Monday, 31 October 2011

...I've said too much.

    So you're in a conversation with a natal female friend, and she mentions something in passing that relates to fashion, or clothing. You know, girl stuff. And you forget for a moment that to her you're just another scruffy bloke, and venture an opinion that owes something to experience rather than to guesswork.
    Or as happened to me this lunchtime, you're sitting in the main public thoroughfare at work with your colleagues, and a colleague who has made a spectacular sartorial faux pas walks by out of earshot, and without thinking you say "Oh dear, wrong skirt!". You've said too much.
    It's funny, because most of my female colleagues know all about me. My male colleagues though don't, and must be in danger of having me pegged as something of a meterosexual by now. Scruffy, into cars and bikes, married to a gorgeous wife, yet long haired and notices women by their clothing rather than their other attributes.
    I have to watch that people watching thing, it'll be my undoing. Mind you, it's not as if that matters, in my industry nobody will care too much. I do have to consider how far I want it to go though.
    I don't care, I'd happily be girl all the time by now, but I have to think of my wife. To her it matters, she's been great all along but I could so easily puncture her buffer zone.
    Today being Halloween, I'm sure some of my American friends will have taken the opportunity to unleash their female alter egos on the world. We don't do that, so no funny costumes today in the office. But something struck me about it earlier that made me laugh. If we did the Halloween thing here, I wouldn't be taking part, it's too close to home. Silly, ain't it.

Friday, 28 October 2011


    In amateur radio parlance, an 'old-timer' is someone who's been involved in the hobby for a quarter century. Back when I still had a current licence, the old-timers were the WW2 generation, they'd sit on 80 metres and talk about their allotments or the war. They were, to my young eyes, impossibly old.
    So it is with some distress that I note my near quarter century since passing my licence examination.
    Better an OM if not a YL than an SK I guess.

    QSB? K

Thursday, 27 October 2011


    It was encouraging the other day to read something from a natal female feminist outraged that her feminist group was debating whether to allow trans people to attend. Lots of talk about male privilege it seems, usual thinly disguised man-hater stuff. The group had settled on inaction, they'd cross that bridge when a trans woman came along. Presumably meaning at that point they'd decide to boot out a trans woman.  One wonders what they think a trans person looks like, and whether they understand that they could have trans women among them without their realising it. They Walk Among Us y'know!
    This touches on a difference I've observed between male culture and female culture. Women's groups are often exclusive, groups patronised by men aren't. Feminists and other womens groups exclude men without question, in four decades as a bloke I've never seen the reverse outside dinosaurs such as men-only golf clubs that I have nothing to do with anyway. In the real world the only bloke-only space I've patronised has been the men's loo. Even QwesT FtM, a support group for trans men and a very sound organisation, have FtM-only meetings. I've *never* encountered an MtF support space that has MtF-only events and would not be extremely pleased to see any FtMs who might attend so I was rather shocked to see that. Then again if exclusivity is a female thing perhaps we could learn from them...
    (Edit) Nutty radical feminists are all too ready to bang on about male privilege. My wicked sense of humour finds it funny that they do so in the same breath as voicing the self-evident right-on opinion that nobody should be targeted for abuse over anything they are born with and can't help. It is interesting though to think what it means from a detached on-the-fence insider's perspective. I can only see it from my own position after all.
    As someone who's spent decades as a scruffy bloke, I have had male privilege in bucket loads. It's true, especially as a large scruffy bloke I can swagger if I choose to. The world is my oyster. But do the man-haters honestly believe that people like me don't understand that? And that someone able to reap the apparent benefits of all that might willingly give it up? Does that not make them stop and think for a minute?
    Of course not. At the root of the man-haters hate is envy, for something they could never have.

    Shame, I'd give 'em the whole bloody lot if I could. It really ain't all it's cracked up to be.

Sunday, 23 October 2011


    I spent Saturday morning diving through some bins in one of my town's less salubrious suburbs. Yeah, I sure know how to have a good time. Not my usual weekend entertainment as I'm certain you'll understand, I was retrieving some property belonging to a friend.
    R is a friend of mine. Not trans or anything, just someone I know through having been a friend-of-a-friend. She's a couple of years older than me, and she has battled mental illness on and off for most of her life. In the last few weeks she's had a particularly hard time due to an anniversary of a family death, so she missed some of her medication and found herself tipped over the edge. She somehow came to the conclusion that having anything old or green in her flat would cause her to be sectioned (detained in a mental hospital) so she proceded to throw out anything that might possibly fit those descriptions.
     Personal documents, clothes, heirlooms, valuables, the lot.
    She's safe now, with other friends who are getting her back on the road. But a group of us knew that she'd chucked out half her life and would be heartbroken at the losses when she returned to her senses, so our mission was to rescue her property.
    Fortunately she'd been methodical in her turn-out, so things were neatly packaged and bagged. My small hatchback with its rear seats down was filled to bursting-point though, and we had something of a headache sorting it all out and storing it.
    It is worth learning the lesson of perspective at moments like this. It would be easy to sink into the mire, but an annoying dose of GD is not as bad as some of the things people can suffer from. Important not to forget that.

Friday, 14 October 2011

White picket fence

    It's very easy when writing for a blog like this one, to slip into a constant cycle of melancholia. I'm depressed, I'm not sleeping, I had a noisy girl day, my female colleagues sometimes get me down by being so damn female, most of you will know the day-to-day angst of the semi-closeted trans person.
    In fact, that's maybe why I've written a bit less over the past few months than I might otherwise have done. I'm anxious to avoid such repetitive moaning. This blog should be full of tales of fun stuff, and geeky yet fascinating (To me anyway!) pieces on language and other issues of the day.
    But life goes on, and I have to admit that all is not always well in Paradise. Our white picket fence does at times appear to be in need of a coat of whitewash.
    In particular I find myself pulled down by the intractable situation my wife and I find ourselves in. It sometimes seems as though none of our possible routes lead to happiness for both of us. If we continue to live as non-transitioning husband and wife then we're both unhappy, she so because I'm in a state, but if we were to give up and go our separate ways or if I were to transition then neither of us would be happy either.
    Neither of us wants to give up. But it isn't going to get any better. This is a downhill slope, you can't put it away and despite what the nutty people who believe we can be cured by religious means think, there is no cure. Even transition is not a cure, if you doubt that try coming off your hormones for a while and tell me you are not merely managing the condition.
    So my wife and I are attending counseling together, as a couple. The purpose is slightly different to that of psychological counseling, in the simplest terms my wife needs a forum in which she can work out how she can deal with this, both in terms of coping strategies and in terms of how much of this she can take.
    As with so many counseling experiences for a trans person, there has been an element of breaking in the counselor. But this isn't about the trans-ness itself but our relationship, so that matters less than it would if this was medical counseling. Our counselor is a very calm and experienced middle-aged lady who has guided us very well in exploring our relationship and the factors affecting it.
    The most important thing to have come out of it is to have it spelled out that we have a very good relationship. Our counselor is used to dealing with couples who are at the stage of arguing over who gets which half of the family dog, so she's in a good position to pass comment on this matter. Also while matters of gender do at times appear to have taken over it is important to remember that our relationship is subject to all the same pressures as any other, we are no different in that respect to anyone else. Such positive realisations are vital, for they remind us that things are not as bad as they could be.
    I have begun to realise over the last six months that resisting this condition is likely to be a futile exercise. But I can not stop trying, for the same reason as always: my wife is worth it.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Slow pressing

    A happy day spent wielding apples yesterday, as our two friends from the antipodes came up from London to join the fun of pressing cider.
    In fact we spent rather less time pressing cider than we might have, after a morning picking apples we cooked a rather huge veggie shepherd's pie and apple crumble which along with a bottle of the 2010 pressing left us all a little relaxed for the afternoon. Still, we managed enough juice for both cider and pasteurising, and I had the chance to blend a high-tannin wild apple with dessert apples to make what I hope will be an interesting cider.
    So I think we showed Nix & DB one of the better slices of the British rural autumn. We even had near-perfect weather, dry and temperate, neither too hot nor too cold.
    A couple of pressings down, maybe a couple more to go, I think.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Diary of a fruit picker

    It's that time of year again. Trees laden with apples, hedges laden with blackberries. My clothing is streaked with moss and my arms are peppered with bramble scratches. My freezer though is stuffed with bags of fruit and I have a plastic drum full of what will become the first batch of next year's new cider gently fermenting.
    The late summer here saw my first apple pressing in 30 degree heat, a first. A colleague remarked that we saw three seasons last week, I expressed the hope that last Saturday would then see cherry blossom, sadly a forlorn hope.
    Autumn always leaves me slightly sad, feeling that I've somehow missed the summer. Silly really, autumn is the most impressive season in itself, the countryside both laden with produce and beautiful in decay. I took a walk across the fields with my parents neighbour on Sunday, watching deer through the woodland and a poor buzzard being mobbed by some crows.
    The picture shows some very late blackberries. Losing flavour a little by now, but still worth freezing. Those will find their way into a pie sometime in January.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Canola, it's like rape.

    My eye was caught earlier this week by a piece at the UK feminist blog, The F-word: 'Things that are not like rape'. It examines the use of the word 'rape', and how it is experiencing something of a linguistic shift in some quarters, being used to express mild annoyance. I agree with the author of the piece: such use devalues the word and desensitises us as to its meaning. Given the serious nature of the word, that is not acceptable.
    The examples given make the point admirably. No, you are not being raped if you attend a photoshoot, or if your online video service increases its prices.
    Of course, the problem is that to the people using the word it is just that, a word. They have never been raped, known a rape victim or even been a rapist. It's not as if I fit in any of those groups either, but one might hope that anyone with half a brain would be able to appreciate the serious nature of rape and STFU before using the word in that way.
    So how does one communicate the level of transgression inherent in the misuse of the word 'rape'? Time to examine in detail its use in the language.
    Regular readers of this blog might remember a piece I wrote a couple of months ago examining the use of 'tranny' when compared to the N-word. In it I used corpus analysis, the science of examining huge bodies of text to find answers to linguistic questions, to examine the collocates of each word: those words which most often appear alongside it.
    This word cloud shows the top 50 collocates for 'rape'. I have removed a few stop words and one word relating to a secondary sense of the word, but otherwise they are exactly as they rolled out of the computer.
    'Murder', 'assault', 'kill', 'torture', 'abuse', 'violence', 'beat'. It tells the story pretty clearly, doesn't it. And it identifies the victims too: 'woman', 'girl', 'child', 'daughter'.
    I don't see anything about photo shoots there, Mr. Depp.

    The title of this piece refers to one of the very few acceptable uses of 'rape' in another sense. In the UK, the agricultural crop the Americans call 'Canola' is referred to as 'Oilseed rape'. Its bright yellow flowers are a familiar sight in the fields near where I grew up. The word I mentioned removing from the word cloud above was thus 'oilseed'. 

Tuesday, 4 October 2011


    Every time a friend or acquaintance of mine goes in for facial feminisation surgery I worry for her far more than I would if she had gone in for GRS or any other procedure. Because not only is it a painful and risky experience, I'm worried that she'll come out of the hospital and the swelling will slowly go away to reveal her new look as at best an obvious recipient of plastic surgery or at worst a hideous freak. Sometimes as with a friend of mine who went to the USA for hers earlier this year she'll return looking as I might imagine her natal sister to look and I'll breathe a huge sigh of relief, but all too often you're in that awkward situation in which the world and dog can see something went disastrously wrong but you have to tell her how wonderful she looks because to tell the truth would be to crush her forever.
    I sometimes wonder whether there should be a no-holds-barred gallery of real FFS recipients. Because it seems from where I'm sitting that the only pictures that get passed around are those of the lucky girls, the ones who look radiant and pretty. Come to me, the surgeon says, and you'll look like her.
   What people considering FFS should be seeing are the not-so-lucky girls. The ones with the face-stretched-tight look perhaps, the Cruella De Vil grimace smiles, or the Michael Jackson noses. The implants that have gone south. One cheek higher than the other, nice. Or how about that cookie-cutter far-too-small-and-pointy out-of-proportion chin that just screams "I used to be a bloke, you know"?
    So why am I holding forth on such a sensitive issue? I know that there are going to be people who read this who will be upset by it, so what gives?
   On Friday, I saw some pictures of a friend of mine taken about four years ago. Back then she'd been full-time for about a year. In the intervening time she's had extensive FFS and while it wasn't a disaster, it shows pretty clearly.
    In those pictures from four years ago, my friend looks gorgeous. I still have testosterone in my system, and I am a gynephile. I am programmed to notice pretty women. She looked good, and then some. I'd always assumed she must have needed the surgery, maybe she had a chin like David Coulthard or something, but no. She did it, I'm told, because she still imagined the bloke in the mirror.
    Now believe me, I know all about seeing the bloke in the mirror. I see him every morning, stubble and all. I don't avoid mirrors, but let's just say when I'm at my scruffiest they aren't my favourite. I know I will still see his ghost looking back at me if I ever become the full-time girl. But I also learned something very important from my art teacher mother. I learned to analyse faces as an artist might, to strip away the window dressing and look at the proportions, the underlying components.
    And guess what? As I sit and people-watch, I see natal female faces of all conceivable proportions. I see heavy eyebrows and I see square chins. And I don't see men in those faces.
    If you were to plot the facial femininty of the male population on a frequency graph, you would end up with a bell curve. On the left, a few with very feminine features, in the middle the majority on the male side of androgyny and on the right a few like David Coulthard with very obviously male facial structures.
    So the majority of us have pretty androgynous features, once you remove the gender cues such as facial hair and bushy eyebrows. It was something of a shock to me to see an echo of my sister in the mirror when I first donned a wig, so I rate myself in this group. Given a course of estrogen to round off the corners, my face won't be my undoing.
    Something I have to remember, every time I see something of the bloke in the mirror.
    I'm sure I'll bite my tongue next time a friend flies to Thailand or Belgium for FFS. I'll avoid asking her whether waiting for the estrogen to do its job wouldn't help, or finishing the hair removal. And if she comes back looking a little false, well I'll concentrate on the good bits. But inside I'll be wanting to scream at her that she's the only one who still sees the bloke.
    Nobody wants to rain on a parade, least of all me. But I can't help a feeling of guilt for it.