Saturday, October 27, 2007

27th October
There's a photo that's just emerged from my filing cabinet.
In it, I'm sixteen years old.
I'm sitting in a group of about 70 boys, all dressed uniformly in black suit, white shirt, and hideous purple striped tie.
Sitting in rigid rows, all according to the number of years we've been at the school.
All grouped with our masters and tutors in front of the hideous, oppressive, house we had to call 'home'
I'm in the third row, about fourth from the left.
I'm standing not quite in line.
My shoulders are hunched, my cheeks are hollow.
I look terrified.
There are people in the photograph who have looked out for me. A boy called Potter sitting in the prefects row who has directed me on stage. A boy called Corran standing next to me who is the hooker for the school rugby team and who, in spite of his high status in the hierarchy, still agreed to demean himself by sharing a study with me.
And so protected me.
That year, I've discovered the theatre is my home.
I've also discovered, because they give me girls' parts, that it's a girl I would much rather be.
And maybe even am.
That's the main reason I'm terrified.
A girl in the group on Thursday was talking about how her father has communicated to her the fact that, as far as he's concerned, she does not exist.
Thinking about her has helped me understand that that was precisely the message I had learnt at that time. The whole world had told me: as a transsexual you do not exist. There is no future for you.
Who i was was literally unspeakable: there were no words then to describe me.
The girl in the group said: "But I do exist. Here I am".
And now, dear love, is trying to live that out.
But I agreed i did not exist. I internalised that lie. I cannot reproach myself, because I had no choice at that time. There was no other information available to me.
And so I tried to live as a young man.
Luckily, I never wholly succeeded.
I never learnt to stop crying, for instance.
I grew my hair long as soon as I was able to.
I absolutely rejected the 'masculine' choices society offered me. I refused to become a real man. I refused my father's career, or the career as an academic society mapped out for me.
I tried to become a writer. And failed.
I became a nurse.
I became a parent: and as a parent, tried to be both mother and father to my children.
And somehow, as I look back, it were those acts of resistance - that seemed pretty feeble and insignificant at the time - that saved me.
But whenever I look back at that photo, and think of the incredibly damaged young person i was - utterly alone, convinced no-one would ever love me, feeling like a worthless person, an utter nobody - I want to pay tribute to his courage.
My courage.
All our courage.

Friday, October 26, 2007

26th October
Last night I went on a course called "Managing Change". It's at the LGBT health centre in Edinburgh; and the 'change' they're talking about is the change from male to female.
("Lost in Transit" might be another word for this process...)
But I do myself down.
As, I suppose, i did for most of the evening.
I was at electrolysis just before, and instead of going straight from there to the meeting - calling for a coffee and a something on the way - i decided to go home, because I wanted to change into a skirt.
Question for self: why not wear a skirt in the first place?Electrolysis started at 4; I was out about 5.10; by the time I got home it was 5.40; the meeting started at 6.30.
So by the time I'd put on some make-up - too fast - and brushed my hair, which, because I hadn't managed to wash it for the past few days, was an utter disaster area, the only way I could get to the Centre on Howe St and be there remotely on time was to go by bike.
Now for all that I imagine riding a bike in a skirt is the same as riding a bike in trousers - at least I expect the same processes are involved - but for some reason I've never actually dared to try it.
I have a vague fear of getting tangled up in it some how. Or something.
And I was late anyway - I couldn't find my deodorant - and then, to make it worse, I'd cycled half way down the road when I remembered I'd left my keys behind.
So I arrived late, sweaty, hair mussed up by my helmet...
Apprehensive and nervous...
Question to self: what exactly were you frightened of?


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

23rd October
I went to Buddhist meditation this lunctime, and the guided meditation was on health.
And so i was remembering that jyst over a year ago, a brave and skillful surgeon stopped my jeart.
Stopped my heart beating so he could repair a faulty valve inside my heart.
I still think that miraculous.
And because he did that I could cycle to the meditation, and see my friend and colleague Mark, and enjoy the sunsshine, and the plants and flowers that have been placed where the pulpit used to be...
And I think, too, that for centuries when we humans plotted to kill each other, it was always to stop the heart.
We evolved methods of fencing and stabbing that would enable us to slip the blade past the ribs, bullets and cannon shot and explosives that would smash the heart to pieces...
and in our last century, when we devised so many new and horrible large scale methods of human destruction, it occurred to someone that stopping the heart could be a means of healing it.
And that it could be started again, with no harm done.
And now many hundreds, thoisands of surgeons all over the world can do this, and have evolved methods of training to enable many more.
And in the midst of all the poverty and injustice and destructiveness... that must surely signify something.


Saturday, October 20, 2007

20th October 2007
I'm just back from Florence.
The Teatro della Limonaia did a production, in Italian, of my GOD'S NEW FROCK, as part of their Intercity festival, and I went out there to watch both performances.
GOD'S NEW FROCK is a show I wrote and performed, when? in 2002-3, because I felt I would never persuade anyone else to stage it.
It was intensely personal, intensely autobiographical, and dealt, among other things, with the time in my life when i was most ashamed and misearble. When i was first aware of being transgendered, and was so bewildered and ashamed I could speak to no-one about it.
But because I had performed it myself, I had never actually seen it: and one of the utterly astonishing things was to watch this story, my story, being performed by an amazing actor, and so being given value and worth.

Aessandro Baldinotti, who performed the show, was so astonishingly good: so intelligent and sensitive and beauitful.
And the ausience loved the show.
I have never known a show to get a round of applause in the middle, at a certain line.
And this happened several times.

It was a triumph. There is no other word for it.
And I feel that somehow that has transformed my life.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

11th October
The sleep centre was a small windowless room, soundproofed, right in the heart of the hospital building.
To get to it, you had to ask permission to go past two locked doors.
it felt like a secret, defended kind of place: and a little frightening.
The sleep machine is a mask that fits tightly over the nose connected to a long bendy tube plugged into an air blowing machine.
It was hard to sleep that night. I couldn't get comfortable, my mind kept racing, my legs kept jumping. I would develop mysterious itches. It was as if i was resisting sleep with all my strength.
But i did, eventually, in that mysterious way you do, and then I woke up after what felt like a very short time. As if it was straight afterwards.
I felt irritated with myself for waking up; and leaving what i dimly remembered as a very pleasant, deep peaceful kind of place.
Up to now, i have tended to sleep for what feels like a very long time at first; and then wake up to find it has hardly been any time at all, and it is still 1 am.
This time I felt I'd only just got off; but I found out it was in fact 4am.
So I had slept longer: and I think deeper.
For the next morning, at breakfast, my hitherto unseen companions in that place said they had been woken by screaming.
And last night, though it still felt strange, it felt less strange: rather like the plates I used to have to wear in my mouth as a boy, following the visits to the orthodontist: that always felt like enormous lumps of metal at first but which after a bit my brain would somehow stop registering.
Perhaps it will be like that.
And I wonder what will happen to my dreams....


Monday, October 08, 2007

8th October
Earlier this year, my massage therapist notices that when I fell asleep during a massage I would regularly stop breathing.
I was still recovering from my heart operation at the time, and mentioned it to someone, who said I should tell my GP, who referred me to a sleep specialist.
This must have been in January.
And eventually, in mid June, I was seen by someone from the Sleep Clinic, who passed me on to the next stage, and then in the beginning of August I picked up some equipment that I brought home, hooked myself up to a monitor which recorded my sleep patterns.
And then last Friday I went back to them and they told me I have been waking on avaerage 63 times an hour - just over once every minute - because I have stopped breathing.
The muscles in the throat relax in sleep, the windpipe narrows and starts to vibrate - which is snoring - and then, in bad cases, the windpipe closes and you stop breathing.
You struggle for breath, wake up, struggling, and go back to sleep again. And so you forget.
And this must have been going on for years and years.
It must have so profoundly affected me, and in so many ways.
And tomorrow I spend the night in the sleep clinic, and they fit a mask which attaches to a machine which gently blows air down the windpipe and so keeps it open.
And perhaps i will sleep properly.
I feel the most immense curiosity.


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