Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Leaking here and there

   They say some people become like their animals, and I certainly know enough middle-aged British women who resemble their horses to give some credibility to that.
    I by comparison have started to resemble my car. Just as I have picked up a miserable cold and am leaking into a constant stream of tissues, so the Wreck has done something unfortunate to its internals and has started leaking oily soot from its exhaust pipe on startup. That coupled with an alarming consumption of oil tells me that a piston ring may have given up the fight against age, allowing oil to find its way into an upper cylinder.
    All I have to do is wait and the cold will go away. Sadly the Wreck will need considerably more attention, I may try to nurse it over to C's house for a diagnostic session, and then some intensive and fiddly rebuilding effort may be called for. Remind me again why I have this machine? Oh yes, it's fun to work on. Damn. Serious car nut, me.
    It's difficult to feel like anything but a very scruffy bloke when you are under the weather with a nasty cold. Particularly as there is an interaction between my sleep and cold medications that means I can either sleep, breathe easily, or do both and risk liver damage. I chose breathing easily last night, tonight I think I need to sleep.
    Current woes are masking a more long-term and annoying realisation, that I am not winning here. I am not happy in my daily life and have not been so for months, and it is that unhappiness rather than the fact of my being trans that my wife finds upsetting, it preys on her and makes her unhappy too.
    As always, no surrender.
    I was disappointed yesterday to read in a blog comment the suggestion that we who resist transition perhaps don't actually need to change sex. I guess you gotta love the girl you married enough to live the dream, to understand.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Dressing up

    We're all so damned serious about all this, aren't we. Sometimes I think so to the extent that we lose some of the fun along the way. Take dressing in silly clothes, for example. I have an acquaintance who wears daft outfits and posts photographs of herself doing so. I mean really daft like her latest, the full-on showgirl lingerie look with beehive hair, while doing mundane household chores. Every time she posts one of her pictures I hear mutterings of disapproval, as though she's gone too far this time, she's not taking this seriously. 'Cos Real Transsexuals, it seems, never dress up in silly clothes.
    It's true, there is no sight quite like a middle aged bloke dressed up in the showgirl lingerie look. Probably about as bizarre as a giant-sized bloke like me in a summer dress at Sparkle, I'm guessing. But that's the point, that's her way of dealing with this mess, of letting it out so she can hang in there for her wife. Others go for maid outfits or bridal gowns, name your poison. A lot less self-destructive than my attempt to bottle it all up, by my estimation.
    I was set thinking along these lines by a post somewhere else asking "When did you first know?". Because from that question I started thinking about what happened after my childhood crossdressing. What did I wish I was doing, as a deeply closeted teenager?
    I remember being heavily influenced by costumes on the telly and in films. A teenage me swooned over the nurses outfits the likes of Barbara Windsor and Hattie Jacques were shoehorned into for the Carry On films (Google it!) and would have given anything to swan around in the lavish ballgowns so beloved of period costume drama producers.
    So have I just shot myself in the foot, destroyed my credibility to Serious Transsexual eyes as surely as if I had changed my avatar to a picture featuring myself in a rubber French Maid outfit? I don't think so, because I'm sure I'm not the only confused and closeted trans teenager to have had such thoughts. A mind under the malign influence of huge amounts of testosterone can do funny things. I know I'm not the only person to have watched Titanic for the female costumes, hell I'm pretty sure I can name natal women acquaintances to whom that applies.
    Given that I now have the money and the acceptance to indulge myself in the wardrobe department I suppose I could go nuts on silly clothes. And believe me, someone my height could make a very imposing Victorian lady. But I haven't, even though I might enjoy it. I guess that once I'd got over the Wow! factor, I'd just feel rather embarrassed. You wouldn't after all wear such an outfit to Tesco.
    Equally though I can't find fault with my showgirl acquaintance. Her path is a little more flamboyant than mine, but no less valid. And since I've just revealed my past costume propensities I guess let she who is without crossdressing sartorial sin cast the first stone!

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

This is what a real hate word looks like

    A few weeks ago I wrote a piece on the theme of the word "tranny", with particular reference to its comparison with the N-word as a hate word. As I said then, I believe that there is no parallel between the two experiences and to make such a comparison between the two words is not only rather offensive, it will not help our cause.
    As so often happens when a subject excites my interest, I've since found a couple of other places in which the comparison is being made. I was alerted to one by a reader of this blog and the other I encountered in another forum. I didn't have to look for either so I have to conclude that it is a widespread thing.
    I think that this is unfortunate if true, so I would like to examine some of the language involved in more detail. Corpus analysis refers to the science of examining huge bodies of text to find answers to linguistic questions. In short it treats language not as something to read but as a series of statistical relationships that can be extracted using a computer. Best of all, there are public corpora available for free, so anyone with a computer can gaze into the intricacies of language for themselves. (I should warn the reader at this point that I am about to examine some offensive language, if you are easily offended then look away now)
    The collocates of a word are the words that most often appear alongside it. Here is a word cloud for the collocates of the N-word.
   Take a look at the words. 'Lousy','Uppity', 'Dirty', 'Dopey', 'Lazy','Stupid'. This is the language of overt racism writ large in American English, words written purely as insults and with no other possible explanation as to their use. I had expected to see some evidence of the reappropriation of the N-word in for example rap culture, but those use cases are so far outshadowed by the offensive collocates as to render them invisible. The fact is, almost nobody uses the N-word except as a hate word, so it comes as no surprise that its collocates are all also from the lexicon of hate. This is what a real hate word looks like.
    So we've seen the context the N-word is used in and it isn't very pretty. How about the T-word by comparison? Here is the corresponding collocate cloud for 'tranny'.
    Straight away you can see that this is a very different set of words from those in the other cloud. There are three main sets of words appearing here: those associated with sex work and pornography such as 'webcam''she-male','hardcore', or 'whore', those from within our community such as 'MTF', 'post-op', and 'chaser', and finally those from another sense entirely referring to automotive transmissions. 'Auto', 'manual', 'shack' (edit, struck out 'shack'. though it turns up in the auto sphere it might equally be for a popular drag club!) and 'gauge' are not relevant to us.
    So we're left with words relating to porn and sex work, and non-offensive words we use within our community.
    At this point it is very important to recognise that there is a huge difference between a word that is universally offensive and a word that can be found offensive within our community but has yet to reach levels of universal opprobrium.The collocates in the N-word cloud are mostly the former, they are offensive by nature. The T-word cloud by comparison contains some words which we may find offensive if applied to us but which are not in themselves offensive in the context in which they are used. I would be offended were I to be associated with porn for example, but those words are legitimate when used in the context of a porn star. I may not like what she does for a living but if I have the right to earn a living as a programmer with my own associated collocate cloud of tech words then so does the trans porn actress with her associated porn words. By contrast I can not think of a legitimate non-offensive use of the collocates in the N-word word cloud.
    To attempt to co-opt some of the sympathy contained within all the history that the N-word represents is downright offensive in itself. If we as a community attempt to do that it will not be long before we are quite rightly called out on such folly. Not a course that this tranny thinks will do us any favours.

(I've turned on comment moderation for this post. If you comment, please keep your use of language as I have.)

Friday, 19 August 2011

The Wreck on parade

   Time for an outing into petrolhead country. I took a look back to the post I wrote a year ago about the regular trip to a car show C and I make at  this time of year. I was struggling with a noisy girl and worrying about keeping its effects from my wife.Nothing much changes, does it. This week has been especially annoying as we've had a major product launch at work, with all its associated stresses.
    Anyway, never mind all that! It's time for that car show again, and this time we're not going in C's transporter, C and I are going in our respective automotive follies. His is both newer and faster than the Wreck, but then he's got further to drive in the day and since he gets frustrated by being stuck behind slow vehicles I don't envy him his sports car. The Wreck does the same speed as the trucks, which makes for restful long-distance motoring.
    I can't say I'm looking forward to a weekend of hiding the girl. It's not about presenting as female, but having to keep the bloke facade up. At work for instance I'm my everyday big scruffy bloke, but because most of my female colleagues know all about me I no longer have to pretend. Unfortunately this weekend I won't have that luxury and I must be careful not to let it get to me. Much weak Continental beer will no doubt be drunk and much rubbish will be spouted on the subject of automotive tat, so with luck I'll manage to keep my brain occupied. Interestingly I've seen some amateurish crossdressing at previous events, I wonder whether they've heard the adage about people who seem to do it a little too often.
    So my peers get to see the Wreck in all its faded glory. It's an unusual model of a well-known British car so it should attract some attention from the cognoscenti. It'll be rather good for once to have my own car with me, it seems like a very long time that it's been "It'll be ready next year".
    On Sunday morning I'll emerge from my tent, looking a mess. One thing's new, previously I haven't had long hair. Better pack the shampoo.

Friday, 12 August 2011

The bottle and me

    A few days ago we had the perfect summer evening here in my part of the UK. Warm air, just a bit of cloud and a spectacular sunset. I spent it in the garden of a local pub, looking out over a river and a patchwork of flood meadows.
    My tipple of choice? Weston's Country Perry, a dangerously quaffable still perry (For the uninitiated, perry refers to cider made with pears instead of apples). At the end of the evening I had a clear head, but the perry had definitely gone to my legs and I was ready for bed.
    I don't think I'm alone in finding a drink helpful in dealing with the aftermath of a bad day. It's a worry that I could make a habit of  cracking open a beer or cider when I come home form work. Just the one would turn into a couple, and before I'd know it I'd be getting through a crate of bottles in a week. It's not a coincidence that I know more than one person in this sphere with a drink problem. One or two of my acquaintance have in my view allowed it to wreck their lives.
    My medication bears the warning that alcohol is best avoided while taking it. Since I prefer to sleep I think that's the factor that has saved me from getting into the drinking habit. But like so many demons that lurk below the surface of the gender dysphoric, I know that one could make itself felt.
    It might seem odd therefore, that I make cider in near-industrial quantities. But I have made cider for many years without over-imbibing and the cider-making rather than the cider itself  is an escape from some of my troubles. Or an argument could be made that my cider is so dangerously unpalatable that one could never drink enough at a sitting to risk one's health, I dunno.
    But it's a serious issue. I suspect I have this in common with many other gender dysphoric people, a lifetime of this has left the GD as just one of several problems. I know more than one post-transition girl who's realised that all they've been through hasn't cured their depression, and if that happens to me I don't want to find myself using the bottle as a crutch. Because at the end of an annoying week in which the noisy girl and a lot of high-powered work meetings have left me worn out I know that the world as seen through the green glass of a cider bottle could look mighty attractive.
     And I don't need to be told that tomorrow morning or indeed any morning thereafter, that wouldn't solve anything.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Wave goodbye to my wavemeter

    I'll be saying goodbye to a little piece of my past on Saturday. My friend Paula who I know through the Swindon TG Group and who performed her mother-hen dutes on my first ever public outing is a radio amateur with a special interest in microwaves. I'll be taking my microwave wavemeter down to Swindon to give to her, as she has far more use for it than I do.
    For an electronic engineer, pieces of test equipment like the wavemeter form part of the tools of the trade. They are to us what hammers and tongs are to a blacksmith or brushes are to an artist. You build up your collection of instruments over your career and they are what gives you a window into whatever device you are working on. Without them you are relegated to simply being an end user, the electronic device is simply a black box with wires that either works or doesn't work.
    So it feels a bit of a wrench to find myself giving away what was at one time a highly prized and rather useful piece of kit. It's almost as though a piece of my identity has been removed. But I last held a radio licence over a decade ago, haven't touched a transmitter in years and certainly have no use for a wavemeter calibrated to 10 GHz. Paula by comparison has regular need for such a device and I hope will find this one - a former US Navy unit and a very high quality piece of kit - to be very useful indeed.
    It will no doubt be a rather amusing sight. Me turned out in full-on seven foot girl mode, manhandling a huge grey flight case from one car to the other. Where's a bloke when you need one eh!

Thursday, 4 August 2011

The Boy, the Girl, and the Babe Magnet

    My friend C has a sports car, a mid-engined MG TF, of which he is inordinately proud. It's a fun little two seater, far too cramped for me but if small sports cars are your thing it's the business.
    He was very disappointed then when he took his then girlfriend to the seaside in it and she demanded that he drive it at no more than 40 miles per hour. It seems he hadn't considered that the slipstream of a small convertible car would ruin her hairstyle.
    Funny, the idea that the 'right' car can be the mythical 'babe magnet'. Even funnier that it once worked for me, a young lady of my acquaintance years ago was very anxious to be taken out by me in the Wreck because it's got lots of chrome and looks rather cute, but dropped me like a hot potato when she saw my daily at the time, a Leyland Sherpa van. And I thought she was captivated by my charm!
    Since I started venturing out into the world presenting as female, I have started to appreciate some of the finer points of female affinity for cars. When your clothes aren't suited to motor oil and your hair and makeup took an age to get just right, of course you want a comfortable, safe, reliable and above all clean environment to travel in.
    Maybe all blokes should try their hand at going out in girl mode, as part of their 'Babe Magnet 101' course.

( Daihatsu HiJet advert image courtesy of )

Walk a mile in his shoes

    It ain't easy, trying to be a girl when you have big feet. I sometimes see t-girls complaining that they can't find ladies' footwear in a UK size 8 or 9, I tell them they simply aren't looking hard enough. More than one of my natal female relatives takes those sizes, and they can find them on the high street.
    People with a size UK10 to 13 have life a little more difficult. They can get almost any style from a specialist, but they may have to go online or travel further afield if they want to try them on.
    14 and above though, now there's a problem. With my size 15s the choice is narrowed down to an impossibly small selection if I'm lucky. Pleaser and Le Dame are my best bet, but though they are very good quality shoes they are expensive to bring in from the USA and their styles are more suited to the evening than the high street. Every t-girl wants to toc around in a set of killer heels once in her life but as my friend Dawn puts it: "You wouldn't wear them to Tesco". At least, not twice.
    So, given that the mass of everyday female footwear is inaccessible to me, what are my options? I can get footwear made-to-measure, for one. Any style I want, in superlative quality. Trouble is, with the quality comes an eye-watering price, and I can't justify that as a part-timer. If I ever go full-time that might be an option I'd consider, but for now I have better things to spend my cash on.
    My sister provided me with an answer. She takes a UK size 9, and though I didn't realise it, the casual shoes she often wears are men's shoes. She just picks the right styles and they never look out of place because she wears them in appropriate situations.
    So I started looking at my normal supplier of large size male footwear as I never had before. At some of the styles I'd never even think of wearing as a scruffy bloke. It's funny how gender conditioning works, even though I have known all along I had something of the girl about me I dared not permit myself to wear even slightly androgynous footwear lest they look a little gay or something. Your mind does stupid things to you, sometimes.
    What I found first were some Vans skate shoes. Pretty similar to the shoes I saw my sister wearing, though available in nicer colours (She reads this blog, she'll berate me for that! :). They look great with a pair of jeans, and they're about as comfortable as it gets in a shoe. Not very good with a skirt or a summer dress though so for my trip last month to Sparkle I found a very acceptable and very cheap alternative in the form of a pair of old-fashioned white canvas plimsolls not unlike these ones. It's all about blending, if your footwear don't look too different to those an onlooker might expect, they won't be noticed.
    Sandals though present a problem. Male sandals tend to be of the 'Jesus' variety, either with leather straps as worn with socks by men with beards at folk festivals, or with more modern Velcro straps and worn by young blokes on the beach. I have a pair of the latter as it happens and they're great shoes, but dainty they ain't. The best I've come up with so far has been a pair of Base London Global flip-flops in white, something I'd never wear as a bloke but which as a girl was perfectly suited to a summer barbecue.
    So it has been a pleasant surprise to find that for casual styles at least I can still find something I can work with even if it's not the footwear I wish I could have. I appreciate that the potential audience for this post is miniscule, after all how many t-girls can there be with size UK15 feet? But it's important to share, because I know all about the feeling that I'd never find anything.