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Unlawful Transphobic Discrimination at the RNLI – they are getting away with it!

Please sign my petition: http://www.causes.com/campaigns/96412-end-discrimination-at-the-rnli-against-transgender-people

The RNLI has recently shown itself to be transphobic: prejudiced against transgender people.  This came to light in the first instance when the management at RNLI Burry Port rejected the volunteer application of trans woman Kate Lesley on the grounds that, to quote what they actually said at a meeting on 16th June 2015:

“The ‘culture’ of the local RNLI Burry Port Lifeboat Station is too ‘macho’ to ‘cope’ with a trans woman as a volunteer.”

Some weeks later, in order to justify their rejection of Kate Lesley, they lied about this and denied what they had said, although this was also witnessed by Kate’s wife, Jane.

RNLI Headquarters then compounded the situation by failing to deal effectively with this discrimination.  Instead, they actually whitewashed the two individuals concerned at RNLI Burry Port and supported them in their misrepresentations about what happened.

The RNLI next fabricated a spurious excuse for Kate’s rejection, claiming that they were rejecting her because of her reaction to a previous incident when a member of the shore crew tactlessly and insensitively referred to her in the wrong gender – as ‘this gentleman’ – although he had previously been introduce to her as ‘Kate’. This was supposed to have been a ‘genuine mistake’ (you can decide for yourselves how likely this is by looking at the photos of Kate on this blog – she doesn’t look much like a man, does she?). It was very embarrassing at the time as it was in front of a group of parents and children from the local nursery, just up the road. Burry Port is a small place.

After inviting the RNLI Burry Port management to discuss this incident in a friendly way in order to help the Station avoid a mistake of this type in future, nothing happened for a couple of weeks, and it was assumed that Kate’s and Jane’s written volunteer applications were being processed and they would soon be starting their volunteer roles with the RNLI. It now appears the local management had already decided to reject Kate – because she had the courage to bring this initial incident to their attention. The opportunity to show a more inclusive, enlightened and progressive approach to LGBT people was to be squandered, because of their embarrassment, awkwardness and uncertainty about the best way to handle things.

Kate’s approach at this helpful, low-key meeting was untruthfully misrepresented some weeks later by the RNLI as ‘highly reactive’ and used as the spurious excuse for Kate’s rejection. It certainly was nothing of the sort.  It was an amicable meeting on all sides, from which much good might have come, if only the local management had known how to proceed in a mature and sensible way.

Kate’s rejection as a volunteer was despite the fact that, as a retired full-time classroom teacher for 15 years and a Tours and Talks Guide with the National Trust for 7 years, she was very well qualified and had plenty of experience of talking to the public, regularly giving talks to groups of up to 40-50 people.

Although she was giving up her spare time for free, rather than giving her a chance to prove what she could do as a volunteer to help them with their educational work, they said they didn’t even want her to start.

Kate and her wife Jane were flabbergasted – very shocked and upset. Jane had also volunteered to help them, but they say in their final response to us that they have not rejected her – could this be because she is not transgendered herself, just married to a transgendered person?  Apparently that’s okay, they just don’t want any LGBT people in person as volunteers.

To protest against this unlawful discrimination against Kate, please contact the RNLI as below and add your voice, so these bigoted and unenlighted people don’t get away with it.

And in case anyone thinks that the RNLI should be a ‘protected’ charity which one should never criticise, and how dare I bring this to the attention of the public through social media, let me state clearly now that I do appreciate the wonderful work done by the RNLI in rescuing folk from the sea, and the last thing I want to do is distract the RNLI from their valuable work in this regard. However, under the Equality Act 2010 it is unlawful to discriminate against anyone for reasons of gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity etc., and they need to be made accountable and brought to book for this.

If you wish to read the full transcript of all correspondence with the RNLI relating to the above, please now click on the link below:

pdf-all-rnli-corresp-to-09-09-15

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The RNLI Lifeboat Station in Burry Port, near Llanelli, Wales, is a very nepotistic institution. It is largely run by a closed-shop of the same local families, who treat it as their personal fiefdom, to do with as they wish. To judge by the attitude of their Operations Manager, they are small-minded and intolerant of diversity, keeping out anyone who may not fit into their restrictive ‘macho’ image of themselves. There is only one woman member of the crew out of 21, and she belongs to one of the local families which dominate the station.

Nepotism is rife at RNLI Burry Port. See their website and note the number of times the same surnames appear: Bowen, Griffiths, Morgan, Williams: http://www.burryportrnli.com/

Make no mistake – this is not because many people in Wales have common surnames – these people are all closely related; they are members of the same local families.  (The following list of names are publicly available on RNLI Burry Port’s own website, so I am not revealing anything confidential here: http://www.burryportrnli.com/ )

Roger Bowen – Lifeboat Operations Manager (L.O.M.)
Alan Bowen – Treasurer (L.M.G)
Beryl Bowen – Fundraisin Chairperson

Trevor Griffiths – Chairperson (L.M.G)
Alyson Griffiths – Fundraising Committee Treasurer

Haydn Morgan – Deputy Launch Authority (D.L.A.) & Lifeboat Sea Safety Officer(L.S.S.O.)
Susanna  Morgan – Crew & Education Officer
Gary Morgan – Crew & Education Officer
Rachel Morgan – Fundraising Committee

Steve Williams – Boathouse Manager
Byron Williams – Media Admin
Beverley Williams – Fundraising Committee

Unfortunately I have three ‘strikes’ against me – I am English, I am transgendered, and I am not a Bowen, a Griffiths, a Morgan or a Williams.

Please read below, and then please do support me in my campaign against these bigoted troglodytes, who are still living in a previous century.

If you wish, you can read the full transcript (see link above) of ALL correspondence with the RNLI – which makes interesting reading, showing how hard we tried to make the RNLI see sense.

Please support me by expressing your disgust with how the RNLI have treated me both at the local and national, headquarters level. Write to, email or phone the RNLI people concerned.  If enough folk contact them, maybe we will finally get the RNLI to respond as they should have done to the unlawful transphobic discrimination to which I have been subjected.  The RNLI claims to be a ‘Stonewall Diversity Champion’ – what a joke!

Contact Details:

Burry Port RNLI Website

BurryPort RNLI on Facebook

BurryPort RNLI on Twitter

Email: Burry-Port@rnli.org.uk

Station Telephone: 01554 832060

Burry Port Lifeboat Station
The Harbour
Burry Port
Carmarthenshire
SA16 0ER

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Lifeboat Operations Manager (L.O.M.), RNLI Station Burry Port: Roger Bowen
Mr Bowen lied about what was said at our meeting with him and Trevor Griffiths on 16th June; misrepresented the facts and failed to acknowledge or admit to any of the discriminative comments he made, subsequently inventing a spurious and untruthful excuse for my rejection as an RNLI volunteer while denying the true grounds, which were based on transphobic prejudice.

Email. Roger_bowen@rnli.org.uk

(These contact details are publicly available on RNLI Burry Port’s own website.)

————————————–

Trevor Griffiths – Chairperson Local Management Group (L.M.G), Burry Port Lifeboat Station (Took seven weeks to write a letter in response to our complaint, but denied what had been said at our meeting with them on 16th June).

————————————-

(The following contact details are publicly available on the RNLI Headquarters main website and linked webpages).

RNLI Chief Executive: Paul Boissier
‘Whitewashed’ the local RNLI station, claimed to believe their lies, failed to address the discrimination issue properly despite signing up the RNLI as a ‘Stonewall Diversity Champion’

Postal address:

Paul Bossier
Chief Executive RNLI
West Quay Road
Poole
BH15 1HZ

Email: paul_boissier@rnli.org.uk
Tel: 01202 663149
Fax: 01202 663306

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Inclusion & Diversity Officer: Susan Kingswood (Did very little in spite of her title and went off on holiday).

Address:

Susan Kingswood
RNLI O.D. Advisor
Inclusion & Diversity
West Quay Road
Poole
Dorset
BH151HZ

Email: susan_kingswood@rnli.org.uk

Tel: 01202 663338

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People and Transformation Director: Heid Allen
(Note her job description – this is not ironic, it is her actual title!  And she was one of the LEAST helpful people at the RNLI, totally lacking in empathy, and rather spiteful in her letter to me in which she confirmed my rejection.)

Postal Address:

Heidi Allen
RNLI People and Transformation Director
West Quay Road
Poole
BH15 1HZ

Heidi_Allen@rnli.org.uk

Tel: 01202 663137

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Hi girls,

When I was at Sparkle recently I noticed how many of the T-Girls on Canal Street and in the clubs and bars were walking around looking grim, not smiling, even frowning!

This is a dead give-away that you are not a girl. Girls smile more than men when they are out in public and socialising – they really do! So just smile! Practice it when you are out and about. It will also mean that you will get less frown lines as you get older, and won’t need botox or a face-lift as well as FFS.

I mean this advice quite seriously. It will make more difference than all the makeup and wigs etc. that you could possibly use. You will also find that people will find you more approachable, and be more likely to be disposed to you in a friendly way.

I think the reason that so may T-Girls don’t smile when they are out is to do with their lack of self-confidence and embarrassment, their fear of being ‘read’ etc.

Be glad that you’re transgendered, you have been given a wonderful gift that ‘straight’ people don’t have, the poor things! So smile! It puts people at their ease and makes them smile back, and according to the research, it is good for you.

I try to do this when I am out in the street or in bars and clubs, and in fact it must have made me more approachable in the streets around Canal Street, because three times over the weekend I was approached by complete strangers asking me for directions; these were ordinary folk of both sexes, not trans women or people who were there for Sparkle. So it works – try it!

((The above was the sort of post I said on TVChix, for which I was attacked and harassed by trolls.)

Hi girls,

This is about a website called TVChix. I am updating this post in the light of the bullying and harassment I suffered on this website, which is also the subject of a later post on this blog. My advice is avoid TVChix. I joined TVChix because so many girls at last year’s Sparkle (2012) asked me if I was on it – so I joined it – briefly – a decision which I now regret.

As I was not new to theories of gender identity and how we acquire our sense of gender – or in the case of transgendered folk like us, how things did not work out quite as society and our parents expected, I made the mistake of posting to a discussion forum on TVChix, naively thinking that the people in these forums wouold be intelligent and well-meaning individuals.

As I wrote a Masters degree dissertation at Nottingham University in 1990 under the title ‘The Aqquisition of Gender’, I thought I could offer some new perspectives, which would be welcomed. How wrong I was.

In my original research at that time I concluded that traditional feminine and masculine gender role stereotypes were mainly social constructs – ‘nurture’ rather than ‘nature’.  This was very much in line with theoretical thinking at the time, which had possibly been influenced by feminist writers of the 1960s and 1970s.

I have since revised my views in the light of some more recent biological and medical research which has suggested that gender (rather than biological sex) is partly programmed i[i]n utero[/i], and that things can go wrong with this, so that the baby is born with a sense of gender which does not conform to biological or genetic sex.  (That’s us, girls!)

I discussed some of this a while back on this weblog.

These posts are probably the most relevant:

How can we help people understand transgender individuals?

Why did I want to be a girl? Gender Identity and Transgenderism

How did it start? When did I first realise I wanted to be a girl?

Gender Identity as a continuum, terms ‘Transvesite’, Crossdresser’, ‘Transgender’, ‘Transsexual’

I am not keen on the divisions into sub-groups within the transgender community, (for example TV/CD, TG, T-Girl, TS) and I am disappointed that members of one or two of these sub-groups appear to think they are ‘superior’ in some way or more ‘the real thing’ than others. (Bella Jay wrote about this recently in her preface in the 2012 Sparkle Guide.)

These labels are artificial constructs, and at best are useful only in providing a vague indication of where an individual may think she is on the gender continuum at a certain point in her life. They also flag up to others who you are, but they mean very little. I found it disappointing that I had to pick one of these labels when joining TVChix, but my point is that what you pick is not written in stone for ever more. More than one might apply to you, and you may change your mind about which one is most appropriate. For example at present, I could have picked T-Girl, Transgender or Pre-operative Transsexual, but I am most comfortable with transgendered, as it is the most inclusive. Some people remain as self-identifying with one label all their lives, while others may move through several phases of transgenderism – get on at one point and get off at another.

That is why I am uncomfortable when, in chat rooms, members seek to ‘help’ other members by labeling them on the basis of what they themselves think, or claim to be certain of – often out of ignorance.

This has already happened to me in a TVChix chat room, when I light-heartedly asked what was the difference between a ‘T-Girl’ and ‘Trangendered’, because surely a T-Girl is by definition transgendered, as are ALL people who self-identify as TV, CD, TG or TS, – we are ALL transgendered, as is anyone who is uncomfortable to any degree about the gender role in which they find themselves, and wishes to dress or adopt the cultural and sociological characteristics and stereotypical behaviour of the so-called ‘other’ gender. This discomfort with one’s gender is sometimes called gender dysphoria, another term I don’t like.

A couple of the girls replied to the effect that these labels are all bollocks and we’re all mad anyway, which more or less sums up my own view; but one pre-operative transsexual took if upon herself to private message me to offer her ‘help’ about my ‘confusion’ regarding the terms ‘T-Girl’ and ‘Trangender’.

She seemed to think that whether or not one wanted SRS had some relevance to whether one was a ‘T-Girl’ or ‘Trangender’. In my view, it has nothing to do with it. And it is quite possible that at different times in one’s life, the answer might be ‘no’, ‘yes’, or ‘I haven’t decided’.

The presence or absence of a particular set of genitals between one’s legs has everything to do with your biological and genetic sex, but very little to do with your gender, and in seeking to live in the gender role of the ‘other’ gender, should probably be the last on the list of things you should think about changing.

Fortunately this view is starting to gain ground even in the NHS. If you are going to live in the ‘other’ gender, female hormones, FFS (Facial Feminisation Surgery), electrolysis, laser hair removal and voice coaching lessons are likely to have a much bigger impact on you success than what you’ve got ‘down below’.

It is in unwise to rush into SRS, thinking this is going to solve all your problems. If you are a huge, Neandethal-looking, hatchet-faced, lantern jawed, heavily-browed, grim looking person who never smiles (women smile more – so start by learning to smile!) – with a five o’clock shadow that comes back every three hours and you walk like a bricklayer and have a voice like Paul Robson – no one is going to think you are a woman, however much surgery you have between your legs. Sorry to say this, but let’s have a reality check!

There is absolutely no reason why you can’t dress as a woman and live as a woman if you are a very ‘big’ girl with very many obvious maculine physical characteristics – do enjoy life and go for it, be glad you’re transgendered – but don’t think that by labelling yourself ‘pre-operative transsexual’ and then getting your SRS without attending to other more obvious aspects which act as denoters of gender, you are suddenly going to convince ‘straight’ society out there that you are a woman.

Most people make up their minds about what gender you are in the first five seconds of meeting you – and it is probably the ‘Big Four’ indicators which are most important – pitch and tone of voice, facial characteristics, hair length/style, and the way you are dressed – in that order. The latter two are less important, as is clear if you’ve ever been into Vanilla, a lesbian bar in Manchester’s Gay Village, where you will see really dykey lesbians with very short cropped hair, or shaved at the sides, and wearing baggy jeans and a sweat shirt – but they are still recognisably women, because of their voice pitch and smaller facial features. (You will also see very pretty ‘femmy’ lesbians at Vanilla, so I don’t mean to generalise about lesbians in general).

At the end of the day, who cares anyway? If you feel your are a woman inside, then you are! The worse that can happen is that someone is going to recognise that you are transgendered – so what? Just be honest and smile! If you are upfront and friendly, people will accept you for who you are; they will either like you or not like you based on your personality, not on your biological gender or adopted gender.

My point is that perhaps it is better to start with some of the other practical things you can do, such as those listed above; I appreciate that these all cost money – although at present you can at least get the hormones and voice coaching on the NHS if you get accepted by a Gender clinic. (Yes, it is also still possible to get SRS on the NHS – but I wonder for how long, given the cuts?)

Anyway, as you can see, I love to write about these issues, but I’ll stop for now as I’ve probably already said more than my six penny’orth.

I love you all, whatever you label yourselves.

Take care in those six inch heels,

Love, hugs and kisses,

ambergoth (Kate Lesley)

(The above was the sort of thing I said on TVChix, for which I was attacked and harassed by trolls.)

aka Amber Goth

It is now six months since I began living living full-time as a woman.

My transition to the female gender full-time came about in early July, following this year’s Sparkle Transgender Weekend in Manchester.  It came about as a direct result of attending a presentation given by Dr. Luis Capitan, one of the facial feminisation specialist surgeons from Facial Team, based in Marbella, Spain and Sao Paulo, Brazil.

I had a private consultation with Dr. Capitan (for which there was no charge, unlike some FFS specialists, who charge even for initial consultations).  Dr. Capitan was very kind and listened carefully to what I said.  I explained what I thought I needed to have done, and he did not try to sell me unnecessary procedures which I did not want, but understood that for me, the most important thing was facial feminisation itself.  It sounds obvious, but what I mean by this is that my wish was to look like a ‘normal’ woman for my age as far as possible (or maybe a bit younger!), but that I wasn’t aiming to look like a Holywood starlet or Barbie Doll.

Apparently this is what some trans women want. Whilst it may be possible if you are prepared to go to a lot of extra expense for facelifts, eyelid surgery, and God knows what else (in addition to facial feminisation surgery), I felt it was important to have realistic expectations and was delighted with my new brow and nose, as soon as I saw them!  I was actually just pleased to wake up after the surgery and not be in pain, thanks to the care I was given by Dr. Capitan, Dr. Simon and the other members of the surgical team.  And the two Patient Care Coordinators, Ana and Lilia, also looked after me very well.

As will be seen from the photos on my previous post, I had very little bruising or swelling and after only seven days I didn’t look too bad at all, and was able to go for walks along the sea front in Marbella.  In fact, the bars and restaurants on that part of the promenade, near the Princesa Playa Apartment Hotel, are used to seeing Facial Team patients swathed in bandages – so I did go out even while I still had a nose plaster and pressure bandage on!  But I have always been quite upfront and honest with folk, so when we got chatting in the nearby Italian restaurant with the proprietors, I just told them about myself and why I was in Marbella.  I went back to show them the results a few days after the surgery, and they were so lovely in saying I looked fantastic now, although I still had the stitches in my nose!

There were two other Facial Team patients at the same hotel, Paula from Holland and Josephine from France, who were very pleasant people, and we wondered about all going out together in our bandages and sitting outside one of the bars – but we thought it might be a bit unfair on the owners – as what a frightening sight we would have made for other promenaders on the front!  (So we never did it – but it was nice to have other girls who were going through the same thing to talk to.)

So, my decision to stay as Kate and not to go back to being ‘him’ last July, after Sparkle, happened because I decided definitely to go ahead with facial feminization surgery, and it seemed stupid having made that major decision not to go full-time as a woman.  I was surprised myself, and I still am a little in shock that I finally made the decision so easily, but I guess it had been coming on for years, as I had been Kate more and more, and had been taking female hormones for over five years.  I think it was something that I always knew, at some deep, sub-conscious level, was bound to happen eventually.

And it is also strange that perhaps I knew that I would have FFS at some point – see my very first post on this blog, back in 2008: https://ambergoth.wordpress.com/2008/08/15/facial-feminizing-surgery-%E2%80%93-my-first-blog-entry/

At that time I didn’t know I would be able to have FFS in Spain, and thought I would have to go to California.  I am so glad that I had it done is Spain with Facial Team, as it it was such an easy low-cost flight to Malaga airport with EasyJet, and everyone at Facial Team looked after me so well.  I did get a quote from the clinic in San Fransisco, and also from the Boston clinic, but the U.S. clinics quote ridiculous prices, and there are so many extras they charge for – and of course it is much further to go back there if anything goes wrong.  The Facial Team quote was reasonable and included free accommodation at the Princesa Playa Apartment Hotel, an offer which they do at certain times of the year.  They arranged everything for me, and took the worry out of it, as much as it is possible to do, bearing in mind it is major surgery and it is fairly natural to feel a bit afraid. But in the end, by the second week, I just felt I was on holiday, as did Rosie, my partner, who had a great time and did some good Christmas shopping in Marbella.

So – how do I feel two months after my FFS and six months after transitioning?  Well, pretty fantastic, actually.  No regrets at all, and I have found myself wondering why I thought it was such a big deal and was so worried about transitioning and having FFS.  If you are considering either, go for it girl – you won’t be sorry!   Finally becoming the woman I always knew I was inside – is great!

It is five months since I transitioned from male to female and became Kate full-time.  It is just over a month since I had my Facial Feminisation Surgery (FFS).

I have been moved by the number of people who have been supportive during and after my transition.  Strangers and acquaintances online who I have never met in the flesh have also wished me well.

To quote Blanche DuBois in A Street car Named Desire, the great play by Tennessee Williams:  ‘Whoever you are, I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.’

Thanks to you all, for your kindness and friendship.

In fact, I am fine.  Just feeling a little bit tired and emotional, on the day that I uploaded to YouTube my most personal video to date:

http://youtu.be/0iegp8AYt0o

Today is Tuesday 8th November, so it’s six days since I had my facial feminisation surgery (FFS) last Wednesday.

We are in Marbella, Spain.

I am sitting in bed writing this; Rosie has gone out shopping for Christmas pressies round the old part of Marbella town.

Marbella is a really lovely place, now a classy resort on the southern coast of Spain, formerly an old fishing village of Andalucia, up to the 1960s. It is certainly the classiest and best resort we have ever had a holiday in; not at all what I imagine Benidorm or Ibiza are like.

We are in a lovely apartment hotel (four star), The Princesa Playa, right on the sea front, the best place we have ever stayed in, as we usually rough it. We are on the 7th floor, and have a view of both the sea and the mountains from our balcony.

The apartment is very well appointed, with electric hob, microwave, fridge, and plenty of pans and crockery and cutlery, so Rose-Marie has been able to prepare us some really nice meals with fresh produce from the local shops. We have a small supermarket just round the corner, and there are many lovely bars and restaurants within easy walking distance along the front, which is swathed with palm trees and fig trees. The weather is cool and comfortable, but still with blue skies and sea. We like it so much maybe we will come and live here! I am remembering my Spanish more every day.

There are plenty of really fresh seafood restaurants and everywhere serves tapas for a Euro or two. It is not too dear to eat out compared with Switzerland – about the same as the UK or a bit cheaper, if anything. You could certainly stay and eat here cheaply. We like Marbella so much we certainly intend to come back next Spring – I have to anyway, to complete my treatment, as they couldn’t do the lip lift at the same time as the rhinoplasty (nose job). I may also have a hair transplant so I have an even thicker head of hair at the front!

I haven’t seen my new nose yet, but it looks promising – smaller and neater, with smaller nostrils rather than the Mersey tunnel entrances I used to have. I haven’t got a big, splodgy, ugly nose any longer! I will see it properly on Friday, when the nose plaster comes off.

We are going back to see the plastic surgeon (a German guy, Dr. Kai) who did the nose job and to the hospital to see the maxillo-facial surgeons (Brazilian Dr. Daniel Simon and Spanish Dr. Luis Capitan, both of the Facial Team clinic, here in Marebella, Spain) tomorrow. I may be able to have the scalp stitches out. My forehead is a lot flatter and more feminine, and the top of my new nose just continues straight up to my forehead, without the indentation that used to be there.

My eyes are no longer so deep set, and do not now peer out from beneath a Neandethal (or at least masculine) jutting brow! My eye-brows are also higher and in a more feminine arc. It will take a few weeks, and in the case of my nose, a few months or even up to a year, for everything to settle down, but I certainly shouldn’t look too bad by Christmas.

My neck is still looking a bit bruised after the liposuction, in fact this is where the worst bruising was, after the first two or three days.

For the first 2-3 days my eye-lids swelled up and my left eye nearly closed, so I looked as if I had gone several rounds with Mohammad Ali. By Sunday the swelling started to come down, and I looked a bit more human. To begin with, because my cheeks were also puffed up, I looked a bit like the lion from the Wizard of Oz! I made a joke of this to the ladies who work for the surgeons – Lilia and Ana – who have kept in touch with us throughout by a Spanish mobile phone which they gave us when we arrived. I have been really well looked after by them, and of course Rose-Marie, my wife and life partner for 40 years, has been wonderful. She is having a nice restful holiday herself now, which she needed after the months of worry leading up to the surgery and her over-working at the shop, etc. She is also being a good girl and relaxing.

Well, that’s about it from me. I am staring to look more Dorothy, less like the Lion (another Wizard of Oz reference). I have loads of books to read on my Kindle, and I can get three English-speaking radio stations on my HTC mobile and there is BBC 1 and BBC 3 and Sky News on our two TVs, one in the bedroom, so we can watch TV in bed, and one in the living room.

We have been able to keep up with East Enders, but have no idea what has been happening in Corrie – we’ll have to wait until we get back to find out. We fly back to the UK next Saturday, 12th November, but I will be posting again, tweeting and updating my status on FB regularly from now on, so keep watching out for my updates!

We can get onto the Internet in the foyer of the hotel on the ground floor, so I will post this now here and on FB. Please let me know, all you lovely girls who follow this WordPress blog, or are are my friends on FB or Twitter, if it is of any interest! Please reply! I will messge some more about the Facial Team, but so far I have been very impressed with the high standard of care and the kindness of Lilian and Ana and the surgeons, so I would say if you are considering FFS – the Facial Team clinic in Spain should be at the top of your list of clinics to look at. I looked at three others and chose them for a number of reasons, which I will discuss more on my WordPress Transgender blog.

I’ll post again soon, hugs to you all, I love you all, especially Sarah Hardman and Alessandra Bernaroli,  who have been good friends on FB in recent weeks – thank you, Sarah nd Alessandra.

x x x Hugs, Kate Lesley (Amber Goth)

Olivia Foster, a lesbian who wrote a paper on transgender and homosexual individuals for her English class,  recently commented how transgender and homosexual individuals are socially isolated from society. She asked: ‘How do you think we could help people understand transgender individuals? I really want an inside opinion! Thank you so much!’

This was my reply, which I am repeating here as a separate posting:

I think the first thing is that we all need to support and be tolerant of each other in the LGBT community. If we can’t be tolerant of each other, when we are ‘differently gendered’ or ‘differently sexually orientated’ from the so-called ‘norm’, how can we expect so-called ‘normal’ or ‘straight’ people to be tolerant and understanding of us?

As I said in my last blog post, I love lesbians and gay men, and I love socialising with my sisters and brothers in the ‘Gay Village’ in Manchester.

Unfortunately I have come across people, mainly in the trans community, who, in spite of their own transgenderism, appear to have a bi-polar approach to gender, and want to self identify as either a ‘transvestite/crossdresser’, just ‘a bloke in a frock but there’s nowt queer about me’ at one end of the TG spectrum – and what I might call ‘fundamentalist’ transsexuals at the other end, who regard themselves as in some way superior, or ‘more the real thing’ than other transgendered folk.

I think it is crazy to divide ourselves off from each other in this way. To me, if we have ‘gender discomfort’ or ‘dysphoria’ to any extend at all, whether we are occasional crossdressers, regular or full-time transgendered girls or boys, she-males, drag queens or drag kings, or pre- or post-operative transsexuals – we are ALL members of the transgender community, sisters and brothers under the skin, although some but not all of us usually identify ourselves as one gender or the other (not necessarily our birth gender) by our outer clothing, hairstyle, makeup, mannerisms, voice pitch, speech patterns and gender identity.

This is why I prefer the term ‘transgendered’, because it is inclusive and can be taken to cover us all, wherever we are on the gender spectrum or continuum, and I believe most people, including those who are not transgendered – so-called ‘normal’ people, are also somewhere in the middle.

We all, regardless of our biological and chromosomal sex, have feminine and masculine characteristics – but unfortunately many people are frightened or reluctant to fully express all parts of their personalities. So if most people are somewhere in the middle regarding the gender spectrum, transgendered people are just folk who find themselves on the ‘wrong’ side of the mid-point of the spectrum, so they self-identify as the ‘other’ or ‘opposite’ sex – that is, they have, in terms of traditional gender attributes and gender stereotyping, more of the characteristics of the gender on the other side of the gender ‘mid-point’.

This of course is very confusing for them, in a world which persists in the traditional bi-polar attribution of so-called ‘feminine’ and ‘masculine’ traits. But that is not to say that if this gender bipolarism was reduced to the point where everyone was free to wear what they like, and express their gender identity in any way they like, there wouldn’t still be transgendered people, because obviously there would be those, like me, who feel the need to have surgery to change their bodies as well as their clothing so that they can feel ‘whole’, be fully the person that they feel they are inside, and be perceived as such by others.

I don’t think I have exactly answered your question, Olivia, about how transgender and homosexual individuals can feel less socially isolated, as regards ‘straight society’. I’ll try to address that now:

Within the LGBT community, we can feel less socially isolated by all supporting and learning to understand each other, whether we are transgendered, lesbian, gay, bisexual, heterosexual, or any combination of the aforementioned.

But how do we achieve social and cultural acceptance, and therefore feel less socially isolated, regarding ‘straight’ society? The answer is simple, and it is what the Gay Liberation Movement did in the 1960s and 70s – ‘coming out’ – by NOT staying in the closet, by holding events such as Gay Pride and Sparkle, and by mixing as much as possible in and with ‘straight’ society, so that we seem as ‘normal’ to them as we seem to ourselves – just ‘people’, human beings – like them.

I guess the implication of this is that we shouldn’t just hang out in LGBT bars and clubs, and areas like the Gay Village in Manchester, where we know we are safe – we should also go into and be seen in ‘straight’ places – out shopping, and in ‘straight’ pubs and clubs, or anywhere that any other citizen of the world can go! We should be proud to be who we are, and the more we are ‘out’, the more it will be accepted as ‘normal’ to be LGBT.

Easier said than done, I know! I recently did go into a ‘straight’ fairly working-class ‘blokish pub’ in my home town, as my femme self, naturally, together with my (genetic female) wife/partner and a genetic female friend. The three of us girls were the only females in the bar, and we did get stared at, and I felt decidedly uncomfortable. At least one man, a little, wiry, Yorkshire terrier of a chap who was very ‘blokish’ indeed, looked over in our direction with a scowl on his face, as if there was a bad smell emanating from our corner of the room!

It would be easy to conclude that he had ‘read’ me as transgendered and was prejudiced against me, or that he resented our feminine intrusion into an otherwise male sanctum, or that he was just appalled that two of us ladies were drinking pints! But it could just have been that it was a Friday, the end of the week, he had perhaps had a bad week, and was tired and not in a good mood anyway – and that that was just his characteristic expression – and nothing to do with our presence in the bar!

This brings me to a final point – which is that it is too easy and in fact we can be completely wrong when we try to ‘second-guess’ people’s reactions to us. What did that look mean? Why is that person staring at me or smiling at me? We may think we are attracting unwanted and possibly hostile attention – but it could just be that if someone is looking at us – they might just be thinking how nice we look, or how interesting we are, or how they would like to come up and talk to us!

There are different levels of ‘coming out’ as transgendered.

I have been out on the U.K. transgender scene for over 30 years. I regularly hang out in Manchester’s Gay Village as Kate; I have been to lots of TG groups and events over the years. This is one level of coming out.

But when you come out to your neighbours, friends & family, when you begin to inhabit the real world as a woman, that is a different level of coming out – and it is truly wonderful!

I have tried not to use the expression ‘coming out in the real world’ to describe this, because the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered) world is every bit as real as the ‘real’ world, but in transgender clubs and groups, or in gay bars or night clubs, one feels immediately accepted – you are just yourself. I really like lesbians and gay men, and I love socialising with them.

We in the transgender community owe a great deal to the brave lesbians and gay men who fought for their rights in the 1960s and 70s. The Gay Liberation movement blazed the trail for all folk differently gendered or differently sexually orientated. And I am so grateful that the lesbian, gay and bisexual community have embraced the transgender community in recent years, and I am proud that the ‘T’ on the end of LGBT stands for us!

Thank you, sisters and brothers, I love you so much!

Coming out in LGBT places, you will feel safe and respected, and you will find many new friends, and no one will harass you or discriminate against you – that is one level of coming out. And it is real, and wonderful. If you are still entirely in the closet, get out there, young woman, and meet us all in the LGBT community! We don’t bite! (Well only the Goths and Vamps among us, maybe!) – and we are friendly, loving people!

But beyond that, there is coming out to the wider world, to the ‘straight’ world, to the so-called ‘real’ world – and if you can do it, you strike a blow for the advancement of all transgendered people – because the more we do it, the more we will be accepted.

I have passed a few milestones myself this week. I went to the hairdresser’s en femme, and finally had the girly cut I have always wanted. It was great! Thank you, Ellie, you are a star, and you made me feel a million dollars!

After that, we did a bit of shopping in Tescos. No problem. Then we had a drink in the local branch of Wetherspoons. No problem.

This morning, while I was tapping away on my laptop, doing my trans social networking on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube (I’m Amber Gothy, Amber Goth or ambergoth on these, so please do ‘friend’ me or follow me!), my son came in and said he had terrrible itching all over his back from sunburn. My son is 24, and he has known about Kate since he was 7.

So we went off into Chesterfield, on a busy Saturday, and got him some Aloe Vera Gel in Boots; then we went into Wilcos so I could buy a Gillette ‘Venus Embrace’ lady razor pack and some Satin Care gel for doing my legs. Couldn’t find either in Wilcos, so we got them in Superdrug. Yes, I did that with my son.

My daughter has known about Kate since she was 9 – and she is 26 now, and has just had a baby boy, making me and my wife both grandmas! My daughter and son have also been very supportive and completely unfazed by my transgenderism right from when I first told them – I am very lucky, and I do know it – thank you, Anne and Henry!

My wife has fortunately known since before we were married – and I think that’s 38 years this year. She has always loved me as Kate (in fact she prefers me as a woman), and she has been wonderfully supportive and just about the most fantastic wife and partner any transgendered girl could ask for! Thank you, Rosie, for always being so accepting and loving!

To finish up about our shopping trip in Chesterfield today, we went into Waterstones, where my wife works, and she introduced me as Kate to one of her fellow booksellers, explaining that I was transgendered, and always had been! The lady in question didn’t bat an eyelid, just said: ‘Well why shouldn’t you do what you want?’

Walking through the crowded shopping streets on the way back to the car, no one gave us a second look. Apparently no one ‘read’ me – or if they did, they didn’t stare. The more of us who do this, the more folk in straight society will regard us as ‘normal’ – because we are normal! We’re just people!

So there you go. A happy, liberating experience. I guess I am fairly lucky in that I have my own long blonde hair, and I am not tall or big-boned and I do not have a very masculine face – although it is still more masculine than I would like, which is why I have decided, finally, to have Facial Feminisation Surgery (FFS) this year. I am so excited about it!

But even if you are over 6 ft, with huge hands, a jutting jaw and a heavy beard shadow – you can still do it – and I know people who do. Some of the girls who come to Sparkle come by train or other public transport, and even if they look a bit masculine, they brazen it out! They don’t care! It is all about confidence. Most ‘genetic’ women (i.e. women born female, with XX chromosomes rather than us poor girls who were born XY) do not go around wondering if strangers in the street or in a shop are thinking they might not be women. They just don’t ever consider it. Even women who are – well – frankly ugly or overly masculine in some way – don’t ever think this (though to me, no woman is ugly, some of us are just differently beautiful, and it is what is inside that is important). So we, as transgendered women, just have to remember when we are out and about – we ARE women. Walk with confidence. Act normal. Don’t slink. Don’t look embarrassed or furtive. You are doing nothing wrong. You are just being yourself, your true self. You are expressing your femininity, as any woman – or for that matter, any man – has the right to do.

Be proud that you are a woman. Be proud that you are transgendered! You are in a state of grace! You are lucky! Not everyone – particularly not ‘straight’ men – can feel and experience what you can feel and experience, if you ‘out’ as a woman. Women know it’s great to be a woman!

(URL for this is: https://ambergoth.wordpress.com/2011/07/23/coming-out-as-transgendered/)

Pope Benedict XVI says saving humanity from homosexual or transsexual behaviour is just as important as saving the rainforest from destruction.

The pope used his traditional end-of-year speech to say a few words about what he considers the important issues of the day. In a world where the practices of greedy bankers and corrupt financiers have forced the global economy into recession, and the insane policies of evil African dictator Robert Mugabe have caused the outbreak of a cholera epidemic and driven his own people to the brink of starvation, the 81 year old pontiff felt an attack on homosexuality and transgenderism was the best way to make use of his end-of-year address to senior Vatican staff.

Pope Benedict looks askance at gays and transsexuals

Pope Benedict looks askance at gays and transsexuals

At a time when a record number of homes even in more affluent countries are being re-possessed and many people find themselves unemployed and facing an uncertain future, the pope emphasised his total rejection of ‘Gender Theory’. While people are facing starvation, disease and genocide in the failed states of Africa – Zimbabwe, the Sudan and Somalia, to name but three of the worst – the 81 year old ex-member of the Hitler Youth showed where his priorities lie by saying that homosexuality and ‘Gender Theory’ are as big a threat to humanity as environmental challenges such as the destruction of rainforests.

 

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe raises his fist against the decadent West

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe raises his fist against the decadent West

Pope Benedict XVI explained that defending God’s creation was not limited to saving the environment, but also protecting man from self-destruction.

The pope warned that ‘Gender Theory’ blurs the distinction between male and female and could thus lead to the “self-destruction” of the human race.

Gender theory

Gender theory explores sexual orientation, the roles assigned by society to individuals according to their gender, and how people perceive their biological identity.

   

Gay and transsexual groups, particularly in the United States, promote it as a key to understanding and tolerance, but the pope disagrees.

It is not “outmoded metaphysics” to urge respect for the “nature of the human being as man and woman,” he told scores of prelates gathered in the Vatican’s sumptuous Clementine Hall.

The Catholic Church opposes gay marriage. It teaches that while homosexuality is not sinful, homosexual acts are.

In 2005 (his first year in office), Pope Benedict XVI upheld a ban on men with “deep-seated homosexual tendencies” becoming priests, and also described homosexuality as a “tendency” towards an “intrinsic moral evil”.

The former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith – once known as the Holy Office of the Inquisition – from 1981 until his election. His defence of church doctrine led to him to be called “the Pope’s enforcer” and “God’s rottweiler”.

Joseph Ratzinger was elected to the papacy in April 2005. At the age of 78, he was the oldest cardinal to become Pope since Clement XII was elected in 1730. Joseph Ratzinger was born into a traditional Bavarian farming family in 1927, although his father was a policeman. At the age of 14, he joined the Hitler Youth and was briefly held as a prisoner of war by the Allies in 1945.

Could there be another reason why the pope has used his end-of-year address to speak out against homosexuality and transsexuality? Perhaps he hopes that the traditionalist, ant-gay wing of the Church of England will depart from the Anglican Communion and re-join the Catholic Church.

It cannot have escaped the elderly pontiff’s notice that in July 2008 the Archbishop of the Episcopal Church of the Sudan declared that Gene Robinson, the openly gay Bishop of New Hampshire, “should resign for the sake of the church.”

In a press conference at the decennial Lambeth Conference, the Most Rev. Dr. Daniel Deng Bul said that homosexual ordination “is not what is found in the Bible” and that it is “not the norm of the Anglican world.”

Archbishop Bul, who serves as Bishop of Juba as well as primate of the church in Sudan, represents some of the most persecuted Christian minorities in the world, and lives in the country where Mrs. Gillian Gibbons was last year accused of insulting Islam. She was arrested, tried, and sentenced to 15 days in a Khartoum jail.

What had she done? Sheffield-born Mrs. Gibbons, mother of two, primary school teacher – and clearly a danger to the Sudanese state and to the whole Islamic religion – had allowed the seven-year-olds in her class at the Unity High School, Khartoum, to name their teddy bear Mohammed!

Did the pope speak out when the Sudanese government of President Omar Hasan Ahmad al-Bashir persecuted a harmless, 54-year-old English primary school teacher? Did he denounce this ludicrous, outrageous act of bullying? No, he did not – even though he is no lover of Islam. In 2006, in a controversial papal speech, the Pope quoted a 14th century Byzantine emperor who said the Prophet Muhammad had brought the world only “evil and inhuman” things. This provoked intense anger in the Muslim world. He recently generated more anger among some Muslims by personally baptising a prominent Muslim convert, Magdi Allam, who has been an outspoken critic of Islamist militancy and a strong supporter of Israel.

In the past I was what is sometimes called ‘an occasional TV’. I have gone for months and even years without cross-dressing, but lately I have got back into it again in a fairly frequent (and joyful!) way. I have been taking female hormones for about 8 months, and am starting to grow fairly obvious boobs. 

This is the second time I have taken female hormones; I took them for about six months a couple of years ago, then stopped, which I regretted.

This time I am carrying on with the hormones indefinitely. I don’t know where it’s going to lead or how far I’m going along the transgender path…we shall see. My partner (my wife of 31 years, Rosie) is enjoying the fact that I now have boobs, but also prefers to make love to someone with the requisite male parts below. Her ideal sex partner is perhaps a she-male, which is pretty much what I am becoming. How did this come about?

My attitudes to gender, feminine clothing, cross-dressing, sexual orientation, and to terms like ‘transvestite’, transsexual’, transgendered’, ‘she-male’, ‘drag queen’, etc. have changed and evolved over the years. I’ll get to that presently, because delineating the evolution of my own understanding of these subjects is partly tied up with the development, over the last 40 years or so, of social, psychological and genetic theories and explanations of transgenderism, ‘gender dysphoria’, or whatever you want to call it. 

According to developmental child psychologists, gender identity is established sometime between the ages of 1-2; at 18 months, most babies already have a notion of it, and where they fit in. The prevailing orthodoxy used to be to emphasize the importance of nurture over nature in gender identity development – the idea that one is mainly conditioned into one’s gender (pink for girls, blue for boys, etc.) I could quote the relevant academic references for this, but you’ll have to take my word for it, as this is a blog, not an academic treatise.

In the late 1980’s I did a dissertation for my Masters degree on the development of gender identity. There is still a copy of it in the University of Nottingham library, under my male name – and if you are interested in reading it, you’ll have to contact me through my FFG website (http://www.tgfiction.co.uk/ or YouTube channel (http://uk.youtube.com/user/ambergoth), so I could quote chapter and verse if I wanted to.

But suffice to say that social conditioning was considered to be crucial in developing a sense of gender, conditioning by parents and the wider society from birth onwards, being dressed as a girl or as a boy, and trained in the corresponding gender role, etc. This was very much in line with feminist thinking of the 60’s and 70’s. Girls and boys were conditioned into the acceptable norms of ‘feminine’ and ‘masculine’ social gender roles. Women are ‘made’, not born.

More recent theories on the development of gender identity and sexual orientation have tended by contrast to emphasize the importance of ‘nature’ over ‘nurture’ – it is suggested that much in the way of social bahaviour and psychological traits is genetically predetermined. There have been attempts to identify genetic factors leading to differences in brain chemistry and brain anatomy to explain transsexualism – is the brain of the male to female transsexual more like tha the brain of a woman? Likewise, can a ‘gay gene’ be identified which ‘explains’ homosexuality? Again, I could quote the recent research on one side or on the other – it’s out there if you want to find it – but it’s not within the scope of what I am trying to do now. 

I will just note in passing that I am firmly of the opinion that transgenderism and homosexuality are not just ‘life-style choices’ or ‘sicknesses’ that can be ‘cured’ or overcome with will power or the power of prayer. 

Fundamentalists of any of the three great monotheistic faiths who think otherwise are as bonkers as their religions. Yeah, that’s where I’m coming from, I’m an agnostic (sometimes verging on atheistic) secular liberal humanist and I have little time for god-botherers or creationists, the people of ‘faith’ who try to force their bigoted and intolerant views on the rest of us.

For me then, how did it all start? When did I first have feelings of wanting to be a girl and/or wear female clothing? 

Well. I’ll tell you that next time…