Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Becoming forty!

Last Friday was my birthday and it was one of those biggies, the end of being in my thirties and moving on to the forties. Many think of this as some sort of milestone but to be honest, I've never really had any thoughts on such things. In fact, I am more happy about the 4th July which sees me celebrate one year of full time as a woman.

With this in mind, you can perhaps feel there was no major celebration planned. Susan, my good friend from Sussex was coming down for a few days and we planned a few days out. 

She arrived on Thursday, early as usual and she had to wait for me to get ready. We had a short wander around town, a look at Vivary before returning home for an easy evening.

Friday was the birthday and we decided on something different, a trip to Exmoor. We went to Lynmouth with the intention of a combination of wandering and walking. After arriving (which included a wrong turn on the way), a quick coffee was in order. A few photo's on the seafront and then it was up the cliff railway to the town on Lynton. We had a look around, there has been some redevelopment of the shopping area but there is still very little there and it has the feel that it is solely for tourism. We decided that we would walk back down to Lynmouth and this was much harder than we realised. It's a very steep path and I was not aware how hard this was going to be in women's flats. In the past I have walked this in men's trainers with no problems but this day it was tough going.

A bite to eat was sought and found and then we walked a little up the river towards Watersmeet. A delightful footpath but again, the footwear was not suitable. Eventually, we turned round and vowed to return in the summer better prepared. It was feeling like time to leave and we decided a stop at Minehead would be nice as the weather was starting to look nice and sunny. There's not a fantastic amount of anything at Minehead but we did have a good look around the shops. A final coffee of the day was had at Coaster. This is not a spelling mistake, there was actually a cafe called Coaster. I thought about trying to see if they would accept my Costa loyalty card but something made me doubt it!

We drove home and found my partner Mandy had decided to adorn the house with some party banners telling all and sundry I was the age of 40! We had a buffet style tea and another friend Vicky arrived. It was just a mellow evening of food and chat. Big parties don't appeal to me anymore and I couldn't have asked for a better evening.

Saturday was a shopping trip to Exeter. The weather wasn't particularly brilliant but we made a real good day of it. I think we managed at least 20 charity shops but sadly nothing piqued our interest. Now I have a little experience of working in such places, I found it interesting how I viewed all the different one in Exeter and how I would have done things differently. 

Sunday was a trip to Weston-Super-Mare along with another friend of mine, Tracey. This was really enjoyable even though the weather was poor again! Of course we had to go to the tea room on the pier as a birthday treat for Mandy as it had been closed when we went there last year.

And finally Monday was another little wander around Taunton before Susan had to set off back for home. It finished off what was a fantastic weekend and knackering too!

Thursday, 11 April 2013

The kindness of women?

There is topic going in a discussion group at the moment about how women (and I am talking about those born this way at birth) and acts of kindness towards those of us transgender.

I wont quote from one post but there are suggestions of female retailers discussing us behind our backs once we have made our purchase and many statements that there is no support from women in general.

This kind of attitude reminds me why I no longer partake in any discussion on message boards or whatever because this and many other such threads are just complete bollocks (a very male profanity and I apologise!).

As a woman in very public life I have encountered many very kind women. To contemplate all those kind shop workers sniggering about me behind my back is simply unthinkable. I refuse to believe of all the hundreds I have engaged with that they are doing this. I would accept a small minority may but I find it very sad that some are that paranoid to suggest that virtually all do so.

The kindness of women has been thrust into my face very recently with the charity shop I work in. Any of the transgender myths I have been subjected to over the years from the transgender community in general have been smashed to oblivion. Firstly the staff, and particularly the manager and assistant, have bent over backwards to accept me in their world as the female I believe I am. They accept that I have had a male past but know that this was not what I ever wanted and treat me as one of their own. Frequently they talk to me about things that you would not expect them to talk to men about. 

Let's not forget the customers as well and many have been exactly the same. The shop is very popular in town and the regulars have gone out of their way. This is all age groups which includes children as well, which really surprised me. A daughter, mum and gran were looking around all three were really chatty with me. Mum even drew me to one side and told me how much she admired me for putting myself in such a public position. It's not something that I actually think about but the compliment did make me feel good and reinforce that feeling that not everyone is against us. 

Again, it's that phrase about everyone is against us. This has kept popping in much of my writing over the last few years and I wonder why I have encountered this attitude so much. 

To leave it on a final high, I was given a birthday card (it's my birthday on Friday) from the manager and cakes were also brought in. Finally, it was insisted that I have a birthday latte at the local coffee shop with her when we shut the shop. I've only been there a fortnight and this just reinforces that the kindness of women is very much alive and well.

(Men are kind too and I have also had many good experiences with them now and in the past.)

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Facebook: Resistance WAS futile!

Where to start on the subject of Facebook? 

So, Facebook was launched in February 2004 and it has been something I have steered well clear of in all that time. Quite why is difficult to answer and the reasons have changed over time.

In the early days, I personally was still in that mindset that you used an alias on the Internet, gave out very little information about yourself and rarely put photo's anywhere on the web. Changing this attitude was never going to be simple even though the WWW has become a much friendlier place over the years. 

Of course, these thoughts did change and couple with coming out as Lucy, I was starting to put more of myself on the Internet. Then there was the avoidance of herd mentality, everyone was on Facebook so I would have nothing to do with it. I did relent a little and joined Flickr instead. However, Flickr has not moved on much over the years and it feels a little creaky to me. There is also a darker side to Flickr and that is where the transgendered find their accounts locked or restricted for no obvious reason. Complaining also doesn't work and I hope it's only a matter of time before someone takes legal action against this practice.

Recently working in a charity shop has brought me into contact with a completely different social group and I have had to join the herd or not be completely part of this group. It has been interesting and there has been a lot to learn. Something that feels much different is that friends and contacts feel much more "in the real world" whereas Flickr seems like a separate world. My reasoning behind this feeling is that on Flickr, I slowly built up a list of friends who I would never meet. On Facebook, I have met them already, it's just another communication tool and and perhaps a way of extending the social life I have with them.

So that's it now and as my friend Al said, "Abandon hope all ye who enter here!"

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Mind Medicine!

If you have read Thursdays post about another trip to the Laurel's then you may be aware that I was not in a happy place then.

I'd already mentioned to my manager in the charity shop I worked that I would need cheering up on Friday (yesterday) and would it be all right if I worked then. My thinking was that just getting out in the real world doing something would be good therapy. She was happy about this and agreed it would probably help.

It was amazing how much it did help and on many levels. Of course there is just being out of the house. Moping around on the Internet and PS3 will never do me any favor's and just being in a different environment was always going to positive. Another side of things is dealing with the public, again I was pretty much at the front end. The acceptance of the average member of the public in this shop has been really refreshing. Whilst doing this job, I speak to all ages from children to the elderly as well as many different social classes. Charity shops are for everyone and even the better off seem to love rooting around in all the junk, sorry, that's bric-a-brac! Again no one has batted an eyelid although one  of the regulars seems a little puzzled by my voice!

There is also an attitude from the shop staff of accepting anyone that comes in. Everyone that wants to chat is listened to and I think there are many in town that come there because they are aware that they will treated in such a nice manner. There was an unforgettable moment yesterday when a customer came in for an item they had reserved. He had a bunch of flowers with him and one of the ladies that worked there joked, "are they for me?". She is quite extrovert and I suspect very little would surprise her but she didn't know what to say when on impulse the customer gave the flowers to her, paid for his item and left.

But I think the most important thing for me has been the acceptance of the staff which consists of several regular workers and perhaps ten times as many who have worked there in the past and still think they work there. Believe it or not, ex-staff are in and out all day long and think nothing of pitching in when the need arises. Many have spoken to me in great detail about me being transgender and it is great to be able to spread the word and break a few myths. Most importantly, none are even remotely bothered about me being transgender and I feel I have been accepted into this group with open arms. 

Although I accept that many need the support of anti-depressants and would not wish to belittle anyone that does need a helping hand in this way. However, for myself, this charity shop has been my Prozac recently. I expected it to help me after my Laurel's visit and it certainly did and I know I left there yesterday in a very buoyant mood.

Today was a wander around town. We tried to keep it brief but the problem was we kept encountering people we knew, both from Samaritans and the charity shop. A quick hour out soon turned in four! The sun was shining and the wind had dropped making the temperature a little more bearable for a change. I intended to continue my once monthly photo tour of Vivary park but it has been in stasis the last month and it has hardly changed in that time! I did get a couple of photo's in the sun though.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Another grim day at the Laurels.

I would like to have thought there was a chance that today's update on my trip to the Laurels was going to be positive. However, it was much the same as last time.

In case you missed that last episode, I found myself questioning why we have to be asked such irrelevant questions. The strange line of questioning left me with a fear of misdiagnosis and even though I asked for support, I found non was really given.
The first 15 minutes of today left me in such a state that we had to call time out and have 5 minutes of deep breathing. It's almost like I am not being listened to. Perhaps my fears are groundless and I am worrying over nothing, but they are there all the same. It didn't help that prior to going in, there was some mix up with my future appointments and then it felt like they were whispering behind my back. This immediately got my back up and I had a bit of a moan about being kept in the dark about things.

So I started in the wrong frame of mind and after I did calm down, we managed to get back on with things. It wasn't actually as hard as last time although I still felt that even the smallest thing was picked to death. I have been told to be honest and open but I sometimes find myself talking about something which I didn't need to have and then it is ripped to shreds to find anything useful in it. Flippant comments are definitely to be avoided. I mentioned that during my "journey", the only recent "fly in the ointment" has been the Laurel's. That was a big mistake because I then had to explain what I meant by that. Again they want honesty, but this just makes me wish I had kept my mouth shut. 

So why did I say that? I expected that when I finally got to the Laurel's, I would be getting help and support to help me on my way to becoming the woman I believe I am. The reality has been very far from this expectation. I have had no help or support with the mess I am left in after having to talk. I am lucky in that I have my partner and my friends to help me through this. I have read many testimonials about the Laurel's and what a fantastic place it has been for them. Well for me, the reality is that it is a place of frustration and irritation. Perhaps I am a little different to some in that I do know where I am headed and this is a matter of hoop jumping for me. I do keep stating this to them, and I hope they are pissed off at me for keeping on reminding them, because I feel their plan is not flexible enough to cater for transsexuals like me that have already made the step to RLE.

So back to today and yes, it was actually going to get worse. The initial assessment was over with the psychiatric nurse. This was good news for sure but I now need a doctor to finish this phase off. However, there is an issue with a doctor and no appointments are being made at this moment. In addition, no timescale was offered to me. I pestered to some degree on this point and I could not get anything so I am completely in the dark.

In fact, I was even given another appointment just so I don't become "disconnected". This does not sound good to me but I do have an appointment with my GP in a couple of weeks and will discuss it with her.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Back to the grindstone

I had my trial in a charity shop today and am happy to say it has been a very enjoyable day.

If you have read previously, you will know that I have struggled to find such work recently and this coupled with the feelings of isolation that looking after a family member can bring has frustrated me to say the least. I had a miserable couple of hours at one shop last week but thankfully today was much better.

When I approached the shop in question, I already had a good idea it would be a nice place to work. It's a little more out of the way than some and has a different, quirky approach to it's layout.

I went in this morning and straight away I was asked if I wanted to go on the front end handling transactions. I was surprised, thinking this was the job everyone wanted, but often it is not. I accepted and I have spent pretty much the whole day dealing with customers. It doesn't get much more public than this and if I had had any problems being in public prior to today, I certainly would have none by the end of it! It all went fine and I was asked if I would be back. 

I was happy to say yes and my first proper shift is on Friday. I have the gender clinic on Thursday and felt that if it made me feel a little low like last time, the best thing I can do is be doing something I enjoy and distract me a little. I even mentioned this to the manager and she was happy to accommodate me. They seem pleased that I am able to take on some responsibility which gives the managers time to be dealing with other things like online sales and promotions.

Everyone has been friendly and accepting which has helped my morale and self esteem a great deal. I even walked back from there with another lady halfway through town and even though I hardly knew her, she threw her arms around me in a hug and said "see you Friday". This kind of acceptance goes a long way and further reinforces my view that very few are actually are actually against us. Many of the customers today haven't even batted an eyelid and I hope it's just the start of something very positive for the future.

Monday, 1 April 2013

Good Monday?

The title? Mandy had a "moment" this morning and referred to today as Good Monday. There was nothing exceptional about today, as in it wasn't an extra "good" day but coming up with these titles get harder and harder! When I had my website, I just use the date and perhaps I ought to go back to doing that...

Yesterday was a fabulously sunny day and we maximised that to the fullest by not even setting foot outside the door. I had had a night shift at Samaritans and hadn't got to bed until 3.30 in the morning. Add to this the fact that the clocks have changed and I was in a tired place yesterday. 

So today we planned to pop into town and then have a walk later in the day and lunch down at the river. We set off for town and it became clear that today was not going to be too warm. The sun was hidden behind a good thick covering of cloud and the wind is still extremely cold. It has been the coldest ever recorded Easter in the UK, and we don't need to be told that because we can feel it!

We got into town just before 10.00 and were amazed at how quiet it was. It was quieter than at the same time on a Sunday yet many shops had been open since 9.00. We were only after a few groceries but did have a walk around the centre. I got some good photo's down at Goodlands on the river Tone. The river is much lower at the moment, in fact it's below it's normal bank something we have not seen much of since last June. It may be cold at the moment but I am thankful for this extended period of dry weather. I have a friend coming down for a few days next weekend and I am really hoping we can keep it dry until after then. Typically when she does visit, it is always raining but lets keep it optimistic! 

We headed back to the supermarket and grabbed a coffee on the way, the warmth was much needed and on our way back home we decided to abandon our picnic by the river. The direction of the wind would have completely wrong as it was the same as the way the river flows. So that was pretty much it for today.

Tomorrow I am starting working in a charity shop. It is actually a work trial but I am very optimistic it will be more than that. I wrote here about my disastrous trial on Thursday and here about a much more enthusiastic manager on Saturday. Instead of viewing tomorrow with a sense of dread like I was on Thursday, I am actually really excited about it. There was an energy about this manager that made me want to work there. I'll be sure to write about it tomorrow evening and hopefully it will be all good.