Wednesday, 1 January 2020

2019, what a year!

Wow, what a year! Yes I know it’s a cliché and we say it every year but it really has been a whirlwind year for me. Casting my mind back to January nothing special was happening, I had a target hanging over my head, lose the weight! I had my surgery consultation back in August 2018, where I was given a very clear goal, “for gender reassignment surgery, you must achieve a target BMI of 28”. This meant losing 15 kilos before I was even eligible for surgery. For my height this meant achieving a weight of 80 kilos, I had been hovering around 95 kilos for the last couple of years so this was quite a big task for me.

You might be thinking I jumped straight in to this task and hit the gym hard, nope. What I actually did is dig my heels firmly in and rejected everything to do with surgery because I was scared and I wasn’t ready. I ate a lot of pizza, I ate a lot of ice cream, I didn’t lose any weight. This trend continued through February, March, April, you get the idea. In July I met Hannah, my girlfriend, we found each other through OK Cupid, a popular UK dating site. Hannah has given me the kick up the arse I have needed for a long time, helping me to move forward with my life. Since meeting her I have achieved a great deal and we’ve had a lot of fun along the way.

So what goals did I set myself to achieve in 2019…

Lose weight for surgery

I hadn’t made any progress with this until July. I’m not really sure where the exact turning point came but I suddenly found myself really committed to my target. I started to increase my exercise by doing lots of power walking. I’d do 2 to 3 kilometres during lunchtime at work then 5 kilometres on weekends. I was on the exercise bike for 20 minutes most mornings and I revived my love of Muay Thai boxing training to further increase my workout effectiveness. Diet is where I made the most progress though, cutting out junk food, sugary drinks and alcohol. I didn’t completely give up anything I just made sure if I had a treat it was just that, a one off and I didn’t make a habit of it.

Since then I’ve started the couch to 5k challenge and the plank challenge and I’m doing an hour of Yoga three times a week as well. I’ve also switched to a plant-based diet cutting out meat completely and eating minimal dairy. I no longer eat eggs or drink cow’s milk. I’ve discovered oat milk and vegan ice cream and I’m sure as time goes on I’ll find non dairy substitutes for more of the things I love. My reasons for switching to plant based are partly for my health and the target for surgery and partly because I know how much the meat and dairy industry impact environmental issues. I also discovered a YouTuber called Earthling Ed, his video on the cruelty in the dairy industry (dismantle dairy) changed my perspective entirely and I just no longer feel good about eating meat and dairy.

Gender reassignment surgery

Well I didn’t quite fit this into 2019 but now that I’ve finally got my head round this and I’m over the sheer terror I was feeling whenever I thought about surgery, I’m calm and relaxed and ready to get the job done. I’ve lost all the weight, sorted out my time off work so that I can recover and I’ve prepared everything for my arrival and
departure from the hospital. The date for the surgery is January 17th 2020. My friends have really helped me with this, my friend Vicki is taking me and my friend Gwen is collecting me. I’ve ordered the obligatory inflatable doughnut cushion to sit on for the car journey home. When I get home another friend Kelly is coming to stay with me for a few days to give me company and just make sure I’m ok. I’m not allowed out for 2 weeks to prevent infection so my friends have said they’ll come visit me at home. Hannah is working away in Europe at the moment so she can’t be with me but she will be home in March and I hope to be taking a trip with her as I get towards the end of my time off from work.

I will of course be documenting the surgery and recovery in the blog because others who read this may either be curious or even preparing for their own surgery and may need some advice.

Gender recognition certificate

A GRC or gender recognition certificate is an official document which gives certain protections and rights to transgender people. For example, even though I’ve changed my name by deed poll, and I have lived as a woman for three and a half years, I was still technically male in the eyes of the law. I could have been sent to a male prison if I was remanded in custody or sentenced, I could have been placed on a male ward in hospital if the administrators saw fit to put me there. If I got married the marriage certificate would have stated my sex as male. Not all trans people want a GRC and many dispute the cost (£140) which is required to get one. I’m not going to get into any arguments about whether we should or shouldn’t need one or how much it should cost but I am going to dispel some myths. The fee of £140 is only payable in some cases. If you are out of work or claim benefits you don’t have to pay. The process has been described as overly complex and difficult to achieve, I found it very simple, as long as you can prove you’ve been living as your true gender for at least the last two years then you’re fine. Household bills, medical letters, payslips, passports licenses and birth certificate are all that’s needed plus a declaration in front of a solicitor which costs around £10. You send all that off, they copy it and send it back special delivery then you wait. After a few days I was told I had a hearing date, I didn’t have to do anything as the hearing is done by a panel in your absence. After the hearing a few days passed and I got a lovely email telling me my application was successful and my GRC was on its way.

Once I received the GRC I was able to order a new birth certificate which I now have. This cost £10 and I am now the proud owner of a shiny new birth certificate with me new name and more importantly the line which states sex of child says female. This process, the GRC and the birth certificate took less than 6 weeks and apart from me going through all my paperwork to build the evidence to send to them, it was easy. They even produce a document to help you fill in the application. This for me is a major hurdle that signified the end of my transition from a legal and social perspective.

DAF accredited trainer certificate

As the name suggests this is essentially factory approval of my trainer credentials. I have been a technical trainer for various manufacturers for nearly twenty years so I’m pretty confident and capable. The accreditation process consists of some factory training courses in Eindhoven in the Netherlands followed by a teaching observation at DAF academy here in the UK by one of the Dutch factory trainers. I was hoping to complete this this year but scheduling issues and staff changes at work meant it was impossible to achieve. I could have completed the last module in January but unfortunately it is scheduled for two days after my surgery so of course I can’t make it. I’m scheduled to complete my last block of training in September and my observation sometime in the summer so by the end of 2020 it should all be done.

So there you have it it’s been quite a year and I’m very proud of what I’ve achieved. I need to thank Hannah, my mum, sister and all my friends for their support and encouragement, without it I wouldn’t have got the job done. I hope 2020 will be another year of growth and happiness and let’s see what can be achieved.

So what are my goals for 2020?

1.  Finish my DAF accreditation
2.  Complete a park run
3.  Get my HGV class 1 license
4.  Continue with my facial electrolysis
5. Enjoy my new life

Happy new year everyone. Let’s make it a good one!

Thanks for reading.
Amy Kate xxx.

Sunday, 24 November 2019

What it’s like to be trans and how you can help.

I was born in June of 1972. A happy baby as my mother recalls. Growing up I didn’t exactly identify that I was definitely female but I did feel different in some ways to my peers. For example, I was always more interested in what the girls were talking about at school and for this I was teased. I made friends more easily with girls than boys and spent quite a lot of time at a particular girl’s house where we would play with her dolls. When choosing a game to play it would be me that would often suggest playing with the doll’s house when she would often want to do something more neutral like play hide and seek for example. The only toys I remember wanting to play with that could be deemed as masculine were toy cars. This is no surprise though as growing up around cars with a Father and a Brother who were both mechanics I was always interested in them and wanted a career in the Motor industry.

I was fascinated by my mum’s make up and shoes when I was around 7ish. I would put lipstick on then wipe it straight off again in case it stayed on and I would be caught. I would go in her wardrobe and try on her shoes which made me afraid of being caught but at the same time I felt a sense of calm from wearing them which I could never explain. Even as early as this age I remember going to bed wishing I would wake up a girl or fantasizing that there was a machine I would step into and would come out female. I would also have dreams where I would do a good deed and be granted wishes by a genie and I would only wish to be a pretty girl and then have a happy and healthy family. I have been cross-dressing since I was around 7 or 8 but when I reached my teens it started to get more obsessive, I remember stealing a pair of tights from the corner shop because I didn’t have the money to pay for them or the guts to buy them.

Aside from the clothes and make-up etc. there was also something different in how I related to other boys. The best way I can describe it is that I just didn’t ‘get’ them and often conversations with them would leave me bored or uninterested or just confused generally about what they were thinking. I would be very interested in how the girls interacted with each other and tried to join in with them but as I wasn’t one of the popular boys, they would just see me as a nerdy kid being what they termed as a ‘gaylord’ which I suppose meant they saw me as effeminate.

Through my late teens, 20’s and 30’s I cross dressed on and off and took medication for serious bouts of depression starting almost as soon as I left school and started work. I saved up some money and went to Transformation in Birmingham to experience what it feels like to have a proper outfit, makeup and hair. It was the most wonderful experience but of course it couldn’t last. Throughout my time there I never felt any arousal or sexual feelings. Just a deep calm and contentment as if all was finally normal in the world.

I had a child at 32 with a woman in a bid to be ‘normal’. I love my daughter and will never regret that decision but looking back I can now see that it was a desperate attempt to fit in rather than wanting implicitly to be a father. I have had many relationships with women over the years and could never understand why I couldn’t make them last. The truth is I never really felt comfortable having sex and as a result would rarely do it which of course would lead to the demise of the relationship. The only way I can describe it is that it feels like I’m in the wrong role. I don’t feel comfortable having sex as a male and taking the male role. In hindsight I think that being in a relationship was more about being close to femininity than anything else.

A few years ago I went to a fancy dress party as a nun, wearing just a nun’s habit over a black polo neck sweatshirt I already had, with a long black skirt and black flats. I didn’t wear make-up or anything else but for the whole night I felt so free and so happy. Even then I knew something was wrong with me for feeling that way but as I had never heard of the term ‘gender dysphoria’ or ‘transgender’ I couldn’t put my finger on why it felt so right. I have since realised that this unknown depression was really the mental struggle to suppress ‘her’ and while I didn’t specifically identify with it at the time, it is so clear to me now that my sadness and depression were all part of being transgender.

Over the years I have done all the usual things to suppress. I did martial arts (muay thai boxing), I learned to ride a motorcycle then subsequently got into debt for buying one after the other as I quickly got bored and needed another distraction. I also started to get tattoos in an attempt to be more masculine but if you look at them most of them refer to my dysphoria. For example, on my back are the words ‘the devil within’. This refers to my feelings of dysphoria. On my arm a tattoo that reads a different word depending on how you look at it. It either reads ‘angel’ or devil’, again a reference to my inner struggles. The angel on my back is holding herself in a sorrowful way. She has tattoos down her arm, it is my interpretation of me, the sad suppressed female within me. Now of course I regret them terribly especially my legs as they will never look feminine unless I have them removed, (the tattoos not the legs). Even thinking about my tattoos makes me want to cry as I have done such damage to my body that will affect how I am perceived as a woman.

I suppose the turning point for me was around 5 years ago when I actually learned what the term transgender meant. Up until then I thought it just meant cross dresser which I considered myself to be although I didn’t identify with the sexual arousal side of cross dressing that is often talked about. I never thought it was possible for the average person to transition let alone do it through the NHS so I guess I never even tried to explore that possibility until now.

It seems that since I broke down in an argument and told my partner how I feel things became far harder than I had imagined they would. Initially it was a relief to be out, then as time went on it became harder as we constantly argued and I know this hurt her which I hate. She was feeling grief as essentially she had lost the man she thought I was and I hate myself for lying to her even if it was by omission. In reality not telling her how I felt sooner was cowardly of me and did damage I’m not sure can ever be repaired even though we are now friends. She used to see me looking at women in the supermarket and would assume that I fancied them. In the argument that led to me breaking down and coming out to her I told her that I didn’t want to have sex with these women like a normal guy would, I wanted to BE these women and all I felt for them was envy.

A few days after that argument I was driving to work and a song came on the radio, ‘Who Knew’ by Pink. It is an emotive song anyway about suicide and the loss of a loved one but on hearing it I cried relentlessly all the way to work which was at that time a 55 mile trip. This was the point that I realised I could no longer continue to live a lie despite how hard transition would be. I knew it was the right thing to do to save my life and to allow me to live an authentic life in the gender that I truly identified with. Of course, every woman wants to be considered attractive but this was never my motivation for transitioning, I just couldn’t cope with being a guy anymore and no-one knowing how hard it was to just exist every day. I had some very dark thoughts around that time before I sought the help of my GP and the Gender clinic and although I would never attempt suicide, it didn’t stop me from thinking that this ‘way out’ would be best for everyone.

When I came out to my friends, family and colleagues it was a huge relief but in the space of 24 hours I lost two best friends, who I had been best man for both of them when they married, and one of my brothers made it very clear I’d never see him again. The other brother soon followed suit shouting in the reception of my Mum’s care home, “while you’ve still got them things in your trousers, as far as I’m concerned, you’re a man, and I have no problem punching your lights out”.  Needless to say, I haven’t spoken to him since and those words can never be unsaid. My Sister, my Mum and my daughter all supported me as did my colleagues at Volkswagen headquarters where I worked. This was it, transition had begun.

Fast forward three and a half years and my life looks very different. I’m a technical trainer for DAF trucks UK, I have so many wonderful friends, some trans some not. I’ve done things I never would have done in my old life, met amazing people and grown as a person in ways I never imagined. Sure I still don’t look like Claudia Schiffer but I’m doing my best. I have a gender recognition certificate now and a new birth certificate which states that my sex is categorically female. This also affords me several legal protections and if I’m lucky enough to get married, it will state that my sex is female on the marriage certificate. On the 17th of January 2020 I will be undergoing gender reassignment surgery. This is for many trans people, both men and women, the final step in their transition journey. For me it isn’t, my penis has never defined my gender. What makes me a woman is between my ears, not between my legs. Consider this thought, if you are a woman reading this or a man, imagine waking up one morning with a penis or a vagina, nothing else has changed, you still have the same face and body but a different set of genitalia. Would you suddenly and without question, consider yourself to be of the sex that your genitalia represent? Of course not, our genitals do not define how we feel about our sense of self, they are simply reproductive organs. In foetal formation, our ‘gonads’ to use the medical term, start out the same, they either become testicles or ovaries depending on whether the baby is a boy or a girl. Hormonal imbalances and chemical influences can alter these processes during pregnancy in ways we are only just beginning to understand but in the case of transgender people, our bodies that grow do not connect with the brain which is in conflict with it.

These conflicts which we call gender dysphoria, can occur at any age. Some will say they knew they were trans at the age of three, some later around seven or eight. Many say that puberty was the real killer because until their bodies changed they were ok with being who they were but the stark contrasts that puberty brings between men and women can be devastating for a trans person, I know it was for me. I knew something was wrong but I didn’t really figure it out until my early forties. We are all different. What makes us all the same whether we are trans or not, is our motivation to be accepted by our friends, family and even strangers. Ever walked down the street and caught someone staring at you and instead of thinking, yeah you think I’m hot right? You’re thinking, what’s wrong with me, why are they staring, do I have something in my teeth, a zit maybe? Men and women undergo procedures everyday to make themselves feel more confident, more accepted in their respective gender. Women may have breast augmentation or a new nose to look more feminine. Guys might choose pec implants or hair transplants to give themselves a younger more virile look. Trans people change their bodies to match their internal sense of gender identity, not for a fetish or a perversion, not to disguise themselves so they can sneak into a women’s bathroom and assault them, but to feel better about who they are, to feel that they are more accepted by society. If you really think about that, it’s the same motivation, exactly the same motivation, we just label it differently and this label, is what causes people to be suspicious of trans people, to fear them, and when people fear something or someone they instinctively become aggressive towards it to protect themselves. This harks back to our early instincts as hunter gatherers.

So what can we do to fix this? How can trans people help the wider society who have little or no knowledge of what it’s like to be trans, be better educated and become allies? Well I think writing posts like this helps, being visible as a trans person and not hiding away. Helping people and being kind and considerate. All the things you would expect any decent human to do regardless of whether they are trans or not. For those who interact with trans people, there are a few simple things you can do to make it easier for you and the person you are talking to. Here are some easy points to remember.

·         Asking a trans person what their ‘old name’ was or asking about their transition particularly in larger groups is not a good idea. This makes the person feel vulnerable and the last thing they want you to know is their old self, the person they could no longer stand to be. Being trans is not a novelty, it is pain, it is suffering and it is bloody hard. We don’t want to relive that every time we meet someone new.

·         Never ask a trans person, particularly trans women, if they’ve had ‘the op’. I as a trans woman would never question your genitalia, please don’t question mine. What’s in my underwear is of no concern to anyone but me.

·         Deadnaming is when someone refers to a trans person in their original name. If this is done maliciously this is considered a hate crime in the eyes of the law. If it is accidental then just correct your mistake and quickly move on. Making a big deal of it is the last thing a trans person needs as it just draws more attention which is of course unwanted.

·         Questioning a trans persons choice of bathroom or changing room is unnecessary. They know which is the most appropriate one, they do not need you to judge on their behalf. I get stared at a lot in women’s bathrooms by women who clearly think I have no right to be there. I go there to pee, I keep my head down, don’t engage in conversation and get the job done, wash my hands and leave as quickly as I can. I wish I didn’t have to feel this way but this is how it is. The media have created a fear in society that trans people are predators, who are disguised as women to enter female spaces to do harm. Let’s break this down, would a rapist, really go to the trouble of transitioning, or even just dressing as a female, to enter a safe space and attack someone. Rape is about control, the perpetrator has no need to conceal themselves, if a person is going to commit rape or sexual assault, they will do so regardless of what they are wearing. Globally, there have been no recorded incidents of rape where a trans woman entered a female bathroom and committed a sex crime. Trust me, when it comes to bathrooms and changing rooms, I am the vulnerable one.

·         Misgendering occurs when you refer to a trans person with the wrong pronoun. This is usually accidental but again if done maliciously it is considered a hate crime in the eyes of the law. It is often likely to happen with telephone calls, as the person you are talking to cannot be seen and the voice that you hear may not be what you expect from a person of the gender which their name may be aligned to. For example, when I make a call or answer one, I always start with, “this is Amy Carter”. I have been asked extra security questions by banks etc. This is both time consuming and embarrassing. I have even been accused of lying about my identity and verbally abused by call centre staff who clearly have had very little training. If you accidentally misgender someone, just correct it and move on. Don’t apologise excessively, it isn’t necessary and just draws more attention to the situation. We all make mistakes and it is better to just move quickly past it.

·         Lastly, just don’t make a big deal of the person being trans. Just treat them like any other person of that gender. I was in a pub once and saw some colleagues I hadn’t seen for a while. This woman poked my breasts and loudly exclaimed to the rest of the pub how well I was doing and how much the hormones had changed me. As you can imagine I needed to ground to open up and swallow me.

I haven’t posted anything for a while, mostly because there wasn’t much to say as life is just moving forwards nicely. I’ve also been crazy busy at work and frantically dieting and exercising to make my target weight for surgery. So hopefully there will be more blog posts, possibly covering my surgery and recovery but I’m also trying to rekindle my interest in writing a book so we will have to see. I will leave you with a poem by a wonderful trans feminine artist called Travis Alabanza. It’s called ‘Warrior’.

I want you to know, before you step outside, that you are a warrior.
You are a warrior who is allowed to be soft.
A warrior that is allowed to be scared.
A warrior that is allowed to ask for help.
But still, a warrior.

I need you to know that when I am writing this,
I have changed my outfit 17 times,
I have removed my makeup for fear of insult,
I have changed the way I walk down the street,
But that I, am still a warrior.

I need you to know that when I am writing this,
I have told myself that it is okay to wish for something easier,
I have told myself that it is okay to sometimes want to give up,
I have told myself that it is okay to feel alone,
But that I, am still a warrior.

I want you to know, before you step outside,
That there are others stepping there too.
That people have stepped before us, with us, and will step long after us.
That the pavements can feel so lonely, but I know that I have stepped there too.
That we have existed before, and exist in the present, and will exist in the future.
We come from a line of warriors. We did not choose to fight, but we know how to survive.

Before you step outside, we love you,
Before you step outside, I love you,
Before you step outside, breathe,
I love you…

Thanks for reading.

Amy Kate xx

Saturday, 15 June 2019

Half way to paradise?

Transition, the process of changing from one state or condition to another (noun) or to undergo a process or period of transition (verb).

When I think of a process, I am usually able to plot out and imagine the entire thing from beginning to end. Being of a somewhat technical nature I like to apply logical steps to that process in order to imagine the outcomes along the way. This is how I approached my own transition. Back in May 2016 when I said goodbye to the former version of me. I’d often joke with friends that I used to know a miserable guy called Ian but I didn’t like him, so I killed him. In many ways that is true I suppose and is partly the reason I got the idea for this post. I’m going to try to explain what it feels like to be in mid-transition, and how my early expectations, excitement and euphoria haven’t all come to fruition despite my best efforts to stay grounded and true to myself, my hopes, dreams and beliefs.  

I had such high hopes for the future. My dreams were full of images of what I might look like after a few years on hormones, my voice trained to sound more feminine, my hair grown back and cascading over my shoulders and my boobs full and pert. I had also imagined the social outcomes that would come with the latter stages of transition, true lasting friendships with like-minded women, circles of friends with similar interests and goals. The beginning of my transition was so exciting, I remember vividly standing in my kitchen back in Leicester with a tiny blue pill in my palm ready to take my first dose of Oestrogen. On that day the world was literally my oyster and I felt like I could fly. Not long after that I started this blog with an energy and enthusiasm that had been missing from my life for so long. I had so much to say, so much that I wanted to achieve and record along the way and yet just two years in, I had nothing more to say, no words of encouragement for followers of these pages and no advice for future transitioners. I was lost, swimming in a pool of self-pity and remorse over my decision to transition and the outcomes that had followed. I’d lost contact with my daughter, my two best friends from my old life had rejected me and even my own brothers had shown their true colours and cast me aside. Where was my Utopia? What happened to those pre-transition dreams? How could I have got things so wrong?

Three years into transition I have learned some valuable lessons, not just about myself but about life in general and what is really important. As I sit here writing this I am reflecting over the events of the last three years not with sadness as you might suspect, but with gladness, because despite the difficulties I have faced, the depression, the physical issues that HRT has given me, the social rejections and self-loathing associated with gender dysphoria, I am to all intents and purposes, a much better person. Better in so many ways than the empty shell of a man I left behind, unable to be true about his feelings and desires and full of sadness and despair. I have gained a perspective on life in my mid-forties that very few people get to experience, that of having lived in both gender roles. This unique perspective gives me wisdom and foresight in so many ways, it has sharpened my wit, my senses and my survival instincts. Transition has also given me the courage to take some serious knocks in life, pick myself up, flick my hair, wing my eyeliner and say “is that all you got?”

After a year in transition I made the decision to switch career from being a technical trainer to working in a course design role. My thought process at the time was that I should move away from the masculine environment of the classroom at Audi and into a more creative environment that would be more in-keeping with my future goals. I gave the new role a year but despite having wonderful colleagues and the best boss in the world who is also a dear friend, I just never really felt like the job fitted me. My vision of a more feminine desk job wasn’t coming from my female perspective, it came from the learned behaviours and views of my past, views that my father would have held through no real fault of his own other than his upbringing. I longed to get back into a classroom, talking of technologies in cars, trucks and motorcycles, all the things that got me excited and energised as a teenager with petrol running through my veins. Almost a year ago I moved to DAF trucks to work as a technical trainer. The job fits me like a glove, giving me the hands-on technical work that I missed so much and the joy of seeing delegates progress with my help. I’ve learned that my career, like my other passions, is genderless, and there is no need to deny myself things that I desire just because they may portray me as more masculine or feminine. I love Yoga, makeup, shoes and fine perfume, but I also love trucks, motorbikes, cars and air guns. Three years ago, I would have rejected those things because I’d have felt that people wouldn’t take me seriously as a woman if I didn’t renounce my former passions, but now I embrace them as part of what makes me unique.

My circle of friends has grown so much over the period of my transition, the friends I have made like me for who I am, not what I am. I feel closer to my friends now than I ever did with my male friends and I really understand the way female friendships work; it just feels so natural and easy. My best friend Vicki is like a sister to me, she knows what makes me tick, and is always there for me with advice or a hug or a gin and tonic when the poo has hit the fan. I had the pleasure of being her maid of honour at her wedding just a few weeks ago, fulfilling one of my lifelong dreams of being a bridesmaid and supporting my best friend in fulfilling her dreams. She is now on stand-by to be my maid of honour and her wonderful husband Jeff is on stand-by to give me away should I ever be lucky enough to find someone who would want me as their partner.

Self-confidence is another area where I have grown in transition. I used to be quite extroverted in my old life but this was largely a mask to hide my sadness and to deflect any scrutiny of my weaknesses. Now I am a confident woman, able to walk into any room with my head held high and stand my ground knowing that I have as much right to be there as anybody else. I am not bolshie or confrontational, just positive and friendly as long as I’m treated the same. I still believe that educating people about transgender matters is the best way to find acceptance and understanding in a world that can be very hostile toward people from the LGBT community. The recent wind back of transgender rights in America has rocked the movement that was making such good progress in the world when it comes to trans people being accepted and treated with respect, but we have to continue to fight for change and equality despite those that seek to deny us of these basic human rights.

You’re probably wondering why I’m writing this piece if the world of transition is so rosy at this mid-way point, three years in from where it all began. Well the answer is, it isn’t. The point I’m trying to make here is that despite my growth as a person, and the gains I have made in my career, my social standing and my wisdom, things are not where I envisaged them to be at the onset of this process. This is the source of my ongoing dysphoria and my regular thoughts of wanting to detransition back to my old life or a life which would better allow me to be ok with who I am. The essence of these thoughts stems from my self-loathing of my physical appearance.

Okay, I know that there are very few people in this world that don’t hate at least something about their physical appearance, whether it’s their face, bum, boobs, bingo wings or whatever, but in my case I look in the mirror and instead of seeing that strong confident woman I described earlier, I see a ghost of a man I thought I’d left behind three years ago. I spent over twenty years lifting weights in the gym and doing martial arts in an effort to ‘fit in.’ This made me physically strong and put on quite a bit of muscle mass. This is great if you are a guy looking for the approval of your fellow gym buddies but for a trans woman trying to convince people that you’re all woman and have very little trace of masculinity left from your former existence, it’s about as helpful as an ash tray on a motorbike.

I went through a period in my thirties where I decided to get a tattoo. This turned into a friendship with the tattooist and fast forward three or four years and I’m covered in tattoos which reflect how I felt at the time but hold no significance in my current life other than to remind me of the mistakes I made in having them done. If I told you the theme was death, skulls and gravestones amongst images of women I longed to be, I’d be underselling it.

Then there’s the hair, the thing I hate more than everything else. I lost my hair in my early twenties. I’d love to say it was due to genetics but my sperm donor (he did nothing to earn the title of father) had more hair than a herd of Himalayan goats so unless it skipped a generation, I’m at a loss to know the exact reason. Some trans women are extremely fortunate that their hair grows back after a period of time on hormones, but after three years the landscape is best described as barren. So I have options, I can have a hair transplant, which has questionable results and has also resulted in death for some of the men that have travelled abroad to have the procedure done. I could have a weave or semi-permanent hair piece but this is costly and requires regular maintenance to tighten it to your scalp. I have worn wigs for the last three years which is fine and reasonably low cost but comes with pros and cons. The pros are obvious, I can change hairstyle, length and colour in a matter of seconds. The cons, I can’t go swimming or to the spa (my favourite thing). I can’t easily ride a motorcycle (my other favourite thing), because removing my helmet will result in removing my hair as well. Kind of embarrassing at the Ace café.

Finally, there’s my face. At the risk of sounding a little narcissistic which I’m really not, I would say I wasn’t a bad looking guy. I wasn’t going to win any modelling contracts but I could look in the mirror and gender issues aside, be fairly happy with my reflection. Now, I still see that masculine jawline, sunken eyes, brow ridge and aerodynamic nose that wouldn’t look out of place on a Boeing 737 max.

You may have noticed I have not mentioned my obvious issue, that of my lady parts being decidedly un-ladylike. Well I have never really suffered real dysphoria over this, I do feel that I would feel much more complete if I had a vagina, but it isn’t a pressing issue compared to the things I’ve listed above. So, what to do, what to do. Well the muscle mass is beyond my control, all I can do is lose weight and hope that as well as fat being burnt, muscle will be depleted too. The tattoos can be removed to a point, although some colours do not respond to the treatment and the cost of removing them all would run in to tens of thousands. Also, the results are never perfect, there is almost always some scarring, or residual outline and or faded colouring from the original tattoo despite the amount of treatment you have. Another option is cover up tattoos which would of course be more feminine in style. I will probably use a mixture of the two, some removal and some cover ups. The hair situation will always be an issue but if I’m going to get past this dysphoria and be comfortable in my own skin then I need to find a way to be happy with all aspects of myself and so I have looked to the woman who showed me that there was light at the end of the tunnel, Sona Avedian. Sona’s transition is more or less a mirror of my own except she is from a military background whereas the closest I’ve come to that is owning an Action Man Eagle Eyes as a kid. She also has no hair and is very open about it, often posting pictures of her bald head on Facebook. She looks fabulous and my dream is to have the confidence to wear makeup, really cool earrings and rock the bald woman style. Who knows maybe one day I’ll have the courage to do it. Next it’s my face, this is actually one of the easiest of all my issues to fix believe it or not, but before I get a resounding Yey! I should tell you that facial feminisation surgery usually runs between 10 and 30 thousand pounds depending on what is needed for each individual face. Finally, my breasts. I have been fortunate to have grown a reasonable A-B cup but while this is wonderful, it does not look in proportion to my large, muscular size 18 frame. For this reason, I am seriously considering breast augmentation. I could never really understand why women wanted to get their breasts ‘done’, when I lived in a male world but now living as a woman in a society which places so much pressure on women to look a certain way and conform to stereotypes and outdated carry-on film ideals, I feel the need to address this issue.

So what’s the message that I’m trying to get across with this post? Well I guess what I’m trying to say is be careful what you wish for, transition isn’t for everybody. Just because you identify more feminine than masculine or vice-versa, it doesn’t necessarily mean you need to go to the extremes of transitioning. Honestly, if I had a time machine and could go back three years, I may well do things differently and find a way to embrace my position on the gender spectrum. If transition really is for you then I wish you all the luck and happiness in the world. I hope your journey is less complicated than mine and that you get all that you wish for. If you are reading this post as an ally or a cisgendered person (cisgender basically means not transgender), who is merely inquisitive about the transgender world then I hope I have explained that transition is not all sunshine and rainbows, and it’s certainly not an instant fix for a lifetime of hating the body that many of us feel trapped within. I also hope that it shows that gender is not a binary, it’s a spectrum. The outdated idea that there are just girls and boys and all the boys feel 100% masculine and all the girls feel 100% feminine is absolute nonsense. Nobody decides to be transgender just like nobody decided to be gay. You are born this way and the choice is merely how or what you need to do to cope with how you feel.

I want to end this post on a high note, I’m done with being miserable and I’m learning to make the best of every situation despite how unfavourable it might be. I know that at this mid-way point of my transition it’s easy to hate the position I’m in and much more difficult to see the end goals that were so easy to imagine at the very beginning. Reflecting on this I’m reminded of a poem by an amazing guy called Adam Roa called, you are who you’ve been looking for. I’d like to share it with you.

You are who you’ve been looking for,

So stop looking for more unless you’re looking in a mirror because it’s about time for you to see clearly that you are who you’ve been looking for,

And that empty feeling you got, that hole in your chest, you only got that feeling because you think you’re not blessed with everything you need.

You see we live in a consumerist society which means they need you to buy stuff, and the easiest way to sell it is to tell you that you’re not enough.

Buy this car, you’ll get girls, buy this bra, you’ll get guys,

And we’re seeing it so much that we start believing these lies but the truth is,

The makeup they’re selling to make you feel prettier is the same makeup you buy to stop feeling shittier about this lie that they keep telling you, that you, are not, enough…

And what about the movies we watch, all the shows on TV the more I watch the more I see, I need you to complete me…

And yes love is the answer, love is the key but if you can’t love yourself how can you ever love me?

And loving yourself what does that even mean?

Like massages and selfies and that sort of thing because the more I think about it the more it feels weird and I’ve always been taught that self-love is something to be feared.

I’ve been taught that arrogance is bad and vanity is not good and even my bracelets are telling me to act how Jesus would so what should I do? How should I act?

Well I got a trick that I picked up from a friend who noticed that I was quick to defend her when she would say something negative about herself.

She would say “I’m so dumb” and I’d say “you’re so brilliant.”

She’d say “I’m so weak” and I’d say “you’re so resilient.”

And when she’d say “I feel ugly” I’d say “you look beautiful.”

She asked me why I was so dutifully filling up her cup constantly and yet treating my own cup so irresponsibly…

Because, when I looked in the mirror my voice was quite clear, you’re ugly, you’re too thin, your hairline’s receding and you got a pimple on your chin,

And that was when she gave me a piece of advice that changed my life,

She said, treat yourself like someone you loved…

Treat yourself, like someone you loved…

Now I had been standing but I needed to be sitting because I couldn’t believe that I’d been letting myself keep forgetting that I was who I had been looking for,

And deep in my core I knew it was time to stop looking for more until I could look through all my fear and look into a mirror and see clearly that the man looking back at me was the only one who could make me happy and I am, already, enough…

And I am not anymore special or unique than you, that’s why I’m here to speak to you, you are already enough,

And when you start to see that, you will start to be that,

Your world will get brighter and your load will get lighter and you can see that with life you can be a lover and not a fighter and that life, you deserve it, because, you are worth it,

And there’s no point in letting yourself keep forgetting because no matter what you say or do, you, are, perfect…

And so today I hope I leave you with a direction correction away from the flaws you see in your reflection, they aren’t flaws to me they are simply protection against all the doubts you have of your perfection…

So start today, take a good long look in the mirror and say,

I am, who I’ve been looking for…

Thanks for reading.
Amy Kate xx.

Tuesday, 4 June 2019

Was it all a dream?

Those of you old enough to remember the TV soap opera Dallas will most likely recall one of its most famous plot lines besides who shot JR. Bobby Ewing was killed in an accident and then just one year later he was back in the show. The writers made it happen by portraying the whole event as a dream by his ex-wife. Well as you will know if you are a regular reader, this blog breathed its last breath back in May last year. I wasn’t in a very good place emotionally and I had very little else to say. Recent events have given me new hope and I now feel that there is actually a lot more that needs to be said and discussed.

So, in the spirit of Dallas, let’s pretend the last post was all a dream and the blog is alive and well and back on track. I’m going to avoid regular scheduled posts because that made me write poor posts that I wasn’t really happy with so for the future, there could be one post in a month or 5 or 6, it just depends what topics arise and what is happening in the trans world and the wider world too.

There is no specific topic for this post, I think the best thing to do is to give you all a catch up of what has happened since May, this way I can write about topics and issues without having to back-track. Since May last year I have been very busy, the time between May and August was spent losing weight in readiness for my consultation with the lovely Mr Coker at Nuffield Brighton. He will be performing my gender reassignment surgery later this year if all goes as planned. I have also changed jobs since last year and I now work for DAF trucks as a technical trainer. In September I moved home to be nearer to work but this didn’t work out due to a bad landlord and the place just never feeling like home so just two weeks ago I moved back to Milton Keynes and I’m now living in shared accommodation on a farm near Cosgrove in a very plush room that boasts a walk in wardrobe and an en-suite bathroom with corner bath and separate shower cubicle (oooh get you I hear you cry). This is also saving me money as it includes all bills and the rent is cheaper allowing me to spend more on electrolysis and laser etc. It was a tough decision to move but I knew that with the high cost of renting a flat especially near where I work, I could never realistically finish my transition. I needed a 3 year plan for the future so here I am.
On August 10th I had my surgical consultation appointment at the Nuffield hospital in Brighton. The day arrived and the nerves were getting the better of me I’m not ashamed to say. I didn’t post much about my surgery last year, only the preparation and weight loss. I think even though I was going through the process, my head wasn’t really ready for the magnitude of what was about to happen. I speak to other trans women all the time about how they felt about having gender confirmation surgery and almost all of them say the same thing; I couldn’t wait, couldn’t come soon enough and words to that effect. I’ve honestly never felt that way. Sure, it’s an important part of my physical transition and undoubtedly the next logical step, but if I were given a choice between gender confirmation surgery or facial feminisation surgery on the NHS, I’d choose face every time. It’s not that I don’t want a shiny new vagina, of course I do, but it doesn’t top my list of needs. I can easily tuck the little fella away, especially since he was ravished by the effects of hormone replacement therapy. I’m not kidding there are slugs in the garden with more physical presence than my penis, and that’s ok with me. My face is the thing everyone sees, in the street, in the queue at Starbucks and when I’m being served in a shop, restaurant or bar. This is the source of my real dysphoria, the thing I hate most about my physical self. Anyway, that is not a possibility as the NHS are stretched enough as it is so the long process of saving up for a new boat race will begin soon.

So, after an uneventful trip down to Brighton I arrived with time to spare, wearing light summer trousers, (think MC Hammer but with a pretty flowery pattern). I was wearing a T-shirt and open toe flat summer shoes (see pic). As I pulled into the carpark and found a space the first thing to happen was a rain shower of biblical proportions. I’m not kidding this was the kind of shower that would have got Noah worried. I made it to reception dressed for the beach but wetter than an otter’s pocket. The lovely Liz took me through and did all the paperwork before I was presented to the surgeon Mr Charles Coker. I sat there listening to him explain the surgery but my mind was wandering to where I’d heard the name Charlie Coker before. Bing!, got it. Charlie Croker (with an r) was Michael Caine’s character in the Italian job. After that all I could think is I hope he’s only going to blow my bloody doors off.

Appointment over and armed with all the information, I felt rather overwhelmed. I went to my hotel and in a classic Amy move stubbed my toe on the bed, breaking my middle toe with a resounding and confirming click. Pain, PAIN! Ouch. So, after some cold water and much swearing I headed out for an evening of fun with another trans woman I’d met who had her appointment at the same time as mine. A good night was had as is always the case in Brighton and the next morning with enlarged black toe I headed out to do the mandatory shopping in the lanes. I bought a beautiful pair of shoes from my favourite shoe emporium, irregular choice.

On the journey home later that afternoon when my mind should have been planning how the hell I’m going to get my weight down to their seemingly impossible BMI target of 28, I started to feel very upset. I must have cried most of the way home, doubts had crept in and I just simply wasn’t ready for this surgery. I got home, ate a pint of Haagen Dazs ice cream and drank a load of beers. For a few months afterwards this was the process, inner turmoil, indecision, sadness and rebelling against my intended surgical preparatory plan. Only after Christmas when I had a breakthrough with my daughter did I start to begin the process of preparing for this event. I’ve lost a stone in weight with almost another to go before I’m given a date. If all goes well it should happen around end of September. I’m really driven now and as awful as this sounds my mum is 87 and I desperately want her to see me as a complete woman while she’s still well enough. So now I’ve got my act together I’m working hard to meet my goals. Watch this space.

Christmastime saw the most amazing and wonderful event of the year, I met with my daughter who I hadn’t seen for over three years for reasons which I won’t go into here but I will say that it was not entirely to do with my decision to transition. That came after losing contact with her and may well have been partly the reason why I had a breakdown and ended up in a pretty dark place. All that is behind us now and we have seen each other a couple of times since which has made life a great deal more bearable. She has been to see me at her Grandma’s flat and we are planning a girl’s day out in London soon. The situation with my brothers is unchanged, mostly because I have washed my hands of them. I have not wasted energy on asking whether they have changed their opinion of me as it is of no concern to me. I have learned a great lesson in transition, and that is that you are not responsible for other people’s actions or opinions. They chose their path and their behaviour was toxic and causing me distress. If any other aspect of our daily lives caused us this pain, we would simply remove it so that’s what I have done. It is regrettable that I have had to do this but life doesn’t always work the way we wish it to.

My working life is better than ever at DAF trucks, I’ve been embraced by the whole company especially the wonderful women in the Meteor Management office where I work. At work I’m just one of the girls, never mis-gendered, never frowned upon and always spoken to with respect and humility. The delegates that I teach were a little cautious of me at first but now word has spread around the dealer network I’m largely considered to be a good trainer regardless of my gender or ‘transness’. As a young mechanic I worked on trucks many years ago so I was excited to get back into the truck world but also nervous as it is a very male dominated place. Some industries just breed misogyny but I have to say I’ve experienced very few issues, none of which I can’t handle.

Just last weekend I had the honour and privilege to be maid of honour at my best friend Vicki’s wedding to her wonderful husband Jeff. We had a quiet hen do, in fact it was just the two of us but we drank cocktails and giggled our way through Milton Keynes hub until finally pouring ourselves into a taxi before midnight.  The wedding was at the Cock hotel in Stony Stratford, if you are familiar with folklore you may have heard of the term ‘a cock and bull story.’ This is believed to have originated from stage coach travellers’ gossip and rumour exchanged between the two coaching inns, the Cock, and the Bull in Stony Stratford high street.

I have always dreamed of being a bridesmaid, so to be asked to do this special thing for my best friend was wonderful, and has made me feel even more complete. In my former life I was a best man no less than four times. I must have been good at it but in my secret heart I always envied the bridesmaids and of course the bride. The day went absolutely perfectly, with only a few slip ups during the vows due to understandable nerves. My speech was well received as was Claire’s, the best person. Afterwards karaoke and dancing ensued which meant time for me to disappear to the bar. I can honestly say that was one of the best days of my life and I will treasure those memories forever. The happy couple have since returned from their honeymoon and normal life resumes.

Well now that we’re all caught up I’ll keep you posted on the developments around surgery and the developing relationship with my daughter. Now I’m back in the swing of writing I’m sure it won’t be long before I’m ranting about something or other. I’ve been following the trans world in the media quite closely in the last few months and I can’t believe the things I’m reading. Trump has made it illegal to be trans in the US military, he has also wound back pretty much all LGBT rights in the US and this can only work against us as a community globally when so much of the modern world looks to America as a leader. It was very heartening to see Brazil in the final stages of criminalizing transphobia which will hopefully have an impact on the horrific number of deaths that occur there each year in the trans community due to mindless violence against a part of society considered to be less than human, worthless and therefore expendable. Let us hope that the rest of 2019 sees more improvements in trans rights and less of a return to the dark ages as we are currently seeing in America. Looking back on my own journey I can’t imagine how terrible it must be to live in such a world where every time you step outside of your front door there is a very real chance you will never return.

Having read this post you’re probably thinking why now? Why has it been so long before you got back to writing? The honest answer is I was in a pretty bad place in my head and now I’m not. I also received a very encouraging message from a friend who told me that my blog is a resource which is used at her workplace, it appears on posters and has helped a lot of people. Heartened by this and the want to get back into not only blogging but creative writing, I’m back, like the Terminator, but twice as badass.

Thanks for reading.
Amy Kate xxx.

Saturday, 26 May 2018

That’s all folks…..

All good things come to an end so they say. I’ve been writing this little blog for 2 years now and it has been a very cathartic experience and one that I will always be proud of. The truth is I am finding it harder and harder to make time to write and there is less and less to write about each month. Not because my life isn’t full, it is, but because the process of my transition is nearing its final stages.

The idea behind this blog was always to track my progress and to show people what it’s like to be transgender and what we have to go through to get to our goal. I wanted to make it clear to those who doubted it wasn’t a choice that no one would choose to be trans on a whim or for fashion or fad. No one would put themselves through hours, days of physical pain, mental and emotional pain unless it was so important to them that it was a choice only between life or death. No one would choose to be verbally and sometimes physically attacked in the street by people who think you don’t have the right to exist, and no one would choose to be misgendered, dead named and afraid to step outside of the safety of their own home.
I hope that if I have achieved nothing else, I have made those points clear and opened people’s eyes and hearts to the trans community, maybe making this little part of the world a tiny bit more inclusive and a bit safer. The other part of the reasoning behind this blog is to give advice albeit tongue in cheek at times to other trans people beginning there journey so that they can see the highs and the lows and watch out for the pitfalls and key points along the way. I intend to leave this blog up for people to use as much or as little as they like if it will help. Even though there will be no more blog posts, I will continue to support the trans community and indeed the wider LGBT+ community through my trustee work with Q: Alliance in Milton Keynes, my work with the incredible Kelly Walker-Reed at Inspiring Healthy Choices and through all the usual social media channels. If you want to ask a question, find me on Facebook and ask, I won’t bite unless you ask me whether I still have a penis which is wholly unacceptable and likely to cause me to be very rude to you.

My gender reassignment surgery is going to happen any day now and I open my front door each night with my heart in my mouth waiting for that letter to be on the mat. This for me will be the end of my journey and the beginning of the next one, my life as Amy Kate. Not Amy Kate, the trans woman, but Amy Kate who just happens to be trans. The process of transition is so consuming it eats all of your energy and takes over your life in every way imaginable. It makes you physically ill, it wrecks your ability to make sensible and controlled judgements on the simplest things, it makes you cry at things that would have once made you laugh, it makes you vulnerable, lonely and unsafe.

Transition is not all bad, as I’ve said it is a process, a period of time that like all periods of time passes. There are wonderful things that transition brings, not just physical things like boobs and a bigger bum but you become more tuned into your emotions and you have a much better understanding of who you are. In my case it also shifted my sexuality but this is rarely the case with trans people and probably stems from deep underlying denial and suppression in my former life. I now understand both my gender identity and my sexuality, the two are not linked in any way but transition has brought me clarity in both of these things.

So how do I identify from a sexuality perspective? I am Pansexual, which simply means I do not see gender, I just see people. If you are a guy or a girl or a guy that used to be a girl or somewhere in between, it really doesn’t matter to me as long as you have a good heart and I fancy you. It isn’t the same as being bisexual because in my case I am looking for an emotional romantic connection way before sex is up for discussion. In short, I’m about hearts not parts. 

Aside from the changes that transition brings it has also opened up a world of possibility for me, I have relocated to a new town, changed my job, made amazing new friends, my tribe, the people who love me for me and not what they think I should be in order for them to feel safe and not have to challenge their beliefs and insecurities. It has also meant that I lost people, my brothers, my sister and 2 so called best friends. When I look back I never really lost them because I never really had them. They liked a person that they felt aligned to their own likes and comfort zones and I had to play along with that if I wanted to keep the friendships going. If I told my best friend Serena or Kelly or Laura that I wanted to transition back to male they would never turn their back on me in the way that these guys did, they would listen to me, understand my reasoning and be there to support me and offer comfort and advice. That is the difference between a true friend and a person who hangs out with you just because on the surface you seem to like the same things

I have grown so much as a person over the last 2 years, become more tactile, more empowered and a lot more sassy. I have discovered new talents, new pass times and hobbies and learned to accept that it is ok to still like some of the things I liked when I was a guy. Why can’t a girl like fast cars and bikes, big trucks and other stuff? I’m part of a Facebook group dedicated solely to women who fly drones both professionally and for fun.  I attend a creative writing group here in Milton Keynes, I do charity work and so much more. None of these things seemed possible in my old life.  I have found the balance between the loves of my old life and the loves of my new one and it is a wonderful place to be. Sometimes in meetings at work I find myself talking in technical language with other subject matter experts and I catch myself and look around the room at the confused faces of the others. All I can say is that I’m happy with who I am and that is a something I had never experienced until recently, feels great doesn’t it?

As with all things in this crazy modern life we lead, blogging has allowed the average person to have a platform, a pillar from which to say their piece, and spread their message. Just like the paper cups and plastic straws that are discarded everyday these blogs often end up the same way. I hope with all my heart that this one has at least a short shelf life and that people will still be able to look back over the posts and enjoy them, I certainly enjoyed writing them. I also hope they may still help people and provide answers to questions that burn within them. What I hope for most of all, is that you the people who have read and followed this blog over the last 2 years could feel how happy I am right now and know the inner peace and self-acceptance that I have finally found. For me the next steps are to take all the blog posts and turn them into a book. This is a piece of work I have dreamed of since the beginning of transition and I hope to be able to put more time and energy into it now that this project has ended.

So check out the older posts, and take a look at the links section where you will find some amazing and wonderful things and people. Laugh at my makeup tips and cry at the planning of my suicide. Understand what it is to be trans and know that whether you are or not, the very fact that you took the time to read it makes you an ally to us all and that is a very powerful and important thing.

To you all, my tribe, I love you...

Thanks for reading.
Amy Kate xxx.

2019, what a year!

Wow, what a year! Yes I know it’s a cliché and we say it every year but it really has been a whirlwind year for me. Casting my mind back t...