Friday, February 23, 2018

The roller coaster

Hi,

A few months ago I had the good fortune to go to a training event at work. It was about learning to accept change, and also to help others - including yourself - cope with that. We covered something called the Kubler-Ross Cycle. Sometimes it's called the Grief Cycle. Not because changes at work only gives you grief, but it's a process we can go through during grief itself.

It looks a bit like this, although a quick check via your favour search engine will find better diagrams.


I sat in the classroom, made notes, and - as ever - wondered how it affected people at work or who'd been bereaved.

It wasn't until three new people joined us at Chameleons, and I was listening to what they were saying about visiting for the first time, that two disconnected concepts linked up.

We'd be talking about one of the difficulties in coming to the group is owning up to yourself that you are trans. Not only that, but you're meeting people you don't know, and - in many instances - it's not just you on this journey: there may be a partner or children involved too.

I remember the trainer telling us how one team of people can be on different parts of the cycle. Someone who is leading the change to work has been through the proverbial ups & downs, and is heading out of Testing, and into Acceptance. But, for the rest of their team, they could be at the start, the middle, or stuck in the doldrums. It's quite possible to go back as well as forward.

So, how does this apply to being trans and coming out? Well, it's not a perfect fit, but I doubt there's a system out there that can describe anything perfectly :-) That aside, I wonder if we start at Stability, and when we start to struggle with understanding who we are - or perhaps who we think we may be becoming - we fall into Immobilisation (I can just stop, right?), or maybe hitting Denial or Anger. Denial that you need to do this, or that you have these feelings. Anger that either you can't control things, or you can't 'be who you need to be'. This ringing any bells yet? :-)

Maybe there's some Bargaining going on: only at weekends, only when I'm away with work. Maybe you slip into Depression because you can't quite make it all work as you want. Maybe you slide back to Anger or blocking it all under Immobilisation. What if you move towards Testing and Acceptance? Some limits are working for you, some you may be pushing at (pierced ears? smooth legs?). Could it be a case of too much, too soon, and you slide back down the slope?

Where is your partner in all of this? Will they go from Stability to Acceptance overnight, or will it take them longer? What stages would they have to go through to understand? Indeed, will they ever understand, or is acceptance enough?

Like I said, it's not a perfect match, but it certainly gave me some food for thought. You may, of course, feel differently, and if so, the comment box awaits ;-)

Take care,
Lynn


Friday, February 16, 2018

To purge or not to purge? That is the question.

Hi,

Over at the Chameleons web site, we have a forum so we can keep in touch, share ideas & tips, plus discuss things between meetings. Just recently Diane asked: Have you ever purged?

Now for those who don't know that bit of trans slang, a purge is - perhaps somewhat obviously - when you chuck everything. Not just a ruthless clearout, but anything and everything related to *ahem* crossing over is disposed of. While there are various reasons why someone might do this - guilt, shame, clean break, etc - I think the idea is to get rid of any temptation and make a clean start of it.

There is, IMHO, no shame in trying it, but I would recommend not throwing things, but putting them away instead. If you do find you don't need everything, it's all good, recycle later. But.... should you find that you're not ready to walk away yet; no harm, no foul.

So, did I purge? Yes, just once and you can see how it helped me stay on the 'straight & narrow' :-D

It was back in my 20s (so just after the glaciers receded from mainland Europe), and I'd left home to move to Nottingham. I thought it would be a new start, and not having much in the way of female clothes, I thought it would be easy to put it all behind me and move on.

Ah, you've got to laugh at yourself, eh? :-)

Chucking things, or rather, donating what little I had to charity was easy enough. I felt empowered by doing so, and having been outed that year back home, felt confident that I'd not get myself in that situation again. Thing was, I was enjoying have hair-free legs, so maybe one step at a time, eh? :-)

The thing is, just because I didn't have the clothes, it didn't mean the feelings of who I was went away. Sure, their was the distraction of college, social stuff, and course work. But, those trigger points remained. Those oh-so-helpful mental nudges that remind you that what's outside, doesn't always reflect what's going on inside. I was still pretty new to the whole trans shindig, and much as I'm still learning now, I think that in a time before forums, social media, and a trans support group; I was pretty much just having to wing it from day to day.

Truth is, at least for me, that the feelings of being somewhere in the middle never went away. Sure, they might draw out like the tide, slipping far into the distance, even. But, eventually, I'd find myself paddling and lying to myself, even when I had wet feet. :-)  Long hair (and well kept, so a few people would tell me), smooth legs, clean shaven (I never could grow a beard), etc. All signs, if I look back with 20/20 hindsight, that it was only the clothes I'd ditched, and I was still looking for something that made me feel okay about who I was.

I managed it for a few years, and having met the future Ever Lovely Mrs J, I doubled down on my efforts to stay in just one gender. Not that I could have known that word then. I told her dressing up was something I had done (true), and that it wasn't something I wanted to do (also true). Ah, but had I know the power of the dark side... ;-)

I fell off the wagon, as it were, when Mrs J had a chuck out of her own. There in the corner of our rented flat was a bag destined for the charity shop. A few jumpers and some jeans, but also a fitted black top, some shoes, and a cute red skirt. "I'm off to see my Mum, see you about 11." Well, I guess Darth was right. I didn't fight, and I embraced my destiny. I spent about 3 hours reading, tidying up, and then getting changed at the end.

Much as I felt the relief of being me, I was wracked with guilt and fear. I didn't want to lose Mrs J, but this wasn't how boyfriends behaved, was it? Ah, we're back on that old wheel: hiding and lying. Not exactly the best approach, but we do what we've got to do to survive, no?

Skip on 20+ years and while it's not been an easy ride, it sure as hell beats fighting against who I was. I'm certainly a lot happier. No more lying, being able to be open with Mrs J, and having the friendship from those at the group. All of that, perhaps, is well worth fighting for.

Take care,
Lynn

Friday, February 09, 2018

That's a wrap

Hi,

How's things? Brr, it's been a bit nippy in Dear Old Blighty, but so it goes in February. It seems Winter has a last hurrah and just when you think you might turn down the central heating eh? Yay for extra thick tights eh? :-)

Media

So, after last week's post about the media, I visited a local journalist to help him with a piece about what it is to be trans in Nottingham. I guess I'm the token part-timer ;-) For those of you wondering if I'd taken leave of my sense, and/or usual cautionary nature; fear nor dear reader! This being the dear old Auntie Beeb, they're getting an actor in to voice my words. This'll, A) mask my voice, and B) provide someone who more suited to talking on the radio. Sheesh, it was hard to think of answers and ignore the studio. Funny how adrenaline gets you eh? :-)

I've put the word out at Chameleons last night, and two more folk have kindly agreed to get in touch. I hope this helps add some more voices to the project. Time will tell I guess. Oh, and talking of time, it's going to be a while 'in the making', but I'll let you know when it's on, when I do.

Chams

This week's meeting was rather busy. We had at least four new people join us, and as three of them had arrived on their own, there was a bit of to-ing & fro-ing required to help settle nerves, prep tea, and listen to what they had to say. Luckily various people chipped in to help, and make our new visitors feel welcome. There was also the discussion group running that night, and then towards the end of the night, two research students from a nearby university had arrived to quiz us about fashion marketing. I'm tired from just typing that up ;-)

I've had a note from one of the ladies in question, and she said talking/meeting people like her had really helped. Pretty much what I shared in the above interview, but it's good to know we're going in the direction people need.

This time around, I wore the new dress that I bought in the sale. I do love a wrap dress! There's something about the fit that makes it fit in the right places... even if you're still hauling around the *ahem* luggage acquired at Christmas :-) Yeah, with all the cold weather and the rain, I may have been out on a few walks, but I'm just so damned peckish. Still, as the weather picks up, I'll get moving properly.

I had a long chat with two of the new ladies about where they were in terms of their journey. It's early days for a lot of us, and that starts with the scary part of walking through the front door. As I said to both, it's more than just coming to a new place where you don't know people. There's a double whammy of not really knowing what the group will be like, plus having to admit that you are trans.

Still, I think all of us remember what it was like to be in that situation, and many take the time to settle people, listen to them, and - of course - ply them with tea & biscuits. It's not that it's tears-before-bedtime, but I do think an empathetic ear helps keep people open up and relax a little. It is a hell of thing to do if you've never been out before.

I'd been lucky with an early getaway from home, and tonight I'd managed to get ready pretty quickly for me. Maybe all the practise is finally paying off! :-) Given the early start, the evening seemed to be longer than usual, but I'm not complaining in the least. There was a slight extension due to extra photo duties: this time for Nicola & Tanya, rather than just me & Val ( thanks for taking the photos, Val!).

Skip on half an hour so, and my Lynn gear was all packed away. Despite that thought and the heavy rain pouring down in cold, I drove back feeling much refreshed and grateful for all the laughter we'd all shared. Happy days!

Take care,
Lynn



Friday, February 02, 2018

Media

Hi,

How's things? All going well I hope.

It's been a busy in-between week this time around. It seemed that the spam filter on the Chameleons' mail system, had been a little too vigilant, and so messages from our contact form, were not in the inbox. Cue a rush of fiddling with software settings, and then replying to people who'd written in.

That now seems to be resolved, and it was this week that an email came in from a journalist. He's looking to put together some short segments on what it is to be trans, and got in touch with the group. We had the usual Q&A, and then we hit the crunch question: would you or any of the group be willing to appear on the show?

Ah, therein lies the rub. On the one hand, doing so may raise the profile of the group, and help others find us. On the other hand, voices can be recognised, what type of attention will publicity draw, and voices can be recognised. The smart cookies amongst you will notice that one point was said twice. I kinda felt it was important, so yeah, doubling up ;-)

Much as this blog is on the web, it is - I sincerely hope - out of the way unless someone goes looking for it. Yeah, there's some snaps of me in Lynn mode, but a voice...? No, my voice doesn't change when I'm not dressed as Richard. That, I guess, is the constant.

With that in mind, I don't fancy putting myself out there, and whenever I've asked the group, so they take the same line. The line that privacy is key, and they don't want to be on TV, radio, or in a magazine. In honesty, completely understandable.

Equally, I think I understand the difficulty legitimate media types (not hacks) must face when trying to find trans people to talk to. Sure, a few of us are out, and a few of us have transitioned. But, getting hold of us part-timers is difficult.

The thing is, by not stepping forward into the spotlight, are we holding ourselves, and indeed, our cause back? Some brave souls do, but... that ain't me. At least, not yet. I guess I'm wary that it's not about me. There's the kids, and the Ever Lovely Mrs J to think about. Sure, you could say I'm hiding behind that, but I'm online, I'm out & about when I can, and I'm trying to help where I can with the support group, or a little training here & there when people ask. Maybe I feel I should do more, but then, for who, at what cost, and what aim?

Take care,
Lynn