Monday, 27 June 2011

This tansition has been a nightmare.

Rainy day, dream away, let the sun take a holiday…
Story of this summer! Muscles ache from breaking up concrete driveway, I know, not really girls work but…
With darkness at noon and heavy rain I thought I would just play on the net for a while, I rarely seem to use it for anything other than following trans issues.
For a while now I have been in transition and to be honest it has been ghastly! My life for decades was near perfect then suddenly life became a nightmare with everyone asking me when I was going to transition, did I not think it was time, I would be more popular if I transitioned they said! I didn’t see the point myself, why go through a painful and expensive process just to find that everything you knew and took for granted was gone and useless and you have to find out by yourself how to function in this new world. Well I finally succumbed to pressure and threw myself into the change! Lo and behold it is a nightmare, I am near broke and I am not popular, in fact the phone never rings any more. The transition to digital photography has done nothing but kill the joy I found in exploring the world with film and lens.
In my previous life I found joy in composing elements of the world into neat squares and rectangles one hundred percent accurately delineated by the camera’s viewfinder. The kind of image you wanted to record could be decided by the choice of film, monochrome or colour, high or low sensitivity, grainy or smooth image saturated or soft colours etc. No matter how old the camera you could use the most up to date film technology. The cameras, like musical instruments were designed for instinctive finger tip control of focus, aperture and shutter speed and had zero start up time, no batteries and no annoying motors buzzing to tell everyone that you are thinking of making an exposure!
To get the equivalent result to what I had on film costs the price of a new car and depreciates even faster while becoming obsolete before you have earned enough to cover it’s cost! Last year I threw a digital camera in the bin, £200 / $300 and after a couple of years this holiday snapshot camera became so flakey it was useless. In years gone by it would have become a faithful friend and would be retired to a shelf to remind me of the joy we had had together but why would I want to be reminded of the frustrations? It got replaced by one which I had not even bothered to ever handle but ordered over the net as a reduced price old model. It works after a fashion except if you go outside when the screen is useless, then again my eyes are starting to fail for near subjects so my arms are hardly long enough to see the screen crisply so I never know what it has focused on, I have become an impressionist photographer composing a blurry fuzz where once I would be obsessed by precise positioning… I won’t even start to mention lenses and their quality!
This rainy day led me to investigate the one camera which seemed to have been made to attract a purchaser such as me. I was told that it was not cheap but I am know as someone who will sacrifice a lot to get one thing of quality and treasure it. As I have said not something the disposable digital market has provided so far!
It was Fuji camera which I looked up and the manufacturers must have been proud of their new product, they even made a very decent website to showcase it, now be honest, how often do you ever find ANY website which can be called half decent, a tragic waste of the net!
This machine has controls where they should be, the designers did not really “know” where to put them! But they found out! The thing is lovingly manufactured from durable materials in a precise way with attention to how the controls feel. It has a classic non threatening look, quite the opposite from the large heavy expensive black lump of plasticy DSLR which I bought for doing work if ever asked! It has a fixed lens designed with the largish sensor to provide a beautiful image quality especially in the way it deals with out of focus elements. If you ever read of someone drooling over the beautiful “bokeh” a lens draws you know you have found someone who knows and loves lenses! The camera even has what most cameras do not have any more, the one thing I miss, the thing which shows you what you are going to record from the point where you see it, not at arms length bur precisely HERE!
While I am broke with not enough income to feed a cat there is still an account with money for photography, it keeps getting depleted by household expenses so if I don’t use it for something like a camera purchase soon there will not be enough for a camera purchase, even Julie agreed. In fact she would like me to find something like this which would reignite my passion for making images…
I have the money ready to leap out of my account, new pin number and everything. So why have I not jumped in the car and driven the 25 miles to the nearest dealer?
The idiots in their infinite wisdom decided that the viewfinder would be alright if it only showed 90% of what the lens would record! A Rolls Royce camera with a Trabant viewfinder worse than my first toy plastic camera as a child!
Last week at a dinner party there were three of us in unison who spoke of our frustration with how modern cameras work, there must be millions of us out here who want a proper camera instead of these plastic gameboy toys!
Congratulations Fuji, 100% screw up!

Monday, 20 June 2011

Anniversary blog.

It does get better, I can vouch for that.
This is something of a milestone as the 200th. Posting, not something I ever envisioned typing all that time ago when I started out on my first curious investigations on the web.
It is now just over four years since we got connected at home, I was resistant for many years saying that my partner had no need since there was free fast connection for her at work and I had no need. In fact I had a strong need but was wary of taking steps not knowing where they might lead, knowing that I was probably going to find myself on a slippery slope with little chance of stopping!
My initial investigations were occasional and coldly scientific! I guess I wanted to find the perfect treatise on transsexualism online  which I had failed to ever find on a bookshelf and of course the web does not work like that! Snippets of information were gathered but it was a long time before I came across anything like a personal blog. I put this down to the fact that I was an old untrained person wandering about in the dark! Once I started to find some interesting people and stories I felt bad about being an anonymous reader, a voyeur! In two weeks time it will be three years since I got a web identity and started making comments, initially on Live Journal where after a few months I finally got up the courage to start writing my own blog.
It was not long before I discovered that Blogger was hosting more of the sites which interested me so I opened a mirror blog here only to discover that there was twenty times more commenting activity here!
Initially it was an investigation into my buried memories trying to reconstruct where I had come from, so many memories had been lost for decades. Eventually it became what it is now, the every day musings of an aging transitioner hoping that it might help those others out there who like me spent years or even decades imagining that there was no hope and their chance had passed them by.
It is also a year on from my finally going round friends and family to tell them exactly what was going on in our lives and wait for the sky to fall around our ears and watch the dust clouds rise as friends rushed away. What an idiot I was to doubt such friends and it must make a dull blog to continue to read of the almost total acceptance and support. Not everyone has rushed to accept and a sad and significant couple have been somewhat hurtful with their deliberate use of the wrong pronouns, which when used in new company whilst you are present wearing a skirt and nobody has had an issue with it up until that point, is a hard thing to forgive.
This weekend away illustrates how far I have come in one short year. We met several people who we have known well for several decades who had no idea who I was, one was an artist renowned for her observational skill who had been on a national committee when I was vice president and several of our meetings had taken place in her home, she swore she had never met me in her life!
Looking back on photographs from a year ago when I was quite pleased with how my appearance had become I can see the great changes in body shape as the muscles changed into buttocks and breasts and my face softened and filled out. Three months have passed since my last visit to Alison to electrify my few remaining stubborn hairs on top lip, chin and lower neck but so few all urgency has gone especially when she declared that I now had fewer than most of her natal female clients who came for various other treatments!
My dreams have never been interesting, mainly illogical and frustrating without being populated by anyone recognisable even myself who is a blank cypher usually in dreams. All that changed a few weeks ago when I realised that there was a curvy woman in the dream and it was me! It was still a dull dream but…
Life is finally fine, I can say that I am usually happy for the first time in my life. We get on with our lives and I am accepted and never give it a moments thought, I just am me. Life has not suddenly become exciting but all everyday life is so much more comfortable when you can finally be yourself.
UK health service is painfully slow especially in Scotland where there is no surgical provision at all, that’s right, no surgical provision at all! We have to accept a painfully small quota of little more than a handful of places in the south of England which last year were over subscribed so some of this year’s places were taken by those left waiting from last year! It can only get worse with financial cutbacks so I expect a long wait and hope I am still fit and well enough to take advantage if my turn ever comes around. My one consolation is that I had the orchidectomy so there is not much rubbish in my pants these days and I do not have to suffer any side effects from long term anti androgens. Tough on those who do.

May '09
That concludes my anniversary state of the life address.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Garden of life.

Well, who would have thought? Life just goes on.
I guess this is what we long and hope for, years, decades of wondering if it could possibly work. The face caught in a mirror tells you “don’t be crazy” as the results of a life on testosterone have ravaged your once soft features and time is thinning hair and receding the hairline. Your life is a mess with a constant swirl of thoughts of “what if I had done this” or “what extra circle of hell would I be in if I follow my heart”, “what would I look like and will it be good enough to manage to live a new life” and the list goes on. Why can’t the world see your problem and why can’t you just get the help which you so obviously need!?
All that internal angst ended some while ago when I finally decided to step out into the world. It comes as a big shock to find all that free time inside your head! With so long a time since you did anything other than obsess about your absurd position in society you are not going to be trained to be able to quickly fill this time, what on earth to do with it all? I have not yet found out, I guess much of what I do would be called daydreaming, like sitting on a wide endless beach enjoying the open vastness of it all after the noisy prison cell of former times.
I am happy to fill my time with the everyday things of life and if you live in an old house like this one there are plenty of everyday things!

Since we returned from our road trip the garden has taken up most of my time, not least because I am trying to finish constructing a ramped walkway round to the large greenhouse where we can sit when conditions are too poor to sit outside. This is Scotland on the same latitude as Moscow after all! This is a larger project than expected and now has devastated this whole section of garden but will eventually give us somewhere sheltered from the evening onshore cool breeze whilst catching the late afternoon sun when it shines.
I started this project last year and no sooner had I exposed the earth beneath the old stepping stone pathway than it started to rain and the ground remained wet for most of the “summer”! Our return from the trip saw scorching temperatures for a few days and I wondered how I was going to be able to work in that heat. Last year on one hot day I was briefly tempted to slip off my tee shirt to help get on but was struck by a strange mixture of emotions! Here I was, someone who regularly in the past gardened merrily in the nude found myself very uncomfortable with the idea of digging away topless at a time when you would have still taken a look and described me as mostly topless!
Not really an option this year as the top bumps are developing nicely and a number of over mature trees have been removed which used to give me the total privacy I craved. The new me is happy for the garden to have been opened up slightly even though a number of houses can now over look various parts though none can see me slaving away on the new project. 
After two days of heat we have gone back to Spring like temperatures with occasional showers but conditions have allowed me to progress the excavations which have been like an archeological dig finding remnants of brick and concrete structures and wrought iron pipes buried when the house was “modernised” in 1896! One thing I do wish is that the old me had not been so wound up on all those thoughts of misery and self destruction with little thought of more than a few months into the future, that old me had far more muscle and in a manic phase could have used that testosterone fueled muscle to do this kind of job so much more easily!

Once the hole is dug out I shall be able to start putting in a rubble foundation from all the rubbish in corners of the garden and from breaking up the frost ruined driveway. Did I mention rebuilding the driveway!?
So now you know why I have not been posting much since we returned, finish at 10pm with the long light we get at this latitude and sleep like the dead.
It is drying up after the overnight showers so have to get on...

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

A not so grand day out in Glasgow.

A day trip to Glasgow, regular readers will know that this means a trip to the Sandyford gender clinic. Just less than a year and a half ago I made my first visit and they confirmed that I was not crazy. Today I think that they confirmed my suspicions that the system we are held to is!

Happy with how I am in my new life and they did not even want any blood, in fact took a note to pass the testing on to my GP service just along the road from where we live and told me not to come back for another visit for about six months, just before the winter sets in should do nicely.
Do I have any questions? Well yes, where is the letter about funding? In the UK we have a national health service and don’t be fooled by the national bit, the system is broken into countless fragments each fiercely hanging on to it’s set own of rules. I can get to the major teaching hospital for this region without driving past more than about a hundred houses but they should not have applied to that area for funding but to one where we never go and facilities are so far away we would never get a visitor if admitted to hospital there! 

If this regional health board agrees to funding!?! IF! Then I move one place forward on the board game to a waiting square. How long to wait you ask, long enough for your clothes to go out of and back into fashion!
Six slots are allocated to Scottish patients each year and more than that were on the list last year so some took up the first slots from this year. It seems that English patients get treated differently and there is more flexibility in how surgeons time is purchased. It is actually cheaper to purchase the private slots than the regular ones they already pay for but our health boards will not pay up!!
Pay up and go private like the rest of us I hear you all chant in unison. I am sure there is an element of driving us in that direction involved in their thinking even though high taxes have already paid for our health care, it is only free at the point of care! They told me that the whole system is under review since they have noticed that it just does not work! A glass half empty exists for this situation and I am sure it costs a lot to treat the depression the situation puts people in but that is alright apparently, it comes out of another budget which is fully funded!
The irony is that if I had been sent to them directly when I first saw my GP in 2007 I could have been through this whole process and be writing about the post op joy of living but you may grow old and grey and never see that post.

I was told forty years ago that I would never get help in this lifetime and I am starting to believe that ghastly doctor was right.
Age, health problems and home situation may well make sure I never finish this process if the delay is too long. So if you take anything away from this post it would be don’t delay getting into whatever system you have to work through and don’t leave it till you are old and grey!