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Displaying 11 - 15 of 28 entries.

Futures aren’t found in harbours

  • Posted on November 29, 2014 at 11:24 pm

For a number of weeks I have been going along to a weekly evening workshop entitled ‘Future You’. My motivation is the need to do more than put up with where I am. Its focus isn’t entirely employment-oriented, so whilst that’s what I wanted it for initially, I can use its techniques for other things. I speak of two last pieces in my jigsaw: employment where I can maximise my gifts and abilities, and finding someone I can share my life with (as open-ended as that). The rest of my picture feels complete, or at least malleable and growing.

This next year needs to be a year of change, and I feel that I have at least found my starting blocks with what I have achieved this past year. Underlying my missing jigsaw pieces (or the piece that is missing and the piece that doesn’t fit) is the idea in common of giving as much of myself as I can to connect with my world in an authentic way. If you happen to be reading this and know where I am, work, or who I know, yes, I am saying I need change, not that I am unhappy with the way that I work, or the way that I relate to others.

The Future You series is about happiness, in this sense: of meeting my values, understanding my needs, finding my dreams and living as completely as possible. As things are, my happiness quotient surges and falls to an unknown tidal pull. This week I have risen on emotionally moving moments and completely collapsed on griefs and uncertainties. My ship feels unanchorable sometimes. Was the moon in the wrong phase, or the planets out of alignment? Or is it just Christmas bringing home the isolation I feel at this time? To find myself in silent tears at the end of the day, and waking with them, isn’t something I expected. I feel a new horizon is coming into sight on winds of change. It isn’t just a cliché, I really am hoping for a fresh wind out of this year’s safe harbour.

What stops me just doing something brilliant, is simply that I have no idea what this future me is. In fact, logically speaking, my future me is always some way ahead of now. My future me is what I shall become, but setting my sails with some intention requires a little more than happy accident, and I do have fears. I am afraid of speaking out: ah, so I’m no longer committed to my employer? No; it’s just that I am not discovering myself or doing all that I could do in my working hours. 300 miles a week, 11 hours in a car, needs a good reason, and a better one than just to pay my mortgage. It’s the same with relationships. My heart really aches for affection and to be loved, but to say this is tantamount to being desperate – and we all know that you don’t find love by saying you’re looking for it. Just be happy, even though you aren’t happy not to be loved and have someone to love. Just be happy in your job, in case opportunities may be withdrawn because you’re not happy.

By going to this series of workshops, I am quietly making resolutions. I don’t think I shall have a Christmas this year, but my gift to myself can be generosity to my own needs, in starting to work out what practical things I need to do. I won’t be making new year’s resolutions either; by then I shall have resolved that I have a future that will be different.

There is nothing about this future me that is not of my own making, any more than that was true this past year. 2014 was not done to me. I did 2014! Some decisions will simply have to be made, and more ties may need to be severed that I have hung onto for too long. I have to be happy to be sailing, not happy to be where I am.

I have used the ship analogy along my journey through transition, including crossing the turbulent reef, losing crew, and arriving in calm waters with tattered sails and a broken mast. Since then I have new friends and feel thoroughly repaired and seaworthy again. Maybe the lesson I have needed to remind myself of, is that the first step to change and to being in the right place is to pull up your anchor.

Goodness, I should know!


  • Posted on November 9, 2014 at 11:38 am
incremental counter

It’s my birthday. The one I got awarded a new certificate for – but I wonder whether to celebrate the July one next year anyway as a second birthday. It isn’t important really, just a year comes round again, notches up the counter and it flips into a new number. The feeling made more sense in a pre-digital age, with little wheels turning on a car dashboard, or a tape recorder. They started to twitch and turn just before, clicked decisively into place and looked really settled for a long time. Age notching doesn’t just happen, it takes weeks. Do…

Passing, through, on

  • Posted on October 4, 2014 at 12:29 pm
Bed designs, 1982

I sat on the end of my bed this week to pull on socks, and broke the rail. No big deal, except that it’s the bed I made very soon after my wedding, out of about £20-worth of wood, to a design sketch that I still have (left), in biro on a scrap of ruled notepad. Degree finals exam notes are written on the back! It is still a bit special, and I’m glad I was allowed to claim it when I left. The problem is that it’s pine, and this is the one place where a large knot shouldn’t…

A glamorous meeting

  • Posted on July 25, 2014 at 7:34 pm

This one may surprise you. It did me. It was a chance encounter in the least likely place under the least likely circumstances. But first, let’s go back to the late 70’s. Let’s go back to a frightened adolescent boy …

Way back in time

The boy is sitting in his bedroom. He has a girlfriend. They share real and deep feelings; they are in love. Both are evangelically religious, so in almost every way they are ‘keeping themselves’ for marriage. He does not know what she looks like naked. In fact he has no real idea of the detail at all. In those days detail in magazines was illegal. His school mates (not close) used to have mags like that, they said. Some of them were well acquainted with sex, or so they said. Or their brothers.

He is looking at a mag. He has a few, not illegal, not remotely so, and he found once, given the courage to enter the right shop in great trepidation, that he doesn’t want pictures of sex, pictures with men in them, pictures of women being subject. The store holder was bemused, and he left ashamed and empty-handed. And so here he is now, bedroom door closed, simply looking. What he sees is beauty. It used to be called glamour, until glamour became sex like the rest. There was enticement, let’s not claim feminism is in this picture! But he is seeing a kind of honesty, not naughtiness.

What are women really like? How are they different? Why is it a secret? Why is it bad to know? Does this make him bad?

He always looks at the photographers’ names. They have signature styles with clothing (yes!), sets and lighting, and the way the models look and are made up. Again and again, one name is against some he particularly likes. It is a woman’s name. A woman, doing this (naughty, bad, shameful) thing that he has to hide? More confusion: what are women really like? He imagines the women together, making beautiful images in a studio. He remembers her name.

History peeks its nose

A woman in her 50s is clearing the loft. The house must be sold because she’s getting divorced. There are a number of boxes that have travelled house to house, loft to loft for half a lifetime. Dry brown tape peels dustily away from cardboard flaps covered in roof-dust that escaped her damp cloth. School physics lab books, her own, full of mysteries in fountain pen ink. A box of letters. Love letters. And underneath, some quaintly old glamour magazines, unseen for many years. She leafs them open. There is such strange familiarity in the innocent pages. She glances at the photographer names. One catches her eye; the name of a woman, who must be older than she is, somewhere now perhaps as unbelonging as this.

It’s a grand clearing out. ‘Everything must go!’ Closing down. Half her life seems boxed ready for disposal. The few mags go into the recycling, covered over by much more recent daily detritus, despite surviving over 30 years. Boys these days; they see it all and to extremes on the Internet. She wonders if they ever think of a woman beautifully capturing another on real film.

No. She doesn’t wonder. She knows, because she also has a son, and intercepted some of his teenage downloads. She knows that unleashed testosterone doesn’t care about the people, only the stimulus, the craving for more. She knows that this chemical drive in any male life, overcomes all restraint, even as it uncovers every imaginable, or unimagined, detail. She really knows. The lid clatters down on the recycling bin, on a history, on a memory of more innocent enquiry, and what it turned into.

Strange encounter

The terrace is beautiful, overlooking the Downs, rolling down to the sea, bathed in July sunshine. I am sitting alone at one of a number of empty tables, toying with a newspaper, enjoying the whole environment. Classic FM is playing softly in the café area behind me; the hospital foyer. I am serene, my stay almost over, and feeling amazingly good. I’ve already thought of witty captions for the sculptures in the grounds and posted them on Facebook. The day is Good. A woman looking not much older than I approaches, asks if I mind?

Not at all. We talk easily, about life, about loss and grief, about being on our own. About coping. We share, as women do. We are both creative types, wondering how we might expand our new single lives, becoming more our unrestrained selves. Her line? Oh, photography. She is interested in using imagery afresh to show beauty in the inner selves of those who perhaps feel they have lost theirs. Her sister is visiting outpatients to see a radiographer. She comes by, smiles, and we exchange first names and pleasantries before she goes to wait inside.

I ask about her photography. She used to do different stuff, with her husband, some time ago, and by standing in for him almost by accident, discovered a signature of her own with sets, models, make-up, that magazines liked. He didn’t understand her poses. In the end he destroyed all her original film, replacing it with scanned facsimiles ‘like a print of a Picasso and throwing the canvas away’.

A friend of mine arrives, a lovely surprise. She goes to get a coffee so we can finish talking.

‘You must give me your details’, she says, and I pull out my poet’s notepad to scribble ‘’. ‘You’ll find it a bit unusual, I say, passing her the pad to swap, and smiling. ‘So’s mine’, she says, writing it down, passing it back.

‘I know this name!’ I exclaim.
‘Oh? Where?’
‘It used to be down the side of photos I used to really like, a long time ago …’

Real life experience

  • Posted on December 29, 2013 at 4:35 pm

I am just emerging into the third year of this blog, and yesterday, wanting to reflect on the past year, accidentally jumped back two years in looking for what I’d written. That was three months before full transition, and yet every bit as clear as now with regard to my gender, so at first I was confused. Then I went back to last year, as intended. Ah yes! I began dancing … and even that seems a lifetime ago.

Running through the grief and grouse that life has often been in the last few years, is a thread of great happiness to have resolved a lifelong threat to being an otherwise nice person. A while ago I left a short photo-trail on Facebook that sort of filled a gap between leaving my last job and starting this one. In three different hairstyles, through to my own hair growing out, I can be seen finding my new appearance, but always looking happy. I’d forgotten the pictures until a new Facebook friend was leafing through and ‘liked’ one. So the picture resurfaced, and attracted some lovely comments. There, I was happy; attractive enough, but different – not as relaxed and natural as I am now. But it was from only a couple of months after I left my last job, and at the time my family did not see me like this at all. I left a comment that I am glad I didn’t know what lay ahead of me at the time.

This time last year I was deeply happy to have discovered dance, after the trauma of my first Christmas unwelcome in my own family. I had a lot more to go through in the following months, but I did emerge with a full diagnosis as transsexual in the summer, and an autumn referral onward for full clinical treatment. Since when I have heard nothing. At this point, I have only three months to go until I have completed what is endearingly referred to as two years ‘real life experience’ for the benefit of Charing Cross Gender Clinic, and three full years since that early happy photo.

Smiles like that wear thin when you are left in limbo three years on. I have learned and gained a lot in this past year, not least to let go of what is not mine in this life to keep or expect. I feel well-grounded, relatively secure, grief is mostly in that ‘drawer of tears / for when the wind blows’ (poem). But following on from recent blogs, and as we enter 2014, allow me to ask you:

‘How is your real life experience going?’

Do you understand the question? Do you have a real life as opposed to an unreal one? Do you have an alternative life at all? Do you have any experience other than life? So how can anyone have a real life experience of anything other than themselves?

Of course I know it is a convenience for: ‘can you live permanently as you say you want to?’, which some people still refer to as ‘living in role’. But I have never regarded my life at any time as role-play either. Have you? So it is a curious construct that for people who identify as trans*, we create a bizarre idea that they can ‘try out’ gender as if it is an act, and see if the act feels real enough to perpetuate, and if they can perpetuate it, after two years it ceases to be a real life experience and becomes … what?

The photo of me, looking happy, on the rather lovely reclining leather sofa I was to leave behind, was, if anything, the end of an act, of living up to other people’s expectations. Life had been real enough, and certainly an experience, but in many ways it had been living in fear of being found out for being bad.

If 2011 was my biggest revelation, then 2012 was the most difficult of my life, and the most hurt. But 2013 has been a healing year in many ways. Friendships have been tested (and held, no thanks to me), and I have moved in new circles doing new things. I’ve read my poetry in several places, including Brighton Pride, survived pneumonia, and improvised dance without second thought in front of my peers. If anything, I have been more free to discover myself, express myself, and find people who understand. Not in a trans* world or community, but simply as myself in the world.

Maybe this is real life experience, and maybe it’s what we all should have, without a horizon, a milestone, a box to tick off. I like it, so why give it a beginning or an end? And what, if anything, has it to do with being trans*?

My other new year thought is for everyone out there who in the last 12 months has finally set out to be authentic after a life, however short or long, of being misgendered. It is a lovely thing to see people find themselves, against their personal odds, and stick with it.

And to everyone who reads this: enjoy your real life experience.