Sunday, 8 October 2017

The reality of transition...


I started this blog over a year ago with the intention of helping other trans people by offering advice from someone who was going through this process. I also wanted to raise awareness of trans issues and help non trans people to better understand what people like me are all about. I thought this blog would be cathartic, and for a while it was but as my transition goes forwards I am finding life more and more difficult every day.

Don’t get me wrong it’s not all bad news, I have gained some wonderful friends and for that I’m eternally grateful but I’ve also lost so much. My Daughter, my Brother, (the other one barely acknowledges me) and pretty much most of my family. My Mum is totally on my side and supports me 100% and this is probably the only thing that keeps me going. My Dad passed 12 years ago and I don’t know if he would have understood or not but I hope that if he is out there somewhere he understands why I had to do this.

The general perception of what transition really is seems to be largely misunderstood. I’ve read so many forum posts and tweets etc. which go on and on about how trans people are all special princesses and need special treatment. That or we are attention seeking drag queens or cross dressers. According to some, transition means we rock up at the GP surgery, get referred straight away to a gender clinic and they arrange for us to go straight into hospital to have our dicks turned inside out. A bit of breast enhancement surgery and we’re all done. Well let me tell you how it really works.

The person suffering from Gender dysphoria fights to stay afloat for as long as they can in a body that feels totally alien to them. They cannot discuss this with anyone for fear of being rejected or even abused and beaten. Some 295 individuals were murdered last year alone just because they identified as transgender. Around 49% of us will attempt suicide while waiting to be seen by one of the 7 gender identity clinics in the UK. The average waiting time for referral to one of these clinics from your GP is between 12 months and 24 months. This is just to be seen so that you can tell them that you think you are transgender. No medical or psychological intervention takes place at this stage.

If the individual makes it to their first appointment they will then have to wait around 4 to 6 months to return for a second appointment with a clinical psychologist. This is necessary because in order to be diagnosed with gender dysphoria and subsequently transsexualism there has to be a second opinion.  At this point another 4 to 6 months passes and then the individual will be sent an appointment to discuss treatment. In the meantime 8 sessions of electrolysis or laser will be granted by the NHS to begin beard removal. In a normal male with testosterone as the dominant sex hormone these sessions won’t even scratch the surface. Put another 2 grand in and your face will be about half way to being clear of a beard.

Now we are starting to get somewhere. The next appointment will explain the process of prescribing Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT). The trans individual will be encouraged to be considering living full time in their preferred gender at this point and the clinic will discuss your plans to do this. Around 1 year after first being diagnosed with Gender dysphoria is the average time it takes to be granted HRT and for a treatment plan to be put in place. This medical treatment is a slow and frustrating one. In essence it is a second puberty. The trans person’s body will slowly change over a period of years and they will develop emotionally as well as physically. Everyone’s transition is different, some take two to three years to go through the physical changes and some take as long as 5 or 6. It depends on many factors such as age, response to HRT, wellness and so on.

It must be kept in mind that while all this medical intervention is going on, the individual has been living full time as a woman and this part is called social transition. This means getting used to living full time in the gender to which the individual aligns. This extends to work, social interaction and integration in all the ways that are necessary to be part of civilisation. This is the most difficult part of transition. The ridiculous waiting time to get any form of treatment is tough but there is the hope that your time will come, and some day that letter will drop through your mailbox and you will get help. Social transition is the hardest part because if like me you don’t pass as female, and many of us trans girls don’t, you have to endure the constant stares and rude comments wherever you go. This is mild compared to some places where just showing up at a certain place can get a trans person beaten to death or worse. Please don't think that trans men have it any easier. Trans men have to hide their breats during transition by tightly wrapping them close to their chest. This dangerous and sometimes fatal practice is called binding, the treatment will not reduce their breast tissue to an acceptable male level so they will often undergo a double mastectomy (surgical removal of both breasts). This is often referred to as 'top' surgery. This 'top' surgery in a trans female would involve breast augmentation if the individual so desires to have it done.

I am 18 months into my social transition and 14 months on HRT. I have a long way to go and every day gets tougher and tougher. I’m a strong person and it takes a lot to put me down but some days I feel that transition was the wrong thing to do. I often wonder what would have happened in my life if I’d kept my mouth shut, kept taking the anti-depressants and pushed forwards as best I could. Where would my daughter and I be? Would my childhood friends still be calling me up to go watch drag racing at the weekend or out for a curry with the boys? Would I still be getting calls to fix people’s cars. I also wonder what would have happened if I’d have turned my wheel and hit that truck. I wouldn’t be here to worry about it but how would my family explain to my daughter that her dad killed himself and probably took out some innocent truck driver too.

I feel that I’ve reached a junction, I need to take decisive action to stay alive. I have to focus on me for a while and get help to see me through the rest of this process. I hope I don’t lose any friends because of this, I’ve already lost enough, but if I don’t start looking after myself then I’m not going to be around to be anyone’s friend. I am editing this post a day after it was published. I hadn't been drinking when I wrote it and I don't regret any of the things I've said but I have had literally tons of messages from my friends wishing me well and giving me the strength to push forward. A few trans friends and even some that I've never met have commented on this post saying it gave comfort that they are not alone and they aren't doing anything wrong.

With this in mind I think I was wrong to say I am taking the blog down. I now see that it does help people and does serve a purpose, so I will continue. I won't however be committing to a time schedule for posts and I am going to throw away the list of post ideas I have. From now on posts will either reflect what is going on in our world or they will be off the cuff relating to events that are going on throughout my transition. I'm afraid I'm more of a spontanious writer than a structured one and as such my best work is done this way.

One final word to all the wonderful people who read this blog and contribute with kind comments and feedback, and to my Mum and all my friends and colleagues,

I love you all, more than words can ever say...

 Thanks for reading.

Amy Kate xx

Sunday, 1 October 2017

The power of make-up



Due to my complete inability to do make-up I had never planned to do a post about this subject. The reason for writing this is because last weekend I helped my dear friend Gail Spooner to create a make-up video for her website (www.mymakeupconcierge.com). We had such a fabulous day and I was joined in the chair by the lovely Laura-Ann Caryl Peters with the beautiful Emma Cooper taking the role of Director and executive producer. Laura and I had chosen different looks, with mine being inspired by one of my heroes, Pink from the video to U + Ur hand. Gail worked her magic creating smoky dramatic eyes and bold red lips topped off with false lashes and a dash of Amy Kate attitude. Laura had chosen a slightly more subtle look. The colours she picked really complimented her and she looked stunning. 





My friends will know that Audrey Hepburn is one of the women I admire the most, not only for her effortless beauty but for the strength of character she had and for her selfless humanitarian work even up to the end of her life. My favourite Audrey Hepburn quote goes like this;

“Make-up can only make you look pretty on the outside but it doesn't help if you’re ugly on the inside. Unless you eat the make-up.”

I love this quote and I was mindful of it not only because it adorns the wall of my humble abode but as I sat in the chair with Gail working hard to turn my face into something socially acceptable I realised just how powerful make-up really is. I have always scorned overly made-up women and possibly been a little mean although only in my own head, I don’t bully or berate people I detest that behaviour. Don’t get me wrong it wasn’t exactly an epiphany, I’m not stupid. I have watched endless YouTube videos about this technique and that all shot by some flawlessly beautiful young woman or teen and after viewing it I would attempt to recreate the look, almost always with the kind of result that is more disappointing than the outcome of the last presidential election. I believe though that the quote does have a point, you cannot make someone a beautiful person, but you can make them look beautiful. Another way to look at this if like me you are slightly more down to earth is that you can’t polish a turd, but you can roll it in glitter. So does real beauty all boil down to what kind of person you are? I hope so because as much as I now realise the confidence and self-worth that make-up can give a person, I would hate to think that we are all so shallow that we can’t be that person without it too.

So what’s my story with make-up? Well I never really dabbled in make-up during all those years trying to convince myself and others that I was happy being a guy. I rarely cross dressed let alone wore make-up. I didn’t see the point to be honest, I had nothing to prove. In fact the few times that I did cross dress it actually made me feel worse because I felt guilty which many cross dressers and trans people will be able to relate to. I also knew how it would make me feel and that I would eventually have to take it off and return to normality, kind of like Mr Ben but without the irritating theme tune. I may not have necessarily known I was transgender in my younger years but I knew my feminine side was far stronger than my male even back then; I didn’t need clothes or make-up to prove that.

I must confess that I envy women who are amazing at make-up and long to possess the same skills. I know Gail will do her best to teach me and I will be an eager student. I just don’t have the vocabulary let alone the ability to apply it. I read Cosmopolitan and I’m baffled by some of the articles on make-up products. Pore minimisers, I don’t know about you girls but I can keep loose change in my pores, contouring, highlighting, the list goes on. And then there’s the make-up counters in the department stores. Rows and rows of slightly orange but beautifully made up women asking me questions like “what is your moisturising regime?” Regime? Are we trying to look pretty or are we staging a coup? Is this about beauty or a military intervention? The thing is, as a trans woman I never had the opportunity to learn from my mother or sister about make-up as a youngster. My mum didn’t really wear make-up as a rule except weddings and funerals and even then the bare minimum. The first time I put on make-up on my own without any help was the first day I presented to the world as my true self, Amy Kate on May 5th 2016. I didn’t even practice the night before. I didn’t really see the point. I knew I’d be bad at it so practicing would only confirm that when morning came around, I was in serious trouble, so I just winged it the best I could. 

What I have learned since starting my transition fourteen months ago is that when I go out with minimal make-up, I get stared at a lot more and I see people making comments, I even hear them as they’re generally very indiscreet. “look that’s a bloke” or “there’s a tranny over there” are some of the ones I’ve overheard. It’s almost as though they feel that I owe it to them to make a huge effort to appear female or I don’t deserve to be taken seriously. This is in stark contrast to the events of last week when the four of us girls went out to our favourite brasserie Nonna’s for lunch after we finished filming. No one turned to look at us despite three of the four of us being transgender. We were politely addressed as ladies by the rather dishy young man who served us and I felt like a million dollars if I’m honest. After the girls had gone I even went to Asda to do my weekly shop and again none of the usual looks up and down and nudges to friends and partners to turn and stare at me. It’s sad that society can only accept me and people like me if we conform to the stereotype that women are expected to make an effort to be glamorous at all times or they cannot hope to be taken seriously.

So where do I go from here? Well I am very passionate about learning the mysterious ways of the make-up palette and knowing which brush is for my eyes and which is for my lips. I want to be good at make-up, in fact I want to be better than good, I want to be bloody amazing, and that will be one of my primary goals over the next year as I continue with my transition. Who knows, maybe this time next year I will be doing make-up tutorials on my YouTube channel like so many others do. I’d love to think that I could be that good and inspire and help others who are in the position that I find myself in. In the mean-time I will soldier on throwing stuff at my face and hoping for the best.

For a bit of fun I thought I’d share my current make-up routine with you. I think it would be nice to end this post with a little humour. After all, a smile or a laugh is perhaps the best way to look beautiful, on the inside, and out.



  1. Moisturise. I like to use ‘I can’t believe it’s not butter’ for this but if not available lard or margarine will do fine.
  2. Apply concealer. To fill the lines in my face and smooth out those blemishes I use tile grout or Polyfilla. I find a spatula is the most effective way to apply this but if not available a trowel will do the job
  3. Foundation. Two parts sand to one part cement and mix with water to create the perfect base. I buy in bulk to avoid running out. You can do this by purchasing a trade card from Travis Perkins or Wickes.
  4. Eyes. Try to use colours that will compliment your eyes. If you’re colour blind you are playing a dangerous game of Russian roulette here. Apply eye shadow with any instrument you see fit to use, but avoid sharp objects which may cause blindness.
  5. Mascara. Apply two thick coats of mascara to your lashes. If you are unfortunate enough not to have full lashes, collect as many spiders as you can from your home and remove the legs. Glue them to your eye lids with Pritt stick (other PVA based glue sticks are available) and discard the mutilated corpses of the spiders.
  6. Winged eye liner. This comes under the ‘advanced make-up techniques’ section. There are two basic styles for the winged eye liner look. Neat and symmetrical, or Amy Winehouse. The latter is the easier as the eyeliner can be applied with a child’s crayon.
  7. Blush. Applying blush is harder than it looks. Too much and you look like rag dolly Anna and too little and the effect is lost. If like me you are not proficient in the application of blusher simply get a friend or colleague to slap you around the face every five to ten minutes throughout the day to maintain that reddish glow. Remember to do both cheeks evenly.
  8. Lips. The secret to balanced make-up is this; Dramatic eyes, nude lips. Bold colour on the lips, go easy on the eyes. This tip can be completely avoided if you work in Boots behind the make-up counter. In this environment anything goes and usually does.
  9. Spray face with fixing spray. This is designed to keep your make-up looking fresh all day. There is no alternative product for the fixing spray. After seven hours in A&E I can confirm that ‘No More Nails’ spray adhesive is not a suitable alternative.

 Disclaimer: Don’t try this at home!



A special thank you to the deliciously beautiful Gail Spooner pictured here with me. Gail has just launched a gender neutral make-up concierge service which aims to make one to one make-up tutorials and advice possible in the comfort, anonymity and safety of your own home via Skype or Facetime. Gail has worked with women suffering from cancer for several years and during that time she has inspired confidence, sassiness and a little ‘this girl can’ attitude in so many women. Her aim is to do the same for the LGBTQ community and anyone else who may benefit from the confidence that make-up can bring. Take a look at her website - www.mymakeupconcierge.com

Thanks also to my gorgeous friend Emma Cooper for her technical work behind the camera and the stunning Laura-Ann Caryl Peters for her modelling prowess and for her infectious giggling which made us all laugh. The video is all the brainchild of Gail and is being edited as you read this and should be up on Gail’s site soon. I’ll keep you posted and maybe share it on my YouTube channel if it’s ok with her. Speaking of which, my plan is to create some vlogs over the next few months to run alongside the blog posts. Not sure what it’s all going to look like at the moment as it is all just ideas in my head but if any of you have a particular subject that you’d like me to do a vlog on, let me know.  

Twitter (@Amy_Kate_23)

Facebook (www.facebook.com/amykate.carter).

Thanks for reading.
Amy Kate xx.
























 


  

The reality of transition...

I started this blog over a year ago with the intention of helping other trans people by offering advice from someone who was going through ...