Glass Walls One Year On: An update and a thank you.

Being transgender is a slow, gradual process of change. There is no one day you can look back on and think: That was when my life changed forever.

There are many significant milestones along the way, and dates that feel worth remembering. The day you first admitted it to yourself. The day you told someone else. The day you came out publicly (if indeed you ever did, because it’s not a prerequisite). The day you changed your name legally. The day you started hormones. Surgery dates. The first time you get called sir instead of madam by a stranger (or vice versa).

Today is a significant date for me, because this time last year I posted on my real name Facebook profile (as oppose to my author one) and told a lot of people who had known me for a very long time that I was actually a man on the inside. I also explained that I’d spent a very long time feeling ‘wrong’ and not quite knowing why, and I hoped by transitioning I would be able to get to a place where I felt ‘right’ at last.

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Around that time I wrote a poem, Glass Walls, about how I’d finally dug through the denial to come to my realisation. In that poem I talked about how I’d been trapped for a long time. I felt as if I’d reflected back what people expected to see when they looked at me. Whereas on the inside of those mirrored walls I was someone completely different… and I was lost. Breaking free of those walls seemed terrifying because I was leaving that facade to expose my true self to the world.

This time last year I was literally shaking as I pressed Post on some words that I would never be able to take back once they were out there. I knew I was choosing a road that was going to be hard, and painful. But I also hoped it would be transformative and ultimately bring me a sense of peace that I’d always been lacking.

So where am I one year on? I changed my legal name shortly after I came out. And as I’m fortunate enough to have been able to fund my treatment privately so far, I’ve now been taking testosterone for 8.5 months, and I had chest reconstruction surgery almost 4 months ago.

Chest surgery was a huge game changer. Living life free of binders (things that squash boobs flat to hide them), and sports bras is miraculous. I had a lot of anxiety leading up to the surgery but I haven’t regretted it for a second since it was done. I have huge scars, but they’re fading, and I see them as a badge of honour in my battle to free myself from that glass prison I was in for so long.

Male puberty is in full swing with unpredictable voice changes, patchy facial hair, greasy skin and spots. My face is changing to look more masculine and my body fat is redistributing to a more male pattern. I still don’t get read reliably as male, especially when I talk to people. But I don’t turn heads in the gents, and rarely get questioned about my identity on the phone anymore.

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Most importantly, I’m happier with my body and myself. After years of not knowing who I was and feeling a disconnect between my mental and physical selves; now, when I look in the mirror I recognise the guy looking back at me. Sure, he might still be an ugly duckling in puberty years, but I know who he is. And even if he never turns into a swan, I’m okay with that.

Mentally I’m in a better place than I’ve been for a very long time. This year hasn’t been easy. I’ve had to deal with a relationship break up and negotiating a new family structure at home; the stress of appointments; surgery; dating etc… But despite all of that I feel pretty good most of the time: contented, peaceful, and filled with a new confidence that whatever life throws at me, I can probably handle it.

I’m very grateful to all my family and friends who have stuck by me and supported me. Not in huge, obvious ways, but simply by getting used to my new name and pronouns, and by accepting me for who I am. It means a lot.

Thank you.

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Sometimes I’m not okay

Today is one of those days.

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“But I’m too scared to let it show
I’m too scared in case you don’t know
It’s just a passing phase…”*

I’m generally a pretty positive person who tries to see the good in a situation. Glass half full, silver linings, always look on the bright side of life etc. And some days I’m doing all right, even with everything that’s happening at the moment. But other days it all gets a bit much.

I’m not very good at talking about the really bad, horrible feelings. The sort of feelings that keep you awake at night with a sick churning sense of dread in your gut.

At the moment, I have a lot of those feelings floating around.

It feels easier to ignore them, to try and pretend they don’t exist. Don’t voice them. Don’t give them a name. If you say it out loud then it makes it real. But the problem is, Voldemort is still real whether people use his name or not. And those feelings are there no matter how much I might try and pretend that they aren’t. When I ignore them, they just keep building up inside until I can’t contain them anymore, and that’s not healthy.

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Fear
Grief
Anxiety
Isolation
Guilt
Anger
Hopelessness
Dysphoria
Bitterness
Shame

Those are the main ingredients of the toxic combination of shite floating around in my head a lot of the time. It’s not an easy thing to admit, but I’m tired of putting a brave face on and pretending that I’m okay when actually, sometimes, I’m not.

I can get through the bad days because I know they will pass, and there will be better days between the bad days, and hopefully in time there will be less of the bad days—or so I’m told by trans people who are further along the road of transition than I am. See? Glass half full, silver linings, always look on the bright side of life….

But today, I’m not okay, and that’s okay.

*Lyrics from How Are You Today by Seize the Day – click on the link, you can play it and it’s beautiful.