Saturday, 13 October 2018

An evening with Jo and Gina

Gina and Jo, who've popped up before in this blog, have come to London this weekend for some sightseeing. I met them at their hotel on Friday night and we enjoyed time together.

A few years ago Gina and I went to Belgo Centraal, the Belgian restaurant in the Seven Dials / Covent Garden area, and she wanted to go again. The food is not bad, the beer is excellent and the service fast. We were always addressed as "ladies" and that always goes down well with me. There weren't so many waiters dressed as Trappist monks this time, though. The one down side to this place is the acoustic so the noise level is high.

Personally I like the Kwak beer served in a glass that needs a wooden stand.

Continuing our beer themed evening, I took the girls to two old pubs, the Nell of Old Drury opposite the Theatre Royal and the Lyceum Tavern where the wooden booths are very cosy.

I hope the girls enjoy the rest of their weekend. Meeting up with them was a good start to mine.

Sue x

Sunday, 7 October 2018

Autumn things

I confess I find this time of year trying: the first tendrils of chill creep up my legs, the colours fade, work gets busy after the calm quiet of summer, and the year slowly dies and darkens. I know some people love this time of russet leaves, woodsmoke and squirrels gathering nuts, but the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness doesn't suit me so well. The romance of autumn seems to me more of a Keatsean myth than modern high-speed polluted reality. So I keep my mind occupied if I can with fun things.

These last few weeks I've enjoyed several events. Foremost is the annual Great River Race here on the Thames where over 300 rowed or paddled boats of all sorts race 20 miles along the river from Greenwich to Ham (or vice versa depending on the tide). It's a fun thing but also important in keeping alive the traditions of watermen on this river and around North European waters. Boats from all over the British Isles, as well as from Holland, Iceland, Germany and other places take part. In addition to local familiar Thames skiffs and wherries there is a vast array of other boats - jolly boats, longboats, lifeboats, luggers, gigs, cutters, shallops, whalers, sloops, dragon boats, war canoes! ...  The rule is you must carry a passenger all the way. A small selection from this year's race...

Thames skiff rowed by sailors and mermaids. I like it!

The only barge this year.

Despite being commanded by Vikings this was the worst rowing I have ever seen! More like the rolling of a drunken spider than a water craft. Leif Erikson would have waved his axe in disgust!

Smart but hard work

I was also given a free ticket to Kew Gardens, which I haven't been to for some years. Kew Gardens is an important place for me as the very first trip I made as a woman out of my own front door was there. It was a beautiful day. Again, just a selection...

The landmark pagoda, now fully restored and open
The maidenhair tree (Gingko biloba). Kew's one was planted in 1762. I particularly like this tree as the species has male and female trees but this one was grown from a male onto which a female was later grafted. Gender reassignment by a tree surgeon!

The beautiful waterlily house
A new and very complicated feature called the Hive, an art installation which is supposed to give you notions of life in a beehive. I won't go into the complex explanation of how it works.

Cactuses and other plants from arid regions in the Princess of Wales Conservatory. I love these.

The famous old palm house and its pond

I am reading a lot, including trans or gender lit: Ursula Le Guin's "The Left Hand of Darkness", about a planet where the inhabitants are each male and female, and Roz White's "New Horizons", the third in her Sisterhood series about modern trans women (see my post about trans literature a month ago).

I also make sure I go out for coffee every morning as I like to get out in the fresh air and enjoy the break, as well as some of the coffee shops themselves. When your cappuccino looks as good as this, it soothes you at once! Or when there's a fluffy pussy cat in the shop!

Perfect cappuccino in what is arguably London's best coffee shop, Vergnano 1882 on the Charing Cross Road

The deliciously bohemian Scooter Cafe in Lower Marsh by Waterloo Station. It used to be a scooter repair shop and has a Vespa in the window, Italian cinema posters (and music) and good coffee, pastries and (later) cocktails. And a cat.

Have a nice autumn, girls

Sue x

Sunday, 23 September 2018

Why I won't ask my doctor to refer me to the gender clinic

I haven't posted for a while as I've been waiting on the people who claim to want to buy my house to get on with doing so. The English system of house buying and selling is soul-destroying. It's a lot easier in other countries.

The other thing that is destroying my soul is the deranged and toxic yet incompetent government that we have in Britain now. I rarely make political points here but for over 300 years the UK constitution worked well, despite being unwritten, and it is now failing. Governments of all colours are usually a background annoyance or irritant that citizens mainly just grumble about. This one is different. We are facing a dictatorship, the first since the 17th Century, with removal of human rights and other freedoms. The prospects for minority groups is frightening. Immigrants and even their descendants will obviously face the worst of it - European citizens even if they have lived and contributed for decades, Jamaicans who came in the 1940s, people of non-local colour and religion. And in the wake of that you can be sure of the persecution of others, the LGBTQI Etc community being almost invariably targeted in these instances. Although the current prime minister seems to be trans friendly at present I fail to see that lasting especially if, as has been the intention for 2 years, Britain leaves the European Union with its protections for citizens' rights. There are other government intentions, such as leaving the UN's Council of Europe so that there will be no answering to international scrutiny on human rights abuses, and so we can send a few more 'undesirables' to Trump's America for torture. This in a country that was instrumental in bringing down the dictators of the past and establishing modern notions of rights across the world.

When the Germans invaded Holland in 1940, they found it easy to round up Dutch Jewish citizens. The Dutch, you see, kept excellent records of their citizens and the Nazis simply went through town hall filing systems to find the persons they wanted.

The National Health Service (NHS) here deals with trans people in one way only. Although slightly more relaxed recently, basically you have to transition, preferably surgically, to receive assistance, hormonal, psychological or other. That's basically it.

As mentioned a few times, I don't feel surgical transition is suitable for me and therefore I feel let down by the health system that I pay into that isn't really interested in assisting me in any other way. I have had to discuss my being transgender with doctors over the years, especially when I was being treated for eczema since I had to explain that that illness prevented my wearing makeup and that was destroying my wellbeing as a trans person. They took that very seriously and I am grateful for their attitude. I have been seeing a doctor again recently for something else and although she was well-informed about transgender issues and happy to refer me to the gender clinic, I had to complain that NHS assistance available here is limited and actually unhelpful to many trans people.

I have always asked, though, that my medical record not be marked with any transgender indicators. Why? Well, if I cannot be offered any suitable help, I don't want my record marked unnecessarily with details of my being trans that makes it easier for Nazis to round me up, like the Dutch Jews. Sounds paranoid? Perhaps, but it's always been a niggle in my mind given my family's experience of dictators in the past and the way that extremist regimes like to behave. Previously I thought the chances of a nasty dictatorship in this country was so slight that maybe I oughtn't to be so paranoid. Now I am feeling that my caution has been well placed.

This is a very brief expose of complex and controversial issues, but it explains my disgust at the poor acceptance and help trans people have had from the state. I don't perceive the situation getting better despite recent government consideration on how to improve matters. A different prime minister - and that is certainly on the cards - and trans people may be persecuted instead, probably with impunity.

These are bad times. Live authentically, but be careful of evil people as their wickedness never rests.

Sue x

Sunday, 2 September 2018

More transgender literature

A lot of people write biographies about transition, their own or their partner's or parent's, and there are a lot of books that are very serious and supposedly academic about trans subjects, but there isn't so much fiction about transgender life.

Back in 2014 ( ) I wrote about Roz White whose series of novels and novellas about "The Sisterhood" continues to grow and, to judge by online reviews, continues to be popular. Roz observes trans life from the point of view of five trans women who range across the spectrum and their struggles and triumphs and outlooks are very real and natural. A couple of years ago a national book club chose "The Sisterhood" as its book for reading and Roz was guest of honour at their annual meeting. So many readers in that club previously knew little of trans life and are now not only better informed but very supportive. A triumph for the genre of trans fiction and a positive boost for the trans community.

I see there are one or two other trans novels available online (e.g. "If I Was Your Girl" by Meredith Russo) and short stories (e.g. "A Safe Girl to Love" by Casey Plett). I might order one or two and see if they are good reading.

But the book that caught my attention recently was "Julian is a Mermaid", a children's book by Jessica Love.

Plot spoiler: Julian sees people going off to the mermaid parade all dressed up in beautiful costumes and wants to be a mermaid too. He improvises a beautiful costume but then worries about what his grandmother might think. He needn't have worried as she helps him out with accessories and they go to the parade. It's not directly transgender but more a celebration of expressing one's individuality and has had very positive reviews online. The illustrations look beautiful too.

I'm hoping that even more writing about trans matters will move away from the purely personal experience of writers and into expressing trans lives in more creative ways that will appeal to the general public better.

Sue x

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

The seven-year blog

It’s seven years to the day since I started this blog, my aim having always been to express my thoughts on being transgender, and also to encourage other trans people to be visible by posting my adventures and the reception I have met with in public.

It’s been seven years of great highs but some miserable lows too, with delight and success countered by trouble and stalls. Being trans is, let’s face it, quite a challenge that, for virtually all of us, is a substantial addition to the ups and downs of everyday life.

With so many threats to trans people being able to lead authentic lives in the last year or two – threats from politicians, radical feminists, religious bullies, to name a few – it’s essential for the trans community to make it known that we exist, that we are genuine, and that we are likeable, worthwhile and regular members of society. Visibility – online, in media and in the real world – seems to me to be an important promoter of acceptance.

Well, that’s enough philosophy! In past years I’ve analysed Blogger’s stats to get an idea of what sort of posts are the most enjoyed and readable. But this time I’m not going to link to the most popular posts. You can select your own favourite from the archive list to the right. It is clear that people who read my blog most enjoy the occasions when lots of TGirls are out on the town. Importantly, though, there is also a lot of interest in gender surgery issues and, to an extent, my own struggle with ill-health that has badly affected my trans life and visibility.

Thank you to my 44 subscribers, including Jonathan Tait who subscribed this year. I’ve added "Male Femme", Jonathan's blog, to the blogroll. It's well worth reading.

Thanks also to all who have made comments. Lynn Jones and Mandy Sherman deserve special mention both for their comments and excellent blogs. Thanks also to TCentral and Feedspot for their promotion of trans blogging.

Thanks for reading. Tune in again.

Sue x

Sunday, 12 August 2018

A day out with Emma

I mentioned in my last post that I hoped to get out fully femme on Saturday, and that is indeed what happened.

Emma Walkey and her wife Jackie have featured in this blog many times as Emma's one of the first trans friends I made. We agreed to meet up in London just to catch up and enjoy some food together.

Train selfie

We met at the Cambridge pub, which I often suggest as it's about as central as you can get. Whilst Jackie went to nearby Berwick Street to look at the fabulous (if expensive) fabrics in the dressmaking shops there, Emma and I sat down to lunch at Melanie Italian restaurant, another of our favourite venues.

Melanie is on the edge of Soho, a district that was infamous 40 years ago for sleazy peep shows and sex shops. Not much remains of that era, which is for the best, but we thought we'd have a laugh by posing outside one shop as if we were streetwalkers. Well, you have to pay for your lunch somehow! Convincing? OK, probably not! We are of that era but haven't worn so well!

After lunch we strolled through Covent Garden to the terrace of Somerset House where you can sit and look over the Thames. We thought of taking a river boat but the temperature was dropping and we decided that sitting in a bar was preferable. We went to Champagne Charlies in the arches under Charing Cross station which I haven't been to for years but was very pleasant for relaxing with a bottle of wine.

So a relaxed day in good company and being treated as women, which to any trans person is the joy that makes it all worthwhile.

Sue x

Thursday, 9 August 2018

Summer outdoors

There's been a small amount of rain now but this extraordinarily sunny summer continues. It's been quiet workwise and I have been taking time out to explore. I now doubt I will ever be able to simply put on makeup and go out manifesting my female appearance whenever I want to, as I used to do when I started this blog, because of the risk of skin irritation, but I make do with more androgynous clothing now. It's not ideal, not what I want, but it keeps me connected to my femininity even if people take me as a guy. I hate this limbo I'm in at the moment but something is better than nothing between occasional fully-feminine outings.

I like staying at home in London over the summer. Many people are away and it's mainly just me and the tourists around the place. Except that I go off the beaten track.

Just a few places in Greater London visited recently include Putney, Kingston and Maida Vale.

Wonderful mackerel sky over Putney Lower Common
The Clattern Bridge over the Hogsmill River in Kingston-upon-Thames. This side of the bridge dates from 1175, making it by far the oldest bridge in Greater London and one of the oldest in Britain. Note the heron by the right-hand arch. The heron population seems to have vastly increased in the Thames Valley in recent years and this is due to cleaner water supporting more fish, including eels.
The Saxon Coronation Stone now outside the town hall in Kingston. Many of the Saxon kings of Wessex, including Alfred the Great, parked their royal bottoms on this block when being crowned. Why such a significant historic artifact is simply left out in the rain with little signage or ceremony I will never know.
The Regents Canal near Little Venice covered with algae that have been thriving in this hot summer

I have a few more outings planned. And I hope to have a full femme day this Saturday.

Sue x