Friday, October 30, 2009

"By my mirror, my sword and shield
My missionaries in a foreign field."

Greetings denizens of Earth,

Makes a change from hi, doesn't it? :-)

I was about to write "the other day" or "earlier this week" and I've realised I start a lot of posts (and paragraphs) that way. Weird huh? Phrases that you just keep using eh? Talk about blogger's fingerprints. :-)

Where was I? Oh aye. Yes, I had an email from a friend - a trans friend, just so we're clear. There's nothing super-personal about it, but I'll preserve the lady's anonymity as it's not mine to give away. Mrs B had written in and - amongst other things - asked:

I wanted to hear from you what you get from your group outings. It seems to me
that you give a great deal of your time, and that you must be helpful to others
struggling to come to terms. There must be great value to you in that. What else

What do I get from the group's outings? Off the top of my head - and these are somewhat different to what I put in my email - friendship, a good night out, a sense of belonging and a chance to give something back.

I do put a bit of effort into the group. Not as much as other folk do, but every little helps right? A hand with the web site, a friendly hello to new folk who make the effort to come along and the occasional dabble in organising visits. Visits as in businesses, or perhaps more accurately vendors, coming to the group. Sometimes that's to sell, other times to interact and get our opinions. "Our" as in the 'trans community'. We're a secretive bunch... despite the Flickr streams, forums, YouTube videos and blogs :-)

But going back to a part of Mrs B's question: I think it comes down to friendship. I can turn up and just be myself. Now, that'll sound odd considering in the majority of my nights there, I dress as a woman. Something I don't do in my working or home life. So how can it be that I'm myself? I think the answer is that I can go to Chameleons as just me: it doesn't matter if I dress like a man or a woman. I get the same treatment regardless.

Does that imply that "I'm not myself" when I'm not dressed up? No, but there's a guard in place when I'm with work mates and many of my friends. That barrier isn't there when there's just me and the Ever Lovely Mrs Jones, or when I'm at Chams.

Talking of Mrs Jones, the bulk of my socialising revolves around our family. I'm not a "go down the pub" kinda guy, as I'm not a big drinker and talk about sports, gardening, etc just aren't my bag. Chameleons is the exception to my public face: there, and as I've stated earlier, I don't have to watch what I say (public decently aside :P ). I can easily talk about a book or film as much as I can talk about the insanity of fashion or why you can't get a shoe in a 9 during the sale.

That's not to say going to a group like this is for everyone. Perhaps some would find it a bit mundane and not enough 'real world'. That's cool. One size does not fit all - not even if it was made of industrial strength Lycra. Some want to hit the clubs or bars and fit in.

Anyways... there you go.

Take care and if you're celebrating Halloween, I hope it's a good one!

[ Today's lyric: Viva La Vida by Coldplay* ]

PS: * Much as I don't like a lot of their stuff, every now and then a band (I'm not keen on) will release a track that I really like. I wonder if it's a gentle nudge from On High reminding me not to be a music bigot :)

Friday, October 23, 2009

"We're plastic, but we still have fun!"


This week's been rather odd. Not in a dodgy way, but more in a blogging kinda way. This will be my third post that I've started. Sometimes the writing bug bites and it seems there's lots I want to get out of my head and on to paper... so to speak. :) It's not exactly like a lot has actually happened: no ground breaking changes or shifts in the whole trans experience.

I was going to say that maybe I'll store those posts up, but actually, I don't think that'll happen. I'll probably come to look at them in a week or so, re-read what I've put and delete them. Perfectionism? Maybe, but if something doesn't feel quite right, I won't post it.

Talking of not posting - funny how my brain works - one of the topics of a previous entry was just that. All the things I don't talk about. Not so much the private things such as what the Ever Lovely Mrs Jones gets up to, or how the kids are doing at school. No... more the big stuff. Things that happen in the news, even - dare I say it? - chunks of time that will become history.

On one hand, I think that this blog is in some way a bit of a backwater. I don't talk about the big stuff like the recent wars, the election or the small bumps of public upset: MP expenses, the outcry over the column by the Daily Mail on the late Stephen Gately, etc.

On the other: there are news sites (and blogs) who dedicate themselves to this task and really, will adding my voice to that throng help at all? I doubt it. So, instead I stick to writing about what I know: trans related issues.

Hell, I don't write about my IT stuff, but then do you really want to hear about what I get up to at work? It's important to my employer and I put my back into it, but it wouldn't make very interesting reading. That and there are some excellent technical 'how to' sites out there that would teach you a lot more.

So.... trying to get back towards the whole trans topic, there are a few wee gems that have popped up this week. Firstly, it was time for a night out with the.. ummm... boys? at Chameleons this Thursday. It was a quiet night - at least compared to last time's party, but I like the quiet nights too. We had a good long chat and swapped amusing anecdotes. It was, simply, just good fun.

We also had a visit from one of the people who shares the Centre with us. To be accurate, the Karate folk have the Centre before Chams and they're often packing up as some of us turn up. It's all very good natured and as everything at Chams is on the level, we don't - or at least I hope we don't - give them any concern.

Anyways, one lady - whose name I shall not reveal - popped in to offer us some raffle tickets. We obliged and as the tickets and kitty went around, her curiosity was piqued and she asked a few questions.

Do we consider ourselves to be women?

I said, some may do but I don't. I'm still a guy under all the clothes.

Do we want to change sex?

Me? No thanks but some folk do. Most of the people at Chams are simply trannys, although we do have one or two transgendered folk who come along.

Outwardly - and I mean from appearance only - is there a difference a TV and a TS? From the layman's view of someone who doesn't know much about the whole trans community, I guess we all look a bit alike. Maybe that'll ruffle a few feathers, maybe it won't, but that's seems a common question for non-trans folk to ask.

Would you live full time if you could?

Personally, no I wouldn't. I like being a guy. The beauty routine is a hell of a lot easier to start with :) Cack jokes aside: I'm a Dad and while I don't mind getting glammed up once in a while, I think it would kill the fun of it, if I had to do it day in day out. I suppose that why I'm just a tranny. :-)

Would you have any surgery? Boob implants or electrolysis?

Some might do, but I don't fancy permanent boobs. I spend more time in bloke mode and I don't think your off the rail shirt and tie are cut for a 34b :) Beard zapping? A lot of trans folk have sung the praises of laser therapy, but it's out of my price range right now. I'm not particularly hairy and the one time I tried to grow a beard - just for the craic - it didn't get very long. Heh, it didn't really show up on photos either - I just looked worn out. LOL.

Do our wives know and what do they think of it?

The Ever Lovely Mrs Jones does know, but I don't tell her how I look nor has she seen me. I do know that Sandy (Tracey's Mrs) did make that jump as have other ladies (or 'real girls') who attend the group with their partners. Does Mrs Jones mind? I wouldn't say she's over the moon about it, but think we've got by the point where it freaks her out. Bless her, it must have been a shock.

Interestingly, Jane turned the question around and ask the Karate lady what would she think if her husband started to want to dress up. :-) The lady in question said it wouldn't be too much of a worry. How things change he?

Do you wear her clothes? Where do you get your underwear?

No, I've got my own wardrobe because shopping can be rather fun. As to underwear, you just go and buy it from a shop. No-one's bothered these days. :) I am wearing Mrs Jones's boots tho!

Questions aside, it was all very good natured and as I say, we've - trannys that is -been in the Centre for nearly 5 years or so. I think they've got used to us :D

In other news, Channel 4 ran a programme called "8 and wanting a sex change." It was about a number of American children who had started using hormone blockers at a young age. The idea behind the treatment was to (obviously) halt puberty, give them time to decide if they wanted to stick with their birth gender or transition. If they did the latter - and I'm not expert - but my guess it would be easier. It was a really fascinating programme, both from the side of the child (who must be going through a hell of time) and also from the view of their parents.

I think we're all wise to the idea of a parent being distraught or negative about it: it's a stereotypical reaction. Instead, this programme let the parents talk of their concerns and on the whole, they were very supportive of their child who wanted this. Maybe the programme was skewed in that regard: would a parent who was against the idea appear on such a show? I'll let you catch it on '4 On Demand' or YouTube (if it sneaks in there) and you can make up your own mind :) It certainly caused a bit of chatter on the forums.

All in all, a good week. Halloween soon and later on it's Bonfire Night. I do love autumn!

Take care

[ Today's lyric: Paparazzi by Lady Ga Ga ]

Friday, October 16, 2009

"The ghost of the past, has its arms around me..."


While I was off being a dirty stop out last week, dear Auntie Beeb - BBC 4 to be precise - ran a programme entitled Micro Men. No, not a superhero tie-in or some quirky tribute to the Incredibly Shrinking Man, but partly facts based drama set in the early 80s, on the relationship between two of the UK's leading computer manufacturers, Sinclair and Acorn.... and the men behind the companies. I won't give you a capsule review; mainly because I'm lazy and should you wish to make up your own mind, it's available on iPlayer. :-)

I must confess that at the time, the history of what was going on passed me by. I was still at primary school and very far from the maddening crowds of urban living. I was more concerned with other fluff than the computer based arms race happening not so far away. Stuff like catching Battle of the Planets or wondering why the lads like Adam Ant, and not Bananarama. Oh well. :-)

We had a Beeb: the BBC Model B. A 6502 powered machine with a whole 32KB of memory. We didn't get a disk drive - and I mean a floppy disk drive at that - for another 3 years. Loading anything by tape took *ages*. That ooooo weeeek noise of the tape deck for 10 to 15 minutes. But... that's what you were used to. There was no mouse, no Windows and no Internet (at least for the common man). You flicked the power switch and barr-beeepp, the *ahem* OS loaded up. You got a flashing prompt and that was it. Okay: CHAIN "", hit enter and start the tape deck.

The model B seemed primitive by today's standards, but it held my interest. In fact, it's a good thing home computers were invented, because academically, I was pretty sh** at everything else! :-) Sports? Forget it, I'm a tranny remember? Maths? Too complicated and English? Well, you needed a Rosetta Stone to read my handwriting. So computers it was. I suppose part of it was in my blood, my Grandad was an engineer and my Dad worked in radio electronics.

Watching the programme made me stop and think how far we've come in such a short space of time. 8, 16, 32 and now 64 bit machines with more memory that you would have thought possible. My first hard disk had 20meg of storage on it, you can't even buy a memory stick that small nowadays. Just the other day I put a server in with 32 Gb of memory and the equivalent of 8 CPUs... *and* that may not be enough for the project! :-)

Moore's Law just keeps on paying out due to some awfully clever gents and ladies. Where will it all end? I wouldn't like to say, although I'd wager that mobile telephones will get smarter and a lot more powerful than they are now. Maybe they'll replace laptops and you'll be able to hot-dock them into a flat screen and bond a Bluetooth keyboard to them. High speed WIMAX can't come fast enough around here, that's for sure. :-)

At the end of the programme - and seemingly the end of Acorn's big business - the show closed on a footnote. The rise of American companies like Compaq and Microsoft. IBM, the creator of the PC lead the charge and PC clones flooded the market. Finally, there was the mention of ARM. Acorn seemed to shift focus but stay in the chip market. What do ARM do? Only about 90% of the trade in mobile telephone based CPUs according to one statistic. Small world huh?

Where would we be without computers? For one thing, you wouldn't be reading this and I'd be a lot worse off. Sh**, I might have to really work for a living. (Ed: scary thought!). Hats off to the computer boffins of the 80s and through to today.... wherever they make take us to. :-)

Take care,

[ Today's lyric: The Devil You Know by Jesus Jones ]

Friday, October 09, 2009

"Dance your cares away,
Worry's for another day"

Hey y'all,

Autumn is well underway in Notts at the mo. Low temps (well, single figures in centigrade anyway) and it's jumpers and coats when you go outside. I do like the change in seasons. Sure, I'm not big on the wet weather, but I don't like I'd like day in day out sunshine. But, hey, maybe I'm just morose :-P

So what's been going on? Well.... we - the Chameleons Group - had a party. :-) We often have one at this time of year, as a number of our... umm.. number have birthday's around... ummm... this time of year. :-) Besides, do you really need a reason for good food, good company and some good music? Nah! :-D

After getting changed I made my way downstairs... and then went back upstairs to fix my nail varnish and change my shoes. I wore my new pink dress that I got in the sale. I was very chuffed with it. I think I need to take up the advice about some upholstery foam in the front of my stillies. I switched to my dancing shoes as they are a lot easier to get around in.

The food was being laid out and - oops - there was no pop. So, off Mrs A - Alison's GF -and I nipped off to get some from the local shop. Hell, it's not like I'm going to blend in, but really, who cares? :-) It took an age to get served and when we did, the youth behind the counter tried to look cool, but he didn't manage it. He came out with something along the lines of: "You've seen it all at my age." That make Mrs A and I chuckle. At your age? I've got shoes older than you sunshine! Bottles of pop in hand and smiles on our faces, we headed back.

On the way back, Mrs A mentioned that a neighbour of their's, one of the ex-neighbours relations is transitioning. The kid's in her (ex-him) teens. I guess that goes back to the earlier posts about kids being more upfront and feeling that it's safe to do that. And really, why the hell not? (Thanks to Ali who took the photo BTW).

Drinks now sorted, we settled down to have a chat before we got stuck into the nibbles. We got talking about how trannying was 'back in the day'. Tracey was telling us some funny stories about the 80s and conversation got to how she came out to her wife (if that makes sense!). I think a lot of us have been through that particular ordeal and the conversation shifted to focusing on wives and girlfriends.

I mean, if you (as a tranny) come out to them, you kinda get to be honest and the weight of the secret is reduced. But what about the mrs? Tracey was saying that back then - and Tina agreed - that there was little support for partners back then. You really had to go out of your way to find somewhere - or someone even - to help.

Thanks to the Internet - and some caring souls out there - we're seeing more partner forums and blogs too. I think this is a really good thing to happen. From what I hear, talking about it helps. The frequent - but very valid - questions of: are you secretly gay? Do you want to be full time? Do you want to change sex? All those questions, understandably go round and around. I know the Every Lovely Mrs Jones said that she felt alone with the secret of knowing. I came home one night and she said she'd been looking on the Internet at partner related forums and that that had helped. To that end, there are a few links towards the lower part of the right hand column that are just for partners.

After the nibbles, Katie - the new girl who came with her mum - came along with.. umm... her mum. Rats. I'm repeating again. :-) Anywho, Katie had brought some clothes along and I got volunteered (Thanks Sandy! :-D ) to be Trinny and Susannah... or more Tranny & Susannah to go and help. Katie was just starting out on the whole TG roller coaster but the black skirt and top really suited her. I loaned her a necklace and a bracelet. A girl's got to accessorise right? I'd donated my last wig to the group, so sadly I didn't have a spare, but you can't have it all can you. Her mum (no names) took it all in her stride. She's one cool lady.

Once the raffle was sorted out, I made the announcement about Boots visiting us. That went down well and I really hope it goes ahead now. I'd hate to let the group down. After that brief bout of public speaking, it was on with a new party CD: time to shake those collective booties. I'm honest, I've been itching (Ed: no, not like that!) to strut my stuff to Katy Perry's Hot & Cold. That tune's been in my head for weeks. Still, the deed is done now. While the CD wasn't TransAnthems by any stretch, it was fun all the same. :-)

Talking of dancing, Gaynor says that she and a few friends from UK Angels are off for a Big Night Out down in Pink Punters. I hope it all goes well!

Take care

[ Today's lyric: The theme from Fraggle Rock. ]

Friday, October 02, 2009

"I got sunshine, in a bag"

Howdy folks,

A case of so far so good this week. A couple of items in the media and some good news on the Chameleons front.

Regular readers may know - assuming I did remember to blog about it (Ed: uh-oh, dippy moment ahoy!) - that I dropped Boots an email about their make up services. Well, thanks to a lucky gap in my packed work calendar (!) and rather than play telephone tag, I dropped into to branch in question as the whole email thing wasn't working for either party. Sometimes I swear technology eats your messages rather than deliverying them! :-) So we've got a provisional date booked (25th November).... and Boots were kind enough to offer 10% reduction on shop prices. RESULT! :-D

I also popped into New Look as I'd seen they had some bodysuits (remember them?) in stock. I popped a few in my basket and snook off to the men's department downstairs. The black one was okay, but okay was as far as it went. In the end, I put it back and headed home. I got so far to the car and got distracted by some cute looking shapewear in a department store. Again, same trick as before - a pair of blokes trousers in the basket and said item underneath. The item was a medium control body but while it felt gorgeous (and did wonders in tightening up certain curves) the cups weren't quite right. I guess that's because a) I don't have any t*ts to speak of (despite having brought my fake ones along) and b) it was multiway. A 'way' which never seems to work for me, but lessons learned eh? :-)

Which leads us back to the ever circling news story about women's clothes for men. This time around, it's the BBC and this report on mantyhose. Ack! That's an abombination of a word. :-) To be fair, it's more leggings and skirts for men. Kilts, maybes, but skirts? No and certainly not the one modelled in the video. Oddly, I do remember a micro-trend for leggings for guys in the 90s. I think that was part of the Grunge thing going on, but they were worn either with knackered jeans or long shorts. Not sure the netball skirt is a look I'll be sporting in either mode :-)

Also, last week saw the High Heel-a-thon... an event I caught sight of in the paper after it had finished. (Ed: the shame!). A day out in Leeds? In heels? For the good cause of Breast Cancer Haven *and* attendance by the lovely Kimberley Walsh (of Girls Aloud fame)! Drat and double drat :-) Oh well! Maybe next year eh?

Stay safe,

[ Today's lyric: Clint Eastwood by Gorillaz ]