Monday, 28 January 2013

On the fashionability of houndstooth tweed

    About ten years ago I remember a conversation with my friend C in which I predicted  fashion trend. Not usual for our conversations which tend to be somewhat geeky.
    My prediction was a simple one: that within the next decade we'd see a return to fashionability of houndstooth tweed. Think about it, ten, twenty or thirty years ago did you see anyone wearing that fabric?
    C works in the television business. He writes software that runs digital TV studio equipment, you've probably watched TV that passed through his code somewhere. Our conversation was about one of the projects he was working on, as an electronic engineer who started with scrap TV sets it's a subject of interest to me.
    At the time the UK and other countries were on the cusp of moving from analogue to digital TV. For most consumers this probably meant more channels, a better picture or high definition, but for us it also meant the end of the analogue colour encoding systems, PAL, SECAM and NTSC.
   Analogue telly was sometimes referred to as compatible television, meaning that a colour signal was compatible with a black-and-white receiver. The colour information coming from the studio was split out from the luminance information and cleverly encoded such that it wouldn't show up as noise when viewed on a black-and-white set. The PAL, SECAM and NTSC colour encoding processes each took different approaches to the same problem, but shared the same aim.
    PAL was developed in Germany in the early 1960s. We Brits got it in the late '60s, on our third TV channel, BBC2. PAL tackled some of the problems found in the earlier American NTSC system, but in doing so it introduced a few quirks of its own. The one you'd have seen from time to time is the so-called Hanover bars, colour noise appearing whenever any close-together stripes appeared on the picture. It's one of the reasons PAL test cards have striped regions.
    As you've probably guessed, houndstooth tweed produced intense Hanover bars on a PAL TV, resulting in a riot of colour noise on the picture. As a result, the pattern disappeared completely from the fashion scene sometime in the 1960s.
    So why my prediction? Digital TV has its own picture quirks that you can spot if you look carefully at some of the lower qualty channels, but it doesn't use PAL. Instead, you get the full unadulterated colour signal, so Hanover bars are a thing of the past on a digital set now PAL has been turned off.
    And as if by magic, houndstooth tweed has made a reappearance. You won't see me wearing it as it's never been a favourite of mine, but there it is on the High Street. Technology influences fashion.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

One step at a time

    Tuesday was a good day, I guess. A trip to London with my mate C. To the GIC among other destinations. First GIC trip as the girl, dressed for the cold in a black wooly jumper and jeans. I'm indebted to C for the company, not to mention a lift in a nicer car than mine, and his finally meeting the girl was a milestone in itself.
    Not an easy appointment, though the visit itself went very smoothly. Being told by my wife I should move forward has been difficult.
    So, time for the chat. I can't honestly see myself still as the scruffy bloke this time next year but I can't say it's a path I relish. A failure of sorts, if you will. So I set   a timetable. I still have a few bloke things to put away and I need to really be sure my wife is ready for the reality of my transitioning. I'll be back to the GIC in the summer, meanwhile I'm in a sort of ghastly limbo.
    The whole experience has left me drained, lethargic. Work hasn't come easily and I've found myself letting personal things slide. I have one or two tasks in hand that are important, and somehow I'm just not making much progress at them.
    It's all part of the journey, one step along the path. Better this that move too fast and get something wrong.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Complaining to the PCC over Julie Burchill's Guardian piece

    Lovely day here in the UK. Bright, cold, sunny. Frost on the ground, ice on the puddles. And a deeply offensive piece concerning the UK transgender community on the Guardian website from the feminist writer Julie Burchill. I won't link to it here because I feel it doesn't need to generate any more advert income, but if you really want to read it then Google is probably your friend.
    In my mind, it crosses the line from journalism or comment into outright hate speech. And as such I feel it should not be allowed to stand.
    Fortunately there is somewhere I can complain, the Press Complaints Commission. it's something of a toothless tiger, but it's all we've got and if they receive a big pile of complaints about an article they have to take a look. I'd urge you all to consider complaining too if the Burchill piece has offended you.
    The text of my complaint is reproduced below:

The Guardian (web site)
"Transsexuals should cut it out"

Please explain how you believe the Code of Practice has been breached
I believe the Code of Practice has been breached because of the use of prejudicial and pejorative language with reference to the transgender community. As a gender dysphoria patient I feel that this article is likely to result in increased likelihood of my exposure to hate crimes as it perpetuates an environment in which such language is deemed acceptable and thus incites further attacks against people like me.

In particular the following language used in the article is problematic:
  1. "dicks in chicks' clothing", using offensive language to imply that transwomen are in fact men. This amounts to incitement to commit hate crimes, as transwomen are often attacked for using female spaces such as ladies lavatories.
  2. "women – real and imagined", yet again implying that transwomen are not real women.
  3. "having one's nuts taken off" and "To have your cock cut off". Repeating the damaging fallacy that the only concern of gender dysphoria patients it to have their genitals modified, something very far indeed from the medical truth. This causes great distress to those of us who are going through the medical process of gender dysphoria treatment.
  4. "trannies". As a language specialist by trade I have researched this word extensively. It is used in both offensive and non-offensive settings but this article is definitely trying to use it in a pejorative sense.
  5. "shemales" and "shims". These two words are unambiguously offensive when used in relation to the transgender community and this article repeats them in a manner that can only be seen as pejorative.
Please add the clause(s) you believe to have been breached
Section 12 (i) "The press must avoid prejudicial or pejorative reference to an individual's race, colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation or to any physical or mental illness or disability."

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Kinky boots

    Regular readers of this space will have seen my never-ending quest for female-appropriate footwear in my larger-than-average size. Sadly there is precious little to choose from, but I will never give up. Google is my friend in this matter, and it has rewarded me with more than one unexpected find.
    A case in point is the pair I found last week. Flat heeled Mary Janes, available not just in my size but tow sizes above that. Nothing fancy, but entirely appropriate for example for smart office wear or a going-out ensemble. Made-to-order in Thailand, and available via mail order from a supplier catering for the TV Little Girl market.
    That's right, the model is pictured wearing LG white socks and enough pink frills to keep the worldwide satin industry alive through the recession.
    It's funny, I'd never considered looking into that market for everyday footwear. I have LG acquaintances and I've encountered LGs at events like Sparkle, but I guess I'd never really looked at their accessories and noticed that some of their shoes are surprisingly normal. Unexpectedly it is the footwear intended for the more flamboyant members of our wider community that's often most available in my size, I could have several pairs of thigh boots, outrageous heels, or things with buckles, padlocks and zips all over them if I so chose, but in the words of my late friend Dawn: "You wouldn't wear them to Tesco".
    So I've ordered a pair of LG Mary Janes and I should have them by the end of the month. Paired with a conventional outfit they will not attract attention, only I will know their unexpected origin.
    A rare victory I think, worth celebrating.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Dodgy docs and fail hashtags

    I can't say the last few days have been good for the cause of transgender medicine here in the UK. You see, the papers have picked up a story that's been rumbling along quietly for a while now, that of the General Medical Council investigating Dr. Richard Curtis, prominent trans man as well as the go-to doctor for private treatment of our condition. As I understand it there's the usual crowd of regretters claiming that they never wanted to transition really, and blaming their doctor.
    The news coverage has been predictably depressing. Short on news but long on sensationalism and outright transphobia, it's as though the Leveson Inquiry never happened. The trans community, seeing the whole debacle as something of a witch hunt against one of their own and reminiscent of the circumstances surrounding the departure of Dr. Russell Reid a decade ago, have reacted with anger. There's a hashtag on Twitter, #TransDocFail, which is full of the staggering ineptitudes and failures of duty of care felt daily by transgender people in the medical system here in the UK. It's depressing stuff, but it needs to be said as a response to the rather obvious misinformation on the subject.
    The trouble is, I'm not entirely comfortable with the battle lines here. I think there are serious shortcomings with the way transgender people receive medical help here in the UK and I've been happy to write about them here ad infinitum over the last few years, but my personal experience of the GIC system has been mostly pretty good. I've been unimpressed a couple of times by psychiatrists modifying their responses to me because of my background and occupation, but the fact is my course through the system has been exactly as advertised. And on the other side, I'm not entirely at ease with the haste with which some people I know have passed through the private system. The screwed-up ones in my experience tend overwhelmingly to have transitioned very quickly through the private route, and I can't help thinking less than eighteen months from hairy panty wearer to post-op is just a little irresponsible on the part of an attending doctor.
    So rather than black-and-white I see grey on both sides. Overwhelmingly though I see the most fault in the relative scarcity of professionals involved in our field and their concentration in a fairly small number of places. I can't help thinking that the best way to fix the #TransDocFail would be not to go after individual doctors or clinics but to broaden the availability of treatment over many more centres.
    Transgender medicine is not rocket science, surely it can't be that difficult to make it better!