transitioning

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Week 88 – Day 2 : Making progress..

Published October 20, 2015 by Katier Scott

I do intend to get this blog back up to weekly but over the last few weeks I’ve been struggling with my health, combined with starting a second job and other things I simply didn’t have the motivation to post.

This week things have been happening, however, and I am pleased to say I finally have my next GIC appointment. But the first thing that happened, late last week, was sorting my DBS for my Mental Health Nursing course. Unlike the 6 months that my DBS took for my Care Worker job, my DBS on this occasion took just a day to process. I can highly recommend anyone who needs to get a DBS check, takes advantage of the online service that is offered. It has two benefits, firstly saves ever having to re-apply, but also means future employers simply make a check against the online service and bingo – your DBS cleared.

With that done, and needing to give at least a months notice, and an unconditional offer in my pocket, I handed in my notice at the University. This was a big and anxious moment, making a commitment like that, even with future plans sorted, is still a nervy experience.

Then today I phoned up Northampton Gender Clinic, to be told I couldn’t be put through. They have a strange policy now that you must leave a message and ask them to call you back. Not sure of the reasoning behind this but does mean you may get calls at times that are inconvenient to you. In my case I was at work when the call arrive but was able to disappear into a room to speak in private.

It turned out, due to a messup with Porterbrook, who hadn’t sent my record properly, they hadn’t got me in the right place in the queue, but as soon as she corrected the error she realised I was actually at the front of the queue, having just been doing appointments at around the time I was referred.

Looking through the calender she was then able to offer me an appointment far sooner than expected, as they’d had a cancellation, so I ended up with an appointment on 24th November. This date is more or less where I’d hoped to get as a best case scenario when I last spoke to them, so takes a step closer to finally getting surgery.

You’d think after all this good news, I’d actually be pretty happy, but I’m currently struggling with tiredness, lethargy, low energy and as a result, I haven’t felt like celebrating. It’s sad that I can’t even motivate a proper smile, but I guess on the other side it really does show how even when things are going well a good situation can still not be enough to lift us.

Brains, hormones, illness and mental health problems are all fickle beasts, I’m going to see the GP tomorrow to see if we can figure why I’m struggling with tiredness and really not looking forward to it. I guess ultimately I’m scared of conversations that might turn into mental health discussions, this despite my future career!!

Anyway there’s a catchup, it’s nice to have things falling into place, just wish I wasn’t tired and low on energy to enjoy it more!!

Week 82 – Day 4 : What’s expected of me?

Published September 11, 2015 by Katier Scott

I’ve seen several posts of this ilk from people who are about to go through treatment for Gender Identity Disorder GID. They are naturally nervous about the whole process and unsure what to expect. Also, while things have improved, myth and rumour still exist. On top of there there’s the confusion of terms and what they mean, why do I use GID and not ‘trans’ related terms?

Gender Identity Disorder

So I’ll start at the ‘top’, what is Gender Identity Disorder and it’s closely related cousin, Gender Dysphoria (GD)?

GID is simply a medical condition where the brain’s gender doesn’t match that of the body. Generally this is simply the brain is gendered male, and the body female, or the other way round. But some people feel more androgynous about their gender and thus may consider themselves ‘no gender’ or maybe they switch genders depending on the situation. All this people can be considered to have GID, as their ‘Mental’ Gender Identity is in Disorder with their physical one. Current medical research points to GID occurring in the womb, during any babies development they all start as a female, regardless of the DNA, the body initial develops in a female shape. At some point in the development, hormones and other chemicals trigger the body and brain to ‘gender’. It is two separate sets of chemical signals that cause this and thus if one signal fails for some reason, then you get GID.

GID has different feelings for different people and this is one reason why gender is considered to be fluid, these days, and not simply male/female. People with severe GID may also develop GD, which is a mental condition where they are massively uncomfortable with their bodies and thus GD can trigger other conditions such as anxiety and depression. Hence while GID is absolutely NOT a mental condition, the fact it’s generally treated by Mental Health is a good thing because while the condition itself isn’t mental, it can definitely cause people to have mental health issues.

GID is treated by changing the persons physical body to match that of the gender of their brain, using hormones and surgery. For MtF it’s oestrogen and testosterone blockers, for FtM the reverse. Hormones have the effect of causing fat to be redistributed to gender appropriate parts, e.g. onto the hips on a female, body hair to become gender appropriate, I believe it changes your body odour, can help reverse Male Pattern Baldness (or cause for FtM) and causes breast growth for MtF and Beards for FtM. Surgery is considered optional but if done consists of the following :-

For Male to Female patients :

  • Vagioplasty, or the non vagina variant – i.e. the groin area is given surgery to make it physically look female, and a working vagina may be created – this is optional depending on the wishes of the patient.
  • Breast enhancement – I believe this is treated exactly as for any other female.
  • Feminine Facial reconstruction – Feminising of the face.
  • Laser/electrolysis hair removal – while not technically ‘surgery’ it is a medical procedure needed to remove beards.

For Female to Male patients

  • Penal construction – this is improving, but something that I believe is less common than Vagioplasty’s.
  • Mastectomy – this is the ‘big operation’ for men, as it makes their chest area appear for more masculine and removes the need for binders.
  • There may be other FtM medical procedures I’m not aware of, but these are the main two.

Transgender/Transexual

So that’s the medical side covered, I don’t use the terms ‘Transgender’ or ‘Transexual’ because I feel they are heavily mis-used, a bit antiquated, and harder to understand. It’s easy to explain it as a medical condition, but Transgender and Transexual can easily appear to be a fetish or similar, and that results in misunderstanding and confusion. Transgender is meant to be an overall term for all people who have some form of preference that sits outside of the ‘gender norm’, so that includes cross-dressers, transvestites, drag queens, anyone who while they consider themselves their birth gender, enjoy elements of the other gender – plus those who have GID.. confusing much? Transsexual is underused and is the term that SHOULD be used when referring to anyone with GID, but because I don’t see it used, but instead the confusing transgender term is used, I think both terms need to be assigned to history. A new term can be used for those who are ‘gender variant’ and simply use GID for those with GID. Simplez!!

Gender Clinics

OK so what are Gender Clinics looking for?

Well being a condition that, while not a ‘mental illness’ is still a ‘mental’ condition, it’s not something you can simply take a blood test and diagnose, so Gender Clinics expect to see you taking on ‘norms’ for your gender. It can feel like a box-ticking exercise, but truth be known all they are expecting you to do is live life the same as anyone else of your gender.

So to make this easy to understand I’m going to create a fictional character, I’ll use a MtF lady called Mary. Any likenesses to anyone are 100% co-incidental and everything is based on my own knowledge gained, based on my own experiences and things I’ve read or been told.

Mary is somewhat of a recluse, she’s nervous about going at ‘as Mary’ in public, and when she does tends to have just had a shave roughly brush her slightly receding hair, and put on gender neutral clothes with no effort to try to ‘feminise’ her appearance through things like fake boobs. She is also unemployed and if she does go out as Mary to social settings it is with Transgender groups or to LGBT venues.

The Gender Clinic aren’t happy they are seeing Mary actually taking on a female gender role in a form that makes them happy she actually has GID. So they request she tries to get a job, or voluntary work, and works on her appearance through the use of fake breasts, more feminine clothing – they also suggest she sees someone for make-up tips – NOTE: Makeup doesn’t have to be much, I often go to appointments just with foundation on, but you need something to hide beard shadow. Mary hasn’t changed her name or documents either, so they also request she does so through a deed poll and presents them at the next appointment.

They talk and find out that Mary used to enjoy walking, but hasn’t done this for a while so they suggest she finds a walking group and joins them.

All the gender clinic are asking is for her to start actually living and socialising as a woman, contrast that to my first appointment. I arrived, dressed in jeans and a female cut top, wearing simple make-up and a wig (as I have male pattern baldness). I was socialising at the local open Mic and had both a job, and was doing voluntary work. At my second appointment, 6 months later, they put me on Hormones, and this blog was born.

I wasn’t doing anything ‘clever’ or special, I was simply getting on with life and doing things I enjoyed with people who fast became friends. That’s all a Gender Clinic wants to see, you living your life in a role typical for your gender. Gender Clinic’s have never asked me to do anything, because they’ve always been happy that I was doing that. I also transitioned before I got to the gender clinic. As soon as I moved out from my ex-wife, I immediately switched genders, changed my name as quickly as possible and all associated documents. My new bank account was in female gender and I presented as female immediately, and non-stop since. This meant when I got to the Gender Clinic in July 2013, I had already being living as myself for three years, so they really didn’t have any issues.

Contrast that to Mary, or even someone who turns up (for example) presenting Male, then Changes to Female when at the Gender Clinic, and you can see the contrast. Now don’t get me wrong, everyone’s situation is different, we have different levels of support (I’ve been super lucky in that my family has always been supportive and my best friend at Uni has stuck with me throughout) – friends may or may not stick with you, but ultimately everyone has control of what they do.

It is incredibly tough, my transition since moving out has been a long journey, but at least I’ve had support. But if your married, having kids, unsupportive family – it’s incredibly tough, and takes a strong person to make the switch.. but ultimately at some point you have to say ‘enough’s enough’ this is what I am, and I need to live that way. If you can do that before arriving at a Gender Clinic it’ll make things a lot smoother, but certainly isn’t essential.

Week 81 – Day 4 : On Holiday

Published September 3, 2015 by Katier Scott

IMAG0418 As regular readers of this blog know I started it for a number of reasons, but centre to them all was an appreciation that, despite the fact my journey has not been anything like straightforward, indeed some of my friends who started transitioning before me are post-op, I am incredibly lucky.

As such I wanted to share my journey when I started hormones in the hope that people in a similar situation might not feel quite so along, and also to educate and inform anyone and everyone about the simple fact that people with Gender Identity Disorder are people and we live life as best we can, but have challenges on the way.

Throughout this journey for me I’ve been ticking little boxes, things that women do ‘normally’, or just doing things for me, and in process hopefully giving other people with GID and similar inspiration and belief that they can get on and be themselves.

This week, and part of the reason for missing a blog entry last week, was very much centred on the fact I went on holiday for the first time in as long as I can remember. I have been to LARP events recently, but because I crew them they aren’t a relaxing ‘holiday’ more a weekend spent doing something I enjoy and get something out of. My last proper holiday took place prior to me being able to stand up in a tent is fantastic and bell tents are just brilliant tents.

The photo is taken on the first evening but summed up the weather for most of the holiday, we had overnight rain on the first night, early morning rain on the second morning and it was cloudy and a bit rainy on the final morning which prompted a quick departure as I’m a biker, didn’t fancy a lot of rain.

The holiday was really enjoyable, chilled and just so relaxing. The campsite owners were fantastic, welcoming, friendly, eager to help and make youIMAG0423 feel welcome. I went to Caernafon which was lovely and definitely will see a repeat visit, Portmadog was disapointing, Beddgelert absolutely gorgeous. Did a lot of walking and finished up on the beach.

The beach was just gorgeous as you can see from the picture to the right and despite a stiff breeze the sun was just fighting a winning battle. Especially when I got amongst the dunes further along the beach where I ticked another of those little boxes. I wondered through the dunes for a bit with just a bikini top on my upper half. I was never really someone who walked around topless prior to transitioning, however it’s something I wanted to tick and was really nice to be able to walk along with the sun on my body.. sunbathing next!!

When I got back from my holiday I then contacted Northampton GIC and they confirmed my GP had sent the kind of information they needed, and had put me on the waiting list for an appointment. Apparently they send them out 6 weeks in advance and I was able to get confirmation that they may see me as soon as November, and should definitely see me this year. This should mean surgery sometime next summer which while a year later than I hoped at least is positive and a light at the end of the tunnel, which after my last blog post much needed!!

New Years – FAQ..

Published December 31, 2014 by Katier Scott

I’ve decided to split this weeks posts up a bit, we’ll have an official week summary one in a later post but I thought I’d start off with a bit of a FAQ. I could do this as a VLog – but times counting against that so we’ve got a text blog.

So here are a few questions about me, and transsexual issues in general – some are based on questions I have been asked, others situations I’ve been put it, turned into questions.

Q. When did you first know you were a female?

A. It was a slow realisation, started off in puberty where I wondered what it was like to be female, but wasn’t until I started using female characters online that I realised that the reason I didn’t feel comfortable as a man, was because I was a woman. I actually have gone as far as writing a song about it all, although it’s not been played yet!

Q. Do you have a partner?

A. Not officially, no, 2015 there is definitely a chance that might change and there have been people who – given a better set of circumstance – definitely could be, but at this time of writing, nope. The biggest issue for a transwoman is that lesbians and straight men both get hung up on the physical malfunction so most people who show an interest in me are men who see it as a bit of a fantasy.

Q. What’s the hardest thing being a transwoman?

A. For me it’s definitely fashion, working out how to make things work together, especially when using a lot of different items, is one hell of a challenge for me. Dating is another, of course, but really that’s about it. Most other challenges I’m certain are simply down to normal life.

Q. Are you a trans-activist?

A. Nope, not as such. I am happy to help other trans-people, hence this blog, and I definitely support the need for trans awareness, but I simply don’t have the time to dedicate to actually being active in that kind of role.

Q. What gave you the idea of this blog?

A. I did Journalism and Photography at University so am always looking for the opportunity to use those skills. When I was about to start my hormones I simply realised it was the ideal time. In order to help people, and give the curious answers, someone has to make the effort to provide the resourses, and in my case ‘put myself in the picture’.

Q. What project?

A. Wait what? You don’t know this.. ok kidding.. a lot of my blog posts are general in topic so I’m not surprised some people won’t realise it’s a photo-journalist/documentary project. I am taking one photo of me topless a week, which will then go into a book documenting the changes that hormones have in the feminisation process. Each photo will have a titbit from the corresponding week or a trans issue or fact. The book is intended to be a artistic/photojournalistic/informative piece of work.

Well that’s all folks for this blog post.

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.

Week 40 – Day 1 : Congratulations

Published November 24, 2014 by Katier Scott

Before I start with my usual ramble about what I have been up to I must give a HUGE congratulations to a friend of mine in the USA who has just got out of Surgery!! She’s been transitioning slightly longer than me and had a lot less support, and more problems and issues than I have, so I am so pleased for her!!

She’s just told me she’s feeling pretty good and a little sore, and has a huge smile on her face; and so do I. She’s another of my online friends who’s made it to this stage quicker than I have, and I’m pleased for everyone of them. Most of them have had a rockier journey than me, and while the op isn’t the end of the Journey it’s a step that definitely is one of the biggest.

This week I continued my crazy life of volunteering, working, and keeping busy. I helped run an exhibition at the NEC which I’ve done for 3 years now, and got my reading for the Carol Service.

I also had a meeting with a senior manager which was very positive about trying to sell myself better at interviews. His tips were very useful and I now need interviews to put the ideas into practice. I definitely have been interviewing pretty well but I think the problem has been that I’ve often given them that little bit of ammunition to allow them to say ‘no’ when having to split hairs between candidates.

I also chased up the Gender Clinic today about the letter, still waiting unfortunately, but hopefully will be sorted in the next week or so. I’ll chase them next week as I’m anxious to get on t-blockers having seen the pictures online of another lady who’s just hit 12 months and her boobs were definitely more noticeable than mine at 9. So I really think my t-levels are holding things back, although I MUST say I’m so proud of them.. they still make me smile so much!

Anyway not much to say this week, been pretty quiet. See you in a weeks time!

Week 37 – Day 3 : That lightbulb moment!!

Published November 5, 2014 by Katier Scott

Look at the ‘pathway’ for transitioning and it feels and looks like your being asked to jump through hoops and tick boxes to transition.. well that’s not exactly the case – so I realised after my Gender Clinic appointment on Monday.

You see there are two sides to transition, the physical side – and the living side. You could argue there’s also the mental side but look after the first two, and the third should look after itself. The reason for the perception of the need to jump through hoops is the fact you can’t do the physical side, without doing the living side alongside it – for the simple reason you can’t transition if you don’t look after the living side.

In other words, if you won’t/don’t live as the correct gender, and just get on with life – essentially the clinic can’t help you. Why not? Because they only actually deal with the physical side, if your actually finding the physical limitations – and you can’t do that if your not actually living.

Ok some of the physical limitations are kinda obvious, but they aren’t as important – especially initially – as they appear, because first you simply need to live, in order to find them.

My physical limitations list is small, and I bet most peoples will be similar and while very important, equally small.

  1. Genitals – hampering relationships, sunbathing and the ability to go swimming with confidence.
  2. Body hair – my T levels are still too high and this makes things a pain, it’s a minor limitation in the grand scheme of things, but one the clinic can help with, with T-blockers.
  3. Boobs – Swimming and sunbathing and just the mental pleasure of having them!
  4. Hair – I have to wear a wig, once the T-issue is sorted I’m hoping enough will return to allow me to go wigless.

All of this is definitely restrictions and frustrations but doesn’t stop my day-to-day life and as long as some progress is being made on that, the pace, while important, isn’t massively urgent.

So what’s the point of all this wittering on and what was the lightbulb moment.

Well I wont’ tell you all that was said in the meeting because I feel some of it you NEED to understand yourself by realising it yourself, but it’s not something to trip you up – it’s simply you suddenly realising what they need to see from you. It’s a two way process and you need to do the bulk of the transitioning work, they are just there to help out.

The one thing I will say, which was part of this lightbulb moment, was I mentioned I’d re-booked the appointment with her because I had a job interview. The fact I put life ahead of the clinic was important to her from the point of view of being happy that I was fully living my female life.

So the outcome of the appointment seemed very positive, I also had a blood test and hoping I can hurry through the T-blockers because that is my biggest frustration at the moment.

I have my next appointment Monday and the ideal outcome for me would be to get the T-blockers sorted and possibly surgery referral. The latter is less likely, simply because they’ll probably have some steps they want to take, but the fewer trips I make to the clinic the better!!

Anyway, back up to sensible posts related to transitioning.. what HAS this blog come to!