Reflections on youth, the media and everything…

The BBC recently screened a documentary on the subject of transgender children and teens, entitled Transgender Kids: Who Knows Best? The programme met with a certain amount of criticism and some vitriol from the trans* community for addressing the issue that some professionals believe there’s evidence to suggest that kids who identify as transgender don’t always know their own mind and that, if left alone and/or exposed to toys, situations and clothing that’s more appropriate to their gender assigned at birth, some will ‘settle down’ and any dysphoria will disappear with the passing of time. Some who oppose this see it as a way of trying to ‘cure’ gender dysphoria.

My personal reaction to the documentary was that it wasn’t as anti-transgender as some had made it out to be. Admittedly, the programme did show a couple of examples of when the wrong decision had been taken – or narrowly avoided – to proceed with reassignment, but I took this as being in the interests of balance rather than any told you so kind of way. Professional opinion is always going to vary, and contrary to some views expressed in the documentary, I didn’t get the impression any of the clinicians expounding a more laissez-faire approach believed they were trying to ‘cure’ gender dysphoria (as some were suggesting) – merely allowing children the space to be absolutely certain of their identity before they – or their parents – took any irreversible decisions.

That said,there’s no question in my mind that a child knows whether or not they ‘fit’ in to the gender roles and environment that parents and society in general confer upon them based on their gender-assigned-at-birth – and also that, if not addressed, that sense of dissonance is invariably carried with them into adulthood. Regardless of whether that sense of discord turns out to be full-blown gender dysphoria or not, it needs to be acknowledged and explored.

I make no secret of the fact that I’m not exactly in the first flush of youth, and watching documentaries such as this, My Transsexual Summer, I Am Jazz etc. etc. have a bittersweet effect on me. The mere fact that such programmes are broadcast on mainstream media and that we can have public discussions about gender identity in young people, shows the progress society has made since my own youth. I think it’s fantastic that children are encouraged and given the opportunity to explore their gender identity at an early age, though I’m certain that for those involved it’s far from easy to instigate the conversation – but still a darn sight easier than it was 40-odd years ago.

We didn’t even have the language. The word transgender didn’t enter my vocabulary until many years after I experienced those first feelings that something about my life and what the world expected of me just didn’t feel right. I spent my childhood and teenage years trying to be someone I could never be, and not understanding why.

I wonder how many of us can, with the wisdom of hindsight, look back now and see the signs? In my case some of my earliest memories are of my mother letting me play with her cosmetics, and clip-clopping about the house in her shoes while carrying her handbag. I remember wanting to be like her, soft and feminine, and actually feeling repulsion at the masculine characteristics and behaviours of my father and older brothers. I remember hating some of the clothes I had to wear, and once at primary school felt absolutely bereft that I couldn’t join in the girls’ games and be friends with them, rather than the boys. But at that age and in that era, the only thought possible was the wish that I’d been born a girl, and to have expressed it out loud would have been social suicide even at those tender years, and would have simply drawn the comment of “Don’t be silly!” if I’d attempted to articulate the same feelings to my parents. Child psychologists existed at that time, but were only for what were termed ‘problem kids’ – those who were disruptive or who had special needs. Special needs is a relatively recent descriptor – the derogatory terms used in those days, which I won’t repeat, said what you needed to know about how such kids were regarded. Few, if any, in 1960s Bradford would have even known what gender identity was.

The relevant memories of my teenage years at single-sex school are still too painful to share. It’s enough to say that thoughts that were already deep had to be buried even deeper to survive. Like many I suspect from that era, manifestations of gender dysphoria became secretive and something to be ashamed of, compounded by the fact that society conflated gender identity with sexual orientation at a time when homosexuality had only recently been legalised in the UK.  No wonder so many of us grew up repressed and slightly damaged.

I’d already started work before I first saw anything in the media about gender dysphoria. Some of a certain age may remember a BBC documentary called – sensitively – A Change of Sex. I was still living at home at the time, and it was a miracle my parents didn’t turn the television over to another channel. While they busied themselves with other things, I sat on the sofa and took in every word and frame of that programme. I recall the overwhelming feeling of ‘I wish that were me’, feeling envious at how someone could have such certainty and self-confidence, and wondering in those pre-internet days how on earth anyone found a route in to that kind of world. That was probably the first time in my life everything clicked together and began to make sense, although the downside was that I still couldn’t talk to anyone about it, let alone do anything. It would be many, many years before that became possible.

Which brings me back to the present-day documentaries. The openness of the conversation means that young people of today grow up with a far greater awareness and insight of identity issues beyond the binary, and without the stigma that once existed. And that’s wonderful. What comes across is that if there are any issues in society, then on the whole it tends to be the older generation that have the problems coping with the more open attitudes that exist in society – something that manifested itself in certain other political arenas in 2016 on both sides of the Atlantic. More on that subject I shall not say.

The bittersweet referred to earlier is that inevitably when I watch such documentaries and see such comparative openness in the younger generation, I can’t help but wonder what might have been had such attitudes prevailed and support been available in my own formative years. It’s all ifs, buts and maybes but especially in my tortured teenage years I can’t help but wonder if life might have turned out differently even by just having someone to talk to who understood how I was feeling, and could have helped me make sense of my gender dysphoria.

But to paraphrase Wordsworth, the child is mother of the woman and whatever is suppressed in youth has a habit of coming out in later life. We should celebrate the fact that the younger generation is generally more knowledgeable, accepting and tolerant of difference than the baby-boomer generation, and thus far better equipped to deal with identity issues either in themselves or others. Being transgender is no big deal to them, and paradoxically they’re the ones that have ended up supporting our journeys, one way or another.

To those in the trans* community who were critical of the messages in Transgender Kids: Who Knows Best?, I say this: Whatever the rights or wrongs of the specific ways in which gender dysphoria is treated in children, simply being able to have a public debate about the topic on primetime TV is progress in itself, and that in itself shouldn’t be taken for granted. Far better to discuss the relative merits of prescribing hormone blockers than allow the less-enlightened in society to try and sweep gender dysphoria under the carpet again.

Seasoning

For many people, I know that a certain amount of emotional stock-taking happens around this time of year. Those of us experiencing similar journeys must find, like me, that what for most folk are straightforward seasonal rituals take on a poignancy that only those in our social circles to whom we are ‘out’ can possibly understand.

I’ve never been a great fan of Christmas ever since the magic of childhood was left behind. Of course, I understand now one of the reasons why as so

xmas

Happy Christmas

many of my past Christmases have been about trying to go along with what others told me was a ‘good time’ and failing spectacularly. I’m not saying that my then little-understood gender dysphoria is the only explanation, but I still have uncomfortable memories of trying to fit in to a role and rituals that didn’t feel right, and feeling something more than just envy at women taking on the ceremony of ‘getting ready’, like it was something I was missing out on and wanted desperately to be a part of. This Boots advert from a few years ago sums it up pretty well  – watch for the moments at 0:51 and 1:14 and you’ll get some idea of how I’ve felt many, many times across the years.

One of my current frustrations is the not knowing how much longer this journey is going to be. The simple act of signing Christmas cards recently was irritating in that I still had to sign so many as Bob, although at least more were signed by Ruth this year than last. Glass maybe a quarter, if not quite half-full. The other seasonal ritual that had me groaning inwardly with frustration took place in the workplace. My manager, bless her, had got the entire team presents – which was a lovely gesture –

makeupheaven

Dear Santa…

however, she’d arranged them into two piles of boys’ gifts and girls’ gifts, so of course handed me a box from the former pile. I’ve no idea what’s in it – cos I’m a good girl and don’t open my pressies until Christmas Day – but I did so desperately want to point out that the other pile would perhaps contain a more suitable gift. And goodness knows what Secret Santa has brought…

It’s the things like this – the trivia, if you like, rather than the big stuff – that keep serving as a reminder that something has got to change, and change soon, because I’m realising my sense of dysphoria is becoming increasingly acute the more time passes – moreso than I could have possibly imagined a few short years ago. I wrote last time about a key event that I feel has to happen to unlock the future, but notwithstanding family matters I’m beginning to wonder how much longer I can carry on like this…

It has occurred to me throughout the festive preparations that this may well be the last Christmas I spend as Bob – but then I remember thinking same this time last year. What’s changed is the intensity with which I feel the inevitability that something’s going to happen over the coming 12 months. For one thing, if my calculations are correct my first appointment proper with the Gender Identity Service (GIS) should be sometime in spring, or not long after, and I’ve always said that that’s going to have the effect of ‘validating’ me – not that it should be necessary of course, but I hope you understand what I mean in that it may help in others’ eyes, and support any remaining difficult conversations. Change has to happen, one way or another.

In other news… well, there isn’t much, really. Some friends who knew about Ruth but had never actually met her did so a few Saturdays ago when I cooked them one of my curry feasts. As is so often the case nowadays, after the initial surprise (at Ruth, not the curry) and a few inevitable questions the evening settled down in the way dinner parties do. What’s always lovely when that happens is that I get a sense of acceptance and ‘fitting in’ that I’ve never fully felt as Bob. Those who know will understand, but I actually feel more socially confident nowadays when the world sees Ruth rather than Bob – something that a few years ago I could never have imagined myself saying.

Other than that, I’ve pretty much stuck to my word of not coming out to anyone new or pushing boundaries until my most immediate family are told of my intentions, which I’m hoping will be sooner than later. Yes, there’s still much inner turmoil at the thought, and the how and the when remain unknown. All I know is that I trust the moment will present itself when the time is right, and that forcing a conversation isn’t the way.

Finally, I offer my apologies for the brevity of this post and the fact that it isn’t exactly the most interesting or enlightening – but sometimes that’s just the way life is. I shall leave you with one of my favourite musical offerings for this time of year, and one that hardly ever gets played these days

Season’s greetings to one and all, and may 2017 bring everything you wish for.

Family Ties

So a few weeks ago I finally grasped one of the remaining nettles that’s been waiting to be grasped for a while. In the big scheme of things it didn’t feel as momentous as some of my other comings-out, but it was significant nonetheless. But as it happened, it ended up giving me pause for thought rather than my usual elation at others’ absence of surprise and general acceptance upon being told of my situation and intentions.

ties

No, not THAT kind of tie…

My immediate family has never been especially close-knit in the way families often are. We’ve always got along, taken an interest in each others’ welfare and I can’t recall a single time when there’s been any conflict or disturbance between us over the years. I suppose ‘benign’ would be a good word to describe our relationship, though not in a negative way.

I’m the youngest, and by quite a number of years. My eldest brother passed away a few years ago, leaving me with one surviving sibling who’s married and lives about 200 miles away. Although we talk on the phone quite regularly we actually meet only rarely. I felt news about Ruth was something that should be imparted face-to face, and thus it wasn’t through fear that I was holding back – simply that we hadn’t seen each other for a couple of years. Finally, by some miracle my brother, sister-in-law and I finally got around to meeting up after a gap of almost two years, and I was determined not to let the chance pass.

Having recently moved house and as a consequence being nearer to the rail network, travel is a bit easier for them, so we arranged to all meet up in the nearby town where our parents used to live – a bit of a sentimental journey, if you like. It’s a pretty place, and the weather was bright and sunny so on arrival we all went for a walk on the nearby moors. Conversation meandered as it does, catching up with all the usual family news and so forth, and I kept wondering how I was going to slip the subject naturally into the discourse. Then the topic conveniently turned to matters medical, so I took a deep breath and seized the opportunity. The ensuing conversation went something like this:

Me:     Talking of doctors, I was referred to a clinic myself last year. Actually, it’s a Gender Identity Clinic and I’m on the waiting list to be treated for dysphoria. A couple of years ago I realised I couldn’t hide my need to live my life as a woman any longer.

[Silence]

Me:     It’s something that’s always been there and I decided it was time I was honest that this is the way I’ve felt for years.

[Silence]

SiL:      So how does that actually feel, then, to be a woman?

Me:     [reeling somewhat at the directness] Erm, it’s just who I am. I can’t really explain.

I should perhaps point out here that my sister-in-law was a social worker for many years, and with hindsight it was pretty obvious she’d gone into ‘professional mode’ as she processed my revelation.

[More silence]

Bro:        Oh, I guess it must be really complicated, but I can see that you’ve done the right thing. It can’t have been easy and I appreciate you telling us.

SiL:         What about xxx?  [insert name of Number One Son – N1S]

Me:        He doesn’t know yet. That’s one of the many issues I’m working through. In fact I’d welcome your professional advice.

SiL:         Have you told his school? That’s a good place to start. They usually have a policy for these things. It can be quite difficult you know – quite a shock, and could make him a target. You need to be careful.

By this point I was starting to wish I’d kept my mouth shut, as none of my ‘coming out’ conversations had ever gone this way before. I was trying to figure out the silences, as I could almost hear the cogs whirring.

It feels very selfish to say this, but the absence of any enquiry as to how I’d been coping with this burden and how I was took me aback, as the assumption was being made that I was fine and sailing along blissfully. Although some compassion and warmth did emerge later in the day, my sister-in-law’s initial reaction was unexpected and started to make me wary about how much more I should share, or if I’d just made a huge mistake. This was unlike the supportive conversations I’ve experienced from others before and was a very measured response. Not particularly judgemental, just a bit awkward and restrained which left me feeling unsure how the news had been taken. As time passed though, everyone seemed to lighten up a bit – I don’t think I’ve been disowned yet.

Fast-forward a few days, and another bolt from the blue. As a personal value, I never swear anyone to secrecy when I tell them my news, simply ask that they treat the information with respect to me and others – there’s nothing worse than being given a secret and not being able to share it under any circumstance. So maybe I shouldn’t really have been surprised when a person who’s carried the knowledge of Ruth with her longer than anyone finally felt the need to offload to others close to her. Over a cup of tea one afternoon, the Sainted Kate revealed to me that a few days previously she’d finally felt she had to tell her parents about me. I was a bit taken aback at first, but then she explained how hard it had become whenever they asked her ‘how’s Bob?, and she was having to lie to them. Far from being annoyed, I could see her point and told her she’d done the right thing and that it wasn’t really a problem as far as I was concerned, but naturally I was interested in their reaction and slightly concerned about what awaited me when I next saw them – be that as Bob still, or Ruth. In a way it opens up possibilities that previous I’d dismissed as never likely to happen, but then again they would have had to know eventually. It’s that first time that will be awkward, especially as their reactions have only been reported; somehow it feels different to when I’ve had the conversation myself as I’m unable to gauge reactions first-hand.

Kate’s father is not exactly in the first flush of youth, shall we say, yet sprightly for his age and the two of us have always got on well together from the first time we met. He’s also very traditional and, as many of his generation tend to do, occasionally comes out with views that some would regard nowadays as politically incorrect – as indeed did my own parents while they were still alive. From what Kate tells me, he couldn’t quite get past the ‘I don’t get it – why does he want to wear a dress?’ stage, though as I’ve probably said before, if you’ve no experience of gender dysphoria and it’s never touched your life that’s probably a not unreasonable reaction – especially if you’ve lived most of your life in an era where such matters were brushed conveniently under the carpet. I hope that when we next meet he’ll understand I’m still the same person he’s known these past ten or so years, and that I’ve not undergone a personality transplant, or am planning to do so. It remains to be seen, but regardless of outcome it’ll be what it’ll be. I can’t change who I am at will just to fit someone else’s sensibilities. It’s still going to feel very strange, though.

Given my experience with my sister-in-law a few days earlier, Kate’s mother’s reported reaction was remarkably consistent. ‘What about N1S?’ was also her first thought – not of her daughter, not of me, but how my situation will affect him. Seems there’s a theme emerging. Other than that I’ve been led to believe she was fine, if a bit surprised – which I suppose is encouraging.

too-difficult-box

Where too much has been kept so far…

Telling N1S and his mother has always been there as a must-do task, but for a long time has felt a long way off in the distance, something to put back in the box marked Too Hard for another day. Better to wait until there’s more certainty, blame the long waiting list for my first GIS appointment. Something out of my hands, and thus a convenient excuse. But these two unrelated incidents have had a profound effect on my thinking, to the extent that I don’t feel I can push boundaries any further until I’ve had the necessary conversations of enlightenment with N1S and his mother. Put another way, what was once a stone in the road has grown to become a massive boulder, and largely because of my own inattention and prevarication.

Having been buoyed by recent progress, as this realisation – corroborated by two independent sources, each of whom I consider family in their own way – sank in, it had the effect of releasing a whole pack of brain weasels that I thought had been contained, or rather had conveniently forgotten about. The fear of what it might do to a fine young person who, as far it’s ever possible to tell, seems to be sailing through life and lapping up all it has to offer. What if news of my condition knocks him off course, or worse?

I was reassured by a conversation with my neighbour, who’s been an absolute tower of strength throughout this journey. She’s never met N1S but knows of him through what I can best describe as the Six Degrees of Separation rule – the theory that anyone on the planet is connected to any other person through no more than five intermediaries – in her case it’s just two, via a community organisation of which she and N1S’s mother are both members. She also knows how I talk about him, and reminded me about the fantastic progress he’s making in life, with a social conscience and world-view far better developed than many adults – on both sides of the Atlantic, it must be said. Truth be told, I can’t imagine him reacting badly at all, but that still doesn’t make the subject any the easier to broach. And I’m still not certain about timing. I still feels as if it’s be better waiting until I’ve actually got my first GIS appointment proper under my belt to add an element of ‘official’ validity, so to speak, but as I was reassured by my neighbour, the moment will present itself when the time is right, as so often has been the case thus far. Watch this space.

I’ve made the decision to take my foot off the gas until that conversation has taken place. Thoughts of coming out at work, for example, have been shelved for the time being, as have plans to introduce Ruth to one or two social groups to which I belong. No doubt my news will continue to spread organically through those who already know, but I feel duty-bound to make the next big coming-out to be with N1S, whenever that may be.

Despite having effectively pressed a virtual pause button, I’ve also realised that there is a huge incentive to do the right thing – because once I’ve overcome this particular hurdle and provided it goes the right way, the open road lies ahead. Or, to mix metaphors further, it could be like a cork popping out of the bottle, because there’ll be nothing much more to hold me back.

And the more I think about it, the more that feels both scary and delicious.

Hair today, gone tomorrow

A couple of months ago, following one moan too many from me about how much I hated having to constantly cover up the dreaded blue shadow, the Sainted Kate returned from an appointment of her own at a certain laser clinic and announced that she’d made one for me in a few days’ time. It’s something I’d been talking about for a while but done nothing about, so she’d decided it was time I needed a bit of a nudge  – or rather, an almighty shove.

As regular readers will know, it’s still going to be several months before I float to the top of the Gender Identity Service’s waiting list, and in between all the whinging about delays, it’s crossed my mind that I could actually take advantage of my ‘part-time’ status and maybe get certain things out of the way that might be more problematic once I’m full-time.

I did actually investigate hair removal last year but didn’t see it through – although maybe it’s just as well, knowing what I know now about the difference between IPL and genuine laser. Since then, Kate suggested several times that I should make an appointment with the clinic she’s used happily for many years, but fear and procrastination got the better of me. As she handed me the appointment card, Kate announced she’d be happy to come along with me for moral support – or, I suspected, rather to make sure that I turned up!

So, given the concerns I had before starting the process, I thought that sharing my personal experience here as the treatment progresses over the coming months might help allay fears of others contemplating the same procedure and may shed some light (no pun intended) on the process. I must however provide the disclaimer that these are my experiences with my skin and my hair, and that what works for me might be very different for someone else. I should also mention that I’m talking about facial hair removal only, as I’m fortunate in not having to worry about getting rid of follicles elsewhere.

Came the day, and the consultation with a, erm, consultant involved a comprehensive fact-find about me, my skin and general health. As you might expect, the focus was on how my skin reacted to sunlight – basically how easily it burned without suncream. This would determine my skin type and colouring, and thus how powerful the laser could be so that it would do its job effectively without causing damage.

I’ll confess that this was where my worries had been up to this point. I’d read tales of bad experiences and seen pictures of badly inflamed skin, in some cases burned, and was worried about having to explain any tell-tale post-treatment effects to those who don’t yet know my situation – to say nothing of the possibility of permanent scarring. The consultant explained to me that unfortunately there are a number of clinics out there whose first consideration is to offer treatment at the cheapest possible price and while it’s not true of all of them, unfortunately some unscrupulous ones tend to skimp on preparation, training and equipment maintenance to keep costs down.  As with so many things in life we tend to get what we pay for, though many still can’t see it. The bottom line is that if you’re left with burns and blisters, then it can only mean that the clinic has not taken enough care of you. I was also reassured by the fact that this particular clinic is NHS-accredited, so the chances are that I’d have ended up here anyway on a GIS referral – eventually.

Digressing slightly, having taken this step has definitely helped alleviate some of my feelings of being stuck and frustrated, and so is having a positive effect on my mood as well as my face. In a very small way it could almost be said that my transition has begun, if one considers that what I’m undergoing is irreversible. It also occurred to me that doing this now i.e. before going full-time is perhaps a sensible way of going about things. Far better to look a little unkempt facially as Bob than Ruth – not that I think I’ve looked particularly unkempt, and my plans of timing each session of treatment to coincide with a day off work afterwards have thus far proved unnecessary. At risk of tempting fate, all the worries and fears of my face erupting like an angry pustule after treatment have been completely unfounded. The other myth dispelled was that it’s necessary to allow a few days’ worth of hair growth beforehand – something I was led to believe was necessary after having read others’ experiences. The reality is quite the reverse, as laser works most effectively if the skin is shaved a few hours beforehand to allow deeper and more effective penetration.

So far I’ve received two treatments out of a course of eight, and even at this early stage I’m delighted with the progress. The reason for needing as many as eight – sometimes more – treatments is down to the way in which our hair grows. Basically you can’t zap them all at once and have to wait for some to come out of hiding first. The other reality check I must mention is that laser only works on darker hairs, although the lighter ones become finer and their growth rate is slowed, hence what the nurse kindly refers to as my ‘blonde’ hairs refuse to budge under the power of the laser, so ultimately electrolysis may be necessary if they remain annoyingly unfeminine.

The treatment itself is not the most pleasant of experiences, but the sensation is bearable – akin to the sharp feeling of repeatedly being splashed by hot fat or twanged with a rubber band.

The machine warming up.

The machine warming up.

The zaps are administered in short bursts with time in between to catch your breath, especially when the technician is working in more sensitive areas like the upper lip and tip of the chin. The immediate aftermath (in my case, others’ skin may react differently) is that the treated area looks a bit red and feels hot – I imagine a bit like someone has slapped you across the face, though I’m pleased to say I can’t speak from actual experience! After a couple of hours the first time and less the second, there was virtually no detectable evidence that the procedure had taken place other than that which was desired – a reduction in dark facial hair that is noticeable to me, though gradual enough so as not to draw the attention of others.

After the first treatment the skin around my jawline felt slightly numb for a couple of days, and a faint deep bruising sensation persisted for about 10 days afterwards as the follicles – or rather what was left of them – recovered from the trauma to which they’d been subjected. Further myths that proved unfounded were that I’d be unable to shave for a few days, nor should I apply make-up. Wrong on both counts! In fact I applied a light foundation about four hours after the first treatment with no ill effects whatsoever. As far as the former is concerned, to my delight I’ve discovered I can pretty much get away with shaving on alternate days without my face looking like Desperate Dan – and this after only 25% of my planned course of treatment.

The effects of the second session just over a week ago were less dramatic than the first, but certainly noticeable to me. As anticipated, the ‘blonde’ hairs remain stubborn but the overall result is an already significantly reduced blue shadow, about which I’ve been particularly self-conscious ever since coming out. Whilst I can’t quite ditch the Double Wear Extra Cover just yet, hopefully it’s only a matter of time before I can think about using a lighter foundation.

So far, so good. I shall provide further updates as treatment progresses, although based on my experience thus far such posts may be rather brief and uninteresting! Finally, if you want to watch exactly what goes on in a session, there’s a video clip here – which was also interesting for me to watch for reasons that should become obvious…

Thanks for reading.

Dilemmas

If this is a more rambling post than usual then please forgive me, because I’m probably using blogging as a way of thinking out loud about an issue that I’ll perhaps have to deal with sooner than I thought.

Despite swearing a couple of months ago that I’d decided to stop thinking about making any plans, let alone commit them to paper, I realise I’m going to have to perform the proverbial u-turn in the light of recent events – in particular my preliminary screening appointment at the Gender Identity Service (GIS) (service, incidentally, seems to be their preferred soubriquet these days rather than clinic, which they probably think sounds a bit too, well, clinical).

Whilst I still have some months to wait before I can access the GIS proper, it’s become clear to me that regardless of which pathway I end up on, there are some events I can’t hide from much longer. Also in terms of their execution, I can see a critical path emerging that is going to dictate the order in which I approach them.

In no particular order for now, at a high-level these events are a) changing my name, b) coming out in those areas of my life where I’m still in the closet and c) going full time and leaving all vestiges of Bob behind. Or maybe there is an order? That’s what I need to work out.two-roads

Changing my name looks reasonably straightforward – in theory at least, if rather laborious and time-consuming in its execution (Bob recently had to change his email address and that was bad enough), yet it seems to be high on the GIS’s list of early priorities. Of course, once my new name is registered with a particular institution, turning up as Bob or flip-flopping becomes less desirable, if not downright embarrassing, and effectively forces full-time female presentation – which I guess is precisely why the GIS place such importance on it. So effectively that’s going to force coming out in those dark corners of my life where ignorance currently remains bliss (or at least I believe it to be).

So let’s consider a few scenarios.

1. Change my name before doing anything else.

Effectively this would mean flipping the way things are now around 180°. Instead of presenting female but legally having a male name, I’d be Ruth in law but present as Bob in certain areas of my life for the time being, until I came out fully.

If the way I’ve been living up to now has worked, there’s no reason why this shouldn’t work either – in theory at least. But as Kirsty has said recently, it feels a bit disingenuous – if not technically illegal – to rescind one’s old name yet insist on using it a while longer, even though the deed could be done (no pun intended) and simply not register it.

It’s also occurred to me that there are a number of inter-dependencies that might create problems, for example if I were to change the name on my bank account then anyone connected to my bank e.g. through direct debits, credit cards etc. would also have to be notified. It would also mean telling my employer’s payroll department, in which case I may as well come out fully at work. Which brings me on to…

2. Come out at work as the next step.

The more I’ve thought about it, surprisingly the more appealing this has become. I’d got it into my head that coming out at work would involve a very structured and serious transition of ID badges, usernames, email address etc. preceded by a fanfare and big announcement. In other words, once the genie was out of the bottle it would have to be hell-for-leather towards full-time Ruth… but I’m no longer sure it necessarily has to be that way. If I simply have a full and frank discussion with my manager explaining the situation – where I am on my journey and where I eventually hope to end up, dropping into the conversation of course that I’ve been referred to the GIS and am therefore ‘official’,  it doesn’t actually commit me to a corporate transition timetable. It’s simply a statement of intent that this will happen at some point in the future, but exactly when will depend on how quickly all the official stuff and a few other practicalities (see below), fall into place. Al least that way it would give my employer plenty of time to do their homework on how a workplace transition is likely to work (to the best of my knowledge I don’t think it’s happened there before), so that when the time comes everyone – me included – has got a better chance of getting it right.

The downside is the inevitable grapevine that will grow and potentially twist its way around the organisation, and possibly beyond. As I wrote what seems many months ago now, where coming out is concerned the more people you tell, the less control you have over the message – and indeed, the audience – and I need to be prepared for that eventuality.

3. Immediate Family

Ah, there’s the rub. I can feel myself squirming as I even think about it. The most difficult coming out conversation of all, from which there’s no running way and no hiding place once the words have been said – and what those words should be, I’ve no idea.

I read in one of the mainstream forums a couple of years ago about transwomen who (they said, anyway) had all but transitioned fully, yet remained Bob in front of the children. One person pointed out it was merely a bit like cross-dressing the other way when s/he met the kids, and couldn’t see a problem with it. At the time – and for where I was on my journey at that time – it felt a reasonable work-around, if a little risky and disingenuous. Now I can see how flawed it is, and would even question whether what the individual concerned considered ‘transition’ actually was in the sense that most of us would understand it to be. I can’t imagine their GIS being supportive of such a tactic, if indeed they’ve reached that particular point in their journey.

I know that, because the subject was touched upon at my own GIS screening appointment when Hannah (the clinician I saw) was establishing how far out I’d ventured socially. Her advice was unequivocally to tell one’s offspring sooner rather than later, if for no other reason than the physical changes brought about by HRT become noticeable very quickly, especially as kids of a certain age tend to be acutely observant and usually notice the slightest detail in the way someone close to them appears. So that’s a non-starter for me.

Digressing for a moment, I’ve tried to imagine how I’d have reacted in my formative years had my own father announced to me that he was transgender, and I can’t answer the question. It may be in part because I’m inevitably picturing the conversation taking place against the background of a time when the world was a very different place  – I’m not sure the term transgender had even been coined – but mostly because I can’t even begin to conceive the possibility. Other than possessing enviably modest Size 7 feet (which sadly I didn’t inherit) there was nothing about him that was remotely feminine, or even effeminate. Mannerisms, behaviour, interests, the roles he played in life were all unequivocally masculine, if not alpha-male.

Drawing comparisons between then and now is a bit like comparing the proverbial apples with pears, but a particular thought has occurred to me. Would I actually have been concerned about the fact itself – or rather, what it would actually mean to me? That sounds selfish, but for most children (and indeed many adults) that’s not unreasonable. They look for stability, certainty and generally – assuming a happy and balanced upbringing – hate upheaval and crave the status quo, whatever that may mean to them. For example, I remember once my father applied for a new job in a nearby town and began talking about the family moving house – and I was absolutely mortified, because all I could think about was all the safe, everyday things that would change – leaving friends behind, starting a new school midstream, being in a strange neighbourhood where I’d know no-one and having to learn my way around all over again. In fact most of the things that feel scary when you’re a child, especially a quiet and introverted one.

It wasn’t the change itself that was the problem but what it would mean for me, and because no-one actually tried to reassure me, my imagination was left to run riot. As it turned out, my father did take the job but decided to commute – largely because I suspect my mother didn’t fancy the upheaval either – but I’ve never forgotten that sense of panic at the possibility of my world being turned upside down. I know that moving to a new town and coming out as transgender are very different scenarios, but I can’t help but wonder if the principle is actually the same – that not unreasonably, Number One Son’s (N1S’s) primary concern will be what, if anything, will change for him rather than the simple (!) fact of me admitting I’m transgender.

I suppose the answer to that is ‘everything and nothing’.

Going back to the forums and, indeed, the blogosphere, only one thing is clear – and that is that everyone’s experience is different and that there’s no one right way of going about it. Even the advice from professionals can vary. I know of one friend whose counsellor advised strongly against them telling children under 16 anything at all, going so far as saying that a child-psychologist colleague had suggested some may even construe it as abuse. Clearly the counsellor and psychologist in question were guilty of gross ignorance at best or transphobia at worst, to the extent that in my opinion they deserved reporting to their respective professional bodies – but it nonetheless illustrates the extremes of thinking that exist out there (my friend dumped them pretty quickly and found some more sensible advice from another counsellor).

That light-bulb moment…

At the other end of the scale there are threads on forums such as Angels reporting children of trans* parents taking the news in their stride to the extent that the parental revelation either turned out to be something of a non-event, or even had the effect of strengthening the bond between parent and offspring. We tend to forget that children are more resilient than we give them credit for, and no child of any age wants to see their parents ill or upset, regardless of the cause. Of course, there are inevitably examples where the conversation either hasn’t gone well or – more likely – the other parent has imposed their values on the situation or otherwise manipulated the response. This reaction is not exclusive to situations involving gender dysphoria, as I’m sure anyone who’s suffered an acrimonious separation or divorce will testify. If some people have a chance to make things difficult, they will, particularly if they also happen to be the resident parent.

Returning to my own situation, I realise the question has subtly changed in the past few months from if to when – which in turn leads to the question, how? To begin with, I am what someone once termed a ‘weekend parent’, which somewhat limits the opportunities to drop my news casually into conversation during an episode of Boy Meets Girl for example. Also, I don’t want to make the news any bigger than it needs to be. I suspect that N1S’s reaction may be the complete absence of surprise expressed by so many others when I’ve come out. He seems quite savvy about such matters and, for all I know, may even have figured me out already – there has been the occasional suggestion he might.

There’s no question it has to be a face-to-face conversation – plus there’s his mother to consider as well. Thrusting a letter into someone’s hand or emailing just doesn’t feel right, though I may well write one beforehand if only as a way of organising my thoughts. Letters I’ve written, never meaning to send, as the song goes. Inevitably, the key message has to be less about me and what it will actually mean for them, and until I know exactly what transition is going to involve and how it’ll affect me, that’s hard to pin down. At least for now, being able to start with “I’ve been referred to the GIS…” sounds a good opener and hopefully acts as a kind of validation of my dysphoria in others’ eyes. A bit like the difference between telling someone you think you’ve a bit of a dodgy knee, and that you’ve been diagnosed with a torn anterior cruciate ligament – if that makes sense.

5. The Upside

I’ve considered that the upside of having these difficult conversations is that it’s going to open up a whole new world of opportunities, and hopefully kick-start the remaining things I’ve been holding back from doing for fear of inadvertently being outed by proxy. In the same way that coming out has a beneficial effect through eliminating fear of discovery, the thought of removing all final barriers feels utterly liberating. It’s also occurred to me that this will be the case regardless of the outcome of The Conversation(s) because upsetting though it would be, even in the unlikely event of those close to me reacting badly there’s no way I’m going to retreat into the closet and forget my dysphoria never happened. That way lies madness. To use the knee analogy again, it’d be a bit like saying, “I’m sorry you don’t like me limping, I’ll just stop it then…”

Maybe I’ve come the long way round, but actually all this thinking out loud (I did warn you at the start of this post) has led me to the conclusion that informing immediate family simply has to be the next step on the journey. Never mind work, never mind Deed Polls – I have to find a way of fixing this, and sooner rather than later.

After all, as with many perceived difficulties on this journey, you never know – the outcome may be a pleasant surprise.

Thanks for reading – more soon.

Screen Test

Just as I was putting the finishing touches to my last post bemoaning my lengthy wait, a letter arrived bearing the hallmark Private & Confidential stamp of the Gender Identity Service (GIS). I’d actually been expecting it since I grasped the nettle and phoned the GIS a few weeks ago to get an update on where I was on the list. The very kind medical secretary I’d spoken to had informed me that yes, I was very much on the waiting list (which is still as long as ever, unfortunately) but also that I would shortly be invited to attend a ‘screening appointment’. This, she explained, was part of an initiative to drive down waiting list delays and was an opportunity for me to meet with one of the professionals from the service, for them to get to know me and understand my expectations a bit better, and for me to ask them any questions I might have. It seemed a sensible idea, although the word screening worried me slightly as it implies that some measure or judgement is potentially involved. Other kinds of health screening generally involve deciding whether you’re OK or not OK, and while part of me was doing its best to persuade me that the idea sounded helpful, the brain weasels kept reminding me that if the initiative was designed to reduce delays and no extra resource was available, inevitably that had to mean losing people from the waiting list. So as the day of my appointment approached, the brain weasels went into overdrive – oh, and how they just love catastrophic thinking.

As the day of my appointment approached, all sorts of thoughts ran through my mind. Some were actually quite positive and reassuring as I recalled the progress since I began this journey in earnest almost three years ago, but one thought dominated them all: the sense that this might be a pass-fail situation. A logical inner voice told me it wasn’t, but I’d read so many posts and comments in forums or from fellow bloggers these past couple of years I couldn’t be sure. Some of the things people had said in the past about GICs sprang to mind:

            “GICs are looking for certainty.”

            “If you don’t show 100% commitment, they won’t be interested”

            “GICs expect you to know what you want, and are simply there to make it happen.”

I seem to remember past discussions about what GICs would or wouldn’t do had actually become quite heated, as those who’d experienced the service tried to put others who hadn’t to rights. But I’d never been able to imagine the GIC being as cold and uncaring as some were making out – surely the world had moved on since the horrendous days of the 1970s?

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The ‘screen test’ many of a certain age will remember.

The thoughts continued. Would I face a stern and challenging clinician, or a sympathetic and supportive one? What would I need to do or say to prove myself? Then there was that old delicate and controversial matter of whether one is ‘trans enough’ or not (‘not that again’, I hear you cry). The worst of it was thinking about the idea of me being screened out of the process as a result of this interview, discharged and sent away. The GIS’s equivalent of “You’re Fired”, if you like. And the more I thought about that prospect, the more upset I became, to the extent that there were tears in my eyes as I contemplated the possibility that this might spell the end of Ruth’s adventure – fun while it lasted but only ever a dream, a fantasy that could never be fulfilled because either being able to cope or uncertainty of my direction of travel signified that I wasn’t a high enough priority and that others in a worse mental or emotional state than me were the real priorities, far more deserving of an increasingly scarce resource as NHS budgets continue to be butchered by the government.

The awful thought hit me of how utterly and completely devastated I’d be were that to happen, dashing the hope – and yes, the curiosity – of what might be the next step on this journey, and the next, and the next… because that was how I’ve been living since that first tentative step two-and-a-half years ago. Never planning too far ahead, never thinking there was only one goal, one outcome to this. One step at a time, and if that goes well then think about the next one and no further. Don’t rush, and trust that the process will take care of itself. I thought back to how I’d pushed boundaries, built confidence in social situations; remembered some of the early adventures and especially the reactions of those close to me as I ‘came out’ – the absence of surprise, the realisation that some had always seen me as a woman in my behaviour and mannerisms – and of course the overwhelming warmth, support and good wishes.

Then the penny dropped. If this was how I was thinking, then how could anyone possibly make a judgement that I wasn’t serious about this? One thing was abundantly clear. Even if any small part of me had ever thought in my darkest moments about walking away from this, I knew with absolute, cast-iron certainty that I could never do that now. I simply couldn’t bear the thought. I knew that if I tried to walk away – or worse, was sent away – it would be that that would destroy me, not the gender dysphoria itself.

Rightly or wrongly I decided not to prepare much for the interview in case I over-thought the situation and my words either came out as a garbled mess, or sounded too rehearsed. At one point I’d thought about writing down a long list of points to make – cases for the prosecution or defence, whichever may be needed m’lud – supporting evidence of my trans-ness in the event of a cross-examination – but then I realised there was no point. They’re professionals, so better to take it as it came for good or ill, rather than try and look clever or over-confident. This was about telling it like it is, and if asked if I had doubts or uncertainties about where I needed to be, then that’s exactly what I’d tell them.


 

On the day itself I arrived ridiculously early for my appointment – though those who know me will understand this isn’t unusual. My first surprise was discovering that the complex where the GIS service is based has changed beyond all recognition since I was last there, with many of the older buildings having been demolished ready for sale or redevelopment. In keeping with most hospital sites in Leeds, car parking is at a premium but I found a space relatively easily, and had about 50 minutes to kill before the appointed hour. I couldn’t see anywhere to grab a cup of tea and it was threatening rain, so just sat in the car listening to the radio and making a few notes for this blog.

Surprisingly – or perhaps not – I realised I’d no qualms whatsoever about being here now the day had come. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I wasn’t nervous at all, but they were healthy nerves – more like a pleasant feeling of anticipation – and I was feeling more comfortable with myself than I had done for ages with an overwhelming sense that this is meant to be. I also kept reminding myself that it was only a screening appointment and that I shouldn’t expect too much. The best I was hoping for was reassurance and validation that I met whatever screening criteria were to be applied, and to allay the many doubts and worries that had been occupying my thoughts.  Anything else was likely to have to wait until later, once I’d risen to the top of the still-lengthy waiting list.

At last the clock ticked round to the appointed hour, I made my way to the building in which the GIS is based – modern, clean, and surprisingly quiet and calming. As I approached the reception area it suddenly dawned on me that I’d have to announce myself as Bob even though I appeared 100% Ruth, but then figured that maybe, just maybe, the staff would be used to this kind of anomaly. I took a seat in the waiting area and exactly at the appointed time, a smiling face appeared in a doorway and beckoned me through to a consulting room.

My first thoughts were ones of relief that a) I would be dealing with another woman and b) given my earlier fears, my impression was that – let’s call her Hannah – was most definitely of the supportive variety of clinician. The first thing was to sort out names, not just from the point of view of courtesy, but as has been mentioned in other blogs the subject has an important bearing on the process in terms of changing names legally. I’d go so far as to say that in the eyes of the GIS that’s more important than how you present in terms of showing commitment, and was the first key outcome from the session that I mentally added to my ‘need to do’ list.

Hannah took me through a few more formalities, and explained what the screening process entailed – actually the term is entirely appropriate for the reasons mentioned earlier, although the criteria to be applied made absolute sense they’d been explained to me. It transpires that patients are sometimes referred by their GP to the service, then wait (patiently, of course) for months or years for their appointment to come round, only for the GIS to discover there are underlying issues that need fixing first, and that the GP should really have been referred them to another service. Sensibly, the GIS expects patients to be sufficiently sound in mind, body and spirit so that informed consent can be given to any ensuing actions or treatment, hence the screening process is aimed primarily at identifying issues sooner rather than later. Hannah did also say that it’s not unheard of for patients to arrive at their first appointment and realise that they’d perhaps taken a step too far, misunderstood what the GIS was about and making their own decision to discharge themselves.

I apologise if it disappoints, dear reader, but some things must remain confidential and despite baring my soul regularly as a blogger I’m not going to give you a blow-by-blow account of my discussion with Hannah. All I will say is that the assessment focused on the three pillars of physical, psychological and social health and well-being, to make sure I knew how the service worked and what they can offer, and for them to understand what my expectations might be. It’s enough to say that lots of notes were taken, plenty of questions answered and from my point of view, many fears allayed. There were smiles, laughs and even a few tears at the end. I ended up leaving with a definite spring in my step and feeling more positive than I have for many, many months – plus with a few more objectives and practical areas to work on while I wait for my first appointment proper.

I will say this, though. Even though I only had a taste of how the GIS works, I got the impression that it’s less about having to be absolutely certain about the outcome you want to achieve, rather to keep an open mind, let the professionals make their assessments and recommend a care pathway that’s right for you. It’s definitely not a ‘one size fits all’ service, and solutions are tailored to the individual as you would expect in any other clinical situation or specialty. As Hannah pointed out, the primary objective of the GIS isn’t necessarily to fast-track patients toward gender reassignment surgery (GRS), rather to make sure that the dysphoria is treated appropriately – and that pathway is going to be different for every patient, albeit with some common themes.

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The colour’s returned to my rainbow.

As continue to roll the events of last week around my mind, a number of thoughts that were muddy before have become crystal-clear. First of all – deep breath – I think I’ve finally acknowledged the actual need to transition – whatever ‘transition’ may eventually entail for me. It’s not just a desire, or a hope. I can’t ignore who I am anymore, or pretend I can live the rest of my life trying to inhabit two worlds. The occasional contemplation that constant flip-flopping makes me genderfluid or genderqueer is simply my lazy side wondering if there’s an easy way out of this, or a way of delaying the inevitable. The only way out is going to be through – I just need to find the path that suits me now that I’ve been given a few more signposts.

I’m also beginning to see how denial, or thinking there’s an easy option might have been a contributory factor in the way I’ve been feeling this year and why I’ve been up and down so much emotionally and a bit withdrawn. Time will tell, but since my appointment a lot has felt so much clearer, I’ve felt re-energised and am beginning to reconnect with all the positive feelings and high points of the past few years.

Finally though, a reality check. I might be feeling a more optimistic about the future again but despite the positivity following my screening interview, by Hannah’s calculation I’ve still got between six and eight months to go before my first appointment proper. Not only do I need to find a way of hanging on to my motivation and energy levels, but also address a number of practical issues in the meantime. I’m in no doubt there’s still much work to be done.

I’ll round off with a serendipitous quote that I came across on social media shortly after returning from the GIS:  “Sometimes, the things we think are going to hold us back end up doing the opposite.” (Humans of Leeds). Food for thought indeed.

Thanks for reading, more soon.

Waiting for…

I reckon Samuel Beckett knew what he was talking about. I tried to read his celebrated play once, many years ago, but never finished it – the stultifying boredom got to me about half-way through, but I got the message loud and clear about the tediousness of waiting for something that we can’t quite be sure of when – or if – it will happen.

For Waiting for Godot, read Waiting for the GIC. I’m one of the lucky ones – I’ve only been waiting for 16 months (at the time or writing) and managed to get on the list before things got really silly, and hopefully don’t have too many more months to go. In my part of the world new people joining the list today can expect to wait between 3½ and 4 years for a first appointment.  I’m fortunate in being able to cope with my gender dysphoria in a way that tends not to impact on my ability to function as a human being. That said, it’s there in the background most of the time and makes thinking about the future difficult. Some of those thoughts can be pretty dark at times too, but I’m not going to go into that here. Enough to say I’m getting on with life and for most of the time at least, keeping my head above water.

I can only begin to imagine how difficult it must be for those whose experience of gender dysphoria is more intense and debilitating than my own. As I’ve said before, I tend not to get involved in the trans* community through support groups etc, but when I have I’ve met or been made aware of those in desperation and who have threatened or actually attempted self-harm and mutilation, or worse. It doesn’t bear thinking about.

Coincidentally, as I was writing this blog, the local television station ran a piece on this very subject. There is, it seems, a glimmer of hope but it remains to be seen what difference it’ll make. Jackie, the girl who was interviewed in the film, makes the point well in saying that that once you’ve been referred then there’s nothing, other than waiting. We’re left to our own devices, our own thoughts and the inevitable brain weasels that go with them. A further point that I would add from experience – and with which I’m sure others here will agree – is that the decision to visit the GP and seek a referral is itself a momentous step which isn’t taken lightly and requires large quantities of courage. The huge relief in being met with a positive and sympathetic response from the GP and having one’s voice heard at last is soon dissipated by the realisation when you walk out of the medical centre that nothing’s going to happen anytime soon.waiting_room

I don’t know if it’s only me, but several brain weasels in particularly have been troubling me as a result of the lengthy wait, and one particular side-effect is having lots and lots and lots of time to think. The cynic in me says this may well be deliberate, and one of the reasons why there’s a waiting list in the first place, but even I can’t believe anyone of professional standing in the NHS thinks that having got this far, some of us will just go, ‘Nah, can’t be arsed waiting – I’ll just go back to being Bob. It’ll be reet.” (the last bit only applying in Yorkshire, of course).

But, but, but… that’s exactly the kind of thought that emerges in those nights where I’m laying awake at 3am and the whole world outside feels cold and hostile. Give it up. Walk away. Forget this ever happened and just dismiss the experience as a rather pleasant couple of years exploring my ‘feminine side’. Let the GIC deal with those genuine cases who deserve help. If I were truly trans enough I’d be climbing the walls by now, wouldn’t I?

Before I go any further, I’m aware this is my first post for some time. I seem to have achieved the longest gap yet between posts since I started this blog, which I know has left one or two friends concerned and wondering what’s going on. So thank you to those who took the trouble to email me and check I’m OK – it’s appreciated. On a practical note, the gap’s probably another side-effect of the interminable GIC wait. It feels like I;ve nothing to write about, and who’d be interested in reading endless thoughts from no-woman’s-land anyway? The sense of achievement from pushing boundaries, various comings out, finding acceptance and suchlike no longer feels newsworthy. I have to say that some lovely things have happened – not least my first wedding invitation as Ruth at the end of July, and feeling utterly and completely me amongst the interesting mixture of people known and unknown that constitutes your average evening reception. Once, that alone would have justified a lengthy and gushing post, but I’ve struggled to blog about it.

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A bit how life feels just now

Also, meeting trusted friends as Ruth has become the norm, and no-one questions it when circumstances dictate I have to revert to Bob now and again. As I’ve said before on these pages, ‘flip-flopping’ seems to be a problem for no-one else but me. So what’s going on?

Some years ago I remember reading about therapists and counsellors recommending to clients suffering from stress or anxiety to avoid the media, as the predominantly bad news piped into our homes each day only serves to exacerbate negative feelings and trigger unhelpful thoughts. According to them ignorance truly is bliss, so I decided to try my own version and keep my distance from the blogosphere for a while and see if it helped. The jury’s out on whether or not it has. I still can’t resist dipping in to certain blogs every once in a while but I think I’ve stopped making comparisons between others’ journeys and my own quite as much, although feelings of uncertainty or being exposed as a fraud have just ended up being replaced by the guilt of not supporting all my lovely friends who have supported me in times of need. Seems I can’t win when the brain weasels are around.

I said at the start of this post that I’m not desperate in the way some are desperate, but that doesn’t mean I’m the epitome of serenity either. Whilst not exactly at the end of my tether, whatever happens – or doesn’t happen – once I get in front of the GIC experts is still going to be a key milestone, and life-changing in one way or the other. I still have some serious and potentially difficult ‘coming out’ to do, and being able to reference a diagnosis from the Gender Identity Service will, I hope, help to legitimise what I have to say and will help me feel easier about those conversations.

The bottom line is I still haven’t a clue how everything is going to pan out. I admire others’ certainty and wish I shared their focus and singleness of purpose, but for now I’m still in a ball of confusion most of the time, fluctuating between desperately wanting my GIC appointment to come round and for things to move forward (or equally, be dismissed as not being trans enough), and at the other end of the scale on a bad day simply wishing the whole gender dysphoria thing would go away and leave me alone – and of course we all know that ain’t going to happen! In the absence of a clear direction of travel, I no longer seem to know how I identify myself to others – I’m far from full-time and cross-overs have started developing between Bob’s world and Ruth’s as an increasing number of people become aware that – for now at least – I inhabit two worlds – or they will be as word spreads. Once upon a time this would have been mortifying, but for some reason I’m far less concerned than I ever expected to be – even when, for example, another guest at the aforementioned wedding turned out to be a mutual friend of one of my work colleagues. Part of me seems to be just saying ‘so what’, and if word gets out what’s the worst that can happen? Plus from a workplace perspective, I discovered from a reliable source a few weeks ago that the protected characteristics of the UK’s Equality Act 2010 apply to the entirety of the transgender spectrum, rather than just those who are on the full transition pathway. Hence, if word does get out I may as well just be honest – after all, it’s honesty that’s brought me the acceptance and support I’ve been privileged to receive thus far.

So that’s me for now. If this blog is as being as rambling and inconclusive as the conversations between the characters in Waiting for Godot, then I apologise – though it wouldn’t entirely surprise me. Surely, my letter must arrive tomorrow.