17

System Shock

escaping

(Me and fellow patient Leah – who very kindly lent me the wheelchair, making an impromptu dash for sunlight and fresh air at Charing Cross Hospital, a week post-surgery)


Some of you already know that I was, at long last (although the three years I have been waiting is by no means considered an unusually long duration for this), recently admitted to hospital for my gender confirmation surgery, hence why I have been less than active online of late. I am now feeling strong enough to post upon this subject, though it has certainly taken its toll on me (I have never had any form of surgery before, nor spent any significant time in hospital, and the system shock has been quite extreme).

First of all, I would like to thank and praise the staff at Charing Cross Hospital (Riverside Ward especially) for their care and devotion over that week, especially since I fear I was not the easiest of patients (being a vegan and a massive worrier). My deepest thanks also to the surgeon (Mr. Roland Morley) and his team of specialists (especially Martina and Manjit) for having helped me finally cross this threshold and become as fully myself as I can be. Also, love and thanks to my ward-mates Lisa and Leah for their sweetness and empathy during this often harrowing time.

It was scary, I don’t deny, and very humbling. Having various tubes inserted in me within minutes of arrival, being put under general anaesthetic, being uncomfortably trussed up in compression bandages, not being able to shower for days, not even being able to go to the toilet without signalling for assistance, catheters, drains, drugs, blood, fainting fits, sleeplessness … etc. Darling hubby Cal and my dear friend Helena (who took the above picture) were there to keep me company when they could, but it is certainly not an experience I would choose to repeat for anything less (so we can forget all about breast enhancement, facial feminisation, etc. I can be content with the rest of myself, and there are less painful ways to compensate if I feel the need). Even now, the after-care is far from over. I will spare the graphic details, suffice it to say the healing is a long process and I can expect to be low on stamina for months ahead, even assuming no complications (Signs are OK so far, but I won’t say no to any good vibes, prayers, or healing spells anyone wishes to send).

I have been stuck in the flat for days now, which is certainly frustrating for me (I rarely spend a whole day indoors). I cannot exercise, nor attend my dance classes, nor model. Still, it is not a decision I regret, and I know all of that will come in time. I am sleeping well again, eating food I like, spending more time out of bed, and finally feeling up to a bit of blogging. Nevertheless, I still have to take regular painkillers, be very careful not to exert myself, and spend an inordinate amount of time on my back (If nothing else, I have at least caught up on my reading). The test of endurance is far from over, and as for the peculiar idea – beloved of the gender-critical school – that people would do this sort of thing for fun, I have no words to express my incredulity.

Advertisements
14

Surgery Cancelled

My 11th of April surgery date has been cancelled. They are working on an alternative date for me, but just for the present I am a mess. Not really anything more to say on the subject than that. These things do happen … and they leave you a lot poorer and unhappier when you have already spent weeks off your medication and spent a small fortune on transport costs. I can only take things one minute at a time right now, focus on looking after myself and not letting myself deteriorate, and I think I will be spending less time online, as talking about it really doesn’t help. Thank you, though, for all of your kindness and good wishes. xxx

4

Surgery Date

Not much to say really but the self-evident: I have been set a surgery date at the bizarrely early-seeming time of April 11, and will be coming off my hormones in only a week from now (Not especially looking forward to that, but needs must). This will be a manic month, but by June everything will be over and done with. In only three years I will have transitioned, well under the current average. I am so totally blessed, I keep wondering where the stab in the back will come from, pardon my cynicism. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Thank you to all of you who have supported and encouraged me throughout this. I will probably drop off the radar briefly, but I expect to have WiFi in the hospital (and very little to do during a week on the ward), so I will certainly report on the outcome. All is looking extremely positive right now, though.

12

Far, Far Away …

For anyone lucky enough to be in exotic Cardiff on the evening of March the 16th, yours truly will be performing in …

flyer

… albeit only in the chorus line, so to speak. Still, after what will have been a mere ten lessons away from the time when my feet could barely distinguish left from right, I would call that major progress, assuming I don’t just make a complete fiasco of it on the night, of course. I hope I don’t, as it has been a huge amount of fun so far, and being driven from it in shame would be a sad culmination. I’m even getting ideas for solo routines if I ever ascend to that skill level, mostly very Gothy ones, no-one will be amazed to hear. For now, though, I know not to count on quick and uninterrupted progress, as it cannot be long before the hospital in London has me lined up for surgery. An obvious positive, but one that will put me physically out of action for weeks. If I must prioritise, though, so be it. The dance group will still be there when I get active again. Would be nice if they didn’t dread my return, though, so wish me luck … xxx

11

Acceleration.

Last week, not expecting to hear anything so early, I received a letter from Charing Cross Hospital with the details of my first outpatient appointment with them on the 20th of February. Annoyingly, that is the day of a dance class, so I stand a fair chance of missing it (and even if I don’t, I will likely be so stiff and knackered after three hours on the National Express that gracefulness will be an even more alien concept than usual).

Excitingly, though, this seems to bear out what I have heard before; that once one is through the Gender Identity Clinic and into the hospital, meeting the surgeons, things start to move a lot more quickly. 2018 could finally be the year I draw a line under this and reach that point that seemed so impossible three years ago … and three years is not an unusually long wait in this field, alas. The hubby, unfortunately, still has another GIC appointment to go later this year, but expects to be referred for surgery at that point, so hopefully he will find it the same … and hopefully our operations won’t synchronise so perfectly that both of us will be convalescing at the same time, as it would be jolly useful for each of us that other was fit and healthy during our recovery period. Still, I’ve known people get through this completely alone, so we consider ourselves very lucky to have each other as support.

It is a bit ironic, in the very year that I have taken up dancing again (and am obsessively enjoying it) that I may end up having to take a huge hiatus from physical activity. Still, I knew that was a risk, and I do fear I have often put things back “until after surgery” without having any clear idea of how long that would mean putting my life on hold. Life is too short to be put on hold, whatever our long-term hopes may be. At worst, I may have to resign myself to losing a few of the classes I paid for, but I’ll still be able to come back to it in good time … not to mention with a happier relationship with the body that will, after all, have to do all of this dancing. Better that it feels as appreciated as possible …

11

Dear Lurkers…

To the people who have, one hears, been trailing my Twitter account in the hopes of finding something to accuse me of, and have in the service of this cause revived Natasha Hinde’s Huffington Post article on Uterus Transplant surgery for trans women. Although my position is obvious enough from the section of my answer that Ms. Hinde decided to quote, I thought I would post the full reply I gave her just to clear up any doubt on this…


[In reply to the question, “I’m writing a piece about uterus transplants which, in future, could allow transgender women to become pregnant. … Would this be something you’d ever consider?”]

I have seen this story a lot recently. It has raised tension among radical feminists for being arguably the ultimate in medical rape and appropriation (e.g. https://chekistocrat.wordpress.com/2015/11/16/trans-mummies/).

I can imagine compelling arguments for this being an inappropriate use of NHS resources, if it was ever implemented over here. Reassignment itself is fairly routine and reasonably safe, but this would certainly be expensive, experimental, and risky. The story of Lile Elbe [1882-1931, killed by a primitive and experimental form of this surgery] comes to mind…

I must admit, though, I would be very tempted. I would love to be a mother of whatever kind I can be, but my husband and I have had to rule out natural options: he is a pre-op trans man, and the idea of pregnancy is horrifically triggering to him. I can only imagine how much so. By the same token, I do believe that the experience of pregnancy and nursing would vastly improve the way I feel about my own body, but that is (I can accept) very selfish logic. A better focus might be on improving the availability of adoption and fostering options for loving LGBT couples. That is our most likely option, though we are aware being a trans couple will probably not play in our favour.

Still, it is a very compelling idea. Gender dysphoria may not be well understood, but it is a very visceral feeling. Some would call it morbid of self-harming, I think, but it is containable within its own weird parameters, as long as one is honest about it. Cal gets tattoos and piercings, I get electrolysis, and in ways like that we get to feel more in control of our bodies and our identities. But the limitations of medical reassignment are certainly very frustrating. We know we will never be “complete,” so to speak. We have often wished medical science would just invent that mind swap device from the awful last episode of Star Trek TOS, but that seems a little further away… [End of answer]


So, just for clarity’s sake, I do not think this is a good idea, I think even if it was viable it would be a selfish misuse of public medical resources, I refer the journalist to a Marxist Feminist / Radical Feminist source on the topic, and I steer the question towards a better, more realistic, and more socially useful alternative (Fostering or adoption). I attempt to do so without judgement or hyperbole. I suppose I could have just regurgitated the vitriolic, transphobic mantras which pervade many a discussion on such topics, but my belief is they are preaching only to the choir.

2

Gorsedd Girls

Finally having made some progress with this stubborn and long-overdue novel, and having taken the time out for another quick shoot for the “Imago” film project, I figure I can spare the time to post some of the stills. This sequence was shot in Gorsedd Gardens, Cardiff Civic Centre. The bronze statue “Girl” / “Merch” is by sculptor Robert Thomas, who also crafted the statue of Aneurin Bevan in Queen Street. We attracted a few stares and curious questions from the homeless people at the Salvation Army Bus Project, but no hostile attention. I am feeling a lot more comfortable in public than I used to, and being able to change into a skirt was particularly welcome on this swelteringly hot day. Jeans + humid heatwave = walking around like a sticky and irritated robot…

CS3 CS1 CS2 CS5 CS4 CS6

The inspiration for this sequence is, very loosely, the story of Lili Elbe (1882-1931), one of the earliest recipients of male-to-female transition surgery, and one of its earliest tragedies, as she died of translant rejection following an attempt to surgically implant a uterus, in the hope she might bear children. This had followed a previous operation and rejection, in an abortive attempt to implant ovaries, yet in spite of that failure and the grave risk it placed her in she was undeterred in her ultimately fatal quest for biological motherhood. This rather inclines one to suspect that Professor Greer did not do her homework all that thoroughly when she wrote the following…

“No so-called sex-change has ever begged for a uterus-and-ovaries transplant; if uterus-and-ovaries transplants were made mandatory for wannabe women they would disappear overnight.”

(Germaine Greer, The Whole Woman, 1999)

If Cal and I could simply switch bodies a la that dreadful and misogynistic last episode of “Star Trek”, the alien ruins of Camus II would be our first port of call. Sadly, the NHS is the closest we can manage, not that we don’t appreciate the tactlessness…

All photos by my usual image genius, Jason Marsh.