That’s a controversial headline! Lets dive right in before someone bites my head off for it….


I want to preface everything below by saying firstly that I work for the NHS. I’m not going to say anything else about my job or where I work because firstly it’s against my trust policy to talk about my work without clearing it through our communications team (and I’m not out at work), and secondly because I know if I do someone will track me down and start harassing me. That’s the world we live in.

The reason I say I work for the NHS is because I know exactly the troubles the system faces, better than most. My particular role brings me into contact with a vast amount of information, oversight of complaints and patient records, and I can see a real whole picture of a service. The NHS is struggling mainly because of a conservative government determined to sell it off in bits to their mates, and there’s nothing the country can do about that other than vote them out.

That said……


For those of you outside the UK (or inside the UK who don’t pay attention) the NHS, or National Health Service, is the UK’s healthcare system. The NHS is a “free at point of access” system meaning you will always be given your care and the cost part is worked out later. The NHS generates money from a national tax (your “NHS Contribution”) that is set based on your salary.

The way the NHS runs is that the money all goes into a big pot and is then divvied out to “Care Commissioning Groups” (CCGs) who cover a set number of GP practices across the country. These CCGs get x pounds per patient they cover and then decide how that money will be spent in their area to buy services they need, like hospitals etc. They generally employ Trusts to provide a bunch of services to their population and your local hospital is likely a Trust that does all of your acute physical needs from x-rays to surgery.

The NHS is a remarkable system and something that our country should reasonably be proud of. Universal healthcare regardless of your financial ability is one thing, but a standardisation of care that is monitored nationally and trusts are held accountable, along with the NHS’s purchasing power (meaning pharmacies can’t hold the country to ransom by increasing drug costs 1000x like they have been in America) gives us something hugely beneficial.

It’s also fundamentally broken if you want gender services.


So the crux of the matter. This is something I didn’t really know about until I realised I was trans, but if you are transgender the NHS does nothing to help you. I’m going to look at this in 2 age brackets (because that’s how the NHS does it); under 18 and over 18. Interestingly most of the NHS works to this 18 year old split despite the fact it has routinely been criticised for being a completely arbitrary cutoff point that is often actively harmful for patients transitioning from children’s service to adult services. More and more commissioners are moving to a split at 25 but this is ridiculously slow to be picked up.

If you’re under 18 and you realise you’re trans you are in for a fight. To start with you’ll need to talk to your GP, and that is going to be a battle on its own. There are some truly superb GPs across England, unfortunately there are far more who are incompetent or uncaring. Even if you get one who does care the odds are they have no idea what to do and will refer you to local mental health services, who will bounce your referral because they’re not commissioned to deal with gender identity.

So eventually your GP will get the idea they need to do something else (although GPs across the country have a catastrophic lack of clinical curiosity and if a referral comes back negative, or a test inconclusive, they’ll just stop doing anything until you the patient chase them for it). They may hit the old Google and find out that there is only one place in England they can refer you; the Tavistock Centre, the Gender Identity Development Services clinic in London. That’s it, just one place.

So eventually you get a referral made to them. GPs probably won’t like doing this either as a GP has to pay per referral, so your best bet is to go around April when they’re flush with cash as if you go at the start of the new year they’ll be broke and not want to refer anyone (true story).

Now you’re on the waiting list for gender services! Yay! Now you wait. And wait. Currently the GIDS are seeing people who were referred June 2017. That’s a wait of 20 months to be seen.


Here I would like to highlight that the NHS has a set of targets that are enshrined as what you as a person entitled to NHS care can expect. These targets are highlighted as national ones that every trust and organisation across the country must report to, and failure to meet these targets is seen as a breach of commissioning standards. There’s a handful of them, for example if you attend A&E you are expected to be seen within 4 hours of arriving at the latest. These targets can’t always be met but when they aren’t the expectation is that the trust can and will explain why they didn’t meet them as well as to outline what they’re going to do to ensure they do meet them in the future.

For non-emergency care there is a standard called “RTT” or “Referral To Treatment”, the time every patient should be seen within. This is 18 weeks, or approximately 4.5 months. Let that sink in; the NHS has set out a target that all people must be seen within and also has a service that has a waiting list 4x longer than that.

And that waiting list isn’t referral to treatment, it’s for referral to initial assessment. We’ll get on to treatment in a moment.


So you’ve now been seen by the GIDS and things are moving. What next? Well we’ll have to have a set of assessment, between 3 and 6 according to their website. Usually 6 according to people who’ve gone through it. These sessions are around an hour each, usually nowhere near where you live (remember; single team) and will be held with a variety of people present from you on your own, to you with parents, to one parent etc.

The staff you get will be a real role of the dice too. For some unknown reason the NHS has decided that mental health professionals are okay to assess people with mental health needs (fine), and that social workers are interchangeable with mental health professionals. So the person who sees you may just be a social worker who has experience working with children, that’s it. Helpful. Remember all those scandals a little while back where social care were letting children be abused and assaulted without doing anything? Those people are going to do an assessment.


So where are we? We’ve been waiting 20 months (at least), been waiting at least 6 weeks more whilst we’ve been being assessed (but likely much much longer), and through all this we’ve been constantly telling people we’re not our assigned-at-birth gender and being disbelieved, questioned, prodded, poked, and made to justify our existence over and over again to a bunch of professional social workers. Surely now we can start treatment?

Well hopefully we weren’t over 15 when this started! Because if we were we’re now getting a bit old for GIDS and there’s a reasonable chance we’re going to be discharged to the adult services with no follow up.

If we were under 15 hopefully the service managed to get everything complete before puberty for maximum effectiveness of hormonal treatment, but unlikely.

Now we might get to talk about hormonal therapy, this doesn’t get done by GIDS though! It’s a referral to an endocrinology team who have their own waiting list and we get to start all over again!


So what you can see from the above is that if everything goes right we’re looking at waiting 3 years to start treatment. Remember that 18 weeks? we’re at 156 weeks. Over 8.5x longer than the NHS has decided is acceptable. Remember that 18 week target was set by the NHS, by professionals, by the government, and held as the minimum standard patients can expect to hold the NHS to.

So what if you’re an adult? You’re looking at about the same 20 weeks to get into the service. Once you’re there it gets a bit easier as they’ll start hormonal therapy after minimum 2 appointments.

Once you’ve had that agreed you’re in for a whole other work of hurt though, back to your trusty ol’ GP!

GPs frequently actively refuse any part of transgender care, refusing to prescribe the medication under Shared Care agreements (where a GP agreed to prescribe the medication at the advice of a specialist), repeatedly denying prescriptions, denying to undertake required blood tests, and generally being arsey about the whole thing.


So what can you do? The alternative is going private. This one costs money, you’re going to be paying a really variable amount for gender services. The advantage is there waiting lists are usually much shorted, if they exist at all. The biggest problem is if you thought a GP could be ignorant about NHS Shared Care it’s got nothing on private Shared Care. Despite the fact the NHS has sent out a memo to all surgeries instructing them that they must treat people who have engaged with private clinics the same as NHS clinics they frequently won’t (by the way; if you’re in this situation feel free to take and use this letter as ammo).


So where does that leave this particularly depressing post? There is no easy service for us anywhere. Despite medical standards applying across the board these break down when it comes to our specific needs and nobody cares. Professionals are at least usually confused if not outright hostile.

What should you do? That’s a decision only you can make. Talk to your professionals and support network, complain left right and center, fight for your rights. We shouldn’t have to, but we will keep needing to.

As for me? I’ll be going private. And heaven help and GP that gets in my way.

With love,

Sammy

P.s. this is a bit of a grim blog post. If you’re in this situation remember we’re all fighting for you, you are valid, you do matter. If you’re feeling really down or suicidal you can always contact the Samaritans on 116 123 or the NHS 111 service and talk to them. Stay strong.

So my promise to have posts going up Mondays and Fridays didn’t work. I’ve always had a problem keeping up with things but I feel I’ve got a few excuses.


First off Kingdom Hearts 3 came out. I’m a bit of an odd fan of the series in that for some reason I started playing KH2. I can’t remember why I ended up playing that first but I really enjoyed it (though was thoroughly confused for a while!!). I went back to play KH1 but never finished it, played a large chunk of 368/2 but didn’t finish that, and didn’t touch any of the other weird side games.

With that said I did love the games enough that I chased the lore a lot and really enjoyed what I had played, so I was really hyped for KH3. I’ve been playing that in pretty much every spare minute and loving it, so that’s been fun!! I’m playing through to 100% completion (if I can!) because I’ve learnt that Matt Mercer and Travis Willingham are both in it, but the characters they voice only appear in the secret ending movie. No spoilers; I’m going to get there eventually!


The second reason I’ve been out was this Monday just gone I had a job interview. My current role is a deputy to a manager and I really enjoy what I do. I’ve been in this role for 2 years now and I’ve been learning a huge amount. The place I’m in, though, is starting to stagnate. Not so much in the role but the management and organisational structure is failing and I’m finding myself frequently frustrated with not being able to do anything about it.

Because of this I’ve been looking at positions that are effectively on par with my manager (the one I’m a deputy of). These positions aren’t hugely frequent as I work in the healthcare sector and most upper management positions are locked to people with clinical backgrounds.

I didn’t get the job (I won’t keep you in suspense) but in some respects I’m a little… relieved? Its complicated.

I am quite ambitious and I want to do well, I want to be able to be in a position in an organisation where I can actually do something and affect change, and I genuinely believe that some of the skills I have are beneficial to an organisation. That said I’m also not really very confrontational and I do get a bit nervous around new things…. this means once I’m doing something I’m fine but I’m not a huge fan of the first few times.

This particular position was a good hour and a half drive away from where I live, would have been taking on loads of extra responsibilities, meant managing a team of 50+ people….. It would have been a big change. I would have really relished the chance to have a go at it but I would also be vaguely worried that I would mess it all up.

So there it is; I went for it, really gave it my best, got really positive feedback (they wanted someone with more management experience) but am glad I didn’t get it. Hooray me.


Last thing I did over the past few days is come out to one of my closest friends who has recently had to move away to London for work. Boy was that terrifying.

I know that he’s friends with at least one other trans person who I used to game with back in the day, but he’s also known me for like…. 5 years now? Quite a while, and it’s a bit of a change to go “hey, I messed up, I was a girl all along!”

I did it in the most stupidly obvious way possible, I showed him the tweet I got back from Matt (squee, by the way) and when he asked what I’d shared I said “oh a blog post about how I realised I’m trans”. Damn that was cringy.

But hey! Whatevs.

He was really cool, apparently I’m the third person to come out to him, and he was super chill, and just wanted to know what pronouns/name I wanted to go by. So that was great.


That’s all I’ve got for now, hopefully I’ll come up with something more interesting to write to get back into the swing of things. For now though?

With love,

Sammy

Hiya everyone,

I was having a good long think about what I should write about this time as I’ve been making moderate progress but nothing astounding due to several weekends away with families and lots of work stuff going on. What I have been doing in the meantime, though, has been a real positive help for me, so I thought I’d talk about that.


SOCIAL MEDIA

Never before such a loaded pair of words (not literally, obviously). A force for good? For evil? For making Lord Zuk the god-king-emperor of all humanity?

I’ve never been hugely into social media. I’m usually at the cutting edge of whatever technology I can get my hands on, but I’ve found social media annoying. To set the hipster scene the social media site I most enjoyed and engaged with was Google+ because it was full of like-minded professional people posting interesting stuff. My personal Facebook on the other hand is full of turds posting rubbish. Worse still I love some of those turds and it’s too much effort sometimes to explain why that post is rubbish.

So I’ve had a Fac-e-book account for years, G+ (before it was done in), and that was about it. I didn’t have a Skype account, didn’t ever really get into Twitter (beyond a “business account” made for a domain I set up), and least of all was Reddit.

Ah Reddit. The most wretched hive of scum and villainy this side of 4Chan. I may not have had social media but I did follow a lot of news sources I followed using Feedly, and I kept constantly seeing the dreadful things that came out of Reddit.

A fully unmoderated decentralised model of “freedom of speech at any cost”, packed with racists, sexists, bigots, and the sewage of human kind. Whole boards created specifically for attacking anyone coloured, women, overweight people, anyone who someone didn’t like. Completely without consequences. Literally illegal in many places, but impossible to control. Not a stretch to say it was not my thing.


When I started coming to a realisation I Was reaching out for help, guidance, anything that could answer some of my questions. It was at that point I found a couple of the most helpful places to date, three subreddits full of awesome people:

  • AskTransGender; where my biggest questions was answered: am I valid?
  • Traaans; just a bunch of nice people in the same boat as me
  • Egg-IRL; Just dumb memes highlighting things people say to convince themselves they’re not trans

All of these were places I could find stuff I wanted to know the answers to, get tips, advice, and best of all somewhere I could ask questions freely, and of people who had been through this before.

I created an account and pulled through my username from here, Blogging_Sammy. That was a fun time, I now had an account I could really let out the bits of me I couldn’t let out with anyone other than my wife. The people there were genuinely lovely too, helpful and informative, but most of all supportive.

I saw so many topics of people asking questions that must have been posted a thousand times before; “am I trans?”, “what do I do now?”, “how do I tell people?”…. And I’ve been on forums before, I’ve been part of some of the nicest and most upstanding forums I’ve ever seen, but with all of them these questions get “old” and people start responding with at best dismissal. Not here. There were always answers, they were always kind, they were always helpful. It was really positive to see.


Looking at my WordPress engine and the things it can do I discovered twitter integration. I wasn’t super keen on it but I figured I might as well set it up and start using it, and so I created another new account under the Blogging Sammy brand. Having set that up I went and added a few people, starting with the creator of HardCoded, as mentioned in a previous post, and the Critical Role folk, as mentioned last time.

I then went and found a number of twitter feeds cater specifically to trans news and things like that, and again found myself in a positive place where I had an account that I could really represent myself on freely.


So where am I now? I’ve got these two accounts, a google account to run emails and stuff from, and an amazon/pintrest account to collect pretty things (maybe I’ll add some links to my sidebar later!). I wasn’t keen on massive social media previously, but seeing it now I like having a place that is separate from the worry about coming out, about how I’ll look and sound and feel, and I can just be Sammy for my own sake.

I highly recommend it.

With love,

Sammy

Hiya all,

So last time I talked about tabletop games and how I got hooked into them, this time I’m going to talk specifically about a show that features a bunch of nerdy-ass voice actors playing dungeons and dragons.


My wife and I discovered Critical Role years ago when browsing YouTube. We’d watched some D&D highlight videos, talks from people who made or ran the game about how they’d do things, and general jokes and memes around D&D. We kept seeing one group pop up over and over; Critical Role. As viewers of a lot of anime and cartoons as well I guess the algorithms of YouTube decided we would like them as they did D&D and their players voiced a lot of characters we love. We were curious.

They were staffed by a regular run of voice actors; Travis Willingham, Laura Bailey, Sam Riegel, Liam O’Brien, Taliesin Jaffe, and Marisha Ray. They’re all lead on their adventures by another voice actor and general legend; Matt Mercer.

When we first discovered them they were heading towards the end of their first campaign which was over 100 episodes long by that point. We liked what we saw, a few bits fans had cut out of particularly funny moments (some even animated!) but we didn’t have the time to re-watch 100+ episodes, each one around 4 hours long. So it was with a degree of sadness (but not much investment) we moved on.

Just over a year ago we read that they were starting a new campaign. We checked and, indeed, they had finished their last one! They were on a break running other random one-shot games until they were ready to run their next big thing; campaign 2!! This, we thought, was a good time to get on board! We could watch from the beginning, give it a few episodes, and see what we thought.

Oh boy…..

Let me tell you, Critical Role is big. It’s got a huge following, dedicated fans who are also generally nice people, and we didn’t realise how gripping a Critical Role campaign would be.

We started watching episode one and were introduced to a bunch of characters, the shy and stinky wizard Caleb, and his goblin compatriot with a penchant for pilfering; Nott. We met the tall southern half-orc Fjord and his recently-met ass-kicking monk associate Beau, and their joint bubbly Russian tiefling Jester. Lastly we encountered the Carnies; Yasha and Mollymauk; a half-angel Aasimar with a sword bigger than most people, and a flamboyantly, extravagantly, vibrantly enthusiastic tiefling, respectively.

Official art, going left to right; Mollymauk, Beau, Fjord, Caleb, Nott, Jester, and Yasha.

We got hooked pretty bad. It’s been just over a year now (they celebrated running for a year just a few weeks back) and we’ve seen all of them. It’s a real problem.


So what makes Critical Role special? What makes us keep watching, and keep wanting to watch more? A bit of a mixture.

To start with the actors are great. They’re trained and professional voice actors which means they bring a real sense of personality to their characters, but in different ways. Some slip into it just with voices, some with their whole body, but they are each a different person when they play. They also get on with each other, with this game springing from a home-game they all played many years ago that just got bigger.

The second point is the game is good, Matt is the dream GM and under his rule the game is brilliant. The world is detailed and immersive, the story compelling, the NPCs always brilliant1There was an interview with Travis and Marisha where they were asked who their favourite NPC was, and they both responded that the problem they had was each time they picked a favourite Matt would introduce someone else who would take over. We’ve seen 3 so far in campaign 2; Pumat Sol, Kiri, and Orley., and the combat is gruelling and deadly but always interesting. Matt has a real talent for creating sessions that are the pinnacle of what a D&D game can be.

The last thing is their characters. None of them are particularly good people (save, perhaps, Jester) but they’re all so realistic and genuine. They have skills, flaws, quirks, personality, but also really importantly they have representation. They all struggle with different things but there are issues that touch so closely on real-world issues including sexuality and identity (hint hint), and they way it’s handled is always so perfectly it feels inviting, and genuine, and kind.

The interaction between them all is wonderful as well. My favourite interactions at the moment (episode 49) are between Fjord and Beau with Fjord acting as a reluctant, amused, and exasperated teacher of social graces to Beau, someone who at best can be described as “blunt”. There’s also the interactions between Jester and Fjord where Jester seems to have more than a little crush on him, spawning this wonderful (minor spoilers) fan song about a rival love interest.

Beau and Caleb have a wary respect for each other and deep frustration with their opposing points of view, and Nott and Caleb have a mother/son relationship that early on Nott highlights isn’t Caleb looking out for her, she looks out for him.


Some of the issues the show touches on (as I’ve hinted above) are quite poignant for me. The main one that stands out is Nott who is looking for a great powerful magic to change her. There are minor spoilers to follow, so if you want to avoid them (up to episode 49) stop here.

All good? Great!

Nott used to be a halfling woman with a husband and child, but due to a great big helping of backstory was transformed into a goblin permanently and forced to carry on in a different body to the one she knows she should have. She’s now spending all her time trying to find someone or something powerful enough to break this enchantment so she can return to her correct form and continue with her life with her family. Sound familiar?

Now Sam Riegel is brilliant acting this out, and Nott’s pain is heartbreaking, but he has also mentioned that there wasn’t necessarily a trans influence to his thinking about the creation of Nott’s story. That doesn’t stop me running wild with it though!!

So we have someone trapped in a body they know they shouldn’t have, who is seeking anything possible to try and regain the body she should have. I, and I know many other trans-critters, can sympathise with this. It’s touching to see a story about regaining the form you should be handled so well and thoughtfully, and it’s so encouraging to see the other characters be so accepting of it and trying to help.

Building on this there is a lot of support from the cast who, without much of a stretch, can be called great people. How do I know? Between the Sheets….


Brian W Foster ran a season of Between the Sheets, an interview show where each of the cast were interrogated for around an hour about their past, how they got to this point, and their careers and lives. Brian is a master interviewer, lord of active listening, and coaxes the best out of his guests. It was fascinating to see how the cast got together and how fragile and random the connections were until they all pulled together into this thing.

One thing Brian does not skimp on is the tears, he pulls a good few drops out of more than one person, but the two people I want to most focus on are Matt and Marisha (true nerd love). They are one of the sweetest, kindest, and also awesomest2Shut up, it’s a word! couples around.

In their respective interviews, and I really do encourage you to watch them, it’s clear just what decent people they are, and how supportive they are of people younger than them who are going through similarly tough times. Their support of charities like 826LA and a whole bunch of different charities, along with the generosity of their community, speaks volumes, but it’s the little things as well.

The Critical Role cast are the sort of people that make you feel okay in whatever body you have, whatever gender, orientation, disability, or ethnicity, they make you feel like it’s all okay and you’re welcome. And that’s pretty powerful. And it’s thanks to people like them that I can take steps with more and more confidence, bit by bit exploring who I am and can be, knowing that no matter who out there is a douche; these folk are going to be cool with it.

I’ll also add that I’m determined, one day, to see them and tell them this. To remind them that the effect they have on their fans isn’t just providing entertaining media to consume, or creating a thriving community to be a part of, but that wherever they go they leave better than before they got there. They came to Comicon London last year and I made extra effort to go (having dislocated a knee literally days before) but the outpouring of support from their fans completely swamped what the organisers had expected and meant neither I not many thousands of their fans couldn’t even get close because of the other thousands in lines. I’ll keep waiting for my change to strike, though.

Until next time, with love,

Sammy

Hiya everyone,

I thought I’d talk a little bit about D&D, and role-playing tabletop games in general. It’s going to be really nerdy but bare with me.


So what am I talking about?

That help? I’ll go into it a bit more as we go.

A Tabletop Role Playing Game: a game where people as a group tell a collaborative story together using a framework defined by a specific system, usually involving a “leader” of some description who narrates the world, and a group of players who narrate their own actions. Dice are frequently involved.

Sammy, just now.

The core idea of the games is that you all pick a system you like, you’ll probably have heard of a few of these regardless of how interested you are. There’s the biggest; D&D or Dungeons and Dragons. There’s FATE, World of Darkness, Pathfinder, Savage Worlds, Numinera, GURPS, the list goes on for approximately forever. Helpfully most of these games also have “editions” as they’re reprinted every few years and redesigned to make them better. D&D, for example, is on 5th edition currently. Editions are rarely backwards compatible so you all have to be working from the same thing.

Each system then usually comes in several books, some designed for players to look at that have all the stuff in them to make an awesome character, then some for the person running the game that include all the rules about how to do stuff and how to build great stories to tell. There’s also usually a book or two just packed full of enemies and monsters to fight.

Everyone sits down and starts by building their character. This varies dramatically between systems, but D&D is a good place to start. You get some stats such s how strong or intelligent you are, then you pick your race, class (what you do) and some skills and stuff. From there you go off into the world with a list of things you can do well and a list of things you can’t do so well, and you adventure!!

The reason they’re called Tabletop Role Playing Games is that they generally happen around a table with not much else. Some people use maps, some don’t, but the majority of the work happens in everyone’s collective imagination. The role playing bit is that when you’re in the game your acting things out from the point of view of your character, rather than yourself. You can make all the decisions you want as them, and do pretty much anything in the game world. These games have this advantage over video games in that the only limit is what people can think of, rather than what’s been programmed.

I could write tomes about Tabletop RPGs (role playing games) and in fact many people have, so instead I’m going to have a small list of resources down below for anyone who wants to check it out, and I really hope you will.


I started gaming in year 10 of secondary school, putting me about 13-14 years old. I was invited to join an ongoing game by a bunch of people who had been playing for a while. There were two main groups of players, about 5 in each, who were in the same adventure. Both groups would split off to go do things they wanted to but we would routinely meet up to trade stories and loot, or change who went with who. The games were run by a pair of teachers who had all the books needed (Which could be a bit expensive for a student!).

The group I’d joined have been going for that whole school year (which starts in September) and this was close to the June, so I was a little behind. One of the other players helped me out by going through the creation process, helping draw up a good character who wouldn’t be killed by the first thing I met, and in the end I had a reasonable half-elf bard. I don’t remember the name I gave them, and I don’t remember much about them, but I do remember I enjoyed it a lot.1I do remember one other thing, the loot we got at the end of the school year was insane. We weren’t going to be playing anymore so we each got something that would elevate our character to ludicrous power, so I got an instrument that could take any form I wanted, had a +3 magic sword in it, and gave me +20 to perform. If this makes no sense to you TLDR: guitar with a powerful sword in it that meant I could declare anything I wanted and as long as I played a song it happened.

After that I took a break for a year or so when I moved to college but shortly after meeting my future-wife she intended me to join an ongoing game her secondary school friends had been running for a while. This one was in a different version of D&D to the one I’d started in and was really different. I was allowed to play a character class the person running the game had created called an Umbromancer who was all about shadow magic and sneaking. After playing for not very long I quickly found the problem with making your own classes, they were hilariously overpowered. I got my character to the point that by mid-level every turn I could turn invisible; all of my usual actions like move, attack, help someone etc., had a side effect of “you also turn invisible”. Invisibility could be quite overpowered and was easy to break as if you ever attack from invisibility you become visible again, but I could do it so quickly and often it didn’t matter.

The game continued for a year or so and eventually ended when we beat the “big bad” by killing a goddess (Lolth for those in the know) and stealing her power. We got to do a little bit of narrating after that with what we did with it all.


University was a good time for gaming. The uni I went to had a really big and involved RPG club where I met some of my best friends. The first year I joined a game that I can’t remember in huge detail but involved robot arms, killing a dear, and a wizard who could tell the entire history of a glass of beer.

The second year I started running some games as well, for the first time. It was quite nerve-wracking to run a game, and maybe I’ll talk more about that later, but this post is more focused on the playing.

Third year I played more games but I was always playing male characters as there was a strong idea to create characters that represented parts of yourself.

After uni I started playing more casually with friends on a weekly basis (uni was often multiple times a week with different games, got quite busy!) and played a bit more experimentally.

I quickly found again that playing female characters was more interesting to me, and at the time I didn’t really try to think about it too hard. I was vaguely embarrassed I wanted to play female characters but also really wanted to do it, and justified it to myself and others by saying it was because I wanted to play strong female characters, like some kind of feminist bastion.


Since I moved for work (and to live with my wife) we’ve both been playing in some games from a slowly changing group as people drop in and out, and I’ve been more comfortable playing female characters. My most recent character, created just before I started getting these funny ideas in my head and realising I was a woman, is a changeling; a gender-less transforming race who mimic anyone they like.

Part of designing this character did make me think back times in my childhood (and more recently) when I wished I could just change gender at will. I would agonise over thinking “if only I could just spend a day as a woman”, or when reading those wacky-gender-swap stories where they main character has to try and turn back I would just think “I’d love that, I wouldn’t ever try to turn back”.

It took me quite a while to figure out I may have been trying to tell myself something.


So there we have it, a brief introduction to my introduction to Table Top RPGs. They’re great fun, I don’t think I’ve met anyone who hasn’t started playing and utterly enjoyed it, and next time I’m going to talk about a group of people who stream their game, and why they’re awesome.

With love,

Sammy

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Hiya everyone,

How do you know when to come of out the closet? To come out and be trans? That’s a scary question.


I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately and I think it’s because I’m at a crossroads. My current gender expression is limited to hanging around the house, days we’re not going to go anywhere at the weekend. I might slip on some of my underwear under my old clothes and hang just in that. Sometimes I slip on my pads and wander around with breasts, and rarely I spend a day or part of it in my gorgeous dress with the whole getup going on.

But that’s it.

There’s a lot of questions for me about what I do next, do I keep this up? It’s okay, I can do that. Do I keep moving forwards? Pushing what I’m comfortable doing to get more towards what I want to do? Or do I back off and go back to what’s familiar and easy?

The main next steps for me to consider are (in no particular order):

  • Facial hair; I’ve got a lot of it
  • Body hair; I am so hairy everywhere
  • Head hair; do I grow mine out or buy a wig?
  • Wardrobe; expanding it, do I go dresses, skirts with existing t-shirts, new t-shirts/jeans? Secondary consideration on this point: money!
Me Currently. This will make more sense further down, but not much.

The trouble I have with wardrobe is that it’s the most expensive part, there’s only so much I can buy from amazon’s bargain section, and it’s really limiting when I can wear it so any great expense on something beautiful feels wasteful at best.

The massive issue with everything else comes back to the question at the top of the article. I have always been hairy and especially for people who I’ve worked with for the past 4 years I have been bearded and gruff. If I start shaving to confirm my gender I’m going to be asked a lot of questions. I really doubt anyone is going to go with “aha, I see you’ve shaved, transgendered are we?” but as someone who is naturally shy and doesn’t like a lot of personal questions anyway even just asking “so what made you want to do this?” is going to fluster me. Even worse is whatever I say is going to be a lie, and I’m going to know that, which will make it much harder for me.


Back to the point…. When do you tell people? And who do you tell?

My wife, obviously, knows everything. She’s my wonderful rock who tempers my excitement with calming reminders and always calls me pretty, even when I know I look at best like a hairy-potato.

What about other people? My family? I honestly don’t even know how they’d react. My sister came out as a lesbian a few years ago and they took that pretty well, she’s getting married to her partner at some point (who might also be be trans?). They don’t have a problem with this, their biggest concern is the planning. But if it was me? And they were basically forced to accept me as a woman? I don’t know.

When I was much younger we used to watch things like Fear Factor, for those who were lucky enough to miss it; contestant on a TV show would have to do gross of scary stuff to win prize money. It was pretty gross including picking up dead rats in their mouths to get a key. I do wonder now looking back how much of it was real and how much was staged. The only reason it was ever on was because it was prelude to what we really wanted to watch; Doctor Who, but we needed to put something on in the half hour or so beforehand to kill the time.

Anyway, there’s a point to this I promise…. There was a “game” my mum like to play with the contestants called “spot the man”. I’ll bet you can see where this is going? When a slim busty woman comes on try and spot if she’s actually a post-op transsexual. Big hands? A man. Prominent adams apple? A man.

At the time I didn’t really understand it, or care particularly. I didn’t get the implications of “used to be” a man, and couldn’t understand why it mattered that they used to be anything when they were clearly a woman now.

This kind of casual transphobia is something I’m most afraid of, not being shunned or ridiculed over it but just being told I’m wrong, I’m just a man and that’s that.

Don’t get me wrong, my parents are great, they’re both really caring and I couldn’t have wished for a better life growing up. They’ve had to content with 3 neurodiverse children, hosts of health issues, and they’ve come through it generally smiling and laughing.

For me personally though now wouldn’t be a good time to start pointing out the size of my adams apple or how hairy my knuckles are.


What about work colleagues? How will that go? I know that we’ve got at least a few trans individuals in my workplace (to be fair my workplace is huge, like over 3,000 people, so there’s a few everything in it) and we have a fairly prominent LGBTQ+ group as well as an equalities lead so from the discrimination point of view I’d have a lot of ammo to go with… from the personal though? I don’t know how I could handle all the questions, the sidelong glances, the whispering behind my back. To compound this I’m not going to be particularly good at “passing”, certainly not for a long time if ever.

Friends? I don’t have a large number of friends but the ones I have tend to be close. I know for a fact at least a few of them already know another trans person and they get on well, but both of them met this person after their decision and switch to full-time living as their gender. I’m not sure how things would go during that process.

There’s another question about if I actually want everyone to know. As someone who has done more than a bit of psychology and read more than a bit of Terry Pratchett I’m quite adept at what he called “second thoughts”.


In Terry’s “Wee Free Men” series the young Witch Tiffany learns about the 2 most important things a Witch needs. She needs First Sight, and Second Thoughts.

Tiffany Aching, Witch of the Chalk

First Sight is seeing what’s really there, rather than what should be there. In these books there’s a habit for people to ignore anything that shouldn’t be possible, meaning magic gets away with a lot by just going unnoticed.

Second Thoughts, meanwhile, is the ability to think about what you’ve just thought about. That’s a confusing sentence to write but thing of it this way; if you think “eww, look at that person” that’s your first thought. Your second thought might be “that’s not fair, look at this etc.”. It’s basically mentally keeping tabs on yourself. In the series Tiffany (our young Witch) takes things even further and had Third Thoughts as well, keeping tabs on what her Second Thoughts are thinking. It all gets a bit complicated.


So knowing about my own mind (lol) I wonder if this blog is an attempt to put my thoughts out in a way people can see and discover. If anyone who knows me were to read this the level of detail I’ve put would mean they’d probably guess it was me. A few things I’ve mentioned are cornerstones of my identity and would flag up to anyone who knows me even a little.

Do I want people to see this? To read about my thoughts? Would that be pushing the onus and responsibility of the thing onto them, rather than have it rest on me? Rather than telling them and letting them react I’m leaving it open for them to consume the thoughts, devise a reaction, and bring it to me? How arrogant would that be?

And I can’t really answer one way or another if that’s the case.


So my questions kind of boil down less to who do I tell and when, because I’ve happily convinced myself it’s a bad idea to tell anyone ever… but about what I should do next.

Shaving is going to be my White Whale, it’s going to completely change the way I look to myself and allow me to start exploring a lot of other stuff (wigs and makeup), but it will also open a can of worms for me in my life. It’ll be a bit of a turning point for my closer relationships as I try to decide if then it the moment I should tell people I care about, and something I’ll also have to practice lying about convincingly to those I care less about.

For now, I guess, that’s it?

With love,

Sammy