Sunday, 30 December 2012

Do I have to say sorry?

Yesterday I did a bit of link clicking and found this blog entry by John Scalzi.  In which he talks about why he tries to be supportive of transfolk.

I think it's a great piece to read, there are lots of home truths in there - even though when it comes to the transition itself I am aware that I have been so lucky and fortunate that it has gone so well for me, so far, that I can't comment on how hard it can be.

But the other points are still valid, the issues in your head and the pain that you go through to reach transition.  The fear of the unknown, and the expectation that your world is going to fall apart.

This is the last paragraph, and I think that it sums everything up quite well:

Indeed, in a general sense “I want you to be happy” covers most of my response to the variation of human identity experience at this point. Is what you’re doing making you a happier and better person? Is what you’re doing hurting anyone else? If the answers are “yes” and “no,” respectively, then not only am I fine with what you’re doing, the fact of the matter is that my approval or consent should be entirely immaterial. Be the person you are.

But there is one sentence in there that bites me.  It shouldn't have to be that way either:

I also readily admit to being a work in progress on trans matters. I occasionally flub the gender of the transfolk I know, which I feel bad about because even if it’s unintentional it’s still a poke, and like a lot of folks, there are probably times when I step in it and don’t know until later.

There is a bit of a paradox here for me.  If you feel bad about it then you shouldn't feel bad about it.  It's a mistake, it happens.

On the last night when my parents were here my dad, whilst tired, sleepy and making bed time drinks for everyone (I don't know why, but it has always been his job and whether in Holland or Scotland it still is...) he got a pronoun wrong.  I can't remember it exactly.  Probably 'sunshine', which they no longer call me - sunshine has always been for their sons.  These days it 'chick' - Leicester term of endearment for a daughter, niece etc.  Anyway I digress!

What I can remember is just how much he was beating himself up over it, and how much I really didn't want him to! I felt bad about him feeling bad (not that I want him to not feel bad because it causes me to feel bad as well).

No, the point is that it was a mistake.  They had a son for 35 1/2 years (wow I feel old!) they have been beyond supportive in the transition, hell they called me Stacy on the phone before I transitioned, as far as they were concerned they had a daughter.  They have no reason at all to feel bad about anything to do with my transition!

I told him this, it didn't help.  So I told him about the 'Shame Sheet' that we had in the office.  I work with jokers, and so when I transitioned someone cleared a quarter of the whiteboard in our office and made a list for when people got it wrong.

I insisted that my name was on the list too (I had also had 35+ years of being him and when doing things like introducing yourself or signing an email you can go onto auto pilot).  I think that it helped them to know that mistakes can happen even to the person going through the transition.

Anyway, my dad was also a little shocked at this, and that I had two marks against my name in the first week (both signing emails, and both caught before I clicked send, but still).  But knowing that did make him feel better.

I'm not saying that people shouldn't try.  They should, it's common decency - just like trying to get the new guy or gals name right when they start at a new job.

But if you are trying then you have already got there, as far as I am concerned.  You are trying, you are doing your best.  There is nothing more that you can do, and I think that should be the important bit.

Of course if you are not trying and deliberately getting it wrong then that is something else entirely.  But, thankfully, that is something that I have yet to come across!

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Turkey, presents and family!

Wow, a flying 4 days! What is it that they say when you are having fun?

At the end of last week we were in a real tiz, running around trying to get the house ready for my parents coming to visit.  Clearing the “guest room” (where we put stuff that we don’t want to put in the attic) and generally trying to make the house pass the mother test J (To be fair she is not that bad! But it doesn’t stop you worrying does it?)

Once we had the house finished we still needed to wrap the presents, which takes an age. We use adverts from magazines for wrapping rather than just buying wrapping paper. It’s amazing how good you can make presents look this way, and also amazing how much longer it takes to actually do the wrapping!

But, we got everything done with 30 minutes to spare before we had to leave and pick up my parents from the airport.  Phew.  We made a cup of tea and sat down to relax, I checked the Schiphol site to make sure their plane wasn’t late and… Shit! They land in 2 minutes, ½ hour early!

Quickly throw the tea down our throats and jump into the car.  Now, we live close enough so that we can make it arrivals at the same time as a passenger if we leave the house at the same point as when the plane lands – but it is close!  We got to the airport arrivals about 20 seconds before they came through.  Timing J

Obviously there was a lot of catching up that first evening, we did a gourmet for dinner and spent a few hours cooking little bits of meat, drinking wine, chatting.  My parents had plane tickets where they could bring a suitcase each. Which they did not need for just 4 days visiting. And so it was packed for us, with things which are really difficult to find in Holland.

Christmas Eve was spent getting the last bits for Christmas dinner – the turkey from the butchers, bread and nibbles for the evening etc.

And then Christmas Day itself J  Me and my mum love Christmas day, something that we get from her dad, as he always used to love it too.

We got up, and had a traditional Dutch (I think) Christmas breakfast – Stolen, croissants and other small rolls with cheese, jam and hagelslag (sorry there is not a translation for that, chocolate sprinkles are the closest but they are not even close in flavour!).

Then we started Christmas dinner.  Prepare the turkey, vegetables, other meats and stuffing.  Make some batter for Yorkshire puddings, prepare two lots of potatoes for roast and mashed and finally wrap some asparagus tips in bacon.  Lovely…

After that we started to open some presents, whilst our present to my parents was their plane tickets we couldn’t not have them with something to open Christmas morning so we got them a couple of books each and something silly. My mum was not happy that we had spent more money on them...  I really wanted to get my dad an airfix Spitfire (seeing as he is rebuilding the real thing for me J), but we couldn’t find one…  So we got him a little radio control race care instead.  And when we went to the Christmas market we got my mum a couple of angel elephants.

We got through about half of the presents and then it was time to put the vegetables to on to cook, and to get the starter prepared.  So we all chipped in (it was great cooking with my mum again!) and sat down for the starter.

Afterwards I was given the job of carving the turkey (I don’t know why, I’ve never done it before and have no idea how to!) and after ruining one side my mum took over and showed me how to do it…

After the meal we opened the rest of the presents.  I had one gift that I knew about from Mrs Stace – a box of NYX Smokey Eye colours. I am boring when it comes to eye make-up.  I have two combinations that I wear; either dark brown or grey and then a beige tint.  I’d love to experiment, but don’t want to spend 5 euros per colour only to find I don’t like them.  But, a box of colours where I can try lots of combinations and then pick the ones I like best seemed liked a good idea.

And… She got me something that I wanted a few years ago but we couldn’t find! You see a couple of years ago there was a poll by Mattel to pick Barbie’s new career.  Some geeks managed to rig the poll and software engineer it was J But we never saw them in the shops; until this year when Mrs Stace spotted one!

So, 36 years old and I have my first doll!  With a laptop, smartphone, laptop case and Bluetooth headset.  I’m trying to work out whether or not to take it into the office and keep it on my desk, or whether to keep it in the study here.  But I love it J

I got Mrs Stace lots of Mayan chocolate from Mexico.  Chilli chocolate, normal dark chocolate, a special edition made for the end of the world (or to enjoy should it not happen – actually Mrs Stace said I should have given her that one before the 21st to enjoy, just in case…

And of course we got each other some jewellery, and bits and bobs.  It was wonderful watching her open her presents, and my parents open theirs.  And I imagine that they enjoyed watching me open mine as well J

All in all it was a great day, a wonderful visit and it was all I could do not to cry when they left to go through to the departure lounge. Or now whilst I’m typing this…

An absolutely wonderful Christmas J  

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Merry Christmas

OK...  I'm hypocritical, I'll admit it.  I am not religious (agonistic - I have no idea...) but I adore Christmas.  More the Victorian Christmas I suppose - peace on earth, good will to all etc.

Anyway, this year I get to spend it with my parents for the first time in 9 years.  I plan to enjoy it a lot!  I pick them up from the airport later today (and I'm so excited!  I can't wait!), so expect it to be quiet around here for the time being :)

Anyway, whatever you celebrate, I hope you have a wonderful time with your nearest and dearest!

Friday, 21 December 2012

You are my MUSE!

Christmas is nearly here, and back in the summer Mrs Stace and I treated ourselves to our first joint Christmas present.  An evening watching a little known band from Teignmouth.  Apparently they were recently voted the best band in the world by Q magazine.  Not that we are biased, owning all of their albums, but I would have to agree.

So Monday evening we went for a gourmet meal (at BK – for the first time in years and probably the last time for years too!) and joined the other 17000 people or so trying to get in. The organisation was actually very good though, and it wasn’t raining!  So inside of 20 minutes or so we were inside, and trying to decide where we were going to stand.  Too close and deafen ourselves, or too far away and not see anything.

We got a place, and waited for the opening act (and waited, and waited).  Andy Burrows came and did his set of about 30 minutes or so and then the stage hands started preparing the stage for the main act.

In an age where everything is controlled by computer I was amazed to see 4 people still being hoisted up to control the 4 lights for each of the members.

15 minutes later the lights came down and the title track of their new album blasts from the speakers, red lights and mist fills the stage and the crowd starts to go mad.

Out come the guys and the concert starts for real.


Just Wow…

Old and new songs played next to each other, sounding just as amazing as I was hoping for!

Then, the centre piece of the stage came to life!  An inverted pyramid drops from the ceiling, made from 4 or 5 different levels, and each one a TV screen.  And then a monster starts dancing on it.  Surreal, but stunning.

Then a few songs later the light shows started:

We spent the evening jumping, waving, dancing and of course being bathed in the sweat of those other 17000 people.  But it was so worth it!

Here are the people waiting for the encore replacing lighters with the flashes from mobile phones.

Assuming you are a fan of Space Rock I could not recommend seeing them enough - a great night, and quite cheap for such a concert too!

Something I have always wanted to know.  Just what does it feel like to stand on the stage and see all of those people there to watch you play your music, and have almost off of them jumping to your songs?

And there was no ban on cameras, as you may have noticed J At one stage I stopped taking photos as all I could see were camera phones pointing at the stage, really I should have taken one as it was a great sight.

And speaking of cameras…

I still need to do a review of the little camera that I bought for the Christmas market trip at the start of December – these shots were all taken holding the camera above my head and hoping for the best! (Without a flash obviously

Thursday, 20 December 2012

A compliment, a piece of good news and an embarrassing situation

Just a quick post about a few incidents from yesterday...

The first was in the office. Due to an issue we had recently a couple of external visitors were in to try and assure that a problem we had would not happen again.  We offered them a coffee or tea (we have a great espresso machine in the office since a couple of months ago - real espresso from freshly ground beans), but one of them wanted hot chocolate.  Something our old machine did, but the new one can't.

So I went to our car insurance help desk to use one of the old machines. There was a woman on a trip for coffee for lots of people and as I was trying to get a drink for an external visitor I asked if I could possibly get a couple of hot chocolates in between cups (something I wouldn't normally do, but I did not want to keep the visitors waiting).

Anyway, whilst I was getting my chocolate she turned to me and said, "I just have to tell you, you always dress so nice and look so good!  Seriously, I know a lot of women who could learn from you." Comments like that really give me a boost (something that I really need just before meetings with external people!)

Later on in the day I had to call our town hall to check that my name change form last week had gone through OK.  The local town hall needs legalized documents for name changes and this took some organising from the UK foreign office.  Once done though I can get my new drivers license and residency permit - with new picture, name and gender marker.  On the phone I was told, "Yes, it's all arranged.  You can get apply for your license tomorrow if you want."  OK, so the name is now Stacy and the gender female? "Yes, it's all in the system."

Woohoo!  That is something I was expecting to be difficult as Holland has different laws than the UK for these things, but it seems they will accept a UK passport to change things.  Another task ticked off!

And finally...  The embarrassment.

In a couple of weekends I start laser in preparation for surgery.  I know it's needed, but I am so not looking forward to it!

I do have a prescription for local aesthetic cream, and after work I went to get it.

The chemists was empty when it was my turn.  Happy face.  I gave her the prescription and she went away.  For a long time.  Three people showed up in the mean time.  She came back.  And started asking questions about the why and where it was going to be used so that they could give me the correct bottles.  Unhappy face.  Now I know that she was really trying to be helpful, but there was no way I could have answered her in such a crowded public place :(  I told her that and with nice vague answers we managed to get to a solution.  But, wow, was it difficult :)

Oh well, as the Dutch saying goes "Het hoort erbij!" :)

Monday, 17 December 2012

Amazing, wonderful, fantastic colleagues!

Well… Wow…

As I wrote last week it has been (now a little longer than) a year since I transitioned. I got everyone in my close(ish) group breakfast pastries last week, on the anniversary of telling people, to thank them for all of the support over the last year.  I’ve said it before, and will again, it would not have been anywhere near as easy as it has been without their support!

I spent the day speaking with people and finding out that the people who have started during the year never actually knew that I was transsexual – double woohoo; they didn’t see anyone except for Stacy and no one has been gossiping J There was only one downer from the conversations, and that was the one person who did say, “Oh I didn’t know!” during a conversation where the fact that it was a year came up (I was not present at that time, “But now you say it, yes I can see”.  Jammer, but never mind!

Then the day of 1 year living as Stacy came and I didn’t do anything special, living as me has been special enough as it is.

Half way through the day our DBA came and ask my boss for a quick word and they disappeared from the room.  Now I know that he wasn’t feeling well last week, so I just thought it was that.  Then suddenly there was a huge commotion in the hallway, with people starting to sing ‘Lang zal ze leven!’  I just assumed it was someone’s birthday (I can be rather stupid at times!), but then the whole department of development and projects came into the room and surrounded my desk.  My turn for the bowling ball eyes I think!  Something that I was just so not expecting J

My boss gave a little speech about what happened twelve months ago, and gave me a birthday card, with 1 on it of course, and a gift voucher for The Body Shop.  Wow…  Apparently on Monday evening someone in the team noticed that it was 12 months, went and spoke to my boss and they organised a collection and card for me.

I had to give a little speech of course, basically saying what I said above.  And, I’m ashamed to say it, ended up chocked up and could not finish – so my boss finished for me.

The words in the cards were wonderful, a little message from many of my colleagues.  My two favourite were (maybe paraphrased as the card is at home J):

“A year already? I hadn’t noticed; probably because you did it so well that there was nothing to notice; you’re still you!”

“You’ve grown so much in the last year, and are so happy.  And you’re not even (that much) more bitchy than you used to be”

Thinking back still brings a huge smile to my face.  I was gobsmacked, completely!

BTW Did I mention that I work with some absolutely amazing people!

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Accidentally Outing Myself... Oops

As I wrote yesterday, today marks 12 months since I told the people at work that as of the following day I would be living, and so working, as Stacy.

Also, as I wrote yesterday, the people have been really supportive.

So...  Today I bought breakfast in for everyone who works on my floor, and in my wing of the building.  Croissants (plain + cheese), pain au chocolate, Dutch egg cookies, fruit teacakes and a large Stollen.  I sent a mail to everyone saying thank you and letting them know where they could find the food.

And so a steady stream of people came to congratulate me on making a year (I don't know how many times I have told someone - today, and the breakfast, is about me saying thank you more than celebrating making it 12 months - but thanks!) and taking food.

And then marketing arrived en mass...  And apparently I have just outed myself to the new members of the team. One of the women who started in the last 12 months was really confused by the mail, what news?  What support?  And so someone told her what the mail was about.

Apparently she had no idea.  I said thank you to her well :)  That kind of thing can really make your day!

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

12 Months

There are a few stories to tell at the moment, “fun” stories about documentation and about life in general.

But I couldn’t let this week go by without another timeline post.

And so it is…  12 months ago, a Sunday evening, and a very stressed me climbing the walls in fear.  I was two days from going full time and one day from informing everyone in my life about what was going on.

I was trying to figure out what on earth was I going to wear for the first day, such a shallow question, and yet at the time so very important.

Just how was I going to break the news to my team?  And, assuming I came up with a plan what were the chances that it would remain in place once I got into the room with them.  Would I managed to hold myself together long enough to tell people?  Would I just be a nervous wreck and not have the ability to tell them.

How would they react?  Would they laugh?  Call me insane? Or worse?  Would they still be talking to me, and would I be able to keep their respect?

And once that challenge was done…  The department meeting where my boss would tell everyone. I was not sure what his plan was, although I had every faith that he would do it well; but it was still an unknown.   And again, 30 people finding out in one go! Shock? Fear? Ridicule?  Ug!

And finally (professionally at least!) the whole company.  Finding out in drips and drabs as we are a service company and it’s just not feasible to close down the phones to tell all 160 people in one go.  And many of these are not people that I know personally.  How are people who do not know me going to react?

And of course, finding out is one thing – but what would they do when they saw me for the first time.  It’s one thing to hear about something, quite another to see someone for the first time.

Well, as you know it all went really very well.

My team took it in their stride, shock of course, but with a lot of understanding and a lot of support.

The department meeting went very well.  Tomorrow we will have a new team leader Stacy will be joining us for the running of [old name]’s team. Obviously he put more into it than that, but I’ll be honest my head was spinning that much that I can’t remember all of it.  I do quite clearly remember someone asking, “But what will [old name] be doing?”  That is when I joined in, “Err… I’ll be Stacy” Cue lots of ‘er?’ faces and slow realization.  The rest of the day was spent with people coming to my desk to congratulate me on the decision and to wish me luck.

And the company?  Well, lots of emails, obviously.  All of them positive and offering support. And as we had a company initiative to write cards for people and putting them in the Christmas tree.  And I got loads! I cannot tell you how much of a difference it makes to know that the people you work with are so much with you!

12 months ago.  Seems like years, seems like yesterday.  One of the scariest days of my life, one of the best.  One of the strangest years!  And definitely the best!

And I could not have done it without all of the help that I have had, from friends, family, the VU hospital, the company I work for and all of my colleagues.

Thank you all!

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Three years ago today...

Three years ago today I had a massive panic attack and ended up telling Mrs Stace everything

As a result we talked all night and she sent me to the doctor, who sent me to the VU

It's strange to look back now.  It's only three years ago, and yet it seems like a lifetime.

In the mean time I have fallen apart (the three or four months after) and gotten myself together again

I have had 2 1/2 years of therapy leading to the conclusion that I needed to transition

I have had several firsts, first time out as me, first time meeting my boss and friends etc.
And I managed to get through them unscathed :)

I have transitioned at home and work.

I have had 9 months of anti-androgen and 6 months of hormones

I have started, and finished, speech therapy

I am a different person, and yet still the old me in many ways

I am me :)

I am so much happier in life!

What on earth are the next three years going to bring?!

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

OK I’ll admit it, I adore Christmas.  Or rather I love our romanticized Victorian and Dickensian interpretation of Christmas.  Peace on earth, goodwill to all and the chance to make your living room chintzy without feeling too guilty about it!  And of course buying those special people in your life something special.

Mrs Stace feels the same way and that is why at the weekend we drove down to Cologne for a day wondering around the markets (they have 7 there!) drinking mulled wine, eating wonderful German outdoor food (bratwurst, weird little potato cakes that drip fat as they are freshly fried, and pork on a stick – a meter of port BBQ’d on a stick that is!).  And, yes, I have done another 10KM today to try and make up for it!

The journey there was fairly pleasant, the motorways in Holland were clear, and the autobahns were clear enough get there a little earlier than planned (even if not clear enough to see what the new car can do L).  We got to the hotel too early to check in so we left our luggage with the concierge and went into the bitter cold to go looking for the first market.

Wow…  Busy…  Of course considering that it was the first weekend of the market it should have been expected, but there were places where you just couldn’t walk!  Still, the general atmosphere was good and we took a quick look at the first 3 markets before moving onto the 4th (and the furthest away from the hotel, we though) and starting to really take a look.  Whilst the atmosphere at this market, in the harbor, was not the best – the stalls were just white tents with no decoration – the goods that they had there were really interesting.

From little cats, to collections of baubles and a stall that sold little branches and trunks hollowed out with little windows.  You put a tea light in the hollowed out bit and get the shadow of whatever is in the little window.

We walked back through two smaller markets, starting with the mulled wine and food at the same time J, and got some more knickknacks for home, and a couple of gifts for family.  A few of the stalls had some great little tea light holders.  An opaque glass, with a smaller painted glass in the middle.  When you light the tea light the picture is projected onto the opaque surface, and jumps around as the flame flickers.  Really cute.  So a couple of those came back with us.  They are really difficult to photograph, so sorry for the awful pictures below J

A bit more wandering and we decided that we needed a break.  So a walk back to the hotel to see if our room was ready (it was) and if we could get the keys (we could).  The room was gorgeous, and we collapsed on the bed for a quick rest. Well, it was supposed to.  I fell asleep L I had been on the go for 10 hours at the time, and had driven 300km’s.  Well that is my excuse and I am keeping to it!

One rest later and we were on the way again, it had got much colder!  We walked to the angels market (quite a distance from the hotel) and it was definitely worth the walk! More mulled wine, more fried potato and more interesting stalls! There was one double sized stall that was so popular that it had a queue to get in!  But it was worth it, the decorations there were really well made, and had price to match, but there was a nativity scene that was just too cute not to buy.  I picked up one of the figurines and changed my mind!  Until I realised it was the cost of the set, and not the single figure J

We finished there and stopped for a non-mulled wine drink (there are times when you just need something normal!) in a café before walking back to the other markets to see what they were like at night.

And got distracted by a department store.  I miss department stores.  When I was growing up Lewis’ always made an effort for the Christmas window displays, and I was always so excited to see what they had done for the grotto…  And we past one that had done exactly that!

After a brief detour, and getting lost in the store, or rather getting lost trying to get out, we continued on our way.  The first one did not disappoint with the lights and decorations.

And the wooden sculptures that they had there were beautifully illuminated, making them very impressive

And then back to the Dom Market, in the shadow of the cathedral!  Ultra busy, lots of lights and really nice to walk around.  The only problem was that by this point we had been on the go for a long time and the cold was really starting to get to me (it took me an hour after getting back to the hotel room to stop shivering, Mrs Stace was getting a little (quite) concerned) so we stopped for more BBQ’d food - a meter of port on a skewer each, really nice!  I can say that Germans know how to make good outdoor food!

(Oh, and on a side note - I treated myself to a Sony RX100 camera for the trip.  As close to a DSLR whilst still being ultra compact as you can get, none of shots used a flash!  I'll do a mini review at some point I think)

A wonderful day out, and a really nice hotel to recover in at the end of it.  The next morning was wet and miserable, and I felt sorry for the people arriving to do the markets in that weather!  We jumped in the car after a too large breakfast (on holiday you have to don’t you!) and drove back home.

And of course…  Spending hours the day before in the markets really got us in the mood so once we had lunch I started baking mince pies from the mincemeat I made at the start of November and we put our tree and decorations up.  Ahhh…..

It's the most wonderful time of the year!