Trans in Lockdown: We Will Always Be There For You

Mental Health, Transgender, Wendy Cole

By Wendy Cole

don't give up. You are not alone, you matter signage on metal fence

“I woke. Something was wrong. Something was seriously wrong. Where was she? Where was Wendy? With all the movements of the wrong body, I made it to the bathroom and looked into the mirror. The face was virtually unrecognisable. Slightly bearded; tired, woeful eyes and … unarguably … male.”

For this blog, I start at the end; showing that despite the events, this does have a happy ending.

…due to the support from my friends, I was able to walk confidently into town, my head held high, looking directly into the eyes of those would-be detractors. I was delighted to be greeted by an older lady on my way there, and a cis-gendered male on my way home. They both surprised me, wishing me – a trans lady – a happy day.

I am Miss Sassy again.

Yet trying to write this blog, a callously blank page stares back. As I take up my pen, all those thoughts, feelings, images swirl into turmoil like the very Hellespont. Though Byron swam across that whirlpool, I found myself drowning; overcome by these thoughts.

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It was cast to me, the lifeline; and against all odds, I grasped at it. (The lifeline was the notes I had been creating for this blog). These notes were the remarks of my friends. By their strength, it assuaged all panic attacks and freed me to write.

25th August 2020; 5:00 a.m.

I woke. Something was wrong. Something was seriously wrong. Where was she? Where was Wendy? With all the movements of the wrong body, I made it to the bathroom and looked into the mirror. The face was virtually unrecognisable. Slightly bearded; tired, woeful eyes and … unarguably …

Male.

“What I do remember, apart from the constant need to cry, was that none of my body was mine. So difficult to explain.”

I did not even notice the slight but noticeable scratch across my temples, nor feel the slightly-pained contusion until much later.

I sat back onto the bed; in tears. I was distraught. Where is she? Where is Wendy? Why do I not feel her anymore? How do I get her back?

Well, that is it. I am male and male for the rest of my life.

Though I dressed, I felt so uncomfortable and odd. I have very few clothes that people would describe as male. I did not go in search of them; partially, in the state I was in, I had no idea where they were; partially, maybe, to bring Wendy back.

man hugging his knee statue

I could not shave; I could not apply make-up (an art that I greatly enjoyed and a moment of blissful mindfulness to centre myself each day).

I honestly have little to no recollection of that day (just that I was rarely sleeping) or the entire seven days to come; nor how I had hit my head.

It is scientifically formulated that we know just one third of the ocean (that is the great majority of this planet). By comparison, we know and think we understand only a tiny fraction of the brain, the human mind.
The most likely reason that I remember very little is the brain protecting me. Until I re-read the comments from my friends, I truly feared writing this blog and reliving that week of hell would expose me to endless panic attacks.

What I do remember, apart from the constant need to cry, was that none of my body was mine. So difficult to explain.

Imagine you had decided to spend a long time moving in only robotic actions. Once you stop after a long period you might notice that even a tiny movement feels to you alien, robotic still. So it was with me; except each movement deplored me by its maleness.

Check out Poetry this month by the incredible Zelly Lisanework

I cannot explain why, but I reached out (not something I do when in the darkness of depression) to my friends via Social Media (again, something I do not greatly use).
“Two nights no sleep, and I do NOT feel Wendy any more.”
This was my first message.

M.: “What’s wrong? Are you okay?”
“No, I am okay. All I feel is male. It’s horrible.”
R.G.: “I’m sorry it’s hitting you so hard. Dysphoria is a horrible thing … you are just as valid a woman as any other, and I see you as such. We’re here for you x.”

That was as if R.G. had located and pressed my reset button. I had no idea I was suffering dysphoria. Yes, I have experienced it before; never like this; never an entire week!

When you are in the forest, you just cannot see it for the trees. R.G. does not realise how indebted I am to him for making me realise what I was suffering. It may have taken me an entire week for my brain to re-boot and go through its virus scan, checking all systems, but where would I be now if he had not intervened and pressed that switch?

All I know is that, at some time that week, I very nearly put all my clothes in the fire.

What is dysphoria? M. “…everybody has different stories, different feelings, but we are still ourselves. … my will power knows that I cannot do this, because I realise I am more feminine than I realise…”

“Thank-you all … as you said, gender dysphoria and allowing that to sink in, I … am feeling more secure. Cannot say I feel exactly female, but less male … grateful you are there to help. Feel kind of foolish.”

Foolish, or not, this is the raison d’être of this blog. In lockdown, as you know, I had recently gone through the first anniversary of my father’s death. To recall him is to recall me: a boy. Recently, I unconsciously had my gender bombarded by hate crimes. Lockdown had caused me to consciously face these on my own. Wendy fled for safety.

R.H. “…days where I wake up feeling like my assigned birth gender… Being uncomfortable in that thought is dysphoria … means I am trans which means I am valid … we don’t realise how big of a knock-on effect to our mental health … until it’s too late … we subconsciously know it will hurt us and do it anyway, which is a form of self-harm. You have not failed by accidentally triggering yourself … it can take a long time to unpick that stuff so we can look after ourselves … Well done on reaching out …”

Wendy Cole spent four years in banking, thirteen years as a teacher and seven as a deputy head, before working for the government, but the real her is a poet, photographer, historian and chef. Kylie, Daniel Craig and Wendy have the same thing in common … they were born in the same year!

Read all Of Wendy’s Trans in Lockdown posts

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Sometimes I Look for the Love of My Life When I Pee … Illustrations by Odara Rumbol

Inspirational, motivational illustrations that make it just a little bit easier to be a woman.

Trans in Lockdown: Is Life Still Going On?

Covid-19, Gender, Transgender, Wendy Cole

By Wendy Cole

“Gender dysphoria alert! Childhood equated to me: a boy. Yet, how can that be true?  I am a woman; those memories should be of a girl. What had gone wrong? What would my father think if he knew? Was I dishonouring my father by not being the son he knew? The truth of the past jarred and fought the truth of today.”

Had 2020 pursued its correct course, I would have:

Continued attending Evolve Trans. (my local trans group) face-to-face;

Spent a week or more visiting my recently widowed mother;

Written a good deal more poetry to work out a whole host of thoughts and feelings;

Turned the image of my throne that I had created during therapy into a sculpture and completed designing the rest of the room wherein that throne ought to reside;

Took that first major step: my first appointment with the Gender Identity Clinic (G.I.C.)  in July. 

But, as probably everybody knows, the biggest nuclear explosion (the Covid pandemic) shattered the world. One minute I was trying my best to enjoy my birthday (Can I really say ‘enjoy’? I cannot. It sounds heartless; feels guilty; as this was the first without my father), and the next I was being told to take my laptop with me and work from home.Whilst other colleagues struggled with balancing laptops on knees and even ironing-boards, I had an extra room that I could use as my study.  I had often worked from home since November.

My father had died in May 2019, so Yuletide 2019 was unbearable; I couldn’t mix with the frivolity of Christmas shoppers. Thoughts of Father constantly sent me back to my childhood; that childhood I was a boy.  I could not reconcile that with the woman I now am. Due to gender dysphoria and depression I couldn’t face people, so I worked at home. So, for me, when the world was suddenly turned upside down and put on hold, little had changed.

Or so I thought.

Trans in lockdown? Like this devastating plague, isolation had also mutated. When I needed it, isolation was reassurance. A pulling up of the drawbridge and curling up in that throne (or bed, if I ever get round to drawing it); close my eyes tight and view the mental image of me: the woman I am: much much shorter; slight of frame and long raven hair.

Isolation is nuanced now. It is sometimes a reassurance; other times a torture of a multitude of thoughts.

In lockdown, May 2020 was the first year’s anniversary of my father’s death; June the anniversary of his interment.

My sister, and a number of friends and colleagues say that I over-think things. I analyse something from its obvious black and white state, and instead find anxiety from the multitude of shades I seem to create.  Between May and long past June, that analysis focused on memories of childhood with my now-lost father. Gender dysphoria alert! Childhood equated to me: a boy. Yet, how can that be true?  I am a woman; those memories should be of a girl. What had gone wrong? What would my father think if he knew? Was I dishonouring my father by not being the son he knew? The truth of the past jarred and fought the truth of today.

But, due to past therapies and bereavement counselling (that I was now able to pursue on the telephone – which, I feel, was actually better; I tended to have to really focus hard), I have illumined confidence to say that was the past. It is not my present. I do not need to allow it to become my future.

Easier said than done, but the experience of presenting myself as the true woman I am at home (yes, full make-up even in lock-down) and in town, is the constant beacon that I am me only as a woman; so much confidence; ability to speak out. The beacon has a stable foundation: it is what others (not me) have said to me. Some call me Miss Sassy. 

Sassy.

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But, isolation causes me to overthink. Watching “RuPaul’s Drag Race” makes me question: am I a male in drag? Oh, thank goodness and God bless Emily (Trans. Evolve) for her one-to-ones during lockdown. She put me straight (though I am still pan-romantic – there’s a joke there if you look for it, reader).  She emphasised that I  am a woman: clothes and make-up are skillfully placed to pass and not be noticed; not a panto-dame or drag.

Writing this, it is a year on from a hate crime that I experienced. And history repeats. Recently, in Tesco, I experienced it again. I was amazed at how resolute I was this time. (I wanted to ask sympathetically: “What is making you afraid?”). Sassy? No, now that incident gnaws away at me. Stepping outside, I am more anxious (though I know I will be great when I meet those who know me. Tesco staff call: “Hello, Wendy,” or “Are you making trouble again?” for example).

But I feel prevented from fully being me. It’s like in lockdown I – the real me – is locked away.  I cannot change my name, and the G.I.C. is on hold; that major step in becoming me is prevented. Also, nurture: to grow, I need to be around other women.

Check out Louise Clare Dalton’s performance of her poem, What They Told You

Finally, my mother. She does not know. My sister says not to tell, as mother is still frail over the death. I am a bad daughter as I do not telephone as much as I should. I am in tears after every banal chit-chat; forcing myself not to say what I need. And I totally despise myself for not being me. Horrible of me, I know, but I partially long for a second wave, so I cannot go home to mother. How can I endure even a single day in male drag? How can I say anything that is not real?

Not Sassy, but I am ‘sowing the ground’ of her realisation.  Recently, I suggested she watch ‘Glow up’; that I’d love to take a make-up course (she thinks it’s down to my theatre love). I told her I have dyed my hair red. We chatted briefly about “Sewing Bee” – though I couldn’t say how cute the male models were.

But it lays the groundwork.

The future is female.  

Wendy Cole spent four years in banking, thirteen years as a teacher and seven as a deputy head, before working for the government, but the real her is a poet, photographer, historian and chef. Kylie, Daniel Craig and Wendy have the same thing in common … they were born in the same year!

Read all Of Wendy’s Trans in Lockdown posts

Read more blogs by incredible LGBTQ+ Women Like Us.


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