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Welcome to my blog, which I started way back in December 2002 - long before social media was a thing! With the advent of Facebook, Twitter etc. I don't write that often here now, but you never know when I might feel the urge to do so.

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When two Bishops meet two Gay Girls...

Sunday, June 27, 2004

Beth and I both believe that the only way to truly know each other is to experience as much of each others lives as we can. Obviously my Faith is a big part of who I am, and I know she wants to know that part of me as much as the rest.

This morning we went together for the first time to the family service at my Church (St. Thomas of Canterbury in Worting). Perhaps not surprisingly we were both nervous (I've never discussed my sexuality with anyone in the Church and wasn't sure how they'd react to me turning up with a female partner), but as it turned out we didn't need to be as the welcome we received was as warm as any I've received there.

As we waited for the service to begin, it became obvious that the service today was a little out of the ordinary. Not only was our rector Jeremy present, but with him were not one but two Bishops! For our Church that's highly unusual - it's not a large Church by any means. Come to think of it, I've not even met a Bishop (aside from on a chessboard :rolleyes since David Jenkins (then the rather controversial Bishop of Durham) came to vist our 6th Form at school.

All was revealed when the service began. One of the guests was Bishop Trevor Willmott (the Bishop of North Hampshire), and he was here with a guest - the Rt Revd Nathan Kyamanywa, Bishop of Bunyoro-Kitawa in Uganda.

As we had guests, Jeremy didn't give a sermon himself, instead leaving that to the two Bishops. Bishop Trevor spoke first, and although I kept doing nodding dog impressions (a consequence of the long drive yesterday and the coffee reduction initiative Beth has inspired me to undertake) he came across as someone not only filled with Faith but with unmistakeable enthusiasm and empathy for others. Beth found his sermon as wonderful as I did, and at least she didn't keep almost nodding off!

It was also the first time Beth's heard my singing voice (aside from a little singing in the car during the long drive on Friday and Saturday). The hymns this Sunday seemed a little on the traditional side, which isn't really to my taste. That's probably a consequence of my first Church being Evangelical - they had a complete music group, and I rather prefer the more modern hymns such as My Jesus, My Saviour or Lord I Lift Your Name On High. That doesn't matter though...and I think I just about managed to sound OK!

When Bishop Kyamanywa started his sermon I felt a sense of foreboding - the Anglican Church in Africa is not known for it's tolerance of gay or transpeople, as the article Ugandan gay Christians find refuge in Vancouver Anglican church rather worryingly describes:

The three homosexual Ugandan Christians, who have been attending St. Margaret's-Cedar Cottage Anglican church, were arrested, beaten and verbally abused in a September 1999, crackdown on homosexuals by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, according to Amnesty International. One of the women was raped while in prison. A month later, the Anglican Archbishop for Uganda publicly supported the president's attitude toward African gays and lesbians.

A news article in The New Vision, a mainstream newspaper in Kampala, quotes Archbishop Livingstone Mpalanyi Nkoyooyo backing the president's condemnation of homosexuality, saying it is a sin and his church is adamantly "opposed to inhuman sex between men." The Archbishop doesn't comment directly in the article on whether he supports jailing gays and lesbians, who are routinely discriminated against in Africa.

Fortunately, although Bishop Kyamanywa made a brief reference to the challenge posed by the issue of same-sex unions, he didn't dwell on it, and Beth told me that she found the whole experience quite inspiring. Afterwards, I was able to introduce her to some of my friends from the church, including our rector Jeremy, and everyone greeted her with smiles and warmth.

We also briefly met Bishop Trevor (a lovely person) and then Bishop Kyamanywa and his wife Peace. Although both were friendly and interested in us, his body language changed very abruptly when he asked whether we were friends and we told him we were actually partners. I imagine it came as a bit of a shock to him, but I can only hope that meeting us will have made him think about what is happening in his own country, although given his stance on same-sex unions (see Letter from the Bishop-Elect of Bunyoro-Kitara in Uganda) I doubt it will change his mind. That's a pity...if there's one thing Africa could do with, it's more humanity.

And now for something completely different. This evening we both went to see Around the World in 80 Days at Ster Century Cinema in Basingstoke. If you like comedy adventure movies go and see this film - it's absolutely hilarious!!!

Posted by Anna at 23:05 | Get Link

Mad Swans and Englishwomen

Saturday, June 26, 2004

It's been a very busy couple of days for Beth and I. This weekend we'd arranged to visit friends of mine who live in a pretty remote area in North Wales, and I booked Friday and Monday off work to give us more time. Not working on a Monday is an additional benefit of course!

It's a pretty long drive from Basingstoke to Aberlleffenni, and by coincidence one of the most direct routes happens to pass through Telford, where my friends Andy and Bev live. Those of you who've read about my transition may recognise them as the couple who gave me my first opportunity to go out in public as myself way back in August 2002. Although I've come a very long way since then, we haven't seen each other since (although we regularly chat on the phone), so a visit was long overdue...

After an (almost) leisurely start we drove west along the M4 and then north along the M5 towards Birmingham and the M54 which leads to Telford and then on towards North Wales. As we had plenty of time, we were able to take our time, and break our journey wherever we felt like it. Although we stopped briefly at one service station on the M5, it was a pretty dire place and neither of us wanted to hang around there! I had a better idea, and suggested Beth leave the M5 at junction 9 and head into Tewkesbury - a place which means a great deal to me since it's somewhere that holds very happy (and funny!) memories for me. Wandering around there is also a lot more interesting than sitting in some crowded and tatty service station!

A mad swan loose in Gander Field...When we arrived I directed Beth towards a small car park on Gander Lane....which just happens to be right next to the Vineyards - the field where the annual Tewkesbury Medieval Festival was held when I first started taking part in it back in 1994. After parking the car we walked together across the field which holds so many memories for me. I can't put into words everything that I felt walking with my new love through a place which represents such a big part of my past, but suffice it to say that it was a romantic and special time for us both.

We had one hilarious encounter while we were there. A rather inquisitive swan which was lurking (in this case that's exactly the right word believe me) by the edge of the stream which runs the length of the field took an interest in us, and decided to investigate further. Not having any nibbles to satisfy it's obvious curiosity, we made a careful retreat...

Afterwards we wandered around the town for a while (and bought some rather yummy chocolates from a small shop called Chocolate Heaven) before calling in to the Refectory at Tewkesbury Abbey for a light lunch.

When we left we discovered that the M5 was doing a very good impression of a car park, so we headed cross country, eventually coming back onto the motorway just south of Birmingham. Not long after, we arrived in Telford to visit Andy and Bev. It was wonderful to see them again and introduce Beth to them. We spent a happy hour or so catching up. Kerensa has grown so much, and Nathan - a new addition to the family - is simply gorgeous. I sincerely hope it won't be so long before we see them next time.

It was with sadness that we finally left for the final (and definitely most challenging!) leg of our journey to Aberllefenni. Quite honestly I've never seen anything like the scenery there, and the roads were quite unbelievable - little more than mountain tracks really. We needed a fair bit of help to reach our destination, which in itself was a challenge as most of the area is a dead zone for mobile phones!

Our visit ended up being a flying one, and we left the following afternoon for the long drive home. Before leaving however we stopped and took a handful of pictures across the valley. Although it was wet and rather cool, the view was incredible:

A cloudy day in the hills over Aberllefenni

Posted by Anna at 22:03 | Get Link

Forget Endemol's version. Apparently this is the Big Brother House

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Now I've heard it all!

Wednesdays are usually rather long days for me at the moment, as I have an electrolysis session in the evening which means I don't get home until at least 8:30pm. By the time I've eaten and started dilating, it's usually at least 10pm, and tonight was no exception.

The house I live in at the moment is a pretty social place, with an interesting mixture of people. Although my room is only a single (albeit with my own bathroom, which is a big plus!) I do like it here. It's safe, and it's been home since I transitioned in December 2002.

As we have no lounge (it's been converted into another room to rent out) we use our kitchen as a meeting place, and most evenings there's someone there. Today was no exception...when I walked in the back door tonight two of my housemates (Patrico and Rob) were chilling out and watching the TV. Patrico's partner Ros joined us shortly afterwards, all smiles as usual and in an incredibly bouncy mood.

When Patrico and Ros left, Rob and I carried on chatting. Despite being much younger than me he's quite an inquisitive and thoughtful person, and very easy to get on with. We've chatted a lot over the few weeks since he moved in.

The conversation drifted back and forth, and then he came out with a real gem. Have you ever tried to describe the people in one part of your life to someone from another who's never met them? Apparently, he's been chatting to some of the guys he works with about the house and the people he shares with: Andrea, who's always ready to laugh or party; Patrico, who's innocent look fools nobody; Barry, the potential "Alpha male" who's usually much calmer around us than his character would suggest; and myself, the sword swinging gothic looking transsexual almost-Lesbian with a taste for Belgian beer.

When Rob described us all to one of his friends one of the responses was this classic line:

"Mate, you live in the Big Brother House"
Come to think of it, he may have a point. Now where have they hidden those cameras...?

Posted by Anna at 00:24 | Get Link

No justice for Gwen yet

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

News broke this morning that the trial of the animals who brutally murdered 17 year old Gwen Araujo in October 2002 has - to the shame of the US legal system (in my opinion) - been declared a mistrial as the jury could not agree a verdict.

Gasps of dismay sounded in a courtroom as the trial of three men charged with killing a transgender teenager ended Tuesday with the jury declaring they were deadlocked.

Prosecutor Chris Lamiero said he would seek to retry the case, although that is not expected to happen for some months.

Jurors, who had been deliberating for about nine days, said according to their latest ballot they were stuck 10-2 in favor of acquitting Jose Merel and Jason Cazares on first-degree murder charges and 7-5 in favor of convicting Michael Magidson.

The three, all 24, were charged with killing a teenager known to most of her friends as Gwen but born Edward Araujo. Merel and Magidson had sexual encounters with Araujo in the months before her death and, according to prosecutors, the killing occurred after a showdown in which Araujo's biological gender was revealed.

Had they decided to convict, the panel of eight men and four women also had the option of returning verdicts of second-degree murder or manslaughter, but only if they agreed on the first-degree charge. First-degree murder is punishable by 25 years to life, second-degree by 15-to-life and manslaughter by up to 11 years.

The case also had been charged as a hate crime, which could have added four years.

Alameda County Superior Court Judge Harry Sheppard declared a mistrial after the jury foreman told him the panel was "unable to pass beyond the point of reasonable doubt," and all but one juror said further deliberations would not help.

Araujo's sister left the courtroom in tears as the trial ended and the family later struggled for words to express their disappointment.

"This mistrial has added to their grief," said Gloria Allred, an attorney representing the family, "but they understand that the jury did their best."

David Guerrero, Araujo's uncle, said he was pleased prosecutors plan to try again but said that would be tough on the family.

"It's very difficult. I just don't want to see those pictures again. I don't want to hear that testimony again," he said.

The case had been closely watched by transgender advocates, who said the verdicts would send an important message. They had been critical of Magidson's attorney, Michael Thorman, who argued that the killing was "classic manslaughter," calling it a crime of passion provoked by sexual deception.

Jurors left the courthouse without speaking to reporters, but Allred said she had been told they apparently had not been leaning toward manslaughter but were hung up between first- and second-degree murder.

Activists said they were disappointed by the mistrial but encouraged that at least some jurors were considering murder verdicts.

"Today was justice delayed, not justice denied," said Christopher Daley, co-director of the San Francisco-based Transgender Law Center.

According to trial testimony, the 17-year-old Araujo was beaten and strangled in the early morning hours of Oct. 4, 2002, following a confrontation at Merel's house in Newark, a San Francisco suburb.

The prosecution's key witness was 21-year-old Jaron Nabors, who initially was charged with murder, but pleaded guilty to manslaughter and agreed to testify.

Nabors said the three men set upon Araujo after another woman at the house ended the gender debate by grabbing Araujo's genitals. Nabors said Merel hit Araujo with a can and a skillet and Magidson punched, choked and kicked her.

As the attack began, Araujo begged, "No, please don't. I have a family," Nabors said.

Nabors said he didn't see the killing, but saw Magidson start to pull a rope toward Araujo's neck after she had been tied up. Nabors said Magidson later talked about twisting the rope.

Defense attorneys hammered away at Nabors' credibility, pointing out that he told different stories to police when first arrested.

Cazares, the only defendant to testify, had sought acquittal, saying he was outside when the killing took place and only helped bury the body.

Magidson's attorney, who argued for manslaughter, acknowledged his client played a role in the attack. Merel's attorney said jurors only had Nabors' word for it that Merel was involved in the assault, and even if they believed Nabors, Merel was not guilty of anything more than manslaughter.

After the mistrial, Thorman said it appeared some jurors agreed sexual provocation led to the killing. Cazares' attorney, Tony Serra, said he was "chagrined" by the verdict, saying it appeared one or two jurors had held out for first-degree murder based on emotion.

Guerrero said the family has lived through the killing three times, once when it happened, again at the preliminary hearing last year and now with the trial, which began with jury selection March 15.

He said they dread reliving the case again, but are prepared to do so.

"If it takes us 20 times to get justice, we'll do it 20 times," he said.

I think this news speaks for itself.

My heart truly goes out to Gwen's family. They shouldn't have to live through this agony again.

Remembering Our Dead

Posted by Anna at 12:46 | Get Link

Polearms and Perfume

Thursday, June 17, 2004

I had another training session with the Morrigan tonight - and this time I was playing with a polearm (6 feet of wooden haft with a nasty spikey bit on the end) rather than the shortsword and buckler or dagger I've been using recently.

Although I used to fight with them all the time (and in fact I'm far better with a polearm than I am with a sword), it's been six years since the last time I used one and obviously I'm much weaker than I was then.

This time I trained with Mike (an old friend and fighting partner, and quite a character himself as you can see in the picture below - he's on the right), and thoroughly enjoyed the experience...though I do have a rather angry looking bruise on my left arm to show for the encounter

This pic (from the Morrigan website) shows that even a pair of Hussites can look intimidating...
Hussites are supposed to be scary...

He told me afterwards that I'm far faster than before transition and my style is much more fluid and interesting. He actually seemed rather impressed, which is heartening.

I'm very happy with how I got on tonight, although I did find it extremely tiring - much more so than using a shortsword. Surgery really does hit you far harder than you realise, so the more exercise I can get, the better off I'll be in the long term.

Posted by Anna at 23:21 | Get Link

Something wonderful happened this weekend

Sunday, June 13, 2004

Something wonderful happened this weekend. On Friday night I met someone truly special in ways I can't even begin to describe, and it feels as if so much has happened since then! Not surprisingly I'm seeing life from a rather different perspective now than I did before we met...

We first came across each other on (of all places!) the Big Brother 5 forum.* A week ago she wrote to me after seeing some of my posts there, and recognising me as someone who shared a similar character and empathy for others. We've been chatting on IM for the past few days, and on Friday evening we met in person for the first time.

As soon as we saw each other it was obvious to us both that there was a very strong bond between us, and as a result the evening was extremely special to us both. We'd decided to go to La Tasca in town for a meal, but before we did we chatted for a while over a bottle of wine. Fortunately, we were able to book a cab at short notice (a miracle in itself in Basingstoke on a Friday night!), but when the cab turned up and honked twice (as the cab company had told us it would) it turned out to be from another cab company (apparently they all do that), so back to my room we went for another glass of wine...

However, we'd barely touched that when our own cab arrived to take us into town. Once we arrived we had just a short walk from the taxi rank next to the bus station to the restaurant, where by coincidence, we ran into my housemate Patrico and his girlfriend Ros. I was really happy to be able to introduce Beth to them.

The meal was fantastic - the atmosphere in the bar was just amazing, and suited our mood perfectly. We were talking so much that the meal got rather neglected at times, and I know the intimacy between us was rather noticeable from the reactions of some around us!

The following day (after a rather slow start!) we drove down to Beth's place towards the South Coast, and eventually went down to the beach in the early evening. Sitting together in such a tranquil place really does bring into focus what's important in life - love, and happiness. Everything else is really just a means towards finding that peace and contentment in ourselves and those we love.

Once it started to get a little cooler we left the beach and went to a local takeaway to order some fish and chips (after all, what else would be appropriate for a romantic evening by the sea?) to take back to her place. White wine was a perfect accompaniment to both the meal and each other's company.

That night and the following day passed in a blur, and when I finally left to come home I started to miss her as soon as I got into the car to drive away. Even without asking, I knew she felt the same.

By the time I arrived back at home at 7:30pm (after slogging through the most convincing impression of a car park I've ever seen on the M3), I was exhausted and just wanted to fall asleep in her arms. My room seems so empty without her here, but at least I know it won't be long before we'll be together again.

I'm feeling so content and happy now that I can't describe it in mere words, and can't wait to see her again. The future suddenly feels bright and full of life and promises of wonder.

Posted by Anna at 23:00 | Get Link

The GerBill has passed Parliament!

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Break out the bubbly - here's the news we've been waiting for:

Posted by Anna at 20:56 | Get Link

According to some people, Shrek 2 is a threat to civilised society...

Monday, June 07, 2004

This cracked me up when I read it today. The very existance of transpeople seems to invoke absolute hysteria in some extreme sections of society, but this has got to be the most ridiculous outburst yet.

One of the nastiest right wing groups in the US is the so-called "Traditional Values Coalition". Unfortunately, given the nature of politics in the US, they're probably more influential than any of us would care to admit. When they come out with something like this though, they publiclly reveal themselves to be the buffoons they really are:

Judge for yourself - Parents Beware: 'Shrek 2' Features Transgenderism And Crossdressing Themes.

These people would do well to read Real Live Preacher's article Fundamentalism Hurts. They could learn a thing or two from him, that's for sure.

Posted by Anna at 20:59 | Get Link

Way Out and about

Sunday, June 06, 2004

Just for once this week has been a busy one, and what better way to follow training on Thursday and the birthday party on Friday than by going clubbing on Saturday?

Yesterday afternoon my friend Jane and I drove into London and checked into the Chamberlain Hotel near Aldgate tube. Although the parking in the area is a little chaotic, it's not that bad and we were able to park nearby which always helps!

The hotel itself is pretty impressive, and I can honestly say that this is the first time I've been in a hotel which has televisions in the bathrooms!

This is a first - watching TV in the bath...

There were 3 of us for most of the night. We started out by catching the tube to Barbican with the intention of going to the same Italian restaurant we'd visited the previous August, but we ended up at a different one instead and had a truly gorgeous meal there. By the time we left it was after 10pm.

We'd decided to have a quick look in the nearby Trans-MISSION nightclub (more to see who was there than anything else) before moving on to the Way Out Club. I've been to Trans-MISSION just once before (last August) and since then it's remarkable how much my perceptions have changed. The place feels really tame to me now, and (apart from the fact that they serve Leffe Blonde on the bar and I've just discovered there's a pool table downstairs) there's very little for me there. I suspect most post-op trans women will feel the same way.

Perhaps not surprisingly we didn't stay long, and after one drink (and me being recognised - infamy at last! :laugh we caught the tube back to Algate and walked to the Way Out - a club which has a reputation as a bit of a pick-up joint (and that's putting it politely). To say the place is "downstairs in the basement" isn't at all descriptive or the number of stairs you have to negoiate to get there - it's buried well and truly below street level.

The first thing that struck me was the sheer number of men in the place. It's the first time I've come into such obvious contact with "admirers" and it's an odd feeling. The crowd there also seems much younger, and I suspect there were many more trans women there than you'd ever find at Trans-MISSION - which by comparison is much more of a "tranny" venue with very few men.

Another oddity is that a high percentage of the men there were from ethnic minorities whose communities are not known for their tolerance towards transpeople and others outside of the "social norm". Intriguing...

We spent most of our time on the dancefloor and I thoroughly enjoyed it. At around 2am they had a cabaret which we didn't bother watching - by comparison to the one I saw in Pattaya it was pretty lifeless. We chilled out in the lounge area instead - mention of which brings me to something that happened there.

Although by and large we weren't pestered by the guys there, there was one young asian guy who was definitely a little short in the conversation department, and who did something that had even me shaking my head in disbelief. While Jane and I were relaxing in the lounge area, he came up to us and asked if he could sit with us. That didn't bother us - although being a 2-seater sofa it was a pretty tight squeeze. What did bother me was the next thing he did - he took hold of my hand and tried to push it into his crotch, all without saying a word!

Needless to say he didn't get anywhere. The craziest thing was that he seemed absolutely stunned when I pushed him away, and stalked off. Make no mistake - there are some real predators out there, but fortunately, this kid wasn't competant enough to be one of them.

We finally left at 3am, and walked back to the hotel. I've spent most of this afternoon crashed out recovering!

Would I go back? Definitely, but preferably with a reasonable sized group of friends. I enjoyed the dancing tremendously, and for once its nice to be in the majority. In that club, it's the men who're the outsiders - and I can deal with that and them.

Posted by Anna at 19:06 | Get Link

Which Way Up?

Saturday, June 05, 2004

Last night I was at a surprise birthday party at the White Lion in Amersham for my old friend Kathy.

Amersham is about an hour away from where I live, but having taken the afternoon off to visit the dentist I had plenty of time to get there (although I hadn't counted on jams on the M4!). By the time I arrived, the place was already pretty busy, and I was happy to find a group of old friends sitting just next to the door. Quite honestly you'd think nothing had changed. Amazing.

Kathy was visibly stunned when she saw us all there! I've not seen her for at least 6 years, so it was a pretty special event for me too.

Not only did her husband Dom organise to get us all there, but the band they both play in - "This Way Up" were also there and entertained us for the evening. I love to dance, although I tend to be a slow starter and certainly won't win any competitions!

It was quite a night. Happy Birthday Kathy!

Posted by Anna at 10:17 | Get Link

Daggers and Dentists

Friday, June 04, 2004

That's not (as it sounds) some odd roleplaying game, just what I've been up to over the last couple of days...

Last night I did a little more sword training with the Morrigan. I managed to train for slightly longer this time, and although I can feel that I've got a long way to go, my stamina seems to have improved a little in the last week. After the session last night I've not been aching anything like the way I was last Friday.

It feels pretty weird going back there, and I feel like a bit of an outsider at the moment - probably because there are so many new faces. It'll take me some time to find my feet, but I'll get there. I'm going to take things slowly and see where they lead, but I'm almost certain that I'll be doing events again sometime in the near future. Whether I'll ultimately end up doing shows with the Morrigan, the Herberts, the Woodvilles or all three is anybody's guess!

This afternoon I finally made it to my dentist for an overdue root (ouch!) filling. It's the first time he's seen me since I returned from my FFS in January, and he seemed very impressed with what he saw. He was very interested in what I'd had done, and even examined my jaw before he got started. Having the filling done was pretty uncomfortable, which I guess is to be expected. Having said that, there wasn't any pain, and I suspect that the relaxation techniques I've developed since starting laser hair removal and electrolysis certainly helped!

While I was there I asked what options I had for closing the gap between my front teeth. The answer unfortunately wasn't promising - up to two years of orthodontics and a bridge to replace the missing tooth that caused the problem in the first place (I didn't even know there was one missing!). That's likely to cost anywhere from �2,000 to �4,000, and quite frankly I can't commit to that so it looks like I'm stuck with it for now.

He didn't recommend the alternative approach (veneering my two front teeth) as he thinks the veneers would have to be far too large, and it would look pretty odd. I didn't go through all of this to do Bugs Bunny impressions!!!

Oh well. As he said, "You've been through enough this year". That was sweet.

Posted by Anna at 16:02 | Get Link

Ever get the feeling you should be somewhere else?

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

As I write this my housemate Andrea and her friend Naomi are on their way to Chang Mai in Thailand for a well deserved holiday. Neither of them have been to Thailand before, and I'm sure they'll just love it!

Of course, I'm at home - dilating and "enjoying" my own company as usual. Oh well.

Posted by Anna at 23:19 | Get Link