Saturday, 20 November 2010
We get up late. Sunday had us leap to our feet as a Pipe band squealed it's way past us on the way to the Remembrance Day Service at the local War Memorial where the bronze gates have recently been stolen...
We are getting used to a life with no real structure. Often our decisions are made after we look out the window and check on the weather.
Earlier in the week the weather forecast had said it would be a sunny dry day so we planned a day of culture in the big city. If we had not already made arrangements based on the weather forecast to meet somebody for lunch at the Museum of modern Art in Edinburgh we might not have bothered to set off. Thank goodness the car lives in a garage these days. When I opened the curtains I could see nothing, the fog was so thick and the garden was trying to look like a Christmas card with plants all frosted. By the time we had set off the fog was sending that the landscape was etched with a white frost for the first half-hour of the journey then the sun came out, started to melt it and illuminated the fog banks settled in the valleys in the magical manner.
Once we arrived I abandoned Julie for an hour and a half to chat to some of her old friends on the staff while I escaped to try and do a little shopping. The city is now a nightmare of closed roads, many are just closed at random to disallow traffic canceling out three decades of knowledge of the road system. Then there are the random closures due to replacing gas mains, road repairs, and the best one of all digging up the whole city to introduce a new tramway to replace a perfectly usable bus service!
All in all this transformed a 10 minute return journey into a 40 minute nightmare with motorists driving through red lights to test my antiskid braking mechanism which works fine! And to test my nerves when somebody drove along a main road on my side against the traffic. Then began the challenge of trying to find a parking space since a third of them had been closed due to be building of the National Museum, I couldn’t get any closer to the shop are required since the roads have become one-way! My relaxed time in the big girls shop was much less than expected but thankfully the Tuesday is a very quiet day and the salesgirl was really helpful with only me in the shop most of the time. This is a shop, the only one I know which I can actually visit, which sometimes has shoes in my size. I really would like a pair of boots, not clumpy kind for climbing mountains but something with a little style. Nothing in large sizes was in stock, she told me they only ever get one pair in each style in a larger size for the whole season! No, I am not the only person who asks for them!!!
All was not lost since I found several blouses to fit, this shop actually sells blouses with arms appropriate to the size rather than stopping somewhere halfway up the forearm. Thank goodness I now have something hanging on the rail which doesn’t have stripes.
I made it back to the museum in time to lunch with an old friend of Julie’s and they were able to catch up on news of all the comings and goings of staff. We spent the rest of the day in the gallery and the evening having dinner with a cousin who has just returned to the city after three years away. The 55 mile journey home was pure joy, we hardly encountered another vehicle and once we hit the cross country road for the last 40 miles of twisting rolling roads through the darkness, the headlights cutting through the swirl of falling leaves was fun.
A couple of days later was much less fun. Early in the evening I had a desperate call from my neighbour to come and sit with her husband who she didn’t want to be left alone while she made telephone calls for assistance. I went round immediately and Douglas who I’ve known for nearly 20 years now was slumped in the easy chair in his sitting room but clearly in distress. Even I could see signs in his face that he was probably experiencing some kind of stroke and he was utterly confused as to the situation. I held his hand and tried to comfort him through his anxiety and calm him through his desire to get out of the chair and prove that nothing was wrong. Out of hours health care now goes through centralised control rooms and Betty was back and forth all the time checking on him to answer questions about what he could and couldn’t do, clearly they didn’t consider this an emergency priority and it was over an hour before the paramedics arrived. That’s an hour of Monty Python-esque conversation and pantomime behaviour as he slowly regained some of his faculties. Occasionally I couldn’t stop him getting to his feet even though he couldn’t always take a step but when whether the he could it was worse trying to dance him back in to the chair. It can’t have been easy for him, he couldn’t understand why I was there and of course it didn’t help that he still considers me as a sort of guy albeit a strange one who he is known to 20 years and not the girl is only known six months. In his confusion he was touching my hair which is only half the lengthy used to be and even gave my boob squeeze which he declared was nice and soft! He also declared I looked resplendent! He is going to take a long time to live this all down!
Eventually the paramedics arrived and one of them was his nephew who really couldn’t work out who I was so I guess I have changed a bit. By now he was showing great signs of recovery and was even able to stand and walkabout though he was still a bit confused and stubborn especially when he was told he was going for a ride in the ambulance. Betty had already organised an overnight bag and I waved them goodbye. It seems he was lucky, he had a TIA and there is a good chance that all the new pills he has and he takes care he could make a near full recovery, he is already back home and being a rotten patient.
I guess the motto is don’t put off living until some mythical point in your future, it just may not ever happen with nature steps in and finishes you off! Better start wearing my new blouses, get my money’s worth before it’s too late.
Tuesday, 16 November 2010
The past week has been quite a domestic one. The freezer has been cleared of the summer’s frozen fruit from the garden and it has been transformed into a cupboard full of jam and jelly. The last of the apples have been turned into chutney, enough to see me through the next year.
Yesterday saw the gathering of about 17 of Julie’s cousins, she has a lot more, and some of their partners for afternoon tea. Tea is involved as the piles of sandwiches, sausage rolls and loads of sweet cake and biscuits. Something of a British tradition. Six months after coming out full-time I have ceased to be of any particular interest as far as the transition is concerned, just one of the girls pretty much like I’ve always been but now we completely and officially outnumbered the 2 guys! We carried off a large doggie bag of goodies which has fed us today and we still have gingerbread left.
The Frost stayed on the roofs all day today despite the blue sky and sunshine. We took a walk out to the local lending library and exchanged our books, that was a bit chilly on the toes so it has come to the point where I’ll have to cover up the sparkling gold nails with socks until the spring. Always a sad moment in the year.
Tomorrow all being well we are taking a trip to the big city and to meet with one of Julia’s old friends from the National Galleries for lunch. We shall put in a day of culture and with luck I shall find time to slip away for a rare visit to the big girls clothes shop in the city centre. My budget is severely limited but my visit there a couple of months ago provided me with three items next to nothing in a sale, I have such a shortage of smart clothes for this season that I’m even prepared to pay the proper price for something which fits.
Last week I got to hear the recording of my voice made when I first sought some help after a problem with acid reflux. It was made just after the worst of the croakiness had disappeared and since then I was given some exercises and advice to help feminise my voice. I was able to compare it with the recent recording and while it is still nowhere near a sweet voice once had it has a naturalness about it and is well within the female range and greatly improved over six months ago. At the weekend tea party the two guys voices boomed out above everyone and I was definitely in there with the girls. Let’s hope I get to try it out in the shop tomorrow along with my new plastic card!
An e-mail arrived from my cousin in Canada. She saved a box of photographs when she was clearing out her parents home recently. After a phone call from her one remaining aunt she decided it was time to get some names to go with the old photographs. She has started scanning them and sent a few for me to look at, I found myself staring at the blurry old black and white pictures of the creature I once was as a young child, any images I had never seen which had been sent out to my aunt in Canada. Who would have guessed what this poor kid was going to go through.
Julie has a project on the go, it is taking up a lot of time on the computer. I’m still getting to read everything on my blog roll and may not get to comment as much as usual for awhile.
Thursday, 11 November 2010
In a corner of a foreign field
In the mid 90's I made a photographic essay about the battlefields of the first world war raged around the city of Ypres in Belgium. I based it on the sites and names give to the battlefield by the troops as shown on the opening map. The project was part of an artist exchange between three Scottish artists worked in Belgium and they worked here. The exhibition was shown in several cities over there. Though getting very good critical reviews understandably sales were few, there did seem to be an embarrassment about the area and few Belgians to whom I spoke out with the area had ever visit except perhaps on a school visit in their youth.
To this day they play the last post at the Menin Gate with it's 54896 names of those missing without trace on the local battlefield. Numerous other monuments with even more names are scattered all along the hundreds of miles of front line from the years of trench warfare.
Blogworld, at least my small corner of it has become something of a bleak riot of late rather than a place of comfort, mutual support and solace.
Life has been quite interesting these past couple of weeks and would have been rich material for several posts.
Perhaps I am being too sensitive but in the present climate they would have seemed irrelevant and inappropriate. How sad is that?
We are as varied and transient a group as you could find trying to find shelter under one small umbrella in a storm. If we cannot behave in a civilized manner together what hope do we have?
Today 92 years ago “the war to end all wars” came to an end. I was searching for a photo essay which I did about the battlefield remains around Ypres, the place where hundreds of thousands met their end, untold numbers only have their names on monuments, no single trace of them ever being found.
In the weeks which I spent on this project I never felt as low as I do on our battlefield here.
Sunday, 7 November 2010
The year is turning. The leaves are falling and the days are shorter with the change of clocks plunging us into darkness by five in the evening. A season of introspection.
This screen where we come for the virtual companionship of others on the same journey becomes more of a draw.
The comfort of finally knowing that the thoughts in your head for so long are not unique but are due to a well known medical condition shared by countless others and finally through the net we are able to converse and share our lives and our different ways of dealing with our situation.
Little wonder that the medical profession has difficulty dealing with us. We come from every kind of background and if from an older generation we will have probably buried ourselves away mentally and physically from a world hostile to us and quick to condemn, humiliate and reject us. Probably finding ourselves in personal situations which are hard to extricate ourselves from. We have spent a lifetime playing a part, playing it so well nobody appears to suspect any of the inner turmoil tearing us apart.
I came to the world of blogs in search of information. Surely I could not be alone in this world with this problem, despite the lack of information in books the Internet must be loaded with up-to-date information. At first I found dry soulless details and statistics about transsexuals, the trials they had to submit to to be offered help with hormones and surgery and what that surgery might entail. It was a long time before I came across details of a real live living human being I could relate these details to. Despite being well into my 50s I had never found anybody with my problem to converse with in the real world and compare notes.
When I came across blogs at last it all started to make sense. I was far from alone and many of those of us had the strength to write about their experiences of others to share. I would read a blog avidly and all the comments they generated then bounce to another blog written by an interesting commentator. Whole evenings would disappear like this as I built up a picture of our varied lives. My random pathways through the blogs would show names I had seen in the past and the picture became more interesting but a sense of guilt started to creep in anonymously looking over people’s shoulders. I had switched this machine on with no idea how anything worked and at my age I had no friends who I could ask to help.
As much as I wished to join in the comments, I figured everybody’s opinion was worth something, I had no idea how to go about it. It engages before I realised I simply had to start a blog but never write it, just use its identity. With a certain irony many of the blogs I was reading were on LiveJournal and the first I wish to comment on was the LiveJournal blog so I signed up. I had hardly started my commentary career when it seems stupid to have a blog site and when people looked it up there would be just a picture of me and nothing else. Even though I’d written little beyond a shopping list all signed my name on the credit card slip for decades I decided to give it a try and tried to write my personal story for the first time in my life.
I love that feeling of unburdening myself, I could have written it all in a book but what good would that have done, someone might have found it after I’d died, flip through a few pages and flung it in the skip. Having it out in the real world was so cathartic, in the early months nobody ever commented, perhaps nobody even read it and then the whole time I was there on LiveJournal I didn’t even gather a handful of friends though those that I did have remained faithful. When I started to find posts on blogspot I started my own blog here mirroring my original recently deleted blog. For me blogger really came alive with a much larger circle of followers and commentators were all in our individual and parallel journeys.
Once involved it’s hard not to get drawn in to others’ lives, their hardships and their joys are shared. Even in our virtual world we feel for our friends exactly as we would for those in the everyday world around us.
It is in the nature of our virtual world and our transsexual condition that the time spent within the circle of friends is going to be different for everybody. Some of us could be trapped here forever, not because we don’t want to advance with treatments which are available but often circumstances of helpful finance or family ties or work situations slows down or anchor us to the spot. Others hurtled forward at breakneck speed nothing slowing their progress. So many stories, so many similarities but none two the same.
Few blogs appear to last forever, many stop overnight and no cause is ever found. Many bloggers hit a roadblock and lose enthusiasm for posting and fade away. Those successful with their transition can stop blogging at a moments notice because they’ve reached a point of contentment, they may still have a way to go but their minds are clear as is the way forward. Many continue their blogs through GRS surgery and into the life which follows. The latter is the blog we all wish to read to show us the joys of the promised land, sadly once in the promised land the urge to continue posting appears to fade away.
Perhaps it is a function of the time I’ve spent here, I have been stubborn and not particularly efficient with my journey of transition, I have followed a lot of blogs in my time here and have started to lose count of those which had stopped or been deleted.
The deletion of a blog of a successful transition always strikes me as a huge loss to the countless numbers who will follow us, the story of transition is not an individual one of the collective one, or who contribute more effective it becomes. The more who are seen to successfully transition the more normal it becomes and the less easy it is for us to be ignored.
There will always be favourite bloggers who we follow, many who I have followed since the beginning of my time here have stopped for one reason or another and and their passing has left a lump in my throat. About a week ago a post went up saying that the author no longer wished to continue with their post-GRS blog. They’re not disappearing from Internet but they are no longer wishing to identify with our trans circle, they have found a new life.
I’m so delighted that their journey is complete and a new life beckons. At the same time I don’t feel the complete story of the transition ends so quickly and I have yet to find one which continues integrating any continuing issues with a successful new life. Perhaps I’ll find one one-day.
This last blog departure was somebody I have followed a long time, probably the last of the major transitional journeys I have followed and I was overcome with emotion, still am. Tears flowed at the loss even losing out at night leaving me with a tear sodden pillow.
A simple desire for a little information in the knowledge that I wasn’t alone has led me to a place where I never imagined there would be extreme sorrow and joy to compare with that we find in the real world.
Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.