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!


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.


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