Search This Blog

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Transition Thoughts & Reflections - Debbie K

She is a talented writer and a talented artist.

There's emotion in nearly every word she writes and every picture she paints.

She never neglects to remind us of the love and respect she has for her parents.

She is Debbie K.

Now post-op, Debbie has been sharing her thoughts for some time in her blog,
Debbie K Being True To My HeART.

I've been following Debbie's blog for some time now. I often pop in not only to experience the emotion in her words but to relish in the absolutely beauty in her art.

Today, Debbie shares her story with us.

- Calie

Leap of Faith

As I approach my 50th birthday, reflecting on my journey, it feels like for the first time in my life I am finally being true to my heart.

I was born in the UK in the 1960’s, an only child with loving parents. I began seeing a gender specialist Dr Read & counselor in 1996 after many years of gender dysphoria. From an early age I knew something was wrong & that I felt I had been born in the wrong body. I had always suffered from low self esteem & a lack of confidence.

Puberty was a nightmare and confusing time for me. During my late teens to early twenties, in denial, I had tried occasional binge drinking to numb the pain. I avoided relationships of any kind for fear of anyone discovering my true self. Unknowingly I had found myself becoming more & more isolated. I became a workaholic to try to distract my GD. The times working away from home were the worst for me. Without my family & friends to focus on, my GD consumed me.

When the stress became too much for me to cope my doctor recommended finding a relaxing hobby & so I joined an art group. These creative friends allowed me to develop as a person in ways I never felt able to before. Sometimes I found it easier to express myself with a brush than the written word.

This painting is over 12 years old. It is child like & simplistic but captures for me what living with gender dysphoria can do to a loving family. The heartache & the joy. If you have personally experienced the tsunami like emotions GD brings to our lives it may not need any explanation. My heart goes out to each & every one of you.

For those who are perplexed at this surreal scene I will try to explain the emotions that went into its creation:

It was painted at a time when I had gone back to painting for the first time since I left school. A time of great change & wondrous emotions as the glorious effects of hormones coursing through my body turned my world of drab feelings into vivid Technicolor dreams. A time when I finally had the courage to share my condition with my beloved family.

The right hand side is quite dark & represents confusion, denial & turbulent life changes. The rocks represent our little family, Mum, Dad & me. They came to me through memories of the "Three Sisters" rock formations I had seen a few months previous during a trip to the Blue Mountains just outside Sydney Australia. A far off land that seemed a million miles away, just like my journey would seem. The rocks show a single tear forming on each of them to represent the many tears we would (have) share on the journey. The burning flames represent us never being able to return to our previous life. The heavy price of disclosure, that I felt I had so selfishly handed to my family. The nightmarish "Scream" figure is based on the Munche painting & needs little explanation. The lightning strikes represent the pain GD brings.

The cartoon stork represents my rebirth, as it flies off into the distance to deliver a new born child. Quite where it would end up was a mystery to me.

The left hand side represents the incredible feelings I experienced. The star represents the beautiful uplifting emotions that I felt at finally beginning my long journey, which may be referred to as transition. I simply could not live without the magic that those hormones brought to me. I felt more alive than ever before. I felt things so much more deeply. The highs & the lows. I was just so lucky to be able to have them.

The girl represents a dream like, romantic fantasy figure, full of great emotions. I so wanted her to be me. One day, please God make her me. She was setting off on a great journey that was both exciting but also tinged with some sadness at the passing of a dear friend. He had been a life long friend & would never ever be forgotten. She has thrown a rose covered wreath into the raging sea for her lost friend.

That friend was me. There is a ghost like image of a drowning man waving to her as he slips beneath the waves. That figure haunted me, bless him. He led an invisible life. Like a stranger always playing my part. No one could see the real person trapped in his soul, until now. Thank God.

When I painted this all those years ago I hoped I could find peace, a life without dysphoria but had no idea what was ahead.

My doctor had agreed to provide joint care with a gender specialist initially funded by the NHS for the first year & subsequently funded by myself, to oversee my hormone therapy & progress.

When I had finally told my elderly parents that I had been diagnosed with Gender Dysphoria & wanted to transition, they asked me not to go ahead while they were alive. The last thing I wanted to do was to hurt my loved ones. In truth I now appreciate although my loved ones pleaded with me not to transition I was simply not ready or needing to transition at that time.

There was so little information about transsexuals available in those days. I did not have access to the internet then. There were only sensationalist hate filled transphobic stories from the media. Although I wanted to, I did not know how anyone so lacking in confidence could ever transition.

My elderly parents were from a bygone age. They were afraid I would lose all my friends, my job & that I would have to move away to start all over again. Their fears became mine but I was eventually to find out, without your health you have nothing.

I tried to find a balance between my families wishes/ needs & my own. A compromised existence; living as androgynously as my confidence allowed during my daily routine, while in the confines of my own home, in role as Debbie. The hormones felt so right for me. I could not imagine living without them. The effect on my emotions seemed far greater than the physical changes to my body. Subconsciously I was probably hoping the hormones would eventually out me.

The dual role existence gradually began to cause even more conflict. I continued with counseling as bottling my feelings up again, without an outlet was not an option. Foolishly although continuing with prescribed hormones as I became stuck in stasis with nothing seeming to be changing, I stopped seeing the gender specialist regularly to have my progress & hormone levels monitored. The combination of antidepressants & hormones may have reacted to add slightly to my health problems.

Eventually after living a lie for ten more years, a combination of ever increasing dysphoria, work related stress, victimization & depression caused me to suffer panic attacks & a complete breakdown. This resulted in me having to give up my career of 29 years on health grounds. Having been so ill for so long my doctor advised me it may take some time to get well. He also told me not to seek further help from a gender specialist until I could give myself the best chance of a firm foundation on which I may finally be able to make the necessary changes to my life & transition. During this healing process I finally got access to the internet in my home & was able to find out a whole wealth of useful information.

When I was finally allowed to seek care from a gender specialist Dr Curtis in London, in 2006, I discovered the answer to my eternal dilemma of “why or how do some people find themselves needing to transition”.

I broke down in tears during the appointment. At this point he explained he had come across a small number of transsexual patients who perhaps with low self esteem, had chosen to sacrifice their lives for their loved ones. He also suggested it may help for me to find like minded friends who may be experiencing similar challenges in their lives. How prophetic his words were.

These wise words initially broke me. When I got home that night for the first time in my life I found myself coldly & calmly planning my own suicide. Thankfully I was not alone that night. I really did have Angels for friends. Life is so precious. His advice about finding friends who understood what it was like to experience GD was to transform my life. The empathy & kindness of those new friends I made at this halcyon stage in my life is something I will never ever forget.

I joined a support group called UK Angels & was blessed to find some wonderful supportive friends. Gradually I began little steps forward. Facing those fears I had & growing with each challenge faced. Critically they were undertaken at a pace that was right for me & my loved ones. It was time for my life to blossom. I began pushing my boundaries more & more. I had always known of my condition but I was unsure if I could actually live the life I so longed for.

Inspired by kind hearted friends from all over the world, at which point I have to say a huge thank you to Lori D, I was able to discover I had a spirit inside me I never dreamed possible.

We can be thousands of miles apart. Yet so close. We are all unique but perhaps share that time where we feel so isolated & alone, our wings caked in the oil that is our GD. Yet we have sisters, some so close in the same town or far away in another country, whose empathy helps us survive, to find the path that is right for us. We share the same tears. The love of those kindred spirits; keep us going, & share a place in our hearts.

There came a point in time when I finally felt ready to transition that for me really did feel like a leap of faith. Did my bell go off; did my own realization of mortality push me into being a late onset transitioner? I am not sure I will ever know.

Coming out to family & friends went incredibly well. I had no idea how they would react. I only have a very small family. With the support of my best friend we went along to let my friends know. I wrote everyone a personal letter to take with me in case I became too emotional & also to give them a chance to digest my news afterwards. It was a huge thing for me & my family but none of our fears happened! It was not an issue. Most were just relieved it was not something terminal as I had lost so much weight due to the stress of it all. Most were great, it seemed to be my male friends I had known since school who found it the hardest to take & although initially supportive, they perhaps understandably found it unable to maintain the friendship.

Having had FFS with Mr Dussen in Belgium over 2 years ago I have been living full time in role ever since. The change in my self esteem was almost immediate. I had my GRS through the NHS, with Mr Thomas, at the Nuffield Hospital during 2009.

You certainly find out who your true friends are on this journey. You may perhaps have to consider what you may lose if you find yourself needing to transition but for me there seemed no choice. I certainly have no regrets other than having to hurt the people I loved most in this world. Our love found a way. The rewards have been life affirming.

The mental anguish before transition was far greater & harder to deal with. The physical pain from the surgeries I have had was fortunately minimal & my care first class, for which I am eternally grateful.

It is not all perfect but it’s certainly much better. It is not a magic cure all for all my insecurities. There is some difficulty in being able to move on or let go of my past. I cannot & do not chose to deny my past but still feel slight dysphoric jarring at times as small parts of society will not let me forget or my body reminds me. Times have certainly thankfully changed from my parents perceptions & even in my life time but that’s sadly not true of everywhere.

Transition comes at a price. All of the procedures are expensive. Hair removal for example takes a very long course of treatment & is something with hindsight I wish I had began earlier in life where ever I thought my life may take me. Facial feminization surgery for me was something I found so important. The gender surgery bought a sense of completion, affirmation & authenticity. It proved to be a very spiritual experience for me.

It is only us who can decide what is right for us; what & how we achieve the changes we feel we need to make to our lives. No ones path is right or wrong, their T bigger or better. We are all unique, we are people not labels. Perhaps some things can only be seen with your heart?

Financially I have never been poorer but my life has never been richer.

Yesterday my dear elderly Mum who once had been so opposed to me transitioning, who mourned the son she understandably believed she had, went shopping with me & kindly gave me a beautiful ring as a birthday present, a token of my parents love for their daughter. A magical memory, I never dreamed possible. Miracles can happen.

Where ever your journey takes you I hope you can navigate a path through any dysphoric seas that’s right for you & your loved ones.

May there always be hope in your heart.



  1. @Debbie:
    You most definitely deserve to be in this series of Calie's!
    I like your choice of contributors. They are all inspiring or thought-provoking.


  2. Thank you for telling us your story, Debbie. Wouldn't it be wonderful if parents, family an friends were as quick at accepting our true nature as we are? We don't need to wait twenty years for their support. But then, it's only been the last ten or fifteen years, that serious information regarding gender dysphoria and its cure, as opposed to the horrid exploitative stuff of sensational TV talk shows, has become publicly available.

    By the way, you look great!

    Melissa XX

  3. @Lucy - Thanks for the comments, Lucy. We will be doing another one of these next year. Going to write something for us?

    @Debbie - I told you this in a private email, but the painting, symbolism, and how it all comes together in your story is quite emotional. I loved it!

    Calie xxx

  4. Interesting how far away the mid 90's feel now, a dark age before the easy spread of information and the agonisingly slow progress of help.

    How things have improved now that you have the support of family but sad that you could not have enjoyed more younger time with your mother.

    It was great having seen you get to the place you wanted to be.

    Caroline xxx

  5. Thank you so much for all your kind comments.

    Dear Lucy
    You are inspiring my friend. It has been a joy to see you blossom. I so look forward to reading your thoughts her too. So much can happen.
    Debbie x

    Dear Melissa
    Society seems to be more accepting now, times have changed but the prejudice can remain for any of us largely out of ignorance.It seemed only by living the life that my family came to accept this was right for me.
    Debbie x

    Dear Calie
    This is an emotional journey for all of us were ever our path takes us. Your warm heart radiates all over the world!
    Debbie x

    Dear Caroline
    With the benefit of hindsight it would be easy to have regrets that I did not do this earlier so we had more time to share as we should always have been. The positive side is that life is about creating memories & although we have no idea how much time we have left together each memory we share is extra special.
    Bless you
    Debbie x


The People - Personal Thoughts

Cobweb Corner - Older Blogs, Not Recently Updated