Tuesday, March 26, 2013

'All my bags are packed, I'm ready to go...'


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, robynjane57@googlemail.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,

Jane xox


Sunday, March 17, 2013

Making Sense of it All - Pieces in the Puzzle

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.

Hugs, Robyn-Jane


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Big and Small Things and the Half Way Betweens

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

Gain & Loss, Loss & Gain and the Art of the Hasty Goodbye

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,

Robyn-Jane x