Today was very strange. When I came home, my dad made me lunch and then I slept for three hours. I think I'm going to have to get used to having moments of exhaustion like that.
My GP appointment lasted all of ten minutes, as they tend to do - but I'd spent hours thinking about it, worrying about it, having to talk myself into it, and out of "go private! Go to Thailand and do it in secret! Runrunrun!"
Now, I've heard both good and bad things about doing it through the NHS. The main bad point is how long the whole process is - as I've heard it put, they make you jump through hoops for everything. But... I'm keeping an open mind, because the NHS is the way that makes me feel most secure at the moment. In a few months, I might be bitching and moaning about them, but if that's where I feel comfortable right now, that's where I'm going to go - I'll take the advice and criticism into consideration, but what is right for me may be very different from the next person. On the NHS, the process takes roughly two years, up to a possible five years depending on the person. That's fine by me - I'd rather go slowly. The way I see it... I've lived 23 - nearly 24 years in this body, and a few more isn't going to kill me if I know it's all going somewhere. This isn't getting a nose job, it's my whole life, and I'll wait as long as it takes to be happy.
My main worry was... what do I say to get a referral? I turn up, they have no idea what's going on - it could be a chest infection, it could be earache, it could be a swollen ankle... "Hello. I want a sex change, please!" just seems too much. I knew I'd never get those words out. No matter how much you try and practice saying it with conviction, when you're struck with reality - with the smiling face of your GP patiently waiting to hear what you're there for, the clock ticking away, your palms getting sweaty, your heart banging against your chest until you think it's going to explode, your throat closing up until you can't say anything at all.... never mind blurt out something as (possibly) surprising as that.
"I'm... not very... happy." I managed eventually, tears pouring down my cheeks before all four words had even left my lips. I looked at my hands, vaguely heard her talking softly about depression... knowing I'd have to correct her. "No, I'm not very happy with my body." I was getting there slowly, knowing she'd soon start assuming I meant an eating disorder, low self esteem, something, anything but the truth of the matter. I said "I want..." about four times without ever really getting anywhere. She handed me tissues, a sympathetic smile, a squeeze of my shoulder as the human behind the doctor took over. I pulled myself together, suddenly glad I had done my research and had more than crude terms to fall back on. "I need to be referred to a gender dysphoria clinic." Suddenly, it was more than 'I want...' I wish I could say that would be the hardest part over, but I'm sure it won't be. These things take time, but I'll be getting an appointment through the post. I may have to travel - I'm not surprised by that at all, Ponty still has men's clubs where women have to go in the back way and can't play the pool table and all that shit. I really didn't think we'd have a gender clinic! (Although, interestingly, if they can't get me someone close enough, I can possibly have a case for going private and having them pick up the bill - sorry UK taxpayers!)
So, after all that fun, I went to the sexual health clinic's counsellor, which was good. It was really just a 'get to know you' type session - asking a lot of basic questions, I filled in some survey that basically said "You are transgendered!" Sounds stupid, but no... it was good to think about some of the questions. Obviously not every transgendered person has the same wants and needs, the same experiences, the same worries, the same anything - and I think it's a really positive sign that she recognises that and actually asks questions rather than assuming answers.
Then, we talked a bit about how the whole process works - I told her that right now, I'm thinking NHS route (it's not competition, they sort of work alongside the NHS, they're a free healthcare service, community funded and really just serve to take the strain off certain areas - or if you want to do something in private, such as the STD tests and that.) So, she talked me through exactly what happens - I said I was most concerned by the way you have to live as your chosen gender for at least a year before surgery, and I was terrified because how the hell am I meant to pull that off for a year etc, and she told me that that came after hormone treatment and a lot of counselling and advice, and it isn't as impossible as it sounds... so I feel muchmuch better about that, the way it was worded made it sound like they'd just say "right, come back in a year then, good luck with THAT!" and let you fend for yourself! A ridiculous assumption in hindsight, but there's too much to take in for it to be all logical.
So - all in all a very productive day. I have another appointment with the community clinic on Tuesday - thank god I have something while waiting for the NHS. I think working the two together may well be the best way.