Sunday, 18 October 2015

Putting a positive spin on hate crime

This week has been National Hate Crime Awareness Week in the UK. It started on Saturday 10th October and yesterday saw this come to a close. Recently I have been involved with Avon and Somerset Police with transgender awareness and because of this, I became involved in their celebrating diversity campaign.

It is hard to imagine how a positive aspect can be put on something so awful as hate crime but I really feel that a great deal has been achieved this week because of this campaign locally and nationally.

To start with, I was asked to contribute my story to the police website, which can be found here. I spoke to a lady last week and was asked to get my story and message into 300 words or less and this was no mean feat! There was much use of apostrophes and it was incredibly difficult, but I managed it. 

Not long after it went on the website, I was contacted by BBC Radio Somerset. They were particularly interested in my story and felt it would be good to run as an item on their breakfast show. Local radio is a far cry from my usual listening fare of Planet Rock but this felt a good opportunity to help spread awareness of hate crime.

The next day we were visited by a journalist, Rachel, and she had more than one idea in mind. Primarily there was the interview about my recent assault but also they are running an item next week about couples and how their relationships change with time. There can be no better story than a transitioning couple and we agreed to do an interview for that as well. 

We initially talked over the assault and then Rachel started the interview proper. I was surprised at how well I managed to hold up the conversation and together with some input from Mandy, we got more than 13 minutes of recording. We then proceeded to do the other interview and then spent more than an hour talking to Rachel. I think she was gathering information for future reference and I was happy to inform and educate. 

Soon after, Rachel emailed me and said they'd had to cut it a little as 13 minutes was too long. This made me a little apprehensive, was I going to be misrepresented? I was also told it would be aired at 7.05 and 8.05 the next morning. 

Wednesday came and I listened in for the first segment. It was very strange to hear my voice, which can still trigger an element of dysphoria, but I do not think I was too bad. They seemed a little keen to cling on to the physical aspect of transitioning such as mentioning my GRS in January but that was just a side thing. The media do seem hung up on the GRS and birth sex issue, but hey ho, this will change. They broadcast a shortened version initially with another interview from the hate crime lead at Avon and Somerset Police. An hour later was a longer version that went into much more depth. You can find the two broadcasts here and skip to 0.36.00 for the short one with the longer one at 1.36.00. This link stays active until the 12th November 2015.

The typical audience of this station is more mature and this makes interesting thinking as to who it would benefit. Age is of course no barrier to transitioning but the average age is reducing with many more younger people coming forward. However, there will still be older people who may be feeling that they want to deal with their gender issues and if this interview was listened to one single person and helped them, then it would have achieved something. It did have an effect on two people and that was the lady who delivers talking books for Mandy. She had heard it and not even realised it was me until Mandy had started speaking! Her husband had also been moved by it and she expressed that he was not usually an emotional person. She had not even known I was Trans either, so something for the confidence there.

It has also led to that other interview and I am led to believe that the media is starting to move to our side when it comes to representing Trans people properly. It is ironic that this week, Channel 4 have broadcast two awful programs that were wholly obsessed with genitalia and the sexual side of being Trans. This has led to an uproar amongst activists but I am also heartened by all the positive portrayals we have had with this awareness week. I know of several people that have done their own interviews across the country and I am convinced they have far outweighed the damage Channel 4 have done. 

When Rachel left us, she told me to keep in touch. Anything else that I feel may be of use to them, then I am to let her know. I will definitely keep that in mind and will pursue that avenue when I feel it is advantageous to Trans people. Both Mandy and myself have also agreed to do something with them when we get close to the wedding. 

Hate crime is not a nice thing when it happens to you, especially when it gets physical. But this week has shown that it can open doors to new opportunities. Past occurrences have led to me becoming closely involved with the police, and now media sources. By being involved it has also led to coming into contact with other diverse groups who experience the same type of crime. This has helped me be more empathic and respectful of other groups as well as not feeling so alone. It has been a very busy, long and tiring week but I have gained more experiences and possibly new contacts. It can end positively.

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Taking the plunge - Swimming

I appreciate that my postings are infrequent and is a reflection on how much less I need to write about. Many times I have mentioned about the difficulties I have faced with where I want to go with this blog. Life is slowly getting to a good state of normality and this means there is little I can write about that is not boring. Life is certainly not boring but there is much less I can write about that concerns transitioning. 

However, swimming is certainly one activity that seems beyond the reach of many trans individuals, especially pre-op. I am full of admiration for those that do manage to go swimming before their surgery but for me this was never going to happen. 

I was able to go swimming from the time my wounds were externally dry, probably sometime in early March. However it never really crossed my mind because I have never had any strong desire to partake in this activity. People often used to look at me blankly when I told them this, particularly in my past life, and I have had to examine why swimming was such a negative thing to me.

Before transitioning, one thing I never liked was displaying a bare chest. It always seemed wrong for me and as I discovered who I really was, it became clear why this was the case. There were a considerable number of years where I was in denial and didn't understand it myself let alone anyone around me. Men would parade around topless in the summer and yet I found it such a distasteful thing to do. Swimming required this nakedness so I found it very difficult and shied away from it all.

Of course, after my surgery, my physical dysphoria was no longer an issue. It would be possible to wear a bathing costume without any of the "wrong" lumps and bumps showing. However, because swimming was such a negative issue before, it took me a little while to get to the point of wanting to go.

Towards the end of March, I attended a disability discussion group and in that meeting, a representative of Taunton Deane Borough Council was there displaying the plans for a new swimming pool. I did ask at the meeting whether there were any plans to try to encourage trans people to swim. Surprise was expressed as to why there would even be problems with this and I had to explain that many trans people considered swimming out of their reach. They were thoughtful and I would be contacted further down the line with a possibility of discussing this further. Typically, I was not contacted but thoughts of going swimming myself were starting to increase and by mid-summer I had decided I would be going sometime soon.

The schools were to soon break up and I felt that it might be better to wait until the children went back to school. The idea of going swimming for the first time in many years with a pool full of screaming kids was not appealing. I decided I had waited long enough for the correct body for this and a few weeks more would not hurt. I vowed that by the end of September, I would face this gremlin.

Fate can be a cruel mistress but I also believe she can be kind as well. I have made a couple of new friendships very recently and one of those happened to enjoy swimming. She seemed quite surprised that I had not been yet when I spoke to her in August and I explained that it was on my list and that I was just waiting for the kids to go back to school. She said she had a spare bathing suit that might fit me and would I like her to come with me the first time? I had already decided I was going to do this anyway but to have someone accompany me the first time was a golden opportunity. The lumps and bumps might be gone but I was going to be displaying a lot of flesh in public.

The bathing suit was a good fit and we then looked at the timetable for the local pool in Taunton. Friday was the day we decided as it coincided with Mandy attending her day centre. 

We dropped her off and then had to wait out a couple of hours before the pool was available for the public. A little wander around town and a coffee got us to the right time and we returned to the car to collect our swimming gear. It was then that I discovered that I had forgotten to put a parking ticket on the car and miraculously I had not attracted a penalty. I then paid for one, thanking my luck.

In we went and paid our money. The changing room was a much different affair that the last time I had been there, probably more than ten years previous. In past times, they had male, female and family changing areas. Now it was all just one massive unisex area with cubicles to change in as well as shower and toilet areas. I found a cubicle and got myself undressed and into my swimwear.

I was surprised at how relaxed I was when I opened the door to the public whilst dressed in this small amount of clothing. Something I had built up to be a massive thing over all these years was actually quite a non-event. My friend had also gotten dressed and we deposited our stuff in the lockers and went out to the swimming pool. I sat on the edge, remembered how cold swimming pools can be and then got in. I thought to myself how easy that had been. 

We then swam to the far end and I found myself quite surprised at how much it made me out of breath. I often go out for very long runs, 9 miles or more but that 15-20 metre swim was hard work! We chatted a while whilst holding on to the edge, mostly about how I felt and then swam back. We continued this cycle for the next hour, talking and swimming and I found myself surprised at how sociable this activity could be. We eventually decided we had had enough and it was time to go. The showers were surprisingly warm and after changing back, we found the changing area even had hair-dryers!

It was a reflective time afterwards, this was such a big issue for me and it turned out to be so easy. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and felt so much enjoyable than it ever had in my life. Perhaps by being so comfortable with myself, I was able to relax properly and partake in the activity. I had always puzzled why people enjoyed swimming so much and perhaps now I can relate a little better to this. I also think that this is perhaps the last thing I had to do for myself since transitioning. There is such a big list of firsts when you set out on this journey and I can't think of much else that is left. This was the final tick-box so to speak! In fact I will be back tomorrow, on my own this time.

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Finishing therapy

I looked back to refer to other blog posts about the CBT I have been having and found none, realising that I had not written anything about it since I started in mid June.

I wrote back in April in my post Mind Matters about how I had referred myself to the local mental health team and it was decided that I had PTSD in a mild way due to a traumatic incident during my transitioning. The aftermath of the incident was that it had led to anxious and worrying tendencies and it was hopeful that a short course of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) would help me deal with these issues.

I started back in mid June and my therapist discussed my issues in depth. My main two behaviours that were causing me the most problems were negative rumination (regurgitation and reliving of past memories in a negative way) and catastrophisation (always thinking the worst it going to happen). This process of therapy requires a level of self-criticism and it is not easy to admit that you have these problems. I was determined though and accepted this was where I was going wrong. We talked about how I worried about things and whether these worries were practical or hypothetical. Practical worry solutions relied heavily on making plans to solve them because those worries often stemmed from real problems which could be fixed. Hypothetical worries were different to deal with because they were often non-existent in reality; they were often about things that had yet to happen. Typically, hypothetical worries were my problem and I was told that hypothetical worriers rarely have practical worries because they often find problem solving very easy.

It initially relied heavily on homework which was mainly in the form of keeping a diary, a worry diary to be exact. Every time I found myself worried or anxious, I had to write it down along with a classification of hypothetical or practical and a score of 1-10 in severity. I did this for a fortnight and we examined what was going on. I do not think there was a single practical worry in any of it. I also had had a few very busy days in that fortnight and worrying was very low on those days. It seemed I was worrying more when I was less busy, when my mind had more time to wander.

We moved on to dealing with the worries and this was done with the aid of "worry time". I was to write down my worries and then put them to one side. At a certain time of the day, I would go somewhere quiet and worry about them for a set period of time. The theory sounded good but I did not actually pursue this part of the treatment. 

I seemed to enter a new phase of my life at around this point. A few things had clicked into place outside of all of this, my mind seemed to slowly settling down properly since my surgery and I was starting to really enjoy my new-found voluntary work. My past trauma that had caused all of these issues seemed much less important and I finally felt for the first time that I could let go of it. I returned to my next session, explained all of this and how I was feeling. My therapist decided I had made progress although not in the conventional sense. I was given some other guidance, relaxation tips and pointers on mindfulness and asked to return in a fortnight to see how things had been going. If the anxiety did return, then try the exercises.

The anxiety did not return and I was starting to move to an even more comfortable place in my mind. When I returned, we discussed it all in depth and decided that we would wait for six weeks and if I did not relapse, then we would discharge me.

The very next day saw me attacked in a hate motivated incident. This had the potential to completely derail everything we had achieved and it did lead to a few weeks of extremely low mood. I did draw on everything I had learned and discussed and found myself slipping back into old ways a few times but always managing to realise what I was doing and correct it. When I wrote about the aftermath of the attack, I discovered as I was writing, that I was going down dark paths and actually describing what might have happened had things been different. When the physical element of the attack was described, I started proposing how I could have been seriously hurt. I quickly realised as I was doing this that I was catastrophising and stopped myself. I went back and deleted everything I had written that was not fact.

In the end I picked myself up from this attack and moved on from the whole affair. The closure I had last week helped and today saw me visit my therapist for the final time. I showed her my scores on my test sheets (a series of questions to quantify mental health) and mentioned that I had Mandy verify them because they seemed so good. We talked about the attack, how I had picked up on the catastrophisation and generally how I got through the event. We talked about my past trauma and that I felt I was ready to let all that go now. I told her how I have found myself much better at reflection and know the difference between that and rumination.

We also talked about my work, what it was doing for me and how I was making serious plans for my future, possibly in a similar line of work that she did herself. Was I ready for discharge? We both felt it was definitely time and with a shake of the hands, we parted company with a proposition that we might meet in a different capacity in the future. That would be very satisfying indeed.

Sunday, 30 August 2015

The Laurels - setting the record straight

Very long term readers to this blog will understand that I have had a very chequered history with the Laurels GIC (Gender Identity Clinic). Recently I found myself reviewing some of my old posts and found them to be quite hostile with regards my attitude to the clinic. 

Over two years ago, I found myself writing some extremely distressing posts about my treatment at the clinic. I even stopped blogging for over a year because I found this toxicity has spilled over into my words and they were having a negative effect on me. I resumed writing last year, major mistakes then happened and again I found I had to stop writing.

I resumed in November last year and although a little erratic recently, I have written in great detail about the surgical part of my journey and the effects it has had on my life afterwards. 

In some way I feel the need to revisit my past attitude towards the clinic, why I found it so difficult and how the clinic is doing so much for me since I discharged myself.

I must say that I do not regret being critical of the clinic in the past. I re-read the posts and feel very justified in writing them because mistakes were made. For so much of my transitioning prior to the Laurels, I had had to push myself and suddenly I found myself in a therapeutic setting being poked and prodded about the decisions I had made. I expected a congratulatory response to what I had already achieved and instead found a doubting attitude as to who I was. I remember shouting "I just need fucking treatment" to someone at the time when pushed to tears because of the endless questioning. 

I did of course complain and in the response it was even suggested that I could consider moving to another clinic. In amongst my reply was of course a curt, "you aint getting rid of me that easily!". I did offer the opportunity to strike a line under everything to try to move on and after a long discussion with the clinic manager, I was offered the option of working with Lynda. 

As historical readers will know, Lynda worked incredibly hard to regain my trust in the clinic. It went wrong more than once further down the line but I always felt that Lynda was there helping through the problems, and to a certain extent the clinic manager, Maria. 

So I acknowledge that they both did work really hard to get me where I am now. I was so grateful for this that I felt a return as a volunteer would go some small way to thank them for this. I also felt that one way to help improve the service was to be involved with it. 

My experience as a volunteer has far surpassed what I expected to gain from it. For a start, just being there to talk to people going through their own journey's is incredibly humbling. I thought I had developed good listening and empathy skills with Samaritans, but my role at the Laurel's has taken this to a whole new level. 

I am also taken aback to my new relationship with the staff. It did take them a little while to get used to me which is understandable but once this barrier had been broken, I have found I have gained quite an insight into other little worlds within the clinic. I have found many clients to be critical of how long it takes for a letter to get out of the place, but I have seen how hard all the staff work and it is genuinely not their fault. A lack of resources is what is to blame for this and it's simply down to money at the end of the day. You simply do not see this side of the issue when you are a client. 

I am also being utilised in many ways and have become involved in several other things alongside my main volunteer role. This has been rewarding on so many levels and I am still reflecting on how much I have gained from it all. To have my ideas and opinions so valued is a very new experience because as trans people we are generally not used to this. I never felt I had a problem with self-esteem but this has highlighted how perhaps I did have a negative view of myself because it feels like I am growing in such a positive way since starting there. 

It is ironic that since my discharge, I have found my personal development growing in such a massive way. It almost feels like the driving test analogy; that you only start learning once you pass your test. This feels a lot like that and working at the Laurels has helped shape where I feel I want to go in the future. I have started to take an interest in the idea of counselling and psychotherapy and this is being encouraged by more than one person. They are giving me the confidence to consider major new challenges and I am growing less fearful of accepting them.

I get paid nothing for what I give to the clinic, but I receive far more in return than money could ever pay me.

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Closure

It is really sad that for over three weeks, my blog has been sat with a post about the aftermath of hate crime at the very top. This was an unfortunate occurrence but I have not felt able to write anything in that time. I have struggled the last few weeks with it all and the fallout from it too. Today I was contacted by the police and informed that there is nothing they can do because there is no evidence to support a conviction. I am not surprised by this and saddened that because my attacker is a liar, justice can not proceed. Even more saddening is that I was told again this week, by social services this time, that if I had sustained an injury more could be done about it; that I have to be hurt before anything can be done.

However, this is good now in that I have closure on it all and that I can talk about it freely. I am not going to describe it in great detail because that would be triggering to me and possibly to anyone reading this. However, some elements I can reveal that are not triggering.

The assault occurred at the day centre my partner (used to) attend. I was attacked by a service user who is related to one of the staff there. The attack happened because staff had talked to a service user about an issue I had with the staff there misgendering me. In essence Mandy and myself were failed in many ways by a service that is supposed to care for its patrons. Our confidentiality was breached in many ways by staff gossiping and directly led to me being assaulted.

A massive part of our difficulties in all this is the fact that Mandy had lost her social activities because of no longer going to this day centre. This led to guilt on my part too, I felt in some way responsible, even though I clearly was not. Her isolation was starting to become apparent. 

We decided in the end to try another day centre, one that social services had actually suggested we not attend. We were desperate and decided to give this one a go. We were pleasantly surprised, it had more structure than the old one as well as seeming to care much more about its users. In the end we have discovered how shit the old day centre had become. 

My conversation with the police today saw us reflecting on the positives. 
  • My attacker has been inconvenienced because he had to be formally questioned at a police station some distance from his home. He had the opportunity to admit his guilt and be served restorative justice on the day. Instead he was an asshole and paid with his own time, fuel and the cost of his solicitor. He will think twice before attempting this with me again.
  • Mandy has found a far better day centre than the one she was at.
  • Social services recognised we were in crisis and have reassessed us leading to a rethink of Mandy's social activities. They have also discussed my future plans and how I want to develop myself academically with acknowledgement of our needs when I do this. 
  • I have significantly educated an police officer with an insight into the trans world. She was not convinced it was a hate crime when she arrived that day but when she left three hours later, she was determined to get something out of this for me, even though sadly she didn't
It has been a phenomenally difficult month but thankfully there have been some rays of light in it all to keep us going. I am even more grateful for my voluntary work, that has been the escape I needed once a week. 

Now I feel I can accept that closure and move on.

Monday, 27 July 2015

The aftermath of hate crime

Last week, after nearly a year of a trouble free life, I was the victim of a hate motivated assault. I am unable to go into the specific details of the event for legal reasons but I can talk about generalities and the effects it has had on me.

I suppose my first thoughts are on the usage of the word victim. It is not a word I like to use to describe myself because it has so many negative connotations. Perhaps there are some who play the victim card and this is very far from the way I tend to operate. However, there are no doubts about it, I was the victim of a crime and I need to consider this in how I deal with things. 

Last weeks attack was different from others in the past. This time there was a physical element to it all and although I did not get injured, the potential for serious harm was very much there. This could have had a severe impact on the care I provide for Mandy as well as the pain and suffering I could have endured as a result. 

Again, a difference with this event was that I knew my attacker. Previously the abuse I had endured were often drink or drug fuelled and there was an element of pity for my attacker. Even though their stupor was self inflicted, I can understand that the intoxication was speaking for them. Both times, remorse was shown by my attackers and I have even encountered one of them since with respect shown to me. This time, my attacker was not under the influence of any substance and the controlled hatred was frightening. It was also pre-meditated and designed to hurt me emotionally as much as possible.

The attack also came from nowhere, when I was least expecting it and this leads to an element of shock. Emotional shock can be just as devastating as physical shock although the effects often occur some time after the event. This can lead to the situation where you think you have calmed down and got over the problem, only to find several days later that you are in a worse place than ever. This is where I think I got to yesterday. Since the attack, I had been incredibly busy with working at the Laurels on Thursday, driving to Brighton on Friday and Brighton Trans Pride on Saturday. On getting back from Brighton yesterday morning, I found myself in a darker place and having to deal with the trauma of the event. 

I have been dipping into all my self help skills to deal with this. My CBT I have been having to deal with a past issue was useful. I find myself looking at what could have happened and then making myself change this thinking. It is a problem that I tend to catastrophise, always thinking the worse of any situation, and this event has made me test what I have been learning to do. My identity as a woman was ridiculed as part of the attack and I find myself questioning who I am. I know I portray a woman physically and emotionally but this confidence has been knocked. I have become much more in tune with my feelings since my surgery and a side effect of that is that I am not so rugged as I used to be. It is not a negative thing in any way but it means I am much more susceptible to knocks and bumps like this. 

I know I have my friends and at least three people I could call right now should I need them. I also have Mandy, and she is doing her best when I need her. My main problem now is that the issue is unresolved in a legal sense. I am impressed with the police and feel they are doing far more than they normally would to try to bring justice in this case. Interestingly, the previous two problems I have had left me not wanting anyone brought to justice because I could forgive those people and the situations they were in. This time, I relish the idea of someone paying for what they done to me and this is because of them deliberately wanting to hurt me. I am doubtful this will happen but perhaps next time they might consider the implications of fucking around with me; I do tend to involve the law!

Monday, 20 July 2015

I did it!

I look across the table at my friend. I have just met her and I am taken aback with how she looks. She is in her mid 20's, finished transitioning 5 years ago and looks amazing. She admits her voice never broke and indeed it sounds feminine and soft unlike my "in-between" voice that I am still working on. There is absolutely nothing that suggests this lady ever transitioned and I tell her I am envious she did it so young. 

"But you did do it!", she tells me, "That's what is important".

And she is right, I did do it! I made it through and out the other side and relatively intact too. There were good and bad times and I have lost in some respects but gained massively more in others. My friend might be a vision of feminine beauty but I also admire who I have become and how I present to the world. I am extremely grateful for the reminder.

It would be great to be able to go back and do all this at a much younger age. Then I think of the disadvantages. Society wasn't so good at dealing with trans people 20 years ago. Treatment options were much less available, GIC's were limited to possibly 1 or 2 and information for GP's was non-existent. Surgery had to be self-funded and the quality of the surgery was not at the level that it is now. On reflection, now was the right time to have done this. I seemed to hit it just right to get through in as short a time as possible and not get too caught up in the crisis that the gender services are now facing.

Today my birth certificate arrived and it shows me now as assigned female at birth. This has slotted everything into place and now I am able to choose who I out myself to. Being trans was just a part of my life and now there is no longer any need to reveal that part of my life to anyone unless I choose to. I am not in denial of the last 40 years but I no longer have to show my birth certificate and a deed poll, both with my old names on them. I can consign all of that to the past.

My medical transitioning is finished and even though I am back working at the Laurel's, a place that has some very bad memories, I no longer have to prove anything to anyone. The last 6 months since my surgery have found this attitude to be extremely nurturing in finding the true me. There is less worrying about hormone levels, particularly the dreaded testosterone. I know my oestrogen is important and that was at a comfortable level a few months ago, but that chasing around of my T levels was an added level of stress and it is nice to be free of it. I notice the lack of T more and more, some tiredness at times as well as a calmer and even euphoric state most of the time. I still get angry sometimes, but I frequently burst into tears when it happens. The red mists are gone and replaced by red eyes instead.

I still encounter hostility within the trans community and I have come to deal with that much better. I have learnt to walk away, something I could never do before. The last word is not so important any longer and I am happy to have my say and move on, no more going round in circles achieving nothing. Even today, I discovered someone ridiculing my blog and what I write about. I know from the (few) messages of support I get, that people are reading, enjoying and learning from what I write. But when I read people being cruel about what I write, I feel like deleting it all and walking away from the community. I am accused of being stuck in the past by writing my post-op updates and that I should move on. Well, one day I will move on and and walk away from it all.

But for now, I want more people to be able to be in the position I am in. To be able to say "I did it" too and enjoy the contented life being transitioned can bring. If I can help by writing and informing, then I will continue to do so.

Monday, 13 July 2015

6 months post-op

***Content Warning*** 
Discusses matters of a sexual nature
Please click away if this is likely to offend.

So here we are, at the 6 month mark already. It is hard to believe that time can go so quickly but it has and this is the 6 month update. 

I would also like to make people aware that this update concerns me and my own journey. It has become apparent from seeing many of my friends having their own GRS, that not everyone will have as smooth and quick a recovery as me. What I write should only be taken as guidance and individual recovery rates vary drastically. 

Physically, it has gone really well. I have been working on the external scars with the Bio-oil and they are fading really nicely. I wasn't too bothered about the scars initially but they were a reminder that I needed a procedure to give me a vagina and as time has moved on, I have felt more like I would like them gone. So, on initial looking at the whole external area, it just looks amazing; there simply is no other word to describe it. Apart from those faded scars, there is simply no way to tell it apart from a birth vagina unless you really know what to look for. Perhaps the give-away might be how perfect it does look, it is really tidy and looks like a designer one. I removed all the hair a couple of months ago, and this just contributed to it's overall look.

I had a small amount of external granulation, and some internal, return after Mr. Thomas had done his work with the silver nitrate stick and after taking advice I approached my GP with the hope that she would treat me herself. She agreed and we proceeded to acquire some sticks to do this. The last few months have seen me visit her three times to treat this. The small piece of external granulation went with the first treatment but internally, I have just had the third treatment by her (the fourth in total). I have had more specula inserted into me in the last 4 months than many cisgender women have had in their lives! However, we think this might be the last treatment as the two patches I have in the far end of the vault of the vagina are now very small (5mm in diameter) and not standing proud any longer. In 5 weeks she will have a look and hopefully sign me off as fully healed.

The clitoral area has healed really nicely, with the hood sitting nicely over the clitoris. When I had my post-op check in March I was advised that I could now start exploring myself in a intimate way and for the last three months, I have been trying. This has been a very frustrating experience and I have just ended up tearful and upset every time. No matter what we (Mandy and myself) tried, we could not get anything to work. Toys, tongues and fingers were utilised but to no avail. I had been advised to wait 18 months before giving up but a few weeks ago I was ready to write off that side of my life. Perhaps it was better to give up and try to move on then keep upsetting myself with failed attempts. 

Interestingly, during a particularly bad bout of PMT a few weeks ago, I found myself suddenly feeling aroused. Speaking to other women who have PMT, it seems this is a very common occurrence and I think it is down to the body realising that it is at this point it is most fertile (in cisgender women). I was alone in the flat, and decided that rather than wait for Mandy to return home (and risk the moment going away), I would just go for it. This was a very much different feeling than I had had before and I just acted on impulse. Because of the arousal, I knew what felt right for me and with some effort I managed to finally achieve an orgasm for the first time since my surgery. 

There were a few tears afterwards and I finally felt complete. It might seem a trivial thing to some, and the risks of losing it are something we all understand before surgery but to finally achieve that moment with the right anatomy was very satisfying indeed. I needed that arousal to teach me what was right because it was in contradiction of anything I have learnt from the (very few) women I have been with in the past. Going for the clitoris itself did not work and I used an area just above it which was more on the pubic bone.

Dilation continues to go well, although just before and just after my granulation treatment, it can be a little painful particularly when I insert the dilator the last inch. I have now settled on the largest dilators, now using a 35mm and a 40mm. I am still twice a day but from today I can drop to once according to the paperwork I was given. Instead of this, I am going to ease myself down to once over the next few months. So at the moment two days a week I only dilate once (in the morning). Every month, I will knock another day off and by December this will put me at once a day. I still need to say that dilation is not a problem for me and I use the time as relaxation. There is still much negativity about dilation and how it takes over your life but I have found that by embracing it, it has not been like this at all. That said, it was very nice to drop to twice a day and those two days of once a day at this time are also welcome. We have also just had our water bill for the last 6 months, and all that extra showering has increased it by 50%! That should be the most expensive water bill we ever have though.

Urination continues to be a random affair. Sometimes it comes out in a nice direct stream but often it becomes a bit erratic and it has been known to shoot out over the top of the seat; thank goodness we have a wet room! Most often though, it points to the left and gets the top of my leg wet. Again, this was a known factor going into surgery and I accept this might be the case for the rest of my life.

Emotionally, and this ties in with hormones, things have changed drastically since before surgery. PMT, I reported about at 3 months and also mentioned above with regards sexual function. This has become even stronger still and I have had to develop coping mechanisms to deal with it. It does not help with the fact it ties in with Mandy having hers and this flat becomes a bit of a melting pot. My main course of support is to talk to friends and I now know who I can call when this is the case. I am also much more sensitive generally and this feels much more aligned with who I always was. That battle with the testosterone is now well and truly gone and it all seems so right. I have a much calmer attitude, I keep control in arguments better and just seem generally very settled in my mind. I seem much more able to walk away from confrontation and having the last word, even when I know I am right, is not important any longer. Even my mental health seems better, the problem I had with minor PTSD seems so much less of a problem now; I am able to let worry go far better than before. Typically, this new attitude has coincided with my starting CBT to deal with worry and I am struggling with that as the exercises I am given do not work because I seem unable to worry to the same degree as I used to.

Physically, my whole body is unrecognisable from January when it was suffering from the ravages if the testosterone. The acne I had is now almost gone with just an occasional flare up. My skin all over is now the softest ever and this is coupled with my coarse body hair being about 25% of what it was 6 months ago. My breasts have grown nicely, but gently which is good for long term gains. My body shape is also changed with hips growing, again in a gentle fashion. My facial shape is also better than before and I hope to see more changes in the next few months.

All in all, I am very satisfied with the outcome of my surgery. In fact, it has achieved even more than I thought possible. I knew roughly what I was going to end with because I was shown photo's on my pre-op but in reality it looks even better and more real than I could ever have imagined. I struggle to even remember what was there before and I think this is because of the reality of what I have now. It sometimes feels like I have always had this and the physical dysphoria of old is now starting to become a distant memory of the past. Anyone that thinks the NHS wastes money with this surgery needs to think again, it has truly fixed me and I am more able to go about my life as a congruent person thereby costing less money in the long term. I am one happy customer.

My GRS time-line :
Also:

Saturday, 11 July 2015

Certificated and finished

A few weeks ago on our return from the Lake district, we found a letter in amongst all the other post that was from the Gender Recognition Panel. It stated that the panel were meeting on the 6th July (Monday) and my application would be one of those looked at that day. It also mentioned that I would only be contacted by post concerning the outcome and to wait up to ten working days for this.

I tried not to think about it too much and didn't really expect anything until the end of this week or even half way through next. It was with surprise that I received an email from Mandy on Wednesday, whilst out, saying a big envelope had arrived that had "do not bend" written on it. She felt it was my GRC (Gender Recognition Certificate) and I must admit to thinking the same. I had to finish what I was doing though, I was at a carer's forum discussion the county councils commitment to carer's launch. But as soon as I had finished, I drove home and excitedly opened the envelope. Sure enough there it was, a piece of paper that now enshrines my gender in law. No one can argue now, I am legally a woman and no longer have to use the gender reassignment portion of the Equalities Act (EQ). I also have more rights with regards my privacy and some of this is covered by criminal laws.
 
There has been a great deal of debate about the necessity for a GRC with the EQ Act covering most aspects that a GRC used to grant. It is interesting that most who insist you do not need one are those who do not have one, possibly not wanting to go through the rigmarole of the form. There are also some who state they do not want their lives reduced to a piece of paper. Regardless of what anyone says, this piece of paper was a very welcome sight on Wednesday and it means a great deal to me.

Also inside the envelope were details of what would happen with my birth certificate.The registrar would write to me with a draft new birth certificate. This arrived the next day, with instructions on what to do and a first class return address label to fix to my envelope. This is now in the post and soon I can expect my new birth certificate, although I had to pay for a full copy. On that certificate it will state my new name and my birth sex as female. This means that I do not have to out myself when showing this certificate, as I had to do very recently when having to prove I can work in this country (for an unpaid voluntary post bizarrely!). I will also be recognised as being female all my life, which is something I truly believe. The mistake will have been truly corrected, physically and emotionally with myself and also in a legal sense. 

Most importantly, Mandy and myself can now marry with me in the correct gender. We can think about setting a date now and get on with organising the event itself.

One thing I am struck with is how quick and streamlined this has all been since Monday. It almost seems like now I have been accepted in womanhood formally, they can't do enough for me. I have had so many years of waiting for this and that and this process does not need to be to speedy. But it has been rush, rush, rush!

This is also the very last part of my transitioning. I do still have to remove my facial hair, and that is still a long way of completion. But all the major stuff is over and one of the most annoying aspects of transitioning, the scrutiny of my life, is finished. There is no more having to answer questions about my past, how I felt and suchlike. My box of paperwork I saved for doing my GRC can be shredded along with reams of paperwork from the Laurel's. It's all over now and I can truly move forwards with everything now, living that life as the woman I have always been.

Saturday, 4 July 2015

Catch up, blog thoughts and a special day

It has been a fortnight since I last updated my blog and I have been thinking a great deal about where to go with this blog. Its primary purpose was to journal my transitioning and a great deal of that is now behind me. I have had suggestions about moving it along with my own life, but finding topics that are interesting is quite difficult. It is not so much about whether anyone would find this interesting but more about whether I would find it interesting to write about it. 

After some pondering, I have felt that I will continue with the blog but updates may be a little more irregular. I get feedback about some of it and the whole GRS part is very popular. There is still more updates on this as I am not yet completely healed and the 6 month mark is approaching fast. In fact, I am quite excited about writing that update because it will give me an opportunity to see just how things have moved on; emotionally and physically. There are new opportunities emerging in my life now and perhaps they will be good to write about these as they progress. 

In short, the twice weekly updates will probably no longer happen and there will more likely be a post about important and interesting matters every so often. I hope those that have been following, do check back to see what has been happening. Of course, I will link in from my Facebook page and will probably think of this as more of an extension of that media. everything I have written up to now will still be here and I hope that people can use that for their own purposes. Many have said how helpful my GRS part was and because it was written as it happened, it is about as accurate as it gets. 

The two weeks since we got back from the Lake District have been non-stop. This was actually part of the reason for not updating here, I simply haven't had the time to do it. Here is a brief run-down on what has been going on;

When we arrived back, a letter from the gender recognition panel was on the doorstep. Excitedly I opened it wondering whether it was the news I was waiting for. Sadly it was not but I was informed that the panel were sitting on my case on the 6th July, this Monday coming. I will be informed within 2 weeks of this as to whether I have been successful on the first go. 

I have finally succumbed to the evil that is a smart phone. I decided in the end that the idea of having a fortnight away without even being able to check my emails was scary. When we returned I decided to get one, and after a little research found a deal I liked on the O2 website. Instead of buying it from there, I went into the local shop instead because in the even of an issue, I could just take it back there. I was apprehensive, wondering how they would treat me but when the young man dealing with me asked me if I was Ms. or Mrs., I knew it was going to go well. The phone itself was a steep learning curve and it will NEVER replace my lovely desktop PC but it is very handy when out and about. I just wish there was more 4G in the south west but then we are usually the last to get anything!

I also started my CBT for the mild PTSD I have described previously. To be honest, I have found that as my life has settled down since my surgery, the anxiety issues I was having have gotten much milder. I have a worry diary and there is not as much in there as I was expecting. This could be a result of the full fortnight I have had, no time to worry in all that and I will discuss this on my next appointment on Tuesday.

I started my new voluntary work at the Laurel's properly a week ago. I have done two days there now and it is far more rewarding and satisfying then I ever imagined it would be. I expected it to be a simple case of answering the door and talking to people, but the reality is far more than that. I really hope I am providing something to the people I am talking too and that this is putting something back from what I have received.

This weekend saw the start of a much tougher few days with dad being admitted to hospital. Last Sunday was to be my first day of relaxing since we got back and yet this managed to scupper that. I also had a distressing event with a long term friend and the sad fact is that this friendship is now over. I am still scratching my head as to what went wrong but the fallout from it all did not help.

I had a massive dose of PMT this Monday and my mood was very low. I took Mandy to her day centre in the morning, realised where I was emotionally and then decided I needed to seek help. I have learnt from the past 6 months and knew exactly who to contact and not mess around in misery any more. They were about to go out and they said they would call in a lunchtime. In that time I found someone else messaged me to just chat, I said I was not very talkative and yet still ended up chatting about rubbish for a time. This kind of helped and I was in a better place.

It might seem a little strange but during the worst of my PMT, I found myself with a sudden increased libido. My sexual desires have been rock bottom most of the time since my surgery apart from a couple of moments when I have been unable to do anything about it. Aside from this, I have been trying to use my new clitoris for three months with no success and lots of frustration and tears. This new surge of libido was very strong and I decided to have another go. This time was very successful and it made me feel more complete than I ever have in my life. Even though this was a side of things I could have lost, it still made me feel inadequate and to have it all confirmed working was a fantastic feeling. The orgasm wasn't half bad either!

My friend rang not long after, she had her surgery a couple of months after me and we celebrated my news. We had a good chat about things and with my success came a happier feeling along with the PMT dwindling. I also told another friend later on that my "magic button" worked and she rang me straight away. It's a little bizarre but even now I am surprised at how many have been waiting for news of this success. I guess little of my life is private any more with what I have written here. Oh well...

Tuesday was a trip to Brighton to take someone for their pre-op appointment. It was nice to see Liz Hills and also chat to a couple of the staff. I was able to thank them personally for everything they did for me.

By Wednesday I was starting to flag. Dad was still in hospital and I was getting extremely tired. I described myself to Mandy as emotionally exhausted and felt that a breakdown would be coming soon. The only time I had had to myself since the holiday was during dilation and the strain was starting to tell. Finally though, Dad was discharged and in the evening I took him back home.

Thursday was my day at the Laurel's again and it was so nice to get away from it all. It was not restful, but a way of being free of all the hassle back at home. When I saw dad on Friday, I told him my situation and that I would not be available until after the weekend unless it was an absolute emergency. He did understand and so far he is managing. 

Which brings us to today. It's the 4th of July and that means it is a special day for me. It's nothing to do with Independence day but actually an anniversary of me changing my name. Some seem to not see it as anything special but for me it was a massive moment in my life. 

To achieve this required me to solve probably that hardest of all problems a trans person might face and that is transition in a workplace. At times I felt it would not be possible to do this where I was working, a sawmills of all place. However on July 2nd 2012, I stood up in front of 25 very masculine men who worked there and informed them that I would be leaving after the next day and returning the following Monday as Lucy. This was one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life but set me on my path of living full time as a woman.

At 18.30, I took my Deed Poll to Bristol where my good friend Al witnessed it. I signed my old name, then my new and it was like stepping over a line. I have heard many try to negate that moment by saying theirs was no big deal but for me it was massive. It was a very happy moment and we went out to celebrate with a meal.

Today there was no such extravagance and I originally said I was doing nothing today because recharging my batteries was far more important. However, nice weather was forecast and I fancied a spot of retail therapy. Mandy and I got into the car and we went to Exeter. We hit all the charity shops, bagged loads of bargains, bought a salad box and went into the gardens to enjoy it. It was a lovely morning, I thoroughly enjoyed it and feel more refreshed already. I've been the real me for 3 years now, but now I really am myself. My transitioning and surgery have done so much for me and I hope for many more happy celebrations of this day.



Sunday, 21 June 2015

A fortnight in the Lakes

Our fortnight in the Lakes, as told by photographs. I hope this goes ok, Blogger can be very tricky when it comes to formatting and images.
A gentle walk around Whitehaven, it was quite chilly and windy for June.
The harbour mouth at Whitehaven.
A walk to our nearby lake, Bassenthwaite.
From above Bassenthwaite village (the lake is in the distance)
Ennerdale Lake, a gentle and flat looking walk, that was anything but in reality!
Ennerdale from the North end.
Ennerdale from the South end.
The only way for Mandy to see Penrith castle was down into the moat and back up again. She was not keen...
Penrith Castle.
Derwent water from part way up Skiddaw, the 4th (it may be 3rd but there is debate about this) highest mountain in England.
Across to Scotland from Skiddaw.
931 metres from sea level!
Or over 3000 feet above sea level.
A lovely sunny day in Windemere.
More sunny smiles.
Skiddaw (that we climbed) shrouded in cloud.
Heck, I gotta go paddling at least once!
Nearly trod on this toad whilst walking one day.
The river Derwent, and Susan.
The same river, and Me!
The three of us in Carlisle.
Derwent water, a little ways from Keswick.

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Holiday reflections

I was intending to do a write up of the holiday using photo's to describe it. Typically, our mobile broadband we our using has decided to go a bit flaky on this second week, probably due to the poorer weather and it is very on/off. The thought of trying to upload 40mb of photo's is not even thinkable. I will have to wait until we get back and on to our more stable wired broadband. Instead, perhaps some more thoughts on this holiday.

The two weeks is (almost) over and on reflection, this has been a very satisfying holiday for myself. There are many reason for this, probably the principle one is my feeling of completeness and for once being able to enjoy myself as who I am. The timing has been good, coming 5 months since my surgery and I feel like this has struck a line between my recovery and moving forwards with things.

There's been bad in this holiday too. Primarily we have discovered just how disabled unfriendly the Lakes really are; I have really struggled to find things for Mandy to enjoy and sadly she has ended up stuck in the cottage a few times. I know some areas will always be difficult for disabled people but I feel there could be a great deal more done for them here. The Equality Act 2010 was brought in with the aim of enabling people to have a more equal country to live in, but our experiences of it are that disabled people seem to benefit the least. It's a very useful piece of legislation to throw at companies when it comes to trans discrimination, but for physical improvements to those with mobility problems; it's a different area entirely.

Despite this we have managed a fairly active week for us all. Susan and myself have engaged in four decent walks, although this second week has found us a little more tired possibly due to hay-fever being a problem, although my own is now much better than it used to be. We had a couple of long local field walks, a walk around Ennerdale Lake (8 miles) and a scramble up the mountain of Skiddaw (931 meters at its summit). 

These walks have felt much different now I am post-op. There is now a freedom in the clothes I can wear with no obvious bulge now down below. That bulge had never been a real issue in my transitioning but since its removal, I have explored different styles finding a top and leggings to be much better than a skirt when walking. There is also not having that reminder swinging away when walking, it feels freer and just more comfortable.

There is a downside to it all too, and that is toileting! Gone are the days of having the convenience of the nearest tree and it is a different kettle of fish now. I have documented this new issue in the past and found squatting ended up with a massive risk of wet knickers/leggings. I purchased a female urinary device, the Go-Girl, and this has been used quite a number of times recently. It has been an educational experience, the first few times were very hit and miss and I ended up with wet knickers more than once. By the final walk this week, I pretty much had it nailed and knew exactly how to use it without problems. Urinating in the middle of nowhere though is a much more time consuming experience and I will need to select quieter walks for the future, especially when I am on my own with no one to be on "look out"!

As I said, involving Mandy has been a little more difficult but we had a few trips to the small towns in the Lakes. Last Friday was nice in that we had a trip on the ferries that go around Lake Windermere. Two of the bigger vessels are well equipped for wheelchairs and we spent over three hours going around the lake taking in the scenery, a good way for Mandy to do this.

Of course as usual, I have consumed far too many calories this holiday. Although the walks have burnt up some of these alongside several runs, I know that my weight has increased because some of my skirts now no longer fit again. When we get back, I need to get cracking and try to get back to my pre-op weight. I did it before, so I know I can do it again!

Attending to myself has also been a new addition to this holiday. Of course there is the dilation, which I have managed quite well and not skipped a single session. There has been one issue that took me by surprise. I noticed after a week or so, I was experiencing some vaginal soreness. It took me a time to get to the bottom of this but in the end I suspected it was the soap I was using. On the advice of Brighton, I used aqueous cream for a time whilst using Simple soap for my bodily washing. Eventually I moved to using the same soap for washing my new vagina. When we packed for the holiday I found a bar of Dove soap, that I used to use pre-op so I packed that for a change. This was the cause of the irritation and a tub of aqueous cream made things much more comfortable, perhaps taking 12 hours to calm things down. It was a good reminder that things are still very much new down there ad still need a bit more care than normal.

Tomorrow is our last day here and then Saturday we head back down the M6 and M5 to home. Watch out from Sunday for those photo's.

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Lake District memories

We are just about halfway through a fortnight's holiday in the Lake District, along with our good friend Susan. I will detail the holiday in more depth next weekend when we return. In the meantime I have found how interesting it is with regards how many memories being here has provoked, especially during the long walks I have enjoyed with Susan.

This is actually my fourth visit to the Lakes during my life and I have been reflecting on how these visits have been relevant to my life of gender dysphoria and eventual transitioning.

My first visit was during the eighties as part of a school trip. I was a very confused teenager, struggling with my hormones and my gender issues. I knew I had gender dysphoria (although I was not aware of the term); I knew I was a girl, but my body was that of a boy and this meant I was spending most of my capacity in trying to survive portraying the wrong gender. I could not comprehend the other boys, their behavior was baffling to me and this taxed my capabilities. During this trip, there were some extremely unpleasant memories including sharing a dormitory with probably 25 other boys. The bullying that I had endured during school was just the same on this trip.

There were some rays of light in this trip though. First was my appreciation for the beauty of the lakes and the ability to be close to nature with regards where our hostel was located. This led to me forming a rare friendship with three others, two girls and one boy. To be able to interact with girls was a helpful experience, but just to have a friendship was just as pleasing. I remember memories of the four of us walking up the river that cascaded below our hostel and swimming in a deep pool that was located a little way away. As well as that, we climbed Scafell one day and when fog descended, I was stuck at the summit (the Pikes) with one of the girls from my friendship. I remember us being completely free to talk, no inhibitions and being honest with each other. I think at that point I could have told her about my gender issues. I didn't and eventually the fog cleared with the trip soon to end. Sadly the friendship we had formed seemed to be destroyed when returned to the school environment. Those three that wanted to know me during that trip, did not want to be associated with me when back in the school environment. 

The second trip was somewhere about 7-8 years ago when I was deep into my chronic denial of my gender issues. Mandy and myself booked a cottage near Carlisle that was also a coarse fishing complex. Fishing was one of my old life past-times and the holiday was to be a mixed affair with that and some visiting on the Lakes. It was a truly hideous holiday, the complex was just awful, the fishing was rubbish and we were some distance from the lakes. This holiday was a non-event.

3 years ago in 2011, we decided on a return to the Lakes and because we had missed out before by being so far away, we booked a place in Bowness-on-Windemere, right in the heart of the Lakes. I would have said at the time that I was happy with my current situation, I was a kind of working male, but living all my time outside of this as a woman. I had told my friends and family and thoughts of going full time were in the distance somewhere. This holiday was going to be different, I was going to live the whole fortnight as Lucy. Our living situation meant I could not leave as her and had to change in the local motorway services. I left those services as Lucy and stayed that way until we returned two weeks later.

The whole fortnight was a complete eye opener. My treatment by the residents of the Lake District was so completely accepting that it helped me to make the decision to go full time. This was not to say that I had had any serious problems close to home, but to go away to a strange place and be completely accepted as who I am made my decision easy. 

Changing back on returning home was incredibly hard to do and I made the decision the very next day to meet the landlord who we rented our cottage from and explain the situation. This gave me much more freedom to come and go as I pleased. I started a voluntary post a few days after and then it was just my work situation to deal with. That happiness with my situation I had had prior to this holiday quickly became unhappiness. It took me until July 2012 to go full time, in the end out of sheer desperation.

So here we are now, having returned to the Lakes finished with the essentials of my transitioning. There are differences of course, I now have to contend with dilation and still twice a day too. Doing this in a different place and with a different routine makes it a little harder but it has not been too bad. There are also hormones, and I think the last couple of days have been PMT affected. 

But I have that contentment now that comes with being complete and it has helped me relax on this holiday (outside of that PMT!). There is nothing to go back to with regards transitioning and it feels like this has been a very nice conclusion to my recovery period. My life is there beckoning to me on my return.

Hang on though, there's still another week to go! I will update about the fortnight in my next post.

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Ahhh!

The title is supposed to reflect a sound you would make when relaxed or satisfied; like laying back after a hard days and going "ahhh". I think I am there now.

There have been some tough moments during my transitioning and I had expectations that post-op would see the troubles over. This blog has clearly shown that it has been a much different experience and the difficulties have surprised me greatly.

I expected a very long physical recovery and yet that never was the case. I was very much up and at it after my return from Brighton with none of the tiredness or pain that others have described. I thought perhaps this was down to my high level of fitness, but a friend who was fitter than me is at this moment having a much different experience. 

I have talked a great deal about the emotional difficulties I have had. For a couple of months, these were incredibly tough going and there were one or two moments where I had to try to fathom out why I had suicidal thoughts. None of it made sense to me for a while, I should have been happy and ready to move on with life but was thinking instead of ending it all. I do not think there was ever any danger of that, but those thoughts entered my mind. Not everyone gets to this point, but it is clear that a few do. It is something that no one wants to admit to easily either. This happiness you expect to have is also expected of you by others.

Why I had these difficulties is something I have pondered very deeply. It was perhaps a combination of lots of things. For a while your life is taken over a little by dilation, after-care and being scrupulously clean. HibiScrub, Kyjelly, dilators and douches take over your life as you learn this new aspect and it can be overwhelming. The future looks bright and free of transitioning, and it can be overwhelming. There is a void in your life where transitioning was, and it can be overwhelming. There is a horrific period with no hormones, just as long a period of waiting for them to work again and then their effects are very overw... (you know what's coming!).

Overwhelming was a word I used a great deal when I was struggling because that was how I was. Mandy would come back from her day centres full of energy and describe her day. I would shrink back from her as she did this because I could not take it all on board.

Over time though, I have managed to cope with this and I was beginning to get to a point where I felt quite contented, the dark thoughts had disappeared and I was starting to look forward to life ahead without the transitioning.Then someone sent me a terrible message on Facebook and it had the effect of triggering me back to the dark thoughts. It took me a little while to get over this one and I had to rethink ways of avoiding getting such messages. 

The last week, perhaps a fortnight, I have started to feel a new feeling in myself. The dark thoughts were a memory and there was a new found sense of contentment with the future. I think last week with my observation day at the Laurel's sealed it all up nicely and made me realise that I can look to my future with some sense of optimism.

I still have a few things to deal with, but then everybody does. I have this internal granulation, it gives me a little pain when dilating but I have the correct silver nitrate sticks in front of me now and an appointment with my GP on Thursday to treat it. Dilation itself is actually a nice part of my life, it is an important part of my relaxation and if I miss one, I miss it literally. I also have the issue of the mild PTSD but my CBT starts for that in a few weeks. I can then adapt my strategies and hopefully put that behind me.

I am finding myself truly now. It needed the surgery to complete this discovery, and then a little bit more work to get used to it all. For those that say GRS is the icing on the cake, pah! It was a heap more than that and the key for me to be able to go about my life content in the gender I have always know I have been.