Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Being consumed by transitioning

Recently I have returned to a hobby of old and I am finding myself asking why I ever stopped partaking in this past-time. I wont say what it is just yet, as this will be the subject of another post later on. But this hobby was something I started and then struggled with for my 5 years of transitioning. 

It is on reflection that I can see just how much my transitioning consumed me. I started in 2010 when I came out to Mandy and pretty much from there on, it took over my whole life. The problem I had was once I had started my journey, I wanted to be finished. I so accepted myself as the woman I was, that any part of my maleness, I wanted gone. Until that happened, I could not rest or be happy.

I listen to advice being given to others, principally, be patient and enjoy your journey. I agree that anyone embarking on the road of transitioning needs to be patient, but to be told to enjoy it is very assuming. I hated a great part of my time in transitioning and just wanted it to be over. I grew more and more irritated every time I was told to relax and go with the flow. How the hell can anyone relax when they have anxiety and depression caused by bottlenecks in the system or worse, professionals mistakes?

It became a daily battle. Before I went full time, I found myself thinking constantly of the woman I was and craved so badly to outwardly be her. I could think of nothing else and this led me to find no pleasure in doing anything outside of the pursuit of going full time. There was a time when I had gone full time, that found me enjoying other pursuits. I no longer had to portray "him" any longer and there was a freedom of sorts. 

Then I entered the gender clinic and my transitioning entered a new phase. This was a tough time, the assessments were distressing and again I was completely consumed. Only when I received my diagnosis and initial treatment, could I then relax. It was short lived however because discussion of GRS cropped up and suddenly I was on the road to finally fixing my physical dysphoria. To finally have the hope of having the correct genitals was a powerful motivation and it became consuming once again. This was a massively protracted process and of course, there were financial problems. 

Suddenly, I find myself at the other side. I described it a while ago as if the noise of all the transitioning has now gone. It has made the world a much clearer and crisper place. I look back and wonder how I could have approached this without becoming consumed and the simple answer is I couldn't. I needed no process of accepting myself, it happened over night and every day in my male shell was a difficult day. I appreciated the procedures and protocols that were there to supposedly protect me, and yet I still could not sit back and relax with it.

I have not lost the last five years of my life, but they have been stagnant in some aspects of self-development and this is where I have been very keen to seek new pursuits. One of these is a personal goal I would like to achieve and this is where the new hobby comes in. It is more of an artistic pursuit as opposed to an academic one and could lead to new social avenues in the end. Most important of all, I am finding it fun and interesting and this was the vital element missing during transitioning.

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Post-op hormones

There's no particular anniversary to celebrate in this post with August being the 2 year mark. However, since my surgery, the effects I am finding with taking my oestrogen are very much different than before. I felt this warranted a post of its own as there seems to be little information on this and I have been quite surprised at what I am experiencing.

The differences now are that I now produce very little testosterone (T) compared to before. I never needed an anti-androgen and kept my T-levels below the threshold. However, this did mean that my levels were probably a little higher than those on a blocker and perhaps made the effects of the oestrogen (E) a little lessened. I also have found that those on blockers have also mentioned heightened effects post-op so perhaps this is relevant to most who have GRS. I also have little or no gender dysphoria and this distress removed from my life has had a calming effect.

I have been advised that I now need to take oestrogen for the rest of my life. There would be significant risks if I were not to do so such as osteoporosis, de-feminisation, weight gain and a probable return of my gender dysphoria. The first one is serious but the last would be more of a consideration! 

I returned to my hormone regimen three weeks after surgery and it was a blessed relief to do so. The hot flushes were getting seriously distressing and I strongly desired a return of the feminising effects. It took a long time to feel effect, probably as much as four weeks before the hot flushes left. It took so long, I even panicked and booked a blood test sooner than I wished. I wanted to wait more than the month advised to let my levels settle but I was desperate to know as I felt nothing was happening. As it happened, my levels were at a lower than before but satisfactory, 333 pMol (I now need to aim for 200-600). Three months from resuming, the effects are now being felt and as I said, it is very much different.

Body hair is one good place to start, and this has been staggering. The T surge I experienced last year made for a massive spurt in growth of body hair. Not only did it start growing faster, but also thicker and the fair hairs were replaced by the dark hairs of old. Now they have gone really fine again, slower to grow and less of them as well. Instead of a weekly clear with the epilator, it is now twice every three weeks and I think I might be able to go fortnightly soon. There are also less hairs in that time than there were weekly. Facial hair has also slowed but there is still some issue with larger hairs and I am still getting some acne although it is much improved from last year.

My body shape has changed in a few ways. I am getting hips, and they are much more pronounced than before. Even though I managed some weight gain post-op, I am now displaying a very feminine shape and it is getting better almost every day. My breasts have grown, less internally but more all over with a fuller more rounded effect. Surprisingly, there is no pain at all, whereas before stopping last year they had been sore since commencement of hormones. My facial change has moved back to the feminine features I had too, whether it is any more so is hard to tell. My skin on my body has returned to its previous softness although Mandy says it is even more soft.

I now get very bad PMT. This is a controversial subject with some adamant we can get such a thing and just as many saying we can't. I have researched this as well as speaking to many others and it seems much more prevalent with those who either live with cis-gender women or work with them. I live with a very hormonal lady and sure enough, we are completely synchronised. We both have a cold phase (2-3 days), with bone chilling shivers and then a hot phase (a week) where it is hard to keep cool. About a week after this the PMT starts and I either want to shout at everyone or just huddle in a corner weeping. This is no exaggeration and it is going to take some getting used to. It is very much worse and more consistent than before surgery

Emotionally is where it really gets interesting and it is very hard to explain in words what has changed. But the effects are much more profound. Some of this is down to the removal of the gender dysphoria and the fact that life and the world are much clearer to see. There is a certain connection to my emotions that wasn't there before and I can really connect to others feelings in a way that i couldn't before. If someone upsets me, I can (after getting through the moment) look at it from their side and try to reason why such a thing happened. This is empathy and it is much easier to exercise than before and I think I am even less judgemental than before. I also find myself listening even better than before and interrupt people much less (a very masculine attitude). Lets not forget all the crying I am doing these day. I never seem to stop sometimes but it feels good to do so, so I just go with it. 

No one warned me about any of this but it has been good to experience it. Removing the physical dysphoria was enough of a reason for the surgery, but this is a very pleasant bonus.

My GRS time-line :


Thursday, 23 April 2015

Getting lost

The weather in this part of the country has been nothing short of spectacular recently, and yesterday instead of thinking how nice it was outside whilst staring at a computer screen, I decided to instead go out for a decent walk. 

I got things together in my shoulder bag such as drinks, camera, GPS watch, and of course my Go-Girl in case I needed a toilet stop. I quickly got a map together and set off. The area we live gives me access to miles of footpath right on our doorstep and the route I decided on was southwards up the steep hill on to the Blackdowns. 

I only have to walk quarter of a mile (well 0.3 according to the watch!) and I am into fields and off the lanes. I take a route that follows some lovely meadows and since my last time walking, the dandelions are looking really vivid in amongst all the greenery. There are other flowers too, daisies and lady's smock as well as some remaining daffodils. The smells are fresh and fragrant and it is truly a lovely day to have gone for this walk. 

My watch is showing a good pace too, but this is soon slowed due to hitting a slope. I am now on a bridleway and I pity any poor horse trying to get up this rocky and narrow path. I eventually move off the rocky path and into a more wooded area. Bluebells are now apparent, and I remember being told once that 95% of the worlds bluebells grow in the UK. This is of course an exaggeration but looking around, we do indeed have more bluebells than any other country (25-50%).

This sets the scene quite some distance before I emerge back out on to another lane. I have a choice, I can go left and an easy route home or I can go right and explore new footpaths. I want to go somewhere different today so right turn it is. It's a short distance up the lane and I hit the main road. Actually it is quite a minor route in comparison to some roads, but locally it is our main B-road that goes through our village. Thankfully, my path is 25 metres along and I am back into woods again. 

The path is quite civilised and well trodden and I am lulled into a false sense of safety. I had been thinking how pleasant it was with the paths being dry and then I have to cross a small river. A few slippery stones are all that I have to do this and it makes for a tricky few moments. My walk was soon to take a new and bolder turn too, I notice the footpath is getting a little hard to see. Within 5 minutes, I am lost. I do not know where I went wrong but suddenly the animal trail that I thought was the path is now a wall of brambles. Do I go back and try to find the path or try to carry on?

I decide on trying to carry on because the river is close by and the path is somewhere near it although possibly back on the other side. I get around the brambles but it is tough going now. There are no easy routes and many fallen branches and trees are in my way. I decide now that this would be a good place to stop and try to use my Go-Girl. Given I am off the path, there is not likely to be anyone around. I drop my trouser a small way, position the device where I think it is correct and then try to go. I am aware of a sensation between my cheeks and look down to see it going all over my knickers and trousers with very little going out of the correct tube. I reposition it and still I get the same result. In the end, I drop my trousers all the way and this seems to help get a better position. It's a learning curve I suppose and I will get it right in the end. 

I pull my wet clothing back up and try my best to wipe as much off as possible. It's more scrambling through the undergrowth and finally I am confronted by a barbed wire fence. Beyond the fence is a track and looking at my map, I think I now know where I am and the path is just 10 metres away!

The return home is a lot easier and pleasant again. It is more fields and far easier to navigate with the path being nicely trodden. I get home, look at the watch and I've done a comfortable 5.65 miles. Not bad for a spur of the moment stroll!

Llama's, typical Somerset livestock

Monday, 20 April 2015

Mind matters

I have mentioned recently about an issue regarding my mental and emotional health. I self referred myself to the area mental health team and last Thursday I attended my assessment.

The need for doing this was necessitated by finishing my transitioning. An event happened in my life about four years ago and it left some deep scars. Whilst transitioning, I could devote so much time, energy and thought towards doing so, and was able to conveniently put this event to the side. When I completed my transitioning, I realised how clearer the world had become including this nagging issue. Suddenly the realities of what happened were crystal clear to me and they were frightening and overwhelming. They were also partly responsible for the emotional difficulties I had for a couple of months post-op.

I wish I could lift the lid on what happened, and I think doing so would be beneficial to me. However, there are extreme risks in doing so because they concern others. There would safety concerns as well as the risk that it could be extremely triggering to some people. Nope, the truth has to stay off the Internet for the time being and instead I should focus on the realities of the situation. 

I had my appointment at Foundation House in Taunton. It was an interesting experience visiting there, because 30 months prior I had been here for my psychiatric evaluation for my referral to the Laurel's. At that time, I felt I didn't have any issues and it was just a small matter of convincing a psychiatric doctor that I wasn't delusional and deserved the funds for my eventual gender reassignment. Thankfully for others, that system is now gone and they do not have to go through that process.

Visiting Foundation House with a mental health condition was a different experience. Instead of being here for hoop jumping, I was now trying to get myself some help. I have heard so many stories of those who find it impossible to get treatment for their conditions and this made me a little nervous. Was my issue serious enough to be eligible? Today's appointment was just a triage assessment and I assumed that it would just be taken by someone a little lower down the skill ladder.

I was called in by a lady called Anita. We decided early on that it would be first name terms and I soon discovered that my assumption about skills was completely wrong. Anita knew what she was doing and we were soon in at the deep end talking about what had happened. I assured her it was nothing to do with my gender dysphoria although it had become a little entwined with it. There were quite a few tears and I had noted the conveniently placed box of tissues on entry to the room. 45 minutes in and I was told that I probably have a mild form of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) which is in turn triggering worry and anxiety.

I was told the brutal truth that I will never get over it due to the circumstances surrounding it. I think I had realised this anyway, and I was told recently by a factor in the original event that I should get over it and move on. To then be told I will never get over it was kind of reassuring in a way as it makes those that tell me to do so, wrong.

Instead, my treatment will involve cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) with the aim of developing techniques to deal with the worry and anxiety I encounter as a result of the past trauma. Anita made it clear that the sessions will be intense and I will be expected to attend them all alongside having to do homework. She did say I came across as a determined person and that I would probably work hard at getting the most out of it. This led to a bit more discussion about my transitioning and she seemed genuinely interested in some of the processes. She was particularly surprised by the fact I had never needed a minute of counselling. I explained that once I had come out and started dealing with it all, I had no issues accepting my new found self. She seemed even more surprised when I stated that I was actually glad of the opportunity to transition rather than have been cis-gender all my life. It has has it fair share of downs but the experience had been incredible at times.

Finally, I was given a relaxation CD to take home and use. I admitted that I found little time for myself although dilation was something I found relaxing. She seemed intrigued and I explained it all. We agreed though that because it still requires some effort, it does not count properly towards a complete relaxation unless I wanted to leave dilators in for over 30 minutes a time! I was told that the relaxation is important and to focus on the goal that this is for my benefit. 

I left, collecting Mandy from the waiting room. It gave me a lot to ponder on and I tried out the CD on Saturday. It was not quite the relaxing experience it should have been however. My initial aim was to rip the CD to MP3's and use my MP3 player. I inserted the CD into the drive and found my PC would not read it. Mandy suggested it might have had copy protection. I tried it in her laptop which was also pointless. So, thinking she may have a point, I then tried it in the sound system I have in the kitchen. The player read the CD and its TOC (table of contents). Damn, she was right I thought. However on trying to play the CD, I found it wouldn't play any of the tracks on it. Ahh, so she was wrong, it was just a dud CD all the time! I did then look on-line where I get my MP3's from but they have such a multitude of relaxation MP3's and I just did not know where to start. My kind of music I download is more towards the rock / heavy metal genre, and I am out of my depth on this one. Instead I emailed the mental health team and they are sending me another one.

I was in two minds about even posting any of this. Despite a slow change in attitude towards mental health problems in society, there still feels a stigma attached to it. Even recently, there has been suggestion from one tory candidate about how the mentally ill should have to wear different coloured wristbands when in public to allow for easy identification. Society still has a long way to go when it comes to dealing with anything outside of the norm so it leaves me with a sense of wariness about wanting to admit any of this. However, I am not abnormal, I just have an issue that needs dealing with. It is part of my life, and this blog reflects my life so therefore it makes sense to include it all. We are all at risk of developing a mental health issue and I wonder whether anyone truly makes it through their entire lives without some form of difficulty in this regards?

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

A happy day at the Laurels

My last blog post was the hundredth I have written so far and sometimes it's hard to believe I have been writing that long. It is interesting that if I go back two years I find two posts, "A grey day" and "Another grim day at the Laurel's". I have not linked to them because although anyone is welcome to go back and find them, they are distressing posts and I do not wish to make it easy for people to read them.

Yesterday was my first appointment at the Laurels since my GRS. I have actually been there twice since but for other reasons (as part of their PPG and with a friend for her appointment). It should be remembered as well that the clinic has improved over time for me. I made no less than three formal complaints over the two years and had all three recognised and dealt with accordingly. 

To return there in much happier times was quite profound. Finally, I no longer have to jump hoops and sing their tune. Despite all the insistence that this was not the case, I have to say it was. I was always myself and never said anything that wasn't true but it did feel quite often like I had to say what they wanted to hear. Fortunately, this was well in line with how I lived my life but even occasionally at the start this went against me as they thought I was just telling them what they did want to hear; you can't win!

But yesterday, it did not matter and I walked into Lynda's office with a smile on my face and gently sat myself down.

"You still seem a little sore", she says.

"Yes, it has only been 3 months", I reply. "Actually 13 weeks to the day, not that I'm counting!"

Lynda smiles and says, "isn't it nice to count the other way?"

And it is nice. To be the other side and moving onwards from this process is finally hitting home. To go to the clinic in this position is a pleasant experience. I have to thank Lynda for helping me through the last two years. She was wholly responsible for turning the place around for me. There were time when giving up was a possibility, it frustrated me that much. To have done this could have possibly been life threatening, but she kept me in there. When there was all the shit with funding issues last year, she kept that contact open to provide a life-line. She hassled Brighton more than once on my behalf as well as being there to rant at and cry when it was too much.

I have a lot to thank this lady for and I often hear those who are critical of her. I listen to them, and I am not sure why they are so. If there was someone within that clinic on my side, it was her. Sure she has some old fashioned ideas, but they don't conflict to much with my own and she no longer pushes them onto people like she used to. She is also passionate about her work and does more behind the scenes than people realise.

So, I am asked about the future. How long do I wish to stay with the clinic? NHS England will fund me for up to 12 months after my surgery and I can come as often or as little as I want. Did I want to make today's the last session? It is strange when looking back to 2 years ago, I found myself almost running out of the clinic in tears and now I find myself with the decision to leave. 2 years ago, I'd have said thank-you very fucking much and walked out there and then. Now I am having to think about things. Lynda wants to get some insight into my year post-op as well as how our relationship (Mandy and me) has evolved through transitioning. It's a two way thing, Lynda really wants me to stay but wont outright say why.  It has to be my decision. In the end, we decide on coming in three monthly now up to the end of the year. This also leaves me available to stay on the PPG. There are also other options to be involved further down the line but in a different capacity. That is something else to be thinking about.

I then go back out and wait for my appointment with Dr. Dean and he soon calls me in. He is a person who has messed me around, but I do admire the work he does for the community. I have laid my grievances with him to rest and we chat about things post-op. I like the fact we can talk about physical things instead of psychological matters and we are soon engrossed in hormones, dilation and urinary matters. I am advised that Brighton are responsible for me for 12 months and then any future care in that department goes to the local genitourinary department. We then spend some significant time talking about recent developments with regards treatment of trans people and he says he is very positive about the way things are moving forwards. It is too late for myself, but future people will eventually have a much easier ride through the system. He finally agrees to write my letter for my GRC (gender recognition certificate) form and says it will be in the post shortly. 

I walk out and duly fill in my satisfaction survey. Leaving the building, the sun is shining and things do feel really good. Yep, it's good to be out the other side.

Monday, 13 April 2015

3 Months Post-op

It's kind of hard to believe how quick time has moved on, but here I am at the 3 month mark. In 4 days I return to my voluntary work and essentially resume my normal life. Because so much has normalised with regards my surgery, this will probably be the last major update until the 6 month mark.

Externally I am pretty much completely healed. The vaginal opening now has some impressive scars but they are regular and slowly fading. At my post-op check, Liz Hills urged me to get working on them with Bio-Oil as recommended in the discharge notes. I have duly done so and even within a couple of weeks, they definitely seem paler. Even if it is not helping, oiling the scars eases any soreness they can sometime exhibit. On a note with Bio-Oil, you can find it half the price on-line than you can on the high street.

Moving up, the clitoral area is also well healed. It is now a lovely healthy pink colour instead of the patchy red colour that it was for quite some time. The granulation has disappeared, and quickly after Mr. Thomas treated it. I have a lot of sensation in the clitoral area but have not yet explored this area simply on the basis that I do not feel ready just yet. It could still become sore quite easily and I would rather wait until it is ready than open myself up for disappointment. I am still getting quite a few stabbing pains in this area and they often strike out of the blue. In public they can be quite unnerving, just last week I was with Mandy out shopping and it just started throbbing away, and not unpleasant either. In a busy supermarket is NOT where I want my first orgasm!

Overall the general look of the whole area is in my own word, amazing. I knew what I was going to get was going to be good, but this has exceed that by a massive amount. It is truly a work of art and I am still at a loss to even comprehend how Mr. Thomas changed what was there to what is there now. Unless you know what to look for, you can't tell the difference. Even then, you would need to be quite an expert to spot the difference, pretty much the only give-away is the closeness to the anus and the clitoral area looking a little different.

Urination continues to be a hit and miss experience and I do not expect it to improve for some time, if ever. I can get a good direction to start with but then it seems to go everywhere. Often it can go berserk and start spraying around everywhere. There is no rhyme or reason to it and I just have to live with it.

Dilation is still quite an easy process. I have now moved on to 35 and 37.5mm dilators with the final 40mm one perhaps a few weeks away. I had some granulation internally that was treated on my post-op check and this does continue to give a little grief. I get a small pain on inserting the very last inch of dilator. It is usually the smaller dilator that gives the pain and there is still a small amount of discharge that indicates the granulation is still probably there. Treatment of this is sketchy further down the line but I have an idea what Brighton will suggest next if it doesn't clear up. I also moved to twice a day a week ago with dilation. The schedule from Brighton stated that after 6 weeks I could go to 2 or 3 times a day until 12 weeks but I faithfully kept to 3 on the basis that it was not going to do any harm. I reached 12 weeks last week and then moved to twice a day. Afternoons now seem so much longer without that dilation in the middle but I do kind of miss it. It was perhaps the quietest and most unhurried of all the dilations. The schedule says to continue at this until 6 months when I can go to once a day but I suspect I will probably continue much longer at twice depending on what is going on.

Emotionally, I have been quite a bit better recently. I have dealt with some irritations in my life and despite those irritations trying to insist they will remain in my life, that sadly will not. I also have my appointment soon with the mental health team to try to deal with the issues that those irritations left me with and I am optimistic I can get through and beyond them. Spring is here, summer is around the corner and things look very good. My hormones seem to have stabilised and my body is returning to its pre-testosterone state. In fact it is getting better, my breasts have grown, my body hair is much slower and finer and my face is showing a lovely shape again.

I should also note that PMT is much more of a problem than it was pre-op. I wrote this a few days ago and felt in a very good place. Now on the day of publishing, I find myself in a very low place and on the verge of crying at any moment. This is confirmed by where Mandy is at at the moment and sure enough we are synchronised. I had moments of PMT pre-op, but post-op with the testosterone eradicated, I find it is a far more intense experience. The ins and outs are aside from this post and I will look to write something far more specific about it soon.

So I'll look to leave it at that, I am just having a blip and hope that things will be looking up again in a few days!

My GRS time-line :

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Another trip to the hospital

10 days ago I made a trip to the hospital to have a lump checked out in my neck. ENT felt it was probably nothing to worry about but said they would arrange an ultrasound just to have a look at it with a possible biopsy further down the line if they felt it needed it.

They were extremely quick in arranging this and I was booked in for yesterday. Not only was it an ultrasound but the biopsy as well. I was not really prepared for that and had to do some hasty reading around to inform myself of everything. 

Ironically, Mandy also had an appointment at the hospital for something else and because Susan has been around for a few days, she helped us out. Mandy had her appointment and because we had some time we went off to the hospital Costa for a coffee.

I went off for my appointment leaving Mandy with Susan. I have found it important recently to attend such matters on my own. I am not sure why this is but I have been doing this more and more. I went off to the department and went on to the waiting room. I was called in and advised that I would need to take my top off and wear a gown due to the gel that was used with an ultrasound. The nurse brought the gown and I waited for her to leave whilst I changed. I was wrong in this, she did not seem to want go anywhere so I just got on with it. I had a jersey dress on so I was quite glad when I stripped that the "bump" was no longer there to be visible. 

I got on the bed and a doctor came to do the scan. He slopped on several litres of gel and starting looking around the good side of my neck before going to the other side. He asked me to place my finger on the lump and then had a good scan around. His prognosis was that it was probably a gland that had swollen and then stayed that way for some unknown reason. We talked about the biopsy and because getting to the hospital is relatively easy for me, he was going to pass it back to the consultants and let them decide whether to biopsy it anyway or re-examine after 3 months. 

I was not worried either way about the biopsy but I suppose it avoided a needle in the neck for a time. I talked to the nurse after he had left and we discussed the fact that I had ignored this lump for a time. I explained that I had had some vital surgery, that was very important to my life and that it came first. She didn't probe too much but I did end up telling her what it was. She seemed quite concerned about the surgery, like it had been an unpleasant experience and was even more surprised when I explained how life changing and affirming it had been. She could not believe that my stay in the Nuffield had been one of the most memorable experiences in my life and again, this seems to reflect just how much this surgery does for our well-being.

I cleaned the gel off, redressed and met up with Mandy and Susan taking in another coffee just for good measure!

Friday, 10 April 2015

Normality arrives

I wrote a couple of months ago about returning to normality. This reflected how I was recovering from my surgery and starting to get back to normal life with things like driving and going out. It also talked a little of how normal my life has become since transitioning and how my GRS has reinforced that normality.

Now, I feel normality is pretty much here. Physically I have got to the strength where I can go about my life in a way that was possible before my surgery. I waited until I was given the go ahead by Mr. Thomas at 10 weeks and then started pushing the limits of what I could do.

A couple of weeks ago, when my friend Susan was around, I gently lifted the wheelchair out of the back of the car. This felt fine and a few days later I gently lifted it back in to the car which was just as easy. Last weekend (the one before Easter) found Mandy and myself returning to Taunton and having our usual Sunday morning walk around the town and canal. To be able to do this again was quite a release for me. We both talked about it afterwards and found that the three months of not doing this had been tougher on us than we realised. There is a unique bond we have formed with me pushing her wheelchair. It is a kind of intimacy that is hard to explain and it had been missing in our lives. 

This paved the way for more trips and we found ourselves doing this walk a number of times over Easter. I was surprised at the level of fitness I had and with the aid of my new GPS watch, I found I was able to do near 4 miles walks with the wheelchair at a pretty respectable 17.5 minutes to the mile. The great weather made this more enjoyable and added a new positivity to my life.

I have also gone quite gung-ho with my running. I started just over a fortnight ago and again with the aid of my new watch, I found I could do a respectable 3 mile straight away without stopping. Since that time I have pushed the distance every single day and now got to 5.6 miles with an average pace of 9.18 minutes to the mile. Considering that I didn't run for 12 weeks prior to this, I feel quite amazed how much fitness I did retain. 

Being able to run again has brought back the therapy element that I had been missing since my GRS. I am still getting into some form of fitness which means a certain amount of thought has to be put into pushing myself up the undulating lanes, but I generally find my mind in a much better place for the day than it was before I restarted running. I always listen to music when running too and this is also a source of therapy.

I have also regained some of my strength and this has enabled me to sort out some elements of where we live. We have moved around the living room and kitchen and gotten them to a much more suitable layout. We moved in in November and literally had to get everything in and prepare for surgery. Now we can fiddle around with it and get it to how we want. I have also done some work in the garden and practically got it ready for the summer. I have laid a section of lawn and filled the rest with fruit bushes. A few flowers will complete it and we will have somewhere nice to sit in the warmer weather. 

Normality is here and the coming months look like they could be very settled.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Go Girl!

Perhaps a post on a slightly lighter note is in order after my last "rant". Ok, I admit that whole GRC form made me a little angry but time to move on.

A month or so ago, I wrote about a walk I had had and how difficult it had been to answer the call of nature in the middle of nowhere. It seems that I am not alone in this and some advice was offered. I must admit it all seemed to conflict with each other and my own experience.

Ironically, a few days later, a certain product took Facebook by storm. It was shared by some big celebs on there, including Lizzy the Lezzy and George Takei. The product in question was called Go Girl and is basically a female urination device. It enables you to urinate whilst standing up.

After the best part of forty years of having the wrong parts, it now seems strange to want to buy a device to mimic the days of old. To be honest though, if I want to enjoy some longer distance walks, I need to solve this problem. It's either stand to wee or end up with wet and smelly clothing.

I bought the item and awaited it's delivery. On opening the packet, I found it comes in a very small tube but once unpacked it unrolls to it's proper size. Once it's out, it is apparently difficult to get back in but they give you a bag to store it in. They also provide a few sheets of toilet paper too for the first go! The device and bag are cleanable and reusable but the paper, no that will need replacing every time! Given how proficient I am at cleaning my dilators, cleaning this device will be a breeze.

The advice is to practice in the shower first before hitting the road with it and I decided that after a dilation would be a good time. I was still at three times a day, so there were plenty of opportunities available. I did my dilation, got everything ready and stood in the shower. You hold the device in one hand and place it over the vagina. It even has top marked on it to help you position it. You align your thumb at the top, forefinger at the bottom and hold it tight with that. This helps creates a seal at the side and then it is a case of just doing the business.

I must admit that it felt a little odd doing this. I had found enormous relief at being able to toilet correctly after all those years and then here I am again, peeing stood up with a phallic shaped device. I must admit it did bring back some dysphoria, but I managed to overcome that by remembering that this was for a practical reason and not for any form of mimicry. 

Unease asides, it worked incredibly well. I had forgotten that post-dilation, I am covered in KY Jelly but even with all that mess, there was absolutely no leakage and it worked a treat. Cleaning was simple, I already had a sink of anti-bacterial wash from cleaning my douche so it was a case of rinsing it around in this.

I have yet to use it out in the wild and I suspect the biggest issue will be cleaning but I will carry some baby wipes for this purpose. I hope though, it will simplify what was quite a difficult issue even though it seems a little like cheating!

Saturday, 4 April 2015

The final hoop

We often hear of our transitioning described as hoop jumping, and are then told firmly by gender clinics that it is not about any such thing. Yes, they like to tell us this, it makes them comfortable in their jobs and able to sleep at night.

But the reality is that it is all about hoop jumping despite what they say and even some have admitted their agreement. I was told during my second opinion that I had jumped the last hoop with regards my GRS although there was still more to be done. 

The hoop jumping is over with my physical transitioning but there is one more hoop to jump to finish everything off and that is the small matter of my Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC). This will confirm my gender as female in law and alter my birth certificate to reflect that and show my name as Lucy. It gives me a little more protection with regards disclosure of my past life and most importantly, means I can marry Mandy properly as a woman. In fact, this is the sole reason we have not yet set a date, we need this sorted so we can do that.

Today was the day I properly went through the form and did everything I could in readiness for its posting off. Ironically, it was 10 years to this day that the GRA (Gender Recognition Act) 2004 came into force. 

My thoughts on the whole process are that it is a complete joke. One more time I must open up my whole life to complete strangers to confirm something that I should not even have to. Given the surgery I have had, this should surely be enough? No, I must submit proof of that (although surgery is not absolutely necessary), another diagnosis from a gender specialist, a statutory declaration that I intend to live as a female until death, my deed poll, my divorce certificate and 5 or 6 documents with my female name on that are at least 2 years old.

I remember doing an interview last year with a research student about the GRC process and then I expressed my annoyance with the process. The fact I have to live for two years before I qualify for the extra protections was bad enough, but the whole process is designed to be difficult and I honestly believe it is out of the reach of some people. There is also a fee attached to this process of £140. I can apply for a waiving of that fee because of my circumstances, but that is another form and that is even more complex that the GRC one. It uses baffling legal terminology and I believe it does so on the basis that some will give up and fork out the £140. I do not think anyone should have to pay anything for this document that is our legal right. Being trans is costly enough as it is. That statutory declaration I mentioned, that's another £15 - £25 as well because it needs a solicitor to witness it. I was lucky in that my voluntary job is working alongside a solicitor so I got if for free, but few have this luxury. 

There is another point about marriage that makes the GRC out of reach of some people. I am lucky in that my divorce was finalised last year. Some however find themselves separated from spouses often due to their transitioning. You can get a GRC with the approval of the spouse but often separations are acrimonious and this is not a possibility. There are many stuck in that situation and I would have been too without a sudden effort from my ex to divorce me.

The form is as filled as I can make it. I still need that evidence from a gender specialist which should be sorted in a couple of weeks on my next appointment at the Laurel's. Lynda there has also said she will go through everything with me and check it is OK. This is not an obligation of the gender clinics but they do provide this and I am grateful for it. Then I can seal it up and post it off, recorded delivery as recommended and of course more cost. If it goes well, I will get contacted within a couple of months (the panel meet every two months). if not, I may have to provide more evidence and then wait another couple of months.

I suppose after all this time, I should realise that things never move fast in this game.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Attending to other business

Today saw me visit Musgrove Park Hospital in town to have a lump in my neck looked at. I spoke to my GP about this and other things when I visited her a couple of weeks ago. She had a feel of the lump, declared it was probably nothing to worry about and referred my to ear, nose and throat (ENT) anyway to just be sure.

The lump itself appeared around November time but due to my impending GRS, I left it alone and ignored it apart from mentioning it to Mandy. It was painless, I had a blood count done as part of my pre-op and I was not losing weight unexpectedly therefore there was no real reason to be suspicious of it. Of course the GRS is done, I am pretty much recovered and the time has come to concentrate on such matters. 

I was told today by ENT that it is probably nothing to worry about, but just to be sure, I have to have an ultrasound to look a little closer and a possible biopsy if that is inconclusive. Otherwise, I can leave it alone or have it removed which would leave me with a scar. Perhaps in my testosterone life as a male I would have loved that scar, but now I would happily avoid it.

It was an unusual experience for me, having to go to hospital. I have been there so many times with Mandy and to go to that familiar place for myself and alone was very different. Of course, I have been to the Brighton Nuffield three times for myself as part of my GRS, but I do not see that as the same thing. This is odd too, because that was for far more serious surgery but yet I seem to see that as more of a life experience than as a stay in hospital. Perhaps it is because it was a private hospital, perhaps it was because it was part of my transitioning or even perhaps it was because the outcome was to be so confirming and life changing. Today however was much like how a hospital visit should be. They are typically places to be avoided and after so many times with Mandy, many of them unhappy, I was a little trepidatious. 

Of course, I also have to consider the trans side of things and usually it is not an issue, they accept me as Mandy's partner and wheelchair pusher. However, I was the one in the spotlight today and I was interested to see how they would react to me. The young male HCA who measured my height and weight was not so sure about me, but he behaved. The consultant and his female HCA along with the receptionist were absolutely fine. Nothing was questioned, I was accepted and treated accordingly. Of course, some will suggest that I "pass" because of my looks. Of course, I accept that I do look quite feminine but my big give-away is my voice. There are no doubts when I open my mouth that I was not gifted with a female voice.

Something that has given me pause for thought recently is how many of us trans individuals neglect a lot of these issues that we have. I currently have this to deal with as well as another mental health issue. I deliberately put both off until after my GRS for the simple reason that I did not want anything to get in the way. This is a seriously dangerous attitude and yet many of us fall into this trap. That small lump in my neck could be something far more sinister and even knowing that possibility, I put my GRS first in everything. This really does show how life or death our dysphoria can be for some. I am quite a grounded person and usually make very good informed decisions for myself, but this was one of those rare occasions where nothing else truly mattered. Of course, that capability to make good decisions helped me a little, I had a good idea that the lump was probably nothing to worry about because I was not showing any other symptoms. 

There is also the mental health issue I have and again, I have left this well alone because this was much more likely to have jammed up my transitioning. It has nothing to do with my gender dysphoria and yet there is a massive fear from those transitioning that delving into deeper issues will derail their treatment. It does happen and I know of more than a few that put off dealing with anything else until they had had their GRS. It is not a healthy attitude and it would be better to deal with everything together. This is one massive failing of the whole system in this country when it comes to treating gender dysphoria. I know that my gender clinic is interested in more collaborative efforts with regards this but it will be a slow process. For myself though, I now have to look at dealing with my issue and because I have finished transitioning, it feels a little scary because everything seems so clear now. 

Thankfully now, I can concentrate on dealing with these issues much quicker than in the past, and I have extra incentive for keeping myself fit and healthy!