Monday, 9 November 2015

Airbrushed Transition

Doodle & bra.
Bit-ler’s too busy with curling irons and HRT patches and chasing a bra-snatching Doodle to realise, but it’s true – there’s power in transitioning. 

We weren’t the easiest couple to work with, Bit-ler being a doctor and myself still a trauma therapist at the time.  A handful of tattered professional egos lay in our wake when we met with Newest Counsellor.  She stressed not putting me in the position of co-counsellor, so Bit-ler and I thought we’d found a keeper.   

Until Bit-ler admitted to being trans.  Newest Counsellor gushed about her one and only other trans client, someone who hadn’t transitioned (please transition o goody o goody o goody).  I was a bit creeped out.  

When Newest Counsellor realised I’d been side-lined, she made a rule that a portion of each session be allotted to me.  The next session ended with her saying we didn’t have time for me that week, Bit-ler’s issues had been so pressing.  The following session, Newest Counsellor decided I was an attention seeking whiner who got plenty of air time. 

Our wonderful Newest Counsellor was more than a bit trans-fixed, one of those folk who have a diversity bracelet and’ll give their eye teeth for a trans charm.  This is the power of the transition – it shows people for what they are.

Like Bit-ler’s friend and colleague.  The more she had to drink, the more honestly (offensively) she expressed (1) her fears of how Bit-ler might’ve presented as female, (2) her relief at being wrong, and (3) her conviction Bit-ler should never wear a bustier and fishnets.  Ever. 

What could’ve been an afternoon of culinary debauchery and raucous laughter became a ‘First Viewing’ of the female Bit-ler in an environment where, if necessary, awful things could be said.  In other words, while the transition was the catalyst to Friend & Colleague’s reaction, her emotions had more to do with her needs.  It’s what I call subjective compassion. 

Bit-ler’s patient with this onslaught of subjective compassion from her friends.  Gender transition is uncommon enough that however a person may think they’d handle it, they’re never prepared when a transition’s happening in the office or living next door or is attached to the memory of changing clothes in front of someone before they knew.  Normal concepts like gender, friendship, honesty get turned on their head.  How you apply those concepts to the person transitioning, well, that says something about who you are.  Maybe something you never expected yourself to be capable of.  Something you really don’t want to know.  

Me, I’m usually not so nice as Bit-ler, but when I watch this struggle in people, I witness a psychological awakening of sorts that often forces me to accept harsh things about myself.  It’s honest and intimate.  It’s a process that demands patience from everyone involved, even the little dog SOFFA, too.

Unfortunately, this interpersonal process gets swept away by advocacy guidelines on what language to use, protocols for sharing information, agency expectations on getting it all done and dusted after a 30 day absence from work – for both the trans-person and innocent bystanders. 

Airbrushed transition, I’d say.

Little dog, SOFFA, too.
We stopped going to Newest Counsellor because she objectified us.  As to Friend & Colleague, Bit-ler loves and respects her as much as ever.  I, as the little dog SOFFA, feel gifted to’ve seen Friend & Colleague’s bravery at facing the power of transition full on.  She was real and that’s all anyone can ask for.  It’s the best a friend can be.

Thursday, 29 October 2015

The Trouble With Compromise

It doesn’t take a genius to realise this has been the year of the Great Compromise for me.  But it took a Doodle to make me consider what I was doing.

Ready for Samhain!
The plan, light a bonfire and supervise it while partaking in some nearby pruning.  When the Doodle grabbed a burning stick and raced across the garden, my multi-tasking idea went straight to hell. 

I got a canvas chair and sat by the fire.  No great chore because October’s probably my favourite season, the beginning and end of the year.  The expectations of spring, the hard work and giddy results of summer are over.  All that’s left is to clear away success and failure, get ready to hunker down for the long dark hours of Winter’s death and gestation.  Maybe do a bit of reflection.

Which brought me to the Great Compromise.  Not that I’m one of the shocking holy martyrs, mind you.  When the Bit-ler’s friends ask about my reaction to her transition (Lora didn’t sign up to be a lesbian, sure she didn’t), she’s lying when she tells them she couldn’t do it without me.  (Did you never feckin think that maybe I didn’t want to go through another goddam transition????)

One of each, please.
Sometimes another person’s dream is so big and so hard, there’s no room for you.  It’s what any Great Compromise is about.  If you need the last slice of cheesecake more than I do, you can have it.  But how do I know when you need it more than myself?  

While in Dublin trying (and failing) to sort out her mother’s care arrangements, the Bit-ler was invited home for dinner by an old school chum.  She offered to come as male, as if somehow this were a kindness to the family.  Old Chum accepted, so the Bit-ler pulled back her hair extensions, ditched the bra and went a la man-boobs. 

No explanation of her U2 Roadie hairstyle was given to the adult children, but another school friend was there.  After the kids scattered, he asked the Bit-ler if she were transitioning, got confirmation, then asked the usual question about what junk she still had in her trousers and that was about it.  No big deal.  Except that the Bit-ler’d been left sick in herself, relapsing into that male fa├žade.

So really, what was the reason for the compromise? 

Let's make a joint decision.
That’s the difficulty with compromise, knowing where you end and I begin.  Should I do something simply because I have the strength to do it?  Should you accept my offer simply because I’ve made it?  Or should we both take responsibility for what’s happening here and decide jointly what’s fair to us both?

To be honest, I don’t know many people who do that, which is more a statement about myself than about most people.  During this year of the Great Compromise, it’s been the friends who were closest to me, who didn’t understand what I needed.  I suspect that’s because I don’t know how to not compromise.  And people like that.

So that’s my resolution for this coming year.  To figure out where you end and I begin.  To not do things simply because I’m strong enough.  To figure out what my Great Want for myself is.  Probably something to do with cheesecake. 

Saturday, 17 October 2015

There's No Place Like Home

Four months into the Bit-ler’s Real Life Test, she has to go sort out her mother. 

Raise your hands, all you who had an involuntary shudder at that sentence.  I'd need a pint of damson gin myself, with a baby sham chaser.  Fortunately, I didn’t have to go.

The last time these two women were together, one presented herself as male and told her mother she planned to transition.  That’s when her Disinterested Mother confessed she’d always thought the Bit-ler’d been switched at birth with some queer folks’ chillen, then followed up the visit with phone calls about whether or not the Bit-ler should absent herself from Disinterested Mother’s funeral, or the funeral itself be moved to some other city, possibly some other country so no one would know about the transition.

‘You’ll be dead, Mam.  What’s it matter, so?’

With this sympatica between them, the Bit-ler trots off to Dublin to pry her mother out of a geriatric ward against her will and settle her into a nursing home.  The Bit-ler’s hair extensions mean she presents as female but travels with a male passport, hair pulled back, inciting a curious look or two from Border Control. 

Her mother’s delighted to see her, says the Bit-ler’s looking well.  It transpired that Disinterested Mother didn’t recognise her daughter, and the next hospital visit produced a litany of improvements the Bit-ler should make about her hair, her clothing, and jaysus, didn’t the Bit-ler’s school chum drop by wearing a three piece suit and why wouldn’t he, since he works in the hospital? 

‘Which is why he did, Mam.’

The Bit-ler tells me all this on the phone, thinking it’s funny that said chum described her hairstyle as U2 Roadie and I’m all, What-er you on about, your hair’s gorgeous, and then she admits she’s spent her whole Dublin visit with her hair tied back. 

No curling iron. 

No straightener. 

No hair spray. 

Gargoyle Possom (RIP)
I don’t understand.  All those mornings up at stupid o’clock so she wouldn’t look like Gargoyle Possum dragged backwards through a hedge.

It’s because she’s home, she says.  Her mother, her porcupine aunt, the neighbour’s chillen, her school chum, there’s no place like home to show you that the longer you know someone, the more you have to lose. 

My Butler-in-Transition with her suede boots and turquoise jewellery and lemon shoulder bag, the look of pure joy on her face when she got her hair extensions, and she ties it all back so people’ll still love her.  My heart cracks a little and a small animal inside it, keens. 

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Porcupine Redoutable

‘What have I ever done to you, that you treat us this way?’

The first words out of her mouth when she got me on the phone.  The Bit-ler’s formidable aunt.  She’d never married, worked as a PA to someone powerful, the best a formidable woman could do at the time.  She cared for her parents, then her bachelor brother, living four score and seven years in the house where she was born, spreading her porcupine love. 

The Bit-ler was the first and last grandchild in that Irish Catholic family.  Her mother fared badly during delivery, so baby went home in Formidable Aunt's prickly arms until the disinterested mother could manage on her own.  I always felt you weren’t mine, you’d been switched at hospital with some queer folks’ baby.

The sisters' great war has lasted nearly a century, the Bit-ler sometimes ground they fight over.  And now Formidable’d rung about Disinterested thwarting best laid plans, etc.  The Bit-ler herself, out garnering support for her transition, her work, Disinterested’s care plans, leaving me fair game to Formidable’s tongue. 

‘What have I ever done to you, that you treat us this way?’

I hadn’t a clue, which was just as well because she didn’t want to start a fight with me.  Formidable vented her spleen about her Disinterested sister, then moved on to the Bit-ler, using male pronouns and names, asking why in the world I hadn’t left him, if it’d been her husband, sure to God she’d be long gone by now.

During the Bit-ler’s long ago childhood when DeValera and the clergy were still gods, Formidable knew what needed done, dragged an unenthusiastic Bit-ler to swimming lessons and scout meetings, altar boy practice and long, dull visits to relatives in the country while Disinterested Mother babysat someone else’s children.

I was spared witness of that, but not the bachelor brother’s 90th birthday, attended by the only grandchild, the elderly siblings themselves and a couple no one seemed to know (descendants of someone’s illegitimate child, it was whispered).  Formidable had planned a tight schedule that required a forced march through dinner.  At the end of the meal, the waiter offered Bachelor Brother coffee.  Formidable said there wasn’t time and the waiter lost his mind.  It isn’t up to you if he has coffee

The manager was called, but by the time he got there, Bachelor Brother had talked Formidable out of making a complaint.  The couple nobody knew tried to make conversation while Disinterested Mother pretended to be senile and Bachelor Brother stared at his empty coffee cup.  Formidable across the circular table from me, silently waiting to pay the cheque, the expression on her face not anger, but shame.  I saw in that moment a lifetime of getting smacked in the face for being a porcupine, when a porcupine was what was needed.

I feel sorry for you, she says to me on the phone, sure I do, what with no family and I understand his principles, he thinks he’s a woman but couldn’t he put on a pair of slacks?  Lots of women do, you know.  And then she invites me to come over.  You like looking at old buildings, you could walk round Dublin and I wouldn’t tell a soul you were here.  I wouldn’t say a thing to anyone.  We could take in a couple of shows and I’d feed you a meal and then you could look at old buildings.  You’d like that, sure wouldn’t you?

And I realise here’s the first person to initiate support for what I'm experiencingThere’s been coos and whispers of compassion, and poor El Punko has patiently listened, but here’s a concrete offer of befriending the invisible SOFFA in this maelstrom.  Not, Aren’t you brave?  Be sure to take care of yourself.   He . . . I mean she’s very lucky to have you.  An actual, Come here and let me take care of you.  From a porcupine.  God, it'd be hysterically funny if it weren't so terrible. 

In my imagination, Formidable and I become porcupine buddies, like nuns who always go round in pairs.  We take in a show and I shop for Christmas, poke my head inside old churches and listen to trad sessions in pubs.  In reality, I’d most likely end up throwing myself into the Liffey, but knowing that, I still feel a kinship with this Formidable woman, all quills and thorns and knowing what’s best in situations where she has no experience.  I see myself at my worst in her, so why not go over and be my worst, cackle at conjoined proclamations on the lesser-thans, get rid of all this anger and distress and disappointment, this feckin invisibility of being the one who always copes, plans, rescues, cheers, supports, while weeding gardens, painting furniture, cleaning, washing, and writing writing writing stuff that’s longlisted and shortlisted and destined to be rejected.  It’d be comforting to bond with the wicked in a place where I could be wicked and say it’s not fair, then leave it behind, a psychological dirty weekend.

I may pack my best porcupine outfit and head off to Dublin.  But don’t tell a soul I’ve gone.

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Why the Bit-ler Cried at Brekky

It was an innocent enough thing to do, putting my hat on the rack, but it started a row of domino falls that ended in the Bit-ler crying. 

To know why that rack was there in the first place, I’d have to go back to a time before I knew her, when I lived in Ireland, my sister and her husband came to visit.  He went for a walk and came back with a mahogany board he’d found dumped in an empty lot.  He planned to hand wax it, then mount hooks on it for me.  He killed himself instead.

When I left Ireland, the man packing my things slagged me about the board – are there none in Scotland?  I said, there were none like this one.  I didn’t say it was a remnant of my dead brother-in-law’s love.  And where did that love start?  Well, because of the age difference between us, my sister brought him into the family when I was still a child, so I can’t say when it happened.  He was there until he wasn’t.  That’s not as glib a sequence as that sentence’s brevity implies.

It took five years for that board to become a coat rack.  Wherever I live, it lives, even though my brother-in-law's death destroyed my sister, and eventually my relationship with her.  So it came to the new house where El Punko and the Bit-ler bolted it to the wall a few weeks ago.  The fuzzy alpine hat that I hung there, I bought it on a shopping trip with that same sister when I took the Bit-ler to meet my family for the first time.  I loved that hat when I saw it in the shop.  I love it still.

And so does the Doodle.  She sees it hanging unprotected while the Bit-ler and I have brekky, and up she jumps, all 24” of her, to a 6’ height and I imagine hung her 50 pound self for a fraction of second, but long enough to pull the rack off the wall and make her escape, fuzzy hat in mouth. 

We hear the noise, the sound of wood rack against wood floor muffled by coats and scarves, the noise of crazy Doodle running through the house.  I keep brewing coffee while the Bit-ler checks on the odd sound, then comes back, sits at the table and cries.  The theft of the fuzzy alpine hat tipped the scales for her; she’d had enough.

Her tears could be explained by the 15 hour neurosurgical list she played gas-lady for, or the 250 page document bundle about a work conflict that takes her into a place where young soldiers and pregnant Afghans and dusty children who don’t scream, are torn to bits.  Or the request to console the family of a man she helped resuscitate on a train to get her hair, a man who later died.  Or maybe just the fact she’s expected to deal with things most of us can’t, and still organise care for her 90 year old mother, try to paint a manger for the strawberries between rain showers, and her wife (that would be me) wanting to drag her Irish Catholic arse to a pagan Samhain celebration, not to mention do her real life test when her hormones have her sanity by the throat.

How she got here, not so easily traced as the mahogany board cum coat rack torn down by the Doodle.  A favourite TV program about a GP watched forty years ago that led her to medicine.  An Ireland with no choice but to export its young.  A church, a society that says others are worse off than you, suffer now for a fictitious, posthumous reward she has no hope of receiving.  Prepped for sacrifice, served up to narcissists and scroungers, flying monkey children, bystanders pointing fingers YOU’RE WEAK YOU’RE WEAK YOU’RE WEAK all to keep her in harness, emptying pockets, casting off pride, locking caskets of dreams for the sake of other people’s agendas.  Because she was taught not to think of herself, so it’s herself she always thinking of, but in a not-nice way.

The vagaries of life, dependent on whether a hat’s hung on the rack in the hall or the closet. 

Saturday, 12 September 2015


I love words.  Their substance conjured out of nothingness.  Their power and scary magic.  The orgasmic joy of new words.  This fortnight, my new word’s been misgender.  


A prefix applied to various parts of speech to mean ill, mistaken, wrong, wrongly, incorrectly or simply negated


the state of being male or female, specifically referencing social or cultural differences, not biological ones.

A word with its DNA on its sleeve.  You know what it means immediately. 

Misgender.  Mis-gender?

Getting clocked, in other words.  Read.  Seen for what someone said you were, rather than what you are.

When El Punko first transitioned and was misgendered, he’d give a vicious stare and say, ‘I’m not a girl!’  As if being called a girl is an insult.  Well, it is in this culture, even if you are a girl, but if a man's mistaken for a woman, it’s not his fault.  It’s your fault for being so stupid. 

Now the Bit-ler, when referred to as ‘that man,’ looks at her colleagues who wait to see her reaction; they smile when she smiles.  If a woman is mistaken for male, it’s her fault for falling below the bar of what’s female.  It might embarrass you that you’ve called it to her attention, but really, if she’d get herself some bigger tits and spend more time painting her face and has she never heard of diets and body wear?  Geez-o-man, a little plastic surgery goes a long way.

Lil Miss Gender.  Ms Gender. 

When the Bit-ler tells me she’s been misgendered, the bra burner inside me rises up, furious that the most successful way to be a woman, regardless of anything else about you or what your sexual preference may be, is to fit inside a skin that’s attractive to men.  Which has always been a major brain fuck to me, that what is masculine decides what is feminine.  

Then I think, well, you aren’t biologically female.  You’re trans and how special is that?  Knock the boundaries off gender and be yourself.  BE yourself.  Be misgendered all over God’s green earth.

El Punko told me early in the game that he was sick of being so fucking special.  People just want to get on with life and not be singled out, for the most part.  Unless you’re a narcissist, I suppose.

So then the Pollyanna in me says, isn’t it great that trans-women broaden society’s concept of what is female?  By becoming more visible, they allow for greater variations on femininity.  In essence, allow women to take back what it means to be feminine.

Mizzy Gennuh.  Mzzgnnndrrrrrrrrr

But in actuality, that’s a load of meaningless bullshit to someone who’s been outside the gender gates their entire life.  

Misgender.  The new word that dashes hopes and aspirations, exiles, ostracises, shouts inadequacies from the rooftops with the utterance of a few simple words.  Misgender.

Saturday, 29 August 2015

I Should Cry More

Tom Selleck’s in my dream.  Tom of Magnum not Blue Bloods, the smiling renegade in shorts she wakes me up at stupid o’clock to curl her hair I can’t even think, my bladder’s awake Tom don’t go!  I have to curl hair that isn’t mine so I piss and she’s got one leg in her tights but sits for me anyway because she knows how much this costs without me saying a £2000 rat’s nest on top of her head she can’t know what she doesn’t feel and my voice breaks but tears don’t come I know it’s not fair she knows it’s not fair but it’s not her fault and I feel guilty that she thinks it is.  She can’t go to work as an Irish Rastafarian but this isn’t all a woman is, how she looks, what she wears but she’s not a woman unless she has hair and makeup and a size B cup because that’s what the woman in HR said.

I’m in a life where needs get met but they aren’t mine. 

Connected to her transition by a curling iron, I look out the bedroom window.  The flowerbed that was mint and money plant with a canopy of bramble when we moved in, now Queen Victoria, golden rod, buddlea, sunflower, nasturtium, dahlia, hydrangea, those tiny pink flowers on the black grass.  Mist rises behind the rhododendron, cuts off tree trunks so they float in time to a childhood where I was invisible because I was the one most likely to mention things that were meant to be ignored.  I learned my invisibility well.  I learned you don’t cry, you don’t speak, not so much because bad things happen but because nothing happens.

Crying means either hope or utter desolation.  I’m never utterly desolated.  I don’t succeed in despair.  Too childlike for depression.  But I’ve forgotten hope.  Not childlike enough for magic.  A life without gradations.  The life of an invisible cog in a machine that manufactures things I cannot see, let alone enjoy.

Crying would mean things should be different, someone should hear me.  Crying means hope.  Hope means the Irish Rastafarian rat’s nest is actually quite funny and me tending it while she sits with one leg in her tights, Wee Bit-ler Winky, a scene from Mrs Brown.

I should cry more.

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Gender: Like God and the square root of minus one?

(This week, we're part of a blog tour for Anne Goodwin's debut novel, Sugar and Snails [Inspired Quill].  Check out her other stops, listed to the left.)

One of the many challenges of learning to write is in inhabiting the mind of another person, especially writing from the perspective of the opposite gender. I’ve been writing seriously for about twelve years, but still recall how anxious this used to make me. How could I – how dare I – channel the male perspective? Would readers perceive my attempts as inadequate, as fraudulent, even? Would critics strip me of my metaphorical clothes to expose the woman underneath?

Well, somehow, I managed. Yet even when I published a short story written from the male point of view, the question of gender didn’t go away. Now, when a new character took shape in my mind, I had to ask myself what was it that made this one female and that one male? I couldn’t come up with a satisfactory answer.

I was used to considering gender from a feminist perspective, in terms of societal privileging of the male. But that was gender operating from the outside; I hadn’t thought a lot about gender operating from the inside since I was a child. Even then, I don’t think I thought about it much. Yet, for discreet periods in my childhood, I’d wanted to be a boy.

Now, I don’t know whether it was due to my admiration of my older brother, an early recognition of where the power lay or merely wanting to be what I was not, but it seemed to be a phase that passed. And yet I don’t think it was resolved by a particularly strong identification with the concept of “girl” or “woman”. How could it be, when I barely understand what those terms mean?

Anne Goodwin
The more I explored the concept of gender, the more slippery it seemed to be. The small biological differences between male and female newborns don’t seem sufficient to account for this tendency to split humanity into two halves. The stereotype of “woman” as someone with long hair and lipstick who likes to go shopping makes me laugh. Yet if that stereotype were imposed on me, I’d probably end up slashing my wrists.

In 1995, I renewed my passport, in readiness for a three-month trip abroad. This being my first European Community passport, the layout was different to before. But it wasn’t until I was standing in line at some dusty South American border crossing that I realised there was an error in the demographic details at the back: under sex was printed the letter M for male. Despite the document having got me safely through several borders already, I was anxious. What if the immigration officers queried my identity? What if they wouldn’t let me through?
Of course, no-one batted an eyelid and, although I always meant to do something about the anomaly, I kept that passport for its full ten years. Whenever I remembered I ought to get it altered, it was always too close in time to another departure abroad. So I crossed my fingers and carried on.

My experience suggests that, while officialdom demands that people be identified as either male or female, it often doesn’t always matter which you choose. But my mild anxiety of being “outed” alerted me to the way in which daily life is unnecessarily complicated for people whose official gender contradicts the gender they perceive themselves to be. Not only on a passport they might use a couple of times a year, but on their driving licence, health service records and job application forms. If the essence of maleness and femaleness is contested, why insist on classifying people by a binary concept that can be, for some people, a source of pain?

This was one of the themes I wanted to explore in my debut novel, Sugar and Snails. But, while I’ve definitely learnt a lot in the process, I still don’t know for sure what makes me identify as a woman and my husband as a man. My attitude is articulated towards the end of the novel by Venus, my main character’s best friend: 
I always thought gender studies was a load of nothing, like doing research on The Very Hungry Caterpillar or The Gruffalo … Of course it’s humongously complex … In fact it’s such a fuzzy concept, so hard to pin down, it ought not to matter a jot. But it does. Tremendously. Like God and the square root of minus one. (Sugar and Snails, p318) 
(I’m assuming God requires no explanation but, for those who aren’t mathematicians, the square root of minus one is a hypothetical construct that vastly extends the number system and is fundamental to many developments in geometry, physics and engineering.)

About a year ago, I received a form from some organisation collecting basic demographic data on its members. There were the usual age and ethnic groupings but, when it came to gender, there was a third option alongside male and female. I was delighted to be able to tick “prefer not to say”, my very small act of solidarity with those for whom the two-category split is overly simplistic.


Sugar and Snails on the Inspired Quill website

Sugar and Snails on Anne’s website 

Sugar and Snails on

Sugar and Snails on

Friday, 31 July 2015

The Goddess of Femininity

For those of you coming late to the party, I’m married to a trans woman who started her Real Life Test about seven weeks ago. 

There are many gates a trans person has to go through in order to transition; to my eye, the Real Life Test (RLT) is about the most asinine.  Essentially, without medical intervention, the trans person is expected to live in their identified gender for a specific period of time (often a year, but gender clinic waiting lists can protract this) before the medical folk get on board. 

While it’s easier to pass as male during the Female-to-Male RLT, it isn’t especially easy and it’s potentially dangerous if you live near roving Neanderthal tribes.  The Male-to-Female RLT is not only difficult and dangerous, but a lesson in humiliation.  So in other words, if you aren’t killed or don’t kill yourself during your RLT, we’ll give you medical treatment. 

My partner, the Bit-ler (Butler-In-Transition) is fortunate that firstly, she can afford to spend a coupla thousand quid on a hair system with a monthly maintenance bill of about £100, (not counting transport costs, since there’s only a handful of places in the UK who ‘install’ this type of system).  She can also afford to attend an endocrinologist privately – not only does she have this B cup I keep rabbiting on about, but her facial hair has really decreased its growth.

(O yes, the MtF is expected to do her RLT with no tits and a fully functioning beard, just as the FtM is expected to do it with breasts and menstrual flow but no beard or upper body strength.)

The Bit-ler’s additionally lucky that she works for an agency that has protocols in place to deal with transitioning employees – she knows she won’t lose her job.  AND . . .  remarkably, her colleagues weren’t content to sit quietly through the announcement of her transition, but after giving her a round of applause, have been proactively supportive of her.  She’ll probably live through her RLT.

And of course, she has me. 

You’d think the MtF’s wife would be a font of feminine wisdom, but the Bit-ler drew the short straw in that department.  I don’t cook.  Doing my hair = pulling it back in a scrunchy.  My fashion sense, according to my son, is various levels of plaid.  As to being quiet and decent, well . . .

And this isn’t helped by the Bit-ler’s periodic channelling of the Femininity Goddess – an Irish Mother Superior/Hyacinth Bucket entity who walks through our house, hands clasped, uttering phrases like, ‘How common, something I would never say, especially with the windows open.’ 

I’m sure the old lady next door has heard the phrase, ‘You fucking whore,’ before we moved in, but anyway . . .

While I’m not great at beauty or fashion tips, I do see in technicolour when the Bit-ler doesn’t act ‘female’ in a social setting.  As we discuss what women typically do in this or that situation, a little voice in the back of my head asks, ‘Why?  Why are women expected to be this way?’  I feel like I’m taking some great beautiful wild thing and trying to tame her.

The Bit-ler always sweeps my hesitation away – No, tell me, tell me what it is women do when they’re hither and yon, or inside places men are never permitted.  She has to know what the expectations are before she can decide to accept or reject them.

As I share this ancient lore, I wonder when I ate that lore-bait, hook, line and sinker, why I’m the type of woman who smiles and laughs and shares and endures. 

Three steps later, I wonder where my life went, that my mornings are spent curling her hair when I can’t be arsed to do my own.  That when I spend time considering why her outfit works or doesn’t, I’m wearing the Jack Skelton T-shirt my son gave me, over unflatteringly skinny jeans with dried mud from the garden and dog walks.  That I police her gender-appropriate social niceties and have given up screaming, ‘Fuck!’  At least when the windows are open.  That I live knowing someday someone will call me a lesbian and maybe treat me badly for it, and I’ll have to deal with that like a seasoned pro instead of someone who hasn’t a clue what lesbians have to suffer in order to live and love.

Wow, eh?

I don’t have answers to my questions, but I’m still willing to do this.  Mostly because I’m amazed at the Bit-ler strapping on her bra and marching out with her lemon-yellow shoulder bag to take on the world.  I’m a bit too selfish to deny myself the adventure, no matter how many outfits I have to pass judgement on.

But the questions are there.  I wonder if I’ll know sometime in the future, what I’ve put to the side so I can do this now.  I wonder if I’ll regret or be happy that I did. 

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Let Me Tell You ‘Bout the Hair

It’s rather astounding, how powerful a woman’s hair is.  Before officially starting her real life test, the Bit-ler went to work with her B cup breasts and her somewhat androgynous women’s clothing.  She was never clocked as female or even gender fluid.  She was male, full stop. 

More than any other transition accoutrement, she needed hair.

Some trans women have their own luxurious locks; others get by with a bit of judicious styling.  The divide on the Bit-ler’s scalp could only be breached by the wigs she had, none of which fully satisfied her, all of which precluded being physically active.  The Bit-ler reconciled herself to a demure life. 

I, on the other hand, did not think beauty was a good swap for giving up my partner in crime, so I researched the whole thing and found out about hair systems that allow you to do sports and take showers and yes, even wear hats!

At this stage, I’m an enthusiastic, supportive hag. 

And so off to Edinburgh the Bit-ler goes to get a hirsute-ish pate.  I’m left in the new house with the fencing guys who’ve promised they can erect a barricade that’ll keep the Doodle in our garden.  A Doodle, I should add, who has already learned how to open the childproof door locks and escape the house.   Repeatedly.  With a big ol’ grin on her doggie face.

The fence guys themselves were civil enough.  The neighbours were a different matter.  We’d left the land of UKIP-pery and Mad Farmers to join the Uppity Nouveaux Riche too busy espousing capitalism to weed their rose beds.  New neighbours sensitive about property boundaries.  A sensitivity that extends into our garden, apparently.

By Day 2 of making bacon butties for the fencers and failed diplomacy with the neighbours – tasks previously the sole responsibility of the Bit-ler, as legislated by law and gender inequity – I’d redefined her trip north for hair as a luxury spa holiday that left me holding the can, an unappreciated Cinderella SOFFA.

Despite my self-pity, the fence got raised, no neighbours murdered in the process.  The Bit-ler came home looking the happiest I’d ever seen her.  It’d all been worth it.

Until the next day.  The Doodle’s early morning escape from our newly fenced garden required a run to the DIY shop.  Only, the Bit-ler had to get ready so she would pass.   Therein followed a long, drawn out prep that included visual demonstrations from myself.  Amazing, how complicated brushing your hair in a mirror really is.  Something second nature to little girls but that takes a while to master if your first attempt is as an adult. 

The next three days, Doodle found new escape routes, so three more trips to the DIY.  Three more preps by the Bit-ler while I twiddled my thumbs.   On that last trip, I was having trouble with the Sat-Nav.  The Bit-ler looked over just as we came into a curve.  The car drifted toward the centre line and she pulled it back before we crossed it.  I lost the plot. 

For me, losing the plot isn’t telling her she’s a feckin eejit who should keep her goddam eyes on the road.  Nope, losing the plot is taking a sample box from psychiatry’s diagnostic manual and giving her an assessment at 120 decibels.  A little knowledge with a lot of sharp edges.

She says nothing.  In her mind, she has to put up with an outburst like that because she considers me long suffering.

‘I wondered when I’d start shouting at you,’ I said.  A declaration of how long suffering I think I am. 

I eventually apologised like the alleged adult that I am.  The Bit-ler eventually agreed she didn’t have to take shit off me because I’m supportive.  But the first shot had been fired in what probably won’t end at a 21 gun salute to our old way of living.  Everything’s changed, from how long it takes to get ready to go, to what people perceive of our relationship.

And all because of her hair.

Friday, 3 July 2015

Caroline Paige Did It First

Caroline Paige
Last week, Caroline Paige didn’t get a Pride Power award.  Someone who did get an award, also got credit for Caroline’s achievement. 

Who is Caroline Paige?  The first RAF air crew and UK officer to transition while serving in the military.  How bad-ass is that?  A fast jet aviator coming out as trans in 1998 – before the military LGBT ban was removed.  After transition, she did eight helicopter deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Pride Power indeed!

The Bit-ler asked around the military LGBT community for their reaction to Pride Power’s mistake.  People didn’t want to make a fuss.  The woman getting the award had done things.  Someone from the military would correct the mistake on the night.

No.  Feckin not good enough. 

So I contacted both Pride Power and the Guardian journalist who wrote First Trans RAF Pilot, The Remake.  Pride Power didn’t respond.  It was the day before the awards ceremony, so a bit late to change their minds.  The journalist, however, did tweet back to say that although she knew the woman getting the award wasn’t the first, she thought she was the first openly trans pilot.

Caroline Paige - look at them medals!
Okay.  Before Caroline, no one in the RAF had transitioned.  Caroline put 18 years of service at risk by telling her chain of command.  Once they agreed to let her transition on the job, there were people involved issuing her with female uniforms, changing her name and gender in their records, jerking her out of a cockpit and shoving her behind a desk because a girly couldn’t be flying to the front line.  Enough people involved that she got outed to the press.

How was her transition not open?  Because she didn’t self-promote?

Ten years ago when my son, El Punko transitioned, he said that the effort it took every day to be trans, left him with no energy to be an activist.  I told him that living his life was activism – the number of lives he touched, the trans and LGB, the SOFFA and totally unconnected. 

Obviously the LGBT community needs public activists – and yes, people who self-promote – in order to give the community visibility.  But any successful movement has to have a grassroots element.  One person meeting another person and changing an opinion, making a difference a thousand times over so the high profile, professional LGBT folk can have a splash-out with the media and give each other awards. 

I have no objection to that LGBT club of self-promotion, but don’t steal what’s due to someone like Caroline Paige.  The Bit-ler and all transfolk serving in the RAF now, have the option to accept awards or keep a low profile or walk somewhere in between because of Caroline.  Regardless of their own achievements, she was the first.    

Caroline Paige, first RAF pilot to openly transition
Edging Caroline Paige out of RAF history belittles her sacrifice and achievement, not to mention commits a despicable theft of her personal story and her public contribution.  Give that back to her.  Not as a mumbled aside in front of a room of people popping wine corks and taking selfies with celebrities.  Do it as publicly as you took it away from her.

Hey, and while you’re at it, give Caroline Paige an award.  She actually earned it.

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Whar's Me Cookbooks?

So, Week 2 at the new place and the Bit-ler* can’t find her cookbooks, which means dinners are a little boring.   You see, Bit-ler won’t cook without a recipe, no matter how many times she’s made the dish before.  A woman of science, she is.  A veritable transgender Joe Friday.  Just the facts, ma’am.  Preferably in alphabetical order.

(*Butler in Transition)

45 minute stew that took me 2 hours to cook.
My mind works differently.  The few times Bit-ler’s relied on me to cook, I substituted ingredients willy-nilly, mostly because I didn’t recognise coconut milk or suet when I saw them in the pantry. 

My ease with improv makes me the one more likely to be the front guard to our adventures.  There aren’t always cheering crowds handing out water bottles to women who run the road to excitement.  As one of my neighbours once said to me, there shouldn’t be female pirates. 

A lurking Neanderthal?
(Monster by Diana Afanador)
But it’s often on the pedestrian path where we meet the Neanderthal.  Like the guy hired to replace the carpet Gargoyle Possum ruined  in the old place.  Carpet Guy did a visual calculation of the area, then started yelling at me for buying the wrong size carpet.  I said, ‘Shut it!’ and called in the Bit-ler who was still presenting as male.  Carpet Guy didn’t yell at her. 

Most girls learn by high school that having a locum phallus provides a social shorthand to dealing with patriarchal assholery.  But trans-women aren’t most girls.  Bit-ler has lived her life with male privilege, as well as being in a profession that automatically grants her authority, even in social situations.  So while I’m losing my penile wild card against knuckle-draggers, her status will cascade into lesser-dom, as soon as she gets the hair right.  And suddenly, her achievements don’t count, her worth won’t be assumed.

About ten years ago in the first year of his transition, my FtM son, El Punko was accosted by a drunk who wanted one of his cigarettes.  El Punko refused, the drunk got aggressive and chased El Punko into a shop.  Chances are, someone would’ve stepped in if the Punk were still presenting as female, but the bystanders who saw it, expected the young man to handle it himself.  El Punko dealt with his first school yard bully at age 20, not really a situation his mother could address by a visit to the head master.

Look behind you!
(Monster by Diana Afanador)

Bit-ler will be taking this on much later in life.  Although I know this is the way of the world, I don’t want her to learn it first hand, not after all she’s gone through to get a B-cup and a full head of hair.  Without a penis, even a borrowed one, we can’t expect the troglodytes to be civil. 

I don’t think there’s a cookbook in any of our boxes for this.

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Best Laid Plans of Mice & Transitions

It seemed a reasonable idea.  Bit-ler (Butler-in-Transition) would do the handover of our old house as male, start in our new house as female.  There’d be a slight bleed through of maleness in the new house, but once two women were living there full time, the unnamed man would exit stage left.

Gargoyle Possum
We hadn’t factored in Gargoyle Possum.

A geriatric stray cat we naively rescued, blind in one eye, hair like a worn horse blanket.  He met our kindness with claws and teeth, a copious bladder flow & rampant sexual acts despite being neutered.  His propensity for vomiting on the table got him a trip to the vet who diagnosed a brain tumour.  Prognosis, eighteen months.  We were heartlessly relieved.
Like many stories of this sort, everyone adjusted, including the Gargoyle.  Once he stopped using us for blood-sport, he showed himself playful & incredibly intelligent, uniquely Possumy.  Cat piss & table vomit grew routine.  His eighteen months came & went.  He continued his nightly hump of the duvet. 

Garegoyle's favourite sleeping spot.
A few days before the move, he started that quiet withdrawal of a dying animal.  Though we’d taken him into our tribe as well as our house, we’d known from the beginning where he was headed.  Our reaction wasn’t coordinated or planned, but in the middle of digging up plants and packing boxes & taking down beds, we each sat with him, keeping the distance he requested, giving the witness he deserved.

I was 50 minutes away at the old house when it happened.  Bit-ler was inside the new house, at the mercy of agents documenting the number of nails in the walls.  El Punko & his equally old cat, the Toothless Wonder, were outside with the Gargoyle on the new front lawn, movers grunting past as if life never ended.    

Gargoyle opening his fan mail.
Gargoyle’s final grand mal seizure was a savage farewell to El Punko, but Gargoyle never minced around.  And though he was gone, his lungs kept breathing, his heart kept beating. 

We needed a vet.  

No phone reception.  No internet.  Bit-ler went to a neighbour for help.  

Gargoyle left us via lethal injection.  His legacy, outing the Bit-ler. 

The helpful neighbours have made several overtures to us, always when the Bit-ler is somewhere else.  And they always refer to the Bit-ler as male.  El Punko & I struggle to stay gender neutral.  Bit-ler laughs at our stories.
Life doesn't bend to best laid plans.  We’re left flying by the seat of our pants, no idea how our arrival as the local trans-family will be received.  At the moment, not caring.  It cost the Bit-ler too much to get here.  A few begrudgers won’t stop us.  And the thing about this transition business is, it surprises you, where your allies turn up.

Gargoyle Possum at play.
Thank you, Gargoyle Possum, for living long enough to teach us that.  Best of luck to you in your new humping grounds.

Friday, 29 May 2015

So Your Loved One is Trans

Taking off the costume.
Today, I waved the Butler off to her (yes, her) coming-out party at work.  Well, not exactly a party.  A meeting where she (yes, she) tells the last tier of her colleagues that she’s gender dysphoric.  

Anyone who says that transfolk are something other than brave, strong individuals, hasn’t a clue what they’re talking about.

I hope to expound on that statement, but today I’m thinking about trans-SOFFAs (significant others, friends, family & advocates).  People attached by a twist of fate to a transperson’s tailcoats, dragged along at full speed through terrain they never imagined, let alone chose to explore. 

People who go through that & still hang on.

Ten years ago, I learned I was a trans-parent, the mother of my lovely FtM, El Punko.  Seven years ago, I wondered if I were trans-contagious when I discovered the Butler is also trans.  There’s undoubtedly a statistical improbability at work here, having a child & spouse who aren’t biologically related, but are both transgender.

Now that the Butler begins her real life test, I’m finally able to speak about what it’s like for transfamilies in this country & this system.  Being a trans-parent has different pressures than being a trans-spouse, but consistent in both cases is that once treatment begins, there’s a bevy of professionals circling your loved one. 

And then there’s you. 

The psych field here thinks there’s something sexy about trans-clients, & by God, the SOFFA should be all things supportive, gracious, even thankful to be aligned with this magical crittur called Trans.  And while you’re at it, please shut up about your boring issues.  (Why are you even in my office?)

In the medical field, no matter that an unpredictable changeling has replaced someone very dear in your life and you think the doctors aren’t doing their best. Whatever treatment they inflict on your adult loved one, it’s none of your goddam business.  (Feck off, Madam No Degree.)  

A normal trans-family
The LGBT community.  Well, there needs to be someone for the parents, the spouses, the wide-eyed chillen of transfolk, but really, between supporting the transperson & storming the Bastille, there’s no time or energy for it.  And indeed, in my experience, the SOFFA’s sometimes considered to be three steps removed from the enemy, politely tolerated or, in rare instances, treated with overt hostility.  (Why oh why won’t you stay in the misguided straight world?)

No wonder some SOFFAs are mad as hell.  I’m not one of them.   

Recently, while shifting furniture, it became clear how much the Butler’s upper body strength had given way to HRT.  It was lift, walk a few paces, rest.  After I set down my end of a behemoth cabinet, the Butler kept shoving like nobody’s business, the behemoth not impressed. 

‘What the hell are you doing?’ I ask.  ‘You can’t do that without me.’ 

‘I’m an eejit,’ says the Butler, ‘but I’m enthusiastic.’

You know, there’s a motto for life.  Any life, really, but definintely the SOFFA life. 

While there are guidelines for transitioning, there’s no Harry Benjamin telling SOFFAs how to do this.  No Dark Lord professionals acting like we’re the One Ring.  No political factions educating us on the appropriate vernacular & what shops to boycott. 

There’s freedom in that.

Don't go stealth.
The trick is to approach it enthusiastically.  That doesn’t mean to ditch the anger, or forget the grief.  Everything you feel, or they feel, it’s real & justified.  What it means is, be terrified when you wait outside a public loo, then laugh about how weird it is that you’re lurking outside a public loo.  Feel embarrassed over their latest ‘new look’, but not too embarrassed to be honest about whether it works.  Don’t go quietly stealth in this brave new trans world.  Face your life & kick anybody to the curb who says you don’t have a right to it.

It may not seem possible to grab with both hands right now.  Not today, when your trans-love has stepped out of a lifelong prison and bolted to freedom, dragging your security and dreams and expectations through the gorse and hawthorn.  Not today, when you don’t believe it’ll get better because how can it be better when the unthinkable has happened?

Being a SOFFA isn't for the faint of heart, but you, who created a space where a trans-person felt they could take the risk, you deserve to stop screaming.  There will come a day you’ll wake up without that elephant stomping on your chest.  It may surprise you how quickly or how long it takes to happen.

In the meantime, enjoy the view from the tail of the kite.  Insist that you touch ground on a regular basis.  Don’t let anyone tell you to shut up, or stand to the side.  Be as brave as your trans-person, expect as much for yourself.  Listen.  Love.  Laugh.
Follow the multi-coloured road.

Insist on technicolour.

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Beware the Silly Hat in Public Bathrooms

The Itinerant Magpie, aka Aleksei Drakos, guest blogs this week on what it's like to be a scary transman.  You can find his blog at

New Orleans, 2010.  We’ve been on the road since 4 AM, driving from Savannah to Austin.  Where better to make a pitstop for good eats than Savannah’s free-spirited older sister?  We wander around the Quarter for a bit before ducking into a little bodega just down-at-the- heel enough, you know the food is gonna be spectacular.  We’ve got that delirious frivolity that too little sleep and too much time on the road brings; it lasts right up to the moment we get ready to leave, with a stop at the restroom.

It’s tiny.  One urinal.  One sink.  One stall with a set of saloon doors that barely covers my torso.  All I can think is:  Shit.  What do I do?

“Don’t worry,” Cap says.  “I’ll protect you from any Bubba that walks in.”

And suddenly it’s okay, not just because I know I won’t have to deal with some awkward (and maybe dangerous) encounter with a Good Ol’ Boy, but because with that statement, Cap lets me know he gets it.  He’s a straight, cis-male, but I’m his friend and he gets why something as simple as using a public restroom can be stressful and terrifying for a transgendered person. And he’s got my back.

Some US states are trying to restrict bathroom use by transgendered people.  A small but very loud segment of the cis-world is in a furore over the threat transwomen pose in female bathrooms, despite lack of evidence that the threat is real.  On the other hand, there are plenty of police reports on file that document how using a public toilet resulted in violence for a transperson.

I get it.

Transpeople are super scary.

I mean.  Just look at me.

Absolute menace to society.

You should never trust a person in a silly hat.

When I started my transition at 18, I didn’t feel optimistic about it.  Treatment was expensive, far away, and I had no idea where to start.  The first psychologist I told about it, didn’t know the difference between being transgendered and being bisexual.  She explained that the only reason I felt this way was because I’d been raised by a single mother and felt the need to fill the male role in the household.

Needless to say, I was not impressed by her assessment.

When I moved to Ireland, I expected more of the same.  What I found was completely different.  I was put in touch with a psychologist in Dublin (coincidentally, also an American) who specialised in transfolk.  He was linked with an endocrinologist and a trans support group, as well.  For the first time in my life, I had access to an entire community of people just like me.  (At the time, these guys were the only ones treating GID, so literally every transperson in the country had access to each other.)  It was great.  I started HRT. I completed my Real-Life Test.  I had my chest surgery done.  My alien identification card proclaimed me male (this required some persistence and flat out saying to the agent: “Do you want to check what’s in my pants, or will you take my word that I know what gender I am?”  He took my word for it).

When it came time to return to the US, my doctors gave me all the letters and documentation I needed, and assured me things would go just as smoothly Stateside. I’d already gotten through the hard part, after all. Everything that came next was just maintenance.

You would think.  But Ireland is part of the EU and transpeople are protected in the EU.

Once back in the States, I couldn't get health insurance because I'd already been diagnosed with gender dysphoria and therefore had a pre-existing condition, which meant the $500 a month (easily half my monthly income) for the HRT prescription came totally out of pocket, not to mention doctor appointments, regular blood tests, and trying to track down an endocrinologist who would see me without insurance (who didn't know what he was doing, wouldn't listen when I told him the dosage was wrong - it ultimately took 2 years to get me back on an even keel).

Then changing my birth certificate.  Quick lesson for the non-Americans out there: which state you’re born in matters.  A lot.  Most laws are set by individual states, and they can vary hugely. Having lived outside the US as much as I have, I can see how weird that is - being part of the same country but having vastly different definitions of what is legal and what is not.

I was born in Pennsylvania (PA) and lived there a whopping total of 3 years, so amending my birth certificate falls under PA laws.   My doctors prepared a series of emphatic reports stating that it was required for my safety, that my documentation match my gender (changing the F to and M, if you’re having trouble keeping up).  PA decided only a "fully functioning" man is entitled to an amendment.  In real terms, that means having a surgery that was expensive, dangerous, not easily accessible in my area (I'd have to travel to the west coast or Europe) and involved massive visible scarring (skin grafts from the arms) without even ending in a good result.  

Yes, someone in a records office makes medical decisions for transfolk.

My driver’s license had been issued in West Virginia.  I hoped crossing the state line would give a different outcome.  I spent ten minutes arguing with the woman at the counter in a DMV office before they whisked me and my stack of documents to a private room when I showed no sign of backing down. I explained everything to the supervisor.  I showed her my letters.  I showed her Harry Benjamin’s Standards of Care.

She refused.  I wanted to cry.  I walked out with a driver’s license that labelled me female.  I dreaded every time I had to show that ID to someone, because I never knew what they were going to do to this short, weird-looking boy who turned out to “really” be a girl.  WV, if you aren’t aware, is not the most progressive state.

A year later, I sat in a Georgia DMV office, watching the numbers flash closer and closer to my ticket as I clutched my stack of letters and mentally ran through everything I would say when I got called up.  I didn’t expect to succeed, but I was going to try anyway.

God bless the two women who helped me.  They read all my papers.  They checked all the forms.  They pulled out the book of laws and regulations and looked through it until they found the loophole that meant they could change the gender on my license without my birth certificate.  I have no idea who those two women are and I’ll never see them again, but they were the first officials in the US who made me feel like a real person who deserved to be listened to.

My birth certificate still labels me as female; I just don’t use it. Given all the same documentation, the federal government had no problem stamping my passport with an M.  In most cases, because you can’t get a passport without a birth certificate, I get by with my passport and my license (after getting the first one, I didn’t have any further problems getting male ID).  On a funny note, my current license is issued by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and says that I’m male.  But they won’t change my birth certificate.

At this stage, I fly under the radar 99% of the time.  Every new doctor or therapist I see goes through the confusion of thinking I’m starting the transition to female when I bring up that I’m transgendered.  Actually, that happens with everyone I tell.  In that way, I’m lucky. No one knows unless I tell them.  But that doesn’t mean it’s any easier.

West Virginia refuses to take ID photos of transwomen unless they look like men.  Facebook is deleting profiles of gender-variant people over names (meanwhile, my two absolutely fictional alter-egos remain undisturbed).  Texas wants DNA verification of your gender before you’ll be let into public bathrooms.  

Right now, I live in the UK, also an EU member, so my rights and safety are protected by law.  At some point, though, I'm going to have to go back and fight my way through the US system again.  There is no place like home, but for American transfolk, home is not a place of safety and acceptance.  I don't understand the point of being a super power when you stigmatised  and demonise your own citizens for being born different.  But then, I'm a scary transman in a silly hat.

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

The Cat's FB Page

So there I was, trying to get into Calypso’s FB page to delete it.  Why does my cat have a FB page?  Exactly.  Why does my cat have a FB page?  

Anyway, I couldn’t remember the password, so requested a new one, but Yahoo told me Calypso’s email account didn’t exist.  Sensible folk.

That seemed the end of the matter, except that a FB log-in page popped up.  Ever the fat, dumb and happy soul that I am, I hit ‘enter’ and expected to be inside Calypso’s page.

Wow, FB!

Instead, there it was, my deactivated human FB account with a Christmas profile photo.  In reality, I’d logged onto a website, but psychologically, I’d opened a door that’d been closed for three months.  I was alone in a secret place without anyone knowing it.  

I walked round the virtual room, picked up dusty objects, read letters from people who’d been daily present in my life until I shut this door, a door they’d disappeared behind .  I looked through my friends list.  All good people.  Very few who were still active in my life. 

Real friends.
And so I defriended at will, leaving only people who’d stuck with me outside FB, plus a few I couldn’t quite let go of yet, until only thirteen friends stayed. 

Nev, on Catfish, says if a profile doesn’t have 100 followers, it’s not real.  But that’s not what I felt when I looked at those 13 names, my friendly coven.  That list seemed very real to me.  These were people to whom I mattered, or who at the very least, mattered to me. 

Giving w/o reciprocity.
It’s taken a long time to understand that people I admire and enjoy but who don’t reciprocate, aren’t really my friends, regardless how much they accept of what I offer them.  And obviously, based on the fact that among those 13 names are people who stayed behind the FB door, I haven’t fully learned that lesson.  But 13 names is a start.

In terms of society, that’s a 20th century lesson, one that maybe won’t survive the 21st century.  There’s no qualitative message in that.  People adapt, connect, make reality out of new things, discard the reality of the past.  Me, I’m definitely a 20th century realist.  An anachronism?  Perhaps.  But life only works when you pay attention to what’s true for you.

Holding onto what's true.