Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Open Response to "Jump Off the Coursera Bandwagon"

Last night Al Filreis, my Modern and Contemporary American Poetry (ModPo) professor, posted a link on the ModPo Facebook group to an article by Doug Guthrie, Dean of George Washington University School of Business. Said article decried the usefulness of MOOCs (Massively Open Online Courses) and Coursera in particular, claiming that learning does not and can not happen in a MOOC setting before then saying, in essence, "I'm making my own MOOC, come and join me!". Dean Guthrie is clever, but not clever enough.

Several people have replied (some have taken ModPo, some haven't) and I thought I would add my own experience to theirs. My response can be found below, although I highly suggest you read the article in question first as well as the other well thought out responses.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Cognitive Dissonance: The non-existent war on Xmas.... ;-)

Cognitive Dissonance: The non-existent war on Xmas.... ;-)

Was linked to this blog earlier today and thought I'd share it. 

Between Walls - PoemTalk, ModPo and Poetry

In addition to going through the suggested further readings of Coursera's Modern and Contemporary American Poetry course (ModPo), I'm also slowly going through the nearly 60 (to date) episodes of PoemTalk which is hosted by ModPo's professor, Al Filreis.

In Episode 1 they talk about a poem that we covered in week 3 of the course, "Between Walls" by William Carlos Williams. This poem is considered to be an imagist poem or a poem which causes you to see, in your imagination, the exact object which the poem is about. I highly recommend that you go to the episode page and listen to the podcast as it really adds insight to the poem.

In "Between Walls", WCW mentions "...cinders/ in which shine/ the broken/ pieces of a green/ bottle". Cinders are soft ashes with bits of charcoal in them. Sometimes, if they are fresh, the pieces of coal will still be warm or even still be slightly glowing. Whereas the pieces of glass would normally be cold, sharp, and brittle. If you put them together, you get pieces of glass, warmed by the cinders and reflecting the glow of the embers which would probably give the glass the appearance of glowing on it's own from a distance. To me, this is an image of beauty found in what is usually considered litter and ugliness. This poem reminds us that beauty can be found in the most unlikely of places.

"It seems that he tries to find beauty in unexpected places. Art tries to become new. Poets try to search for new ways of expression. Even the poem seems to be fragmented, broken like the glass..." - Irina-Ana 
"A thought that struck me when rereading the poem after the video discussion was that everything in the back wings of that hospital is dead/black/gray/broken. The very detail that adds some color (the color of hope!) into that environment is produced by something that itself is completely broken (broken glass)." - Stefaan

Also, I see the shards of glass as a form of flower. Is the glass alive? No, but the way the shards are arranged and with the light shining upon it, making it sparkle and shine with the hope of new life is a form of life itself!

""Shine" is really positive in this poem. Fragments can be alive!" - Al
"I, too, see the green fragments as something positive, as if from something broken new life can arise and grow. Someone experiences a shattering effect, yet they can pick up their pieces, redefine (reassemble) themselves, and go forward with a renewed sense of hope and purpose. The light shining on the pieces is much like sunlight, warming, invigorating, hopeful, and encouraging. When you feel warmth within you, you grow, just like a buried seed feels the sun's warmth and extends its roots and grows. The fact that Williams locates this "action" in a place where nothing grows enhances the hopefulness in the poem's message, saying that while it may seem improbable, it is not impossible. Life can prevail." - Janet

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Poetry Close-Reading: Emily Dickinson

The first further reading suggestion for ModPo is Emily Dickinson's I Taste A Liqueur Never Brewed. This poem was also part of our first essay assignment. Below is the poem followed by my essay and some of the peer reviews and comments I received.  I include them because I appreciate the feedback and don't want to lose the comments when the forums are eventually taken down.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

The Last 10 Weeks

Now that my Modern Poetry course via Coursera has finished I have time to come back here.

Hello everyone! Sorry for my long absence. As I said above, for the last 10 weeks I have been taking a Modern and Contemporary American Poetry course (a.k.a. ModPo) on Coursera - an online education platform. 

The course was taught by Al Filreis, a professor at Penn University in Pennsylvania, USA. We covered poets from Emily Dickinson to Tracie Morris. Overall, I really enjoyed the course and have learned a lot from it such as how to close-read poetry and that there really are no "final" answers because they always lead to more questions. I will definitely be taking "--THIS" with me in my future endeavours.

Even though the course has finished, poetry hasn't; and neither has the class forums! They will be available to those who have enrolled (all 35,000 of them!) until September 2013. During the next 10 months, some of us will be close-reading poems found on Poem Talk, starting with episode 1. In addition to this, I intend to go through the further reading links in the course and close-read those poems. I will be putting those close readings here in my blog.

Apologies to those of you who don't particularly like poetry, but maybe if you give it a chance you will find, through reading my blog posts, that it isn't that bad after all!

Monday, 20 August 2012

Thoughts on Gender

As is my wont through out the evening, I was clicking on various links on my Facebook and Twitter time lines when I came across this article on NYMag.com about Agender people. This article got me thinking about the huge spectrum of genders and how people's self-perception of their gender can change.*

Thursday, 19 July 2012

C25K - Day 2

To take the place of the 10 week Fresh Start fitness/health programme, I have started the 9 week (estimated) NHS Choices Couch to 5K running programme. The C25K programme is a downloadable podcast that encourages you to build up to running a full 5 kilometres.

Week 4 consists of a 5 minute warm up walk, followed by a 3 minute run, a 90 second walk, a 5 minute run and a 2 and a half minute walk. The runs/walks are then repeated once and you end with a 5 minute cool down walk. The total running time is 16 minutes.

The second run was done on the 18th of July. My usual path was quite busy with construction workers and even blocked off in a few places, forcing me to run around them. There also seemed to be a larger than normal amount of dog walking traffic for some reason. Despite the increase in traffic, I managed to do 4.5 km during the podcast itself, including the warm up and cool down walks.

I found this run to be quite a bit easier than the first run of the week, surprisingly. The backs of my thighs were really tight and achy from cleaning my son's room the day before (lots of squats and bending over at the waist) and I was honestly thinking of taking an extra couple of rest days, doing the second run on Friday and the third run on Monday. Instead, I went out hoping that running would help my sore thighs instead of hurt them more. I was partly right. While I was running, my legs didn't hurt at all, but once I slowed back down to a walk, the pain came back with a vengeance! For the first time ever, the running parts were actually easier than the walking parts of the podcast!

It's the last run of the week tomorrow, then on to Week 5!

Monday, 16 July 2012

C25K - Week 4 Day 1

To take the place of the 10 week Fresh Start fitness/health programme, I have started the 9 week (estimated) NHS Choices Couch to 5K running programme. The C25K programme is a downloadable podcast that encourages you to build up to running a full 5 kilometres.

Week 4 consists of a 5 minute warm up walk, followed by a 3 minute run, a 90 second walk, a 5 minute run and a 2 and a half minute walk. The runs/walks are then repeated once and you end with a 5 minute cool down walk. The total running time is 16 minutes.

There were quite a few "I don't think I can do this" moments in this run, but I persevered and didn't quit. Granted, my "running" was more like a very brisk march by the end, but the important part was I didn't give up and pushed myself all the way through it.

And that's what's important - not that you ran for 5 minutes at a time (twice!) but that you don't give up, that you push yourself to meet your goal. Because that's what the C25K programme is all about - proving to yourself that you can do this, that you can set a goal and get to (and beyond) it.

This was the first run that I've been able to use the Nike+ app on my iPod. It works rather well, I think. I stopped the workout on the app as soon as I got back home (the podcast got me to 2 and a half laps around my estate, so I finished the third lap). According to the readout, I walked/ran a total of 4.54 kilometres (2.82 miles) at an average speed of approximately 9 kilometres per hour and burned 311 calories.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

C25K - Week 3 Day 3

To take the place of the 10 week Fresh Start fitness/health programme, I have started the 9 week (estimated) NHS Choices Couch to 5K running programme. The C25K programme is a downloadable podcast that encourages you to build up to running a full 5 kilometres.

Week 3 consists of a 5 minute warm up walk, followed by a 90 second run, a 90 second walk, a 3 minute run and a 3 minute walk (then repeat all once). The final 3 minute walk is considered your cool down walk.

I did the third run this past Friday (the 13th) and it was the hardest run of the week. Several times I nearly gave up and walked, but I'm glad I didn't, as just a few seconds after I was tempted to quit Laura came on and said it's time to slow down to a walk. By the end of the second 3 minute run I was really struggling, but persevered and walked a third lap around the housing estate.

Week 4 starts tomorrow. I also have my Nike+ sensor, so will be able to use it during the runs. Hopefully it will help measure distances a bit better.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

C25K - Week 3 Day 2 (and other updates)

To take the place of the 10 week Fresh Start fitness/health programme, I have started the 9 week (estimated) NHS Choices Couch to 5K running programme. The C25K programme is a downloadable podcast that encourages you to build up to running a full 5 kilometres.

Week 3 consists of a 5 minute warm up walk, followed by a 90 second run, a 90 second walk, a 3 minute run and a 3 minute walk (then repeat all once). The final 3 minute walk is considered your cool down walk.

Today was the first run in which I've used my new iPod. Up to now, I was "one of those people" who swore he would never get an Apple product. My main gripe is that they're so expensive (£147+ for a white 8GB iPod Touch). Now that I have one though, I rather like it. The iPod is stored in a "one size fits most" armband which I put on my upper right arm when I'm out and about. The armband is water resistant, which is good, and is hidden from sight under my t-shirt sleeve. It took me a few minutes to get used to, but once I did, I barely paid it any notice. Unfortunately, I don't have the sensor for the Nike+ app yet, so can't say whether I like it or not.

The run itself went well with my pace slightly increased since the first run. Monday's run finished at exactly 2 laps (approximately 1.6 miles according to Google); today's run finished a little ways past that, so I went ahead and completed the third lap accompanied by a few of my own mp3s.

I found the first 3 minute run to be slightly more difficult than last time; by the time Laura said "slow down" I was huffing and quite out of breath. The second 3 minute run wasn't as bad though and I had enough energy to push my speed a bit during the final 60 seconds.

Today was "weighing in" day. My "just me" weight this week is 148 lbs; my clothed weight is 68 kg. A slight increase, but well within normal perimeters.

I also picked up my blood test results from my GP today and made an appointment to see Dr. Curtis, my gender specialist, at the end of this month. Hopefully he'll give me the OK to pursue top surgery.   

Monday, 9 July 2012

C25K - Week 3 Day 1

To take the place of the 10 week Fresh Start fitness/health programme, I have started the 9 week (estimated) NHS Choices Couch to 5K running programme. The C25K programme is a downloadable podcast that encourages you to build up to running a full 5 kilometres.

Week 3 consists of a 5 minute warm up walk, followed by a 90 second run, a 90 second walk, a 3 minute run and a 3 minute walk (then repeat all once). The final 3 minute walk is considered your cool down walk.

Over the weekend I had come to accept that I wouldn't be able to start week 3 until next week due to my mp3 player having fizzled (my computer refuses to find it). This morning however, I remembered that my mobile phone plays mp3s and after a bit of searching, I found the headphones for it. So I was able to start week 3 this week after all!

This run was really easy! When Laura (the woman narrating the NHS C25K podcast) said what the running times were going to be, I thought "There's no way I can run for 3 minutes straight!". But once the first 3 minute run started, it didn't seem so bad and it was over before I got out of breath. Having a 3 minute walk afterwards helped out a lot though. I think if I would have only had a 90 second walk after the 3 minutes, I wouldn't have found it as easy! The podcast ended right at 2 laps around the housing estate - around 1.7 miles.

My next run (and next weigh in) is Wednesday.

Friday, 6 July 2012

C25K - Week 2 Day 3

To take the place of the 10 week Fresh Start fitness/health programme, I have started the 9 week (estimated) NHS Choices Couch to 5K running programme. The C25K programme is a downloadable podcast that encourages you to build up to running a full 5 kilometres.

Week 2 consists of 1 podcast in which you alternately run for 90 seconds and walk for 2 minutes. You do this for a total of 20 minutes, with 5 minutes before and after to warm up and cool down.

Today was the last run of the week and was done in the pouring rain. By the time I had finished the 5 minute warm up walk, I was soaked through. By this time I was tempted to call it quits, but I thought "I might as well do it, can't very well get any wetter".

Everything went really well, with all the runs giving me no problems. I don't know if it was the rain or my stamina having gotten better, but it seemed that I was able to run and walk faster than I did in the previous two runs. The podcast had reached the middle point of the last 2 minute walk when my mp3 player decided to fizz out. I didn't give up though. I ran from where I was to my house. I counted foot falls rather than seconds (right foot, left foot 1. right foot, left foot 2.), so while the timing may have been off a bit, at least I still got that last run in! Skipped the cool down walk, but I did some stretches instead.

I'm worried about my Mp3 player. I plugged it into my computer and it's not finding it, so I can't change the files. Looks like I might have to get that iPod Touch sooner than I had planned. 

Week 3 starts on Monday!

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Funding for Transition

After adding up the donations and commissions I've received from some wonderful people in the last month (thank you so much!) and half of the amount it would cost me to buy my testogel privately (I finally got my hormones funded on the NHS), the new total for my top surgery fund is £2750! And just to make it a more even amount, I'll add in an extra £50.

£2800 out of £6000. I'm so close to the halfway mark, I can smell it! Although that may be the chicken I had for lunch.

If I tighten my belt a bit more, I can probably manage to save up another 1-2000 GBP by September. That still leaves me £1000 short of my goal though. If you can help in any way, please do so. Either donating what you can afford or sharing the link to this post - every little bit helps!

For those of you who are able to donate, I thank you in advance. For those of you who can't donate but do link to this post, thank you for helping get word out.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

End of Fresh Start Programme

Today was the final meeting of the 10 week Fresh Start programme for me and the others who have been attending with me since May. As it was our last session, we only did the exercise portion and the weigh in and final waist measurement. The usual food education and taste-testing was replaced with filling out a general satisfaction form.

My final measurements are weight: 66.8 kilograms (147 pounds) and waist: 34 inches. In the last 10 weeks, I have lost 11 pounds and 2 inches off my waist. Not too bad!

On the 18th of July we start the post programme support which lasts for 9 weeks. This consists of going in to get weighed and measured, updating our portions allotments, and having a quick chat with the staff while the new group does their exercises.

While I appreciate the post programme support sessions, I'm going to miss attending the proper Fresh Start sessions themselves. I learned a lot from them and really enjoyed the exercise class each week.

C25K - Week 2 Day 2

To take the place of the 10 week Fresh Start fitness/health programme, I have started the 9 week (estimated) NHS Choices Couch to 5K running programme. The C25K programme is a downloadable podcast that encourages you to build up to running a full 5 kilometres.

Week 2 consists of 1 podcast in which you alternately run for 90 seconds and walk for 2 minutes. You do this for a total of 20 minutes, with 5 minutes before and after to warm up and cool down.

Today's run went rather well, even taking into consideration that I deviated from my normal route. Instead of running around the perimeter of my housing estate, I instead ran through a neighbouring estate, past Hough Green railway station, and along Liverpool Road. I was very aware that Liverpool Road is quite a bit busier than the road around my housing estate - both in pedestrians and vehicular traffic. But no one stared, pointed, or laughed at me - not that I would have noticed with my headphones on and me having "zoned out" (i.e. totally immersed in the act of running).

The final run of week 2 is on Friday. I'll probably go back to my "usual" route as I'll be able to calculate the distance ran easier. One day I'll get a GPS/MP3 player and will thus be able to vary my route more often.  

Monday, 2 July 2012

C25K - Week 2 Day 1

To take the place of the 10 week Fresh Start fitness/health programme, I have started the 9 week (estimated) NHS Choices Couch to 5K running programme. The C25K programme is a downloadable podcast that encourages you to build up to running a full 5 kilometres.

Week 2 consists of 1 podcast in which you alternately run for 90 seconds and walk for 2 minutes. You do this for a total of 20 minutes, with 5 minutes before and after to warm up and cool down.

I found the first 90 second run to be fairly easy, but I forgot to check my speed and thus the other runs were quite a bit slower as I tired myself out with the first one! I managed to cover about 2 miles during the podcast and finished the final lap around my housing estate while listening to the music I had put on my MP3 player to bring the total distance up to 2.9 miles - in the rain.

My running shoes seem to be taking good care of my ankles. I was able to walk up the stairs without any pain right after my third mile, which is a good indicator of how well the shoes support my arches and ankles!

Friday, 29 June 2012

Couch to 5K - Week 1 Day 3

Yesterday I went into town and had my gait analysed at the local sports fitness store. The computer said I need support shoes (I have collapsed arches in my feet) so I went ahead and bought a pair while I was there.

Today's run was done this evening instead of this morning as I went on a day trip to St Helen's with a friend as soon as Paul left for school. I wore my new shoes while I was out to help "break them in".

The run went well, though the pace was slower than the previous two runs. I think it was due partly to having new shoes and not being used to running in them and partly because I changed the time I ran. Normally, I run around 10am. Today I started at about 6:30pm. The good part is that during the run, my ankles didn't hurt at all and at the moment, they seem to be in good shape. Hopefully this means that the shoes are doing their job properly.

I'm resting the entire weekend from running, although I'll probably get some walking and weight training/resistance bands in at some point.

Week 2 starts Monday!

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Couch to 5K - Week 1 Day 2

My run today went rather well. Once again, I managed to run for the allotted eight minutes and walk the rest without too much difficulty. Although, I did have to mentally spur myself on for the second to last run. Again, I did three miles in about 40 minutes.

After I had rested for a while though, I noticed that my feet have developed blisters! There are two blisters on my left foot (one on my third toe and a big one on the outside of my heel) and a popped one on the fourth toe of my right foot. Also, my ankles are really bothering me.

Problems with my ankles isn't really that surprising, as I've had weak ankles for the last 20 years, but I wasn't expecting them to hurt this much! I've put plasters on the blisters, slathered my feet in lotion and put some Voltarol spray on my ankles. That will have to do for now. When I go into town tomorrow, I will buy some ankle supports, more painkiller spray, and whatever else looks like it might help (perhaps some cooling plasters, if I can find them).

I'm not giving up though.

Monday, 25 June 2012

Couch to 5K - Week 1 Day 1

Today I started the "Couch to 5K" fitness plan as detailed on NHS Choices. Each workout takes approximately 30 minutes to complete. You do the workout three days a week. The first week entails five minutes of a warm up walk, followed by eight stints of running for sixty seconds and walking for ninety seconds, then finally a cool down walk lasting another five minutes.

To be honest, I wasn't sure if I would last the entire 30 minutes the first time through. I haven't done any serious running since high school - nearly 20 years ago. But I managed to finish it and even walked longer than the five minute cool down. In total, I walked and ran nearly three miles today - that's three laps around the housing estate in which I live - in about 40 minutes.

This first time wasn't super difficult, but neither was it a walk in the park. By the time I got back home, I was panting, covered in sweat and my calves and ankles were aching. My next workout day is Wednesday, so I'll be changing the scenery a bit and doing the workout on my way to the Fresh Start class. Here's to Wednesday!

Monday, 18 June 2012

Sponsored Walk - Planning Stages

I went into the Halton Link today to enquire about legalities of having a sponsored walk to raise awareness of Halton PCT (and other PCTs in the UK) denying treatment and medicine for transgender people. Any money raised will go towards my top surgery and any left over will be given to another trans person who is in the same situation I am.

The woman I spoke with said that as long as I don't collect money on the streets, I'll be fine and to make sure I come by the Halton Link when I start asking businesses to sponsor me!

I'm hoping to do the walk on my 35th birthday which will also be exactly one year since I came out to all my friends and family. This week I'll be figuring out the route I want to take (I know I'll be walking from Widnes town centre, across the Widnes/Runcorn bridge, back across and head home to Hough Green) and designing and printing out sponsorship forms. Next week I'll go around to local businesses, asking them to sponsor me. The week after, I'll contact local media (radio, papers) and tell them about it.

It's my hope that doing this will raise awareness in the general population about transgender rights pertaining to medical treatment and the situations we often find ourselves in when we try to get funding for surgeries and hormones that will greatly increase our quality of life.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Funding Setbacks

First, let me update you so you won't be completely lost. Two months ago my GP put in a funding request to my Primary Care Trust for my testosterone prescription. They denied the funding on the grounds that because I had gone to a private gender specialist, I had gone off their "approved transgender care pathway".

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Fitness Update - 5 weeks on Fresh Start

On the 2nd of May 2012, I went to my first Fresh Start fitness course. At that time, I weighed 71.9 kilograms and my waist was 36 inches.

Fresh Start is a free weekly fitness course in Halton which combines exercise with learning about food and portions. The one I attend is taught by three wonderful people - Sophie the dietician, Paul the fitness instructor, and Steve who helps with the fitness and weighs us every week.

I really love the fitness part. Paul does a fantastic job of tailoring the circuits (or whatever we're doing in a given week) to each person and he doesn't hesitate to challenge us to reach just a bit further.

Last Wednesday, the 6th of June, was the half way point in the 10 week course. My measurements were 70 kilograms in weight and 34 inches around my waist. Not a huge difference, but I wasn't expecting too much as I'm on testosterone which has a tendency to put the weight on. To be honest, I would have been happy had my weight just stayed put from the first week.

We have another four weeks left of the course and I will make another fitness update at that time. Until then, happy exercising!

Sunday, 10 June 2012

International LGBT Pride Month

June marks International LGBT Pride month all over the world. No matter where you live, chances are there are people celebrating sexual and gender diversity somewhere nearby. From Pride parades, to vigils, to street parties, to wearing t-shirts or emblems, there's something for everyone. 

Why do LGBT people celebrate Pride, you may ask? It's simply a way, for most of us, to gather together and celebrate who we are and to remind those who wish we would go away, that we're here to stay!

No matter who you are, no matter what you do this month, stay safe and have fun!

Edit: Prints are available for this painting. 

6x4 - £3
7x5 - £4
8x6 - £5
10x8 - £7
12x8 - £10
20x16 - £25 
30x20 - £30

Prices include postage and packing. 
To order, click on the donate button and leave a note saying which size you want along with your mailing address. 
All proceeds from this print will go towards my FTM transition costs.


Friday, 8 June 2012

Wichita Town Hall

A painting of the town hall in Wichita, Kansas.

Done in ArtRage using the gloop pen as part of my 2012 Projects: http://www.furaffinity.net/journal/3057862/

This took me 2 weeks to complete. I am never drawing a building as the focal point of a painting ever again. And definitely not in this much detail!

~Fact about me: I lived in Wichita for about 2 years when I was a teenager. My senior year of high school was at Wichita Heights High and I attended Friends University for 1 year.~

>Photo used as reference for this painting<

Friday, 1 June 2012

New Fund Raising Total

Fund raising for my FTM top surgery has been, so far, slow going. I'm not going to let that deter me, however. Not being well known in the trans corners of the internet and with the world economy being as it is, to expect to reach my goal in 6-9 months is most probably an unobtainable goal. It is a goal that is important to me though, so I shall keep striving towards it.

This surgery is very important to me. Not only will it help to drastically cut down on my physical dysphoria, it will also allow me to do mundane things such as go swimming without feeling self conscious (most men don't wear a two-piece bathing suit). Having this surgery will also ensure that I don't get any binder related injuries. (Wearing a binder can result in damage to your ribs if it's worn over an extended period of time.)

Believing that if you want something bad enough, you'll try everything you can to get it, I have been quite busy trying to raise money offline as well as online. Some (but not all) of the things I have been doing in the last two months consist of selling clothing that no longer fits me, selling video games and DVDs and CDs as well as saving all of my spare change and putting it towards my top surgery fund.

I am also offering art prints as donation incentives. For more information on that, please click this link: Fundraising For Top Surgery 

As of today, the 1st of June, 2012, my total is £2623 out of £6000.

Please, if you can spare £5 or even just £1, it would really help me out a lot. You can find my donate button at the top of all of my blog entries as well as on my home page. Simply click it, sign into Paypal, and fill in how much you would like to donate. Don't forget, if you fulfil one (or more) of the incentive deals to include a note letting me know your choices in prints.

A big thank you in advance to all who help me out either by donating or sharing the link!


Thursday, 31 May 2012

2 Months In

It's been two full calendar months since I started taking testogel. The changes have been gradual, yet have still managed to sneak up on me.

Physically, I feel great. My weight is staying at around 70 kilograms (154 lbs) despite working out for about an hour a day, five days a week. I think this is due to the testosterone helping my muscles to recover faster and thus bulk up more. Most of the exercise I do consists of hand weights and resistance bands, with walking and aerobic exercise thrown in. Even though I may not be losing much weight, my body is still changing; my waist has gone down from 36 inches to 34 inches. The only things giving me problems are my knees which tend to be really sore after doing my workouts. I've found that using Voltarol Active spray on them helps.

Physical changes for this past month seem to revolve around hair. Facial hair and body hair have become slightly thicker and more noticeable, especially on my shoulders and back, stomach, and upper lip and chin. I'm shaving about once a week as the facial hair that grows in is blond and thin, which isn't the look I want. I'm guessing that in another two or three months my facial hair will look more "proper" and will grow in darker.

Mentally, I'm doing well. I've always been fairly laid back in attitude, and the testosterone hasn't changed that, although I think it may have amplified it a bit as I don't stress out nearly as much as I used to before starting T.

As always, if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to put them in below!


Sunday, 6 May 2012

Activia Pouring Yogurt Review: It's Not For Tea!

It all started when I signed up to the BzzAgent campaign for Activia Pouring Yogurt on the BzzAgent website. A few weeks later I received the campaign pack through the post. The above video shows exactly what was in the pack.

The first thing about the product that interested me was the claim that it was a healthy addition to your daily diet. Secondly was the claim that the pouring yogurt could be used in a number of ways. Immediately I looked for some recipes to try it with; but first I had to go shopping to get the product.

There are three different flavours of Activia Pouring Yogurt: Strawberry, Vanilla, and Natural. Wanting to make this review as accurate as possible, I bought one of each flavour.

Before trying out the recipes I had found, I wanted to try some more 'traditional' ways (and one not so traditional way) of using the yogurt: drinking, in tea, and over cereal. The first two of these I documented in a video on Youtube.

The cereal test was done off camera using three small bowls of cereal containing three tablespoons of malted wheaties. Each flavour of yogurt tasted quite nice with the cereal with the vanilla being my favourite flavour.

Next I tried baking. My first experiment was homemade scones, substituting half of the milk with strawberry pouring yogurt. They turned out really nice, tasting fantastic warm with butter.

Next on my list was smoothies. I made a banana and strawberry smoothie with strawberry yogurt and a three berry smoothie with vanilla yogurt. Both were extremely tasty, very filling and cooling.

My final experiment was meant to be sourdough bread using the natural yogurt as part of the starter. Alas, the starter didn't ferment properly. I'm not sure about the reason why. It could have been that the yogurt kept the starter from fermenting or it could have been stored at too cool a temperature. Not wanting to totally give up, I made a loaf of bread using the natural yogurt in place of water. The results were wonderful; unfortunately I wasn't able to take a photo of the finished loaf as it was eaten before I could find my camera!

Overall, the product is a very nice addition to your daily diet. The strawberry and vanilla flavours go really well over cereal, in baking, and as a drink on their own. The natural flavour is great for lots of different recipes - curries, dips, smoothies, bread and on it's own if you like the taste. The natural flavour is also best if you're watching your sugar intake as it contains the least amount of sugar of the three flavours. I think this product will be used quite often in my kitchen, if not every day. Just not in tea!

Friday, 27 April 2012

One Month In

It's been one month (four weeks) since starting testosterone.

Things I've noticed in the past two weeks since my last T blog are muscle twitches and soreness in my arms and legs - especially my calves. The dizziness first thing in the morning is gone now, thankfully. My sensitivity to sunlight has increased, giving me a really nice tan mostly on my arms and legs where I apply the testogel. UV sensitivity is a side effect of testogel so I'm not surprised by this development.

As far as I can tell, there haven't been any other changes. My voice sounds the same to me and there haven't been any changes with my body hair, although I know these things will take several months before they become noticeable.

I've started a fund raiser to help raise money for top surgery as well. My goal is to raise £6000. As of today, I'm up to £2506. All money that is donated will be spent on my top surgery. Anything left over will be donated to another transgender person to help them with their surgery costs. If you would like to help me out, the donation button can be found at the top of every page on this blog. 

Unfortunately, I haven't been able to record a video yet. When I get the chance to do so, I will embed it here.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Fundraising for Top Surgery

The next step in my transition plans is a mastectomy, more commonly known as "top surgery". The end result will give my chest a more masculine appearance and will hopefully get rid of the largest part of my physical dysphoria.

It is my hope that my hormone levels are sufficiently high enough this coming up July to enable me to get this surgery and that I will be able to get it done by the end of 2012.

Normally, the NHS would fund my surgery, however my local PCT has been known to reject funding for transgender top surgeries. As I do not wish to undergo a long and stressful battle to fight this, I must raise the money for the surgery myself.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Two Weeks In

It's been two weeks since starting T and so far so good. Early days yet, so very little changes to speak of. I'm drinking a lot of water - around 1-2 litres per day at the least plus tea (two mugs of regular and two mugs of decaf per day). My body odour has started to change a bit along with the smell of my urine.

Monday, 2 April 2012

3 Days on Testosterone

The trip to London went really well. I had reserved window seats in the Quiet coaches both ways with the added extra of being in 1st class on the way back.

Dr. Curtis was again very nice and supportive during my appointment and he answered all the questions that I had. We talked about getting a hysterectomy on the NHS sometime in future and getting top surgery privately. Both things were just mentioned a little as "next steps"; we'll go over my options in more detail the next time I go visit him. We also talked about different methods of taking T (sustanon, nebido, gel) and I stuck with my earlier decision to use the gel. Dr. Curtis went over how to use it and got three months supply out of his store.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

About Being an Artist and Fair Prices

Today I received a private message from someone on an art site I regularly upload to. In this message, they gave their opinion that $10 for a pencil drawing is charging too much and artists should charge "$5 or less" for these "simple" drawings.

Here is my response.

$10 for a pencil drawing is actually very cheap. If you think about it from a paid-by-the-hour view point, a pencil drawing (shaded and cleaned up) usually takes around 1-2 hours to complete. Minimum wage in the states is $7.25. If it takes two hours to complete, the artist is actually underselling themselves by $4.50. Then you have to work out the cost of materials if it's a traditional drawing or the cost of electric used by the computer and tablet if it's a digital commission, so add another $2 to that, easily. So the artist is underselling themselves by nearly an hours wage. If you go by minimum wage + materials, the artist really should be charging closer to $17 for a simple drawing, no colour.

If you're like me who lives in England yet has their price set in US currency, the underselling is even worse. The minimum wage in the UK is £6.08, which is about $9.58, so two hours of work at the UK minimum wage works out to be $19.16. Add in cost of materials (£2 or $3.15) and you'll find that UK artists who charge $10 for a pencil drawing are actually underselling themselves by over $12.

But let's say that I agreed to take on a $5 commission - just to prove my above point. $5 is worth about £3.20. That's about 30 minutes, based on UK minimum wage. However, we need to figure out material costs - let's say £1.60, to make the maths easier.  that's about half of the cost, which cuts work time down to 15 minutes. In 15 minutes, I can draw a stick figure, complete with tail, ears, and paws and even throw in a background of the same quality.

Now, let's take a more "professional" artist than I am - someone who pretty much makes a living solely from selling their art and taking commissions. http://cooner.johntoons.com/commissions/  This artist, as you can see, sells pencil sketches for $25 each. This price, for the skill level, is actually really good.

To sum up, $5 for a pencil sketch is WAY underselling the artist, no matter which way you look at it.

Opinions? Thoughts? Please share!

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Progress at Last

On the 2nd of February 2012, I travelled down to London for my first visit with Dr. Curtis. It went really well and I hope to see him again in March or April.

For those of you who don't recognise the name, Dr. Curtis is a private practitioner who specialises in trans gender treatment. He doesn't judge, doesn't ask trick questions, and is all in all a very personable yet professional guy.

The appointment itself was a typical assessment appointment. He asked me some questions about my childhood, how long I've felt that I am trans gender, and how I see myself. We talked about everything from the lack of education regarding trans gender issues amongst the NHS professionals to the weather to hormones and surgery. At the end of my hour long appointment, he gave me some papers which included a letter from him saying I am seeing him for treatment for transsexualism and an informed consent form which I will sign when he is ready to prescribe hormones.

The only things I am waiting for before I can make my next appointment are the letter from the psychiatrist stating I am in good mental health and my blood test results. Once I get both of them, I can make my 2nd appointment. Hopefully they won't take too long.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Whose Fault Is It?

Today I did a "verse of the day". For those of you who may be unfamiliar with this sometimes habit of mine, I will explain. When most people talk of a "verse of the day", they usually take a verse out of a religious text  - usually the Bible. I however, am not religious and do not really ascribe to any religion. Instead, my "holy text" is The Good Book - a secular/humanist/atheist text that was put together by A.C. Grayling. It is from this book that I get my verses from.

Today's verses, chosen at random, were from The Lawgiver Chapter 19 verses 30-32

For when the people have committed a wrong against a good man and then repent of their anger,
They think the easiest way to excuse themselves for this offense is the most just, namely,
To destroy the man who was the author of it and persuaded them to commit it.

Normally, when I do one of my Sunday Sermons or Verses of the Day, I type out the verses and leave the reader to come to their own conclusions. Learning is, after all, done best when a person is left to think for themselves. Sometimes though, I find myself dwelling on what I've typed and feel like maybe someone will appreciate my thoughts on the matter.

These verses bring to my mind the injustices that many LGBTQ people face today at the hands of the "well-meaning" religious right. They tell us we are sinful, abominations, and vile and abhorrent to their God. They tell us that unless we turn to their God, repent of our disgusting sexual depravities, and change to "normal heterosexuality" that we will forever burn in hell.

Sometimes though these people "receive insights from God" and realise that they what they have been saying and doing in the name of their God is wrong and hateful. Some of these people become true allies and stand with us in our struggle towards equality. Others play the "blame game", saying such things as "If my pastor hadn't told us that homosexuality was a sin, I would have never said those things to you." or "It's really the churches fault - the church is to blame for all the hatred towards you.".

The "blame game" is wrong. Period. It doesn't matter if the pastor of a church preached that being lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender is sinful. It doesn't matter if a world-renowned Christian activist said that all LGBT people should do the world a favour and kill themselves. It doesn't matter if the Pope said that marriage equality will destroy "traditional" families. Yes, these people are wrong. Yes, they should be preaching love and acceptance instead of hate and divisiveness, but that's their problem.

What does matter, what is your problem, is whether you, as a religious person, listened to them. We all have a choice when someone tells us something. That choice is do you listen to it, believe it, and act upon it, or do you reject what they say as being hateful and un-Christlike? Likewise, we all have a responsibility to research the truthfulness of everything we see, hear, and read.

In summary, take responsibility for your own thoughts and actions; don't blame others for something you could have, with a little thought, done differently.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Regarding the NHS and Going Private

Today I made a phone call to Dr. Curtis in London. Dr. Curtis is a specialist in the private sector of transgender treatment and comes highly recommended in the transgender community for both FTMs and MTFs. My first consultation with him is on the 2nd of February 2012.

The decision to go with a private practitioner has not been taken lightly. Over the last nine months, I have done a lot of research on the internet looking through several transgender forums and talking with quite a few trans men and women about waiting times and treatment on the NHS. What I have found has been quite disheartening.  From GPs who don't know the NHS approved pathways to extremely long waiting times between each step of the pathway, the NHS, in my opinion, has failed trans men and women over and over again.

For me personally, there have been several shortcomings with the NHS. In April 2011, I came out to my GP who summarily dismissed it as being "a temporary mental issue" because I am dating a man. (After all, we know that trans men are always attracted to women and never to men, right?) In June, I changed GPs and came out to my new GP as bigender and trans. He was more supportive, but didn't have a clue what the PCT's pathway is nor who to refer me to. It took him a month to make a referral to the local community mental health team and a further six weeks (prodded by me making several phone calls at the 4 week mark) before I got sent my first consultation appointment during the month of September. My second appointment was rescheduled from October to November and I was then informed that I would have to attend a third appointment on the 23rd of January 2012 in order to get my referral to the Gender Identity Clinic.

Up to present time, my transition journey has taken nine months and I don't even have a referral letter in my hand as of yet. According to several people I have talked with, the waiting list to get seen at the Gender Identity Clinic is anywhere from 6 months to a year from referral and another 6 to 9 months before I get prescribed hormones. I am not willing to wait another year or longer just to get a simple hormone replacement prescription - a prescription might I add, that a male assigned at birth person can get in one or two months - therefore, I am going private with Dr. Curtis long enough to get prescribed testosterone and transfer that prescription over to my current GP. 

It is my hope that this blog or at the very least the message contained in this blog gets brought to the attention of someone in the NHS and results in change regarding how transgender people are treated.