T is for Tribulations: The Big Gendery Post
I’ve tried to write this post a bunch of times, both by hand and by keyboard but every time I try the words change. To tell you the truth, I’ve been finding that writing comes hard to me recently. There’s a barrier of fear that strikes me before I can write a post, or another page of fiction, or one of the many projects I’ve planned to start this year. Anxiety cuts me like a knife and I retreat into a corner where I let the fear wash over me and feel sorry for myself instead of doing a Shia LaBeouf and breaking through it.
Well, today I’m taking some steps to break through. It might take a few billion years, but I’ve seen doctor who, I know even diamond can be punched away if you’re patient enough (and if you’re aided by a teleportation device, but you can’t have everything). Some of you might know me, some of you might not. I write those cryptophile posts here, among other things, when the fear doesn’t have me by the balls. In any case, I owe you, and myself I suppose, an explanation. So here’s a story about what I’ve been up to recently.
Almost two years ago, living in my hometown of Nottingham, England, I visited my GP with a problem I’d been wrestling with for years. Until a few months before that visit I’d been in denial about my feelings, unable to put two and two together, but one sleepless night in a hotel in Leeds found me browsing reddit, and finding the /r/asktransgender subreddit. To my surprise, and then my horror, the people on /r/asktransgender sounded just like me, their stories rang true with my feelings, my past, and my desires. I spent that night in tears. For months after that I tried to convince myself I wasn’t going to do anything about my feelings. That surety didn’t last. After months of reading about the horrors of trying to get treatment on the NHS, I swallowed my pride, and asked my GP to recommend me to the Nottingham gender identity clinic (as it was called then). Admittedly, I also asked my GP if they could prescribe me female hormones, but they politely told me that would be impossible. I took what I could get, and six months later I had my first psychiatric appointment with the NHS, the first step towards getting diagnosed as transgender.
I understand the need for these appointments, but it did feel at best embarrassing, and at worst dehumanising, and that feeling got worse the more of them I went through. At first, the questions about whether I ever tried women’s clothes, how my school life was, and all the rest made me feel like I was getting a lot off my chest, but with three months between appointments, to be asked the same questions again and again started to nag at me, especially when I had to bring my parents in and go through it all again with more tears. For all of that, the clinic refused to prescribe hormones until I had legally changed my name. Deal with the reversible changes before the irreversible ones, I believe, was their logic. Now, this was a part of this process that I really didn’t want to rush. I’d go through name after name and it just wouldn’t stick. I panicked over this, I spent days going through lists of possible names, crossing ones off, adding ones on. In the end, I went with one my parents would have chosen for me, had I been born female. There’s a certain romance to that, especially as the new first name would be one that’s been passed through a couple of generations now, but I’m still uneasy about it. I feel like I still haven’t had the time to really find something that fits me. I don’t want to have to go through the awkwardness, massive cost, and deep embarrassment of trying to get my name changed on official documents again, and I’m scared that I may have to one day, all because someone else decided that was the order I had to rearrange my life in.
I told everyone in my life, at the insistence of the clinic, long before that was necessary, given my lack of access to body-changing medication and the time that medication takes to make significant changes. Most people took it well, to my face. I’m still terrified about what people really think, what people don’t want to tell me because they’re my friends, because they don’t want to hurt my feelings. But that’s life. Worry is living, and that too, shall pass. During this time I was informed that changing my name was not enough, and that I needed my ID and bank card to match. This took forever. And at each step, the people on the other side of the phone, or the booth, all told me I was going about this the wrong way around. “I know.” I said. But I wasn’t the one in charge of my life. I was just following orders. If I ever wanted treatment, I was going to have to play by the rules. This mess culminated in a letter with an unfortunate typo coming my way which told me I would not receive a letter for a change of gender on a passport, until I’d received a passport with the name already changed. With months between appointments, there was no time to recheck. I showed it to whoever I could and we all saw the unfortunate message. I was never going to get treatment.
By the time I had my next appointment and the mistake was revealed for what it was. I’d banked sperm, a process that will ultimately cost me hundreds of pounds, none of which I have, having just finished an undergraduate and master’s degree and falling deep into my bank overdraft. Adding to this the cost of laser hair removal, to get rid of my dark beard, I was poor, I was dejected, and I was angry. I began taking hormones ordered over the internet, as many trans people in the UK are forced to do. I’m still suffering the financial stress of these events, and though now I have been prescribed the start of hormone therapy, I came a long way to get something that in the USA could have been achieved with a visit to an informed consent clinic, and I still don’t have all the medication I need.
Right now I’m sort of stuck. Stuck between two cities, stuck between two genders, having hit an androgynous phase that’s left me feeling a little dejected, stuck between phases of my life, having completed my master’s but with no certainty of what is yet to come, whether it be a job, or acceptance onto one of the phds I’ve applied for this year… I feel stuck. I knew this process wouldn’t be easy, but at points so far I’ve been emotionally crippled, begging for companionship, and left feeling alone, even when surrounded by friends. Through all this, the people I love have been great. Supportive, helpful, compassionate, but I know that this is as hard for them as it is for me sometimes, especially for my girlfriend, who deserves much better than to have to deal with this. So many times as I’ve pushed over barrier after barrier I’ve wished I could have been cis, to have continued with my life as it was without this massive roadblock that, honestly, has affected me deeply on a professional, social and emotional level, so completely has it demanded my attention. I worry now, even knowing that I’m beginning to push through onto the final stretch, that I’ve come through the system, that the changes I’ve needed are coming within the next few years. I feel exhausted, and I worry that my loved ones are even more so. So far this process has left me weepy, lonely, and poorer than I’ve ever been.
But this is something that I need to do. And when the good days happen, blood and bloody ashes, they are glorious. I’m getting there, slowly. Hopefully most of my past and current life stays intact on the way.
I guess you can call me Cat, or Elly, or whatever, but I’ll take what I can get.
I’ll be fine. Really.
Image Credits: BBC/The Metro Newspaper, and me, for the pictures of myself