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 :)