Stark Staring Sane

2015-03-18 13.23.41

Another huge sigh of relief breathed today, as my preliminary mental assessment is now out of the way, and initial results are looking promising. Having woken up early, dressed smartly, made myself up, and stressing myself out something silly, I made my way down to the local mental health centre in the company of a very dear, and very patient friend who is thankfully used to my pessimism, though on arrival that seemed slightly justified: the booked psychiatrist – who had been recommended to me by my NHS contacts – was on leave and I was assigned to the locum. The appointment was also late in starting, and I was beginning to feel the omens were against me…

Fortunately, my superstition proved to be just that. I was a little unnerved to be spilling my soul in front of a stranger, not to mention the medical student in the room for training purposes – not the most tactful of touches, but I guess they need to learn somewhere. Still, when the session began, it swiftly became apparent that I need not do anything but answer honestly, and the referral to the gender identity clinic would be recommended. The only point the psychiatrist suggested might make them a little wary – as expected – was the relatively short amount of the time I had been living fully as a woman, though as I mentioned to him, by the time the GIC actually deigns to get in touch I will probably have many more months of Real Life Experience under my belt.

To anyone planning a similar course, here are the points which I think particularly helped me to secure that referral. Some are just down to luck and circumstance, but others can be taken into account by anyone wishing to undergo the same process.

1. Education. There were a good few questions about this. I wasn’t altogether certain of the relevance, but my academic background seemed to play in my favour and helped to establish a rapport.

2. Being in work, and being openly trans in work. Of obvious relevance, and from what I hear anyone wishing to undertake the Real Life Experience will need some form of employment (Voluntary work counts, however).

3. Having the support of family and friends.

4. Having already changed my name by deed poll and having altered my name on the personnel records at work. The more you can do to show your commitment by erasing your former name with official channels, the better. If you want to start it on the cheap, incidentally, this is the place to go

5. Not having self-medicated with anything deadlier than herbals, though they were quite surprised to hear that the herbal supplements had caused any effect at all. Apparently, nascent (but finally noticeable) cleavage is supposed to be beyond the capabilities of over-the-counter alchemy from health food stores, but my body tells another story…

6. Having obviously researched the topic of gender reassignment and having a clear sense of what I wanted out of it. My answer to that? “To be as complete a woman as I can be.” It seemed to go down positively.

7. Personal presentation. Be neat and showered, at any rate, but I certainly don’t think it harms to turn up looking as feminine as one can or dares, bearing in mind questions do often hinge upon the Real Life Experience.

So now the referral goes back to my GP, and from thenceforth to Charing Cross GIC, though the question of hormone therapy remains open. The psychiatrist seemed of the opinion that it might be possible to prescribe some measure of that before I actually go to London – bearing in mind the GIC could be months in replying – but that decision would rest with my GP. I can but hope she will be extra-sympathetic, as these herbs – surprising effects nothwithstanding – are burning big holes in my purse.

Still, I could hardly have hoped for a better response, and from what the psychiatrist told me, they seem to have even fast-tracked the preliminary assessment. Someone seems to be smiling over me… though I appreciate this incessant stream of good news probably makes for drab reading. I am even beginning to despair of getting some nasty discrimination in work, as the managers are all being so supportive and keeping the bigots (of which we have our share) in line. I think they are all too aware that there are many people in Cardiff who would gladly have their jobs to throw them away on dubious principle…

On the other hand, this is probably a damn good occasion to be careful of what you wish for, and all superstition aside I can only concur with that sentiment. I once thought it folly, but I wished many times that God would change me into a woman… and oddly enough it seems to be happening, albeit under the slow and painstaking hands of modern science. But when I think of the facts that have aligned in my favour, not to mention the hundreds of generations of gender-dysphoric people who were denied this opportunity – including my literary icon (and degree major) Percy Bysshe Shelley – it is hard to think of it in any other terms than a wonderful miracle.

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