Tuesday, 30 March 2010

John Lewis, you crack me up

    John Lewis, a well-known UK department store, sent me a marketing email yesterday.

Its title: "Discover what's hot in electricals this month".

Presumably by the smell.

Monday, 29 March 2010

One of the herd

   Phrases like "one of the herd", and words like "sheep" are often used to describe non-individualistic behaviour. My experience yesterday definitely gives the lie to the first one.
   Let me set some atmosphere. Imagine the Benny Hill theme is playing. And it's being played by a bluegrass band. Fiddles, foot tapping, that kind of thing.
   I spent yesterday afternoon chez my parents, fixing the aged Nissan belonging to my friend G. Cars ain't her thing. Because we'd spent longer then expected at the Nissan, we ended up helping my dad separate out a cow from the herd in preparation for a routine vets visit today. This meant that I, G and my dad had to walk out into a field of cows and coax one of them into a corner of the field cordoned off with electric fence wire. Easy enough, you'd think, they're just cows.
   Trouble is, these ain't ordinary cows, they're ladies. A suckler herd, these aren't flighty heifers, instead they're middle aged cows who've seen some of the world. Cows are best managed by treating them well and getting to know their individual foibles, so not only are these cows rather mature, they've also shed the herd instinct and are  individuals. Slightly bored individuals at that, and our arrival was the best thing they'd seen all day.
    If you don't know cows, let me explain something about them. A cow is a very large animal with the motive power of a small tractor and a mind of its own. If you want to get a cow to do something, you have two choices: make it trust you enough to do it or try to threaten it into doing it. The former is the right way to manage cows, the latter the wrong way because somewhere down the line will come a time when that cow just won't do what you want and you'll end up on the wrong end of several tons of angry cow. Besides, mistreating a cow is not a very nice thing to do. So these cows are very well treated. They're pretty tame because they trust us. They know my dad really well, me slightly and G not at all but because they didn't see us as a threat they let us walk right among them trailing a line of fence tape between us without worry to find the one to be separated. Then they decided they needed entertainment.
    In theory separating a cow is easy enough. Three of you walk slowly behind the cow holding the tape between you in an L shape, keeping the cow in the crook of the L and herding her towards the pen. In practice with a field of entertainment starved individuals, things start moving.
    Cows can run when they want to. They can also jump like steeplechasers, though fortunately today they didn't do that. They did decide that now was the time for a bit of non-cooperation and instead they wanted to high-tail it around for a bit. Time for the Benny Hill moment. Pretty soon we got rather tired, and as always happens not long afterwards the cows got bored and the one needing the vet almost made her way to the pen on her own. It always happens that way, but you can't just sit there and let them run around because then they'll stop and watch you, to see what the next entertainment is going to be. And that's spooky.
     I didn't bother with my workout last night. I didn't need to. I'm still aching and that was over 24 hours ago.

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Flying too close to the flame

    A morning shopping. Every girl's dream, you'd think. All the shops of the High Street there before us, my wife and I with a few hours to kill in a strange city before our train home. We didn't buy anything, save for a kitchen essential from a department store, but we spent a long time in that not buying anything and we saw a lot of shops.
    I'm lucky to be able to go shopping with my wife. It's something we can do together that we both enjoy, and it gives me access to a world that would otherwise be closed to me. I play the Dutiful Husband to a T, following her through the rails, carrying her prospective purchases and holding her coat and bag while she disappears into the fitting room. If anyone has ever noticed that occasionally one of the things she buys that she doesn't try on is many sizes too large for her, then nobody's said anything.
    Yet for all that it's something I can never be part of. I'm better off than the red-faced blokes wishing the earth would swallow them up as their other half peruses the underwear, but even then I'm still an island of drab in a sea of colour. Sometimes, as yesterday, this gets to me and I come away from the experience depressed instead of on the high I should be, and yet again as yesterday my low mood gets to my wife and affects her too.
    This time it was  standing outside the fitting room that did it. A large party of women were there, I think they were shopping for outfits for a wedding, and they were all so happy. From the attractive twenty-something in the green number to the beaming short fat middle-aged lady who looked for all the world like a boldly rose-printed tea-cosy, they were there to have fun and it showed. And for the first time, while waiting for my wife to emerge having tried on the orange dress that turned out not to fit as she'd hoped, I wished I could have been anywhere else.
    Like a moth near a candle flame, I can perform several orbits of the light that fascinates me. But eventually, as yesterday, I'm going to pass too close to it and get singed. Unlike the moth though, in time I'll come back for more.

Friday, 26 March 2010

First family member

    The other evening I had the Long Chat with my cousin. I came out as transgendered to the first member of my family. She's a bit older than I am and has seen quite a bit more of the world than I have, plus at just over an inch shorter than me she is the only woman I know I can just about look in the eye. We don't see each other that often but we have become friends as adults probably because we both have slightly less conventional approaches to life than most of the rest of our extended family. She's also quite close to my mother, which was one of the main reasons why I wanted to talk to her. I have no plans to talk to my mother about my gender issues unless it becomes absolutely necessary because I see no profit in upsetting her but in the unfortunate event that she were to find out I think she'll need someone to talk to. Hence I wished to recruit my cousin for that role.
     She took it quite well, considering it was probably not what she was expecting. I'd asked her if it was OK for me to share something in confidence with her and she said nothing would faze her, but I don't think this had crossed her mind. So the silence was a tiny bit more shocked than it has been with my friends I've come out to but to her credit she soon rallied and we had the by now usual conversation about what it all means. We then settled into a discussion about our family dynamics with a level of frankness I've not shared with any other family member. It was as though the level of confidence between us was such that now we could talk without the usual in-family politenesses. I think she really appreciated the chance to do this, like all families ours has its hidden tensions and I think the opportunity to finally be able to talk candidly about them was cathartic for her.
     We ended up on the phone for a lot longer than I expected, my wife looking pointedly at the clock as we were due elsewhere. Once over the shock she provided some surprising insights into the whole thing, which was both unexpected and very welcome. I will not be coming out to any other family members in a hurry but I am very glad to have done so to her. A very worthwhile conversation.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Explaining GD to a genetic girl

   Having a bit of a conversation with my friend up north I came out to a few weeks ago I came up with something I think is worth sharing. I was trying to explain to her how gender dysphoria can take over your mind at times, as someone who's bisexual she was seeing it through that lens which is to say that as an expression of sexuality being bi does not have the capacity to render your brain dysfunctional.
   This won't work for the 50% of the population who are male, but I explained it in an email thus:
The problem with GD is that it's a brain wiring thing and the part of the brain that's wired as girl complains loudly about the hormone balance it doesn't like. Gender fog. So GD becomes a bigger part of you than you might prefer. For obvious reasons this is beyond my comprehension, but does PMT - another hormone/brain kickup - take you over in the same way?
    I'm pleased to say she understood that explanation immediately, both in terms of PMT and motherhood. Useful if anyone else needs to make the same point to a sympathetic but not-quite-comprehending genetic female friend.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Sharpening up my act

    Never having been out in the world en femme, I've never really had to bother too much about how I look. I could certainly do a lot worse, but when I'm merely cross-dressing for my own amusement it doesn't matter much if I get something a bit wrong, or maybe do something in a less-than-expert manner. All that is set to change though. If I am to show my face as girl even in the safe space of a TG support group then my presentation needs to be as faultless as I can make it in front of my peers. I'd hate for someone to look at me and think "She didn't make much effort!".
    So to that end I've been busily sharpening up my act. First to receive attention has been my weight. I'm fortunate enough to be in pretty good nick with a very active lifestyle so I wasn't in too bad shape in January, but there's always room for improvement. Someone my size can pack away an astounding quantity of food, so I've simply cut my portion sizes down to those consumed by mere mortals. Not surprisingly this has had some effect. Down from 224 pounds to 213, that's 11 pounds since January. My BMI was in the healthy range anyway, but that's got to be good. Unfortunately though it's had the effect that some clothes, both boy and girl, no longer fit me as my waist has dropped from a size UK18 somewhere in the direction of a 16. My upper body is always going to be an 18 - it's a ribcage thing - but I didn't quite expect this much change at waist level.
    It's also now a couple of months since I stopped biting my nails with the aid of the excellent Stop-n-grow. I have never posessed a set of unbitten fingernails as an adult so now I've grown them to what is for me an unfeasably long length (but is probably not very long in the scheme of things) and shaped them carefully I'm discovering just what a pain in the arse they can be as well as a relative joy to look at compared to the gnawed stumps they used to be.
    Take mobile phones for instance. People with fingernails press the buttons with them. People without fingernails use the fleshy end of their finger. I've spent a lifetime doing the latter, so I now find I'm spearing my fingernail down the gap between the keys and failing completely to text or dial as I want to. Which is probably very amusing to watch.
    It has been worth the effort. If nothing else I've lost the perpetual annoyance of pain in one finger or another where I had bitten a little too close. But I think I'm going to have to resist the urge to grow them further just because I can, and trim them back to sensible levels. Before I catch one of them in something and hurt myself.
    Finally, I've after a bit of effort and research picked a better foundation and taken the time to get a good colour match. Not having too blue a beard I flatter myself I get a good enough concealment without resorting to trowelling it on, so the Clarins everlasting foundation range does the trick and is comfortable to wear, if a little pricey. Having put both myself and my wife in stitches looking at "chestnut", a colour I can only describe as "Game show host orange" and all the colours in between to "ivory", a Goth-like pastiness, I find that I'm a "toffee". I'd always thought of myself as a mint imperial, personally.
    As I have observed before, passing is not my strong point. Someone standing on White Horse Hill could tell I'm not a GG. But at least the above effort should mean that our observer by the White Horse might have a moment of doubt if the moon wasn't shining.

Not in my back yard?

    NIMBY. An acronym for "Not In My Back Yard", made popular in the UK in the 1980s by a government minister complaining at local opposition to infrastructure construction projects. It's used as a pejorative term for someone who vehemently opposes a project because it's being built in their locality but who would be quite happy to use the same project if it were built somewhere else.
    I met a NIMBY at the weekend. A village over from the area I grew up in, the Government want to build a new high speed rail line. One day this will carry passengers from the North and Midlands down to London at a couple of hundred miles per hour and thence connect to the European high speed network. It's an important development that will shorten journey times within the UK, make international travel a lot easier and remove the need for a lot of short-haul internal flights with their attendant pollution. Of benefit to all, you might say.
    My Sunday afternoon was spent loading my mother's dog into the car and taking a short drive to a pleasant spot at which to exercise the mutt. This happened to be the piece of countryside through which the rail line is planned to pass along the route of a former main line railway closed in the 1960s. The Great Central Railway was the last of the Victorian main lines, it never achieved its full potential because it didn't really go anywhere useful. It did however have the benefit of being built late enough in the railway age to have been designed with higher speed in mind and this has made its surviving earthworks of interest to today's planners. As it stands now it is a corridor of woodland through the countryside providing a fantastic wildlife habitat and it's been a favourite place of mine to visit for years.
    The locals are all pretty upset about the project. One I know slightly from way back was spitting feathers, to put it mildly. House prices, noise, blight, no benefit to him, Gordon Brown's final revenge on the countryside, we already have perfectly good trains, the rant went on. I nodded sympathetically and continued on my way. Since I know he's partial to the occasional skiing holiday I wondered to myself how long it would be before he boarded a high speed train to the Alps.
    The trouble is, though I can see beyond the near horizon and appreciate the wider benefit of the high speed railway I will be very sad to see the current unruly tangle of undergrowth destroyed. I'm not bothered about the railway itself, I've lived near a main line and I'm sure my NIMBY whose house is a couple of miles from it will not find it to be anywhere near as bad as he fears. I just hope once the construction is over that the wildlife can return.
    I spent a while clambouring over the brickwork of a bridge that took the railway over a small stream, my mother's dog looking extremely bored nearby. Stamped into each coping brick is the mark pictured, complete with the date of construction. Seventy years, not long for a railway to last.

Saturday, 20 March 2010


    Earlier today I read a piece form Sophie Jean entitled "When I First Knew", in which she describes coming to terms with her gender issues from a young age. It set me thinking, not about coming to terms with yourself but about coming to terms with that realisation afterwards. In simple terms, occasional doubt. "Can this really be true, might I just be an especially deluded transvestite after all?".
    I'm sure I'm not alone in this, that having reached the point of bringing all my gender problems together in my mind relatively late in life I've occasionally had moments over the last year or so when I still can't quite believe it. After all, so the line of thought goes, "I'm the same as I was before I figured it out, why haven't I er... changed somehow?" Well, the simple answer to that is this: Hell yes I've changed, it has to be something pretty damn fundamental to turn off two decades of clinical depression like a damn light switch!
    But it touches on something a bit more basic to do with gender identity. Just as you don't magically change from boy to girl between your ears by swapping your trousers for a skirt, you don't magically get a girl brain just because you figure out you should have one, it has to be there first to be discovered. And I'm pretty damn certain you don't spend your childhood delving through the girly side of the dressing-up box or spend a lifetime in which your gender-identifialble dreams are female without having something of a girl brain installed. So why on earth should I expect anything to have changed!
    Maybe it's not so much doubt at my conclusion but doubt at my cognitive ability, "If you're supposed to be so damn clever why on earth did it take you so damn long to figure out the bleedin' obvious!". It's easy, I'll just blame it on my male side. Isn't that what women do? :)

A cook writes

    I have a bloke mate who isn't very good in the kitchen. He tries, but there's no passion. Mostly he ends up pulling stuff out of the freezer, mixing something from a jar or packet, or sometimes even picking something up from a takeaway. Like me he grew up in the 1970s UK but unlike me his mother has a very traditional approach to food. Where his mother called in her family to sit down and tuck in to traditional English fare of boiled vegetables and overcooked meat, mine as a disciple of Elizabeth David whose elder sisters were born in the Colonies would involve us all in the elaborate production of curries, risotto or regional Italian pasta sauces. This was heavy stuff in 1970s rural Britain where the most exotic food item most people had ever seen was a prawn cocktail.
    I am heavily indebted to my mother for this. She gave me and my sisters equally a lifelong serious interest in food and its production which growing up as we did amongst farms and market gardens we were able to indulge from an early age. It's nothing to do with some corny stereotype prompted by my gender issues that I do nearly all of the cooking at home, my wife's a damn fine cook but it doesn't matter to her to the extent that if I'm prepared to prepare our food she's quite happy to let me get on with it. Which works very well for us.
    I only wish I could persuade her to join me in liking some of the less healthy and more stodgy desserts.

Friday, 19 March 2010

Friday afternoon blues

    As an exercise in keeping ones brain active enough not to fall asleep either before the end of the working day or while driving through the Friday rush hour, writing a random blog post about nothing much at all doesn't really cut it. But the filter machine downstairs has been turned off for the weekend so there's no coffee left, the office is hot enough to cook pizza from the built-up white heat of technology and opening the window only brings the buzzing sound of an elusive two-stroke motor. So there's not much else I can do right now.
     Just what are they doing that requires a small two-stroke on a wet Friday anyway? No need for leaf blowing, it's March. Similarly they won't be grass cutting yet. Sounds far too constant for a chainsaw. Generator? Surely not one of those nasty little Chinese portable jobs with the chocolate bearings and the pre-glazed bore!
    My weekend will be spent variously spaced out on Zopiclone, racking last year's cider and fettling various rusty bits of farm machinery. Wet and rusty bits of farm machinery, that is. The BBC tells me we're due some light rain which is to say anything from a soft spring shower to a miserable drizzle. We Brits have many different words for our precipitation. Still, with luck I'll taste a little of last autumn's golden halo in the rough proto-cider I draw off the lees. If you're not a cider-phile then I can only describe the flavour I'm looking for as intensely pippy, as in apple pips.
    Whatever your weekend brings you, I hope you sleep well.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

In sickness and in 'ealth

"You'd think it would be easier for folks like us to get in the heads of our women and understand their motivations, but no..." Not my words, Leslie said that.

    This is one of those posts that's taken a very long time to write. Multiple times I've nearly published it, then returned and re-edited it before leaving it for another go.

    Luck is a funny thing. There's always something, no matter how crap a hand you might sometimes think you have been dealt, that makes you pull up for a moment and think "Yes, that may be a bit crap but thinking about it, I'm really lucky!"
    I don't consider being touched by the wild and crazy hand of gender variance to be a stroke of luck. I don't count its confluence with being born to grow up with giant-sized passing issues as lucky either. The first has given me depression, suicidal periods, girl fog and all the other myriad joys of gender dysphoria while the second has raised the barrier to any transition hopes I might have to the level at which I'd have to be seriously desperate to see it as a realistic course of action. So I'm left to spend a lifetime putting up with all the first has to throw at me. Which is a Royal Pain In The Arse, I'm sure you'll agree.
    Yet for all that, there's something that makes me feel really lucky. I'm married. I'm not just married, I'm married to a girl who actually cares about me as I care about her. Sure, we have our bust-ups, who doesn't. But just as I've been here for her through a few bad times, so she's been here for me. And putting up with a clinical depressive crossdresser who eventually faces up to having something of the girl about her brain takes the biscuit when it comes to things for a wife to have to put up with, even when you lose the depression.
    She's my rock. She's also my passport into feminine expression, my fashion adviser, my mystery clothing shopper, my social secretary and my friend. Without her I would be in a very sorry state indeed.
    All this is getting a little mushy, but it does have a point. What I'm trying to say is this: whatever "it" is, she's worth it. I read accounts from time to time about the relations both good and bad between transgendered people and their spouses, I often find them upsetting because my spouse is of such importance to me. I have had a very long time in which to fully appreciate the pressures of being born with gender issues so I do not need to be told how it can envelop me, but even so its grip on me can never be such that I can't fight it for her sake if not for any of my other reasons. When I stood in front of a jovial Canadian clergyman a few years ago and said "I do", I really meant it.
    OK, so I'm lucky. I have a wife who's accepting. But it can never be a complete acceptance, after all she married a bloke, and ultimately it's a bloke she'd prefer to be with. I have shaken her world over the last few years and she needs to be able to retain some control. So she has a comfort zone which I'm anxious not to stray out of. Though it has been the root of more than one conflict at times when I've wished to do something it's not too onerous, for instance she would prefer I didn't grow my hair out into a gender neutral style. Sometimes things that have previously been out of the question turn out to be OK after all, for example I can now shave my legs when I am ready to.
     I attribute our success in reaching this stage to my being open with her at all stages, and her being ready to air her concerns in return. If that paints a picture of continuous marital harmony then it's a wrong impression, as you might expect behind that sentence lies a multitude of fraught moments. But occasional rows are part of a normal relationship, the key is not that you have them but how you come through them. We've had our tempestuous moments over the years but by no means have all of them been related to my gender issues and we've come through them unscathed.
     If I have a worry for the future though it's that this might be a downward spiral without end. A long time ago I thought I could suppress it, nearly a decade ago I thought I could get away with just being a crossdresser, more recently I've recognised myself as the girl I am behind the scruffy bloke. Now I'm trying to find a level at which I can make my stand and remain stable, and to that end I learned this morning that I've been referred to the local psychologist who assesses gender variant patients from this part of the world. I'd still be making the same stand if I were single, but it's really come home to me in the last month how much someone else's well-being depends on my performance in this endeavour.

Let's hope I don't let her down.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Spoke too soon

    Last week it seemed as though insomnia was beaten and I could look forward to life without tiredness. Wake-up time was heading past 6 o'clock and all seemed well. Shame it didn't turn out that way.
    So I'm back to waking up around four o'clock. It's been four nights in a row now, since Friday. Amitryptiline doesn't seem to touch it just at the moment and I hate the spaced feeling from Zopiclone, but I may just have to put up with it.
    Left alone in the dark with only my gender issues for company, not a good place to be. I have three choices, keep my wife awake with my restlessness, try to read something and fall asleep, or get up and waste some time on the PC. I've settled on reading, as the most comfortable. Kathy Reichs is an author I've only recently discovered, plenty of back catalogue to get through. Her heroine is like Jessica Fletcher from Murder She Wrote, everywhere she goes, people meet untimely and violent ends. The moody cop character should figure out that she's the common thread in all these crimes and lock her up.
    It's upsetting, not being able to deal with insomnia. I have that terrible feeling again of being on a slow but steady descent into a world beyond my control, and I don't like it. Screwing up my own life is one thing, doing the same for my wife is unacceptable.
    I am however pleased to notice the earlier dawn as the season changes. Within a few weeks even with daylight saving it'll be light not long after I wake up. My city can be very beautiful in the early morning and I should take full advantage of the opportunity to see it.

Monday, 15 March 2010

It Took You Long Enough!

   Spring is here, and to prove it here's the first daffodil, a single bloom among the millions of green stalks and closed buds of an English village green this lunchtime. T-shirt weather, I was on my lunchtime walk through the countryside so all I had to capture it was my mobile phone camera.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

They know me too well

    A well-known large size footwear supplier near Northampton provided me with male shoes from my teenage years until about ten years ago when I finally rebelled against their high prices, ugly styles and "We're the only shop in town" attitude to their customers. Guys, look at those cartoons on your wall, they ain't funny, in fact they're mildly offensive if you actually have large feet, which by my observation, none of your staff do.
    They've never stopped sending me their catalogue though. Despite no purchases, a couple of times a year I get two envelopes in the post from them. Two envelopes? That's right, they always send me their female catalogue as well as their male one. So I've not bought from them in years, only bought male shoes from them, their girl shoes stop three sizes below mine and back when I last had a pair from them I was a closeted depressive. Yet they still send me their girl catalogue. Someone in Harpole has Awesome t-dar!

Passing at last!

   Outside the Swindon TG group meeting last night it turned out our car was crooked in its space. My wife: "You park like a girl!". Me: "Passing at last!".

Well, it made us both laugh, anyway.

Friday, 12 March 2010

Beautiful things: two for the price of one

   A while back I bought a designer handbag. Sadly not for me, it was a present for my wife. The bag itself is a beautiful thing, but it's not the subject of this post. Instead I'd like to talk about the packaging it arrived in. Normally when you order something online, it either arrives in a flimsy plastic pouch or a padded paper bag. This packaging is simply something that serves the purpose of keeping the dirt of transit away from the product and is normally disposable.
    Not in this case. This bag arrived in a pouch made from slightly thicker plastic, I'm guessing PVC rather than polythene. On it was the designer's signature pattern and printed instructions on where to cut to create a designer shopping carrier bag from it. A few minutes with the scissors and hey presto! my wife has two designer bags instead of one!
    I find this to be satisfying on so many levels. First, it's an attractive item in its own right. Second, it's a clever way to ensure recycling by making something disposable into something useful. Third, it's a brilliant piece of marketing. What girl isn't going to be pleased with an unexpected extra piece of designer merchandise? Repeat business and extra logo exposure elegantly combined.
    Orla Kiely, you are a genius!

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Insomnia almost beaten

    Since my current brush with insomnia seems to be drawing to a close it's worth noting down some of the various different strategies I've employed to combat it over the years.
    Lack of sleep has been a recurring feature of my life for well over twenty years now. An episode is usually triggered by a change in routine, an upsurge in my gender issues or something more traditional like the jetlag from a transatlantic flight. I will normally have no problems getting to sleep in the evening, the insomnia manifests itself as an early wake-up and an inability to return to sleep. This can last for anything from a few days to a few weeks, the exception being my most recent episode which has lasted nearly three months and led to my seeking medical help.
    There have been several strategies I've employed to overcome it. Over the counter pharmaceutical sleep aids, herbal sleep aids, guided meditations. What I've learned is that there is no magic bullet for every episode and that sometimes the pill that cures one will not work on the next. My option of last resort has been valerian tablets, herbal pills available from most pharmacists. They smell foul, but a couple of those have usually been enough to see me through to the morning. They have been particularly useful in jetlag induced episodes.
    One thing is worth mentioning because it doesn't work, a recurring suggestion from other people is that getting drunk would solve it. It doesn't. Waking up at 2 AM drunk, or worse still hung over, is worse than waking at the same time sober. A drunken stupor might help some people get to sleep, but it has no effect on when you wake up.
    In the last few months I've been using prescription drugs as sleep aids. My doctor may need a little education when it comes to gender variance issues but he seems on steadier ground with insomniacs. Zopiclone was brilliant for finally giving me some sleep but left me completely spaced out the next day so I came back and asked for something a bit milder. The resulting prescription, a low dose of amitriptyline, has been mostly successful in wrapping up this episode.
    Prescription drugs though are not a long-term solution. My doctor tells me amitryptiline is not addictive and I have to believe him, however I have observed it does seem to be cumulative. Take it for more than four days and thereafter you're half asleep all day. Not good if you have a job. So I found myself on a four-days-on, three-days-off routine which meant I could never have a full week of sleep. Fortunately after a few weeks of this my waking time on the nights with no pill has crept later as it would have naturally in time, indicating the episode is drawing to a close.
   So this one looks like it's nearly over. Not before time I have to say. It's been the worst so far, seriously affecting my work, derailing a couple of personal projects and forcing me out of the closet at last. I'd have to laugh or something, if I wasn't so knackered.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Those chickens are a bit pointy!

    The most memorable incident on Sunday's rideout is worth relating here: it owes nothing to motorcycling but everything to nature. Riding along a stretch of road near the Chiltern escarpment I saw what appeared from a distance to be a group of chickens. Large glossy red-brown birds pecking in the road. Closer still they were revealed not as chickens but three red kites tearing at a piece of roadkill. These birds of prey were the subject of a successful re-introduction programme a few years ago in these parts. As I approached and slowed down they took to the air and for about a hundred yards I had my own Fly Away Home moment with a red kite flying at eye level about six feet in front of me. A beautiful - no, Stunning - bird, not having seen one this close before I'd never realised just how big they are. Why am I never in a position to take a picture when these things happen? Never mind - somebody else has.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Motorcycling therapy

   Exercise is something you'll often see put forward as helping deal with gender dysphoria. The idea goes that the endorphins released by a good workout give your brain something to keep it occupied so it stops bothering you with girl thoughts for a while. Having started to give this a try with a daily morning workout I can vouch for there being something in this, post-workout I'm on a high and can better focus on my tasks in hand.
    I'd like to advance another self-administered therapy for those suffering from GD. Motorcycling. Stace beat me to it earlier today with a first ride of the season post, but one of the phrases she used said it all: "riding is just a fantastic rush".  If you're looking for an easy way to fill your brain up with endorphins, trigger a fight-or-flight response by taking a motorcycle close to the edge of its performance envelope. I've always experienced a high from motorcycling, a joy to be alive, and without realising I was self-medicating my gender issues I've used a rideout as a way to clear my mind when the weather allows for the best part of two decades now.
    This morning held one such rideout, I blew away the cobwebs with my trusty Honda. This was my first bike and I like it so much I've held on to it through all life has thrown at me. It's old enough for middle aged men to approach it with tears in their eyes recounting how they had one when it was new, it's far too small for me, under powered and its brakes and handling belong to an age with far more facial hair. I'm so attached to it because its combination of a mere 39 geriatric Japanese horses and skinny tyres mean that unlike more recent machines a rider of my meagre ability can touch the edge of what it can do without attracting the attention of PC Plod. Riding that bike as fast as it will go along a twisty rural back road in the English Home Counties is for me as perfect an experience as can be achieved through motorcycling.
    I took it out into the countryside and headed roughly east towards the hills. There are loads of tiny roads that way featuring corners and gradients aplenty. Perfect country for a Honda SOHC four. My front wheel may have stayed firmly on the ground and the knee of my armoured trousers may have remained unabraded by the road, but my brain was taking in all those lovely endorphins and I returned home on one of those highs during which the world is viewed in more vivid colour than ever.
   Now, having established motorcycling as a therapy for GD, all I have to do is convince my doctor that the NHS needs to pay for my tyres.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Lost in space

   A very short post about nothing more exciting than a morning spent wandering round a town centre with my wife pursuing that most basic of modern comforts, retail therapy.
   This morning I had a wig fitting with a very friendly hairdresser. It's important that my hair is right, if you're endowed with the level of presence I have people turn round to look at you in bloke form: so as a girl far more so. I only present as female in safe environments so it's not a forlorn hope of passing that's my concern, it's more a matter of pride, if something's worth doing it's worth doing properly. The outcome of this quest for perfection is that my new hair won't have arrived in time for my next TG support group meeting so to make up for this minor setback we hit the shops.
    What followed was a fairly unremarkable morning of girl shopping, mostly for her but with a few things for me. Boots (Chemists) had us hooked with their five pound cosmetic vouchers, Mrs. J had amassed several of these and since they had to be used in separate transactions I was pressed into service as Customer Number Two. My prize for this expedition, a colour matched concealer pen to better deal with an insomniac's panda eyes. Beyond that we tramped the halls, dodged the chavs and the speeding grannies on mobility scooters, considered several outfits for either of us and bought nothing. We ended up in Debenhams(department store) where Mrs. J bought some stuff for herself and one item for me. As she searched for her purchases I was amused to see the cohort of slightly shifty and embarrassed-looking blokes hovering at the edge of the lingerie section waiting for their wives. Having pursued that role in the past I was having none of this and played the New Man to perfection, even holding some of her prospective purchases for her as she sought more. A couple out shopping: fantastic stealth t-girl camouflage!
   Lost in space? With twenty minutes left until our train was due to depart, we decided it was time to leave Debenhams and head for the station. What a labyrinth that store turned out to be, I swear that exit was mobile! I was almost at the stage of leaving chalk marks on the mannequins to plot our route before we found the path to freedom.

Friday, 5 March 2010

Cricket explained

   A while back Leslie expressed her love for baseball while claiming it might be of little interest in this sphere. Being someone for whom the sport means only Peanuts cartoons my curiosity was piqued, so I challenged her to give us the essence of baseball in a post guaranteed to send us scurrying for our nearest diamond. Whatever that is.
If she failed to come up with the goods, I warned, I'd explain cricket to her. And so far, no ball. So here it is. A post about cricket.

   Cricket is a game played by a bunch of blokes who wear white clothing and stand around in a big field1. The object of the game is for each side to take it in turns to nominate a set of blokes armed with wooden clubs (the "batsmen") to defend a set of wooden sticks stuck in the ground (the "stumps") against an onslaught from a bloke from the other side (the "bowler") throwing a ball while the bowlers mates (the "fielders") try to catch the ball after the batsmen have hit it. There are all sorts of rules and positions on the field with funny names like "Deep backward square leg" and "Silly mid off", but that's not important. If you really want to know, look here.

   The only thing you need to know about cricket is that it is the most civilised sport on the planet. It is never played in bad weather, it stops neither for commercials or for cheerleaders but only for tea, in its purest form a match lasts for five days and even the most fraught of matches have completely mixed and friendly crowds. The slow pace means of course that if you are hoping for quick-fire action you are going to be disappointed, however it offers something you'll get from no other sport of which I am aware. If you enjoy nothing better than sitting out in the sun with your mates drinking weak beer and talking rubbish then being a cricket fan gives you the perfect excuse to do it for five days in a row. There is even the occasional thing to cheer on the field, and if you haven't got a clue what it was don't worry, neither have half the rest of the crowd. They've been asleep.

   Talking rubbish while ostensibly watching cricket has even been turned into a cult art form by some of our broadcasters.

1Your scribe was made to do rather too much of this when a lot younger. Beautiful place to do it in, deathly boring thing to do. If you want to foster enthusiasm for something in Da Yoof, that's not the way to do it. Sitting in the sun with your mates is fun but playing it? You have to be joking!

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

My doctor thanked me for his homework assignment

    This morning I went to see my doctor once more. Having sought counsel both through this medium and through my local TG  support group I was forearmed with a neatly bound copy of the NHS guidance document. Thanks Cat for that bit of advice!
   The first thing he did was apologise for not having found anything for me. When I replied that maybe I could help, and presented him with all he needed to know in one handy parcel, he was over the moon. The upshot of it all is that I'll be referred onwards, and upwards. My first GIC appointment whenever it finally comes won't be the joyous day it must be for others though as yet again I'll have the sweeties dangled over me, so near and yet so far. I will however be able to get a proper diagnosis which will help me with respect to my work, and I will also be put onto whatever counselling service they consider is appropriate.
    I have been fed into the machine, at least.


Bless those boffins at Blaupunkt with their Teutonic ingenuity!
    The stereo in the turbocharged roller skate I use to terrorise the road users of Southern England has a feature called GALA, no doubt an acronym for whatever the German is to say "Make it louder when the car speeds up". The way I have it set with the likes of James Naughtie and Eddie Mair reading me the notable events of the day it allows me to hear the latest from the Corridors of Power very nicely as I zip along the dual carriageway between the traffic jams. They're fairly quiet.
    Today was different though. My trip into work was later than normal so to avoid the tediom of mid-morning radio I stuck a CD in. The Tea Party's Tangents. I like this CD so I cranked it up as I meandered through the endless twenty zone and the cloud of buses that swarm round my city like flies to a dungheap. Big mistake. Because when I hit the dual carriageway instead of the normal stop-start rush hour I had an empty road and I nailed it. Ouch. GALA kicked in and my poor little car stereo responded with square waves so jagged they'd break an oscilloscope screen. Amazingly this HF distortion seems to have done no harm to my tweeters. Whether my ears have had the same good fortune remains to be seen.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Life as a male impersonator

Useless at passing, me. Yet I'm better than awesome at passing. Huh?
    My "girl" always feels to me like a character from the 1980s BBC sit-com 'Allo 'Allo. No doubt one of the British airmen involved in yet another hilarious rescue plan involving dressing as a nanny and wheeling a pram containing the Fallen Madonna with the Big Boobies by Van Klomp, all the while pursued by a comedy SS officer dressed as a nun. (if you have no idea, Google it, if you think the show is in bad taste/not very funny, then yes and yes.) I've accepted this, though not without occasional heartache, and moved on.
    Meanwhile, my "boy" is an Oscar winning performance. Blimey I do the passing as bloke thing well! I don't mean the day to day living, being there for my wife, drying the dishes or throwing out the trash, I mean the "one of the boys" thing, the harmless and non-threatening loud ribaldry and general tomfoolery of everyday bloke-dom in a world of other blokes. Damn it, I can swagger as a bloke! I'm not really like that though, it's a strategy that's evolved through a combination of exhibitionism and self-defence. Sometimes a voice inside me will say "Did I really say that?". If I'm so good at it and I'm transgendered, I have to ask, are all the other ribalds also TG underneath and busily hamming it up for the outside world? That would be a turn-up for the books!
    Being good at something can feel rewarding. I haven't always been good at life, but as I've grown up I've slipped into this slightly larger-than-life bloke character when I'm with other blokes. Yes, it's camouflage, but it can be mighty comfortable camouflage at times.
    A transgendered female hamming it up passing as the bloke she looks like is all a little Victor Victoria, but since I'm stuck with the role and I'm kinda good at it, I think I can run with it when I need to. The unfortunate feature of being born transgendered is that just as I'll never know what it is like to grow up with a female body I'll also never know what it is to be completely at home with what I've grown up with. Such a waste in a way that the physical ability to be so effectively a bloke should be given to someone in that situation.