Tuesday, 31 December 2013


    It's not often that you have the feeling of having been present at a watershed moment. Of course, such moments are usually something you only realise were watershed moments after the event.
    But looking back from the end of a rather busy year I think I was privileged to witness such a moment, though it certainly didn't seem like it at the time. On a rather dull day at the end of March I was among several hundred people who stood on a West London pavement for a couple of hours outside the offices of the Daily Mail. We had gathered to hold a vigil for a woman called Lucy Meadows who had committed suicide shortly after the Mail had published an extremely vicious piece by columnist Richard Littlejohn questioning her suitability as a trans woman to work as a teacher.
    We stood there in the gloom, held a silence, listened to a few speeches and were glowered at by a few Mail hacks leaving the building Then we dispersed - I went to the pub with an ex-boss who I was pleased to find was also there, I'd always harboured suspicions that she might be like me but was never able to ask.
    At the time, it seemed a futile gesture. Leveson had delivered his report a few months before and precious little had happened, then Julie Burchill had penned a disgraceful piece about us for the Observer which despite a storm of protest from our community seemed to result in very little censure.
    And indeed, it seemed to have little effect on the Mail. Same editor, same star columnist. Same bile, currently directed at immigrants from Romania. Why did we bother!
    We were never going to change the Mail through standing on a pavement. But it's only in the last few months that I've come to the conclusion that the Lucy Meadows vigil was a watershed moment. In itself it was a minor step, however while before that moment it was considered acceptable to publish pieces like Littlejohn's or Burchill's, afterwards it most definitely was not. I sense the atmosphere changed after that chilly evening on a West London pavement, the momentum changed ever so slightly in our favour. It would be foolish to say that there will be no more Lucy Meadows moments or unfortunate advertising campaigns, but there is the sense that henceforth they will be fewer and we will no longer have to work to persuade people that they're in bad taste.
    Maybe this has been our year, the year everything changed. It would be nice to think so, however I guess we'll only truly know in a decade's time.

Thursday, 26 December 2013


    There is a collective apathy that descends at this time of year, surrounded as we are by winter at its most depressing, coupled with far too much heavy Christmas food. This year for us it's had the added burden of my mother's passing, not immediate but still close enough for the emotional toll to be a factor.
    Fortunately it hasn't been too much of a burdensome Christmas. My dad hasn't wanted decorations or a tree, so we've had the food but few other trappings. I'm glad it worked this way. I didn't want him stressed by too many preparations, yet I didn't want him to be missing mince pies either. So I've managed all the cake, mincemeat, puddings and turkey.
    Apathy is a strange thing, I know I have a lot of things I need to get on with personally too, yet I can't summon the energy to think about them. Name changes, for instance. I should be busy writing to all sorts of financial companies about pensions, or the DVLA about my driving licence. But somehow I can't summon the energy. 
    Fortunately none of them are in over Christmas anyway, so I guess it doesn't really matter. I know I'll be asked about this in February when I visit the clinic, guess the death in the family card will have to suffice. 
    My sister has sent her eldest son over for the season. I think there have been some sibling tensions and she's anxious to defuse them. I wasn't completely impressed as I thought it might be a bit much for my dad, however fortunately he's turned out not to be a handful at all. Prone as 15 year olds are to spending all day in bed or in front of the TV, however I suspect some of the latter is due to being let off the rather tight parental leash. I've been introducing him to my DVD collection as he turns out to be something of a film buff.
    My sister seems to have some problems with my transition, particularly with my name change. She has all sorts of weird theories of her own about it, however as I've had to acidly remind her; it ain't about her.
    So here I am, not feeling very enthused, not in the highest point of transition either. Looking forward to a new pair of Le Dame shoes in the post, and annoyed as hell with Marks and Spencer for discontinuing their tall workwear range. I'm enjoying the freedom of being able to openly shop for clothing though, that one will take a long time to go away. 
    Yep, clothes an' shoes, all it takes to fill a girl's head. Along with deploying a work app for Android, iOS and Windows Phone, a suspected head warp on the Wreck, and getting to grips with how to say one should do something in Welsh, that is. Ddylwn ei wneud rhywbeth arall, na ddylai fi.

Hope you lot had a good Christmas, wherever you are.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

You're Never More than a Minute from the Nazis

    My wife once described British TV to her mother as having an obsession with the war. Sitting in their smart North American kitchen I leapt to the defence of our broadcasters.
    On our return to these shores our first evening had (in those days of 5 channel TV) two different war documentaries and an episode of Dad's Army on the telly. Well that told me then, didn't it. She was right.
    I find it to be rather unhealthy. It is not necessary to recycle in tiniest detail the events of nearly 70 years ago when the rest of the world has moved on. Of course it's important to preserve the memory of the war's victims, but the incessant rehashing risks devaluing everything.
    There's one aspect I find particularly disturbing though, casting German actions in terms of theatrical evil while lionising exactly the same things done by the Allies.
    It's very easy to do.  The Nazis were evil, right? The Holocaust. Received Opinion at its most fundamental. But what about the Germans who were just ordinary people fighting a war in the same fashion as their opponents? Just like the Brits, Canadians, Aussies, Americans, Russians and countless more. Your dad, your granddad, your uncle. Germans doing the same things as them, because they were German and their country was at war. No war crimes, just the horror of conflict. Still evil? No more than your granddad.
    Unfortunately not in the eyes of documentary makers. A couple of ones I've seen recently spring to mind: one about air defences in which Dad's Army style Home Guard anti-aircraft gunners were described in those terms, and one about the German plans to bomb America. That last one had plenty of justifiably nasty stuff to talk about in the underground slave labour factory making rockets, but then they started talking in the same terms about Luftwaffe pilots planning near-suicidal missions using long range seaplanes as bombers, or even the team of spies sent to plant bombs in New York. At the same time as we were pulverising their cities with thousand bomber raids and sending teams of SOE spies - or in modern parlance, terrorists - in to plant bombs in German targets. Still theatrical evil? Time to look in the mirror. And then perhaps time to read for a moment about the bombing of Dresden.
    I believe it is the power of television that has done most to keep us largely at peace over the last 60 years or so. The horror of what is being and has been done on their name can no longer be completely concealed from the populace when high definition colour video lands on their screens the next day. The Americans learned this in Vietnam, a war lost as much in the living rooms of Middle America as in the jungles of Indo-China.
    I feel something's been lost though in the way British television deals with the Second World War. We're presented a nauseous pantomime of recycled horror that is as formulaic as a real pantomime, something that significantly cheapens the very important message. It's important to never forget, but we have to move on from this.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

The Vault

    A couple of years ago, shortly after my mum's friend M died, the gravediggers were at work in our village churchyard. Unexpectedly, they hit concrete a few inches underground. Moving over a burial plot, yet more concrete. Three more plots across before they found earth again.
    They were mystified. This was the first burial in the churchyard for a couple of decades and the first in a new plot for much longer, it's not a village with a high death rate. The vicar had no idea, she's only been in the job for a few years. It seems the records were a little badly kept.
    My dad knew what it was straight away when they asked him, they'd found the Vault. A bit of a local legend, that one.
    I can remember people talking about it when I was very young, it was the kind of local gossip that hung around. Some time in the decade before I was born an elderly female relative of a local man died. She was quite wealthy, so the story went, and the man - let's say he had a reputation for being a little sharp - made it his business to work his way into her affections while she was in her dotage. With some success, as he secured the inheritance of her money.
    The old lady had nominated a close friend as her executor. She saw through the man pretty quickly, though she couldn't prevent her friend changing her will in his favour. So when the old lady died she could only watch as the heir awaited probate so he could collect his cheque.
    The executor had a job to do though, she had to arrange  the old lady's funeral and burial. For which the estate of the deceased would of course pay. She proceeded to perform that task for her friend by arranging the most lavish funeral and burial that money could buy in the 1960s, which is why hidden under the turf of a quiet country churchyard there lies - so I'm told, I've never seen it - a full-sized millionaire-spec walk-in vault containing a single extremely expensive coffin. The story repeated when I was young with many a smirk at the expense of the heir was that there wasn't even any money left over for grass seed when the vault was covered over, still less for an inheritance.
    I've often wondered what an archaeologist will make of it in a few hundred years time.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

One more step along the road

    The things you'll do for your friends. Standing in an unheated Norfolk church in something a little too insubstantial for the end of November, then braving an icy breeze outside for some photographs.
    So C and J are married. And despite the predictable run of minor disasters, it all came together in the end. I saw some friends for the first time since transition, learned news of people I've not seen in a decade.
    On the mat when I returned home: a letter from the GIC. My referral to the fertility clinic, the voice therapist, and the endocrinologist. The latter unusually without a second consultation since going full-time, in part due to all the counselling I'd previously had and in part because I'm exercising Patient Choice to use my local clinic rather than the GIC for HRT.
    It's odd, really. When you are suffering in the closet you imagine HRT is Where It's At. At least I did, for some others it appears to be The Surgery wot does it. But from where I am now I realise that living full-time is Where It's At, after all if this isn't about living in your preferred role what is it?
    So the prospect of HRT surprisingly is rather alarming. How will it affect my wife if it changes me, for example.
    I don't expect to receive it until well into the New Year. Which is not really a problem as it's better to move slowly and get it right than quickly and regret afterwards.