Thursday, 28 May 2020

Right in the end

Death has not been a welcome subject for discussion in Western society for some time now but the fact is, Mortals, one day you will die (insert creepy laughter) so you may want to make provision for it. Not just by writing a will but also by making arrangements for your funeral, and even your prior medical care, especially if your being trans might be a source of contention.

Years ago I used to work in the central government ministries in London and the best job I had there was liaising with the funeral industry. I also dealt with unborn babies at the same time. Both ends of life in one handy job package. I think it was the best job for two reasons: firstly, the unborn and the dead don't write in to complain about national policy and regulations; and, secondly, because the funeral industry has (inevitably?) a dark sense of humour that comes out in sly ways. I used to enjoy the trade magazines with their special offers ("body bags: buy ten, get one free" - presumably so you can get the whole soccer team to the morgue), and I appreciated the complimentary tickets to the Hearse of the Year Show. (Foreign readers: in Britain, the copycat Horse of the Year Show is a major equestrian event.)

So death is always on my mind... Not really, but I just wanted to point out that (a) we all should make provision for our deaths and what happens later, rather than leaving it to someone else after the event since they may do things they want, not what we want; and (b) funeral directors offer a wide range of services that are normally personalisable - it's a service, after all, and it doesn't get more personal than dying. Discuss your needs with them in good time as you would with any other service industry (the bank, the builder, the nail bar, the hotel...) and shop around in the same way for the best service.

What's this specifically got to do with being trans? Well, if you wish your funeral to be held for you in the gender you've accepted, which isn't the same as the official gender that was put on your birth certificate, then you need to make sure that fascist Uncle Tony or your ultrareligious sister can't force your corpse, name and funeral trappings back to that old gender that you've rejected. You can usually arrange your funeral how you like but you may need to make such wishes known via the relevant authorities and, ideally, appoint a person you trust to make your funeral arrangements.

Rather than going into a lot of detail here, I'd like instead to introduce the excellent Caitlyn Doughty who runs a funeral home in California and whose "Ask a Mortician" vlogs on YouTube are weird, humorous, yet very informative and who is very honest about the funeral industry and mortality. She's also clearly a trans ally (and has great hair). Her recent episode "Protecting Trans Bodies in Death" is recommended viewing for trans people like me who want to ensure we are respected and not misgendered or mistreated by, as she puts it, some "delightful bag of bigotry" at our funeral. Also, information on "living wills" and how the medical profession should treat gender when we are under their care. Thanks, Caitlyn, for your support, honesty and helpful information. Click the link below.

Ask a Mortician: Protecting Trans Bodies in Death

Till next time, Mortals ... if there is a next time (mwah ha ha ha ha ha HAAH!)

Sue x

Sunday, 17 May 2020


Thank you all of you who commented on my hair in my last post. Some very useful thoughts there, largely contradicting other views on it elsewhere. Contradiction is actually helpful in this case. Overall, I'll go with blogger views and keep this shorter style for certain occasions.

Today I want to talk about courage.

Obviously, we're living in somewhat frightening times with a worldwide pandemic that's like nothing else that's happened in our lifetimes and it takes courage to confront it, and to confront irresponsible attitudes towards it. Be brave enough to protect yourself and your relatives, friends and neighbours despite pressure from aggressive, exploitative or irresponsible people out there.

More than this, though, I really wanted to talk about the courage to be ourselves. Today (May 17th) is, after all, the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. The fact that there is need for such a day suggests there is a way to go before we can live tranquilly.

This week I was reminiscing on the decade that's passed since I first hit the streets as Sue and realising how long it took me to get in touch with other trans people and services, and wishing I'd had the courage earlier in life. It's a wish that most trans people express. Although, to be fair to us here, it takes practical know-how, too, so the advent of the internet has made a giant improvement in being able to connect with others and get help and advice.

In my last post I talked about coming out to family. That takes a great deal of courage.

There are those trans people who have the courage to transition fully, with difficult surgery. And those who have the courage to start transition but then realise that it's not right for them after all and stop or turn around. All that takes guts. But how many trans friends and contacts over the years have said to me how much they'd love to go out with me and my friends? Yet lacked the courage.

Just to illustrate, one girl came to my home five times overall to dress and learn about makeup. She'd been to dressing services, too. And looked good. No matter how much she said she wanted to go out into the bright lights of the big city, I knew after a point that she never would. She had reached the limits of her courage. The same goes for another trans woman I know who is out to her partner and is very pretty (she has her own hair, too!) but, despite being a stage performer by trade, doesn't have the courage to go out dressed.

One step on are those who go out, but only to certain clubs or the gay district, often in a faraway city to avoid discovery in their home town. Their courage is tremendous but has plateaued there so, although I suspect they'd like to go further, they've reached their limits.

I don't know how to encourage courage - I'd probably make a useless military officer - so I guess it's something we each have to choose to adopt. We can be as confident as we like with familiar things, but still lack courage when faced with something we have never done before.

Going out in public or coming out as the opposite gender is a big deal, I will not downplay that. The hostility or ridicule we encounter is rare so is largely imagined. As is the fear of discovery. A girlfriend of mine who unexpectedly happened to be at the station when I took a train as Sue just looked right through me - she didn't even spot the TGirl let alone the 'guy' she knew! People are distracted with their own thoughts and just see what they think they see. So the fears are often in our own mind and don't reflect reality.

This irrational fear can make us do strange and unsuitable things. As I mentioned in my last post, how many trans people lie to their partners about where they are? They're not working late or at the match as they said but are out at a trans club. Yet this fear of what their partner might think makes them tell no end of lies, which in the end is what really strains the relationship. Not just the lying, but the fact that you thought your partner was dumb enough to fall for it. That's got to hurt them. And all this through unfounded fear, or at least fear based on unknowns.

I do confess I am actually tired of the courage it takes to confront life sometimes. It wears you out. As well as the usual troubles we all face in life, we trans people have the extra fear of rejection, abuse and bigotry, and the uncertainty of how to incorporate our transness into our daily lives. We face more violence, criticism and opposition than other sections of society, certainly. Whilst ideally we should neither be intimidated by the thought of that nor give in to unfounded fears, let's face it, it takes a lot of guts to be ourselves in a world that only partially accepts our existence and where some sections of society or some countries refuse to let us live peacefully. The injustice of our position grates with me a lot.

I feel responsible for doing something about the fact that the family I come from are aggressively hostile to all LGBT+ people. I am not looking forward to tackling them but I feel I owe it to my community of fellow trans people to do so myself because no one is so closely connected with my bigoted family than I am. I will be honest and state that I am scared of the fights ahead as I have grown tired of conflict and confrontation, but my courage is now called on in that field. As if there wasn't enough difficulty to tackle elsewhere. One problem at a time, though.

I can't teach you to be courageous. I don't know how to teach you. Maybe there are motivators or psychologists or leaders who can. But acknowledging that you are transgender, choosing to live as transgender in some way, coming out as transgender and fighting for transgender life in whatever way are all courageous acts. Let's celebrate, support, encourage and salute each others' courage. And thanks to governments and allies that do have the courage to offer support, especially on days like today.

Sue x

Monday, 4 May 2020

Lockdown and coming out as trans

I haven't felt like posting for a month as there's been little enough going on here whilst I and most of the world stays at home and physically distant from others. For me, happily, it's been a time to feel truly feminine all day and to try a bit of experimenting, too. Here, for instance, is a wig I bought ten years ago but which only ever had one outing, and as my face changes with age (and too much food!) I was wondering if it suited better. Friends polled on Facebook feel my usual longer, thicker style suits me better but other views are welcome here.

I've received masks from the Civil Protection Agency to guard against coronavirus when I go out. But they are very flimsy and of little protective value so I made my own grander version from a cotton pillowcase and linen tote bag, with various layers of filter inside.

A number of fellow bloggers have floated the idea of whether coming out to family is a good plan during this time of isolation at home together. Every relationship is different and, if it's a strong relationship and you are coping well with isolation, then it may be a good time. On the whole, though, I'd sound a note of caution. If your partner had no idea till now that you were trans then this will be a big, big revelation to them and being cooped up together with an issue that can be a surprise powder keg may have bad results. It's strange how many of us do not fully understand, even after years together, how a partner could react.

My own policy since finally accepting that I was trans back in the 1990s is to tell any person I have been dating after a few weeks when things seem to be going well. The reaction has never been one of shock, revulsion or rejection but more like uncertainty and wishing that it wasn't so. But no-one's ever run away. I have never married but that's because no relationship got that far for reasons altogether unconnected with transness, money issues being the chief one.

Of course, to be very fair to us all, nature is cruel to us in that we usually spend much time experimenting with our gender variance as children and teenagers, then in our late teens and twenties so many of us feel the need to stamp out all that supposed silliness, settle down with a spouse, start a family and feel that being trans is not part of that picture. How many of us MtF trans people seek out more overtly macho careers like the military to try to stamp it out? And of course we all purge our clothes, photos, accessories, diaries, etc. Only for our femme side to re-erupt with a vengeance twenty or so years later. It's a well-documented pattern. We could never have known it would recur, and now we have to explain the reality to an unsuspecting partner after such a long time that they have known only the one side of us. If you've been telling lies about where you've been (that dressing service or that trans club rather than that football match or work conference you said you were at) or have been spending lots of much-needed family money on your secret trans life, the revelation is not going to go down well.

Personally, I'd say wait for the Covid-19 crisis to end. Dealing with just one big issue at a time has always struck me as best. And when the pandemic is over you will again have a genuine choice of physical spaces that you or your partner can occupy if the revelation takes some explaining or some time to come to terms with.

If you are frustrated with the lack of dressing possibilities now, hang on in there. It must be horrible but we'll get over this. You are merely in a cocoon waiting for the right day to spread your beautiful wings again.

Best wishes and stay safe.

Sue x