Sunday, February 26, 2012

Regrets at Leaving it too Late

I work at one of the UK's largest colleges and also in one of the most beautiful parts of Britain. This is the view not far from my road to work, about 5 minutes before arriving before I get there. It's a mixed blessing. By some strange, warped win on the lottery of life I have been given the great privilege of living amongst beautiful scenery, in a popular seaside resort blessed with mild winter weather. I have also landed up in one of the worst parts of the UK to be Trans and for those who wish to transition. North Wales is not blessed with a modern thinking, up to date Gender Identity Clinic and has hitherto been very reluctant to provide any help or assistance to anyone with GID. Those of you who follow this blog will know the story. From having plucked up the courage to go to my GP in my mid 40's and do something about lifelong pain and depression I now find myself in my mid 50's with the tantalizing possibility that I might get on someone's waiting list for surgery this year!

I work with students, many of whom were also dealt a losing hand. They are young people who barely graduated High School or dropped out of High School. Qualifications don't feature very highly in their portfolios if at all. For many of them, this is their last chance to try and cobble together some useful skills and get themselves a certificate in something to save them from: flipping burgers, stacking shelves, stacking trash or worse. Some of them have disabilities like dyslexia or ADHD others got bullied, or developed addictions, had mental health problems or just plain hated school.

College is an exciting environment, even Community College. There's lots happening socially if you're young but the atmosphere is somewhat laid back. Gone is High School discipline and detentions. Here if you don't make the grade you get shown the door or you just fail. Many of my students just drift along letting it all wash over them...until it gets to this time of year. Failure on the horizon and half a dozen overdue assignments mean that bitter regrets set in about not doing anything sooner. It's got to that point when they think it's nearly too late, too late to pull it back from the brink without some help, maybe too late anyway?

This is where I come in. I'm not a Fairy Godmother, I can't work miracles, but I do my best. Fortunately, bitter regrets usually pull out the best in those I help; making up for lost time, doing without breaks, desperate to make the grade, they respond to being helped and we pull things off at the last minute. It's a team effort. A regretful student with two words on the page and an assignment deadline of 12 noon is not unusual, but we tend to make it. Regrets and the fear of what will happen if no action is taken, concentrate the mind like nothing else :) They will scrape a pass, it's too late for perfection and things being how they should be but they will join the ranks of 'those who made it'.....just!

Are there any parallels with my own position? 46 was awful late to leave things when I'd felt like this big time since being a young child. Why did I let so much time go by? Wouldn't it have been better to do something earlier? There were many times when I tried to summon up the courage to go and talk to someone and get help, but I didn't? Was that crazy or what?

In reality, I've refused to constantly look back, regret and do 'What If's. Life is full of missed opportunities and there are many reasons for why we fall short of seizing them. For my students it's generally a mix of wanting to seem the same as everyone else and being afraid of the response if they ask for help. It's also the pressure from difficult relationships with families and others they love that comes in the way. I suppose that it was much the same for me, indeed I know it was.

So there we are. But at least I can give a smile at last because things do look as though they may now work out and at the risk of repeating myself: I will scrape a pass. It's too late for perfection and things being how the should be but I will join the ranks of those who made it....just!

Robyn-Jane xx



Monday, February 20, 2012

Sex, Sleaze & All That Jazz

It's amazing how often sex or sensuality comes into life, especially when you least want it. I seem to have spent alf my life in that condition, having male sexual feelings that I didn't know how to cope with, almost resenting the very existence of sex.


When I began my transition about 7 years ago I had not long since returned to tap dancing as a social pastime. (The last time had been as a school age child). I had joined an amateur cabaret/show group just for the fun of it. The group was in dire need of a guy who could tap to play the part of Geoffery in a production of 'Stepping Out'. If any of you know the play or have seen the film you will know that Geoffery is very much the 'odd one out' in a tap class of women. He is always made to feel uncomfortable or embarrassed. There is a famous line in which the '3 T's ' are referred to (Tits, Teeth and Tonsils) and it is pointed out that Geoffery only has 2 of the three. I didn't escape sex by joining this group, it hovers like a background curtain behind much of what a show group does.

I thought that I would bow out of things once I began transitioning but the welcome to stay on which I got from the rest of the girls meant that I didn't leave. I knew that I wouldn't find it easy though. I seem to have spent my whole life acting a part in real life, pretending to be the guy that I wasn't. When you finally get to be yourself and a woman, it's confusing to try and be something else yet again on stage. As a result I spent a year on the sidelines playing guitar in the onstage band and watching enviously while everyone else danced. I felt left out big time :(

The following production involved cameos from 'The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas', perhaps not the best time to get back into dancing with the group given what I've just said. I'm not a CD OR TV so I don't know whether this would have been a dream come true or not; full satin skirts, petticoats, revealing tops, false lashes and Cuban heels. It was only when I realized that most of the other girls felt just as exposed as I did but enjoyed the thrill of doing it that I finally began to enjoy acting a part and providing entertainment. I was lucky. I didn't provide the sort of entertainment I had feared. Nobody said 'who the heck is that guy up there dressed as a woman?' I passed. I never imagined when I began my transition having to 'pass' in front of the audience whilst dressed as a hooker'!

Last week I took the opportunity of a forced trip to London to go and see Chicago at the Garrick. The production is full of sex, sleaze, lying and corruption as well as great Bob Fosse style choreography. But it was nice to be in the audience for a change and be entertained. It also helped create the illusion that I was on holiday. It was the night of Valentine's Day and London was full of couples and people in evening clothes clutching bouquets or red roses. I remember walking through Trafalgar Square after the show and seeing too long haired guys in an intensely red Rolls Royce gawping at a lesbian couple kissing in the back of a rickshaw.


The following morning however saw me in Fulham Palace Road, Hammersmith. This was my second visit to the Charing X GIC. Seems I couldn't escape references to sex there either as I seemed to spend half my appointment either discussing how it affected me or had done in the past. Might it be possible for me to get on with my life as a woman without having to discuss sex with complete strangers all the time? (I nearly wrote 'strange men'!) There was a silver lining. It seems that my testosterone and oestradiol levels are now where they should be for a female. It's left me feeling so much better and more well adjusted than I've felt for years. As far as the Psychiatrists are concerned they're now happy to refer me for surgery, that's such a relief. There is still the small problem of waiting lists to see a consultant and the issue of NHS Wales actually paying! My Psychotherapist says that this is a formality, I certainly hope so.

Robyn-Jane xx


Friday, February 10, 2012

Happy Feet

 I've never been a great fan of my feet. I don't consider them pretty or dainty though I'd love to. I'm self conscious when wearing peep toes, I keep my feet covered. I'm a size six but I always think my feet look huge.  I hate the rough skin and my squished toes and nails from wearing the heels that I love.  I don't mind having a manicure, in fact I love it, it's so relaxing, and I love the result but pedicures are another thing entirely, until this week.

Girl's night out number 2 this year was a trip to the beauty salon.  We could choose 2 treatments.  A mani was an essential, I play bass, it wrecks my hands and nails, what more can I say!  Waxing & epilating is something I do myself continually, no need there, facials are the last frontier for a girl who hates being out without her makeup.  A pedicure was the only other option! Gulp.

 I am now so converted.  It was such an incredibly relaxing experience at the end of a long and tiring day.  From the relaxing, fragrant, bubbling foot spa, having my nails filed and shaped, to the exfoliating foot scrub, moisturizing, gorgeous foot massage and hot booties, I enjoyed every deliciously stress relieving moment.  I couldn't help smiling and going aahh! the whole time.

The bonus was my French nails.  I can now see my nails and not cringe with embarassment.  I can't help thinking that now I've done it once I'll be going back again....and again....and again :) if you've ever hesitated to have a pedicure done because you hate your feet, don't.  Pick up the phone and make yourself an appointment, you really won't regret it.

Now I just have to psych myself up to having a this space.

Robyn-Jane xxx

Friday, February 3, 2012

Fashion, will it ever be cool to be Trans?

 I work alongside many others from the LGBT community, some of them work colleagues, some of them are students.  I've never been that surprised that I hear very little about other people's experiences of growing up as Lesbian, Gay, Bi or Trans.  Those of my own age probably had a tough time of it whatever their gender orientation or identity.  At least that's been my experience talking to others of my own generation. It is only with really close friends that there is any degree of confiding or sharing how we felt growing up.  Whenever that confidence has taken place, I've always been surprised to find how similar the experiences of rejection, not belonging and isolation are.  It doesn't seem to matter that much what part of the LGBT spectrum you come from.

Given all this, one conversation last week came as a complete eye opener.  It was a conversation about fashion, or appeared to be.  What surprised me was a remark by a girl in her mid twenties.  L is lesbian, I was well aware of that.  Someone commented about how she was always dressed in carefully chosen designer hoodies and expensive jeans.  She is down to earth and smokes roll ups, the subtext was, 'Why does someone like you dress like that?' She replied with a smile that it was her partner who had picked out her clothes.  She then went on to observe that in any case, she had only ever really been in fashion once.  Asked when that was she replied that it was when she had come out! 

I was intrigued.  None of this seemed to have anything in common with people like myself or any other Gay friend of my own age.  On what planet would coming out put you 'in fashion'?  Seems that it is now cool to be Gay if you're young. Have things changed since I was a teen all those years ago? It very much seems like it.  I'm aware of what a rough ride one shy lesbian friend had in college back in the 70's inspite of the seeming liberal atmosphere in the uni where I studied. Seeing how she was treated was one very potent reason for me not being open about my gender identity until much much later. It left me thinking, 'If things can change THAT much in 35 years, will things go the same way for trans men and women over the next 35?' I wonder. I very much hope so.