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Good things come to those who…

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I am delaying my book launch. I don’t feel guilty, or sad- I’m doing it for some very good reasons.

Getting my book “finished” has been an eye-opening experience. It’s gone from being a scrawl in an 80p notebook to a fully-illustrated story. Suddenly it seems like it’s actually worth something, and I want to do it justice.

I always knew The Heart-Seed was a story that I loved and was genuinely proud of. Back then, however, it only belonged to me. I was the only person who had ever read it. However, now that it’s Alma’s as well, I feel like I owe her something in making sure people actually see the beautiful thing we made together.

Now, I don’t know the first thing about marketing. But my brother does. He’s been an incredible help- from teaching me about the Amazon affiliates program to the nuance of placing Facebook ads.

I didn’t show The Heart-Seed to anyone for two years because it was private. I had written it from the heart- it shows- and I was a little afraid of baring myself to the world like that.

I’ve never been one to post my blog or my art to Facebook. I don’t like to be seen to be asking for attention. I don’t really have a self-publicising bone in my body.

99% of books make a loss, and I was perfectly happy to make a loss if it meant never having to speak about myself or my book.

But this isn’t just my book any more. It’s Alma’s and it’s Raf’s. I may not have faith in myself but I have faith in them.

I had often heard the phrase “It takes a village”, but I never understood it until now. Sharing my book hasn’t just allowed me to show off- it’s meant I get an outside perspective. It’s motivated me to do much-needed edits and means I now have something that looks an awful lot like a finished product.

But without me taking this extra time, it won’t actually be finished. So I’m taking the time out to finish The Heart-Seed, because that’s what we all deserve.

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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.

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.

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.

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 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.