Friday, February 22, 2013

Transition in the Town that likes Alice

Someone asked me recently, why am I so public, honest and open in my blog? Why so outspoken in my music? with my opinions about Trans issues? The subtext was 'you pass, you're a woman (or almost), you can just melt into the background. Why place your head above the parapet, why make yourself so vulnerable? It deserved an answer and here it is.

Life is full of journeys. Over the last eight years there has been one recurring one; traveling to the Gender Identity Clinic in London. Invariably those journeys start for me at the main station in Llandudno. Opposite the station entrance stands a statue of Alice. I should explain here that Llandudno is Alice in Wonderland Central; from the White Rabbit in North Western Gardens to the Mad Hatter on the seafront, statues abound. Alice Liddell, on who the character is based, holidayed here as a child. In the book, Alice's adventures are so full of symbolism and recurrent motifs; riddles that defy logic, frustration, subversion, body parts that are all wrong and experiences that defy any attempt to understand them. Welcome to my life.

I can easily identify with a girl who found her body changing in ways that were far from comfortable. I have only to think of my first puberty to give a shudder of horror. Watching the effects and ravages of male hormones on my childhood body was like being taken over by an alien or watching a car crash in ultra slow motion. Now I'm trying to put it all right. If only transition had been as simple as taking a potion marked 'Drink Me!' But it wasn't. Even for Alice, changes had unforeseen consequences. I can't see into the future but I'm all too aware that the change from one gender to another is so much more than rearranging anatomy. Changing gender is about changing how others see you; showing them that the image they received was a distorted picture, like an old fashioned TV set with an inadequate aerial.

Doing all that isn't easy. Like Alice, if what we see or experience doesn't fit, we freak out or search for ways to resolve the puzzle. In a world unkindly constructed around gender stereotypes Trans people present an anomaly. You are neither one thing or another. As a teen, I rashly chose to beat a path down the middle. It was brave and exposed, like walking along the top of a wall instead of choosing to walk alongside. One side, the boy's one, had to be a complete no no. The girl's side seemed totally unattainable. I took inspiration from 'Rebel Rebel'

'you've got your Mother in a whirl, she doesn't know if you're a boy or a girl...'

Hair, clothes, colors and mannerisms were all chosen to foster ambiguity but it was the Glam era and nobody was fooled. I was still seen as a boy, just a weird one. Ironically it wasn't what I wanted, more what I could get. Though I blended right in with all the other music weirdos I would have given anything to be just clocked as a regular preppy girl like others at school and passed by as one of the crowd. I'm aware, as I've met other Trans men and women that there are those who make a go of being a third sex. I came to accept that it just isn't me. I gave up trying to walk the wall.

When I began my transition eight years ago I still wanted to melt into the background. That is so difficult when you are starting out; there is hair in places you don't want, body parts that don't fit. The 'wrong' mannerisms, voice and just about everything, give you away as a 'boy in a dress'. In time, voices change as do mannerisms, modes of speech and more important, your hair. These days I have no difficulty passing. I walk comfortably on one side of the wall and people pay no mind. I'm accepted as a woman, people are kind to me, I can live life as me. Like Alice, I've finally gotten into the garden and the changes along the way have been every bit as momentous. The trouble is, that like Alice, once in that longed for garden, I'm even more aware of of the absurdities and injustices that surround me, not only against 'girls like us' but women in general. They're cruel, unfair and they don't make sense. As time has passed I've seen others become the subject of hatred, abuse and ridicule and lately I've gotten back up on the wall and taken a look around. What I see isn't pretty; it looks an awful lot like the stuff I put up with for so long. These are my friends getting hurt and I don't bail on my friends.

So on Twitter and Facebook recently, I felt compelled to post: "If you're chained in love, trapped in a one sided relationship, abused, taken advantage of & Trans, I'm here writing and singing FOR YOU :)" It may seem like dashing back into a burning building but I feel that I have to write, sing and be public about who I am and what I've battled through in the struggle to be me. I owe it to those who aren't so lucky, who need inspiration and support. This is my contribution, small as it is.

Hugs, Jane xox

Turning Points and Being Loved

Turning points; those pivotal moments when things tend to swing back the other way, when the chaos resolves a little and you begin to discern something new different and positive emerging. I was reminded of one of those moments today. Was it THE moment? I'm not sure, but it was certainly a Turning Point.

For so many years I couldn't accept myself. It nearly destroyed me; being Trans was an affliction. My attitude began to change when a lesbian friend told me how cool she thought I was. It was a breakthrough moment, years ago now. I'd never thought of myself in any positive way before, only as a freak and an anomaly. My friend changed all that and made me take a new look at myself and feel proud. In some ways I owe so much of my confidence about being me and being out there to her. Ironically, I love guys, but lovers and admirers have generally just served to pull me down with their blend of thrill searching and curiosity. I hate the way Trans people become objectified as some sort of exotic sexual experience to be tried. Loving and being loved in return is what we all want and need. Is that too much to ask? I very much hope not :)

Hugs, Jane xox

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Romance, wonder and magic

I'm in the centre of the city on a cold Winter night. It's the eve of Valentine's day here in the UK. Manchester, a vibrant, exciting city lies all around me. I love coming here. High up on the 7th floor of the Sachas with the windows open I can hear the sound of the traffic, the noise of the street, the Metrolink trams and the wail of siren someplace far off. It's the sound of life, of humanity. It's constant, like the ebb and flow of a great unstoppable tide. Looking out I can see lights on in the buildings, offices, bars and restaurants and the couples out walking through Piccadilly. Romantic evening? It depends on your viewpoint, where you're bound, who you're with....I think. To me the city is magic and romantic but then it always has been, don't ask me to explain why. I'm not sure I really know; a bit like my views on romance really.

When I was a pre-schooler my best friend was another girl who lived across the way. Our Moms knew each other. We were always in and out of each other's homes. I remember Valentine's Day and crafting Valentine gifts out of red card, foil, fabric and cut up paper doilies. Our Moms made cards for our fathers, we made cards for each other. It must have been so cute. In those days as far as I was concerned liking and loving were much the same thing. Trying to analyze these things from a grown up perspective is always going to be guesswork. As a child you feel, period. As an adult you rationalize, try to interpret and understand. My feelings for other girls were so often envy or admiration. Feeling like a girl but not looking like one, those emotions tend to get misinterpreted as 'love'. When we exchanged cards our mother's made us kiss on the cheek. It made a sweet photograph I suppose. I just couldn't associate any of this with romance.

Romance is one of those concepts, like love relationships, with with which I've struggled throughout my life. I spoke in my last blog post about finding sex and love to be poles apart. It's not surprising. Sex is confusing when you end up with anatomy that doesn't seem to belong to you. Throw in sex hormones and the whole thing gets hopelessly out of hand. It seems to take on a life of its own. No girl should have to struggle through life with stuff like just seemed cruel.

Sex too, I've spoken of in previous blog. Without love or romance, sex is a massive high without a great deal to sustain it. I think that for some, romance is intense love with the sexual element played down. For the fortunate, romance seems to consist of deep longing and intimacy with tender and loving sex included but not at the very top of the list. For me, looking back, the 'romantic' moments are surprisingly made up of other more disparate memories. Like the Valentines cards we made as kids, they have been clipped trimmed and pasted from unlikely sources: There was a holiday in my late teens with a deeply adored male friend who had no idea that I was in love with him; the wonder that he agreed to come along at all, the agony and unexpected pleasure of having him all to myself for almost a fortnight. I found romance in pivotal moments; the euphoria of hearing applause for the first time and knowing people liked what I did; the thrill of being on my own and independent at last in this city, the thrill of dancing as a woman for the first time with a guy who held me so close, the delightful shock of being told by a man that he found me attractive; being kissed by a guy on the mouth, having the same guy fondle and stroke my hair.....

I understand that these little things would not seem so deeply romantic to others. For some people they seem to happen all the time. To me, they have been rare. I wonder that they ever happened at all. I was born and raised male and things like these are special, particularly when they feel genuine and nice. They make me want to cry in relief at the idea that I have the teensy weensy chance of happiness as a woman. None of the experiences described ever led to anything lasting or permanent. Indeed, some of them were bittersweet moments that could never possibly last. What they had in common was someone spontaneously going out of their way to do something special for me. I hope that there was romance in the way that I responded with a smile to all of them; it takes two to make the magic.

These then are my 'romantic moments'. Brief times that live on happily forever in memory. I'd like to think that there are at least a few others out there who feel the same. This Valentine's Day maybe we should all do something special and unexpected for someone; something romantic magical and wonderful, even if only for a minute or two.

Hugs, Robyn-Jane xox

Friday, February 8, 2013

Rings and Things, Sex, Love and Commitment

It's been an eventful week in the here on the western fringes of Europe; cold, wet, icy, miserable and in the House of Commons, 400 MP's voted in favor of allowing Gay marriage in the UK. For weeks there has been excitement and discussion among my friends about this. Here is one of the last big equality issues for Gay rights and it has attracted a lot of media attention. The news of a successful vote has been greeted with both relief and pride from the Gay community. Most of my friends are really pleased, many of them are gay. One refrain is a very familiar one: 'I'm really really pleased, now all I have to do is find a boyfriend/girlfriend'....What surprised me was hearing these comments, not from those in their late forties/early fifties (my own generation) but from much younger friends. Pause for thought.

Unless you're very cynical, marriage requires commitment, an urge to name someone as your life partner not just a brief fling or a casual affair. Many of the friends who add the tag about the boyfriend seem to have no problem attracting partners, but not long term ones. I see friends who have been through successions of dates but never made it past the starry eyed phase. I've started to wonder these last few weeks whether this is just a Gay Guy problem; no commitment or even a second date, or does it go beyond that?

I'm Trans, I spent my teens and twenties longing for guys I could never have, invariably straight and not likely to be interested in someone who felt like a woman inside but didn't look like one on the outside (or under her clothes). I realize that I came across as an effeminate teen, dreamy, pretty, long wavy brown hair and well chosen stylish clothes. I didn't do sports, I played guitar and sang sweet songs, I loved attention and got it. Friendly adults persuaded me to sing or perform in local clubs and I did, loving the attention and the acceptance. For once people looked past me to the voice, the song, the message and the music. Well, some did. Aged 15 or 16 it's difficult to tell the difference between those who admire you for your art and those who want something else. My Mom was a busy local politician, my father a full time engineer. I got left alone a lot. I also got introduced to all their friends. That's when I found that some guys just want sex. It shouldn't have done, but it came as a shock. There shouldn't really have been any sex either but there was. Being groped and felt up by some guy who wants to take advantage of you isn't nice. It wasn't the best introduction to sex but the worst thing was it centered around you being an exotic toy, not someone to love.

All in all, not a great start for a wannabe girl whose ambition was to be a nurse or a teacher (or even just a Mom) when her friends had decided on careers in science and technology. I began to wonder whether relationships were mainly exotic sex and fun and whether all that romantic stuff was all a myth. My parents stayed together, but I also saw that they played around with others too. I hated that because it shattered my ideal of romantic love. On the other hand all of that unwanted testosterone and sexual feeling within me meant I couldn't help physically responding to sexual advances, even if the guys were older. I hated that too, but usually afterwards. I just felt incredibly used; you don't need to look far before you find it in my songs. In time you end up thinking of love and sex as totally, utterly separate entities.

When I finally came to love, or what I believed was love, it almost took me unawares. It started with a friendship. Someone I'd known for some time and admired; wanted to be her. Envy and admiration turned to respect; a liking for similar things, a parallel attitude to life. Surprisingly it lead to marriage and commitment.... I commit to friends well; I stand by them, look out for them, enjoy their company. It's easy to convince yourself that this is love; the real thing, especially when the alternative is to come out. Sex was awkward but then maybe it is in so many marriages. Ask any woman how she copes in a long term relationship and you'll get a multitude of answers. For me it was faking it.

I say 'what I believed was love'. I have to admit that I never really found it. Not sexual love; love and lovemaking combined; a total package; a synthesis of longing, caring, pleasuring and deep regard. Now, on the verge of completing my transition as a woman I'd like to set out and find it. 'It's a little late isn't it?' One of my friends quipped. 'I mean you've rather missed the boat. The chance of you finding that dream guy at our age is remarkably slim...' After a little reflection I thought about the dream guy. There are quite a few of those around, they're just completely out of reach. But love as I've described it: Is it like a Unicorn?'d be extremely lucky to find one.....if it exists....maybe in dreams or for a brief while, probably hopeless...but I'll carry on looking whether or not. Let me know if you find it too :)

Hugs, Robyn-Jane xox


Friday, February 1, 2013

Tricks of Time

Take a break from your blog to work on your music and time seems to go into 8x fast forward mode. It doesn't seem above a week since I was writing that I had been given a surgery and pr-op date for next year. Now it IS next year and my pre-op is just over a month away. Things I hadn't paid much mind to because of the Holidays now seem to be looming; who will look out for my teenage daughter? Who can come down and escort me back home, when can I find the time to shop and get in all the things I need for after my discharge? I suppose, more to the point is, how will I cope when I cease hormone treatment 6 weeks before surgery. As I write, the day I have to give them up is only twenty four days away! The thought of a Trans woman without hormones and a Bipolar daughter sharing the same house is a rather scary one.

This is all very strange. I started out on this journey almost ten years ago after a lifetime of knowing who I was inside but yearning to be free. For years nothing seemed to happen. I was treated at a North Wales GIC that offered me almost nothing, had an endocrinologist who put me on a hormone regime so cautious that it had virtually no effect and got so little support that my hairdresser became my best friend. 18 months ago I met an endocrinologist who boosted my treatment to six times my previous level; a kick ass therapist who wouldn't take no for an answer where gatekeepers were concerned and a psychiatrist who seemed to realize that I needed to make up for lost time. Looking back on those 18 months they seem like a rocket ride. Maybe I seemed so far from my goal at the time that I didn't realize how fast I was actually traveling. Twenty four days from now I suspect it will feel like turning off auto pilot and landing a 747 on an unfamiliar runway with too much throttle. I hope I get down in one piece and look after all those alongside me who deeply depend on me. Here's keeping my fingers crossed.

My sister has said that she'll be there for me yet she's a busy woman with all too many cares of her own. I owe so much to her for all her support. It is so generous and unselfish. I still can't help worrying about my daughter and how she'll cope even though I know that there'll be a safe pair of hands to hold her. It's painful to think of my daughter being in crisis and me being unable to reach her or comfort her. I try not to think about that over much.

While I make all these final approaches, it's been good to finally feel I can look back at the journey and appreciate how far I've come. The past supercharged eighteen months has encompassed so many things. I've felt and looked better, been free from those awful male hormonal feelings and been able to live life as me. For a change. I've moved from a B&W to a color existence. It's been a period of completing and recording songs that have sat inside me for half a lifetime waiting to be written. It's been a time of making new friends and accumulating the most amazing set of fans, almost 5K of them. I've had a blissful time of compliments and comments that I never imagined possible and I've also had the confidence to return to music as a woman; one with a mission to make up for lost time. Ten years ago all this would have seemed impossible. Today I found my star had risen to the dizzy heights of no. 11 in the UK Blues Charts on Reverbnation. 18 months ago I wouldn't have even been able to start the climb.

This then is time for a big thank you. For all those who accepted me on my coming out, for those who supported me through the tears and the frustrations. For the fans who helped me believe in myself too and for everyone that has complimented or said something to make me smile. That includes you guys out there, the ones who read my blog posts and the ordinary people around me who acknowledge me as a woman and just another of the ladies they work with.


Hugs, Robyn-Jane xox :)