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Author Archives: Big Rook

Get Over It

This blog is about blood, cause it’s part of a normal life for a lot of people and deserves to be talked about. Don’t like, don’t read.

Menstruation is fucking tough. Full stop. And being gender non-conforming in any way just makes it worse.

It’s really hard to talk about without just being straight-up brutal. Because, unfortunately, the experience is often just straight-up brutal. Blood. Pain. Emotions that feel like they are not your own. Bad skin. Skin that makes “bad skin” seem good.

The stink. Stupid jokes from stupid boys in high school. Getting caught without a pad, making do with a wodge of harsh tissue paper.
The raucous cacophony of a pad being unwrapped in a public bathroom.

Despite the fact that around half the population go through this for a week a month for four decades of their lives, I am still gripped by a profound sense of shame when I talk about menstruation- even in these delicate terms.

That is the baseline. Now imagine that shame multiplied by the fact that every leaflet, every online guide you will ever read uses terms like “woman” and “female”, words you have never felt any affinity for. You realise that you are an aberration, with no right to exist.

Let’s face it, menstruation brings with it a state of emotional fragility. It just does. Last time I had a period, someone showed me a picture of a puppy and I cried because I couldn’t pet it.

On top of everything else, a menstruating person has an even tougher choice than usual in the bathroom department. You might have seen the hashtag We Just Need To Pee, but the hashtag I Need A Menstrual Hygiene Bin But I Have Facial Hair never really caught on.

If you’re menstruating, you can’t just hold it. I have an eight hour work day and need to change menstrual products every 4 to 6. Leave it longer than 8 and tampon users are at risk of (potentially fatal) toxic shock syndrome.

Yes, they could use pads. But men’s underwear doesn’t allow the use of pads, which means slipping a pair of women’s underneath.

There is a third way. It’s eco-friendly and quiet and clean and safe and cheap. And painful and awkward and triggering. It’s a menstrual cup. The benefits of menstrual cups do, for me, outweigh the downsides as without a bin at work, I can’t dispose of anything that can’t be flushed- and in case you didn’t know, pads and tampons cannot be flushed.

However. We need to destroy the shame around bleeding, for everyone’s sake. It’s a common experience for so many people, and yet I have seen actual disgust on cashiers’ faces for me daring to buy two boxes of tampons and not even having the decency to double bag them.

It hurts kids, too. Precocious puberty is a real issue, and telling 8 year olds that they’re “becoming a woman” is, uh, super fucked up. You’re telling an 8 year old that their childhood is over. Think Cersei and Sansa.

Give them facts. Don’t hide it under pretty words so we can pretend bleeding, occasionally unbearably painfully, is beautiful- just so you can pretend it’s a feminine thing, rather than just a biological function that serves a practical purpose.

Some people bleed. Get the fuck over it.

Hot Coffee

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Sometimes I feel like I should defend myself, and my decision to stop writing as much. A lot led me to that point.

I have a blog that, at last count, had over three thousand followers. Three thousand people like my content enough that they have committed to consuming it on a regular basis.
But here’s the kicker- not enough to pay me for it.

In the three years I have been running that blog, my net income from it has amounted to a grand total of £3.78.

As much as my comrades would have me believe that my boss is stealing out of my mouth to pay for his Mercedes- at least he pays me enough to survive. So I chose to put effort into the path that keeps me alive.

Writing is an undervalued skill. I don’t mean people don’t appreciate it. I mean they genuinely don’t place material value on it. Good writers become mediocre artists, because the commissions (while paltry) do at least exist.

With surgery coming up, this knowledge frightens me.

I know that surgery will produce very large, very visible scars. And that the only way to keep this to a minimum is for me to get a decent amount of rest.
I cannot afford the time off work that I need.

If I could survive on my writing, even for just one day a week, that would be a gamechanger. I could stay at home while I recovered, and rest when I needed to. The threat of anaesthetic-induced post-surgical depression would be mitigated.

So I’m taking another crack at it. I refuse to get pulled down by any kind of “X isn’t real writing” bullshit. I refuse to apologise for frequently producing utter bollocks. And I refuse to be conned into thinking that this is only worthy of a third of a penny a day in recompense.

I feel like an absolute shithouse asking for money. I fucking hate it. But honestly, if your attitude is that fanfiction authors, bloggers and people who write geeky jokes on the internet deserve absolutely nothing for their effort and ingenuity then tell me- why do I need you to read my blog?

If on the other hand you think I, or other writers and creators, deserve recompense but you just can’t afford it right now- you just donated me £5. And I donated it back cause you need it.

But do go out and spread that attitude- that content creators deserve recompense. Reblog from source. Post recommendations. And when you’re looking for a gift, maybe spend the money commissioning something truly special.

I have a ko-fi now if you do want to donate, and Patreon will be coming soon. Support the creators who give you something.

Sacha Fourneau

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This is going to seem like it’s coming out of nowhere, but I’m publishing a book.

See, for the last few years, I have been writing children’s stories. Stories about sheep who are a bit too small. Stories about princesses who want to be king when they grow up. About children who are afraid of the noises from downstairs.

I had been commissioned to write bedtime stories for a parenting website, and I just never stopped.
But why would I tell anyone? None of my friends had children. I loved working with kids, but I was mistreated as an employee. I felt like my stories weren’t worthy- they weren’t full of long words. I didn’t even have the talent to give my stories pictures– and why would anyone want to read a book with no pictures?

So the years went by.

One day, I saw a comic drawn by a “mutual”, someone I had been quietly interacting with for years. It was a joyful little thing: two friends watching the sunset together and musing on their good fortune. I had been looking for something to decorate my flat with, and on impulse, I bought a print.

And once I got it home, I realised- I could pay her to illustrate the book. The more I thought about it, the less it seemed like it could go wrong. Of course I will probably make a loss on it, but it’s a present to myself and Sunshine*, so that’s already covered.

So it’s actually happening. I’m going to be looking for some people to write reviews, so if you want to, drop me a line. Otherwise, if you want to support me and see how things are getting on, I will be using the pen-name Sacha Fourneau. Follow me at sacha-fourneau.tumblr.com

*Don’t tell Sunshine.

Rainbows

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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

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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

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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.