I’ve got loads of stuff bouncing round that’s kind-of worth recording and kind-of not, in all sorts of different areas. A significant amount of insignificant things. Essentially, it’s time for the latest in an ongoing series of I-went-there-and-I-did-that posts. Haven’t done one of these in a while since recent posts have been concerned with trying to do something about hair removal, coming out to someone else in work, and the situation with Mrs K. Let’s revisit those first:
Mrs K Update
Yet again, nothing to report. I think we need to agree a time that we can allocate to having a practical discussion of what is happening, when and by whom. She’ll probably accuse me of thinking like a man with this approach, because real women just want to talk out their feelings and aren’t interested in solutions, apparently. But whatever, waiting for the subject to arise spontaneously isn’t doing either of us any favours.
Hair Removal Update
Now here’s an area where I do have an update. I got a response from the electrolysis clinic to the email I sent them 6 weeks earlier! Apparently my email had gone into their spam folder. So the upshot is that I have an appointment for an initial consultation on 14th November. And as they offer laser too, I can get a second opinion on my unsuitability for laser treatment.
Outing In Work Update
Nothing significant to report here. Let’s just say that there will be no further outings before my employers are officially informed, which will be in January. I’m thinking about that discussion and I’m leaning towards approaching my union to accompany me to the meeting.
This is the main bulk of this post, so let’s get started…
A few months back I made a conscious decision to step back from my regular weekly attendance at the Belfast Butterfly Club’s “anchor” meetings, in the hope that it would free me up to do other things on other nights, and generally be a bit more spontaneous. It has worked even better than I had hoped. I have been building up my social life outside the trans* community, which I think is something very important. Ultimately, I want to be just another woman, which means with a wider group of people than the transgender community. That’s not to say I’m ashamed of the trans* community (although some of the individual members are idiots, a bit like every other community) nor indeed would I seek to deny or hide the fact that I am trans*. But ultimately if I’m just going to stay within the confines of our narrow community, what’s the point of transitioning? Anyway, back to the various social activities…I dined out with Andrea a few Thursdays back, at a place we had been previously, the Mourne Seafood Bar. The food was excellent as before, in fact it might have been slightly better than last time, particularly the amazing chowder. Ruth, if you’re reading, it might even be better than Loch Fyne! And as usual the company was great too, even if there was a group of women at the next table who got progressively louder as the evening wore on and a man elsewhere who seemed to think his conversation was so stimulating that he had to say it loudly enough for the entire restaurant to hear. But the real reason for mentioning this evening was to write about one particularly heart-stopping moment afterwards.
When Andrea and I arrived in Belfast we were unable to park in our usual on-street location, as the whole street in question was lined with traffic cones despite there being no visible roadworks. We drove round the block and found traffic cones at every turn, and ended up parking quite a bit further from our restaurant than would have been ideal. It was annoying, but we didn’t think anything of it. However after the meal when we returned to the car the traffic cones were still in place. We pulled out, turned the corner, and there right in front of us was a roadblock manned by two PSNI officers. On a one-way street, with no turn-offs. There was no getting out of this. The Police Service of Northern Ireland were in my way. Kirsty was about to have her first encounter with the filth. I was, I don’t mind admitting, bricking it. For those of you outside Northern Ireland, you may not realise but thanks to our toxic legacy of sectarian terrorism and paramilitarism, police here have the power to stop you at any time, without having to demonstrate due cause, ask what you’re doing, where you’re going, who you’re seeing, and demand identification. Thankfully, in recent years it’s not a power that is exercised tremendously often, but it’s there and it’s just accepted as part of police work. Of course I did have my driving licence with me, and of course it had a picture of me-Bob on it and Bob’s name. While I wasn’t doing anything illegal, having to produce Bob’s driving licence was going to be embarrassing at the very least. As my heart rate went into overdrive, one of the officers approached my car. I rolled down the window.
“Sorry ma’am, would you mind waiting around five minutes. They’re doing some filming and there’s going to be a car going through there at high speed and we don’t want any accidents. Thanks.”
Phew. I laughed with relief, and then Andrea and I sat patiently waiting for some high-speed car stunts. However, the police waved us through without us having seen a thing. Very disappointing. Although we did at least see some filming, at a nearby surface car park which was extremely well-lit with all sorts of lights, a cameraman filmed a woman in a raincoat talking on her phone, while a second man held a boom microphone above her head from about five metres behind her. Ooh, the glamour and the glitz!
Also, I got ma’am-ed by a policeman – result!
I have been spending quite a bit of time with cis friends Alice and Joanne in recent weeks. Alice is quite the artist – really, she has several examples of her own artwork hanging in her home and they are excellent – so she had asked me if I fancied going with her to the David Hockney exhibition that was on at the MAC – the Belfast Metropolitan Arts Centre. Well since it seemed like a perfectly pleasant way to spend a Sunday afternoon I agreed, even though she didn’t exactly give it the big sell by telling me that she thought he was overrated, but was willing to keep an open mind.
We met at the entrance and went to get our tickets. The woman at the box office explained the various options – a guided tour using an app downloaded to your smartphone (cost: £3), an actual guide book that looked more like a child’s colouring-in book (cost: £3) or just go up to the gallery and walk round yourself (suggested donation: £3). Alice said in her friendliest voice, loud enough for box-office-woman to hear, that she would let me decide because she didn’t like David Hockney anyway. And I added that for me the jury was out, but I’m willing to give him a go. So fair play to box-office-woman, she said the donation was only suggested, and why don’t we just take two tickets without making a donation, and then after we had been round the exhibition we can pay according to how impressed we were. That sounded reasonable, so off we went.Much of the exhibition was made up of Hockney’s earlier works, centred on a series of drawings (the exhibition is entitled “I Draw, I Do”) called “A Rake’s Progress”, inspired by a trip to the USA in the early sixties. To be blunt, most of it was rubbish that looked like it had been done by a particularly untalented five-year-old. It was all the more frustrating that among all the dross that looked like it had been tossed out when it was late and he was tired, were a few gems that showed the talent. One piece called “The Wallet Begins To Empty”, part of that series, caught my eye. The quality of drawing was pretty pants, but I liked the imagery and the metaphor, but overall my favourite piece was something called “Tall Trees”.
This was much bigger than most of the other pieces, and was very visually striking in the flesh. Oddly enough, it was produced on a computer and so it was a print. There is no “original” of this artwork, unless it is in a series of 1s and 0s inside a computer chip. There were quite a few images of this nature, including a few that were done not even on a computer, but on an iPad. But striking as “Tall Trees” is, the frustration is still there that quite a bit of the “foliage” is so slapdash in its style. Maybe that’s the genius of the man. Like an impressionist painter who throws in the odd patch of hyperreal detail just to prove he can do it, just so you know that all the other slapdash stuff is deliberate and he isn’t just rubbish at drawing. But overall the exhibition didn’t inspire me.
However, if the Hockney exhibition was disappointing, in the upstairs exhibition space was something that can only be described as a complete and utter load of pretentious bollocks. Or alternatively, a complete and utter load of stuff on some shelves. For upstairs we found a piece of sculpture called “Calendar” by a sculptor/artist named Keith Wilson. Never have I been more baffled by a piece of so-called art. If this is art, so is the contents of my garage. My garage contains shelves, drawers, bikes, a lawnmower, a swingball, a broken vacuum cleaner and various sundry items that should have been thrown away but never were in case they ever proved useful. I suspect that Keith Wilson had a similar garage and then instead of throwing it all in a skip like he should have done, he stuck it all on a grid of metal shelving, came up with some cock and bull story about each box representing one of 365 days in a year, and the contents of each box representing the variety of life over the course of that year, and then ker-ching, gullible art lovers falling over themselves to treat the emperor to a set of the finest new clothes available. Alice and I agreed that the MAC coffee shop was the best thing to visit next. Thankfully, the coffee and tray bakes were works of art in themselves.It was a lovely afternoon. We spent about an hour going round the galleries, and then another two hours sitting chatting in the coffee shop afterwards. No need to go into the details of the conversation, but it was wide-ranging, funny and serious. As we were leaving, she was saying about how she really fancied a film on at QFT that week, called “Hunt For The Wilderpeople“. Oddly enough, I had been at a cinema meetup with Joanne the previous evening, and Joanne had been telling me about the same film, and that she had put up a trip to see it at the QFT on meetup.com. I told Alice that I was already considering going to see it, but she said that if I didn’t get to see it that week, maybe I could go with her the following week, and if not, the two of us could meet for a midweek evening coffee and chat. Well OK then. In fact, I noticed during the week that Joanne’s cinema meetup had disappeared from the site, so I assumed I’d be going to see the film with Alice the following week.
The following Sunday was my monthly book group. This month’s book was “A Short Gentleman” by Jon Canter (Kirsty’s succinct review: “Meh”). What is more of note here is that Joanne took me aside after the book group to explain that the reason she had taken the cinema meetup down is that she had discovered a not-strictly-legal stream of the same film on her generic streaming device. So instead of going out to the cinema, would Alice and I like to come to her house to watch the film the next night? Er, OK then. So without getting into too much detail, it was a very enjoyable, funny, sad, feelgood movie, which the three of us watched on Joanne’s settee while devouring a whole tray of flapjacks that she had just made. That’s all well and good. But the significance of that was greater for me. Me, a transgender woman taking still fairly tentative steps out into the wider world. Turning up at these events unannounced, frightened even at what people might think of me. Now I have friends, both cis and trans. Choosing to spend time with me. Asking me into their homes. And at all times I feel like another one of the girls. It’ll be Dirty Dancing next!
The three of us have been out together a couple more times since that. I’ll not go into even more detail, enough to say that it’s happening. I’ll end by noting a comment from Mrs K a few days ago. I had asked her when she was planning on going out over the coming weeks so I could arrange my own social life as well as book an appointment with the electrolysis specialist. She commented that her own nights out are pretty straightforward and regular because she generally goes to organised weekly or monthly events. With me, on the other hand, she said things are harder to predict because “you actually have friends and you just decide to do things”. Nice way to be!