From a life divided to a life united, part 3

Right I’m back again and today I’m going to bring us up to where I am on this journey I’m on. I’ve looked back on a whole heap of stuff in my life and gone into some depth into how this has affected things with my husband. Today I’m going to talk about family and work and how a couple of huge events have had a bearing on things this year.

I’ll go for the family aspect first. I should mention that family were awesome with handling the news of my coming out (again) and what I wanted to do. Admittedly Richard had to help tell my mum and dad and his mum as my awkwardness I described earlier had crippled me that day. This is why I should write things down first. I’d spent two hours trying to get the words out and failing, basically sitting around and bending my fingers which is something Richard’s noticed I do when I’m highly anxious. Hubbie said I had something big to tell them to get the ball rolling and I awkwardly told them about being trans and my intention to transition.

Dad and nan both basically said it was about time I did this and mum wasn’t too far away from that sentiment either. I did wonder if it was that obvious, if I had ‘trans’ tattooed on my head or something, but looking back at all I’ve written earlier they’d seen a lot of this going on, put 2+2 and came up with 4. Again I got asked the usual questions, along with what I was going to call myself. I’d picked Chrissy as that’s what I wanted to be called all those years ago. Danielle is the female variant of my middle name and this pleased mum because my middle game was given to me  was her dad’s first name. We chatted a little and so all was well … for about five minutes as dad then told me about the cancer that would eventually take him from us a couple of months later. Awesome timing there between us.  Dad had likened it to winning the lottery at the time as at that point it was a pretty nasty cancer (merkel cell carcinoma) but it had only appeared in one place and he had an excellent chance of getting it taken out and radiotherapy meaning he’d have a good few years with us yet. This was the tail end of May and I found out that while I was meant to be running around doing a battle re-enactment for the Waterloo bicentennial that I had almost no interest in and was only going because I didn’t want to be away from hubbie for five days, dad would be having surgery.

Two months later he was told he had the damn stuff everywhere and start preparing for the worst as he’d now have weeks instead of the years he’d been told a couple of months ago. Tumours had pretty well crippled his liver and pancreas and he was being discharged from hospital as chemo wasn’t doing a thing for him because of this and a tumour on his brain was interfering with his memory.

After his discharge we had a week, just time for one last perfect day as a family three days later. We had a family barbecue, which I ended up cooking (ironic given I’ve been a vegetarian for 15 years) as dad was under strict orders to rest and seemed happy sitting under a parasol and having his first beer in weeks and playing games with the grand-kids. The following day he fell into a coma and then defied nurses who had given him hours to live and put him on a morphine driver to help him have a peaceful end by somehow battling on for two full days before leaving us.

Dad and I never really had a chance to talk much about my transition because of his illness which eventually played havoc with his mind, becoming very forgetful and repetitive but I do remember one day where he sounded disappointed because I’d been staying over at theirs, I’d worn a dress one day and not the next. (Simple truth was I had very few female clothes then and only one good dress, so I was in jeans). His illness also delayed me coming out to my sister’s kids as they were already dealing with their granddad becoming ill and not being himself. When I was visiting dad at the hospital I’d been asked not to come dressed female, mostly because dad was worried others on the ward would comment, mum was worried dad would get up and thump someone for doing so and sis wasn’t ready to deal with the kids asking questions about my transition.

I remember after one such visit being in such a furious mess of dysphoria and driving home and it spurring me onto getting my name changed to make it impossible for the idea of me to hide myself from anyone. Sounds a bit spiteful given what was going on but dysphoria is a spiteful bitch to deal with and I wanted to turn the pain and anger I was feeling into something positive. I got home and started making arrangements to get my Deed Poll organised.

Dad’s last days came about and I spent four days at my parents house, seeing him through to the end and afterwards. My biggest regret with having taken this long to work things out is the fact dad never really got to see me grow and become the woman I am now and will be and not having much of chance to talk, though mum did say he was fully behind me in spite of the hospital business and being asked to hide who I was while there. He was proud and happy for me, he just didn’t have a chance to say it to my face.

The funeral came about and though my extended family had heard about my transition this was the first time most of them had seen me since then and of course I was in my finest dress for the occasion because although I felt like hell I wanted to at least look right. Being myself took the edge off of my feelings that day. I’d also agreed read out a tribute I’d penned for dad. Public speaking and me don’t get on, neither does being centre of attention. Team that up with me trying to find a feminine voice and the grief I was carrying and yeah, I was in a hell of a state that day. Somehow I dragged myself up there and did it. I could have handed it over to the celebrant to read out for me but this was dad. I had to do this somehow.

I saw my sister’ kids at the wake afterwards and they just acted as normal around me, didn’t say anything, though the oldest was full of questions for my sister after they’d gone home. My sister’s done an amazing job bringing them up. None of them had batted an eyelid to having two uncles who loved each other, now they weren’t batting an eyelid as one of them became another auntie. I sat down with the girls shortly afterwards and gave them the basic reasons why I was now auntie Chrissy and they shrugged and said, ‘Okay that’s cool’ and we went off playing games. They occasionally ask me questions and I’d said to them they didn’t need to worry about upsetting me, they can just come up and ask me whatever is on their mind. My nephew hasn’t said much, then again granddad had been his best play mate and this had probably hit him hardest of the three of them. Granddad was the only one who could get him to calm down and behave and this was more on his mind than my change. He’s eventually come round to calling me auntie Chrissy and all seems well though I suspect he’ll ask questions when he feels ready.

The day after we said goodbye to dad, Richard lost his adopted granddad who we’d lived with the whole time we’d been together and took care of as he steadily declined. Transition is hard enough without all this. I’d not spent much time with hubbie as I was dealing with dad and family while he was being a 24 hour carer for his granddad. We had precious little time for each other between all this, planning two funerals as well as getting all the house stuff changed over to us. Needless to say this had caused a lot of stress upon a relationship we still weren’t sure was going to survive my transition.

Richard’s mum has been pretty amazing as well. She’s happy that we’re ourselves and getting on with things and she’s even dug out a few items of clothing that she no longer wears, including a lovely Victorian dress that hubbie made for year years ago and I will be wearing to an event next weekend. Some of you have seen this if you’re on Twitter and know me there.

I do remember some awkward conversations with her a couple of years ago as she’d spotted someone who was transitioning in town and wondering why they’d do such a thing and how she thought it was a bit weird. I remember explaining how it’s their life and if they’re happy and not hurting anyone it’s their business while down inside Chrissy was screaming to get out into the world. All is well now though and we’ve even been clothes shopping together.

I also somehow fitted becoming a Godmother into the middle of this upheaval and uncertainty  for a couple of lovely friends of ours. They had initially asked me to be a Godfather, back when their son was born, before I came out, but it got called off because of a family crisis of their own. I then came out, began transitioning and they had no hesitation when they reorganised the Christening to ask me to be a Godmother.

Work slotted into this mess somewhere too. When I came out to hubbie I’d just accepted a promotion to a senior role at work and I was reasonably settled there, well before my mind exploded and then started to come to terms with everything. I was terrified of my transition affecting my job, especially given I’m working with vulnerable adults with autism and learning disabilities. Oh I knew I had the Equality Act to fall back on but that probably didn’t mean much if the residents I cared for couldn’t handle such a change and wouldn’t work with me, and so I was left in a kind of limbo. Female and reasonably happy at home and appearing male and miserable at work.

Having gotten chatting to a few people on Twitter and learning that Brighton had a transgender pride event coming up I booked a weekend down there on a whim with Richard and took off down there. It was wonderful, I wasn’t alone, I was surrounded by other people who knew exactly how I felt, what was going on and I met up with some of the lovely people I had been chatting to. It did Richard some good too, he felt more reassured after having a chance to chat to people and we both knew this was the way forward for me now. I felt a lot more confident in myself, and felt this really was the way I wanted to go now. I also knew I’d have to sort work out, sooner rather than later. I couldn’t live a double life, not any more. It was killing me and I remember both nights in Brighton getting very little sleep as a result.

I got back and the following day I organised a meeting with HR and prepared for all hell to break loose. It sounds selfish but my happiness was the priority now and to not address this was risking another mental health episode. On the day I get to head office, into my meeting and find my former manager was sitting in (she’s been promoted a while back but she had given me a lot of help bedding in at work and the sort of manager who always made time for you, had a friendly ear and someone you could talk to about things). She made the difference between coming out or falling back into myself. Though she knew very little about transgender issues she made it clear she was behind me all the way, whatever I decided next and hoped I’d stay on with the company.

Another meeting soon followed and I was able to get a plan together, a timetable for transition and organise a meeting with the behavioural specialist so the three of us could come up with a set of guidelines that would support those I care for and myself. It was also guidelines my co-workers could follow to help us all. That meeting got put on hold for a while as dad’s passing took me out of work for a while, but we sat down, had the meeting and quickly got the guidelines in place. I spaced things out rather than go all in at once as it would be easier for the residents to accept and so I started dressing and appearing more feminine until I was basically going into work as I would go to see family or go out so by September I was female full time. The only thing I haven’t done yet is wear a dress to work, but dresses and motorbikes don’t mix and as I’m often out and about and doing physical activities with the people I care for a dress isn’t going to be that practical. That said I know I’m doing a couple of hours on Christmas day before seeing family so I’m going to get Richard to drive me in and I’m going to wear a dress to work. Consider it a Christmas present for myself.

I am so much happier and relaxed at work, even if it is taking a while for some of the residents to get used to things. It’s brought me closer to most of them, though there’s one where I’ve had to take a step back for a while as he was getting anxious that things would be said when we were out together and he didn’t want to be involved or attacked though to be honest I’ve not had any issues thus far going out as myself. One day he’ll feel comfortable and we’ll be back to normal, it’ll just take a little time and he’s fine working with me in the evenings when he’s staying in and all is going as normal there. I can’t thank work enough for being so supportive with this, as well as the double bereavement we suffered.

Between all this if we’ve survived all this and our relationship has survived then nothing is going to break us apart now and in October I had this moment where I realised that yes, our relationship isn’t going to just survive my transition, but it might even thrive because of it. Hubbie and I are a lot more communicative now, I’m a hell of a lot happier and that dark cloud I spoke about earlier had gone and he was happy because he was seeing me grow, gain a confidence I’ve never had and finally be me. I know he’s still struggling with some aspects,  mostly the physical ones and I’m really struggling with intimacy because things happen and dysphoria comes along to give me a good kick, but it’s an ongoing thing and we’re getting there, one day at a time, baby steps if needs be. I just wish he didn’t describe my transition as a kind of bereavement, especially at a time when we’ve both had to say good bye to close family.

As for my transition n general, things are ongoing. Though I’m waiting to be seen at the GIC in Charing X I did get a good taste of what’s to come back in September as they did an induction course, where we learned about the various aspects of transition, (hormones, voice coaching, etc) some lovely graphic videos of surgery (I didn’t faint or hurl, which is pretty good going for squeamish me) and a booklet on things we can be doing for ourselves while we’re waiting.

Because I wasn’t happy to wait a year for the NHS I had two appointments booked privately to get my hormones properly sorted out rather than flying alone like I am at the moment I realised that I’d be in a pretty good position by the time they caught up with me if I carried on doing what I had been doing. I’d have a year’s life experience in the social role, I will have been on hormones for a year by then, my deed poll had already been done and all of my documents updated to my chosen name and I’m reasonably happy with where I’ve gotten my voice to. I knew all those years singing to Bruce Dickinson and keeping a good high register would have a practical use, but I’ll go into depth about that another day. I’m steadily working on getting a nice, soft and stable voice and I’ve got the resonance up in my head rather than my chest, which helps with things.

The further down the line I go the happier I’m becoming. I’ve got confidence, self esteem and a positive body image for the first time in my life. Now someone try reason with me why transitioning is a bad thing? I can’t think of anything better than being able to be your true self. To be anything else is an act of self harm.

Finally I want to thank everyone who’s helped me along the way so far. Richard, family, my friends, you’ve all been there, encouraging me and giving me a lift when I’ve had a bad day. You’re all amazing people.

One last thing before I go. When I was coming to terms with my transition one particular booklet helped immensely, I’ll leave the link below as it’s great for people coming to terms or working out their gender identity as well as family and friends.

http://www.nhs.uk/livewell/transhealth/documents/livingmylife.pdf

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