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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.

I just identify as tired

I just identify as tired

Recently I watched the amazing, raw and thought provoking comedy special by Hanna Gadsby “Nanette”, and in it there is a line “I just identify as tired”, well that is how I feel. I’m tired..

Now I considered writing what I have to write as a thread on twitter, but I don’t think I’d have the space or the patience to cram everything down into 280 character bite sized morsels, so I’ve decided to dust of the blog and put it all down in here. Some of the things I’m going to say in here could be quite raw, so I’ll warn you now, there may be trouble ahead.

As I said at the beginning I’m tired, what is making me tired? Well it would be quicker to list what isn’t making me tired, but that wouldn’t be as interesting. So I will attempt to tackle each one in turn and try and get each one off my chest and hopefully find a way to move on.

The first thing is work, now I know there is one hell of an oxymoron complaining about work when I’m the boss, but that comes with its own set of problems, and to be honest I’ve created the problem myself. We have a reputation for delivering a great service to our clients, but as business has grown that has become increasingly difficult to deliver, and of course this taps into my fear that it’s all going to come crashing down around my ears. So I become more and more stressed about delivering projects, and with this my productivity plummets, as when stressed I have difficulty concentrating and making decisions, which leads to things taking longer, which reinforces the stress of not delivering. I need to break this cycle before I burnout, and go down in a blaze of glory. I’ve spent the last 5 years building everything up to where it is now, but I must take a step back and rethink the way I handle things to avoid a disaster. So I’ve stepped back a bit and I am resting for a few days to recharge the batteries so that I can tackle things anew.

The next thing is one that I can’t do a lot about, as it’s out of my control, I have absolutely no say in the matter at all, and that is BREXIT. Yes i’ve said it. With the UK looking increasingly likely to dive of a cliff, with no deal in place. This concerns me on several levels, as I have a number of business connections with the UK, any impact on the UK economy will have knock on effects for me, in fact it all ready has with the value of the pound dropping. Then there is the fact of my right to remain, theoretically as I have been here for a number of years I will have the right to remain in the EU, but with the UK crashing out, I have no idea of the implications, and of yet we have had no real communication of what we will have to do to maintain our residency. It’s that continued level of insecurity about the future that eats away and causes stress.

Then there is the transphobia that permeates society, predominantly in the UK and US, thankfully Spain has it to a much lesser degree. There isn’t a Sunday goes by when I don’t see another article full of outright lies and invented problems that are heaped at the foot of trans people, when groups are actively campaigning to deny access to spaces that we have been in without issue for years. Now you could say oh just ignore social media and let it be, but I can’t because I care, ever since I read about the death of Leelah Alcorn in the US I have made the decision to be an out trans woman and show the world what we can achieve. Now this has had some great moments and I was extremely proud to stand on the balcony at a local pride celebration here on the island and deliver an address to the crowd. But it hurts, every time I open social media and see people being personally attacked and hurt, and the inaction of companies like Mumsnet and Twitter in dealing with epidemic levels of transphobia on their platforms.

And family, for years I got by without connection to my own family, then in April my sister died aged 51, this resulted in me going back to the UK and reconnecting with family. That in itself was a process which induced a level of stress, having had little contact with them, although they were aware of me, and what had happened, I had no idea of what their expectations were, or even how they felt about me. Some members of the family have accepted unconditionally, some I get the feeling not so much. Then there is the thing that one half of them aren’t talking to the other half, and the petty squabbles that seem to plague our family, this hurts at times, and with the distance I’m not always in a position where I can help when needed.

And finally there is the elephant in the room, me. Apart from the fact that I am overweight and unfit, I have some issues. When I came out as trans twenty years ago, I put a lot of emotional things in storage and concentrated on getting the transition and all that out of the way. Only now am I really in the position where I am comfortable enough to start to deal with some of them. This was the aim of writing the book, to open up all these things and put them down on paper and elaborate on the consequences of these past traumas, in doing so I am learning a lot about the origins of some of my fears and doubts, but it is a draining process and not being a skilled writer it has been hard to get into the flow of writing. That then also feeds into the anxiety of not getting enough done and obsessing about not completing the targeted words per month, I don’t have a publishing deal with a deadline, so the only pressure to do it in a certain time comes from me, I want to do it and I will do it. But I have to accept that it will be done when it is done.

I also have to accept the fact that I’m depressed, and I have been for many years. I have gotten very good at hiding it behind a public face of bravado and false confidence, but deep down inside that little voice keeps nagging at me, undermining me at every turn. The last year or so I’ve started to get very serious panic attacks. I need to look seriously at dealing with this issue and that in itself could be problematic here on a small island.

So there it is I’m tired, and those are some of the reasons, I don’t have all the answers yet to solve the issues and some I just have to wait and see. But it’s all here out in the open for all to see, I hope I can keep you updated as I make progress.

Thanks Theresa