed that they were in the process of moving offices but my referral was in the outgoing pile waiting to be posted the next working day.
Having received no more information, I phoned a week later and was told the exact same thing. So I waited another week before phoning again and got the same answer yet again!
Up until that point in my life, having both parents employed in the NHS, I had believed the NHS was a trustworthy organisation that, despite severe limitations on its resources, always pulled out the stops to meet expectations.
However, despite my inclination to not make a fuss, I raised a concern with my local NHS Foundation Trust’s Customer Care Manager and my faith in the NHS was restored when notice of my referral arrived a week later! So now it was just a matter of waiting…
In January 2011, 3 months after asking, I had my first appointment with the NHS Speech Therapist who immediately disappointed me by revealing she had no experience in teaching people to develop a female voice. This was reinforced when she kept presenting information she had found on the internet and reassuring me that I needn’t worry too much because hormones would help fix my voice (completely bogus information!). Thus I suppose it shouldn’t have been a surprise when, six sessions later, my voice had become, in my opinion, strangulated and so I was glad that she then called a halt to things. (Incidentally, from the beginning of 2012, I have been taking singing lessons to help me develop a female voice and have subsequently learned the errors my Speech Therapist enforced upon me).
Meanwhile, back in February 2011 (2 years after first seeing my GP), I got a letter from Charing Cross GIC offering me an appointment six months later. I couldn’t believe that after all this time I would have to wait another six months and I was left distraught!
Matters were made worse in March 2011 when that original appointment was cancelled and one offered for 10.45 in the morning. I could not imagine how the clinic could seem it sensible to offer someone who would have to make a 228 mile trip an appointment for 10.45 in the morning and told them to rearrange it. I also asked them to put me on the cancellation list in case an appointment should turn up sooner.
In April 2011 I got a letter confirming an appointment for June but this was cancelled in a letter I received a day later(!) offering an appointment for July. This chopping and changing of appointments left me lacking confidence in what was arranged and thus I left it until the last minute to book my train ticket to London when I could’ve got it for less than half the price if I’d booked it when I first received the letter. This lack of confidence in appointments made by the clinic was still with me when I last visited them in June 2012 and why I booked myself an overnight stay so that, even if the appointment was cancelled, I didn’t have to waste the expense of a train ticket and could still come to London for sightseeing and make it a worthwhile trip.
So, anyway, in July 2011 I had the pleasure of getting my first appointment at Charing Cross GIC with Dr Lenihan.
I found Dr Lenihan to be very rigorous in her questioning of me in that first appointment, which reassured me that I was being taken seriously and we would get to the bottom of my gender dysphoria.
The next appointment wasn’t until January 2012 but I knew there was a minimum 6 month period between appointments beforehand so I knew what to expect even if I was disappointed by the time lapse.
When I came for my second appointment in January, though, I was appalled that a blood test asked for by the clinic had not been carried out by my GP, resulting in a delay in me getting hormones prescribed.
I then had to go back to my GP and find out why this test had not been carried out and was told that procedure had not been followed and the admin staff had not written to me when they had failed to make contact with me via the phone. The test was subsequently done and I started on the prescribed hormones in May 2012.
In June 2012 I saw the clinic’s speech therapy specialist for the first time and Dr Lenihan for the second time. I left the meeting somewhat disappointed, however, that I had travelled all that way at great expense to myself and the rigorous interview at my previous two appointments had not been repeated. In fact, it seemed like I had gone to great lengths for nothing much more than a cursory chat!
However, I still left the meeting feeling I was on the right path and things were progressing smoothly if slowly – something Dr Lenihan seemed to confirm in her last letter to me.
However, in August 2012, after my hormone dose had been increased, I had a realization I was lying to myself – I did not identify as a woman (trans or otherwise) but as something outside of the binary gender model. Thus the progress towards forming a female body could not ever be satisfactory. That it in fact was increasing my gender dysphoria rather than settling it. Thus I decided to stop taking hormones and I wrote to Dr Lenihan and my GP later that month informing them both of my decision to stop taking hormones.
I did not receive a timely reply to that letter and, as time was getting ever nearer to my next appointment, I decided to contact Iffy Middleton as I had been present at one of her presentations and concluded from that that she was a good person to contact on this matter.
She informed me that she had passed on my letter to her to Dr Lenihan and thus I awaited a response.
In the meantime, I received a letter from Charing Cross GIC in October 2012 that informed me that my GP had been asked to take blood tests for my hormone levels(!) thus making it clear that there was a serious time delay in the clinic’s administration resulting in the clinic asking my GP to take blood tests for hormones I had stopped taking a month before the letter was typed and which, when my GP received it, would’ve been outside of the timescale being asked for in the letter my GP received even if I was still on hormones!
Thus I subsequently wrote to Iffy Middleton informing her of this and my dismay at the clinic’s inefficient service.
However, in Dr Lenihan's last letter to me, she seemed to think something she described as “a typing backlog” is not evidence of inefficiency and, furthermore, that there is no evidence I have had an inefficient service from the NHS at all!
Then as fate would have it, I had a phone call on the 16th October 2012 from my GP asking me to come in for the blood tests the clinic had asked her to do! So it would seem that it is not only the clinic who is unable to keep up with events – even when they’re brought to their attention directly by myself!
So I decided to write to Dr Lenihan taking issue with her comment that there is no evidence I have had an inefficient service from the NHS and received a very apologetic letter from the practice manager (countersigned by Dr Lenihan) promising, amongst other things, that the typing backlog would be addressed. However, I know from my friends who go there, that the typing backlog is as great as it ever was.
However, on the plus side, I feel I have learned a great deal from the last 3 years and I now feel sure in my own mind who/what I am and what I want out of life and it has nothing to do with “the gender reassignment pathway” or Charing Cross GIC.