My first dysphoric moments……

You know the classic trans narrative? – “from my first memories I knew I was a girl”. Well not me. I think I always got on better with girls than boys. My bestie from the age of 5 was a girl from round the corner. We watched Andy Pandy together and stuff like that. However, my childhood, was pretty normal I think. So when were my first dysphoric moments? In my early teenage years I guess. I recognise them now as dysphoric moments although at the time like most of my age I had no idea what Gender Dysphoria or being Transgender was. I am not even sure those terms had even been invented back then. I dabbled in complete privacy in my teenage years and no one even knew. I parked those thoughts and emotions well and truly. I used my mum’s make up when I had the chance and those chances were few and far between.

However on Sunday (28/05/17) I was talking with Eva about what I now know was one of my first dysphoric moments . I reckon it was in the mid 1970s.

I went to school in Harlow. Burnt Mill Comprehensive, off First Avenue and right next to the town park.  Being a village kid, I used to get a coach into school every day. Anyhow I digress. Harlow Council used to put on free concerts every summer, They had some really good bands play there during the 70’s and early 80’s and the towns youth turned out in there thousands to watch them. (See the picture below).

I was lucky to be able to go to some them as I grew older and mum and dad allowed me. The headline act was always supported by some local bands. I can remember going along to see Dr Feelgood, Darts, Caravan and Heatwave to name but 4. Normally accompanied by my first experience of Woodpecker Cider, the dreaded alcohol. I had my first date at one of those concerts; was beaten up by a gang after one concert, waiting for my dad to pick me up and also what I consider to be one of my first dysphoric moment. 

I remember one night. A steaming hot summers night. The park was packed, with thousands of people. The bandstand, which is still there today, used to have a moat in front of the stage. I remember being in the crowd and a woman, well she was probably in her late teens, early twenties was in the moat, splashing herself with water. She was drunk or high, who knows. She had jeans and a white cheese cloth top on (no bra). She looked stunning. I so wanted to be that woman. I remember the guys at school talking at lunch on the Monday about the girl in the water. You know, boy talk……. I sat quiet that lunch time because my head was all over the place. How the hell could I say anything. I did not even understand what I was thinking and they would not have a clue either. So I parked those thoughts, buried them deep inside. They found their way out eventually. It just took them a very long time. I never ever regret parking those thoughts. After all I would not have my own children or a grandson had I of not. But I do think if I were a child of the early 21st Century, life would have been very different.

So back to that bandstand. This moat in front of the stage has now been filled in. The steam still runs through the park but the moat can be seen no more. On our way back from the coast on Sunday Eva and I stopped off in Harlow and had a wander around the park showing her some of the sights from my youth. I have so many memories of that park. So many memories. 

Below is a picture of me from Sunday standing where the moat would have been, in front of the stage. Alongside is a picture of the crowd from one of those concerts.

Veronica x

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Harlow bandstand 28th May 2017

 

View from the stage on one of those 1970’s summer nights

 

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Sliding door moments…….

Who remembers the late 90’s film with Gwyneth Paltrow – Sliding Doors. A classic British rom-com with a bit of fantasy element thrown in. Like how do we ever get to live out two scenarios right? Life’s not like that. You pays  your money, you takes your choice. All that said I do wonder “what if”. All the time. I am watching the film again now as I scribble these notes.

What if I had bothered to watch the Spurs game at West Ham the other week. Would it of made a difference? Maybe we would have won. Put Chelsea under pressure. Maybe Spurs would still be in a title chase. Let’s face it, it takes only a miniscule flap of a butterfly wing to make a difference. Another one of my favourite films (The Butterfly Effect). Maybe for tomorrow when I eventually get round to doing my ironing.

I trivialise the point but really I do think through, what I call “sliding door moment” scenarios all the time. Trying to understand what may of happened if what happened had been, you know slightly different. How my life would have been different. Would I of changed anything? 

I wonder how my life would of turned out had of not transitioned and I want to write about that. It’s a pretty stupid thing to write about really as transitioning, apart from some fairly major consequences was the best decision I eventually took in my whole life. Without a shadow of doubt.

So what was life like prior to transition? Well I had a lovely life on the face of it. I was in a wonderful relationship, with a lovely girlfriend, who supported me as a guy who dressed on occasions. We had good jobs, a great lifestyle and we were very much in love. I am pretty sure we would have married one day. All I had to do was keep Veronica in the proverbial box. Easy right? Well for me at least it was all wrong. Of course I wanted to keep all the good things, our love and our lifestyle but just tweak me a little, you know just a tad! I needed to transition. I had to. I was becoming more and more withdrawn. I thought of nothing else. Eventually I could hold back no more and I effectively gave my girlfriend and myself a sliding door moment. Get on the tube with me or stay on the platform. Guess what? She stayed on the platform. “My cake and eat it”. Who was I kidding. Absolutely my loss.

In the early months she struggled more than me I think. I had my transition to plan, a house to furnish and a new life to adjust to. She had emptiness as soon as I left. It must of been really hard for her. Fortunately now I suspect she is over the worst which is great. We are two and half years further forward. Time has healed her. We still chat on occasions, mainly surface stuff. It’s, really not the same. We shared so much. Vowed we would always remain best of friends. But we failed at that. I have no idea how she feels anymore. That gets me down a lot. Not having her as a bestie; and we were besties.

So, now I am out the other side of my transition I think long and hard sometimes about what would have happened if she had caught that tube with me. Of course I will never know. We never know what would of happened “if” and nor should we. We make decisions and deal with the consequence of those decisions. Life is not a fantasy. It’s the real thing. We get once chance to get it right. 

Before transition I had a wonderful life with a wonderful girlfriend but it was all built on crumbling foundations that I thought I could underpin without the house falling down. Sadly, the house came down.

After transition my foundations are rebuilt, robust and will last me a lifetime. I just need to rebuild a wonderful life to put on them. Life goes on. Onwards and upwards……

u

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Being ‘clocked’…..

Let me first of all explain what being ‘clocked’ is in the context of being transgender. It’s when someone recognises that you are transgender. Now this probably happens every day of my life but if people say nothing, I never know. When however they say something to you to let you know that they know well that’s a different story and that’s what happened to me at the gym on Saturday (22/04/2017) lunch time.

I do have a defence mechanism to help me deal with such occasions and to be honest it’s the first time its happened since last summer and I wrote about that occasion in my blogs. This mechanism which I put into action since then is to just assume mentally that everyone knows. This means that most of the time I have a positive mental state as the vast majority of the time I have no problems at all.

Today was different though. I joined the gym just over 3 weeks ago. I never had the confidence before surgery. For obvious reasons my anatomy would have been a dead giveaway in the changing rooms. I knew that as soon as I was fit and able I would be joining a gym. So I took the leap and I have been going around 3 times a week ever since.

This is dead different to going out in mainstream places, dressed appropriately and wearing makeup. When I go to the gym I have no makeup at all. I choose to shower and change there and that means stripping naked. Clearly I am not alone in this. The changing facilities are open plan. One thing I have noticed is that women are much more discrete in the changing rooms. Unlike men they stay naked for the minimum amount of time possible and generally don’t hang around too long unless they are drying hair or putting makeup on after. So I behave in the same way. I learnt quickly. When I wash my hair and put a face on after, of course I am there longer also.

So in the 3 weeks or so since I joined I have had no problems at all and to be honest Saturday lunchtime was not a problem as such, it just reminded me that I am not always getting away with it all the time. I have started going to classes. Body pump, Pilates and Bums Legs and Tums are the three classes I am enjoying. Spinning is off limits at the moment as I am not sure I can sit on a saddle for a while yet. So what it means is I am able to socialise with the other ladies. Get to know them and talk to them before and after the classes. Only in passing you understand but none the less it is nice. I have also purchased a swimming costume and whilst I have not been in the pool yet I do use the Jacuzzi, Steam room and Sauna. This is a perfect way to unwind after a hard class and gives me more time to interact.

It’s funny, just before I was “clocked” I was chatting to a lady in the sauna who was commenting on my tattoos. We got chatting and I was telling her about a cover up I had to have of my ex’s name on the base of my spine which I converted, with my design into my very own personal tramp stamp. Her retort to me was “did ‘he’ have your name on his spine”. To which I replied “yes of course”. There was no need for me to correct her.

So what happened in the changing rooms? Well one of my fellow body pumpers  was very chatty. So I was passing the time of the day with her whilst I was trying to dry my hair. She beckoned me to one side and said “just so you know, it’s cool, no one else has clocked”. I went red I guess, played it down, but she gave me a cuddle, a reaffirming cuddle and we carried on getting ready. She could have said nothing, she should have said nothing but she did and it was done.

It could of been a whole lot worse I think but again, realisation that I can be ‘clocked’ still. I asked her what was the sign. “My voice”! God I have to work on this more. I thought my voice was sort of ok but clearly it needs work. Now if she had said to me “darling you are quite tall, or you have no arse, or your shoulders would look good on a line backer for the New England Patriots, or your tits just defy gravity and are too far apart” I would have sort of understood. But my voice. Damn! I need to work on that.

All in all, not a bad experience, but worth writing a few words about it.

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Dating in stealth mode…….

I did something this afternoon (Good Friday 2017) that I said I would never do. What did I say I would never do? Go on a date with someone before they knew I was a trans woman. Shock horror!

Now some of you will say ‘that’s dishonest’ or some of you may say ‘pa, I do that all the time’. Some of you may be thinking was it a man or a woman?

I have tried a couple of approaches on the dating site that I use to introduce the fact I am a trans woman. I either write it down clearly in my profile or I introduce it into conversation if they approach me. I generally don’t make the first move.

If you are trying to date a man then there is no point writing anything down as they generally act off the visual and in my case at least they tend to disappear quickly once I tell them, generally followed by blocking me. I have this humorous vision of them in a bathroom cleaning their hands vigorously with bleach at the thought of actually fancying me. I wish them nightmares for several consecutive nights 🙂 .

However, never have I met someone without them knowing I am trans. The reality is that I have only ever had three dates from a dating site since I transitioned. They were last year and they were all women. Not at the same time of course!

So how can you switch between men and women I hear you thinking? Well I can’t and the sexuality thing is still sort of a mystery to me. I guess I am pansexual. Look it up if you struggle to understand what it means.  The reality is that on my dating site at least you need to say you are a woman seeking a woman or a woman seeking a man. So I switch my profile setting every now and again. I could of course have two profiles but that is too complicated for little old me.

So how did the date go? Well we agreed to meet in a coffee shop this afternoon at 1pm. I walked in with my Stonewall T shirt with huge letters on the front saying ‘Some people are Trans. Get over it!‘ Ok, no I didn’t but wouldn’t it be good if one day being trans is just accepted and there was no need for Stonewall to ever print such T shirts.

It’s always nervy when you meet someone for the first time and fairly mundane going over the life’s history thing with someone new. Of course I had to blag it a bit. Yes, I know another word would be ‘lie’. But I did avoid telling an untruth. He was very complimentary of me (yes it was a man). He actually used the phrase ‘so what’s the catch here’ at one point which sort of made me laugh inside. We had two coffees and talked for an hour and a half I guess. He then walked me back to my car and we tentatively said we would see one another again.

I have to tell you though that it was probably one the most confidence building events since transition. It’s on a par with joining and using the gym and using the changing and shower facilities. Part of me just assumes everyone knows I am trans. I guess it’s a self defence mechanism that allows me not to be disappointed if I am clocked. You know, I have people in my life right now who would not even been seen out with me or would not be seen in an area where they will be seen by someone they know. It is this level of rejection that I suppose makes me build a self defence mechanism.

Will I meet him again and did I tell him or will I tell him? I think I will meet him again yes. He seems a nice guy. There was no ‘oh my god I want to rip his clothes off’ moment but he said and did all the right things. I don’t really need to say anymore than that. Did I tell him? No. I was desperate to tell him especially when he said to me so ‘what’s the catch?’ I held back. Let’s see if my inner beauty can shine through before he slithers away to scrub his hands in bleach. Of course he could be a good egg. Which would be appropriate as its Easter 🙂

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Return to work. Thank you Airbus…

Well, after 10 weeks and one day off, I return to work on Tuesday. The day will mark ten weeks post surgery and this is three weeks sooner than the nominal amount initially recommended by the hospital. Of course, I would not be going back if I was not ready and I would not go back had my surgeon not agreed at my post op appointment two weeks ago that I was ready.

Tomorrow I go into the office and have a meeting with occupational health just to make sure they are on board with me coming back. I have a supporting letter from the Phillip Thomas validating my return to work.

My alarms will be set and I have a tentative understanding in my head at least how I am going to get ready for work, whilst fitting in the morning dilation, avoiding the morning rush hour on the roads and not having to get up about ten minutes before I go to bed!

I am ready to return. I guess I have been lucky in recovery. I have had no complications at all. I seem to have healed well, although I have nothing to go on other than Liz at Brighton telling me just that at the post op appointment and Phillip Thomas confirming.

 I want to return. The week or so of my recovery after returning home was ok. I had support and company. The time flew by. I then had the sad passing of my mother which just became so all encompassing for a period of time. It was a horrible time to be honest but then I would expect no different. I had a few days away at my besties, Eva around eight weeks post op which preceded my appointment back at the Nuffield Hospital and a couple of other visits from friends but apart from that it was very quiet and just reflected really the loneliness I feel in my life most of the time. Work will at least give me the structure in my life that I crave.  For the last decade or so work has provided me that comfort and structure that I so need when times are hard and believe me, there have been some hard times. I guess I have reaped the rewards financially from working harder but latterly smarter over that time.

I am happy to return.  Not by coincidence, I left work on the 20th January having completed work on a project that I have been supporting for over two years. That project is now done for me and I leave the project in a better position than when I joined them. During my recovery I had my appraisal with my boss (over the phone) and he certainly seemed to recognise that. Of course the bonus here is that I don’t have a mountain of actions to do when return to work or a mountain of emails. Well I actually do. I logged on the other day and there are shed loads of them but the likelihood is that the majority of them will relate to stuff that I do not have to respond to and a quick scan sort of confirms that. I have a new project to support. A new opportunity in the early stages of concept that will keep me busy for four or five months. After that I can think again about what I want to do. Of course it’s going to be a variation on a theme. I have no plans for a role change but would never rule it out. I am also  not ruling out working on a different site and ultimately relocating.

Work has been my sanctuary over the years. My current employer has been amazingly supportive to me during my transition and I have a lot to thank them for. So my early return to work, when I could of taken advantage of the Spring sunshine is a thank you to Airbus for the support and love they have shown me. We hear horror stories all the time about trans folk who struggle with acceptance and I include myself in this and of employers who just make life so difficult for staff in transition. For me at least, this has not been the case. Airbus have been brilliant. It’s not just because they have to be. It’s because they have a culture of diversity and acceptance regardless of minority. They truly believe it and it shows. They don’t shout about it. They don’t have diversity champions and LGBT communities or forums, not at as far as I am aware anyway, because they don’t need to. They just believe in people and humanity. I hope that never changes. I feel proud to work there.

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Exercising those demons

You would have thought at the point of coming out the other side of transition there would be next to no demons to exercise wouldn’t you? I thought that too. Gender dysphoria is largely evaporated, for me at least and I am living my life as the person I should been. Unbelievably content as well. That inner sense of well being or contentment is on a maximum. Of course shit happens and I still have issues in my life that I need to deal with but that is just life. Who said everything had to be rosey! It’s certainly not in my case but on the contentment scale I am up there with the elite.

I make no apology for the “play on words” used in the title of this blog. You can chose to assume I used or ‘exer…’ and not ‘exor…’ by mistake if you wish.

I have realised during my recovery from surgery I have exercised two of the last few demons. They are gone. Vanished. Never to be seen again. They are out of my head and I feel pretty good about that.

The first demon went because it was time. My mother passed away. A extremely emotional period back in February and early March and I knew that when this happened I would have to communicate with the extended family that I see so rarely, who do not know about me. Well I made the communication, everyone was polite and we all disappeared back to our “Shires” after the funeral. Some of them already knew, much to my surprise. Some of them I will no doubt see again and before the next family bereavement, birth or marriage. But the act of communicating was far easier than the fear of telling them.

The second demon I cleared this week. There was a timing aspect to this demon that I was never going to exercise until after surgery. I was not brave enough to even contemplate it before hand. This relates to communal changing facilities. There is one thing using the loos in public. This is easy, but communal changing facilities a whole new level.  Of course I could of joined one pre surgery and just avoided the changing facility and showered and stuff at home but I felt uncomfortable with that. I wanted to make full use of the facilities. For ages now I have been working out on my own in the garage up to surgery. So this week I joined a gym. This morning I had my first active session. I had a tour of the facility earlier in the week but this was my first workout. Apart from being knackered, I am so pleased I managed to do this. I arrived ready to work-out so just had to leave my change of clothes in a locker on the way through. The act of stripping off, showering and changing after was the demon really and of course being seen by many people with no makeup. In an open facility with other women. I was very discrete as I always will be and I was very pleased how comfortable I felt and as for the makeup thing, well guess what, no other women wear makeup in the gym, like I knew that but, oh I don’t know! No second glances, no staring and again, there was no need to be scared. I sort of knew I would be ok. Anatomically I have no surprises for people now. With this demon well and truly packed away I can now work on removing the excess weight I have gained post surgery. All that sitting around and comfort eating has taken its toll on my waist line. I am hoping also that over time it may improve my social circle as I start going to classes and meeting people.

 

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Doing my thing

 

So what other demons are left to exorcise? I can think of one and I am not going to write about that.

Veronica  x

30th March 2017

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The hardest part of transition…

23rd March 2017

Yesterday my surgeon assessed me, just over 8 weeks post surgery. He is very happy with the results, as I am and he has agreed that I am ready to return to work sooner than the planned 24th April. So I plan to restart at work on the 4th April. This is really good news for me as I have been going stir crazy at home.

Recently, peers of mine from nGendr have been producing videos about different aspects of transition. Six people giving their own personal views on topics. One of the recent set of releases were each of them giving their account of what they perceived was the hardest part of transition. They were really interesting and also surprising how differently  they all view the hardest part of transition. This got me thinking, like I do, of what has been the hardest part for me. So I thought I would have a little ramble on the topic.

Of course it would be easy to say, dealing with gender dysphoria is hard, coming out is hard, waiting is hard, uncertainty of being able to complete transition is hard, being misgendered is hard, surgery and recovering from surgery is hard and they all are just that. Very hard. But without a doubt they are less significant when compared to the hardest thing of all, which is for me “acceptance” or more importantly “lack of acceptance”.

When I first came out I perceived I was very lucky. People who are not, or were not emotionally attached to me before transition are the group that are generally the most accepting and supportive. I have been fortunate to gain many friends this way.

However, as time went on my family started to struggle. Maybe they always did and my rose tinted glasses did not allow me to see it. I am not quite sure there.

There were a few exceptions who disowned me from day one. They chose to cut me out of their lives completely, as if I never existed. They were not openly aggressive with me, they just disappeared from existence. Of course it hurt at the time, but I remember thinking “oh well, their loss”, or words to that effect. It’s weird, I met these people recently at a family gathering and they completely blanked me. At least they were consistent. I actually felt sorry for them.

As time has moved on and I have matured and grown into the person I am now I have found that acceptance is actually far more complicated than just “I accept you” or “I don’t accept you”. There are shades of grey that over time have become very frustrating to me at least.

In this context, what do I mean by shades of grey? Well it’s the scenario where by a person is happy to embrace you as long as they are not seen with you. Sometimes it can be as long as they are not seen by someone that knows them, other times it can be “let’s not go out in public”. In the early days, I accepted these conditions, through gritted teeth. Nowadays I find it intolerable.

I would look for reasons as to why they still felt this way, like it was my fault. I would blame myself for not looking “convincing enough” for them and therefore making them feel uncomfortable. Maybe it was the way I dressed or the way I behaved that drew attention to myself that made them feel uncomfortable. Now without blowing my own trumpet I know this is not the case now. I look as convincing as the next woman and I dress appropriately. My body language is very neutral. My voice has always been sort of ok. Basically I have no problems in mainstream society. Yet I still have people around me who would not want to be seen with me. How long do I have to put up with this?

The other thing that is really now starting to nark me is “you have changed”. Said with a positive outlook this is flattering. Said in a negative tone this is like a stick beating me. I am not talking here about how I look. Of course I look differently. Or even my physical body language. This clearly has to change in order for you to blend into a mainstream society. I am talking about my personality. Now, apart from being a whole lot happier and content I don’t think I have changed at all. But I do accept that being a whole lot happier and content shows. I smile more. I express emotion. I talk more. I write more. I am much more in tune with life. No matter how I try to analyse it I can’t see how anyone can apply a negative tone to “you have changed”. But believe me, they do.

Someone said to me recently “you need to give me time”. They have known about me for over three years. How much time do they need? What are they worried about? Being judged themselves because someone close to them is transgender. This is what I think it’s all about. I cannot tolerate this forever.

How would you judge a friend of yours that belittled you because you were seen out with you mate who was black or gay? I can tell you, if anyone belittled me because of this then they would no longer be my friend. Being transgender is still a taboo and it completely sucks.

So 3 weeks before I went for surgery, my final surgery, my life reaffirming surgery, one of my closest family members decided that they wanted nothing to do with it or me, only days after confirming that they would visit me in hospital. I was causing them no end of grief, that they really struggled with my transition and that they were cutting me out of their life at least for the time being. I was devastated but my retort to them was, “well you have that choice”. If they had said that over 3 years before when I came out to them then it would have been easier, although it would have hurt just the same. But to do it when I would have appreciated their support and help is a kick in the stomach.

I am now approaching that time when I have some difficult decisions to make. I am losing patience with being made to feel like the embarrassment; the person that has to be visited on occasions out of duty. Fitting me in because they feel they have to rather than want to. Acceptance or lack of it is worse now than at any time and largely because I am pushing back. I am saying no, this is not good enough. I am the classic family oger and the down side to this is an ever increasing sense on loneliness.

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