Steph's Place

The Long, Long, Road of Despair.

By Madelaine Taylor


I knew when I was a child that I wasn’t what everyone thought I was.

I knew I wasn’t anything like what I was ‘supposed to be’. But in that, I’m sure I’m not alone. I’m not alone in struggling through life, trying to be the person that people expected. This is not something unique to me or even to trans people. There were times I wished I could be ‘normal, a cis man, loving football and rugby and going out with the lads, all of those things you see your friends doing.

There were other times I thought if I could be gay, that would be great. I have lots of gay friends; I love a few of them dearly. I even find men very sexy. But being gay is not who I am. I couldn’t be a man with a man; I couldn’t relate to a man in that way. And then there were the women I dated - I couldn’t be a man with them either. I mean, I tried, I did pretty 'manish' things with them - you know the stuff I mean.

But I was always thinking about how much I wanted to be them. I hated sex... No, that’s not quite true. I hated sex that involved anything below my waist. You would think, at this point, that it would be easy to connect the dots. But you have to understand; when I grew up, I did not know what trans was. Heck, I didn’t know what trans was until much, much later in life!

I was 36 years old and working in a bar. I got home at 3 am every night, made ‘dinner’ and turned my computer on to play a multiplayer online strategy game. I don’t remember its name, I had a castle, I had to trade and make alliances, it was not complex, and it was the other players that made it exciting and fun. At that time of night, I had the company of almost exclusively Americans. One of my ‘allies’ was a 17-year-old American girl.

We talked a lot, I don’t know why. I don’t know how we became so close. Then one day, out of the game, she told me that she was a man. She was transgender and starting the transition to become a he. I was astonished, overwhelmed, and wanted to support him to give him as much emotional support as I could from across the wide ocean.

Our relationship moved away from the game into messaging apps and, eventually, sadly, faded away as his life changed. I was so happy for him. And that was my first encounter with “transgender”. I realised in those discussions that I understood, I understood more than I thought I should have. Not about the process; I knew absolutely nothing about that, but about the feelings, the thoughts, the other life that played out in my head. That was when I started to explore my own thoughts and emotions and then realised.

I am trans.

I was forty-four when I finally came out, it was my birthday, and my best and dearest friend was visiting from France. We had drinks and food and were having a chat and a laugh, and I said... “I’m trans”, and he said, “Oh, well, that makes sense.”... See? That’s why I love my best friend. A month or so later, I told my sister and mam, and before I knew it, I was out in my social circle. Not at work, though; work was a whole different thing.
After I came out to my family, I went to my doctor and asked for a referral that would allow me to access healthcare through the NHS.

September 2018. In December, I received a letter saying my referral had been received and accepted. That was the first sign that this process might be long and difficult, it had taken two months and a bit to even acknowledge my referral. The letter I received told me the wait was long and, though they understood it wasn’t ideal, I should be assured that I was in the system and everything would be fine. There was a form to fill in should my details change and a plea not to ‘needlessly’ contact them by phone as this took up their limited and vital admin time.

In May 2019. After a trip to Paris, I took the step to transition full time socially. I changed my name and my gender marker on everything that would let me. I gave up my old life; I did not have any use for it anymore. It had held me back for forty-four years, and it was done.

And it wasn’t just an administrative change or a wardrobe change. Suddenly, I was more organised, more motivated, more creative, and a hell of a lot more house proud!

Those were things I hadn’t expected - not one bit. I ended up losing my job through disability, which brought on another bout of change and an ability to leave my old self firmly in the past.

In February 2020, I moved from my upstairs apartment to a downstairs apartment in an area closer to my family. This was a move partially influenced by my worsening mobility and partially by the violence and abuse surrounding me: smashed windows, harassment by gangs of youths, the usual things in a small town, conservative England. When I moved, I was forced to change GP, and I had no choice in which surgery I registered with. Only one took patients in my postcode. Everyone who lives near me uses the same surgery, which is another warning of how limited the NHS has become under the conservative govt.

At this time, I had almost saved enough money to make an appointment with 'Your GP', a third-party gender specialist based in Edinburgh. The plan was to make a move to joint care. 'Your GP' would help me to get my diagnosis, and my actual GP would maintain the treatment plan they prescribed.

This is common practice with many GP surgeries.

It is a solution to the ever-expanding waiting lists of the NHS gender clinics. The British Medical Council even recommends it. I know that my previous GP surgery is happy to make this work.

My current doctor, however, refuses.

Now, let me be clear here because I think it’s important. I have never met anyone at my new GP surgery. I have never been seen by them, not once. They have never discussed my health, my needs or my medication with me. Not once, not ever, not at all.

And yet they felt that they could safely ignore the British Medical Council's advice and refuse to help me, refuse even to discuss it with me.

And I tried.

I tried twice to reason with them, to plea for their help. I asked their parent group when the surgery refused to talk. And then, I contacted my MP and a journalist from the local newspaper. I gave an interview, I gave facts, I gave contact details for everyone involved and other people that had been through the same problems with the surgery. I hated making complaints, but everyday without news is so hard. Everyday, the waiting list for NHS treatment grows longer.

According to their website, I am as far away from the first appointment at the GIC then I was when I was referred.

I may never actually get to the point of treatment at the rate that things in England work. That isn’t hyperbole; it's a fact.

And it scares me.

It scares me because I’m in a void.

I have a GP that refuses to help, ignoring pleas, ignoring complaints, ignoring BMC advice. I’m disabled and unemployed, I cannot afford private healthcare, ongoing fees for blood tests and prescriptions. I certainly can’t afford the surgeries that I hope one day to access. I’m forty-six years old, forty-seven soon. Some people ask, and they don’t mean any harm if I managed for forty-some years, why do a few more years matter?

And all I can say is that those forty-some years were hell, I didn’t know why, but they were hell. Now I know why, now I know that the hell is unnecessary, I know that there are treatments, that there are ways to relieve my pain.

And I know that I am being denied the ways to ease my pain.

I am being denied because trans care through the NHS is outdated and highly underfunded. Because some GP’s are too scared to treat trans patients, and some GP’s are transphobic. I live in an England that is developing a worldwide reputation as being anti-trans. Trans women are being scapegoated and victimised by our press and our government. This year a trans woman has been granted asylum based on the worsening conditions here in England, and I worry for our future. In many ways, my life is better now, now that I am living as close as I can to my true self.

But in many ways, it is worse.

The silence is oppressive, the growing voices of hate are filling me with fear, and the refusal to listen to me, to any of us, is devastating.

Once I knew who I am, coming out was easy - my friends, my family, most of my colleagues were amazing, supportive and loving.

But my government hates me, my GP won’t treat me, and I’m stuck in a void of silent despair as I wait, the endless wait, for a GIC appointment.

The NHS is in a terrible state; its staff are overworked and under-appreciated, not to mention underpaid. But that doesn’t excuse the situation with GPs around the country refusing to help their patients.

There are provisions to enter joint care agreements or to prescribe low-level bridging hormones. Both of these things are advised by the BMC, but GP’s ignore them. There needs to be more awareness of trans issues and treatments; there needs to be some recourse when a GP refuses to help.

Those things could be done without restrictive cost and difficulty, but they are not being done. They aren’t even being discussed!

I don’t want to end on a sad note, though. I do have hope. These issues that we face today are the same issues that Gay and lesbian folk all met in the heavily oppressive 80’s and 90’s.

They still face prejudice and oppression, and they still need to fight.

And I believe we can do the same.

I’m filled with hope that there is a generation now that might be accepted, that might find the care and the treatment they need and deserve. I have hope that this new generation will be permitted to live their authentic lives.

But it is up to us, now, to force the discussions and to fight for that future. It is up to us to shine a light onto that long, dark road and light the way.

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