Tuesday, 27 September 2022

A weekend with a trans friend

 It's been a long while since I was last able to spend time with another TGirl but this weekend it happened.

Roz flew all the way from Scotland and I met her at Nice airport on a warm sunny evening. I hadn't seen her since my visit to Britain in spring 2019 and five years of living full-time as female has made her a very confident and good-looking woman. I am quite jealous of the F for female in her passport. Hurrah for living in one's right gender!

As Roz loves trams, we took one from the airport to a hotel in a typical old building in the very centre of Nice, just off the main square. We enjoyed an evening meal at Jach, a Lebanese restaurant, sitting out in the mild evening air, and then took a stroll along the famous seaside Promenade des Anglais and the tangle of streets in the old city.

Place Masséna, Nice

The next morning we enjoyed breakfast at a typical brasserie, Maison Margaux, and had another little stroll round town in the sunshine. 

 

Promenade des Anglais, Nice

We then took the train to Italy that passes through Monaco. It's slow, stopping at every little station, but the coastal scenery is beautiful. And mobile phones go mad as you pass from one country to the next: "welcome to France, your tariffs are...; welcome to Monaco...; welcome to France (again)...; welcome to Italy..."

Menton, France, "city of lemons", sandwiched between Monaco and Italy, is a typical riviera town

 

Over the years, several previous attempts to have Roz come to stay have been thwarted by serious last-minute problems so it seemed like a miracle when we were actually home and she had unpacked. Living on the side of a mountain gives me some beautiful views over the sea and she loved that.

The nearest town to me is Sanremo (or San Remo: there's a longstanding dispute as to whether it's one word or two) so I took her down the mountain into town. It's a pretty place with a vibrant social life and café culture. It's best known for its casino and the Ariston Theatre (where the national song contest that spawned the Eurovision song contest is held), but there are other attractive things to see like the Russian Orthodox Church, the harbour and a tangle of medieval streets rising up a steep hillside. 

Sanremo

One essential thing to do there, though, is to stroll down the main street of an evening, have an aperitif at an outside bar table and watch the world go by. A small fluffy dog, preferably carried in a handbag or basket, is a regular sight, especially with older women and gay couples. 

We had authentic and huge Neapolitan pizzas at the Napul'è restaurant by the old fort... and it's just as well the walk home took half an hour so we could work it off!

Fort St Tecla, Sanremo

The next day was wet. I haven't seen a full day's rain in this area since last December and, much as the land needed a good soaking after this summer of drought, it annoyed me that it happened when someone had come all the way from rainy Britain to the supposedly sunny riviera! But we weren't going to be put off. We saw the remains of the Roman villa, the harbour with its famous (or infamous) yachts and some of the old town with its steep, winding streets, city walls and colourful houses. We had a nice bowl of pasta for lunch at one of the small but excellent restaurants in the town centre, Nuovo Piccolo Mondo.

The black blob in the wall is a six-pound cannonball. It lodged there during a British bombardment in the War of the Austrian Succession. The date: 3rd September 1745. There are other signs of other raids, by Barbary corsairs in the middle ages, Turks in the sixteenth century and even World War II damage.

Sunday, however, was a more normal day here, with dry sunny weather, so we enjoyed our sightseeing better. There's a particularly well-located restaurant, Salsadrena, on the promenade where we enjoyed a relaxed lunch. Two years ago it won an award for being one of the Top 50 pizza restaurants in Italy, which is quite an accolade. I can assure you the pizza is excellent, as are the other dishes, and the view of palms and seafront is beautiful.

Salsadrena restaurant, Sanremo

We don't normally eat out this much! So much so that we decided to eat at home that evening. There was time for a bit of sunbathing on the terrace and then I made a proper effort with my hair, makeup and everything and we ate in and had a good chat about trans life and other things. Have you tasted my spicy bacon pasta sauce with my home-grown herbs and chillis? I think it's pretty good and my guest, who loves chilli, seemed to agree. I'll save details of girl time at home for a forthcoming post, including pictures of the two of us.

Sadly, yesterday, it all had to end as Roz needed to return home. So we took the coast railway back to Nice, where the nearest airport is, and I saw her off. I know she got back home safely to Scotland in the evening. 

I feel sad she's gone but I have some very nice memories of a good weekend. And a sensation, too, that life might be returning to normal. More importantly, I feel much more alive and positive this morning as I have had so little face-to-face contact with any close, long-term friends for three years now. Good company is what has always made me happiest.

Next week I have another close friend from Britain coming to stay, so I am sure there will be more sightseeing pictures from this part of the Med in due course. And more positivity as a result - yay!

Sue x


Monday, 19 September 2022

Ever changing

 The weather has cooled somewhat and I feel autumn is very much on the way now. In fact, last night I slept with a sheet over me for the first time in three months. The outdoor pool closed yesterday and the general run of seaside activities is winding down. It's the equinox on Friday and the nights will draw in more noticeably after that (in the Northern hemisphere, at least).

I do love summer best but as I've mentioned so often, very hot weather makes TGirl life harder, with the need for wigs that boil your head and makeup that won't stay on. Autumn promises a rather prettier time.

Queen Elizabeth is being buried as I write. That marks the end of a very long era. I think Charles III will be a good king. Everyone used to poke fun at him for his notions on organic farming, climate change, accepting different faiths and the like, but that is all now mainstream thinking and practice. Evidently a man ahead of his time - a pioneer of sorts, despite outward appearances. I would say, cautiously, that he seems more humane and genuine than most people in high places. I wish him well in what may be difficult times ahead.

I am now preparing for a visit by my lovely friend Roz. Previous attempts to have her to stay have been thwarted by all sorts of unexpected events so I'm hoping that nothing goes wrong this time. I'll be meeting her at Nice airport and we plan to spend the first day of her holiday in Nice itself. Most importantly, though, it'll be good to see a trans friend again after all the chaos brought about by Covid. Let's hope we're seeing the end of that and a return to life as it used to be.

So, I have mixed feelings at this moment of seasonal and other transitions. But whenever I have this autumnal feeling I think back to my favourite childhood book, Finn Family Moomintroll by Tove Jansson, the last, evocative line of which is: "It is autumn in Moominvalley, for how else can spring come back again." As a kid, that prompts you to go right back to the start of the book (since it opens in spring) and read it all again. But now I take this as a reminder of the cycle of things: one thing ends in order that another can begin.


Have a nice autumn, everyone. For me, the next week with Roz should be a lot of fun and I expect there will be photos...

Sue x

Friday, 16 September 2022

The surreal and the kitsch

 Thank you for messages wishing me recovery from this bug I have. I'm improving but I'm not 100% yet. The weather is still quite hot and I am getting ready for long overdue visits by friends over the next few weeks. These Covid years have been weird beyond description.

This time I was going to add to my previous posts about transgender themed films at the Venice Film Festival but Stana at Femulate got there first so I will simply link to her page about Casa Susanna, a documentary by Sébastien Lifshitz about the guest house for TGirls in the USA of the 1950s and '60s: Susanna's Casa is Our Casa. There are links there to a trailer, clips and reviews. 

 

When looking at images from Casa Susanna and other places of the era, I always can't help feeling that style has lost something in recent years.

I have been paying closer attention to the news this week. This war in Ukraine that has disturbed me a lot has entered a new phase; and in Britain the change of monarch continues with a mix of surrealism and kitsch that I can't help but comment on.

Kitsch denote objects or art that may be deemed lowbrow because of their excessive sentimentality or garishness, though often appreciated in a knowing, considered or ironic way. I'd say a frilly sissy dress was kitsch, and so's a banana onesie. I'm not knocking them; there's room for everything that can be loved. For an exquisite example of well-considered kitsch you can do no better than watch the dream pantomime that ends Act 2 of Engelbert Humperdinck's beloved Christmas opera Hansel and Gretel in the Met Opera's 1982 production, which follows the original stage directions and has angels in classic Victorian angel garb - long blonde flower-wreathed hair, long green robes, glory-rayed haloes - descending from the rafters to stand in heaven-gazing guard over the sleeping children. This is nineteenth-century sentimentality writ large, in the days when the Germans were a sentimental people, and this beautiful yet knowingly kitsch throwback to the feel of the era in which the work was written should make you cry. 


It is the same with Queen Elizabeth's crowned coffin surrounded by sad guards in full panoply as one sees so often on Victorian memorials in English cathedrals. Gone are the glory days (!) when kings like William the Conqueror and Henry VIII would burst in their coffins, or die after falling off the toilet (George III) or tripping over molehills (William III); or coronations like George IV's where the queen got locked out, or other royal events where turnips were chucked or rude remarks were shouted (NB it's never been a good idea to do this). It's all really very stage-managed and very kitsch. I'm not saying it's lousy or wrong or not emotionally moving, any more than the delicious stage production above is, just very sterile in its overmanaged presentation and garish in its visual taste. On the basis that all this is good enough for the high and mighty, please don't mock a TGirl in an out-of-date outfit or a sissy in her frilly dress again. For the matter of that, don't abuse trans people just going about their daily business.

As for The Queue to view the coffin, I can only say that we seem to be entering the realms of Kafka, of Terry Gilliam's Brazil, of the Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy. When The Queue itself is now a tourist attraction, and there is periodically a queue to join The Queue, and there are tourists and journalists gawping at the queue to join The Queue, then we have left the realms of reality. If you wish to pay respects in this gruelling way, I am the last person to stop you. The fact is, I have no liking for the entire business of government, from heads of state to the lowliest jobsworths at the local council, and this is because I have to beg them for 'rights' to be treated as a woman or go about my day unmolested. By all means respect your queen, but respect everyone else too. I find many enthusiasts for government and nationality the world over often overlook that courtesy.

Sue x


Tuesday, 13 September 2022

Respect for old queens

 I've not been all that well these last few days. Nothing serious but I have caught some sort of chill or virus or something that's left me preferring to stay at home and rest. So I've been following the news a bit more than usual. Bulletins from the battlefields of Ukraine are positive, inasmuch as organised violence is ever positive (see also the mafia musical below), and a very old queen has died, which makes a direct difference to many countries that have or have had her as head of state.

Queen Elizabeth was around longer than I have lived and therefore seemed almost eternal. Not quite, though, and that makes for an odd feeling. I've always felt her successor Charles was a sensitive, humane man. Often ridiculed in the past as an eccentric for his concerns, yet his feelings on matters such as the natural and built environments have now become mainstream thinking. His own successors look to be supportive of the LGBT community.

A few allies are beginning to point out how many people have swiftly got used to new names, titles and pronouns: Queen Elizabeth, now King Charles; His Majesty; send him victorious, etc. Yet how often  enthusiasts for correct form refuse to acknowledge new names and pronouns for trans people who beg that their gender and names be acknowledged. 

It takes a while to get used to changes. If you know someone, whether monarch or trans person, as one thing all your life and then you need to adjust to the change in their position, it can take a while to get used to it. I have problems adjusting to my trans friends changes, either of name or even pronouns. If I use your previous name or forget your new preferred way of being addressed, then it's not me being disrespectful but just that I am getting old and forgetful and have to replace habits in my head. Do make allowances for that, as you would for everyone who still talks of Prince Charles even though his title has changed. 

But if you are determined deliberately to disrespect reasonable choices, then you're a jerk. The new British Prime Minister, Liz Truss, insists trans women are not women. The subject could be discussed reasonably, but rarely is. But since Liz Truss hates her given first name, Mary, would it be appropriate to call her Mary Truss to ensure she remains consistent in her approach? Joanne Rowling, that well-known transphobe, has no middle name and is J K Rowling for commercial purposes only. She also has another pen name, Robert Galbraith, which is hardly consistent with her feminism. Using a different name for writing, acting, soldiering, or whatever has an ancient pedigree and is, in some ways, justified by that long usage and tradition. I don't have a problem using these people's preferred names. Yet many balk at a trans person using a new name that fits their presentation or referring to them with pronouns that fit their gender and appearance. Double standards are very prevalent in the so-called great and good.

The old monarch is gone and there is a new one instead. The continuity, though, is clear. It's the same for us trans folk. I continue to have confidence that most people accept us and that newer generations will help build a society that acknowledges us more. 

 

More movie news

My post last week about the forthcoming film Monica seems to have been popular. The film didn't win any prizes at the Venice Film Festival but I would expect it to be on general release fairly soon.

There was another transgender film at the festival, Le Favolose ("Fabulous Girls"), more of a documentary about how trans women can, in some respects, die twice by being denied burial in the gender they lived in. I wrote on this important and often overlooked subject here a couple of years ago (Right in the End).

The director is Roberta Torre whose 1997 film Tano da morire (released in English as "To Die for Tano") was a sardonic mafia musical that I found compelling. (Yes, mafia musical, you read that right!) The director's contention in her latest film, based on the writings of trans activist Porpora Marcasciano, is that many trans people's history is still being eradicated in Italy. 

It might be released in English translation and the working title seems to be "The Fabulous Ones". Trailer and clip with English synopsis on this site: http://storytellertrailers.blogspot.com/2022/07/le-favolose-fabulous-ones.html


Sue x

Saturday, 10 September 2022

The joy of wax

 I thought I'd share some tips on hair removal by waxing. This is partly inspired by Lynn's recent post and its comments.

If you are a TGirl like me who went through puberty that left you overmasculinised, then it's likely that you'll have ended up with insufficient hair atop and too much over the rest of your body. Inadequate top thatch can be remedied by applying a wig, hairpiece or hair extensions. But the excess hair elsewhere can be shaved, epilated or waxed. 

Shaving is easy enough but the results last just a day or two before the scratchy hairs come out again. Pulling on a pair of fine stockings over scratchy leg hair is not much good. As I've suggested before, use a men's razor not a women's one. This is because male pattern hair is thicker and such razors are designed for that, and because razors for the female market are overpriced.

Epilation is longer-lasting but even a quality epilator creates an experience that ranges from very painful to merely unpleasant. The results can be good but you do have to nerve yourself and I have almost stopped using this method.

Personally, I recommend waxing for the smoothest and most long-lasting finish. 

Do it yourself. There are various products such as Veet (formerly Immac) that enable you to do this. Products for women, however attracted to them any TGirl may feel herself to be, are not likely to be strong enough to deal with the thicker hairs that male-pattern hair growth has created on your body, therefore swallow your pride and accept that Veet for Men or similar will be the more effective version of the product. Or you can go for the full kit with proper wax, applicators, strips etc and the appropriate fondue set, as I call it, to melt the wax. 

Testing. You should test a patch of skin first to ensure that it does not cause a reaction. Give it a couple of days to see if there is a rash, eczema or other skin problem. If so, don't go any further with the product as you will regret it. Find an alternative product or alternative system.

Professional waxing. Although waxing yourself may be straightforward enough on legs, arms and chest, it is not going to be easy on the back and must never be done within the panty lines.

So the very best way to get the smoothest skin on your legs, arms, chest, back, brows or more intimate areas is to go to a waxing professional. It will cost, of course, but the beautician may be nice to talk to, encouraging of your trans life and will leave you in perfectly smooth condition. The salon should be pleasant in its decor, smell nice, have a comfortable, disinfected couch to lie on, be clean and clinically safe and, ideally, your waxer will be friendly and encouraging. They should give you safety and product advice before they begin. In return, do please take a shower before you go.

I have gone to local salons for women in both male mode and female mode for back waxes and leg waxes. For all-over body waxes I have been a few times to a specialist. Here's a short report on one experience.

Brows. If you want your brows waxed then your best choice is to visit a salon or makeup store. Other processes like threading or sugaring may be available but I have never tried these so I can't comment. I am sceptical of those who claim you can wax your own brows successfully. There is also the danger of hot wax near the eyes. I wouldn't recommend doing this yourself, therefore.

Panty area. If you want waxing in the panty area then a specialist in intimate waxing is your only proper option as, firstly, the wax is different from standard body wax and is applied and removed differently since the skin in more intimate areas is more delicate; and, secondly, there are personal and professional reasons to leave intimate treatments to those who specialise in giving them rather than everyday beauticians. If you are a pre-operative TGirl then do not feel ashamed to go to a beautician who specialises in intimate male waxing. They are professionals and there need be no embarrassment in it. They do not need to know you are trans unless it is relevant, e.g. you go to a male waxing specialist in female mode. The fact is, though, you are not likely to have many clothes on anyway! Your professional won't be worried about any reactions your body has to being handled. But don't then ask for 'personal services' or try any funny stuff as this may land you in trouble. Whilst working, my waxer, Pauline, regaled me with stories about some men who have completely the wrong idea about the services they might get; and I could tell she was not the sort to stand for any nonsense.

Pain. How much waxing hurts depends a bit on your constitution. I find epilation unpleasant; others less so. I have had only minor discomfort with waxing and I'd say only the ripping from the tummy area isn't very nice, and the chest could be pleasanter. I have not found back, leg, or other area waxing especially painful, nor is the sensation of the hot wax going on unpleasant, but I have known others howl, especially the first time they ever had the strips ripped off them. Someone I knew didn't especially like having her brows waxed. Bear in mind that male pattern hair, as above, is thicker than female hair and takes more power to remove. The beautician's skill can also be a factor in what you feel. But an experienced professional is unlikely to make you suffer.

Post-wax care. You will need to avoid hot showers and sunbathing or tanning for a couple of days afterwards as the skin may be a bit red and sensitive. Lotion containing tea tree oil is a good product to apply if you are a bit sore, or aloe vera gel or salves, or your preferred moisturiser. Your beautician will often offer fancy oils and so forth for your post-wax skin care and it's up to your purse and skin type to decide if that sort of thing is for you. If you are or may be prone to ingrowing hairs, then use a suitable gentle exfoliating regime, but only once any soreness has gone. I use exfoliating gloves but loofah mitts are good. Rather than a brush or loofah, gloves/mitts can be got right round all your curves. 

Shine. In compensation for any soreness, though, the smoothness is heavenly. Stockings and lingerie go on and feel very differently from when you have hair or when you have merely shaved. If you prefer to be bare-legged, then you will probably notice your skin's natural shine. This can be enhanced with suitable oils but go easy or you'll just look wet. Gossamer thin 5-7 denier tights with a slight sheen are available and can make your legs look fantastic.

Regrowth. You are unlikely to see any new hair growth for at least two weeks, so this is a good treatment to have before going on holiday or to a festival or other long event. The irritation is mainly needing to allow a bit of visible growth before your next waxing, but that goes for epilation too. This is so that the wax has something to grip, if only a few millimetres.

All-over smooth is the only way to go

I hope those suggestions are helpful. I wish you a smooth autumn.

(Finally, if you have an adult sense of humour, or even a childish one, which is often the same thing, then Amazon still displays the hysterical review of Veet for Men from a man who ignored the warnings not to use the product in the panty area: Veet for Men review.)

Sue x


Wednesday, 7 September 2022

Transgender film "Monica"

 The Venice Film Festival is on and for the first time a transgender story with a leading actress who is also transgender is being shown. Monica, directed by Andrea Pallaoro, stars Trace Lysette in the title role.

The plot is about a woman who felt she had to leave the family home but who then returns after twenty years to look after her dying mother. We gradually learn the reasons for the split and see the rebuilding of a relationship. 

My super trans intuition tells me that maybe, just maybe, the daughter is transgender. But, hey, that's only a guess. Based on the blurb!

Reviews so far have been quite mixed, ranging from "boring and dull" from audience members, to three stars, to high praise by more thoughtful film critics. It does seem quite a slow-burn, understated film and, truth be told, the trailer doesn't exactly catch fire, but you may disagree:



Could do with more zombies or aliens, I reckon. They always pull a crowd! I will likely go to see it when it is on general release, being a bit of a fan of transgender movies.

It's competing for the Golden Lion for best film, and has some stiff competition. But I mention it as it is a first. And every trans story raises awareness of trans life just a bit more with the public.

This is Trace Lysette's most significant role to date. She has played both trans and cis charcters before and said in a recent interview that she was interested in being offered a variety of roles in future and not being typecast in trans roles.

Trace Lysette at the Toronto Film Festival 2019 for the premiere of Hustlers, in which she played Tracey

Let's see how the film does, if it wins a prize or commendation.

 

Kiwi Farms closed

This uniquely nasty anti-trans site has been closed by its provider and this is to be welcomed: Kiwi Farms shut down. I try to post a greater number of positive trans stories, like the film release above, than negative ones as I do think the public is broadly pro-existence in most things and haters are a minority. But something needed to be done about this site.

Stay safe.

Sue x


Sunday, 4 September 2022

Why not wear a kilt?

 Over the years, a number of women have asked me why, instead of wearing women's skirts, I don't just wear a kilt. It's the same idea, same basic look, zero hassle with epilating, makeup, etc. and less threat from transphobes.

Although the questioners have been well-meaning, they miss the fundamental point. I don't wear skirts because they are more attractive or more comfortable or cooler or pleasanter than trousers (though they are) but because they are a badge that affirms to me who I feel I am and a sign to others of how I wish to be regarded: as a woman. A kilt, although very like a skirt, is a garment for men, and I don't wear men's clothes as they fail in those two vital tasks of acceptance as a woman. Yes, there are kilts for women, too, which can be very similar to men's ones, and I would wear those. That's because they are women's kilts, not because they are kilts per se. I don't want to be taken for man in a kilt.

Kilts may, of course, be a half-way house that will satisfy a lot of trans women who may wear the item to feel more feminine but who do not wish to be out as transgender. 

These days, there is a whole range of garments that pass as kilts, such as 'utility kilts', that have quite a following. You can get them in various manly designs - camouflage, 'tactical', steampunk, 'gladiator' leather ... They are certainly practical and I saw a man in a workshop a few years ago wearing a short utility kilt that suited him and didn't seem odd. His being Scottish helped, but it was more like a black pleated miniskirt than a standard kilt. 

 


There seem to be cargo kilt designs for women too, though mostly shorter as, hey, women need to show a bit of thigh, right? 

Naturally, all this can have traditionalists frothing at the mouth. But as with all things traditional and many things masculine, the kilt to be genuine must, they say, be won by someone entitled to do so and to a strict set of rules on hem height above knee, belt size, kilt pin placing and all manner of proper and correct materials, accessories, fit and deportment. It's a minefield! No wonder most Scottish men these days wear jeans! 

My feeling is, if it makes you happy and you aren't intentionally insulting someone, then wear what you want. 

So a kilt is a great garment, and there's a huge array of kiltmakers these days. But a kilt is not for me. I'm not a man, you see.

 

Back to school

Wishing workers and children a brave return to work and school this autumn. The week to come is often the most depressing of the year! Here's something to lighten the mood:

(c) Terry C Wise


Sue x

Thursday, 1 September 2022

Plans for pretty

I haven't taken any photos all summer and that's because it's been too hot and my makeup will not stay on my face. You don't want to see me without it, believe me! Given that trans law states that photos must taken as often as possible, I'm at risk of being thrown out of the club!

Since recovering from eczema, though, I've not used oil-based foundations but only water-based ones and they just don't cope with this kind of heat. The temperature here has barely varied for ten weeks, not even by night. It's only just today dipped below 30°C (86°F), and by below I mean 29.5!

However, the slow drop in temperatures is making me consider a really good, thorough makeover this autumn. I'm growing my finger and toe nails long, smooth and even so that they will look their best when painted. That will be once the swimming pool closes mid-September. I'm applying my various new hair trimmers. And I keep adding items to my wardrobe. So I feel a fully feminine photo session coming up soon. Much as I like hot weather, I also like to feel pretty but this year the two things have been mutually exclusive. 

In some ways, getting ready to look one's best is a chore; but in others, it's part of the satisfaction of being a trans girl to see one's feminine aspects getting enhanced.

All will be revealed ...


In the Pink Fog

Charlotte Sparkle is blogging regularly again and I've added her interesting trans blog to the blogroll, right. Link here too: In the Pink Fog

Welcome, Lotte.


Creature feature

A few days ago I suggested that the gecko who shed his tail might get called Norbert Shortbutt. But a friend pointed out that the name wouldn't be apt if, or rather when, the tail regrew. This is a good point. So how about Hugo Regrow?

For all I know he's female and actually answers to the name of Xorktalinda, Princess of Night and Stalker of the Shrubbery, Slayer of Ants, Scourge of Moths! Still, there are lots of these geckos about in the evening, not just this one. It's considered good luck to have them adopt you and this is partly why these critters keep featuring here!


 Sue x

 

Tuesday, 30 August 2022

Space for everyone, and the Drab Drink

 Thank you for the nice comments on my last post about the closure of the Scooter Café in London. It's a shame they've decided to throw in the (tea)towel but I expect a similar venue will arise there. 

I thought it worth adding a bit more detail to this as Lower Marsh is the sort of street that caters to anyone and everyone and illustrates how people of all sorts can live happily together despite obvious differences and preferences. And a regular trans event used to be held there.

At one end of the street is a lively Cuban bar, at the other a pub frequented by bikers. Along the way you pass stalls selling street food from round the world (oh, and a Greggs for the home crowd), an Asian supermarket, a railway bookshop with everything for the trainspotter about town, cafés and restaurants of all sorts, a costume shop for partygoers, a small art gallery, and other shops and businesses. In the middle is Lounge 34, a cocktail bar that used to be the monthly venue for the well-attended trans event known as the Drab Drink, which is for London TGirls who are unable to get out dressed but who want to meet others similarly placed. More on the Drab Drink, then and now, below.

So salsa fans and hairy bikers, hobby geeks and fancy dress partygoers, local residents and office workers wanting a sandwich, theatregoers and commuters wanting to eat or drink out, TGirls in stealth and not... a huge mix of people in the one place who rub along very well. This is how a commercial street should be, something for everyone. A far cry from places that are suspicious of anything from outside their community. It's the sort of place where I can thrive, not the type of sterile world created by social, political or religious bigotries. The family I grew up in would hate it, but that's their loss.

Anyway, if you want more on the Scooter Café, so-called as it was previously a motorcycle repair shop, try this short illustrated review by the Veteran Vespa Club (there was an old Vespa scooter in the window): Scooter Caffè.

 

They're right, the Italian form, Scooter Caffè is actually what it was called. Apparently the café featured in one of the Bourne films. It was a studied shabby chic that understated the quality food and drink, and attracted a youngish crowd (so I felt totally at home lol!)

As an aside for history buffs, just behind here is the former entrance to the Funeral Trains platforms of Waterloo Station. The best explanation of this service I've ever come across is from vlogger Jago Hazzard, whose dry sense of humour may appeal ("the dead had their own coffin tickets, though presumably return fares weren't available") and who has a lot of shots of the area, including some of the grot that still persists. If you want an idea of how Britain was divided by class and faith, the funeral train service is one of the best illustrations you could wish for. The eclectic South London of today is very different.


Drab Drink

I'm pleased to see that this event is still going and is now called the London Trans+ Meet Up. It's an informal meet-up on the first Thursday of every month. You do not need to dress to attend. Fuller contact details by clicking here.

The next meeting will be this Thursday, 1 September, from 7pm at the Retro Bar in George Court just off the Strand (WC2N 6HH). (George Court is not easy to find despite being off one of the capital's main thoroughfares but it is on the south side of the Strand sandwiched between the Halifax Building Society and Superdrug, very near the pedestrian crossing leading from the Charing Cross Police Station/William IV St junction.) 

I attended Drab Drink once when it was in Lower Marsh. That was when my skin problem precluded my wearing makeup. Oddly, I don't seem to have written about it on my blog at the time. But I found it friendly, non-judgmental and a way to meet other trans people in an informal way. 

I wish them every success.

Sue x

Sunday, 28 August 2022

Sometimes gain, sometimes loss

 I am pleased to hear that Vietnam, one of the world's most populous countries, has declared that being gay or trans is not an illness, that LGBT people cannot be 'cured' and should be treated with respect. The Far East, South East Asia, the Pacific and, to a degree, South Asia, have generally been much more LGBT tolerant - for centuries - than the West. There's no harm in having a statement in writing from official sources, though, is there?

It's a pity that the gains in official tolerance in a number of Western nations has diminished in recent years, although I remain convinced that the public support us. And a child's sweet gesture at Manchester Pride in England yesterday is very heartwarming.

 

Scooter Café tribute

I'm sad to say that the Scooter Café in London's Lower Marsh just behind Waterloo Station has closed after 22 years. It's such a shame as it was a quirky, bohemian place with lovely coffee and cakes, interesting cocktails and beers, and hot chocolate that was more like a pudding than a drink. The small back yard was an oasis of quiet and greenery in a busy city. And the pussy cats were cute. Naturally, TGirls were as warmly welcomed as any other customers. I shall miss it. 




Creature feature

I'm pleased to say that I've seen the gecko who lost his tail on a couple of other evenings since I last wrote. One time he was happily hoovering up little ants. The other time he was sitting on the wall. So it looks like he is here to stay, like Laura the Lizard. Maybe he's forgiven me my clumsiness.

I have researched Laura a bit and she is a typical Mediterranean wall lizard, but she has a more silver-green skin than is usual, and is almost certainly female. Although we don't insist too much on gender certainties here!

As for the gecko, at the moment I'm designating him male and I'm going to give him a name. By analogy with a former colleague's pet rabbit who had a disagreement with a lawnmower when young, lost his ears in the fight and was known ever after as Lugless Douglas, I propose to call my gecko who shed his tail Norbert Shortbutt. But reader suggestions are very welcome.

Sue x

Wednesday, 24 August 2022

Should I stand on a chair and scream?

I'm all for pointing out that being transgender is not just about clothes. Other interests and behaviours are involved as well and, in many ways, I think that is the key. I wear dresses because it fits my understanding of myself, not because they're a kink, a fetish, an interest, a persuasion or just the latest fashion must-have. I've never been into sports league statistics, overhead camshafts or acting tough. So that puts paid to my male credentials, right? And I like flowers, giggles and high heels. So that's proof I must be a woman, yes?

Let's look at this from the point of view of a mad episode this week with my back garden menagerie. In the last few weeks I've been talking a lot about the lizards and other critters who live in my plant pots. 

On Sunday evening I was watering the plants and noticed a tiny gecko on the wall, about an inch and a half long. Geckos are very common here so I took little notice, but when I'd finished and gone back indoors I realised it had gone into my living room. I was about to close the door for the night and, as there are slim pickings for insect-eaters in my home, I thought it best to encourage it out. So I picked up a piece of paper to guide it in the right direction but accidentally dropped the sheet onto the gecko, who responded by shedding its tail. 

This is an instinctual response by a number of reptiles to distract predators and it's an amazing tactic as the tiny detached tail with its bright colouration wriggled and writhed about on the floor. If I were a cat or other predator, I'd have been mesmerised by it. It was pretty fascinating even for someone who knew what was happening. That's the point: the potential predator gets distracted by the tail and so the bulk of the tasty gecko gets away. I was upset, though, that I'd been so clumsy and the gecko had reacted as though I were an enemy. Although the gecko will regrow its tail, the second tail is never quite as good as the first and there may be no scope for a third tail if ever necessary. I'm sorry about that, I really am. 

I couldn't coax the now inch-long gecko from under the sofa so I left the door open in the hope it would go back out in the night, even though an open back door is an obvious security issue for me. 

The next morning, Monday, there was no sign of geckos or burglars indoors so I shut the door and carried on with my day. That evening I went to water the plants again and the crazy thing scuttled back into my living room! Here it is, minus tail.


You're a stickler for trouble, my little intruder! Again, I grabbed the first piece of paper I could find and, gripping firmly this time, scooped the critter up, stepped outdoors and, as I would with a spider or insect, wafted the paper upside down to shed its load, forgetting that geckos have a unique grip. It clung on for dear life and no matter what shaking or fluttering I did, the wretched thing stuck to my paper, which I now noticed was my bill from the water company. (Ah, yes, a bill for water we can now use only during limited hours of the day! They still charge us full rate, the bandits!) Look, Gordon Gecko, you want to grip my water bill, you can pay for it! I clung on, it clung on and this tug-of-paw went on for some time. 

There is a scientific theory that geckos have such impressive grip because their skin is designed to have such close contact with the surface they are walking on that the electrons of the gecko's atoms exchange with electrons of surface atoms thus creating a tight bond. Other scientists dispute this theory. What I want to know, though, is if I rip this gecko off my water bill, do the atoms split and will there therefore be an atomic explosion? And if so, do I need to pay my bill? "Sorry, but my bill was destroyed in an act of war by our lizard overlords!" Could we parachute mini geckos into the Kremlin so when the KGB pull them off the walls the place is exploded brick by brick? A scientist friend tells me I am being fanciful. I dare say there's a Hollywood summer blockbuster script right there, though!

I digress! In the end, the gecko finally got the message, let go and scuttled off into the night. I've seen several of his still-betailed companions a number of times this week. 

But this brings me (finally) to the point. Traditionally, women are supposed to stand on a chair and scream when they see a mouse or even a spider in the house. But I think little creatures are quite cute, as long as they don't sting. Does this call my female credentials into question? 

A female cousin of mine went crazy when a gecko entered her house and she spent a frantic time trying to shoo it off the ceiling with a broom. One of my sisters would have had a fit if she'd had to deal with a writhing gecko tail! She hates all insects, too, and once missed a train because the station platform had an advertising hoarding with a poster with a caterpillar on it that she couldn't bear to look at. This is the sister who hates LGBT people and this general sense of fear and disgust for the unusual or potentially dangerous is, I think, the overarching driver of all her many prejudices. Indeed, behavioural scientists feel that a lot of religious, political and social thinking can be driven simply by one's innate fears of certain things. Emotions like disgust or terror can make a difference at the ballot box, and I don't think you need much scientific background to realise that. Some people are more worried by bugs or innovation or speaking or heights or strangers or whatever than others, and that affects their interactions. But it doesn't follow that women generally are driven by these phobias. My uncle can't stand non-fluffy animals either. Years ago I was staying with my grandmother when a bat got in. She was furious because a creature had got into her nice clean tidy home and was messing up the proper order of the universe. Bats live outside, people in; for her, that's the way it is! My uncle, then in his 30s, crawled into his bed and pulled the covers over his head in case the mad bat got him! I had to deal with it, wasn't able to shoo the frightened thing out, and got fed up with the gibbering and screaming from the other occupants of the house so I just closed the bedroom door on them, went to bed and let the thing flap and bang about my bedroom all night till it worked out which way was out in the cold light of morning. 

My post is somewhat tongue-in-cheek, as you'll doubtless have gathered. This thing of women standing on chairs and screaming does show that male/female stereotypes do pervade our thinking much of the time. Each of us has our natural instincts, a collection of them, unique to us. I like geckos; I hate wasps. I have no interest in chick-magnet cars, either as owner or passenger; but I will buy every colour if I find a special style of tights I like. Does that make me more feminine, less masculine? Or vice versa, as I didn't scream when the gecko chucked its tail. Or am I just a human being with a particular range of behaviours, preferences and desires? An instinct I just can't shake, though, is that I am, deep down and in my core, a woman.

Well, that's about it from Sue's Zoos and Views for today. Never let the reptiles take over your life!


 Sue x



Saturday, 20 August 2022

Cooler and more feminine

 In these past two weeks we have had a few rain showers. In fact, we have had almost as much rain so far this month as in all the rest of the year, which hasn't been much! But the welcome effect is that the temperatures this weekend are much more as they should be - about 28C (82F) by day and 24C (75F) by night. That's just right and it's a real relief after two months of unchanging excess heat both day and night.

So these last few days I (and most other people) have stopped living in just our swimwear and gone back to wearing clothes! My favourite dress is out of the wardrobe again and some light skirts too. I've swapped flipflops for shoes with a bit of a heel. 

Don't get me wrong, I love hot weather and I tolerate heat much better than most people, but like most TGirls I love my clothes. They are the most obvious sign of my femininity and of how I express my gender. The more clothes I wear, the more female I appear! I love winter clothes as they are the most satisfyingly feminine, but I hate winter; I love hot summer, but then I find it harder to feel feminine. The more I crave warmth the more the masculine emerges; the more I cringe from the cold, the more my coverings make me look and feel a woman. Nature is annoying!


Creature feature

Laura the Lizard continues to thrive among the herb pots. I'm sure she's grown. A while back I would occasionally see a grey-blue gecko, too. But this week I found its body by the drain. I don't know why these sad things happen. But I have recently seen another gecko instead, a brown one. One thing passes another arrives. As above, it's nature doing its thing in its own way.

One related story is that I have successfully grown a chilli pepper this year after a complete failure last year and many dud seeds earlier this year. When I finally got one plant growing well, I planted more and now I have six plants. It takes a lot of heat, I reckon. I expect lots of spicy sauces for winter now!



Lazy

This week is the main holiday week of the year and everyone's on holiday so all I can do is join them! I have been catching up with a lot of reading. To contrast the heat I have been reading Gerrit de Veer's description of the Dutch expeditions to try to find the North-East passage to China in the 1590s and how their ship became trapped in ice and they had to overwinter in the Arctic, trying to combat the cold, scurvy and polar bears. Even though it was written 400 years ago, it had me hooked. An extraordinary tale of bravery and survival. And a good antidote to heat and drought!

Enjoy the rest of your summer.

Sue x


Sunday, 14 August 2022

500 posts, 11 years

 An anniversary post. I've been blogging here for 11 years and, by coincidence, this is the 500th post.

Thank you for reading. Although any blog is necessarily personal, I try to pitch it at a general international trans audience and discuss the sort of topics that concern us, as well as adding any personal news that might be interesting. Less of the shopping and party news of late (thanks, Covid) but I hope that will change.

Thanks to those who have subscribed and to those who have commented this year: Lynn, Susie, Christine, Charlotte, Nikki, Connie, Jonathan, Marian, Stephanie, Emma W, Mandy, KD, Wilhelmina, Mark, Arun, Leann, Roz, Rhonda, Paula, Lucie, Joanna, Emma G. Your perspectives and experiences are always interesting and helpful. Lynn wins the coveted Most Commenty Commenter Award. Your prize tiara's in the post, Lynn.

Thanks also to T-Central and Feedspot for their useful metasites that feature blogs like this. I'm honoured the latter considers this blog as one of the best Transwoman blogs and best Transgender blogs in its recent updates. And many thanks to all the other bloggers who link up with me. In an era when trans people are under attack, a community like this is more important than ever.

I started this blog after a picnic with a trans friend at Painshill Park, England in August 2011. The blog background photo is from that trip. Here's another from that day, a reminder of good times and showing how life out and about as a woman is bliss.


Love and best wishes 

Sue x

Friday, 12 August 2022

A mixed bag

 Several topics this time. 

Firstly, I am still looking for a new handbag. My best ever bag was a soft patent leather one that I carried everywhere in my early days and have never found any bag quite as good since. It's worn out now and I really want another just like it both for the style and its practicality. 

 

'The' bag. About the best picture I have of it.

There are lots of stylish bags in the boutiques near home but many have eye-watering prices and I am not so fussed about being seen with the latest fashion must-have as I am with having something practical.

But living in the frontier zone of three countries means there are a lot of migrants wanting to cross borders and while they wait they sell fake designer bags in the street. There are one or two such items that are looking almost like my kind of thing. So let's see if a street vendor gets my money instead of a genuine designer label. 

I should also pay more attention to the Saturday market, too, as many stalls sell decent quality leather goods at worthwhile prices. I recall buying real leather gloves at a French market in 1987 for 55 francs (which was 5 pounds / 5 dollars at the time) and I have worn them every winter since. 35 cold winters later and they are still going strong. Best purchase ever! So a long-lasting bag for a low price strikes me as being a real win.

Keep watching this space! We'll get a bag in the end.


Thank you

Thank you to Calie of trans metasite T-Central for featuring my last post. If you don't know it, T-Central is a good library of trans blogs and information sites.

Despite the often crazed attacks there are nowadays from some corners of the political, sporting, feminist and other worlds, I do not feel that trans bashing is something that the public relate to, and even less so when it seems to be a distraction from very immediate real-life problems such as pandemics, drought and climate change, high inflation, stagnant wages and so on. 

Lynn's post today about the consequences of actions continues this theme: Cause and Effect.


Coincidences

I normally try to blog on Mondays and Thursdays or Fridays as this fits best into my weekly schedules. But the next post will be on Sunday as I notice a nice coincidence coming up. Exciting, eh? 

Wishing you a good weekend.

Sue x


Monday, 8 August 2022

They like us really

 Despite the noise and rage against trans people by small yet vocal and aggressive sections of certain political, religious and feminist persuasions, I feel most of the public are not hostile to trans people. Indifferent or puzzled in large part, certainly; yet we have enough allies to counter a lot of the aggression. 

It has become clear that the public have accepted that gay people exist and should not be discriminated against. Many recent referendums around the world on topics like gay marriage have received clear approval from the public, even in religiously conservative places like Ireland or the rural cantons of Switzerland. 

Although associating transgender rights with sexuality rights is incorrect from a social or biological point of view, it doesn't do us any harm to ride on the increasing success of the overarching LGBT movement. Anyone can see, for example, that banning conversion therapy for gay people in Britain can not be reconciled with maintaining it for trans people. A sense of fair play is one virtue the British do have. Furthermore, the insistence of some religions that trans people are just a variant of gay people works against them here, as well as showing up their ignorance, confusion and lack of touch with the present era.

Generally speaking, when out and about I have had more support than abuse from the public; online I have found transphobia to be fairly rare. Of course, I am very alert to the possibilities of its cropping up anywhere, especially with such a hate-driven family as mine, but it does seem to me that the number of people who are prepared to dedicate a significant proportion of their lives to causing trouble to us is pretty small. The trouble is intense, of course, and when someone is determined to hurt and harm then it is amazing what damage they can do. But on the whole people recognise injustice and the abuse of others for what it is. And the backlash against transphobia can be severe: this article on former Olympic swimmer Sharron Davies' resistance to trans people in sport, for instance, makes clear that organisations and charities have been dropping her. And we know the resistance to J K Rowling's transphobia from actors who played in Harry Potter films.

Christine's comment last week was a good reminder of resistance in the Sixties and Seventies to the widening of rights for many people, including such 'minorities' as women, the decriminalising of homosexuality in many countries, greater rights for immigrants and native people, including decolonisation, and how certain groups frothed at the mouth at this. So there seems to be another wave of this resistance in the light of the fact that society has made more progress: gay people marrying, gay people adopting (and its being found that the kids they adopt do better in school than the kids of straight parents!), trans people of the 'wrong' sex having babies, trans people coming out in greater numbers because they are less scared to do so...

The target is trans people now because they are a far smaller group than women, black Americans or black South Africans, or gay people. Trying to resist the advances gay people have made over the last 50 years is too difficult now so a smaller minority needs scapegoating. It shows up the cowardice of these bullies, though, doesn't it? It's a disgrace that the overwhelming majority of trans people are still in the closet and will remain so for a long time as they are still scared. Since moving to Europe I haven't been outdoors yet and although Covid and moving house and damaged legs have been a factor in that, it is also the case that I am uncertain of my ground here.

I'm pleased to hear that many more Pride events have gone well over the last few weekends. Things have moved on a lot since the first such events fifty years ago, which were protests rather than festivals, and there is still clearly a need for the LGBT community to be seen and be supported. In big cities in particular, a lot of the straight/cisgender public enjoy the colour and spectacle and acknowledge the rights of the community and it's a fun day for all. And I am convinced, as those referendums show, that most people are tired of innocuous minorities like ours being attacked all the time. 

I thought I'd illustrate this with three photos of spontaneous fun with random members of the public who enjoyed the company of me and my friends on various occasions.



 

Be alert to and resist transphobia, but be aware also that most people support the underdog when some bully picks a fight. I think we'll come out stronger when this wave of hate has passed.

Sue x


Friday, 5 August 2022

Gender advice in school diary

My new desk diary has a two-page spread in the centre all about gender identity. How cool is that?

My work year corresponds fairly well to the school/academic year, so even though I don't work in education, an academic desk diary running from September onwards is very handy. Besides, here in Italy, school diaries have a tradition of having cartoons at the bottom of the pages, which is about my kind of level! So among the various diaries on sale for the new study year I found one series with these basic definitions of gender identity and related matters. Don't worry if you don't read Italian as the main terms have all been adopted from English:


I am delighted that many students this year will have a handy guide to the topic. Placed right between Christmas Day and the 26th December, this information is pretty hard to miss. The rest of the diary is gender neutral in its presentation - no obvious leanings to standard boy or girl marketing preferences. Good work.


Creature feature

I've mentioned Laura the Lizard in a couple of recent posts and she lives in the little oasis of green I've created on my terrace and seems happy. Here she is strolling in her little realm, taken just the other day:



That was the same day that I found another teeny tiny lizard about an inch and a half long in my hallway. I guess he came in from the terrace. But he went out under the front door. But as I know that the stairwell is not a good place for lizards (as a few tiny corpses over the years have testified) I caught him in a tupperware box and put him on the terrace. 

 


Maybe he will stay, like Laura. I'd like that. Maybe he's Laura's baby? Who knows. And I don't know if he's a he and Laura's a she but, as with all of us, a gender has been allocated. Hey, that's life. Annoying isn't it? 

Anyway, I hope to see him about again.

Sue x

Monday, 1 August 2022

Profession: space hottie

 I was sorry to hear of the death of actress Nichelle Nichols, who is best know for playing Uhura in the early days of Star Trek. My condolences to her family, friends and fans.

 

Rest peacefully

I am not a Trekkie at all and have little idea of what happened to the show after the first couple of movie spinoffs (which were not very good, in my view). The earliest Star Trek series were revolutionary in conception, even though they usually involved Spock falling in love, Bones being controlled by alien forces, Scottie regularly informing that the engines cannae take any more and Captain Kirk being jovially called Jim by his crew once each adventure had been resolved satisfactorily. It was only later that I realised that casting a black woman as a main character with senior rank was a bit of a first in Hollywood. It seemed unremarkable when I was a kid in funky London, but what makes adults fret is often quite acceptable to children. 

Uhura was the best character, though, because she was intelligent and yet got to wear the daringest costume, even by '60s minidress standards. This gave her endless legs, with red undies on show and smart go-go boots... and yet also responsibility and respect. The future seemed so cool, in a groovy Sixties kind of way.

The space race was on when I was young and we were assured that by 2022 we'd be living in space colonies, Moonbase Psi or Mars Dome 14 or Alpha Centauri Penal Colony (for any remaining bad guys) so the prospect of getting a worthwhile job in space whilst looking hot in uniform seemed a fulfillable dream to an aspiring TGirl like me. And it wasn't just the Uhuras who promoted that notion but the other brainy space babes like Lieutenant Gay Ellis in the series UFO or Trillian in the Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy or Jessica 6 in the film Logan's Run and many, many more such fantasies. Coupled with the glam rock era this had a very strong (bad?) influence on my feminine development. It's just as well that too much makeup, an unsuitable wig and an inappropriately short skirt is just not the transgender way, isn't it?!

Gay Ellis from UFO, played by Gabrielle Drake.

 

We seem to have lost something as a species these days, maybe a sense of purpose, a feeling one time that the future was progressive and attainable; now we seem to be just passive stay-at-home consumers, not aiming for anything specific any more. Maybe that's just my impression but I am genuinely disappointed that my career as a space hottie that seemed so assured can never be realised. Gene Roddenberry, Gerry Anderson, this is all your fault! 

Sue x