Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Life goes on

    In a couple of years writing here I don't think this has happened before. A hiatus this long, that is. Truth is I've had plenty to talk about - the Wreck, cider pressing, my relationship, fighting the girl and all - but not the time, or indeed the inclination, to commit it to print.
    You've probably seen me referring to my friend Dawn here. She's been a true friend to me and my wife these last few years, providing humour and support just when it has been most sorely needed.
    Now it's her hour of need, as the cancer she beat a few years ago has returned. Metastasised, not a good word at all. Her decline has been swift and alarming, as from accompanying us to Sparkle in July she moved to difficulties with mobility, then fluid retention and the indignity of incontinence. First a council home help, then regular visits from the district nurse and finally a Marie Curie nurse with her overnight before a move to our local hospice.
    The fluid retention has gone, aided by a drain and a big plastic bag that filled surprisingly quickly, the nurse taking its volume as she emptied it. Eighteen litres, try picking up that number of soft drinks bottles and imagine a sick old lady walking around with that.
    The hospice is a masterpiece of design with amazing standards of care. A very specialist hospital ward, its atmosphere is as close to that of a home as they can make it. For a week after the fluid had gone we had the old Dawn back, grumbling about the food and shocking the nurses with her make passport photo, beard and all. I bought her in a seafood pizza by request one evening and ended up sharing the half of it she didn't eat with her daughter.
    But the inevitable decline continues. Fortunately there seems to be little pain, but she's nearly always asleep, and her lucidity seems elusive when she's awake. Medical staff do not make lifespan predictions for hospice patients, but it's becoming obvious that we should not expect many more weeks. However as I said to an acquaintance who was being something of a defeatist on the matter, I'll give up on Dawn when I'm following her hearse to the crematorium.
    As the friend who lives closest, I've been to visit Dawn rather a lot over the last week or two. It's the right thing to do, her family are widely spread and she needs to know she's not alone. It's easy enough to nip up to the hospice and sit by her bed for an hour or so.
    What shocks me though is how little emotion I've felt while some others are having difficulty containing theirs. I think it's the effect of antidepressants, they suppress such things, but it's engendered almost a feeling of guilt. Should I be showing public grief? Not if it's as false as that of a crowd of North Koreans at the death of the Dear Leader.
    So yes, life goes on. Rather a lot of it, at the moment.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Never out of style

    As a very young child with a quietly desperate desire to cross-dress, I used to fixate on the fashions of the day that I found pretty. This is probably a tale that could be told by many readers of this blog who found themselves in the same situation.
    For me in the early 1970s this meant the brightly coloured prints, long sweeping skirts, floppy hats and frills that the adult women I encountered were wearing at the time. Laura Ashley's influence lay heavy upon rural England at the time.
    I still have something of a weakness for the looks from that era, watching an episode of The Sweeney from those days I find my attention divided equally between the cops, the cars, and the fashion.
    I was less of a fan of late '70s and early '80s fashion. The Shake 'n Vac lady's blouse and skirt didn't do it for me, but as a teenager later on in the '80s the fashion excesses of that decade caught my fascination once more. Those meringue-like ballgowns you'd see on television spectaculars back then were probably the pinnacle of my deeply closeted teenaged aspirations. Yes, I was a mixed-up youth who seemingly preferred quantity over quality.
    Now I am a no-longer-closeted adult with a fashion sense all of my own it is interesting to look back at the past few decades and re-evaluate those looks. My life fitting in as a scruffy bloke has left me without the fashion baggage that a natal woman might have of having to move with the times and update my own look, but it has left me with something of that cross-dressers burden, the risk of being attracted to something inappropriate simply because I like it. Browsing vintage fashion web sites it's easy to spot the bad choices, the 1970s huge collars and paisley for example, but what about the ensembles that don't quite cross the line? One of the women who made an impression on me back them was my cousin, at an inch shorter than my current height the tallest natal woman I know, and from her example I learned that tall women can carry off a large brightly coloured print with aplomb.
    Good style is good style, whatever the decade it was produced in.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

On behalf of Mr. Average...

    A week or so has passed, and Julian Assange has moved from the front pages of the world as he stood on the balcony of the Ecuadorian embassy to the metaphorical chip wrappers. Good riddance I say, and I hope his welcome becomes ever more strained in the single floor of a London building that is forever a little piece of Ecuador.
    We've seen the issue of sexual consent raised to the fore again over the Assange case, and if any good can be salvaged from the affair I think that's it. It's a message that needs to be propagated to the point at which it reaches self-evidence among all sections of the population, and at least the sordid details of Assange's conduct have helped do it.
    Unfortunately though we've also seen some regrettable incidents. People who should know better, running off at the mouth about what does and does not constitute good sexual etiquette, or even defining crazy new terms such as "legitimate rape". And while those in the public eye who make such comments are likely to suffer the wrath of their electorates as a consequence, these moments are a symptom of basic misunderstandings by all sides of the debate which must be addressed if the aim of achieving proper respect of sexual consent is to be achieved.
    If there is one thing transgender people alone can supply, it is a perspective on both sides of the gender divide. Growing up trying to be successful as a man has given me an insight into how men view the issue of date rape and sexual consent, and my impression of Mr. Average is one of confusion, worry, and anger.
    You see, Mr. Average is not and will never be a rapist. Whatever the equipment he was born with gives him the potential to do, his sexual liaisons will not stray very far from the straight and narrow. He'll never cross any lines in the sand, never take advantage of something he shouldn't, and the Mrs'll make sure he never even thinks of invading her beauty sleep for a spot of uninvited rumpy-pumpy. Yes, Mr. Average doesn't get up to much beyond the confines of his Wimpey home and his Ford Mondeo.
    But even Mr. Average has an ego. Deep inside he still fancies himself as a pick-up artist, a player if you will. Even though it'll never happen he likes to think he can find himself in a situation in which he meets the girl of his dreams in a pub and nips down to the Travelodge for a night of torrid passion. And it is this side of him that has made him confused and angry. When he reads of a date rape case, it comes across to him as though such an accusation could happen to anyone, to him even.
    Nobody likes being called a criminal, and when someone sees themselves as being accused by association of a particularly vile crime they are likely to react with anger and, dare I say it, stupidity rather than reason.
    So Mr. Average needs to use the brain God gave him for once, and think before he speaks. And anyone who is addressing him on the subject should take a moment to understand where his misunderstandings are coming from and try to frame their message within the confines of his understanding rather than their own. I really wish that more anti-rape campaigners came from the advertising industry, you don't get very far trying to sell a product in the commercial space by winding up your customers.
    Ever since I first heard of date rape when I was a student back in the early 1990s I've felt the message has constantly become lost in the same shouty argument between the ignorant louts on one side and the shrill campaigners on the other. I hope one day common sense will prevail and both sides will realise it's not about them but the message. After all, it's not a difficult thing to understand, is it.

Saturday, 1 September 2012

On the edge

    There has been something missing here of late.  Regular readers might have noticed their reading material has strayed into the mundanity of rural life and random political rants. This is a transgender  person's blog, so where's the tranny content, damnit!
    The answer's a bit complex. On a simple level I do not wish to simply churn out an endless transition diary or scorecard of the glamorous and exciting transgender lifestyle, whatever that is. In my view the best offerings from this sphere are those from bloggers who happen to be transgender, rather than those from transgender bloggers which can get rather stale.
    But on a more complex level there are issues that need to be confronted, yet that it is difficult to talk about. Things that involve my wife, for example. I feel that while I can talk about myself in specific terms it is unfair on her to talk about her in the same way in a forum on which she can not speak for herself.
    So what can I talk about. Guilt, I guess. All the walls, roadblocks and barriers behind which I've spent most of my life hiding have now fallen away. My wife has made it pretty clear that we'd both be better off were I to move forward. I can do it too, I'm confident in the world presenting as female. I shock myself with how well I manage at it. I don't have to deal with wigs or trowel on the makeup, I have an employer with whom I could transition tomorrow and nobody would bat an eyelid and I live in a place that's about as good as it gets to be transgender.
    Yet I'm hanging back from the edge of the abyss, scared even to peer over it.I've really tried these last few years to hang in there, to manage this condition and find a way to be the husband she deserves, and to move forward would be a betrayal, a failure and a waste of all that emotional investment.
    Some people write endless screeds justifying why they should transition. Maybe they need to convince themselves it's the right thing for them to do. I guess I've known for years it was the right thing to do and I've done the opposite, trying to convince myself that it's the wrong thing for me to do. That was a big waste of time, wasn't it.
    In January, I'll be seeing my specialist at the GIC again. By May I'll have been with them for a couple of years and they'll discharge me if there's nothing more they can do for me. So I have a few months in which I have to make up my mind. If I want to transition under their care then January is the time at which I have to start. Not the end of the world, for theirs is not the only path through this mess, but a pretty stark choice nevertheless.
    You see, if you are going to transition it has to be for the right reasons. I've seen enough people doing it for all the wrong reasons, caught up in the pink cloud, and I have no wish to emulate them. The pink cloud has long ago departed for me, but I need to have better justification than avoidance of a delay in the medical pathway. There is more at stake than just my path here.
    So there we go. I'm standing on the edge. I don't need pushing from either direction and surprisingly thanks to the help of my counselor and others things are pretty good all round, but I can no longer dodge the decision. I'm beginning to think it'll probably be a yes, but that's by no means certain.
    Strangely enough, that admission in itself brings a feeling of relief. Unexpected, that.