Sunday, 31 July 2011

On respect

    It troubles me at times as I observe the more fractious among our wider community in the real world, on forums, and in the blogosphere, that I am witnessing behaviour that can only be damaging. I've been through several stages in my reaction to the squabbles of others, through annoyance and depression and back to annoyance again, but now I am just sad to witness disparate factions tearing themselves apart. It doesn't have to be this way.
    You may well have seen last week's T-Central poll. It was a course of action we decided upon in response to some very personal invective directed at one of our number, and it concerned our deletion policy. It was interesting to read some of the responses to it from other bloggers. I posted fairly similar explanatory comments in my usual (I hope) reasoned style on the blogs criticising our action and was rather unsurprised when some of them weren't published. Now who's the censor.
    A few people said they would have done things differently. Someone suggested splitting up the T-Central list into categories. I don't think that would work, not enough space on the page and a nightmare alphabet soup of definitions to contend with. With my wicked sense of humour I wondered whether three categories would suffice, The Trannies, The Definitely-Not-Trannies, and The Trannier-Than-Thou. But that, though mildly amusing, would not be appropriate. It would put me firmly among those who prompted the poll, because it would make me guilty of a lack of respect.

    Important word, respect. Sometimes I think we don't see enough of it hereabouts.

    Respect is about separating who someone is from what they are. Simple, isn't it. The what concerns identity and path, the who concerns personality and actions. By all means attack someone for their who, but leave their what out of it. Because who concerns the individual while what concerns everyone else like them. Insult a whole group in your attack on an individual, and respect has long departed from the equation.
    Might I propose a rule of thumb in this sphere?

    If you wouldn't go somewhere in the context of a natal man or woman, don't do so in the context of a trans man, woman, genderqueer, androgyne or other identity. Whatever they are. People are different, get over it.

    If I meet a natal man or woman in the street or at work, I do not metaphorically peer into their underwear to speculate on their genitals. Even though there is an extremely wide variation in naturally occurring genitalia of both varieties. I don't question their gender identity, they are presenting as male or female therefore I accept them as such. Though I may sometimes privately question their sartorial choices I don't attack their appearance either. Some natal women are ugly, have hairy arms, or big feet.
    And similarly if I meet a trans man or woman I don't attack their paths. I don't misgender them and I don't get inside their underwear. It matters not to me what they get up to in the bedroom or whether or not they have forgone the ability to write their names in the snow. I would prefer people didn't behave this way towards me, so why should I think I can do it to someone else? We are all different in this sphere, and while I often see paths which I think are unwise I express my reservations privately. Identities are myriad and personal, and are not to be turned into pejoratives.
    If however I meet someone who is an arsehole, I will treat them accordingly. Because being an arsehole is about the who, not the what. I will respect them to the extent that the language you will see me using here will be lucid and not profane, but I have no worries about attacking them on the basis of being an arsehole. Being an arsehole is independent of identity.
    Part of me feels rather sad that I feel I have to write this piece. To enumerate what should be self-evident, particularly within a minority all of whose members are likely to have experienced such a lack of respect from outsiders.
    But then again I guess there are arseholes everywhere. I'm sure none of you would wish to be among them though, would you.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

That's new

    Annoying, all this, isn't it. A new facet of the wild and wacky world of gender dysphoria has edged into my experience these last few weeks. Getting down when confronted with happy attractive women is old hat, but here's a new one. I've found myself being pushed over the edge by middle-aged blokes. WTF? I hear you say?
    I guess it's the summer weather and the industry I work in, I seem to be seeing a lot of Typical British Middle Aged Blokes at the moment. You know, paunchy, losing hair, slightly unkempt. And I'm seeing a possible future for myself and thinking "I don't want to end up like that!".
    Crazy, isn't it. But that's the way of this annoying existence. I'll get over it. And hey! I've got Finasteride and they haven't! Funny, talking to blokes on that subject, they have a morbid fear of the Family Jewels not working but they hate the hair loss. I'm beginning to realise new extents to which I'm not one of them.
    So normal service will no doubt be resumed in time. I'll answer the comments on the last few posts that I feel guilty about neglecting. And life will go on. A bit more annoying, that's all.

Monday, 25 July 2011

While the sun shines

    It's hay making season in my part of the world. Very evocative smell, that of fresh hay. It takes me back several decades to the golden summers of the 1970s when we used to make hay.
    Everybody's childhood summers are golden, aren't they. In my case it's true as it happens, here in the UK we had a run of droughts. Every Brit who was alive in 1976 remembers where they were when it first rained.
    Our haymaking was a bit archaic even by 1970s standards. A Fordson Major and the kind of machine that was not uncommon in the years following the war, a rotary hay turner converted from horse drawn to a three-point linkage. Both machines long-gone now, the hay-turner surviving longer than the tractor.
    Our neighbours have a much bigger machine, a modern John Deere and a multi-headed hay-turner that unfolds on hydraulic rams to cover much more area. He can do in half an hour what it would have taken the Fordson half a day to achieve. Progress, and in this case that's a good thing. It's tempting to be nostalgic as I was when I snapped this pic of another farmer using a red Fergie for the job a few years ago, but given the choice of a morning on the metal seat of the Fordson versus half an hour in the air-conditioned Deere I know which I'd choose!

Sunday, 24 July 2011

What would I have liked when I was eleven?

    I had an odd moment of transportation to my eleven-year-old self yesterday. My mother sprang it on me that my two nephews are likely to visit us for a few weeks. Nice enough kids, though I barely know them as I don't talk to my sister very much these days (This is my middle sister, not the sister I went to Sparkle with a few weeks ago). By a very complex series of events my friend R is also living at my parents place for a few weeks with her two sons of about the same age, so I expect life could get very interesting in my part of the world for a while.
    It's likely that some of the task of keeping the nephews amused will fall to me. So I'm left wondering, what would have made my summer back when I was elevenish? No, don't answer that, I don't think they'd be thrilled by a wardrobe full of frocks. Mostly as I remember my passions were mechanical and electrical at the time, but are they going to be enthralled by a crystal set or taking an old engine to bits as I was? And would a trip to a steam railway do for them what it did for me? Or how about the zoo?
    I have a fear of rejection, which is stupid.
    Still, at least I'm not going to fall into the trap of trying to be cool just for them. There is little more excruciating than an adult trying to hang wid da Yoof.
    I'll ask R for advice from her vast experience as a very able parent. I hope her two and my sister's two get along, I see no reason why not as they're all refreshingly normal youngsters.
    Of course, I could seize the opportunity to instill in my nephews the desire for all sorts of Forbidden Fruits. Their mother doesn't approve of computer games, for a start. Or motorcycles.
    I can see it's going to be an 'interesting' summer

Wednesday, 20 July 2011


    Tranny. It's a word you won't often have seen me use here but something I read this morning was the straw that broke this particular camel's back.
    Helen Boyd should I think know better than to compare the use of 'tranny' with the use of the N-word.
    I am observing a divergence of language between US English and UK English on the subject of 'tranny'. In both cultures it has the same meaning and broadly similar usage. It's an insult from outsiders - though be serious, it's a pretty mild one! - and we prefer that non-trans people don't use it towards us, though it's widely used within the community. Its etymology is not offensive, it is simply a contraction of 'transvestite'.
    The divergence I am observing between the two dialects stems from the way the 'problem' is being approached differs on each side of the Atlantic. A word that is being busily reappropriated here seems from my linguistic point of observation to be in the process of being turned into a hate word by trans activists on the other side of the pond. I find that to be a particularly unfortunate direction because it simply creates an ever more potent weapon for those who would find such a hate word to be of use against us. Censoring vocabulary is an ineffective weapon against prejudice.
    Back to the N-word use that prompted this piece. Maybe it takes a white Brit to point this out to a white American but I think anyone making such a point would be well advised to study a bit of American history and in particular the history surrounding both words before making such a comparison. There is simply no parallel between the two experiences.
   Perhaps reading Huckleberry Finn would be a good place to start. If being reminded of the reality isn't a mite uncomfortable, that is.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Jungle warfare

    I spent the other evening in the company of a Billy Goat. No, I haven't gone all goaty on you, between you and me people who keep goats are a bit weird. A Billy Goat is a self-propelled petrol-powered brushcutter, and as is my custom at this time of year I was using our rather venerable model to mow my parents' orchard.
    The growing season for meadow grass starts in early May. Ground nesting birds move in, the flowers come out, and for a while in June it all looks like a scene from a Timotei shampoo advert, except one featuring apple trees.
    By July the vegetation has reached out-of-control proportions. We don't have a handy baby elephant, but I'm sure some of it would be as high as its eye if we did. The birds have all flown and the wild flowers seeded, so it's time to reach for the Billy Goat and tame the jungle. It's hot work, but the machine makes a good job of it and lets the light in around the trees. More importantly the air can get in and keep the damp away, otherwise there are all sorts of mildews and other entertaining afflictions that can strike down your apple crop in its prime. In a few weeks a little bit of new growth will see the orchard carpeted in green velvet, just in time for the odd bit of casual scrumping as the early varieties ripen.
    Mine is a tenuous connection to the land these days, that of a hobby farmer who works shifting words at a desk in an air-conditioned office in the big city.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Reactions to Sparkle

    It's now getting on for a week since my first Sparkle. It was exactly as I expected it to be, a Pride, only one with trans people of all hues rather than the gay people I've seen in the past. It was fun, but so was going shopping in Manchester with my sister.
    I have been rather surprised to see some adverse reactions to Sparkle in other places, usually because as well as the about 50% of 'normals' among the crowd the event is known for attracting some of the more outrageous and entertainingly dressed members of our community and there are those who don't appreciate being reminded of such people. Or perhaps they are keen to demonstrate how much they've moved on from all that, which is a shame because I think they miss out on something very important: a sense of fun.
    Events like Sparkle are what you want them to be. For some they are the most important event of the year as their only chance to get out, for others they're venue for a first hesitant outing and for yet more they're an entertaining spectacle and a chance to meet friends.
    I'd advise anyone going to Sparkle to take what they want away from Sackville Gardens and to respect the other attendees for taking away what *they* want. Sure a sissy maid or an LG outfit isn't to my taste, but  as far as I could see the middle-aged t-girl maid or the LG with the surfeit of petticoats were having just as much fun as I was. By acknowledging that none of us would pretend to be on the same path.

    Besides, I don't think I'd look good in a sissy maid outfit. They always look so damn short, and when your legs are as long as mine, there's a fine line to be drawn between revealing and indecent!

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Baptism of fire

    Yesterday was a good day. A day of firsts, for yesterday I spent the day as girl in Manchester with my sister.
    The premise for my trip was Sparkle, the UK's transgender pride celebration, but the real value of the day went far beyond that because I spent far more time in town with my sister than I did in the park holding the festivities. Don't get me wrong, there was plenty going on and I saw a load of friends, but the event made me acutely aware that Sackville Gardens and Canal Street were simply a giant safe space and the main event for me was being a girl at large, shopping with her sister in the wider city.
    An early start to catch the train north. My wife was working so I was alone. Early morning over the countryside, then the suburbia and endless industrial dereliction, the urban explorer's playground of the Black Country. Waste ground reverting to urban forest, punctuated by the waterways of the Birmingham Canal Navigation. More canals than Venice in Birmingham y'know, as they say around there. Then a progression of stops as the train passed through the Potteries and the Manchester satellite towns. One station had a sign proudly proclaiming it to be Cheshire's best kept, looking at it I shudder for Cheshire's worst kept.
    Manchester Piccadilly's airy train shed, and there's my sister waiting for me. A quick walk round the corner to meet J and her wife at their hotel, and I disappeared into the bathroom to leave the scruffy bloke behind.
    My sister had never seen me in girl mode. I don't think she was disappointed. Her first critique was of my colour choices, it seems I'd not done too badly.
    So off we went. Straight out into Manchester City Centre. Yes, a crowded city centre on a Saturday morning, a baptism of fire. Shopping in the Arndale Centre, not finding anything in the sales, lunch at Yo! Sushi. Very cosmpolitan. And very normal. Two sisters spending the day in town. Amazingly my experience in Swindon was repeated, I didn't see anyone noticing me. What's wrong people, a  nearly seven foot woman has just walked past you and you didn't notice? In all honesty though I'm sure I didn't pass unnoticed because I don't rate my passing skills highly. Where I did succeed though was not in passing but in blending. I was wearing fairly normal summer clothes for going shopping in, not wildly different from any number of other women shopping that day. If someone looked closely they could see who I was, but in the mass of people I was not remarkable enough to stand out.
    Off to Sackville Gardens, and the party was in full swing. The Equalities minister, Lynne Featherstone, gave us a speech about how the government was anxious to do stuff for us, and a lone Labour heckler tried to disrupt her. Any Government politician talking to us is a good thing IMHO, I can't imagine a member of John Major's Cabinet doing the same thing.
     All of trans life was on display in front of us. Yes, all of it. With frilly bits. A load of friends to say hi to, time to sit and people-watch some of the more flamboyant people. It's like a Godwin's Law for trans people, the longer you people-watch at a trans gathering the more the probability of seeing someone in a red dress with white polka-dots approaches one. Being able to go shopping in town made me appreciate this much more, hanging out in the park was fun but being almost just another woman in town was much more feeding the beast.
    So off into town again with my sister. A stop at LTS to buy some jeans in the sale. Nowhere else does 'em in my length. Another first, first solo over-the-counter trying-on and purchase of women's clothing. Then a coffee and a long chat about family stuff, more shopping and a return to the park for a while. I experienced that female thing of being looked up and down for the first time, outfit analysis. From both trans and natal women. Wow.
    All good things come to an end. Back to J's hotel, the scruffy bloke emerges. Say goodbye to my sister and I'm on the train, back through the Midlands as the sun went down. Back home, present my wife with some of her preferred fragranced stuff from my Manchester shopping as an apology for leaving her at home, then collapse into bed, exhausted.
    All in all a good day. And a massive thank-you is in order for both J and my sister. There will be the inevitable let-down, but feeding the beast is sometimes necessary. Knowing you can do it though is a dangerous thing, it satisfies the need but that's a need that keeps coming back.
    As I've said before, it doesn't get any easier, does it.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Another coming out story

    I had cause to come out to my boss today. My new boss, that is, my old boss who I came out to last September sadly having moved on to pastures new.
    My new boss is at a higher level in the organisation, an extremely efficient and fearsomely intelligent lady who runs our entire product division. And since I have a pile of absences in my calendar for medical appointments, my counselor, the GIC, and my gender psychiatrist I needed to explain them to her. Fortunately she's someone who has a reputation for standing up for her employees and I am happy to be quietly open about my gender issues so coming out to her didn't present a problem for me.
    Unfortunately when I asked for an extra chat as part of our first weekly meeting she expected something completely different. It seems I've made something of an impression over the last few months, I've delivered the goods in doing my little niche job and she's rather pleased with the results. I've also made no secret of my past in the dotcom-era so she expected me to say I'd found another job and was about to move on.
    So I think my telling her I was gender dysphoric came as something of a relief to her.

    Damn, I should have asked her for a raise while I was at it.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011


    The Wreck and I are each experiencing problems. The solution for the car is simple: replace the geriatric thermostat and hope no lasting damage has been caused by the engine being cooked. For me, sadly, it ain't so easy.
    The problem is, depression hasn't gone away. I'm depressed, and my depression has dragged my wife down too. Medication has helped even off the troughs, but hasn't fixed anything. My wife put it bluntly, that if this was to be our natural state then we would both be better off I were to give in to the girl and just go for it.
    I can't do that. Everything I'm hanging in there for is at stake. But to hear her put it that way is uncomfortable: I could do it and let's face it if I had no ties I probably would be well on my way by now.

    In simple terms, she's right. I'm just not prepared to give in. Like I said, it ain't so easy.

    On Saturday I'll be making my way to Manchester to spend a day at Sparkle. I'm not sure what I'll get from the experience but it's one of those things to try. My sister lives up there, so I'll be meeting her for the day. The first time any family member will see me as anything but the scruffy bloke. Part of me is looking forward to it, the rest of me is scared witless.
    Life doesn't get any easier, does it.