Today’s blog post offers one trans person’s experiences of gender affirming transition. Here we see both the difficulties that currently exist in the UK’s healthcare system, and also the significant value transitioning can have for someone. The right for young trans people to transition is currently under threat in the UK, and so we hope this post will help give evidence that the process of transitioning needs to be made easier for trans young people, not harder.
If you are old enough, please sign this petition.
*Image by spadenightmaren on redbubble
Gender Affirming Transition
written by Fire
I made two major changes to my life in 2016.
It took working on a small Spanish island for me to realise that the setup of my goals needed restructuring. I was trying to do something that I couldn’t, as a person I was not. Funny, that.
I thought I could get to a place mentally and financially which would allow me to reach later goals. I was avoiding problems in my home environment to help improve other, bigger issues. I had no base with which to propel to a better level. So I sank further.
That year was one of the best and the worst I’d ever had. After I was back on Manchester soil, I came back up to the surface in my head. And then started work on building my defences. I changed my name. I didn’t want the one given to me – (we call this a ‘deadname’). Being called something, someone, you’re not… hurts. My title and gender marker with it. Passport, NHS, social media. I got referred to a gender clinic, therapy, and started volunteering. My friendships were evolving, and I was making better ones.
I joined an lgbtq+ women’s group about a year after the start of my transition. I was the only trans one amongst a group of 7 for about 6 months. It massively helped me to feel included and accepted. Although it did come with problems – sometimes I was the only one to speak for trans folks, in the face of ignorance. I was there to socialise, have fun. Not expend emotional labour. It was a place of support but also injustice. Another trans person joined, I felt better, backed up, even, when a conversation turned bad. I’ve since joined a different, all-women’s group. Again, I’m the only one who’s trans. Overall, it’s been a bit better. I needed them both as a teenager. Each have been good for me in different ways.
Amidst the joy, I had to navigate, and still am doing, awful systems (cis-tems), people, and the media. Even the shortest, most basic of paths are made difficult. My GP didn’t know about his role in my passport title being corrected. The practice as a whole made a mess of it on their records. I had to find a new one as a result — after submitting a formal complaint.
Then there’s the GIC (Gender Identity Clinic). I waited a year for my first appointment. My fifth and final assessment (which was when I received my prescriptions and put on more waiting times) happened two years and three months later. The people I had been led to believe were my biggest supporters, up till somewhere between being referred and the first time seeing them, turned out to be a machine designed to gatekeep. It hurt to find this out and angers me still.
There’s the option of a bridging prescription from a GP to get HRT (Oestrogen and Testosterone only, not blockers), earlier than GIC’s would provide. I had to fight mine on this. As do most trans/non-binary people. I met the requirements, she claimed to have researched further *on top of the documents a LGBT+ organisation sent to her* and still denied me. (For clarity, they are allowed to, but there’s no legitimate reason for doing so). I was granted what I wanted when I, not for the first time, explained I was the only one taking a risk, she wouldn’t lose her license if something went wrong. I took it that was all she cared about. And somehow didn’t take in the legal information mentioned previously. She was hostile about it, acted as if she knew more than I did, (didn’t even know the 3 conditions until I told her… again, multiple times). About a year later I asked if she’d increase the dose. I was non-verbal that day*, so gave her a note with what I was there for. Explained why, ensured it was polite. She called me rude. Ended up being my last appointment with her. I shouldn’t have to educate my GP. I shouldn’t have to rely on organisations to help when I have tried and they don’t listen. GP’s need to know how to care for their trans/non-binary patients. Most of us in my local circle know at least one area of healthcare better than the professionals who are supposed to be looking after us. I did not think I’d be having to teach them. It’s definitely something on the trans bingo card.
*I’m autistic. I get called rude when I’m simply being to-the-point.
I don’t pass. I have no energy to work on trying to in my day-to-day life. I’d love to be able to click my fingers and make it happen, of course, to alleviate dysphoria, stop being misgendered, and to like my appearance. But until I have finished facial electrolysis+surgery, while on HRT for a few years, I have no hope of this. However, it does mean I am misgendered accidentally and purposely – which is one microaggression making my life difficult. None of us expect a necessarily easy experience – but it should be much less painful than it is currently. At the same time as being prescribed hormones from the clinic, you’re put on waiting lists for therapies (voice, for example), and the medical procedures you want. Which takes… a while. They provide eight sessions of electrolysis specifically for the face – that’s not a lot – if you need more, you have to pay yourself. Many trans people find this unfair as it’s a life-saving factor, we statistically make less money, and are discriminated against in getting a job in the first place.
As a teenager, I let the adults in my family buy most of my clothes. I hated having to buy more for myself. Shopping in the wrong section, subconsciously/unknowingly was strange. Upon realising it, depressing. I have absolutely loved the past few years of being able to 1) Look for what I want in person AND online*, 2) Decide between many choices I like, 3) Buy them, 4) Receive, 5) Wear them to my hearts content, and 6) Selfies. All of the selfies. Plus, window shopping (online included). Each of these are such a different gender euphoric experience. I always look forward to having the money for a spree. One huge thing that keeps me going.
*Two totally different experiences
Pre-transition, I only saw trans people, stories, and general news in a bad light. The mainstream media cover our community in a toxic and harmful way. Growing up seeing this and nothing else, having no trans friends or any kind of support is lonely. Damaging. Some might say they do this to put people off. Make it seem bad, or unsafe. Unfortunately this is still prevalent today. One minute I’m reading how a celebrity has commented on us, the next new laws are being introduced to persecute us, and then that another sibling is lost to hatred. These are not separate components, and offer a very short summary why I, along with a great deal of others, have denial issues, are scared to begin, or start off transphobic ourselves.
Today I’m on blockers and patches. It took a lot of work to get here. It’s mentally exhausting to have to prove yourself to strangers multiple times, over the course of 2 years, with long intervals. Added on to everything else, it’s not fair. The process takes too long, designed to be drawn out, and deny service to some. I am still asked, in other words, to prove myself — not to medical professionals, but to random people. We’re held to a higher standard (not that there should be one anyway) than cis people in proving our gender. And it makes zero sense. I don’t have to verify myself to anyone. I’m doing this for me and nobody else. I am whoever I say I am.
I make myself loud about my transness. I want other trans people — who don’t know who they are or they’re scared to be — able to see a vocal, proud, flag-waving person. I didn’t get to. I would have benefited so much from it. Transitioning isn’t easy, but only because of the transphobia in social, medical, or legal settings upheld by bigotry. Doing your thing is worth it. I wish I’d started a lot, LOT sooner.