Saturday, 29 November 2014

Roz White: transgender writer

It’s time to tell you about my friend Roz White who writes transgender fiction. She’s published four books so far and there are more on their way.

Roz and I have never managed to meet in person, sadly, mainly because we live at opposite ends of the country. But thanks to the power of modern technology we have got to know each other very well online over the last six years or so.

Roz writes well and is very much and a girl about town and has a smart wardrobe (I mean her clothes are smart, not the wardrobe). She therefore knows a thing or two about living in the real world as TGirl. She has just started a blog and I expect it will blossom into a really worthwhile one:

Her books to date have all been self-published with Lulu:

but she is now being shown interest by Cool Beans , the type of publishing firm that is becoming more common in the e-book era.

Anyway, what does she write? Well, to start we have Sketches by Roz and Transits of Venus, two mixed collections of short stories and real adventure. The stories are mainly erotica or imagined situations, always with a TGirl protagonist. Roz’s real-life adventures in Edinburgh and Newcastle are very different and are much funnier (let’s face it, real life is pretty comical) and if I am right they were all posted on the UK Angels forum just after they happened.

These were followed by her first full-length novel, The Sisterhood, and this is very true-to-life as it describes the friendship that grows between five TGirls all at different stages of development. Roz has carefully observed TGirl fears and troubles, hopes, thoughts and obsessions very well indeed over the years and if anyone wanted to know what it is that bugs us and the obstacles we face and fear, then this book is a good place to start. It feels very real, despite being fiction. After all the girls’ troubles, it does have a happy ending.

I jokingly said whilst reading it that I hoped there’d be some dinosaurs, spaceships and sexy witches cropping up in the narrative at some point. There weren’t but she mischievously took me at my word and penned a delightfully zany tale involving dinosaurs, spaceships and some sexy  witches (with the added bonus that they are transgender witches). What’s more, she’s published it! I take no responsibility!

Enjoy. But note these are all for adults.

Also note that I am not endorsing Roz's work because she is a friend (she hasn't bribed me to write this) but because transgender fiction is a genre in its infancy, and with quality like this it's a genre that could become mainstream. Wouldn't it be great if bookshops had sections for Crime Fiction, Sci-Fi Fiction, Romance, Teenage Fiction, etc. as now, and then Transgender Fiction? I think so.

And I am hoping that Roz may be able to join me at next year’s London Book Fair in London.

Sue x

Sunday, 16 November 2014

The Boudoir - a tribute

Today is the anniversary of one of the biggest milestones in the evolution of my feminine side: it’s ten years since I first went to the Boudoir dressing service in London. 

It was so important because this was the first time I had ever had proper hair, had makeup done professionally and the first time I ever really looked like a woman.

Naturally, it was only when I got the internet at home that this whole emergence thing became a real possibility. In the heady days before Facebook, Google, Wikipedia and WiFi broadband, intrepid webonauts would “dial up” their service and launch their electronic craft upon unknown seas of networked wonders. Who needed YouTube when you could watch Hampsterdance endlessly? And who needed a blog when there was Geocities?

I digress. In those far-flung days I remember tentatively typing the one word, “transvestite”, into a search engine and feared for what might happen when I pressed the Enter button.

Acrtually what happened was a lovely site popped up at the top of the list. It was for Nicola Smith (here she still is after all these years ) and her fantastic photos kept referring to the Boudoir. So, eventually, nervously, I rang the number and made an appointment through Sean for November 15th 2004. Yes, I was nervous all right. But I just felt that it was time to really start the process of being myself.

So when I got there Sean showed me in and I met the famous Jodie Lynn and her cat Spike and, to cut the story short, she did her thing, doing my makeup and putting a wig on me. It took at least 45 minutes and I can’t see a thing without my glasses but when I put them on and looked in the mirror I was stunned. Nobody ever forgets that moment when they see themselves as the woman they want to be for the very first time. I was there for 3 hours but it made a profound difference to the whole way I saw my transness.

My coming out then didn’t happen as planned because almost immediately after this visit I got into a long-term relationship. When I was back to progressing my femme side it was early 2008. I had lost two and a half stone, was determined to get out in the world and needed good advice and assistance. So I went back to the Boudoir and discussed my needs, which were clearer now, in more detail. I spent the whole afternoon there. Jodie talked me through the makeup process, put long nails on my fingers, and I tried five different outfits and different wigs. She advised me what clothes would work better on my figure and with my size. (And what’s more, since this was also a treat to myself just before I became redundant at work, she advised me on running a small business, advice which has been of great help.)

Later that year went to the Boudoir a third time and I knew what I wanted. Again, Jodie talked me through the makeup, I suggested what I wanted to wear and the kinds of hairstyles that I was looking for. She even abandoned her standard TGirl wardrobes and lent me some of her own clothes. And it really came together. I felt that my image was how I wanted it. A few days later I returned and bought one of the wigs off her, went to Charles Fox and Mac to get makeup, and practised a lot at home as I got up the courage to venture out in the real world.

Although I’ve not been back since – in many ways I’ve felt that I had found what I wanted (although I must do a professional photoshoot there soon) – I think these three sessions were the best time I have ever spent in my entire life. And it’s nice to bump into Jodie from time to time, at the Way Out Club, Pink Punters, Magic Theatre or Sparkle, where she’s always with ‘her’ girls.

Jodie (and Spike the cat, sadly departed now) was professional and considerate and I had no difficulty explaining and discussing what I wanted. Some say that the Boudoir has a ‘production line’ quality so that everyone ends up looking the same but the fact is that if you just go there and say “make me look like a woman” Jodie will do her wonderful work on a face she’s never seen before and can only guess at. If you discuss with her how you perceive things, then you can get a look that works in a way that particularly suits you. Some people say it’s expensive. I'd sat it’s a professional service and it’s the best money I have ever spent.

2004: overweight & unsure
Here’s my transformation:

Full length

spring 2008: slim and experimenting
Autumn 2008: confident

And my close-up:

2004: I was so thrilled to see myself like this
Spring 2008: Cute, but not sure about the brows
Autumn 2008: I know this is now me

And a bit of fun to round off when I asked to look like a teenage girl of the time (this was definitely the fashion in 2008). This is a real tribute to Jodie as it shows how a middle-aged person not blessed with female looks or form can be made to look like a sixteen year old girl:

The joy of being young (and female)

So an infinity of thanks to the lovely Jodie Lynn for those amazing transformations that not only changed my face and presentation but my life as well. And thanks to Nicola for first alerting me to the existence of the Boudoir.

Sue x

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

November: remembrance and reflection

Today is Remembrance Day when we commemorate war dead, even though the main ceremony at the Cenotaph is now on the Sunday before. This year, because it is the centenary of the start of World War I, there have been a number of special events in London. The one that has most captured the imagination is the filling of the moat at the Tower of London with an art installation by Paul Cummins, Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red, consisting of 888,246 ceramic poppies, representing British dead of WW1, which have all been sold for charity. Another worthwhile item is the Fields of Battle, Lands of Peace, a collection of photographs in St James’s Park by photojournalist Michael St. Maur Sheil, which shows what the battlefields of the time look like now. They look rather beautiful, in many cases.

November 20th is Transgender Day of Remembrance. There is little doubt that the number of trans people who have been murdered or committed suicide is very significantly higher than average, a shocking state of affairs. I wonder if this can be compared to the sort of wasteful slaughter in World War I? I will also be remembering them.

On a personal level, I have been mourning a friend who died very unexpectedly last month. He was only 51 but was (ironically) full of life. His wife held a cheerful memorial event in a local pub, which we all agreed was by far the beat way to reflect on the fun we’d had with him. We concluded that his philosophy of enjoying life as much as you can since you never know when it will end is absolutely the right one.

From the dead to the still living, yesterday I had an interesting communication from my old school. They are, of course co-operating with the police on the ongoing investigation into abuse there and are therefore unable to comment much. But in the carefully worded lines they do admit there will be reflection to be done. I would like to thank all of you who have so far commented here on this subject, and those of you who have sent me private communications. I appreciate all your thoughts. The post is here and I welcome any relevant remarks:

Dark days of history, be it personal, community or worldwide, always cast a shadow on our lives, even after decades or centuries.

I promise to return to the more usual upbeat blogging next post.

So, with that end in view let’s also reflect on how Guy Fawkes night (November 5th) has stopped being almost Britain’s unofficial national day and faded away. As kids we would recite:

                        “Remember, remember the Fifth of November,
                        Gunpowder, treason and plot.
                        I see no reason why gunpowder treason
                        Should ever be forgot.”

Well, the forgetting seems to be happening! When people have fireworks it’s rarely on the night itself unless it happens to be a weekend (like Remembrance Day). And kids no longer make guys and cart them around town asking “penny for the guy”. The highlight of the night was, of course, chucking the guy on a massive, eyebrow-singeing bonfire!

So let’s leave it to that seminal work on British history, 1066 and All That, to explain why This Date is Important:

“There were a great many plots and Parliaments in James I's reign, and one of the Parliaments was called the Addled Parliament because the plots hatched in it were all such rotten ones. One plot, however, was by far the best plot in History, and the day and month of it (though not, of course, the year) are well known to be utterly and even maddeningly memorable.

The Gunpowder Plot arose in the following way: the King had recently invented a new table called Avoirduroi, which said:

1 New Presbyter = 1 old priest.

o Bishop = o King.

James was always repeating, 'No Bishop, No King'" to himself, and one day a certain loyal citizen called Sir Guyfawkes, a very active and conscientious man, overheard him, and thought it was the slogan of James's new policy. So he decided to carry it out at once and made a very loyal plan to blow up the King and the bishops and everybody else in Parliament assembled, with gun-powder (recently invented by Francis Bacon, author of Shakespeare, etc.). Although the plan failed, attempts are made every year on St Guyfawkes' Day to remind the Parliament that it would have been a Good Thing.”

So there you have it.

Sue x