Friday, September 30, 2016

I don't remember this bit when I bought a ticket!


Okay, let's bundle all of my weekly thoughts into the proverbial washing machine and give a spin. I'd make a joke about not mixing the colours, but it may sound unpleasant. You know, like a bad Trump :-P

Satire aside, it's been a bit of a mixed week. I have.... at the risk of sounding like dear old Marvin from Hitchhikers, felt a bit low and I resisted the urge to write anything about it. Mainly because I don't think it would have done me much good to have talked about the cold, dark mud, when instead, I should be working on getting out of it. Which, after some walking, a little thinking and some distraction; seemed to manage.

Bad Breaks

Shall I start at the start? Oh, and we'll skip on from first the earth cooled and then the dinosaurs came. :-) Thursday night, all fine. Feeling refreshed and okay with the world. Same again Friday: glad it was the weekend and all felt fine. Not too late to bed and then Saturday.... wack.  I almost typed Wham, but I'm sure George and Andrew don't need the exposure.

"It's just a ride..."
Yeah, Saturday just seemed to hit me flat. Looking back and there's little point, I feel, in describing the negative emotions. Instead, I'll ask: was this a come-down thing? Was it that I was super happy and when I came back to Planet Earth, it was with a crash, not a bump? Or was it that I'd gone from expressing me to putting a large aspect of me back in a box?  Perhaps there was an element of the infamous trans panic, in that as I packed my things away, there was a skrit noise and I noticed my favourite brown wig had split along the hairline. Yikes!

Whatever it was, it was not pleasant, and at the risk of trolling for comments, or cynicism aside; asking for feedback; how do you cope with a post-trans-episode crash?

Funny, a few weeks ago I was scoffing at a survey that asked about immersion into computer games. Then, a few weeks later, I was doing just that. Perhaps, I don't know as much about myself as I think I do ;-)

Good News

Despite the above 'Wobble', there were rays of sunshine in the week gone. I returned the wiggle dress without issue, so that's 25 quid to ponder spending at Amazon. Plus, the dress I bought on a whim last time, will, I think, be spot on for the Chams party this coming October.

I popped into town while on work business and visited Nicola & Steph at their TrendCo shop in Nottingham. Twas in bloke mode, but you can't have it all :-) But we had a good chat while Steph kindly fixed my wig and we confirmed the visit to Chameleons at the end of next month. I also made an appointment to for Steph to trim the long auburn wig, which I collected today. I'm happy with the cut, so I just (gah! just!!) need an hour to put some slap on and try it properly. I also learned that said wig has a mono top, which means I can alter the parting and it still look natural. Well, as natural as a 6ft bloke ever will ;-)

Nicola & Steph mentioned they have a few gents pop in to buy wigs and sometimes they're chatty, sometimes they're not. They did say they mentioned Chameleons and so word must get around about our little group.

Talking of which, I had a long chat with a lady from BBC Radio about us, although she's keen on people's stories, which means interviews and recording. How that may sit with the group, I don't know. I do know we're keen to keep the group quiet. Sure, it's one thing to be on the web and people who want to find us will. It's another, I feel, to put our name out on the airwaves and who knows who might be listening. That, is nothing something we're quite so keen on. Still, I'll ask the group and see if anyone's interested.

So, I've got the party to look forward to and then it's half-term. Hopefully we'll manage to get away, although it will mean I'm missing a meeting. Fingers crossed it doesn't go Pete Tong again, eh?

Cheery thoughts! :-)


Friday, September 23, 2016

Human Interest


Ah, must focus. I've been flitting between browser tabs, putting off just writing. Right.... deep breath, Lynn and go! :-)

That joke twice

Ring, ring, goes my office softphone.

Yours Truly > Hello, Richard speaking.

Mystery Caller > Hi, [insert salesman name] here. Is that Sarah?

YT > No, sorry. I think you've got the wrong number -

MC > Ah. [pause] Oh. I've copied the number down wrong. I thought your were Sarah, Head of Department.

YT > No, I'm afraid not, but I could pretend if it helps.

MC > [laughter] Only at the weekends, though, eh? You know, a friend of mine...

Mystery Caller then embarks on a story about his tall female friend who ran a shoe shop for ladies with a larger than average foot size. He politely put in that it wasn't just ladies who shopped there. I know, the shock right? :-P Then, he was into a story about how he had the utmost admiration for ladies who can walk in heels. He'd tried some size ten ones and fallen flat on his face. I managed not to mutter 'amateur' but laughed politely and directed him towards said departmental head.

Sometime later, I've pulled up at our local supermarket and I'm collecting the weekly supplies from a late night click & collect. The young lady comes out with a stack of boxes - hopefully the food I ordered. It is, somewhat of a gamble, it seems - and gives me a quizzical look before asking the Ever Lovely Mrs J's name. "No, but I'm her husband."

"Ah," she says with a grin. "I thought it might be your weekend name! Ha ha!"

Y'know, if I wasn't paranoid, I really would think people knew ;-) I did toy with the idea of making a return joke, but you don't want to freak people out, do you. Later on, and as I packed the car, I mentioned that a mate of mine did. "Oh, and they do their make-up so brilliantly, don't they?" the lady replied. "I wish I could get my eye make-up as good as that."

Nottingham Pride attendees, you may be missing out on a business opportunity to help those in need of fabulousity. ;-)


Fab 40s
Thanks to a yearly windfall I ordered a two dresses from Amazon. A 40s wiggle dress (see right) and an evening number. The T-Faeries of Commerce smiled upon me and the goods arrived at my nearly local post office for collection. Indeed, the good luck continued as Wee Man's school was closed, meaning I had to drop him off at Granny J's to stay the night. Result: an early, guilt free pass. Get in ;-)

With an early start at Chams I managed to try on both dresses. Sadly, the 40s dress - while lovely - doesn't quite work. The vendor - Lindy Bop - recommended one size up and while the dress fit (in the skirt area), the back and shoulders are a little less fitted than I'd like. Yes, I could get the dress altered, but that's going to be a right faff and.... much as I love a bit of dressing up when...umm... dressing up, it's not something I'll probably wear frequently. So, after blogging, tonight's task will be to wrap it up and get a returns label sorted out.

A magic number
But, on to happier news and I stuck with what I think I'll start to call my Compliment Dress. I guess this simple number (from must have some magic charm to it. Whenever I wear it, which isn't that often, people often say "oh, nice dress!" or "I love your dress" etc. Don't get me wrong, a love a compliment as much as the next lady. I'm just surprised this dress seems to attract such praise. Still, much better than why are you wearing that?! ;-)

I had a good heart-to-heart chat with Fyona, who was also kind enough to say some nice things about this little blog of mine. If you're reading this, Fy, thanks again, chuck. Oddly, in the Chams email t'other week, an independent journalist got in touch, asking if any of our number would like to be interviewed with their partner. Ah, that old chestnut and if I may, I'd like you to hold that thought for a moment and we'll come back to it in a mo.

Under Pressure

Sabrina, a University researcher had been working with a number of volunteers from Chameleons to look into the question around Minority Stress models. Now, much as I have an interest in trans stuff and psychology, I am very much not an expert. Apologies if I've got the technical lingo wrong.

Anyhoo, the research gave strong evidence that the model used to measure Minority Stress in Trans people isn't wholly accurate, because there's a number of different factors at play within us. So, while we share some stress characteristics - and please read 'stress' as pressure or upset, rather than "eeek, I've lost my homework - with LGB people, we have some that they don't. Likewise, I'd wager that LGB people have some we don't. I mean, ignoring the trans stuff, I'm just another 40 something middle class, tubby straight dad working in IT.

Now, I'd set up some chairs in a side room for Sabrina to give her talk. I wasn't expecting what felt like 80% of the Chams massive to join us. Still, the more the merrier. The research did cause some debate and various people offered anecdotes and questions. Val was sceptical about the outcome of the research and what it might mean for us. I get that, I think and I hope I've not got her view wrong (complaints to the usual address! :-) ). Becky mentioned the difference in the way she's treated in Nottingham, in comparison to other cities int he Midlands (hint: Nottingham: you're doing it right, bless you). Helen asked about the age of those surveyed and the mean was around 29 years.

I, like a few others, seemed to be expecting a higher number given that most of our Chams membership is 35+. Okay, there's a few younger folk,but they are the minority. This kicked off a question around younger trans folk - younger as in 20s - and someone stating: aren't they just Out and doing what they need? Well, I don't have any evidence to back this up, although I will say I get the occasional email to the group's inbox asking for advice. As to all Out, I was talking to Bryony - who's helps run a local university's LGBTQ society. It seems not everyone is out, at least from her experience with students. So, do we have a lack of young folk at Chams because:

1) Younger T folk don't need it and are out doing their own thing.
2) Younger T folk aren't feeling the need/pain to overcome their fears. That hits at 30-40 for Chams.
3) Chams isn't a target of interest. Knitting circle / we're too old, etc ;-)

So, going back to the journalist question: are we - trans folk - trapped in a Catch 22? Sure, society is getting better if you compare the 80s to the 90s to the 00s and now. But, there are many of us - and I'll include myself in this - that aren't ready to be fully out of the closet. Okay, I run a blog, but my family & friends (other than the Ever Lovely Mrs J) don't know and in the main, I am mostly okay with that.

I guess, I'm not ready to be the departmental tranny - there, I've said a naughty word - or "there goes Little Miss's Dad. He doesn't always look like that you know...". Thing is, so long as I hear that word - tranny - at work, on TV or out on the street, it doesn't make me want to be out. Not with the baggage is has linked to it. Much as I'm okay to laugh at myself, I don't mind you laughing along with me, just.... not at me. I read an email from a local radio station about 'human interest stories'. Well, with respect, we're not stories, we're human. After the readers and the hullabaloo have gone, it's us folk who have to live with what's been revealed. So yeah, always slightly worried when the spotlight falls on us.

What will this research do for us? Well, there is a question. I can only hope that maybe it will work like the NHS' Depression Test. For those of you who've not used it - and count yourself lucky :-) - it's nine questions and they can help you, or medical expert, diagnose the level of your distress. As I said to others last night, I'm hoping such a Distress Diagnostic tool doesn't become a... if you'll forgive me... a pissing contest. "Oh, I'm more trans than you, because I got 7B." etc. Sure, there will always be people like that, but I don't think we should encourage such behaviour. It's not like there's a shortage of bigots or our own demons queuing up to put the proverbial boot in. :-)

Maybe, a technique could be developed that will help demonstrate not so much the level of our transness, so to speak, but the level of distress we are under because of it. Was my depression caused solely by being trans? No, I don't think it was, but I dare say it had a role to play in there somewhere. Perhaps I wouldn't have fallen quite so far into the darkness, if it hadn't been for whatever personal demons I'd amassed. You know the usual suspects: you're too blokey, too square, too fat, too fat, too ham fisted, too ugly, too much like a joke, etc. Mind you, it's been a long time since I've bothered to listen to those naysayers and they only have power if you listen to them.

Well... I think that's quite probably a long enough post (!). That Amazon return won't sort itself and I think I've reached a natural lull on the research question.

Take care and if you made it this far, thanks :-)

Friday, September 16, 2016

Building sites


I am thankful that it's the weekend. Not that this week has been stressful or hard. I think, it overdid it a little last weekend concentrating on building the new Nottingham Chameleons web site. Yes, two late nights (nearly 2am. Tsk. When will I learn!) on Friday and Saturday, meant I wasn't fully recharged for the week ahead. Still, my own fault, but I'm done now.

"If you build it, they will come..."

Chameleons had been using a free forum hosting company for just over a decade and the service had been great. Then one day, pop, it vanished. Not a peep from the hosting company. The whole lot just vanished in an instant. Quickly, we set up a new home and carried on our merry way. Skip on a few months and Moonfruit changed from free hosting (with ads) to paid for.

I took a look at the prices for both and while it would be easier to pay and stay, it would also eat into the group's funds a little. Okay, we're not skint, but I find it's best not to chuck money about if you can help it. :-)

So, after some questions at work for those who host sites or build systems, I had an idea of what I might need and where to get it from. A few emails here and there and we had our hosting platform sorted. The only thing left - other than building it - was to square the funding via the Ever Lovely Mrs J. It's not that it was expensive, it was more than my bloke details would be used and in theory, if something went very wrong, or I was sent a physical bill, there might be some explaining to do. Instead, my dear wifey said: "Oh, we'll just say you're paying for hosting as you're an ally." What a top lady.

It came to pass that I nervously tapped my credit card and personal information into the web application before tapping Accept. I don't know about you, but I sort of like to test the water before I climb in. For this, while I could get the money back on the hosting, I couldn't claim back the dedicated domain name ( Gulp! Well, in for a penny, in for a pound. :-D

After a couple of nights of testing templates and fiddling CSS (not my strong point), I had something that seemed to work. I asked a few friends over on Facebook to have a look and see if they had any suggestions. Lovely lot that they are [/waves!] I received some polite suggestions and I think they've made the site better for it.

Once that was done, it was a case of looking at forum software. I thought about the built-in Wordpress system, but it didn't quite feel right. The other choice was to use one very similar to the free one we moved to. Pros: looks like the current one; people are familiar with it; it's fairly easy to administer and it had an 'install now' button as part of the hosting.

With that no brainer in mind it was next, next, finish and some minor tweaks to get it shipshape. I did add a new icon because I was struggling with the older Chameleons eye, that we've had for a few years. Okay, this new one isn't exactly cliche free, but I think it does the job: we're mostly MTF with a few FTM folk popping in. That reminds me: talking of snaps. The photo on the front page was done by Debbie and it's many years old. It does, however, show the variety of ages of people who attend Chams. Something to add to the list.

As to the web site, I can now look back and think: that'll do, pig. :-) Site is done, forum is up and I've fired off a few emails to organisations asking them to update their records. The old Moonfruit address will hang around for a few months yet, so with luck people will get the message we're moving.

Of course the thing is, with more pages and more plug-ins to look at, it's tempting to think about some help articles for the site. Coping with being trans, where to buy clothes, etc. However, I'm not going to rush into this. I'll see what folk would like - and that could include you, dear reader - and play it by ear.

Gossip, girls!

Oh, I did read a comment about us being a bit of a 'knitting circle', which made me chuckle. Not that I disagree, although we are really, really behind on knitting. Perhaps a lack of wool is to blame and we're not allow sharp sticks after that Game of Thrones party no-one is allowed to talk about. ;-)

Where was I? Oh aye, knitting circle. Yeah, yet on the other hand, I'd heard we we're "party girls", whatever that means. Better than calendar girls, possibly. Not sure I'd want folk to see my jelly belly and custard tarts. No, best clothed, shaped and padded I think. :-)

Jokes aside, I find it interesting to hear what others think of us and none of it offended or upset me. Maybe I'm odd like that. So, party animals or knitting circle? Well, we did mix the two up, but again, but it's murder knit one, pearl one, big fish, little fish, cardboard box.

The truth, as per, is somewhat in between. Yeah, we have a 'bit of a do' once in a while. I helps break up the usual routine of tea & a chat, or tea & vendor / researcher visit. I think parties are generally every four to six months. I think we've got the formula sorted, in that we have the music in one room and keep the food and the chairs in the other. That way, folk can drift between rooms as the mood takes them.

As to the chatting, I like to think of Chams as a pub with no beer. Oh, and a better jukebox (i.e.: none :-P ). We meet up and talk to each other about what's going on in our lives, our worries and our joys. I think the best thing about Chameleons is that you can truly be yourself. You don't have to watch what you say: if you want to talk about football, trains, cars or movies, you can. Equally, if you want to ask about coping, eyeliner or a fun day out; you can do that too. We don't judge. Well, unless you think socks & sandals are okay.... ;-)

Take care and rest easy,

Friday, September 09, 2016

You underestimate the power of the trans side.


After a much enjoyed holiday, I'm back. I hope the back catalogue of scheduled posts kept you amused while I was away. The holiday was one to remember and the Jones Massive certainly had a good time and without too much coin nor trouble. What's not to like eh? :-)

Unexpected Turbulence

It's funny, I'll often start a post with a line about highs and lows. Frequently, these are minor bumps in the road of life. Nothing to knock your tracking or rattle the frame mind. Then, there's the proverbial near miss, pothole or - as it felt like this Tuesday - driving through a hailstorm.

What set me off, I don't know. I could hazard a guess at a combination of being back after a grand break, to missing a meeting or... well, I could go on (Ed: and you usually do :-P ) but I doubt I'll be able to put my finger on it. I mean, I've missed meetings before and all has been fine. I've skipped getting changed during hot weather and enjoyed the chat. I've been back to work after long and short breaks, and it's been no big thing. I've had smooth then not so smooth arms, but that's been fine.

Heh, it's ironic in a way, given my earlier post about staying strong, getting help and dodging the shadows of the woods. I didn't reach out, I didn't get help and by the time I realised the cold cloak had laid its misery around me, I was drawn in. As we say in England, bugger. :-)

Yet, there was the growing push - ache? - to want to be not just in bloke mode. I don't say clothes, because it's more than that. That, or a want to shave my legs or arms and not feel, well, so 'him'. Thing is, doing either of the latter will upset the Ever Lovely Mrs J and I really don't want to do that to her. Much as it itched, I felt if I gave in, it would be wrong somehow.

As I said to Val, last night, I don't want to use the word desire, because it has sexual connotations. Likewise, using need or want, makes me sound like an addict or someone with a fetish. Maybe that's the truth and I can't bring myself to admit it....

Or, and I'd like to offer this as the reason, I can't exist in just Richard mode. Don't get me wrong, I'm not two people and I don't have two lives. I don't feel that Lynn-time means I can leave all my 'other life' behind and dance, skip or swish my way through the night.

No, it's more.... more an ache. A ache of being trapped if I'm forced to be just one gender. For all my wry looks when someone says 'bi-gendered', perhaps that's closer to my truth than I'd like to admit. I know I don't want to transition and there are may days in which I can take or leave it, when it comes to being fabulous. I guess, I can't leave it completely, that way, sadness lies.

So, Wednesday, it all became a little too much for me and I must admit I had a bit of a cry on the way home. One of those incidents were you're glad of slow moving traffic and sunglasses to hide behind. Just keep that stiff upper lip, Jones. A nation expects. Plus, summer equal hay-fever time, so there's a ready excuse.

Perhaps the emotional hit of Disturbed's rather good cover of The Sound of Silence and the lyric from Pendulum's The Island hammered it home:
My reflection, will slowly fade,
To another time, until my head escapes
Poetry with a beat. Where do I sign up. :-)

Happier Times

Back home I found myself lost in computer games or whatever the e-commerce version of window shopping is. Distractions, I suppose. I did find a lovely dress in Dorothy Perkins, but it seems everyone else liked it and they were a little quicker in ordering. Still, money saved.... and then spent in Boots, as I *ahem* invested in a new eye pencil and a fab new lippy.

Thursday was busy busy, with work stuff and then numerous home tasks. Mrs J wasn't feeling well, so I did the Helpful Husband routine (because I love her, not because I felt a duty), of chipping off early to sort the dogs, collect Little Miss, pick up the shopping and then collect Wee Man from his friend's house. After that, it was a quick shave and off to Chams.

Once I'd started to get changed, I could feel myself beginning to settle and relax. In a moment of weakness, I'd been a bit overzealous shaving my ankles, so my footless tights didn't have to be as low as they are normally. Ah, is this the tipping point and this starts to be the new normal? Well, I guess we'll see. :-)

Being all of me.
The new lippy - a matte red from Nyx (see above) - went on beautifully and stayed put most of the night. That's pretty good considering I was drinking water on and off. It didn't bleed too much, although that may be down to the lip liner (a girl's best friend) and Lipcote to keep it in place. Seriously, if you've not investigated the last two products, do yourself a favour and give them a spin.

In Chams news, we're getting the new bank account sorted out, as both Val and Diane kindly volunteered their 'other' name & address for the account. Luckily, the account doesn't have anything to do with Chameleons, so their and my secret identities remain.

Talking of the latter, we've had to can our application for funding. Not only did the funding body want full name and address, but unlike the bank, the information may be shared with interested parties. Sandi mentioned that she'd fallen foul of having her information linked to a charity she helped with and received sale calls, junk mail, etc. Yeah, I think we'll pass. Mind you, it's a shame, as the Ever Lovely Mrs J said.

Moving on to good news for the group, we've got a party to sort out for the first meeting in October. Then, at the end, we're due for a meeting from TrendCo. They're a top pair of ladies, who run a wig consultancy in Nottingham. They really do go the extra mile, so if you can't make the meeting, do pop by their shop, you won't be disappointed.

At the end of the night, Val and I hung back to lock up, and we had our usual quiet chat, as I turned back into a slightly less made-up pumpkin. I won't go into the details of the conversation, but I will say listening to Val's advice helped. After that, it was back downstairs to turf out the Unusual Suspects and then head off on our merry ways.

Right, that's my brain - and possibly heart - emptied for another Friday. I hope you have a good weekend and that the upcoming week is kind to you and yours.

Take care,

Friday, September 02, 2016

Beware glass dreams

The other day I stumbled across a German TV programme called Sexchange. In it, they took half a dozen folk - women and men, and made them over as their opposite gender. Unlike some shows, it wasn't cheesy and didn't seem played for laughs. Now, I don't speak German, but YouTube has an automatic subtitling and translation system.

On a slight digression, the YouTube system is s a bit Monty Python in places. Perhaps this is as the tech is listening to the audio track and translating on the fly. I guess there are many phrases we use that may not convert well into other languages. I think I saw the subtitle "but that's not my tennis" at one point. But occasional slip-ups aside, it's very impressive technology.

As to the German show, it felt serious but not dry. I guess the UK spin on this would have been Channel 4's Boy Meets Girl from the early 2000s (same name as BBC comedy, but different). I think Channel 4 also produced Genderswap, which was heavier on prosthetics and took celebrities through the process. Going back further, there was Move Over Darling by the BBC. Not that I watch out for these programmes. ;-)

The cast of ZDFNeo's SexChange
Why the matchy-matchy boots though?
I find watching people's reaction to their transformation and interaction with the real world (and vice versa) fascinating. Many participants are shocked by their change (sometimes to tears, bless them) and a number are understandably nervous by being out in public. For me, I think the latter is something we trans folk - past timers or full timers - just have to get used to. That's not to say that makes it easier. You could argue that having professional wardrobe and make up helps. But, does being filmed make it harder? I mean, while the better production companies will look after a person (or so i assume), filming has a deadline.

Much as I enjoy the sensitive and thought provoking takes on this subject, they do bother me a little. Not that people are pushed into a role, or that  you could argue the 'trans condition' is forming some type of educational entertainment. No, it's more.... gah, out with it... it's more that it makes me think of What Could Be. A voice within says, "But you could do that. Live in two genders. What's stopping you?"

I try not to listen, because I think that's some type of whimsical temptation talking. If I'm not careful and I listen to it, it won't be long before it's best mate, Green Eyed Monster, turns up and *ahem* 'helps' remind me that I'm in bloke mode more often than I'd sometimes like. Paying attention to that devil eyed ham (Ed: does that make any sense?) push me back towards The Drop and other unpleasantness.

Thing is, I'm not that driven to go that route. It would affect my family and really, for what? I'm tempted to write 'a bloke in a dress', but while externally I may look very blokey (skinhead haircut, beard stubble, tall and lantern jawed), internally, I'm betwixt and between. Plus, I'm not sure the phrase Bloke in a Dress helps. Realistically, it's a stick to beat oneself with mentally and that serves no purpose.

No. Perhaps it's best to remember that TV, the Internet and Old Media have a lure and they're selling something. Perhaps in positive ways, but it's still a transaction and that, like all sales, has a cost.

I guess I'm going to have to invoke some CBT Jedi tricks and not listen to the Dark Side :-)

Take care,