Monday, May 6, 2013
Good things happen to us, bad things happen. Life washes over us and we move from one event to the next. Some events are momentous and life changing; graduating High School, coming of age, partnership or marriage, the birth of a child, moving state or country to somewhere new. I've done all of them. They often mark the end of one chapter and the beginning of something utterly new.
When I began my blog it was with the intention of looking at my life and exploring the events that influenced my journey towards transition. Now it seems, with incredible suddenness, I'm there. I'm left at the end of the chapter with only one page to go, reviewing the events that lead to that sudden change.
A looming event about which you are nervous can seem to hover on your horizon, absorbing all your mind and stressing you incessantly. You rehearse things out in your imagination. You draw on everything you know from friends. Sometimes the reality when it arrives s a little different.
I travelled down to London on April 9 on my way to surgery. I arrived at the same time as another Trans woman and enigmatically we were told there was no room at the inn: Charing Cross had no bed for either of us on Marjorie Warren Ward that night. We were whisked away in hospital transport to Hammersmith Hospital where we were accommodated in neighbouring studio accommodation. We spent the evening walking into East Acton and eating out in Lebanese restaurant. Even so, I slept very very little. We had been told to be outside waiting at 5:30 am when a taxi would take us back to Charing Cross Hospital. By 6.15am there was no taxi!
We got our own taxi and by now it was late and time was ticking fast. In a whirlwind of activity I met my anaesthetist and was rapidly told what would happen. I met my surgeon; he in cycle shorts. Enema, stuff my things rapidly into my bedside locker, gown, remove jewelry....I didn't have time to turn around and think. I was walking out of the ward when my nurse spotted my heart necklace; a Mother's Day present from my daughter. It was a brief hiccup. I had expected to be wheeled up to theatre. Instead I walked up with a nurse, taking the lift to the tenth floor. Within a few minutes Mr James Bellringer himself was fitting my cannula, I was hearing about risks from the anaethetist, I was agreeing to my irreversible op, my anaesthetist was counting......
Coming round in recovery I was glad at first of Patient Controlled analgesia; a shot of morphine every few minutes. Not long after I found that it made me incredibly sick. Through my haze, I think I spent that whole day with a huge smile on my face; aware and relieved that I was the other side of a watershed; one which had dominated my life for so long. I simply couldn't sleep and chatted to my Ward Buddies; the most amazing Trans ladies like myself and a dear older lady whose catchphrase 'Lovely Jubbly Gorgeous' resonated through the bay were we all lay in bed.
Over the next few days I haemorrhaged a good deal. Compression bandages went on top of compression bandages. I was wrapped up like a Christmas present but felt very little pain. It became upsetting to see my Ward Buddies have their bandages removed and begin to mobilise whilst I had to take yet more bed rest. Soon I was the only one left in bed and more than a little low. The talk between us helped pass the time; hearing each other's stories, discussing catheters, leg bags, constipation and yes, farts. Recovery is a messy icky business yet full of emotional uplift at where you are now.
The journey from Wednesday, the day of my operation to Sunday when they removed my bandages seemed so long but it was well worthwhile. After they removed my catheter and taught me to dilate on Monday I was told to go douche and shower. Gazing in the mirror and seeing the new me naked for the first time I began to tear up and cry and cry. I just couldn't stop. It seemed so right and such an incredible relief after many years of longing. It was hard to believe that I'd arrived at my final stop :D
Except, as we all know it isn't quite like that. Huge changes are often new beginnings and involve hard effort to make them work. I'm home now and on my 4th week post-op. Dilation of my new vagina is for life: not the 3 times a day I do now but certainly once or twice a week for keeps. Dilation is essential. It keeps your vagina from shrinking and contracting, it safeguards all that careful surgery for good. Staff suggested I think of it in terms of orthodonture; dilation and your stents are your 'retainer'!
Recovery is an ongoing and continual process. It is one of gradual healing, cleansing, caring, dilating, douching and restoring balance; of learning like a teenager about your body; marvelling at how it all works as sensations return and intensify. It's proved like that in my life too. Having reached this point I realise, with a little regret, how I've had to live a life feeling numb; hating sensations which others found sensual and at odds with a body I felt had let me down. Paradoxically, some of the cutting and self harming I did down there to help me cope, hurt far more than this does now. I can only observe that pain with no hope of release sucks; pain and rebirth hurts infinitely less because there is pain but also joy and achievement. I'm home at last.
So what of my Blog now? I've reached the end of this journey, fast rewound my life and started over. Do I start a new Blog? I'm considering it already. My concerns now are life, love and relationships. I find the idea of sex and intercourse scares me a little because it is the new unknown. I feel more than a little vulnerable. It won't stop me going there though......so wish me luck.
Hugs, Jane xox
Thursday, April 11, 2013
Before I came into Charing Cross Hospital this week for surgery, friends kept asking me, what now? Now that you've almost completed your journey, will you settle down, find a boyfriend and go stealth? I thought deeply about it and I feel that I'm coming to the only possible conclusion; I won't.
It is after midnight on the ward in hospital. I have made friends with four other beautiful trans women whose determination to be who they needed to be brought them here at the same time as myself. Don't delude yourself that having SRS is glamorous; it is full of bleeding, pain, anxiety, farts and constipation. Ask any Trans Woman who has been here and they'll tell the same story. We are not dealing with bravery here as you might find on the battlefield but with a deep commitment to what is right for them. You have only to listen to the stories of last racing thoughts before anesthesia kicks in, to realize that these are extraordinary individuals who simply want to be themselves.
If I have learned anything here from Tabitha, Faye and the two lovely Rachels, it is that being Trans is about being respected for who you are and without insulting and intimidating remarks. Whether you 'pass' or not is irrelevant. There will be days for all of us when our lack of makeup, our voices, our large shoes or our choice of clothes, give us away. Passing and Stealth however should not be the criteria by which society judges us, indeed, we should not be judged at all. Going Stealth seems to me like buying in to what society deems to be 'acceptable trans sexuality'.
I don't buy it. I will stand by my sisters whoever they may be and fight for that right to be accepted by EVERYONE without jokes or sniggering, backward glances and knowing winks. I will continue to write, perform and sing and willingly identify myself as who I am, out and proud!
Jane Ward xox
Monday, April 8, 2013
In this last blogpost before heading for Charing Cross Hospital tomorrow, it's fitting that I deal with this subject. If you're MtF Trans, tucking is probably all too familiar to you. I've been doing it since I was a child. Tucking has been a lifeline. For me as a transgendered child who hated even looking down and seeing her (male) genitalia it has been a habit for all too long. Toilets at school became hateful places where boys 'went for a slash'. I 'went to the loo'; I couldn't bear to do anything other than sit down to pee. Safe on my own I could make my 'nightmare' disappear between my legs and pee in the way I wished, well, sort of. If you hate something and are ashamed of it, the instinctive thing seems to be to hide it. Tucking involves pushing the testicles up higher, back into the inguinal canal and pulling the penis down and between your legs. By the time I was nine I had found that my Mom's pantie girdles were tight enough to hold everything in place when I did that, hiding what I hated and helping me to pretend that I was the girl I so needed to be. Failing that I wore my swimwear which was also similarly tight. In time, it became so much a necessity that I couldn't leave the house without doing it, even under my school uniform. Wearing knickers under school clothes seems an idiotic risk to have taken, looking back. The days when we had Physical Education were the worst, I hated it, in particular the communal showering :(
There have been other downsides to all of this: The recurring urinary tract infections which caused my doctor concern until I finally came out and told him why; the rumors spread around school because other boys never saw me peeing like the rest; having to hide my girly underwear from my parents or washing out my swimwear myself and drying it secretly in my room. I got very careful. On the one hand I was so scared about being discovered, on the other I just wanted the agony to end.
Hating what was down there lead to self harming in my mid teens. Maybe I was trying to 'punish' myself for having been born like that. I used cigarettes to burn myself, candle wax and wrenching my pubic hair out with tweezers till I bled. As an adult it sounds like BDSM but It was far from erotic, it just hurt and I wanted it to do so. Hurting myself helped me control the emotional pain. I'm not proud of what I did but for short periods it helped me feel better. I was who I was and I am who I am....Except tomorrow, tucking comes to an end. I'll be having to do it for the last time. When I saw Manjit, one of the CNS nurses at Charing Cross a few weeks ago, she had to remind me that GRS is irreversible. Thank goodness is all that I can say.
Hugs, Jane xox
Saturday, April 6, 2013
Yesterday I compared this time just before surgery with that time between High School and College. Back then I had no confidence in myself and chose a self indulgent summer of hanging out with the friends I loved and counting the moments until I had to say goodbye to them, especially to Ian and Steve two of the guys I fancied. The summer of '76 here in the UK was one of the hottest on record and folks still talk about it now. It was one long blast of playing little coffee house gigs, lazing and playing in the sun and feeling on top of the world because I graduated with high grades against all odds. Honestly, I felt at that point as though things might actually work out. All of that abuse/gay sex/asymmetric relationship with GS was over and I felt like I had a chance of moving on. Girls found me interesting and fun to be with and it seemed as though I at last had a chance to 'make' myself normal like everybody else in my circle. In reality I was missing the sex even though I felt burned, guilty and shameful about it all. I also hated the idea of going off to Manchester University all on my own. With friends around me I could pretend I was normal. Once I was alone, the doubts set in.
It was that summer that my friendship with P became something more. It wasn't what I wanted. I wanted a friend to talk books with and a fake girlfriend so I could fit in. She wanted commitment and a relationship. I had known her for a good few years and was impressed at how alternative and independent spirited she was. Far off in London, Punk was just beginning to hit the headlines and change people's lives. All my friends were talking about The Clash and the Sex Pistols. I was unashamedly into the Runaways. Joan Jett was the epitome of what I would have liked to be as a girl...instead I ended up sitting on bar stools with my six string acoustic playing Joni Mitchell, Cohen and James Taylor...it was what people liked hearing, most of my own songs were too hard, self indulgent and depressing.
I went away on holiday with P, though in reality I would have loved one with Ian again. He had other plans. We went on holiday to.....'here' as it happens. My grandparents were from North Wales and when I introduced P to the breathtaking mountain backed coastline, she fell in love with it all immediately. I found myself drawn into a much deeper relationship and by the end of summer we were having sex, of a sort. It worked but left me feeling really weird; just like I had done something wrong on every level. By the time we got to the last few days I mentioned in my last blogpost I was packing for Manchester and she for Leicester in the UK's Midlands. She desperately wanted to stay together and because I felt so afraid about my future, I agreed. The thought of coming out somehow in Manchester and being myself got shelved but oh so tearfully and reluctantly. I traded what I really wanted for the safety of someone who seemed to deeply love me but I also knew I was imprisoning myself by doing so. It was quite deliberate; an attempt to normalize myself out of being a transgendered teen: What an idiot I was!
To complicate matters further, Steve, another tall blond haired crush from High School got into Manchester's Institute of Science and Technology. I really didn't know. The first thing I knew was my first night in Halls. When I brought my tray out to the dining hall to sit down to eat that first night, he was there; all gorgeous blue eyes and blond hair. He was really pleased to see me and I him :) We started to hang out together of course and maybe more would have come of it had I not had a girlfriend...why are events so cruel?
Fall '76 in Manchester was great....at least during the week. I loved the City, I thrived on it. There was an underground Gay scene but it was really clamped down on by the authorities and the police force. It centered around Canal Street. A short walk from Piccadilly Station. It was a sordid area then. Now it's the vibrant heart of one of Europe's most exciting Gay quarters and 'The Village' is where most people want to party. The Gay officers of Manchester City's Police Force are now there on hand smiling to keep us all safe not to run us in! In those days the police cruised the canal in boats looking out for gay couples making out in dark corners so they could arrest them for indecency!
In Manchester in Fall '76 I realize now that I was beginning to get the confidence in myself to come out but I still felt so incredibly scared. I had taken a load of my girl clothes to Manchester but I only wore them occasionally. I spent hours late at night either drawing pictures of myself as a girl then ripping them up in shame or fantasizing about having (girl) sex with Steve, Ian, GS...you name it I thought about it, every which way.
It was different at the weekends. I went to see P in Leicester or she came to me. It was like leading a double life, I should have called an end to it right there but I didn't, I was afraid to face the world as a girl, I needed more time. I didn't get it.
Can you imagine how it ended? Perhaps. I just couldn't stand it and in the end I dropped out of college in Manchester without completing my degree, it was a big mistake I know but we all make those. I said goodbye to Steve and to the City I loved so much, crying inside and all the time wanting to tell him how I felt. I've never seen him since. He hasn't come to any High School reunions, perhaps that is just as well.
That was the start of a painful 30 years of denying who I was. I completed my degree here in North Wales at Bangor getting myself into awful hot water again by really crushing on another guy. This time his name was Ed. He was a South African studying in North Wales, a fascinating guy; tall, dark haired and with such a gorgeous accent. P even asked me if I felt anything for him? Why didn't I say? Self Protection maybe or probably just heading on down that highway to nowhere of trying to fit in. I've spent the last seven years with the pedal pressed to the metal trying to speed back up to where I was in the Fall of '76.
Here I am now; a Trans Woman on the verge of actually completing my transition and ironically being a 'virgin' again. I'm back to songwriting, singing, writing, being myself and being Miss Jane Ward as I always imagined I might grow up to be. Okay, so it's thirty seven years later than I imagined and I'm not really a virgin: I have all the emotional baggage and scarring of having tried Gay Sex, Straight Sex, every which way imaginable to try and convince myself that I was either a Gay Guy, Bi or plain straight Vanilla. I'm not Cis, I'm not Gay, I'm Trans, out and Proud. It has been one long awful journey that I've felt compelled to keep re-running through my head like a very bad movie. My dreams have been full of it for the last two weeks. It's no surprise that it's ended up in my Blog. Maybe one day I need to put it in a book, for keeps and for all to see.
Hugs, Jane xox
Friday, April 5, 2013
So many people have been asking how I feel. Things feel rather strange right now. It's getting to feel like those last couple of nights before Prom or the few remaining days of final summer in High School: The ones just before you leave for College. I remember that time as one of great happiness but also of trepidation and immense anxiety. I've been calm, happy and nervous. I've had so many good wishes from friends and a quiet restful time but I know that's going to change big time and there is one amazing new future to come: One I've dreamed about for so long. That change from one chapter of my life to another is a really huge one......and being this close, it seems to be coming up real fast! My surgery date is in four days time.....
It's quiet and dark. I'm in bed early because I still feel tired. I'm having my hair styled and colored tomorrow (this is so like Prom) yet, like leaving for College in Manchester back in '76; I'm also putting the last few things in my bag to get ready for a departure....Both times leaving on my own, doing it on my own, feeling a little scared.....but strangely happy.
Tuesday, April 2, 2013
So, this is it! The climax to 7 years of 'dating' Psychiatrists and Therapists; the culmination of over 84 months of living, working and being a woman, the endless foreplay of practice flirting with guys and never being able to go further than second base; of constant teasing that surgery might be 'this summer' or 'next year' :D After all that 'excitement' the past 5 weeks of being without hormones has been difficult, well and truly!
Coming to a climax point in my life and being so hormonally challenged, brings me to the subject of orgasm. Orgasms have always been something with which I've had a love/hate relationship. They can be pleasurable but bring with them the awful reminder of the anatomy I was born with yet never seemed to belong to me. Coming to orgasm is difficult for many Trans people. Sexual arousal from being touched combines an instinctive and inevitable reaction with feeling uncomfortable about who you are. It makes getting aroused very difficult. Growing up, I learned to live inside my head because I could be female there. Having a sexual fantasy that you are a woman and one you feel yourself to be, is easy in your head. Whilst having sex, not so easy! With self pleasuring, it works....at least until you come. With another person it becomes a bizarre balancing act; maintaining your female persona internally whilst responding outwardly as a male :( In Gay sex, it can be better but having been on both sides or the divide I know that Gay sex can be so different; more masculine (well that's a given Jane!) more vocal and more shared knowledge of who you both are and how you respond. None of that works awfully well for a T-Girl and it's partly that that finally convinced me I wasn't Gay but actually Trans.
Orgasm with no sex hormones is painful and difficult. Some will tell you that it can't happen at all. They're wrong. Having had to live with the sexual stimulation being so much in my head it does work for me but also leads me to wonder what sex will be like after I recover from surgery...Some Trans women complain about not being able to achieve orgasm. Sometimes they blame the surgeon or the procedure. I haven't been there yet so I don't know. Sex isn't the be all and end all for me. It has always been problematic. Romance and kissing is so much easier in comparison but when he starts to put his hand down my pants or up my dress it gets complicated. That's even before we start all the ridiculous expectations some men have about 'sex with a 'shemale''. So, If I end up unable to orgasm but whole as a woman, I'm happy to accept that. If I can have pleasure and good feelings it will be a bonus but it isn't a deal breaker.
I'll let you know, when the time comes! First I have to deal with surgery and recovery...starting next week! Even if I can't have orgasm, I have to have friendship and coffee. It felt so reassuring today when friends came round to wish me luck and to remind me that they're here on hand when I come back and can't easily get out to the store to buy things or just want to chat. I love all my friends; Gay, Lesbian and Trans. I love my Straight friends too, but there's always a little gap of understanding which is sometimes harder than I expect, to bridge. If you're straight and yet you're reading my blog I guess I don't count you in all that.
Here's to friendship, and to orgasms, however and whenever we choose to have them!
Hugs and kisses,
Tuesday, March 26, 2013
The song came to mind as I put the last few of my things in my bag for Charing Cross. It's a Peter Paul and Mary song that I played frequently at gigs back in High School. That (male) part of my life is beginning to feel a rather long way away now. Why were most of the songs I sang back in then Folk songs about goodbyes? Peter Paul and Mary's 'Leaving on a jet plane', Gordon Lightfoot's 'Early Morning Rain', James Taylor's 'Fire and Rain', Leonard Cohen's 'So Long Marianne'. Singing the songs, I always imagined myself as the broken hearted girl saying goodbye to her guy or being left behind...Well here I am, a girl, finally about to say goodbye to the guy who's space I've been forced to reluctantly inhabit until my mid 40's. There will be no 'kiss me and smile for me'; we're one and the same person, just separated by a mental outlook and anatomy. Maybe as Cohen wrote; 'it's time, we began, to cry and laugh and laugh and cry about it all again'. As I remember, the guitar tag to the end of that line is to transition an A chord into an A sus 4. It's kind of fitting; C# to D; an onward transition from a 3rd to a perfect 4th. It creates such a different sound, so much more open and resonant; that's pretty much how I'm feeling about myself and surgery right now. I'm smiling.
As I write my operation is exactly 14 days away. During the process of counting down the days I've gone through a whole bunch of thoughts and moods, reliving and evaluating the past and all the events that lead up to this point. My last blog post was inevitably taken up with all that. There has been nervousness and anxiety, a little fear of the unknown and some worry and physical distress. Now I've packed it all seems kind of irrelevant. Life is full of rituals; birth, coming of age, marriage, coming out and yes, transition. I realized with surprise that packing was an all important part of that; like choosing a baby name; a ring or a place and time, packing was my final acceptance of what I truly want and am happy with. Whatever happens now, I've reviewed and examined all my motives feelings and thoughts, cross questioned myself innumerable times and dealt with the 'what if's?'. Curiously, I couldn't come to any balanced judgement that didn't distil into; 'it's just how I've always felt'. So much for all the nervous anxiety and wasted mental energy!
I really don't know whether I'll write another blogpost before I set off for London. We'll see. I will keep a diary, but don't expect a messy stitch by stitch account, I'm a girl of feelings not of practicalities. For those of you who like to email, keep in touch, email@example.com it will be nice to know that you're there in thought at least. My youngest is encouraging me to take one of her soft toys to cuddle, I think I will take it. It will remind me of her even though she can't be there.
Where do you fit into all of this? Well if you too are contemplating transition or are going through the agonies of waiting or even just thinking about coming out, my thoughts are with you. Earlier on this week, the press announced the tragic death of Lucy Meadows, a Trans Woman and primary teacher who took her own life on Tuesday last. It is a role in which I could so easily have found myself. I trained as an Early Years teacher and for many years was the only such 'male' teacher in my County. I was deeply unhappy and longed to come out but feared misunderstanding and censure. Lucy took that step and and suffered. She received severe criticism from some about what was seen as a 'selfish' decision to come out. She was vilified in the British tabloid press for the effect all this might have on the children in her class. If you are Trans, you will probably realize what an utterly cruel point of view that was. Lucy deserved so much better. Whatever the reasons for Lucy's suicide it was unkind and unfair to treat her that way.
I realize that I seem to have been blessed with an easy ride compared to Lucy. I have had so much support at work, from my friends and from you, my blog followers. Thank you so much for being there.
Hugs and kisses,