Thursday, 28 February 2013

Anger and stress

   There's too much to be angry about. Idiot politicians, stupid churchmen, the more sinister of my former schoolteachers, even the silly young feminist I encountered last night who could rationalise trans people - MtF and FtM - as OK because they were "victims of the Patriarchy". Oh yes, the Patriarchy, that handy common enemy that removes the need to think.
    It's not easy sitting at work, a scruffy bloke with stress issues. Blimey yes, the scruffy bloke. Whatever happened to him. I think he started to fade about this time last year.
   There are times when this becomes rather onerous.
   Still, silly feminist students aside last night was interesting. A panel discussion of trans politics with a well-known activist, an NUS trans person and a trans comedian. And a first for me, going out in my home town without any pretence of being incognito. I've been so careful for my wife's sake all this time, but she's no longer worried in the way she once was. So off I went. And got bloody cold standing outside with my friend R afterwards while she had a fag, but that's the way it goes. Girly jeans are thinner and tighter than boy ones, you have to suffer for your art.
    So another month passes, only six months to go 'till my GIC appointment. It's looking better than it was a week or two ago, but I can't help wishing I had a crystal ball.

Monday, 25 February 2013

Scratching the tranny itch

    "Q: Why do transvestites move to the Manchester area? A: All they want is a Wigan address! ". They don't make jokes like they used to, do they.
    As a deeply closeted youngster my tastes in female clothing sometimes ran into the world of costume fantasy. I had no wardrobe of my own, but that didn't stop me lusting after the clothing I saw on TV in films and costume dramas. I guess like teenagers everywhere the things I wanted had to have the maximum of bells and whistles. 
    Perhaps fortunately, rural England in the 1980s was rather short on flamboyant historical costume. I'm guessing many closeted trans youngsters experience something similar, and probably like me such thoughts recede for them as they grow up. I mean, I'm sure it'd be fun to swish around in a Victorian ballgown once in a while, but you wouldn't wear it to Tesco, would you.
    But it's important not to be ashamed of such thoughts if you've had them. Guilt and shame are the things that imprison us in the closet, and just as it's important to cast them off it's important to realise that natal women feel no shame in their costume fantasies. A while back I visited the historical costume museum in Bath with a friend. I found myself feeling the familiar slight shame as I viewed the lavish gowns on display, before realising that I was sharing the gallery with about thirty natal women who were having exactly the same thoughts as me. There's no shame in that.
    Recently I had the opportunity to exorcise a clothing desire from my adult closeted years. One you might wear to Tesco, but not one that suits someone my shape so I'll draw a veil over the specifics. The sartorially sensitive might be reading, after all.
    So there I was in the mirror, a facsimile of the smart and professional woman I'd wished I could have been years before.  No shame or guilt, very comfortable except for the shoes, but that's always the way. But nothing special, just me looking back at myself. An old itch scratched, and finding it ceased to be an itch long ago. Which is the point really, one of becoming comfortable with myself and no longer needing the desperate crutches of clothing obsession I once had.

Monday, 18 February 2013

Oil control

    Wonderful stuff, Redex. Never heard of it? It's one of the great row of Magic Bottles of Stuff you'll see down at your motor parts store, all designed to make your car's engine run smoother, have more power, or attract more girls or something.
    Redex though really does work. Its job is simple, removing "coke", built-up deposits of carbon and whatever else is left behind in your engine, and you can either put a bit of it in your fuel tank or pour it directly into your air intake.
    Or in my case, directly into a cylinder. Number three on the Wreck has been isolated as the cause of the huge clouds of smoke that have beset the vehicle since I put it back on the road a couple of years ago. Or more specifically, the oil control ring on number three. It stops stray engine oil finding its way into the combustion chamber, or in this case it doesn't.
    A long conversation with the World Expert on Wrecks resulted in the suggestion of using Redex in this slightly unusual way. It seems Wreck engines are notorious for oil control rings sticking if you leave them standing, and the Wreck stood for quite a few years before I put it back on the road.
    So yesterday in a very welcome day of February sunlight, I squirted a shot of Redex into cylinder number three. Then tightened the fan belt. And sheared off one of the dynamo bolts, resulting in an hour's sorting out a replacement bolt.
    The car will sit for a week, then with luck when I next start it there will be a huge cloud of smoke as the Redex and all its associated crud blows away, then there will be no more oil problems. Alternatively I'll have to have it apart and replace number 3's oil control ring, something I don't fancy at all.
    I remember the days when I didn't care about ingrained oil under my fingernails. A long time ago.

Friday, 15 February 2013

Only when I larf

    I don't know about you, but for me the first few weeks of the year have always been the pits. Back in my school days they were the endless term of freezing cold and mud, nothing to look forward to except exams. I'm not a fan of exams, having been the victim of a school culture that placed an unhealthy amount of emphasis on them.
    So this year I've succumbed to a three-week cold at the same time as a bit of a setback in the personal stakes, my wife has had a major wobble. Despite spending most of her social life in the company of a couple of her friends from the transgender community and telling me I should transition, she announced she couldn't take it if I transitioned and would leave me. Not entirely unreasonable for someone in her position, but one that's floored me somewhat given the messages she'd been giving out previously. I won't do anything that'll cause her to leave me.
    So that's that screwed then. Life's shit, innit.
    What now? Just keep going, worry about the GIC when I see them in September. I don't think I'll be doing a "change in the GIC bog" transition, so I'll probably be discharged. #TransDocFail indeed, ours must be the only condition in which they give you the boot if you refuse to divorce.
     Funny, it's opened a door into somewhere I rather hoped I'd left behind. I'm thankful for our UK gun laws, if I was American I might have turned my constitutionally protected comfort blanket upon myself by now. It's funny where your idle thoughts take you at moments like this.
    Still, at least I can keep plodding along, knowing I may not have left the starting gate but at least I ain't got it wrong yet. Someone else of my acquaintance whose lightning fast transition has been perfect to the point of protesting too much turns out to be falling apart. Part of me feels a shot of vindictiveness, for this is someone who has at times been very nasty towards people she considers to be less Real Women than her, but everyone deals with this mess their own way and even if hers was at times a bit nasty she deserves sympathy.
     So there you go. A friend in this sphere's blog is titled "Don't be like me". I can empathise with that.

Sunday, 3 February 2013

A call for a bit of perspective in language policing

    It was interesting to watch the British journalist Laurie Penny last week. She used the word "Lunatic" in a piece about misogynistic abuse of women online and in doing so inadvertently offended some people. For some sufferers of mental illness, the word is a slur.
    To her credit, she responded immediately with an eloquent apology. Ms. Moore and Ms. Burchill could learn from her example. She may at times be a typical product of the left-wing London-centric media bubble into which she was admitted straight from university, but it seems she hasn't quite yet been sucked into it enough to consider herself infallible.
    Personally I think she got it right to apologise because though the word "lunatic" is a rather archaic in a pure mental health sense it is still within living memory. When I was young our local mental hospital was informally referred to locally as "The loony bin" for instance, so it's entirely understandable that for some the word is still a slur.
    But here's the problem. Words change their meanings over time, and "lunatic" has acquired some non-offensive senses in common speech. I'm guessing that through being painfully right-on Ms. Penny is more aware of offensive words than most people, and her considering it acceptable to use was not entirely unreasonable in the context of those senses.
    There was a good parallel example of a language shift causing controversy on Radio 1 back in 2006. The DJ Chris Moyles described a ringtone as "gay" which prompted calls of homophobia, yet he was simply found to have been using the newer sense of "gay"; "Foolish, stupid or unimpressive". Reach your own conclusions about Chris Moyles' general misogyny or homophobia, but here this was probably linguistically correct. You don't have to spent long in the company of someone young enough to be a Radio 1 listener to gather that this sense of "gay" is not used in a homophobic context however annoying it may be. It's not impossible to conceive that this sense of the word might even become the dominant one in future decades.
    The BBC programme complaints committee reported on the Moyles incident thus: "The word 'gay', in addition to being used to mean 'homosexual' or 'carefree', was often now used to mean 'lame' or 'rubbish'". The irony of their using "lame", in itself seen by some as a piece of ablist language, would probably be as lost on them as that of the annoyance to the older generation at the use of "gay" as a synonym for "homosexual".
    Highlighting the use of inappropriate language will unfortunately be necessary as long as there are unpleasant people who will push the boundaries of its use. But I can't help feeling that sometimes those who do it can be a little too zealous in their pursuit and often do more harm than good. For the best example of this we should look no further than the multiple controversies surrounding the word "niggardly" in academic speech. It is simply a word which sounds like an offensive one, it has no sense related to the word it sounds like and it was in no way offensive in meaning. Yet the controversies have given new life to what was a rather archaic and rare word, and an entirely new sense as a dog-whistle word used by racists who wish to enrage others with the use of a 'non-racist' word. Well done, language police! (slow hand clap)
     I feel there is a lesson here that everyone can learn ( Especially some people rather close to home who should know better! ). If I take offence at something, I should consider for a moment the nature of what I am taking offence at. Is it something anyone like me would find offensive or am I in a minority of one? Is the word being used in an offensive sense, or indeed is it even an offensive word in the first place? Careful consideration of both those questions before complaining would I think lead to a much better targeted and more effective management of the use of offensive language and far less of a sense of crying wolf. If an archaic or marginally offensive word acquires a new, non-offensive sense that is to be celebrated and encouraged, for that is the way that offensive senses become forgotten (See the early etymology of 'nice' for a good example.). By attempting to halt this process when it is already under way we risk two things: breathing new life into the offensive sense, and simply alienating people whose use of the new sense is entirely innocent. We want people to use language in a particular way because they see it as the right thing to do, not because they have been told to use it in that way which they then resent.