The best thing I ever did was get Therapy.

It was incredibly hard to reach the decision to get it though. In theory it should be as simple as picking up a phone and making an appointment, but the reality was very different for me, and for many other people I’ve spoken to about this.
There’s a stigma attached to any sort of mental health problems. If you break your leg, you go to the hospital, and they fix it. It’s so matter of fact that no one even comments on it, other than to say hope it mends soon, or how did you do that?
Tell someone you’re in therapy though, and you’ll get anything from a look of fear that you’re somehow not right to patronising comments as to how brave you are, and how difficult it must be.
You don’t get that sort of reaction for a broken leg.
Having counselling is often seem as a thing to be ashamed of, because of this stigma attached to it, as being something only really messed up people do.
I say this from a position of feeling that myself. It was one of the things that stopped me from going for years. I thought I could deal on my own, that it would be weird to talk to a stranger about such personal things, that I was somehow better than that, that it was beneath me because I wasn’t fucked up right?
I fully acknowledge that I was an asshole for thinking that, and I’m glad I had the self awareness to question my fear of getting to know myself. I’m glad because it changed everything.
This is what I know now, that helped make that change happen.

Anger can be a positive thing.
I never realised how angry I was before I had therapy. I was afraid to recognise that I was angry as well, angry at the unfair deal I got, angry at the world for making my life so much harder, angry at myself for not having the strength to do anything about it, angry at my own self pity.
Not recognising this, and instead just burying it, just made it even more poisonous and impossible to deal with.
Once I talked about it though, I found I could channel it, it became a righteous anger, a powerful, positive force, and I found I could use it to do things. It gave me strength.

That spiteful inner voice that puts me down can be challenged, and changed.
That voice is such an asshole. But it’s also all talk. Learning how to challenge it makes it quieten down enough to make other things possible.

The worst case scenario hardly ever happens.
Man do I love imagining the worst possible outcome. It’s an automatic response that kicks in if I’m confronted by any difficult situation.
Thing is, the worst case very rarely happens. Yes, things might be pretty shit sometimes, but worst case? Not so much.
At the end of the day you will survive, if you can let yourself survive. Counselling, Therapy, they’re like the key to unlocking how to survive. It won’t always stop the mess and the hurt, but, for me at least it did stop my brain running away with all this. It gave me back some control, when I didn’t have any.

(I’ve split this into a two part post, because as I started writing it became pretty clear there was a lot to say here, and definitely too much for one post, so more next time!)

I really love going to the cinema, in fact it’s one of the few activities I actually prefer doing on my own. It’s an experience I can completely own for myself.

I love that my local cinema sells home-made cakes. I love that you can buy a cup of tea, and take it into the actual room they show the film. It feels like the most exciting thing, like settling down in front of the telly at home, but your telly has suddenly grown exponentially, and it’s now in a huge room that smells like popcorn and darkness.

I love going in the daytime, because it still feels like I’m skipping work, even when I’m not. On those rare occasions it’s just me in the cinema it feels like a private showing, and it feels special. When I go through the doors, and there’s no one else there my heart sometimes skips a beat because I know there’s a chance that this magical event might happen today.
I then stare at the door, willing people not to come in, until the room goes completely dark and the screen lights up.

When that light first bathes my face I can’t help but squint sometimes, but then I force my eyes open wide, because I don’t want to miss anything. I even like the adverts.
Years ago, I used to go to the cinema with my then girlfriend at the time, and we’d play this game when the adverts came on.
She’d look round to me, her face half flushed with light, and whisper “the next one is you”.
We’d both sit there waiting for the next advert, like softly shining fortune tellers, bathed in celluloid light, waiting for the runes to show themselves in the medium of the next advertisement.
She’d laugh if I got a car advert. We both knew they were the worst thing to be, artificial, shallow and filled with machismo.
Even now, when I go to the cinema on my own, I still play this game, whispering to myself “the next one is you”, hoping for something beautiful to reveal itself on the big screen.

I love the sound. I love how loud it is. I love how it makes my bones vibrate, my heart squeeze tight. I love how I sometimes find myself holding my breath as the glorious, enveloping noise covers me, like a crashing wave, overwhelming and yet fleeting, leaving me wishing for more.

You could get all this by going to the cinema with someone, and a shared thing can be something amazing, but there’s a bit of me that doesn’t want to share this with someone.
I want to feel my hairs stand up on my arms, my breath to become shallow and held, my eyes to feel like they can’t take everything in fast enough, my ears to become numb with the sound. I want this, and I want this to be for me alone.

You can ask me to go to the cinema, and I will love going with you, but once those lights go down, and the images flicker across the screen, there’s a good chance that although I’ll be in that seat next to you, I won’t actually be there. I’ll be hurtling through space, sailing the seas, leading the charge, saving the world, one lost moment at a time.

I live in a reasonably expensive bit of the country. It’s my choice, and I really love where I live but, outside of London’s dizzying heights, it’s probably one the most expensive places in the UK to live.
I also work a pretty low paid job, and money is pretty hand to mouth most of time. Again, to a degree, this is my choice. My main job isn’t the best pay in the world by any stretch of the imagination, but it is flexible, safe and something I (mostly) enjoy.
What this does mean though is that when it comes to having a home, I live with other people. Looking back in fact, there’s never been a time in the forty odd years I’ve been knocking around, that I haven’t lived with other people.
I have never lived alone. Not even for a little bit. Even at university, I still shared a dorm when I lived on site.
I’m not alone in this, and I’m not alone in living with other people. Mostly everyone I know flat shares in some shape or form, and that’s pretty universal across all ages and identities.
A lot of it is because of renting prices, and bad pay, and that certainly plays a part in my situation, but also, there’s something about living with other people that’s pretty comforting.

Maybe it’s some throwback to when we lived in smaller groups, and had closer tribal packs. The security and community that brought would of been pretty essential to life, and I guess now we live in groups of thousands, hell, sometimes millions, having the security of a smaller ‘tribe’ can help with feelings of isolation and loss of individuality amongst all the hundreds of thousands of people we share our cities with.
I suppose that’s who our friends, family and people we live with are, our own personal tribes, the only difference being that now our modern tribes are more interlinked. We belong to a often huge variety of social groups, with different standing in each, and thanks to technology, the tribes we belong to aren’t even limited by geography. The vast oceans that limited our ancestors are no match for the Internet, which allows tribal membership to finally become global, rather than local.

I’ve been considering living on my own, because I never have, but the thing that stops me is the potential for losing a tribe. No, that’s not right, it’s the fear of the potential to lose a tribe.
I’m fairly certain that if I did live on my own that it would be alright, and I could even gain something from it.
Fear of losing something is a powerful thing, but I guess we shouldn’t let that stop us from doing something new. After all it’s not so much that the tribe is being disbanded, it’s more that there’s just been a reshuffle of roles and places held, which you could even say is an essential, and nessesary part of life in a tribe, modern or otherwise.

There’s been a lot of horror in the news recently, and there’s a thing that happens pretty much every time something terrible happens.
We try and sum it up in a hashtag.
I understand why we do this, we want to show solidarity with the victims of the tragedy, and we want to get the word out, let others know that this is not something we can support.
And sometimes it’s a really effective tool, as is the case with the deaths of Eric Garner and Mike Brown at the hands of police officers. This article on the Huff Post clearly shows how fast and how global the outrage was, as the hashtags #ICantBreathe, #BlackLivesMatter and #HandsUpDontShoot spread across the globe.
The hastags got people talking, they helped with spreading the word about racism, and how prevalent and institutionalised it is in our society. People wrote about it, people read about it, and people got educated about something they previously may of been unaware of.
Sometimes a few words can help galvanise and strengthen a movement to global levels, and if not make things better, can at least let everyone know that things are not okay.
Using hashtags in this instance was an effective tool that furthered a cause and enabled complex and important discussion to take place, and continue to take place, in order that change might happen. Basically, having key words that people could rally behind helped further a just cause.

Sometimes though the hashtag is used without thought or understanding to the bigger picture. Sometimes the hashtag erases other issues, just as important, but continually ignored.
Take for instance the hashtag being used at the moment, in the wake of the attack in Paris on the offices of Charlie Hebdo.
#JeSuisCharlie, I am Charlie. It’s been used to show solidarity with the victims of the shootings, to show that we stand united against the threat of terrorism, that we will not stand for this sort of attack on our civil and human rights.
Does it tell us though that Charlie Hebdo also printed cartoons that were racist? Does it tell us that some of the work published was considered anti-Semitic, or that they depicted a black woman as a monkey?
Does it mention about the strong anti Islamic stance a lot of the work published shows?
The murder of these journalists was wrong. Freedom of speech is a right that everyone should have, and people should not have to die for it, but freedom of speech doesn’t mean that everything you say under that banner is right.
In fact, saying that its okay to mock and generalise Muslim people, or people of colour, or Jews, because free speech, probably isn’t actually okay.

I think we muddle up things like this sometimes. We think we can say anything we want, and then when people call us out on it we start shouting about freedom of speech and being oppressed because someone disagrees with what we’ve said. It’s easy to think free speech only applies to us, or that it somehow protects us from any criticism when we say something wrong, but actually it should do the very opposite.
It should expose us to criticism, it should help us to challenge our views and open our minds. We should all become better people through the medium of free speech, rather than just banging heads together like angry goats.
Of course it’s easy to say that, and I know if I’m challenged on my views I sometimes find it hard to accept.
I think, and this is my own personal opinion here, that, in general, we have a really hard time accepting that we might have got something wrong, especially when we see ourselves as good people.
Good people can be wrong people, no question about it, and that’s hard to accept.

Let me give you an example. I found it hard to accept that some things might be seen as cultural appropriation*. I didn’t understand it, and as a white, middle class person, who also sees themselves as a good person, I just assumed it wasn’t something I needed to be aware of because everyone should have the right to freedom of expression.
That sounds a lot like what I was saying earlier about how some people view freedom of speech doesn’t it?
Thing is, freedom of expression is all good and fine when, as the dominant culture, you can do whatever the fuck you like. It’s not so great when you’re the oppressed culture though.
As a member of the dominant culture it’s sometimes hard to take it when someone else tells you, “Hey y’know what? I’m not that keen on you using Sugar Skulls as a window display to sell your stuff.” say.
As you read that, some of you maybe thinking but…but… it looks cool, it’s only a bit of fun for Halloween, what’s so wrong about using Sugar Skulls?
Well, this article sums it up pretty well.
(tl;dr – Modern Halloween is a hedonistic holiday about the self, Día de los Muertos is a holiday honouring deceased relatives and friends. Using Sugar Skulls is appropriation because it’s using something from another culture outside of it’s intended context. Seriously though, read the article.)

This is an example of something I did, and then was told was not actually that cool a thing to do. I wanted to disagree, because I couldn’t think of myself as wrong in that situation, because the cultural significance of the thing I was appropriating wasn’t relevant to my life.
That’s the real clincher here sometimes, it didn’t matter to me. My arrogance as the appropriating culture wouldn’t allow me to realise why this might be wrong, and it was only after finding out more (a lot more) about it that I realised why I actually was very wrong.

That’s a time I got it wrong, despite being a good person. Even if it feels like it though, getting it wrong doesn’t make us bad people. What makes us bad people is when we don’t educate ourselves, when we refuse to listen when we’re called out, when we generalise a whole culture, or simplify a situation because the bigger picture doesn’t sit comfortably with our viewpoint. Put simply, it’s when we refuse to accept that sometimes we do get it wrong.

Its hard to see sometimes, especially when something terrible happens, and all we want to do is shout, or cry, but we owe it to ourselves to really look, and to look not just at what we’re being told, but also to look at what we’re not.

*wiki has a page on what Cultural Appropriation is here and this is a pretty useful article on Everyday Feminism as well, should you want to know more.

Russia has listed transsexual and transgender people among those who will no longer qualify for driving licences.

I am at a loss as to what to say about this. It came up as a news article on my twitter feed (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-30735673) and I genuinely thought it was someones misguided attempt at satire.
Lets just read that sentence again.

Russia has listed transsexual and transgender people among those who will no longer qualify for driving licences.

What the actual fuck?

The Russian government apparently is using the excuse that there are too many deaths on the road, and so they need to toughen up about who can be allowed to drive. I guess they must of read that famous scientific study about how Trans people are responsible for all the deaths on the road ever THAT DOESN’T EXIST.
It’s not just Trans people that are banned though, apparently “Fetishism, exhibitionism and voyeurism are also included as “mental disorders” now barring people from driving.”
Once again, What the actual fuck?

This is happening right on our doorstep, and it won’t stop there. How long before gay people are banned as well? And then forced sterilisation of anyone who identifies as LGBT? And then maybe segregation? How long, in all reality, before Russia’s anti LGBT laws extend to making being LGBT illegal?

Think it sounds far fetched?

I wish it was. I really wish it was…..

Another Trans person killed themselves last week. That’s another Trans person who died because of our society. Another Trans person to add to the thousands already dead. Another name to be read out on this years Trans day of Remembrance.
She wrote a suicide note. In it she talks about how she felt was ignored, and actively suppressed by her parents. That they tried to do something about it, because they thought there was something wrong with her identifying as Trans. Because, even in this time of greater Trans visibility, society still believes there’s something wrong with being Trans.
We are still seen as less than whole, not quite women, halfway men.

If you pass then things might be better, that is until the media out you, or someone finds out. Then suddenly you’re worse than if you were visibly Trans.
Go take a look at some of the articles about Laverne Cox, or Andreja Pejic, or Amiyah Scott. Take a look at the comments, that is if they haven’t been disabled because of the hate speech directed to these women because they also happen to be Trans.
I don’t know a single Trans person that hasn’t faced physical or mental abuse from another human. I don’t know a single other Trans person that hasn’t, at some point, been shamed, or attacked, or humiliated, for who they are, and how they chose to identify.

In her suicide note Leelah says

I’m never going to transition successfully, even when I move out. I’m never going to be happy with the way I look or sound. I’m never going to have enough friends to satisfy me. I’m never going to have enough love to satisfy me. I’m never going to find a man who loves me. I’m never going to be happy.
Either I live the rest of my life as a lonely man who wishes he were a woman or I live my life as a lonelier woman who hates herself. There’s no winning. There’s no way out. I’m sad enough already, I don’t need my life to get any worse. People say “it gets better” but that isn’t true in my case. It gets worse. Each day I get worse.

This is a wake up call for all of us. This is a person saying they give up. At 17 years old they’ve had enough. At 17.
I can’t think of a more damning indictment of society than this.

You can say that maybe she was wrong, that it does get better, but honestly, sometimes it doesn’t.
Imagine being denied your identity but the people that are supposed to be the one set of people that you’re told will love you no matter what.
Then imagine those people take you to more people, people in positions of power and authority that you don’t have the strength to fight against, because you’re a child, and they tell you you’re wrong, and that what you feel is wrong.
Imagine being told that, time after time, by the people that are supposed to be on your side, that are supposed to be there, to comfort, support and help you.

And then there’s society. Leelah writes about how she’ll never be happy with the way she looks and sounds. That she’ll never find a man who’ll love her.
We live in an society where misogyny is commonplace, and deeply ingrained. Ideals of beauty are fucked up, and seep into pretty much all aspects of life. I know, from experience how invasive and damaging this is.
I know I don’t conform to the beauty standards society places on women, and I know once people find out that I’m Trans it’ll be worse, because then I’ll be seen as “not even an actual woman” (and I quote that as a real thing someone said to me) and thus at best I wouldn’t really get it, and at worst why would I anyhow because I used to be a man, so how could it possibly affect me?
I think from reading other stuff I’ve written, you know how I feel about the way society’s dating attitudes towards Trans women affect us, but these transmisogynic attitudes are so insidious that even at 17 they’d filtered down, and added to the hopelessness that comes across so strongly in Leela’s suicide note.

When you have no hope, how can things possibly get better? When society, parents, the world, all say You are Wrong, and you have no way of challenging that, what can you do?

She ends here note asking that her death has to mean something, that we need to fix society, and she’s right.
We all need to start talking about this, because it’s our duty to, as the ones still here.
Yes, it’s hard, and finding the words is difficult. Talking about things like suicide, and death is complicated, and often upsetting. Trying to fix society, change attitudes, and stop things like this from happening may seem like the equivalent of trying to move a mountain with your bare hands.
That shouldn’t be a reason to not talk about these things though. Not having the words to know what to say isn’t a good enough reason, either for us, or for the people that have died.
We have to start a dialogue about this, as the people still here, and as the people this directly affects, we have to speak for our dead. We have to let them speak through our words and actions, with the dignity and respect they deserved whilst they were still alive.

We need to find the words to do this, because they no longer can.

These are some useful resources, if this has affected you, or you know someone that might need a lifeline..

Trans Lifeline A US/Canadian helpline, for Trans identifying people in times of crisis.

Switchboard A UK based helpline and support service for LGBTQ identifying people.

I touched on relationships in the previous post, but I’m going to go into more detail here, mainly because of this….

It is so tiring sometimes, and yet it’s also exhilarating, which is where the problem arises. I am used to it, but I also sort of like it. I want to stay somewhere for longer than six, ten, twelve months, but I’m afraid if I do I’ll just get restless, and want to move on, see what else is out there, keep the movement going, not stagnate.

As I was writing that it really struck me that I was also writing about my relationship issues.

(I say issues, but if I’m honest I don’t like that word. It’s used a lot, in relation to mental health, relationships and sexuality amongst other things, and the negative and often dismissive associations aren’t always a good thing. It doesn’t allow for any understanding, it’s always just ‘issues’, unexplained, but easily used so we don’t have to look any further.)

When I get into relationships I tend to throw myself at them, it’s all intense and full on, mainly because I’m trying to fight against the restless urge.
My slightly haphazard thinking being what it is, I’m all like if I get involved hard at the start it will make it harder for me to disentangle myself, and thus less likely that I’ll want to as well.
I’m sure you’ll all agree this is the best plan ever.

I’ve done this quite a bit. I did it this year, along with the classic

this is my last chance at a relationship so I must throw myself into it at all costs

and that golden oldie

You’re looking like I’m being too intense so I’m going to play it cool and then be even more intense every time I do see you, to make up for all the times I’ve not seen you.

Yeah, I’m a real keeper, I know.
Thing is, I know I do this. Like I’ve said before, you do something enough, it becomes a pattern, a pathway. Your brain knows it, and will happily retread that route every single time, even when you know it’s not helping.
So, what can you do?
If I was all down with my inner wise guru I’d probably say something about change being hard but worth it, and how through self retrospection we can discover hitherto untold truths about how our minds work. This would all be true I guess, along with obvious, and a little patronising.
Instead, I think I’m just going to be a little more aware. More aware of how I come across and more aware of what I do.
Maybe I’ll stop every now and again, and just enjoy the moment.
I’m guessing my inner guru would be saying something about little steps making big changes. There’d probably be something about butterflies making hurricanes as well, because that’s solid gold happening right here when it comes to wise words.
Of course, despite being obvious, and meaninglessly profound, there is a truth in this all. Small changes do often start something.
Sometimes that’s all it takes.

As the year ends I often get kind of retrospective. I know I’m not the only one, and that this isn’t uncommon.
It’s one of those things we do when faced with a perceived ending I guess.

As years go it’s been a funny one, I’ve moved home quite a lot, three times to be precise, which is quite a lot, even by my standards. That’s four different places this year, and another one to come early next year.
I’ve moved home quite a few times. In fact I’ve sort of lost count. I know it’s in the thirties, but after the thirtieth time I just stopped counting, and accepted that from now on the number was just going to be known as “a lot”.
I’ve got a feeling that all this moving about isn’t great for my sense of stability and security, which can on occasion, be a little rocky.
Also though, there’s a bit of me that’s just thinking I’m getting too old for all this now. Increasingly there’s an inner voice that’s saying “Kid, you need to take it easy more, you need a place to live that’s more permanent than six months, you need to sort your shit out.”
This is the same voice that also, from time to time will be like “You definitely need to drink more of that wine and stay out all night because what if something happens and you’re not there and it’s awesome!” but every now and then it does talk sense.
I’m talking about the place to live thing here, just in case that’s not clear.

I don’t know, trouble is, after a while of doing something, it almost becomes part of life. I accept that I have to move all the time because that’s what I do. People are like “moving again eh? Bet you’re used to it now eh?” and that’s it exactly.
I am used to it. I’m a pro at loading and driving a van, I can pack like a boss, and when I’m between houses, I can live out of a suitcase for as long as it takes, even if we’re talking months.
When I go away I can fit everything I need into a tote bag, and this comes from all times I’ve had to move. My life is transitory, every moment is temporary, and I am always on the move.

It is so tiring sometimes, and yet it’s also exhilarating, which is where the problem arises. I am used to it, but I also sort of like it. I want to stay somewhere for longer than six, ten, twelve months, but I’m afraid if I do I’ll just get restless, and want to move on, see what else is out there, keep the movement going, not stagnate.

And yes, I think I’m talking about relationships there as well.

Like I said at the beginning, endings make me retrospective. Every now and then though, an ending can give you clarity on a way you do things, and enable you to start something new.

I’ve got to say, right now, I’m not feeling it.
Maybe it’s the winter. I don’t especially like this season, it’s cold and damp and dark. It makes me cough a lot. I’m not even kidding, in the winter I have a cough for about 4 months. It gets tiresome pretty quick.

Maybe it’s Christmas. I haven’t got any presents organised, I just wander aimlessly around the shops surrounded by so many people, all doing the same.

Maybe it’s being single. This time of year is pretty dark, and at the moment, I don’t know, the world seems pretty dark as well. Sometimes you need someone to help with that. Sometimes you need someone’s hand to help, and to hold. That doesn’t happen so much when it’s just you.

I don’t know, I mean I know I’ve got it okay, I have a home, I have people. That’s more than some, and looking at the surface, I’m just moaning because I’m cold, and a bit lonely.
That seems small in comparison to the terrible things that happen daily in the world, it seems inconsequential and trivial. I don’t even know why I’m not feeling it in comparison to everything else.
Thing is though, what I feel is still there. The emptiness, the lack of direction, the loneliness. It is there, and it is real to me.
I know it’ll pass, and I know I’ll feel better, and I know that there will be someone, and I know that it won’t be cold forever. I know this, and tomorrow I’ll feel this and think this, and then it’ll be alright again.
This feeling is only for now, it’s just right now, that feels like a long time.

I know, from gigs to sexual health clinics. It’s quite the jump, yeah?
Never let it be said that I don’t like to keep you on your toes.

So, lets get our cards on the table. I’m going to tell you something, and you’re going to judge me.

I’ve never been tested for any STIs.

As I’m a big fan of context, allow me to explain.
Most of my life I’ve been in long term relationships, and when I’ve not been in said relationships, I don’t tend to sleep with lots of people, despite any impression I give off.
My thinking was that because of these things, the chances of me having anything would be slim to say the least.

I can hear the intakes of breath and the silent shaking of heads. I know, I know. I’m an idiot.

Anyhow, I realised the blindingly obvious fact that even if you’ve only been with a few people, you don’t know their histories, and it only takes one person, with something, to pass it on to you.
And that’s why I decided to get checked out.

Sexual Health Clinics are pretty much like every clinic I’ve ever been to. Looking around there are a few people, mostly looking fairly anxious, sitting on chairs.
I have to fill in a form, and I’m immediately on guard, because forms and trans people often do not mix well. Luckily, it’s relatively trans friendly, in that it has pronoun boxes, and a box to tick if you choose to identify as trans. It does still assume all male identifying people have penises and all female identifying people have vaginas though, which is a problem for me, and a post for another day.

I wait for a bit, looking around, listening to the radio that’s playing in the background. An advert comes on for a car insurance company called Drive Like a Girl. It’s probably the most patronising and offensive thing I’ve heard them play so far, and they’d just played Blurred Lines.

I get called by a nurse to come to a room, and it’s a man. I ticked a box saying I didn’t mind who saw me, but now I feel like I do mind. Suddenly I feel like my identity is under threat, as he’ll ask what bits I’ve got, and I feel uncomfortable about telling him, because he’s a man, and my experiences of men are nearly always negative.
I don’t know what to do, because if I say I’m not comfortable after all I’m going to feel like a jerk, and also, I’ve been waiting for half an hour now, and I can’t stand to wait any longer with that radio station playing its horrible songs and incessant adverts.

In the end I do what everyone would do, I go along with it. The commercial radio was the clincher if I’m honest.
We go to a room, and I start saying how I’m actually kind of nervous, and that I didn’t bring a friend, because I thought it would make for something good to write about if it was just me, but that now I regret that because I didn’t think it through, and how that is pretty standard for me.
He smiles and says it’s alright, everyone is a little nervous sometimes. He is reassuring and kind, and I feel like I let my preconceptions and past experiences get the better of me. Not for the first time I also think I’m an judgemental jerk.

He does ask me what bits I’ve got, but he does it in a way that’s so matter of fact, yet sensitive, that it’s okay.
He then asks me if I’d like to piss in a jar.

I’m very keen on this offer, as I’d been holding it in for about two hours now. He also took some blood, and did a throat swab, because well, y’know, oral?
We chat whilst this is all happening, and he tells me about how Syphilis is one of the biggest STIs affecting the area where we live. I have an overwhelming desire to tell him about how everyone thinks Henry VIII had Syphilis, but that actually there’s little evidence to prove this. I’m about to blurt it out in a oh my god I’m nervous so I’m going to say anything sort of way when he asks if I’d like a leaflet about it, and I forget all about Henry’s sti issues, and instead say it’s okay, I don’t need one, even though I’m interested in reading about it. I do this because I’m trying to be polite, and don’t want to put him out.
He gives me two Syphilis leaflets anyhow. This guy is good.

He asks me about the last couple of times I’d been with someone, and I tell him about the French woman I slept with once, and the friend I was with for a bit. For some reason I feel the need to go into detail about both these times. I have no idea why, but he seems to be happy to listen, and offer useful commentary on what I tell him.
It strikes me that I really misjudged him, and I did it entirely based on his gender. When people do that to me it really upsets me, and once again I feel like a jerk.

After all the tests are done we start to wrap things up. He tells me they’ll ring me if anything shows up, and text me if it’s all clear. I get up to go, and I want to give him a hug a say how lovely he’d been. I didn’t because boundaries but I wanted to. In the end he gave me a double hand shake, and I told him he was awesome and that I’d happily come back for more check ups if he did them. Maybe I need to work on verbal boundaries a bit more.
I leave feeling happy, and feeling that I’ve learnt something about my own preconceptions, and also about Syphilis.

A week later, as I was sitting in a cafe, being a writer, my phone buzzed. A text message from the clinic had come through with the all clear. I smile to myself, and think thought as much. Maybe I’ll hang onto those leaflets though, just in case.

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