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Sunday, 6 June 2021

Pride, Proud?

 The eagle-eyed (and eared) among you may have noticed that this June is Pride Month.

It's a curious time, and not just because most of the celebrations are online (or in the case of BBC Radio 6music, on the airwaves) rather than out the street.

It happens to be a curious time  for me personally because this is the first time I've been actively involved in the celebrations. 

Circumstances have conspired in previous years - even before lockdown - to prevent me actually attending a public Pride event, either as my everyday male persona or as Susie. That one is still on my bucket list.

But this year I found myself on the newly formed Pride committee at work, helping to arrange and publicize the network and a number of events lined up throughout Pride Month in June.  And it's even more curiouser* for me in that I have not actually come out to the rest of the committee as bi-gender, or hinted at the existence of Susie. Instead I registered as an ally when I joined rather than identifying as any part of the  LGBT spectrum.

[* if it's a good enough for Alice then it's good enough for me.]

It feel does a little disingenuous, and I suspect at some point that this unresolved situation may have to change. The trouble is, as with a lot of  decisions you keep putting off, the harder it gets to finally do something about it, and the more uncomfortable having to explain why you kept putting it off in the first place. 

If and when I come out at work is not down to any actual or perceived pressure to do so. The company I work for is very supportive of Pride as part of a wider remit of Diversity and Inclusion and it's made very clear that you are not expected to do anything that would make you feel uncomfortable: You can be out and proud, or you may not think you are ready, or you even think it's no-one else's damn business how you feel and you you fancy. It is entirely your choice, and everyone needs to respect that.

But Pride? If I'm still hiding the existence of Susie, even to my fellow members on the Pride committee and who I can trust to be accepting and completely confidential, then should I be celebrating Pride? Am I, in fact, proud?

Possibly not. I've lived with this dual aspect of me so long, and though some pretty grim times, that it's not something I can say I'm proud to be in the same way I can take pride in a skill or an accomplishment. It's just a weird kink, maybe even a glitch, in the way I developed. It's there, and it's always been there, and to me it's sort of like saying  you are proud of being left handed, or having blue eyes, or a middle toe longer than the rest. (I haven't by the way, so don't bother checking your own in case it's some weird medical marker.)

No. I'm celebrating Pride for other people: for my colleagues and my friends, both at work and elsewhere, whether they know me as Susie or not. And that means for you too.

Happy PRIDE.

Monday, 31 May 2021

Back (in black)

So, (she says brightly, as if five years hadn't elapsed since her last post), I have a question for those who, like me, don't or can't live in their preferred gender full time, but have to take those days on a catch-as-catch-can basis when circumstances allow.
When it's time to stand in front of the  mirror for that essential transformation from who you have to be, to who you want to be, does the face come first, or do the clothes come first?

I ask because in the early days - and in my case we are talking about the very early days  of the 1970s and 80s  before trans was an encompassing spectrum covering bi-gender, non-binary, two-spirit and the rest, there seemed to be just two options for who you were: either on the path to full transition, or  a crossdresser (and more usually the loaded term transvestite for the latter), and even then neither seemed to fit comfortably with how I felt -  but in those early days of secrecy (and, yes, a degree of shame) it was very much more about the clothes. 
But in the last few years something has changed. It's become very much more about trying to capture who I want to be seen as. The clothes aspect of the transformation has become a lot more understated and dressed down. Consequently, I find I now pay far more attention getting the face, the makeup  contouring and eyebrows, and (most importantly) the hair to the point where I can see Susie gradually emerge in the mirror, even if she is still (at that stage) flat chested and wearing one of my old raggedy sweaters.
So what changed? Partly the realization that I will never be the late teens to twenties girl who has been inside my head for as long as I can remember, but more importantly because, since the middle of 2019, Susie started to venture outside the house and into the wider world. And with that, a realisation of the importance of blending in, of how women of a certain age (it's impolite to ask, but you can make your own estimation from the pictures below) looked and dressed when out and about. 

 So, yes, five years since the last post, That's not so many. Sorry about that. What on earth  happened?
The short answer is I went into a sort of meltdown and retreat, at least for a large part of 2017-2018. The most immediate cause of that was stupidly leaving my private journal where my partner found and of course read it. And in which I had vented a lot frustration about my feelings of being trapped into pretending to be someone I wasn't happy being. Cue recriminations, accusations and a retreat, on my part, into sullen silence and a period of personal lockdown. That lasted for most of 2018, when, to my surprise, I was invited to go the the States (I'd not been out the country in almost 20 years). "You should go", my partner said. "In fact you need to, and do something to get out of yourself."  So I went, not without some trepidation (the last time I went abroad, in the early 80s, after a similar confrontation about my dressing, I returned to an empty flat). And for the first time in ages, I had fun and enjoyed myself. I came back both rejuvenated and determined that I didn't want to be in  retreat and hiding for the rest of my life. 

The first step  was to re-establish contact with the local trans support group and the second was to come out in public for the first time as Susie at one of the meetings. That first time out was a nervous moment, especially the walk to the pub, but the smiles and hugs (remember them?) were something I'll remember a long time.

Since then, I've been out as Susie a number of times. Those occasions are still on a catch-as-catch-can basis, but we've established a workable arrangement where I can have occasional days to myself, and as Susie, as long as my partner never has to meet her. 

Of course, that last bit of acknowledgement and acceptance is still pretty high on my bucket list, but outside that I've given that bucket a good denting, going out on long walks, shopping, dropping in on a local art exhibition and, still a memorable highlight, attending a church fair in a neighbouring village where the curiosity of my appearance for the ladies of that parish was not that I was unusually tall, or had big hands or a deep voice for a woman, but that I had walked "all the way from K--", a couple of miles away on the other side of the the river, just to get there.

That afternoon, browsing the stalls and  chatting over tea and cake, I almost forgot the way I was dressed, or the unaccustomed feeling of having long hair again, and felt completely comfortable and welcome. (Whether and what was said after I'd waved my goodbyes is something I'll never know, and to honest I'm quite resigned to the fact I may not always 'pass'  on every occasion I'm out, as long as people are happy to take me as I present.)


So, that's it, and where things remained, at least until everything got locked down again, although this time for the covid outbreak and a long period where Susie had to go back to being a fond memory, at least as being able to get out again is concerned. 
Hopefully there will be better times ahead.



Wednesday, 20 January 2016

The conversation we are not having...

Sometimes a picture really does say more than a thousand words.


Sometimes the elephant in the room is so big that it's hard to see each other clearly, let alone start the conversation.

Friday, 18 December 2015


For this of us who are accepted by our friends and family, Christmas can be a wonderful time.

For others of us who are still in hiding, and who dare not ask for what we really want for Christmas, it can be just another nail in the coffin as we unwrap another sensible jumper when what we really wanted was a gold sequin top.

If I manage to get any free time between now and Christmas this year, I would like Susie to  wrap some of the presents, so she will at least be there in spirit on the day, even if no one else knows.

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Though the Wardrobe: The Belle Dress

I was lying in bed last night listening to the radio and I caught the last part of The Belle Dress, a short story by novelist and playwright Lucy Caldwell, read by Kerr Logan.
It's a really beautifully observed story and I suspect many of us would recognize our early selves in that same mixture of longing, confusion, desire and shame.

You can find it here on BBC RadioPlayer  and also on the Radio Player pop-up app.
It starts about 2 minutes in  and is available for the next 29 days.


Sunday, 1 November 2015

Off switch

Sometimes I wish there was an off switch for Susie.

As much as I enjoy being her when I'm able to (though even that's variable, depending on the outcome), I don't enjoy *wanting* to be her when I can't. It feels like a constant nagging distraction, like a low-level tooth or ear ache that flares and ebbs constantly  in the background, and too often stops me paying full attention to what I ought to be doing.
That isn't a good state of mind to be in. Being preoccupied, distracted and moody, if not actually depressed, can affect both work and relationships and that not something I need right now. Somehow I need to be able to put Susie back in the box and forget about her until the days grow longer. It's going to be particularly hard this year, given she's only recently come out online. Not sure how I'm going to cope with that.

The other question that occurs to me is: If I really had an off switch for Susie, given the confusion and angst  that goes with her, would I ever want to turn her back on again?

Hope you all had a more fun and fulfilling Halloween..

Friday, 23 October 2015

Dressing up or dressing down?

In a recent post (Oct 22) Hannah asks an interesting question,
"When I dress up, I dress really up. I love wearing heels, a nice dress, jewelry and well done makeup... If I were female, I do wonder if I would dress up all the time or if I would have lazy days and be casual at times."
I suspect that a lot of us, especially those who only get to to dress on rare occasions or in private, tend to go a bit overboard  on the glam. After all, what the point of buying that nice party dress if you are never going to wear it, even if it is 11 in the morning. 

For us, those occasions are a rare treat, a chance to express something that is normally buried, hidden or actively denied the rest of the time. Others, with more courage and support, or accepting partners, may find a better balance than swinging between extremes of masculine and feminine behavior and appearance.

Given that, and that women have more clothing and style options available to them, I think that if I were female, or even androgynous enough looking  to pass for female,  then I wouldn't feel the need to dress up all the time. It would be something to look forward to for a party or a night out, but most of the time it would be casual. Maybe not the the extent that I adopt in male mode when not at work where casual verges into scruffy. As a male, I have almost no interest in clothes or sense of fashion and no real interest in my appearance. I exist in a monochrome world of  blacks, greys and dark blues as if I'm trying to fade into the background and not draw attention to myself. I wouldn't dream or dare to wear some of the colors Susie has in her closet.

But - to get back to the point - those are also Susie's 'dress up' clothes. It's just that she dresses up more frequently because she has so much less time available to her. [A psychologist is going to have a field day with this quasi-schizophrenic third  person stuff...]  

 If I were female, as Hannah posited, or able to be Susie full time or without the hour of preparation needed to realize her, I think I'd definitely settle more for comfort and casual over dressy most of the time. Some CDs say they feel more comfortable when dressed. I must be doing it wrong. I feel better about myself, but comfort isn't part of that equation. Heels hurt after a while, as do bra straps. Being tucked in isn't exactly comfortable. And if you blow your nose or wipe your eyes, it's back to the mirror to repair the damage. No, given the opportunity, I'd definitely go for a far more understated look. Slacks or jeans with a tunic top or sweater and ballet flats. However, unless Susie develops a more active social life than I currently have, she might never have the opportunity to wear a posh frock again.