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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.

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.

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.

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.

I Have Forgiven Jesus

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I tried writing this post before. It got way too long. So I’m starting again.

I was brought up Catholic. I went to Catholic schools, and I work at one now. It’s a part of my identity I can never escape.

How? When being queer and being Catholic are so irreconcilable? How can I still consider myself a Catholic?

Firstly, I know I don’t believe in it. My beliefs don’t make me Catholic. I used to lie awake at night pondering Creation and everlasting life and all of that and so far I’ve got as far as working out that humanity has as much chance of understanding the nature of God as a grain of sand has of comprehending the rock cycle.

What does make me Catholic is those memories of incense, sitting on the church floor during Midnight mass, reciting the Rosary, attending the Stations of the Cross, learning to genuflect, hour after hour staring at the image of Satan in the stained glass window, actually kind of horrified that someone would depict Satan in the stained glass window, nestled in among the skirts of the Blessed Virgin.

Shit like that doesn’t leave you. I still go to church from time to time, not because I think I’m saving my soul, but because I find it comforting.

I’ve read the Bible. Bits of it, anyway. I don’t know if Jesus was the son of God, but I do know that he wouldn’t have given two shits about what was between my legs. That was just how Jesus rolled. He took people as they were, not how society wanted them to be.

Meanwhile, modern Catholic media screams headlines like “The Pope’s take on transgender issues? Accept the body God gave you” as if Pope Francis had actually said such a thing. Good luck finding the quote. But as ever, “Catholics” believe what they want to believe.

“Accept the body God gave you” is a pretty simplistic (and fucking stupid) approach, to be straight. Hole in the heart? Accept the body God gave you. Cleft palate? Accept the body God gave you! Myopia? Fuck you and your glasses! Accept the body God gave you!

Of course I respect my body. It’s why I cut my nails, keep my hair tidy and clean behind my ears. I don’t strictly speaking have to do those things, but I just think it’s better for my social and emotional wellbeing if I do.

Whether or not I decide to enlist a surgeon to divest me of my excess chest fat, that is entirely my prerogative. It is not a decision I make lightly, and it is certainly not one I make by the rules of a load of lonely old men who have mistaken their own word for the word of the divine.

Despite their best efforts to cast me out, I will not go. I’m a contrary bastard and they won’t get rid of me easily. I also really want to get married in a Catholic church. It would make my mum very happy (because then it’s a real wedding in the eyes of God), but also make me very happy (because it’d be gay as hell and flip a massive bird to all the haters). But also it’d just be nice.

The Catholic church is all I have ever known. I grew up thinking marriages happened in churches. Going to the registry office seems to me like going to fill in a load of forms. It’s a legal exercise rather than a loving one.

The Catholic church is all I have ever known. And no matter how many times it tells me it will not have me, I will not leave. Because I don’t know anywhere else to go.