Friday, 31 March 2023

Trans visibility and Lily Savage

 It's trans day of visibility again. I dress as a woman now even if I'm not obviously feminine much of the time. Will that do? Given that my uncle, whom I saw today, made some joke about all those transgenders there are around nowadays, he seemed to miss the one right in front of him. So let me be more effectively visible by posting to my blog.

It's never been a good time to be trans. I thought things were getting better, and in some places they are, but in others things are regressing.

I was saddened to hear of the death this week of British television star Paul O'Grady who, as Lily Savage, brought drag into everyone's living room. By no means the first female impersonator or drag queen on TV, Lily Savage was different as she seemed to speak to, and for, a lot of women. When she became the presenter of celebrity quiz show Blankety Blank you suddenly had a family-oriented show hosted by a drag queen and nobody thought it weird. She did a great deal for the LGBT community in this way. And then Paul hung up the high heels and Lily was no more but he continued to present shows as himself. People said he was humane and approachable, always standing up for people's rights yet remaining witty. An important advocate for us has passed away and will be very much missed.

Lily Savage, from her Facebook page

Love to all my trans friends

Sue x

Monday, 27 March 2023

A trans friend drops by during the flower festival

 My friend Gina from England, who's been mentioned a number of times here over the years (here for instance), was on an Interrail trip through Europe. I thought Interrailing was something students did in the 1980s and had forgotten about the scheme but, no, it's fifty years old and still going. In fact, Gina had a 50th anniversary discount on her ticket. After various stops in unusual places like Luxembourg and Liechtenstein, her itinerary brought her to various towns along the riviera such as Genoa, Monaco and Nice. But I met her in Sanremo yesterday afternoon and we went on a tour of the town, which happened to be celebrating its annual flower festival. The climate is very mild so many of the cut flowers available in Europe over the winter come from there.

The narrow medieval streets and elegant 19th century squares are pleasant to stroll through, but this weekend the town fountains were dressed with flowers ...

... and some of the buildings that are not normally open were, such as this tiny church, which is one of the oldest in town:

There were some other unusual things such as this shipwreck with flowers illustrating one of the novels of Italo Calvino, who was brought up in Sanremo and the centenary of whose birth falls this year:

They laid on a string quartet in the square ...

... and other entertainments ranging from brass bands to a lineup of Fiat 500s. 

The clocks have just gone forward to summer time and the much lighter evening was very welcome after this past winter. 

We wandered around town and had dinner at La Siesta which specialises in local monkfish (fishing frog, they call it) and red prawns. The former is particularly good. Their fishing frog stuffed with crunchy veg is is one of the most delicious things I have ever eaten:

Anyway, it was really good to have a catch-up with Gina five years since I last saw her. We were both wearing what I might call andro-stealth style, which is women's clothes but not presenting female, if you see what I mean. So women's shoes and jeans and tops - all feminine, but not in a way that outs us. We feel happy in our female attire but nobody actually notices we're TGirls.

Good luck to Gina getting home to England with French strikes going on, though. There world is a bit in turmoil in one way and another so little events like these are very welcome right now.

Sue x

Saturday, 25 March 2023

Barcelona - quirks and beauty

I'm excited that another trans friend, Gina, will be visiting me this weekend. We've met up a few times in England over the years, and I last saw her and Jo in London just before I left for Italy. So it'll be nice to see here again. She's timed her visit well as she'll be staying in Sanremo, "the City of Flowers", during their annual flower festival when the town should have flowers everywhere. I look forward to reporting back on an English rose amid the Mediterranean blooms! 

But first, I thought I'd put up some photos from my recent trip to Barcelona. As I mentioned in my earlier post, I found some of the entry fees outrageous, so I stuck to doing stuff that was free or cheaper, and I still had a perfectly good time. 

Here are just a few of the extraordinary buildings in the city centre:

Casa Battlò

Fundaciò Antoni Tàpies, a museum devoted to the artist. The weird stuff on the roof is a sculpture, "Cloud and Chair".

La Pedrera

Concert Hall

There's plenty of curious street furniture, too:

There's a model of a lamppost fountain like this one in the Chocolate Museum, made out of chocolate:

 I loved the chocolate museum, especially the sculptures of cartoon characters like Asterix and Tintin, all made of chocolate. St George and the Dragon was my favourite, though.

The chocolate museum gives you a bar of chocolate as your entry ticket, which you swipe on the turnstile to get in. I then ate my ticket. 

I have never come across any city which has so many places to eat, drink or buy food in. In the run-up to easter, instead of buying a boring chocolate egg or bunny, you could have the easter dinosaur instead, or even a chocolate Mr Potato Head!

Other curiosities include this pavement clock where the two lights tell the time. 

And for some reason this Swedish tall ship was in the harbour. It was beautiful.

It's not all pretty, though. Residues of the Civil War abound, such as the bomb damage that can still be seen around the door of this church:

 My favourite place, though, was something of an afterthought in the guide books and was right on the edge of town so I had to take the metro quite far to get there. The Parc del Laberint d'Horta is a series of gardens, many of which are mazes. It's full of fountains, statues, temples, follies and cascades and was a delight. The main maze is hard to get through and has two focal points, a statue of Eros and a grotto of Diana:

Above is a nymph by her pool ...

... where some art students did a nude tableau with fruit. Note that Sue's News and Views remains a resolutely family-friendly site and there are no close-ups!

I took so many photos of this beautiful spot but I'll just post a handful more:

Similarly, I took a huge number of photos in Barcelona itself but this blog is not a travel blog and you may be getting bored so I'll leave you with a cheerful date palm soaring upwards from the peaceful courtyard of the archdeaconry, like the spire of the old cathedral behind:



Sue x

Tuesday, 21 March 2023

Trans Rights Readathon

 I'll save my quirky Barcelona photos for next post as I've just come across the Trans Rights Readathon that runs from March 20th to 27th. This is what it is:

A lot of bookshops, libraries and reader organisations seem to be participating and given the increasing curtailing of trans rights in many nations this is one way of helping trans writers, booksellers and trans awareness generally.

There seems to be a Facebook page, too:

Therefore, as part of this initiative, I'd like to promote two writers here, both of whom I've been reading recently. One is trans fiction writer, Roz White, whose Sisterhood series of novels goes from strength to strength. The situations are very true to life and involve characters at all stages of their trans progress. See her page on Amazon here: Roz White


I've written about Roz's books before: Roz White: transgender writer (NB the links to Lulu and Coolbeans in that post are no longer relevant as Roz is solely with Amazon now). Roz is a good friend but her books stand on their own merit and that's why I plug them.

The other trans writer I've read recently is Chrissie Chevasutt whose autobiographical Heaven Come Down falls within the "my transgender journey" genre as well as the "my spiritual journey" genre. It is a well-written roller-coaster ride of emotions and extremes, yet has passages of evocative prose describing scenery and surroundings that is much in the style of Laurie Lee. Recommended.

It's been published by Darton, Longman & Todd and if you wish to buy it you can do so directly through their website or through your local bookshop. 

Happy reading. 

Sue x

Saturday, 18 March 2023

Checking out Spain

 My main reason for going to Spain this week was to get a feel for how my trans life might pan out if I were to move there. Spain is probably the most LGBT-friendly place in Europe. 

I have been living in Italy these last four years, which is a country that recognises trans rights, has strong protections for those transitioning, has been improving the lives of trans youth, and has a long history of queer and trans culture going back centuries, such as the femminielli of Naples and the trans women of Genoa. Yet there's something here that doesn't quite embrace trans people and I don't feel quite at ease. So now that I have restored my European citizenship that enables me to live anywhere in the European Union, and now that my gender dysphoria is very strong, I'm looking to see if I can improve my position.

I last went to Barcelona with friends in 2001 and found it fun and interesting. This time it had a very different feel. That's partly because my motives for travel were not purely tourism but also because the main attractions have become outrageously expensive. For a part of the world that was always renowned for being very left-wing, the local council seems to have embraced capitalism in a big way! But I ask you, €39 (that's $42 or £35) just to see a house interior (Casa Battlò) or similar money to see one apartment in a block of flats (La Pedrera)! That's insane! They're not even museums, just homes! You can see the exteriors for free from the street. So I avoided the tourist traps and saw some delightful things for little or no money instead, such as the labyrinth garden and the chocolate museum. Even this early in the year, though, the town was swarming with tourists. However, in compensation, public transport is clean, cheap and efficient; the food is varied and edible and not usually expensive; property and rent is less than many places; the locals are reasonably friendly (although having two local languages creates unhelpful barriers, in my view). There is a problem with drought at the moment, even by Spanish standards, and local politics can still be inflammatory (they tried to secede from Spain in 2017). So, all things to consider if living in that region, not just visiting.

As for LGBT life, Barcelona doesn't seem to need a particular gay quarter or trans clubs since being out as LGBT attracts no particular notice. However, I did take a train trip to Sitges, a seaside resort about 30 miles down the coast, which is renowned for its LGBT culture. A pleasant, pretty place with winding streets full of attractive little shops that reminded me somewhat of the Lanes of Brighton.

There's certainly a more obvious LGBT presence here with rainbow flags at windows, a drag club in the middle of town, a very gay carnival parade in February/March, even a dedicated LGBT lifestyle store ...

The waitress where I had lunch did warn me that the place is not always sleepy like it is in March but in summer gets very crowded.

So, altogether I gathered a lot of information about life in that corner of Spain.

My next post will be more about the pretty things I saw, which is what a trip abroad is really about, right?

Sue x

Wednesday, 8 March 2023

Women's Day and more

 Every day is children's day, they say. Every dog has his day, they say. Today is International Women's Day, so third place is not bad. Could do better. Pardon my slightly cynical opening but I see women's place in society is still in need of improvement, and that certainly goes for trans women. Still, I'd like to wish a happy women's day to all. 

Here the mimosa (also known as silver wattle) is the gift given to women on this day and the fluffy yellow blooms are brightening up the local hillsides right now.

The rest of my post has a decidedly international flavour, too.

Veronika Arden's World

I've added this interesting blog from Austrian blogger, Veronika, to my blogroll. She likes to go out sightseeing and shopping in what is evidently a rather beautiful part of the world and has a lot of photos of her and her region. Welcome Veronika, and thank you for your comments.

Veronika writes in German but there is a translation button so you can select English ... or any other language, from Kazakh, Punjabi and Zulu to Scots Gaelic. Take your pick. Or tok ya pok. Or towk yarr pekk. You get my drift.

Veronika's blog


Brianna Ghey, RIP

I was very affected by this poor girl's unjust death in Cheshire, where I live when I am in Britain. Her funeral will be on March 15th and the theme will be pink. I approve of pink! Details from Cheshire Live: Brianna Ghey funeral arrangements 

Her family and friends requested a bit of online help to give her a fitting sendoff. Their target of £4200 has ballooned to over £113,000 and counting. I hope this and the crowds expected to attend will give her a really beautiful memorial and show that love trumps hate.

I had an email from the organisers that I would like to share:

Thank you everyone for your generous donations. Our family have been overwhelmed with the positivity and support we have received during the hardest weeks of our lives. If Brianna could see the amount of support she has received she would be thrilled.Thank you xxx

Rest in peace, lovely.



I tried to go to Barcelona last month but strikes put paid to my plans. So I am trying again next week and may be offline from this Saturday onwards. As well as a bit of sightseeing, I'd like to get a feel for what trans life might be like there. It seems to be particularly vibrant.


Lost in trans-lation

A final comment on translation bots like the one Veronika has from the master himself, C-3PO:

Sue x

Sunday, 5 March 2023

Weird morals and true heroism

 I can't help but comment on several news items, some personal some local. Locally, a priest has been suspended after being blackmailed and a schoolteacher saved a busload of kids from disaster.

So, firstly, the priest. He video chatted to a 30-year old gay man who recorded the calls and threatened to release them publicly unless the priest paid him money. The priest is the victim of blackmail and extortion, quite serious crimes here in Italy.

What happens? He is suspended with a severe reprimand from his bishop - yes, the same homophobe we've talked about before - who has ordered him to consider his wicked behaviour and how it brings shame to him and to the church, and that his parishioners will need to pray for him. A spokesman for the diocese says that whilst the priest has committed no crime, it's a serious personal and professional failing on his part.

Nothing about the priest being the victim of crime. I suspect he'll be pressured into not pressing charges with the police as that would protract the alleged shame. His parishioners seem to have written an open letter to the bishop saying that this is unjust. And they may be praying but they're also gossiping about it just like everyone else does!

The church here is obsessed with sex. Really obsessed. Indeed, another bishop's representative here said people don't have problems with faith or morals but they do have problems with sex. I'd suggest this obsession goes right back to Adam and Eve. You'll recall that they were tempted to eat the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. And what was the Good or the Evil that they first ended up knowing about? Not good things like love or co-operation or happiness, whiskers on kittens and warm woollen mittens, or evil things like violence or hatred or, er, blackmail, but that Adam's got a willy and Eve's got boobies, and that's bad. The rest of the bible is largely a discussion on what's to be done about this Bad Thing, now that mankind knows about it. Controlling other people's reproductive interests seems therefore to be the chief interest of the local religion and several others. Women have an inny and men have an outy and what they do with theirs is everyone else's business. Woe betide anyone who's intersex or transgender, then, as that really messes up God's arrangements!

Gimme a break! The priest seems to have the support of lots of his parishioners and the local LGBT group has written to say he's free to love as he likes. Frankly, gay love is increasingly old hat and ever fewer people are bothered by it and still fewer are going to condemn. To judge by all the local press commentary, it doesn't put the unpleasant local bishop in a good light at all. Maybe they'll get someone more humane soon.

This brings me to my religious sister, the one who hates LGBT people particularly, who rang me a few days ago to ask if she could come to stay after easter. I haven't seen her for some years and I was hesitant about this but I have agreed to have her for a couple of days. I hope I might be able to dampen some of her crazier hate-filled ideas about trans people, not that I would come out to her. If she is even more twisted than last time it may be the last contact I have with the family I come from. Which, frankly, would feel very liberating. But I'd rather see if some good can be done first. So it will be a high-stakes encounter. 

Also in the paper, and so much more uplifting, is the story of a young local schoolteacher who was taking her class out by coach when the driver fainted at the wheel on the motorway. Acting lightning fast, and despite being unable to move his heavy body slumped across the steering wheel, she managed to shift his foot from the accelerator to the brake and bring the bus to a halt, albeit against a wall. There were only slight injuries. When asked if she was a heroine she merely said her concern was for the safety of her children. I think the world could do with more people like her.


A dip in the archives

I haven't dipped in the archives for ages but someone left a nice comment on my gallery page so I dug out a photo of me sitting by the Regent's Canal in London as I am hoping to travel to London again in the spring. It's been some years since I was last there.

Sue x

Wednesday, 1 March 2023

If life gives you lemons ... wear them!

 So my last post was about wearing pink all over. How about yellow?

Today I went to Menton, which is the first town across the border, to catch the tail end of the annual Lemon Festival, when statues made of oranges and lemons are on display.


I was in Menton just after new year. It's a pretty town, but expensive to live in. Which wasn't always the case as much of its revenue used to come from fruit picking, which is never the best-paid trade. The Prince of Monaco, the former ruler here, was short of cash and decided that what his coffers needed was a tax on lemons. But trying to introduce this tax in the late 1840s when much of Europe was in the throes of revolutions was a disaster as Menton and much of his principality declared independence and sought the protection of the neighbouring Kingdom of Sardinia. Which might have worked out but that kingdom itself soon took over the Italian peninsula, requiring a bit of French help in the early stages, for which the fee was Sardinian lands west of the Alps. The French promptly annexed this unofficial protectorate of Menton, not before arranging one of their Putinesque referendums to confirm that the locals were delighted with the idea of being part of France. Shortly after, the Prince of Monaco came up with the genius idea of getting most of his income from a swanky casino that only foreigners could attend, thus leaving his remaining subjects virtually free of direct taxes, unlike the citizens of Menton who now have to deal with hefty French income tax. The law of unintended consequences is enough to make anyone bitter as a lemon, eh!

Anyway, here are the huge statues made of lemons. The fruit is sold off cheaply at the end of the festivities, although I noticed that they cheat by using coloured balls for some of the upright parts! 


I found a decent place to eat behind the market house. You know it's decent if the locals eat there. Having enjoyed a mixed plate of local specialities the waitress asked if wanted dessert. I asked what there was for dessert...

"Lemon tart"

"Or?" I prompted.

And I got a look from her! Sue, you silly! It's the lemon festival in the city of lemons. It's lemon tart all the way!

I opted for the lemon tart.

Which was pretty good!

Anyway, last time I asked if all-over pink was a good look. It's certainly trending. As for all-over yellow ...

Sue x