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The Telephone Call

I was on my way to work when my ‘phone rang- withheld number. Now, ordinarily I wouldn’t answer, but I know that my GP often withholds, and I’d been trying to sort out the omnishambles that has been changing my name.

Sure enough, it was my GP. She’d just found out that she could prescribe me testosterone, and did I want it?

Do I want it?

I said no. It was literally the day after I wrote that post saying how much I don’t want testosterone. And I don’t. I know I don’t.

But I envy people who do. I get all excited for them when they start. I think about how much better their lives could become. And I’m not going to lie, I want that.

And I think about all the people who desperately need the prescription I turned down. Whose dysphoria does a lot more than trap them in the shower crying. Who could be in severe danger of being hurt before they get to the top of the GIC waiting list.

I felt so guilty saying “no”.

And since, I’ve had dreams. Beautiful dreams, where T doesn’t have the side effects I fear, and so I tell Sunshine and he’s happy for me and I go on and it’s wonderful. My voice gets lower. I never get misgendered. I don’t lose my job.

But I know it’s not like that. That T would mean irreversible changes that fill me with dread.

And then. There’s the part of me that says the only reason you don’t want T, the only reason that really matters, is that you’re afraid Sunshine will leave you. All the rest are just excuses.

Today, the sermon was dissecting Luke 9:51-62. If you’re not religious, bear with me. In it, Jesus meets three people on the road and asks them to follow him, but two have other things they want to do first. One says he wants to bury his father. Another says he needs to go home and say goodbye to his family.

Now, I’d always seen these as pretty legitimate excuses, and thought Jesus was being a bit impatient by refusing them. But the priest explained- Jesus knew that they were only excuses. That rather than say “I don’t want to”, they said something else instead.

So what if I’m saying these twelve things, when really I mean something else?

I don’t know. I honestly don’t know. I’m afraid of going to Daventry and them refusing to give me top surgery because I won’t take T. And I feel like I’ve got to deal with all this baggage now because I can’t let them know how confused I am. And Sunshine’s in Canada and I’m just in so much pain because I have a lipoma on my spine (getting removed tomorrow, thank the NHS).

There’s no happy concluding paragraph on this one, the one where I figure it all out. Sometimes, it doesn’t work out that way, I guess. Oh well.

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Family

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In a state of worry, I baked three pounds of shortbread for eight people.

It was the day of my partner’s brother’s housewarming, the day I met my sunshine’s parents. We arrived early, greeted by his brother and brother’s partner. We toured the new house, and sat in the living room.

They were full of excitement; told us how a friend of theirs had painted the word “GAY” onto the wall with their paint samples, and how they had hurriedly painted over the “Y” when they realised family were coming over.

It was still obvious that it had read “GAY”. I didn’t think it would help if I told them, so I kept it to myself.

My sunshine’s parents and two of his other siblings (Catholics, remember?) arrived not long after. I would later discover that they had not been told that I was coming, that his admission a week earlier that he was seeing me had been the only warning they got.

We shook hands, made vague “nice to meet you” noises. I’m crap at all that. Food and wine made for a welcome distraction.

I made a joke and my sunshine’s dad laughed for a good thirty seconds. Maybe it was going to be okay.

I didn’t talk much apart from that (I don’t talk much in large groups at all). Dad drank too much wine. Mum doesn’t drink at all these days, apparently. I was introduced to them by name, but I struggle with names. The labels don’t seem to fit them yet. I don’t really see them as people yet.

The happy homeowners announced their engagement; a magnum of champagne was uncorked. At least three of us didn’t drink any, so I can only wonder at where it all went.

“GA” apparently is the name of the paint colour: Green Apple. That was a better cover up than the blob of Kiwi Crush used to mask the “Y”, at least. I wouldn’t have bought it, but I generally spot “gay” when nobody else does. It’s a gift.

I learnt very little about them really, and gave no reason for them to like or dislike me. My sunshine has inherited his mother’s ears, but otherwise looks very little like them. I think that’s because he is full of youth, and they are both quite incredibly old.

The worst case scenario would have been my packer slipping from its perch and bouncing, gracelessly, onto the living-room rug. That didn’t happen.

His dad misgendered me with only his last word to me, and then slipped out the door as Sun corrected him. I’ll blame the wine. His mum said that we should come and visit them. I’ll take that.

Family isn’t always easy. I wrung my hands so hard I had to rub ibuprofen gel into my wrists to get to sleep. But I can see the value in it.

The Reassurance of Placebos

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A while back, I posted about how homeopathic remedies are pure distilled water, and a waste of money. However, one reader pointed out that their surgeon had recommended it.

Now, far be it from me to be cynical and point out a possible conflict of interest (companies touting homeopathic remedies pay medically qualified professionals to put in a good word), because it’s possible that there’s something else at play here- the wonderful world of the placebo effect.

Everyone and their aunt knows about the placebo effect. Take an inert substance such as sugar pills or a saline injection, and somehow, you feel better. It will affect the strength of every remedy you take- you get better faster when you know you’ve had your medicine.

Big pills work better than small pills. Coloured pills work better than white ones. Injections work better than pills, and sham surgery is even better. Taking placebos decreases heart rate, lowers blood pressure, and releases chemicals in the brain.

Two separate studies, one on sufferers of migraines and another on IBS, showed that patients self-reported an improvement in symptoms even when fully aware that the pills they were taking were functionless placebos. It should be noted, however, that these self-reported improvements may not actually reflect physiological differences.

On the other side of the coin, we have the nocebo effect- a pill or injection causes harm to a patient, simply because they believe it will. So, if you’re of a pessimistic nature, reading the list of possible side-effects might actually cause you to experience them.

Either way, the capacity of the human brain is absolutely staggering.

In the UK, the prescribing of placebos is seen as irresponsible, as it relies on deception. However, food supplements and complementary therapies rely on this deception to shift stock.

Remember what I said about colours? How many of you have seen food supplements in colour-coded bottles? Red for men’s health, yellow for women’s- it’s all calculated to have the maximum psychological impact. These colour associations also differ from culture to culture.

I know how much we crave that panacea, that one pill that will make us healthy, happy and great in the sack, but the sad truth is it probably isn’t out there. Coconut oil will not fix everything. Acai will not fix everything. Aloe vera will not fix everything.

Maybe, just maybe, we had it within us all along. Maybe we can harness the power of the placebo to do whatever we dream of. Maybe not invisibility or flight, but maybe the strength of mind to forgive someone? The willpower to save a little money for the end of the month? The energy to make lunch the night before work?

It’s worth a try for the little things, I think. Downing a multivitamin pill every morning with a glass of water and a wish- today will be just that little bit better than yesterday.

Weather permitting, of course.

The Ace In the Pack

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When I was 18, I met a guy. He suited me. He was the first person I ever enjoyed having sex with (and he certainly wasn’t the first person I tried to have sex with). We moved in together, we planned to get married. We stayed together for three and a half years, and ended the relationship on a mutual basis.

I think the person I was back then did love him. But when I came out as trans, he couldn’t understand. And I became a more confident person, a person who had grown too much to fit the box he wanted me to.

I don’t for one second miss him, or wish that we had got married. But he is undeniably a part of my story.

Recently, he admitted (though I had for some time suspected) that he is asexual. This has left me feeling rather odd. For three and a half years of my life I pursued a sexual relationship with somebody who was completely indifferent to it, and would often have rather not had sex.

I think I had always sort-of known. Early on, I placed a moratorium on masturbation- because I knew we would never have sex if he did. Although he agreed to it, I still feel a little strange now about having done it.

I feel like the consensuality of every time we had sex has been called into question. I see those three and a half years now as being not normal, that I imposed rules that were unfair. That, if only we had been able to talk about it, we might have come to a solution that suited us better than whatever that was.

Ace erasure is definitely part of the problem, but also I know the kind of person he is. I can’t see him admitting to someone that sex holds no appeal to him, because he knows the value of it in terms of cementing romantic relationships. He’s willing to play the game (as best he can) if it gets him what he wants- a nuclear family.

Right now, I feel all kinds of guilty. Although I know that some people manage to make asexual/allosexual relationships work, I couldn’t knowingly consent to be in one. Is that discrimination or a legitimate preference? I’m monoamorous- I need the love of one person to be happy. I want to get sexual fulfilment from that person, because personally, the romantic bond I experience through sex is dependent on it being a shared experience.

I’m still friends with him. Could I watch him get into a relationship with someone else, lying by omission every time he gets into bed with them? Or would I say, “You know he doesn’t care for it?”

Honestly, I can’t say how I actually feel about this, because I just don’t know. I know it’s hard being ace, because you’re excluded from this whole mating ritual thing society has going on, where it assumes that everyone experiences sexual attraction. I feel like I did a bad thing, to be honest. But I also knew that I hadn’t put his asexuality into words in my head. I didn’t know what I was doing. I don’t think he did either- I think he thought everybody probably felt like that. Had sex because it was what people do.

It’s probably going to trouble me for some time. All I can do is move on in my life making sure the relationships I’m in are fulfilling for all concerned. He is a part of my past-and that he will stay.

Flop Gear

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The following is an email I sent to Amazon recently following their decision to continue working with Jeremy Clarkson.

Hi, I wanted to leave feedback about the reason I’m leaving Amazon Prime.

It’s been good. I subscribed by accident when I was buying cookie cutters while drunk. I enjoyed watching various family films, and really enjoyed Transparent.

I’m transgender myself, and even though it didn’t reflect my own experience (everyone’s unique!), it was really nice seeing a trans person’s story treated in such a sensitive way. Usually we’re a punchline. Or a punching bag.

Which is why I wasn’t happy to see Jeremy Clarkson segwaying his way around a mansion on an Amazon Prime ad. Clarkson’s faced some flak for being arguably (/definitely) racist and homophobic, and is given to punching people like a fucking toddler when he doesn’t get his way. And while we’re pretty okay with him punching Piers Morgan, he apparently didn’t even hit him very well.

But recently, he made comments about trans children. I know. A bit selfish, of me, isn’t it, only caring when trans people are in the firing line. But hey, I look after number one. I’m trans- I’ve had to, because nobody else would. He accused parents of trans children of *forcing* them to transition. Let me assure you, that has never once happened. I came out to my mother after eight miserable years of waiting. I got acceptance. Some of my friends waited just as long, and have waited another eight years on top of that for their parents to use their correct name.

Children commit suicide over this. Remember Leelah Alcorn? All she wanted was to be the last trans kid to be bullied into suicide by her parents. She wasn’t, incidentally.

I know I’m a minority. So I don’t count. What do Amazon care if I don’t put money in their delicious tax-free account? But making a series like Transparent was disingenuous. Don’t pretend to care when you quite clearly don’t.

Now, the person that reads this email didn’t make any of those decisions. They probably don’t even have the power to send it to someone that does. But I can’t stay quiet. Thanks for reading. Hopefully Clarkson etc. keep their hands off you. Have a lovely day.

“Sexually Confused”

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When my sunshine told me how telling his parents about me had gone, he replied “well enough”. I later learned that this meant it had been a 6 on a scale where 10 was “alright” and 1 was “screaming and crying”.

What he really meant is that they don’t like it, but don’t see that there’s anything they can do to stop it.

This bodes super well for my relationship with my future in-laws! Hooray!

His father did the standard “Oh, bloody hell” etc., but there was a football match on and, y’know: priorities. His mother wanted a detailed medical history, after which she went, “good”, and my sunshine was understandably a little upset.

She also said that people, like me, who are “sexually confused” (at which point my sunshine made a small disbelieving noise and she backtracked ever so slightly) form fissile relationships. I didn’t know what fissile meant. Apparently it means likely to fall apart.

I laughed. She’s never met me. She doesn’t know what I’m like. Words that could never be used to describe me include “flighty”, “dreamy”, “changeable” and “inconstant”. Words that pretty accurately sum me up include “direct”, “decisive” and “fucking stubborn”. The thought that someone could get me so wrong on account of my gender identity was hilarious.

And then I went to bed. And I realised.

This isn’t just some random person. This is, on a theoretical level, a candidate for the vacant “grandma of my babies” position. The fact she has such preconceived notions about “people like me” is vile.

I know it’s not her fault. She’s in a cult. But. She could at least… meet me before deciding I will never know love, or friendship, and that she feels sorry for me?

We could, in theory, get along. We probably have some interests in common. Providing she can see me as (and treat me as) a person, everything should be grand.

He says, smiling weakly.

I’m going to meet my sunshine’s parents in all of (counts on fingers) five days and I’m fucking petrified. Look at my writing style. It’s all over the place today. But it absolutely echoes how I’m feeling so it’s staying.

I want to love them so much. And I want them to love me. And I want them to understand that I love their son (and I liked him for a long time before that). I want love, and family, to see us through this whole clusterfuck, and bring us out the other side having learnt a little more about each other.

Please, God. Please.

Father’s Day

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This father’s day, I celebrated by buying myself a pot of shaving cream. This then set off a bout of dysphoria, but that’s not the point. I am a good dad to me, and I deserve a suitably dadsy present.

Sometimes, I think I paint my dad too black. He spent much of my childhood driving me around the country to various chess competitions, buying me chess books and encouraging me.

He took me swimming. He let me drink beer and watch European football midweek, eating spaghetti and sausages from a tin- stuff mum wouldn’t ever have allowed. He took me to the pub, bought me McDonalds.

But he did all these things because they suited him. He pushed me to do chess, but karate (which I now have a student national silver medal in, dad, not that you’d know) fell by the wayside. He was late home from work every time and didn’t get me there on time. If you’ve ever done martial arts, you know that being late is a serious offence- and I was punished for it.

My dad texted me recently to let me know that he’d just been to a philosophy festival. He’s not a man I recognise. My dad drank Stella Artois from the can and read Tom Clancy novels, was clean-shaven for 50 years of his life. He had a passion for electronics and made really good roast potatoes. He made snide comments in Mass. He didn’t care for philosophy or spirituality.

I know the cause- he’s showing off for his new girlfriend, who does wiccan funerals. She likes Sade and is, by many accounts, a complete bitch.But this is not about her.

This is about my dad and how he came to visit me twice in the four and a half years I lived away from home (before I cut ties). How he pushed me to do things I didn’t want to do because he was ashamed of himself for leaving school at 16. How he emotionally manipulated me to try and stop my mother from divorcing him.

How he failed me so utterly that I never want to speak to him again.

But this post is also about me, and how I may never get the chance to be a father.

As I have posted before, according to UK law, if a baby comes out of your uterus, you’re its mother. Regardless of whether you’re legally a man or not. On your child’s birth certificate, it reads “mother”.

I could never be anyone’s mother. Or girlfriend. Or wife. Or daughter. I’m just not that. It would be so very painful to suffer this on what should really be one of the best days of my life.

I don’t know what I’m getting at here, except that I feel sad, and inferior. I want, above all things, a hug. And then I want to be a father, no ifs or buts. I want to get a shitty homemade card on Father’s Day, and put it up on the mantlepiece like it’s a work of art.

I want to be the dad mine never was, loving unconditionally. Bringing my kids up to be proud of who they are, and not ashamed (as I have been made) to not have done better. To love and be loved without question.

I want to be a father.