Thursday, 23 October 2014

Who are you?

Several times during my previous life, it was suggested by very good artists, that they would like to paint or draw my portrait. So where are they?

Obviously I was flattered that in some way they saw something interesting and worth investigating but what exactly was it? My first tingle of interest and intrigue was each time doused by the thought that they just might see the very thing I was trying so hard to hide though such thoughts were mixed with a dangerous dream that such a portrait of me could unveil the hidden me and set me free. Somewhere there is a photograph made by a well respected artist photographer of me and my partner. I had known this person for a long time and felt that such a short exposure to scrutiny by a lens could not be as revealing as one done during a long sitting in front of someone with pencil, paints or in one case a woman who could create fantastic images by cutting through multiple sheets of different coloured paper. It would have been fascinating just to watch the last artist at her work.

The photograph has been hidden away for perhaps a decade now, just at what stage of my transformation it was taken I have completely forgotten. If it was too early or dread the thought just pre the start of transition I do not think I would want to see it now. I certainly worried about the photographer visiting again and wondering where it was since I could never bring myself to frame up an image which would be a reminder of a couple now changed. Such a reminder could only cause negative thoughts for my partner who has stuck by me but still misses being part of that long lost couple...

British artist Grayson Perry, perhaps known to you through collecting their prestigious national Turner Prize dressed in a theatrical drag costume, an artist who works with ideas of identity and is showing work in the London National Portrait Gallery on the subject. A television programme about the series of portraits in various mediums has just been broadcast and for a limited period will be available online. I am sorry that I do not know if it will be available worldwide but no doubt it will soon find itself posted on a video site somewhere... There is also an online Guardian piece about him.

With a title like "Who are You" it will come as no surprise that somewhere in there will be a gender identity issue. There would have been a time when i would have obsessively seemed every possible reference to transgender issues but this one I came across just because I really like this artist's vision, I hope you do too.



Thursday, 16 October 2014


I have been away visiting friends and enjoying myself in ways I could never have imagined possible just a few years ago.

Finally being able to live an open and honest life presenting the personality kept buried for countless decades is a joy that is hard to explain. Few ever have to hide their true selves in their personal witness protection scheme worried that a single slip will bring the world crashing round about their head. During those early days of finally showing my true self I was often asked how I knew that I should really have been a woman all along. Nobody saw the absurd irony in their questions, did they not all wake each day and take for granted knowing exactly who and what they were?

In preparation for my trip I needed to glam up a bit from my usual more casual look. For as long as I can remember I loved to have colourful painted nails, every glimpse from the corner of my vision giving me little bursts of joy. I have dozens of the little magic bottles and never thought twice about paying the asking price for a classy few cc of Chanel, a fact brought home to me when grumbling about the cost of household paint to cheer this place up where a litre costs about the same as I used to happily pay for those tiny drops of nail magic...

In those early years of transformation little signifiers like painted nails, pierced ears and personal jewellery helped boost personal confidence and divert gender radar when out in public. Freedom to indulge in these long forbidden embellishments to our new wardrobe can at first feel essential for acceptance but with time I found myself less addicted to the need to try so hard.

It was fun to be away and more colourful than my more toned down usual self. Even more fun now that I never feel anything but a natural unquestioned acceptance. Along side my transition there has been a transition within much of UK society to try a more loosened attitude to greetings. Long gone is the cold maintenance of arms length no go zone and limp handshake replaced with attempts to emulate our european cousins that we see embracing and kissing at every opportunity.

Just as we have decades of life learning to catch up with little help, the whole country is going through a slightly chaotic revolution. At the moment I am not sure if the experiment will work or we will return to the old cold safety of distance. Nobody knows the rules of engagement! Perhaps we need a TV series to show us the way or we should wear something to show our preference, the possibilities are almost too numerous to calculate. Handshake firm or weak, to hug or not to hug, to kiss, lip to lip, lip to cheek, lip to air, one two or three kisses and starting on which side!?

As a country we are at least giving it a go and local traditions may form, in the meantime it is fun finally getting to join in. My greatest surprise is the number of guys who want a kiss and hug and how I no longer have a horror of facial hair and can even enjoy a moment of cheek to cheek contact. I once hated male kind and the absurdity that anyone could imagine that I had anything to do with it but from my new position of personal comfort I find many of them to be charming though that is still  as far as it will ever go...