Saturday, 31 December 2022

Summing up 2022

 I usually end the year with a review of my adventures as a trans woman but, truth be told, there have hardly been any adventures this year! I dress as a woman all the time now, even if I am not presenting as a woman. Yes, it's complicated, but that's trans life for you. So I've been buying a lot of clothes.

I did enjoy time with my lovely friend Roz a few weeks ago, and we even had time for photos.

I think I might use this one as my avatar in 2023:

I was also excited to be sent some photos of past events by KD and there's another of those below. I must make a proper archive of pictures so I won't have to keep coming across them randomly!

The world as I knew it has gone now and the troubles we face are characterised by extreme nationalism and that brings a lot of transphobia. That said, it's the ruling élites who are transphobic. I have repeatedly said this year, despite the abuse and onslaught of transphobes - from TERFS to religious clerics to dictators - that actually the public has worse things to worry about and do not share this hate for trans people. I am cautious but I think we will improve our position, as recent political moves show.

Covid is reducing and it has now been possible to start eating out again and going on holiday. I have just got back from a lovely Christmas holiday in France with friends (more on that in the new year). I desperately need to travel again after three years of Covid restrictions and I hope that 2023 will be a year of exploration.

Thanks to all of you who have left comments this year. Thanks also to sites like T-Central and FeedSpot for promoting trans blogs like mine. And to the other trans people who blog and vlog about the trans experience.

Let me and the Christmas Kitten I saw in France wish you a good New Year celebration and a coming year that will be better all round. 

Sue x

Sunday, 25 December 2022

A gentle Christmas wish

 Wishing all my readers a peaceful holiday season and gentle, calm times to come after these difficult years. It's holiday season so I hope you have some time to relax. Enjoy company, food, gifts and the love that comes with them.

If you believe in Santa, then I hope he's brought you something pretty. And if you have to rely on family and friends for gifts instead, then I hope they bought you something pretty, too. Not another necktie!

I shall be away now till next weekend so I'll wave goodbye for a few days.


Incidentally, although living in a country renowned for its coffee and the myriad ways to make it, I found a shop that sells loose-leaf tea and have just made a pot of their lapsang souchong ... which is exquisite. And I've got all day to enjoy it. 😋

Best wishes

Sue x

Friday, 23 December 2022

Changing gender becomes easier

 An early Christmas present for trans people yesterday as the lower house of the Spanish parliament and the Scottish parliament voted by clear margins to make it easier for trans people to declare their own gender. 

Spain has been in the forefront of LGBT rights for many years. Now anyone over 16 will be able to change their legal gender without the need for psychological assessment or other medical evaluation, and those aged 14 to 16 may do so with parental approval. The vote in the upper house is unlikely to amend the bill. 

Scotland will lower the age at which one can obtain a gender recognition certificate from 18 to 16 and this will no longer require medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria. This is only a regional parliament and there are suggestions that the UK national parliament in Westminster might attempt to override it. Nevertheless, this shows that there are legislators in Britain who do intend to see transgender people treated better.

Every little step around the world that improves trans lives does send a message to other democracies that society is progressing in its recognition and protection of trans people.

This is all welcome news at the end of a difficult year for so many people.


Holiday greeting

Someone suggested to me that what was really needed this year, as many people struggle with prices, residual pandemic, war and so on, was not so much wishes for happy holidays, which they might not be, but for gentle ones, for calmness and for kindness. That is what I wish you, a gentle, tranquil, low anxiety time. 


Sue x

Tuesday, 20 December 2022

'Tis the season to be ...

Jolly? Stressed? Excited? Panicked?

I like Christmas: all the lights and decorations in the streets contrasting the longest nights of the year, the excess eating, the presents, the days off work. I mean, who doesn't love that? But no matter how early I start Christmas shopping or sending cards out there is always a last-minute rush and that does spoil it. The pressure on us to get it right and have fun is stressful, I find. 

This year I'm joining friends in France from the 26th so I'm getting a suitcase packed as well, and I'll also be bringing them some seasonal food, which needs careful storing and packing too. I've had to send gifts by courier and their proposed delivery times are... creative, let's say. Or as one recent joke has it:

    As a child:

    "You are grounded! Grounded, d'you hear!?"

    As an adult:

    "Your package will be delivered between 8 am and 6 pm."

So, yes, there's fun ahead, but I'm finding it a bit busy! 

Good luck with your seasonal preparations.

Christmas sausages!

You can tell that I don't originate from the riviera as I don’t have a pet in tow. A cat on a lead is quite acceptable here, or a small fluffy dog in a bag or a basket. I often see one gay couple walking their tiny doggies in town, two in frilly pink coats and one in blue. The two in pink might be boys, of course. On Sunday, though, I literally tripped over the Christmas Dachshund Outing, about 30 of them, many in Xmas attire, being walked en masse by their owners (also attired), with a woman on poop scoop detail following behind. This ordered tide of waddling sausages was quite a sight but I didn’t manage to get my camera out in time as it was down at the very bottom of my bag! So I have shamelessly pinched this photo from the group's Facebook page.


Photo: Beatrice S Valli, from "I bassotti di Sanremo e dintorni" Facebook group.

Instead I do have photos of a little park near home that’s just reopened now that the open-air theatre has been rebuilt. It’s pretty, with cascades and a view over the sea. It will be nice for concerts in the summer. 

Sue x

Wednesday, 14 December 2022

Fleece-lined tights

 I have recently been bombarded with advertisements for fleece-lined tights and leggings. The latter have certainly been around for a while but fleecy tights/pantyhose seem a new venture. If not then they've never registered in my mind before. Maybe a lack of past advertising (unlike Smeg kettles!) 

They are designed to look like sheer tights from the outside as the underlying fleece has a skin tone. I feel the cold terribly and in winter I have always worn tights even under jeans/leggings. The idea of wearing what seem like sheer tights but something that is actually much warmer appeals a lot as it promotes shorter skirt styles on cold days.

Online, prices range from the suspiciously cheap to the very expensive. I've borrowed the photo above as it's used by several online retailers with wildly different prices for what is presumably the same item. (So the secret, as always, is to buy online only from firms you know to be genuine retailers or which have been recommended by people you can trust.)

Has anyone tried them or can recommend them? I have seen other women wearing these but on two occasions they've been badly laddered, as if the sheer upper layer is flimsy. As they are usually black, ladders show a lot, although today I did see a near-white pair (that actually looked a bit unusual, a sort of buttercream effect). It's not necessarily the case that more expensive tights last longer than cheap ones.

Keep warm, girls! Winter's here.

Sue x

Monday, 12 December 2022

Subscribe ... and win a kettle!

 Every day for months I have been receiving emails purporting to come from Currys PC World telling me that I've won an electric Smeg kettle. Doubtless some scam but the persistence is puzzling me. I can't say the prospect of owning an electric kettle is a big enough incentive for me to open any of these emails and they all get deleted. Maybe the Smeg brand is an enticement to those in the know. Where I come from, though, Smeghead was a favourite term in the long-running sci-fi comedy, Red Dwarf, and it was never used as a compliment. So the emailers still haven't attracted me. You however, dear reader, can subscribe to my blog for free ... and I will forward one of these emails to you and you can enjoy the kettle!

Don't worry, I wouldn't be so mean. I would instead like to thank the folk at Feedspot for continuing to feature this blog among their Top Transwomen Blogs and Top Transgender Blogs. Feedspot is a good resource and features most of the blogs on my blogroll (right) as well as many others, including trans organisations and news sources such as LGBT pages of reputable newspapers and the queer press. Click on the rosette (top right) for Feedspot's latest list. 

I've added a new blog to my blogroll, Franziska out and about. Franziska is a pretty crossdresser from Frankfurt, Germany, who enjoys her days out en femme. I've enjoyed reading about her travels and her photos are lovely. Thanks for sharing your adventures, Franziska.

Stay well

Two of my best trans friends are very sick and I am upset.

Kate who does so much for girls in the Manchester area starts her stem cell therapy for her cancer today. It's a gruelling procedure and I hope it will help her, poor thing.

Roz, who came to stay just a few weeks ago is in hospital taking a cocktail of drugs against one of the many bugs that are going round. Roz is almost never sick so this is serious. Get well soon, lovely.

I wish my readers good health this winter. I know we are all trying to save on energy costs but don't get cold when there are this many viruses about. Don't forget to layer clothes for improved warmth out  or when not moving much, and this is where women's clothing comes into its own: I wear an extra cami and a pair of tights or leggings under my other clothes much of the time in winter. I am still wearing FFP2 anti-Covid masks in closed spaces even though it's no longer the law. They protect against Covid but are even better against flu and cold germs. And try not to get too stressed with Christmas shopping, finishing the workload before the holidays, or getting to all those parties - I find it's the stress that runs you down and makes you susceptible to winter bugs more than the season itself.

Ultimate protection against everything December can throw at us! (Costumes at La Scala opera house for the Chinese emperor and two bodyguards for Puccini's Turandot.)


Anyway, that's enough from Nurse Sue. I'm off to top up my vitamin C!

Sue x

Thursday, 8 December 2022

I review Chelsea Manning's memoir

 I've just finished reading Chelsea Manning's book README.txt. Chelsea Manning is an especially famous - indeed infamous - trans woman, best known for uploading hundreds of thousands of US classified military documents to Wikileaks, her main aim being to show that what the Western public was being told about the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan was not what was really happening. She got into a lot of trouble for it. She is a villain to many and a hero to others, the latter including Vivienne Westwood who is quoted on a sticker placed on the front cover of my copy ("In my mind, Chelsea Manning is the greatest hero that ever lived"); I thought Westwood was a punky fashion designer rather than a military analyst, but I guess anyone's going to draw their own conclusions about Manning's life and actions according to their own lights.

Obviously, I read the book because, to me, the autobiography of any trans person is of especial interest. But this is a book of many themes.

She recounts being brought up in out-of-the-way communities in Oklahoma, USA, and Wales, UK, by alcoholic parents. She struggled with that, with her sexuality (brought up as a boy, she was always attracted to boys when it was illegal in places like Oklahoma) and, later, with trying to live homeless until an aunt took her in. She struggled to make ends meet, despite working long hours. The military was offering bigger bucks than she could make in a civilian job, with a $20,000 bonus to those who signed up immediately, which she did, rather blindsiding her aunt who suddenly lost her young relative to the tender mercies of a US Army training camp. Having been a computer geek who indulged in bouts of hacking, piracy, trolling and doxxing, she was posted to intelligence gathering roles (a bit of illegal stuff in one's past is rarely a bar to making a career in the military, after all).

The USA at the time had a "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy about gay people in the military. There are, she believes, a lot of gay people in the military, way more than anyone knows, or even they themselves know (which was even more the case at the time, thanks to the policy). We know people join up for reasons like hers, or so as to avoid a life in and out of police cells, or in order to man up, or in order to meet men... Being required to be covert about one's sexuality never made romantic encounters easy and one time she was raped by an officer whom she couldn't report because - if you've ever worked in any hierarchy you'll know - folks above you have the ability to wreck your career and reputation, and having to come out as gay to explain the rape would have flown in the face of the "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy. She felt truly violated, not just physically but morally.

She wanted to make a good career and, although offered a great desk job in intelligence despite (or because of) her less than perfect record on hacking, drugtaking, and other things that might be morally and/or legally questionable, she felt that no-one who hadn't seen action could really hold their head up, so she turned the job down so as to be posted to Iraq. It's one of those forks in the road of life at which one makes a decision that seems reasonable at the time but which turns out to be a disaster.

Still doing intelligence-based work on the (rather vague) front line, she still couldn't, as happened previously, get her superiors to see the shoddy security of many US military computer systems containing classified information; nor the logic and morality of keeping some things classified purely on the grounds that they were bad for public relations, but declassified and open to the press when it made the military or US policy look good. She was troubled by the fact that intelligence gathering (i.e. spying) on the local population was so intense that she felt she knew more about the lives of the locals than they knew about themselves. Above all, though, she became tormented by the endless engagement errors when innocent bystanders were killed - thousands of them (the numbers are unknown) - and yet no-one was ever held to account because the international rules of war enable soldiers to make lethal mistakes that no civilian would ever get away with. People of doubtful politics, or just suspect, were caught and handed over to the Iraqi authorities ... and the allied militaries would wash their hands of them:

"We captured and detained these men [suspected of killing a US soldier of her unit], then gave them to the Iraqi government. We didn't keep track of people once we got them "off the battlefield", as the phrase went. Kill or capture and the problem is solved. Whether that was the right thing to do or not didn't matter to me then. With enough grief and adrenaline and fear, we can all become amoral, even malevolent."

That last sentence represents, in many ways, the main theme of this book, more than her being trans. One is also reminded, to a degree, of Hannah Arendt's seminal 1963 work The Banality of Evil, which offers explanations on how ordinary people can do monstrous things simply through the honest intention of doing their job well that blinkers them to how others just like them are severely affected.

So she leaked 720,000 classified documents, partly to disclose what was really happening in Iraq and Afghanistan, partly to show up the poor IT security she had attempted to warn of, and partly to attack the bizarre way of classifying secrecy. In the "honest, succinct" words of a military press affairs officer she quotes:

"the classification system exists wholly in the interest of the U.S. government so if it's in the interest of public affairs to declassify something, we will. In other words, he seemed to say, the classification system doesn't exist to keep secrets safe, it exists to control the media. ... I began to consider whether the public deserved to have the same information that I did." 

Oops! Nobody likes to be shown up and humiliated, and an organisation like an army, that is necessarily run by psycopaths, dealt with Manning's leaks in a uniquely brutal way: months of solitary confinement, including many weeks in an animal cage in the desert heat (see Alec Guinness as Colonel Nicholson stuffed in "the oven" in Bridge on the River Kwai for something similar). Her treatment was condemned by the UN and human rights groups. There followed Kafkaesque proceedings on legal matters all of which came under military law and therefore the military was policeman, prosecutor, judge, jury, and jailer. (I wonder if it might've gone better for her stealing the documents and disclosing them once she'd left the military, but that would take a legal mind to explain.)

The day after her sentence in 2013 she formally came out as trans and a lot of legal shenanigans were required to get her hormones, treatment and dress appropriate to her gender. She feels that, whatever the authorities might have thought, her fellow inmates, once she was able to associate with them, seemed to have few problems interacting with her as a woman. 

Another issue, unexpected until you've become famous or notorious, is that people supporting you or your cause may not necessarily have your exclusive interests at heart:

"all the groups expressing support for me clearly had their own agendas and views. My ability to tell my story had always been constrained by the limits of social convention; now it was not just limited but co-opted."

As Jon Ronson shows in his popular book The Psycopath Test, you can easily lose your own truth to others who use you to peddle their alternative realities. And, as an aside, anti-trans groups do love a bit of this, as do some self-appointed trans advocacy groups.

One gets the impression from this book that here is a young person (early 20s) learning an awful lot about the world way faster than most of us do. And doing a lot of her own legal donkey work, to the extent of being able to advise other prisoners (like a sort of trans Andy Dufresne from The Shawshank Redemption). Somehow, she survived all the military threw at her and her suicide attempts, and her jail sentence of 35 years was commuted by the president in 2017. 

The book makes it hard to consider the nature of morality, of right and wrong, in any dispassionate way. Do you, as an individual or a group or a nation, fight what seems wrong by doing what is also deemed wrong? Do the ends justify the means? Does formal justice represent natural justice? Is Chelsea Manning a pure-souled individual given her previous hacking, piracy and trolling, her part in military thuggery, occupation and spying? Is she hero, villain, or victim of circumstance? If villain, is she redeemed now? Are there ever clear right or wrong answers or best approaches to many life issues? It's an uncomfortable read. The trans community needs to consider how it benefits and loses by her life and actions. This book presents someone's own life experiences, impressions and justifications - an apologia would have been the term for this sort of autobiography once - though aspects of her story are subject to legal restrictions and, indeed, some paragraphs of the book have been blacked out. As a story of a trans woman coming to terms with who she is, it is in some ways a typical story yet also a unique one, as are they all, though this is more unique than any other I have read.

Finally, a word on style. I found the prose very readable. Never verbose or superfluous, she writes well and generally clearly, presumably from having had to produce so many succinct reports in her job. Sometimes she is almost poetic in her descriptions of places or sensations. She does assume the reader knows more about IT stuff than, well, I do, but such passages are few. 

Two final quotations. One on her wanting to be like her sister:

"I didn't just want her room; I wanted to be like my sister: when I was five or six, I'd sneak in and try on her things. She played around with a cowgirl look in her early teens, and I still remember the boots and the belt buckles and the T-shirts with the horses and the frilly fringes that I'd try on. I loved her makeup station, with a mirror and light bulbs that changed color. I'd stare at myself for long stretches, seeing if I looked different with this lipstick, that foundation, this lighting. After I'd left a mess enough times, Casey installed a lock on her bedroom door. I still tried to pick the lock so I could play with her things."

I can relate to that, though I'd not call it playing! Here's when she first kissed a boy, ironically whilst doing the "boy stuff" that her father had insisted she needed to do when she'd asked him if she'd grow up like her sister:

"That was also the first year I kissed a boy. I'll call him Sid. Sid, a bicycle ride away, white-blond and tanned and pencil thin and obsessed with the spectacular pageantry of the World Wrestling Federation. We used to wrestle on a big foam mat at his house, with bungee cables he'd set up as the ring's ropes, pretending that we were pros. One day, while we were play-fighting, I gently moved in and kissed him - it wasn't premeditated, just a yearning impulse. He kissed me back. And then some other kid saw us. Once Sid realized we were being watched, he pushed me off. Get off me, you faggot. I couldn't stop weeping." 

So, of course, the cat was out of the bag, with consequences at school and in family... (Mind you, wrestling has always been a grey area in terms of manliness - the costumes and attitude are are little, well, gay, right?)

My review is based on a first reading of the work. I would like to read it again. Would I recommend this book? For a tale of how a trans person comes to terms with their being transgender, yes. For insights into how governments and militaries work, certainly. For how intelligence gathering and computer hackers work, also. If you're into the moral maze, absolutely. 

Chelsea Manning 2022

Sue x

Friday, 2 December 2022

Fancy frocks to make your heart sing

 Now that it's December I'm going to write about Cinderella, that stalwart of the pantomime season. And not just about her. I saw a number of pantos as a kid, but when I was in my teens a family friend gave us tickets to La Scala, the temple of opera in Milan, and we saw a production of Rossini's Cinderella. Take out the supernatural elements of the fairytale, set it in the early nineteenth century, and you have a fun musical piece for stage. I'm no opera buff but I really enjoyed it. And when Cinderella appeared, veiled, at the Prince's ball wearing the most sumptuous full-length black dress, my mother noticed my delighted reaction. Oops, keep the gender interests strictly private there, kid.

I believe this recording is of that production. The dress seems much as I recall it.

(c) Deutsche Grammophon

Wow! Isn't every TGirl a little Cinderella, really? She has to fight for her right to take part in the social life of her country and be treated with respect. Frankly, I think we all merit a lovely dress for every big outing. Any fairy godmothers, please take note. (And Santa, too!)

I went to the La Scala theatre museum last week. I've always had a love of live theatre. I thought I'd share some photos of the special exhibition of the amazing costume dresses that were made for Franco Zeffirelli's productions in the 1960s to '80s.

Four dresses (four!) for the legendary Maria Callas for Rossini's The Turk in Italy. I'd like any one of these, but preferably all. I think the pink one is my favourite.


Sicilian peasant women's dresses for Mascagni's Cavalleria Rusticana. I'd be a peasant for one of these!

A much duller dress below, but it was made for Mirella Freni who played Mimì in Puccini's La Bohème, a role she made her own.


It's not opera without Verdi's Aïda! I'm sure any of these would be ideal for a trip round the supermarket. Probably made of Nile-on! (geddit??!!)

It's not all clothes, though. Here are crown jewels, all made of glass.


As for this spinet, the Latin inscription reads "Do not touch me with unpractised hands". In the light of my last post, I think we could all request the same!

In the days before film and TV, quality live stagecraft could transport the audience with emotions of all kinds and present a spectacle of exquisite beauty, a feast for eyes and ears. There is something very immediate about the interaction of the actors, dancers or singers on a stage with their audience and with each other, and the audience's collective reactions, compared to the very studied shots and detachment of screen entertainment. Both have their place, but to appreciate how important live spectacle was to people before we had screens, the production I saw twenty or so years ago of The Mikado, using Gilbert and Sullivan's original production notes, with costumes, scenery and props that matched those of the first production, was the best thing I have ever seen on stage and really showed, through it's wonderful spectacle, how people used to be very well entertained when out for an evening. It worked for me: here I am twenty years later still talking about it!

Anyway, enjoy the frocks, and we'll talk about this pink item in my last post another time. It's had varied reactions so far ...

Sue x