I will say from the outset that I don’t intend to pull any punches with this blog. I will say my piece, with complete openness and honesty, about my personal journey towards transition and all other matters surrounding it which I feel are relevant or may be of interest to anyone reading my posts.
That will mean that no subject matter is taboo, no matter how private, and without regard for anyone else’s personal bigotry or dogma. If anyone is made to feel uncomfortable by anything that I write here then they are quite welcome to go read someone else’s blog, that is their choice in a free world. This is my blog and I reserve the right to voice my own opinions on all matters.
Today’s post is about the early changes which my body and in some ways my mind are going through, and my disappointment and dissatisfaction with the way the NHS in the UK “processes” the needs of people with Gender Dysphoria.
Prior to experiencing my day of “realisation” I had been prescribed Finasteride for a slightly enlarged prostate but, as is the way of many things in my life due to the after effects of an accident a few years back and not helped by the apparent refusal of the NHS to accept those effects as being real, I had stopped taking that and some other medications in the latter part of 2012 and never got back “into the habit”.
In discussions with other (genuinely) transgender people in Second Life, of which there are many, it was pointed out to me that Finasteride does actually have some additional benefits for transgender women. Not only can it assist in halting, and possibly slightly reversing, the onset of frontal lobe alopecia (i.e. a receding hairline) but a significant number of men, sufficient to initiate Class Action Lawsuits, have found that they have begun to develop breasts while taking this particular medication. In some cases, unfortunately, only on one side !
(Legal note: I’m not stating that the case has been proven, just reporting what I have been told and read).
Initially having only been informed of the situation regarding the suppression of hair loss it inspired me to restart taking the Finasteride that I still had in the drawer as my hairline has been slowly receding for some years, and I must say that it did have some effect, in that at least some of the bald areas now have a light “down” over them and the progression seems to have halted, if not slightly reversed.
I continued with the medication until, after a couple of months, I became aware that I was starting to develop breasts … only very slowly, and very slightly, but enough to make me mention it to my online TG friends. It was then that someone asked if I was taking Finasteride, I told them I was, and they said about the alleged side effect.
At this point I had a choice. A) Add my name to those wishing to be included in the Class Action Lawsuits, or B) Go to my doctor and, in the absence of any other hormonal medication at the time, make damned sure that I wasn’t taken OFF it !
I chose B) and, fortunately, my doctor was agreeable.
As things stand at the moment I am able to wear a B-cup bra, although it is still a bit big for me (them), but I think it’s better to have room to expand, especially as my resources are such that I don’t actually have a clothing budget.
Over the past year and a half, since I started taking the Finasteride again, I have noticed many changes to my breasts, not just in shape and size but also in the feel and “texture” of the flesh within. As with any developing situation with the body it goes in fits and starts; sometimes a period of slow growth, sometimes a period of subtle changes in the inner flesh. Being built the way I am and not always having lived the best lifestyle I have had “man boobs” in the past, and although I am a bit overweight at the moment these little beauties are most definitely NOT man boobs. The whole feel of them, both in terms of sensation and manipulation, is something totally new and wonderful. I know from experience what my old man boobs felt like, and I certainly know what a proper female breast feels like! … These are the real thing!
The biggest problem I face from an internal perspective is the realisation that at the current rate of development it will take them some five or six years at least to become complete and, for want of definition, fully “adult” breasts. Effectively, as with a lot of the mental acceptance of the changes going on with me, they are “adolescent breasts” and as such aren’t going to develop overnight.
Take 50 years off my age, put me a body of the right sex, and my body is going though exactly the same processes as I assume that of an adolescent girl does, and which I only now have the joy of experiencing.
So, you may ask, if I’m so happy to be developing them, then why am I still only taking the Finasteride as opposed to more mainstream Hormones which would both speed up the process of their development and spark other desirable changes in my physique and overall body shape?
The answer is, quite simply, down to the NHS and the appalling lack of funding, organisation and support which it provides to Transgender people in the UK.
For my own part it took me some four or five months after my day of realisation to be able to pluck up the courage to approach my doctor about the situation, and that was only after the second or third time that it had been on my “list” of things that I carried with me on visits to see her. In the discussions I had had with my UK friends online, including those in one of the TG Support groups in Second Life, I thought I had a view of how things would pan out once I had unlocked the gates to all this, but the reality was so different and continues to be problematic and full of delays, and my story and experiences are as nothing compared to some people.
I’ll keep this as brief as I can but the complete timeline of my history so far goes something like this … and items marked ‘**’ will be the subject of future posts:
- Late April/early May 2013 – Day of realisation.
- May – August 2013 – discovering so much about myself, including deeply suppressed sexuality. **
- July 2013 – Admitting my truth to close family members, including my wife. **
- September 2013 – Meeting my Danny in Second Life. **
- Early 2014 – Buying my first female underwear. **
- Early/mid 2014 – Depression
- July 2014 – Coming out to my doctor, and getting my first (incorrect, useless, time wasting and debilitating) referral to the local Psychology Department.
- August – October 2014 – Further discussions with online friends which eventually led me to discover the correct procedure which the NHS in Scotland is meant to adhere to. **
- October 2014 – A visit to my doctor, printed information from NHS Scotland in hand, and a demand for correct referral to my nearest Gender Identity Clinic. Information at that time suggested an approximate 3 months waiting list for first appointment.
- June 2015 – After having been informed by the GIC that due to funding shortages the waiting lists have increased from 6 (sic) to 8 months and despite having chased them up, finally got my first Assessment appointment, officially 30 minutes, but extended to 1 hour at the time. No hormones, but told next appointment would be “in a month or two”.
- Also June 2015 – Received a standard letter from the GIC informing me that due to the extended absence of their Psychiatric Consultant (and presumably no funding to be able to recruit an interim replacement) the waiting lists are now 8-10 months even for follow-up appointments!
- July 2015 – My first ever “en femme” journey outdoors … a sly and nervous walk down to the beach.
- August 2015 – My first public outing “en femme” at a local Pride event. Freedom!! **
- Now (September 2015) – Having just sent the GIC an email chasing them up once again as I’ve heard nothing else since June.
In case anyone in a position of authority with the Scottish Parliament or NHS Scotland should ever happen to read this let me ask one simple question here …
When dealing with a group of people for whom the suicide rate is (I believe) something like FORTY TIMES the average in society as a whole, how on earth is one supposed to be seen to be addressing that problem when those people are being made to feel even more isolated and insecure due to only having access to barely more than ONE APPOINTMENT A YEAR?! … and that’s if they’re lucky enough to have been able to find out the correct path on which the NHS is supposed to have put them in the first place!
In just the small circle of online transgender friends I have in the UK I am aware of many who have found themselves to have had incorrect referrals from their doctors and/or face ridiculously extended waiting times for appointments.
Through my experiences I did manage to help one of my online friends to get onto the right path after she had been wasting over TWO YEARS of her life having had an incorrect referral in the first place and being on, literally, a “path to nowhere”. She is now on the 10 month waiting list for her first GIC appointment and I wish her well, but she is in her early 20’s and without wishing to diminish her own obvious needs I am not ! … I’m in my early 60’s, and barely more than one appointment a year, plus all the time it takes for hormone therapy to take effect, voice training to be arranged and to take effect, facial hair removal to be arranged and to take effect, it is increasingly looking like I’ll be lucky to be rid of the meat-and-two-veg before they put me in the ground.
Or would the NHS rather I become another “statistic”, thereby saving them the time, trouble and expense of everything that is involved in helping me to overcome the anomaly of my birth?
I don’t mean to get angry, and I know I have friends in other countries who have no access to such facilities at all and face far greater struggles than I do if they are ever to achieve happiness, but I live in a country where we “pay our dues” through taxation and our National Insurance payments, as I have done all through my working life, and it always sickens me that when the time comes to draw down on that everything is so disorganised and stressful and only adds to feelings of isolation and desperation.
I will post details of the “correct NHS procedures” for the UK in a future post, provide relevant links, and offer some advice on how to at least ensure that one gets a foot on the right ladder, but for now I have to go and change out of my preferred clothing as my wife is due home soon.
Stay safe, be well, and never let go of your dreams.