On facing up to things

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Before I write this – I’ve been looking at some of my old posts. Seriously old posts. The first posts I wrote that still exist (unless my old Tripod site remains on some archive somewhere. But I can’t remember the address for that, or what it was called (although it might also still exist on my Risc PC)). Anyway, the earliest posts that exist and I’m painfully aware having read them that apart from a ton of just general working out shit from being in your first throws of adulthood, and the oh, second puberty is wild, there’s also a ton of internalised transphobia and pseudo-patriarchal stupidity which I had yet to identify and to whatever extent I have so far managed to overcome it, overcome it.

So I’m pretty certain that in another twenty years I’ll look back at this page and wince. Because I sure as hell did as I uploaded some of the posts into the blog from 2000.

Well, I’ll wince if in 20 years time the internet still exists in anything like a recognisable form. And society still exists and hasn’t crumbled into post-climate-change Mad Maxian scarcity. But anyway, just putting that out there since I’m gonna be rambling. And it’s been a while since I’ve had this kind of ramble.

Trigger warnings: Suicide, death, dysphoria, self-harm, mentions of domestic violence.

The last year has been tough in many ways. COVID continues to be a thing that so much of society is cheerfully ignoring, while I – someone for whom the first twenty years of my life passed in a blur of dysphoric dissociation – am moderately paranoid about both getting sick, and getting long COVID. It’s like being constantly gaslit – we know this disease is shit, we know that if you’re unlucky then it can hop in and not only destroy your immune system, but rewrite your oxygen transport mechanisms, fuck with your brain and clotting cascades and…basically everything. And yet we’re plodding along allowing it to repeatedly rampage through society. Which means even though I’m marginally less burned out than I have been in nursing, the forward looking bit of my brain is absolutely shitting bricks about what nursing, and healthcare in general, might be like in a decade. I’m already seeing what anecdotally feels like a hell of a lot more very sick people – sick as a result of clotting things – which we know is a sequale of COVID thing, and whether what I feel is that or isn’t that, well, anyway. That makes the future worrying in a way that I can’t so far work my way around.

But this year has also been interesting mainly thanks to me reading Alyson Greaves. I’ve known Alyson for a long old time – we came out at the same time, and she was on the trans youth group mailing list I ended up running for a while. We chatted a bunch back when I was writing ill-informed internalized transphobia shit on this blog. Somehow she didn’t murder me and we’ve stayed in some-sort-of-touch ever since. Anyhow, she’s written a lot. In fact, I think she kinda inspired me to up and get back to writing because I really enjoyed what she was writing – and reading her work I suddenly realised there aren’t enough trans stories out there. And since that’s what I write, and I am not a terrible writer, maybe I should put fingers to keys and…y’know finish it. But that’s for another day.

But the other thing, and this has been something that’s been very slow dawning is that reading her work – and others as a result – , and the diversity of experiences in particular in the trans experiences that she’s written has allowed me to spend a lot of time exploring my transness.

Which is fascinating because honestly, I though I was done with it. Exploring transness, I mean.

Realistically I’ve thought a lot about transness, and mostly for the past few years it’s been a part of my identity which has mainly existed as there’s this thing in my past that I share with some of my friends, and occasionally I crack inappropriate trans jokes about genitals, or lean in with a strong northern accent and proclaim “Oh, when I were a lad.” But then over the past few years trans people have become the butt of right wing ire about our very existence. There’s been the obvious, tedious rise of TERFism in the UK – which thanks to funding from evangelical shites in the US – and the western press’s absolute addiction to bothsidesing every argument even when there’s actually only one side; especially when there’s really only one side, has risen to a level of prominence that’s really spurring hatecrimes and hate-legislation. There’s been the constant, nagging, dispiriting chant of “fairness in sport” because, yeah, sure, my likely inadequately androgenised brain has some massive fucking enormous advantage in chess, ‘cos all women are bad at spacial awareness because really they’re just Suzie-Homemaker-Baby-Machines, or some such other sexist bullshit.

Or the fact that I can’t build muscle for shit because E-no-T… That definitely gives me a huge advantage in sports – that’s why I’m an Olympic Triathlon Gold Medal holder.

But then, in the last while there’s been the absolutely destroying knowledge that kids like I once was are going to be back to dying instead of ending up like me. That there’s going to be another generation of trans kids in the US who don’t end up having people a little older than them to help share their experiences. People who won’t see someone like them to know that they can be them. To know that being trans is a thing that is real in the world and that they might be that. That they might be able to make sense of their selves, and their experiences, and their child-I-don’t-understand-this-and-examples-would-be-fucking-useful-ness. There are kids who won’t know – and will have a huge black fucking hole in their selves – in their perception of who they are and how they interact with the world – and some of them will make it to adulthood, and maybe, maybe get to transition then (if they can escape those states, and those countries), and some of them will absolutely fucking die. And that fucking rips me apart.

I’m a fucking elder in the trans community.

I transitioned 20 years ago, and when I did there were so few people like me.

There were a vanishingly small number of trans late-teens/young adults, and basically no-one a few years older.

The few trans people I saw were all people who’d transitioned in their 50s and 60s. They’d had kids. They had families.

I could not even conceive of living past my twenties.

Fuck, I’d decided that at the age of 21 I would do something about being trans, or I’d do something about being alive, and we’d see which came first.

Part of that was that trans people were “encouraged” to hide ourselves. To disappear into cis society. To not discomfort others with our transness, lest we lead others astray or cause discomfort. Or get the shit beaten out of us by some bigot – which would be our fault for being insufficiently cis.

But most of that is that the vast majority of people like me (who ‘knew’ we were trans) and people who coulda/shoulda/woulda worked it out in their 20s and 30s. They died. By their own hand.

I know – I know people who did. Because the ‘care’ that was available was so fucking poor. And that’s what they want to recreate.

Trans kids don’t die because they’re trans. They die because they’re unsupported. They die because they’re othered and forced out from society. They die because their parents harm them. They die because they don’t see a future.

I couldn’t see a future with my body the way it was.

I hated it.

I hurt it.

I did it on purpose and I did it by accident. I did it because I didn’t care for it, and I did it because it hurt me, because it let me down every single fucking day. I did it because every time I looked in a mirror; every time I saw a reflection; every time I looked down; every time I had to touch it or perform even basic self care it felt alien and disgusting. It felt like it wasn’t me. It made others see me in a way that I couldn’t relate to.

Christ, even now just thinking about it I can feel my old wounds. Scars no one can see.

But for me I felt so much better after gender confirming surgery, and then I was entirely taken up with an abusive relationship, which once I got out of it took ‘quite a while’ to come to terms with the fact that was abusive – mostly because I didn’t realise quite how harmful it was. And then, well, life. I’ve spent so long examining the stuff inside my head, but I never really looked at the bit of me that went “huh, I really don’t like looking at me.”

I mean, we don’t really have much in the way of mirrors around the house. Never have. I didn’t like them, and there was a background “I don’t like them”, which basically was just there – and had always been there – and like the background assumption that all boys hated being boys and just sucked it up and dealt, and I was just fucking terrible at it, I didn’t really look at it. I have a big degree of face blindness anyway, which means that I can’t picture my face basically at all, so I don’t really know what I look like except in the mirror. (I can’t picture anyone’s face, when I see people I know, I’m like “yes, that’s their face”, but I’ve also walked past good friends while actively looking for them because they’ve taken a jumper off and thus ceased to be recognisable). So yeah, to an extent the “I don’t like how I look” just kinda washed into the background of “I don’t like mirrors [let’s not think too much about why that might be]”  and “I have faceblindness, so this discomfort comes from that.”

And then, as I read, and chatted on Consensus Discord with other trans people, and spent time actually processing some of my own trauma, it gradually dawned on me that what I was feeling was dysphoria. Not at the level that I’d experienced it with other parts of my body. But dysphoria none-the-less. And giving myself permission to accept that and think that “huh, I could do something about that”, that was a slow process. And then accepting that maybe, maybe I should do something about it. And that was harder – because I look at the things I’m uncomfortable with around my face. Brow ridges, jaw line, etc., etc., and I look at my mum, and my grandmother, and y’know what, they’re genetic. Like, a lot of south-Asian women have some brow ridge. A lot have a higher hair line. A lot have a stronger jaw. It’s probably just fucking genetics. And frankly – once you start looking at other women, this whole idealised fucking nonsense about what a woman’s face looks like is utter, utter bollocks. Basically everyone I work in my ER has some feature that when you look at Facial Feminisation Surgery (FFS) would be shaved off or hidden. A bunch have significant brow ridges, strong jawlines, ‘deficient cheeks’. That’s why makeup is such a big part of the beauty industry, it can help cover the terrible sins of being inadequately feminine. for patriarchal society.

And then I had to spend a lot of time processing the nonsense in my brain of “well, if I was cis, would I want this”. And by extension “should I do this?” And that’s a whole ridiculous thing because at the end of the day I’m not cis. There’s no universe in which I would be me, and I would be cis. Had I been cis, the person that I ended up being would be so radically different from the woman I am now that — well, I have no idea who she’d be. Would she be queer? Would she be cis-by-default, or would she one day have ended up being non-binary? I don’t know, frankly, fuck knows. She doesn’t exist, at least in this timeline. Would she spend half her life in hoodies and jeans, and the other looking queer-as-fuck for a YT channel talking about cars and clean energy and moving the world to a better, more equitable (and survivable) future? Who knows.

Who knows who that woman would be. Christ, I don’t even know who I’d be if I’d’ve transitioned as a kid. The concept of me coming out of the womb all cis’d up? That’s so far removed from who I am now, that the question of whether that person, whoever she might be, would want something that I want is patently absurd.

Which is why I eventually realised that:

  1. I have saved up some money and it’s enough to cover this* (*I believe)
  2. This thing might make me more comfortable with my own appearance (risk: I might become incredibly self-absorbed and an unbearably sexy trans icon (as if I’m not already ;) ))
  3. It’s my fucking money and my fucking body and I should be able to do with it as I will
  4. I want this damn thing

And booked an appointment for FFS.

And then scheduled a date for the surgery.

And so far, the only thing I regret is that I didn’t do this 20 damn years ago.


Kate's allegedly a human (although increasingly right-wing bigots would say otherwise). She's definitely not a vampire, despite what some other people claim. She's also mostly built out of spite and overcoming oppositional-sexism, racism, and other random bullshit. So she's either a human or a lizard in disguise sent to destroy all of humanity. Either way, she's here to reassure that it's all fine.