Posts Tagged ‘friends and family’

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.

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.)

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.

So my aunt is Catholic. Not the nice moderate type of Catholic who is all love thy neighbour, oh no no. The crazy type who is all “UNMARRIED MOTHERS WILL BRING THE END OF HUMAN CIVILISATION.”

(No, seriously, she’s said that.)

Anywho, I went visiting for the first time in years this weekend. This is because I told my family my new name back in the spring of 2015. She’s had nearly a year to get used to it, but still persists in sending me things with my old name on them, cards and the like. So I thought, right, time to sort this out.

Her grandkids came to visit while I was there.

The two in question are four and six. Last time I saw them, they were two and, well, nothing. A blob with a tuft of hair, really. And that’s the two-year-old. In short, they haven’t the first clue who I am — a point made rather obvious by my aunt saying to the four-year-old when they walked in and clocked me, “Oh, that’s Aunty Anna.”*

(Note: everyone in my family remotely older than you is aunty or uncle so-and-so, simply because it’s so freaking big.)

This. Was. Torture.

For four hours, these kids decided they liked me (god knows why) and wanted me to play with them. Constant ‘Aunty Anna, look at this!’ and ‘noooo, Jamie, Aunty Anna’s playing with me!’ and all sorts. It was like having my ears shredded. Twice, given that I don’t like children in the first place.

Obviously I am not saying this is remotely their fault. But my aunt?

These kids do not know me. My aunt could have said I was a traveller from the Romanian circus and they would have believed her. She could have said I was a new lodger here to soak up the glory of Gateshead, and they would have believed her. She could have, shock-fucking-horror, used my actual goddamn name.

I honestly would not even have minded had she said, “Oh, that’s Aunty Ali.” My name is unisex. It can be applied to a boy or a girl. I would genuinely not have minded, given these kids were four and six and not the brightest four and six year olds either, still being labelled as female. I still sound female. I still generally look female. They would probably have perceived me as female with or without ‘aunty.’

But no. Aunty Anna. After nearly a year.

Combine this with my aunt constantly slagging off my father (her brother) for being obstinate and stubborn. “He’ll never change,” is her refrain.

AND YET.

And yet my father, who is 69 years old and denounces most modern footballers as being nancy boys, has come to terms with my transition. He takes the view that I am his child, and he will support my decisions. We still talk. We still have a positive relationship. I am taking him on holiday for his 70th birthday this year. Does he use my new name? Well, no, not often — but if he sends me post, it’s to my new name. My Christmas cheque was written out to my new name. He has seen and not commented on parcels from my publisher to Mr. New Name. Is he perfect? Dear lord no. Would he understand if I said, “Look, come on, you still calling me Anna down the pub to your mates is hurtful sometimes.” Hell no. Is he, however, accepting of who I am?

Yes, actually.

But my aunt? Apparently not.

Well, needless to say, I wasn’t happy. So I took her aside before I left and asked her to please use my new name. The response?

“Oh, that.” *scowl* “Yes.” *scowl* “Now, do you need any petrol for the drive home?”

I tried to explain it’s hurtful.

“It’s hard,” she said. “You’re in the middle of transition. Enough of that.”

No, not enough of that! I’m not in the middle of changing my name!

“No, enough of this, now tell us when you get home safe–”

I slammed the car door and drove off. I actually had to pull over a mile down the road because I hadn’t waited long enough to put my sat nav up.

When I got home (having mentally sworn at her the whole way), I wrote a letter. Two sides of A5, telling her how rude and disrespectful she’d been to me and my family, and that as she clearly neither loves nor respects me, I won’t be visiting again. I ended it by telling her not to contact me. I’ll be posting it in the morning.

And yet.

Out of all of it, I learned something positive about myself.

I’m angry.

I’m bloody fuming! I’m furious with her and her hypocrisy, her constant bleating about the importance of family and bemoaning that we (my siblings and parents and I) are too far away and never get in touch, and yet having the disgusting hypocrisy to disrespect a simple request to use the correct damn name.

But I’m not upset.

I don’t feel I’ve lost something. I don’t feel I’ll miss out by cutting her off as I’m going to. I simply feel angry with her, and all of it is based in I am worth more than that. I deserve to have my name respected, and if you loved me, you would. As you won’t, you obviously don’t love me, so why the fuck should I keep you in my life?

This, I think, is a big positive step for me.

So onwards and upwards: shedding the transphobic load and filling up my life with people who like for who I am, not for who they want me to remain.

 

 

*NB: my birth name was not Anna, but this flowed better with a name shoved in there.

Merry Christmas!

Posted: December 25, 2015 in Uncategorized
Tags: ,

Tis the season and all that.

Now for once, trans issues and gay issues can come very close to being the same at Christmas. Those of us lucky enough to have supportive families can have the same Christmas as our straight and cis counterparts, though often Nan’s dementia can make things a bit funnier if we have a sense of humour about ourselves.

But many trans people aren’t that lucky.

Like gay people, closeted trans people at Christmas may have to silently seethe while various family friends and relatives make completely wrong assumptions about them, offer advice to get their life going in the ‘right’ direction, and make bigoted remarks about other gay or trans people.

Some trans people, after coming out, have lost their families, or things have become so awkward that going to see them and sitting silently seething is actually about the only option.

But for most of us?

Yeah, it can be upsetting to go and not have a lovely time with your family. But for most of us, the most awful things about Christmas are still the same as frustrations experienced by straight and cis people.

Take my Christmas: everyone is studiously ignoring my transition. My dad has mentioned me changing my name a couple of times, and we did have a brief chat about how my aunt took it (not well) and then we moved on. My older brother, on the other hand, has very firmly ignored the lot. He didn’t so much as say ‘alright, [nickname]’ when I went to collect him in the car. And he has done that ever since I came out — he never even acknowledged my telling him.

But the bit that’s really pissing me off? The bit where he sat for an hour lecturing us about how ‘Paris is what happens when you let foreigners into your country.’ And he obviously knows this to be 100% true because he works in the defence industry.

Yeah, I’m sure, fuckwit.

So I’m not really going to enjoy Christmas. But it’s less because I’m trans, and more because my brother is a racist douchecanoe.

Merry Christmas, everyone!