Monday, 28 February 2011

Misleading yourself for fun and profit

    A web site came my way yesterday that captivated my interest for a while: A nod to Kev of Paper Wilderness fame for that one.
    It attempts to detect whether the text at a URL you give it was written by a man or a woman, and its approach of classification by comparison with a large body of known samples should be quite a sound one. This is not a million miles from what I do for a living, so I find it to be a very interesting site.
    Give it this blog, and it says that it is likely to have been written by a woman. Phew, validation, I'm a girl!
    Unfortunately though it's never quite that easy. Just from curiosity I gave it some other text I write in another field, as bloke. The analysis returned:  it was likely to have been written by a bloke. Damn, I'm a bloke after all!
    I'm not writing in a special voice in either place. This is me, this is what you get. Kev expressed disappointment that Paper Wilderness returned a probability of being written by a woman, based on my experience I'd suggest he needn't worry.
    It's tempting to seek validation in software like this. Most of us will probably have encountered the COGIATI test, a questionnaire that is designed to give you an assessment of the level of your transsexuality. When I do that test honestly, it tells me I'm mostly female. No surprises there (It's a while since I did it co I can't remember my exact score). But I'm afraid I can't trust it because with a little conscious effort I can make it tell me I'm completely female, or that I'm barely transsexual at all. In short, I can make it tell me what I want it to, or to put it another way, it tells me what I want to hear. Not good enough, I want something that tells me the truth even if it disappoints me.
    There is another test, one that doesn't involve software. What's your digit ratio? The ratio of the lengths of your index finger to your ring finger is gender dimorphic, if you are male you are more likely to have shorter index finger than ring finger. My digit ratio is 1:1, which of course states that I should be female. Yay, I'm a girl! I mean, that indicates the hormonal balance in the womb, so it can't lie, can it? I asked my wife, after all she's a girl, what would her digit ratio be? Shorter index finger than ring finger. Well clearly she's no bloke, so that serves me right for putting too much store in finger lenghs. The key is in the phrase "More likely" above, it is still quite possible for a woman to have a male digit ratio and vice versa.
     It is always a bit of fun to try these tests, but I think it is dangerous to put too much store by their results. I hope I've demonstrated above that they can not always be trusted, and all the validation we should need should start between our ears.
     There is one more test. It's a traditional British test, and it's guaranteed 100% accurate. Simply answer the following question for an instant result.

Do you understand the offside rule? 

    I'll leave it to you to decide which answer validates your gender identity.

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Ending it all

    The other night, I very nearly shot myself. Before you become too concerned, it was one helluva weird dream. The usual one about going to the GIC and coming away with a prescription instead of the words I'll be given in reality, except with the weird twist that the prescription gave me hallucinations: that I could reach through solid objects as though they were jelly. Yes, you don't want to venture between my ears, it gets pretty odd in there.
    Anyway, the final plotline involved my taking a handgun and being about to shoot myself in the head, at which point the hardware interrupt triggered by what passes for self-preservation subroutines in a human brain kicked in and I was dragged abruptly into wakefulness, the dark and quiet of a very early morning, my wife slumbering peacefully beside me. Probably the only reason I can so vividly remember the events of my dream; when I wake up at normal pace any recollections are hazy.
    Other people might shrug off such an experience as just a bad dream. Forget it, turn over and go back to sleep. But this one stuck with me because I've been there, I know I have that capability within me and having banished that particular demon I am particularly keen not to grant it re-admission.
    I never went as far as choosing my preferred exit route, back when I was deep in the closet. It certainly wouldn't have been a handgun, leaving aside the British legal framework which makes them almost impossible to own legally I wouldn't have the first idea how to use one. I'm guessing most Americans know more about cricket than I know about handheld firearms. Television drama has taught me that handguns have about a thousand rounds in their magazines and never need reloading though, and that every shot from a police handgun is a lucky one with pinpoint accuracy being preserved no matter the distance, visibility or wind.
    Instead, I found myself planning. How would I leave my affairs in order, how I might ensure my wife had a solid financial foundation. This became a constant refrain alongside the thoughts of suicide, which made things worse in a way, the last thing you need when you are suicidally depressed are money worries especially when you are on a sound financial footing.
    Having left all that behind it all seems rather stupid, looking back. But the experience never completely goes away, there is always that worry somewhere not far below the surface that it might return. My wife and I agree that if I fall down that particular hole again then saying the right things to the folks at the GIC and embarking on the road to transition would be my only option, but risking one's life in that way to get there does not seem like a sensible path.
    Gosh, what a morbid post! My apologies. It's been something of a brain-dump. I'm not going back there so no worries, but when your unconscious mind confronts you with these things you have to work them through.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Girl 101

    It's always interesting to read one's way round our corner of the blogosphere. This morning I was reading several different viewpoints on the position in our world that possession of an intact penis confers on its owner. Close to home for me, someone who is despite the facade I maintain here, very much a scruffy bloke in day to day life.
    I was struck by the incompatibility of the central message we all promote on one side of acceptance of the gender dysphoric: that the genetalia we are born with do not dictate our gender identities, and on the other side the position that one can not truly be transsexual, or indeed transition to become a woman or man, without having had GRS. Something does not compute.
    That said, there is a common thread I have observed on my rare outings in the real world presenting as female. Thus far I have always been accompanied by other t-girls of all hues from flamboyant part-time TVs through people like me and pre-op TSs to post-ops. If I may make an observation based on this experience, it is that possessing the equipment required to be a dab hand at nival auto-calligraphy does not allow you to leave the seat up in the ladies'. I mean, c'mon people, it's like, girl 101!

Monday, 21 February 2011

Spend Jenny's tax refund

    Woohoo! I have just received a cheque from the taxman! Nice, until you realise it was my money in the first place.
    Over two years ago I had a period of gardening leave, the company I was working for at the time downsized rapidly in the recession and I found myself out of work. A lean spot for us, my wife supporting us for a few weeks before I found a bit of freelance work. I didn't bother with the dole, calculating correctly that the chance of freelancing would serve me better.
    The resulting upset to our finances has taken those two years to iron itself out, and my tax overpayment from the job I found after freelancing is only now being refunded. It's not a fortune but it's more than a packet of crisps.
    So, I have a little bit of spare cash and two things I might put it towards. Do I eventually spend it on beard lasering or a custom last for my outsize feet? The former means losing the scratchy beard growth, the rashes, sore skin and spots, the latter means being able to source any shoes I desire in my otherwise almost unobtainable size. Tough choice.
    What do you think?

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Exasperated sigh from a lucky t-girl

    It's my own fault. I shouldn't respond to forum trolls. But sometimes my annoyance with the finer points of language gets the better of me and I can't help myself. I've mused on the definition of a transsexual before, so when I encountered someone who insisted not only that they were no longer a transsexual but had never really been a man despite marrying a woman and fathering children, my irritation boiled over. Their issue was that admitting to transsexuality amounted to denying womanhood, to which I pointed out that transsexuality is a medical definition while being a woman or man is an identity and the two need not be mutually exclusive. I'm a professional pedant when it comes to definitions in this sphere, and sadly as someone who recognises that they are and will forever be medically defined as transsexual no matter what their passport says when they eventually die, that pedant in me couldn't let that one pass.
    So as these things always do when it comes to forums it descended into a dismal spiral of postings. I was denying them their womanhood, I was jealous of them for being women, I couldn't possibly understand having never been through any of the hardship, yadda yadda. I politely responded that they were simply reading what they wanted to read into my original statement rather than reading what I'd written. I wish I could have been more forthright, but I recognise that within our sphere there are some really screwed-up and angry people and simply poking them with sticks for the fun of it is neither productive nor humane.
    Of course I'm jealous of any woman. I'm also jealous of people with smaller feet, so what? Some people are jealous of trans people with accepting spouses too, nobody's perfect. As to hardship, very true. I have no idea on that one. But I'd invite anyone to walk a mile in my shoes, if they'd fit. I wanted to deliver a "You stupid woman!" to counter the accusation of denying womanhood, but I judged that one might have been just slightly inflammatory.
    Yeah, I know. I should avoid forums. Sigh.
    I've had an annoying week on the sleep and medication roller-coaster, my focus on hanging in there for work. Earlier in the year I expressed a wish for a ring to go with my wedding ring, if you're going to present as female with a wedding ring then an engagement ring is a subtle gender cue as well as being an attractive piece of jewelery in its own right. I would have been happy with cubic zirconia but sadly we had to abandon the search, ladies' rings are hard to come by in a size Z.
    Monday was Valentine's Day, in case you missed it. My wife presented me with a beautiful diamond engagement ring. She'd had it sized for my finger, at some considerable effort.
    I am the luckiest t-girl on the planet, and I am madly in love.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Confusion in clarity

    This afternoon, sometime after three o'clock, I was sitting at my desk feeling pretty good about the world. I'd just had a meeting with a couple of female colleagues at which we'd explored some really interesting stuff in the context of our work over some really nice coffee, and I had one of my more fun work projects back from my boss for a few tweaks. I was sitting there and I thought "Y'know what? You're not troubled at all by gender dysphoria right now!". And it's true, I wasn't, I had clarity of thought, momentarily I was in complete command of the task in front of me. And it all felt so silly for a moment, that I could lose control of myself to that extent.
    If only I could hang on to the moment. I could have used that at five o'clock this morning when I was lying there awake having been dragged awake from a girl dream that got a little too upsetting, and trying not to wake my wife. I could use it now as well, sitting on the sofa with the laptop, alone in the flat while she's off at her gym class.
    This is going to sound rather crazy, but I rather dread those rare moments of clarity like this afternoon's one. Because they sow momentary doubt, and doubt is dangerous. GD is a royal pain in the arse, but at least I know what it is. I certainly wouldn't have chosen my girl's brain had I been given the choice, but a moment considering what might be were I to not be so reveals something far worse, for then the only explanation would be insanity. At my most depressive a few years ago that's a destination I've been uncomfortably close to. At least the thought I have a normal brain, albeit one from the Other Side, is reassuring in that context.
    On a completely separate note, I scored a couple of very small victories for the greater understanding of transgender issues in the last week. One of my employer's products featured something slightly misleading relating to us, and with the aid of my two colleagues to whom I'm out I was able to ensure that it was corrected. Pretty minor, but because the product reaches far and wide it's something I'd like to hope will help someone indirectly in the future.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

A funny thing happened on the way to the loo yesterday

    Yesterday afternoon found me at my local Tesco store, picking up some supplies. Needing a quick toilet break, I diverted myself in that direction.
    The loos at this store are at the end of a short hallway. Facing you are two doors, ladies on the left, gents on the right. As I approached them a middle aged lady emerged from the left hand door, and politely held it open for me. I smiled apologetically and made my way into the gents. Blimey, I must be getting good at this girl thing, she could tell even though I had three days worth of stubble on my face in preparation for a really smooth shave for the support group meeting!
    Poor thing, she was probably mortified at her unconscious mistake. It did make me laugh, but not at her. I would like to think that she would have been tolerant enough to have held the door open for me had I been presenting female.

Saturday, 12 February 2011


    It was a Sunday morning in 1975 or early 1976. I was about five years old and I was sitting on my bedroom floor wearing one of my older sister's cast-off party dresses. I honestly can't remember what I was doing, probably just normal playing, whatever a five-year-old did back in the mid 1970s. My sisters were nowhere to be seen, probably out in the garden playing Cowboys and Indians in those far-off days when children playing at persecuting indigenous minorities with toy guns was considered acceptable fare. I wouldn't have been with them because at that point the age and gender differences between us were starting to become more marked and they were beginning to tolerate rather than include their younger brother. I guess my parents would have been outside too, or maybe my mother was downstairs. Either way I was alone and safe from interruption, free to be a little girl for a while.
     I guess most junior cross-dressers will have a similar story to what happened next, my father came upstairs unexpectedly, it seemed I was required for some reason. Horror of horrors, there was no time to change so there I was, discovered in girl mode. Crap. Surprisingly the expected censure never materialised. I think he took it as my simply playing some kind of roleplay game, so he played along with it, delivered my summons and went back downstairs. My young age probably helped, I suspect had I been discovered as a fifteen-year-old the circumstances might have been a little different.
    I quickly changed into my little boy clothes and went downstairs. Nothing was said, but for me everything had changed. I was convinced from then on that my parents Knew Everything and so started a lifetime of concealment and suppression that culminated in my becoming a suicidal thirty-something.
    It came as a great shock to me last May when I had the Long Chat with my mother and found that they didn't have a clue. That Sunday morning which had been such a significant event for me had evidently slipped unnoticed into the ether and my bloke act helped my my physical appearance had evidently been of Oscar-winning proportions.
     In all of this the one person with whom I have never discussed any of it is my father. He knows of course because my mother has talked to him about it, but me? Somehow I don't know where to start. I know he'd be embarrassed as hell, and I'm certain I would be too. I'm afraid I find talking to women a lot easier than I do talking to men, at least on anything other than "safe" bloke subjects.
    I guess I don't *have* to talk to him if there is no need. An acquaintance recently had a deathbed reconciliation with her father, at least I am fortunate in my parents that there is no estrangement so I won't forever regret not having "that" chat.
     I just feel some regret that I don't feel able to, that's all.

Fake award scam

    Those SEO spammers have obviously added this blog to their database, for this morning I received another variant on their scam. Seems I've been given an award, with a link to a CGI script that delivers a convincing looking blog award. As a token of my gratitude I am expected to link to them from my blog.


    (Looks at calendar) No, I wasn't born yesterday.
    It concerns me not only that these losers are still pushing these scams, but that businesses are being duped into paying for them. Let me make this abundantly clear, the search engines know all about these stunts, they can sport them a mile away. They have spent a lot of money hiring the brightest people on the planet to write very clever software to spot unexpected linking trends and send the linked sites spinning into oblivion.
    If you are ever offered search engine promotion services by someone who claims to be able to offer speedy or guaranteed results, ask them their name. If it isn't Sergei Brin or Larry Page, founders of Google, it's simple. They are LYING. The best they can produce with these techniques is a short term gain on a few carefully chosen search terms. The only thing that works in that arena is hard work building an online profile, there are no quick fixes.
    Yet again, no sale.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Not for sale

    My afternoon was enlivened today by an email popping up in my inbox offering to buy this blog.
    Wow, I thought, I've joined Ariana Huffington, hold on a minute while I get the wheelbarrow for all that cash!
    Sadly for me though, the sender was not AOL. Instead it was a spam search engine optimisation company wishing to buy my little piece of the Internet for its well-written keyword-heavy content and for its meagre standing in the search engines. For this I would receive about three hundred dollars, and then I would sit back and watch my creation covered with spammy meaningless links to the spammers customers. My work destroyed, my readers abandoned, and the search engines temporarily polluted.
    Not a chance.
    What my spammer correspondent doesn't know is that in a past life I spent a lot of time helping one of his targets detect and beat the tactics he is attempting to employ. I regard search engine spammers as the low-lives of my industry and would rather do anything than enter into any form of business arrangement with one of them.
    So it looks as if our little corner of the internet is being looked at by these people. If you get an "I want to buy your blog" email, just ignore it. Even if you did try to sell it it'd doubtful whether you'd see any cash, these people operate on the edges of what is legal so I'd not expect them to be trustworthy when it came to payment.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

A day out of the office

    It does say on my job description that I am encouraged to attend conferences. But even at her most optimistic my boss couldn't find an angle to justify this one on work time.
    Last autumn I participated in a research programme run by a grad student from the University of the West of England in Bristol. She was interviewing trans-people for her thesis on transgender issues, and since having supported my wife through her postgrad years I have a soft spot for those at that particular level of academic struggle and her approach to the whole issue was very sensitive and well thought out I was only too happy to oblige.
    In a couple of months time the same department will be running a conference: "Trans-cending gender norms", and it was this that I was discussing with my boss. Depending on a few other factors I should be able to attend the event.
    Now it might be said that someone in my slightly annoying position should see an occasion like this one as a rare chance to spend a day in the real world in girl mode. And I can't deny, that's a thought not without attraction. I can do it. But in this case I think the scruffy bloke is more appropriate. People expect a girl like me to be trans, discovering the same of a bloke like me is definitely one of those moments of widening perception.

Monday, 7 February 2011

In praise of a saw

    From time to time we all have jobs to do that are part of something we enjoy, but not necessarily the part we'd choose as the defining moment of that activity. If you crossdress for example you probably don't rate the annoying task of hair removal as highly while it is in progress as you do the moment when it all comes together in the mirror.
    If you've followed this blog at all you'll have gathered by now that as well as being an oversized t-girl I'm a cidermaker. Cidermakers live for the end of summer when apple trees are laden with fruit and the orchard is warm and green. We don't live for January and February when the going is muddy amid the apple trees and our feet are chilled to the bone. Yet the orchard is where you'll find us at this time of year, as our charges need pruning - removal of excess summer growth, diseased and dead wood - if they are to provide good yields of apples in the year to come.
    Over the years I have used many different tools for this task. A small chainsaw for the occasional big branch is fine, but most of the work involves fiddly little branches, wands of fibrous and flexible new growth that cling tenaciously to their mother branches and punish you by splittng into fibres if you detatch them carelessly. Sandvik bow saws are too unwieldy, secateurs are too small, lopping shears promise much but are never up to the leverage I can put through them and larger pruning saws never fit in the available space. You wouldn't think such an outwardly simple task would present such a problem, would you. So for me my most invaluable companion in the winter orchard is my little handheld folding Felco pruning saw.
   Small enough to fit in my pocket, short enough to be used in confined space, sharp enough to cut through very large branches yet comfortable enough to use that I get no blisters on my hands from it, it means I can work my way through an orchard of trees in the time it used to take me to do one or two of them. Yesterday I filled the farm truck several times over with cut branches and aside from an unfortunate cut finger from when I became a little too enthusiastic in my sawing I'm none the worse for all that effort. (I came very close to crashing the truck into an apple tree, but that's another story.) That's how useful a single tool has become to me.
    So now you've read it all. A t-girl blog in praise of an agricultural tool. I will have to disappoint you though if you are staying tuned for the accompanying review of a pickup truck, they don't do 'em in pink.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Feminist overload

    My colleague, someone I have a lot of time for both professionally and personally, nearly ruined it all this week. I stumbled upon an online bio of hers and found she described herself foremost as a feminist. Inwardly, I groaned. You see, I've met a lot of professed feminists over the years. And a significant proportion of them have annoyed the crap out of me.
    It shouldn't be this way. I grew up in a family of successful women so I hold feminism to be self-evident. What has annoyed me is not the feminism, but so many of the people who profess it. I've met too many young women who have found in  feminism a Cause, and since in the circles I move in they've never experienced any of the disadvantage through being female that their grandmothers might have, they've got a Cause with precious little within their sight to rebel against. So finding nothing left to fight in their daily lives they cast around and have a pop at any bloke unfortunate enough to hove into view. 'Cos y'never know, he just might be a misogynist, they all look the same y'know.
     My annoyingly male hormonal wash predisposes me to find women attractive so I don't mind them making assumptions about that, but I kinda resent any other assumptions about my attitudes towards gender based only on my day-to-day appearance.
    But then I find myself guilty of exactly the same sin with respect to my colleague. She's never annoyed me in that way, yet from one word in an online bio I found myself making all sorts of  completely unfounded assumptions and associations about her.
    Let he or she who is without sin cast the first stone...

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Go into the salon a bloke, come out slightly less of a bloke

    Last month I lamented that while on a visit to my hairdresser I was not presented with the chance to talk to her about growing out my hair into a more gender-neutral style.
    Yesterday I had the Long Chat with her and her colleague. I had my hair cut on Saturday so I had already talked about growing it out, but since she had other customers in the salon back then I needed to tell her why so that she could manage its growth. On Saturday she tidied it at the edges but left the main growth intact, it seems next time she'll thin the ends of the longer growth, something that will make growing the layers out more easy.
    So my wife and I went down the road in our lunch hour and had the Long Chat. And it went perfectly. There were the inevitable questions but they were both understanding and seemed to be relishing the prospect of creating a dual-purpose hairstyle.
    The next eighteen months will see me sporting a succession of annoying hairstyles as it grows out enough volume. At least under the care of an expert hairdresser I should avoid their also being embarrassing hairstyles.