Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Sparkle 2012

Thursday. So, after a few days being a sightseer in my own city (see below), Emma Walkey drove us both to Sparkle, the annual national transgender celebration in Manchester. We picked up Leila Collins on the way. Not an easy journey – Britain’s motorways at their finest – and it took us ages even to get to Leila who was waiting for us half way there.

As in previous years, I stayed at the Ibis Hotel in Charles Street, formerly referred to as “Tranny Towers” for this event. It’s close to the action and the rooms are large and well-suited to our purposes. It’s also had a makeover this year and the new reception area looks better.

Just arrived in my hotel.

Friday. Sparkle proper begins on the Friday afternoon, really with the Welcoming event, held this year at Taurus, the last (or first) bar on Canal Street. I met various friends there and it was good to catch up with people I hadn’t seen since last year. I had a male friend to meet as well, who works locally, so I took him to Velvet next door.

Then I got changed and went again to Eden for the burlesque evening. I managed to get the last table and was eventually joined by a whole variety of friends. The varied show was right at the other end of the venue and was not always easy to see so some of us left early and went to New York New York, preferring a quiet drink at the lesser bar to the dancing at the main bar.

Saturday is Sparkle’s main day and the Manchester’s Gay Village is carpeted with trans people of every kind. You could probably crowd-surf up Canal Street on TGirls if you wanted!

I didn’t rush to get up but gradually got ready in my new Pussycat coral pink lace dress which I’d bought for the occasion. The cardi I got the day before in Manchester’s excellent shopping streets. And the shoes have become my official Sparkle shoes as I’ve worn them every Sparkle Saturday! Thanks to my lovely friend Jan for her sartorial advice here (Gok Jan!)

My carefully chosen Sparkle outfit. Dress and belt by Pussycat of London in coral pink (this year's colour!), cardigan by Wallis, sandals by BHS, open-toe tights by M&S, hair by Rene de Paris; jewellery, nail colour, spectacles: model's own. Fashion advice by Jan de Londres. (I think that's how the fashion mags put it!)

My pal Maddy was also staying at the hotel so we walked together to Villaggio Italian restaurant where I was hosting the Angels lunch with the much-appreciated help of another lovely friend, Tina-Natalie Scott. We had 20 people attend, which was very pleasing (we had 16 last year). Food and service there are always good and I find it good value, too.

UK Angels lunch at Villaggio. Regular readers will spot Holly (head barmaid at Erotica), Maddy (Nottingham Invasion) and Tina (hostess) on the near table with Claire, Fran and Lucy. Receding into the distance we have Bobby, Sandy, Lucy, Margaret, Joan, Susie, Cora, Wilhelmina, Emma, Jackie and an empty space where I would be.

The main Saturday event is Sparkle in the Park, with its stalls and stage shows. It was very well attended – probably even more than other years. Singer January was impressive and the Drag Idol show was fun. I bumped into so many people I know, and for me that is what makes the whole weekend so enjoyable. Bought a red and black goth wig just on a whim and wore it in the evening with my new M&S London skyline tights. Friends didn’t recognise me at first!

A change of look. Red and black wig, with fabulous M&S London 2012 skyline tights. With my lovely friend Tina. Photo courtesy of Maddy Watson.

In the evening I dined with the a number of friends from Northern England who (because of the distance) I get to see only occasionally – Tina and KD, and also Mandy, Justine and Emma with their wonderful, supportive wives. This was also at Villaggio (again! – well, it’s the only proper restaurant in Canal Street), then drinks at Eden where I met Tina and Maddy again. Finally, off to the Molly House, a very nice place with excellent foreign beers (but where the younger staff have never heard of Diana Ross – the shame!), where I met up with Justine Time, Sophie Harris and Saffy Walton.

Sunday. Had brunch at an outside table at Taurus and was joined by Zazoo, my inspiring trans friend from Glasgow, whom I first met right here at Sparkle in 2010, and we pretty much spent the day together. She is the ultimate trans person to my mind, living her life as she feels appropriate from day to day. The sun came out and we enjoyed just sitting there for much of the afternoon, saying hello to friends walking past and being entertained by the Gay Gordons ‘Scottish’ dancers. It’s a good way to spend the time. We went back to Zazoo’s apartment at the Atrium (which was lovely – must book in there next year) to change shoes and have a glass of wine. She and I then went for dinner at the New Emperor restaurant in Chinatown, which was pretty good and was patronised by the Chinese community, which is usually a good sign of quality. After, I went to freshen up and joined Emma and her wife Jackie at Eden’s before rejoining Zazoo briefly at Via. I went to bed early. A nice day but altogether I wasn’t going to overdo it. A restful time with close friends is just as good as the best celeb party, I reckon!

Last day of Sparkle. Ready to hit Canal Street for brunch and a lazy day in the sun at an outside bar table.

So there you have it: Sparkle 2012. For me, a quieter affair than in the past, but a thoroughly nice one. Sparkle is what you make it. You can go to lectures and events organised officially, or you can relax and do your own thing. I was happy to be co-hostess for the Angels lunch, my one commitment, but then just play it by ear after that. For me, it’s the lovely friends I meet there who make it.

Sue x

Monday, 30 July 2012

'Twas the week before Sparkle

Catching up with writing up my holiday earlier this month, which I'll present in two parts, pre-Sparkle and Sparkle itself.

Although I had cancelled many engagements thanks to all the abuse I got in June (and concentrated on work instead, so maybe the idiot trolls did me a favour), I wasn’t going to let down two friends who were visiting.

First I saw Carol Evans who came for her second makeover and dressing session. She had brought bags of stuff that were being thrown out by the women in her life. So many items fitted and suited me that I was very pleased to accept them. The trouble is, my house is now overflowing with clothes! It was good to practise makeup on someone else and watch Carol enjoy trying out wigs and clothes to see what styles suited her. I think we ended up with some good looks. And we certainly had a fun day together talking clothes and makeup and trying things on.

Then Emma Walkey came to stay for a few days before we went to Sparkle. Our first day out saw us sightseeing and shopping in the West End. There are several big new features in London just opened this month: the Shard skyscraper at London Bridge, the Bomber Command memorial at Hyde Park Corner and the Olympic flags of all nations in Regent and Conduit Streets. We also met an Aussie digger at the Australian War Memorial who seemed totally unbothered at regaling two TGirls with tales of his days in Vietnam – I guess we didn’t pass for proper sheilas! Oh well, it was quite interesting!

The new Bomber Command memorial in Green Park.

We enjoyed a long, lazy lunch at the Old Express in Shepherd Market in Mayfair, sitting outside but nicely covered by an awning that kept off the occasional heavy showers. Emma visited the Mac and Benefit shops just off Carnaby Street for some of their excellent products and processes. A drink in our favourite pub in the area, the Mason’s Arms in Maddox Street, preceded a good value dinner at our favourite Bistro 1 in Beak St (I really must write an eatery blog). 

(Note to self: Choccywoccydoodah cake and chocolate shop in Fouberts Place is something to be revisted … often.)

Our second day saw us revisit Camden Market which is a TGirls’ paradise. We spent ages and much money in a burlesque outfit shop and enjoyed browsing everything else. Burlesque was on our minds most, though ...

We went home to change into posh evening wear as we had tickets for the Hurly Burly Show. Such a fun show, a modern take on burlesque. Saucy, witty, imaginative, with plenty of laughs and providing inspiration for the aspiring TGirl. Miss Polly Rae and her curvaceous Hurly Burly Girlies were outstanding performers. We were only a handful of people who had made any effort at all to smarten up for the occasion and so had our photo taken by the theatre’s photographer which we hope to find on Facebook soon. Why did so many people come totally scruffy in jeans? Beats me.

http://hurlyburlyuk.com/ Enjoy their teaser trailers with short exerpts from this and previous incarnations of the show.

Miss Polly Rae and her Hurly Burly Girlies - aspirational! (Credit: Exposay.com)

Well, after that. what better way to end the evening than dinner at our well-tried favourite, Salieri, close by and where they are always so welcoming. And a stunning view of London’s river by night.

Thursday, however, we piled our girly baggage into Emma’s car and headed up North for Sparkle, the best event in the trans calendar. That merits a separate post.

Sue x

London Olympics 2012

And they're off!

It's been quite a buildup, what with the bid for the games gathering pace almost a decade ago and then with the announcement on 6/7/05 that London was to host them (a memorable date because four deadly bombs were set off in London the next day). The torch relay passed near home last week and now the games have officially started. I have no tickets, but there are plenty of events that don't require them.

I confess that I'm one of the least sporty people around, but I have always enjoyed the Olympics, probably because of the sheer variety on offer. Every organised sport under the sun all going on in one place.

This weekend the men's and women's cycling road races went from the Mall out to Box Hill in Surrey before returning. I caught the outward and inward legs of both events and here are a few pictures. Although the event passed by in just a few minutes each time, the atmosphere was enthusiastic and partylike, with the police seeming to be cheerleaders or warm-up artists!

I'm beginning to think the venues for many events have been chosen for their beautiful backdrops, showing the UK off to best advantage to foreign TV (Horse Guards Parade, Greenwich Park, Hampton Court, the leafy lanes of Surrey ...)

I hope to see the cycling time trials as well, and the marathons, too.

By the way, I'm really loving the way all the shops in South West London are displaying as many international flags as they can lay their hands on. And how the Met Police were really jovial over the weekend. Who says Londoners are aloof and unwelcoming! (Well, OK, OK, it'll be business as usual in two weeks' time!)

Hope you enjoy whatever Olympic events appeal to you.

Sue x

Men's road race heads out of London in a long snake.

Men's road race heads back to London (you can see the city in the background). How appropriate to be viewing this from Sawyer's Hill where I first learnt to ride a bike (which was my sister's girly bike).

Women's road race heads out of London, all bunched up. They all whizzed by in a couple of seconds.
Just over 15km to go here. The women cyclists headed back to London in widely separated groups. This was the penultimate group, battling heavy rain in Richmond Park

Thursday, 26 July 2012

A shaggy dog story

I get my wigs from Trendco just off Notting Hill Gate and visit them usually twice a year. They are always very helpful and knowledgeable and have a large stock. I usually see Michael or Will and get a private consultation room which has a big mirror and a comfy chair.

This time I got my usual Noriko Carrie in cappuccino, which is a style that suits me, being very hairy and covering my odd-shaped head well (though it greatly reduces my periferal vision). The colour is also very close to my natural hair colour.

This time I also liked the new RenĂ© Kayleigh style so much I bought that as well (on initial offer and with 10% off for buying two). It’s shorter and slightly lighter, though similar. They’re both relatively cheap, machine-made nylon wigs but perfectly presentable. However, I did look over some wonderful hand-woven ones that I may very well invest in. After all, I go out a lot and having decent hair is essential, especially if it lasts longer, too.

My eyebrows are a nightmare, though. It’s as if they are the demon twin lovechildren of Denis Healy and Lassie (which is itself not an image you want to dwell on too long). I had allowed them to grow so they could be better shaped for Sparkle. I myself spent one and a half hours tweezing them the night before till they were merely jokeshop brows rather than something the Forestry Commission might have claims on, and then went round the corner from Trendco to the Calder Pharmacy on the Gate itself where they do beauty treatments and the girl worked on them furiously with tweezers for a further half hour till they were tamed, if still somewhat bold and brooding. It took further work in Manchester to get them even partly feminine looking.

Having watched Emma Walkey have hers tinted and waxed (and waxed and waxed!) at Benefit off Carnaby Street I’m thinking that is probably the only way to go in future. Some DDT tropical caterpillar spray might also work. Sheesh! One day I’ll get these bolts in my neck filed down a bit, too!

Oh, I didn’t mention my back wax at my local beauty salon. You don’t want to know!

Sue x

Thursday, 19 July 2012


I first got in touch with other trans people in 2003 and had my first makeover at the Boudoir in 2004, which was my first physical contact with the T world. Since then I have been in touch almost daily with other trans people and, from about four years ago, started to meet up with them regularly. This contact over the last decade has been an exhilarating, affirming and positive experience.

Until now.

Over the last two or three months I and many others have been subject to a much greater than average degree of online trolling and abuse. My favourite website, Angels, for example, seems to have collapsed with many people leaving because of the aggression. I’ve taken it up with the moderators but the problem seems to have worsened. It is very sad, rather like seeing the face of an old friend being punched whilst bystanders watch and then turn to leave. Note that my disappointment is by no means as intense as that of other members who have contacted me about it and expressed some strong views.

But more troubling than this is the personal aggravation that I have been subjected to all of a sudden.

Just for instance, the wife of a TGirl I had been happily meeting up with these last couple of years apparently thought I might be a mistress having an affair with her husband whom she’d only just found out to be a transvestite. Being put in that awful and undeserved position has shocked me, not least because I had previously been led to believe that she knew of his crossdressing. You can imagine how enjoyable it was to have an unexpected phone conversation at work with an angry wife on such an intimate subject.

Other friends whom I have taken to lunch seem to have decided that I don’t shape up to some new-formed ideals of theirs and have attacked me very unpleasantly and quite unexpectedly after some years of friendship. One even set up an account on a site specifically and exclusively to send me a nasty email, before closing that account so I can’t reply. How cowardly is that?

Worse are the communications from some political groups contacting me via another ‘friend’, without any agreement on my part, who somehow think that I may be interested in their form of violent protest and even sent me a magazine revelling in photos of policemen and others with their heads kicked in.

Whilst abuse of trans people is certainly wrong, the abuse, supremacism, hate and violence put out by certain trans people and organisations are totally unacceptable. Many people at Sparkle, the national transgender celebration last weekend, pointed this out, too. There is an unease and dislike in the mainstream trans community of a minority of snobs and bullies. I am in no doubt that daring to point out and take a stand against this antisocial behaviour will lead to further attacks on me, but I feel people should know where much of the malice in this walk of life is actually coming from. I will continue to live my life positively, law-abidingly and in the mainstream. I know the law and my rights after twenty years of working in the field and always apply them, exactly as I did last month when my frail, elderly neighbours were targeted by nasty conmen and I called the police, or this month when seeking legal advice for redress for breach of contract. I contacted police and security last year on both occasions when transphobic attacks were made on me in public. Being trans and therefore vulnerable does not, however, put trans people themselves above the law, or above social norms either. I am necessarily involving a lawyer and police in dealing with some of this latest behaviour.

Do not attack me, bully me, troll my posts, lie about me, impugn my integrity or threaten me again. I will take action against people who do so because I always act against persons who harm me. Whilst I am a gentle person who dislikes conflict, I have overriding senses of justice and self-preservation.

I will be getting back to my positive outlook again soon, but after a decade of joy followed by several weeks of sudden abuse, you will, please, my dear readers, need to bear with me a bit. I’m so sad, sorry and shocked to have to write this bad news here but it explains why I have posted nothing this last month.

I would like to thank my many friends for all their love, help, support and encouragement these last few weeks and to the organisers of Sparkle which helped me feel positive again. More of that and other good news in a short while as I gradually get back online.

Sue x