Category: October 2012


I am afraid of getting old – not, perhaps in the way you’d first imagine, and which people older than me scoff at (“cor, wait until you’re MY age, and THEN you’ll have something to be afraid of…what are you worrying about, youngster??” or words to that effect).

I’ve never been afraid of Mother Nature’s aging process. Wrinkles don’t frighten me, or grey hairs, or liver spots. Young people not respecting me I hope I’ll be able to deal with when the time comes, and I’ve had enough aches, pains and health problems so far in my life to know what they feel like.

What I am deathly afraid of, and what I lie awake at night worrying about, is ending up in a care home where I am known as ‘the gentleman who fusses about his food and doesn’t have a…you-know-what’. I’m pretty sure that by the time of my life where giving up my own home might be a necessity, the testosterone will have worked its magic sufficiently for me to look 100% male, but if and when personal care is necessary, I cannot bear the thought of being an oddity. Being an oddity at home, on my own terms, is just fine, but not like that. And no, I’m not getting a phalloplasty solely so that 17 yr old care assistants don’t gossip about me. No offence to 17 yr old care assistants, but you get my drift.

Of course, my partner is 10 years younger than me, so if all goes well, I’ll have her by my side, and on my side. But if she’s not, how do care homes deal with queer residents? No doubt sexuality and gender identity are an important part of any care facility’s policy making, but how on earth does that translate to everyday life for someone whose sexuality and gender are not clear-cut? Just as with many other jobs involving people skills and understanding, some have it, and some really don’t. I dread being stuck in a vulnerable position with someone who doesn’t. There will always be people inclined to disregard policy and guidelines in favour of their own beliefs on how ‘people like me’ should be spoken to and treated. Which I can fight now, and no doubt will for many years to come, but my fear is of a time when I no longer can.

I used to have a pipe dream about running a care home for lesbians, back in the day. I suppose I could strive now for a care home for trans* people, but let’s face it, that wouldn’t work. As I’ve said before, 30 trans* identified people put in a room together will have no more in common that 30 random people plucked simultaneously, Star Trek style, from anywhere in the world. It would be care home carnage.

Segregation, whilst a fleetingly comforting idea, is not the answer. Legislation probably is, to a degree, but as I mentioned earlier, it doesn’t always trickle down to those at the pointy end. Understanding, equality, fairness and openness would make up at least part of the ingredients required, but I cannot foresee a big enough shift in the way people treat each other on a fundamental level to allay my fears just yet.

I’ll be 41 in a few weeks, which is barely teetering on the edge of middle-age, I know. I recently had test results from the doctor confirming that my blood-pressure is nicely normal, my cholesterol is minimal, and according to some super-scientific calculation, I am currently at 1.7% risk of heart disease. So if all goes well, and the winds of life stay in the right direction, I’m alright for a while.

Strange that when I was 40, it was exciting, affirming, a landmark, and cause of all sorts of celebrations, balloons and bad jokes. 41 isn’t much older, but is definitely not heralded in with quite so much enthusiasm. I probably shouldn’t worry about what the future holds, but looking around at the world as it is now, my natural pessimism fuels those middle-of-the-night soul freezing fears for the future me.

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There is still no cure for the common birthday.  ~John Glenn

 

 

I’ve been called ‘mate’ quite a lot recently, which is rather nice, as around here the word ‘mate’ is a sort of universal shorthand for recognition of masculinity. Or a way of registering that the person you are calling ‘mate’ wishes to be recognised as male.

I live in a small city in a rural area. The area surrounding my city is often the butt of jokes about country living, funny accents and doing unspeakable things to the local sheep and/or your sister. It’s not a place you’d normally think of as cosmopolitan. The city itself is a lot more liberal than many places in the UK, and one reason we came to live here is because overall it’s a place where difference seems to be accepted. Not all the time, or in every part, but generally we’ve had less abuse hurled at us here than where we’ve lived before.

For all my home city’s liberalness (liberality?) I’ve sometimes thought that maybe, as a queer transguy married to a lesbian, I should consider moving to London or Brighton¬† – somewhere where queer culture is more recognised. Again, don’t get me wrong – I’m fully aware that in some parts of each of those places, people like me are given a very hard time. In my fantasy moving plans, though, I’m focusing on the good bits.

However, I’ve discovered a very strange thing. I seem to be recognised as male a lot less in supposedly more accepting communities. In Brighton recently I was called ‘she’, and Will and I were referred to ‘girls’ (as in ‘goodnight, girls’ when leaving the pub) much more often than I ever encounter here at home.

The only conclusion I can come up with is that in places where there is more general acceptance of same-sex couples, people are far more likely to look at me and see a lesbian, particularly when I am with Will. On the other hand, where that sort of acceptance is maybe a few years behind, people are more likely to do their gender maths differently, and ‘read’ me as male.

I read somewhere, and I’m sorry that I can’t remember where to quote properly, that one woman on the Indian subcontinent had challenged local clothing conventions by dressing in trousers and a shirt. She reported that she was almost universally addressed as a male when dressed in male clothing. Not because she looked particularly masculine, but because the gender equation that went on in people’s heads led straight to the conclusion that dressed in that sort of clothing she *must* be male.

I mentioned the problems that are created when my identity endangers my partner’s identity, and vice versa in Lesbiaaaans! and I in no way want to upset the delicate balance we have created. I do get a buzz from being called ‘mate’, though, and being recognised as male, and each time I am included as one of ‘the girls’ it does hurt. Quite apart from the fact that we love living where we do, maybe living in a less cosmopolitan, metrosexual place works in my favour after all. We’ll keep the bright lights for holidays and special occasions…at least until I have a big pirate beard of my own, or get round to knitting one.