First blog post

Oh, i am supposed to write something here?

well ok then… er…

Hello? anyone in here? it’s very quiet… i think i’ll leave and go find something to write about, best shut the door on the way out i guess… cappuccino please, extra sprinkles… thanks xx

Advertisements

The Drunk Diaries

I have to write this and share something. It’s going to be a long one i think.

My favourite book ever is ‘The Five People You Meet In Heaven’ by Mitch Albom, it’s the most powerful book i have ever read and think it should be on everyone’s must read list. It’s taught me much and i try and live by some of it’s lessons.

This morning I dropped my van off to have some work done on it before we drive to Poland for the World Champs next month. After leaving it with the garage i popped into McDonalds for a coffee and breakfast, yeah i know, but there was no other option close by and i am so glad i did.

I ordered, say down and with in seconds a random stranger came over, sat down and just started talking at me.

Her black and blue hair bouncing all over the place, stunning red nails with sparkling silver feature nail on each hand and perfect make up.

But she seemed drunk! It’s 9am Friday morning.

Her name is Bonnie she tells me, her arms covered in scars from years and years of self harming, she had amazing make-up on and is obviously quite talented at it, but she is all over the place fidgeting, can’t sit still and talking 1,000,000 miles an hour. I can’t work out whether she is drunk, drugged up or what.

I try not to judge folks and just smile, introduce my name back and start on my bagels.

Most people wouldn’t give her a second look and would think her just a local nutjob, but there is something about her, her accent is very well spoken and she’s obviously quite an intelligent girl but is deeply troubled and looks like she has been crying.

To most people in McDonald’s I guess they think that she is a weirdo drunk or druggy and try to avoid her, but she see’s my notebook and immediately says ‘you’re a writer!!!’ and sits down opposite me, Me too she add’s ‘Can I have a pen and a piece of paper?’ and starts writing stuff down.

Bonnie says, that she likes writing and is writing a book all about her growing up with Cerebral Palsy and people thinking she is drunk and avoid her. She tells me she is something people think she is not and She has kept a journey all her life about it and her difficulties.

I know how that can feel and can help talking so ask her about it.

She tells me that due to it (Cerebral Palsy) people thinks she is crazy and at school people told her she couldn’t write, but she didn’t let that stop her when she was younger and she proved them wrong. Same with her walking, she looks drunk but she just has a hard time balancing.

She explains her writing might not be the neatest but at least she can write and it’s not like she is dumb or anything.

My breakfast arrives and I sit and talk to her, she talks about her father who had a coal mining accident and is in a wheelchair with a broken back and that today she has a really hard decision to make.

She’s been up all night, she can’t sleep and she’s been on her own trying to decided what to do and is contemplating suicide as her father has a big life insurance policy on her and that maybe if she died then he could claim the insurance on her life and use the money to help himself out of a tight spot, she is fighting back the tears. She looks shocked she told me and apologises for doing so and she shouldn’t have said anything.

So we sit two complete random strangers whilst the restaurant gets busy with parents and kids, business mem and other folks.

I tell her that I’m sure her father would rather have her than the money, after all money can’t give you a hug like a daughter can, she tells me about her problems.

Last year sectioned under mental health and being diagnosed as bi polar and borderline personality disorder, but she is ok, she is out of hospital and is not on medication. She is not self harming any more but she finds that sometimes she spends time alone drinking which makes things worse and she flits between coping mechanisms and she had been seriously thinking about suicide to help her Dad.

I tell her today is different, that when you hit rock bottom there is only one way and that is back up. She looks at me and a hint of a smile comes across her lips, she takes my hand and says “thank you!” I start to tell her about Mitch Alboms book and she stops me, ‘your not religious are you, cause if you are your not going to like this very much, i’ll have to leave and you’ll have to eat your breakfast alone like a sad person!’ I laugh and tell her i am not, “that’s ok then” and she sinks back into the seat. I tell her you meet people in the most unexpected way when you least expect it and they change your life often with out you knowing it but for a reason.

The sun is shining and she comments that thats a good thing, ‘see first you choose to sit and talk to a random person who doesn’t tell you to fuck off, next the sun comes out and already life is looking up’.

Bonnie gets up and goes to the counter and buys herself a coffee, on the way back she ducks under someone stood looking at the menu board and picks something up.

‘Found 5p on the floor!’ She announces ‘fuck i’m rich!’ She laughs and sits back down. We drink our coffee and we talk, well she talks, I listen.

She’s very funny, she comes out with some incredible one-liners that make me laugh, some stuff that tries to shock me like ‘well i must go my pimp will be wondering where i am!’ …

‘Your joking right, he is not waiting up for you is he? ‘ I ask, but when she see’s i am not falling for it, she laughs that she is not quite that desperate for money she just found 5p, but her palsy makes her crap at ‘hand jobs’ anyway so she has to give refunds! then laughs and says ‘joke!’ She has sarcasm down pat and I tell her she should be on the stage as she’s got talent.

Her mood switches to telling me she thinks she is ugly due to her scars and thats she wishes she was pretty, taking her phone and showing me photos of herself, I feel so sorry for her, she can’t see how pretty she does look or how skilled she is at her hair and make up.

Some of her make up’s are works of art, i tell her that and as I comment on how good a frown appears and then her head sinks into her hands and i think she will cry.

She opens her scarred hands and looks at me and tells me no one has ever believed in her before and i am such a ‘cool guy’ (i am not in myself but in male mode) and can she give me her email address, before i can answer no, she writes it out and then puts the paper in my hand. I fold it and put it to the side of my coffee cup.

On her Facebook she shows me some halloween make up that she’s done, wow! she is very very talented in special effects.

I tell her that’s a career she could have.

It really is that amazing and she is so so talented, again Bonnie frowns and changes the subject and then gets up to talk to another random stranger about something that has come to mind, comments on their beautiful scarf and then turns back to me and sits back down. She fumbles with her coat and struggles to put it on.

She looks longingly out the window and then turns and says ‘I was going to do it today, but you have changed my mind, i am not going to, I ‘ve decided’ pauses and offers me a fist pump, which I reciprocate and she nods. ‘I am glad i chose to talk to you this morning, sorry i interrupted your breakfast not knowing you like, but thanks’. She smiles, puts her hair up in a bun and takes out a bottle of banana milkshake from her coat pocket and cancels a call from her phone, it’s a hospital she tells me, trying to find out where she is, she doesn’t want to talk to them, she ‘doesn’t give a fuck, i am ok now’ and puts the phone down.

‘So, how old are you?’ she asks, ‘45, you?’ ‘23, you dont look twice my age you look younger, you have good skin for a bloke’ she says looking hard at my face, I don’t tell her i moisturise twice daily but i am sure she could give me some tips on make up.

‘I used to believe in fairies and stuff like that when i was a kid, i didn’t have a bad childhood or anything growing up and my parents sent me to private school in Shrewsbury to make sure i was ok like, but when my dad got hurt in the mine we moved from Staffordshire to here’

‘Gloucester?’ I ask?

‘Yeah but then things got out of control and i started getting bad and thats when i got sectioned’ she said she has never done drugs but people think she is off her head.

She stands, takes some cigarettes from her pocket and says ‘well, this is the part of the film where i get up and go outside and either i come back and your gone or i never return… thanks for the chat, it can only get better right? And when i get my book published i’ll send you a copy.’

‘Yup, it can only get better! Todays the first day upwards, buy that book and please call your Dad’ She nodes and walks out lighting the cigarette, i sit and finish my coffee, i keep looking out the window to see if she is standing outside but she has gone.

My phone rings and the garage call to tell my the van is ready, i walk outside and look around for her to say good bye but she’s gone, I walk to pick up the van and drive to work.

I hope i changed her mind, i hope she doesn’t do anything silly and ruin her and her loved ones lives, they sounded like nice people who worry about her.

I understand where she is coming from struggling with demons, being misunderstood and fighting thoughts of suicide. It’s rife in the trans community.

As my gender questioning grew to epic proportions last year before coming out i thought about what if disappeared? I could never do that to my wife and family and having found two suicides, know the heart break it brings on families.

It’s the month of remembrance next month and trans remembrance day is also coming up, where we remember those in the community we have lost so it’s fresh in our minds.

How I don’t know as i never gave her any details on me, but i hope she does finish her book, i’ll keep an eye out for it, The Drunk Diaries, her name is Bonnie G.

Post Script:

As i get up and pick up the piece of paper she had written on and put next to my coffee cup and put it in my bag, on writing this i open it up and read what she has written…the last 3 lines hit home.

‘I didn’t know how to act

Post Script

Thank you’

The Spirit of confusion

Damn! Just wrote a long blog and then deleted the whole thing, think it was probably quite good too, so back to the drawing board and trying to remember what i wrote about.

It’s been a few weeks since my last blog post, sorry folks, my bad. But life’s been busy you see, new season at work, a family wedding in Cornwall and just trying to get on with being me, which is hard, have you ever tried it? If not give it a go sometime, you might like it.

So it’s Friday, T has just completed another laser session on my face and i think i am starting to see some change, might be just me but I definitely think there is a little less on my cheeks, my lip is taking a little less to cover successfully, unless i am just getting better at that anyway.

T recons on 4 – 6 sessions before results start to show then 10 – 12 before they are pretty much as gone as they will be, so this time next summer…

I am starting to think about when electrolysis might need to kick in.

So, yeah, life, how is it going?

Well, somethings have settled down into a new normal, home life is steady away, as always my wife is being her usual incredible self, my family? Hmm… well…

Sisters in law, brilliant

Brothers, supportive as much as they can be whilst trying to understand

Parents… less said the better. Dad is just carrying on as normal and is internalising stuff as guys do, Mum… lets say we are civil but not really talking and if i am being brutally honest, i am trying to avoid her. She has asked to speak to my wife this weekend, i think to either see if this is ‘real’, as she puts it or to try and get her onside to change my mind. Either way it isn’t brilliant. I know many trans folks loose family and have unsuppotive parents but at any age it’s hard.

Which with my cousins wedding last week was difficult. Family being together and staying in the same house threw up some difficult feelings, some know, some don’t, some i know will be cool with it, others i don’t know, it’s a while off them all knowing i think but i had lots of those ‘You ok you seem quiet?’ conversations where you reply with ‘yeah all good’ then change the subject.

Being trans at a wedding is hard when you are not full time or ‘out’, but you know whats what and who you want to be.

For me i found being trans female is difficult on such occasions as you see the girls all dressed up to the nines, hair carefully tussled, make up on point yet you can’t join in. This to be the second wedding this year when i was proud to be there sharing the special day with family or friends but in side the confusion and sadness rein strong and catching a glimpse in a mirror shows a shirt and slacks clad guy who you don’t want to see. There are mirrors everywhere at wedding venues!

I did manage a turquoise toes and toe ring on inside my shoes, clear polished nails, subtle bit of bling under my shirt sleeve, that kept the demons of dysphoria from a full on attack! It was close though. It was close, i could sense it near, lurking behind the flowers carefully arranged in copper milk churns waiting to pounce.

I have never felt comfortable at family do’s never felt like i wanted to join in and would escape and get the hell outta dodge asap if i could, it’s not the small talk about businesses and work and what we have been up to with our sport, or the usual ‘only at weddings and funerals’ thing about must meet up more often, or enduring speaking to a relative you don’t like (luckily i have great family who i love) but it’s the feeling of not fitting in that has always got me.

My immediate family are all rugby fans, i mean BIG rugby fans, me, i detest all those ball sports, always have, always will. I like nature and adventure sports. They are all mainstream sports type folks, normal everyday stuff with their work, 2.4 kids and dog, we have 9… yes i know, crazy dog lady. Which i guess is why this has hit hard to them, i am the black sheep.

I wonder if one day in the future when they have all met and accepted the real me i will feel better about being at these gatherings? Will have to wait and see.

So, whilst thinking about all this i spoke to our councillor at our monthly support group.

JP, how do you know, i mean really know what path is right? How far to go, need to go, what is the right path to take?

Follow whats in here’ he said thumping his heart ‘it will tell you if you listen’.

I suppose i was expecting more of a you’ll know when this happens rather than a Yoda sansei type answer, being short but not green, clad in a cloak or holding a gnarled wooden staff, i digged deeper.

I wanted a ‘if you think or act like this then… you know’ answer, a kind of road map, the dumbies guide to transition, a Haynes manual for a 1972 Trans. I decided to look for one but all i could fine when i went looking was one for a 1965 – 78 Transit van (Maybe there is a money spinner of an idea there for someone?).

We talked and he explained that inside we really know when we quieten our mind and listen to our heart. It will always tell us the truth and cut through the confusion if we just listen to our instincts. He showed me some meditation techniques to help.

I decided to ask my friend Emma the same thing during a make up lesson mid week.

She is further along the road than i, 6 months of HRT low dose and referral to Charing Cross (CX) GIC, but she didn’t know either. Emma is not full time yet or out to her kids, but the time is coming and we discussed when that might be, when is it right to do so. For her with work it will be when she can no longer hid the effects of HRT on her chest, with the kids it’s when they ask the question of who’s dresses are those in the wardrobe she thinks.

We discussed when the time for SRS becomes important, if at all. Did she want to have it? She wasn’t sure, neither of us have crushing dysphoria about our ‘in between bits’ but at the same time we both feel, i think, that they don’t quite fit where they are and maybe the time will come when they meed to be utilised for other purposes and reconfigured.

It’s a long way off for me i guess and a difficult one for my better half to come to terms with.

So there you go, clear as mud lol.

The spirit of confusion reins still at the mo, but i know that over time if i quieten my mind and listen to my heart it will show me the way. All i can tell is at the moment there is what feels like a magnet slowly dragging me onwards to the inevitable with a power I can’t stop, no matter the feelings of family, the internalised transphobia and how scary this path might be.

until till next time, my toffee latte has arrived in the Toro Lounge and i must remember see if Waterstones has a better manual section than Halfords do…

Post Script: i did find a book! Dara Hoffman-Fox’s http://discoveryourgenderidentity.com/

Star Wars Day 2 and coming out at work.

I wonder if coffee shops survive on folks coming in and enjoying a coffee whilst they write their blogs? I certainly enjoy relaxing with a coffee whilst i write mine, today a Pain Au Chocolate joins me.

I love this place, the Toro Lounge in Cirencester. Outfitted with a mix of eclectic paintings, sofas, stripped pine tables and some amazing old light fittings, lamps and some really great coffee.

It’s fairly busy, couple of mums post school run chatting, a lady working away busily on her laptop sat cross legged on the big leather sofa, i have gone for my usual latte. They have a La Spaziale machine, we have one in our coffee shop, it’s a great machine and coupled with good beans makes a lovely espresso!

The sun is shining, i can’t linger today as things to do but have just had my second laser session with T at Envisage salon, today it stung!!! I think i was not as close with the old shaving routine this am and a few ‘longer than the others’ hairs remained and i really felt the zap and burn! Ouch! Teeth clenched and it stung as the zap hit, just a small area on the point of my jaw bone on my right side, it’s still sore now, but another week ticked off and another towards a hair free face!

I seem to have got back on track a little since my last post, time is moving along almost imperceptibly but when Facebook sent me a ‘here is your summer’ collection of photos to post I realised that its slipping quickly in to Autumn. I have been out in the big wide world now for 114 days!

My wifey told her work yesterday. We were having a conversation last night whilst cooking dinner together, joking and enjoying each others company. E is planning a trip to New Zealand to see her best friend next spring for 3 weeks and has been trying to sort holidays at work and i had just got home after loosing my only car key on my evening run in the forest and having to go around again to find it, which luckily i did right at the end, before driving home and E was ribbing me about being useless and a muppet,.

‘what are you? Say it! I. Am. A. Muppet.. go on.’ I admit, i was and i did. ‘ ok, i am a muppet… happy?’

So while we were laughing with each other i said ‘hey maybe when i start hrt that will change and my male muppetness will go once i am changing gender?’, ‘ I doubt it!’ giggles E. We hugged each other as we laughed and then she said ‘i told work today…’

‘what, about me?, ohhh you mean about the NZ trip, i thought for a minite you had told work about me, us’.

‘I did’ said E,

‘Oh, Ok… how did it go, i mean er, you did, oh? ‘ I wasn’t sure how i felt but rolled with it.

E had asked for 3 weeks and they normally only allow 2 at a time so she had to ask for a bending of the rules and give an explanation. So she said she although she didn’t agree with bringing home to work, she needed to tell them something in confidence why she needed to get over to New Zealand to see her best friend and spend some ‘me’ time with her, relax a little after the past few months…and that i had come out to her as transgender earlier in the summer. That was why she had been feeling down at work and needed some her time face to face with her best friend, who also happens to be a Dr over in New Zealand.

I agree, she misses her friend and with things progressing next year she could do with the time away for herself.

I wasn’t sure how i felt at first about her telling someone I didn’t know, work, her managers. She assured me they were going to keep her confidence and it would stay with them and they understood that breach of data protection and confidential info was a legal thing, but they understand and were shocked but reassuring and said they would make an exception over the situation and see if they can give her the time she needs for her trip plus any days off she needs to come with me to appointments etc when things start to happen.

Being an openly LGBT supportive employer they had never had anyone trans or spouse of trans at work come out to them, and I suppose that is the correct term for E as well, we are in this together so we both have comings out to deal with.

It wont be the first or the last time over the years we will have to tell an employer, luckily i own my own business so i only have my staff and customers to come out to… only lol!

Of course they had questions, when did she know? Would i have ‘the op!’ (Why always that question first?) E responded that it was early days still and we were staying together and yes i might have ‘the op’ in time but thats for us and me to decide. She was awesome! She handled their questions and although she admit that she had a few tears towards the end, she felt ok about it and feels she has moved forward a little with me. I think she is owning her own truth as well as i am mine and she is an amazing person to take this journey with me when many spouses leave.

We made dinner, chatted and shared some thoughts and asked each other how we were feeling and made some plans too.

It felt ok, better and more normal and accepting than before. I guess we are finding a new normal for now.

So, coffee is finished, the Toro lounge is prepping for lunch and i need to head off, swing by the Dr’s for a script for E, load some boards and head south for a weekends surfing and chatting old surfboards with friends. I am staying with some good friends tonight, C collects boards like me his wife J collects make up and has a amazing collection… I might ask for a peep….

Stay Wonderful all, its a blue sky day!

Xxx Sophie

Let go of that pressure, relax into you.

“Let go of that pressure, relax into you”.

These words have helped me today. A friend said them to me this morning on messenger as we discussed me, my gender and the increasing confusion i am currently going through around which way next, how far and when and where to go with this.

Things have been tough these last few weeks since i came out to my family, the first night went better than planned, i thought, then reality hit home and things went squiffy. My family weren’t OK and as supportive as i first thought, they lashed out, i guess shocked , confused and angry. After a talk with them last weekend they went in hard, really hard and sent me into an almighty tailspin. I haven’t been the same since.

Slowly i am coming back into myself, i am starting to internalise things, which as we know isn’t good for us, i am questioning everything, reflecting on what was said by my folks, was it real, is it real, am i trans is transition the right path, if so, how far. I thought i knew and had a plan, I’ve just had it ripped up and thrown on the floor, stomped on and i am trying to find the pieces, some are missing.

I was given an ultimatum of sorts, i think, well no i hope that this is just anger and grief, shock and awe and all that stuff when something comes out the blue unexpectedly and hits you in the face and turns life in a different way. My folks had no clue or signals over the last 45 years i am trans. I hid it all so well, so completely they are doubting it is real, couple this with the fact my mum is very, traditional, shall we say in thinking, she watches a lot of BBC and reads the Daily Mail newspaper, is religious and likes everything in boxes, labelled where it should be and should not be changed. Dad is more liberal and open minded but it’s hit him hard. One of his 3 boys, is er…maybe not? I can see how that would be a huge huge life changing thing.

My folks are close, we all are as a family, we lost my sister too early in life which they still haven’t begun to get over i don’t think which makes this even more hard as they thought they might have only had one daughter and maybe they had two. This makes my head spin let along the rest of the families.

And so, it understandably was a shock when they said transition and we will disown you from the family. To hear that as a child of any age from your parents is tough. Really tough. I would like to think that maybe they will come around to some kind of acceptance eventually. I am hoping.

SO, as you can guess, my brain has been feeling a bit battered, i can’t work things out like normal, i have lost my way and what i thought i wanted has been sent in to confusion, i am questioning myself, my path, my feelings and inside is turmoil. I had heard people can be like this but thought it would be different. The rollercoaster ride of coming out as trans hasn’t just taken a dip, someone has pinched the rails and i am in free fall.

Chatting to my friend she said, your putting too much pressure on yourself, reading too much, listening to others stories and journeys, they won’t fit yours. “Let go of that pressure, relax into you”.

That is a hard thing to do for me, it’s in my nature to research, read a lot and make sense of stuff through others stories. But if i am to find the answers then i have to try and make my own way,  my own story, my own pathway and my own ending to the journey. I accepted a long time ago that i am trans, lost that,  have i found that self acceptance again? l i think i have.

I questioned A LOT last week and i mean a lot. All those past thoughts, what led me to come out this year to my wife, friends and now family, I wondered if it was right, if that is what i was feeling, if that was real and if that was what i was and what i wanted after all?

I think in the last 24 hrs i have accepted again that i was right, that it probably is what i needed and wanted to do and where i am, but it’s shifted a little. I wondered about the whole non binary spectrum, maybe i am gender fluid, but it doesn’t feel quite right, i defiantly associate with a much more female bias and lean than anything else and looking back over my life, i have always felt and wanted to be female.

Maybe the things my folks said have regressed me back a little, made me feel like i need to step back in to line with their views that they brought us up with, i don’t know. It’s that whole conform to the norm thing that we fight so hard to break away from but is always trying to drag us back towards with that pressure.  I am fighting that again at the moment and trying to be myself as an individual again, its hard.

The first few days i felt scolded like a naughty child, i stood my ground with my parents, was honest, very honest about my feelings, past experiences and life choices, promised nothing but i didn’t  compromise either. Slowly the past couple of days i have been getting out running again,  it’s my head space time and through the miles i have started to look back at all the things related to this in my life and answered some questions inside. I also asked some friends some questions, they all came back with similar answers. How many of my guy friends dress as female? how many wear make up? had and want back my feminine hair do? Happily buy female clothing in shops? Go to Tesco’s shopping as female? Go out for an evening meal to a local pub in their female self? Go to their GP to request a referral to a GIC…er…none… well none of the non trans ones anyway.

So that answers that question. The next is where do i go from here. I am still knocked for six on that one and trying to find out again. I suppose that is part of the journey, self doubt, knock backs, swerve balls and hard times. It was never going to be a bunch of roses now was it?

Well, tonight i am out with my wife to a friends for dinner in me (girl) mode. I am wearing my new green knitted top, skinny girl jeans and brown suede boots with 4 inch heels, nice blue chiffon scarf and the gorgeous silver and jade bracelet my wife bought me for our wedding anniversary last week… So i guess the Sophie part of me is back at least where she should be.

 

Are you who you say you want to be?

Please bare with me on this one folks.

I belong to a writers group, newly formed and in its early days. We were set a challenge, a question to answer however we liked, just to write, be creative and a explore as we see fit no boundaries, just write.

I thought i’d have a go and decided to write what ever came out in my mind first, not really sure what i was going to write, but here it is anyway, good bad or indifferent. hey its a start!

the question posed was,

Are you who you say you want to be?

A good question, this is a tough one. Here we go!

Daily it can change, sometimes by the hour, or by the day, month or year. I think i know, i have a name, a name for me and a name others call me that was given at birth. But the feelings surrounding my identity can shift and change.

It feels like it accelerates and decelerates at will, like a car with its own mind and which we have only partial control over. We look forward out the windscreen but often, too often the rear view mirror, scared of what is following but also what is around the next bend, going too fast, going too slow. A never ending journey, well they call it a journey, who knows what it is.

We question and question ourselves, ask others, try to find ourselves. We double guess, double bluff and have double vision sometimes which clouds our thoughts beliefs and what we thought was right yesterday is often not today.

We seek answers like a wraith in the night looking for lost souls. We council, speak with others of our kind that we find in the dark. There are many of us, seekers, we own the misplaces souls. But we are not evil, bad or strange beings, we are not novelties, freaks or media fodder, in fact some hold us in reverence.

We care, we support and we take our turn to come crashing down and wait for others to catch the fall or to try and rebuild, fill the cracks and prop us back up again. We are always seeking the truth through the confusion and fear, are we this? are we that? or are we neither. Do we switch or float between the two, are we some kind of other being that is in limbo between two worlds? Which vision is right?

Then comes the paths, which path is the right one?

This one is dark, pitch black and scares us, it traps those with nothing but despair and swallows them whole. Sirens call us in during times of pain and when nothing is left. Return is for the few.

This one is seems easy, we know it and we travel it, may have come from it, most of us have lived on it for a long time till we come across a fork. But it has gatekeepers. Directed by others, who beckon and call us, pull at us frantically to stay, which we try and try to resist leaving even though it is the easy path, the fork tempts us, we think we recognise it, see others along it in the mist, it feels like we should explore, go down it, take a step, see who we could be.

For them, the others who live on the path, they know no difference, they never see the fork for them everything is normal, everything here is clear. But for us seekers it can be lethal to stray off the path. It can be dangerous, it can set a time bomb ticking, it could lead to misery, confusion and fear for us, we can get beaten, trodden on and lectured at, destroyed and diminished but at the same time its home. It is uncomfortable for us seekers to live here, we can leave or we can stay,  either choice can lead to ultimate happiness or it could lead to destruction. We can find out but it can take a cost.

We could be happy but it could cost others dear, but is many persons happiness worth another’s unbearable pain? Would all who travel up and down this path come to realise that for some of us its a false path. One that us seekers find hard. To keep you here is their wish but they would they struggle to hold over you till the end of days? Sucking the happiness from you to fuel their own desires, thinking of themselves to keep you. But once they glimpse you for what you are they are often cursed. The nagging doubts grow like ivy slowly creeping unnoticed until it cuts out the light and crushes the living being inside its shroud.

So, what if we take that other one, its steep, it doesn’t look easy, it’s a climb, rocky filled with pot holes, rarely travelled but well sign posted. Often it appears hidden, one that reveals itself to us from time to time. We must admit it’s attractive. It often only reveals itself to us at the last moment, the time when we need it most and want it least, An answer?

But we might find that down it, truths that scare us, frighten us and reveal what we did not want to believe, or it might not, it might lead to growth, to help, out stretched hands that will comfort and heal, provide the answers, sooth busy minds, wash clean scarred bodies and patch up battered hearts. It might leave others behind to drag them with us. It feels safe, it has people who understand and know, knowledge and sanctity. It can become all consuming this path, not easy but right, until with a crescendo it spits us out into another world leaving us to feel new, but then what next, which new path with reveal itself to us then?

Without a crystal ball or the power of fore sight we will never know who we are, will be, could be unlike the others who walk with us unaware, happy go lucky and without the thoughts, pain and confusion that lives within us.

So we must tread carefully my friends, We must have courage walking these paths, testing this experience, one step forward, one step back. Its like a dance where we don’t know the steps. But when the music ends, we will find out who we are.

What colour coffee are you?

You know i love coffee right? i mean so far, out of 4 blog posts, its been in 4 of them, 100% success rate.

Making a Latte in a tall glass, watching the dark brown coffee mix with the hot white milk, swirling away in the glass, changing colours and then separating out into 3 distinct layers got me thinking.

This one has dark brown coffee at the bottom, the white milk turning to a pale tan colour further up the glass and then further still the soft white froth on the top. Now stand a black looking double espresso next to that in a shot glass, then a flat white, finally a cappuccino with its frothy top sprinkled with cinnamon and chocolate sprinkles and you have 4 or 5 different colours, different flavours, textures and tastes but they are all still essentially, coffee. Lets not get into instant!

The past week i have been writing an inclusion and equality policy for my sport, so far our GB federation doesn’t have one and we need one, to be frank, i need one.

So i emailed our international federation to request a copy of theirs for me to use as a template, to doctor as i see fit and so we can mirror their guidelines. Guess what, they don’t have one. Well that’s not strictly true, they do, its just not what i would call robust or detailed enough to protect me and other athletes from the trans community, from other diverse cultures, communities, beliefs in a way that i would like to see. It’s not their fault, although they have an all encompassing line that says they welcome all and will not discriminate against race, religion or political views, that’s as far as it goes. I suspect they thought that would cover it, just a simple one line statement.

An email later to our international athletes rep and she replied quickly saying that they, we, really do need one and it is now on the agenda for the forthcoming board meeting in early October in Kiruna Sweden. Result, Perfect! They have cleared the first hurdle and have recognised they need one. What they don’t yet know is that i might be the first to have to use it when its written, when i come out to my sport. So i have offered to pass over the one i have been writing to them to use if they see fit and will wait and see what happens next. The scary thing for me is that they might ask me to present on it, great a trip to Sweden, but also that might mean i then have to come out to them…maybe that’s the route to take, i don’t know yet. Coming out to your sport is a massive thing i think when you compete and work in that sport. After all, the media loves a good trans sportsperson story and i am not sure i want to be that story yet.

I have been involved in international sport for many years in several sports, was instrumental in setting up our federation here, i sit on committee’s internationally, manage our GB Team and work as a high level official at World and European Championships. I have been very lucky to travel the world for my sport and hope to continue to do so in the future and to work in it for our athletes for many years to come.

Talking to Tara Stone from Pride Sports to get some help with writing the policy and specifically the non-binary aspects of the policy, i asked how do we include non-binary folks into the sporting mix, with its classifications etc.

Trans people are fairly easy to place, depending on various hormone and testosterone levels, we can fit them into the various classes and boxes. We can use the binary aspects of the trans spectrum of trans male and trans female to place them along the line of classifications, with the gender they present as, to a certain extent. Currently a male to female athlete, pre hormone treatment ( HRT ), might be restricted to the open or male gender classifications until their hormone levels and testosterone levels have reached required levels to match that of a cis gender female athlete. It is obvious that they could have an advantage due to differences in strength and muscle mass over a female until such time as that reduces with HRT. Notice i say could as some cisgender females will naturally be more flexible, lighter than a cisgender male in their sport and at an advantage.

If they are post op or their levels are such that they fit within the WADA guidelines, that narrows it down and can be used to define which gender classification they compete in. (WADA – the World Anti Doping body will still require drug tests to prove the their Oestrogen levels are below a certain level to match that of a genetic female range) . Some sports insist on surgery others don’t. Most sports allow trans men to compete with the men, but for someone who identifies as a trans women like myself, we have more hoops to jump through. The Non Binary athletes at the moment don’t have such a clear pathway, but they will still require looking after and be recognised in sport, especially as more folks identify as NB.

I am pre HRT, pre SRS, pre coming out to my sport at present, early in my transition, so my box isn’t available to me yet. It clearly isn’t OK to put me in with the girls at the moment and i agree, (although many would still whip my ass in a race) even though i identify as female within myself and my gender identity, i am not far enough down my journey to be able to race with the gender i associate with.

I am lucky that i race currently in a gender non specific class but if i wanted to enter a class that is gender specific, then i would need to fit the requirement. That for me is a non start until i start HRT. At the moment not being out to my sport, i just keep racing where i am with the guys.

So what about the Non-Binary folks, that brought up some interesting conversations between us and we discussed ways to write the policy so that they are included. NB Athletes face a harder task as do their federations and sport in general in placing them in the right classification for sport at present, unless its a non gender specific class or sport.

This then got me thinking, what if sport did away with gender? what if WE did away with gender, or just labels all together, labels often confuse things. We get put in boxes and labelled this and that and some of those labels are getting either tenuous, put pressure on folks who don’t want to be labelled or can be discriminatory even.

A lot of talk these days is of spectrum’s, sexuality, gender, learning abilities etc, spectrum’s are made up of colours, the colour of the LGBT logo is one of a Rainbow. What if we did away with the labels that differentiated us too not just in sport? What if we used the colour spectrum instead?

You know i feeling i lean more towards the pink end of the spectrum,, Now that might be preconceived as i identify as female and we are taught from a young age to like blue as a boy, pink as a girl. If i am honest, i just like the bright colour and also the soft tones you can get in the pink colour range. It reminds me of sunsets and sunrises, a softer side and positive things. It just feels like me. Someone else might identify more with earthy brown tones, or greens, yellows, someone else firey red or orange with their identity, maybe they can’t associate and would choose grey, maybe even black or white. What if we replaced gender labels with colour? I guess we would change a small amount depending on our mood at that moment, but we all have our favourite colours don’t we? and most folks favourite colour has never changed, and if it does fine, that’s cool too, no one judges you on it like they do with other things, they just say, i prefer blue or red or orange and we accept it and each others choice. I wish it were that easy when it came to other things we choose in life.

I bet if you think of your favourite colour it wont change much though, my wife has always like turquoise, her whole life. Just out of interest have a think, choose your colour and put it in the comments box, just the colour you feel or like best. Radical concept huh!

So with sport, what if we did something similar and we all just competed in a class relative to say strength, size, weight, height, body mass, muscle, testosterone levels or oestrogen levels rather than gender? Motor racing does it with engine size already, what if we did the same with our human engine size.

What if you entered a race, then in the days before you declare your height, weight, body mass, strength test results. boxing and other combat sports do to some extent already. Then you have a finger prick test, similar to that a diabetic has, and you get put in this class or that class with others with similar levels and you all compete together, would that be fair?  Does it seems so? i think i might work. Male, Female, Trans, Cis, NB, it wouldn’t matter as we would all be on a level playing field and compete against someone of a similar body type to you, no matter their identity.

Only maybe it wouldn’t work, well not yet anyway. As Tara said when we discussed this idea, we are probably 2 – 3 generations away from a radical shift that means people don’t have gender splits in sport and we all race together, it will come, may come, but its way way off at the moment. But by thinking about it and putting policies in place in sports, its a start. A lot of things start with sport.

So for now, we need to keep the labels, people NEED labels, it puts us into communities, helps us identify with others similar to us, makes us feel safe, gives us an identity even though we are individuals, allows us to express ourselves by giving ourselves a label.

So, back to the policy writing and back to my coffee, this ones a long latte, with extra chocolate sprinkles, cinnamon with a shot of gingerbread syrup, it’s my own creation, i think i will label it the Hansel and Grettle.

have an amazing day, feel free to add your thoughts or drop in for coffee.

Sophie x

hansel

Star Wars and Chai Latte’s

I jumped, i didn’t quite expect the flash to be quite so bright. Then the intense heat and sound of a slight crackle in my upper lip as the Laser hit the hair follicles and nuked them like Luke Skywalker hitting a Womp Rat.

‘You Ok there?’ Asked my weapons operator?

‘Yup, wasn’t quite ready for that one!’ I joked and tried to relax as she set to work sweeping my face for any living hair that deserved to die!

As i lay there with her zapping away happily, i tried to relax a little and imagine that every little sting coupled with the bright red flash in my eyelids as the laser beam traveled through my flesh, was another little one of the bits and bobs of me i don’t like being beamed into another dimension.

It’s something all us girls must go through on our road to becoming our true selves when we embark on transition. Another step closer, another mile stone that we must pass on our journey into ourselves.

After 10 mins she has moved on from my top lip to my cheeks, the heat that comes with each zap is intense, then melts away to be replaced by another flash of red light, crackle, heat blast and then cooling off again. The machine beeps away and the cooling fan is going flat chat. The feeling is not akin to someone stabbing you with a red hot needle connected to an electric fence and a disco light. Set on the highest frequency I am apparently doing quite well according to K, many people (guys) she has treated cry with the pain by now at this level. I was starting to relax, focus on the heat being like a hot shower on your face and to be proud of what i am doing to ensure my happiness and letting the real me come out.

So, I have decided to call this Star Wars day 1, i know i have around another 10-11 to come with K, each 4 weeks apart means that i have a good 10 months left and then will start on electrolysis to get shot of the lingering hairs that laser couldn’t kill. It works best on pale skin (mine) with dark hairs (some of mine). The greys, reds and blondes need the electric shock needle directly into the follicle to send them on their way of electrocution, I am told A LOT more painful and time consuming!

Then of course there is the rest to do, chest, belly, bikini line… and when it eventually comes to SRS…. the bits! Eeeek!!!

When people ask why we do this, transition that is, they often think its just something we wake up one day decided to do. Get out of bed look in the mirror and go ‘oh i think i’ll be trans and change my gender and become a girl/guy, how wonderful, jolly hockey sticks n’ all that, off we go then tra la la’ they often don’t realise that choosing this path has cost us dear, not just financially but also in lost time, the years of confusion, the depths of depression, sadness, shame and guilt and the mental and physical pain we must endure when we transition to become the right person we should have been born as.

But when we get there, as i will one day like others before have and are, what we get paid back cannot be bought.

Many girls and guys i chat to in our community bare the scars of this life we did not choose but chose to do something about. They hold the internal and physical pain of those years before transition but something shines through it all. They won, they lost a battle and won the war to become authentic, to be happy and at one with themselves, they dropped into that trench on the death star, fired their last missile into that exhaust vent and got the hell outta there. They lost people along the way, both those we know in this community who couldn’t win their own battles, friends and family who would or could not stand with them and a person that once stood there as the old self, but they all came out stronger and happier, with the ability to endure whatever life throws at them, to hold their head high and to smile a smile of true contentment, happiness and joy that says, i did it, i reached in and rescued myself, made myself happy, connected and real. I made myself me.

It’s a painful thing to do to make yourself happy but the cost is surly worth it despite the price.

So i am now sat in Costa Coffee over the road from the salon. Enjoying a Chai Latte, regular size cup, with Cinnamon sprinkles watching the world walk by. I had one after my first test patch was done and today after my first full laser session, is my second. This is going to become my routine, my little reward to myself for getting through the 40 mins of painful zapping. Sadly my wife had to work and couldn’t come with me this time so i was on my own.

My face is cooling down, it tingles and feel like i have sunburn, Aloe Vera gel is helping with that, and in 8 weeks time and another couple of sessions, i should start to see the results begin to happen.

Till then and my next Chai Latte, i think i might head home and find my VHS Star Wars Box set and watch the first one all over again.

Aptly named, A New Hope.

Sophie x

Out into the open.

My finger hits the coffee grinder button, the beans disappear inside and spill out into the cup and i tamp them flat, twist to polish, clunk the head cup into the machine head. The pressure builds and forces the water through the coffee and it flows like a hot thick syrup. Opening the steam wand fills the air with whisps of hot water vapour that hang for a moment then fall away like fine mist.

The machine stops with a mechanical sound and the last few drips of coffee hang on the ends of the lips of the steel cup for a moment, then drip slowly into the pool of black hot liquid in my cup. The steam fires from the wand with that distinct roar and the milk swirls viciously in the jug until with the flick i snap the lever off and the hiss ceases. I swirl the coffee one direction and the milk the other, pour in slowly, the cup on an angle and a little heart shape appears on the top of the milk. I smile.

My second coffee of the day tastes good. The caffeine buzz is hitting my brain and my eyes are starting to feel like they are actually going to decided to turn up to work today. Last night feels like a dream, did it actually happen? Did 40 odd years of knowing and living a life hidden away, a lie of sorts. A secret kept away from my family, did it really all come flooding out?

My family are pretty normal, like most out there. Mum and Dad have been married for 47 years, live with their dog in the countryside. My brothers, one my older twin, the other 3 years my younger both are married with a son and daughter each and have good solid careers. My sister, we sadly lost 2 years ago to breast cancer at a young age. Way to soon. Then there’s me. Always been a bit different, not quite the black sheep but not at all like my other siblings. I am married to an amazing girl, she has my heart and soul and knows about Sophie and made the choice to stand by me and take this journey together, not easy, she could have run for the hills but chose to stay out of love.

Going to tell them was going to always be hard. I know my mother is moderately religious and has conservative views and is very traditional in her thinking. But to us kids she has always been an amazing mum, bringing us all up whilst her and dad both worked. They supported and dealt with my sisters cancer like you wouldn’t believe, so caring and nothing was too much trouble. They made sure we were brought up correctly have always supported what ever we have done in our lives and as a family we are all close.

I worry though that this might be too big a thing for them. Finding out who i am inside is one thing for me to deal with, ive known her since a very young age, but is this going to be too much for them. Finding out a son is a daughter, a brother a sister and having lost the only daughter they have known to this point, will it not be to hard to understand?

I love my mum, she is an incredible woman, too much like her mom at times although she will never admit it. Very opinionated at times, she made her views on body modification known to me recently and then just an hour or so before i was about to sit them down and tell them, she told me her views on LGBT people and them raising kids, transgender people apparently are mental cases with bad parents and a person born with a penis is a boy and that’s that (which was not great to hear just before coming out to them as trans, maybe she will rethink the bad parent bit?) she reads the Daily Mail newspaper, lets just leave it at that…perfect! I can see this is going to go well then.

We go out for dinner together and i ‘prime’ my little brother who is home to see my folks with his wife and kids in the car park before we head in, he was matter of fact and totally accepting and agreed to help later on. Once home, kids eventually on their sugar high come downs from drinking Raspberry Milk Shakes finally go to sleep, i sit my family down.

How do we start these conversations? These ‘coming outs’? how do we find the courage to be genuine and honest, to reveal our deepest beliefs, things that we so far may have only shown to strangers and people we know in our communities that identify with us and where we feel an element of safety. To pour out our hearts to those we love but when we are not sure that they will accept us, it’s a hard thing to do. Really hard. Yet to move forward and further down the road to authenticity we need to. Whether out of fear of being ‘found out’ or ‘outed’ or because we need to cross this incredibly hard speed bump in our journey or just that the time has come, it will never be easy.  I watched lots of youtube vlogs on coming out, read blogs and listened to podcasts, spoke with friends and my counsellor and then one popped onto my Facebook feed and stood out amongst them all.

Ash Beckham’s Ted X talk (I’ll post a link in the text widget thingy up on the right there) is about coming out of your closet, having that Hard Conversation. Whether it be you are gay, you have an illness, your business has folded, you are penniless and need to borrow money to eat tonight, they are all hard conversations and that’s is all they are. Conversations which take us out of our comfort zones and out of our closets. In some respects we all live in closets to some degree. Ok they are not always filled with rainbows and unicorns, some have walls covered with bank notes or solicitors letters or are stark and bare, but we shouldn’t have to live in them. As Ash says, humans are not designed to live in closets and we shouldn’t have to.  The way she explains it is refreshing, inspiring and self affirming, if you need to have a hard conversation soon with someone i suggest you watch it.

So back to mine. We sat down and i talked and talked.

I had prepared some letters which explained everything in case i couldn’t or needed my family to be able to go back and re read at a later date and digest what had happened. These are those 6 sheets of A4 paper i talked about yesterday and as i pulled them from my bag i couldn’t turn back. I handed one set to each of my family and then said, ‘there is something i need to have a conversation with you all about and i don’t know how to do it’. ‘Don’t worry i am not ill, splitting up with my wife and it’s not the business. It’s something that will probably shock you all but it’s something that i have known and fought with for my entire life and although i never chose for it to happen to me, i have chosen to do something about it and i need to let you all know about it’.

Then they came out, those 3 words, almost easier than i had thought they would. I took a deep breath, composed myself and just spoke them ‘I am Transgender’.

It must have seemed like an age to my family, it did to me and I don’t know what the looks on their faces were like as i was looking up at the ceiling and trying to find courage and maybe some divine help. Over the next hour i talked and talked and shared everything i had felt, gone through and what i was going to do about it, how it happens and how i now felt. It was a more one sided conversation i guess. At times my folks stopped me to asked a question or say they didn’t care i was still their child, my brother just kept smiling at me with a look of pride on his face so i was obviously doing something OK. His wife was amazing and was super chilled out about it and offered words of support when my folks needed it and validated what i was saying. Eventually i think i just ran out of words to say, my brother got up and hugged me, my dad kind of shuffled on the spot and said anything i needed, they were here for me. My mum is not doing so well with it.

I think when your a parent, i have that yet to come, you feel a massive sense of responsibility towards your kids and i think she has a feeling of guilt, that somehow as she made me, it’s her fault, which of course, it isn’t. She is going to find this hard to come to terms with and i have to hope that one day she will accept me as her daughter and we can have the relationship where we can share things and times together that we could never have done before.

I fell asleep sometime between getting into bed and my head hitting the pillow. I woke this morning feeling exhausted, drained and kinda fuzzy in my head but also in a really strange way, liberated. Like i can move forwards now with this process having passed a major hurdle. I am realistic enough to know that this will not be the last hard conversation, hurdle or time in my life and in my transition. I have some more to come very soon with regard to talking to my twin and also in my sport (more on that at a later date) but i am thinking of it as the third of 3 major steps.

1. Accepting who i am and to do something about it last.

2. Tell my amazing wife.

3. Tell my family.

Other feelings are now starting to come through as i sip my coffee and write my blog. Those of what do i do next? Have i now given myself permission to move another step forward? They say we take a weight off ourselves when we come out or come clean about something or share worries but with the feeling of lightness and liberation of doing this, i may have just swapped it for another backpack full of rock as here comes guilt that weighs heavy that now my family know. See, they just had something dropped akin to an atomic bomb on their lives and an extra worry on their minds they didn’t have yesterday. Transition is a joint path, not one we take alone as a trans person. It involves others and affects them too. Grief, guilt, confusion and worry will also travel with them as we transition. I hope they can find a way to understand and forgive not who or what i am but that i had to do this and involve them so we can all become happier people in the long run.

I texted my closest female friend Liz to let her know it went ‘ok, really’. She, i know, would have been waiting and worrying for me to let her know how it went. We have always joked we are the straight Will and Curvy Grace after the television series Will & Grace. We may go months without speaking, but she was the first person after my wife i came out to and she is a pretty amazing person (i know your reading this Liz). She commended me on being brave. I think bravery is fighting terrorists on the battlefield, going into burning buildings to save folks, so i would like to use courageous instead.

It takes courage to reveal your true self to others, to show the world who you are, to stand tall and be counted, to go against the grain and the perceived norms of society in any sphere whether its sport, business, life in general. Courage to make hard decisions, choices and when to have these ‘hard conversations’ as Ash Beckham so perfectly puts it.

I had my hard conversation last night, it won’t be the last as more of my family, friends and soon my sport will know too. But it’s another step, another start and i hope you can find the courage inside you to have a hard conversation when the time is right.

This is a good thing, this is moving forwards and taking control of my life. This is real, scary, hard, confusing and worrying but it’s also confirming, enlightening to take control,. It is courageous being yourself, making one step at a time to come out of the shadows and to reveal yourself into plain view instead of hiding away.

thanks for reading

Sophie x

 

 

the future is female

Hi World,

welcome to my blog, so guess we best get started and how better than with coffee and a sit down.

I am in a great little coffee shop in Monmouth, a small market town in Wales, UK. The weather is damp, cloudy and humid, it’s not nice but is a typical summer day in Wales i suppose.

The coffee is good here in the Estero Coffee lounge. My note book is open next to me with pages of scribbling, the small stack of paper folded by my bag is probably some of the most important and powerful bits of paper, containing the single most scary bit of writing i have had to do.

6 sheets of A4 white, single spaced, Tahoma font contain something that will make for a hard conversation this evening. It will change a lot of people’s lives, not least my own.

You see, to get to the point, (by the way , i am not good at that, i like to ramble) these pages are a letter to my family and friends, written and re written, agonised over and made from feelings I have finally confronted after 40+ years (a girl never gives away her true age) brought to the surface and tonight i will lay them bare.

i am transgender.

3 little words here on this blog, but 3450 words say it in a much more long winded explanation with how, why, when and what next? A story of my life, my fears, my dysphoria and my choice to do something about it. The hard choice to change, to correct a biological error, to make sure that even though the mailman brought the wrong packaging for what i am inside, i can unwrap it, re package it and make good mother natures hiccup.

Hiding in plain sight for all these years has been me, unseen by family and friends, a few folks along the way caught a glimpse and some in the trans community are getting to know her now . This evening she is going to have her family hear about her for the first time and will step into the world. It’s scary as hell, but i have to do this. But first i need to finish my coffee, grab my bag and head to the dentist appointment in five minutes. That for most people could be a worse thing to face i guess. It’s also a fear and pain that can ultimately be healed.

Short & sweet but rest assured i will post some longer blogs in the future of what it means to be me, how i am taking charge of my life and being trans. I know there are thousands of trans-bloggers out there, i read some of them myself, so I guess this might not be so different in some ways to others. I suppose to me it is a little cathartic writing to help heal and develop but there are a few things that will be different that will come to light in time as this blog, me and hopefully you develop over time.

As the t shirt i saw in a shop window today said, when i needed it most and was looking for the answer in my head of should i really do this now? ‘The future is female’ it said. I never needed such a simple mantra and sign at such an unexpected time. I texted my wife to tell her, laughed, walked in and bought it there and then.

So, world meet Sophie, Sophie, meet the world, just a girl, hiding in plain view.