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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.

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.

On Identity

Although I am happy about my referral to Daventry GIC, I’m also mourning the loss of part of my identity. Until that moment, I had thought myself proud to be non-medical. And suddenly, I wasn’t any more.

I still don’t want testosterone. I still don’t want top surgery (yet). I want a diagnosis of gender dysphoria so I can get a shitty piece of paper off the government. I want vocal coaching so that I don’t sound freaking preposterous every time I open my mouth. But I’m still going.

I know it doesn’t mean anything. It’s like a virginity or a gold star. But to me it was who I was, and who I never will be again. It makes me fearful of who I will be.

I’ve always maintained that transition is not a medical journey. Because I have been on this path now for a third of my life, and there are still so many things I have had to learn and overcome. Part of that, I suppose, is dealing with the fact that transition is not always a straightforward journey from A to B.

Trans people tend to wince at the words “op” or “sex change” because it tends to imply that it’s easy, that it’s like flicking a switch- one day A, the next B. But transition isn’t a shopping list either. It’s not counselling, hormones, top surgery, bottom surgery, done. It’s confusing.

I had a nightmare that I went to Daventry and they wrote a scrip for Nebido without asking me whether I wanted it or not. So then I had this incredibly powerful piece of paper sitting in my pocket that I neither wanted nor knew what to do with.

On the one hand, I want to validate my identity by being a Good Trans Person and taking my medicine. After all, other people are desperate for that opportunity, and I should be grateful for it. On the other, of course, the irreversible side effects of T are not something that I, personally, want, and I don’t want to feel pressured into doing it.

Not to mention the small question of the fact I desperately want to remove any trace of my being legally female, and that if I refuse to take T (like trans men are supposed to), it’ll make for a difficult question at the gender recognition panel.

All this fuss over what is, to me, a minor biological anomaly. Can’t it just be overlooked?

I’m sure as my referral progresses, I’ll have a more cogent idea about how I feel about all this. But right now? I’m tired. And I’m sure I’m not the only person on this ridiculous waiting list who’s at least half-grateful for the time to clear their head.

Getting the referral

I have known I was trans since I was 16 years old, and lived openly since I was 20 but at 24 I have only just got referred to a GIC (Gender Identity Clinic).

I went about it, like I do, sort-of sideways: I made an appointment at the doctors just because I was there anyway, and then the night before I opened the websites for all the GICs and picked one almost at random. On the morning of the appointment, I printed out the referral forms and the NHS guidelines for treating trans people.

Of course I was anxious. But because I’d gone about it so quickly, I felt a little like I wasn’t there at all.

The doctor called me in and asked me what she could do.

“I’m trans and I want to be referred to the GIC in Daventry.”

That was it.

I’ve heard a lot of horror stories about talking to GPs, but I’ve never had any issues for trans-related healthcare (though plenty for unrelated ailments). She went through the questions on the referral form, some of which made sense to me (“how long have you known?”) and some which did not (“any traumatic events in your childhood?”).

There was one oddity- she assumed I was single, glossing over the question rather than asking about it. In actuality, it was my partner that convinced me to ask for referral- I had been verging on cancelling the appointment.

That was all- I even had time to pick up some birth control pills while I was at it.

I always asserted that my transness wasn’t a medical issue until the day I chose to make it so. Well, now I’ve done that. I wish I could say that I felt relieved, that I felt anything at all really, but I don’t. This is just something I’m doing, and that’s all.

I feel like an oddity among trans people, in that this wasn’t something I craved desperately, but it’s for this reason that I’ve decided to try and blog more frequently. Because I can’t be the only one feeling this, a borderline indifference to the medical side of transition- in fact, I know I’m not.

I’m going to post a follow-up at some point about it, but for now I’m just going to share a few lines from my beloved Housman:

“Oh who is that young sinner with the handcuffs on his wrists?
And what has he been after that they groan and shake their fists?
And wherefore is he wearing such a conscience-stricken air?
Oh they’re taking him to prison for the colour of his hair.”