Friday, November 24, 2017

Decisions, decisions....

Hi,

You know those days, or even weeks, where nothing seems to go right? Well, I've had the good fortune that it's been quite the opposite.

Is this vintage yet?
After decades on the information not-so-super B road, fast broadband is finally coming to our neck of the woods! At Chez Jones, we're rather excited about this, so fingers crossed it all goes well on installation day next month. The kids pretty much stream everything they watch these days, and on to tablets, rather than the telly. We shop on-line; I work from home when I can, and Wee Man writes and completes his homework online.

Work has been challenging but my coworkers have really pulled the stops out to get stuff done. Yes, it took a while to get started, but we got a lot done once we could access the systems. Amazing what you can do when you just ignore the red tape. :-)

From a Chams angle, it was great to be out and catch up with the usual suspects. Pat was kind enough to arrange for M & Co to visit, so we had sales event at Chameleons. Also, although not specifically happy news, we did commemorate the International Day of Transgender Remembrance. It's the first time (at least in my memory) that we've done so, and we held a minute's silence to think about those that we'd lost, or who aren't so fortunate as we lucky T-folk.

For those of you with a good memory may remember that Little Miss was born nearly 10 years ago. She's growing up to be quite the character, and her sense of humour is really quite sharp. I know parents are supposed to be proud of their kids, but I think she's an awesome young lady: book-loving, caring, sharp, creative and fun.

-

Talking of distant memories, X emailed me the question following last week's Ask Me Anything post. They said: Not wishing to appear to be rude or trying to ask one of those questions that you can not answer; how did you decide that you were Trans in the first place?

Well, there is a question! I don't consider it rude. BTW, given the email address you put in, I'm guessing you've a Unix background? :-)

Anyhoo, I do remember being curious about clothes when I was young, maybe the third year of school. I may have been younger than Little Miss at this point. Eight, maybe? Curious as to why boys and girls could only wear certain things. That and it seemed expected that as a boy, it wasn't acceptable to show your emotions. Certainly not to cry, or show weakness. Emotions provided it was anger, were okay in certain boys' circle. But this *ahem* education was some of my primary school peers, and not the message my parents gave.

Before I was a teen, I'd borrowed skirts or tights from the laundry basket, heels from the shoe cupboard and tried them on in my room after bedtime. I had little clue what I was doing (so not much changes eh? :-) ), so I must have looked a sight. Still, we all have to start somewhere.

I did get caught by my Mum, much to my embarrassment, but we put this down to "just dressing up". It may have looked like that, but thinking back, it seems more about dressing to look how I felt. Then again, memory is a funny thing, and it was a very long time ago. The girls at school could wear pretty things and behave in certain ways, so why couldn't I? Given I didn't read anything about such behaviour, Mum's approach (I'm not blaming her, BTW), and what I heard from other kids; I soon learned to keep such feelings to myself. Ah, but they do things differently in the past, and the early 80s were not a time when the terms transgender, gender queer, or bi-gendered existed.

Skip into my teenage years -spots, hair, smelling, becoming more blokey - were tricky. It was around this time I think I can actually answer the question. :-) That's when I heard the word transvestite. A quick look in the dictionary and, well, it wasn't a perfect fit, but of you took 'pleasure' as feeling okay about yourself, it would do, and I tried not to think about it too much. For the most part, I muddled through those early years occasionally finding time when left home alone. In honesty, it wasn't great, but it could have be a lot worse. No-one knew, and we're talking pre-Internet, so while others must do this, I didn't know of anyone. It may have been that lonliness and struggling to understand why I felt so, well, 'in between', that lead to a spell of depression in around the end of my school years. But, hey, I survived, so it can't have been all that bad. :-)

Skip on many a decade, and as language has changed. Plus, I've learned more about myself, as well as being trans-something-or-other. If I had to pick a label, I'd pick just 'trans'. It's not a sexual thing cross-dressing and I'm not planning on transitioning. Instead, I'm in that in-between part-timer bracket. Yet, however I dress, I'm airways me. That doesn't change.

Thanks for the question. Oh, and if anyone else has anything to ask, there's a contact form here.

Take care,
Lynn




Friday, November 17, 2017

Asking for it

Hi,

It's a late post from me this week. I've no excuses, dramatic tales of daring do, nor special reasons why. Well, none apart from there's not much I have to say. Perhaps an odd thing to say given how many weekly episodes I've bashed out at this, and other, keyboards over the years. That and all the nonsense that's going on in the news.....

Actually, a brief interruption: a message to certain people. Those who think it's okay to touch people up, or say lewd things to strangers, friends, or colleagues. It's not okay. It really isn't. Just stop. Don't abuse your trust.

I may be a bit late to the party with MeToo, and the event was minor, but I it left a memory. Years back when I'd gone to a trans group - not Chameleons - I was chatting to another visitor. She said something about me having slim ankles (this was: 1. some time ago, and/or 2. their eyesight was poor :-) ). Before I could say anything, they reached down, ran their hand down my shin and grasped my foot.

I was - as I started this post - lost for words initially. I was frozen not quite knowing what to do or say, when I heard my Angry Bloke Voice kick in: "Stop that," it growled. What happened next, I'm not sure. Either they went away, or I did. It's not a something that has been repeated (thankfully). Maybe I'm wary of folk like that (hello, danger sense), or perhaps I'm lucky that folk like that don't come to our group.

Thing is, a touch on the arm from a friend or colleague; that's okay. I've hugged and been hugged at Chams, and that's cool. But the other thing... No. That was very much not alright, and I wonder, what did go through that man's head (warning: deliberate misgendering! :-P ) when he thought that grasp was okay? Maybe he didn't think. Maybe that's the problem. :-\

But on to other things. As a change, I'm going to ask you something, dear reader. There's form to get in touch and if there's a question you'd like to ask; please do and I'll do my best to answer it.

BTW, questions that are not overly personal and/or filthy will stand a better chance of being answered. :-D

No, you don't need to put your real name and no, you don't have to put an email address in. It's as anonymous as you want to make it.

I'll update this post if and when any questions come in.

Take care,
Lynn


Jen: How did you first sit down and have a serious conversation with your wife about your dressing?

Thanks for the question Jen. Hmm. Probably at least three times, and at various points in our relationship. The first time was when we'd been together a few weeks (early 90s), and I said dressing up is something I used to do. This was true at the time. I'd chucked everything in my one and only purge, and stopped shaving my legs too. Clearly, I thought it was just a phase and with enough willpower, I could go straight. You can see how well this has worked out for me ;-)

The next time was in the late 90s, as I'd been dressing up on and off. I'd kept it secret because I felt I could keep it from the Every Lovely Mrs J, and therefore not upset here. However, the secrecy and the lying - because I was hiding what I was doing - ate at me. I could either bottle it all up and live with the guilt, or I could be open and honest, but also risk what we had, and upset her. Not exactly the easiest choice. In the end, I sort of came out a second time, and understandably, the Ever Lovely Mrs J was very upset. Not because of what I was doing, but because I'd hidden it from her. I get that, I think, and I think that while it's better to be as honest as you can with your partner, I understand why some of our number don't come out. Again, it's complicated.

The third and last time was a year or so after Wee Man was born in the early 2000s. I'd been grabbing time here and there to be all of me, so to speak. I don't know if was a case of little time, or wanting to belong that made me want to go to Chameleons. We had a chat about it and while Mrs J wasn't 100% about it, she said yes. The reason for her hesitation was a worry about my safety. Was I putting myself at risk by being outside? We had a long chat about who ran Chameleons (hello Sandy & Tracey!), what went on, where the venue was, and how I'd get there.

I very much doubt that I'd be in the position I am now without the help and love of Mrs J. Much as I sometimes bump against our agreement (furry legs, keep it out of sight, no daytime outings, etc), the fact that she loves all of who I am, and that we can laugh and share things about me being trans; well, there isn't a figure you can put on that.


Pandora: How long did it take you to find and/or settle into your style?

And did you go through the awkward "dressing much to young for your age" phase?

Ooo, two good questions. Gah, I'm really having to think now! :-D

I think I found the office look easy to settle into. Perhaps because some of it is quite tame in terms of colours and patterns, so - dare I say? - not too easy to get wrong. That's not to say I didn't make plenty of mistakes along the way. I think I have an idea of what works for me in terms of cut when it comes to dresses, tops, skirts, trousers, etc. Likewise, with hair, that took me a while to get the hang of, and I'm still learning now. It's taken me a while to get the confidence to wear a pattern, or mix/match colours. Plus the jeans and pretty top thing took some experimentation/research too. All that said, I think I'm happy with my choices, and have been for the last four, maybe five, years.

As to your second question, I am really conscious of the too young for your age thing. Equally, does anyone want to look frumpy? It's a tricky line to walk, I think. I clearly remember that line of If you are old enough to remember it the first time, don't wear it now it's back in. :-) That said, I've worn biker boots, leggings, and denim shorts. Being tall, I'm conscious that tights + dress don't always work, if the hem is too high. I guess with my height, some dresses are more tunic style, and I dress with that in mind. Lessons learned eh?

I still have a red body-con velvet dress that I sometimes wear near Xmas. There's that and a sequin miniskirt - again, Xmas wear - that makes me think about my age, and can I still work it? So far, I've not run from them, so either I'm in denial (ain't just a river in Egypt :-) ), or there's life in the old gal yet :-D I might shop in Dorothy Perkins and Joe Browns, but I steer clear of TopShop or New Look (except for shoes).

Friday, November 10, 2017

The other T word: Transgression

Hi,

I've deliberated about posting this today, but I think I'm just going to have to dive in, and give it a spin. Without any fanfare or fuss, the Ever Lovely Mrs J and I had a bit of an argument last night. Now, I'm not going to go into the who's right and who's wrong. Firstly, as I'm writing this, it's going to be biased. Secondly, it would be somewhat tedious.... Possibly more so than a regular post :-) But hey, moving on.

So, yes, I made a mess of things before I went out, and yes, I did upset the Ever Lovely Mrs J. Yes, I did feel bloody awful about it, and yes, I did apologise profusely. Not because it's the British thing to do, but because I was wrong. Maybe if I'd listened or asked before popping upstairs for a shave, things wouldn't have headed south. But, hey, 20/20 hindsight eh? It's a wonderful thing.

Now, I don't like quarrelling with Mrs J because it points out something's gone wrong. Usually, by me I should add, but let's not go too far into my blunders and transgressions (hint: that's not a trans word :-) ). But, they, arguments, are, as we said to the children, necessary. If you don't clear the air when needs be, well, then things can either build up or drive a person to seething resentment. The classic joke that we see in ourselves: 'No, it's fine. Really." Obviously, it's about as far from Fine as someone on a rocket headed out as they're late for their tea. :-)

There's a phrase I've used on YATGB a few times: It's all fine, until it isn't. It seems that life has pointed out that this isn't just true of being trans, it's also true for our partners, and/or family.

So, without a blow by blow he said/she said script, the crux of it is this. I get caught up in my Leave Early routine on two days of the month: second and fourth Thursday. I do want to be out by 630 so I can swing by a collect Wee Man from his weekly visit to a mate's house. I'm usually dropping Wee Man by 645 to 7 subject to traffic.

I appreciate I'm probably talking to a trans audience, so you may already get the requirement to be out. Not a case of popping to the pub, visiting a mate, or off to some hobby. No, it's out, so I can be dressed. This is the catch: for two days a month, there are rare times when the Ever Lovely Mrs J turns down a social invitation because it clashes with one of my Thursday nights out. I get that that can be annoying.

Then, looking at it from the other side; there are only two nights out to Chameleons a month. Two times in which I can be all of me. There are times when it's not enough, but I bottle it up, and engage in some coping mechanism (YouTube make-over videos, gaming, baking, etc) until there's time when I can. I know that when I miss a meeting, it upsets me and I get cranky. I try to not let it get to me when we're on holiday, because holidays are fun right? But switching off the trans-ness? Well, there isn't an off button, and I've yet to find a blue pill that hauls me up and out of the rabbit hole. :-)

So, what's to do? Not much but put it behind me and not mess things up. I think I am over the guilt of being what I am, but I don't dismiss the guilt I have over sometimes having to put myself first. Yes, I know I've written about 'put your own oxygen mask on first', but that doesn't make it any easier. Perhaps I'd do well to listen to the advice I sometimes give others when asked, but clearly, I ain't that clever. :-)

Chams itself was reasonably busy, and we had some great discussions about labels or the differences Jacob has spotted in changing into a man. Yeah, sexism is alive and well, just in case you've not seen any of the headlines for the last ten years. :-) I did talk about how the argument had made me feel bad, and some of the others were kind enough to share their experiences. That helped. Not from a vindication point of view, but more to know that it's something others have experienced and that sometimes, the juggling act between family life / trans expression is really tough on both parties.

Ann, one of our new members asked why the group wasn't better advertised. We - Val, Diane, Jacob, me, and Diane, all chipped into this. The quick answer is that it's tricky. Tricky in that while we want trans folk to know about Chameleons, we don't want any trouble from yobs or protestors. For that reason, Chameleons is in the self-help guides, registered with a few charities, support organisations, or what-have-you. We've had two invitations to talk about our good work (their words, not mine) from the local paper and radio station. But... each time we've kindly refused. It's down to risk and privacy. The risk from dodgy folk turning up (no, the wrong type of dodgy, not us trans types :-) ). That or the danger of being too high profile and members being accidentally outed. So yeah, we're a relatively well-kept secret.

Ann asked how can we expect to become more accepted if we stay hidden. A fair question, and again, there's that double-edged sword. On the one hand, by staying hidden, we don't risk being outed, or trouble (verbal, social, violence, etc), but by being hidden, we don't exactly advance the cause - if you can call it that - in helping (non-trans) people understand that we're not weird. Well, okay, a bit weird, but the right type of weird. Maybe if we were minted we could be classed as eccentric. But, for a lot of us, it's not just us who's deciding. If we decide to be out, we're out and our family and friends are drawn into it. Like I said, it's tricky. :-)

Ah, deep sigh and let it go. :-) From a positive point of view, T-Central were kind enough to feature another post of mine (thanks Calie!). That put a spring in my step.

Nails on. Nails off.
Thinking about Chams, I was happy with my outfit choice, and doubly so with my eye make-up too. I tried using an eyeshadow kit I'd not used for a while, so it was a look I'd not seen for a while. Perhaps it's better to mix things up a little more? 

I also tried some pre-glued nails, and they were both easy on/easy off. Certainly a lot less of a faff on keeping my own nails long (I broke one picking up the shopping), and there was no tell-tale residue that needed to be cleaned off. Maybe it's time to invest :-)

At the end of the night, there was time for a few snaps to capture the moment. The trans-guys asked again about sorting out photos for the group, so that's something on my do list for later in the year. Talking about the year, I've now sorted out next year's meeting dates, so the action log shrinks a bit each time.

As I got changed and said to Val, "I just feel so comfortable like this.". I've worn this outfit out & about, and it just feels, well, very me, I guess. Maybe it's those moments where it is okay, and you feel alright about yourself that make it worthwhile.

It may be tough every now and again, but I can't think of any other way I'd rather be.

Take care,
Lynn


Friday, November 03, 2017

The Why Factor

Hi,

A couple of weeks ago when TrendCo came to see us, Steph asked me what do I get out of coming to the Chameleons and dressing as Lynn? That's quite a question, and one I'm not sure I fully answered back then.

To Steph and Nicola, I said being in bloke mode most of the time was akin to being at work, and getting to be Lynn, or cross dress if you will, was like a holiday. It's not that you don't like work, but a holiday is more chance to switch off. I'm not 100% happy with that, so I guess here's a chance to try again.

The easy part to answer is why come to Chameleons. At it's most basic level, it's a regular event where I get to dress. It is, however, more than that. It's the other people who come along, and after a while, become friends. We chat on social media, the forum, and sometimes IRL (in real life). That to me is a supportive network of friends. I may be in 'Richard' appearance 99% of the time, but I'm always me. The trans stuff never really switches off. To that end, being able to talk with trans friends who get who I am, that's priceless.

In the above, I've said 'Richard mode', which may be a funny phrase. I've said it before and I'll say it again: there's no Richard or Lynn, just me. They're just names against how I present from time to time. What goes on in my head regardless of name or appearance doesn't change. Okay, that's not completely true: if I'm dressed, I don't tend to worry about when the next time will be. :-) Instead, I just make the most of it.

-

As to the why do I dress.... That's a big question, and I think the answer has changed over the years.

I guess the closest I can come to explaining it, is for you to imagine a favourite pass time. Maybe that's listening to music, watching your favourite TV show, reading, a sport, crafting, etc; it doesn't matter.

Now consider this: when you're not on your own, or if you're only with a select bunch of friends, you cannot talk about your pass time. If you did, people may judge you, your kids may get picked on, "there goes one of them", etc.

But, and here's the rub, 50% of the population can - and do - enjoy that activity and no one says a thing! In fact, it's encouraged through behaviour, advertising, and other social factors for them to behave that way. When you walk down the street, surf the web, or switch on the TV, there goes that 50% just being themselves without - seemingly - a care in the world. Yeah, I'm not a woman and won't ever be one, so apologies for the naive male view I'm putting forward.

So, you're in a bit of a bind. Reveal all (so to speak) and live your life, or stay the *ahem* hobby cupboard and stay safe, but frustrated. Ah, therein lies the dilemma. :-)

-

That is as close as I can get it. I'm "me" all of the time; it's just that for a lot of the time, I get to dress (and pass) as a guy. Hello, white male privilege! :-) I'm listened to, I get better pay, I'm not at risk when on my own, I'm not sexually harassed, no-one calls me on what I wear, etc.


Not every day, but
sometimes, and it's all fine
But, I'm not really a bloke. Okay, physically I'm a man.  Between my ears, in the sloppy grey matter that controls my body, and provides a place for what makes me, me; my brain tells a different story. It's an odd mix of interests and behaviours that could both male and female.

Put simply, I can't live as just Richard. I need to express myself by dressing as a woman, so what's going on inside my head, matches what's going on for my body. Or, if the visit to Boots' make-up session was anything to go by, being treated or accepted as one works too. I never said any of this makes any sense. :-)

For years I'd stand by the label transvestite, but in later years, trans seems to fit me more. Thing is, when I heard someone on TV talk about being bi-gendered, I muttered "yeah, right", because sometimes, I'm a tw*t. :-) Said lady then said, "Some days I wake up and I don't know which gender I want to be.". Ah, that did strike a chord.

The clothes then, are the wrapping, to all of this, but it's so much more than that. The wrapping just helps my brain adjust to how I'm feeling. Too long 'en drab' in Richard mode, and the proverbial weight on my back drives me down.

The way to free myself from that burden is acceptance: either through trans friends; openness with the Ever Lovely Mrs J; or even self-acceptance by making the outside match the inside. Take for example, a chat with the Ever Lovely Mrs J who asked me about a choice of a dress from an online store. The fact that I don't have to hide who am I, means so much. It may seem like a little thing, or even trivial, but the option of being able to talk about anything is worth so much.

It's as if the time spent in 'Lynn' mode turns back a counter. A counter that ticks away like the thermostat late at night. Slowly the temperature rises to 'uncomfortable' and something needs to be done about it.

Or, if I can't get that, diversion in computer games, or reading. Hello, Escape Club :-)

-

I should add that the above is my rambling, and close to how I feel these days. I'm not speaking for the rest of 'trans-kind', as everyone's different.

Take care,
Lynn