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Transitions is a new mini-series from the GenderGP podcast. GenderGP team member, Cleo Madeleine, will be joined by members of the community to talk about the journeys they have been on, the transitions they have been through and the moments that changed everything.

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The GenderGP Podcast

Transitions: Amy

 

Hi There. My name’s Cleo Madeline from GenderGP, and I’m stepping in for Dr. Helen Weberley for a special new mini series of the GenderGP podcast. Over the next few weeks, we’ll hear firsthand accounts through members of the community about journeys they’ve been on the transitions they’ve been through and the moments that changed everything.

 

Cleo Madeleine:
Hi everyone. And welcome back to another episode of the GenderGP podcast. I’m Cleo Madeline. My pronouns are she/her and here in the studio with us today is Amy. Hi Amy. Thank you so much for joining us today. Could you just tell us a little bit about who you are and what it is that you do?

Amy:
Hi, thanks so much for the invite. So my name’s Amy, my pronouns are she/her as well, so I’m a bit more ordinary than everyone else. So I work for Royal Mail, so not massively trans focused, I guess, but more down to earth.

Cleo Madeleine:
I, and I wouldn’t say that working for Royal Mail is ordinary at all. I was gonna say, I think that’s quite exciting, but obviously as someone who doesn’t work for Royal mail, I’ve got a very romantic view of, of the job.

Amy:
<laugh> it’s very interesting.

Cleo Madeleine:
Yeah, exactly. It’s important. You must be busy then with Christmas ramping up. Yes.

Amy:
Very, very busy. <laugh>

Cleo Madeleine:
I guess. Yeah. Let’s start off by talking about that a bit. So was it something you always wanted to do or something you just sort of fell into?

Amy:
Um, I fell into it really. I’ve only ever had two jobs, so obviously the job I have now and before that I just worked in Asda. So bit more run of the mill

Cleo Madeleine:
Royal mail is definitely more exciting than Asda. Yeah. <laugh> <laugh> having worked retail myself. I, I definitely take Royal mail over it. Yeah. So how long have you been doing that now?

Amy:
Um, so I’ve been working for Royal Mail for two and a half years now. Oh,

Cleo Madeleine:
Cool. You must meet a lot of people or I guess the other way around a lot of people must get to meet

Amy:
You. Yeah. So cuz we have the same round every day, at least I do. So I see the same about 580 houses every day.

Cleo Madeleine:
Wow. That’s really cool. So how do you find meeting so many new people as like a member of the LGBT+ community? Cause it must be quite a lot.

Amy:
Yes, it is a lot to begin. I don’t even know how I did it obviously, because they’ve seen me because people have seen me every day from when I first start to transition to now, hopefully that’s had a positive impact on the way look at trans people cause they can see me and they, they to talk to me every day and they still know that I’m just an old person just doing my job. I’m not trying to take over anywhere.

Cleo Madeleine:
Yeah, absolutely. Well, I think that’s so, so important as well. Cause you know, like obviously we get a lot of bad press and I think actually it’s really, really important. You know, you say that being a postie isn’t that exciting or that interesting. But actually the fact that you’re out there seeing people every day, I think that is really, really important. I think that’s hugely important.

Amy:
Yeah. Hopefully it has my difference. And like at my work I was, I only trans person that anyone knows. So I’ve always just said, if you have any questions, just ask me, I don’t mind. It’s a bit of an education for everyone because then the next trans person they meet, they might not have the same prejudices or the same negative thoughts towards it. So it helps the future. People not necessarily me, but it will help other people

Cleo Madeleine:
That is really, really fantastic to hear. You mentioned your transition back in 2020. And one of the things that I wanted to talk to you about was that you have had vocal surgery, is that correct?

Amy:
Yes. Yes. So I had my vocal surgery in March, 2021.

Cleo Madeleine:
Wow. So that was been the depth of the pandemic.

Amy:
Yeah, it was, it was, it was interesting. <laugh>

Cleo Madeleine:
Yeah. <laugh> like, that’s a, an absolutely huge time to make like a big life decision.

Amy:
Yeah I’ve never really ever been in hospital or ever had surgery. So the first time experiencing it all on my own throughout everything else that’s going on. But yeah, it was worth it though.

Cleo Madeleine:
I’m so, so glad just quickly. What was it like working? So I feel like I’ve, I’ve got you on this transgender podcast to talk about transgender issues and now all I wanna talk about is the post like <laugh> that’s okay. <laugh> what was it like working for Royal mail during the pandemic? That must have been challenging as well. <affirmative>

Amy:
Yeah, so obviously I’m very fortunate that we carried on working every day. It didn’t really affect us other than getting a lot more posts, a lot more parcels and having to work individually and be more careful in the office. Other than that outdoors, we just have to knock on the door now and leave any parcels on the floor rather than handing them over.

Cleo Madeleine:
That does make sense anyway, back to the point at hand. So what was it, if you don’t mind me asking that led you to think about the vocal surgery or vocal feminization surgery? Is it sometimes called in full?

Amy:
It’s been a weird one because, uh, so we, not everyone thinks this way and I know they don’t, but for me every time I’d hear myself before I had it, all I could hear was the old me and I couldn’t get that off of my brain. And even like a couple of people said to me, oh yeah. But when we talk to you on the phone, we just hear the old you and not who I am, if that makes sense. And obviously your voice doesn’t necessarily reflect who you are, but it was a big thing for me. And because I have to knock on people’s doors and interact with people every day, it was a big thing for me. Um, so I did try doing a bit of vocal coaching and stuff, but I couldn’t quite nail the, like the subconscious point of it. So if I really tried and I really concentrated, I could do it a little bit. And then as soon as I started getting more comfortable with someone and just chatting away, it would just slip back to how it would normally sound. So that was a big thing for me.

Cleo Madeleine:
Yeah, no, no, I can totally understand that. And I think you’ve picked up on a really important point there, which is that no two people’s transition is the same. Um, you know, everyone has different things that they want from themselves, from their identity, from their body. And, and it’s really, really important that we, I guess kind of broaden our understanding of what gender transition is, you know, is it, what, what is it that you want from your body, from your voice, from your mind? And that that is gonna be completely different between everybody.

Amy:
Yeah. So one thing will fit one person, but you can’t blanket and apply that to everyone.

Cleo Madeleine:
Yeah. Yeah, Absolutely.

Amy:
I’ve never sung in my life <laugh> because focused surgery is not good if you sing is very much not recommended and I, I couldn’t sing anyway, so it was fine. I didn’t mind <laugh>

Cleo Madeleine:
But there’s good advice though, if, if there are any singers out there, so how did you find out about the fact that this was possible?

Amy:
Because at work I’ve got a lot of, I don’t have a lot of spare time, but when I’m walking, delivering mail and stuff, I listen to a lot of podcasts. And I think I heard about it on one podcast, but it was like a five minute little snippet. And I was like, oh, I didn’t realize that was a thing. Um, so I just spent ages on the internet, every researching, and it’s quite hard to find information about it, but this, I think there’s only one place that does it in the UK. And they’re all various alterations on the original technique. So it’s called Glottoplasty, The one I had, um, I think the original one is a Wendlers Glottoplasty and every else has their own little unique spin on that.

Cleo Madeleine:
Mm-hmm <affirmative> and I think that’s actually the case with a lot of gender affirming surgeries in that, because it’s such a specialist area, there’s a relatively small pool of surgeons that practice it and they develop their own variations on it. So if you’re going in for a, uh, trans-masculine chest reconstruction or, uh, trans-feminine bottom surgery or whatever, you know, whatever procedure you’re going in for, it’s really, really worth talking to your surgeon, looking in online communities at people, who’ve had different variations on different procedures, because there is a huge range of different techniques out there. And while ultimately they all sort of do the same thing, there are different ways of doing that thing. Yeah. With, with various benefits and drawbacks.

Amy:
Yeah. So for instance, like with my surgery, so your vocal cords are like a triangle, so they like laser the top third of the triangle and then they suture them together. So therefore the space is smaller. So your pitch increases. Um, and I know that I think it might be in Korea, they don’t use the laser at all. They just suture it or something, or they might cut it with a knife first and then suture it. So there’s two different ways straight away.

Cleo Madeleine:
That’s super, super interesting. So from the time that you decided this was right for you to getting into surgery about how long was that and, and how easy was <affirmative>?

Amy:
Um, actually, it’s very refreshing to say that it’s quite easy. Obviously you need the money and that is not easy, but, um, so I think I decided to do it just after Christmas to -not a good time for anyone is it, but I think I first emailed them possibly in January, I think. Um, and then you just have to have consultation with the surgeon, which I think was like two or three weeks. And then, um, I think they only had, I think it was about 10 week waiting list.

Cleo Madeleine:
Oh, that’s not so bad at all.

Amy:
Yeah. So like I said, I, I had it in March and I first emailed them in January and you dont need to have, although pretty much every surgery that’s transgender related in the UK, you have to have two referrals confirming that you change is permanent and all that other stuff. But for the vocal surgery, you don’t need it, which is good. Cause that’s how it should be. But obviously now my voice is permanently changed. So what’s the difference between that and getting your boobs done

Cleo Madeleine:
<laugh> oh, I know. It’s ridiculous. Isn’t it? The way that, like, the more you think about it, the more it becomes clear that it’s not so much about the good of the patient so much is about a series of arbitrary restrictions that are placed on transgender people. And, you know, I do believe very strongly that there should be always be a period of consultation before any like major surgery because you know, it’s life changing. But yeah, there absolutely is a system in place that is designed to make it as hard as possible to get in the room for some of these procedures, real double standard. So after the procedure, what was the recovery like?

Amy:
Oh, so you think, oh, it’s only your voice. It’s not gonna be that bad, but it is, it is quite difficult actually. So for the first week, you’re not allowed to whisper. You’re not allowed to even mouth a word you’re not allowed to cough. You’ve gotta try not to sneeze. And if you do need to cough, you have to like, let all the air out your lungs to breathe out. And until you can’t breathe anymore and then cough because obviously the sutures are quite delicate. So when you cough, you inhale and then big explosion of air comes out your lungs, so it can snap the sutures. Mm. And then after a week, it’s one or two words and it sounds really weird. And it, it sounds weird, but because I hadn’t spoken for a week, I almost forgot how to talk. I was like, wait a minute. How do I do it? It’s strange when you don’t use something that long. Um, and then like the next week is like only a few words, a couple sentences and you slowly build up, but it does take about four or five, six weeks before you can even start having a conversation with someone because you think I talk all the time, I’ve talked to get tired from talking, but after you’ve had it done and it’s all here and everything’s doing as it, should you get knackered just from talking, it’s crazy.

Cleo Madeleine:
That’s wild. So did you find the actual, not talking process difficult because I’m a proper chatter box. I would go on for hours. I would find that so hard.

Amy:
So Surprisingly not massively cuz although I’m on here, it might not seem like it, but I’m not a massively talkative person. Mm <laugh>. Which is a bit weird. Um, but now at home it’s very difficult. And when you’ve got someone at home that makes you laugh every day, that is very hard, not laughing. That’s the worst part. That was the worst bit for me.

Cleo Madeleine:
Yeah. I can totally imagine. I can totally imagine. So I guess the big question is, and again, like if you don’t mind, uh mm-hmm <affirmative> answering, how do you feel about the results?

Amy:
Oh, I couldn’t be, has made such a difference at work before. I would be very hesitant about approaching someone’s door if they were in their garden or something. Because I knew I didn’t have to say morning, but I like to say morning, but I would avoid them. If I only had a junk piece of lead that they didn’t need, I’d give, give it to them the next day, which is really bad. But it would do that. But now it’s like, oh, it doesn’t matter. I’ll go up. I’ll say hello. I’ve got to say morning. It doesn’t, I don’t even have to think about it anymore. It has made such a difference.

Cleo Madeleine:
That is so, so good to hear. Yeah. And you’ve got a beautiful voice, you know? So is there any like advice or anything that you’d give to anyone who’s thinking about having this procedure for themselves./three_fourth_last]

Amy:
Obviously do as much research as you can. I found a few pieces on, um, the subreddit, which is called like transgender surgeries. There’s a few like before and afters I put onto before and after as well because there wasn’t loads. So an extra one, it can’t hurt anyone can it can’t no, absolutely. Just make sure that it’s the right thing for you and you’re doing it for the right reasons. Like if it’s because you don’t like how you sound and you’re not connecting with your voice, that’s the right reason to do it. But if it’s just because, well, I should sound like this because I’m this, then it might not be the best reason to spend all that money and go through all of that just to appease other people. You have to do it for yourself.

Cleo Madeleine:
I think that’s a really, really good way of putting it, do it. It, because it’s something that you want for you don’t do it because of some kind of social expectation.

Amy:
Yeah.

Cleo Madeleine:
Yeah. Well, so we are gonna have to wrap up in the next couple of minutes. One of the things I’ve been asking, all of our guests on this series is whether it’s in your transition or your journey in life in general, is there a particular moment or a series of moments that’s really stood out as something that made a difference for you?

Amy:
Ah, so I knew this was coming, um, and it’s gonna sound, I guess, kind of cheesy or in a way, but it would be meeting my wife for the first time. And that’s because the first time I ever met her had spoke to her, I knew straight away how amazing she was, how unjudgmental she is. And she just wants everyone to be the best version of themself. And I honestly can say, I would not be sat here talking to you. I dunno where I would be if it wasn’t for her. So in a way meeting her has, let me become me.

Cleo Madeleine:
That is beautiful. No, no I’ve got tear in my eye, but no, that makes me, I love, I love being the person that gets to ask this question because people say the most incredible things and that is incredible. What a wonderful message of acceptance for us to end on. Is there anything else you’d like to add today before we wrap up the recording?

Amy:
Um, I don’t think so. I think, I think everything’s been covered about my interesting-ish life.

Cleo Madeleine:
<laugh> I think at the end of this, we can say that is a pretty interesting life. All things considered. Thank you so much, Amy, for coming on today. It’s been lovely to have you.

Amy:
You’re welcome. Thank you so much for having me

Cleo Madeleine:
Anytime and to everyone else. Thank you so much for listening to the episode. If you’ve got any ideas for further episodes, you, you can send them to us via our website. You can find us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook at gender GP. Thank you very much. Thank you so much for listening. If you’d like to find out more about GenderGP or the kinds of services that they can offer, then you can go to our website, which is www.gendergp.com. Or if you’ve got your own story to share or a suggestion for a future podcast, then you can find us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram at GenderGP. Please do get in touch.