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Friday, December 25, 2009

A short Christmas reading...

So just before Christmas a guy walks into my place and starts talking about all the money I owe his organization. It’s a corrupt, venal group, loathed by over 90% of its own members, operating a de facto monopoly; in other words it’s the local performing rights society.
I’ve had problems with these guys over the years, with them wanting money for me having music equipment and me saying that’s for private use, (we’re a mixed use property). After years of threats from them, and no action, on that front, they recently have tried to take me to court re money for bands playing here. Because I make no money and because the events are more or less private in terms of most of the audience and the musicians being part of the community based around my place, I’ve objected to this.
So we talk. He puts his point of view, I put mine, he doesn’t acknowledge mine, and after about 5 minutes I start to get angry. Not angry, like male angry, but enough so my voice lowered in tone and my eyebrows came down a bit.
So the guy reads me.
You know the kind who’s eyes spring wide, breath speeds up and some indeterminate form of stammer begins? One of those.
So he fumbled in his case, took out a form and said ‘here-are-the-rates-if you-want-to-know-no-problem-bye’ fast, and started sidling toward the door.
I asked, ( a small self revelation of the wickedness of the female heart ), if he wanted to talk more so I’d know not to inadvertently cross their rules, but he just said ‘no worry’, as he half ran out the door.
And I sat and thought to myself why I was putting so much stress and effort into presentation and passing, rather than trusting to the wisdom of such providence as I’d just been party to.
Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 14, 2009's the politics

( The story so far goes...The Bilerico Project, one of the largest and most inclusive of the US GLBT websites, published a truly ghastly piece of transphobia by a 90 year old ‘elder’ of the gay movement. After a bit of hesitancy and an overwhelmingly negative response, chiefly from trans people, it got taken down. Fulsome apologies and a surfeit of posts referencing trans sensibilities followed.)

Like many, I’m curious about the decision to publish this piece of dirt, but like, I suspect, most, I go along with the cock-up rather than conspiracy explanation.
The same absolutely does not go for Ron Gold’s reasons for writing it and for getting it published here. From previous ‘guest’ contributions he’s made, senility has been noticeably absent. The ‘common sense’ style, whilst intentionally hitting on trans people’s nerves, seems totally deliberate. It would seem incredible that a man so experienced in gay politics would be so ignorant as to the realities of trans issues. And Mr Gold has form. He is known as non-inclusivist, and perceived as belonging to a sizable number within the gay community who wish, amongst other things, to drop the T, as people found so evident in the HRC’s record on ENDA. And another ENDA debacle, as it approaches this critical time, could really make for a long term fracture in the GLBT grouping.
And so this gets written as Gold’s first ‘house’ posting on an inclusivist site, a work that it would be hard to imagine how edit so as to more greatly inflame tensions.
Isn’t coincidence wonderful !
So how goes Bilerico ? It was a clear mistake to publish this piece, and I do wonder whether Gold’s status was overly respected. The reaction was uneven, but getting rid of Gold , putting some reforms in place and a deluge of trans posts all may help stem the alienation of the trans site readers. For me, it’s a mistake.
And all those comments on all those posts ? Another mistake. I can understand the feelings involved, and indeed I commented on a couple myself, but there’s an overall problem that plays right along with Gold’s agenda.
The more ‘tranny sensibilities’ are on show, the more the overall effect is to alienate the gay community. They’ve all suffered sneers and insults, as well as outright violence. Our relative weakness to such, in the eyes of some number, is, as far as I’ve always found, a major source of misunderstandings. Bilerico, by catering to these sensitivities, also loses credibility amongst those with problems to check their cis-privilege. And it is partly on the reasonable good will of such that inclusive sentiment rests. Sadly.
That’s why I thought Tobi’s piece necessary and Dyss’s apposite, but would have preferred the latter as part of a series covering all in the GLBTQI spectrum. That’s why, though thoroughly enjoying the articles on the history of gay transphobia, I’d prefer them to have had a gay co-author, to own to trans homophobia, which exists, and/or to attempt to frame the gay/trans dialogue on gender in more mutually comprehensible terms. And that’s why I’d have preferred a general statement from Bilerico to their commitment to the whole gender rainbow rather than apologies to trans people.
Because that’s the way to get back at Gold and his agenda.
Because that’s the politics.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Resuming normal service

As a normal thing, health isn’t something that causes many problems. I don’t drink, eat salt or have more than 1.8 litres of liquid a day. I can’t walk for more than about 40 minutes without bleeding and coagulation is bad, so sports and biking are out. At present though, I’m on the upper plateau of the, hopefully, long slope of declining liver function. Present medication consists of 2 diuretics, gall stone medication to counter the most horrible itching I’ve ever known, multi vitamin and calcium supplements, and avoidance of anything non-prescribed.
This has been difficult the past few weeks, because of flu and (maybe) gout attacks. Pain killers and anti-inflammatories are normally liver toxic, so I’ve been trying to get through on an absolute minimum, which has not been good for anything that requires some concentration, like writing.
And sometimes hibernation is just soooooooooo attractive.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The fun side of GID reform

So, as nearly every trans person knows, to get hormone treatment, let alone surgery, its necessary to be diagnosed with GID, Gender Identity Disorder. Which is a problem, because it’s a diagnosis of mental illness, which most of us don’t see as particularly applicable. But without it, how to make treatment available through health-care systems ? And some kind of gatepost system would appear to be necessary in a small number of cases.
Personally, what I’d like to see would be a move towards classification by the effects of the condition : taking gender dysphoria as a specific form of clinical depression, amenable to therapy, hormone and surgical treatment in a similar way to , say, depression based on thyroid disorders that may not need treatment because they pose actual physical danger.
And then there’s the really fun part of what to call it, where I would suggest the term Gender Orientation Depression, since it would make answering questions such a joy:-
“Why do you want to change gender ?”. GOD is making me.
“Why do you need surgery ?” Otherwise GOD would be down on me like a ton of bricks.
“Are you really sure about doing this because…( a, b, c…etc.)”. I just trust in the path that GOD shows me…
Now some may say that this is just mocking religion, but there is a side to transexuality which is profoundly spiritual, that hardly any cis person really takes seriously, and turn and turn about is a fair game. Also, anything that messes up the religious right is alright in my book, and they really can’t credibly argue with GOD.

Thursday, October 1, 2009


3 kilo chicken breasts, sliced with tomato and mozarella filling, grilled with a pepper sauce, surrounding a boned duck with coconut and fruit stuffing,
3 kilo steak stewed in red wine, with pears and blackcurrant with a couple of chopped apples and 2 handfuls of walnuts, cinammon,all spice, cloves to taste
8 trout, sauted, skinned and poached in white wine with sliced kiwi
baked potato skins with alternate pea and tomato cheese custards
Bubble and squeak – 1kilo white cabbage, 1 kilo mixed veg, apple and .5 kilo of ground hazelnut, bread, egg and lots of sage to bind..
Double baked potatoes mashed with chestnut and cream
Green beans
Mushrooms and onions duxelles
Ginger carrots
Mashed celeriac (maybe)

It’s the first taste of winter outside, so time to do some winter standards…

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The 10 best things about m2f transition

Obviously all such lists are highly subjective. The order I’ve put these in isn’t set in stone even for me. A couple of them are a bit controversial, a couple have a down side as well, some may be harder to attain than others and one or two might cause complications with varying sexual orientations. There are also others which come some way towards making the final list but didn’t quite make it, so I wouldn’t put this forward as totally exhaustive.
1. Sisterhood.
2. Sisterhood
3. Sisterhood
4. Sisterhood
5. Sisterhood
6. Sisterhood
7. Sisterhood
8. Sisterhood
9. Sisterhood
10. Sisterhood
It’s also possible that this is somewhat overly influenced by the 10 year old grrl thing.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Intimate categories

Gender. I regard myself as a genderqueer trans woman, in transition. Hopefully the term ‘trans woman in transition’, redolent with private meanings though it might be, is reasonably self-explanatory. Genderqueer is a general catch-all that I’m using in a number of specific ways.
Whilst I have no intention or desire to see myself as something other than female, having gone through such a massive gender shift, and undertaking, through transition, a melding of past and present personas, I want to keep the process as open as possible. Genderqueer self description ensures that. Then there’s the thing of seeing myself as a participant in the queer world. That is, for me, a natural concomitant of a gender shift, the queer perspectives that become normal in a world where gender has changed to a universal significator. And I suppose its also a general statement about support for the validity of all sorts of forms of the general gender diaspora.

Relationships. I regard myself as presently poly, pansexual and asexual. I have no particular desire for a mono life, nothing that would categorically prevent relationships with any gender, and no sexual desire.
To clarify this last point, think that if male sexuality is a laser, female sexuality is a torch, then mine is more of an overall glow. I am conscious of missing something, but I do have some truly amazing hugs.

Sexuality. Additional to the above, I view myself as the possessor of a prolapsed vagina. Correction of this might have implications for sexuality, though mainly its desirable for other reasons, like not wanting to throw up when I’m aware of that aspect of my anatomy. If you’ve got this far without understanding that none of this is about sex, go back to the beginning and start again.

Sunday, September 13, 2009


Its been going for about 10 years now. It’s a cross between business, institution and meeting place. Its open 6 days and about 5 evenings a week, its basically where I live and work. There’s always a flow of students, teachers, artists, writers, musicians, academics, some tourists, some strange flotsam of the area. It’s a community hub and a last friendly house.
So I get to talk transition, gender, sisterhood, appearances, and the changing patterns of emotional and cognitive perceptions for up to a few hours a day with interesting, curious, and intelligent people who generally provide me with considerable support on so many levels.
One thing I’d very much like to do is to persuade a few of them to write something of their experiences here. It’s their transition as much as mine. It’s in the most seriously cool neighbourhood in Europe, and whilst I’d like to retain a degree of anonymity I’m happy to divulge information to potential visitors.
And I really, really, REALLY wish that this didn’t sound like some ridiculous fantasy. It isn’t.

Monday, August 24, 2009

periods and privileges

So the following are two standard conversation / situations I’ve lucked out on, in terms of finding suitable responses. These strategies are, however, fairly idiosyncratic and not to be universally recommended.
The first occurred in one of those tedious conversations with a cis agenda that runs along the lines that you can’t be a real/full woman because you don’t share such near universal female experiences like periods. After granting the point, I asked the last speaker about how she assessed different slip liners in terms of absorbency. Receiving a puzzled look, I explained that blood coagulation problems meant that I had haemorrhoidal bleeding every day and therefore always wore always. I don’t really know how this came across, but the ensuing silence was satisfying.
The second is more to do with male conversation privilege. Whilst I’ve usually got no problems in modifying my conversational role to normal female, it’s a little different if you’re running your own sort of salon. And I am something of a femme queen ( in terms of strength and style, definitely not looks ). So one evening when I was being particularly marginalized I made a point of loudly thanking one longstanding friend for his growing acceptance of me as a woman. At his nonplussed look, I explained that by talking past me and ignoring my efforts to join the conversation he’d helped me a bit more in understanding how a true woman should be. Things got easier after that.

Friday, August 14, 2009

15 books that had some sort of effect on me

with thanks to stephanie’s pillowbook.

‘The Thackery T. Lambshead pocket guide to eccentric and discredited diseases’( complete with illuminating illustrations )
Jeff VanderMeer’s delightful anthology details such illnesses as the malady of ghostly cities. More important, it’s a book that excites real envy in those permitted to glimpse its pages.The ultimate in loo books.

‘The Good Soldier’ by Ford Madox Ford is the saddest story ever told, and one of the great transatlantic novels.

‘Independent People’ by Halldor Laxness because sheep matter, and because here the nobel went to a deserving author.

‘Empire of the senseless’, by Kathy Acker. I am a member of the facebook group that wants to be Kathy Acker’s incestuous lovechild. Please do not make mock of a t-grrl’s innocent desires.

‘Dhalgren’ by Samuel R. Delany because it’s the best description of the real nature of the catastrophe.

‘Levana’ is de Quincey’s prose Xanadu.

‘Mirror to the sky’ by Mark Geston as an antidote to the shallow optimism of Dostoevsky.

‘Lud-in-the-mist’ by Hope Mirrlees is the finest fantasy ever to come out of the Bloomsbury group.

‘The Magic Mountain’ by Thomas Mann and the rush of the accelerating fall of the illusions of post 1848 Europe.

‘Queen of the states’ by Josephine Saxton for her intelligence, empathy, feminism and abundant merriment.

‘Engine Summer’ by John Crowley and a well of feeling before he got lost in the intricacies of Little Big.

’60 stories’ by Donald Barthelme, if only for ‘the great hug’. America’s premier fabulist.

‘Oliver Twist’ by Charles Dickens. Before reading this as a child I was lucky enough to have read most of Jane Austen, some Thackeray, Kipling, Trollope et al, so I was not permanently put off the 19th century novel by this vomit inducing mix of offensive caricature and sentimental verbiage. Both as child and teacher, I have found nothing to match it for the destruction of the desire to read.

‘Alice through the looking glass’ by Lewis Carroll in memory of mirrors unsuccessfully attempted.

‘The devils of Loudun’ by Aldous Huxley for an enlightening historical work, whether thesis or novel.

I calculated recently that, since birth, I’ve averaged about 1.75 books and 2.5 newpapers, or magazines, every day. I have a library with over 20,000 books and far too much time on my hands. Maybe next time 15 non-fiction.

Friday, July 31, 2009


So its Friday again.
My week revolves quite a bit around Fridays.
However this is the fourth Friday in sequence, so its an easy standard one.
Grilled lamb patties. ( 3k of mixed lamb and beef mince, 500g of fresh apricots, ground almonds,4 eggs, 6 slices of bread soaked in red wine, a leek and a handful of mint chopped, combined, seasoned and wrapped around pieces of camembert and grilled).
Roast chicken legs (10k dusted with coriander and mixed spices with an orange sauce)
Harlequin omelette ( 18 egg layered omelette with a variety of vegetable and cheese admixtures )
Smoked fish or maybe pan fried trout
Sliced potatoes, boiled and roast with garlic butter ( 6k )
Hollowed tomatoes ( inners used in omelette ) stuffed with cheese and spinach
Stir fry peppers and sweet and sour pumpkin
Onions and mushrooms ( maybe 300g of chanterelles to 1k of champignons ) duxelles
Carrots finished in orange juice, 3k glazed
Salad ( not, thankfully my responsibility )
Seasonal vegetables
A small meat / cheese / breads cold table
5 euros per head, ( might go up to 6 soon ) and 1.50 per drink
At the moment I tend to predict about 30 to 40 people turning up
I cook the meal for around 9.15, go on the front desk for conversation and money, and get to bed about 5 on Saturday morning, the event breaking up approximately a half hour before on a cloud of over inebriated farewells
It’s a long day

Friday, July 24, 2009

me 101

Hi, I'm Sophia , and this is a blog about the things my world has, by and large, imposed on me, and the choices I have to make in consequence.

I maintain a certain anonymity simply because I’d like not to unduly upset family by being as open as I can about my health. I’ve already been written about – without consent – by, arguably, the world’s most widely read paper, so I’m not that difficult to find, should you wish to visit.

In terms of the themes that I’ll be blogging about, many concern events going back to 2006. In those far off times, I sought, as a reasonably eccentric, heterosexual male, for a serious relationship. There had been one woman whom I'd meet up with every few years, to encounter a wonderful promise, but always a prior commitment or obstacle in the way. But finally, after more than 20 years, we were both free, both still in love with each other and we could go for it. Life was pure romance, even unto the sickly sweet Hollywood variety.

This later altered into a different kind of Hollywood-type genre in early 2007 when, whilst checking marriage venues, I fell ill, went to hospital, was diagnosed with liver cirrhosis and essentially given about 3 years to live, though with some chance of a transplant, perhaps longer. I wanted to stop the relationship there. She wanted it to carry on, but in un-Hollywood style, it dwindled, and in early 2008 she didn't reply to my calls for a month, and then told me that she wouldn't be coming to my normal country of residence.

I accepted this change in the scenario -- to one of Hollywood post-modern irony -- and didn't tell her that I'd been trying to contact her so as to tell her of my new status as the blue eyed boy in the liver unit, my blood values going back from second to first stage Childs Pugh, essentially giving me the possibility of something like 5 years longer, before hitting the 50% mortality mark.

So there I was, still on a huge high a month or two later, as I woke up one morning with the strong feeling that something was missing. When I hit the streets, everything changed in the way I seemed to see and feel people around me. I was only too clearly NOT in Kansas. In the following weeks and months, I’d come to view it as essentially a process of acclimatising to being female, but at that time, after about a day I could work out that if I had to put a name on this thing that I'd lost, that name was gender.

And I started reading, and encountered lots of descriptions about how my condition might be disturbing my hormone levels, in conjunction with spirolactone, a common component of hormone treatment for feminisation that I take as a long term diuretic. This is, though, very unlikely to be a full explanation and it now seems (through bureaucratic health care problems) that there’s also a strong possibility of some additional factor -- DES, for example -- coming into play. (If anyone has any knowledge of the effects of these medical factors and their possible impact on my hoped-for course of orchiectomy and low-level transdermal estrogen, I would be overjoyed to hear from you, since I’ll be trying to coordinate separate specialists from two countries and it gets strange and wearisome). I have been presenting as a woman since December, my voice changing slowly, and electrolysis only just starting, but otherwise (social language and gestures) I think I am proceeding extremely well. Physically, I’m heading for a c-cup and my hair and skin are significantly altered. Perceptually, cognitively and emotionally, I’m now very differently constituted.

Given that I’m a qualified psychologist with some experience of inter-personal and drug-based therapy work, it’s these changes that I find particularly interesting, rather than those changes that spring more from an overwhelming sense of self-identification as female.

In terms of my approach to gender, as a man, I used to incorporate a significant number

of second-wave feminist attitudes into my life. That’s changed. Whilst I still wouldn’t see any predeterminacy of gender roles as anything but phallocentric crap, I now adopt a far more essentialist view of gender identity.

As an attempt to locate myself more in theory, I hope to start a group soon on gender in science fiction, something I have some experience of doing in previous years. If anyone is interested, it could have some internet dimension, perhaps a podcast. I’m thinking of focussing on the Tiptree Award anthologies, with excursions through Josephine Saxton, Octavia Butler and a host of others, hopefully attracting some people from the local women’s / gender / queer studies courses.

Because I have a relatively cool situation, in one of the most trans-friendly districts of one of the most trans-friendly cities in the world. It doesn’t mean that I can travel far alone, or by taxi, or not be laughed at in the street, or challenged by 16-year-old boys. Because my physical condition is such that a couple of hard blows to my stomach could quite easily kill me, it certainly justifies a bit of paranoia. But I rarely go out, since the world comes through my door. I am hopeful I can induce some of the usual suspects to post about aspects of our environment and the rest of their city lives. I am profoundly grateful to many people here for the love and support they’ve shown me in this difficult time.

The main subjects I’m going to try and write about, besides personal vagaries, are the processes of this transition, my own as well as those affected by me. The picture that occurs to me most frequently to illumine my transition is that of a 10 year old T-grrl in the changing body of a mid-fifties male, in declining health, with above-average cognitive abilities, but with a load of useless attitudes, habits and perceptions to be junked or recycled, all in the service of becoming the best woman I can be. And T-grrls grow up fast.

I’ve never before felt such fulfilment or been in such a place of healing, and surrounded by such wonderful sisters from whom I derive so much strength. I hope my future choices will all embrace the joy that I have experienced. I can’t promise that that it’ll make for interesting reading, but it gives me hope.