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In May 2016, I retired from the Fire Service after 30 years as an operational Firefighter and Fire Officer. For the previous 20 years or so, my wife and I had known that I was most likely transgender. But I had managed to separate this “side” of me from my day-to-day life with very therapeutic private cross-dressing sessions.

 

Being Transgender In the ’80s and ’90s Seemed Impossible

Even in 2016, we felt the Fire Service was not the place to “come out” as transgender, let alone in the 1980s and 1990s. In retrospect, this “solution” came at a hefty cost: constant bouts of anxiety and mild OCD, for which I used medication twice or three times over my career. At the time, we just assumed it was normal for me.

Retiring was like being given a get out of jail card. I could now easily be my true female self whenever I wanted in private. By early 2017, following some online research, I had also begun using various herbs to try to alleviate what I had realised was genuine gender dysphoria.

 

Do Herbal Remedies Work For Gender Dysphoria?

However, by December that same year, I’d realised that, although the different herbs I’d been taking were alleviating my gender dysphoria and desperate need to be female to some extent, such herbal remedies could never be the answer. I just wouldn’t be able to achieve the degree of feminisation I needed to alleviate that “itch that I couldn’t scratch”.

 

Transitioning Later in Life: My Long and Winding Road

So, in December 2017, I finally gave in and went to see my GP to ask for a referral to the NHS. At the same time, I began a transgender herbal remedy regimen from an American source that had a lot of good reviews. They seemed to know what they were talking about. I realised it would be at least a year before the NHS would see me due to long waiting lists.

In that initial consultation, my GP was superb, ordering a full spread of blood tests and referring me to the Leeds Gender Identity Clinic. She would also perform quarterly blood testing on my liver and kidney function to check that my herbal regimen was not causing irreversible harm. I had already decided that I could give it another year on herbs before the risks became too high and that if the GIC failed to deliver, I would seek alternative private help. I put it off because I was “sure” that going private would be too expensive.

Finally in March 2018, I spent an hour chatting with a nurse on the phone during my initial GIC screening. She said she would be happy to put me on the waiting list but told me that I wouldn’t hear anything for “approximately 12 months.”

So, let’s fast forward 12 months to approximately March 2019. My year on herbs had achieved modest benefits (mainly psychological in the sense that I was making some sort of progress), but I was now aware that the “12-month wait” for the GIC was a mirage. Further research had convinced me, very correctly, that I would have to wait at least another year even to get a first screening appointment. After that, it might be up to a year before I could get hormones prescribed – assuming that they actually diagnosed me as gender dysphoric! So, what to do now?

 

Then, to My Surprise, I Found GenderGP

Having searched the internet, I realised that my alternatives for private care in the UK were limited. There was a clinic in London, but they required face-to-face appointments and counselling (therapy), which was impractical given my distance of 250 miles. Then I came across GenderGP, an organisation willing to talk with and assess me remotely. They talked the talk and, remarkably, their monthly administrative costs were so affordable for me!

I’d been attempting to treat myself with herbs and waiting for the NHS all this time because I knew private treatment would be extortionately expensive! Even so, there was no point in crying over spilt milk.

When I contacted them, I was asked to provide a detailed life, and medical history and (if I remember correctly) speak with a therapist. GenderGP agreed to begin treatment after I signed numerous pieces of paper containing a heads up for what to expect from healthcare, which we carefully considered.

We did thoroughly review the paperwork, but in the end, I realised I was committed to this route. The risks were comparable to those faced by a cis female on HRT. Probably far less than the unknown risks of all the herbs I’d been taking for the previous two years.

 

My Transition to Hormone Therapy:

Within five weeks from the initial contact, I unwrapped my first delivery of patches and anti-androgens. After about ten days, I quickly realised that the anti-androgen tablets were not working for me psychologically so I emailed GenderGP. Within 24 hours, I talked with a prescribing nurse who advised me to stop the pills. Within a week, I was driving to Birmingham to learn how to self-inject (or, more accurately, “wife inject”) the triptorelin blocker – the best, though most expensive, anti-androgen available.

My life completely changed after that slight bump in the road. The oestrogen worked quickly to alter my body in ways that felt right. Together with the blocker, it completely changed my psychological profile, and any anxiety just melted away.

Since that point two years ago, my transition has continued well. GenderGP is only an email away and has always responded within 24 hours. They insist on regular counselling sessions every six months (or more often if I need it), as well as routine blood tests. I’ve also found a voice therapist through their website.

While I have not “come out” to the world in general, I can see that this is at least a possibility once I deal with my profoundly deep voice. I only wish I had known about GenderGP sooner.

Unfortunately, my GP surgery declined to work with GenderGP on prescribing, so I’ve had to pay for my hormones myself. I was fortunate enough to be able to do so. However, GenderGP evaluates each case individually regarding possible financial help toward costs.

In July 2021, I finally had my first video screen for Leeds Gender Identity Clinic, and in September, my diagnosis from the NHS was “gender dysphoric”. In December 2021 I had my first consultation with Leeds GIC hormone clinic and am now being prescribed my hormones via the NHS almost precisely four years after my initial NHS phone screening.

Oh, and I finally got my ears pierced! That delay has nothing to do with GenderGP and everything to do with my emotional, psychological and familial baggage. In my next GenderGP transgender counselling session, I’ll chat about it.

 

GenderGP Is My Go-to Resource for Trusted Guidance and Support

Without GenderGP, I’m not sure where I’d be right now. I wish I had contacted them sooner – all that wasted time! I am very grateful for all their assistance, understanding, and timely interventions. I should point out that they are second only to my amazing wife on my Christmas list. I am so lucky to still have her in my life as a source of continued support and understanding.

Even though the NHS are now prescribing my medication I will continue to pay GenderGP my £30 monthly fee and, if they allow it, I will continue to use their counselling services. I respect their advice and assistance far too much to walk away. Perhaps if my monthly payment is not used, it could be put towards helping someone else as they wait for their first NHS appointment.

If you struggle with feelings about gender that you or a family member do not understand or wonder how to get help while waiting for your health service, I recommend chatting with GenderGP. It makes no difference how old you are or if you are transitioning later in life. GenderGP will always treat you as an adult and give fantastic advice and understanding.

 

If you’re ready to start hormone therapy so that your body, hormone profile, and way of life – matches your gender identity – or would like to find out more – book a chat with one of our gender specialists today.

 

Photo by Pablo Heimplatz on Unsplash