Wednesday, 28 May 2014

A second opinion and more updates

Recently I have felt my journey towards GRS (gender reassignment surgery) has ground to a halt. I have been waiting for letters to be written to get things moving and promises have been broken. I am still working with Devon PALS on a resolution to these issues and will tell the full story when it has been dealt with.

Yesterday, as part of an effort to try to correct mistakes, the Laurel's (gender identity clinic) rushed through the process to get my second opinion done as soon as possible. In the UK you need two separate confirmations of gender dysphoria before any surgeon can carry out GRS. This is to protect the surgeon from future litigation and also to secure funding for this surgery from the NHS.

This second opinion is carried out at a hospital in Bristol by a Dr. Hodgson. The Laurel's Faxed through my referral and I was contacted by Dr. Hodgson's secretary and offered an appointment today at 13.00. I grabbed this opportunity because there have been waiting times of three months in the past although they have been reducing.

The drive up the M5 was uninteresting and then there was the challenge of navigating my way to Southmead hospital. A number of years ago saw me as an ambulance technician and I know my way to most hospitals in the south west. However, Southmead was probably the only one I never visited. Mandy is completely useless at giving directions, so her job is to hold the map so I can glance at it and work out where I am going. I simply refuse to use a sat-nav! We only made one wrong turn and that was because the offical map of the hospital had a roundabout marked on it that now no longer exists!

We found a parking space and amazingly, it was free with Mandy's blue badge. We then had the task of trying to find the correct building in this massive hospital site. We got there in the end and inside we found someone we knew waiting for her friend that was in with the doctor. I knew both of these people well and it was ironic that one of them was the appointment prior to me. We chatted whilst waiting and then the doctor appeared with the other in tow and the doctor left us alone for ten minutes.

We said our goodbyes, asked if it was fine for Mandy to come with me and followed Dr. Hodgson into his room. I have had a number of these assessments over the course of my journey and it is surprising how you get used to them. This was by far the easiest I have had to do so far. Dr. Hodgson seems to make that extra effort to put you at ease and the questions are much more structured than I have had in the past. Something that I always used to find hard were questions like, "tell me about yourself". Today there were no such open questions and we got through to the end easily. We talked about parents, gender dysphoria, hormones and GRS and that was about it. 

He explained that everything was fine and that he had no problem confirming my diagnosis and that surgery was appropriate for me. In addition he was very open to discussion of the surgical procedures and this surprised me because I was not expecting this. I felt quite a passion from him for this line of work and he did say that he finds this diversion from his mental health work to be very pleasant. He said he finds us all inspiring people and that we are generally some of the happiest he comes across. I asked about the timescale for the letter and he had been aware from the start that there was some urgency with my case in particular. The letter will be typed on Monday and probably sent that day so to expect it towards the middle of next week. Also he has offered to prod the Laurel's a little and seemed shocked by the issues I have had with the clinic. He also said we are welcome to contact him anytime if we needed advice or help. Generally this was a very positive experience and I was really pleased with how it all went. Dr. Hodgson made every effort to include Mandy in the conversation which I felt was a really nice touch.

We drove back home and this was again uneventful. It seemed a relief to get this step of the journey out of the way but there is still the matter of getting myself referred to the surgeon next and after what I have had to deal with recently, I am left anxious as to how that will go.

** During the course of writing this, Devon PALS phoned and I have discussed what I want to happen. They have agreed it is a reasonable request and if it happens I have said I will not process a complaint.**

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

An update on things

Actually I can't update on much at the moment for a couple reasons. 

My situation with regards the process involved with my future GRS (gender reassignment surgery) has taken a shocking turn with regards the Laurel's gender identity clinic. The process has restarted and I am sort of happy with what I have achieved but what I had to do to get it moving meant having to go way beyond anything anyone should have to do just to get treatment for their condition. Due to what has happened, I am in the process of complaining to the proper authorities. This is not some whimsical complaint either, what has happened to me is very serious and I want action this time. As such, I have no wish to air the problems in public at this time and will only do so when it has been dealt with.

That was the negative issue and more positively today I managed to get my date for my 2nd opinion. It is hard to believe but after pulling out all the stops this afternoon, I have managed to arrange an appointment tomorrow! Yes, that's tomorrow at 13.00! Even with the hassle I have had, this has actually put me ahead of schedule. Perhaps every cloud has a silver lining, it has been certainly been unpleasant recently and this bit of news has managed to lift my spirits a fair amount.

So watch out very soon, tomorrow see another major milestone in my journey to Brighton.

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Becoming the woman in me - Part two

It's July 2012 and I've just made the most monumental step of my life. To live 24/7 as the woman I should have been born as was once in my wildest fantasies and now it was reality. I had the long process of changing my title and name with everyone from driving license, the bank, cards and many more. There was the small matter of returning to work, which was not such a big deal. I finally pierced my ears, which felt like a right of passage. Finally, all my male clothes were either thrown away or taken to a charity shop.

However, names and clothes didn't make a woman out of me. I now had to start with the development of the woman in me. She already had a start with the two and half years of exploration we had already laid out. However, the man in me was still there and I had to get rid of him.

I liken this part of my journey to a flower bed in a garden. We started with a bare patch of ground in the seventies when I was born and over the years plants have grown that represent me. There are a few flowers from my childhood but most of it has become weeds, nettles and brambles which have taken firm root in my soil. Recently I have trimmed a few of these weeds and tried to plant a few flowers in amongst the undergrowth but they have struggled to compete. It's time to clear out the plants I don't want and try to stop those nettles and suchlike from growing at all.

Like any good garden, this was not going to happen overnight. For eight months I struggled and I can put this down to my workplace. Transitioning in a sawmills was never going to be easy and although I hear of other trans women managing such a thing in a very masculine environment, I personally found it an impossible task. My employer trying to dismiss me actually showed me how much damage my workplace was doing to me. I fought the dismissal and opted for a leaving by mutual agreement. I did not want to work there any more and on reflection this was one of the best things that happened to me during my transition.

I took a flamethrower to my garden and burnt the whole lot down. I had to start again because those eight months had turned me into something else again. I was a kind of man presenting as a woman and it was not pleasant, probably worse than the man I had been.

I had a couple of months of living a simple life and whilst trying to find new employment, we realised just how much care my partner, Mandy, needed with all of her health issues. I decided then to become Mandy's full time carer and started setting in place the procedures for getting this formally recognised. Being a carer is not an easy life and quite involved but it can be very socially isolating. I realised this quite early on and started trying to find some voluntary work. I already had my Samaritans work but this was not quite the social activity I wanted. I was looking for something where I could interact with other people and charity shops seemed a natural option. They seemed to have everything I was looking for which included company, work and dealing with the general public - this interested me a great deal as it felt a good way to completely embrace the woman in me.

Finding a shop to work in was not such an easy prospect. The first place never even replied to my application form. The second called me in and after an interview, said there were no positions available. The third offered me a trial and trial was an apt word, I worked harder than some paid employment I have had - it was like a sweatshop and thankless. I was at the end of this road and decided there was one more shop I would try.

This shop was one that Mandy and myself had shopped in many times and we had always liked the quirkiness of the place. It was very different from any other charity shop in the town and this appealed to me. We walked in there one Saturday and I asked to see the manager. She was away getting something and would be back in a little while. This was the last straw for me, I had had enough. It was time to go back to the drawing board and find something different. Something made me change my mind, we went off for a coffee and tried again an hour later. The manager was there and after a long chat decided I could try it out one morning the next week.

This was to be one of the important parts of developing the woman in me. The next few months saw me working quite hard in the shop. It was very important in that I was interacting with many other women and probably gave me the shove I needed in the right direction. I learnt a great deal from everyone, staff and customers. The customers in particular gave me a great deal of confidence, because although the occasional few would react to me, most were incredibly supportive. Although this didn't actually directly make the woman in me, it did sow the seeds in my garden to grow my future self. 

Those seeds grew well, nourished in the new confidence I had in myself. I started pulling out the pesky weeds that kept appearing as my male self was not going to go away overnight. He would appear from time to time, and it took determination to stamp him out when this happened.

In August of this year my garden got some more help with the addition of some fertiliser called estradiol. A total of eighteen months since I started my referral had passed and finally I was getting some medical treatment. The charity shop had sown the seeds, the hormones made everything really grow and mature. Suddenly with all that testosterone gone, I could relax and start to enjoy being a woman. It really did feel like a breath of fresh air.

It was not all perfect. The new feelings with the hormones could be quite intense and I was liable to quite extreme outbursts of emotion. A blood test found my levels were over three times the maximum they should have been! An adjustment brought them back down and I gradually stabilised my mood over time.

I worked my new garden steadily for over a year and a few weeks ago found that she looks really good. I have talked about this feeling recently, but I have an idea that I have arrived as the woman I should have been. This was a sudden realisation, almost overnight, but it feels good. Of course, there is still work to do physically with my gender reassignment surgery and even emotionally I will still need to be removing the occasional weed and planting new flowers.

I now feel a different person completely, very happy in myself emotionally. I can now look in the mirror and it is so good to see the woman looking back at me. She is a nice person, one that I can relate to and she is me!

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Becoming the woman in me - Part one

It's hard to believe that it was over four years ago that I first came out to my partner Mandy. It was a tough decision but very important in trying to deal with my gender issues. If I'd been told then that I would be here in four or so years time preparing for gender reassignment surgery (GRS) I would never have believed it. 

But here I am, living full time as a woman and getting ready for just that procedure. It's been an interesting journey and full of ups and downs although on reflection it has been mainly positive. It is also interesting how I now realise how I was meant to tackle my gender issues and come to terms with the woman I should have always been.

Some find this statement very hard to understand, but I was born female. Some of my earliest memories are of my confusion with being male. I struggled with this a great deal during my school years and bullying meant I had to drive it deep inside myself. The woman was there, but I had to conform to societal demands and live as a man.

This is where it all went wrong for me because I didn't understand what being a man was all about. During my late teens and early twenties, I lived a solitary life although I had contact with many other men with my working life. It was a very masculine environment and because of this the man I was becoming was based largely on this type of reinforcement. He was not a nice person, full of arrogance, coldness and many other not so pleasant things. He was a conscious creation of mine and I hated him. This was not any type of personality disorder because I was fully aware of what I was doing. However, I could not even acknowledge the woman in me and continued with this lie as a means of preservation. I had to get as far away from female as I could and being this blokey bloke was the best protection I could have.

I have mentioned that I hated myself, and this is very common with many trans people. We are so far removed from the real us that we are almost the opposite of what we want to be. I hate to admit this but I was trans and homophobic and I hated being that as well because inwardly I was not. However, to try to get further from who I was, I had to act like I hated those that I was soon to become. I still feel very ashamed of this attitude.

It couldn't go on for ever, the cracks were starting to appear. You build this persona up on a lie and even the best liars slip up in the end. I didn't actually make any such mistakes but I was starting to become fascinated by a woman's world I was not a part of. It was almost an obsession, I would trawl the Internet for hours looking at site that catered for women. This was not just fashion and makeup, it was also forums where women would chatter away about women's things. It was a world that I desperate to be a part of but I didn't know where to begin about dealing with my gender issues.

I started looking at trans support forums and something that fascinated me the most were stories of trans women who had taken their first steps in public. Reading these inspiring tales was probably what I needed. I was rapt with attention when hearing how fantastic it was to walk down a high street with the breeze blowing skirts around legs and how being able to browse clothes and makeup as woman without guilt was so liberating. I really wanted to experience this for myself and started thinking about how to go about it all.

Telling my partner Mandy seemed like the best way. I heard many stories of those whose significant others did not know any of their other life. This I could not do, my relationship with Mandy was one of solid trust and I could not bear the thought of her finding out from someone else. I had to weigh up everything which included the risk of her leaving me and decided I had to tell her what was going on in my head.

This went very positively and although there were tears and confusion, we talked and talked. And talked even more. Over the course of the next six months we explored Lucy to great depth. This included going to support groups which were a mixed experience. One such group was quite horrific and included one trans woman intent on scaring Mandy as to what was going to happen to me. Once I had started, I would not want to stop, she warned. Well she was right, but we needed to find that out for ourselves. 

In July of 2010, I stepped out in the city of Bristol for the first as Lucy. This was so scary to begin with but the nerves settled and it turned out to be the most incredible experience so far. We quickly followed this by another outing a fortnight later in Taunton. Every fortnight, when Mandy didn't work, we found ourselves filling our lives with adventure. Mandy probably gained as much from this journey as I did.

It didn't take me long to realise that there was much more to this than a bit of fun. I started struggling to return to being a man. I think I was starting to shed the character that I had created over all those years. Much reflection caused me to realise that I was never meant to be him. I was writing a lot on my website at that time and by delving into my past, I found that I had always had thoughts that I should always have been a female and that being a man was a mistake. The more I wrote about this, the more I discovered that I had suppressed these desires to a massive degree. The final straw for him was a holiday we had in the Lake district. Mandy and I talked to great length and we decided that I would take no male clothes on holiday apart from the ones on my back. I changed in the car on the way and spent the most incredible fortnight as my true self. Everyone was so kind and accepting, it truly paved the way for me to get the courage to go full time.

It didn't happen quite as quick as that. We needed to tell friends and then deal with the work issue. Work was the boldest step of all and took me another ten months to deal with. But I made it and went full time in July 2012, two years after I went out in public the first time. There is an old joke about what is the difference between a transvestite and a transsexual? About two years! How true this was in my case!

So I was full time, and my future as a woman lay ahead of me. This was to be the true discovery of who I was and you can read about that in part two.

Monday, 19 May 2014

First perineal LASER session

***This post contains material that graphically details medical procedures involving the genitals. Please click away if you feel you are likely to be offended.***

Ok, I admit that the title is not witty or clever but I struggled to come up with something funny that wasn't crude. Today was the first perineal hair treatment in preparation for my future gender reassignment surgery (GRS).

Perhaps to explain a little more I should talk about what is going to happen down below when I have my GRS. I am basing the following on information that I have collected from multiple sources and because there are varying surgical procedures, I may be slightly inaccurate and wont know the full details until I speak to the surgeon myself.

The standard procedure is to remove the testicles and they are discarded. In fact, they are just about the only thing that is thrown away (and good riddance too!) Following this, the glans (head) of the penis is removed to be grafted into place as a clitoris, the intention being that this will have a similar sensitivity as birth clitoris. The foreskin and skin of the penis is then inverted and this forms the vaginal canal. Skin, typically from the scrotum, is used to form the labia. There can be issues when penile length is short and sometimes scrotal tissue is added to the penile tissue to form the canal. Length issues occur due to circumcision or atrophy due to lack of erections whilst going through hormone therapy. This hopefully should not be an issue for me because I have listened to advice and tried to keep the atrophy from happening. Before anyone starts smirking, this is actually harder (no pun intended!) than it seems and no longer gives me any pleasure so is a pretty mundane task. 

If you now understand how much existing tissue is used to form the new (neo)vagina, then you may realise that the hair that typically grows in various places on the penis, is going to grow inside the neovagina and labia. As far as I know, surgeons do remove some hair follicles by scraping them away during surgery but often perineal hair reduction needs to take place to reduce the sheer volume of hair. I have recently heard stories of ladies who have not had any reduction prior to GRS and have had to have LASER post op. Given how delicate the new tissue is post-op, this is quite a sore subject and hairs growing inside are very difficult to treat with worst cases leading to infection. In addition many ladies are being referred and then sent away by the surgeon to have LASER and this can lead to up to 6 months delay! I did not want any such delay and proactively pushed for my perineal prior to my referral.

Luckily I have had 6 facial LASER sessions prior to this and had some inclination of how it was going to feel. I also have formed a good relationship with Lynne, the lovely lady who does the treatments. This was something that Lynda (my therapist at the Laurel's) encouraged me to do several months ago and today was where I found this to have been very good advice.

I have found with the medical side of transitioning, you can kiss goodbye to any hangups you have about showing bodily parts to professionals. I had already shown my hair to Lynne a few months ago and today was knickers off, legs spread and everything on full display. My partner Mandy, being a bit of a sadist, accompanied me to "support me". This is of course rubbish, there was some evil streak to her that wanted to watch this intently!

I was asked if I wanted some anesthetic cream. I decided against, I wanted to do this hardcore just to see what it was like. In fact, I hadn't even taken any paracetamol for the same reason.

I was going to watch this as well - when having facial LASER, you have to wear goggles that completely block out everything. Today I got to wear just dark glasses so could observe all the action. Lynne fired up the machine and off she went.

Lynne started off around the base, the sensation wasn't too uncomfortable and not much different to the facial LASER. Then with my help holding the penis, she worked up the side and back of the shaft. This is most important to avoid coarse hairs forming inside the neovagina. After quite a number of pulses to the penis area, she finally worked on the scrotal area and there was a little more sensation to this more delicate part of the body. Once she had finished with that, she returned to the penis and worked some more on that, almost as if to be sure!

Someone had already warned me that the most uncomfortable part was the jet of cold air that blows over the site being treated. Whilst having facial LASER, I knew this was indeed cold but on my penis and testicles, it was extremely cold. In fact it was painful in it's own right and by the time we had finished everything had shrunk to miniscule size.

On reflection, I find myself thinking just how relaxed I was through the whole process. For virtually the whole time, we chatted about various things regarding GRS and the passing of time was not even noticed. Being exposed in such a way did not even faze me and is a tribute to how professional Lynne is and how relaxed she can make you feel.

I got off the bed, redressed and then spent some time chatting more about GRS. I told her how my thinking had changed recently, that it was now very important to me instead of just being there in the future somewhere. She remarked that perhaps I have now found where I am as a woman in my mind and this is why I am now concentrating on the physical aspect of my transitioning. She obviously talks to many trans-women with her work and perhaps has seen this before but it really does sum up where I am now.

My second session is booked for near the end of June and she is optimistic in getting it all ready for the provisional timeline I have been given by the Laurel's.

Saturday, 17 May 2014

The road to Brighton

If you read my previous entry, you will know that the last few weeks have seen me waiting for news of my referral for my gender reassignment surgery (GRS). To recap, I was told in February that I was being given the go ahead for my GRS because I was more than ready and there was no more that could be done for me at the Laurel's (gender identity clinic) until we started this process. The doctor in charge of my care then realised he had made a mistake and decided to hold me back another three months due to me not meeting the correct criteria for GRS. This was not the first mistake this doctor has made and I found it hard to trust him to then start the process on time. 

After speaking to other transwomen, it was suggested that I contact the Laurel's in the latter part of May and ask what was happening. I therefore waited until the second half of May, which was technically after midday on the 16th. Ok this is really splitting hairs, but I was getting desperate for some news. 

I finished my shift in the charity shop a little early and went home to prepare for this phone call. At 13.00, I duly rang up the clinic and left a message enquiring for information about my referral.I waited for twenty or so minutes and then the phone rings. I am almost afraid to pick it up, but there was a definite necessity to this call. I speak to a lovely lady, something that has always been consistent with the Laurel's is the politeness of their admin team. She confirms that one referral has been done and sent off. However, the doctor had said he was going to do both referrals and I had to press quite hard to find out this information. I am not completely sure both have been done but next week should see the copies drop through my letterbox and completely reassure me.

I should explain a little more about what these two referrals are about and what the process is in the next few months.

First and foremost, I need a second opinion from a psychiatrist to confirm my transsexual diagnosis and that GRS is appropriate for me. Whilst I should not be blase about this, this whole step is pretty much a formality. The Laurel's would not be putting me forward for this if I was unlikely to get past this next step. This referral has definitely been done.

The other important part of this process is my referral for GRS at the Brighton Nuffield. To make up for the mistake made in February, the doctor said that he was going to do both referrals together which is not normally the case. This should speed up things a little, perhaps shaving a couple of months off the whole process. It's this referral letter, that I am not so sure has been written. I did hear the referrals(pl) mentioned yesterday so I have to cross my fingers on that one. At the end of the day, I will know by the end of next week whether this has been done or not and rest assured, I will be back on the phone hassling. This is something that is quite apparent in this whole journey, the amount of pushing and prodding you have to do to get anywhere.

So, this part of the journey has now started and the fun begins on Monday with some hair reduction. I will certainly have to report back on this bit of fun...

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

A difficult couple of weeks

It's almost a little sad that I have to write about less positive going's on but the last two weeks have been really hard for me to cope with a lot of conflicting feelings. It's vitally important that I do write about the harder issues I have to face, as I have never tried to sugar coat anything when it comes to my story.

It all started just under two weeks ago when my friend Susan, who had been staying in Taunton for a few days, left to go back home. Let me say that my recent low had nothing to do with this but it was ironic that the trigger day was virtually the same day. It started with a visit to the Laurel's, literally ninety minutes after Susan had left. My sessions there now do not hold the dread that they used to and I was actually quite positive that I might be getting some good news about my GRS (gender reassignment surgery). It had been six weeks since I had last been there and I had been given hope that the doctor might have been persuaded to move things on due to the error he made last year which resulted in me waiting for a letter that was never going to arrive.

I should have expected that nothing had changed, which was in fact the case. Lynda (my therapist) reported that nothing had moved on and we were still waiting for May to roll over, which was when the doctor had promised to write the referral letter. We then discussed perianal hair removal, because six weeks ago Lynda had requested the funding for this process so that we would have no issues in advance of my upcoming GRS (I will discuss more about perianal hair in a future post). I had already spoke to Lynne, who has been doing my facial LASER at the Nuffield and she had reported that my funding had just come through a few days prior. Lynda seemed quite annoyed at this, stating that she had put this through the day we met six weeks ago and should not have taken this long. I then told Lynda that my first session was almost seven weeks away (alongside my facial hair work as well). This seemed too long and I suggested I make a separate appointment for my perianal. We talked some more about GRS and it was time to go.

As soon as I got home, I rang the LASER clinic and made an appointment 3 weeks sooner. This made me feel a little better because I have to have at least five of these session with probably four weeks between. You also need four weeks healing at the end before surgery so that is at least twenty weeks, hence the reason for getting a move on. This session is for this coming Monday, and I will be reporting about this treatment which is in a very interesting area!

The very next day saw the start of two very extreme and conflicting emotional difficulties. For the last two weeks I have found this waiting game for the doctor to write these referral letters to be profoundly difficult to deal with. I have not seen the doctor since February and am not scheduled to see him until July. This situation leads me to worry about whether those letters are going to be written or forgotten. Remember that the doctor forgot to write my notes up last year, and also backtracked on his decision to start the process in February. After two weeks of working through this, it is simply a trust issue - I do not trust this doctor to write this letter on time.

Waiting for a doctor to write letters may seem a trivial thing to some to be worrying about, but for me this represents the final stage in this part of my journey. I do not see GRS as the be all and end all but it does feel vital for me to be complete now. I never used to think this way, but time does change how we feel about things. I now want to be moving on this process but to be held up by a doctor who has failed me in the past is very distressing to me. I think I have had only one decent nights sleep in the last fortnight and find I am waking at about 3.30 and not able to get back to sleep with all this on my mind.

In contrast, I have found some inner realisation that the journey I am taking is so right for me. When I came out to Mandy, over four years ago, I always knew that I would end up living full time as a woman. When I overcame that hurdle, I knew then I was doing the right thing. I have always been confident as Lucy but literally the same day that I started this worry phase, I also became super confident about myself. This has led to a new me, full of self belief and aware of the true me. More importantly, I have come to love myself. I hated myself as a man, he was such a horrible person and I was so glad to transition as Lucy and get rid of him.

I put this sudden change in confidence down to a few things that have suddenly clicked into place. I am sure the hormones have played a massive part in this change, I am much more in touch with my feelings and I really think differently about everything. My upcoming GRS also play a part, I am going to be physically much more complete as a woman and this realisation is immensely powerful. Finally, I think every last vestige of the man I was has been completely obliterate. Obviously the memories remain, and there is nothing I can do about that even if I wanted to. However, I am a woman now and this is my way forward. This has even changed me physically, I walk through town with a real sense of purpose now and nothing or anyone is ever going to change my mind.

So it's been an interesting couple of weeks. As I said, I have two very contrasting sets of emotions going on here and it has been difficult to deal with both at times. I've been trying to deal with my worrying as well as trying to fathom out this super confidence. I have tried to use the positive emotions to offset the negative but at 3.30 in the morning that does not work.

To help me with this, I also tried to add in some different experiences to try to invigorate my life outside of all this. For the first time, we went to Exeter Pride on Saturday. This was a completely new way of thinking because I have moved away from the trans community over that last couple of years. I made this move because I was unhappy at some attitudes within the community, often towards Mandy. She has always felt excluded at events and even encountered hostility probably due to jealousy of some sorts. However, I felt I needed to get some connection back to others that understand what I am going through. The event itself was quite enjoyable, and a discussion forum and workshop at the end gave me back that connection I was possibly seeking. 

Sunday even saw me going to a coffee evening, organised by a lady I had encountered on Facebook. This was also very helpful in dealing with my issues. Just being able to talk, and listen to others with similar problems to my own was a very useful healing tool. I also got some pointers in how to deal with my issue with the Laurel's.

Finally, because this has got a little long, I found a superb YouTube channel detailing a young lady's transition in the USA. Autumn Asphodel is her name and whilst things work differently over there, a lot of what she has to say about feelings and emotions run very true wherever you are in the world. There are over 60 in depth videos detailing just about everything you could need to know. From dilation to sexual function, it is all there as well as a host of other videos explaining all Autumn's other mental health issues which are just as insightful. Watching these videos has been tremendously helpful and I am quite awed at the effort that has gone into these works. Please, anyone, consider watching a few of Autumn's works. They are quite touching and I have cried at more than one.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

A hormonal recap

It has been almost ten months since I started on a hormone treatment plan and there have been many changes about myself that are very evident. I researched the subject thoroughly prior to starting on them but even then, there have been surprises. 

My treatment consisted of applying 2mg doses of Sandrena gel daily. This is an alcohol based gel with the Estradiol hormone contained in it. The plan was that this would get my blood oestrogen to the correct levels and bring my testosterone to a castrate level, critical for determining appropriateness for future surgery.

It was a strange feeling, putting on that first dose. It signified that start of something very new and I was very much in anticipation of what was going to happen to me. Perhaps it would be useful to note what has happened so far.

Breast size and shape

Of course, this is perhaps the most known and often desirable effect of taking some form of hormone. When I talked to the doctor about this, he was clear in that there were absolutely no guarantees of what size I would end up with but as a rough guess, aim a size below my mother. Without disclosing too much information about someone else, I can say this sounded like it was going to be massively hopeful.

Within a few days of starting hormones, my nipples were incredibly sore. Many years of running have led me to have to occasional dose of joggers nipple, but this was on a different level entirely. I had been warned about this but was surprised at how many months this lasted, probably three or four. Within a few weeks, I experienced the first growth and the breast tissue and after three months, I had something in the order of a full B cup.

Around December, my blood oestrogen became lower and predictably the growth stopped. A change of dose increased this and the growth restarted. Suddenly all my B cup bras were useless and I was popping out of them all the time. A sudden investment in some C cups with a small amount of padding remedied this, for a time.

Around about the eight month stage, suddenly it was growing season again! I am now at the stage of moving to a D cup but with absolutely no padding. I have been told to expect another ten to twelve months more of growth plus some additional time when I have genital reassignment surgery (GRS).

Hair changes

Changes to my body hair has been very slow initially. I have epliated for nearly four years now so it was always going to be difficult to notice any changes and it only in the last couple of months that I have noticed much less of it on my weekly removal sessions. It has changed in thickness, there are many less black ones these days.

My facial hair has slowed quite considerably. This has been a very useful effect and it means I can go much lighter on the makeup. A downside is that I need more time to grow it for electrolysis, as much as four days for upper lip hair.

Head hair is now much thicker and my thinning top is now less evident. Although it is very rare, I feel I have had some regrowth from thinner areas. 

Skin changes

Softening of the skin is a much reported effect, and this is actually a very pleasant change. It looks and feels fantastic and is a tangible sign that I am less masculine. I find it is also less greasy but will have to watch for more dryness, something I am noticing on my face.

Body fat distribution

I am not quite so aware of massive changes in this department. My partner, Mandy, says my hips are getting bigger but it is not so easy for me to see. Again, this is often a very slow change and may take some time yet.

Facial shape change

This has been by far the most surprising effect of all. I am often staggered to see just how much my face has changed in the time I have been taking hormones. I feel I look so much more feminine and Mandy often says I need no makeup now, but I am not quite ready for too many bare faced strolls down the high street!

Emotional changes

This is obviously the more expected change but was something that came and went initially. When I started last year, my blood oestrogen levels were extremely high, three times what they should have been. I described my mood at the time as being along the lines of meltdown! We had to reduce my dose and things calmed down but this led to a low blood oestrogen and I could sense it was at a low level. This made me feel very low but not the crying sort of low. An increase saw this level off and I started to find some significant changes in my emotions and feelings. I am now much more prone to crying, something I found impossible as a man. 

Recently, perhaps two weeks ago, I have also noticed a change in how I feel about my journey. I have always felt very determined and that transitioning was 100% the right choice. Now however, I have found this feeling to have become even stronger and that I am extremely happy as the woman I have become.

This has led me to consider my upcoming GRS in great detail. GRS was always somewhere there in the distant future and would happen when it happened. Now it is perhaps five to six months away and it can't happen soon enough. I now view this final step as essential to continue with my life. I really feel that the changes the hormones have had, have led to this change of thoughts. I have heard more than one transwoman say they weren't bothered with GRS, only to hear later down the line that they were actively pursuing it. I can honestly say that the same has happened with me.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

A look back at 2013 - Part 2

I wont do too many of these "past episodes" as I am keen to start writing about the next part of my journey. However there are a small number of moments from the last twelve months that I feel are quite poignant in getting to where I am now.

I think one of the most difficult parts of last year was my initiation in the Laurel's gender identity clinic. I did write about the first couple of assessment sessions last year prior to stopping writing and they do not make pleasant reading even a whole year on. I found the assessment phase extremely difficult, mostly because Mandy was wrongly excluded from this critical part of the journey.

This actually led to me putting a complaint in writing. I wrote a long letter about all the issues I had and how distressing it was for me. This letter conveniently got lost, so a copy was resent and I finally got a reply that was not to my liking at all. It even suggested that perhaps another clinic would be more appropriate for me. That was a pretty comical suggestion given that the next nearest is in London. 

I had another go, with another long letter pointing out that it was the clinics job to treat me and not try to add another hundred plus miles to my journey. I also pointed out all the other issues I had so far but stated that I was actually happy to strike a line under all of this with the exception of one problem, and that was Mandy's exclusion.

Soon after we both received calls from the manager who was suddenly very sympathetic to our problem. After an hour on the phone myself, (Mandy had another call at least as long), we talked about what was wrong for me and we decided that it was in my best interests to change therapists. There were many problems talked over in that phone call and it seemed clear that I was not being treated correctly. We also talked about accelerating the start of my hormones, and to do this she sent me a list of blood screening I needed so that the doctor could skip the normal two appointments before issuing advice to my GP for them.

An appointment had already been made for a doctor, but I was also asked to have a brief chat with my new therapist and so we waited patiently for that date to come by. We arrived at the clinic and to say the red carpet had been rolled out was an understatement! I was almost waiting for a glass of bubbly to arrive. Lynda, the new therapist, came over and we went into her room for a chat. She also seemed very apologetic for what had happened and made every effort to make Mandy sure that she was as important in this journey as I was. 

We then went for my doctors appointment which went well. He looked at my bloods and said there were no issues and he would have no problem issuing the advice for hormones. Oh yes, and I was formally diagnosed as a transsexual - that was the important bit! We talked about the future and time lines for GRS (gender reassignment surgery). It's important to remember that GRS was something I wanted, but it would happen in it's own time although that feeling was going to change. The clinical side of the hormones was deeply discussed as well as the health risk although they were pretty unimportant as I was going to take them no matter what. We left with him saying he would write that day to my GP and to expect it to be about three weeks. Again our exit from the clinic was smiles and we finally left there happy.

I waited the three weeks and another week again and finally phoned my GP's practice. I was told no correspondence had been received and advised me to contact the Laurel's to find out what had happened. I duly did this, only to find that no such letter had ever been written and not even a record of any to be written. Some investigative work was needed and eventually I was rung back to be told that the doctor had forgotten to write the notes on the day of the appointment. I was shocked that such a thing could happen and duly sent of a very angry email to the manager stating my anger about this. They were pretty quick on resolving this however and faxed a copy to my GP. Three days later I collected my prescription and suddenly I had what I needed in my hands!

I actually waited three days to start them. I had my good friend Susan as a guest at the time, and wanted to wait for some normality before starting them. Monday was then the start of it all, and I think that side of things warrants a full post of it's own. Given we are nine months into my treatment, there are some very interesting things write about!

Not long after I had my first session with Lynda, and it was like a breath of fresh air compared to what I had experience prior to this. I wont go into any details about the early sessions because they were quite unmemorable, they seemed more like pleasant chatter than any serious therapy. I have built a very solid relationship with Lynda in the time since I met her and feel she is really helping me get to my GRS.

Two months ago, I had a double appointment  with Lynda and the doctor. Upon starting the session with Lynda, I was staggered to find that she was going to push for my GRS that very day. This was a complete surprise to me because the doctor had been clear about having to do twelve months on hormones. However Lynda said there was nothing more we could do together until we started on this next step and it was time for me to start preparing.

I then had my appointment with the doctor and he was also keen to go with Lynda's plan until I reminded him of the twelve months and that I was only seven months into it. He hadn't realised this and mulled it over for a short time before saying he could write the referral for the next step (a second opinion) with the proviso that I could not have any surgery before the beginning of August. This was never going to happen anyway with waiting times. We both left that day, me with a big grin and the anticipation that I was finally going to get to get my GRS!

Sadly, two weeks later a letter dropped on my doorstep from the doctor backtracking on all this. He was instead going to wait another three months before starting the referral and that I would have to wait it out. Talk about disappointment and getting my hopes up needlessly. This took me some time to get through and I have since had two sessions with Lynda that have turned into both of us griping about the wait. The positive side of this is that I am certain Lynda is on my side. However it is easy to understand why I have serious trust issues with the clinic.

This is where we are at, at the moment. May has now come and this is when that referral should be started. It has been very up and down this last week and I intend to write about this in a couple of days. I hope you will come back and have a read.

Lucy x

Saturday, 3 May 2014

A look back at 2013 - Part 1

I started journaling my transitioning back in the summer of 2010 and every week, I wrote about my journey as Lucy. I carefully detailed every little step via a website for which I paid a hosting fee. On losing my job in February 2013, I found this was now an expense I could no longer afford and I switched to this (free) Blogger platform.

I continued writing about my journey but sadly the events that led to me losing my job had poisoned my love for writing and I became uninterested in it. As you can see, my entries stopped abruptly in April.

The reason for losing my job could not be divulged at the time, due to needing a reference from my previous employer. However, more than a year has passed and I no longer need this due to being full time carer for my partner, Mandy. Finally, I can tell the truth!

So for those that have never read my original website, I will start the story in May of 2012. For over three years since coming out to Mandy, I had been exploring Lucy to a massive degree and had already made the decision that I would go full time at the earliest opportunity. Sadly, I felt my workplace was not appropriate for transitioning due to it being a very masculine environment and filled with probably the most non-understanding employees I could think of. I tried finding other work as Lucy with no success. I was starting to struggle with living two genders. Lucy for most of the time and for eight hours a day, Monday to Friday, as the man I was starting to hate. I was approaching breaking point when one morning in May 2012, I had an epiphany! All I had to do was come out to my workplace, and I could live as Lucy for good. Suddenly the thought of living as Lucy all day, every day outweighed any negatives in having to come out to everyone. 

That very day, I approached one of the managers and asked for a chat in private. We went to the canteen and I told him everything and that I needed to do this or I could not carry on. He was understanding and also realistic, saying it was not going to be easy for me. We arranged a meeting with one of the directors and after much consultation between the three of us, we made a plan. The aim was to inform everyone on the 3nd July 2012, I would have one final day at work as a man on the 4th July and after a few days holiday, return to work on the Monday after. We decided, after much discussion, that the only way was to gather everyone in the canteen and tell them in one go. Small groups would not work as it would develop into Chinese whispers. We felt that the best course was for a director to announce what was going on, and then me to stand up and explain a few things about it all.

Here is what I wrote on my blog about this at the time, it is the best account of it all:

Today finally came and it was a tense few hours until 15.10, the time of the meeting. No one actually knew there was a meeting until 10 minutes before and then it was "who was being made redundant?" and "who's going to die?"! As we all filed in, someone asked "what's this all about then?" and the reply was "such and such (not me) is finally coming out!". How apt!!!
We filed in and my first thoughts seeing everyone there was, bloody hell, I didn't realise how many worked here now! I honestly though it would be a nice cosy meeting of a dozen or so maximum. I counted up after and there were 25 crammed in there (not counting me or my manager). I have never seen so many in that canteen!

By then people started to realise it involved me as I was stood at the front with my paperwork next to my manager. He read of his statement that gave my situation in black and white. I was a transsexual and was changing my name tomorrow and returning as Lucy on Monday. He said the company supported me and hoped that everyone would so the same. Then it was my turn. I started by saying "I bet none of you saw that coming!". Someone said they had, but they clearly hadn't. Their comment was designed to belittle me and it didn't work. I ploughed on, saying how hard a decision was to have made. I explained that I wasn't just a man who wanted to explore their feminine side, I was a woman in a mans body. I explained the Deed Poll I was going to execute and how important that was to me and also how it marked my dates for starting my real life experience. I explained that I needed two years of that before I would be considered for surgery but also that it could be a lot longer than that. We finished by handing out a letter I had written to everyone which went a little more in depth with everything.

We then left them to it and repeated the same with the office staff although this was much smaller, and easier!

The relief of getting this done was indescribable, but the euphoria at now being able to live as Lucy in one days time was mind blowing. I had one more day at work as a man and this flew by. I changed my name that very evening, why did I want to wait any longer? Here are two of the hardest earned photo's of my life:
My good friend Al and myself at "the signing"!
My first day at work as Lucy (ignore the waistline!)

My return to work was quite uneventful and things moved on well for the next few months. However, as time passed by, things started to get worse. In the beginning, everyone was careful to use the correct pronouns (she, her, etc) and call me Lucy but this slipped to the point where I was back to being him and being called by my old name. Management were not interested in dealing with this. This led to great frustration on my part and I started to express this on my website. 

I think I had fallen out of favour outside of this as well, because I was being mistreated by management. This got to the point where a director even assaulted me in the workplace. He was trying to get my attention, thought I was ignoring him and grabbed hold of my coat at the neck and dragged me across the floor. That very afternoon, I was suspended on the basis I was bringing the company in disrepute by my comments on my website. This was a very flaky charge and combined with poor control over the misgenderings along with the assault, they were on very shaky ground. I went home and immediately rang my trade union.

Eventually we agreed at a disciplinary meeting that I would leave of my own accord on the basis that I would not proceed with any action on my part and that I would be given a good reference with a clean record. I could have let them dismiss me and I would have seriously dragged them through the mud, but that reference was important at that time. It was bleak at that time, depression was close by but leaving that place was by far the best thing that could have happened to me. On reflection, I realised just how much it was holding me back and hindering my proper gender development. Masculine traits that I wanted to be rid of, had to be kept to try to fit in.

Better things were around the corner...

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Returning to blogging

I suppose I need to offer my apologies as I clear the tumbleweed that is scattered across this blog. It has been over a year since my last post and I have felt guilt in all that time I have been silent.

Writing a journal of my journey was incredibly important at the start but 2013 saw some changes that left me in the wrong mood for writing anything. 2013 was a year of transitioning but very little in my journey towards the completeness of Lucy. We left off from my 40th birthday, a quiet affair and this summed up the year, it was a year of trying to sort out our lives following on from my job loss.

2014 has seen some stability return as well as a new direction in my journey. This change comes in the form of GRS (gender reassignment surgery). Whilst this next step is not quite on the move yet, the process should be starting in the next few weeks. I want to write about this next step in as great a detail as I can. Writing was very therapeutic at times, and I feel that need to get it all down again to help me work out my thoughts and feelings. 

Over the next few weeks, prior to the start of the official process, I want to refresh the blog on what happened last year and prepare to write about this most exciting step of my journey.

Lucy x