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,