Over the last few weeks I have started to end the first stage of my transition. Well, actually, no, that is an awful way to put it, but I am not sure how else to word it
So what has changed, and why do I think that one stage is ending? Well, I just seem to be coming to the end of several things at the moment.
I started to have longer and longer gaps between therapy sessions, and there is nothing bad being discussed when I do go. My therapist has said all along that I was not really in therapy per se, and that what I was having could be better described as coaching sessions. But even that is now not really needed. We had a two month gap between the last session and the next. Assuming there are no problems then it will be four months from that session to the next and then 6 months before a final session.
The thought of stopping with therapy does scare me somewhat – after all it has been a large part of my life now for three years! Actually it’s really hard to believe that it has been so long… Of course this is outside of the gender clinic – after my intake there it was suggested that whilst waiting for my next appointment (their waiting list is extremely long) I would be a good idea to speak to someone. As they are so busy, and have such a long waiting list they have to be more concerned with diagnostics and cannot give you the help that is really needed. They gave me the number if a therapist who used to work for the gender clinic and I started to see him every two weeks to work though my thoughts. I think that was one of the best decisions I ever made. Trying to do this without the help would have led to a completely different result I think.
After 10 months my speech therapy is also drawing to a close. The gender clinic sent me to the ENT department to have a baseline done on my vocal cords, to check that there were no problems there and to see what was needed to help me. That was one of the worst parts of the process to date – when they film your vocal cords you are chocking on the camera and trying to still be able to talk. I posted about it at the time, it ended with me vomiting all over the doctor trying to take the baseline But whilst they did not manage to get the video they wanted, they did take the baseline that they needed. Before starting I was at a tone and pitch that put be just outside of the male range, and just inside the female range – a very nice starting point, and seeing as I normally had to correct people on the phone before transitioning something that I was expecting.
They sent me to a therapist close to where I live who did an intake reading some Dutch text. She had also commented that she was happy that with the information from the hospital, and her own initial impressions from when I made the appointment on the phone. That mean that she could concentrate on dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s to just polish my voice.
Over the months she has helped me with my articulation, brought my speech to the front of my mouth (lots of repeating sounds like ‘tipietappietiipietappitippietappietoe’ to bring the sound to the front.
She also worked on pronunciation issues (I could never say the r’s at the start of words in English or Dutch – I’m somewhat of a Jonathon Ross there) and I now have a list of ‘tr’ and ‘dr’ words that I repeat whilst driving to and from the office.
And finally she has taught me intonation, to get the monotone out of my voice and in the process to slow down my speech. This has also had the effect of really improving my presentation abilities at work.
The last visit that I had she said that she thought with the progress I had made that maybe it was time to concentrate on other things – it does cost a lot of time to do speech therapy. We made a recording of the same text that I started with and then listened to both to compare. Wow! Considering where I was starting from I was really not expecting to hear the difference that I heard! If it wasn’t for the fact that I know they were both me then I would not have known it was the same person. Whilst we had not tried to change the tone or pitch it has actually changed just with the other things that we achieved. I have another appointment in 5 weeks (well 4 now) just to check that I am not going to suffer by not having the appointments and if all is good that will be the last one.
So yes, winding down of therapy, end of speech therapy and even longer and longer between laser appointments makes me think that I am definitely approaching the end of the first phase…