Saturday, October 27, 2012

Longed for events and the number 13

I was married aged 21 but at age 13 life seemed like a long corridor going on forever. When I finally began to enjoy school in my final year, suddenly graduation day seemed to loom up out of nowhere. Some events surprise you with their suddenness, others never seem likely to happen and then creep up on you unawares. Now, after seven years waiting for a milestone event to appear it has finally come around at last, indeed I could hardly believe it when I returned home and found the long awaited envelope lying on my door mat.

Longed for events can become a huge part of our lives, not only the event itself but also the process of , yearning and expectation that goes with it. When I was in my late teens it was trying to find that big love of my life, in my late twenties and early thirties it was longing for a baby. At those times I seemed to be either surrounded by those who had already paired up or who were expecting babies. At this point I could be rather cynical and say that these days the same couples seem hard set on divorce or hoping that their twenty something year old offspring will move out and get a job. For a number of my friends the longed for event is a achieving transition. One by one, they seem to have undergone GRS and moved on.

The letter on my doormat was from Charing Cross Hospital, London. I now have a pre-op assessment on the 5th of March next year and my admission date is set for the 9th of April 2013. Whilst it was not unexpected, I hadn't imagined I would have a date anytime soon. Things here in Wales generally happen in years, not in months and I only saw the consultant at Charing Cross in September this year. Now I've accepted both dates and am trying to plan out a careful path through this next phase of my life. As I work in a College it will mean disappearing from professional life from Easter next year until the start of a new College year, Wow!

Until now, my focus has been on earning a living, being a Mom and trying to deal with bits of anatomy no woman should ever have to live with, unless on her favorite guy! Now the horizon has changed. I have a fixed point in sight and it's an unusual feeling. I have a mixture of absolute elation at having gotten a surgery date, trepidation at forthcoming surgery and concern about how the rest of my lovely family will cope.

For a girl who enjoyed her thrirteenth birthday on Friday the 13th I guess big changes in my life seem to cluster around the number thirteen. Problems at school and difficulty coping, kicked off big style around my thirteenth year as testosterone began to have it's devastating and unwanted effects. Double it and I decided to make a big change of direction aged 26; I uprooted my life in North East England and made the trek back to College to do a four year post grad degree. Triple it to 39 and I'd quit my Project Officer job to become a College teacher, quadruple it to 52 and I finally met a Psychotherapist who would take my case seriously and actually help me. You could call it all superstition, I hope it isn't. My life just seems to have turned out this way. Just to be sure though I'm including 13 studio tracks on the CD music album I hope to finally complete next year! Well maybe...

I can't predict the future, I can only guess. I'm looking forward to a period of resolution of the tensions inside me and finally felling like a whole coherent person. It's been a rough and sometimes deeply lonely journey so far and mentally painful. I need a break from all that. Yes, I know that undergoing surgery and recovery will be painful too and not without their own problems. I've known that all along and yet I am so glad to have reached this place. As Fall 2012 comes around and the year plays it's outtro I'm wondering exactly how all these changes will leave me feeling come this time next year.

Well, I'm going to find out :)



Saturday, October 6, 2012

Stereotypes, Stealth and Plasticine

Stereotypes are incredibly confining. There is a tendency to define a group by ascribing them characteristics they don't all necessarily have and to see everyone and everything in terms of how different they are to others. Categorizing in terms of separation and difference leads to exclusion and reasons to hate or dislike. These things are as prevalent in the LGBT community as anywhere else. It should be a colorful rainbow of diversity but sometimes some of the colors seem to shine more prominently than others. In reality there is a beautiful continuum of difference and attitude running through all of us: There doesn't have to be an artificial boundary where LGBT ends and STRAIGHT begins.

In Kindergarten and Elementary schools over here they have a kind of modeling clay called Plasticine. It's oil based. I only have to smell it and I'm back in my days as a teacher. It comes in many pretty rainbow colors. At the start of the year the colors are all separate and the kids make strikingly colored little figures who stand out as glaringly different; a bright orange dog, a blue girl, a pink man. As the year progresses the colors blend, no longer separate but still identifiable; the pink man has a trace of blue and yellow. By the years end, the clay is one homogenous green-grey color....Thinking about it now, I know that I'd hate to to be one of those homogenized individuals but I'd also hate to stand out painfully & sharply from from all the the bright pink guy.

I'm Trans. I've spent much of my life in denial and trying to blend in. Now I'm getting to that point where I can see the possibility of completing my transition and moving on. Being lucky enough to pass most of the time, it crosses my mind that it would be nice for once to just melt into the background and get on with my life as a woman. Yet I know that in a way I AM the bright blue girl, sticking out like anything. If I'm out in the Gay Village in the heart of the City I'm happy to be exactly that color; part of one bright rippling rainbow. In institutions like a School or College where everyone pretends so hard to be dull grey-green, there's a problem. Sticking out, you're a role model AND a target. Dare not to blend absolutely perfectly and you're STILL a target.

The students I help in College all have disabilities or differences of some kind. In spite of our best efforts they sometimes become targets too. It is wholly undeserved. Sometimes the differences are obvious and there's nowhere to hide, sometimes they are hidden and it is possible to pass as 'normal' (whatever that is). For those who can hide, they find safety as long as they can keep their secret. Tough for those who can't. You can end up feeling a little guilty about being able to hide when others are being picked on.

Homogeneity is safety and comfort but it can become a sort of a prison. We want to define ourselves as individuals yet still have a place to belong. Is it possible to be out and Trans and have both? Does going Stealth mean you lose some of your individuality? I'm not sure I know. I once thought then when I completed my transition I'd melt away into the background and be just another woman, plain Jane, now I'm not so sure.


Jane x

Thursday, September 13, 2012

On my daughter's 18th

I mailed this to a very dear friend last night. I thought I also should share it here with you.

Being a Trans Mom, I always wonder if I'm adequate, if I really have been the supportive Mom that I so needed when I was a child and so wanted to give my daughter. That's so hard to answer. Maybe I will only know as the years pass....

As I write this at 11.42 pm my daughter Beth is almost 18. Just 18 minutes to go and she'll be 18 and an adult. Beth is still very much my daughter and still a child at heart. Of my two daughter's she's the one who has kept the closest and never really wanted to grow up. I have seen so much change in her in the past 6 months. I've seen her struggling with illness and feelings, relationships and the loss of her grandfather. I'm so hoping that the coming year will mean something a little more stable and reassuring for her.

I remember when I was young knowing for sure that Mom and Dad would always keep me safe, that they wouldn't let anything happen to me and that they would protect me whatever. As I grew into what passed for adulthood I began to realise that they were as powerless to hold back the evils and the horrors of the world as I was. For a transgendered kid growing up it was a hard awakening, a right of passage into a very daunting and difficult place. It occurs to me now that it's much the same whoever you are, gender identity issues or no.

As an adult and a Mom I've possibly got more reach, influence and power than either of my parents had. I've used it as far as I could to give my daughter shelter and nurture and time to grow. Part of the pain of letting go for a Mom is realising that your baby has got to adulthood and yet she still has a lot more growing to do. My ability to protect and shelter her now now is far less potent; it had power and magic over childhood dangers but it doesn't work so well against the harsh realities of the adult world. My daughter is on the cusp of pitting her own resources and power against it all and like any Mom I wonder and ponder whether it will be enough.

There is no answer to that question. She has to muddle through somehow and I have to trust that she can do it..... Scared Mom beginning to let go and set her free :)

I've planned a weekend trip to one of her favourite places; West Flanders. A voyage on board a little ship mirroring her own. A horse drawn carriage ride over cobbled streets, a bit bumpy no doubt but a great ride hopefully; a bit like the best we can hope from life. I hope there'll be sunshine and happiness just like I wish for her in her future life.

I'll be away from Wifi over the weekend probably but I"ll tell you all about it all when I come back. Life is for living but it's also a great tale for telling if you adventure enough....


Saturday, August 18, 2012

Zip fasteners, bracelets, swim suits and a new appointment

It's been a while since I blogged. I've had an easy time of songwriting and catching up, kicking back a little and relaxing. It's been Pride season with lots of events on. It's also been High Summer here on the Welsh Coast in the UK which means that it rains a lot but it's also so incredibly warm. The Palm trees on the Promenade look a little more in place and I wear light summer tops and skirts as well as dresses. I'm slim, or more to the point I really lack those full Girly curves! That means I choose fitted dresses that cling close on top and flare out from my waist which miraculously now is so much higher than it used to be (thank goodness for Evorel!) having long back zippers on dresses means being a contortionist as you try close it. If I'm on my own, I do it with very great difficulty.

I'm a romantic (my mates (both straight & lesbian) think should have grown out of it by now! But I can't help wanting to have a guy in my life to zip up my dress for me, fasten all those bracelets and give compliments when I look nice. I miss having some guy's tie to tie. It would be handy too to have someone to open jars and someone taller than my 5' 6" to reach down things from those ridiculously high shelves in my fitted kitchen (why do they do them like that?). A moments thought though and I'm back in the real world. My experience of men so far in 7 years of being a woman is that they're more likely to want to pull your dress zip down rather than up and mess up your hair kissing you when you've spent ages on it rather than pass nice compliments. Joking aside, I'm also painfully and sadly aware that I've still not fully completed my transition and I would be a real surprise to any guy who really wanted to get into my panties, let alone pulling down my dress zips.

So that brings me to swimming cozzies. I used to love going swimming, well the pool part anyway. I still do, but now it's fraught with difficulty and I tend to shy away from pools, particularly ones with open plan change facilities and no cubicles. I vacationed this year with my youngest at a place with a leisure suite, spa pool, gym etc. It was lovely, except for the women's locker room. It's fine going down with your swimming costume underneath your clothes, not so good when it comes to changing back and hoping the towel you've wrapped around you above your boobs doesn't slip and reveal all while you put dry knickers back on. We used the pool almost everyday. It was really nerve wracking in a week long vacation for me. The best I can say is, I survived, the towel never slipped thank goodness.

Back home off holiday, there was a letter waiting with a London postmark. Yes, I was idiotically excited to finally get me first appointment with the Charing Cross Surgical Team in September. It's a relief to find that WHSCC have finally agreed funding and that I can breathe again. I'm aware though that for those around me like my youngest daughter, it's a rather different story. She has a new reason to worry (as well as A levels, friendships and boyfriends) because I'm moving closer to surgery, I'll be away from home and it's uncharted territory for her. It's uncharted territory for me too, even though I've been looking forward to this moment and gleaning all the information I could from friends who have been there before me. Here goes!


Robyn-Jane xxx


Friday, July 20, 2012

Slowness, Students, Sparkle and Summer

It seems ages since I posted, over a month in fact. In the meantime, the frantic and sometimes vain hoping attempt of students to complete their work has finally come to an end. Most worked hard if only at some point during the year. For some of them it must have been upsetting to find that they didn't pass in spite of it all.

Slowness seems to be a theme at the moment now Summer has finally arrived (has it really? LOL). Referred to the surgical team at Charing Cross in February I'm still waiting. The surgical team took a little time to approach WHSCC (effectively our Primary Care Trust if you are Trans here in Wales). Now WHSCC must cough up the funding, don't hold your breath, you might asphyxiate! I suspect I may be still waiting by the time the next brightly faced group of students come in through the door to begin their transition to Higher Ed! In the meantime, I've too much to do to get overly down about things. It's summer, a girl needs a holiday and and a chance to do something fun and party.

That brings me to Sparkle. This year I took my youngest daughter (17). Even if you're close, accompanying your Trans Mom/Mum to Sparkle isn't the average teenager's dream day out. I admire and thank her for her willingness to be there. I too get challenged by some 'Trans' situations too, I have to be honest. I'm a woman. I love guys, I like to date them. I love the way they walk, their passion for sport, the way and the way they get all enthused about 'guy' stuff. I adore their entrancing ability to make me smile and inadvertently play with my hair. However I used to find it far from easy to cope in situations in which I found myself chatting to one who was quite happy to be a guy but adored wearing a dress! It's a problem for ME and it's me who has to deal with it. I'm deeply attracted to the guy they are, totally love the dress, but maybe not always together. I suppose it challenges who I am as a woman, or used to anyway. These days I've come to really appreciate all of the TG spectrum for the wonderful rainbow that it is and it seems to me that that is exactly what Sparkle is really about, from the extravagantly dressed TVs an CDs to the fully transitioned, I love it all.

In the end I needn't have worried about my daughter, she had a great time, both on Canal Street and in Sackville Gardens. The best thing is that she wants to go next year for the whole weekend and maybe for the Big Weekend in Manchester Pride at the end of August. I love her to bits, I love Manchester to bits. Shopping till you drop then Sparkle, I can thoroughly recommend it.

So what of the rest of the Summer. I'll be off in Belgium from next week to sample the chocolate, waffles and rain there (sincerely hope to get a rest from the latter!). I'll be working hard trying to re-record mix and master most of my music and put together some better Cholly Atkins style choreography for live performances. As if that isn't enough of a challenge I paid my first visit to my local TG support group 'Unique TG' last night at the Royal in Llandudno. I have to say that I felt so incredibly welcomed by such a friendly a chatty bunch of people, so much so that I will definitely go again. They are just as much part of my community as the usual bunch of girls who I GNO with. I loved the experience, it made a welcome change from sitting drinking bottles of wine with the usual friendly bunch of natal girls and bitching about work and our boss.

Life is about diversity, new experiences, celebrating differences whether that involves, traveling abroad, tripping over whilst attempting a new dance routine, meeting new and unique people or getting my little head around creating master tracks!

Have a great summer all of you,

Hugs, Robyn-Jane xxx

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Transition: from Grime to Sparkle

Long before other steady relationships there was Manchester. I have had this strange affair with that city since a child. Okay, let's disambiguate here. 'Queen City' out there in New Hampshire may be one of the greatest little cities in the East but I'm talking Manchester UK, population these days round half a million.

As a child growing amongst the grimy rust belt and worked out coalfields of the UK's West Riding, Manchester was 40 miles away, also scarily grimy with a grim and dour northern neo-gothic aspect. Even so, it still seemed to me as a child like somewhere where everything happened. If my parents wanted to shop for anything out of the ordinary, Manchester was the place. It seemed a bit like where I lived, only far, far bigger and a great deal noisier.

I had a rough time as a teen back in the 70's, what transgendered teen didn't back then? I knew that I had to escape home for more than the usual reasons. As a teen you long for that opportunity to finally be yourself. I guess I wasn't really sure who that person was but I did know for sure that she wasn't the young guy I appeared to be. At the same time I was way too scared to move too far away from home. I would have loved to go to London but I settled for this grimy city separated from my own little town by about 40 miles of wild moorland, strange choice. I spoke good fluent French, why didn't go to France? Instead I enrolled at what is now The Victoria University of Manchester to study the language.

I lived in Fallowfield in one of the college halls. It was a short bus ride up to the main campus. Being finally free of my family was very liberating. I realized that I was less 'weird' in a place like this but sadly I still didn't feel I could be myself. There I was in a big city, first time away from home, suitcase and a guitar, a university place and a whole load of emotional baggage too. It was a great buzz to be there but I still couldn't break free.

Throughout my teen years I had coped with being transgendered by being inwardly shy but with an outward 'stage' persona that allowed me to experience success and praise without anybody getting to know who I really was. Playing in folk clubs, social clubs and small coffee house venues had given me some outward confidence. I sang mainly covers; material by guys like Gordon Lightfoot, James Taylor, Tom Paxton, Ralph McTell. I hardly ever sang any of my own songs, they were the usual teen stuff only even more depressing.

In Manchester, I knew nobody, had no contacts and had to start over. The only music I played was for other student friends or for myself alone in my room. Practising over and over did wonders for my playing but little for my self confidence. In college, I met others who reminded me so much of who I was inside. It was the late 70's, before AIDS and some of the gay friends I knew seemed to have a great time being out, at least within their own circle. I never ventured onto Canal St at night but I knew those who did. Canal St had a reputation as a place for Gay guys to meet up. Sometimes I wondered if I too was Gay, after all, I did fancy guys. It never felt quite right though. In the end I became even more mixed up and then finally suicidal. Getting to an incredibly low point just before Christmas 1977, I decided that I couldn't carry on living a lie and a double life and wanted it end it all. I didn't have the courage to go through with that decision either. Reluctantly I dropped out of College and went back home.

It has taken half a lifetime for me to sort my life out and become the person I was inside but desperately needed to be in a complete sense. After seven years, that seems like ages now. It has been a butterfly experience and a long reluctant period in a cocoon. Manchester has not stood still either. Whilst I have been transitioning so has the City. The experience has been so similar.

It is only within the last 7 years or so that I have returned. I have seen Manchester too emerge from the cocoon. So much has changed. It is now a truly cosmopolitan and vibrant European City with great events and a fantastic atmosphere. It still has those neo-gothic buildings, but the context is so different. With a 21,000 seat concert arena and great theatres and clubs, I've found myself returning to the city again and again, this time to enjoy myself, as a woman. There is another reason too. The Village in Manchester, centered around a Canal St changed beyond recognition, is now the undisputable capital of UK Gay culture. It now has some of the best bars and clubs. Manchester Pride is one of the high spots of the year, a fantastic event for the whole Gay community. Around the time I came out, Sparkle too was born. For the last 7 years (this is its 8th) Sparkle has become probably the biggest event for the Trans community in the UK if not the world. It is with good reason. Sparkle is the most amazing celebration of the whole TG spectrum from those who occasionally crossdress to people living full time like myself. It is a such a welcoming and inclusive event. The atmosphere is truly amazing. Both myself and Manchester have come home. If you want to be there, Sparkle takes place this year from Friday 13th to Sunday 15th of July. Maybe I'll see you there.


Sunday, June 3, 2012

Trans Musician or what?

I guess that I have been a musician since the age of 9 when I picked up my first guitar and strummed a ‘G’ chord. Once I’d added a few more chord shapes there didn’t seem much point in just playing if I couldn’t sing as well. Round about that time I was 11 I started to dress less conventionally too. I was looking for clothes that didn’t scream ‘boy’ or ‘girl’. I wore mainly bell bottoms which I flared myself by stitching floral fabric into the outseams, jewellery and kaftans. Beginning to sew and make my own clothes helped me to cultivate my own individuality wearing off the peg clothes forced me to be someone I wasn’t comfortable with. I hated being identified as a boy but I was too scared to be open and be identified as a girl. It was the same with singing other people’s songs, they belonged to other people and they didn’t fit. I soon started to write my own lyrics and use my newly learned guitar skills to accompany myself singing them.

When I began my transition it was just such a relief. Now I could wear regular girl clothes. I wish I could say that the great thing was that I didn’t stand out any more. Sadly, as many of us find, it doesn’t quite work that way. You don’t spend the best part of 40 years being a guy, however reluctantly without learning how to survive and not be called names. It hurt like hell as teen when people laughed and said I walked and talked like a girl. I ought to have been glad but I took it as the insult it was intended to be. As I grew up I learned how to cover all that up and survive. The ironic thing is that I’ve had to spend the last 7 years unlearning it. Wearing regular girl clothes became a battle to melt into the background and to be seen as no different to anyone else. Of late I’ve come to realise that having achieved that, you can start to express yourself and wear fashion your way but you have to learn how to be like everyone else first. These days, onstage I realize that I can more or less do things my way, be as daring as I a point.

I wrote all that some time ago but never published it. I play with a local Country Rock band from time to time, I was doing it back then. I don't generally sing. I'm a female rhythm guitarist/bassist or that's who I appear to be. I don't suppose anybody thinks of me as 'a one time guy' or 'trans'. The operative words here are 'local' & 'don't generally sing'. On the other hand, I've been writing my own brand of Cabaret Blues music now for some time and I'm fortunate to have had the help of other musicians and my band members to put those songs together as demo tracks. Airing my music out there on the www, I've had a phenomenal response which has quite taken this T-Girl's breath away, some lovely sincere comments and praise. I never imagined that rather jaundiced Blues numbers about the way men treat me or songs about my personal journey would ever really find much favor with anybody. Now I'm left with a problem and it's like coming out all over again. Do I take a deep breath and start performing locally as the Transgendered Blues Artist I guess I really am? Or do I play safe and be 'that girl who plays rhythm in a country rock band'. I don't mind performing away from my local turf, but in my own back yard? Hmm!

I'm not asking for advice, lol. I have to make my own mind up about this one. Some of the people referred to anonymously in my songs might be in my audience. I have to work alongside others. I don't even link my Facebook Band Page to my usual personal one but to a separate site. Only gay friends really know much about this side of me. If any of you out there have a similar dilemma, I'd so love to hear from you.


Robyn-Jane xx

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Welsh Experience

Let me try and explain my role to you. I am an expert in patient care and support. I am personally responsible for the co-ordination of a number of other health care professionals and supervising a care regime. I frequently have to copy letters and forward them to others, organize test results and send or take them in to clinics who otherwise wouldn't get them. I telephone a number of different hospitals to obtain updates and relay the information back to another. I supply information on one clinic's prescribing regime to the endocrinology department in another. I deal with three, sometimes four different hospitals. The bizarre twist is that I am not a Health Care Co-ordinator or professional, I am a patient, living in Wales, UK, who also happens to be a Trans woman in transition.

As I write, I am still waiting to hear about the next slow moving stage in my experience as a Welsh GID patient. I am not indigenously Welsh even though I have spent the majority of my life here. Born elsewhere but with Welsh grandparents, I came here just to study. I had no intentions to stay particularly, I'm a big city girl and rural life in Wales is not quite me but then I married, had children and many many years later, I'm still here. As luck would have it, I seem to landed myself in one of the worst places to have GID. Don't get me wrong. Wales is a truly lovely place. I live in a coastal resort surrounded by breathtaking scenery. In summer the roads are choked with tourists. There is so much here to see; Ancient history, stone circles, ruined romantic castles, lakes and mountains. There is however a distinct lack of support if you are trans.

Over seven years ago when I began my journey, I was in touch with a number of other trans women in a similar position to myself. They have all long since completed their transitions and in one case are happily married. In my own case it was scarcely over 6 months ago that I was put on a realistic hormone regime. I am currently trying to get through on the phone to The Charing Cross surgical team who I hope will be able to tell me whether they have approached WHSSC. WHSSC is often pronounced 'whisk' here though there is nothing fast or whisk like about how they operate. WHSSC is the Welsh Health Special Services Committee, responsible for commissioning 'specialist' health services within Wales. It replaced the rather ineffective and somewhat discredited Health Commission Wales. Even though Charing Cross hospital in England are happy to offer me treatment, they need the money from WHSSC to pay for it otherwise nothing will happen. This process has sometimes been classified as either a 'formality' or a 'headache' depending on who you speak to.

Would it be too much to ask to be offered a fully co-ordinated, world class service system of care for Trans men and women in Wales? Many of the practitioners exist but this is not their primary role. One day maybe someone will think of asking them to work together, until then, seems like it's all down to the patients!

P.S. still waiting to hear about funding from WHSSC!

Robyn-Jane xx

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Fabulous Fifties?

I was born in the 50's. It seems a long time ago now, particularly when you encounter a wave of Fifties nostalgia now and then that seems to lump that glamorous decade in with the wartime 30's and 40's. I encountered it at the weekend while up in Scotland.

I love to go and see the National Museum of Costume not far from Dumfries. I have had an interest in fashion since a child, stitched my own clothes for many years and like many women, can't seem to stop myself buying fashion items. The Costume museum has a special exhibition each year. This year it focusses on the fabrics and dresses made by Horrockses in the 40's and 50's. Horrockses Fashions turned out the most lovely off the peg fashions for women during that period. They were pretty, using easy to care for fabrics like cotton and tended to copy the sort of styles of the Dior New Look era; trim waisted with fuller skirts, often held out by paper nylon petticoats. The Fabrics were fantastic feminine florals or stylized leaf patterns.

Old cine reels of me as a young child show my mother wearing dresses like that and children's early memories tend to linger. Is that why I am so fond of Vivien of Holloway Dresses? Possibly, both myself and my best friend Julie at the time must have tried on at least a few, as well as shuffling about in our mother's high heeled shoes. It's a nice innocent memory and one I treasure. I do remember having been scolded for doing it though. Was it because we might ruin the clothes and shoes or was it because I was a boy? I'm not sure. I was probably too young to remember.

Going to school at the beginning of the 60's, boys were very clearly boys or made to look like one as I was. Boys wore short trousers right up to leaving for High School. They often got away with being grubby. I wore grey shorts and grey socks even in Winter as well as a grey vee necked sweater. I hated it. A belted navy blue gabardine raincoat didn't keep me that warm either though Wellington boots must have kept my feet dry walking to school. Julie on the other hand had to look neat and tidy, pretty in a dress with white socks and a bow in her hair, the contrast couldn't have been more marked! It was difficult for a transgendered child to deal with. The outward differences between boys and girls and the parental expectations of them were so different. Maybe it's still the case even though it doesn't seem so to me.

By the 70's I had persuaded my mother to teach me how to knit and I secretly taught myself how to sew. That was the beginning of buying fabrics or altering clothes to make them fit me. I became furtive and adept at retrieving Mum's cast off, often well worn garments like dresses and skirts and altering them. I never wore that outside the house, only secretly, indoors when I could be sure nobody else was around. It was nice to make myself how I wanted to be but it was awfully sad because I couldn't be like that naturally or publicly. As a transgendered teen I was intensely focussed on looks and appearances. Feeling like a girl inside I wanted to dress like one. What made me so sad was that I wanted to be acknowledged as female too, that however would have meant behaving like like a girl and living as one. Much as though that would have been a dream come true for me, there was no way my parents would let me do that. The sadness came because it was just a game of dress up, no more. It wasn't doing anything for me.

Thankfully these days I am a woman. I'm free of that awful 'man in a dress' thing. Nobody questions me about my gender anymore and I can simply get on with my life. That also means going out shopping and buying my own clothes. I'm in the public eye at work, I'm expected to wear smart casual; I can't turn up to work in jeans, a tee and sneakers. Going out to buy nice things to wear is a life necessity, not a forbidden activity. This is a long way from how my life used to be. Fashions have changed. That's fashion after all, constant change. The clothes I normally wear to work everyday, though feminine are a far cry from the fashions of the 50's when dresses were an everyday necessity and ladies wore white gloves when going out visiting! Dresses still feature highly in my wardrobe though. They are so practical and feminine, no stress with matching up tops and bottoms, all you have to worry about is accessories, well that's my take on it anyway. I've spent half a lifetime in trousers, nobody is going to make me wear them now!

I have to admit it though, I still love 50's style dresses. The current retro revival means that they're readily available (try I love to wear them for parties, going out and even every now and then for work. Yes, for work. Honestly, life is too short NOT to look stylish and nice, my dresses cost too much to keep just for 'that special occasion', people compliment you and notice you, it's fun and at the end of the day it just makes me feel good and glamorous :)

Robyn-Jane xx


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Boys and their Toys/A Farewell to Machines.

I'm a woman, I don't do machines, or leastways I put up with them when I must. I drive a new car because I dread it going wrong and at my most technical I might just change the needle on my sewing machine. I'm unashamedly a girly girl yet for years it had to stay locked inside. Much of the work I do in the College where I work involves supporting young engineering students. I've just left a group of them out in front of the Technology building, slowly dismantling a small and ancient railway locomotive rescued from a local stone quarry. I love the way that a whole group will stand around the job in blue overalls, discussing the best way to do something, or in vying with each other to try out their strength undoing some gigantic rusted bolt.

True, I'll probably never understand the fascination of all this as a girl but I can admire and respect the work they do and the obvious pleasure that it brings. There are always a few girls on the course in fact, usually ladies who unlike me, love getting their hands dirty, working on lathes and milling machines and solving engineering problems. It was something that my Dad tried to encourage in me for years. He failed.

My late father was a mining engineer, but he also loved to pursue engineering projects at home. Over the years, he amassed an array of lathes, millers, bench drills, grinders, workbenches and small hand tools. He built small model railway locomotives which took him years to complete. He hardly ever through anything out and there were always a plié of used and useless articles waiting to be plundered for parts or scrap metal. My Dad talked engineering incessantly, was deeply passionate about it and desperately tried to interest me. It made sense didn't it? I was a boy after all, or at least I appeared to be. It would have not have done to let on to Dad that I'd rather be across the road with Julie my friend, playing house, playing with dolls or doll's houses and shuffling around in our mother's heels.

I loved my Dad and I did my best to live up to expectations, holding and passing the required tools and looking on. I did have the pleasure of being allowed to saw pieces of wood sometimes and make model boats, but what my father really enjoyed was working with metal and machines. I am genuinely surprised to find now, working alongside engineers that I seem to have absorbed far more knowledge than I care to. Hint. I would not know the first thing about any of the machines but I can help the students with their Maths and engineering theory. Dad would probably be proud of me were he still alive. Maybe particularly so since Dad knew me for the last eight or nine years of his life as his daughter, accepting me and supporting me. Given what I know about engineers and their logical natures, it was a great gesture of warmth and love which I hadn't expected.

Since my father's death almost six months ago now, I have had the difficult job of clearing his old house and slowly getting rid of some of his things. A few things I will keep to remember him by: a fire screen made by him whilst at school, his HNC Engineering certificate, his first letter of appointment and echnical drawings of mines made while working for the British Coal Board. These things are all light and small. They will fit easily in a drawer. 1950's Myford Lathes and bench drills on the other hand, have to go. They are no use to me. The only machine I do covet is my mother's old Singer sewing machine and that I will keep in spite of having a newer electric model.

It is a bittersweet experience to say goodbye to all these things. To me, machines are very much dumb inanimate objects but when my father used them as he did almost every day until his last stay in hospital, the workshop seemed alive. Machines were still warm after he had finished using them and little bits and pieces of jobs in progress were here there and everywhere. Now the place is cold. The half finished jobs and projects will never be completed, it has made me cry on more than one occasion.

Some of the equipment has already been loaded onto a trailer and taken to the workshop of another much younger engineer. He paid me well both in cash as well as obligingly taking an enormous load of rubbish and bits and pieces to the waste disposal. He came with his son in law and the two of them made cheerful and light work of carrying all these heavy things away. Some of the remaining and older machines will go to the workshops of a local preserved railway line and so we're back to the rusting little locomotive my students were working on earlier!

All in all I won't miss them, what would I have done with them? I still miss him though I do have the memories. I sometimes wonder if my father ever missed the keen young engineer he wanted to turn me into. We all worry about not being able to live up to parental expectations, transgendered children perhaps most of all. Did he miss not being able to share that with a son who might follow in his footsteps? I guess I will probably never know.



Saturday, March 31, 2012


Strange the power words can have isn't it. As a Mom with a teen daughter I'm all too aware of how careful you have to be with words. As relationships get forged, fray or unravel you need to be there to support your daughter through it all. It is a time of your life when you look at your most attractive without even trying, when you can throw anything on with a pair of jeans and look truly fabulous. Sadly, the competition amongst girls generally means that you seldom ever feel fabulous, someone always looks better than you. It can lead to you seeing yourself in a distorting mirror in your mind. It's easy to think 'So that's why I never get a date!'

Moms end up desperately trying to correct that reflection and it isn't easy. You yourself are acknowledged by your own children to be biased: 'You have to say that, you're my Mom'. It doesn't matter how many times I tell my youngest daughter that she's gorgeous, she prefers to consult the fairground distorting mirror in her head.

I can't blame her. I had a teenage hatred of mirrors too. This time real ones. For me it was the opposite way round. The ones in my head reflected me as the girl I knew myself to be. The real ones showed a boy I began to hate because he was, I knew, what every other person around me saw. Thank goodness that by some miracle, these days, the woman looking back at me out the mirror is me. I wouldn't call myself pretty but at least it feels alright now.

Mirrors are one thing, words are another. Mirrors show an image but you have to make up your mind how to respond to it. There's no knowing in reality how people will respond. When you start out your transition you just hope for the best.

The other day, one of my music fans wrote and said I looked gorgeous. He only has a posed picture of me. I meant to look at my best for that photo, but I was still ridiculously flattered. Then yesterday someone called me 'Gorgeous' in the street, not something you expect when you're walking down to the Post Office and not really making an effort. It wasn't intimidating, it was just nice, incredibly nice. A workman unloading equipment from a van was blocking the way. He smiled at me as he shifted his stuff and said 'Come on past, gorgeous'. Saying 'Thanks', I found myself blushing idiotically as I smiled back and walked past. My friend said he shouldn't have been blocking the way in the first place and he was just harassing me as men will (She hates having guys open doors for her, I love it!). Actually, it just felt really flattering. I loved it.

At the end of the day, compliments from a real person mean more than anything, especially if you're being accepted as you really are. Beauty is such a subjective thing and a mirror can never really tell you how people will actually respond. Trying telling that to a teenager though!

Robyn-Jane xx

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Makeup Skills & the Mother Daughter Thing

I would love to have had makeup help from my own Mom, but that would never ever have happened. It was a hopeless teenage fantasy that one day she might do. It was a dream along with many other heartfelt wishes which I found hard to deal with and control: Wishes like wanting to give birth to children of my own and marry some nice guy. Those feelings were intense and caused me to harm myself because I felt that my body had let me down. I watched a similar process in my ex at a point in our relationship where we believed that we couldn't have children. The longing to experience motherhood is planted there within you, but not always the ability to bear children. It hurt almost as much as being Trans.

Now I'm a woman I wear makeup a good deal. I deal with the general public a lot at work. I'm expected to look presentable and nice. However, I don't rate my makeup skills very highly. I discount the practice I got with Mom's makeup as a teen. Seven years of making myself presentable enough for work have lead to a certain amount of confidence, but mainly speed when I'm pushed for time on a morning. So much of it gets finished off in my rear view mirror after I've parked up. Given all of this, I was surprised to get asked if I would do my daughter's makeup ready for her school's 'Masked Ball'. I've never done anybody else's, I don't have the confidence!

I'm used to subtle cappuccino shades of eyeshadow, light touch mascara, neutral looking shades of lippy and gloss, restrained blusher. Most of my time is spent applying age defying, wrinkle reducing moisturisers and foundations, a sad necessity of growing older. Teen Party makeup is something very different; electric blue eyeshadows, gorgeous lip glosses...

I was surprised to find how much easier it was to do makeup on someone else. I don't know why, It makes sense now, everything is the wrong way round when you do it in the mirror, take tweezing your brows for instance. By helping my daughter, I got the chance for Mom & daughter chat and it was so nice to be in a position where I could actually really help. As a trans Mom you can sometimes, well, oftentimes get to feeling that your some kind of 'also ran', not the real thing, inadequate and ill equipped. I have so often felt inferior to my daughter's birth Mom. In a small way, helping my daughter helped me to overcome that.

This isn't about feeling superior to my daughter's 'real' Mom, not about scoring points or anything like that. It is however about being accepted as a woman in a special way. I typed the word 'unique' and then backspaced it out. Uniqueness signals that there is only one. In my daughter's case she has two Moms. I hope I'm worthy of sharing that claim to motherhood. I've talked on these pages often enough about milestones. Mostly the big and obvious ones like being put on hormones, finishing facial electrolysis, passing etc. Sometimes however the milestones are smaller, unexpected and take you by surprise, pretty much like this one. They are no less important.


Friday, March 2, 2012

Guilt and Girl's Nights Out

Next week it's International Women's Day. A chance to celebrate the role women play in society, to advance the cause of those who have their rights mashed into non existence every day and to develop awareness of issues like inequality and injustice. Next week I will be serious and join events planned to help my fellow women and to ensure a future for my daughters and sisters that is equal, fair and bright. However, for now, I'm going to be self indulgent and frivolous and contemplate another aspect of being a woman; going out and enjoying myself....with other women.

What would I do now without 'Girl's Nights Out'? These days it would be difficult to imagine myself surviving work without them. In seven years of working for the Community College that employs me, I've seen hours get longer, management grow more unforgiving and the chance to chat over a coffee at break time with my friends severely restricted. Management can tend to think that staff take over many breaks or spend too long over them. They want to see value for money and more work for the money they pay us. I could see the argument for this in a factory, but our students are people who need breaks too. They find their studies hard enough without having to spend even longer in the classroom. They too miss the chance to catch up with friends and to relax between classes.

I realize that before beginning my transition, I spent much of my time on my own at work, neither networking with colleagues or sharing much socially. Training in College as a Kindergarten teacher was a strange experience and not what I'd expected. Being closet trans, I opted for a career that was almost exclusively dominated by women. I wanted to be identified as a woman but for many reasons, I coudn't show it back then. Painfully aware that I would never give birth and maybe never have a family of my own, I wanted to work with younger children. It was a job I enjoyed so much, at least in the classroom with the little ones around me. But in the staffroom/teacher's lounge it was different. True, I was welcomed with open arms as a 'man' in a female dominated environment. Well, when I say 'welcomed' I guess I mean celebrated. I was feted as some sort of pioneer, a guy who wasn't afraid to be different and who could bring something new to Early Years education. 'Early education needs more male role models' was something trotted out to me again and again. The awful reality was that I felt terribly excluded. I wanted to be an ordinary woman, a kindergarten teacher, to have a class of my own and to just melt away into the background. I would have given anything to be like everyone else.

A guy in a workplace full of women is constantly the butt of mainly good natured jokes relating to his outward identity as a male. You don't get included in a way that is comfortable. I didn't get invited whenever the girls had a night out. I could understand why, having a guy around might have spoiled things I guess. The conversation just wouldn't have been the same. At the time I felt resentful. I did the same job as they did, I had the same interests, why shouldn't I be welcome?

These days I rely on my evenings out with the rest of my friends. True, many of us are divorced or separated, none of us will see thirty any more and we tend to have a rather worldly wise attitude to men that colors our conversations. There are a few guys who work with us. They do get invited and encouraged to come along, quietly nursing a pint while we share bottles of wine and talk too much. More often than not they make their excuses. I feel for them but I can't help smiling. I can't help thinking: 'There but for the grace of transition go I'. I know that having them around would change the conversation entirely though we'd still have fun, (probably at their expense). I feel faintly guilty that now I'm a woman I enjoy all of this. I really should know better shouldn't I?



Sunday, February 26, 2012

Regrets at Leaving it too Late

I work at one of the UK's largest colleges and also in one of the most beautiful parts of Britain. This is the view not far from my road to work, about 5 minutes before arriving before I get there. It's a mixed blessing. By some strange, warped win on the lottery of life I have been given the great privilege of living amongst beautiful scenery, in a popular seaside resort blessed with mild winter weather. I have also landed up in one of the worst parts of the UK to be Trans and for those who wish to transition. North Wales is not blessed with a modern thinking, up to date Gender Identity Clinic and has hitherto been very reluctant to provide any help or assistance to anyone with GID. Those of you who follow this blog will know the story. From having plucked up the courage to go to my GP in my mid 40's and do something about lifelong pain and depression I now find myself in my mid 50's with the tantalizing possibility that I might get on someone's waiting list for surgery this year!

I work with students, many of whom were also dealt a losing hand. They are young people who barely graduated High School or dropped out of High School. Qualifications don't feature very highly in their portfolios if at all. For many of them, this is their last chance to try and cobble together some useful skills and get themselves a certificate in something to save them from: flipping burgers, stacking shelves, stacking trash or worse. Some of them have disabilities like dyslexia or ADHD others got bullied, or developed addictions, had mental health problems or just plain hated school.

College is an exciting environment, even Community College. There's lots happening socially if you're young but the atmosphere is somewhat laid back. Gone is High School discipline and detentions. Here if you don't make the grade you get shown the door or you just fail. Many of my students just drift along letting it all wash over them...until it gets to this time of year. Failure on the horizon and half a dozen overdue assignments mean that bitter regrets set in about not doing anything sooner. It's got to that point when they think it's nearly too late, too late to pull it back from the brink without some help, maybe too late anyway?

This is where I come in. I'm not a Fairy Godmother, I can't work miracles, but I do my best. Fortunately, bitter regrets usually pull out the best in those I help; making up for lost time, doing without breaks, desperate to make the grade, they respond to being helped and we pull things off at the last minute. It's a team effort. A regretful student with two words on the page and an assignment deadline of 12 noon is not unusual, but we tend to make it. Regrets and the fear of what will happen if no action is taken, concentrate the mind like nothing else :) They will scrape a pass, it's too late for perfection and things being how they should be but they will join the ranks of 'those who made it'.....just!

Are there any parallels with my own position? 46 was awful late to leave things when I'd felt like this big time since being a young child. Why did I let so much time go by? Wouldn't it have been better to do something earlier? There were many times when I tried to summon up the courage to go and talk to someone and get help, but I didn't? Was that crazy or what?

In reality, I've refused to constantly look back, regret and do 'What If's. Life is full of missed opportunities and there are many reasons for why we fall short of seizing them. For my students it's generally a mix of wanting to seem the same as everyone else and being afraid of the response if they ask for help. It's also the pressure from difficult relationships with families and others they love that comes in the way. I suppose that it was much the same for me, indeed I know it was.

So there we are. But at least I can give a smile at last because things do look as though they may now work out and at the risk of repeating myself: I will scrape a pass. It's too late for perfection and things being how the should be but I will join the ranks of those who made it....just!

Robyn-Jane xx



Monday, February 20, 2012

Sex, Sleaze & All That Jazz

It's amazing how often sex or sensuality comes into life, especially when you least want it. I seem to have spent alf my life in that condition, having male sexual feelings that I didn't know how to cope with, almost resenting the very existence of sex.


When I began my transition about 7 years ago I had not long since returned to tap dancing as a social pastime. (The last time had been as a school age child). I had joined an amateur cabaret/show group just for the fun of it. The group was in dire need of a guy who could tap to play the part of Geoffery in a production of 'Stepping Out'. If any of you know the play or have seen the film you will know that Geoffery is very much the 'odd one out' in a tap class of women. He is always made to feel uncomfortable or embarrassed. There is a famous line in which the '3 T's ' are referred to (Tits, Teeth and Tonsils) and it is pointed out that Geoffery only has 2 of the three. I didn't escape sex by joining this group, it hovers like a background curtain behind much of what a show group does.

I thought that I would bow out of things once I began transitioning but the welcome to stay on which I got from the rest of the girls meant that I didn't leave. I knew that I wouldn't find it easy though. I seem to have spent my whole life acting a part in real life, pretending to be the guy that I wasn't. When you finally get to be yourself and a woman, it's confusing to try and be something else yet again on stage. As a result I spent a year on the sidelines playing guitar in the onstage band and watching enviously while everyone else danced. I felt left out big time :(

The following production involved cameos from 'The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas', perhaps not the best time to get back into dancing with the group given what I've just said. I'm not a CD OR TV so I don't know whether this would have been a dream come true or not; full satin skirts, petticoats, revealing tops, false lashes and Cuban heels. It was only when I realized that most of the other girls felt just as exposed as I did but enjoyed the thrill of doing it that I finally began to enjoy acting a part and providing entertainment. I was lucky. I didn't provide the sort of entertainment I had feared. Nobody said 'who the heck is that guy up there dressed as a woman?' I passed. I never imagined when I began my transition having to 'pass' in front of the audience whilst dressed as a hooker'!

Last week I took the opportunity of a forced trip to London to go and see Chicago at the Garrick. The production is full of sex, sleaze, lying and corruption as well as great Bob Fosse style choreography. But it was nice to be in the audience for a change and be entertained. It also helped create the illusion that I was on holiday. It was the night of Valentine's Day and London was full of couples and people in evening clothes clutching bouquets or red roses. I remember walking through Trafalgar Square after the show and seeing too long haired guys in an intensely red Rolls Royce gawping at a lesbian couple kissing in the back of a rickshaw.


The following morning however saw me in Fulham Palace Road, Hammersmith. This was my second visit to the Charing X GIC. Seems I couldn't escape references to sex there either as I seemed to spend half my appointment either discussing how it affected me or had done in the past. Might it be possible for me to get on with my life as a woman without having to discuss sex with complete strangers all the time? (I nearly wrote 'strange men'!) There was a silver lining. It seems that my testosterone and oestradiol levels are now where they should be for a female. It's left me feeling so much better and more well adjusted than I've felt for years. As far as the Psychiatrists are concerned they're now happy to refer me for surgery, that's such a relief. There is still the small problem of waiting lists to see a consultant and the issue of NHS Wales actually paying! My Psychotherapist says that this is a formality, I certainly hope so.

Robyn-Jane xx


Friday, February 10, 2012

Happy Feet

 I've never been a great fan of my feet. I don't consider them pretty or dainty though I'd love to. I'm self conscious when wearing peep toes, I keep my feet covered. I'm a size six but I always think my feet look huge.  I hate the rough skin and my squished toes and nails from wearing the heels that I love.  I don't mind having a manicure, in fact I love it, it's so relaxing, and I love the result but pedicures are another thing entirely, until this week.

Girl's night out number 2 this year was a trip to the beauty salon.  We could choose 2 treatments.  A mani was an essential, I play bass, it wrecks my hands and nails, what more can I say!  Waxing & epilating is something I do myself continually, no need there, facials are the last frontier for a girl who hates being out without her makeup.  A pedicure was the only other option! Gulp.

 I am now so converted.  It was such an incredibly relaxing experience at the end of a long and tiring day.  From the relaxing, fragrant, bubbling foot spa, having my nails filed and shaped, to the exfoliating foot scrub, moisturizing, gorgeous foot massage and hot booties, I enjoyed every deliciously stress relieving moment.  I couldn't help smiling and going aahh! the whole time.

The bonus was my French nails.  I can now see my nails and not cringe with embarassment.  I can't help thinking that now I've done it once I'll be going back again....and again....and again :) if you've ever hesitated to have a pedicure done because you hate your feet, don't.  Pick up the phone and make yourself an appointment, you really won't regret it.

Now I just have to psych myself up to having a this space.

Robyn-Jane xxx

Friday, February 3, 2012

Fashion, will it ever be cool to be Trans?

 I work alongside many others from the LGBT community, some of them work colleagues, some of them are students.  I've never been that surprised that I hear very little about other people's experiences of growing up as Lesbian, Gay, Bi or Trans.  Those of my own age probably had a tough time of it whatever their gender orientation or identity.  At least that's been my experience talking to others of my own generation. It is only with really close friends that there is any degree of confiding or sharing how we felt growing up.  Whenever that confidence has taken place, I've always been surprised to find how similar the experiences of rejection, not belonging and isolation are.  It doesn't seem to matter that much what part of the LGBT spectrum you come from.

Given all this, one conversation last week came as a complete eye opener.  It was a conversation about fashion, or appeared to be.  What surprised me was a remark by a girl in her mid twenties.  L is lesbian, I was well aware of that.  Someone commented about how she was always dressed in carefully chosen designer hoodies and expensive jeans.  She is down to earth and smokes roll ups, the subtext was, 'Why does someone like you dress like that?' She replied with a smile that it was her partner who had picked out her clothes.  She then went on to observe that in any case, she had only ever really been in fashion once.  Asked when that was she replied that it was when she had come out! 

I was intrigued.  None of this seemed to have anything in common with people like myself or any other Gay friend of my own age.  On what planet would coming out put you 'in fashion'?  Seems that it is now cool to be Gay if you're young. Have things changed since I was a teen all those years ago? It very much seems like it.  I'm aware of what a rough ride one shy lesbian friend had in college back in the 70's inspite of the seeming liberal atmosphere in the uni where I studied. Seeing how she was treated was one very potent reason for me not being open about my gender identity until much much later. It left me thinking, 'If things can change THAT much in 35 years, will things go the same way for trans men and women over the next 35?' I wonder. I very much hope so.


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Doing without Making Up

There are all sorts of making up.  There is the making up that comes after breaking up, making up requiring a leap of faith on both sides that things are maybe going to be better plus a venturing forward again when you're not sure.  The costs are mainly emotional. The sort of making up I'm talking about however generally costs a fortune (I seem to carry hundreds of pounds worth in my handbag), requires a mirror of some sort, preferably good lighting and skill in what you're doing.

I seem to have been doing make up for as long as I can remember, clandestinely in Mom's room when her back was turned and latterly for the last seven years or so, as a woman.  Borrowing Mom's makeup was a mixture of exciting and worrying.  Exciting to get the chance to 'be' the girl I wanted to be and worrying lest I got found out.  I'm pretty sure that Mom must have known, no way was I that good taking it all off again.  She never said anything but in a way I always wanted her to find out so that I could confide in someone.

When I came out and began my transition, makeup was an absolute essential.  My decision to be who I wanted to be, full time, without electrolysis or hormones forced me into a situation where makeup had to cover so much.  Dermablend was the foundation of choice, difficult to remove but brilliant for covering up the grayness left by shaving.  Too often I tended to go OTT on the mascara and eyeshadow with lip color choices far too bold to be natural for work. I hated those awful moments when one of my real friends in the know would pull me to one side and tell my that I'd used too much: blusher/concealer/eyeshadow/eyeliner/mascara - delete the one that doesn't apply.  It took a while for me to learn that trying to cover up what might give me away actually gave me away by looking so wrong. I was going through a second adolescence with no Mom there to help guide me through it :(

Time went past.  I got to the stage where the combined effects of skin softening hormones, anti-aging moisturizers, electrolysis, brow shaping and my clever hair stylist convinced me to go for a more understated natural look: lighter foundation, touché éclat, brown eyeshadow palette, natural lip colors and glosses etc.  It took time to get it right and to practice.  I'm so grateful to the best friends who took time to help me and support me.  Where would I have been without them? It made being a full time working woman possible.

Students often make good teachers.  All this learning came at the right time.  It was a period when my youngest daughter was becoming a teenager herself.  It was lovely to be able to help her get her make up right too and to show her how.  It helped me feel more like the Mom I had aspired to be for so long.

I have to say however that makeup, however subtle, has become a ritual.  Having got it right, it has become a charm without which I have become unwilling to leave the house, something that I felt guaranteed my acceptance as a woman and my passing without comment. I realized that come this month, I had been using makeup continually on a daily basis for seven whole years without stop. Makeup had become essential and my greatest nightmare was a finding myself in a situation where I was without it.  Famously on one occasion, having driven 30 miles to a friend's house to spend the night, I made the panicky 60 mile round trip (at 11pm) to call back home and collect the makeup bag I had forgotten to pack.

Last Sunday then was a first.  The first time I had the courage to just cleanse, moisturize, brush out & straighten my hair and then stop.  For once I tried leaving off my makeup.  It felt initially like going out without my clothes on.  I felt naked and it felt wrong. However, it was another milestone as momentous in it's own way as me venturing out as a woman for the first time or using the ladies restroom at work. It helped to have my daughter say how nice I looked.  We went out to do some grocery shopping and it felt okay, in fact in felt no different to normal.  I am so glad I did it.

Will it change my daily routine? Probably not. The last thing I want to do at my age is to go out, skin blemishes, dark circles and all, looking like I've just got up.  The dress code at work expects us to be well presented in work casual mode, that includes making an effort with my makeup.  If I didn't I would be the odd one out.  It will however see me buying tinted moisturizer and clear mascara.  I will still be covering up those weary looking dark circles but at weekends I won't be wearing much makeup except when I'm going out. The point is that I will know that I can leave off my makeup sometimes and still feel like me, I finally have a choice about whether to put it on or not :)

Robyn-Jane xx




Monday, January 16, 2012

January Blues and Saving Grace

I tend to hate these dark cold mornings in January.  Living on the damp fringes of Europe here in Wales, it can be particularly miserable. Getting up for work can seem like a never ending rounding of prising yourself out of a warm bed, getting up, applying makeup, straightening hair and gulping down coffee before rushing to get to work on time.  Once there you find yourself dashing to the loos to sort out wind blown hair and tidy yourself up.  Outside, it is gloomy still.  I find myself desperately clinging on to memories of summers in France or Belgium, sitting at a cafe table opposite someone really nice, warm sunshine and kinder days.  I have the January Blues big time.

This year too, I have also the enormous task of clearing and sorting out my late father's house.  He had been ill for a long while. Things had got chaotically untidy.  Over two months after his death his painfully cold house keeps reproaching me from two counties away that it needs sorting out before the spring arrives, the garden turns to an uncared for wilderness and the dust looks even worse in the sunshine through the dirty windows.  Out there on the Isle of Angelsey, it has been left to fend for itself until I can summon up the courage to go there again, preferably with a friend.

A fire awareness sign which I pass every day at work keeps encouraging me to plan out my escape! It always makes me smile. I desperately need an escape route at this time of year though it's not the one envisaged by the sign (a green stick person looking thoughtfully at another one escaping though an open door). Romantic novels and exquisitely elaborate fantasies used to do it for me, especially when I was younger. These days I'm a bit more doubtful about whether I'll ever meet that George Clooney or Mark Harmon.  No, I've not given up hope but let's say 'I know guys too well by now'. I'm not too optimistic after coming to realize what sort of men do seem to be attracted to me. In any case, I hated the come down when I reached the last chapter of a novel or lovely fantasy.  It was such a downer to come back to 'real' life. 

These days writing music ends up being my Saving Grace.  Now I get thoroughly lost in writing lyrics, musical arrangements and recording what I've composed.  Ironically I find myself writing about what made me unhappy in the first place and then finding that I feel better.  The lyric writing helps me cope with shattered dreams, unkind words and nice men who turn out to be the wrong sort of guys :) Okay, so it was really hard getting used to hearing my low pitched vocals on the recordings and not fulfilling the urge to give up completely as a result. I still struggle with that.  Writing the music is intensely absorbing, mainly because it's so hard and never came easy.  Why do I do it then? I suppose because it does let me escape and at the end of it, I get to keep the song and sing it again whenever I want. It has been nice too to have unexpected comments from people who listen to songs that I never set out meaning to share.

My music's not for everyone, I'm well aware of that. 

If I haven't already talked you out of listening, check out my songs on Reverbnation: My latest song is 'noT your GirL'.  A couple more tracks need their vocals recording (I dread doing that bit).  How much more music gets posted up there pretty well depends on how rough the days ahead are!

Robyn-Jane xx


Friday, January 6, 2012

Pantomimes, Princesses and Do Over Wishes

It's January; pantomime season here in Llandudno, a seaside resort with entertainment permanently on it's mind.  The holiday festivities are at an end and work once again beckons. Well, it more than beckons.  The first week of January has felt like a month! A friend FB'd this pic of me at one of the Christmas parties this year.  I did a double take because it all looked so princessy. It triggered off nice memories, the beginning of a great evening, lots of lovely friends, bucks fizz and champagne, lots of dancing, everybody looking so glamorous.  Now we are all back in sensible suits and straight skirts for work, groan.

The Holidays are such a lovely fairy tale time of year, or can be.  If all goes right, maybe you can turn your back on work and reality, be yourself, enjoy yourself.  Fairy tales used to give me hope as a kid, they were the sort of books I never really got given as presents but always wished for. As a kindergarten teacher I always found myself sharing them with the children in the book corner.  I'm probably not alone as a t-girl in having obsessed about the Cinderella story.  The idea that someone could come along,  wave a magic wand and turn you from someone who everybody despised into a pretty princess was rather appealing.  When I was younger and I used to sneakily play dress up it almost seemed like a possible dream.  As a child I could easily make myself look like a girl. 

By the time you reach adolescence however, beautiful fairytale becomes scary pantomime. You feel that not even the most talented Fairy Godmother could ever make a difference.  Becoming any sort of a girl seemed to be as likely as a Halloween pumpkin turning into a beautiful coach.  You fetch up abruptly against the realization that no matter how you feel inside, being female would be seen by others as a ridiculous caricature.  I didn't just grow out of enjoying watching pantomimes as a child, I grew to hate them.  Pantomime dames scared me and made me feel uncomfortable, 'principal boys' who were actually girls bewildered me.  Why would any girl want to pretend to be a boy? I wanted to be the Princess!  My favourite 'do over wish' was to rewind it all and be born as a girl. I would have given anything to look like I do in the picture above.

Thankfully I can smile at some of all that now and even share it with you.  I'm no Princess and I doubt that I would ever have enjoyed being a real one.  I do seem to have got my 'do over wish' though in a round about way. I am a woman, even if I had to wait years to get here and I do occasionally get to indulge in fantastic evenings out and wear gorgeous dresses (I draw the line at glass slippers). I haven't been to see a pantomime for some years though now and I don't have any plans to :). I'll settle for the pampering evening we're planning when we all get paid and a girl's evening out at the end of the month.