Friday, 15 July 2016

18 months post-op

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

It is unbelievable that time can go so quickly, but two days ago I found myself realising that I had had my surgery eighteen months ago. It seemed an insignificant milestone at the time, I nearly didn't realise it occurred, but on reflection it was more important than I realised.

It is quite good that I didn't actually do a twelve month update. The changes that have occurred between six and eighteen months have been incredibly subtle. Reaching this point has made me realise that it has taken all this time for the surgical site to properly heal.

I have had granulation issues internally for all this time and it is literally the last few weeks that have seen the issue disappear. Even so, I don't think it is fully gone but the pain and small amount of discharge it was causing seemed to have lessened greatly. Ironically this issue made me approach my GP and we embarked on a path of getting gynaecology to deal with the issue. They refused, saying I needed my original surgical provider to deal with it. This was not possible as we were outside of the window that the Brighton Nuffield were responsible for my care. 

There are many stories of Trans Broken Arm Syndrome and this was a classic example of this phenomenon. I wont belabour this update with the details, it would make a good write up of its own, but suffice to say that I embarked on the warpath with our local hospital and they did back down. I did not need them in the end, as the problem had lessened but it highlighted to me that even someone like myself with a GRC and a hide-able history of being Trans, is still likely to encounter problems. I am convinced Transphobia was displayed here too, but it would be difficult to prove. 

Dilation had moved on a great deal in all this time. I am now just using the 40mm on its own, straight in and for twenty minutes. I brought out all my dilators the other say to show someone who had never seen them and seeing the might 40mm against the tiny 25mm that I started out with was startling! I have now moved to dilation once every five days although the guidance says I could go to once weekly. I have taken dilation very seriously since I started out and I feel that is too big a step so I am adjusting it over time to get it to that once a week. It is hard to imagine that I was doing this three times a day!

I mentioned at six months how I had had my first orgasm. I have continued to explore this side of things and found there was a learning curve attached to it. I have found that the more that I utilise my sexual function, the easier it gets. Not only that, it gets better too! I remember orgasm in my past life and they were nothing compared to now. It's a completely different experience, a much more all over body feeling as well as an emotional satisfaction. It sometimes takes me as much as five minutes to come back down to Earth! Very little has changed in my approach six months ago, vibrators and such like do nothing and it is simply a finger rubbing approach to the clitoris that works. 

This makes me realise how little guidance we are given for something that is very important and I am painfully aware of how many post-op ladies never manage to have an orgasm. The only guidance I had was to get a vibrator from LoveHoney (seriously, this is what the post-op guidance says) and yet that was my biggest mistake. When I realised how easy it was with just my fingers, I started to think how many others are making the same mistake by following the guidance and then giving up. 

I have some sensation internally but not enough to bring me to orgasm. Sometimes it can enhance a clitoral orgasm but rarely do I get much more than that. I have used vibrators/dildos, fingers and even the occasional penis (yes really!) but they just add a nice feeling to what I already have. Mandy and myself have had to completely revisit our sex lives since my surgery, but we both agree that my transitioning has made things even better. It is less frequent than before but so much more satisfying.

It is also important to think about everything emotionally since my surgery. I have seen more developments in myself as a person since this event than during transitioning. I have reflected a great deal on why this was the case and feel it is down to the removal of the reminder of the past me. Now that I feel truly complete, I can explore properly who I am.

There has been a great deal going on in the last eighteen months. My work at the Laurels has been a massive influence on who I have become. It has given me the confidence the examine my future and realise that counselling is the way to go. I thoroughly enjoy the work that I do and taking it to the next level feels like a massively exciting challenge. 

Just over a week ago, I was voted Chair at our local Independent Advisory Group to the police. I have been a member of this group for over two years and to have the support of the members to elevate me to this position is very rewarding. It is quite apparent to me that there is a lack of women in such positions in Avon and Somerset, let alone anyone with a Trans past. This is another new challenge in my life and helps me develop my skills with interacting with people as well as helping me hone my organisational skills; I have lost track of the emails I have sent in the ten days since taking on this role!

In addition to all this, I have been working with the Avon and Somerset police raising awareness of Trans issues. I have addressed a couple of groups recently, one as large as 35 people and this has boosted my confidence greatly. I just talk about my life, my transitioning and the difficulties of the people that I work with. It is enlightening to know that people want to listen and learn but it is also sobering to realise how much ignorance and misinformation there still is amongst cisgender people. There is still a long way to go in helping society understand about us. That is how I like my approach, enabling cisgender people to understand our lives and how they can support us without being patronising or condescending.

This eighteen months have been a monumental roller coaster of a ride and the next few years seems equally exciting!

My GRS time-line :


Sunday, 3 July 2016

A new chapter

I wanted to write an update of what has been happening over the time that I have not been writing, but yesterday was a very exciting and important day and that seemed to be a much more relevant topic to be describing.

I have spent the time since my surgery reflecting on where I would like go with my life. I am a full time carer for my wife Mandy, but I do not intend to pursue this for imminent future. I will always be her carer, but I also have a life, a new life so to speak to explore and a career as the true me has become a tantalising prospect. Of course, I have not just gone on a decided to abandon her or even taken any steps without a great deal of discussion with her. We have enlisted our social worker and there will be support available once I start to do something.

It was inevitable with my previous Samaritans work and now my continuing work at the Laurel's, that some form of work linked with that would likely. I have had many discussions with the therapists at the Laurel's, and some deeper ones with Lynda, my previous therapist, and Maria, the team lead. I feel that a career in counselling beckons. 

I did my research and asked many questions and this led me to the Iron Mill in Exeter. There is very little in the way of training offered in Somerset, particularly quality accredited training. It is the accreditation with a professional supervisory body that I feel is very important to me. There are counsellors out there with some very questionable training and colleges that offer such training. I do not want a piecemeal collection of certificates as some have, I want a quality academic background that would lend me skills that are equally as good in quality.

The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, BACP, are the main accreditation organisation for this field of work and the nearest place to me was the Iron Mill. Ironically, their college is literally a stones throw from the Laurel's. I have sat many times in the therapy room with Lynda staring across at their building, it being nothing more than an attractive piece of architecture and finding it interesting to find myself in that very building looking back across at the Laurel's.

I had already applied for and been accepted on the Certificate in Counselling. It is a short course but a requirement for most further training. It will look good on a CV but very little use for anything else apart from enhancing my skillset alongside other work. To properly offer counselling, I must at least do a Diploma in counselling and I need the Certificate to be accepted on to this course. 

Yesterday was a Taster Day offered by the college. For a few quid, you would have a full day with the tutors, see the inside of the college and engage in some activities to help decide which course you would like to apply for. Although I had already applied for my course, I felt it would be a really useful exercise in just being able to see inside the building so that when I arrive in September, I would not feel to out of depth. A free lunch came as part of the Taster day, so that seemed to make it all the more worthwhile!

It was a strange experience driving to Exeter on a Saturday after all the Thursdays that I have done so in working at the Laurel's. The park and ride car park was eerily empty too as was the bus and it was a reflectful journey into the city. This seemed a big moment in my life and I have thought very deeply recently about where I am at with everything. I sometimes feel my life stopped soon after I left school and I bumbled along escaping into masculine jobs to avoid acknowledging the woman I truly was. I have dealt with that and feel I am almost back at the age, perhaps eighteen years old and in a position to shape my future properly now. True, there are a number of years in between, but they have little relevance on who I am now. In some ways I feel I am in a really grounded place to decide on my future. I feel young inside but have the life experience to reflect properly on choices and take counsel too. 

Once I arrived in the city, I felt I was way to early to go to the college so I found the nearest Costa. I suspect there is going to be more than a few morning visits to coffee establishments so I decided I had better start sampling them to find which were the better ones! 

Once caffeinated, I made my way to the college. Inside, I was met by the tutor and shown the kitchen. I, with a couple others, made myself a drink and we made our way to the main teaching room. Once everyone was sat, there was a brief introduction and then a tour of the college. It was a lovely old building, lots of natural light and felt like a wonderful place to learn new skills. Even better was that there wasn't a single desk in sight, apart from in the admin rooms. By far the best room was their small library. Shelf after shelf of literature on various branches of counselling, psychotherapy and much more. There were a few comfy chairs in this room and I felt I could just shut the door and spend the rest of the day there!

But, that wasn't an option and we filed back to the main teaching room. Our first task was introductions and instead of introducing ourselves, we had to introduce the person next to us. This was an exercise in listening and came very easily to myself. I talked to my partner about myself and quickly, I had to "out" myself. It is still very difficult to talk about myself, my past and my ambitions without having to bring in the Trans part because it is still a very significant part of who I am at this time. I know in years to come, this will fade but for now I accept outing myself and often it has positive outcomes. In return, I found a fascinating story from a woman which engrossed me with it's richness. 

Once this was done, we went around the room talking about each other. I was really surprised to hear so many people in the early to mid forties looking for a new start. Sometimes I feel unique or alone in needing to have to pursue such a bold new career but yesterday I was in the majority for once. Something else that struck me was how my voluntary work now puts me in a very good place for this type of academia because very few had actually tried any such support work.

We then had to go off and construct name badges for ourselves. The college tries to offer many ways to enhance skills and this means ways other than talking and listening. Seventeen of us returned to our childhood and we all set about with card, glue, stickers, pipe cleaners and much more to craft a meaningful badge. I'm totally rubbish at this kind of thing, but I am pleased with the results! Some of the other creations were works of art and over time, I suspect I am going to have to hone these skills.

We then had a talk through some of the courses offered and it was a useful exercise in being able to ask questions. Sometimes these are simple queries but important nonetheless. I felt a lot more informed afterwards about how the next few years might pan out.

Lunch was next, which offered a really nice opportunity to talk to people. Something that has really struck me since the day was how rich and varied everyone was. We all had stories and past lives, and I find this a healthy reminder than again I am not alone in having had to battle to be where I am now. 

The afternoon found us engaging in groups with a couple of activities. One was having to listen to a story and reflect on the meaning of it. The other was to pair off and one of us place objects in a sandbox to describe something in our life and then talk about the meaning of it all. It was a useful exercise in using ways other than words to talk about something.

And as quickly as it began, the day was over. Those eight or so hours really did fly by and I left fully enthused and totally excited for September when I embark on it all properly. There were three or four in the group that were probably going to be doing the same certificate and I look forward to seeing familiar faces then. I was also humbled by the maturity of those who felt they weren't quite ready. More than one had found the day a little triggering and they needed to deal with one or two issues before they were able to start such personal training.