Sunday, 31 March 2019

Transgender Day of Visibility: a dip in the photo archives

Today is Transgender Day of Visibility.

I'm aware that some recent posts of mine have had to discuss very negative matters. And as the news is more than depressing at present I decided to distract myself this week by looking through some of my old photos.

So this year, for Transgender Day of Visisbility, I thought I would share some of these. Some have been posted on my blog before, some never. They illustrate so many ways in which we can be visible: visiting trans clubs or dressing services, going out in public like any other member of society, attending trans events, arranging meet-ups, having a presence online... All the time we are showing the world that we exist, giving ourselves a boost and letting other trans people know that we can lead the lives we choose with just a bit of courage.

In no especial order, here are 15 photos of me over the years, finding my feet, living my life. I hope you can too.

Sue x

At the Boudoir Dressing Service, November 2008. Strangely, this odd experimental outfit is proving verty popular on Flickr.
Six fabulous T-Girls on Waterloo Bridge, London, July 2013. We had lots of tourists stopping to photograph us. L-R: Stella, Linda, Steph, me, Rachel and Irene.
My first night out in the real world, London, June 2010. This was the very first moment I'd ever stepped out onto the street. I was nervous as anything but what a night it would turn out to be.
By the River Thames in Twickenham after a visit to a local beauty salon, July 2011.
Pink Punters LGBT nightclub, Milton Keynes, October 2010.
Official portrait for the Erotica Show at London's Olympia Exhibition Centre, November 2011. I was one of the barmaids at the T-Girl Bar, the first time there'd been a clear trans presence at this major event.
Partying at Nottingham Invasion, January 2012.
Dressed for the Great Drag Race, a charity event in aid of prostate cancer in London Fields, NE London, June 2010. Participants also broke the world record for the largest gathering of dancing drag queens. OK, I don't identify as a drag queen myself, but I will support all expressions of gender.
London Ladies Who Lunch, Cambridge Pub, London, November 2012. Front L-R: Steph, Ann, me, Helen, Stella, Helena; back: Irene, Tina, Rachel.
Aboard the Cutty Sark museum ship, Greenwich, London, August 2013.
The Brick Lane Gang, March 2014. L-R: Joanne, me, Irene, Kay, Rachel C, Stella, Rachel B.
The Boudoir Dressing Service, November 2008. When it all came together and I found my kind of look. A few days later I returned and bought the wig.
Dinner in a restaurant in Manchester, July 2017. With Karen and a giant soft drink!
Barmaids at the Erotica Show, Tobacco Dock Exhibition Centre, London. October 2013. L-R: Helena, Stella, Ria, Sabrina, me, Vanessa (above), Rebecca (below), Amanda.
My first commercial makeover and wig shopping trip, London, July 2010. I had a lovely time at Mac being made up and then went to Trendco for this new wig, both in Kensington Church Street. Doing all this all on my own from my own home and travelling by public transport was scary, but from this point on I knew I could do it and live as I wanted to.

Thursday, 21 March 2019

Supremacism and the single girl

Warning: this post contains racist and homophobic language that readers may find upsetting

I have hesitated for years to post much of this next item, but after another white supremacist atrocity (in open, tolerant New Zealand of all places) and several years now of Brexit-encouraged xenophobia in Britain, Trump-promoted hate in the USA, Salvini-promoted racism in Italy, and right-wing and religious fanaticism threatening mixed societies across the world, I think it's time to comment on the problem directly. The world which trans people were at last beginning to feel was decent or at least survivable is showing its brutish roots in cultural supremacism, and people who don't fit the local mould are threatened. As I have said here several times, racism goes hand in hand with all other kinds of persecution of other people outside the main group, and LGBT is almost invariably one of those groups. Trans people who vote for Trump, Brexit, Salvini, Le Pen and other aggressively nationalistic politicians need to think more carefully as to whether their own interests are best served by these racists.

My own father, I am very sorry to say, is a white supremacist. His favourite word is nigger, which he will spit out many times a day: "stinking niggers... bloody niggers... filthy niggers...". Or wog or chinkie or gook or hook-nosed Isey (i.e. Jew). Any person of African descent is rechristened Nigger by him: the supermodel Naomi Nigger, the South African president Nelson Nigger, the BBC newsreader Trevor Nigger,... This is what I was brought up with and I have chosen not to spare the offensiveness so you can see exactly what we are dealing with. Even the Ku-Klux Klan is trying to present a cleaner, cuddlier image and avoid such terms. Yet my father is supposedly a cultured, well-educated man! Somehow, my father's loss of status as an Englishman in the world has hit him especially hard. He is no longer supreme, a winner in life's lottery, but now just one human among many cultures worldwide and at home. As humans, it's been observed, we tend to pine at our losses more often than yearn after something we haven't yet attained. To him, other races, nations, states, religions and cultures are inferior and those who've promoted the rise of inferior people in the world are damnable. Slavery is OK in his view and serves you right if you're weak. He calls himself a Fascist and gets angry when generalissimos get overthrown or put on trial (like Pinochet did). Naturally enough, he feels required to hate and campaign against other minorities, such as gay people (the sodomites, as he calls them), just like my sister who hates LGBT people, or lugbutts as she puts it (see lugbutts.html). I haven't spoken to my father for some years now, partly because of his hate and aggression and the incompatibility between us, and this consequent loss makes me very unhappy.

Maybe its inappropriate to write about one's family in a public place like this but it shows that, just like Islamic bombers hiding in plain sight in suburbia or gun-toting white supremacists from decent backgrounds, the enemy is absolutely within our society, our families and our communities.

Xenophobia, the fear of the outsider, arises not from strength but from weakness; from discomfort, uncertainty, misunderstanding and worry; and from impatience too, a wish not to have to make the effort to accept someone because they have some trait that differs. What bothers me about religion in this context is that it is used endlessly to justify political persecution, a higher power sanctifying some brutality. There's always some way that people justify bad behaviour, and listening to people excusing their hate is nauseating. Worse is the exploitation of the weaker-minded by con men. This week I am particularly disgusted by Nigel Farage, instigator of Brexit, 'leading' (for just one hour himself) a pro-Brexit protest march from Sunderland in North East England, which is universally considered to be the one region of Britain that will be worst hit by the immediate economic effects of the Brexit policy. I feel sorry for the unhappy people who have been conned by this amoral man into supporting the one thing that will really damage them most. It's a far cry from the nobility of the Jarrow March of working men from that area suffering in the Great Depression of the 1930s.

I'm unable to offer a best solution as yet. Just as any community needs to tackle its unrepresentative extremists, white people like me need to deal with these madmen. It seems counterintuitive, but actually attacking the haters back simply adds to the animosity and hate, and you can rarely get through to someone whose beliefs are irrational and fearful and to whom acknowledging an error is too embarrassing. Yet trying to extend love and kindness is rarely met with understanding or appreciation. If used non-aggressively, Transgender Day of Visibility and Transgender Day of Remembrance are valuable ways to show that trans people exist and live all over the world. Nevertheless, the current crop of intolerance is getting to me. Solutions on a postcard, please.

Sue x

Saturday, 9 March 2019

What's in a name?

A few people have said to me, "Now that you've moved home, Sue, you're going to have to change your name."

But this is to assume that I named myself after the town of Richmond in South West London, which isn't the case (or only slightly, as will become clear). In fact, I lived in Twickenham (famous for rugby), but you don't think I'd really want to be known as Sue Twickers, Rhymes with Knickers, do you?

How do we choose our names as trans people? After all, our parents gave us a name around the time of our birth and that (in most cases) reflected the gender we were perceived to have, and Mum and Dad certainly don't have a pool of surnames to choose from. So when we trans people ourselves realise that our gender is not quite what was originally thought, we have the rare privilege of being able to choose our own name. If there are any perks to being trans, this is one of them.

There are so many ways of choosing a name. Some just change from Dave to Davina (or vice versa) and leave their surname the same, others anagram their birth names or come up with reflections of their status (like my friend Susan Sometimes). There are some very witty choices (personally, I think Helen Highwater and Vanessa Parody are inspired, and they're not even on the drag circuit). Sometimes people want to get completely away from their birth name (as in my case). And often people choose a surname that's their location - I know a Helen Essex and an Andrea Huntingdon (counties), Janie London (cities), and so forth. I also know several people who change names on a fairly regular basis. It's all very personal, and that's how it should be.

Now, I've wanted to write this post about this for some years but obviously the queries I've had after moving have been the catalyst.

Let's start at the beginning, then.

My full name is Susan Verity Richmond.

Susan: a name I've always liked. A recent survey associated it with successful business women and I find it a robust, traditional, no nonsense sort of name. Oddly enough, I've had two girlfriends called Susan, but I met them after I'd settled on it as my own name so I'm sure that's just coincidence. I toyed with the idea of Sophie for a few years but dropped it.

I first liked the name Susan at school, aged 7, when our teacher read us Rosemary Manning's wonderful novel Green Smoke about a girl called Susan who encounters a dragon near King Arthur's legendary Tintagel Castle in Cornwall. She and the dragon become friends and he tells her tales from King Arthur's day. The delightful illustrations by Constance Marshall made me so want to be Susan (and have a dragon friend).

Other influences had an effect on my subconscious: TV presenters like Susan King who fronted a show aimed mainly at girls called Horses Galore, Susans at school, other Susans I came across in media or real life. I guess they all work their way into the mix. I don't even recall when I felt Susan was my name too, but it was a long time ago.

As for Verity, that arose when I got internet at home and needed a distinctive name for email addresses and such. Verity is derived from veritas, Latin for truth, as by now I'd realised that this was the true me. Unimaginative, I guess, and actually not a name I like much, but when I said recently to a friend of mine that I might drop it he was most insistent that I keep it as reflecting an honest assessment of my reality. So it stays.

As for Richmond, well, I am sorry to say that I chose it largely from the name of a soft porn star from the 1970s, Fiona Richmond. Sorry because I'm not sure porn is a healthy thing, popular though it's always been. But Verity reflects truth so I'll be truthful about this too. It was an advertisement for this show that did it:

Except the show was on at Richmond Theatre that week.

I'd never seen a woman wearing unusual clothes like this before. I'm not sure how old I was - before puberty anyway -  but whilst I was well aware that women wore high heels, tights, bras and such, I had never seen skyscraper heels, stockings, suspenders and basques before. Here was some kind of exaggerated femininity and it hit me hard. As did the emphasis of the name on the poster: Fiona Richmond at Richmond Theatre. It couldn't do other than bore into my consciousness.

So I wasn't directly named after Richmond in London at all. And I'm keeping the name, despite its slightly naughty origins!

How did you choose yours?

Sue x

Saturday, 2 March 2019

Putting down new roots

I've been living mainly in Italy since November and have started putting down some serious roots as of this week, opening an Italian bank account and getting Italian emails and mobile telephony up and running. I've also started putting out some feelers directly to local trans associations and will test and see if any feel suitable for me, although I confess that I prefer a less formal approach to trans life. Maybe I'll get to make some new trans friends here soon.

There's a huge amount more to do to get settled and I am worried about the slowness, incompetence and stifling nature of local bureaucracy that stands in the way. But given the appalling state that my native country of Britain has got itself into, anything is better than the potential disaster that its toxic ruling elite have created with the complacency and ignorance of its electorate. I haven't slept properly for nearly three years despairing about the destruction that the Brexit referendum has caused. Here's an outstanding item from the New York Times recently that explains part of the Brexit problem very well
New York Times: The Malign Incompetence of the British Ruling Class

The weather all over Europe is unusually warm. It's ironic that, now that I am trying to move to warmer climes for the sake of better health, where I used to live has recorded the warmest February temperatures ever. Still, it's sunny and dry here in Milan and I'm happy with that.

I also appreciate the way people dress in this top fashion capital. I need to up my game!

Sue x