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Head and Body Mismatch?

March 19, 2012

Once I had a little girl who grew up and told us she was a boy.

She was always a boy, but we didn’t know it, and neither did she  for all of her childhood and part of her adolescence. So, in the past, we had Angela, and now we have Adrian, a third son.

It seems that gender is not fixed, but fluid. We have only recently become aware of this. What you look like on the outside may not be who you are on the inside. You can be born in the wrong body. This is not a choice. This just happens to you.

Adrian seems happy to have packed Angela away in a dark corner of his past. But there are photos. What does it feel like to be reminded of that younger persona and not wish to own her?

Angela, tomboy, eschewing all things feminine, romping with her older brothers, concealing Adrian within, knowing and not knowing, wondering maybe, aware of something but unsure what.

I know that I treated Adrian differently because I thought him a girl, and this slightly troubles me. It suggests that, even when we don’t consider that we are doing so, we unconsciously put children in gender boxes and behave differently towards them, according to what box we think they are in.

Gender dysphoria occurs at a very early stage of foetal development, but nobody knows yet why. I hope I did nothing wrong – mothers always tend to worry about this; it comes with the territory.

Of course I worry about Adrian’s future, more than I do for the other two, because Ady has a lot more to contend with, just to live a normal life. For a start, he cannot look ‘male’ without hormone shots for the rest of his life, and he will never have fully functioning male organs. Surgery looms on the horizon, to remove unwanted female bits and I have no idea how easy or difficult it will prove to be for him to find a partner for life, or even whether this particularly bothers him; some folk are naturally celibate, and happy that way.

My family has been amazing, even my old Mum who, at 83, does not really understand how her grand-daughter became a grandson, but she is very accepting of the situation. All the extended family has been brilliant.

I have read so many stories of young people who have committed suicide because their families and communities could not accept that they were gay or transgender, and I am so grateful that Adrian was not put into that situation.

I didn’t lose my child through this; I learned something new about him. He hasn’t changed, but my understanding has. It’s been quite a journey, and we are still walking the path, but we’re smiling and coping just fine.

2014

Since I wrote this, Adrian has been taking hormone shots regularly and has facial and body hair and nobody who saw him for the first time and knew nothing of his history would think he was anything other than a ‘regular guy’. His voice has deepened also. It is amazing how much of what we think we are is actually down to those little things we call hormones!

We have both become vegan since he started his sex change journey and when he came to my local vegan group – Worcester Park Vegans – to give informal interviews to the members (in preparation for an article he hopes to place in a local paper), he came as ‘my son, Adrian’. I subsequently told one of them  his background story, and she was astonished.  She had not guessed or suspected – truth to tell, I told her this to see what she would say, hoping not to hear ” I thought there was something, but, of course, I would never have said anything”  This is the proof of how well  treatment to realign your body to your gender works – those hormones seem like a sort of ‘magic.formula’!

In June 2014 Adrian was admitted to the New Victoria hospital in New Malden/Raynes Park for his top surgery – the removal of the unwanted breast tissue. He was referred there, although it is a small, private facility, by St Georges’ hospital, Tooting. I assume this kind of surgery, although on the NHS, is quite specialised and that. therefore, large, mainstream hospitals don’t yet handle it routinely.

The level of comfort, privacy and nursing care he received in the 2 day post- operative period, were second to none, and the hospitality they extended to me during my long stay visits cannot be criticised. They could not have been more welcoming. I had as much green tea as I wanted, all brought into the room with a smile by young, handsome men! I could not have regular tea as they had no soya milk….

Adrian had his own room with en suite; it was more like a hotel than the hospitals we are used to. It made me a little sad that this level of care cannot be standard – isn’t everyone worth it, not just those who can afford it? It must make such a difference to a person’s  psychological well being, and, consequently, their recovery, to be in pleasant surroundings and have privacy and attentive care whenever required. I do not mean this as any kind of criticism of the NHS or the wonderful, dedicated nursing staff I have always encountered when in hospital, but a reflection on the importance that successive governments place on adequately funding patient care.

There was even a lovely courtyard garden where, once he was allowed up, and encouraged to move about, we sat together in the sunshine, sipping our tea, on the glorious afternoon of his second day.

There was only one criticism we had about the New Victoria, and it was that they failed dismally to cater for a vegan patient, despite being told on several forms, before admission, that they would be faced with this. We were both irritated by this. It meant that Adrian did not have a proper, balanced diet while he was in there, and felt hungry a lot of the time and had to fill up on snack foods he brought in with him. I brought more, and some fruit, when I visited. It was not that the chef had no idea, he was obviously a good cook, judging by the regular menu and the way he presented food on the plates,  but clearly the information that there would be a special diet in one room had not filtered down to him in time for the creation of a menu suitable for Adrian, and the ‘room service’ boys did not really understand, so we have no idea what messages they were carrying down to the kitchen.

Adrian had, naively, believed that, forewarned. they would be ready for him; I had my doubts, and, sadly, I was proved right. I wish I had not been. It would have been amazing and lovely and positively life affirming to have arrived there and  find that proper meals had been designed for my son, and that they had bought in some soya milk for his cereal and tea. Alas and alack -no. There isn’t much excuse, however – for a private facility, this would have been very easy, and it was only for 2 days. However, it begs many questions, not least of which, is – why is there no vegan option on their regular menu anyway?

I wrote a letter to them after Adrian was discharged, pointing out all these things, praising them for their exemplary nursing care, but expressing our deep disappointment in the catering. That was a month ago and I still have not received a reply.

The recovery period from this operation has been mostly straightforward and Adrian has not suffered much pain- the worst time was when he had the drains in the wound site after the operation; each time he moved, it was agonising on one side. But there was a vast improvement when they were removed just before he was discharged. His main problem has been too much fluid in the wound at one post op check up, and that had to be drained, and now, more recently, a swelling which does not appear to be clearing up with antibiotics, and so he may have to go to Tooting and get that looked at. He has no more routine appointments there for another 10 months.

On the plus side, he does not seem to have been restricted much by the surgery. A few days of tiredness (mainly due to the zonking  effect of the strong painkillers which he soon stopped taking)and difficulty raising his arms above his head or lifting much during the first week at home, two weeks of wearing knee length anti-embolism stockings and six weeks of sterile dressings.

Adrian is so glad to at last be rid of the body tissue he has always hated, and I am happy that he is happy. I ask no more for any of my children. I don’t understand parents who reject their children for being gay or transgender. All of us who have children are lucky to be blessed with them, this should be more than enough for us. Our deepest wish should be for their happiness.

February 2015

Adrian is fully recovered, there were no problems with the swelling, it all healed up fine. The top surgery, therefore, has been 100% successful. All he needs now is some swimming trunks. It is a long time since he was able to go swimming. We used to go quite a lot together once, before either of us knew he was transgender. Of my three, he is the one who shares my love of being in the water. The story of Adrian trying to buy some trunks in Sports Direct in Kingston recently does not reflect well on that store. He basically got fed up with waiting to be served and put the trunks aside and left. So he still has no trunks.

Last Summer my husband took all three of our sons on holiday to Guernsey. I have published another blog about Adrian’s experiences of eating there, as a vegan. It is all his words, which he emailed to me as a daily diary. They will all be going to Munich and Bavaria this Summer. I wonder what the vegan food scene will be like there?

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