Monday, 25 January 2016

The Anatomy of Greed? Or slippery slopes?

The thing is, that owing to work schedules and travel, there is no time this week to change into the real me.  Bummer.   What’s really weird is that sometimes I can go for a very long time where I don’t bother at all when I do have time.  But now I have started again in earnest to spend time as the real me, I’m desperately unhappy in every moment when I am not.  And I mean seriously antsy.  Right now, consumed with disappointment.  To the point where I have a window of 3.30 hours where I could be Rhi and I’m seriously considering it.  Even though it would really interfere with a mountain of work to get done.

Sometimes I wonder if I am just being greedy?  Greed = “An excessive desire to acquire or possess more than what one needs or deserves” or “intense and selfish desire for something”.  Apparently. Two questions:  1. Do I deserve to be Rhiannon? (I know I NEED to)  2.  Is it selfish to be Rhiannon?  Flipping heck.  I’m not sure I’m actually equipped to answer either of those questions without sounding like a narcissistic bitch.  I have talked with a lot of trans friends who agree that transitioning (in particular) could be seen as the ultimate in selfish acts, putting yourself above what others may want.  But what choice do you have?  To turn the question on its head, is it selfish NOT to be Rhiannon.  If I am not her / me, I am unhappy to the point where I could easily do something stupid - generally involving inconsolable sadness, stopping generally short of ending it all.   And if I was stupid would that be selfish to the people around me and they would have a much more damaged version of me.  And am I holding back a happier life for them resulting from me being less grumpy?

Its interesting actually, the need has heightened today due to the fact that I had promised myself Rhiannon time because I knew I couldn’t later in the week.  I feel like I’m betraying myself because a previous meeting overran, stopping me.  I should have protected ‘me’ time.  I also have yet another black tie event coming up this week - and we know how I feel about those.  The thought of no-Rhi time to bookend that is horrible!  I hate being in an ill-fitting suit knowing that I have a lovely dress that I feel nice in sat in the cupboard doing nothing.  Not fair at all.

Don’t get me wrong, I am still feeling on the happy side of positive, but knowing its a week until I can be me is getting harder and harder.  Can you have a slippery slope that takes you upward?  This isn’t greed, its necessity and I’m not slipping down, I’m going up!

Thursday, 21 January 2016

2016: Rhiannon in Overdrive?

Following my New Year Resolution that I was going to try to more regularly get out in Rhiannon-mode, I have made a good start to the year.  The modest, but oh-so-measurable target is once a month at least.   In January, I have been out once so far and spent an evening dressed -- clearly smashing the target already! :o)  Today, I have spent a day in the office with some new skinny jeans and a nice new top (see picture below).  My fantastic work colleague and I, even popped out to the Post Office.  And do you know what?  I’m so much happier and more relaxed for it.  Being able to be Rhiannon keeps the dysphoria from the door.

The evening out was a brave one - for both the people I was with and for me, but also nearly didn’t happen.  A couple of weeks ago, I’d set up dinner with two of my very lovely real girl pals, B and K [hereafter BK :o)].  They have known about Rhiannon for a long time and were just so accepting. Just before the meal, I decided to ask them if they would mind me coming as Rhiannon.  Happily they said yes and the date was set.  On the day, I had a real wobble.  My super duper amazing hair had gone off to the wig-seller shop to be washed and reset, so I had to put on my secondary wig.  When I got it out, it was in a bit of a tangle.  I unpicked it and put it on, but I really didn’t feel at all comfortable.  Now that I am used to my new hair, it just doesn’t suit me as well and doesn’t feel real.  But I was determined to have my night out, so I just put up with it and went.  I put on some cute jeans, my butterfly top with the camisole t-shirt underneath and a blue cardigan.  On my feet, I wore my black block heeled boots.

After getting ready in Leeds, I set off and drove down South for dinner.  When I arrived BK were wonderful.  They just didn’t even bat an eyelid.  I’m hugely conscious of the fact that I’m 5’11 and large (although I’ve lost a stone since Christmas!), so I stand out.  But they were completely amazing and totally accepting.  I noticed I got many stares during the course of the evening, but to be honest, I’m starting to be less bothered about that.  I’m proud to be trans and others just need to get over it.  I do my best to look presentable, appropriately dressed and to smell nice.  If they can’t deal with anything beyond that, so be it.  I’m not hurting or harming them in anyway at all.  My only concern was always for my friends and after the evening, on Facebook, I asked whether they were uncomfortable at all and they really weren’t.  In fact the lovely B said, “Not at all...it was just the 3 of us for dinner as usual.”  More than I could have hoped.  We had a lovely meal, chatted, admired B’s amazing new shoes and had fun.

I did have a moment...when I needed to use the toilet - which do I go into?  BK said definitely the Ladies, so off I set.  I breathed a sigh of relief when I went in and it was only me in there.  But as I was leaving, a little girl (around 8) walked through the door and went wide eyed!  I smiled at her and went on my way.  I’m really not sure what she thought!

Two days later, I got the chance to spend Rhiannon time again.  This time with my mum!  Occasionally we get to do mother and daughter nights.  It is just the best thing in the whole wide world when my mum calls me her daughter - it just feels so special.  We had a lovely evening at her house - Chinese, wine and chat.  I put on jeans and a t-shirt top and was very relaxed.  We had such a nice time.  I didn’t want to take it all off, but needs must.  I also put on some nice pyjamas and my mum asked where I got them from as she wanted to buy some too.  Result!!

So, as I said - a cracking start to the year.  My wig arrived back yesterday too, so I’m now even more comfy.  I’ve booked in time to go for a lesson in how to style it too, so it can only get better.  I really am a very happy girl right now.

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

The Danish Girl (Spoiler Fest)

***Please don’t read if you don’t want spoilers***

Finally, after having waited for a very long time to watch it, I managed to get time to see the much hyped portrayal of the very brave Lili Elbe by Eddie Redmayne.  I managed to sneak off for a night last week, while working away, to get a few hours in the cinema.  I went on my own, which I regularly do, I have no issue with doing that.  Well I thought I didn’t, until I realised that I was the only ‘man’ there on 'his' own.  Lots of groups of women came in together with the odd forlorn looking guy who clearly had been dragged along by his wife and/or daughter!  Disappointingly (or encouragingly) depending on how you look at it, there were no obviously trans people there.  Once it started though, it was all good and I settled down.

As you can imagine, I was paying attention to their reactions to the film.  The first time Lili ‘dressed’, my heart was in my throat.  If I’m honest, I didn’t want her to do it.  My reaction surprised me.  People really liked ‘him’ by this point and I was worried it would mean they would go off him.  There was a little bit of embarrassed laughter when he emerged but they quickly recovered.  The other point that caused consternation was the first time Lili kissed a man.  At that point, an almost outraged gasp was audible.  I suspect it was because he was being unfaithful to his wife.  After that, there was nothing by almost reverential silence, they were transfixed and you could almost feel a palpable togetherness in the room which was really encouraging.

I really like Eddie Redmayne.  On the Sunday before I watched TDG, oddly, I’d watched ‘The Theory of Everything’ for the first time too. He really does have a very enigmatic personality and a screen presence and a dazzling smile that you just can’t help loving.  Overall, as you are about to see, I have very mixed views of the film.  But the thing that has to be acknowledged is that he is one gutsy guy and that he took some very brave steps as an actor to play the part.  There were some scenes that really pushed him a long way and I think he did it well.  Trans people know how hard it is to step outside your door - our own judgements of ourselves are bad enough, let alone others.

So in watching it, several things struck me that I thought were interesting:

The first thing that interested me, really surprised me.  There is a debate that rages on about the film industry trying harder to hire trans actors for trans roles.  Before watching the film, I didn’t really feel that strongly about it.  I now do.  He is a genuinely fantastic actor, but it really felt like he was battling his heterosexual, cis-normative natural reactions to play this role.  Someone who is trans, spends years observing women and trying to emulate their mannerisms and behaviours.  This is often to the point where you hear people saying that they have forgotten how to be a man.  It becomes so ingrained in you that you know how to improvise in every situation and circumstance so that the presentation is almost perfect.  Eddie doesn’t have that advantage and so his look was practically perfect, but at times, his mannerism and behaviour weren’t quite there and seemed very mannish.  I guess, you could argue that the story is an evolving journey and that Lili would have been developing this, but the issue is that it just jarred.  When I watched ‘Boy Meets Girl’ (the TV programme) with Rebecca Root, that didn’t happen.  She reacted in the way a woman does, she didn’t feel like a man playing a woman.  The same was true of the very fantastic Michelle Hendley in ‘Boy Meets Girl’ (the film).  Every reaction felt authentic.  There is something about them genuinely being women that they didn’t know how to play men. When Eddie reached a point where he didn’t know how to react or play it, he reverted to playing it as a man would think a woman would behave.  So there was lots of eye lash batting, primping and preening that just seemed forced. I’ve listened to an interview with Eddie where he discussed this and he was so lovely and said that he was trying to show Lili’s 'adolescence' by being over the top and demonstrating uberfeminisation, but I’m not sure it worked really.

Hats off to the script writer, some of Lili’s experiences definitely mirrored my own.  The idea of trying to break her wife into the idea of her ‘husband’ being a woman gently was something that definitely chimed with me.  I hate to admit it, but I put on underwear under my clothes hoping my wife (then girlfriend) would discover it and find out.  Lili also pretended that it was a game she played.  When I told another girlfriend, I told her it was just something we should do for fun sometimes.  Even though inside I knew its something I needed to do all the time.  They also, later on in the film, captured the torment and desperation of feeling like this very well.  They also had me desperate to stand up in the cinema and shout at the various Doctors who diagnosed her transgendered nature and forced her into dangerous quack solutions.  There was definitely a lot that was good about it.

As we have already established on this blog, I am a complete cry baby, I ball my eyes out at pretty much everything.  But I walked away from the cinema numb rather than having sobbed because of my empathy with Lili.  The film worked much harder (maybe because she was the stand out star of the show) to push our sympathy towards Gerta, Lili’s hard-done-by-but-ever-so-faithful wife.  Gerta was the strong one who fought and Lili was a little pathetic, self-centred, flouncy one who seemed like she had a split personality.  I think that ultimately it was my inability to connect to Lili that really made me struggle with the film.  I wanted it to be good so much and in many ways it was, but just not from a trans perspective.  Where I suspect it will earn plaudits is in being a cog in the wheel of helping non-trans people to understand our experience a little bit more.

Friday, 1 January 2016

2016: A Fresh Start?

Down in the mouth doesn’t begin to describe where I’ve been for a long time now.  I offer up a succession of painfully sad blogs in evidence to you.  I’m not a believer in artificial New Year dates as a prospect for renewal, but I have to say that yesterday, as I reflected on the previous year, I found something very encouraging.  I always make a list of goals for the year ahead.  Amorphous, badly thought through resolutions clearly don’t work.  So, instead, underneath a series of headings that I have used for a while, I create a total of 20-30 goals for the year — a ‘bucket list’ if you like.  My headings are:

Work
Personal Finances
Relationship
Personal Development
Weight and health
Philanthropy
Rhiannon
Fun

Generally I use them to beat myself up and it becomes a toxic document by which I realise just how far I am away from where I would like to be as a person.  Yesterday was different.  In searching for last year’s document, I actually found instead, the one I wrote in 2012.  Sad probably that I keep them, but as I went down the list, I realised that about 75-80% of them had been achieved.  They weren’t all done in 2012, but clearly they bubbled away at my consciousness and many of them - including some challenging and exciting ones got done.  My spirits lifted and I realised that maybe if I focus, I could get more of this year’s actually done and perhaps, while 2016 is still around!  So I created my list yesterday with a good deal of hope in my heart.

I’ve been sadder of late than I have let on in this blog.  I guess here there is a self editing filter that I use to not be seen as a bleak, flaky weirdo.  But I have had some very tough decisions to make and I have faced (and continue to face) some intractable challenges that gnaw away at me.  Some that I doubt my ability to resolve, but I have to anyway.  I have found myself in some very dark places which for an overly enthusiastic extroverted optimist has been very scary and has rocked my self-confidence.

Its amazing the bizarre places where wisdom comes to meet you, especially when you are not searching for it.  The other day, I was watching ‘Kinky Boots’ on TV.  There is a line at the end of the film that hit me between the eyes - Lauren (one of the factory workers) says to her boss (the instigator of shoe creation), “So here we are again. Charlie Price, standing in front of me, saying, ‘It's not my fault. What can I do?’”  I face a similar cross-roads.  I wondered whether I would take responsibility for all of these challenges or whether I just need to give up and say, ‘It's not my fault. What can I do?’  A lot of the time, the ‘what can I do’ eludes me. But hopefully this blog explains the determination left in my heart to try.  There are so many things I want to experience and do as the real me and maybe…hopefully…2016 is the year to take of the stabilisers and to try again.