Thursday, 22 July 2010

God, the Bible, Gender, Shellfish, Haircuts, Love and Nail Files

It’s that time of year again. As I take my lunchtime stroll there are bushes overflowing with fruit. It hangs heavily on their branches. The grey footpath is littered with yellow and red.

Each year I think … how extravagant nature is. Or is it wasteful? Or is it so harsh and cruel that there needs to be an over-abundance of fruit … just so that a few survive.

I guess until relatively recently it was the same with people.

A thought that has crossed my mind several times over the past few months is the idea that I should revisit the concept of God.

There was a time that God was a person to me. That Christianity was a relationship … a friendship … much more than it was a religion.

This was all based on the “evangelical” kind of view that the Bible is the final authority on all matters. And, what I now believe to be incorrect, a feeling that there was some kind of definitive logic in the way that evangelicals … the kind of person that I was … interpreted and understood the Bible. That there was some kind of objective and unbiased view that represented the truth.

And yet … there isn’t. We all bring our preconceptions and prejudices. The things that influence what we accept as fact and truth … and those things that need to be “interpreted”, discussed and disregarded.

My friend Dani recently left a comment on a blog posting that I made a while ago … it’s here. Reading the article that Dani mentioned led me on to some more searching around … and there is this … Proof that fundamentalists selectively quote the Bible. It’s worth reading. It makes it clear that if you you are Christian and have hang-ups about Gay or Lesbian people then you should also steer well clear of shrimps and be careful how you shave.

Really I knew this all along.

One of the first “Christian” Books I ever read was a thing by Francis Schaeffer called Genesis in Space and Time. It had a title that intrigued me.

It’s intelligently written … but even then as a new Christian … I wondered why Francis Schaffer was adamant that it was important that there was a literal Adam and Eve … and yet the eating of the fruit in the Garden of Eden was an allegory.

At the time I guess I though that he knew better than me.

In fact, really, I think it’s about what we choose to believe … which then influences how we interpret these things.

Emily Saliers … an Indigo Girl just in case you didn’t know … put it like this in her song Deconstruction:

We talked up all night and came to no conclusion
We started a fight that ended in silent confusion
And as we sat stuck you could hear the trash truck
Making its way through the neighbourhood
Picking up the thrown out different from house to house
We get to decide what we think is no good
We're sculpted from youth, the chipping away makes me weary
And as for the truth it seems like we just pick a theory
The one that justifies our daily lives
And backs us with quiver and arrows
To protect openings cause when the warring begins
How quickly the wide open narrows
Into the smallness of our deconstruction of love
We thought it was changing, but it never was
It's just the same as it ever was


The song is here:


Life is a subjective kind of thing.

Anyway … I digress.

My plan is to try revisiting some of the places that I’ve been before but with an acceptance that it is ok … inevitable even … to have a subjective view on the stuff. That it’s ok not to see it all from an evangelical perspective.

I don’t know where this will lead me. Though I know there is no going back to where I used to be.

Tonight I read through I Corinthians Chapter 13.  It’s here. And I have to say … it’;s hard to disagree with any of it.

I remember, many years ago, someone saying it’s an interesting exercise to take these words:

Love is patient,

love is kind.

It does not envy,

it does not boast,

it is not proud.

It is not rude,

it is not self-seeking,

it is not easily angered,

it keeps no record of wrongs.

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.

It always protects,

always trusts,

always hopes,

always perseveres.

Love never fails.

And wherever it says love or it try substituting with the word I.

And even today, if I do that, I’m left with the feeling … I wish.

So now … though I don’t know where this is leading or what I’m looking for … it’s true to say that even without a belief in God … and in the certainty that I disagree wholeheartedly with the views that some Christians have … the Bible does say some things that are worth listening to.

Like many things though … it’s not what you read … not what you say … or what you say you believe … that matters. Not really. In the end it’s  about what you do.

And now I need a break … so it’s out with the nail file.

Party on the Lawn 2010

Just in case you were wondering what Party on the Lawn was like … and if if you weren’t … here’s just a few snippets of video so you can get a tiny little flavour.  I did enjoy it a lot.


Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Graduations, cats and bags

Towards the end of January Katie, my younger daughter, graduated at Durham University. Sally and I … and Katie as well … enjoyed the day enormously.

There were occasional moments of drama.

Sally had just finished showering at the hotel … just after I had finished showering … when there was a knock at the door.

A maintenance man needed to get at the bathroom … downstairs was experiencing a bit of a flood.

In a way this wasn’t a big surprise. To get hot water the shower needed to be on full power. When it was on full power … well … there was a lot of water.

At the time both Sally and myself were … I was going to say scantily clad … but the word unclad is closer to the reality.

I wrapped a towel around my waist and let the man in to check out the bathroom.

It wasn’t until after he’d gone that I realised my toenails were a bright shiny red nail polish kind of colour.

Bill Bryson is the Chancellor at Durham University … and so Katie got to shake his hand and be congratulated by him. One of the new Graduates gave Bill a high five rather than a handshake.

In his speech Bill explained that sometimes he even got a hug or a kiss.

He joked that the most important thing that the new Graduates needed to do was to work out a way to actually beat Germany at football.

He lamented that we seem to not be able to plan for the future … even though the architects of Durham Cathedral, where the graduation ceremony takes place, had planned way ahead into the future … so long ago.

Of course, this is an over simplification. Katie and I talked about this later … and … unusually for us … actually had similar views and admitted it.

Needless to say, it was a very proud … in the nicest sense of the word … day.

In mid July Sarah … elder daughter … graduated at the University of Manchester. Just a few days after Sparkle … so it was another trip to North West England for me. Again the graduation was a very, very special occasion for us all. Another proud day.

We spent the night before the graduation with my brother and sister in law who live near Manchester.

It must have been about 2:00 am when we were well into a bottle of Bushmills Whiskey that my brother asked me about my fingernails.

Why are they so long?

Have I got nail polish on them?

Have I got to nails that are extremely long as well? In fact I don’t … but they do have red nail polish on.

“So … what is it all about?” he asks.

I’ve thought about this moment a lot. But haven’t rehearsed any answers.

“Do you really want to know?”

He says that he does.

I remind him of a trip that M (my sister in law) had made to Brighton with a friend a few years ago.

P (my brother) doesn’t remember.

M smiles … recollecting the conversation. They had ended up accidentally calling in at a bar where there was a singer that was a tranny. She doesn’t say anything, though.

Me and my brother head to the kitchen to get a glass of wine.

I look at him … and … a little hesitantly … say “I’m a transvestite.”

He is a little gobsmacked.

But not appalled.

The door opens … M is about to say g’night. But before she does … I tell her as well.

A little gobsmacked but not appalled.

Then M (P & M’s younger son) wanders in. I tell him.

“So?” he says. Not even a little gobsmacked and fine about it.

P & M haven’t worked out exactly what they feel about it all yet. They need some time. I don’t know if they’ll ever want to get to know Andrea. That’s up to them.

But it’s good to have been able to take the opportunity to tell them. And for them to be able to accept things … even if not able to embrace them.

We talked as little about things like … how long? Why? Who knows? Sparkle.

Next day we met up with them for a meal to celebrate Sarah’s graduation … no opportunity to talk further … but also no tension.

The cat, as they say, is getting more and more out of the bag.

Sparkle 2010 – Saturday

A thing I forgot to mention that happened on Friday afternoon as Tina and I were walking along Canal Street. A girl stopped and asked if I could help tie the shoulder strap of her dress together … her partner was standing there looking a little helpless … she said he was useless at that kind of thing. We talked a little while and the shoulder strap was fastened in almost no time.

It’s kind of nice how some girls just sort of accept us as girls.

10:00 am and time to get up.

Shave, shower, teeth, makeup and dress.

The plan is to breakfast at Weatherspoons – we just have to get there by mid day.

Laura and Billie say they’ll meet us in a while.

We’re just about finished eating when we discover that Billie and Laura maybe drank a little more than we thought last night.

Ring … ring.

“Hi Laura.”

“Hi Andrea. Err ... which way do you turn when you leave the hotel to get to Weatherspoons?”

“Turn right … walk a hundred yards or so and it’s on the right.”

“Oh … we went the wrong way. See you in a few minutes.”

Just a few minutes later they arrive. We head for the Arndale Centre to do a little shopping.

We wander around Primark a while. Then H & M.

Do you like the shades?




There’s a man walking from side to side across the paved area.

Bible in hand.


Condemning all kinds of things.

The term Sodomite is included in what he is reading.

And he’s not saying anything nice.

At first I walk on by.

But I can’t go on just leaving what he is saying unchallenged.

I walk towards him … but his head is in his Bible so I don’t think he sees me coming.

I put my arm around his shoulders and say … “Brother … you are wrong.”

He’s a little surprised.

“Do you believe that God is Holy?” he asks me.

“If God is there … I think He loves people more than you give Him credit for.” I reply.

“But do you believe that God is Holy?”

I look, and feel, sad.

We only talk for a few moments.

I guess that to him, Andrea is just as much an abomination as as the sodomites that he has been reading about. Though he doesn’t say this, and he doesn’t look appalled.

There are people standing close by.

I ask if they agree with what he’s saying.

“Nooooooo they say.”

They say they find it difficult to see how God could cope with such people in Heaven.

To some extent I feel that I know where the preacher is coming from.

There was a time … a long time ago … when I stood in front of a microphone in the Town Hall Square in Rochdale and gave Bible Readings and little sermons.

The emphasis though was, I think, on God’s love rather than His judgement.

But I know that the preacher was doing what he thought was right.

I guess that he believes that TV’s, TS’s, gay people … the unconverted … are travelling along the wide road that leads to Hell and he wants to help rescue them.

He’s doing what he does because he cares.

But, I believe that the place that he is starting from is wrong.

And good intentions don’t make a thing right.

We passed by a little later and I took a few pictures. He smiled and said he hoped that I’d caught his good side. Actually, it’s hard to find a good side to what he was saying. There he is on the right.



I don’t feel angry at him … though I do feel sad.

I’m glad that not all Christians have the same overly narrow minded view of God. There are churches that accept Gay and transgendered folk.

In trying to work out what passage he was reading from I Googled around a little. There are a lot of people with views that are, to me at any rate, appalling. Truly appalling.

In a strange way, though, the event is somewhat liberating for me. I’m past the stage where I feel that as a transvestite I’m compelled to fade into the background. Little by little I’m gaining the confidence to just be myself … and … if need be … to assert to other people that I have the right to be myself.

Having said that … it was a safe kind of environment to do. He may have had problems with accepting gay people’s right to be gay … but he was hardly likely to start being abusive or violent. There are other places and times where it is better not to be noticed.

We pop into Evans … a girl wanders over to us and asks “Is Sparkle this weekend?”

Well … we certainly aren’t hoodwinking everyone into thinking we are girls.

But for me that’s ok … I’m not actually a girl ... I’m a transvestite and I’m ok with that.

We have a nice little chat with her.

Next stop is a cafe for a bite to eat for Laura (who had not had breakfast) and coffee, Sprite or water for the rest of us.

Tina is on the lookout for some perfume so we begin searching for a Boots store.

A girl walks towards us … “Hey girls …. you all look great!” she smiles.

It’s strange … how differently people react.

She tells us where to find Boots … just out the exit and across the street.

Inside the store, we are handed lots and lots and lots of samples by the girls on the cosmetics counters.

Slowly we meander back towards the Canal Street area and head for Sackville Gardens, where the afternoon show takes place.

We take a look around the various stalls. Several Police forces are represented:


A lady at an NHS (National Health Service) stall asks me if I’d mind answering a few questions. They’re collecting information about transgendered people’s experiences of the NHS. So I answer some questions.

Lots of people seem to be selling wigs. A few are selling boobs. Cosmetics. Clothing.

At one stall a girl says “We’ve changed the prices … everything is just £1. Well … everything apart from me. I’m 50 pence” she winks.

There’s music … January is the only non TG performer. Here she is with the Pink Punters bus in the background.


We head for Eden again … there it is in the background to the left, with Tina in the foreground.



And again, with Andrea in the foreground:


A few longboats sail down the canal … stopping to pass through the locks.


I just kind of rested up against a lock gate.


And then back to the park to watch the Tranny of the Year presentation.

And here you go … a bit of January singing and Tranny of the Year:


It’s a little curious that there is a sign at the entrance to Sackville Gardens explaining that you had better not drink alcohol in there.

Today, of course, as well as representatives from three police forces there is also a bar and the alcohol is flowing. But not much sign of anyone getting drunk.

Eventually Tina and I head for the hotel to get changed for the Sparkle Ball.

As we head in we meet Laura and Billie who are two hours early. They head for the bar. We head for the hotel room.

Everything gets renewed.

A little over an hour … well … quite a bit over an hour … later we head for the lift (elevator). and here I am.



And here’s Tina:


The receptionist telephones for a taxi … it’s not actually very far to where the Ball is … unless you have heels … then everywhere is very far.

The taxi arrives within a few minutes and here we are a little later:


And a passer by:


And eventually we head back towards Canal Street … rather slowly and carefully and call in at the Via bar for a couple of drinks.

And all to soon it’s time to wash the makeup off … sleep … and be a guy again.

I did enjoy the weekend a lot.

Roll on Sparkle 2011!

Friday, 16 July 2010

Sparkle 2010 – Friday Evening – Restaurants, Clubs and Pubs

The makeup is still intact from the afternoon, so only minor touch-ups are needed.

And a change of clothing.

Knock, knock.

Laura and Billie arrive and we head out.

It’s a short walk to the Red Chilli restaurant – highly recommended by my daughter, Sarah.

We take seats and browse through the menu. The food is great.

Tina and Billie:


Laura and myself:


Later we head along to a bar along Canal Street.

“A half of Fosters, please.” I say.

A pint of Fosters arrives.

Oh well. I can cope. The weather is hot, the beer is cold.

“Do you have a Crunch Card?”


“Do you have a Crunch Card?”

Having no idea what a Crunch Card is or why I might have one, I admit that I don’t have one.

“That’s £2.50 then please.”

“Here you go … you can use mine.” offers a guy standing close by.

After a short discussion I get to use the Crunch Card.

“That’s £2.00 then, please.”

I head outside to phone home.

“Where are you?” asks Sally.

I look around and see a sign … “The Crunch Bar on Canal Street” I say. The penny drops and in a moment of enlightenment I figure out what a Crunch Card is.

Next we head for Eden. Just a little way down the road from the Crunch Bar and across the other side of the Canal.

We discover that they even serve Black Sheep at Eden.

Black Sheep is actually a beer, rather than a troublesome kind of person.

But maybe they server troublesome Black Sheep as well.

Billie and Laura head out on a voyage of discovery whilst Tina and I deal with the Black Sheep. They say just cross the bridge, turn right and we’ll be in whatever bar is first on the left.

We set off in search … calling in every bar on the left.

Eventually I get my phone out.

“We’re at a bar called ….” says Laura.




Eventually we manage to translate … the place is called Via.

We sit outside with a drink. You can see the Crunch Club in the background.


At about 11:00 pm we notice the tables and chairs disappearing around us.

“Sorry ladies … we need your furniture.”

It seems that after 11:00 pm there is no alcohol on the street.

We head inside and discover the Via bar is not all that it seems from the outside.

There are three bars, a dance floor and a whole mini labyrinth of interconnecting staircases and passageways. 

Like many of the bars on Canal Street, the Via bar looks as though it used to be a Cotton Mill at some point in its history.

The decor is quite quaint … parts of the furnishings looking as though they could once have been a part of a Church at some time or other.

We sit at a table beside a chair that looks like a min throne.

Here’s the chair.


Laura and myself …



And we all take a turn in the chair.







Time passes and we head for the Weatherspoons pub on Oxford Road … just round the corner from the hotel.

On the way there's a bar that

seems to have come up with an interesting mechanism for allowing people outside to smoke cigarettes and yet stop people passing by from sneaking inside. It’s a little like walking past a cage.



The inmates seem quite tame.

We’re the only trannie’s in Weatherspoons, but no one minds.

After a short while, a girl with her partner wanders over with two small bottles of perfume and asks us which we prefer … blue or yellow.

Laura tries the yellow:



And the blue:



And recovers:



Whilst Tina and I watch:



On the whole, the blue wins.

At 1:00 am it’s time to go.

A short walk back to the hotel.

Makeup removal.


Thursday, 15 July 2010

Sparkle 2010 - Arriving

The weekend of July 9th, 10th and 11th was Sparkle (Sparkle). This is my third visit.

I arrived at Tina’s at about 08:45 on the Friday morning and we set of for Manchester pretty soon after that. Both in “male mode”.

As always, the amount of stuff packed for a mere two nights away could be viewed as being somewhat excessive. But you never know what you might need.

The traffic was pretty light and we arrived at the Premiere Inn on Portland Street at about 1:15. The girls working at the hotel reception asked about what had brought us to Manchester and we talked about Sparkle for a while. We promised to say hi on our way out later after we’d had a chance to get changed and made up.

We parked the cat in the NCP Car Park on Oxford Street assuming that we wouldn’t see it again until Sunday.

Stepping out of the lift (elevator) on the ground floor I realised I might get to see it a little sooner. The hotel key-card was sitting on the top of the dashboard still.

Eventually, back at the hotel we began to change.

I sent a text to Laura and Billie to say we’d arrived and which room we were in.

The usual make up and getting dressed routine. Complicated a little by the warm weather and the fact that the air cooling system wasn’t cooling the air very much. Foundation goes on a lot more easily without perspiration.

Tina was ready before me and set off to meet up with a friend that was staying at the Britannia Hotel a little way along Portland Street. We aimed to meet each other at the Rembrandt Hotel on Canal Street where the Welcome to Sparkle reception was taking place.

Eventually I was ready and set off … a wave towards reception and a short walk down Portland Street taking a right turn into Chorlton Street.

Most people don’t notice me at all. A few look at me a little, but pay no real attention.

As I reach Canal Street and think about whether to head left or right to get to The Rembrandt I see Tina and a couple of girls and I rediscover that it’s a right turn.

We chat and walk and arrive at the Rembrandt in just a few minutes.

Tina and I head upstairs, say hello and pick up a few leaflets.

It’s very hot up there so we head downstairs to buy a drink.

A girl  at the bar says she likes my perfume.

We head outside. There’s just one table free … with only a single chair.

I talk Tina into sitting down … and within a couple of minutes a guy from a nearby table spots that there is a spare chair and brings it over to me. It’s quite sweet sometimes …  the difference that wearing a dress can make. Here’s the view form where we are sitting.


And Tina …



And me …


Laura phones … she and Billie were delayed … but are almost here.

We head back to the hotel to get ready for the evening and to meet up with them.