Sunday, 29 November 2009

Pills and patches


The Melford medication. That's three different kinds of blood pressure pill (been taking them for years), a statin tablet, and of course the hormone patch. This cocktail of drugs is one reason why Dr Curtis is reluctant to prescribe any anti-androgens, although with a testosterone level down to 0.9 by last June, and presumably even lower in the January test coming up, a dose of anti-androgens wouldn't achieve much, and it would simply add another layer of medication with the risk of interactions.

Of course the real point of the photo is to show off the 'Miss Lucy Melford' on each pack, and on the Prepayment Certificate. Heartwarming!

I'm still ploughing on with the name-change notifications. 85 to be dealt with; 57 done; that's exactly two-thirds of them out of the way. Two important ones - passport and driving licence - are hanging fire because a solicitor needs to see them next Friday. Quite a few of the remainder are friends, family and neighbours old and new who need to be told. Some tricky letters, emails or conversations there! Oh yes, I can't wait for the reactions. A few wll be pleasant and supportive. Some won't be. And some will be completely stunned, not knowing how to react at all.

A visit to Andrea Waddell's grave, with a rose





The rain finally abated for a while, and so I went to the Clayton Wood Burial Ground to pay my respects to poor Andrea, taking the last good rose left from the bunch Josephine had given me for putting her up on the previous weekend.

The ground was still very soggy though. And as before, there was nobody about to show me which was her grave. So I chose the one with the nicest flowers on it, and stuck the yellow rose I'd brought amid all the red and white carnations. It probably wasn't Andrea's actual grave, but I was doing something symbolic, and precise location didn't seem essential. Like praying inside a church for somebody who was buried at sea far away.

I live close by, and will return in drier weather, and eventually learn where she really is buried. I'm sure that from time to time I will come with a small bunch of flowers to lay on her grave. Her birthday was on 18 June. I'll certainly come then, and, who knows, may see many others there too. It may become a place of pilgimage.

Vorsprung durch technik - new shaver, actually


Roz recommended getting a simple rechargeable electric foil shaver for the apres-electrolysis shave, as it wouldn't irritate the skin, or risk cutting it, nearly as much as a wet shave might. So I went out to Argos next morning and bought this Remington shaver. And I have to say it does a very good job. It's slightly quicker to use than a bladed razor, and clearly there just isn't the same potential to nick the skin around the nose and mouth.

It's about thirteen hours since I first used it on my face, and there is very little stubble to be felt, and practically none to be seen. That's as good as wet shaving. So I think I'll go back to an electric shaver after a gap of 14 years.

I wonder how long it will be in daily use in the months ahead?

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Confidence

Now why do I feel so confident nowadays? I've been pondering this. I've decided that it's two things.

First, it's the certainty of knowing where I am on the gender spectrum. I'm definitely in my comfort zone. I haven't had to wrestle with myself to get here. It just feels right and proper. It always did, as soon as I realised what I was. It all fell into place. I'm female, and everything flows from that.

Second, it's that name change. I knew it was significant. It marked the final end of the old life. It was decisive. It made it impossible to hide - you can't when the only name you can give, without committing fraud, is 'Miss Lucy Melford'. No ambiguity there at all. That's a woman's name. I'm Lucy Melford. I like my name. I'm proud of it.

And I'm confident.

Friday, 27 November 2009

Polythene Pam

Just over forty years ago, in 1969, the Beatles released their Abbey Road album. Because I couldn't afford to buy any albums (or 'LPs' as they were then called) while at school I didn't acquire a copy until I started work, and then only after buying a second-hand stereo record-player. That was in 1971.

I loved Abbey Road. It seemed perfect. Eventually I bought the CD version and the tracks found their way onto my PDAs and more recently my Nokia E71 mobile phone, which makes a very good digital music-player. And just yesterday I suddenly noticed something about the lyrics John Lennon penned for 'Polythene Pam', one of the songs in the medley on side 2. Here they are:

Well you should see Polythene Pam
She's so good-looking but she looks like a man
Well you should see her in drag dressed in her polythene bag
Yes you should see Polythene Pam.
Yeah yeah yeah
Get a dose of her in jackboots and kilt
She's killer-diller when she's dressed to the hilt
She's the kind of a girl that makes the "News of the World"
Yes you could say she was attractively built.
Yeah yeah yeah.


Hang on a minute. What is this actually about? I thought it was a song about an 'action' girl - shiny plastic clothes were trendy and fashionable for a time in the 1960s, and Avenger-style karate-chopping females were often seen on TV. In fact I dreamed of being picked up at the school gates by Emma Peel in a Lotus, and being whisked away to the envy of my school chums - but let's not pursue the inner meaning of that. I'd overlooked the reference to the News of the World, but did it have a significance I'd missed?

Clang! Well, it took me forty years to work it out (I'm pretty slow on the uptake), but I now think Lennon was having a dig at trannies! Do you agree?

My red dress


I'm going to a Big Night Out in Brighton on 6 December, at the Oceana in Brighton. It's called the 'Wild Fruit Red Party 09' and the theme is 'Definitely Red'. So it has to be a red outfit. And I've got my red dress lined up. That's it in the photo, a classic little number by Diane von Furstenberg. Should add a touch of sophistication. Might get a little hat to pop on my head.

This party is basically a huge gay let's-get-dressed-up-and-show-off night, but it has a serious purpose 'challenging HIV/Aids Awareness and Homophobia' and the brochure says 'all monies raised go to the Sussex Community Rainbow Alliance Fund, raising money for LGBT & HIV organisations'. I've not been to the Oceana before but I'm told it's vast inside with at least five different bars or rooms to hang around in and look cool, or gorgeous, or manic, as the mood takes you. It starts at 8.30pm and goes on to 3.00am. I'm going with my friend R--- and we'll arrive between 10pm and 11pm. The celebrity lineup includes many names I don't know, but I have heard of Boy George of course, although he's not the 1980s version nowadays. It should anyway be loud, crowded, and seething with red-clad partygoers!

Not a bad way to kick off the Christmas festivities!

I wasn't fibbing about no redness or swelling - look at this (but ignore the huge nose, please)


Yesterday evening. No sign that I'd had an hour of hot needles thrust into my upper lip. Sorry about the awful shiny nose, the pores, the unkempt hair, the cheapo cardigan, but I'm relaxing.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

My first electrolysis session

I've previously had four sessions with the laser. Now the long business of picking off individual hairs with a needle has begun.

I had an hour of it, all on my upper lip. Roz uses the 'blend' method, where (so far as I understand it) a two-second electrical current sets off a chemical reaction at the base of the follicle and kills the root of the hair. Then you can draw it out. Those bristles from my lip were surprisingly long!

Did it hurt? Well, I deliberately hadn't taken anything to ease the possible discomfort. Nor smeared on cream. I wanted to find out what the pain was really like. And it was a bit like a sting. It varied a lot in intensity. On a scale of 1 to 10, some hairs were under 5; many were middling painful, say 6 or 7; and a few under my nose or on the edge of my lips were 8 or 9. Not many made my eyes water (which I'd say was a 10). Generally speaking, there was more pain in drawing the hair from the skin than in zapping it. Of course, whatever the pain, it had to be endured. I am an absolute wimp where pain is concerned, but I want to be rid of all this hair so badly I'll put up with anything. I didn't flinch once.

My skin didn't go blotchy red or anything. In fact there was no lingering pain or sensation of any kind. And there was no obvious swelling. I was able to wet-shave the upper lip straight away afterwards before leaving, and by the time I got home the upper lip looked and felt completely normal. And yet towards the end of the session Roz had treated several bristles that were likely to be 10s for pain. I must have a rather insensitive skin. Lucky me!

I now have three more weekly sessions booked up before Christmas. Bring it on.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Forbidden fruit (or Summoned By Bells)

This post is based on a comment I made on one of Nicky's recent posts (which she called 'My biased views'). The basic subject was male impersonators and one's reaction to them. I wrote:

My Mum always found Danny La Rue very funny, and admired the makeup and costumes he wore. But he made me cringe. And I generally found overt campness embarrassing, as in the 'Carry-on' films, and yes, Dick Emery and John Inman. I wondered why I wasn't laughing, and felt very awkward. When old enough I went out rather than see these things.

There was also something disturbing about depictitions of men dressed up as women, even if for a deadly earnest reason - as in war films: escaping prisoners, say. I didn't understand that either.

Then were three things I saw on TV during the 1970s and 1980s that made me have a more complicated and less knee-jerk reaction, and began to set me thinking a lot. One was a early episode of 'Casualty' on TV, in which an MTF transsexual prostitutute got beaten up and admitted to hospital, to the concern of one of the female nurses, who begs 'him' (not 'her') to give up what 'he's' doing because of the danger. Horribly reminiscent of modern transphobia. But I was fascinated by the idea that here was someone living as a woman who had 'crossed the line' so to speak. She couldn't 'give it up'. Then two films. One was 'Triple Echo' a 1970s film starring Glenda Jackson and Oliver Reed about an army deserter who is taken in by a lonely woman, convincingly disguised by her as her 'sister', and then finds that he likes the sensation of looking and acting a like a girl. His undoing is a yearning for a good time at the local dance, with the inevitable exposure and ugly retribution. The other film was 'Tootsie', and whatever its limitations, I thought Dustin Hoffman (playing a perfectionist actor desperate for work, who lands a starring role in a hospital soap as a feisty female adminstrator, raising all kinds of issues) found something in the role beyond farcical situation comedy. The film showed the practical difficulties of clothes, makeup and babycare, an insight into a woman's feelings and position in society, and handled the attitudes, roles and emotions of several very different men 'she' encountered. I thought there was much that was deep in that film, and almost for the first time I pondered seriously on how much I hated being male. It was a risky role for Hoffman. Several reviewers thought they detected an empathy with the part that went beyond what a good actor might be expected to achieve.

Strangely, these three rather random experiences (all fictional; I had completely internalised all my proto-trans thinking and emotions) made me feel easier about the Danny La Rues of this world. And I coped better with office chortles and ribaldry about anything that was 'deviant' or 'unmale'.

I neglected to say some other things about those three instances. I found them enthralling and yet disturbing. Had I been asked why I was watching so rapty, I would have blushed. They were forbidden fruit. They rang loud bells in my mind, a clamour that took some time and willpower to silence. Putting things away into sealed, soundproof boxes was my typical coping strategy. I learned it early, pre-school. By the 1970s I was an expert in suppressing all inconvenient emotions. I had the temperament to do it so well. But it meant no emotional development. My therapists saw that. How novel and liberating it now is to open these boxes and examine the contents without shame!

Monday, 23 November 2009

Aunt Lucy


Yesterday my niece J--- and her partner K--- came down by train from the northern outskirts of London for Sunday lunch with me. I picked them up at Haywards Heath and took them to a Sussex country pub, the Half Moon at Warninglid. We had a yummy meal there.

J--- is very pro-Lucy, for which I am profoundly appreciative. She has long called me Lucy, and we can talk about any aspect of my transition. And also aspects of my past life, when our relationship was a little different, more conventional, more distant, perhaps a bit awkward in fact, even though I very much liked her company. For some unfathomable reason, we now seem a lot closer, and have much more to say to each other. It all seems far more 'real' somehow.

We were discussing male family titles. I used to dislike any male label. I knew that Mum and Dad took pride in referring to me as their 'son', and not wanting to hurt them I did nothing to throw cold water over that. But I tried to avoid all other male labels. So when a parent, I had no worries about not being called 'Dad' by my step-daughter A---. I was very happy and comfortable for her to call me 'J---' from the outset.

And I really didn't want to called 'Uncle', even though both my niece and nephew naturally called me that. There was nothing wrong with it, except that I didn't feel it fitted my self-image at all well, even though at the time I couldn't have explained why. In contrast, I didn't mind being called 'Aunt Lucy' at all. So it made me sound like some spinsterish old lady? Who cares. We agreed that henceforth I'd be 'Aunt Lucy' in front of strangers, and otherwise just 'Lucy'.

As you can see from the photo, Aunt Lucy enjoyed her lunch. Then she did some embroidery before retiring to the drawing room for tea.

Transgender Day Of Remembrance ceremony in Brighton


This particular ceremony had added poignancy in that Brighton had a recent victim of its own, Andrea Waddell, and Mr and Mrs Waddell were present. Also the Police and members of the local City Council.

The occasion (my very first) was solemn and moving. Much of the time was given to reading out the names of those around the world who had become victims of anti-trans hate crime during 2009. Each of the 60-odd persons attending was asked to read a name and whatever details were stated about the date, location and manner of death. It was voluntary to take part; but not many found they couldn't do it. It was awful to hear. When it came to my own turn (this happened twice, so many names) I felt very strange and quite shaky. But I spoke clearly; the victim deserved to be heard, and not lost in a whisper. Mrs Waddell read out Andrea's own name. She did so with dignity, and did not dissolve into tears. What a brave woman.

Josephine had come down especially to be present. We both spoke to the Waddells afterwards. We learned that Andrea was buried within two miles of my home, in a lovely spot looking at the South Downs. Jo and I went to see it next morning. It was a very windy, wet morning. We weren't sure which was the exact grave, and there was nobody around to ask. We were soaked by a sudden squall, but no matter. I will go back in the next two or three days, and lay two roses on her grave, one from Jo, one from me, from the bunch Jo brought down for me (I was putting her up for the night). And say a private prayer.

Mrs Waddell told me that Andrea had modelled clothes for a shop in Brighton near Preston Circus. They have a window display devoted to her just now. I'll find it.

Perhaps it was as well that Andrea - caring, articulate, pain-racked Andrea - was the focus of the ceremony. The endless recital of names might otherwise have been chilling and depressing. It was striking how many deaths occurred in Latin American countries. Perhaps (I am only theorising) there was something about the men in those countries, their upbringing or culture, that triggered ferocity when they discovered or were told that their girlfriends or sexual partners were not natal females. Something that took control. Something that turned them into murderers and beasts. Something that a mere 'OK' from the Pope will not reach. The victims were done to death in apartments and on the streets. There was no safe place. They were stabbed, shot, mutilated. It was horrible.

Do those in this country (and we have plenty of hate crime in the UK) who look down their sniffy noses at transsexuals, and declare us to be abominations and parodies and mental cases have any concept of the cruelty and brutality that lies further along their way of thinking?

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Happy 89th Birthday, Dad - or it would have been!









Dad died on 25 May last, aged 88, and today would have been his 89th birthday. I'd like to share some images of him with you: Dad as I remember him during his last 20 years or so. He was a father to be proud of. He was good at writing and painting, and if he had a stern side, and was over-inclined to conservative thinking, he was also remarkably forebearing about the pain from his arthritis and many matters in general. I think his sense of humour shows.

The last photo was taken on 11 May, just two weeks before he died. We were having another lunch together at a country pub, just him and me. I had been on hormones for nearly two months, and was starting to change before his eyes. The hair was getting long, and I was wearing my jewellery and girly jeans. I think you'll agree that he was relaxed about me. We'd spoken about where I was headed. The love of a father for his son had overcome most of his dire misgivings. He had asked me not to do anything 'too drastic' in his lifetime - surgery for instance - but he knew that I would gradually turn into a daughter. He didn't tell me exactly how he would feel about it, but he had realised that it would come on slowly and not prevent him enjoying my company. It was, after all, just him and me now. A parent's love for a child, and a child's love for a parent; all that really mattered.

These are the closing words of my little speech at Dad's funeral (I posted the full version on 2 June):

How I admired his determination [at the end of his life] not to be defeated by crippling arthritis! Despite the increasing pain and discomfort he led a normal life right up to the end, doing his own cooking and shopping, although (thankfully) the cleaning and gardening were done for him. I showed him how to use a computer, so that when he didn’t feel like going out he could place an order with Tesco online, and have it delivered to his door. He had all his home comforts, and he had an alert mind, even if he often now felt very tired. I liked to play cards with him, and have pub lunches with him, and we had a Mediterranean cruise together which he thoroughly enjoyed. But he must have brooded on the terrible loss of W---, my younger brother, some years before. And he did not have Mum with him anymore. Nothing could replace her. He seemed to face his loneliness with fortitude, even cheerfulness, but I could see that it was eating away at him.
What would Dad say if he were still here? I believe he would say these things: that you must never give in; that nothing in life is better than the love and support of your partner; and that raising children to be proud of is the finest ambition you can have. The rest is dust.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

What's in your Handbag, then?

Now be honest. Are the contents of your handbag typically female (I'm addressing this to MTF persons), or if pulled up by the Sex Police would you fail their tests and be hauled off to jail?

Do you, for instance, carry a Leatherman or a Swiss Army Knife or a baccy pouch and packet of Rizlas? If you do, you're going to join me in Holloway, do not kid yourself. Or worse, in the Scrubs. Yikes!

OK, I'll reveal what's always in the Melford handbag:

Leica D-Lux 4 digital pocket camera
Spare Leica battery
Nokia E71 mobile phone
Hewlett-Packard iPAQ 214 handheld PDA
Mimco luxury leather purse
Comb
Tissues
Powder compact by YSL
Two shades of lipstick
Nail file
Little fabric purse to put house and car keys in

I'm sorry M'lud, I plead guilty as charged to NOT HAVING ENOUGH GIRLY ITEMS IN MY HANDBAG and of violating the Gender Offences Act 2004, Section 8(3)(b) and also of contravening the requirements set out in Schedule 9, Paragraph 11(f) to the same Act. I would like to say in mitigation that I hate to miss a photo and - oh, hold it there, M'lud, just like that, don't adjust your wig a bit - thanks, M'lud - and I feel that six months in jail without a decent meal would render me incapable of fitting into my newly-bought size 14 skirts. They'd just slide off and fall down to my ankles, and then where would I be? And everything would be six months out of fashion when I emerged, a broken stick insect, how horrible! [Judge orders immediate release for 'the fragrant Miss Melford']

Monday, 16 November 2009

Handwriting


Now here's a funny thing. My handwriting, which used to be full of spikes, is getting more curvaceous!

I'm not deliberately changing it. I dare say some people do try that, having perhaps read somewhere that their writing contains certain 'male' features that are instant give-aways. That seems a bit paranoid, however. Personally I don't see how you can eradicate the writing habits of a lifetime without the result looking unnatural.

And how much handwriting does one do anyway? Mine is mostly confined to shopping lists and signatures on letters and cheques. That's one of my shopping lists in the photo.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

A little drama played out before our eyes


The same evening (see the previous post). The photo is poor, but then it's been taken in semi-darkness. We've been watching an unfolding little drama. Two young girls seem to have targeted the guy on the right in the check shirt. They can't be more than 18 or so - students, probably. The right-hand girl has a lovely body, legs to die for, and the left-hand girl can't keep her hands off her. We notice some intimate fondling, brief but exciting if you are a man and unattached and something of a voyeur. Of course, we aren't any of those things. But the guy is plainly fascinated and caught hook, line and sinker. They sit with him, then move off a few feet to gyrate to the music, all caresses and tight clinches. Dirty dancing, presumably. No idea. We wonder what next. It seems all too much of a performance just to get a free drink. Finally he's on his feet, and then they all move to the exit. It's a rainy night. They're going to get wet. I've got my photo.

Girls' Night Out




Here I am, last night, in a Lanes restaurant in Brighton. I select turbot from a delightful menu while my friend R--- grabs a few shots with my Leica. We end up chatting to the very pleasant couple on the next table, who say they always eat here when down from Buckinghamshire. We think the male half could be an MP from some constituency in the Chilterns, though he makes out he's an accountant. I mention a few places I know in that area. R---, being a Channel Islands girl, is not so familiar with the locality, but even so we share plenty of topics with them and it enhances an already very good evening. R--- has cheese and biscuits for dessert; I have their very special bread-and-butter pudding that actually looks like a cube of sultana-rich wedding cake amid a scattering of almonds. One bottle of wine sees us through.

We'd already been to the Charles Street club, where our miniskirts and boots seem to go down well, and a nice gay guy called Chris asks me who I am. Now we go on to the Suga Qube for cocktails (two Singapore Slings) and this time it's R--- who attracts the attention. The group of lads she's talking to are making the most of the two-for-the-price-of-one deals, as a necessary preliminary to one of the clubs where they can really start to party. The Slings seem to pack plenty of punch, no question, so we decline another and make our way back to Charles Street, to be greeted by several people that R--- knows. Well, she's a very outgoing, friendly girl. And so are they. And I'm not so cool and distant either. However in my impetuosity I manage to knock over R---'s drink while saying hello to a trans person called Maxine. It goes everywhere. Mega embarrassment. Never mind. It's been a great evening.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Poem for the Day - Winter

Yesterday evening was pretty windy, but tonight has been a regular gale! It looks as if autumn is already passing, and that winter is just around the corner. We probably won't get any crisp white snow, nor the glinting sunshine and frosty blue skies that can make it all so beautiful. It'll just be rain and fog, dampness and cold. But indoors, a good excuse for light and cheer. Let's be upbeat! Here's a poem I wrote back in September 1995 that seems apt:


WINTER

Think of me, facing the pale winter sky,
At the edge of the wood as the leaves blow by.
And think of the crow up above in the trees,
Whose breakfast and supper are nothing but breeze.
And look at the mouse who is not yet in bed,
Driven by hunger to forage instead.
The frost is an adder that gnaws at the land;
And the pale winter sky with the leaves blowing by
Is as empty and bitter as poor Nature's hand.

But remember the curtains that keep out the night,
And remember the sunshine, so brilliant, so bright;
And the crystals of ice, their symmetrical art,
And the roaring log fire that cheers the heart.

Friday, 13 November 2009

Wanting to help

I felt sad and weepy, with a huge sense of loss, once back from taking Debbie home two days ago. I don't think it was entirely connected with Debbie herself. It was (so I thought later) as much to do with attending to something very important that was outside my usual self-centred concerns, giving it complete priority, and then, having accomplished the mission so to speak, finding life empty. For there was no other task to hand, and nobody at home to talk to.

Fortunately the feeling didn't last long. I spent most of yesterday with another friend, C---, discussing the way forward for her. We had a nice pub lunch at The Ram at Firle while being roasted by a cheery fire, explored the church with its stained glass and effigies, and had a wander around the quaint shops of Lewes before sheltering once more from the wind and the rain in the warm and comfortable pub high up on the Devil's Dyke. And today, although I have yet to make a decisive start, I will begin the enormous task of writing letters to all and sundry about my legal name change almost two weeks ago. There are some 75 letters that must be written, and around ten more I might write to friends and neighbours who knew me in the past, still know nothing about my transition, and yet could get in touch at any moment.

Getting back to that longing to be useful and putting someone else first, however clumsily and inadequately done, I have written a poem this morning to express how I feel. Here it is:


WANTING TO HELP

Wanting to help, because I can,
And happy to fall in with a plan.
Wanting to help, and just be there,
Surprised to discover how much I care.

Anxious to please and to bring relief,
Encouraging hope and self-belief;
Wanting to be a comforting arm
Around the shoulders,
Protecting from harm.

Words to bring hope,
And words to share pain,
Words to bring pleasure
And words to sustain.

Wanting to comfort,
And to be near,
And yet not wanting to interfere.

LM 2009 1113


For so many years I was the strong and comforting arm around M---'s shoulders. It cannot be so now.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

An invitation to participate at Brighton University

I'm really touched and flattered. One of the trans guys who comes to the Clare Project drop-in on Tuesdays here in Brighton, and is a student at the University, has asked me if I would be willing to participate in an event there in early February. It would involve speaking about my trans experience for the benefit and enlightenment of a mixed group of students. It wouldn't be a lecture; much more a group discussion in an informal setting.

I have said yes, I'd be happy to speak. It could be a rough ride, or an uplifting hour of pure joy. I don't mind. It's a chance to educate and explain. And if it stops any young person worrying themselves to death about their gender, then how worthwhile.

Hmmm. Better get my own thinking in order! (See the recent post called 'The Transsexual Manifesto')

Monday, 9 November 2009

Visiting Debbie


This is a picture of me, taken by Josephine, while we were both visiting Debbie in hospital. It was three days ago.

Debbie must be getting pretty used to seeing me, as I've looked in every day so far (six visits), and I will continue to supply some daily chat until she leaves, when, unless there is divine intervention, I will drive her home. Then there will soon be two other girls lined up for visiting. I could make a career of this!

The Transsexual Manifesto

I've been feeling upset recently - quite unlike the ordinary day-to-day me. Perhaps it's the hormones starting to bite deeper, or some kind of fallout from nailing my transition flag to the mast with the name change by Deed Poll. Who knows.

One way I like coping with things that bother me, however vaguely discerned, is to set out some thoughts and let it expand into an essay. I've used this technique before, for example when I retired early and went through a terrible guilt phase. I wrote a very long essay about it, and I then wrote another long essay about my former career, the two things obviously being linked. The very act of putting things into writing seemed to bring perspective and better understanding and a sense that although I was right to examine my concerns, nevertheless I was wrong to chastise myself and dwell morbidly upon matters that were not personal but in fact owned by the society around me; and that I hadn't been, and wasn't now, an undeserving failure. Those essays helped me move forward. They also set me off thinking about my life in general, with consequences that have lead to transition and a lot of grief.

Lately I've felt a need to set out my thinking on being transsexual. I'll share it with you. There's nothing original here, and I consider the title a bit grand for a draft set of thoughts, but the words are mine:


THE TRANSSEXUAL MANIFESTO

For any person, anyone at all, their true gender is the one that their mind recognises and is most comfortable with. And that doesn’t necessarily mean just classically ‘male’ or ‘female’. The comfort zone could be anywhere on the gender spectrum.

Someone in between the two classic positions might easily feel confused about what kind of person they are. But those whose self-perception comes close to the typical ‘male’ or ‘female’ positions have no confusion at all: they know exactly which gender group they belong to.

One’s ‘official’ gender is assigned at birth according to outward appearance. From then onwards, the growing person is treated as either ‘male or ‘female’ and becomes used to their assigned role. Social conformity locks them in. For many this does not matter. But for some, the pressure to be conventionally ‘male’ or ‘female’ starts to generate inner discomfort, because their own feelings about what they are and how they would like to behave differ so strongly from the norms for their assigned role. If the discomfort is irrepressible, then the person will protest early in life and hope for remedial treatment while young. If it can be lived with, then the inner conflict will continue into adult life.

Often an adult person manages the mismatch between the gender they see within and their different outward appearance by doing things to alleviate the strain - cross-dressing, for instance. But some simply put the problem away in a shut box and continue with their life until the issue can no longer be ignored.

A ‘transition’ in later life is hard for everyone concerned. There is so much to lose and destroy. That is one of the reasons why an early diagnosis of gender dysphoria is best. Inner conflict must be faced sooner or later, and sooner is less damaging and also gives the person who suffers a longer time living as they would prefer. Those who grew up in a time when such a diagnosis could not be made, and have grown old without remedial treatment, have been seriously disadvantaged.

From the foregoing it should be clear that a transsexual person does not seek a ‘sex change’. Their sex (meaning gender) is fixed; it is what their mind perceives; they merely want the body altered to conform, and are prepared to adapt their voice and behaviour to match, insofar as that is possible.

Transsexuality is a mismatch between the inner and outer self, a cruel condition that ought to justify without further argument whatever remedial treatment society can afford in the effort to put matters right. It is not mere wrong-thinking, or a flouting of the natural order, nor a mental illness, but a physical disability that should merit as much concern and action as any other kind of physical disability. Nobody would dream of withholding surgery and appropriate aftercare from a person with curable blindness, or a birth defect such as a deformity, a missing limb or a disfigurement. Any person in this position has a reduced quality of life, and cannot contribute fully in society, perhaps, who knows, to society’s loss. Any person in this position deserves as much dignity and respect and ordinary kindness as anyone else.

Of course there is no unlimited supply of resources to put matters right. Of course those who can easily afford to pay should consider doing so, to free up resources for those who cannot. But proper treatment should be available to all without irrelevant obstacles in the way.

In a social context, there is no rational reason for scorn or horror or violence to be directed towards the transsexual person. That such negative feelings can be expressed is a sad comment on our culture, and reflects the true state of our so-called advanced civilisation.

Nothing of course stands still; attitudes will undoubtedly change with time; but, as with any long march towards a social goal, a valiant few have to stand up and be counted, and fight the good fight so that the many others who follow may live free and fulfilling lives.


Lucy Melford
9 November 2009



Oh dear. It sounds dreadfully political, and I'm no activist, closet or overt. I'm most definitely not looking to stir up any controversy either, so please don't take it as a challenge, or the opening of some debate. It's just my first version of another essay. I suppose the target readers are the non-trans people from my former life who might dip into my blog now and then. There are apparently several of them, and since we haven't had any contact this is one way in which I can get my viewpoint across. Note that I haven't used the words 'man' or 'woman' at any point.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Email from Dr Alice Roberts in reply to mine

I got a very quick response from Alice Roberts this morning, which was that her own area of research was quite different, and that the best approach would be to start with the clinicians who have been looking after me, particularly if there was an endocrinologist I could talk to. I sent this acknowledgement:

Dear Alice

Thank you for your very rapid response. I'm sorry to have taken up your time. It's the price of being a well-known personality of course!

Although I have my own long-term health concerns here, I am to some extent raising the topic of research on behalf of the trans community at large. Nobody knows exactly how many trans people have been prescribed hormones (or have obtained them from Internet sources) but the number must come to several thousand in the UK alone, and the matter of what the consequences might be is clearly important to anyone affected.

Perhaps someone will pick up this particular ball and run with it, or if they don't, then I will. There are, I'm sure, many other trans people who are intensely interested in medical issues. I don't know who they are, but one of my co-bloggers might, and some networking could lead to someone either championing a further enquiry, or disseminating whatever facts they have learned so far.

Meanwhile, thank you again.

With best wishes, Lucy Melford



Do we have any medical gurus among us? Or does anyone know of somebody who has their finger on the pulse of trans health research?

Email to Dr Alice Roberts

I'm fascinated by the external changes happening to my own body. It's going on at a snail's pace, but as the months pass, there's unmistakeable progress. I love the way limbs have slimmed down or fattened up, and rounded off. I could swear that my hair colour has changed from 'going pretty grey' to 'alluring ash blonde', and that my eye colour is intensifying.

But what's happening inside? Is my liver getting less tolerant of alcohol? Are my other organs changing? I mean, if you alter your body chemistry with feminising hormones you won't grow a womb but surely each organ, including the brain, is going to be affected?

I tried looking up specific research into all this on the web, but found nothing. And yet I couldn't believe that there was literally no research done or going on. So I decided to contact Dr Alice Roberts, who has done so much in recent years to bring anatomy to the attention of the UK public. I think she lives in or very near Bristol, incidentally, and maybe Dru knows her.

Anyway, this is the email I sent off to her yesterday evening:

(Email to Dr Alice Roberts, sent on 4 November 2009, and entitled 'Long-term anatomical changes in male-to-female transsexuals')

Dear Alice

I am a transsexual woman, aged 57, retired, who is some months into hormone treatment. I may if fortunate enjoy some thirty more years of life, all of it under the influence of feminising hormones, because of course these must continue life-long.

The external changes induced by feminising hormones are well documented, but nobody seems to have conducted any significant research (that I can find) into how the internal organs and their behaviour might be altered by prolonged exposure to oestragen when there is little or no testosterone present.

I am seeking some expert advice here. If my internal systems might change to resemble those of a woman rather than a man, then I really ought to know how this impacts on such things as diet, alcohol intake, exercise, endurance, mental capacity, likelihood of bone fractures and so on. I have much living to do once 'sorted out' surgically and ready to catch up on what I really wanted to do when younger - strenuous activities perhaps.

I know that transsexuality is a salacious topic in the media, but the reality is much more down-to-earth, and each person who undergoes transition faces long-term physical and health consequences that ought to be well understood, but in fact seem not to be. That is not good. If there is research going on, I need to access the preliminary findings. If none has yet been carried out, then surely the deficiency should be looked at? Adverse findings, or none at all, are not going to affect the need to transition, but it would be highly beneficial to know what might be in store. Insurance companies, for instance, seem not to know what the risks are, and this adversely affects getting cover.

Naturally I have thought of yourself as a good starting point. Can you assist, please, or at least point me in the direction of a colleague who can?

I do have an Internet presence at http://lucymelford.blogspot.com - obviously a blog, but at least you can check me out through it.

[Contact details given]

I do hope you can assist, or get someone interested in this, if nothing is happening as regards research.

Yours sincerely

Lucy Melford



It'll be interesting if she does reply. If you have never seen her on TV you've missed out. Medical topics tend to be special-interest to a degree, but she makes body parts, dissection, and old bones dug up by her archaeological circle seem compelling viewing. And yes, she's very attractive, which obviously helps to get some people watching. Have a look for instance at the interview at http://blip.tv/file/2596604.

It would be great if she takes a personal interest in trans anatomy. I think she's more likely to pass my enquiry on to some research group who have not yet published anything that can easily be accessed. But you never know.

Deed Poll - the legal copies

Have to say that although I paid for same-day turnaround the UK Deed Poll Service have been incredibly efficient. I posted the Deed back in a first-class stiff A4 envelope they provided late in the afternoon on 2 November, and could have taken delivery before noon on 4 November (yesterday), had I been home. That's impressive. And full marks to Royal Mail too. Of course you pay top dollar for such service. But I for one don't mind that for occasional special packages that simply must be delivered quickly and safely.

The legal copies look even better than the original document! Each one is basically a colour photo of the original, printed onto stiffish A4 paper (Christmas or birthday card thickness) with the certifying signature of the UK Deed Poll Service's CEO, a note for anyone examining the thing, and contact information if they are in any doubt. It's framable. It's too good to bend or fold. I feel I've got my money's worth.

Now to work on notifying all and sundry!

Have you got any ID?

While out yesterday two sets of delivery people called at my house, couldn't give me the package and get my signature, and had to leave a card. One had my new digital voice recorder (for voice practice - more on this in another posting!). The other (Royal Mail) wanted to deliver the original Deed Poll, returned with the 25 legal copies I'd ordered (and more on them in my next post).

Problem: how to establish my identity when all the Deed Poll documentation was in a sealed package at the local sorting office? I managed it. I had to show a convincing chain of evidence.

Thank goodness I'd been introducing myself as 'Lucy Melford' to anyone new for months. Back in May I'd had an eye test with Specsavers in Brighton. The results card had printed on it 'Ms Lucy Melford', but at my old address, the one I had before moving into Dad's house from June. I also had my driving licence with a nearly useless photo, but my old name at that same old address. I showed the man at the sorting office these things. He agreed that I had established a link now between J--- and Lucy at the old address. Next, I showed him a Council Tax statement addressed to J--- at my present address. This completed the chain of evidence, connecting Lucy to my present house. I was then able to sign for the package and take it home.

This little episode reminded me strongly of my old job, where I often found myself going through hundreds of invoices, job sheets, delivery notes, diaries, correspondence and other bits of paper - and latterly computerised records of course - to establish a similar chain of evidence, perhaps to reveal a link between two or more people, or to winkle out the details of some carefully-concealed transaction. I had patience and method and I was good at that sort of work, and at presenting my findings. I wasn't so good at the follow-up, but that's another story I won't (and indeed cannot by law) go into!

I have to say that the people at the local sorting office, who had seen me before in J--- mode, turned not a hair at myself in unshaven and straight-out-of-bed Lucy mode (it was early in the morning). Full marks to them.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

BT: Grrr!

Actually, it wouldn't be fair to bash BT too much. The timing of what I now have to put up with - a two-week gap in my phone call service - is down to me. Let me explain.

I am going to be without the ability to make landline calls out, or receive any landline calls, until 13 November. BT told me so in a letter dated 31 October, which (because of the postal strikes) I received only today. So that makes it two whole weeks to transfer the call service from Sky (who used to have it) to BT (who now have it again). Two weeks! Thank goodness I have my mobile phone.

I mean, there are so many things to get under way just now that need a phone: for example, arranging interviews to get my Deed Poll name change on various sets of records; chasing up parcel deliveries (such as my new digital voice recorder); chasing up my cruise refund; and so on.

I think two weeks is not speedy service at all. Hence the 'Grrr!'. This said, I could have done something about the changeover from Sky to BT months ago, and endured it at a more convenient time, had I realised that I needed to set something in motion. For some strange reason that illustrates what an odd mind I must have, I assumed that phoning Sky and cancelling all of Dad's package (he had signed up for the whole kit and caboodle, including phone calls) meant that things would revert automatically to BT by default. Especially as I had contacted BT to say that I was taking over the line. You'd have thought BT would say to themselves, 'Perhaps our new customer would be interested in a fresh call deal'. But evidently not. How naive of me to assume intelligence, or even just a proactive desire for new business, however modest.

So there you are. I didn't act earlier, and must endure this now when it's most awkward. Sigh. I wonder what else I've overlooked?

Debbie updates

Nicky (The Candyfloss Girl) is managing Debbie's blog and I'll be sending her daily reports on how Debbie is doing. I'll leave all official bulletins to Nicky.

I will just say here that I saw Debbie today and she is tired but OK. Met her counsellor too, who will be taking her home on 10 November. A delightful lady called Fran.

See Debbie's blog for more!

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Debbie

It's not long after 11am here, and it's a nail-biting wait for more news about Debbie. Surely by now they must have completed the main part of the surgery?

Not going to make a fuss. I'm sure Nicky will post a bulletin any minute now. I'm going out to Brighton from 3pm, but I can (thank goodness) still get the Internet on my mobile phone. Ought to be some news by then.

Think I'll go for a walk, sun's just come out.

You're doing a great job, Nicky!

Monday, 2 November 2009

The Deed is done

It's time I went to bed. I feel really tired.

The main event of the day was of course the signing of the Deed Poll document soon after noon. That was in the minister's office at a Brighton church. All went well. The legal act was performed to the letter and I was transformed into Lucy Melford. For real. I felt elated, triumphant, validated as a new person. Then I had tears for the old person who had lived for so long as the wrong person.

I feel those tears again now, as I write this. For God's sake, why? It's only a name change that I can repeat again and again if I want to. It shouldn't feel so final and dramatic. But it does. I have crossed some psychological line and stand on the other side. I look back at an era that belonged to someone else. My gaze is now fixed on the new life that has begun in earnest. It's arrived. I have looked up to the mountain and the light has washed over me.

I'm sagging a bit with fatigue now, but I most certainly walked taller for the rest of the day. I wanted to be stopped and asked who I was. No-one did. Never mind. I still felt so special.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Please do remember the Fifth of November: Gunpowder, Treason and Plot


This is an image I created in November 2000. What an age ago! A different life entirely. The top half is taken from Roy Strong's book 'The English Year', and of course shows the plotters who tried to blow up Parliament, including a certain Guy Fawkes. The bottom half is a genuine calendar for November 2000. I used the font known as 'Caslon Antique VL' and (imagined) olde worlde spelling to round off the effect. Note that everyone wore witches' hats then! Quel fun.

As I write this, only two hours to go before the Deed Poll signing. Woo hoo!