Monday 31 January 2022


I have always loved live performance, especially theatre, preferring it to film or TV, because of its more immediate engagement with the audience. I notice that one of my books, on a theatrical comedy, is still in print after 25 years and, doubtless, enthralling (!) university students somewhere even as I write. Even more sales would be good, but I won't link to it as Sue's News and Views has a strict policy of not outing trans people, and the book's in my male name.

My work at the moment includes input into a project involving the history of musical theatre. Specifically, the work of Pietro Metastasio, an Italian poet and dramatist who wrote many of the librettos (lyrics, if you prefer that term) that were used by innumerable eighteenth-century composers from Handel to Beethoven. 


Pietro Metastasio in a well-known portrait by Pompeo Batoni

But his work is of a particular style and subject matter that went out of fashion with the French Revolution and is not much performed today, though there have been some amazing revivals. If you want a contrast to the Sanremo Pop Festival taking place down the road this week, you could try this short sample from the enthusiastically received Opéra de Nancy's 2012 production of Metastasio's Artaserse with music by Leonardo Vinci (who is not the same as Leonardo da Vinci). 

You can see that all the performers are men but all the voices are very feminine. The six characters in this production are all played by countertenors, which is the highest type of voice that men naturally reach, though it is possible to go higher and this is usually called falsetto, because the register isn't natural. If pop/rock is more your thing than classical music, then Frankie Valli, for instance, was well known for falsetto singing. 

In Metastasio's day the highest registers (soprano) were often written for castrati (plural of castrato). One reason for male roles with high register is you can make the music much more florid than that for low registers. It's physics! There are a few male singers today who have unbroken voices, such as Radu Marian, who can take on these male soprano roles naturally. This, for example ("Zeffiretti innamorati" by Albinoni) shows his astonishing voice well:


The history of the castrati is really one of human rights abuses. If the end justifies the means, then beautiful art has benefited from the doctoring of boys too young to fully appreciate the long-term implications of what they were undertaking. A few castrati knew great success, such as Carlo Broschi, who went by the stage name of Farinelli. Most, though, ended up as jobbing singers in church choirs, just scraping a living. The practice ended as Metastasio's dramas were fading from popularity, though the Catholic Church continued to create castrati till the mid-nineteenth century.

Some of us would love never to have had our voices break. (And to be able to sing, but that's another story!) After puberty, developing a feminine voice takes a lot of work and I have admiration for trans women who take voice therapy classes. Of course, becoming a castrato has nothing directly to do with MtF transition but I am trying to find out if any choirboys of the Metastasio era perhaps opted for castrato status as a means of overcoming gender dysphoria. I suspect so. In the same way that some trans people in the past have opted to become, say, priests of Cybele, since most cultures have social roles that gender-different people can slip into even if the role per se doesn't actually interest them much.

I'm not actually into opera much myself but whilst searching around I came across this interesting article on how transgender singers are performing operatic roles today and even redefining the genre: 

NY Times: Transgender opera singers find their voices (with links to their performances)

I'm writing this partly as a bit of cultural history that may be of interest as a change to my usual posts but also, in some ways, to counteract the prejudices of the local bishop who has condemned the annual national pop song festival in his diocese as being too camp. This from a man who goes round in a long satin robe and bolero with lace edgings, and whose church for centuries castrated young boys so they would sing like women. I don't like hypocrisy.

Sue x

Thursday 27 January 2022

Ear worm

You know when you get a tune stuck in your head? ... That.

I have no idea how or why but the Twigwidge song we were made to learn as part of our musical development at school has been in my head all day. After how many years...??

Twigwidge was the "spirit of the chestnut tree" in the garden of some kids and his philosophy and activities were to be found in the BBC Radio for Schools "Time and Tune" radio series and accompanying booklet. Autumn terms were always the preserve of Twigwidge and at a given time once a week our teacher would tune in to the radio and we'd sing along... 

    Rap tap! Twigwidge! Rap-a-tap! Twigwidge!

    Twigwidge, spirit of the che-hes-tnut tree! etc.

Dear God! In the name of all that's demented, why?! The class 'band' of descant recorders would skirl and warble along to the tinny radio music, encouraged by impossibly happy grown-up presenters. If Hell has piped music, this number could well be in the Satanic Top 10. (Along with the Barney the Purple Dinosaur song that US special forces use to torture recalcitrants by incessant repeats at top volume.) There doesn't seem to be a recording of Twigwidge anywhere on the internet, so that's one lucky escape for you. (Let Barney soothe you instead.)

This was in England in autumn and I was at primary school; I am now in the Mediterranean and it's winter and I'm a lot, lot older. Why after all these years of peace does this moronic guff enter my mind? If that isn't a rhetorical question then I'll have to put my private brain care specialist on danger money.

You need not agree. Here's one who loved Twigwidge and you will get all the background to this cultural phenomenon here. Good luck!

My Favourite Childhood Book, article by Jon Mackley

The point of this is not to sob into my reader's ear (well, it is a bit ... although you know my tongue is firmly in my cheek anyway) but, firstly, to say that I am preparing for the unique lockdown that will be affecting the town of Sanremo and its environs as it did last year. It's where they hold the annual national song festival, where all that's deemed great in contemporary music is belted out on stage and the winner has a local drain cover stamped with their name. You think I'm joking? 

(c) Tonino Bonomo,

So if you sing like a drain, then go for it!

It's an huge event that provides 4-5 hours of prime-time telly all over the country each evening for a week. The Sanremo Festival was the inspiration for the Eurovision Song Contest and last year's winners, Måneskin, went on to win Eurovision, too. I wrote about them as they are gender flexible and are very pro-LGBT (More wins for gender fluidity - 2nd item). This event is therefore too big to be cancelled but, with the Covid pandemic ongoing, last year saw restricted movement in the city centre and it will be the same this year. We don't want  popstrels and TV executives to get nasty diseases, do we?

The Ariston Theatre in Sanremo where the annual song contest is held

But the actual point of this post is to recall that Lady Gaga was all the rage when I first started going out and was playing everywhere, especially in the clubs and bars where we tended to hang out, so it's now impossible for me to associate any other music with my life as  TGirl about town. I was curious if anyone else has a musical link with their trans life? 

(And please don't say Twigwidge.)

Sue x

PS To be fair, BBC Time and Tune produced good songs, too, on the theme of Canals, Flight and similar. It was Twigwidge I couldn't stand!



Monday 24 January 2022


 I spent almost a week away - originally I had planned three days. After two Covid-ruled years that have kept us so much in isolation, I was pretty desperate for company and although I am used to working for myself, and therefore to a degree of solitude, there was always plenty of social time in the evenings and at weekends before Covid came

Although the person I stayed with is unwell and has the oddest lifestyle - sleeping much of the day and running about very actively at night, cooking burgers at 4 in the morning or eating breakfast cereal mid-afternoon - it was vital for me now to have someone to talk to, share (odd) meals with, watch TV with, and feel connection with. The stuff we normally take for granted.

I am now fully dosed up on vaccine and have my Super Green Pass which is the European Union's passport in these Covid times. It lasts nine months across the European Union, but only six nationally. Go figure! By February 1st you will need it to do anything or go anywhere in Italy. The unvaccinated will be fined and will be able to buy food, newspapers and medicines and that's all. The crackdown on no-vaxers is pretty draconian. 

I hope to get out more now as I miss the cultural events and sightseeing and socialising I used to do. I have a friend in Florence and will try to visit her as soon as the latest situation has settled down. At Easter I may even get to see the friends in France I missed at Christmas when the French closed their borders.

I am happy to be vaccinated but I am troubled by the loss of liberty that carrying certification results in, even though it's meant to be temporary. I was hoping to start going out as Sue again, especially as there is a big Pride event planned locally for April, but having to show certification literally anywhere indoors is a worry as, of course, all my ID and certification documents are in my official name. My actual national ID card has a photo and an 'M' marker, neither of which correspond to my feminine appearance. The Green Pass has no gender indicators and my name is foreign here so it may not be a problem. But I don't trust some cop or official not to be a jerk about a TGirl in town apparently not being what is on her documents. There are false certificates about and the authorities are dealing with those severely. I guess it's time to get in touch with the (thankfully quite vocal) local LGBT group here for advice, support and, if need be, protection against prejudice. 

People who aren't transgender have no clue about the stuff we have to ponder and worry about and negotiate.

A dip in the archives

It's anniversary time again. That first trip out back in 2010 to the Angels Party at Pink Punters. I wrote about it on the tenth anniversary in 2020 but forgot that I'd written about it on the third anniversary, too. Yes, the event is indelibly stamped in my mind but I lose track of the hundreds of posts I've written here! 

In days gone by, young ladies of noble families, once they were of marriageable age, would be officially introduced to their sovereign and to high society and be known as débutantes (or just debs), a special occasion for them. This was my deb ball!

My Third Anniversary 

Sue x

Monday 17 January 2022

Hiding in plain sight

My last post was about deprincessing when having to be one's 'official' self but, as it happens, I have been bolder in presenting in a less overtly masculine way today. 

I'm staying with a relative and had my third Covid jab at midday. But my grey jeans, shoes, top and hoodie are all from the womenswear racks (and my underwear is no-one's business but my own). My nails are mid-length and coated in clear varnish. Nothing's obviously feminine but I know it is and this feels right to me. I may be dressed a little young for my age, perhaps, but that's another matter. (Bah, who wants to be a grandma anyway?)

I had a bit of a reaction against the last dose of Covid vaccine I had in September so I'm taking it easy for the next day or two just in case it happens again, but as I happen to be in Milan, a fashion capital, I hope to get some time to look for bargains in the gorgeous shops. 

Milan's fashion district in winter. I took this photo in 2019.

A short post, I know, but time to myself is a bit limited when I'm not in my own home.

Stay safe out there.

Sue x

Friday 14 January 2022


 I'm sure you know the term, when a TGirl has to take off her lovely clothes and makeup so as get back to her humdrum life as a man. A few trans women move to a point where being a woman is their whole life, so then deprincessing is just when the party happens to be over and that nice frock has to be put away. No matter where she is on the trans spectrum, it's never a happy moment for any TGirl.

I spend most of my life in female mode. That's not luck but design. It's been vital to me to have all the time I can to be myself with minority time acting as a man. I hate that minority time but it's a role I can get into, like an actor typecast or known for one part who just slips into the role when it crops up. 

I'm packing my bags to be away next week. I will be looking after a relative who is unwell and I'm having another Covid injection. I'm not looking forward to travelling long distances as the latest wave of disease reaches its peak but the injection, at least, is compulsory so off I go to my official place of residence. My sick relative is not trans-hostile (unlike most of my family) but clearly does not understand trans people and I want to avoid a whole load of trouble. So I am deprincessing for the trip. No dresses or skirts, high heels or pretty tops as I usually wear. Although I've honed my 'boy' clothes over the years to actually be clothes from the womenswear department that are unisex in look or pass for boys' clothes. This keeps me grounded and still feeling feminine but stops awkward questions. I still feel I have a double life, though. Many of us feel we have to have this double life as full transition creates so many problems that the losses we suffer may be too great to bear, or at least perceived that way.

So I am preparing for my kind of deprincessing for next week. 

A dip in the archives

A friend wrote to me saying how much she enjoyed reading this slot. Last year I added A dip in the archives to every post but this made a lot of posts very long so this year I will write it from time to time.

Ten years ago I had my first outing of the year - eating out and going to the cinema in central London. It was a good way to get into the new year. I'm pleased to see that the links to restaurant and pub websites still work after ten years - with Covid ruining so many in the food and drink sector, this is encouraging.

Link: First outing of the year

 Sue x

Monday 10 January 2022


 When the holidays are over and the bank account is empty and the weather is lousy ... you know it's January! In addition, these are not good times. So instead of writing a full blog post on some trans topic, I thought I would put my jokebook up on my blog. It's one of the grey tabs at the top.

I compiled my jokebook in times of adversity in the late 1990s (and in better times later) and so it's there when you need a chuckle. There are as many jokes there now as I could copy in today, and I will add more as time goes on. 

There should be something for everyone. Hope it cheers you up.


Sue x

Thursday 6 January 2022

Healthcare 2022

 I hung up my stocking last night and this morning it was full of treats. "Hang on, Sue," says the reader, "surely you mean you did that on Christmas Eve?" 

No, as I explained this time last year, today is the day where kids here in Italy get presents from a good-natured witch called Befana. At least traditionally. Nowadays they go for Santa Claus instead, like everywhere else. I guess it's another case of a multinational taking over a local business.

In last year's post I also promised a leggings lookbook sometime, which I will do soon. I did several lookbook and tips posts last year such as winter boots, swimwear, perfumes, nail prep and a long series on hosiery (stockings, tights, fashion, matching, practical advice, acquiring). Thanks for your positive responses to those.


But this week I'm trying to look after my health. I have a very awkward health problem that, in its more extreme manifestations, makes my body temperature drop when vertical but overheats me when horizontal. So I freeze by day and boil by night. Maybe I need to lean at 45 degrees to be just right! This is the main reason why I moved to somewhere where extremes of climate are rare (it's usually around 15C/60F in winter and 28C/82F in summer). But on Sunday I still suffered overheating that gave me a headache so powerful it made me vomit for much of the day. No doctor has yet been able to diagnose the cause of this affliction despite all the tests they've done on me. Moving somewhere with a more even climate was the suggestion and it's certainly reduced such attacks, so this was unusual. 

I've now been able to join the national health service here so yesterday I travelled by train to collect my health card and various other documents that had arrived for me as a new citizen. 

Do you remember the days when you went to a station, bought a ticket and got on the next train to your destination? No more: now you have to book a seat and have your ID and Green Pass (i.e. vaccination certificate) checked by the police before going to the platform. Once on the train you must wear a mask of FFP2 grade or above, then have your ticket, reservation and Green Pass checked by the guard. No vax, no travel. This is extreme. And restrictions here are getting more severe even as vaccination becomes compulsory. In Britain, by contrast, official policy seems to be to "let the bodies pile up", as the Prime Minister so charmingly put it. And there are as many variations on these extremes as there are countries. In the '90s I worked on sickness and pandemic strategies that the government of the day endorsed and I can safely say that few recommendations have been followed, notably a worldwide problem being dealt with piecemeal by petty national and local bigwigs rather than globally. Look after yourselves as best you can. You are your own best guard against ill health.

I put on a lot of weight over Christmas as expected and now I am heading back down gently. I wonder if I will be in the healthy weight range by this summer? I hope so, but I'm not going to rush it because that too can be unhealthy. 

Wishing you the best possible health this winter.

Sue x

Monday 3 January 2022

A quarter of a century after I acknowledged I was trans


Hello and happy new year. May 2022 see this pandemic end and everyone thrive.

This new year marks a milestone. It was on New Year's Day 1997, 25 years ago, that I finally resolved to stop resisting the undeniable fact that I was transgender. I wrote about this more fully in 2007 (link: Those biggest resolutions) but my decision then, which hasn't changed, was that: 

"I would stop purging my female clothes, would accept and embrace the fact that I am transgender and never try to suppress it again and, to prove it, I would dress as a woman every day. And I have kept that resolution since."

A lady never reveals her age but that's a lot of my life in acceptance, not to mention all the years I felt like a girl but also felt obliged to resist it. I first began to wish I could be treated like a girl when I was about 5 or 6 and no amount of suppression, conversion therapy, fear and threats, purging my feminine things or any other action ever altered that underlying need. The only thing that changes is the intensity of the need; sometimes I feel more feminine, sometimes less.

I do wish I wasn't trans. It adds so much stress, confusion and fear to life. But they say that when life gives you lemons you should make lemonade and I think I've managed to make some pretty fizzy lemonade since my 1997 resolution. As well as dressing as a woman every day since (even if not always all day) I have managed to live as a trans woman: I've been to dressing services and photoshoots, gone out in public as a woman, organised meetups with other trans people, considered formal transition, represented the trans community at events and rallies... All that's largely what this blog has been about. It's been a blast, too, and I've been so happy when able to be myself, be accepted by the friends I already had and make a whole big bunch of new ones. So being trans has its good side, too. 

There's one other detail from that new year a quarter of a century ago. In the January sales I bought a black jersey dress, a bargain at just £11.50 ... and I'm still wearing it. I'm wearing it as I type and although it has faded, has had dinner spilt on it (messy pup!) and is getting slightly worn in places, it still fits and is still my favourite. 


I've no plans to go back on my 1997 resolution. I realised then that you are transgender for life; it's not some passing phase. So I'll keep embracing the good things about it, and my soft, warm jersey dress will keep embracing me.

On a lighter note

I saw this this morning and it made me laugh. So, on the subject of resolutions and life advice after a certain age...

 Thoughts for the New Year
1. When one door closes and another door opens, you are probably in prison.
2. To me, "drink responsibly" means don't spill it.
3. Age 60 might be the new 40, but 9:00 pm is the new midnight.
4. It's the start of a brand new day, and I'm off like a herd of turtles.
5. The older I get, the earlier it gets late.
6. When I say, "The other day," I could be referring to any time between yesterday and 15 years ago.
7. I remember being able to get up without making sound effects.
8. I had my patience tested. I'm negative.
9. Remember, if you lose a sock in the dryer, it comes back as a Tupperware lid that doesn't fit any of your containers.
10. If you're sitting in public and a stranger takes the seat next to you, just stare straight ahead and say, "Did you bring the money?"
11. When you ask me what I am doing today, and I say "nothing," it does not mean I am free. It means I am doing nothing.
12. I finally got eight hours of sleep. It took me three days, but whatever.
13. I run like the winded.
14. I hate when a couple argues in public, and I missed the beginning and don't know whose side I'm on.
15. When someone asks what I did over the weekend, I squint and ask, "Why, what did you hear?"
16. When you do squats, are your knees supposed to sound like a goat chewing on an aluminum can stuffed with celery?
17. I don't mean to interrupt people. I just randomly remember things and get really excited.
18. When I ask for directions, please don't use words like "east."
19. Don't bother walking a mile in my shoes. That would be boring. Spend 30 seconds in my head. That'll freak you right out.
20. Sometimes, someone unexpected comes into your life out of nowhere, makes your heart race, and changes you forever. We call those people cops.
21. My luck is like a bald guy who just won a comb.

Sue x