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First adventures in binding

or forty years of being misgendered?

This may be a true thing, or it may not. Eventually the possibility had to come out into the light to be held up and prodded at. A secret kept so close and for so long and I just blurted it out to my psychiatrist at my last hospital appointment.

Did I need to say it at all? I think so. Years of therapy, years of anti-depressants have got me nowhere, certainly nowhere close to the happiness that is advertised as a ‘right’. My last/latest bout of depression seems to have just gone on and one, trying one tablet after another and getting nowhere fast. The way my local health authority is organised I had to refer myself to the ‘Healthy Minds’ service while waiting for chemical assistance from the local hospital psychiatric unit. I’m sure the staff at ‘Healthy Minds’ mean well but the practical constraints that they work under means that the most they can offer most people is 6 half hour sessions of CBT over the phone (over the phone!!) and if your score manages to fall below the threshold of likely self harm/suicide risk then they drop you as soon as they can.

In the run up to my gender revelation I had been so low that I considered suicide to be a rational option in my situation. The mystery man on the phone was telling me to keep busy, that depression thrived on inactivity … Oh, I’d never heard that before (sarcastic voice) … The telephone sessions weren’t even half an hour, the phone calls came from a noisy office where I could hear other staff gossiping and laughing in the background and the priority seemed to be completing the same list of question each time to assess your level of ‘risk’ (in the last two weeks how many times have you considered harming yourself? – not at all, several days, most days, every day) before going on to advice given by script.

Nothing was changing, nothing was going to change. It all just seemed like a box ticking exercise, the local authority showing that they were doing something. If I had an addiction they could put me on a program. If it was just low self-esteem they could offer 6 group sessions and the same for other single issue hang ups (all of these options assuming that I was also out of work and available any time). Only after you have gone through all the ‘beginner’ options with no progress is there a chance that something more tailored will be offered.

So. I was at the hospital thinking nothing was ever going to change, feeling like it didn’t matter what I said or did. I would just get better with time, or I wouldn’t.

It turned out that I saw the same psychiatrist as my previous appointment. This was new for me. They told me that they would be my psychiatrist until September 2017 (when, no doubt, the NHS would move them on). We talked. I don’t even remember thinking about it. I just made a comment that things were always worse for me in winter, that the turn of the year always reminded me of the feelings of wrongness that I’d had since being a child and how detached I was from this body of curves and fat. Suddenly it was easy to say it. To confess how every night I would go to sleep wishing I would wake up a boy, my daydreams had been full of make believe that a doctor would turn up and explain that a mistake had been made when I was born and that I wasn’t a girl. If I could wish hard enough, just wish hard enough and I would be changed. I confessed my extreme horror at puberty, not only because of the physical evidence of being female but because I clearly hadn’t wanted to be a boy hard enough for all my wishing to work.

They didn’t laugh at me. Can you believe that? They didn’t laugh. They took me seriously and asked me further questions. I was asked if I could wait to see the consultant. Of course I could. The consultant didn’t laugh at me. He also asked my questions and took me seriously. He explained the different options available to me (from therapy and staying as I am all the way up to full reassignment) … along with the warning about how long it will take to get seen at a Gender Identity Clinic.

I left feeling lighter and happier than I can remember. Giddy almost (if such a word could ever be used with me). Obviously I have a huge way to go but putting out there, starting to consider that my feelings may be real has provided more of a lift to my mood than any of the chemical supports I’ve tried over the decades. I know about all the bad things can come out of this if I take it all the way … or even any part of the way.

I don’t know how long all this will take or how I will end up. For now I have my first Underworks binders and the feeling of a permanent hug thanks to the extreme compression they give. And I have a secret weapon to help me through. My secret weapon is my husband who was neither angry or offended when I told him. My husband who only wants me to be happy and who I can only be thankful for.