Everyone from Spotify to the Trainline is wrapping up our year or decade in music or travel. The biggest gifts to myself that I unwrapped over the last decade were my transition(s) and life purpose/career reboot(s). All the while managing mental health which included suicide attempts, eviction notices, near death-by-debt, and ever-growing physical back pain and arthritis. So as we go from the twenty-teens to twenties I’m reflecting on a decade of change – mine and society’s. (Skip the social commentary and jump to my personal diary entries if you prefer)
Politically, nothing seems to have changed – indeed, Change UK a new political party lasted all of 10 months. 2010 brought us a Tory coalition and 2020 brings us a Tory landslide – or rather mudslide as it seems as if we’ll sadly slip more into the mire of a Dickensian depression (socio-economic and/or mental health) for many and little England populist nationalism for others.
Internationally, though we are leaving the EU at a time when more of our European neighbours than a decade ago are living and working here, propping up our NHS, social care, agriculture, and hospitality sectors. Many have made their lives, relationships, and families here. Over the last decade, I have gained a Dutch partner having begun the decade with an American one.
But, always look on the bright side, I can now Netflix and chill (in the asexual sense) since it launched in the UK in 2012, stream music via Spotify, take photos on a phone to rival a camera and yet my average internet speed is barely better than 10 years ago! Some things have stood still in the countryside creating a digital divide between city and county. In 2010, BT Openreach launched ADSL2+ with up to 20Mbps speeds, I managed 2.4Mbps back then rising to 9Mbps with fibre in 2015 but now averaging 3-5Mbps as the service has deteriorated and I’m part of the unreachable left behind 2% rather than the 10% who can now get 1000Mbps+.
Human rights wise, we gained the Equality Act in 2010, same-sex marriage in 2014 and civil partnership equality on the last day of 2019! The fear among many is that LGBT+ rights may go backwards if the UK under a more right wing pro-Brexit Conservative government emulates US Republican reversals of liberal social diversity.
Technology, society and politics aside, I’m more interested in my personal and psychological changes or dramas, my partner calls me a “drama queer”! I’ve been in therapy at least twice in the last decade and stopped dating therapists (those I wasn’t seeing professionally)! In terms of the dating game, I’ve gone from doubtful male heterosexual divorcee to confirmed trans non-binary asexual open relationship.
Looking over my diary for the last decade has been illuminating and encouraging, having navigated its more depressing chapters. I’m closing in on 53 but my 40s and 50s have been more frightening and fulfilling than any other decade of my life. I now live a life that I’m happy to still be living and not a suicide statistic, though I must have exhausted and exasperated my partners and therapists!
Diary entries – 2009
Never been more tired, in debt, sleepless, inundated, buried, yet happy to be myself – who am I? The question at the nub of spirituality, philosophy & therapy.
Joined the Norwich Pride collective ahead of our city’s first Pride.
Delivery man called me Mr Went then said his wife would die for my nails, all the time I was standing there in a pink robe.
Decree Nisi came through. Fifteen years marriage to a Christian psychiatrist over.
Started seeing transgender GP specialist Dr Richard Curtis at Transhealth.
Changed my name by deed poll to Katy Jon Went. Felt right and that including ‘Jon’ was transparently genuine and historically accurate.
Got dumped by email. First girlfriend post-divorce. Feel like a teenager! Taught me to risk again though.
My dad thinks I should get testosterone injections not oestrogen patches. To “man up”.
Someone asked me what I was more afraid of, the gender change surgery or scuba diving … I said scuba, the answer is telling!
Went to San Francisco to do a sex and relationships workshop. Met a girl. Fell in love. First time at 42 years of age I ever made the first move on a girl after spending the whole weekend being afraid of her beauty and aura.
Previous partner becomes abusive and malicious creating false criminal accusations. Police get involved. Scary stuff. Traumatic. Mum backs me but dad says no smoke without fire.
Proposed to American girlfriend in a heart-shaped pool at a hot spring, got a yes!
So tired on the way home from delivering a foreign nationals diversity and language training at a Yorkshire prison that I slept for an hour in the car (in a layby) and nearly veered into the path of a lorry – which got me thinking as after I wished I’d just died…I still wish for the burden of the gender dilemma to disappear, to take away the pain of never being one or the other, of never being happy, without removing the happiness I do get from my increased genderfree expression. Even hormones seem an irreversible decision that would affect not only me but my relationship. I need to talk, to find the ever elusive answers, the people that open me when discussing how I feel are my US girlfriend and a trans man I met over there. How to have these conversations and not burden them with my thoughts and true internal despair. I feel I have to choose between love and gender and cannot have both.
The sun is out and it feels like the darkest day of my life, with suicidal yet manageable feelings twice in a week, absolute unremitting sadness about unsolvable gender and unrealisable relationship and financial/legal pressures…it is too much but I won’t kill myself, but what will I do, I don’t know…
I’m a jumper, diving in and examining myself from within a relationship or situation rather than deliberating at the edge and never doing anything. Yet on gender, I’m always on the cliffedge too afraid to jump and overexamining my options.
A US trans man friend of my partner said they felt like I had the energy, essence and mind of another FTM ie a woman becoming a man, it’s like there’s a man inside my girl inside my guy. A Russian doll of a guylemma.
Many of my new friends have only known me as Katy and they are 100% convinced I am fully female stuck in a male body … I am not … there lies the dilemma. When they call me woman, female, I close up, when they call me girl, feminine, or female essenced/energied I open up, but I still find guy and male energied also true though words like man and masculine not, I find male a neutral term. I guess I feel majority female essenced with a significant residue of male energy and mixed mind, something that I want to honour and be honest with, it doesn’t make me male or female, man or woman, it makes me me with no box to live in and a discomfort for me in conforming and that may lead to embarrassment for others but like Spike Milligan said I can only be myself all the others are taken.
Feeling my loneliness, crying wanting to dial back the clock and start over as a child and just be more honest about my loneliness and gender stuff rather than just being brave. I want to wrestle, argue, be tickled, smile, anything to force my face and body out of gloom since being depressed is perversely and paradoxically an effort and an emotional muscle held taught that needs to relax and break out into a smile.
I have both been male to suppress my female feelings and been female to avoid being the male I hate, or the hatred of men and their hardness, their unfeeling, their bullying, their insensitivity. If gender is a construct, what am I? A freemale or female?
I’ve had a strange 3 days: gay Wednesday, guy Thursday, girlie Friday!
My and Norwich’s first Pride was awesome, free, diverse and 5x bigger than anyone expected. Went to 3 after parties, had people come on to me, and nobody gave a fuck about where I was at with my gender, I was just Katy to them.
Went to my first Human Library, took out a Transgender Book.
Diary entries – 2010
Exploring bisexuality whilst dithering over gender. Not sure about either!
Broke up amiably after a year with US fiancee realising despite our love our lives had different directions and my gender decisions were still an unknown dimension. She taught and challenged me loads on authenticity and knowing what I want. (In 2019 I got to revisit her)
Starting doing guest slots on Future Radio.
Became a book at a Human Library – title “Ex-Missionary”!
A year of open relationships and cuddle buddies.
Started taking hormones. Felt like finally having the right fuel in the tank! Wonder if I can get away with hormones only to defeat my gender dysphoria?
Dumped the makeup and heels and fell in love with Dr Martens. Get regularly told by other trans people that I’m letting the side down, not making enough effort to be feminine! I prefer the company of trans men, drag kings and butch lesbians. Not sure who I’m attracted to or who I identify as.
Diary entries – 2011
Explored BDSM from the other side of the equation (having done submission in 2009). Psychologically interesting.
Fell in love with someone. Complex and complicated situation. Continued loving others too. Love isn’t always logical nor exclusive. Can’t decide whether I’m polyamorous or monogamous, needy or giver, a dreamer or a realist in relationships.
Tried stand-up comedy. Scarier than coming out!
Joined the Muff Scouts – not just full of butches but for women of all types and origins!
Winter exacerbating low mood and prescribed Tamezepan which I add to my Valerian solutions to sleep deprivation.
Christmas is the focal point for family/trans/marriage stress memories and repeats, not to mention financial anxiety and present pressure, mixed up misgendering from the extended family. Mum is a valiant supporter who although finds it difficult is determined to learn and be loyal and loving.
Diary entries – 2012
Paradoxically under all the financial stress, depression, insomnia, dysphoria I am actually content and happy, just can’t change some things so trying to learn the grace to accept those I can’t and those I refuse to accept to remain stubbornly optimistic in the face of overwhelming odds! 2012 resolution is to write, read and laugh more.
Falling months behind on rent.
Get documentary made about me and my transition including go-ahead from Dr Curtis to join surgery waiting list – despite being not entirely sure I wanted it.
Feeling suicidal, mainly money worries and exhaustion re sheer daily survival but also relationships, gender, family acceptance and chronic insomnia. Also losing my faith (in God).
Intelligent stimulation is sometimes the only thing that keeps me going, I wouldn’t be without my emotions either, but my mind – thoughts and feelings, constantly tugging at each other like Plato’s passion and reason paired horses of a chariot and Jung/Klein’s (rather than Freud’s) id/superego trying to manage them. My head is like a constant boardroom meeting during a semi-hostile takeover/merger … it’s vigorous (in its true etymological sense), never boring and sometimes entertaining to watch!
Was told by my psychiatrist that I was the most reluctant transsexual he’d ever met!
Attempted suicide by pills through bawling tears – was interrupted by a friend and neighbour in the early hours and survived. Looked after and fed lasagna comfort food by friends and lovers.
Got referral to community psych team and so begins the journey to mental wellness as well as gender transition.
Realised my faith in religion and possibly God is fully gone.
Adopted a hedgehog orphan.
Break up with unavailable relationship.
Meet Esther at Hostry Festival and begin platonic and then not so platonic relationship.
Take part in massive counter-EDL protest in Norwich.
Diary entries – 2013
Determine to do more activism, speaking and writing and wind down the software business particularly now Google gives away for free what I used to sell. The world is changing and I can’t keep up.
Esther and I contemplate whether I should have surgery. Esther is content either way but says “do you know a pussy would suit you”! Never sure in my house whether that means a cat on the lap, or pussy between the legs!
Finally, diagnosed with Bipolar (well Cyclothymia at first, later upgraded in 2014 to first persistent MADness and then full type II BADass) after a decade of mixed depression and rapid cycling hypomanic mood swings. Began a mood map daily diary, also charting insomnia, which I’ve kept for 7 years now and has been effective at managing or at least mitigating Bipolar off meds.
With help from the Wellbeing mental health service going above and beyond the call of duty and taking months of paperwork, I actually get on the welfare and benefits system with them expressing surprise that I hadn’t applied years ago.
Diary entries – 2014
Began 2014 having been on hormones 3.5 years and have a pre-surgical consult in 3 months. New Year’s was spent having dinner with Linda Bellos, someone who 5 years later would become a leading figure in the gender critical aka ‘TERF’ anti-trans rights movement but who in 2014 was fully supportive of my transition. Rights can be gained and lost, people can change for the better or the worse.
2014 is the year I begin writing, blogging, commentating in earnest, initially via blogger and bubblenews, then wordpress and my own site. I sit and write each morning to the streaming, currently winter, sun pouring in the windows, through a dangling crystal, casting rainbows on the ceiling and compete with cats demanding cuddles or chasing the rainbows across the room.
My dreams are rarely remembered but when they are, they’re vivid and desperate for analysis. One night it’s a turbulent hour dreaming in Spanish, Hebrew and French with 3ft tall little people arguing over who was the shortest, other people with Tefal ad big eggheads – but looking like Victorian circus freak show exhibits, a random actor generator – where the people in the dream where mixed up halfway in a giant slot machine to confuse the story further, half the dream spent fetching chairs and stools for more people to join the audience in the dream including random friends from up to 28 years ago. Simultaneously exhausting and weird! I think the language elements come from discussing Ladino yesterday. The rest comes from my polyunsettled mind and probably Twin Peaks crossed with an Andalucian game show format run by gypsies.
Foul mood handling comes and goes, feel inexorably dragged backwards into a dark damp deep cave that offers no comfort, hope or solace. Agitated, angry, annoyed with stupid little inconsequential things. Curled up my inner black dog with my real-life gorgeous sensitive black cat, for what little calming I could get by tuning my heart and breath to the cat’s. Been charting on the bipolar mood scale for 6+ months now and can regularly predict the decline and fall of my moods. Still learning whether resisting or yielding is the best approach to them and/or whether to try distraction to break the cycles. The Ups feel authentically me (something not to be pathologised, as a good friend once said to me), the downs feel like something to be endured. Coming off anti-depressants was actually helpful, to feel more real, even if more volatile. Came off sleeping pills too as ineffective and too many side effects.
My first step is always to acknowledge what sort of mood I’m in, be it a high or a low. That little wedge of knowledge means I then have a small little ledge to sit on before I act (most of the time) and can consider what I’m about to say or do. I’ll admit, it doesn’t always work, but by realising that I’m feeling something, then examining what I’m feeling, allowing myself to feel it, it seems to pass a lot faster.
Lots of NHS cock-ups trying to get CBT.
I can’t imagine cognitive decline, yet in 10 years depression and insomnia have reduced my energy, memory, alertness. HRT has changed my body, muscle, stamina. Everything is exhausting.
Went to a UEA lecture and discussion on whether LGBT is exclusively a “born that way” nature and whether literature can convert someone’s sexual or gender identity. Allowing nurture and choice to be components of identity as well as genes, hormones and wiring, means also realising that books *do* have the power to influence identity and life choices, apart from just helping people to self-realise and identify with and through them. As a result I would argue that books *are* dangerous – and for that reason should be placed in *every* library!
Discussing with Linda Bellos and others as to how we could challenge the gender construct, completely, across not just feminist politics but also biological categorisation that is applied to LGBTI & other people, if not all people. Ended up in Audre Lorde territory recognising that we should not be reduced to a single label and that “we don’t live single-issue lives”.
Go to my first WOW Festival courtesy of someone’s generosity. An inclusive women and others celebration and discussion platform.
In April, I finally make it past the waiting lists to have an appointment at Charing Cross GIC with Dr Penny Lennihan. At this time, I realised that I wanted a simple and sexless labioplasty not a vagina and to be shot off the genitals that barely function physically and not all all mentally. Meantime, she raised my Oestrogen dose as like my teenage male puberty my body was not absorbing or acting on hormones typically. The next step would be a referral to surgeons and to Stuart Lorimer for follow up in December.
By now, I’ve not had sex for a year despite having a gorgeous girlfriend, and it feels right. Esther is understanding and curious whether that will change post-op and/or whether I’m avoiding sex in case it changes my mind about having the (ch)op. Feeling increasingly non-binary and applied for Mx on my bank card.
Financial struggles lead to arrears and repossession threats.
Getting around 3 hours sleep a night. Around once every three months, I get 7 hours. Back on Temazepan occasionally.
Finally, get CBT course of therapy.
Began having couchsurfers to stay – basic requirement being they must be openminded, foreign – speaking at least 2-3 languages, love cats and food.
Began a series of speaking tours around Norfolk and Suffolk with the NSFT medical director on gender, sex and mental health.
Ended up meeting Ruth Hunt and involved in Stonewall’s transgender and intersex engagements and whether they should go LGBTI.
Come Dine With Me accept me and do test filming at my home but next day decide my gender presentation will conflict with another person on the show.
First Paint Out Norwich and volunteering at it for my landlord/artist – subsequently becomes a part-time job. Good for my mental and physical health as I ended up walking 8.5 miles in 2 days and engaged with art, artists and got back into photography. JC describes me as “solid gold, bonkers but a genius”!
Involvement in Hostry Festival on literary and play panel discussion.
Annus horribilis losing many cats to awol, accident and illness – four in a week at one point. In so many ways, they are my therapy and grounding. On the valium now.
Delivered an anti-bullying talk during trans awareness week for a local sixth form and got a thank you email saying “the general consensus has been that you’re awesome, a bit mad and a real inspiration to people to be who they want to be…” – only a bit mad?
December appointment at Charing Cross GIC a relief to be progressing. Extraordinary thanks must go to Esther for supporting me and making my trips to CX feel special, booking us a fabulous posh bijou B&B with resident Bengal cat, and fantastic meal at Fino in London. More than this, the unquestioning companionship and support, whatever my decisions and delays, mean not only do I feel special but I know that I am with someone special.
Go on BBC Radio Norfolk to discuss gender, first of many interviews. Apparently a friend of a friend was driving in her car listening to the show and was surprised to hear me say “dildo” on the wireless before midday! I was struggling to remember the word dilator, the medical tool not sex toy used to maintain a neovaginal cavity in a trans woman post-surgery!
Ended the year with a Quetiapine prescription for Bipolar which I’ve no intention of taking.
Another transgender teenager takes their own life, Leelah Alcorn, her Christian parents refused to accept or allow her transition. 2014 has been the transgender tipping point but also increasingly visible giving up point for many. Will I be another statistic?
Diary entries – 2015-2019
Part II (2015) can be found here.