To the people who laughed…

This is a post I wrote last October, as an anonymous guest post on my friend Sam’s blog. Jess had recently – tentatively – started to  present as female when we weren’t around people we knew, and we’d gone on a short break to Center Parcs for some R&R. It was early in transition, and Jess wasn’t particularly “passable”. I decided to write about our experience in the hope it may educate some people, and now we feel able to share it. As always, it’s shared with Jessica’s permission.

You probably don’t even remember me, but you were the reason I cried myself to sleep that night. You probably can’t even remember what I look like, but I remember how you made us feel. I felt so embarrassed and humiliated that I wanted the ground to open up and swallow me. I’m a grown woman, but I wanted to hide myself in a corner and cry. I hope your little moment of amusement was worth it.

We’d had a lovely evening, until we happened upon you. We laughed and chatted with the waiter between courses as we enjoyed a relaxed, romantic meal together on the first evening of our holiday. We held hands and gazed into one another’s eyes as we relished the time alone together; time to relax away from work, and home, and family, and all of the pressures of modern life. We smiled at one another when the waiter addressed us as “ladies”, having the courtesy to correctly gender my partner despite it being obvious she’s in the early stages of transition from male to female.

Transgender. That’s what my partner is. She’s someone who, having been assigned male at birth, spent many years of her life struggling with the feeling that she was being forced to live in a gender she wasn’t comfortable in. Someone who, after having been forced to conform to society’s expectations of how a boy – and then a man – should think, feel and behave, found the courage to be true to herself. It’s nothing to do with her sexual preference, a traumatic childhood or some kinky fetish, it’s who she is.

Stop and think for a moment, you two gentlemen who laughed at us as we were minding our own business. Stop and think how comfortable you would feel stepping out of your front door in a dress, make up and heels. Imagine how it feels to feel that you have no choice but to put yourself out there, in public, with a man’s face and body dressed in women’s clothing. Contemplate how awkward, lonely and potentially dangerous every single mundane task becomes when you have to expose you innermost self in such a public manner, and when you have to dare to be different.  Can you even begin to imagine how crushing it must feel, having tried so hard to look passable and found the courage to face complete strangers dressed in a way that makes you feel both vulnerable and conspicuous, to be laughed at in public by fellow adults? I say “adults”, but really you two were like children in a schoolyard. Children who pick on a child for having the ‘wrong’ trainers, or whose physical abilities are different from yours, or who doesn’t generally conform to your expectations of how other people should be. Please think about what you did: You reduced a grown woman (me) to tears, you tainted our whole evening with your cruelty and you knocked the confidence of two people who’ve spent a very long time trying to develop what little confidence they have. I hope your little joke was worth it.

Perhaps you’ll feel less ashamed or even vindicated when you hear that you weren’t the only people to treat us so badly. Perhaps you’d try to justify your behaviour if you knew that are others out there with similar prejudices, and a similar lack of respect for feelings of others.  Your contemptible behaviour was amateur compared to what we experienced the following evening, when a family of six fellow diners in a restaurant not only mocked us, but took and shared photos for one another to laugh at. Good work, people. This is the monster that a culture of laughing at people who are different creates.

The strength and courage my partner shows on a daily basis amazes me. She faces the same fears, the same prejudices and the same humiliation every day. Every. Single. Day. And yet with each new day, she puts on a brave (and beautifully made-up – I like to take the credit for her excellent make up skills) face and does it all over again. Why does she do it? Because after forty years of feeling forced to pretend to be someone she’s not, she’s finally free to relax and be herself in a way you and I probably take for granted.

She’s brave, my beautiful girl. She’s brave, and funny, and wise, and kind. She shows a generosity of spirit that you so clearly lack; a tolerance and respect for others that you would do well to learn from. She’s not asking for your approval or for your support. She’s simply asking for the respect we all owe to one another; she’s asking to be left to go about her life without being humiliated in public and treated like a freak show. She might, in your eyes, be a man in women’s clothes. She might be different to anyone else you know, and she might have made choices in her life that you cannot even begin to understand. She might be all of those things, but she’s not a coward or a bully, and so I’d rather be her than you any day of the week.

Signed,

Me

52and39/2: Tell Me A Story

Armchair Books, West Port, Edinburgh.

Heaven for bibliophiles

Bookshop2  Bookshop1

I love books. Not just for the fables and narratives within, but for the stories of the books themselves.

Bookshop7
Who was Lizzie Murray? What became of her?
Someone's treasured memories
Someone’s treasured memories

Last Friday, we took the afternoon off with a yearning to browse the secondhand bookshops of Edinburgh and immerse ourselves in those stories.

Bookshop3 Bookshop6

We stumbled upon Armchair Books; a glorious emporium of antiquarian texts and second hand modern titles.

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“I like this book; it’s perfect”
World's Classiest Bookmark...
World’s Classiest Bookmark…

I love imagining the history of these books: who thumbed the pages? What lives had been lived in the homes those books once had? What had they seen?

Armchair Books, West Port, Edinburgh. Heaven for bibliophiles
Armchair Books, West Port, Edinburgh.
Heaven for bibliophiles, and the curious.

This is my new favourite place.

P.S. You can read more about the 52and39 project here

Dear Pols…

love always wins smaller

Love always wins,,,

A year ago, I wrote a letter to myself. That’s a kind of weird thing to do, I know, but my life was changing drastically and I guess I thought it would be nice to get a year down the line and look back at how far I’d come.

Of course life is full of downs as well as ups, and so writing this post really tugged at my heart strings. How do you tell your younger, less world weary self that she’s going to suffer the heartache of a miscarriage or the stress and worry of leaving full time employment? You don’t of course. You remind her she’s fucking awesome and hope that’s enough to see her through…

Dear Pols (aged 33 and just-over-a-half),

Well, here we are! Time has flown since you sat where I’m sitting now, and wrote to the person I am today. I still haven’t figured out this whole ‘writing to yourself’ thing, but I’m just going to roll with it. As you suspected, I’m still sitting in the same place (on a different chair at a different desk, but let’s not get caught up in the detail!) looking out at the same garden. That’s about all that turned out as you expected it would, but maybe that’s not such a bad thing. Of course, the children aren’t playing out in the garden as they were when you wrote to me; they’re bigger and bolder and have gone off on an adventure with their bikes!

What. A. Year. We always knew it was going to be a cracker, but it’s safe to say it didn’t take any prisoners! It would be unfair of me to spoil the joy of discovering how life is going to unfold, so I’m not going to give too much away. Also, if I tell you what’s ahead then you won’t do the thing you’re really good at. You know, that thing where you just follow your heart and trust your instincts. Of course not all decisions are ‘heart’ decisions… Sometimes your head demands a say and you have to at least listen to its point of view. All I’ll say is that whichever one you decide to follow, if it doesn’t eventually settle and start to sit comfortably (and it’s still niggling away at you when you’re doing important stuff like making cakes) then maybe you should go back and revisit it. Trust me; I’m saving you MONTHS here!

Some things are going to hurt, Pol. Some things really hurt and you might wonder if they will ever stop hurting. I can’t give you an answer to that, because I haven’t found it yet. All I know is that somehow, anyhow, you just have to keep going and hope that it does get better. Some things, once lost, are irreplaceable but they’re also unforgettable and you should keep hold of those thoughts. It’s tempting to keep looking for a reason why some things happen, but sometimes there is no reason. Not one that you’ll ever find, or that will make sense, anyway. I’m aching to tell you not to even try some things, but that flies in the face of my advice to follow your heart and do what feels right. If following your heart goes wrong, look for the lessons. Learn from the strength you found and yet didn’t know you had. Take it, use it, and be proud of it. Let yourself feel the emotions, even the most extreme ones, and remember that they make up the multi-coloured, multifaceted collage of characteristics that make your personality your own.  When it’s difficult, remember that love always wins. Always. Someone really special will remind you of that just as you really need to hear it.

I think it’s fair to say there’s a lot of change coming. Change is good, Pauline, even when it doesn’t feel that way at the time. The trick to dealing with change will be to allow yourself to feel resistance to it if that’s what you instinctively feel. It’s okay to do that, and recognising how you feel is going to be absolutely key to dealing with what these changes will bring with them. You’re going on a journey: It’s a long one, and the path isn’t particularly smooth. Brace yourself, but for heaven’s sake don’t wear sensible shoes because if you’re going to win a battle I want you to win it in style! The nice thing about change and challenges is that when you survive them, you get the satisfaction of knowing you made it. You get to look back at how far you’ve come, and be really bloody proud that you took the first step on what looked like an impossible journey.

It’s not all heavy stuff, though. The next twelve months won’t all be soul searching, huge decisions and life-changing transformations. You’re going to go to some really cool places and do some really awesome things. I don’t want to give too much away, but suffice to say I’m my own boss now and that’s awesome. Granted my car is a bit rustier than that flash thing you drive, and working alone means the Christmas party is pretty pants, but the freedom and possibilities are endless. Also I’m sporting some bling, baby! I’m not suggesting you jump the gun and sign up to Bridezillas R’ Us or anything, but I would advise keeping your nails nicely manicured and photo-ready, just in case…

I won’t keep you, because you’ve got twelve months of non-stop living to do, but before I go I just wanted to say thank you. Thank you for the self-belief you started trying to build 52 weeks ago. I’m a happier, more confident version of myself because of that and I’ve learned to love and value myself just as I am. I didn’t become like this all on my own; I got here with the love and support of the truly wonderful friends that were there supporting you when you wrote to me last, and I’ll treasure them forever.

Now, buckle up, take a deep breath, and enjoy every second of this wild ride!

With much love,

Pols (aged 34 and just-over-a-half)

52AND39/1: Look Up

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I’ve spent a few days ruminating over how I’d like to kick off my foray into #52and39, looking back at the 91-word musings which kicked off this wonderful project.

...and look up
Sometimes you just have to stop…
...and look up
…and look up

These original posts, and my own lack of inspiration, brought the realisation that I rarely notice the fascinating world around me as I push on through my everyday life. It’s time to recognise and capture these little things hidden in the background and appreciate how they quietly enhance everyday life.

Look somewhere new
Look somewhere new
Or just take a moment to see something familiar in   new way
Or just take a moment to see something familiar in a new way

Dear Pols…

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It’s my half-birthday today (I know, I know… but any excuse for cake, right?) which means it’s a year since I wrote this letter to myself. I’ll probably scribble myself a quick reply later, so I thought I’d put the original letter here. It was previously on my blog, but I deleted it because I’m a bit of an overly emotional idiot really I was having an administrative reorganisation of my blog.

 

Life has been interesting lately. Actually, that’s an understatement. Life has been a roller coaster lately. Highs, higher highs, lows, long slow climbs that you just know have an enormous drop on the other side but aren’t quite sure how far the drop is, and a whole plethora of emotions. I haven’t blogged about any of it because, if I’m honest, I’m not sure I ever want to be able to revisit most of those places in the future. I do know from conversations with lots of people, though, that I’m not the first to be where I was, and I’m certainly not the only one to be in that place right now.

 

As you all know, I’m partial to the odd trite saying. I love a cheesy cliché, I do, and recent times have been no exception to that. Naturally, my corny catchphrase of choice of late has been “this too shall pass”. It got me thinking… It WILL pass. Of course it will. Everything does. But where will I be when events of the last few months are filed under D for Distant Memory? I guess the answer to that is that I don’t know (who does?) but I’m thinking best case scenario here, and having a word with the me who emerges from this in twelve months’ time…

 

Dear Pols (aged 34 and a half),

 

How are you? With any luck you’ll be reading this in the same place I wrote it: at your desk in the office at home, looking out at the children playing in the garden. They’ll be bigger than they are now but I don’t expect they’ll have changed much otherwise. This past year will have been tough on them at first, but I suspect the children you see in front of you now will have adapted nicely; they’re tough little cookies and they have your (our? This whole writing-to-yourself thing is kind of weird) strength of character. It’s that thing Dad used to say, isn’t it? Tough times don’t last, but tough people do. It has been tough. Horrendously tough. Unexpectedly and unpredictable tough. But we’re tough too, and so are those children, and that’s why I can write this knowing we all got there in the end.

 

You’ll have learned a lot in this past year, I expect. One of the lessons I’ve already learned is that sometimes there is just no right way to handle a situation. Or, if there is, it usually comes with the benefit of hindsight. I guess everyone in life is just muddling through as best they can. Maybe other people would have chosen different ways or different paths, but I did the best I could and I hope the road I chose for us has brought you to a destination where you’re happy. I’m pretty certain it has. When I look around me now, I see the green shoots of a promising future. The clouds have been many, but the silver linings have been plentiful too and I hope they’ve long outlasted the clouds.

 

I’ve been working harder on being kind to myself, so hopefully I’ve made that job easier for you. I’ve learned recently to take the lessons from the times I could have handled things better, and let the rest go; chuck them in that proverbial fuck-it bucket and move on. I’ve also learned to stop taking responsibility for the way other people deal with situations. I hope that’s worked out well for you. People react to stuff in their own way; it’s not your job to work through that for them or to accept responsibility for how they feel. Nor is it your job to guide them to the truth, or to explain yourself.

 

You have some really wonderful friends, Pols. People whose support and love has been unending and unconditional. I hope you have the opportunity to repay that to them one day. Meantime, they know how much they mean to you because I’ve told them. You should know who your friends are by now, because I’ve pretty much figured out who’s in it for the long haul, and who isn’t.

 

I know this will find you in a house full of happiness and love, because that’s what I’ve been building for you. A wonderful, crazy home with laughter and fun and a never ending source of strength. You’re loved, you’re wanted and most of all you’re utterly fabulous. I know that last bit because someone we know told me. Your future is bright, and anything else will pass.

 

Be happy, Pauline. Let me know how it goes.

 

Love,

 

Pols (aged 33 and a half)