Friday 21 April 2023

Kate Collins: a tribute

 I am heartbroken to have to write that my friend Kate Collins passed away the other evening.


Kate was a big presence in the trans scene in Manchester, eventually setting up the Manchester Minxes as a trans social group that would meet up regularly in the Gay Village. She also promoted trans awareness at work and had her office represented at Sparkle, the UK's annual national trans celebration. 

Kate at work


I first met Kate at Sparkle in 2010 and every time I went to Manchester she was there with her wife, who has always been a kind and encouraging ally to all us trans girls. A good organiser, Kate would arrange meet-ups in restaurants and clubs, and dancing in Napoleons club would usually round off a night out. We had some lovely meals out over the years.


Kate and I at Sparkle in 2015

When Covid came and the world was locked down, Kate set up TGirl Zoom chats every Saturday night. Knowing you had that regular commitment to get yourself dolled up for a video chat with the girls helped us keep sane and balanced when so little else was predictable, and was just what we needed to give our femininity a boost when the lockdown attitude was to let your appearance go. On that subject, Kate could wear short dresses with conviction as she had great legs (and I'm not jealous at all, no).

Kate could be a strong campaigner for rights, not just of trans people but cyclists as well - she hated inconsiderate, bad motorists in particular. But she had a good sense of humour, too. Her favourite trick was to pull her "Helen Lederer face". I haven't got a photo of her doing it but this is on the way to it:

I have arrived back in England after nearly four years away and I had hoped beyond hope I would see her before the end that she made clear was coming, but I just missed being able to and that makes me doubly sad. But I hope to see her kind wife soon.

Thanks for all the many good times, Kate, and for all the things you organised for the trans community in North West England as well as for all your friends. You are at peace and out of pain now and I will miss you terribly. My love and condolences to your wonderful wife, your son and daughter-in-law and baby grandchild (you called yourself "glamparent"!) and to all your many friends, colleagues and everyone else you touched. Ta-ra, chuck ... your own favourite way of saying goodbye.

Sue x

Saturday 15 April 2023

First Pride 2023

 I'm pleased to report that the first Pride event of the year, at Sanremo, attracted record numbers. After last year's Pride, which was a commemoration of the first ever pride protest in Italy fifty years before, and which attracted around about 2000 people, the organisers this year felt that about 1500 would be the likely turnout. Instead, it's estimated that between 3000 and 5000 attended. That's like about 10% of the population of the town!

Here's a photo borrowed from their Facebook page:

 I like this picture too, of lesbians protesting against the government's pressure to reduce same-sex adoption. Italy's current prime minister is the far-right Ms Meloni, and her surname translates as "melons". I suspect I don't need to translate further. Well, it made me laugh!

I was busy getting ready for my sister's visit so I only waved them on this year, but there will be other such events to join in with in due course.


I've been putting my suitcase together to go to England next week. Only a little case as my storage unit has crates of clothes waiting for me. There don't seem to be any strikes in France or Britain to prevent my arriving in London on Tuesday evening. It's going to feel very odd being back there after three and a half years away, and five years since I packed all my belongings away. I've a lot to do there to sort things out and that aspect of the trip is not something I'm looking forward to. But having my clothes, hair, shoes and all the rest and seeing friends again will make it worthwhile.

Wish me luck on my journey.

Sue x

Wednesday 12 April 2023

How it went with my phobic sister

I spent a while preparing mentally for my sister's visit and it went better than expected. I untangled a lot of what I think her transphobia is about, which isn't purely transphobia but more of a general omniphobia, a fear of many things and an inability to understand much from another's perspective. All very narcissistic, in fact. 

I also feel now that the religious group she belongs to that seemed so anti-LGBT may actually be fairly mainstream and the activity I was worried about may be more of her projection of what she thinks it's about than its actual policies, beliefs and interests. Her extremist stance stems from the cultlike upbringing we both had. In fact, her group seem a bit naive and disorganised rather than aggressive activists.

Her main focus these days is no longer LGBT people but complaining about venues that play piped music, a campaign she's had going for years but which is reaching a head. Personally, I find piped music mildly irritating but not anything like enough to spoil my dining or shopping experience. If it did, I'd choose another venue. Not her. For her, piped music in a cafĂ©, shop, station or wherever is a deliberate act of oppression. She has been campaigning against her local supermarket but their reply was that hers was the only complaint, that other customers seemed to appreciate the groovy background sounds and the staff certainly did. So she either has to put up with the preference of the vast majority of people in there or shop elsewhere, right? I fail to see why the shop has to have silence merely for the one and only customer who dislikes it to the extent that she claims her rights are being trodden on. 

And this illustrates her approach to most things. The universe needs to bend to her will as she is allegedly suffering so much, yet she has no responsibility to accept other people's preferences or behaviours, however innocuous, or the mere existence of things that trigger a revulsion instinct in her. To illustrate, she has always had a fear of caterpillars and most other bugs, which is a common enough phobia, but instead of getting help to overcome it, other people have to assist in getting rid of the insects oppressing her. A friend of mine used to have crippling arachnophobia when we were students. He couldn't go in a room if it had a spider in it, get his bike out of the garage once because there was a spider there even though it was dead, and he couldn't walk down a street in a fishing village one day as the fishmonger's sign in the shape of an octopus reminded him of a spider. Then one day he realised his problem was crazy and he went and had therapy and, although he wouldn't say he now finds spiders cuddly, he at least has no problem chucking them out of the bathtub when necessary. So, he acknowledged he had a problem and he solved it. I shall pressurise my sister to get professional help on her phobias like bugs, piped music, unexpected noises, blue jeans, California, and all manner of other such oppressive things. If we start eliminating those irritants then I expect we may be able to work on the dislike she has for certain types of people, such as, I dunno, gay and trans people (or hippies or Anglicans or skateboarders, etc.), about whom she clearly knows so little. Bearing in mind, though, that after a certain age, people's habits are hard to change. 


I also began to challenge her unthinking bigotry as her doctrines seem to be very idiosyncratic and not at all mainstream. I got out of the crazed indoctrination of my upbringing when I was in my 20s; she hasn't and, in most ways, never will now but I think I can probably persuade her in due course that LGBT people needn't lie within the scope of her phobias as they are irrelevant to her. Besides, who's going to rid the world of all that piped music is she's busy gay-bashing? 

Given that she didn't spot that the clothes I was wearing, such as my Katie Mee shoes and Baby Angel jeans, were women's items, I think it's all a deeply introspective problem of her own.

So I think I have made some progress, at least, in establishing that her group are no more a threat to our community than many other religions are, and that we might be able to focus her attention on more constructive activities than complaining about the world being full of scary irritating things.

More than anything, I feel channels of communication can remain open rather than my having to give up on her altogether as I have had to do with my father.


My stash

I have booked a trip to England next week. Which will go ahead if strikes, especially in France but frankly just about everywhere, don't force me to rebook. 

The main thing to do is to go to my storage unit where the bulk of my possessions have been for nearly 5 years. And the most important items are in the 18 packing cases filled to bursting with lovely, delicious feminine clothes. 

Maybe I'll dive into heaps of dresses like Scrooge McDuck diving into the sea of dollars in his depository. It's been a long time, girls.


Sue x

Sunday 9 April 2023

Life cycles

 Happy easter! I hope you're having a good weekend. And that the easter bunny has brought you something nice.

I'm a chocolate fan, but also overweight, and easter is therefore a time when conscience wrestles with indulgence, and usually loses! But I've been a good girl today and not unwrapped my easter egg yet, but I will tomorrow when my sister is here to share it.

It's one of the times of year for exchanging greetings. My emotions have been a bit muddled today. I got a message saying that an old lady I knew, my neighbour for 22 years, died last week. She was 88. She was the best neighbour I could have wished for. I got another message today saying that a lovely friend of mine is dying and there's nothing more the doctors can do. Both items of news made me very teary and upset. But then I got more messages: two other friends of mine are expecting grandchildren. So that's lovely. A life ends and another begins. And the babies are coming into families I know will cherish them.


In the second half of the month, I also hope to go back to England where boxes and boxes of shoes and skirts and wigs and earrings and all manner of feminine things are still stuck in storage after these years of chaos. My journey depends on the French not being on strike, though, as I have to go through or over France. I'll let you know if I make it! And what all the goodies are that I can try on again.

Sue x

Thursday 6 April 2023

Preparing for my transphobic sister's visit

 My sister is coming to visit next week. I haven't seen her since a chance encounter in London in 2019, but not really since 2017 when she shocked me by revealing just how anti-LGBT her religious group requires her to be. I wrote about that discussion here: Hello, lugbutts.

I'm removing all signs in my home that I might not be the boy she thinks: things like flowers, chick lit, perfumes, feminine ornaments and so on. This creates a gender neutral backdrop on which to tackle the subject.

Years ago, I used to have a job investigating fraudsters. I'm trying to recall my interview techniques from that time but they boil down to not asking a question to which you do not already know the answer. I think John Le CarrĂ© says something similar in one of his spy books. 

The reason for this approach is that I think her religious group are not just unpleasant but even extreme and potentially criminal. If I find that she or they are, as I suspect, into continuing conversion therapy, or have been jamming LGBT switchboards with abusive calls (as has happened of late), or are harassing people, then I will need to consider involving LGBT organisations, the police or other authorities to monitor their activity. Fanatics don't care for rights, laws or people and my sister has said she'll go to jail for her beliefs. Maybe that's just bravado, or maybe a real threat. I intend to probe this further with as much subtlety as I can. My only fear is that I will be so disgusted that I lose my temper.

You may say that blood is thicker than water and one shouldn't investigate one's own family in such a way. But I would say that when you have been subject to as much abuse, fear and threats as I have from this cultlike family faith, then I think both I and society and the trans community deserve better. I can appreciate that if you had a family member or spouse who was a thief or conman of some kind, or into gang violence or whatever, you might hesitate. But cultism and fanaticism destroy lives in their entirety as they do not attack material possessions, money or even the body, which are replaceable, insurable or healable, but they aim to destroy or control very essence of another person. 

I may be wrong - and I hope I am - about this being a long-term problem rather than just a blip when I last saw her. I wasn't this concerned back then as trans rights were improving and religious nuts were on the back foot but now we are under threat and I don't want these unpleasant groups getting the upper hand. Besides, this is my family and I think it's primarily my responsibility to deal with them, at least in the first instance.

Wish me luck and composure.


My garden is a mess and the plants have all dropped seeds in each others' pots and everything seems to be mixed up now. But it's not been a good couple of months, especially with the high winds and low rainfall we've had, and so I've designated tomorrow as garden day. I've bought a new barbecue as traditionally Easter Monday is family barbecue day in Italy. 

So, burgers or sausages? That's the burning question!

Easter weekend

Wishing everyone a good easter break. Enjoy the chocolate! As well as a pretty egg, like the one I loved last year, I've also got a colomba, which is a traditional light Italian easter cake in the form of a dove (well, vaguely).

 Sue x

Monday 3 April 2023


 Last week I went to the courthouse, aptly built in fascist times, to present a written petition to a judge regarding my birth certificate.

I was born in a country where my parents worked as expats. Two weeks after my birth, war broke out and Westerners and their homes and businesses were attacked by angry locals. Westerners were airlifted out from a US airbase in the country and my mother got me away from the violence. My father had to fly out later and just had time to collect my birth certificate from the British embassy moments before a mob burnt it down.

Whilst I’ve got Italian residence and citizenship now, the one thing remaining is to provide a birth certificate for the Italian registry office. My British one won’t do. They require one issued by the authorities of the country in which I was born, not a consular certificate. Obviously, my parents didn’t get to the relevant registry office before fleeing because there was a murderous xenophobic riot on. However, this deficit can be remedied now by my making an application to the court to have a certificate made by them that satisfies Italian law. So I did that. The judge then asked me to make a sworn statement before a notary, corroborated by two unrelated witnesses who know me and my parents and can confirm the events in question. My dears, I know I look 20, but these events were, in fact, many decades ago and my parents are well into their 80s. Where am I to find such witnesses? Nowhere, because they’re all dead or unable to act. Should I hire a medium, perhaps? So I have petitioned the judge, politely, to stop being absurd. I'm too old for Kafkaesque insanity.

I’ve been dealing with this stuff for 7 years, since the Brexit vote. I am fed to the back teeth with lying governments and abusive officials and have nothing but contempt for authority now. Who are these filthy people? Why do they run our lives? As for Brexiteers who have put me and a million other Brits in Europe and 3 million Europeans in the UK through misery, I feel absolute contempt. I detest patriotism, "the last refuge of the scoundrel," as that most English of Englishmen, Samuel Johnson, put it in the Age of Enlightenment. I wonder why it was called that?

My mother, who is not a UK citizen but has lived there for 60 years, having survived Hitler as well the violence where I was born, is now subject to further threats and abuse. When she turns up at a UK airport she is taken to a little room to be shouted at by British officials. Because shouting at an old woman is such a macho and patriotic thing to do. I do hope Britons are proud of their plucky border guards defending that victimised nation from these hordes of dangerous foreign invaders?

I really don't plan to go through the additional rigmarole of trying to transition and change my name legally. I know that being born trans reduces my human rights, as does being born in violence. Injustice is what authority thrives on. And it is thriving right now thanks to thuggish patriots the world over.


The weather is springlike here now and new little plants are shooting up in my pots. It's time for spring cleaning. We desperately need rain after 18 months of drought. The young trees on the road outside home are dying and local rivers are dry when they should be at their fullest.

"Flower trees", Sanremo Flower Festival 2023



I like my food, as you know, and in the last few weeks we've had a lot of less usual fish landed on the docks here: john dory, sole, dentex, brill, transparent gobies ... I'm trying the whole range! 

Sue x