Category Archives: Gender

The International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. Why is counting so important?

Today is 25 November 2013. More specifically though it is the International Day for  the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

It is a day rightly which is sobering and uncompromising in its message. Male violence against women is a reality in all corners of society and we must move towards a situation where we name the problem rather than bury our heads in the sand and pretend it does not exist.

Against this backdrop I was horrified to hear in the House of Commons, during a debate on women and the cost of living that 180 women a day are being turned away from Women’s Aid refuges due to underfunding. This is a shocking statistic, not only when you consider the sheer volume of women attempting to escape violent partners and who are patently in need of such services, but who will have no alternative but to return to the violent partner whom they have fought desperately to escape from just to guarantee a roof over their head. Therefore it allows the cycle of abuse to perpetuate itself once again.

Services such as those provided by Women’s Aid are not only a vital backstop in times of crisis but also an opportunity for women to take stock and to rebuild their lives again. They provide a chance for women and their children to be safe, secure and free of harm. Clearly they are a much needed service.

The government response to Lisa Nandy MP was fairly flippant in my view. They simply suggested that domestic violence does not occur in every home. Absolutely not, but in my eyes one home suffering from the effects and realities of domestic abuse is one home too many. Organisations like Women’s Aid should be given every resource at the Treasury’s disposal to create a sanctuary and safe haven for women.

Being within an abusive relationship is not a healthy reality for any woman, yet it is the only reality many women know. Domestic abuse is primarily about control and the subordination of women. A lesser amount of funding being available to organisations like Women’s Aid will ensure that abusive, controlling and harmful men are allowed to perpetuate that cycle of abuse and keep women living in fear emotionally, and physically. That is not an outcome which any right-thinking woman or man in 2013 would welcome. They need funding, and they need it now.

Social networks bring truth to us at times, and one woman’s use of Twitter today brings that home to all of us. Somewhere in the UK today a woman is spending the day tweeting, not about last night’s ‘The X Factor’ or the latest gossip from the Australian jungle. No as we approach 2014 this woman, taking no credit and for no real gain is tweeting the names of women killed at the hands of male violence this year. Her name is Karen Ingala-Smith and she is the CEO of the charity NIA which is committed to “delivering cutting-edge services to end violence against women and children.”

Karen is tweeting out the names of the 116 women killed by male violence this year. She began just after 6 AM this morning and will be tweeting well past midnight. Her commitment to ending violence is uncompromising and unwavering. Why count the names though?

For Karen the answer is simple.

“For some reason I thought that naming the women killed made the horror of what is happening seem more real.”

I agree here. Numbers are numbers, and alone, quantitatively at least they only tell half the story, and it is easy to feel ambivalent towards them. They do not provoke any particular emotion; they are simply a stand-alone denotation.

But Karen is right naming the women does make those numbers feel more real. Behind every one of those numbers there was a life, a friend or relative to somebody. A life cruelly terminated at the hands of a violent, oppressive, controlling and narcissistic man. A life unnecessarily terminated at the hands of a violent man.

There is no hierarchy in death at the hands of a violent man, or indeed at all. Each one of these women and girls was gone too soon. Women killed because they were women. Because men feel they have a right to express supremacy over women, and they believe the delusion that men are somehow superior to women whilst women are inferior. That is why these women are dead. That is why we need a seachange in attitudes towards women with less misogyny and less violence and less abuse. The bottom line is this though. Violence against women and girls has no place in our society or any other. Women and girls have a right to live in a world free from violence and free from abuse. This is something they should not have to beg for, or plead to men for, it is something they should expect and rightly so.

Today also marks the beginning of 16 days of action for the elimination of violence against women and girls. However I am privileged to know many women for whom 365 days a year represent action in this regard. We should follow their lead and their example.

This is why the scandal of the underfunding of organisations like Women’s Aid’s refuges is nothing short of a scandal. Until they receive proper funding, the numbers counted by Karen will continue to rise not decline. That is why I have discussed both of these things in one piece. There is a clear link between the two, showing that actions have consequences and I say that without apology or sugar coating.

In closing let me come back to this word. Elimination. Not reduction nor decrease but elimination. Women should not have to experience violence just because they are women or at all. They are wonderful and beautiful human beings. They should not have to live in fear of persecution, torment and violence at the hands of men ever! The objective of today is the elimination of violence against women, girls and children of course. Women deserve to live in a world where they are free to be how they want to be without fear of violent and disgusting reprisals by Neanderthal men.

I speak for myself and many others I am sure when I say that I will not rest nor be content until the number of dead women Karen has to count stands at zero, is that really too much to ask, that a man is never violent to a woman again. Nothing she does can provoke them. It is not her fault. It is a man’s violent choice to be a violent man. It is not a done deal.

However it is women who bear the consequences. It was difficult when writing this blog today to know what sort of tone to adopt. Whether to be happy about the possibility of elimination of violence against women and girls, or whether to be sombre and solemn about lives lost. I believe elimination of violence is possible. I also believe however that we should not forget lives lost, for the lives of those women mattered, and they made a contribution to the planet. For those women still here they fight on and I stand with them in the fight. Some final words. Never give up. All women are worth it and your lives are valuable.

If, reading this you are struggling because of male violence, I stand with you and I support you.

 

ORGANISATIONS

www.womensaid.org.uk

www.niaendingviolence.org.uk

www.samaritans.org

Also here is a link to Karen’s petition, entitled, Stop Ignoring Dead Women http://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/stop-ignoring-dead-women

Follow the Counting Dead Women Twitter Account @countdeadwomen.

 

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Dear #FuckCisPeople;You Don’t Speak for Me and You are Not my Voice

Lately, I have learnt one thing above all. Sharing differences in ourselves and being part of a minority is not enough to sustain a friendship or build common bonds.

Commonsense you might think but when you begin to introduce the notion of a community into the discourse, then you take it for granted that the community speaks with one united voice. This has been the case on Twitter this weekend with the fuckcispeople hashtag.

Most communities, as Benedict Anderson posited, are imagined.

The motivation behind the hashtag was to alert non-trans people to the ways in which they oppress the trans community. It was meant to provoke a debate about how we treat trans people in society and how we could do better.

Well, it would be fair to say that the hashtag provoked a debate with many supporting the hashtag, saying it highlighting the oppressed status whilst others felt it did not speak for them.

I am not denying for one moment the trials and tribulations trans people face in everyday life.They include; Street harassment, discrimination in the job market and also punitive irrational social exclusion.

However no matter how much pain you are going through, a whole group should not be demonised. They are not responsible for your pain.

Being in a minority is hard I know. I have done it through no choice of my own for 32 years. Indeed one question posed to me with a kind of devils advocacy was why would I put myself through the process of joining another minority, bearing in mind the pain and the extra prejudice it would bring?

Well as long as I’m happy that what matters, as long as those who love me love me that what matters.

What does not matter is the ignorance of a few people.

I understand the pain underlying the fuck cis people hash tag genuinely but it is not the right way to go about it. If you want to think I’m telling you you’re doing feminism wrong then fine think it. I no longer care. The world is broadly made up of cis people. The job market is probably made up of cis people. Educational establishments are made up of cis people. They are here and they are not going anywhere! So get used to it.

The way to bring about change is not to pile on people for having views you disagree with. The way to bring about change is not to swear shout and be belligerent. I am not saying that women of any hue should be chaste silent and obedient for that is a discourse that belongs to a bygone age.

What I am saying is that you don’t win an argument by simply turning the volume to maximum and putting your fingers in your ears wilfully ignoring what people are trying to say to you. People who could give you useful advice and support are instead turned on for the most minor infractions of a rulebook which nobody has ever had the pleasure of reading. They are manipulated into apologising over the most minute issues and end up issuing grovelling kowtowing apologies.

Nobody can be expected to be an expert on trans issues within five minutes. We are all still learning as life is a journey of discovery. But how can you expect people to want to learn more if all you do is show them hostile aggression and present the so-called misery narrative?

The happy days of My Transsexual Summer on Channel 4 now seem a distant memory. Donna, Lewis, Sarah, Karen, Fox and Drew were fun people having fun times going out and enjoying life to the max. That’s a positive outcome for trans men and women. When I wrote about that TV show I looked forward to writing about it and I was happy to meet the cast. I admired their zeal, their passion and their determination to show that people who are trans can live a good, happy and fulfilled life.

Yet oh my god how the worm has turned. Gone are the heydays of that time. Gone is the good work they did. It’s been replaced with sadness and misery after misery. Putting myself into this misery narrative for a moment it seems to me that for some, trans is an oppression, an affliction they would rather not deal with but garner sympathy instead and as much of it is possible.

What did you expect when you came out as trans? An easy ride? Candy floss? A medal?

You know I don’t know whether some of the shock I see on Twitter is real. People staring in the street, people making rude comments, people bullying. Now in an ideal world of course bullying wouldn’t exist. We would all live happily ever after, as one harmonious homogeneous humankind. But it isn’t going to happen.

I have been in a minority for 32 years. I have had to deal with stares in the street for as long as I can remember. I have never passed society’s ideals of beauty. When I hear some of you talk about passing as cis men, quite frankly it makes me jealous yes jealous, for you have at least experienced that life of normalcy before you joined a minority. I never have. I look at your pictures and I think some of you are really beautiful in the same way as all women are but then I see you moaning about has how much you’re suffering in this oppression Olympics and I feel angry with you because you don’t realise how lucky you are. I assume for most of you even though you are trans you can still drive if you’re old enough. I assume you can put your clothes on in the morning and cook your own meals go on a holiday and choose what you want to eat and cook it for yourself. Well I can’t so count yourself lucky.

Lastly I want to address the Trans Excluding Radical Feminist Issue. I am not a sympathiser to any kind of exclusionary ideal. I am not ambivalent to trans deaths of women of colour or otherwise.

Indeed I saw yesterday that I was called a shitbag for merely expressing another view, the view that the hashtag was destructive and would not bring about greater dialogue or discourse.

I am a sympathiser of many issues radical feminists campaign about including sexual violence, and rape. I also support an end to sexism and misogyny in society. I would dearly love for trans women to attend radical feminist conferences. The way things are going though I think that will happen in the year 3013. If you continuously attack and belittle motives and beliefs of fellow women then what do you expect them to do in return; welcome you with open arms?

The backgrounds of radical feminists often make sorry listening. What is revealed are a litany of woes and misogyny at the hands of men. If we just put our fingers in our ears and ignore that that it shows an utter disrespect and disregard of the suffering of the class we are transitioning into. We must be mindful of the fact that woman space is politically sensitive and painful sometimes. In some countries space for women to meet together is not even granted.

The central plank and the immovable plank of my thesis against the hashtag however is this. Cis people have problems too. Just because somebody is born in a body that is congruent with how they feel inside it does not mean they have a problem free existence with roses round the door.

They have problems too, just like us. This is such a basic fact I can’t believe I’m saying it but it’s true. Being trans is not the only oppression ever to have faced the Earth. It may feel like it is but it isn’t.

When you say fuck cis people, do you know what you’re really saying? You are saying fuck the doctors who kept me alive; they don’t matter just collateral damage. You’re saying fuck my mother; the person who gave birth to me and had to deal with the heartache of having a disabled child when she didn’t expect it. You are saying fuck the world, stop it I don’t want to be part of it I want to live in my own trans utopia where everything is perfect nobody disagrees with me and there is no challenge to my experience where I can say what I like without condemnation or critical voices. That isn’t reality.

However, we don’t transition in a vacuum. We transition into the real world. And whether you like it or not that is how it is. I would hate to live in a world where everyone was disabled or trans or lesbian, an exact copy of me. How dull! How anodyne and boring. Moreover how fucking unrealistic do you want to be?

What sort of dystopia are we living in when somebody with an opposing view is a shitbag? When the only view people are interested in is an identikit one? A sad dystopia of Orwellian dimensions is that sort of dystopia.

The greatest irony is I used to write the sort of blogs the dystopians would lap up like cream. Loads of likes, happy trans community job done. These days for seeing beyond the prism of the trans community I’m often attacked or at worst blocked on Twitter. But I know one thing. I go to sleep at night with my integrity intact because I am not writing what people want to hear. Instead I am writing what I believe.

Some elements of the train carriages of the trans community appear to have broken away from the train and are travelling in an increasingly separatist direction. If that is you please end all contact with me on social media it is not something I want to be part of.

You may feel alienated from society; you may feel abused and let down by the wider population? What do you expect when you never leave the safe confines of the trans community and only talk to each other, and a coterie of allies?  Of course this way you will get affirmation and solidarity and a challenge free life, but is that integration? Is that truly living? I understand this may feel safer but how do you know until you try?

By creating the hashtag fuck cis people you are creating division and ghettos where there need be none. I think it is getting to the stage where the trans community or at least some elements of it is becoming its own worst enemy.

It bemoans lack of acceptance from society, but yet refuses to engage with it at every turn. It creates hashtags writing off the majority of society, but if society were to do the same merry hell would break loose.

The stench of hypocrisy is alive and well. Who is now going to step up and make the air fresh once again?

It is no good fighting discrimination with yet further discrimination. If politics operated in this way the country would be ungovernable. People in opposing parties sit down and have congenial discussions for the good of the country.

If you want acceptance and understanding don’t belittle half of society to get it. I was disgusted by this hashtag yesterday. It made me feel almost ashamed to be trans.

And I love myself I’m proud of myself my achievements in life and my positivity in life. And I will sure as hell not be dragged down the tunnel of misery and negativity by a group of people who feel the whole world is against them. That mindset is easy. Far harder though is the challenge to do something about it. Change starts from within all of us whether we are cis, trans or dolphin.

We can either be part of that change or stay closed off in our ghetto. I broke free from the ghetto last year through my own choosing. I engage with people, I write professionally. I don’t feel the world is against me because I don’t hate myself. I put it to those who originated that hashtag that perhaps your quarrel is not with cis people at all. It is perhaps a quarrel in your soul.

Finally I will say this. I heard somebody suggest yesterday that cis people need to know how they fuck us up. Yes fine! I agree. However it is our choice and within our grasp to decide how much we let circumstances fuck us up. It is also within our grasp to determine how long we want to stay that way for. Otherwise we would be puppets with no control whatsoever of our own lives. I know people for whom this is their reality. Now that’s oppression.

What we go through may be tough but it is not the only kind of oppression there is. We could be LGBT in Russia right now  for example. It’s not easy to deal with people staring at you in the street, but you can get stronger and learn to deal with it. If you choose a certain path you have to accept the consequences. You are different but living in a way that feels amenable to you should be a comforting experience not a horrible one.

You cannot write off a whole subset of society based on your experience. That hashtag was a damaging point in my lifetime. I hope I never have to see it again. I will continue to campaign for the rights of women and trans women. I will continue to be a successful writer. I will continue with my happy positive outlook on life that has paid dividends so far. What I will not do is place the T above all else and ignore the world generally.

I have grown up with and around women all my life. If I was to ignore cis people my life would be pretty lonely. If that makes me a shitbag then so be it.

Many trans people also spoke out against the hashtag. This was dismissed as hatchet jobs. No! It’s  real people disagreeing with your actions. It’s called democracy.

A Coda to Why I Love to Write: Interesting Times

Following on from yesterday’s “Why I Love to Write” post, I thought I’d share a small piece of my history with you.

I talked in yesterday’s entry about when I first started blogging, and the situation I was in.

Writing captures moments in time, and that blog was very narrowly focused and a true reflection of this situation I was in. I began blogging at a time much like this, in weather similar to that we are having at the moment.

Here for your viewing pleasure (or pain) is my first ever blog, written a couple of days after someone had suggested blogging. The post is from July 27th 2006, entitled “Interesting Times”

It’s been interesting here lately. It’s interesting observing how people have coped with the new me.
Before I was [name redacted], which I’m guessing must be slightly confusing for some, but now I’m Hannah, and sometimes people don’t get it. I’m not sure why that is. Whether it’s due to genuine lapses of memory, or due to the fact that some people genuinely struggle with the idea of Gender Dysphoria (unhappiness) being a true medical condition.
Personally, sometimes I feel like I have three people living inside me. [name redacted], H, and Hannah. If I could define it myself, I’d do so like this.
Hannah is the person I wish t0 be, H is a standard letter of the alphabet, and [name redacted] well he’s the stuck chewing gum on my shoe. I say this because for some people, he doesn’t seem to be going away. The thing is, I’m happy as Hannah, I’ve never been happier. When I look in the mirror, I can see something I like. But what do other people see? Young man or young lady? I get called both! Fucking both! I’ve not had any male clothes for months – I can’t make the NHS go any faster.
The thing is I love it when people call me Hannah. It makes my heart dance. But when people call me [name redacted] I feel like an alien. I’m not him.
I’m not a he either. Tina, my counsellor says I should correct them but I feel unable to, almost rude if I do.
Residential living is hard too, I feel as though my personal space isn’t respected sometimes and people always want or need me cos I’m likeable. But people are so needy and it drains me.
Someone even walked into my room to talk to somebody about something that was
nothing to do with me. Even trivial. I was furious but went to management. Does your head in sometimes.
People are so rude to staff and I find that strange. If I spoke to my Mum like that, she’d be very angry.
As the title says, interesting times.

Needy and it drains me? Oh Hannah! Pot n’kettle I think. But I was so self absorbed at the time I couldn’t have helped anyone I guess.
I look at that post and think how far I’ve come. I’m glad I’m not an immature brat anymore. Being likeable is a good thing, but in a place like that it’s hard to mark out your own space. There’s no front door of your own so there’s no me time.
Now, I have the best of both worlds. I redacted the old name as it’s just irrelevant.  They used to joke and ask me who I was counselling today.
As the title says, interesting times, and life has only become yet more interesting since. Long may it continue on such a trajectory. I really, truly  enjoy life now. In spite of the obvious difficulties, they will never disappear, so it’s a question of management rather than cure.
I like me now, maybe even love me a little. I love other people too, my friends new and old, my friends from JDM and my friends now, you are all part of my story, and my writing wouldn’t be half as good without you.

Plus this:

Someone even walked into my room to talk to somebody about something that was
nothing to do with me. Even trivial. I was furious but went to management. Does your head in sometimes.

 

Went to management did I? Due to someone talking to someone else. That’s kind of the way it is in residential living. It’s called compromise. But  it is a mindfuck. It’s amazing to think how you blow even the tiniest stuff out of proportion, with hindsight.

They  were great people. They helped me with clothing, bought me makeup, and were like a family to me. Without them. I wouldn’t be me. Thank you John Darling Mall

JDM

Affectionately known as the greenhouse.

BBC Three: Snog, Marry Or Avoid?

Now, before I begin this post, I would like to make the following points. I am not a stereotypical Angry from Manchester, nor a BBC basher, and finally in no way shape or form, a serial complainer.

Nailing my own colours to the mast and being honest, I have done some work for the BBC in local radio, I love the BBC. It is a bastion of creativity and pushing boundaries. It is also very hot 0n inclusion, and being relevant to oppressed minorities, and this is something that people in the BBC are highly passionate about.

They believe in innovation and highlighting important issues, and along with Radio 1,BBC Three in particular believes in presenting issues of importance to other young people.

To be honest as well, I am glad we have the BBC. I would far rather we have democratic PSB than autocractic, Government led state run television.

I spoke when writing about My Transsexual Summer about Channel 4, and BBC Three’s ability to create compelling, and innovative documentaries.

I do not subscribe to the view that BBC Three is trash television. After all, they have handled such subjects as bipolar disorder and coming out with sensitivity, maturity, and integrity. This is what makes the following clip all the more surprising.

Thanks to my good friend Sarah for uploading this clip. How do you feel when you watch it? What emotions are conjured up?

Upon hearing this, my first emotion is surprise. It is only twelve seconds long, but what a televisual timebomb, and what on Earth are the Exec Producer, the Producer and the Director playing at? How would this stand up to scrutiny under BBC Editorial Guidelines and policy?

I was surprised because of the BBC’s good track record in minority representation in general. I would be delighted to hear the rationale for this part of the script, because transsexuality is not even pertinent to the show.

The BBC’s  Editorial Guidelines state that;

              5.4.38

“We aim to reflect fully and fairly all of the United Kingdom’s people and cultures in our services.  Content may reflect the prejudice and disadvantage which exist in societies worldwide but we should not perpetuate it.  In some instances, references to disability, age, sexual orientation, faith, race, etc.  may be relevant to portrayal.  However, we should avoid careless or offensive stereotypical assumptions and people should only be described in such terms when editorially justified.”

As you will see from the part I have emboldened, the BBC have utterly failed to avoid offensive or stereotypical assumptions in this case.

The BBC’s Editorial Guidelines further state that;

5.4.39

“When it is within audience expectations, we may feature a portrayal or stereotype that has been exaggerated for comic effect, but we must be aware that audiences may find casual or purposeless stereotypes to be offensive.”

Again, I am sure you will agree that the BBC has roundly failed here too.

For them there is nowhere to hide. This was not a little F-Bomb the BBC forgot to bleep out. It was not even live. On live TV anything can happen. So therefore you can apologise, and hope it blows over, as was seen on The Voice UK  in respect of Becky Hill.

But this was not live, or as live. Snog, Marry, Avoid ? is pre-recorded and as such pre scripted. I do not blame the voice of POD. I blame the production team, who failed in their duty to check this script against the Editorial Guidelines. Remarkable really since it took me and Google all of five minutes to find them and reach the relevant section on portrayal.

But the fact that this script was waved through, shows me that the production team were well aware of what they were doing. This escalates it from a simple, naive mistake to complicit bullying. There is no other way to describe it.

With v/o’s there are two simple processes, scripting and directing. The producers will have in mind on any show how they want the script to be delivered. It could be as a straight narration, i.e just normal speech, or with certain emotions or characteristics, i.e exaggeration, sadness or sarcasm. Some narration involves saying the same thing in different ways?

It was clear, from the sneering tone adopted by POD, that the programme meant to cast transsexuals as joke figures, as little more than a bad pastiche or over exaggeration of the female form. This is inexcusable, since no two people, with the  exception of identical twins or triplets look exactly the same.

To reduce a minority group to a singular clone is an insult. To further describe them using an unbalanced crop of bad attributes further adds to that insult. All the attributes could be described as relating to all women. Have you ever heard of the term ‘bad hair day’ BBC? I know I have.

What also confirms the programme makers intentions is the deliberate juxtaposition of the contestant’s name Rachel, with a male name Richard. She too is a victim here, not due to being compared to a transsexual, but because the programme makers have allowed her to be used to make this insult stick. She was a pawn in a programme makers game, and she looked visibly shocked and upset. Yes she chose it, but would she have chosen that narration?

However though, there is a cynical, sinister side of this. Some programme makers, and producers love complaints. They give shows the oxygen of publicity, that bit of  edge, talkability, and notoriety.

Some shows even go through stages like that, where shows become known more for their off screen antics than what happens while the show airs.

POD is well known for satire, and this is within the spirit of the show. However, discriminating against a minority group in a crude, wholesale manner is not. You see, discrimination is a slippery slope. Replace the word transsexual with another oppressed minority and the backlash may be far greater. However, that does not make the impact any less.

The Queen of trans activism, Paris Lees has started a hashtag trending on Twitter, to show BBC Three that transsexuals instead of being singular are quite pluralistic and varied in terms of appearance and characteristics as all human beings are. #WhatTranssexualsLookLike is the hashtag you need, microbloggers!

What also was the Controller of BBC Three playing at? This happened on Zai Bennett’s channel, and he needs to take responsibility.

Minorities have a right to watch television, listen to the radio, or indeed browse the Internet without feeling got at, or victimised. That right was not just ignored here, it was trampled on by BBC Three getting too big for its boots, and not following its own Editorial Guidelines.

As I suggested at the outset, this saddens me. I do love the BBC, and it normally has a fantastic record of minority representation. Why allow it to be tarnished by a needless, unnecessary, irrelevant but highly discriminatory error. It is vile.

Would I snog BBC Three at the moment? Erm no! Would I marry them at the moment? No! But would I avoid them, no because they do produce high quality, gamechanging programming.

However, they need to remember that as part of the wider BBC, they are a public service broadcaster. Their target audience are impressionable, and malleable. Do they want to send out the message that bullying and victimising transsexuals is ok?

I hope BBC Three learns a lesson from this, learns it fast, and well, and further hope they never make such a crass mistake again.

Confidence, Crumble, and the Endpoint of Counselling

So last Thursday my friend Clare came to see me and we went for a carvery.Before this post gets underway properly, I want to say a massive thank you to Nick and the team at the Toby Carvery in Bishopstoke for their excellent service throughout our visit.

They were very helpful and accommodating through throughout the visit and it is fabulous having something like that on your doorstep.  Well done to Nick, Toby Carvery and Mitchells and Butler.

I did fill in their survey but unfortunately did not win an iPod nor a thousand pounds. Damn! I’ll still come back though. 

In this post I want to mash a few things up, namely how enlightening to the self it can be when someone who has not seen you for a long time has a lot of positive things to say, a decision over puddings, plus whether endpoints are the beginning.

Firstly though I ought to tell you a bit about my friend Clare. A good place to start would be in my mobile phone contacts.

I actually have her in the contacts as Hippy Clare. This is primarily because she is a hippy. 

She does lots of yoga, meditation, and generally is very in touch with her spiritual (in the non Christian sense) side. She spends a lot of time in ashrams, being spiritual as well. An ashram is basically a retreat, far from human habitation, where spiritual instruction, meditation, and pursuits like yoga can  take place, unconstrained by the pressures and challenges of modern life.

To be really honest, this is Clare in a nutshell. She is not really constrained by the tentacles of modernity, preferring instead to forge her own path through life, and live it as she wants, in the way she sees fit. 

She believe in the philosophies of Eckhart Tolle, in particular living in the now moment. She has passed this on to me I think. I am grateful for this piece of philosophy. It means I enjoy my life more.

Clare used to be my PA. We spent a very joyous day together. Before going to the carvery though, we chatted, about many things, but in the main we chatted about my trans path, and how, over and above anything else my mindset has changed.

It gives me the chance to say that mindset is the key. It is far better to come at surgery or anything from a standpoint where you are already feeling good, than expecting it to solve every problem in your life. The same goes for cosmetic work too. If you do it to enhance what is already there, then well and good. If you do it while you endlessly cannot stand yourself, then you will just spin yourself an endless web of dissatisfaction.

Anyway, Clare is also a bit of a Facebook and Internet novice and who better to show her round and give her a poke than moi?

After explaining the basics of Facebook, she then wanted to see the blog.

She did not have her glasses, so I had the pleasure of reading the “Raising the Bar and Reviewing the Situation” entry out to her. I have not asked her directly but I think she quite liked it.

There have been so many shifts in my life from The Edge, towards the Edge, away from The Edge (metaphorically speaking) and I think this blog documents them well. But I say again and feel no need to apologise for it, that gender and sexuality are not one in the same. I have different needs that cannot just be met by focusing on and indulging sexuality in isolation.

So the support of my trans friends has been massively influential in changing me for the better, yes absolutely. But Clare has been present in my life for a long time and she too has always inspired and nurtured confidence in me. I think, taking them together, Clare, Zina and my trans friends have all been the most transformative influences in my life.

To Clare, I look happier and seem happier. Wonderful observation to hear. This is especially since my GP agreed with her when I went for my anti testosterone injection. Again, lovely to hear. I do seem to have a renewed energy and vibrance about me. That you see is what hapens when you live in the now moment, right Clare?

So yes, she looked at the blog, and told me I need to be on TV and Radio and on this one I agree. Marvellous idea. I have no idea what I could do but would defininitely consider anything.

I do believe that the circulation for my blog has now reached as far as Lincolnshire, in the form of Clare’s friend Jill, who she is currently staying with, along with her hunk of a man, Julian of Joy. Ladies, he’s mature, hunky and a bit chiselled. Good choice Clare.

So anyway, after Clare re-igniting my love for and experience of all things meeja, we walked across the road to the carvery, to be greeted by the pure loveliness of Mr Manager Nick.

He did say he had no seating in the restaurant, but could seat us in the bar. I apologised for being a diva, but he said he was used to it. How cheeeeky.

So anyway, we sat, chatted and had a beautiful meal.

When it came to puddings though, I could not decide, so put it to a vote on Faceybook and had a gorgeous, and divine but very indulgent summer berry crumble. Beautiful!! Thanks again to manager Nick and his team too.

But what does Madam Hughes, her of the crocs put all this down to?

Stopping counselling frankly. I would like to advance this a bit further and say it is down to the fact that there is no need for me to have counselling anymore. I trust my judgements, I trust and love myself, and I have a tight circle of friends around me.

Some may have noticed that my friendlist has shrunk. I felt it important to move forward in my journey, not on the basis of one nightclub, but on the basis of one life, with the people who I believe can support me best, and who I can support best going forward, as friendship is a mutual undertaking.

Some have seen this decision again as a little off kilter, and a little “wack”. I can confirm though that I have not gone all weird.I did delete though, 200+ people from my Facebook the other night. I did this for my own reasons and benefit and I have to say I feel better for it.

The best thing about my life now, is that the confidence within it is real, authentic and tangible. The mass unfriending was  not motivated by a personal dislike of, and indeed nor anger towards anyone. I just had a strong sense of a chapter ending and a new one beginning, and I acted on it, very quickly, profoundly, urgently and without sentimentality. If my time living in Yorkshire taught me something, it is this. A spade is a spade and a shovel is a shovel.

I live my life with honesty and integrity, and to those who are hurt by that, I apologise. However, my mission now is to build on that confidence Clare can see, treasure every day, enjoy life and live as if there is “No Day But Today.”

All the friends I have mean the world, and you help me to be the best person I can be, by inspiring me, encouraging me, and just being there.

I am glad I ended counselling, because there are others who need it more than me. But I am glad I began it too, because without a beginning there is no end, and no endpoint, no conclusion, and no satisfaction.

Post endpoint, no one cares about me more than me, and I care about my friends too. They make us, shape us and mould us, and help us to be the best we can be.

Raising the Bar and Reviewing the Situation Part II

Well, it would seem that my last post generated a good deal of reaction from people, mainly via Facebook and other social media.

In one sense for me, this is a good thing, as it shows the blog receives traffic and the statistics now are healthy and looking good.

However, this reaction had a difference. People overwhelmingly did not like the post. They did not like what I had decided about The Edge.

Some feel ditched, some are surprised. But the overwhelming emotion seems to be shock. The majority of my friends, and readers it seems, did not see it coming.

But I did promise that I would come back, and I said that I would deal with anything and defend myself.

However, I do not feel I need to defend myself so much as explain and clarify. That then, is what I will do. Let me say a few words about blogging in general.

Firstly, blogging is an intensely personal pursuit. Just as Facebook and Twitter for example can be classed as dialogues between you and other users, a blog can be classed as a monologue between the writer and the writer because quite simply, you cannot see the face of your reader. But I am mindful of people reading, and that people care. I am enormously grateful for that, and thank you all for it.

However, my blog also guarantees something else to my readers, honesty. In the media there are endless opportunities to edit, re-edit, cut things out and move them around. A voiceover can be read out many times, until the emotion and the inflection are exactly right and what the client is looking for.

But I try as much as possible not to allow myself this luxury with the blog. For me, as the author of it, it is analogous to a priest’s Confession Box. I come in here and pour out my soul, unedited, uncut and uncensored. Naturally there is a high risk that when making that confession, I will be talking about things that may be judged, may be unpopular, and may be tough.

But if I have to censor my own writing in order to appease and satisfy others, then it would be time to stop. I am not going to do that. As long as I can write, that writing will have honesty at its very core.

So it was with my trip to London. Going to a fresh place, with fresh people , and doing fresh stuff gives you a fresh perspective.

Frankly, all the wrangling over the ramp at The Edge wore me out, and the trip to London was extremely beneficial in helping me to recharge my batteries.

You know, there were so many times during that period when I was not able to go to The Edge that I felt like giving in, but I did not. It was only a week, but a week felt like forever.

But I am glad I got the ramp. I feel in my heart that I not only have a responsibility to myself as a person with a disability, but also to others with disabilities as a whole minority group. They can now access The Edge freely and without any barriers of accessibility and that to me is a good thing.

So what of me?

I have decided not to go any more. I have shared my highs and lows with you all, but I want to zoom in in a bit more detail on why, or even pan across! 

It  is my firm belief that life is divided into epochs, or sections of time. People and places come into our lives for a reason, and this was the case with The Edge.

It boosted my confidence no end and brought me friends. It showed me that I was worth knowing and life was worth living.

So why leave? Well because with ups, there are inevitable downs. People began to turn to me for advice about relationships that I felt unqualified to give. I felt like a sponge soaking up more water than I could actually hold.

I began coming home stressed, rather than relaxed, and this is not a healthy state of mind.

I did keep this from most people, and pretend very convincingly that all was well, so much so that the post came out of the blue. I will not be back at The Edge for the forseeable future as my battle is more than one of sexuality. Gender and sexuality are two distinct categories, and it is good in my eyes they feel distinct. London opened up a new world, and a new can of worms.

But unsurprisingly, an abundance of support came from the trans community itself. A good friend of mine, Michelle Hughes had this to say;

Hannah, that was so well writen, lovely words with feeling, i fully understand where your coming from having gone through most of it myself but without the disability side of it, but clearly that isnt & shouldnt stop you from making your life just how you want it, i only wish i could have started my transition when at your age intsead of waiting until i was past it lol, although i have lost a fair bit & people along the way i now have inner peace that my body matches my brain ( the voice still needs work )
the very best of luck to you Hannah i really hope your happiness goes from strength to strength Chell xx

I am confident my happiness will go from strength to strength as Michelle suggests.

You only get one life on the Earth, it is up to you how you create, mould and develop it. But I know this. I have left The Edge, do intend to move to London and believe this will be positive for me.

I understand that people may miss me, feel ditched, confused and upset. But The Edge is 2-3 days out of every week that are good to ok. I want 7 that are brilliant, amazing and trannytrastic, because it is my life and I am living for myself, no one else.

I know that with all of your support, The Edge and you as an LGBT community in Southampton will move forward and go from strength to strength. I want a clean break, so I stay focused on my goals. You all mean a lot to me, but I also mean a lot to myself. I have sought to clarify my position, and if anybody disagrees with that, there is not a lot I can do.