Saturday, 31 August 2013

Decorating, Electrolysis and poorly bikes

[16/11/2013 - Just realised I'd forgotten to give this a title so I've got back and done that]

The last couple of weeks have been a mix of quiet and busy. Quiet because my family have been mostly away and busy because I've been decorating our spare room and apart from putting down new carpet and getting new bedroom furniture in I've got one more thing to do before its finished enough to be usable for visitors again.
One weekend of carpentry and I'll have finished the decorating and remodeling of the room.

Things are going pretty well at the moment. I had a period where I felt down but I'm over that now. I even managed to hit the gym last Saturday morning for an hour which was good.

Earlier this week I had my latest speech therapy session. It's more of a catch up session for us as all we really do is chat which gives my therapist an idea of how my voice is going. All we're doing at the moment is monitoring how I am with my voice. At least that was the plan but I suggested at the end of the last session that I'd like to look at what I could do that would allow me to work on my singing voice.
I love singing, especially when we're at church. Before I transitioned it was great to be able to let myself go when it came to singing around other people. Since I've transitioned I get self conscious when I'm singing around others. So I want to do something about that.

I was supposed to have my latest electrolysis session this week and also my next laser session was planned for next Monday. I've postponed both sessions for a couple of weeks and will be having them both on the 16th September. The laser session will be in the morning and the electrolysis in the evening which should be an interesting experience because as my next laser session is my last that I've had funding for via the NHS any further ones I have to fund myself. Pretty much all of the dark hair that I had though has been killed off and its only the stubborn ones and the white and grey hairs that are left. So my electrolysis is going to move from my chest to my face. Unfortunately it means that I've got to leave the hair grow for two days before each session. Fortunately it looks like I'll be able to have sessions on a Monday but it might not be until the evenings, afternoon if I'm really lucky. That does mean that I'm going to have to go into work on a Monday morning with beard stubble covered up with some serious foundation. Not something that I'm looking forward to. This first session wont be too bad as I'm going to have to have the day off to get to the laser session. The one after that will be the more interesting one.

My new bike is still poorly. The wheel has been sent off to Pashley, who make the bikes, to be rebuilt. Hopefully it will be back soon but the store that I got it from are going to chase them up to see what is happening. I can't wait to get my baby back as I'm missing our morning rides into work.

There was an interesting twist in my relationship with my other half earlier this week. I'd been talking about what I needed to do in order to move into our spare room now that it is nearly finished. My other half piped up to say that there wasn't any reason for me to move in there just yet and that it would depend on how she copes with things once I've had my surgery. Well as I'm not planning my surgery for another 18 months that means that I get to stay put for at least the next 12 months if not longer. It will be interesting to see how things pan out next year on that basis.

Monday, 19 August 2013

Good times

Last weekend saw us visiting my sister and her family at their home in Northampton. Its about a 3 hour drive from where we live.
We set off just before 8am on Saturday morning and had a pleasant trip there with very little traffic and no delays. The return wasn't as good as we got held up just after we'd passed Stonehenge when we hit a queue of traffic where the road goes from two lanes into one. At least it only took us about 30 minutes to get though which was going to be better than the cars on the other side of the road were going to take in what looked to be a 2 to 3 mile queue.

The weekend was quiet. A lot of it was getting my 4 year old nieces to stop being shy. We don't see them as often as I'd like so it takes them a while to get used to us being around.

Saturday afternoon we went to a children's play centre and my son and wife took the two girls on the play apparatus while the rest of us sat and chatted over coffee. There were a lot of children and parents packing the place out so it was really good that nobody paid any more attention to me than they did anybody else. At one point I even spoke briefly with the lady at the table next to us.

We'd planned on going to the balloon festival and watch the hot air balloons take off but after looking at the weather we decided that it was probably going to be too windy for them to take off so we changed our plans and arranged to meet up at our hotel to have dinner.

Checking into the hotel I reserved a table for the 7 of us and then promptly had to cancel it as our plans changed when my sister sent me a text to let me know that both the twins had crashed and were fast asleep. With very little chance of them being awake before we'd planned dinner we decided that we'd go back over to their place and order pizzas.

The rest of the evening passed quietly while we watched TV.

Sunday morning we got up and had breakfast at our hotel before checking out and going over to my sister's. We planned to go to the cinema in the afternoon to see Planes before traveling back home.

The morning went far too fast.

The cinema was great as my one niece was happy for me to pick her up and hold her and also held my hand as we walked to the screen where our film was being shown. She'd finally overcome her shyness!

Although they both started off sitting in their own seats by the time that the film had started both the girls were sitting in their parents laps and fell asleep during the movie. The film was OK. Its not as good as Cars or Cars 2 but it passed the time.

After the film we had said our goodbyes to everyone and I got another cuddle and a kiss from my one niece and a reluctant cuddle from my other one. She's the really shy one and it takes her a lot longer to get used to me. She always has.

There were a couple of incidents over the weekend that made it for me.

The first was my one niece referring to me as Aunty J a couple of times. Most of the family call me J as its been easier for them to adjust to the new name that way. Getting called Aunty for the first time really did make my weekend.

The second thing that made the weekend for me was when we were going for breakfast on Sunday morning.

As I was walking down the corridor from our room and was passing through a fire door I heard someone coming out of a room behind us. Looking back I saw two young girls and their gran making their way down the corridor. I stopped and held the door for them. The gran said that it was OK and that I didn't need to hold the door while they were still a distance away but I said that it was fine.

After they'd reached the door I carried on and heard the gran say to one of the girls "Yes, she was nice for holding the door." Although I hadn't heard what the little one had said it made my day to think that I'd passed the young child test.

Definitely good times :-)

Monday, 12 August 2013

Basking in sunshine



When I was younger and studying at polytechnic I joined the sub aqua club. Over the 3 years that I was studying I qualified as a British Sub Aqua Club sports diver.
At the time one of the requirements for gaining your sports diver qualification was to complete a number of open water dives.
The sub aqua club used to run two trips each year in addition to the odd day trip. Around April time we went up to Scotland and dived various locations around the Oban area. Mainly lochs but there was one quarry that had been opened to the sea which we used for dives down to 30 metres, the quarry was a good 80 metres deep but the limit for diving with air is 30.

In the summer we used to go to Cornwall for a week. Much warmer dives, better visibility (mostly) but I have done a dive where you couldn't see your hand in front of your face as a storm had kicked up the silt so much.

This morning I found a friend had posted a link to a video on YouTube of a whale being blown up. I wasn't overly interested in that but after clicking on a link to another video about a shark I spotted the video below and it reminded me of one of those Cornwall dive trips.


On the day in question we had a wreck dive planned. We'd tried to find the same wreck the previous year with no luck. On that occasion my buddy and I spent the entire dive swimming over featureless sand until we came across a cuttlefish that we played with to see if we could get a reaction out of it. We were totally ignored by it.

This time though we'd brought some sonar gear and planned to search the area where the wreck was supposed to be and see if we could find anything that stood out from the seabed before dropping divers.

When we arrived a couple of us wandered up onto the headland to have a look at the area where the we were going to be diving. As we stood looking out over the sea two black triangles emerged from the water and cut through the sea.

For the first time in my life I was looking at a shark fin in open water. A shark fin in water that I was soon going to be dropping into!

During the summer Cornwall is home to a number of Basking sharks because of the warm temperatures and abundant food supply. They are harmless creatures though.

We watched as this shark swam along for a few minutes before we headed back to get ready to dive.

With wetsuit on and all my kit in the dive boat we headed out to the dive area. Searching the area we finally spotted something on the sonar that was jutting up from the seabed. This had to be worth taking a look at because whatever it was seemed to be about 2 metres in height and the area we were in was pancake flat otherwise.

Dropping into the depth my buddy and I descended to the seabed and found ourselves faced with one of the boilers that was all that was left of the wreck we were searching for. Finally we'd found it.

We spent our dive examining what was left before it was time to return to the surface.

As we started to ascend, my legs kicked something. Kicked something! We were well off the seabed so it couldn't be that. With a sense of horror my mind returned to standing on the headland and watching the shark. OMG, it must be down here with us and I've just kicked it as it swam past beneath us.

Dreading what I'd see I looked down.

There it was. A huge, grey cylindrical object. Absolutely massive. The terror of the deep.

I stared down at the ship' boiler. Arghhh!

As we'd started going up we must have drifted towards the boiler and as we'd gotten high enough I'd kicked the top of it. Phew! Thankfully not the shark although part of me wished it had been as that would certainly have been something to see.

And see a Basking shark someone did.

Later on that afternoon two of our divers went out to a different area. While they were down our friend the Basking shark decided to make an appearance. Popping to the surface it circle the dive boat. The boat's driver came excitedly on the radio to tell us what was happening. There he was watching this shark slowly circling around the boat.

10 minutes later he came back on the radio. This time the excitement was gone, replaced by worry. The distraction with the shark meant that he'd lost sight of the two divers. He'd had a quick look but couldn't see the marker buoy that would show their location. We told him to do a search and get back to us. We knew that if he didn't find them that we'd have to contact the coast guard and get them out to search for our missing divers.
On land we waited and waited while he was combing the area where he'd last seen the divers.
Finally after half an hour, and at the point we were ready to call the coast guard, he came back on the radio, he'd found two unhappy divers and picked them back up.
It seemed that both divers had returned to the surface just after he'd seen the shark. The currents had caused them to move away from the boat's location. Unable to see the boat and with no response to their calls all they could do was make sure that their buoyancy aids were fully inflated and wait it out. Unfortunately that meant that they had to do something with the large amounts of lead weight that they were carrying. For one of the guys this was no problem as he was using a club weight belt. For the other chap it meant that he had to ditch the nice new lead shot weight belt that he'd bought. He wasn't happy.

We all had every sympathy for him but it did teach us all a lesson about not getting distracted even if the distraction is a once in a lifetime thing.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Give me a sign

As you're aware if you've been following my blog for a while I'm a Christian. I spent some time before I transitioned teaching Sunday school at our church and was also a Street Pastor.

I originally came to my faith when I was in my mid teens as a result of attending church parade with our scout troop and then starting to go to the same church every week.

At the same time though I also had an interest in the paranormal and occult, purely from the point of reading up about the subject and not from any active participation in anything.

As I got older my interests moved on to other things and not just make-up and girls fashion :-)

My interest in the paranormal has always been there though and just over 15 years ago I took a tarot reading course and had a couple of readings by the lady that ran the course.

About a month ago I was in a local shop and saw an advert for someone that does a variety of things including Reiki healing, belly dancing classes and also tarot readings.

Over the last week I've been thinking about having a tarot reading and this morning I looked up the details for the lady who I saw advertised. What really stood out for me on her website was that she mentioned transsexualism. I don't believe that she herself is transsexual but she must know one or more.

Now a few of my friends at church would disapprove of me getting involved with tarot readings because they would see it as dabbling with the occult. At least they would have disapproved if they knew I was planning to have, or had had, a reading done.

As I walked to work this morning I'd decided that I was going to contact the lady in question and arrange to have a reading. That's when things got interesting.

Just as I was crossing the road near to work I could see a woman walking towards me. As I looked I realised it was my friend JH from church. I've not seen her for a while so it was good to stop and chat, even if only briefly.  She told me that she's been going to different churches in the area because of the Street Pastors.
"Oh, are you doing Street Pastors now" I asked.
"No I've taken over as coordinator".

Well that was the first I'd heard of that so I was a bit surprised. I know that the old coordinator hadn't been well but hadn't heard that she'd stepped down. We chatted for a few minutes before saying our goodbyes. One of the last things that JH said to me was that she hoped they'd see me back with Street Pastors at some point in the future.

Now I've heard of people going through stressful or troubling times and praying to God for a sign. I've also heard of people that have resisted becoming Christian beside lots of things hinting to them that they should. Nicky Gumble, one of the main figures behind the Alpha course, is a good example of someone who had lots of hints before finally acting on them.

As for me I've never really had something like that happen. Until today.

Now OK I know that in all likelihood it was just a coincidence that I bumped into JH but, today? Just after I'd made the decision to arrange to have a tarot reading. Hmm.
Whether it was a coincidence or not I've decided not to bother with the reading. Was it the right decision, time will tell.


Monday, 5 August 2013

Running free

My new exercise regime continues!
I managed to get out for a run this morning, although it didn't quite go to plan.
Up early, 2 mugs of coffee later and I'm in my running gear. Pick up my Garmin GPS which I'd turned on so it can pick up satellite signals before I head out the door so that I'm not standing around like a lemon while it does that outside.
Go to put it on and it bleeps at me and tells me its got a low battery. Doh! I've not charged it since I did the Outlaw Half in June. Shows how much running I've done since then.
Only thing for it is to go without it and just use a normal watch.
Out the door and a minute or two into my run I realised that I'm still wearing the heart rate monitor strap under my top. Oh well, I'm not going back to the house to take it off.
30 minutes and about 3 miles later and I'm back home.
For once it was nice to simply get out there and run without worrying about how far, long or fast I'm going.

Its not running free but its how I feel when I get one of those runs where I feel like I could just run and run. Besides I loved the films and the books.


Sunday, 4 August 2013

Busy weekend

The family disappeared off to my sister-in-laws on Friday so I've had a quiet if busy weekend.
Yesterday morning I got up and headed the gym [Yes Cass I finally managed to drag myself down there].
20 minute walk there, half an hour mix of treadmill, cross-trainer, rower and weight machines, walk into town and then another 20 minute walk back home.

The rest of the weekend has been spent sanding down walls and ceilings, applying a coat of plaster and then today putting up lining paper so that I can finally finish decorating our spare room.
Tomorrow when I get back from work I plan on painting the ceiling and maybe even the woodwork.

Next weekend is going to be equally busy as I need to finish decorating and boxing in where I removed the built in cupboard and breeze blocks. Once all that has been done then I just need to put down some carpet and put a bed in there and I'll have finished a project that I started far too long ago.

I've not been in too much of a hurry to finish decorating the room because once it is finished then its not going to be too long before my other half asks me to move in there rather than us continuing to share a bed which is what we've been doing since I transitioned. It will be interesting to see what happens with our relationship at that point. As much as we are still married my moving into a separate room is going to mark a major change in our relationship and I'm not sure either of us really know what that relationship is going to look like.

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Transitioning at Work – What Worked, What Didn’t

Several weeks ago I wrote up what I thought has worked and what hadn't when I transitioned at work for our HR department, sort of a lessons learned. I don't think that there's anything confidential in the what I had to say. Today I was reading a post in a forum from someone who was asking what worked what didn't and what would have made things easier. 

Putting a 5 page document into a reply to the post seemed a bit excessive so I've put it here so I can link to it.  I've also removed names and locations. All of this is based on the fact that I live and work in the UK.

Preparing to Transition

What Worked

Knowing the right person to talk to

Although I know that HR have gone through the process of somebody transitioning before it was really useful having P here when I needed to initially discuss my transition. Having someone with the knowledge of people transitioning, the do’s and don’ts and legislation is important.
Having a point of contact who I felt really comfortable discussing things with was key to making things work.

Company Information

At the time that I was preparing to transition there was no company transgender policy. At the moment there is a fledgling policy that is being developed.
Although we have an LGBT network, and also the Diversity and Inclusion website and team, at the time I don’t believe that these were available or in a position to be of real help in working out what needed to be done so that my transition was as smooth as it was.
Our transgender network did not exist at the time either.
The fact that the LGBT and transgender networks now exist means that there are people to contact and also sources of information to help others that may be transitioning.

Planning to transition

Having set a date for transition working out a plan that covered everything that needed to be done and whether it was by the company or by me was useful. Working out what needed to be done and then going over it did allow us to cover all of the important things like personal records, pensions and salary, computer accounts and security clearance. It also highlighted issues like use of changing, shower and toilet facilities.
The regular “catch-up” sessions were useful as a way of keeping the company and myself aware of what was happening. In the run up to my transition date having these on a regular basis was important. Post transition the meetings have been useful as a way to update the company on anything that they should be aware of with regards to my transition and any impact it might have on work. I can see this being important in the run up to my gender reassignment surgery.
Having a specific point of contact within the HR team who was dealing with my transition was extremely useful; especially with it being someone I felt comfortable discussing things with and had known for a long time. It also meant one person knew what was happening with anyone else knowing just the information that they needed.
Although we didn’t have one it would be good to have a checklist that identifies some of the things that need to be done and rough timescales at which they should occur. For example if the person transitioning is going to take some leave before returning to work then notification of a change to computer accounts can be submitted the day that they go on leave or within a day or two of that happening.

Telling the team

Having a prepared letter to be read out at the meeting where my immediate team were told what was happening was good as it meant that firstly I didn’t need to be at the meeting and could finish work early so that people would have time to digest the news and I didn’t have to spend the rest of the day dealing with people’s immediate reactions.
It also meant that the news could be gotten across in the best possible way without someone having to come up with something to say at the time of the meeting.
Although it would have been possible to be in the meeting it was probably better to not be as it allowed people to react to the news without worrying about how I would react to their reactions.

Telling everyone else

Sending out an email to everyone was the easiest way to deal with the issue, especially in light of the fact that I know people at two of our offices. Sending the email to those people that need to know is important which does mean that with all of the secondments that are happening then with people who will come back on site at the end of a secondment need to be aware of the situation in order to avoid awkward moments or them finding out second hand.

Telling the customer

It was left to project management to inform the customer and for them to pass the information onto only those people that needed to know. This included the engineers that I was dealing with as well as their IT departments in order to get my user accounts on their systems updated.

Dress code

One of the biggest expenses when transitioning is to buy a new wardrobe of clothing, unless you’ve been building one up over time and have something suitable for wearing to work.
For me the dress code was really useful as it took a lot of guesswork out of putting together a wardrobe of work clothes because I knew what the company deemed suitable for work and so could make sure that what I wore complied with that.

Meeting up with boss before returning to work

The week before I returned to work I met up with one of my bosses to touch base and also to get a second opinion on what I was planning to wear when I returned to work. It also gave me the chance to discuss people’s reactions to the news of my transition and also to go over any last minute details of my return to work, things like what time I would be arriving at work and whether I wanted someone to meet me at reception. This was really useful as returning to work in such a different way is always going to be stressful and so anything that makes walking through the door for the first time easier is good.

Time of for appointments

Since I’ve transitioned I’ve had appointments roughly every 6 weeks to see my counsellor at the gender clinic and every 3 months to see my doctor there. In addition to this I’ve had appointments with a speech therapist every month or so. The projects I’ve been on have been good about me taking time off and I’ve not had to rearrange any because it didn’t fit in with project deadlines. Some of the time I’ve had off has been taken from my annual leave, the remainder has been take either as time off in lieu which has been built up with the projects knowledge while working towards deadlines or has been built up by working my hours up during the week.

What Didn’t

Misplaced trust

I made the mistake of telling someone that I thought I could trust about my plans. This was well before I'd even talked to HR. I found out subsequently that they had told several other people that I was planning gender reassignment. As a result both HR and also one of my bosses ended up with people asking them if it was true. In the former case they denied any knowledge which they would have to do on the basis of staff confidentiality and in the latter case because they honestly didn't know at that time.
Of course nobody actually came and asked me directly.
The fact that HR and I were trying to keep everything under wraps so that we had control of what was happening and when seemed to work despite a number of people either knowing or suspecting. I know that was the case because of the number of people that were surprised by the news.


Post Transition

What Worked

Working at other sites

Although I usually work from one of our offices I have had to travel to and work at one of our other sites. Quite a few of the staff there knew me from pre-transition. Like my normal base of operations there was no fuss when I turned up there to work. The atmosphere there is different to my normal office so it was good to have the change.
Staying in a hotel and living in a town where people didn’t know me was a really good experience as it gave me the chance to see how I faired in a place where I had no history that people knew.
The staff at the hotel were brilliant, very friendly and helpful.
The obvious difference between working at the the two sites, and in fact would be more so if visiting other company sites or even customer sites where you weren’t known as the gender you presented would be the issue of toilet facilities.
At my normal office we agreed that I would either use either the disabled or single occupant facilities. At the other office there are only disabled and ladies or gents facilities. After discussion with the office manager it was agreed that I’d use whichever I was comfortable with, disabled or ladies. In the end like the rest of the women there I made use of both facilities depending on which was closest.
If working or visiting another site (company or customer) then looking for disabled facilities could raise eyebrows so making the obvious solution to this is to use the ladies facilities unless there are obviously unisex facilities available.

Working with past colleagues/customers

While working at the other office I had to deal with someone that I used to work closely with on a past project. As they would not have known about my situation I decided to contact them. I could have left project management deal with this but decided that it would be better to contact them myself. One simple email later and things were sorted.

What Didn’t

Working with the customer – the phone voice issue

The biggest problem I have after transitioning is my voice, particularly on the phone. On one occasion I had a phone call from a customer engineers about a problem report I’d written. He asked for me by name, we talked through the issue and that was the end of the conversation. A short while later an update to the problem report came through with the phrase “spoke with Jenna and he…” To be honest it was actually quite funny seeing that and a “Doh!” moment but did highlight the fact that voice is really important with jobs like our where we have to communicate with people where we can’t give them any visual clues as to gender.


Conclusion

My transition has been fairly good. In part I put that down to the time that was taken to plan what had to be done and when before I transitioned. However, my transition being so uneventful has to be done to the fact that I work with a lot of intelligent and friendly people who, for the majority, I’ve known for a number of years.
There are a number of things that I think would be useful both for someone that is planning on transitioning and also for HR departments that are supporting that person.
  • A Transgender Policy
  • Awareness of LGBT and transgender networks if the company has these
  • A checklist covering things that anyone transitioning within the company would need to sort out or have sorted out by HR. E.g. pensions, security clearance, payroll, tax office.
  • Perhaps an informal guide to transitioning at the company could be produced that covers all of these things.




Thursday, 1 August 2013

Boycotts

The other day one of the gay venues in one of the nearby cities (Bristol for anyone in the UK) announced on their Facebook page that they were going to stop selling Russian made vodka, instead they were going to only sell a brand that was owned and made in the UK. The explained it was in protest at the Russian governments treatment of gays. I'm not a big vodka drinker so something like this wouldn't be a hardship for me.

Jenny posted about this and quite rightly raised the issue of the Greek governments treatment of transgendered individuals, strangely we haven't seen a call to boycott products from there.

The other day I was in Exeter for my latest laser and counselling sessions. As I had some time to spare I popped into Waterstones bookshop for a browse. As I was looking at the science fiction section I noticed that two new books had been released as prequels to one of my favourite series of books. On the front of both was a "Now a major motion picture" sticker. Awesome I thought. Must check it out when I get home.

Youtube came up trumps and I found the trailer for it.



The movie looks really good and Ben Kingsley and Harrison Ford are pretty near perfectly cast in their roles.
Yesterday I mentioned it to a colleague who then hinted at the books author, Orson Scott Card's, attitude to gays and lesbians.
Off to Google and wow there really was a lot of comment about his views and also suggesting that the film be boycotted. Lionsgate who are behind the film even released a statement distancing themselves from his views.

I can see where people are coming from with regards to his views, which he is entitled to as is everyone else. What amazed me though was the fact that nobody seems to have picked up on the fact that the film is about children who are turned into soldiers to fight to protect the Earth from an alien threat. Considering the news reports and documentaries over the last few years about children who are turned into soldiers to fight in the wars and other violent struggles that have occurred in Africa I would have thought that if you wanted to boycott the film for a reason then it would be because of that reason, or maybe rather than boycotting it go along and watch it then use the film to highlight how wrong it is to take innocent, young children and turn them into killers.

I'm torn by whether to go and see the movie or not. I loved the books and from the trailer it looks impressive, Ben Kingsley is also one of my favorite actors. Do I want some of my cash going to someone who has expressed anti-gay views and who supports those that would take away the rights of LGBT folk? Not really but I also want to go and see how one of my favorite books has been translated to the big screen.

I suspect at the end of the day that I'll still go and see the movie. OSC will have already received what money he's going to get for the film rights to his book already I suspect. All that boycotting the film is likely to do is to affect the film studio that made it and possibly even the people that work for them. If they aren't anti-gay then is it really fair to them?

If people really want to boycott something to do with OSC then it would be better to encourage people to stop buying his books so that any money that he makes from them which might be going to support anti-gay organizations isn't available for him to donate.

The really silly thing about this though is that if you are going to start boycotting writers, singers or any other artist because of their views then you are going to have to start researching their views on various subjects before you purchase anything that they produce. Which does mean that the wonderful experience of wandering into a book store or record shop, finding something interesting and buying it on impulse is going to stop happening because you'll have to do a quick search to make sure that the author or artist does not have any views that you find offensive.

Life is far too short for that.