Week 42 – Day 3 : The Real Life Test

Published December 10, 2014 by Katier Scott

This weeks blog post is brought to you courtesy of this article in the Metro from last Saturday which was apparently written by a transman who clearly doesn’t understand the Real Life Test, or as it’s more correctly called Real Life Experience, and it’s purpose. This isn’t the first time I’ve witnessed a transperson clearly misunderstanding and indeed I mentioned the same subject previously in week 39.

This article sparked a lively and interesting debate on one of the groups I am part of and included a group who, despite forming approximately 50% of all Gender Dysphoric patients, I see contributing to groups quite rarely – Transmen. I know a few transmen but know little about the challenges they face compared to transwomen.

The lack of knowledge has never been for want of not knowing, indeed I mentioned something similar in this blog a few months ago, however this thread, coupled with the article, was the first time I’d seen ‘inside’ the world of a transman. The article, while showing a distinct lack of understanding about RLE, did highlight one issue that I found interesting, that of ‘time of the month’. Obviously Mens toilets don’t have sanitary facilities so, unless they are fortunately enough to be on contreceptives that stop time of the month from happening, the use of public toilet facilities must be awkward.

As such some transmen feel hormones are essential before they live full time, however during the discussion it was clear that actually the issues for both genders are pretty similar. We both find that hormones ease the transition and it was clear that the people in the discussion all were comfortable with their gender way before they finally reached a trans clinic.

Which is why RLE is a non-issue, it really isn’t a hoop or a checkbox excersize. Why not? Because if you are truly gender dysphoric that chances are you’ll start living as the correct gender before even meeting a GIC, and even if you wait till the GIC tell you too – you’ll still be waiting 3-6 months minimum for hormones, plus at least 2-3 months before anything really starts to be noticeable.

This is because all treatment that requires assessment, rather than diagnosis, needs a minimum of two people to assess and be happy to refer. This is standard practice and not unique to gender dysphoric treatment, any work such as Breast Enhancement or other cosmetic surgery also falls into the same policies.

As the main thing GIC’s want to see is simply that your willing to get on with your life in the correct gender, RLE shouldn’t be seen as a ‘block’ or a ‘test’, indeed even something you should be ‘asked’ or ‘told’ to do. Why? Because it should be more comfortable for you and should be you just living your life.

I don’t know whether I’ve said before, but in my case I did the last year at Uni as a women (while still living at home and having to take the male role there), then moved out and instantly lived full time as a woman. It felt the natural thing to do and I’ve never looked back, so when I finally got onto the medical pathway it was easy for them to put me onto Hormones very quickly.

If someone, however, comes to a GIC still living as their birth gender then there probably is some help needed and thus moving into living in the correct gender might be tougher for them – which ironically means they need it more. If they arrive and haven’t done anything themselves, then the chances are it means they know something is wrong, but need help sorting themselves out before transitioning – which means in their case they will ultimately be asked to spend time in role and the 12 months requirement makes sense to ensure that both the patient and the clinic are confident that they are gender dysphoric.

There are, additionally, plenty of cases of patients forcing themselves onto hormones, and even through the op ( usually privately) then committing suicide or changing mind afterwards.

As such a staged approach, no matter how frustrating it may seem for those of us who are extremely confident and comfortable with our gender, is the only logical way to work through a transition. Is 12 months too long for the RLE part of assessment? I really don’t know, I was up to 3 years before I got to the GIC, and with waiting times of about 12 months plus two appointments being the minimum for most GIC’s before you get hormones, it’s probably a moot timescale if you do it yourself.

So my advice is simple, if your confident you are gender dysphoric, especially if you have been referred to a gender clinic, then start living as yourself as quickly as possible. I appreciate there can be a caviet to that, I delayed as long as I could as I had family and kids to consider – BUT I knew what I was and made the switch as quickly as possible when I could.

Don’t get me wrong, transitioning is a HUGE step, even if your comfortable with your gender dysphoric ‘status’ but your going to have to make that jump at some point, so get the ball rolling as quickly as you can. It’ll make the whole thing smoother in the long run.

Of course if your transitioning while working, it’s probably a good idea to talk to people before transitioning, at least to HR – and take some information with you. But don’t let any job stop you, especially in this day and age transitioning is something people are more aware of. As I’ve mentioned before I’ve worked with a HUGE range of people including lots of vulnerable people, with no problems.

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