Tag: trans life

The 53

I bumped into a friend on the bus home from work the other day. This person is someone who I’ve known for a while (I used to work in a school they were a student in, that we have both now left) but never known personally until recently, someone who has got to know me quite well through reading my blog. They said to me on the bus that ‘all of my posts on social media are amazing and really helpful’ so I thought I would write another one that was aimed at what else we spoke about on the bus and touches on something I wrote about in my previous post: Confidence.

So, part of my (and everyone else’s) coming out process is building up the confidence to start dressing as yourgender in public. I feel like I managed to get this right for myself so I’m going to attempt to pass a few tips on to anyone ‘still in the closet.’

When I eventually knew that I was going to be coming out publicly as transgender, I started to buy clothes that I hoped I would feel comfortable wearing outside the house. I had a load of stuff I would wear in the privacy of my own home but none of it was stuff I would wear out, I guess you could say I started out as a ‘cross dresser’ (I fucking hate that term, by the way, literally makes it sound like guys can ONLY wear guys clothes or vice-versa and to dress like a girl/guy is a sexual fetish which is absolute BULLSHIT for 99% of transgender people).

I started to replace my mens jeans with girly skinny jeans (took me a little while to actually start working out my size but I soon learned that no two clothes shops size things the same and I can be anything from an 8 to a 14) and began wearing them out straight away. No one really noticed except for my partner at the time (who knew I wanted to come out anyway) and my friend Lily who told me she liked my new jeans. I started wearing girls underwear at the same time simply as no one would ever know I wasn’t wearing boxers. This was the most liberating thing EVER and I would encourage anyone who’s considering coming out to try this because you are literally the only person who would know and it is a huge confidence booster and anxiety killer after doing it for the first time.

After a couple of months of this I started swapping the skinny jeans for plain black leggings. I’d team this up with a long t-shirt so at a quick glance they would just look like black jeans. No one really noticed again but if anyone did, they didn’t say anything to me. After that it was tights under jeans or leggings to get used to them, then a pair of boots with small heels on, then I started replacing my jackets with girly ones. I stopped cutting my hair and shaved my beard clean off, later wearing foundation and concealer to cover up the shadow. I started adding a pencil skirt or bodycon dress under the t-shirts when wearing leggings and it was around this time that I came out as gender fluid and announced I’d changed my name. Ditching the leggings for tights in the latter outfit by this point was easy, as I’d taken super small steps with my outfits each time I left the house.

The clue is in the title when transitioning between genders. It’s normal for a transition to take time and trans people – for all our battles – have the luxury of choosing this time frame. Making minor changes to your wardrobe will also make it less obvious for outsiders if/when you do come out, as you’ve kind of already started to transition long before announcing it. I was dressing ‘differently’ for almost a year before I publicly came out and my dress sense is now more or less unchanged unless I’m going out for drinks and want to look and feel extra femme.

Which brings me on to the next point – actually going out dressed differently. This for me was simple. I had a small group of friends who I’d told that I was going to come out as trans sometime in the future. They were supportive (obviously, all your friends will be even if they don’t fully understand at first – be patient with them as they will be with you but be prepared to answer some questions) and decided that these friends would be a good group of people to start dressing differently around, knowing they would ‘have my back’ if we were at the pub and a stranger wanted to try and have a pop at me. This has never actually happened (and I live in a small market town full of narrow-minded people) but it was infinitely helpful knowing I had a small group of friends around me that would stick up for me if things went sour. Safety in numbers and all that.

As my hair grew out I started to wear it in space buns or tied back under a bandana. This was immeasurably liberating being able to do, as well as something you can easily cover with a hood or take down altogether if you step out and decide you’re not ready for a femme hair style in public. To be honest, hair tied back under a bandana is really practical for anyone with long hair and after a while I ended up doing this to work all the time long before I came out publicly. I always used to wear a hat so no one seemed to even notice.

Nowadays, a year on from coming out fully, I don’t bat an eyelid about dressing like a girl unless I’m having a particularly dysphoric day (see previous There’s No Need To Panic post) which is a testament to taking your time with transitioning and making small changes at a time. Both of these things make the whole process less of a shock to the people around you which will in turn help with your process altogether.

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There’s No Need To Panic!

It’s been a while, for no reason other than I haven’t really had much to talk about. When I started this blog it was with the intention of helping people by sharing my story, and also to remind people they aren’t alone. I figured it wouldn’t be any harm to share a few of my coping mechanisms for things that happen in my head.

The three things mentally that I have to deal with are dysphoria, anxiety and panic attacks, although the latter hasn’t really happened for longer than I can remember with one recent exception which I’ll go into later.

1: Dysphoria. This is something that I deal with almost every day, and something I still haven’t fully got to grips with yet. It’s basically when I wake up in the morning, may face or body doesn’t even slightly resemble whats in my head and I feel like killing myself. Step one: go back to sleep. Step two: start again. Sometimes even 10 minutes back in bed (sacrificing my breakfast and eating later on/at work) can help start the thought processes again and make me feel less horrific. I’ve mentioned before about girls days and boy days, and 95% of the time I am on girls days now. Boy days tend to happen when I have to shave and my face reacts badly to the razor, for any number of reasons, leaving me with a shadow that I can’t cover up. On those days, it’s jeans, a hoodie, no effort at all and generally trying to hide from people. Days like this usually mean my skin will be bad the day after too, so at least I can prepare myself for having a bad day the day after. When I start to take hormones my face should start to clear up and the above will become less of an issue, although for now I don’t quite have a solution – other than going back to sleep.

2: Anxiety. For me, this is something that’s linked in to what I choose to wear. If I’m having a particularly good day and I’ve gone for the big heels, lots of leg and something to maximise what I have discovered to be my excellent ass, I’m usually relatively unstoppable, and I’ll do the shallow thing of an Instagram post knowing that the comments are often incredibly encouraging, something which helps keep the anxiety at bay (see photo below of a recent Ann Summers purchase that I never, ever thought I would have the guts to post publicly). Now, I can only assume that most other girls have the problem of ‘OH MY GOD ALL MY CLOTHES ARE SHIT AND I HAVE NOTHING TO WEAR’ because since dressing as one, I get that too. Three almost identical black pencil skirts and I spend 20 minutes deciding which one is normal, right? This is where the anxiety starts to set in, the feeling of ‘none of my clothes look good’ starts to remind me that I still very much have a male body, something I don’t particularly want to be reminded of. When this happens, I have a nap again (there’s a theme here, right?) and that tends to help.

When I’m dressed up like a sassy bitch, fucking nothing can stop me. Getting there can be a challenge but when I’m ready and I’m out, I’m happy. I don’t care if people stare at me or look me up and down or if an old guy in the queue at the post office tuts at me and shakes his head. It’s not my fault I look better than them. A street cleaner in my home town approached me the other day and said he’d seen me about and had talked about me to his mates before and wanted to tell me that I was brave, ‘had balls’ (for lack of a better expression) and that I shouldn’t give a shit what other people think. He was right about the last bit, I don’t. People in the street very rarely shout abuse at me or say things that make me uneasy. They stare, they tut, they may not understand but they aren’t looking for a fight if they say anything. Hopefully that last bit is encouraging to anyone wanting to come out… be yourself, it’s not as bad out here as you may think. I can count on one hand (at the time of writing) the things people have said:

  • on the way to work ‘there’s something hanging out from under your skirt’ L O L how original
  • walking through town ‘have you got a mangina’ (I fucking DIED laughing at this, he was about 12
  • leaving a pub ‘fuck off you girl’ FROM A GIRL like, fuck off, bitch, I’ll slap the make up off ya face *walks off like the sassy bitch that I am and buys cheesy chips at the kebab shop*
  • leaving the toilets in a pub ‘have you got a fanny or a cock.’ Who remembers Dick and Dom In Da Bungalow? Dom said it. Or maybe it was Dick. Who cares? He apologised after. I just laughed and walked off.

If someone does shout crap at you, ALWAYS keep walking. They don’t care enough to follow it up. And if they tried to, you can run faster than them. Don’t feed the trolls, real or on the internet. Honestly, people on the whole want to say nice things, I have run out of body parts to count the compliments on.

3: Panic attacks. Luckily, these don’t really happen anymore *touches wood* and it’s been some time since one has. I never knew exactly what used to cause them and to be honest I don’t know exactly why they’ve stopped. I used to struggle to identify when one was happening which would often mean I’d left it too late to get out of. So I guess the first bit of advice is learning to understand your body and changes in it that feel uncomfortable. Things like elevated breathing or heart rate, increased senses of anxiety or awareness of yourself/your surroundings and things like being increasingly uncomfortable towards a normal task can all be indicators (from my experience, at least) of an impending panic attack.

I have had one near miss since learning to recognise when I was about to have one and I was lucky enough to get over it, mainly because I recognised when it was about to happen. Calming down is much easier said than done (reeeally slow breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth is good, as well as stretching excessively and clicking your fingers in turn a few times) but can be really effective if you ‘do it early enough.’ If you’re past this and your body is filling with adrenaline, I find that closing off my senses then doing something fast and active is good. Luckily for me I’m a drummer, and drumming is a stunning what of buying off excess adrenaline. When I started to feel panic recently I found an isolated spot (I was at work but the shop was shut so again, lucky), put Glitches by ETID on my iPhone and proceeded to drum along in the air with my eyes shut. The movements are fast and precise and require your entire upper body to perform them. Panic attacks often induce increased breathing, leading to excess oxygen in the blood and this kind of activity is a great way to use the O2 up. Closing my eyes allowed a memory of the the band performing the song to fill my mental space, a memory that is positive and treasured to me and one that can flush out panic and its associated emotions. By the time I made it to the end of the song, I was in the clear.

In Laymans Terms, I isolated all my senses by ‘playing along’ to this track. Any one can do this – it might not work but anything is worth a try, I guess – isolate yourself, find a song you associate with positivity, crank it, and move/dance/jump/pretend to play drums until the song is over, with your eyes shut. It’s not for everyone, but if it works for one other person besides myself then this blog post has succeeded. DISCLAIMER – this might not work, it might make your own panic attacks worse. I am giving advice that works for me and it is not gospel for all. I haven’t directly told you to try this and I’m not responsible if it doesn’t work. Alright? Alright!

The final line of that song is ‘No Need To Panic,’ something I didn’t even realise until after picking it as my go-to song if ever I get close to panicking. Strange, that.

That’s it for this post, so as always, thanks for reading. For those of you following this blog because of my gender related battles, I have no updates as yet. The clinic I have been referred to are working slower than ever due to excessive numbers of people being referred. This is good and bad – it shows that the need is there and that more people are feeling comfortable enough to come out or get help, but it also means the waiting lists are getting longer. It’s a good thing our UK government care about the NHS, mental health and gender related illness.

That last bit was sarcasm.

For anyone interested, I have currently been listening to:

  • Don Broco – Priorities
  • Converge – The Dusk In Us
  • QOTSA – Villains
  • Aeges – Weightless
  • ’68 – Two Parts Viper

Long Live The Stag and Hounds. 

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week and I couldn’t let that go by without posting something, so here’s a post.
I had a gig last night with my band, Ghost Of The Avalanche, and it was a bitter sweet show because it was the last ever gig we will play at a venue in Bristol called The Stag and Hounds, as its closing down at the end of the month. We pulled out all the stops, got some friends on stage with us and did everything we could to give the place a proper send off in true Ghost Of The Avalanche fashion and needless to say (I think it was) it was a success.

Live music for me (and loads of people I know) is a way of escaping battles in your head. It is a safe place, a place of acceptance, a place you can let go, enjoy yourself and know you won’t be judged. I’ve met dozens of people at shows who’ve said they’ve struggled all week because of whatever is going on upstairs but the couple of hours they have watched bands playing at whatever gig I’m talking to them at has totally erased all those thoughts from their head. I know that feeling well myself, and getting home after a show knowing you’ve had a few hours of ‘down time’ is a feeling like no other.

The Stag and Hounds closing down is a fucking phenomenal blow to the UK underground music scene. The bands were ALWAYS good, the beer and food is decent and cheap, the staff, sound engineers and infamous promoters are all legendary and every punter in there (at least when I’ve been there) is there for the same reason, a love of live music. Seeing it close is hard, knowing it’s one less place that people like me have to go to as a place of safety, acceptance and escape.

Last night we played a song called ‘The Park’ which is about me dealing with anxiety. I introduced it with a speech; telling everyone in the crowd to look after themselves, be open with each other, talk to your friends about your battles, that it is okay to not be okay and to look after themselves and one another.

I’m writing this to echo what I said last night. This is me talking: I am sad that my favourite venue is closing. I am scared I won’t find the exact escape I get in those walls anywhere else but I am thankful I got to spend so much time there and now it is closing, I will hold memories in that place for as long as I have the capacity to remember them. I’ve met a fuck-ton of amazing people in that place too, some of whom have become jam-mates (if you read this, waddup Matt from DC, that was fucking good fun last night!) and best friends. I love you mad people!

If you supported my bands as I played there in any way, thank you.

Long fucking live The Stag and Hounds. 

Footage of the show can be found here: https://youtu.be/R1lELlJ8sIw

Photo credit: Simon Holiday