Paula's Place

Paula's Place

Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Is It?

I remember some time back my wife exclaiming to me in exasperation

"It's not all about Gender!"

Clearly this had a context, but not really one I need to go into here and now, the point is that my gender identity and expression are not the only things about me that are interesting, indeed I often feel as though that is the  least interesting thing about me. My recent absence from this blog indicate some of that, I have been attending to some of those other important things about life ~ family and of course for me music.

I do spend less time and emotional energy on family now than when I didn't live on my own,  I think that is natural as a child and as a parent, never mind as a spouse, but these last couple of weeks my family has had to come first.   A close second is always music. I have often joked that yes there was another woman in our marriage, it just happened to be me, but more honestly if I was being unfaithful it was with music.   I find it difficult to resist any playing opportunity, and if that leads to performance then all the better.  From all this you may gather that I have had a few things on, while none of them particularly momentous the combined effect has been to distract me from blogging.

Having said all that my friend Joey has observed that when you are trans everything is about gender.   This is also true, to a certain extent this backed up by my last two posts, and indeed everything I do, including interacting with my family, and playing music, is influenced by my gender identity.

I was particularly struck by this over the weekend, as the only Tuba at a play day in a band of about 60 I realised that there was a notable difference in the way I reacted musically to how I would have a few years ago.   I am firmly of the opinion that musical instruments do not have a gender, but I am also quite certain that the way we play them is influenced by our own gender identity and expression.

Thursday, 25 January 2018

We Are Not All The Same

I have just realised that it is now ten days since my last post.   It was quite a dramatic post, with over 1,500 hits on the first day alone, for some that may not be much but for me that is pretty momentous.   Having said that I would much rather not have felt as though I needed to say it all, yet even with the much higher profile that trans people now have sometimes it feels as though these things do still need to be said.

Part of that higher profile has come from a variety of media stories, one of the latest is the ITV program Transformation Street. This series started a couple of weeks ago, but with my stupid life I have only now got round to watching the first couple of episodes on Catch Up.   In many ways it is not as bad as I was expecting, but I do have to remind myself that the show is following people through surgery, and the surgery is what much of this show seems to be about.   Although it is nice, if on occasion a little voyeuristic, to see some of the processes that some will go through, as well as to get some of the insights into different people's journeys, I do feel uncomfortable with the basic premise of the show ~ that we become the person we are through surgery!

The central characters are the staff and patients of this private clinic, many are interesting attractive personalities, including the surgeon Christopher Inglefield, but once again I feel I need to stress that this is a surgical clinic and so surgery is central.   I am really labouring this point because for many, indeed most of my trans friends surgery is not the be all and end all of our transition.  Certainly for some it is, but for many of us it isn't.   Maybe it is the stage of life I have now reached, or maybe I just have a different approach to life to many, but just as my transition has not all been about high heels and short skirts, then neither is it all about surgery.

I will admit that for some (particularly trans women) they can be so focused on surgery, the aim that has been pursued, potentially the end of their transition, that I do worry about what may happen after surgery? what happens to your life after you have achieved the one thing that you have been pursuing?

Certainly I do know that this series has taken quite a bit of flak on social media from within the Trans community, I do think much of this has been unfair, but I also think that just as India Willoughby did not speak for the trans community on Celebrity Big Brother then these stories are not necessarily common for all trans people.   They are insightful, they may be heart wrenching, they are certainly indicative, but they are not my story, they are personal stories, and we are all very far from being the same!

Monday, 15 January 2018

Call me Madam!

Miss Gender is not an apocryphal character, or some strange sort of beauty pageant, it is that awful moment when somebody uses the wrong, inappropriate pronouns, using he or him instead of she or her. Obviously this particularly affects trans people who have transitioned. Some people will do this deliberately to show their disapproval, some will do it deliberately to inflict hurt and pain, others again will just slip up, but which ever of these groups the perpetrator falls within the pain is the same and very real.   I suspect most of those people who are guilty of this do not realise just how painful it is to the trans person when they are miss gendered, but it can really hurt!.

Sir! really?!
The pain this causes is very real, it can stop somebody being able to work properly, it will prevent them being able to contribute within any environment, it undermines any sense of self confidence.   I don't know if people who are not Trans can understand this pain that is regularly inflicted on many trans people through the use of pronouns of the wrong gender or their old (dead) name.   Indeed the reason I am writing this now is so that those of you who do read this will get some idea of why we complain when it happens, hoping that a better understanding will encourage more effort to stop doing it yourself, and better still, offer support, championing and defense of your trans friends when somebody does it to them.

For many Trans people the use of their dead name is a painful reminder of the life of internal conflict that they have left behind, it can trigger memories best left in the past; it is also a denial of their transition.  It is a very, very big thing to get together the courage to transition, it involves a lot of burning bridges, lost relationships, for many it can mean marriage break up, loss of work, lost friends, and financial hardship.   It takes a lot of emotional energy, it involves expense, time and mental strain. It is not something anybody does lightly, or on a whim. It is not a lifestyle choice! It is a total change in how we relate to the world, and how we want the world to relate to us ~ to use the dead name or the wrong pronoun is to tell us that all of this means nothing! It is a denial of our very being, our identity, our sense of self.

Surely it's pretty obvious!
It is not only painful to the person directly miss gendered, it is painful to all Trans people as it feels like a denial of our very being, the existence of being Trans as a valid identity, of our ability to understand our selves.

Every Trans person I know experiences this from time to time. Many will experience it at work (even though they should be supported by HR departments etc.) but since I am self employed for me it is mostly either people who knew me before I started my transition and have difficulty either accepting it, or remembering it, or on the telephone.  

Let me make it quite clear, while I can understand the odd slip, that does not make it acceptable.

If I have to correct somebody once I can understand, even though it still hurts, if it happens a second time then it feels like a deliberate insult.   Over the last week or so I have had a lot of telephone conversations about an insurance claim I have going on, I am quite sure that my voice confuses a lot of people, when they hear me on the phone (particularly when I have a cold) they can feel that my voice does not match what they expect somebody with my name and title should sound like, therefore I tend to be asked more identification questions than other people, I will have to confirm that yes that is my name, and yes I am the policyholder. This is exasperating, I understand the confusion, but understanding is not the same as acceptance, I do find it annoying, and if after all that they get my pronouns wrong then it is plain insulting!

Please don't do it, and please don't allow other people to do it!

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Exciting times ahead

There's so much I want to write about at the moment, I feel a big piece coming on about why it is such a bad thing to misgender a trans person. Just at the moment I could manage a serious diatribe about the idiot who put other people's lives at risk last night, but fortunately only managed to take out a corner of my van.   I also want to spend some time putting together an update on how it feels to be Christian and trans and exactly why I know God to be a big part in my transition. I want to do all of this, but over the last few days I have lacked energy and enthusiasm, and over the next few I'm going to be busy again.

Since I have not really done anything so far this year it will be nice to get busy again, to have a reason to get up in the morning, go to work in the open air, use some muscles and still have something to look forward to doing in the evening.   It won't be long before I start complaining again, I am doing something every evening this week, but everything I am doing is something I want to do!

Tonight was the first meeting of the year of the Croydon Brass Band, we had a long talk about where the band is going, our future, what we want to get out of the band, and how the band can best serve the local community. We have some ideas that are very exciting, they will take a lot of work to pull off, but if we can do it, we could be inventing a whole new way of doing Brass Band.   Brass Bands have been active round here for a long time ~ I played in the Centenary concert of the Crystal Palace Band and I conducted the centenary concert of the Croydon Band. They do a lot of playing, most bands rehearse every week, they will play in several contest through winter and play loads of concerts through the summer.  Most bands have flamboyant uniforms and carry the name of their home town or district. Yet, yet I suspect that most people don't know they even have a local band, children leaving school don't know where to go to play, councils don't know who to book for civic events; they think Brass Bands died out half way through the last centenary, yet we are here and we are active.

When the Croydon Band started in 1911 it was as Croydon Temperance Band, later on it became the Croydon Co-Op Brass Band supporting and being supported by the Co-Operative movement.   After the collapse of the South Suburban Co-Operative Society it became Croydon Brass Band again, but carried on in a traditional way, playing for local events, garden parties, and ceremonies.

Now we think we need to do something new, to make ourselves more relevant to the 21st Centenary to look forward rather than looking back. You can probably tell that I'm quite excited by all of this, now we've had the idea we need to get down to the nitty gritty work and make it work, lots of planning, lots of publicity, and lots of preparation.   Have we found a new way of doing Brass Band, or are we barking up a blind alley? Well we'll know in a few months!

Saturday, 6 January 2018

And a bit more

After putting yesterday's post up I realised that I needed a label for WOW, so I have gone through and added it to the nine posts I considered should have it.   In the process I was reminded of a few things

Back in March last year I made this post in response to an article by Jenny Murray in it I observed that

As it happens I do consider myself a feminist, I became a feminist not when I transitioned, and not when I started to suspect my true identity, no I truly became a feminist (rather than simply a sympathiser), when my daughter was born.   I wanted to be able to tell her to follow her dream, to assure her that she could be anything she wanted to be and not have to keep my fingers crossed behind my back.  I want to live in a society where when I tell my Daughter to be true to herself it is considered to be good advise.

At the moment my Daughter is following her dream, she is a Music College something I was prevented from doing, so I hope and pray that she will make this work and find a career in music ~ the hardest of professions, even if it is the greatest of hobbies

I realised that the photo I used and tagged as last year's brass section was actually from 2016 ~ sorry ladies! I feel rather surprised that I actually can't find any photos anywhere of last year's orchestra. If you have any, and are reading this please send me some.

Friday, 5 January 2018

Feminism and the Trans Woman

Lets get this clear from the start ~ I consider myself to be a feminist!

I believe in equality of opportunity, equality of respect, equality in education, in employment, in politics, in business and in law.  I believe we should all be treated as equal regardless of race, class, disability, place of birth, gender, gender expression, sexuality and age.   I would hope that it would be difficult to find anyone who would argue with any of this these days, yet it does not reflect the society we live in.   When we look at our business leaders, our political leaders, or indeed those in control of almost any aspect of our lives they are predominantly white men, white men from a certain back ground.   I've nothing against white men, after all I used to think I was one, no it is the imbalance that hurts.

I have a friend who tells me that the answer to this imbalance isn't feminism, or black lives matter, gay rights or any other special interest group ~ what we need is a total overthrow of the whole of society and the system that runs it. I tend to think it is more possible to chip away at one aspect at a time. I want to see more women in positions of power, I want to see a society that is more centered on women, children and families. I believe that through increasing opportunities for women we liberate men and make a kinder fairer society.   This is what I understand by feminism, for me feminism is not about battling men, it is not about hating men, it is as much about liberating men as it is about liberating women.

There is a stream of radical feminism that undermines support for the more general aims of feminism through their hatred of men, and indeed anyone they consider to be, or to ever have been a man ~ which rather strangely seems to include both tTrans Women, and Trans Men!   This is a group known as TERFS (Trans Exclusionary Radical feminists) that has joined in a sort of unholy alliance with the political extreme right to try to deny equal rights to trans people ~ indeed to deny our very existence.

This last year I feels as though there has been a concerted attack on trans women, there has been so much hate and vile misinformation spread by the more scurrilous organs of the news media, there is a pretty good summary of that here.   Many of my Trans friends have felt that all of these attacks are personal attacks on them and their personal identity. Given that we are Trans, it is something we are, not something we do, or a lifestyle we choose to adopt, it is an attack on us. I try not to take it personally, but it does hurt.

I want  to make it clear that this is not the position of the vast majority of feminists ~ I have found that much of my support comes from feminists, I have found that one of the biggest affirmations I have had of my womanhood was when I was accepted to play with the Women Of the World festival Orchestra.   I first saw an advertisement for orchestral players of a good standard who are, or identify as, woman back in 2014 for the 2015  festival.  I applied as much as anything to see if they really meant what they said ~ and they did! I have played tuba with the orchestra for the last three years.

Last years brass section
WOW is the UKs premier feminist event taking over the South Bank complex for a full week in March, the orchestra form an important part of the final big event in the Festival Hall.  Each year we have to apply afresh; one of the questions is about what playing in the orchestra will mean to me, in 100 words or less.   Previous years I have said something about my personal development as a woman and a musician, the inclusion of trans women, or the affirmation of my womanhood, this year I was a bit more angry and had a lot of difficulty limiting myself to 100 words, this is what wrote:~

"Playing with the WOW Orchestra the last three years was one of my most formative experiences as a woman, and as a musician. Now Transgender Women are under attack in the media it is important that as a Trans Woman I take my stand as a feminist in the UKs premier event in my prime role as a musician.
It is important to show the World that we are real women and that the vast majority feminist accept us as such. This year it feels like my opportunity to make a political stance through playing music with other women."

Now I have to wait for an answer as to whether I will be playing again this year. We have been promised an answer this month, I truly hope that this will not be the year when they decide to give somebody else, maybe somebody younger, a chance. I really hope, but I am quite sure that if they do decide not to include me in the Orchestra for 2018 it will not be because I am trans, and I will probably go anyway.

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Slowly getting better

I'm sorry, yesterday's post was a bit of a downer!

Today I'm doing much better, I got up this morning ~ and that in itself is a big improvement ~ I have washed up and tidied up (a bit) and now I am about to have some lunch before going out.

I suppose I ought to get dressed first!

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Difficult few weeks

We are now embarking on what is for me the most difficult period of the year.   After a very enjoyable festive period everybody else seems to go back to "normal" now.   For many today will be their first day back at work, for others it's the time to get ready for a return school, college, or university, but I just feel as though I am in a period of limbo.   I have eaten and drunk too much, I feel old, cold, fat and ugly, and worse still I struggle to find any enthusiasm for the day or any reason to get up in the morning.   I have very little in the way of work to do this month ~ or indeed next ~ and very little money todo anything else.

I know that I do have things that still have to be done ~ cleaning, cooking, laundry etc. etc. but find it difficult to even get started on them.   In short this is a form of depression.

But I do know that it will pass, I do know that in a couple of months the weather will be better, I will have more work to do, and I will have more money. I know that since we have got past Christmas things will start to get better, I just have to get through these next few dull, grey, cold, wet weeks and in no time at all I will be working in the sunshine wearing my shorts and singlets, complaining that I am too busy.

Right! It's about time I got going and did some washing up so I can cook my dinner!