I’m writing this on March 11th, 2021, almost exactly one year after the UK – and much of the rest of the world – was introduced to the term ‘Lockdown’. I mean, we knew the word before, right? But not as a way of life!


I wanted to share some thoughts on how this (hopefully) unique period of time has affected my mental health in general – and for the sake of context, how it has interfered with my trans identity.


I live alone in a small but tidy house on the English coast. On a good day, you can see France from the bottom of my road while London is just a 75-minute train ride away. Isolation to me, had previously meant the inconvenience of several hours travel to see friends.


The COVID-19 pandemic is the single most significant global event of our lifetime. It changed everything in my and most other peoples’ worlds. Most of my work and income disappeared – almost overnight. Protecting my elderly and vulnerable parent’s wellbeing became even more of a challenge. Beloved friends were now entirely beyond reach – at least in-person. Life suddenly became oppressively small.


Here in the UK, those first weeks were mired in confusion and incredulity. Was this really a fuss over not very much? Masks were good, bad – and then good again. Workplaces shut down, then restaurants and most shops. How long could such odd new practices stay in place?


Instructions from a notoriously incompetent government were eventually to stay home unless on the most important business. Only food shopping was permitted. Just one hour of exercise outside was allowed. Beyond this, your world was essentially restricted to the footprint of our homes. I’ll never forget how silent the world seemed. Stepping outside was to feel a quiet terror. Where was the danger? How could things look so normal and yet feel so strange? The people were gone – along with the sounds of modern life. Planes had vanished from blue spring skies, cars stayed parked in the same spots for days. Houses were full of people who dare not show themselves. I was constantly reminded of a TV show from the 1970s called Survivors in which 98% of the world’s population had been wiped out by a mystery virus. But this couldn’t be that…right?


You have to remember that in those first chapters of lockdown, a vaccine wasn’t even on the horizon. That meant that questions were endless – but had to go largely unanswered. Not really sustainable conditions for an enquiring mind.


The first lines of Interloper read, ‘She lived in her head. It was quieter there. Safer’. So it would prove to be for 2020. The year previous had been the busiest of my life. Work had taken on a punishing and relentless pace – particularly in new areas with which I was still coming to grips. Christmas had offered the briefest pause for breath and now a new decade had taken flight at full speed. I was also still in the first months of life in a new house around which various building and alteration projects were underway – and oh by the way, I had a parent several weeks into a protracted hospital stay. Life was already challenging at a personal level before it got serious on an altogether more scary scale.


So I definitely disappeared back into my own head. It took a while. For a few weeks, I was trying to field challenges the same way I always had. Process the problem; find the solution; follow the path. But too often, my efforts proved to be little more than an exercise in denial. How do you carry on marketing a business without a market? How do you progress plans for your home when nobody can work on it and can’t tell you when they’ll be back? How can you talk to a hospital about plans when they more than anyone, were having to adapt to a tidal wave of new challenges? Questions without answers.


I tried for a while to embrace the new quiet. And in that, I found a novel new ally. I had a garden. It is the first garden of my I’ve ever had. It comprises perhaps 800 sq ft of patio and lawn with a shed and a parking space that I don’t use, because of the space’s most dominant feature – a rather lovely sycamore tree. It stands about 40 ft tall and hosts a huge number of birds who given the opportunity, delight in peppering any painted metal box that may be wheeled into range.


Watching birds and other visiting wildlife became my new TV. Pottering outdoors a blessed release from the constraints of ceilings. I swear I owe my spring and summer sanity entirely to that little patch of outdoors.


But as well as my horizons, there was something else shrinking. My physical sense of self was blurring. It had taken 25 years to create Kim as a real presence. A fully-formed person with a shape and defined sense of being – and now it was all disappearing under comfy, baggy clothes and tied-back hair. The make-up was gone, entirely – and within a couple of weeks, my essential bond with grey nail polish. Suddenly I realised, my morning schedule was pretty much the same as it had been all those years ago, before my gender transition had even begun. I wasn’t seeing myself in mirrors anymore. Tidy was enough. Efficient was sufficient. I was low maintenance, but also back to being low in self-esteem.


It’s not that I was ever seduced by the promise of a glamorous wardrobe. But I had at least loved knowing that after my epic trans struggle, I could present a look to the world that more honestly reflected the person I felt myself to be. I’m not sure anyone’s ambition is leggings and a sweatshirt.


I have reflected upon the value of validation. Being treated as a woman has simply never gotten old for me. The way the world related to me has for the 2nd half of my life, been so much more real than the first. Whether at a meeting with clients or colleagues, travelling on public transport or just walking from point A to place B, the space I created for my life has remained precious. Every ‘madam’ has mattered. And I miss it.


But as I’ve always been keen to explain to anyone who would hear it, the aesthetics of gender were never the key driver at all. That’s why I groan every time a trans documentary features a mtf subject applying generous layers of make-up. Trans isn’t skin deep. It’s all-the-way-through deep. Hanging on to who we are in our heads has been tested by this virus and we’re not quite through it yet.


I do wonder if upon returning to the outside world, I will find my confidence and public identity where I last left it in early 2020. I hope so. I worked hard for it – and I was careful to ensure that it is the only one I have or will ever need.