Monday, 31 May 2010

Daughter, sort of

   "We can tell that there 's something more, what is it? We need to know!". 
My mother caught me as I returned from my usual Sunday-at-my-parents dog walking. She was weeding her flower bed in the sun, I was sitting on an upturned bucket. I dodged the issue: "It's nothing serious, you don't need to worry". She was unimpressed, and told me so. The dog let out one of those wonderfully expressive bored doggy sighs, and lay down in a patch of sun.
   I got up and wandered down the field to find a patch of mobile phone signal to ring my wife at her work. She suggested it was time, I'd better tell my mother.
   I think I got her really worried when I said "I'm afraid this is probably going to upset you, I think you'd better come inside and sit down". So when I told her I think it was a relief for her. She'd expected some serious mental illness or something. Unexpectedly it wasn't upsetting for her and she was immediately understanding. It turned out her childhood friend's son-in-law transitioned a few years ago and he is still in touch with her even though her marriage to his daughter broke up, and my mother heard all this second hand so surprisingly was aware of all the issues. Wow.
   The biggest surprise to me was that my mother had no idea. I was certain she was aware of my childhood crossdressing but either she's forgotten or she genuinely didn't know. She did remark that she's always thought I had feminine mannerisms though. Blimey, is it that obvious to everyone?
   So, we had the Very Long Chat. I got no work done on my car yesterday afternoon. I told her the state of play, how I'm dealing with all this and where it's going. I didn't go into detail on the crossdressing front, best not to overload her with too much. Most touchingly I could see she was trying to talk to me as a daughter. I almost cried.
   She's going to have a word with my dad about it this evening. Give him a day or two to digest it before I see him again. I doubt he'll be difficult about it but it's got to be a shock to him.
   To think, I've tied myself in knots with dread abut this for years. And it was all OK in a summer afternoon chat.
Crazy, isn't it.

Saturday, 29 May 2010

My unexpected encounter with Little Britain

   There seems to be a bit of a rumpus in Little-Britain-land because some of us aren't very happy with their parody of transgendered people.
   I think I should relate my first encounter with Little Britain as a trans person. I'd always been pissed off with the trans characters (and LB in general, but that's just 'cos I don't find them 100% funny), but since we're talking about them as perpetuating a negative stereotype then here's a concrete example.
   One of the first people I came out to as transgendered other than my wife was my doctor. Let me set the scene. I'm a huge bloke sitting in front of him, my wife is beside me, I've not slept properly for a couple of months and my life is starting to come apart at the seams. I'm sure most trans people will have a similar end-of-tether story about the time they had the Long Chat with their doctor. It's a pretty serious time for me, having to tell him the reason why I've come to see him.
   His response? A Little Britan joke involving the "L" word.

Yes, that's right, one of the catchphrases of everybody's favourite transphobic arseholes.

   Now I'm not trying to have a go at my doctor here. He genuinely is a nice bloke and my response: "Within the community they are seen as an outdated and insulting stereotype" he took on board immediately, in fact his instant backpedal was almost comical. He thought he was lightening the tone of a serious moment. I am his first transgendered patient and since then he has been better than excellent. The point I'm trying to make is that Little Britain have done such a good job of putting their characters into the mainstream that not even someone whose job it is to know better was aware that they are offensive to us. Think about it, I'm an in-yer-face kick-arse big bastard of a tranny so I shook it off, but some people having the same conversation are literally on the edge. I'd left my suicidal stage behind by then in coming out to my wife, but a Little Britain jibe at the wrong time could be all it takes for some poor souls.
    So there y'go, if anyone in LB-land claims they're all right really and it's all a bit of fun, there's why it isn't and they're not.

Never work with children or animals

   This is what happens when you try to take a picture of your mother's cat with a mobile phone camera and in the delay between pressing the shutter and the photo being taken the cat - bless her - decides that the camera's where it's all happening and she wants in on it.
   Never work with children or animals.

It's not easy being green

    It's a curse sometimes, being born to grow up this way.
    Everywhere I go, people have a second look at me. They point, stare, nudge their friends: "Have you seen Him!".
    I get called names, I'm made the butt of decidedly unfunny jokes by infantile wags, and I'm expected to find them funny too. When I was much younger I was picked on because of it, bullied at school.
    Drunks want to pick fights with me. Men with squeaky voices react aggressively to my presence. Sometimes pasty-faced women in ill-fitting tracksuits do too. People are not afraid to voice opinions about my private parts in public. I'm expected to see that as entirely reasonable, funny even. Pretty much average in case you were wondering, sorry to disappoint.
    Some products and services are unavailable to me because of what I am. Some airlines won't fly me, others expect me to pay extra to sit in a separate part of the aircraft. Some car dealers will not offer me a product I can use. There are leisure venues that point-blank refuse to let me use their facilities. I'm reduced to buying clothing from specialist suppliers for people like me, and even then I sometimes get insensitive treatment from their staff.
    I've had medical issues because of all this. I'm lucky, other people like me have had significantly worse problems than mine.
    Nobody rushes to the defence of people made this way. Film and television portrays us as aggressive thugs at worst, lumbering simpletons at best. If we do defend ourselves, we're automatically in the wrong. Among ourselves, we're all pretty annoyed about being faced with the stuff I've just been talking about, but since it's not illegal, there's nothing much that can be done about it. Just suck it up, put up with it, live with it, move on. Can't you take a joke?, they say.
    Even the sodding door frames are too low for me. No, it ain't easy being green.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Work thoughts

    An English woodland in early summer. Slightly damp and a bit cold when the sun's behind a cloud, but with that earthy smell you get the day after rain. The wild arum lillies are a bit disappointing but there are still a few late bluebells on show. If I needed justification for an Android phone, here it is. Posting while sitting on a tree stump.
    All this gender business has blunted my edge somewhat. I could probably find a joke in there somewhere but this is serious. I find this loss of facility worrying, after all having an edge in my particular field is what allows me to keep us in the lifestyle to which we've become accustomed. So I'm forced to think about my work.
    Here in the UK, we're lucky compared to some. We have a Disability Discrimination Act which means that you can't be given the boot for a medical condition. So, with GD diagnosis in hand my arse is covered, in theory. Trouble is, I work for a tiny company, and one I care about at that, so I know they have no room for passengers. I can't with conscience play the GD card if they remark on my declining performance. They've been very good to me on the sleep thing so I don't want to be bad in return to them.
    So what's to be done? I've come to the conclusion that I need to move jobs, and not to another small tech company like those I've always worked for but to somewhere large or public sector with a proper HR policy behind which I can hide. It feels like failure but my wife needs stability. She's seen my employers go titsup before and I know it worries her.
    Meanwhile here in the wood, the rooks are having an argument. It's getting noisy.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Gonna bag me a banker

    My letter to Graham Beale at Nationwide.
Dear Sir,
    I wish to register my concern at your recent television commercial featuring David Walliams and Matt Lucas of Little Britain fame in their guise as the transvestite characters Florence and Emily.
    I feel you have been misled by your advertising people on two counts.
First, these particular characters are grossly offensive to the transgendered community with their grotesque portrayal of the worst possible stereotype. These are not a drag act portraying genetic female characters such as Lilly Savage or Brenda and Audrey from the Bounty/Plenty kitchen towel adverts, these are a pair of comedians seeking cheap laughs at the expense of a vulnerable and marginalised group that does not need such negative mainstream portrayals of themselves forced on the public at large. Because of these idiots, transgendered and transsexual people in the real world have to endure a new set of insults, and now you are helping perpetuate them.
    Second, I do not think you are aware just how many transgendered people will see these adverts and be offended by your brand. You might be thinking “So what? A few transsexuals are a bit hot under the collar, a storm in a teacup, really!”. To which I'd answer this: the transsexuals who are living in the female role are merely the tip of the iceberg. Take a look around your office, or better still take a look around your busiest branch. Your customers, that is. I can't speak for the women, but as many as ten percent of the men will have transgendered tendencies. If you saw me in the street for example you wouldn't give me a second look, yet though I look like just another happily married bloke I'm transgendered and have the medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria to prove it. There are a lot of people out there with the same condition who like me for whatever reason can't transition to a female role, and when you add in the far higher numbers of part-time transvestites, genderqueers and other groups within our community you are looking at a huge number of potential customers. For instance I am a member of a couple of organisations for transgendered people who number their membership in the tens of thousands. And that is only in my particular segment of the community. I've even heard it said by the statisticians among us that there are more gender variant people than there are people with red hair. We walk among you, and you just don't see us. As you look around you ask yourself this: not “Are any of these guys trans?”, but “Which of these guys are trans?”, because I guarantee some of them will be and they won't be the ones you'd expect.
    In conclusion, by hiring Lucas and Walliams to do this advert your advertising people have offended a far larger unseen potential customer base than you realise, and have firmly associated that offence with your brand.
    I'd like to urge you to do the decent thing and dump this despicable advert. If you wish to broaden your mind on the transgendered community as a whole, I attend your local transgender support group in Swindon and would be happy to take you to one of its meetings.  

Yours faithfully,   (Me-as-bloke)

I am bereft.

    The only UK supplier of Le Dame shoes now seems not to be a supplier of them any more. I'm going to have to go all the way to Madison, Wisconsin for my size 15s. Can I really be the only person amongst the entire transgendered spectrum, not to mention the occasional genetic lady of height, with feet this size?
    Ah well, better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all I suppose.

Monday, 24 May 2010

It'll all be worth it when it turns a wheel

   The Tesco store yesterday morning was full of fresh-faced and attractive young women suitably attired for the hot weather. Not a good day to be gender dysphoric.
   My day was spent getting very hot, grubby and oily fettling my automotive folly. Last time I posted about it I was optimistic about getting it on the road, that was before I discovered a section of chassis that had succumbed to fifty years of rust and had more holes than a Swiss cheese. So yesterday was spent with my dad, welding in a repair section. He's better at welding than me and anyway since it's his welder he won't let me near it. He seems to think I'll break it.
    We have a bees nest this year somewhere not far from where the car is kept. My dad wasn't quite sure where it is, but as we worked we were interrupted by confused bees intent on suicide. I think they were attracted to the solvents in the paint as I dealt with some perforated bodywork. As we were out in the sun, our local buzzard turned up and started wheeling in the sky above us. Great, he's eyeing us up as potential food, we're in the desert scene of a thousand Western movies.
   The kind of motor enthusiast who wears string-backed driving gloves would shudder at this, to repair a non structural disconnect between two panels I used builder's gap filling adhesive. Amazingly this stuff is very effective in this application, I've used it this way for years and unlike body filler it remains stuck to painted metal. But forgive me, for I have sinned against all that is dear to classic car enthusiasts.
   So there it is, a car with less holes in it. Still off the road, but it's almost starting to look useable. I'm much indebted to my dad for his welding.

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Community service

    The village church I was christened in back when trouser legs were a lot wider has started to look a little neglected of late. Ivy out of hand, moss on the path, some of the vegetation out of control. So they organised a work party this morning and in the company of a load of village residents I spent part of this morning shifting stuff and doing some painting.
    As an adult, I've never really "got" religion. I attended a Church of England primary school in a village where there probably is honey still served for tea and the church clock might well be stuck at ten to three so I received the full Anglican indoctrination as a kid, but beyond a moral compass and sense of right and wrong it didn't really stick. I'd thus characterise myself as a "Harvest festival Anglican", because all I get from my infrequent visits to the church is a sense of the familiarity of the community I grew up in rather than any spiritual benefit. I chat to the vicar from time to time when I see her, but if I'm still tenuously one of her flock then I must be one that wriggled through a hole in the hedge years ago.
    It felt good to be involved and do something with the rest of the community though. It seems to be a rare occurrence in that particular village these days. I realised as I came away that among all the people there, I was the only one born into that village, and I don't even live there any more. Some community.

In black and white.

    Waiting on the doormat for me last night was a letter from the hospital. As promised, there in black and white and with the signature of someone with far more letters after his name than I have, conformation that yes, I do have "longstanding gender dysphoria".
     It's interesting, reading about yourself in an impersonal third person. Revealing too about the system, the paragraph about my family history mentions my father's occupation but not my mother's. For those who don't know her, my mother arguably did far better in her career than my dad did, not to take away from his achievements.
    Most interestingly his final paragraph confirms his decision not to refer me to the GIC, but asks to see my wife, to "get her side of the story". I can't make her go and I'll understand if she doesn't want to, but that's something new that I didn't get at the consultation.
    So there it is. The official diagnosis I was looking for. My butt is now covered.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Trade In Your Tranny

    Language is a wonderful thing. Every community has its trigger words which though innocuous to the wider world, set in motion a particular reaction within that community. Politicians refer to exploiting them as "dog-whistling".
    This morning the UK-based geek's favourite news organ, The Register, published a piece about a trade-in scheme for analogue radios.
    I'd better not let my wife see the sub-heading. She might get ideas.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Bloke fraud

   Over the corridor from my office, there's another company. I have no idea what they do, they keep themselves to themselves, but I see their employees in the kitchen from time to time when I'm off in search of coffee. One of them is a stunningly flawless Chinese girl. Not only is she physically very attractive, she also has near-perfect dress sense and enviable presentation. In short, every time I see her I want to be like her. On bad girl fog days seeing her is torture, on good days a pleasure.
    Today she surpassed herself with a simple crimson shift dress. This was not lost on my two colleagues who launched into one of those slightly lustful blokey conversations about her. Not too disrespectful or coarse, after all both of them are nice blokes, just the kind of reactions you'd expect from heterosexual blokes discussing such a girl.
    I couldn't help myself, I joined in enthusiastically. After all, enthusing about her appearance as someone admiring her sounds very similar to enthusing about the same appearance as someone who wishes they could emulate it, and I have a larger-than-life bloke act to nurture.
    I'm such a fraud, sometimes.

Jenny Simpson

    It's May, and everywhere you look in this part of the world you see bright yellow fields of flowering rapeseed crops. Get really close to one and you'll find a dense tangle of spindly brassicas about five feet high topped of course with the vivid yellow flowers.
    Yesterday afternoon I had cause to walk through such a field. A public footpath crosses it and as required by the local council the farmer has mowed a narrow path through his crop to keep the right of way open.My mother's dog takes this as an opportunity to entangle herself  and her lead in as many of the tough stems as she can. Bless her.
     It was only when I reached the other side of the field that I looked down. My arms and clothing were bright yellow, covered with pollen from brushing against thousands of flowers. I looked like an extra from a live-action Simpsons movie.
    Fortunately though I still had four fingers on each hand.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Just what do Women Do to Us?

    When I was a student, back in those far-off days when we geeks were still excited about Gopher, I had a mate who bought some of that after-shave with the pheromones that are supposed to attract women. I think it was called "Endros" or something, he ordered it from an advert in a dodgy magazine and it came in an absurdly small bottle for the then-astounding price of twenty five quid. So, bathed in this stuff he sallied forth to collect his guaranteed shag-fest from the students union bar.

    Nothing. Not even one of the legendarily "easy" local girls from the estate.

    Which meant he was doubly annoyed that I, who had similarly zero success in attracting women, found no problems in engaging them in conversation as I unwittingly developed my "girly chat" defence against the fog.
     I've seen an equivalent product marketed to transvestites, supposedly it contains female pheromones, the choking clouds of which are supposed to confuse any passing blokes into thinking that the seven foot girl with the bushy eyebrows and the blokey voice is actually a drop-dead-gorgeous genetic girl. Ooh, passing in a bottle, I'll 'ave some of that! I think I'll pass on the "admirers" though thank you very much.

     It's all rubbish, of course. My money is far better spent on ladies shoes.

     Personal experience has led me to be curious about how pheromones work though. Not how they work on attracting people, but how they work on a transgendered brain like mine. Let me explain. I live with my wife, a lovely genetic girl who I spend as much time with as I can. I get ups and downs of girl fog, but normally when I can control other factors like sleep and exercise an up follows a down pretty quickly.
     For most of the last couple of weeks she's been away, on another continent visiting her mother. As normally happens when she goes away for a while, I crash. My brain goes spiraling into gender-dysphoria-land and I'm in trouble. I kept it at bay during the weekends by doing girl stuff, my local support group and visiting friends, but during the week I was in a somewhat sorry state.
    Now you might say with some justification that I'm missing my wife and that's what does it. And it's true, I do miss her. But I'm not convinced that's at the root of the girl fog because I've noticed the same effect at other times when she's been here but for whatever reason we've not been spending so much time together. The odd occasion when I've had to spend a few days disappearing off every day to my parents place to tend to farm animals, for instance. I'm sleeping alone and not breathing in all those handy girl pheromones so I nosedive.
    At this point it would be convenient to ask a tame endocrinologist. Sadly all the doctors I know tend to be specialists in arcane areas of medical research and anyway I'm not out to any of them so I couldn't ask even if they had the answer. But I have an advantage here. I'm an engineer by training, not a scientist. Which means that if there's a case in which I find something works the way I think it does, I don't necessarily need confirmation of exactly how it does it, I just need to know it works.
    So here's another entry in Jenny's Book Of How To Be a Bloke Who's Transgendered and Remain Sane: spend as much time as you can with the genetic girl in your life. Something I'm perfectly happy to do.

For a given value of Jenny

Busy weekend.
    A perfect start to Saturday, taking my parents dog for a walk through the fields on a beautiful spring morning. The only movement being a startled muntjac deer. Sometimes you need a bit of mild exercise as a relaxation aid and before a long drive that completely hit the spot. Then hit the road north to Leicestershire, beautiful driving weather, yellow oilseed rape(canola) fields against blue skies, roadside trees with shiny new leaves. That motorway is marked off for me by previous automotive dramas, there's the spot the Allegro overheated, the Mini wiper needed fixing, the Panda suffered a blowout, it's as if every gap between a junction saw me on the shoulder at some time during my days of running old wrecks.
    Lisa's general area was easy to find, but Lisa's house might have been created by J.K Rowling, such was it hidden between the houses that surround it. Once you sit down and start talking it's as though time passes unnoticed, a morning coffee turned into a three hour chat. Sorry Lisa! It was good to meet her wife and family, I wish my wife wasn't visiting her mother this week. Being fully settled in the bloke role complete with a couple of days stubble to rest my poor abused face it felt slightly incongruous to be introduced as Jenny, hence the title of this post. It was very good to sit down and talk to a couple in a similar position to us and I am very grateful for the opportunity to drop by. We didn't just talk trans matters, our conversation ranged widely onto other experiences, and the family dog joined in, subjecting me as an interloper to some hefty barking. Oh, and I managed to lock myself in the loo. Yeah, I make the perfect guest, me.
     Back on the road north, I was heading for Yorkshire, to see the same friends whose party I attended back in February. Last time I was on these Yorkshire roads they were under a thick blanket of snow and the car struggled with some of the hills, today they were clogged with weekend drivers and unexpectedly a convoy of Ford Anglias. J.K. Rowling, you can't escape her!
    S and R are a couple I've known since the mid 1990s. S was a colleague at one of my more anarchic former employers in an insanely fun but mentally demanding field of the tech industry. Now he's boss of a small company and father to a young son, but refreshingly neither he nor R have succumbed to the blight of premature middle aged parenthood. My mission for the evening was to come out to them as some of my longer-term and more valued friends.
    Unexpectedly we were invited to a barbecue at R's mother's house. I like R's family, they are no-nonsense Yorkshire women, and great company for a stealth t-girl. R's mother had prepared enough to feed the five thousand, and thus sated and well lubricated by bottled beer we spent a relaxed evening sitting round the barbecue. It's a British thing, it's a fine evening and we've got a barbecue, so we're damn well going to spend the evening outside, damn it! We must have looked very odd, swathed as we were in blankets.
     Back at S and R's house, time for the Long Chat. Not a problem, just as I expected. A bit of a double-take, some slight confusion form S with respect to gender versus sexuality, then a long chat about it all. It turns out that R has a friend with a trans child who's boy at school and girl at home, and who will no doubt transition as a teenager. Lucky kid to have an environment in which she's understood. One can't help being a bit envious, wondering how ones own life might have turned out in that situation. Anyway, now I've got another set of friends I don't have to pretend in front of.
    Having consumed several bottles of beer I was in no condition to take a sleeping pill, so I found myself lying in bed at 2AM texting my wife. It gets a little rough, when she's away the general level of gender dysphoria increases and life becomes a little difficult. As you can imagine, waking up at about half past seven on Sunday wasn't the best thing to do so I felt as rough as a badger's arse on Sunday morning. Time for some serious caffeine abuse.
     On the road again, this time to York. Find the car park, meet Cathy. Annoying ticket machine that didn't like 50p pieces. Wander round the city centre, thronged with tourists. Sit in the park and chat. People watch. Trans-spotting. Only succeed in spotting a Scotsman. Find a pub by the river, discover it doesn't take cards. Damn. I thus owe Cathy somewhere seriously nice for lunch next time I'm in these parts, this having been my turn to cater. Why is there never a damn cash machine handy when you need one? Life obviously wasn't on my side, because then a bird pooped on me. Well, at least it's socially acceptable for a slightly scruffy bloke to look a bit grubby.
     Leaving York, down the A1, head for the Fens. Beautiful Fenland weather for the endless drive past the Wash. Empty roads, wide skies, this is long distance motoring as it should be with no stress. You know you're in the Fens when houses start having tractors parked outside. At this time of year the fields are sporting freshly ploughed laser-GPS guided furrows, it pains me slightly to say this but there is beauty to be found in industrial agriculture. A fitting place for a country and western fan, for an afternoon, at least.
    And so I end up at C's house, under an impressive Fenland cloudscape. Cameras rarely do such skies justice. I'm knackered, girl-fogged and I miss my wife. I try to explain this to C. He suggests curry as an antidote. Like an idiot I forget my sleeping pill.
    So I'm writing this with a Fenland dawn as a backdrop and feeling far too blokey for my liking. Can't do much about that here, so you, dear reader, have become my outlet. Last week's outing in Swindon seems awfully far away.

Thursday, 13 May 2010


    A day or two ago I was looking at a new mobile phone. I made my choice, the Motorola DEXT, ordered it, and received it yesterday afternoon. This isn't a phone review site so beyond saying it's the closest I've yet been to having a useful computer in the palm of my hand and so far I'm very pleased with it I'm not going to list its features in tedious detail.
    Being at home today, I took the opportunity to go for Chinese food with a friend this lunchtime. On my way back I used my new toy to check my email. One of those "Because I could" things. Now my constant connectivity extends its reach to almost anywhere within the radius of a cell tower. I realised I'd walked over half the way home with only the barest glance at my surroundings which was a crying shame because it''s been a beautiful day. By way of atonement I stopped by the river for a few minutes and took a picture of a pair of hopeful ducks in the shade. No food for them, they soon lost interest in me.
    A few things recently have made me realise how much what we do has been changed by requiring a constant connection to the rest of the world. First, my office being disconnected from the world. Bang! four days of work made very difficult. At least we can do something at home, another company in the building has a phone-based business model and has had to shut up shop for the duration. It's not impossible that our inept JCB operator could have cost a few people their jobs by the time all this is over.
     Then there's the TV. My wife is away for a few days so I have to tell our PVR what to record in her absence. When I turned it on, nothing save a "No signal" message. A quick status check on the BBC Engineering web site finds our transmitter is undergoing maintenance today. A service one takes for granted having disappeared, several hundred pounds worth of TV and video kit suddenly stands completely useless.
      Working in a tech based industry I guess I'm slightly ahead of the curve on some technologies. I've been an enthusiastic adopter of the cloud, I have a very quick PC yet nearly all of the services I use it for are online, hosted somewhere in California rather than on my hard disk. These aren't just entertainment or social networking services, I think it's safe to say that my ability to earn a living depends on cloud-hosted services, not least our company email server. Being abruptly disconnected from them is a reminder of the fragility of the personal infrastructure with which we've surrounded ourselves and I have to admit it's left me sitting a little less easily as I continue working.
    Somehow I can't imagine the three inch screen of the DEXT will be quite enough for me to do my job.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010


    JCB. For us Brits, it's not a brand name but a word. "JCB" means "digger". If you want a glimpse into the place they hold in the mind of the British Bloke, take a listen to the annoyingly catchy JCB song from a few years ago. They make all sorts of other really cool machinery besides diggers, but their diggers define them. If you are ever given the keys to a JCB then make sure you give it a try as the sheer destructive force you wield at the controls of such a machine can I'm slightly ashamed to say, be a bit of a rush.
    I'm sitting at home on my sofa today because of a JCB. Same as yesterday. Someone's used one a little too enthusiastically and dug up the cable that keeps the office I work in connected to the world, so deprived of Internet and phones my colleagues and I are left at home.
    I should be really pleased about this, but I'm not. I can dress as I like, keep the hours I choose and work as I want. And there's the problem. I've always disliked working from home because I find it much more difficult to stay on-message and get stuff done. The resulting guilt even when I have managed to achieve something, coupled with the lack of contact with other people, affects my mood and threatens to let in the girl fog.
    Suddenly, I wish my job involved destroying something with a JCB. Digging holes. Or driving a JCB Fastrac like the one that dumped a great heap of manure in the field next to the office a week ago. Anything to get outdoors and away from a PC for a while!
    And here we are. It's ten to nine, I'd better watch out or this will be distracting me from work.

Monday, 10 May 2010

Posting from up a tree somewhere

   A week or so ago I read a post from Emma, as someone about to go full time she was looking for a slightly more feminine mobile phone. It left me wondering, just what makes a phone feminine? Leaving aside the pink Barbie-themed models you see teenaged girls using (I wonder, do they have "OMG" and "LOL" shortcut keys?), are they targeted that much on a gender basis? My wife has a very similar phone to mine, so I have no obvious comparison in front of me. What would a masculine phone look like anyway? Either way I wish Emma good luck in her quest.
    Fortunately I have few such concerns. My phone is several years old now, it's a great phone and a much better camera than I expected it to be, but I've come to the conclusion that it's time to replace it because its internet functionality isn't very useful. As the title of this post suggests, I'd like to be able to post to this blog from up a tree somewhere.
    I'm a cheapscate. Seriously. Well, I don't need to shell out for phone bling, I have no desire for an iPhone and it doesn't bother me if I don't have the latest model. All I want is a reasonable sized screen for using a decent web browser, useable QWERTY text entry and a semidecent camera. Oh, and a phone. And I don't want it to be too big. So it's off to my network provider to see what they've got for me for free based on my contract.
    Surprisingly, I find I've got a choice on my hands. A range of second-string feature phones that either had a pop at the iPhone last year and failed to be a contender, or have been superceded by more recent models. And some of them are still rather good. The trouble is though while all the things I want are represented, they're not represented in the same models. The Nokia X6, for example has lovely hardware and the camera I want, but comes with the rather aged Symbian operating system which lacks the useability of its more modern competitors. I'd much prefer Android which I can have from the Motorola DEXT and the HTC Hero, but the Moto has a relatively tiny screen and the HTC has a not-spectacular camera. The Moto does have a neat little physical QWERTY keyboard though.
    From the choice above I'm veering towards the Moto. Surprisingly I find that even if I was prepared to pay a bit for the phone, my choices aren't much better. The newer HTC and a Sony phone join the fray, but the former is a bit large and the later suffers from the same problems as the Nokia.
    Whatever choice I make it'll be one I have to make the best of as I'll be stuck with it for a couple of years. You'll know when I've made my decision, I'll make a post from up a tree somewhere, then another despairing post asking for help, having snapped the crucial branch that would have enabled me to climb down.

Sunday, 9 May 2010


    Sadly there was no white ballgown for me to wear and I didn't meet the Queen.

   Yesterday evening, I made my debut in the real world presenting as female. There was very little of the worry I expected, it all felt completely natural and I had a great time.

    First up was my normal support group meeting with its usual attendees. A convoluted plan involving changing at a friends house having worked to perfection and the drive having passed uneventfully, I was outside the hall and ready to go. A quick makeup and hair check in the rear-view mirror and off I went. Remember the posture, lose the bloke walk. Blimey, that was easy!

   A grand entrance is ruined slightly when you have to duck for the damn door frame.

   After the meeting a load of us went for our usual meal at a very nice Italian restaurant. A very friendly place with excellent food, though a slight challenge for me because it is situated in a  rather busy town centre, and this being Saturday night you get all sorts out on the street. Including us. :)

    Hell, just go for it.

    I doubt I was fooling anyone, but I couldn't care less. Being large and loud and with an ability to be somewhat in-your-face I was just stealing a hefty slice of bloke self-confidence and seizing the role. And having a lot of fun in the process.

    So, I've done it. And come away grinning ear-to-ear. I'd say that's a result.

Saturday, 8 May 2010

The joy of blogging

    My good friend Emma Newman* refers to the joy of blogging from time to time as she describes the support she derived from her blog as a struggling unpublished writer suffering from post-natal depression. Not only did she use the blog as a personal sounding-board through which to develop her query letter and attract a publisher, she also found herself connecting with a lively and supportive group of other bloggers in a similar situation. Her experience inspired me to start this blog in January when insomnia finally forced me out of the closet, and like her I have found through blogging both a tool to enunciate and organise my thoughts and experiences, and a way into a wider community of like-minded souls. Thanks Emma!
    Like Emma I've reached a milestone in blogging terms, this post will be my hundredth. For Emma the milestone was tainted by the death of a close friend, for me it comes at a much more positive point as I make my first tentative steps out into the world presenting as female. I find that in blogging I've discovered a medium I like, so much so in fact that my century has arrived in under five months. Back in January as I sat on my sofa in the dark of snowbound early mornings I never expected this to happen, but just as once you've unleashed your inner girl you can't put her back again, once you've got on a roll with your writing it's difficult to stop.
    Thank you all for reading and following this blog, for your support and comments. I've come a long way so far this year with my first hundred posts and I hope you'll stay with me for my next hundred and more.

*Incidentally, while I have your attention, sign up for Emma's short story mailing list and read her Friday Flash fiction!

It's official

    This afternoon, I left work early and made the journey to my local teaching hospital to see the shrink who deals with transgendered people. I was accompanied to the waiting room by my local support group friend Dawn, with whom I spent the rest of the afternoon, and to whom I am very thankful for providing some moral support.
     His normal job involves certifying that a patient is really trans and not a nutcase, before referring them on to the next step in the path to transition. I sat down in his office and told my story the way it is, and he indicated he'd be happy to send me forward, but for my stated desire to avoid it at all costs. Too big, too married. So I came away with the diagnosis I wanted which gives me some protection, but not much else beyond "Come back when you've gone potty".
     There wasn't much else to be expected, but it would have been nice to find something more on offer that I didn't know about. As it is, it's difficult not to have pessimistic moments about the downhill slide.

Friday, 7 May 2010

Knock me down with a feather

   This evening was spent in the pub. With a group of blokes. From a circle of friends who share a rather geeky and mostly blokeish activity. Drinking beer and doing what blokes do in the pub.
   So as the evening dwindled, people slipped away and finally there were only two of us. Me, and A. A and I have a lot in common, we work in similar industries, we're into similar hobbies and we both have a history of dealing with depression. So we ended up talking about depression and its causes. Very weird conversation in which it slowly became obvious we were both circling round the same unsaid point.
    A? Alice, that is. We have more in common than we realised. You could have knocked me down with a feather.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Vote early...

    I've just exercised my democratic right and scribbled a cross on a bit of paper before placing it in a box. That's all I've done, I haven't sent a message to the Bums In Power, I haven't changed anything, made a difference or even saved the world. In fact, since I drove to the polling station through a beautifully misty rural dawn, I've probably done my little bit to destroy the world.
    My time this morning was wasted because I voted in a safe seat. The MP I voted against is a London barrister parachuted in by his party in the 1980s who though he's a nice enough chap if you meet him is not a man of his constituency and does little to represent all bar a relatively small and wealthy clique of his constituents. More people could vote against him than for him, but our first past the post electoral system means he's got a job for life. At least now he can't use his expenses to buy a second home.
    Yet I made the effort, voted anyway. At least this way I can legitimately complain about him.

Monday, 3 May 2010

Tiny feet

    About a month ago, the day after I came out to my friend C, we were both sitting in his kitchen with big cups of coffee talking about random stuff as we have for the last twenty years. In the middle of discussing building projects, cars and digital TV compression algorithms he stopped and asked me "Is the transgender thing why you're so anxious to have kids?".
    One of those show-stopper moments. I had to answer yes. Probably. Defying all logic and surprising me with its intensity, the yearning to be a parent has been with me for years and if C has noticed it then it must be obvious to everyone else too. It hasn't been satisfied for economic reasons, in our part of the world the chances of our affording somewhere to live that has more than one room are roughly equal to our chances of defying gravity by thought alone, a situation I don't see changing any time soon. C by comparison doesn't seem to have caught the same intensity of desire for a family, he's content to take his nephew to see the motor racing and leave it at that.
    In another era or another place, I would be watching my kids become adults by now. In my late thirties I should be sitting outside a nice little house having a Bank Holiday barbecue and arguing with my teenaged daughter about unsuitable boyfriends or something. Just like my motorcycling friend L is no doubt doing right now. But L's brain came from the parts bin marked "Bloke" (unless there's something he's not told me), so I have to ask whether by dodging parenthood my wife and I haven't done ourselves and our yet-to-be-born children a huge favour by not adding the extra worry of youngsters into the mix.
    One could argue that knowing about the transgender from the start should make starting a family a bit easier. For reasons I've already gone in to I'm sticking with the male impersonator role, so why should it be a problem? The fact is, having escaped the closet I can't see myself going back into it easily. I wouldn't blame my wife for not wanting anything too girly of mine to be within sight of the kids and I don't think they'd benefit in the school playground from anyone knowing about me because other kids can be nasty little things, so I can't see a way forward into parenting that doesn't afford me a whole lot less girl time. And that isn't going to do me any favours in the GD department. Since keeping sane is a prerequisite to maintaining the bloke act, I'd thus risk endangering the whole edifice with the added complication of a youngster. You can't win, can you.
    I suppose I should make a joke out of it. Write a paragraph about how fortunate we are to have avoided our next couple of decades conforming to the school year,  the nappies we miss out on dealing with, the tantrums we never see, the cheap holidays we get to take. And most of all, the petty tyranny of the toddler group one-upmanship. All that's true, but it doesn't address the feeling of futility engendered by having one of those things you'd always seen as an important milestone hanging there in your future start to evaporate, completely beyond your control. My mother doesn't help, either. The question hovers in the air around her, the "G" word. Thanks mother, pile on the guilt, why don't you.
    Back in C's kitchen, we made another coffee. The conversation moved on to Filipino restaurants.