Thursday, 4 March 2021

Perfume: a guide for selecting a good fragrance as a transgender woman

 I'm wearing a new perfume I've recently bought, "Forever" by Laura Biagiotti. Deliciously feminine and very heady, it needs only a light application from the gorgeous bottle to last all day.

It's now my perfume of choice, replacing Versace Crystal Noir in the top spot. 

 

Rivals for my olfactions: Versace Crystal Noir (left) vs Laura Biagiotti Forever (right)

My last bottle of Crystal Noir has disappointed me, for some reason; it seems to lack the staying power it once had. Perhaps they have changed the formula (a regular trick in the industry). 

So Laura Biagiotti wins through in 2021. The glossy marketing blurb in English is here: Laura Biagiotti Forever

I was recently discussing perfumes, their uses and abuses, with other trans friends. Having done quite a lot of work for the fashion industry over the years (see, for instance, my 2015 post Working in fashion and other good stuff), including perfume companies such as Acqua di Parma, I thought I would share some tips on selecting a good perfume. There are so many pitfalls, especially for MtF trans people, but the right perfume can be the perfect compliment to your outfit, makeup and jewellery.

Vitally important tip

The main thing to consider is that a perfume works not by giving you a smell but by combining with your own natural odour. Therefore, the same perfume smells differently on different people and what works for one may be a dud on another.

This has important implications for any MtF trans person who is not taking female hormones - your own odour will be more masculine, and this means that many perfumes blended to work with women's natural odours won't smell good on you. This reduces your choice.

Related to this is the fact that perfumes are not a substitute for cleanliness and won't hide BO. Go take a shower, you dirty pup!

Notes

Perfumes have three main layers of aroma, known as notes. The top notes are those most active in the few minutes after application, the middle or heart notes emerge after half an hour or so, and the base notes represent the perfume's staying power. The top notes are chiefly what you smell in the shop when the assistant offers you a sample and are therefore only a partial guide to the blend, unless you stick around for a few minutes. It is the middle and bottom notes that really matter as these are the ones that blend longest with your own odour. 

Do try the little free samples in magazines, dropped on the doormat or given out in perfume retailers. 

 

This week's free samples: Narciso Rodriguez For Her in Elle magazine, Sisley Eau de Soir tiny spray bottle from the perfume shop, and classic Acqua di Parma wipe for men that gives an idea of how a citrussy cologne can act as a guide for chosing a MtF female perfume

You can wear these for a day at home and see if they work for you and, more importantly, for those around you. Don't be afraid to ask honest opinions. If your loved one tells you that you now smell like a dead horse, then don't be offended - that's actually a win as that perfume isn't for you. It saves you wasting a lot of money.

Scent families

So, what scents work for MtF trans people?

There are four main families of scents: the floral (or sweet), the citrus (or fruity or fresh), the spicy (or oriental) and the woody (or chypre).

Floral is obviously local things like rose or violet; citrus obviously things like lemon; spicy is more exotic, things like sandalwood, vanilla or musk; and woody is mosses, patchouli, agarwood, etc.

Given what I have said about the blend of odours between you and the fragrance, an MtF trans person not on hormones should be looking for a perfume that has middle and base notes that resemble those found in aftershaves/men's cologne. That doesn't mean you will still smell like Ron Burgundy or Henry Cooper (thankfully) but you won't get a clash that ultrafeminine fragrances like Chanel no 5 can create. Avoid anything too fruity or floral as you might end up smelling like rotting melon or, worse, rotting meat.

How strong a pong?

There are five strengths of fragrance. There are the (usually cheap and synthetic) body sprays which will give you a bit of oomph for an hour at most.  

Eau de cologne is a pleasant blend with lots of water that usually gives a soft aroma for an hour or two. You can apply liberally.  

Eau de toilette is stronger and is a good choice for those starting out using perfumes.

Eau de parfum and you know you're in business! Apply very sparingly as you want to enhance your allure when people are near you, not knock out the whole room!

You can also get pure parfum but this is harder to find on the average perfume counter and you really need to know what you're doing (and be rich). Good as a base for women alchemists who may want to create their own strength from pure essences.

Where to apply your perfume

Pulse points, inside joints (elbows, even knees, but not armpits!), behind the ear, back of neck (but beware of chemical interactions with sythetic wigs and wig/hair products), base of throat. I favour the collarbones as these are often under clothes and therefore release the perfume very slowly and it's delightful to get another burst of fragrance after getting undressed and into bed at night.

Some other thoughts and tips

Different perfumes are appropriate for different seasons, times of day and even events. Summer outdoors favours fruity, floral, citrus notes; the cosy interiors of winter are better for musky, close perfumes. Some claim that our sense of smell is heightened as the day wears on so a statement perfume for an evening out can really be noted; apply sparingly! 

Despite what I said about perfume under clothes, its best not to spray directly onto clothing as perfume can stain. Be careful also if you have sensitive skin; alcohol is in most perfumes and this can irritate many people.

An oily skin retains perfume longer than a dry skin. If you have dry skin you can apply a little petroleum-based lotion before spraying your perfume.

If sampling perfumes in a shop, sniff a maximum of three at any one time, otherwise your sense of smell gets confused and you can no longer distinguish.

If you really like a perfume, there may also be toiletries with that same fragrance. This helps you avoid clashes between perfumes in your washing products and your expensive fragrance. Scented candles with well-known perfumes are very popular and are nice at bathtime or in the evening. Be prepared to spend money on such options; although it can be money well spent.

If you have ethical concerns about the use of certain products, e.g. civet, ambergris or other animal secretions, or have allergies, all good manufacturers and distributors will be happy to list ingredients and suggest alternatives.

There are plenty of sites that give more detail on the points above, including fragrance charts and strength guides, and most online perfume retailers have similar advice.


I hope this is interesting and helpful, friends. Smell you later!

 

A dip in the archives

Here's one of the well-known photos from interwar Berlin, a mecca in the 1920s and early '30s (as now) of alternative culture, with a lot of havens for TGirls. 


Hitler stamped all that out, of course. I visit Berlin regularly and there seem to be more TGirls there going about their daily business unmolested than anywhere else I know. It's a joy to be there.

Me in Berlin, 2018

Sue x

 

Cari lettori italiani

Ho comprato un nuovo profumo qualche settimana fa, Forever di Laura Biagiotti. (Sito: Forever di Laura Biagiotti). Mi piace cosi' tanto! Però bisogna stare attente quando si compra i prodotti profumati perché senza gli ormoni giusti si può creare un odore poco gradevole. Oggi vi presento la mia guida ai profumi di qualità per le donne transgender.

Sue x




Monday, 1 March 2021

Spring favourites

 There's more than a hint of spring in the air and I have been looking through my wardrobe. One thing that struck me was how often this skirt appears in my photos over the years. 

 


That's partly because it's a skirt for mild weather so there's never a coat hiding it, but also because it's ideal: just above the knee with an elasticated waist for my yoyo tum, it's lined for a bit of warmth and comfort and for eliminating seethrough effects. The pattern and style were popular when I bought it ten years ago but, at the risk of being unfashionable, I'm keeping it! Old it may be, but the matching pink shoes and facemask below are totally 2021!


The winter sales have been on (delayed by a month because of restrictions) and I do have one or two nice new things (apart from pink facemasks), which I'll tell about in a later post (suspense!)

I've done a thorough epilation this weekend and lost a bit more weight so it's amazing what the promise of warmer, sunnier weather can do for one's self-esteem! Oranges, lemons and bananas are ripening here, and they're always cheerful. I hope spring is on its way where you are.

Oranges, lemons and bananas in a neighbouring garden

A dip in the archives

Last month was LGBT history month. Obviously this year, with Covid restrictions everywhere, it's largely been an online affair, but there have been many events highlighting the realities and contributions of LGBT people worldwide.

The favourite thing I found in my look through LGBT stuff online last month was this beautiful award-winning animation from Eleanor Davitt, Drawn to You.

"Young Emily didn’t see anything wrong with her drawing of two girls holding hands, but her mother saw otherwise and tore both the paper and her child’s heart in two. Little did they know, the drawings had come alive and were determined to reunite with one another across the vast bedroom of pages, no matter what risk came their way. An adventurous and heartwarming tale, “Drawn to You” shows audiences both the struggles and joy that comes with being true to your heart, and not letting others tell you who to be."

Although more L than T, I found it's simple, emotional take very moving and charming, with many happy endings.

YouTube link: Drawn to You

 


Sue x

 

Cari lettori italiani

Con l'arrivo del bel tempo ho tirato fuori una gonna preferita, vecchia ma buona (come me!)

Il cartone animato, senza testo, è bellissimo. Una storia emozionante sulle difficoltà e le gioie di essere se stessi.

Sue x




Thursday, 25 February 2021

More steps in trans living 6: conclusion

 In the last three weeks I have been looking back at the period a decade ago when my life as a woman in the real world was getting under way. It was the most wonderful time, living the life I felt I had been born to lead. 

It's an old trans cliché that your first steps outdoors as a TGirl are midnight trips to the postbox, in the hope that no-one will spot you in the depths of the night. The irony is that you actually stand out immediately in an otherwise empty street. But the best way to exist as a transwoman struck me one evening in this period of my life. It was at 6pm one Friday, when my friend Emma and I found ourselves in London's Piccadilly Circus, one of those locations in the world like Times Square or Shibuya Crossing that is synonymous with traffic and bustle. You could have lifted your feet off the ground and been swept along by the crowds that evening. And of all the thousands of people there, not one was paying us two TGirls the slightest bit of attention as they all hurried on with their own lives. It was a revelation that full immersion in life and society is actually the best way to blend in and avoid undue notice. This added to my confidence no end. Certainly, in most big cities with all their variety, you can just get on with life on your terms. I wish I had understood that ten years earlier.

You can read about my subsequent adventures as a woman about town from August 2011 onwards in this blog. I thought this series of posts would just fill in the gap between first going out in January 2010 and the start of blogging.

Finally, this series has received a lot of views and I have received quite a lot of comments, not just here in the comments section but elsewhere online with links to my blog. So far, a lot of interest has been generated by post no 2 (contemplating transition), especially my thoughts on mental health, and post no 4 (coming out to lovers), especially how trans life gets suppressed when we find a partner, so I will expand on those topics in future posts. Just scroll down to find these and the other posts in the series.


A dip in the archives

No photo was ever taken in that chaos of Piccadilly Circus I described above, but here I am with Emma in the heart of London in April 2011, with Big Ben in the background. Both of us were a lot more confident by now than we were on our first extraordinary night out in London ten months earlier (My baptism of fire).


Sue x


Cari lettori italiani

Oggi concludo questa serie su i miei passi in tacchi alti nel mondo reale dieci anni fa. Ho avuto vari commenti, sopratutto sulla salute mentale e sui problemi che incontriamo quando ci sposiamo. Vorrei approfondire questi argomenti in futuro.

Oggi in Ponente c'è il fenomeno del caligo. Molto bello e interessante.

Sue x

Monday, 22 February 2021

More steps in trans living 5: living full-time

 I continue this series of lookbacks at life before I started this blog, when I had just emerged into the real world, with the feeling that I needed to spend as much time as possible negotiating this new reality. My hormones seemed to be going crazy, my wish was to live as a woman and I was finding out as much as I could about the process of transition. 

Perhaps the timing was lucky. I was working part-time as an employee because the rest of the time I had been studying for the qualifications for a new self-employed career. But I was able to put that career on hold and give myself plenty of 'me' time, which, from late summer 2010, I spent pretty much as a woman.

There were, in addition, 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...

And it was amazing, so wonderful just to interact with the world as a woman and feel that this was just the way things should be. I've always wanted simply to lead life as a woman, even the most mundane aspects of it. I just loved going to the post office or the supermarket as Sue and it feeling right and normal.

Although it would take an age to get ready, what with epilation, makeup and so on, it just seemed a price that needed paying and, although slightly annoying, I didn't resent the need, nor did I tire of dealing with the less feminine aspects of my body, hair mainly. 

Of course, the plentiful time available meant an improved social life, too. I've already described in part 3 (Meeting others) how I travelled around to meet other like-minded people, and eventually started organising events in London. In contrast to my mundane yet ideal life en femme near home, there was also the exhilaration of packing nothing but Sue clothes in a case and going away for a weekend, with no prospect of backing out and going back to boy mode.

By 2011 I was in an amazing place. It was really a question of whether I wanted to take the final plunge and switch to finally being the woman I'd always wanted to be, fullstop. I take my time, though, and doubts about formal transition, family and trans community issues and, eventually (in 2014), disfiguring ill health led to my remaining part-time. I don't like the situation where I have to be male some of the time, although, truth be told, it does keep away a lot of troubles if you keep that option, even if you aren't being true to yourself. After all, I've learned by a lifetime's forcing how to keep that male interface with the world when necessary.

So in the end, officially changing to Sue Richmond full-time never happened, but I am satisfied that I gave it all due and proper consideration, and had a lot of fun along the way.


A dip in the archives

 The background photo to my blog was taken by Stella on a trip to Painshill Park, a landscape garden 30 miles from Central London (Painshill Park website). This was August 2011. We took a picnic there, strolled round the lake and grounds, and took in the various follies and architectural elements (such as the Turkish Tent seen here) before driving back to London. But we'd had such a nice day in each others' company that we decided not to go home immediately but to have dinner at a old pub in Strand-on-the Green, a pretty riverside hamlet in West London.

 

Strand-on-the-Green during the annual Great River Race

I chose it as the background photo to my blog - and I have never changed it - as, to me, it captures the happiness and satisfaction of what was undoubtedly the best year of my life, when I was out in the world as the woman I had always felt I was meant to be. It also shows the three things I love most: sunshine, greenery and being out in a skirt. A simple, wonderful time.

Sue x


Cari lettori italiani

Oggi è l'anniversario dell'inizio dell'emergenza Covid. Stiate bene è speriamo che finisca quest'anno. 

Qui parlo del periodo più bello della mia vita, quando spendevo la stragrande maggioranza del mio tempo vivendo la mia vita da donna. Ero felicissima ed era a quei tempi che ho iniziato a scrivere questo blog per condividere questa gioia e incoraggiare le altre ad avventurarsi nel mondo reale.

Sue x

Thursday, 18 February 2021

More steps in trans living 4: coming out to lovers

Perhaps appropriate just after Valentine's Day...

Spending time in one's preferred gender inevitably leads to a double life, certainly early on in one's development, and I don't like that. How about my female life becoming ...just life, the life, the one and only life? Should one come out to others and integrate femme time with the rest of one's time? 

Obviously, that depends on your situation. Whether you are married and/or have children, want to work in your preferred gender or both, have parents and siblings, have friends you want to integrate into what has up to now been your 'other' life, really depends on whether you feel this will enhance your relationship. I don't propose to go into the subject generally here as it's long and complex, but continuing this series on my own personal steps in trans living, I will talk briefly about how I came out to partners about being trans.

Back in 1997 I vowed I would no longer deny that I was trans (Those biggest resolutions) and that therefore any romantic partner needed to know. I find the best moment to raise the subject is after a few weeks of dating when things seem to be going well. Coming out on a first date is not the best plan, in my view, but on the other hand I do not want to end up deep in a relationship and then find that my being trans is a sudden surprise and causes grave tensions. If my new love has a major problem and wants to walk away then raising the subject very early on is a time when no-one gets too emotionally hurt. As I've said before, nature can be cruel because often in our early twenties we want to suppress our transness, marry, raise families, only to find that our gender variance bursts out again with a vengeance twenty years later, leaving us to square the re-emergence of a status we thought we'd overcome with our startled spouse and children. It can be a shock to them after all that time to find that dad is really a lady, that the man or woman you married is anything but. As I say, nature is cruel in diminishing our trans fervour at breeding time but leaving a hormonal time-bomb to explode later. This is a subject to expand on again another time.

In my own case, very shortly after I first went to a dressing service, I got into a long-term relationship. We almost married, in fact. After a few weeks of dating I thought that it was going really well but that she needed to know that I was trans and that I was no longer able to suppress that side of me. I thought she would be receptive as we had first met a few weeks before we got romantically involved, and in a circle with other friends she had said how she had once shared accommodation with two gay guys, one of whom crossdressed, and how she had another friend who was a drag queen and she had attended his inauguration into the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence (a sort of drag nun protest performance group). So I assumed she would be receptive enough.

When to broach the subject? About six weeks together and she told me that she had been chatting to a friend recently who had married two years before. Her husband was now wearing her panties. When the wife asked him why, he said that "it was so they could feel closer together".

Now there are lots of reasons why a man might wear his wife's panties, but I suspect his reason was false, and I suspect you think so, too. Was he trans? Perhaps. Was he kinky? Perhaps. Does he simply prefer the look or feel of women's undies? Perhaps; some men do and there's nothing more to it than that. We don't know his real motives.

My girlfriend then said to me, "I advised her to leave him immediately. You wouldn't do that, would you?" Although I didn't like the sound of that, this was my cue and I came straight out with it that I was trans, that I express my female side by dressing as a woman, I told her my trans history, even that I had just been to a dressing service shortly before we met, hence my stubbly leg hair that was just growing back after shaving it for the photoshoot. I also said I was surprised at her suggestion to her friend, given that she was previously happy with her cross-dressing gay housemate and drag artist friend.

But for her and many others, being friends and being girlfriends are two different things. It was "I'm fine with the whole trans idea in principle, but not in my back yard... I'm not a lesbian... How can I possibly tell my friends that my boyfriend's a tranny?" And similar.

She didn't follow her own precept and walk out there and then but nor did she want to talk about the subject further, as if it would somehow go away. But when she wanted to talk about marriage or living together, I kept having to raise it. So, you want to live with a trans person who will need to dress and be femme regularly. How do you want to play it? And there would be tears and a wish it would go away or that I could be 'cured' by her buying me silk boxers because, despite my best efforts to clarify why some people are trans, she thought that maybe I just liked the feel of softer cloth. 

In the end I broke off with her for reasons unconnected with my being trans, but with the issue unresolved. So you see, despite this notion that trans people are politically permissible but personally undesirable, despite her own prejudices and precepts, she stuck with me after my early revelation but never wanted to face the practical reality.

There's one curious addition to this tale. Like most modern women, she wore trousers more than skirts but, unusually, she wore men's shirts as she found them more comfortable than women's tops. Usually a lumberjack style, which is interesting as her uncle really was a lumberjack (though not, as far as I know, a crossdressing one as in a famous Monty Python song, although a great uncle of hers was a known crossdresser). I digress, but it goes to show how women can wear what they like with no comment but if a man wears a blouse then he can expect endless comments and abuse. Admittedly, her crossdressing motives and mine were different.

That was in the mid-2000s. In 2010, right as my trans life outdoors was getting into its swing, I started dating another girl. We'd been friends for some years and have remained friends. It was probably not a good idea to introduce something romantic at that time of my life but Cupid is a little teaser and he's always ready to act at the wrong moment. A few weeks into our relationship, the Rocky Horror Show came to town. Again, a perfect cue as, naturally, a bit of dressing up is encouraged when the show's on. But it became clear that my turning up as Magenta the Maid wasn't desirable. (NB no, I wasn't going to go as Frank N Furter, I have standards you know!)

Here I became uneasy and as this girl is a gossip (not a nasty one; she just can't be discreet!) I didn't pursue the trans subject much beyond crossdressing possibilities and, given the strong need I had at that time to be myself as much as possible, things petered out romantically and soon after this she got back together with a guy she'd been with in her teens who was a fireman and was altogether the sort of hunky, manly guy she was after and who is good for her. As I said, we've remained good friends and she suspects I'm only an occasional party crossdresser, and it's best left like that.

It was a similar story with someone else after that. She enjoyed drag shows and also had an especial enthusiasm for the Priscilla, Queen of the Desert stage show but, again, performance art and transgender life are two different things (as most people actually know despite what a lot of trans activists fear). I think: "ah, here's someone who will be receptive," and then find that their romantic enthusiam is somewhat dampened when their ideal of manliness is challenged.

So, being trans can be a hindrance to romance, though by no means a deal-breaker. It's just another thing to be negotiated in a relationship. I believe it's better to be up front early on in a relationship, that way you avoid the anguish of a late discovery (like when you both turn up to the altar in wedding dresses!).

I'm currently single again but who knows ...

MWAAHH!

 

A dip in the archives

I don't know about you but after almost a year of Covid restrictions, I am so wanting to get back to normality, to travelling and to life outdoors. I felt somewhat the same in February 2014 after several weeks indoors. This also ties in with my last post about my desire to meet other trans people.

It's back with a vengeance

Sue x


Cari lettori italiani

Considero importante spiegare che sono transgender quasi subito quando mi trovo in un rapporto romantico, per evitare l'angoscia e la sorpresa più tardi. Spiego come ho fatto io a parlare su questo argomento con le fidanzate, e come si sono comportate dopo la rivelazione.

Sue x


Monday, 15 February 2021

More steps in trans living 3: meeting others

 A fun post. One of the things I felt I needed to do as I made my way out in the world ten years ago was to connect with as many other trans people as possible. The internet has made all the difference to trans lives. Gone are the days of connecting with others through small ads in the paper or in seedy magazines.

Online forums and social media have revolutionised the way we meet and interact, and finding information couldn't be simpler. I remember when I first got a PC at home twenty years ago and tentatively typed the word "transvestite" into a search engine, half expecting red alarms to flash and sirens to blare. Instead of which the first site suggested was that of Nicola Smith, UK Transvestite (Nicola Smith), with no sexual content and a recommendation of the Boudoir dressing service, who in turn alerted me to UK Angels, a forum, where in turn I met people online and became aware of venues like Pink Punters and events like Sparkle. A chain of information that worked well. 

Unlike smaller cities like Leeds or Manchester that had a recognised LGBT zone, my home city of London didn't and had a less obvious and more scattered trans scene. I spent a lot of time travelling around the country, therefore, because trying to find other TGirls in London was frustrating. You couldn't simply turn up in the 'gay district' and find others because there is no such district, and most of the clubs are either for people who won't go outside as I was now doing or have an emphasis on sex with strangers that is not my scene. Travelling all over the country did make my femme life expensive but the good friends I made and the fun times I had were certainly worth it. 

At Pink Punters nightclub
 

The one thing I really like to do, though, is eat out. Having a meal before going to a venue is, for me, the best part of the evening.

 

Eating Mexican

Eating Chinese

 
Evening in Milton Keynes

Organising lunch somewhere is, I find, an excellent way to meet like-minded people in a relaxed, convivial atmosphere and that was the way that I eventully got to meet girls in my area. Via UK Angels forum I'd simply let people know where and when I'd plan to be and if anyone wanted to join me. These Angels lunches became quite popular and we had various favourite venues like Salieri in the Strand, Melanie in Old Compton Street, the Cambridge and Chandos pubs at either end of Charing Cross Road, Sarastro in Drury Lane, Bistro 1 in Frith Street, Belgo Centraal in Seven Dials...

At the Cambridge

At Sarastro

At Belgo

At Salieri

Finally I had quite a collection of local friends and travelling round the country was no longer a necessity, just a pleasant alternative as and when. In late 2012 I met Rachel and her girls in Shoreditch and that expanded my circle, too. It was great to be able to meet others locally at last and go shopping or visit a museum or go to the cinema. You know, normal free-time stuff. So that we could be treated like typical, everyday women just living their lives and enjoying it.


A dip in the archives

Here's a post from early 2012 that sums up the lifestyle I was into at the time. It was a great balance of work and play, with lots of femme time:

Well, it's one way of living


Cari lettori italiani

Oggi continuo questa serie sulla vita che facevo dieci anni fa quando mi sono trovata uno stile di vita ideale. Era bello andare a trovare tante nuove amiche. 

Sue x


Thursday, 11 February 2021

More steps in trans living 2: contemplating transition

 In my last post I described how, ten years ago, I felt not only the need to live as a woman in the real world but experienced hormonal changes that felt in some ways like a second puberty. I began to wonder if physical transition was inevitable. 

Although the medical, social and legal processes involved in transitioning were clear enough, there is a difference between theory and practice. Socially it would not be impossible, especially as I was on the point of working for myself at home, although I was concerned about my family. Although I am more than old enough to distance myself from my family of militant fundamentalists, and have largely done so, the word militant is important as it is unlikely that they would leave me to transition in peace. Several trans women in similar situations as myself have had no end of harassment from fanatically religious relatives who cannot permit the 'abomination' of transgenderism to pass unmolested. One girl I knew even had to get the courts to force her parents to desist. So that was going to be a problem for me, but one to be faced if necessary.

The official recognition of transition was also a concern as it is a pretty long drawn out and distressing process. There have been some improvements in the last ten years but it is a serious decision to change name and status for every future interaction. I agree that, since it is a major decision, a little official resistance is needed to challenge any whimsical notions, but still one had to live full-time in one's true gender for at least two years before one could get a Gender Recognition Certificate to change one's status legally. My mind is a little hazy on the rules ten years ago as there have been changes since, but that two-year period started with your doctor referring you to a gender clinic.

Did I want to talk to my doctor? Did I want to go to a gender clinic? No hormones or other assistance would be available until after the clinic had taken charge of me, a referral process that usually took months, and often a year or more. And you were expected to be living full-time female. This is the problem with a lot of gender care in national health services: it's an all or nothing situation. Either you are committed to living a new life and being pushed towards gender surgery, or there's nothing for you. The overwhelming majority of trans people fall into the latter camp and get nothing. It varies between countries and there are slow improvements across the board but that's basically the choice I had ten years ago.

I am not one to rush into things and I like to be as informed as possible. So I decided to visit the gender clinic at Charing Cross Hospital in West London, not initially as a patient but as a visitor. I would arrange to meet up with girls after their appointments or accompany them there and chat to the staff or other patients or their relatives in the waiting room. The whole frustrating process became clearer as a result of these discussions, and from online forums, from (rather basic) clinic literature, and even from once gatecrashing a voice therapy class (the voice coach allowed me in).

Two things became clear. Although I was already making new trans friends, it struck me, first, that getting to know as many trans women as possible would broaden not only my knowledge base but also increase my social circle, which was going to be vital if family and friends turned against me. And, second, that it would be a good idea to try living full-time to see what that really entails. Believe me, that prospect seemed wonderful, but I try to keep my feet on the ground and wanted to discover what pitfalls there might be before they arose once I was committed.

So from autumn 2010 to spring 2012 I pursued a policy of doing as much trans stuff as I could and meeting as many other trans folk as possible. There are regular events like Leeds First Friday, Sparkle, Girls' Big Night Out and more at many venues and I started to organise meet-ups in London, mainly via the UK Angels forum, and invite girls to my home for makeovers. There were indeed many periods of weeks at a stretch when I lived as a woman. It was bliss, the best time of my life.

And I continued to consult girls about clinical transition, how it was working out for them, what problems they were experiencing. It began to strike me - as it did a number of girls undergoing treatment after a point - that surgical transition was not for me. I don't feel I have the wrong body. Being born fully female would have been better, but somehow turning my genitals inside out was not an answer to my own needs. 

It also became clear that a considerable number of transsexuals going to the gender clinic had underlying mental health or behavioural disorders, some formally diagnosed and some evidently not but that could and should have been; and it continues to trouble me greatly that, instead of caring primarily for those overarching characteristics like autism or bipolar disorder which have a major bearing upon social interaction and self-perception, and therefore on gender dysphoria and body dysmorphia, the transgenderism appeared to be dealt with largely as an issue of solving the dysmorphia to alleviate the excesses of distress that are more the hallmarks of certain neurological and mental conditions rather than a product of being trans. Surgery is a dramatic solution, and I feel that surgery at Charing Cross leaves a lot to be desired (as I have complained of many times in this blog, e.g. So you still want that gender surgery?). The emphasis on it also leaves most trans people out of the system. And pressurises others into transitioning fully who may have benefited better from a gentler approach. It is, however, a characteristic of the Western medical approach to bombard symptoms with drugs or surgery till they go away rather than adopting a more holistic approach, something that would respond so much better to transgender needs. In many ways, it is not so much medical intervention that most trans people need but a safe environment to exist in. These are huge topics which I may go into another day, but I found it all quite offputting.

What finally put paid to my consideration of formal transition was an eruption of trans-on-trans violence and abuse mainly in early 2012 that changed my whole relationship with the trans community and I have been opposed to the strictures of many self-appointed activists and influencers since. I wrote some quite distressed posts here in 2012 about this. Again, a major topic, perhaps for expansion another time.

So I did my homework, and found in the end that formal transition wasn't for me. Not a fail, but a success in finding out what suited me. 

But what about living full-time, and maximising my trans friends and social life, and coming out? These are topics I will cover next and will involve a lot of fun.


A dip in the archives

Here's a foretaste of posts to come, then: a visit to Manchester in October 2010 to take part in an academic study, meet new friends and old, and attend a local group. Here's us having dinner together.


Sue x

 

Cari lettori italiani

 Oggi parlo di come ho fatto varie visite all'ospedale di Londra dove i pazienti sono i transessuali che scelgono la chirurgia. L'ho fatto per cercare di capire se la transizione completa era la cosa giusta per me. Ho speso molto tempo a parlare con le altre ragazze, e alla fine ho deciso di non cambiare.

Sue x