Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Another delivery at Charing Cross Hospital

I had a phone call from a close friend early yesterday morning. She was going into Charing Cross Hospital for her surgery (gender reassignment, or whatever you want to call it) and was wanting company on her way there. Staring bleary-eyed at Monday morning's emails I decided that a trip to hospital was preferable than dealing with certain clients.

So I met her at Hammersmith, which is altogether a more salubrious place than it was when I was a youngster in the '70s and '80s when it hosted regular pitched battles between punks and skinheads, nobody worked as they were either unemployed or on strike, streakers ran amok and schoolkids needed to watch out for perverts (two have recently been convicted for crimes there in that era). Comics Rik Mayall and Ade Edmonson captured the squalor there nicely in Bottom. Now it's more cafe culture and arts theatres than safety pins through the nose at the dole office. Sorry, I'm digressing. Hammersmith is the location for Charing Cross Hospital which hosts the gender clinic and I've accompanied friends there many times, as much as anything to see how I feel about attending the clinic for myself.

I found the staff kind and willing to answer all my friend's questions and reassure her over her worries. They put her on E Bay, which makes it sound like she's in an online auction (they probably all say that). The amenities seem a bit basic, though, and the view from the window is less than inspiring, especially as the tubs of what were flowers and grasses have died in the recent heat. I shall donate a watering can to the hospital! My friend was given a green pattered hospital robe and green surgical peep-toe stockings. Very chic. Very sexy. Green is evidently the new black! There were hardly any patients and the only other person who'd had the surgery was being discharged the next day so it was a bit quiet and lonely. I had planned just to see her there and make sure she'd settled in but basically she had a 6 hour wait before surgery and I did stay in the end till mid-afternoon as letting people feed off their own thoughts is not good when they're already a bit nervous, although she was cracking plenty of jokes (not all of them repeatable here). Sadly, I just couldn't stay to see her into theatre but we had a phone chat shortly before. Frankly, as well as having had work to do, hospitals make me feel ill!

I imagine she's resting today. I will try to visit her later in the week and I know other friends of hers are going as well. I think she's in good hands. Although it leaves me with mixed emotions as I don't feel, after considerable thought and research over many years, that a medical route to being trans is going to help me.

The hospital doesn't let you take cut flowers to patients and more, only pot plants. So all her friends have decided that what a girl with a new vagina would appreciate most is a nice cactus! Aren't we cruel! But that's her kind of humour!

Get well soon, honey.

Sue x

Saturday, 27 July 2013

People who now know I am trans

[ADD: 17 March 2015. It is not my normal policy to censor or change posts in this blog. What happened, happened, is my view. This post, though, has had to be changed as my original impression of this day was altered by subsequent events and leaving it as it is would give the wrong message to other trans people.]

Although I’ve made a lot of friends in the trans community over the last few years, I’ve also gradually been letting the friends who’ve known me longest know about my being heavily trans. Like many of us, I’ve disguised it well, and I think most of us do so through a fear of possible ridicule, abuse or even violence; a fear of unknown reactions to something most other people encounter only rarely.

When two of my closest female friends recently learned of the extent of my transness and, after having read this blog and looked at various other resources that I pointed them to such as Our Different Journey, they were keen to meet me as Sue.

So we met [and had lunch and they asked me many penetrating questions about being trans. I’m not sure I could give full answers, and analysing one’s deepest feelings and experiences is not easy. Whilst I thought that their questioning on this day was partly so that they could be supportive, in fact my answers were stored up and thrown back in my face the following year. The positive comments from blog readers below reflect my original delight that these people appeared at first sight to be on my side.

I guess the message now has to be that the policy of telling people that you are trans strictly on a need-to-know basis is right, since you never know who's actually on your side until something important to you is in their hands. ]

Sue x

Coming soon: fun in the sun

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Sparkle 2013

That all-important occasion in the transcalendar was last weekend. Sparkle, the UK’s national transgender celebration, is held in and around Manchester’s Gay Village. Nobody’s quite sure of the number of people who attend it in one way or another but I saw the figure of 4,000 quoted for Saturday, though I’ve no idea how they can be counted. For me it was quieter than in the past because many of my close friends weren’t there. No matter, there were plenty of other good friends there and the chance to make some new ones.

In the past two years Emma Walkey has joined me for a few days in London before heading down to Manchester but she couldn’t manage it this year so I went for four days of fun and friendship on my own. As usual I stayed at the Ibis Hotel in Charles Street which used to be referred to as Tranny Towers because it was always flooded with TGirls.

In my room at the Ibis just before heading out to see who was around on Thursday. Though not posh, I find the rooms big and comfortable and convenient for the event.

Thursday was much quieter than in the past. I met Debbie Roberts, one of Sparkle’s leading lights, who invited me to join her and Angelina for a meal at Eden. The drinks there are cheap and the food is good. We were too late for the ‘official’ quiz at Icon so ended up at the Molly House opposite, possibly the best bar in the Gay Village simply by virtue of its outstanding drinks collection and calm atmosphere. Nice to see Joan Tabb and Stefania de Villora again.

On Friday I met up with my lovely pal Joanne from Devon. Being so far apart it’s one of the few chances we get to meet. We went shopping for which, in my normal bid to blend in, I wore jeans but I realised too late that that was a crazy choice in the heat. Bumping into Stefania in her short dress I realised that on this occasion overdressed elegance would have been superior to inconspicuousness. I bought bits and pieces in the Arndale Centre but we particularly enjoyed the alternative styles in Afflecks. 

We came back to the Gay Village for a cool drink (I guzzle strawberry cider like crazy there) and bumped into Kate Collins and her lovely wife and enjoyed a natter in the shade and watched the narrowboats and other craft float along the canal.

With Kate Collins, a Canal Street legend, on the barge at Eden.

I had booked a table at Eden for dinner and cabaret that evening. Although initially for four, my table swelled to ten at one point! The cabaret, “Girls on Top”, was very mixed but the burlesque acts were good and Debbie Roberts sings well.

Sitting down to dinner and cabaret at Eden. l-r Gina, Emma H, Mrs H, Maddy, Jemma, Joanne S, Joanne T.

It was incredibly hot (the temperature, I mean, not the burlesque) so many people wandered onto the pontoon outside. I had chosen my black velvet dress with its red velvet rose and black tights with a red seam, kind of prom/burlesque wear rolled into one. But I stupidly wore my patent courts which are the worst shoes ever to wear, being rigid and slippy, so I changed them before heading out to the bars and clubs of Canal Street. After Churchill's, we eventually ended up in the Molly House again.

Dressy. Gina's photo.
Saturday is the Big Day. I have always booked lunch at Villaggio, the Italian restaurant on Canal Street. In the past this was for the members of the Angels forum who happened to be at Sparkle. But this time I arranged it just for myself and, initially, with my lovely pal Tiff who, in the end, couldn’t make it. There were 17 of us. Joining me were Bobby and Mrs Bobby, Emma and Mrs Emma, Maria, KD, Holly, Priya, Amanda, Kay, Joanne S, Maddy, Jemma, Wilhelmina, Joanne T and Gina. Many thanks to the staff at Villaggio who are always so accommodating (and serve tasty food, too, at reasonable prices).

Lunch at Villaggio's, Sparkle Saturday.
Hostess with the mostest? I actually bought the dress for Sparkle 2 years ago but it didn't get worn then. No excuses this year.

And so to Sparkle in the Park with its entertainment stand and varied stalls and the chance to bump into old friends like Maria, Elen and Mandy. This year we were gatecrashed by a bunch of “Furries”, people who dress in animal costumes. Apparently, Furry culture can be as complex as trans culture. My only concern was that they must have been boiling in their wolf and fox outfits. Try a floaty dress in this weather, guys. Much better! Though I'll admit that it's a close call when assessing relative cuteness!

Needed a cool drink in Via before getting ready for the evening with Joanne and my friend Zazoo from Glasgow, another girl I only ever get to see here. We left the Village and went to Chinatown for a light dinner and found a decent Thai restaurant, Phetpailin in George St. We were later joined by KD and her friend Maria and from there we went on to Taurus where it was relatively cool. And from there to Napoleon’s which, although frankly a bit of a grim club in my view, with its scruffy Admirers, is compulsory on any visit to the Village.

 It doesn't matter what look you choose as long as you are stylish. Four far-flung friends in Canal St at chucking out time: Zazoo, KD, Joanne and me. KD's photo.

Sunday is, however, my favourite day at Sparkle. I usually spend all afternoon sitting out on Canal Street and saying hello to any friends that are passing. This year I caught a lot of sun. The Gay Gordons Scottish dance team entertained us as they did last year.

Entertainment outside Taurus on Sparkle Sunday. (Note the Canal Street sign is neat and complete. So often some wag paints the C out.)

And it was lovely to see Mrs KD again who stayed with me in London back in March. We went round the back to the Richmond Tea Rooms which I had never visited before but which have an underlying Alice-in-Wonderland theme for posh teas. My slice of chocolate cake was too massive for even my guzzling chops. Defeated by chocolate for the first time in my life! I am embarrassed! And then next door to the Molly House for proper drinks. We were back there later having first met Jemma at Eden. Well, I do like those two venues!

Three girls at the Molly House.
There are too many people about sometimes to have more than just a brief chat but it was good to bump into Sarah Cat and her friend Bobby, Erin from Norway, Franziska from Vienna and, of course, Wilhelmina from Budapest whom I've known since Day 1. Stefania, too, who makes the most of the event and is everywhere! Nice to make new friends of Chris, Kerry and Katrina from the hotel, too. But I’m sorry that I missed others who were there like Jackie Blake, Jayde Grahams, Jenny-Ann Bishop, Jayne Whittaker and Chrissy O'Brien. Were you there too, Becca?

Sparkle has become the highlight of my year as it’s about the best way to get to catch up with people. Naturally, one has to look good too! I was still overweight but managed to shed half a stone in the week before.

There’s a lot to do at Sparkle and a lot of entertainment laid on, although I didn’t particularly follow the official events that much on this occasion and, although never a one for cliques, I did hang out more with the same people and visited fewer venues this time (no G-A-Y, no New York New York, no Tribeca, no New Union, though they are worth visiting).

Here are links to my favourite venues:

Next year Sparkle will be 10 and that should be an occasion not to be missed. Hoping to see all my T girlfriends there. And anyone else. A German couple at our hotel asked what was going on and when we told them were enthusiastic to join in. Please do, folks – you only have to be supportive and have a nice time there. Canal Street is less and less a gay/trans ghetto but is more and more frequented by office workers and families who come to enjoy the good bars and the pleasant outside location. It’s the place to go for your hen party, too, and for young men to come and gawp!

Sue x

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Summer relaxation

After several crazy weeks of intense work effort and dealing with family and other stuff I managed to down tools and have some relaxation time. My adventures with Princess Pippa one afternoon in London are in the previous post. The following evening turned out to be a beautiful sunny one and Gillian came over and we had a nice stroll in the park and it was was beautiful. And she brought me a bunch of sweet william, which are such pretty flowers. I love them.

Evening sunshine and a light breeze. Gillian's photo.

A rather last-minute decision but I also joined close friends in the Lake District for the best part of a week. Plenty of exercise, peace and quiet and lots of food! Although I went in male mode, because of my tiny feet (size five and a half!), my walking boots, shoes and socks have to be women's ones anyway (shame, eh?) and they got a good workout. And my female friend Carol knows all about my Sue side now and was so supportive. I know you will look at this blog, Carol, so thank you for your friendship and understanding. It's no little thing to have good friends who can take a big revelation in their stride and be encouraging and kind and ask intelligent questions and make thoughtful suggestions.

So that trip was great. Now I am planning my trip to Sparkle next week and the lunch there I've been asked to organise. Got a mound of stuff to do beforehand, though. Starting with that broken tooth which I got repaired this morning. The anaesthetic is wearing off now!

Sue x