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It was the best of times, it was the worse of times – Review of 2019

As the famous opening line to the book goes “It was the best of times, it was the worse of times” and that pretty much sums up this year. I have had some fantastic experiences this year, but also so disappointments, and struggles as well.
It started off good enough with my first visit to the specialist endocrinologist in Tenerife finally getting back on to hormones in late March, lucky I seem to have escaped any serious damage from my years without hormones, just some slight loss of bone density.
I also undertook a top-secret undercover mission, wherein total secrecy I smuggled myself back into the UK under a total social media blackout so that I could surprise my niece Mandy on the opening day of her new cafe.
This also gave me a chance to run around the country like a crazed thing making flying visits to friends across the country, many of which I had only known previously as names on screens.
Then it was the 1st big event of the summer, our daughter Sarah and Billys wedding which came in two parts. The first a fairly standard affair in Leeds town hall, with the normal traditional stuff. Then came the second part, as the following morning bleary-eyed we all boarded the flight for Reykjavik in Iceland, where we had the second Viking wedding, surrounded by earth mounds next to a fjord.
The summer was then filled with Pride celebrations first the second pride in the island, bigger and better than the previous years, then quite literally I travelled from than and the following weekend I was at Trans Pride Brighton which was an overwhelming experience, and another chance to catch up with friends and make new ones.
After that, it was like someone flicked a switch and things started to go the other way, firstly my depression and anxiety started to get bad to the point where I seriously considered self-harm at times.
To add on top of that we finally had to say to goodbye to our beloved cat Meep due to cancer. I finally had to admit that I had issues, and see the doctor about it, by the time I got around to doing so another problem had emerged.
Since the summer my resting heart rate had been slowly slipping slower and slower until it had reached around an average of 40 beats per minute. So when I spoke to the doctor about getting something to help with the anxiety and depression I also brought up the issues with my heart rate, which by this time was making me tired and sometimes a little breathless.
While the medication for the depression has helped and I’m now more able to cope on a day to day basis. But with the heart issue, it’s still not resolved, I’ve had several ECG’s and tests and medication changes, at this point I’m awaiting in January to go to the hospital where I will be wired up to a recorder that will track my heart for 24 hours. Then what will happen I don’t know yet, I know there is no structural problem with my heart, and I don’t have a thyroid issue, so the treatment options are becoming limited, and one of the only things left on the table is the fitting of a pacemaker.
So the last few months have been pretty frustrating and I don’t know what the new year will bring, apart from plenty of upheaval and changes, so I can only take one step at a time, each day as it comes.

On the shoulders of giants

On the shoulders of giants

As I stood on a slight mound in the middle of a park in Brighton, I could see it all laid out before me. I started to feel a little emotional as there before me was the biggest assemblage of trans people that I have ever seen, considering that I transitioned over 20 years ago this may seem a shock to some. I was of course for the first time at Trans Pride Brighton, and I had marched alongside all these people the length of the seafront.
Seeing this sight in front of me with this vast, diverse range of trans, non-binary, gender non conforming and their allies and friends filled me with a joy that I cannot describe. It also reminded me of times in 1997 just after I had privately come out as trans to a small email group, we had arranged a meet up for a meal in Manchester, we mustered two dozen people into a relatively safe space in the LBGT village, and now 22 years later there were close to eight thousand people that had marched.
What astonished me was the age of the group in front of me, so many young people, and I realised that many of these people had possibly not even been born when I transitioned, while I was fighting to retain my job, and using that to highlight the injustice at a union conference.
When I came out it was just 20 days before my 27th birthday, and in my group of trans friends I was amongst the younger of the range, yet here were this group where the average would have been close to that or younger.
Then it struck me, these were the people that I had been fighting for so many years for, to see all these happy smiling faces without a care in the world, just being free and open and happy. Even if just for one afternoon before walking outside the park and into the world where they are still misunderstood and ridiculed.
Suddenly it made all the sacrifices and hardships that I had endured worth it. It also filled me with a renewed fire to do more, there are people out there that still need our help, that are lonely isolated, have unaccepting parents like mine. We must reach out and help those in the community who need us. Just as others like Christine Burns, Helen Dale, Pamela Sexton, Kymmy Leigh-Thompson, Rosalind Mitchell, Anne Wallace and others did for me as I first came out.
Each generation reaches out to the next and offers out the hand to guide and support, I would not be here today without that support that was given to me and now I offer it myself to those who need…

“If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants”

Back in the Saddle

Back in the Saddle

Before I knew it I was the beginning of March, and suddenly I had a flurry of hospital appointments for the various tests that had been ordered on my previous visit to the endocrinologist on Tenerife back in January ( see https://helresa.com/taking-flight/ for details)

So in the space of a week, I had a number of vials of blood taken, my breasts squeezed in a vice like device and laid on a human version of a flatbed scanner. After all that it was time once again to board the plane that would take me the short hop across the water.

Soon I reached the hospital to find things a little chaotic due to an IT failure on the booking system, and then the Nurse getting a little confused because they couldn’t find me in the system, until I realised they had got my names mixed up and were thinking that Theresa Jo-Anne was my surname. Many Spanish people get confused by the fact that I only have one surname as in Spain you normally have two.

Eventually I did get in to see the Doctor and it was a bad news, good news type situation. The bad news was that my bone density scan wasn’t in the system, and my blood tests showed that I am borderline diabetic. But the good news was that once I signed the consent form to agree that I was OK taking a medicine for something other than it’s licensed purpose ( Technically estrogen is not licensed for use on trans people ) I was able to walk out of there with a prescription for estrogen patches and some other meds to help me not go full diabetic.

After a bite to eat and a lovely walk around the historic center of La Laguna it was time to head back to the airport and my flight home, only when I scanned my phone over the scanner it wouldn’t let be enter security. Then I looked and despite my paper reservation clearly showing today’s date, somehow the app was showing a date for tomorrow. This entailed a quick run to the check in desk and thankfully she was able to change things pretty quickly and I made the flight.

It then took another couple of days to get the patches as the pharmacy was out of stock, and then the first patch didn’t stick all that well, but now I’ve gotten used to applying them again and things are going great. The only other big shock is that when I finally got the results from my bone scan, it appears that due to the lack of hormones for 11 years I now do in fact have the bone density in my lower spine of a 95 year old woman.

I shall wait and see what happens on this after my next appointment in Tenerife in July.

Crash and Burn

Crash and Burn

This week I came close to a crash and burn, by Friday I was not in a good place and in fact my mind was going to places where it hadn’t been in a long time.
I realised that things were getting bad when on Friday morning while washing my face in the kitchen sink (still don’t have an indoor bathroom) I had serious thoughts of just reaching over to the knife block and pulling out a knife from it and cutting my arm. The thought passed in a flash but just the fact that my mind went there was scary, I’m still here and I’m coping better today but I need to process how I got to this point.
Over the last few months work has been pretty stressful, there are a number of factors, but somehow it has ended up with several projects all coming to a head in the next couple of weeks with compressed timescales, and some significant technical hurdles to overcome. This has meant a lot of chopping and changing and juggling with other day to day issues that we have to deal with.
Then Friday morning the bombshell hit, this was a front pager article in the Daily Telegraph, now I’m used to the regular Sunday morning hate piece from the Times but for some reason this was personal. As many of you may know I worked at the Telegraph for a number of years and while I was there I was very open about that fact that I was a trans woman. To see this transphobic article on the front page felt like a betrayal, now I know it has been 11 years since I left for Spain, but it will always have a soft spot in my heart due to the acceptance and respect I felt there.
I realised that I am once again teetering on the edge of a complete burnout, so I will take a rest this weekend and try and stave off the worst, until I can find a longer term solution.

Review of the year 2018

Review of the year 2018

During the festive break it customary to look back over the past year and put down a few words. Well one thing I can say about 2018 is that it has been quite a ride this year.
When the year started I had no idea quite the way it was going to pan out, it started innocently enough with just work to think about.
Shortly after returning from a trip to the UK I decided that I was finally ready to do something that I had thought about for quite a while, and I announced on April 1st of all dates that I had decided to write a memoir of my life and experiences, I set myself the goal of completing it for the following year and after a bit of research, decided that I would aim for a figure of around 100 thousand words.
I had only just started to write some basic word bits and pieces while staying at a hotel to celebrate Helens birthday I decided to just check up on family on Facebook, I wasn’t friends with my sister on Facebook but I knew how to find her profile through the search. From there I could jump off to other family members to see what was going on, when I did this I got a shock, there was a picture of Sarah in a wedding dress, I knew this photo was a couple of years old as it was what she wore when she renewed her vows a couple of years previously. This piqued my interest so I clicked on the comments, as I read them my heart sank, it was all “we are sorry for your loss” and other platitudes like that, the sort of thing you would write if someone had died. So I reached out to make contact, my fears were confirmed, my sister had collapsed a day or so previously and had died.
A few days later I was back on the plane to the UK, not knowing when I was coming back or what would happen there in the UK, by this time I was back into contact with several members of my family that I hadn’t spoken to in 20 years.
Over the next few days I had several tense and nervous reunions with long lost family members and catching up on the past 20 years, it was a period of very mixed emotions. I also a had a very brief encounter with my step mother, who now suffers from dementia and most of the time wasn’t even aware of who I was, then just for one brief moment there was like a flash of clarity and she said “Oh so your a woman now”, the patronising tone of voice and the inflections were there and instantly I was transported back to being a teenager. Then like a fleeting summer shower it was gone and she was back to asking where I lived again for the tenth time.
During this period I got to take a little break for myself in Brighton and was able to meet up with one or two people that I had only know on twitter, or I hadn’t met in a long time, the night ended with me escorting a distinguished trans author bake to her hotel via the search for chips.
Sarah’s funeral was hard, on so many levels, and at the reception afterwards I felt a little uncomfortable, nobody was outwardly transphobic to my face but I know there were whispers and comments made while I was out of earshot.
I had no sooner got back to La Palma when I was off on a mother plane this time just across the water to Tenerife to go and see Status Quo in concert.
June and July were filled with Pride related events, such as painting one of the benches in the town square with the pride flag colours to match the trans flag bench we had painted previously. Then there was the big parade, and me speaking to the assembled crown of a few hundred from the balcony, one of the proudest moments of the year, this year I really upped my trans activism, and it felt good to be doing things again. I had wanted to be able to get to the Uk and go to the Trans Pride event in Brighton but logistics wasn’t easy, so I had to unfortunately miss it this year.
In October I sent Helen off to help her daughter Rachel out in New Zealand and a month or so later I two joined her there and spent a few weeks in New Zealand, including a train journey across the north island.
Even with all this global travel I continued to write the book which I finished the 1st draft at the beginning of December, I then put it to one side so that I could start editing in the New Year. But I didn’t get a chance to rest on my laurels as I was required to don my activists hat ( and one of my acquisitions this year was a very nice purple fedora hat, which incidentally has it’s own twitter account @goodtranshat ) and I will be representing trans people at a roundtable discussion tomorrow night, that is after I appeared on the radio yesterday to promote the event.
What will 2019 hold? well that could be the source of another whole blog post, I want to improve the way I work to make it less taxing on my mental health, and of course edit and publish the book.

Sometimes I care to much

I had a friend delete their twitter account today before I had the chance to pass on my contact details. This upset me, and I know why I care too much.

I felt I had gotten to know this person and we had conversed over twitter for a few weeks. I scrambled to send them my phone number and email before they deleted but I was too late, why the mad panic, because I recognised from the preceding tweets a pattern of behaviour that made me worry.

Why does it make me worry, because I’ve see it before, the exasperation , the giving up of hope, it’s there in the the language used. As a trans person and the partner of a trans person, and having had trans friends, I’ve had plenty of practice. The many times that Helen has ended up being hospitalised after a crisis. I myself have been in that position and luckily my friend Kym was able to call me and talk me through things when I was lying sobbing on the kitchen floor, I thankfully have been able to return the favour to her in that respect as well.

So I know know that this person is out there alone possibly slumped on the floor sobbing, I wish I could reach down the internet pipes and hold them and let them know it’s going to be OK.