Friday, May 31, 2019

Starting: Coming Out


Not so long ago, someone asked about ideas or help around coming out. It's been a long time since I've had to do it, but it's something that comes up in the Chameleons email and other places too. So, here are a few thoughts on the subject.

Aims: Do you know what you want to get out of coming out? If you are coming out to a partner, how long have you kept this from them? Is all of this new to you too? Try to be realistic and think of what you'd both be happy with: after all, there are two of you in this relationship. If it's not to a partner, what does the other person get out of it? In either case, where does that person go for support? Are we off-loading on to them or sharing with them? Is there a difference?

Language: be wary of terms that might be misunderstood. Terms that the community know - MTF, AFAB, gender queer, bi-gender, trans, etc - will someone not in our circle know them? Does it matter if you don't have a label and even if you did, would it make sense to someone else? If a trans friend said to me Oh, I'm MTF, would I assume they were male and are becoming female, or does 'male to female' in their story mean they prefer to be Janice and not John some days?

Respect: Listen and respect your partner's point of view. Yes, this may sting and be frustrating, but people need time to accept things. Ask yourself how long did it take you to accept your trans* nature? Try not to react negatively to anything, but hold your tongue, listen, and consider what's being asked. If the situation was reversed, how might you react to someone sharing something like this with you?

Questions: Often when people are talking, we're not actively listening, but waiting for a chance to dive in with what we think. This ping-pong of stuff can work for some situations, but not always. What about parking your own point of view for a moment and asking some open questions: 

- When you say you need some time for this, what might that look like?
- I understand this is very new and scary. Is there anything I can do to help?
- If we agree that it's okay for blah to happen, how do we make that work?
- If we agree that blah isn't working for us, what can we do instead?

Medium: not everything needs to be face to face. Sure, you get body language, eye contact, and tone, but some people find writing a letter easier. Equally, some people prefer a letter to read than feeling they are being talked at. I guess it's down to knowing your audience. There's no right way to do it, but there are some less than useful choices (like a confession in the restaurant).

A Time & a Place: When you're thinking about talking about T* stuff, be aware of where you and the time: 11pm on a school night may not be best :-) Give your partner a place to retreat to if you can. Please don't come out with stuff in a restaurant or other public place where they can't react and be themselves. Everyone is different: there might be tears, heated words, or a need to retreat.

Balance: be prepared to compromise and also know how to explain your wishes. There's a safe space between giving in, being selfish, and knowing how to put your oxygen mask on. That might take some working out. Much as absolutes aren't great, there are sometimes you both may need to give a little ground on. If that's no to shaving arms or legs, but it's okay if you dress when your partner's out, can that work for you both? A situation where one partner is doing all the conceding, well, that's a lot of ground given up: how might that feel?

It's not all about T stuff: remember there's more to the relationship than seeking permission and so don't go in there thinking it's about winning or losing. If you can try not to bang on about nothing else but gender stuff. Remember your partner in all of this and don't forget there's two of you in this.

The Fog: know your escape routes and beware the Pink Fog. If you can't dress up, are there things you can do to turn the volume down a bit? Paint your toes, play a video game as a female character, bake/cook, paint, go cycling, take a long walk, etc. Anything to help keep you from being drawn into the Pink Fog and losing yourself in there. Maybe you get Friday Nights to be Fabulous: if so, great for you, but don't let it take over if you can. Remember to enjoy what you have, try not to go nuts with the freedom you've got.

The Long View: Things change as people change. What was a big no-no years ago, might be okay now. It's not so much keep nagging (who actually likes to be nagged?), as keeping positive and asking when the time is right. I guess I'm saying don't give up hope. Things won't be perfect overnight, but as the weeks and the months pass, things will get easier for both of you.

So, that's my list and if you've got some wisdom to share, you know where the comments box is. :-)

Take care,

Friday, May 24, 2019

Pink and blue


It's the start of half term. The last small break before the great length that is the summer holidays. I think both Little Miss and Wee Man will be glad of the break. One is working through exams, the other has finished her SATs. Testing, testing, one two three. Around we go and testing, there's a word to conjure with.

Earlier this week I caught a video from a training event at work. The presenter - a trans person - was going through the terminology on their slide deck. We run through trans-woman, trans-man, and along the wordage. We get to the cloud of terms where I'd probably sit: gender variant, cross-dresser. I hear on the audio track "...these people aren't really trans." I hit the pause button and stop to consider things.

Funny, I have always taken the word transgender as an umbrella term. One of inclusivity and well, family. I may not be the same as full-time folk or those who 'underdress', but I think I can empathise. But the exclusion, that stuck in me and it's a splinter that's been difficult to dig out.

There's a phrase - or more accurately, a taunt - that echoes in my head some days: am I trans enough? I am, what, dressing up two nights a month give or take rare forays? I am not out at work and for the most part, the world - the real world - does not see me. Am I advancing our journey or am I riding the wave?

Perhaps - and to be my own friend as the coaching and mental health first aid training suggests - I'm doing all I can. I am balancing family and work and me. It's not always an easy act, but I get by. So, perhaps its when I feel the sting of less thoughtful words - and indeed from one of our own - that such things go deeper than they should.

It's not a behaviour we'd see at Chameleons: I'd like to think we're much more supportive. Maybe it's because we know each other and we're friends, not strangers. We understand there's a difference, but not one that makes us better (or worse), just individual.

So, no, I don't - and won't - subscribe to not being transgender. I am always me, regardless of how I look. Maybe physically male - and I always will be - but upstairs? Ah, not quite so binary. I do what I can to try and help people on similar journeys. I may not be out and loud, but when I am visible, I would like to think I'm the regular, quiet, steady every day trans presence.


On to happier news! :-) Last night's Chameleons was very active. We had a visit from the NHS who wanted to hear how they could make their services better for trans people. Usually, we set research folk up in the side room and others in the main hall. The main hall is generally busier and louder, and the side room gives quiet and space for discussions. Well, this time the main room emptied and the bar area was packed! I guess it goes to show you can't call these things right? :-)

I drifted by the room a few times, but I didn't go in. Partly to give members a chance to talk, and partly to hang back so anyone staying in the hall wasn't alone. Numbers did move around a little, but I was surprised to see how focused, polite, and interested everyone was. Good stuff and I hope we'll be seeing the team back again. I also bumped into an old friend - Laura - who is very much full time and it's great to see her doing well.

Oh, I also got some new shoes this week. Some wedges in the sale and they were so comfy! Don't get me wrong, I love a heel or cute flats, but in the summer, I think a different type of shoe is in order. So, pairing them up with a dressed borrowed from the Ever Lovely Mrs J and I felt a lot more me by the end of the night.... even if it was very late.

Still, I had Nicole to chat to as Val was helping out Andrea by giving her a lift back. Ah, communities eh? :-)

Take care,

Friday, May 17, 2019

No shortcuts


A long time ago, in a bedroom somewhere far, far away, a wee boy and his dad read a story about a wizard. The books had become very popular and films followed. Rather good films, IMHO, but that's by the by.

In one of the stories, there's a mirror that - supposedly - shows the viewer what they desire most. Well, words to that effect. I wouldn't want to draw young fans in and then for their parent to explain why there's a person who looks like a bloke but says he's transgender. Mind you, some of them may find that word - and that world - all on their own. :-)

So this week it came to be that a certain well-known social media app released a gender swap filter. And, no, I'll not be providing them with free advertising. Why the book reference and the filter? Because as with all good stories, there's something you can read between the lines... if you'll forgive the cliché. The filter, like the things down in the mirror, is not real. Those with a sci-fi preference may wish to say The Matrix has you. Those of a classic bend: Narcissus and the pool ;-)

The filter if you will, is a lie. Yes, it's a bit of fun and yes, much amusement has been had by some exploring who they might have been. But, there are those who see the filter not as a trick, but as what might be. Another roll of the dice and perhaps we could have been that way: the outside matching the inside. And therein, lies the rub, for no matter how hard you stare into the glass: that's all that image will be, an image. It can't be real and the perfect software driven complexion can't be achieved. For some amusement, for others, more a taunting.

You may feel I'm being overly negative or dramatic, and I may not argue with you. But, I will advise caution. All the wishing in the world won't change who we are. Change comes from us doing the work and putting in the hours. So, try on the filter if you wish, just understand it's not you. To go a little further, be wary of its spell.

Dare I say, you're more than just a photo, 'likes', or upvotes. Keep on being awesome. Keep on being you. If you want to change, change because you want to, not because a filter tempts you. Go as far as you need to go, and if that's far enough, that's fine.

Take care,

Friday, May 10, 2019

A spell of calm


Last night was Chameleons, so off I popped to see friends and be a little fancier in look than my usual bloke attire. Fancy shirts help, but there are days when only a cute dress will do.

Going back a few weeks, I had promised the group a cream tea, so I arrived with plenty of scones, jam, and - mais oui - clotted cream. We did, of course, have the two most pressing political discussions facing the UK right now:

1. Cream then jam or jam then cream?
2. Do you say scon or skown?

Polite banter ensued around this bit of silliness, which is just how we like it.

There was a slight surplus of goods due to my mistake in picking up a pack of cheese scones rather than plain, but so it goes.

As I didn't want to do opaques in May, despite the temperature, so I decided to chance wearing my 'under tights'. These are a skintone, if a little thicker than usual, and usually either semi-opaques or dark chocolate ones go over the top. That seems enough to keep El Wookio beneath. But, with it being May, I felt something more Spring-like was in order. In honesty, I felt mostly happy about the outcome, but as the evening drifted on - and doing waitress duties - I soon forgot about them.

When the evening came to a close and we were all done bar the locking up (thanks Val), it was time to head home. As I walked back to the car, I had the thought: "I feel okay about this."

It was a moment of contentment. Those, I think, are to be enjoyed when they occur. There was no worry about the future; no concern at what had happened; no remorse, guilt, or upset: just, well, being okay with who I was.

On the way home, I thought upon that good feeling and felt how lucky I was to have had it.

Maybe we should have scones more often. :-)

Take care,

Friday, May 03, 2019

It wasn't okay back then either


It's another long weekend in the UK. Yay for another bank holiday! Things to be cheerful for eh?

The Ever Lovely Mrs J has recently sprung (Translation Spock? Exchanged currency for an item or service, Captain) for a family license for Spotify. Oh, other streaming services are also available :-) This is mainly as both Wee Man and Little Miss are of an age where music is a large part of their lives, although while young Master Jones may have pinned his colours to the tribe of metal, Miss Jones remains decidedly undecided.

As I was driving home I happened upon Gary Numan track - My Name is Ruin, if you're curious - and has the last bars of heavy synth faded away I was reminded of seeing Gary on Top of the Pops all those years ago with Cars. I guess I would have been around eight at the time.

Anyway, I remember reading a newspaper article - TBH, if history has taught us one thing, certain papers are just full of sh**e - in which they'd pegged him as being an odd duck. Even back then in the unpleasantness of the 80s I felt this was cruel and inaccurate. Odd? According to who? Odd: like queueing up to shout on a number of men kick a ball about, or go out to give a kicking to someone who has a different taste in music or skin colour to you? All of those things seemed odd, but, I was a boy who liked pretty things and dreamed of cute clothes with sharp lines and wonderful colours: so what would I know? ;-)

In a mate's role-playing book, if your character was nearly killed, you rolled dice to see want insanity your character would pick up. Phobias and aversion of what happened, well, I could understand that, but said book had listed homosexuality, transvestism, etc. I remember thinking at the time: okay, so Paul's dwarf fighter has been royally roasted (no, not like that ;-) ) by dragon fire, and what, he likes men now?!  WTF? :-)

Which, as usual, leads me to the takeaway from the post: that as we've moved on as a society, we're a little more understanding and - despite certain aspects of society and the gutter media - empathetic. What was once considered acceptable by the masses - racism, chauvinism, violence even, etc - is mostly considered odd and those that preach it, more so. We understand that people are different, that there is a spectrum of autism, and it's not that kids are thick, it's dyslexia that explains why they struggle to read.

There are a few folk in my life who would probably - and indeed, proudly - go and stand under those respective flags. One's a guy in my office, another's a close work mate, and another goes to Chams. All of them are capable of feats of spacial awareness, leaps of logic, or insight that I cannot comprehend. Equally, my use of language baffles them. We're not better or worse than each other: just different.

I am hopeful that despite the current blip caused by populism that ultimately, we'll keep progressing and keep understanding that we're all just people on one planet. I am hoping that those reading this blog will make their way in the world - be they trans, or a partner thereof - and will gracefully and slowly push against the barriers that say being trans is odd: it isn't.

Take care,