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All posts for the month May, 2011

On The Road Again….

Published May 23, 2011 by Christine

Willie Nelson, from the soundtrack to the film “Honeysuckle Rose“, 1980.

You may have heard of the “Road to Perdition”? Well, I am now now on the road to transition. I had my CMHT (Community Mental Health Team) appointment today at the Hollies (in Aldershot Health Centre). I have to admit, I was as nervous as hell. I had been to CMHT before in 2009 but, unfortunately, they wanted to treat my alcohol problems first before referring me to anyone else. Since then, with the help of family and friends, I have managed to finally sort that one out, (see my entry “They Got Him On Milk And Alcohol“).

Arriving at the Aldershot Centre for Health with Tracey, we immediately managed to get lost! You don’t realise from the outside how big that building really is. We ended up at the Hollies Central Administration at the wrong end of the building. After asking several people we finally managed to arrive at the correct place, several minutes late. How annoying. We booked in and were taken in to see Dr A. within a few minutes. Then the Q & A began.

I won’t go into details but he started out by telling me what had happened after my original appointment in ’09. Apparently I had been referred to another doctor at Frimley Park for further evaluation, but I never received the letter. He then started asking about my early life, when did I first realise I wanted to be a woman, how my family life was, my school life. Then moved on to my adult years, what I did for work, what sort of relationships I had, what I did outside work, places I’d lived etc, how often I dressed as a woman, did I go out like it, etc. He also asked about parts of my life that I cannot reveal here.  It was all very in-depth. He also spoke to Tracey, asking her all sorts of questions as well.

Dr A. finished up by explaining that he would refer me to the next team, and asked me if I knew where it was. I said no, thinking that maybe it was at Frimley Park. He then said the nearest one was in London and I realised he was going to refer me to Charing Cross Gender Identity Clinic! This was the answer that I had wanted. Really wanted. Really, really wanted. He said that the referral may take some time, 7 to 10 months. I didn’t care.

I was now on the road to transition.

The Abnormality Of Being Normal….

Published May 23, 2011 by Christine

The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) entry for  “normal” is as follows:

adjective: 1: Conforming to a standard ; usual, typical, or expected. 2: (of a person) Free from physical or mental disorders.

I have been, and probably always will be, asked the question “Why don’t you act like normal people?” and have the statement “You’re not normal” applied to me. I usually reply to these with “Who are normal people?” or “What is normal?” and 99% of the time do not get an answer. According to the OED entry above normal is “conforming to a standard”. Who sets this standard? What is this standard? I have absolutely no idea, but I suspect religion and the bible would come into it somewhere, so, for now, I’m going to ignore this part of the definition. I may concentrate on it in a later entry.

Usual, Typical and Expected are easier to sort out. All three words refer to properties exhibited by a majority. For example: If, out of a population of 100,000 humans, there were 99,000 with one leg then this could, according to this part of the definition, be considered normal as it would be usual to meet someone with one leg, or a typical person would have one leg, or meeting a person with one leg would be expected. The 1000 people with two legs in this population would not be ‘normal‘ and therefore may be viewed with suspicion and fear by the ‘normal‘ one-legged people because they are different. But, if one of the ‘normal‘ people went out into the wide world of six billion two-legged people they themselves become viewed as abnormal because they have only one leg. The same can be applied to any group of people. I could take a ‘normal‘ person to a Transgender conference where there are hundreds of transgendered people. This ‘normal‘ person would then no longer be normal as they are not in the majority, they are not transgendered. So, on this basis, normality is dependent on the relationship to the majority.

The second part depends on the definition of “disorder“. The OED entry cites it as “A state of confusion” or “disrupt the systematic functioning or neat arrangement of” or (medical) “disrupt the normal functioning of“. For example: Looking at a recent chart of world obesity statistics shows that the top three countries are: USA, Mexico and the UK. Therefore, by the terms of this part of the definition, 30.6% of Americans, 24.2% of Mexicans and 23% of Britons are obese and, according to the definition, not normal. Another statistic: 30% of the UK population smoke, and, as we all know, smoking will “disrupt the normal functioning of” the cardiovascular system which means, according to the definition, 30% of the population is not normal. When it comes to mental health (UK), 9% of the population suffer from anxiety and depression, 400 in every 100,000 self-harm, so therefore, according to the definition, are not normal.

So, to answer the questions put to me:

1. Q: “Why don’t you act like normal people?”    A: “Which group of normal people would you like me to act like?” or “Which definition of normal are you using?”

2. “You’re not normal”    No, I am not normal. I am an individual, I am transsexual, and I am proud of it!

So really, there can be no definitive definition of normal. Normal is whatever you are and are happy with. Embrace diversity, whether it be sexual, racial, physical, social or anything else.

To conform to a standard, to be usual, typical and expected would make this world a very, very dull place. 

They Got Him On Milk And Alcohol….

Published May 14, 2011 by Christine

Milk and Alcohol” by Dr Feelgood released in 1979, from the 1978 album “Private Practice“.

Please Note: I am not proud of what I am about to write. I am not trying to excuse any of the things I have done nor am I trying to justify them, seek forgiveness, blame anyone,  or anything else so please do not assume that I am. Nor is this an apology to anyone, (although, God knows I owe plenty of them to many people). This is not an attack on alcoholics nor a rant about “the evils of drink” either. I am writing this entry so that people may better understand me. This is my blog and this is solely about me. If you wish you can leave comments, in fact I welcome them. And so onward….

One feature of my life that has greatly diminished since starting transition seems to be my requirement for, or dependence on, alcohol. For many years, I have had problems with alcohol. From getting into trouble with friends and family to eventually crashing my “in-laws” car and losing my license and narrowly escaping a jail sentence (twice). So, for me anyway, alcohol has been a bad thing. Looking back on my life while thinking about what I am writing I don’t think that I am an alcoholic as such. More of an alcohol abuser (sounds like I take the beer outside and give it a good kicking). I would drink until the pub had closed, I’d run out of money or there was no more drink left. Unless it was during the day I would not normally go looking for more. You, dear reader, may disagree but that is my view on the subject (although I have been known to be wrong).

My relationship with alcohol began when I was about 17.  There is a saying that hindsight is 20/20 and that the clearest sight is what is behind us. And now, writing this I can safely say that this is true. There are many gaps in my memory, mainly due to spending so much of the time drunk (which is one reason not to write about specific events). I also had many arguments with my parents and other members of my family who, as I have since realised, were trying to help and understand and I kept throwing it back in their faces. In fact it is quite frightening to think that I had got into this state at such an early age. The problem was I had enjoyed the effect that alcohol gave me, the way it made me feel, but I also had these feelings, emotions, and I knew what they were, but I didn’t know how to handle them or what to do about them. I was conflicted. On the one hand I had to pretend to the outside world that I was normal, a man, a bloke, one of the lads. On the other I wanted to be a woman, but I knew that I wouldn’t be able to handle the rejection, the piss taking or possible physical violence that might accompany “coming out”. So I started drinking. While drunk I could handle anything, or so it seemed. As it turned out I couldn’t handle being drunk. I would get argumentative, combative and angry. I would lash out at friends, then start crying in the hope they would take pity on me and help me. I never really noticed when people stopped coming to see me or found some excuse not to go out drinking with me.

It is actually quite difficult to write about something like this. Not because it’s embarrassing (it is) but because I keep mentally flitting between what has happened far in the past , what has happened in the recent past and what is happening now. This means that what I write on this subject (and not just in this blog) has a tendency to have a seriously confused timeline. This is one of the slightly worrying long term effects of alcohol. It screws with chronological memory. You can never be sure that events that have occurred have occurred in the order that you think you remember them. Nor can you be really sure that certain events actually happened at all. This is another effect of alcohol: The false memory. It’s part of the excuse system that alcoholics use. Creating a reason or circumstance which doesn’t exist, in order to justify drinking, and believing it so much that, in your own mind, it becomes real. I have done this quite a few times. This is what makes alcoholics such good liars, and another reason not to delve into specific events.

It has taken me two days to write this entry so far, and I have heavily edited it. Normally an entry, even a long one, only takes me an hour or two (due to watching telly, interruptions etc), but this one seems to be different somehow. I suppose because it is a deeply troubling personal matter, but also something that manifests itself in the most public way possible.

Alcohol is a drug. More crimes are committed in its name, more lives are destroyed by it, more people are killed by it than any illegal Class A drug you can think of. But at the same time it has health benefits when drank in moderation, brings people together in celebration, friends are made, deals are struck, relationships are formed, all while under its influence. So why did I head down the darker path? The simple answer is: I don’t know. I have a possible theory as to why I went from drinking alcohol to it drinking me. As I have mentioned in a previous paragraph, I was conflicted, badly. The booze didn’t remove the conflict but it removed the inhibitions that made the conflict possible. It removed the depression I felt as a result of that conflict. As a result I felt good, normal. I knew what I wanted and could see what I needed to do to get it and I didn’t feel afraid of the piss taking or rejection. I could handle it all. I wasn’t so much addicted to the alcohol, more the false freedom I felt when under it’s influence. Over time though, I became more and more dependent on it. I couldn’t go a day without drinking. I lost several very good jobs because of drinking. I nearly lost my family and several very close friends as well.

After over twenty years of on and off alcohol abuse I eventually hit rock bottom when I started staying in bed all day, not able to face the outside because of a constant barrage of panic attacks brought on by the depression that alcohol causes. Since I was drinking large quantities of ridiculously strong cider and spending nearly all my money on alcohol, I wasn’t eating properly and I was losing weight. (I definitely wouldn’t recommend this as a diet plan). By this time it wasn’t the conflict causing me to drink to excess, it was the need for drink itself (though the conflict was still there). I was spending large amounts of time oblivious to what was going on around me and just sitting around, drunk and feeling sorry for myself. I needed help but, every time I tried to look for it, I wanted a beer to bolster my courage. This led to more and so I ended up thinking “fuck it ” and carrying on drinking.

Help came from a most unexpected source. Unknown to me my father had collapsed from a burst ulcer and had vomited several pints of blood and was in hospital. No-one could get hold of me as my phones were switched off and I wasn’t online. Since no-one could contact me my aunt and uncle came down from Maidenhead to try to get hold of me. They found me in a haze of alcohol, not really compos mentis in any way. They called out a doctor who diagnosed alcohol poisoning but I refused to go to hospital. So they stayed with me and we talked. Or rather they did, as I was not really in much of a condition to talk. What they said I will not go into here but it made a great deal of sense. Eventually they left with a promise from me to seek help, with their help. The next day, prompted by the presence of my aunt I went to Phoenix Futures, which was, ironically, only a couple of doors down from me. After seeing them and making an appointment to see one of the councillors, we visited the doctor’s. (Remember, I was still hazy from the effects of the booze I had drunk so, if I get this the wrong way round, then I apologise). Coming back from the doctors everything seemed brighter, I felt more alive than I ever had. I felt as if a weight had been lifted. I felt good. As my aunt had to get to work she returned home later that day but promised to phone to check on me. As promised I kept my phone on. She phoned to check that everything was ok, which it was. As time progressed I kept to my weekly visits to Phoenix, had daily chats with my aunt and uncle and slowly built up some self-respect and respect from my friends and other people. I moved into a bigger flat, with help from a very good friend, visited my parents in Spain, and even got a dog, ( a wonderful Rottweiler called Roxy) and a job. All was well.

When the job ended (it was a short contract), I made, quite possibly, one of the worst decisions of my life: I went for a drink. This signalled another downward spiral, undoing all the work that my aunt had done. Over the following months I went on and off the wagon, promising friends it was only temporary. Christmas rolled round and I ended up in Spain again with mum and dad, not drinking but wishing I could. I returned to the UK on New Years Eve 2010 to a new relationship and a god-daughter.

Tracey and I had a long talk one night in the new year. It lasted nearly 10 hours and covered the subject of our relationship and my transsexuality. The end result was that I began, with her help, slowly, living as a woman. Gradually, the original reason for drinking faded and my self confidence grew. Now, I have no need to drink, thanks to Tracey’s help and I have the strength to control my addiction and stay off the drink, thanks to my aunt and uncle, and other members of my family.

Note: In my previous entry I mentioned some members of my family not agreeing with what I am doing. I would like to point out that not agreeing with my decision does not imply not supporting me. My family are incredibly supportive and if my writing gave the wrong impression then I apologise unreservedly to everyone involved. 

Are Friends Electric?…..

Published May 10, 2011 by Christine

Are Friends Electric?” by Gary Newman (as Tubeway Army), from the 1979 album “Replica’s“. Reached UK No1 in July 1979.

Are friends electric? Mine certainly are. I would go as far to say that I have been blessed with the friends that I have. Ever since ‘coming out’ as Christine I have had almost nothing but positive responses from everyone that I know. There have been a few exceptions, especially amongst family, but I expected this. On the whole, though, I consider myself extremely lucky. I have read of other transwomen’s experiences where they have been left entirely alone, deserted by friends and family alike. This is what I was so worried would happen to me, and, which is why I had waited so long to come out. As mentioned in my first main entry, I came out initially via Facebook. I did this for one reason. (And this will require a somewhat lengthy explanation, as usual):

On many TS support sites it is recommended that coming out be a gradual process. A close friend should be informed first. Then, provided that friend was ok, the next to be informed should be family, (accompanied by said friend); by letter, in person or preferably both. Then, once the immediate family’s reaction has been ascertained, wider family and friends should be informed. This seemed to me, in the age of instant communication, a very slow way of doing things. I knew a few friends knew about Christine, and my parents definitely knew, as did my fiancée. Also, most of my friends and family use Facebook, which meant that my message would get out to almost everyone that I knew. So, with a great deal of thought, mental anguish and copious quantities of alcohol, (yes, I was drinking at the time), I posted my explanation of who I am. Then I waited. Over the first few hours there was nothing. But then the questions began. I answered them all as best I could, and as honestly as I could. Then the phone calls started. Mainly from my family, demanding what was going on, what was I doing? Was it a joke of some kind? I told them the same thing over and over.

From my point of view, I had done the right thing: utilized the tools at hand to inform as many people as possible at the same time, of a condition that I’d had since birth that no-one really knew about. Whether it was right or wrong, I considered it the best way for me. My family disagreed with my method, and many with my decision. Several family members I have spoken to are supportive but most don’t want to meet Christine. I did have one good response recently from my sister-in-law. She had always been supportive but had said that she didn’t want to see me as Christine, since she had always known me as Mark. Recently this has changed. She had been shown several of my photographs on FB, one of which is my profile picture and now she has no problem meeting me as Christine. I suspect that she would probably prefer me in ‘boy-mode’ when meeting her kids but this is entirely understandable. I have no problem with this.

So, that’s why I came out via Facebook. I’m glad I did as it now show’s me how many real friends I have been blessed with, and I have been blessed with quite a lot! I won’t mention any names here, as I have not spoken to them and asked their permission, but, if any of them read this, (and most of them are on Facebook , you know who you are), then they can leave a comment granting permission if they wish to be mentioned by name anywhere in my blog.

Another Brief Interlude….

Published May 7, 2011 by Christine

I have had several people ask me why I am writing this blog. There are several reasons:

1. Because I want to. If that’s not reason enough then there are more:

2. I want people to know who I am, not just speculate. There is nothing I hate more than people making assumptions based on false or incomplete information.

3. I want to inform people not just about what transsexualism is but what it means to be TS.

4. It enables me to put down thoughts and ideas that otherwise might just disappear.

5. It gives me something to look back on when I’m older.

6. I like writing.

7. I might make some money out of it one day.

Get A Job….

Published May 7, 2011 by Christine

Get A Job” by the Silhouettes, 1957, the song reached the number one spot on the Billboard pop and R&B singles charts in February 1958.

One of the more difficult aspects of changing your name and your gender is how people, with whom you are acquainted through government requirements, will react. Government employees are supposed to treat all types of people equally, but this does not stop human nature entering the equation. No government guidelines or rules will eliminate what people feel. This was the thought that was running through my mind when I found I had to present myself at my local JobCentre to change my name and official designation. Dealing with a faceless bureaucracy via email or post to change name and gender is easy, if long winded. Dealing with the people you see face to face every other week (and sometime in the street) is a totally different matter.

I had already been to the bank to change my account name and had made an appointment for the following week. Now it was time for the one name change I had really wanted to deal with via email. Looking back on it this was a really silly thing to want to do. I would still have to go as Christine to sign on once I’d changed my name so it was really better to do it this way. I had deliberately chosen the end of the day to do this as I knew the JC would be quiet, and the staff reactions wouldn’t be seen by too many people. Luckily, the one person I really wanted to speak to was in. David is my normal “Personal Advisor” and so would be the one to whom I reported every two weeks. I really didn’t want him to have a shock in the middle of  a busy signing day. I spoke to the security guard, who had a slight smile on her face as I told her what I had come in for. She then asked me to take a seat while she spoke to someone. Instead I went straight over to David and said hello. To say he was surprised would be an understatement, but he rallied magnificently and the questions started. He didn’t ask too many, just the pertinent ones ( “Is it permanent?”, “Have you always felt like this?”, “Do you know how good you look?”). I also asked him to make a note of my new name so, if needed, he could call me by the right one. It’d be a bit embarrassing for him to call “Mr Savage” and have me turn up!

After being congratulated by David for “being very brave” I returned to the matter at hand. The JC manager had been speaking to Tracey and now had some questions for me. I answered as honestly as I could. She told me that the full name change would probably take about two weeks but the paperwork in the office would be changed that day. I was to report on my normal signing day as Christine, the paperwork would match (including my gender, the only thing that a GIC is needed for is changing your birth certificate) and my benefit would not be affected. One thing she warned me about was that my P45, should I get a job, would be issued in my new name as I had already changed the name attached to my NI number. I said this would not be a problem as I would henceforth be applying for jobs as a female. She then took a photocopy of my Deed Poll Certificate, stamped it to say that it was authentic and that was that. Looking around I could see all the staff checking me over knowingly, some even waving since they knew me, but there was no sign of disgust or any other negativity. We said are goodbyes and “see you next week”s and left to walk the dogs. Despite the easy ride I have had so far, I cannot let myself become complacent. Down that road lies the very real danger of losing myself if anything goes wrong. Enjoy the feeling when things go right but don’t let it take you too high as the fall is harder when things go wrong. 

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