Friday, 30 July 2010

A glimmer of hope

    Waking up having fallen asleep in the daytime is a particularly stale feeling. When my wife and I arrived home a few hours ago we sat down on the sofa and were both so tired we were well away, fast asleep before we realised it. We had just returned from my second appointment at our local hospital with the psychologist who is the first port of call for transgendered people in this part of the world.
    I first saw him back in May. Back then he listened sympathetically, but had to admit there wasn't much he could do for someone in my non-transitioning position. He was happy to give me a diagnosis to cover my arse with respect to my work, but beyond that his message amounted to not much more than "Come back when you've started to get worse", about which I probably wasn't as charitable in my post-appointment reaction as I should have been. When the letter confirming the diagnosis arrived as requested though, he asked me to book a repeat appointment and for me to bring my wife with me, he wanted to see her side of the picture. I think he's more used to people whose path is very much to go forward rather than to stay where they are.
    So this afternoon we found ourselves in an impressively dismal waiting room. Continuing my survey of NHS magazine choices: a great pile of the Sunday Times magazine, another pile of the Waitrose (UK supermarket chain) in-house food magazine, an out-of-date copy of the Daily Mail (rabid headline decrying the justice system for not spotting criminals before birth) and the hospital trust's own in-house PR magazine. Inspiring stuff.
    It's not easy to sit next to the person you really care about and listen to her detailing the strain your own condition is putting on her. I have had people congratulate me on my good fortune to have an accepting spouse when so many leave, however the truth is not quite what the word "accepting" might lead you to believe. "Accepting" might suggest that she's fine with all this when the truth is closer to "tolerant" and she's certainly had a toll taken on her by everything. So this afternoon's appointment was a no-holds-barred exposé of a transgendered marriage, and it was pretty strong stuff from where I was sitting. Which is good, being able to talk about this, and especially being able to do so in front of a professional, is one of the things that is enabling us to stay together.
    My question at the end, "What can be done for people in our position?" was one to which I didn't expect much of an answer. But having now seen our situation from both viewpoints he at least could appreciate that while the standard NHS "GIC for RLE, hormones and eventual GRS" path had nothing to offer us we could really use something more than the "Come back when you've gone potty" I came away with last time. So he's going to consult with the colleague who is his liason at the GIC to see if there is anything further that can be done for someone in my position. Which can't mean much more than further talking therapies, counselling and the like, but is better than nothing and at least offers some hope.
    After the drama of the last couple of weeks, a work flood crisis for my wife, all my new job worries and the emotional load for both of us in dealing with the issues confronted in my T-Central piece, I guess it's not surprising we were both so tired. We made our way to our neighbourhood café for a restorative meal and a bout of people-watching among the Friday evening revellers. A good way to end what turned out to be a far more positive day than we expected.

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Hit the buffers

    I guess it had to come after so much happening in such a short time. I've hit the buffers, I need a rest, my creative fire has been all but extinguished. Code has not flowed easily from my keyboard, a couple of promising blog posts have languished half-written in the Blogger back-end, and I need to get some serious sleep.
    In a short while I'll be launching into the madness of a British trunk road at rush-hour, I think I'll make a detour on my way home to pick up some comfort food. I feel as if I've earned it. I've come a hell of a long way in the last couple of weeks.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Burned the boats

    Yesterday morning I handed in my resignation from my current employer. It all went very smoothly, not without some regret on my part but my employer is a nice bloke and we will part on good terms.
    I also filled in the online health survey for my new employer, operated through a private health consultancy. It makes no sense to withhold anything, especially when they have an "Anything else you're being treated for" box, so I added "gender dysphoria" and sent it on its way.
    This morning I received a phone call from them. Oh crap. Surprisingly she wanted to talk mostly about my height. I work with a computer, the questions mostly centred around my requirement for a larger-than-average chair. I've never had anyone offer me this before, very novel.
    Then the biggie. "How far are you along the path of transition?". I don't think they'd ever talked to someone who's not transitioning, so I had to explain in detail my position and that while I couldn't rule out transitioning in the future (I'm told for legal purposes that statement is the one that covers my arse) I'm staying a bloke. All pretty straightforward and businesslike, but strangely unsettling. I'm not worried about the job, I know the employer is trans-friendly and anyway my arse is covered under the DDA, it's just the feeling that it's all so real somehow. I've burned my boats here, yet don't quite feel I've landed there yet if you see what I mean.
    She asked me whether I needed any special facilities with respect to my GD at work, to which the answer was no. I decided now was not the time to make any jokes. Fortunate really, that and the fact my job's office based. I could have made their lives hell, had I demanded female-appropriate safety footwear in an impossible-to-find size 15.

Sunday, 25 July 2010


    The plan for today was to fettle the Rusty Old Wreck. In a couple of weeks C, my wife and I are due to spend a weekend in a field in Somerset drinking beer and eating hamburgers with a load of old car nuts, and of course a load of suitably tatty old cars. It would thus be just a tiny bit embarrassing not to have a tatty old car of my own to er... hang around, drink beer and eat hamburgers in front of. Yeah, I know, this isn't usual t-girl fare, but this particular bunch of old car nuts aren't your usual geeks and despite the cars this one will be a relaxed weekend, one C and I have attended together before.
   So much for the plan. The Rusty Old Wreck has been deposed from its ramp by a piece of broken agricultural machinery that can't be moved. Who knew that a Kawasaki half-shaft would cost four hundred quid! So my Sunday fettling has had to be put off and my chances of going to Somerset in the Turbocharged Rollerskate and enduring the mirth of my peers just got a lot higher. Ah well, they'll be laughing on the other side of their faces on a hot August Saturday in their 1960s cars when they realise the Rollerskate has Aircon!
   Never mind, a chance to do something else that's been demanding my attention. Bottle my cider. Suffer the usual bottle shortage, scour all my storage places and find just enough empty beer bottles. Some of them have labels welded not glued in place. People give me bottles for which I am very grateful, but some of my friends don't  think to wash them before putting them on one side for me. Grrrr, a couple of hours are spent washing and sterilising. Then the fun bit. My cider is fermented in plastic jerrycans, I put a chair on my mother's kitchen table, place the jerrycan on top and syphon the cider into my clean bottles. I couldn't resist trying some, I think the '09 pressing's going to be a good one!
    A further ten minutes with the crown capper and there I have it, a table covered in bottles of cider. This cider was pressed last October, fermented until early this year before being racked, then stood to settle and for secondary fermentation. I'll now put it in a dark place until this October when it'll be ready to drink. A lot of effort, you might think, but the final product lasts for years and really is worth it.
    At this time of year the British countryside is almost indecently fertile. Everything seems laden with fruit or flowers, and most of it is edible directly from the plant. OK, maybe that's an exaggeration, but you get the idea. On my mother's kitchen table, a selection of produce and flowers fresh from the garden. All I needed to do to assemble an impromptu still life was move it slightly to bring it all into the same frame.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Moving on in the real world

   Waiting for me this morning was a big envelope containing a couple of employment contracts, an employment handbook, a pension guide and a diversity questionnaire. I have been offered a new job. A while back I mused about moving on before deciding I definitely needed to look for another job, and this is the result. A period of research followed by sending off a CV led to a couple of interviews, and now here's the offer.
    This job might have been created specially for me, such is its match on paper. The employer is a large and long established business which my sources tell me is very trans-friendly in its employment policies, the industry and product is one of great interest to me and the job itself is a very close fit to my slightly unusual and specialised skill set. It's even situated within walking distance of my front door, meaning my hated daily commute will change to a pleasant stroll.
    I've always worked for small companies, never one this size. I'm thus used to changing jobs every year or so as the economy waxes and wanes. I've never had the experience of working for a stable business that has been in existence for over a century and is likely to still be going strong in another century. I'm thus in the novel position for me of looking at a job and realising that assuming I play my cards right I have every chance of working there for as long as I want to. This is of course what I wanted, my wife needs the reassurance of stability and this particular employer is one that can provide that.
    I'll probably be starting work some time in September. Assuming that all my referees deliver the goods, that is. At some point thereafter I'll make an appointment to see someone from HR and bearing my diagnosis letter from the doctor, inform them of my GD. I've received some very good advice on the wording I should use when I do this to afford me any legal protection should I need it. That part isn't likely to present a problem.
     I will then have one further challenge. My aim is to be openly transgendered. Not out there, not one who keeps going on about it, just someone who carries this not as a secret. It's a lot less stressful that way.
    As part of achieving that aim I will eventually need to be out to my colleagues at my new job. They probably won't have many issues with it, this is not an industry of backward-looking people. They do need to hear it from me though because there is a not inconsiderable likelihood that I could be seen in the company of my local trans friends or have it brought to the surface in some other way - it's not a given that they wouldn't find this blog for example - and if I tell them before that happens I avoid any embarrassment.
    So how do I do it? I can't just walk in on my first day and drop it in the small-talk. It would be amusing to dream up some preposterous conversational gambits, "What are you doing this weekend?" "Going to Pride" "Oh, I didn't know you were gay!" "I'm not, but it's funny you should say that...", but it just ain't going to work. I expect an opportunity will in due course present itself.
    My most difficult an immediate task will be to hand in my notice with my current employer. I find myself in the unusual position of caring about this one, normally my employers have been not of a good standard but this one's different, someone whose success I care about. I think I'll tell him the truth without the whole truth, that the sleep issue (in reality the GD) I've been seeing the specialist about isn't going to get any better and I'm better off not being a burden on him. I don't need to tell him about the GD and I certainly don't need to tell him that moving back into my field will be far more interesting than the work I'm doing for him. I'll be glad when I've got that task out of the way.
    All this sounds like a lot, but I think moving forward in this way has to be done. I was in a bit of a career dead-end and my GD was not being helped by workplace boredom so moving to a more interesting job had started to look like a necessity. I can't help feeling a little guilty at the ease with which I've found a better job when others are really struggling in this economic climate, but I have to remember this: back in the dotcom crash I had a hand-to-mouth existence for several years, now it's my turn for a bit of career luck. Let's hope it works out that way.

Thursday, 22 July 2010


    As part of T-Central's series on transitioning, a week or so ago Calie asked me to pen a piece detailing  my take on staying just the way I am. Today she's published it, so if you haven't seen it then I suggest you go over and read it, and if you're arriving here for the first time from T-Central then hello and welcome.
    As part of her introduction, Calie wrote the following:
I asked Jenny, currently a non-transitioner, to do a guest post. 
    Currently? I could thank her for the vote of confidence in my likelihood of success at this endeavour, but in fact especially given what I wrote in the piece, it's a fair assessment. I once knew a former alcoholic who had dropped the booze overnight when told in no uncertain terms by his doctor it was killing him, like most reformed alcoholics he never went near alcohol again because he recognised how easily he could fall off the wagon. Acknowledging this made him stronger in his battle, just as acknowledging that there are circumstances in which I could give up on this one helps define the path I'm taking to hang in there for my wife.

Speed and the girl

    Name the fastest motorcycle on the planet. Go on!
I'm guessing the list of replies to that question will include the usual contenders from Japan, superbikes named after mythical Japanese birds of prey or weapons. Or perhaps an Italian handcrafted masterpiece in red with a name that sounds a beautiful as it looks but terrifying reliability and spares prices.

    Tasty machinery all, but not the answer I'm looking for.

    The fastest bike on the planet is your first bike. No other machine you will ever ride will come close to it for that first experience of speed. The 16-year-old on a 50cc scoot may look slow, but sitting on that patched-up Honda Melody is someone who's just taken the biggest step in their life from the snails pace of pedestrianism to the freedom of motorised transport and will never experience the same liberation again.
    I remember the first time I pointed my first bike at an open A road and opened it up. My little 400cc Honda felt as if it had jumped to warp and I was being scraped from the seat by the sheer force of the acceleration. In reality I made it from 30 to 60mph a few seconds faster than my car at the time and I wasn't expecting it. Exactly the same experience now feels so glacial, as though all 39 of the geriatric Japanese horses have just exhausted themselves trying to pull the skin from a rice pudding and have little left for me.
    My riding career never made it as far as owning a superbike. Perhaps that's as well really, they're a little uncomfortable to ride. Like many motorcyclists I became a serial bike-borrower in my early riding days, as born-again 1990s bikers wanted to resample their lost youth on my ancient Honda I had a go in return on their various pieces of garage jewelery. Particularly sticking in my mind is the experience of doing [Smashing the barrier into lose-your-licence territory]mph on somebody's RF900 on a twisty B road somewhere towards Coventry, the point at which I scared myself enough to inject a little realism into my motorcycling. In the end I settled into a comfortable existence riding a monster trailie, able to do slightly crazy speeds if my throttle hand takes the fancy but mostly bimbling along at a more hello-birds, hello-trees pace to the annoyance of reps in their flash German tin cans.
     The first experience of going out into the world presenting as female can be likened to that first moment of significant acceleration on a 400cc Honda. I'll never get the same feeling again from just going to a restaurant in girl mode. The trouble is, just like riding the Honda back in the day, having been there a few times I now want more. Pretty much everyone said it would happen this way, and of course they were right. I want to go faster, if there's a direct analogy between motorcycling and this whole girl thing.
     Like a stunt motorcyclist about to ride a screaming little two-stroke trailie down a ramp into a ring of fire over a pool full of sharks I'm now standing at the top of a very steep slope. I could rush headlong down it as my love of speed and the power of the screaming little engine is willing me to do, but I need to hold it on the front brake because I have promised my wife that I'll stay within her comfort zone.  Not an unreasonable thing to do, I'm damned lucky to have a wife with a comfort zone.
     Pushing the motorcycling analogy to its ultimate limit I can find some inspiration from my Honda. I still have that bike and I still consider it to be one of the the most entertaining bikes I've ridden even though the allure of its speed dimmed well over a decade ago. I can say this because I've found other ways to ride it. Fine, it's hopelessly weedy in a straight line, but on the twisties it comes alive as a bike that requires skill to deliver the results that more modern machines deliver through technology. If like the rider of a 400cc Honda I have little option to move faster and can only experience a slower expansion of my female expression then I have to find more to interest me in the scope I have. Finish some of those dressmaking projects perhaps, or perfect the use of cosmetics without looking like a pantomime dame with a hand tremor.
      I have to remember, it's not as though I haven't got lots of time for all this.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Misplaced parental concern

    On Saturday afternoon my mother expressed her concern for my health. She knows I've been having sleep issues and she was worried by my appearance. "You look awfully pale" she said, "You don't look well".


    How does one tell one's mother not to worry without revealing the reason one looks a bit pale? I went to a lot of trouble (for someone who has to do it as a bloke, anyway) to match my foundation colours to my skin tone and I'm damned if I'm going to let Mother Nature ruin it all for me so I've been freely slapping on the SPF30. Right now I think this would be a little Too Much Information for her.
    I mumbled something about staying out of the sun and the conversation moved on without incident. Phew!

Monday, 19 July 2010


    Australian politics must be very complex and impenetrable. A sentence in a post over at the Spectrum Cafe attempts to make some sense of the situation and, 107 words later, leaves me none the wiser.
With the election between Tony Abbott who infamously said he found Gays threatening and our first Woman Prime Minister and our first openly Athiest Prime Minister who ousted the elected PM Kevin Rudd because of the increasing loss of supporters to the left Minor Party the Greens and then announced policies that were a step a little further towards the right than Kevins and with the Greens increasing popularity likely to give them a balance of power in the Senate and perhaps end the influence of Religious Right party Family First this seems like a good time for reminding our representatives of our needs and our votes.
    I think there is an admirable sentiment lurking in there somewhere, but even my professional-content-cruncher's read buffer overflowed at about the 50 word mark. I am nevertheless impressed at the audacity of the poster for producing such a lengthy punctuation free offering in the name of lucid activist mass communication.

Crashing from seven feet

     This afternoon saw me in full-on seven-foot girl mode at a BBQ in the back garden of a local friend. About 30 people, t-girls of various hues and several partners. My rare outings in the real world might look as though  they're becoming a little less rare but the truth is this month I've just been fortunate in their timing. As you might imagine I had a brilliant time and I don't think I did too badly on the looks front. A fortuitous sale purchase of a Kaliko sleeveless top and silk skirt provided the perfect summer BBQ outfit at an extremely reasonable price so my presentation felt as good as I could make it given the canvas I have to work on.
     Tonight I go to bed happy. On a girl high. Yet I know this game, after the high will come the trough. Some time tomorrow I'll be in the pit, probably staring at my monitor unable to think about the work in front of me, instead stuck in the misery of the never-to-be-feminine, the yawning chasm of ugly blokedom before me. I'll have flown too close to the flame again and my wings will be singed for a while.
     You might say that I should stay at home, fettle the Rusty Old Wreck instead. Avoid the whole cycle. But then I'd never have the high, and worse, I'd slowly descend into a continuous trough. Denying yourself this expression isn't as bad as suppressing it all completely but it might as well be for the eventual effect it has. It's not as though it's simply the dressing that's important here either, I could have spent this afternoon as bloke all the way through, I'd still have had the high simply from being with people who really understand all this.
    So when the trough comes tomorrow at least I'll expect it. But is there such an inevitability to it all? Will I one day learn how to stop it coming at all? I can only hope.
    I'd better get to bed, hadn't I, this is in danger of descending into incoherency given the lateness of the hour.

Saturday, 17 July 2010

When I grow up, I want to be an engine driver

    Yesterday evening with an hour to kill before meeting my wife after work, I went for a walk. My usual trek across the hill, beautiful clear visibility, a cool breeze and the land fresh and shiny from an earlier rain shower. If I walk really briskly from my work, within an hour I reach a path that parallels a railway line for a while. This isn't a sleepy branch line or industrial siding, instead it's the main line to the west of England so as I walked I had high speed express trains straining at full power and laden with commuters a few yards away from me. I stopped to admire one as it streaked past. The Inter-City 125 is getting a bit long in the tooth now but back in the 1970s it was new, fast and even glamorous to snotty-nosed little kids like me. This, we were told, was the age of the train, and these were the trains to be seen on.
    Thirty years later I have to say they're still a pretty impressive sight and sound. I caught myself looking around guiltily for a moment as it had passed, wondering whether someone had caught my little trainspotter moment.
    You see, in the UK at least, showing an interest in railways isn't always perceived as 100% cool. It's the trainspotters that are to blame, let's face it, some of them are a little enthusiastic and can, dare I say it, even sometimes be a bit boring at times. So showing anything more than an extremely fleeting interest in railways can at times lead to social pariah status in the same way as admitting a fondness for country and western music. Oops.
    But I can't help it. I'll never stand at the end of a platform with a notebook, I couldn't tell you the class numbers or liveries of a myriad different train operators and I certainly have no idea how many rivets were used in the construction of the City of Truro's boiler but I am fascinated by the view unfolding from a railway carriage window, I've foraged through undergrowth to sit on the Victorian brickwork of long-abandoned railway structures and I've treated my long-suffering wife to unexpected detours on long journeys to drive past long-forgotten trackbeds. Isambard Kingdom Brunel is one of my heroes and I am not afraid to admit it.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Waste of ink

   The building I work in has a communal area. It's used by a lot of visitors so the people who run the space buy a selection of daily papers. Among them is one of our more annoying tabloids, a rag for whom all our ills are equally the fault if immigrants, benefit cheats, paedophiles, the European Union and of course, LGBT people. Sometimes its headlines are weird, sometimes they are nuttily entertaining and sometimes, as with their coverage recently of a pair of gay asylum seekers who were not deported because they would face persecution, they are downright offensive.
    On a whim I wrote a little script that harvested a few years worth of headlines. When I picked out the nutty ones I had so many it was difficult to know what to do with them all. So here in review is a small selection in collage form. What a charming country I live in!

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Lament for a lost friendship

    A school is often not the happiest of environments for anyone who is a bit different from the norm. Children are free from the social niceties, rules, checks and balances with which adults police themselves and they have little thought or care for the effects of their actions on others so they are ruthless in their treatment of those who do not fit in.
    At my school, I did not fit in. My background was not the same as that of my classmates, my interests were not the same as theirs, I was bigger than all of them yet completely useless at and therefore uninterested in their sports which really annoyed them, and though I didn't fully understand it at the time my brain didn't come from the same parts bin as theirs. As a result I was bullied and marginalised, and responded by becoming a troubled, aggressive and angry teenager.
    I was fortunate enough to make three really good friends back then though. One of them I'm still in touch with from the other side of the world, one of them slowly drifted away and the other, well he disappeared abruptly in a way that has vexed me ever since.
    J was always the very quiet kid, very clever, never put a foot wrong and never in trouble. The opposite of me then. We found ourselves thrust together in those dreadful activities dreamed up by PE teachers for non sporty kids that are supposed to foster an interest in sport but don't, and discovered in each other a surprising amount in common. We were both car nuts, we both really appreciated the natural world and we both enjoyed exploring our city's byways. Amazingly, a pair for whom school cross-country running became a release rather than a chore!
    Also, surprisingly he was the first bloke I ever met who was a committed feminist. Now since then I've met blokes who've professed feminist views as a means to pull the birds, but in J's case he meant it, and since he was as bookish as I was technical he'd done all the background reading to support it. Like me he came from a family of powerful women so none of this was foreign to me, something that surprised him because back then my politics differed significantly from their current direction.
    I stayed in touch with J through university, we hung out together in our holidays as young blokes do, wasted far too much money on bar-billiards as I recall. At the time I'd have described him as my best friend, he was certainly the friend I'd known the longest.
    Then, about a year after we'd both graduated and were earning our first pittances in the real world,  J's mother was found to have cancer. There followed another year of treatments and hospitals, radiation and chemotherapy, but sadly she passed away. And abruptly J disappeared from my life. He was never in, my answer phone messages were never returned, I never saw him again. I honestly do not know what happened.
    In the fifteen years since then I have gone through various stages of worry and guilt over his termination of our friendship. Did I call enough, should I have kept trying? Was he somehow wondering where I'd got to? Had I done something wrong? Was it something I said? Then a few years ago I realised this: He never called me, not the other way round. So for some reason, probably personal to his grief for his mother, he decided he needed to be alone and cut himself off. I still can't release myself from a tinge of guilt that somehow I must have let him down, but at least now I realise it was a two-way street. I know his father didn't approve of me as a teenager, maybe that had something to do with it. Great, I always wanted to be the Kid Your Parents Warned You Against!
    More recently I've wondered whether J and I had more in common than we realised and whether he too was struggling with gender issues. Nothing to back it up, after all I was as deep in the closet as it's possible to be in my teens and twenties, but I've never since found quite the same connection with a friend and as a teenager I certainly never knew anyone else whose interests diverged in the same way as mine from the usual male teenage obsessions.
    I'd like to think one day we'll bump in to each other unexpectedly and renew our acquaintance. I don't do school alumni get-togethers because most of the people I'd meet would be most likely to give me a burning desire to slap them so I've no idea even what he's doing these days, but the profession he works in means he might be around my city from time to time. It's still pretty unlikely though.
    I guess this post strays away from my usual fare of large-and-loud writings on gender variance, old cars and very large ladies shoes. But something reminded me of J yesterday evening for the first time in a while and I've spent the day musing about it all and still trying to make some sense. So you, dear reader, have become my dumping ground for the resulting page of navel-gazing. Don't worry, the Rusty Old Wreck and the Turbocharged Rollerskate will return in due course.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

It's not the winning, it's the taking part

    This piece forms part of a series of guest posts on the theme of transition published at T-Central. I've published it here a few weeks later though buried back in the calendar on the day I wrote it, because I'd like to be sure I have my own copy should anything happen to T-Central's archive.

    You can find it on T-Central by clicking this sentence. 

    When Calie asked me to write a piece about being a non-transitioner I was reminded of the quote attributed to Zhou Enlai, the 20th century Chinese politician and diplomat. When asked whether in his opinion the French Revolution of 1789 had been a success, Zhou is reported to have remarked that it was too soon to say. I'm self-declared in my aim to avoid transitioning to the female role, but only my obituarist will be qualified to comment on whether I achieved that aim.
    At different times recently I have been shocked by people close to me accepting of their own volition that at some time in the future I will inevitably lose my personal battle with gender dysphoria and have to seek a medical solution, hormones and possibly surgery. Hearing this from my mother or my wife brings mixed emotions, sadness because I'm doing it for them as much as myself and  relief that if I ever do reach the precipice those around me will still be there for me. A throwaway remark from my wife in a conversation about skincare - "When you have the hormones you'll have fewer zits then!" I am ashamed to say brought tears to my eyes, "When", not "If".
     So in this light, why don't I go back to the doc and ask for a referral to the Gender Identity Clinic? After all, I've passed the first hurdle and thanks to the NHS it's free so I only have to ask and wait my turn. Simple, putting aside my height and passing issues for a minute I may have used the word "Accepting" in the paragraph above, but the truth is closer to "Resignation". Two of the people I care the most about in the world do not want to lose me, my wife doesn't want to lose her husband and my mother doesn't want to lose her son, and the fact that they care about me enough to accept that transition is a possibility does not change the fact that my doing so would hurt them. I know this is a contentious point in our community because there are many among us who have been to Hell and back trying to hold it all together but we will have all encountered people who plough ahead with little regard for the effect on those around them and I have no wish to join their ranks. It's no use saying "I'll still be me!" because to them I won't be, I'll have been replaced by an oversized and let's face it, rather unattractive middle aged woman who looks enough like the me that was to remind them of what they've lost every time they see me.
    To be in this position and decide to stay as bloke you have to have some damned good reasons. They are the rocks you cling to when you have a bad week and you feel yourself being swept towards the edge and they are the rope ladder you inch your way back up towards safety. But to fully understand your resistance you also have to examine your conditions for capitulation and be prepared to accept that at some point they may be met. The main one is pretty obvious, the brain says "Mostly girl!" and my body disagrees, but that alone is not enough. If my wife ever left me I'd still have this conversation because the rest of my life would be a long time to have regrets. Someone in a very similar position to me though not AFAIK in the blogosphere and who made a different choice a decade ago said to me a few months back: "Only do it if you absolutely have to", and I took her advice to heart. For me I guess that condition would be met if I found myself returning to contemplating suicide, having been there in the past I think I'd be better placed to support my wife as an unconvincing woman than a dead bloke, something she and I are in agreement over.
     In reality though there is no winning and losing in this game. It's important to face this head-on because it is unfair to tag someone who's fought this corner as either winner or loser no matter their outcome. Sure I've used words like "lose" and "capitulation", but "winning" and "losing" implies that one path is a good one and the other is a bad one. Can living as a sometime-crossdressing bloke whose bouts of depression and girl fog take a toll on those around him and his ability to earn a living really be described as "winning"? No more than becoming an unconvincing and probably lonely woman causing similar heartache to those around her can. I can't think of a route that leads to a sure-fire "win", but neither do all routes lead to "lose". Staying as a bloke for example isn't a complete "lose" in my case because I guess I'm fortunate that at least physically as a big bloke I'm rather good at it on the outside. I have simply tried to pick the path that leads to as little "lose" as possible for all involved.
     It would have been too easy when writing a post about not transitioning to enunciate the day-to-day grind of coping with it all. But others have already done a far better job of that than I have and since I mostly follow their advice it would be pretty pointless to rehash it. What I've tried to explain here is not how, but why I continue to sample the myriad joys of gender dysphoria when compared to many others I am in the fortunate position of having both as accepting an environment as I could reasonably hope for and a readily accessible(though not perfect) healthcare regime just waiting for my call. Because sometimes, even to me, it all seems rather crazy.

Monday, 12 July 2010

Women drivers eh!

    Saturday saw a rare outing for me en femme in the real world, rather than changing on-site at the support group meeting my wife and I went beforehand to have dinner with another local couple whose situation mirrors ours. J and S are a bit older than us and J is lucky enough to have enviable presentation that puts mine in the shade, but J's battle to hang in there for S mirrors mine for my wife so we have a lot in common.
   It is certainly a help to sit down face-to-face with someone on a similar path. I hope talking to me was of as much worth to J as talking to her was for me and I think our wives found similar benefit.
   So off we went to Swindon while our other halves stayed behind to chat, drink wine and watch the sunset. I am pleased to note that I was happy with my presentation, I think I looked as if I'd made an effort. I certainly detected no adverse attention in my direction, a little work and confidence goes a long way.
   The meeting attracted a smaller than usual turnout, some of the regulars being off at Sparkle. Biscuits and coffee in a community hall in Swindon may have less to offer than a huge celebration of transgender identity up in Manchester attracting thousands from all over the place, but it had its usual friendly and relaxed atmosphere and best of all those nice people at Swindon council had replaced the hard plastic chairs with ones sporting nifty red cushions. The glamour of a provincial transgendered lifestyle!
    J drives an eminently respectable estate car that happens to have an engine which would leave the Turbocharged Rollerskate in the dust. The perfect machine for burning away Swindon's chavs in their farty little hatchbacks. The ignominy of being left for dead by two respectable ladies in a car that looks more suited for taking the Labrador up to the Ridgeway. Women drivers eh!

Saturday, 10 July 2010

Manual dexterity

   Everyone has a few of those work skills you pick up as you go through life but somehow end up not needing. Some are obviously redundant, for example I can set up the convergence on a delta-gun CRT colour TV set (Really useful for those 1970s retro-tech parties I can tell you!), while others are useful but you've simply moved on, no longer doing that job.
   So here's my question: if I have the manual dexterity to hand-solder surface mount integrated circuits (<<1mm) why on earth do I have so many problems applying nail polish (>>10mm)?

Thursday, 8 July 2010

A brush with an old foe

    Depression never really leaves you, once you've had it. Sure it'll die down if you get lucky and figure out its trigger before it claims you, but like the Hampster Dance, once you've seen it you can never quite forget its tune no matter how much you might like to.
    I've had a short sharp shock from my old foe this week. I know exactly why, the prospect of a difficult meeting with a customer yesterday afternoon stressed me and sent me spiralling into a hell of a state for a couple of days. It's a crazy thing to have happen, because the rational part of you can see it unfolding and say as a spectator "I know what's going on here, this is crazy, stop it!", even though there's as much chance of that happening as the Hand of God helping an Argentinian goalkeeper save a German shot. Yesterday lunchtime was spent preparing with an extended version of my usual power walk, nearly five miles at breathless pace up the hill, down into the village, along the railway and back up to the office. Exercise and plenty of distractions are good depression therapy.
    The really crazy thing was, the expected confrontation failed to materialise. The customer's anger was muted once his misunderstanding was corrected and we had a cordial and constructive meeting. There was even the promise of further business! And my depression melted away as though it had never been, leaving me feeling rather stupid.
    I can't help feeling worried by the whole experience though. The only time I have ever felt my wife becoming disconnected from me was when I was at the height of my depression, I could so easily have lost her then so I recognise that in terms of my marriage it's the depression not the gender issues that form the biggest threat. To feel a stab from my old foe once more after I thought I'd beaten it is unsettling to say the least.
    While out on my power walk I did have the good fortune to pass a cherry tree I had been unaware of, laden at this time of year with ripe fruit, sour hedgerow cherries rather than the sweet variety from the supermarket. Enough for both me and the birds, though in deference to my customer I didn't linger for too long. Too much ripe fruit just before a meeting can have such unfortunate consequences!

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

In which I nearly take out a cyclist

    The UK road casualty statistics nearly jumped a little this morning, a girl on a bike decided the safest way to move to the middle of the road for a right turn was to attempt without looking to merge into a stream of moving traffic. Right in front of me as I drove in to work. It worked, I guess, the Turbocharged Rollerskate's servo-assisted brakes and my panic-fast reaction meant the car stood on its nose and she passed unscathed millimetres from my front bumper. Outside the city centre 20mph speed limit she might not have been quite so fortunate, and I would certainly not have come away unscathed had the car behind me not left a decent gap and had similar quick reactions.
    I could at this point launch into a rant about cyclists, denounce them as the vermin of the streets and call for a cull enforced by Robocop-style special attack squads with lethal force. After all, that seems to be the usual level of debate when cyclists and motorists meet. Unfortunately though here I hit a snag. I'm a cyclist too. I no longer commute to work by bike because work is too far from home, but for years I too pedalled my way across my city morning and evening and I too cursed the apparent blindness of motorists.
    So I'll save my ire. I think the girl in question is damned lucky not to be in casualty or even a morgue today and I think she needs to learn pretty quickly what a shoulder check is, but her ineptitude is not the fault of cyclists as a whole. Instead I'd like to question what she was doing there in the first place.
    That part of my city is well served by designated cycle routes. Special coloured lanes on the road, albeit rather narrow ones. In the orgy of greenwash from Government, cycling has been decreed as a Good Thing, and councils everywhere have scrambled to show how cycle-friendly they are. Unfortunately though in my city they seem not to have engaged the services of a cyclist when it came to planning their cycle routes. The girl this morning was not in her own lane because the designated cycle route takes a detour a block over. No problem if you have a motor, but who in their right mind is going to waste energy pedalling further than they need to? My council has ticked the "cycle-friendly" box but has in reality done nothing to separate cyclists - inept or otherwise - from the rush-hour traffic.
     So that's enough ranting for the morning. Please excuse me, my heart rate will eventually return to normal and the steam coming from my ears will reduce in due course. One dubious benefit though - there's nothing like a panic-driven adrenaline rush to dispel those early morning girl-fog blues!

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Girl with a chainsaw

    Earlier today I helped my mother by trimming back some branches on her huge lilac tree that are providing a little too much shade for part of her garden. Chainsaw in hand, manhandling hefty branches in the way only someone built like me can, very blokey indeed.
    But strangely it provided the backdrop for a conversation I wish I'd had with her decades ago. About the "girl moment", that stab of GD grief that hits you unawares and gives you a little trough of depression. She's expressed her concern about my depression for the whole of my adult life, and only now can I tell her about it. The catalyst for today's moment, Serena Williams of all people. Yeah, I know. BBC slow-motion analysis makes t-girl swoon. Stupid, isn't it, you could write my knowledge of tennis on a postage stamp. But she is amazing.
    Then since we were in the garden we progressed along a fairly usual path for us, plants, flowers, vegetables and apples. Sweet peas, in flower in the UK at the moment. Except I think we were both aware it was a girl conversation. Magic.
    A muntjac deer crossed my path only a few yards in front of me as I did my usual weekend exercising of my mother's dog. They were once the most timid of creatures, now they're so bold as to be almost unconcerned. They're a voracious pest, a foreign species escaped from the private collection of a stately home, but there's still something special about seeing one this close.
    I feel very fortunate to be able to have these conversations with my mother. She'll probably never see me as physically anything other than bloke, but mentally it's another matter. She understands.
    And that, as I hope you'll agree, is very good indeed.

Friday, 2 July 2010


    Guilty as charged. Yes, I use the word "transgendered" with respect to myself. And this it seems is Not The Done Thing in these here parts. Damn.
    Still, it's always healthy to be challenged, and the post linked above goes beyond language pedantry or even the dreaded PC with the last question.

" Is this an activity for you, or is it part of your core identity?"

    To which I have to answer: it's neither, instead it's simply descriptive. "Cross-dressing" is an activity I partake of from time to time. Here I have the luxury of presenting as female through my keyboard and believe me I'm a lot better at it here than in the real world, so my physical identity most of the time, whether I like it or not, is "Bloke". Yes, definitely bloke, it's an Estuary English thing. And my gender identity, nestling as it does somewhere between my ears and not between my legs, is "Female".
    "I'm a bloke who's got a female brain and cross-dresses occasionally". might be accurate, but it's a bit of a mouthful and let's face it, it's going to raise more questions than it answers in the minds of the unfortunates to whom I deliver it here in the land of the pantomime dame.
    Hence a descriptive word is required. "Transsexual" is medically accurate but still confusing. Thanks to our wonderful tabloid press it has slightly alarming associations in the minds of the Great British Public so I avoid it when talking to someone who isn't clued-up on the subject.
    "Transgender" by comparison is nicely descriptive to anyone with the intelligence to deconstruct a compound word, but without any alarming tabloid overtones. And since it has to convey something of "You thought I was this but now you know I'm that", adding the "ed" suffix doesn't deny my dignity of being born any way but tells them something they knew about me has changed. "I am transgendered", simply descriptive.

    Now, I'm an insomniac, so I'm knackered. Not knacker. I'm reminded of a personal piece of engineering language pedantry, don't get me on the subject of people who confuse accuracy and precision.