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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.

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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.

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.

Gender as performance

I’m starting to question my gender identity. After six years of identifying as nonbinary, I think I might actually be male.

See, here’s how it is. If you’re trans (or fat, or disabled…), you’re expected to perform gender to a higher standard than someone who isn’t. Trans women get chastised by gender specialists for not wearing lipstick. And yet if they criticised a cis woman for the same thing, they’d likely be asked what fucking century they thought this was.

So, because I’m trans, I’m expected to strut around all day, every day with flat shoes and trousers and a great big bushy beard, as well as great big bushy everything else? I don’t bloody well think so.

I absolutely love shaving my legs in a hot shower, letting myself air dry and rubbing my shiny smooth legs together. It’s one of the greatest small pleasures on this earth. If I hadn’t been socially conditioned to adhere to feminine gender roles, I might never have discovered it. And yet discover it I have, and I wouldn’t trade that sensation for the soft-side-of-the-velcro thing most guys have going on. Nope.

What the hell does having scratchy fuzz on your legs have to do with being a man? I bloody love shaving on a Saturday morning so I can do my karate training with freshly smooth legs. It’s so satisfying.

I also love matching my nail polish to my suit or tie. Chest bound, tie tied, nails coordinated. Dapper is the word you’re looking for.

If I had been assigned male at birth, this would have been an eccentricity, or just attributed to my sexuality. As it is, it has been used to question my gender identity by people who were supposed to have cared about me.

I think perhaps I assumed, if my masculinity wasn’t traditional, I couldn’t be male.

I think I need to stop looking at myself as “a trans person” and just think of myself as “a person” for a bit. Perhaps I’m male, perhaps I’m NB, but I have to consider myself, and not my body. Its shape is irrelevant. I have to stop thinking of gender as something I perform- but rather something I am.

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.