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?