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  • On the day I walked into the sushi bar I felt much the same as I do right now. Sad and a bit lost, like a kid who got off at the wrong bus stop. Which I had – that morning, on the way to the psychologist. The one whose business card says that she understands people like me. That her service was friendly to gender diverse people. The counselling room was in a brick house and was shared with another psychologist who lived in the house. The first time I visited this place was for my friend's divorce party. I wore a Fantastic Mr Fox t-shirt that I never wore after that night because someone told me the maple leaf pattern looked like a female reproductive system. At the party I smashed anti-wedding cake in my friend's face. Cake crumbs and icing fell on her anti-wedding dress. But some psychologists like to remove all traces of life from their counselling chambers, and once I was through the door and sitting in the Ikea armchair I forgot I'd ever been there before.

    I went to the psychologist because I didn't know how to love myself. My psychologist asked me to explain my gender. It didn't seem that relevant to me: gender was just one part of me, and I was having trouble with the whole package. She'd never met anyone like me before, who identified the way I did. I wondered, then, who all the people were – the ones to whom her service was friendly – if she didn't know anyone like me. I went there hoping I wouldn't have to explain everything. Explanations had ceased to assist. They produced only confusion and pain.

    Sometimes I looked at the framed certificates on her wall and imagined her constantly-smiling face smiling brightly as an old white man in a robe gave her the papers on the graduation stage, certifying her capable of counselling transgender people. Other times I looked at the sheer purple fabric hanging in front of the mirrored sliding doors of the wardrobe that ran along one wall. I could still see the outline of my body, shifting my ankle to one knee and then reversing the arrangement. That day I left wondering if it was worth going to free therapy when I was doing the educating. Back then, I felt so sensitive to any real or perceived mistreatment of myself as a trans person, it was hard to receive any kind of help without questioning the motives of those who offered it.

    I got on the first bus that came past. It dropped me near Broadway and I walked along, feeling like something at my core was missing and nobody could step inside and replace it. The sky was grey and I didn't know what to do for the rest of the day. I was unemployed and felt unemployable. My attempt at being internally productive had resulted in frustrated alienation. I wasn't sure if the empty hunger was in my soul or my stomach. Sometimes it's hard to tell. So I went into the sushi bar.

    On the counter above the pre-made hand rolls was a large glass bowl of tadpoles. I lit up, smiling like grey days had never existed, and stared into the bowl. The chef saw my excitement and offered to let me take some home. They were his son's science project and he was keeping them at work. He gave me the tadpoles in a plastic take-away container. I can't even remember if I bought sushi. I took the tadpoles home on the bus, holding the container still on my lap and staring into it like it was a tiny cosmos.

    I thought it would be six weeks of tadpole care and then I'd release the froglets at a local pond. I had no idea how long it can take for things to change. It took over six months for my tadpoles to metamorphose. In that time I came to realise that the patterns I'd sunk into at my share house were toxic; as the end of the year approached, I realised that I needed to jump into a new pond myself. I took the bowl of tadpoles with me to the new place and into my room, where I had chosen to redecorate my life with the theme of 'independence and self-nurturance'.

    As I settled in, I watched my tadpoles grow. Back legs appeared and their tails shortened. I went about my life making small adjustments: I took time out from socialising to get to know myself, I cooked meals and shared stories with my new housemates and adapted to their mature rhythms of early to bed, early to rise. We became family.

    On the day of our first house party, the big tadpole's front legs popped out. I was not prepared. I thought that her gills would close over immediately and she'd need to come up for air, but the tank wasn't set up this way! In desperation, I called the Frog and Tadpole Study Group. I was so anxious on the phone that when I said goodbye and put the phone down, my bicep had painfully seized up. A new parent always frets.

    I raised four Marsh Frogs to adulthood and decided to keep them because that's what happens when you give names. Digby, Dusty, Tammy and Ferris. My (almost) silent friends hiding under the sphagnum moss in the tank in my room. I fed them live crickets and watched in fascination as they skilfully stalked, one moment motionless, the next a quick lightning strike forwards.

    Frogs are a special creature: considered magical in many cultures, they are also scientifically regarded as indicators of the health of an environment. Their skin is tissue-paper thin – they need only sit on something damp to take in enough water to live and when in danger they dive deep into a pond to hide, absorbing oxygen particles through their skin.

    It's no accident that I crossed paths with frog spirits that day when I felt too sensitive to survive in this world. In the Druid tradition, Frog symbolises hidden beauty and power, bringing joy with its singing and hopping, leading you to water where you may be renewed. In the two years since my frogs grew into their skin and learned to hop, I have learned to hope. When I sank deeper into the watery depths of my inner world, I found my own special strength and power.

    These days I give thanks for the blessing of my remaining frog friend, after the sadness of seeing three brother and sister frogs pass. When I see her perched on a rock in a pool of water she teaches me that the gift of a sensitive skin is being able let love filter through so that you can heal.
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