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”
It was a dull grey day at the end of January when I eventually got to fly to the appointment with the endocrinologist in Tenerife. Having a 10 o’clock appointment meant the only flight that was available to me in order to get there on time was the first flight of the morning at 8am. In order to make sure I made the flight I arrived at the airport an hour before, it’s a rare occasion that you are forced to wait for the security checkpoints to open. When they did it was straight through and on to the plane.
Taking off and climbing above the clouds in the early morning light was an experience, it helped immensely to reduce some of the nerves that I had been feeling about this trip, that had only been made worse by a weeks delay. The downside of the flight from La Palma to Tenerife is how brief it is, before you know it we were preparing to land in Tenerife.
Walking from the plane right past the baggage collection belts and winding my way through the throngs of tourists, I headed downstairs to locate the bus to the interchange, because in a great piece of logic, the tram system in Tenerife does not extend to the airport. This means taking a 5 min bus ride before I could change to the tram which delivers me right outside the hospital.
The next challenge was to figure out which of the many buildings that make up the university hospital was the one I needed to be in. When I had located the building, getting to the right place was easy as I knew which floor as that was on the appointment letter. The first thing when I arrived was being sent down to the nurse to be weighed and measured.
Then it was in with the doctor, most of the chat was going over my medical history, good job I had brought my initial report from Dr Reid and the surgical report from Dr Seghers, without these I might have had some issues proving that I had a trans diagnosis in the past. Some of his questions did seem intrusive especially regarding my sex life, however given the nature of the interview, it was understandable.
Then followed something that I hadn’t totally been prepared for, a physical examination, nothing particularly intimate. However I was on edge, when he said my blood pressure was a little high, and maybe it was due to being in hospital, I thought, “I’m sitting here in my knickers being poked and prodded and you don’t expect my blood pressure to be high”.
Once that was over and I was dressed, it was time to get the paperwork. First he wanted a full blood test to check my baseline hormone levels, a bone density scan to see what damage being off hormones has done to my skeleton. He also put me in for a mammogram due to the fact that my mother had breast cancer. He also gave me a copy of the contract I would have to sign to start hormone treatment, I have to sign this to say that I give consent due to the fact that technically the medicines are not licensed for what we are using them for.
With all this done I shall return on the 12th March and hopefully 12 years after arriving in Spain I will be back on HRT
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.