Saturday, 22 May 2010

The Mayonnaise Jar

I have had some lovely experiences with kind friends recently. As the pace of life can some times become rather hectic its all too easy to lose touch with what really matters in your life. Good friends can reach out & hold you in your of need, be there for you, share successes & failures.

Having just received an unexpected phone call from my friend Julia which brightened my day, I received a rather sweet email from another friend called Anne. It contained the following story:-

"When things in your life seem almost too much to handle,
When 24 Hours in a day is not enough,
Remember the mayonnaise jar and 2 cups of coffee.

A professor stood before his philosophy class
And had some items in front of him.
When the class began, wordlessly,
He picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar
and proceeded to fill it with golf balls.

He then asked the students, if the jar was full.
They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured
them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly.
The pebbles rolled into the open Areas between the golf balls.

He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar.
Of course, the sand filled up everything else.
He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous 'yes.'

The professor then produced two cups of coffee from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar, effectively
filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.

'Now,' said the professor, as the laughter subsided,
'I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life.
The golf balls are the important things - family,
children, health, Friends, and Favorite passions –
Things that if everything else was lost and only they remained, Your life would still be full.

The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, house, and car.

The sand is everything else -- The small stuff.

'If you put the sand into the jar first,' He continued,
'there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls.
The same goes for life.

If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff,
You will never have room for the things that are important to you.


Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness.
Play With your children.
Take time to get medical checkups.
Take your partner out to dinner.

There will always be time to clean the house and mow the lawn.

'Take care of the golf balls first --
The things that really matter.
Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.'

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the coffee represented.

The professor smiled.
'I'm glad you asked'.

It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem,
there's always room for a couple of cups of coffee with a friend.'"

No sooner had I posted this story & another dear friend Nicky called.

If there is a friend you have not called for a while just taking the trouble to make a quick call can make such a difference.

These two special friends certainly lifted my spirits today. You have all touched my heart, bless you.

May life be kind to you.

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Six month Anniversary

It is just over six months since I had my surgery. Time seemed initially slow filled with recuperation & endless medical procedures, then it raced on by as I wanted to make up for lost time. It has been quite a challenging time in many ways. Life never goes as planned. It has occasionally been a little chaotic & at one point recently I seemed to lose my way a little but I have no regrets & so much to look forward to.

When I sat on the bench in the evening Sun dreaming of my future, nothing could have prepared me for how it felt in the hours & days preceding my surgery last November. I will never ever forget how lucky I was to have my surgery via the NHS at a place of my choice & have an outcome I am very happy with. One month after surgery I was able to trudge through the snow getting modest amounts of shopping in & taking our doggy for his walks.

Physically it has been quite demanding but I feel I have been very fortunate. I seemed to get all the slightly scary stuff out of the way in the hospital & could not have wished for better care. In honest truth from the first day I came home, so kindly delivered to my door by my kind friend Lucy, fatigue and thankfully not too much pain, continues to be one of the biggest challenges. That & the hormonal changes. A kind of second puberty at a million miles an hour which randomly slows & then takes off seemingly with on a mind of its own. At first post op there seemed to be an emergency back up mode which sent what remained of my testosterone producing organs crazy. Facial hair texture seemed briefly much coarser. Thank goodness that phase seemed to subside after a month. Being off hormone therapy for six weeks before my surgery sent me even more batty than usual. It may have been imaginary but felt real.

Joy of joys other positive physical changes started gathering pace after a couple of months. May be also due to a little inactivity but I began to put on weight for the first time in four or five years. Stress had caused me to be too skinny. Not a good way to diet. I have put on nearly a whole stone in weight. Thankfully most of it seems to have gone on, in all the right places. The biggest surprise was that the hair on my head appears to be a thicker texture & may even have started regrowing in follicles that had been dormant but not completely dead.

Emotionally; at first the peace & tranquillity was unbelievable. It still is now. It’s not been the crazy, loud manic times since, when I tried to push myself too hard too soon but the quiet times of reflection I am so grateful for. To realise that nagging dysphoric condition which had once engulfed my every thought was now largely silent but for the occasional whisper, has been the most wonderful experience. The surgery was never going to be a magic cure all but my life is so different & largely so much more positive now. I still have the challenge of my anxiety to conquer but my depression is thankfully much more an infrequent unwanted visitor. Worries & insecurities still remain but they are I can only guess quite common place for every one.

I do wonder if I will ever find a life partner. That was not my reason for surgery at all. I have been adjusting to the awakening of feelings I had suppressed since the confused pain of my teenage years of long ago. Can a woman with my past still be friends with a man who was once a "mate"? I think I will save that for another post.

Saying Good by to the life I thought I used to live has its euphoric happy times but also some heartbreaking losses of a few very dear friends. Thankfully one very very special friend is very much back in my life again.

A good friend is better than any pills. You certainly find out who your friends are on this journey. Saying Good by to the world I existed in when I was perceived a man & lived a lie has been easy. Saying good by to some of the worlds I lived in very hard. Sometimes it’s been hard to shake off the past & move on or indeed be allowed to move on.

I still have my demons, I may occasionally have sleepless nights where my brain goes into overdrive but the inner peace of finally being comfortable with my skin & having the continued love & the support of my family & friends has been both life affirming & humbling. “The greatest events aren't the loudest, but the most quiet hours” has a much greater meaning to me now.

Peaceful thoughts

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

First time voting, the return of the Iron Lady?

In a sense I feel I have a rather unique opportunity to be a first time voter, twice, in one life time.

In a previous life when I had the chance to vote in a general election for the first time, I hid a terrible secret, which I am ashamed of, to this day. In 1979 I voted “The Iron lady” Mrs Thatcher into power.

I was a very confused troubled soul back then. We had a woman prime minister who was strong minded, some would say very intelligent, some would say she had quite masculine trates. Admirable qualities? She certainly knew her own mind, unlike me. Mrs "T" love her or loathe her proved to be very strong willed, a heartless ruthless leader who by her own actions sadly proved she had no sense of community & no compassion in her body. In those days I did not know who I was or what I was, never mind who to vote for.

Way back then I knew in my heart I had to vote for changes to my life, to have a chance of a better future. Do I wish I had made those changes sooner, do I have any regrets? It is so much easier to be wise after the event.

Skip forward in time. Here I am reborn, feeling like a first time voter all over again. It is my first chance to vote in a general election using my rightful name.

Perhaps I am now more of an iron lady myself after taking my Holland & Barratt liquid iron supplement to boost my energy levels. OMG no I’m turning into………. My Dad now goes out wearing some of the strange clothes, that once hung in my wardrobes! How times have changed.

To have the chance to vote in a democratic society is such a privilege, something we possibly take too much for granted. I can equally appreciate young voters being disillusioned & not bothering to vote at all, but then perhaps if you don’t vote you have no right to moan, something we could win gold medals at in this country.

I have had endless election junk mail through my letter box. Joy of joy’s I had one from our local Tory counsellor asking for my vote addressed to Mr D. …………Charming, so caring & thoughtful, he certainly wins my vote as the number one local erection candidate!

Who should I vote for?
I for some reason like the principal of "Change that works for you!"

Unfortunately our elections now seem to be more about personality than policies. Sadly we do not have a charasmatic leader like Obama to vote for. If only our politicians could all work together regardles of party for a common good for the country, instead of appearing to work purely for their own personal gains.If we end up with a hung parliament & they refuse to work together for the good of the country it could be good fun voting x factor style to decide which politician gets hung first!

If you mix red & yellow you could end up getting brown & stuck with mud!

We could have the dreaded sequel to the iron lady, the iron man who is actually a "T" person at heart.

When David Cameron looks into a mirror does he see his true self, can we be sure a vote for him is not actually a vote for the return of the politics of the Iron Lady?

No one should tell you who to vote for. All of this is written in fun but there is a very serious side to this years general election. I just hope none of us have the same regrets about the political party you vote for as I had after my first, first time as a voter & we truly have a future fit for all!

Happy voting!
Debbie x

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Job Applications Disclosure Dilemmas including Security, CRB, GRC requirements

Recently I have experienced the dilemma of deciding how much you need to disclose about your past. There is always a risk of your past catching up with you. Socially the challenges of that emotional minefield are becoming much more apparent.

My journey has been a long one for my family & I. My path back to the workplace equally so, but a new day is dawning. It contimues to be a time of great change.

For now this post just explores my humble experience with regard to attempting to get back to the workplace & job applications, Criminal Record Bureau CRB checks & Gender Recognition Certificates. How should I deal with my T history? In my case I also have the dilemma of how much I have to disclose regarding my mental health issues.

Voluntary work does not normally require you to disclose your health issues. If you are offered employment CRB checks may be involved & more personal information requested. As with legally changing your name you can ask for the company’s assistance in making the relevant changes to your records & that it would be appreciated if they can preserve full confidentiality. There is a small team at the CRB office who are dedicated to those who are transgendered, who are very helpful and give very good advice. Further details are available on

With the guidance of my counselor & an employment facilitator when I first started applying for voluntary work we prepared a disclosure letter which explained briefly about my reasons for applying, my previous work history, reason for leaving & relevant confidential medical history. Briefly this explained I had suffered work related stress due to victimization which caused depression & anxiety. During the recovery of which I found I needed to transition. This was fine in my earlier stages of recovering my health but not for the harsh reality of seeking paid employment in the job market during a world wide recession.

When applying for paid positions I have decided I will never mention my trans history in my CV or any application at all. If I am ever lucky enough to get to interview I would not bring the subject up. If I were fortunate enough to be successful & offered a position, I would prefer not to mention it. I think it could be illegal for them to ask me out right during an interview. My appearance mannerisms & voice are unlikely to offer me the opportunity of stealth. After a period of time & if I felt circumstances were appropriate, I may or may not chose to disclose. It should be no ones business but my own but life is not always going to be that simple.

This year I have been given an honorary contract by the hospital I attend to do my voluntary work, so that I can have the legal rights of a paid employee This enables me to undertake many more duties/responsibilities to help the staff I work with, than I could previously as a volunteer. It’s a win, win situation, as I also gain valuable extra work experience. I had to go through a new CRB check having been previously CRB approved as a volunteer a year ago.

For security reasons I was asked to produce my birth certificate. This caught me slightly unawares. Apparently employers are obliged to see proof of legal residency in the UK, for all new employees. This takes the form of a valid passport, a birth certificate or a letter from the Home Office. I do not have a passport or a letter from the home office & do not want to have to go through outing myself in writing if I am ever lucky enough to be offered a new job. This may happen for any new employment. So it would appear unless you have a Gender Recognition Certificate which should enable you to obtain a new birth certificate, regardless of your ability to pass (I hate that term & all the labels flame wars) you may not have the option of stealth.

As a result I had to be open with the HR department who were fine in this case. They took a copy of my old birth certificate & sealed it in an envelope marked confidential & retained it in my file until such time as I could produce my new birth certificate. For this I would need to apply for a gender recognition certificate. I intend adding another post about my experiences with applying for a GRC.If you have recently transitioned, living full time in role & legally changed your name, it is a good idea to keep hold of some of your utility bills from the earliest possible time of living in your new gender role to provide evidence should you require a GRC.

Job application forms I have come across recently have asked for any periods of sickness during previous employment to be disclosed & any relevant medical conditions, reasons why including mental health, which in my case applied to, anxiety & previous depressive episodes. The reality of the stigma perceived or otherwise towards people like me who have had mental health issues adds to the challenge of finding employment. There is an excellent campaign running presently “Time to Change” aims to end the stigma & discrimination, which still have a huge impact on the lives of people with mental health problems, even though one in four of us will experience a problem at some time in our lives. Time to Change is England's most ambitious programme to end that discrimination.

Gaps in employment history have to be explained. How best do I explain my five year gap in paid employment? Been clothes shopping for five years, run out of money, just won't do!

The truth is I needed that time for my family & I to be ready for the transition, to give it the best chance of succeding. Then I had to go through the medical, physical & mental changes I needed to make to my life. There is now a period of adjusting to those changes which is both exciting & emotional. The pace at which this all happened remains critical to our well being.

My official version for my employment “gap” may go along the lines of “I took time off to care for my elderly parents who I am devoted to, while exploring/developing a new career as a wildlife artists” which is true, if a little economical with the truth.

Initially I did not appreciate I had transferable skills from my previous specialized career. With my new self image & improved self esteem I now realise I have a much better outlook on life. I know I need to concentrate on the positive aspects of my life experiences & what I can do, the life & work skills I can offer a potential employer.

For now I have to be realistic about how ambitious I set my short term employment goals. The only head hunters coming for me , have white coats! Without your health you have nothing. Having taken things a little easier recently I feel ready to face the challenges ahead. To be well enough to pay my way in life again & support my family.

Thanks you so much for your kindness & inspiration. You do make a difference. I think of the friends I have found here a lot although I find myself having less & less time to blog.

I hope you have a lovely Bank Holiday weekend, in spite of the UK weather!
May there be sunshine in your hearts & life be kind to you
Peace & love