Monday, 26 July 2021

Catch-22, Kafka and Machiavelli

 I am at last able to get a vaccine shot. I've had to wait my turn as where I live (Italy) they've been prioritising the old, the vulnerable and those in the front line like nurses and teachers, those who are in the national health system, etc., whereas I am young, healthy and merely a foreign glamour model. And that's fair enough. 

But bureaucracy has to have its say and because my official address is not where I have actually ended up living I have to have my first shot in Official City not Residence City. And that involves travelling 200 miles when the motorway is closed for repairs and the trains are at 25% capacity (what with half the trains being removed and half the seats being roped off for social distancing on the remainder). This is a logistical nightmare in the height of the holiday season.

To cap it all, the government last week attempted to make it compulsory to have a vaccination certificate to travel on public transport. Hello! the only reason I'm travelling at all is to get the vaccine and the certification in the first place. Certification, I would point out, from a rubbish and much criticised IT system bought - as all government procurement contracts the world over require - from the cheapest provider. Fortunately, logistics and public outcry have made them delay on public transport certification. My painfully slow citizenship application (now in its sixth year) is therefore delayed further till I get the vaccination cycle complete. Last week the British Consul rang me as I had had more than a few complaints to make in a letter to the British Ambassador about all this administrative chaos.

Let me be frank, this pandemic has been handled abominably badly by Western governments. Places like Sierra Leone in Africa - the sort of places we in the developed world look down on - got a much better grip on it as they're used to dealing with stuff like this (Ebola anyone?). As mentioned several times, including my last post, in the '90s I used to work with the health system in Britain and there was a pandemic response strategy in place in the UK and elsewhere. The strategy kicked in during the Anthrax scare of late 2001, for instance. But it has been steadfastly ignored for Covid. Governments have been chopping and changing their response and their strategy every few weeks, and we have all suffered more from their dithering, incompetence and lack of co-ordination with each other than anything else. A worldwide problem should be dealt with on a worldwide basis, not piecemeal with petty nationalisms holding sway. Hold your government to account for this mess. Yes, it is their responsibility and, yes, it is their fault. Whilst they allow toxic debates on whether to allow trans rights or crush them, they're happily letting national health systems fail, confusion reign and people die. And barely tackling the environmental destruction that is the cause of Covid, heatwaves, flash floods and so forth. But then I've said before from my experience dealing with the British government and several others that the purpose of government is to brutalise, nothing more. We all assume a paternalistic approach from a body that we vote for, but that's false, as you can perhaps now see.

And related to incompetence and brutishness, especially when it comes to people's lives, I've had enough of my sister's bigotry around LGBT rights, too (see my post Hello, Lugbutts for an explanation). You can't reason with bigots and I'm just going to tackle her head on now and make her as uncomfortable as she makes life for us. I'm tired of trying to be nice to nasty, ignorant people. I'll let you know what outcomes there are. They won't be good but it's time transphobes experienced a bit of anguish, too. They're not happy that the overwhelming majority of trans people already live hidden for fear of ridicule, censure and violence, but this unholy alliance of normally antagonistic groups of religious conservatives, radical feminists and nationalist politicans seem to have a need to eliminate all sight and sound of trans folks altogether. Time to crack heads, I think.


A dip in the archives

Someone reminded me of this photo this week, taken in Berlin in 1921 for the First International Congress on Sex Reform at the Institute for Sexual Science. Trans people showing they exist.


 

Among the aims of the Institute was the rational understanding of what we would call LGBTQI+ people. Of course, the Nazis put a stop to the work of the Institute the following decade.

Sue x


Cari lettori italiani

Devo dire sinceramente che sono stanca della situazione in cui ci troviamo con la pandemia, con l'omotransfobia, con tutti i pasticci in cui i governi del mondo ci hanno messi. Mia sorella è un'estremista religiosa e adesso mi sono proprio stancata della sua malizia ed ignoranza. Tocca a me ad affrontare il male che si è dedicata a fare alla nostra communità.

Sue x



Thursday, 22 July 2021

Face off

 recent post by Lynn got me thinking about the worries of being recognised even when presenting female and, above all, of seeing one's male facial features despite the makeup and hair.

I am fortunate that my appearance when I'm Sue bears little physical resemblance to my male alter ego. The hair and makeup and jewellery really do make a big difference. Yes, I can see that my nose and chin aren't right for a woman, but I don't really equate those features with my 'official' face as they're only parts of the whole that disappear under the artifice.

I clearly recall the first time I ever had a proper makeover. I am very short-sighted and had to take my glasses off in order for Jodie at the Boudoir dressing service to do my makeup. So the fact there was a mirror opposite meant little as I appeared to me as just the same amorphous blob as I see in a hairdresser's mirror when I'm having my hair cut. Then she put a wig on me, told me to close my eyes and then handed me my glasses. When I opened my eyes I was left staring at a woman and it took me several seconds to realise that the woman was me. It sounds really dumb, but it just didn't register at first that I was she. Logically I should have known it was me straight off, but the sight threw me as I could see nothing of the familiar me at all. A unique and unforgettable moment.

That first view of me (though I took my specs off to be photographed). Mystery female.

The fact I don't spot my male face is not the same as saying I pass for female. I do the best with what nature gave me and, on a dark night with a balaklava on, I guess I pass for female! Joking aside, I do make a conscious effort to create the look that I have honed over the years and that I feel suits me best, chiefly with the thick hair and the heavy makeup. Overall, it also helps me that I am petite but I know and appreciate that having a tall, large body can seem a big obstacle for many TGirls.

I feel sad when trans friends say they feel they need plastic surgery primarily to remove the small remains of male traits they see in their faces. That's dysmorphia for you, sadly. I am not an advocate of surgery except as a last resort in serious illness, but your playbook is different and it may be totally right for you. My suggestion, though, on plastic surgery of any kind, would be first to deal with any psychological aspects of what is bothering the patient and then approach surgery to deal with any features that may still be felt to be defective. I used to work with doctors and so many of them said that too many people seek medical intervention - from pills to abortions to surgery - when they are unhappy rather than ill or injured.

So often our trans lives are dictated by fears of being read as not female, of not passing, even after years on hormones and after GRS. The efforts and expense we trans people go to to look like the sex we identify as in order to be treated as that sex is extraordinary and it's the harsh judgmental treatment of society that makes us go to such lengths; some trans people to great extremes to hide any idea that they were ever trans. Societal norms, judgmentalism and threats of harm and ostracism are the real issues, the bane of our lives. It's hardly improving with the increasing attacks on us by religious bullies, hardline feminists and other transphobes. I don't like wearing makeup at all, it damages my skin and feels horrible. But since being called "Madam" in a shop is the most wonderful thing in the world, I go through with it as there's little other way of attaining that goal but to look as fem as possible. Many thanks to service staff who are prepared to use the right terms of address to us even when they clock we are trans.

If you still see 'him' when you are her and it bothers you, do seek support from your trans friends and allies. It doesn't bother us, although I appreciate that's not at the core of your worries. But other trans people can give advice, share experience, suggest other ways of looking at the problem, or feminising it with our wonderful clothes, hair, makeup and accessories, as well as offer emotional support. Reframing the problem helps. Is is really just disappointment? I think we all get that. I'd love to look like Bettie Page but I never will! (Maybe Bettie Page wanted to look like Marilyn!) I think it's a much wider problem than just a trans one or just seeing residual masculinity.

Bettie Page

It's not easy being trans - so much to fret about. But I think our specific experiences can be seen within the wider frets of humanity, especially regarding appearance, presentation and our social status. I don't know any woman who doesn't fret about her appearance, whether she's too fat, got bags under her eyes, is getting wrinkles, etc. etc. Not even so much to appear attractive as to cope with the rivalry and judgmentalism of other women. Our frets as trans women are not the same, but what is the same is the fact that we fret about our appearance to avoid judgment. A kinder world would help.


A dip in the archives

Three years ago, in a similar heatwave to the one right now, I went out in London, one of my last trips there. Here's my report, and you can see in the photo that I have just foundation and lipstick on, no other makeup, which is the bare minimum I can manage and still feel feminine. Link: An evening in Chinatown


 

Sue x


Cari lettori italiani

 Più di cinque anni fa ho iniziato il percorso per prendere la cittadinanza italiana iure sanguinis perchè ho così tanti antenati italiani. Il consolato italiano a Londra, uno dei peggiori al mondo, non ha mai risposto a centinaia di chiamate, visite e email. Niente. Una situazione più che disgustosa - inumana. Mi sono trasferita in Italia più di due anni fa e ho fatto la richiesta qui. L'iter continua e continua e continua e io non vedo la fine. La burocrazia italiana non è uno scherzo o una sciocchezza ma una manifestazione di malizia ufficiale antidemocratica e corrotta. L'innumerevoli insulti che ho avuto dagli ufficiali mi fa schifo. Italiani, non vi vergognate?

Sue x

 

Monday, 19 July 2021

Summer cocktails

 No, this blog is not turning into Sue's News and Booze, but "summer cocktails" more in the sense of lots of small ingredients going into making this post. And some literal cocktails, too.


 

Hello Sweden

I've noticed a couple of thousand hits on this blog in the last week or two from Sweden. It's either one very enthusiastic person reading everything several times, or a lot of you have tuned in at once. Hi there, välkommen, I hope you find it interesting. 


Vaccine due

The vaccination programme where I live in Italy is continuing apace, but has been carefully and rightly targeted on the old, the vulnerable, and key workers in the front line first. Being none of these, I've become entitled to one since late June but it's taken me a while to navigate the complicated booking system. I hope to have my first jab at the end of the month and this should (assuming the certification system works) give me freedom of movement as well as keeping me protected. Why everything has to be done using poor quality computer systems that governments buy on the cheap rather than a doctor just giving you a certificate when you are vaccinated is anyone's guess.


Trans rights - never trust politicians

There has been a bill working its way painfully through the Italian parliament. It is just about alive in the Senate. What many people don't realise is that politics is not so much about making laws as providing opportunities for politicians to boost their egos and careers when they horse trade and argue on bits of proposed legislation. It may involve  people's lives and rights but massive egos don't care about that.

Very briefly, there are good legal protections for trans people here but only if they are transitioning or have transitioned. As part of a bill against discrimination against women, the disabled and the gay community, there are better protections proposed against all trans discrimination. But the trans community is the poor cousin as ever and many parties want to take the trans bit out. They realise that women can not longer be subdued and the gay community is too 'out' now so targeting the smaller trans community is deemed easier by those who love to divide and rule, show who's boss and generally enjoy holding power over people. It would be easy for the larger gay and disabled communities, and women, to throw trans people under the bus as long as that gets the rest of the bill passed to help them, but I'm glad to say this hasn't happened and the proposers insist trans protections should stay in, too. That means the whole bill may fail. Italy has never lost its fascist party, although it has another name now, nor (like any other country) does it lack politicians who are happy to play with lives and rights simply so they can make a mark in parliament, get on TV and further their careers. I can't say how this will end but it's not looking good right now. Fingers crossed.


Weight loss

My weight loss is still going well and last week I lost a further three pounds (1.3 kg) and I could at last see and feel a difference. Wish me luck. Although I am being conscious of what I eat, and I swim every day, I find the best weight loss activity is to carry my groceries home up the very steep lane that runs directly along the mountain crest at the back of the house. It's very pretty, with beautiful views and some gorgeous plants, like this purple bush that the bees and butterfies love. I don't know what it is, but there's lots of it around here and it's very striking.


Summer coolers

It's hot in most places and so far this year we've seen how Vancouver has broiled and Germany has suffered what here is called a "water bomb". I experienced one of those in Milan two years ago and it was terrifying, precipitation so intense it was like being under the sea. I feel very upset for the people killed, missing and made homeless. I visit Germany frequently and the very first place I ever visited in Germany, in 1983, was Bad Neuenahr in the Rhine Valley that has been badly damaged. So it feels close to home. One feels helpless these days with news like this yet being able to do nothing about it. I hope the devastation can be repaired swiftly and life can return to normal.

*

As for fending off the heat, as I mentioned a few weeks ago, I am perfecting the art of making summer cocktails. Just one a week, mind, as I am keen to lose weight and alcohol is uniquely fattening.

This week's item (see the image at the top of the page) is a take on margarita, with lime juice, Cointreau, prosecco, soda water, sugar and lots of ice.

Last week's masterpiece was a melon Malibu sgroppino


A sgroppino is a drink originating in Venice where it's usually lemon sorbet, vodka and prosecco. 

Here, though, we have home-made melon sorbet (which, if I say so myself, is fabulous), Malibu or other coconut rum, lime, and prosecco or similar light fizzy wine (here I used sparkling pinot). Totally refreshing, it's ideal after a meal on a hot day.

To make sorbet, make sugar syrup by boiling an equal amount of sugar and water (e.g. 200 ml or water and 200 g of sugar, or 8 fl oz water and 8 oz sugar) and let it cool. Add a third such measure of melon juice. You could whizz chunks of fresh melon in a liquidiser/blender but I prefer to grate it as this reduces the chance of fibrous parts getting into the juice. Put the mix in the freezer, preferably in a metal bowl as this freezes faster. Ideally you should stir it every hour or two as this prevents water separating out and freezing separately. You can get sorbet machines that will do this labour for you but I think them an excessive luxury. 

Other juices that work well for sorbet are orange, lemon and lime, green apple (which doesn't turn brown). Soft fruits can work, like strawberries, but they can go brown fast so work quickly.

If you want to make a sgroppino like mine, add a measure of Malibu and two of prosecco, with lime slices. It is an original recipe of mine (I've checked and there's no other online) and I share it here as a a philanthropic gesture for the benefit of all mankind on hot days! Cheers!


A dip in the archives

I was going through my Sparkle photos when I was writing my last but one post and the points above remind me of the very hot summer of 2013. I had a particularly cool and floaty dress at Sparkle that was perfect for the weather. Not so fitted and shapely as the others I wore in previous years, but that was for the best in the heat!


I am determined to get back into these little dresses!

Sue x


Cari lettori italiani

Secondo le statistiche create da questo sito, ho pochi visitatori dall'Italia anche se adesso ci abito. Però continuerò a scrivere per voi in italiano, che mi sembra giusto. Questa settimana ho avuto tanti lettori dalla Svezia. Se conoscessi lo svedese scriverei anche per loro! 

Ho prenotato il mio vaccino. Devo farlo in Lombardia (mi trovo in Liguria) e spero che questa variante Delta non chiuda le regioni di nuovo prima che io possa farlo e prendermi il green pass.

Chi sa cosa succederà con questa legge Zan? Ho spiegato in breve per lettori di lingua madre inglese cosa sta succedendo.

L'altro ieri ho letto un articolo interessante sul film Transamerica uscito nel 2006. Un ottimo film, a mio avviso. L'articolo è qui: Transamerica

Sue x


Thursday, 15 July 2021

The Femmathon concluded: everyday life

"I suspect that no-one who isn't trans understands the complete satisfaction of doing normal stuff in one's real gender. It's the banality that's actually the peak of feeling complete."

This is what I wrote in 2017 about the satisfaction of shopping as a woman (The Joy of Shops).

In the last two weeks I've been talking about the period when I tested the waters of living full-time female. Going out on day trips and visiting trans festivals, as I've described, is great fun but it's not the everyday, humdrum life that living in one's right gender entails. Indeed, because many trans people's opportunities to go out dressed may be limited at first and so quite special, there's often a party feel to a lot of the trans-based activities we do, and that can give trans people a false sense that transitioning to the right gender will be a whole bunch of partying. It isn't: life is life, and partying is actually a treat.

So after my week with Emma and friends, I mainly got down to buying groceries in my local high street and staying mainly in the neighbourhood. I was still wary of the neighbours seeing me as I left the house, but generally it felt natural and right to be living as a woman, just getting on with my own life and feeling really happy about it. 

I also spent a couple of days indoors, largely to give my face a rest from close shaving and makeup, neither of which do my skin any good. I may not look good when I'm not dolled up, but if there's no-one to see me, what does it matter?

Overall, the satisfaction of living full-time as myself for over a fortnight was incredible. Best time of my life. For the rest of summer 2011 I spent most of my time as Sue, apart from the 2-3 days a week I was at my part-time job or needed to see family or friends who didn't know about my being trans. And a similar pattern continued for another year or so, after which I began to feel that full transition wasn't right for me.

It's an approach I'd recommend. Take it slowly in small stages and consolidate as you go. 

 

A dip in the archives

There was one more fun day during this first Femmathon (or perhaps in the light of the above, Femmathon phase 1) and that was a trip to Kew Gardens with Petra and Joanne. A mix of science facility and pleasure ground, Kew was always a joy to visit and I took many friends there over the years. Indeed, I went back a couple of weeks after this, with Dee.

Petra, Joanne and myself enjoyed wandering through the grounds. We took a picnic lunch and spent most of the day there. Three trans women surrounded by flowers and greenery on a sunny day near the River Thames. That's got to be good.

By Kew Palace

Petra in front of the iconic Palm House

Girls in a bower

You've seen this one before but I've always liked it so you're having it again! The Queen's Garden, with two princesses.

Sue x


Cari lettori italiani

Oggi finisco questa serie sul mio primo periodo esteso come donna, dieci anni fa. Non sono mai stata così contenta che quando vivevo in questo modo, alzandomi ogni giorno e dicendomi "tu sei una donna e vivrai come la donna che sei". Era bellissimo.

Sue x


Monday, 12 July 2021

Sparkle: a tribute

 Sparkle is the UK's national transgender celebration, always in Manchester on the second weekend of July. It's become more of an international celebration, in fact, with many people coming specially for it from abroad. I've known friends from Hungary, Norway, Austria and Ireland attend. But last year and this year it had to be cancelled because of the pandemic. I know that some girls did a "Non-Sparkle" in Manchester anyway and I hope they were able to have fun. I believe there's a virtual event and I dare say highlights will be available online. Here's the website: Sparkle 2021 website

Sparkle began in 2003 as a day-event. The next year it became a weekend. When I first went in 2010 there were, I'm told, 1500 people there. By 2015, as many as 10000 attended. It's been a huge success and a great event for trans people and their families to meet and have a good time. It soon became the highlight of my year. Knowing what it takes to organise these things, a big tribute must go to those who founded and grew this event. Thank you for all the fun.

 

I hope it can go ahead next year.


A dip in the archives

So the Sparkle weekend ten years ago during my first major Femmathon, as I called my period living full-time female, was one of the best times I've ever had in my life.

In my last posts I said how Emma and I had enjoyed a few days together in London with trips to other cities. The journey to Manchester was long but saw us in the city on the Thursday afternoon when other attendees were already gathering. We had dinner in Eden's, which I've always quite liked as a venue.

Texting in Eden's

Sparkle Friday is when it all starts to get going and the first organised events begin. I had attended most of the official events the previous year as a newbie so this year I made it more spontaneous, although the official welcome party at REM in the afternoon was something to redo, as a chaperone for new girls who were nervous.

My pretty summer frock for Friday afternoon

It was great to meet up with old friends like Wilhelmina and Maddy and meet new ones. I always try to get to know two or three new people when I attend a big event.

The main day is, of course, Saturday with all the big entertainments in Sackville Gardens ("Sparkle in the Park"), as well as Canal Street and the Gay Village. It was so lively all day and, as I mentioned regarding the previous year's Sparkle, I felt I was where I really belonged. 

I had arranged a big lunch at Villaggio's restaurant in Canal St for the UK Angels and was delighted to have 16 people there. 

Angels Lunch 2011. Photo by Hazel. At my table are Ange, Chrystal, Tina, Holly and Amanda. Beyond, Michelle, Amy, Maddy, Emma and several partners. Wilhelmina had to leave early.


I spent the afternoon in the Park, which is a great place to bump into people and catch up, including friends like Maria and Joanne whom I'd met the previous year. 

Sparkle in the Park with Joanne. Photo by Sheila Blige.

There's a stage with bands, various acts and shows; stalls selling clothes, jewellery, wigs and makeup; stands and representatives for various organisations; refreshment stalls; and so on. And although Manchester is almost synonymous with rain, this year (and every other year I've attended) was sunny and dry.

Sparkle Sunday turned out to be the best day, even though the official events were winding down by this point. It's fun just to sit out at a table on Canal Street and flag friends down to join you. The drink of choice at Sparkle is strawberry cider with its rich pink colour and outdoors on a hot day this goes down very well. 

As I had in the previous year, I went with Joanne and Zazoo to the official meal in Manchester's "Curry Mile". I've always felt it important for TGirls to expand their comfort zone and move out of the 'safe' clubs and gay areas and into the real world. So we had a sit-down Indian meal, followed by ice cream from one of the nearby shops.

I confess that I've forgotten some of the chronology at this distance in time - a drink in a pub with Paula, dancing in Napoleon's and in other clubs, and a champagne breakfast ... I enjoyed every moment.

Relaxing in the hotel

It's a great event. You can attend the official entertainments or just enjoy the venues of the Gay Village with your friends. That year the Equalities Minister addressed the event and, although her speech was not profound, her attendance marked an important boost for the profile of the trans community ... it's a pity things have changed for the worse since then.

It's always sad to return home afterwards but I still had another full week of fem time left. More on that next time.

Sue x

 

Cari lettori italiani

Non so se c'è un evento nazionale in Italia per persone transgender. Ma l'evento annuale che descrivo oggi è speciale. Divertente ma anche molto d'aiuto. Da origini modeste è diventato molto grosso. Peccato che quest'anno come l'anno scorso hanno dovuto abbandonarlo.

Sue x

 


Thursday, 8 July 2021

Unwanted hair, and Femmathon part 2

 In my last post I mentioned waxing at beauty salons. People left a number of comments here and elsewhere about other hair removal treatments you can also have done. 

Laser, electrolysis and epilation are readily available and are longer lasting than waxing. I don't generally comment on these processes as I suffer from skin problems that are unlikely to survive a course of treatment so I have never gone for them. 

So the one thing I would say is that you need to make sure that your skin can tolerate the treatment which, in the case of laser, can burn or disfigure if it goes wrong, and in the case of electrolysis is pretty painful. Most people seem to be OK with these treatments but always make sure a small patch of skin is tested first. For genuine knowledge about your skin, wait a few days after the test for any bad reactions before deciding whether you should go ahead with the full treatment. 

A full course of electro should normally remove hair permanently. But it takes many sessions and so costs a lot long-term. Many transitioners see it as a must. My advice based on discussion with others is to go to a proper specialised electrolysis clinic that has experience with transwomen, rather than relying on your local beauty salon where they more often deal with the softer hair of ciswomen. This is especially important if you are having beard hair removal as the electro machine needs to be cranked up to cope with the tougher hairs of male-pattern chins.

That's all I will say on that subject as other bloggers are better experienced. Selected advice and views here:

Transgendermap.com 

UCSF Transgender Care 

Gender Confirmation Center (with further links)

Joelle Tori Maslak: the sad math of transgender hair removal (technical, but shows it takes longer than you think)

There are organisations that may help with costs of electrolysis. And no end of clinics that offer trans-oriented services. Online searches within your country should help you narrow down your choices.

If you are going for it, I wish you a smooth future.


A dip in the archives

 

I now continue my recollections of my first major "Femmathon" when I lived full-time for a while to experiment with the notion of living permanently as Sue. In my previous post I described how Emma and I went to a beauty salon for manicures and then went down to Portsmouth on England's South Coast to meet up with other trans friends.

The next day we went to the South Coast again, only this time to Brighton, which I love as it's a very alternative kind of place. It was very windy, as you can see from my hair in the photos - on the pier I thought I was going to lose it!

Sea and wind, sunny but cold: typical English seaside!

 

Just as well I'd brought my coat and thick tights, despite its being July! 

We arrived early and had a late breakfast on the prom. The one remaining pier has always been a big draw, with its rides and entertainments.

Brighton Pier and beach

 


We quite liked the bar midway along the pier with a ceiling decorated in all sorts of odd things!

Back on shore, we had traditional fish and chips for lunch and then we went to the Crazy Golf. It's the first time I've played golf in a skirt and with the wind flapping that round my club and blowing my hair over my eyes, it was a challenge!

 

But it was a lot of fun and one of those femme firsts for both of us.


The little lanes full of boutiques are also an attraction and we enjoyed wandering about them. We stopped for refreshments in a pub, The Victory, and had time for a final photocall near the beach before heading home. A great day out for two girls finding their way in the world.

Emma, early evening

The next day, Thursday 7th July 2011, we had a long drive from my home in London down to Manchester to attend Sparkle, the national transgender celebration. By curious chance, we stopped for lunch at the Brighton Belle pub at Winsford in the heart of Cheshire. So, real Brighton Belles one day, and a commemoration for us the next!



We somewhat parted company at Manchester as we'd picked different hotels but we met again that evening in Canal Street, the heart of the Gay Village, where Sparkle early birds were gathering. We had dinner in Eden, right on the canal, which I always liked.

Evening in Canal St. The skirt was the latest fashion.

So that was a good week and Emma was wonderful company. We had a great time and did a lot, a big booster for confidence all round. Thanks, Emma.

Next time I will tell you about Sparkle 2011 which was one of the highlights of my Femmathon and, indeed, of my life.

Sue x


Cari lettori italiani

Questa volta non dico niente sulla legge Zan, e nemmeno sul campionato di calcio.

Però, ho messo delle foto scattate a Brighton dove io e la mia amica Emma siamo state per divertirci una giorno dieci anni fa. Era un giornata bella ma ventosa!

Sue x



Monday, 5 July 2021

Beauty salons, and my Femmathon

 A few thoughts about beauty salons and then on to the start of my Femmathon, the name I gave to my first bout of living full-time female.

Over the years I found that it was not a problem to book a treatment at a women's beauty salon in male mode. Obviously, going in and ordering treatment was something I was nervous about, but these places exist to provide services and they want your money so although they may have few or no male clients, they will normally accommodate your request. In female mode, I've never experienced any trans prejudice.

The sort of treatments I have had include waxing, manicures and brow tweezing. There are lots of other services but I've never gone for a foot spa, face peel, massage or whatever so I can't comment. Quality obviously varies a lot, so shop around.

Shaving or epilating yourself is straightforward enough, though it requires time and care, but it is very hard to do your own back. I recommend waxing the back as it clears everything thoroughly. I have had this done at my local beauty salon and later with a professional who specialised in all-over male waxing. Although my dysphoria somewhat protested at the male specialist, the fact is that most MtF trans people have male pattern hair on head and body and that responds better to dedicated treatments; it's only when you've got sufficient oestrogen that your body hair should become softer and more feminine.

I don't think waxing hurts much myself, and I'm not one who tolerates pain well as a rule. Chest and tummy are the worst bits. Arms, legs and panty line are not problematic in my experience. You get a much better, longer-lasting result than you do from epilation and certainly from shaving so it's a good plan if you are going to be spending a lot of time en femme.

As a courtesy to your waxer, and for better results, make sure you are showered before your appointment. And take care showering/bathing in hot water for a day or two later. And don't sunbathe for 2-3 days after as you may burn faster. Apart from that, there should be no inconveniences apart from a slight tingling. I have sensitive skin and have experienced no problems with waxing. The end results are fabulous, especially on your legs which should develop a natural sheen. Of course, pulling hosiery onto newly waxed legs is a delight and feels totally different from how it feels on shaved legs (or hairy ones, for that matter!)

As for brows, they can be plucked, tweezed, threaded or waxed. Obviously, ask for them to be feminised (arched and made thin) because men also go for brow work these days but their style involves merely trimming and tidying, not shaping.

Manicures and pedicures are a treat. I normally do my own nails but in anticipation of a big event, I will go to a nail bar or salon to have a professional do a long-lasting job for me. 


A dip in the archives

So I'm going to write about the wonderful time I had in July and August 2011 that inspired me to start this blog. Most of that was spent living as a woman, with a few odd days in male mode for work and essential purposes. I wasn't prepared to out myself just yet, or commit to living female full-time without giving it a good testing first. The first uninterrupted Femmathon session lasted over a fortnight and I prepared for it by getting my back waxed for the first time at the beauty salon a few yards up the road from home and booking a manicure for me and Emma at a different salon. The reason for the different salons was that one would be in male mode where I was known as a neighbour to the owners, the other would be in female mode.

My break proper started on 3 July when I spent the day at home getting myself and everything ready for the fun ahead. Emma, with whom I had already shared various adventures, came to stay for a few days from the 4th in anticipation of the annual Sparkle celebration. We had a lot of fun.

A fortnight's fun and relaxation en femme

 

We walked to the salon for our manicures and the staff were very welcoming. They even gave us loyalty cards! So we turned up again the following year! Maybe we weren't loyal enough as they have now closed, sadly. However, we enjoyed chatting with the other customers, the owner and the girl who did our nails.

Emma waiting. I think this outfit really suited her.

Sporting our new pretty nails we went for a walk by the River Thames, and we did attract attention! 

I've posted the photos of me by the Thames often enough so here's Emma in the same spot

By an ornamental fountain in Twickenham, usually known simply as "The Naked Ladies". I loved this little dress and hope to be able to get back into it soon!

We ended our little excursion with a drink in a pretty riverside pub.

The next day we drove to Portsmouth to meet up with friends, Angela, Gemma and Tazzy. A bit of shopping and sightseeing but mainly relaxing over lunch or a drink. It's nice sometimes just to catch up. Like most ports, Portsmouth is less about ships now and more about shops and leisure!

With Angela. I went to stay with her later that year.

 
I posted me by this fountain in my last blog entry, so here's one of Emma.

Next time: a day in Brighton, driving to Manchester, and the start of Sparkle 2011.

Sue x


Cari lettori italiani

Oggi inizio a raccontare le mie avventure dieci anni fa quando ho deciso di spendere l'estate come Sue per vedere se era una buona idea cambiare la mia vita e vivere come donna per sempre.

Che disprezzo che hanno per noi certi politici! Hanno il coraggio di opporre la discriminazione, tranne contro noi transgender. Chissà cosa succederà con questa legge Zan.

Sue x


Thursday, 1 July 2021

Living one's true life

July, my favourite month. I wish you a happy summer. 

A mix of things today ...

A year and a half ago I started reflecting on and recording various stages in my early days of going out as Sue. It started with the Angels 10th Birthday Party, followed by other outings such as my first night out on the town, and progressed to a host of other events.

This was all great fun but where was it all leading? I wrote earlier this year about living full-time and said that "there were many periods of several weeks at a stretch when I didn't work and so lived full-time female, to see what it was like, if it was workable, if it suited me, if there were any problems..."

The first such period of several weeks living continuously female was in July 2011, and it was largely as a result of success then that I started this blog. Over the next few posts my regular Dip in the Archives will recall that period. It was great fun but, more importantly, it demonstrated that living in one's true gender was not only possible, even easy, but uplifted the soul more than I can describe.

Contemplating

 

It took a bit of planning, from booking time off work and hotels to stay in, to making arrangements with friends and making sure that I had everything necessary in the way of clothes, hair, makeup and money... Some time was spent at home, some away, some was in company, some alone... a good mix to test all eventualities thoroughly. It went brilliantly. Watch this space, as they say.

My advice to others considering living full-time or transitioning is to ease into it. Take your trans life in bite-sized chunks, a bit bigger each time, giving you a chance to regroup, to see how far you've come and to consider what may lie on the horizon. I've often seen people opt for D-Day, the day it will all change for ever and Bob will become Brenda for good, no going back. Rome wasn't built in a day and in the same way I'd give yourself a good long run-up to full-time living, with chances to pause and opt out. Life isn't black and white, all or nothing. This worked for me in that it helped me realise that transition wasn't right, not at the time anyway, and living full-time female was wonderful but not vital.


Heaven Come Down

 I mentioned a few months back that Chrissie Chevasutt has a book out about her life as a transgender Christian. It was released yesterday and is available via the publisher Darton Longman & Todd or your favourite bookshop.



I have been intrigued by such of Chrissie's story as I have gleaned from her pre-publication material and vlogs, especially as I didn't have a good experience with religion myself. Her YouTube channel is here

Chrissie's interesting thoughts on the nature of eunuchs in the Bible (e.g. vlogs 7 and 9) is not something I had considered before.

Some of the vile transphobic comments I've seen about this book from Christians suggests to me that Chrissie has a lot of education work to do in her community.


Slimming challenge

Regular readers will know that I've grumbled enough over the years about the difficulties I have had in losing weight. Things have changed, a complete overhaul of my lifestyle, and I am very happy with the real progress I have made this year. I have therefore set myself a mini challenge which is to lose half a stone (7 lb or 3.2 kg) this month.

It's about twice the rate of loss I've been achieving so far, so it's challenging but not suicidal! Given the good exercise I'm getting, such as a daily swim, and the summer heat making me less inclined to eat stodgy food, I hope to achieve it.

Wish me luck.


A dip in the archives

A link to a series of posts in February that forms the background to my decision to take good chunks of time to live solely as a woman. These posts contain further links to other relevant points.

Body morph

Contemplating transition 

Meeting others

Coming out to lovers 

Living full-time

More steps in trans living: conclusion 


Cari lettori italiani

Oggi considero l'importanza di pensare bene prima di precipitarsi nella vita femminile con una decisione irrevocabile. 

Sue x


Monday, 28 June 2021

Proud to be trans?

 This is Pride Month. So my question to you is: Are You Proud To Be Trans?

I've struggled with the word pride. Pride is often presented as a bad thing, a 'deadly sin'. And there's a lot of doubt as to how Pride came to be associated with LGBT. Was it an acronym, Personal Rights and Defense in Education, a radical gay group set up in California in 1966? Or just a name chosen by Brenda Howard in the era of the Stonewall Riots in New York in 1969? Or is it just a term that most obviouly defies the many attempts to shame us? There seems to be no certain answer.

Am I be proud to be trans? When I feel proud of myself, it's because of some achievement. I'm feeling proud today because I determined that this year I would get back to a healthy weight and I've already done a lot towards that goal. I'm proud of losing 20 pounds (9 kg) in 6 months. It's not something that just happened, I worked at it.

But being trans is something you are, not something you achieve. No matter how much our detractors insist it's all in our minds, it's just a lifestyle, it's just a choice, we know it's not. It may take us time to accept that as we battle many prejudices against our living our reality, but you can't become trans in the same way that you can become slim.

So you can't really be proud to be trans. Unless you're a total narcissist, which I think is what the traditional sin/failing of pride is really all about. 

The easiest thing is to say is that Pride is just a name, a term of some kind for a series of awareness events. 

But yet we can be proud of the achievements of the LGBT rights movement over time, especially since the 1960s. And we can be proud of our personal achievements, too. From closeted dressing as a kid when I had a moment to myself, to getting in touch with the trans community, to getting tips from a dressing service, to actually going out as a woman. Next month I'll be writing here about the periods in which I chose to live full-time female to see what it was like. I'm proud of the effort I put in to achieve what once was just a dream. And I discovered a happiness I had never known before. No doubt you will have similar achievements regarding your goals and dreams that you can be proud of, too. And often in the teeth of strong opposition.

Despite the difficult times that LGBT people are now facing in countries that were once more liberal, like Hungary, Brazil and the UK, I have seen how public opinion all over the world has been moving more and more towards accepting LGBT people. The minority of those who want to restrict us seems to reduce all the time, despite the noise they make. There's little doubt that hearts and minds are being won and allies made. And that's something to be proud of, too.

So as Pride Month draws to a close I'd like to say that I am really proud to be associated with so many people who have fought and overcome so many prejudices to live as they must. 

So... Pride. Good word. I can relate to it.


A dip in the archives

A point on historic crossdressing opportunities. 

Occasionally I have heard complaints that crossdressing in theatre and TV or at parties detracts from and cheapens the real efforts that trans people have to undergo to be accepted as their real gender (and some go so far as to say such performances should be banned). The ungainly dame in the Christmas pantomime would be one example, or the drag ball during college rag week, and any number of such events.

But throughout history, when being trans was dangerous, a criminal offence even, people have needed the opportunity to express their real gender. So many annual festivities, such as Carnival in Latin countries or Hallowe'een in Nordic countries, provide an opportunity for people to go out in disguise, even as one's other gender or none, without recriminations. 

 

Venice Carnival. Where things may not be as they seem.

The Medieval Feasts of Fools, where lunking around as a character of your chosing whilst mocking authority was part of the release from societal norms; the Roman Saturnalia in December, where society was upended and slaves became masters for a day, children could command and genders could be changed; mumming at Christmas where boys and girls, old and young, would swap roles; even army barracks or prisoner-of-war camps or ships had regular shows in which the female roles must needs be taken by men. These cultural outlets have in different ways, at different times and in different places provided welcome opportunities for trans people to express themselves more freely. Far from detracting from trans authenticity, such events have often been a lifeline.

 

Sue x

 

Cari lettori italiani

Spero che questo mese di Pride vi abbia aiutati ad essere orgogliosi di tutto che la nostra communità ha realizzato questi ultimi cinquant'anni. Sono fiera della vita che ci conquistiamo. 

Sarebbe un vero trionfo se passasse la legge Zan.

Sue x


Thursday, 24 June 2021

Beach body

 In this Pride month when there is more anti-LGBT activity than ever before, it is tempting for me to make comments on trans participation in sports or the Vatican City State's extraordinary attempt to interfere in the passage of a discrimination bill in the Italian parliament. 

But it's hot and there's enough strife to contend with as the world continues to battle Covid and its resultant economic difficulties.

So I'm going to go all light and fluffy and talk about the beach body I have been cultivating! But there's a little detail of the Sistine Chapel in my regular dip in the archives (below) that is all one needs to comment on the fact that it was actually the Vatican that initiated more modern ideas on LGBT life!

As for beach bodies, let me just say that I am with so many other women who don't believe that there is an ideal body shape. If you want a beach body then, first, check that you have a body; if you do, put it on the beach. Voilà! Your beach body! And if you want a bikini body, put a bikini on it.

But in the everyday meaning of the term, I'm looking to get in better shape. I've already lost nearly one and a half stone this year (10 kg) and am returning to a healthier weight. Yesterday, I bought a new swimsuit, just plain black but with a cutout back detail and removable insert pads in the cups. They are supposed to hide nipples when the costume is wet but to me they are a welcome help in enhancing my bust.

I also bought a floppy sunhat which I've desperately been needing as I sunburn easily.

Both items are quite plain but ideal for sitting out in my private space, which will be private on Sundays when the builders take a day off (you can imagine there are lots of building works that have been delayed but are now in full swing, and with men on roofs its hard for a girl to get some privacy).

These last ten days have seen gorgeous, hot, fine summer weather at last and I have been swimming every morning in the beautiful outdoor pools here. The anti-Covid rules are strict but reasonable and the exercise has been doing wonders for my shape. The beautiful trees, grass and flowers all around the pools are good for the spirit, too. So that's been a real morale booster after nine months of Covid closures and a mainly indoor life.


I used to go to Slimming World when I lived in the UK, but clearly I can't now. But I do still apply some of the principles. But the big difference has really been stopping eating ham and pork products which are so delicious but which are so fattening! And I drain off all the excess oil from anything preserved in a jar or can. The worst thing for making you fat, though, is alcohol and the hot weather reduces my desire for a glass of wine with my meals that is such an everyday, normal thing in Italy. If you don't order a glass of wine in a restaurant they regard you with great suspicion! I treat myself to a summer cocktail once a week, which means a tipple becomes a treat again.

Seville Spritz: 1 x Tanqueray Seville orange gin, 2 x prosecco, 1 x soda water, a twist/slice of orange, and lots of ice. Very refreshing and such a delicate colour.

 

I'm certainly noticing the weight coming off, my mood improving with the sunlight and my whole body feeling more energetic and less tired than I was last year when I was overweight, locked down and still limping from my leg injury.

Photos of my new swimsuit when I get a bit of privacy.


A dip in the archives

My local LGBT support group jogged my memory of this little corner of Michelangelo's huge fresco painting of the Last Judgment on the altar wall of the famous Sistine Chapel in the Vatican.



Here angels (controversially, without traditional wings) welcome souls that have been reunited with their resurrected bodies with a fraternal kiss. It's a pretty smoochy kiss, right on the lips (tongues too? 😜 ) and straight-laced art historians and priests insist it is all very proper.

But the Sistine Chapel is a temple of homoeroticism and although I am unaware of any contemporary sources that state overtly that Michelangelo was gay, it's pretty likely given the robust and perfect male forms that are so striking a part of his output. It is said that some of his artist's models were rent boys from the back streets of Renaissance Rome, but who can be quite sure?

Michelangelo at his best. The tomb of Lorenzo di Piero de' Medici in Florence. Lorenzo sits in contemplation, a perfect figure of a man, beautifully posed. The reclining figures are Dusk (male) and Dawn (female). The robust musculature of the male figure is typical; but looks odd on the quite robust female figure with her firm biceps and powerful thighs yet slack tummy skin. One feels that the artist understood the male body more than the female one.

The Renaissance was a remarkable fusion of medieval Christian tradition with the learning and ideals of the classical civilization of ancient Greece and Rome. In art, the former required the continued expression of Christian faith, the latter informed the style. But, of course, new ideas brought new practices and a more overt expression of the rarer forms of sexuality than had been possible in the Middle Ages. This resulted in a much richer exploration of gender variance, from the cult of hermaphroditus to women of the regiment to castrati to boys playing women in theatre and so on. And it was in large part the Vatican, with its unearthing of ancient artifacts and commissioning of avant-garde artists, that initiated the cultural revolution that it now seems keen to backpedal on! 

Sue x


Cari lettori italiani

Continuo a perdere peso (quasi dieci chili!) e ho appena comprato un nuovo costume da bagno. Spero di essere molto più snella alla fine dell'estate.

Arcigay Imperia mi ha ricordato di una piccola parte del Giudizio Universale del Buonarroti nella Cappella Sistina dove degli angeli accolgono le anime con dei bei bacioni sulle labbra. La carità? un bacio di fede? Sicuramente, ma anche un' espressione dell'omoerotismo che pervade gli affreschi dell'artista in quel luogo santo. Che ironia che proprio lì, dove il Rinascimento e la libertà delle idee si sono sviluppate, vogliono intervenire, come hanno sempre cercato di fare, negli affari di altri paesi come l'Italia mentre che si discute sulla legge contro l'omotransfobia.

Sue x