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.