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ben's STORY

I was born on 11th August 1981, and named Lisa Maureen Whelan. I first realised that I was “in the wrong body” when I was about 5 or 6, or maybe earlier, I don't know. I just remember being at the toilet door when my cousin was going for a wee and he was doing it standing up, whereas I had to, for obvious reasons, sit down. On seeing this I wondered why I didn't have a little dangly thing to pee out of. I don't remember asking anybody this question but I do remember coming to the conclusion that maybe I will get one eventually (I'm still waiting, but now I know it's not going to just grow). I was always a tomboy, preferring to play with action figures, toy cars, football and Lego, rather than dolls which uncles and aunties insisted on giving me as birthday and Christmas presents.

 

Once I reached 12 years old, the years of my Nan and my Mum successfully getting me into dresses and skirts finally went out the window when I figured out I could say no, and it was jeans and trousers from then on. When puberty hit it was horrible. All of this stuff started happening that is completely natural for a girl of 12 or 13 to go through, but for me it wasn't right. As far as I was concerned I was a boy so therefore I was supposed to have a penis and a flat chest, not breasts and that red blob thing that always insisted on turning up once a month.

 

I finally came out about being Transgender when I was 23 to my counsellor after watching the previous weeks Sharon Osborne Show, when she had a female to male transgender person (F2M) as her final guest, who was talking about how he went through the process of first deciding he was a lesbian before finally coming out as Transgender. This was only after he had tried to overdose on prescription pills and painkillers. Luckily his Mum found him. I was sitting there watching and listening, and just thinking that was me because although I hadn't tried to kill myself, I was identifying with everything else that he said. For the next week I was nervous because this was huge to leave myself open like this to ridicule or to be dismissed as just being silly, the effects of which would have been crushing for the one person who I trusted above all others to be able to talk about anything with, but thankfully she didn't do that, she was brilliant, and she helped me by going on the internet with me and finding out about the whole process. It was funny because pretty much every keyword she typed in like ‘female to male Transsexual’ or ‘Transgender’ came up with results pages pretty much full of links to Transgender porn sites, but eventually we got there and she printed out loads of information for me to take home and read. She even sent a letter to my doctor on my behalf explaining the situation because I was so worried about sitting there and talking to the doctor about it. That night I sat at home and chose my new name which was quite fun. I was originally going to choose the name my Mum would have given me if I had been born a boy, which was Scott, but I decided I didn't like that. After some more thought I chose Ben because when I was a kid we had a dog called Benny, and he was like my big brother. He used to protect me if I was getting told off. He would stand in front of me facing my Mum and bark at her while she was shouting at me. I also chose the name Ben because one of my favourite songs is Ben by Michael Jackson. My middle name is Michael after him.

 

I remember the day that I went to the doctor I actually felt sick, but it was all ok because my doctor was then, and still is, brilliant. After that first meeting she went and sought advice from her colleagues on where to refer me. Eventually I got referred for assessment where I was seen by a psychiatrist who asked me lots of questions about how I was feeling. I then got referred for another assessment with another psychiatrist who asked me more questions along the same lines as the first psychiatrist, but she also gave me a bit of information about the process that I will have to go through, and that I will be made to “jump through hoops”. She then referred me to Leicester to see someone from the Gender Identity Clinic who told me to write what he called my life story, which was basically when I first started feeling like this and the impact it had on my life. This was for the panel who decide who is doing enough on their own to justify being given the funding for the process to be continued and then finished, i.e. coming out to family and friends, getting a job and living as your chosen gender for two years.

 

I went to Leicester two times before I was put on testosterone. A year before I started the testosterone I started having the pill injection once every three months to stop the “red blob” from turning up every month. This was a huge weight of my shoulders as it really got me down worrying about it every month. The pill injection, even though it wasn't testosterone, was still (as I saw it) the next best thing. I started on the testosterone injections, going to the Doctor once a month to be injected in the bum cheek. One month they would inject in the left and the next time in the right, and so forth. A week before each injection I would have a blood test to check hormone and glucose levels, liver function,  bone density, and a load of other stuff that I don't understand. The injections didn't do anything in the way of growth of body hair or deepening of voice but then again was only on 0.2 mg. T the only thing it did do was make me feel like I had a really bad cold for two or three days after each injection. The symptoms consisted of a sore throat, runny nose, skin sensitivity, and generally feeling really rough. Eventually I was I was being referred me to Warwick hospital to see an Endocrinologist (hormone doctor) because my Doctor was concerned my testosterone levels were too high. The Endocrinologist asked me questions about whether I had noticed any signs that the testosterone was working and then took a look at my blood test result. We then discussed the different forms that testosterone comes in: tablets (which sit in your stomach and dissolve slowly), injections (given in small doses), patches (which are good but when your skin gets wet or sweaty they fall off), and gel (which you rub in to your skin after applying water to the area first. It works well because it absorbs straight in to the skin with help of Ethanol and in to your blood stream). I chose the gel. I use it twice every day. A week after I started taking the Testogel I noticed hair growth on my belly, which is where I apply it, and my voice started to break. These were both momentously huge occasions. I am on two sachets containing 50mg of Testogel a day, I have blood tests every six months, and I have to see the Endocrinologist every six months where my blood pressure gets taken. I get weighed and sometimes they measure me, but I will always be 5 feet 2 inches tall.

 

Now I am 30 years old and I am still pre-op. I like showing off my belly hair because I am so proud of it. I love buying boxers and I am ‘out’ to all my friends and family. As far as my friends are concerned I am a man named Ben. They don't see me as Transgender, just a man. As far as my family goes, some of them can't get their heads around it so they insist on still calling me Lisa, but the rest are ok. I still go to see my Doctor to get assessed as the Gender Identity Clinic in Leicester was shut down due to loss of funding, followed by the Northampton clinic about a year later. They now want me to go to Charing Cross Hospital in London which is where they seem to be sending everyone now. As you may have worked out already, all of the Doctors will tend to poke and prod you, and ask endless questions, which is fair enough as they have to make sure you know what you’re doing and that it is the right thing for you. If you are going through the transition you should try not to let it get you down because it's a means to an end, and keeps you on the road towards your goal.

 

One other thing that I will mention is that some people (who are in a minority) can be really horrible, and will do and say things to get a reaction, whether it be through ignorance, boredom or because you are an easy target. Do not sink to their level and try to not let it get you down. They are bullies who either have their own insecurities or they are just scared of what they don't understand. Ignore them, pick yourself up and move on. If it gets serious enough then tell the police because Transphobia is a hate crime and the police do have powers to deal with it. In amongst the information I originally got from the internet back in 2004 there was a story about the first black man to ever play Major League Baseball. All of the other players would pick on him because he was black, and not just players from opposing teams. His own team mates would pick on him too, but not once did he rise to it. He didn't let them get to him. He just did what he was there to do which was play Baseball, and eventually the other players on all sides came to respect him because he didn't react. That is what I try to remember when I meet an idiot who wants to show off to his mates or whatever. I remember that baseball player.

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