I’ve been AFK, as Sheldon Cooper would say, for a day and a bit now. This was not intentional; I was just having a panic about being unprepared. And that’s so not me.
I had organised my first appointment at Gender Care (for noon today) quite some time ago, mainly because my mental health had been doing very well with my gender stuff coming out into the open – and for the most part being accepted too – but had begun to decline once I’d done all that and yet still Nothing Was Happening. This way, I felt like I was finally moving forward, and I had something to get me through The Great Crushing Workload of 2012.
But I’d been off from uni for a week, and had spent so long doing As Little As Possible – very much deliberately – that I’d essentially forgotten to be… well, myself about it. My usual way to prepare for something new and nerve-wracking is simple: research intensely and obsessively, give up eating and sleeping, and pace around talking to myself. And this time, I hadn’t. I didn’t know why.
So yesterday, it hit me. I didn’t know where I was going, or how to get there. My brilliant Aspie Mentor was meeting me at Victoria, so I knew that much. But all of a sudden, I was back in That Place, needing to rationalise my fears. By being completely irrational. Obviously.
I dutifully did my pacing, and while I didn’t need to practice what I was going to say – because my most fluent language is that of Gender by now – I did need to calm my overactive “they’re going to think you’re making it up or bonkers or something” gland, so I thought. And then I thought some more.
And then I realised that I still didn’t know where I was going. Or how to get there.
So I figured that out, slept awfully thanks to my parents being Out With Friends until later than I’d hoped (is it sad that I feel like the adult of the house for typing that?), and woke up at 7.30 in the hope that I’d get my brain functioning by the time I needed to leave. It worked… to some degree, anyway.
Suffocation on the Train
I think the subheading here speaks for itself. I got to my usual station, waited around for a while, expecting it to be fairly calm. It’s safe to say I don’t usually travel on Saturdays, if I can at all help it, so I hadn’t been expecting… this.
The doors opened, and it was packed to bursting with people. Well, I thought, there goes any hope of a calm thought process (and further attempts at rationalisation) while sitting amongst the peace of the mid-morning anti-rush. A measly few people got off – and it took them ages just to wiggle their way through the sardine-esque packing by the doors – and those still on did try to squish in to allow Us New Ones on. It didn’t work well.
So everyone squished. Basically. I had one index finger on a handrail for support, which was better than some. One poor woman came on right at the end with her friend, and was holding a full cup of coffee. Without a lid. The bloke next to her was understandably unsettled, given the various jerks on the journey. Jerks in the train’s movement, that is. Ahem. There was also a noticeably Aspie reaction going on during the rest of the journey, I might add – someone nearby was panicking and desperate to escape the partial suffocation in there, and was very… erm, vocal about it.
And once I got off at Victoria and had my first full breath of somewhat-smoggy air, I was less than pleased to realise I was going to have to use the loo. Even deeper breath. I was binding, so had no noticeable lumps to offset suspicion like I usually did. So… usual striding with The Face, as aforementioned, hoping for a smooth run and pesterless escape.
No such luck.
I have never been in such a crowded public loo in my life. I have never had to wait in a queue in there either. The longer I spend in a gendered public loo (especially alone), my chances of escaping unscathed diminish. Exponentially. And it seemed like everyone was thinking I was only in there to wait for someone, as they all kept jumping the damn queue.
Eventually I got into a cubicle and let out the breath that I’d been holding since I got off the train. When I was done, it was no less busy, and – of course – the loo wouldn’t flush. So I gave up and stormed around, trying to wash my hands without being bothered by anyone. They would have been pretty stupid to bother me in that mood anyway, honestly. But I rushed out as quickly as I could, only to find that people were blocking all the exits so no one could get out. And we were already later than planned (although we’d allowed an extra half hour just in case). Sigh.
When I met my Aspie Mentor, she also needed the loo, so I waited… all the while becoming more and more panicked. As you do.
We worked our way over to the District Line platform, and all was well, apart from some irritating overcharging because the bleeping barrier wasn’t bleeping and it was too busy to go bleep somewhere else. When we got on the train, we sat down. I haven’t done that in years, and not once since I started commuting. It wasn’t bad, I have to say. Better than falling over several times per journey, I must admit.
And from there, the directions to get to Gender Care – printed off from their website – were very clear, and very helpful, and we got there with a couple of minutes to spare. Which was better than nothing.
The Actual Stuff
On the way, I had had my Aspie Mentor explain the Social Interaction-y Stuff to me. I am usually more bothered by things like what to say when I get to reception, or how to ask about Blah, and the simple things that most people don’t think about… than the actual Real Stuff that I have more reason to worry about. Because I’m a topsy-turvy crazyface. So there.
But, alas, ‘twas all in vain. There was no receptionist to speak to, and it was much easier than I’d expected. Dr Lorimer – who is now officially on my Cool People To Bake For list – was already there, and asked if I was… who I am. My Real Name. Not my legal one. And I felt so cool. Which really isn’t the right word to describe it, but I don’t get many chances to enthuse, so I’ve not had much practice. Bear with me. I’m sure I’ll get better.
I said “yeeees”, we shook hands, and he said to take a seat while he sorted out the room. So… we did. And then I had a form to fill in with my GPs details and Things Like That, and I asked to use the loo. So… I did. And then we went in.
We started off by talking about The Name Thing, which was a very good ice-breaker. Primes are cool, and that’s Just How It Is. Optimus came up. I explained about changing it at uni, and the plan in motion to get it in use everywhere; I hadn’t realised until very recently that I could have had it changed at uni without a Deed Poll, but I’m working on that anyway. Then we talked about timing, especially with exams and paperwork and things – particularly my concerns about changing it half-way through the year and ending up with some of my exams being lost in the system – and the fact that there really isn’t any Good Time to do such things.
I explained that I’d poked the People In Charge about name and gender changing already, and had a little rant about the comical misgendering that ensued. I can’t now remember the exact order of things in the conversation, but we kind of jumped around, back and forth and twirled around in circles at points… so I’ll try and recall everything that came up.
Asperger’s. I mentioned it, and he said that he was about to mention it… which was quite cool and pretty damn perceptive to boot. It came up later with regards to my Strange Sensory Things, and my history with psychiatric services (which started because of the aforementioned stupid senses), and then with regards to separating AS from my Gender Stuff… and how I would respond to people passing it off as “another of my Special Interests”.
Family medical history. We went through all the medical stuff floating around in my family’s not-as-murky-as-one-might-think past… all the operations, injuries, conditions, medication, diagnoses and any other stuff I’d had, plus the family’s history of heart problems, psychiatric stuff, suicide. And so on. The question was also asked about queer-and-trans-ness in the family, none of which I knew about, but we both agreed that it’s one of those things that People Don’t Like Talking About. Which would be typical of at least one side of my family, so that one was left as a bit of a questionmark.
My psychiatric stuff. We went through the self-harm, suicide attempts, diagnoses, medication… and I got a chance to rant about CAMHS for a bit, which is always fun. I said about the self-destructive urges essentially going away by themselves as soon as the Gender Stuff was being dealt with, which we both thought was pretty pertinent. Same goes for social anxiety, and I said that I didn’t really want to come to an appointment only to be told that, you know, you’ve actually got to be able to go outside in order to transition successfully. And now I can. Lots of thoughts on that one coming to light, from both sides. And how it’s all been better generally since I started coming out… but has been getting worse again since that’s essentially done now and still… Nothingness In The Extreme. He understood it. Which was comforting.
University. Where I am, what I’m doing, how on Earth I managed to get there (which came up with the Psychiatric Stuff, as I started meds in order to get there and stay there… and I did), whether I have friends and so on. The latter set off a somewhat rambly answer, because I do have friends, and they all know I’m trans, but it’s difficult because they need my legal name for worky purposes – otherwise they might get in trouble for claiming to have partnered with someone in labs who, for all intents and purposes, doesn’t exist – and I don’t have A Group like everyone else seems to. But he seemed satisfied.
Family. What my parents are like, how they took my coming out, that kind of thing. I’m very good at going on and on until someone shouts “shut up” at me, so most of these parts had already come up by the time we were focusing on them.
General Gender Stuff. I don’t know why, but every time I try to type “general”, it comes out “genderal”. Just thought I’d mention it. Kind of fitting here though. Anyway. So we went through my identity, and there was no real mention of how I identified unless I brought it up myself. He just… knew. Which is pretty cool. Again. We went through my sexuality, and how That Stuff worked with me. He seemed satisfied with my answer of “none to speak of”, probably because I’d said I was happy that way. Which I am.
We’d already gone through my drinking/smoking/etc habits (or lack thereof, in my case), whether I’d had children, and that sort of thing. Then on to binding – advised against it – but I got to go on about how lucky I am, compared to many, with regards to chests and periods and things… and most of the time, I already avoid binding if I can at all help it. He recognised that most people aren’t on the gender binary, despite the world we live in, which is an amazing thing to hear from a professional. I’m not crazy! Well, not in that sense, anyway.
We went through the Plans For The Future stuff too, and he agreed that the next step forward would be the physical changes that hormones would bring (yay!), as I’d already done most of the social transitioning that I needed to. He explained the things to come, with the GPs and blood tests and second opinions and stuff, then I paid, we shook hands again and I left with my infinitely-patient Aspie Mentor by my side.
It was brilliant.
Humour reigned. There was no Doctor Voice going on, which I was very glad about. It felt like I was listened to, respected, and – God forbid – even agreed with and understood. I already knew, to some extent anyway, that Dr Lorimer was a Legend from his emails. But it was fantastic to meet him in person.
Apparently the appointment had taken an hour and 40 minutes. And I wish it had taken longer. It really couldn’t have gone better.
I’m absolutely elated. On a cloud. Over the moon. And so on. So I thought I’d ooze my enthusiasm all over the webwaves. So that’s what I’ve done. Mwah ha ha.
I should add in here that I’m always up for talking about gender, and answering questions, and I’m in a good enough mood to post my email address on t’internet. If anyone wants to ask further stuffor just discuss gendery things in genderal (yes, that one was deliberate), I’ve set up a specific alias for genderthoughts and guess what? It’s transthoughts-at-hotmail-dot-co-dot-uk. I know, I’m so imaginative. I like gender, and I like typing essays, so please do get in touch if you want-slash-need to! OK, I really will shut up now.