Thursday, 10 May 2018

‘Go live’ day is coming......... all change!

After numerous false starts over the past 3 years and 17 years of living a double secret life the time is coming when everything becomes one. It is an exciting and nervewracking time. It seems that unlike many other trans people Lucy has been slow approaching this goal. I speak to many partners who have been running along after their loved one trying to catch up with them as they are like a horse who has bolted; once the partner has been told they want to declare it all to world and are on full speed ahead leaving the partner stunned in the wake. It has not been like that for Lucy. She has considered every single option from every single angle and from my perspective it has been like dragging a reluctant horse out of the stable! 

There have been various times we had planned to tell everyone but there has always been a reason not to, the latest being a very good reason with all her heart issues (I will let her off this one). Each time a plan is made I silently psych myself up, plan the conversations in my mind and then it all stops. Emotionally I don’t think I can do this anymore. I cannot keep living this twilight world, keeping secrets from people, not being honest about what we are doing, trying to remember which pronoun and name to use around different people. This has to be the final time, the real time, it is time to be us, the real Avril and Lucy.

She has lived full time as Lucy for over 2 years, it’s just people don’t realise she is there as they are not seeing her as she is not shoving it in their faces. She changed her name nearly 3 years ago, bank accounts, passport, etc were changed a long time ago and her driving licence has come back leaving the taxi badge etc to be changed. She changed the name on her car insurance and the agent was fab, used the correct name from the beginning and even wrote off the usual admin fee charged to change details.

We have a clutch of people around us that do know and of course my kids and our daughter have been fab. A few of my work colleagues know about Lucy and have been amazing. One colleague always wants to have a chat with Lucy if she knows she is on the phone. We have a new guy starting at work in 2 weeks and I have spoken to my manager as I want this new person only to know Avril and Lucy. There is not much point in giving the deadname as ‘go live’ is only a week later. This means there are a couple of other people who work in my office and the senior director whose division I work in that I needed to tell before this new chap starts. So, yesterday I spoke to my senior director who was great (he was worried as he thought I wanted a word him as I was going to resign) and said to let him know if I needed any support. I said I was fine, we are great and that my immediate manager has been very supportive. The other people in the office were great too and super supportive.

And then it is the rest……. We are going on holiday abroad on 29th May. Lucy is obviously travelling using her passport, the booking is in her name as are the airline tickets. Therefore this is ‘go live’ day although we won’t have told absolutely everyone by then, the rest we will do when we get back. We are sort of dropping the bomb and running away but this way it gives us some breathing space even though we will be still able to log on to social media while we are away but also gives people a little bit of time to deal with it without us being around. We are not going away on our own, our daughters are coming with us as is one of my sons, his wife and our grandson. It does leave two of my boys back in the UK but they have said they will be fine plus the majority of people I’m sure will be conversing with us.

So what is the plan? The plan changes all the time. We are running out of time to tell everyone face to face before we go away. We don’t want to tell some people too early for fear of Lucy being outed before we have had a chance to tell people in our own way. We are close with one neighbour so need to tell them as she will see Lucy leaving the house for holiday; this neighbour sees everything. We will probably have a chat with them just before we go. I think she will be fine, but again who knows. My parents are away until 24th May which does not give us much time but I am planning on telling them when they are back. One of my sisters knows already which leaves another sister and my brother to tell. My brother goes away just before us and as my parents come back so I only have a small window of time to tell him. I think it will have to be a telephone call after I have told my parents, probably while he is away on holiday. Not ideal but I need to tell my parents first as I am very unsure how he will take the news. I wanted to tell my other sister before I speak to my parents as I think she is the one my mum may lean on. I wasn’t sure how my sister would take it but I rang her this morning and she was great. She said that everything just all made sense as she had noticed some of Lucy’s changes and everything has fallen into place. She was very supportive and said lots of nice things which was a relief. She did ring my other sister immediately after and I understand that was a supportive conversation. I was a bit nervous in telling her as it was a planned phone call which I haven’t done with anyone else but it all turned out well.

Lucy’s mum will need to be told as will her eldest son (the younger son is travelling and estranged from his dad so we will leave the other son to speak to him – we are not expecting a positive outcome). This is Lucy’s issue to deal with and I’m not sure what she is going to do. Her mum does not live locally and we have no time to visit her so I expect it will be a phone call. We don’t any contact with her dad (her parenets are long divorced) but no doubt he will hear via other family members. I doubt he will make contact. When ever I try to talk to Lucy about the timing for telling her son and mother she gets dismissive. I know it is because she is nervous and is not looking forward to the conversation. My kids have said that they will all be there for her eldest son and will do their best to support him but that does all depend on his reaction. Whenever and however she does it, I will be there to support her through this.

Then we have a clutch of close friends. I have mentioned them before. This will be phone calls or a text (they will ring if we send a text as I’m sure they will be convinced we are joking). I have no idea how they will take it. A positive response would be great however in these circumstances you plan for the worst. Watch this space.

In preparation for holiday we have been clothes shopping for Lucy. She has never bought holiday clothes before so it is all a bit exciting. She now has several pairs of lovely shorts, mix and match bikinis, tops, flat sandals (shock horror!) and some really gorgeous swim suits. She went out yesterday and had her eyebrows threaded and AT LAST they were done beautifully with a proper shape and colour. It has really changed her face. She even told the technician after about her situation and showed her some pictures of us out and about. She also had her ears pierced again so now has two sets of earrings in her ear lobes now. For me this was the biggest indication that this ‘go live’ date is really happening. She wouldn’t have had them done as it will affect her refereeing for what is left of the season.

She has decided that she will give up refereeing men’s football. As much as The FA will protect her in regard to the clubs and the players, they cannot control comments from the crowds. She referees at a high level and just doesn’t want to put herself into a position where she will get abuse. Most clubs serve alcohol and all it takes is one drunken supporter to shout abuse and then it just starts everyone off. It is such a shame as football is her passion. She will still referee women’s matches but they are not as frequent as the men’s matches and they are slower paced. Sad times.

I have heard back from the NHS Trust that I had the meeting with. They have arranged for our friend Jo who runs the organisation SEE Change Happen and she is going in to do a taster session with some of the NHS staff. I have been invited to go along too so of course I have accepted. This is next week so it is all happening at once!

Trans Radio UK is going from strength to strength. Listeners are increasing and are still worldwide. She has now interviewed all sorts of different and interesting people, featured many trans DJ’s and musical artists and their music as well as the mainstream stuff. We now have new logos and are looking to get some t-shirts made up. We are looking to broadcast live from some of the events happening over the next few months. Lucy and the radio station will be featured in the next edition of Transliving magazine too. If you have not liked the Facebook page, please go and like it and share!

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Just Charlie

Just Charlie is a film that premiered on Sky Cinema yesterday. 

#JustCharlie  @JustCharlieFilm

“A teen football star who is being courted by a top club is torn between wanting to live up to his father's expectations or shedding his ill-fitting skin”
"A heartwarming story of a fun-loving teenager Charlie, who unveils a secret that takes him on a road paved with obstacles, prejudices and confusion"

We found out about this film from the Trans Radio UK interview that Lucy did with Kellie Maloney last week. We did some research about the film, watched the trailer and eagerly awaited the premiere day, 16th April 2018.

We didn’t get to watch it until last night, it premiered at 9.40am so recorded it as we were both working, and had seen that already a few people that had watched it were giving it great reviews. So we settled down to watch it together last night.

Virtually from the beginning I was in tears. Watching Charlie struggle with her identity, the hidden secrets, the discovery, the football coach trying to find the right words to show his support of what he had accidently discovered, thest best friend rejecting her, the fathers brutal denial of what was clearly obvious, the mother supporting Charlie whilst trying to address her husbands issues and the unquestionable, unwavering support from her sister Eve.

At the beginning I made a few comments to Lucy as I could see so many parallels to what she has told me and the psychologists about her younger life especially as football had featured so strongly for her too but I felt she didn’t want to engage with me. Too much was too close to home, except I don’t think she would have received any support at all.

We watched the rest of the film in silence, holding hands, squeezing in uncomfortable but realistic moments and mostly I had quiet tears streaming down my face. Crying for Charlie, crying for Lucy and crying for everyone in our life who would connect with this, crying for the people I don’t know and angry at the transphobic and ignorant characters that I know exist in real life. It is one thing having the person you love tell you about these things but totally different seeing it being acted out in front of you and to think Lucy had experienced this on her own before we met just breaks my heart.

The film really covers the struggle for transgendered youth and their families but also shows what society is like. Even though it is more empathetic nowadays there is still a very long way to go but it was great to see Mermaids being featured when the mum, the friend, the sister, the father were researching to find out more information. 

Having had 5 children of my own, I can only hope that I would have been a supportive parent should any of them been transgendered. I cannot say for certain as I have not had to face this challenge but feel in my heart of hearts I would have been. Maybe because I did have a transgendered friend in my teenage years when it was mostly hidden away and not as open as it is now so it wouldn’t have been something new for me. There is a NescafĂ© Gold coffee advert that says that we meet roughly 80,000 people in our lifetime. I use this figure when talking to people about how low the incidence of being transgender is and ask them how many transgender people they have knowingly met. Apart from community friends, most other people say Lucy is the first for them which just proves my point. By comparison in my non-community life, Lucy was the 3rd transgendered person I had knowingly known along with lots of other eclectic and colourful friends. I wonder if my easy acceptance of Lucy’s situation is down to this plus I think my parents were very open minded about life as I was growing up bringing up myself and my siblings in a non-prejudice environment. I can only hope that I would have been a supportive trans parent and will certainly be a supportive grandparent if the situation were to arise.

Anyway I seemed to have digressed…….

After the film had finished we were discussing whether it was harder coming out as transgender as a child/youth or as an adult. I’m not sure we came up with an answer as both have their different challenges but certainly the sooner you can transition before puberty the better chance you have as being accepted as an adult as the ravages of either hormone has not had a chance to make its mark.

All in all it was a great film, it wasn’t sensationalist and dealt with the Charlie character in an empathetic way showing the internal struggles that are real for everyone no matter what age you are.

When Lucy interviewed the director Rebekah Fortune for Trans Radio UK she said that selecting the right actor to play Charlie was key. It wasn’t about having a cis or a trans actor for the role but was about finding the right child. Sadly many trans children wouldn’t have been able to do it as they would have been too vulnerable which I am sure we all understand.

Looking at their Facebook and Twitter feeds today the response has been amazing:

Just finished watching Just Charlie!! BEAUTIFUL film!! You must all be so incredibly proud of the film you have created!! If you haven't seen it then… WATCH IT!! It's honestly incredible!!

Just Charlie’ is the most eye opening film I’ve probably ever watched

Wow this is such a powerful film. Spencer Coile said "With an influx of trans representation in television and film, Just Charlie is a touching reminder that these stories need to be told. And perhaps it is our job to listen."

Just watched Just Charlie & have to say it is a great film would highly recommend you check it out taking a current topic & engaging you into the topic & the ending was superbly done

@justcharliefilm it’s incredible! @BeCoMeCast The casting is unbelievably perfect, Rebekah Fortunes directing is incredible and works in beautiful harmony with Karl Clarke’s stunning cinematography! Harry Gilbert is breathtaking as Charlie. I need to lay down!

Just Charlie: a phenomenal lgbt film about a closet trans teen, this depicts how hard it is as a trans person, please watch it

Sobbed all the way through #justcharlie set in #Tamworth and #Lichfield #netherstowe

At last a decent film on @sky - #JustCharlie. Highly recommend watching.

Thursday, 12 April 2018

NHS Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Manager meeting

Yesterday I had an appointment with the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Manager at our local NHS trust. This was the trust where Lucy encountered what seemed to be a self appointed ‘sex change’ expert (head paramedic and his 'expert' terminology) who gave Lucy no choice in the ward she would be admitted to and broke so many regulations under the Data Protection, Equality and the Gender Recognition Acts.

After Lucy’s experience, my first course of action was to contact PALS and request a copy of their transgender policy. I wanted to see what this document contained and then compare our experience to what had been documented. I was surprised to find that there was no policy in place at all however they referred me to the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Manager, Mr A, who suggested a meeting to discuss our experiences but also to be involved with the creation of a policy.

Lucy was supposed to be coming too but for her this issue is now in the past and she is more prepared to let things slide. My view is that if Lucy was ever ill again, this would be the hospital that she would end up in so I wanted to safeguard her but also anyone else from the community that may have need of this particular NHS trust services (there are two local hospitals under this Trust). Lucy certainly isn’t the only one from the community living in the surrounding area.

Mr A had been extremely friendly on the phone and via email but I still wasn’t sure what to expect. I didn’t know much about his experience or what he may be expecting from me so I had a quick look at his LinkedIn profile (very useful!) and could see that he has been involved with this sort of policy before. In order to prepare, I scoured the internet for various other NHS Trusts transgender policies which I printed off to take with me. There were four fairly recent ones and although the basic content was the same the best and most comprehensive was for South London and Maudsley NHS Trust. I went through them all and highlighted all the areas that were relevant to our experience. To be honest I was shocked when I realised how many regulations had been breached by the paramedic, I just hadn’t realised. I also prepared a list of useful organisations and websites and printed and highlighted the relevant part of my blog post as that explained the situation perfectly; all I added was the paramedics name.

I arrived for the meeting and Mr A greeted me at the door. Again he was very friendly and amicable and I think we both felt really at ease with each other which made conversation easy. 

I started by telling him a bit about us and went over the experience that we had been through and he took lots of notes. I reiterated that the actual medical care that Lucy had received, especially as it was near to Christmas and the NHS was getting slated in the press about waiting times, was not up for dispute and that we were very happy with the medical care she had received. All the staff from the receptionist through to the nursing staff and consultants had not batted an eye at our situation and although some may have struggled with pronouns they had tried and all been respectful and made us both feel as comfortable as we could be under the circumstances. All the issues that we had were created by this ‘expert’ and we struggled to see why he had even been required to speak to us as the conversation regarding wards and beds could have been had with any of the staff we had already encountered. He asked me if we knew had instructed him to come to speak to us but we didn’t know.

We also discussed about Lucy being placed on a male ward with no choice and the open conversations the paramedic had with the ward staff and the subsequent open nursing team meeting that was had discussing Lucy. I also told him that we had a real lack of male clothing at home but as she had been admitted to a male ward I had been out and bought suitable male clothes and accessories as she didn’t want to draw any attention to her situation as she was in an open male ward. He was appalled that we had felt the need to do this. He said we were accommodating them where they should have been them accommodating Lucy and that they had failed her terribly. There should have been a way to accommodate her in a female ward either in a private room or in a corner of a ward with curtains. He also understood that her bathroom needs would have been different to the other patients on the male ward and that she had to pick her time when she went into the shared facilities as she had to shave facially at least once day and there was all the other personal care too which meant she would have been using the facilities far longer than anyone else.

He said that he was very concerned and the first thing he would need to ensure is that the paramedic is not used for this purpose again as he was in breach of so many legal requirements. He thanked me for trying to resolve the issue in this way rather than making a straight forward complaint. I said that for us it was not about screaming and shouting and we were not even necessarily after an apology but we wanted to ensure that procedures and processes are changed so this does not continue or happen again to someone else. He will raise this with the complaints team so that the ‘incident’ can be logged and investigated properly but following on from this a formal transgender policy will need to be created, not just for transgender patients/users of the NHS services but a comprehensive all encompassing policy that also caters for transgendered staff. To do this he wanted to work with us and as part of this process would like us to come in and chat to staff about our experiences as he said that it is one thing having a policy and training people but sometimes listening to real life examples with how it made us feel can make it more real and bring the message home better.

We went through some of the NHS transgender policies I had printed and I had not only highlighted parts relevant to us but also parts of the policies which I felt were key to any new policy. He was suitably impressed and said that I had done much of the background work for him as this would have been the first thing he would have done. He had previously been in touch with GIRES in a previous role so has touch points with them. Obviously as well as a policy, he considers staff training and engagement as key. For this I got the opportunity to recommend a friend of ours who has her own transgender consultancy, SEE Change Happen, and he was very interested in using her and I was able to pass her details on.

This is no instant fix and the creation of any new policy and training will take time, let alone one that needs to encompass so many legal requirements. This will be work in progress for some time and I am excited to be part of this process as there is an opportunity to educate and make change for the better.