Friday, May 27, 2016

Secrets, Sales and Stealth

Hi,

Ah, hear that? That's the sound of a long weekend and half-term starting. A whole week with no work! Just me, the Ever Lovely Mrs J and our two lovely nippers. Hopefully, we'll manage an hour before the squabbling starts... and maybe the kids will manage that too ;-)

Opportunities

In a spot of bad luck, I managed to pick up a cold, but being less than your typical guy, it means I don't qualify for man-flu, which is good ;-) Due to the sneezing and coughing, I was kipping downstairs on the sofa, so the Ever Lovely Mrs J - who gets up early for work - could get a good night's kip.

Anyhoo, with the weather warming up and my thoughts about not wearing opaques post-Easter, I decided to paint my toenails. We live out in the sticks, so a quiet spot, far from the crowds is easy to find and I rather enjoyed the would-be-summer weather, as the varnish dried.

Usually, if I do paint my toes, it's on the night and I don't do it very often, because it's a bit of a faff, when it comes to getting changed at the end of the night. There are those rare occasions were it's both summer and the Ever Lovely Mrs J is away. This time around, and sleeping downstairs, I had the opportunity and as Ol' Jack always says... what the hell? :-)

The funny thing is, it's rare, as a guy - well, for me at least - to see my toes. I don't do sandals as a rule and working in an office - despite our very laid back dress code, it's trainers or similar for work. Yet, knowing I had - and if you'll forgive me - a pretty colour on them (a rather nice black cherry, if you're curious), somehow put a spring in my step. A little something just for me.

The Conversation

Before going to Chams, I popped into the next village, to pick Wee Man up from his friend's house. Yes, the Dad Taxi Service runs here and there. I had put my bag for Chams in the back seat and as he got in, Wee Man asked what was in the bag? I said 'work stuff' and he shrugged and turned the radio up. "But you never take a bag to work", he observed.

I played the "yes and I am tomorrow," and that was that, as the conversation moved on. I dropped him off at home and off I went. As I drove to Chams, I wondered, how long before we need to have The Conversation? The one where he's sat on the end of the bed, and I'm explaining to him, that I'm still his dad, that I love him and I'm not going to change, nor turn up to school in femme mode, nor leave the Ever Lovely Mrs J. If I have to tell him, do I ask him to keep it from Little Miss, who is only wee (she's eight and a bit). Is it fair to ask someone to keep that secret? Does that add to the shame he may feel? Ah, questions, questions! I guess, like most parents - trans or otherwise - I have to walk that line about being myself and avoiding anything that would turn his life around.

It's not like I keep my trans stuff under lock and key. I mean, it's all in one of the built in wardrobes upstairs (we have a converted bungalow). I do wonder about getting a lock for the cupboard, but then, wouldn't that encourage curiosity? Is it better to respect each other's privacy? I mean, when we talked about Little Miss looking for Christmas presents, Mrs J pointed out that when you rummage through people's things, you don't always know what you'll find. Therein, lies the game.

Chams

This Thursday was Chameleons and I was determined to wear an old favourite once again. It did mean, opaques, but as they were footless and I was wearing cage heels, I thought I could get away with it. :-) Seems my trick with a summer vest underneath worked and I thought I'd wear my new short wig, given the risk of it being warm. The change in hair colour, means I've had to alter my eye make-up and with it being summer, I opted for a nude lip with gloss. Nice to have a change. Oh, and the shorter hair means I can see my earrings, which is a bonus.

Pat had been kind enough to organise a visit from M & Co. I can't say I've been in their shops, so whatever they were going to bring was a surprise. I did have a quick look on-line to see what dresses they had, and the two ladies who visited, were kind enough to bring one along for me. It was rather nice, but didn't quite sit well. I think the pockets on the thighs/tummy area didn't help. It would have been spot on for working in the office, but as that's not going to be me, I decided not to invest. Still, Pat tells me M & Co did very well that night and with 25% savings, so did the group. Always good to see a vendor put the effort in and be rewarded.

Tania popped in to collect the banners for Nottingham Pride and that's two sets: one for Nottingham Invasion and one for Chameleons. The banners and pop-up displays are all in tip-top condition, so good for another year. After a bit of a chat, the funds were totted up, and the Pride funds have hit their targets.


There was a chance for some photos (thanks Val!) and some home-made cake. Much as the latter isn't helping my 'get back to a 14' plans, it was very good for the soul.

Take care,
Lynn

Friday, May 20, 2016

Learning curves

Hi,

Just as the right wig helps break the Him Factor, so a good set of curves - up top, or at the sides and rear - can help too. Equally, for our trans-men out there, a good binder will no doubt, work wonders.

After winding up the meeting last time, I got changed, while Val kept me company. For some reason, we got on to the subject of why we pick the size of boobs that we do.

For me, mine was down to what I thought a typical size would be for a lady of my build. I've never really moved to full breastforms, although I know others swear by them. Instead, some medical tape (thank you Boots) and two pairs of 'chicken fillets' work their magic. Everyone seems to do their own thing and Val was kind enough to explain a slight altercation when planning some of her own. Her post, and I guess this is the first guest post! - is below:
Like many others, in the early days, at least from when my senses demanded that I wore a bra, filling the cups  was merely something that was easiest to hand, and was usually some old thick socks rolled up into a ball. Then, as the desire came upon me that this bosom that loomed forward in the lower periphery of my vision should have the weight, if not the movement, of what the garment was designed to contain, I started to look around for something more realistic.
It was around this time – and we are incidentally talking about 1999 – that the Daily Mirror newspaper's “Agony column” edited by the redoubtable Marjorie Proops, printed a letter from a TV seeking advice on this very subject, and of course, Ms Proops had the answer to hand. A friend of hers who was transgender, she maintained, achieved the effect by filling a balloon with shampoo, tieing it off and then inserting it, for safety's sake, into a second balloon, which was also tied off, the knot then forming a passable representation of a nipple, at least through the lacy softness of the bra cup.  She recommended her enquirer do the same.
At that time my work meant that I had evenings away from home, in a B&B where I was left very much to myself. So I started to get organised; two large bottles of supermarket own-brand shampoo (I agonised over tea-tree oil or jojola, then bought the cheaper) a bag full of party ballons from a stationery outlet and finally a large medical type syringe. (No needle, I hasten to add, it was not for that sort of purpose, besides, needles and balloons are generally inappropriate companions).
And one evening, I took over the sink of the kitchen area (the B&B also let the rooms out for self-catering), decanted the contents of one shampoo bottle into a beer glass, and prepared to go into boob production.
Now, as a life-long asthmatic inflating balloons is a task I do not relish, but is something I can usually succeed in doing – it's tieing the knots afterwards that frays nerves and finger ends. But expanding one with a syringe full of shampoo is a different matter. I presented the nozzle of the syringe into the neck of the balloon, squeezed it tight with my fingers and injected the shampoo. 
Invariably, the balloon remained its original size and a stream of shampoo erupted from the neck in one direction or another. Worse still, shampoo is slippery stuff, and it soon insinuated itself over my fingers and balloon skin. Before long I had shampoo over the draining boards, up the wall, across the carpet and a few drips falling on me from the ceiling. The balloons that were the subject of my endeavours remained resolutely unmoved, which was not the same for me.  
I concluded that Ms Proops friend must have been having a laugh at her expense, or that he had neglected to mention that he had some device for inflating the balloons with air before exchanging the liquid for the gas. Clearly without mechanical aid the task was impossible even before trying to insert one liquid-filled balloon inside another. I spent the rest of the evening mopping up and the next six or eight months working my way through cheap supermarket brand shampoo, which my wife, mystified at my purchase, declared wasn't to her liking.
So, what about you dear reader, any mishaps in the early stages you'd care to share?

Take care,
Lynn

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Education

Hello dear reader,

What's this? A midweek post? As Bill, a founder of a yet-to-be utopia once said: "Most unprecedented!" ;-)

Education

A few months ago, an email popped into the Chameleons inbox, from a local legal group. They were having a few guest speakers as part of an equality event around IDAHOT, the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. Although they'd got a few volunteers to talk about various subjects, they didn't have anyone from the trans community.

I quizzed them a little about what they wanted around a talk, who the audience would be and could my privacy be guaranteed? With all the right answers and an agreement with a long lunch, from work, it was all systems go. I remembered Tracey's story about a presentation, and how she'd deliberately done it in bloke mode. I think it helps break the mould and challenge some pre-existing ideas.

How did it go? Well, the room was rather warm and rather packed. I wasn't expecting quite so many people there. You can imagine how that helped by nerves! ;-) Luckily, the previous speaker had over-run a little, so I had time to read through my presentation notes, with half an ear to what was going on in the room.

Like the comedy gig all those years ago, it wasn't long before I was lost in the other person's words, only to hear "...and Richard Jones is here to speak to us today...". Ah, that would be my queue.

I had eight slides and I'm conscious of that old adage: no good presentation starts with PowerPoint :-) I like to keep things moving and try not to 'info-bomb' people, with too much on a slide. But, it's an means to an end. I may be able to spin a tale or keep an audience interested, but I'm not quite brave enough to show four photos and talk for five minutes about the subject. Besides, this is an education gig, so some on-screen notes are required. I do try not to read out anything that's on screen, because I know that bugs me, when I'm on the receiving end.

We talked about the tea & coffee binary and can you guess who drinks what, by looking at them? 

There were some notes about Chameleon Group being 35 years old soon ("In five years, we'll have our mid-life crisis and will probably go respectable. Something mainstream, like accountancy." It was funnier at the time, trust me :-) ). 

Who tends to come to our group: not just part timers, but those who wish to transition, including the young and the young at heart. 

Some of the lingo trans people use and I mentioned some of the things we have to deal with. 

The lack of legal cover for part-timers who aren't going to transition, to the social issues (such as a trans friend - remaining nameless - who was touched up by a dodgy bloke in a pub. The landlady stepped in and kicked ass, BTW).

No, I don't know who Don is, either ;-)
I did try to get across that for some, the dressing up thing, is a sexy thing. If that's their bag, so to speak, that's up to them. That doesn't mean it's true for the rest of us and it's one of the things we have to put up with, is the idea "we're up for it", which I did call out on. I noticed a few nods from the ladies in the audience; clearly some men have got to learn that no means just that.

I did touch on the idea that being trans isn't something you chose: you just are. I also mentioned that it takes a long time for some of us, to come to an understanding about who we are and how we fit into the world. It, being trans, isn't something you can truly switch off, at least, that's true for me and the people I've spoken to. Maybe some folk have managed it, but if they do, they're not around to talk to and many, who you think have vanished, often resurface a few months, or years later. 

The bit I missed, and I'm kicking myself a little over this: is our requirement to be ourselves. Some of us can't live in just one gender. We need to be able to pick and when we can't, that's when the trouble can start. I did, however, try to make things informative, occasionally amusing, to make it stand against the heavier things I had to say. It's certainly not all doom and gloom, but some things, could be a lot better.... which is where the legal folk come in! :-) Change minds, change processes and change culture.

With the presentation done, it was time for a quick Q&A. A lady asked me about discrimination in the workplace, while another gent asked me if trans people would ever be completely out. It was a similar question raised to the lesbian lady, who preceded me. As a straight guy looking into gay culture, I think we've come on a long way as a society. I know things aren't perfect, but things seem better, at least from my limited view from the outside. 

If I let my trans side through, I can completely see how people may decide - for whatever reason - that they don't want to be out. I get that and it would be wrong of me, as someone who is also, not out, to disrespect their choices. I think, that because many of us trans folk like our privacy, our visibility is less than it might be. I don't say that lightly, or negatively: to be out takes courage. Not just for you, but for your loved ones too.

A little later on, one of the organisers was kind enough to email me and she had this to say:
A colleague has just told me he "...really enjoyed the presentation immensely, it was informative, well considered, funny, engaging and gave him insight where he had little prior knowledge." This has been a really positive experience and has helped me and others to be able to open a dialogue in relation to Diversity and Inclusion. Thanks once again for sharing your experiences for being so honest and making us all laugh so much. You were amazing
All in all, a very positive experience and one I thoroughly enjoyed. Education and some light comedy? That's so me, darhlink. ;-)

Take care,
Lynn

Friday, May 13, 2016

Hair, happiness and heels

Hi,

A mix of lows and highs this week

Heartache

On the long queue back home, I'll often listen to a podcast. I guess, that's just the not-so-modern way to describe, a recording of a radio show. Except now, you don't need to wait for the live show and tape it. :-) Oh, technology and your ceaseless steps to make our lives a little easier. Now, if you could do something about making my car drive itself, I could have a nap or read a book, on the way home. :-)

So, in amongst the usual suspects of Friday night comedy and witty news panel shows, I check out Desert Island Discs. For those not in the know, the (hopefully) quick answer is it's an interview show, where the guest picks five records that they'd like to take, if, Heaven forfend, they should find themselves marooned on a desert island somewhere. Those and one luxury item. That gives some structure to a few questions about the guest's life history.

I don't listen to it every week, because some days, I've no idea who the guest is. Plus, if it's about sport, that's an instant skip for me, unless the sports person is some one who's lived, if you get my drift. Anyhoo, this week was Tom Hanks and he, in my humble opinion, had a few things to say that struck a chord.

At one point, he quoted a teacher of his, that all good plays are about loneliness. Mr Hanks it seems, is someone who through a large portion of his younger years, was alone. That, hit me in the heart. This was as I rounded the corner at work, and, melodramatic that I am, I could feel my eyes prickle, as he spoke. Not for me, but for the simple beauty of his words.

For whatever reason, I've often felt like an outsider. Not rough & tumble, for one group. Not studious, to be with clever ones. Too 'boyish' to hang with the girls and, honestly, I didn't fit in with them either. I certainly wasn't part of the cool kids. The kind people, they are the ones I remember fondly.

If it was a trans thing, or a me thing, I still don't know. I can and do like my own company. I can be lost in my thoughts. Not from a pseud's corner perspective, but simply working through a story or an idea. As Mr Hanks went on to say, there's a difference between loneliness and solitude. The latter, I can dig, as I've mentioned before. But to be alone? No, no thank you. I am, amongst many badges or labels, a social creature at heart.

Why do I have occasional bouts of this? Does it all come down to wanting to just wanting to belong, or to be accepted? Is it that I've found a tribe, but I'm not fully there? Or is, that I need to learn to know when to stop, and just enjoy what there is? The fruits of one's labours, as it were. Questions, questions...

Special Days

Introspection aside, Chameleons this week was one of those events to hold in your heart, and think back on fondly. I had an early pass from the Ever Lovely Mrs J, and I made good time around the ring road. Pat was just getting changed as I arrived upstairs and despite my issue with some white skinny jeans (they need to go back), I was changed quickly and downstairs unusually for me.

We had a visit from TrendCo, a local wig retailer, or to be more accurate, a second visit. Clearly, we mustn't have scared them off. Stock was brought and set up, and then the browsing began. Full price, sale price and bargain items were to be had, and in good sizes too.

I saw a number of people try things on and many of them, purchasing too. It was far from the pressure sale of feeling the need to buy something, after being helped. Instead, with friends around, the advice was open and honest. Nicola and Steph worked their hair magic on us and pictures were taken, hair trimmed and smiles given.

Hello mum
I found one I liked almost straight away. It's darker than my current one, but shorter, so, and as Alison pointed out, more a day time number and fitted my age. Accurate, given it's a style often seen at the playground, when I drop Little Miss off at school. That's great in my book, as it's a look I often go for.

Given the fit and feeling - yes, I often shop by emotion. Yeah, I'm odd :-) - it was an easy decision to make.

Nicola had also held back a number for me, as a thank you for organising the event. I really wasn't expecting this, so it was quite a pleasant surprise. The wig, which you'll see in a mo, was a light brown, rather than my usual red/ginger colour, and also it was longer and more wavy than I'm used to. Oddly, wavy hair and a side parting is something *ahem* ladies with square faces should aim for. Having tried it and tried it again, I liked the style, but not the length. Cue the offer of a trim, and so I took a seat.

Like a lot of blokes my age, my hair is going south. Going south, as in migrating to my feet via my nose. Not that it stopped off at my beard, which I sometimes feel would be nice, to try a 'tache or a beard in the winter. Like Nicole pointed out, last week, I, like she, don't bother with a shave unless it's a family outing, or a trans event.

Anyhoo, I sat in the seat, while a gown was placed over my shoulders and out came the scissors and the brush. It was a very pleasant experience and I felt rather pampered. It also took me back to when I had long hair of my own, but this was a happy memory, not a bitter-sweet one. After a chat about how Nicole and Steph got into the wig business (and are doing well, I should add), it was time for the reveal and I was very happy with the result.

Before and After

There was a spot of Hoovering to do as we packed up and Tania, who'd popped in, had a word about the banners for this year's Trans Pride event. Invasion, Chameleons and Notts Trans Hub, are joining up, so hopefully, it'll all go well again and there's a funding page, if you're feeling generous.

After tidying up, it was time for some snaps with Val on the stairs and then time to 'de fab' to be him again. Well, at least with a spring in my step... which leads me to the item in the news about a company's dress code insisting women wear heels. I wore my new wedges and my feet hurt by the end of the night. Clearly, some extra foot padding is required. So, I'd say, yes, women and trans-something-or-other folk, suffer for our fashion :-) To insist a woman wears heels at work? No, not unless the person in question can also do a nine hour shift on their feet. If they did, they might not be quite so insistent. 

The long...
... and the short, of it
Oh, parting words. After last time's success with double looping my red necklace, I thought I'd do the same with the blue one, seeing as it matched my dress. A slight comedy issue resulted, when it came to getting changed. Luckily, I didn't break it and Val was kind enough to share one of her stories. More on that next week.

Take care,
Lynn

Friday, May 06, 2016

Breaking the rules

Hi,

This week has gone rather quickly, given the bank holiday and then a day off, with the Ever Lovely Mrs J. Yes, we took a day off together, and nipped into town for a fancy lunch and Mrs J's hair appointment. Wee Man and Little Miss were busy at school, so it wasn't like our usual trips out. Sometimes, I guess you've got to push the boat out a little. :-)

Out

One of the new ladies emailed Chameleons asking for some tips about day time shopping. She was having a day out with her wife, but wondered if we had any suggestions. Here's a few from that email:

  • Crowds are your friend. Should anyone clock you, you've already moved on. Don't worry about seeing anyone you know. When was the last time you saw a friend at the same shopping centre mid week?
  • Don't worry about 'passing' too much. Just try to relax and be yourself. You've as much a right to be here as anyone else.
  • Dress daytime. If that means leggings/long top/flats, so be it. Take a look what women you own age are wearing. Only a rare few wear heels to shop. Boots, yes, heels no. Much as false lashes can be fab for night, think daytime and what others are wearing. You want to blend in, right? :-)
  • Wear clothes you can get in and out of easily. Changing rooms are a faff at the best of times. Leggings / shirt top / wrap dress, mean it's easy to try things on, and not have to worry about messing up your hair or make up.
  • If you are going barefoot in shoes, take some pop socks, or footsies, should you want to try shoes on. Easier and more hygienic.
  • Think about what shops you want to visit. Don't waste your time looking through fairy size clothing, move to the shops that serve taller ladies. Next, LTS, New Look, M&S, etc.
  • Take good care of your handbag. That's got your purse, keys and, probably top-up lippy. Keep your hand through the loop and do keep it zipped up.
  • If you can, walk slowly. Don't rush. You've got all day and smile.... shopping is supposed to be fun. :-)
  • If you're doing your nails, don't forget a protective top coat and don't go near a plastic bag, until they are fully dry. Not touch dry, but a good 30 mins, sometimes more.

Iffy perspective. Must try harder :-)
The advice was well received and partly lessons learned, as we say in project land, and partly knowledge passed on, by other trans folk.

By a happy coincidence, I was home alone at the weekend and once I got the chores done, it felt that staying in, would be a chance wasted, if I didn't pop out to stretch my legs.

I didn't need anything, it was more a case of just wanting to be out. It's just a lot easier to browse clothes, shoes or make-up, when not in bloke mode and there's a little shopping place about 20 miles out of town, that's got enough shops to make it worthwhile and it's far enough to feel okay.

Thinking to the advice above, I did my best to blend in and went for leggings, rather than skinny jeans. The latter are fab, but can be a faff taking off and putting back on. Likewise, sensible shoes make a trip out easier and keep your height down too.

Or Just Ignore the Rules

Which brings me round to a slightly different take on the above. I happened to be out in Birmingham for a work related thing. I took my car, rather than go through the faff - and expense - of taking the train. After I parked, I took the lift down and a well dressed lady followed me in. No, this isn't a trans story, my T-dar did not ping. She was wearing killer heels, leggings, with a shortish top and boxy jacket. The outfit, and by no means to disrespect her, broke some of the fashion rules I've read - namely, leggings aren't trousers - but it worked for her.

The lift arrived at the ground floor and we got out, only to find no exit to the street. I wandered off and she followed, and I was clearly lost. We both laughed, as random strangers do about our own failings with a sense of direction and she suggested following the car route.

It was a rather long-ish route to the centre of the city and I bumped into her again, while checking my map for the afternoon's meeting. She gave me directions and she made a comment about regretting wearing 'silly shoes'. I did say they seemed more fabulous than silly, and that, sometimes we suffer for our art. This made her chuckle and for the first time, I noticed her make-up. She was wearing the current trend of heavy base and sort of stencilled on eyebrows. Again, without judging, it was very dramatic, but worked for her. I made a comment, perhaps foolishly, that I knew what it's like to be in heels on uneven city streets, which got a laugh. I thanked her for the directions and we parted ways.

Looking back at her presentation and thinking about the trans shopping rules, she - bless her - broke many of them. But, that so worked for her. I wondered, as I walked towards the meeting, do we get hung up on rules? Is it we're - and by that, I mean, trans folk - trying to fit in too much? Or, do we need all the help we can get, because we'll never have the physique, that the glamorous Brummie lady has? Questions, questions.

Take care,
Lynn