Breaking Point

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Coming out as a transgender man has been one of the toughest periods of my life, if not the toughest. Not to friends, family, medical professionals or random strangers but to myself. I knew I was at breaking point and could not carry on much longer living a half-life pretending everything was okay and as it should be. It was a million miles from being okay and nowhere near as it should be.

I was born into a female body and from the moment I recognised that it felt wrong. I would look in a mirror and hate what I saw. So began a vicious circle of self-hate, self-harming, suicidal depressions and denial. All that hurt hidden behind a mask of femininity, of long hair, make-up and fashion, so that my secret would not be discovered. I lived in abject fear of discovery.

Fear and hate are not good to live with as they feed each other. As a teenager I grasped on to feminist ideology as a barrier against my masculinity. Ultimately it only led to a deeper sense of self-hatred and an even deeper fear of being found out. I am not going to debate the wrongs and rights of radical feminism here but I am certain it will be understood that ideology made accepting me as a man a hell of a nightmare.

Nothing was as it should be when I turned 40. I had nothing left to fight against the depressive feelings apart from facing the truth of my identity. At that point I had no concept or vision of where I would end up and I do not suppose I have worked it all out in my head yet, perhaps I never will and that is okay. However I am fully aware of my masculinity now and embrace it.

I have no doubt whatsoever if I had not taken that step at 40 I would not be here now writing this or anything else. I have no doubts just total certainty that I am a man, and a gay man at that (sure did not see that coming!), and that has liberated me to live and to live my life.

 

 

© JG Farmer 2014

Hill-top Thinking

Glastonbury: View from the Tor towards Wales

Glastonbury: View from the Tor towards Wales

 

Last weekend for the first time since climbing Cader Idris I climbed. Not a great huge mountain this time but a hill. There is something about me and peaks, or being up above ground level but still within nature. A multi-storey building just wouldn’t cut the mustard.

These are places my thoughts become clear and I can see within myself with a clarity that is almost glass-like. On top of Cader Idris I knew I had to make the step into transition, it all fell into place. There was no doubt and no fear just certainty. Things had to change for me to exist.

Over recent months self-doubt and fear have been eating me – almost exclusively fuelled by the actions of one person. A person I believed with all my heart I could trust. I was so very wrong.

This is where I can be a completely blind fool and not see what is going on, and indeed it took someone else to say something for me to see it.  I had been allowing this person to break down my self-confidence in turn putting long answered questions back into my mind without their accompanying answers.

This intrusion into self could not have come at a worse time as my formal transition was coming to key stages with referrals for surgeries and therapies I need for physical change. With all that is happening and changing in my life this is a situation I did not need now, not ever. In fact I do not know of anyone who needs people who give out so much negativity they drain your natural energies to the point of extinction.

This weekend was the final close of that door. Stood on top of Glastonbury Tor I felt my own energies surge back into me just as they had on Cader Idris. Okay I invited that surge by facing my spiritual homeland of Wales and calling on that power. This may seem like hocus pocus to some people but like in any belief system faith is a divine force all of its own.

I came down that hill with Chloe with all doubts gone and all fears soothed. I have had no flashbacks or panic attacks since and I feel my confidence returning rapidly. For some people activating the calming self needs stillness and meditation but I need a hill or mountain, and one with a deep Celtic history at that.

Other things happened that day in Glastonbury which are not for these pages as they are part of my spiritual path. However this is my chance to say a huge and heartfelt thank you to Chloe and her wife, Peggy, for a wonderful day and the awesome support they give me on my journey. Also to Penney and Ella. I may have lost a so-called friend but I have gained four awesome sisters who I love dearly.

 

 

© JG Farmer 2014

A Prom Queen’s Smile

It has been a while since I have written here, dysphoria and depression took over for most of it, so I didn’t feel as if I had anything much to say. That has been dealt with or is being dealt with. I know what, for most of it, was the root problem and I have done what I need for that to stop happening. I have good friends who I can trust to keep me on that path too.

Simple little things can make a whole world of difference. That is something I have learned in the last few weeks.

This month saw the Silver Anniversary of STGG. This is the transgender support group I coordinate. It is the group that has given me confidence in myself and my abilities and I am proud to be a part of.

To celebrate our anniversary we had a Prom theme. I know the ladies like to dress up and get glam so the opportunity to really go for it was there. Of course, it is traditional to choose a Prom Queen.

Now I see my role within the group as helping others to be what or who they want to be. The transgender journey is a tough one, I know that for myself. But nothing could have prepared me for the reaction of C when I asked her if she would be Prom Queen. That smile not just on her lips but in her eyes will stay with me for a very long time indeed.

C always appears very feminine and elegant, very much a lady and a classy one at that. Don’t get me wrong, all the ladies take a great deal of care over how they look and dress, which as a trans guy who loathed all that fuss I suppose I shouldn’t understand, but I do.

Over the last couple of weeks different people have pointed out how male I am becoming, in a few cases they did not read me as trans at all. I think I now know why that smile in C’s eyes came about as I know how fantastic it can feel. C is a beautiful lady and if something as simple as that can make her feel the million bucks then it’s a pure pleasure for me to have done that. If my words made C’s night, her smile made mine.

 

Photo Used with Permission of C

Photo Used with Permission of C

 

Photo used with permission.

Your Name Can’t Be That

Topic: Frustration Explaining Legal Documents

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Officialdom is a pain in the butt for most people, However when I am asked for proof of identity I know the invasive questions are coming. Do I know I have a man’s name? Why do you want to be a man? And so on and on. Before that I had to change my name on my legal docs. That was the easy part really. One or two questioned it but nothing too horrific.

However being asked invasive questions normally means I have been read as trans. When the questions start I shrivel up inside. I answer what is necessary and refuse point blank to answer more than that. This is my personal life and not really anyone else’s concern. A trans person’s life is put out there for scrutiny and that really is more than frustrating it is downright annoying. I do not offer opinions or judgements on other people’s personal matters why is it okay for them to do it to me?

I do not think it is okay. It is totally not okay. In fact it hurts like hell when someone who has no business questioning my private matters thinks they can demand to know every intimate detail because they see me as a freak. It is bigotry, it is prejudice and it is degrading. These people are random strangers and have no reason to know what is and what isn’t.

There are people I talk openly and freely with, these people are close friends and know they can ask anything and I will not be offended by it because I know they are not being offensive but supportive. To support me they need to understand me so sometimes they need to ask questions that coming from random strangers would be at best offensive.

There have been times I have gone to the supermarket and handed my card to the checkout and they have looked at me saying this is not your card it belongs to a man. I then have to get out my evidence that says I am Mr. One time the checkout operator asked to see evidence I was receiving GRS therapies. At that point I asked to see her manager and it got dealt with in a more appropriate manner. Yes that is good managers know what to do but it should never have got to that point, staff should be trained to deal with customers appropriately.

I understand someone questioning a man’s name on my card and it may be a pain to show them a deed poll but there are many people out their using stolen cards – I appreciate that. However when proof is given to demand for proof of trans status is not acceptable.

 

Love and light

Jez

The Feelings about Physical Change

ftm

 

The next topic of the project is that of the negative feelings associated with the physical changes that may occur, surgeries and other changes.

I know many FtM stress over the effects of T but I never have. I have a well-established beard without the help of hormones and I realise I am lucky there. Instead of fretting for hair to grow my change was to stop shaving four times a day and be more natural. I still have to shave once a day to keep things tidy and encourage the growth (if indeed shaving encourages growth) of a moustache. In fact the stress of keeping that defect as I once considered it hidden has gone and in that sense I am a lot more relaxed.

The big thing for me is top surgery. I despise my chest and want it gone. The fear I have here is that it might not be the defining point I have built it up to be in my head. I know it will not mean life is suddenly going to be fabulous or anything unrealistic but still it is a very real fear.

Surgeries by nature carry a risk factor and yes those risks need to be considered rationally. Not easy when the very process of transition makes life anything but rational. Taking a step back and looking at the different procedures in the cold light of reality is not easy. It is also too easy to let the potential outcome override the evaluating thought processes so one becomes blinkered.

Love and light

Jez

Transphobic Terror

Transphobic terror

 

The next topic of the project is Fears of Violence and Prejudice when read as transgender.

This is a fear every transgender person has to live and deal with. No matter how much we gain equality there will always be someone who thinks they can show hate. So what is transphobia?

The short answer it is intolerance towards people who do not fit the social dictate of the gender binary.

In the UK gender is considered to be binary, that is one is born either male or female and should fit into the roles given by birth gender. So everyone born with a penis should be and fit the social equation of man and everyone born without one should be and fit the female role. That means all boys should wear blue and be aggressive and all girls should wear pink and passive.

The pressure on each of us to conform to that narrow ideology is immense. If we dare to be different society will often penalise us. That is transphobia and it is the sharper end of sexism.

As long as society conforms to the analogy that there is only two genders – male and female – and we are born to that gender and cannot change it there will be the opinion that those who conform to stereotype are somehow better than those who do not.

The transsexual person can also be faced with homophobia as intolerant people rarely equate a difference between sexual and gender identity – the two are entirely different.

Gender identity is diverse and rather fragile by nature. The reality is that men and women live very similar lives and some people identify as the gender opposite to that which they are born with. Men and women are genetically almost the same and their bodies are not so different. Transphobia is the fear and/or anger at this fragility that is gender identity.

 

love and light

Jez

Hey Boss, I’m a Dude

 

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Another issue that can be problematic for the Trans person is work life. How does living out impact on work and working relationships.

As a self-employed person it could be said I never had to come out at work and yes that is somewhat true as I have never had to go through the anxiety of telling my boss or work mates. However I do have an agent, a publisher and people who read my work. Being openly gay as a writer was in fact more of a hindrance and it certainly did not make the process a palatable one.

My agent was none too happy to say the least as he had focused on the ‘lesbian writer’ label. Not something I ever wanted as I feel sexuality, gender and what we do to make a living are all separate things and he knew this. This was my first real encounter with another member of the LGBT being bigoted towards transgender. Needless to say I found another agent who is open-minded and supportive. He is not perfect but then nobody is.

This, of course, highlights another issue – that of bigotry within the LGBT community and also that between the different aspects of transgenderism. Oddly enough that is not covered in the project so I have added it to the list as I think it should be.

My publisher has been wonderful. However she had already read me as Trans when we first met but never said anything. I totally admire her for that as it shows such a good attitude to other human beings. My agent at the time really could not accept my publisher was not backing his argument.

The argument being I would lose readers who were anti transgender. Seriously I have gained more readers than I have lost but a few voiced their opinions of disgust before swearing never to buy my work or read it again. As many of my writings are on the subject of bigotry and human equality it should have surprised me. However, it came as no surprise that some could be that hypocritical demanding for their own rights but willing to deny others theirs. That has been happening since humans started to fight for their rights – some people will give lip-service and say they believe in equal rights but they still need someone to hate on. We see it all the time in the news – if it is not one social group being victimised by the media then it is another and pretty much it is what they think will sell a story. The fact inciting hate can sell a news story is concerning, very concerning. As a journalist myself I would not want to write to feed that animalistic behaviour and refuse to do so. It may cost me the more lucrative opportunities but I would never fail my own principles and stoop that low.

Love and light

Jez

I Will Always See You As…

Family Life

This is the next topic in my articles on issues that affect a Transgendered person.

Predominantly the reason I hid my true self, the man, away from the world is family. How does one tell a parent their only daughter is not a daughter but another son? How does one explain to children their mother is really a man? And so the list grows.

While the boys were children it was a relatively easy choice, growing up in this world is hard enough without throwing a Transgendered parent into the mixing bowl of youth. Now they are grown men themselves they are only concerned with me being happy as I am so telling them that I am Jez was easy – I knew they would be cool about it. In private they still call me Mum but in public it is Jez, yeah with a few slips now and then as is bound to happen.

Telling my parents was the hardest thing I have ever done. I suppose in their eyes I have killed their only daughter but truth is I never was that person. The truth is since I was of teenage years I have put a mask on in front of them so they saw what they wanted to see – a daughter. Even once I had started my transition as I did not know how far I was going to need to go I did not say anything. I withdrew from making family connections and that was something I needed to do. However once the changes in me had become more than little obvious I had to come out the closet once and for all. It has not been easy and still is not easy but I hope in time we will get there.

Siblings and their families is also a difficult issue. As I don’t see them from one year to the next you could say it does not really matter but it does. In the case of my brothers I was very aware that there could come a time we would have to meet and the concept of these two guys expecting to see some chick in a frock and finding a bearded dude in a suit and tie was not a good one. I am very aware that I have left one brother the unenviable task of maybe having to tell his teenagers that Auntie is now Uncle. However I know like my boys his kids are of a different generation when these things are less of a problem.

My grandparents are all in spirit but I believe in spiritual connection so have let them know through the ether. In life I doubt they would have been too willing to understand as they were of a different time when sexuality and gender were set in stone as only being acceptable as heterosexual and binary.

Coming out to family about anything they may not like to hear is never going to be easy. However we can be blinded by how we think someone is going to react. Coming out is very much saying this is how things are – take it or leave it. Trying to predict how someone will react to the news is actually being quite judgemental when we are asking them not to judge us. So instead we hide behind a falseness to keep the truth hidden and that, in its own way, is an imprisonment. Coming out, whether it ended good or bad, liberated me from that prison and has allowed me to learn to be me, to live as me and actually enjoy it instead of hating on myself for the pretense.

 

Love and light

Jez

I Don’t Think I am Man Enough

I Don't Think I Am Man Enoug

 

This is the first in a short series of writes on some of the emotional and/or psychological issues that can face a transgender person. As this is a personal blog I can only write from my own experiences so have left stuff I have not had to deal with until a later date if ever.

Finding a Partner.

Why this is the first issue I do not know but it is so I will go with it. There is someone out there who has heard me say the words I have chosen for the title of this piece, not once but several times. Their answer is I am more than man enough so I cannot and do not argue with that.

If I look back over life before transition I have had a few relationships and all but one of them would not have worked out as I was not connecting fully with the people involved as a significant part of me was deeply buried within my psyche. I regret the fact I have hurt people because I could not be myself, but equally they would not have been part of my life if I had been. I am in no doubt those I did get involved with took what they wanted from me so I do not feel guilt or shame about it anymore. The end of love hurts and we move on.

So what good does looking back actually do? It tells me what I do not want in a partner. In the past I subconsciously or consciously sought out people who did not push too deep into me or try to invade my space. I did not look for someone who wanted me as I did not want me. Love with that sense of self-perspective is somewhat lacking at best. To know love, to give it and receive it one must first love self and I did not love myself, quite the opposite. I am not saying I did not love the people I was with in the past, I did in my own way, the only way I could but it was not enough because I was not man enough to accept myself and value myself.

Now I accept myself for whom and what I am. The fear of rejection is always a problem not just for transgender, but being transgender makes that fear all the more acute. The person I mentioned earlier knows and has known from the beginning of my Trans status and just where I am at in my transitional journey. I am accepted for whom I am and although I still doubt myself at times I know I am man enough.

 

Love and light

Jez

The Hidden Years

Hiding

 

As I have said in previous posts I have lived with gender dysphoria for most of my life. It has been a consistent part of my life since I can remember. It does not go away. So what is this invisible life companion that has been with me for so long?

Gender dysphoria is a basic and fundamental discomfort and dissatisfaction with the biological gender I was born with. It has triggered periods of anxiety, depression, restlessness and suicidal thoughts. It is these feelings that have been the catalyst to making the decision to change both my physical body and my gender expression to be more reflective of what I know my real gender identity to be.

For me gender expression was the beginning of transition, I did not know where or what it was going to lead to. In the past dressing and presenting as male had been enough to calm the urges within myself but it never satisfied them and ultimately dysphoria would return. The need to physically transition just kept getting stronger and it still is getting stronger.

The main problem of living with gender dysphoria is society and its expectations. Essentially everyone expected me to live, act like and be a woman when inside I knew and felt I am a guy.

As children we learn from our parents about what is appropriate and what is not and we take those things inside ourselves. I was expected to do girl things like play with dolls and mix with girls in the playground. Normal everyday things parents expect of their children because it is what society expects too. In reality I longed to play with toy cars and rough and tumble with the boys. As a young kid I learned to bury myself and keep it hidden.

Puberty is always a hard age as the body is changing both physically and chemically. The appearance of breasts when I wanted manly hairs on my chest was abhorrent. The messy menstrual cycle did not help either. As if puberty is not bad enough dealing with gender dysphoria at the same time makes it a whole lot worse and growing up in a time when expressing such would have been at best frowned upon simply continued the burying and hiding of self as it was the better option to having my face pulped for being ‘queer’. I faked an interest in fashion and make-up but really couldn’t get into the desire for shoes.

At the onset of adulthood I was already a parent myself. Being a mother did not make the dysphoria go away in fact it made me very aware I could not change anything and I do not regret for a moment I made the decision to be a mum first. The very idea of transitioning was not a concept I had heard of let alone understood and in many ways I am glad I did not as I have my boys instead.

Now as I approach, rather too rapidly, fifty years of age I am finally transitioning and it is great. I am aware of the pitfalls in doing so later in life. I appreciate my family are having a hard time accepting and understanding what is going on. They have known me as female for most of my life. It is a possibility that the results of any physical changes may not be as convincing as they would have been if they had been done at a younger age. Really that does not matter as transition for me has never been about convincing anyone I am male, it is about feeling comfortable in my body.

Throughout all this gender dysphoria has led to feelings of isolation and needing to hide who I am. I have suffered many periods of deep depression and suicidal ideation. Neither hiding my feelings of being male nor presenting as male have made that any better so transition is the only alternative for me.

Once again my heartfelt thanks to all of you who read me, you are all awesome!!

Love and light

Jez