An Appointment with a Gender Specialist
When I was seeking treatment I had basically two choices - seek an NHS referral to Charing Cross GIC (then the only GIC serving my area) or pay for private treatment. As Charing Cross then had a rather prescriptive treatment protocol I chose to seek private treatment. I'm very aware that the fact that I could afford to do so makes me rather privileged.
As a result of that choice I first saw a gender specialist (the consultant psychiatrist Dr Russell Reid of the London Institute) on 17th May 2002. At that appointment he issued a "diagnostic" HRT prescription on the basis that I'd been undergoing a form of psychotherapy (via the local MHT in Basingstoke) for several months prior. I'd been taking that since late May, and the results were very positive.
My second appointment was on Saturday 7th September 2002. By this time I had about 2 weeks supply of hormones left, so the timing was pretty good.
After the experience of going full-time for a week while I was on holiday in August, I'd resolved that this time I'd go as myself rather than wear a mask again. Fortunately, I managed to get my wife's co-operation (she'd helped me try some foundation and eye makeup techniques on me a few days beforehand).
As she was still in bed when I needed to get ready, I had to put the kids in their room while I got my makeup sorted. They not surprisingly started acting up and I had to keep going in to calm them down, resulting in me overheating and my foundation not sticking (panstick foundation was a pain for that!). It took me three attempts and the aid of a desk fan perched on the loo! to finally get results I was happy with, but I'm afraid by then I was pretty stressed.
As far as clothing goes, I just went for a casual look - jeans, boots, a white top and a black jacket. Before I left my wife had a look and agreed I was "passable" but "looked strange". Considering how her opinion of my transition was evolving at the time that was high praise indeed.
I caught a fast train from Basingstoke to Waterloo. As it wasn't crowded I ended up sitting on my own which gave me a chance to sort out my nails (I hadn't had time to do them properly before leaving). After arriving at Waterloo I headed for the tube (the London Institute was in Earl's Court, so from Waterloo I caught the Bakerloo Line to Embankment, then the District Line to Earl's Court).
If I had problems anywhere, I expected it to be on the tube (everyone stares at the best of times!), but I'm happy to say that the only problem I had was worrying whether my makeup would stick - it was pretty hot at times.
If you ever went to see Russell Reid you will know that his timekeeping was (shall we say) flexible - and this day was no exception. By the time he was ready to see me he was over an hour and a half late, and the two women due in after me had also arrived (one had brought a friend with her). I didn't mind as it gave me a chance to grab some lunch and have a good chat with them.
Russell was as friendly as ever. He was very pleased with my progress, and said that at my first consultation he'd had a feeling I'd be back (about half the patients he initially prescribes hormones to didn't come back). I also discovered he was also a Christian, and knows Revd. David Horton (then the chaplain of the GENDYS Network, who I'd contacted some months ago about my Church). Small world.
As Ovran (my initial HRT prescription) had been removed from the market by now, he wrote me a prescription for the preferred alternative (a then new combined pill called Yasmin). Although a lower dosage than Ovran (my prescription was 3 pills per day compared to the 2 per day of Ovran) it also contains a progestin which has some anti-androgren properties.
Both Ovran and Yasmin are combined contraceptive pills, with the primary ingredient being a synthetic - and rather strong - oestrogen named ethinylestradiol. Ethinylestradiol was routinely prescribed to trans women as a form of HRT at the time, but later fell out of use as a result of its risk factors.
The downside was the cost - about £1 per day on a private prescription. On that basis the prescription I had (18 packs of 21 pills) would cost £126, plus the cost of the oestrogel I was also prescribed. As I was seeing my GP on Monday my hope was to see if she was willing to take over the prescription (I was going to do that anyway, but Russell also suggested it). *
* When I talked to her the following Monday she told me she was happy to take over the prescription after I'd been on it for 3 months (assuming there were no side effects). I picked up the private prescription that Wednesday - the total cost was £182.50, of which £133.80 was for the Yasmin, and £48.70 for the Oestrogel. Ouch!
On the way back I had a real "what do I do here?" moment. I was waiting for a tube from Embankment to Waterloo and when it pulled in someone who I was sure was an ex-girlfriend of mine was on the train! (in the same coach in fact). Talk about being stunned!
She didn't recognise me, and I didn't muster the courage to just go up and say "Hi - I used to be [deadname]. How are you?". In fairness, I wouldn't like to drop it all on her so suddenly - we parted on amicable terms, and I still consider her a friend, despite losing touch. *
* Sometime later I got back in touch with her and discovered she was actually out of the country at the time. So, either I was being particularly blonde that day or she had a lookalike running around London. Either way, we both had a good laugh about it!
As I didn't know when the next time I'd be able to go out without "acting" will be, I couldn't resist stopping off at the shopping centre in Chineham for a quick look around after I got back into town. I found a couple of nice tops in QS, so I didn't come back empty handed.
It was also another good test as Chineham was very familiar territory, and by then I was quite frankly a bit of a mess (my makeup was showing the strain and my hair doing it's usual thing).
So that was my day in a nutshell! I hope you've found this account useful.