Welcome to my online journal, which I started in December 2002 after several very persuasive hints from friends. Although I obviously don't write about everything that happens in my life here, I hope it'll provide an insight into who I am and what's happening in my life - whether good, bad, happy or sad.
A bit of a new look
Well, it seems pigs do indeed fly...after a long period (we're talking years) of dithering about it I've finally got around to re-theming the site. The changes should be pretty straighforward, but if you notice anything weird just drop me a line and let me know.
The journal commenting scripts still need a bit of an overhaul before turning them on, but that aside, the only bits that haven't been re-themed are the old photo galleries. Everything else is new and shiny - courtesy of the good folks at http://www.oswd.org/.
I'll try to sort out the journal scripts next, but the old photo galleries will probably have to wait until I've worked out what to do with them = and how to re-implement them. In the meantime the aim is to look into writing some new (predominantly non-trans related, this time) content.
Bourne Free 2013
The second weekend in July every summer is Bourne Free - Bournemouth's Pride Festival, and this year was no exception. As usual there were a crowd of us from MCC Bournemouth in the parade, and at midday on Sunday we took over the main stage in the Triangle for the Bourne Free Pride Worship Service (my favourite bit as I usually get to run the PA and make some noise).
This year's theme was "Bourne Free at the Movies", and our pastor Dwayne had the mad (or inspired?) idea of dressing us all as nuns during the parade and marching to the soundtrack of "Sister Act".
Who says churches have to be stuffy?
London Pride 2013
Over the past year I've been keeping myself rather busy at work, at home and in my church.
The latter is of course the Metropolitan Community Church of Bournemouth - an inclusive church with a specific ministry to LGBT people. As well as our regular Sunday and services and weekday events, there are various events in the community we get involved in - and one of those is Pride.
This June, the church (and our sister churches MCC North London and MCC South London) met with other Christian denominations to take part in the annual London Pride parade under the auspices of "Christians Together At Pride".
I won't go in too much detail, but suffice it to say that it was quite an experience, and we met some great people both within the parade and along the way. Hopefully the photos linked below (taken from within the parade itself) will speak for themselves.
Being a software engineer, my work "uniform" is most usually a pair of jeans and a tee-shirt. It's a pretty laid back profession, which suits me fine most of the time.
However I think it is good to have the opportunity to dress up (or "look nice", in the language of times past) occasionally, though. These days such events seem to be uncommon - when we've dined out with friends recently they've always dressed down themselves, so if you go "all out" you invariably end up looking overdressed.
So, back to the jeans, then.
Of course the one place where I never dress up is when I'm volunteering (coal dust, oil and heels really don't mix), so in that environment I'm invariably in overalls and a high visibility jacket (though if I fancy being a bit nattier I suppose I could always don a safety helmet as well...). Hence it goes without saying that the crowd in Swanage haven't seen me "all done up".
Until Friday, that is - when Beth and I took up a invite to dine on one of the Wessex Belle dining trains laid on to thank staff and volunteers for their efforts this year. It was a great evening, and an experience I can highly recommend - a real credit to the railway and all of the volunteers who work behind the scenes to make it happen.
Aside from feeling very pampered the evening also yielded a photo of me I really rather like:
A slightly different view of Corfe Castle, taken while out volunteering on the Swanage Railway today:
Technically this shot isn't particularly good (it was taken with a point and shoot camera on a whim), but I think the raindrops make it interesting.
Needless to say, this wasn't taken through my usual windscreen - the shot was taken from the cab of one of the line's heritage diesels, where I was riding shotgun en-route to Norden to assist in shunting some wagons.
Mixing it all up
Who is this lady?
When I started on this journey 10 years ago I didn't even dare expect to succeed, much less to be accepted and in any way "successful" (whatever that means).
Thankfully I've been blessed (or lucky if you prefer) in that regard, and all things considered I think I've done OK. Despite what has happened with my birth family, my church, friends (both old and new) are great and I couldn't ask for a better family than Beth's. I'm happy, and (by any definition of the word excepting the purely materialist one) successful. That does me fine.
One bonus I didn't dare expect was that I now don't need to make any effort to be accepted - I just am.
If I needed any proof of that, I've certainly had it in the past year since I started volunteering on the Swanage Railway (a very friendly organisation I can highly recommend if you fancy pitching in). The area I volunteer in (Swanage Motive Power Depot) is quite probably the most grimy of the lot, and I'm regularly up to my neck in coal dust, grease and paraffin.
But that doesn't matter to those around me. To those who know my history it's irrelevant, and to those who don't they probably either wouldn't think of it or they wouldn't care anyway. It's not like there aren't any other female loco crews either - quite the contrary.
At the steam gala this weekend I was offered the opportunity to ride shotgun on one of the visiting engines and was snapped by a photographer on Flickr. Never mind how much of a mess I think I look, his caption "Who is this lady?" says it all, I think:
Bournemouth Triathlon 2011
Separation and Loss
I'm in a very disconcerting place this morning. Last night - and purely by accident - I discovered that my mum died at the end of April. Although we were never close (especially since my transition in 2002) that's a hard blow for anyone with a heart.
I really feel for my Dad, but given that they'd made it abundantly clear since 2002 that they don't want anything to do with me I'm not really sure whether to call him or not.
I'm also deeply saddened that none of my family thought it worthwhile telling me of her passing, and that I had to find out from an online news site instead.
Damn. Despite all the rebuffs I'd so hoped to be able to be reconciled with them both one day.
Retreating from the world is harder work than you expect
Every organisation needs to take stock and regroup every so often, and believe me churches are no exception. Although I've been a Trustee of MCC Bournemouth for something like a year now, we've not had a chance to do that since I joined the Board.
Until this weekend, that is. On Friday we gathered at the Church to leave for a weekend retreat at Hilfield Friary near Cerne Abbas.
Hilfield is a Franciscan Friary, so it emphasises simplicity and being at one with its surroundings. To quote from the Hilfield Project website:
"At Hilfield Friary in Dorset, UK, the brothers of the Society of St Francis have established a project which brings together both a commitment to peace and justice between people and also a care for our natural environment. Rooted in the life and spirituality of St Francis of Assisi we are working to share the Gospel greeting of peace with those whom we meet and to find that harmony between ourselves and the world around us which we believe is God's desire for all. Hilfield is a place where others can come to join us in seeking peace, reconciliation and the integrity of creation."It most certainly is that. I've not been anywhere so peaceful for quite some time, and it formed a perfect backdrop to our musings and prayers this weekend.
On the Saturday evening we participated in a very moving night service in the Friary Chapel. Coming from an Evangelical background it was a very different style of service from that I'm used to, but it was absolutely beautiful and so, so tranquil. it's also the first time I've sung in Latin! *
* Salve Regina, if you're curious
Although we've been referring to it as "a weekend retreat", in practice we only had one evening and a full day as the aim was to be back in time for the 11am service on Sunday morning. As a result, our "weekend" was a very, very busy one, and by Sunday I was thoroughly exhausted.
The good news is that the brainstorming paid off and we now have a very good idea which areas we need to work on and where to take the Church next. Well worth the thumping headache and yawning which was the inevitable result of far too little sleep this weekend!
A new and slightly different challenge
I've never been one for too much routine. Fortunately, neither is Beth - since we met in 2004 she has constantly challenged my assumptions about our life and how we live it - everything from what we eat to exercise and interactions with those around us. I've got rather used to it by now.
Our latest challenge - that of challenging the automatic assumption that we drive everywhere we need to - was born the last time petrol prices started to climb (prior to the current series of hikes). As we (fortunately) don't need to commute that challenge is one which hasn't been too onerous for us to maintain. Where practical we make use of public transport (or indeed walk, which both of us rather enjoy), and as a result our cars spend most of the time parked up at the moment.
It was against this background that last summer I became aware of a group campaigning to reopen the rail line from Bournemouth to Bath (one of the more objectionable closures of the 1960s, and one which even now makes it harder than it should be to reach the west of the country from the south coast). Although most of the rail closures of the time were branch lines (some of which have since reopened as heritage lines) this one was an 80 mile long main line. A loss indeed.
As the quote on the New Somerset & Dorset Railway blog says quite eloquantly:
"The original Somerset and Dorset Railway closed very controversially in 1966. It is time that decision, made in a very different world, was reversed. The New S&D was formed in 2009 with the aim of rebuilding as much of the route as possible, at the very least the main line from Bath (Britain's only World Heritage City) to Bournemouth (our premier seaside resort); as well as the branches to Wells, Glastonbury and Wimborne. We will achieve this through a mix of lobbying, trackbed purchase and restoration of sections of the route as they become economically viable. With Climate Change and now Peak Oil firmly on the agenda we are pushing against an open door.A worthy aim indeed - and quite obviously a rather long term one (realistically this is a project which could take 20 years to really get going). It shouldn't come as a surprise that the New S&D is just one of several groups involved along the route (for example the stations at Shillingstone and Midsomer Norton have already been restored by heritage groups) but it is by far the most ambitious. it goes without saying that the aims of the New S&D are deliberately complementary to the other groups working to preserve and restore sections of the line and that the more involvement from them in the project the better.
"Our aim is to use a mix of lobbying, strategic track-bed purchase, fundraising and encouragement and support of groups already preserving sections of the route, as well as working with local and national government, local people, countryside groups and railway enthusiasts (of all types!) to restore sections of the route as they become viable."
Beth and I attended one of the early meetings of the group last September, and another late last month. At that second meeting I was invited to join the committee of the group, which in practice will probably mean I'll end up doing publicity and a bit of writing (in fact the former has already started - see Living in Electric Dreams on the group blog. Since then the group has already secured one of the stations on the route (Midford, near Bath) and is starting clearance work at Spetisbury.
If the feedback we've been getting from others who've learnt about the scheme are anything to go by, there is a great deal of interest in the group's aims from local people in the area. This is certainly a different type of cause for me (and certainly a world away from Gender or Faith issues!) but I'm always game for a new challenge.
Change we (are not allowed to) see
This is just classic. Some bright spark at Labour HQ thought it would be a good idea to start a Flickr group for photos recording Labour's achievements since 1997. Unfortunately they didn't anticipate that photographers would instead post scans of the "Stop and Search" cards they'd been given by the police when stopped for (you guessed it) taking photographs.
Oops. They've now thrown their toys out of the pram, locked discussions on the group and are busy deleting images which don't suit their message:
Of course, the response of the photographers has been to start their own group, entitled Change we are not allowed to see and upload the banned images there instead. If it goes viral (as these things often do) that's one big backfire by the politicos.
Epic fail, guys. Really. I mean, WTF were you thinking? (and just as few days after the photographers protest in Trafalgar Square over misuse of stop and search powers, which just beggars belief)
Of course, this could easily be just about any political party rather than just Labour. I doubt many politicos fully appreciate what social media have really done for mass communications, after all.
Labour: Change we see but you can't photograph (Telegraph article)
Change we see (the Labour one)
Change we are not allowed to see (photograpers bite back)
Fun, this technology stuff, isn't it?
2009: Ups, Downs, Potholes and Fog...
When I took the picture above on Boxing Day (it's taken from the summit of Titterstone Clee in Shropshire, by the way) it occured to me that it rather symbolised the year we've just been through - a a maze of ups, downs, potholes and political fog, mixed in with a smattering of industrial devastation. At least, that's what it's felt like watching the news reports throughout the year. Pretty depressing all round!
From a personal perspective this is also the year when I've finally given up on my birth family. Fortunately, I now have a new family, and one which doesn't have the hang-ups and embitterment my old one seems to dwell in. Oh well - it's their loss really.
Whatever the coming year brings you, I hope it's better than the last.
P.S. I'm conscious that I've not written a thing in this blog for many months. In part that's because I'm a little unsure what to use it for now...the trans stuff is part of my past now, not my present (although it can occasionally raise interesting issues those aren't my real focus anymore). Hence I've taken a sabbatical and concentrated on writing elseware (dev forums, twitter etc.).
I have in mind to retheme and refocus the site, and when I do I may start writing here more regularly again. Who knows?
Heartwarming Blog Post from a parent
People just do not understand:
My daughter was born a male, but right from the word go I had a feeling she was in the wrong body and I didnt know enough about transition then to help her. Many years my daughter suffered, feeling she could not talk to people about it. So one day i sat her down, and asked her what we are going to do about it. I tried to get her help, but she was too scared. I was a bit mean to her, because i was fed up with her being upset. I said to her "we will have to do something to help you along". So I tried to get her to a psychiatrist to help her, but she didnt feel she could talk to him.
Many years went past i kept trying for her, and she managed to talk to a trans woman on a chat site. Between the two of us things have changed, but there was so much bias out there it is hard sometimes. People need to realise that it is not a choice for a transsexual to transition (This includes doctors and professionals). They do not live with the person, they do not know the person how can they judge. I know this person and this person is a female, and I want people to realise this.
Unfortunately, the experience of many transpeople I know (and as a moderator of a large trans-support group in the UK I know a lot!) is that the "people who do not understand" are often their own families rather than colleagues, friends and neighbours. Society is changing, and the stigma some parents imagine having a transsexual child will being is - for the most part - in their own mind rather than a reality. As a result, far too many transpeople are estranged from their parents.
Go in peace this Easter, and do not lose heart.