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Thursday, 31 December 2015

2015 roundup, including Sparkle


Well, this is the blog of a male to female transgender person and she has barely been seen this year because of illness. So it’s hard to do a trans roundup of the year 2015. Apart from Sparkle, much of my time has been a return to male mode or a sort of andro mix. For 2016, I am determined to get back to where I was when I started this blog and I have been following my new medical regime religiously in the hope of being able to do so.


1) SPARKLE

Sparkle is Britain’s national transgender celebration and takes place every July in Manchester. Thousands attend and it’s become the highlight of my year.

I guess it’s what you make it. In Sackville Gardens there are stalls, a stage with musical and comedy acts and other entertainment, various official events in the Gay Village such as meals and parties, and there are more serious things such as lectures, advice from surgeons and such like. Personally, I find it the best opportunity for catching up with friends. Two of my friends, Bobby and KD, have already blogged about their Sparkle this year:



Train bandits

I had a major work project on and didn’t arrive till very late on Friday night. The journey up was eventful – we were diverted and arrived nearly an hour late because of “armed men on the line”. Now, I’ve heard some railway excuses in my time – wrong kind of snow, swans on the line, and even a mysterious “bridge bash” (either a collision with a bridge, a long card tournament, or a wild party, we weren’t told) – but never this one. We passengers had visions of a posse of bandits tying a curvaceous blonde to the track and cackling as the “whoo-whoo” of the prairie flyer is heard from round the bend. “Hayelp, hayelp!” she hollers, like Penelope Pitstop, till the Anthill Mob or, better, some dashing hero with pencil moustache rescues her and carries her off into the sunset on his steed. Such are my girlish daydreams. Anyway, after all that excitement, I went straight to bed.


Familiar face

In the morning I had a major task to do. It was exactly a year since I had experienced the disaster caused by my lousy skin and I had not shaved since in order to let my face recover. So now it was time to remove my impressive beard and look less like Robinson Crusoe and more like … well, Sue Richmond. It was weird to see the familiar face emerge, encouraging to see that my eczema was much improved, and joyous to see the familiar me emerge as I applied my makeup. It wasn’t perfect as I’d forgotten one or two things, but frankly I didn’t care and I took a photo of the returned me wearing a pretty pair of mushroom earrings that a friend had given me.

It was weird yet joyous to see this familiar face again after a year


Out and about again

I was unsure how I would cope with being out again after a whole year when I had to relearn how to be a guy in public. I needn’t have worried as within moments all the familiar landmarks made it seem like I’d never been away.

First steps back out in the world. Love the gay police car! (KD's photo)
(KD's photo)




Almost immediately on getting to Canal Street I bumped into familiar friends which is what I like best about this event. In fact, over the weekend, I met Zazoo and her friend David, who distracts all the boys with the stunning tattoos that Zazoo creates on him, Emma Walkey, Kay Denise (KD) and Mrs KD, Bobby and Mrs Sox, Gina Burton, Sarah, Kate Collins and Mrs Kate, Kara Rowe and her fiancée Louise, Tania Thomas of Nottingham Invasion, Maddy Watson, Jemma Stevens and Jo D whom I hadn’t seen for years, Stefania, Amanda Mc and Sarah whom I first met last year; Lisa Goodridge, Rebecca May and Priya Rai all from the TGirl Bar; Helen Louise and Helen Turner, both beautiful ladies from the Brick Lane Set; Joan Tabb, Debbie Roberts, Alexandra and Elen. I had made plans to meet Andrea Fortune and Elle Drescher for the first time and sure enough we managed to. It was a nice surprise to meet Vanessa Hardwick for the first time, a well as Josie Hughes who runs the Adam & Eve dressing service in London (Jody Lynn of the Boudoir was also in evidence with her Boudettes). I got to know Anna Faith, Pippa Stockings and other girls whose names I have probably forgotten or inadvertently overlooked. So it’s a busy social event! I was sad to miss Jolene Young, Rachel Kim and Susan Matthews who were there. Sadly, Wilhelmina from Hungary and Erin from Norway weren’t able to make it this year.
KD, me and Kate (KD's photo)

Me, Sarah and Zazoo (KD's photo)



Events

As has become traditional, I had lunch at Villaggio’s. In past years I used to organise lunch there but this year, being unsure of my health, I had planned nothing in particular. But Bobby and Mrs Sox joined me and we had a nice catch-up.

In the afternoon I went to the park to browse the stalls and I bought a couple of wigs for party time, when that returns, and got various freebies. It’s always the best place to bump into people.

That evening I had dinner at Velvet, organised by the Queen of the Scene, Ms Kate Collins and her wonderful wife Suki.

Sparkle Saturday dinner at Velvet. L-R: Jo, me, Emma, Maddy, KD, Kate.

I hadn't seen Jo for over two years and it was lovely to catch up with her.


The chocolate selva at Velvet is to die for.



Inevitably, as always seems to happen, we ended up in the Molly House, which is probably my favourite venue there, and, equally inevitably, Napoleons.


Sparkle Sunday

The Sunday was a day I had to make a decision: attempt to cover my unhappy skin with makeup again, or end the experiment and go home. I decided to risk it and Sunday was, again, a mix of bumping into people, watching the stage acts and enjoying the venues in Canal Street. I ended the evening with old friends Zazoo and Emma in Delicatezze (formerly Eden) for dinner and the Molly House. I was glad that I’d ventured out to Sparkle again this year. 

Two great friends with me, Zazoo and Emma, in the Molly House


Sadly, the weekend made my eczema flare up quite badly and it was clear that I was unlikely that I would be able to go out any more without full recovery from it.


2) HOLIDAYS

I’ve had a few trips away this year and one or two other outdoor activities. I have tried to be somewhat androgynous outside, which isn’t hard as so few of my clothes are from menswear shops these days. In fact, I cannot remember my male sizes any more, which has left me making the same kind of wrong purchases as I used to make twenty years ago when I was first buying women's clothes on a large scale.

As well as walking some of the Capital Ring here in London, I’ve visited the East Midlands on separate trips and took a deliciously relaxing holiday in the Canary Islands. And, yes, I did wear my bikini.

Cromford in Derbyshire with Matlock beyond from the Black Rocks
Rutland Water in winter, in England's smallest county

The Capital Ring: Richmond Dam and Lock on the Thames at one end of London

The Capital Ring: the Thames Barrier on the Thames at the other end of London

The Capital Ring: Looking towards Docklands and the City from Woolwich Arsenal

The Capital Ring: Peaceful in Old Isleworth

Fuerteventura: view from my hotel balcony

Fuerteventura: Every day the chambermaid made a different animal out of towels. The monkey was my favourite!

Fuerteventura: Botanic Garden at Oasis Park, with over 2300 species of cactus. They certainly make a point.

Fuerteventura: Lovely beach and warm sea at Costa Calma.


3) STILL SEEING TGIRLFRIENDS

I’ve still been seeing my London girlfriends even though I can’t dress. We’ve met up in favourite locations: drinks at Verge in Brick Lane, lunch at Sarastro’s in Drury Lane, exhibitions in Somerset House, summer picnic on Primrose Hill, and I’ve enjoyed a couple of trips to the Science Museum to see and hear early Cosmonauts with Sarah who actually works in the space industry.

Helen and Rachel at Sarastro's restaurant, two especially nice ladies.
Painting by Alexei Leonov, the first man to do a spacewalk (in 1965). Old but still very bright, he gave an amusing talk on it at the Science Museum.

My health seems to be improving so I look forward to returning to a proper state of feminine existence in 2016.

Thanks for reading and I hope that 2016 is a wonderful year for you.

Sue x

Friday, 25 December 2015

Happy Christmas

Wishing all my readers around the world a very happy Christmas. I hope you are able to spend a nice time with family and friends.

Love, Sue x

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Health progressing well

Just a quick update on the last post which was about my visit to the consultant dermatologist.

I have now been able to ditch the antihistamines and the steroid cream and have been on the new cream for a week. My whole face and neck look much better, although I can tell by the feel that the problem is not yet gone. I need to be on this cream for a minimum of 6 weeks, although I will make it longer as it is so important that I get better. Who knows, I may be back to my old self by March.

The best thing is that I am back to shaving. At the moment it's only every other day, but that represents a lot of progress. And that has meant my girly mojo is returning, too.

Fingers crossed.

Sue x

Sunday, 6 December 2015

New hope for this faceache


A few days ago I finally got to see a consultant dermatologist. As you know, for 18 months now I have had a bout of eczema on my face so severe that anything that touches my skin causes it to flare up in ugly ways, and that includes soaps, shampoos, makeup, even sometimes the medicines to treat it! Last time this happened in this way was in my 20s and, after lots of failed medical interventions, I was eventually advised to stop anything from touching my face altogether, which meant no shaving either. That worked as a remedy and took two years. This time I have tried the same and it was beginning to work. After a year, as an experiment, I took the resultant beard off for Sparkle 2015 as I wanted to see if my face could take occasional makeup. The answer was no, and I suffered quite a setback.

So now I am on a new regime of medication and soap substitutes for the next few weeks or months with some new patch tests early in 2016 to see if anything particular is causing it. I’ll obviously take my makeup foundation along for the tests (though I doubt it’ll cause a reaction as I used it without previous problems for years). The beard is off now but I will not be presenting as female until this is all completely cleared plus several weeks grace before I try normal soap again and then some makeup. For the first time ever, unlike all the doctors and specialists before who essentially shrugged their shoulders and told me to put up with it, this youngish doctor understood my plight and actually said: “This time we’re going to get you better,” which is the most positive thing I’ve heard in a lifetime of battling this problem. The downside is that I shouldn’t drink alcohol during this period. And in the run-up to Christmas this is hard!

So I still won’t be presenting as female for a while yet as my makeup is essential to me, but I do feel more positive about recovery. And when people say to me, “Sue, you could so easily go fulltime female”, or “Sue, you should have laser or electro,” this is one of the main reasons why I can’t. So often whether you can transition has got nothing to do with how you yourself feel or what might be best for you, but what reality throws at you. 

Sue x

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Holiday and cure?

I'm off abroad for a week's holiday, which I haven't done for some years. So I'm really looking forward to a relaxed time on the beach in the Canary Islands, which promises to be warm (22C this week, compared to about 5C here). I have packed my sunscreen, bikini (yes, really) and summer gear and I plan to do precisely nothing at all strenuous.

The day after I get back I am finally going to get to see a consultant dermatologist, and I hope that I might make better progress on this stupid skin problem that has killed my public presence as Sue.

Byeee!

Sue x

Friday, 20 November 2015

Transgender Day of Remembrance

In the midst of some very difficult weeks when the world has been shocked by terrorist acts and threats, it is perhaps more appropriate than ever to consider the difficult and dangerous times in our lives that we trans people all have, and remember those who have suffered so badly that they are no longer with us.

Let trans people and their supporters also be mindful of the way we treat one another, and how we treat all people generally. We all ask for compassion and understanding from others, so let's exercise it ourselves and show everyone how it's done. That way we can diminish the hate and increase the joy all round.

Sue x

Monday, 16 November 2015

LGBT professionals


I guess I’m an LGBT professional, but being self-employed and still using my male credentials for work means I’m not really ‘out’. But I’d like to mention some of those who’ve made the bold, brave step of coming out in employment and are thereby making the reality of trans life better known.

This post was prompted by a special feature in London’s Financial Times of October 20th, entitled “Executive Diversity”, featuring a number of articles about top executives who are gay or trans and what it means for corporations and multinationals.

The centre spread is an excellent article by my friend Pippa who manages, in just 700 words, to explain trans life and diversity to non-trans people and the usefulness to companies of having their LGBT employees ‘out’ at work. Pippa, whom I see a lot and whom I’ve presented as the ultimate party girl in this blog, is also a VP of banking multinational Crédit Suisse. Gender fluid, she works as Pippa or Phil, as arranged with her employer.

Last week she also gave a presentation at the Credit Suisse office in London’s docklands on the same subject, attended by some 300 professionals.

Amy Stanning, who’s been out with us to lunch in the past, is with Barclays Bank and the Financial Times defines her as a leading LGBT executive. This is fantastic.

The financial sector used to be a bastion of macho culture and privilege but after innumerable failings, certainly in British industrial tribunal cases brought by women in particular, but LGBT people also, this sector has had to change and here’s a living example of just how, incredible as it may seem. Well done, Pippa and Amy.

I should also mention the trans candidates for the general election back in the spring who are also showing that we really can and do participate in society like anyone else, especially Stella Gardiner who did brilliantly in the Bexleyheath and Crayford constituency, nearly tripling her party’s share of the vote since the last election (and this despite some very nasty abuse from the USA, like a domestic election is anyone else’s business!) Thanks for your efforts, Stella, and for putting yourself out there. 

 
Sue x


Friday, 9 October 2015

The thing about boys

I am pleased to say that the consultants at Guy's Hospital in London have agreed to see me about my ongoing affliction. My own doctor left me less than hopeful when I saw her a few weeks ago. But perhaps I might now be able to make some better progress towards recovery. Fingers crossed.

(A pity it's not Girl's Hospital, but there you go.)

And talking of Guys, I have been meeting up with a few more of my trans friends and, largely for reasons of convenience, we've all met as boys. I'm glad that we're friends even when the frocks are at home.

Although there's plenty to chat about - and we generally stick to our trans and feminine topics - the different behaviour that's required in public really plays on the conscience and grates a lot. Boys don't kiss each other when they say hello or goodbye, or touch each other, they drink big pints of beer, are expected to slouch, care less about their appearance, they don't all go to the toilet together to gossip and have a nosey in each others' bags, or talk about shoes and shopping ...

It's a different culture all right and I've never felt as comfortable in men's culture as in women's, especially when it comes to arguing animatedly about sport, cars, hobbies and such. I always wanted to be treated as a girl, be part of the female side of life, and that's really hitting home now that I can't be part of it properly.

Sue x

Sunday, 27 September 2015

"Boy Meets Girl" show, and actors


I’ve been watching this BBC comedy series, "Boy Meets Girl", initially from curiosity, then almost from a feeling of duty, but after episode 4 I really love it. A straightforward sitcom about a boy and a girl dating, and their weird families. Except she is transsexual, which creates a different tension. Not the most sophisticated comedy or insights, but very sweet, and informative for those who know little about trans life. The comedy characters are the grotesque parents and siblings, not the two lovers. There are some good laughs in each episode. Sitcom stalwarts like Janine Duvitsi and Denise Welch give it quality. But the dad’s relationship with his sons is beautifully and movingly portrayed and the last episode had me in tears. I don’t know if this show will have long-term mileage with the general viewing public but I think it should be seen for its humane and genuine look at the sort of things we face.

Catch up with it on BBC iPlayer: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer

It is one of the shows which has a genuine transgender actress (Rebecca Root) in a lead role. I often hear rants and whines in the trans community that transgender characters on screen are often played by non-transgender actors and that this is wrong. Without going into depth about the purposes, methods and history of dramatic representation, I think this demand is daft. An actor is judged on their performance as a character. Is Felicity Huffman (female) any good as a pre-op transsexual in Transamerica? Definitely. Is Jared Leto (male) any good as the same in Dallas Buyers Club? Not bad at all. What will Eddie Redmayne be like in The Danish Girl? Let’s wait and see. You don’t need an actor who’s old/young, white/black, big/small, tall/short, male/female to play a role that is supposed to be a specific thing. Judge them on how well they act the part. Is Rebecca Root any good acting the role of a post-op TS who’s dating? I’ll reserve judgment on her performance till the end of the series.


A different presentation

Since I’m here, I thought I’d add a link to this article on one Alex Drummond, who lives as a woman but has a beard. Food for thought for me at least


Sue x

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Tidying drawers


I’ve been spending a few spare moments this week rearranging my drawers. (That’s not a saucy seaside postcard gag, by the way, fnarr fnarr!) I’m getting rid of more stuff that’s out of date or worn out or doesn’t fit, like my shoe clearout a while back. But I was a bit shocked to find I have about 300 pairs of tights and stockings (I lost count) and 26 pairs of leggings and jeggings (even skeggings! – combined skirt and leggings in one, not a style that ever took off). I’m not sure of the point where footless tights become leggings – packet labelling can be a bit misleading. …Yes, I really, really like my legwear. As for skirts, tops, dresses, jeans, etc. I really wasn’t going to count. (As for my underwear drawers – well, they are none of your business!)

You see, it’s nearly 20 years since I stopped purging my clothes collections and fully accepted my trans side and I guess this is what accumulates. I have been swapping items with other girls over the years, giving things away and occasionally making trips to the charity shop but I think it’s time for a big clearout. Not, this time, in the hope of removing this trans element from me, but to make way for better, nicer stuff.

Sue x

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Happy birthday, blog!


My blog is a romping little toddler of four now and hasn’t thrown too many tantrums or dropped its dinner on the floor too often. Maybe the demands for princess dresses and rainbow ponies are becoming irritating, but on the whole I think we have something to make me feel motherhood is worthwhile. 

As ever, the main point of my blog is to share my experiences in the hope that other TGirls (and TBoys, too) will know that you can live a trans life if you have the will.

I used to think that the statistics that Blogger provides were very much a boy thing and I took little account of them at first. But actually they can throw up some interesting points and help me keep posts relevant to what people like to read. I find that big, exhilarating events are most popular, and bad disasters! In fact, the five most popular reads are these:-

(1) My first trip to the Nottingham Invasion (Jan 2012), which has always been the most popular post ever:

(2) Closely followed by the second TGirl Bar in autumn 2013:

(3) Then, some way behind, are my Nostalgia Trip to Pink Punters (Dec 2012):

(4) and Nottingham Invaded again in March 2012 (see, that city is not just about Robin Hood and his men in tights):

and (5) When Surgery Goes Wrong (Again) and When Trans Life Goes Right, a post of mixed cautions and celebrations from April this year:

Thanks to all of you who read. Officially 45 of you had signed up on anniversary day, including Aimee TG, Jack Molay, Abigale Stuart, Joyful Girl, Francine and Jenna Powell in the last year (and hello to Susie Jay who signed up a couple of days ago). Thanks to TCentral for featuring me twice this year.

And now stats for the boys: As of the 4th anniversary last week the blog had had 52,959 page views, the most in one month being 2,657 (April 2015). The problem I identified last year, of the stats expanding to include two years before I started this blog, has righted itself so I think that’s now accurate. Two fifths of readers come from the United Kingdom but most of you come from other countries, especially the USA, but also Russia, Germany, France and Canada in particular. It’s good to see so many from other countries.

So although I am struggling to maintain a visible trans life at present for health reasons that I’ve explained over the last 18 months, I still plan to continue writing. I must tell you about the latest Sparkle and my closet adventures afterwards, as well as a few thoughts about trans life and community.

Thanks for reading.

Sue x

Friday, 14 August 2015

I've lost my soul

Today is the fourth anniversary of my starting writing this blog and I have always put a post up about it on the anniversary. I will, however, leave blogging about blogging for now as I want to report back on an interview with my doctor this morning that has left me feeling hopeless.

I went to have a really serious talk with my doctor (General Practitioner - GP), a woman I find it easy to talk to, as I must find better care or cure for the eczema and inflammation that has destroyed my femme life because this condition means I cannot wear makeup or use any product on my face without experiencing a severe flareup. Last week, for instance, after a day in a standard non-hypoallergenic, non-cosmetic foundation (which was Kryolan TV greasepaint suitable for all skin types, and even for kids, and which I have used regularly since 2008 with no problems) my facial skin blistered, wept and cracked and then fell off three days later and my eyelids swelled up till they looked like lychees and my neck puffed up red, pimpled and sore. It took a week to get back to merely being flaky and itchy. Other factors may have played a role: a new sleeping bag probably still with manufacturer's chemicals in it, the friend I stayed with having bad psoriasis, a different environment... I wish I could pin it down to one cause, one thing to be avoided.

The discussion with my GP this morning left me hopeless. She confirmed her colleague's views last year that there has been no progress worth speaking of in this field since I went to see the consultants 30 years ago. Indeed, she said that NHS consultant dermatologists now won't normally see any new eczema cases as this chronic condition has defied cure. This situation is a step backwards from 30 years ago. However, she will still refer me. If they turn me down then she and I will have a further discussion on what to do, including the trans factor which, in the end, I barely touched on as I felt that the reason why I would particularly want a cure makes no difference to facts: there is no certain cause and no known cure. To be fair, the Eczema Society, dermatologists, and other relevant persons have always emphasised that different things trigger it for different people (e.g. it's stress for some, but it's contact with certain things for people like me), that the condition takes different forms and intensities, and that different remedies work for different people. Like we are finding with cancer or diabetes, it might actually be a collection of similar diseases labelled under one umbrella.

I want to think about how to deal with this. Growing a beard and leaving my skin totally alone is the best remedy I have ever found and it did a lot of good but it didn't cure it off my face completely. Do I grow another beard for 1 or 2 or 3 or more years till it's all gone off my face? or try to get some femme time each month but possibly put up with inflammation and flareups for ever because it can never heal properly?

I feel really devastated as well as poxy. Without my femme life I have lost my very soul.

Sue x



Thursday, 6 August 2015

Health progress

Hello Little Blog, Mamma's left you ever so long because she's been a busy lady. A very big job to do in July, but also a trip to Sparkle and a trip to the Peak District last weekend. More about Sparkle in another post very soon.

My face is not that happy, truth be told. This eczema seems neverending. I survived two days in makeup at Sparkle although my skin suffered. I managed only one day in makeup this weekend past and it's only just settling back down after reacting badly. Whilst I suspect that I will be able to manage a day out a month from now on, a voice in my head tells me that that isn't a good idea until this problem is solved once and for all.

I have decided to grab the doctor by the throat this time as I cannot believe that there has been no progress at all in this field of medicine. The prescription I got last year was identical to the one I was given thirty years ago. Well, not quite identical: the packaging is prettier these days. And I suspect I will have to explain to the doctor why it is so important that this affliction be cured: because I am a TGirl and losing my girl face has meant reverting to male mode and thus losing my very soul. I'm not sure how the conversation will progress from there but if you aren't interested in gender surgery it's not like there's a lot for trans people in the way of assistance from the medical profession.

I'll report back in due course.

Sue x

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Hot wax

I have quiet a few female features - physical ones I mean, not just psychological ones - but one decidedly masculine one is my hair: not enough on top, and way too much everywhere else. So for years now I have been epilating or shaving all of the latter. But I can't reach my back so I go to my local beauty salon to have that waxed.

Earlier this week I went to a different local beautician who does nothing but waxing and had the whole lot done. It's taken a couple of days for any residual sensitivity and rash to subside but I am now really lovely and smooth, ready for Sparkle. I am particularly pleased with my legs and chest.

As for the process, well, it's not especially painful. A little surprising perhaps because it makes you feel like one piece of Velcro being ripped from another, with a similar sound! All of me took three hours, but I was in need of it after some weeks without removing my hair myself. Above all it was nice to have a chance to natter about all sorts of things with the therapist who had plenty to say for herself.

All in all, a good experience and something that may be worth doing regularly.

Rrripppp!

Sue x

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Andro week


I’ve been taking a week largely away from work just to relax and do things I don’t get to do so much these days. And I’m spending it in androgynous clothing – women’s trousers, tshirts and plimsolls, which hasn’t caused any comments from passers by, although a till assistant in Marks & Spencer did take my payment for a pack of pop sox and offer me a money-off voucher for the menswear department with the comment “if it interests you as well”. By the way, I have such tiny feet (UK size 5½, European size 38) that I’ve often had no choice but to buy women’s shoes anyway, though obviously not with high heels if I’ve been presenting in male mode!

So this week I’ve started walking the Capital Ring, a route around London that links so many unknown places via canal footpaths, parks and open spaces. Who would have guessed that so much quiet open space exists within a few hundred yards of motorways, railways, flight paths, industry and endless housing? I’ve also been visiting art exhibitions in the local area and in central London and spending some time cooking. Here are some of the things I’ve discovered or made so far.

Beautiful wildflower meadow at Syon Park, still the estate of the Dukes of Northumberland

The Great Conservatory at Syon Park (1827) which was to inspire the Palm House at Kew and the Crystal Palace

The Duke of Northumberland's cat!

The Grand Union Canal from Birmingham meets the River Brent at Osterley

Millennium Maze at Hanwell, planted with 2000 yew trees. It took ages to get to the middle (only cheats go straight through the gate)! There's a really nice little zoo next to it. Both are free to go in.

Isambard Kingdom Brunel's Wharncliffe Viaduct (1838) that carries the Great Western Railway across the Brent Valley. You don't appreciate the massive size of it until you are underneath it.

Bitterns' Field, a beautiful, wild, quiet hay meadow ... that was made on an old Ealing Council refuse tip.

Piano in the woods, Twickenham. This will be here in the open for anyone to play till January. I'm not sure what state it will be in by then but, according to the label, seasonal changes in timbre are part of the act!
Old next to new, City of London

Authentic home made pesto sauce for spaghetti: basil, pine nuts, garlic, pecorino cheese, olive oil, salt and pepper. Yum.


More interesting discoveries as the summer goes on.

My waxing is booked for the 7th and Sparkle is on the 10-12th. I’ve been sorting out my wardrobe as my problem skin may let me do only one day of Sparkle, so I intend to make it fabulous.

Sue x

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Countdown to Sparkle

I've booked a hotel for Sparkle, the annual national transgender celebration, next month.

http://www.sparkle.org.uk/

I am working on the assumption that I should go as it's become my tradition. But I am doubtful about it.

To recap, I have such a bad rash of eczema on my face and neck that I haven't been able to shave for a year so I am all hairy and can't go out in female mode at all. My skin is reacting badly to any products put on it, medicine hasn't advanced in this area since I was little and so the best policy is to leave my skin strictly alone. At least the complaint seems to have gone from the top half of my head but it will be a while yet before it all clears. I have lived with this problem all my life, but when it is on my face it is worse than anywhere else. What keeps me going is the knowledge that it settles somewhere only temporarily, although it's anguishing not being able to go out as I would like and be treated as a woman.

I'm seeing my TGirlfriends these days anyway as I don't want to lose friends through neglect. I am also arranging to have a good all-over wax soon with a local beautician. I normally shave or epilate all of me that I can reach and then go to my local beauty salon to do my back but I'd like to see what my legs, arms and chest feel like when all smooth. I'm told waxed legs feel awesome.

And I was pleased to lose 9 pounds weight in January but then the weight loss stopped during several weeks of near freezing weather when stodgier food was needed. Now that warmer weather is here I can get back to losing more as, frankly, I'm not going to get in to my summer dresses with a big tum!

Fingers crossed that I can shave fully, put on makeup and do at least one day at Sparkle and that my face doesn't fall off like last year. I'm even hoping that I can manage two days, but I don't propose to push my luck given the agonies of last year.

Sue x

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

There's silly, and then there's silly!

Once in a while I take a day off and wander without any plan. I love doing this as it's amazing what you discover completely by chance.

Despite having lived in London all my life I'd never visited Battersea Park before so I happened to wander that way and by total coincidence came across a huge bunch of people in the middle doing co-ordinated dance routines all in high heels. And when I say people, I mean girls and boys equally.

I'd inadvertently stumbled across the warm-up of Hope in Heels, a charity run in high heels for children affected by AIDS. If only I had known I'd have taken part, especially as I enjoyed the Great Drag Race five years ago (that was an event for prostate cancer). There's always next year.

http://www.hopeinheels.co.uk/

From the Hope in Heels website

From the Hope in Heels website

It's funny how the men all seemed to choose sparkly silver heels!

It's silly, but it's a worthwhile event (and has the added benefit of teaching people to run in high heels, a useful skill for those of us who need to catch buses and trains).

And there's another type of silly. Like the cleric in Pakistan who has blamed earthquakes and inflation on "jeans-wearing women". OK, he's made himself a laughing stock, but it does show the sort of nasty rubbish freer people, and women especially, are constantly up against. This is not some isolated nutcase, you know; the religious family I come from are equally anti-jeans, anti-women, anti any deviation from religious dogma and their own arbitrary views. To them, transgender people don't actually exist: they are just perverts and/or people seeking to provoke, or mere mental cases behaving in a deranged way.

I love my jeans and leggings: not only do they mark me out as just an ordinary woman in the street like millions of others but I'm secretly glad to wear them in defiance of this nastiness and as a mark of freedom just to be.

Being irresponsible and evil
Sue x

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Still need to see my girlfriends

My doctor sent me to have a blood test the other day. Given that I look like a werewolf at the moment, it seemed appropriate that the phlebotomist should introduce herself as "Hi, I'm the vampire". Appropriate, but hardly reassuring!



As mentioned in other posts recently, I've made so many friends in this trans world of ours that I cannot just lose them through neglect. In ones and twos I'm beginning to catch up with them. Real friends are real friends no matter what one wears.

So recently, although in boy mode, I have still had the pleasure of meeting Rachel Bull and Pippa Bunce in Covent Garden for lunch. Pippa's gone all mumsy and had floral dress and sensible shoes - not the perpetual party girl look. But this is because she tells me that she can go to work in a city bank presenting how she likes, boy or girl as she fancies, under their strong diversity initiative. I find this hard to believe from the aggressive macho world of international finance, but she insists it's true. I hope to update you on this incredible development in due course.

Last weekend I met up with the Brick Lane girls, Linda, Helen and Rachel Cole, and Stevie who was also being a boy. After a drink at our old watering hole, Verge, we took a cab to our favourite party restaurant, Sarastro's, for a hearty lunch. I'm pretty sure the girls enjoyed it.

And yesterday I met Rachel B again for lunch and then a shopping trip to Camden markets and the massive Westfield shopping centre in Shepherd's Bush which, surprisingly, I haven't been to before. It was lovely to be wandering in the boutiques and women's departments again. I think I may be getting my mojo back. Let's see what the doctor suggests, but I really cannot bear to be left out of female life much longer. I have booked for this year's Sparkle and will do as much of that as can be managed without damaging my face but maybe I could also try getting out once a month as Sue. It's too agonising seeing women going about their business and feeling so left out. I definitely cannot pull off the Conchita Wurst look - I'd probably end up looking like Red Riding Hood's granny! As well as being self-conscious.

Thanks to all my friends for meeting me in my werewolf transformation. I hope to see more and more girls again over the summer. Howwwlll!!!

Sue x

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Why Palmyra matters to trans people

My friend Petra - aptly named - has alerted me to the current situation in Syria.

Huh? What the hell has some ruined city in the desert got to do with being a trans person?

Background: Palmyra grew from being just an oasis for camel caravans to being a major trading city near the borders of the Roman and Parthian/Persian Empires and eventually, under the influence of the formidable lady, Zenobia, effectively broke away from the Roman Empire and formed a vast realm of its own in the Eastern Med and Near East in the late 3rd Century. The Romans - their state in real peril at this time for many reasons - managed to bring them back and resecure the Eastern Frontier, but it was a near thing. It is now threatened with destruction by Islamic State.

Photo: Arian Zwegers - Flickr: Palmyra, view from Qalaat Ibn Maan, Temple of Bel and colonnaded axis



The city matters to humanity not only because it is arguably the greatest archaeological site on earth but because it represents a remarkable fusion of Eastern and Western cultures, and Semitic and Caucasian peoples. The cultural richness of this whole area is very remarkable. Something for everyone, as it were. A symbol of cultures and peoples working together, almost.

And as any symbol it is, of course, in danger of being torn down when some group regards its symbolism as opposing its own ends.

The Islamic State (IS, or ISIS) currently on the rampage in postwar Iraq and civil-war torn Syria has, in fact, little directly to do with the Islamic religion. It is, as these things so often are, a bunch of psychopaths who are using established institutions and a local traditional mindset to gain power. The main local religion happens to be the vehicle to power in this case but if you look at any seizure of power throughout history, it’s got little to do with the claimed aims; those are just to twist public thinking into legitimising the usurpation and the thuggery that often precedes it.

I often work 50-60 hours a week (and, yes, I am beginning to ask myself why) so I haven’t yet had time to tackle all the subjects that concern me about leading a trans life, particularly bullying at work, the election, religious influence, etc., but in essence I want to sum up all such topics by saying, in the briefest terms, that psychopaths exist in all walks of life, making our lives miserable: the local burglar, the school bully, the egotistical politician, the insistent tax inspector, the local yob, the controlling partner… (If you equate the word psychopath with serial killer then feel free to replace it with sociopath.) There aren’t many of them (their numbers are estimated at around one in every hundred people) but all they do is hurt; that’s what they exist for and enjoy doing. They were born that way and it’s considered that they are therefore ‘incurable’. Most people fight them, some just submit, but others are given the feeling that brutality is the way to get on in life and they turn nasty as a result. The subject is more complex than this, but I don’t have space in this one post to go into it fully.

To get back to Palymra. IS and similar ‘Islamic’ groups, Al-Quaeda, the so-called Boko Haram, Islamic Jihad and all the rest of them haven’t actually got much to do with Islam. I seem to be one of the few Westerners who has read the Koran, the overarching premise of which is that everyone in the world should be a Muslim. The message is fairly much that, put in various ways, both straightforward and poetic. So Islam is one of the vehicles made for a different end which the naturally violent and cruel can hijack to go on the rampage with the excuse that they are bringing enlightenment to the world, and who but a pervert could argue that enlightenment isn’t a good thing?

Take a silly example of this behaviour, but one that we’re all familiar with so it’s easier to illustrate: James Bond, a fictitious spy, is a classic psychopath. Utterly confident in himself, he takes risks, he likes killing people and he seduces women a lot. How better to legitimise his evil life than to get a license to kill from his government. That way he can do what he enjoys most - have adventures, kill people and shag women with no penalties for him, which there would be if he indulged the same lifestyle without the blessing of Her Majesty’s government. So it is, basically, with all such people, like Jihadi John who enjoys beheading people. If he’d been a Roman gladiator (pre-Islam), he’d have had the same fun, but using a different excuse; or a concentration camp guard; or a guillotine operator in Revolutionary France; or one of the Great Khan’s horsemen in Persia enjoying an orgy of extermination.

Palmyra matters to trans people because it was once a place where being trans was not really a problem, ancient Syria having been rich in such gender diversity at one time (and even, to an extent, now). The Roman emperor Elagabalus, for example, was also a Syrian priest and a transvestite. They didn’t like him, but he illustrates the cultural expectations of ancient Syria. Being trans in Syria will be a problem now. Indeed, once you get a psycho running your culture/religion/nation/etc. then you can usually say goodbye to diversity, tolerance, acceptance and any kind of live-and-let-live attitude. As an aspirational woman, I don’t like the way women are treated in many nations where Islam is predominant (again, it’s not actually the religion that particularly oppresses women but other local cultural factors). I certainly wouldn’t submit to that sort of repression.

So all the time, from locking our doors and cars against thieves to dealing with a bullying boss, we expend our energies in keeping predatory psychopaths from our lives. IS is one of the latest; it won’t be the last. If you want the liberty to be openly trans you have little choice but to fight those who want to destroy that liberty, whether they are religious extremists or political bigots or just nasty controlling types, even those that the trans community itself is prey to from its own ranks.

As far as the military situation goes, NATO won’t be letting IS anywhere near the main oilfields, of course, and the area can largely be isolated till IS end up killing each other, a bit like Yemen is currently contained. (It’s not as simple as just political or religious differences, of course; a major population explosion this last half-century coupled with strains on limited water resources, huge economic divergence between traditional life and the riches and power of oil and gas, and so forth, all play a role in the situation.) But to my mind wrecking a symbol like Palmyra simply shows me that evil never sleeps. To be honest, I’m tired. I try to be positive but I’m unwell in a way that’s wrecked my trans life for the time being, I’m reflecting on the brutish experiences of the past, of which I’ve mentioned my school, and I am now looking probably to have to chastise the UN and my government for failing to hold back the psycho tide in Syria and for allowing the probable destruction of the ultimate symbol of multicultural fusion. If you want a life as an unmolested trans person and value diversity, you really have to take note of Palmyra’s fate and vow that your right to display your true trans nature is not oppressed by evildoers and one-size-fits-all control freaks. Watch out for people like this, and their supporters.

Sue x

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Out with the old

It’s been a few weeks, little blog. Sorry about that.

In this period of exile I’m gradually going through old items of clothing and keeping what I know works for me. The less successful items - and I think every TGirl’s closet is full of such things - are being thrown out or given to charity shops.

It’s in our early days in particular that we buy stuff that cannot possibly work! Too small, too large, wrong shape, wrong style, ridiculous on us … the list of mistakes seems endless. I think we’ve all been there.

But it’s also those items that have worn out or become unfashionable that are going (avocado tights! - what were people thinking?) I’m sad about some shoes and boots that have to go because they’re worn out or broken as they bring back fond memories. I’m only keeping one old pair that’s bust, just as a memento of my first shoe purchase after I vowed to stop purging, nearly 20 years ago. Here’s a pair I loved, but the strap’s broken. Farewell, my lovelies, and thanks for the emotional lift you gave as well as the physical one.



Sue x

Thursday, 30 April 2015

Ironing knickers

No, not a ‘how to’ post, just my expression for when work is quiet. And when it’s quiet, the very last thing left to do that vaguely resembles working of any kind, before you turn into a vegetable on the sofa, and in order to salve your conscience, is to iron your knickers! Come on, who actually irons their knickers? Hence my expression.






Well, that is what it’s like being self-employed, at any rate. I had five weeks of relative quiet with work (then it all exploded at 4pm the Friday before last and all my regulars got in touch at once and I have been busy since). Prior to that, I was just, as I say, ironing knickers. Which is fine as there’s been the first warm weather of the year to enjoy and I have dusted off the sun lounger after its winter sleep and have slopped sunscreen on my pallid skin to soak up some Vitamin D in the bright new sunlight.

My eczema is bad as it is every April when the weather warms and my skin responds badly to it. I hate the cold; I love warmth, but it’s the transition that creates a problem every year. However, I have a new patch of eczema on my right hip and possibly another on my left hand which is a good sign as my body rarely tolerates more than two patches at one time. Maybe it’ll now move off my head and I will be able to shave close and wear makeup again.

I’ve been catching up with friends, doing spring cleaning and preparing much-needed home improvements, sorting my clothes so that items that I won’t wear any more go to charity shops or other suitable sources. I do hate shopping with female friends when I’m not presenting as female - I’d love to pop into the changing room to try some items. But I guess making suggestions on what works for friends is the next best thing.

Sue x

Monday, 13 April 2015

An honorary babe

A long time ago I wrote how a little group of female friends of mine who call themselves the Babes (or the Beautylicious Babes for certain important purposes, such as organising parties or forming a pub quiz team) has accepted my male self into their little group as an "honorary babe": http://suerichmond.blogspot.co.uk/2011/09/honorary-babe.html


They are, in fact, still the last group of friends to be officially ignorant of my being a TGirl, although I think they sussed me out a while ago. Last Friday I went out with them for a little dinner party and they were very insistent that their "honorary babe" should be with them. How could I resist? It'd be nice to be accepted as true babe one day but not only am I not going out as a girl at the moment (for reasons I have bored you with already) but I've also become more cautious about 'outing' myself. It was a lovely party at a local restaurant and the giggles and feminine topics of conversation made it my kind of evening.

The following day I met two TGirlfriends, Sarah and Saffy, for a catch up. They accept that I can't be a girl at the moment but this makes no difference to our long-term friendship. I'm the same person, except in appearance, as emphasised by Garry, barman at our old haunt the Cambridge pub in the heart of London, who saw me in my new male mode for the first time ever and was lovely to me.

I myself think Mr Sue is rather more careworn than Ms Sue who, frankly, as a kept woman is just out to party all the time with no thought for hardworking Mr Sue's health or wallet. Tsk! Women! ;-) But I guess it all boils down to being human underneath whatever clothes we are actually wearing, and that's the most essential thing to be taken for. I've made this point before with reference to several other TGirlfriends who've been out with me recently.

Thanks to all my lovely friends for such a good weekend. And best of luck to Sarah who has just officially started working as the woman she is.

Sue x

PS Thanks to Calie of T-Central for featuring my blog two months running. My enforced time out has been making me reflect more about what it means to be trans and how we live this life, rather than just doing stuff. If any thoughts here are helpful to others then I guess this blog is serving its purpose.

Sunday, 5 April 2015

When surgery goes wrong (again), and when trans life goes right

This may seem like a very odd subject for Easter Sunday, but it’s just that I have time to write and this is on my mind.

My aim in this post is to inform about negative consequences and encourage positive ones and general trans visibility. Those who have suffered are anonymous here and have their privacy preserved. Nevertheless I do feel that their experiences should be notified to the general community so that people can be well informed before making choices.

In summer 2013 I told you that a friend of mine had been to Charing Cross Hospital, Britain’s main centre for gender surgery, but things had not gone well - she had unravelled and got a serious infection: http://suerichmond.blogspot.co.uk/2013/08/when-surgery-goes-wrong.html

I recently saw another friend there who had just had her gender operation and within a few days of being sent home was back at the hospital being treated for a similar infection.

ALL of those I have seen at the hospital or with whom I have discussed gender surgery in detail have suffered serious fails: operations that went wrong, corrective surgery (which in one case also failed), abdominal infections and so forth. I don’t think this is coincidence. And I am sorry for those trans women and men who would like a physical relationship but can’t because of the inadequacies and failings of their surgery.

It is clear that more of this surgery goes wrong than is made public and I am concerned that this issue is played down by some trans advocates and support groups. I would say again to those contemplating surgery: this is not a simple procedure but major surgery involving serious physical trauma. The large majority of trans people don’t go for it and whilst this is likely to be mainly because the strength of their transness is not as great as that of those living as their preferred gender, there are some of us who are having real doubts that surgery is the best option. I’m not here to persuade or suggest, merely to inform you that surgery may cause you major problems, as witness my personal friends here.

Now to a positive note on transition and living a trans life. I must mention a few other friends who are doing wonderful things with their lives despite all the odds against them (and sorry if I embarrass you girls but I think you deserve praise):

- My friend Kimberley (no longer her name) who has featured a lot in my blog over the years and who will be living and working full time as female as of this week. A beautiful woman with great prospects. Good luck, honey.

- My friend Stella who again appears many times in my blog under her proper name and previous (experimental?) ones and who, from shy and nervous beginnings, is not only living and working full time and representing the trans community at employment fairs but is now a candidate in the forthcoming national election. It would be wonderful to have a transgender member of parliament in the UK as there has been in other places like Poland. Could that MP be Stella? I’d be thrilled if it was. You go, girl, and I’ll be listening to your result on election night. By the way, she also now has a smoochy boyfriend, which is a lovely thing. Here’s her campaign blog: http://greenstell.blogspot.co.uk/

- My friend Roz whom I mentioned last autumn http://suerichmond.blogspot.co.uk/2014/11/roz-white-transgender-writer.html who is now ‘out’ to her family who’ve taken it well and has recently launched a new edition of her transgender novel, The Sisterhood, and is offering editorial services. Roz writes so well and truthfully about the trans condition.

- Two bloggers, Lynn Jones and Hannah Gotta, who write such excellent blogs about the genuine realities of life as married TGirls http://yatgb.blogspot.co.uk/ and https://hannahgotta.wordpress.com/ . Both blogs contain such insightful truths expressed in very different ways. I think I’ll add my fun friend Bobby’s blog to this list as she’s just been highlighted on TCentral (and quite rightly, too) https://thebobbysoxblog.wordpress.com/. They’re on my blogroll to the right, of course. (By the way, these girls all look gorgeous, too.)

I’ll stop there or I’ll have to list all my friends because they all live amazing trans lives in one way or another.

You see, it was Transgender Day of Visibility on 31 March and it pained me not to be visible, but so many of my friends are, either because they are already living in the gender that’s right for them or because they are visible in public or online. The more of us who are out there in whatever small way we can be then the more we will be accepted as a regular part of society. I’m thrilled that trans people are standing for parliament but I will be even more thrilled when the fact that parliamentary candidates are transgender is less of a talking point than their policies. Little by little we’ll get there.




The is Sue Richmond reporting from Westminster...

Sue x

Sunday, 29 March 2015

The sheer variety of it all

My two essays in February about being trans generated a lot of interest:

http://suerichmond.blogspot.co.uk/2015/02/how-many-of-us-are-there.html

http://suerichmond.blogspot.co.uk/2015/02/does-being-trans-really-wreck-your-life.html

Today I want to illustrate how being trans cuts through every social distinction - class, race, profession, income, location, marital status, etc.

It’s often struck me, when out with my TGirlfriends, just what a diverse bunch we are. Yes, we all have this one thing in common - we present ourselves as women. But apart from that, we all have very different lives.

It’s often been said to me by TGirls who’ve been around a while that they have found that, apart from all liking to wear skirts, they’ve often felt no other connection with some of the other TGirls they meet. I know what they mean, although I feel there’s more common ground if you dig a bit deeper. The sheer variety of social backgrounds in any group of trans people is amazing. I can recall meetings when a bunch of girls have included, just for example, a printer, an astrophysicist, a photographer, a builder, a surveyor, a railway engineer, a car salesperson, a graphic designer, a translator, a diver, an artist, a bus driver … and so forth. Some are married and have their wives with them; some have kids, others not; some are older, some younger; some richer, some poorer. And they come from all over. And I think, where on earth else except a trans event would you find such a diverse bunch of people in the same room?

You just wouldn't believe where these women go and what they get up to in the daytime! (Tiff's photo)



That illustrates what I mean about transness cutting through all human distinctions and which I feel is good evidence that this life is not, as detractors insist, some lifestyle choice. If it was, you’d expect a similar background in those choosing the lifestyle. Instead of which, anyone at all can be affected.

Being trans is at least a great way to meet people! And look stunning at the same time.

Sue x