Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Jenny's first Christmas

    It is a side-effect of becoming more open about who - what - I am, that those around me make assumptions about my path. My mother, my sister, doctors, they all take it for granted that I am on my way, I will inevitably start living full-time female before too long, say good-bye to the bloke. In my current state in which I sometimes feel as though I am hanging on by only my fingertips this can become a little difficult.

    I may lead a charmed life in which all about me are accepting, but sometimes you can have a bit too much.

    Last Sunday, Christmas day, I spent the day as the oversized girl rather than the scruffy bloke. At my parents place, parents and sister in attendance. Red cowl-neck jumper and long black skirt, very festive. My mother's reaction when I broached the subject a while back was "We're going to have to get used to it eventually so we might as well do it now".
    As it turned out, everything went well. My dad was a little embarrassed at first, but that soon passed. Normal Christmas day for us. Except I was a lot happier, not stressed or depressed. And they now know what to expect from me in girl mode.

    My sister bought me some very high quality cosmetics for Christmas. Wow. :)

    As always it's a little difficult to return to the bloke after an event like that. But I now know I can be girl at my parents place should I need to. It's not going to happen often, but I look forward to enjoying some of the sweltering rural summer unencumbered by boy clothes, for instance.
   I have wanted to do this for nearly four decades. I remember as a child wishing desperately that I could be like my sisters, or the girls at my primary school. And now I've done it, as an oversized ersatz woman approaching middle age.
    I never expected it would be this easy. I should have done it many years ago, perhaps I'd have saved a lot of grief.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

When you can't do something, it's all you want to do

    The weirdest of things can make you want what you can't have. A few streets away from where I sit as I write this there is a most unglamourous car parked up amid the Euroboxes, and it's exerting a pull on me that only the similarly afflicted will understand.
    You see, as regular readers of this blog will have gathered, I have a liking for dodgy old cars. A twisty British B road on a summer morning is my Nürburgring, and an underpowered and basic family saloon from decades past is my Formula One car.
    Unfortunately in a British December the opportunities are limited for doing silly things in cars, the roads are covered in corrosive salt and basic motoring loses its appeal when the air temperature slips towards zero. So I sit cooped up in town, my desire for driving on the edge whetted by my near-neighbour's choice of wheels.
    I should give C a ring, plan some crazy road trip in the Wreck for summer.
    The unglamourous car? An AvtoVAZ 2107, otherwise known as a Lada Riva. That's right, a Russian made derivative of a 50-year-old FIAT. Basic as it gets, rear wheel drive, and incredible fun to drive on damp roads if fitted with hard-as-glass Eastern European (Chinese I guess nowadays) tyres.
    Truly I am smitten.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Letting her down gently

    A little while ago, I found myself in a tricky situation. I came out to someone in my social circle, and after the usual chat about what it all means, she revealed that her boyfriend used to crossdress. "But he's given it all up now we're together, I'd have left him otherwise".
    Difficult. I know they're soon going to be sharing a flat. And probably like many readers of this blog I know that crossdressing isn't something you can just give up like that. It never goes away. Trying to make it go away nearly killed me and no doubt it has had a similar effect on thousands of others.
    So he's either still doing it in secret, or he's quietly going mad. If he's been secretly dressing he'll probably have a final purge before they move in together, try to give it up for good.
    It ain't going to work, we all know that. He'll try, but it'll go horribly wrong somehow. It doesn't matter how he self-identifies, whether he sees himself as TS, TV, CD, TG or whatever from the alphabet soup of options,   this doesn't go away. At some point in the future he's either going to take it up again, or implode.
    So what could I do? I'd just come out to a friend, and suddenly here I was, the embodiment of everything she fears. Yet I couldn't mislead her, that's not what you do to friends.
    Say "It won't work, you know"? "He's going to assemble a stash of clothing somewhere and keep doing it"? Obviously not. I have to warn her gently that it might happen, that we come in many different varieties, it's not about sexuality and it's not a blame game, but the full-on approach isn't going to help.
    Instead of talking about her and her boyfriend I talked about the relationship my wife and I have. How she's tolerant rather than accepting, and how just like her boyfriend I told my wife about it as far as I understood it early on and tried to keep it under control for so long. I talked about the difference between gender and sexuality, how the community as I have encountered it has had almost nothing to do with admirers or sex in general. I told her about the support we've received, and told her that there is support from within the community for spouses or partners of trans-whatever people too.
    And I offered an ear, either mine or my wife's, should she ever need it.
    I have no idea what will happen. Whether he'll be able to hold it off, whether they'll stay together. But at least she now knows she's not alone, and it's not as far-fetched as she might think.
    Which I hope will be of some help to her, after all, what else are friends for?

Sunday, 11 December 2011

What does a support group mean for you?

    My local trans support group is an organisation to which I am much indebted. Through it my journey from closet to the real world has been made much smoother, I have made some good friends and I have gained invaluable support as to the many possible paths through which this mess can be navigated.
    Yesterday evening saw their Christmas meeting. As always in a community hall in a suburb of Swindon though instead of sitting around drinking coffee we were eating buffet food. The impossibly glamorous trans lifestyle, eh! Our usual post-meeting trip to a very good Italian restaurant in the town centre will have to wait until next month. Some of our number put the boat out a little with the party dresses, I was little more conservative in a black top and maxi skirt.
    This group follows the model of traditional trans support groups. It's a lot more open than some, but the format is pretty simple. An exclusively MtF crowd of everyone from deeply closeted transvestites of all persuasions through to long-ago transitioned transwomen meeting once a month to talk shop, drink coffee and eat biscuits. The group would love to see some FtM attendees, but unsurprisingly they see nothing in common with the MtF TV members.
    Support groups like this one are like Marmite. You either love 'em or you hate 'em. A lot of people may attend one during their first steps from the closet before moving on as quickly as they can. They see it as merely another closet, and they've left that behind. Of course they're right, it can be a closet, if you let it. There are attendees for whom it's the only place they ever dress as female, for whom discovery in their home towns would mean violence and intimidation. But as I found out on my first outing, you leave the closet pretty quickly when you venture out into Swindon town centre on a Saturday night.
     What I get from my attendance has slowly changed. From closet through support to social gathering, to even giving support sometimes. For me it's not a place just to present as female, after all I'm quite likely to be seen there as a scruffy bloke. I know the format has its faults, but it does fill a niche, and it's a hell of a lot better than the closet.
    It has been interesting to watch from afar the support groups in other cities. Pub meets, restaurant groups, or ones like Swindon. Sometimes without an open door policy, with meetings exclusive to people identifying a particular way, or entire groups for specific subsections of our community only. I have a friend - long ago transitioned and married to a normal heterosexual bloke - who was turned away from one group because they thought her husband was an admirer. He's not, he's just a bloke. A nice bloke at that, she's a lucky girl. Or how about the group run as a private club by a well-off TV who has used it as an opportunity to create her own TV social life without leaving home. I call it the gilded closet, a place where you can go out to your heart's content in a schoolgirl outfit or whatever takes your fancy, yet never really go out. Fine if that's your thing, but when I hear of people's referrals being refused because the psych quite rightly points out they've not experienced the real world, that's not good.
    If I were to find the perfect support group, it would have these things at its core: diversity and tolerance. People from all corners of our world, seeing past the sometimes challenging exteriors both MtF and FtM, presenting as whichever gender they feel comfortable in and expressing themselves however they see fit. I value the diversity of people I have encountered along the way, and I have found very few from whom I have not learned something, even those I haven't liked.
    I am not belittling the organisers of the Swindon group when I say they haven't quite made it. Theirs is a extremely tolerant group with an open door policy, however its membership tends more to be late transitioners and remains stubbornly MtF. In providing a safe space I can see why  those who don't fit those groups might be repelled by the thought of that safe space, after all coming out is intimidating enough without being in the company of people with whom you might feel you have little in common.
    It's a shame, because it is from the things you do have in common with people with whom you otherwise share little that you can learn the most.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011


    Pink fog. It's a worry that persists as you navigate the shifting sands of gender ambiguity, that you might be caught in it. Wanting to spend more time as girl, wanting more, is it real or is it the pink fog talking?
    We have all no doubt heard cautionary tales of those whose pink fog took them a little further than it should have, so the idea it might happen to me has been of some concern. Time to test myself for pink fog with several days as normal girl, doing normal girl stuff as far as possible and sticking to the kind of wardrobe choices any woman my age might make doing the same things. If the novelty fades and it isn't fun any more, then that's the pink fog talking.
    So, a few days after coming back to being a scruffy bloke again I have a moment to reflect on the experience. I spent about three days in the real world as female. I'm used to driving, shopping, eating out and a host of other normal things as female, but until now they have all been individual events snatched as evenings out or similar, or else in the company of others. I've always had either my companions or the scruffy bloke to fall back on, so part of my aim was to leave those props completely behind and face the world in its entirety as female. I am much indebted in this endeavour to Dru for my couple of days in Bristol and Nikki for my day in Wiltshire.
    It would be tempting to write a diary piece, but the minutiae of such outings soon becomes irksome. Suffice to say I entered a whole lot of new territories and came through unscathed.The rite of passage afforded by a first solo trip to a shopping mall for instance seems something of a cliché, but it is no less daunting a challenge for that.
    Highlights of it all were my parents seeing me as girl for the first time because I changed at their house (My mother said I looked very nice, probably being diplomatic), being shown the graffiti artwork of Stokes Croft by Dru and an early morning trip out on Bristol Downs without makeup to hide behind.
    Driving home I was struck by not having been troubled by gender issues during the time. It worried me for a moment, then I realised that this had simply been me feeling unencumbered by them. In the real world. Pink fog not an issue. Real.
    I'm not used to that. Definitely entering new territory here.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Letter to a friend who went deep stealth

Dear A,
    Earlier this year, you had your GRS and promptly disappeared. You dropped all your friends and moved house. I wrote a blog post about it at the time, about my sense of hurt and loss.
    I'm told that the other day you unexpectedly visited a mutual friend. You now live only a few miles away, you've changed your name again and nobody in your new life knows your past. Our mutual friend tells me you'd like to meet in town sometime, maybe have a coffee or something.
    Y'know what? I'd love to renew our friendship, I really would. But before that happens I need to know which A I'm getting to know again. You see, I'm in a somewhat fragile state, just as I was in April. I'm on hefty anti-depressants, I need medication to sleep, and the slightest upset affects me deeply, makes me cry and ruins my confidence for days. You may remember this, it's a side-effect of living with a condition called gender dysphoria. I've been fighting it for a very long time and though I'm not giving up it's a battle I may lose.
    So if I'm going to meet an A who feels quite happy knowing a scruffy bloke but would drop me like a hot potato if I turned into an oversized woman, then no. You've hurt me once by doing that, and I'm not going to willingly set myself up for another shot. Run away and have a nice life in your closet.
    But if the A I'm getting to know again is here for keeps, then I'd love to welcome back the attractive and funny girl I last saw in April. If you're going to be there for me no matter what, then so am I for you. When the inevitable happens and someone figures out your past, you've got a local friend to hold your hand if you need it, I'm not going anywhere else in a hurry.
     So which is it to be? If the latter, then mine's an Americano, black.