Son, you’re due a smear.

Son, you’re due a smear.

Whenever I started this blog I wanted to give an insight into the life of a trans man, and with that means honesty, no matter how uncomfortable it may be.

So today I’m going to talk about: Smear tests

As I entered into the world of physically appearing male, some may think I adopted all male privilege. Let me tell you there is nothing privileged about having to lie, legs spread, on a nurses bed awaiting a duck beaked speculum to enter you.

This is something many assigned female at birth people can agree with, the thought of a smear test, is well, horrific.

Now imagine the stress on top of the basic fears of a smear test, along with:-

  • Will my nurse understand?
  • Will I be misgendered?
  • Will everyone at the clinic know?
  • Am I in danger?

The list of fears goes on but essentially it’s a fear of rejection, embarrassment and awkwardness.

However, pushing my fears aside I had to admit the facts: With lower surgery being on hold (not by choice but due to issues within the medical care), my 25th birthday being over 3 months ago and having been sexual active for some time now.

I was due a smear test. 

Valuing my physical health over my mental health, I summoned the courage to mention this requirement to my GP during a general appointment. Thankfully my GP is clued in and polite enough that he didn’t question it too much, asked was I sure I could handle it and booked me in.

But then came smear day 

Now one of the biggest issues with appointments like this is the personal admission that there are still parts of you, as a trans person, that do not match your gender identity. And due to this you have to go to appointments that feel they shouldn’t be for you. This is a large mental strain and one that I can admit I struggle with from time to time. But the truth of the matter is, I am transgender and that means, to me, that I was born the wrong gender. Transitioning from this gender is a process, and takes time, and until then I am still going to have certain female body aspects which mean I will have to under-go medical treatments linked, generally, with females. This isn’t a bad thing or something to be ashamed of, it’s simply different to the norm and that shouldn’t be an issue.

So with that personal pep talk over I state in a calm tone “I’m here for a smear test“, after the nurse asks what she’ll be doing today.

No gasp.

No shock horror.

Just: “Okay that’s no problem we’ll go into the room

She then went on to very respectfully ask about periods ,to which I laughed saying it’s been a while and she responded “Of course cause you’re going through the… I just have to ask”

I get where she was going with that comment. She meant I was going through “The Change

Although not politically correct, she meant no harm.

The rest of the test was pretty straight forward. Pop your kit off, bit of paper to cover yourself and lie legs apart.

When the nurse returned she reassured me the entire time and carried it out efficiently so it was over and done with before I could even be too worried.

Despite being a tad uncomfortable, both physically and mentally, it was nothing to worry about.

The nurse was respectful, she did not misgender me, she wasn’t shocked by me being transgender, nor was she shocked by the physical changes testosterone has had on my sex organs.

So if you’re a cis-gendered female reading this and have been putting off a smear test due to embarrassment or fear, if I can do it, you can do it too.

Honestly, your physical health is so important and it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Take care of yourself,

Harry

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

How to be a Trans ally.

“I don’t have a problem with trans people”

“They’re doing no harm to me, live and let live”

The list of common phrases goes on, but underneath these passing remarks are those that mean well, yet still fall short with understanding what it fully means to be a Trans ally.

I’ve had a number of people come into my life, at different times throughout my transition. They seem supportive in general, however have done things that just leave me sort of, disappointed? So here’s my list of 5 ways to be a Trans ally:

  1. Please don’t out us (specifically for the sake of gossip)

This one is different for each Trans person, there are those who are stealth (In which case it is really not okay to out them) or those that don’t mind being open about their trans identity. On a personal level I am open, and I don’t mind others knowing, however in a certain way. See these two conversation examples below;

*I walk into a bar to meet my friend/”Ally” with their friends, introduce myself then head to purchase a drink*

Conversation 1:

“Ally”:  “Did you know he’s transgender? Like you’d never think it”

Friend’s of said “Ally”: *gasps* “No way!” *Conversation then discusses how well I pass etc. until I return*

Conversation 2:

Friends of “Ally”: “His face looks quite familiar”

Ally: “You might have seen him online as he uses social media a lot to discuss being transgender.”

Conversation 1 is not okay, simply because the “ally” is talking for the sake of talking, it’s gossip and no one wants a personal matter discussed that way. However, conversation 2 is appropriate as it’s not forced but rather discussing the topic in natural way, that shows respectfulness to the trans person and a level of education to those listening.

2. Please don’t refer to the ‘old us’ 

So you think you’re an ally as you’ve got the pronouns right? Yet you still use terms that remind of us of who or what we used to be. This may seem small but instead of saying “So was that when you were a lesbian?” phrasing like “What stage in your life was that?” or even “Was that when you identified as a lesbian?” – it’s a very slight adjustment to the average person but for someone who suffers with dysphoria it can really help to ease this discomfort.

3. Language is important

Gender re-affirming language is very important, see below card for my birthday from my father. Although to some people this may scream overcompensation, to a trans person this says you value my gender. So whether it’s inviting your trans-female friend to a ‘girl’s night’ or your trans-male friend to ‘hang out with the lads,’ do it. Include them in your gendered language, because I for one trans person, have a very fragile sense of gender. I need it reaffirmed through these small things because dysphoria is still an issue that plagues my everyday thoughts.

21691104_1952324801652784_823045419_n.jpg

 

4. Be practical.

By this I mean, venues or circumstances. Venues that heavily ID or have poor toilet facilities, asking a friend who binds to travel without a break for a long period of time etc. The ID example would be if your trans friend hasn’t up-dated their documentation yet and may struggle with showing ID that misgenders them. As an ally it is important to be understanding of this issue and prepared to ‘defend’ your friend if they’re questioned. The toilet one is still a very personal issue for myself. A good friend of mine, Adam, describes urinals as “pissing like a farmyard animal” however if we are at a venue where only one cubicle is available that boy will pee like a farmyard animal to allow myself to use the cubicle, as it is the only physically possible thing I can do. No words mentioned nor needed, like a silent code, but something I value a lot. I know he’s doing it to benefit me and as a friend and ally I truly appreciate it. Same goes with a trans-female friend stating they need the toilet. Don’t be awkward, include them in the ‘girl’s go to the toilet together’ rule – not only will it make them feel validated but also safer, as toilets can be an uncomfortable experience for trans people.

5. Stand up for us when we’re not there

Again, I’ll use my friend Adam as another example. On a night out, which I left early, an acquaintance stated “So that’s Harry, the guy that’s not really a guy.” To this Adam responded “I don’t know what you’re talking about, Harry is a guy.” – a simple statement, to make the underlying transphobic acquaintance seem the foolish one. The meaning of being a true ally is defending us even when we’re not there to listen. Not to spare our feelings, which some may do in our presence, but more to be an educator and add to the overall acceptance of all trans people rather than simply protecting one personal friend.

This short list of how to be an ally are a number of ways to improve trans peoples lives, there’s many more ways but ultimately it’s simply about respect and understanding.

Over and out.

Harry

 

 

Rose Coloured Boy

Rose Coloured Boy

You say “We gotta look on the bright side”

I say “Well maybe if you wanna go blind”

If you haven’t heard Paramore’s song Rose Coloured Boy from their newest album, After Laughter, I advise you give it a listen. The song is said to tell the tale of lead singer’s, Hayley Williams, internal battle of both trying to think positively but also allowing yourself to have moments of sadness, anger and confusion etc.

This is something I can relate to – after being so down for many years and wallowing in it, I tried the opposite, to always think positively, fake that smile and it’ll all be better. Newsflash – you’ll wear yourself out, I did.

I’m slowly learning, as a human, we have a range of moments from contentment and sheer joy to downs and a general feeling of being uneasy, sometimes even for no reason, and that’s okay. Acceptance of these emotions is almost better than trying to mask them, if you say to yourself “I feel shitty and that’ okay, it’ll pass’ it’s easier than faking the ‘I’m ok’ line.

But for when those feelings do occur here’s my 5 tips for minding your mental health and allowing the downs to not be miserable, but valuable, through allowing yourself some well needed self-care.

  1. Take a walk or do some form of exercise – Fresh air is great, not only can being closer to nature help you to feel more calm but I also find taking the time to connect with the world around us really helps to appreciate the little things in life.  So whether its the crunching of the leaves under your feet, how sweetly that red breast is singing or simply how beautiful the sun setting is, pausing and appreciating what life offers us for free brings a sense of calm. Alternatively, breaking a sweat either outdoors or at the gym, naturally releases endorphin’s in the brain making you feel good!
  2.  Take a bath or generally treat yo self – Whether that involves a face mask, a bubble bath, a fresh shave, a massage, a new haircut.. whatever it may be, do it (as long as you can afford it because a negative bank account isn’t going to make anyone feel better about themselves!) I am a man comfortable in my own masculinity to say at times I’ve done one or a few of the above to improve my general mood and a little self-TLC never did any harm. If you take care of the exterior it can have an equal effect on the inside and your mental state.
  3. Talk to a friend – Sometimes the greatest negative feeling can be a sense of emptiness and loneliness. Sadly this is something I’ve learnt with getting older. Friends move on, they get jobs, they move house, they find a relationship and these developments can leave you feeling left behind. The reality of it is though your friend probably didn’t even realise and it just takes a little reaching out to say “Hey, I’m feeling a bit lonely, can we hang out?” to improve that feeling. Even if its an acquaintance you want to get to know better, a friend you haven’t seen in years, sometimes reaching out can help more than just yourself, because a humans we like others company and sometimes it’s nice just not to feel so alone in this world.
  4.  Get motivated – Sitting around feeling sorrow for yourself about certain things is fine, but if you do that for too long the issues can grow and become over bearing. So if you’re sad about a lack of money, use the time to apply for jobs – you’ll feel more responsible and like change is on the way, improving your mood and your situation. Take it in baby steps and the issues causing the trouble won’t seem as bad, if its dating bringing you down – chat to someone new, take a risk, friends – reach out and talk to them, organisation issues – draw up a calendar and start planning, Whatever it is, sit down and gather some internal motivation and get trying to start making realistic changes within your life. Being in a rut is never going to improve unless you make an active decision to change.
  5. Look out for number one – Saying no is okay. I REPEAT: SAYING NO IS OK. By this I mean if a group of friends are dragging you to go out but you know you won’t enjoy it because you need some head space – that’s okay! This is something I struggled with and still do to this day, trying to please everybody when you’re not even capable of pleasing yourself is only going to wear you out. You don’t have to explain yourself to anyone, your time is your time and you use it how you wish, same with your finances, your space and everything else. I truly think this one is very important so please take note. Justifying your actions if you’re not hurting anyone is not required.

That’s my simple guide to improving your mood but also accepting that it’s okay not to be okay. I hope it helps someone or gives you something to think about, and remember if you ever need someone to hang out with, chat to or enjoy nature with, my inbox is always open no matter how close or rather, not, we are.

That’s all for now and take care!

Harry

What’s my Label?

What’s my Label?

As it’s Pride month, and although being Transgender does make me part of the LGBT community, the main focus at Pride is regarding sexuality and that’s why I thought I’d discuss mine, my relationship with it and how it’s developed.

Before transitioning I came out to a few as Bi and then Lesbian, but since coming out as Transgender I felt this made these ‘coming out’s’ somewhat void.

You see the issue itself wasn’t sexuality at all, I just put that label on what I was feeling as I didn’t fully understand what I was going through. I wanted something that allowed me to present in a more masculine way and by coming out as ‘lesbian’ this was seen as more socially acceptable.

However, this exploration of my identity, through presenting in a more masculine way, made me come to the realisation that I was transgender and thus lead to a new relationship with my body.

Sex and sexuality is a very personal matter, before transitioning I was always going to be seen as someone’s ‘girlfriend’ and by coming out as lesbian I was able to play the role of the more ‘butch’ partner and compensate for my own insecurities regarding gender. However, throughout my transition, with each step, I began to see the changes and myself more as the man I wanted to be seen as all along. This new found pride in my own body meant I felt more confident to share it with others and still be seen as male, because I was all along, I just didn’t realise it until after pursuing my medical transition.

So that leads to the question: what is my sexual orientation?

Simply put, I don’t like labels but what I do like is people. There is a label for this and that would be ‘pansexual’ – this is defined as being “not limited in sexual choice with regard to biological sex, gender or gender identity”

Maybe this came about because with any relationship I entered I had to ask my potential partner to be open to the idea of me. I was born biologically female but my gender identity is now male. From this I began to question ‘if I’m asking other people to be more open and simply accept me for me rather than anything else, or regardless of something else, surely I should do the same to others?’ With that mind set I began to view people as simply that, people, and it allowed me to be more open with my dating life.

Currently, I’m in a heterosexual (male and female) relationship with my girlfriend (who is also transgender) – however some may claim this as a pansexual relationship since our sex doesn’t necessarily align with our gender.

Whatever the label, I honestly don’t care, I love her and that’s all that matters.

People are beautiful, love is love and that’s what pride is truly about. So stay loud and proud just by being truly you.

Harry

 

 

Dealing with Loss – the Trans Perspective

As a trans person people regularly talk about the loss of an unaccepting family when they come out and the grief this causes them. However no one talks about the loss of  a family member and the true grief of death throughout this ordeal.

Yesterday morning my grandfather (or Papa as we would have known him by) sadly passed away.

This is a man who never said anything negative about my transition, and yet because of the family around him I unintentionally cut him out.

As some of you may know I have only been in contact with my mother for a Year and 5 months now, however at times our relationship can still be rocky. Her side of the family have always been, difficult, shall we say, in regards to any ‘worldly’ issues due their religious beliefs. This means that they view my life as a ‘lifestyle’ choice, sinful, and essentially do not respect my basic wishes in regards to pronouns and name change. This is obviously disrespectful to me, or at its basic level, transphobia.

To submerge myself around people who don’t even respect me to maintain my mental health, never mind actually believing that as a transman I am a man, would be damaging and for that reason I justified not going to see my Papa for many years. For the fear I would run into another family member and the grief/embarrassment I would be given.

Although this allows me to remember the good times with my grandfather now I am realising it also leaves me broken – that I didn’t have the courage simply to spend time with him and show him that I cared before it was too late.

My grandfather was a unique man – one who enjoyed westerns, eating too many fish and chips (probably why he had a bad heart for so many years!), being casually sectarian and racist (like every old person is in an excusable manner) and having a passion for anything with a motor (meaning trading in for the latest car even after his licence was removed!)

Essentially, he wasn’t a bad man, and a person who saw me grew up throughout my childhood and had a lot of love for me that I probably should have shown back. Thankfully, I made it to his bedside before he was gone, although he was unresponsive by this stage, I hope somehow within himself he knew I was there. That I was sorry I’d distanced myself for 5 years and that I didn’t mean to ‘forget’ about him, and I never did.

This Sunday will be his funeral, another event I am scared to attend, much like I was with his home for many years, only this time I know it’s my last chance. Despite the dead-naming, the awkward stares from family members who haven’t seen me for many years and the mental strain this may cause me – it’s not about me, it’s about him.

So Papa, this ones to you: I’m sorry I put my own issues before your needs, I didn’t think your time would be this soon – your health was declining sure, but this was an unexpected accident. I’m truly sorry I never had the chance to tell you about everything I’ve been getting up to but I’m sure you’d be proud how far I’ve came despite all that’s been going on. I hope you’re not in pain anymore, and I really hope it wasn’t as scary as I imagine it at the end. I love you and always have, rest in peace, you’re in a better place now.

To the reader reading this, I hope this gives you another insight on how basic family situations that may arise and be troublesome to most, are heightened due to being transgender. That this isn’t a choice and if we could have an easier life – believe me we would – but this a reality and sadly it’s life for us.

And if you’re reading this with your own issues meaning you’ve put off doing whatever it is you want to do – seeing friends, family, doing that expensive thing you really want to do, getting the job you really want, declining invitations because you’re ‘too tired’… whatever it is, do it.

Do it now because as the expression says you really do only live once – we only have one chance before it’s too late and we never know how soon that’s going to be.

That’s all the thought’s I can write down on this subject for now.

Harry.

(In loving memory of David Hayes)

 

 

 

 

 

 

4 Years on Testosterone (with Photos!)

4 Years on Testosterone (with Photos!)

It’s April 2017 and do you know what that marks? This month I reach the point of 4 Years on Testosterone.

So for this blog post I thought I’d take a look back on how these years have developed me into the man I am today. So here’s a quick overview on my progress (with pictures to keep it interesting!) and how it’s shaped me:

Teenage/School Years (2004-2011)

This was a very confusing time for me, high school can be a hard time for anyone, not only did I not relate to my peers but also my own body and emotions. I didn’t have the vocabulary for what I was feeling and ultimately I felt lost.  During this time period I came out as ‘lesbian’ thinking this was the label I was seeking, from this I ended up getting abuse, becoming homeless and feeling more lost than ever before. My grades were failing and with school being school, I believed I was doomed.

22635_338312140554_2520431_n


The Realisation (2011-2012)

After spending time in a homeless shelter and then building myself a place to call ‘home’ along with joining a local college. I finally had the freedom to explore my thoughts in a safe environment. And from this I realised (and accepted!) that the issue was my gender and the relationship I had with my own body. Around April 2012 I made the conscious decision to go to my GP and ask for a referral to the Gender Identity Services in Northern Ireland. Little did I know it would then be another year until I could start the HRT process.

SDC172277

 

The Wait (2012-2013)

Some of you may or may not know Northern Ireland still views Gender Dysphoria as a Mental Health issue therefore using the Mental Health services. I wasn’t prepared for the 6 month wait to even access an appointment nor the 6 months of psychological assessments to get a prescription for hormones. Honestly, I can say this was the worst part and made me suicidal, I’d spent my entire life hiding who I was and I’d finally said it out loud, I wanted and needed action THEN but was told to wait. Having something out of your mental control then be out of your physical control can only be described as frustrating.

SDC172911

The Beginning (2013)

In April 2013 I got the go ahead for Testosterone – I quit my job knowing they’d see differences (despite passing as male even though pre-t in that position), I graduated from college that June and then in July I made the move from small town life to the big city of Belfast. This was to give me a fresh start, throw away any of my past and begin again. From there I started a new job, University along with making new friends as ‘Harry’ and began feeling more confident in myself. However I went ‘stealth’ and didn’t disclose my Trans status to anyone I met, hiding from my past ultimately because I was ashamed of this part of me.

18035087_1883916065160325_1861281330_n

 

April 2013- April 2014

1 year on T! I’d made it – the first year was more about mental changes than physical but one major physical factor that came with this first year was Top Surgery. In March 2014 I had my pre-op consultation and in April I flew over to Brighton, UK to have Double Incision Top Surgery with Dr Andrew Yelland. Nothing can explain the joy I felt waking up after that operation, to know that I didn’t have to wear a tight, restrictive Binder ever again and after healing could enjoy a more free life. Although slightly distressed by two massive scars across my chest these brought me a new lease of life. After this surgery I religiously looked after my scars, shout out to Adam Moore for washing my hair to aviod any stretching and thanks to my housemates in general who helped with living until I healed. Along with this I applied bio oil and tried to aid recovery as best I could meaning that today my scars are barely visible. This year I also started Placement Year and entering the world as a working professional.

10593192_10203432754397573_4340495814578685244_n

 

April 2014-March 2015

2 years on T! – Another year, another disappointment in lack of facial hair. Annoyingly when following others Transitions I wasn’t aware Transguys in America generally have a higher dosage of Testosterone so by this stage I thought I’d be sporting a sexy beard but this was truly not the case. Throughout this year  I began exploring myself more in regards to who I was now the world was seeing me as male. I had kept up being stealth to this point but it still made me think that my gender identity (or journey) was a nasty secret I had to hide. Also within this year I discovered there were more guys like me in the UK and Ireland when I got introduced to online support groups and now I wonder how I ever managed to get through it all without them. On top of this throughout this year I ended a long term relationship which had been less than supportive to me as a person yet I held onto it, fearing that was simply the best ‘love’ I could get.

10593192_10203432754397573_4340495814578685244n

 

April 2015- March 2016

3 years on T! – Finally we can see facial hair (well it’s a start!) I call this the year of development, I realised I didn’t need a relationship to make me happy – only I could do that, I didn’t need another person to tell me I’m a nice person because I am. Great mental improvement happened this year and made me come to terms that my trans history wasn’t shameful but something I could share. At the beginning of 2016 I started talking to my mother again (although this relationship is still tedious), I began writing for a local LGBT magazine in July 2015 which made me come to terms with my life more (I even posed in just my jocks!) and generally things seemed to be improving for auld Harry.

gni

[Photo Credit to: Brad McClenaghan]

April 2016-March 2017

This was the stretch of 3 Years to almost 4 Years and what a stretch it’s been! So where do I even begin? From attending a Trans Training Residential which resulted in me not only coming to terms with myself and telling ALL my friends in a blog post that I am a transgender man but also finding my other (better looking) half, Jamie O’Herlihy. A transgender woman herself, who teaches me everyday being trans isn’t a downfall in regards to dating, you’re lovable regardless of that. We went ‘public’ and started a YouTube Channel/Facebook page not realising the result it would have. From guiding people questioning their own identity/sexual orientation and educating people to even showing others life is still worth living –  feedback alone shows just by putting our lives on social media we’re helping others. I even made my television debut throughout this year! Admittedly the tacky newspapers/magazines weren’t the best way about it but the work we’re doing from them – LGBT magazine articles, blog posts, videos, replying to every message we get – we’ve started to see we really are helping. I also graduated in this year, started a full time job, my beards slowly but surely growing in and I’ve progressed with the steps to reach bottom surgery.

13319906_1041575819256898_6164448251542804376_n

 

April 2017 and 4 years on T!

18034842_1883910145160917_1767657126_n

[Photo Credit to: Jamie O’Herlihy]

I’M 4 YEARS ON TESTORONE ON THE 29TH OF APRIL THIS YEAR EVERYONE BE EXCITED FOR ME.

Honestly, I’m not that braggy I’m more humbled that the confused, lonely teen at the beginning of this post became the man you see below. Self progression is an incredible thing and the power to turn your own life around can never be underestimated. Thanks to anyone who’s simply read or been a part of this journey, you’ve also made me the man I am today.

 

 

 

Welcome to your Tape

Welcome to your Tape

“Welcome to your Tape”

A familiar line to thousands of young people as of recent thanks to Netflix’s popular 13 Reasons Why.

I’ve seen the social media posts surrounding the controversial issues with this show, that it may or may not encourage reckless behaviour in youth. As you become absorbed in Hannah’s life you start to feel her emotions, the teenage angst of life and how every action has a reaction.

But having survived High School myself, what I realised is; We are all Hannah. (Well not everyone, some are a Justin or a Jessica. But those reading this post quietly interested in someones point of view, yes you, are more than likely a Hannah)

What I mean by this is Hannah’s life experience is the extreme but all of us can relate to it in some way.

High School is a harsh time in life. Every little thing seems to mean EVERYTHING, school is all you know.

Maybe it was just me, maybe it wasn’t, but if you weren’t a Justin. You were an outsider.

The hierarchy of school was all you knew and honestly at that young age you thought that was how the world worked. If you weren’t pretty and popular, your mum didn’t chip in as much with Parent Teachers Association – you were a nobody, to the teachers and other students.

This everyday play of school life leaves you, Hannah, a target. The teachers don’t listen, the other students say nothing in a hope the attention doesn’t default to them and the world keeps spinning as you keep thinking, this is life, this is simply how it works.  I am literally not cared about.

But to anyone in that position right now.

Here’s the thing; The minute you leave high school, you enter the real world and in the real world there’s 100 Justins, 100 Jessicas, 100 Courtneys and 100 Hannahs (Yes there’s more you!) Truth be told they didn’t even realise this and with being so overwhelmed they aren’t special anymore they tend to back down a step. Peoples parents hold no power in the real world, your mum and dad don’t even hold power over you and the world is what you make it – not what school made it.

I spent my entire school life with no detentions, doing all my assignments and honestly no backbone and do I regret it? Yes. They say school is to build you for the future but honestly asking for the toliet? Not chewing gum or wearing heavy make up? A uniform? Things like this are not the real world.

So hold your head high little Hannah like person. This warped sense of a false reality is a blip in time for the beginning of the rest of your life, it’s temporary so don’t even for a second consider a permanent solution for a temporary problem.

Simple as. Now go back to watching Netflix and enjoy.

Much love to my fellow ‘different’ ones,

Harry