Category Archives: Medical

Here We Go Again …

Yup, it’s another day and another trip to London, the use of several trains and doing battle with the dreaded, overcrowded and stuffy underground system. This can only mean one thing: Visiting a certain medical centre tucked above a local supermarket in Fulham, otherwise known as Charing Cross Gender Identity Clinic. (CHX from here on in)

Yes, I’m back here again, though for myself this time, having been this way recently with Rebecca and Sylvie to get Nadine to her workshop date and later for Rebecca’s consultation. My appointment wasn’t until 2 but I was out the door by 7.30 to meet Rebecca as she’d been dragged into work early and had an appointment of her own earlier in the day. One trip to Watford later and we’re eventually on the way to London After lunch at a cafe I visited the first time I went to CHX, we’re in the waiting room an hour early, because Rebecca and I both like to make sure we get to places early.

2pm rolls around and shortly after we’re sitting in the consultant’s room, and not quite sure what to expect from the day and instantly had a talk about how at future appointments me and Rebecca might not be able to be in the room together as we’re both on the books at CHX and being seen by the same people can potentially cause a conflict of interest. Not how I wanted to start things but anyway.

Today, well yesterday now because I was too wiped out to write last night, was my first opinion for surgery, so this time the questions were a bit different. Less of the history and what not (how did you figure out you’re trans, etc which I’ve written about in past blogs) and more on my frame of mind and weather or not I’m stable, for want of a better word. In a way this was a relief as I’ve been through my history three times now, in other ways not so.

She did ask when I came out, when I transitioned at work and what I do. I was asked to bring some occupational evidence to my next consultation (payslips, etc) as they need evidence on record that you’ve fully transitioned and not just saying you have and are hiding under a rock when you’re at home. Well I’ve kept all my bank, pension and tax stuff for the past 15 years in amongst other things, (much as I’d like to burn all the dead name stuff, I haven’t as it’s too important to destroy), so rounding that up is no issue.

I was asked about my past mental health, bouts of depression and if I self harmed and when. That was fun, given that meant talking about what I did, as well as my suicide attempt when I was 17. I I was asked if I’d had counselling at any point and I did say that I had for when I lost dad and that I do have the odd day when grief hits hard. I was advised that if this got to the point where I was struggling to function that I should seek more counselling for this as I’m at the point where if I was struggling that badly it wasn’t good for my mental health. If I’m honest though, things are getting more manageable on that front with time.

I was asked about my physical health and any medical conditions. Aside from arthritis and my usual issues with my joints and back there’s not too much else to talk about there so I went over what medication I’m on.

I was asked about my hormone medication and how I’ve felt while I’ve been on this, if I’ve had any dips in mood and so on. I was also asked when I last had a blood test (top tip, get a blood test done just before you go to one of these) and my elevated oestrogen level was noticed, as my result from the other week came back as 702, when the top of the healthy range is 600. I’ve got a telephone consultation with my GP this week regarding this, so my consultant was not overly concerned about this, but advised me that this should be back into range before I come back to CHX as being on HRT comes with an elevated risk of blood clotting, thrombosis and so on. I was asked if I smoked as this is a big no-no when on HRT as this raises the risk further. I don’t smoke and hate smoking so that’s not an issue.

Then we started talking about surgery, what I wanted and why. Now I’m still on the fence in regards to what I want surgery wise, but at the moment I said I wanted to go for the full vaginoplasty, because I wanted to have some degree of intimacy that wasn’t instantly destroyed when present arrangements down below got rowdy. I want surgery for peace of mind, to know I’m complete, can get dressed and go out and not worry about tucking and so on.

With that we talked a bit more about what surgery entailed, the need to dilate and so on. All stuff I knew already having seen so many trans friends go through this and talk about the aftercare and whatnot. I was also asked about what support I’d have post surgery, who would look after me while I recovered, which would be mainly Rebecca, though I did joke that fair’s fair and I’ll be doing the same for her one day when it’s her turn to go through all this. We did also discuss about the physical prerequisites for surgery, namely having a BMI under 28/ waistline that’s less than 100cm. To he honest, unless something drastic happens, this won’t be an issue for me and she agreed.

After that, I was given some leaflets and information, a couple of people to contact regarding surgery questions and electrolysis, not that I know if I need hair removal down below yet, and then given the all clear. She was happy I was stable and suitable for surgery and all I need now is a second opinion to back this up.

Relieved, Rebecca and I went back to the waiting room and tried not to melt while waiting for my letter for my next appointment to be prepared. We joked with the receptionist there must be an NHS directive that all their buildings must be heated up to 50C or so. A few minutes later, I had my letter, which I promptly scribbled a note to future me regarding the payslips and stuff I’d need to bring with me.

With that, I wait till October the 31st, appropriate for me as that’s the end of the Pagan year and both me and Rebecca noticed that. All I need to do is keep doing what I’m doing, do regular blood tests and get my oestrogen level back into range. Aside from that I can do some reading and research, make use of the contacts I was given and get on with life until then.

Oh well, what’s a blog without some pics of the day? Enjoy 🙂

(Yeah, I went for a gothic witch look, it’s been a while and it was a nice day for a skirt)

(And a huge thanks to my beautiful Rebecca, who’s always at my side. I swear next time we’re here it’ll be for you darling.)

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A Grand Old Mess.

Well today is going quite grand as I now have a crying and upset Rebecca to try and settle.

Why is this?

Her GP. The thing is they’ve been wanting to see her about some issue or other, which we think is in relation to a letter both she and they have received from Charing X GIC regarding her self medicating on hormones.

The GP phoned yesterday and wanted to do a telephone consultation with her next week. Knowing this wouldn’t work I made arrangements to see the GP today so I could be there with Rebecca and give her some moral support while we sort out this mystery issue (as we’ve received no actual confirmation from the GP what this is all about). Doctors stress Rebecca out at the best of times given she’s had a slew of rough experiences in the past with them over a number of issues, so she’s been pretty on edge since yesterday.

(Rebecca: I’ve had so many care failures and obstacles before that I am disheartened and now even afraid to go to the GP. It took so much and the help of my Chrissy to just simply go and say “Hello I have a problem”. I am so distraught with it all.)

Just as we were about to head off out the door we get a call from the surgery. They’ve cancelled the appointment as the GP isn’t sure if he can sort out this issue in a 10 minute slot. I explain to them how stressed out Rebecca is over all this and why I need to be there with her. They insist they can’t sort things out today and insist on an evening appointment a little over a week away as this will be the first chance me and Rebecca will both be off work together. With all this going on I now have Rebecca in one arm sobbing her heart out and the phone in the other.

This illustrates a larger problem though, namely the detrimental effect on the mental health of so many transgender people who have to wait a ridiculous amount of time to get any support with transitioning due to the increasingly ass backwards setup we have in this country.

Most trans people have spent years dealing with their inner demons and finally deciding to speak up and ask for medical help with transitioning. To be told it’ll be at least a year for any initial consultation, several months to a year for a second opinion before they’ll think of dispensing hormones puts an incalculable amount of stress upon individuals. Add in the fact the total crap-shoot that is the process of obtaining a bridging prescription, dependant on weather your GP feels competent enough to monitor your levels or not and it’s no wonder so many trans people take matters into their own hands, as my partner has.

(Rebecca: It is not fun for your partner, who can’t stand needles anyway, to watch you on a Sunday night sticking a needle in your backside as you perform your own intramuscular injections or taking medication that’s actually for people who have heart disease in quantities that should kill you. And this isn’t just about getting a girly look. This is to improve my mental health and stability so I can function as a normal person. Or as normal as it gets when you’re transgender in a society that shuns and ridicules you for trying to live.)

If that’s not enough, when you finally see a GP, they pass on the info surrounding your self medication record to the GIC. They then send out a shitty and condescending letter on how dangerous it is taking matters into your own hands, as Rebecca has had recently instead of offering any meaningful advice or solutions. This is not on.

We KNOW the risks. We also know what hormone levels are ideal for the results we want to achieve with this and know it’s a simple case of frequent blood monitoring and either upping or lowering dosages until they sit right, and then routine monitoring to ensure they stay that way. It’s not hard. Most of us trans people feel capable of doing this, so why not your average GP, who has to do the EXACT SAME procedure with most other long term medication? Do you really think we WANT to go it alone on this? Do you think we do this for a laugh? No!

(Rebecca: All I need is my blood tests so I can manage my medication. Ideally I would be on “official” HRT as well and doing the same thing anyway. How will I know that I have to much potassium or to much oestrogen, if I can’t have bi weekly or monthly blood tests so I can regulate what amounts to quite deadly substances entering my body? I have already had an incident where my oestrogen was 4600 and I had to stop for 7 weeks to let it all drain out and start again. And even now I am cautious and deliberately missed this weeks dose because I don’t know what’s in my system and the doctor wouldn’t give me a batch of blood tests to find out. We need to be able to have small gender clinics in every town so we can just go and at least start and have the facilities to just have tests ordered or done. A blood test will not kill anyone.)
If we had a modern system where we can gain access to care in a reasonable time we wouldn’t be having such issues on  routine basis and my girl wouldn’t be in the sobbing mess she is right now. Needless to say I am very angry with the whole thing right now. All we want is to be able to feel comfortable in our own bodies. That’s all it is. It’s not a mystery. We’re fully informed and aware of the consequences of pursuing this course of treatment and we go into this with our eyes wide open and until the powers that be get their heads out of their asses and stop all this gate-keeping nonsense, what played out today and even worse scenarios are going to keep on happening.

The Promised Land?

Well maybe not but today does bring me one step closer to what I want and need to do for myself to feel right in my own body. It’s been thirteen months but today I finally had my first appointment at Charing Cross Gender Identity Clinic (GIC as I can’t be arsed to keep typing that out).

I suppose that unless you’ve been living on the moon you know how ridiculously long it takes for transgender people to get access to facilities and care they need to sort themselves out and feel right in their own bodies. I should have gone in April but had the appointment cancelled by them 4 days beforehand. Given I have anxiety issues anyway with important meetings and appointments being whipped away at the last minute after looking forward to them, this was not good for me. It also resulted in me spending the past few days in a high state of anxiety hoping it didn’t happen again and resulted in me being wide awake and messing around on Twitter at 5am. I really wasn’t too bothered about the appointment itself, having been through this all before last year, it was the getting there and making sure I got there which was getting at me. Sounds a bit daft but that’s me really.

Figuring out what to wear was easy really. I was riding the scooter to the station so that meant jeans and whatever top I fancied wearing on the day. I went with something simple yet appropriate without drawing too much attention to myself. I also decided to wear my Pride necklace in light of the horrible goings on in Orlando. People should not be gunned down because of who they love and this world is a fucked up place if those in power do nothing to prevent future tragedies.

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Anyway, I went and did my now familiar routine of bike, train and tube to where I need to go, having done several runs to go see family down south among other things lately. If I ever get a job which requires commuting to London during rush hour, section me. I hate crowds and noise, I hate the underground at the best of times but the underground at 9am is a special hell for me. I had to wait for three trains before I could actually get on one as they were that packed. I’m not too hot on going down those escalators that look like they’re half a mile high from the top either.

Anyway, one mild panic attack later I get to Baron’s Court and wander over to the clinic. Thanks to my usual trick of factoring way too much time to get to places I’m an hour early. Thankfully I remembered to pack The Long Utopia to read while I’m waiting and having updated a couple of minor details for their records. Interestingly they’ve got a new I.T system which they had installed the day before and are getting used to. Weather this is a good or bad thing long term I don’t know.

Anyway 11am comes and I’m called in, having calmed myself down and knowing I’m not going to be stood up at the last moment.

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(Yup, my usual sunglasses/MP3 combo to block out the hectic world when I’m out and about on my own)

I’m immediately wrong-footed as I’m introduced to someone else instead of the gentleman who was meant to be seeing me (he was ill) but we soon got down to things.

Now most people who get to my stage go for an initial assessment. There’s two of them, done by two separate people to get two opinions before we get around to goodies such as hormones, speech therapy etc. I’ve already done this through my going through the private road, so the first five minutes or so I was explaining what I had done and arranging to have all my appointment notes copied as they didn’t have them on record here, though I’m sure I was told they would have been sent over. Glad I brought my black folder full of everything I’ve done to date transition wise.

With that out the way and having rather wrong footed the lovely lady who was seeing me with all this, we got on with things. I was asked pretty much the same questions Dr Lorimer did last year, questions about my dysphoria, growing up, puberty, how I came to realise I was trans and so on, as well as family history, what support I had and what experience I had socially to date.

This was useful in a way as I was able to discuss what went on since Dr Lorimer saw me and how that’s affected things. Things like how going into my new job as me has been a liberating experience and how everything that has changed has been for the better.

After all this was written down I was asked about what I wanted from the GIC, as they offer voice coaching, counselling, hormones and endocrinology, a limited degree of facial hair removal as well as surgery. I’ve gotten right to the point and said all I need is gender reassignment surgery. I discussed with her about how I’ve feminised my voice on my own, how far I’ve gotten with facial hair removal on my own (I know I’m too far along with that to qualify for any funding assistance anyway), and thanks to my discussion earlier, mentally I’m in a far better place now having figured out who I am and what I need to do. As for hormones, again that’s all set up and I have a GP who is competent with monitoring and knows what to do and who to contact if he needs advice. I literally just need my bits sorting out, which is the one thing I can’t do myself.

With that in mind I was asked what I wanted done down there. I want things to be as fully functional as they can get and I stated as such. She went a bit more into asking me how much my bits bother me and I told her I’m at a point where aside from handling the damn thing so I can wash it properly I want nothing to do with them. I want them gone and I have to remind myself every time I shower I have to wash those bits to keep them clean and healthy as I don’t want any complications arising from infections or scarring affecting what I want done.

By then we were pretty well at the end of our appointment and discussing what happens next. Usually you book a second appointment, with a different consultant and pretty much go through the same thing again as they need two opinions before giving you access to the treatments you need. With me and having just had my two previous assessments photocopied for their records it’s a bit different. When I go back I’ll likely be asked more abut surgery and what I want as by then I’d have been full time as me and on hormones for over a year and having done everything else I need or want to do the only thing they can help me out with is the surgical aspect of my transition. This could well count as my first opinion for surgery as well, though no promises were made on this. If I’m honest I can’t see why not as I’ve jumped through every other hoop and gate they ask of us.

All in all a pretty good result, only tempered slightly by the fact my next appointment is not till February next year, which sucks and highlights why we desperately need more capacity in the system to speed things up a bit. I will also note on my appointment letters it states that they have issues with a high number of patients making appointments and then not turning up or cancelling them and while waiting for my confirmation letter I overheard the reception staff lament about how 3 patients hadn’t turned up this morning alone.

With letter In hand I was all set to go. After a first appointment they usually send you off to get a blood test done to get a baseline as part of their procedures. Yup, I mucked that up as well thanks to coming in armed with the blood results from last month I have done to monitor my hormone levels. It was agreed that I should continue with three monthly monitoring of these and get a set of results done as close to my next appointment as I can.

Moral of today’s tale: Don’t wait around for the clinic. If you can do things yourself, do them. It saves time in the long run. Bring all your notes and results too. Basically be proactive as you can with things.

Now with that out of the way I one more thing to do before I came home. Sarah, a friend of mine on Facebook has just had her surgery at Charing Cross Hospital, so as I’m there myself how could I not drop in to say hello, congratulations and give her a card and a hug for getting there? She’s very happy with things, especially having had a bit of a rough journey getting there, recovering well and was full of praise for her care at the hands of the staff at the hospital, which is great to hear as I’ve not heard too much about the Charing Cross team and had been considering going there myself for geographical convenience when it’s my time to dance.

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Blowing Away The Cobwebs

*Blows away the cobwebs* It’s been a while since I’ve been on here hasn’t it?  That wasn’t my intention but things have happened, a lot of things and some huge changes to my personal life. I’m not going to go into too much detail on that front because there’s some things I’d rather keep private for now but those who know me already know what’s gone on. Let’s just say I now find myself two counties away from where I was and this has brought some twists to my transition journey, so a progress report of sorts is today’s subject.

First off I’m another year older now though the jury’s out as to weather or not I’m any wiser. I’ve also passed the year mark on this journey on the 27th April. Cake, a glass of wine and a celebratory takeaway were the order of the day with my girlfriend Rebecca, who I’ve moved in with. She’s helped me so much in more ways than I can describe over the past few months and I love her with all my heart.

9th April saw me taking my scooter for it’s first ride after moving up to Hertfordshire to go see Dr Seal for my follow up appointment. Now this was surprisingly brief, about 15 minutes at most. It would have been longer but I was hampered by Medway losing my blood test results I did while I was still living there.

I had been asked to get tests done for oestrogen, testosterone and prolactin levels in my blood as well as a liver function test as this was needed for Dr Seal to get a baseline and adjust my medication if needed, but had to be doe eight weeks after going onto my testosterone blocker. I did this and had enough time to get the results without worrying. Trouble is Medway for whatever reason lost everything except my liver function test (which came back as working fine for once) and so he was unable to made any adjustments to that. Other than that, he was satisfied with my progress, everything that’s meant to be growing is doing so, as is the bits that are shrinking, which is great.

Blood pressure’s fallen to 105/60 from 125/60, which is excellent news and my weight has remained unchanged which is also good. That aside, I was due to have my first appointment at Charing Cross GIC a few days later but they cancelled due to the guy not being there the day I was due in. That’s now been kicked back to June 15th, though I wonder just what I’m going to be doing there as what usually goes on in your first appointment at the GIC I’ve already gone through. In fact by the time I get there I’d have been on some form of HRT or other for almost a year, I don’t feel the need to go for voice coaching as I have that in hand myself and I’d have been living as me full time for almost a year then as well with very little bother. I’ll take my folder full of medical notes and whatnot just in case and basically tell what I still need to do, which is basically have my bits turned inside out. For some reason, this is something I can’t do myself.

Of course moving as I have means a change of GP, something I did have some anxiety over having heard all sorts of daft stories concerning GP’s who haven’t a clue how to treat trans people and having had to help a few trans women with advice and guidelines so they can educate their GP’s and get the help that they need.  Now I had been quite lucky in that when I went to my GP to get referred he knew exactly what to do, having had some previous experience. What would my new GP be like?

I signed up to a practice down the road and is much quieter than my old GP in Medway. A couple of weeks later I made arrangements to see the nurse to have my next Decapeptyl injection done, my  testosterone blocker which has helped me no end since being on it. I see the nurse and end up having a natter about my history, some questions regarding my health before administering the injection. Turns out she’s had experience with my medication and had a trans patient at her previous surgery.

A few days later I was back to see the GP to get my blood tests redone. Again, we had a brief discussion regarding my health, a quick flick through my medical notes I brought in just in case and he sorts out the blood test form. He also discussed my present medication and the way he was talking about them it sounds like he too has had experience with trans patients as well. He also talked me through the on-line services his surgery has so I can make appointments on-line, view my medical history and he even set up a repeat prescription for my meds so all I need to do is order on-line or call them two weeks before I run out and they’ll sort everything out. This is brilliant, what more can I ask or hope for?

Lately I seem to have had a growth spurt lately. Usually when I have a growth spurt it goes to my chest. This time it’s gone elsewhere. Without saying too much, I’ve had a few comments from Rebecca on how my legs and bum really fill out my jeans now, which goes a long way to explain why they’re feeling a bit snug now.

Finally, I need to get back onto the hair removal front. Hrt is having an effect and I’ve noticed body hair slowing down and coming back a bit thinner, but that’s now being aided by an epilator. Not the most comfortable ways of dealing with it, but I get a nice result which lasts a little while. I also need to get back to the lasering sessions. It’s been two months since my last session and with the recent spell of sunshine we had I need to be very careful with this and avoid getting my face tanned as this can make lasering less effective on top of my usual issues I have with hot and sunny weather, namely the fact I burn in minutes, I’m almost blind without sunglasses because I can’t cope with bright light and I quickly overheat because my body’s lousy at keeping cool in this kind of weather. Time to break out the sun hat I think.

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Time Waits For No Trans

Well after a couple of weeks of kicking my heels and generally getting wound up and anxious about it I finally got to see my GP yesterday to discuss getting my blockers organised and my treatment plan in general.  Things got off to their usual start, namely me getting there 10 minutes early, because I hate being late for things, and then being seen 20 minutes late, all great for my anxiety. I was genuinely worried about my GP being awkward about my hormone therapy and with good reason having read enough horror stories about GP’s who have been unhelpful or deliberately obstructive for one reason or another.

Time dragged on while I was in the waiting room and now clock watching as I’m aware I had a double appointment and getting closer to my safe margin time wise for getting to work. Finally I get called in and asked why I was there, so I explained briefly about being trans and my recent appointment with Dr Seal. My GP then took a copy of my report and had a read through and asked a few questions.

One was about my voice of all things and if I was hoping my new meds would do something about it (There was a note in my report about me being unhappy about my voice. I’m happy with it. just struggling with Richard and his deafness). I calmly explain that my voice change is down to hard work and not hormones, wishing we’d get onto what I wanted to talk about. A second question was regarding my old meds that I’d been taking and if I was still on them. I don’t need them as I’m on the right stuff now so no. A third was if I wanted surgery. That’s a hell yes but that’s stated in the report so why even ask that?

Eventually we get to the part about my meds and what I need to do. I can see she’s unsure so I’ve talked her through what I’m taking, what it does and will do. I ask her if I can get a repeat prescription when needed as my Progynova will run out before my follow up with Dr Seal. Again she’s unsure but I reiterate I’m having follow ups with Dr Seal so all the monitoring is done at his end as well as the fact that bridging prescriptions are a thing due to the fact there’s a year long waiting list for Charing X CIG to get on with things. She finally agrees and write out a prescription for the Cyproterone Acetate, which I will need to take for the first two weeks alongside the Decapeptyl to counteract what the testosterone surge will otherwise do to me.

By now I’m a relieved and trembling giddy wreck. I get this way when something that has would the anxiety up suddenly goes and my mind kinda crashes in a way and I struggle to do anything functional, much less argue my case regarding things. As a result she’s now asking me about the fact I still have a male marker on my patient records and thinks that this would be best kept as it’ll mean not being bothered by invites for cervical smears and mammograms. On reflection, now I’ve had a day and a chat to a couple of trans friends, I wish I’d got that changed, but that’s a battle for another day. I’m now getting quite close to having to get to work and I’ve now been told I need to get my prescriptions up to the chemist so I can pick meds up and arrange a trip to see the nurse.

I get to the chemist and put them in. Then we have a problem. Because my Decapeptyl was written as a private prescription it’ll have to be put through as such and that’s a £300 hit I really can’t be doing with right now. I explain to the chemist the only reason I’ve gone private is because of the NHS missing their 18 week target for referrals. They phone the head practitioner at my GP but no dice and out of time and out of spoons to keep me going I reluctantly agree and arrange to come back Monday to pick up meds and fork over a small fortune I had intended to go on my final laser sessions.

I’m now aware I’m going to be late for work. As a result I drove the bike there that in motorbike racing parlance would describe as ‘Riding it like I stole it’. Mercifully i get to work dead on time and right into a 1-1 with my manager regarding work and how to help support me with things as I’ve been struggling lately. That boiled down to me taking things at a slower pace, take more breaks if needed, reach out to people if I am struggling and try not to take too much on at once. They might have even torn up the original prescription and written their own as they’ve just agreed to do repeats for me anyway. Big weight off of my chest and purse and I promptly book a nurses’s appointment. Annoyingly the earliest they have is 12th February so that’s what I’ve got. I have everything organised and dates to aim at. That knocks out my anxiety for a while.

While at work today and giving my phone a long overdue clear out I stumbled across something I downloaded in September which I could have done with remembering regarding registering my change of details with my GP and what I said about earlier. Oh well, it’s there for when I do sort things out. It’s below for anyone who needs it.

Advice Process for changing name and gender in Primary Care

 

D-Day?

Or should that be E-Day? Yes, I think it should. Well after several months of ticking down months, then weeks, then days and dealing with the associated anxiety that came with it today was the day. The day I go find out if I can get myself onto hormones. I’ve been self medicating for six months now, using the pill they give women to stop them falling pregnant as this could be obtained from a pharmacist rather than take my chances on the internet. It isn’t perfect and does nothing to block testosterone, but it was a start. I was slowly developing a feminine figure and happy with what I was seeing, but it was a stop-gap measure. I am fully aware it’s not good in the long run, hence booking an appointment to see an endocrinologist privately and get things organised instead of waiting who knows how long for the NHS.

Before I go any futher, I’m going to point out I’m not going to sugar coat or hold back here. There’s plenty of talk about sexual function and nudity, stuff that can be dysphoria triggering and talk of depression and self harming. Don’t say i didn’t warn you, and as a friend of mine says; “Transition isn’t all tits and rainbows”.
I’ve been worrying like hell about today, going through so many what-ifs and reasons why things might not go to plan and having to deal with bouts of anxiety that at times threatened to cripple and overwhelm me these past couple of weeks. Anyway, 9.30am rolled around and so hubbie and I got into the car, complete with my folder containing all the information, consultations and test results from my transition and headed on up to Enfield to the King’s Oak hospital and my appointment with Dr Seal at 11.45, with the usual battle between my music (which I use to relax in the car as long distance travel and travelling at speed can both set my anxiety off) and Richard trying to listen to the brand new sat-nav he bought the day before to make sure we got there OK and in time.

A couple of bouts of road rage on his part and me trying to be irreverent and funny on Twitter later we get there a full hour early. That’s part down to me despising being late for anything and getting highly wound up if I am late and partly because I know the M25  and Dartford too well to not factor in long and ludicrous delays. Still, that gave us time to have a drink and time enough for my anxiety to continue to play merry hell. If that weren’t enough, Richard had one of his chest seizures in the waiting room and I spent 10 minutes supporting him and reassuring everyone that everything will be OK in a minute. Horrible timing, but not his fault and not much he can do about them and all I can really do is stop him smashing his head up.

Anyway, that extra and unwanted drama sorted out I get called and we go in to see Dr Seal, where he explains what’s going to happen, that he’s going to ask questions and a bit later on he’s going to take some measurements,  examine my breasts and my genitalia. Eep! I had an idea that might be happening today and I thank my lucky stars I had a good trim down there and that I hadn’t overdone the Christmas eating this year.

But first the questions, oh so many questions. I was asked about my birth and early life, if there were any complications at birth and my development. I was born just fine, if rather late and as for my development, that was fraught at times, between having ADHD and being pretty slow learning to talk.

Once again I was asked about my earliest memories of gender dysphoria and I recalled how I wanted to be called Chrissy when I was 8 among other things that pointed towards things not being quite right. I got asked about when I started wearing women’s clothing, which started with me borrowing sisters stuff, getting girly stuff from charity shops as a late teen and then introducing dressing up a couple of years into my relationship with Richard and how I felt good wearing what I wore and felt awful havijg to take everything off and soon learning it wasn’t a sexual thing going on there. Family history was next and I was asked if any one else in the family who were homosexual/ bisexual or had a history of being transgender/sexual.

Next came questions about puberty, how it went, how I felt and so on, so I went into some depth about feeling very awkward about my body, hating my body image and things I did to lessen those feelings, such as getting rid of my body hair as well as being asked how my body developed, including asking if  had any breast development then. Sadly no, all that happened was a lot of hair appeared and I went from a short and stubby fatso with a 30″ waist to being 5’10” and having the same waistline.

My mental health was discussed and if I had any depression or history of mental illness, always a fun topic, especially being asked to recount if I self harmed, how I did it, if I tried to take my own life and how I went about that. I won’t go into too much detail here, I’ll just say I’m lucky that I’m still here, didn’t do more damage than I have done when I used to self harm, though I also recalled how the black cloud that’s sat at the back of my mind most of my life disappeared once I came out.

I then got a load of questions on how I eventually came to the decision I made and came out as being transgender, so I described how I felt when I used to dress up for fun and felt awful when I had to take the ladies clothes of afterwards, how I eventually got clued up on things and spent a couple of years wondering if I was genderfluid before sinking into a real hole this time last year because I finally worked out I was trans and didn’t know how the hell to tell Richard. We discussed if Richard had been supportive, leaving aside the fact he’s just driven me to my appointment and helped me get through some of what I’ve been asked,  described how he’d wait for me by the door with my clothes when I wasn’t out at work and he’d shoo me upstairs to get changed and feel happy, among other things he’s done, as well as discussing how I came out to him. Family support was discussed, how I came out to them. Richard had to tell them because I’d worked myself up into an anxious and non-verbal mess that day, and we described how dad and his mum had both said it was about time I did this and how awesome mum’s been throughout. I described how much of a help being on Twitter has been, how we all chat to one another, giving advice and being supportive to one another and generally how awesome you all are 🙂

I also described the time after I came out to family but before I got work sored out, how I was living a double life, how Richard supported me with dealing with that and discussed how I eventually came out and how the work transition was handled.
I was then asked about relationships, how many partners I’ve had and my own sexuality and sexual function. That’s pretty simple. I’ve only had three or four serious relationships with guys and a couple of platonic ones with women. As for sexual function, Richard was very helpful with helping describe how I’ve found intimacy awkward for a long while, years before I came out and how he thought something had been up but wasn’t sure but now he looks back everything made sense now, as well me basically saying I don’t want any sexual function down there, I just want the damn thing gone.

So that’s the psychoanalysis pretty much done and over, now for the physical part of the exam. I was asked what procedures I was looking at having, the only one being getting my bits turned inside out and then my weight, height and blood pressure were taken, all normal. Then I was asked to go behind a screen and get into a surgical robe while a female chaperone was called in. That was new and weird. I did ask if it was OK to just have Richard there but for legal reasons a chaperone had to be present. With that done I lay down on the bed and had my breasts checked over, including being shown how to check them for breast cancer. Again something new and something I wasn’t expecting today but nice to know how now. Then the other bits got looked at. Needless to say I felt terrible when this was being done given I hate touching those parts myself, never mind anyone else doing it. I just closed my eyes and tried to take my mind elsewhere. A couple of minutes later I was told I could get changed and oh by the way you won’t need electrolysis down there, which I found surprising and we’ll see if that still holds up in the future.

After all that excitement and being dressed and sat down again, then came the question. “Would you like some oestrogen?” Best question I’ve had asked in a very long time. We discussed ostrogen and was prescribed Progynova, which I can get myself with a prescription, and Decapeptyl, which is the testosterone blocker and is a 12 weekly injection, and which I can sort out once my GP gets the confirmation letter from Dr Seal. Aside from that I was advised to get a blood test done in 8 weeks time and make a follow up appointment in three months time to review things and possibly increase my dosage if things go well.

In short, today went as well as it could have done, though I couldn’t have done it without Richard at my side and helping me along when I needed it. I know this is tough as hell for him and I hate putting him through all this, but he really is my rock and I am so glad he’s sticking around for this journey. We drove back home, dodging a series of suicidal drivers on the now wet M25 and celebrated in style: A trip to the chippy and a pint of Hobgoblin apiece.

 

 

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