Sunday, 29 March 2009

The very first hormone patch

It's on, it's sticking, and now we wait for whatever effects my Estradot patch will bring. I hope it's a lot more than just a skin rash. On the other hand, I'm not desperate for big changes over the next year or so. I will be quite happy to remain flat-chested, so long as there is a general softening of the craggy facial features and sufficient in the way of female curves lower down. And I do want smoother, softer skin and a lot less body hair. I'll be disappointed if these modest wishes aren't fulfilled. But the whole thing seems to be unpredictable, so let's be patient and simply see what happens. It'll be a grindingly slow process, but at least it has begun. Seven months from first coming out to hormones: could be worse.

I have speculated about other effects. For instance, will I get more emotional? I certainly want to. I want to FEEL, deeply and profoundly, in ways that I've never known before. I want to experience how it is when transported by sheer emotional impulse. I want ecstasy and despair, yes both. I want to find out what exquisite happiness is, and I want to understand how the people I’ve hurt may be feeling. I've been stuck in the safe, cool, neutral zone between the extremes. Like the irritating Mr Spock in Star Trek: logical, no emotion. No pain, no passion.

Supposing all that happens is that my tear ducts open more readily? I don’t want to be just a cry-baby.

Surely I will at least have mood swings? Please say I will. Let me have something, anything.

(Reality check again: I'm not really going to get much of anything, am I? Sigh)

Photography with a mobile phone

The Nokia E71 isn't noted for its built-in camera. I have seen it described as 'poor'. So it was quite a surprise to get usable results from it. I'd go further, and say that in the right light you can get very nice results indeed.

It has all been a useful reality check. 3.2 megapixels really are quite enough for effective picture-taking. My first digital camera, which I bought in May 2000, a Nikon Coolpix 990, had the same low pixel count and yet produced excellent shots. It had a rather better lens, but results from the 990 and the E71 are remarkably similar. Moral: don't waste your money on pixels. Spend it instead on features you badly want. The Nikon D700 I now have possesses an outstanding ability to take great shots, without flash, in very low light. By candlelight, for instance, preserving all the atmosphere of the occasion. For me, this is the Holy Grail.

Of course, pictures taken with the E71 do not bear much enlargement. Zoom in beyond 50% and it all starts to look unsharp. But if fine detail isn't an issue, or you are looking for an 'Impressionist' effect, then the E71 - or any comparable phone - will do the job.

And you can shoot when using a 'proper' camera would be risky or inappropriate. Mobile phones are so commonplace nowadays that nobody bats an eyelid if you grab a few pictures with one. Phones are not seen as serious image-capturing devices. This mistaken notion can be very useful. I'm presently discovering the joys of walking around town and snapping at anything that catches my attention. I couldn't get away with it using a conventional camera. But the phone is accepted. It's not even noticed. Or if it is, then all people see is a person holding her phone up in the usual amateurish way. Little do they know. I'd say that the mobile phone has become the best available instrument for casual street photography.

Besides, my super-slim Nokia E71 weighs almost nothing, and is fun to use. You can't have such a giggle with the Nikon.

Saturday, 28 March 2009

No pockets in a shroud

In other words, you can't take it with you when you die. Sorry to keep sounding a morbid note in this blog, which I originally wanted to be all upbeat and cheerful! However, I do want everyone to know that although I obviously set great store on my personal possessions - just look at the Flickr shots - I fully realise that on my deathbed they will all be utterly meaningless.

So why would, say, a Prada handbag be so important to me just now? Answer: such things go to establish and reinforce the persona known as Lucy, and distinguish her, and her life, from the person that used to be, and his life. The ridiculous cost of the Prada bag shouts aloud how much I enjoy being Lucy, how essential she is, and how much I want to kit her out with nice things. It's evidence that I am deeply serious about my journey, not just playing around. Let's face it, the money spent on this bag would pay for many things, and I may come to rue the fact that these funds have gone forever. But there are huge psychological benefits.

And lets not overlook this, it IS an essential accessory. Women's clothes have no pockets, or none you'd use. You absolutely need a bag to carry everything. All right, I had several other bags already. But none of them were quite right as receptacles, whether it was a question of insufficient size, uncomfortable straps or handles, poor zips, or awkward access to the interior. And although they might all have been canny sale bargains, well spotted and adroitly bought, they were nevertheless cheap and unlovable. They didn't inspire pride. The Prada bag most certainly does, having immense style and presence. It makes me feel great. It makes me want to get dressed up and go into town, straight away and again and again. And it most definitely facilitates girl-to-girl conversation.

For instance, I plonked the bag on the counter at The Body Shop in Brighton the other morning and the charming and attractive young female assistant said 'What a lovely bag!'. This opened up an enjoyable dialogue in which we discussed how intimidating the Soane Street shops can be. I explained how, nevertheless, once through Prada's doors, I spent a pleasant hour choosing the right bag, how I got the girl there to model them for me, and all about the protracted ritual of actually paying for the one I selected (it took twenty minutes and involved a drink, and a discussion of the best places to visit in Venice). Gripping stuff. We overlooked the obvious reality that I was just a garrulous tranny; it was a relaxing, soothing experience. I even ended up with a prized trophy: a Body Shop discount card in the name of 'Lucy Melford', the very first plastic card to bear that name. I left the shop with a lighter step. And I think I have made my point.

I believe my Prada bag sends out very strong and positive signals about who I am and how I want to be treated. It's an entry pass to a world I want to be in. Yes, put me down if you will as a fashion-conscious tranny with too much ready cash. And maybe you could say that bags to die for are completely wasted on nerdish, middle-aged ex-blokes. But just touch the bag. The leather and brass are not like ordinary leather and brass. The bag feels soft and sensual and luxurious. Take it out for a sunny walk, smile at the world, and you will understand what a gorgeous bag can do.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Objectionable content

I've recently bought myself a posh mobile phone, one of those so-called smartphones. It's the Nokia E71, the white-key version. I'm doing a lot more texting nowadays and it was getting really irksome with my old steam-age plastic el cheapo Nokia 1100. Also, I wanted to read and send emails when away from the home PC. The slim and elegant E71 does all this with ease, quite apart from looking very cute and girly of course. The white-key version is clearly the phone Snow White would use; it slides in and out of a white leather sleeve that has a red lining, and the strap or lanyard you attach to the phone is also white with a red lining. It's still all slim and elegant even when in the sleeve and thus protected from witches and wolves.

I'm gradually trying out what a smartphone can do. The GPS has already come in useful, as has the camera (more on that in another posting). One of the first things I did was to see what my own blog looked like. As it built up on the small screen I noticed some jumbled-up text on the top edge, a kind of overlay you don't see on the PC. Once the page was fully rendered, I was horrified to see what this text said: 'You flagged this blog as having objectionable content'. WHAT?? Who had? And for what possible reason, except transphobia? I checked out Google's list of reasons why a blog might be flagged up as having 'objectionable content'. I was puzzled. Google seemed to accept that bloggers should be able to rant and foam at the mouth if they needed to, show attitude, and air their views on unconventional topics. I had posted items on such things as Mum's death, photography, and the forthcoming cruise with Dad, and had put out a poem or two - surely nothing 'bad' about any of that? I had made it obvious with photos and my profile that this was a trans blog, with content not intended for the general public, although anyone could of course read it if they wanted to, but I hadn't been obscene, hadn't been political, and I hadn't had a go at anyone.

Or had I? I'd described myself being hounded to death by a foxhunt. Maybe the hunting fraternity had found that offensive. Hmm. So what happened to free speech then?

Or maybe it was after all just someone who had a big thing against all trans people, and had happened to find my blog.

I've cooled off, and I'm no longer outraged quite so much, but three points worry me: first, the PC version of my blog seems to give no clear notice that anyone has flagged it up; second, there seems to be no mechanism for asking Google who is behind the flagging, and why it was done - no 'right of reply' in other words; and third, supposing Google thought there was anything at all in it, they have the power to be judge and jury, and my blog could be pruned of content, given a health warning, or presumably even taken off the Internet altogether. Just like that.

I wonder whether other trans blogs, much more important and inspirational than mine, have been unknowingly flagged by some anonymous and malicious person for 'objectionable content'. You might like to fire up your own smartphone, if you have one, and check that out.

Monday, 9 March 2009

Lucy in Oxford, Harrison Ford in Blade Runner

With my 'friend' (we'd both much prefer to say 'partner', but the gender issue has got in the way) I took the caravan to Oxford for a few days. The place was absolutely buzzing with people and things going on. But not everything we wanted to see was accessible: for instance we couldn't get into Balliol College, and the Ashmolian Museum was shut for refurbishment. Still, it was a wonderful place for just strolling around, especially with a camera. Every few seconds another street scene or architectural feature presented itself. Or a don in a gown. Or beautiful girlies speaking Italian. Our shutter fingers were very busy, and we took about 600 shots between us on one day. Back at the caravan the poor old Asus laptop had to work overtime viewing, editing, and backing up most of these shots to CDs. One of the problems with more and more megapixels is the demand on storage space. One backup CD can barely accommodate 300 seven-megapixel shots, and even fewer of my twelve-megapixel Nikon shots. And we are speaking of JPEGs of course, not big RAW files. The original photos don't stay on the laptop, which has only 80GB capacity. I use it simply for processing 'in the field' and then for immediate storage (it cut its teeth on our 50-nights-in-a-campervan New Zealand trip in 2007, when between us we took 12,000 shots). All the photos end up on my 640GB home PC. But the day when even this becomes full up is on the horizon, and I'm reluctant to hasten that day along by investing in a 25 or 50 megapixel camera.

Mind you, it would be nice to repeat the scene in the super-stylish 1980 sci-fi film 'Blade Runner' where Harrison Ford pops a Snappy Snaps type photo into a machine that can zoom in and around with mere voice commands, and then provide a 'hard copy' at the end. Clearly by the future date in the film (2014) even everyday plastic cameras are capable of superb 100-megapixel resolution, and Harrison Ford gets a usable image of a wanted female replicant from the reflection in a tiny ensuite bathroom mirror tucked away in the background of a hotel room scene. (His job was to hunt down and 'retire' replicants, which were tough but short-lived artificial humans with attitude, used in 'off-world' exploration) Amazing stuff, and presumably the likes of Hasselblad can or will make it all available by the 'real' 2014. But at huge cost of course - and I may need to use the cash on more personal things, if you get my meaning.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Getting ready for the cruise

Here's a poem I wrote just two days ago.


Fear the sea.
Fear the angry sea that washes men overboard
And makes them dance like marionettes,
Their empty eyes like caves
Where crabs and creepy-crawlies dwell.

Fear the vengeful sea that rips at shingle,
And floods the land so hardly won.
Fear the indifferent sea,
That does not care
If a dozen heroes drown in a cockle boat,
Their mouths full of sand,
Their widows full of grief.

Fear the murderous sea
That tugs at the legs of children,
Sucking them into its mermaid embrace.
Fear the sea that folds you into fronds of waving seaweed
Till you can struggle no more.
Fear the sea that creeps behind your back
And cuts your line of retreat.
Fear the deceptive sand,
The sand that pulls you under,
The sand that is the sea in disguise,
The hungry sea that needs to eat.

Fear the sea at night
When the shreiks of demons fly on the wind,
And ghosts flutter like albatrosses between the masts.
In the blackness is death,
The smothering wetness of fog and mist
And the siren calls of the drowned.
Fear the sea that hides the land
And turns the compass round and round.

Fear the quiet sea
That hides the monster below.
Here be dragons. Terra incognita.
The ships of the damned that are laden with slime,
On a doomed voyage till the end of time.
Fear the tentacle reaching out in the dark,
The clutching hands of men long dead,
Their bones like the ribs of old boats.
Fear the deep sea that knows no sun,
The icy depths where your grave awaits.
Fear the music on the breeze,
The dancing light along the shore,
The call of gulls and their stabbing beaks,
The city of worms beneath the mud.
Fear the tide that calls for your blood.

Fear the hour that marks the slack,
When the sea gives up and the sea takes back.
Fear the eternal sea,
The sea that will forever be.

Lucy Melford
2009 0303

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Dusty and me

Following on from the last posting, I believe I may be turning into a Dusty Springfield lookalike! Examine the picture alongside, and I think you will agree that if I'm not careful this will be my fate. Could do worse, of course. I was a great fan of Dusty back in the 1960s. I loved her voice. And one of my avowed ambitions is to sing...

Fully revealed

Just in case you were impatient to see a proper photo of yours truly, and for all I know this might indeed be the case, here it is. And there's more on the Flickr site. Taken with my latest Nikon digital SLR on ye venerable olde trustye but wobblye Velbon tripod, camera pointing down, focal length 55mm, ISO 200, aperture f/5.6, natural sideways lighting, and self sporting an expensive line in Nike gymwear.

And two things must strike you. First, that I like brands that begin with Nik. Second, that no matter how sophisticated the camera, it's very difficult to take self-portraits and get the focus spot on. Shouldn't complain though: some skin blemishes have vanished in the soft rendition. Believe me, I have plenty of skin blemishes. I thought of adopting an honest name like Repella or Reptilia rather than Lucy. But an irrepressible urge to fool my public and present an utterly false fair-of-face image got the upper hand. And by the way, I wear glasses which I've taken off for these shots. I know, it's just vanity.

And why was the camera pointing down? Was I doing a coy Lady Di? No. I'd simply cut the underside of my chin shaving, and the high angle put the gory patch out of view. Shaving is one daily chore I'd be glad to do without. My eyesight is pretty poor and I regularly slice off an ear, or take out an eye. Only two of each left now.

Anyway, as you can see I'm not glamorous (nor even feminine) to look at. Sorry about the strained look around the eyes, but I've done a lot of crying recently, and I'm not sleeping much. The pudding-basin hairstyle isn't flattering, and does me no favours especially when picked out in grey, but at least it's all my own hair, and it's still growing at a rate of knots. And those are my own teeth too.

So not exactly a pretty or inspiring sight, but we all have to start somewhere, and I expect to improve little by little by little by little by little by little (as Dusty Springfield would have said).

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Recognition, but the wrong sort

I was seen in the centre of Brighton three days ago. It was daytime. I was with a trans friend, and we were both dressed up. In my case it was nothing startling: a light tan leather jacket, blue-green scarf, blue jeans, black pumps, black handbag, and a big canvas shopping bag. Female stuff from top to toe, but not exactly Priscilla Queen of the Desert. However, the person who saw me wasn't prepared for the sight of me in garb like this. She hadn't been told about me yet. She was shocked. She phoned her mother, the only person (apart from Dad) now left from my 'old life', and she in turn related it all to me.

At first it didn't seem such a big deal. Wasn't this was just one more little widening in the circle of disclosure?

Then it struck both of us like the proverbial train that the world did not consist only of family members and friends. What about neighbours and local tradespeople? Practically everyone we knew locally visited Brighton, our nearest big town and shopping centre. Any of them could bump into me. Very few of them knew I was transsexual. Some would be similarly shocked. The same for any of Dad's neighbours. Some of these people were our discreet allies, others were gossips of the worst sort. I could personally escape tittle-tattle by retreating to another property half an hour away. But my friend couldn't, and would have to endure all the fallout.

We'd been thinking in watertight compartments. But other people in the village had lives that took them here, there and everywhere. Sooner or later I’d be spotted in female clothing, and the cry would then go up. The hounds would be set on me. I’d try to escape, but I'd be run to earth somewhere in the grounds of the Royal Pavilion. I'd put up a brave stand, and die hard, but I’d be exhausted and cornered. Torn to pieces by baying, slavering dogs, while mounted men in pink coats tooted their hunting horns and drank each others’ health. Another tranny humanely dealt with, town and countryside that much safer, the best way to keep 'em down, they love it really, the thrill of the chase and all that. Perhaps it would get a spot on the Meridian TV News, and the Brighton Argus could run a two-page spread on the Evil In Our Midst. (Bitter and paranoid stuff this, but I've had a trying week)

Actually the places of really high risk are few. I suppose it is probably OK to be Lucy at any time in outlying places like Littlehampton, Bognor Regis, Chichester, Portsmouth and Southampton. Maybe Eastbourne as well. But clearly - for me - Brighton is a hot spot for embarrassing confrontations at most times during the day.

Well, I can wear dark glasses. And when the hair grows really long it might disguise me enough. And a nose job could help. But the only real solution may be to move far away where nobody knows me. How drastic is that?

My therapist probed how I had reacted. She established that I wasn't personally embarrassed or abashed by the encounter, nor would be if I happened to met anybody else. She suggested that it wasn't reasonable to avoid walking about a place - or indeed to avoid any situation - just because there might be an accidental encounter that the other person might find awkward or difficult to handle. I shouldn't have my life restricted in this way unless there was a sensible reason. I've been thinking about this. I still don't want to create difficulties for the two 'pre-Lucy' people still in my life, whose feelings are very important to me, but I think that we all need to stop fearing what other people will say. And if it's somehow 'all right' for me to have a transsexual mindset but keep it hidden, surely it's even better to be honest with people and clearly reveal who or what I really am through my appearance? And indeed the same for them, if they have something they keep repressed? (I am, after all, often being told that honesty is the best policy)