For me coming to terms with being a transgender woman took me until I was 39 years old.
Coming to terms with being a woman has been far easier than my past life ever was. I’m now able to be myself, without wishing I’m something else. I can get up each day and not yearn for something different - free of the male identity I’d been assigned at birth.
Pre-surgery, there was always something not yet transitioned. A lot of trans people won’t or don’t want to consider surgery. For me, it was about being aligned with what I’ve always felt and therefore the decision for surgery was very easy.
I knew once I had the surgery that I would feel completed in a physical way, without which I would never feel.
I kept a journal for the last few months prior to surgery, so I could look back and see how I felt – I also knew it would help me with my book to remember some of the parts I would forget with time.
Six weeks before surgery I had to stop taking hormones (estrogen) which was a challenge.
I went through a mini menopause. I had hot sweats, mood swings, but on the whole I think I coped rather well. I was so excited about having the operation that I was focusing on that, rather than the negative impact of HRT removal.
The night before surgery I wrote in my journal, “sitting here tonight I feel so calm. I want this more than ever. I should feel scared but I accept that this is the completion of one journey, yet also the rebirth of Debbie. I love me, God loves me and my work. That I know. Truly. I regret nothing. Regret takes away today happiness. I made the decisions I did at the times I did with the information I had at the time. It’s all I can ask for”.
The surgery itself went really well and I did have a few issues that required me to wear pressure dressings for 24 hours longer than is normal but I was assured it was ok and to be honest my consultant is one of the best in the UK so I had complete faith in him.
The first few days after surgery there was so much swelling that all I felt was pain. Truth be told the first 2 months after surgery were constant pain.
After removing the dressings, they leave in you after surgery 5 days’ post-op I was able to have a shower for the first time as well as get a good look at myself in the mirror. I broke down in tears. I was so relieved to be rid of the body I’d been born with and overwhelmed with joy at the body I now had.
I had all of these grand ideas of how I was going to get so much done during my post-op recovery. I was going to finish my book, write so many articles and read so much. Truth is I did none of it.
I was so wiped out from the surgery and the psychological element of having achieved what I'd wanted for so long. I was naive in thinking it wouldn't have a profound effect in me.
Most people reading this will understand that without struggle you won't have progress, I teach my clients the same thing. However, I was so overwhelmed with the readjustment that I had to step back from it all.
I had to do the one thing I find really uncomfortable, nothing. I stepped away from social media, writing, blogging - everything.
I found I was putting myself under so much pressure, that the day to day became so much of a struggle, all of the above felt like a chore - when in the past it had felt like a calling.
The struggle and psychological adjustment of being in constant pain was something I hadn’t even considered pre-surgery. I’m one of the lucky ones, as I knew my fiancé would be there to look after me. She was a rock in those dark days.
I’ll admit this as it’s important to – I went through a depression after the surgery. I couldn’t move as freely as I was used to and I lacked any real drive to do anything other than watch TV. I actually regretted having had the surgery for a little while – I couldn’t cope with the constant pain.
I’d achieved my ultimate goal of having the body I've always wanted and I thought I could continue as I had done previously. I just didn’t think that I would struggle with the pain and isolation after the surgery.
Social media became valuable as my only contact to the outside world – I did attend the LGBT Awards in London in May 2016 some 2 weeks after leaving hospital. My friends were all amazing and I got to meet some very lovely people. It wiped me out for 3 days after – I had no energy whatsoever.
It was whilst I was on the way to London and then travelling to my friend’s house in Bow that I first noticed something different that I hadn’t even noticed or felt before. I felt vulnerable.
I searched and searched as to why this was and I knew that it was because I had had the surgery I was now more vulnerable than I was before. I was more at risk from attack – more likely to be assaulted. Not only because I was a trans women – but also because I was a woman. I was petrified.
It happened again on my next visit to London with my fiancé. We were sitting in St. James Park having a picnic then all of a sudden I felt vulnerable again. I had a panic attack that lasted 3 hours. It was awful. Thankfully it hasn’t happened since.
I’ve spoken to other post-op trans women since, they haven’t all felt this. Some have. But one of them made sense to me, when she pointed out that the only thing that had really changed was my perception of the world. Everything else hadn’t.
With my healing I was able to explore my body, and enjoy sex again. That gave me more confidence. That and the unflinching support and love I’ve had from my fiancé, her family and my daughter.
It’s something I hadn’t even considered – that I’d have to come to terms with having a new body. I’d have to get used to how it works. What I like and dislike.
I love the fact I no longer have to worry about clothing, but it’s taken me a long time to be content. I’ve now come to terms with my body.
Having come through this now though, it's enabled me to have greater skills to help my clients and support other trans people through this whole process.
Change is hard, change can be difficult. But the fear of not living my truth and dying wishing I had is what keeps me going. What makes me want to support others through their transition in life – whatever that may be.