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 :

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.