Tuesday, May 7, 2013
Good things happen to us, bad things happen. Life washes over us and we move from one event to the next. Some events are momentous and life changing; graduating High School, coming of age, partnership or marriage, the birth of a child, moving state or country to somewhere new. I've done all of them. They often mark the end of one chapter and the beginning of something utterly new.
When I began my blog it was with the intention of looking at my life and exploring the events that influenced my journey towards transition. Now it seems, with incredible suddenness, I'm there. I'm left at the end of the chapter with only one page to go, reviewing the events that lead to that sudden change.
A looming event about which you are nervous can seem to hover on your horizon, absorbing all your mind and stressing you incessantly. You rehearse things out in your imagination. You draw on everything you know from friends. Sometimes the reality when it arrives s a little different.
I travelled down to London on April 9 on my way to surgery. I arrived at the same time as another Trans woman and enigmatically we were told there was no room at the inn: Charing Cross had no bed for either of us on Marjorie Warren Ward that night. We were whisked away in hospital transport to Hammersmith Hospital where we were accommodated in neighbouring studio accommodation. We spent the evening walking into East Acton and eating out in Lebanese restaurant. Even so, I slept very very little. We had been told to be outside waiting at 5:30 am when a taxi would take us back to Charing Cross Hospital. By 6.15am there was no taxi!
We got our own taxi and by now it was late and time was ticking fast. In a whirlwind of activity I met my anaesthetist and was rapidly told what would happen. I met my surgeon; he in cycle shorts. Enema, stuff my things rapidly into my bedside locker, gown, remove jewelry....I didn't have time to turn around and think. I was walking out of the ward when my nurse spotted my heart necklace; a Mother's Day present from my daughter. It was a brief hiccup. I had expected to be wheeled up to theatre. Instead I walked up with a nurse, taking the lift to the tenth floor. Within a few minutes Mr James Bellringer himself was fitting my cannula, I was hearing about risks from the anaethetist, I was agreeing to my irreversible op, my anaesthetist was counting......
Coming round in recovery I was glad at first of Patient Controlled analgesia; a shot of morphine every few minutes. Not long after I found that it made me incredibly sick. Through my haze, I think I spent that whole day with a huge smile on my face; aware and relieved that I was the other side of a watershed; one which had dominated my life for so long. I simply couldn't sleep and chatted to my Ward Buddies; the most amazing Trans ladies like myself and a dear older lady whose catchphrase 'Lovely Jubbly Gorgeous' resonated through the bay were we all lay in bed.
Over the next few days I haemorrhaged a good deal. Compression bandages went on top of compression bandages. I was wrapped up like a Christmas present but felt very little pain. It became upsetting to see my Ward Buddies have their bandages removed and begin to mobilise whilst I had to take yet more bed rest. Soon I was the only one left in bed and more than a little low. The talk between us helped pass the time; hearing each other's stories, discussing catheters, leg bags, constipation and yes, farts. Recovery is a messy icky business yet full of emotional uplift at where you are now.
The journey from Wednesday, the day of my operation to Sunday when they removed my bandages seemed so long but it was well worthwhile. After they removed my catheter and taught me to dilate on Monday I was told to go douche and shower. Gazing in the mirror and seeing the new me naked for the first time I began to tear up and cry and cry. I just couldn't stop. It seemed so right and such an incredible relief after many years of longing. It was hard to believe that I'd arrived at my final stop :D
Except, as we all know it isn't quite like that. Huge changes are often new beginnings and involve hard effort to make them work. I'm home now and on my 4th week post-op. Dilation of my new vagina is for life: not the 3 times a day I do now but certainly once or twice a week for keeps. Dilation is essential. It keeps your vagina from shrinking and contracting, it safeguards all that careful surgery for good. Staff suggested I think of it in terms of orthodonture; dilation and your stents are your 'retainer'!
Recovery is an ongoing and continual process. It is one of gradual healing, cleansing, caring, dilating, douching and restoring balance; of learning like a teenager about your body; marvelling at how it all works as sensations return and intensify. It's proved like that in my life too. Having reached this point I realise, with a little regret, how I've had to live a life feeling numb; hating sensations which others found sensual and at odds with a body I felt had let me down. Paradoxically, some of the cutting and self harming I did down there to help me cope, hurt far more than this does now. I can only observe that pain with no hope of release sucks; pain and rebirth hurts infinitely less because there is pain but also joy and achievement. I'm home at last.
So what of my Blog now? I've reached the end of this journey, fast rewound my life and started over. Do I start a new Blog? I'm considering it already. My concerns now are life, love and relationships. I find the idea of sex and intercourse scares me a little because it is the new unknown. I feel more than a little vulnerable. It won't stop me going there though......so wish me luck.
Hugs, Jane xox
Friday, April 12, 2013
Before I came into Charing Cross Hospital this week for surgery, friends kept asking me, what now? Now that you've almost completed your journey, will you settle down, find a boyfriend and go stealth? I thought deeply about it and I feel that I'm coming to the only possible conclusion; I won't.
It is after midnight on the ward in hospital. I have made friends with four other beautiful trans women whose determination to be who they needed to be brought them here at the same time as myself. Don't delude yourself that having SRS is glamorous; it is full of bleeding, pain, anxiety, farts and constipation. Ask any Trans Woman who has been here and they'll tell the same story. We are not dealing with bravery here as you might find on the battlefield but with a deep commitment to what is right for them. You have only to listen to the stories of last racing thoughts before anesthesia kicks in, to realize that these are extraordinary individuals who simply want to be themselves.
If I have learned anything here from Tabitha, Faye and the two lovely Rachels, it is that being Trans is about being respected for who you are and without insulting and intimidating remarks. Whether you 'pass' or not is irrelevant. There will be days for all of us when our lack of makeup, our voices, our large shoes or our choice of clothes, give us away. Passing and Stealth however should not be the criteria by which society judges us, indeed, we should not be judged at all. Going Stealth seems to me like buying in to what society deems to be 'acceptable trans sexuality'.
I don't buy it. I will stand by my sisters whoever they may be and fight for that right to be accepted by EVERYONE without jokes or sniggering, backward glances and knowing winks. I will continue to write, perform and sing and willingly identify myself as who I am, out and proud!
Jane Ward xox
Monday, April 8, 2013
In this last blogpost before heading for Charing Cross Hospital tomorrow, it's fitting that I deal with this subject. If you're MtF Trans, tucking is probably all too familiar to you. I've been doing it since I was a child. Tucking has been a lifeline. For me as a transgendered child who hated even looking down and seeing her (male) genitalia it has been a habit for all too long. Toilets at school became hateful places where boys 'went for a slash'. I 'went to the loo'; I couldn't bear to do anything other than sit down to pee. Safe on my own I could make my 'nightmare' disappear between my legs and pee in the way I wished, well, sort of. If you hate something and are ashamed of it, the instinctive thing seems to be to hide it. Tucking involves pushing the testicles up higher, back into the inguinal canal and pulling the penis down and between your legs. By the time I was nine I had found that my Mom's pantie girdles were tight enough to hold everything in place when I did that, hiding what I hated and helping me to pretend that I was the girl I so needed to be. Failing that I wore my swimwear which was also similarly tight. In time, it became so much a necessity that I couldn't leave the house without doing it, even under my school uniform. Wearing knickers under school clothes seems an idiotic risk to have taken, looking back. The days when we had Physical Education were the worst, I hated it, in particular the communal showering :(
There have been other downsides to all of this: The recurring urinary tract infections which caused my doctor concern until I finally came out and told him why; the rumors spread around school because other boys never saw me peeing like the rest; having to hide my girly underwear from my parents or washing out my swimwear myself and drying it secretly in my room. I got very careful. On the one hand I was so scared about being discovered, on the other I just wanted the agony to end.
Hating what was down there lead to self harming in my mid teens. Maybe I was trying to 'punish' myself for having been born like that. I used cigarettes to burn myself, candle wax and wrenching my pubic hair out with tweezers till I bled. As an adult it sounds like BDSM but It was far from erotic, it just hurt and I wanted it to do so. Hurting myself helped me control the emotional pain. I'm not proud of what I did but for short periods it helped me feel better. I was who I was and I am who I am....Except tomorrow, tucking comes to an end. I'll be having to do it for the last time. When I saw Manjit, one of the CNS nurses at Charing Cross a few weeks ago, she had to remind me that GRS is irreversible. Thank goodness is all that I can say.
Hugs, Jane xox
Saturday, April 6, 2013
Yesterday I compared this time just before surgery with that time between High School and College. Back then I had no confidence in myself and chose a self indulgent summer of hanging out with the friends I loved and counting the moments until I had to say goodbye to them, especially to Ian and Steve two of the guys I fancied. The summer of '76 here in the UK was one of the hottest on record and folks still talk about it now. It was one long blast of playing little coffee house gigs, lazing and playing in the sun and feeling on top of the world because I graduated with high grades against all odds. Honestly, I felt at that point as though things might actually work out. All of that abuse/gay sex/asymmetric relationship with GS was over and I felt like I had a chance of moving on. Girls found me interesting and fun to be with and it seemed as though I at last had a chance to 'make' myself normal like everybody else in my circle. In reality I was missing the sex even though I felt burned, guilty and shameful about it all. I also hated the idea of going off to Manchester University all on my own. With friends around me I could pretend I was normal. Once I was alone, the doubts set in.
It was that summer that my friendship with P became something more. It wasn't what I wanted. I wanted a friend to talk books with and a fake girlfriend so I could fit in. She wanted commitment and a relationship. I had known her for a good few years and was impressed at how alternative and independent spirited she was. Far off in London, Punk was just beginning to hit the headlines and change people's lives. All my friends were talking about The Clash and the Sex Pistols. I was unashamedly into the Runaways. Joan Jett was the epitome of what I would have liked to be as a girl...instead I ended up sitting on bar stools with my six string acoustic playing Joni Mitchell, Cohen and James Taylor...it was what people liked hearing, most of my own songs were too hard, self indulgent and depressing.
I went away on holiday with P, though in reality I would have loved one with Ian again. He had other plans. We went on holiday to.....'here' as it happens. My grandparents were from North Wales and when I introduced P to the breathtaking mountain backed coastline, she fell in love with it all immediately. I found myself drawn into a much deeper relationship and by the end of summer we were having sex, of a sort. It worked but left me feeling really weird; just like I had done something wrong on every level. By the time we got to the last few days I mentioned in my last blogpost I was packing for Manchester and she for Leicester in the UK's Midlands. She desperately wanted to stay together and because I felt so afraid about my future, I agreed. The thought of coming out somehow in Manchester and being myself got shelved but oh so tearfully and reluctantly. I traded what I really wanted for the safety of someone who seemed to deeply love me but I also knew I was imprisoning myself by doing so. It was quite deliberate; an attempt to normalize myself out of being a transgendered teen: What an idiot I was!
To complicate matters further, Steve, another tall blond haired crush from High School got into Manchester's Institute of Science and Technology. I really didn't know. The first thing I knew was my first night in Halls. When I brought my tray out to the dining hall to sit down to eat that first night, he was there; all gorgeous blue eyes and blond hair. He was really pleased to see me and I him :) We started to hang out together of course and maybe more would have come of it had I not had a girlfriend...why are events so cruel?
Fall '76 in Manchester was great....at least during the week. I loved the City, I thrived on it. There was an underground Gay scene but it was really clamped down on by the authorities and the police force. It centered around Canal Street. A short walk from Piccadilly Station. It was a sordid area then. Now it's the vibrant heart of one of Europe's most exciting Gay quarters and 'The Village' is where most people want to party. The Gay officers of Manchester City's Police Force are now there on hand smiling to keep us all safe not to run us in! In those days the police cruised the canal in boats looking out for gay couples making out in dark corners so they could arrest them for indecency!
In Manchester in Fall '76 I realize now that I was beginning to get the confidence in myself to come out but I still felt so incredibly scared. I had taken a load of my girl clothes to Manchester but I only wore them occasionally. I spent hours late at night either drawing pictures of myself as a girl then ripping them up in shame or fantasizing about having (girl) sex with Steve, Ian, GS...you name it I thought about it, every which way.
It was different at the weekends. I went to see P in Leicester or she came to me. It was like leading a double life, I should have called an end to it right there but I didn't, I was afraid to face the world as a girl, I needed more time. I didn't get it.
Can you imagine how it ended? Perhaps. I just couldn't stand it and in the end I dropped out of college in Manchester without completing my degree, it was a big mistake I know but we all make those. I said goodbye to Steve and to the City I loved so much, crying inside and all the time wanting to tell him how I felt. I've never seen him since. He hasn't come to any High School reunions, perhaps that is just as well.
That was the start of a painful 30 years of denying who I was. I completed my degree here in North Wales at Bangor getting myself into awful hot water again by really crushing on another guy. This time his name was Ed. He was a South African studying in North Wales, a fascinating guy; tall, dark haired and with such a gorgeous accent. P even asked me if I felt anything for him? Why didn't I say? Self Protection maybe or probably just heading on down that highway to nowhere of trying to fit in. I've spent the last seven years with the pedal pressed to the metal trying to speed back up to where I was in the Fall of '76.
Here I am now; a Trans Woman on the verge of actually completing my transition and ironically being a 'virgin' again. I'm back to songwriting, singing, writing, being myself and being Miss Jane Ward as I always imagined I might grow up to be. Okay, so it's thirty seven years later than I imagined and I'm not really a virgin: I have all the emotional baggage and scarring of having tried Gay Sex, Straight Sex, every which way imaginable to try and convince myself that I was either a Gay Guy, Bi or plain straight Vanilla. I'm not Cis, I'm not Gay, I'm Trans, out and Proud. It has been one long awful journey that I've felt compelled to keep re-running through my head like a very bad movie. My dreams have been full of it for the last two weeks. It's no surprise that it's ended up in my Blog. Maybe one day I need to put it in a book, for keeps and for all to see.
Hugs, Jane xox
Friday, April 5, 2013
So many people have been asking how I feel. Things feel rather strange right now. It's getting to feel like those last couple of nights before Prom or the few remaining days of final summer in High School: The ones just before you leave for College. I remember that time as one of great happiness but also of trepidation and immense anxiety. I've been calm, happy and nervous. I've had so many good wishes from friends and a quiet restful time but I know that's going to change big time and there is one amazing new future to come: One I've dreamed about for so long. That change from one chapter of my life to another is a really huge one......and being this close, it seems to be coming up real fast! My surgery date is in four days time.....
It's quiet and dark. I'm in bed early because I still feel tired. I'm having my hair styled and colored tomorrow (this is so like Prom) yet, like leaving for College in Manchester back in '76; I'm also putting the last few things in my bag to get ready for a departure....Both times leaving on my own, doing it on my own, feeling a little scared.....but strangely happy.
Tuesday, April 2, 2013
So, this is it! The climax to 7 years of 'dating' Psychiatrists and Therapists; the culmination of over 84 months of living, working and being a woman, the endless foreplay of practice flirting with guys and never being able to go further than second base; of constant teasing that surgery might be 'this summer' or 'next year' :D After all that 'excitement' the past 5 weeks of being without hormones has been difficult, well and truly!
Coming to a climax point in my life and being so hormonally challenged, brings me to the subject of orgasm. Orgasms have always been something with which I've had a love/hate relationship. They can be pleasurable but bring with them the awful reminder of the anatomy I was born with yet never seemed to belong to me. Coming to orgasm is difficult for many Trans people. Sexual arousal from being touched combines an instinctive and inevitable reaction with feeling uncomfortable about who you are. It makes getting aroused very difficult. Growing up, I learned to live inside my head because I could be female there. Having a sexual fantasy that you are a woman and one you feel yourself to be, is easy in your head. Whilst having sex, not so easy! With self pleasuring, it works....at least until you come. With another person it becomes a bizarre balancing act; maintaining your female persona internally whilst responding outwardly as a male :( In Gay sex, it can be better but having been on both sides or the divide I know that Gay sex can be so different; more masculine (well that's a given Jane!) more vocal and more shared knowledge of who you both are and how you respond. None of that works awfully well for a T-Girl and it's partly that that finally convinced me I wasn't Gay but actually Trans.
Orgasm with no sex hormones is painful and difficult. Some will tell you that it can't happen at all. They're wrong. Having had to live with the sexual stimulation being so much in my head it does work for me but also leads me to wonder what sex will be like after I recover from surgery...Some Trans women complain about not being able to achieve orgasm. Sometimes they blame the surgeon or the procedure. I haven't been there yet so I don't know. Sex isn't the be all and end all for me. It has always been problematic. Romance and kissing is so much easier in comparison but when he starts to put his hand down my pants or up my dress it gets complicated. That's even before we start all the ridiculous expectations some men have about 'sex with a 'shemale''. So, If I end up unable to orgasm but whole as a woman, I'm happy to accept that. If I can have pleasure and good feelings it will be a bonus but it isn't a deal breaker.
I'll let you know, when the time comes! First I have to deal with surgery and recovery...starting next week! Even if I can't have orgasm, I have to have friendship and coffee. It felt so reassuring today when friends came round to wish me luck and to remind me that they're here on hand when I come back and can't easily get out to the store to buy things or just want to chat. I love all my friends; Gay, Lesbian and Trans. I love my Straight friends too, but there's always a little gap of understanding which is sometimes harder than I expect, to bridge. If you're straight and yet you're reading my blog I guess I don't count you in all that.
Here's to friendship, and to orgasms, however and whenever we choose to have them!
Hugs and kisses,
Tuesday, March 26, 2013
The song came to mind as I put the last few of my things in my bag for Charing Cross. It's a Peter Paul and Mary song that I played frequently at gigs back in High School. That (male) part of my life is beginning to feel a rather long way away now. Why were most of the songs I sang back in then Folk songs about goodbyes? Peter Paul and Mary's 'Leaving on a jet plane', Gordon Lightfoot's 'Early Morning Rain', James Taylor's 'Fire and Rain', Leonard Cohen's 'So Long Marianne'. Singing the songs, I always imagined myself as the broken hearted girl saying goodbye to her guy or being left behind...Well here I am, a girl, finally about to say goodbye to the guy who's space I've been forced to reluctantly inhabit until my mid 40's. There will be no 'kiss me and smile for me'; we're one and the same person, just separated by a mental outlook and anatomy. Maybe as Cohen wrote; 'it's time, we began, to cry and laugh and laugh and cry about it all again'. As I remember, the guitar tag to the end of that line is to transition an A chord into an A sus 4. It's kind of fitting; C# to D; an onward transition from a 3rd to a perfect 4th. It creates such a different sound, so much more open and resonant; that's pretty much how I'm feeling about myself and surgery right now. I'm smiling.
As I write my operation is exactly 14 days away. During the process of counting down the days I've gone through a whole bunch of thoughts and moods, reliving and evaluating the past and all the events that lead up to this point. My last blog post was inevitably taken up with all that. There has been nervousness and anxiety, a little fear of the unknown and some worry and physical distress. Now I've packed it all seems kind of irrelevant. Life is full of rituals; birth, coming of age, marriage, coming out and yes, transition. I realized with surprise that packing was an all important part of that; like choosing a baby name; a ring or a place and time, packing was my final acceptance of what I truly want and am happy with. Whatever happens now, I've reviewed and examined all my motives feelings and thoughts, cross questioned myself innumerable times and dealt with the 'what if's?'. Curiously, I couldn't come to any balanced judgement that didn't distil into; 'it's just how I've always felt'. So much for all the nervous anxiety and wasted mental energy!
I really don't know whether I'll write another blogpost before I set off for London. We'll see. I will keep a diary, but don't expect a messy stitch by stitch account, I'm a girl of feelings not of practicalities. For those of you who like to email, keep in touch, email@example.com it will be nice to know that you're there in thought at least. My youngest is encouraging me to take one of her soft toys to cuddle, I think I will take it. It will remind me of her even though she can't be there.
Where do you fit into all of this? Well if you too are contemplating transition or are going through the agonies of waiting or even just thinking about coming out, my thoughts are with you. Earlier on this week, the press announced the tragic death of Lucy Meadows, a Trans Woman and primary teacher who took her own life on Tuesday last. It is a role in which I could so easily have found myself. I trained as an Early Years teacher and for many years was the only such 'male' teacher in my County. I was deeply unhappy and longed to come out but feared misunderstanding and censure. Lucy took that step and and suffered. She received severe criticism from some about what was seen as a 'selfish' decision to come out. She was vilified in the British tabloid press for the effect all this might have on the children in her class. If you are Trans, you will probably realize what an utterly cruel point of view that was. Lucy deserved so much better. Whatever the reasons for Lucy's suicide it was unkind and unfair to treat her that way.
I realize that I seem to have been blessed with an easy ride compared to Lucy. I have had so much support at work, from my friends and from you, my blog followers. Thank you so much for being there.
Hugs and kisses,
Sunday, March 17, 2013
For those of you that read this blog regularly, you'll be aware that I've already blogged about jig-saw pieces. They dominated my childhood. For a child who ended up rather desperately lonely in First School, jig-saws made sense. They are therapeutic; there is something calming about their orderly completion; in finding a method to marshall all the similar pieces and join them together. Those curved protrusions and indents should fit together sweetly and well, being by their nature made specifically for each other. Do you remember as a child pairings that almost fitted? Pieces that looked as though they belonged together but meshed awkwardly and were destined not to complete any sort of meaningful picture. I've been thinking about those in these last few weeks before surgery, it's been like a review of my whole life!
By talking about pieces that don't quite fit I know in my heart that I'm considering those relationships which were wrong from the start. The ones I put in a box and I never wanted to see again. They followed their tragic and inevitable courses until I was locked and bound in ways that were demeaning and destructive. Like a child who can't believe that two pieces won't actually fit, I seemed to follow the same doomed course with one liaison after another. Only now am I beginning to realize why. I feel like I have been so naive. How can I have made the same mistake over and over again? Attraction, entrapment, being abused were all toxic components. How could I put myself in a position where I would end up hurt, smarting and bruised?
What I have to say now is awful to admit and took so much courage to write. Don't read on if you are easily shocked. It's my intention to inspire and give hope, not to upset anyone.
I lost my virginity when I was 13. He was way, way older; a friend of my parents. Stupidly, I acted coy, sweet and playful, giving off signals of androgyny and vulnerability which I realize triggered a dangerous attraction. Like misfitting jig-saw pieces it was wrong from the start and the symbolism of one piece fitting stiffly and awkwardly into another makes me scared even now. My parents weren't at home, I was naked after a bath, he called round 'unexpectedly' knowing I was home alone, you can imagine the rest. I would be lying if I said it was not arousing or erotic but at the same time I hated it too. There was no making me promise to keep it a secret and even now I wonder why? i think the reason was that I was so ambivalent about my gender orientation and sexuality. Maybe he sensed that. I already had the biggest secret. One that I was truly ashamed about and couldn't tell Mom & Dad. I needed to be a girl. I secretly borrowed Mom's things and her makeup: Some of them were strewn about on my bed that night; her panties, makeup...he could have spilled the beans to Mom and it made me afraid. Talking about what he did to me would have meant discussing who I was and what I felt so ashamed about. He probably knew his secret was safe. As a result I never ever told anyone, for years.
It was I realize now, SEX without LOVE, without even a crush or depth of attraction. It was sex that I didn't want and half heartedly asking him to stop made little difference. I showed arousal; you can't help that; it's an autonomous and automatic reaction but at the same time I resisted it because of what it was. I realize now, all too belatedly that I've never actually had sex WITH love. With him it was sex, pure and incredibly complicated: Complicated because it created even more confusion about who I was. It was a horrid thing to do to me; abuse, wrong and inexcusable but there it was. Since that time I've had admiration which I mistook for love and I've faked sex because I couldn't do it any other way. Now I realize why sex and love together is such a Shangri La for me.
Much later there were other secret relationships, all sexual, all abusive of me. I think, that in the end, although I knew that I was being used, I never expected anything better and came to 'accept' that it was all I deserved. As a teen I self harmed, burning myself in intimate places where it truly hurt. In a strange way it 'helped'; I was punishing myself for the freak that I mistakenly believed I was. Maybe in entering those relationships I was just continuing all of that. It scares me that I made myself so vulnerable. It was compelling, addictive and it hurt. Now you know where my songs like 'Chained' come from. Sadly it is who I am.
I've talked with a number of therapists about all of this. To do so was truly liberating. It helped me come to the realization that as a woman, I don't have to accept being treated this way, that there are things that I can do to stop it from happening again. I'm under no illusions that I may still attract the wrong sort of attention, especially from guys who are excited about doing it with a girl who was once a guy. Now I know that I don't have it as my only option any more. It makes sense, why have I not realized it before?
Having come through all this to a new beginning gives me hope. I'm a Trans Woman about to complete her journey. I don't pretend that surgery would make me female if I wasn't so already deep inside. Far from being mutilated as some radical feminist commentators observe I have the feeling of at last reconciling two parts of myself to make one whole. It is an immense positive that no amount of being torn and hurt in the past can negate.
Wednesday, March 13, 2013
|The view of Hammersmith from the 6th floor|
|Charing Cross Hospital|
The header photo is the view from the 6th floor of the main tower block in Charing Cross Hospital, London. It's a big building but from up there, other big things down below look rather small. It's a bit like life isn't it? From far away, even those important things on your horizon can seem relatively tiny. I've been looking at an eventual admission date for GRS for seven years; years have gone by and the likelihood of it ever happening still seemed slim. Now, just like that tower block it's staring me in the face.
Last Tuesday saw me heading down to London again on the big red 11 car Virgin train; big city, long journey, big event (for me). It was the day of my pre-op. I imagined that I'd make the trip down on my own but my lovely youngest daughter wouldn't hear of it. She's a High School student in her senior year; she has so much work to do; it can't have been an easy decision to make. Beth however is one of those people for whom people and relationships mean more than raw grades, I really respect her for that and I was so glad of her company and endless chat on a long train journey. It was a big sacrifice for her to make but I so appreciated what she did: Big event, long journey, big sacrifice, long day, long journey back.
The tower block at Charing Cross is small by tall building standards; next to the Empire State it would look like a toy. Events seem to go the same way; one big event leads to another even bigger and now I'm sandwiched between the opening act and the main attraction; my admission date on the 9th April and GRS itself on the 10th. In between those big events lies something tiny; my Leuporelin injection; small with a massive effect, especially without HRT which I gave up 2 weeks ago. I have found myself incredibly tired, exhausted and having to pace myself more slowly. The same medication which rids me of those awful feelings and effects I experienced as a teen also reduces my hormone levels to a cool zero. Whilst I was on estradiol patches I had tons of energy, now I seem to have absolutely none: It's a famine or a feast and no 'Half way Betweens'.
I keep telling myself that it's a really small price to pay for a long term end but in the meantime it makes work difficult. I do a day job in a Community College helping differently abled students to complete their degrees and diplomas by coaching them with their learning needs. After the next 2 weeks I'll be away for the remainder of the current semester. Faculty aren't replacing me. Instead I'm being asked to get students finished before Easter (pause while your T-Girl disappears under an avalanche of papers, journals, books and buff folders). The whole business has exhausted me further to the point where my doctor wanted thyroid and diabetes tests done. He now wants me to finish work early and take some rest and yet I feel really guilty about doing so. Currently we're flirting with the 'Half Way Betweens'; altered hours, shorter working day; a way of combatting big fatigue with small half way changes that keep Faculty happy and me from total exhaustion. I'm not sure. I'm still thinking about it all. Am I trying to do too much? I'll have to make a decision before the end of today....
I wrote all that yesterday. Today I'm at home having that rest. I think I was the right decision. Now I have to start packing that case of essentials for April 9!
Hugs, Robyn-Jane xox
Saturday, March 2, 2013
|A 19 year old me - I hated myself!|
Above is the pic my daughter took recently for my Facebook page. On the left is a photo of 19 year old me! - I hated myself, well and truly. I thought that I had lost all of those photos but one turned up again today. I've lost my youth but thankfully I've gained who I am now. Male to Female: Loss & Gain; I used to consider them as so different, now I see they can be symbiotic though I can accept that not all loss is like that. Absolute loss without gain is something we must all experience at some time. 16 months ago my father died. Nobody can replace a father. There is a hole in my life there now, one which though expected is impossible to fill. While I know I gained a closer friendship with others through his loss, not all their love could fill that void.
Eight years ago, my two daughters 'lost' their father and gained a new Mom. She was one and the same person as he; more well adjusted, happier, finally reconciled with herself. She changed her name only marginally. Robin became Robyn Jane. These days, most people except for very close family, know me as simply Jane. I'm happy with the exchange but are my two daughters? yes and no. My youngest is thrilled, my eldest is a lot cooler. It's a difficult transition for them to make; gaining a Mom and losing a Dad. 'Transition', there's that loaded word that occurs so often in my life and these days. It's all about change; a neutral concept but your attitude to it can be good or bad.
We tend to process change in terms of gain and loss, or at least I do. For some it's a melange of both but for others it's all of one and none of the other. I hope that with losing me as a father and gaining a new Mom, my children have too have gained. Most people who know me now seem to consider me as happier, more positive, more smiling, more well adjusted and nicer to be with. A very few take the opposite view but they tend not to see my happiness or my family's, only an unforgivable loss; one they see me as having chosen to inflict.
Now I seem to be rapidly entering a period of my life where gains and losses are coming thick and fast. The losses are of the 'I never want to see you again' variety. I've said a hasty goodbye to the last shot of my anti-androgen medication Leuporelin; very soon, I won't need it any more. I've said goodbye to the last of the unwanted hair that I never liked anyway; to the last of my estradiol patches (I'll be on gel after surgery); to the last of my pre-surgical appointments (next Tuesday and Friday). Soon I'll be saying a hasty goodbye to bits of anatomy I've always hated; hated for the ravages they inflicted on my teen body and for what they weren't. Paradoxically there is a huge gain through all this loss because I finally get to be whole and the woman I need to be. Some look on totally horrified at the whole process. Male friends in particular see MtF gender reassignment as a loss of virility, manhood, as castration and loss of identity. As a Trans woman I'm bemused. Who do they think I am? How can they show so little understanding of what it's like to be me?
So, I'm now in the last three weeks in my day job before I have surgery on the 9th of April. I coach and support degree level students in a Community College setting. I've been ordered to clear my timetable and prioritize those individuals who are desperate to complete their work before Easter. It's a frantic scramble to get everything done. My colleagues are finding that a usually smiling and laid back Jane is now rushing everywhere at warp speed. From being a friend who normally stops to listen, empathize and pass the time of day I have temporarily transitioned into a girl with a close hard focus; mistress of the very hasty 'Hello & Goodbye. I will be so glad when Easter break comes around and I can heave a sigh of relief at a job well done. I've lost so much of my calm and poise in my rush to help my students. I hope they gain a good certificate.
All in all, these little losses are leading me closer to a much longed for gain. You're reading this now and I hope I've gained your understanding and deepened our friendship. As usual, it's helped me retrieve a sense of where I am in all of this; a sense of being on the right path, even if it is a road (very much) less travelled.
Love and Hugs,
Friday, February 22, 2013
Someone asked me recently, why am I so public, honest and open in my blog? Why so outspoken in my music? with my opinions about Trans issues? The subtext was 'you pass, you're a woman (or almost), you can just melt into the background. Why place your head above the parapet, why make yourself so vulnerable? It deserved an answer and here it is.
Life is full of journeys. Over the last eight years there has been one recurring one; traveling to the Gender Identity Clinic in London. Invariably those journeys start for me at the main station in Llandudno. Opposite the station entrance stands a statue of Alice. I should explain here that Llandudno is Alice in Wonderland Central; from the White Rabbit in North Western Gardens to the Mad Hatter on the seafront, statues abound. Alice Liddell, on who the character is based, holidayed here as a child. In the book, Alice's adventures are so full of symbolism and recurrent motifs; riddles that defy logic, frustration, subversion, body parts that are all wrong and experiences that defy any attempt to understand them. Welcome to my life.
I can easily identify with a girl who found her body changing in ways that were far from comfortable. I have only to think of my first puberty to give a shudder of horror. Watching the effects and ravages of male hormones on my childhood body was like being taken over by an alien or watching a car crash in ultra slow motion. Now I'm trying to put it all right. If only transition had been as simple as taking a potion marked 'Drink Me!' But it wasn't. Even for Alice, changes had unforeseen consequences. I can't see into the future but I'm all too aware that the change from one gender to another is so much more than rearranging anatomy. Changing gender is about changing how others see you; showing them that the image they received was a distorted picture, like an old fashioned TV set with an inadequate aerial.
Doing all that isn't easy. Like Alice, if what we see or experience doesn't fit, we freak out or search for ways to resolve the puzzle. In a world unkindly constructed around gender stereotypes Trans people present an anomaly. You are neither one thing or another. As a teen, I rashly chose to beat a path down the middle. It was brave and exposed, like walking along the top of a wall instead of choosing to walk alongside. One side, the boy's one, had to be a complete no no. The girl's side seemed totally unattainable. I took inspiration from 'Rebel Rebel'
'you've got your Mother in a whirl, she doesn't know if you're a boy or a girl...'
Hair, clothes, colors and mannerisms were all chosen to foster ambiguity but it was the Glam era and nobody was fooled. I was still seen as a boy, just a weird one. Ironically it wasn't what I wanted, more what I could get. Though I blended right in with all the other music weirdos I would have given anything to be just clocked as a regular preppy girl like others at school and passed by as one of the crowd. I'm aware, as I've met other Trans men and women that there are those who make a go of being a third sex. I came to accept that it just isn't me. I gave up trying to walk the wall.
When I began my transition eight years ago I still wanted to melt into the background. That is so difficult when you are starting out; there is hair in places you don't want, body parts that don't fit. The 'wrong' mannerisms, voice and just about everything, give you away as a 'boy in a dress'. In time, voices change as do mannerisms, modes of speech and more important, your hair. These days I have no difficulty passing. I walk comfortably on one side of the wall and people pay no mind. I'm accepted as a woman, people are kind to me, I can live life as me. Like Alice, I've finally gotten into the garden and the changes along the way have been every bit as momentous. The trouble is, that like Alice, once in that longed for garden, I'm even more aware of of the absurdities and injustices that surround me, not only against 'girls like us' but women in general. They're cruel, unfair and they don't make sense. As time has passed I've seen others become the subject of hatred, abuse and ridicule and lately I've gotten back up on the wall and taken a look around. What I see isn't pretty; it looks an awful lot like the stuff I put up with for so long. These are my friends getting hurt and I don't bail on my friends.
So on Twitter and Facebook recently, I felt compelled to post: "If you're chained in love, trapped in a one sided relationship, abused, taken advantage of & Trans, I'm here writing and singing FOR YOU :)" It may seem like dashing back into a burning building but I feel that I have to write, sing and be public about who I am and what I've battled through in the struggle to be me. I owe it to those who aren't so lucky, who need inspiration and support. This is my contribution, small as it is.
Hugs, Jane xox
Turning points; those pivotal moments when things tend to swing back the other way, when the chaos resolves a little and you begin to discern something new different and positive emerging. I was reminded of one of those moments today. Was it THE moment? I'm not sure, but it was certainly a Turning Point.
For so many years I couldn't accept myself. It nearly destroyed me; being Trans was an affliction. My attitude began to change when a lesbian friend told me how cool she thought I was. It was a breakthrough moment, years ago now. I'd never thought of myself in any positive way before, only as a freak and an anomaly. My friend changed all that and made me take a new look at myself and feel proud. In some ways I owe so much of my confidence about being me and being out there to her. Ironically, I love guys, but lovers and admirers have generally just served to pull me down with their blend of thrill searching and curiosity. I hate the way Trans people become objectified as some sort of exotic sexual experience to be tried. Loving and being loved in return is what we all want and need. Is that too much to ask? I very much hope not :)
Hugs, Jane xox
Wednesday, February 13, 2013
I'm in the centre of the city on a cold Winter night. It's the eve of Valentine's day here in the UK. Manchester, a vibrant, exciting city lies all around me. I love coming here. High up on the 7th floor of the Sachas with the windows open I can hear the sound of the traffic, the noise of the street, the Metrolink trams and the wail of siren someplace far off. It's the sound of life, of humanity. It's constant, like the ebb and flow of a great unstoppable tide. Looking out I can see lights on in the buildings, offices, bars and restaurants and the couples out walking through Piccadilly. Romantic evening? It depends on your viewpoint, where you're bound, who you're with....I think. To me the city is magic and romantic but then it always has been, don't ask me to explain why. I'm not sure I really know; a bit like my views on romance really.
When I was a pre-schooler my best friend was another girl who lived across the way. Our Moms knew each other. We were always in and out of each other's homes. I remember Valentine's Day and crafting Valentine gifts out of red card, foil, fabric and cut up paper doilies. Our Moms made cards for our fathers, we made cards for each other. It must have been so cute. In those days as far as I was concerned liking and loving were much the same thing. Trying to analyze these things from a grown up perspective is always going to be guesswork. As a child you feel, period. As an adult you rationalize, try to interpret and understand. My feelings for other girls were so often envy or admiration. Feeling like a girl but not looking like one, those emotions tend to get misinterpreted as 'love'. When we exchanged cards our mother's made us kiss on the cheek. It made a sweet photograph I suppose. I just couldn't associate any of this with romance.
Romance is one of those concepts, like love relationships, with with which I've struggled throughout my life. I spoke in my last blog post about finding sex and love to be poles apart. It's not surprising. Sex is confusing when you end up with anatomy that doesn't seem to belong to you. Throw in sex hormones and the whole thing gets hopelessly out of hand. It seems to take on a life of its own. No girl should have to struggle through life with stuff like that...it just seemed cruel.
Sex too, I've spoken of in previous blog. Without love or romance, sex is a massive high without a great deal to sustain it. I think that for some, romance is intense love with the sexual element played down. For the fortunate, romance seems to consist of deep longing and intimacy with tender and loving sex included but not at the very top of the list. For me, looking back, the 'romantic' moments are surprisingly made up of other more disparate memories. Like the Valentines cards we made as kids, they have been clipped trimmed and pasted from unlikely sources: There was a holiday in my late teens with a deeply adored male friend who had no idea that I was in love with him; the wonder that he agreed to come along at all, the agony and unexpected pleasure of having him all to myself for almost a fortnight. I found romance in pivotal moments; the euphoria of hearing applause for the first time and knowing people liked what I did; the thrill of being on my own and independent at last in this city, the thrill of dancing as a woman for the first time with a guy who held me so close, the delightful shock of being told by a man that he found me attractive; being kissed by a guy on the mouth, having the same guy fondle and stroke my hair.....
I understand that these little things would not seem so deeply romantic to others. For some people they seem to happen all the time. To me, they have been rare. I wonder that they ever happened at all. I was born and raised male and things like these are special, particularly when they feel genuine and nice. They make me want to cry in relief at the idea that I have the teensy weensy chance of happiness as a woman. None of the experiences described ever led to anything lasting or permanent. Indeed, some of them were bittersweet moments that could never possibly last. What they had in common was someone spontaneously going out of their way to do something special for me. I hope that there was romance in the way that I responded with a smile to all of them; it takes two to make the magic.
These then are my 'romantic moments'. Brief times that live on happily forever in memory. I'd like to think that there are at least a few others out there who feel the same. This Valentine's Day maybe we should all do something special and unexpected for someone; something romantic magical and wonderful, even if only for a minute or two.
Hugs, Robyn-Jane xox
Friday, February 8, 2013
It's been an eventful week in the here on the western fringes of Europe; cold, wet, icy, miserable and in the House of Commons, 400 MP's voted in favor of allowing Gay marriage in the UK. For weeks there has been excitement and discussion among my friends about this. Here is one of the last big equality issues for Gay rights and it has attracted a lot of media attention. The news of a successful vote has been greeted with both relief and pride from the Gay community. Most of my friends are really pleased, many of them are gay. One refrain is a very familiar one: 'I'm really really pleased, now all I have to do is find a boyfriend/girlfriend'....What surprised me was hearing these comments, not from those in their late forties/early fifties (my own generation) but from much younger friends. Pause for thought.
Unless you're very cynical, marriage requires commitment, an urge to name someone as your life partner not just a brief fling or a casual affair. Many of the friends who add the tag about the boyfriend seem to have no problem attracting partners, but not long term ones. I see friends who have been through successions of dates but never made it past the starry eyed phase. I've started to wonder these last few weeks whether this is just a Gay Guy problem; no commitment or even a second date, or does it go beyond that?
I'm Trans, I spent my teens and twenties longing for guys I could never have, invariably straight and not likely to be interested in someone who felt like a woman inside but didn't look like one on the outside (or under her clothes). I realize that I came across as an effeminate teen, dreamy, pretty, long wavy brown hair and well chosen stylish clothes. I didn't do sports, I played guitar and sang sweet songs, I loved attention and got it. Friendly adults persuaded me to sing or perform in local clubs and I did, loving the attention and the acceptance. For once people looked past me to the voice, the song, the message and the music. Well, some did. Aged 15 or 16 it's difficult to tell the difference between those who admire you for your art and those who want something else. My Mom was a busy local politician, my father a full time engineer. I got left alone a lot. I also got introduced to all their friends. That's when I found that some guys just want sex. It shouldn't have done, but it came as a shock. There shouldn't really have been any sex either but there was. Being groped and felt up by some guy who wants to take advantage of you isn't nice. It wasn't the best introduction to sex but the worst thing was it centered around you being an exotic toy, not someone to love.
All in all, not a great start for a wannabe girl whose ambition was to be a nurse or a teacher (or even just a Mom) when her friends had decided on careers in science and technology. I began to wonder whether relationships were mainly exotic sex and fun and whether all that romantic stuff was all a myth. My parents stayed together, but I also saw that they played around with others too. I hated that because it shattered my ideal of romantic love. On the other hand all of that unwanted testosterone and sexual feeling within me meant I couldn't help physically responding to sexual advances, even if the guys were older. I hated that too, but usually afterwards. I just felt incredibly used; you don't need to look far before you find it in my songs. In time you end up thinking of love and sex as totally, utterly separate entities.
When I finally came to love, or what I believed was love, it almost took me unawares. It started with a friendship. Someone I'd known for some time and admired; wanted to be her. Envy and admiration turned to respect; a liking for similar things, a parallel attitude to life. Surprisingly it lead to marriage and commitment.... I commit to friends well; I stand by them, look out for them, enjoy their company. It's easy to convince yourself that this is love; the real thing, especially when the alternative is to come out. Sex was awkward but then maybe it is in so many marriages. Ask any woman how she copes in a long term relationship and you'll get a multitude of answers. For me it was faking it.
I say 'what I believed was love'. I have to admit that I never really found it. Not sexual love; love and lovemaking combined; a total package; a synthesis of longing, caring, pleasuring and deep regard. Now, on the verge of completing my transition as a woman I'd like to set out and find it. 'It's a little late isn't it?' One of my friends quipped. 'I mean you've rather missed the boat. The chance of you finding that dream guy at our age is remarkably slim...' After a little reflection I thought about the dream guy. There are quite a few of those around, they're just completely out of reach. But love as I've described it: Is it like a Unicorn?....you'd be extremely lucky to find one.....if it exists....maybe in dreams or for a brief while, probably hopeless...but I'll carry on looking whether or not. Let me know if you find it too :)
Hugs, Robyn-Jane xox
Friday, February 1, 2013
Take a break from your blog to work on your music and time seems to go into 8x fast forward mode. It doesn't seem above a week since I was writing that I had been given a surgery and pr-op date for next year. Now it IS next year and my pre-op is just over a month away. Things I hadn't paid much mind to because of the Holidays now seem to be looming; who will look out for my teenage daughter? Who can come down and escort me back home, when can I find the time to shop and get in all the things I need for after my discharge? I suppose, more to the point is, how will I cope when I cease hormone treatment 6 weeks before surgery. As I write, the day I have to give them up is only twenty four days away! The thought of a Trans woman without hormones and a Bipolar daughter sharing the same house is a rather scary one.
This is all very strange. I started out on this journey almost ten years ago after a lifetime of knowing who I was inside but yearning to be free. For years nothing seemed to happen. I was treated at a North Wales GIC that offered me almost nothing, had an endocrinologist who put me on a hormone regime so cautious that it had virtually no effect and got so little support that my hairdresser became my best friend. 18 months ago I met an endocrinologist who boosted my treatment to six times my previous level; a kick ass therapist who wouldn't take no for an answer where gatekeepers were concerned and a psychiatrist who seemed to realize that I needed to make up for lost time. Looking back on those 18 months they seem like a rocket ride. Maybe I seemed so far from my goal at the time that I didn't realize how fast I was actually traveling. Twenty four days from now I suspect it will feel like turning off auto pilot and landing a 747 on an unfamiliar runway with too much throttle. I hope I get down in one piece and look after all those alongside me who deeply depend on me. Here's keeping my fingers crossed.
My sister has said that she'll be there for me yet she's a busy woman with all too many cares of her own. I owe so much to her for all her support. It is so generous and unselfish. I still can't help worrying about my daughter and how she'll cope even though I know that there'll be a safe pair of hands to hold her. It's painful to think of my daughter being in crisis and me being unable to reach her or comfort her. I try not to think about that over much.
While I make all these final approaches, it's been good to finally feel I can look back at the journey and appreciate how far I've come. The past supercharged eighteen months has encompassed so many things. I've felt and looked better, been free from those awful male hormonal feelings and been able to live life as me. For a change. I've moved from a B&W to a color existence. It's been a period of completing and recording songs that have sat inside me for half a lifetime waiting to be written. It's been a time of making new friends and accumulating the most amazing set of fans, almost 5K of them. I've had a blissful time of compliments and comments that I never imagined possible and I've also had the confidence to return to music as a woman; one with a mission to make up for lost time. Ten years ago all this would have seemed impossible. Today I found my star had risen to the dizzy heights of no. 11 in the UK Blues Charts on Reverbnation. 18 months ago I wouldn't have even been able to start the climb.
This then is time for a big thank you. For all those who accepted me on my coming out, for those who supported me through the tears and the frustrations. For the fans who helped me believe in myself too and for everyone that has complimented or said something to make me smile. That includes you guys out there, the ones who read my blog posts and the ordinary people around me who acknowledge me as a woman and just another of the ladies they work with.
Hugs, Robyn-Jane xox :)