Homophobia, transphobia...it's difficult to imagine a world, in my lifetime anyway, in which smiles of mockery, rejection, senseless prejudice and outright danger do not lurk in the background somewhere. I believe - and the numerous encounters chronicled on this blog surely prove - that a good voice, understated appearance, unselfconsciousness and natural behaviour are sure defences against being recognised (and immediately stigmatised) as trans. But I've also mentioned instances where past personal history gets explored, and some of the trip-ups in that area.
There is also my Internet footprint.
When this blog began in Frbruary 2009 I was in dire need of an outlet for my feelings. My Mum had just died. I had a grieving father on my hands. My partner, striving to cope with her own anguish, was not being supportive. I had urgent responsibilities, everything that my Dad - not physically mobile enough to traipse around - could not handle himself, or hadn't the heart to do, such as making the funeral arrangements. A lot of this was entirely new to me, outside my previous experience.
I had only just started the serious first stage of my transition, and walking on the streets of Brighton and elsewhere was still an exercise in controlled terror, because I looked pretty awful. I was in dread of meeting the wrong kind of people, and being beaten up or stabbed. Or bricks thrown at my car.
Blogging was a calming activity, a way of getting a grip. And I could explore what was happening to me. Even if it mostly remained beyond satisfactory explanation, I could at least make it clear that I was driven into this, for better or worse, and would have to follow this new path even if it left me injured, destitute and utterly alone. Conscious choice wasn't in the driving seat, my feelings were. Ironically, my partner would have said the same of her own predicament. I could only choose to delay the inevitable, or plan ways to modify its impact.
I thought from the beginning that the blog would prove to be a useful contemporary record. Something to tell me what actually happened. It was best written as it occurred, and not in recollection years afterwards. A record of was I was thinking at the time, right or wrong. Evidence made public, so that it could not later be retracted or tampered with.
So now I have this pile of words, about 700,000 of them, in almost 1,000 posts. It's a monument to getting stuff off one's chest. It's also a giant footprint on the Internet that I can never hide. I could of course change my name again, and my appearance, and adopt a fresh identity. But I won't, because it would be highly inconvenient to do it. And for what? I've no plans to enter into intimate relationships and possibly remarry. I want to carry on doing the things I now do: a single life built on personal interests, travel, and the merry company of friends. The blog is no threat to that.
Or is it? I've been wondering. When you have an odd moment, do a search using the words 'lucy melford' and see what you get. If you have already done it, you'll have seen exactly what I mean. If not, do it now. If I stopped blogging tomorrow, how many years do you think would have to go by before references to me slipped from the first few pages of results? Or were deleted automatically by Google? Again, not in my lifetime. I can't help thinking that at least some of the nice people I come across in my travels, potential friends and soulmates, look to see whether I might be on Facebook, and instead get presented with page after page of 'Lucy Melford' search results. And promptly decide that I am not suitable for ongoing contact.
I rather think that the point of no return on letting the blog slip quietly into oblivion occurred within months of starting it, so that abandoning the blog now would achieve nothing. The footprint is just too big and too definite. A permanent albatross to wear around my neck.
Except that I still don't regard the blog as a mistake. It's long moved beyond its original purpose. It's become general, much more appealing to a wide readership, magazine-like in its treatment of topics. It's turned me into a 'writer'. It's still a trans blog, but (as a friend pointed out) the trans bit has become subtle, revealed only in the occasional remark, or by the list of other blogs that I follow. I hope it still says something useful for trans people of all kinds. I hope even more that it says something useful to all and sundry.
Am I perturbed that the blog is bound to be under surveillance by security services worldwide? It sounds bizarre; but the recent leakage of information by whistleblowers suggests to me that nearly everything on the Internet is routinely spied upon, so why should this blog be an exception? I'm taking it for granted anyway that it is being monitored. And that, for instance, the Ugandan authorities will arrest me the moment I set foot on the tarmac at Kampala Airport. The charge? Does it matter? In a world full of hate and suspicion you can in a heartbeat be plucked from the street and disappear without trace. I don't want to be paranoid, but this kind of fate is something I do not dismiss, and I know I will always live with intolerance and persecution not very far away.