I’m Tink and I’m a theatre maker and performer, an advocate, a human rights campaigner and a loving parent. I’m a gender rebel that uses they/them or he/him pronouns. I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in my 30s and was also later diagnosed as autistic.
I knew I was trans as a child and my mum was supportive, but we didn’t have the language for it back then. My mum understood that my gender presentation was an intrinsic part of who I was, and it wasn’t a big deal at home. I knew I wasn’t a girl, but school and the wider society thought differently. Lots of things got in the way of me starting a medical transition.
When my daughter was young, I experienced a period of psychosis as a result of stress and the exhaustion of her not sleeping through a single night for 6 years. I was diagnosed as bipolar and went on lithium to treat it. Because of my diagnosis, I was nervous about talking to my GP about other things. I definitely felt like I couldn’t talk to any of my GPs about transitioning.
As I got older, I began to feel more able to embrace my gender fluidity. Self-medicating with testosterone felt like part of that process for me. I wanted to know how it would make me feel, and I’m glad I did because it felt right. Looking back, I feel like taking testosterone without having my blood tests monitored was a bit self-neglectful.
My daughter was diagnosed as autistic as a teenager, and it caused me to recognise my own autistic traits. When I spoke to the professionals involved in assessing my daughter, they agreed that it would be worth me seeking an assessment for myself too. They were trialling a new type of assessment and they spoke to the people in my life that I’m close to (with my permission, of course). I was 46 when I was diagnosed as autistic. When I looked at the medical report and reflections on my childhood, I recognised a lot about my gender as well as things related to being autistic. It made me think: Who are you? Where do you want to go from here?
I got on well with the occupational therapist involved in my autism diagnosis. He felt like someone I could approach, so I messaged him about my gender and told him that I was embarrassed to approach my GP. The occupational therapist was really supportive. His support was empowering – he recognised where I needed support and where he could step back. Not only did he write to my GP for me, he worked with my GP to write a referral to the GIC.
My GIC is one of the pilot projects and I’ve found them to be very supportive. There was no judgement about having self-medded, about my mental health, or about being autistic. Even during the pandemic, they’ve done their best to accommodate me. I feel like I can ring them and tell them if I’m struggling. They understood that I needed the changes from testosterone to happen slowly so that I could adjust to them. The team have supported me to transition at my own pace – including pausing testosterone and then switching to gel instead of injections.
When I was on lithium. I had to have lots of blood tests and was often left bruised from the needles. As a result, this has made me anxious about blood tests and needles. I need a lot of patience from the person taking blood and their support to help me stay calm. One of the nurses wasn’t able to show me that patience, and it caused my anxiety to increase even further. I’m glad that I was confident enough to ask for someone else to take my blood. The other nurse helps me to stay calm and it makes things a lot easier.
These are just some of the barriers to healthcare that I’ve faced, but the thing that helped me was finding healthcare professionals that I felt comfortable to talk to and asking them for their support. It’s important for trans people to remember that we’re a community and that support is out there. It can be so useful to talk things through with a trans friend or even get them to go to an appointment with you.