Wednesday, October 15, 2014

It's been almost Ten Years

This is me now. Ten years ago I could not foresee this image or what would lead to it. Let me deconstruct it for you:

I'm posing in a romantic location I'd been visiting since I was seven. The photo is being taken by my boyfriend who loves me very much. This was our first proper holiday together. I'm wearing hotpants and a cami with confidence. I've got my legs on show. My hair looks lovely. I'm wearing next to no makeup. I feel pretty. More important I feel confident and happy....How on earth did I get there?.....

.......with great difficulty!

As an educator I'm always trying to teach students the importance of planning before you act. For years I've been endeavouring to show why it is best to think clearly and research before completing that assignment. 'How are you going to approach the task?'. 'How will you make your meaning clear, back up what you say and justify your position?....' It is ironic that while I was dishing up this advice (over many years) I failed to communicate to others who I was. I felt unable to plan the moment when I would reveal who I actually was or felt I was inside.

Almost ten years ago, on my birthday, I came out to my best friend. It was a momentous decision, one that completely changed my life. It was a decision that had been so long coming. When you have hurt inside for so many years you get used to the pain, it's your constant companion: You learn to endure and suffer in silence because you think that is all you deserve. How do you research and plan to emerge from all that? From the dawn of the World Wide Web I read blogs, consulted Trans awareness sites and the few support networks. While I waited, in fear for the moment when someone would discover I was Trans I read wistfully about the journeys of others, their path to Transition and beyond. Like Sam watching Frodo and the Elves sail away to the West, it seemed like transition would never happen for me. I would always be left behind.

Coming out to my friend was the first step. It happened in a rush with NO preparation save for years of fear and indecision. Maybe coming out is so personal that it can never be properly planned for. In the final event, not all the planning in the world could help. It was just something that had to be said and like an explosion, or a plate glass window smashing, there was a moment of absolute quiet afterwards. It was one filled with all manner of thoughts, fear of rejection, condemnation and losing it all. I needn't have worried: She was in fact incredibly accepting. It turned out that she had suspected as much for years. It was one of the greatest moments of relief in my whole life.

My friend had the privilege(?) of listening to a history of all that had gone before; the sorrows and hurts from years of being bullied, upset, depressed and forced to keep silent. I had the privelege of a bottle of wine, chocolate and (fortunately) a box of tissues. Telling the story of how you hid and ran away from your problems means you end up reliving them in your head. You end up a tear stained and sorry mess but at least you have told someone.

Since that day I've had to come out over and over again. Many of those times were a good deal more difficult. Some ended with a total parting of the ways. There is no ONE definitive coming out. Even so, for me, each disclosure to a new person got easier and I never found any as traumatic as the first. You find ways of answering the inevitable questions and in telling your story more coherently. By the time seven years had elapsed I was out proud and happy to talk to anyone about who I am.

I'm a songwriter and it seemed fitting then at that point, to put it all down and condense. Here are the lyrics from my iPad:

Okay, 'Daring to be a completely new person?' I'm not sure. Let's face it. I am who I've always been; a girl. However the person people thought I was is no longer me. Indeed it never was. I simply tried to fulfil other's expectations. Maybe coming out is so hard because it involves shattering illusions. Illusions are just that; constructs that have no real substance. Life is too short to live hidden behind one.

This has been a really personal account of my coming out. It was prompted by the occasion of International Coming Out Day. I'm aware that others experiences might be very different to mine. I'd love to hear them.

Hugs,

Jane xx

Note: A demo recording of the song above is here on my Reverbnation page: http://www.reverbnation.com/robynjane/song/11079212-journey

also on Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/retrobassgirl/journey

 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

To those of you about to SPARKLE.....


'She had everything; the looks, the clothes, the job, the apartment, the wonderful daughter and now the tall handsome boyfriend......but Jane Ward still wasn't satisfied.....'

Oops, yes, you've seen right, Jane is breaking her promise she wouldn't post to THIS blog again and saying 'hello'. I'm writing this to send greetings to all you girls and guys heading for Sparkle in Manchester this weekend. I've met so many of you over the years and have some truly happy and amazing memories of times spent with you. It seems strange therefore that I felt ambivalent about heading off to Sparkle again this year. Maybe it's because over one year post op, a happy woman with everything I ever wanted (well maybe just a few more shoes then) that I wasn't sure it was even for me any more. There is a huge amount of truth in the quote at the top of this post.

Over the years I've talked to so many Trans women and a few Trans guys. Of those fellow travellers; most have now fully transitioned; some have gone stealth and dropped off the radar. I never really wanted to do that myself yet it has begun to happen. Over the past 12 months I have been so overwhelmingly accepted by those around me; clocked as just another female friend, date, mother or co-worker. Acceptance has been so complete that I've started to feel I've always been this way. When I occasionally talk about the past and let slip the words 'when I was a little girl...' I know that they're essentially true. I grew up that way in spite of a few embarrassing bits that didn't belong to me...I feel whole now and it doesn't seem as though it was ever any other way.

I've also met many lovely and wonderful cross dressers, especially through the Unique network. As a Trans woman though I never really understood them. I grew up from a very young age feeling always a girl. The clothes I wear are just clothes, I'm a woman simply because I am one. I deliberately cross socialised myself as a teen, refusing to interact or integrate with guys on their level (I secretly fancied many of them anyway). The idea of someone 'dressing' and behaving as a woman for only part of the time was totally beyond my comprehension. I guess it still is in spite of the great respect I have for anyone that is CD and the wonderful times I've had with them.

Here however is the real reason my my returning to Sparkle.


Those of you who know me well will be aware that when I fell in love it was with a guy who I'd first met when he dressed as a woman. I'll be attending as just another supportive girlfriend and Trans Ally this year. A proud SOFFA (significant others, friends, family and allies). Come up and say 'Hello'. I'll be with my best friend Tina (pictured with me above). Tina is the alter ego of my gorgeous handsome boyfriend Mart. She is a Sparkle Virgin (oops, I shouldn't have said that!) so be really kind to her.

Here's raising a bottle of WKD (Vodka Red please) to that wonderful, colourful, crazy and fabulous weekend that is Sparkle. Let the fun begin :)

Hugs, Jane xx

 

 

Friday, June 13, 2014

Fancy a Romp?

I said that after 'Moving On' I wouldn't post to the blog any more. I have moved on and now blog at 'Jane's Essential Addictions' In case you haven't checked it out yet, here's the second post: Enjoy :)

OMG it's warm again, the Summer is finally here and you might get to leave those tights off for once! A girl gets kinda restless this time of year and longs for something different. I’ve been spending the Winter rocking black tights, shorts & block heeled ankle boots. It’s a look I love but the rising mercury makes me want to leave that behind and reach for something sassy and cool.

Enter the Romper (or Playsuit as we prefer to call it over here in the UK). Dare you wear one? Not sure? For some of us, the last time we wore Rompers was when we were little girls. They had handy poppers underneath for when Mummy needed to change you LOL.

For those of you old enough to remember you might also clock that like most things fashion wise they’re a vintage idea recycled. Do you remember these?

Kinda cute and carefree or at least that’s what the fashion plate wanted you to think. I have to confess, my last foray into playsuits was in a period of my life obsessed with vintage clothing. I bought a retro inspired one from VOH. Somewhat like the one below. (Vivien of Holloway online http://www.vivienofholloway.com/women-c70/trousers-c14/playsuits-c44 or from their store in Holloway (£59.00))



These days however when you think of playsuits, something more like Rita Ora’s gorgeous red snakeskin number springs to mind. Doesn’t she just totally rock on the cover of ‘I will never let you down'?
 

But what about the rest of us? Take a look out there and Playsuits are everywhere. From pretty florals to bright summer neon prints and denim, Playsuits are everywhere, with a variety of necklines and fits from boho to chic. As for me I fell for this totes adorbs AX Paris one in the label lounge section of Liverpool ONE's New Look store.

Okay I know that there's a price to pay and I don't mean the tag lol. Going to the loo means getting undressed...err....totally: Once my boyfriend closes the back zipper on this one and fastens the hook and eye at the top I'm utterly captive and can't even go to the loo without his help! If you're going to a Festival and have to face portaloos or worse you might want to choose a front zipper or something else. Even so I still love the playsuit.

So what is so special? I totally adore them when summer comes because you can get away with a hemline way shorter than any dress or skirt in your closet. You can bend over or sit down without showing all you've got and there's nothing that says summer street style more than a playsuit.

If you want to buy it AX Paris number also comes in a gorgeous neon pink print as well....should I have bought two?

http://www.axparis.com/categories/Jumpsuits-and-Playsuits/

Currently a steal at £25 online or 10% off with an introductory first offer discount, what are you waiting for?

Jane xx

Friday, April 11, 2014

Moving On



When I was a child I routinely had to walk up the slatted staircase of the church where my family worshipped.  It was a modern design and you could see the floor beneath as you climbed ever higher.  I used to shake with fear.  I hated it.  On a bad day my father would have to carry me.  Yes, I’m scared of heights, I hate looking down and seeing what’s below me.  For someone who’s felt female for the whole of her life but has the wrong body parts, looking down is something you hate doing. That’s been my experience since I was three years old: Before that I can’t remember. When you look down you see that you’re different to every other female you know.  Why was I different to my Mommy? Why was I different to my friend Julie across the road? Why was different to every other girl in the street? It made me feel like a freak.

I came to realise 10 years ago as I came out that I also hate looking back.  Looking back reminded me of having to act a part that was never me, of having to battle through life as a woman with facial hair and the wrong genitalia; filled like poison with the wrong hormones and desperately unhappy.  Looking back was just as painful as looking down and I had an extreme aversion to doing it.  My therapist sought to change all that. He guided me through the process of confronting my past and facing it.  He also encouraged me to write this blog; almost one hundred posts filled with a chronicle of my experiences: Experiences and feelings that I had locked away and needed to face before moving on. Writing the Blog and looking back gave me perspective.

How would you define perspective? A mental attitude or viewpoint? one allowing you to see things in their true proportions and accurately?  That’s how it has been for me anyway and the sense of perspective I shied away from so long has finally lead to a resolution:  12 months on from surgery I’m feeling very different. So much has changed and I’m now in a very different place.  A year ago, everything was quite literally raw and sore; an open wound that had been painful throughout my whole life. If I take the long view and look back I see the same thing over and over, dwindling down until it becomes a distant pinpoint: I see nothing but a girl who was forced to act a part. So where does that leave me?

It leaves me where I am now with a (belated) realisation that I’ve never been anything else; a girl with a difficult beginning in life; an unhappy young woman who did her best to fit in at college and failed; a woman who found solace and fulfilment in motherhood but never fell in love; a woman who found herself in the end and came to realise her dreams; all of these, always female.  If I you want to consider me a T-Girl I’m a natal one.  An NTG if you will.  However, I hate categories and sub-categories.  I’ll just go with what’s on my birth certificate and that’s ‘Girl’. 12 months after GRS I know longer feel Trans.  Gender Dysphoria has long since gone to be replaced by Euphoria.  I’m happy with my female gender as it is. My history may be a little different to most girls but I grew up one and I am one all the same, period.

So that’s it.  This is the point where this particular blog comes to an end and this is the final posting.  I will keep the “Retrobassgirl” Blog up online.  Please feel free to continue to comment and I will respond. In the meantime I’m starting a new one: “Jane’s Essential Addictions” I want to write about where I am now as a woman, as a girlfriend and about the things a girl can’t do without; everything from sex and love to food and fashion.

So here goes :)

Hugs,

Jane xx

Friday, April 4, 2014

Celebrating TRANS*Parentcy

When I was a student I remember buying a glass tea set.  It was useful because it was so cheap but I was also captivated by the way it presented things.  Making and consuming hot drinks became a delight. Fruit infusions could be appreciated for their delicate rose colours.; fresh mint tea showed off it’s beautiful leaves; freshly black coffee looked rich and an opaque deep brown.  Transparent crockery lets you see what you are drinking. Whilst I had the set I stopped taking milk in tea so that I could marvel at the diversity of colour it gave, from Pale Jasmine Blossom to dark Assam. Diversity, difference and authenticity all came with transparency. In a way it’s a metaphor for being who you truly are; for being clear and open about your self. So what about parenting? Does transparency have any relevance apart from he title of my blog? I happen to think it does.  Transparency in a person is about being honest and true, about NOT hiding who you really are.

Trans* parents have long since had a rough ride when it comes to child rearing. Heavily criticised in the past for breaking up families, harming their children and damaging relationships; Trans* parents have got a bad press.  I have lost count of the number of comments containing expletives which condemned my decision to come out ten years ago.  Those comments have focussed on blaming me for imagined damage caused to my family.  One relative used the occasion of my father’s funeral to tell me that he could never forgive me for the harm I had ‘done’ to my ex and children. Psychologists too were quick to blame my Trans status for my offspring’s difficulties; ones later ascribed by their colleagues to external causes. More recently, an individual who scarcely knows me referred to myself and my partner as ‘fucked up parents’. Because of such attitudes, many Trans* men and women lose their spouses and also their children: They witness the disintegration of close and much loved relationships. On coming out, Trans* individuals may also lose close friends and members of their extended family.  In written correspondence with one Trans woman I was told: “I quite literally gave up absolutely everything: I have nowhere to live, no wife, no kids, no mates….”. 

Are scenarios like the one above extreme and uncommon? I really don’t know.  I’d like to think not.  I know relatively few other Trans* Parents and seem myself to have had something of an easy ride.  I realise that I’m fortunate. I’m a highly educated white professional woman who has seldom been out of work.  I have a close and friendly relationship with my ex partner and we enjoyed an easy, mutually agreed and relatively seamless annulment of our 27 year marriage.  We have continued to enjoy each other’s company, taken joint holidays and carried on a sisterly relationship. We have supported our family co-operatively, with love and understanding: We just don’t live in the same place any more.  This isn’t to say that there have not been difficult times; there are in every marriage.  As joint parents of our two girls we have had to cope with the distress and joys of supporting one child with disabilities and another who felt alienated at school.  We put one of our children through independent school and the other has just graduated College.  We are proud of what they have achieved in the face of their own set of challenges as adults. One is now a dance teacher and one works in retail.  We love them both dearly.

Adaptation has been the key to coping with challenges and change.  As a family we have had to adapt to living apart: My eldest lives in the South, my ex in an adjacent county.  We have had to adapt to a family in which both parents are women with their own distinct personalties; where we have new and distinct sets of friends and where one of us has a new partner. We have adjusted by making sure that there is always a welcome in both our homes and that our two daughters have the chance to stay in touch. True, along the way there have been casualties.  Intolerance within my ex partner’s extended family has meant some strained relationships and being exposed to bigotry (my blog has been witness to that). Though warm hearted and close tin the initial years of my transition, my eldest daughter is now more distant. 

Since I found a new partner there have been other changes too.  We now have a man in a household which was once all female.  The dynamics of our family have shifted. It has meant sharing love and ensuring that there is enough to go round. I have coped with seeing my daughter very much in love and in a relationship.  She in turn has adapted to seeing me give my love to a wonderful guy, Martin, who returns that precious gift a thousand times over. Our apartment is now tidier and more ordered with three people in it; broken things have been fixed. There is now a Dad as well as a Mum in my daughter’s life.  My partner is also Trans*.  Sometimes he presents as female.  My daughter relates well to that and sometimes I wonder why. Why is she so accepting of diversity and so welcoming? It can’t have been easy for see a new man in my life. More recently my youngest came out as Lesbian and she too has encountered new challenges.  It isn’t my place to chronicle them here.  She has her own blog and I have seen her use it continually to grow and make sense of her world.  What has struck me throughout is the extent to which she has drawn on new skills and strengths to move forward.  It made me think. ‘How has having Trans* parents helped my daughters?’. ‘What strengths can a family with Trans* parents give to their children?’ It has prompted me to examine what both I and my new partner have given to our family besides a good home and love.

First and foremost I believe that we have presented a true, positive role model. As Trans* Parents we have had to struggle with our own definition of who we are and how society chooses to define us.  We have explored, embraced and finally come to celebrate and be proud of OUR diversity. So many parents live a lie, failing to be authentic and true to themselves. They hide from problems and issues. They struggle to keep up appearances by appearing ‘normal’ and ‘fitting in’.  When children of families such as these encounter diversity they may see it as deviance from the ‘norm’ (whatever that is) and respond to it with hatred and intolerance.  As an educator, it is a trend I see repeated so often in the classroom. I see none of that in my own family. I have been proud to see how well my daughter has coped with embracing and rejoicing in her own sexual orientation. I believe that in learning how to cope with our own gender identities we have also helped her define her sexual orientation.

I believe that as Trans* parents we have also successfully promoted self advocacy; the ability to speak out, stand up for your rights and validate your value within the community.  Self advocating individuals are generally strong people; capable of coping intelligently with challenges and setbacks. People who are an inspiration to others. I have seen my daughter empowered to cope with homophobia as well as being willing and ready to advocate the rights of her friends.

As a Trans* parent I have become a better listener and a more understanding person.  Having had to encounter bigotry and counter it, I am more open to listening to the opinions and viewpoints of others.  I have become acutely aware of my own stereotypes and prejudices, particularly towards those outside the LGBT community.  It has made me work harder to see others more clearly, to appreciate their diversity and to encourage my daughters to do the same.

Finally, for those who claim that having a Trans* parent makes a child more vulnerable and open to hatred, I have this to say: Hate is everywhere, if you don’t fit in or are in anyway different you will encounter it.  Having a Trans* parent is no different in that respect to having a Hispanic one, or one who is Disabled.  Seeing their parents struggle against prejudice and overcome it has made my children stronger, not weaker. It has equipped them well, not only to combat hatred but to strive to change it.  I see them prepared not only to cope better with Society as it is but to be the forerunners of bringing forward the diverse and caring Society that should be.

Trans* parents ARE transparent.  They are authentic individuals, ones who know themselves well through their struggle to be who they truly are.  Rather than frowning on Trans* and Gay parenthood we should celebrate it for the force it gives to moulding a better and more equal world.


Hugs,

Jane xx

Monday, March 31, 2014

Trans Visibility: Choice or Necessity?



Cloaks of Invisibility aside, being invisible isn’t an option most of us have. We are out there whether we like it or not, for everyone else to see.  Some times we’d rather sink into a hole in the ground.  We do something wrong or idiotic and it feels like everyone is laughing or staring at us.

Being transgender can feel very much like that.  You can feel both ‘wrong’ and ‘idiotic’; sometimes it seems as though the whole world is focussed on you and on how you present yourself to the world. That is the most uncomfortable feeling ever; one I always hated.  Consequently many of us work hard at being a the gender we feel we truly are.  For me the option of invisibility was to pass unobtrusively as a girl and not attract any attention.

But today is International Transgender Day of Visibility.  Just exactly how visible are Trans men and women in society and why bother to be visible at all? Surely the ambition of every Trans individual is to try and blend in and be as unnoticeable as possible? When I was a child and a teen I so wanted to be just like every other girl in class, be accepted as one and to melt totally into the background; trans camouflage; hiding in plain sight. I didn’t want to be glamorous, incredibly beautiful, pretty or attract undue attention.  Sticking out as a child and teen who didn’t fit in was difficult to tolerate.  It was hard to deal with the bullying and the misunderstandings.  For a young person growing up in an era when being gay was criminalised, being out as trans seemed like a really bad idea. It smacked very much of putting your head above the parapet and I hated seeing how others were treated. It engendered fear and hiding.  Something I expect that the bullies were very pleased about.

Let’s fast forward the years.  My children have both graduated High School now and these days I think differently. Faced with the option of going stealth or being out after GRS, I decided that ‘OUT’ was better.  Yes, I was right, it does make you incredibly vulnerable.  It hurts and robs you of self confidence when transphobic people are unkind.  It’s not an easy choice.  I chose to be visible because I want to inspire and support others.  But being transitioned AND out means that you can be an inspiration and support others.  It means being YOU and not being afraid to be an actual person like anyone else.  For a girl who was a total fake for so many years that is actually a huge relief too.

So here is me being visible for TDOV.  Have a great day everyone!

Hugs,


Jane xx 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

My First (Re-) Birthday

image courtesy of: http://www.mysupermarket.co.uk 


In some popular teen movies like ‘Thirteen Going on Thirty’, ’Sixteen Wishes’, ‘Christmas Every Day’ and ‘The Last Day of Summer’, characters who make a mess of their lives get the chance to wind it all back; to start over.  It doesn’t happen in real life but it’s an attractive concept: You mess up first time and then ‘hey presto’ you are magically transported back to before it all went wrong. You get the chance for one more go; another bite at the cherry. As a teen I often dreamed of that possibility. By the time I became old enough to think it through I had a feeling that it would require some ultra high frequency magic: Things pretty much seemed to have gone wrong from the day I was born.  

Bizarrely, on April 10 this year I’ll be ‘one year old’:  I’m in the strange position of having that ‘Do Over’ wish come true. Last year on April 9 I travelled down to Charing Cross Hospital, London and the following morning had Gender Reassignment Surgery. Now, twelve months later, after innumerable packs of sanitary towels, my first period, my first orgasm, gynae exams, losing my cherry, cystitis, thrush, falling in love with a guy, having my boobs hurt (though not in that order), I have to come to the conclusion that I’m a woman. I have a vagina and a clitoris, I get very emotional and cry for no reason.  I’m contrary, impulsive and love shopping for clothes. I love girly chats and strangely, I’m beginning to forget or maybe blank out much of my past history. More important than any of this I’m one of those people who is happy the way she is, comfortable with her gender identity and…….

.....oh my God I’ve just realised…..I don’t feel transgender any more…..

The reality is that having lived breathed and worked as a female for almost ten years it has proved all too easy to forget that I was ever anything else. For a quarter of my adult life I’ve been acknowledged as a woman and the mother of my daughter.  Time they say is a great healer and the pain of the past now seems a long way off. So where does this leave me?  I no longer feel transgendered, I don’t feel like I have Gender Dysphoria.  I’m straight.  I feel attracted to men (the opposite sex since I’m female). I feel like I was always meant to be this way. Things have changed for me big time!

In my last post I talked about my boyfriend. I discussed his cross dressing and how I feel about it.  I promised to revisit it further and explore how I feel.  I realise now that when I meet his cross dressing  friends I always wonder about their girlfriends, fiancées or wives.  These days I’m eager to chat with them about how they cope with gender fluidity and with relating to a much loved man who is also a woman.

Let’s be really clear.  I have the time of my life with Tina; my boyfriend’s female alter ego.  She’s a girl who dresses fashionably.  She has a contemporary sense of style and she really knows how to dance.  She is a great mate to go out clubbing with.  She dances burlesque with sassy style and she has better legs than me.  She is in short a great bestie and girl friend (two words). Isn’t it strange how ONE space on the printed page can separate TWO entities?  Tina is not my girlfriend, I’m not lesbian and I don’t want to have her kiss me on the mouth or be intimate with me.  It isn’t an aversion. I just simply don’t want to do anything with her that I wouldn’t do with my other girl mates. This still doesn’t make ANY sense to me: Logic would dictate that Tina and my boyfriend are one and the same person.

But now to the controversial stuff. Latterly I’ve come to wonder whether my boyfriend and girl friend can ever be truly considered ‘the same person’.  That concept assumes ‘cross dressing’; something I realise that I barely understand. I have a Transsexual past, I’ve never really ‘cross dressed’.  Cross dressing to me seems like guys who dress in women’s clothes. That fits in with the impression given to me by many in the cross dressing community. They are people who talk from a guy’s viewpoint and behave like one while dressed as a woman. They can be such fun to be with:  I enjoy their company but I still feel as though I’m chatting to a guy. Occasionally I feel uncomfortable because of their intrusive questions but I remind myself that this is just curiosity. I don’t see any of those things with my girl friend Tina.  She describes herself using the term ‘Femulator’.  It could equally be applied to some others.  With her, I feel I’m talking to another girl. When she dresses from her girl closet she becomes a woman.  Her manner, her topics of conversation, the way she acts, all change drastically from when she’s in ‘guy mode’.  Being very much at the girly end of the female spectrum I find myself bemused.  How can anyone have such a dual mode of being and be comfortable in it? Answers on a postcard please…..

Meanwhile, let me get to that cake....but just a tiny slice please...no that's too big!

Hugs,

Jane xx