Archive for March, 2016

Today is the Transgender Day of Visibility. It has been since 2009 in parts of the USA, and internationally since 2014.

I was at work, where I had to put my phone on silent because Twitter would not shut up. Trans media was, of course, all over it. So was a wonderful amount of mainstream media. And many individuals, tweeting away their support and sharing hundreds of great posts about what it is to be trans, and why we need to kick transphobia squarely in the sensitives. Even many UK police forces joined in, and I actually spent a couple of hours at work recording a new training video for my own workforce about LGBT issues, especially the respectful treatment of transgender people. Heck, my car insurance company tweeted about it! Holy shit, right?! This was awesome!

But somewhere was noticeably quiet.

The LGBT fiction community.

Review sites churned out yet more reviews for yet more gay romances featuring yet more exclusively cisgender characters. Authors posted about their cats, characters, and Ronnie Corbett. Blogging sites formerly known for taking part in awareness campaigns like the Blog Hop Against Homophobia and Queer Romance Month said nothing about transgender folks, and kept quiet. Publishers didn’t even take the opportunity to put their transgender fiction in the spotlight.

Really?

This is a community with the collective power to create Queer Romance Month and talk about queer identities several times a day for a whole month without pause. A community with the strength to turn the Rainbow Awards into a huge accolade without the need for big press publishers to be involved and shoulder out the small presses and independent authors. A community which can organise a huge, complicated blog hop for IDAHO months in advance. And pull it off. Several years in a row.

But, apparently, it is also a community that can’t be bothered with today.

After all, today is about transgender people.

And this community cares less about transgender people than my car insurance company does.

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I hit the finish line.

I mean, I’m not finished, but I’m over the line. Today I had a nurse pull my boxers down and give me my first testosterone shot.

Which means in under a year, I transitioned.

In April 2015, I came out and socially transitioned. In November 2015, I had my top surgery. And in March 2016, I started HRT. And as HRT is a lifetime of injections…I am done.

In eleven months.

And yet…thousands of trans people in this country go years without being able to do it. Transitioning can take a decade or more — and that’s for ‘straightforward’ cases. If you’re non-binary, it may be longer. If you have other health issues, mental or physical, it may be longer. And as I’ve learned this last year, if you play by the NHS rules, it will be longer.

On a totally different note (maybe), the LGBT fiction community is up in arms at the minute. And it all boils down to erasure. Many LGBT people feel erased, marginalised and hurt in that community. Which is appalling and crazy and I’m one of them.

Because this is the consequence of erasure: waiting a decade to get help, and all the time, that help act like they’re doing you a favour. In fact, that’s very much a mirror image of the LGBT fiction community’s sad state at the moment. Ignore the LBT and any other orientation, for that matter, and when they complain, tell them they’re ungrateful.

In my battle to get hormone treatment, I was told I had to be seen on the first Friday of the month only, because that’s when the transgender clinic is. When I asked why I couldn’t have a Thursday like any other patient, nobody could answer me.

I was told I couldn’t be treated by my GP because of the guidelines. When I asked which guidelines, nobody could answer me.

I was told I couldn’t have surgery before hormone treatment. When I asked why, nobody could answer me.

And nobody can answer because…nobody’s actually got an answer. But because nobody has challenged this and forced them to change what they’re doing and how they’re thinking, we continue to wait and suffer and die in silence.

Yes, die.

I would have died if I had not been given my injection today. Because the other option would have been wait until mid-June, maybe even July. And I would not have made it. I would have killed myself, and I would have died because the system is constantly and systematically ignoring us.

If you like me, or my books, or heck, even the concept of a human being behind these posts, then for god’s sake stop pretending that sticking a rainbow flag on your profile picture and reading gay men getting it on makes you an ally. It doesn’t. And we need allies. We can’t change these systems, we can’t fight this oppression, completely on our own. We need to stand up and fight them, and you need to stand with us. You need to do something. You need to talk about these issues, you need to call out bigotry, you need to share stories, you need to donate to charities, you need to sign petitions. You need to act.

But if you call yourself an ally and all you ever did was read gay men screwing, then you’re no ally of mine.

 

 

 

(But I am a man now! Woohoo!)

So today I won.

After battling the enforced one-day-per-month for transgender patients, the refusal to give me any appointment outside that one day, the ignoring of my referral, the (all new, as of this morning) refusal of my GP to prescribe interim treatment even when I was sitting in her office in tears and outright telling her I would end up committing suicide before the June appointment, a corporate response from the hospital that this is all caused by the fact transgender patients prefer the special clinics, and a complete lack of communication by the department…

AFTER ALL THAT.

I won.

On Tuesday, the department called me to offer me a cancellation for Friday (today). Now this got me suspicious. It’s the second Friday this month. The Super Special Trans Day is on the first Friday. What’s going on? Could I possibly have drummed a point into somebody’s skull somewhere along the line? Lord forbid!

I took it (and being British, I am thoroughly disturbed by how frostily cold my voice was on the phone to that receptionist, given it is my cultural, nay civic!, duty to be sunny and unfailingly polite on the phone) but I didn’t cancel my GP’s appointment for the same morning, because I didn’t trust the consultant to actually do anything.

Well the GP did nothing (apart from sit there, watching me sobbing, and repeat ‘it’s against the guidelines’ over and over like a broken and inaccurate record) but the consultant, o miracle of miracles, actually did.

His job, that is.

He actually did his fucking job.

That is all I have been asking for. All I have wanted, from the very beginning, is to be treated like a normal person. And today, I turned up at the hospital, and was told to go to the diabetes clinic. In there was an elderly couple who, from their conversation, were there for reasons to do with the husband’s diabetes. The consultant came to get me. We talked about what treatment type would fit best with my lifestyle, whether my family history had any scary things that would put up red flags for an endocrinologist prescribing large doses of testosterone, and how my treatment would be managed. He was even disturbed by the GP’s response that morning, and said they had had an odd reply from a GP in the same area and it had been flagged as a contrary to the WPATH guidelines. He would check if it were mine, he said, and if so, reply to them in no uncertain terms that they would be overseeing my long-term care and as he had given them the exact doses to prescribe in the first place, they were breaching the guidelines by refusing me. In the meantime, he is going to talk to colleagues at the hospital in my town to see if they will accept me wandering in every 12 weeks to have a nurse stick a big needle in my arse, and I am going to ask my occupational health department at work the same question. Then he called the hospital pharmacy, right in front of me, to ask whether we had any of the drug I’d chosen in stock.

Well, no.

But it will arrive next week. And then I can go back and have a nurse stick the first big needle in my arse. We have 12 weeks to work out who’s administering the next dose, and voila! My life. Back on track.

In one bloody half-hour appointment, where he finally treated me like a normal patient instead of trying to shunt me off to a special day several months of psychological torture away.

And the irony?

When I got home, there was a letter from the clinic director for endocrinology acknowledging receipt and investigation of my complaint. And it began with the words, We take incidents of discrimination very seriously…

No shit. Because it worked. The disciplinary axe hasn’t even fallen, but I have created enough furore to get my appointment moved to an acceptable time, and my treatment started within 18 weeks of referral, as is my right as an NHS patient.

The Brit in me cringes at the amount of screaming, shouting and complaining I have had to do. I hate doing it. I would much rather stick my head in the sand and ignore the whole thing (as I have very successfully done regarding my meter readings, my uncancelled gym membership, and the shoddy customer service at Boots Chemist), but I couldn’t.

And it worked.

So next week, I will not be jumping in front of a train, or slitting my wrists, or taking an overdose.

I will be going cycling. And signing up to a new gym. And shopping for a house.

Because I won.

So let’s talk about something that allies and writers tend not to notice very much.

Endearments are very often gendered, but…pretty subtly. So what even a stranger calls you in a friendly, informal setting can often reveal what gender they think you are.

I don’t know about America too well, but in Britain, loads of random endearments are gendered, but not necessarily all the same way. ‘Love’ is typically something everyone calls women, but can also be something older women call men. ‘Mate’ and ‘pal’ typically refer to men, and is used that way by both sexes, but ‘pet’ changes from bloody estate to estate in Newcastle, and ‘duck’ seems to refer to anyone on the planet whose name I may or may not know.

Very often, you’re reliant on knowing the area to know whether or not someone just effectively called you a man or a woman.

But sometimes, they give themselves away.

I’ve just returned from a long weekend visiting friends in Gloucestershire. On Sunday, my lovely host and I went for a roast dinner at a Toby Carvery. For those of you who don’t know, this is a chain carvery where you basically go and get your meat carved by a bloke in a hat, then wander off to the buffet table to pile the rest of the food on, then eat yourself to death at your table.

When I got to the counter, having not been speaking to my friend loudly enough for the chef to hear, he said, “What’ll it be, pallove?”

That was how fast he changed his mind. Pallove. He started to say ‘pal’, a term in that area only really applied to men, then twigged I might not actually be a man halfway through and tried to change it to ‘love’, a term that when it’s used by men is almost always going to be referring to a woman.

The result was pallove.

My friend started smirking. I struggled to keep a straight face, and just asked for the turkey. When we got back to our table with our soon-to-be-food-comas, we both started sniggering.

But just look at how gendering crept into even having dinner. I was gendered by the chef serving me food. We went shopping the next day, and a sales assistant asked if he could help ‘you ladies.’ In the next shop, I got ‘palled’ again and nobody seemed puzzled by us wandering into the menswear section; in the one after that, I got a distinctly funny look for looking through the men’s swimming trunks on the sales rack.

I would say that someone effectively remarks on my gender, via casual endearments, every time I leave my house. I get ‘mate’ a lot in my town. One of my colleagues has a tendency to ask me to ‘be a gent and make us a cuppa.’ I got ‘pallove’ at dinner, and ‘what can I get you ladies’ at the bar.

Does it bother me? No, not really. My dysphoria is well over 90% physical, rather than social. Does it bother others? Yeah, sometimes. An agender friend can get very upset if we both get ‘how can I help you, sirs?’ in a public place. I heard of a trans guy recently who blew his lid when a waitress called him ‘miss.’ Hell, when I’m grumpy or low, even I pull a face at the confused, ‘Um, and…what’s your date of birth?’ when I’m ringing my doctor’s surgery to try and get an appointment, because the idea of a female voice belonging to a patient recorded as Mr. blows the receptionist’s mind.

But whether or not it bothers us, it’s something to bear in mind when writing transgender characters.

Because whether they mind or not, there’s just about no way they haven’t noticed.