Thursday, 8 December 2022

I review Chelsea Manning's memoir

 I've just finished reading Chelsea Manning's book README.txt. Chelsea Manning is an especially well-known - indeed infamous - trans woman, best known for uploading hundreds of thousands of US classified military documents to Wikileaks, her main aim being to show that what the Western public was being told about the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan was not what was really happening. She got into a lot of trouble for it. She is a villain to many and a hero to others (including Vivienne Westwood who is quoted on a sticker placed on the front cover of my copy; I thought she was a fashion designer rather than a military analyst, but I guess anyone's going to draw their own conclusions about Chelsea's life and actions according to their own lights).

Obviously, I read the book because, to me, the autobiography of any trans person is of especial interest. But it is a book of many themes.

She was brought up in out-of-the-way communities in Oklahoma, USA, and Wales, UK, by alcoholic parents. She struggled with that, with her sexuality (brought up as a boy, she was always attracted to boys when it was illegal in places like Oklahoma) and, later, with trying to live homeless until an aunt took her in. She struggled to make ends meet, despite working long hours. The military was offering bigger bucks than she could make in a civilian job, with a $20,000 dollar bonus to those who signed up immediately, which she did, rather blindsiding her aunt who suddenly lost her young relative to the tender mercies of a US Army training camp. Having been a computer geek, including bouts of hacking and trolling, she was posted to intelligence gathering roles (a bit of illegal stuff in one's past is rarely a bar to making a career in the military, after all).

The USA at the time had a "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy about gay people in the military. There are, she believes, a lot of gay people in the military, way more than anyone knows, or even they themselves know (which was even more the case at the time, thanks to the policy). We know people join up for reasons like hers, or so as to avoid a life in and out of police cells, or in order to man up, or in order to meet men... Being required to be covert about one's sexuality never made romantic encounters easy and one time she was raped by an officer whom she couldn't report because - if you've ever worked in any hierarchy you'll know - folks above you have the ability to wreck your career and reputation, and having to come out as gay would have flown in the face of the "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy. She felt truly violated, not just physically but morally.

She wanted to make a good career and, although offered a great desk job in intelligence despite (or because of) her less than perfect record on hacking, drugtaking, and other things that might be morally and/or legally questionable, she felt that no-one who hadn't seen action could really hold their head up, so she turned the job down so as to be posted to Iraq. It's one of those forks in the road of life at which one makes a decision that seems reasonable at the time but which turns out to be a disaster.

Still doing intelligence-based work on the (rather vague) front line, she couldn't, as previously, get her superiors to see the shoddy security of many US military computer systems containing classified information; nor the logic and morality of keeping similar things classified when bad, but declassified and open to the press when it made the military or US policy look good. She was troubled by the fact that intelligence gathering (i.e. spying) on the local population was so intense that she felt she knew more about the lives of the locals than they themselves knew. Above all, though, she was tormented by the endless engagement errors when innocent bystanders were killed - thousands of them (the numbers are unknown) - and yet no-one was ever held to account because the international rules of war enable soldiers to make lethal mistakes that no civilian would ever get away with. People of doubtful politics, or just suspect, were caught and handed over the the Iraqi authorities ... and the allied militaries would wash their hands of them:

"We captured and detained these men [suspected of killing a US soldier of their unit], then gave them to the Iraqi government. We didn't keep track of people once we got them "off the battlefield", as the phrase went. Kill or capture and the problem is solved. Whether that was the right thing to do or not didn't matter to me then. With enough grief and adrenaline and fear, we can all become amoral, even malevolent."

That last sentence represents, in many ways, the main theme of this book, more than her being trans. One is reminded here, to a degree, of Hannah Arendt's seminal 1963 work The Banality of Evil.

So she leaked 720,000 classified documents, partly to disclose what was really happening in Iraq and Afghanistan, partly to show up the poor IT security she had attempted to warn of, and partly to attack the bizarre way of classifying secrecy. In the "honest, succinct" words of a military press affairs officer, she quotes:

"the classification system exists wholly in the interest of the U.S. government so if it's in the interest of public affairs to declassify something, we will. In other words, he seemed to say, the classification system doesn't exist to keep secrets safe, it exists to control the media. ... I began to consider whether the public deserved to have the same information that I did." 

Oops! Nobody likes to be shown up and humiliated, and an organisation like an army, that is necessarily run by psycopaths, dealt with Manning's leaks in a uniquely brutal way: months of solitary confinement, including many weeks in an animal cage in the desert heat (see Alec Guinness as Colonel Nicholson in "the oven" in Bridge on the River Kwai for something similar), followed by Kafkaesque proceedings on legal matters all of which came under military law and therefore the military was prosecutor, judge, jury, and jailer. (I wonder if it might've gone better for her stealing the documents and disclosing them once she'd left the military, but that would take a legal mind to explain.)

The day after her sentence in 2013 she formally came out as trans and a lot of legal shenanigans were required to get her hormones, treatment and dress appropriate to her gender. She feels that, whatever the authorities might have thought, her fellow inmates, once she was able to associate with them, seemed to have few problems interacting with her as a woman. 

Another issue, unexpected until you've become famous or notorious, is that people supporting you or your cause may not necessarily have your exclusive interests at heart:

"all the groups expressing support for me clearly had their own agendas and views. My ability to tell my story had always been constrained by the limits of social convention; now it was not just limited but co-opted."

Yes, as Jon Ronson amply shows in his popular book The Psycopath Test, you can easily lose your own truth to others who use you to peddle their alternative realities. And, as an aside, anti-trans groups do love a bit of this, as do some self-appointed trans advocacy groups.

One gets the impression from this book that here is a young person (early 20s) learning an awful lot about the world way faster than most of us do. And doing a lot of her own legal donkey work. Somehow, she survived all the military threw at her and her suicide attempts, and her jail sentence of 35 years was commuted in 2017. 

I make no moral judgments on any of this. Do you fight what seems wrong by doing what is also deemed wrong? Do the ends justify the means? Does formal justice represent natural justice? Is Chelsea Manning a pure-souled individual given her previous hacking, piracy and trolling? Are there ever clear right or wrong answers or best approaches to many life issues? This book is someone's own life experiences, impressions and justifications - an apologia would have been the term for this sort of autobiography once - though aspects of her story are subject to legal restrictions and, indeed, some paragraphs of the book have been blacked out. As a story of a trans woman coming to terms with who she is, it is in some ways a typical story yet also a unique one, as are they all, though this is more unique than any other I have read.

Finally, a word on style. I found the prose very readable. Never verbose or superfluous, she writes well and generally clearly. Sometimes she assumes the reader knows more about IT stuff than, well, I do, but such passages are few. 

Two final quotations. One on her wanting to be like her sister:

"I didn't just want her room; I wanted to be like my sister: when I was five or six, I'd sneak in and try on her things. She played around with a cowgirl look in her early teens, and I still remember the boots and the belt buckles and the T-shirts with the horses and the frilly fringes that I'd try on. I loved her makeup station, with a mirror and light bulbs that changed color. I'd stare at myself for long stretches, seeing if I looked different with this lipstick, that foundation, this lighting. After I'd left a mess enough times, Casey installed a lock on her bedroom door. I still tried to pick the lock so I could play with her things."

I can relate to that, though I'd not call it playing! Here's when she first kissed a boy, ironically whilst doing the "boy stuff" that her father had insisted she needed to do when she'd asked him if she'd grow up like her sister:

"That was also the first year I kissed a boy. I'll call him Sid. Sid, a bicycle ride away, white-blond and tanned and pencil thin and obsessed with the spectacular pageantry of the World Wrestling Federation. We used to wrestle on a big foam mat at his house, with bungee cables he'd set up as the ring's ropes, pretending that we were pros. One day, while we were play-fighting, I gently moved in and kissed him - it wasn't premeditated, just a yearning impulse. He kissed me back. And then some other kid saw us. Once Sid realized we were being watched, he pushed me off. Get off me, you faggot. I couldn't stop weeping." 

So, of course, the cat was out of the bag, with consequences at school and in family... (Mind you, wrestling has always been a grey area in terms of manliness - the costumes and attitude are are little, well, gay, right?)

My review is based on a first reading of the work. I would like to read it again. Would I recommend this book? For a tale of how a trans person comes to terms with their being transgender, yes. For insights into how governments and militaries work, certainly. For how intelligence gathering and computer hackers work, also. If you're into the moral maze, absolutely. 

Chelsea Manning 2022

Sue x



Friday, 2 December 2022

Fancy frocks to make your heart sing

 Now that it's December I'm going to write about Cinderella, that stalwart of the pantomime season. And not just about her. I saw a number of pantos as a kid, but when I was in my teens a family friend gave us tickets to La Scala, the temple of opera in Milan, and we saw a production of Rossini's Cinderella. Take out the supernatural elements of the fairytale, set it in the early nineteenth century, and you have a fun musical piece for stage. I'm no opera buff but I really enjoyed it. And when Cinderella appeared, veiled, at the Prince's ball wearing the most sumptuous full-length black dress, my mother noticed my delighted reaction. Oops, keep the gender interests strictly private there, kid.

I believe this recording is of that production. The dress seems much as I recall it.

(c) Deutsche Grammophon

Wow! Isn't every TGirl a little Cinderella, really? She has to fight for her right to take part in the social life of her country and be treated with respect. Frankly, I think we all merit a lovely dress for every big outing. Any fairy godmothers, please take note. (And Santa, too!)

I went to the La Scala theatre museum last week. I've always had a love of live theatre. I thought I'd share some photos of the special exhibition of the amazing costume dresses that were made for Franco Zeffirelli's productions in the 1960s to '80s.

Four dresses (four!) for the legendary Maria Callas for Rossini's The Turk in Italy. I'd like any one of these, but preferably all. I think the pink one is my favourite.

 

Sicilian peasant women's dresses for Mascagni's Cavalleria Rusticana. I'd be a peasant for one of these!

A much duller dress below, but it was made for Mirella Freni who played Mimì in Puccini's La Bohème, a role she made her own.

 

It's not opera without Verdi's Aïda! I'm sure any of these would be ideal for a trip round the supermarket. Probably made of Nile-on! (geddit??!!)

It's not all clothes, though. Here are crown jewels, all made of glass.

 

As for this spinet, the Latin inscription reads "Do not touch me with unpractised hands". In the light of my last post, I think we could all request the same!


In the days before film and TV, quality live stagecraft could transport the audience with emotions of all kinds and present a spectacle of exquisite beauty, a feast for eyes and ears. There is something very immediate about the interaction of the actors, dancers or singers on a stage with their audience and with each other, and the audience's collective reactions, compared to the very studied shots and detachment of screen entertainment. Both have their place, but to appreciate how important live spectacle was to people before we had screens, the production I saw twenty or so years ago of The Mikado, using Gilbert and Sullivan's original production notes, with costumes, scenery and props that matched those of the first production, was the best thing I have ever seen on stage and really showed, through it's wonderful spectacle, how people used to be very well entertained when out for an evening. It worked for me: here I am twenty years later still talking about it!

Anyway, enjoy the frocks, and we'll talk about this pink item in my last post another time. It's had varied reactions so far ...



Sue x

Sunday, 27 November 2022

Pests

 So there I was, sitting at the bar, when a man came up and said, "Hi, I'm bisexual. Let me 'bi' you a drink and then we can get sexual."

"I think you're actually bi-curious," I replied. "So why don't you buy me a drink ... and then wonder where I've gone."

This little joke sums up what I think about most admirers and men with terrible chat-up lines, attitudes and behaviours. They're a pest (sometimes worse).

And so are people who ask you intimate questions about being trans. No, I'm not going to tell you my "real" name. Nor tell you whether I've had "the op". Both questions have been put to me. Some people have zero manners and no idea how to express healthy interest. Even a normally empathetic and socially adjusted female friend of mine, on meeting me as Sue for the first time, asked whether my breasts were all-natural. "Well," I said to her, "I'll show you mine if you show me yours". She did get the message and we carried on with our day just as two women. Yes, I know women talk about intimate things much more often than men do, but maybe save such a question for later in our acquaintance, not first thing.

I've been away for a few days in Milan for sightseeing. Milan has always been an architect's playground and one grand house you can visit is full of staff who insist on telling you details that they think you want to know but, truthfully, I'm not interested in photos of the former owners or knowing where the wallpaper was made. Custodians like this are a pest as they waylay you with trivia. You have to exit via the gift shop, where some reproduction art-deco style jewellery caught my eye, but the old woman in the shop went on and on about how I should buy a pot of their fancy overpriced home-made jam. If she'd been intelligent she'd have realised that I was interested in jewels not jam and might have made money off me but her well-practised jam harangue was the only thing on her mind. What a pest! In the end I got fed up with being lectured about the merits of jam and left. 

Villa Necchi Campiglio, Milan, 1932-35. A move from art-deco (Liberty) style to fascist realism. Both a museum and a place for jam diatribe. Fascists!


Am I some kind of brooding antisocial bitch whose willful ways won't be swayed by posh jam, the advances of leering drunks, or the intimate queries of the overcurious? I don't think so. Let people browse in peace and leave them free to ask if they want to. Mind your own business about what's in my underwear - I don't ask you about your wobbly bits, do I? Never deadname a trans person or try to find it out. And, guys, just don't be a pain if you want a date. Be friendly, polite and don't pressurise and we'll see if we can have a nice chat and if that goes anywhere. At worst, we'll have had a pleasant enough evening.

These things do seem to need spelling out to a lot of people, though!


Coming up on Sue's News and Views...

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I was reading Frans Waal's book on human and ape gender. A good book by an expert who's made some positive discoveries about being trans (and some worrying ones about being human). More on that later, as there will be on Chelsea Manning's just published memoir Readme.txt, which I have just bought and am very curious to read. Also, more on Milan sightseeing including frocks like these ...


... and like this!...


 Sue x

Tuesday, 22 November 2022

The public don't buy hate

 What is one to say about the murders at Colorado Springs? Not enough information has emerged on motives, but killing people in an LGBT club does smack of hatred. I am devastated at the news of this attack on Transgender Day of Remembrance. Yet I still believe that the public at large are not buying into the anti-trans narrative. I'd like to illustrate this with two tales from Britain this month. 

The first is the attempt by a group of J K Rowling supporters who wanted to unseat Joanne Harris (a novelist known for works such as Chocolat) as chair of the Society of Authors' management committee. The Society of Authors is a trade union for published writers and I was a member for several years till I left the UK. The reasons for the attack are complex but Harris's support for the trans community is, she believes, the main one. The resolution was resoundingly defeated by over 80% of members and an open letter by many authors praised her as chairman and condemned the “seemingly coordinated attacks against her by a small, but vocal, minority, who have become known to many of us who use Twitter as persons who regularly use their own platforms to intimidate and bully those who do not agree with their ideologies regarding trans and non-binary people.”

The second is a similar attempt to change the National Trust. This is a charitable organisation that, since the 1890s, has bought up land and historic buildings for preservation. The many gripes of the takeover group included criticism of the trust's inclusivity policy and attendance at Pride events. These are apparently "divisive" and a waste of money. The resolution was defeated by twice as many as voted for it. None of the takeover groups candidates were elected. 

Both organisations are predominantly middle class and therefore represent only a portion of the British population. Neverthless they are both influential: the National Trust has over 5 million members and the Society of Authors represents people of considerable public influence.

I remain convinced that the transphobes are getting more vocal only because they are shrinking to an ever diminishing minority. And a pretty lunatic one at that. I think the trans community and its allies will prevail in the end, though we are going through dark times now.


Sue x

Sunday, 20 November 2022

Remembrance day for trans people

 In memory of all the people who have died as victims of transphobia.

 


Today is International Transgender Day of Remembrance. Thank you to friends, allies and organisations who support and protect our vulnerable and threatened community. 

Sue x

Friday, 18 November 2022

Birthday treats

 It's my birthday and so ... well, OK, it's not my actual birthday, as I've said here before but as a TGirl I have the privilege of choosing a date as to when I think I came into the world as a girl rather than officially as a boy. Some trans women choose the date they have surgery as their birthday, some when they first came out. For me it's kind of when I first felt I was a girl really, sort of. Anyway, whatever, it's my "girldom celebration" and it falls on November 18th every year (which happens to be during Trans Awareness Week). 

I was on my own today but will be seeing family next week to have bit of joint celebrations for other like events. But I treated myself to lunch at a nice restaurant and went to look for some leather trousers or jeans to replace a pair that wore out last year. They are very fashionable in this part of the world and half the women round here wear leather items, whether leggings, trousers or skirts, or jackets in winter. I couldn't find a suitable pair but instead I did find a leather skirt that fits like a dream. (Photo when I get better organised and have my face on properly.) This actually replaces a good leather skirt I had that got ruined after beer was spilled on it whilst I was working at the TGirl bar. I've missed it a lot as it was both smart and warm (as I realised one snowy night when waiting for a bus). So that was a great success today.


Awareness - or help needed?

So it's Trans Awareness Week, as I mentioned, but so many trans organisations seem to be putting out calls for help at the moment, from Mermaids charity in the UK that has suffered attacks that temporarily closed its helpline, to my local LGBT group needing help to rent its offices, to organisations like Transliving who want more members. With the squeeze on most people's costs of living this winter it's hard to heed all these calls but, if you are trans or an ally, please consider doing whatever you reasonably can in the way of support. 


Wallpaper girl!

I was looking for a dress online and instead found that this photo of me and friends in London has been officially turned into computer wallpaper!

 


I think this was an evening out in March 2013 and this would have been the Verge Bar in London's Whitechapel area. 1,762 downloads to date, which presumably means that many PCs out there have a background pic of us gorgeous TGirls. And why not? Prettier even than those azure islands and mountain sunrises the manufacturers provide as standard! Download yours now!

Sue x

Tuesday, 15 November 2022

Rainbow Houses

 My daily paper has a weekly supplement that I've found to be very LGBT positive. I get the paper (Il Secolo XIX) as it's a regional daily published in Genoa which was full of all the essential information one needed during the Covid Era. The fact it's LGBT positive is a bonus, but then the whole paper represents a good example of independent journalism as it's not owned by a some billionaire with his assets in some tax haven. That's why I usually didn't buy a daily paper when I lived in Britain (UK citizens there please note).

This week I read about the two Rainbow Houses in Milan that offer accommodation and support to people, almost all young, who have been kicked out of their homes through being gay or trans. There are other similar places in other big cities and the Milan charity is about to open two more such houses, with support from the city council. Currently home to 19 people, the Rainbow Houses are a bit like student flats with independent bedrooms for one or two people, a communal area with kitchen and balcony, and with the staff of the charity available to help with counselling and emotional support, with job and study applications, and even everyday tasks such as how to cook. This helps LGBT youngsters get on their feet in a safe environment and most stay for 8-10 months. Many have arrived with only a small bag of belongings. I've borrowed this photo from their website and this communal area certainly looks nice:



I'm glad there are such places, though I'm sad there has to be the need for them. Families can be a bit 'traditional' in the West, as in any other part of the world. The prevailing family culture everywhere is still for everyone to have cisgender and straight kids who will marry and bring grandchildren. The past few decades have eaten into the notion that that is how life should be but there is a long road to go. I read only last year of the case of a man here who was looking for a hitman to break his son's fingers after his son came out as gay. His son is in his 30s and a surgeon! Some families take LGBT children as a slur, as a failure on their part. So much for love!

So thanks to the establishers of the Rainbow House. Now I know they exist, I intend to support them in any way I can. 


Broken nails

From the inspiring to the trivial ... no! not trivial! I broke two fingernails yesterday. Aargh! I hate that. I keep my nails quite long and neat and usually painted with clear varnish. As my nails are so often in view (hello fingers on keyboard!), it makes me happy to see their feminine appearance as that affirms my femininity. So when they break it's oddly distressing! You understand, right? 😉

Sue x


Friday, 11 November 2022

Thanks when due

 I had a lovely time with Roz who came to visit a few weeks ago (read our adventures here). Sadly, her suitcase didn't accompany her home. It contained her main makeup bag, some favourite dresses and jewellery of sentimental value. Fortunately her precious toy beaver had been put in her carry bag so he was around to console her! Happily, the airline identified her case in the end and it arrived at her home several weeks later. Indeed, the case sat in the courier's van for a fortnight after having been located! The wheels were broken right off it, though, and it can't be used again because of the ragged holes left because of that. And some of her jewellery was missing. Obviously, this is not good service. In addition, the rigmarole involved on these occasions is distressing. It's just as well that she was home and it didn't happen on the way out. But a compensation claim has gone in to the airline and both she and I intend to see that she gets it. OK, these things happen, but the handling of the problem, let alone the handling of the item, wasn't great.

We always remember lousy events - a lovely day out can be marred by just one transphobe shouting abuse. Roz assures me her holiday wasn't spoilt by the suitcase saga. But when things go really well, or we get great service, it's important to express our gratitude. I was heartened by this story on another blog (My Life by Andrea Raven) about a TGirl who went for a bra fitting, was delighted by the kind service she received and wrote a thank-you letter that really made waves. Her gratitude has made an employee's whole week, it's vindicated the company's diversity policy, and the shop and its staff are happy. We often take service for granted - after all, we're paying for it! - but when someone deals with you above and beyond pure duty then remembering to thank them can really change everything. It means any other TGirls who go to that store know that they will get the right attention and that the company is keen to tailor its services to their needs. 

I recall years ago being on a work trip and having to meet a client whose premises were on a trading estate on the edge of London. The meeting went on a long time and, as food wasn't offered, I came out into a cold, grey, snowy afternoon feeling tired and hungry. The only place anywhere near was an out-of-town supermarket's café. I ordered straightforward fish and chips, nothing glamorous, just something hot and filling. And it wasn't that I was cold and hungry - it really was probably the best fish and chips ever: crispy batter, decent fish, chips that were fluffy on the inside and crisp outside and all piping hot and quickly delivered. I dashed off a quick thank-you letter to the catering manager. Presumably an everyday supermarket café is not used to praise but I got a thank-you-for-your-thank-you letter in reply saying that the relevant staff were getting a commendation! The Order of the Chip Fryer, First Class, perhaps. So several people were happy and will probably feel their job is a little more worthwhile and further customers may benefit from that. 

It's not dissimilar with services to the trans community specifically, or places that have hosted me and my friends. Restaurants need and rely on recommendations. It cuts both ways: you commend them to friends or online and, once a gaggle of TGirls become regulars, your average restaurant will offer discounts. A free pudding always goes down well, doesn't it?! If your dressing service, photographer, makeup artist, personal shopper or whoever has given you memorable service or excellent goods, then do give them some positive feedback. In a world that is often cruel, a little bit of thought, care and kindness can go a long way, and also helps the trans community become more welcome around the place even in times that are more hostile.

Lunch at Salieri in the Strand. London Angels went here so regularly that Sami the manager would get worried about us if we hadn't turned up for a while! We were always well looked after.


Sue x


Monday, 7 November 2022

Is it crossdressing if it was male fashion once?

 As a kid I tried to justify my wearing girls' clothes by claiming that men in the past used to wear the sorts of things I liked to wear: silk shirts with lace, stockings and suspenders, high heels, etc.; or else that certain men wear certain things that are more usually associated with women such as Scottish kilts or dancers' tights. This was a kind of legalistic interpretation of the notion that boys mustn't dress like girls - kids are all barrack-room lawyers, aren't they? - and that therefore I wasn't really dressing like a girl (even though I was), just in case I got caught and interrogated. This was also before I knew that being transgender doesn't equate to being a boy who wants to be a girl. 

Things seem to have become more fluid, clothing wise, and a lot of clothes are essentially unisex or not obviously gendered now. This partly explains my last post about soon replacing any remaining menswear in my wardrobe with womenswear. A lot of the time, as with jeans, say, who can tell any difference? Apart from looking at the label. 

But there is also a trend towards people selecting clothing that is more obviously associated with the other gender. I have seen many men in skirts in recent years for presumably no reason other than that they prefer to wear them. And who doesn't? 

My motives for wearing skirts are different - I want to look and feel feminine and be treated as a woman, not a guy in a skirt. But going back to my younger years, how could I justify why I wore skirts in an age and culture that still thought trans people were weird? (OK, it's not that we're not deemed weird now, but nothing like to the same degree.)

Hence my legalistic interpretation of whether or not each and every item of clothing was or was not for women. The whole ensemble was never examined in this way and, yes, I was dressed as a girl all right, no doubt about it, and that's what I wanted to look like. 

A trans friend used to be in a rock tribute band and therefore was justified in wearing a long wig, fitted top and leggings as it was part of the act, and even at home the odd clothes were deemed acceptable by the wife. Rock and roll yeah! Until my friend forgot some panties drying on the radiator and the wife realised that the rock band excuse was not the real justification for the feminine clothes. Sadly, they have split up and I suspect, as is often the case in these scenarios, that the bogus justification upset her more than the fact her husband was trans.

Finally, I don't pretend to understand anything about manga/animé and the whole graphic and games culture associated with these art styles but time and again I come across mention of the character Astolfo, who is a guy who dresses girly because he likes it. Originally a warrior in Renaissance epic poems, notably Ludovico Ariosto's Orlando Furioso (a piece of literature that, for my part, I found excruciating in my student days), Astolfo has become a crossdresser in his modern animé reincarnation, which is fine in my book. But the justifications for men wearing softer, prettier garments, using Astolfo in this meme that has been doing the rounds, do remind me a lot of my own justifications as a youngster, which were exactly along these lines:


Being cutesy is very fun and it's good that non-trans guys increasingly seem to be choosing to wear something frilly, pink or soft again, as men used to do. If you like it, go for it. After all, some great men have indeed gone for part of this look, though none of them for all of it. More's the pity!


Not what they meant?

Talking of interpretation, this recent item from the Church Times probably doesn't mean what it seems to be saying.


It made me chuckle, though.


A dip in the archives

Here's another one of the photos recently sent to me. This is me with my lovely friend Kate at the Sparkle transgender festival in Manchester in 2015.


I'm putting this one up as Kate is very sick at the moment and I'm thinking of her a lot and hoping she will pull through.

Sue x


Friday, 4 November 2022

Throwing out the boy clothes

 I was out of sorts earlier this week and I'm not sure why but I remedied that today with a shopping trip that's finally convinced me that I really neither want nor need any more boy clothes in my wardrobe. 

All the trousers in menswear departments do not fit me. They are all way too long and as I have feminine hips (yes, I do ☺) they are too tight. Ridiculous! I mean, when trousers were an inch or two too long you could take them in, but when they are 6-12 inches too long, as they all seem to be these days (I'm looking at you, Giraffeman!), you can't alter them without their looking weird. But women's trousers/jeans/legwear fit me perfectly and since manufacturers have now realised that women would like pockets, too - and deep ones at that - then suddenly there is no need to go for horrid ill-fitting boywear any more, even if I have to present in male mode. Yay! Finally, all my needs really start to converge. 

You may say that if you're wearing trousers, can you really tell if they are boy trousers or girl trousers? And the answer is: not always physically but always psychologically. I know my clothes are girl clothes, even if that may not be obvious to others, and that makes me happy. 

 

In the pink

Now, I know I've said how much I like the colour cerise, which is trending again this year, and is the colour of the font on my blog, but is this perhaps a little too much of a good thing?


Ceasefire

Today, November 4th, is Armistice Day in Italy. It's a week before everyone else's commemoration on November 11th because Austria-Hungary surrendered to Italian forces this day in 1918. 

To commemorate it, the Bersaglieri band were in town. Bersaglieri ("sharpshooters") are light infantry founded by the Kingdom of Sardinia in 1836. So light, in fact, that the cash-strapped royal treasury couldn't afford any transport for them, not even horses for officers, and they have therefore traditionally run everywhere. The traditional march they play is therefore not something they march to but run to:


The other thing that they are famous for is their hats with a spray of capercaillie feathers on. The feathers look black at first sight but have lovely iridescent green streaks in them, as you can see in this closeup of a hat worn by a lady next to me. 


 

I think I'd look quite striking in a hat with capercaillie feathers in, too! Although I'd feel a bit guilty. After all, Mr Capercaillie wants his feathers so he can impress Miss Capercaillie. I'm all for romance!


 

Apart from music and decorative uniforms, Armistice Day reminds us of the awful business of war. Although Italy was the only belligerent in World War I to achieve its war aims, this came at the cost of over half a million dead, not to mention those permanently crippled, all the civilian casualties, people who went mad, committed suicide or were executed, lost their loved ones or were otherwise traumatised. All for territory that ought to have been obtainable under existing treaty arrangements between Italy and Austria. I see the slaughter in Eastern Europe right now and that disgusts me. How do we contain men's violence and the rapacious brutality of psycopathic leaders? 

If we all wore pretty frocks, would that improve things? I can't help feeling it might. 

Sue x