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Saturday, January 28, 2012

An embarrassing coming out and a call for writers

So finally a coming out post to the blogosphere.
Going back to my biographical stuff, about '94 after my closest friends suicide I became rather more geographically diffuse. A couple of years later I started the enterprise which has been my principal focus to the present. It didn't start particularly well : my long term partner went in to clinical depression, which really screwed up both of us. But, partly with the help of the business involvement, I got through the consequent breakup and slowly but surely managed to get myself back together for some years before the events described in this blog.
The place I'd set up has always been something of a strange partner in itself. From the initial few weeks, about 14 years ago now, it was clear that it was actually more of an institution than a business. It's never made much money, because I've never really pushed that until recently. It's a community thing, though the community is very international. It's a cultural thing, though when I hear the word generally I reach for my....It's an english language zone in a city where that's perhaps needed more than most. It's a meeting place for strangers, a travellers rest, a standard stop on the grand tour, and my own living room. And, less grandiloquently, it's a second hand shop of sorts,that does weekly meals, has different groups meeting in it and puts on music, readings etc etc
In itself, that's not so embarrassing. It's more that if you run something that's sometimes a sort of a salon, there really is only one place to do it if you're trans. A place where the LGBT population is about 1 in 5. The city where trans history centres itself. And to do it and suddenly turn trans, that's embarrassing.
There are a couple of links below. They're not entirely accurate,but close enough. There's also a short fiction competition being run by someone else, but that's linked to here, which any reasonably unpublished writers out there might be interested in.
We, meaning my expanded corporate self, are 'utterly strange and utterly charming', a place where 'you can relax, sit and share your life with Sophie'. For BBC / Lonely Planet we're the worlds sixth greatest bookshop and allegedly number 600 and something on the 1,000 places in the world you should visit. We're 'Another Country' in Kreuzberg, Berlin.
Here's my last interview and this is an NPR story that has absolutely no detail right but actually has a good perspective on the spirit of the place ( and we actually are the largest physical s/hand sf&f bookshop in europe, along with our general stock ).
And for relatively unpublished writers, here's the competition.
The website and blog are in process of change now that my family are all aware of my situation. If you're an avid viewer of 'before' photos there's plenty there. And if you'd like to see more of the place, this is a music video shot here a few weeks ago.
Hopefully people can see now that one of the most embarrassing things is that if I'd been a cross dresser, a gender performer, or a genderqueer artist, I'd have actually been rather more accepted and probably significantly better off than I am...

Saturday, January 7, 2012

An odd perspective

There are a couple of things I take more or less for granted that I suppose I should spell out.
Essentially I see myself as different from the majority of transsexuals in two ways.
The first, and most obvious, is how I came to hormonal transition 'accidently'. It is relatively rare, though fairly sharp late life development of major gender issues does seem a relatively known phenomena. Generally it gets put down to suppression of TS traits, which I suppose helps the psychiatric industry but which I have absolutely no faith in. Having recently discovered the world of captioning and forced feminisation I can understand how stories like mine might seem contrived. Generally I look at myself as someone successfully containing an abnormal amount of female traits within a male shell. I certainly didn't switch from typical male to female, but on the other hand I do believe that I came a very long distance in one night. After all it did take nearly a year of changed hormones before that mental tipping point was reached. Altogether, though, I relate to it as having an odd rather than really distinct history.
Where I do see myself as very different is in regard to my attitude towards my process.I suddenly found myself in a state profoundly different than any I'd known before, whatever the curiously familiar aspects were.
The drive to understand just what these profound changes were and how they've continued to change me, has been paramount throughout. In this way I do see myself as rather different. It is something that arises very much from the concertina-like nature of the transition from non questioningly seeing myself as male to being completely sure of myself as female.
A good example might be my last post on memory. I think most of us in TS transition experience changes in memory performance. But clearly if one is firmly in a process of finally becoming the woman that one was meant to be,a fair part of that can be ascribed in general terms to the withering away of association with the previous male life and the new more vivid reality of life fully lived as a woman.
Or take conversation. Have read a number of times of people finding relief at laying down the burden of macho competitiveness when talking to guys. For me I had huge problems in starting transition and talking with guys because I'd start off in the same way as I had done for many years purely out of habit, and because the guys around me were initially only slowly learning not to treat me like the guy they'd known for years. But very soon in going for those sorts of conversation, I felt almost physically sick. Essentially the testosterone reward of greater alertness that had been a concomitant of those competitive based conversations for years had just gone. And the way I look at that isn't much in terms mainly of my personal journey but more in how certain underlying principles of differentiation that permeate the male day to day self are extremely dependent on neuro-hormonal variables.

Very early on I was talking to an old friend I'd known for about 30 years about my process. One thing I said seemed to resonate with him and has been something of a mantra for myself. It went 'Yay, I'm an experimental subject again'. Am happy to agree that the notion of 'real self' makes great sense in terms of individuals' separate journeys of self understanding. But understanding the ground of gender doesn't come from analysing the train wreck of the previous assigned sex and the vision of another one. It may come, and if one accepts that we're talking about neurology rather than psychiatry I'd say it must come, from the ways in which we journey and can chart our individual routes from the wreck to the new model. However much we know ourselves to be citizens of, say, the country of women we still need to journey to it, through changes that leave no part of us untouched. It's the most profoundly moving experience of our lives. We may never be the most knowledgable of citizens but in that one special journey whereby we view that land from it's borders we have our unique, and uniquely valuable perspective.
That we all do in our various ways but I really do feel that in my circumstances I should try and give as evidential a narrative to my transition as possible. Even though my general health seems surprisingly to have reached a point when it's just possible that GRS could happen, sudden catastrophe like liver cancer is always possible. And though it's altered now there was that other difference between me and others; that I wasn't transitioning to start a new life as much as hoping to be transitioned before I died.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Another year, another remembrance.

A sort of interim post, some thoughts, probably mainly for post-HRT trans women, springing from some talks with women about memory changes.
There's a fair amount of material on ways in which male and female memory vary from each other. Several of these variables would seem likely to be affected by hormone change, (sensory cues,stress etc).This isn't simply psychological. Men and women use different areas of the brain when scanned during memory tasks.
Additionally it seems that changes in the hormone system also affect memory. Post menopausal women, for example, go through a diminution in memory abilities.
For myself I am aware of a few changes. An increase in TOTP,(tip of the tongue phenomena), occasional lapses in long term memory retrieval and memories from the last couple of years being rather more vivid than I'd expect. More changes in life experience memory than learned data. Not really major changes and if it hadn't come up in conversation with a trans woman and then a neurologist friend in the last couple of days I wouldn't have thought much about it.
But considering it in the light of my own model I got to speculating whether the changes might be an internal equivalent of an external capability. That's the reasonably well established idea that men and women seem to locate themselves in different ways. Ask directions from a guy and you're likely to be told them in mildly abstract terms, say, 'take the second on the left then head north on the b12 until...' compared with'go left at the church and then down the hill toward the river'. Basically men go more by abstract directions, women by concrete landmarks. Obviously there's variation but this is a fairly clear distinction. And it's one I'm aware of as an alteration in myself.
So the speculation runs that some life memory may operate according to the same paradigm.That whilst for a guy some memories are obviously more important than others, his memories are organised fairly independently and retrieval coming through initial search terms. Women, on the other hand, might tend to have memories more accessible through sensory cues and their placement within the personal life process. I'm not wholly sure, but when I think of times around men and women when memories are jogged by others, I seem to recall women giving context by relativity to other events and men more by some extra quality of the to-be-remembered event.
And then, to take that speculation to a possibly fanciful extreme, one might say that articulating our transitioning narratives is perhaps one way we go about a reinterpretation of the past into a restructured form of memory theatre. That in composing and telling the stories of our past we're rendering it more accessible to our changed selves. Additionally, perhaps, we may concentrate on a festive occasions more, because such events may also be more meaningful as structural elements of life memory, landmarks for our future selves to navigate by.
It was a full christmas for me this year, some good meetings, renewals of friendships and maybe some new ones made. I'll remember it well.
Many hopes that you've had the same.