Sunday, 30 December 2012

Hang 'em an' flog 'em...

    I have a friend who is vehemently opposed to capital punishment. In every way, no compromise, wherever in the world and whatever the crime.
    Sadly I can't find myself fully agreeing with her, not because I don't find it unsettling and abhorrent, but because I really can't say there'd be no criminal whose end at the noose wouldn't concern me. Don't get me wrong, I'm extremely glad that we abandoned hanging many years ago because it means there can be no more shocking cases like that of Derek Bentley, it's just that I can't honestly say I'd be too upset if I heard that they were going to hang someone like Ian Brady. It would be hypocritical of me to say otherwise.
    So what's brought on this train of thought? The recent tragic and distressing case from India of the young woman who was gang-raped and who subsequently died from her injuries. There have not surprisingly been huge protests at the Indian police's lack of serious handling of the issue, as well as demands that the perpetrators be hung. Can't honestly say I'd get too upset at that prospect, as I've said above.
    It has been interesting however over the last few days to listen to the right-on chorus of Usual Suspects as they rightly go to town on the issue of rape, but fail to make their usual noise over the prospect of someone receiving the death penalty. Maybe they need to examine their stance, or admit their hypocrisy.

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Not just for Christmas

    Christmas has passed, leaving a trail of silver paper and flatulence. This year's was a good one as it happens, lacking too many familial complications. Just my parents, and us two. No awkward phone calls from feuding siblings or aunts.
    As I mentioned, I was girl for the day again. I cooked the meal, for which my mother was very thankful.
    My mother surprised me, by offering me some of her surplus clothing. If you're reminded of the passage in Bridget Jones' Diary in which Bridget is dressed by her mother in a frightfully frumpy outfit at Christmas then think again, I'm blessed with a mother with taste. She gave me a very simple black dress from one of the lesser-known suppliers specialising in clothing for very tall women, and as you might expect it works very well on someone with my body shape.
    So all in all a success. And as always, not entirely easy to come back from. Like those Dogs Trust adverts: being transgender is for life, not just for Christmas. Annoying, innit.
    The countryside is very wet indeed, everywhere is either muddy or flooded. I squelched through some more pruning on Boxing Day, then exercised my mother's dog. As a rather diminutive mutt she's not overly keen on splashing through flooded footpaths, poor thing.
    So back to work today in a nearly deserted office. Extended coffee breaks with the couple of nearby colleagues, long lunchtime. Nice in a way, but kinda heightens the feeling of isolation being one of a few dozen in a place that normally houses hundreds of people. And over it all hanging the spectre of January's GIC visit. It's funny, there are people now recovering form GRS who entered that pathway after I did and I'm still the scruffy bloke to my peers. I'm not sorry to have spent that last few years the way I have though because I am certain that more people than would admit it move forward in haste down the path of gender medicine only to repent at leisure.
    I just wish I had a definite resolution from it all though.

Sunday, 23 December 2012


    Time to crack open a bottle of cider and curl up on the sofa watching the TV. A great heap of damp and grubby clothing is in the washing machine. Green tree moss, British mud and a hefty addition of wet dog smell, all being removed with the help of a plastic ball full of Persil.
    December in rural Britain is usually cold, in every form from bright and cold through to freezing cold, damp and depressing. This December, like the rest of 2012, had diverged from that rule book, being warm for the season and very wet indeed. My parents land is flooded, as is most of the surrounding farmland. In driving to their place I found myself having to brave the uncertain depths of more than one stretch of flooded back road in the Rollerskate, unfortunate memories being conjured of the time I misjudged a flood and nearly got the car stuck. The latest installment of my Welsh course was abandoned half way through, the heightened adrenaline rather claimed my attention.
    So I've been squelching around the orchard in Gore-Tex and wellies, pruning the apple trees. 2012 was a bad year for apples as for most trees the blossom came in a cold wet spring, but what they lost in fruit they made up in growth. I have a small forest of young branches to tame, something I have to do without encouraging yet further growth next year.
    It's fortunate the Rollerskate has a very good heater. I didn't have long enough to really dry out in front of my parents fire and the drive home ( Wyt ti'n mynd y gallu siarad Cymraeg? Ydw, dw i yn mynd y gallu siarad Cymraeg!) shifted some of the damp. I should really have packed a change of clothes, shouldn't I.
    Around us the country is entering the usual pre-Christmas frenzy. We did all our relevant shopping weeks ago and got in a couple of weeks groceries at the start of last week, so fortunately we're avoiding it. Not so far away from us is a retail outlet village, a place that draws a never-ending stream of label-afflicted idiots and makes the main roads in its vicinity impassable for two months over Christmas. Now you know why I was using flooded roads earlier.
    We're going to spend Christmas day at my parents place. No sister this year, just them and us two. As last year, I'm going to leave the scruffy bloke on one side for the duration. I have a red and black dress lined up that should be festive enough for Christmas Day without being too impractical for turkey-cooking duties.

    As always, it's just too damn easy.

    In about three weeks I'll be off to the GIC again, to talk about The Future. I can't honestly say I'll be the scruffy bloke this time next year, but neither can I outright give up. I'm in an odd position though for someone following my path. It seems more usual for partners of transgender people to threaten to leave if they transition. My wife made the observation that as I am not happy and thus neither is she it was more likely our marriage would end eventually if I didn't.
    Nobody said it was all going to be too damn easy, did they.

Sunday, 16 December 2012


    Engineers don't write essays at university, we do endless lab sessions instead. Not for the first time I was rather thankful for this last week when a friend of mine who is a trainee social worker was knuckling down to her end-of-term essay on social exclusion.
    The essay gave rise to a very interesting conversation. "Social exclusion" evokes images in the public mind of feral youth on sink estates. You know, poor people. That quaint phrase The lower orders. Not people like us, whoever we may be.

    Nice, innit. Real Daily Express stuff, you might say.

    Yet I guess I'd bought into it just as much as anyone else. All the media love a story about feral yobs, it's a universal chance for their readers to feel like they are someone's betters. Guardian  and Independent readers will wring their hands in mock horror that the Lower Orders are so disadvantaged while Mail and Express readers will fume and complain that the Lower Orders aren't being flogged enough. Like they were in the Good Old Days, no doubt.
    My friend's illuminating point was that social exclusion does not limit itself by class, location or income bracket. Anyone can feel passed by or left out by a society that has moved on from their viewpoint, and simply because they aren't necessarily poor, in a minority, or don't vandalise bus shelters like the feral youth does not mean that they are any less socially excluded.
    A few weeks ago I tried to put into words my frustration at the way people dismiss rather than engage with those of opposing view. The point about social exclusion from my friend made a lot of sense in that context, for it is a fine line between outrage or resentment, and social exclusion.
    Feral youth react to their social exclusion by antisocial behaviour, because they are powerless. When people with a voice become socially excluded their reaction can have far more effect on wider society because that voice does not go away, it simply becomes ever more bitter and divisive.  When such people have some influence on their respective political movements we see a negative effect for all of us. The influence of embittered radical feminists on the mainstream Left view of the rights of transgender people for example, or the influence of anti-gay Christians on the mainstream Right. Transgender people having difficulty accessing rape counselling in so-called "women only" spaces for example, and the equal marriage wrangling  in Westminster at the moment that speaks for itself. I can even see it in a cause I despise: the fox hunting lobby is a socially excluded group in a countryside that has moved on from their 19th century world.
    It may grate with some readers, the idea that followers of causes they find abhorrent might be socially excluded and should be engaged with rather than marginalised. Hey, I'm as guilty of it as the next person. But it's important to make the point nevertheless.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Where do I start?

251220092675    As I write this the countryside in my part of southern England is frost-bound, quiet and still. Yesterday morning's drive to the shops might have been through a series of Christmas cards, English villages in bright sunlight with trees picked out in grey and white.
    The normal pressures of this time of year have caught up with me. Trimming branches at my parents place, moving random pieces of machinery, starting a Welsh course and trying to avoid too many Christmas meals with disparate groups of friends and acquaintances. So not much time for blogging, sadly.
    It's almost three years since I stumbled from the closet, and just over three years since the stress of hiding it all robbed me of my ability to sleep. I must have been in the middle of all that when I took the photo on the right, a freezing cold sunset on Christmas day.
    While in a retrospective frame of mind, have I managed to keep it all under control? Probably not, there has been a feeling of managed descent about the last three years. But I know this, I have made my way as responsibly as I could have, I have guilt about not being able to keep on top of it all but no guilt about trying.
    Plenty to keep us occupied on the news. The Government's spineless fudge and the Church of England's outright homophobic stance on equal marriage, not to mention the BBC's continued exclusive use of the phrase "gay marriage". Cos it's all about the men in suits, innit. I welcome the prospect that someone in my position will no longer have to divorce should they wish to have their gender change legally recognised, however I deplore the fact that those who were forced to do so have been hung out to dry.
    But still, it's progress, of a sort. However crazy a specific legal ban on C of E churches performing same-sex marriages might be, especially following on from their debacle on female bishops. Good news though for my local United Reformed Church who host a monthly LGBT outreach gathering, the Government have just removed 90% of their competition  at a stroke and it's likely they'll be the go-to place in my town for same-sex marriages. I hope their ministry to all marginalised groups receives a boost from it, not to mention that the extra income helps pay for their roof repairs while their C of E neighbours have buckets in the aisles to collect the drips. There's power in them there pink pounds.
    Last night saw my department's Christmas meal, at a very nice local pub. A male colleague asked me about my long hair, and completely straight-faced I said "I'm going for the full-on girl". It's too easy to be naughty at times, isn't it.