Saturday, July 30, 2011

(For)Get-together with the Ex-In Laws

Family Get-Togethers should be feel good times with great food, sharing memories and renewing old acquaintances,  shouldn't they? Hmm!

Today was a get-together of myself and youngest daughter plus my Ex and some of her family.  For some reason which I was barely able to explain adequately in yesterday's blog, this took place at my Dad's house.  It included a man (my daughter's Uncle) who seems to have taken a total dislike to me because of my trans status.  I spoke about him yesterday in my blog as

"homophobic and transphobic and famously wouldn't admit me into his house years ago to pick up my daughter on a visit to see her cousins".

I've never seen him nor his family since until today.

This is where it all happened!

My daughter had desperately wanted to be there as her Grandmother was visiting.  In total there were were 8 of us crammed into my father's cottage kitchen.  I had felt so tense all day until the afternoon when they arrived.  I suppose that I had expected unkind comments but what happened was probably worse.

To all my own friends, work colleagues and virtually everyone else I know, I am either seen (reassuringly) as my daughter's Mom or (if they know of my Ex) one of her two Moms.  Here, for the best part of three hours I became nobody's nothing.  Whilst everyone exchanged pleasantries with one another I was treated as if I didn't exist.  In the family group, people addressed my father and my daughter but it was as though the chair I occupied was empty.  Any comment I made went uncommented on and when at the end of the day my daughter was coerced into going off to meet a cousin who had no real interest in seeing her I was left wondering why I hadn't seen any of this coming. I was sure that the cue to shut me out had come from my daughter's Uncle but why would anyone want to spend 3 hours of a lovely sunny afternoon doing this?  I feel that life is too short to fathom out that one.

The grandmother who my daughter had so looked forward to chatting to (but got no chance) remained with me to take tea and sit outside in the warm Welsh sunshine.  I found myself inexplicably being asked about what it meant to be trans and trying to explain why it was that years ago I got married to my best friend who also happened to be her daughter (why has this never cropped up before?).

I'm sitting in bed now, tearfully wondering how on earth all this happened, feeling very drained and very much looking forward to it never happening again!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Outlaw with the ex-in Laws

Everyday life as a woman has gotten so blissfully non eventful (as it should be) that maybe I ought to be reminded of the past now and then. So I will be.  I'm dreading tomorrow, as is my daughter.  The reason?  Meeting the ex-in laws (for me), a rendezvous with her one of her Aunts and Uncles and my ex's Mom (for her).  Her Uncle seems deeply homophobic and transphobic and famously wouldn't admit me into his house years ago to pick up my daughter on a visit to see her cousins.  I had to wait outside in my car on a cold winter's night! My daughter dislikes him and does not get on well at all.  She misses her Aunt and Grandma though.

I don't normally get involved in any of this.  I haven't seen any of these people for some years though my daughter has many times.  Under UK law my marriage was annulled after I became female and although I remain on very good terms with my ex I never really see her family these days.  I have however always encouraged my daughter to keep in touch, there is no reason why she should suffer even if these people dislike me.

These ex-in laws don't live anywhere near here and are up in the area visiting.  In a bizarre twist however they will be turning up on my father's doorstep in a neighboring county tomorrow (beginning to sound like an implausibly scripted soap opera isn't it?).  This is because our mythical implausible scriptwriter chose to have my father and my ex's mother keep in regular contact (are they the only ones to be glad to see each other tomorrow?)  If my daughter decides that she would like to see her Grandma, Aunt & Uncle (she's sleeping on it), I will have to drive her over to the Isle of Angelsey.  This will place me in my father's home with the misogynistic and transphobic Uncle (arghhh!)

For some idiotic reason I fear this man more than anybody (this from a Teaching Assistant who has worked daily with foul mouthed 16 to 17 year olds since the start of her transition).  I have witnessed the hurtful and unkind things he says to his wife in previous years and I really dread meeting him again. I  mean, he actually loves his wife, what hope do I have?  All today I have been rehearsing what I might say if I am put in an awkward position on the verge of tears.  I have even found myself talking aloud (mad woman) while going out for the groceries.  On a more positive note I'm having my hair styled tomorrow morning so at least I get the chance to face up to him while I'm feeling good about myself!

Writing this blog has been by way of working through my fears.  By tomorrow you'll maybe find out how it went, or not!  Wish me luck!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Testament to Youth

No the title isn't a misquote of the first of Vera Brittain's memoirs.  Vera Brittain wrote movingly about the impact of the 1st World War on the life of a young VAD nurse.  This testament is a tribute to the daughter who has stood by me throughout my transition.  She is almost seventeen now but was only eleven when I began my journey towards womanhood.  It seems strange to have us both going through puberty at the same time, and for me the second time around.  The heady cocktail of a trans Mom on hormone patches and a daughter having her first periods does not make for a quiet calm relaxed family, not i theory anyway!

The inevitable crumbling of my marriage and my daughter's transition (how often that word crops up!) to Middle School (High School here in the UK) left me desperately seeking a day job that would pay enough to rent a small apartment and start all over again.  From the moment she cheerfully helped me pack and plan our new home to the present day my daughter has been an unexpected source of strength and support that I never expected to have.

After I started to transition I imagined that prejudice encountered at work might be the worst problem.  It never really happened. I chose to take a job as a teaching assistant in a community college and transitioning there has been so easy.  I made many new friends and found a new social life as a woman in a new town where few people had known me previously.  Splits and difficulties from within my family however were inevitable and I had been prepared to have to go it alone as a single woman building my life anew.  I had expected to say goodbye to any dreams of continuing to be an everyday parent and keep some semblance of family life. My youngest daughter however chose to stick with having me as her Mom and I'm so grateful for that.

Mom & Daughter

I've lost count of all the hugs given and received, the thanks, gifts of love, making me laugh, shopping trips and compliments.  She did all this even when the going was tough, when Health refused to fund my GRS (then later relented), when they closed the Gender Identity Clinic and left me in despair, she was there.  Through it all my daughter helped me transition in a new and different way from being a depressed self pitying woman into the cheerful supportive Mom she needed to get her through school and cope with teenage life.  She taught me how to love unconditionally (again) and to cherish the ordinary everyday things; listening to her talk about problems with school friends, zits, periods and boys, tucking her in bed and comforting her, helping her shop for clothes, listening to her share her dreams.

I owe my daughter a huge thank you for helping to turn me into the person I am today, not from the point of view of gender but for allowing me to learn how to be maternal, caring and supportive, for allowing me to just be an ordinary everyday Mom.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Both Sides Now

There are so many blogs by trans women, I'm aware that mine is just another.  Many of us are also Moms with our own insights into raising a family. It is generally from our own perspective. We can't always see the other side.  Being trans is a multi dimensional concept.  We live out our lives alongside others and everything we are and do affects them.

As a musician, my influences are listed on my my Bio as being Joni Mitchell amongst others.  I loved Joni Mitchell as a teenager and I probably performed her song 'Both Sides Now' far more often than I should (considering how badly I sang it).  The Judy Collins version of the song was the first 45 rpm single I ever bought!  I can't possibly aspire to ever write songs like Joni Mitchell, or indeed, engage an audience like she does onstage (oh I would so love to).  What I do want to share however is the flip side of my own experiences.

Joni Mitchell talks about her experience on a plane trip flying above the clouds as the one that back in '67, gave the idea for her song.  It was the concept of seeing things from new and unexpected points of view that she wanted to explore.  I've spent a long time trying to do just that.  Throughout my life I've had a desperate need to try and see things from both sides, from my transgendered point of view and that of the people around me.  I've always been aware that although I was unhappy with my gender identity I also desperately wanted children.  Like many trans people I ended up in a relationship and I got a wonderful family.  In a weird way, I suppose that I thought that becoming a parent might 'solve' my problems.  I'd had the same idea with starting a relationship and also training as a kindergarten teacher.  I thought that pledging my life to someone romantically or caring for young children would finally make me feel at peace with the gender I had been born with.  It didn't work. 

It seemed cruel then that I spent the next 15 years of my life agonizing about how I could be true to myself and come out without hurting the family I had so longed for by transitioning.  I tried desperately to see things from both sides, trying to imagine the effect that my transitioning might have on people close to me.  I became very afraid that I would hurt a lot of people very deeply.  It seems now looking back that examining things from both sides paralysed me and prevented me from doing anything. It was only when depression and suicidal feelings took over that I pulled up short and realized that me suddenly not being there might hurt my family even more.

Having had those experiences, I was fascinated to be invited to read my own daughter's own blog posts on how she sees her relationship and her experiences being raised by a trans Mom.  I found that having me as her Mom has indeed affected her deeply but not how I imagined it would.  Whilst some of it has been as I feared , other things have been surprisingly different. She writes about her experiences of having to cover up things about her family whilst in High School.  I realise that she has been so brave and put up with so much. After reading what she had to say I felt humbled. and I respect her much more.

I have asked my daughter's permission to signpost others towards her blog and the link is here:

if you are interested to read it.

my youngest daughter

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Mirror Mirror

Ever since I was little I've had this love/hate relationship with mirrors.  Mirrors reflect what they see but it's not necessarily what you see yourself as or what you feel you are inside.  We all want reassurance that we are what we think we are.  One of the first things we do on a morning (if we can bring ourselves to do it) is look in the mirror and we probably think 'arghhh'.  No make up, no moisturizer, hair a mess,  well who IS the fairest of them all? certainly not me first thing on a morning.  Snow White?  This is no fairytale but we all hope that we don't look like the wicked stepmother or even worse the pantomime ugly sisters.

Mirror, Mirror...

Back when I was little, my favorite fairytale was Cinderella.  What transgendered child wouldn't love it?  The lovely girl is hidden away and everybody says that nobody will like her or want her.  In the end she gets her chance, a gorgeous ballgown, glass heels, a princess entrance and a dance with the guy of her dreams.  But just how breathtakingly exposed DID she feel walking into that ballroom, fearing that all the time someone would recognize her for what she really was, or what people thought she was? The ultimate fear of discovery and people 'finding out' is threaded through that story and one that captivated me and filled me with dread as a transgendered child.  In the end of course it all gets better.  Though nobody can quite believe it, those glass high heels are hers and they do actually fit. She gets the guy, the fairytale wedding and then we're on the final page.

I never got tired of reading that story and my rather cheaply illustrated version soon got very tatty though the story kept fresh and sparkling inside me.  I pretty well thought that it would never be my story though.  I was very sure of that, little boys who want to be princesses are frowned on now and it was no different back then.

But what of the Fairy Godmother?  Who was she? Where did she come from and how did she work her magic? Come to that, how did you get your own personal Fairy Godmother?  Oh it was all very easy in stories but even though I hoped I would one day grow up to be a girl I knew that didn't believe in magic.

By the time I found myself talking to my first therapist over six years ago I was aware that I needed to find some way of living full time as who I really was.  For six months I'd been living a sort of unhappy half life of being neither male nor female, unhappy to be seen in public as identifiably female and yet deeply unhappy to be male either.  I'm aware that some people prefer that, refusing to be categorized as one gender or the other. That's not me, I've always felt like a girl and I know I always will do.  That left me with the problem of how I could possibly be out and female without some sort of FG.

She appeared out of the blue, hair clips pinned to her tunic and with a pair of scissors which she used like a magic wand.  Josie simply accepted me as another client and got on (chattily) with the whole business of restyling my hair.  There were no intrusive questions, no inappropriate comments, just friendliness.

Josie changed my life in less than two hours and all in front of a mirror that reflected much (but not all) I had hated for so long.  I went in to see her with a tousled mess of wavy curly brown hair and came out with hair that looked longer inspite of being cut, was gorgeous and neat, feminine and stylish.  I looked like I'd had longer hair which had been bob cut and styled rather than some wannabe who was desperately trying to grow out her hair.  I couldn't believe it and looking back it still seems like magic.  There were other friends who gave me fashion advice, went shopping with me, bought perfume, shoes and cosmetics but Josie stands out as the head fairy, the one who changed everything.

Josie is still my Fairy Godmother.  She puts my hair in foils, colors, styles brushes and simply makes me feel happy to be me.  Josie taught me how to blow dry my hair straight, how to care for it and love it. If that isn't true FG magic, I don't know what is.

A couple of years ago at Christmas I spent an inordinate amount of money on a VOH red Dior New Look 50's style luxury dress, put more red in my hair and went to the ball.  I danced until midnight and had more compliments than I've ever had in my whole life.  Cinderella never had so much fun.

I'm aware that most trans guys and girls have transformation stories.  I hope you enjoyed mine, why not share yours.  Thanks for reading <3 xx

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

How Caring is Health Care?

One of the great things about motherhood is caring and nurturing, loving and taking care of your kids.  It's one of those things that makes being a Mom so fulfilling.  It's even more dear to me as a Trans Mom because I never believed that I would have these experiences.  Looking at adulthood from a young boy's point of view I would never have believed that I could grow up to be a Mom though I desperately wanted to.

One of the biggies about caring for your children is helping them with disability, another is when they get sick.  My youngest daughter suffers from DCD/Dyspraxia.  It means that she seems inordinately clumsy and uncoordinated.  It also means she gets hurt a lot.  When she's not getting hurt she exhausts herself concentrating on keeping herself safe.  Today she was distracted.  She was worried about her Grandpa who is ill with kidney problems.  We were escorting him to the local hospital when inexplicably she opened the car door before we had quite stopped and fell badly and heavily.  I was driving the car.  It happened almost in front of the hospital main entrance.  It was a heart stopping moment and I was horrified.  Paramedics arrived and she was removed to the emergency room with me torn in two between helping my sick father into the hospital or following my daughter.

In the end, I did what most women end up doing and did both, frantically rushing from one to another to make sure they were okay and somehow feeling at the same time that I had let both of them down.  My daughter was lucky.  She escaped with no breaks or fractures but lots of bruising and scarring.  She emerged an hour and a half later, bandaged and limping and forcing a smile.  By this time I was in another room with a renal consultant being told about possible dialysis for my father.

The hospital staff were so sensitive, kind and understanding.  All three of us needed that. We came home exhausted.

But it's not always been that way.  I recall one desperate night a couple of years after starting my transition when my daughter sustained yet another of her many injuries and I faced a Trans Mom's worst nightmare.  It was late.  I had already gotten ready for bed but my daughter needed taking into hospital because she had injured herself yet again.  I did what any Mom would do.  I threw on the clothes I had been wearing earlier, now creased after a day at work, grabbed my purse and drove to the hospital.  Having already removed any makeup earlier I rushed briefly into to the restroom on the way in to the Emergency Unit.  I'd forgotten my hairbrush and only had a little powder compact in my purse to make myself look presentable.

From the start the nurse interviewing us both was mistrustful and displayed little understanding.  I was asked curtly to leave the room whilst my daughter was interviewed alone.  I stood outside in my creased dress with my hair in a mess desperately wanting to know if she was alright, no such luck.  While she was being treated for her injuries I was interviewed separately, interrogated would have been a better word.  'Was I who I said I was?'  'Why was I claiming to be her Mom?'  'Where was her Mom anyway?'  I found myself wondering if this Health Care employee 'cared' at all.  I was told quite clearly that I was not who I claimed to be (my daughter's Mom) and the whole matter would be directed to the local Social Services Office for investigation.  It was.

A visit from a Social Worker shortly after left me no option but to make a disclosure about my status.  A soul destroying experience for a woman who had by then already obtained her UK Interim Gender Recognition Certificate.  Having a piece of paper with the word 'female' on it helped sort things out, as did letters from my medical practitioner.  There was little or no understanding offered tough about my request for privacy or any sensitivity in this interview either.

It took a formal independent complaint (upheld) and a disclosure request from me to finally unravel all that had happened.  The hospital had recorded me as 'A man dressed as a woman, claiming to be the child's mother.'  This information was faxed to the Social Worker.  I am not a Social Worker, so quite why this triggered a Child Protection referral I will never know.  I felt as though I had been punished for being a caring Mom and seeking medical aid for my daughter when she needed it. It took my confidence many months to recover.

By now, all this has changed for me.  I pass, I also carry a fortune in cosmetics in my purse to repair my makeup but I could probably manage without it now, I carry a copy of my birth certificate that now states 'Girl' very clearly.  Should I really have to do this?  Should I really have to justify that I am a woman?  What remains, even now, is that awful transsexual woman's fear that someday someone else might want to challenge me.  How many natal men or women would like to have their gender identity challenged and how would they respond?  By undressing in public?

Friday, July 15, 2011

Wedding Belle Blues

There are so many good things about transitioning, and such a big relief to finally be yourself that at first some of the long regrets in life don't seem to matter.  Regrets in life come from plans and dreams you had for so long but never had the chance to see them reach reality, or maybe you had the chance but you flunked it.

When I was small, one of the things I dearly loved to do was go and sit in Mom's room, just to go and sit and dream.  It was so different in there, so grown up.  The few times I got to be alone there, I wanted to try on Mom's perfume, her makeup, her shoes and occasionally I had the chance - pure bliss!  There was also a framed photo of Mom on her wedding day on her dresser.  She looked so pretty.  And those were my plans and dreams.    Yes I know it sounds awfully naive and corny, but when you are 9 your horizons reflect the people you love the most.

Soon the reality of puberty kicked in.  By the time I was in High School I could no longer try on Mom's shoes without feeling guilty and ashamed.  I was horrified that I seemed to me morphing into some sort of alien being in front of my eyes, literally, in the mirror.  When you are young you can pass easily as a girl, even if you are born a boy.  At nine years old while other boys at school wanted to be footballers and astronauts I hoped to somehow grow up to have a lovely wedding, to be a Mom and maybe if I was lucky have children. Later, adolescence and a thorough understanding of where babies come from would mean a hard awakening from that dream!

Growing up as a teen and knowing full well that I couldn't realize those dreams was the hardest, unkindest, cruelest test of them all and one that by the time I was 18 had almost brought an end to my life.

Somehow I managed.  I found the best ways of coping.  I trained as a Kindergarten teacher, I married my best friend (though I wasn't the one holding the bouquet).  I was a close as I possibly could be to the birth of my two lovely daughters and their daily care. I rejoiced in every icky moment, bliss.

Now, six years into my transition, can I afford to start dreaming again?  Get real girl, you're 53.  Too late to do white weddings! Okay, so my new BFF got divorced and then remarried shortly before her 50th, miracles DO happen. Laura Nyro sang: 'I love you Bill, I always will...' in her take on the 'Wedding Belle Blues'.  I only know one Bill and I don't actually fancy him. So where does that leave me?  Maybe I should re-use the song title.  Mine though will be a husky voiced blues, not a Laura Nyro soul track.  In the meantime I can carry on dreaming at least.

If you're reading this and your not cis and already done the wedding, husband and kids bit, what were or are your dreams?  I'd love to know.