Expect Problems

A transition blog.

A year ago, I wrote this facebook post (slightly modified for re-posting here)...

16 September, 2016

A year ago today, I broke down crying.

It was in the morning. I had gotten up at the usual time. My partner left for work. I methodically showered while being careful not to stare at myself in the mirror, made my breakfast and then walked across our apartment - the best of a series of nicer and nicer places I'd lived in an attempt to feel "complete" - to work at my desk.

I put off working for a few minutes to drink my coffee, and found myself staring intently at a picture a friend had posted of her trying on dresses after going clothes shopping with her mother. Five minutes passed, and I was still staring. I wasn't fantasising about her sexually, even though she's an absolutely beautiful person. I realised, after a while, that I had spent the whole time wishing I could ~be~ her. To have just gone dress shopping. This wasn't some glorified idea of it being perfect, either. I wanted the experience of going shopping, finding things that didn't quite fit right or being annoyed that they didn't have a size that fit because some part of my body not fitting a dressmaker's idea of what a woman should be shaped like. I just wanted an experience that felt more right than the one I'd had every day of my life so far.

For years I had alternated between knowing as a young person I "should have been a girl", to denying it completely, to suspecting it again as I thought back on my life, to what had become my "current" state at this point - actively reading about trans people, and finding any reason I could for it not to be me out of fear of what accepting it and transitioning would entail.

But I caught myself staring at my friend's dresses, and I realised I did this sort of thing all the time - still somehow telling myself I wasn't doing it. I caught myself wishing, and all my carefully-constructed denial and specifically-tailored behaviours to work around crippling dysphoria & self-loathing just came crashing down around me.

I'd tried everything to make myself happy, always sure that finishing this novel or making this movie or finally making a game or having a bigger tv or a nicer phone or a better apartment or whatever else would be The Thing Which Finally Made Me Content, despite all evidence pointing to the fact that none of these things did. I didn't even want to be ~happy~ - I was sure that wasn't possible. I just wanted to be able to enjoy small moments, and not live in constant stress and discomfort, unable to function. A year ago today, I broke down crying because I knew that either I was going to have to do something about this, or I couldn't keep going.

I curled up in a ball on the floor for half an hour, until my face hurt, I was sneezing between tears from the dust on the carpet, and standing up made me feel dizzy.

I messaged one of my best friends.

"I’m actually really nervous discussing this, even with you," I began.

I came out to her. Then to my partner. Then to my brother. And my sister. The order was as much pragmatic as anything else. Whoever I saw in the small group I knew I wanted to tell right away, I told. I wanted to make sure that I would be held accountable. I didn't want everyone to know; I just wanted close friends knowing - ones who wouldn't let that conversation pass. I knew I couldn't slip back into hiding, but that fear might make me try to do that.

A few people told me that they thought I was "very brave", and that threw me completely. Because to me, nothing about this was brave. It was the end of what I saw as decades of cowardice, refusing to accept myself and instead becoming a bitter construction. I only made the choice I did because I knew it was that or... I don't want to think about that.

I knew a lot of things were likely. I knew I'd lose friends, possibly even some of my best friends if they had more difficulty with it than I imagined it. I knew it'd be expensive and tougher than anything I'd ever done. I knew I'd lose my royal flush of social privilege and go rocketing somewhere down the rungs of "people old white guys treat as sub-human".

Some parts were easier than I feared, and others were even harder than I'd imagined.

Within months I was single for the first time in a decade, and while my friends stood up around me and supported me to an extent that still blows my mind, regardless I found myself in a terrible, lonely place. I was so emotional I didn't go a day without crying. My body ached and yet I wasn't even close to being in a position to really feel I looked "like a woman". I just felt uncomfortable.

I came out when I did because it was getting harder and harder to hide physical changes, and when I did I had a friend by my side with tequila at the ready for when I pushed the 'post' buttons and activated [my] new Facebook account.

However, despite everyone's support, some part of me was sure I'd be this lonely, single, strange-looking girl forever. And I was prepared to be that. I would take any form of loneliness and pain, if I didn't have to keep pretending to be a man.

It still hurts sometimes to think of some of the things I lost, and even more to think back on the people I hurt while lashing out in confusion over why the world - and my place in it - never made sense.

Despite this, though... I was wrong. Completely wrong.

I just wanted to end the pain, and I would have been happy with just that.

Instead I've found incredible relationships springing up, some who never knew me before and others who've known me for most of my life. I spend more days than not enjoying small moments, no longer feeling the need to desperately obsess over whatever the next superficial goal is.

It hasn't all been roses. I was right that it was the toughest thing I'd ever do. Some of it I've blogged about, and some is still too personal. But on balance...

I really am happy.

Little moments with friends matter. Whether it's cooking absurd "desert" pizzas with housemates on pizza night, watching your family almost lose a soccer ball over a fence, makeup-and-wine parties, or a gentle kiss & feeling your limbs intertwined with a partner as you watch a movie or a TV show.

I don't hate myself any more. I've got a long way to go, and I still find so many social interactions scary as I re-learn so many things that I felt comfortable doing before... but I'll manage it.

Even on days where I poke myself in the eye with mascara and my bank balance laughs at me and some shithead misgenders me and my breasts ache so much I can't focus on work... it doesn't matter. It's all transient background noise that'll pass, and I know - really know - that things are only getting better.

Relationships - of all sorts - feel honest now, and sex no longer feels like something confusing that I keep being told I need to do a certain way.

I'm not scared of growing old now, and when someone says my name I smile.

I own my emotions and my sexuality, and I'm slowly becoming the kind of person fifteen-year-old-me daydreamed about being. (And not just because I'm a blonde game developer who doesn't look terrible in lipstick and a black dress.)

I'm not ashamed or upset about being trans any more, either.

Not even close.

There are some experiences I'll never have that many of my cis friends have had or will have, but I increasingly see the value in my own experiences - in learning from them, expressing them, and enjoying what unique moments I get in my life.

The next year is going to be better than ever before, and it's all because of my friends and family being amazing people.

-

I was right. I went through more things - both trials and pleasures - and lots has changed. (I'm a redhead now! And to my delight it suits me.)

I've become more conscious of my sexuality, grown comfortable being poly, and have enjoyed months of often just enjoying the relaxed feeling of lying in bed, looking forward to the next day.

I don't recognise the girl in the mirror even a little bit as the person I used to pretend to be, and that fills me with so much delight, because while I don't think I was an awful person before, I was never happy, and I hurt more people than I'll ever be comfortable with.

A new friend who hadn't met me before told me after we went out for drinks last week said that she thought I looked young, but couldn't be much younger than her if at all, as I seemed to confident in my body. That blew my mind.

She was right.

I tried to imagine past-me being 'confident' or comfortable in my body, and it just wasn't possible. I could feign it, not always effectively, but just walking into a bar to order drinks before my friends showed up used to fill me with dread.

But last week it barely factored into my thinking. I found the bar we'd agreed to meet at - a bar I'd never been to before - ordered a drink and sat at the bar waiting for my date. My only real concern was that a cool & stunning woman asked me to meet her for drinks - the small social interactions and even the 'being out in public' part didn't bother me one bit.

That may not seem like much, but it's an enormous step forward for me in terms of my ability to not feel like just being in public was too difficult a task to be worth it.

Two years and my whole life has changed. It took more or less entirely changing my body to do it, but it was worth it, even during absolutely horrid times like those our government is currently putting us queer people.

Anyway, short version: gonna raise a glass tonight to past-me, for finally making the toughest decision ever, and turning out to be absolutely 100% right to do so.

Progress Image


One of the interesting discussions I've had over drinks with lots of other trans people is the one that begins this way: "I have no idea how I didn't figure it out earlier." (Being trans, that is.)

I mean, in practice it's not surprising many of us took a while to figure it out. Media and lack of education about trans issues didn't help there. But despite that, it's, to me, morbidly funny how many things from my past seem like enormous glaring sirens screaming, "YO, YOU'RE NOT A GUY!"

It's usually a fascinating discussion - we run over the usual list of "signs". A lot of them I definitely had - I mention quite a few here.

It was the ones I didn't have that I began to focus on. I was desperate to "not be trans" that I latched onto everything that "wasn't me."

Now, in retrospect, when I talk to other trans femme people, so many of these things seem like something I could relate to, even if I didn't specifically have the experiences they're talking about.

So, here're two lists: the first is a slightly less verbose list of things, some from the above link, that I did experience... and a few that I didn't.

These aren't intended to be some definitive list of... anything. Instead my point is just that many of these, whether subconscious coping mechanisms, explicit results of dysphoria or whatever else did not and do not definitively "prove" gender dysphoria, being trans, etc. It's enough that in retrospect I realise I was in a desperate state of denial, but we all experience these differently, if at all.

So, firstly, A List Of Things I Felt or Did:

  • I felt deeply uncomfortable in my own body, to a very small extent before puberty, and a very large extent once puberty began its damage to me. The discomfort followed me everywhere. Almost nobody ever saw me naked.
  • I felt a sense of discomfort when I was in a gendered environment. Any time we were segregated by gender in school, I couldn't shake this feeling that I was in the wrong place. Every time I went into a gendered bathroom, the sense that I was going to be 'caught out' and made fun of for being there was constant. Every time I walked into a men's room and a guy at the urinal glanced up at me, I had to fight blushing and discomfort.
  • I couldn't dance. I mean, my brain refused to let me do it. I got uncomfortable dancing in front of anyone. It took me until I was 27 and very, very drunk to dance with friends. And even then I did it maybe 3 more times in the following five years. I think the reason is the sense of much of dancing was gendered, even if it wasn't. That my body wasn't the shape that I associated with 'dancing'. I even used to vocalise it in that way, "If I was a woman, I'd dance. But it feels wrong with a male body." I said those precise words.
  • A whole different level of discomfort happened when I had to use my body in an explicitly "male" way. Sex was incredibly tough as it felt fundamentally wrong, no matter how attracted I was to my partner. I was so uncomfortable peeing standing up that I didn't do it often for many years, and didn't do it at all in public bathrooms until I was about 30 - and even then only if I was drunk and nobody else was in the bathroom with me when I began.
  • When my male friends asked me for relationship advice, advice relating to women, or something of that sort, I would get deeply uncomfortable. Like something about the question was wrong, or the context was wrong. I found relating to men in relationships with women was very, very tough.
  • This extended so far as to be the same in romance / romcom movies. (I wrote about that in a bit of detail here.) In short: I couldn't relate to the women, because either I wasn't trying to (or trying not to) or I was therefore trying to imagine myself with a guy, and for most of my adult life I didn't accept any attraction I did have to men. I couldn't relate to the men, despite trying, because... I just couldn't. It felt weird, but I kept trying.
  • I had enormous difficulty relating to male protagonists in media I enjoyed, unless they were incredibly a-sexual and androgynous; by contrast I found that I felt empathy much faster for intelligent, nerdy female protagonists. At the time, I wrote this off as me crushing on them.
  • I wore mostly androgynous clothing, of the sort my slightly-tomboyish friends would wear. Any time things got too masculine - suits, jackets, ties, etc - I found myself deeply uncomfortable. I avoided all situations involving such attire - black tie events, weddings, job interviews, etc.
  • I got along better with women than men. Very few of my close friends were male. Since transitioning, I've become closer to several men - so I think it was less "not liking men", and that I was trying to relate to them in a way that I found very tough.
  • I almost exclusively played as women in video games.
  • My interest in masculine stories tended to be ones where men related to men. It was something I had to do with some frequency, and I was training myself how to do it, almost by rote, watching other men - real or on screens. In retrospect, I was a terrible "man" - because all my behaviours were mimicked rather than natural. Some of my behaviour now could, of course, be read as masculine-coded. Nothing's as simple as "man vs woman". But that behaviour is now just things that are "me", which people can read however they like.
  • I could never imagine myself having kids. As I got older I began to realise that this wasn't true - I just couldn't imagine myself as a father. Once I transitioned and began to realise that I'd be a mother, suddenly the proposition of being a parent became a lot less impossible - I had gendered parenting (or, society had) to the extent that it felt like something that was never for me. Now, it's not something I'd entirely rule out.
  • Related to the above, I had a strange affinity for pregnancy. I wrote it off as a fetish, but it was always the idea of being pregnant; not being with a pregnant woman per se. It's... it's gotten worse since HRT. Which is frustrating.
  • I fixated on ideas of what things might feel like "as a woman". Not always sexual - some were sensual or every-day things. I wondered what hugging another woman would feel like, for instance. (In response to past-me's curiosity, squishy boob hugs are the best. Sorry you won't get to experience that for a long while yet...)
  • I (almost) exclusively enjoyed erotica that was written from a female point of view, and almost entirely lesbian. I never got into visual porn, as most of the 'lesbian' porn that I thought I'd like felt very false - and in retrospect, it was; it was staged for men.
  • The only exception to the above point was when erotica was about a guy going through forced feminisation. Now THIS one comes up a lot as a common theme amongst trans femme folk. It wasn't that the act of being forcibly turned into a woman was itself appealing, so much as that I couldn't accept that I was trans, so the only way I could imagine fixing my body problems was if somebody forced it on me. My interest in this has lessened enormously now I've transitioned.

And now, the next list - a list of things other trans femme people did or experienced that I never did:

  • [What I would have thought was] cross-dressing. Now, I did try this several times. The idea of wearing "women's clothing" appealed to me, but it felt wrong. I put on a dress with my narrow, boyish body and all I saw was a man in drag. There's nothing wrong with that, but... it wasn't me. It did nothing to assuage my body issues. In fact, it accentuated them. It took until nearly a year into HRT, with my body having become quite curvy, before I began to wear dresses with any frequency.
  • Disassociation. For many trans people, disassociation, whether mild or severe, is a coping mechanism adopted. It lets us have sex - I've heard several trans people describe simply 'detaching themselves from their bodies' by intent, or even imagining themselves as their partner, not them. But not for me. My lack of disassociation is neither a good thing nor a bad thing - it's just something my brain never did, for better and for worse.
  • Showed feminine mannerisms. I wasn't "camp", "girly" or however else people might describe it. As a child I was deeply emotional, but many people are regardless of gender. As I got older, I mimicked masculine stoicism, hoping it'd make me feel more comfortable. It never did. So the me of 5+ years ago would have read as a very emotionally detached, grumpy, bitter young man, rarely showing his feelings or admitting to any aspects of his sexuality.
  • A sense of detachment from my emotions. Many other trans people I've spoken to mentioned this to me. But as I've said, I was always deeply emotional, and when I was really close friends with someone (usually another woman) I was comfortable showing it. I rarely was, but I was still that highly emotional person, and those emotions always felt very much a part of me. Nonetheless, those emotions were there. The cold behaviour I showed wasn't me detaching from my sense of self; it was an act. When I cry, hug, get excited, squeal, coo over cute things now? That's just me. It's always been me. It may SLIGHTLY have changed a bit through hormone therapy, but mostly? It's just me feeling comfortable expressing myself. (Side-note: the only emotion I hated was anger. When I got irrationally angry, which I think I saw as a masculine-coded emotion... I felt deeply ashamed and hateful of my own brain.)

I'm sure I've forgotten some (maybe I'll update this later?) but these are the big ones. As you can see, there were a LOT of common "trans things" on my "yes" list and far fewer on my "no" list.

But the variation on these when I talk to other trans people is huge. Many people I know are, to use a phrase one of them used, "trans as fuck", and yet still barely had more than a few of the "signs" on my big-arse "yes" list.

When I was trying to make excuses for myself and I began to suspect I MIGHT be trans, it was this last set that I fixated on. "I can't be trans because I don't like wearing women's clothing", etc, etc.

Oh, poor past-me. You were so desperate to avoid making a hard choice.

Just do it. It'll be the best thing you'll ever do.


It's easy sometimes to focus on the stress and problems of being trans. There are bad days or bad moments that stick in your memory. Moments of loneliness or feelings of isolation. But a lot of the time I want to focus on the positives. The complexity of being poly and queer on the super-fun, depressing, hetero-normative day of Valentine's Day doesn't help, either.

So I wanted to take a moment today to write down a list of things - big and small - that are cool about being trans. Things that make me glad I finally went, "No, fuck it, I can't do this any more, I'm going to transition."

I've occasionally posted things like this before, but fuck it: I feel I need this today, even though this V-day is better than the last in a lot of ways.

(Caveat: some of these are specific to me. Some are specific to privileges I still have. Others are just pretty dumb. But they're things that make me happy, and that's what I want to focus on today.)

1) I got the unique (if mostly unpleasant) experience of seeing the way the world treat cis, het, straight men while I still presented as such. It's given me an appreciation of the positives and negatives of the world seeing you as male, and the inverse for how my culture treats women.

2) I've copped transphobic abuse... but not too much. Why is this a positive? Well, because it's given me a perspective I didn't have before. I will almost certainly, barring major sci-fi level social changes, never have to deal with racism. I do have to deal with homophobia. But previous to this, I had to deal with... none of that. Which meant that while I could be an ally and try to do my best, I had no concept of what that kind of irrational hatred levelled at you feels like. I do now, and while each experience is different and each form of bigotry levelled at you is unique, I will never again take for granted what it's like to experience none of that.

3) Having nail polish and lipstick with me has been amazingly helpful on occasion when I need to MacGuyver a solution to a weird tech problem. (No, really.)

4) I increasingly love this body. I feel excited and empowered by my ability to look good in dresses, play with makeup, and just generally do things that I always wanted to do before but never felt comfortable doing (thanks, social gender role bullshit!). In another hundred or so years maybe dresses fitted for men and lack of social abuse at men who want to use makeup may be a thing, and my pre-transition life may have been better, but right now? These small aesthetic things can make a rough day that much easier.

5) My friendships feel 'right'. My girlfriends are everything to me, from ones I see once a year to ones I see nearly every day. It feels like I'm suddenly in the right social place, even if that social place is sometimes dismissive and depressing. (Thanks, systemic sexism!)

6) "Power" is something I can enjoy now. I don't mean in a Donald Trump way, or a Nikola Tesla way, either. I mean... the kind of latent social power I had pre-transition made me feel... uncomfortable. As bizarre as it may sound, the lack of it feels 'right' now, and the slightly different ways I've had to learn to exert power in socially situations feels more natural to me.

7) I feel no need to dominate. My coping mechanism of being a raging faux-macho douche-nozzle on occasion is gone. I'm happy just listening. I'm happy being me.

8) My skin is super-soft and sensitive. daydreams about more time with cute sensualists

9) Being with women, as another woman, feels so right now. I see lesbian romances and squee in a way I've never done before over any romances. I suddenly find there are people whose life experiences I can relate to. I no longer feel alone. I have found my identity - I am trans, and I am a lesbian. This is me, and I am totally cool with that.

10) I can ask celebrities to sign my tits.


Note: this is based on my experiences with feminising (oestrogen-base) hormone therapy. It's also intended to be fairly light in tone. As always, remember these are my experiences, even if they're written in the form of a user's guide intended for myself. If you are going through hormone therapy or will be, please remember that as always your experiences, your life, your identity and your body are your own.

Congratulations, Elissa!

So you've got a brand new body of the opposite gender thanks to hormone therapy and/or some form of regeneration.

Now here are some important tips about your new body.

Yes, it's pretty feminine. You probably knew you'd grow breasts. You know, give or take some mileage depending on your genetics and a handful of other factors.

But there's more.

Part 1: New Shoes

You've bought new shoes. You saw them in the store and they were amazing. You tried them on and they fit fine. You bought them.

Now you're wearing them and... they feel... off. Not quite right. A bit uncomfortable. You may get blisters. They take some getting used to.

It's not that your old shoes were somehow better, mind. Or even better-shaped for your feet necessarily. No, it's that your body gets used to things.

Small aches. Pains. Your body adjusts to the bits of your shoes that dig a little too deep or press against your muscles too roughly. Your skin grows used to it, and they begin to feel comfortable.

Same with your body.

See, your body is more different than you realise. Your skin is thinner. Sub-cutaneous (immediately below the skin) fat is shifting and growing. Your bladder is shrinking. It's why your face looks different. It's why people might just be gendering you correctly sometimes now. (If so: lucky you! Don't take this for granted.)

Weight sits differently. You're probably losing fat from your middle and it's being re-deposited on your now-heavier legs and even your bust. Muscles are dropping from your upper body. You're weaker than you've ever been.

Which is all fine - this typical for a feminine body. You just need to remember that your brain isn't quite used to this yet.

So you can expect to mis-judge your centre of gravity. You might not realise your gait (how you walk) might shift slightly. Then there's the space your body takes.

You probably don't realise it, but your brain has been adjusting for your body shape all your life. You know what spaces you can fit through. You know how far to turn your body when passing by someone.

Well, not any more. Just how much your body will change depends on you, of course, but you may be adjusting to thicker hips, a more prominent bust, or just generally not being able to move in quite the same way you could before. (Ask a pregnant woman if you aren't sure just how tough fast & major body change can be when it comes to small things like walking.)

It'll take your brain a while to adjust. Like new shoes, you have to give it time. But unlike shoes, you can't just put a bandaid on the bits where it rubs you wrong. So be kind to yourself. This is one of the most major body changes you can go through. It's like puberty, but often faster and with potentially decades of being used to another body.

Give yourself time.

Part 2: You're All Brain

Like we just covered, your brain drives your body, and it may have had anything from years to decades to be totally used to the body you previous inhabited.

But it covers more than just physicality. It's true of your looks.

Your body is changing faster than you've probably ever had it change before. Expect your brain to constantly lie to you. It thinks you look a certain way. It is increasingly wrong.

Look at yourself in the mirror. Take a selfie, even if you don't post it. Trust your eyes, not your brain.

Adjustment to major body change is tough, and ignoring how you move and feel, how you think of yourself is going to change.

Part 3: Extremely Fast And Extremely Close

You may have heard cis women talking about putting on weight in a way that seemed foreign to you. Rapidly putting on a few kilos in a few weeks, or complaining about bloating.

Just because you're trans doesn't mean you are going to be immune to this.

Your metabolism is changing too. You may find the same diet as always affects you in different ways. Putting on or dropping weight fast is probably your new bag. And even if you don't find that, you're probably carrying less weight around your middle.

Which means a big meal may be more noticeable for a while.

You may want to pay attention to what you're wearing in more ways than usual when you go out for dinner.

Part 4: Joy Bits

Body changes are not limited to aesthetics and muscles. Love or hate it, you may have noticed that you still have Boy Bits(tm).

Which is fine, of course, but there are a few things you're going to have to keep in mind.

Firstly, your brain doesn't know that. Yes, your good friend Brain is probably doing its darnedest to keep up with your hormone changes, and the best way to think of it now is this: your brain thinks you have a vagina.

Congratulations on your new phantom vagina!

So don't expect your bits to work quite the same as before. Between hormone shifts, fat redistribution and thinner skin, you can expect your sex life to be different.

For most of you this will probably be a good thing, and, as always (repeat after me) your mileage may vary.

Oh, and after a while you'll stop ejaculating. No, really. Climaxing will stop requiring a cleanup.

Part 5: It Never Ends

You may have heard of people talking about "having transitioned". But most likely, you hear people talking about "started transitioning". That's because in a sense, it never quite ends.

At least, the body change part. Many doctors will tell you transitioning is "about a two year process". What they mean is that most of the fastest (and potentially most noticeable & physically uncomfortable) changes takes place over this two year window.

But that doesn't mean your body remains stagnant, any more than it did before. Did your body stay the same from age 18 to whatever age you are now? What about your friends?

No. Bodies put on weight. Lose weight. Hair patterns shift. The broad aspects of your body may settle down, but remember that just because you're a size 10 and fit comfortably into a commensurately-banded B-cup bra after 24 months doesn't mean you'll stay there forever.

Addendum

When you read about the experiences of other trans people going through similar hormone therapies, remember the staggering amount of factors that will determine your experience - and theirs. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Your age
  • Your genetics
  • Your pre-transition hormone levels
  • Your diet
  • Existing conditions of various sorts
  • Which hormones and hormone-blockers you are put on
  • Other lifestyle factors
  • Which incantations and offerings you have made to Baphomet over the years

Anyway, once again congratulations, and may your physical and social transition be as painless and helpful for you as possible.


I have a medical condition which, were I born in another time, would have killed me, most likely before I was 40. But due to advances in science, it's easily treatable with a few blood tests and a monthly venesection (in plain english: I donate blood).

This isn't uncommon. I know two or three others with my condition, never mind many dozens of others with different things that'd have killed us over the course of our lives.

Then there are those of us who were saved from childhood illnesses, even without knowing it, because of vaccination or various other practices that have, all in, meant that my previous likely lifespan (~40 years) which would have been pretty standard centuries ago, would have instead had me dying 'young'.

We're lucky. Very lucky.

It's not like this is perfect, of course. There are many, many more conditions or problems that medical science doesn't yet have an effective answer for. The kind which would cause a snide comment like "What is this, the dark ages?" from Bones in Star Trek were he to see what we have done to us to save our lives.

(Random aside: a little girl I grew up with had a heart condition that was then untreatable. I've no idea if it is now. But it meant her lifespan was to be measured on a few hands. And, indeed, she died, if some time later in life than anyone expected her to live.

I remember her because she was the happiest child I'd ever met. A few years younger than me, and seemed entirely unencumbered by the neurosis and issues that most of my other friends dealt with. While I realise she was too young to have come to some epiphany about her short life and have been happy as a result of that, I do wonder if it was those of us around her that did this for her. Knowing she had a very short time on this planet, we were perhaps kinder?)

Beyond zero-sum 'alive or dead' medical science, you have something else - you have antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications... lots of things which are pretty demonstrably things that make many of our lives bearable, or even pleasant in a way that we aren't without them.

Thing is, I increasingly see this - medicine and science saving and extending our lives - also being true as a trans person.

While not the same thing as my medical condition and the simple solution of donating blood, I thought about ending my own life more than I ever wanted to admit to people. It's not that I thought I was depressed - it's that I knew I wasn't. I knew precisely why I found life so tough, and why I so frequently found myself "over it all". And I was ashamed of that reason. I'd had masculinity beaten into me and forced onto me by society, and this despite a family who never did anything of the sort.

There's an awkward joke in Monty Python's Life of Brian where "Stan" (Eric Idle) sheepishly admits that he wants to have babies. It's awkward comedy, but something I found hugely, hugely uncomfortable to watch. Because it's how I felt. Not just 'having babies' explicitly (although I can't describe how jealous I am of my friends who get to bear children themselves), but feeling that my life was 'wrong'. It wasn't the way I was supposed to exist.

I tried to imagine being a father, and it horrified me. Something about that particular 'role' as it was defined felt fundamentally wrong to me. So I told people I didn't want children. It was easier, and being that the world saw me as male, I didn't suffer the same pressure to have children that I would were I seen as a woman.

I'm still not sure I actually want children, but at least my complex feelings on the subject make sense now, and no longer loathing my body and the way people treat me has made my life better. It's made the idea of self-harm a distant memory. I have bad days - even terrible days - but it's no longer because of a gnawing self-loathing that wouldn't go away.

Hormone therapy isn't a simple process. Even today, in Australia, it's not that easy to attain - and medically it's uncomfortable, complex and takes time. It's not perfectly effective, either. Even if I get reassignment surgery, I (almost certainly) won't ever have a womb or be able to give birth, and I won't ever have had the experiences my cis woman friends had growing up female - for better or for worse.

But it's responsible for saving my life as much as my monthly blood donations are.