Monday, 30 January 2012

My Statutory Declaration

It's done. Successfully.

I went to the Brighton Law Courts Building at 9.20am this morning. I'd been told that the magistrates would hear Declarations from 9.30am, before the other cases were heard. It looked like two Declarations today. Only one concerning gender, though: mine. I was second in line. In fact we had to wait until 10.00am, when the magistrates arrived. I was seen at 10.15am. It was all over by 10.30am. The place was Court 5, down in the basement.

I'd dressed soberly in black and grey. My long dark grey Windsmoor overcoat, taken off and carried on my arm. A grey and white striped top. A black knee-length skirt. Black tights. Black flats. My ordinary black handbag, not the Prada bag. My usual plain silver jewellery.

I did not want to seem flash or frivolous. My back was straight, and I held my head high, but I was also very polite and deferential.

I had with me a large document case containing three copies of the Statutory Declaration as downloaded from the GRC Panel website, and printed out. Also that page of the GRC Application Form which asked for details of the magistrate witnessing my Declaration. Plus all the supporting documents for my Application, just in case any were asked for. Such as my Decree Absolute.

But all they asked for was a form of ID. I had my passport ready. The one that had 'F' for my sex. I could see that a passport was the very best ID one could produce. It went down well with the three magistrates who saw me.

There were two men and one woman, all slightly older than middle-aged. Perhaps they took it in turns to hear people appearing before them. They sat high above the rest of the court. It was slightly intimidating. Only the man in the middle spoke to me. None of them gave away their thoughts or feelings by any expression that I could catch. They looked at me closely only when I actually made my Declaration. The man in the middle wished me a good morning when I left: that was all.

Assisting them was a nice woman who acted as usher, and an equally nice (but surprisingly young) woman who acted as clerk.

My ID examined, the clerk then asked me to read my Declaration. I did so in my best voice. It was high and clear, and I managed it without hesitations or mispronunciations. Christella Antoni would have been proud of me. This was what I declared:

I, Lucy Melford, do solemnly and sincerely declare that:

1. I am over 18 years of age.

2. I have lived as a female throughout the period of two years since I transitioned in November 2009.

3. I intend to live as a female until death.

4a. I hereby declare that I am not legally married in my original gender to someone of the opposite sex.

4b. I hereby declare that I am not in a civil partnership in my original gender to someone of the same sex.

4c. I hereby declare that my former marriage or civil partnership was dissolved on the 25th of June 1996.

5. I make this solemn declaration conscientiously believing the same to be true and by virtue of the provisions of the Statutory Declarations Act 1835.


I didn't have to swear on oath. Just to say the above words.

The magistrate signed all three copies of my Declaration. And completed the 'witness details' part of the Application Form. I had all I wanted. I retired gracefully. Job done. Ordeal over.

Then it was back home for a nice cup of tea.

What next? The Application Form itself. And then get it posted by some kind of special delivery. I decided I would refine my evidence of full-time living first. Then get it all off on Wednesday morning. So much to fit into a crowded week!

Saturday, 28 January 2012

At the magistrate's court

No, not arrested and brought before the beak to be fined for laughing merrily in a public place. I voluntarily went to Brighton Magistrates Court today (Friday), to enquire about making a Statutory Declaration on oath before a magistrate. This is one of the bits of paper needed for my Gender Recognition Certificate application. The very last item to gather in.

Facing me as I entered were two court security officers at a desk, who asked me to show me the contents of my bags and empty my pockets. The little Leica in my handbag was found, examined carefully, and retained until my departure. A black mark, clearly!

Then through the metal detector. Bleep, bleep, bleep!!! Oh dear, I'd forgotten the keys hung around my neck. Sorry, sorry! I felt instantly criminalised. Fortunately there were no further bleeps or buzzes as the brace of hand-held detectors were run across my body and down my limbs. Well of course, anyone could see that I might be intent on evil. The camera proved it.

Then I faced the office staff. I explained what I wanted, and showed my printout of a model Statutory Declaration taken from the GRC Panel website. I wondered what the reaction would be. Surely they must - in Brighton of all places - get a constant stream of trans people making the same enquiry? Dozens every week. They must be totally familiar with this request? But the girl who saw me seemed puzzled at first. Maybe I misread her; but I hoped that I wouldn't have to go into a long explanation of what this was about, not with the two security staff just feet away, and already suspicious.

She took the printout away, then returned. And from then on, she was very helpful. She said the magistrate dealt with these things in court from 9.30am. This was Friday: I could make my Declaration on Monday. That was fine by me. The fee was £25, much as expected. I need not pay in advance, but I did. I wrote out a cheque, got a receipt, was given my camera back, and I walked out a free woman. The people on the steps outside, obviously due to appear in the court shortly, made way for me with apologies: how very polite. Surely guilty people would scowl and be horrible?

So Monday it is. Bright and early. Ushered in, stood in the dock, and made to swear on the Bible. Or affirm.

Magistrate: 'I find you guilty as charged. Take her down.'

The black mariah. A bleak cell. No appeal. Years pass. I emerge old and broken.


Better not take the camera.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Deadly serious

I've never been one to make plans and then do nothing, at least not if I'm in a position to forge ahead. A couple of posts back, I mentioned some goals for the next ten years. These included finishing my 'apprenticeship' as a woman. I want to get to the stage where I can function completely as an unquestioned woman in any company, in any situation. Not merely to 'pass': I mean to engage with other people in depth, in prolonged close-up conversation, and seem to them totally natural. If possible, also vivacious and fascinating - but that would be an extra!

I'm not talking about 'acting'. I don't want to be anyone else, or to be aping their mannersisms. I want my individuality to shine through. At the same time, I want to match up the wider world's perception of what would be typical and natural for a woman with my nationality, social background, education and age group. So that when Sherlock Holmes and Professor Henry Higgins start to discuss me at some dinner party, they will opine correctly that I'm an unattached independently-minded and slightly unconventional woman of adequate means; grammar-school educated, but not very clever or quick-witted; with a veneer of provincial (rather than metropolitan) culture. Higgins will place me successively in South Wales, Hampshire, London and Sussex. Holmes will deduce that I had my tonsils out when seven, employ a home help, like toasted teacakes, and watch BBC4 far more than any other TV channel.

But when I am ready for that particular dinner-party, both men will read me as a woman and nothing else.

So what does an apprentice need to do? Well, practice, practice, practice at their craft. I'm deadly serious. I see too many trans women who have paid little or no attention to eradicating their male conditioning, and are not learning female ways in a systematic and sustained manner. The right clothes amd makeup are just a foundation. Attention must also be given to such things as posture - no male slouching, head up - and all movements must be smooth, light, graceful, expressive, quick and deft. What you do with your head, especially the mouth and eyes, is crucial. Women's faces are never deadpan like a man's: they are mobile, they tilt. And when speaking, see how a woman will use her entire body to express what her meaning is, leaning forward, or twisting it, to get across not only the face value of the words themselves, but how she feels inside, where she stands on the subject under discussion. Using her arms and hands and upper body to soften the impact of her voice, or to reinforce it. And almost more importantly than the voice itself, using her eyes to signal the intensity of her interest in the discussion. So different from a man's delivery. And how difficult to master, if you have spent over five decades on another planet.

So I spend time all through my day practicing. Here, for instance, are some shots in which I'm recalling facial expressions that I've used during recent social events. I want to see how they might come across in a more demanding setting - a dinner-party hosted by the Director-General perhaps:









These pictures, supplemented by the odd movie, are study material. I use them to examine how I might appear to someone else. As you can see, some of them are not very flattering, or at any rate not at my 'best angle'. But those shots may easily be the most revealing. I am doing much the same thing as a professional sportsman or sportswoman. Such as a golfer who analyses a video of their swing, frame by frame. Or a boxer who studies their technique in the ring. All done to discover flaws, things to be corrected in order to win next time.

These shots also appear on my Flickr site, but for another reason. I want them in the public arena, as a record of progress. As mentioned before, there are those who have decided to shun me, but are still looking at my blog, or my Flickr site, to find out what I'm up to and what I look like. Let them see a proper selection of photos then. It's no great effort to upload pictures that show a gradual improvement in my appearance and social acceptability!

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Brightening up my home

The days of popping into galleries and buying a painting for £300 (or more) are over for the present, but I still have some empty wall space to fill, notably in my bedroom. I also have a completely unused collection of picture frames in my attic. And a collection of photographs, taken over the years, of posters that caught my eye. And a high-quality photo printer that can print up to A3+. Put all this together, and maybe I can fill some of that wall space after all!

I've been taking photos of posters for some time. Here are two amusing ones from 1975 and 1983:



And here's one from 1994, although I spotted it only last year inside a theatre:


2010 was a good year for poster-hunting:




I also shot many other things in shop windows and elsewhere that might now make a good picture for the home. Here's a selection from 1993 to mid-2008 (all pre-transition of course):












I think I'll stick to the comical posters, and some of the shop-window shots. but you can easily see how anyone with a photo collection can create interesting pictures for the walls of their home, at minimal cost. A springtime project then!

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Three years living on my own

A diary note tells me that three years ago today - on 24 January 2009 - I moved out of M---'s home and began to occupy the Cottage on a full-tme basis.

Three years already.

I'd better give some background. When I retired on 31 May 2005 I had already put my former home up for sale. I'd enjoyed a good salary, but, looking at my pension, it simply wasn't possible now to meet the ongoing mortgage repayments. I considered holding onto the house and letting it, but the income would have been swallowed up by those mortgage repayments, and I had no savings available to cover the inevitable costs. And I would still be without a home of my own. Apart from that, I didn't relish being a landlord, especially as I'd seen what problems could actually arise; although renting out a village property to a couple wasn't the same thing as renting a town flat to students. My likely tenants wouldn't necessarily trash the place. But I really didn't fancy it.

Selling would also put a lot of money in the bank. And at that time, in 2005, M--- and I wanted to travel. And we did: an orgy of caravanning, and eventually a two-month New Zealand holiday in 2007. We were still a close couple. There was an ongoing plan - which in M---'s case was a powerful dream - to buy a million-pound house together somewhere by the sea, or in the country. Selling my home put cash in the joint pot for that: a big first step.

The house sold. Now, where to live, pending the million-pound purchase? M--- welcomed me into her home. For special financial reasons (that I can't explain here) this had to be on a temporary basis only. So sooner or later I'd have to find somewhere else. I could only now afford a small place, and nothing appealing came up. And we seemed so rock-solid, so eager to share a future together, that neither of us was inclined to make a serious effort to get me fixed up in a little bungalow in the local area.

As we went into 2006, and then into 2007, the property market was still riding high. I began to worry about what my bank balance could now buy me, because the 'temporary' stay with M--- was getting to look dangerously long-term. But only a flat was now within reach.

Then we found the Cottage. It was hopelessly unaffordable for me. But it looked like a great property investment, and M--- came in. We pooled our resources, acted fast, shut out the other potential buyers, and bought it.

At first the Cottage was only going to be a place to enjoy on weekends. And not necessarily to sleep in, although some of my furniture went down there, and it was set up as a house to spend a night or two in. It was in fact a comfortable, modern, very nicely appointed family home. Way too large for one person; but I was installed as the legal owner, and that instantly solved the problem of my staying with M--- in her home for overlong.

But I didn't feel as if I owned the Cottage in any real sense. It was - to me - simply a joint investment, something we'd sell and get a profit from, and not my 'home'. M--- put a lot of personal effort into the place - painting, work in the garden - as if it were her own personal project. She took it over. I didn't mind; I had no special attachment to the Cottage, although it was a most attractive property in almost every way. But it soon became obvious that our 'investment' was going to be a mistake. The property market had faltered. The Cottage went onto the market again not a year after we bought it. Meanwhile I was still living with M---.

Then one day in July 2008, I recognised that I had a gender issue, and everything changed forever.

From that point, my departure from M---'s home became inevitable. We both tried to cope with the consequences, but it was no good. In the end, M--- could not bear to see me changing before her eyes, the old person beginning to fade away and someone new and distressingly unfamiliar coming in. I could not bear the strain, the atmosphere of desperate hostility, the lack of recognition and empathy, the mutual sorrow. As 2009 arrived, she asked me to go. I went. Three years ago.

So much has happened since!

And yet the Cottage itself is innocent. It was my home for only a few months until Dad died, and I inherited the house I now live in. It was finally sold last August. I am sure its new owners love it and have made it their own.

I look back on my time there with a curious detachment, because we did not bond. I used the Cottage as a refuge, a place of peace and safety, where I could take the first steps towards going full-time as Lucy. A sort of cradle. It was also the place where I heard of both my parents' deaths. It was also a financial albatross. But let the past be past.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Encounters in a tavern

Last Saturday evening, I was in a Winchester pub with two friends - the St James Tavern on Romsey Road it was - and at one point I was at the bar ordering another round of post-shopping, pre-dinner drinks. There was a man there, and a conversation developed between us. He was older than me (72 it emerged) and he was nice, but he was also a widower. He had lost his wife from illness just a month before. Without thinking, I immediately expressed the utmost sympathy in my posture and voice, and it must have obvious in my face as well. I even touched him very lightly and briefly on his arm. For the death of a life partner must always command respect and concern. I could not help my gesture.

He was not full of sorrow, or self-pity, as might easily have been the case. He had clearly not let his standards slip. He had remained a pleasant older man. He had dignity. I found myself hoping that he would, after a while, find someone to fill the gap torn in his life. We did not speak longer than ten minutes. I did mention - to claim I suppose some basis for 'understanding' what great loss meant - that both my parents had died in 2009 in rapid succession. But I was quick to add that this wasn't the same as the death of his wife. And it really wasn't. Her death had come unnaturally early. Parents are not chosen, however dearly loved. The emotional investment in someone you find for yourself, and commit your life to, is of a quite different order.

The evening's birthday festivities at a nearby restaurant - the Tanoshii Fusion - pushed the encounter from my mind for a while, but I returned to it later, and pondered on what might be learned. Let's see:

# A man I'd never met before had noticed me. He thought I was a 'young woman' - I know this because he said so. I corrected him on this mistaken impression, but it made no difference. He also thought me worth talking to: someone likely to know what he was speaking about.

# Once again it was an older man at a bar, the only kind I seem to catch the eye of! That might mean that I have a particular appeal for older men with some living behind them, some experience. Perhaps I seemed 'safe'. I didn't for a moment feel that this man was physically attracted to me, only that he felt comfortable enough about me to disclose some of his life. Which might mean that I looked empathetic, and a good listener. People used to think this about me in my past life, at least when I was in my twenties and thirties.

# I didn't mind being thought a nice woman and a willing listener. It seemed to me rather a pleasant thing to be regarded in that way. It was a quiet, useful social role that I could manage. My Dad used to say that I'd make a very good hospital visitor - the sort of person who would speak to patients in hospital and cheer them up; complete strangers who needed some human concern and some human conversation.

# But supposing that I lived in Winchester and encountered this man, or someone very like him, again? And a friendship came into being, bit by bit? And at some stage he began to explore the possibility of something closer? After all, where empathy leads, intimacy can follow. Would I want that? It would not be part of my plans, not at all.

# What if it were a woman, and not a man, who opened up to me and drew me in? Surely this version of 'getting together' would begin differently and develop differently? Less sentiment, more practicality, more directness perhaps, once a bond was established? Maybe. Maybe not. The truth is, I don't know.

# None of the many much younger men in the Tavern looked at me. Perhaps I wasn't interesting to them. And yet, I was the person that a man on the next table approached. It was a foursome, two men, two women, all thirtyish, and it was the birthday of one of the women. Could I take a photo of them all? Of course I could. All was laughter and goodwill. The man was from Glasgow, but lived in Winchester, as did the birthday woman and the other man. The second woman was from Stevenage, north of London, and visiting. I said that one of the friends on our table, and myself, had also driven a fair distance to be here, and that that we were celebrating a birthday too. And 'our' birthday girl had a Stevenage connection - how was that? More amazed laughter and goodwill. Here they are, although Glasgow man (on the left) has been caught in between smiles!


Interesting, when you study the shot, to see what look the girls have thought good for themselves, for a birthday meal in a city tavern with two guys.

Next it was our turn: pictures of ourselves taken by the Stevenage girl on the right, with my own camera. It was all so spontaneous and natural. Nobody noticed we were trans. It didn't seem to occur to anyone, ourselves included. Just some ordinary girls, all ready for a night out.

What threads will hang on that evening? What lesson was learned that I haven't yet seen, but will turn out to be the most important one of all?

How do the accidental things in life fit into any deliberate scheme for living?

Sunday, 22 January 2012

The next ten years

My sixtieth year. Time to look ahead, far ahead, and consider how to shape my life over the next ten years.

I don’t feel that life is pre-ordained. I do have choices. Efforts made now will make a difference.

All right, everything I might attempt is heavily influenced by the society in which I live; and I also think that my own character is a limitation. And overriding everything is the accidental and unpredictable nature of outside events. I am, besides this, highly conscious that whatever plans and predictions I might make, it could all be upset or brought to nothing by a devastating illness or injury. But I’m convinced that it’s worth making my ship seaworthy, consulting the chart, and setting a definite course. Not only worth it, but frankly unavoidable.

It’s no good drifting. It achieves nothing. I don’t want to waste the years ahead.

Nor should I count on an early death saving me the bother of living. There is no reason to anticipate an early release, nothing that I presently know of. Nor will I be seeking it. I can’t believe that my best years are in the past, that life can never get better, and that there is nothing to look forward to. What nonsense! There is everything to play for.

You simply can’t ignore the future. Life goes on. Tomorrow will come. If I gave up, gave in, ceased to plan, and embarked on a heedless and self-destructive spree, I would surely survive it. I’d wake up intact, nursing a splitting headache, and ruefully wondering how I could ever think that life is so easily cheated. It goes on and on, it knocks on one’s door every morning. One might as well accept that the proper effort must be made, and brace oneself for another day. To look forward ten years, in fact, and then ten years more. And be cheerful about it.

So what are my chief aims for the next decade? Let’s look at them.

To take my transition to a much higher level
My apprenticeship as a woman must be completed, and I must be indistinguishable from an ordinary woman at age 70. This means unremitting attention to appearance, voice, behaviour, socialisation and background knowledge of what a woman’s life consists of. I can’t of course become perfect at any of this. But I do think that this aim is achievable for all practical purposes.

To establish myself in the heart of a new community
I haven’t abandoned the notion of moving to some village or small resort in the West Country, where I want to earn my place in the regard of local people. Perhaps some public role that is social and cultural - though not political. A position at the local arts centre would do. I don’t want to stay forever suburban and anonymous, unknown, overlooked, forgotten, without purpose. Moving away would involve upheaval. And whatever the urge to stay in touch, I’d have to abandon my life in Sussex. And I must have regard to the health facilities I’ll need. Nor can I move until the money is there for it: getting enough together for a house deposit, and to pay the stamp duty, will require saving on a prodigious scale. But I can’t see myself still here in Sussex in ten years’ time.

To travel
I will surely still be caravanning on the UK mainland, but here I have in mind seeing more of the wider world. That will depend on having the money, and I may well have to choose between moving and travelling. I don’t think I can fund both. It would be so nice to feel part of a community into which I was completely integrated. But equally it would be so nice to personally visit the remarkable places of the world. This is where I will most miss the money lost forever on the Cottage. I can’t now afford to travel much. Never mind, something will be possible. And many of the places I’d most like to go to will remain accessible to me, despite the creeping effects of old age. One very special travel ambition would be to revisit New Zealand, and see my step-daughter A---. Having been to New Zealand once before (in 2007) I know what is involved. Certainly, it’s the effort and expense of a trip to the Moon compared to most other holidays! But of all long-haul trips, this is the one I’d like to do.

I don’t think there is anything totally unrealistic about these three broad aims. Nor about some lesser aims that hardly need mentioning, such as maintaining fitness, keeping up a good social life, developing personal talents, and making the house and garden look nice.

I haven’t mentioned two things that most would make a top priority: having a sex life, and finding a new relationship. In theory, both are possibilities. But I don’t feel driven towards either. Although now equipped to enjoy sex in a way I’d feel comfortable with, the hunger for it isn’t there. That might change, but nobody should hold their breath. As for a relationship, I’m just not looking. Basically I love my independence, and I don’t want to compromise it. I’m also convinced by experience that I have the wrong temperament for a shared life. I most certainly don’t want to stir up other people’s emotions and cause them pain. So it’s yes to friends, but a firm no to lovers.

I recognise that there are arguments that might be raised against my position here. Some might say that in a relationship, love, kindness, loyalty and companionship are the key elements. Can’t I deliver those? Didn’t I do so in the past? What has changed? And if I could make a fair attempt at being loving, kind, loyal and companionable to some other person who needs those things, shouldn’t I offer them? Wouldn’t it be selfish not to?

This is difficult territory. All I can say, based on my own experience and self-knowledge, is that my past record is against success. I can’t rationally ignore it. It’s evidence of poor judgement, emotional incapacity, and lack of total commitment. It’s discouraging, and I am discouraged. I feel that I would damage anyone who wanted to get close to me. As I have damaged M---. This is like not having children, and doing one’s bit for world over-population: I’m going to make society happier overall if I abstain from love, keep out of other people’s hearts, and confine myself to pleasant conversation. At least it would be an uncomplicated life.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Getting ready for my GRC application

2012 will be a year in which I sweep up and consolidate. All the main events of my transition are now history. There is just ongoing electrolysis...and my Gender Recognition Certificate, that legal document that affirms I am officially female for all purposes - and for the rest of my life.

In case you are not familiar with the GRC procedure or its pitfalls, here is what I have found out, and what I intend to do about the evidence required.

Applying for a GRC is an important step, leading to an irrevocable outcome: I will be fixed in the female gender. On the plus side, I will have all the legal protections and privileges of a natal woman. On the minus side, whatever legal duties and obligations and restrictions that still apply only to women. On the whole, I believe that applying for a GRC will give me a solid legal status otherwise denied. I may never have to wave my GRC in someone's face in everyday life, but it'll be nice to know it's safely in the bag, and can if necessary be wheeled into position as a big gun in my defence.

No doubt the secret services will know who and what I used to be, and may even keep a special register of applicants. But unless the UK turns into a malevolent police state, I don't think I should care.

So, in the first week of February, I will put in my application form and all the supporting documents. The process is document-based. The GRC Panel, a body of people who examine the application and assess its worth, usually do not interview anybody. They decide on the basis of papers seen. This evidence must comply with the statutary requirements in the Gender Recognition Act 2004. If it doesn't, the application gets rejected. For example, I must show that I have lived full-time as a woman for at least the two years prior to the date of application. If I can only show evidence for one year and 364 days, the thing will get bunged back with a curt note attached. As it will cost me £140 to apply, not a small fee by any means, it will pay to be careful with my evidence!

Satisfying the GRC Panel is not the same as satisfying the Charing Cross Hospital Gender Clinic, or some surgeon elsewhere. To be on the safe side, I phoned the GRC Panel administration office, and spoke to a very helpful man there. I might as well give you the words of my typed notes of that conversation:

2012 0116 Telephone conversation with an administrator at the Gender Recognition Panel

I phoned on 0300 123 4503 to clarify various points about the application, chiefly concerning the supporting evidence.

Just as well. I was told that the guidance notes were not clear that the Panel liked to see documentary evidence for each of the last two years, as well as evidence over two years old. That would be no problem at all, of course! But rather more than simply two documents from 2009.

Essentially each item of evidence had to show my name and a date. Things such as a Deed Poll (a legal copy would do), driving licence, passport, solicitor’s letters, Land Registry documents, and so on were all very good evidence.

As I had been married, I’d need to send the Decree Absolute.

I was a bit worried about being without ID and other important things for a while, but was told that they turn the application around inside three days, and return documents by registered post that could be traced. I should send them the same way.

We discussed the medical evidence. A letter from Dr Richard Curtis was going to be problem-free. What about the pro-forma by my GP last autumn? No problem - it was recent enough. She’d just changed practices: any problem there? I’d discovered that protocol demanded that any query on the pro-forma would have to be made via her old practice. Again, that wouldn’t be an issue, so long as a GMC-registered practitioner could confirm certain basic details about me. And yes, I should append the letter and forms completed by the surgeon.

As regards the statutory declaration on oath, any local solicitor who could witness my oath would do. I’d simply need to make enquiries first.

That seemed to be it. I thanked the chap I’d spoken to for his help.

LM


This now seems to be the position. I send:

# The completed application form.
# A cheque for £140.
# A Statutory Declaration about my age, time living as female, future intention, and current marital status.
# The Decree Absolute, showing that I am divorced.
# A specialist Medical Report from Dr Richard Curtis.
# That Medical Report from my GP.
# The letter and surgical notes given to me by the surgeon Mr Philip Thomas.
# Evidence of the length of time I've lived as a female.

Phew! Not much!

As for the last item, the evidence of female living, I think I've now got a much better 'feel' for what the Panel wish to see. They want documents that show I've been representing myself as Lucy Melford not just in private correspondence but out there in public. And not just on one or two isolated occasions, but continuously, and in significant ways. With that in mind, I've put together a list of evidence to send. I've made it as varied as possible. The obvious stuff, plus one or two less obvious items. This is it, in chronological order:

# July 2009. A photo print showing my long entry in the Visitors' Book of Kentisbeare Church in Devon, in memory of my father, signed as Lucy Melford and giving my email address for genealogical contact.

# September 2009. A photo print showing my completed Voter Registration Form, so that I could vote as Lucy Melford any time after October 2009.

# November 2009. A legal copy of the Deed Poll.

# November 2009. My NHS Medical Card in the name of Lucy Melford (let's contract this to 'LM' henceforth).

# December 2009. A letter from HM Revenue & Customs, addressed to me as LM.

# December 2009. A letter from Capita Hartshead, the payer of my Civil Service Pension, addressed to me as LM.

# December 2009. A letter from the NHS inviting me to have a Cervical Screening Test.

# December 2009. A bill from BT addressed to me as LM.

# January 2010. My passport in the name of LM, with of course the female indicator.

# January 2010. A letter from the National Trust, with a fresh Life Membership Card in the name of LM.

# January 2010. A letter from my father's solicitors to me as LM, enclosing a copy of the Land Registry document showing that my house was now registered in the name of LM.

# January 2010. My driving licence (with counterpart) in the name of LM, with of course the female indicator.

(All the above are for a period more than two years before my GRC application)

# May 2010. My Mid Sussex District Council Official Poll Card - I voted in the General Election as LM.

# May 2010. The vehicle sales invoice for the ordering of my new Volvo car (Fiona), addressed to me as LM.

# September 2010. A letter from the NHS to me, about a rearranged Breast Screening appointment.

# March 2011. A Council Tax Bill from Mid Sussex District Council, addressed to me as LM.

# June 2011. A partially handwritten letter to me from Lady Lennox, welcoming me as a new Friend of the Pallant House Gallery in Chichester.

# June 2011. A letter from Capita Hartshead, the payer of my Civil Service Pension, addressed to me as LM, and answering my queries about what would happen to my pension when I got my GRC.

# November 2011. A letter from HM Revenue & Customs, addressed to me as LM.

(I could also throw in numerous items relating to the marketing of the Cottage. And I'd really like to add something from a leisure centre: but the evidence for playing badminton as Lucy Melford isn't of the same calibre - just one till receipt with 'Lucy Melford' and my membership card number on it. I made most bookings online)

Well, that's a long list, and I may trim it, but I'm hoping that it's exactly what the Panel would like to see, bearing in mind that I'm retired and I can't provide an employer's letter or similar. Several of the items above do at least imply conspicuous public exposure in a female role - voting and breast screening for instance!

Monday, 16 January 2012

Getting the wind up

A perfect opportunity arose yesterday - which was a cold, still, clear-sky afternoon, with a great sunset coming on - to have a really good, close-up look at one of those dreaded wind turbines that seem to stir up so much emotion in country areas.

It was freshly contructed, and they hadn't yet erected a perimeter fence to keep away saboteurs and the curious. It was a temporary window of easy access. There were merely little notices stuck into the surrounding gravel, saying 'Keep orf!'. But so unnoticeable that I walked straight by them, and actually climbed the steps up the side to reach the inspection doorway. The friend with me, a much more law-abiding person, did not copy me at all. Fortunately, the police did not turn up with sirens and flashing lights, to accompany me to the station.

It was like a huge metal flower. The tall stem remided me of a mighty sequoia tree. It hummed from within. You imagined raw power flashing down that stem, into the ground, and then up the road to join the National Grid. And there was I just inches away from all those megavolts!

There was a notice not to touch, as if the hull might still be hot from its landing on planet Earth.

What about the noise of the rotor blades? I can tell you that, turning briskly in the breeze, they made only a gentle swishing noise. It was a soothing sound, and I can't see how anyone could object to it. I mean, nobody objects if it's open day at the local restored windmill, and they let the sails go round. Whoosh, whoosh, rumble, rumble. And this tall, graceful thing has a much more vital role. And it's so nice to look at. In fact I can hardly think of a more beautiful piece of industrial kit. It really does call to mind a giant seagull. Here are some pix. Judge for yourself:








Isn't this pleasing to the eye? Perhaps in the way that a Spitfire or a sleek, water-cleaving submarine can both be seen as machines to admire? And all this one does is produce electricity, very cleanly.

I even thought it added something to the view. I remember, when in Scotland in 2010, seeing a cluster of wind turbines on a high hill off the A96 in Aberdeenshire: what a majestic sight. I can see that a hundred of these things, massed together, might be intimidating. But surely still much more attractive than a dirty, sinister coal-fired, or nuclear, power station. And it's even better than hydro power: you don't have to flood lush valleys forever, and drown villages. Plus, of course, you can always dismantle a wind turbine if it becomes unnecessary or unwanted. You can't do that so easily with your average old-school power generation plant, or a dam.

What about one in my back yard, then? well, if it were no closer than three hundred yards away, so that you could hardly hear it, then fine.

And where was the turbine in my pictures? On the hill just above Glyndebourne, where they do the opera.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Tinnitus

For two or three weeks I've had a constant noise in both ears. This condition is called tinnitus, and it causes the ears to 'hear' all kinds of self-generated noise: clicks, drumming, high-pitched tones, whistles, and so on; but the sound in my own ears resembles the faint whooshing noise water makes when it's being pumped through your central-heating pipes at home. A sort of hiss. And indeed, you think of hot blood hissing as it's pumped through your head!

It's always audible at home because I live on a quiet road in a quiet village, and complete double-glazing ensures that sounds from outside the house are much subdued. Inside all is quite hushed, so that you can easily hear every little noise that a house can make. The ticking of clocks, the combustion of gas in the oven and boiler, the groaning of ice in the freezer, as well as sundry creaks at night as the house cools down. Sometimes, in the darkness of night, these ticks and creaks can seem quite creepy! But mostly I like to hear them. These little sounds remind me that my home is a dynamic mechanism, and they make it seem alive. Quite different from the desolate silence of a ruin.

The point I'm making is that I enjoy a quiet home environment, and that I'm not deaf, because I can hear a pin drop.

Nor do I like to assault my ears. I don't have a radio or TV on just for company. I don't play music much, and never loudly. I like peace and quiet. And although Fiona has a diesel engine, she also has good sound insulation, and is another hushed environment. By far the loudest sound I ever normally hear is from a smoke alarm, if I ever trigger it with burnt toast. So here's another point: I haven't been damaging my ears with excessive exposure to noise.

I decided it would be wise to get a doctor's opinion, and so two days ago I rang the surgery and got an appointment that afternoon with one of the doctors. The doctor examined my ears, but found nothing visibly wrong, and we established that there was nothing in my lifestyle or medication that would induce tinnitus. He told me it shouldn't get worse, but in the absence of an obvious cause there was nothing he could prescribe to alleviate my condition. He did suggest that I contrive some background sound to mask this faint hiss in my ears. It was a trick that sometimes helped. No good at night, of course, when you want to sleep!

I'm hoping that my tinnitus is temporary and will just fade away. Meanwhile, I'll be very careful about exposure to loud noises. So please don't sing or shout in my ears. No banana-boat songs. It's too piercing.

Friday, 13 January 2012

Surgery scars and other skin marks

I'm now over ten months post-op.

Originally my surgery scars and other marks were very obvious. There were in particular two long bright red north-south scars either side of each labia majora. These began to fade to purple some time ago, and now they are almost entirely gone. You can see where they were only if you have a jolly good examination.

There were also some other little scars. Some of these remain and are still plain to see. There is for instance a criss-cross of short white scars just below the vagina; and a clearly-defined east-west scar on the inner surface of each labia majora. These all look healthy, and give me no trouble at all, and presumably they too will fade with time. But meanwhile they could catch the eye, and if I ever do find myself being caressed intimately by a tender rock star lover, then the following exchange might easily take place:

TENDER ROCK STAR LOVER: 'Ere, wot's this, then? All them scars!'
SELF: 'Why, Tarquin! (or possibly, Why Jocasta!) I had to have some reconstructive surgery a while back. Didn't I mention it to you?'
TENDER LOVER: 'You bloody didn't.'
SELF: 'I'm so sorry, my sweet.'
TENDER LOVER: 'Wot surgery anyways? You 'aven't been straight wiv me, 'ave yer?'
SELF: 'Oh, just a little tweak here and there. Don't worry about it. It's nothing much. Trust me.'
TENDER LOVER: 'Nah, this bovvers me. Let's get it sorted right now! What 'ave you 'ad done?'

Sorry about my rock star lover's rather pseudo accent. Fame has gone to his/her head. But oh dear...I can see it would be highly imprudent to engage in intimacies of any sort until these little scars have become less prominent!

Then there are the holes in the surrounding skin where tubes went in. For a long time you could see the purple marks where they were. But not any more.

However, what are still highly visible are the two large patches of skin discoloration on the lower half of each labia. When I was so swollen post-op, these were like large bright red bulges. In the last ten months they have shrunk to nothing, and have faded to a dull red; but as they are fringed by those little bright white scars just mentioned, the remaining redness seems enhanced. Very difficult to laugh off, if a tender lover got curious! So another reason to avoid intimacy for the present. Although, as some natal women do have cosmetic vaginoplasties to make things look 'better' down there, I suppose I could say that I had had one too, and that this was the lingering aftermath.

I dare say that one year from now all obvious blemishes will be gone, but nevertheless it's quite surprising how long the traces of surgery need to disappear.

Mind you, there is nothing to be seen if I'm standing up normally. I would be perfectly happy to walk around in the nude in any company, confident that nobody would see my scars and skin discolorations. (Not that I would inflict my fat body on an unsuspecting and innocent public!)

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Bigger boobs

Some of my friends are using a non-prescibed progesterone cream on their breasts, to give them a fuller appearance and a darker nipple area. Well, that's the intention. I've been urged to do the same. But being cautious where such things are concerned, I've read Dr Richard Curtis's essay on progesterone (there's an easy link to it on the Gires website). I've also read a rebuttal of his views. Both sides draw attention to the lack of clinical evidence where trans women are concerned, and the rebuttal discounts the natural experience of natal women.

What does one conclude?

Much seems to depend on how badly you want larger breasts, what side-effects you will tolerate, and how ready you are to scorn specialist advice and go your own way. Any of these might affect your attitude and beliefs on progesterone use.

In my own case, I have inherited medical conditions that make adding yet another drug to the mix something I'd rather not do without a proper medical opinion and a proper prescription. I simply won't court danger for some extra boob bulk - assuming that I actually would get any!

I'm in any case not flat-chested. There is enough of a bust to fill out the sort of clothes I like to wear. But not enough to be eye-catching. This isn't a problem. I can be adequately female with only the suggestion of a cleavage, and although I'd be delighted if I had bigger breasts, it won't ruin my life if there is no further growth in that department. There are many other things I can use to express my femininity: my eyes, my mouth, my voice, my hair, my arms and hips and legs, my clothes. How I move. My personality. All at no additional cost. And with no medical risk.

The question of risk also makes me recoil from breast implants. Plus the consideration that this does not involve natural tissue growth, but an artificial, manufactured bag of gel which has a limited lifespan. And I can't be sure that ten years hence I'll be able to afford replacements. If I can't, what then?

Well, that's how it is for me. I'm not saying anything about what someome else should do. So far as I can see, an awful lot of people think progesterone and/or boob implants are a Good Thing, and in real life perfectly safe and sensible. Like wine and chocolate! Just don't beat me up for being very careful.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Facial progress


Murder! Pillage! It's Lucy the Redhanded, the most feared Viking raider of them all!

Or is it Squadron Leader Melford, that illustrious RAF air ace? Come on, chaps, let's have tea and a bun, then see off the hun! Wizard show!

Actually, I'm bleaching the few remaining dark hairs on my upper lip.

An important stage in my facial hair removal has been reached. My electrolysist Roz has urged me to stop shaving my upper lip, and let the hairs grow naturally, subject only to snipping with little scissors if any get too long or prominent.

She says that if not shaved, the hairs on my upper will stop growing so fast, lose their blunt ends, and become fine and soft. This will look entirely natural, because all women have fine, soft, natural hair on their upper lip. It's normally so fine that you never see it.

I need to get to that state. The bleaching ensures that all my upper lip hairs are the same blonde colour. Roz will remove the rogue ones that still grow coarsely with electrolysis. 'Trust me', she says. Right, I will.

But it is a leap of faith at this stage. I'm used to shaving daily, and feeling super-smooth all over my face. Leaving a spot where my fingertips can feel some roughness - because although now bleached, there are some wiry, bristly hairs still there - is disconcerting, and I really hope that a general softness develops fast! But I have to admit that what my fingers feel is not detectable to the eye. And Roz says that if I were attending some event where super-smoothness really mattered, then a one-off shave would be OK. Just not as a regular thing.

I hope I have the nerve to keep this up! I'd really like to feel that an important section of facial hair is now under control. Then other areas can receive Roz's full attention.

Monday, 9 January 2012

Macavity

Seven years ago today, on 9 January 2005, my beloved cat Macavity died. Here he is, in some shots from 2001, when he was aged 12 and looked in the prime of life:



By 2003, when 14, he was still active and in good condition:


But by late 2004 old age had got to him. He was getting thin, and his energy had departed. Here he is, looking out of the front door of the house I was then living in. He wasn't too happy - unwell, not eating nearly so much, and feeling the cold breeze like never before. Poor thing:


And then he died in the first days of 2005, when nearly 16. I sat up with him. It was a bonding experience I've never forgotten. I wrote about it in a post about someone else's cat (see Ashley Lynch's cat has died, posted on 6 August 2009), including a poem of my own which went as follows:

DEATH OF A CAT

In the abyss of your eyes
I read no pain,
Only the knowledge of a deep sleep to come,
A secret cave of dreams.

My head next to yours,
My fingertip in your paw,
The claws gentle,
The pressure speaking of a kind of love,
A meeting of souls,
A farewell,
But not of fear.

Oh Macavity, so thin now,
Too weak to stand,
But still resplendent in your soft striped fur.
A gaunt giant of a cat,
My cat, my own.

I named you, I loved you,
Did you know that?
And now I grieve for you,
My lovely, lovely cat.
I love you now,
I don't want you to die.

Still we hold each other's eyes.
What are you thinking?
Do you remember when you were a kitten,
Arriving in a box,
A tiny bundle in a corner.
And we lifted you out,
And you filled a shirt pocket.
You were so small.
And later you looked for me
As I lay sorrowing on my bed,
Pondering my broken marriage.
You comforted me,
And we made a pact,
And I let you be the warm hat on my head.

And now you lie here dying.
Still the bond is strong,
We cannot break it.
If my voice, my tears,
And the touch of my hand
Mean anything
Then you will know that I love you,
And that my life is changed.

[Macavity talking now]

Oh, don't worry about me,
I've got nine lives, you know.
I'm glad you took care of me,
And fed me,
And let me roam.
Thank you for a long life,
And for giving me a home.
I hope you enjoyed the mice and birds I caught:
I gave you the best,
And you can't blame me if I ate the rest.
I hunted to my heart's content
In the long tall grass;
And when the sun was hot
I was glad you were no gardener,
You left bushes and brambles,
And I had many a favourite spot.
I know you cared when you took me to the vet.
I hated it, but I went for you, because you cared.
And I know you are caring now.

I saw sixteen summers
And never a moment of fear or pain.
I will be lucky in my next life
To have it all over again.

And now I must dream.

Lucy Melford
2009 0127


And I added this footnote:

I don't care that it's a bad poem. It says what I want about a wonderful cat.

My eyes fill with tears whenever I read my own words. I loved him, and I can't help it.

Macavity died overnight, in the small hours, dreaming hunting dreams. In the morning, I found that although lying on his side on his soft cushion, he had assumed the position of a cat leaping, a little tiger. I put him out in the back garden while I prepared his grave and his funeral service:


The grave would be in the far corner of the garden, the corner by the fence that you can see in the photo. I dug it deep, crying as I did so. I gently placed his cushion in it, with sprigs of white heather, and his favourite plastic lizards to play with:


Then, wrapped in a blanket to keep him comfortable to the last, I placed Macavity in, and with tears streaming down my face, and a broken heart, slowly hid him from view under the good brown earth. Over the top I placed a large heavy paving slab:


Ideally I would have engraved on it:

HERE LIES MACAVITY 1989-2005 He was the best of cats

That wasn't feasible. But I did place some more heather and some flowers on his grave that M--- had made into a bunch:


By the way, all through this M--- had helped me and supported me, and was just as upset. She had often held Macavity tenderly in his final days.

Macavity's death heralded six years of huge change. Two months later, in March 2005, and quite out of the blue, a chance to retire early came up. I applied without much hope, but was successful - though not without reservations at this stroke of amazing good luck (see The Pension, posted on 24 February 2010). I retired in May 2005. Later in 2005 I sold my house, because my pension wasn't large enough to pay the mortgage with. I moved in with M---. I felt sad leaving Macavity behind, but the new owners erected a garden shed over his grave, guaranteeing that it wouldn't be disturbed for a very long time to come.

Looking back, I'm sure that retiring so early was a tragic mistake in several ways. Just look at what disappeared from my life from the beginning of 2005:

# My cat Macavity.
# My job, and with it dozens of colleagues, an entire daytime social life.
# Most of the structure in my day.
# My own home.

And then as transition arrived and progressed:

# My parents.
# M--- herself.
# All of M--'s family and friends
# My best friend.
# Nearly all my retirement capital (£200,000 gone forever).

I would of course say that the gains - chiefly my own successful transition, and the freedom I now have to use my remaining life as I best choose - are an enormous compensation. But the changes and losses ushered in my Macavity's departure have also been enormous. Truly my life has been turned upside down! But not ruined. And I don't blame Macavity. He was innocent.

And he taught me something about how to care, how to be kind, how to love unselfishly, how to touch, and how to cry.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

My debut dress...three years on!

I bought my first dress - a little black velvet number - in December 2008, just in time for an evening gathering at a private house in Brighton on 16 December 2008. This was the very first occasion that I'd stepped out in public in full female garb. I was very, very nervous at the time; but still proud of my effort. I'd bought the dress and shoes and accessories all on my own, without help or advice. I knew exactly what I wanted. But the process was nerve-racking, and I had expected to be torn to pieces in Marks & Spencer by a howling mob outraged by my presumption. Or if not there, then later by the villagers of Piddinghoe, where I was living. But in fact no wicker cage awaited me, no burning ritual took place, and I survived.

And here I am, trying to look good in some pre-gathering photos taken in 2008 - interspersed with shots taken just two evenings ago. All of them in that dress. I do apologise for the dodgy quality of these pictures, but they were all taken in subdued light. Can you spot any substantial differences in the three years that have passed?









It seems fair to say that longer hair and an obvious gain in self-confidence make a big difference! Everything else is down to the very subtle effects of feminising hormones and facial hair-removal.

It's been a very long three years, but thus far I'm reasonably satisfied with my transition into Lucy. Of course, had I started this in my twenties, rather than my fifties, the changes would have been more profound in that time. Sigh.

As for the dress, it still fits nicely despite plumping out in various ways since 2008 - maybe it fits better because of that! It shouldn't go out of fashion. A black dress like this is a classic standby for all posh occasions. It's also one of the very few items of female clothing bought in 2008 and still in my wardrobe. I don't expect I'll ever part with it: it's my debut dress, as important in its way as a wedding dress, and you don't discard those!