Posts Tagged ‘social transition’

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.)

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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.

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.

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 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.

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.

So it’s not Sunday, and normal service will resume next week.

However, it is now 2016!

I actually made goals for 2016, something I haven’t done in a long time. And one of them was to start hormone treatment. Only that’s going to be way harder than writing it on a piece of paper and going ‘hey, I can totally do that.’

The thing is, hormone treatment is usually the third step, after diagnosis and social transition. But for me, it’s the last step. I have no plans at the moment to have bottom surgery, and I’ve already been diagnosed, socially transitioned, and had top surgery.

Unfortunately, NHS services really do presume that anyone accessing a gender clinic hasn’t made any steps whatsoever, so the information that’s out there is useless when it comes to how flexible they’re prepared to be. The Laurels in Exeter had all the flexibility of a plank. I hadn’t heard awesome things about Leeds either. And Nottingham was to be avoided at all costs.

I live near Leeds now, so I sent them an email detailing the situation. Imagine my surprise when I was called back the same day by the Leeds Mental Health Team! (Seriously, for the non-Brits here, NHS efficiency is an oxymoron.) Well, the first lovely fact of that phonecall:

It will currently take you three and a half years to get your first appointment at the gender clinic after being referred.

Seriously, three and a half years.

On top of that, by the way, it takes four months to be diagnosed, up to two years of social transition before an eighteen month hormone treatment plan and, two years later, surgery. That’s just under TEN YEARS to transition on the NHS right now, from that very first referral made by your GP.

Oh, and if you want help in that time? Call a hotline, NHS has no resources for you.

Ten fucking years.

Thankfully, the clinic lady was actually helpful to me. She outright admitted that going through the clinic wouldn’t be ideal for me, and offered to write a letter to my GP telling him to refer me directly to either a local endocrinologist, or one in Harrogate who has worked with their patients before. Cut out the clinic entirely, and crack on with the hormone treatment separately from the gender services.

And the waiting list for an endocrinologist right now? About two months.

Three and a half years versus two months, I know what I’m going to try.

So seriously, if you’re a trans person needing something a bit different from the gender services, call them! They will try and help you get around the problem. And if they don’t? Complain the fuck out of it. It’s only by complaining we’re going to change the system, because three and a half years to wait for treatment is longer than people waiting for a cosmetic boob job on the NHS. It’s absurd.

 

 

(happy new year!!)

A Short Story About Allies

Posted: October 25, 2015 in Uncategorized
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Once upon a time, there was a big open-plan office in Bristol, with big shiny lights, uncomfortable seats, and dual screen computers that never had the screens in line with one another. It was filled with people who spent all day clicking on keyboards, drinking copious amounts of tea, and going Excel-blind after manually cross-checking another fifteen thousand rows of data because the network server was down again.

And in this magical place of tea and passive-aggressive emails about the communal fridge, worked a transguy. He was the only transguy in the office, and had still been an undercover one when he joined the company. He even wore dresses back then, imagine!

Then in April, the transguy came out of the  closet and began to transition. He asked his colleagues to call him by a new name, and use ‘he’ and ‘him’ pronouns. He had to have a meeting with HR so that the company could pretend to be inclusive and diverse, when in reality everybody knew that the magical office preferred its employees to show no signs of having any sort of life whatsoever.

But, because the magical office was fuelled by unreasonable work demands and overseen by a tyrannical, three-headed beast known as ‘the senior leadership team’, none of the transguy’s colleagues could care less that one of their kind was changing. “Alright then,” they chorused, and the clicking of keyboards continued in peace.

For six months, nothing more was said on the matter. The servers continued to fail. The multi-headed beast continued to issue demands for constant status reports. The IT desk continued to insist that the solution would be to switch it off and on again, despite the problem being that the device would not switch on in the first place. It was not a happy place, but it was content, for tea supplies were plentiful, and — on the rare occasion that the beast had been cornered in its dark and dreary cave by the paranormal power of Meetings — office banter was happy.

Now in this office, there were three line managers. One ran around all day looking frazzled and feeling sorry for his stressed staff, and shall be known as The Fluffy One. One spent all day shouting at the people on the phone, and tormenting her junior staff with excerpts from Fifty Shades of Grey (the horror!), and shall be known as  The Kinky One. The other…

The other was simply known by his name. For what was there to say about Bob that could be agreed on? Bob did not like being a manager. He despised meetings and staff welfare. Bob liked to manage projects, not people, and the tedium of listening to employees’ problems bored poor Bob. And because Bob was tall and rarely smiled, people did not want to bother Bob. If he could be a One, Bob would have been The Stern One.

But ah! the transman knew better. For you see, he and Bob had worked together before. And he knew Bob to be the kind of man to trade insults as names, and enjoy the more relaxed banter that was always to be uttered out of earshot of the three-headed monster. In the transguy’s previous life, Bob had called her ‘shorty’ and ‘midget’, and said that the day did not begin before she put on her high heels ‘and grew three inches in three seconds.’

Now, the transguy found this attitude refreshing. What is working, after all, if there’s not some fun to be had? So the transguy and Bob mocked each other occasionally, and all was well.

But then one day, six months after the transguy shed his heels for the last time, a rogue manager strayed into the magical office of tea and banter. He had come to see the transguy about an assignment, but — for the rogue had not called the transguy to check he would be there — he found the desk empty, the cup of tea half-drunk and cold, and the employee sinfully absent from their desk.

So the rogue swooped down upon the only manager, our hero Bob, for answers. “Where is she!” the rogue demanded in a loud voice. “I have to discuss the loss reduction report with her!”

“Ah,” said Bob. “It’s ‘he’, actually. And he’s just–”

“No, no, no,” the rogue trumpeted. “The woman who sits there! We spoke last week! She’s doing a loss reduction report for me!”

“No, you don’t understand,” Bob tried. “It’s not she. He–”

“I think I know a woman when I see one,” the rogue guffawed.

And so Bob had little choice, and — in front of all the employees of the magical office — said, “He is transgender and uses the pronouns ‘he’ and ‘him.’ I’m aware you may not have been told before, but I’ve just tried to tell you. Please use the right ones in future.”

As the transguy could not be found, Bob sent the rogue away and pondered on what had just happened. For Bob was a private person, and did not like discussing an employee’s personal business out of their presence. So when the transman returned from his dangerous foray into The World Beyond The Office, Bob called him aside into the hall.

“I have to apologise to you,” he said, and the transguy was quite bewildered. What had Bob done to apologise for? “Fred was looking for you earlier and kept saying she. I tried to correct him subtly but ended up having to tell him the situation in the open office, in front of all the staff.”

“Oh,” the transguy said. “Well, everybody knows. And you know me, it’s not the kind of thing I’m bothered about.”

“I didn’t think you would be,” said Bob, “but I still didn’t feel it was appropriate to have to do it like that without you at least present.”

“Well, I’m not worried,” the transguy said. “Everybody in there already knows anyway.”

And so they returned to the office, refilled their cups of tea, and worked apathetically ever after.

****

Moral of the story: being an ally isn’t about being a boring shit who never says bad words, never makes fun, and never cracks a joke. You can call people every name under the sun and still be a good ally. You can play Cards Against Humanity at your desk during lunch, hooting like a group of monkeys, and still be a good ally.

Because being a good ally is about knowing where the lines exist in the circumstances you are in, with the people you are with, and upholding those lines where they are at that very moment in space and time.

Is it harder than blanket statements like ‘never use this word, never say that thing’? Yes. But it’s also more genuine. It doesn’t make a big deal out of things, it allows humour space to breathe, and it treats us all like the adults that we are.

So go Bob. For being the best ally, whilst simultaneously being the manager who can make you shit yourself with fear when he loses his temper.