Sunday, 29 June 2008

Meeting a surgeon to discuss my gender reassignment surgery

Friday another land mark in my journey:-

My Private consultation with the surgeon James Bellringer:-

(Please note some of this story is a little graphical in detail so please use your discretion if you wish to read on)

I had my consultation at Parkside private hospital with James Bellringer at 7 o'clock on Friday 27th June. This gave me time to prepare in the morning for a day I had always dreamed of but never thought would ever happen. Over & over in my head went all the questions I needed to ask him. The morning was taken up by excessive faffing about & costume changes. I wanted to create the right first impression. I am more comfortable in casual clothes, more often jeans or a simple skirt & a nice blouse. Today I for some reason wanted to make a statement & went for a more business look. I went for a navy blue mid calf length pencil skirt. I felt really good by the time all my warpaint was on & I was ready to go.

It was a welcome change to be traveling to London by train all dolled up. Curiously I felt really conscious of being one of the few females wearing a skirt as I walked through Waterloo station. They all had more sense & were all more practically dressed. Me, I am like the oldest teenage girl in the world, with less attitude due to old age! So much is new to me. Unlike some teenagers perhaps I am quite happy to admit I know nothing. My choice was not terribly practical as it was quite hobbling & restricted my steps. I wrote a mental note to myself if you want to feel good about yourself sometimes you have to suffer for your art. I had at least gone for fairly sensible shoes. Mainly because I feel I am too tall already & just want to blend in & be accepted. As a a girl on a mission today, that was not going to be a problem. For some one who has had life long self esteem issues I felt so happy, so alive. My God the emotions were welling up in me & there were several hours still to go to my appointment.

I met up with my counsellor at her home in Fulham & we went through all the questions I needed to ask. She helped to relax my nerves & told me there would be nothing to worry about. The taxi picked us up at 5.45 on the dot. The trip was a bit of a blur. I had been excited going to see the facial surgeons for consultations but this was something far more meaningful. Its not very often a person gets a chance to make their dreams come true. At the same time there was the reality that yes this is big surgery & vital to me but it is but another part of my journey. Some people born with my condition feel the need to have this surgery a.s.a.p. & hate that area of their body with a vengeance. It distresses me & fills me with great sadness but to me it is just a defect I was born with that needs correcting. I am not sure if that makes sense & I would probably be flamed if I dared say that on a TS forum.

The hospital looked first class. Spotless & very professional. James Bellringer the surgeon/magician/god was a complete gentlemen. He does both private GRS & through the NHS & is one of the surgeons used by the world famous Charring Cross Hospital Gender Unit. The consultation could not have been better. He was really friendly, helpful & totally honest. I had been very nervous about the consultation particularly the examination bit for obvious reasons & because of my experiences with health problems associated with my genitals as a child. I could also recall horror story's from the past of a program on the television when I was a young teenager. A lady called Julia Grant & her encounters with psychiatrists & surgeons associated with Charring Cross Hospital gender unit in the 70's, had a lasting effect on me. Ironically one of the bullying psychiatrist's who had been so vile to her was believed to be a closet cross dresser himself. There has thankfully been a whole raft of improvements in both care & attitudes since then.

He reassured me & had a very nice bed side manner. I was borderline regarding the amount of penile tissue available & he would like to keep his options open as to the exact procedure for when he actually does the surgery, once I meet the criteria & establish funding. He clearly has an awful lot of experience doing GRS. He answered all of my many questions honestly & gave me confidence I could trust him to do my surgery. Chance would be a fine thing. Even if I was foolish enough & had the money to get the surgery done quickly I would prefer to wait & meet the criteria & even a little bit on top. I have no doubt I need this surgery but that criteria is there for a reason.

Some of the questions I asked where as follows:-

(please note these answers are as I can best remember them & by no means accurate, just my interpretation, please see website or contact Mr Bellringer for accurate information)

1. How long have you being doing GRS & how many ops have you done?8½ yrs - over 500 ops

2. What are your referral criteria? ie Richard Curtis + who?Psychiatrist with gender expertise via Dr Curtis After one year of RLE

3. What is your waiting list time?Approx 4 months from getting both referrals

4. How long before surgery do I have to stop hormones?6 weeks

5. How many days in hospital?7 days

6. How long does the op last?2 hours

7. Does the cost include extra days if there are complications?Yes

8. Do you use just penile tissue to create a vagina or do you use scrotal tissue too?Either method - depending on the patient’s available skin

9. Will I have full sensation?98% of patients do

10. Do you recommend laser hair removal before surgery?Yes

11. Do I have to pay for follow-up consultations?No

12. What happens if I get a post-op complication after I am discharged?Re-admitted/treated as required - no extra charge

13. Can I see post-op photographs?Yes - on website

14. Can I have breast augmentation done at the same time?No - because of risk of infection

15. Who performs that surgery?N/A

16. Who teaches me how to dilate?Either surgeon or specialist Nurse

17. What are the most likely things to go wrong?Urethral narrowing - 3-4%Excessive bleeding - 1%Rectal damage - less than 1%

18. What is your complication rate?See above

19. Do you accept ECR Extra contractual referral for private surgery?YES - same referral criteria as in Q2

This was a very big step for me I was absolutely buzzing with emotion when I came out. Thankfully my counsellor had come with me to take notes & advise me. Back home my dear elderly parents were waiting for news & this was only a consultation. A long way from actually having the surgery. To them they are afraid it will happen tomorrow, bless them. I tried so carefully to explain to them this will take quite some time for me to meet the criteria at least a year & up to to 2-3 years to happen. I reluctantly waited another hour to come down from the clouds before phoning my Mum. It is another uplifting part of my journey but to them, it sadly is in the case of my poor Dad, a tragic case of yet more confirmation of the death of his son. This is so unfair, the same person is going nowhere, I will still be me only much happier & at peace but i can understand their feelings.

For anyone thinking of going to see Mr Bellringer I can thoroughly recommend a consultation. He has a very good website hope this humble story might be of help to those of us considering making this part of the journey & not to graphic for my other kind friends.

The tube trains were full of Wimbledon tennis fans on their ways home & a really happy dopey grinning Debbie.

All those tennis fans made me think of a rather naughty joke that I could just not stop smiling about, which has since been deleted from here, for reasons of good taste & decorrum! I'm a ladeey you know! Lol

Best Wishes
Love Debbie

Saturday, 28 June 2008

An exhibition of true friends & the banter between the sexes

Thursday evening:-

I went to a lovely party in the evening at my best friend’s house. We often meet up on a Thursday evening, a sweet mix of wayward artists & overworked underpaid waifs & strays. The little group of friends that gather there has the amusing nickname of the “naughty club” but not for really naughty behaviour. It really was a perfect exhibition of true friends. I was first to arrive which was unusual. My friend was comforting a dear friend on the phone. She has only recently lost her beloved husband & just been given further bad news of her son having a heart attack. Life is so cruel. I am so sorry for her but just glad she has my friend to comfort her. They have known each other for a very long time. She really needs her family & friends more than ever right now. Bless her.

Another of our girlfriends arrved & we all shared our thoughts for our dear friend. Once due respect was made. The mood lightened & the fun began what an education for me. It was so wonderful to have a bit of a girly night before the boys turned up. The talk of hormones, menopause, family & relationships but above all emotions & feelings openly expressed about real subjects, in a totally different way to men. Absolute heaven. I loved the master class on men, particularly how to treat your husband. I have no idea what men are thinking but had learned how to blend into their world just to exist. That sounds cruel & demeaning but it is not meant to offend or insult men. That’s just how it felt for me, living a lie. Right now I have so little life experience to draw on, which seems crazy at the age of 47, but its true & speaks volumes why I need to change my life so radically. I had previously had a good life but only really existed, not really lived my life. It was so unfilled in many ways yet I had a lot to be grateful for. How can a hetrosexual female live trapped in the wrong body? At best she just survived, many are not that lucky.

I was so pleased to be accepted as one of the girls. It just feels normal now. We were all sat on one side of the room, & my friend’s husband & his friend the other. The look, that special look in my friends eyes was very very impressive, when her hubby deliberately over stepped the mark, in fun. I have such a lot to learn. I cannot express quite how fantastic it is for me to finally be on the right side of the banter between the sexes.

It really did me good to be amongst friends to take my mind off of Friday. The day I was to finally get to have a consultation with a surgeon who may do my gender reassignment surgery one day. I was really excited but really really scared. It does not get any realer than this for me. The culmination of a life long dream & occasionally nightmares was looming up before me. I need this next stage to feel complete but this particular surgery really scares me. Largely because of the pain & suffering that part of my body endured as a child. I need to look forward & not dwell in the past. If the consultation with the FFS was hard for me when pushed before a mirror, the examination part of the consultation was filing me with dread. By the end of Friday I will have a far better more graphic knowledge of what my future holds for me. When the surgery happens is difficult to say. Probably realistically 2 - 3 years time on the NHS unless I can sell my home & live in a tent!

Fridays events will follow later I now have to get my face on & take out my parents & surprise surprise I am late.


Problems with changing your name legally


A normal day? A problem with my bank discriminating against me because of my name change. The normality of doing the weekly shop except for me this mundane chore is still an absolute delight. Then a lovely girly evening & a fun party at which I am so happy to be on the right side, for the banter between the sexes. Definitely a good day.

Name change problem:-

(In case you are wondering the picture to the left is not me before facial feminisation surgery, thank you very much. I was never that pretty! The photo is of international gender terrorist "Georgina Bush" up to yet more Monkey business with human rights, with the aid of some Scottish chap. Both of whom are up to their necks in the Brown stuff!) My sincere appologies to any Orang- Utans who may be offended by reading this discriminatory joke.

Please see name change update below, for further explanation.

Having phoned my banks customer advice centre & visited my local branch in person to ensure that I had provided everything they required for the procedure of changing my name on my account some 3 weeks later they have just made an additional request for medical proof of my condition from a doctor. I had been waiting for my new card & cheque book to arrive a week or so ago. Now I know why they never arrived.

I do not object to any security checks they require on my account. What I cannot accept is the lateness of the additional requirement which could appear to be of a discriminatory nature due to their negligence. Their delay in sending me my new service card & cheque book, have recently caused me considerable difficulty & delays when attempting recent banking transactions. On the plus side for someone who was/is quite shy & with very low confidence levels I did not feel in the least bit embarrassed or awkward at the situation as the line of waiting customers became frustrated. I had every right to be there & be treated appropriately. I felt that they need to consider making their policy regarding Transsexuals & changes to their account details clearer for all concerned in the future.I had already provided in person, an official copy of the deed together with my passport details as proof of identity, as per their original request. I also made sure my covering letter requested a new card & book in my new name, be sent to me.

Their request seems all the stranger as their credit card company happily provided an additional card on my account, in my female name a year ago long before I had legally changed my name & have only this week provided me with my official legal name on.I now carry my walking papers & old passport with me should there be any other problems. I will be glad when my new driving license is sorted out.In the scheme of things this is only a very minor problem but has anyone else experienced this kind of additional request when changing their details at their bank or other places?

Everyone I have contacted or dealt with during the great paper chase which results from changing your name, have been really helpful, professional & respectful. Apart from one charming lady who works for a government department who sirred me continually & for whom anything seemed to be too much trouble for her. I was on the phone & my voice sounds better via email but even so she was aware of my situation. One out of a dozen or so is pretty good.It is so lovely being called miss after all these years. It costs nothing for them to say it but it means so much.

So far I have not been charged a fee for any of the changes except my driving license.I picked up my rattle get back in my pram & went down my bank toot sweet.Thanks to the support I received from my dear friends on a TS support forum at my banks request, I found some inner strength. Me being my usually meek & mild back bone less self, would have probably cowed down to their request but dam it why should I decided not to let them get away with it. This was a radical change in attitude for me & shows a really positive improvement in my self belief.

I have visited the bank & registered a formal complaint which is logged into their system & supposedly should have an answer in the morning. I had a long discussion with the manager & was really surprised when she suggested this was unlikely to have been as a result of one person & that a whole department would have decided to make the additional request. She assured me it was not intended as discrimination, but what else can it be? I asked for a copy of their policy for customers changing name or even if there was a specific policy for someone like me but she did not have one available. Surely this additional request cannot be the banks policy for everyone, can it?

The weekly shop still had to be done but I was quite happy. Little steps for little me. With my new found confidence & self belief I was just accepted as any other women suffering the delights of food shopping. Now shopping for clothes & shoes, that really is fun. Shame I cannot afford very much but window shopping is still very enjoyable.

Name change update:-

The bank were unable to give me an answer on Friday & so I will have to see what happens next week. In the mean time a kind friend of mine has been able to contact a friend of theirs who works for the same bank - she tells me that "names changes are getting more complicated/scrutinised because of new money laundering and anti-terrorist laws - so what happened to you is probably because of that rather than any anti TS stuff!!

Blame George Bush or Gordon Brown!!"

How the same company in the same week can happily issue me with a credit card in my new legal name no problem is beyond me. Are they going to get me to remove any implants in case they contain explosives or heaven forbid I may have a bomb concealed somewhere after my GRS? I cannot imagine they are going to ask everyone for medical proof as to why they have changed their name. How many gender terrorists are their in the world? I am sure the tabloids would have published some vile article by now if there were. I am now under increasing emotional pressure from my family to not make a fuss. If this is the banks policy & legal what options do I have? I am not sure where I should go from here?

PS I must dash I have some dodgy bank notes to print off to pay for my GRS & new rocket launcher! No doubt George Bushed is a prime candidate for gender reassignment & there would certainly be no shortage of volunteers to carry it out, should he ask!

Trying to return to the workplace after a long abscence


I made further progress to my pathway back to work. I had a very positive meeting with a lady who has been assigned to support me. We made an action plan. As I am very disorganised this was a real good idea.

I am realistic & know I face many challenges. I need to be flexible & consider any option. I feel ready & able to begin my new working life in a female role. I have so much admiration for those girls who transition in their same place of work. This was an option that was simply not open to me for all kinds of reasons but I think it is something more & more are able to do. The more that happens the more we will be accepted & sets a great example for those who follow. They must still be under greater pressure to be accepted & earn the respect of their collegues. Something that has without doubt happened for years already, for women all over the world.

There is still so much discrimination in the workplace. At the same time I am not that comfortable with the idea of positive discrimination for any gender, ethnic group or sexuality. It should ideally be equal for all.

I have commitments to care for my elderly parents & I have to be careful of the pace of my return because of health issues. Just feeling ready & willing to try is a great feeling.

Voluntary work does not require you to disclose you were made redundant due to ill health. I would like to do approx 3months voluntary work 2 days a week ideally in a TS friendly environment or organisation.

I had some time ago felt perhaps a non customer facing part time employment, in a field where I have the best chance of being employed. I am much more comfortable about myself now & hope to begin volunteer work in a customer facing role at our local zoo real soon. That is just a short term goal. I never want to return to my old carer. Life is too short. I would like to study for a qualification in a field where my chances of being employed would be greatest, would benefit my well being, especially as I could find myself unemployed for quite some time.

The type of jobs I may have the best chance of employment i.e. the ones that cannot be filled may involve working with non TS friendly people who see me as an easy target to make them feel better about themselves. Discrimination laws are one thing, life is another. I believe I have now achieved an inner resolve to deal with that if that happens. I need to pay the bills & also complete my real life test so that I can have my surgery.

If I am successful at achieving sustained paid employment I can perhaps plan for a career but right now I do not have the luxury.

This may include working a number of different part time paid or voluntary jobs while caring for my parents & maintaining my health. My counselor has advised me not to work for any mental health charities as it would be unsuitable at this stage of my recovery. I reluctantly understand her reasons but one day this is very much an area I would like to work in.

Art therapy for people with learning difficulties or people who would benefit from learning new skills would be ideal. I may be able to use art to supplement my income but it is sooo difficult to make a living purely by art alone.

Eventually I hope to train or gain voluntary experience & establish a new career. I really admire people who are enthusiastic about what they do. It is going to be a challenge to return to the workplace after the break I have had but plenty of other women are faced with this challenge. I just have to get on with it like everyone else. I can only do my best & hope some one will be kind enough to give me a chance. I would really appreciate any ones advice or experience as an employer, employee, about being faced with such a situation?

Multi tasking


I helped my best friend to plan for her upcoming exhibition. It was so nice to able to give just a little back to some one so special who has helped transform my life. We designed some posters & come up with some ideas for publicity. The exhibition is only in a few weeks time & we have a lot to do. I say we, it is my friend who has been spending her spare time doing brilliant work. I really hope her talents are rewarded. She has worked so hard always pushing her artistic boundaries. Always ready to learn & not afraid of making the odd mistake along the way. She has learnt so much & really developed as an Artist in the last couple of years.

Yet somehow she has a busy demanding job & a large family who she adores, to look after. Not to mention the wealth of friends she has who are constantly coming through her open door & always made welcome. She is such a warm & giving person. A real Angel.

She is also very strong, yet vulnerable but somehow how she manages to balance her life. How to prioritise, when to listen & when to let go. She has great empathy for people & really values her family & friends. I really admire her qualities & am so lucky to have her & her lovely husband as a friend. I have great problems with my time keeping & end up trying to juggle several jobs at once often faffing about & losing complete track of time. She has kindly tried to share the secret of how she balances her life but I still have not quite grasped the secret of her ability to multi task OR HAVE i?


The last week has been a really exciting time for me. Lots of positive experiences. As the sweet Rebecca mentioned recently in her blog “gender euphoria”. I like that expression. It has been such a joy to read of so many of my friends in "sparkling form" this week after our recent experiences on the rollercoaster of emotions. True friends are so important & so valuable. Sharing our good & bad times, always knowing they are there for us. Bless each & everyone of you.

I had started this week with my confidence wobbly & feeling more than a little fragile.

I have so much to look forward to yet I often dwell to long on my past. Certain events, certain places, situations evoke all kinds of emotions. It seems crazy how my mind often remembers some things from my past really easily & just forgets more recent events. I have suffered in the past with panic attacks & had severe problems with confidence in just about everything about my life.

This negative mind set is thankfully beginning to change. Sometimes I take a while to see quite how significant the improvements have been. There is such a lot going on in my life just now. The pace of life in this country seems to be getting quicker & quicker for everyone. The photo is of a lazy day on the magical Okavango. A beautiful wilderness just about as far away from the rat race as you can imagine. Briefly zipping along at speed but always stopping to appreciate the true beauty in the world. Sometimes our lives are so out of control & rushed we fail to stop & appreciate the simple things in life. Take me for example "I'm simple" & I never used to appreciate the world around me. I will never ever forget the privelidge I had to go to Botswana but right now I would not swap places with a seat on another trip to that incredible wilderness, with where I am in my life just now.

My plans for painting have gone on the back burner. So much has happened this week. I have so much I want to blog about I will try to break it down into separate stories for each day. That Euphoria is melting my keyboard not to mention my senses.


Sunday, 22 June 2008


Another day on the roller coaster; another day when dysphoria clouds my judgement & my life hurtles out of control directly at my loved ones. A crash just waiting to happen.
(The image to the left has been manipulated using Adobe photoshop, stained glass window effect, on one of my early paintings, which was genuinely 110% blurred by my dysphoria)

My dear Mum has been behaving increasingly erratic & agitated in the last week or so. She was 80 years old in March. The poor love is tired & emotional. I have been becoming increasingly worried she may have the early stages of dementia. Nothing I can do to help is right. My beloved Mum has been using the slightest excuse to lash out or turn a harmless conversation into a vile argument. I feel so helpless. All I want to do is offer her my love, to show how much I care.

I blamed myself for her turmoil. This week I had to tell her I was going to have a consultation with a surgeon who may in a year or two carry out my gender reassignment surgery. Why did I have to say anything, why? I stupidly thought she would need to know because I would be missing for most of a day to travel to London & back. By telling her I thought we could make arrangements to have everything done they needed. This was clearly a bad idea.

It’s all too much for my beloved parents to grasp. They have steadfastly refused to see any medical people to find out anything about their offspring’s condition. A condition that has blighted all my life & spread to them like a disease, when I finally told them way back in 1996. They reacted very badly & were frightened for my future & also how their friends & neighbours may react. They constantly voiced their fears to me & asked me to never transition while they were alive. Relentlessly on & on until those fears became mine. That was then, 12 years ago.

Now I have found I needed to transition or die, somehow we had to work through this together, whether they wanted to accept my condition or not. It felt so unfair to put them through my transition at their advanced age, yet when faced with suicidal thoughts it was something I had to selfishly do. How I wished they did not have to go through this.

Gradually over the last year with the odd bumpy ride they have moved from total denial to acceptance & oscillated to & fro for the last few months as my transition becomes our reality. They made a huge leap forward in January after I had 11 hours of facial feminisation surgery. I naively thought they finally understood what was happening to me. I have tried really carefully to gently explain what will happen to me in the future, respecting their feelings as best I could. Having known I was transsexual for so long & carefully given all the information I felt they needed I have hit a brick wall. They prefer to use the tabloid press as their source of reliable information. Even so I at least thought they would realise or at least accept I will need to have gender reassignment surgery. Sadly they have chosen to deny it is necessary.

They went through a stage of deliberately referring to me using the wrong pronouns & name a short time ago, which after 6 weeks of mental abuse, resulted in me briefly attending hospital as an out patient. Having had the wonderful gift of their acceptance only to have it taken away & thrown in my face & then given back, it has not been easy for any of us. It is a day to day existence of emotional highs & lows.

It has been very spiritually uplifting for me. My self belief has begun to blossom. Everything has been going so well. I have never felt this way in my life before. Then CRASH, you get the nightmare times like the last 24 hours.

As a teenager & only child I had seen my Mum suffer the loss of her Mum, Dad & beloved Sister. It was heartbreaking to witness & my Mum has to this day never really recovered. She used me as her emotional confidante as Dad sadly could not deal with emotions very well & just shut down. Every anniversary, every birthday, song on the radio or television was a time of mourning & emotional melt down. Bizarrely Mum appeared to have some sort of jealousy that my Dad still had most of his family for many years after all hers were gone. Charming for my Dad & I, who were as far as I know, still alive. I felt my Mums sense of loss deeply & the mental scars I have are deep. I have never been able to separate from my parents, which is very unhealthy for our relationship. I am terrified of losing them. Mum knew this & would manipulate me by mentioning “when we are gone, or we will soon be dead” any time I did anything that displeased her. I was eventually to realise such emotional blackmail was a very cruel way to control an offspring.

I have had over 12 years of counselling of which 50% have been about my enmeshment issues. Unlike with my gender dysphoria. My enmeshment issues have not really improved, although I am more aware sometimes when it’s happening. When I learned through the sessions the damage that the sense of loss & hopelessness I felt was something perhaps that my Mum should realise, we had a very open discussion. About 10 years ago she stopped reminding me when certain anniversaries arrived & with the passing of time, she seemed to be coping a little better.

In truth she was probably just doing her best not to dump her feelings on me. How pitifully sad, how ironic! Look at what I am doing dumping all my emotions here on this blog. My beloved parents simply come from a different generation. How can they posibly be expected to understand whats happening to me. Today is a day I should be respecting my Mum & her sadly departed Dad, yet selfishly so much of this blog posting are all about GD.

I have just had a concerted 3-4 days of constant mental anguish & see no end in sight, just tragedy. We are devoted to each other. I am so lucky to still have my parents. They both love me, & care for me. I care so deeply & am screwed up so much, if I am honest when they finally depart this world I may join them very quickly. I try so hard to respect their feelings but I must be making an awful job of it. I must deserve to be punished.

All I want to do is help & care for them because I love them. I keep on stating that because it’s true.

They have never ever physically abused me. They are lovely parents & mean well. Sometimes verbal abuse & mental cruelty can be just as bad as physical violence. Unfortunately for me they do not comprehend the torture of every day, for over forty years being perceived as a gender you are alien to.

Through their ignorance & denial being referred to using the wrong pronouns at this stage in my transition, is pushing me to the edge once more. It’s only words, so I try to ignore them. It’s easy just to slip into old habits & forget but when it happens again & again it’s so hard being a carer in this situation. How must my poor parents be feeling, struggling to deal with their offspring transitioning, at a combined age of 123 years?

Seeing my Mum falling to pieces is heartbreaking & tragic. My biggest nightmare has been that the stress of me transitioning will kill them. The guilt I feel is immense. Then just when things cannot get any worse today she spits out, “it is all, your fault. You are tearing us apart. You just want more & more operations you are addicted, you’re sick, and you’re evil. You will never be satisfied, you are so selfish”. With that she burst into tears. So did I. I wanted to comfort her but got pushed away. Everything sensible was telling me to go, give her some space but my heart would not let her go.

Then though the tears she explained “today is the anniversary my Dad died. My sister found him collapsed on the floor”. This happened over thirty five years ago.

I was speechless. What could I say? I was worried sick about my Mums irrational behaviour & worsening health. Yet I was too wrapped up in my own selfish dysphoria to recognise her unstable behaviour was a cry for help. She was too afraid to tell me & being eaten up inside & simply could not cope.

We hugged & shared yet more tears. I had to let her go, give her some space to greave.
When I first came back to my flat, I briefly thought I could not go on much longer like this. Very dark thoughts were fleetingly gathering. My emotions were bubbling over, out of shear frustration. Gradually through poring out my heart out here, the storm clouds have abated. I feel totally exhausted. How must my Mum be feeling? So much for painting. Some things in life are far more important.

I so admire those women who transition & are able just to get on with it without whining & being full of self pity. Somehow they have a whole different attitude yet they have probably had more than their share of heartache along the way. How I wish I knew their secret.

It’s not so easy for many of us who are lucky enough to still have loved ones & complicated relationships to deal with. As an only child/daughter & carer to my dear elderly parents this has been a really nightmarish time for all of us.

Neither of us wants to hurt each other. We have survived another storm. That familiar question appears once more.

“Why do we have to hurt the ones we love?


Wednesday, 11 June 2008

I may be gone for some time!

A brush with the wild & the wonderful

My best friend, the lady who together with her dear husband saved my life & helped me to be true to my heART has just given me a set of incredible photo's of one of our Zoo's Amur/Siberian tiger cubs called Zambar, from a few years back. Tragically they are nearing extinction in the wild & may one day only survive in captivity because of poaching & habitat loss. They are also used in traditional Chinese medicine. How any body can wear real fur coats I will never know. There are estimated to be only as few as 400 left in the wild. One day little guys like this may sadly be gone for ever!

Her husband photographed this little cutie in one of the rest rooms at the zoo . Unfortunately he had to be hand reared as his mum took a disliking to him & could not look after him. He is only a couple of months old in this photograph & looks so cute & cuddly . He is now about 4 years old & tickling his tummy may not be quite such a good idea.

My friend is a fellow artist & her husband is a head keeper who loves wildlife. She really should be painting these herself. I feel so guilty & so grateful. I am completely overwhelmed by their kindness.

If I cannot be inspired to paint properly now I never will!

I can hear my paint brush calling me, even louder than those new shoes that beckon me when I am out shopping.

I may not be able to get back to this blog for a while, so please do not worry about me.

I am so deliriously happy.

The housework may have to wait, so can the bills.
As long as my dear family are all well & looked after I am going to spend some time losing myself in my creativity.


Monday, 9 June 2008

Very wobbly first steps & a happy ending

This posting is initially a follow up to the previous one "First Steps". There is no comparisson between this painting & the oil painting shown as part of first steps. No need to be. I am just so relieved to have got back to painting.

I have been busy the last few days but finally on Sunday afternoon I found some time to paint again. This little guy was supposed to be in monochrome (limited pallet, supposedly meant to be one colour plus the papers pigment). It is painted in water colour & water colour pencil. It is has only taken approx 4 hours or so, but has taken over two years to arrive & a great deal of emotions. It is supposed to be a preliminary sketch from which I could work out the tonal ranges, for a proper painting. The darks, the lights & the mid tones.

I got a bit carried away & ended up throwing all kinds of colours into it, haphazardly just having fun splashing paint on. Using a scalpel blade to reveal the white paper to highlight the spots where the low sun is catching the back of the cubs fluffy fur. When very young Cheetah cubs have a fluffy main to make them look a little like the honey badger, which have a fierce reputation. They have been reputedly known to make Lions back away. This is natures way of giving them a first chance of life.

I have to say this little fella nearly got eaten by my waste bin. It is a complete mess & quite embarrassing. It's quite funny that of all things I have shared on my blog this picture is one of the most personal yet. I do not know whether to be happy or sad. To be honest tears were running down my cheeks at the start of this post.

I am sooooooooooo grateful that I at least wanted to try to paint & once I started I could not put my brush down. The enthusiasm was back & that is so important to me. It was a really big positive step to finish this sketch.

Having had to give up my job because I could no longer cope or concentrate enough to do my work properly & bearing in mind that I was always going to be rusty when I tried again, this was a ten out of ten for effort but must do a whole lot better. The slight downside is that it is a painful reminder of how my abilities to create & concentrate are so drastically reduced from where they once were. I want & need to practice.

The therapy of blogging has helped me see this as a very positive first step. I am not going to let my negative chatterbox beat me.

I have had a really good weekend:-

On Friday during the day I visited our local zoo with one of my volunteer friends who I used to work with. We have a lot of mutual friends at the zoo & she kindly wanted to help make things easier for me as this was the first time many of them would see me as a women or even know I had transitioned.

The dilemma of deciding who I needed to disclose to or not, is something that I did not want to really go through anymore. Most of my close friends at the zoo already knew my situation. We walked in together. Stopping at the information office near the entrance where we had often worked together was the first of many special moments. I was introduced to the volunteers on duty as Debbie & it all felt so ordinary, so normal, just as it should be.

We then met the volunteer coordinator who was so pleased to see me back in the park. I informed him & his assistant last year that I needed to transition & they were very understanding. When I am on duty I represent the zoo & being a customer facing role I wanted to do things right. I do not want to let anyone down. If my new role in life continues to becomes routine, I hope to start volunteering again, quite soon.

I had previously been assumed to be female on occassions by members of the public, which was very gratifying although unfairly confusing for our customers. My appearance had been quite androgyness for nearly ten years but it became more difficult for me to supress my femininity as time progressed. Our park is very much family orientated, which is part of its great appeal. There are always going to be children who tell it like it is & say what they think, which is fine, as well as the very occasional ignorant person but most people are lovely.

All we want is for our customers to have an enjoyable day & if possible encourage them to think about our planet & the conservation of wildlife, many of which are endangered.

I have mixed feelings about endangered animals being held in captivity yet I feel providing they are well looked after they can help send a message to people about our need to conserve the planet, with much more impact than the written word or photographs. In an ideal world zoo's, should not exist. Would the animals be better off free but extinct? Its one for our own conscience to ponder.

It felt very healing to have a leisurely day in a place that has been a haven to me. A place my friend & I care passionately about. I was finally free from the self imposed cage that had for so long held me. Yipeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

I had the confidence booster of meeting the zoo customer liaison manger, who had no idea who the lady was my friend had introduced to him as Debbie. She explained "She has worked as a volunteer here for many years, you have meet her before". He said "Hi, nice to meet you Debbie" but still looked perplexed. Even when I spoke to him, it did not register. In the end I decided it was best to let him know & he was really sweet to me. I used to have a lot of friendly banter with him. He supports a very successful rival football team & he often liked to poke fun at my team & me. I told him to please carry on with his lovely sense of humour but now our relationship was so different he seemed a little uncertain if he should. I hope we can all just get on with our friendships as they were before but the dynamics of that friendship have changed so much it may not always be possible.

The next time I go back to the zoo it will hopefully be as a volunteer. The volunteer co ordinator & my friend met again over the weekend & agreed I am ready, & if willing, wellcome to return any time I like. Music to my ears. Another little step on my pathway back to work.

I had a lovely day out but the best was yet to come. I was so looking forward to meeting dear Jo in the evening. At one point I was afraid I would have to cancel as our little doggy was taken poorly. My Mum kindly persuaded me to leave him, which made me feel quite guilty. I arrived at the picturesque "Mayfly" restaurant which is situated right on the banks of the river, in good time. I have known Jo for only a couple of years now & we have shared a most traumatic period in our lives. After years of both living in stasis, unable to move on because we were trying so hard to do the right thing for our families. We both seemed to have great deal of empathy for our situations. Different lives but so many shared experiences & emotions. I was thrilled to finally met her. I was amazed I did not burst into tears when we first met. She is every bit as sweet & kind in real life as she appears in her blog. She looked so lovely, so natural. We talked & talked. The company was delightful, the location like a picture postcard & the food yummy! What more could you ask for?

My wish, my distant dream would be to one day be able to express myself with paint & a brush, just half as good as Jo's wonderful thoughtful words, that communicate feelings & emotions so eloquently, like no other author. Transitioning is an uplifting & God willing hopefully achievable ambition but wish full thoughts of improving my creativity may be beyond me. Both are going to be a wonderful experience trying.

Lots of love
A peaceful Debbie.

Ps Our doggy is fine now & our only attempted break in this weekend was by a rather large moth which rattled my letter box & imagination. It must have been attracted by my bright lights I used for painting on Sunday evening. I was really frightened & could have done with a man or even "Rob" to protect me from the monster peeping through my letter box!

I spent the rest of my time with my dear family, dog sitting & catching up on the housework. A good weekend.

I am poignantly taking three bags of Robs old clothes to the charity shops today. No more drab for me, just colours.

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

First steps

Yesterday was another special day for me. I feel so happy, so peaceful, it is such a lovely feeling.

I have thought for some time my creativity has been back but I have been unable to put my hope into practice. I go to an evening art class with my best friend once a week, which is run by the most talented watercolour wild life artist I have ever seen. She is such a sweet person & another dear friend. She, together with my best friend kindly agreed to let the class know about my condition on June 26th 2007. I had written a letter which my friend the teacher willingly agreed to read out to the class.

At that time I had never come out to such a large group of people in one go. Only close friends were aware of my condition at the time of which a couple where regulars at the same class. I had been told by my best friend that many of the class had been discretely asking my friend if she knew why I looked so ill & had to give up painting. I did not want them worrying about me & this promoted my decission to disclose my condition. Earlier that day I had gone to my favourite bench in our local country park with our corgi. It is so quiet up there, high on a hill looking over the valley. Almost like you can touch the clouds. I had refound my religion as I finally rediscovered my soul & this was a perfect place of solitude, to say my prayers & give thanks. That evening I stayed anxiously at home awaiting the reaction of the class. I need not have worried. They were all so relieved, that it was nothing terminal as I had lost a lot of weight & looked very gaunt. I returned to the class the following week & was overwhelmed by their support. For some one who had been bought up to believe they would lose all their friends if they ever found out my condition this was a major event. Many of the class were friends but some were just acquaintances. I could not ask them to keep my disclosure confidential & besides I had no real reason to. It simply needed to happen as part of my transition. This was the day I came out to my little part of the world.

To me it was a big event but as I was to find out many times over, it quickly becomes yesterdays news & most people realise you are the still the same person, only a much happier version. Word quickly spread to my old colleagues, as the wife of one of them was a member of our class. It felt like a huge weight had been lifted. I had been coming along to sit & chat with my creative friends & do the washing up, but I just could not get in touch with my creativity at all because of anti-depressants blocking my feelings & the shadow of my GD. I was so lucky to just be around my creative friends, they helped me hold on to reality & were a vital connection to the outside world. I disappeared from the class for 2 months at the start of this year until my facial feminisation surgery settled down.

It was a magical time when I went to the class presenting myself as Debbie for the first time in March. Once I started living full time as a women my health began to improve & I felt the urge to paint returning. I began turning this blog into a therapeutic way of awakening my passion for painting. The complementary remarks you all so kindly made lifted my spirit still higher.

I started with just a simple little monochrome sketch in water colour pencil. It was of a gangly young cheetah cub taking what appeared to be some of its first wobbly steps in the world. It was from a series of photographs I took of a group of young cubs late on a glorious sunny winters afternoon as the sun was getting low in the sky. He was born in captivity at our local zoo. I painted him sat down but changed the green grasses of Hampshire to look like the warmer colours of the African bush. How I wished he was born free in real life, not just in my creative world.

That painting was called "Waiting for Mum" & was one of the last I ever managed to complete. It was painted in oils, a medium I had only just begun to fully enjoy. I have attached that painting above to remind me that one day soon hopefully I will take my creativity towards the peak it had reached before my creative world crashed.

I had tried desperately to paint since but when I couldn't it upset me so much I became scared to even try. That was two years ago. Recently as my creativity has begun to re-awaken I could manage to concentrate for 20 minutes at first, then a few weeks ago just before half term I managed 40 minutes.

Last night I went back to the class, with a peaceful contented mind. For the first time in a very very long time my soul was telling me, you are free to paint again. I could have filled my water bowl with the tears of joy I felt at that realisation. I painted for nearly two hours. That's one hour for each year of the two years that I have been unable to feel my creativity. My brushes just flowed. I felt so peaceful so happy, so contented, so normal, just me.

Just to round of a lovely evening my Mum informed me our Pet corgi now recognises my new name. When she told him Debbie's coming home in a few minutes, he got really excited & was there to great me at the door when I got in.

Today my friend Rebecca has her facial feminisation surgery in America. I hope & pray the lady she will soon see in the mirror is as happy & as peaceful as I feel today. It is so nice to see our friends like Jo & Nicky, all finally beginning to find the clarity of mind to achieve their rightful destiny. Long may that continue.

Last night I took my first wobbly steps back into my creative world. I have finally managed to break free from the captivity of the imaginary cage I had built around my dreams.

I am Soooooooooooooo Happy

I hope to add my humble little monochrome sketch as soon as its finished.

In monetary terms its worthless but painting means so much more to me than money.

Peace of mind is pricelesss.

Sunday, 1 June 2008

Hate crime, fear & parnoia

My family & I are safe we did not suffer a hate crime, so please do not worry, if you read this.
Fate played a hand in keeping me safe last night. I had to leave my home at 10.45 to pick up my parents. Fortunately I had been sending messages to some friends & was a little late in leaving. If I had left a moment sooner I could have meet someone who was trying to break into my parents car which I had parked outside my garage at the back of my flat in a courtyard. It is only a 1989 Ford Fiesta with nothing of value in it. It gives my dear Dad a feeling of independence & so to him its priceless.

As I went to open the car door something did not seem right & it was then that I heard a crackling sound of rapidly shattering glass from the side window behind the drivers door. Followed by the sound of what appeared to be the perpetrator of the crime climbing over the back fence in the shadows. I guess our security spotlight which normally comes on when there is movement may have disturbed him first as I activated it walking past my flat. I was a mixture of frightened & angry. I could not make any sense of it all. There were far nicer cars near by in more vulnerable dimly lit places that they had not touched which worried me a lot once the panic set him.

I was worrying about my parents waiting for me & the paranoia that this could just be the start of a hate crime, started to set in. I felt so vulnerable. I was afraid they would attack my home while I was gone. I took a chance & decided to drive the car the short distance up the road back to my parents home. The window which was still alive with the sound of splintering glass sound, some how managed not to fall out.

I was afraid that if it was yobs walking up the road that did it, they may finish the job of when I went off to get my parents. More paranoia. I rushed to Mum & Dads next door neighbours for help & they calmed me down. They kindly offered to keep an eye on the car while I went off 20 minutes late to get my worried sick Mum & Dad from their evening out. They & their friends were just relieved I was ok. It could so easily have been worse than just damage to property.

My biggest fear in transitioning has always been that my dear parents would suffer any kind of abuse because of me. I had a sleepless night blaming myself & cursed myself for not taking my own car instead of using Dads. My car is our run around & sometimes grubby with Corgi fur & the mud & stuff we bring back on our feet from our walks together. We keep Dads for best & as they were going out to see their friends for their weekly Saturday night get together I chose to take my Dads. At least then the batteries charged up as he hardly ever drives now (less than 100 miles in the last two year, 40,000 genuine miles on the clock). Not that he needs to drive, as I willingly take them everywhere they need.

In the cold light of today it was clearly just a simple case of car crime. It will only cost £100 to fix & so it is not worth claiming on insurance. The mental stress on my family & I was a far bigger worry.

My Dad asked me to make the necessary phone calls as he did not feel up to it. I reported it to the police just in case there was a spate of car crime in the area. The policeman I spoke to could not have been more helpful. There is not much they can do if it is a car crime which is a fact of life in the UK we now live in. It was safer camping out in the wilderness of Botswana, with the wild animals. I could have done with that elephant. Only pink ones live round here! I digress yet again,sorry. I explained my situation to the officer but I did not want to cry wolf & say it was a hate crime. His response was very respectful & concerned. He assured me they take hate crime very seriously & if in the unlikely event this escalates, they would do all they could to stop it happening. I hope to God I never have to phone him back but he seemed very genuine. The theif took nothing material wise but he has stolen my families pleasure this weekend.

After the phone calls I spent some time cleaning up the broken glass on my hands & knee's this morning outside my parents house as most of the window has now collapsed. I booked the repair to be done & then just to finish the morning off, my dear Mum became distressed. She started blaming me for the damage happening which did not help. She was only voicing the fears that I had for so long believed were my own. Those fears in some small way may have helped to hold me back from transitioning. I have been worried about her as she has not been herself all weekend & she is very tired. I just wanted to comfort her & make things right but she had become upset possibly at hearing me having to tell the police her son was transsexual but more likely like me her fears of our family being hurt because of my condition. I could not reason with her when she is like this & so I thought it best I leave & give them some space. So I spent some time back at my flat. At least I could do some more bloging. Much more fun than the housework I really should be doing!

At the combined age of 163 years this was another challenging day in the life of my dear family, that I so wished they had not had to experience.

I was hoping to write about something normal for a change, not Ts or GD related. All this gender stuff seems to involve so much whining & self pity. It gets boring. I am sorry to pour it all out yet again. I an actually fine now & so are my dear parents.

My heart goes out to any one who suffers crime but hate crime in particular. It must be a nightmare for the poor loves.

Yesterday had started off so lovely. I received my new name badge from my art society which was really poignant for me & meant so much. I had lots of normal stuff to do, the weekly shop & paying bills. I had another amusing phone conversation I never dreamed I would never have. I was talking to Mum about our shopping list when she kindly reminded me to remember to take back a skirt that I had recently bought that did not fit properly. Just going out & about doing every day things as our true selves is heaven. Even food shopping!

I am so lucky to still have my family & to be me.

Ps I have to go now our doggy needs his walk. I hope my car is still in one piece.