Monday, 30 May 2011

Lost friends

As an update to my last post, I'd like to confirm that the event at Yelden yesterday was very enjoyable, and nobody spoil it for me. I had an incredible level of acceptance - even before I got there, the girls serving at Costa Coffee at the Toddington Services on the M1 motorway showing nary a flicker of trans-recognition as I bought some much-needed refreshment. The same from the other customers. And ditto with the people I encountered when buying my Good Housekeeping magazine, and going to the loo.

What am I worrying about? I must seem very self-conscious. My friend R--- is not like this at all. She has total assurance. But she's a year ahead of me. Remember, it's not yet three years since I began to take any steps on the transition road, and hardly more than two since I started on hormones. The hair removal programme hasn't been going for two years yet. Nor have I had any facial surgery. I'm relying mainly on my voice and a confident manner to get me by.

The trouble is, I am dreadfully hard to convince. Despite assurances, I see only a thinly-disguised male face in the mirror, even though I will agree that from the neck down all is indeed rather female. In fact one nice girl at the barbie said to me that she envied my legs, which shook me, as only a few months ago I'd thought them of questionable shapeliness. As I've said before, it's so difficult to see yourself as others see you.

I so enjoyed relaxing and having a drink and chatting away without a care. I got to know a couple of people a bit better than the last time I was in Yelden. I'm always looking to make new friends, and every occasion like this seems to throw one or two possible friends into the ring.

But next day I couldn't help thinking about old friends, lost friends. I'm not always upbeat about the irreversible changes that transition brings about. Not when I think of the people who have vanished from my life.

It has struck me that the last big pre-transition social event I attended was on 1 June 2008. It was the 80th birthday of one of M---'s uncles, a big family get-together at a posh golf club in Surrey. I was there as M---'s partner of many, many years. I enjoyed the whole thing. I have always been sociable. But within two months my appearance had begun to change - the clothes a bit odd; the hair a bit different. I was trying to be deliberately androgenous, and not at all like the old familiar me that everyone had been so at ease with. A little earlier in 2008, M--- and I had holidayed in Cornwall. This is me on 20 May 2008, in a pub at Marhamchurch, a pleasant village just outside Bude:

And here is me at that golf club do, less than two weeks after:

I felt bulky and overweight, and as vaguely uncomfortable with myself as ever, but the point I'm making with these shots is that to everyone else I appeared completely normal, and nobody could possibly have guessed what was about to happen. That's why it was such a jolt to everyone. And the sad thing is that I liked everyone there, and they seemed to like me, and this is how it had been for years past. But once transition began, I saw only one of these people again, in December 2008. And I never saw them after that. An entire swathe of people wiped away from my life. It left me very isolated. Frankly, it was sudden and extreme social deprivation. I was left with only M--- and my two parents to talk to - in a strained, tense atmosphere, because none of them were supportive.

I suppose the friendly faces at that 2008 golf club family celebration might not recognise the modern me who was chatting away in Bedfordshire yesterday afternoon. Here I am:

The 'five-months-pregnant' look wasn't quite as pronounced as it looks! The camera has exaggerated all the sticky-out bits. But even I don't see much of a physical connection between the guy in the pub and the girl in the mirror.

There is absolutely no going back, however much some might wish it. It's a one-way journey. I'm happy about that, but I know that many are not. What's to be done? I don't think anything can be.

Friday, 27 May 2011

The Girly Dream realised

I'm now beginning to get out and about quite a lot. Driving is easy and no effort, and the M23 and M25 motorways here in the south-east of England can get you very far in a short time - right into Kent, for instance. More locally, I can, within an hour or so, get beyond Eastbourne in the east, and beyond Chichester in the west.

I still baulk at venturing further afield. But this Sunday I'm going with my friend R--- to a village barbecue north of Bedford. However, I'm not driving. We're going in her car, and of course I can nod off if post-op fatigue sets in.

Whatever the personal effort needed, I don't want to miss a social occasion like this. For both of us it's an opportunity to guage how well we pass in a rural setting far, far away from Brighton. We know we'll be absolutely fine, but there are degrees of fineness. It'll be fascinating to see how, for instance, the woman-to-woman conversations develop, and whether they take a turn only taken when the participants take each other completely for granted. Delicious if it happens! And even more affirming if the men there attempt a chat-up!

Besides,  this is a chance to appear in a public gathering in scanty summertime garb. It'll be a simple outfit - no long dresses, not at a barbecue, where at any moment you might drop a burger or sausage or tomato ketchup onto your clothes! I'm going to dispense with a bra, and wear a cotton cami-top that I've bought recently. It's very pretty, and shows off my breasts and hips very well indeed. And of course my girly arms and shoulders will be exposed to view. I want to be sun-kissed, as I indulge in animated chat with an engaging smile on my big red lips, while all along my ash-coloured hair plays gently in the soft breeze. You get the picture? I'll be wearing black leggings as usual, because these not only show off the surgical area - flaunting my credentials, as I call it - but reveal the much-improved shape of my legs.

Recently all parts of me have definitely acquired a more girly look, even to my own sceptical eye. I'll continue to qualify this with cautionary remarks like 'but there's still a long way to go' or 'my nose will never look quite right' or 'my chest will always be a bit too bulky for total credibility', but these are quibbles that in real life don't matter. There are plenty of women around with unpretty noses and large shoulders, and I can easily see for myself that for a woman in late middle age, I have better skin and less sag than most. It's your voice and manner, and the way you move, that carry the day. And yes, your dress sense: but nobody expects haute couture at a village barbie.

So is this what all the trauma and determination and sorrow and emotional damage and financial pain were for? Is this the Girly Dream realised?

Yes, of course it is. Not by any means the whole of it, nor even a typical slice of it, but this adventure on Sunday will be one more event that says my personal journey has been a success.

It's the mere fact that I can fit into the kind of get-up that three years back would have seemed physically impossible. It's the mere fact that I can speak to anybody I choose when I get there, and not have to keep quiet because my voice is no good. It's the mere fact that I have an assured sense of my own true personality, complete and unassailable. I can assert my existence, and my right to exist, and insist on being taken seriously. Or at least as seriously as society allows a woman to be taken, which, regretfully, is still not all that far! (But that's quite another issue)

My friend R--- said that I had become a 'woman of power'. She's right. I do have power. I have control and choices and the money and personality to exploit that control, and those choices. I'm not a victim of anything. I have done what is necessary to reveal the right person, and left the old, wrong, person behind. The knowledge of that, and the sheer comfort of being in the right skin, enable me to hold my head up. That's the real meaning of discovering your true self, and is the real joy at the core of the Girly Dream.

All right. I'm not ruling out some crass challenge from a drunken oaf at this barbecue, or in the village pub. Let it come, if it comes at all. But somehow I don't think it will. I reckon that any man who is a real man will be far more interested in trying to make out whether I'm wearing a bra or not.

In fact, how amusing it will be, if all the male idiots there keep letting their eyes slip downwards. Tossers. Come on girls, another drink, and let's ignore them.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

20,000 miles since buying Fiona; 40,000 miles since Dad died

I love driving, and there's a rough correlation between miles I've driven and the passage of time. In recent years it's been 20,000 miles = one year.

Yes, I have already covered 20,000 miles (well, 19,700 actually) in Fiona, who is one year old today if you reckon her 'birthday' to be the day I first drove her away. I've already eulogised at length about her, and so won't do it again here, beyond saying that I can thoroughly recommend her, and still find it a keen pleasure to settle myself in the commanding cream-leather driver's seat, and roar off with the dust hanging in the breeze behind me. Sex on wheels.

On a sad note, though, I've driven 40,000 miles since Dad died suddenly exactly two years ago. Again, I've said much about Dad in various posts (just search on 'Dad' if you're interested) and won't say more now. Poor Dad. I still miss him. I still have nobody to play crib or piquet with. And I dare say nor has he, wherever he is.

I expect that tonight, after my evening meal, I'll go for a sunset drive and fill my mind with memories of him. Perhaps I'll even do what I did last year: buy two drinks at a pub somewhere nice - his drink and mine - and silently toast him.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Ryan Giggs and privacy law in the UK

I have to say that until he was named in the House of Commons yesterday, I had never heard of Ryan Giggs. I'm afraid football is that far below my personal horizon. And of course I naturally couldn't give a monkey's about his footballing career, nor even the standing and fate of his club, Manchester United. (I hasten to remark that, unlike my ignorance of Giggs, I have been aware of Manchester United for many a long year. I'm not that much out of touch. I've even heard of  Manchester City)

Well, should I give a monkey's about his wish for privacy enforced through legal injunctions on application to the High Court?

On the one hand, we all want adequate privacy. You don't have to be a star footballer. Merely being trans makes privacy desirable. You don't want tabloid newsapapers picking that up and hounding you for a salacious story, and you don't want to be the subject of a nationwide whisper campaign on Twitter or Facebook. If you have to be out and proud, you want to control it all yourself.

It's actually a fact of life that most of us will enjoy far more privacy and obscurity than we might wish for, because our lives are dull and boring and simply not newsworthy. We hardly need laws to protect us, or injunctions to resort to - even if we could afford the legal costs. Nobody will be interested in what we do or say. (What a happy situation to be in. Anonymity is priceless)

Celebrities (and really anyone in the public eye) can't hope for such comfort. Public comment goes with a public presence. And some public comment is surely fair and justified. In particular, if someone breaks the law, or there is a serious moral transgression, why shouldn't the facts immediately be made public? I dare say that legal bods will tut-tut about that, and talk of prejudiced juries and unfair trials, but wrongdoing is wrongdoing, and if anybody is discovered in breach of the law - statute, common or moral - why shouldn't they be talked about, and even accused?

Sometimes you get the feeling that without a fuss being made, without a general discussion, nothing at all would be done to look into the matter.

By the way, I don't tweet.

Saturday, 21 May 2011


Today I decided after breakfast that I was going to have another jolly good feel of my female bits, particularly of course the clitoris.

This isn't something I have done much of since the op in March. The first time was just before I had my ten-week post-op check - about two weeks ago. I'd wanted to see how much feeling there was in the clitoris, because I knew Mr Thomas would ask. There was some - hardly an electrifying sensation though! But hey-ho, it's early days.

Well, a little bit of tentative rubbing on this occasion also produced some sensation, but it was very much the same low-key feeling as last time.

I thought I'd been very gentle with myself, but clearly not, because when I withdrew the finger there was a little smear of blood. Yikes! How come?

I got into a good light with my magnifying mirror, and had a close look. Hmmm. The clitoris seemed fine, unblemished. The only other obvious source of the blood seemed to be the urethra, but that too seemed intact. I noticed however some little red marks on the surrounding skin, that could have been the remains of suture lines. Maybe I'd stretched these in some way when probing, or snagged the skin with my nail, even though it was cut short and well smoothed off.

Well, one pee later and I was convinced it wasn't the urethra, so the blood must have come from the little marks on the surrounding skin. There was no blood, no pain, and no discomfort during the rest of the day. Dilating was problem-free. I decided that - apart from ordinary washing with the shower jet - to leave things undisturbed in there for a while, so that whatever had bled could heal up.

I think this shows that even though the new tissue may look good, it is still in fact quite fragile, and you need to give the surgical area plenty of time to heal up, much more time than you think ought to be enough!

Friday, 20 May 2011

Nothing lost in transition

I am approaching the third anniversary of my coming out in late July 2008, and that sort of timescale allows you to take stock somewhat, and compare your life then with how it is now.

In this post I'm focussing on what I like to do. One thing is stangely obvious: that despite all that has happened to me, my leisure interests have changed very little indeed.

Now that's most surprising. If you'd asked me to make predictions back in 2008, I'd have said that taking feminising hormones, or just adopting a female mode of living, would have generated many changes. I'd have surely taken up some traditional female skills and passtimes. For that very reason, I hung onto Mum's sewing machine and her big collection of knitting and crochet needles, and all the wool and buttons and clothes patterns that I discovered in cupboards. I thought that I'd be signing up to classes in cooking and cake icing. I even thought that my TV-watching tastes would alter, and that I'd be following Strictly Come Dancing, and crying over romantic drama.

None of these girly developments have taken place. I still think that one day I may want to knit myself something, but the urge is not strong. Nor will I be taking up dancing anytime soon. OK, I've been consistently serious and even passionate about clothing and accessories - but then I always was, and that kind of interest is nothing new. OK, I now do a lot of cooking - but then I always liked to turn out a nice meal if the mood took me. OK, I spend a lot of time in front of the mirror - but absolutely nothing new there, except a greater tendency to take photos of myself! But then those are mainly to get on record the ongoing changes in appearance.

Look at this list of things that I used to enjoy in 'male' mode, and still do in female mode:

Food, especially when eating out
Visiting pretty places
Visiting interesting places

There's more, but this will do. A lot of these interests complement each other, driving going well with maps and visiting and eating out. And photography goes with almost everything.

All of these interests have easily been imported into my life as Lucy. They are the kind of interests that can. Indeed, I often say that I was living Lucy's leisure life years before she came into being. Which explains why nothing new has been acquired in the transition process. Nor have I had to forego anything. It has ensured that in my present solitary life I can console myself with all the good old familiar things that I've been doing for years. Many a stressful moment has been relieved by a spot of photo-editing, or a good drive.

Actually, there is one entirely new thing: blogging. But that's not a specifically girly activity.

I'd say that there's a tip to be taken on board here. Transition need not be a wholesale renunciation of the past. If you develop the right kind of interests well before you transition, you will find much more to enjoy about the process. It's much like people who are wedded to their jobs and have no outside life: they dread retirement. I recall my only visit to Birmingham, in 1992. I was seeing a senior tax investigator to discuss my skills. We quickly got through that, then fell into a general conversation on life and how it ends. The man I was speaking with was much older than me, and had no hobbies. He didn't even read much. His wife sang in a choir. He despondently said that he'd give that a go after retirement. It would please her. But he had no interest in singing at all, and had no idea at all what he'd do instead. I thought: if you're not careful, you'll go mad with boredom or frustration, or become a zombie whose chief frisson would be to push the trolley at the local supermarket once a week.

That's why (for instance) I foresaw the need to get Fiona. She could not only pull the caravan, and take me to the shops, she could give me all the thrills of a fast drive in a big, powerful car. And she does. It doesn't matter that fast, adroit and determined driving - some might disparagingly call it rude, ruthless and aggressive driving - is not meant to be a girly activity. I'm going to do it because I like it, and find it satisfying. And similarly, if you always liked potholing or mountaineering or hang-gliding, I'm with you absolutely if you see no reason to give it up just because you're now the girliest of girls.

There is no book of rules.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Shaving legs and armpits

It's Appearance Season, so here's another post on looking good.

Hair on legs and under the arm: what's the best solution?

Now I was never very hairy in 'old mode', but what I had distressed me to the point of phobia. From early on I definitely had a fetish about being scrupulously clean-shaven, and free of all horrible hair - apart from the hair on the top of my head, of course, which I cherished and marvelled at. So I never had a beard or moustache - ugh, the very thought - and never experimented with 'designer stubble' (I always thought these were all just excuses for not shaving anyway). I consciously wanted a cure for facial and body hair. Shaving seemed to be the only easy method (I was ignorant about electrolysis and lasering, although I'd heard of wax treatments), but it was no good for the parts you couldn't reach, such as on your back. I had a little hair there - not much, but it made me feel unclean and ashamed. I covered-up as much as possible. I felt I had no 'body beautiful', because of the disfiguring hair on it. This was quite apart from being flabby and out of proportion, in my eyes anyway - although, oddly, many other people thought the opposite.

Back onto topic.

After more than two years on hormones, my body hair is now in a weakened state. All the hairs, everywhere, have either 'vanished' (still there but invisible), or, if shaved, grow back slowly and thinly - weedy willows, rather than stout oaks. For the sake of perfect appearance, I like to shave under my arms twice a week, but three times a fortnight would be quite acceptable. I can get away with shaving my legs much less often. Twice a month is more than enough for everyday outings with thighs, knees and calves exposed to the idle scrutiny of the hoi polloi.

What I'm saying is that simple shaving is (for me) a reasonably low-maintenance solution at very little cost - really just the expense of some additional shaving gel, because the Gillette razor refills are needed anyway for ordinary facial shaving (likely to continue for some time yet, until electrolysis finally gets rid of the remaining facial stubble).

So, would it be worth considering any alternatives?

One of my friends, more than a year ahead of me, is having all her body hair lasered. It will be completely banished, avoiding all future shaving or other treatments. A once-and-for-all solution, but obviously at some cost, although sheer ongoing convenience is clearly a big factor. She will be able to go on an extended holiday far away from well-equipped bathrooms, and not get hairy. And, for all time, have a perfect bikini-line (she loves the beach).

I think my leg and under-arm hair is probably just about dark enough to be lasered too. Should I consider this?

Or shall I just devote an hour to shaving my hands, arms and legs every two or three weeks? With the propsect of it all getting less and less as time goes on, as the hormones continue to do their work?

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Going glam

It's fun to get glammed-up. No question. But it's not what most women do, most of the time, even in the evenings, and especially not during the day. A woman who in daytime is wearing a sharp little outfit and stunning makeup generally has a good reason. She might be a top professional, with clients to impress, but at midday it's most likely to be a wedding. And if it's not obviously either of these, other people will notice and may start to speculate. And that might mean unwanted scrutiny. Can you risk it?

If the answer is yes - you might be on your way to Royal Ascot, say - then fine. Otherwise, surely caution is the order of the day. I see a lot of trans women, usually in the early stages of their transition, who naturally want to wear their best finery, but fail to see that it looks all wrong. You know, high heels and fishnets. I've never seen a natal girl wearing fishnets in the street. Working women and housewives and girls pushing prams all wear practical clothes that need not be drab, but they're going to be the sort you can go to the supermarket in and not mess up. If you are dressed like a dancing girl straight off the stage, it strikes the wrong note.

I think most trans women who have some full-time experience under their belt decide for themselves that doing what ordinary women do is the best course. It will let them walk about unnoticed. This is especially necessary in a place like Brighton.

Brighton has long had a reputation for being a mecca for LGBT people, a thoroughly safe place to go, with a large resident community of LGBT people and a local population that is used to seeing many strange sights. That's true about the local community, but it's also a problem. It means that what would pass as merely odd in another city is instantly recognised as LGBT, because the locals are so 'aware'.

In many other places trans folk are a rarity and not on people's minds. I was told a few months ago that there were only three trans people getting their prescriptions filled by Boots at Burgess Hill, where I go. I visit Burgess Hill (a small town north of Brighton) quite often for my shopping when I don't use the village shops, and I've never ever seen another trans person. But even if there were a dozen strolling around, I'd be surprised if they would be recognised in a place like that. Nobody would be familiar enough with the real appearance of trans women, nobody would spot the sometimes subtle visual differences between a trans woman and natal woman. So for a dressed-down trans woman, Burgess Hill is 'safe'. Not that you'd get a big night out there: don't bother.

Quite unlike Brighton. Gays, lesbians, bis and trannies are all tourist sights there, and the locals and Londoners milling around in the Lanes and the North Laines expect to see something to smirk at. So it's especially wise to look natural and unremarkable if you want to avoid embarrassing situations. Nor is Brighton as tolerant as you might think. There are plenty of folk around who will look for someone to have a go at, and an obvious trans person is terribly vulnerable. And remember the murder of Andrea Waddell there: she won't be the last.

All this said, you won't catch me leaving my front door without mascara and lipstick on, because these things draw attention to my eyes and lips, and away from my ugly nose and less-than-perfect jaw. They are essential props. They have a purpose.

As for my hair, I like it to look freshly-washed. But since it's fine and easily messed up by the wind, and because I don't like hats that much, I've recently been wearing hairbands to keep it in place. With fair success. A hairband doesn't make me look like Alice in Wonderland, and if a breeze whisks a few strands out of position, then restoring the well-groomed look is easy. A few flicks of my fingers. Meanwhile the hairband pushes my hair out around my face more, and that frames my face better, and looks right with the fringe.  If it's a day when the hair is looking a bit lank, I still don't worry overmuch: other women might think me slovenly, but at least I won't look like a tranny.

At this point, the challenge is putting together a glam outfit that doesn't seem over the top. Caution demands that you dress down. So currently this is my limit:

Tut. Eating again! But to make my predicament clear, what on earth would I have worn to the Royal Wedding, had I been invited? (Like Fergie, I wasn't) Whatever it was, I would have avoided the overdressed efforts that some people thought appropriate:

That evening meal photo was at The Red Lyon, a country pub in the village of Slinfold near Horsham. I was about to scoff my main course. For dessert I chose a summer fruits pudding with ice cream:

I've gone way off-topic, but it was so yummy I just had to show you.

That was an evening of total acceptance for my friend R--- and myself. Nothing less than we expected, but clearly they don't get trannies in Slinfold. And if you don't wear fancy stuff, and your makeup is natural, and your voice and manner are right, and you don't mind pushing your way through guys at the bar, and asking girls how old their toddlers are, you can get by really well and have a wonderful time.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

A cure for Gender Dysphoria - would you take it?

(Having had further ideas about this post, I have rewritten and expanded the second half, introducing the euthanasia aspect)

A friend of mine was telling me how she was still getting some odd questions about the 'why' of her transitioning, despite being 15 months post-op and her surgery being (you would have thought) old news. One question was, if it's about not feeling male, why don't they simply give you massive injections of testosterone? My friend pointed out that many transsexual people do already have a high level of testosterone that has to be suppressed, and that feeling female (and not male) has nothing to do with how much testosterone may be swashing about inside. It's a mental thing.

Clearly transsexuality was being seen as a kind of disease, a mere hormone imbalance, amenable to medication that could counter that oh-so-inconvenient aversion to one's body.

Now you already know my view here, that an MTF transsexual is born with a female mentality regardless of bodily appearance, a mentality that is present from the very beginning, even if unrecognised. You can't 'cure' this mentality. All you can do is deal with it by minimising the mismatch between mind and body - which is why the standard treatment is feminising hormones and surgery.

But what if there really was a cure that would make hormone treatment and surgery unnecessary, and reconcile that mind-body conflict? A way of expunging forever all those female tendencies? This raises several interesting points. For instance:

The nature of the cure. A certain type of robust therapy, possibly very stressful? A powerful drug? Some kind of electrical shock treatment that changed the brain? Or even irreversible brain surgery? What about side-effects? What about the risk of death, or unforeseen personality change beyond what was intended?

Who would be competent to administer this cure effectively and safely? What would happen if they made a mistake?

Isn't radical intervention just another form of 'playing God'?

Doesn't it smack of Nazi sterilisation programmes for non-Aryans or the mentally subnormal?

And if there was such a 'cure' for transsexuals, why not extend the principle of such treatment to anyone with a non-standard personality, whatever it might be? Root out and subdue all eccentrics, all oddballs, all troublesome and contentious folk?

It's basically about altering someone's feelings about themselves, to make them fit better into an established life pattern. It's putting their own feelings second to other people's feelings. Would that be a just or ethical thing to allow?

Would it be compulsory to accept the cure, or so unreasonable to refuse that sufferers would feel under huge pressure to accept it, despite private fears and objections? How wrong is that?

I think the question of a cure for Gender Dysphoria is in the same area as euthanasia, which my Concise Oxford Dictionary defines as 'the bringing about of a gentle and easy death in the case of incurable and painful disease'. And indeed it would be dealing out death to part of the self, possibly the best part, the part with the most potential. Simply to make the mind conform to outward physical appearance, and habilitate the sufferer to the status quo. Rather than letting the real person within have a life hitherto denied.

And like euthanasia (and at the core of the objections to it) is the potential for abuse and recrimination - the psychological pressure from others to 'kill off' an inconvenient part of the mind that thought one was female; the fostering of guilt feelings if the sufferer held out for their femaleness; the condemnation if the sufferer refused treatment and those around suffered themselves. And worse, if there were arbitrary legal 'rules' that determined whether treatment should be applied regardless of the sufferer's wishes.

Would any of us want to face a legal lobotomy or similar, in order to keep us 'male'? Even if we became cheerful, relaxed, compliant people as a result? Or, if it all went wrong, zombies? I know what my answer would be if offered a cure. No thank you. I'd rather attempt a physical conversion, however imperfect, and let my mind have full expression.

A member of a different tribe

The other afternoon, at Waitrose in Burgess Hill in fact, I had another of those wonderfully validating experiences.

I make no apology for keeping on mentioning events like this. This is a blog that promotes good news and uplifting ideas. It's not out to depress anyone. I want to share good feelings with my readers. I hope that if it can happen to me, then it can happen to you.

This is what took place. I'd got my basket of groceries, and was looking for a till to take them to. There was one with a short queue. But another woman with a laden trolley also spotted it, and we arrived simultaneously. I said, 'Oh, I think you just beat me to it!' And she said, 'No, I'm sure you were a little in front. Besides, you've only got a basket. Go on, I really don't mind.' I then replied, 'Are you quite sure? Thank you!' Which just shows that smiles and politeness and a willingness to give the other person an option pay off, at least in civilised stores like Waitrose. As I emptied my basket, we continued to chat. It was a life-enhancing social transaction: mutual consideration and pleasantness earning a feel-good reward for both. Just as when a man opens a door for you, and you give him a dazzling smile of gratitude: nothing more is expected, but both get a glow. Rude and aggressive people can't seem to see this, and miss out.

But that wasn't the thing I wanted to mention. Get this. The lady on the till was just about to hand over to another lady and go off for her tea break. She saw me, and immediately came round and asked me how I was. We'd last met in early January, after I had returned from Cornwall with a raw, puffy face that had been seared by the cold salty wind there. We'd had a conversation then, and now she made a point of speaking to me again. She remembered me, and what we'd talked about. I gave her a quick update, assured her that I was now fine, but taking things very gently after a hospital visit in March. All woman-to-woman stuff, all lively, all smiles. I was so amazed that she's remembered me, and was chatting to me, rather than whizzing off for her cup of tea! After she'd gone, the new lady at the till also had time for a few words. It was so nice.

I felt well and truly a member of the club. You know, the exclusive society of women. The tribe that men do not belong to.

And I tell you, the most exquisite and intense pleasure I've had so far as a transitioning person is to enjoy this inclusion in women's society. They have gathered me in with a hug and an embrace, and made me feel that I am not alone.

Friday, 13 May 2011

Good to go: a successful ten-week post-op consultation

I suppose the title really says it all. But I'm not one to be satisfied with only half a dozen words when a hundred can be used!

Last Tuesday evening I had my ten-week consultation with Mr Philip Thomas, the surgeon, with his clinical nurse Liz Hills in attendance. It was booked in for 7.00pm, but as there were a number of people there in front of me, I didn't get to see Mr Thomas till 7.45pm or so. I was able to have a bit of a chat, chiefly with a beautiful girl called Kimberley and her partner, who had come from Bath and were putting up at a hotel. There was also another couple who had come all the way from Sheffield, and were driving back there the same evening - sharing the driving of course; but I wouldn't have attempted such a journey myself.

Once called in by Liz, Mr Thomas asked me how I was getting on with dilation. I had little to say, except that I could do it without difficulty or discomfort, and after the first week had seen no blood or discharge on withdrawing the dilators. But I mentioned that I seemed to have only four inches in depth. He was surprised: I'd originally had five inches, and should still have something close to that. I didn't pursue the matter: it was hard to measure such a thing precisely, and it wasn't something I was hung up on. I certainly had adequate width: the big dilator slid in very easily.

Then it was time to get my kit off - well, the lower half - lie back and be examined. I had a mirror in my hand and could see everything. Mr Thomas pointed out the various bits that he had created for me. They looked nicely formed, and very natural within the limitations of the surgical technique.  The suture lines were fading fast now, and the swollen bits were much reduced, although it would still take a some time before I was fully healed. Taking it easy remained very important.

Basically the penile-inversion method gives you a realistic exterior, with nice fat labia majora, exactly right for a middle-aged woman. Inside it is a bit simplified, or should I say plain and unfussy. The labia minora are only suggested, and are nothing like the elaborate flaps that some women have. And the clitoral hood is small, hardly meriting the description of 'hood' at all. But then it all looks neat and tidy, and easy to keep clean. Let me put it this way: it looks like a set of female parts designed in Scandinavia. A rational, accessable, low-maintenance layout, free of unwanted obstructions. And let's face it, few men are going to inspect what you have in there. Indeed, what man except a doctor or surgeon is an expert on what female parts look like? Or what woman, come to that? I expect to prance about naked in a ladies changing room and be totally unremarked.

One thing I noticed was that the clitoris is oversized, and you can just imagine how it might get rubbed during intercourse, or when using sex toys. Hmmmm! I haven't got any intense sensation there yet, and Mr Thomas was careful to say that it's impossible to predict just how much sensation anyone will eventually have. But no doubt, over the coming months, matters will improve - although I am perfectly reconciled to waiting a long time for my first orgasm. 

Unknown to myself, because I'd felt nothing, there was a small patch of bright red granulated tissue just above the entrance of the vagina. Mr Thomas dabbed at this with a silver nitrate stick. He did not think it would need any further treatment. Apart from that minor point, I had healed up very well, and everything was functioning as it should. So I was cleared to live a normal life as a woman. That was very welcome news! Liz added that if I had any worries or problems, she was still only a phone call or an email away.

And that was that. I shook Mr Thomas' hand and thanked him for his work, saying sincerely that I was very happy with it, and Liz and I hugged. Then, with a farewell word to Kimberley and her partner, it was hey-ho for home and a late meal.

I felt elated and yet curiously adrift. I'd been signed off, disconnected. That meant I had no lingering complications needing treatment, but it also removed my personal link with the Nuffield. I would miss the place and the people there. Well, perhaps I'd be able to return from time to time, when visiting other girls going through surgery. That was a nice thought: I do hope I get the opportunities.

And if I ever needed a job? The Nuffield is fairly local, in a pleasant modern building, with a nice setup, delightful colleagues, and free parking. A job on reception, say. Worth thinking about?

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Swimsuit gets its first public outing

Avid readers of this blog may recall my buying two one-piece swimsuits, one in black and one in navy blue with white spots on. Neither had been further than my back garden till now. It was time to be bold and wear one of them at the seaside. Today was, once again, bright and sunny. So I made an effort and got out in Fiona by mid-morning. I chose the black swimsuit, which looks like this:

I put on a very loose pair of black linen cropped trousers, as I was popping into Sainsbury's for some diesel on the way. In case it was breezy, I had with me a burgundy-coloured cord jacket with turned-up sleeves by Seasalt, but there was no need to don this for driving along, and I left it off at the filling station. (Obviously I wanted to give all the men an eyeful of under-arm flab: they love it)

My destination was Ferring. Now this is a place on the coast west of Worthing, and is one of the very few spots between Selsey Bill and Beachy Head that doesn't have a backdrop of bungalows or beach huts. Instead there's farmland, a wide greensward, and the beach.

It's very open, and therefore inclined to be windy, but when calm it's a great place for sunning yourself before pottering on the beach or strolling up the coast in the Kingston Gorse direction to the Blue Bird Cafe. This isn't a cliffy part of the Sussex coast. It's absolutely flat:

That's exactly how it was. I walked down there after scoffing my sandwich and smoothie. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Having parked (it's free!) I set up my deck chair, took off the trousers, and settled down to bask:

As you can see, decently strong sunshine, and so warming when the wind died down for a few seconds. But most of the time, it was a persistent breeze that raised goose-pimples on my arms, and after 15 minutes I had to put the jacket on. But I left my legs uncovered, as I wanted to give them a tan.

It crossed my mind that this was a first. I'd never before worn anything like this in public. But I reckoned that the body looked adequately authentic for a middle-aged woman, and that I should have nothing to fear, especially as the surgery area was being flaunted - in a sense my credentials were on full view, merely masked by a clingy garment. I was actually the only person brave enough to wear a swimsuit in the wind, but it didn't seem in any way out of place. And once walking down on the shore, it felt even more natural. The only embarrassing thing was my pallid legs:

Perhaps on Thursday, if the weather holds, I'll give the other swimsuit an outing - and try to get more sun on those legs!

Monday, 9 May 2011

Which name on the Birth Certificate?

Tomorrow I attend my ten weeks' post-op session at the Nuffield Hospital. There'll be a post on that!

One of the other things dealt with is the letter they provide explaining what surgery I had, with the Gender Recognition Certificate in mind. I will be applying for my GRC in November.

I've been looking up more details about the GRC procedure. One interesting thing I've discovered is that if my application is successful then the Registrar General is informed, and I will then hear from that office about just how I want my Birth Certificate to be amended.

I didn't know there were any options. Well, there are. One that caught my eye is that instead of 'Lucy Melford' going into the box where my birth name is put, it can be 'Lucy D---' which makes use of the family surname, and of course then matches my surname up with my parents on the same document. So I could specify that. It seems on the face of it rather a good idea.

On the other hand, I'd then have the awkward problem of linking the 'Lucy D---' on my Birth Certificate with the present 'Lucy Melford' on my passport and driving licence. How would I convincingly explain the change of surname? Not from marriage. Nor am I well-known for adopting 'Lucy Melford' as a stage name or nom-de-plume. The Deed Poll is no help here, as it shows yet another former name, 'J--- D---'. No, I suppose I'll have to have a Birth Certificate that rather strangely shows a baby girl bearing a surname that's quite different from her parents'. Drat.

It's a pig's ear, any way you look at it.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

An entirely new journey

It is commonly thought that having gone through two to three years of a process that cumulates in genital surgery, then that is the end of transition. Also that it will be 'farewell and goodbye' to those who have not got so far. And a lot of trans women do indeed vanish into anonymous private life once their surgery is past, perhaps never to be heard of again.

There is certainly no onus on anybody to stick around and share their post-op experiences. You can easily imagine circumstances in which keeping up an internet presence could jeopardise a career, or the chance of a new relationship. Or life may have become too busy for posting. Or perhaps there is a feeling that there is nothing worthwhile left to say.

All this is rather a pity, because the post-op period is probably the first time that the reality of living in the proper gender really hits home. Just consider some the changes from the pre-op state:

# The body has been radically and permanently altered by surgery. There is absolutely no going back. The boats have been burned.

# The hormonal regime has changed: even if the oestragen dose is the same as ever, it now does its work in a testosterone-free environment - with unpredictable results.

# There are new daily things to cope with - extra washing, dilation, panty liners.

There are likely to be hormonal and social pressures to conform to the 'typical woman' stereotype. You look like a woman, sound like a woman, walk like one, smell like one, dress like one. People everywhere will treat you like one, which means you will gain both the close confidence of other women and the leery attention of men. It will look strange if you do not respond to that confidence and that attention in a 'normal' way. So the easiest path to take (like it or not) will involve a plunge into the world of women - which will school you into thinking like a woman - and submission to the dating game as run by men, which involves contending in a kind of unfair beauty contest. Of course you can buck all this by insisting on having the lesbian relationship you really want, or by attaching no importance at all to conventional glamour or allure. But it will cause raised eyebrows and puzzled looks, and implant the unwanted and dangerous thought that you are not a normal woman.

I suspect that many post-op trans women have a long and difficult time deciding what kind of woman they are, and to what extent they want to be individualistic and untypical. In effect this is an entirely new journey of discovery, as dramatic and fascinating as the intial pre-op struggle to recognise and remedy their gender dysphoria. This post-op story needs to be told, and I for one intend to tell it.

This means of course that there must be continuity between the pre- and post-op selves. No disguising who I was, otherwise it will be impossible to examine the evolution of thinking and behaviour. For instance, when I first 'came out' in July 2008 I felt that transition literally involved converting myself from being a man to being a woman. Nowadays I would say that I was born a woman, but raised as a man because of my male appearance, and that nothing fundamental has changed: the hormones and surgery have merely brought my outward appearance into line with my inner feelings about myself. Another example. Back in July 2008 I thought that in the future I would be attracted only to women; but lately I've become more receptive to the notion of men as well. I continue to believe that I will want to avoid any relationship at all, but even that could change, and the unfolding account of how I shift position - if it happens - must be worth writing about.

So you now know the future direction of this blog. It will be how Lucy Melford discovers her true self and her true destiny. I'd just like to hope that I will not be the only post-op trans woman sharing her experiences.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Clouds in my coffee

I must tell you about an incident in a harbourside pub a couple of days ago.

It just shows that, despite surgery, passing is as important as ever. You don't enter a different world post-op: you still have the same trepidation as before when out in public. And this was an occasion that for many could have turned into an embarrassing nightmare. Not because of any physical danger, given the civilised place where it happened, but because events conspired to make me the focus of all attention at a bar for ten long minutes. My asking for a cup of coffee, and then paying for it, held everything up, and everyone else wanting to be served had to mark time. They all had ample reason to have a jolly good look at me, and speculate who and what I was. And of course it involved a lot of speaking. If it had been you, and your voice wasn't good, you'd have been in a sweat of terror.

I'd driven an hour westwards to Chichester Harbour, partly for some fresh air (now that my awful cold was getting a bit better), and partly to see whether I could drive that kind of distance comfortably - because my hour-long dashes up the motorway for hair-removal were due to recommence very shortly, and I wanted some practice!

I went first to an out-of-the-way place called Apuldram, parked Fiona there, and then walked through to Dell Quay, first through fields and then along the shore. Dell Quay is an ancient little port that for centuries served Chichester, but it hasn't been commercially active since the 1930s. It's now just an historic quay, and a place to moor yachts, with a boatyard hard by. But it has a pub, the Crown and Anchor, and having got rather chilled in the stiff breeze, I decided to go in and have a coffee.

In I went, and I got served pretty quickly. Just an Americano, please. I opened my purse and got out a couple of pound coins. At this point nobody had paid me the slightest attention, apart from a late-twenties German girl next to me who wanted to order some food. She was very pleasant, and we'd exchanged smiles.

The coffee was put on a tray for me, with a biscuit and napkin, and the girl serving me fiddled with the till. It was the usual modern pub till where you simply press the 'Americano' button and up comes the cost without any thinking required. 'That'll be £7.30 please.'

'£7.30!' I exclaimed, expecting £2.50 at the most, and I exchanged a look with the German girl. 'Yes, that's what the till says.' Rather doubtfully, but not wanting to make a fuss - because the bar was suddenly busy with people wanting to be served - I handed over a £10.00 note.

The German girl was all concern. 'You know, £7.30 can't be right. I think you ought to ask her to check it.' This from someone who was clearly anxious to place her own order. Clearly she was putting my rights first. All right then: I promptly asked the girl who served me to make sure about the price before she finished at the till. She faffed around - obviously a part-timer, and not a regular member of staff - and eventually ran off a printout, which did indeed show a figure of £7.30, but also revealed that this was a summary of someone else's bill, someone who had been running up a tab.

Now there was a real l mess to sort out! And the bar crowd was getting thicker, and more curious as to what was causing the hold-up. 

The unfortunate serving girl appealed to a regular staff member, another girl, who had an air of authority. She wasn't pleased. She subjected the temp girl to a barrage of questions as to what she'd done. The minutes went by. I said to the German girl how sorry I was that this mistake was holding things up for her. She wasn't annoyed at all, but really sweet and supportive. Then I turned to the guys attempting to buy drinks and apologised. They simply said it was fine, it didn't matter a bit, and continued to look cheerful. I was amazed.

It turned out that the real cost of my coffee was £1.65 - a pretty good price in fact - and change of £8.35 was authorised. Back to the till. More fiddling. And there was my money. Except that the temp girl, now totally flustered, had given me only a £5.00 note and 35p in coins. I was £3.00 short. The old me would have let this pass. But the new me wasn't going to. Despite the heaving crowd, I pointed out the mistake, and once more all eyes were on me. But I got all the change I was entitled to.

The German girl took my arm, and pressed it, and said 'Well done!' I smiled back, and thanked her for her patience.

Seated at a nearby table, I felt a lot of deep satisfaction. All the time that the temp girl was explaining to the other girl behind the bar, she had been referring to me as 'the lady' or 'she' or 'her', and must have repeated these words eleven times or more. Although standing there with all eyes upon me had been rather an ordeal, nevertheless these affirmatory words of hers buoyed me up and made me thrill. I mean, I was looking far from well-groomed - I was fresh in out of the harbour wind, with my hair all over the place, minimum makeup, and my voice still husky from all that recent coughing. And yet twenty-odd pairs of eyes and ears - mostly male - saw and heard nothing amiss. And this foreign girl right next to me, and I mean standing very close - an on-the-ball young woman with a quick mind (she'd done some rapid mental arithmetic on my behalf) - had accepted me as a genuine older woman. And moreover one she felt inclined to give a warm squeeze-of-the-arm to after my (I should say 'our') perseverence had paid off. A moment of triumph shared. I glowed.

And I was still glowing when I went to the toilet in the pub, and, for the benefit of the cubicle next to me, nonchalantly and loudly churned up the water in female fashion. And when, on the way out, a young man who was struggling with four pints of beer - really only just carrying them - stopped, and made way for me as I passed. And when, as I got back to Fiona, a woman with a dog, an absolute complete stranger, gave me a smile and a wave. I'm sure the dog winked.

The wonderful world of womanhood!

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Brushes with the Police

My contacts with the Police have been minimal in my lifetime so far. Let me see. Getting told off for walking in a dangerous place when aged ten. At odd times, asking individual policemen or policewomen for directions. Hearing a traffic policeman talk about the stuff they all got up to back at the station. Hearing a village policeman - at the very heart of his community - talk about how he broke up a sexual escapade in the village hall car park at night. Seeing jolly policemen good-naturedly accept drunken kisses from girls in Trafalgar Square on New Year's Eve. Reporting to the Police the odd motor accident in which I was involved, or helping someone like my late mother-in-law make such a report. Seeing a little policewoman get rid of a smelly, surly, one-legged tramp from my front doorstep after I called for assistance. Attending Neighbourhood Watch meetings organised by the local Police. Getting a knock on my door at one in the morning from two policemen who glumly but sympathetically informed me that my father had died. An interview at a police station to secure Dad's personal effects after death. Attending a Saturday self-defence course run by a gay policeman from the Brighton & Hove force. Really, that's about it.

In most of these situations over the years, it was the old or new me being the Responsible Citizen, or else the Police fulfilling a benign Public Service role, which on the whole I thought was performed competently, and certainly not in a way that made me feel bad or in any way personally demeaned.

This said, I have always been mindful of why the Police exist, and what kind of person joins their ranks. They have a certain conservative, black-or-white mindset that must be taken into account. Some would add, though this is not my personal experience, that certain Police individuals are over-eager to find fault, at least where traffic offences are concerned. One suspects that constant contact with the worst in society degrades or at least hardens the attitude of the average force member. And it's sometimes said that the best Police detectives are those who think like criminals. Certainly, there have been corrupt policemen; but then there have always been corrupt politicians and businessmen as well. It's just that it's much more shocking when it's the Police.

The Police have to work with complex laws and procedures that - at least in theory - have an exact application. They have to be so careful. There are traps. I sympathise. I used to work with tax law: with that too, either people were 'caught' or they were not, and there was no discretionary position in between. But the tax world was confidential, and not out there in the streets. The police are out on the streets, and to do their job must have the broad support of the public. So they must have a moral weight behind them. A conviction on both sides that they are acting from proper motives - and acting 'within the law'.

Of course it all gets a bit fuzzy. Practical crowd control and other public-order activity can't be done precisely by the book on every occasion. I'm not apologising for the Police if they misjudge a situation, and someone gets hurt. But I do see how difficult it must be to deal with volatile events. Surely much of the public will approve if the Police, when faced with a rowdy and drink-fuelled nightclub scene late at night, and needing to overcome thuggishness, bundle some young men and women behaving very badly into vans. Provided of course that nobody is physically injured in the process. Well, it's dirty work. Would you like to do it instead? Would you actually do it any differently, in the heat of the moment? And, to get the job done, do you really mind if some of these louts wake up in cells, with dented egos and their overnight liberty denied?

I've never felt inclined to mock the Police, or confront them, or waste their time, or in any way chance my arm with them. Partly because they are clearly busy people, and not there to listen to me unless I have useful evidence to give. Partly because their coercive apparatus is a blunt instrument and needs respect. And most certainly because a gut feeling tells me that if you mess with the Police, or try to be clever with them, you will not come off well. Keep them on your side. Keep them in their Public Service role, as your servant.

So would I ever join a demo, and risk attracting  negative attention from the Police? Ah, now we are getting to the point of all this!

Short answer: no. Not for any cause. Because if I do, I may get hurt or humiliated, or illegally treated - and not just from the Police. History suggests that if the Police stand back, and simply let rival factions fight each other, then you can expect to receive injuries far more severe than those the Police themselves might deal out. Common-sense says stay away from all of this.

So when a march in support of [insert your favourite cause] is proposed, I will not be there. Even if it's something that should be jolly and good-natured. Somebody will always shanghai it.

I do realise that principled people will call me irresponsible and craven for putting self-preservation before all else. So be it. But I do not wish to end up being pushed around by some policeman who has no time to ask me politely what I am doing there, and must make a quick decision based on his training and instructions. In these situations I am not going to be treated as an individual. Any more than a soldier in a war zone, nervous of being shot, and all keyed up, is going to ask questions first and shoot second. I'm just recognising that reality.