A Letter to my Wife

I wrote this to my wife by email when she opened a letter to me, from the hospital, inviting me to Speech and Language Therapy.

I was 600 miles away at the time…..

My lovely Wife

I have been the happiest I have ever been over the last few months. I have loved Christmas this year as never before. I have felt closer to you all, my family, than I ever thought I could, in ways that I did not know were possible. For you three are my family, without whom my life would be empty, meaningless, purposeless.

I live in fear that I will lose all of this and I know that that is a very real thing. It is something that I cannot imagine. It is something that makes my skin crawl just thinking about it. It is something that I cannot speak about, nor can I remain silent. When I wake in the middle of the night I am silently screaming in terror. I look at you and try to imagine what life would be like without you and it is beyond my imagination! I turn over so that I am not looking at you or, when you put out your hand I grab on to it so that I know that you are still there. I am not just comforting you, I am comforting myself. If I could I would hold your hand every night.

I also know that at the moment you are sitting at home, angry, upset, confused. You sent me a WhatsApp a long time ago and you are waiting for a response and are scared because it has not arrived!

And when I am awake? When I am awake, I want to tear my skin off. It is something I live with every day, I wish I didn’t have to but I do. I am seen as a man in all the areas of my life. I am judged as a man, I am told that I am lucky to be a man, that I don’t know what it is like to be a middle-aged woman. I have no role in society that I can be honest in. Except on line. I have discovered that I love clothes, that I want to be able to change my look with what I wear and with the make-up I choose to wear or not wear. I want to wear looser dresses or more constricting corsets.

And therefore I self harm. I self harm every day. I spoke, the other week, and above, about wanting to claw my own skin off on a daily basis. To stop that I need to let “her” surface sometimes. But I cannot do that so I suppress all of these things and the only way I can do that is to be in pain. I tuck myself really tightly every day, all day. This has 2 outcomes. One is that I can get rid of the bulge that reminds me every day that I am male. I can get a shape in my crotch that is more feminine. I can look in the mirror! The second is that, after a few hours, it all begins to ache and I can then relax. I spend all day at work in pain. And I look forward to it. I sometimes wear a sanitary towel because then I can get it even tighter and even flatter. The Nirvana is to make the whole thing numb. The best is on a long journey because I can tuck so tightly that I can sit on it all, all the way. When I sit with my palm between my thighs, I feel nothing. You asked why I was wearing two pairs of pants the other day, it is because I miss the feeling of material riding up between my cheeks!

It is strange that, because I can now make them numb, my muscles do not behave as if I have a penis because they have not been able to make it respond for a long time. My only muscles that work now are my pelvic floor muscles. When I am making you come my whole body responds as if I am coming in that area, I feel a sense of peace flooding through me. I would happily stop there and would really like to do that far more often. I feel sated and happy and cocooned. Touching my penis makes betrayal an inevitability. I either betray you by not getting an erection, or I betray myself by getting one.

So, am I gaslighting you? No. But I return to the first paragraph. Why have I been so happy this last few months? Why have I been so terrified this last few months? Because in my head I have come to the conclusion that I will have to do some transitioning. Perhaps just hormones, I don’t know, I would like to be able to talk about that with you. I could carry on with the tucking, I have grown so used to it that I think I would miss it. I have not done anything about it, but I cannot not. I have known this for weeks and weeks which has allowed me to relax, as well as be terrified and yet so happy. I have breathed it all in because it may be the last time, the last Christmas, the last birthday, the last away trip. I have relished every last minute of it because the memories are so precious to me. The only bitter sweet part is that I could not share this with you in the same way.

I have begun a letter like this many times, but this has forced me to actually finish writing it. I have known that writing this could change everything, and probably will but I still have a hope in the back of my brain that we will come through it. A forlorn one probably but there it is.

I meant what I said at the top. Not one single thing has ever made me regret moving in with you. I have adored every single second of it and hope to adore many more hours, weeks, months and years to come. You ask sometimes what makes me cry. This letter is making me cry. Finlay hasn’t noticed and I hope it stays that way.

When you sent me that WhatsApp my whole body went cold because, shock that it was, I knew you would want to know everything and I knew I had to tell it all to you. I went from happy to cold dread in a split second. Please wait til I get home so we can talk about this face to face.

I love you.

Now I have to have the courage to send this to you. I am terrified but I have to send it. The only thing I have hated is not taking you on this journey. The only thing that terrifies me is that you will not be on the journey with me because, most of the time, all I need to do is hold your hand and I can do anything. Bollocks, really crying now. All I can ask is that you read this to the end!

LGBT Reception Review

I have come away from the LGBT Youth Scotland Reception at the Scottish Parliament feeling really upbeat.

The event was brilliantly compared by 2 MSYPs, C-Jay Quigley and Owen Brand, each of whom gave some testimony of their work. The opening performance by a group of young people highlighting the battle to repeal section 28 was atmospheric, thought provoking and PINK!

Celebrating the 20th Anniversary Repeal of Section 28

Banner on a Ban Clause 28 March April 1988

I have to say this bit did make me feel old as I spent my student days campaigning against the introduction of clause 28, a fight we lost in 1988. It was a shock hearing Thatcher’s voice squawking out of the ether proclaiming it was for the safety of the children – there are similar parallels to the current claim by some that transgender women’s rights need to be curtailed for the safety of “the girls/women.” It was brilliant hearing the stories of those who were on the frontline of the repeal in 2000.

I was a Secondary Teacher in London in the 1990s and Section 28 always hung over us. Because we knew that we had gay and Lesbian young adults in our classes, and we knew that we were failing them, in what we did not teach them, isolating them and failing society as we were creating divisions that still remain today. I was a trained Sex Education teacher, I wrote the year 9, 10 and 11 curriculum for my school. It did not mention the words Gay or Lesbian! I was radical though as the law said that we could not promote a gay or lesbian lifestyle, so I mentioned it in passing. I would mention using extra strong condoms and a water based lube for anal sex. And we discussed rimming!

Now I am a primary teacher and rimming is not mentioned. Well, not by me anyway and I would wonder what online age inappropriate videos are being watched online by the one or two boys (always boys) each year that want to discuss this or other more niche (can I say that?) practices.

Thank you to #LGBTYS for putting on a great, thought provoking event and taking me down (bad) memory lane.

LGBT Youth Scotland

I am at the Scottish Parliament to attend a reception for LGBTYS. I have no idea what to expect but I am looking forward to it. I will report back later.

While I was waiting I went to watch the Scottish Parliament sitting. Way more efficient than Westminster. The electronic voting system meant that they could debate and vote on all of the amendments rather than a cabal deciding which should be debated and which not. Way more democratic.

I am representing the NASUWT, however I am in male disguise, dressed in a suit as I came straight from work the train. It is amazing being around transgender people even if I am closeted as usual!!!

The Ether

This is the first blog in which I have managed to write more than a few posts.

I love the idea of a blog in the same way that I loved the idea of writing a diary when I was a teenager. My room was littered with notebooks with, at most, two entries and I could never work out how to enthuse myself to write more often. Because although I found it cathartic to write down my teenage angst, tell an “imaginary friend” what my thoughts, fears, loves and gripes were, I could not sustain it for more than a couple of entries. I had ideas of what I wanted to write, they would wander into my mind at impossible moments such as the middle of a Chemistry Practical or a play rehearsal, times when I could do nothing about them, and then slip noislessly away when I approached a notebook. The brain was willing but the mind was weak.

I also mourn my missing diaries in ways that I had not imagined would be the case! I would love to be able to remind myself of past events and the overthinking created by them. I can remember Helen Richards kissing me in the tent in my garden, but not my thoughts afterwards or the events leading up to it! That is a nice memory. More are not so nice! Now, I am pretty certain lots of nice things happened but my memory banks only remember the embarrassing, or worse. So I wish that now, 30 to 40 years later, I could read about the every day nice, character forming memories that my brain has deemed meaningless enough to jettison to make space for other, equally immemorable trivia.

So why, now, am I finding the diary writing habits so long locked away? It is not that I have the time! Time is the one thing I do not I am extremely short of; I am a manager, a counsellor and a parent of an elite athlete who drives for 40,000 miles per year transporting said athlete. It is not that I have a new thing in the forefront of my mind that is overpowering all of my thoughts and forcing me to put it down on (virtual) paper, I have been struggling with the transgender question for 6 years and have started this blog twice before!

It is simpler than that. I have made a friend, a friend who, I know, is reading this. A friend has trusted me with their flaws and troubles and is shouldering some of mine! It turns out that writing to my diary, or to my secret/invisible friend does not satisfy my need at all, I am not able to write into the ether. It would appear that I need to know that somebody will read what I have written, even if it is only one. I am not sure what the difference is between that and a letter. But for now, I am happy because, for whatever reason, I am writing and it is helping!

To Be or Not To Be (Me), that is the (toilet) question!

I have my next meeting at the Gender Identity Clinic on Thursday!

Yeah, gulp. How does that make me feel? Anxious, divided, undecided, excited, shaky, positive, disloyal, over joyed, frustrated, negative, …… You get the picture!

But surely this should be a good thing. This is what I have been looking forward to, working towards, dreaming about. So what are the problems?

In this day and age, if you are transgender and out of the closet in any way at all, you are constantly bombarded with information, both positive and negative. I may only be out, in the real world, to my immediate family, 2 friends, one of their families, my doctor, my psychiatrist my hairdresser and several other hairdressers up and down the country (including one in France!!), but online I have a presence as Charlotte on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Tumblr.

On Twitter, in particular, there is no shortage of self-opinionated people who will tell me that I am wrong, evil, going to hell, a pervert, misguided, a danger to others and much, much more. On the other hand, there are plenty of people who will support me because I only follow people who, on the whole, think like me. Does the support outweigh the hatred because it is not just online that I would get abuse if I were to show the real world my identity.

There are people around me who openly question why a “man” would want to become a woman. Because they cannot understand why a man would give up the privilege that comes with being a man, there is some suspicion that there must be an ulterior motive, such as cheating at sport or gaining access to the ladies toilets! I would be giving up strength, my position in society, friends (probably), I would be gaining things that, once gained are not easily lost, such as breasts, hips, bigotry. This is a decision that once acted on, cannot be completely reversed!

On the issue of toilets, nobody has actually explained to me what the risk is? Presumably the chance of being overheard doing a wee or, presumably worse, accidentally breaking wind on the toilet would be psychologically damaging? I am not sure. One person did suggest that the embarrassment of opening a tampon would be even worse if a “man” could overhear. These things are part of the human condition. We have inherited the Victorian prudishness that has created a society able to keep women down because we cannot bear to speak about bodily fluids, sexual organs or periods. I do not want to use the women’s toilet because I wish to eavesdrop, I wish to use the women’s toilet because I do not feel comfortable in men’s toilets because I am not a man and men’s toilets are utterly disgusting. And they stink. Many men do not like using urinals in case somebody sees their penis, so they use the cubicles. And wee all over the seat. And the floor. And very often the wall too. And often don’t flush even after making a deposit!!! So when I go in the first thing I have to do is clean up, make sure nothing goes on the floor in the puddle of yellow liquid, pull my knickers and trousers down to my upper thighs and sit down on a freshly cleaned seat. Sometimes the state of the sit down toilets are so bad that I have to use the urinals, which brings on my dysphoria. In private toilets, I have not stood to wee for 35 years.

But I digress!

I had a lovely Christmas Holiday. We did not travel anywhere, we stayed at home, shared great food with 2 of the 3 children (and my MiL but you cannot have everything!), entertained the teenage friends of the teenagers for New Year’s Eve, in short, we rested. But there was one little black cloud on my horizon. The GIC appointment. Or more accurately, how to tell my wife about the GIC appointment! I am terrified that this may be our last idyllic Christmas. I have savoured every minute of it, attempting to store it all up in my memory. And I don’t know how to tell her!

Travel Tights

I shaved my legs this morning!

To be honest I have let myself go since going back to work so there was a lot of tidying up to do. The downside of this is that it can take some time, though I was in a friends lovely shower so it was no hardship. The upside is that I love the feeling of freshly shaved legs. They feel so different! So, to enhance this, I got out the pair of nylon tights I always travel with and put them on under my jeans. Bliss. It makes me feel so feminine wearing tights. And nobody knows.

I always have a pair of woolly tights and a pair of nylon tights packed for time away. It’s the best way to feel girly and warm!

Teenage Revisited

During the last six years I have become increasingly aware of how important the teenage and pre-teen years are. This is when boys and girls experiment with looks, ethics, beliefs, attitude and many other things. For most this is an experience that will set them on a path for life, helping to shape career, orientation, status, conformity non-conformity, femininity or masculinity regardless of gender. For a few, like me, this is not quite the case.

True, I have my ethics, my lack of belief in a deity, my politics, my shyness. All formed during my teenage years. But I also have my masculinity. Even though I was more comfortable with girls/women and even though I think it was easier being a teenager then (in the late 70s/early 80s), you still had to survive in the pack. In those days, it was not done to be openly gay or effeminate, certainly where I was growing up. Don’t get me wrong, these people were there and I was in awe of their bravery, but I was not that brave and I had to survive!

But now I realise that that teenage angst, which makes them so difficult to live with, pretty much moulds everything about them: how they stand, sit, lounge, move their arms, cross their legs, answer questions, put their point of view across (or not), talk to people of their own gender, talk to people of the opposite gender, flirt with men, flirt with women, handwriting, length of stride, the step pattern, walking in general, hand gestures, cadence of voice, laugh, in jokes, films seen, role models, fashion, make-up, hobbies, standing, gestures when speaking.

As a closeted transwoman, I find myself gong through a second puberty, not through hormones, but purely through realising how much I have to learn from my new peers. The problem with that is my peers are not teenagers and are not programmed for those conversations, learning exepriences and experimentation. They did that decades ago, and it was exhausting then and they are certainly not going to relive it again thank you very much. What to do?

Books!

I read vorasciously anyway and with the rise of Young Adult (YA) books there is plenty to choose from. I have read a lot by trans authors, though often these are frustrating as they usually have the lead character magically beginning to transition with no intervention but magic. I am sure that there are many of us out there who wish that that could happen but personally, I live in the real world. Having said that, if anybody knows how to activate the magic so that my boy bits can gradually morph into girl bits, could you please let me know? I would be eternally grateful.

Fortunately there are a large number of coming of age young women novels. The most recent ones I have read are by Jenny Han. I really enjoyed “To All the Boys I have Ever Loved”. I saw the film first but reading the book afterwards was still great as there were enough differences that you still wanted to turn the page. This was also the first of a trillogy and I enjoyed the next two just as much, if not even more. I have also read Jenny Han’s “The Summer I Turned Pretty”. Different characters, different story, but just as good.

I am learning from my friends on the written page. Maybe not as good as going through puberty with other teenagers but you have to make the best of what you have got.

Nighties and Nightshirts

When I was a child I wore pyjamas. It was what you did! We often got them for Christmas, all three children with a different coloured pair. I hated them. They were made of Nylon, which made you sweat, but worse, because they were Nylon, they twisted round your body when you turned over and were extremely uncomfortable. I rebelled at the age of eleven and slept naked for 40 years.

But for the last 5 years I have suffered from night sweats. I can wake up in the middle of winter with my sheets and quilt soaking in a body-shaped patch, and everything sticking to me. The first few times I was mortified because I thought I had wet myself. Oh my God, imagine starting to pee the bed again at 51. Nightmare! Fortunately it was that, but I was sweating out a huge amount which was pretty disgusting in a similar way. I had no idea what to do about it.

Until, that is, I took a group of primary children away on a trip. Now, in the past I had always worn shorts when on these trips as, obviously, sleeping in the nude is not a good idea when you are on call at any time of the day or night, particularly when those in your care are under 10! This time, I wore a pair of leggings and a long T-shirt. What a revelation! Both were stretchy and tight fitting and therefore did not wrap themselves around me. Both were absorbent so they had kept my sheets dry and, because they hugged my body, it did not feel as if I was sleeping in a puddle. What a revelation.

I have not slept in the nude since. I have several bodycon dresses that I wear as nighties. I have night shirts that I wear with leggings. I have women’s P.J.s that I love. And of course, i wear my compression knickers underneath.

Because we wouldn’t want a bulge would we?

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