The article, Left Behind, was originally written in 2003. I wrote it mainly from my own personal perspective of the revolutionary Left mainly for therapeutic reasons and also a friend at the time encouraged me to write it. It languished on my PC for another two years before I suggested an article like this to Cath Redfern, then editor of the F Word.
If I thought it was hard enough getting through puberty first time round then bang, crash, wallop, here it comes a second time at 43 instead of 13. I’ve had a lot going on in these umpteen months I’ve been quiet here but, as those of you who’ve followed the ups and downs on Facebook know too well, I’ve had a lot to learn along the way about how my transition has impacted on my life. I felt, to be mindful of my own and my loved ones’ privacy, that I needed this ‘downtime’ to gather myself in my new emerging skin.
Matt Kailey, whose blog Tranifesto just won the TransGuys Community Award for Best Blog 2010,is completely right in his article here when he pulls Ke$ha to task for her “I just can’t date a dude with a vag” line in her latest song ‘Grow a Pear’. I posted on my Facebook about this the other day.
“I am PROUD to be a dude with a vag and my own wee cock lol!!! Like every single human being has genitalia that are diverse and different – everyone should proudly celebrate that because, as everyone knows, children and young people can grow… up with immense shame around their bodies and particularly genitals – its by no means just a trans issue!! Young guys born with penises face immense pressure to be hung like the porn stars they see online when they are curiously exploring their sexuality. Young girls too are now at an early age deciding their breasts, their labia, their everything, when they compare themselves with the airbrushed standardised corporate stamp that defines ‘beauty’. Most of us have had issues with this one way or another in our lives, as kids, teens and adults. The revolution many of us want to build in this world is just as much about fighting this all-pervasive body fascism as it is about jobs, ending war and racism and the rest of it.”
B00mBoomboy sums it up brilliantly in his parting shot at the end of his YouTube vid (below) ”I’m a man and I love my cunt!” Good for you dude … more of us should try to be loud and proud of our bodies, even if THAT is a personal and intensely challenging thing to try and say when you are massively struggling with dysphoric thoughts yourself. I know that deeply from my own journey or surviving these issues so far. If we can’t love our selves as fully as we possibly can then it gets hard to fight back when we need to, in ways that empower us and don’t add to our battered self-esteem.
via Matt Kailey
I have been rather quiet these last couple of months, except for on Facebook where I have been wittering my moods, thoughts and ideas, crazy and not-so-crazy, masking a period of turmoil and pain in my life. All this STUFF has been hard to even imagine writing about and I am acutely aware these days of the risk of self-disclosure – even though I am an ‘out’ trans man there are plenty of reasons to go stealth about many personal aspects. It is not just hard on me but it is also incredibly challenging for those I am around at times. My loved ones in many ways have their own self-identities themselves challenged by my gender transition. But it has been hard at times, for reasons that I will not go into detail about because I respect every single one of you and the process you yourselves are going through.
I was in some sort of school or community hall which had the buzz of an indoor market but no-one was selling anything. There were lots of people there, milling around chaotically, bumping into each other although keeping fairly calm. There were tables around with bags and stuff on them. On reflection it feels like it was some sort of community emergency shelter that I am in but it is not clear at all what is going on or why everyone is inside.I walk towards a table in front of me. Underneath it in the semi-dark is a slow-worm glistening and writhing in all its bronze and irridescent glory. Then the slow-worm begins to grow and grow, writhing like a snake on the spot until it grew dog-sized and grew a golden fur and it transformed into a dog. The poor dog was dragging her broken backlegs behind her – she reminded me of my old dog Thai (14 next month). Then the dog transformed into a completely mutilated an unidentifiable corpse which had no limbs, an unrecognisable face and with butchered cuts, wounds and sores all over the reddened carcass.It was grotesque.Suddenly everyone began to point and scream at this tormented creature in front of them. It was suddenly a demon, a horror story, a brutalised and bloody focus for everyone’s fear. A freak of anguished pitiful pain.Then I noticed a tiny quivering over its skin and looked and saw tears in its eyes. I suddenly became aware that it was still alive and felt an overwhelming compassion and empathic connection to this tortured being. Looking into her or his eye I could not tell if this being was human or animal, perhaps a pig. But as I desperately tried to plead with bystanders that s/he was alive, no-one would help me. They just screamed and recoiled in terror. I woke up in a terrible state, stricken with feeling I had been unable to save this poor being, human or non-human, it didn’t matter.
I lose myself for a few minutes while I gather together again the fragments of me that just fell off in this latest nocturnal existential crisis. It DOES get better. The worst is over again for now and, shitty as I feel, I know deep inside that I cannot go there. Yet. I don’t want to give up, roll over and show my vulnerable belly to the world in submission like a cowering dog. I do that when I’m playing but when I feel under intense threat now my impulse is to defend myself and without much thinking beforehand. Everything has changed since T-day nearly six months ago in that regard.
This is hard. I mean really HARD. Some things that happen in one’s life are not suitable for sharing publicly. Naturally I do not want to embarrass, distress or compromise my loved ones and I have been struggling to manage these sort of private/public boundary dilemmas that anyone writing a personal blog must deal with. I hope I am able to maintain a fundamental respect within all my personal relationships while being able to explore some of the deep and complex issues that arise when someone is transitioning gender and you love them.
I have been really struggling with this overwhelming feeling of STUCKNESS. I feel so powerless in the face of NHS bureaucracy. So insignificant, as one anguished tormented soul in a sea of millions who must also be near-drowning not swimming this side of the dawn of the Condem Big Society. I hate myself for being so pathetic. What sort of man takes this shit without cracking? What man am I if I cannot rise up and demand to be treated with dignity and respect? What man lies his head on his desk and sobs with animal wails when he cannot express just how desperate he feels to those he needs to help him? The sort of man like me who is 6 months into his puberty, with broadening shoulders, a broken voice with a nice deep resonance, hairy legs, arms and needs a facial shave regularly. The sort of man who feels like a man, smells like a man, sounds and looks like a man but who has two enormous breasts that say otherwise.
What do I have to do to be understood? I have flashes of incredible self-violence at times in the second-to-worst moments. In the worst moments I have flashes of suicidal ideation. I have to keep a faith, no matter how tenuous at times, that IT GETS BETTER.
It’s a phrase that we know well in the trans community and in the wider LGBT world too. IT GETS BETTER is a mantra we repeat to ourselves as share our stories between us and will each other along knowing full well we are all in our private hells at different points along our journeys. The recent coverage of LGBT youth suicides in the USA has provided a much-needed empathic response from significant people, within and without, the LGBT communities. As an older trans man I feel, as have many hundreds, maybe thousands of others, that I want to show how, despite how hard life gets, that we can live lives with joy and with self-acceptance and respect from others. Sometimes it is moment to moment, but believe me, it really does get better on the turn of a sixpence sometimes.
Just as I finish this for now my dad has, for the first time in over a year, corrected himself about his pronouns with me without being prompted. It’s possible he overheard me earlier today when I was trying to keep it together on the phone so it may just have got through a bit about quite how it makes me feel. That’s one of those sixpence moments, coming out of the blue like the universe bungs you a spark of joy to keep you going when the light is fading fast.
They DO happen …
When I am feeling a little stronger I will post my own It Gets Better YouTube video. In the meantime here is a link to the other wonderful videos and messages of support from the campaign to raise awareness about LGBTQI youth suicides.
This post by FtM Doctor evoked many different feelings for me and it feels really quite a raw and in-my-face subject for me at this still early stage in my transition. For me right now, it’s incredibly important to me that I am experienced by others as male as this is congruent with what I feel inside. It doesn’t always happen though and sometimes I shrug it off and try and reflect on what it was about me in the moment that gave away I am not an XY male. Other times I get hurt or angry. Occasionally I want to hide away until my body morphs enough and I have had the chest surgery that I really need to feel freedom with my body and fully be myself.
I’ve got more thoughts to add about this in coming weeks as it is such an ongoing thing for me and most transguys I expect, especially early on.
via FtM Doctor
I got sent this meme on Facebook by my friend Niki and Harpymarx posted her answers on her blog below so I thought I’d do the same. Perhaps I’m just procrastinating about the post I want to write with 9/11 coming up but this isn’t going to take me long. To be honest there’s something about my music at the moment in this savage crazy world which helps give me a calming secure attachment to my place in it. If it helps you then do it yourself. Just give yourself 15 minutes and then list 15 albums/LPs that you’ve heard and that have stuck with you in your life. There’s no order, no hidden meaning, its just good to share what music is important to us and a sense of why that is. Nothing more than that … for love of music and what it means to us all. Share your’s too … that’s the only rule … and don’t THINK too hard about it, as its better as a right-brained activity really
Here are my 15 …
1. Patti Smith – Horses: its just SO full of powerful female energy and Gloria is my favourite all-time track – HOT HOT HOT!
2. Fleetwood Mac – Rumours: every track on this album I can listen to time and time again
3. The Clash – London Calling: the one on my list I don’t have but the title track changed my life when I heard it at 12/13
4. Tracy Chapman – Tracy Chapman: first saw her at the huge anti-apartheid gig in 88/89(?) calling for Mandela’s freedom. Just her, her guitar, singing ‘Talking Bout a Revolution’ – fell in love with her then!
5. The Beatles – Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club: as a kid I used to dash home at lunchtimes from school and play Beatles albums
6. Damien Rice – O: beautiful, haunting and melancholic for a depressive like me lol
7. Gil Scott Heron – The Revolution Will Not Be Televised: pure genius
8. UB40 – Signing Off: the very first album I bought for myself at 13 the year after Thatcher came in – back when UB40 were edgy
9. Blondie – Parallel Lines: even better with the vinyl scratches lol
10. Nirvana – Nevermind: the musical score for my first young adult breakdown :~
11. Faithless – Faithless: because God is not a DJ … God is Maxi Jazz lol
12. Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of The War of the Worlds: reminds me of the 70s music geek reel-to-reel tape system my dad’s mate had and the power of music to tell a story
13. Bee Gees – Saturday Night Fever: I HAVE to have some classic disco in here and I just love this soundtrack
14. The Smiths – Strangeways Here We Come: more teen angst lol
15. Culture Club – Kissing To Be Clever: because Boy George introduced the teenage me to gender shape-shifting and helped me feel ok being a freak
It has been nearly two years since I last wrote a poem. Two years at the end of September. That was a special poem as it was like a diary, recording my growing feelings soon after Carmen and I met and were on our first holiday together in Cornwall. I’ve always written poetry in fits and starts through my life. I have notebooks full of scribbles and musings and I even still have a plastic bag full of the torn remnants of all my pre-1993 poetry. I self-destructed one night after my lover at the time aggressively raged at me for writing a poem to my best friend on her birthday – one day I’ll get the sellotape out and put the pieces together!
This morning after I have written the poem below I began to think about why it is that I have not written for so long. Maybe it is because I have been waiting to find my authentic voice of my core self. My voice has broken and now it is time to sing again maybe. Be warned – my guitar-playing is getting easier now my fingers are stronger so watch out for me doing my version of the easiest song I know how to play, ‘Working Class Hero’ by John Lennon, coming to a YouTube channel near you before too long
I hope you enjoy reading the poem. I keep hearing the stories of other guys as they struggle with T-induced insomnia and other major body shifts. This is how it felt like to me, this morning, in my 12th week of testosterone….
A lone bee busies himself in the lavender
While the blackbirds sing in the morning,
Tunefully sparring from the safety of their trees.
The world is waking again today.
I see it with my night eyes waning
Aware that I will sleep to the rising buzz
That marks the birth of each fresh solar dawn
Like yesterday, today and tomorrow.
Will it always be as this from now?
Upside-down in a non-nocturnal world?
Back-to-front in a land of office hours,
At least in the country I live in.
But I have to sleep when my body tells me.
When the birds and bees start their shifts
Is how it is for now, as I am on bat-time
Until the new me is fully born it seems.
For now I will have one last tea and smoke
Reflecting on the here and now around me.
Before climbing upstairs and into the nest
Nuzzling my mate in slumbering daydreams.
It feels like puberty is feral, a special transition itself,
Where new order emerges from the chaos
Of the shiny and sometimes deadly sharp
Fragments of a former self.
Sleep. Sleep. Sleep.
© Sam Feeney
19 August 2010