Thursday, 30 June 2011

Plus other

    A very short post as befits a writer befuddled by medication.
    I was interested to spot today that the new Google Plus social networking service has an "other" option in the gender field on sign-up. I doubt it can be taken as evidence of widespread adoption of non-binary identities because I think most geeks will simply use it as an "I'd prefer not to say because I don't want to make it easy for you to spam me with targeted advertising" option. Still, interesting to see that they feel they need to have it.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

The Local Tearaway

    Today was our first real summer day here in the South Of England. The rain and cold winds are behind us, hello to blue skies ans middle-twenties Celcius temperatures. I spent yesterday in my somewhat improbable girl mode at my friend Dawn's BBQ so I already had some sunburn, highlighting a slightly unfortunate feminine neckline.
    Walking my parents' mutt this afternoon, it was as if the local fauna was all out enjoying the weather as well. A pheasant - a non-native species introduced for hunting, so they're all half-tame - decided to hide from us by flattening himself down in the grass, resulting in a rather amusing two-dimensional flat pheasant that stood up and looked sheepish for a moment before scuttling off when he realised he'd been spotted.
   More obliging was the hare in the picture. As I sat on a fallen log while the dog lay out and cooled down it was quiet enough that two of them came out and that one came within mobile phone camera range. I really must get an ultraportable camera or a phone with a better camera, Motorola really didn't give me the best tool for the job. Anyway, you normally see hares running away at great speed, so to have one fairly static in front of me was an unexpected treat.
     Scandal is in the air in the village I grew up in. A stone garden ornament has been nicked from the garden of one of the incomers. Pretty obviously an opportunist with a van, but as so often happens the old farts have suggested a suspect on nothing but baseless rumour. Our farming neighbour's son, a blameless youth in his early twenties with a liking for machines that burn petrol. He rides a motorcycle at times, therefore he's inherited the mantle of Local Tearaway.
    I know all about being a Local Tearaway, because twenty years ago I was one. Someone's electric fence batteries were nicked (Yeah, the rampant crime of rural England in the late '80s!) and because I was the handiest representative of Da Yoof, my name was mentioned. The previous Tearaway, our other neighbours son who is now a respectable farmer, probably breathed a hefty sigh of relief and turned back to his trials bike.
    Back then I drove a slightly later and even rustier model of the Rusty Old Wreck. This car was a bit faster than the Wreck, but not by much. In the eyes of the old farts though it was driven like a maniac, simply because I was driving it, even though the same speeds by them in their '80s Euroboxes were quite acceptable.
    Yes, being the Tearaway in the car your granny probably drove, how rebellious.
    I think my reign as Tearaway ended when I went to university. I made the transition from ne'er-do-well to Person Going Somewhere you see. I'm a bit hazy as to who picked up the mantle but my guess is the current holder is about three Tearaways removed from me. He has my sympathies, some things never change.
    There's just one thing. I'm unaware of a female Tearaway. Sugar and spice and all things nice.

A question for the blokes

    I have never heard of any explosions within the FtM community, of transsexual versus transgender. Y'know, the nival calligraphers versus the stick-on-beard part-timers about who uses which loo, that kind of thing.
    It's probably saying the Great Unsayable, but could it just be that the blokes are, y'know, just a little more sensible about that kind of thing? 

Friday, 24 June 2011

Got a lot to bottle

    It's that time of year again, last year's cider needs to be bottled. It has spent the winter fermenting, I racked it a month or so ago and now it's ready for the next step.
    There is one snag though. Because of my fancy new press, last year's juice yield was higher than expected. My worry is that I may not have enough bottles to cope, and will have to resort to inventive solutions. Cider in jam-jars anyone? Or more likely one gallon demijohns.
    So my Sunday will be spent preparing my stock of bottles. Counting them, and the tedious task of label removal. The BBC tells me it will be a warm day, I'll sit in the shade of a very large apple tree with a tin bath full of water and a bottle brush. I can think of worse ways to spend a day.
    Thinking about it, there is a war of words in the cider community too. The drink is called cider, but some insist on referring to it as cyder. It can come down to presscloths at dawn in the saloon bar of the Kingston Black over that one!
    Silly really, because however you refer to it it's exactly the same stuff.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Perceptive postman

    My wife and I have just returned from an extended weekend spent with Lisa. We went shopping, we ate fine food, we hung out in student pubs, drank Aussie rosé and felt a little old compared to the other clientèle.
    Lisa is well on her way, every inch the successful and confident woman. She sweet-talked us into a table at one of her town's more hard-to-get-into restaurants, something I know would have been completely beyond me.
    On Saturday morning Lisa and my wife went off to the gym together leaving me curled up on the sofa watching DVDs. The postman called, bearing a couple of parcels our host had ordered from Amazon.
    A middle-aged midlander, he gave me a quizzical look when I answered the door. Oversized scruffy bloke in a Weebl and Bob t-shirt and shorts. I hope he didn't notice my red OPI-painted toenails.
    "Well you can't be Lisa, unless you've had the op!" he said.
    Trying not to laugh, I accepted Lisa's parcels. Very perceptive, our posties.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Plan B

    I should move to Mount Athos or something.
    Seriously, the south of England on a warm summer's day was not a good place for someone who is gender dysphoric. Beautiful women aglow with happiness everywhere I look.
    Antidepressants are great. They really do work, at least for me they've suppressed the emotional reactions I was suffering to any of life's stresses. I might not be fixed, but I can do normal everyday stuff without bursting into tears.
    What they haven't done though is entirely fix the underlying depression. Sounds odd, you'd expect that from an antidepressant, but I guess fixing the annoying symptom is better than nothing. So I've found myself dwelling rather a lot on my inner girl. You might say she's becoming oppressive.
    I feel rather guilty saying this, but knowing I could go for it makes it hard not to think about it.

    There, I've said it. For someone who's so set on avoiding it, right now I can't stop thinking about going full-time female, transitioning and not looking back. Not just idle thought, but almost feeling as though I'm plotting it.

    Is this what if feels like to reach the point of no return? It had better not, because I'm sure as hell not giving up without a hell of a fight. My wife, quite simply, is worth it.
    But it ain't going away, is it.
    What is there to be done? The fight back starts here I guess. I do need to face up to something though. I could lose this one. My wife is no fool, she's perfectly aware of that. And as part of the fightback we need between us to face up to it. What happens if it does all go horribly wrong?

    In short, we need a Plan B.

    If this were some kind of make-believe world, I would smoothly transition (with no associated problems, naturally) and she'd declare herself delighted with the result and we'd happily stroll arm-in-arm into the sunset as a lesbian couple.
     But in the real world, she married a bloke. She's been amazing so far in the level of tolerance she's shown for her bloke as his inner girl struggles to get out, but she is not a lesbian. The make-believe world scenario is not going to happen.
    And then there is me. I'm acutely aware that everything is up for grabs for someone on HRT. I have never fancied a bloke in my life, but I'm not naive enough to imagine that would remain the case were I to receive that prescription. It would be too much to expect for my wife to put up with that.
    So enter Plan B. Whatever eventually does happen, we need to decide now rather than in the heat of the moment how we're going to deal with it. It is our observation that the more chaotic circumstances come to those onto whom this is thrust in short order, therefore we should use our luxury of extra time to think about it carefully.
    There are so many factors to consider. Would we stay together? If so, in what form? What about a family? I want one desperately no matter what, but would she? How about housing, for that matter?
    It is important to realise that this is not in any way a capitulation. I'm still hanging in there because despite the annoyances life is throwing at me I have more reasons to hang onto the scruffy bloke than I do to become the oversized girl. But if I am to do the best I can by the woman I care most about then the least I can do is remove some of the uncertainty that surrounds our situation.
     We're off to spend a day walking over the Downs in the rain. Somehow I think this will give us plenty to talk about.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

The Cold Light of Day

    Yesterday was a day of firsts for me. It was my town's Pride day, and my wife was relaxed enough for me to go along a the girl rather than the scruffy bloke. So, first major daylight outing for me, plus first outing in my home town.
    I guess a Pride event is not quite the same as the real world. It's a giant safe space full of gay people, hardly the same as a busy city centre on a Saturday afternoon. But it was a chance to be out a lot closer to the real world than I might otherwise be, so I was very anxious to take it.
    And it proved to be rather entertaining. My confidence was high, the atmosphere was friendly and the other attendees provided plenty of entertainment. I was with a group of my local trans friends, we settled down in the crowd and had a picnic while watching the more flamboyant among the gay community.
    Some people question why we should go to Pride events. We're not gay, they say, we're not part of their scene and our mission is to be invisible. Very true, none of our party were gay and I think we'd all just like to be unremarkable women just like any natal woman. But there are times when being just slightly visible is a good idea, and in a world where we still need allies if some of us are just a little visible at a Pride event it can't do any harm.
    Yesterday morning was sunny and warm. I thus selected a floaty summery top and jeans for the afternoon, imagining a summery picnic in the park. Big mistake. Almost as we arrived at the event a wall of dark clouds rolled up along with a chilly wind. It could have been worse, but you might say I suffered for my art.
    So that was it. Jenny at large. Normal, unremarkable, enjoying herself. Another couple of barriers broken.

Thursday, 9 June 2011


    It is now about six months since I last had a male haircut before coming out to my hairdresser and abandoning the buzz-cut I sported for most of my adult life. It is also about a year since I asked my doctor for Finasteride as a move towards preserving my hair should I find myself unable to stay as a bloke at some time in the future.
    On one hand, my hair has grown well. I've had several haircuts this year, to trim the edges and thin out the layers and even though it has grown longer my hairdresser's expert ministering to it has meant I have avoided the result looking too bad as it has become longer.
    On the other hand, it's at the frustrating stage at which I can start to see where it is going, but it is not long enough for my purposes. I can blow-dry it and tease as much life into it as I want, but it still doesn't quite look female enough. I'll be wearing the wig for a little longer I think. Sigh.
    Still, there is good news. Last year when I wrote about Finasteride I was pleased that I was seeing less loose hairs on my desk but I hadn't seen any evidence of returning hair where it had receded. I am pleased to report that sometime after Christmas, my wife noticed that a small mole that used to be outside the hairline now has hairs growing round it. Only a few millimetres advancement, but it is there, proof that something is working.
    No luck on the side-effects though. If I jump up and down I can imagine I have minor man-boobs but gynaecomastia it ain't. And to think, my doctor felt he had to warn me about that side-effect!

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Our language, their language

    Language. It's a big deal within our little community, the vocabulary we use to refer to ourselves. Almost as many passionately held views as there are people to hold them. And boy, do we get some arguments!
    A recent post from Mercedes Allen provided a very well-thought-out examination of the language used within our community in the context of the changing landscape. From where I'm sitting here in the UK some of it is more applicable to the North American community and it's certainly from a more activist perspective, but some of what emerges from the turmoil at the cutting edge will have sticking power.
    I can't help having some concerns about the language debate though. There are two vocabularies at play here, the ever-changing internal vocabulary of our community of trans-whatever people, and the much simpler and more static one used about us by the wider population.
    The word that gains the most widespread use for something becomes its accepted primary term in the wider language. Here's an example, the UK flag. It's the Union Jack, right? WRONG! It's the Union Flag, it's only correctly referred to as the Union Jack when flown from a Royal Navy ship. But in the popular mindset it's always going to be the Union Jack, outside a small community of flag pedants who can complain as much as they want but nobody's going to listen to them.
    The wider population of non-trans people have not got many polite words to describe us. Take a look at the Google Ngram graph to see the prevalence of some of the most well-known in the wider language. Transvestite (Blue line) is well-established but in decline while Crossdresser (Red line) has never made it significantly beyond the boundaries of our community. Transsexual (Yellow line) peaked higher than any of the others in the 1990s but is now also in decline, while Transgender (Green line) has overtaken them all and is in constant rise.
    So the public has spoken, and crafted the greater body of the language. And their verdict is that we are ever more often going to be referred to as transgender, whether we all like it or not. We're just like the British flag pedants in that respect. A word that started as a separatist word coined by a 1960s transvestite to differentiate herself from transsexuals has undergone a linguistic shift and become a collective term for all of us. No Transgender Borg were involved in this (if such a thing exists, getting more than one transperson to think the same way is like herding cats!), sadly the wider population do not consult minority groups when they formulate language to describe them. Instead the word was probably adopted for its convenience and perceived inoffensiveness in a world of political correctness, not to mention its linguistic root. I've heard the word in news bulletins, read it in the paper, even heard it used on CSI.
    My concern in writing this piece is not whether or not we should be referred to as transgender, nor whether or not some people like it. Instead it is that whoever we are within the disparate threads of our community, the story we present to the wider world has to be credible to the people outside our community. Otherwise we are simply not going to be taken seriously. If we're telling the wider world we're not something which to their unsophisticated minds we rather blatantly are, then they are going to lose patience with us rather quickly and probably just reach for tired old language that we'd really rather not have them use. And that's no help to anyone.
    As always I welcome comments on this piece. But it's probably worth stating, I take it as read that we all wish to be referred to as simply women or men. And that we all have personal takes on our own identities, and there are many times when revealing that identity is not relevant. All that goes without saying. Instead this piece is not on that topic of language within our community but on our interfacing with the language of those who are not within it, at those moments when we do have to talk about the wider identity of that community. Because it's an important consideration, and one that I think sometimes gets lost in the language wars.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Here we go again

    I'm off to see the doctor next week, I'm going to ask him for some help. You might have noticed content has been a little sparse in these parts of late, I'm afraid I've been having something of a hard time. It started a few months ago and I attributed it to nerves in the period going up to my GIC visit, but after briefly abating in the immediate aftermath of my trip to London, it's back with a vengeance.
    Depression can be annoying, like that. I feel as though I'm sliding headlong into the pit I was in two or three years ago. When you find yourself stressed to the point of crying by the tiniest things, it's time to go to the doctor. Last time I tried to tough it out and I nearly ended up killing myself, this time it's off to my GP for some help. The alternative would be a surefire route to everything going wrong and I'm simply not risking it. Better medication than that.
    Surprisingly I've found some solace in the Rusty Old Wreck. Driving the Rollerskate stresses me beyond belief at the moment because I'm left with nothing to think about . Modern cars really are that good. By comparison going anywhere in the Wreck requires concentration, plus it works at those parts of my brain that still have some of the bloke about them. It's a mechanical toy, and one that's fun to play with.
    So I've probably done a little more motoring than I expected to this week. Shuddering around the lanes at what was probably a fearsome speed in 1959 but nowadays is positively pedestrian. Anticipating every manoeuvre to account for fifty year old brakes. Double declutching. Plenty for my brain to occupy itself with. Watching yesterday's sunset driving through the Downs with Dawn was particularly impressive.
    It's funny, I keep getting moments of flashback, twenty years ago and a much younger me in a slightly later model Wreck on the same roads. I haven't driven the thing for so long. Driving through my city late night on Tuesday especially brought this on, if I'd had a Ford Sierra in front of me instead of a Skoda Octavia taxi I'd have turned on the radio and expected the KLF. Hang on, that Wreck had a radio, this one doesn't.
     Somehow it feels like a minor defeat, to be going to the doctor and asking for medication. But I think it's the right thing to do. The alternative? There isn't one, at least not one I'd care to contemplate.