Sunday 31 August 2014

Friends' moral support

I've spent the last two weekends on Britain's South Coast, staying with trans friends each time. In deference to the fact that I have not been able to shave for 6/7 weeks and therefore couldn't appear as Sue as I would otherwise have done, my friends each insisted on spending the time in male mode. I told them this was quite unnecessary and that I would be delighted if they went out in female mode as they are accustomed to, but both told me that they preferred solidarity with my plight. They are well known as trans in their communities and dress more often than not but are quite relaxed about their roles so I don't think it detracted from their enjoyment or made them lose out too much, but I did feel warmed by their generosity of spirit.

Sue x

PS Just as an update on my eczema, my drastic remedial action has led to quite a lot of improvement and I have little or no remaining eczema on my hands, forehead or neck. My chin is still not good but what's there is now hidden by beard and I think it is slightly better. There's quite a way to go yet, though.

Friday 15 August 2014

Three years of blogging

Yesterday marked the third anniversary of my starting this blog.

On the last two anniversaries I got curious about the stats. You see, it’s hard to get in to Blogger without going through the stats, so you are always aware of them. But something odd has happened. The stats tell me that in October 2009, for instance, there were 409 page views. This is not interesting, apart from the fact that I signed up with this site and started blogging only in August 2011! So I’ve no idea why there are statistics like this going back to July 2008! And only for certain months! Maybe my blog has got mixed up with another one. So now I’m not at all sure how often this blog has been visited (not all the 32,248 times the stats say, therefore). Maybe some techie can advise … without getting too nerdy about it as I’d rather talks about frocks than figures. If I was better at coping with technical stuff I’d also sort out my blogroll better since I can’t see how to delete dead blogs or even properly load some new ones like Hannah’s Illustrated Biography of a Crossdresser, which I really like.

Anyway, I do know that by far the most popular posts are those concerning my trips to Nottingham for the girls’ monthly Invasion (23 Jan 2012 and 18 Mar 2012). And why not, it’s a great event and there’s another Invasion to write up about shortly. The TGirl Bar of 2013 (1 Dec 2013) is also a popular read, as is the Nostalgia trip to Pink Punters (16 Dec 2012) and my contribution to Our Different Journey (5 Jan 2013).

And I do know that 39 of you follow me publicly (though I reckon some followers are now functionally dead). Hello there, and thanks for reading. I have no plans to stop writing about my trans life yet and there are plenty more posts coming up.

It’s been very up and down emotionally and in terms of activity this past year and, sadly, my going out time is over probably for the rest of 2014, though I am pleased that this horrid skin complaint is gradually improving as a result of the care I’m taking, even though the solution is rather drastic.

Best wishes to you all, and to my fellow bloggers.

Sue x

Wednesday 13 August 2014

Kellie and Simone talk to the press about transition

I don’t usually comment on trans-related news articles. Normally they’re either not newsworthy, or the news is designed to attack, provoke or uncover, or it’s simply misrepresented. And they usually lead to nasty arguments in the online comments pages. If you’d like to follow trans (or, more properly, LGBT) news items, Emily was in touch last week and you can link to a large number of them via her blog:

However, on this occasion I will make an exception because the matter is much closer to home, and also concerns a public figure, Kellie Maloney, formerly Frank, a boxing promoter who has started speaking to the press about her transition. Good luck to Kellie, whom I admire for being frank (rather than Frank) about what it is like to be trans in a macho world like boxing and having to suppress your real self to feel successful in such contexts. But my friend Simone (we generally know her here by her other name of Holly, she of the TGirl bar in 2011 and 2013) has, in the light of Kellie’s comments, spoken to the Daily Telegraph about life when transitioning.

It’s a decent enough article as these things go. Simone’s thoughts really caught my attention not just because she’s a friend of mine because they tie in closely what I have blogged about, both in the past and just recently. Most immediately and obviously, for me at least, is that fact that, whilst staying with me over the weekend of the 2011 TGirl bar she then went to work on the Monday sporting the beautiful baked-on nails that she’d had done for the event and didn’t want to remove since the Enigma Ball was happening the next weekend and she would have had to have had them done all over again. This was a dilemma because, obviously, spending the intervening week at work with them on would definitely ‘out’ her in the male-dominated world of plumbing. We discussed this at some length and I suggested that, annoying as it was, she should remove them: she’s the boss so it would be a risk to business, etc. But she decided to keep them on… and the rest is history! I touched on this event in the last paragraph of my report on the TGirl Bar of 2011:

Simone says in her interview that transitioning has not, in fact, damaged her business and her staff have been supportive, so I’m happy she proved me wrong. That said, I am always ready to point out that the joy that often accompanies transition can gloss over practical points. On a more cynical level one could point out here that there is a recession on and so staff may prefer to keep their jobs rather than fuss about the boss being unusual. And holding a royal warrant may also be a boost to business, too. Not to mention the long establishment of the firm. Transitioning at work is a serious and difficult issue for some, but others get lucky. To those who feel full transition is the way forward, I’d advise not to underestimate the difficulties or gloss over that people may express prejudice in many ways, often very subtle ones. Neither should you let your excitement for your transition distract you from the day-to-day issues we all face when trying to progress any career.

It’s not really so unusual these days for someone to let others know that they are trans, which is why it bugs me that the media still harp on about transition and trans life, cross dressing and related subjects so much. OK, the number of trans people in the public eye is small, but it’s hardly news any more. Well, I would have said not, but obviously newspaper editors disagree. Simone’s interview is a decent summary. Just one thing, though:

“It’s a single operation, and two and a half hours later it’s over, the job’s done.”

I must disagree. Please read my previous post here. If you have surgery and take hormones you will spend many difficult months recovering from your operation and have a lifetime of maintenance work to do. This is not like having a filling at the dentists.

I’ll finish by quoting Simone's wise words here:

“You live your life but once: would you live your life unhappily for the benefit of others, or would it be better to live as happy a life as you can for yourself? Because if you’re happy then everyone else around you is too, usually.”  

Sue x

Monday 11 August 2014

That notorious surgery, one year on

Regular readers may recall how I took a friend to Charing Cross hospital last summer for her gender surgery (because her lousy boyfriend let her down at the last minute - you’ll be pleased to know she’s since dumped him) but how her operation went drastically wrong and she all unravelled and got a dreadful abdominal infection. She’s recovered well from the ordeal and is working full time again but obviously where she has been operated is not quite as it should be so she is now undergoing corrective treatment. I am so sorry for her, partly for what she has suffered and also because she’s one of the girls who is looking for a nice male partner, but may be unable to make love as she’d like. I appreciate that sex isn’t everything, but it’s often important in a relationship nevertheless.

The reason to post this is not to delve into another’s life – my friend remains strictly anonymous – but to say to my fellow trans people, if you feel that surgery is the way forward for you, just be aware of the many, many complications. It’s a serious and major op. I have heard more than once that 97.5% of those who have had surgery are very satisfied, yet I know several transsexuals whose surgery has gone badly wrong in one way or another and, although they may be happy to be ‘complete’, are definitely unhappy with what has happened to them. Either I just happen to know a high number of those for whom it went wrong – a highly unlikely statistical probability – or the sort of information that transitioners are being fed is wrong. I can’t help getting the impression sometimes that this sort of enthusiasm for encouraging people to have surgery may be propaganda put about by the unscrupulous for reasons of their own. Please be very aware and properly informed of what you are letting yourself in for. Good luck to my friend here, and to another friend who has decided, after many years of living full-time as a woman and going to the gender clinic, that she has taken things as far as she wants and surgery will not now be an option for her.  

Sue x

Saturday 2 August 2014

Sparkle 2014 – a game of two halves

The second weekend of July sees the national transgender celebration, Sparkle, in Manchester and it attracts trans people and their families and friends from all over the British Isles and abroad.

It’s not possible to tell exactly how many people turn up but it’s well into four figures. I wouldn’t miss it for anything, and as this year was Sparkle’s tenth anniversary it promised to be extra special. I was also glad to see that there was a strong emphasis on the female to male side of things this time as we male to female do tend to dominate the community as a rule. It was also the last year than Bella Jay was organising it and all credit goes to her for her incredible work in making this brilliant weekend the success that it is. Thanks, Bella. And also thanks to Kim Angel who founded the event and got it going.

I had booked long before but I was worried about the state of my face, as explained in previous posts. So I only applied my makeup when I was definitely going to go out. 

Every TGirl must photograph herself in her hotel room before she goes out. It's the law.

I started on Friday by meeting a friend who works in Manchester and we had coffee and cake in the café in the Manchester Art Gallery, a nice venue. I have spent most of my trips to Manchester meeting my friends around the Gay Village and have seen very little of the rest of the town so it was nice to do something cultural for a change and look at the paintings, including some of my favourites such as this one.

"Silver Favourites" by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema. I was surprised by how small it was.

I went to Canal Street as other friends were beginning to turn up. I love just sitting out there in the sun with a drink, usually strawberry cider, and saying hello to people. Emma Walkey and wife, Zazoo and her pal David, Kerry Nope and Kat Roberts, Kay Denise … Joanne, she of the TGirl bar who was to be my room-mate, finally made it after almost the whole day on the road from Devon.

It's nice just to sit out on Canal Street. KD's photo.

That evening Joanne and I smartened up and went to out for the to eat at Velvet. It’s a relaxed venue for decent food and the nine of us enjoyed it.

Dinner at Velvet. L-R: Alison, Amanda, me, Zazoo, Joanne, Kay Denise and Sarah, representing between us all corners of Britain, from Kent to Northumberland and from Glasgow to Devon, with everything in between. Just the TGirls in this shot. Suki and David also joined us. KD's photo.

We went to the Molly House where there was a band playing but it was so packed that we could only just get in. Actually, it was more fun to chat on the stairs with friends like Gina and Priya. On to Napoleon’s briefly, which was heaving, and then a quieter time in Via but poor Joanne was dropping off after her long days travelling so we called it a night, pair of lightweights that we are.

On Sparkle Saturday I traditionally book lunch at Villaggio and in the past we’ve had 15-18 people come. Sadly not this year and only eight turned up, but it was an enjoyable lunch all the same and the restaurant treat us really nicely. Maybe next time it’ll be better to do it as a Saturday dinner as people these days seem too hung over or full of breakfast to want much lunch. 

Traditional Saturday lunch at Villaggio in Canal Street. L-R: Emma, Joanne, Sarah, Mrs Sox, Bobby, me, KD, Mrs Walkey.

Nice to spot Wilhelmina from Hungary and Erin from Norway in the Canal Street crowd, as well as Lisa and Rebecca from the TGirl bar, Helen from closer to home, Emma Hudson and Mrs H, and Maria who was the first person I ever met at Sparkle, back in 2010.

Sparkle in the Park is the main event, with the usual stalls and live entertainment. This is where you bump into everyone, which is what it’s all about for me and is why I go. There's plenty more 'official' entertainment laid on, but I just like the excuse to catch up with people.

But this year, this effectively marked the end of the festivities for me as my face was so sore, raw and flaking that I couldn’t continue. As it was, I hadn’t been able to shave that morning and I had somehow managed to cover my stubble with enough makeup to hide it and the awful state of my skin. I went back to the hotel, removed my makeup and my trans holiday ended.

It was pretty devastating. My friends, though, are kind and supportive and did persuade me to join the girls for dinner in Chinatown that night, albeit as a guy. Fortunately, David, Zazoo’s friend was there so I didn’t feel entirely out of place. And the following afternoon I met KD and her wife as planned. Mrs KD has become a good friend and I did want to say hello again. She saw my male side for the first time, which felt really odd, but as I am not living as fulltime female, much as I might like to, I guess there’s honesty in letting real friends see both sides of me. But I did feel out of the festivities despite a really nice tea at the Richmond Tea Rooms. I bought a Sparkle cat to console myself. 

The World Cup final was on and although I never normally take an interest in football, I watched that in the evening as it seemed the best thing to do, while Joanne, looking fabulous in a lacy goth outfit, went and did the Sparkle thing.

So basically I managed a little bit of Sparkle this year and then had to give up. And I don’t know when I will next be able to get out en femme. It won't be for a long time.

That’s not the end of this blog, of course, as I am still trans and that doesn’t change. I have various overlooked events to write up and start the restaurant bit of the blog and there’s the general thoughts about being trans. But somehow, there won’t be many out-and-about events to report on for a while. But thank for reading this. Sparkle 2013 and 2012 were blogged in the July posts for those years. They're a bit of a contrast:

Sue x