So I haven’t written in a while … okay, a LONG while. A lot has been changing in my life, not always for the better, but if I’m going to be honest, mostly my own fault. And yeah, I’ve just not had the time, or really the energy to maintain this blog.

I’ve started realizing though that I do need it, though perhaps not in entirely the same shape or format as before. In the past, I needed to come to terms with my trans status, and a big part of that involved doing research and getting to a place of acceptance based on science, philosophy and the ways in which other cultures and individuals have approached gender issues. I’ve moved past that place in my life to a large degree, though I’d still like to maintain this blog as a resource, but over the last while I’ve really started to need a place where I can just … talk about things. Things that perhaps I’ve been too afraid to confront or expose in the past.

So I’m going to start blogging again, but with a change in focus, more on my personal journey than on all the stuff I’d been doing here in the past (though I won’t stop doing research and writing about it) I do hope that those of you who’ve been reading genderlines since I started it will stick around. Hopefully, while the focus changes, I’ll still be putting enough useful stuff on here that it’s worth your while.

~Mina.

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Let’s be honest. Transition is damned scary. You’re taking a leap into the unknown and doing something most people can’t even contemplate. You’re changing one of the most fundamental characteristics of who and what you are, one many people regard as the most immutable of all. You are actually changing your sex, not just anatomically, but emotionally and personally, socially, legally … Take a moment and let that sink in for a bit. You’re doing alchemy here. Transformation. Like real, actual magick. You’re changing reality.

So why would you go and make it harder for yourself than it already is?

And yet, that seems to be what people end up doing to themselves way too often when they do take the plunge. Time and again I’ve read of or met people who have lost everything during the course of their transition – Friends and family, career, income, home. It’s tragic and painful to watch, and such an easy trap to fall into.

I mean, finally coming to terms with being gender-variant, you want nothing so much as to burst out of the closet and RUN. You’ve hidden yourself from the world your entire life, and so the urge to do a complete 180 is overwhelming.

But as much as that urge to change the past and remake yourself drives you, you can’t let it control you. Transition is a major undertaking, and unless you approach it with some kind of a plan, you’re going to get into trouble. Probably a lot of it.

SO DON’T DO IT. (Don’t put tuna in the mix! ^_^) Patience is the keyword to a stress-free transition, patience and self-discipline. You need to make provision for unforeseen circumstances. You need to give people the time and space they need to come to terms with your changes, especially Significant Others like spouses or boyfriends/girlfriends or children/parents, not to mention the people who pay you. The more preparation you make up front, the better-equipped you will be for your actual transition and your new life afterwards.

Introducing the Band

The Transition 101 series is a kind of “ideal guide” of how I would have liked to tackle the whole process if I’d had the benefit of hindsight. I’m not even going to pretend like this is a particularly good guide – I don’t know that good or bad even really apply to something as subjective and personal as transition, but what I’ve shared here served me well, and I do hope that everybody who reads it will find something of value in here.

I divide transition into five distinct phases, and I’ll cover each in turn over the next handful of days, followed by a couple of additional articles on specific topics such as transition resources on-line, terminology, etc.

On a final note, I’m a Male-to-Female Transsexual person. Which of course means that this entire guide is written from that point of view. While I hope a lot here might prove useful to the FtM community, or to Neutrois transitioners, or whomever else, I can only write what I know. I would be absolutely DELIGHTED if I could find some guest writers to add other perspectives to this guide. (hintnudgewink! ya interested?! email me!)

So anyway, Welcome to Transition 101, Mina Magpie’s (Really Rough) Guide to a (Mostly) Stress-Free Transition (For Girls)! ^_^ See ya tomorrow for Part One: Knowing Me Knowing You.

Mina.

progress!

02/04/2009

Okay, so I ended up being gone a while, but in my defense, it’s been a busy, eventful, wonderful month. March that is. 😉

I’m now legally Mina! (Well, the real name I use in real life IN PLACE of Mina anyway ~_^) After a fair bit of fighting with Home Affairs, my name change came through last week, and on top of that, I got referred for an orchi … which happened 5 days later! Sometimes it’s amazing how things can just … shift literally over the course of a day or two after months of nothing so much as bashing your head out against a wall.

So yeah, I’m over the moon … and really sore. But the sore will pass, and in the meantime, Tramaset FTW! ^_^

Probably won’t be writing regularly again for a while yet – now the next priority becomes to find a job as a matter of urgency, but once that’s out of the way …

Mina.

When the four of them rushed me, I honestly thought I was going to die. They were pushing and shoving and pulling all at once, demanding to know why I was there, How I’d gotten in, whether the bags were mine. They were drunk and aggressive and scary, and I thought I was dead.

The morning before I had finally left the backpacker’s, unable to continue paying rent. Between my previous landlady keeping my deposit and a month’s rent, my card being cloned and maxed, and the number of days my boss had been off sick the last few weeks (for which I didn’t get paid) I was done. I had about £20 in my purse, and not a penny in my account. After the disastrous swath Mars had cut in its transit through my sun-sign, I was tapped out and on the street. None of my friends were in a position to help me physically, and any financial help from afar would simply be too late. It’s scary how quickly things can compound and go horribly wrong. I could only hope that I had enough sense and guts to survive until my next pay cheque. I even entertained the notion of, if things went well, finding somewhere to squat my last couple of months in London, and at least clawing back some of my losses by not having to pay rent.

Turns out though that I have about as much sense and streetwise as what one might expect from any middle-class brat with no real experience of the really-real world. Not to mention that I am an absolute bloody idiot.

They shoved me upstairs, ignoring my entreaties that I had thought the house abandoned, that I hadn’t known they were occupying it, that I had not found their spot. I was quaking with fear – I don’t think I’ve ever been so scared. I glanced back and thought of pushing them down the stairs and making a run for it, but really, the only direction was up, and I could be running into something worse. Of course, that’s just the rationalisation of it that comes afterwards … to my shame, at the time I was simply too petrified to act.

We entered their room through a door that for all the world looked like just another boarded-up dead-end. Once upon a time the room had most likely been a lounge or something, but they had turned it into a large dorm with four bare mattresses arranged along the walls, a lamp of some kind off on a table in the corner, dimly lighting the room.

They surrounded me. The short, scary one with the burn scars on his face took the lead, shouting at me about me coming into his ‘flat’ and stealing his things, and that if they found anything missing, I was dead. That’s what I think he was getting at anyway – his English was really bad, and half the time I couldn’t make out a word of what he said.

I tried explaining over the shouts and shoving, quite frantic by now, about how my landlady had kicked me out and kept my money, and that I was consequently on the streets. I had honestly just stumbled onto the house by accident, I pleaded. The ground floor was a mess of fallen beams and corrugated sheeting and boarded windows, and having tried and failed to get into the first floor, I had thought it unoccupied.

Eventually, whether they actually realised what I had been saying and took pity on me, or just wanted to wait till morning to decide what to do with me, they pushed me up another flight of stairs to the second floor, where there was a single, cleared-out room with a grimy little inch-thin mattress on the floor. Tears were flowing freely by now, (thank Goddess they only had candles) but I had enough sense left to introduce myself and shake their hands, and to start thanking them profusely for letting me stay … you know what they say about killing (and eating) something whose name you know … Not that I thought they were cannibals, but still, the vegetarian thing seemed to apply. I dropped my bags pointedly in the corner.

They listened for a few minutes before Slava disappeared back through the door, only to return with a blanket, which he shoved unceremoniously at me.

“You sleep!” He insisted in broken English. The other one was still scary as hell, but Slava seemed to have realised that I was just a sheeple in over her head. Way over, and that I was no risk to them. They left a moment later, deep in rapid conversation in what I could only guess was Polish, but who knows. I closed the door, watching them disappear down the stairs through a huge hole somebody had punched or hacked through the centre of it.

They turned the corner, and I lost it entirely.

I was panicking, literally pacing around like a caged animal. I was convinced that I was going to die there. In hindsight that fear was most likely totally unfounded, and for all I know they had really, genuinely decided to just give me a place to sleep. But in my mind they were already dividing my stuff up between them while contemplating whether to use cement boots or sell me to a pork-pie factory instead.

Slava returned with a pillow, shoving the door open as I choked back my hysterics. Pushing the pillow into my hands, he turned again and left without a word, pointedly pushing the door open wider as he left.
I had to get out.

I tried to meditate for a bit, just to calm down, but my thoughts were so jumbled up that I might as well have been chasing ghosts. After a while though I did calm. The moon was full that night, and few things soothe like that does.

There were two wooden windows, one welded shut in its frame by years of exposure. The other had been broken open though, and covered with a dirty sheet serving as a curtain. I peeked out, listening intently for any change in the boozy conversation from downstairs. The road was horribly busy, especially considering that it was past midnight on a Sunday … well, Monday morning, not to mention the ratty apartment building across the road. I’d never get out without being spotted, and there was no way I could survive cops getting involved. I wanted with all my heart to just leap out that window, to escape, but I would have to wait.

By three the lights across the way had finally all been switched off, and traffic had dribbled to circulating taxis and cop-cars every now and again. Most importantly though, the conversation from downstairs had finally gone quiet.

I tried to go out the window with my stuff on my back, but it was fairly obvious that that was a sure ticket to a messy end. I struggled awkwardly back in, tumbling arse-over-head through the window. I leapt under the blanket and prayed that that they had not heard. After a minute or two, with nobody rushing up the stairs, I sat up and rethought my plan.

After a moment or two, I dug out my stretching belt and tried lowering the bags down to the ledge on the first floor, but I wasn’t going to make it, and if they slipped, my meds, my phone, all my stuff might be damaged. Worse, it might wake the neighbours. So I hauled it all back in. Damnit…

The blanket!!!

I knotted the stretching belt to the blanket’s corner and tried again. Too short to reach the ground, but only by about a meter or so, so I decided to chance it and let go. I had to get out.

I crawled gingerly out the window, my heart in my throat. A car approached and I flattened myself against the wall, hoping my stuff would be safe down below. As it passed, I started inching my foot along the ledge, my hands locked onto the wormy frame with vice-like grip, I reached out with my left foot, full stretch barely reaching the big wrought-iron lamp-fitting. There had been a fire in the building’s past, and I just hoped and prayed the fitting was still secure. I inched out with my left hand and barely snagged the diagonal, slowly managed to work my way out onto the fitting, and … I was stuck. I could not go any further. Suddenly it seemed like I was miles up.

I was frozen, numb with fear. to get down, I would have to swing out from my perch, but it seemed like every bone in my body had turned to jelly. Nor could I think that the bracket would hold my weight. At that point the four roll-bolts in the wall seemed like thumb-tacks. The reach to the ledge down below was just too far, and I am neither Lara Croft nor Jason Bourne. And going back was equally terrifying. Looking back up at that window, it seemed impossible to get back.

A car approached, and resignedly I started calling out quietly for help. Gods let the driver’s window be down. No such luck. It seemed that the only help I would be getting would be from my captors, and that I could do without.

I took a few deep breaths to calm down after calling out quietly a few more times. If I tried to go down, I’d die for sure. But I’d made it from the window, so I could make it back. I had to.

Hours later, or what seemed it anyway, I tumbled arse-over-head back in through the window.

My stuff was down below, and at some point somebody would take it. Yet going out the window was beyond me. I needed to figure something out, but the only option left to me really, was to try and sneak past down the stairs.

I eased my way down, testing every step as I went. It was pitch-black dark, but the Goddess shone down outside, seeming to work a bit of magick as the old steps remained solid and quiet.

I inched my way around the corner to find their door closed, and I continued my way down with a quiet sigh of relief.

I reached the ground-floor and was about to make my way to the boarded-up little window I had come in through when I heard a loud squeak, followed by light and somebody entering. I froze. There was absolutely nowhere to go, no place to hide, and I was sure this would be it.

He walked right past me, his steps passing right over my leading foot. I looked right at him, but he did not even register me being there, didn’t even so much as blink. Need. That’s all I can think of. Need.

As I heard the door close above I breathed again and stumbled out through the door, gathering my stuff quickly. I balled the blanket up and dropped it just inside their make-shift door before walking away as quickly as I could without running.

I made my way to Liverpool Street so I could get dressed for work.

***

This was originally a post at a forum I frequent shortly after the events described here, which occurred somewhere in the middle of May 2008. I had had a run of bad luck over the preceding week culminating in my landlady finding out I was trans and giving me a day to leave, and I just had no options and resources. I was stuck in a foreign city with nobody to turn to and just starting my transition.

I’d been in nasty situations before, but never like … any with meaning. I’ve been afraid, but I never had much to lose. The fear was nothing but animal instinct, I suppose. But now … this was the first time since my childhood that I was really, really scared, that I wanted with all my heart to live. I was finally transitioning, finally clawing my way towards life. And paradoxically, it seems, that desire almost cost me. Stuck on that wall before, I would’ve just done it – taken the chance and let the chips fall as they will. But now – I just couldn’t. I had too much to lose.

Mina.

that first day

14/02/2009

I grew up pretty-much by myself, alone on a plot[1] on the outskirts of a conservative little mining town in South Africa, with just my mom and my ouma[2] and a few doggies for company. Dad was home for a bit in the evening before I went to bed and was there most weekends, and we’d occasionally visit my gran or relatives, or my cousin Martin would visit, but my world was pretty small really.

I didn’t mind though. My mom read to me on an almost daily basis, so I loved books, loved the stories they contained and the things they could teach. With mom’s help I had taught myself to read when I was like 3 or 4, doing my best at the Bobby the Cat comics that came in the Personality Magazine each week. I had plenty of books, so I always had something to read, and when I wasn’t in the mood for that, I had all my stuffed animals to keep me company, or I’d play with my Lego.

As I grew older, my mom started talking about school, and how I’d soon have to go there to learn things. I was more than a little dubious about this whole concept, but she soon had me convinced as she kept telling me about how many books there were in the school, about all the children I’d meet, and as we got closer to the day, I actually couldn’t wait. So the year after I turned 5, my mom packed me into the car one day, and off we went to my first day of school.

Of course, reality quickly started disabusing me of my excitement. There were so many people! So many children and moms and a few dads and … Suddenly things seemed a lot less … cool. I was overwhelmed, and this growing sense of disquiet started creeping up on me. I couldn’t put my finger on what, but something just wasn’t right here.

We went and found a pair of chairs in the school hall. Each seat had a little red book on it, but for once I was too nervous to look what was inside, so I just sat with it on my lap. I looked around at all the other parents and kids sitting in nervous pairs along the walls and I just wanted to burst into tears.

Luckily I was seated next to a girl called Sara, and after having our moms introduce us to one another, we started a hesitent little conversation that soon blossomed into friendship. I don’t really remember what we talked about, but as we chatted my fear ebbed just a little and I relaxed.

A loud bell silenced us abruptly, and a few minutes later other children, older and obviously used to all the strangeness, filed in and went and sat down in something approaching neat rows in the center of the hall, a sea of purple and grey. At the front of the hall, a handful of grown-ups, the ones my mom said were teachers, took seats on the stage, and a tall, grampa-looking old man took what I later learned was called a podium.

He started by introducing himself as Meneer[3] Viljoen, the principal, and welcomed all the dads and moms and new students.(Hey that’s me! ^_^) He said a few other things I can’t remember, and then he told us all to stand up. An older lady went and sat by the piano on stage, and everybody sang the national anthem, followed directly by the school anthem. I didn’t know the words, so I just stood nervously, feeling silly and really dumb. I glanced over at Sara and could see she was feeling just about the same as me, which made me feel just a little bit better.

Just as we were about to sit back down, Meneer Viljoen asked us to remain standing and open our little red books. The piano lady started again, and soon we were singing a song to Jesus … or rather, again, everybody else was – my Afrikaans reading wasn’t anywhere near as good as my English. Very, very dumb.

After all the singing, we could finally sit down again, and Meneer Viljoen talked for a long time. He talked about sports and about learning and about making friends and stuff, but mostly it just washed over me as I looked at all the kids sitting on the floor in their grey shirts and pants or their purple dresses …

And it occurred to me that I was dressed like a boy. My hair was short like the boys’ hair – my mom had cut it to my considerably protest the week before, assuring me that it was necessary for school. I sat there in my grey uniform, my short hair, my laced up shoes … and I looked like a boy. I didn’t understand how the grown-ups could’ve made such a big mistake, and I couldn’t say anything because the Meneer was still talking, and something just told me not to say and I just didn’t know what to do.

The older kids left first along with the teachers, and finally we filed out ourselves. I was on the verge of tears by now, and then my mom said that she would have to leave, but that she would be back soon, and that I had to be a good boy in school for her. I don’t know if she’d ever used that word “boy” on me before, but that day I heard it for the first time, and it fell on me like a planet. I just burst into tears, grabbing onto her and begging her not to leave me, that this was all a terrible mistake. A teacher came up from behind, and as she tried to calm me she hunkered down and turned me around to face her. She really was nice, but I didn’t want to hear any of it, and as she talked about how I needed to be a big boy now, my heart broke. I turned around for my mom but she was gone.

Pretty-much the rest of that day is a blank. I don’t remember any of it, and to be honest, most of my primary school memories are tiny, individual snatches here and there. But that first day …

Mina.

Notes

1. Afrikaans for a smallholding, typically a parcel of land anything from 5 to 20 acres. My dad didn’t farm it, but rented out bits of the land for neighbouring farmers to work, and we had a small forest at the bottom of the property that I used to love as I grew older.

2. Afrikaans word for “gran”. Both my oumas were actually Afrikaans, but my dad’s side of the family was mostly English, while my mom had grown up English-speaking, so I grew up speaking both. Too bad I didn’t learn Hindi or Mandarin back then too. ^_^

3. The afrikaans version of “Mister”. It’s quite unusual for Afrikaans speaking people to actually use Meneer all that often, at least where I was from. Kids refer to older males as “Oom” (Uncle in Afrikaans), and adults simply refer to one another by name. Using Meneer usually indicates a really big difference in status.

Turns out I should’ve done my homework a bit better. See, this is not my first blog about gender-variance, transsexuality and the like, but it turned out that my first attempt, en.gender, already existed.

Which sucked, but what can you do.

So I took a few days to reorganise and regroup, look for a name I was almost 100% ( ~_^ )sure hasn’t been taken, and came up with GenderLines. I’ve got some new material ready for posting, and I’ll be reposting all the old stuff from en.gender as well over the next week or so.

So for those of you who frequented en.gender, thank you, and I apologise for the inconvenience. Please bear with me when I post stuff you’ve read, but do have a look since I’ve done a fair bit of clean-up and housekeeping, especially in the more factual essays such as those dealing with prevalence, etiology and the like.

And if you do get a chance, visit the original en|gender, which is the blog of Helen Boyd. She authored My Husband Betty, and she’s a huge supporter and spokesperson for the rights of gender variant people. Well worth a visit. ^_^

Thanks, and sorry again all!

Mina.