The Relentless Onslaught of Time.

Happy New Year! Bold white text in front of fireworks.

2022 was a strange year. It simultaneously feels like a mere few minutes since I sat down to write one of these, and yet Boris Johnson’s time in Number 10 Downing Street is but a distant memory. I certainly did not expect to be writing the phrase “our second prime minister of the year was out-lasted by a lettuce with googly eyes”, yet here we are. Another year has passed, and it is time for my annual round-up.

In January, the UK was buffeted with multiple fierce storms so intense that the glass roof of the foyer to our block of flats shattered when a piece of debris fell through it like Mick Foley on a steel cage. The noise woke both myself and my husband up, but it wasn’t until we went out the following morning that we found the atrium blocked off with what had to be a million tiny shards of glass floating in a shallow puddle of rainwater. Fortunately, the other exit to the building past the bins, while stinky, was accessible and we managed to go out regardless. Unfortunately, this would bring me into direct conflict with a police officer.

Our building was not the only casualty of the storm, and as we headed down the one side of the road not blocked by a police car, we were stopped and told to cross due to hitherto unmarked dangers on the path ahead. I explained that I would need to travel a couple of meters further on as my wheelchair could not levitate, and the charming gentleman decided the only reasonable course of action would be to grab my wheelchair. Fortunately, no one (himself included) was hurt, but the ensuing argument left me shaken. I wrote about it here, so all I’ll say further here is that if I disliked police before, I was thoroughly distrustful of them going forwards.

A few weeks later I finally received my ID with my new name, which had been changed via deed poll the previous November. This initiated a few hectic days of sending letters, making phone calls and going to in person visits at the myriad of businesses that held my personal details. I was pleasantly surprised in that, for the most part, it was smoother than getting the ID itself. While I have managed to change my details with most places, dead-names are like a weird game of whack-a-mole in that it continues to pop out at me unexpectedly every so often.

Handmade felt love-hearts with letters on spelling my name.

At the start of March I joined the union strikes sweeping universities across the country, campaigning for improved pay in the wake of staggering tax increases. Unfortunately, my experience of striking as a disabled person was overwhelmingly negative, being dominated by arguments over accessibility, rather than being able to put energy into the cause of our strike. Still, a few days off work were appreciated.

In April, I went viral on TikTok, an experience which I’m not entirely sure I recommend. I wrote about that delightful experience here.

The next few weeks after this were exceptionally quiet, and so I’ll fast forward to the day before my birthday. I arranged to meet a friend after work to try on my first binder. Binders are like bras that instead of lifting up or supporting the chest, compress it into a flatter, more masculine shape. They are commonly worn by transmasculine people like myself, and are notorious for being uncomfortable and even painful if used incorrectly. With my chronic pain and breathing issues, I didn’t expect to be able to wear one comfortably, hence resorting to a charity-lead binder library before committing to purchasing one. After taking one home to try out, I didn’t get to wear it for almost two weeks.

Trans Rights Now scrawled in pink marker, on a sticker on a lamppost in the city centre.

My husband had been unwell, and since caring is sharing, I would come down with the same illness a few days later. What followed was eight hours of almost constant throwing-up, struggling to get time to breathe between bouts of sickness. Several hours in I was in agony and exhausted from the constant muscle contractions, I was rapidly dehydrating, and none of my medications had stayed down. After calling 111 (the non-emergency medical helpline in the UK) and providing them with some particularly unpleasant details I will spare you, I was directed to the hospital as a matter of emergency. This would be one of the few good experiences I have ever had in accident and emergency, not that I would ever recommend visiting for the fun of it. After a few hours of waiting the vomiting finally ceased, and when it was determined I was no longer at risk of serious complications such as internal bleeding, I was allowed home.

Did I mention this occurred the day before I had some time booked off work?

The next three days were miserable. I was able to drink water and even worked my way up to a cup of tea, but even the blandest of food made me feel nauseous. On day 4 I managed to get dressed and even left the house briefly. On day 9, I ate my first full meal in over a week. On day 10, I went back to work.

It was about a week later that I finally got to wear my borrowed binder properly, and I was awestruck at how much a simple garment could change my profile; I went from an E-cup to the sandflats of Utah. Over the coming days, I was also surprised to discover that wearing it didn’t cause me excessive amount of pain or breathing difficulties as I had expected. I even managed to go axe-throwing in it! After about a month of trying it out, I decided to purchase my own all the way from America.

I wore my new binder when I went to get my next tattoo, a galaxy-filled Star Trek logo on my right shin, which was the most painful one so far. The layers of ink needed to create the galaxy-effect required the tattoo artist to revisit the same patches of skin multiple times, and I found myself tensing up. Said tensing up caused me to pass wind in the vicinity of my poor tattoo artist, who much to my relief found it funny. At least the end result was worth it.

In July, a few days after the tattoo fart incident, the UK was rocked with more extreme weather, this time reaching air temperatures above a sweltering 40°C. I actually found that going into the office was preferable to staying at home on these days purely because it was air-conditioned.

It was during this hot spell that I was elected as co-chair of the disability staff network I had set up the year before for the next twelve months, and that I submitted an application for a promotion. I didn’t expect to even be selected for interview having only been promoted over the summer of 2021, but since there was no harm in applying I decided it was worth a shot. I was pleasantly surprised to receive an invitation for a job interview for early September.

In the meantime, for the first time since the onset of the pandemic, Leeds Pride took place that August. Despite having coming out as non-binary over two years before, this was my first time marching as a trans person. This time I marched with the same charity who had leant me the original binder, which I had the pleasure of returning to them (washed and clean) while sporting my own. In light of the recent controversy surrounding whether conversion therapy bans should apply to trans people, I carried a sign reading “I need therapy; not conversion therapy,” which resonated well with those around me. It was a wonderful day.

My pride sign reading "I need therapy, not conversion therapy" in capital letters. The text is displayed over four rows coloured yellow, white, purple and black like the non-binary flag.

A few weeks later, the day of the job interview arrived. I put on a smart blouse that had previously granted me success in job interviews and logged onto the Teams call with my notes to hand, trying not to let nerves get the better of me. I was soon joined by the interview panel, and promptly answered a question with a rambling and frankly incoherent speech that still haunts my dreams. Convinced I had screwed up any chance at being promoted at this time, I relaxed, and when my phone rang later that afternoon was convinced I was about to be told bad news.

It was bad news for my old team; despite my atrocious answer the rest of the interview had gone so well that I had successfully secured a promotion up to the role of Data Manager in the cancer division, specifically the myeloma portfolio. I handed in my notice to my current line manager and began handing over my tasks to current team members, while beginning the tricky process of trying to wrap my head around an entirely new set of clinical trials. It was a busy time trying to finish certain tasks off while meeting new people and learning new projects, and I seemed to spend most of my time in meetings either instructing others or being instructed. It also transpired that the upholstery in the new area of the office I sat in matched one of my favourite shirts.

A selfie taken in my new work area, where my purple and grey checked shirt is almost identical to the cushion next to me. I look bemused.

It was during the transition between roles a couple of things occurred. First, I suffered an insect bite that got badly infected, resulting in a gunge-filled blister an inch across. This was thoroughly unpleasant and several weeks and one course of strong antibiotics later, my skin is still showing the effects of the bite.

At around the same time, I went to visit the optician for my standard check-up, as data management does require a lot of staring at numbers on screens with an eye for detail. While I had noticed some signs that my prescription had changed, namely struggling to read text at a size or distance I had not had trouble with previously, I definitely did not expect to be told that I would need to be referred to an optometry clinic at the hospital. My issues with double-vision had worsened significantly, most likely an impact of the declining strength of the muscles controlling eye movement as a result of my M.E. I was even more surprised to receive an appointment I was told I would have to wait months for within weeks, on a letter printed in larger font than usual. When the appointment rolled around in mid-December, my suspicions that the muscles controlling eye movement were weakening due to the M.E were all but confirmed.

A few days after my visit to the hospital, my wheelchair battery (which was already struggling with affects of age) succumbed to the cold. To make an already stressful situation worse, I ended up stranded at the office when a taxi driver decided they didn’t want to deal with a wheelchair user and drove off instead. Once I did eventually make it home, I was left with the conundrum of how to get wheelchair batteries replaced, which fortunately turned our to be much easier and cheaper than I had anticipated.

Now the year is drawing to a close. When this post is published, Christmas and my fourth wedding anniversary will have passed (providing we haven’t got divorced in the interim) and I’ll be bracing myself for the myriad of emails that undoubtedly await me when I return to the office. As of writing I can only speculate as to what the next twelve months will hold, mainly because I still refuse to plan things; a plan is always the first casualty of the 2020’s.

Black and white selfie taken in a bar. I'm wearing my Ramones sweater and a black beanie, with a tattoo choker, glowing skull earrings, and black lipstick.

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