Friday, 29 April 2011

The Royal Wedding

I was so pleased that William and Kate had dry weather for their wedding day, and even some sunshine: a very good omen. He looked resplendent in that red tunic with the blue RAF sash. She looked absolutely the princess in that deceptively simple wedding dress, which I confidently predict will be copied to death this summer. Why not? Why shouldn't all brides this year look like princesses too?

The demands of dilation meant that I missed Kate leaving her hotel and setting off for the Abbey. They were already at the altar when I'd made my cup of tea and was ready to watch. But not too late to hear the entire Marriage Service so ably performed by the Dean and then the Archbishop, Rowan Williams. What amazingly clear, sonorous voices they had. I thought William looked a bit nervous, and Harry even more so, and there was perhaps something else in Harry's expression, a kind of sadness, and I wondered if he was thinking of their absent mother. Kate seemed astonishingly in command of herself. Mind you, she was wearing a wedding dress to carry you through almost any event, a confidence-building dress. I wondered why Rowan Williams had contrived to look like an Old Testament prophet - white-haired, all wild eyebrows and patriarchal beard, as if he'd  just rushed down from the Mountain where God had given him fresh Divine Authority. I suppose you wouldn't think of touching up your hairstyle in those circumstances. And, by Jove, he said all the right words - beautifully spoken, and with nary a mistake. I held my breath when the wedding ring got stuck, but then it was all right. The incantations were over, the rituals scrupulously observed, and the magic spell was made. They were man and wife, and the whole world knew it.

Didn't you like the avenue of trees set up inside the Abbey? It was as if they were walking through a country churchyard, and not a dim hoary old edifice. 

And then the open coach, the 1902 landau with its red satin interior. William had carefully put on his peaked cap and white gloves. The sun was out. What a happy-looking and relaxed couple. I thought that Kate visibly grew in personal presence as the minutes passed, as she grew more and more used to the feel and sound of so many thousands people lining the route to the Palace.

I left it there: I could see the rest later in the day.

Three further thoughts though.

First, a demonstration to draw attention to a Muslim cause had been arranged in defiance of a Police refusal to give consent to it. But I saw no trouble or disturbance. Perhaps they were discreetly nipped in the bud and hustled away. But I believe they gave it up as not worth the effort. There was no point demonstrating if the happy minds of everyone else were totally fixed on something quite different. Still, I thought of sniper's bullets, and suicide bombs, and was very relieved when the Royal Couple finally made it safely into Buckingham Palace.

Second, in the Abbey the Prime Minister David Cameron (Conservative) and his deputy Nick Clegg (LibDem) did not look especially happy. The Wedding had stolen a week out out the Referendum Campaign. They both now faced a concentrated week of no-holds-barred vicious acid-throwing and back-stabbing before the country made its collective decision on 5 May. And they were civilised men who abhorred the rough stuff. Really. No wonder they were glum.

Third, I wonder how many trans women looked wistfully at Kate today, and said to themselves 'It ought to be me!' Not necessarily marrying Prince William, of course, but having the chance - if their entire past life had been blown away - to start again with a love match, and a fairytale wooing, and a proposal, and a memorable and cherished white wedding. There are of course firms who can let you can simulate such an experience, for the purpose of play-acting while all dressed up, complete with a set of fake wedding photos: they are on the internet. But a lot of trans women surely want the real thing, with a real partner, and the Happy Ever After too. And of course not many will get their wish. Which makes me think that - for certain sensitive people - it might be quite dangerous to accept an invitation to someone else's wedding. Yes, it's a wonderful excuse to buy and wear a great outfit - but a sure recipe for depression! How awful you will feel once the bride and groom have driven off to their honeymoon hotel, and you are left to go home all alone, unattached, and possibly unwanted. Boo hoo!

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Tootsie revisited

Tootsie was a highly-successful comedy film released in 1982. It has always had a 'feminist' image, mainly because certain sexist characters get a jolt from a woman who won't be put down. But it's hard to see how the film could much advance the political notion of equality for women. No woman in the film actually achieves anything, except where inspired by a man who masquerades as a woman. So basically the film seems to be saying that it needs a man to get anything done or changed.

Despite this, Tootsie had impact, certainly on me. I remember it coming out, and bought a VHS tape version to watch at home, with wife and stepchild present. At the time - this was nearly thirty years ago, remember - I simply let the film wash over me. It really shook me. Here was a man so well transformed by clothing and makeup that he most definitely looked like a woman. The man concerned, Dustin Hoffman, was the most unlikely person to have made a convincing woman, apart from his short height perhaps. Yet here he was, succeeeding. The film stirred me up, made me feel uncomfortable, and if questioned about it I would have found it difficult to say why I was both fascinated and embarrassed. Thankfully nobody did.

Tootsie stars Dustin Hoffman as a perfectionist actor that nobody will hire, because he is so difficult to work with. He needs money urgently, and is so desperate to break out of unemployment that he gets into women's clothes and makeup and auditions for a part in a daytime hospital soap. The transformation (and his feisty interpretation of the character) makes such an impression that he actually lands the part. Then he goes on to boost the show's ratings with his anti-sexist portrayal of a woman who stands no male nonsense. But of course all the time he's really a man, and inevitably the story moves towards its hectic and farcical conclusion as the charade gets more and more complicated, especially after the show's producer unilaterally extends the contract, with no way out, tying Dustin Hoffman into the soap for years to come.

So the film is not about someone wanting to transition, nor even wanting to remain in a position to cross-dress indefinitely (and be paid handsomely for it). It's about a male actor taking on the ultimate acting challenge, getting away with it, and out-acting everyone else until the pretence has to stop. It has to stop because he wants to do male things, like act in his own real name, and pursue the girl he has fallen in love with.

Despite this, as a technical feat, Hoffman's female portrayal was astonishingly good, considering what lay beneath all that makeup. Disturbingly good, even. I believe he had a spot of bother about enjoying the part, and had to dodge some snide remarks concerning his sexuality and true gender. Just as anyone considering the role now would, I'd say.

I watched the DVD version again tonight. The humour and the touching moments and the farce still worked. The 'message' was however harder to determine. The sexism was the kind of stuff that just wouldn't happen nowadays: women have wised-up, and don't let themselves be so exploited, nor feel bound to put up with male condescension in the way they would have thirty-odd years ago. So the precise storyline seems a bit out of touch with modern conditions, even if it's still true that most women don't have a lot of power. Male chauvinism is far from dead.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Fame at last?

Some people set up counters on their blogs to record the number of viewings. It's certainly interesting to know how many make it to the blog, and may be coming back.

The lists of followers can be long or short. I couldn't hazard a guess at what a long list of (say) 150 followers implies. One certainly doesn't get 150 comments on every blog. You can of course follow without commenting; but doesn't that defeat some of the purpose of making online diaries open to public view? They are there to invite comment. And that includes sympathy or support where deserved.

Now and then any blog worth following will put out a post that merits a jolly good response. More particularly, any post that touches realistically on the agonies and joys of transition - especially if eloquently written, and containing useful information - deserves a comment, even if it's only an acknowledgement of the effort made. There are quite a lot of such posts. I don't always see the comments though. A pity for the bloggers concerned!

I see that I have 50 followers at the moment, but less than half a dozen regularly say anything about my posts - thank you, those concerned! - and I suspect that if everyone carried out a spring clean on blogs they followed, that 50 would shrink away fast. But of course fame is not the name of the game. Self-expression is. Blogging is a great outlet for that, in a way that churning out ephemeral one-liners for Facebook is not. I got nothing from my short period on Facebook. It clearly wasn't the right platform if you wished to put out an essay on the meaning of life, or something like that. I still think that I'll never have a use for Facebook and other sites that are all basically just a way of reminding people of your existence.

Not that this blog lacks its own trivial, best-forgotten content. From May 2010 Blogger began to compile statistics. Apparently in the last 11 months I've had 30,261 'pageviews' of which 3,854 were in the last month. Sounds impressive, but what does it mean exactly? And anyway these aren't the sort of figures associated with the most popular items on You Tube.

But here is something that I am really pleased with. Again, I'm not preening my feathers over it, but it means much to me. A little landmark passed a couple of days ago.

50,000 people have now viewed my pages on Flickr, the photo-hosting website, since I set it up in February 2009 - about when I began this blog. I know that by October 2009 (8 months in) the viewings had reached 10,000. They reached 20,000 by February 2010. And now (27 months in) they have climbed to 50,000. With some occasional comments too, mostly very positive. It feels like an achievement. This is an area where I'm seeking viewings. Originally I thought the viewing stats might indicate whether my stuff was 'commercial', in case I needed to generate some extra cash with my professional Nikon and lenses. But that idea has receded almost completely, and nowadays I place all kinds of non-marketable stuff on Flickr. It has become the visual equivalent of this blog, recording where I've been, although not of course who was with me, to preserve the anonymity and privacy of friends and family.

But if you can't see friends, you can see me. And that's important for the people who left my life at the start of my transition. I know that some of them may still want to see how I'm getting on. The stuff on Flickr will tell them much.

I hope they realise that my life has continued, I'm not stuck in a rut, and that I've long moved on from dressing up as a schoolgirl in a pub, or dancing the night away in a loud Brighton club. That my hair has grown long. That I have a personal style. That I have Fiona. They might see me in a smart restaurant, or walking the high cliffs, or attending the opera, or caravanning, and never wearing high heels, nor anything but mascara and lipstick, and dressing down for the supermarket. They ought to understand that I'm not living the life of an 'ideal' woman, nor a 'typical' one, although I am living the life of a woman with varied interests, who thoroughly enjoys who she now is.

And I suppose the blog serves a similar purpose: to reveal what concerns me, and to show that I'm doing fine. Except for a slight difference. My Flickr site has no special focus. The blog has - to record my transition, and what comes after, which I feel must be as important as what went before. If, that is, you buy into my notion of being at this point only an 'apprentice woman', with much still to learn, and some formative experiences to anticipate.

I'm bound to say that despite my deep throaty coughs on the train yesterday, there were no denunciations from the dangerously observant kids all around. Not even when the ticket inspector on the Gatwick Express found something amiss with my return ticket, and all eyes were suddenly upon me. So my look and manner must have been all right. I suppose that summer clothing helps here: the more of your shape you can reveal, the more feminine indicators come into play. Here's me in a Gatwick Airport car park lift:

But one girl sitting with her baggage on the floor in Gatwick Airport gave me a stare as I approached. Unpurturbed, I walked tall, and stared back with arched eyebrows, and plenty of haughtiness with it; she deserved the full treatment for her cheek. The hussy.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

First post-op visit to Dr Richard Curtis

As late as last night, I hadn't made up my mind whether or not to postpone this visit to London to see Dr Curtis. On one hand, it was important: it was to review my appearance, state of health, and the ongoing hormone treatment. On the other, I was still not well, still racked by exhausting coughing fits and generally not feeling energetic enough to face the journey there and back with the slightest enthusiasm.

But I wasn't going to be beaten if I could help it. I woke up today after my fifth dreadful night slumped in the reclining armchair in my lounge. Not that this chair is anything but very comfortable: it was just that lying completely horizontal on my even more comfortable king-sized bed induced coughing within a few minutes. Even so, by three in the morning, I was determined to give the bed another try. I was highly surprised to awake at seven after four wonderful hours of proper sleep - the most in one go for about a week. I took that as a sign that the London trip should be attempted.

I flinched from using my usual means of travel - drive north to Haywards Heath, and then catch the train. I was coughing way too much, and my roughened throat would give me away! The last thing I needed. I had looked into driving the whole way, via the M23, clockwise up the M25, and then 'attack' London using the A40 route through the north-west suburbs that would take me straight in to where I wanted to go. It was a big round-the-houses journey on paper, but given Fiona's motorway capabilities perfectly feasible, and possibly quite fast. So I paid my Congestion Charge online, and set off.

I didn't get very far before realising that I couldn't safely drive the entire distance. My concentration wasn't up to it. So I pulled in at Gatwick Airport, parked there, and caught the Gatwick Express, which runs non-stop between Gatwick and Victoria. I thought I could bear that. In fact it went at decidedly less than express speed, and suppressing a series of deep-sounding throaty coughs did me no good at all. To add to this, there was trouble on the Underground, but I was lucky and got a train at once. So I arrived at Dr Curtis's with ten minutes in hand.

I gave Dr Curtis my test result printouts. The present indisposition apart, I was in good health and he was very happy with the 427 pmol/L level for oestragen. He recommended that I continue with my longstanding standard dose - 100mcg Estradot patches twice a week.

I enquired about the limited breast growth. He made no promises there. It looked as if heredity and age were against me. Most growth occurred pre-op, within two years of starting hormones. The younger you were, then the more growth that could be expected. In particular, if your testosterone level was high, so that it had to be specially (and completely) suppressed with anti-androgens, then this allowed the oestragen intake to have full effect - and enhanced breast growth generally resulted. So in a way, I'd been unfortunate in (a) having a low pre-op testosterone level that had not begged for anti-androgens; and (b) having pre-existing blood-pressure and cholesterol problems that made imposing another level of treatment on top rather unwise, because of the complications arising. So that my oestragen intake had more work to do, and its effect was partially compromised. According to Dr Curtis, the often-referred-to 'post-op surge' in breast growth was rather a myth. It might occur, but in my case I shouldn't pin any great hopes on having larger boobs.

In short then, my pre-existing medical requirements and naturally low testosterone level had kept my transition treatment simple and easy to live with. But I hadn't been able to grow a pair of amazing knockers. I might well have to resign myself to being one of those small-beasted women, because I didn't want implants. The upside to that would be the very wide range of clothes I could wear, and the ability to exercise without pain.

I asked also about having a chromosome test. This was sheer curiosity, and I was pretty certain that if carried out, such a test would simply show that I was bog-standard XY. And really, when you thought about it, anything other than straightforward XX or XY might be a sign of genetic trouble in store. Dr Curtis said that in fact genetic abnormalities are by no means rare. Many do not matter; but if a test identitfied some unusual feature, it still wouldn't be possible to say conclusively that this feature 'caused' my gender dysphoria, even if it was a sex hormone abnormality. At least not at this time. I decided not to pursue it, if matters were not clear-cut. Another factor was cost - some £200, a bit too much to satisfy a wish to find out. In any case, supposing the result showed that I was actually (and astonishingly!) XX, just like most natal women, so what? Was I going to wave the test result in the face of every person who thought me a freak and an abomination? Would they have the patience to take in a quick resume of human genetics by way of background, and then see what I was driving at? I thought not.

We will meet again in early November. By then I will have 'officially' got in two full years of 'full time living as a woman' - which I reckon from my Deed Poll name-change date of 1 November 2009 - and I can apply to the Gender Recognition Certificate panel. Dr Curtis will be one of the doctors who support my application, in his role as the gender specialist; my local GP will be the other doctor; and in three weeks or so I see Liz Hills and Mr Thomas at the Nuffield in Brighton, and will get a 'surgery letter' from them. Apparently you put a bundle of stuff together by way of evidence for the panel to consider - it's all on a government website, at  I'll be studying that in the months ahead.

Let's hope this awful cold will have cleared up by November.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

My brother Wayne, 1956-1995

My younger brother Wayne, had he lived, would have been aged 55 today. He was killed in a lunchtime car crash just before Christmas 1995, caused by two other drivers. One, in a hurry, edged out into a main road - it was the dead-straight A3 south of Hindhead - and that caused a second driver to swerve, lose control, and spin into Wayne's car. Wayne died of head injuries.

He was taking presents down to Mum and Dad, then living in Liphook, and he was nearly at the end of his journey. He would be alive now, if he'd stopped for a break, or to make a call, or the traffic lights up the road at Hindhead had held him up. But of course you must never think of what might have been.

Dad viewed the body. I never did. I don't think my parents ever recovered from the devastation they felt. It was the only time I ever saw my father break down and cry. I felt I had to be 'strong' for both of them, and never allowed myself to give in to grief. I so regret that. I can't do it now. It must forever be one of those hurts that you live with, with no closure. We all have them. I've buried - well, cremated - Mum and Dad; and although I miss them, they died in 'natural' ways, basically of old age, and had long lives in which most of their ambitions were fulfilled. But Wayne was cut off when still under 40, when he was on the threshold of so much.

I had no other brother, and no sister, and so I've lost all my immediate family. I feel exposed and without any kind of safety net or close support. This said, other members of my family - my sister in law, my niece, my nephew, one of my cousins, and my aunt and her family - have been absolutely wonderful to me. But I desperately miss my brother. He should be here for me. And I for him. But it is not to be; and I'll just have to face the cold wind of old age alone, and get on with it, as indeed so many must.

Wayne had his moody and argumentative teenage phase, and was inclined to irritability as he got older (as I was) but mostly he was chirpy, with a droll sense of humour. Here are some pictures - mostly taken by me - which show him at various stages of his life.

I always thought Wayne had a strong physical presence - quite unlike myself. He kept himself fit, and he wasn't coy about showing off his body, although diabetes was a constant background concern. He took insulin, and ate carefully. But diabetes didn't carry him off. It was blind chance.

For Your Eyes Only

My eyes this morning: sore, half-closed, bleary. I'd cleaned out the gunge, and was about to treat them with more eye-drops from the local chemist. The drops have been making a difference. But the rest of me isn't so easily fixed. This cold of mine is proving to be the worst I've ever had. It seems stuck in the most uncomfortable phase. That's the sore throat, runny nose, catarrh, coughing-all-the-time, sneezing, feeling-weak phase. Around lunchtime I finally thought it showed signs of thickening up and going into some sort of endgame, but my hopes have been dashed. I am now seriously considering postponing Tuesday's visit to London to see Dr Richard Curtis about my ongoing hormone treatment. It will take a miracle recovery to make the journey possible.

I'm sure that the cold is worse than usual because I'm in a weakened state, being post-op. If this is a general effect that anybody might experience, then take note and be prepared. I wish I hadn't got to go without medical advice at the moment. Sod's Law means that of all times to feel dreadful, it must be the long hot Easter Weekend. But I simply can't say I'm an emergency case, and bother the few doctors available.

The only thing that reassures me that there's nothing fundamentally amiss is my temperature. My posh digital thermometer said my temperature was 36.7 degrees Celsius yesterday, and it's now 36.2. No arguing with that. I may have horribly uncomfortable symptoms, but no fever, and things must be improving, even if it doesn't feel like it!

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Big spiders

This is (by UK standards) a big spider, and that's my hand, and I could claim deep, deep respect for massive bravery - if I were an ultra-traditional wimpy girly, that is! But of course being traditional is not on my personal agenda, and my only concession to safety was to reach for some soft tissue, gently envelop this co-operative arachnid in same, and drop it out of a nearby open window. It was amazing how it let me, as if expecting such reasonable treatment, and knowing that I have some regard for these little animals, and won't willingly harm them.

That's not to say that I love spiders, but I don't lump them together with creepy-crawlies like caterpillars and millipedes. And provided they don't come too close, I can be easy in their company in a way that I can't with - for example - insects. I think it's because they seem to have some individual consciousness, and some intelligence, and don't attack. That earns them consideration. I don't run away, I just remove them from my space with care. I don't want Lucyworld and Spiderworld to merge, that's all. I wouldn't like to know what lives within my wall cavities, unseen and out of mind. Several hundred spiders at least, I'd say, plus other assorted little creatures. Best not to think about it! But good luck to them all. They will doubtless inherit the earth one day.

Spiders are badly misunderstood. Very few people know the truth about them. Let me test your knowledge. Which of the following statements is - incredibly - true?

# Spiders have complex eyes, just like fish.
# Their antennae are so sensitive that they can pick up faint radio signals from outer space.
# Spiders have eight legs, seven more than insects.
# Black Widow spiders eat their husbands.
# Spiders invented the World Wide Web, and each one has its own website.
# Spiders know what love is, and mate for life (except Black Widow spiders).
# Spiders entertain flies in their parlours.
# Tarantula spiders are named after a dance called the fandango.
# The huge naughty spider called Shelob in Lord of the Rings was based on a giant fruit-eating spider native to Hisponiola in the Caribbean.
# Following the release of the film Spiderman, spiders have learned to walk sideways up the sides of tall buildings, just like crabs do.
# Spiders can count up to eight.
# There are no known trans spiders.

How did you do?

Friday, 22 April 2011

Can't shrug off this bad cold, but what a good hormone result!

In the last couple of days a smouldering cold has got the better of me, and I'm deep in its grip now. What a pity - for once it's fine sunny weather for Easter, and I'd otherwise be meeting up with friends and strolling about in the sunshine clad in a short summer dress and a floppy hat. Instead I'm keeping cool indoors, skulking in the shadows you might say, and I feel weak. I've had a sore throat for three days, a runny nose, a cough, and my eyes don't feel right. Ugh.

Last night I was up to cooking. Tonight it'll be soup and toast. But at least there's Monty Don at 9.00pm on BBC2, taking us through his favourite Italian Gardens - Florence tonight, where I've actually been! I rather like Monty Don, and thoroughly enjoyed his series on gardens around the world three years back. Note how he invariably sports a 'man bag'. What does he have in it? A camera, yes, and surely a notebook for plant jottings. I bet he doesn't carry panty liners, though!

Getting back to this cold. Some years ago I used to be able to throw these off in a couple of days. More recently, in a week or so. This one is going to knock me out for longer. I don't usually get such a sore throat, so it's definitely running a different course. My uneducated guess is that it's taking advantage of my enfeebled post-op state, with the body barely out of the immediate recovery phase, and having had no time to rally. The antibodies need to regroup.

I hope I'm all right for my trip up to London next Tuesday - my first long journey. I'm seeing Dr Richard Curtis, so it's not a trip I want to miss. The prospect of a tedious train journey with a ticklish throat and a headache isn't attractive, and I'm seriously considering driving all the way into central London and parking in, say, the Curzon Square underground car park. That'll mean paying the Congestion Charge on top of the car parking fee, but it might be a much more comfortable journey. By which I mean that I can choose my route, stop when I like, bring along whatever extra refreshments and cool wipes that I like, enjoy climate control, enjoy a comfortable seat, and avoid getting squashed to death on the Underground. I'll research the feasibilty of this.

One heartwarming little footnote. The results of last week's various medical tests were available yesterday. I was delighted to see that my post-op oestragen level has shot up to 427 pmol/L. That's by far the highest it's ever been, the next best figure being 289 back in July 2009, which dwindled to 176 by September 2010. Some plumpness and curves are coming back, although I suspect that's more to do with good eating combined with inactivity, because the waistline is now less pronounced! Unexpectedly, there's nary a tingling in the nipple department - I'll have to ask Dr Curtis about that.

On a darker note, although it's still very good news, the reading for my prostate has also lurched in the right direction: downwards this time, to be well under the figure of 3.0 ug/L that would trigger concern. Oldies dread prostate tests, not because of how they're done (the finger-up-the-bum method has been replaced by a straightforward blood test), but because it's a fact of life that male-bodied creatures may very easily get prostate cancer. And the genital surgery leaves the prostate gland in place. I was having routine tests every six months, but an annual test will now do. With no function left, my prostate ought to shrivel up and become a cool black dwarf instead of a hot red giant, if you get the stellar analogy!

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Intimate lives: My bedroom in 1974

As soon as I got a decentish camera in 1973 - which also coincided with passing my driving test and therefore being able to get out and about as never before - I began the 'documentary' side of my photography. That is, recording myself and my surroundings and possessions. I felt it was important. I was extremely conscious of the transition from teenage life - dominated by school and parental influence - to the much freer life I was now leading as a young person with a career just started, money coming in, and a wider world in which to spend it.

I had high hopes for this new phase. As ever, I was optimistic, but it would take a long time for me to shake off the control Mum and Dad exercised over me. This control was very benign, and very caring. Their motives were sincere; they did not wish me to come to harm. But they did not wish me to grow up either. They feared that I would mess up, and succomb to drink, drugs and general depravity. I was indeed very young in my ways. Perhaps not as naive as my parents thought - I trusted nobody - but I was ignorant and unworldly. I had the wariness of an islander who has never travelled, and is new to the big city. In 1970, when I left school, I was aged 18, but I might as well have been 14 or younger.

In fact my parents need not have worried. I had long before worked out a standard of self-preservation that was proof against ordinary temptation. So (for instance) I did not smoke, and therefore never tried drugs, smoking being the key to that in my circle at the time, certainly at school. And although keen to try drinking, I quickly got tired of monumental hangovers. And I had intuition enough to detect bad company.

Fear of losing self-control, and therefore courting personal danger, had a lot to do with all this. It had a great deal to do with my attitude to sex, which was the attitude of a timid child who had never been told any useful facts. I had unearthed information for myself on the basic mechanics, but I knew nothing about the strong emotions that sex could arouse, and feared them. And there was anyway something very strange and confusing about the whole subject. I had the occasional chance to indulge, the girl always very willing, but I pretended not to notice what the gods so generously offered. I wasn't ready, and couldn't handle it.

Above all, I feared making anyone pregnant, which in turn was based on a desperate wish not to become a father and find myself locked into a conventional future. I did not know quite why I had a horror of this at the time. But I knew that fatherhood was the wrong role for me. Typically, however, I analysed it no further.

By 1974 some things had changed. or were about to. I was still a virgin, but my career was going fairly well, and self-confidence had increased. The big scene with my parents - our first ever argument over a girlfriend they didn't like - lay only months ahead. I was still living at home, and although allowed a lot of freedom, and much use of Dad's car in the evenings, the only place I could in any way really 'be myself' was in my bedroom. And it so happens that I have some pictures from 1974 which could bear some study.

This wasn't the famed Pirelli Calendar. I think some friends had given it to me in Christmas 1973. It was a daring innovation for my bedroom. Look, a girl with exposed boobs! Surprisingly, Mum and Dad said nothing. Perhaps they were relieved that I liked breasts, and therefore girls, and so must be 'normal'. But to me this wasn't simply mild pornography. I liked that calendar picture, and she stayed up there right through 1975. I couldn't have told you why, though.

Facing my bed, I'd painted this huge face on the wall. It was overpowering at the time, and I think it's completely over the top now! But I still consider this to be one of my best paintings. When Mum and Dad moved in 1980, Dad wallpapered over it. I often wondered what the new owners thought when they eventually redecorated. As they didn't mention it when I met them in 2006, perhaps that face is still lurking there under two layers of wallpaper! Imagine having that winking at you for years on end.

And here's me, doing my best Bruce Lee impersonation. I was aged 22 in 1974. I think I look 17.

And in this remarkably tidy corner was the Hai Karate talc (to go with the Bruce Lee image of course), the book of Kenneth Clark's landmark 1969 TV series on art made for the BBC, Civilisation (which I have next to me as I type this post), and the twelve volumes of Understanding Science, which I had built up month by month since aged 7 or so. Mum and Dad had noted an interest in science in me when I was little, and funded the purchase of this publication for many years until I'd got the entire set. By then I'd realised that science (however fascinating) was way beyond my understanding, but I kept these volumes because they were tangible relics of a younger life that had passed by without being fully explored. Even then I felt that my life was not on the right track, would need revisiting, and meanwhile representative artifacts must be preserved. But they have long gone. I must have thought this photo was enough.

There were diaries, and drawings, and work done on codes and cyphers and secret invented languages in my cupboards. But it became clear that sometimes Mum would look at them, and after a single remark about 'some gibberish' that she had come across one day, I destroyed the lot.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011


How you see yourself is a topic that concerns us all.

So much hangs on this: whether you feel right, feel good or bad; whether you have high self-worth, strong self-confidence, the self-assurance to meet and speak with just anybody, and if necessary to be properly assertive with them. The very motivation for leaving your front door and facing the outside world.

And mainly we must be talking about what your face looks like, and what your voice sounds like. The rest can be concealed in a sack. But of all things, your identity depends on face and voice.

Voice first. As you know, I have consistently thumped the drum for getting - and using, and refining - a very good voice. I am amazed how unseriously this is taken by many trans girls, who put off any proper attempt to get it right. I'm not having a go at anyone close to me, but it really won't do to put on a strange high-pitched squeak when needed, and think that's all you have to do to get by. Getting by is no more than a starting position. If you want credibility, you must acquire a realistic female voice. And if you have this, then even if your clothes are a mess and your makeup is bizarre, you will be accepted as a girl or a woman (depending on age) without argument. I'll chance my arm and say that you can even have a very unpretty face. So long as it's hairless and framed by female-looking hair, natural or not, kempt or not, a good natural voice will rescue you and keep you out of difficulties. A good voice gets you served. A good voice gets you through customs. A good voice lets you speak to anyone you please, for directions, for information, or to say how much you like them.

The converse is not true: the prettiest face in the world, and the most lissom figure, and the best dress sense, avail you naught if your voice is wrong. It's just a matter of using your vocal apparatus differently. Anyone can do it. But it takes effort and practice - practice, practice, practice, practice, all day long, from waking till bedtime, for months and months until you get there. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: my voice may have cost £2,000 in fees and a year of concentrated personal effort, but I think that it has proved to be the most decisive female indicator I could ever have, and therefore magnificent value for money. Hair-removal comes very close, but is second in the race. The softening and plumping-out effects of hormones - and growing my head hair long - are both some way behind. And so far as public appearance goes, the genital surgery finishes nowhere, although obviously the personal benefit is enormous.

In a nutshell: imagine you are inside a box, and nobody can see you. You can communicate only by speaking. Girls will be let out. Chaps won't. Now, which will it be for you? Freedom or suffocation?

All right, lecture over.

What about the face? I admit to having a problem 'seeing myself as I really am'. Despite all the photos I keep on taking, despite all the mirrors I peer into. Are you exactly the same? Here's a for-instance set of photos, all taken in the last few days:

Are any of these 'true' likenesses, or has the camera lens distorted the image? The two lower shots, taken by holding the camera at only arm's-length, are bound to have accentuated those parts of my face closest to the camera. I'm not displeased with the picures, but did I really look like this? Or did I really look like Desperate Dan about to tuck into cow pie? I'm bound to accept the 'objectivity' of a photo that isn't too extreme, and was honestly taken, but I'm not totally convinced. For one thing, there is no movement, and the expressions that flickered across my face are not recorded. And look how the two lower shots are subtly different, because my face is not quite in the same position, and because the sun came out. And see how the indoors shot (top) compares to the two taken outdoors. The effect is very different. And which is the real me?

Putting it another way, which shot should I rely on to tell me whether I need facial surgery? On this showing, I'd say none of these pictures suggest that surgery is urgently required. But from other angles, and in mirrors at home, I'm not so certain. That nose...but then it dips down, and so visually it's a good nose in one way, because it apparently reduces my nose-to-lips gap. It's breadth and bulbous tip aren't attractive, but then it's a genuine family nose that strongly recalls my Dad - as indeed the entire bottom half of my face does - and do I really want to get rid of that? And would a slimmed-up, turned-up little nose look any better? Wouldn't it clash somewhat with the general heaviness of the lower face, and in short look unnatural? It would certainly clash with the bags under my eyes, unless of course I'm going to fund a series of surgeries to fix all the incompatabilites that might arise from changing one starting feature.

It's in the the same area as growing boobs. OK, the growth (albeit chemically induced) is a natural process, and not from surgical intervention, but look at the result. Teenage breasts! Little, fresh-looking, youthful breasts that, as it happens, look fine on my particulat chest, but might not have. And no way are they the boobs of an older woman. So they might excite comment if ever revealed in company...

The thing is, at it stands my face isn't perfect, but it works as a face. It functions perfectly, and without tucks and numb patches or anything stretched. Its all been dragged down in one integrated piece by decades of gravity. Even the eyebags look correct for a woman who is 60 in only 443 days! I am not a teenager. I do not have to look especially attractive. Maybe it would in fact pay not to be eye-catching. And the hormones have done much, and may well do more...

So rationally speaking, I'm fairly satisfied with my facial appearance. Even if I'm not quite sure what other people see. It clearly passes muster. And I don't mind if all eyes are on pretty young things in the bloom of their youth, or even interesting-looking thirty-somethings. It sort of lets me off the hook. It would be rather hard to blend in and move about unnoticed if I were turning heads.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

First meal out post-op

Cheers! How nice it was, after nearly eight weeks, to enjoy an evening meal out. I'd just visited M--- at the Nuffield, and was now with my Guernsey friend R--- at the Sawadee Thai Restaurant in Brighton. Which just shows you don't have to book in with Dr Suporn at Bangkok to get a really good post-op Thai experience!

This was in the middle of five long hours away from home, beginning at 3 o'clock in the afternoon, and I was still bubbly. But by eight o'clock I was flagging badly, and glad to let Fiona waft me home to restore my tissues. As a first evening outing it was however a great success. And I can only get stronger and better able to last the course.

Mind you, the stamina and energy of some people amazes me. A---, who came out of the Nuffield only five days previously, was eager to take up her social life again as if very little had happened, and had actually asked me whether I'd like to come over for a long leisurely afternoon's Sunday meal this weekend, with herself doing the cooking. This was sweet of her, but I had to refuse: first, I wouldn't have lasted the afternoon, my personal energy level being far less; second, I can sit upright now, but firm dining-table seats do make me uncomfortable (as eventually happened at the Sawadee with R---); and third, she should be resting bigtime, not wrestling with pots and pans and woks in the kitchen - although of course that's entirely up to her, and I didn't say anything strong about that aspect, but it was really the biggest thing in my mind when framing my response. Well, I suppose we are all extremely variable, and each person is different, and no recovery goes the same, but when I think that it was three weeks before I ventured away from my front door, well, I do think now that people must have thought me a right wimp! But I needed my rest, and the dividend seems to be very good healing, so far as I can tell.

It was so nice to get back to a 'normal' kind of evening outing, and indulge in some people-watching, as you do. Or let yourself be watched! R--- and I seem to pass very well nowadays, especially R--- (she's a year ahead of me), and we have no fear or concern. Indeed, we had a tableful of young natal girls next to us, and another just behind, and there was nary a puzzled look, although I caught one girl looking at my Prada handbag!

At one point a very tall young lady came in, although that was the only remarkable thing about her. She was clearly making an enquiry about having a table later on. R--- had a good look at her, and thought she might be trans. It was more a feeling than anything particular about her, because her look was perfect in every way. I didn't have such a clear view. I reckoned there might just be something about her when I saw her face in profile, a slightly strong jawline maybe, but if she was trans then she'd had jolly good facial surgery, for she was very pretty. And her build was willowy and girly in every respect. Perhaps she moved without quite the right kind of 'flow' - but then she was very tall, and that might have something to do with it. And R--- pointed out that she wasn't glancing about her as she moved, most women seeming to use their eyes like radar when walking - but maybe she'd taken her glasses off and everything was out of focus, which could account for the fixed stare that never met anyone's eyes. She came back a little later with the boyfriend, and we had a second scrutiny. No, it still wasn't certain she was trans: at least that was my view. But I trusted R--'s intuition.

Now you musn't think we go in for tranny-spotting, but it does often seem to be the case that others of our kind catch our attention. It's involuntary. We know, even if the general public does not. But we scrupulously observe the unspoken etiquette: we do nothing to indicate recognition. We don't want to blow their cover, so to speak. And we hope we get the same thing in reverse. After all, all trans people who have made a successful transition deserve a reward for all the personal grief, cost, and sheer hard work they must have put in to achieve what they are now. It just isn't on to blow their identity away with a mistimed and public greeting, however well-intentioned.

I must say, there were several natal girls - and older natal women - in that restaurant, and outside in the street, who wouldn't pass strict physical tests for femininity. But they were fine. Ergo, R--- and myself were fine, as is every trans person who can blend in moderately well. And despite my words above about 'knowing' when you see a trans person about, I would bet good money that we encountered trans girls that evening who were so natural, so well-absorbed into ordinary life, that we didn't spot them at all, and never would in a million years.

That's the goal: a place in ordinary life.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Reclaiming the past

Life is lived forwards, and you shouldn't try to do it as if the past is ever-present, and nothing has changed.

The facts that you are older than you were, and have had a few more experiences, will alter your viewpoint. The mere passage of time distances and insulates you from past events and past acquaintances, and gives you a changed perspective on them. Maybe better and more perceptive understanding.

Up to a point, it is true that 'time heals': at any rate, it takes away the immediate sting of a bad event, even if the pain of it lingers on forever as a dull ache. Perhaps temperament plays a part; there do seem to be people who can sustain the full first intensity of such things as anger and grief and shock. But not everyone. As George Harrison said in his song, All Things Must Pass.

Which brings me neatly onto today's topic. Having now reacquired the ability to sit properly in my computer chair - as opposed to slumping in it, because my swollen bits wouldn't allow a normal posture - I've been spending some time adding to the tracks on my mobile phone.

My Nokia E71 makes a very good music player. Not only is the built-in music playing application easy and convenient and satisfying to use with earphones, the quality of the stereo loudspeaker is such that you can listen to clear, hi-fi, high-volume sound without earphones. In that mode it's my music player of choice when dilating. And with an 8GB memory card on board, there's plenty of room for all the tracks I could want to play. I'm fairly picky, and confine myself to music that means something to me, music that I especially like: and so I don't simply transfer entire albums onto the phone. I just use the odd track here and there, so that every single song or instrumental or symphony that I install is really worth listening to. I don't bother with playlists now. I leave it all in one huge sequence and play it all at random; and I don't know how the E71 does it, but I never get two songs that sound the same back-to-back. It's therefore an interesting, varied experience that makes dilating-time pass quickly and enjoyably.

I've been expanding the music collection on my PC from about 700 to 1100 tracks - all hand-picked, as I say - and setting them all up on the phone.

One thing I don't claim is good taste. If you watch Top Gear on BBC2 or BBC4, you'll know that they have a resident tame racing driver called The Stig, whose identity remains a secret because he never takes off his helmet. Another thing about him is his appalling taste in music. Whenever he puts a car through its paces on the circuit, he's got some ghastly CD going in the background - The Best of Brenda Lee or similar.

Well, dire though that might be, my taste is worse. It ranges from Perry Como and Petula Clark through Roy Orbison, The Wombles, Amen Corner and Status Quo to The New Seekers, The Hollies, Andy Williams, Engelbert Humperdinck, The Sweet and Wizzard. Not to mention Tom Jones, The Tremeloes, Gary Glitter, David Cassidy, Dusty Springfield, Reperata and the Delrons and Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich. Oh yes, somewhere in there is Jimi Hendrix, Pulp, Oasis, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, David Bowie, ELO, Tubeway Army, The Verve and Madness, but if you want to dismiss me as a sad case with the sounds of the 60s and 70s on my brain, well, it's hands up and I'll come quietly! When all said and done, I like all this stuff, and if ever Top Gear make me The Star in a Reasonably Priced Car, I will have the music to skid by.

And the point of mentioning all this? Well, having dusted off my compilation CDs - Sixties Classics III or whatever - I came across a number of tracks that hitherto had possessed bad associations. I basically liked them, but perhaps they recalled an especially oppressive summer at school. So, because they dragged me down, I'd not included them in my collection.

But now I was surprised to find that I didn't mind any longer. They'd been exorcised. They had lost their negative power. They might still be awful tracks, but at last the offerings of Lovin' Spoonful, Herman's Hermits and Donovan could join the pantheon of megastars on my phone, up there with Simon and Garfunkel, 10CC, Hawkwind, Cliff Richard, Stevie Wonder and Robbie Williams! Something else to wiggle my toes to as Little Joe and Big Jim have their way with me.

What did the exorcising? What's changed?

All I can think of is the surgery. It's clearly life-changing in more ways than one. It's drawn a line in the sand or something. It's enabled some part of my mind to confront past sadnesses and irritations and depressions and taboos and things I was afraid of doing - and beat them.

OK, a change of comfort-level on a pop tune of yesteryear is one thing. Does it extend to damaging or super-embarrassing past confrontaions with actual persons? Can I now examine these without flinching? And can I now handle things I once thought were way beyond me, or made me sweat with fear? Time for a little experimentation!

Friday, 15 April 2011

Bikini reloaded

The ongoing bikini saga. Will I ever find one that looks good?

I mentioned in Lucy models swimwear! Hmmmm (four posts back) that I wasn't happy with how I looked in a bikini. The midriff bulge was the main problem, but of course it wasn't the only one. At my age, I simply haven't got the slender beauty of a young girl, and that in itself is a basic reason why revealing attire might be best avoided! I mean, let's be frank and realistic. I thought I looked fine in both my one-piece swimsuits, but the bikini I tried on was not flattering, to put it mildly. It wasn't a horror story by any means, but I'd feel embarrassed stepping into the public eye with my tummy so much on view. And I'm never going to have a flat tummy. If I want proper boobs, a certain amount of plumpness here and there must go with it. A reasonable trade-off, I reckon; but the Melford abdomen must stay rounded and cuddly, unless casual exercise tightens up the old muscles.

But one must never give up. I went back to M&S and tried on two other bikinis, including the original in a different size:

You see only the top here, size 16. It was a bit tight, and size 18 would have been better, but M&S had sold them all in that style. The bottom half, although it had size 16 on the hanger, was actually size 10, and obviously I couldn't get it on. So those are actually my black knickers.

Looking at this shot, I think it would be possible to source a bikini top that looked acceptable, but a bikini bottom is going to be a real problem. The knickers conceal much of the offending flesh, but they hardly look glamorous, even with the lace edging.

But if you imagine a bikini bottom that resembles tight-fitting shorts, that isn't a good look for me either. In fact I don't look right in any kind of shorts - my legs don't suit them. To my eye anyway, whenever I wear shorts, tight or floppy, they make me look male from the waist down. Which of course is a no-no. I look much better in cropped jeans, but they are really a different animal entirely.

Oh well. In the end I bought two lightweight cotton kaftans instead, in white and black, to wear over the one-pieces as sun shields, or perhaps to wear as ordinary tops with leggings or cropped jeans. Here's the black one:

It's plain and simple, comfortable, and hides the fat well. And only £9.50. Say no more then. I actually had a £20 net refund at the till, after getting credit for the abandoned bikinis and shorts. I felt rather pleased, walking away with that net refund, although there's an error of logic in there because I'd still spent some cash!

The likelihood of getting down to a Sussex beach for spot of sunshine is increasing daily. My healing is coming along well, and I think Birling Gap or Eastbourne will be a possibility quite soon. Or, in the other direction, Littlehampton or Climping. Oh to be able to hitch up the caravan and head off to the West Country! To Woolacombe, say:

Or paddle in the shallows at Bude:

But that's months away. Sigh.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

What role would you like me to play?

Continuing these speculations on how my future social life could work out, let's suppose some man is bowled over by the Melford charms and begins to talk about wanting to see a bit more of me. I'd want to clarify that somewhat - does he mean more thigh, or more of my mind? Or is he proposing an evening out, just the two of us? Aah, how romantic...

I'd ask him, among some other pertinent questions, to define what he's looking for in me. Here are some things he might want me to be, with my responses:

Oh yes, I'm strong on loyalty, and I think I could manage to be a decent enough friend. But will he be a decent enough friend to me? Loyalty and lasting friendship are built on mutual liking, trust and respect. He's got to understand my need for lots of personal space. He can't drop round when he feels like it. When chez Lucy, he mustn't rearrange my kitchen or laugh at Teddy Tinkoes. He's out if I feel he's using me as a meal ticket. And he must never, never assume that he can touch my car. Not ever. Fiona's my real best friend, my reliable and comfortable and genuinely safe and protective friend, and he is not.

Well, I never had any 'mates' in the old life, and the concept eludes me. I suspect that 'best mate' isn't quite the same as 'best friend'. What does it entail? Does he expect me to go to football matches? Or sit around in pubs of an evening, just boozing? No way: I want to watch a repeat programme about German Art on BBC4. Sorry.

I didn't have a sister, so I've no idea how they behave within the family. From what I've heard, brothers and sisters often slug it out, going to fourteen rounds before a knockout, if the sister doesn't actually win on points. I think he means someone who would protect him and 'understand' him, and smile indulgently and forgivingly at his indiscretions and foibles. Fat chance in my case.

What's this? Hasn't he got a perfectly good mother? I don't want this role. I did my parenting in the 1980s, and I did it reasonably well, but I don't want to put in another stint. Ah, I see: he wants someone to keep his place clean and tidy, and do his cooking, and his mending, and make him cups of tea, and generally fuss over him. Well, he can peel his own potatoes. And find his own slippers. (Sobering to think that this is the image I may be projecting)

Sounds like being a mother, only more extreme! Or does he mean 'sex slave'? Is he going to keep me in a gilded cage, to be released at his whim? Well, I get no kicks out of being a prisoner, pampered or not.

I don't do passion. As for the lover bit, he's got to woo me properly. Remember: women have the real power. They have what men desire, and shouldn't give it cheaply. It's got to be an open and honest transaction at full value. With kindness and tenderness added. If he won't pay the emotional price, then it's no deal.

He wants me to dress to impress all the time, but that will make me look ridiculous at Sainsbury's, and besides has he any idea at all how much time it will take to smother myself in the kind of makeup he wants me to wear? It's not just my appearance. He wants me to strut about in a sexy way, pouting, high heels, teasing men and putting dowm lesser women with an insolent glance. All to suggest that I'm hot stuff. And if anyone objects, I have to run to him, and cling, and let him defend me. I'd be just like some naughty pet dog. No thanks.

Oddly enough, I'm restored to virgin status again, so I can do that bit. But temple posturing isn't my thing. I don't want to be untouchable. I don't want to be up on a pedestal, semi-divine. Some women like being worshipped by their men. Not this one. I want reality and equality.

There you are. Any man who tries these approaches will get nowhere with me. And mutatis mutandis, the same with any woman. I'm clearly a bit cruel and stuck up and much too picky.

Sod's Law being what it is, I may get pestered even though I'm not looking for anyone. So it's essential to work out in advance what needs to be said to the next Lothario who thinks I'm a desperate housewife.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

So what are your plans...?

I get asked that all the time nowadays, certainly by natal women in my circle, who seem very keen to know. And why not: it's an obvious question. My trans friends, especially my unattached post-op trans friends, also appear to regard this as a hot topic. What everyone means is this: you've been converted, and you're still healing, but you will become what are you going to do with the new equipment? In other words, are you thinking about a relationship with a man or a woman, or what? And will it be a sexual relationship?

Which immediately begs the question, am I looking? That's easy to answer. Absolutely not. I am not looking for anyone. I do not want the hassle, the heartbreak, and the disappointment. Nor the humiliation, if it's pathetically obvious that I'm yearning for a very special companion, and I get totally ignored. I simply don't want to share my life. Circumstances and temperament have made me solitary and unattached and completely independent. I want things to stay that way, to the extent of fighting tooth and nail for my continued freedom. So it's no compromise and no surrender. Any man who chooses to brush this aside, and presses his ego and bad breath on me, will get the best kick in the balls since Paul Newman demonstrated the art in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid - you know, when they arrived at the Hole in the Wall, and there was a challenge to Newman's leadership. So there. Men, you are warned.

I will be much kinder to women who make an approach. But even so, I've already found that I want to back off big time if there is any hint of pressure or obsessiveness. It's instinctive and it's absolute. I don't think I'm likely to change.

Oh dear, this all makes me sound very, very unlovable. But really, what do I want with some superannuated man who chiefly wants somebody to look after him? What's in that for me? Love and companionship? Hah. I get as much from Teddy Tinkoes, and no argee-bargee with it.

And in any case there's a fundamental barrier to any liaison: M--- and I have not absolutely said goodbye. Indeed, there remains the tenuous possibility that better understanding and a radical change of viewpoint might enable us to become close friends again. I'm not betting on it, but while that slim chance exists I just couldn't start anything with someone else. It would feel like commiting a betrayal.

Nevertheless, I do present myself to the world as a woman, and must expect to be treated like one. I can't literally walk around as if I'm the only person on the planet. Women will be glancing at me, perhaps to judge my looks and to see what I'm wearing, and maybe whether I pose a threat. And men will be glancing at me too, perhaps with other thoughts at the back of their minds. Most will dismiss me in an instant, but some won't. I need a strategy for them. Civilised professional types are easy to cope with, and won't embarrass me, but what on earth do I say to a loudmouthed sweaty builder in a vest who says he can give me the best time I'll ever have? Do I pretend not to hear? Or what? Tricky. This sort of thing isn't mentioned in the Nuffield Hospital take-home notes.

Can one simply be friends, and have a purely verbal engagement in appropriate surroundings? But if it's a man talking to a woman, then it's all too likely that at some point things will slip over into tactile territory. I do realise that it's entirely normal for a certain amount of touching to occur in ordinary social situations. And if an educated, interesting, attractive, open-minded, well-travelled man of fifty-something with some experience of life's knocks gets into conversation with me in a busy city pub at the right time of day and in the right circumstances, then maybe I won't mind him idly touching my arm for an instant, or even caressing my hand if the talk takes a sentimental or emotional turn. But that's as far as I'd want it to go. And I'm not in any case going to linger, in case he gets ideas.

And I'm not going to object if a forty-something man does the same, although I'd have to give him fair warning that I'm older than he thinks - and be prepared to prove it, if I want to get rid of him.

But I don't think I could take a thirty-something man seriously, or anyone younger. It might seem flattering, but I think my advanced age is very obvious, and if he claims to find me alluring then he must either have a psychological issue, or else he's taking the mickey for the benefit of his watching pals.

Forget romance. I've no rosy illusions about being chatted up. If indeed it happens at all.

And so when might those exciting new bits of mine come into play? Well, so far as I'm concerned they are not likely to. I really don't fancy a man's unwashed dysfunctional willy making a mess in my vagina, thank you. Or any other orifice. Let him stick to polite conversation.

Still, I've noticed a strange thing with most post-op trans women that I know. They were generally attracted to women when in their former male mode, and weren't gay, and would say that after surgery they'd be seeking out women as before. But once the surgery is performed, a kind of mindset change occurs. They notice men more, and begin to find them interesting, and suddenly it isn't out of the question to have a boyfriend. Indeed that becomes a prime ambition. Maybe it's a hormonal effect - the complete loss of testosterone, the total dominance of oestragen. But evidently something has happened in the brain. Well, how do I know that the same thing won't happen to me?

Sunday, 10 April 2011

The referendum on voting. A keen mind takes a sharp look.

On 5 May we take part in a referendum to decide whether we abandon the present system in favour of a new one. 'Yes' means we switch to the new. 'No' means we stay with the status quo.

One day recently the booklet that is supposed to explain it all popped through the front door here at Melford Hall, and Withers brought it to me while I was having a snatched breakfast.

'Oh! What's this, Withers?'
'A booklet, my Lady.'
'Jolly good. I'll peruse it over another cup of tea. I think I've got just enough time before that National Trust chappie comes to talk to me about fixing the Gatehouse. You know, after that silly car bashed into it the other day.'
'Very good, my Lady.'

It's no joke running a house in the country. Scarcely any time to have a proper breakfast. And I so wanted to tuck into the devilled kidneys.

Well, I believe I've got my little head round what the booklet tells me. You can tell that they've tried to write it in Clear English. Even so, you need a massive IQ and bulging, throbbing, exposed brains to cope with things like this. (I really don't know who is being referrred to in the post title - not me - everyone knows that I'm the archetypical Miss Ditsy!)

As I see it, come 2015 or whatever, when the next General Election happens, we will either elect people on the basis of who gets the most votes in a straightforward count of ballot papers ('First past the Post') or who gets at least 50% of the votes after one or more counts in which second and third and maybe fourth choices come into play - because under the 'Alternative Vote' system you can tick more than one box on the ballot paper, in order of preference.

I haven't yet heard much informed argument either way. Under the current system it does seem pretty clear that IF you reckon on a low turn-out, and IF you can (by fair means or foul) muster enough votes, then you can ensure that Sir Reginald Fatbastard will be re-elected for the umpteenth time as the Right Honourable Member for Carrotshire North-West. Even if only one-quarter of the electorate took any interest in the proceedings, provided that gentleman has secured most of the votes that were cast - let's suppose he has a lot of loyal shooting friends - then the result for him is in the bag. Or, in another setting, that well-known Man of the People (also styled the Voice of Reason, and The Defender of British Values) Mr Adolf Blackshirt will, with the assistance of his loyal and active supporters, win a seat for the Kill All Foreigners Party in Smokewick South-East. It's all reminiscent of how it was in the days of the 'Rotten Boroughs', before the 1832 Reform Act, when in constituencies dotted around the country a brace of aspiring well-heeled MPs could secure a seat in Parliament on the basis of votes cast by six farmers and eight cows, all bought with cash, flattery and promises. (Then, once up in London, they'd soon be seen off in a pointless duel, but that's another story)

So what might change if we adopt the 'Alternative Vote' system instead? Well, with the propect of picking up votes on the second or subsequent rounds of counting, parties will see that it's worth putting up a candidate on the off-chance of winning. There'll be a lot of candidates. So I'd expect to be confronted with a ballot paper on these lines:

Vote by placing a number in the box next to each candidate you wish to vote for, '1' indicating your first choice, '2' your second choice, and so forth. 

These are the Candidates [I'll simply list their parties]:

The Sensible and Decisive Party
The Just and Reasonable Party
The Equality Party
The Social Justice Party
The Law and Order Party
The Philosophical Party
The Power to Pensioners Party
The Love and Kisses Party
The Extreme Sex and Sensation Party
The Sunshine and Ice Cream Party
The Chocolate For All Party
The Barbie and Ken Playtime Party
The Boring Old Fart Party
The More Pay For Bankers Party
The Appallingly Bigoted Party
The Mindless Cretin Party
The Hunt Out All Deviants Party

There you are. What a fine choice! But all is not what it seems. You just can't judge a party by its name. For instance, The Extreme Sex and Sensation Party has a cracking agricultural policy. You can't ignore that.

One thing the booklet tells me, which I wasn't clear about, is that you don't have to rank all of the candidates in order of preference. If you simply want to vote for one party, you can. It's just that the Alternative Vote system gives you the chance to elect a second-best candidate. Or a third-best. Or a tenth-best if you wish.

In the above list, I might be inclined to make The Just and Reasonable Party my first choice. But then, if I'd be almost as happy with The Sensible and Decisive Party or The Equality Party, I can make them my second and third choices. And in any event, I'd cast a vote for The Power to Pensioners Party, just in case they get in! And, since I have to think of the Melford Hall farming income, I'd give the nod to The Extreme Sex and Sensation Party's brilliant ideas on ewe and pig subsidies.

There, sorted.

And instead of the election running like some midnight Grand National steeplechase, with the first past the post getting the glittering prize, we wait half an hour longer and get the result that best represents the inclinations of the local people.

Oh! Sir Reginald Fatbastard got in just the same. Bugger.

But that nasty Adolf Blackshirt didn't. Hurrah for democracy!

PS It seemed fair and just to let the Three Main Parties know how deeply I've understood this voting issue. So I went to each of their websites, and sent a copy of this post to each of them in an email - that's the Conservative, LibDem and Labour parties, in case you didn't know who were in fact the three main parties. I mean, some people take no interest in what's going on, or who the players are. Well they don't, do they?

Friday, 8 April 2011

Lucy models swimwear! Hmmmm.

Today I decided that I simply must now kit myself out with credible beachwear. The sun was glorious again, and my conservatory was the place to get a tan - if suitably attired. I suppose that in the privacy of my own home - and it really is private - I could sunbathe in my underwear, or even in the nude, but I am extending my convalescent range to nearby bits of coast, and clearly some decent female beachwear was indicated. I didn't have any, because of course up till now there hasn't been any point buying - say - a bikini when you were still sporting the wrong type of private parts. But that's all changed.

So off I went to the Holmbush Centre at Shoreham, and to the huge Marks & Spencer store there, which I reckon is the best one between Southampton and Canterbury. What fun it was to make a choice of things for the beach. It was at first tempting to go for bright, eye-catching colours. But then, on reflection, did I really want to catch the eye? And there always comes a moment when you need to put on a cardi or jacket against the inevitable breeze, and then - ouch! - you can so easily have a dreadful clash of colours. In the end, then, I went for blacks and navy blues. Here are the results, as shot in the fitting cubicle.

First up, black shorts with a nice loose black-and-white 'belt' that hangs down in an appealing way:

I'm wearing my ordinary white bra for modesty. Have to admit, I'm a bit pudgy around the middle! Next, a dotty little number in navy blue and white:

I like it because it's striking, but those big dots or spots sure do reveal the shape of my tummy! And yet really that's exactly the effect I'm looking for. I want other people on the beach to register 'typical middle-aged mum who's past her prime, but still pleasant to look at, though only for a blink of the eye'. That's right - take me in with one glance, then completely dismiss me from your mind. Perfect camouflage.

Next up, another one-piece in black with a crinkly effect up the front:

The second of these shots is perhaps the more flattering. Yes, solid black definitely has a slimming effect, and anyway goes nicely with my hair colour. I think this is the costume I'd wear most often, certainly in front of masses and masses of people. My thighs seem to be fattening up nicely - they got a bit thin and wasted while in hospital and immediately afterwards.

Finally, I tried on a black bikini:

Oh dear. Decidedly not. I'll have to get a lot more toned up if I want to think two-piece - that flabby midriff is not a good look! Apart from that, the top was rather tight around my chest. They didn't have a top in the next size up, so I didn't buy. I'm sure you'll agree that this was the right decision! Of course that means that I can't strut about on Copacabana Beach this autumn in just a yellow thong. Damn.

Well, that's the show over. Tomorrow promises to be another fine sunny day, and I for one am going to bask in the conservatory, in one of my swimsuits, sipping my elderflower cordial. Aaaah, that's the life.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Beach walk: sunset and low tide at Worthing

Worthing is a large and pleasant resort on the Sussex coast, to the west of Brighton. Compared to Brighton, it's a Plain Jane, and decidedly sedate. But then that's a lot of its charm, that lack of frenetic buzz. It's still a good shopping centre, and the seafront is shingly and boaty, and there's a pier, and the sunsets are just as good.

Yesterday was mild and very sunny, and towards the end of the afternoon, after a nap, I consulted the application on my PDA that showed me the state of the tide, and when sunset would be, and decided to fire up Fiona and catch the early evening at Worthing.

This sounds as if I'm really getting up and about, fully on my feet again, and physically ready for any event. Not so. Worthing is only sixteen miles away by fast and easy roads, and let's face it, driving Fiona is a no-brainer and completely strain-free. All I have to do is indicate my direction, squeeze the accelerator a bit, and twiddle the steering wheel now and then. She will take care of nearly everything in the brake department, and most controls kick in and out automatically, including of course gear changing. I don't even have to dip the rear-view mirror: the glass darkens as required. I like to hear the growl of the diesel engine when accelerating, but mostly all is quiet and serene. Inside Fiona is like being inside a luxury safety capsule, where only token actions are required, not much more than you'd have to perform while watching the Thames from a pod high up on the circumference of the London Eye. Her electronically-adjustable driver's seat is very comfortable indeed, and is the only upright seat I can manage for any length of time just now. In fact it's the most comfortable seat I have access to. So it's little wonder that I don't mind getting out and about in my car.

But how you cope at the destination is another matter entirely. Seaford Head the other day was pretty close to my limit. But the nice thing about Sussex seaside resorts is that the beaches and promenades are wide and flat, and very easy for post-op trans persons with tight suture lines. And yesterday was a particularly low tide, so once down on the beach the going was easy-peasy on the wet sand. I got some shots in of course, and I wasn't the only person doing a spot of photography. There were several young men with SLRs and camera bags dotted about. They probably thought I was a mere girly amateur, with my little Leica and nothing else, but that didn't matter at all: it wasn't a contest. What mattered were the shots you got: seeing the pictures and finding a way to take them. Here's three more of mine:

I have to say I do like piers. Clevedon and Eastbourne are my favourites, but any seaside structure can have merit, and can look good if the light is right; and the sunrise or sunset light is the very best, and can make anything dramatic.

That beach walk didn't tire me out. I came back home in the soft dusk and cooked up fresh salmon, new potatoes and sugar snap peas, followed by coffee, and then watched a nail-biting episode of Masterchef, which is now approaching the final. After that, the evening dilation and so to bed. Well, eventually to bed: I fell asleep on the recliner in the lounge, woke at two, and then, with my night's sleep spoiled, kept on drifting off and waking up again every two hours all night long.

Basically I still catnap my way through the day, which is one reason why I'm not yet up for visiting anyone. It's not just the demands of dilation three time a day: I simply need to sleep whenever my body asks me to, and socially that's a problem. 

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

The New Anatomy

Now that everything's beginning to settle down - despite swelling and skin discoloration that may linger on for weeks ahead - I'm getting an increasing sense of what it will all mean for me. I'm not referring to the long-foreseeable psychological benefits, or anything theoretical. I'm speaking about real matters that you simply can't experience until you've actually had the surgery, and begin to live with the direct physical consequences. All of them good consequences, I hasten to add!

First of all, there is your basic shape. Once you can stand up straight, and move freely, you realise that you are now physically sleek and neat and tidy. The funny dangly bits that spoilt your look, and made you feel front-heavy, have gone. All you can see, from whatever angle, is a smooth surface. Even the plump bits look nice, and in general you look integrated, coherent, all of one piece, and most definitely female-shaped.

In my own particular case, I now want to wear body-hugging clothes that reveal my figure and suggest fitness, lissomness, health and an active life. And such is my self-belief that I think I can get away with it. For instance, I went to the doctor this morning attired in a black cami-top, black leggings, a wine red Seasalt cord jacket with turned-back cuffs, champagne-coloured pumps, my usual minimum silver jewellery, the black leather Radley bag, and the Cath Kidston shopping bag with some medical stuff in it. I looked slightly too 'Brighton Lanes' for a doctor's appointment, but it was a gorgeous morning and I felt gorgeous. So I dressed to match my mood. It didn't stop me enjoying some articles in Good Housekeeping magazine while waiting, nor chatting to an elderly lady with a most interesting life history. My usual doctor, Karen Hancock, thought I looked really well: she meant my demeanour and skin colour and other such things, but as I said to her, when you are doing fine you actually want to make an effort with everything about yourself. Wellbeing instills you with confidence and tremendous self-worth if nothing else. (I think I'll make a hair appointment when I've finished this post, the first since January, apart from a fringe trim in February)

Let's talk about the new bits in detail. I am intrigued to get to know them little by little. They have literally been revealed in slow-motion as the swelling subsides, gradually coming out of hiding so to speak.

One thing that struck me from the first was how invisible they are to me. My mons pubis is a bit oversized just now, and nothing south of it can be viewed without resorting to a hand mirror. But even when it assumes more modest proportions, the various female attractions will still be out of sight. I imagine that in the distant past, some women could well have gone through life without ever having a proper look at what was down there, a combination of ignorance and prudery stopping them taking an active interest; and perhaps in some cases the lack of a good enough mirror.

Even in the mirror, whether full-length or hand-held, there is really nothing to see, just a slit. It all looks very neat and economical, like a cleft in a smoothly shaped stone, reminiscent of how things are in a Japanese garden. The parts within are not open to view. I can see now exactly why women can feel completely comfortable with nudity. I thought once that it was something to do with brazen sexiness and a willingness to show off your wares. But it's simply that there is nothing to see except a smooth body, as featureless as a robot's, and so - between women anyway - nudity is trivial.

Let's work through the individual parts.

For now, I've nothing to say about my new clitoris, right up there at the top, except to remark that it's well positioned, and within very convenient reach if I may say so! It's a spring bud in a summer garden of promise that will shoot into bloom at some point, but it's tightly closed up at the moment, and I've left it strictly alone. I recall another well-known American blogger in 2009 experimenting with her fingers and unshipping a clitoral stitch, with unwelcome consequences. I want to avoid any problems like that. Besides, I understand that sensation may take months to fully develop, and I'm in no great hurry. It's not as if I have a raging libido going on at the moment.

Next down, the urethra. When things were rather more swollen, it was actually not that easy to pee, and for a short while I wondered whether all was well. But the trouble was simply that the pumped-up labia majora were literally sealing off any passage of fluid. Easing them apart let the urine through, although it dribbled everywhere at first, and the jet, such as it was, would usually go in various directions, especially down my left leg if I were standing up in the shower. But as the labia have reduced in size, so the jet of urine has been less obstructed, and nowadays I can achieve a strong and authentic blast into the water below that any woman would be proud of.

I'm really pleased with how peeing now empties the bladder completely, and how there seems to be fine control over the process. But the major new sensation is that of freedom and surrender. It's so simple and direct. You want to go to the loo; so you sit down and just let it happen. There's no fuss, it just leaks out, and you abandon yourself to the process. You will have to wipe yourself after, but then that was true in the old days: men's penises always contained a supply of urine, like garden hoses do, that hadn't escaped and needed the proverbial final shake of the member, or else a tissue if you were genteel. Getting back to the abandonment bit, this is really a novel thing for me, for in the past I found it very hard to 'let go' and 'give myself up' to anything. Now I can. Any time I feel like it. I'm sure it will help to complete my loosening-up process.

And in a curious way, it hints at the state of mind a woman might have when suddenly wanting to make love, and feeling prepared to let the man do whatever he wants with her.

Sorry to harp on about peeing matters, but I can't help contrasting the wonderful new state of affairs with the difficulties of former days! I suppose the facts that the male urethra was longer and had a much more convoluted route, with other tubing and erectile tissue to contend with, made peeing man-style far more of a mission. Sometimes a mission impossible. It was a well-known (if little admitted) fact that many men hated the public and sometimes very communal nature of their toilet arrangements. For the sensitive, it was a nerve-wracking ordeal. And of course, anything that put you off would stop the flow of urine. So you then went through a face-saving charade of 'not really needing to go', and quitting the toilet with an assumed nonchalance. Only to sneak back later if the opportunity presented - which meant watching surreptitiously who went into the loo, and who came out, and timing your own second visit very, very carefully. Social evenings at heavy-drinking and male-bonding rugby clubs and the like were evenings of distress and bladder pain. And using a cubicle - assuming there were any - was no real answer in the Gents. It was regarded as a cissy thing to do, and even with the door closed behind you - assuming that there was a door, and that it locked - the sound of boisterous blasphemies and aggressive innuendoes shouted between urinal-using men could easily put you off. Male peeing required the sound of silence, not the unsettling banter of foul-mouthed young turks boasting of rigid todgers eight times the size of he Eiffel Tower.

Thank God for the wonderful safe haven of women's loos. All civilisation and cleanliness and niceness and fragrance, and sometimes even flowers in a bowl, or at least some pot-pourri. And proper mirrors and soap and tissues and towels, and proper hygienic places in which to dispose of things. A pleasant place to take time out in, to repair makeup in, to smile and chat in. And now, at last, I can make all the right noises appropriate to the occasion! Queues? What queues?

Next down, the vagina. Again, not much to say yet. From the first, I got both Little Joe and Big Jim inside without difficulty, and dilating continues to be pain-free, if not quite the most comfortable thing I do during the day. Blood and those tiny white bits of discarded skin disappeared long ago, and haven't returned. I reckon my vagina is therefore as clean and healthy and well-healed as any, and coming along nicely thank you. I haven't bothered to measure the 'depth' yet. At a guess, maybe five inches, but I hear that new vaginas tend to shrink a bit, and assiduous pressure with the dilators doesn't necesssarily stretch the interior very much. Fisting is going to be out. Frankly, I matters little to me whether or not I can eventually accommodate a real or artificial willy. My vagina is there to make me feel like a proper woman. It's a psychological necessity, just as to some breast implants might be. It isn't there primarily to satisfy a lifelong desire to have rampant sex girl-style. But hey-ho, who knows how things might pan out?

And then the anus, which hasn't been touched surgically at all. But I think its operation has been affected by creating the vagina. After all, there is a cavity there now that wasn't there before, and so clearly less space for a big bowel. Which seems to imply that waste matter can't accumulate so much as it used to; and also that there is going to be a bit of pressure on the bowel to empty out. Whether this is really true, I can't yet say, because I am still not active enough to train my body into what will become my new 'normal' metabolism. There is however the same feeling of wanton abandonment at toilet-time for one's number 2's as there is for one's mumber 1's. It's all so much more relaxed. That has to be a Good Thing.

So, to summarise: I think that my new anatomy is exactly what the doctor ordered, and just as Nature really intended. It's simple, direct, feels good, and works a treat. I've little doubt that the untested bits will perform well too. I thought the previous male arrangement was unattractive and inefficient and got in the way of so many things. I'm now utterly convinced I was right to think that, and SO glad I made the change. And yes, I do feel genuinely feminine. Which is just as it should be. Mind and body are now one.