Saturday, December 31, 2011

Second Look

The second look is something I've slowly grown addicted to.  It's almost New Year's Eve. We're at the height of the party season and nights out abound.  I love girl's nights out.  Being single now and able to go out with everyone else on a Friday night is something that was out of the question when my family were younger and I was in a relationship. Much as part of me craves to be back in a relationship, I love nights out when it's just the five of us, a bottle of wine each and the chance to talk about whatever we want, without boyfriends or partners. It's good to be able to talk about who we like, fancy, bitch about others and have an unashamedly good time.  As a trans woman, I missed out on this earlier in my life and it's great to have the chance to catch up with it now and enjoy it, even if the enthusiasm with which I do it means I may well regret it a little the morning after.

I grew up incurably shy, partly because I hated being me so much.  Much more recently I used to hate or dread 'second looks', it paralysed me when I went out early in my transition.  A second look which was almost a stare meant that I was being read or seen as a guy in a dress.  It wasn't nice, something to take away your confidence and crush you, often for weeks afterwards, playing that look back in your head.  Looking back, I realise that I probably read more in to such things than was actually there.  Such is the trauma of learning to go out and be natural when you're transitioning.  

These days I realise that second looks aren't always like that and I've grown to love and appreciate them.  Second looks aren't always hostile or voyeuristic.  Second looks with a smile are nice, especially from a cute guy talking to his friend somewhere at the other end of the bar.  Shy second looks from a guy on his own feel reassuring too.  Let's face it, we all want to feel pretty and attractive, whatever our age and second looks give you the assurance that mabe you are.  Second looks give you confidence that you can be liked and loved.

My friends have the confidence to go up to them and flirt, but there's no way that I'm going there just yet.  Flirting is a girly skill that I envy and practice but it's hard to do really well when you're new to it, especially with a total stranger. I know I have to learn if I want to be out there.  It's addictive and girl's nights out are a great place to do it.



Sunday, December 25, 2011

A Holiday Wish

We all have Christmas Wishes, some of them personal, some of them collective.  I suppose that all of us at some time, seeing at least some degree of happiness, love and understanding over the holidays, want that to carry on throughout the year.

Whether we celebrate Hannukah, Christmas, Diwali, the Solstice or whatever, for so many of us with secrets or anxieties, the holidays aren't exactly the easiest time of the year.  That's certainly so true if you're trans or TV or TG or maybe Gay or Lesbian as well.  The Holidays are supposedly a time for family and celebrating togetherness but for so many of us, families mean lack of understanding or keeping things hidden.  They involve being put in close proximity with our parents or other people who have known us more or less from birth, or who think they know us but probably don't.

For those of us who celebrate Christmas, It is a time when we remember a teen Mum with nowhere better to go, giving birth in a cowshed, with her anxious husband standing by; a few farm lads being totally phased by seeing bright lights in the skies and popping in to give a friendly welcome; a group of three academics or posh dudes on camels turning up with some rather strange presents...Okay, we can argue about the details but if it's about anything, it's seems to be about a very ordinary looking baby in humble surroundings who will turn out to be, someone very different, not an ordinary guy, but a saviour of the world.

Whatever your religious beliefs or even if you don't have them, it's a huge leap of imagination to jump from the baby in the humble cowshed to the person we still remember 2,000 years later, yet we do it.  Vast numbers of the world population subscribe to the idea that rather than being an ordinary baby as he appeared to be, this child was actually something else, the son of God.

I'm not here to put forward any religious beliefs of my own.  They are immaterial here. My agenda is a non-religious transgender one. My Christmas Wish is that if we can make that leap of faith about a humble baby, then, maybe, just maybe, we can move forward in a New Year some time, to a place where we can believe that a baby who appears to be a boy or a girl may perhaps grow up to be something else, in reality the opposite gender to what he or she appeared to be.  It would save an awful lot of problems.

Happy Holidays



Friday, December 23, 2011

Just Another Year

It's dark.  The street lights are on early, the shops are all lit up for Christmas. Everyone seems to be out madly shopping. I've been so focused on preparing (or maybe bracing) myself for Christmas that as usual I seem to have missed the sign which says 'The end of the year is just down the road'.  At this time last year I had just moved in to the disorganised chaos of a new apartment. The West Coast here was in the grip of an icy winter that actually never happens normally or when it does happen we find it hard to believe.  It was savage, hard to cope with and brought everything to a halt, putting normal life on hold for a while.  It was a theme that seemed to get played out over and over again this year.

This year has been one in which (again) I came to stop believing that anything would ever get any better, a year in which I pretty well gave up hope.  It happened not once, but on several occasions, times when I began to wonder where on earth I was going, with two possible answers to that question; 'backwards' and 'nowhere'.  It has been 12 months more of waiting in transition, of being a woman who is still waiting for normal body parts to arrive whilst having hot flashes, sore boobs and eczema from too many HRT patches.  Of yet another year (there have been at least 50) showering in my undies because I hate seeing bits of myself, of having needles stuck in my face to have hair removed and UTI's because I tuck all the time (yes, I did say Tuck not...)

 There has been a Spring and Summer of trying to be a good Mom, of guiding and supporting my daughter through school exams and the social anxieties that beset teenagers, a year of still learning how best to walk the thorny path of doing that job in co-operation with my daughter's other Mom without any good or reliable handbook.  It has been a year of tenderly caring for a family member through a long and uncomfortable illness and witnessing it's inevitable end.

Like many others, this has been 365 pure days of keeping some things secret.  There have always been secrets.  They've transformed from being a boy who knew she was a girl and self harmed parts of herself because she hated them, to a woman who stealthily keeps her male past and it's remaining bits secret and locked away.  There have been times in the past 52 weeks when I felt that with help, I had probably climbed up onto a ledge from which I could neither climb further or go back down.  The help seemed to disappear and I was convinced that I would be stuck there forever and maybe perish in that position.

Through it all, I've kept on muddling through somehow. I've been doing all the things that I have to, that everyone else has to; clipping coupons and spending less, mending clothes, caring for my family, keeping house, earning a 9-5 living, getting in groceries and cooking them, finding time for friends and children and a little for myself.  You know because whoever you are, you too do it all the time too.

Finally and perhaps most importantly it's been a year of starting blogging and reading what others have to go through.  I have been humbled to read about others losing their families, children, homes and jobs, being excluded and insulted, hated and misunderstood.  I've come to realise with some humility that what I had come to think of as an awful ordeal has actually been a relatively easy ride.  Nobody challenges the fact that I'm a woman. I'm respected and valued at work, allowed time off without inquisitions, accepted as a mother and valued as a female friend.  I can shop for normal everyday clothes and use changing facilities like everyone else. I don't lead a secret life of hidden stashes of clothing and shoes, in fact I have too many and give them away to goodwill and charity shops.  I get compliments, second looks and even the luxury of having a crush on a guy who is perpetually nice to me but frustratingly nothing more.  I have a therapist who instead of just theraping me, bangs on the doors of hospitals to get me treatment I desperately need and like a terrier, he never lets go, bless him. I'm hair free, having finished electrolysis.  I have a really talented hair stylist and these days I do my hair and makeup without much of a thought. 

Amazingly, I've come to the odd conclusion that I'm a very lucky girl.  I cannot believe this, but I'm beginning to realise that I've got off lightly.  That can't be right can it?  In a recent conversation with a really intimate friend, one who does know all the secrets, I was told that I'd really been through it.  So who is right?  Like me I guess you probably know the answer to this one and maybe it's this: At the end of the day, in spite of changing attitudes, helpful television programmes, government involvement and everything else, few people have any REAL idea of what it actually involves to be Trans, TG, TV or whatever.  Some people think it's a 'choice', a lifestyle decision, others see it as a perversion or worse.  In reality none of this is 'seeing' or 'thinking' because that would involve suspending prejudices and developing understanding.  If even I didn't realise what some people in our community go through and how some don't make it, then there's little chance of others outside our community genuinely understanding how being this way affects people's daily lives.

My therapist says: 'I hope you keep a good diary, because one day you'll need to write and tell others what it's really like'. That's a scary thought, because writing for the general public means revealing secrets about ourselves that we need to keep hidden.  Looks like we're stuck with misunderstanding.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

What are friends for?

Stealth can have it's drawbacks.  Hardly anybody in my life now has ever known me as anything but the everyday woman I essentially am.  There is a downside.  Whilst I can agonise and share and listen to others where girl things are concerned I can't talk about where I am now. It's particularly true at work. Not being able to talk about the nasties of the recent months where distant family members seem to have gone out of their way to exclude me isn't good.  Where the reason for heartache is my trans-ness and it's effect on my life, I'm pretty well on my own.  I know from bitter experience that loneliness and secrecy is a downhill rocky road to depression and anxiety.  Anyone who has had to live with a secret for a really long time must experience that at some point.

Given where I am now, I thanked my lucky stars when J came up to me on the last day at work and asked how I was. I seldom see her these days because we work in different parts of the same large college.  J is lesbian, she has kids a similar age to mine.  I didn't really say anything in reply, I think my face said it all.  She gave me such warm hug, she drew me away from everyone else and we chatted.  It was such a relief.  Being able to talk about rejection, unkind family members, our separate gender orientations and much more left me feeling supported and smiling. I couldn't thank her enough.

I have my own hang ups and personal challenges.  Before I began my transition I had this prejudice against the lesbian community.   I'm ashamed of ever being that way now.  I can pretty well peg it to an unkind remark made to me but not about me concerning MtF transsexuals and TV's.  The woman in question has long since disappeared out of my life but she was very much a lesbian feminist. I know with hindsight that looking back many people thought I was closet gay, probably this woman as well.  She probably had no idea that I would find the remark hurtful. What she said was unkind all the same because it discounted trans women and made me feel distinctly uncomfortable because I had a secret I couldn't share.

I realise that I too have been guilty of prejudice and failure to understand.  I'm a woman who likes guys, J is a woman who likes women, she doesn't peddle an agenda, she's just a lovely person.  It's not the first time J has been so supportive.  By being herself, open and honest with me, J has completely changed my perception of the lesbian community in a good way.  It always leaves me thinking about whether I should be more open about my identity if it would help others understand what trans people are really like.  I don't know.  What holds me back is the public ridicule being trans can attract and the awful idea of having to reveal to others that the woman they know was at one time perceived as male.

I suspect that until the way outed trans people are treated changes I will never have the courage to be open but I'm sure that until people like me do there will always be prejudice and mis-understanding.



Friday, December 16, 2011

Party Party

Okay, it's an hour and a half to the Christmas Ball.  I'm getting ready to go out.  For a T-Girl or for any woman for that matter, getting ready is half the fun and also fraught with indecisions.  What do I wear, what style of makeup, what perfume, which nail polish, which shoes?  I've been going to the faculty Christmas Ball for 6 years a woman.  You'd think I'd be getting things right by now.  Then there's all the chat on FB about what we're all wearing.  Plans change, I can never make up my mind.  Starting out my transition it was trousers and a glittery top, I felt underdressed.  These days it's a dress, usually a new one each year (any excuse). But I still wonder as I always will from time to time, do others see me as a guy in a dress.  If I thought that seriously or too deeply for too long, I would probably never have the courage to go.
So here I am, sparkly dress, nipped in waist, I can hardly breathe let alone eat, nervous, idiotically nervous.  I've taken my makeup off and done it over again.  I'm in heels that I'll have to dance in.  (T-Girl practising dance moves in the mirror), why am I doing this?  I suppose the answer is that like any girl I just want to look adorable.  I'm aware that from long experience that if I make mistakes with my makeup and go over the top, I could look like a drag act - so been there and done that, cringe at the memory...I've learned that if I do smoky eyes I need to keep my lips nude with just gloss.  I've learned that false lashes can just look OTT on me but I wish that my hopelessly straight lashes would curl more.  I know that red lip colour gives me the same OTT look.  You probably all go through the same agonies.  Somehow I've got to ensure that I actually have a good time too!

Whatever I've achieved I will have to stick with because it's nearly time to go? Here goes nothing..



Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Will it be different this year?

I have to confess, there was a time when he filled me with wild expectations.  He really thrilled me with the promise of a seriously good time.  I looked around at other girls having all of that sparkle and romance, the gorgeous glittering gifts, the candlelit dinners and the warm firesides.  I longed to have some of that for myself and he seemed to offer just what I needed in my life; pretty dresses, exquisite jewellery, perfume, things to pamper myself and maybe even some girly toys.  I tried desperately to get to meet him on a number of occasions.  He was always so popular I could hardly ever get near him.  I wrote to him longingly and sometimes he wrote back but never quite what I expected. Was I setting myself up to be disappointed?

Yes, there were good times, and gifts but he never seemed to choose the right things.  When I saw other girls so much in love, getting pretty things, all I got was the seriously useful or things that others might have liked but I never did.  By the time I was in my teens I had pretty much fallen out of love with him.

When I decided to have children, he came right back into my life with a smile.  You know, I really thought that it could work back then.  How often do you get a guy that sensitive and kind, a big hit with the kids, gets on well with them, keeps them entertained while you cook dinner?  He really made things work and the presents he gave the children were pretty and gorgeous.  It made me kinda sad that I had never seen that side of him when I was younger.

Now, the kids have more or less grown up.  Our relationship if you can call it that anymore has gone kinda cold.  He thinks that somehow by coming around earlier and staying longer he can somehow charm me and rekindle that romance.  It doesn't work like that and sometimes I wonder if he really understands or whether it's all take and no give these days.  I work so hard to get the place beautiful and nice for him, I'm forever out shopping and getting things in and quite frankly he's just draining my finances and giving very little back.

He thinks I confuse him with that religious guy I used to think he resembled.  Now I'm not sure how I ever got them confused.  Where did it all go wrong?

Seriously girls, I am the only one like this? Did anyone else spend their transgendered childhood longing for the girly gifts they never got? The train set that my Daddy wanted to me to have would have pleased any boy except perhaps one who would have been happier in a dress.  I'm so glad that I have seen the magic of my own two girls getting the Christmas they wanted but I still long for what I missed, just as I cry over the children I never gave birth to.

Santa, honey, don't forget the transgendered girls and boys this Christmas.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Being T, ElecT, HRT & PMT

Well this is a change.  It is so good to feel that things might actually be going somewhere instead of drifting in an ocean with no real destination insight.  One of the rubbish things about being Trans is that you've probably felt this way like forever, and even if not, you've always felt uncomfortable and in the wrong place. There are times when it feels like that is just going to go on forever, that you'll die like this.  At times maybe you think that to die like this would be the only way of controlling it.  No Trans person should have to ever feel like that, but the reality is that they do I guess.  Just about the only thing that focusses your mind is feeling that maybe someone might care enough to offer some help.  Of course, screwing up the courage to ask for that is another thing entirely.  What you do want to feel when you finally pluck up the courage to ask for help is that someone does something to help. Over the last seven years there have been a lot of promises of help, funding, support, caring, but from a health care point of view very little of it has become a reality.  

Seems it was left to my friends, my hair stylist and my electrolysist to save the the day.  For women in general, we battle our whole life with hair, trying to make it do what we want it to, trying to look more desirable and also getting rid of it where we hate it to be.  I spoke in an earlier blog about the confidence having my hair styled gave me but my electrolysist has worked quietly for years, week in, week out removing hair that would hopefully never return.  For years I have had a standing appointment at 5.15 on a Tuesday evening which I never failed to attend.  She is a lovely down to earth lady with a never ending chatter to distract me while she works her magic.  A few weeks ago she spoke those longed for words.  'If you need me again, call me'.  Tuesday at 5.15 is now free for other things. Yey, I'm hair free!  That's one thing to be positive about.

Your life ends up being about transition with a small 't', the everyday transition of hair straightening, make up, and choosing clothes and accessories that make you feel good and confident. I know enough from other women around me who are close friends to realise that isn't just a trans thing.  We know that it's an illusion but who hasn't primped and tidied themselves hurriedly when going to the loo so that HE doesn't see you as you really look first thing in the morning or as you look when you've battled through windy streets to the office. All these things are everyday and in a way I actually love their part in my everyday life.  Don't ask me why.  I have feminist acquaintances who think they know.  They're entitled to their opinion but as they never really seem to me to enjoy life either, I tend to discount their arguments.

The big 'T', the hope of finally completing transition always seems very distant however and even when decisions get made or things happen they seem to happen in slow motion.  It is probably as well I suppose.  If you can manage for years as neither totally male or female at least it does help convey the truth that you haven't made an incredibly rash decision.  When things do happen faster however, it is a very welcome change.  Hot on the heels of my finishing electrolysis comes my transition (there goes that word again) to a 3 fold increase in my HRT.  I haven't even had my first Prostap injection but already I'm aware of feeling a lot better.  Okay, so I do feel as though I have PMT much of the time and as everyone knows Moms with PMT and teenage daughters with High School stress make for an explosive combination.  All the same I am so glad that I've got here.  Knowing that I have a surgical referral in 2 months time if all goes to plan, really helps as well.  It does feel as though I'm finally living.

I've had my hopes raised before, but not my oestrogen levels as well.  All this makes a pleasant change.  I'm going to discipline myself to stay confident now whatever.  My recent depression over my father's death seems a strange time to put together a new song but. I did.  If you follow me on Reverbnation you'll know I posted a new song there called 'Journey' which uses the phrase 'I'm finally Living' in the chorus.  Apologies if you've already taken a listen. I know that it's not well mixed and a fairly bare and badly sung version of what I want it to be but it IS how I feel right now, which is way better than I have for some time.


Robyn Jane

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Right Jigsaw Pieces

I trained as a kindergarten teacher, it seems so long ago now. I loved my job very much.  I still miss it, but maybe it's no place for a transitioner.  Once I began my transition I rapidly found that nobody would consider me for any of the jobs I applied for. I moved on into working for a community college where I work now with rather bigger students.

These days the classroom for the very young might be far more interactive but things like sand and water play still figure very highly because of their value in helping kids discover, play together and understand their surroundings.  As a very new and inexperienced teacher fresh out of college I remember inheriting a huge collection of jig saw puzzles of varying size and difficulty from the teacher I replaced. I was bewildered as to why she had accumulated so many.  However, I had a big class and I rapidly learned the value of these puzzles in streamlining the hiccups of a day where some children finish activities before others.  There was always one great headache though, or sorrow for the boy or girl in question.  That was when there were pieces missing, or even more heartbreaking, pieces from another puzzle.  There is nothing worse.  Sometimes I could help.  I kept a small basket into which I put all the little things you inevitably find on a schoolroom floor at the end of the day.  The children called it 'the bits basket'.  There were always lots of orphan puzzle pieces in there. If a child was lucky, they would find their missing pieces there. If not they would feel frustrated and cross. Frustrated 5 & 6 year olds need handling carefully! There are often tears or worse.

Like any 6 year old I too get cross and frustrated too.  There have been lots of tears.  In transitioner's years I'm 7 now but there has been a trail of missing pieces and the wrong pieces in my life too.  As well as the obvious body parts that don't seem to fit there's been the hidden frustration of a set of pieces related to my treatment that don't seem to belong to the same puzzle at all; a gender identity clinic in a big city hundreds of miles a way; a well meaning but eccentric local doctor; an endocrinologist in one hospital skilled in treating diabetes but with little clue about how to treat GID; a psychotherapist in another in a different county altogether.  As a patient it's fallen to me to try and get these people to fit together and produce some sort of coherent treatment for me.  It's about as easy as forcing together pieces of a Taj Mahal puzzle and one of the Eiffel tower.  Even if you could force these pieces together you end up with a horrible picture :(

Yesterday I revisited the 'bits basket'.  It was yet another hospital in reality. My old endocrinologist has retired.  After protesting that nobody had reviewed my hormone regime in almost eleven months, I was offered a new one.  Considering my experiences so far, I had little faith in this.  I was nervous in the extreme at being seen by yet another practitioner.  I needn't have worried.  I was treated so considerately and listened to.  True, nobody had sent him the results of my blood tests, but I had copies in my handbag having been in that situation too often before.  It was so refreshing to talk to someone who seemed to understand my needs, who took one look at my blood results and pronounced the hormone regime I've been on for the last 6 years totally inadequate.  It has now changed from 2 x 50 microgram patches a week to 3 x 100 microgram patches and 3 monthly prostap injections.  I was shocked, I think I had gotten so used to my view of the brick wall that I never expected anything else.

At last then, I seem to have a good number of the right puzzle pieces, it looks as though this time like they might actually fit.  I have a hormone regime which might now do some good and a surgical referral on the horizon next February if my hormone levels do as they're told.  I have a psychotherapist who does something as well as listen.  It seems like that mish mash of the Eiffel Tower and the Taj Mahal isn't as good as it gets after all.  Here's hoping, wish me luck.


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving for the Ordinary

It's been a fraught two weeks, the heartbreak of losing a relative, a family funeral, grieving and beginning to move on, what on earth is there for me to be thankful for.  We've reached November 24th; Thanksgiving Holiday and the Thanksgiving weekend to come. Here in Wales, the nearest thing to they have to Thanksgiving is Diolchgarwch.  It happens in October and it's not a public holiday but it means the same.  I'm not always entirely sure what Thanksgiving is about anymore but if anything it is a time for families, returning home, celebrating safety in togetherness. Families go on being a family even when they lose someone, they're changed forever but not in their essence. A family is still a family, in all the many forms it takes.  In all my grieving and reflection and the comments made to my blog posts, I've come to be incredibly thankful of my family around me, my place as a Mom within it and the wider family of brothers and sisters out there.

With a bereavement comes leave from work, time to sort things out, to piece yourself and your family together and move on.  My daughters are back at High School and College.  My sister is back at work.  For a few days still I will be at home before I return to work.  It's been strange.  This is the first time in very many years when I've been away from work, from everyday life and the ordinary, the banal and the 8.30 till 5.00 routine of earning a living.  It's the first time I've had to reflect on what the ordinary and everyday means to me because for so long I've seen it as a necessary chore, something that takes me away from my creativity and music.  For the first time I can see it differently.

Yes it's strange I know but I'm thankful for the alarm at 6.30, for getting my daughter up, for stumbling to the kitchen to make some tea.  For the last two weeks I haven't had to rush the frantic dash to straighten my hair, put on some makeup, the indecisiveness of what dress to wear, crying with frustration that I have to spend 5 minutes sewing a button backtheory only matching cardigan or dashing back to my room because I've noticed a run in my pantie hose. I find it strange that I've missed all of that. I've even missed the hurried breakfast and the cold grey ocean glimpsed from my car window as I drive to work late.  I've missed the everyday buzz of the classrooms I work in, the frustrating students, the coffee and lunch times where I complain about work with my friends and share frustrations about dealing with the issues of guiding a teenage daughter through life.

For me, the ordinary is being a female employee in a college that recruited me years ago as a woman, the circle of work friends both fellow women and the guys I like, the students who call me 'Miss' without thought and just the sheer lack of even having to think about any of these things as being any other than normal.

Over the past few days I've read so many blogs and comments and begun to realise that what is pretty ordinary for me is a much wanted privilege or even the unobtainable for others.  For too long I've been been down over the frustrations of still waiting for GRS after 7+ years and feeling incomplete yet most people who know me everyday at work have no knowledge of any of this. I've come to realise that maybe what I have IS a privilege, something very special and something worthy of being thankful for, a real thanksgiving. I'm aware that there seems to be no rhyme or reason in why I should be in this position and not others.  I've been lucky.  I pass relatively easily, nobody forces me to use the wrong restroom or hide who I am, it could easily have been so different.  

There are others around me, both staff and students who are far more out about their gender identity or sexual preference at work.  I count some of them as my friends but am always amazed by their courage. It takes all sorts to make a world; lesbian, gay, cis, cd's, trans and the many shades of in between.  It's a continuum of fascinating individuality and colour. They happen to be all people with a personality and feelings to hurt not members of a category and I respect that. In my world where everything seems quite ordinary, it's yet one more thing to be really thankful for.

Have a great Thanksgiving, whoever and wherever you are,

Robyn-Jane xx

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Pulled Thread

I'm sitting by the fire in my Dad's old house. I've been thinking. I've been crying. I've been dreading the day of the funeral. Now it's tomorrow and there seems too little time left for anything. It's been of week of being at times quietly resigned to what has happened and horror at the unexpected twists and turns of events as a whole family prepares to say goodbye. Sister, daughters, brother in law, sister in law, nieces and mother in law all knew my father in their different ways intimate and distant. I'm sitting with a pack of small cards on the table for all these people to have tomorrow. Come the funeral in just over 12 hours, all these little cards will bear the feelings and thoughts of relatives and friends.

All these people had their own personal relationships with my father and with me as well as each other. If you joined all those relationships with yarn you would have a tangled web....and if you pull the wrong thread...a mess.

Earlier this week I discovered that one relative who really dislikes me as a trans woman had decided to be there tomorrow. I've always felt that he despised me. Since I started to transition I have watched helpless as the wreck of a once united family took place and feelings were mangled, bonds of love severed and relationships lay dying.

To those of my trans brothers, sisters, gay, lesbian and bi friends, none of this will come as much of a surprise I guess. Nonetheless, we none of us want this to happen but have it fall upon us. I have dealt with my own share of it as best I can but always with sorrow as I watched my young daughter and her nieces, nephews and so many others drift apart until the Grand Canyon seemed to open up between them. Try as I might, one by one, lights of relationship and friendship went out.

Earlier this week I wrote a heartfelt letter to my relative, welcoming him to the funeral, telling him how much I respect his views however painful I find them. I tried to explain how a lifetime of forever feeling a girl but having it bullied out of me as a child lead to me living a lie for much of my life. I asked him to try and be warm and understanding for the sake of our family.

This morning he replied. I read with tears how he felt he could never forgive me for hurting others within my family because of who I had chosen to be. I learned with sadness of an intention to appear warm in order to placate others but a promise that it would never be genuine. Of all the horrible words he wrote, the verb 'choose' was the unkindest he could have used. I never 'chose' to be like this. This is who I am. I am who I am and thankfully to nearly everyone I know and meet, who I am and always will be, is a woman.

At one time I too wondered whether it was me who had broken and wrecked my family; that by coming out I had somehow 'pulled the wrong thread' and brought about this tangled mess. If I had continued to believe that, I guess that I probably wouldn't be here now. I'll never give up trying to untangle it all using all the love and kindness I possess but faced with trans-phobia is that something that even love cannot untie?

Robyn Jane


Monday, November 7, 2011

Losing the Most Important Man in My Life

It is never easy saying goodbye is it, even when the person you love has been telling you for so long that they’re going away and won’t ever be coming back.  If you love someone enough, there is no amount of preparation that can help with coming to terms with a final goodbye.  The person I’ve just said goodbye to was a very dear friend, a great adviser and an influence in my life.  There have been huge arguments at times and periods when we have been distant but never with a finality like this.  I’ve just said a final goodbye to my Dad, the one guy that I knew I could rely on and who wouldn’t let me down.  My Dad died after a long battle with prostrate cancer.  He ironically finished his life on much the same sort of hormone regime as many pre-op transsexuals and as a man he absolutely hated it.  We had a good laugh together bout that one.


Relationships with men for a trans woman can be fraught with problems.  I still can’t tell if a guy is interested in me because he likes me as a woman or because he has some interest in having sex with a T-girl.  I still find it hard to trust men and their intentions.  In a world like that it was great to have a man who always wanted the best for me even if he never quite understood why I needed to be his daughter and not his son.

My Dad was a Mining Engineer in the days when that was very much a ‘man’s’ profession.  He loved machines, mending things, solving problems and making things work.  Early in life, he worked in many dangerous situations underground and survived to tell the tale.  During the 39-45 war he built diesel engines for the Navy.  As a wannabe girl back in the 60’s I was very resistant to being taught anything mechanical but at least I have him to thank that I can change the wheel on my car.

Dad was ready to embrace modern technology.  He learned how to use a micro-computer in his eighties, went shopping on-line and shortly before he died bought an iPod and a portable DVD player to entertain himself in his hospital bed.  He watched his last movie only two night's ago; Buster Keaton’s silent movie tribute to the Civil War: ‘The General’.  These days guys don’t impress me much.  I take a lot of impressing having once been a reluctant male myself but Dad always impressed me, impressed and influenced me.  He did what any good parent tries to do and sought to prepare me for life.  It doesn’t matter that Dad had very little idea of how to prepare a son for dealing with being cast in the wrong gender.  That was a path I had to find for myself.

Saying goodbye to my Dad has made me wonder about my own experiences as a father before I transitioned.  I never saw myself as much of a Dad, indeed my youngest daughter seems to have seen my long years ago as a second Mom.  Maybe I always compared myself to my Dad and found my own feeble attempt at fatherhood very lacking.  Latterly as a daughter to my Dad and not a son, I learned the value of having my Dad complement me on my going out dress, or say I looked pretty.  As a Mom I do that too with my daughters but somehow having Mom’s approval isn’t quite the same.  Mom liking something usually means ‘this won’t impress boys’.  All of this has left me occasionally feeling guilty about vacating a role in my children’s lives that I tried so hard to fill but failed. Looking back, it seems like my Dad ended up providing that much needed male angle in my daughter’s lives after they ‘lost’ their Dad as well as being their much loved Grandpa. 

One more thing to be glad for from such a great man.  So long Dad, I will miss you so very much.


Monday, October 31, 2011


Yes, it’s that time of year again, the weather alternating between autumnal stillness and a wind that sends objects scudding around the sky.  In this Welsh town at the weekend, the streets seemed to be full of diminutive witches clutching broomsticks, pointy hats and masks.  Halloween, great fun for the kids, parties,pumpkins and pranks.  It’s also a time associated with the death, ghosts and spirits of the past.  Meetings with ghosts and can be frightening, unnerving and disconcerting, even terrifying so I’m told.

When my long term relationship died after I came out as Trans myself and my ex entered a new relationship, as sisters.  It seemed a shame to trash 29 years of knowing each other.  Meeting in our mid-teens, we had grown up together, sharing as much common ground as many siblings.  What started as a close friendship morphed into a marriage, probably not the best idea, but then I felt so much pressure to conform and I hadn’t the courage to talk openly about my sexuality and my mixed up feelings.  That marriage has now morphed back into a friendship with the enhancement of so much shared experience.  No ghosts there then, or are there?

The close relationship with my ex extends to our parents.  She lost her Dad some years ago and I lost my Mom.  Now that my Dad is terminally ill, we take it in turns to visit him.  I value her support, she values mine.  That’s how I found myself at her house Saturday whilst she was visiting Dad in hospital.  The phone rang and I answered it after some hesitation.  I dread phone calls these days in case they are THE phone call, in case it brings news that Dad has lost his fight with the cancer he’s battled for so long.  Today however, the call came from a ghost, a voice I thought I would never hear from again.

phone b&w

The caller started talking to me, assuming that she was talking to my ex, she wanted to meet up. It was a phone call, just a voice, no body. I had to imagine an image of who I was talking to and it was one from a good many years ago.   I recognised her immediately as a friend from College but someone who had been a friend of us as a couple. When I announced who I was, her tone changed completely.  Friendliness was displaced by a detached sense of pleasantry and of politely enquiring about me but not appearing to listen to what I said  My enquiries about her life now were brushed off like dust from a coat and the call ended quickly.

What had I done to require this dismissal from someone I once new quite well, but when I was apparently male?  It left me wondering.  Was this a case of someone not wanting to talk because of ‘what I had done to me ex?’; the sort of loyalty which keeps someone friends with ne side of a former marriage but not the other.  Was it unease about the fact that I was now female, and even disquietingly, sounded like one? Or was it a prejudicial view of anyone trans/gay/lesbian/bi?  Without ringing and asking, it would be impossible to find out and it was clear that wasn’t interested in talking to m ever again.

I have so many new friends now who have never known me as anything other than who I am, a woman with a short bob hairstyle called Jane, as a female musician, as my daughter’s Mom or as their friendly Teacher’s Assistant. Like any meeting with a ghost, that conversation with a disembodied voice from the past unnerved and disconcerted me utterly. It came as a complete shock to meet rejection like this from someone I used to admire and spend time with, with a ghost from the past.

I’m still trying to make sense of it.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

I’m Still Waiting

Anyone who grew up as part of the ‘Motown’ generation will probably remember this Diana Ross song.  It keeps going through my head and I can’t stop it.  ‘I’m just a fool, still waiting’.

I saw a Psychiatrist in my GIC in the first few (and probably the only) warm sunny days of September here in the UK. The plane trees in London were full and green and I went out to see an evening show wearing a sleeveless dress and no cardigan. Its mid October now.  Where I live and work here in Wales, the fields around about have been white and thick with hailstones.  As we’re by the sea, the leaves have mostly been blown off the trees and I’m in leggings and a long warm cardigan. I’m still waiting.

My Psychiatrist had taken one look at my hormone levels and pronounced the testosterone way too high and the oestrogen way too low.  No surprises there. My conservative endocrinologist, remarkably unsupportive of my transition had insisted on the lowest dose he could prescribe of estradiol patches.  It was welcome to hear what medication I SHOULD be on.  My psychiatrist would write to my doctor and advise of the changes that need to be made to bring my hormone levels into line with what is required before I have my surgical referral (4 months time).  A month and a half later and my doctor is still waiting for the letter.  As instructed I had checked with my doctor after 4 weeks and almost every couple of days since then.  I rang the GIC.  The letter, I am assured was sent out 4 days ago.  It still hasn’t appeared on my medical notes yet as it needs scanning in (if indeed it really has arrived), still waiting.

still waiting

When I do see my doctor, hopefully before the end of the week, I still have to make sure that he is willing to actually prescribe what someone else in a hospital hundreds of miles away has suggested.  I’m still waiting and hoping that my doctor won’t defer to my unsupportive endocrinologist for further advice, delaying things even more.  I’m still waiting and hoping that my Psychotherapist based in yet another hospital 50 miles away will support me by writing to my doctor to ask for a change of endocrinologist.  I’m exhausted and drained with waiting….

I shouldn’t complain or should I?  This latest waiting period comes after 6 long years of waiting and being passed from one person to another within the creaking health care system we have in Wales, UK.  I know that I should be lucky that I seem to be beginning to come to the end of what has been a very long wait indeed.  I shouldn’t be surprised at the delays and problems caused by lack of money and too few doctors having to work too hard for too many patients.  Like the shy girl in the Diana Ross song I guess that I’ve waited patiently for what some day must surely come.  I’ve had a life to live in the meantime, a family to raise and seven blissful years of being a woman anyway in the meantime.  Today I guess I’m feeling a bit impatient. I’m beginning to feel I’ve had enough of waiting (stamps her foot).  I just want the next bit of my life to start.  Here’s hoping!


As a frustrated postscript to this blogpost I visited my doctor this morning.  No letter has materialised almost a week after it was supposed to be sent. This left me talking amicably to my dear old physician about transition and frustration, the past and the future as well as all the waiting….He promised to get someone to fax the GIC and request a 2nd copy of the letter, so, until then, I’m still waiting,

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Being a Transgendered Musician

Why would a girl in a low paid undervalued day job want to consider herself a musician?  Good question and one I keep asking myself over and over again. I am after all, a long way from earning my first million, or even my first thousand.  Why bother, it’s such an effort and being a Mom and a Teacher’s Assistant leaves precious little time for anything else apart from coping with life.  ‘Coping’ that’s a word that comes up all the time in my therapy sessions usually in the form of ‘How are you coping?’  I always get asked about whether I’m keeping any time and space for myself.  Music happens to be my coping strategy, confined to that 2% of my time that is ‘coping with life’.

I guess that I have been a musician since the age of 9 when I picked up my first guitar and strummed a ‘G’ chord.  Learning to play was physically painful.  I had bleeding finger pads and mangled nails because like most beginners I fretted too hard (to little effect) and thrashed the **** out of my oversized jumbo guitar in order to make as much noise as I physically could.  I hated guitar picks.  They came between me and my instrument and I spent ages trying to extract them from my guitar when  they disappeared like Alice down the sound hole. I used my fingernails. When strings broke as they inevitably did, the backs of my hands got lacerated.  I also used to self-harm.  Maybe that was the initial attraction.  Playing music hurt and it eased the pain.  Once I’d added a few more chord shapes there didn’t seem much point in just playing if I couldn’t sing as well.  That eased the pain too.

Round about the time I was 11 I started to dress less conventionally too.  I was looking for clothes that didn’t scream ‘boy’ or ‘girl’.  I wore mainly bell bottoms which I flared myself by stitching floral fabric into the outseams, jewellery and kaftans.  Beginning to sew and make my own clothes helped me to cultivate my own individuality wearing off the peg clothes forced me to be someone I wasn’t comfortable with.  I hated being identified as a boy but I was too scared to be open and be identified as a girl.    It was the same with singing other people’s songs, they belonged to other people and they didn’t fit.  I soon started to write my own lyrics and use my newly learned guitar skills to accompany myself singing them. I wanted to grow up and play music but not have a gender.  Gender was too painful to have.

When I began my transition it was just such a relief.  Now I could wear regular girl clothes.  I wish I could say that the great thing was that I didn’t stand out any more.  Sadly, as many of us find, it doesn’t quite work that way.  You don’t spend the best part of 40 years being a guy, however reluctantly without learning how to survive and not be called names.  It hurt like hell as a teen when people laugh and say you walk and talk like a girl.  I ought to have been glad but I took it as the insult it was intended to be.  As I grew up I learned how to cover all that up and survive by trying to deepen my voice and present myself in a way that doesn’t stand out.  The ironic thing is that when I finally transitioned I’ve had to spend the last 7 years unlearning it.  Wearing regular girl clothes became a battle to melt into the background and to be seen as no different to anyone else.  Being a singer became a battle to be identified as a female artist.

Jane on stage

Of late I’ve come to realise that having achieved that, you can start to express yourself, do things your way even though you have to learn how to be like everyone else first.  I write and sing about what I know, about being transgendered, about feeling hurt, about the people who put me down and the experiences I have.  If you were there with me or against me and you’re reading this, then like it or not, you’ll be in my songs.  These days I don’t mind being identified as a transgendered musician even if it means some ridicule or unwanted attention of the wrong sort.  I don’t know how long that will last.  How long will I want to put my head above the parapet and put my issues into my songs?  As long as it’s painful or raw?  Until complete my transition?  Until I meet that dream somebody and decide to ‘settle down’? Whilst ever ‘coping with life’ means ‘coping with being trans’?  I really don’t know.

If that ever happens, maybe I’ll just want to be accepted as a singer/songwriter, period.  Until that time comes, this is me, Transgendered musician, dress, guitar/bass, heels and a deep than expected voice.  I am what I am :)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Transition all the Way?

Sorry to say this but as a woman I’ve just about had enough of housekeeping. It’s the same old chore, week in week out, all the constant cleaning, sweeping and tidying up. It never ever seems to end. And there’s another job I hate, window cleaning. I just hate cleaning windows I end up doing it almost everyday. I put up with all of this whilst battling with some virus or other, it’s almost every week. I’ve been doing this for so long, certainly since the early 1990’s. When it began, it was all so new and different. Everything was fine and I quite enjoyed some of the chores. Now I’m convinced that it’s time to transition, BACK as it happens, back to where I started from, or almost.

Don't like Windows, nothing against Toshiba :)

By now you might have realised that I’m probably NOT talking about gender transition. Apart from a brief flirtation with a Commodore I began my life computing with an Apple Mac. Back in College, the best way to get your work typed out neat and tidy short of paying a typist was to head down to the orchard. The ‘Orchard’ was a room in college equipped with about 30 apple computers, a cranky dot matrix printer and a loudly chattering daisy wheel where you had to buy your own wheel and ribbon if you wanted to print! I bought a 5.25” floppy disk, learned how to use Wordstar and hey presto I was computing. Sure you had to go onto the College mainframe if you wanted to do anything serious but who on earth would want to read a student assignment on green and white lined paper!

It wasn’t long however before I was lured away through many attractively open windows (well actually only a few at a time - it was only version 3.0 after all!) into the world of the PC and Microsoft. There was always MS-DOS which could run my beloved Wordstar if all else failed but Windows soon took over my life. I thought that I had transitioned once and for all and everything was fine. Now I’m not so sure. Like I said, I have all those problems with those housekeeping chores. Maybe I had made the wrong choice. Was transitioning to a Windows PC such a good idea?

My daughter bought a Mac Book Pro recently at the start of her sophomore year and I was so impressed. That was the beginning of the disenchantment for me. Of late my blogs have gotten way too tedious to write, blogging on my Windows netbook has tried my patience to the limits too many times recently, spending too much downtime while it deals with it’s own problems, fights malware and generally slows down whilst doing things I don’t understand. So, from now on I’ve decided what I want to do. Future blogs will be written and uploaded from my new iPad. The downside might be having to learn how to use new software on a new system. Forgive me if I don’t blog for the next week or too :)

But now the all important question, will I transition all the way? Will I move to living the ‘i’ life 24/7 and never go back to Windows? Possibly not, I’ll still need my PC to transfer data to my new iPad, I can’t afford to buy a Mac Book as well.

Are there any parallels between gender dysphoria and dissatisfaction with your computer operating system? Maybe not at least not on any deep and meaningful level. However it did said me wondering. As it so happens, I’ve always felt the way I do now gender wise and I’ve pretty well always known that I was unhappy to be a girl in a boy’s body. I’m a trans woman. I’ve been transitioning for 7 years and am eagerly looking forward to completing my transition and getting on with the rest of my life. But I’m aware that it’s not the same for everybody and I do know that: it’s okay to NOT be sure, to keep on both modes of existence while you make sure, to wait while you save enough money, to wait while deciding who you really are inside, to hesitate while you discover more or even, shock horror, to find that you are happy seeing things from both sides. I’ve worked alongside many people from the LGBT community and I do know that I welcome the diversity and nature of who people in our rainbow community really are.

Robyn-Jane xx

Saturday, September 17, 2011

New Semester - Go Stealth or Carry a Torch?

It’s a brand new semester in College. I always liked the beginning of a new year, new books, new shoes, new working clothes, new faces and a chance to start over. Maybe I got hooked and possibly that’s why I’m still in Education as a full time day job years after I graduated High School. In some ways it’s sad, like we’re the ones who got left behind after everyone else ventured out into the glaring light of the ‘real’ world.

Actually it’s not quite like that, sorry if you already knew. I’m a Teacher’s Assistant in a Community College. We see everyone here, our courses tend to be vocational, I deal mainly with young people for whom High School didn’t quite work out, who want a more ‘hands on’ approach to learning. My students tend to age between 16 and 18. On the face of things not an ideal group to work with on my first job after starting my transition! My students tend to say exactly what they think and the observe very closely. Are 16 year olds programmed to root out difference and expose and ridicule it?

That’s how it seemed six years ago when I began working here, in the early stages of electrolysis.  I had only just started HRT and was living full time. It should have been awful but I’m eternally thankful that it wasn’t. Yes there were complaints about restroom use, the inevitable use of the ‘T’ word, so many intrusive questions, requests for the birth certificate I didn’t possess and difficulties with time off for medical appointments. But actually the overwhelming majority of people were okay. I was puzzled. A long time female friend summed it up for me:

‘You walk, talk and behave like any other woman. Why are you so surprised that people accept you as one? You ARE female, I’ve always thought of you like that, why should you pretend to be anyone else other than what you are inside? That would be stupid!’

That made me look around me and think. I had spent my whole life comparing myself to a blueprint of what I thought everyone expected a man or a woman to be. In my mind I emphasized physical appearance but I’d been ignoring the obvious. Your gender is not the clothes you wear or the way you do your makeup, it isn’t a function of what people call you, it is simply who you are. No one can make you male or female if you are not, nobody can force you to be something against your will.

It was a revolution, and it allowed me to carry on doing what I needed to, to do my job, to be a Mom, to live and get on with my life. Okay, so, it wasn't easy, but I fnally had confidence that people might notice me for who I am, or rather NOT notice me because I was just like any other woman around the place.

That was the beginning of wondering if one day I could just melt into the background and go stealth.  It seemed like an ideal to aim for, something to aspire to.  Last year it became pretty much a reality.

At one time, I think that that is where I would have left things.  But then last year I also had a couple of gay students in class. The College prides itself on preparing students for the world of work.  Employment law gets discussed a lot, diversity, equality and attitudes.  Debate gets pretty heated around those subjects and I found myself uncomfortably close to discussions about issues close to my heart.  I saw that the Gay kids who are out come in for a lot of teasing, much of it good natured but incessant and demoralising all the same.  I found myself questioning and challenging others about why they said what they did in order to defend them.  I realised that stealth or no, you can't stand by and be an observer.  Sometimes it must be fairly clear what my position is.

I know that some of my Gay and Lesbian colleagues in the education system have no problem with standing up for others, with carying a torch for LGBT rights.  I have to be honest, the thought of being like that has sometimes scared me.  I'm way from being able to carry a torch. I have feared being 'outed' when in reality I'm 'out' anyway by just being me and living and working full time as a woman. Strange isn't it?  No matter how sacred I am however, I'm quite clear that I don't want to see others put down because of their sexual preferences or gender. So what do I do?

There are no clear answers to this one are there?  I would love to know how others in the Trans community cope with this.  I suspect that there are as many answers as there are people :)

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Mama Mia & the Promise of a Second 'Date'

Prince of Wales Theatre (Photo: Beth Ward)
Mama Mia! I spent the Thursday evening of August 2nd in the Prince of Wales Theatre London, enjoying this musical with my teenage daughter. Mama Mia is the perfect Mother/Daughter evening out; great sing-along songs, funny romantic plot line and the dream combo of 3 teenage girlfriends and their hen night drama as well as 3 older women linked by their membership of a former girl-power band. Magic! 

A night out in London's West End on a balmy late summer evening was just what I needed, a great way to relax and take my mind of that 'All Important Date', my GIC appointment the following morning.

After we left the theatre, we wandered around the West End, Leicester & Trafalgar Square, it was so lovely not to have to think. I wanted to be really tired before I went to bed. I had spent far too many sleepless nights worrying about the following day: September 2nd.  
'Mama Mia, here I go again'.

By the time I was on the tube (London's Subway) the following day, deep breathing and relaxation just weren't working. I felt so sick. In spite of my best efforts to relax there were words and phrases from last night's show that kept sparking off thoughts about what was to come.  This would be the fifth time I had had to sit down in front of a medical practitioner and explain why on earth I should want to change gender when I was born male.
‘I apologise if it makes you feel bad, seeing me so tense, no self confidence...’
In spite of all the agonizing about what to wear I had just gone as myself, wearing the same sort of dress and makeup I normally wear for work, adding a pair of heels because I feel more confident when I'm 'taller'. I'd taken along an album of photos taken during the 7 years since I began my transition as well as my Gender Recognition Certificate and a number of academic certificates I'd got in my own name. I even had my ID badge from work. I suppose that what I fear always more than anything else is being 'invalidated', being told that although I consider myself to be a woman that I somehow don't quite make the grade. It made me wonder whether most trans men and women are stuck with always feeling less adequate and less 'valid' than their natal counterparts or whether we should ever allow ourselves to be invalidated by how others perceive us.

'Standing calmly at the crossroads, no desire to run...'

'Is there a man out there? Someone to heed my prayer?'

The hardest part was the waiting. Isn't it always? Do you remember your first date and how you felt waiting if you were there first? Even if you had the confidence that he or she would meet you, you still didn't know what to expect.

It was as well that I took my photographs and documents, he did want to see them, though it felt so strange having to provide evidence that I actually do live and work day in day out as a woman. Normally I just do, I just 'am'. I'm not used to being asked to justify who I know I know myself to be, it felt odd. There were the inevitable questions about my childhood, 'Have you always felt this way?', 'How long for?', 'How did you cope at school'. It's painful to talk about these things at the best of times. It's not easy to talk about puberty as being that hateful time when you felt you were being dragged against your will into being someone you were not and began to hate.
What I wasn't prepared for were the questions about sex. They were sensitively put but so difficult to answer. I'm not embarrassed about discussing sex but I find it hard to describe how it made me feel and would find it even harder to write about. I also felt guilty and ashamed admitting that I had to fake orgasm for so many years and put my ex through the heartache of thinking she couldn't conceive. It took a long time to get over the feeling that I was cheating on her because I had to imagine that I was a woman being made love to by a man while we had sex.

I felt like a limp rag by the time it was all over, but I did feel that I had done justice to who I am and how I felt. I was so relieved to be told there would be a second 'DATE', even if it is with another guy and I have to wait 6 months to get it!

Monday, August 29, 2011

That All Important Date

So this is it, that really important date, the one I've been looking forward to my whole life and, OMG, it's in 4 days time.  There are so many things going through my head, it's unbelievable.  So what's he like?  Is he cute?  Where are you meeting him? How do you think it will go?  What are you going to wear? At the moment I'm finding it difficult to think straight.

You see, I really want this guy to take me seriously, to value me as a woman and possibly respect me as a mother.  I know very little about him apart from him being well educated.  Okay, I have to admit this IS a blind date, set up by a friend of mine, I'm accepting his judgment and I hope I'm right.

I'm looking for someone who can offer commitment, reassurance and support. I'm hoping for someone with an open attitude who won't judge me, who'll believe what I say and not constantly question and mistrust me.  What is he looking for? I'm not sure, someone who is feminine, womanly and self assured perhaps?  I suspect that he's also looking for a woman who can support herself and can prove that she's got an independent life of her own. If I dare admit it, I'm so scared that I'm going to be dumped after a first date for not being an adequate enough woman.

So no pressure then! I have a hotel room booked, I've got a full complement of makeup in my luggage and even more in my purse for touch ups, I've got my straighteners and brushes, I've got a nice pair of shoes, spare pairs of pantie hose, my cell, perfume (but not too much),  money for taxi fares, every last thing but my confidence!  I so desperately need my confidence for this date.   I know that I'm going to need it.  This guy has a reputation for only accepting women who are really sure about themselves and confident about their identity.  I've dated other professional guys, I know the type.  What I SAY on this date is going to be REALLY important, it won't be good enough simply to look attractive.  I better not lie either otherwise he'll see right through me.  Is this beginning to sound more like 'Mission Impossible' than a date?  Your mission if you choose to accept it Miss Ward...

Listen, I STILL don't know what I'm going to wear.  What sort of look I should go for, what clothes, what shoes, what makeup? Well what do you normally wear on a date?  Should I go for sexy (complete 'No, no), sophisticated power girl, cute girl next door, designer chick or even just as myself?  So who am I? I'm a Teacher's Assistant and a musician, am I really up to this?
How do I look?
I better 'come clean' with you.  This isn't actually a proper date, it's my first appointment at a new GID Clinic with a new psychiatrist who I don't know, though I do know that he's a man.  It's the culmination of six long years of waiting, therapy, hormone treatment, facial electrolysis, letter writing, complaining, crying, frustration and yes, just getting on with my everyday working life as a woman and a Mom.  It's not a date, but for all the anxiety and heartache I'm putting myself through, it might just as well be.

I keep telling myself that I'm worrying unnecessarily, I so hope that I am. I'm psyching myself up to just go as myself and relax.  If all my working colleagues, students, friends and neighbors  have long since accepted me as female why should a psychiatrist question that and why should he question why I dislike having to put up with my male anatomy?  What woman would genuinely want to go through life with a penis, except on her favorite guy?

Here's hoping that I don't have to! :)


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Becoming my Father's Daughter

I guess it is never as simple as just transitioning from male to female (perhaps simple isn't exactly the right word! :)) because transition doesn't happen in isolation and it deeply affects the people around us including those we love the most and also the people closely related to us.  I make the distinction because those people are not always one and the same.  We don't choose our families.  They may or may not have an easy relationship with us or be close.  Sometimes we never know how close they feel or don't feel. My father is a case in point.

I've blogged about my Mom, that was easy.  Me and Mom had a lovely close relationship and a commonality of interests that made loving easy and fights sometimes inevitable.  Mom was understanding, empathic, and intuitive.  I'm pretty sure that she knew much more about me than she thought wise to discuss or ask about.  She was simply very loving, openly emotional and a truly inspiring person, someone for me to look up to and model myself on.

My Father is a much more unemotional and reserved man.  He has never discussed deep emotions, religion, belief, love or attachment with me.  Professionally he was an Engineer and his mind appears to work with precision in the logical analytical problem solving way that you might expect. It's very alien to me, though I admire his abilities.  I suspect that he has so much more to reveal but although I longingly yearned for hugs and emotional responses as a child, I seldom if ever got them from him.  I wonder if part of that came from me being a boy, at least on the outside.  What I wanted was someone to tell me I looked nice when I was going out to a school dance, a reassurance that I could attract someone and be beautiful.  What I got instead was advice about girls or enough money to make sure I got home safely. Being who I was, I could never expect to be Daddy's Princess could I?
My Father on his Wedding Day

When I announced my transition, there was no shock, but at first a refusal to believe what I was saying and to cast around for reasons why I might be mistaken.  It took many tearful conversations with him, of trying to convey how a lifetime of being unhappy had lead me to take the decision to come out before he understood.  I wonder if in some ways he felt that he had failed as a father, done something wrong or not brought me up to be enough of a boy.  As a child and teenager, my Dad tried very hard to get me interested in cars, mechanics, tools and the mysteries of the workshop.  I tried to please and do have him to thank that I at least know how to change a wheel and see to other automotive emergencies.  But I was a reluctant student and I'm sure it didn't go unnoticed. It would have been different no doubt had I been a transgendered girl.

In a way, all that has left me feeling that it is me also that has done 'the letting down', that I haven't been a 'good or adequate son'.  It seemed a shame that we had both been left with the feeling that the other had failed.

Consequently, in the last 7 years since I began my transition I have done my best to get closer to him and have set myself the task of doing my best to learn how to be a good daughter.  It's a challenge that has sometimes made me laugh and sometimes made me cry.  The handbook for transgendered boys about how to be a good daughter doesn't exist. Goodness knows what sexist nonsense it might contain if it did.  Latterly, my father has become less mobile and increasingly ill, that has made me cry because I can do so little to make him better.  What has made me laugh is the way that he reacts to having me around the house, cooking, cleaning and looking after him.  He reacts in much the same way that he did towards my Mom.  I find myself laughing at the idea that  I might be turning into her.  He complains about me organizing his untidiness in much the way he did with her.

My Dad never showed public affection for my Mom though I know he loved her deeply.  I know it hurt her that he would never kiss her in public, place his arm around her or look at her lovingly in the way she wanted in front of others.  He is so shy, I know that he would never be demonstrably affectionate towards me either even though he now accepts me as his daughter.  I am touched however that these days he does at least sometimes comment that my hair looks 'feminine' or seeing me in a dress reminds him of something my Mom used to wear.  I thought that was as good as it would get. I was wrong.

The Christmas before last, he gave me a watch, it was tiny, beautiful and  unexpected.  Of course, he claimed to have chosen it because it never needs winding, or a battery....always the engineer, but then he would wouldn't he?  But I now have something for keeps, something that makes me feel like a princess whenever I wear it even if it's not in his vocabulary to say it.  It's nice to be thought beautiful enough to wear something so dainty.  Since I have been able to hug him, and kiss his cheek once or twice, I so wanted to do that when I was younger but I'm glad that I was able to do it now before it's too late.

Unexpectedly, I've found that transitioning involves far more than I imagined and challenges that even in a lifetime of contemplation came as a surprise.  The biggest one has been becoming my father's daughter.  I'm now making even more of an effort to get to know my father and to get him to talk more about himself and how he relates to me.  It may be a bit late but it's all I've got and I need to make the most of it.  I have to muddle through somehow. It's far from easy. I've been trying desperately to avoid the pitfalls of becoming a stereotypical 'good daughter' because I'm aware now that every father daughter relationship is a unique one especially when is forged from a 'failed' father son relationship.

Seven years after beginning my transition and long after my friends and those around me have come to accept me as a woman, I realize that transition is a continuing journey and there are other challenges yet to come.


Monday, August 22, 2011

Bruges, Flâner, Brel & Le Plat Pays

How on earth do I sum up Bruges in a blog?  I can't, but I can tell you how it affects me and how I experience it.  To be honest you would be best coming to see it for yourself, please do.  You have only to watch the people threading the streets of this European City to see from their eyes how moved and enthralled they are.  Once you leave and the medieval spires towers and turrets disappear and melt with the vast Flanders sky, you immediately find yourself planning to be back again.

The Belfort seen from the Burg
I first saw Bruges when I was seven years old, taken there by my parents, wide eyed and truly amazed at seeing a city whose streets seemed to have come straight out of a book of fairy tales.  Bruges felt more decayed then, less untouched, rather forgotten and dilapidated in a beautiful sort of way.   I have felt compelled to return ever since, at intervals throughout my life; at 16 studying French and realising that Bruges was in Belgium not France, as a romantic young married person, then twice as a mother with a daughter who fell in love with place as much as I had.

Don't visit Bruges with a guidebook in your hand unless you like that sort of thing.  You need to stroll, wander, saunter, walk randomly and experience the city.  That's 'flâner', just one word to sum it all up in French.  J'aime flâner, not as Yves Montand put it, 'sur les grands boulevards' but round the narrow cobbled streets of this Belgian City with the sound of horses hooves clip clopping everywhere across the cobblestones, the slopping water of the quiet canals and the Minnewater, the chiming of the carillon from the Belfort on the market square.

Bruges is more fashionable, tidy, less decayed and far more expensive now with its many restaurants and chocolate shops.  It's the only place I know of with two shops selling Christmas things the whole year round.  Still, the charm and that other worldly atmosphere is there.  If you only see one city in Europe, see Bruges.

Bruges is visible for miles and miles across the extremely flat Flanders countryside surrounding it.  'Le Plat Pays' was how the Belgian Chanson Singer Jacques Brel described it.  A French teacher introduced me to the song at 15 and it made a deep impression on me as a young teenager.  Brel talks about the towers of the cites as the only mountains in this flat land.  It may be flat, but not monotonous.  It is best explored on a bicycle, something I last did back in my teens with a french pen friend for my companion, stopping in bar-tabacs in villages here and there for cigarettes or a beer.  Don't take any main roads. There are plenty of byways.  You are always coming across long straight canals lined with trees, little pan tiled villages and way side shrines with small bunches of flowers.

I'm back now in Wales, a very wet and mountainous contrast to the flat landscape of Flanders.  I came back with a substance abuse problem, large brown slabs which break easily and keep you perpetually wanting more, fresh hot waffles covered with chocolate from street cafes .  I've tried buying Belgian chocolate and waffles here but sadly it doesn't taste the same as when you're wandering the cobbled streets, I can feel myself mentally planning my next visit...
The Markt