Friday 31 July 2020

First steps in trans living: conclusion

Over the last few weeks I've been reminiscing on the month ten years ago when everything came together and I pushed myself hard to become a regular girl about town. It's a series of posts that's proved popular with my readers, and I hope it has also encouraged others to live their (trans) lives to the full.

Here are links to the episodes:

Dining out: my baptism of fire
The Great Drag Race
Getting out the front door
Hair and makeup
Sparkle: finding my tribe

As someone who'd only ever been out to the Pink Punters LGBT nightclub earlier in 2010, after June/July of that year I felt confident to do anything. In fact, on my return from the Sparkle trans weekend I planned to go to my local park and sunbathe in my bikini. Perhaps it's as well that rain put paid to that idea - I might have scared the dogwalkers! But the rest of that summer I went out as a woman when I wanted and it was truly liberating, and the real start of a decade of living in my true gender.

Another thing that happened that summer and autumn was almost a second puberty: my breasts grew (and hurt, as female friends I confided in said they do when you go through puberty as a teenager). I began to wonder if I should ask for an appointment with the gender clinic as my body and mind seemed now to be crying out for full transition. I don't know if my sudden need really to be out in the world as a woman was a subconscious response to hormonal changes, or if this gynecomastia and other alterations were a psychosomatic response to this exciting and sudden transformation from closet TGirl to woman about town. I suspect the former but there may be no connection at all, just coincidence.

I've had a lot of ups and downs this past decade - ups in 2010-12 and downs notably in 2014-16 when I was so badly affected by eczema that I wasn't able to wear makeup or shave properly - but fundamentally I know I can be myself and be accepted as Sue by the world at large, which is the fulfilment of all those dreams I had from childhood onwards.

Summer 2010
Summer 2020

Being trans is something innate, not something you choose. After years of purging and trying to stamp out my femininity, I finally embraced who I really was back in 1997. So it took a long time even from that point to get to this stage, including several visits to a dressing service and seeking advice via online trans forums throughout the 2000s.

So 2010 was pretty amazing. I managed to push myself hard and reap the rewards. And here I am, ten years on, enjoying a look back. Thanks for joining me.

Sue x

Thursday 23 July 2020

First steps in trans living 5: Sparkle - finding my tribe

Sparkle is the UK's national transgender celebration, held in Manchester in July. I've been seven times overall and it's always proved the perfect event for meeting and making friends and feeling part of a larger community. The 2020 event, which should have taken place the weekend before last, had to be cancelled, like most other things this year.

In this series of posts I have described how four earlier occasions enabled me to leave home and interact with the real world in the summer of 2010. This last event, Sparkle 2010, was the culmination of an intense month of emerging into the world and made me feel that I was now in a position to live as a woman, not merely by dressing at home or interacting online.

The Sparkle website is here

I was too engrossed in the events to remember to take many photos so here are some by another person who was there that year.

My blog reports on other years' Sparkles give a good idea of the activities to enjoy there but it's a mix of socialising, entertainments, eating out, preening, purchasing, hearing talks, dancing, making friends and catching up with old ones ... a sort of village party weekend.

It was mid-way through the weekend that the thought really struck me as I looked out over the sea of transgender party people and their families crowding Canal Street and Sackville Gardens: this is my tribe. This feels right. I belong with these people.

I know we were having a party at a dedicated event but every person here was, like me, affirming the truth that they were trans, individually and collectively. And for the first time I felt something very special was happening: here was I, being carried along by a flood of others like me and being part of that flood. We trans people are real, we exist, we have a right to be ourselves and be happy.

Sparkle 2010 was very special for me: it clarified that I had arrived where I wanted to be in life and how I wanted to live. The next two years were, without a doubt, the best ever.

Sue x

Tuesday 7 July 2020

First steps in trans living 4: hair and makeup

I am continuing my look-back to exactly ten years ago, to the weeks I spent pushing myself out into the real world. If I was going to live the life I wanted as a woman, I was going to have to take serious steps, I realised.

So a few days after leaving my own home for the first time, as described in my last post (Getting out the front door), I decided to investigate two recommended resources for makeup and hair: Mac and Trendco.

Some weeks before this I had visited Doreen's Fashions, where I bought the hair I wore for the Drag Race (The Great Drag Race). I had also bought my first pair of breast forms there. Doreen's was once an excellent resource for the trans community in South East England, a shop in London that specialised in catering for trans and related fashions. It closed its doors on the Lea Bridge Road in 2014 citing new parking and other restrictions, but I suspect the rise in internet shopping by trans people had something to do with that too. Their charmingly old-fashioned website is here:

In my previous trip I had taken the London Underground and suburban trains for the first time. This time I was going to take them again and go all the way into Central London for the two appointments I had made with Mac and Trendco. Despite my success in my previous trips, this was still my early days and I was very nervous. I actually walked to the next station down the line just in case I was spotted by any locals who knew the male me. But once I was sitting in a quiet corner of the underground train my confidence improved as we trundled slowly from the suburbs to ever more crowded parts of London.

I had made an appointment with Mac Makeup in Kensington Church Street and a wonderful young assistant, Tabitha, had been supplied to me as she had already had many dealings with TGirls in another branch. It was lovely to sit in the chair in the makeover section and have her chat to me about how their products worked, as opposed to the Kryolan and Dermablend products that the Boudoir had recommended to me. Mac products are very expensive, though, and frankly the super makeover she gave me would have cost about £200 to replicate at home. I did buy one or two items, notably the pore filler which is useful for those with larger, more male-type skin pores. Tabitha was great, knowledgeable, friendly and ideal for putting me at my ease.

Trendco was at the other end of Kensington Church Street and I walked there up the hill, feeling very happy with my experience at Mac. The assistant at Trendco (I'm fairly sure it was Michael) suggested a style different from the others I had picked at the Boudoir and Doreen's. Again, he was very helpful, knowledgeable and never pushy. In the end, I bought a shorter style. The result of my new makeup and hair sessions left me looking like this. Pretty good, if I'm allowed to say so myself.

I went home by public transport positively buzzing. Two great experiences and an explosion in confidence.

That was 6 July 2010. The next day I had agreed to meet Emma Walkey as she was coming up to London again. Unlike our evening out the previous month, which I narrated in the first post of this series (Dining out: my baptism of fire), for me this was a trip from home by public transport again. Yes, I was still nervous, but I knew I could do it now.

I met Emma at Euston station - I think it was the first long-distance rail trip she'd done as Emma as she'd come all the way from Manchester. My memory of events is fuzzier than in the previous trips, which actually shows that my new-found freedom and confidence were becoming a given, so impressions are less burnt into my memory. We had a coffee at the café outside the station, travelled by Underground to Soho, which is the bustling heart of London's restaurant scene, and had lunch at Bistro One in Brewer Street.

And we went to the Victoria & Albert Museum, which is Britain's main museum for the decorative arts. Emma will have to remind me if that was to see the special Grace Kelly exhibition or if that was on another occasion. The best thing about that museum is the overblown Victorian tea rooms! But there was also an ice cream stall in the courtyard, which we enjoyed as it was a hot day. Another successful and fun trip out with both of us gaining hugely in confidence (and probably weight as well!).

When you know you need to do something, be something, you push yourself through all the barriers. I had needed courage in spades over the previous weeks, but it was paying off and I felt overdosed on adrenalin for sure, but also overwhelmed with joy.

There's one more major event to descibe from that incredible summer of 2010 and that will be in First Steps 5 in a few days' time.

Sue x

Add: see Emma's comment below. My fuzzy memory wasn't wholly wrong: she had tickets to see the Victoria & Albert Museum's fashion department's special exhibition on Grace Kelly's outfits. Some truly gorgeous, stylish dresses - the Fifties were a special time for female fashions and Grace Kelly was a - maybe even the - Fifties icon. We were certainly noticed by the tourists but this bothered me a lot less by now than it would have done a few weeks before. Thanks for the recollection, Emma, and thanks for a fun day and for being such a great friend.

Thursday 2 July 2020

First steps in trans living 3: getting out the front door

A great deal of trans life takes place in clubs and dedicated venues. You turn up there or to a nearby hotel, you put on your dress and makeup and then enjoy the fun for a few hours as the girl you really are and then you take it all off and go back to the reality society sets out for you. It's satisfying, but only partly.

So, continuing this series of reminiscences from ten years ago, today I recall the first excursion directly from home, which needed to be done if I was ever to feel free to live as I wanted.

If you have a car then you can avoid some of the difficulties of leaving home dressed. A car is in many ways an extension of your home world, a bubble surrounding you from much public interaction. I got rid of my car years ago as public transport in London became outstandingly good in the 2000s, but that left me with no option but to leave home on foot, with the potential to be spotted by neighbours and therefore outed, which I wasn't ready for.

In fact, the first attempt I made to step out the door I had to abort through a crisis of nerves. What was the world outside going to do to me? Even with much discussion on this topic on trans forums, I still wasn't sure what lay out there. Later that day I left the house with my heart in my mouth, walked around the block and came straight home, trembling. Yes, I was that nervous.

The following day I decided to do something longer. Again, I was nervous as hell but, having stepped out and locked the door, I deliberately pointed myself away from the nighbourhood and walked to the wide main road where I felt the traffic was too fast for people to stop and stare. I walked ...for miles. It was in one way a joy to feel free as a woman out in the sunshine; in another way, it was still very scary, but I decided to go as far from comfort as I could push myself.

I ended up at Kew Gardens, the famous botanic gardens. I had a season ticket. And do you know, the woman on the gate scrutinised me carefully and asked why I had a ticket in a man's name. I'm flattering myself I passed. But I suspect she was being extra rigorous. So, dear readers, the first thing I ever did as a woman on her own, was have to convince someone that my male documents applied to me after all. In some ways, I see the funny side of it.

Having been walking for an hour I needed the loo and for the first time went to the women's public toilet. It was empty, thankfully, as I would probably have been too nervous to have shared the space with someone else.

But in the vastness of Kew Gardens I felt free to move at will and avoid people and that made me much calmer. I took some selfies but they are not my favourite pictures so I won't post one here. Instead, here's one I took at Kew a year later wearing the same floral skirt and red top to give you some idea. My beautiful friend Petra was there with me this time.

I was impressed by what I had achieved and I wondered what was next. I could just walk all the way back home or ... I could be more daring. I had amazed myself, if I'm allowed to say so, and I left Kew Gardens and went to the station for my first ever trip on the London Underground. I only went one stop, to the end of the line at Richmond, where I bought a sandwich at the buffet. That also took a bit of effort as, again, it's not something I had done en femme before.

I ate my boring sandwich on the station bench, reapplied my lipstick and waited for the train to Kingston as I had now decided to push myself as much as I could. Kingston is a major shopping town in South West London and I spent a couple of hours going into department stores to buy clothes. I couldn't believe that here I was just looking through the rails of clothes like any other woman. The fulfilment of a lifelong dream.

I went home by train, barely believing all that I had done on my first day out of my own home. I knew I still had a lot of ground to conquer, but this was a major step.

Sue x