Sunday, 20 May 2018

Restaurants, Punters and Police Officers

Last Monday (May 14th) I spent the evening with Susie and Julia. We shared a meal together at Café Rouge in Windsor.

It was a really lovely evening and late enough in the day for the place to be fairly quiet and unaffected by the Royal Wedding preparations.

The food and service were excellent, as always.

And here we are:

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Last night (Saturday May 19th, the day of the Royal Wedding), and the early hours of this morning, I spent the night with Laura, Emma and Susie at Pink Punters.

Laura arrived at Windsor a little before 5 pm. I’d just about finished with the makeup and stuff.

At the moment makeup  is taking a bit longer than it used to. The reasons are partly to do with ideas I picked up  from a visit by Esteller and Stacey of Corinthian Spa to Surrey Swans back in September last year. And also from ideas picked up from Lauren at House of Fraser in Guildford in the same month.

The new new things include stuff like:

  • using an exfoliating cleanser before doing makeup, as well as at other times
  • applying a primer and letting it do whatever it does for 5 minutes before applying any foundation
  • applying a little red lipstick with a concealer brush in the area around my mouth and chin before applying any foundation – the idea is that it helps conceal the grey kind of colour that guys get there prior to the formation of bristles
  • using a foundation brush to apply the foundation (rather than my fingers)

I’ve also started to use a real brush to apply eye shadow, instead of using the freebie things that come with the shadow. I’ve found that the shadow brush gets thigs done better. The brush holds more shadow and also manages to generate a lot less “spillage”.

Packing a suitcase for the night  was a whole lotless elephantine than has often been the case with previous trips to Pink Punters. There was no need for drab (as in dressed as a bloke) clothing an I knew what  wanted to wear. I guess like all things in life, past experiences can help make things easier. Though I know that sometimes, in some circumstances, past experiences can have exactly the opposite effect.

Anyway, we set of for the Campanile hotel, just opposite Pink Punters, and arrived there at a little after 6pm.

During the journey Laura shared a story that gave me the feeling that it’s perhaps a good idea to have a pair of jeans available at a moments notice. You’ll have to ask Laura for the details, but skirts and climbing ladders come into the equation.

Soon after our arrival, text messages from Susie and Emma confirmed everyone was there and we met up in the bar. We discovered that there are places to sit and sip a drink outside, which was very pleasant on a lovely warm evening.

We decide to eat inside and discover that, thanks to the new Duke and Duchess of Sussex, there is a free small bottle of prosecco for every main meal ordered, so during the meal we raise a glass to them.

Susie thinks she may need 45 minutes to freshen up before heading over the road to the nightclub. So Laura and I feel we have plenty of time to get ourselves sorted. That is until 22:26 when the text from Emma arrives … “We’re downstairs”.

To be fair, Laura did have a problem with a disobedient zipper.

Very soon after that we’re at the entrance, having our bags examined, paying our fees, collecting a pink ticket, walking p the steps, handing the ticket over and buying a drink.

We realise that something has changed.

The steps that used to lead to the upstairs bar have gone. There are new ones, but they are roped off and lead up to the ceiling.

The prosecco can’t have affected us all so badly … so we hunt around. The only stairs going up are signposted “toilets”. We walk up the stairs and, sure enough, we discover toilets.

Susie … or perhaps it was Emma … has a little chat with a security guard. The words closed, refurbishment and champagne bar are floated. We’re a bit disappointed.

We find seats elsewhere, in the outside covered area not far from a very big open fire. Laura goes exploring and discovers some seats downstairs were the karaoke is currently happening. It’s OK, but  the old upstairs area was nicer.

Emma and I reminisce. The pink room that seems to be no more. And whatever happened to the polar bear?

We chat, drink and dance.

The first dance is in the ground floor … middle … main … dance floor.

Later Laura takes us to the lower dance floor.

Oh gosh. The bass gives you an internal body massage. The lights are amazing. Mesmerizing. Hypnotising. It is very loud.

Susie and I retire from the sound a little earlier than Laura and Emma.

We chat a while with another couple. Drink a little.

Susie, Emma and I  dance a little more on the middle floor dance floor. A guy there gives the impression that he wants to lift me into the air … but I’m still sober enough to decline the offer.

It’s a after 4:00 am by the time the makeup is off.

I enjoyed the evening a lot. It’s good to spend time with friends.

It’s rise and shine at about 9:30 am. There’s time to shower and do makeup and dress before we have to leave at midday.

And then, of curse, there are the police officers.

I had an email from someone that works at Guildford Police Station asking if I’d be willing to visit them sometime to speak about transgender things. So that’s all planned for May 31st. I’m planning on visiting there along with friends that I know from Surrey Swans and sharing some thoughts and experiences with people there. I’ll write something here to describe how it goes.

Saturday, 24 March 2018

On being a Human Book

Today was the day of the Human Library that I mentioned here.

Sally, my wife, was a human book with the title My Genderfluid Marriage. I was a human book with the title My Genderfluid Life.

The day began quite early. My makeup regime has changed over the past few months. I now use exfoliator and primer and apply foundation with a brush rather than fingers. It takes a bit longer but, for me, it works better.

We set off for Windsor at about 10:20. The car park at Victoria Street presented its usual challenged. The Windsor residents Advantage Card was ignored completely by the machine on level 1. A trip to the ground floor resulted in three failures to validate the card before success.

At the church people welcomed us both. Warmly and genuinely. Many are close friends of Sally and some are friends of us both.

We have a safe phrase in case any readers where to become bothersome. But the readers were all fine.

The librarians introduced themselves.

There was a format, but it wasn’t rigid.

As readers arrived they would ask the librarians if they could borrow a book.

The book and the reader then spend about 10 minutes together. The book tells itself to the reader and the readers ask questions. The book then makes itself available to the next reader.

Quite a few of my readers were people that attend Windsor Baptist church. Several of them I know as Andy, but haven’t met as Andrea. Some that I have met as Andrea as well. Two readers were Polish who were studying in England.

There is a sense of freedom in being able to share a personal story with people. It’s a thing of beauty. Very special.

I presented my story as an overview of how I got be be where I am.

It a story of a journey from a place characterised by secrets, fear, guilt and shame to a place of acceptance (both self acceptance and acceptance by others) and openness. A journey of healing.

Pretty much all that I said is written somewhere or other in this blog.

I don’t know how much of a difference the day meant to the readers of the books. You’d have to ask them to find out.

But I do know the difference it has made to me. The smiles. The conversation. The looks of understanding in people’s eyes. The hugs.

And most of all acceptance. Not begrudgingly. Just simple, affirming acceptance. The knowledge that I don’t need to be afraid or ashamed of being the person that I am.

It’s been a few years now since I learned that lesson. But it’s always good to have it reconfirmed.

Friday, 23 March 2018

Salons, Cosmetics and Phobias

Wednesday 21st was a really nice day for me.

Alice, a friend at Surrey Swans, had mentioned Julia Lampard’s hair salon in Guildford to me a while back. Julia had been really helpful to Alice and she emailed me to suggest that we meet up some time to talk about the kind of things that the salon does that might be of use to people that come along to Surrey Swans. So I visited Guildford on Wednesday and met Julia and Mariam at the salon. It was lovely to meet them both, to talk things over and to take a look at the salon. If there’s sufficient interest then Julia is thinking of organising an evening were people from Surrey Swans can come along to the salon for a chat and refreshments and an opportunity to see what’s available. And she and Mariam made it clear that trans people are welcome at the salon.

Amanda, another friend from Surrey Swans, had also mentioned a while back that people working within the cosmetics departments at House of Fraser were keen to be of service to Trans people. So I took the opportunity to call in and say hello. Again, it was really good. They are happy to offer makeup advice and lessons and makeovers without charge. I feel that’s a really positive thing for them to do to help transgender people.

I meet quite a few people who are at the beginning of their own journey of self-acceptance in terms of the gender that they are. And to be able to mention to them places such as Julia Lampard’s and House of Fraser where they can visit in the knowledge that they will be accepted, supported and affirmed is great … it’s a big deal.

On a different note, last year I made some posts about comments and discussions I’d had with people at the Shoebat web site. There’s some background on that here. Over the past several months I’ve made comments on a selection of articles there and been involved in several discussions.

Overall, my feelings about articles on the web site that mention LGBT issues are that the authors suffer from an intense and complex set of phobias that they justify from the way that they interpret what the Bible says. The sad thing is that these articles actually misrepresent LGBT people and, I believe, also misrepresent what the Bible says.

I’ve had some very negative feedback from some people that leave comments on the web site. In the most extreme of these, someone said to me:

Wow you are nothing but a sodomite TRANNY unnatural freak promoter... People like you are why there should be another inquisition... People like you should be executed... You are doing nothing but twisting God's word and I hope some shoots you in the face to stop your evil soon

That didn’t make me feel so good. The person did edit the comment and tone it down a little, and then said:

Ya if you deliberately are twisting God's word then I still do hope someone takes you out... Preferably a sodomite as the irony would be delicious... Keep the email dumbass it's not a threat at all its a simple hope .

And that’s from someone that thinks they are a follower of Jesus.

And yet, someone else said:

You seem to be a caring and decent person. I totally respect that. There is too much hatred in the world today.

So it isn’t all bleak.

Thursday, 15 March 2018

Human Library–Windsor 24 March 2018

On Saturday 24th March there is a Human Library in Windsor. The details run something like the following.

I’m participating as one of the human books.

Come along if you can.

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Thursday, 21 September 2017

Personal Shopping at House of Fraser, Guildford

At the end of August I went along to a Womenswear evening at the House of Fraser store in Guildford as mentioned here.
Amanda had been chatting with Chloe (the Guildford store manager) and had come up with the idea that girls that go along to Surrey Swans might be interested in a Personal Shopping Experience.
September 16th is the date.
Myself, Amanda, Susie, Paula and Chloe (a different Chloe than the Guildford store manager) are the girls.
I collect sizes and clothing preferences from the girls and email them to Chloe (the Guildford store manager). These are passed on to Vida and Julie.
The plan for the afternoon is complimentary prosecco, a few hours of no obligation to buy anything clothing sampling and an hour devoted to makeup and cosmetics.
I arrive at Caffè Nero on the first floor of the store at just before 11:30 am. A trip to the right-next-door washroom later and I see Paula in line for coffee.
We sit and chat.
Amanda arrives.
I send a text to Chloe and Susie.
There is no mobile phone signal.
And then there is.
It’s about noon as we take the escalator to the ladieswear second floor where the personal shopping suite is located.
Chloe is there already.
Julie says hello and introduces us to Vida. Amanda has met them several times before. I’ve met them once before.
Susie arrives.
The suite has been recently refurbished.
A glass of prosecco.
Julie has selected some things for Paula and Chloe.
Vida has done the same for Susie, Amanda and me.
Dresses and skirts and blouses and coats come off and go on. Come off and go on. Come off and go on.
I like the dress. Vida looks and goes to get the smaller size. The smaller does fit better.
As things come off and go on there’s a dress and blouse that I like.
Vida and Julie offer advice without pressure. Assist with zips. Manoeuvre between the shopping suite and the shop floor getting alternatives.
The only really challenging thing is the tendency that a wig has to come off in sympathy with blouses and dresses.
Amanda, Chloe, Susie and Paula make their own selections.
Lauren, from, Clinique arrives with samples.
Susie volunteers.
Eyes and lips with hints and tips and explanations.
No pressure to buy.
Afterwards we chat. The consensus is that whatever we had expected from the day, the actual experience exceeded our expectations.
Heading for the car park, the alarm sounds as I leave the store. My thoughts return to a visit to the washroom at the end of October.
The security man smiles helpfully.
I wiggle my House of Fraser bag of clothes at the sensor. Nothing happens.
I wiggle my handbag. The siren wails.
I smile. I shrug.
He smiles. He shrugs.
I offer him a look into my handbag.
A quick inspection and he wishes me on my way.
My thoughts on the whole experience?
I think it is great that the people at House of Fraser in Guildford are so welcoming, friendly and accepting.
I felt that to them I was a person. A fellow human being.
I didn’t feel that they saw me as a trans person. I was simply a person.
And, for me, that is just exactly how it should be.
The thing … well one of the many things really … that I find so positive is that they made the effort to reach out and make it known that I was welcome just as me. As who I am.
It was clear that I, as a person, am welcome at the store at any time. If I need advice on clothing or on cosmetics then they are ready to help. I don’t need to be embarrassed or shy about it.
I know that I am also a potential customer and that it’s possible to argue that it would make no business sense at all for a store to make me feel uncomfortable. But there are businesses around that don’t see things that way.
So, for me, the afternoon was another step along the way. Each experience like this adds to my own sense of personal acceptance and confidence.
Chloe, Julie, Vida and Lauren have, in their own way, made a positive contribution to the lives of myself, Susie, Paula, Chloe and Amanda. And it’s by making differences to individuals that differences are made to societies.
Small days like this can make a big difference.
Here are a few pictures:
Andrea and Paula:
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Susie sampling a dress:
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Lauren touching up Susie’s eyes:
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Womenswear at House of Fraser

A while ago Amanda, a friend from Surrey Swans, mentioned  that she’d been along to an evening ladies wear event at the House of Fraser store in Guildford. A few weeks ago (Thursday 31 August 2017) I went along to the Womenswear re-launch event at the store. Amanda plus over a hundred other people went along as well.

I heard about this particular event from Chloe, the manager of the House of Fraser store in Guildford.

I’d been given contact details for Chloe by Amanda who’d been chatting with Chloe who had asked if anyone from Surrey Swans might be interested in coming along to the store for a Personal Shopping Experience.

Several emails and telephone calls later Saturday September 16th 2017 between 12:00 noon and 3:00 pm was set aside for myself, Amanda, Paula, Susie and Chloe (not Chloe who is the store manager) to partake in the Experience. I’ll write a bit about that separately.

In a way, the Womenswear re-launch event was a kind of a prequel.

I wasn’t working on the day of the re-launch event, so had decided that it’d be a piece of cake to get to Guildford by 7:30 pm.

As the day approached, I checked the calendar again and noticed that the builders were due to be re-engineering the bathroom during that week.

This realisation released a cat amongst the pigeons.

Tuesday evening planning.

Windsor to Guildford, according to Google, typically takes 50 to 80 minutes.

An optimistic Andrea thinks … to be there by 19:15, she’ll set off by 18:15.

The house will be builder-free before 18:15.

Makeup needs to begin by 16:45.

This could be challenging.

Thursday arrives.

14:15 is nail polishing in the builder-free lounge.

16:15 select skirt, blouse and shoes. Transport these from the wardrobe where they are to the bedroom. Together with hair, boobs, bra and tights. The hallway is unoccupied.

16:40 shaving begins in the en-suite shower room. The door is closed. Occasional bangs from the not-too-distant bathroom.

Moisturiser.

The challenge begins. From round about now a visit from a builder could result in blushes.

Undress.

Panties. Bra. Breasts. Tights.

Foundation.

Powder.

Eye shadow.

Liner.

Mascara.

Blush.

Lipstick.

An unexpected sound.

A turn of the head … the bedroom door quietly closes.

Blushes.

Blouse.

Skirt.

Hair.

The sound of builders leaving.

Jewellery.

Perfume.

Shoes.

Time to go.

The drive to Guildford is uneventful. The car park on Leapale Road has plenty of spaces at 7:20 pm and evening parking costs £1.

A short walk to North Street.

Amanda is at the end of the line of people at the store entrance. We chat as we with just a few minutes.

The escalator takes us up a few floors where a glass of prosecco awaits.

We sip and chat.

Although I had received an information leaflet that described what would be happening, there is a sense in which I have no real idea of what to expect.

Over a hundred people. Almost all are ladies. Just one or two accompanied by men.

Seats lined along the side of the aisles in an L shape. Each with a goodie back of cosmetic samples.

Seats are taken and the fashion show begins.

The clothing is gorgeous.

A few hours to browse the shop, meet people and sample wine and gin.

I meet Chloe, the store manager. And also Veda and Julie who are to be involved in the Personal Shopping Experience.

And other people as well.

We have a look at the personal shopping suite.

I browse and collect ideas for September 16th.

The alarm goes off as I made my way to the ladies washroom. But no one panics.

All too soon it’s 9:30 pm and time to go home.

I loved the evening.

Another step along the way.

It was really a pleasure to meet people who were happy to go out of their way to make trans people welcome.

No one attending the event paid any undue attention at all. A few hello’s. Polite chit-chat.

Just an evening out.

In a way uneventful. Just as it should be.

Yet, in its own way, hugely significant for me.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Pink Punters, Wolves and Friends

Last Saturday (August 5th) a few of us spent an evening (and a morning) at Pink Punters.

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Travelling light I pack only 1 pair of shoes, 2 dresses, 1 skirt and 1 shirt. That’s in addition to the dress and shoes that I am already wearing. Together with the makeup and all the other stuff that needs to be taken.

The suitcase is by no means small. But quite a bit smaller than I’ve used in the past. And everything fits inside without having to sit on the top to zip it all up.

Laura arrives in Windsor a little after 5:00 pm and says hello to Sally. Soon we’re on the road  off with TomTom instructed to avoid motorways. The traffic is kind and we’re at the Campanile Hotel soon after 6:30 pm.

A text to Paula and to Susie to say that we’re in room 119 and we’ll be at the bar by about 7:00 pm.

The little card says there is a £100 fine for doing anything that impedes the effectiveness of safety equipment. We check the smoke alarm for condoms.

Laura tries a dress on. Andrea unpacks. Laura tries a skirt on. Andrea unpacks some more. Laura tries a dress on. 7:00 pm seems wildly optimistic.

7:10 pm at the bar. Hello Chloe and hello Sonia.

There is no Shiraz so it’s house red for Laura. And no Sauvignon Blanc so it’s house white for Andrea.

Susie and Paula arrive. Emma arrives.

We sip and chat.

Chloe has a cool new phone cover courtesy of Sonia. It has a picture of a howling wolf … maybe a bit like this:

Image result for howling wolf phone cover

Andrea learns that one way of receiving a new phone cover is to leave the current one on the roof of your car before setting off on a journey. Of course, the new cover is only any use if the phone isn’t inside it’s current cover when it gets left on the car roof. Or at least at the moment that you drive off.

Susie and I reminisce over Sparkle, giggling over the “please can I have a glass of Sauvignon Blanc” experience.

Talking with Chloe, Sonia, Paula and Susie, thinking about the love that people show, and also the apparent hatred.

19:33 … Andrea sends a text to Lucy:

Hi Lucy, we’re sipping things in the hotel bar, Andrea

Conversation continues.

“Is Lucy coming?”

Andrea nods. I sent her a text.

Andrea checks the address book on her phone. Lucy Surrey Swans.

Does Andrea know an other Lucy at Surrey Swans? Is a different Lucy sitting somewhere wondering who is sitting in which bar sipping what things?

Emma comes to the rescue. The number she has for the Lucy is the same as Andrea’s Lucy Surrey Swans. All is well. Or so we think.

19:57:

Hi Andrea, are you and the others at the bar? 

Lucy.

Lucy has a new number … or at least Andrea has an old one.

19:58:

We are yes, I texted your old number :)

Lucy arrives.

We talk of Indigo Girls in Brighton, along with Lucy Wainwright Roche.

Image result for indigo girls one lost day

on tour in the UK with Indigo Girls this summer!

And Bruce Springsteen.

Food and conversation follow.

From left to right it’s: Chloe, Emma, Paula, Sonia, Susie, Laura and Lucy.

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The camera-girls arm is just about visible in the mirror at the back of the room.

It’s 21:20 and the plan is to change as need be and meet again at the bar.

Andrea suggests 21:30.

Stares of astonishment.

We compromise on a.s.a.p.

In room 119 Andrea takes off a dress and puts on a dress and a belt. Laura takes off a dress and puts on a skirt and a shirt and a belt.

a.s.a.p. for Andrea and Laura is 22:00. The girls at the bar waited very patiently.

It’s cool outside, but dry. The short walk through the car park and across Watling Street. The bus is noticeable by its absence. When it’s there it looks like this:

Image result for pink punters bus

Handbags are scrutinised. We part with £7 and ascend the steps. Drinks at the bar.

The evening passes quickly.

Dancing. Sipping. Chatting.

The pink room is still pink, my dress is black.

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Another dance. Another drink.

Andrea stands at the bar, and, without a word, the girl serving the drinks places a half of Fosters right there in front of her. Magic!

There’s a cis girl with a tiara. Andrea wonders why. The girl points at a badge. Andrea says “Happy Birthday” to the princess.

The friend of the princess wears a dress and a beard. Andrea smiles thinking Eurovision kind of thoughts.

We chat a while. He prefers to not be called she. Is straight. Is not trans. But likes the dress.

“I have a very firm bum. Have a feel.” he says.

He does indeed have a firm bum.

Two other friends of the girl without a beard drop by. No beards. And bums of an unknown degree of firmness.

They dance.

Andrea chats.

Andrea dances. Alone and with the bearded and non-bearded ladies.

Where is Laura?

1:00 am and it’s time for Chloe and Sonia to head back across Watling Street.

We meet Felicia and Kirsten and chat a while. Kirsten is thinking of offering some kind of a makeover before Pink Punters service.

Laura re-appears having had a worrisome hour or so.

Before we know it, it’s 03:45 and time to wend our way back to the hotel. Punters is still busy. Watling Street is extremely busy.

At room 119 Andrea and Laura compare breast sizes. Detachable boobies are easy to compare. Laura’s puppies are considerably larger.

Makeup, dresses and skirts come off, nightwear goes on.

Alarm is set for 10:00. It’s nor far off 05:00 and time to sleep.

At 09:30 a text beats the alarm.

Shower. Shave. Makeup. A skirt and shirt for Andrea. Pack. Check-out. Drive home.

A lovely night with lovely people/