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So this post is going to be kind of cryptic, because I really, really don’t want to ID the people involved. Partly because it’s nobody else’s business, partly because I’ve picked up on something I’m sure was not what was meant.

Someone I know came out as trans recently. They’ve been questioning for ages, but finally hit that ‘ohhh’ moment where it kind of clicks into place. Even more recently (duh) they have got themselves on the waiting list for a gender identity clinic.

(These are specialist clinics where you go to get access to transition treatment, known simply as GICs.)

This person announced the new development, and happily lots of people clustered round to offer hugs and support. (Woo!) The waiting list at their ‘local’ clinic is about a year. So, in a year, they’ll get to actually see somebody about it all.

(There’s about seven GICs in the entire country so local is putting it very, very, very loosely. As a comparison, Houston is local to Dallas compared to, say, New York City.)

But one remark stuck out to me.

One comment fucking hurt.

 

And I am sure this is not what the commenter meant, and I’m sure they are genuine in their support for this mutual friend.

But my God, did I want to shake them and scream in their face.

Their comment (and I will not directly quote because, as I said, I really don’t want to ID them) was that the waiting list is needed.

As in, for the patient to figure it all out before they get there.

As in, it’s a good thing the first appointment is twelve months away, because this mutual friend will need that time to get it all sorted out in their head anyway.

Even worse, this was not the only comment along these lines. Others include the wait will be beneficial and after all, it’s a big change.

So…

I mean, you do realise that’s a middle finger salute to the hundreds of people who’ve been psychologically tortured by the waiting lists in for UK GICs, right?

You do realise that many of us have bankrupted ourselves going private because we won’t receive any actual help within two years, minimum?

You do realise that people have committed suicide waiting for treatment here, right?

You do fucking realise that it takes seven years to transition on the NHS, right?

So no.

No.

NO.

Absolutely fucking not.

No-no-no-no-no. Do not, do not, excuse the torture of patients on those waiting lists for years because hey, they need time to figure it out.

Okay, firstly?

Most people going to a GIC already figured it out.

Like seriously, this is not an early step. Most people have already been talking to therapists for years. Most people already have a good idea of what they need to feel better, to be okay again. Most people are going to the GIC because they think (wrongly, actually) that this is the only damn way to access treatment.

And those who don’t? The first person you see in a GIC is a psychiatrist. And guess what their job is? To help you figure it out. To make sure you’re set on this, you’re not going to regret anything, that you’re giving yourself the best shot at happiness and health again.

Some GICs are actually famous for stalling you at the psychiatrist stage. Some psychiatrists are so binary-blind and focused that you have to be super hyper feminine or masculine to get what you need (because obvs no trans woman ever likes wearing football strips, and no trans man has ever thought their toenails look awesome painted blue). A friend’s girlfriend was stuck for two years at the psychiatrist level, not even allowing her access to hormone therapy, because she didn’t experience dysphoria from her deep, manly voice.

Can you imagine waiting for a physiotherapist for two years because you need time to figure out your knee pain hurts? Can you imagine waiting four years to see an endocrinologist about your pre-diabetes? Can you imagine being told, ‘Yes, you may have an appointment with the severe depression counsellor, but her waiting list is two and a half years and we can’t offer you any support while you wait to be seen, but it’s alright, you need time to figure out if this is affecting you.’

No.

Do not fucking tells trans people that their torture on waiting lists is okay.

And you think I’m exaggerating by torture?

This is what being on a GIC waiting list entails:

NOTHING.

You are left to rot. There is no support. There is no communication. There is exactly nothing waiting to help you while you wait to be helped. You are left to hurt and cry and die.

But!

You can’t admit you have mental health needs, like anxiety or depression, because that endangers your treatment. You can’t admit even to your GP that you’re struggling, because they might tell the GIC, or might even refuse to help you because you’re the GIC’s problem now. You have to sit there, in silence, waiting and waiting and waiting and waiting, to be helped with something you probably already know to be true.

I went private for my surgery, because I was refused ‘permission’ (no, seriously, that’s how this treatment works) to undertake transition in the order I needed it. I am still financially unstable thanks to that. I then flat-out told the GIC I would not sit and die on their waiting lists—because I would have done—and was allowed to seek hormone therapy without their involvement. (Like, you know, I should have been able to do anyway, like any other patient with a hormone problem in the whole country.) I still had to wait six months from surgery to getting that very first shot—and in those six months, I attempted suicide twice, and had three mental breakdowns.

All whilst going to work (I can’t afford not to), keeping my mouth shut (I couldn’t afford to have the possibility of help taken away from me) and pretending I was completely fine.

And that was just six months.

I knew I was trans before I ever told a single medical professional. And I am not remotely unusual. So for someone to have asked for a GIC referral—hey, guess what! They probably already know!

And if they don’t, they’ll have all the time in the world once they’re at the GIC to figure it out with the help of the psychiatrist!

MEANWHILE

Those of us who do know are being fucking tortured in this limbo between the GP and the GIC, held on ice and terrified to admit to needing more than a vague promise of an appointment maybe 12 months, 18 months, 2 years, 3, FOUR YEARS if you’re unlucky enough to live near Leeds.

And why is this bad?

Because who fucking cares about trans people suffering and dying on these lists? They can get seen eventually. It’s not cancer. They’ll be fiiiiiine.

They need.

The time.

To figure.

It out.

Yeah. That’s why.

Trans people are dumped off as whogivesafuck citizens because hey, it’s all in our heads and we need time to sort it all out first. So it’s okay to do that to us. It’s okay to make us wait years to even see a psychiatrist (never mind, by the way, that actual medical transition is going to take you years on top of that because you’ll spend the first six months just proving you’re not batshit or a special snowflake to the psychiatrist) because heeeey, we need that time.

No.

We had that time. We had that time all the way running up to booking a GP’s appointment to get referred to a GIC in the first place. What do most of us need by the time we ask to go to the GIC?

Help. To. Transition.

And it’s comments like this that enable that torture. Because some people have not got it down 100% before they hit the psychiatrist’s office, all of us must be tortured on these waiting lists, and killed. All of us don’t know what we want, and must be forced to explain it over and over and over, and live months and years longer in the wrong bodies, with the wrong faces, in the wrong voices. And that wait, that lack of the system’s ability to help, is killing us.

And if you don’t believe me?

Come and meet me sometime. Come to a con, come to a pride parade, hell, rock up in my town and ask to share a coffee.

And I’ll show you the scars. I’ll show you the road outside my GP surgery. And I’ll show you the bridge over the railway line, where I sat for three hours wondering if I could make it six months until a doctor would deign to see me. I will show you the space in my bathroom where the pills used to be, that I had ready to go on the day they authorised my access to hormones.

Because if they hadn’t, that very day, I would have gone home and made a third attempt.

We don’t need time anymore.

We need a solution.

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So, I have a new boyfriend.

 

STOP FAINTING IN SHOCK.

 

Joking aside, this post is for the LGBT fiction community more than it is trans people. Because…honestly, trans people tend to actually get this part better.

 

Newsflash: trans people date.

 

And no, I’m not kidding. Trans people are more likely to fucking get that, than the LGBT fiction community.

 

How?

 

How is that possible, given…well, yeah, basically every trans person has had that ‘oh my God this makes me totally unloveable’ thing go off in the back of their heads at some point.

 

But somehow, it is.

 

Because trans people get older, put themselves out here, date, fuck, marry, and the rest of the community doesn’t react like this is in any way weird.

 

But for the LGBT fiction community?

 

Well, if trans people dating were normalised within that community, guess what. Trans characters would be all over the m/m genre like a hot rash.

 

And.

 

They.

 

Aren’t.

 

They are practically non-existent. And comments like whooooa, I thought this was an m/m book! are commonly seen on the review sections for the very few that do exist.

 

So, again, newsflash: it is still m/m if one of the dudes is a trans dude.

 

You know what it needs to be m/m?

 

Two dudes.

 

You know what a transguy is?

 

A dude.

 

This is seriously one of the most depressing things about the genre. People go batshit insane if you dare imply they might not be awesomesauce allies to the rest of the queer alphabet. And then there’s a ringing silence when you go, “Right then, what was the last trans hero you wrote in an m/m book?”

 

The hiiiiiiiiiiiiills are aliiiiiiiiiive, with soooooooooound of siiiiiiiiiiiiiiiileeeeence.

 

It’s like the LGBT fiction community has failed to grasp something really kinda crucial about trans people.

 

We’re fucking people!

 

We are not a medical pathway. We are not genitals. We are not surprise vaginas, cocks made from arms, and beach ball chest implants. We are not your pet research project. We are not your trans friend to protect you from being called a shitty ally.

 

We. Are. People!

 

Which means we date! Very often, we date cis people! And trans men especially are actually pretty damn likely to be dating men.

 

So the m/m genre needs to get its head out of its ass and stop claiming to be an ally when it still denies transguys a place amongst their fellow cocklovers. Put us in your books. Or shut the fuck up about being pro-LGBT, because you’re not.

 

That is all.

 

For now.

So I work in a bit of a strange environment.

In my department, I am the only man. Literally every other person in my department is a cisgender woman. I am the nearest thing to a testosterone level that unit has, and mine comes in a vial.

My department work with many other departments, and the one I am currently spending the most time with is very bloke-heavy. They have the opposite ratio: there is only one woman in there, and a bunch of blokes.

And I mean blokes.

Not men.

Blokes.

British people can probably already visualise the type of man I mean, but for those in other countries: builders are blokes. Plumbers are blokes. That crowd of fat football fans chanting and spilling beer and Doritos eveywhere? An army of blokes.

Matt Bomer in White Collar is not a bloke. He’s a man. A guy. Maybe a dude. But he’s not a bloke.

Now, thanks to the particular job I do, I’ve spent most of my working day for the last five weeks with this department of blokes. They’ve always been friendly enough, but at arm’s length. I’m trans, you see. They’ve been warned. (No, seriously, they have, before I arrived.) They mustn’t offend me! So they’ve been friendly enough, but guarded. Distant. I am an unknown entity, and they have to size me up good and proper first.

Well, apparently, the process is over.

Gaz: “You going to do the charity ride, Matt?”

Me: “Nah, don’t do road-biking. Not into Lycra like you.”

Gaz: “You’re hardly shy, walking around the locker room in your pants!”

Me: “Yeah but I’m fit as fuck.”

Gaz (outraged): “I’m fit! I’m bloody fit!”

This is a major step.

I’m sure that many of you won’t get it–but this is one of the most insidious things about being trans. The silence. The way people skirt around the elephant in the room. The way people will never say a word to you, never lift a finger, and yet it hurts just as much as a transphobic outburst. Because they know. You know they know. And they would speak to you, laugh with you, like you–only they won’t even say hi. Because you’re trans. And trans is weird.

The LGBT fiction community is massively guilty of this approach. It’s not discussed. It’s not written about. There aren’t even a legion of trans side characters, never mind main ones. There are many trans authors, but mention of the fact is studiously avoided in interaction. There is a wall of silence, broken only to shriek HOW DARE YOU I’M AN ALLY if it’s called out.

What Gaz (not his real name) did today was something he’s probably not even aware he did.

He acknowledged having noticed that I walk around the locker room in my pants. (Screw you, it’s fucking hot cycling into work in the summer!) He’s acknowledged I’m in the men’s locker room every morning, with him. By extension, he’s acknowledging having seen me mostly naked. And it’s not something to be avoided. It’s not something that can’t be mentioned.

It’s funny.

Because I deride Lycra as unnatural and clingy, but will walk around in my underwear in front of total strangers without a second thought.

And the cisgender blokes I work with have finally stopped expecting me to have a meltdown if anyone acknowledges that I exist, and are talking like I’m just another bloke.

 

 

 

(Also, I am fit as fuck, so screw Gaz.)

If you want to write transgender characters well, it’s ironically the little things that will help you the most.

 

It doesn’t take a lot to convince me you googled folks like me. You know what top and bottom surgery mean. You know about shots and gel. You know about those first terrifying forays into the right sections of the clothing stores. Good for you: you can Google. You had Trans 101, probably in a single conversation. Awesome.

 

But let’s face it, it’s the little things that make anyone believe a character.

 

Let’s take crime novels. I work in law enforcement in real life. And I enjoy crime dramas and crime novels…but ninety-nine percent of them don’t actually convince me. Why? Because nobody says, “Clear left!” when they’re the passenger in a car.

 

No, seriously. Every single one of my RL colleagues (and me) does it. Across three forces. Say this to a new colleague who started last week, and they look at you like you’re batshit insane. It’s a very…well, cop thing to do. And without it? I don’t believe the characters are real cops.

 

Writing trans characters is exactly the same. I’m not going to be overly impressed when you know about binders. (And yes, actually, many people in the genre do expect you to be impressed when they know what a packer is.) I am waiting for the inevitable trying-on-make-up scene if your character is a transwoman. I know it’s coming, let’s just get it over with.

 

Or, preferably, let’s get some authenticity up in here. Let’s get some variance. Let’s get some reality.

 

Like how taste can change. I have loathed yoghurt for twenty-five years. Even as a toddler, I had to be MAJORLY bribed. Now, I’m chugging the stuff. I fucking love it. And it’s weird as fuck, because my brain is still not convinced on this. It knows it shouldn’t like it. But my mouth is overriding it, and going mad.

 

Like how you keep some things from your past life, because fuck it, they’re good. Most visitors to my house believe I have a girlfriend who stays regularly, because there’s flowery bubble bath and two scented candles on my bathtub. Because yeah, I go mountain biking at weekends, I do kickboxing, and I am found six evenings a week doing weights in the gym–but fuck you, them candles smell good.

 

Or like the joys of gardening topless. Not because it’s manly, or gender-affirming. But because it’s fucking July and roasting hot and I have to dig up the lawn, damn it. Not every happy moment with our bodies is a trans thing. And let’s be cynical here, some of the changes are good or bad for totally self-serving, not-to-do-with-gender things.

 

Like the one thing I mourn about having my top surgery? I can no longer get instantly served in bars just by existing. I have to wait in line now. Kinda sucks.

 

Like how being trans doesn’t mean being totally in love with everything about your acquired gender, or hating everything about your assigned one. Being a transman doesn’t mean you have to hate your boobs. Being a transwoman doesn’t mean you must have a serious thing for make-up. Some transmen still have wedding-dress dreams; some transwomen still love nothing more than slumming it in crotch-to-the-knees sweatpants and hoodies on a Sunday afternoon.

 

So write them too. See them. Show them. Know them.

 

It’s not all about binders and packers and surgeries and hormones.

 

It’s about that one patch of hair that’s coming in under your nipple when the rest of your chest is as bare as a baby’s arse.

 

It’s about not being into false nails, no matter how many colours they come in.

 

It’s about the little things. And those are the things that make a character believable. And make our lives real.

Four Months In

Posted: July 8, 2016 in Uncategorized
Tags: ,

Three and a half, actually.

 

I’m three and a half months into hormone therapy, and so far, it’s been a relatively smooth ride.

 

I’ve remained emotionally very stable, which was a pretty concern of mine. Body hair is starting to grow in. Acne’s not as bad as I’d suspected it might be, given what the first time round was like. Voice has dropped…like, a lot. And judging by my suddenly manly thighs in the shower this evening at the gym, fat is being redistributed to other places.

 

The major bugbear so far? Periods haven’t stopped. Like seriously. FUCK. YOU.

 

Of course, it comes with consequences. Stealth mode is over. I can no longer just sneak quietly in and out of the ladies’ toilets without being clocked as an imposter–which means there’s a whole new stress to public loos, as I don’t necessarily pass enough to be in the gents’ yet either. But, the up side is that I have no nerves about the gym changing rooms anymore, so…I suppose there’s a trade off.

 

My major concern right now is travelling. Without stealth mode, I’m developing a near-fear of airports, so I’m making enquires into getting my gender changed on my passport. Which, given I have no gender recognition certificate, may be unnecessarily hard without one. But we’ll see. I want it in place before I go to the USA, though, because right now I don’t think I could handle that can of worms.

 

I’m also starting to put out more social feelers. I’ve found an LGBT specific martial arts club to try out, and I don’t stand paralysed in fear with someone says ‘y’alright, mate?’ in the gym anymore. I’m getting more comfortable at work.

 

So, the work in progress continues. With about as many ups and downs…which is better than it used to be.

Orlando

Posted: June 13, 2016 in Uncategorized
Tags:

You know what happened.

You know who did it.

And, although an official conclusion hasn’t been reached, you know why.

Hate.

The shooter hated LGBT people, and thought they deserved to die. And so do thousands of commenters in America, including many people in positions of power and authority. These people think that twenty-year-old men and women deserve to be murdered during a celebration, because they are queer.

And as much as I know that there are many thousands of American who think the exact opposite, and condemn this horrific violence, I’m afraid.

I’m scared.

I intended to go to the US for LGBT fiction conventions twice next year. Both are in Florida. I already rarely get to go through an airport anymore without being taken to the little white room for security to check why the body scanners are picking up something in my crotch area that shouldn’t be there. My title in public appears to be ‘er’ because nobody is sure if I’m a man or a woman. Judging by the chin fluff, by the time these conventions roll around I will have facial hair, and be carrying ID that says I’m female.

And I’m scared to go.

I’m scared to go to a country where we speak the same language. Where our governments both boast about our good human rights records. Where I can wear men’s jeans and t-shirts if I want. Where I can attend pride festivals, and wear my asexuality rings. A country that for years had a ‘special relationship’ with mine, a country which houses all the publishers I ever worked with, a country that is home to some of my oldest and dearest friends.

A country where I can be shot for being transgender.

Where there is a legal defense for murdering me.

Where death threats are issued by politicians against me.

Where companies are bombed for saying they don’t hate me.

But here’s the thing. I’m going to go anyway. Because the point of bombing bathrooms and shooting up clubs is fear. Those that hate us, they want us to be afraid. They want us to disappear back into our closets and cease to exist. They want us to go away.

Never give your enemy what he wants.

I will come to the USA next year. I will walk into a country whose transgender community is under violent attack, and I will be petrified the whole time. But I’ll do it.

Because we can’t let hate win.

It’s (Not) Complicated

Posted: May 14, 2016 in Uncategorized

It’s been awhile.

Largely because I’ve been abroad, to the depths of a wi-fi free desert, and now I’m in the middle of a house move and won’t have internet access back for blogging and other nice stuff for another week. And work might ask questions if I’m logging onto their internet to blog about packers and pronouns.

I have my pick of things to talk about today — like being trans abroad, like being trans and moving house, like the rude cow from British Gas who said, “You’re Mr. Metzger?” in the most sceptical voice I’ve ever heard.

But instead, I’m going to talk about my book.

On 30 April, my first transgender novel came out, Spy Stuff. It’s about first relationships when you’re transgender, and the terror of telling your new boyfriend that you’re not exactly what he thinks you are.

And a couple of responses got to me.

Not because they were bad — in fact, the response so far has been overwhelmingly positive — but because of some of the things being said.

One review said I was ‘gentle’ with my readers. Another said it was simple and straightforward. Another author PM’d me on Facebook to say how she loved that it wasn’t preachy or a massive info dump about transgender issues.

And that’s…

Don’t get me wrong, it’s amazing. And I love those responses. But they also make me pause because if it’s worth saying, then that’s not actually a good thing. If it’s worth saying ‘oh, this trans book is so straightforward!’ then the implication is either that other trans books aren’t (problem) or trans people aren’t (bigger problem).

But…we are. And the books should be.

This is not huge, scary stuff. Our stories are not epic monologues of angst, with some histrionics thrown in for good measure. We’re not difficult. If we can figure it out, when we’re usually too young to understand the concepts and too scared to come at it from a rational viewpoint, then what’s so hard for the rest of you?

An hour or two on Google will tell you all you need to know about the physical side of things, and another hour or two on blogs and forums will tell you all you need to know about the emotional side of things. And the plot side of things?

At its core, Spy Stuff is just a boy working out what to do with these things called boyfriends.

And that’s not a trans thing.

(back to regular posting when Le Interwebs is restored at my new house!)

Work in Progress

Posted: April 27, 2016 in Uncategorized
Tags: ,

So it’s six weeks since my first T shot, and I’ve just had another.

In six measly weeks:

  • I’ve lost the upper ranges in my voice, and am speaking much more quietly than before. My colleagues and my boss have all remarked that I sound ‘gravelly’ or like I have a sore throat.
  • I had to shave my upper lip before work about four days ago. Haven’t since, but then, I hadn’t before
  • There has been a lot of growth in the downstairs department, to the point where I can just about cup myself, if you know what I mean.
  • Been a lot of growth in the fuzziness downstairs too. FYI, a beard trimmer has multiple uses.
  • I am basically a teenage boy right: ridiculous amount of energy, and eating my own body weight in food every day.
  • I’ve been hitting the gym every day and doing workouts that usually would leave my muscles crying and me curled up in a ball on the floor. It’s not happening. I don’t look any different yet, but I feel like for the lack of heart failure and death that occurs after a 10k run.

 

Work in progress, guys. Work in progress.

Sometimes it’s the little things.

Like arriving at my dad’s local today to pick him up. I commented on the cricket score. The bar manager said, “Hey, she’s right. He’s right. She. He. Whatever.”

Like when I told my dad about my aunt calling me a disgrace for being trans. He snorted and said, “Then you know what she’s like.”

Like my dad remarking (although I forget the context of the comment), “You’ll be a man eventually.”

Like him rolling his eyes at my adventures in getting medical transition, and remarking, “I’m glad our GP here is decent. What a joke.”

This man still says that he has a daughter, that my brother has sisters, plural, and still calls me by pet names he has never used for his biological son. The locals still use my old name, my optician still writes out test results to a girl who doesn’t exist, and I will probably be ‘sweetie’ until the day my beard is longer than my dad’s.

But there’s glimpses of awareness and acceptance. Hints that they know, and they’re okay with it. Shades of being on my side that make the rest of it okay.

It isn’t hard.

It doesn’t take a lot of time and effort.

Because even the little things, just words here and there, little comments and little things, can show that people care, that people accept it, that people still love and respect you.

So do it.

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.