Tag Archives: confidence

A Good Time To Be Trans

Do you know the feeling, when the weather is baking hot outside, and you rush to the fridge to grab an ice cold drink? Alcohol is of course optional. 

Then, you feel the catharsis as the icy cool hits the back of your throat and your thirst is quenched. It has a good effect on your body, and makes you feel good too.

Metaphorically speaking, that is what I feel like about being a trans woman at the moment. I feel  like I have drunk a thousand cold drinks and had my thirst completely quenched.

Of course, this is not to say there is not still work to do. I am, as is every human being, a work in progress. But the fact that my thirst has been quenched for now does not mean that I am becoming complacent. There is work still to do. Therefore, having had my thirst metaphorically quenched, it galvanises me to strive towards my goals.

At the moment, it feels like a good time to be trans.

I think that today, the trans community has much to be optimistic about. 

Lana Wachowski, the director of such iconic films as The Matrix, has today come out as trans. As a sentence in and of itself, learned readers will think, oh well, someone has come out, big  deal. But, let us consider it in context. I would hazard a guess that the majority of people have heard of The Matrix even if they have not necessarily seen it. Therefore, people involved in films in whatever capacity have a massive sphere of influence at their disposal.

The consensus amongst commentators today, appears to be that Lana Wachowski’s coming out will contribute a lot towards trans visibility, that is to say trans people in the public eye just coming out and living life. For my own part, I think it will serve to make the state of being trans and living as trans more acceptable, amongst would be trans people who have been in a state of struggle, and may be contemplating transition, or those of us who are younger and perhaps less able to be our own advocates. It provides hope, and hope can only be a good thing.

Musically, the presence of the trans community is being felt too. This year so far has also borne witness to the coming out as trans of Laura-Jane Grace, lead singer of punk band Against Me!  The fact that it ended her relationship is proof positive, if proof is needed of what being trans is not. It is not fetishistic, nor a choice, nor a phase. It is a life changing, defining, and altogether completely liberating moment in one’s life.

Some people do, but I have not gone between gender roles since my transition in 2005. I am one hundred per cent committed to my life as a woman, as it is the life I yearned and ached for, always.

In the world of broadcasting too, there has been a sea change. The trans predicament seems to be a hot flavour on the tellybox right now. More4, Channel 4’s more longitudinal catch up service, is now re-showing My Transsexual Summer first aired last year. It is capturing the imagination of a whole new audience who missed out on it when it was first aired.

But having the privilege of counting the cast as my friends, I know how much they have all grown and developed in that intervening time. I also know that many others have been touched, encouraged and helped by the sharing of their collective, and individual experiences.

That series was seminal, in making trans acceptable, as well as increasing visibility of us as a part of society, and not some othered fraternity.

A documentary on Ria Cooper too, showed that whilst being trans is not always plain sailing, and people forge their own path based on individual experience, it is possible still to attain and achieve a more authentic life for yourself.

This summer also, BBC Three will break new ground with their slate of programmes focusing on The Body Beautiful unveiled by BBC Three Controller Zai Bennett.

As part of that slate there will be the documentary Jackie Green: Transsexual Beauty Queen charting Jackie’s journey through the Miss England Contest. Now to have a trans woman entering the contest is wonderful. I shall be watching with interest, and would suggest that my readers do so too, of course with an open mind and heart.

Moving away from the wider picture now, I would like to talk about something pretty lovely in my own journey.

As those who know me will know, I am a party girl and do like a drink. I had the lovely happiness of being invited to the 25th birthday of Paris Lees, META magazine editor, trans activist, and lovely person as well.

I had an amazing time, and met some incredible people, and hope to meet them again.  However, I thought about something after I had slept a bit and the hedonistic mist of alcohol had evacuated itself from my brain.

I knew no one else there personally, although I had corresponded with some guests via social media. I began to mull over not only the macro changes in the trans landscape but the micro changes within myself.

One thing I believe in with a passion is writerly integrity. I never bullshit when I blog. If I did my words would have little credibility, meaning and impact.

So why the qualification? I am about to make a bold claim.  This is the sort of thing I would never have done, even with the best coaxing and cajoling available to humankind. When I think about where I could have ended up, possibly in a day centre singing bad karaoke, I shudder I really do.

I used to be ultra scared of going outside. It was a major effort to get me outside and on to the bus to go to Southampton.

A birthday party of strangers would have been unthinkable. I want to say two things here. Firstly, strangers can quickly become friends if you let them. Secondly too, all that was required of me was a change of mindset.

Instead of seeing being trans as a curse, I would rather see it as a blessing and an opportunity. After all, if you squandered it and wasted it, would it not be like flushing a gig ticket down the loo after paying for it? I would also like to see what I can give to people, as well as taking their wonderful support.

So in short, it is a good time to be trans. An opportune time even to bring about everlasting social change. That is to say, trans is for life, not just for Christmas.

We are becoming a visible force, and not only that, a force to be reckoned with too. With views, thoughts and opinions, expressed with eloquence and candour. 

What would I like to see going forward? Mainly less intersectionality I guess. Social movements are at their best, and effect the most change when we speak as one with a united voice.

I would also like more voice and prominence to be given to the thoughts, needs and narratives of those who consider themselves non binary. Their contributions too are valid, and need to be considered too. As a woman with a disability, I understand feelings of isolation only too well, and I think feelings of non binary and intersex isolation do exist.

I am not ending this on a moan. I just think that as the trans community is moulding itself into a really positive animal, the time is right to address these issues, whereas before it may have felt like too big a quantum leap to make.

Furthermore, I would not wish to re-write history or suggest that we in the trans community do not get bullied or victimised any longer. We do. It happens. But I think understanding is slowly beginning to trickle through to the cisgendered population.

In general, we also need to tackle prejudice. I heard a man saying to a woman on the bus this week, that just because he was single, it did not mean he was “queer or nothing”. Now, where did he get the link from and why feel the need to couch queer in a negative way? Sad.

Finally though, I feel society is moving forward. We live in times where trans people are becoming  more visible in the media and in the general social sphere.

So we have a chance to grasp a nettle. The nettle of campaigning, the nettle of greater equality, the nettle of creating, and the nettle of shaping, and bringing greater understanding and empathy of and towards one another.

But above all, do you know what that nettle represents for me? Being yourself, being authentic and being alive.

I long for a time when being trans is no longer tabo0 and pathological. When instead, it is just another facet of the rich and beauty tapestry of life, just like race or disability is. 

It is a good time to be trans, so let us grasp that nettle and grasp it now.

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Trans Evolution

It was my friend’s “trans birthday” the other day, and I have no doubt it was a very happy occasion for her. A year has passed since she honoured her true self.

Birthdays generally are exciting occasions, they mark ageing, in some cases maturing, and sometimes celebration. But I am a tiny bit biased in thinking that trans birthdays are a tiny bit special.

For the decision to honour one’s self truthfully and congruently is huge, massive and gigantic. I can still remember my first day of putting on female clothes and of living as Hannah, after the irritation of living as H for a substantial period of time. It was great to have an identity again, as the H experience felt limiting, psychologically and in terms of lived experience.

Then, fast forward to a year and you think PHEW! I made it. But over the course of that year, you change, evolve, and blossom. 

I happen to think being trans is akin to the Eastern beliefs around reincarnation, and rebirth. My own lived experience has definitely felt like that in recent times.

I ended counselling when I was ready to, and not before. I concluded it when all the necessary work was done. The end result of doing that work is a trajectory of dominant happiness, and I no longer experience long periods of depression.

So anyway, what has provoked this extrapolation on Trans Evolution? Well, soon I have a potentially exciting opportunity coming up, a chance for my voice to be heard, a chance for me to engage in dialogue with others, help them, and hopefully make a difference.

I am choosing not to say too much more about what the opportunity is at this stage, just that it could be really positive, exciting and a chance for real personal development.

But let me say a little more about what putting myself forward for this potential opportunity involved. It involved telephone conversations with a stranger, a meeting at a strange venue, plus when I got there, the stranger firing off lots of equally challenging questions at me. There were also periods when it was a monologue, with me talking freeform in response to a pre-prepared list of questions which I had already seen.

 Now those who know me will know beyond doubt that talking is not an issue. However, they will know that I used to suffer from an extreme lack of confidence earlier on in transition, and would come up with endless excuses and prevarications to avoid leaving the house.  Now the excuse is less endless, but heavy rain is a sensible one since rain and electricity do not really mix. However, other excuses were a mere smokescreen. They just covered up the fact that I had not really grown into the identity I had always craved to the point of obsession. As others craved chocolate, I craved womanhood.

But now you know, I am grown. All I am making clear to you is this. The kind of opportunity I went to the meeting about would have been unthinkable. Now, I see it as a must do.

To be doubly clear, I cannot be more emphatic about the word unthinkable than I have been. Indeed, when asked to participate in a project during early transition, the more I turned it over in my mind the more I became terrified. I am glad not to be in that state of mind any more.

One of the overarching things for me that came out of my meeting, was that notions of community are real, and tangible, in the LGBTIGQ world, and not “imagined” as the commentator Benedict Anderson once claimed.

Bearing this in mind, I have come to realise that I have a responsibility, not only to myself, but to others in my situation too. If dialogue is to happen, and greater understanding is to be a product of it, the best start we can make on achieving such dialogue is surely to talk to each other. Sometimes the obvious points are the best, and it is good to try not to overlook them.

I see the LGBTIGQ community as a continuum, with each section of the continuum facing its own issues and challenges, but I would far rather see us come together for the greater good more often, rather than us hiving ourselves off into mutually exclusive compartments.

As Barry Manilow said, it is all about that one voice!

I also have a great emotional connection to the trans journey, having been so depressed at the start. I think in the long term though, that rock bottom state does give us the impetus we need  to better our lives.

The questions were a challenge even for me.It is like digging for gold in the most elusive, private crevices of the human mind. Particularly, questions around my disability and family relationships were a challenge.

I think at the end of the day, whatever the views of others, you should not stop yourself from following your heart, soul and dreams.

In many ways, there is a lack of complimentarity and tension between disability and the trans predicament. I sometime feel extreme anger towards my disability periodically, but I confront it, deal with it and move on.

The interview itself was a very surreal experience. Even at times, I could not believe the confidence with which was speaking. Yes I have always been articulate, as many suggest, but you can still be articulate and full to the brim with negativity and simmering self hatred.

I still struggle, particularly around the limitations of my disability,and a brain that is far more active than my body will ever be.

But whilst those two variables may forever lock horns, I am now brimming with self love, as opposed to self hate. I do get pissed off sometimes, but there is a huge difference between full blown major depression and an off day.

That is why I wanted to partake in this project, as I am compassionate and understanding, and to have the opportunity to hear other voices.

The misery narrative tropes are a sad part of our history, but they came about because the world was less accepting. The tragedy of a less accepting world is that it also gives rise to less acceptance of the self.

I can ignore my mother’s views, as I know they are hogwash, but if they represented a world view, as was the case historically, the battle would be harder to win.

I also think My Transsexual Summer was a gamechanger. The intricate weaving together of their lives at the retreat and their personal lives normalised being trans as never before. De-medicalising, de-pathologising, and deconstructing.

It showed people living normal lives, and that skilful interpolation of normality and diversity is to be celebrated.

Here is the key to it all though. Trans means change. During that interview, I had to metaphorically pinch myself at times to check it was still me talking. There were so many points where I thought, an unchanged old me would never have said that.

But here is the point, I thought, you have changed and improved. You are not a different person, but you have changed for the better.  You are happier, brighter and more fulfilled than ever before, Hannah Buchanan.

Transition is sometimes reduced to looks, which is understandable in a sense as one needs to pass. However, the biggest change takes place inside. You can look a million dollars, and have no confidence inside, or vice versa.

But I think I have made the biggest inner transition. For it is that transition which spurred me on into wanting to take part in this project. I barely recognise myself sometimes, in a good way.

I am not a different person, but I have a different outlook. Now I evolve, not revolve. Now I step forward, and do not stand still. Now I apologise to and not for. I evolve, and always will.

But the bits of me that were having a negative impact have gone, and a new day has come.

The day has come for me to do, rather than be done for, to set the agenda rather than react to it, and that step fills me with Pride. I took that step of getting involved, because there are those who need my help, and it fills me with pride and happiness, both in and for myself, that I am ready and able to give it.

Years ago it would have felt impossible,  but impossible, also means I’m possible, as Sark once said.

I just think back to my mindset years ago, and my mindset now, and I feel like a changed woman. 

The key to transition is to love you. If you love you, you will have confidence, and think you owe it to yourself to top it up now and again, cos you’re worth it! I love me and I hope you love you too.

Confidence, Crumble, and the Endpoint of Counselling

So last Thursday my friend Clare came to see me and we went for a carvery.Before this post gets underway properly, I want to say a massive thank you to Nick and the team at the Toby Carvery in Bishopstoke for their excellent service throughout our visit.

They were very helpful and accommodating through throughout the visit and it is fabulous having something like that on your doorstep.  Well done to Nick, Toby Carvery and Mitchells and Butler.

I did fill in their survey but unfortunately did not win an iPod nor a thousand pounds. Damn! I’ll still come back though. 

In this post I want to mash a few things up, namely how enlightening to the self it can be when someone who has not seen you for a long time has a lot of positive things to say, a decision over puddings, plus whether endpoints are the beginning.

Firstly though I ought to tell you a bit about my friend Clare. A good place to start would be in my mobile phone contacts.

I actually have her in the contacts as Hippy Clare. This is primarily because she is a hippy. 

She does lots of yoga, meditation, and generally is very in touch with her spiritual (in the non Christian sense) side. She spends a lot of time in ashrams, being spiritual as well. An ashram is basically a retreat, far from human habitation, where spiritual instruction, meditation, and pursuits like yoga can  take place, unconstrained by the pressures and challenges of modern life.

To be really honest, this is Clare in a nutshell. She is not really constrained by the tentacles of modernity, preferring instead to forge her own path through life, and live it as she wants, in the way she sees fit. 

She believe in the philosophies of Eckhart Tolle, in particular living in the now moment. She has passed this on to me I think. I am grateful for this piece of philosophy. It means I enjoy my life more.

Clare used to be my PA. We spent a very joyous day together. Before going to the carvery though, we chatted, about many things, but in the main we chatted about my trans path, and how, over and above anything else my mindset has changed.

It gives me the chance to say that mindset is the key. It is far better to come at surgery or anything from a standpoint where you are already feeling good, than expecting it to solve every problem in your life. The same goes for cosmetic work too. If you do it to enhance what is already there, then well and good. If you do it while you endlessly cannot stand yourself, then you will just spin yourself an endless web of dissatisfaction.

Anyway, Clare is also a bit of a Facebook and Internet novice and who better to show her round and give her a poke than moi?

After explaining the basics of Facebook, she then wanted to see the blog.

She did not have her glasses, so I had the pleasure of reading the “Raising the Bar and Reviewing the Situation” entry out to her. I have not asked her directly but I think she quite liked it.

There have been so many shifts in my life from The Edge, towards the Edge, away from The Edge (metaphorically speaking) and I think this blog documents them well. But I say again and feel no need to apologise for it, that gender and sexuality are not one in the same. I have different needs that cannot just be met by focusing on and indulging sexuality in isolation.

So the support of my trans friends has been massively influential in changing me for the better, yes absolutely. But Clare has been present in my life for a long time and she too has always inspired and nurtured confidence in me. I think, taking them together, Clare, Zina and my trans friends have all been the most transformative influences in my life.

To Clare, I look happier and seem happier. Wonderful observation to hear. This is especially since my GP agreed with her when I went for my anti testosterone injection. Again, lovely to hear. I do seem to have a renewed energy and vibrance about me. That you see is what hapens when you live in the now moment, right Clare?

So yes, she looked at the blog, and told me I need to be on TV and Radio and on this one I agree. Marvellous idea. I have no idea what I could do but would defininitely consider anything.

I do believe that the circulation for my blog has now reached as far as Lincolnshire, in the form of Clare’s friend Jill, who she is currently staying with, along with her hunk of a man, Julian of Joy. Ladies, he’s mature, hunky and a bit chiselled. Good choice Clare.

So anyway, after Clare re-igniting my love for and experience of all things meeja, we walked across the road to the carvery, to be greeted by the pure loveliness of Mr Manager Nick.

He did say he had no seating in the restaurant, but could seat us in the bar. I apologised for being a diva, but he said he was used to it. How cheeeeky.

So anyway, we sat, chatted and had a beautiful meal.

When it came to puddings though, I could not decide, so put it to a vote on Faceybook and had a gorgeous, and divine but very indulgent summer berry crumble. Beautiful!! Thanks again to manager Nick and his team too.

But what does Madam Hughes, her of the crocs put all this down to?

Stopping counselling frankly. I would like to advance this a bit further and say it is down to the fact that there is no need for me to have counselling anymore. I trust my judgements, I trust and love myself, and I have a tight circle of friends around me.

Some may have noticed that my friendlist has shrunk. I felt it important to move forward in my journey, not on the basis of one nightclub, but on the basis of one life, with the people who I believe can support me best, and who I can support best going forward, as friendship is a mutual undertaking.

Some have seen this decision again as a little off kilter, and a little “wack”. I can confirm though that I have not gone all weird.I did delete though, 200+ people from my Facebook the other night. I did this for my own reasons and benefit and I have to say I feel better for it.

The best thing about my life now, is that the confidence within it is real, authentic and tangible. The mass unfriending was  not motivated by a personal dislike of, and indeed nor anger towards anyone. I just had a strong sense of a chapter ending and a new one beginning, and I acted on it, very quickly, profoundly, urgently and without sentimentality. If my time living in Yorkshire taught me something, it is this. A spade is a spade and a shovel is a shovel.

I live my life with honesty and integrity, and to those who are hurt by that, I apologise. However, my mission now is to build on that confidence Clare can see, treasure every day, enjoy life and live as if there is “No Day But Today.”

All the friends I have mean the world, and you help me to be the best person I can be, by inspiring me, encouraging me, and just being there.

I am glad I ended counselling, because there are others who need it more than me. But I am glad I began it too, because without a beginning there is no end, and no endpoint, no conclusion, and no satisfaction.

Post endpoint, no one cares about me more than me, and I care about my friends too. They make us, shape us and mould us, and help us to be the best we can be.

Raising the Bar and Reviewing the Situation Part II

Well, it would seem that my last post generated a good deal of reaction from people, mainly via Facebook and other social media.

In one sense for me, this is a good thing, as it shows the blog receives traffic and the statistics now are healthy and looking good.

However, this reaction had a difference. People overwhelmingly did not like the post. They did not like what I had decided about The Edge.

Some feel ditched, some are surprised. But the overwhelming emotion seems to be shock. The majority of my friends, and readers it seems, did not see it coming.

But I did promise that I would come back, and I said that I would deal with anything and defend myself.

However, I do not feel I need to defend myself so much as explain and clarify. That then, is what I will do. Let me say a few words about blogging in general.

Firstly, blogging is an intensely personal pursuit. Just as Facebook and Twitter for example can be classed as dialogues between you and other users, a blog can be classed as a monologue between the writer and the writer because quite simply, you cannot see the face of your reader. But I am mindful of people reading, and that people care. I am enormously grateful for that, and thank you all for it.

However, my blog also guarantees something else to my readers, honesty. In the media there are endless opportunities to edit, re-edit, cut things out and move them around. A voiceover can be read out many times, until the emotion and the inflection are exactly right and what the client is looking for.

But I try as much as possible not to allow myself this luxury with the blog. For me, as the author of it, it is analogous to a priest’s Confession Box. I come in here and pour out my soul, unedited, uncut and uncensored. Naturally there is a high risk that when making that confession, I will be talking about things that may be judged, may be unpopular, and may be tough.

But if I have to censor my own writing in order to appease and satisfy others, then it would be time to stop. I am not going to do that. As long as I can write, that writing will have honesty at its very core.

So it was with my trip to London. Going to a fresh place, with fresh people , and doing fresh stuff gives you a fresh perspective.

Frankly, all the wrangling over the ramp at The Edge wore me out, and the trip to London was extremely beneficial in helping me to recharge my batteries.

You know, there were so many times during that period when I was not able to go to The Edge that I felt like giving in, but I did not. It was only a week, but a week felt like forever.

But I am glad I got the ramp. I feel in my heart that I not only have a responsibility to myself as a person with a disability, but also to others with disabilities as a whole minority group. They can now access The Edge freely and without any barriers of accessibility and that to me is a good thing.

So what of me?

I have decided not to go any more. I have shared my highs and lows with you all, but I want to zoom in in a bit more detail on why, or even pan across! 

It  is my firm belief that life is divided into epochs, or sections of time. People and places come into our lives for a reason, and this was the case with The Edge.

It boosted my confidence no end and brought me friends. It showed me that I was worth knowing and life was worth living.

So why leave? Well because with ups, there are inevitable downs. People began to turn to me for advice about relationships that I felt unqualified to give. I felt like a sponge soaking up more water than I could actually hold.

I began coming home stressed, rather than relaxed, and this is not a healthy state of mind.

I did keep this from most people, and pretend very convincingly that all was well, so much so that the post came out of the blue. I will not be back at The Edge for the forseeable future as my battle is more than one of sexuality. Gender and sexuality are two distinct categories, and it is good in my eyes they feel distinct. London opened up a new world, and a new can of worms.

But unsurprisingly, an abundance of support came from the trans community itself. A good friend of mine, Michelle Hughes had this to say;

Hannah, that was so well writen, lovely words with feeling, i fully understand where your coming from having gone through most of it myself but without the disability side of it, but clearly that isnt & shouldnt stop you from making your life just how you want it, i only wish i could have started my transition when at your age intsead of waiting until i was past it lol, although i have lost a fair bit & people along the way i now have inner peace that my body matches my brain ( the voice still needs work )
the very best of luck to you Hannah i really hope your happiness goes from strength to strength Chell xx

I am confident my happiness will go from strength to strength as Michelle suggests.

You only get one life on the Earth, it is up to you how you create, mould and develop it. But I know this. I have left The Edge, do intend to move to London and believe this will be positive for me.

I understand that people may miss me, feel ditched, confused and upset. But The Edge is 2-3 days out of every week that are good to ok. I want 7 that are brilliant, amazing and trannytrastic, because it is my life and I am living for myself, no one else.

I know that with all of your support, The Edge and you as an LGBT community in Southampton will move forward and go from strength to strength. I want a clean break, so I stay focused on my goals. You all mean a lot to me, but I also mean a lot to myself. I have sought to clarify my position, and if anybody disagrees with that, there is not a lot I can do.