The Grateful Autistic

The thoughts of a reborn woman.

Experiences of being proud to be AUTISTIC and TRANSGENDER while losing my religious faith and discovering spiritual freedom.

Words of love and gratitude and life in the wonderful city of Newcastle Upon Tyne.

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Days Of Gratitude - A Hospital, An Accident, And A Notagiraffe

October 15th got off to a really good start for me.  Time with a friend.  With no pressure to be anything other than who we are.  It did not get off to a good start for my wife.  I'm writing this on October 26th.  She's home now.  Recovery will take a while.  But she's home.

On some days it's hard to fill out a gratitude diary.  But there are always things to be grateful for.  Always.  It's just that on some days we have to search hard.  And on some days they may be smaller and be swamped by things for which no sane person would be grateful.  I haven't been through the worst of life.  Of course not.  And I hope I never do.  If I think of those who have suffered in concentration camps or gulags or suchlike places.  If I think of the terrible journeys of refugees and the terrible circumstances that forced them to flee and seek refuge.  If I think of someone locked in to their body with their mind active.  Yeah, I've not been through the worst of life.  Not by any means.  I wonder if I would still be able to fill out gratitude diaries if I was going through them.  Those who have suffered deeply have often written about it and even for the most positive of them there would have been moments in which they were tempted to utterly despair, or in which they actually did despair.  But many of them write of positives too, even when in those dark places.  Right.  I'm rambling.  Time to stop.

One thing is for sure.  When I write my gratitude diary I don't ignore the difficulties.  They are part of life and a diary without them does not portray life in a way that reflects reality.  So my posts contain the (perceived) darkness as well as the (perceived) light.  A Taoist story asks whether we can truly know which circumstances and events are darkness and which are light.  I think there's a lot of wisdom in that story.  I also think that sometimes the story is nonsense and some things are just a bit crap!

October 15th

Grateful to be able to meet up with a distant friend, look at the photos at Side Gallery, and sit and talk in a cafe. Grateful for a new 99p soft toy friend.

But I am not grateful for the rest of the day. The rest of the day is a bigger negative than the first half was a positive.

My wife fell from a ladder and is in hospital. She fractured her spine. There is possibly nerve damage too that may affect things. And probable spinal surgery tomorrow involving titanium. We can be grateful though that she isn't paralysed. She's in a lot of pain but thankfully we still have an NHS and it's still staffed by good people so she's being looked after well.

October 16th

Sunday is a blur. It began, after little worried sleep, with the news that Beth's fall hadn't just resulted in muscle problems but in a fracture to her back. I went to A&E and it's such a blur that I can't even register whether Kit was there too but they must have been. Beth was moved to a ward after nearly 24 hours in A&E and we stayed for a while before returning for official visiting. Beth was understandably not feeling or looking good from pain, drugs, shock, fatigue and injury. Grateful for morphine!

I think we're all just grateful to have got through Sunday and got through Saturday and that the events of Saturday aren't going to be drastically life changing. Yeah, I'm bloody grateful for that. Things could have been a hell of a lot worse very easily.

October 17th

Grateful for the comfort of soft toy friends.

Notagiraffe was bought on Saturday in the good part of my day.

I am holding Amethyst, Portal, and Got A Warthog. All of those are important to me.

Also grateful that KFC was both open and had the right things when Kit and I left the hospital in the evening.  I've gone there with Kit four times before and failed in the quest to buy what was wanted.  It meant that they could at least have something tasty to eat on their 16th birthday. It really wasn't the birthday we would have hoped them to experience.

October 18th

Grateful that today improved. Beth was much more alive and smiling. Grateful the RVI staff are being so good. Grateful things are not worse than they are.

And that the view from the hospital cafe is pleasing.

October 19th

Grateful to have got out to Whitley Bay charity shops today.

Grateful that Newcastle has attractive places. Like Metro stations and hospitals.

Grateful that Beth is doing as well as can be expected and can walk a little. She is grateful for morphine.

It's been horrible. The next bit of time won't be great. But we are all grateful that things should (hopefully) get back to some semblance of normality well before the end of the year.

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Days of Gratitude - A Life Shared With Autism and Murder and Cake

Mea culpa!  Mea culpa!  Mea maxima culpa!

I missed a day in the Sunday Assembly Gratitude Group.  That's the tenth day I've missed.  I only realised when sorting out the posts here and I've filled in the gap.  Phew!

My head has been struggling to find some firm footing.  I'm sure it'll be a lot better soon.

I will read through the words of Sarah Cowper soon and see what she said about her life and her motives.  As far as I remember she is pretty decent at talking.  Gotta feel sorry for Jo though.  Poor Jo.  She didn't deserve that, no matter what Sarah said!  No, I don't expect you to understand any of that.  You weren't there when Sarah told me her story.

Yeah.  One year since officially being diagnosed as having an autism spectrum disorder.  I was planning to write something about that.  It turned out that at the time I was too disordered for the task.  That's okay.  There is plenty of time to write it.  I haven't even written the second part of the post about why I was seeking a diagnosis in the first place.  That one just didn't happen.  That's okay too.

October 11th

The third day in a row of not being up to leaving the house.

But. Grateful to have completed the draft of a 7000 word monologue by a convicted mass murderer who is totally convinced by the righteousness of her actions. I have never written something like that before.

Yes. That's her name.

October 12th

After most of the day seeming to go wrong, very grateful to have been able to go and sing in our brand spanking new choir.

It's a lot of fun.

A photo word of wisdom after completely screwing up and thus missing something I had booked for.

Grateful too for the times Facebook reminds me of very happy days.

October 13th

Grateful to have taken control of something in my life - and said no without feeling guilty or rubbish.

Grateful for free cake at John Lewis.

And the big one. Grateful that one year ago today, after putting it off for a lot of years, I received a diagnosis of autism. Glad to have finally managed to accept this aspect of me.

October 14th

I confess that I am cheating. I missed a day in the gratitude group.

I have two photos taken on this day. One is of me holding a soft toy.

The other is of Blob Thing's creator holding a soft toy. And through the medium of the magic of soft toys we held each other although separated by a large distance.

Monday, 24 October 2016

Days of Gratitude - Strudels, Singing and Ceilings. And Murder.

Back to the gratitude.

This all seems like a long time ago.  Life has not gone as planned this month.  But that's a tale for another post like this.  Many people reading this will know what's been going on.  Things could have been a lot worse.  A lot worse.  As I type this I am waiting for my wife to be discharged from hospital after nine nights.  Nine could very easily have been a lot more.  A great relief to everyone that it isn't.

I've had some good days this month but my mental health has been fluctuating to say the least.  Too many days have felt bad.  And that's without the worries and the stresses and everything else related to my wife.

But as I said in one of the Sunday Assembly gratitude group posts, life is good.

It is good.  It really is.

There's a picture below of Jesus carrying his cross.  It is one of the Stations of the Cross outside the Schoenstatt Shrine on the outskirts of Bolton.  Yes, life and my head often feel like that.  When I was a good and faithful Catholic I used to do the good and faithful Catholic thing of offering up my sufferings.  I would spiritually unite them with the sufferings of Christ and offer them, in union with his sufferings, for the sake of the world, or a person, or for the "intentions of Mary" as some kind of meritorious offering.  In that way, through the teaching of Church and Saints, I brought meaning to suffering and to everything my head has thrown at me.

Today I cannot bring meaning in this way.  It was a consolation to me because of the belief that suffering acquired meaning through union with Christ.  I don't believe that today.  I have nothing to unite my sufferings to - and nothing to which I can unite my joys either.  Yes, I used to unite my joys to Jesus too.  I don't think he just wants our crap!

Life can still feel like cross carrying.  We all have crosses to bear of course.  All of us.  Some of us find meaning.  Some of us don't.  Right now I look at my head and the wild ecstasies and excitements it gives me and the wild lows it gives me too.  And for the present, at least for the present, I am unable to ascribe meaning to it all.  It just is what it is.  Life goes on and we just have to get on with it no matter our crosses and our blessings.

And, when all is said and done, I proclaim this:  My life is good.

October 6th

Grateful to have got through the majority of the job list.

Grateful not to have been standing underneath the lounge ceiling when it fell down this morning. Anyone know a really cheap ceiling creation person?

Grateful for being able to get to choir tonight. Photos taken before choir when I turned up early by mistake.

October 7th

Grateful to have survived the meeting in the day with just about enough energy remaining to get out and sing in the evening.

On some days my autism and assorted little co-morbidities can feel like this.

But life is good anyway.

And I am grateful for hope, light and creative urges.

October 8th

Grateful for the writing workshop in the morning. There is now an urge to write a full scale monologue, learn to act it, and perform it. A challenge. I already love playing with this character even though she is a murderer!

Grateful for a friend staying over. It's been too long since we saw each other.

The picture is a photo prompt from another part of the workshop, providing something else very unexpected for me to write one day. Perhaps.

October 9th

Grateful for a friend still here and for leftover strudel.

Grateful to be able to write more as a remorseless murderer. Happy stuff!

Grateful to have allowed myself to rest.

October 10th

Grateful to have painted a wall and moved furniture.

Also grateful that Beth has agreed I can clear out lots of our immense (at least partly inherited) plastic bag collection.

Not sure if she will ever agree that we don't actually need a suitcase containing an old bedpan and a urinal.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

On Surgery, My Transgender Life, And Being A Woman With A Penis

Yay!  A post specifically about my transgender life.  When I started this blog and gave it the name "A Woman Reborn" it was meant to be about my transgender life.  I'd been meaning to start it right when I began to transition but it took me six months to begin.  A blog to catalogue the journey through transition.  That was the plan.  It got off to a bad start - the first post wasn't about being transgender at all.  Then it got into a transgender stride.  Five posts in a row just about being transgender.  Including thoughts, happenings, attempts at poetry, and the day I learned what it was like when your church pastor calls you an abomination.

Since then the blog has covered all kinds of things.  My journey from deep Christian faith into a place that is currently outside of Christianity.  Walking.  Photos.  And this year it's included a lot of gratitude.  It's also covered whatever the heck has been churning in my head at the time.  There has been creative writing too.

I hope that the next year will see a lot more of all these things - including more about faith as I continue to work things out and see where I sit within or without them.  My life is very much different to how I expected it to be when I began this blog.  And of course there have been posts about autism too.  There will be more of those.  It's inevitable.  The photos in this post are not transgender related.  They are all autism related and were all taken at Autscape 2016.

As far as a blog about transgender transition goes, this blog has failed miserably.  As far as a blog about the complexity (or simplicity sometimes) of a Clare goes, it's succeeded admirably.

But today.  A post about my transgender life.  Hoorah!

During a Metro ride this morning my brain suddenly got itself onto gender and the relationship I have with my thoughts about surgery.  Surgery.  It's a big decision.

I typed this into Facebook via my phone:

My gender transition job:

To convince psychiatrists to let me have the surgery I want, when it's not a big worry and if it wasn't available I wouldn't really care.

Yeah. I want it. But it's not important and wouldn't make me any more me or any more woman. And if I won lots of money I would spend it on other things.

I am meant to tell the psychiatrists that I am desperate, depressed and dysphonic over genitals, and absolutely need new genitals to be comfy about my life.

But all that, and anything similar, would be a lie. And I am too honest for my own good in gender appointments.

So three years after my first visit to the clinic and more than two after becoming legally entitled to it I still fight for what I want as I have from the beginning.

I scream in annoyance for a while.

But then I think "so what?"

Maybe I can't be bothered to fight any more.

Maybe I am not worried much any more.

Maybe it doesn't matter anyway.

Because surgery is a happy extra. It does not change me. It would not change my life.

And I must stop. Because it's time to get off my Metro train. Life is not genitalia!

I read it back and decided to post it here, with a discussion on what my options actually are regarding surgery.

Some people think that as a transgender woman I really only have one option available to me:  To seek surgery and keep seeking and fighting for it because what else would a woman do if she didn't have a vagina?  For these people it's simple.   You're transgender = you want surgery.  They're wrong of course.  I've even been told that I am not transgender at all because I haven't had surgery and still have a penis.  They wouldn't believe me when I explained to them their error.

Some people know better and believe there are two options for a transgender person:  Either to have surgery, or not to have surgery - the "non-op" choice.  That's far better.  It's a choice any trans person has to grapple with - if they are lucky enough to have the possibility of following their choice.  For some it's an easy decision.  For me it hasn't been and my attitudes have changed drastically over the years since coming out to myself.

In reality, as far as my genitals, my "down below" parts are concerned I have four options:

A.  To have "the full job" and to have a new vagina created.  When most people think of a sex change operation that's what they're thinking of.  Most people, at least until recently, probably didn't think of operations for transgender men.  But I'm not one of them and this is only covering my options.

B.  To have more cosmetic surgery.  The end result looks identical to "female" genitalia from the outside with labia and clitoris and everything else but with no vagina.

C.  To have a bilateral orchietomy or orchidectomy.  This is the removal of my testicles - to put it simply, surgical castration.

D.  To have no operation at all.

Those are my choices.  There are pros and cons for all of them.

But C is out.  C is the most rejected of all the above options.  I don't want it.  C is out no matter whether they keep encouraging me to go for it.  Hey, have an orchiectomy because then you could opt for A or B later, but if you have B then you can't have A later so don't choose B.  That has been said to me at my last two gender appointments.  But I'm not listening to that.

C does have an advantage.  At present I have to have an implant injected into me every 12 weeks to stop testosterone production.  Surgical castration would mean I wouldn't need the implant.  But to be honest the implant isn't worrying for me.  I'd prefer to visit the nurse every few months than undergo surgery if that's the only practical advantage of an operation.

A is out too.  It's a lot of effort.  The preparations are difficult.  The surgery is difficult.  Recovery is difficult.  And then there are the dilations.  And, as it was put by a trans woman in a BBC3 documentary, "you have to sleep with a dildo up you every night for six months."

A is pretty much ruled out.  Too much work for a vagina that, being (almost) asexual, I don't need.  I don't need a hole designed for the insertion of a penis during sex.  Because such an insertion is something that I completely don't desire.  Three years ago I wanted A.  A lot.  But three years is a long time to think about it all and a long time to live my life as Clare.

Which leaves B and D.  Cosmetic or non-op.

Someone on Facebook mentioned happiness.  They said they had said to the GIC that surgery would increase their happiness.  I've wondered about my happiness.  Would surgery really increase it or would it make no difference.  So I wrote:

Thoughts from the top of my head.

Would I be happier? Now there's a question. Maybe. Slightly. But nothing or almost nothing about my happiness or unhappiness relates to genitals. I used to be pretty desperate for surgery, getting triggered or risking being triggered every time I undressed or used a toilet. It all used to be important that way. Now it isn't.

It's over 3 years since I legally changed my name, longer since I was referred to the GIC. And so far there has been nothing in my life made impossible by having a penis. [Apart from the illegal way a certain gym treated me when I was wanting to join 3 years ago, which would have resulted in legal action by myself had I had the energy for it.] Maybe I'm lucky in that.

I got over a big fear this year and went swimming as a woman. In my charity shop swimming costume. Nothing happened. It was fine. No abuse - but if there had been, well, if any of us had let abuse stop us we would never have got far with transition. I might not go swimming again - going in the pool was about the fear not the swimming. It showed me again that many impossible things are just in my own head and that the things that actually are impossible for me [of which there are quite a few] are not gender or genital related.

Plus of course there's the big advantage of no surgery - it makes things a lot easier when out walking and needing to pee!

And yet I still want surgery. Even though it doesn't really matter to me or to anyone important around me. Just as I still want hormone treatments and may yet finish the NHS hair removal funding even though it's so horrible for me on every level. Do the hormones help with my happiness? Probably. Does facial hair removal? Definitely. Would surgery? I really don't know.

I know it's important to others and we're all different. But for me it's becoming almost just a big fuss over nothing.

Woman with penis? I say so what. And nobody in the women's choir is glaring at me because I might not have the same genital configuration as me!

I say all that ... and yet ... and yet ...

And yet.  It takes me back to the top of this post.  And yet I still want to convince the psychiatrist and team at the GIC (gender identity clinic of the Northern Regional Gender Dysphoria Service) that surgery is the way forward for me.  I think I'm getting closer to the point at which they're convinced.  Maybe the next appointment.  And then they will refer me for a second opinion.  I'll be hoping for an early appointment.  I'll also be hoping that I can claim back travel expenses.  The reason for that is that the appointment will be in Edinburgh - and a freebie day out there would be lovely.

That's enough thoughts.  They're just my thoughts.  Nobody else's.  Other trans people have their own thoughts, fears, desires and opinions and they each make their own informed choices which are right for them.  My choice will be right for me.  Theirs will be right for them.  For me, if surgery didn't exist then my decision would be easy!  And it wouldn't negatively impact on my future.  Not really.  For others, surgery is a life changer.  We're all different.

[1778 words]

Sunday, 16 October 2016

The Imperial War Museum And Salford Quays - 24th June 2016

Things are not as I would wish them to be right now.  They're not as any of us here would wish them to be.  Not at all.  I won't give details on the blog but things have taken a decidedly unpleasant turn.

There have been better days.  There will be better days again.

Here's part of a better day.  A final set of photos from a day spent walking from Manchester city centre to Salford Quays along waterways.  I'll start where I left off, with a striking building.  It houses the Imperial War Museum North.  Now, war isn't my favourite subject but admission to the museum is free so I went in to look around.  I was glad I did.  It's worth returning too at some point.  The exhibitions were well put together and Blob Thing enjoyed having his picture taken.  The exhibitions were good.  But the architecture is stunning.  Walking from the outside, through the entrance hallways and into the main exhibition space is quite an experience.  If you want a little information about the building, this is a quick and easy page to read.

This is "The Crusader" by Jerry Judah.

It's pretty stunning.

Onward from the museum.

This is half of the Blue Peter garden.  It's surprisingly small.  The other half contains a tiny pond and the statue of Petra the dog.  I took lots of pictures of Blob Thing here but he wasn't impressed due to never having seen Blue Peter.  I haven't seen it in years - it's not been a programme you accidentally channel hop to since it got moved to CBBC.

Blob wasn't impressed but Blue Peter was part of my childhood and I was happy to have seen the garden.

I admit by this time I was a bit tired.  I'd also reached the end of my planned walk.  That evening I was meeting people in a place we like in central Manchester.  I didn't have time to return to the house and rest.  But there was time for tea.  I walked through a food fair along the side of the Quays and found a big cup of tea for a Pound.  Walking on there was music being performed, a man singing and playing an acoustic guitar.  I sat nearby on a bench and looked out across the water.  It was all very pleasing.

Yes.  That was a good day.  Financially it cost me very little.  Money isn't needed for a good day out.  There will be lots more good days.  Today isn't one of them.  But there will be more.