Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Becoming forty!

Last Friday was my birthday and it was one of those biggies, the end of being in my thirties and moving on to the forties. Many think of this as some sort of milestone but to be honest, I've never really had any thoughts on such things. In fact, I am more happy about the 4th July which sees me celebrate one year of full time as a woman.

With this in mind, you can perhaps feel there was no major celebration planned. Susan, my good friend from Sussex was coming down for a few days and we planned a few days out. 

She arrived on Thursday, early as usual and she had to wait for me to get ready. We had a short wander around town, a look at Vivary before returning home for an easy evening.

Friday was the birthday and we decided on something different, a trip to Exmoor. We went to Lynmouth with the intention of a combination of wandering and walking. After arriving (which included a wrong turn on the way), a quick coffee was in order. A few photo's on the seafront and then it was up the cliff railway to the town on Lynton. We had a look around, there has been some redevelopment of the shopping area but there is still very little there and it has the feel that it is solely for tourism. We decided that we would walk back down to Lynmouth and this was much harder than we realised. It's a very steep path and I was not aware how hard this was going to be in women's flats. In the past I have walked this in men's trainers with no problems but this day it was tough going.

A bite to eat was sought and found and then we walked a little up the river towards Watersmeet. A delightful footpath but again, the footwear was not suitable. Eventually, we turned round and vowed to return in the summer better prepared. It was feeling like time to leave and we decided a stop at Minehead would be nice as the weather was starting to look nice and sunny. There's not a fantastic amount of anything at Minehead but we did have a good look around the shops. A final coffee of the day was had at Coaster. This is not a spelling mistake, there was actually a cafe called Coaster. I thought about trying to see if they would accept my Costa loyalty card but something made me doubt it!

We drove home and found my partner Mandy had decided to adorn the house with some party banners telling all and sundry I was the age of 40! We had a buffet style tea and another friend Vicky arrived. It was just a mellow evening of food and chat. Big parties don't appeal to me anymore and I couldn't have asked for a better evening.

Saturday was a shopping trip to Exeter. The weather wasn't particularly brilliant but we made a real good day of it. I think we managed at least 20 charity shops but sadly nothing piqued our interest. Now I have a little experience of working in such places, I found it interesting how I viewed all the different one in Exeter and how I would have done things differently. 

Sunday was a trip to Weston-Super-Mare along with another friend of mine, Tracey. This was really enjoyable even though the weather was poor again! Of course we had to go to the tea room on the pier as a birthday treat for Mandy as it had been closed when we went there last year.

And finally Monday was another little wander around Taunton before Susan had to set off back for home. It finished off what was a fantastic weekend and knackering too!

Thursday, 11 April 2013

The kindness of women?

There is topic going in a discussion group at the moment about how women (and I am talking about those born this way at birth) and acts of kindness towards those of us transgender.

I wont quote from one post but there are suggestions of female retailers discussing us behind our backs once we have made our purchase and many statements that there is no support from women in general.

This kind of attitude reminds me why I no longer partake in any discussion on message boards or whatever because this and many other such threads are just complete bollocks (a very male profanity and I apologise!).

As a woman in very public life I have encountered many very kind women. To contemplate all those kind shop workers sniggering about me behind my back is simply unthinkable. I refuse to believe of all the hundreds I have engaged with that they are doing this. I would accept a small minority may but I find it very sad that some are that paranoid to suggest that virtually all do so.

The kindness of women has been thrust into my face very recently with the charity shop I work in. Any of the transgender myths I have been subjected to over the years from the transgender community in general have been smashed to oblivion. Firstly the staff, and particularly the manager and assistant, have bent over backwards to accept me in their world as the female I believe I am. They accept that I have had a male past but know that this was not what I ever wanted and treat me as one of their own. Frequently they talk to me about things that you would not expect them to talk to men about. 

Let's not forget the customers as well and many have been exactly the same. The shop is very popular in town and the regulars have gone out of their way. This is all age groups which includes children as well, which really surprised me. A daughter, mum and gran were looking around all three were really chatty with me. Mum even drew me to one side and told me how much she admired me for putting myself in such a public position. It's not something that I actually think about but the compliment did make me feel good and reinforce that feeling that not everyone is against us. 

Again, it's that phrase about everyone is against us. This has kept popping in much of my writing over the last few years and I wonder why I have encountered this attitude so much. 

To leave it on a final high, I was given a birthday card (it's my birthday on Friday) from the manager and cakes were also brought in. Finally, it was insisted that I have a birthday latte at the local coffee shop with her when we shut the shop. I've only been there a fortnight and this just reinforces that the kindness of women is very much alive and well.

(Men are kind too and I have also had many good experiences with them now and in the past.)

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Facebook: Resistance WAS futile!

Where to start on the subject of Facebook? 

So, Facebook was launched in February 2004 and it has been something I have steered well clear of in all that time. Quite why is difficult to answer and the reasons have changed over time.

In the early days, I personally was still in that mindset that you used an alias on the Internet, gave out very little information about yourself and rarely put photo's anywhere on the web. Changing this attitude was never going to be simple even though the WWW has become a much friendlier place over the years. 

Of course, these thoughts did change and couple with coming out as Lucy, I was starting to put more of myself on the Internet. Then there was the avoidance of herd mentality, everyone was on Facebook so I would have nothing to do with it. I did relent a little and joined Flickr instead. However, Flickr has not moved on much over the years and it feels a little creaky to me. There is also a darker side to Flickr and that is where the transgendered find their accounts locked or restricted for no obvious reason. Complaining also doesn't work and I hope it's only a matter of time before someone takes legal action against this practice.

Recently working in a charity shop has brought me into contact with a completely different social group and I have had to join the herd or not be completely part of this group. It has been interesting and there has been a lot to learn. Something that feels much different is that friends and contacts feel much more "in the real world" whereas Flickr seems like a separate world. My reasoning behind this feeling is that on Flickr, I slowly built up a list of friends who I would never meet. On Facebook, I have met them already, it's just another communication tool and and perhaps a way of extending the social life I have with them.

So that's it now and as my friend Al said, "Abandon hope all ye who enter here!"

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Mind Medicine!

If you have read Thursdays post about another trip to the Laurel's then you may be aware that I was not in a happy place then.

I'd already mentioned to my manager in the charity shop I worked that I would need cheering up on Friday (yesterday) and would it be all right if I worked then. My thinking was that just getting out in the real world doing something would be good therapy. She was happy about this and agreed it would probably help.

It was amazing how much it did help and on many levels. Of course there is just being out of the house. Moping around on the Internet and PS3 will never do me any favor's and just being in a different environment was always going to positive. Another side of things is dealing with the public, again I was pretty much at the front end. The acceptance of the average member of the public in this shop has been really refreshing. Whilst doing this job, I speak to all ages from children to the elderly as well as many different social classes. Charity shops are for everyone and even the better off seem to love rooting around in all the junk, sorry, that's bric-a-brac! Again no one has batted an eyelid although one  of the regulars seems a little puzzled by my voice!

There is also an attitude from the shop staff of accepting anyone that comes in. Everyone that wants to chat is listened to and I think there are many in town that come there because they are aware that they will treated in such a nice manner. There was an unforgettable moment yesterday when a customer came in for an item they had reserved. He had a bunch of flowers with him and one of the ladies that worked there joked, "are they for me?". She is quite extrovert and I suspect very little would surprise her but she didn't know what to say when on impulse the customer gave the flowers to her, paid for his item and left.

But I think the most important thing for me has been the acceptance of the staff which consists of several regular workers and perhaps ten times as many who have worked there in the past and still think they work there. Believe it or not, ex-staff are in and out all day long and think nothing of pitching in when the need arises. Many have spoken to me in great detail about me being transgender and it is great to be able to spread the word and break a few myths. Most importantly, none are even remotely bothered about me being transgender and I feel I have been accepted into this group with open arms. 

Although I accept that many need the support of anti-depressants and would not wish to belittle anyone that does need a helping hand in this way. However, for myself, this charity shop has been my Prozac recently. I expected it to help me after my Laurel's visit and it certainly did and I know I left there yesterday in a very buoyant mood.

Today was a wander around town. We tried to keep it brief but the problem was we kept encountering people we knew, both from Samaritans and the charity shop. A quick hour out soon turned in four! The sun was shining and the wind had dropped making the temperature a little more bearable for a change. I intended to continue my once monthly photo tour of Vivary park but it has been in stasis the last month and it has hardly changed in that time! I did get a couple of photo's in the sun though.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Another grim day at the Laurels.

I would like to have thought there was a chance that today's update on my trip to the Laurels was going to be positive. However, it was much the same as last time.

In case you missed that last episode, I found myself questioning why we have to be asked such irrelevant questions. The strange line of questioning left me with a fear of misdiagnosis and even though I asked for support, I found non was really given.
The first 15 minutes of today left me in such a state that we had to call time out and have 5 minutes of deep breathing. It's almost like I am not being listened to. Perhaps my fears are groundless and I am worrying over nothing, but they are there all the same. It didn't help that prior to going in, there was some mix up with my future appointments and then it felt like they were whispering behind my back. This immediately got my back up and I had a bit of a moan about being kept in the dark about things.

So I started in the wrong frame of mind and after I did calm down, we managed to get back on with things. It wasn't actually as hard as last time although I still felt that even the smallest thing was picked to death. I have been told to be honest and open but I sometimes find myself talking about something which I didn't need to have and then it is ripped to shreds to find anything useful in it. Flippant comments are definitely to be avoided. I mentioned that during my "journey", the only recent "fly in the ointment" has been the Laurel's. That was a big mistake because I then had to explain what I meant by that. Again they want honesty, but this just makes me wish I had kept my mouth shut. 

So why did I say that? I expected that when I finally got to the Laurel's, I would be getting help and support to help me on my way to becoming the woman I believe I am. The reality has been very far from this expectation. I have had no help or support with the mess I am left in after having to talk. I am lucky in that I have my partner and my friends to help me through this. I have read many testimonials about the Laurel's and what a fantastic place it has been for them. Well for me, the reality is that it is a place of frustration and irritation. Perhaps I am a little different to some in that I do know where I am headed and this is a matter of hoop jumping for me. I do keep stating this to them, and I hope they are pissed off at me for keeping on reminding them, because I feel their plan is not flexible enough to cater for transsexuals like me that have already made the step to RLE.

So back to today and yes, it was actually going to get worse. The initial assessment was over with the psychiatric nurse. This was good news for sure but I now need a doctor to finish this phase off. However, there is an issue with a doctor and no appointments are being made at this moment. In addition, no timescale was offered to me. I pestered to some degree on this point and I could not get anything so I am completely in the dark.

In fact, I was even given another appointment just so I don't become "disconnected". This does not sound good to me but I do have an appointment with my GP in a couple of weeks and will discuss it with her.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Back to the grindstone

I had my trial in a charity shop today and am happy to say it has been a very enjoyable day.

If you have read previously, you will know that I have struggled to find such work recently and this coupled with the feelings of isolation that looking after a family member can bring has frustrated me to say the least. I had a miserable couple of hours at one shop last week but thankfully today was much better.

When I approached the shop in question, I already had a good idea it would be a nice place to work. It's a little more out of the way than some and has a different, quirky approach to it's layout.

I went in this morning and straight away I was asked if I wanted to go on the front end handling transactions. I was surprised, thinking this was the job everyone wanted, but often it is not. I accepted and I have spent pretty much the whole day dealing with customers. It doesn't get much more public than this and if I had had any problems being in public prior to today, I certainly would have none by the end of it! It all went fine and I was asked if I would be back. 

I was happy to say yes and my first proper shift is on Friday. I have the gender clinic on Thursday and felt that if it made me feel a little low like last time, the best thing I can do is be doing something I enjoy and distract me a little. I even mentioned this to the manager and she was happy to accommodate me. They seem pleased that I am able to take on some responsibility which gives the managers time to be dealing with other things like online sales and promotions.

Everyone has been friendly and accepting which has helped my morale and self esteem a great deal. I even walked back from there with another lady halfway through town and even though I hardly knew her, she threw her arms around me in a hug and said "see you Friday". This kind of acceptance goes a long way and further reinforces my view that very few are actually are actually against us. Many of the customers today haven't even batted an eyelid and I hope it's just the start of something very positive for the future.

Monday, 1 April 2013

Good Monday?

The title? Mandy had a "moment" this morning and referred to today as Good Monday. There was nothing exceptional about today, as in it wasn't an extra "good" day but coming up with these titles get harder and harder! When I had my website, I just use the date and perhaps I ought to go back to doing that...

Yesterday was a fabulously sunny day and we maximised that to the fullest by not even setting foot outside the door. I had had a night shift at Samaritans and hadn't got to bed until 3.30 in the morning. Add to this the fact that the clocks have changed and I was in a tired place yesterday. 

So today we planned to pop into town and then have a walk later in the day and lunch down at the river. We set off for town and it became clear that today was not going to be too warm. The sun was hidden behind a good thick covering of cloud and the wind is still extremely cold. It has been the coldest ever recorded Easter in the UK, and we don't need to be told that because we can feel it!

We got into town just before 10.00 and were amazed at how quiet it was. It was quieter than at the same time on a Sunday yet many shops had been open since 9.00. We were only after a few groceries but did have a walk around the centre. I got some good photo's down at Goodlands on the river Tone. The river is much lower at the moment, in fact it's below it's normal bank something we have not seen much of since last June. It may be cold at the moment but I am thankful for this extended period of dry weather. I have a friend coming down for a few days next weekend and I am really hoping we can keep it dry until after then. Typically when she does visit, it is always raining but lets keep it optimistic! 

We headed back to the supermarket and grabbed a coffee on the way, the warmth was much needed and on our way back home we decided to abandon our picnic by the river. The direction of the wind would have completely wrong as it was the same as the way the river flows. So that was pretty much it for today.

Tomorrow I am starting working in a charity shop. It is actually a work trial but I am very optimistic it will be more than that. I wrote here about my disastrous trial on Thursday and here about a much more enthusiastic manager on Saturday. Instead of viewing tomorrow with a sense of dread like I was on Thursday, I am actually really excited about it. There was an energy about this manager that made me want to work there. I'll be sure to write about it tomorrow evening and hopefully it will be all good.

Saturday, 30 March 2013

Braving the crowds, and some positive news!

First, if what I have written lately has seemed a little gloomy, I'm sorry for that. I try to use what I read as a reflection of how my life is and recently it has become extremely frustrating. The gender clinic has been one issue along with trying to find work in charity shops. Today has seen a major improvement with the  voluntary work and I'll get to that a little later.

My original plan for today was a quick trip into town first thing and then a walk along the river before retiring for home. It was all to avoid the Easter crowds but a friend of mine was in town mid-morning and wanted a chat. So the walk along the river was done first and this was extremely pleasant. The sun was trying to poke through the clouds and apart form that biting easterly wind, it was quite warm at times. One thing evident from the hedges and banks is that spring is slowly happening. There are buds on the trees and the small animals are much more active. A little more warmth and spring will probably explode into life.

We made it into town and the next plan was to pop into another charity shop to try to inquire about the possibility of working there. The whole voluntary work situation has played on my mind recently, especially after the failed trial I had in a shop on Thursday. It has got to a point of desperation and I think it is down to a couple of things. First, I am a practical person and I want to do something more physical than my work with Samaritans. After going from an active job in a sawmills to nothing, I am feeling the lack of activity is getting to me. I also feel a little isolated which is coupled with a feeling of not being part of society. I feel I am not contributing (even though I am caring full time for my partner) and this troubles me. I see people off to work of a morning and feel like I am not part of any particular social group because of that. 

We called into the shop in question and after asking, we found that the person I needed to speak to had popped out for something. Again, another hurdle in the way and my feelings of frustration intensified! We went off to meet my friend and found the town centre extremely busy. The crowds were quite phenomenal and pushing the wheelchair was quite hard going. I have often joked about attaching some blades on to the hubs to try to help clear a path and today that would have been quite useful!

After a coffee and a chat with said friend, we parted company and off we went to the charity shop again. The lady I needed to speak was there this time and after being shown into the back, was taken in very enthusiastically. I was asked what I was looking to do and I replied I had no specific wants and would like to have a varied role. The lady I was speaking to was very friendly and accepting, I did explain I had to go to the gender clinic from time to time. The shop itself is a little different and prides itself for being unique in it's layout which I have to agree with. She talked about how they sometimes have themed days where everyone dresses in the theme of a particular era. Now this was starting to sound like my cup of tea! I mentioned about my work trial and said one thing I felt missing was that there was no camaraderie, she replied they have plenty of that and loads of banter.

I gave her my details and arranged a trial on Tuesday. It's all quite laid back and I have to be in from 11.00 and leave when I wish. She insisted on saying hello to Mandy and we chatted together for another 15 minutes. I feel very enthusiastic about it and am really looking forward to Tuesday unlike last week when I had a real dread about the trial.

I had a much happier attitude leaving there and even with the crowds of Taunton, I had a spring in my step I haven't had in some time. We picked up a bite for lunch and walked to Vivary to eat it. The park was pleasant and again, it's starting to look like spring is getting here.

So a much more positive day and I feel like there is something I can get enthusiastic about in the future.

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Trialing times!

As I said a couple of days ago, today I had a couple hours trial in a charity shop to see if I liked it. My reasons for finding some other voluntary work are to get me out of the house from time to time and engage with other people. The problem with being a carer are that isolation can easily set in. I do have my work with Samaritans but there is a limit to how much of this you can do because it is mentally hard work.

Off I went this afternoon in the expectation that I would be shown around the shop, the back and would do a few things to see if I liked it. The reality was much different. I was let in the back and taken upstairs to the assistant manager. She was a very pleasant young lady and I was shown to a table and then expected to help sorting out the bags that had been brought into the shop or collected by their van.

It quickly became clear that everyone in the back had their defined roles. I felt like a spare part to start with although one of the existing staff finished for the day and I was then left with another quite new volunteer. I at least managed to find some conversation with her but no one else in the room seemed to want to engage and seemed happy in their little cliques. 

There was also an issue with conflicting instructions and this is something I found hard to accept in paid employment, so as a volunteer this was never going to work. After two hours of pretty mundane sorting, I got my things together and prepared to say goodbye.

The question of "would I be coming back" was put to me. I quickly decided that honesty was important here and I say no. I explained that I would not want to do what I did all the time and was assured that staff were rotated, but my suspicions were that this was not the case - everyone seemed very comfortable in their own little places. 

I was quite disappointed all round with today. No attempt was made to try to make the job appealing to me. I am not against doing donkey work even voluntarily, but I want to enjoy it and the environment wasn't appealing. I expected a certain camaraderie, but there was very little of that and resembled more of a production line at a factory.

This is now the third failure at trying to secure work in a charity shop. The first never contacted me after I dropped in a form, the second had no opportunities and now this one. I still have some more to try but it is starting to get a little disheartening.

To add insult to injury, I had some silly teenage kid (probably 18-19 because he was had a car) shout across the street at me, "that's a man". I had observed him kissing a young school girl (certainly not of legal age) prior to this and was sorely tempted to throw a comment about that back. I am trying to move away from confrontation and common sense won this time.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

One short walk to the doctors, one giant trek across town!

Titles are hard to come up with sometimes and this is one thing that I have struggled with since moving from a website to a blog. A version of Neil Armstrong's epigram seems appropriate for today though!

Today was meant to be a trip up the doctors for Mandy, get a few bits and pieces in town and straight back home. The reality was much different!

We set out for the doctors and I always now walk instead of drive. I don't see the point in driving anywhere that is within walking distance although the doctors practice has a steep hill on the way that is also quite rough. This makes it a bit of an effort with the wheelchair and the dead weight in it! We got there and Mandy rattled off her latest problems which included some problems with pain in her fingers. I already knew what was coming and sure enough, she wanted us to get an x-ray done at the hospital.

There was no urgency for this but I have stint at Samaritans tomorrow in the day, a voluntary work trial for a charity shop Thursday and of course Friday and next Monday are Easter. So we either left it until next week or made the decision to head across town today, which we did. It's at least an hours walk from the doctors to the hospital and I was quite glad of a sit down when I got there. They were lightning fast for a change and less than ten minutes later, I was headed back to town again.

We had to get some things in town and for some reason it was incredibly busy. I'm not so sure why but perhaps the upcoming Easter has something to do with it. I think a lot are already on holiday. If they are, they ought to cheer up a little, most seem really miserable. We got what we needed and four hours after setting out, got home again and in all that time, I was probably off my feet for thirty minutes of it. I also had a 75 minute walk first thing so I've notched up a few miles today. I suppose it can't do the waistline any harm!

As an aside, yesterday, I had an interview at a charity shop with the intention of doing some work there. I was shown around by a lovely lady and it seemed like quite a nice place with a friendly atmosphere. After all this, I was then told there were no positions available at this moment but would call me if there was an opening. This I find strange, why advertise the job and why call me in? I did have a momentary thought that perhaps being transsexual might have made her find this subtle way out but she did say to give them a call in a few months if I hadn't heard anything. It's too easy sometimes to get caught up in the trans-paranoia so I'll hope this wasn't the case. 

On our way back from there I arranged a work trial (which I mentioned above) and I hope something will come of that. If not, I still have a few more avenues to explore. Even though I have my hands full looking after Mandy, I still want some other interests outside the home and it keeps my feet in the employment market in case circumstances change.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Back in town!

Since becoming unemployed (I'll soon start calling myself Mandy's carer and not unemployed!) we have been into town at least 6 days a week. Today I counted back and we hadn't been there since Wednesday! Thursday I had a shift at the Samaritans, Friday was the joyful visit to Exeter (A grey day) and Saturday was a much needed chill day.

Something that did happen yesterday to lighten my spirits was a charity shop I had filled a form in for rang me yesterday and I am popping in on Monday for a chat. This feels much different to a job interview and if I accept / am accepted then I feel quite excited by the prospect. It will be much more public than I am used to and really feels like pushing boundaries for me. I enjoy talking to people in shops and this is a great opportunity to build on that.

So today, it was actually quite nice to get back in to my friendly home town again. Exeter, whilst being very nice, now has a bad atmosphere about it and will probably stay that way until I am sorted at the gender clinic. We went to Vivary first and took a few photo's. This one was the best and even though my hair is a little flyaway, it shows it off really well. There was no styling at all today because of the weather and I am amazed at how much volume there is in it now. We are both having haircuts in a couple of weeks and I expect to have the inverted bob again. With a few more months growth and thickening, I expect it to look really good. It's been 18 months since I binned my hair clippers and the wait has been well worth it.

After Vivary, we decided on a coffee and again, the lady in the Costa knew exactly what I wanted. However, Mandy wanted a cooler and we joked about how silly it was to want an ice cold drink on such a cold day. The staff in this shop have never been a problem and it really warms me when they recognise and talk to me. It's a sign of acceptance more than anything and this is all I ask of anyone. The other Costa in town that referred to me as a gentleman last year could learn from their neighbours. 

It was off to the supermarket and the lady at the tills was particularly pleasant. She thanked us for shopping there and made a point of saying goodbye. After the last couple of days, I needed today. It helped reinforce that the decision I have made is the correct one and all this crap I am going through trying to prove it to those that are supposed to help me is going to be worth it in the end.

Thanks for reading and I value your comments too.

Lucy x

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Moving on

After yesterday disastrous day at the gender clinic, it came as no surprise that first thing in the morning I found it all churning away in my head. I tried to deal with this by going out for a walk at the very start of the day. Walking has helped in the past clear my head and today didn't clear my head but did help in a small way.

This all follows on from yesterdays grey day post and I will admit I was not in a good place then. I said to a close friend recently by email that I have a distrust of psychiatrists. I had no justification for this statement as I have hardly had any contact with them in my life. All I had to go on was what I had read and others experiences. I did leave this distrust at the door in my sessions at the gender clinic but now find this view to be reinforced.

Over the last few years I have number crunched my gender dysphoria to death in my head. A Cray supercomputer would not have been able to handle the data I have moved around! I am 100% positive I want to be a woman. If someone said to get to such and such for your surgery tomorrow, I would have no hesitation in going for that. Of course this would not be possible because the system has failed me recently and I am well behind in where I should be with my treatment.

So it comes as a great annoyance that I am here having to prove to someone who has no experience of being transsexual, that I am transsexual. I have the mind that if I balls (no pun intended!) this up, then I am going to end up in some kind of limbo.

I grew tired yesterday of having everything I said picked apart and analysed. It felt like a dog gnawing at a bone. If I say something, I would like it to be accepted. I appreciate they want to know 100% but this is not helping me emotionally. 

Another issue, well failing actually, is I am left with no support whatsoever. I have this blog as an outlet and some close friends as well as my partner Mandy. However, it is starting to feel like I am drawing the lines of battle here and I am tired of fighting. I spent years of fighting myself, then fighting the system and finally I am starting to have to fight those that are supposed to be helping me.

I am lucky in that a friend has just emailed me with some information. She knew a TS friend who had the same issues as me. Frustration, anger and anguish were her words and I can feel all of that. This made her friend spiral into depression and I could really see how easily that could happen. Knowing that I am not alone helps but this is wrong and we should not have to go through this.

Friday, 22 March 2013

A grey day

Today was my second appointment at the gender identity clinic and after my first appointment, I was quite looking forward to it. 

The weather was pretty awful today, it was light rain when we left Taunton but Devon was a different proposition entirely. Even as we went past the county border beyond Wellington, the weather changed considerably and driving became difficult. It was with some relief that we finally got parked in Exeter and headed off into the city. My hair was the first casualty, I hadn't bothered any major styling today and for good reason, within 30 seconds of leaving the car, it was all over the place - in my mouth, eyes and even up my nose!

We had a small wander around before heading off to the Laurel's. We got there and this time the lift was working although there was some confusion as to it's relationship with gravity. I put Mandy in there and because it was quite small, had to leave her and walk down the stairs myself. I pushed the button for the lower ground but it said "lift going up"! This panicked Mandy but she needn't have worried as the lift was headed down. 

We checked in and I soon went in for my session. I must admit to finding this second appointment to be very hard going. It's hard to explain but I'll give it my best shot as to why I am finding it frustrating. Firstly, I am finding it tiring to be constantly questioned on what I say. I am asked a question, I give it my best answer and then asked to explain more. Sometimes there isn't any more and I let the silence fill the void. There are many things I have worked out myself and I can't think of how to express it in words. This is linked in with the issue that I have already transitioned with regards going full-time and name changing and I know where I am headed. There are no doubts in my head as to the fact I want to be a woman, always wanted to be and should have been born so. To constantly be prodded and probed with all this questioning in this manner is not very useful to me.

It was suggested I was putting up barriers so we delved a little deeper into this. I decided there would be no messing around here, and told her straight that I find it annoying to have to prove to someone (again) that I am a transsexual. I have had 3 years of trying to bring my life back into my control only to have that control placed back into someone else hands. I did ask what happens if we get to the end of this and I do not get my transsexual diagnosis? I received no answer to this so my fears have not been allayed. I have agreed to try not to put up the barriers in the future but it all seems so one sided, some of the questions seem so irrelevant, like how did I find sex as a man? As far as I am concerned, the man in me died a few years ago and wasn't ever me anyway so anything I did as him is completely meaningless. I find it bizarre that in the two hours I have had, we have not even really touched upon how I feel now which is what is important.

I guess I am probably going to be an awkward customer. I am a Samaritan and very in touch with my thoughts and feelings. I know what I want and need no double checking to be sure. I hope I can work through this in the coming months but it is not going to be easy.

There were lots of other niggles today and to be honest, I don't think I got anything out of it. This part of the process is called "therapy" but I found nothing therapeutic about it. What is it that they think I need sorting in my head?

One positive thing is that my next appointment is only a fortnight away. No longer being employed makes it much easier to fit this in with my life and I need that appointment sooner rather than later to try to get this back on track, because I feel it seriously derailed today.

 Fingers crossed for next time.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Time flies by!

So it's Thursday already and this surprises me. The days really seem to march on and this surprises me.

Firstly, I don't consider myself unemployed any longer. I am now Mandy's carer and it's only by losing my job, that I have seen the necessity to assume that role. This is a full time job although not in the 9-5 sense we all think of as a job. It starts of in the morning by helping Mandy get up, get breakfast ready and then clear it all up afterwards. 

It's then bathing time, we usually share the water because of the joys of having a water meter! We don't share the bath of course, it's never practical for most couples in normal baths so with one of us with knackered knees, it just aint gonna happen! I then help Mandy get dressed and then get myself ready if we are heading into town. It's usually 9.30 by now and I get the wheelchair out and start the 20 minute push into town. We get what we need done which these days includes groceries. Long gone are the weekly shops and as part of our living frugally campaign, we just get what we need as we want it as well as cashing in on offers. With the wheelchair loaded up, I then push it back home and get Mandy back in before unpacking the shopping.

It's a small break and then time to get a bit to eat for lunch. The afternoon is usually a little quieter unless I have some baking to do. I often make cakes and other things as our cheap treats. Our cupcake maker has proved invaluable lately and the next few weeks I have some other ideas for wholesome but cheap cooking. Towards the end of the afternoon I have to get our evening meal on the go before we settle down in front of the TV with either a DVD or some time on the PS3. Finally, I have to get Mandy into bed at the end of the day and assuming no problems in the night, rest up until the next day.

I appreciate this doesn't sound like the 8 hour stint like I was doing in the sawmills, but I am on the go for a good 16 hours of the day on and off. This description of my day doesn't include washing up, dealing with laundry, making cups of tea and other drinks, fetching this and that and many other task that may seem trivial to some but are impossible for Mandy to do. In fact, assuming these task has been tricky because Mandy has managed to do them for so long, she finds it hard to remember that I am there to do them. She tries to be as active as possible but often the pain in her joints makes it difficult.

Looking back at all this, I wonder how I ever did manage to go to work. It's not all gloom and doom, in fact I quite enjoy doing this although I do want to do some part-time work when we have everything sorted out. I have applied to a charity shop for some voluntary work as well as another organisation that provides books for free for the moment just to try to keep my hand in the working market.

So I can see now why the days do fly by! 

Just a small thing to finish with, Mandy was writing a comment on a blog this morning and when she got to the "prove you're not a robot" bit found this one a little close to certain vulgar word! Just remove that r....

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Spectrums and courage...

A strange title for sure and if you came here expecting talk of computers and brewery's of old, you will be sadly disappointed!

Yesterday my partner Mandy came across this story about Richard O'Brien who many remember for his presentation of The Crystal Maze and Rocky Horror Show fame. You can read the story here. I've always admired Richard to a point because he has always been himself or is that she has always been herself. Well actually it's neither! So is it, it has been itself or they have been themselves? This is getting complicated now!

Anyway this brought a couple of thoughts into my head and the first is about what it takes to come out of the closet and be a transsexual. For many, this is not an option they want to explore and I know it took me the best part of thirty years before I could pluck up the courage to admit this to anyone. To discover someone who has always seem very liberated like Richard O'Brien struggling to come to terms with being transgender makes me feel a little better. I never admitted anything to anyone until 2010 and know exactly the same feelings of having to shut it all out and deny myself the gender I always wanted to be. 

After coming out to my partner, there were still many hurdles to overcome because to become a full time transsexual, everyone has to know in the end. However, it's not such a good idea just to come straight out and instead I had to plan carefully how to tell everyone from family to friends and eventually those I worked with. I estimate there were at least a dozen occasions where I had to arrange quite meetings with friends and family, prepare myself and tell them. Every single time was a trial on the nerves and it never got easier. Even our GP, who we had a brilliant relationship with, was not easy and it was only with her help in easing my fears that I was able to utter those words, "I am a transvestite". Of course, since then I moved to transsexual because exploration of being a transvestite showed me I was meant to be a woman. Finally I stood up in front of 25 work colleagues and took that final step to full time.

Looking back, I sometimes feel anger that I had to go through all this. I admit times are much easier now than they were but it was never easy and why should I have had had to put myself through such stress just to make my life livable. To anyone embarking on this journey of disclosure, you are in my thoughts (and probably Richards to!).

The second thought I had with this article was the gender spectrum discussion. I look back at my life and think how I have been many different ratios of genders. I could even tabulate how I have been through my life but perhaps the present is best to concentrate on and that is that I am 100% female. To think I am even part male fills me with a sense of loathing. I hated myself all those years of having to play the act of being a man and now I have my new life as a woman, I feel like I want no part in being masculine ever again.

So in a way, perhaps I have a little easier than some. I have completely disassociated myself from my masculinity and am able to concentrate on the way I want to live my life. This also makes public life easier because I have found people accept transsexuals a little better than transvestites. It's easier to understand because it's thought of as a medical condition which elicits a kind of sympathy. For those that fit in between the genders, I know that it isn't so easy. I did have a couple of years living as a dual role transvestite and the shuffling of genders was stressful at times. I pray that society does keep moving on as it is and continues to improve for those that want to be a mix of genders.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Group activites

Yesterday I had training for Samaritans. It was only three hours but I had had a shift the night before and after less than 4 hours sleep, I was a bit dull to say the least! I was very apprehensive about the whole thing as it was a large group and I find anything over 6 people an effort sometimes. This is something I always struggled with as a man, I was painfully shy and couldn't cope with crowds or having to participate in any kind of group activity. 

I found that when I came out of the closet, as Lucy I was a lot less shy. Even very early on in my public life, I found I could engage strangers in the street but as my old male self, I wouldn't even be able to make eye contact with anyone. How silly did that seem at the time, as a man with a dress, wig and makeup on, I found myself more comfortable in public. Looking back it all makes sense, I was never meant to be a man and this is why I had all those years of struggling.

However, the man in me hadn't quite disappeared and this was part of the apprehension I was feeling. There were probably 30 in the training and I wondered how I was going to handle it. I'd had some training last year with a dozen of us and I was absolutely useless because of the group issue. It only made sense that with 30, I wasn't going to be any better.

In the end I needn't have worried. I found myself much more confident than I had been in the past and even contributed to the group sections of the training. I am still very new to the organisation but found I could put my piece across in front of everyone. Another nice thing was how friendly everyone was, I wonder whether a few had needed a bit of time to get used to me. 

Today was a walk around the town. After a much needed nights sleep, we got ready to go and I made the point of blow drying my hair with the volumising spray I have. This makes a massive difference to the look of my bob hairstyle and helps fill the small gaps of balding that are sadly there. The rain that had been forecast had been and gone and we even had a little bit of sunshine. If it was a little warmer, we would even have though it was spring but not quite!

Town was pleasant enough and after a coffee in our favourite Costa, we had a walk around Vivary. The park is looking quite nice now, a few flowers are blooming and the grass is looking very lush. The overnight rain left a few puddles in the park and the stream that flows down the side was quite coloured. I got this photo after we had been in the park, Sunday makes for a quieter high street!

We went home via the river and this photo shows that the water is coloured. You can also see the drift on the bank which was where it was when we had the heavy rain in November. I actually had to search back through my previous blog because there was so much rain last year, I was not sure which flood we were talking about.

Friday, 15 March 2013

Another week of disruption

Since becoming unemployed nearly 4 weeks ago, the one thing I have tried to get into my life is some routine, and failed!

Every weekend I say to Mandy and myself that next week I will start to get some order to my life only to find it falls to bits midweek or like this week, too much gets in the way. The only way I will be able to cope with being off work and Mandy's carer is to get some structure into things. Many of us that work hard or have worked hard for years dream of not having the pressure of work and lazy days but the reality is very much different.

I always had a lottery plan were I to win the big jackpot. My dream was to buy a smallholding, a few acres with woodland, perhaps a small pond and fields with some vegetable plots and a few small livestock. The idea would be to try and live self-sufficiently. So even as a millionaire, I wouldn't lounge around watching DVD's or gaming on the PS3 as is happening too much now.

There is stuff to do but most of it involves the outdoors in the garden and it has been extremely cold this week. Now the weather is a little milder (only a little mind!) I could do this apart from the fact it's going to rain, typical bloody British weather!

So next week, I have to start on some normality before I burn that PS3 out! I'm going to start by going out for a decent walk every morning - first thing I can get away with no makeup because there are less people about. I still want to take Mandy into town most days as the whole point in me being her carer was the fact she was getting out of the house more often, which is very important for her emotional health. The jobs in the garden can wait until better weather but I want to get on with them sooner rather than later. As well as this, I also want to try to find some more voluntary work. Samaritans is ok and challenging, but is a little faceless for my liking and as a transsexual, I want to be more out there and mixing with people as people do everyday. I did apply for a charity shop 2 weeks ago and am very disappointed that I have heard nothing back in that time. Still there are plenty more such shops in Taunton and other types of unpaid work as well.

Hopefully it'll make for some interesting writing!

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

A job interview

It may seem strange that I am writing about a job interview when I have already written about how we are trying to get myself assigned as my partner's full time carer. However, today's interview was actually arranged nearly three weeks ago, before we had made this decision.

I kept the interview all the same because it would provide me with a little experience and I could ask whether the job could suit me part time when I do get my carer status. So, after a troubled nights sleep (Mandy had a hypo - she is diabetic), I got myself ready in my suit. I made a special effort with my hair, blow drying it the way I had been shown when I had my hair cut back in December. I did my makeup and then finished my hair with a ton of hairspray, the last thing I wanted was to worry about hair disasters today!

The interview was at 9.00 and I made the decision to walk all the way across Taunton rather than drive. It was a good thirty minutes away but I estimated driving would take twenty minutes at least because of the time of day. Sure enough as I walked up through East Reach, it was in it's usual gridlocked state.

I got to where I needed to go and surprisingly, there wasn't too much sign of the usual job interview nerves. This wasn't actually my first as Lucy, I did have one last year. I went in and am greeted by two ladies, one rings someone about me and the other asks me if we have done some training in the past. Now this was interesting because I had not but she was adamant that she recognised me. I explained that I was a transsexual and prior to July, she would only have seen me as a man anyway. I wonder whether I was convincing enough that I was being mistaken for another woman? I take it this way because I am sure she wasn't mistaking me for another transsexual!

The lady doing the interviews was late in because of a problem and after a fair while, I was asked to come upstairs. In fact, it was two flights of quite steep stairs. I was sat down in an office and before we started, I started out explaining that my circumstances had changed. However, a couple of sentences in, I had to stop and try to get my breath from those stairs! I got back on track and it and explained about us trying to get me as a carer's role and they seemed very understanding. In fact they even got a calculator out to try to work out if it could be worked in with being a carer - you are allowed to earn a small amount on this benefit. It didn't but they seemed very keen to try to accommodate me. In the end we left it at that and they said I was welcome to come back to them in the next six months if my situation changed.

I felt I handled this quite well, I didn't want to waste their time but didn't want to cancel either. I feel that if our claim for Mandy's disability doesn't go through, I still have the option of approaching them again for a job and that I haven't shunned myself from a potential employer. 

So a good result in a way and if nothing else, a good bit of practice! 

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

A day of meetings!

The cold weather has bitten in with some severity in the UK and although our little part of the country has been relatively snow free, the wind has been extremely bracing.

So it was incredibly good timing that yesterday was the day we were to meet a friend in town that I had been chatting to by email for a time. My search for friends in the transgender world has been quite frustrating to be honest. I am lucky in that I have a few close friends in the trans-world but they all live some distance away and sadly the lady I met with yesterday was no exception. But anyway, I don't wish to detract from the positives of the meeting and we did discuss the social side of the trans world.

Angela (or Angie for short!) is the lady's name and she has her own corner of the internet here. She was on her way back from Exeter and we decided to meet in my favourite Costa in town. I did warn her that there are two Costa's and one has not been understanding of my being transgender. Sure enough that was the cafe that Angie headed for! I left Mandy on the other one and headed out to meet her in the shopping precinct. We walked back and really appreciated how severe the wind was as we were now walking East and straight in it! I have dealt with cold winds before but this one was pretty extreme.

We got to the cafe and I introduced her to Mandy. Whilst supping out drinks we chatted about a few things and swapped opinions on the Laurels gender clinic. Angie couldn't stay too long as she has a fair drive back home and eventually we escorted her back to the car park. Hugs were exchanged and we have looked at meeting again in warmer weather. 

In the evening I had a meeting for my voluntary work. This is where we discuss issues but in an informal atmosphere. It was quite an enjoyable evening, we discussed serious stuff but had a good laugh doing it. It was particularly cold walking back from there and I will be most glad when the spring proper finally arrives!

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Warm, cold and extremely cold!

The last few weeks in the UK have seen the temperature quite cold but at the start of this week it started to warm up quite nicely. Tuesday was a lovely sunny day and the feel of spring was in the air. This was evident in the ducks amorous activities in Vivary, trying to make ducklings that will only be eaten by the resident seagull population.

The crocuses have really bloomed with the mild weather
Towards the end of the week, it was getting quite humid and memories of the cold spell were quite distant. Our central heating was starting to rely on the thermostat to decide whether to kick in - for the first time since January). Even dad who always moans about the cold, started to say how mild it was. Finally yesterday evening I had a stint of work at Samaritans and didn't even wear tights for the first time this year.

Today, the cold is back with a vengeance! We walked into town and were ready for it by wrapping up warm but the wind was suddenly very brisk indeed. It sleeted all the time we were in town and towards the end, we were glad to be coming home. It's such a British thing to moan about the weather, but these last few years have seen our climate change considerably with more of these extreme swings all the time. I suppose we have to get on and live with it but tomorrow they are predicting a wind chill of -5 to -8 in the South West! I am meeting a friend in town and will be wrapping up very warm. There is even the threat of snow and I was very close to packing away those wellies at the beginning of the week!

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Lazy Saturdays

This may seem a surprise to some, but Saturday is what I consider Mandy and my day off. For someone who is not even working at the moment, why on earth would I need a day off?

Actually, I get to Friday and find myself quite tired. The whole job-hunting, taking Mandy out, shopping and keeping everything else going does take it out of me and Saturday is the one day where I don't go out at all. I like to give my skin a break from the makeup but I also like to have one day a week where it is for myself only.

Back to my current situation, we spoke to a very nice lady from social services yesterday who came to visit us. She took some notes, assessed Mandy and suggested that me being full time carer was a very suitable idea in this case. She is sorting the paperwork out next week and we keep our fingers crossed that we can get this acknowledged. Once sorted, I will then look to work part time and possibly some other voluntary work as well. I would still need to do something outside of the house and I would also like to try to contribute something. Living on benefits and doing nothing is not the way I would want to go.

I do still have a job interview next week and will explain the situation to them. They do employ people on a part time basis and this may be ideal for what I am looking for.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Dealing with unemployment

It's been just under three weeks since I lost my job and I am finding that I'm struggling to get into any kind of routine. We do get out into town every day but we are often back by mid morning (there's only so much you can do with no money!) and this leaves me thumb twiddling and firing up the PS3 by early afternoon.

I have plenty to do with moving stuff from my website and I could easily fill several afternoons doing that, but it's hard work and requires a lot of concentration and patience with having to reformat most of it and then linking everything together. Once I have done three pages, that's enough for me.

My thoughts on where I am going with regards job hunting have changed over the past few weeks as well. There is very little out there that I can do at the moment due to my lack of relevant skills and experience. However we are looking at the possibility of me becoming a full time carer for my partner. This means changing one of her disability benefits and we have social services coming round tomorrow to help us with that. Something I have noticed over the past few weeks is how much happier my partner has been with me being around to help her and to take her out. Life before was not so good with her being cooped up all week and then a brief tour of the town on Sunday. I was just too tired in the week to be able to do any more than this. This change has made me think hard about whether trying to work full time is such a good idea with her and her disability.

Ironically, since starting to think along these lines, I have been invited for two interviews! It is probably too late to do anything about one because it was arranged so long ago but I had another letter yesterday inviting me. I decided that I would contact them and after a long conversation with an understanding lady, she has cancelled my interview with the understanding that when we get sorted with me being a full time carer, I would be welcome to the interview with the intention of working part-time, you can do so many hours as a carer without it affecting you carers allowance.

So that's where we are at the moment. I still have one interview next week and again, I will explain the circumstances and see where it goes. 

Next week, we shall hopefully know a little more about what is going on and I will start to get that much needed routine back into my life!

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Stares and Smiles

Two walks in two days in Taunton has thrown an interesting contradiction.

Yesterday, I noticed I was getting more looks than normal. They were a mix of glances, smirks and stares. This is something I have had to deal with over the years and I just keep my best smile on my face and get on with it. Sometimes, I feel a lot of anger about it because what right does anyone have to judge me on the streets. I live my own life and am quite happy doing it. In contrast, I often feel pity for those narrow minded people. They must live such sheltered and boring lives that a transsexual such as me shocks them!

Today was a completely different matter. I don't think I have ever had so many smiles on the couple hours we were out. It's rare that I don't get a smile at some stage when out but today they were uncountable. It's when I get these smiles, I realise that I must be doing something right. I have obviously been read and this isn't an issue, but there is an acceptance in those smiles as well as a compliment and it makes my life seem more right and worthwhile.

So what was the difference? Was it my choice of coat? I had my red fleece on today whereas yesterday was my lilac one instead. Was it the weather? Today was fantastically sunny  with yesterday overcast. Was it the day of the week? Yesterday being Monday and, well you know what today is!

Perhaps I'll never know why days are different but I have collected up all of today's positives in readiness for the harder days, like last week and 3 youths that decided to throw a barrage of abuse at me.

Lucy x

Monday, 4 March 2013

Vivary park in March

For those that don't know, Vivary park is our main town park in Taunton. I find it very hard to find any town in our part of the country that has a park that comes close to the size, quality and beauty of this park. 2010-2012 saw Mandy and I wandering around a lot of the South-west and we can only think of Bournemouth Park and gardens that compare in any way. There are plenty of country parks in the South-west but I am talking town parks here and there are no others we have visited that match Vivary. We feel very lucky to have this park on our doorstep and recently we have probably visited it up to 5 times a week. It's often peaceful and quiet which makes it often hard to believe you are in the middle of a county town. There are plenty of benches and shelters so even when busy or raining, there is escape from it all. An ice-cream van is often around somewhere and the golf course next door has a cafe that the public can use. There is a small wooded pond to one side and a stream that runs down the entire length with ducks and moorhens aplenty and even a resident goose! Squirrels are often to be seen running around and they are incredibly tame to the point where they will take food from your hands. The council takes great pride in the park and there is often a workforce moving around tidying or working on something.

I have taken hundreds of photo's in the park so decided for my new blog, that perhaps a monthly tour would be good to see how it changes through the year. At the moment, it's a little bare but there is some nice colour emerging in the form of bedding plants and crocuses (croci is also an acceptable plural!).

Just inside the main gates from the town and already the flowers are impressive.
There is a large rose garden and courtyard to the left but that is a little bare at the moment. Primulas and crocuses are on display at the moment.
One of many park benches. Sadly/thankfully there is only one of me!
The pond is behind but the ducks (and seagulls!) come here to be fed by the many flavours of homo sapiens.
These are full of perennials but at the moment all trimmed back. They look quite impressive in the summer.
A long shot at the back. This is a massive green area and on a sunny day it full with people.
Fully wheelchair friendly of course.
Shelter from the rain when you need it and a bit of colour too.