Sunday, 30 October 2011

Men who are fixated

The very recent conclusion of the Vincent Tabak trial, the man who murdered Joanna Yeates in Bristol ten months ago, has left me with a heightened sense of vulnerability. And I'm sure I share this feeling with very many women.

Mr Tabak was fixated on Miss Yeates, but she didn't know it. So his invasion of her home was a complete shock. She had caught his attention, and he had fantasised about her. A glimpse of her through a window that fateful evening last December was enough to propel him into her flat with sex in mind. And when she screamed at his advances, he reacted with violence, and dealt out death.

This was an intelligent, confident young woman. She was pleasant and vivacious, but not provocative. She had not drunk too much at the pub. She was in command of herself, and had done some shopping before arriving home. She was not dressed to seduce, only to heat up some mince pies. But none of this low-key ordinariness was a protection. A man she hardly knew suddenly invaded her home and killed her.

And this says that any of us could fall victim in the same way to a man who might be living next door, or just down the street, whom we have never noticed. But they have seen us. Their eyes are on us, every time we walk by. They may even be stalking us, always there somewhere in the background, keeping out of our line of sight so that we never know they are there.

A little while back, I heard a story on the radio called The Octopus Nest, published in 2008 as one of a collection of short stories by a writer named Sophie Hannah. So far as I could grasp the story - because nothing was quite spelled out, and the conclusion was ambiguous - it was about the chance discovery that an unknown woman had been appearing in the family photographs for a long time. She faced the camera, sometimes in the foreground, but on the edge of the shot; sometimes very much in the background, but recognisable once you looked for her. Whether it was on holiday, or at sundry family events, there she was, always there somewhere in the shot, an uninvited stranger that the wife in the story had never noticed before. And she appeared in the family photos for many years past. She had haunted the growing family. And nobody had spotted her. But somehow she got included in the pictures, every time, as if she was meant to be in them. Who was she? And why was she in the photos? It spooked the wife. And then her world was washed away in a deluge of sinister implications when she found that her husband had a vast obsessive secret collection of this woman's stuff hidden away. The story ends at the moment of this terrifying discovery, just as the husband walks in. I was absolutely certain that the poor wife did not survive that confrontation, even though the police were already on their way. He would have killed her, as surely as grasping a high-voltage cable freezes your grip on it. A strangler's grip.

I will confess here that I have a morbid fear of being strangled. So nobody goes near my neck. I will put on my own necklaces and scarves, thank you.

What goes on in men's minds? Why do they have this frightening capacity for obsessive behaviour? And why does it so frequently lead to tragedy? Who is at risk?

Although it seems that no woman is immune from male domination and abuse, murder victims commonly seem to be especially nice carefree persons with plenty of friends. And they are usually young, active, out and about, and under thirty - and therefore at their most physically attractive. Perhaps it isn't so surprising then that they get noticed by men with inadequate or frustrated lives, and a talent for manipulation and control. It's the capture and taming of a free spirit. The theft and possession of something beautiful. The power of being able to destroy it. The ego of thinking that it's all right, that anything is permitted, like invading someone's life and toying with it, maybe even taking it. I've little doubt that Mr Tabak did not understand or want Miss Yeates as a real person, any more than he understood or wanted his own girlfriend. But he had overwhelming strength, and could do as he pleased, and he used that strength to kill when the real Miss Yeates screamed at him and shattered his dream.

How many men like this are out there? Should one be afraid? These are the thoughts that are running through my mind. Because although I am not young, I do have a friendly manner and I behave in some ways that might catch the attention of obsessive men. Should I be careful about smiling and talking and being animated, and enjoying nice meals out in good company? Should I ensure that I'm walked everywhere? Should we all make sure that we're escorted to our cars, or to our front doors, and should we all be totally paranoid about personal security, so that once safely home, nobody can walk in on us? Should we just stop going out?

For the present I'm inclined to accept a 'normal' level of risk, still go out, but be on high alert. However, I'm wondering how wise it might be to get up early, when it's still dark, and walk a brisk mile before breakfast, by way of exercise. Is that really a good idea, even if there are rail commuters about doing the same thing? Should I do it at midday, or in the evening instead? Or not at all?

I've some knowledge of self-defence, but I haven't got eyes in the back of my head, and I can be surprised and done away with just like anyone else. I don't want to become a timid rabbit. I want to live a proper life.

Damn all obsessive men who can't treat woman as human beings.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Convention will get us all

Health warning: what follows is is my personal view, and will read as 'me, me, me'. Please don't think I'm talking about you, unless you think you're exactly like me!

One of the most powerful coercive forces in existence is what other people do and think, and how they might judge your own actions and way of life. Because rightly or wrongly, you will be judged. 'When in Rome, do as the Romans do' is on the whole pretty sound advice if you want to blend in, avoid difficulties, and make the locals feel comfortable with you. It's anathema to diehard individualists of course, but for everyone else it generally pays to have regard to what is expected of you by the people in your society.

But social convention is the enemy of personal freedom. That may be good, if it constrains bad behaviour. But in other ways it can smother and defeat, and steer people into situations that they wholly dislike.

What do I have especially in mind? Well, in my own case, just two broad areas: work and relationships.

Work first. I've retired. I'm a lady of leisure. I'm out of the workplace, permanently. Out from under the control of managers. The days are all over when I had to watch my step, bite my tongue, and pretend to be ambitious. I now live a life without fear, without the threat of job loss or blocked promotion through spite, character assassination, discrimination, or a complaint made. I'm not bound to follow crazy procedures, or promote an interest, nor do anything against my better judgement. I'm not selling my soul for a salary, and I'm not compromising on notions of justice and fairness, and what constitutes humanity. And because of all that, I live an honest life. I can be independent. I'm free. Surely all that is a wonderful gain. The pension is enough to live on, and I pay my bills, owe nothing, drop no litter and make no noise. I'm a good citizen. I'm even cheerful with it.

If I were bored or lonely, I could take a job, but I think it would be immoral to take one simply to add some interest to my life, or to find company. Not when so many people are losing their jobs and can't get another. There's unpaid work available. I haven't overlooked the possibilities in that field, but I'm keeping voluntary activity up my sleeve, and won't put myself forward until life gets unfulfilling and I really need to get out there and be useful. It's my choice, up to me entirely. After all, what's the use of an unready volunteer? There's plenty of people who are ready and willing, and if I get in before them, they will be sidelined and disappointed, and the voluntary agency will be denied their better talent.

And yet there is most definitely pressure on those who have retired to get into work again. To do something useful, as if it's a crime to experience leisure. As if one should be stepping forward, and getting immersed in charity work and hospital services and things like that, anything to avoid idleness. But why shouldn't someone have idle hours to throw at things that enrich their outlook, and make them better-qualified as a human being? And some of those things involve spending that helps to keep other people in work.

This social convention that one must not be idle is hard to counter. The implication is that you are drifting, merely existing, not contributing anything, a drone, a drag on society. And I get annoyed about it, not merely because it's a lie, but because of the moral censure, the wagging finger. And as government money runs out, and pressure to be an unpaid volunteer mounts, that finger will wag all the more.

Now, relationships. I'm a divorced woman. I live comfortably, and enjoy an interesting life. I've plenty of inner resources, and don't have to be spoonfed entertainment or manufactured sensations. Nor do I lack for friends. I always say of myself that I don't know what loneliness is, and feel nothing of the kind, even though in a sense I've been solitary all my life. I need a lot of personal space and personal control, much more than most people. And now that I have it in spades, I intend to hang onto it. That means repelling all boarders. I'm not going to let anyone walk into my life and take it over. Anyone who tries is out. And I think that I'm justified in having it that way. Why should I be compelled to share and compromise? Sharing and compromising are ideal notions that may not work in practice. I haven't been able to make them work. I'm afraid I've lost all belief in them. I've also stopped believing that there is Someone out there who is perfect for me. Or I for them, because the attraction and suitability must be equal. I don't see that as a disaster, or a personal failing. Just a recognition of what is true for me, based on experience.

Behind these feelings is also the instinct of self-preservation, and a wish to live my closing years with all possible choices open to me. I don't want to get stuck in a relationship where I'm frustrated and unable to do as I please. Unable to go where I'd like to. Unable to mention certain things. Unable to learn, or pursue new interests. And probably ending up as a nurse to my companion, cut off from a wider life. A sort of prison sentence without parole.

I admit that's a scarily negative view of how it could be. And I do know couples who seem to prove me wrong. But consider: who exactly am I now able to attract, if I were seriously looking for a partner to live with or marry? The choice is very small, and likely to be as frail and grouchy as myself in not too many years. After sixty, you have to work hard at being fit and active, socially engaged, and smiling all the time. The temptation is strong to ignore the world, stay in the warm, and put your feet up. Well, it may be companionable for a couple to doze their days away like that, but it isn't going to suit me.

And yet I feel pressure from society to get a partner in my life. To make the best use of living space, and free up accommodation for families desperate for proper housing. To team up with someone else. To team up with someone 'appropriate'. Who might that be? A man, of course. If you're accepted as a woman, it's expected that you'll want a man. If you would actually prefer a woman, then it's not the usual thing, and eyebrows will be raised. That's still the way of the world, at least here in sunny Sussex. Raised eyebrows won't necessarily make me do anything I'd rather not do, but they will make me feel uncomfortable. And that means there is a subtle, insidious curb on my freedom. And a constant nudging to give in.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Breasts and bras

Yesterday, for the first time, there was a distinct and unmistakable six-inch difference between my bust as measured over the nipples, and the under-bust measurement. That is, 113cm versus 97cm, which converts to 6.3ins. That difference had been hovering around 5.9ins for a while, 'roughly six inches' to be sure, but not quite there, although of course well within the margin of error you can expect when using a tape, and doing it yourself.

But now the difference in measurements has taken a decisive step in the right direction. I thought that my breasts were getting a bit more noticeable. 

Although still diminuitive, these breasts are entirely natural and self-grown. They are the right shape, have a certain weight to them, and they wobble about in an independent way. A purist would criticise them for looking too young and fresh on an old chest: by rights they should by now be dragged down by a lifetime fighting gravity, with stretch marks, perhaps a bit flat and empty, more like half-deflated party balloons than pert, thrusting upstarts. But I'm not going to listen to purists.

They're an achievement, and I'm proud of them. I am able to report that they feel tender on waking in the morning, and of course that's one sign that they are still likely to grow further. I've no idea what my mother's breast size was in her prime, and no sisters to confer with, so the ultimate measurements are a mystery. Not much larger, though, I suspect!

Mind you, with a 97cm (38.2in) chest to rest on, they will look odd if they grow too much.

That chest size is large for an ordinary woman, and leads to problems finding a bra to fit. I had been using an AA cup, and although an A is better nowadays, it's not easy sourcing 38A or 40A bras, because mature women with big chests usually have big boobs to match. It's a problem I share with obese teenage girls, who must be in despair over the lack of bras in shops to fit them - no wonder they resort to comfort eating! Marks & Spencer do carry a range of teen bras in these unusual sizes, but you'll not often see them in any of their stores. You have to go online, and then it's a bit hit or miss with the fit. However, that's how I've gradually amassed my collection of wearable bras.


It would be nice to develop a small chest and narrow shoulders, but legacy skeletal features that the hormones can't do much about, like ribs, stop the show. And if I lose a lot of weight, get a flat toned stomach, and slim those hips down, it might all look worse. To have an unmistakably female build, you've got to have more bulk below the navel than above it. And, ideally, a waist for arms to go round, and breasts that catch the eye at a thousand paces.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Body hair

The time to have another body shave is approaching. I do it in two halves: hands and arms in one half; legs in the other. Both every three weeks or so. In between I'll routinely clear sections of my upper pubic hair to provide space for the hormone patches, and I'll shave under my arms as often as every other day, depending on what tops or dresses I'm going to wear.

There's still a couple of hairs on my chest that have the temerity to sprout, even though most of their brethren have long given up trying; I check them every day, and if they're peeping out, they get the shaver. Ker-pow!

So far as I can tell, there's now no visible hair anywhere else on my body. I never was especially hirsute, and the hormones have completely subdued hair growth on my back and other places.

I use an ordinary men's wet shaver by Gillette, with Mach 3 blades, and gel by the same manufacturer. Just as I did pre-transition. I expect to keep on shaving my face for a while yet, although the end of daily shaving is now in sight, and I may be able to stop shaving my face and neck entirely sometime in 2013. Next year I may have to upgrade to Gillette's latest wet shaver, but what I use just now is more than adequate.

I don't use any fancy shavers intended for ladies. What's the point? The men's version is heavy-duty, designed to clear all types of hair - including tough bristly facial hair - as efficiently as possible, and yet still leave the skin smooth and undamaged. That's what I want. I have no hang-ups about needing to use only girly stuff. I don't have qualms about what people might think if I buy men's razor refills or gel. I could be buying it for my husband or live-in boyfriend. The two women I lived with in my life both used cheap throw-away wet razors, bought in packets, for their under-arms and legs. One packet lasted a very long time. I never noticed them hestating to buy whatever they needed. It's a fact of life with most women: they need to shave bits of their body now and then. So there's no need for any trans woman to feel the slightest embarrassment about getting rid of her own body hair. 

I have to admit that the body shaving is rather a mission. A big task that will take over an hour if I do both halves and do it meticulously. But I love the result. Feeling smooth is wonderful. I still get a kick out of it. When I started in December 2008 I had to do it every week. The time between shaves has gradually lengthened, and presently stands (as mentioned above) at a much more reasonable three weeks. And even at three weeks, there is little to see, as my body hair is very light-coloured and has acquired a fine texture. It's there if you look for it, but really it hardly shows, and nowadays I could let it go for a month and still not seem under-groomed. But I wouldn't do that, because it means a lot to me to keep my body hair under control.

I'm sure every one of us felt horrified when, in puberty, hair began to pour relentlessly from follicles. I certainly felt deadful. I absolutely loathed the 'young man' look. It was no feather in my cap to be showing these signs of manhood. It was just as upsetting to see it in other teenagers. And although I hated school, and longed to get out into the real world, I really didn't want to do it with a craggy face and a blue chin. Ugh. And once launched into a career, I took every opportunity to find ways of keeping masculinity within manageable bounds. My younger brother felt different. He grew a moustache, and took to smoking a pipe - a deliberately old-fashioned affectation even then, in the mid 1970s - and generally adopted all kinds of very male mannerisms. I did not. And I continued to fret over many aspects of my appearance, body hair chief among them.

And I never stopped fretting in the following thirty years. A succession of girlfriends, my wife W---, and my later partner M--- must all have noticed it. It was perhaps the only consistent sign that I was not happy with my body. If it was put to me that I'd look really good in a beard, just like a viking, or (later on) that I'd look great with sexy 'designer stubble', or if it was suggested that should let my chest hair grow (I started shaving it off early on), they all got a panicky vehement NO!! from me that must have seemed very odd. In fact I do wonder why my apparent fetish with shaving, giving it unusual priority even in circumstances when I could be excused the chore, didn't trigger searching questions and an early discovery that I had a gender problem. That and my occasional experiments with girly glasses, unisex clothes and ambiguous hairstyles - whatever I might get away with. But then I didn't 'get it' myself. I simply thought I was different.

I've got an electrolysis session today, my 49th. Next time I'll present Roz with a bottle of wine to mark the 50th occasion. Yesterday, although I hadn't shaved for about 30 hours, you couldn't see any of the stubble in that 'Mexican moustache' area of my face that we've been working on. It's almost defeated. But I could feel it. So I still feel a bit wobbly about public appearances in the run-up to an electrolysis session. But one day soon there'll just be fine hair, and no stubble, and when we get to that it'll be champagne!

Monday, 24 October 2011

Please don't be shy!

One thing that intrigues me about the blogging world, and indeed about internet forums of all kinds, is why not everyone makes a proper personal profile available. In particular, why do some fail to show a contemporary photo of themselves when posting or commenting? You may see a photo of something else - a fluffy object perhaps, or an avatar - but not their actual likeness. Sometimes, there's nothing at all. I'm not suggesting that there's anything sinister going on, but it does make it harder to relate to them, and harder to evaluate what they have to say. Anonymity makes it easy to misunderstand, because there's no 'feel' for what the other person is like.

Now I'll admit at once that when I comment on blogs using Wordpress, you'll see no picture of myself. I simply haven't yet worked out how to set one up on Wordpress. And that could be the straightforward answer in many cases for Blogger users (although the Blogger procedure does seem easy to my photo-orientated mind). On the other hand, that can't be the simple explanation in all cases.

A very obvious reason for using (say) an avatar, or no image at all, and giving out only sparse personal information, is that the poster or commentator isn't fully 'out' and absolutely needs to be discreet. That's completely understandable. I follow some bloggers who are exactly in that position, as are one or two commentators whose remarks I appreciate.

But then there are a few who - judging from what they say, and the force with which they say it - have gone through the whole transition process from start to finish, and have lived a complete female life for years, but still use an avatar rather than a proper photo of themselves. And they supply only scanty personal information, so that it's quite hard to decide what they are like as people. I do wonder why there is this reticence. If they are totally integrated into normal life and have no need for discretion, and have important points to make, then why hide behind a kind of mask and risk undermining their credibility?

Is it just me? Am I abnormally free with publishing boatloads of detail about my personal life, including many, many photos. Indeed a huge number of shots, if you've ever clicked on one of the three Flickr links, and taken a good long look at what's on offer. I don't think the Police would be in any difficulty finding a recent picture of me if I ever became a missing person! In fact I think you could reconstruct most of the important facts about my life and current lifestyle from a study of the published material, the Flickr items forming a kind of visual diary on their own; never mind the stuff in the Blogger posts. You won't find my bank account details, passport number, national insurance number and similar things that need to be kept secret; but otherwise all the world can know me inside out. The only important thing missing is how I sound - but one day soon I'm going to attempt a vlog post. It'll be dire, but at least you'll hear my voice!

Contrast all this with the scant details some bloggers provide. Why is their personal appearance and life so invisible?

No doubt the diversity of human nature is at the heart of this. Some are naturally up front and in your face, others prefer a cloak of privacy. As simple as that.

But I would love to know some bloggers better, by seeing their picture, and knowing something about their real lives, even if distance means that we will never meet. Anonymity isn't a good thing.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Getting younger - and shorter!

All my older trans friends have remarked on the rejuvenating effect of feminising hormones. We are all ready to say that, yes, we look ten years younger than anyone would expect.


Tired, sagging burnt-out fifty-somethings have morphed into energetic, interesting, forty-somethings with a facial glow, and fit-looking bodies from which the more obvious blemishes have vanished. And those still the right side of forty can get away with a sweet, fresh twenties look - and behaviour to match!



Tsk. I don't know how that last picture got in. And I wanted to keep this serious.

It's not surprising. We are all on permanent HRT prescribed by specialists in the field, specially tailored to our individual needs. It's unremarkable that the good effects are optimised. I'd go so far to say that we react to our treatment better than most natal women receiving HRT from their local GP. There's also something else. We are starting a new life - and want to look good. There's a big incentive for trans women to take geat care of themselves, with careful diets, an eye to exercise, careful drinking habits, less smoking (or none at all), attention to hair and skincare and all-round personal grooming, and to wear the kind of clothes that suggest an alert and active lifestyle. And it all makes us seem younger.

I regularly get pop-eyes and disbelief from people I encounter if my real age comes into the conversation. This is gratifying and, yes, something to be enjoyed; but in the future I may not be quite so keen to disclose my senior status. There are potential difficulties. If a younger person presses to know exactly how old I am, and what sort of lifestyle I enjoy, then a frank response may well be disappointing to them. Perhaps offputting; even alienating.

A typical question that crops up is 'what do you do for a living?' - in which case, I have to admit that I'm retired, and have been for some years, and live on a pension. And that immediately makes for awkwardness if I'm speaking with a young person who has no regular job, or if in work, has no chance of retiring (let alone on a pension) for another forty years or so. Or with an older, mid-career person with heavy family responsibilities, caught up in the commuting rat-race and strapped for leisure time, who'd love to get out and relax. Even with people who, like me, have already retired, there is a problem in bringing it up because we are not all on adequate pensions.

'Are you married?' or similar enquiries generally lead to an admission that I have been married and divorced, all long ago, and have a forty-one year old stepdaughter with a husband and kiddies of her own. More goggle eyes. And maybe, if you were being chatted up, the chat ends forthwith.

After all, who makes a 'pensioner' or 'grandmother' their first choice for an exciting date?

So looking 'ten years younger' can actually turn life into a minefield. The truth does not match the appearance, and the truth will out. Never mind. When not actually being quizzed about our lives, we older trans women can move through the world with confidence that we are still visible, still stylish, and do not yet have to wear the grey shroud of old age.

But there is another issue. You shrink! Now everyone loses some height as they get older. It's something to do with the contraction of the skeleton, and may of course be accelerated by various conditions. But taking feminising hormones seems to enhance the shrinkage.

When I went to the Princess Royal Hospital eleven days ago the nurse routinely took a height measurement. It was 174cm - roughly five foot eight and a half. I said that can't be right, I'm taller than that! Can we do it again? We did, but same measurement. This was wearing no shoes, and the bit that touched the top of my head resting on the scalp. And proper posture.

This was hard to believe. Back in July 2008, at the commencement of a serious weight-reduction regime, with electronic scales to set up, I'd got M--- to measure my height very carefully, and it was then 176cm - about one inch taller. I can't vouch for my posture then: it wouldn't have been as upright as now, so the discrepency might have been even larger.

How to react? In some ways, this is good news - excessive height is a liability if you're trying to live the female life. So from that point of view, I won't be sorry if the shrinkage continues in the coming years. On the other hand, being a shorty isn't convenient if things are out of reach and you have to get up on steps and ladders, which I hate doing. And it's easier to be condescending to a small person: I don't want to be talked down to, or treated like a naughty child, just because I'm a dwarf.

On the other hand, instead of the wise words of Yoda, the wise words of Lucy it could be!

Friday, 21 October 2011

You use what you have

After publishing the post about last night's sexy dream, and reading the first comment made, a terrible thought eventually struck me. Was my sexual response really that of a man, and not that of a woman? After all, I had leaked seminal fluid, the stuff that would flow for any man in bed with the mysterious and very willing woman in my dream. (And it was a woman, not some man)

That was a disturbing notion.

But then I thought about it. My body was simply using what it had. Given the stimulus of the situation in the dream, some reaction was going to occur, and, thus triggered, the body could only throw in what was available. I wasn't a natal female, and so I didn't have the means to secrete vaginal mucus in copious amounts; but I still possessed  internal male bits that, if stimulated, would produce something suitable for the occasion - and that something was this seminal fluid. It didn't prove that I was acting as a man, or was enjoying sex in a male frame of mind. It simply meant that I was excited, and I was demonstrating it with the only fluid allowed by my anatomy.

In the early days of my transition, it was pointed out to me again and again that I'd sometimes had successful sex in the past. Not often, but there had been some good sessions, and I didn't deny it. These successes were however supposed to prove that I wasn't female-minded in any respect, because I'd done it the male way and got something out of it.

My answer to this was that everyone had sexual urges now and then, and if the internal pressure (or encouragement) to relieve them was too much, then you just went with the flow and enjoyed the moment in any way open to you. Lacking a woman's body, I had used the body I was born with. I made the best of it, and sometimes things went poorly, somethimes pretty well. Any orgasms, any feelings of euphoria, simply meant that the natural hunger for a good sensation with a woman I had profound feelings for had overcome my inhibitions and reticence.

But the only thing it actually 'proved' was that I was capable of experiencing great pleasure - and not that I was specifically one gender or another.

I don't know whether I'm right or wrong with this kind of thinking. I feel I'm right, but that could be self-deception. Now if it were possible to relive the dream under controlled conditions, and somehow record my brain activity in objective detail...

It seems the only practical way to put my frame of mind to the test would be a real-life trial. I don't think I'm quite ready for that!

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Glandular overflow

I had an experience last night which I'd like to discuss.

It happened just after four in the morning. I was dreaming. In this very realistic dream I was in bed with a natal blonde woman of my age who I didn't know in real life, but in the dream was clearly someone I knew well. We had drifted into a playful, cosy and comfortable lovemaking position in the bed - my front to her back, and I was getting a very moist (if not actually gushing) response from stroking her genital area with my fingers. And then I began to feel wet as well. At that point I woke up breathing very heavily and with a taught lower abdomen, as if all my muscles down there were clenched. I had to allow a little time for the breathing to ease and the muscles to relax. On the panties that I wore in bed was a round wet patch of clear fluid.  It had no smell that I could detect, but then my sense of smell isn't especially acute.

I doffed the panties, and went to the bathroom to clean up in the shower. But before I did, I felt inside the vaginal cleft and discovered that it was well lubricated with a colourless but sticky fluid of some kind. I couldn't tell what the source might be, but it wasn't at all like urine; it was more like KY gel, but runnier.

Back to bed, in fresh panties. The only other effects to note were a sensitive back - it felt a bit itchy - and a feeling of hunger that almost drove me into the kitchen, but it passed. I pondered what might have brought the dream on, where the fluid could have come from if it wasn't pee, and whether I'd just had my first truly orgasmic sensation. Then I drifted off to sleep again, none the wiser.

So what actually happened?

In the morning the round wet patch on those panties had dried to a round, stiff but still colourless patch. There was still no smell. Not urine, then.

Given that I'd undoubtedly simulated a sexual experience in my mind, I considered the possible sources of the clear fluid, and how it had been delivered. Obviously it couldn't possibly be sperm-laden semen ejaculated in the male manner. And I hadn't been aware of any muscular contractions to pump the stuff along my urethra - although this impression wasn't conclusive, because I'd been asleep at the critical moment! But it might be sperm-free seminal fluid leaking from the prostate (it's still there of course), fed by the seminal vesicles (also still there) - see Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prostate, and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seminal_vesicle. That said, the fluid was colourless, not milky. So maybe it originated from the bulbourethral gland (Cowper's gland), which also secretes into the urethra - see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bulbourethral_gland. Obviously I can speculate no further without advice from a specialist, but my best guess is that the source of the mysterious fluid was one of these organs.

I can't say that I'm entirely happy about the prostate being involved in any orgasm I might achieve from now on. I thought that, post-op, it would go into a peaceful retirement and stay there!

And although it may be a kind of bonus to know that a lubricatory fluid can gush when sexually stimulated, this isn't the mucus that natal females secrete inside the vagina - it's more akin to the fluid they produce from an active Skene's gland (aka the female prostate: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skene%27s_gland) and/or from Bartholin's gland (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bartholin%27s_gland). Oh well, better than nothing!

And what does all this say about my capacity for a proper sex life? I'd say I was making progress.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Male interests

Angela of Angie's Aspirations related the other day how she employed a clever bit of subterfuge to buy an item of model railway signalling from a specialist shop that wouldn't normally be patronised by a woman. It worked brilliantly. Her post was significant enough to feature on T-Central. Quite an honour.

This entire subject area seems under-discussed, so here's my own contribution.

Hobbies and interests that developed in the 'old era' are to be not lightly thrown aside once the female life is adopted. If you honestly have a deep interest in such things as classic muscle cars, diesel engine maintenance, boat-building, creative welding, speedway racing, boxing, shark fishing, stamp collecting, and, yes, railway modelling, then why on earth should you give it up? At least, why should you give it up just because it's generally considered 'ungirly' or 'unwomanly'?

You might with good reason have to stop because it's physically beyond you, but then some hands-on hobbies and interests can still be watched as a spectator, even if you aren't actually an active participator.

All this said, you don't want to send out the wrong messages. It's all very well to point at, say, Vicki Butler-Henderson (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vicki_Butler-Henderson) on Channel Five's Fifth Gear and say, there's a lovely girl who likes to drive insanely fast in insanely powerful supercars, and yet she looks fabulous in a miniskirt. If you have the same skills, background, personality, physique and allure, well go ahead by all means; but if you're a dumpy middle-aged mumsy type, I'd be cautious. When your femininity is a trifle wobbly, not 100% established, it might be wise not to attract attention, raise eyebrows, and invite close scrutiny. Unless of course you don't give a damn, in which case, all power to you.

I don't consider that I have any especially eyebrow-raising hobbies and interests. But looking around my study/library/computer room (it's technically my second bedroom) I have to admit that it's stuffed full of books and other things that aren't especially girly.

Some items are of course. The paintings hung up in here depict wildlife subjects - birds and animals - that a woman might go for. And Mum's sewing machine catches the eye. Then there are books on cooking, clothes, gardening, home hints, medical matters, personal safety and knitting. And there are books on calligraphy, shorthand, archaeology, ancient history, architecture, astronomy and several dictionaries and other reference works that a woman of education might possess. And in my lounge is a small library of books on art.

Ah, but what about all those books on railways, clocks and watches, technical aspects of photography, war, espionage, codes and cyphers, crime, business ventures, tales of the sea, ships, cars, caravans, cameras and computers? And while women may like travel books, and books on foreign cultures and languages, my bookshelves are groaning rather too heavily with them. And, most incongruous of all, is my vast collection of maps. I've specialised in collecting Ordnance Survey maps of Great Britain since a child, and have by now amassed a most impressive number,  in various scales, of most parts of the country, going back into the 1800s. Naturally there are also Irish maps and maps from Europe and elsewhere in the world. It all screams 'male hobby', but there is no way I'm going to hide it all up in the attic, or throw it all away, just to prove that I'm a girl.

One hobby, the main one, is not to be seen at all. All my photos are on the PC, or my laptop, or on various portable hard drives. They are not up on my walls. Even the cameras are out of sight. There's a fancy photo printer and a fancy photo scanner, but you'd not necessarily guess from these that I take 1,000 shots a month and devote a big chunk of my time to shooting, editing, processing, publishing and viewing all those pictures.

Photography is one of those borderline interests for women. Plenty carry a good camera and like to get great shots. But not many women can or want to spend as much time as I do on the results. And while there are women at local photo clubs, and women who have turned professional as (say) wedding photographers, they are heavily outnumbered by men. When a fine sunset looms on the Sussex coast, you'll always see a few girls turn out, but the heavy metal SLRs and the tripods and the equipment-rich backbacks are all toted by a herd of men, who doubtless secure absolutely fine shots, technically brilliant, but not necessarily any better in real-life terms than the pictures snapped by the girls. At least girls can be there, and use their cameras, and not feel out of place.

Mind you, I find that (to my own amusement) I really do like to play up to the general male mega-seriousness at such photo events, as if I'm a rank amateur who can barely do more than press the shutter button. The smallness of my camera helps. They see me take it out of my handbag ('Typical woman!'). I make sure to keep a finger over the red 'Leica' badge, so they don't see that ('Huh! It's just a little point-and-shoot camera, not a proper one'). I get a few shots in with a nonchalant casualness ('She hasn't a clue about composition and careful exposure'). Then I touch up my lipstick, and wander down to the shoreline, behaving in a frivolous, let's-play-with-the-seaweed-and-nice-bits-of-driftwood sort of way that must cause disdainful smiles to writhe on their manly lips. I just take care not to be in their field of view, so that their shots aren't spoiled by an unwanted lay figure.

Oh, I like being a woman so much!

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Golda Meir and vulnerability

A couple of years ago I was listening to the radio, and heard an anecdote about the Israeli Prime Minister during the early 1970s, Golda Meir. I remembered her. She was a tough and forthright old lady. This showed on her face, which was an easy target for cartoonists:


The anecdote concerned an occasion when journalists were present, and one of them in particular, a strident young man, gave her a very hard time, treating her to the full force of his barbed, almost insulting voice, not merely as if she were the most despicable of politicians caught out in a big lie, but as if she were nothing but a vile old hag.

She took it. But afterwards, she managed to have a word with the man, who in fact was a familiar adversary. They already had a kind of wary respect for each other. But on this occasion he had gone a bit too far. She said to him (and I'll have to give you the gist, because I can't remember the exact words): 'Young man, your questions were to the point, and fair, but you nearly destroyed me with your manner. You forgot that I am a woman.'  She wasn't asking for special treatment, only for a recognition that despite her own formidable manner and appearance, she was a woman and therefore vulnerable to personal attacks in a way that a man would not be. The journalist apologised, and took the comment to heart. Because it was he who was relating the anecdote on that radio programme all those years later.


So a seasoned and hardened politician who certainly wasn't pretty, and must have known that, was stung by the words of a young man on the make. What can be drawn from this?

I thought it was remarkable that she sought him out afterwards and confessed that she had been hurt. Remarkable too that she impressed him so much by this frankness that he never again abused his position, and became an admirer.

It made me wonder how I would react to a devastating personal verbal attack. And whether I would be left speechless with mortification, or have the guts to confront my attacker. You need some courage, both to admit vulnerability, and to face the strong possibilty that instead of an apology, you will get a further blast of soul-destroying sneers. Apologies are so hard to get. The attacker has to climb down, admit fault. In the real world, it doesn't often happen.

It's worth thinking hard on how to make it happen, every time.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Country girl: the new Dubarry boots have arrived!

Eat your heart out, townies!

I was driving south-eastwards yesterday, intending to go walking in the brilliantly bright sunshine high up on the South Downs near Alfriston, when Jane from Aston Bourne in Brighton phoned me to say that my new Dubarry boots had arrived. Well, what would you do? I completely changed my plans. I turned Fiona around, and sped off in the opposite direction, well south-westwards anyway. She was just as excited as I was, and her blazing headlights cleaved a path throught the afternoon traffic as we thundered into Brighton, other drivers saluting us as we passed. Well, they honked their horns! The police must have fixed the traffic lights specially: it was a green wave. Within half an hour I was smiling inanely at Jane, and we opened the box, as if it were a delicious shared conspiracy.

The size 42.5/8.5 boots fitted perfectly. I didn't wear them straight away. I took them back to my favourite underground car park in The Lanes, hid them in the boot, and went shopping for a cream short-sleeved cardigan, to expand my collection of items that would look good with these new boots. I found exactly what I wanted at Jane Norman (who seem to have come through their rocky phase earlier in the year - full of really nice autumn stock now). Then it was Debenhams. I thought it worth looking for a brown or dark tan long jacket or short coat that would also go with the boots. And Betty Jackson had just what I wanted. I hesitated over the price - I was stretching my new monthly budgeting arrangements a bit here - then made up my mind and bought it. So now I'm all set to step out into the autumn sunshine - or rain - properly attired!

And nicely in time for my Somerset holiday in early November. I've booked it. I'm pitching my caravan at the Caravan Club site at Cheddar. That's perfect for the coast (sunsets at Burnham-on-Sea, Weston-super-Mare and Clevedon), the levels (more sunsets) , the Mendip Hills and Cheddar Gorge (some nice walking, and maybe a spot of tourist caving), Bristol, Bath, Wells, and the American Museum at Claverton, to name some places I intend to visit. And my aunt in Newport is just an hour away.

Now for some pix. Here are the boots, just after unpacking at home, so the labels are still on. The sunset light in my lounge has intensified the colour of the leather very well:


I think they're gorgeous. I've been wearing them around the house, of course - and have them on at this very moment - but I can't wait to wear them out and about for the first time. You'll see at once that these are not 'fashion boots', even though they are very fashionable. They are not made of thin leather that hugs the shape of your calf. There's no heel. Nor will you require long shoehorns or discreet zips to get them on and off. Nor will they be a problem if your feet swell, or if you are prone to corns. They are supple and roomy with a decent rubber grip pattern on the sole, and their underlying purpose is to keep you stylishly dryshod (and sure-footed) in muddy farmyards, on moorland paths, and when watching Highland Games or hurling in the rain. If kept pristine, I'd expect to wear them around any town, even on Oxford Street, in any store, in any restaurant, in any kind of gallery. I wouldn't wear them to the opera. And if walking craggy hills I would wear my proper Alt-Berg walking boots instead. But for half the year, if I want a degree of style, then these boots will be my outdoor footwear of choice, and I expect them to age well.

They are lined with Gore-Tex, the water-resistant but breathable material, and I understand that I can wade across streams in them, as if they were posh wellies. I'll take that with a pinch of salt! But they should shrug off the effects of long wet grass. Their roominess means that in icy weather I can wear snug and warm socks in them.

One of the labels said 'Yard manure and waste liquids can be very corrosive to leather. To prolong performance and protection for your Dubarrys, always scrub them with fresh tap water after exposure'. Oh damn. That means I can't stomp through cowpats, slurry and chicken shit and then simply step into Fiona, fire her up, and arrive triumphantly at the Hunt Ball. I'll first have to find a mountain stream or cold water tap and wash 'em off. What a palaver! All for the best, I suppose.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Are you well named?

One's first name or names are terribly personal, and tend to define how people see you. If you like your name, and everybody else likes it too, you tend to 'grow' into it so that it seems to fit your personality exactly, and you could not be called anything else.

I've written about my own name before - see for instance Will you take some tea, Miss Melford? on 19 July 2009. In this post I'm concentrating on the forename (in my case Lucy). As the July 2009 post says (rather succinctly for me!), I chose Lucy because I'd always liked it, and its main vowel sound (the 'oo') was also prominent in my former name, which was Julian. I could say the same of the consonant 'l' and the vowel 'i' -  'uli' became 'lui'. Both Julian and Lucy are liquid names that involve a bit of tongue work to articulate.

I don't think they are all that far apart, although the shadowy connection of Lucy with Julian isn't at all obvious; and having any connection at all wasn't uppermost in my mind when naming myself. It was more important to have a name that would suit me, and elicit the right sort of response in the people I would encounter in my new life as Lucy. I felt it was a sweet kind of name that would produce a gentle reaction and give me a breathing space. It wasn't a harsh or abrupt or puzzling kind of name that would confuse or wrong-foot or offend. It wasn't foreign or exotic to English ears. It was short and easy to spell. It existed when I was born, so it wasn't an anachronism, and it well suited a certain type of lively middle-aged educated woman from a middle-class background with a leaning (or pretentions, if you prefer) towards art and style - the name of a lady of leisure and independent means certainly. There was no Lucy in the family tree that I knew of, and no family member would be put out if I adopted that name.

The entire name - Lucy Melford - seemed to flow easily off the tongue, full of soft-sounding letters, and I thought it was somewhat evocative of the old English countryside. That was a deliberate intention, a nod to my Dad's origins in Devon, although the only common 'Mel-' elements in West Country placenames seem to occur in Dorset (e.g. Melbury Abbas, Melbury Bubb, Melcombe Bingham, Melplash). Long Melford and Melford Hall are in Suffolk. My neice told me that 'Lucy Melford' could have been a character in one of Jane Austen's novels. That pleased me very much.

I confess that I was also influenced by the down-to-earth and comprehensive advice on choosing a suitable name in Andrea James' Transsexual RoadMap (http://www.tsroadmap.com/reality/nameindex.html). Required reading, I'd have thought! I also paid attention to how easily the name 'Lucy Melford' could be written in my own fair hand (see http://www.tsroadmap.com/physical/handwriting/index.html). After all, even if everything is typed nowadays, you still have to sign your name sometimes in face-to-face situations, there are still cheques to write and sign, and all paper forms require a signature. Your handwritten name needs to flow quickly and easily from the pen, with no hestitation and no difficult or unnatural pen movements.

So much for myself. What do other people call themselves? Here's list of MTF trans people that I've come across in UK social situations, mostly the ones who made it into my address book:

Alexandra
Alice
Amanda
Amy
Andie
Angela
Angelica
April
Ashley
Beth Anne
Caroline
Celia
Charlotte
Chantelle
Cheryl
Chrissie
Chrissy
Christy
Debbie
Dee (2)
Della
Drusilla
Emily
Emma (2)
Faye
Gemma
Helen
Jane (2)
Jenna
Jenny (2)
Jessica
Jo (2)
Julie
Juliet
Karen
Kia
Kim
Kimberley
Linda
Louisa
Lucy (me)
Martine
May
Mel (2)
Meta
Michaela
Michelle (2)
Mischa
Nancy
Natasha (2)
Nicki
Nicky (2)
Paula (2)
Persia
Philippa
Polly
Purdi
Rachel
Rebecca (2)
Rheya
Rhianna
Sarah (4)
Sarah Jayne
Sky
Sophie (2)
Stef
Steph (2)
Stella
Sue
Suzanna
Teresa
Toni
Vicky (2)
Victoria
Viola
Yolanda
Zoey

That's nearly three years worth of accumulated names! Things that strike me are:

# Most names seem to come from the first half of the alphabet, A to M (55/94 = 58%); but the commonest in my collection is Sarah.
# Some are exotic or unusual, but not all that many.
# Only a few are oddly or unexpectedly spelt.
# Nearly all are single names, and not a double-barrelled combination.
# Absent are some everyday female names like Katie, Carol, Betty, Tracey, Jackie, Alison, Anne, Frances, Ruth, Joanna, Maggie, Wendy, Marilyn and Mary. 
# Also absent are some 'posh' female names like Olivia, Jocasta, and of course Fiona.

I get the feeling that 'ordinary' female names have been avoided, perhaps in the quest for some individuality, or an intention to stand out from the crowd just a little. (But not too much!)

It's a good point to make that - in British culture, and excluding stage people and that sort of person - only transsexuals get the chance to adopt and use in real life another name that they have chosen for themselves. It's a fantastic privilege.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Examined by an NHS consultant

A real 'medical' day! This morning I saw my GP about some 'abnormal' blood test results, particularly the one for thyroid. The test result suggested that it was under-active, but the other test results contradicted that, and besides, I felt in good, robust health with plenty of energy (in short bursts anyway, because I still tire rather quickly; but then I'm not exactly as fit as an athlete). She thought it might just be one of my personal characteristics, but recommended that I highlight the low thyroid result to Dr Curtis when I see him on 31 October. I most certainly will.

In the afternoon I went up to The Princess Royal Hospital at Haywards Heath for a consultation with Mr Farrands, whose speciality is digestive diseases and their surgical treatment. I could not have been 'processed' with more promptness and consideration. It was 'Lucy' this and 'Lucy' that, all very sweet, as if everyone enjoyed saying my name! Waiting around was minimal. Soon Mr Farrands' clinical nurse Elaine O'Malley took charge of me. She was very reassuring and cheerful, and set me at ease about the examination. Then I met Mr Farrands himself, who seemed such a kind and gentle man.

Next I had to get up on the bed, at first on my back, so that he could examine my tummy. I had to pull my bottom-half garments right down to expose the entire lower abdomen, although not as low as the vulva itself. So he didn't quite see the last faint signs of my surgery. But nevertheless I was pretty well-revealed! It crossed my mind to tell him that I'd had reassignment surgery, but I decided not to mention it unless he asked. And I hoped that Elaine saw nothing to make her wonder.

He did not ask, and she did not wonder. He ran his fingers down the sides of my tummy, and pressed firmly here and there, with nary a word of query or puzzlement. Clearly he found nothing unusual. Presumably he was feeling for such things as swellings or blockages or an enlarged appendix. I felt no discomfort from this gentle probing, which was actually reassuring - my internals must be in good order!

One thing he wouldn't have felt, of course, were little kicks inside.

Satisfied, he then asked me to turn over onto my side while he conducted further probing, but I won't go into that!

I could then pull my clothes up and hear the verdict, which was that I was basically fine, and should simply maintain the many good features of my diet. He'd noticed one or two things about my digestive tract, but it was nothing of any concern. He explained all this potentially worrying stuff with great gentleness. I was then discharged. Elaine completed the process, with advice on what to do if I ever felt that another appointment might be needed. She too was so kind to me.

So I've passed yet another demanding test in my apprenticeship as a woman. A physical examination, no less, by a senior NHS doctor who did not know that I was trans - because local NHS hospital records do not say so. It makes me speculate that a physical encounter with an ordinary mortal might go rather well, and that I should have nothing to fear.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Light lunches, but I'm still way too cuddly!

Sigh. I really try to keep my weight under control. I'm not obsessed with it, but I religiously leap on my sophisticated electronic scales every Wednesday morning and learn the latest (not too good) news about my weight, body fat, body water, muscle mass, BMI and basal metabolic rate. It never seems to get radically better. Then I get the tape measure out and see what bits have expanded or shrunk. Bust, waist, hips. There is a glacial but definite change here: millimetre by millimetre my bust and hips seem to be getting a bit larger, but what has happened to my waist? Let's not enquire too closely. If it matters that much to me, I know exactly what to do. I put together a very effective calorie-counting regime last January when pre-op and under surgeon's orders to lose 10kg - and I can do it again.

Breakfast for me is usually two Weetabix with milk, dried apricots and two cups of tea. Lunches can be as slender as two Ryvita crackers, some olives, a small hunk of cheese, an apple and another cup of tea.  Sometimes, if I'll be active in the afternoon or will be eating late in the evening, I have a bit more. Look, here are a couple of recent 'big' lunches:


Ah, that was the last of the North Devon free-range eggs. They were flavoursome, and no mistake!


And this was simply tinned mackerel with the usual ration of olives, plus the usual apple.

My evening meals are something I look forward to, and I like them tasty and cooked. At home I'll enjoy almost anything in the meat and fish line, always with plenty of vegetables, but cooked without rich sauces, and I try to keep the portions smaller nowadays.  And no booze and no dessert, just another apple with a coffee to follow. It's not usual for me to cook a shop-bought pizza or curry or thai or chinese, but I'll eat these things maybe once or twice a fortnight, just to add some extra variety. I'm no saint. But then I'm no greedy hog either.

My trouble is that I really don't burn my calories off. I'm not active enough. But that can be changed in an instant.

And am I fretful and tearful about eating out in restaurants or at friends' houses? Here's two shots of me from last weekend. Judge for yourself!


The dress was from Monsoon.

It'll soon be time for my midday gruel. Can't wait.

Actually it's a slice or two of ox tongue, with sun-dried tomatoes and an apple. I'm out this afternoon, and don't want to faint from lack of nourishment.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Female behaviour - wired in from birth, or mostly learned?

In this post I'm attempting to explore how natal females come by their distinctive modes of behaviour, and whether it might be mostly a matter of learning it gradually while growing up. Because if that is true, then women with a trans history stand a realistic chance of picking it all up too, and practicing female behavioural patterns until they become perfect and automatic.

In the past, whether it was in male mode, or in the early days of transition when I faced fierce opposition to what I had embarked upon, it was drummed into me that women are 'wired up' in a certain way at birth - equipped with pre-determined female brain-connections if you will - that were quite unlike those of male babies, and that consequently the two sexes were always going to 'think differently' and 'behave differently' in certain characteristic ways. And examples were given to me of how a woman ends up with one type of approach, while a man has quite another. Or she feels or reacts like this, whereas he will feel or react like that - with the female of the species always having the more sensitive or perceptive edge. Similarly for interests: the woman's are people-centred and concerned with what will beautify her home and make her family happy; a man's are focussed on himself, and often involve a selfish use of time and money. And he can never break out of that, never be like her.

I'm bound to say that I used to feel there was a bit of propaganda and myth being thrust at me in this connection, having its roots in childhood assertions such as girls are 'sugar and spice and all things nice', and boys are 'slugs and snails and puppy-dogs' tails'. Which basically means that girls are nice, and they're clean; but boys are not nice, and they're dirty.

No wonder that some boys end up fitting their stereotype very well. And attitudes such as 'boys will be boys' and a general tolerance of anti-social male behaviour tend to reinforce the notion that even if a bad boy deserves punishment, his deeds reveal spirit and toughness and bravery and various competitive qualities that will stand him in good stead when he grows up and has to make his way in the world.

Boys are subject to this type of conditioning from an early age, and so it isn't surprising that many do admire muscular super-heroes, and want to be powerful and dominant, and see nothing wrong with fighting and cheating and putting weaker people down with a cruel and unthinking laugh. Not all boys, of course; but even the more 'civilised' male children find it hard to resist 'acting like a proper boy'. And if it's not in them to misbehave, they are still aware of the standard cultural expectations, and might feel inadequate or an outsider as a result; or get bullied by peers or parents if they don't conform. There must be a lot of fathers who are proud of a brutalised but respected son, and ashamed or scornful of one who seems weak. Certainly male criminality has been largely condoned, and in some quarters glorified.

My point is that a boy's outlook and behaviour is largely learned, a product of his environment and parenting. The biological impulses that (for instance) make him want sex, or protect his own, do not affect his conduct in the same fine detail as what he picks up as he grows up.

And if this applies to boys, then why not to girls also?

It has been put to me that the very different upbringing of girls adds little to an innate gentleness and motherliness, so that they are inevitably submissive, unassertive and child-centric.

It has also been put to me that natural selection ensures that competitive and dynamic women who are uninterested in having babies, or who fail to take opportunities to have any, do not replicate themselves. Consequently their qualities and talents remain unusual and untypical for females in general. And therefore only those female scientists and artists and political leaders who produce children to carry their personal characteristics forward can leave a mark on the great mass of womanhood. If that is true, it might explain why 'women come from Venus, and men from Mars', and why that never seems to change.

I think that if women were brought up differently, and not in conformity to a sterotype, their attitudes and expectations in later life would be very different too. Perhaps most would still go for a family, but the balance of power within that family unit, and the place of women in that society, would both be enhanced. And I think that history tends to illustrate this. Greatly expanded opportunities - and encouragements - for girls to receive a higher and more technical education in recent decades has transformed them as a force in the world and released a deluge of hitherto untapped talent. The days of a woman's normal place 'being in the home' as a compliant and subverted domestic slave are long gone. Would John Lennon and Yoko Ono feel justified in penning that song entitled Woman is the Nigger of the World (see Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Woman_Is_the_Nigger_of_the_World and YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Asf4InKVo8k ) in 2011? (John Lennon was murdered in New York in 1980, you may recall; by a man with an attitude problem, needless to say)

I believe that any person, male or female, learns their social role and its associated behaviour from what they are exposed to in their early years. And that it that isn't simply a question of neural connections that can't be altered. Further, I believe that if my transness had been recognised and medically treated from birth, and I'd been raised as a girl, and exposed to all the experiences girls have, and if my Mum had loved me and cared for me as a girl, I'd have grown up with exactly the same attitudes, emotions, predispositions, expectations and skills as the other girls. You wouldn't have been able to discern any difference.

And if it could all have been learned when young, then surely some of it can still be learned now?

What do natal females think about this? Is it tosh, or am I shedding some light on an under-discussed subject that many take for granted?

Friday, 7 October 2011

Meeting the wife

By now I know - or know of - at least half a dozen couples who are made up of a trans female husband plus a natal female wife. Mostly I haven't met the wife, but the possibility exists for anytime in the future, whether by design or accident. I could be faced with 'here she is now, let me introduce you' at very short notice. And it's a daunting prospect, much more challenging than meeting a potential partner or lover on a date, which seems a casual and inconsequential thing by comparison.

I try to put myself in the wife's place. I imagine her thinking like this.

Wife: 'My husband is fading, or at least changing, and with that our relationship and our whole future. Why is this happening? Because of a condition that has flared up and taken my husband over, and seems to be the most important thing in his universe, despite protestations and reassurances that it isn't so. And now this. I'm being asked to meet someone just like my husband. OK, she's not an embarrassing parody of a woman; in fact she's pleasant, sensible, engaging, has a nice voice, nice hair, has made herself look almost pretty, and is dressed quietly and tastefully. She's very natural, and I'd be happy to meet her in the street, just by myself. But not here in my home. Not with my husband present. She's living proof that he can be so transformed that the old person is totally lost. I like her, but I fear her too, and she's definitely not the sort of person I want my husband to see, because she'll just give him hope.' 

I've no idea whether any wife actually has these thoughts, but what if I'm guessing correctly? You can see why meeting the other half fills me with some anxiety. Don't get me wrong: I'm in no danger myself. All might very well be smiles and laughter and good manners. But only on the surface. At a deeper level, an introduction to me could simply make matters worse. I'd be an agent of destruction.

I really do want to find that I'm completely wrong here, because I'd absolutely love to meet the wife and listen to her side of things.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Post-op test results for Oestragen and Testosterone; and those boots

I had a battery of tests carried out last week, and they've now come through. Some, like my thyroid and glucose levels, aren't too good, and I've made a follow-up appointment with my doctor to discuss them. But the ones I was avid to know seem just right. Here they are. Remember that I'm just over seven months post-op at this point, and my dosage, using patches, is 100mcg of Oestradiol twice a week:

Oestragen: 461 pmol/L (the normal female range per the NHS is 46.0 to 607.0)
Testosterone: 0.9 nmol/L (the normal female range per the NHS is 0.101 to 1.42)

I'm sure Dr Curtis will be pleased. I shall now book an appointment with him, and also get him to write the letter I need from him in support of my GRC application.

And another little announcement that gives me joy. I've ordered those Dubarry boots after all. That's the knee-length tan 'Galway' version with the brown upper and  brown horizontal bands, the absolutely classic Dubarry boot. I went in the end to Aston Bourne in Brighton and spent forty minutes with Jane, who handles the boot purchases. The main issue was the size. I'm a general size 8, but in the more precise continental fittings I've been looking in the past at either size 41 or 42. I've found from experience that a 41 is just too small. 42 is often correct - it depends on the make. But 42 wasn't quite right for Dubarry. In the end we refined it to a size 42.5, which gave me the roominess I like, essential if its so cold that I'm going to wear socks rather than tights.

I duly placed the order. They could take up to two weeks to arrive. Then I'll  go all county.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

What to eat? Meat or veg or both? Or a green wafer called Soylent Green?

While idly checking out aspects of dieting, I strayed onto the website of the Vegan Society.

I gave it a little time, but the idea of living exclusively on vegetable matter, including wearing only vegetable-based clothing and footwear, seemed unappealing. I did note the positive effects of being a strict vegetarian, but it still didn't hook me in.

Many of the real-life vegetarians that I've encountered (whether vegans, or rather less strict than that) have had a thin, under-nourished look to me, as if they have taken the whole thing a bit too far. Of course, that may have been exactly how they should have looked, and they had in fact achieved the difficult and highly laudable goal of having the correct BMI for their age and height. If so, there is nothing I can say against their eating regime.

But I still wouldn't join them.

Some reasons come to mind. First and foremost, I like food in all its forms. I like its different textures and flavours and colours. All of them. Well, maybe not slimy things like oysters! But it would be a nightmare if I had to exist wholly on pills or bland reconstituted pap, however nutritious. (Does that eliminate me from the eventual manned mission to Mars and back? Oh dear) On a less extreme plane, I'd hate to live on a monotonous diet of baked beans on toast every day, or fish and chips every single night, or nothing but burgers, whether prepared at the Savoy Grill or at the Burger King on the corner.

I want variety. I like nearly everything. Vegetables are delicious, and I eat them in quantity, but I want meat and fish as well, to give me the full menu. After all, when I last checked, homo sapiens was regarded as an omnivorous animal, not just a plant grazing one.

But then, what about the suffering and death of animals, fish and birds caught up in the human food machine? The Vegan Society made the very good point that even if a food animal is reared in highly pleasant conditions, it still faces separation from its companions and a sudden, frightening death when its time for the slaughterhouse arrives, quite apart from not living its full lifespan. Who is to say that a given pig, or cow, or chicken, or turkey, or salmon, or trout doesn't experience a horrible moment of terror or despair when killed, however obscurely felt? Is this however a good reason to give up eating flesh?

Perhaps naively, when young - you ponder death often then - I always used to wonder what wheat or grass or potato plants or lettuces or apples felt when cut down or picked. Surely they felt something. Why didn't anyone complain about their treatment? Yes, I knew they had no brains, but they were still life forms, and not minerals. I felt there was a shortfall of logic here, but I didn't have the mental equipment to take the matter further.

And then there's the economic angle. Plants are cheap to grow, and you can easily increase harvests if you apply enough money, and do scientific research, and use factory methods. It's clearly the answer if world starvation looms. Animals on the other hand are expensive to rear, use up land, and people frown on genetic meddling and intensive factory methods, never mind the gassy anal emissions. Poor folk might be able to afford seed for their crops, or market produce if town-dwellers, but meat has always been a luxury and, throughout history, beyond the financial reach of most on this planet. Is it right to continue with farm animals when you could grow crops instead on the same land?

Big questions.

The resolution of them will of course be taken out of our hands by world events. If world population explodes much further, or climate change makes the amount of viable agricultural land shrink to a critically low level, we will all have to adapt to a veggie diet, whatever we feel about it. I just hope not in the circumstances depicted in the 1973 film Soylent Green (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soylent_Green). It's set in 2022, just eleven years ahead. And there's an ingredient in that green wafer you'd definitely not want to know about.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Autumn leaves, The Thing, and Bodyline bowling

And now for something completely different.


As yesterday was supposed to be the last really fine day before wetter and colder weather set in for a while, I made a point of visiting one of the nearby National Trust properties close to me. Being a Life Member, I can go to any of them on a whim, just for tea and cake perhaps, but I like Sheffield Park because it has lakes and plenty of nice colourful plants and trees. However, as you can see from the shot above, the real autumn colours had not yet started to show in any great quantity. My goodness, what then does a keen photographer do?

Well, the trick in these circumstances is to concentrate on individual leaves that have a bit of colour. You get in close:


Another trick is to use water to enhance what colour there is:


However, next to water you will always find some strange plants, and one that gives me the creeps is the big variety of gunera. This is the one used as an umbrella-like ornamental plant. But really it's a maneating prehistoric monster, that looks alien from the moment it starts to sprout:


It rapidly grows into a clump of sinister stems topped with huge, deeply veined leaves. It beckons you in. You are unwilling, but the fatal fascination is hard to resist. And once trapped under that canopy, once you have brushed against any of those thick, fleshy, prickly stems, or the deadly little brown seed clusters, you are doomed. You'll be absorbed and become one of them. Or at least that's the feeling these intimidating plants inspire in me! Very much on the lines of The Quatermass Experiment, in particular the 1955 film version which must lie at the root of my nightmarish aversion to these plants (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Quatermass_Xperiment). And not dissimilar to the 1982 film The Thing (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Thing_%281982_film%29). They do have one redeeming point: they are photographically impressive, and can be given a number of treatments:


In a woodland clearing on higher ground above the lakes was a cricket pitch. This had been created in the nineteenth century - and presumably used when W G Grace (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/W._G._Grace) was at the height of his fame - but had fallen into disuse during the Second World War. However, in recent years, the Trust had restored it, providing a new pavilion. I was the only visitor. I stood behind the railings on the front of the pavilion and pondered over the tranquil scene, imagining a game in progress:


I have in my time watched some village cricket. I can perfectly see the attraction of that. Local players; wives and girlfriends watching in the sun on deckchairs; a general mellowness, spiced with a little drama now and then as a ball goes to the boundary uncaught, or it seems that someone is starting to pile up runs, and the concentration and cunning gets intense so as to get him out by one of the various means available: bowled, LBW, caught, or run out. They say cricket is a game of psychological pressure as much as physical skill. Certainly it seems that a demoralised side always loses. But that's true in any sphere of activity.

I'm not a 'cricket fan' and I don't really understand the game, but it is so very English, and seems best to me when played in the English countryside on sunny afternoons, with tea and lemonade and sandwiches to enjoy during intervals, and after the last click of bat on ball has sounded in the setting sun. I very much enjoyed the 1984 TV series Bodyline (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bodyline_%28miniseries%29), even though it was of course full of dramatic licence. Wikipedia has however an equally enthralling description of the notorious 1932/33 Australian Tour in which the Bodyline style of bowling featured, and of the dark passions it aroused (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bodyline). I'm assuming that Wikipedia's account is more accurate!

For a while after the TV series was screened I took more notice of cricket, but it has long slid way down on the list of things I can give time to. And I still don't understand the scoring system. But it gets my vote as a Good Thing.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Issues that won't go away

My post on perfect presentation and its problems certainly caused a stir that I didn't anticipate.

You know, I wouldn't have minded if I'd got just one response on the lines of 'Yes, I see what you mean, and I agree that as a practical policy you just have to live with any problems, make the best of it, and not agonise too much'. Which is exactly what I do. Look at my pictures. You can see it's true, right there on my face.

Instead that post generated over twenty comments, and went into self-belief territory that wasn't at all in my mind when I composed the post.

To set the record straight, please take the following as exactly how things are for me:

1. I believe that I was born with a female mind.
2. But I was also born with a masculinised body, and accordingly designated 'male' from birth.
3. Everyone duly treated me as a little boy, and I myself grew up with that notion in my mind.
4. The notion was reinforced by every aspect of my young life, and I couldn't avoid thorough male conditioning. That meant I couldn't learn to be as girls were. That's why some have said that I don't 'think like a girl'.
5. Certainly I felt 'different' from pre-school times, and that feeling persisted, but I couldn't analyse it nor put a name to it. I was child; I accepted everything I was told; and the concept of gender dysphoria didn't exist in the UK at the time.
6. So I simply ignored any oddness or variance or discontent that I felt within my mind. Of course this created tensions within. But my temperament was at root easy and accepting and cheerful, and mostly it didn't show. I was awkward during my teens, but all that was put down to 'just being a teenager' - a phase I'd grow out of. I believed it too.
7. Essentially nothing changed for over five decades. Interior tension; exterior calmness. I got on with my life in ignorance of the smouldering volcano inside. Many people thought me the very model of a nice man who cared very much for others, and was happy with himself. I was moderately or highly successful in many things that I did in male mode.  I finished my working life as a valued if not especially talented colleague. I was thought a bit too individual to be a team player, and not ruthless or clever enough to be a real force, but otherwise an effective and conscientious senior worker who fostered harmony and creativity and got the job done well. There was actually some doubt whether I'd be allowed to go when the chance to retire early came.
8. In July 2008, at age 56, and three years into retirement, I suddenly recognised my gender dysphoria, and after a short pause to ponder the dreadful practical implications, came out and faced the music.
9. The rest is mostly chronicled in the blog, all 263,000 words of it.

The main parts of my transition are over, but the elements that will take time - unlearning male conditioning, learning the finer points about being female - will take years to accomplish. But that hasn't stopped me making a life for myself, and I think it's a pretty fulfilling one. And there's plenty of room for improvements and fresh experiences too, which will come. I'm optimistic and content, even if I wish that there had been a lot less pain on the way here.

I'm not hung up on deep questions, and I'm sure that the general public doesn't give a monkey's about my exact self-view, and any reasons for it.

They are much more interested in how I come across to them, and whether they are drawn to me on account of a pleasant personality, or some act of kindness that I have showed to them. You have to earn regard and respect by how you inter-relate with other people; you don't earn it by bombarding them with arguments and assertions that may be true, but fail to make their day nicer or easier.

So I'm not stridently out there insisting on my true womanhood. Not to the general public, not to the trans community. I hope my innate femaleness is reasonably obvious from the blog and my photos, and from the impression I have made when meeting people (including by now several other bloggers). But if anyone wants to dismiss me as simply a hybrid or a deluded saddo, well, so be it. I'll think about why they take that view, but essentially I'll just move on and live my life, as indeed we all have to regardless of what is fair or right or just.

And as for having everything thoroughly worked out before surgery, you can't. The ramifications of transition are too extensive. All you can do is consider the obvious issues, and leave the rest for much later. You cannot know how your views will change after the event. So there will always be many unresolved issues that ideally you'd have sorted out before surgery, but did not. Hopefully they are all in the realm of philosophy, and have no direct bearing on day-to-day living.

If anyone doubts whether I sufficiently weighed the important issues before I had my surgery, then they should consult the monumental series of posts I put together in September 2010, five and a half months before going into hospital, collectively entitled The Twelve Accusations. I think those posts will amply demonstrate that I thought hard about many aspects surrounding transition. If you are interested, and haven't read them yet, then I think you ought to now. But bear in mind they were written pre-op, and that in little ways my thinking has developed over the last year, and will continue to as fresh situations come to my attention. One learns constantly from real life.

Enough said. I've more trans stuff to air, but I'd rather post up lighter topics for the next few days!

Sunday, 2 October 2011

In her own words

Just out of curiosity, I ran a word count on each of the Word documents into which I've been archiving my blog posts since I commenced blogging in February 2009. I entered the raw figures onto an Excel spreadsheet, and after number-crunching it gave me this information, which I found rather surprising:

2009: Average 5,220 words per month
2010: Average 8,053 words per month
2011 so far: Average 12,709 words per month

All-time word count since February 2009: 263,216

Google was able to tell me that since May 2009 my blog has had 53,313 pageviews. The pageview total per month first exceeded 3,000 in February 2011 and was 4,255 last month (September 2011).

And for the related Flickr site:
Photos uploaded, put into categories and published since February 2009: 5,729. Viewings: 68,269.

What can one make of all this?

Well, I do churn out a lot of words. What, over 263,000! Really, there's absolutely no excuse for not knowing me very well indeed, if you delve into that lot. In fact it's a fair assumption that anyone who flings comments at me that simply don't fit me as I really am hasn't bothered to study my blog. The material to hang me or beatify me is all there. There's no excuse for not reading a fair sample of it before sounding off at me. Just put in a key word in the search box - 'dilation' maybe - or 'love' - and see what I have to say. Then judge, if you really need to judge at all.

And I publish a lot of photos too, although bear in mind that the total number of digital photos I've taken since May 2000 has now exceeded 101,000, so I haven't in fact stuck everything up on Flickr!

The personal output may be large, but that shouldn't in itself generate any particular recognition, and indeed neither posts nor photos usually attract much in the way of comment. On the other hand, since my blog is much read, and since the readership seems to be increasing, I must be putting out stuff that chimes with what a lot of people want to read. Putting it another way, if I published bland, boring, unstimulating, depressing material that was way too 'me, me, me' all the time, I don't think I would command so much of a readership. People will only stay with you if what you say is sufficiently interesting and well-written to be worth a look. But (this must be human nature) not many are actually going to commit themselves to a comment unless they wish to especially endorse or decry what you say.

I'm very pleased that I'm not writing into the void with no readers. But I'm not a journalist doing my bit to increase the circulation of some newspaper or magazine. Popularity, like fame, is a slippery and capricious thing. I'm simply glad that these figures show that a large number of people, albeit mostly silent and unknown, appreciate what I have to say, and what I find worth taking a photo of.

By the way, I've no means of knowing whether the readership is predominantly trans, or much more general. I suspect that the trans element is gradually diminishing as I get absorbed into the post-op mainstream, and the blog begins to cover subjects that anyone might relate to. Such as life as a pensioner, and, when I can get back to it, travel. Well, we'll see.