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Rainbows

I arranged an appointment to ask about T, waited two weeks and then- it was cancelled.

While I understand that it wasn’t the fault of the receptionist who rang me, I don’t think she understood how vital that appointment was to me. I was desperate.

After rearranging my appointment for the following month, I flailed, looking for options. Could I get a telephone appointment? Not until the day before. So I panicked- I asked if someone, anyone, could call me back before the end of the day.

I went back to work. Because life goes on, even when your heart is breaking.

At lunch, I walked to get myself a croissant. Nothing cheers me up more than a croissant- and this one was just about still warm. And as I walked back up the hill to work, I saw a rainbow splashed across the sky.

“And after cancelling Parker’s doctor’s appointment, God sent the rainbow as a promise to never, ever, pull that shit again,” I said.

Rainbows mean a lot to me as a queer symbol. They’re happy and bright and brazen. However, they’re also a symbol of hope, of a promise.

I was paraphrasing the story of Noah, where God sends a flood because people have been wicked, then has a nap, realises he’s overreacted and sends a rainbow as a promise to sleep on it first next time. I heard it a lot as a kid- in fact, one of my favourite toys when I was small was a cuddly Ark with pairs of tiny stuffed animals that went inside.

That rainbow brought me hope at a crucial time. I knew exactly what I was going to do- that this was going to work out even better than my original plan.

I got a telephone call from a doctor I had never met before.

“I was supposed to have an appointment with Doctor S so I can be prescribed testosterone. I need blood tests, and if I wait for the rescheduled appointment, it could be next year before it’s all sorted. Can you order the tests?”

“What ones do you need?”

And I looked them up and I told her, and she booked me in for a blood test the very next day.

I was tested.

I won.

12 Reasons I Want Testosterone

I still hate listicles. But I guess I changed my mind on the other thing. So, here are my reasons.

1. I keep getting misgendered and it flipping sucks donkey balls

Seriously, lady in Nandos who greeted me with a cheery “Hi, ladies!” You made me cry. I know you didn’t mean to but I am sick of this.

2. EMOTIONS

One of the worst things about having a bad time is all the crying I end up doing in front of people I’d rather not cry around. My dad cries (or cried; haven’t seen him in years) a lot, so it’s not an ability I’m going to lose- I just want to feel less torn apart every time something mildly inconvenient happens.

3. It’ll tell people I’m serious

I think there are still a lot of people on the periphery of my life who are of the opinion that this is somewhere between a teen phase and a midlife crisis. No. This is my life, for goodness’ sake.

4. I’m actually under no obligation to take a full dose of T

So, side effects can suck my silicone schlong. I’ll take exactly however much I’m comfy with-ta muchly. Also, I can take leuprorelin to block my natural hormones. I previously thought it would be dangerous to take long term, but I have since met people who were on it for years.

5. I can wear dresses and makeup again!

There once was a time when I’d be called “young man” wearing mascara, eyeliner and leggings. Not so any more! But maybe I can get that back? Clothes have no gender, but I do. And I love feeling the air on my legs on a hot day and I really miss it. I just don’t have the confidence to wear dresses these days.

6. T won’t kill my fertility

Now, there’s no research to say it doesn’t. But there’s no research to say it does. And there’s a fair chance I (or my partner) could be infertile anyway. You can’t hold your life back on the tiny possibility moving forward hurts.

7. Karate

I love karate. And carrying on with it without the hormones I was meant to have is getting increasingly tough. I beat myself up over this a lot- women make it to black belt all the time. But I want to fight cis men. I may not win (I am rather tiny), but I want to be considered strong enough to fight.

8. Muscles

Apparently, Sunshine likes his meat a little tougher? I can handle that. In the past, my partners have berated me for lifting weights, but since I started again I have been getting some very positive attention from him. Which suits my own wishes for my body perfectly.

9. Autonomy over my body

Various members of my family (and Sunshine’s) expressed joy at my not being on T, and that never sat right with me. It made me want to take T. At first, I put that down to me being a contrary little shit, but actually it’s more because they have no right to dictate what’s good for me and my body. It’s very easy for them to say without ever having faced the struggles I go through daily.

10. I can stop whenever

I was wrong before. T isn’t now until I die- it’s whenever I need it, for as long as I need it. If I decide I don’t need it after top surgery, so be it. If I decide I don’t need it after 65, so be it. It’s utterly flexible and I like that.

11. It will make top surgery easier

Firstly, I won’t have to argue about getting top without T. And secondly, my chest should hopefully be a little smaller by the time I do get it. Which means I’ll have a better chance of getting peri-areolar surgery and-as icky as this is- keeping my nips.

12. I didn’t actually have 12 reasons when I started writing but they’ve been incredibly easy to come up with

When I wrote the first article, I put 12 because 12 is what I had. This time around, I made it up on the spot. So, I think I kind of know I’m doing the right thing, with how easy it’s been to justify.

So yeah. I won’t pretend it’s been an easy decision. It’s one I’ve been turning over for the best part of nine years. But it’s made, and in a way I’m happy with.

I’m going to ask the doctor who offered me bridging hormones to offer them again. Wish me luck.

“Biologically…”

“Do you want to see my f**king dick, mate?” I replied, grabbing my crotch.

This was quite out of character for me, so let me explain myself.

I like Pokemon. Bloody love it, in fact. I was playing in a card tournament near my home when I overheard my opponent call me “she”.

I was confused. I tend not to move in circles in which I get misgendered these days.

“He,” I corrected. “I’m a guy.”

My opponent frowned.

“But… are you… biologically male?”

After a pause to process what I just heard with my own ears, I saw red.

“Do you want to see my f**king dick, mate?” I replied, grabbing my crotch.

After another second, I gathered myself. “Yes,” I corrected. “I know, but just because I’m 24 and can’t grow a beard…”

He apologised. I think he realised just how awkward he’d made that for me.

But you know what sticks in my craw? He wouldn’t have understood my hurt if he’d thought I was trans.

Because he wasn’t asking about my biology. Not really. He’s not my gynaecologist, my lover, my sexual health nurse. What he was asking was this:

“But are you really a man?”

Biologically, I am A negative, with Morton’s toe. Biologically, I have hypermobile joints. Biologically, I am a huge catalogue of things that are just as irrelevant as whatever criteria you’re judging my “true” sex to be.

My brain is part of my body. My brain is male. That’s what anyone else should care about.

The cis fixation on trans bodies is revolting. I just want a normal life. I’m not asking for special treatment. I want to feel comfortable. I want to play cards in a shop without it getting weird.

If you’re cis, and you don’t know why this is offensive, please comment. In an utterly non-confrontational way, I would love to know why this is an apparently acceptable question to ask.

It frightened me. I went for a piss afterwards, and I was afraid he would look under the stall door, see I was sitting, or hear that I wasn’t using a cock to pee through. Questions like that are terrifying, because of how personal they go.

I know it wasn’t meant. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t awful.

Pretty Ugly

When I first arrived in Norway, I didn’t know what was wrong. I was going to stay for a week with some old friends of my mum’s, along with my mum and my brother. A nice family holiday, somewhere I’d never been before and always wanted to go.

Kjetel met us at the airport. He wanted to take us around a few caves before we got to the flat. While there, he asked me why I’d changed my name.

I frowned.

“Because it was a female name.”

I had thought it would be obvious.

Later, we got to the flat, and it became clearer.

“The girls can sleep in there,” Marianne said.

For a start a) my mother is a grown woman and not a girl and b) I am a grown man and absolutely definitely not a girl.

My mum hadn’t told them. It wasn’t so much a punch to the gut as a hand closing tight about my neck. She was ashamed of me. And now I was stuck, thousands of miles from home, with people who possibly wouldn’t want people like me living under their roof and eating their food.

My mum cannot possibly understand. She can’t see what it is like to be hated. Because there are people out there who were my friends up until the moment I told them, and then turned on me faster than a bottle of milk on a sunny day.

So I lived the next few days how I have made it my life’s mission to never have to life- in silent shame. Being politely dismissive about comments I should grow my hair. Sitting through the showing of old photographs with a tight smile on my face. Swallowing every poisonous “she”, “her”, and “sister”.

Things reached a head once I was, with very little explanation, bundled into a car and taken to a cabin without internet for an entire weekend.

I’m not lamenting the loss of Youtube, or Tumblr, or any of the other “trivial” millennial shit Kjetel had made it his purpose to demean and deride all the time I was there (Pokemon Go being his favourite target). What I missed was someone I could speak to who understood the absolute hell I was going through.

I was alone. Completely alone.

My brother is fifteen, a selfish creature who has too much of his own nonsense going on with puberty and his dickhead father to care about anyone else. My mum spent all her time talking to him or Marianne and Kjetel, and had no time for me.

By the second day, I wasn’t eating. I tried to sleep all day because that was the only way I could stop crying.

My mum found me staring out of the window and shaking. I asked if she was ashamed of me. She said no, that she’d told them the day we arrived. Which meant they’d been willfully misgendering me for days, and she hadn’t corrected them- and I had just sat there and taken it.

This is incredibly painful for me to write about. If it has not already become clear.

That night I made a point of correcting people. I am here and I refuse to lie down and play dead. Which of course gave Kjetel recourse to attack me.

“You’re not gay.”

“Er, yes I am. I would know. I spent a long time thinking I should like women, but I just don’t. I like men. I’m gay.”

“But your boyfriend, is he gay?”

“He doesn’t identify as gay. But he loves me for who I am. When he was at school, his friends always said he would be gay. I think it’s kind of funny.

“I think he is straight,” Kjetel nodded knowledgeably.

That wasn’t the only bit of wonderfulness.

He tried to tell me I was “really” a woman- but I cut him off. I gave him the most impassioned speech on women and the respect I have for them and the ultimate knowledge that only I can have that I am not and have never been one. He laughed. My mother said nothing.

He also condescended to tell me I would be pregnant within the year.

I can feel the bile rising in my throat as I write all this. To me, the last bit was the worst. Because it’s toxic in so many ways. Firstly, that my getting pregnant has anything to do with my gender identity. It doesn’t. Shall I tell you why most men don’t get pregnant? It’s because they physically can’t.

I’m going to be a dad, and no narrow-minded fuckhead is going to stand in my way.

Secondly, the thought that I would be so fucking stupid as to get pregnant deliberately. My mum’s Catholic. It would devastate her to have grandkids out of wedlock. I’m poor. If I can, I want to do better for my children than a basement flat, casual income and an unstable home.

Just because I have ovaries, doesn’t mean I’m a fucking moron.

Thirdly, that my getting pregnant would in some way quash my notions of being trans.

Let me tell you, if pregnancy is so impacting on a person as to make them forget who they actually are, I want no part of it. Being trans is an essential component of the powerful, headstrong person I am today. Nothing short of evil would take that away from me.

I wonder what his childless wife, Marianne, would make of his equating womanhood to pregnancy. At a guess, not an awful lot, but I suppose a lot of what I saw in Norway disappointed me.

If you go, stick to the cities. Stick to the cruise boats. Don’t eat the food and don’t talk to the locals. What I found was a beautiful country inhabited by ugly attitudes- about immigration, the environment, the EU, women. It is a country in decline.

As for Kjetel, I will never see him again for as long as I live. Nobody gets to make me feel as awful as he made me feel. Since returning from Norway, my dysphoria has gotten significantly worse. I bind and pack a lot more than I did before I went out. I shake and cry a lot more too.

I have shivered naked and ashamed in Sunshine’s arms, crying, “I never wanted to be like this.”

How low does a person have to be to do that to someone? I wish I could show this to my mum, to Marianne, to Sunshine and to ignorant, bigoted Kjetel. But I’m not that cruel.

I am trans, and it has made me stronger.

The Sign of the Cross

I don’t know if Sunshine knew that I saw him cross himself. I wonder if he was trying to hide it from me.

We don’t talk about faith. Not ever. We might talk about our Catholic upbringing, or about religious texts in a purely theoretical way, but we never admit to believing in anything.

For me, that’s because I’m queer. Depending on who you ask, it could be the way God made me or the way the devil made me. It could be my cross to bear, a temptation I am supposed to resist, or it could be a great blessing.

Queerness and religion are fraught with conflict. Frequently, I am assumed to be an atheist. However, I strongly believe that the universe was created by something that presides over it. It’s just what I believe. And I don’t know why I believe it, I just do. I studied Physics at university and there’s just something about the way it all fits together that makes the universe seem like a work of art.

Even now I’m resisting defending myself. People are scornful, think I must be an idiot to feel this way. I’ve had my fill of probing questions asking what I think of heaven or hell or angels or determinism and I really don’t think that has anything to do with anything. Belief is what you believe. End of.

I don’t like talking about it. Like Scripps in the History Boys, it’s private.

Sometimes I go to church. I like the ridiculous Catholicism of it all, the hymns, the gold, the wine. Its theatre. It’s quiet and it makes you feel calm. But I never go on a day when somebody might notice I’m missing.

Sunshine and I were out playing Pokemon GO! and there was a Pokestop by the war memorial in St Peter’s Square. We walked to it, and out of the corner of my eye, I saw Sunshine cross himself.

I think I knew he wasn’t an atheist. Or maybe I wanted him to not be an atheist. Still, atheists usually tell you. For example, I’ve only met his sister three times and yet I know she’s an atheist. She said so. It’s like veganism- because their beliefs are opposite to a lot of people’s, it has to get mentioned.

But atheists don’t cross themselves at war memorials, do they? So he definitely isn’t. He was compelled- strongly- to cross himself in front of the memorial, something that I, for all my upbringing, was never taught to do. I never genuflect or cross myself with holy water.

Part of me wanted to ask him about it. It’s one of those things you’re supposed to ask, when you get into a long term relationship with someone.

But I couldn’t. I’m so wounded from having to keep my own shapeless faith to myself that I don’t know how to talk about this shit any more. So it’ll stay as just that. The sign of the cross by a war memorial.

Gender as performance

I’m starting to question my gender identity. After six years of identifying as nonbinary, I think I might actually be male.

See, here’s how it is. If you’re trans (or fat, or disabled…), you’re expected to perform gender to a higher standard than someone who isn’t. Trans women get chastised by gender specialists for not wearing lipstick. And yet if they criticised a cis woman for the same thing, they’d likely be asked what fucking century they thought this was.

So, because I’m trans, I’m expected to strut around all day, every day with flat shoes and trousers and a great big bushy beard, as well as great big bushy everything else? I don’t bloody well think so.

I absolutely love shaving my legs in a hot shower, letting myself air dry and rubbing my shiny smooth legs together. It’s one of the greatest small pleasures on this earth. If I hadn’t been socially conditioned to adhere to feminine gender roles, I might never have discovered it. And yet discover it I have, and I wouldn’t trade that sensation for the soft-side-of-the-velcro thing most guys have going on. Nope.

What the hell does having scratchy fuzz on your legs have to do with being a man? I bloody love shaving on a Saturday morning so I can do my karate training with freshly smooth legs. It’s so satisfying.

I also love matching my nail polish to my suit or tie. Chest bound, tie tied, nails coordinated. Dapper is the word you’re looking for.

If I had been assigned male at birth, this would have been an eccentricity, or just attributed to my sexuality. As it is, it has been used to question my gender identity by people who were supposed to have cared about me.

I think perhaps I assumed, if my masculinity wasn’t traditional, I couldn’t be male.

I think I need to stop looking at myself as “a trans person” and just think of myself as “a person” for a bit. Perhaps I’m male, perhaps I’m NB, but I have to consider myself, and not my body. Its shape is irrelevant. I have to stop thinking of gender as something I perform- but rather something I am.

The Gatekeepers

I am afraid. So, so afraid. So afraid, in fact, that I nearly sleepwalked into making a terrible and irreversible decision.

I do not want testosterone. I am an individual like anyone else, and I deserve to have my needs and desires respected. I do not need a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to my body. My body, my rules.

And yet the gatekeepers say otherwise.

The following is from the Daventry GIC website:

“At present this service is not commissioned to provide treatment for persons not identifying as male or female, or wishing to present for treatment in intersex states. We would not decline a referral, as assessment and formulation of an individual’s gender disorder may be more complicated than it appears to the referrer or indeed the service user. We may still be able to signpost an individual to another service.”

Daventry GIC have not, in the last five years, referred anyone for top surgery without testosterone. Which is worrying, because that’s where I’ve been referred to. They have said that they would consider it, but that it would depend on the reasons why they would not take testosterone, such as an older patient who could not take it for medical reasons.

There is no known medical reason why I should not take testosterone. There is only my happiness and my bodily autonomy. Why this should matter any less, I am unsure.

The reasons testosterone are inappropriate for me are well-documented here. But I nearly got pushed into taking it by the fear of not getting top surgery. I nearly gave up my body to a foreign substance out of desperation.

The arrogant thought that “the formulation of an individual’s gender disorder may be more complicated than it appears to… the service user” is revolting. I have been in this body for 24 years now and I know it very well indeed. Do not presume to tell me how I am supposed to feel about it.

I am a fighter. Metaphorically and physically. I have faced people who have punched me in the head with everything they had. Black belts with years more experience than I have. And this is way more frightening. The stakes are so much higher.

I have come within a whisker of dislocating my jaw in a fight, and that is nothing compared to the thought of getting turned away from Daventry.

I can argue until I’m blue in the face on this one. For one, does Daventry want to define an “intersex state” for me? Because I’m sure it treats patients who want a vagina *and* a penis all the time. It’s a common enough option for patients seeking metoidoplasty.

It is my legal right not to have to be sterilised against my will. Guys on T usually have hysterectomies within two years- some of those being emergency hysterectomies. I cannot take that risk.

I don’t know why I’m still arguing here. I suppose I want to prove that I can do it, prove the fact I know my mind and my body better than anyone, prove that I deserve that top surgery referral. I have a long time to sit on the waiting list, a long time to sit here still having things on my chest that mean I can’t do karate without having to wear a compression shirt and plastic armour.

And I fear the gatekeepers. Because they hold my life in the palm of their hand and they can destroy me at a whim. I fear them so much.

P.S. My lipoma removal went well. I now have a kickass scar on my spine to lie to my children about.