Been a while hey Steph!

Please excuse the use of a movie line but I thought it fitting as my last post was over twelve months ago!

2024 has had its fair share of challenges up to now, it started with shingles, although I think I dodged a bullet for the second time as apart from the rash itself I had little pain. I’m sure the fact that I had a stock of antivirals from the misdiagnosis in May 23 when it turned out to be gallstones was a help as despite it being the weekend, after a visit to the very helpful pharmacist in Vasse for a semi confirmation, I was on them straight away.

A very brief visit to England came in February after the death of my Adopted Mum (my Aunt). Despite needing to get my passport renewed and some other complications I’m so glad I went. Apart from the inclement weather and the reason for the trip (I actually attended two funerals while i was there as a good friend from school had also recently passed) there were several high spots of the trip. I caught up with my cousin David and his beautiful family and I also got to spend some time with my ex sister in law Lynne which was lovely as we both had plenty to talk about. I caught up with my nephews and their partners which was also lovely and spent a day with my step children and the rest of the family. I also met, in person for the first time, my very good friend Sophie Ottaway. If I’d ever thought I had a rough start to my life then Sophie’s story makes mine look like a walk in the park. I spent a day with her and her parents which was both lovely and enlightening. Her mum has read my book and we had lots to talk about. Sophie and I also spent a very long and thoroughly enjoyable evening together, talked non stop, had an hour on FaceTime with Denise, got quite drunk (thankfully I had a bed for the night!) and got to know each other much better. I’m hopeful that I can persuade her to visit us here in WA in the not too distant future.

Then it began! The first presentation of the year, telling my story, raising awareness of the difficulties of gender diverse (especially Intersex) people, trying to educate in order to improve the outcomes for gender diverse people and to talk about a more inclusive way forward. My first presentation of the year was on one of the workshop Stages at the Nannup Music Festival and for the first time I was not alone on the stage. As my rock, Denise was by my side. It was empowering to hear my journey from the partner/primary carer’s point of view and it worked really well and generated many questions at the end. The only negative was that the 45 minute time-slot was not long enough!

My next two presentations, April 26th and yesterday, May 3rd, were given to a wonderful organisation called the Bunbury Regional Community College. This is a recently opened college which provides education (and a great deal more) for students in years 10, 11 and 12 who don’t really fit into mainstream education for various reasons (I hope I’ve described that right?). They have a campus in Bunbury and also one in Busselton and I presented to the staff, teachers and social workers. I’m genuinely blown away by both the warmth and caring nature of all the staff and the excellent facilities offered to the students who otherwise would probably flounder in mainstream education as I myself did all those years ago. I’m sure it won’t be my last visit there; I feel I made lots of connections.

My next appearance will be a very new experience as I’m part of a panel discussion on inclusion in Perth to celebrate IDAHOBIT. This has already educated me about a couple of things as previously I was completely unaware that an ‘Inclusion Consultant’ was an actual occupation. The event will consist of two speakers and then, after a short break, the panel discussion. I’m sure there will be some very interesting discussions as Inclusion is a very important topic. I do feel however that in many cases inclusion is misinterpreted. To me, it’s not about inviting someone to your table, it’s believing that they belong there.

My next presentation, a week later is a really interesting opportunity in an area which is closer to the Intersex/Transgender world than you might think. I’m presenting at a fertility clinic. Fertility is going to be an ongoing discussion topic which, with the huge increase in young people presenting with gender dysphoria, is not going away. The disruption caused by puberty blockers and cross sex hormones is often irreversible and in my opinion, not enough time and psychotherapy is available to adequately look after these young people.

So, I promise I’ll make more effort and will post more regularly.

For those of you who don’t recognise the movie quote, it’s by Tom Cruise when he first sits in the cockpit of the F14 Tomcat before stealing it in Top Gun Maverick.

Until next time, lots of love to you all

Steph xx

Where did 2022 go?

Well Christmas is over for another year thankfully, its never my favourite time of year but this year it has at least been very peaceful. We spent the day at Nannup, just the two of us and of course Bella and had a very relaxing day. New year in contrast looks like being the complete opposite as we have a very busy few days ahead of us.

2022 started with a huge house paint in Gelorup and work has flowed thick and fast ever since. If all goes to plan there will be some changes to my work life in 2023 as I have a number of things swirling around in my head at the moment. I can’t share anything yet but will do in due course.

February saw a huge step forward in my mental health at long last. Ironically but probably not surprisingly it came after a visit to my wonderful Doctor not my Psychologist, although the latter has still been a very welcome support this year. After the customary health giving hug and subsequent conversation about how I was feeling, she paused then spoke two sentences which felt like she had lifted a huge weight off my shoulders and i’ve not looked back since.

The book continues to sell, not in great numbers, but in fairness that is probably my fault because I’ve been so busy with work I’ve not really done any promoting but that is something I’m planning on attending to next year. Without any doubt the best thing to come out of the book is the number of lovely people I’ve connected with through it, cumulating with me being asked to speak at the University of Notre Dame in Fremantle in October which was a real highlight of my year. Standing in front of an audience of medical students who will be tomorrows doctors was very empowering and was the thing that started me on the journey of deciding to change a few things next year.

The dreaded covid caught up with us in November after Denise had a few days in Melbourne with some friends and brought it back with her. Thankfully neither of us were really sick; Denise had a cough for a few weeks afterwards and I still feel a little more tired than usual but nothing serious. The latter has actually improved my sleep issues, it’s an ill wind etc….

Denise continues to be very much in demand regardless of semi retiring in February 2021. She is now working part time for the Nannup Music Club along with lots of private clients. We continue to get great pleasure from our little piece of paradise here in Nannup. If ever there was a place to build a life that you never want a holiday from, this is it! I always thought that Busselton was a friendly place but Nannup is on a completely different level. The community spirit here is immense and the feeling of belonging is extremely strong. We have both joined the North Nannup Volunteer Bushfire Brigade, me as an active firefighter and Denise as an auxiliary. I have completed my firefighting skills course and have been given all the uniform, hat and boots to go with it. They are a really great bunch of people, very inclusive and appreciative of the volunteers. Our property is in a very bushfire prone area and we have done a great deal of work to make it as fire proof as possible but having the skills and the colleagues to deal with emergencies is a great comfort.

The last thing I want to mention is that December 28th marked the 10th anniversary of Denise and my first date. Looking back I can’t believe all that has happened in those 10 years. We have had so many adventures and wonderful times, along with a few challenges. I’m sure there will be lots anniversaries to come, and probably some challenges, but we are a great team and I love our life together. All that remains is to wish you all a very happy, healthy and safe 2023 and beyond!

Lots of love

Stephanie xx

Long overdue post!

Yes i know it’s been a long time since i last posted, no excuse really just that time seems to go past so quickly and apart from being extremely busy work wise i don’t seem to have done much that i can class as ’post worthy’!

However, last night i had both the honour and the pleasure of speaking to a lovely group of medical students at the University of Notre Dame in Fremantle. The event was called a ’Queer Health Info Night’ and i was one of 5 speakers. We each spoke for 15-20 minutes about our personal stories or particular area of expertise then the audience had an opportunity to ask questions in a panel discussion. The fact that a Catholic University held an event of this nature i feel is a huge step forward and hopefully it will be the first of many to come. After all, who better to share our stories, with all the trials and difficulties we have encountered along the way than the doctors of tomorrow.

I’m so grateful to Jack Murray for organising the event, he did an excellent job of hosting it and i’m sure our paths will cross again soon.

2021, An incredible year!

Well it’s got to the 31st of December in what has been a momentous year for me in many ways. There are so many things to talk about I don’t really know where to start! I guess the first momentous event was finally getting my book Half Him Half Her published back in March. I didn’t really know what to expect but for me the biggest thing to come out of it is all the wonderful people i have connected with through the book. The list is endless but to name a few, Michelle, her mum Julie and all the people I’ve met through Michelle, Nicky and her beautiful family, Chantelle and Steph, Emma from the Mail, Taylar from the Times, Dominique from the local ABC and all the lovely people we have met this year in Nannup especially Shirley and Caryl who organised and helped me so much at my Nannup book launch and signing earlier this month. They have all enriched my life in some way.

There have been lots of other highlights related to the book this year. In August i was asked by Dr Sarah to speak to a group of medical students which she tutors about my story, intersex and transgender. They were a lovely group of people who listened carefully and asked a number of excellent questions. In September i was asked to speak to a book club in Dunsborough as my book had been their feature for the preceding period. They were a lovely group of people from many different backgrounds but had all enjoyed the book it was a very enjoyable evening. I’ve already mentioned the book launch in Nannup, we also had an excellent event earlier in the year at the Quill Collective in Vasse. I had absolutely no idea how the event would go as i had never attended a book launch before so imagine my surprise when a friend who was helping at the event asked me what time i was speaking? I said I wasn’t aware that i had to speak so she went on to tell me that the expectation would be that i say a few words and read two or three paragraphs out of the book. I consulted Denise who quickly found three passages which she thought would be of interest and passed a book to me. The first two went quite well i thought but I completely lost it on the third so Denise had to finish it off for me. It all added to the day in the end so nothing was lost.

Work wise i have had my best year by far and have work booked well into 2022. Early in the year i was asked if i was interested in doing some work for a second realestate company, Harcourts, by someone i have known for many years. It started slowly but has built up into a significant amount of work each month. Then in June this year i was asked by a third realestate company to do some work for them and it has really just snowballed from there. Private work has also been building and I’ve done lots of jobs which I’ve not tackled before. On the grounds that if you don’t challenge yourself you never grow, i think both my abilities and my business have grown accordingly. To help get through the work load i have enlisted the help of both Denise and Chantelle, each have their strengths and have both been a great help.

Health wise 2021 has been pretty good apart from a small incident involving a large piece of jarrah, a chainsaw and a length of fence wire which I didn’t see resulting in a broken rib. Thankfully it was soon mended after a very strange coincidence with the beautiful people on the reception at Broadwater Medical centre and subsequent visit to my GP. Talking of which, Dr Sarah has again this year spent far more time with me than she should have done and i feel very blessed to be in her care. I’m very happy to have all my GP needs under one roof now and know how lucky i am to looked after with such compassion, Broadwater Medical Centre, you rock!

Another momentous event was the birth of Freddy in September, Denise’s first grandchild and a real character he is. Denise has been up to Perth a number of times, I’ve been up once and seen him twice down here. The later of which was on Christmas Day which although was extremely hot was a very enjoyable day spent with lovely people whom I’m sure we will see a lot more of in 2022.

I’ve also discovered a couple more talents, making Christmas trees and Christmas cakes. The former, out of all recycled or left over timber from one job or another, one at the gate at Nannup and the other on the front Verandah. Both look really good and I’ve already been asked to make one for someone else next year. As for the cakes, ok its a bit of a cheat as it is a cake mix which just requires following instructions but i have now made 8 of them and not had anything but success. I think my tactical error was to start in October, it was never going to last until Christmas so i just kept making them and have indeed baked the last one tonight!

Well, that’s about us up to date, who knows what 2022 has in store for us but i can guarantee we are in one of the best areas of the best country in the world so I’m sure we will be safe under the stewardship of premier Mark McGowan! All that’s left is for me to wish all our friends a very happy new year, keep well and I’ll endeavour to write more posts in 22 than in 21, i know I’ve been a bit slack!

xxx

Book Launch 2 Nannup

A few weeks ago, after reading the book, a lovely lady in Nannup told me she thought I should be promoting it more, especially here in Nannup as I’m a local author and suggested I do another book launch. I thought it would be a great opportunity to meet new people in the town and asked how she thought I should go about it. Her reply was classic Nannup “I’ll organise it for you”. And that she did! Organised the venue, the catering, the advertising and even took over the job of taking expressions of interest in order to match that with the catering. We were both blown away by her kindness and as the day grew closer it was easy to see that there was more interest than previous book launches she had attended in Nannup.

We arrived at the venue about 30 minutes before the start time, armed with books, my banner and one of my rapidly becoming famous, Christmas fruit cakes. The venue was already taking shape, especially the refreshments table! The chairs were soon arranged, a table for Denise to take payments for books and me to write messages and sign them. Unlike the first launch where I was completely taken by surprise when I realised I was required to speak, this time I had given it a bit of thought and had at least picked out a couple of chapters in the book which I thought were both interesting and a little funny. I’d also written a short piece about things which had happened in my life since the book was completed.

At the arranged time, most of the seats were taken so the lady organising the event introduced me and the pressure was on. I decided to tell a short version of my beginnings and it just flowed from there. I explained a bit about intersex and how it occurs, my discovery of my beginnings and how my transition came about. I talked a little about my surgery and the months following before reading the two excerpts from the book. It all went exceedingly well and I managed to keep my composure and even told a couple of humorous stories at the end before taking questions.

All in all it was just the perfect event, the right number of people and the venue was ideal. I think I found the right balance between giving enough information without telling the whole story and there were a good number of questions to finish with. To top it all the catering was excellent, my cake went down very well and we made some lovely new friends. Thanks so much to Shirley for suggesting it and doing all the organising. We are blessed to have so many beautiful friends in our lives xx

Fifteen years ago today!

Fifteen years ago today i landed in Australia not really knowing what lay ahead. My partner and i arrived knowing only a handful of people ready to start a new life and i have to say it was pretty daunting. Starting a new job had always been an exciting thing for me in the past, i would always bring my band of loyal customers with me and hit the ground running but when the new job is on the other side of the world it’s a different thing all together. I always believed that selling cars would be much the same wherever you are but there was a great deal to learn, different currency, different cars, different taxes, but mostly, different paperwork! There seemed to be so much of it here, much of it i thought unnecessary. All the dealerships i had worked at in Yorkshire had a minimal amount of forms to fill in, in fact, the last one didn’t seem to have any real paper trail at all. Deals were done on the shake of a hand in true Yorkshire fashion, and i liked it that way.

Despite the differences i soon found my feet and got into the swing of how things worked. The two year point arrived and it was decision time. We had agreed that we would give it a minimum of two years then decide if we wanted to stay. It was a resounding yes and the job of obtaining permanent residency was next. It wasn’t without its difficulties but we got there eventually and had a large party to celebrate.

Looking back it all seems so long ago, indeed a lifetime ago quite literally. I sometimes can’t even remember being anyone other than Stephanie, my life seems to have changed so much. For many years for some strange reason I resisted getting my citizenship, i was and still am proud of my British heritage but we literally have so much to be grateful for here in Australia and our tiny part of this vast country i firmly believe is the best. As an example, i drove over from Busselton to Nannup on Friday afternoon and passed just a handful of cars, 70 kms with just a handful, no wonder when my best friend from England was here in 2019 he just couldn’t get over how deserted our roads are compared with England. I love Australia so much and i am blessed to have so many wonderful friends, Australia is home!

xx

Coincidence???

Now I don’t believe in coincidences but a very strange thing happened today which I’m struggling to put down to anything else!

We arrived at Nannup mid afternoon on Friday, We didn’t make it last week and really missed being there. There is such a peaceful feeling at the property, it refreshes us both over the weekend and we get such a sense of achievement for what we have created. The forecast was pretty dismal for the whole weekend and I didn’t expect to get much done. However, Saturday was quite nice and we did lots of jobs tidying up all the fallen twigs and branches during the morning. After lunch Denise had some work to do so i thought i would collect up some firewood which i had cut to give to a good friend back in Busselton. There wasn’t quite a load so I grabbed my AEG battery chainsaw to cut down a small dead Jarrah which I’d had my eye on for a while. It seemed to lean a little more each time i saw it so thought now is the time. The position of said tree was just at the other side of the strategic firebreak, there or thereabouts on our boundary (that’s my story anyway!). Cutting it down was a very easy job even with a 12 inch battery powered saw, i cut it into 4 pieces, picked up the lightest one in one hand and the saw in the other and headed for the trailer. This was where it all went wrong, there is the remains of a fence between where the tree was and the firebreak, I didn’t see it and tripped. I went straight down with a thud, my specs flew off my face, my chest hit the piece of wood and my chin hit something else. I carefully checked my tongue as the last time something like this happened, my lower teeth went straight through my tongue as i had it between my teeth (you have more strength with your tongue sticking out !! Everyone knows that!) all good, tongue still in tact, big pain coming from my chest and my chin, worse still, there was blood on my chin! The worst thing was that I couldn’t find my specs, i thought they couldn’t have gone far but i just couldn’t find them. I called Denise who joined me to look and eventually they were found thankfully.

We arrived back in Busselton about midday Sunday complete with trailer load of wood. By this time my chin was feeling better than it looked but my chest was still painful. I decided that if it was still bad when i woke on Monday i would call the doctors and make an appointment. Now the chance of seeing Dr Sarah at that short notice i knew was not likely but i felt sure that i would be able to see someone. I am very well looked after at Broadwater Medical Centre, they are all very kind to me (sometimes a little bit cheeky but I don’t mind!) so thinking i would call at 8 am i made some tea and waited. My chest was still very sore so i was thinking maybe I should have an x-ray to make sure I hadn’t cracked a rib or something. So I’m watching watching watching as the minutes ticked away then at 7.55 my phone rang, i thought who would be calling me at this time??? I opened the phone, there on the display was Broadwater Medical Centre, i answered it and the voice at the other end said “Hi its _ _ _ _ _ calling from Broadwater Medical Centre, Dr Sarah has had a cancellation this morning and I wondered if you would like it” i was speechless (which doesn’t happen very often) i said i would love to take it and briefly explained what had happened. I put the phone down in disbelief, i could hardly believe what had just happened!

So I attended the appointment at 11am, went for an X-ray which was done straight away and was back home by 12. The further icing on the cake was that the lovely lady at the Radiology place (who I’ve met several times) asked for a copy of the book which i delivered later. It all goes to prove how wonderfully blessed we are to live where we do and enjoy such incredible care.

With Gratitude xx

A time for anniversaries

Tomorrow is the second anniversary of the start of my mindfulness journey. I have to be very honest and say that when Dr Sarah Moore suggested meditation as a possible way to ease the debilitating pain i was in every day I was more than sceptical, i just couldn’t see how it would help but for two reasons i agreed to give it a go. Firstly, i have complete faith in Sarah so know she wouldn’t suggest something which she didn’t believe would help and secondly, i had just about run out of options. I’ve always been open to trying things but do sometimes struggle with stickatitiveness (yes i know that’s not a real word!) but Sarah suggested i watch a documentary called “The Connection, Mind your body” before my first class and it certainly got me thinking.

Enter the second Sarah in my journey, Sarah Roach, who is my meditation teacher. I knew from my first meeting with Sarah that Dr Sarah was right when she said “if you like me you will definitely like this Sarah as well”. From my very first lesson i knew there was something in it, i just had to work at it until i found it, and i did! Now I realise that I’m still very much in the learning stage but the benefits have been truly incredible. Within 3 weeks i was completely off the daily opiates and apart from the odd time I’ve used them when my back has been really painful, I’ve not needed them since for the pain i was struggling with before as a result of my gender reassignment surgery. I can, with my hand on my heart say i have not missed a day meditating since that day. I think to begin with i was too scared to miss a day in case the pain came back but now i do it because i want to and there are days when it’s only listening to a 10 minute guided meditation but i make time every day. The weekly classes at Sarah’s are an absolute highlight in my week, they serve to keep us all honest but over and above the meditation, there is an energy in the room which i just soak up, it is truly beautiful as are all the other ladies who attend, I’ve made some lovely friends. I guess like most things, the more I meditate, the better i get at it and the easier it is to find my space in stillness. There are days when i sit down to meditate and after a few minutes i just know I’m not going to get there, too many thoughts going on in my head, somewhere i need to be or I’m just not in the right headspace but I’ve learned to not be too hard on myself and try again later and usually I’m straight there. I have numerous ways of starting, usually using the breath in one way or another but my favourite and most effective is to shift my attention to the Cupid’s bow on my top lip and feel the cool air moving over it when i inhale, i also count 4 in and 4 out, it rarely fails! Certainly the more I meditate, the more i get out of it, it’s almost addictive and there are days when I can’t wait to sit and immerse myself in my regime. I know it’s a cliche but it really has changed my life, thank you Sarah and Sarah xx

The second anniversary is on Sunday, it will be 4 years since i had my literally life changing surgery in Philadelphia. It seems like an age away and has certainly been a huge journey. I wanted it so much that i counted down the 174 days from booking the surgery to the day. There was lots of preparation to do and the 55 hour journey from Busselton to Ardmore certainly took it’s toll but it was all so worth it. Kathy and her team made it run as smoothly as possible and while the end result is not quite as i had hoped, at least when i look at my body I don’t feel ashamed of it as i did for many years, it just didn’t fit with my brain and the only regret is that it took me so long to discover the truth about my beginnings and do something about it.

Well, I’m off to meditate now, until next time,

xxx

Book Launch

On Saturday we held the official launch of my book “Half Him Half Her” at The Quill Collective on Rendezvous Road, Vasse. The venue was perfect. Up until three weeks ago we didn’t know that it existed, but after a conversation with a very dear friend who said she thought it would lend itself to the launch we decided to check it out. From the moment we walked in we knew it was going to be the right place, but what really made it ideal was the welcome we received that day.

We decided to have coffee and the obligatory cakes and I mentioned to the young lady who served me that I was looking for somewhere to host my book launch. She was immediately interested and asked me about my book. I took a copy out of my bag to show her – she looked at the book, then at me, then back at the book and just said “this is the perfect place to launch this book”. She turned and showed the book to her colleague who was making the coffee and her reaction was just as lovely – she looked at the book and then told me her partner is transgender. It just got better and better, we were introduced to another lady who was equally as enthusiastic and she suggested we arrange a meeting to discuss the event.

Absolutely nothing was too much trouble and the date was set. When we arrived at the venue on Saturday the designated area was ready for us, and setting up was easy. Now, I have never attended a book launch before so was probably not expecting it to go the way it did. I thought that people would come, buy a book, have it signed and maybe ask a few questions, have a coffee and leave; but it didn’t quite happen like that. The turn out was probably better than we expected but instead of leaving, the audience just got bigger and I began to realise that I was going to be expected to say a few words. I hadn’t rehearsed anything so it was going to have to be somewhat improvised but I’ve never struggled in that situation so wasn’t panicking until a friend suggested I read a few excerpts from the book. I asked Denise to pick out three for me to read and I stood up to speak. All went well until the third of the excerpts when sadly it all became a little too much and Denise had to take over; there have been some very difficult times over the length of my journey and that particular paragraph happened to be about one of them. In the end it didn’t matter and the audience were very sympathetic.

Overall we felt the whole event went really well and the feedback I’ve had from people who were there has all been excellent. Yet another lovely experience to add to the list, made so much better by being surrounded with positive people.

Published at last!

I’m delighted to announce that my book, “Half Him Half Her” is finally published!  It seems like an age since I started writing it – at the beginning of my journey – but I’m thrilled with the results. The e-book should be available immediately (on Amazon and Apple) and the paperback will be available in the next week or so. We just need to final proof this copy and give the OK to the Printer. If you have problems finding the book via the title then you can search for the ISBN:- 

Ebook ISBN –          978-0-6488609-1-4

Paperback ISBN –   978-0-6488609-0-7

I would just like to say a huge thank you to everyone who has helped me get to this point, Denise McMillan for editing, Pickawoowoo Publishing Group for their support and wisdom and of course Denise Davies my wonderful partner for her untiring love, support and technical help!

Writing the book has at times been very cathartic and at time been very challenging- recounting all the hurt i went through in my younger days, but i feel thoroughly blessed to have had such wonderful support throughout my journey. Thank you all…