It’s traditional around this time of the year to take a look back on the year before. Although I’m not really one for traditions as a general rule, I quite like this one and, as I haven’t done as much blogging as I’d like recently, I thought I’d do just that.
2013 was – probably unsurprisingly – a big year for me; it involved a lot of ‘coming out’ and a lot of going out. It was a year where I went outside my comfort zone, and went to non-trans*-specific places openly ‘as Claire’, and where I started changing my ‘male’ image to a gradually more feminine and more gender-queer appearance - to the extent that I don’t think ‘part-time‘ really applies any more. It was a year where I finally decided to get an appointment at a Gender Identity Clinic. It was also a year – and this may sound like a strange highlight – where I started to dance. But, most importantly I think, it has been a year of making friends, and I have made so many friends over the last year.
Coming out and going out.
The video above is an truly inspirational speech by Ash Beckham; if you haven’t yet seen it, it’s about 10 minutes long and it will be worth every minute spent. It talks about closets and describes a closet as “a hard conversation”. She points out that we all have closets. We all have things in our lives that are hard to talk about. She also points out that the “hard” in that conversation is not relative: hard is hard. Last year I’ve had that hard conversation a number of times, so it’s no longer a secret that I identify as transgender, and it turned out – for me – that those hard conversations were relatively easy.
One of those hard conversations I had last year was with my parents. For various personal reasons I found myself in a position where I felt that my parents were going to find out one way or another, and I much preferred that they heard from directly, rather than from the rumor mill. I got a reply back, “It changes nothing, we still love you”. They were without a doubt the most beautiful words I have read this year.
There is a difference, however, between coming out and going out, and last year I went out – properly out – for the first time ‘as Claire’ to events and places that were not specifically LGBT+ friendly. Much like having a hard conversation is hard because you dread the outcome, going out was – and still is – difficult for me because I dreaded how people might react to me. So I think one of my highlights of the year was when my wife and I took a trip into Manchester in July during Sparkle, and my wife was offered the chance to have her hair cut by a Tonni & Guy trainee for free. We walked from the Arndale center in Manchester to the Tonni and Guy academy, and the whole time on the walk there, the paranoia set in: “She’s clocked me. She knows.”. As it turned out, the trainee was clearly an observant woman – she’d clocked both of our wedding rings – but, talking to my wife while she cut her hair, she’d said, “Is that your best friend? It must be so nice for you both to get away from your husbands”. I won’t deny it, that was a big confidence – not to mention ego – boost for me!
Another big first for me last year was actually taking part in London Pride for the first time. Whilst a lot of 2013 had been taken up with working with Reading Pride as the transgender liaison, and later the web developer, I cannot deny that actually taking part in London Pride for the first time was a very special event. Fran and I have been to this every year for a long time, and I had never dreamed I would have to confidence to take part.
I have long held the view that the parade – the march, the protest – is the most important part of an LGBT Pride, and having taken part in Oxford Pride and London Pride, and having taken part in and helped organise Reading Pride, I still hold that view. There is something very special about the atmosphere in a Pride parade, and this is especially so in the country’s capital.
Until I took part in London Pride, I had never really appreciated just how huge the crowds are for the parade, or – for that matter – how long the parade is! It took over an hour and a half to walk the route, and the crowds rarely thinned.
If I had to pick my favourite moment of the LGBT Pride’s I took part in this year, however, there is unquestionably one moment that stands head and shoulders above the rest: The Mayflower Society’s trans* picnic at Reading Pride:
I do not know for certain, but I strongly suspect that the Mayflower Society Trans* Picnic was a first for an LGBT+ Pride, and it was more than I expected to achieve when I joined the committee in late 2012 as the Reading Pride transgender liaison. As much as I’d like to take credit for it, however, I really have to thank Tina from the Mayflower Society, and my wife for doing most of the work in making it happen. And, of course, all the ladies from the Mayflower Society for coming to Reading Pride. This was truly one of the highlights of 2013 for me. Which brings me onto:
2013 for me has been a year of making new friends. In 2012, I went to Sparkle for the first time, and I really didn’t know anyone at all. Sparkle 2013 couldn’t have been more different! We went up with solid plans to meet up with people we had come to know, and we partied! I’ve also now been going to the Mayflower Society Totton Disco, and to the regular Overton meetup for just over a year now, and have made so many new friends.
I can’t really leave 2013 behind without my final highlight of the year: Christmas Day at home with friends. Happy New Year everyone.