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It’s Been A While

I started on pills in Tāmaki Makaurau, Aotearoa (Auckland, New Zealand) way back when I was a young thing. A daily combo and I did not enjoy swallowing them. In Naarm (Melbourne) my best ever doctor gave me the choice of pills or injections. I knew about injections but didn’t think they were available and was very immediate unequivocal yes on them. First shot in my arse in my upstairs room in a flat in Carlton.

I did injections all the way through VCA, and all the way till I came back from some overseas trip in maybe 2005. They were perfect for those long travels, the same doctor — or when he left, his replacement — would give me a 6–9 month prescription of them and I’d bundle them up with the needles and syringes, taking up hardly any space. And I never had to use the letter they provided for if I got questioned in Customs about all those drugs.

Returning to Australia with a half-year supply remaining, I found that injections were no longer available. Which had sent the entire trans (-gender, -women, I forget what we were called back then) community into a spin. And six months later I joined that spin. I went on multiple different pills which had random unenjoyable side-effects — despite my doctors assuring me they were “all the same”. And then I moved to Kaurna Land (Adelaide) and because of differing State legislations I had to face the gatekeeping of the Gender Clinic for the third time.

Back in time a moment. Immediately prior to seeing the doctors in both Auckland and Melbourne, I’d tried to get into the Gender Clinics, only to be very stringently denied. Stories for another time. What’s pertinent though is both doctors I saw who did prescribe me hormones either wobbled the interpretation of the law or lol fuckit toppled the cunt. Both were very much of the harm reduction school. Not so lucky in Radelaide. Where the skeevy predatorial extremely conservative and heteronormative old codger and his matching twin old cunt presided (fun story, they still do).

I could have just got a flight back to Melbourne to score a repeat script (with what money, exactly?), but decided I wanted to attempt the surgery route again. And endured some pretty fucking humiliating humiliation at those two’s hands. Which also eventually got me an official hormone prescription for the first time in my life. More manky pills which semi-worked along with manky side-effects, in a city which, at that time, had effectively no trans healthcare. Though I did find probably the one good doctor (who I took out for a night at SO36 when he came to Berlin).

And then Berlin. Also astoundingly lacking in trans healthcare. I mean it does exist, but primarily for white trans men and mascs, and the same tired cis-het-normative expectations. I went through so many truly awful GPs (what gets called Hausarzt), and endocrinologists to get similarly truly shite pills which were slowly fucking my liver. Because pills work by overloading your liver which otherwise filters out all the hormones ’cos that’s what livers do (or at least that’s how I remember my good doctors describing it). Which left me constantly tired on top of the fun rando, life-long other hormone problems I’d had.

This is turning into a long story, innit?

Finally, I accidentally found a good endo. A young white German man who talksveryfastallatonce and is actually kinda educated about trans stuff — and from all the above I’m pretty fucking qualified to make that assessment — and actually cares and takes an interest in his patients (i.e. me) as a person and not just a recipient of a prescription. And I should mention since being in Berlin, my ‘official’ status as ‘transsexual’ (yup, 20 years behind on terminology here) is very conditional and there’s a lot of goodwill on the part of doctors to prescribe hormones to me because I don’t actually have the paperwork or proof I did two years of therapy (’cos I didn’t) with those sign-off letters from gatekeepers. All very tenuous, and as much as the world is moving towards an informed consent model the reality remains very much ‘fucking lucky to get them’ when it comes to hormones or anything else transsexual.

So, he prescribed me gel, which I describe as, “getting jizzed on your arse and then you gotta rub it in.” Which I’ve been on for most of a decade after he talked me into trying it ’cos I was really, truly jack of pills fucking with me and not in a great place, and having some actually proper serious repercussions from those life-long hormone problems (also another story, and no, you TERFy cis cunts not caused by taking hormones). And which, along with surgery back in May ’09, has given me a fairly stable, acceptable several years on meds.

But I still miss injections.

Because they’re one and done, once a week, quick and easy, no mess no jizz, I felt better on them, don’t fuck my liver, and are by far the best route to get hormones into me. And for the majority of the last 15 years haven’t been available (unless you’re in Mexico or the US or some other random countries). Until a young trans woman I met here told me she was on them. Which was a fucking eye-opener.

And she gave me the name of them and where she got them from, which I asked my endo about and he was kinda suss about it, ’cos he thinks the curve with injections (peaking then trailing off) is not desirable and favours the flat dose of daily gel, and thinks I’m a weirdo for wanting the former. Nonetheless, he gave me a prescription, which isn’t covered by health insurance, and I went to my local Apotheke and was told, “Yaaah, around 25€ and might take 40 days?” and got a phone call 2 days later, and here we are. Thanks rando pharmaceutical company in Czech Republic!

Which is me wondering what the correct dose would be after all these years. ’Cos my endo doesn’t know, I can’t remember the strength of the injections I used to take, comparing it with jizz gel isn’t a direct one-to-one, I have no long-term medical history ’cos I’ve moved so many times and so have my doctors, trans healthcare is an actual fucking trash heap on fire, and I find myself on rando internet forums trying to scrape through DIY hormone convos by people who very much are not doctors or endos. And there’s whole conversations to be had around how we, as trans femmes, trans women, transsexuals, whatever the fuck we’re getting called this year, are resorting to buying hormones from non-medical suppliers like other trans women who started making it themselves and now sell it (just to clarify, this isn’t what I’m taking). And that if we want actual, up-to-date information, we have to look to those same trans women and assemble something meaningful out of our decades of collective experience. Which is not to throw shade on them or the hormones they’re making or our collective knowledge. We do this because we’re denied real, affordable, accessible healthcare. Because we’re ultimately still seen as mentally ill in the head fucking trannys.

So finally I have injections again, and because I don’t trust anyone, let alone white German healthcare and the white German government (come on, the potential Merkel replacement let the n-word slip out her mouth, this is where this country is at), I’m thinking that getting a stockpile first is good Auntie planning.

Funny story though, I forgot to ask for needles?

Inadvertently Winning

I won the Zwift women’s NYC sprint jersey the other day.

Bunch of words there. Zwift is the online virtual environment I train on my bike and smart trainer in; NYC is the Zwift world which has multiple routes to ride in Central Park; and the sprint jersey is a rolling leaderboard of fastest sprint, retained until someone rides faster or for a maximum length of one hour, when it’s passed on to whoever is next down the list.

So, first ride post-vaccine and feeling kinda low-level chronic fatigue-y and not wanting to abuse myself on a proper training ride and nonetheless going a little too hard on a free ride ’cos I have no modulation, I hit a downhill slope and want to make some speed. Which leads into the sprint. And I’m in the wrong gear and all of the above and because I’m an aggressively competitive cunt when it’s time to compete I want to at least put down a not shameful time. Wrong gear and feeling grotty and on a cyclocross bike but I can still spin 130+ rpm which means lots of Watts and I cross the finish line looking at my time going, “Yeah, coulda been worse,” and then “Why the fuck is my jersey green?”

It’s green ’cos the woman in second place was 1/10th of a second slower.

I’ve written before about how I avoid competing with other (cis) women because of (trans) reasons. The last years this has become much more of a mainstream spectacle with a variety of intersecting fuckeries including: Republicans trying to legislate trans girls out of sports and bathrooms; cis women athletes like Caster Semenya, Christine Mboma, Beatrice Masilingi all banned from the Olympics because regulations around women and testosterone levels, which ‘coincidentally’ seem to hit Black women; cis women like JK Rowling and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie using their massive social media following to target trans women; more legislation in the UK effectively barring access to puberty blockers for trans children. Those are the ones I can remember this morning, and because I’m talking about sport and competing here, I’m not including the almost daily murder of trans women who are disproportionately Black, Brown, Indigenous, migrants and reliably doing the only work open to us: sex work. And not the nice, sanitised, white cis women doing pole dancing classes or queer AFAB porn type of sex work either.

When I won that jersey — and let’s be clear, it’s a very minor win — I experienced the unique duality all us women — cis and trans — know, us who are made illegitimate by this legislation and the generations-long culture of cis feminism (the TERF kind, which is also white feminism and yes, you can be Black or anywhere else in the BIPoC acronym and be a white feminist) colluding with white christian conservative politics. The duality is the visceral joy of winning inseparable from the dead conviction it’s because we’re not really women. And knowing someone’s eventually going to make us winning or even turning up an issue.

I’ve been a dancer for pushing 25 years. The training and experience is inscribed all the way to my bones. It shapes how I think and feel and live, whether I’m dancing or not. I’ve been an athlete for all that time as well, both as a dancer and, at various times, rock climbing and cycling. I train around a dozen hours a week out of habit and love and to prevent myself from falling apart. Like Martyn Ashton said, “You might be physically fit but you won’t be unscathed.” I started cycling to find a way to maintain the physical intensity I need when my knees had been in constant pain for years. I’m not especially good at it, just like climbing or dance I could get to a reasonably high level of proficiency but I’d have never made it as a professional, or the upper levels which get called ‘elite’. I know my capabilities, physiological, mental, emotional, all that, and know so much of being a dancer or athlete is those last two.

But all that counts for shit when I’m a trans woman taking the green jersey off a cis woman.

When that happens, when I even show up like at the Rapha Women’s 100, the advantages I bring from those 25 years of fucking hard work are rendered null and replaced by the supposed genetic, chromosomal, hormonal, skeletal, muscular, physical, cultural, probably spiritual and astral advantages I have because I was assigned male at birth. It doesn’t matter there are cis women who are taller, bigger, stronger and way more hot than me (Hi! Liz Cambage!). It doesn’t matter how early I got on hormones — and it certainly doesn’t matter that having to prove my validity as a woman entails a violation of my privacy and self all the way into my pants and blood. And Caster Semenya knows all about that too.

As much as possible, I’m explicitly ‘out’ on Zwift. There’s no LGBT checkbox, but I do wear the Pride kit, and following the convention of putting additional info in your name, I have ‘[trans femme af]’. This isn’t about Pride or ‘feeling proud’ or about being ‘out’. To those same bones I have no interest in the colonialism upon which these words and concepts created themselves. It’s about making sure there’s visibility and representation (also words which leave me tired). Once the big name trans athletes are accounted for, there’s a massive absence of trans athletes — and dancers. I don’t want to give space to cis people to pretend we don’t exist, aren’t in the room. I do feel an obligation to make sure other trans people — especially BIPoC trans women and femmes — know they’re not the only one in the room. And there’s a long, long conversation about AFAB queer hostility to femininity and athleticism which I don’t have the skin or patience or time for here, but that’s part of it. And the exhausting whiteness of dance and climbing and cycling is another part.

I was talking with Gala yesterday and I joked my motivating force is vengeance.

So here’s how it is: I won that green jersey ’cos I’m a multiethnic trans femme aunty with decades of hard physical experience under my lingerie, who’s highly competitive and capable, who won on an off-day on the wrong bike in the wrong gear and I wasn’t even trying. I’m that fucking good.

And y’know what else? It doesn’t matter. It’s not that big, it doesn’t mean anything. In the moment of competing and winning it’s a rush and we’d do it whether there’s organised, capitalism-based sport or not. After the moment, days, weeks, years later, for the vast majority of us who never made a career out of it and for quite a few who did, it simply doesn’t feature in our lives. It wouldn’t even merit 1200 words if it wasn’t for the reality of being trans or cis women pushing our way in where, on their terms, we aren’t welcome and don’t belong.

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3 Years and Done

I got an email from my Steuerberater yesterday. He wanted to let me know that after much back-and-forth for the second time, the Finanzamt had accepted my 2019 surgery as an expense against my income. So, no horrific tax bill for me, and after three years, I’m done with all that. (Unless of course the transphobic gods of German bureaucracy decide to non-consensually buttfuck me in the future for some extremely obtuse exception of German bureaucracy.)

Three years. The whole ‘earn mad cash get surgery’ process took less than a year — less than a year on my fourth attempt since my teens at stacking that paper — but the consequences of that took the extra two. Dealing with specific Finanzamt consequences, I mean. Which should serve as an object lesson for cis people in demonstrating how for trans people everything moves on a much slower time and everything involves shoving against immovable legal, medical, social, political, financial institutions and processes.

I celebrated the best way I know, having Type 2 fun. Type 2’s the fun where you suffer at the time and ask yourself, “Why am I doing this?” and only later it magically becomes ‘Fun!’ (Celebrating like this mainly because I don’t have a favourite sex worker on speed dial, otherwise I’d be sorted for a different, Type 1 fun.)

Massive, unending thanks and love to my cherished ones, Dasniya, Gala, Katrin, and Vass who turned up for me during all this 🖤. The trans femme goddesses and deities saw you and don’t forget.

Ten Weeks After

I thought it was nine, and if I’m forgetting where I’m up to, obviously I’m well into recovery. I’ve been like a nana driving along in first wondering why I can’t go faster and it’s not because I don’t know how to drive, it’s because it’s a fucking automatic and it’s stuck in Limp Mode (that’s a thing, yes it is). Which I try to accept, but fuck me it’s trying. Some days are good — some hours are good, and then I go back to sleep, or deal with weird tension pressure tingling numbness swelling low grade discomfort that wears at a bitch. And then there’s the pimples and other skin fuckery, which I also accept as my face’s pretty natural reaction to be half pulled off. But no pretending it isn’t distressing as fuck.

And then there was today, a Friday at the end of a week that was a real struggle in keeping any energy. It was sunny, 25° and feeling hotter, which I know from the last five weeks of riding complicates things. So I kept it simple, just make it through four laps, that’s all I had to do; three even, if I felt shit. I was concentrating on keeping my elbows bent, and breathing through my nose, right back in low energy Ramadan training there.. The bent elbows thing, particularly when they approach 90° is for me a constant movement of pushing forward, down or pulling back with my hands, so my arms are supporting much of my weight, and hovering, so I’m holding my position with back and hamstrings, as well as moving forward and back on my saddle. It’s constant work. The result of this is also I am more aerodynamic, and put down more power more easily. So I ended up feeling rather good.

Rather good as in maintaining 30km/h+ for 2/3 of each lap. Very unexpected, that. And feeling solid. It’s the first ride since surgery where I actually had energy and could push a bit. Gentle pushing, but consistent and way above where I’ve been until now, and for a duration, and repeatable. Slowly getting there. Slow time all the way.

Eight Weeks After

I was doing laps of Tempelhoferfeld this morning and had a realisation I’d definitely gone over another hump in post-surgery recovery, ’cos I was back to my usual getting way too excited and loudly, “Yes, bitch! Eight weeks! Fucking nailed it!” carrying on. Which is the first time I’ve felt this good since having my face peeled off on June 13th.

Last week I managed training on five days: three shorter and lighter than usual rides, and two of a mix of core, Pilates, stretching. The week previous to that, I’d ridden twice early in the week and felt like I’d been ambitious in even that — the “six weeks until you can resume training” thing is real. Mid-last week, I felt frankly fucking horrible, like dirty anaesthetic was leeching out or some other vileness. Maybe the lack of endurance training for 6 weeks was churning stuff up. The surgery itself was also unimpressed with me. This week though, tiredness and soreness is very much from doing the work.

Not the full work, and still a long way to go, but getting work done nonetheless. I can neither push into all-out efforts, nor maintain a long endurance effort. Doing hard, core training with weights is also out, as is most of yoga, and anything upside down is not worth the scummy feeling. I’m not going to beat myself up for this though, I tend to recover slowly from surgery, or rather, I seem to take my time, and there’s more than enough I can do with is directly beneficial to rehab and recovery.

I also, for me, put on a bit of weight these last eight weeks. Plenty of not training and plenty of post-op eating (so fucking hungry, I swear I was in overdrive). Which on one side was difficult for me, feeling my muscles lose the density they have when they’re being used all the time. And putting on some fat is a new physicality for me — all of which is relative, as I have a default weight I end up on when I’m training heavily, irrespective of how much I eat. This is not about self fat-shaming, rather about how my physiology swings from skin and bones if I’m training heavily and stressed, to where I’m at now, which is one of the longest periods I haven’t trained for in many years — the not-training is what’s been difficult. On the other side, I really fucking love it. I’m pretty sure I haven’t been this curvy before and I am down with this shit. Which I’ve always known, it’s just for my physiology thrashing hard and being curvy are a ‘pick one’ reality, and I go with the former ’cos stupid is as stupid does.

So, like I’ve already said to someone who’s probably going to read this, I’m torn. I like where physically I’m at right now, and I know ramping up training (with two big rides coming up) will strip this off. I have no solution for this, so I’m going to eat chocolate. Also to celebrate eight weeks and still 110% No Regerts!