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Let’s do “Get Help”

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Cw: eating disorders, self injury

This morning, I shifted uncomfortably in my seat, trying to find a position in which I couldn’t feel the wet suck of my shoulder joints being tugged apart. It’s been getting worse for a while now. Three dislocations in the last six weeks.

I should get help.

Other people say, “bad joints? Just wait until you get to my age!” I have suffered with these dislocations for the past decade. Or, “I didn’t think you could be too flexible!” At night, Sunshine can’t tell what part of me he is holding- my elbows bend backwards.

But I know there is no point in me getting help. Because I got help ten years ago, and I did my physio and practiced my exercises and I built up muscle around my shoulder joints until they no longer threatened to fall apart.

When I started going over on my ankles in the shower, I gave up wearing boots. When my knees threatened to buckle at pedestrian crossings, I bought resistance bands and started building up the strength in them, just as I had for my shoulders. I bought wrist supports so that I could do pressups without hurting myself.

I was a good patient. I helped myself.
So what changed?

A year and a half ago, I stopped going to karate because I was getting anxiety attacks nearly every session. When I stopped going to karate, I felt I no longer deserved to eat. My caloric intake at most meals was multiples of 6- the calorie content of a single unsalted peanut.

I faced down an eating disorder relapse with just one thought in my mind- I cannot afford to get sick right now.

If I got sick, I might not be considered to be “managing my mental health appropriately”. And if I wasn’t “managing my mental health appropriately”, I would likely have any referral to surgery refused.

Too dysphoric to get treatment.

But I needed to get better. So I got therapy. I got therapy and told them not to contact my GP. I learned which behaviours were helping me and which ones were hurting me. As I had with physio, I did my exercises. I relearnt how to eat, how to cope.

Everything became about coping. Not getting better. Just coping. Getting back to karate was never an option.

Coping means cutting off more and more of yourself to survive. Becoming less yourself until there’s nothing left to cut away. I used to wonder what I would do once I reached breaking point. Now I know. You break. Into smaller and smaller pieces.

I learned to eat again. I was at a healthy weight, and I lost a stone I still haven’t got back, but I didn’t lose another, and that was a victory.

But there was less of me left for the next time I got ill. I never went back to exercising, and my muscles wasted away, no longer holding my shoulders together.

Xmas was difficult- the scar on my arm still hasn’t faded. Sunshine’s family insist on muddling me with another trans person in the family. We look nothing alike- but we both have c*nts, so we both get called “she” and each other’s names.

“C*nt!” I shout through my tears. “That’s all they see. I have a c*nt, so I’m a c*nt to them.”

I hadn’t noticed the blood staining my sleeve yet, from where I ran out of places to run and my fight-or-flight mechanism turned inwards.

As I lay on the floor, ribs aching from binding, packer sitting uncomfortably in my boxers, I remembered how much of myself I have cut away so that these people treat me with a minimal level of respect. And now they’ve failed to do so. I cracked a rib last year- I threw up in a binder. I did that, and a thousand other stupid painful things, to get dehumanised at a fucking Boxing Day buffet.

They will never talk about it. They do not want to hear how I feel. It is not a subject for polite conversation.

When people show you they’re not willing to listen to how much they hurt you, you start to look for ways to get the point across that they can’t ignore as easily.

It’s not just that I’m too tired to do my exercises- I am. There hasn’t been a day in two months where I’ve woken up and not felt ill. But even the condescending, disbelieving sympathy I get for having bad joints is better than the tight-lipped disgust I face when I admit I’m unhappy.

When I first started mixing with other trans people, it surprised me just how many were disabled. It no longer surprises me. Because part of being trans means almost deliberately neglecting your physical health- for three reasons. One- to sustain your mental health; to get enough rest and keep yourself happy. Two- because your medical appointments are every four fuckening weeks and you just feel like a burden going “oh also my arms keep falling out” like it’s no big deal, because at this point it has become no big deal to you.

Three- because the fear that surgery will be cancelled is real. It happened to two people I know by name. I have to pretend that everything is fine because if I don’t, things will get an awful lot worse.

What I have chronicled here is a long, slow, inevitable descent. One that could have been halted at any point if I had felt able to get help.

So, promise me: if you’re sick, and you can get help- get help. Some of us can’t.

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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.

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.

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.