I'm being good, I've just downloaded John Denver's I Want to Live album. With "How Can I Leave You Again", "Tradewinds", "It Amazes Me", "Thirsty Boots", "Dearest Esmeralda", "Singing Skies and Dancing Waters", and "I Want to Live", it is one of the best folk/Americana albums I have ever heard, and I haven't heard it in a long time.
This time I was up front about the idea that I don't see myself transitioning permanently, and that I was happy with developing female characteristics and being able to be female sometimes and male at others. I must have seemed like I'd considered what I was saying, because he went along with it.
He made one comment - there are those among his colleagues who are not comfortable with prescribing hormones to anyone who is not committed to transitioning completely and he would have to justify himself to them. There must be some kind of oversight where he discusses my case with reviewers. This makes sense to me from a quality point of view, but I'm not so keen to be discussed by people I haven't met and can't persuade myself. Especially if they're not so flexible, as fjm has been saying; doctors who only think in terms of male and female with no in between.
His point of view on the idea is that he's fine with it. His criterion for success is a happy functional patient, and he was looking at a happy patient. I'm obviously not messed up and confused in what I want - this is in fact true, I want it all and I want it now! - and he was very complimentary to me in how I look and present myself. His first words in the consultation were, "look at you!"; I was wearing a pretty indigo skirt with flower details that I got in the sale at Markies yesterday, and black tights and black top, and I'm getting quite practiced at makeup.
So, there was none of the feeling that I got last time, however faint, of disapproval. I'm in charge of this exercise in finding myself, I've considered the questions that he puts to me and I'm thinking about what happens to me. He's happy to sign off on me going the way I want to go, which is to continue the hormones, and get to a position where I can comfortably be female without losing the facility to be male when I need to be, and vice versa.
That begs the question about surgery. As I explained to him, since I could meet a woman and turn male all of a sudden, I don't see surgically remodelling my genitals as being an option right now. However, we agreed, I could conceivably see a situation where I'm so much more often female than male that I might want go all the way. Time might tell and for right now, the way to go is the way that I've planned.
It had been an idea I'd had in the back of my mind before I started all this, and apparently it's done quite a lot among TS's who can't come out to their families, to get reassignment surgery and still pass as male. I described to him the transphobia I've run across that would prevent me from continuing with my career if I should change sex. And then there's the acceptance of my family. Which means that I have a strong stake in being able to be male when I need to be. However, this is not an option allowed by the UK medical establishment. Before they'll allow you to have surgery, you have to transition completely and be fully socially female for at least a year. And, possibly, quite rightly, because it must be a nightmare to have altered your body irreversibly and to find it intolerable. I did say to him that if it were possible to change reversibly, then I'd do it like a shot.
To me, I think what I'm looking for most is to be able to exist in a feminine mode. To be pretty, to like and to wear pretty clothes. Being feminine is an entire hobby, vocation and to some women, career. Much more popular than cars and computers are for guys, judging by the number of magazines there are on the subject. I've written before about how I don't see a distinction between the roles that women and men should be able to play (except that I don't fancy bearing kids), but when people talk about equality of the sexes, what they always seem to mean is that women should be free to be as hard as men. Annie Lennox from the eighties and power suits. Going the other way is still a social taboo.
So, having taken the afternoon off and dolled myself up for the doctor, I went for a stroll through the new shopping centre at Pollokshaws. Nobody batted an eye. I wandered through Markies looking at the new clothes for this winter, walked the length of the mall to the Tesco, got the makings of supper and walked the length of the mall again back to my car. No hassle, not even a snigger at the guy in the skirt, even a nice smile from the lady at the Tesco checkout. My feet hurt by the end of it though. Just going to have to do it more often.
Now I've got helenex's bolognese on the cooker while I write this and I'm going to watch more of my new box set of New Who season two.
But in general, this is still a balance I am working on. I am sufficiently advanced in my hormone treatments that I successfully fill out a bra, but I still have a masculine figure. Among other things, the beer that I drank this evening will still go to bulk out the keg that I carry in lieu of a six-pack. Or will it go to my hips? and is that a good thing?
One of the other things that came out - I passed that picture around everyone there, and from the people who didn't know about Elaine/Mike, the first question was, "why?"
The first and most facile answer is "because I want to." But I have always been the 'but why?' child. And there are levels and levels to the answer to that question, and, be warned, some of the answers are, 'because'. I just do. Deal with it. But that hasn't stopped me from searching for the answer to, 'but, why?'
So, why Elaine? Why does Michael Gallagher feel that he would be happier as a woman?
I like looking down my chest and seeing a lace-covered breast. I'm not turned on by this, or not as a male seeing a breast in close proximity, although I'm satisfied in some way. It feels good, it has yet to feel so natural that it feels right, but it doesn't feel wrong and the only reasons I would refrain from wearing a bra would be that I'm going to be in a situation that other people would object. At the weekend and in the evenings I wear a bra unless I'm meeting people I know will notice and object. I am emphasizing to my body that I am growing breasts and like a girl wearing a training bra, I am learning to feel natural with it.
And the rest of it?
I want to lose my belly and I keep meaning to do more exercise and I have all this incentive to diet and exercise and the rest of it. I haven't figured out how to reduce my shoulders and the rest of my musculature without drastic - starvation-level - dieting which, let's face it, is not going to happen, my limit will be the Wii Fit or perhaps if I manage to take up running. I seem to be growing at the hips and I seem to be keeping the same overall weight, so I dare say that I'm transferring some weight from belly to breasts and hips. I keep meaning to buy a couple of sports bras to fit my current bust and make an incentive to do exercise so I can wear them.
I'm fairly sure that, gender dysphoria and all the rest of it acknowledged, what is going on with me and part of the answer to the 'why?' question, is that I have an attraction to things female. I like women's clothes and I like to see women wearing them and I like them so much that I wish to look like that myself. Do I feel that I'm the wrong gender? Sometimes and then again sometimes not. I do masculine very well. As I've said, I like my baritone voice, although I've learned how to make myself contralto, or perhaps counter-tenor, it's in the resonance. I'd like for there to be a spectrum available, so that I could be spread across it, not a point either 'male' or 'female', or even a point with a defined 'not in those other boxes,' like 'homosexual' or even 'transsexual'.
Can I not be, 'male with many feminine aspects, including a very strong supportive streak, who is not very dominant but is buggered if they will be bullied, who feels comfortable wearing a dress, and wishes to be pretty wearing it but who is not really interested in men and wants a female partner?'
Is that so hard?
2. Have you ever smoked a cigarette? Yes, a couple of times, they are too bitter unless I am really drunk. I used to smoke cigars on a regular basis but they give me bronchitis now, so I don't, any more.
3. Do you own a gun? no. I'm a better shot than the guy who introduced me to the gun club, though
4. What flavor do you add to your drink at Sonic? Que ... ?
5. Do you get nervous before doctor appointments? Not really. Dentists, hell yes.
6. What do you think of hot dogs? Bockwursts, bratwursts, with proper mustard and sauerkraut, yum. Or Canadian smokies and relish, yum yum.
7. Favorite Christmas Song? a choice between mainstream favourite the Pogues' A Fairytale of New York, bitter anti-commercial favourite Greg Lake's I Believe in Father Christmas, or wide-eyed childhood favourite Wombling Merry Christmas.
8. What do you prefer to drink in the morning? coffee, and then some
9. Can you do push ups? yes. don't often. Don't really want the biceps any more
10. What's your favorite meal? a medium rare pope's-eye steak with new potatoes, fried mushrooms and fried onions, and maybe red wine jus
11. What's your favorite piece of jewelry? the necklace that Aoife picked out for me
12. Favorite hobby? Reading.
13. Do you work with people who idolize you? I don't think so. I seem to intimidate the people I work with who are at the same level as me, quite a lot of my juniors, and one or two of my seniors as well, but I'm pretty sure that I am nobody's idol. I'm also pretty sure that my boss is idolised by some of the people I intimidate, and I think quite well of him too.
14. Do you have A.D.D? No.
15. What's one trait that you dislike about yourself? Lack of confidence, which, given my answer to 13 above might seem ironic, but think about how one might overcompensate to cover up
16. Middle name? I don't have one, and as a result, neither do any of my siblings because my parents forgot in my case and didn't want me to feel left out in their cases
17. Name 3 thoughts at this moment. I should delete the previous answers before filling these things in, interesting but not surprising that Liz Williams listens to the Mediaeval Baebes, I'm going to see Amanda Palmer next month.
18. Name 3 things you bought yesterday. Toothpaste, onions, windscreen wipers
20. Current worry right now? debts
21. Current hate right now? the guy who drove his skip lorry into my car on Wednesday
22. Favorite place to be? in a world of my own
23. How did you bring in New Years? A good party with good friends
24. Where would you like to go? the list is long and covers most of Europe, some of the New World, oddly little of the rest of the world although I fancy Hong Kong and Singapore.
25. Name three people who will complete this? be interesting to find out but I wouldn't care to hazard a guess. The sole respondent to the last one was a complete stranger.
26. Whose answer do you want to read the most? Whoever cares to do the thing.
27. What color shirt are you wearing? stripy blue and white
28. Do you like sleeping on satin sheets? never tried it, nor silk, neither. I like satin nighties, though.
29. Can you whistle? Yes, much better than most people
30. Favorite color(s)? the average wingspeed of an unladen swallow.
31. Would you be a pirate? Arrr, we be murderin', rapin' mutineers who don't dare sleep with but half an eye open for our 'mates' ... possibly not.
32. What songs do you sing in the shower? Patricia the Stripper
33. Favorite girl's name? Elaine (I chose it for myself after all)
34. Favorite boy's name? Michael, after all it's the one I was given
35. What's in your pocket right now? a ring I didn't know I had ... the world looks funny, where's my hand, what's that sniffing sound?
36. Last thing that made you laugh? my boss's descriptions of the 'processes' an old client used
37. Best bed sheets as a child? I don't remember paying attention to that, although my mother has just found my old sheets in a suitcase, that had hockey players on. I still have my old baby blanket, though.
38. Worst injury you've ever had? suspected cracked elbow (bruise the length of my entire arm but I didn't lose any function and it didn't hurt too much so I never had it x-rayed)
39. Do you love where you live? my country, yes. my city, yes. my flat, yes. the location where my flat stands in my city ... could stand improvement.
40. How many TVs do you have in your house? One.
41. Who is your loudest friend? Jim Campbell
42. How many dogs do you have? none
43. Does someone have a crush on you? I doubt it.
44. What's your favourite beer? Orkney Dark Island. I brought home a bottle from Orkney of Dark Island Special Reserve ... bliss
45. What is your favorite book? Toss-up between Bridge of Birds, Last Chance to See and To Kill a Mockingbird.
46. What is your favorite candy? Co-Op Fairtrade Spiced Orange Chocolate
47. What is your favorite sports team? Montreal Canadiens
48. What song do you want played at your funeral? Dunno. I attended a funeral where 'Another One Bites the Dust' got played, and 'Isn't It Grand Boys' (to be bloody well dead) is another good one. But, and this is the pompous streak in me coming out, I'd quite like the 'Fanfare for the Common Man' to be playing as the coffin goes into the furnace.
49. What were you doing at 12 AM last night? realising that I shouldn't be reading, I should be going to sleep
50. What was the first thing you thought of when you woke up this morning? shit I should have got to sleep earlier
So I now fill the cups of a 36AA bra I have that I didn't used to. That back size is far too small but I bought it years ago to see whether I could feel what it was like to actually fill a bra. It didn't work at the time without chicken fillets but now it does, which led me to go bra shopping today. Properly, my back size should be 40 but a 40A just hangs slack off my chest, and that's the smallest cup size I could find on the high street. I have a 40AAA bra ordered off the internet and I'll be interested to see how that works and if it does anything for my bust. 38A is problematic, but I found that some cuts actually fit just fine although I'm not big enough to fit others. Balcony style don't seem to work but plunge style do. If Wonderbra did size 38A I'd be laughing. So I tried on more than a dozen bras and came away from Markies with two padded ones and one lacy, and some pairs of lace knickers. I'm lucky in my sizes that I can find a lot of what I'm looking for on the sale rail. Two bras for £4. Not quite as good as two pairs of high heeled sandals for £4, but it'll do. Gloat.
More seriously, I'm still going to have to be careful in my working life. A couple of months ago I was out for dinner with some business connections. The conversation got round to a TS that a couple of the men had met, and their extreme transphobia was ... not surprising, but still uncomfortable. I work very often among construction and property professionals and it's dominated by very conservative alpha males. All of the women I have encountered recently are in sales, and they are all flirts. Most of the others I know are in environmental management and the builder boys ignore them utterly, even if they are highly competent civil engineers - I fix that whenever I can. I am uncomfortable in a milieu where a powerful sales tool is an open blouse, and I guarantee that, the law notwithstanding, most of the people I run across in that milieu would be uncomfortable with me.
So, I'm back to wanting to lose weight, both to avoid any complications with the hormones and to reduce the masculine belly that I carry around. And given also the train wreck that has been my most recent romantic endeavour, here is a song that I'm finding quite apt right now. I'm definitely going to have to learn it and perform it.
Pretty Little Miss Dysmorphia
ahforgetit is a science fiction reference from the nineties, a political group split off from the Culture in Iain M Banks' novel, Excession, called the AhForgetIt Tendency: essentially the Party Party Party Party of the Culture.
About that time the Internet was starting to take flight and I was one of the earlier adopters, with my dialup modem and my Demon subscription and interacting with people by being a member of Usenet newsgroups (look them up, they came after - well, alongside - bulletin board systems and before chatrooms). When posting to these newsgroups, the software would want to know what organisation you belonged to, usually a university or a company or whatever, but I was a private operator. One response that I liked was 'in a box by the door,' which is a Babylon 5 reference. I chose the AhForgetIt Tendency to belong to.
Since then I have used The AhForgetIt Tendency as my organisation and ahforgetit as my user name wherever I go. In fact if you google ahforgetit, you find me.
I was delighted to find that Ludwig is just big enough to dump my entire mp3 collection into. Since this collection is in part the result of *ahem* backing-up friends' and family's CDs and hard drives over a period of a few years, there are some things that I've had hanging around that I've never got around to listening to. I know that 30 gig of music is not a huge collection, but it's more than I care to trawl through sitting in front of my computer after sitting in front of a computer all day at work. Now I can listen to this stuff on the move or plug it all into my stereo.
So, with over a thousand albums to listen to, how much of it do I actually play? Not a lot, it has to be said. The music I would normally have listened to I'm over-familiar with, and the stuff I hadn't got round to, I never really fancied. I play about one percent of it, which is a bit of a waste, and I'm getting tired of what I do play. I've found a few gems, Heather Nova, James, 10,000 Maniacs, and so on, but I need new music.
Cue Fopp, and the classic albums sitting in Asda and HMV for less than a fiver. I'm ploughing through Tom Waits' back catalogue at the moment, also got hold of Led Zeppelin IV and Paranoia by Black Sabbath, and of newer acts, the Magic Numbers, the Zutons, the Fratellis, Goldfrapp, King Creosote and so forth.
I've also gone the download route, but since I object strongly to DRM and other such attempts to fence off and plough under the cultural commons, I have an eMusic subscription. This morning I got Vampire Weekend, Eliza Carthy, Rev. Gary Davis, Karine Polwart and Davison/Coleman. I still have ninety-odd tracks to use up by the end of the month out of my initial subscription and freebies. I think this will be a good chance to broaden my classical, jazz, blues and folk listening.
So, I'm now entertaining suggestions for new music to listen to. Classic albums, new and interesting acts, any genre (except hip-hop and club music, not that I expect most people who read this to be into those).
Oh dear, I just discovered something that I'd heard about earlier and not connected to myself - Amazon also do DRM-free music downloads. (waves fond farewell to credit card)
I'm going to be strong, I'm only downloading John Denver's I Want to Live, for now. This was an album I played over and over again when I was a teenager and it's absolutely beautiful. It's only a shame that downloads don't carry the sleeve notes along with them, with one of the most evocative poems I have ever read.
Bastards are limited to the US at the moment. The only news articles I can find say that UK roll-out is due 'this year', dated 2007. Need a US credit card, for many reasons, but mainly this.
For the new starts, this is fair enough, they need direction and encouragement; joined-up thinking is a skill that need to be learned. But there is one guy who is quite a lot younger than me but on the same pay scale, and he has started to defer to me more than I think he ought. He tends to put a situation to me and then tail off, expecting me to complete the thought.
I today refused to do his thinking for him, and said, "And?" and waited. And lo and behold, he turned out to be able to finish his job himself.
I'm happy to be the boss, but I'm damned if that means that I'm going to do everyone's thinking for them. We're consultants; even the new starts have PhDs.
It's a little brooch with a soldier on a bicycle over a brocade background, with a bead hanging from it. When I look at it, it brings to my mind 'No Man's Land', the Eric Bogle song. I bet that nobody else would have that reaction, but this little thing makes me choke up to look at it. I had to have it.
It's now sitting in the brim of the top hat that rests on my computer monitor. I think that may be its proper place. I may even wear the hat with its brooch some time.
What philosophy do you follow? (v1.03)
created with QuizFarm.com
|You scored as Existentialism|
Your life is guided by the concept of Existentialism: You choose the meaning and purpose of your life.
This evening was enlivened because Cupcake (small and sweet - quite the sunniest person I have ever met) had come wearing a wedding dress and roller skates. Uni played her The Wedding Song specially.
And it's a small world - a lady was there who I recognised and we got chatting. It turned out that I had got her completely confused with someone else, but we still knew one another and she had been just as desperately trying to figure out who I was as I was she (if that makes sense ... you know it does. I think. Anyway.) Turns out that she's an old friend from when I did my PhD, she was a classmate of my flatmate and one of the usual suspects for a while. She remembered my cooking! (in complimentary terms, you bastards) After ten years! How cool is that! I must actually be a reasonable cook.
She'll be playing tonight at Twisted Wheel on Queen Street and tomorrow in Borders. (This blog is copied elsewhere, and the Youtube links might not work there. Just come back to this original for the videos, they're fun)
For those of my readers in forn parts, she will be playing in Brighton and Hastings next week.
22 May 2008 16:30 Family matinee performance @ The Eat, Hastings
22 May 2008 20:00 Uni & her Ukelele & Bohemaia Ukulele Band @ The Room, Hastings
24 May 2008 13:00 Matinee show @ The Joogleberry Playhouse, Brighton
Bold the ones you’ve read, italicize the ones you started, but didn’t finish.
Final touch: denote (*) the ones you liked, and would (or did) read again or recommend. Even if you did read them for school in the first place.
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell*
Crime and Punishment
One Hundred Years of Solitude (just bought this one, will be reading it this month, honest)
Life of Pi : a novel
The Name of the Rose (I really enjoyed the film; I should get back to this one)
The Odyssey* (great story, I read it when I was eleven)
Pride and Prejudice
A Tale of Two Cities
The Brothers Karamazov
Guns, Germs, and Steel: the fates of human societies
War and Peace
The Time Traveler’s Wife
The Blind Assassin
The Kite Runner
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
Atlas Shrugged (and you won't find it on my shelves, either)
Reading Lolita in Tehran: a memoir in books
Memoirs of a Geisha
Wicked: the life and times of the wicked witch of the West
The Canterbury Tales
The Historian : a novel
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Love in the Time of Cholera
Brave New World
The Fountainhead (nor this)
The Count of Monte Cristo*
A Clockwork Orange
The Once and Future King*
The Grapes of Wrath
The Poisonwood Bible: a novel
Angels & Demons
The Inferno (started Purgatorio but I never finished it)
The Satanic Verses
Sense and Sensibility
The Picture of Dorian Gray
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
To the Lighthouse
Tess of the D’Urbervilles
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Klay
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
The Sound and the Fury
Angela’s Ashes: a memoir
The God of Small Things
A People’s History of the United States : 1492-present
A Confederacy of Dunces
A Short History of Nearly Everything (I prefer The Science of Discworld)
The Unbearable Lightness of Being
The Scarlet Letter
Eats, Shoots & Leaves*
The Mists of Avalon
Oryx and Crake: a novel
Collapse: how societies choose to fail or succeed
The Catcher in the Rye
On the Road
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Freakonomics : a rogue economist explores the hidden side of everything
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance : an inquiry into values
In Cold Blood : a true account of a multiple murder and its consequences
The Three Musketeers*
I'm not sure what this says about me, except perhaps that if I'm not enjoying a book, I rarely struggle through it to the end. And that I don't often buy a book 'just because I ought to'. And that I like Dumas and I think Ayn Rand was a strident nutbar.
From my point of view, though, it was something more than that. Every so often it hits me that it's my job - not just my responsibility like everyone else, someone actually pays me for this - to change the world for the better.
I was at a Billy Bragg concert at the weekend, and one of the things that he said from the stage was that it's easy to be cynical and that cynicism is what stops us from making the world better. He also said that it is up to people to make the difference and that we could each and all do something. I was pleased and proud then to feel that I am one of those people who actively does something.
I am pleased and proud again. Much of what I do can be looked at cynically as money-making business and I don't doubt that Billy would disapprove of my capitalist ways, but I not only want to change the world, it's what I do for a living. I can point to places where I have made a difference.
It's fantastic to be able to say that.
It has taken some negotiation and a bit of pressure from my boss to his boss, plus quite a lot of patience and forbearance on my part (when the fat is trimmed, it will be coming from the finance department if I have anything to say about it), but the promised benefits are starting to materialise.
I found an extra five hundred pounds in my take-home pay this afternoon.
I have been given a pay rise of over thirty-five percent; I am officially now earning the most I have ever earned; my job title is now Associate Consultant (next level is Associate Director: I'm on the first client/project management level - consultants tell managers what to do; consultants' bosses are directors); my Contribution Performance review is "Outstanding", which means that my June bonus will also be outstanding. I am not yet earning my age in thousands of pounds (a semi-humourous family yardstick) but I can see that happening from here.
I can safely say that I will be buying celebratory rounds at the Paisley Beer Festival next week and my birthday celebration this month will also be ... quite good.
 An interesting euphemism for 'first against the wall' that comes from our modern capitalist market-driven society
I had no idea of the significance of this until I looked them up on Wikipedia, but apparently Kurt Cobain said that they were his "most favourite songwriters in the whole world" and covered two of their songs.
A mate of mine, (H)Al Duncan, was due to be reading at this event, which was a charity gig for Malawian orphans. A lady I really like came along because I invited her and so I now know just how marvellous this event was.
The rest of the event was also great; Alan Bissett read a piece about the explosion at Grangemouth and I have to say, if you get the chance to hear him read, do it. Al did a sequence of poetry which was also marvellous and once again, if you get the chance to hear Hal Duncan read, then do it.
The headlining musicians, Emma Pollock and her support, were also very good. And then the Sekrit Speshul guests came on, which kind of relegates them to support, which I think is a bit of a shame. I appreciated them.
Overall, I am happy to report that I am more relaxed and together about myself. I am convinced now that I will never go for gender reassignment, but I will always want to have space to have a distinct feminine part of my life. I am Mike and Elaine.
There is a wonderful concept in Native American tradition, of double-souled people. They have both male and female souls. I totally don't believe in souls; spiritualism of any kind is to me a metaphor that some (almost all) people have taken far too literally. The metaphor in this case, though, fits me very well.
I recently met someone who brought out the masculine side of me. I love my singing voice, which is baritone. I am not prepared to give up being male. And yet, for several years there was not a day that went by when I didn't wish I was a woman. Sufficiently so that it was noticeable when I stopped.
If this was the Culture, I would be one of those people who happily switches gender every few years. It isn't, unfortunately, and I have to live with myself in some sane form.
I think that irreversible physical changes are therefore a bad call. I love the idea of having breasts and hips and a feminine figure, but these can be simulated and I am within the range that I can pass with attitude at least at first glance. I am going to stop with hormones.
I am sill totally chuffed that some bloke completely unconnected with Eastercon called me 'pet' when he held the lift for me. And people get that when I am presenting as female, it isn't an act; I'm not in drag. And also, everyone, even very good friends who know what to expect, so far has looked completely past me or through me when I've appeared to them for the first time as Elaine. A couple thought I had given my con badge to someone else.
I have opened out a space in the last year that is allowing me more room to be myself. I have made at least one very good friend quite uncomfortable with me, but I have learned who among my friends have open minds and that I can live with the rest.
I am in good shape.