Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Look out 2018, I’m comin’ to getcha…

Happy holidays!
I guess the customary thing to do is start this post by wishing you all a happy new year. I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas time with as many friends and family as you could be with. I had an absolutely fabulous Christmas, starting with my best friend and her amazing kids coming over to my flat for Christmas Eve curry night. It was wonderful to have the flat full of happiness and laughter. The food didn’t poison anyone and the night ended with us all on the sofa watching RuPaul’s drag race. Christmas morning I spent having chocolate croissants with my mum and then it was off to my best friend’s for Christmas dinner. We ate so much food and drank wine and prosecco until it came out of our tear ducts before commencing with the games. The highlight being me kneeling on the floor wearing a set of inflatable reindeer antlers while the others threw what can only be described as inflatable haemorrhoid cushions at me in a fragile drunken attempt to hook one onto the antlers.

New Year’s Eve was also a wonderful time for me. Traditionally I have always hated New Year’s Eve because while everyone was singing Auld Lang Syne and making preposterous New Year resolutions I would be at home on my sofa alone working my way through a bottle of single malt while watching Jools Holland. I never saw the point of New Year’s Eve as the next year didn’t offer any sign of hope that I would feel any better than in the last. For the first time I smiled on New Year’s Eve, laughed even. I had a wonderful evening with some really cool friends. I didn’t even drink because I was driving but we had some great food and chatted the night away. It was lovely to break that mould and have hope that the New Year will bring happiness and bring me even closer to my goals.

Speaking of friends I have to tell you about some things that have happened recently. I love all of my friends and although I have a best friend who I have already mentioned, I hold all of my friendships very close to me; in short, my friends are my family. I want to tell you about someone who has touched my life in such a positive way in the last few months. On face value you could argue that we barely know each other but when we started chatting on Facebook and by text it became very clear to us both that we would click with each other. When we met it was so easy, no awkwardness, just great conversation and a healthy dose of laughter too. This friend runs a CIC (community interest company) called Inspiring Healthy Choices. She delivers training to schools, prisons and the wider business sector. This training also involves transgender awareness, and this year I will be helping her to deliver this training, something I’m very excited about. 

That isn’t the end of this story, the same friend reached out to me around a week ago from out of the blue with no prompt from me or anyone else and offered to stay with me after my surgery and be there for appointments and when I go down to theatre etc. I was blown away, I cried, I messaged her straight back thanking her for her kindness and thankfully accepting her help. Don’t get me wrong lots of my friends have offered help during this time and I plan to accept it humbly and gratefully but this woman barely knows me and owes me nothing. Kelly, you are an incredible person and I look forward to building our friendship and making Inspiring Healthy Choices a huge success.

What’s occurin’?
Right had a little happy cry, now back to the matter at hand. So what does 2018 look like for Amy Kate? Well as I sit here at my desk writing this I am contemplating my appointment with the gender clinic in Daventry tomorrow afternoon. This will be with a clinical psychologist and will form my second surgical referral. This means the next step in my journey will be to prepare for gender reassignment surgery which if all goes to plan should be sometime towards the end of the year, maybe sooner. The next steps after the appointment will be to initiate my plans to lose weight and get hair removal of the future lady garden underway. It would be so much easier if I could call in a landscape gardener but unfortunately sophisticated laser and electrolysis equipment is required for this job not a chap called Brian with a hedge trimmer. 

I have started work on writing a book, two books in fact. One is a fictional novel which as yet has no working title and the plot is sort of jumbled up in my head. It will be romance based I think but hopefully with some decent twists and turns. The other is a journal style book about my journey of transition. The title of this will be “Was it something I said?” The unofficial guide to transition. This will take up quite a bit of my free time so I’m looking forward to both of these projects becoming something tangible that my friends can read and give me feedback on. 

Another thing that has recently occurred is that I was asked to be a trustee for a local Milton Keynes based LGBTQI+ charity called Q: Alliance. You can find a link to the website in my links section here on the blog. The first trustee meeting is this Thursday and I’m very excited to get stuck in and help our wonderful community in any way that I can.

Count backwards from 10…
To pee or not to pee (standing up), that is the question, or is it? I have never really questioned whether or not I would want to have gender reassignment surgery. I know several trans women who have undergone this procedure very successfully and are extremely happy with the results. Despite this I have held doubts as to whether I could go through with it. You’re probably reading this and thinking “what?” Well let me explain. I want my body to be as female as my mind, of course I do. I identify as a trans woman, I have no doubt or insecurity about my gender but I do have a fear of the unknown. I have never had major surgery or been in a position to have been in hospital for any length of time. I’m afraid of the point where I’m on a trolley being wheeled into theatre and then given my general anaesthetic. I’m not exactly having nightmares about it but it is seriously playing on my mind. 

On top of these fears there is also the significant commitment to aftercare. My shiny new vagina comes with more instructions than an IKEA flat-pack wardrobe. There is the torturous practice of dilation which must be performed 3 times a day for the first 6 weeks then twice a day from then onwards until it is reduced to once every few days and so on. There is antiseptic baths, douching and so on. It seems from speaking to friends that the practice of dilation is also a dangerous one. Who knew that sitting with your legs akimbo with half a litre of lubricant shoved up your new orifice whilst trying to hold a plastic phallus in place would be so difficult?  I have been warned not to do this in front of the television, as one sneeze or involuntary cough will turn said phallic object into a ballistic projectile which is ejected from the shiny new vagina at warp speed towards your poor unsuspecting TV screen. Try explaining that to your home insurance provider.

Then there are other things to consider, things that men take for granted, like peeing anywhere they choose. The days of pulling over and nipping behind a hedge will be long behind me. I will no longer be able to enjoy the common male hobby of carpet bombing the bathroom floor with stray urine. Aiming for the large porcelain hole in the centre of the toilet is not expertly practiced by all men. I know what you are probably thinking, “if you are a girl why don’t you sit to pee?” Well I do, mostly, but if I’m in a rush and I’m wearing clothing that doesn’t require an advanced yoga qualification to remove then on occasion I have performed the dark art of peeing while standing up. There you go, shame me if you wish but be honest, most of the trans girls reading this will say, “yeah I’ve done that too.” Even with all these things considered I’m still 100% committed to having this surgery and although it won’t define me as a woman because I already feel that I have done that, it will give me the comfort that my body no longer looks more male than female. I will not only look more feminine, but I will be able to function as a female in all aspects other than child birth and menstruation.

Monthly cycle
No I haven’t applied for a voucher for the cycle to work scheme, I’m talking about periods. Yes, I did go there, periods. I do not have a womb or ovaries so the physical aspects of the female monthly menstrual cycle are something I will never experience but believe it or not, a trans woman who is taking HRT (hormone replacement therapy) can experience the emotional changes that come with the menstrual cycle. One week of the month I want to kill people with fire, the next I want to hug them and cry while telling them that they are my best friend ever. Then I get a little down for a few days, then I need chocolate, and wine, and the cycle continues. 

It is an incredible thing how nature affects the human body, the food we eat, how the body responds to its environment and what we put into it.  Sometimes this can be a bad thing though. I have been taking oral oestrogen for the last 18 months as this was the recommendation of the gender clinic consultant. I have since researched HRT thoroughly and it seems that oral is not the safest way to take this medication, especially if you are over 40. I am reasonably healthy and my blood results are always fine but the results of my last 3 monthly blood test showed that my red cells were high and my liver function slightly above normal. I think it’s time to have a conversation about switching to patches. Aside from patches being a far safer option, they also consist of bio-identical oestrogen which is derived from plants although don’t ask me how. Oral oestrogen on the other hand is produced from the urine of pregnant mares. Yes you did read that right, I take a tablet each day that is essentially desiccated horse wee; nice…

So from now on the blog will take this new form. I will be giving monthly updates to my transition and anything else that comes along in that month rather than picking a specific topic to discuss with you. I think it gives the reader the opportunity to come along on the journey of transition with me, getting regular updates on what is going on. I hope that this will be beneficial to trans people who are considering coming out and are possibly suffering with gender dysphoria without knowing what they should expect once they make the decision to begin transition.  

So to all those doing Veganuary, dry January and starting their New Year resolutions, keep up the good work and stay strong. Love to you all xxx.

Thanks for reading.

Amy Kate xx.

Friday, 1 December 2017

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly…..

It’s been a month since my last post. Thank you to all that read it and to the people who added comments. Avril made a very valid comment about weight gain which I had overlooked so I’m grateful to her for bringing this forward.

Life has gotten in the way of my writing time so I’ll start with an apology for the delay. The title of this post is inspired by a combination of recent events in my life and the upcoming onslaught of Christmas movies that we are about to endure/enjoy. One such movie that is traditionally scheduled for the festive season is the Clint Eastwood classic, the Good, the Bad and the Ugly. I thought this would be a nice way to update you on all the things that life has thrown at me in the last month. So, as you may already have worked out, there has been good news, bad news, and bloody downright ugly news. These are the realities of transition, not the fluffy bullshit that you read about in the daily Mail. I have never lied to my readers, and I never will.

The Good…
In the last month I have made some decisions which I think will benefit the course of my transition in the long term. These decisions are by no means the right or wrong way to go about transitioning but I’m hoping they will work out for me. I haven’t done any electrolysis for about 4 months mainly due to the costs of moving and also because my friend is no longer practicing so I need to find a new practitioner. Similarly, I haven’t had any laser on my jungle forestation also known as the Carlos Van Dango chest wig that adorns my frontal torso area. Regular shaving to reduce dysphoria over the years has created a robust layering of darkest brown fur removable only with a four-wheel drive razor or Napalm. Don’t get me wrong, HRT has helped to reduce the thickness of the hair and also the density but regular shaving of your breasts is an experience only the most unfortunate of Eastern European gypsy women should have to endure. 

Several of my friends who have had their GRS (Gender Reassignment Surgery) have noted that HRT treatment is far more effective post-surgery when the body is producing female levels of testosterone so for this reason I have decided to put hair removal on hold and concentrate on clearing my debts and getting my finances back on track instead.

My second goal is to crack the mystical art of makeup. My dear friend Gail Spooner makes it look easier than stirring soup but this is down to her experience and incredible skill. When she makes up my face I feel like I can take on the world exuding confidence like confetti at a Royal wedding (on topic joke). When I do my own makeup I’m not only lacking in knowledge and talent but the outcome always makes me feel like I have no confidence and I’m very self-conscious. The empowerment that makeup provides is incredible. Sure we could argue over the politics of this and why women in society are seen to be more credible when they are made up and dressed well but the fact remains that this is the world we live in good or bad. Coco Chanel once said, “Dress shabbily and they remember the dress; dress impeccably and they remember the woman”. The bottom line from a personal view is I just feel better about myself when I look nice.

Other recent events have also been very positive. Gail Spooner organised a makeup tutorial evening for the trans women in the Milton Keynes area last week. Myself, Laura and Emma who are all her friends helped to make it a great evening. Laura took stills, and generally sorted stuff out in true facilities manager mode while Emma played to her strengths as video director and executive producer. My job was very easy, sit in the chair and keep still. I’m very good at this. You’ve probably guessed that I was the model for the evening. I decided to remove my wig for a couple of reasons, firstly it was easier for Gail to apply the makeup, secondly everyone could see the effect easier and thirdly I remember how good Mrs potato head looked when I had finished with her as a child. Jokes aside I am starting to come to terms with the fact that my hair will probably never grow back and I don’t want to rely on wigs for the rest of my life so learning to be brave and go hairless is a huge challenge for me but one I am ready to take on.

This week I attended a meeting with Q: Alliance, a local LGBT charity here in Milton Keynes. I have been asked to consider becoming a trustee and that is something I’d very much like to be involved with. I still have to be voted in so it isn’t set in stone yet but it was just really nice to be asked to be involved. If you would like to know more about the work that Q: Alliance does then head to the links section of the blog and have a look at their webpage. You can also follow them on Twitter and Facebook.

The Bad…
As with all things in life there is balance. For all the good things that are going on there are some things that haunt me from time to time. I have lived with depression and gender dysphoria since I was in my early teens and have turned to anti-depressants for much of that time to hide from the truth about my gender and all the other problems that life throws at us generally. I have been feeling lower and lower lately and my physical health also takes a nose dive when I am feeling this way. Living alone and having no-one to turn to for a hug and a kiss is hard. We give up so much to be our true selves; the very lucky ones have either remained in stable relationships with their partners or have found new partners since transitioning. For many of us transition is a very lonely place. I am the kind of person who is fine when I’m busy or around people but once the front door shuts on my little flat, as lovely as it is, that is when I feel at my lowest.

The Ugly...
I have had a lot of knocks in my life, most of them since I started transitioning. I’ve lost two of my best friends who couldn’t accept me as a woman. I have a difficult relationship with my daughter due to my situation and I have a brother who hasn’t spoken to me since I began my journey.

Recently my sister and I had a row over the phone. It got pretty heated and I admit I lost my temper. I’m not proud of it but my sister wasn’t blameless either. Since then I have reached out to her in a text but heard nothing so I don’t really know what the situation is at this moment in time. 

This argument has obviously been the source of discussion between my sister and my oldest brother. I bumped into him as I was leaving the warden assisted home where my mum lives on Sunday. In the middle of the foyer he says “I want a word”, and without going through the dialogue proceeded to rant about how I am totally in the wrong with my sister and so on. I asked him not to point his finger in my face and at this point he stood toe to toe with me, staring at me with what I can only describe as hate and venom in his eyes. It was at this point that he said something I never thought I’d hear a member of my family say to me. He pointed to my genitals and said “while you’ve still got them things as far as I’m concerned, you are still a man and I have no problem hitting you”. He followed this up with “if it walks like a duck, swims like a duck and sounds like a duck, then it’s a duck as far as I’m concerned”. 

I was literally stunned. This is the same brother who 2 years ago when I came out said he may not understand, but I was still his brother and he would support me. It has seriously affected me and I’m still processing it if I’m being really honest. One thing I do know, there is no going back from that. It can’t be unsaid. In the heat of temper his words spilled out as if he’d been bottling them up for a long time. His prejudice and his values are more important to him than the wellbeing of his sibling, whether he sees me as a brother or a sister. I suspect that I won’t see him again unless by unhappy coincidence. We have nothing more to say to each other and I have no energy or desire to try to educate him on his lack of understanding. 

 So as you can see the last month has been an eventful one. Thankfully the positives outweigh the negatives on paper at least. I am struggling with depression at the moment and having vowed never to go back to taking medication for it I am surrounding myself with friends who accept me and love me as my true self, Amy. I have so many wonderful friends, and ending this post on a positive note, I have learned a valuable lesson. Family is more than just blood. My friends are my family, they love me unconditionally, are there to support me and do not judge me even when I get it wrong. For this, and so much more, I love each and every one of them.  

Thanks for reading.

Amy Kate xx.

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

10 things they don’t tell you about Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT).

Hormone Replacement Therapy or HRT is an incredible thing. It’s not a new miracle treatment, it has been helping women to cope through the menopause and beyond for many years. The principle is fairly straight forward; it replaces a deficiency of hormones in the body, which helps it to function correctly. In the case of trans people it is used to induce a second puberty which makes the body change to become more feminine or masculine depending on which way the individual is transitioning.

Of course I should add that we are seeing cases in the news recently of children around the age of 12 who have according to the media been prescribed HRT. Let me clear this up. These kids are NOT being prescribed HRT, they are given access to hormone blockers or anti-androgens. These hormone blockers will simply suppress the dominant hormone in the body and the onset of puberty will be delayed until the individual has decided that transition is right for them. If they change their mind and stop taking the blocker, they will go through puberty normally with no lasting effect. If they choose to transition it will be a significant advantage and give them the best chance of transitioning into their correct gender. For example, if a natal female identifies as a trans man, and goes through puberty, they will grow breasts. This is disastrous for the person and they will often use a binding material to strap their breasts close to the chest to appear flat chested. This can be very dangerous and has even resulted in death. Surgery will be required to remove the breasts at some point. This is known as a double mastectomy but is often referred to in the trans community as ‘top surgery’. A natal male identifying as female would grow facial and body hair which will be devastating for them but far worse than that is the breaking of the voice. This is not reversible with HRT and for me personally this is my biggest hang-up. If I could have my life over I would have done anything for blockers to stop my puberty. Eight out of 10 trans young people have self-harmed including cutting and almost half have attempted to kill themselves, according to a significant new study looking at the experiences of LGBT pupils in schools and colleges across the UK. You still think we shouldn’t help these kids by treating them with blockers?

So what exactly is HRT? Well for the uninitiated and put simply it is replacing the sex hormone that is released naturally in your body with the one which is correct for the gender to which you align. It is also important to understand that we all have both Oestrogen and Testosterone in our bodies and depending on our birth assigned sex one or the other will be the dominant one. For example, whether you are trans or not, if you were born male then Testosterone is the dominant hormone and as you grow it will be responsible for creating secondary sex characteristics and shaping the outcome of your puberty. If you were born female then Oestrogen is the dominant hormone and of course the outcome of your puberty and your physical development will be very different.

So where do our sex hormones come from? This is where I did a little research to confirm what I understood to be correct. Essentially we all begin life as females. The foetus develops with a XX chromosome initially and if you are destined to be a boy then one of the X’s is replaced with a Y. Again I’m generalising for the purpose of simplicity so please don’t pull me up on my medical knowledge, I’m a mechanic by trade. Our Gonads (what a lovely word) are the organs in our body which are responsible for the majority of our sex hormone release. In males and females they are actually the same until the foetus forms in its assigned birth sex. In women they become Ovaries and in men they become Testicles. Ovaries release mostly Oestrogen and Testicles release mostly Testosterone. Some of the body’s glands are also responsible for some release of sex hormones but in significantly smaller quantities. So, pretty simple right? I could have gone into much deeper levels of detail but for the purpose and nature of this post this will suffice.

I think it’s important to remind the reader that I am generalising here a little and sticking to what I know. I haven’t mentioned intersex conditions and hormonal deficiencies as these are complex conditions and beyond my understanding. I would hate to offend someone who lives with a condition such as this so I will leave these issues aside. Additionally I haven’t made more than a passing reference to HRT in trans men. This is because I have no experience of this and therefore I cannot comment with any accuracy. However, if any trans guys are reading this and would like to do a back to back or reflective guest post from a female to male perspective then I’d love to hear from you.

When I had finally jumped through the burning hoops of fire to be granted HRT, I was given lots of information about how it will probably kill me before I reach the end of my transition, and that at my age I shouldn’t expect too much. Words like deep vein thrombosis, stroke and heart disease were mentioned as well as increased risks of certain types of cancer (and people still think transition is a choice). This is fair enough I thought to myself as I sat in front of the endocrinologist (hormone specialist) at the gender clinic thinking I may not make it through next week. These medical professionals are duty bound to explain the dangers of any treatment as well as the positive effects. But what about the things they don’t tell you? Things that only someone who has experienced HRT first hand could possibly know. Now I’ve watched a lot of YouTube videos of trans people giving wild claims of amazing results on HRT. From flat chested to a DD cup in 6 months, A J-Lo butt within a year, the list goes on. I thought it would be a good idea to talk about some of the less obvious effects of HRT that the medics and celebrity YouTubers don’t tell you about. So here are 10 things they don’t tell you about HRT from my own personal experience.

Before I start on the list please understand that while I like to write with humour wherever I can get away with it, some of the points I’m about to write about are pretty dark. I could have omitted them from this post but then it wouldn’t be a true reflection of my experience on HRT and I am always brutally honest about my experiences as my transition progresses. I cannot hope to help other trans people if I don’t tell the whole truth 100% of the time.

Number 1: Body hair.
If like me you developed more body hair than an average sized mountain goat during puberty then you may be naturally concerned that when you begin transition, you will be ‘too hairy’. This and other fears were among the things that stopped me from pursuing transition as a solution to my dysphoria sooner. I can report good news here though. I used to have my back waxed by a team of professionals armed with enough wax strips to wallpaper my lounge and a vat of boiling liquid with the consistency of refrigerated Marmite. This was a painful but necessary part of my grooming routine. After 16 months on HRT my back has a very light sprinkling of fine hair and my chest although by no means clear, is at a point where laser will pretty much get rid of what is left over. My leg hair grows very slowly and is much finer and the same can be said for my arms. Please don’t listen to people who tell you that HRT will reduce facial hair, it will not. The growth may be slightly slower but the overall amount of hair will not change in my experience and the experience of many of my trans friends. The only way to get rid of this is laser but if you have blonde, red or copper coloured hair or white/grey hair then the laser will not be effective. The alternative in this situation is electrolysis. I won’t go into detail on either of these treatments but I may put a future blog post together on my experience of both of these treatments.

Number 2: Fat redistribution
This is one of the areas where I thought I wouldn’t see much of a result due to my age. I have to say I’m surprised at the results so far after 18 months. Men tend to carry body fat mainly around the middle and as they get older this can develop into the classic ‘beer belly’. In women it is far more evenly distributed around the bottom, the upper arms, torso and thighs. I have seen a decrease in muscle mass which is very welcome because one of the ‘fitting in’ things I have done throughout my adult life is bodybuilding. I have to admit that I have a fair bit of weight to lose before I will be considered for surgery. My middle is the area I am most concerned about. My bum is definitely quite a bit bigger, I love the shape and my thighs are filling out nicely. Fat moves around the body during transition on HRT and is repositioned as the process continues. Subtle things that are not well documented are things like facial fat which is responsible for filling out of the cheeks and giving a softer appearance to the jaw line. In this area I have to say I haven’t really seen good results but at 45 my face is slowly trying to connect with my knees and I have a selection of chins so I’m not too concerned overall. The last thing I want to add about fat redistribution came as a surprise to me. A few of my friends have reported changes in their shoe size. I am a size 8 which I’m very happy with but friends have told me that they have dropped a shoe size as they reach the latter part of transition. It’s important to note that HRT cannot and will not change a person’s skeletal structure. The bones in my feet will not shrink but the fatty tissue does alter and this is what can in some individuals lead to a change in the size or shape of the feet.

Number 3: Sex drive
The fact that sex drive is greatly reduced when you start HRT is a bit of an understatement. I was warned by the clinician to be fair but I wasn’t prepared for what happened. Within a few days of starting HRT my sex drive (which was pretty low to begin with) was non-existent. Nothing turned me on, nothing excited me sexually, it was as if sex no longer existed. I wasn’t in a relationship so it didn’t really matter to me but if you are then you might want to plan ahead for this and speak to your GP prior to starting HRT. The effects of this lasted around 9 months in my case despite being told it would wear off after 3 to 4 months. 18 months into my transition I can happily report that although I’m still not in a relationship, my sex drive is perfectly normal. How do I know this? Well mostly because of the naughty thoughts that pop into my head when a good looking guy is around.

Number 4: Sensitive boobs
The gender clinic is very clear in setting expectations for breast growth. It is unlikely that a trans woman will develop large breasts. An A to B cup is what can be expected in most cases. What they don’t tell you however, is how painful your boobs will be during this growth process. Even now I get days when my nipples are more sensitive than Jimmy Carr when asked about his taxes. They don’t hurt all the time, it’s just when you bump into or press against something or someone, even very gently. A few weeks ago I went to stay with some good friends in Oxfordshire. On leaving the next day the customary hug was performed without me thinking that anything was about to happen. Now my friend is a large chap, with a vice like grip and the hugging capability of a grizzly bear. There was a moment, a very brief moment, where I thought someone had shot me through both nipples with a jet of molten lava. There is no warning, no gentle reminder, it will creep up on you when you least expect, it teases you, it knows when you are weakest. Be afraid people, be very afraid…

Number 5: Male pattern baldness
You’re probably thinking what the hell has this got to do with HRT? Well I put this in because I’ve heard some pretty wild claims here from YouTubers who’ve apparently regrown all their hair as a result of HRT. I have no doubt that a few lucky people will see some regrowth when taking HRT but all that is happening here is that Testosterone is no longer causing male pattern baldness. HRT will prevent any further male pattern baldness that much is true but if you are balder than one of Lewis Hamilton’s tyres like me then you’ll need to look at treatments. I have just started taking finasteride which was prescribed on private prescription by my GP. It isn’t available on the NHS as it is deemed to be for cosmetic reasons. I’ll probably do a blog post on this after 6 months or so. For trans people seeking to regrow their hair 1mg daily seems to be the recommended dose.

Number 6: Feelings & emotions
To be fair I was warned by the clinician that things would be rough in this area. I was told to expect tantrums of the 12 year old girl magnitude. Oh how they underestimated that one. My range of emotions is significantly wider than ever, going from move aside or I’ll kill you to come here and give me a hug. I can experience empathy, love, hate, and rage within a 5 minute window. Joking aside I feel so much more in tune with my emotions. I rarely cried before transition. Even at my dad’s funeral I didn’t break down the way I thought I would. Now I cry at everything, literally everything. A cute bunny rabbit eating a banana on YouTube = Crying. A story of bravery in the face of adversity = Crying. You get the picture. Songs, poignant memes, you name it = Crying. It’s not all good news though. When things get really tough I also feel utter despair and heartbreak. I have felt close to the edge many times and only the thought of my daughter stopped me from doing something stupid. This might sound crazy to most who read this but I almost have to allow myself these destructive feelings of ending my life when I feel this way. It seems to be the only way I can process the hurt that I feel. I know that bit might be hard to read but transition is such an intense process and it is so hard to fight day in day out that sometimes you just fall down.

Number 7: Memory
I have always had a pretty good memory, especially for faces and my specialty is reciting lines from films. One area I was not so good in was remembering minor details. My memory after 18 months of HRT is far sharper than it ever was before. I can recall tiny insignificant details with ease that before would have escaped me after just a few minutes. If you are about to embark on transition or start your HRT maybe do a memory test and then repeat it after 6 months on HRT. I wish I had now and I’d love to hear about your results.

Number 8: Body odour
Such a pleasant subject, but again I report good news. If you’ve ever had the misfortune to enter the bedroom of a teenage boy then you will know that the odour that hits you as you enter is rivalled only by that of your local landfill site. Put short, boys stink. I should know, I was once one of these stench ridden individuals. Much of this is due to our old friend testosterone which releases pheromones through the sweat glands in the skin making men irresistible to women. Erm? Just a few short weeks after starting HRT one of the first tangible changes I noticed was that I smelled far more pleasant after exercise or before I showered after rising in the morning. I never really had smelly feet as a guy except when wearing certain types of shoes but this also seems to be far better on HRT.
Number 9: Orgasms
Ok so if you have been paying attention since the beginning you will remember that I admitted being single. So how could I possibly know that my orgasms have changed? Well, let me enlighten you. There are essentially two types of people in this world, wankers and liars. Don’t let anyone call you a liar. To that end I can confirm that my gender clinic doctor actually told me to “use it or lose it” regarding my little fella. Well I can’t say I followed that advice but once in a while Chris Hemsworth is on the telly and I cannot be held responsible for my actions. Enough said.
So what has changed? The answer is quite a lot really. It is hard to explain but the feeling of orgasm is less intense than it is with male orgasm but it is more prolonged and seems to spread across the whole body. It also comes much quicker than before, and can be repeated very quickly after the first whereas once a guy has ejaculated, they are thinking of pizza toppings and X-box.

Number 10: Confidence & self-worth
I saved this one until last because it is probably the hardest one to explain. I’ve read several accounts from trans people and seen many YouTube videos where the individual will mention feeling like they are ‘in bloom’. A sense of wellbeing and euphoria is also often referred to. I can’t say I have experienced that yet although friends of mine say they have. In my own experience I would say I feel a sense of inner peace, a contentment with who I am. If this could be seen as blossoming into the woman that I truly am then ok I’ll go with that. I don’t think I’ll truly find my inner peace until I have had my final surgery and feel physically the way I feel emotionally and spiritually.  I want to add one thing to this final point about HRT and transition. You may find your inner peace and your dysphoria will undoubtedly be significantly reduced but be prepared that while you have found acceptance within yourself, the rest of the world will not necessarily afford you the same courtesy. Transition is tough, real tough. Pick your friends wisely, appreciate your allies; they will stick by you when the shit hits the fan, and it will be assured of that. But keep moving forward without looking back and you will find your peace and inner tranquillity.

So there you have it, after 18 months on HRT I have experienced significant changes. These changes may not be so obvious to other people but they definitely are to me. If anyone is wondering about my own HRT treatment I take a 3 monthly depot injection. This is called Leuprorelin acetate and was originally developed to help treat prostate cancer. It has the effect of fooling my brain into thinking there is far too much testosterone in my body and as such it essentially switches off my testicles. This is placed in the shoulder, butt or stomach. I always opt for the shoulder. The injection doesn’t hurt but my arm feels bruised and tender for a few days after. For my hormone replacement I take 2mg of Estradiol valerate. I have this by oral pill. The other option in this country is stick on patches. In some countries the Oestrogen can be administered by injection. Roughly every three months trans people will have a blood test to check the sex hormone levels in their body. This is so that the gender clinic and GP can adjust the level to ensure that the hormones in your body are at the correct amounts. At around the 2-3 year point on HRT the physical changes are pretty much done. Any further changes that the individual needs will have to be dealt with through surgery. For example, it is very rare for a trans woman to grow breasts beyond an A or B cup. If the person is unhappy with this then breast augmentation is the only fix.

My final point is for those of you who are just beginning your journey on HRT. Please remember to take your medication regularly. This may be changing your patch or taking your pill but the important thing is routine. The blocker injection lasts for 3 months. I already have my next appointment and prescription ready by the two month stage. If you go over your due date then the body will start to produce testosterone again which will conflict with your Oestrogen medication. A friend of mine recently went 12 days over her 3 month due date and she was in her own words, a mess. Please be careful and take all the precautions that the wonderful people at the gender clinic and GP practice advise. With or without HRT, transition is the scariest roller coaster you will ever ride. Some days you’re up, some you’re down. The trick is to keep looking forward and be patient with your body and your mind.

Thanks for reading.
Amy Kate xx.

Sunday, 8 October 2017

The reality of transition...

I started this blog over a year ago with the intention of helping other trans people by offering advice from someone who was going through this process. I also wanted to raise awareness of trans issues and help non trans people to better understand what people like me are all about. I thought this blog would be cathartic, and for a while it was but as my transition goes forwards I am finding life more and more difficult every day.

Don’t get me wrong it’s not all bad news, I have gained some wonderful friends and for that I’m eternally grateful but I’ve also lost so much. My Daughter, my Brother, (the other one barely acknowledges me) and pretty much most of my family. My Mum is totally on my side and supports me 100% and this is probably the only thing that keeps me going. My Dad passed 12 years ago and I don’t know if he would have understood or not but I hope that if he is out there somewhere he understands why I had to do this.

The general perception of what transition really is seems to be largely misunderstood. I’ve read so many forum posts and tweets etc. which go on and on about how trans people are all special princesses and need special treatment. That or we are attention seeking drag queens or cross dressers. According to some, transition means we rock up at the GP surgery, get referred straight away to a gender clinic and they arrange for us to go straight into hospital to have our dicks turned inside out. A bit of breast enhancement surgery and we’re all done. Well let me tell you how it really works.

The person suffering from Gender dysphoria fights to stay afloat for as long as they can in a body that feels totally alien to them. They cannot discuss this with anyone for fear of being rejected or even abused and beaten. Some 295 individuals were murdered last year alone just because they identified as transgender. Around 49% of us will attempt suicide while waiting to be seen by one of the 7 gender identity clinics in the UK. The average waiting time for referral to one of these clinics from your GP is between 12 months and 24 months. This is just to be seen so that you can tell them that you think you are transgender. No medical or psychological intervention takes place at this stage.

If the individual makes it to their first appointment they will then have to wait around 4 to 6 months to return for a second appointment with a clinical psychologist. This is necessary because in order to be diagnosed with gender dysphoria and subsequently transsexualism there has to be a second opinion.  At this point another 4 to 6 months passes and then the individual will be sent an appointment to discuss treatment. In the meantime 8 sessions of electrolysis or laser will be granted by the NHS to begin beard removal. In a normal male with testosterone as the dominant sex hormone these sessions won’t even scratch the surface. Put another 2 grand in and your face will be about half way to being clear of a beard.

Now we are starting to get somewhere. The next appointment will explain the process of prescribing Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT). The trans individual will be encouraged to be considering living full time in their preferred gender at this point and the clinic will discuss your plans to do this. Around 1 year after first being diagnosed with Gender dysphoria is the average time it takes to be granted HRT and for a treatment plan to be put in place. This medical treatment is a slow and frustrating one. In essence it is a second puberty. The trans person’s body will slowly change over a period of years and they will develop emotionally as well as physically. Everyone’s transition is different, some take two to three years to go through the physical changes and some take as long as 5 or 6. It depends on many factors such as age, response to HRT, wellness and so on.

It must be kept in mind that while all this medical intervention is going on, the individual has been living full time as a woman and this part is called social transition. This means getting used to living full time in the gender to which the individual aligns. This extends to work, social interaction and integration in all the ways that are necessary to be part of civilisation. This is the most difficult part of transition. The ridiculous waiting time to get any form of treatment is tough but there is the hope that your time will come, and some day that letter will drop through your mailbox and you will get help. Social transition is the hardest part because if like me you don’t pass as female, and many of us trans girls don’t, you have to endure the constant stares and rude comments wherever you go. This is mild compared to some places where just showing up at a certain place can get a trans person beaten to death or worse. Please don't think that trans men have it any easier. Trans men have to hide their breats during transition by tightly wrapping them close to their chest. This dangerous and sometimes fatal practice is called binding, the treatment will not reduce their breast tissue to an acceptable male level so they will often undergo a double mastectomy (surgical removal of both breasts). This is often referred to as 'top' surgery. This 'top' surgery in a trans female would involve breast augmentation if the individual so desires to have it done.

I am 18 months into my social transition and 14 months on HRT. I have a long way to go and every day gets tougher and tougher. I’m a strong person and it takes a lot to put me down but some days I feel that transition was the wrong thing to do. I often wonder what would have happened in my life if I’d kept my mouth shut, kept taking the anti-depressants and pushed forwards as best I could. Where would my daughter and I be? Would my childhood friends still be calling me up to go watch drag racing at the weekend or out for a curry with the boys? Would I still be getting calls to fix people’s cars. I also wonder what would have happened if I’d have turned my wheel and hit that truck. I wouldn’t be here to worry about it but how would my family explain to my daughter that her dad killed himself and probably took out some innocent truck driver too.

I feel that I’ve reached a junction, I need to take decisive action to stay alive. I have to focus on me for a while and get help to see me through the rest of this process. I hope I don’t lose any friends because of this, I’ve already lost enough, but if I don’t start looking after myself then I’m not going to be around to be anyone’s friend. I am editing this post a day after it was published. I hadn't been drinking when I wrote it and I don't regret any of the things I've said but I have had literally tons of messages from my friends wishing me well and giving me the strength to push forward. A few trans friends and even some that I've never met have commented on this post saying it gave comfort that they are not alone and they aren't doing anything wrong.

With this in mind I think I was wrong to say I am taking the blog down. I now see that it does help people and does serve a purpose, so I will continue. I won't however be committing to a time schedule for posts and I am going to throw away the list of post ideas I have. From now on posts will either reflect what is going on in our world or they will be off the cuff relating to events that are going on throughout my transition. I'm afraid I'm more of a spontanious writer than a structured one and as such my best work is done this way.

One final word to all the wonderful people who read this blog and contribute with kind comments and feedback, and to my Mum and all my friends and colleagues,

I love you all, more than words can ever say...

 Thanks for reading.

Amy Kate xx

Look out 2018, I’m comin’ to getcha…

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