Well, today was the day I’ve been counting down to since September 7, 2015 – my first appointment at Nottingham Gender Clinic (or whatever it’s been rebranded to this week). It was quite a day – it had its ups and its downs, and now I feel utterly exhausted.
But no time for napping. I need to write down this muddle of memories to try to make sense of them – and before I forget them.
So, back to this morning. After a good night’s sleep, I awoke to my phone going mental. As well as the usual alarm clock going off, I was getting texts and Facebook Messenger messages every couple of minutes from friends wishing me luck.
It really got my day off to the perfect start. I was feeling happy, I’d read up on what questions would be asked, the previous day, and I felt prepared for anything.
I got up at about 10am, leaving myself plenty of time to get ready before my appointment at 2pm.
So, clothes! What the hell do you wear to a gender clinic appointment? I think the clinic’s own FAQs say to wear what you like, but I wanted to look fairly presentable.
I decided against going in bloke mode. After all, I was going there to beg for estrogen and testosterone blockers.
I’d showered and shaved the previous night – well, it’s one less job, inttit?! So I popped on a new Miss Mary of Sweden bodyshaper and a pair of Golden Lady neutral tights. I added a short denim skirt and a white and navy lacy top, which I’ve had for years but only now fits! The skirt’s a size 12 and also would have been too small a few weeks ago, too.
I finished the whole ensemble off with some flowery Rocket Dog trainers, false boobs, daisy earrings, silver necklace and my wig. So it was just a dead simple, classic, casual look – but it looked really nice and I felt pretty and comfortable. All good!
I decided to head downstairs to make a coffee, and checked to see if I’d had any mail. Apart from a letter from Tesco addressed to Mr Surname (I’ve told them!) there was a little envelope, the address handwritten.
I thought it was just a cheque for my business. I opened it and, instead, found a beautiful handmade card inside from my friend Ellen. Bless her, she’d sent it first class, too! Can’t have been cheap! :o)
Not only was it several shades of pink – a colour she knows I love – it contained two butterflies – the trans person’s creature symbol of choice.
On the front, she’d stamped: “It’s a good day.” And inside: “To Andie, good look at your appointment. Will be thinking of you, Ellen x.”
I was really touched! Ellen (aka Soupy) if you read this, I’m so grateful. Thank you – it really made me beam from ear to ear.
So by this point, I still had a couple of hours or so to do my makeup. I also felt obliged to reply to all the texts and Facebook messages that were coming in. It felt like it was my birthday, there were so many!
I used the same makeup tutorial as I did on New Year’s Eve. The result looked OK but not great – I need to buy some new products instead of winging it with 20-year-old hand-me-downs – but once my wig and glasses were added, I looked rather presentable.
Then I spilt loads of blusher down my white top. Great! Managed to get it out with soap and water.
I was ready with a minute to spare. It takes about 45 minutes to get to Nottingham, so I decided to leave an hour, just to be on the safe side.
Of course, this meant stepping out into the world as Andie – the real me – the director’s cut!
While I’ve been out with friends as Andie a good few times, it’s always been at night, so I’ve not had to worry about the neighbours seeing me.
This time, it was bright sunshine, 23C out there, and I could see four of my neighbours (one of whom I know, an old guy) sitting on their balcony, enjoying the lunchtime rays.
I had toyed with the idea of wearing a big coat to cover everything, of adding my wig in the car later, of going out in jeans and getting changed in the car.
In the end, I just thought: fuck it. I hadn’t got time to mess about. So I opened my front door, locked it behind me and walked, cool as f*ck to my car. I got in, adjusted my skirt and sat down. No problem. Whether or not they say me, I don’t know – and I don’t care.
Then I realised I’d left my lipstick behind, so I got back out, went back inside and retrieved it, walking back to my car with the same “f*ck it” attitude as before. Sassy cow! I don’t know if they saw me, and I don’t really care. Wish I was always so brave.
Felt quite proud of myself. I’d had a few nerves when the makeup was going wrong but, at that point in the car, I felt really happy and super confident again.
And then I started the old chariot and drove to Nottingham. It was a pretty unremarkable journey, except that I was listening to Radio 1. I never listen to Radio 1! I blame Annie, my fabulous 22-year-old pal who seems to have given me a new lease of life again. Scott Mills is still alive. Who knew?!
Anyway, still felt great on the drive in. I didn’t get any unusual glances from people, even in the centre of the city. One emotion I did feel, though, was vulnerability. Here I was, sitting in a flimsy top and a tiny skirt with my legs on display, only protected by a gossamer-thin layer of shimmery nylon. I guess I just felt a bit exposed. I even wound up the window at one point when a car stopped near mine. Get away from me!
I arrived at the clinic no problem and parked my car on the street outside. If anyone is reading this ahead of their own visit to Nottingham Centre for Transgender Health, don’t worry about parking. There’s loads on the street right outside.
So you won’t have to park in a multi-storey car park half way across the city and walk to the clinic. It’s not too expensive either – I think I paid £2 for two hours.
So I got out of the car, walked up to the machine and got my ticket. I felt a little nervous as there were people walking round, including one glamorous looking blonde lady using the machine inches from mine. But it all went without a hitch. I popped the ticket in my windscreen and then sent a few texts and photos to friends as I was a few minutes early.
And then it was time! I walked in through the door, after pressing a bell, and said hello to the receptionist. She told me to sit in the waiting room, which was all a bit grey.
There was a what looked like a young trans lad in there with an older guy, I assume his dad. I said hello and then sat down, still with my phone pinging away, with people wishing me good luck – all women, naturally. Thanks ladies!
After a short wait, my consultant, Sally Robbins-Cherry, arrived. She asked for me by saying “A (initial A) Surname” rather then Andie, Andy or Andrew. Surname’s not my real surname, btw. That would be weird.
She led me upstairs, down some more stairs, up some others (think rabbit warren) and through various doors before leading me into a room with a desk and a few chairs – and a massive fan, sadly not switched on despite the heat of the day.
I sat down (blimey, I did a lot of sitting down today!) and she sat facing me. She’d got my completed questionairre, which I’d sent by post a few weeks earlier. And then she began to ask me questions.
I’m not going to go into too much detail because some of it’s personal and some of it will be boring to other people.
But she asked about my upbringing, my parents and my sister. She asked what my dad did for a living, but not my mum.
We spoke about the joys of junior school and secondary school, where I was bullied mercilessly, before finally coming out of my shell as I studied A-levels at college.
We spoke about my career, sexuality, relationships – all about Georgie and I splitting up and then nearly getting back together but not quite managing it! About being a miserable git for months – and finally closure.
And I told her about Hannah, someone I matched with on Tinder only a few days ago but who seems utterly awesome – we’re going on a date next week.
Then we spoke about “the trans thing”. I found Sally friendly, warm and really easy to talk to. We smiled and laughed through most of the appointment.
She asked me when I first knew I was trans, and all about my journey to where I am now. I won’t go over it again because most of it’s already in the blog. Wanna know, you’re gonna have to scroll back and start at the start!
She asked me about pronouns – I said I like he/his and her/hers depending how I was presenting – and which gender marker I prefer – most definitely Mx.
She asked if I’d told my parents (not yet but letter’s all written for when they return off holiday next week), my sister (couldn’t have gone better), my friends (ditto) and if I’d changed my name by Deed Poll. That I’m in the process of doing – just want to tell my folks first.
And then she asked me about being non-binary and transfeminine, and it was here that things got a little tougher. Regular readers will know that I love this identity. I’m way more female than male – but I do still rather like my 20% or so male side.
She asked me if I was dysphoric about my genitals, and I replied no. They’ve given me a lot of pleasure over the years. She then asked me if I knew how T-blockers would affect them. Of course, I did.
I actually asked her about viagra at this point – would this help if I did become impotent (some trans people don’t – your mileage may vary), but she seemed to think not.
I just replied that I knew my sex drive wouldn’t stop but would become more like a ciswoman’s libido – requiring more time and foreplay to really get the fires of passion burning. But I’m fine with that. In fact, I’d prefer that to the instant horn of maleness. Besides, I’m 43 so my libido has slowed down a tad anyway.
Sally asked what I wanted from my visit to the clinic and I said that ultimately I’d like to start taking estrogen, and testosterone blockers. But no surgery – I explained that I realised that estrogen could rewire my mind and that I might look to surgery in the future if and when that happened. But definitely no plans for now or, probably, ever.
But she seemed to be having a few issues with the non-binary thing. I said I prefered to dress how I was, in my mini skirt and lacy top, instead of more androgynous jeans and T-shirt. In an ideal world, I said, I’d dress like this every day – or at least like the choice to.
But I said it’s not an ideal world and I’m happy enough compromising with my androgynous women’s jeans and T-shirts – at least for now. Again, if estrogen pushed me closer to the transwoman end of the gender scale, I’d address that at the time. But for now, I’m happy being my non-binary self.
I gave her the old football analogy, saying I still loved going for a beer with my dad on a Saturday afternoon, chatting with the old guys in the pub, then watching the football, all while shouting abuse at the players and referee. She pointed out that some women do that. I said not in the way I do it!
So then she asked how I’d feel sitting in the pub before the football, with my shaved head and no makeup or anything, but with visible breasts.
I’d given thought to this, too. I said no problem – I’ll just either bind them, or use a sports bra to hide them. I also pointed out that my broad male ribcage would make them less noticeable than on a female chest and I’d probably only reach an AA cup anyway (mum’s an A, sister’s an A).
I said if anyone did notice them, they’d probably think they were just pecs – or moobs. At the end of the day, I’m non-binary. It’s not an ideal world, and I don’t want to be drinking real ale with the lads down the pub while wearing floaty chiffon and heels.
She asked me how I’d like other people to see me and I replied honestly: I’d like them to look at me think they’re not sure – is that a man or a woman? I’d love to be completely androgynous, with female elements and male elements. But I definitely want female curves. I dislike my male body more and more as time goes on.
She asked about my gender dysphoria – now and growing up. I said I was mainly dysphoric as a teenager when my beard began to grow – and for the things I didn’t have rather than what I did have – beautiful curves. All the girls around me at school were blossoming into beautiful flowers and I was forced to wear drab clothes and live in a drab body. A prison, in fact! A bloody prison!
She pointed out that it was easier to cross from one side of the spectrum to the other – so from male to female or vice versa. Maybe it is, but I’m not transsexual. I could see that me being non-binary was causing her some concerns.
I’d expected some tough questions, which I got, on this – but not the level of concern about me wanting to take estrogen and blockers. She said it would be highly unusual to prescribe them to someone like me. That really made my heart sink.
And yet I’ve read of sooooooo many NB people who have been prescribed their right and proper hormones. I’ve referred to the FTM REM blog (now offline) before, where a non-binary person assigned female at birth wanted to take testosterone.
That person has now been prescribed that, although he is presenting as a trans man, whereas I’d be presenting as male some of the time and female some of the time. Not a big deal for me – but will it be for the gender clinic? It’s 2017 – “genderfluid” is a thing.
I don’t want to be rushed with this transition. So far, I’ve taken it at my pace, and it’s all gone really well. If I start taking estrogen and decide I want to dress more feminine every day, I’ll deal with that when the time comes. The same goes for surgery, although I still think that’s highly unlikely.
One thing I am 100% certain about is that this is the right thing for me. Only I know how I feel inside, and I know how badly I want to begin this treatment. If I was denied it, I would be utterly devastated.
If anyone, trans or otherwise, has any comments to make, please leave them in the box below. Thanks.
I also had a few questions, which I’ll pop down here:
- Q: Freezing sperm – can it be done on the NHS and, if so, is there a charge?
A: Yes, you can do it on the NHS – you need to make enquiries through your GP. There’s a charge in some areas and not others. A good old postcode lottery!
- Q: If estrogen is prescribed, will that be at the third appointment?
A: Possibly, but maybe the fourth.
- Q: Could I get finasteride prescribed as a T-blocker (to also stop hair loss).
A: Not through the clinic – another GP postcode lottery.
- Q: How is estrogen prescribed?
A: Usually as a pill but, with my history of DVT, probably as a patch, as that’s safer. I’d also have to go through an endocrinologist for hormone tests.
- Q: How are the T-blockers prescribed?
A: An injection – usually every three months from a GP, but lower doses over shorter periods initially.
- Q: What happens after the initial three-appointment process?
A: Appointments continue for the next 12 to 18 months.
- Q: Is facial electrolyisis available on the NHS?
A: Yes! £1,500 worth per patient. Only after testosterone is blocked – works better then.
- Q: Do transwomen/NB people taking estrogen live longer then men?
A: Very early studies so far, but they show that yes they do – as long as cis women.
- Q: Do people need to do the Real Life Experience for hormones?
A: No, that’s just for those wanting surgery, and it’s for 18 months.
Please don’t think it was a negative session, because it wasn’t. It was mostly really positive, and I fully accept that Sally has to ask some difficult questions. At the end of the day, it’s her job to prescribe people with estrogen.
It’s not something to trifle with – it causes infertility and impotence, as well as boobs and bums. She needs to be 100% sure she’s doing the right thing before she signs that prescription. I just hope she appreciates how much I need this for my future happiness. I simply could not exist, growing into my 50s and 60s in the wrong body. I’ve done that for 43 years. No more.
PS Someone has just asked what happens next. Sorry, I should have said: my next appointment is on August 9th.