"The unexamined life is not worth living" Socrates

- - scatterings of ideas sent to my younger self, a sensitive girl who was fooled into believing she was a boy because of anatomy - -

Sunday 30 December 2018

Where Are We Headed?

A few days ago, I joked with K about how hard it must be living with someone who is constantly examining the world. Self-examination continues, but these days it mostly has to do with my reaction to events in our world; our own world, and the larger world around us. Unlike our own, it is so hard to be optimistic about where we (the human race and our 'civilization') in that larger world seem to be headed.

Looking around at how crazy everything is these days, it is hard to avoid noticing disturbing patterns, evident in media of all sorts. Oh, so much of the media is seductive and wondrous. I still recall a friend calling up an obscure song on Youtube I thought was lost forever on a broken 78rpm shellac disk. The ability to share ideas with people across the globe and chat with friends was and still is a sort of lifeline for many, including me. 

Without the 'net, I wouldn't be me, so it is hard for me to admit how negative it all makes me feel these days. It seems clear that without vigilance toward media, we shall find ourselves slaves held by invisible shackles.

The oldest, print media, has declined to the point where it seems hardly relevant, and yet that is where, from time to time, a voice cries in the wilderness, calling for sanity (much as someone writing in a blog might).

Broadcast media, television and radio (again, irrelevant mostly) have become such well-organized tools of control by the rich that one hardly knows where to begin. Hint: advertising is everywhere now. Those five-minute breaks are easily ignored, but much of what might be called advertising appears in the programs, and is designed to wear down the viewer in a subliminal way. It tries to make us immune to feeling, so that we can watch cruelty of every sort, night after night (K and I still remember watching video from the Vietnam War - so immediate and cruel). We can watch fictional cruel people murder and be murdered in return without feeling that it is unnatural. If you approach it as a visitor to the planet might, the repetitious mind-numbing tactics are so overt they make one want to scream and run. More on that later. Don't run. Instead, pay attention as that visitor would.

The media misnamed social is the most dangerous in my estimation. It has the feel of being under our control at all times, and yet this could not be further from the truth. Not sure who originally wrote "the internet is forever", but we could ramble on for weeks on the way this truism has ruined lives. More than that, this form of media, perhaps because it feels personal and controllable, has the power to mess with your life, even though it might change it in a positive way too, as when two people who haven't seen one another for many decades, reconnect, as K and I have. It has the power to change how you feel about just about anything, because many articles are targeted using your own usage as a model. One might consider that the computer "bots" are benign, but look up the word "naive" if you really believe that to be universally true.

When my kids were growing up, we were so lucky. Television and movies were the only media to be concerned with. Some friends thought that keeping their children from watching certain programs was the way to keep them from harm. I wasn't naive enough to suppose that we could protect them that way. Instead, we talked to them about how it was natural to feel envious seeing people on television having things we don't, but real people don't live in "television land". We tried to avoid showing them violence, of course, but we discussed that too. Television can educate you in a negative sort of way; a "don't be like that" way.

I'm not naive (see above) enough to imagine that any power on earth or any individual can fix the way media is controlling our lives now. It seems to me that the very best we can do is to be aware of how it will affect you if you let it. Good parenting these days requires that we do the same for our young ones.

The best you can do is to think for yourself and then be yourself, not who the internet, or some media mogul wants you to be. 
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 
Found on the internet ...
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 

A bit of time travel to a sillier time, not a kinder time. Back then a computer was still a person, and  the television was thought to be a miracle that would help educate the young by showing them the world from their home.

GrandDad liked this piece though:

and GrandMa was fond of this one.

I still love my grandparents so much. They couldn't be held responsible for the direction the world had gone or would go, no more than you or I. 

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

We Wish Everyone a Wonderful 2019!

Tuesday 18 December 2018

Human Interest Story

Not long after I began to present as the woman I am, the editor from a local paper got in touch with me. She asked if I would be interested in sitting down with her to be interviewed. It seems that she thought a story of someone transitioning from male to female in our community might be a good "human interest story".

Now, first of all, I was living in a very small town in a very large county in Central Ontario; a large county with a relatively small and closely-linked population. Since I was a teacher at the only high school there, it seemed unlikely there were more than five or six people who hadn't already heard that one of the older teachers who "used to be a man was now a woman". More importantly, something felt wrong about being the feature for a story in the newspaper. It might be that I didn't feel prepared to tell the real story.

I declined the opportunity to chat with the editor and no human interest story was written about me.

From time to time, it occurs to me that a well-written piece might have been more than interesting - it might have been illuminating for readers of that paper. And yet, what might they have learned? For many, the fact that someone had done what I had done was the story, and that much they already knew. I suspect the editor thought the real story was one of struggle to get up the nerve to defy convention - a story of bravery.

Closer to the real story is that being authentic is essential for everyone. Not hating myself for pretending every day was important. Decades of self-harm were coming to an end.

Oh yes, for the curious, of course there is a dramatic story of the disruption my deception caused. Decades of thinking there was something wrong with what I wanted for myself; hiding it from people who loved me. Certain I was damaged goods, I hid myself, because in that world, what was true about me and what I wanted to express were wrong, maybe even illegal.

The story that could have been told to that editor, if I had thought of it then, was that being a woman is one of the least important things about me. Of all the things that make me unique, just like most of the women of the world, being a woman is a very small thing.

Here is the real story. Some, and perhaps, many men have a huge problem with any woman who denies their entitlement and says that being a man is no special achievement at all. Transitioning to female from male (or male to female) challenges that entitlement.

I am convinced that as societies become truly civilized, we will all be judged (if judgments are made) for the unique qualities we contribute. Being a woman, like being Caucasian, will be among the least noticeable ways of describing who we are. At just about the same time being transexual will be the non-event it should be; something essential to the individual. Such a change will unavoidably affect those close to us, but it needn't be newsworthy.

Saturday 8 December 2018

Women Can

This past week I've been working on a DIY project. We own the special equipment required, and I have the expertise, so why not? More importantly, when the hunky guy came a month ago and gave us (two women with no man in sight) an estimate for the project, it was ridiculously expensive. 

The project is mostly complete now and it looks great, if I do say so myself. 

I knew when I told K "let me do this instead of paying way too much" that the time line would be the difficult part. The hunky guy ... let's call him HG ... would have done it in one day. It has taken me four days of actual work. There was a fairly long delay getting started. I had to give some thought to the steps needed; where to organize materials and so forth. Planning took a while. Having the flu didn't help a bit; there went two weeks. Moving heavy material about is something I didn't ever think I'd be doing again (my knees are telling me I'm not sixty anymore). I had almost forgotten measure twice, then measure again. You forget that at your peril ... I found that out today, but fortunately it was not a fatal mistake; I made it work. I'd forgotten the pleasure of rescuing a project that is about to go off the rails. I had forgotten a lot, but the remembering has been fun. 

HG might have suggested a reasonable price for his services. I am so pleased he did not (did I mention I've had fun?) and soon, we will have a very pretty addition to our family room, and two very happy ladies who know they don't always have to hire HG when they want something done. 

Monday 26 November 2018

Take Care of You

This is a cross-post with my other blog, On The Other Hand. 

Here is a letter to my younger self; one who couldn't know better. 

Fear of abandonment haunted you. Your need to control relationships made you push away people you cared about, especially if they cared about you. You feared that someone that close, whom you care for so much, might uncover a great secret that you were sure nobody could possibly understand. More than anything you feared that ultimate rejection. Ironically, loss and fear of loss made it impossible for you to trust your own feelings. They were a source of so many of your problems. Soon, you learned not to ever rock the boat; taking a perverse pride in being a "goer-alonger". 

You have to understand and care for yourself. When you have a strong feeling that there is something that you need to act upon, even or especially when, that something is only for you and not for the good of others, resist the urge to push that feeling down. 

When you hear someone say something like "Do you have any idea how that (action you are contemplating) will affect me?", carefully consider the motive behind that question. 

Know yourself. Understand that what you think is self-control is a lack of self-esteem. Realize how others have learned to manipulate you, then turn those questions around and ask them of yourself. 

Do you have any idea how ignoring your own needs will affect you?

Saturday 10 November 2018

Winter is here.

Winter is knocking on the door. Last week it was cold and raining. Yesterday it snowed, again, and this time it stuck and stayed; a sign of things to come. Today's post: Canadian perspectives on wintertime. 

This past week was a lovely holiday for K and I, visiting with family, chosen and otherwise. Outside, it was dreich, as my friends in Scotland would say, but K and I kept warm ~ love and a good fire have that effect.  

Among the highlights was a trip to Parry Sound with three of the chosen family mentioned above to hear two Canadian treasures, Whitney Rose then Alan Doyle and the Beautiful, Beautiful Band perform. 

Alan told the story of the genesis of the song Laying Down to Perish. In April of 1917 four men went out onto the ice off Fogo Island Newfoundland to hunt. When the wind shifted, they were stranded. One of them carved a message on his gaff, then sent it adrift, hoping it would be found and returned to the families, which it was. He carved the date, their names, and the simple message: laying down to perish.

Living isn’t easy
Dying isn’t hard
When the hungriest days of winter
Plays her wicked cards

I’ll not be called a quitter
‘Cause I chose to take a knee
For the ice won’t e’er be broken
Not by no man, not by me

Laying down to perish
God knows where I’ll go
Laying down to perish
I just wanted you to know

I’ll make my wife a widow
But I won’t have her trace the shore
With a candle in the window
And foolish hope above the door

I’ve got no time for haunting
The ones I’ve held so dear
So I’ll carve the crudest message now
Before I disappear

Laying down to perish
God knows where I’ll go
Laying down to perish
I just wanted you to know

I am not so sad to pass
To what lies beyond the snow
But to have you think I left you
Would break my heart and soul

Let there be a warm hereafter
In the sweetest by and by
Let my house be filled with laughter
Should I ever cross your mind, now I’m

Laying down to perish
God knows where I’ll go
Laying down to perish
I just wanted you to know

Another perspective on winter in Canada, from another icon of music, Gordon Lightfoot

Song For A Winter's Night
Gordon Lightfoot

The lamp is burnin' low upon my table top
The snow is softly fallin'
The air is still within the silence of my room
I hear your voice softly callin'
If I could only have you near
To breathe a sigh or two
I would be happy just to hold the hands I love
Upon this winter night with you.

The smoke is rising in the shadows overhead
My glass is almost empty
I read again between the lines upon each page
The words of love you sent me
If I could know within my heart
That you were lonely too
I would be happy just to hold the hands I love
Upon this winter night with you.

The fire is dying now, my lamp is growing dim
The shades of night are liftin'
The mornin' light steals across my windowpane
Where webs of snow are driftin'
If I could only have you near
To breathe a sigh or two
I would be happy just to hold the hands I love
Upon this winter night with you, 
And to be once again with with you.

Sunday 28 October 2018

Dear Haters

I am proud to say that my grandmother on my dad's side was born in Scotland. 

I've been on visits there twice and if I had my way, I would love to live there. 

All of these connections are only strengthened by finding out that the government and police in Scotland are taking an active part in letting haters know that they are not welcome. 

Perhaps all civilized countries might adopt this approach to haters. 

Dear homophobes, racists, bigots, transphobes, and disablers. 

There are things this country doesn't welcome. 

We don't welcome you attacking people because of their religion, where they're from, or the colour of their skin.

We don't welcome you abusing and bullying disabled people.

We don't welcome threatening gay, lesbian, or transgender people, with verbal or physical abuse. 

Haters are not going to hate here. 

That's why if we see anything, we're calling the police.

We believe in acceptance and it's time you accept that.

Yours, Scotland

Thursday 25 October 2018

It Started Out As a Good Idea ...

I remember watching Monty Python's Flying Circus way back. As a skit was going along and running out of gas (or petrol I suppose, since it was very English) an army officer, played by Graham Chapman, would interrupt saying, "Stop that! It's getting silly!" I feel that way quite often and wish some groups could have a do-over. Sadly, more often than not, things just keep getting more and more silly. 

Around the same time, a political party evolved from a discussion over dinner at our lawyer's house. We were all concerned about overspending in the Canadian government of the day. The conservative ideas we proposed were very pro-business, and yet they included ideas about making sure that the average person would make a decent wage, too. After all, how can businesses thrive when people haven't enough money to purchase their products? 

We decided it was time to expand the party membership by having an open meeting. That is where things went very wrong. A few highly vocal and persuasive extremists and bigots exercised their democratic rights and the original platform was replaced by something quite hideous. Those of us who had started the party simply walked away, depriving the group of our organizational skills. Thankfully, the party died. 

I sometimes think of that adventure into politics, and subsequent adventures in church-going, and wonder how often that sort of thing has happened; when a wonderful idea has been germinated, but gets twisted and changed into something else as it becomes organized into a religion or a political party.

Ideas and beliefs are good. Institutions with members and rules become extreme. They tend to polarize a population into we and they, good and evil.

Perhaps, we all need a do-over. I know it has done me a world of good personally!

And now, for something completely different: 

The Galaxy Song
Monty Python: John Du Prez / Eric Idle

Whenever life gets you down, Mrs. Brown,
And things seem hard or tough,
And people are stupid, obnoxious or daft,
And you feel that you've had quite eno-o-o-o-o-ough,

Just remember that you're standing on a planet that's evolving
And revolving at 900 miles an hour.
It's orbiting at 19 miles a second, so it's reckoned,
A sun that is the source of all our power.
Now the sun, and you and me, and all the stars that we can see,
Are moving at a million miles a day,
In an outer spiral arm, at 40, 000 miles an hour,
Of a galaxy we call the Milky Way.

Our galaxy itself contains a hundred billion stars;
It's a hundred thousand light-years side to side;
It bulges in the middle sixteen thousand light-years thick,
But out by us it's just three thousand light-years wide.
We're thirty thousand light-years from Galactic Central Point,
We go 'round every two hundred million years;
And our galaxy is only one of millions of billions
In this amazing and expanding universe.

The universe itself keeps on expanding and expanding,
In all of the directions it can whiz;
As fast as it can go, at the speed of light, you know,
Twelve million miles a minute and that's the fastest speed there is.
So remember, when you're feeling very small and insecure,
How amazingly unlikely is your birth;
And pray that there's intelligent life somewhere out in space,
'Cause there's bugger all down here on Earth!

Sunday 21 October 2018

What is the Worst That Can Happen?

A few days ago, K had the car, so I decided to take advantage of the good weather and walk to the store, only about four kilometers round trip. It really doesn't seem so very long ago that such a walk dressed casually, as myself, would have frightened me. These days, I give it almost no thought, and on this day that was a bit too brave as it turned out. I mentioned good weather. There had been a storm the night before, and it was brilliantly sunny, but a bit breezy as I left the house. By the time I was half-way to my destination, the wind had freshened a lot and it felt good, until I realized that my hair was blowing about. As Grandma used to say, I felt like the wreck of the Hesperus. Reaching the store, looking in the window, I could see that my hair was all over the place. That isn't good when you have only so much of it and usually fix it strategically, shall I say.

I could have abandoned the shopping (it wasn't essential) and gone home. Instead, I pushed the nest on top of my head around a bit with my fingers and did my shopping. Yes, folks looked at me in my dishevelment, but then everyone who came in looked disheveled. As far as I know, the fashion police were not called, and no harm came to me or anyone else as a result. 

Under the heading of the worst that can happen, the New York Times has reported that the Trump administration has draft legislation that will roll back protections for transgendered individuals which the previous administration passed. If passed, the new legislation would define "the sex listed on a person's birth certificate, as originally issued" as their definitive sex "unless rebutted by reliable genetic evidence." Now, the legislators might say, "Oh, this definition is only for specific, limited situations." And I say, this is another step along the way to fulfilling an ultra-conservative (religious right) agenda. I feel so awful for all my brothers and sisters (over 1.4 million of them) in that country. I'm lucky; I can just stay away. 

One can only hope, fervently, that these elections in a couple of weeks there put an end to Trump's ability to push legislation through Congress. 

This election is going to have a lot to say about the American people. Do they realize that giving this person control of their country was a mistake that they will put right as quickly as possible, or do they really want to continue along the path that leads to isolation from the rest of the world?

I can walk out my door, as myself, every day, without fear. How can it be that in the 'land of the free', they seem to be intent upon removing that right from a large percentage of their population? 

Nobody should have to live a worst case scenario every day of their life. 

Wednesday 10 October 2018

Somewhat Speechless

No, not quite speechless, but so close.

Last night K treated me to a lovely night out and what a treat! After a splendid dinner together, we attended a recital by Renée Fleming, accompanied, beautifully, on the piano, by Richard Bado.

At the end of her recital, she was called back over and over, and gave several encores. As a last, she asked for a request from the audience, and, thanks to an enthusiastic woman near us, sang Song to the Moon, from Dvorak's opera, Rusalka

As someone commented on this video, “She puts the magic in between the notes like no other singer”. Every part was magic. 

Renée Fleming transported me to heaven.

She did sing some popular pieces, but no Cole Porter. I wish we could have sung this one to her, because Renée is the absolute top.

You're The Top
Cole Porter

At words poetic I'm so pathetic
That I always have found it best
Instead of getting 'em off my chest,
To let 'em rest - unexpressed.
I hate parading my serenading,
As I’ll probably miss a bar,
But if this ditty is not so pretty,
At least it'll tell you how great you are.

You're the top! you're the colosseum,
You're the top! You're the Louvre museum,
You're the melody from a symphony by Strauss,
You're a Bendel bonnet,
A Shakespeare sonnet,
You're Mickey Mouse!

You're the Nile! You're the tow'r of Pisa,
You're the smile, on the Mona Lisa!
I'm a worthless cheque, a total wreck, a flop!
But if baby I’m the bottom,
You're the top!

You're the top, you're Mahatma Gandhi,
You're the top! You're Napoleon brandy,
You're the purple light, of a summer night in Spain,
You're the National Gallery, you're Garbo's salary,
You're cellophane!

You're sublime, you're a turkey dinner,
You're the time, of the Derby winner,
I'm a toy balloon that's fated soon to pop;
But if baby I’m the bottom you're the top!

You're the top, you're a Waldorf salad
You're the top, you're a Berlin ballad
You're the nimble tread of the feet of Fred Astaire
You're an O’Neal drama, you're Whistler's mama, you're camembert

You're a rose, you're inferno's Dante
You're the nose, on the great Durante
I'm a lazy lout who's just about to stop
But if baby I’m the bottom,
You're the top!

p.s.  I just realized, this is the second time I have featured Song to the Moon with Ms Fleming as the artist. Must be getting old!

Thank you Lindsay! I checked and here is Ms. Fleming singing Cole Porter. So In Love from Kiss Me Kate. You need to listen to the introduction, so don't be put off.

Saturday 6 October 2018

Ready for My Life ~ All of It

Just when I think there is not likely to be another post worth writing, something happens to change it. Often, I read something someone else has written and it gets the creative juices flowing. I like that feeling.

My friend Joanna writes Musings From My Everyday Life. Her posts don't stay up very long and you have to be quick, or lucky sometimes to read each of them; she is a very good blogger! Yesterday's post is a good example. Entitled "headed in the right direction", it is about the search for companionship. As she points out, I am one of the lucky few transsexuals who have blogged about keeping or finding love either during or after transition. The interesting thing is that I was certain I would live alone, and was fine with that. Somehow, it seems, life wasn't going to let that happen.

It occurs to me that there are other sorts of transition other than my own. Some finally come out as homosexual. Some decide, for whatever reason, that they have to leave the work they have done to pursue another path. There are many reasons to be fearful of loss of family or friends.

No matter what the crisis of conscience might happen to be, the ability to leap off that cliff finally into an unknown future can freeze us into inaction, and that inaction will likely drive a person quite crazy when they are certain that they know what is right for them. Whatever it means for each of us, we need to take the risk of being comfortable in our own skin. 

I can recall very clearly what cleared away the hesitation for me. It was a certainty that no matter what else happened, I was better off losing everything. Nothing (not money, family, or people in my life) was worth self-destruction.

So many folk think that living a long life is very desirable. I am likely to be one of those "lucky ones" given medical advancements, and the great age my parents and grandparents have achieved. What I noticed is that as they get or got older, they found themselves alone; friends and family dead, children and grandchildren living their own lives. If they were not happy in their own skin and able to accept that solitary life, they would not have lasted very long.

I hated the idea that my last thought would be one of regret.

There is more. The lucky part. 

I don't know about you, but it annoys me when I hear people talk about how God has blessed them, as though they did something special to deserve favour. Yes, K and I are so very happy together, and that is a miracle. 

How did that amazing reconnection come to pass? Actually, it is in the blog from three years back. In that post, The Drive to Be, Simply Be. There I wrote: "Can I live with the risks of being true to myself even though the remnants of a life projecting a façade are still all around? If I don't, what other risks will I be unable to face?"

Real connection requires risk. When we take the leap, if we are very lucky, there is someone there who will leap with us. 

My Life
Billy Joel

Got a call from an old friend we used to be real close
Said he couldn't go on the American way
Closed the shop, sold the house, bought a ticket to the west coast
Now he gives them a stand-up routine in L.A.

I don't need you to worry for me 'cause I'm alright
I don't want you to tell me it's time to come home
I don't care what you say anymore this is my life
Go ahead with your own life leave me alone

I never said you had to offer me a second chance
I never said I was a victim of circumstance
I still belong
Don't get me wrong
And you can speak your mind
But not on my time

They will tell you you can't sleep alone in a strange place
Then they'll tell you can't sleep with somebody else
Ah but sooner or later you sleep in your own space
Either way it's O.K. you wake up with yourself

Your Wildest Dreams
The Moody Blues

Once upon a time
Once when you were mine
I remember skies
Reflected in your eyes
I wonder where you are
I wonder if you think about me
Once upon a time
In your wildest dreams

Once the world was new
Our bodies felt the morning dew
That greets the brand new day
We couldn't tear ourselves away
I wonder if you care
I wonder if you still remember
Once upon a time
In your wildest dreams

And when the music plays
And when the words are touched with sorrow
When the music plays
I hear the sound I had to follow
Once upon a time

Once beneath the stars
The universe was ours
Love was all we knew
And all I knew was you
I wonder if you know
I wonder if you think about it
Once upon a time
In your wildest dreams

Wednesday 19 September 2018

A Quiet Life

I never thought life was hectic, yet clearly it was. For years, the noise in my head, telling me to do something about this problem,  drowned out any awareness of how very busy I had been. Yes, I was the noise in my head - a part of me, the best part too, had taken a back seat for too long. Expending way too much energy to maintain a façade that no longer suited me was the problem.

This past two years has been like a mopping up operation - clearing away the mess left behind. Now, all is neat, and very quiet.

If I imagine myself on the beach of my childhood, listening to the waves crashing and watching the clouds ... 

... what I realize is, my quiet place surrounds me, all the time. 

Sunday 26 August 2018

Every Day Is A Gift

Oh sure, I still find some things hard and I don't laugh in the face of evil. Having those feelings in the past that my life was useless and wishing it could end, makes life seem ever so sweet now. 

Am I particularly gifted, feeling life is sweet now? Absolutely. Nobody else has my particular combination of joys and sorrows and, yes, I've given up so very much and from time to time I am reminded of those losses, too. 

Recently two things have happened: 
1. there have been some blogs around the topic of transition regret, and 
2. I was reminded that it is human nature to forget the bad and hold onto the good. 

So, I do know about regret, and it seems to me that if I didn't have much to be happy about right now, I'd likely be dwelling a lot on those losses. I also know that everyone has regrets in their life. Everyone

This isn't an advice column, so what I'm about to do goes a bit against the grain, but here it is, for what it is worth -

Halle's advice on transitioning:

If you don't have to, don't. 

If you do have to, document why you have to ... write down how you feel, what you think, and anything else you can to remind you in the future that the thing that drives you forward today is real. 

Know that after transition, you will feel better; dysphoria done and soon a distant memory. Because you feel better, you are likely to forget how incredibly driven you were to find congruence. After a while, you will remember those things you had, but don't have any more such as male privilege, some people you thought of as friends, and, maybe, family too. If so, read what you documented. Don't allow yourself to forget who you are and what brought you to this point in your life. 

Write down all the things that may, or will, go wrong when you take the path you are contemplating. Include losses that are likely to happen. Include possible things that might go wrong with the process, particularly surgical difficulties. If you don't know what those difficulties might be, find out and believe it. You are going to be in pain and it will be inconvenient for quite a while - maybe the rest of your life. Make a good decision - yes, this is a decision, whether it feels that way or not. More importantly, know that you are making a good decision. 

Need I supplement with platitudes?

Know and Be Yourself!

Move forward with conviction, armed with the wisdom that comes from having examined your life fully. Hold nothing back from that examination. 

Plan for the worst. Hope for the best.  

Saturday 14 July 2018


As an observer of the world (Canadian, retired, and relatively well-off), I have the luxury of time to synthesize ideas. I am the product, after all, of a liberal arts education. This doesn't mean that my leaning is anti- conservative. It means my education has left me free to apply thought that is outside the box. Liberal in this situation derives from the Latin, liberalis, meaning free.

A liberal education encourages the learner to research and synthesize their own ideas - in other words, become a free thinker.

Ironically, a liberal education for all is exactly what many politicians, especially conservative ones, would prefer to avoid. Free thinkers are harder to lead about by the nose. Someone has to be really smart and subversive to do that. Interestingly, smart, subversive people make good leaders.

Sadly too, it seems to me that people who wish to rule a docile, hard working population accidentally notice the word liberal in front of education and take an immediate dislike to it.

This past week, the newly-elected Conservative Party majority in Ontario has declared that the Health Education guideline in place since 2015 is to be replaced by the one that preceded it; written in 1998 and devoid of any mention of gay or transgender folk, and avoiding any discussion of consent or cyber-safety ... basically avoiding any discussion of sex.

Perhaps if the Liberal Party of Canada, or Ontario, or whatever, were to call themselves the Middle of the Road Party, and leave the word liberal alone, then bullies who are politicians might ignore education policy and leave it to educators.  The Middle of the Road Party should do that too, by the way.

It is no coincidence to me that the majority of folks I call friends have benefitted from a liberal arts education. Even those who have gone on to acquire practical skills still manage to apply free thinking effectively.

One of the very best things about giving your children a liberal education: they don't need to listen to anyone else (yes, including you) to know what they think about a topic. They will learn to do that for themselves.

If you love someone, liberate them.

Monday 2 July 2018

The Woman in the Mirror

Back in the spring, in a conversation with a group of women around my age, the question under discussion was: 
Norman Catwell - Lucia Heffernan

How old are you until you look in the mirror?

The general consensus - we all feel a lot younger than we appear. There was no bitterness; just a realization that how we feel isn't the person others see. Upon reflection (pun intended), we all agreed that when one looks in a mirror we are more critical about our appearance than we should be. 

Like my feline friend above right, my self-image is a bit more complex than most. These days, compared with a lifetime of hating my reflection (or at least avoiding looking too hard at it), the way I feel brings a lot more pleasure than it used to. 

Interestingly, the other women mostly chose the young lady they were at about seventeen as their internal image. Try as I might, there is no seventeen-year-old version of me that satisfies my feminine ideal. As fit as I was (and old photos confirm my body might have produced a lovely young woman), the image of that confused and frustrated young adult is not one I want to carry about with me. The very best I can manage is a thirty-something lady whose self-portrait was captured as a pencil sketch.

While looking at that sketch, however, I notice a restlessness of spirit that has been somewhat quenched by recent life experience. She also has a very fit body that I cannot recall ever having. It seems the downside of my current contentment is a less-than-ideal body (unless you have something that Rubens might have painted in mind, that is) shape. 

One interesting debate going on in my mind is whether at my age it is important to 'regain' that ideal body that I never actually had, to go with my so-much-better attitude toward life in all other ways.

Another woman might say that she has accepted herself after a lifetime because she won't ever be that ideal woman in her memory. On the other hand, I am a woman who definitely did not accept herself as she was.  These past few years have been seen momentous change. The question might be when to declare that process complete. 

My restlessness of spirit might have been somewhat quenched, but life is an adventure. I will not rule out serendipity.

Thursday 14 June 2018

On Things Learned From Others

The years of this blog have been mostly spent in self-reflection. For a refreshing change, this post is a reflection on others, and their reaction to my transition - oh dear, sounds like it is all about me after all.

Most people have been great; typically self-absorbed, but friendly when approached in a friendly way. 

More surprising, it seems there are perfect strangers who get angry at the audacity of one who has taken charge of their life, refusing to conform to anyone else's idea of what is correct for them. Perhaps they are jealous, wishing they could find the nerve to follow what they know in their hearts to be true, instead of the dictates of society. 

From some friends and family members, I learned that what their particular version of the Christian gospels says (or, is badly interpreted to say) is of huge importance. Some of these former friends and family stopped speaking to me as soon as I told them. One quoted their badly translated version of the bible to me in emails before cutting off communication completely. I can only suppose that they all feared contact would threaten their immortal souls.

From my musical friends, it has become clear that in music, what matters most is the music and the love that comes through that music.

From a friend who teaches motivation to others, I learned that being myself was a truly wonderful thing for some. She actually said "You aren't sh***ing me are you??? That's wonderful!!"

From my spouse of decades, I learned that there are some for whom the most important thing in life is how they are seen by others. "What will ______ say? We won't have any friends. Everyone is going to shun us."

From my children I learned that being a parent who loved and supported them meant that they would support me right back. "You will still be our father, won't you?" They have a father who is a woman, and we get along just the way we always have. 

From my partner, the love of my life, I am continuing to learn what it means to accept and cherish without conditions. 

My knowledge of the rest of the human race is enriched as those around me have been pushed into revealing things about themselves that lie on the edge of their behaviour. 

I have learned from my closest friends through all this, that, as it says in Proverbs, there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother, or in my version, sister. 

What does one do with a collection of such knowledge? We make better informed choices about the sort of person we want to be, of course. 

Saturday 9 June 2018

She Doesn't Have to Be Visible, but ...

A big thank you to Coline, who introduced me (well, she didn't actually introduce us - she told me about her ... you get it) to Paris Lees, a journalist who is also trans.

It seems clear to me, listening to her and watching her in the interview below, Paris could have melted into the background after transition, maybe not right away, but certainly now. Instead, she chose to be a very public person; leaving herself vulnerable to the sort of situations that  just won't allow her past to go away. As a journalist, she is helping to shift the ground, making it harder for stereotypes to dominate the narrative.

Every life is different and, so, I found it very interesting listening to this interview. She is so much younger than I, but the parallels are quite amazing, as are the differences. Most of all it was refreshing to listen as two obviously intelligent people conversed about one woman growing up trans in Britain. 

This video is much too long for a transcript, so thankfully, if English is not your mother tongue, there is a closed caption option included. If the embedded video won't work, try this link

Tuesday 5 June 2018

I Need to Smile More?

There are all sorts of good reasons for me to smile these days, so I do it a lot. However, someone going around with a smile on their face all of the time looks a bit idiotic ... or do they?

For many who visit here, passing is an important subject. I've mentioned that there are some issues that I have with my hair, voice, and body, so when meeting someone for the first time they likely have some challenges with my femininity, until we get to know one another. After that, there is no issue; I am me! 

I've found that when walking into a new situation, a smile is often all I need to relieve the tension. If I show that I am confident and pleasant, most of the time the person who stares will smile back, and we go on our own ways. 

Only recently has it dawned on me (I can be rather slow) that smiling more is something that is generally expected of women. The other day on a Canadian talk show, they had a discussion about what is definitely a gender bias. Women, it seems, generally have a hard time if they don't have a pleasant expression. 

It isn't just me! For some examples, read here and here

So, guys, if you want everyone to know how male you are, stop grinning all the time. I know you want to smile, though. 

And, gals, smile; let everyone know how happy you are to be you! 

Sunday 6 May 2018

Ladies Who Lunch

Sometimes it is hard to believe how much life has changed in three years. In February 2015, when Alice and I met for lunch, I was in male mode, but she told me, and I felt, that I was all woman. That was so much fun; my first taste of ladies who lunch. 

Meeting someone who could understand, or better still, share the experience of being transexual was so important to me when I was pre-transition. Since that first time, there have been dozens of lunches and dinners with friends (and one very, very special friend, of course). Not all of them know my history, or want to. Some are very dear, more like family, to K and I.

On Friday, for our second time, Joanna Santos and I broke bread and talked about anything that came to mind. Yes, we discussed what it has meant to us to be trans, and what we have done about it so far. Most of all, we had fun being together. 

Only time can tell whether two lunches together will evolve into the sort of friendship that K and I have with Alice, Cassidy, or Coline. As the snap below tells you, it certainly was fun. We are planning number three. 

Ladies at lunch: Deanna and Joanna

Monday 16 April 2018

What Did You Expect?

What a privilege it is to have lived as a man and as a woman. My life has certainly been more interesting than I could have expected.

Obvious aspects that changed when I transitioned such as clothes, make-up and hair, voice (losing the bass/baritone has turned out to be very hard), and movement, are each more complicated than I anticipated. 

Clothing trends have made femininity a more subtle thing than expected. Fortunately pink chiffon and matching satin heels were never part of my collection; there has certainly been no occasion for such an outfit. For daily wear, I buck the trend mostly, and lean away from jeans (I always hated the heavy denim material) and have accepted slacks, leggings and skinny lightweight jeans as a day-to-day uniform. The mandatory tunic or long top to go with leggings has also become a staple. Lately, I've found some dresses that also go well with the leggings, especially when layered using a light sweater to cover the arms and add some style. The same dresses will likely be worn with bare legs and sandals (oh, I do love sandals) when summer finally arrives.

While I was still working, two-inch comfortable (read expensive) heels had become my weekday wear with flats for evenings and the weekend. In retirement, the flats and ankle boots have taken over. I have to dust those heels every month or so now.

Makeup has been cut back to the point where now I moisturize and fix my eyebrows and put a bit of mascara on my very blond eyelashes. Sometimes a bit of lipstick.

My hair was been an issue. I resisted using the wig I bought seven years ago. Thanks to two very special ladies, I found that it was possible to style my hair to cover up quite a bit of the male-pattern baldness that had begun. In the past few months, worry over people seeing that my hair is thin has decreased. These days it has become possible to walk out the door and feel that this is who I am and others will judge if they are that sort.

Strangely, behaviours I thought would be difficult to change have come quite naturally, with a lot of help from friends. My walk, once a huge confident stride, has dwindled to a fraction of its former self, but I still hold my head up and walk tall. I'll hold a door - but only after I've walked through.

The frank and humorous video below, by Paula Williams, tells you what she has learned from life from both sides of the gender divide. There are many favourite lines, but the best for me is "... and ladies I doubt you've thought about this, but do you know there is never a time in the life of a male that he has to worry about whether or not an article of his clothing is accidentally going to drop into the toilet?"

Yes, most of the time, when I use the toilet, it occurs to me that something might go wrong; clothing into the toilet, spray ending up going forward (surface tension is real!) or getting clothing tucked into the wrong place and walking out of the washroom with something that should be hidden ... you get the idea.

Some days I wake up and, in despair, think I don't fool anyone. My body is the wrong size. My hair is too thin, my voice isn't good enough ... then I remember that I didn't go through all of this to fool people. It isn't about other people. This is about me - living life the best way possible.

Saturday 31 March 2018

Filling a Void

Writing this piece feels strangely like whining, yet I do not intend it to be that way. After all, life is treating me well. I am having a very good time; keeping active and productive. Still, I feel a need to write about how it feels to be done with a major life-changing project. Perhaps it might offer something to others. If not, writing this today was an activity other than cross-stitching or cooking or practicing music (or being the doggy door-keeper). That is, in fact, relevant to the topic - filling the void left by something that used to fill your time.

Some years back, I retired from my full-time career - teaching. The void left in my days made room for a process of self-examination that led to my rebirth, not just as a woman, but as someone aware of her inner motivations to a much greater degree. Working had not just filled my days; it had occupied my time to the exclusion of nearly everything else. That process of self-examination took the place of work in a very real way - occupying a large part of each day. I became both learner and teacher while discovering what it means to be me. 

When one retires, a danger lies in having a void in self-identification. When we are introducing ourself to others how do we do it? 

"Hello, my name is Halle. I am ..." 

We fill in that blank space with our place in the world as defined by marriage or not, children or not, and often, what we do for a living. For me, being a teacher (and, therefore, a learner as well) was much more than a job; it defined my personality. I am a teacher by nature. These days dear K gets to be on the receiving end of my need to teach and study, poor thing. She doesn't seem to mind though.

Having transitioned is a retirement of sorts; a huge, all-consuming project now complete to a very great extent. Certainly it is a pleasant change to wake in the morning and be greeted by thoughts having nothing to do with dysphoria . If I think about anything to do with my body when awakening now, it has to do with a trip to the loo. I definitely do not miss those feelings of misplacement. Yet, there is a void left that feels strange to me.

I am guessing that the teacher/learner still wants a place in my life. One very intense focus for learning has been removed. To replace it will require a heady experience, filled with a feeling of adventure. 

It may be that those activities mentioned earlier will have to suffice; yet arts and crafts are not life-changing in themselves. So it seems I shall have to either become satisfied with learning the finer points of needlework and the world of oboe reeds (a lifetime study I've heard) or find another intense focus to chew upon. 

Hmm ... the weather is getting pleasant here. Might be time to get the golf clubs out and dream about the satisfying click the club can make when contacting the ball properly. 

Thursday 15 February 2018

Talking About Gender

A big thank you to my dear friend Coline for the link to the BBC Radio 4 program, Word of Mouth, and in particular one program, Language and Gender Identity

The description of the program reads: 

Michael Rosen and Dr Laura Wright are joined by CN Lester, author of  'Trans Like Me: A Journey for All of Us'  to talk about language and gender identity. What does it mean to be transgender and how is language being used (by and about) people who identify as transgender, non-binary or genderqueer?

You may be familiar with CN Lester from their blog A Gentleman and a Scholar

BBC Radio 4 does not support embedding a podcast on a blog, so please use the link above, or here to have a listen to an excellent talk with very knowledgeable participants.