Tuesday, 29 October 2019

The Summons

 
I was summoned to the Managers office this week .. and asked to shut the door . .. Gulp! 



My mind was in turmoil as to what I had done wrong, was I being moved to another platform, had there been a complaint about my care, .. all this flashed through my mind in a nanosecond as I slipped in to the office … my anxiety crept up another notch when I was asked to sit down and pull the chair up to the side of the desk … 

As you may know, I work on an offshore oil production platform in the North Sea as a nurse (platform medic) and have been on this particular platform for over 13 yrs. We have recently had a change in the platform management team, with a new platform manager joining the company and assigned to the work with us. 



I have been out and proud on the platform since I arrived here and tend to take my Transgender status for granted, its just ‘normal’ for me and I get on well with the platform core crew as well as the vendors and visitors.
However, even though I am out and everyone knows I am Transgender. I tend to dress in a somewhat androgynous style with unisex green overalls and pastel coloured tee shirts, along with my dyed shoulder long red hair and thin shaped eyebrows; so I’m not exactly a shrinking violet then! Heels and skirts are just not done on an oil platform and not appropriate for my situation. 



Back to the office … my anxiety and paranoia were working overtime and I was sitting rather uncomfortably on the edge of the chair waiting for whatever came next… 
The new manger was a large, macho, rugby fan who had a commanding aura about him that encouraged you not to question his decisions.  

‘I understand that you are Transgender’ he says … with me taking a breath worrying what is coming next …  ‘…and would like to know how you would prefer to be addressed …’ asked  my manager… He continued with ‘I have never worked with someone who is openly Transgender before and know very little about it … so I don’t want to upset you in any way.’

Needless to say the wind was knocked out of my sails and I took a few seconds to recover my composure and explain my relaxed tolerance to how I was addressed as I presented mostly male due to my name being that on my contract etc.. with a strong feminine lean. 
I was asked how I balanced my life between male and female time, about my partner and how they dealt with things, and my own preferences and how that fitted in with my work and leisure time.  

What followed was a 15min discussion about how he perceived my conduct to be extemporary and professional, giving declarations of full support from the manager in however I wished to present myself. 

He used words like ‘pioneer’, ‘ground-breaking’ ‘complete person’ and ‘role model’, complementing me on my work ethics and my managing the balance of being transgender and professional in my conduct on the platform, which he sees as one of the most macho work areas possible, where very few Transgender people work. 
I was told to let him know if I had any issues with transphobic comments or bullying as he would not tolerate these in any form. 

Happily, I was able to explain that I had phenomenal support from the core crew team who often defended me when new people made uneducated comments about my gender status, and that they were all comfortable enough around me to have some light hearted banter without meaning anything detrimental. 


So, what was perceived as a potentially worrying interview by my paranoia, turned into an amazing offer of support in all areas of my work and private life, and a request for more information on the subject, to help him give better, informed support in the future. 

I was a little emotional after and had to take a minute to absorb what had just happened and reflect on the issues I had in the past where I was subject to a ‘constructive’ removal from a post due to an unsupportive (transphobic) manager, and how I was being offered support without asking or prompted. 



This event just goes to show that you never know where support will come from, or when, or how. It was an amazing but humbling boost to my personal and professional life from a source that I had least expected, in an area not renewed for its sensitivity but truly welcomed. 
I hope this gives some hope for others who are not in such a good position as myself, and shows that there are great managers out there and you never know where support may come from when you need it most . 

Wednesday, 26 June 2019

Trans Women in Sport - BBC Documentary with Martina Navratilova

Martina Navratilova 

Martina Navratilova presented a BBC programme that debated the inclusion of Trans athletes in elite sports, and showed the body of research that is being undertaken at Loughborough university into transgender and the physiological affects of hormone on strength and endurance.







The study is over five years and will explore the pre-hormone period, transitioning period and post transition period, with a compressive testing of various blood levels against strength, flexibility and VO2 max with a comparable study of non-transgender individuals.

Other sports people in non-athletic fields were included and motorsports driver, Charlie Martin, was very good at highlighting areas where male, female and transgender can all compete in the same arena.

Charlie Martin 


At present, the evidence points to a marked reduction in strength and endurance in transitioning from male to female with in a few months of commencing hormone therapy. However there are cases of intersexed individuals (such as Caster Semenya) that are being reviewed to assess the validity of the restrictions that have been imposed.

Caster Semenya 


My Thoughts 
I thought that the program was reasonable as it showed the plight of Trans athletes and sports people, and gave a lot of time to the research,  but as expected it could not give any insight as to the compromise that will have to be made if there is to be a ‘level playing field’ where Trans Women can compete in what is seen as complete ‘fairness’ against Cis women.


The programme seemed to be attempting to recover some credibility for Ms Navratilova following her unguarded comments on Trans athletes and it seems to come across that she is genuinely upset that her words caused so much anguish, and has taken steps to make amends.
worth a watch and points to ponder.

See BBC website for more info - ‘’ The Trans Women Athlete Debate ‘’

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m00069nr

..............................


PS - 26.07.19 - BBC news report 

It will take female athletes "being thrown under the bus" at Tokyo 2020 before changes are made to transgender rules, says ex-swimmer Sharron Davies.
International Olympic Committee (IOC) guidelines state that transgender women must suppress testosterone levels for at least 12 months before competition.
But in March, Davies and others wrote to the IOC calling for more research.
In Tokyo, Laurel Hubbard of New Zealand could become the first transgender female to win an Olympic medal.
The 41-year-old weightlifter won two golds at the Pacific Games earlier in July.
After Samoa's Commonwealth Games champion Feagaiga Stowers missed out on a medal, Hubbard's participation was criticised. 
An Olympic silver medallist in 1980, Davies - who said she has had no response from the IOC since writing to it - says the body is conducting a "live experiment".
The Briton told BBC Sport: "I find it extraordinary that [Hubbard winning medals] is where we have to go before the IOC open their eyes.
"I'm positive things will change but the problem is we will be throwing females under the bus before it does change."
Transgender women in sport is a hotly debated topic, with former Wimbledon champion Martina Navratilova and transgender cyclist Rachel McKinnon among those who have entered the discussion.
Davies believes that reducing testosterone for 12 months before competition does not represent a level playing field for female athletes.
She says that despite those guidelines, transgender female athletes retain biological advantages gained in puberty. 
However, some transgender women, such as masters track cycling world champion McKinnon, say reducing testosterone in their bodies results in "radical physiological changes".
The IOC did not respond to BBC Sport's request on whether it would change its guidelines for the Tokyo Olympics, but said it was "working to develop new guidance" to help international federations (IFs) shape sport-specific policies and regulations in relation to fairness, safety, inclusivity and non-discrimination."
It added it was "committed to furthering inclusion, without discrimination based on gender identity and/or sex characteristics" and "is also concerned to ensure equality for women and their empowerment across sport".
  • 'The IOC is not interested in what athletes have to say'
Davies, two-time Olympic champion Dame Kelly Holmes and marathon world record holder Paula Radcliffe - with the support of 60 other top-class athletes - wrote a letter to IOC president Thomas Bach in March asking for the body to look further into the "residual benefits" of being a transgender athlete.
But the lack of response means she does not expect anything to change before the Tokyo Games, which start on 24 July 2020. 
"We've had nothing, not even a polite letter to say thank you for your interest or your request and we will look into it," she added.
"It just says that the IOC is not interested in what athletes have to say. I find this so disheartening when sport should be run for the athletes. 
"I think it will take some situations at the Olympics and people being very distressed with what they see before we see any changes. 
"Once we start seeing well-known female athletes being beaten, then people will start standing up and understanding the situation. It will be a shame because it should be about the sport, fairness and the best we can be."
The IOC said: "Our approach to providing guidance on participation is based on an ever-evolving area of research and learning" by consulting medical, scientific, legal and human rights experts, the IOC athletes' commission, the IOC women and sport commission, IFs, and national governing bodies.
It added: "Our guidance will be subject to periodic review in order to take account of relevant developments in the area, in consultation with all stakeholders concerned."

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/49110775

Thursday, 13 June 2019

Life in the Fast Lane

The Green Team
Nurse Wyvern 

I have a full time job on an oil platform in the North Sea as a Nurse (platform medic) that has been documented here in the past, but I also have a part time job as an Occupational Heath Nurse Advisor, where I advise on how to support individuals who have illness or conditions that may  affect them in the work areas, and help those who are off work get the right support and ease them back to work when deemed fit to return. 

Occupational Health is the interface between people and their working environment, where potential hazards are assessed and mitigated, exposures are measured, and preventive measures are designed and imposed. 

These two sides of my professional life came together recently when I was asked to give a talk on offshore occupational health to the ‘Association of Occupational Health Nurse Practitioners’ study day. 

The Association has a facebook forum that it uses as its main information and communications focal point and I am registered there under my female identity, as I don’t have an account in my male persona.
This has often been of benefit to the Association as I am able to advise on transgender issues that some practitioners come in contact with in their work areas and professional practice. 
So I planed to give the presentation en-fem, as they were expecting to see me there from the forum advertising. 

Bleak Spot Camping 


The Study Day  

The study day was arranged by one of my collogues who is the occupational nurse manager for Williams F1 - a formula one race team, and had secured four other speakers who were to give a discussion on various topics such as travel medicine, the legal aspects of Occ Health update and review new research. 

My day stated out well as I had driven from home in my Landover and found a lovely spot to camp nearby with some stunning views over the country side next to some racing horse gallops. 
After a light breakfast I dressed in some grey wide legged trousers with a wool grey roll neck top, purple shoes and my favorite Jager short purple jacket.  
The impression I wanted to give was ‘smart professional’. 

The short drive to the F1 headquarters was fine, but I had to negotiate the early morning rush hour traffic, but eventually found the main gate and was ushered in and directed to the car parking area. 
The site was large and impressive. The buildings were all ultra modern with great views, and the car park was full of interesting cars of all makes, becoming of the workforce intertwined with speed and technology  - my Landover was the polar opposite of the general theme ! 

I was met at the conference center by one of the hospitality team and directed to the area where we were the event was bing held and met some of the others who were attending. 
It was lovely to put faces to the names of people I have been working with on the forum site for several years and be accepted as one of the peers. 
My Fem side was not even blinked at when introduced, it was just taken as part of me and totally accepted. 

.... and still going after an hour ! 
Me waffling again....
My Mumble - Death By Powerpoint! 

The event stared with an introduction from the people running the study day and a quick run round of introductions from the attendees. There were about 50 people in the audience and I had not met anyone face to face before. 

My presentation was due to be the last one as it was the longest. I had made it applicable to the venue by using the F1 team as a link between the oil and gas industry and the use of hydrocarbon in the production of products that are in common day usage. 

I stared the talk by apologizing that I wasn’t as glamorous as  Danny LaRue, as funny as Eddy Isard, or as sharp as Lilly Savage – this seemed to break the ice and I explained my TG status, offering to talk to anyone about TG issues if they ever had the need. 

The talk went well and I had lots of interesting questions and positive comments fed back to me about the subject matter. Sadly I overran my 40 mins to end up at an hour .. so have apologised to the organiser as she was supposed to be giving a talk after mine which she canceled politely saying that mine was more interesting than hers would have been anyway !  (I felt very guilty and apologised several times after !) 

Myself with the formula E race car 
Geek Outing 

At the end of the day we were able to visit the heritage museum that was in the building and one of the team pit crew was able to show us around the cars on show. 
These included several world championship winning cars from the past, right up to the previous years racing car and the development cars from the new E series.

I was able to let my inner geek out and enjoy seeing all the history and technology that was on display, and tap into the mind of information that the guide was able to impart on us about the cars and the drivers who used them. 






Some of the championship winning cars from over the years 


After a quick visit to the shop to buy some gifts for the lads on my platform, I made my way out and headed south at a rather sedate pace compared to the cars in the site! 

On the way out of the gate, I came nose to nose with the large HGV lorries that were returning the race team from the Monaco Grand Prix that had been ran a couple of days previously – it was a very impressive convoy!! 


More !!

I have been asked to do another talk in the future on a relevant topic .… but I may have to be more critical on my time keeping before I get to go back ! 

Please note - my presentation has nothing to do with the teams fortunes in the current season.... hope that they get to win some points this year  ......

Hugs Dawn 
x

Friday, 4 January 2019

Reminiscing .....

I was browsing the internet today and found a post by a newly ‘out’ girl who had just set up a new website for trans women to chat on and pass on information as she said she couldn’t find anything on the web. A 30second search found 50 sites for new TG’s in the UK and 3 in her local area. 

This lead me to think about my early days and the information vacuum at that time compared to the deluge of information available at any time from any place with an internet or mobile phone connection. 
OK, I’m going back to the BC times (before computers and mobile phones) and everything I knew about my ‘dressing hobby’ came from the tabloid newspapers or off the telly. In those days we only had BBC and ITV (BBC2 and Channel 4 came later). 

There where only two categories in those days, TV or TS, with TV’s being crossdressers, part time, non-op and the bulk of the numbers and TS being for those who were actively looking for medical intervention to have hormones and surgery. The TS group shunned the non-op full timers as not being serious about their transition. I’m glad to say things have moved on a lot since then and we are much better understood. 

I kept a little diary with all my phone contacts in and had to make use of the public call boxes to contact friends and family as we didn’t have a phone at home, and when we did I was paranoid that my parents would catch me using it . 
I found the last version of my written phone list recently and remembered all the lovely people who helped me on my way over the years. 

Letters – we used to write letters to people, with a pen and no spell check (my spelling was awful – and still is!!) Then sat for days hoping for a reply, dreading that my mother would open it before I did and read the contents.  


So where did we go for this ‘information’

The daily newspapers had ‘agony aunts’ who would sometimes give tidbits of information on the various support groups – such as the Beaumont Society, and contact details for the gay switchboards who would then give you a number of someone who may have been a TV/TS and was willing to help.   Often it was a dead end and you could spend days trying to call the number with no answer. 

I was lucky in that I called the Bristol gay switch board one day and was given a number of a lovely TS lady who met me and took me to a meeting at the Bristol Beaumont group, which in those days was strictly ‘heterosexual crossdressers’ only, but that was mostly ignored as there was nowhere else to go. 
Being very young and passable at that time I was soon invited out to other groups in the area and even up to London to the gay pubs where drag queens performed. My life took off in an amazing direction and am still benefiting from that meeting today. 

The main other area of information was the telly. 
There were very few factual based programs dealing with transgender at that time, but we did have the odd gem. 

The late Julia Grant. 
The BBC ran a series of fly on the wall type documentaries based on Julia Grant, who had phoned up the BBC to complain about the BBC calling a Transsexual a Transvestite, and after speaking on the phone was enlisted to be the subject of a documentary following her progression through her transition.  
I was glued to the telly the night the first one was broadcast (you only had on chance to catch it as there was no +1 channels !) and was in awe, I wanted to find out more, have my multitude of questions answered, but became frustrated at the lack of information about services or guidance. 
Sadly Julia passed away in January 2019 after a short illness. I had the honor to meet her a few times when I visited Manchester and thanked her for allowing the documentary to be made, explaining its profound affect on someone in a small farming town deep in the South West of the UK. 

Other landmarks in my past were the stories about April Ashley, Christine Jorgensen, Renee Richards, Roberta Cowell, and later Caroline Crosby (Tula) that occasionally grace the newspapers of that time. The reporting was slightly more factual than todays interpretation of the facts, and - like now - often made errors in the accounts, however it was an oasis in a desert for people like me. 

Roberta Cowell 
Music had its share of crossdressing, with Sylvester being an in your face drag queen who took the disco dance scene by storm in the 80’s with her glamorous costumes and high energy dance routines.  Amada Lear came to the fore in the 80’s about the same time as Boy George, Peter Burns and the new romantic movement set forth and androgyny, glam rock and punk hit the world. 

So, where is this going … 

I stated with my concern for a poor sole who thought that they had no information that was suitable for them. It may be that the vast amount of information is diluting the quality, like the 200+ telly channels that we can view at the touch of a button, or the variety of sites that you can pull up on the internet with a simple search. 

Online you have the likes of YouTube where you can see how to make Boobs, do your hair, fit eyelashes and learn makeup skills; Face Book, Twitter, Snap Chat where you can post a message and have support in a few seconds; Numerous chat sites that cater for all tastes world wide, support sites that have links to other support sites, personal stories and blogs (like mine and others on here).  

The choice is endless.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not criticising these in any way, my concerns are sorting the chaff from the wheat – where the quality sites are drowned in misinformation. 

As a nurse I often come in contact with patients who have looked up their symptoms on the web and made a profound diagnosis of their condition, requesting a particular type of treatment that ‘they have seen used in America’  This was countered by a college of mine who quoted ‘Don’t confuse your five minute Google search with my five years Masters Degree’ and that made me think – have we lost something over the years with the over availability of information? 

So perhaps Quality not Quantity is what is needed – The truth is out there - it just needs to be found. 

Just my thoughts. 
Hugs and Heath 
Dawn 
xxx


 http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-manchester-46735571

Wednesday, 21 November 2018

My Transgender Day of Remembrance - 2018



The Transgender Memorial 
Each year there are transgender people who take their own lives or have their lives taken from them just for being who they are. The 20thNovember has been nominated the Transgender Day of Remembrance since 1999, initially in response to the murder of Rita Hester in Massachusetts, USA: and became an international movement in 2010. 

Since then this event has gained momentum and has been observed in over 20 countries. 
In the UK the national media have responded with articles and positive portraits of members of the Transgender Community, and this year there was a week long event to highlight Transgender Awareness.
In Sackville Gardens, Manchester, on the site of the annual ‘Sparkle’ event is the UK’s Transgender Memorial, where those who are lost to us are remembered in a simple service and vigil. 

For me, I was working offshore this week working and have had discussions on Transgender issues with some of my work colleagues, I have presented an LGBT awareness presentation to the platform population and took time out to remember.  
In my own way, I remembered the passing of one of our good friends who was drowned off the back of her sailing boat. She was not officially part of the criteria for the remembrance day, but I took the opportunity to mark the passing of a good friend. 

However the support has been found in other areas unexpected, as Sky television screened three powerful films on the evening of the 20thNovember that showed the plight of Transgender  individuals.

The films were ‘grown up’ films, not making the lead character a comic event or a ‘baddie’. The subject matter was treated with respect in all three films and showed the misconceptions and struggles that Transgender individuals must deal with on a daily basis. 

Just Charlie 



The first film was the British film ‘Just Charlie’, and was about a young football player who felt that they were a girl trapped in a boys body. 
The film covers the distress of the father and other relatives, the social implications and the rejection that they received to achieve their goals. 
It portrays the frustration and struggles of the main character, the frustration of the parents and eventually the acceptance and support needed to help them become their true self. 
I thought that the film was well done, the obvious input by Mermaids and others from the Transgender Community was evident and puts the message over very well.  





Fantastic Woman 

The second was a Chilean film that won an Oscar at the 2018 academy awards for best foreign film, as well as a host of other awards. 
The story follows a Transgender woman whose lover suddenly dies and her life is put into turmoil over the circumstances of his death and the hatred of his family. 
It’s a very powerful, artistic and moving film; beautifully made with colorful sets and backdrops, the frustration and rejection of her lovers family overspills into verbal abuse, with the main character trying to maintain her dignity. 
The star of the film is Daniela Vega, a Transgender woman who is also a mezzo-Soprano opera singer and sings the opera pieces during the film. 
I really enjoyed the film with its pace and delivery, giving me time to piece together the issues surrounding the story and make my own conclusions. 



Boys don't Cry 
The third film that night was the powerful American 1999 film, ‘Boys don’t Cry’. 
This is an angry film that is based on a true story of Brandon Teena, a Transgender man who was brutally murdered in Nebraska. 
The lead role was undertaken by Hillary Swank, who received an Oscar for her performance, however the LGBT community noted the film was often misinterpreted in that the main focus was the Transgender identity aspect being some what lost in the violent ending. 
Again I enjoyed the film and the gritty story line, the plight of the lead and the compassion of the need to be them selves, the rejection/acceptance of the character and the issues surrounding the perception of being Transgendered. 





Over the last few years I feel that the mystique of Transgender is being removed and people are now more aware and generally accepting, however there are still uneducated individuals out there who can be very vocal and violent as described in these films, as well as acceptance, compassion and understanding, as is now more evident in daily lives. 

They are know to us. 


Monday, 15 October 2018

Winter Woollies


Summer has been an amazing season in the UK this year, with record number of sunny days and record temperatures, leading to a great outdoor adventures and events, days by the sea side and picnics. 

Summer frocks, sandals, sunblock and sloppy hat were the style of the day to help keep cool and look cool too. 

For myself, this summer I wore a range of summer frocks and comfortable shoes and pashminas in the evenings when the sun went down.  
I enjoyed the summer, but found the fashions restrictive as its too warm for me to wear my most stylish clothes and fashionable shoes. 

Dark Dawn 
So Autumn blusters in with winds and rain, cool nights and frosty mornings. The fashions become warmer with longer heaver skirts, thicker tights and the return of warm boots. Its probably my favorite season for fashions as I can wear my warm woolen coats, leather gloves and my many hats. 
I enjoy the layers of soft snuggly jumpers and tops, the ankle length woolen skirts and the fashionable jackets and coats that can help disguise a multitude of sins and re-enforce the feminine image.

Spring Forward - Fall Back 

As the nights draw in and the days shorten, many girls feel more comfortable going out and about. The darkness providing some additional protection to their scurrying out of the house before the neighbors can spot them. 
I remember going to an event in London one summer that had the doors open at 8pm. We turned up at 8pm on the dot and were the first there, then had a whole hour and a half to wait till the next person arrived. The proprietress spent the time chatting to us and commented that the girls were all like vampires and shunned the sunlight ! 

Dawn Autumn Sun

The cooler days allow me to bring out my more stylish classical clothes, paired with as range of scarfs and hats, then matching gloves, bags and shoes. Its a chance to dress to impress, but being functional and warm! 

It’s a chance for me to move to more earthy colours for my makeup, more russet blusher shades, lighter foundation,  and darker lipsticks. Rich deep colours give a warmer look to my pale face and the browns and greens make my eyes pop in the paler autumn sunlight.   

Dawn Night 

Choices .... Choices 

My wardrobe has several long coats, shorter leather jackets and a lot of scarfs.! The shoe cupboard has a wide selection of black and brown boots in varying heel height and leg length, as well as numerous pairs of more sturdy shoes for any occasion. I have red, black and brown gloves to match my bags in leather and wool. 
Hats …. Did I mention hats …. I adore my hats and have a selection of them to finish off an outfit, in a range of styles and colours to match my coats and other accessories.  

Dawn Vintage 


My informal selection includes baggy jumpers over roll neck tops, body warmers and puffer jackets that go with ski pants and jeans, topped off with furry head bands and neck warmers with clumpy ankle boots or flat soled long boots.

Dawn Crossing 

So – don’t despair over the end of the summer – rejoice in the autumn and take advantage of the cool weather to make the most of your layered wardrobe. 

Monday, 23 July 2018

Sparkle - 2018 - a South West Girls Adventure !

Sparkle 2018 …. The adventure begins… 

With the grace of my work rotation falling just right, I was able to attend the wonderful sparkle event again this year, having had a couple of years off. 

I had arranged to travel up with some friends from the south west and was really looking forward to having some time to catch up and chat. Sadly Jemma and Hanna were not able to come this year leaving just the four of us to take Manchester by storm! 

Thursday 
My day started well with me waking up early and having a shower and getting dressed for the journey. I had bought a new summer outfit for the trip, with a cool blue and white stripy top and white cotton trousers – very ‘beachy’ said my partner peaking out from under the covers when she woke up. Getting my make up oncaused the first of the days disasters as my foundation sprayed over my new pristine white trousers and wouldn’t wash out ! 
The day was off to a good start! 

I loaded my Landover with all my various bags of clothes shoes and assorted items, as well as my work bag and umbrellas, rain coat, sun block, and hat! - I even considered taking my winter fleece just incase as the weather had been so hot for so long .. it was Manchester and we needed to be prepared for anything. 

I was away from home by 7:30 am aiming to reach Nicky’s house in Somerset by the appointed 10am, and settled into the journey. 
This was going to be my eighth Sparkle that I had attended and was hoping for good things from the event and weekend.

Disaster strikes! 
Getting close to Taunton on the M5, I pulled onto the slip road and found that I had no pressure on my clutch peddle and it went right down to the floor with no response! I was eventually able to engage first gear and move to somewhere safe to park. 
I realised that I would be able to make my way to Nickys house if I kept pumping the clutch peddle and then make a plan from there. 
So after a tense 20 mile drive along narrow, twisty, hilly country roads, I arrived safely at Nicky’s house on time.
The original plan was for me to transport Sophie, (one of the new south west girls who has recently come out,) and follow Nicky and Ginny up to Manchester, however that was now in some doubt as my Defender was probably not going to make it. 

A call to the Landover assistance service saw an engineer on his way to assess the vehicle, so we thought it best that Nicky and Ginny go ahead and we would keep them informed of any developments. 

The borrowed  and the broken! 


The Plan .. 
The engineer arrived about two hours later and was very professional in dealing with my problem. He concluded that the hydraulic system had failed and could not be repaired  in less than a day. 
However as I has bought my Landover from a main dealers it had a warrantee and included the use of a courtesy car. 
So we arranged to drive off to the main dealers in convoy with the engineer leading the way incase I had a total failure and needed towing to the garage.

On arrival the slow process of assessing the Defender and arranging for a courtesy car dragged on until after six pm, which was a little baptism of fire for poor Sophie, as not only was this one of her first times dressed out in public, the security team at the main dealers used to work in the same area as she did in London in the past and they had a lot of common friends!  
We were eventually able to leave and make our way north and made a quick call to Ginny confirmed that they had arrived safely and had informed the hotel that we were on our way. Luckily as we were later than expected the roads were reasonably quiet and the brand new top of the range discovery sport ate up the miles and we arrived at the hotel about four hours later. 

Party time ! 
A quick drop off of the bags into the hotel rooms and freshen up then we walked into canal street to meet up with the others. 
Even though it was now well after 10pm, the temperature was still warm and balmy, so a lot of people were sitting out in the street, giving Sophie her first glimpse of what was to come. 
Knowing Nicky and Ginny, we found the first bar playing high energy 80’s dance music and went in … bingo – there they were dancing for all their worth on a crowed floor in the first club we selected! 
We had arrived!! 
 
Ginny, Sophie, myself and Nicky - the SW girls 
Friday Frolics 
After getting to bed at about 1am we arranged to meet at 9 in the morning and go for breakfast in our usual little café next to the Arundel Centre in the middle of the town. The staff at the café have had a few years to get to know us and always give us a great welcome and lots of banter, so we have become honorary regulars. We had our breakfasts here every morning and the staff were always interested on what was going on each day in the park. 
I had gone for a long white and purple summer dress that was both cool and stylish as the weather was still exceptionally warm for the UK, this was paired with some low black ballet slippers making pavement pounding comfortable.

After our breakfast we hit the town and check out the shopping areas. 
I found an area that was able to sort my eyebrows out and they performed their magic with threading. 
I don’t know about you, but any pulling of my eyebrows results in me sneezing … every time, all the time .. and in the middle of a shopping center was no exception!  - Sophie and Ginny tried to disown me as I made the windows rattle with my sneezing ! 
Eventually the job was done and my brows had been tamed into some semblance of tidy and looked fab! 
VIP’s in the VIP area


Next stop was the delights of Marks and Spencer’s, who were having one of their best sales that I have ever seen. I was on a little bit of a budget and had severe space restrictions in my wardrobe at home so had to restrain myself to just a couple of tee shirts and some rather fabulous wide legged cotton trousers, …which may also suit my partner too. 
One quick stop off in Primark for my partner to pick up a yellow belt that she requested and I was accosted by two of the shop assistants, asking if I wanted to book a free makeover that they offered for anyone attending the Sparkle weekend. I didn’t fancy the makeover myself but knew that Sophie would really enjoy the experience, so she booked up to have an appointment at midday on the Saturday. 

It was time to wander back to the hotel and make ourselves ready for dinner as we had booked a table in Pizza express, which is my favorite restaurant, next to the main park in the city. 
I had chosen to wear my lovely blue & red swing dress matched with comfortable red hushpuppy shoes so as we could enjoy the dancing later in the evening.  
After a lovely meal, we wandered back and hit Canal Street, finding a place to sit outside some of the bars and watch the world go by, chatting to old friends and admiring all the outfits being warn by the people attending sparkle. 

One Side of Canal Street
The street was beginning to get busy as more and more people arrived to make the most of the good weather and build up for the event. Several of the bars had regular drag acts on and the performers were out in the street enticing people in to enjoy the shows. We made our way to one of our favorite bars and danced the night away to a wide range of 80’s music – which was probably the most popular with all the patrons as the dance floor was never empty while they were playing ! 

On the Street with Caroline - an Honorary SW girl! 
Saturday – the Park! 
This year the park had been laid out with meticulous planning. The stage was set up with lights and sound system, a row of portaloos were on site, a big bar tent and a vip tent erected in prominent positions, and the host of vendors areas arranged in a winding route to allow easy access. Security had been stepped up and the whole thing gave an air of a professional and well managed event.  

The Park! 
The stage was set to give nonstop entertainment all day and well into the evening, with a host of acts, starting off with a local 100 voice rock choir who got the party rolling with their renditions of modern and classic rock songs sang with high energy and enthusiasm! 
Sparkle was making an effort to showcase the talent across all the trans community. Our Nicky was a singer songwriter and had entered into the talent contest for singing her original work, and was performing that day. 
We had all turned up to support her efforts, which coincided with England’s football game in the world cup quarter final! 
She sang three of her songs with guitar accompaniment, with great lyrics that reached out to all in the event. 

Nicky on the Stage

We thought that she did very well even though the sound engineer was obviously unfamiliar with the equipment and made some errors during the performance. However despite her best efforts, Nicky was nominated runner up in the event. 
Other acts of the day showcased drag kings, drag queens, trans groups and several trans singers, including the wonderful Jordan Gray, who was on a national television talent show a couple of years ago and has gone from strength to strength. 

The Choir! 

Over the years Sparkle has provided numerous workshops on a wide range of subjects, some exclusively for the Transgender community others more general in nature. This year sadly there were very few over the weekend, however Ginny had found a workshop about the new Gender Recognition Act amendments that she was very interested in attending and came back with lots of information on how the act would work and the ramifications for the whole of the transgender community in the United Kingdom. I wont cover the act here as there is so much that is involved that I cannot do it justice in a couple of lines.
Take a look at the discussions on the website here ..  www.gires.org.uk/the-gender-recognition-act-discussion-november-2017

Anabella and Charlotte 

Myself and Sally 

Canal Street in the Sunshine

Sophie and I made our way back to Primark where she had a wonderful time being made over by the team there. I spent some time chatting to the Area Manager of the store and she asked numerous questions about the transgender community, which I did my best to answer in an informed way. We discussed the success of the makeover initiative and how much it had meant to the girls who had received them. She and her team were so touched by the individual stories that each person had, how they felt being able to dress and be made over in the shop and how grateful they were of the results. The team who did the makeovers were considerate, sensitive  and respectful, asking how their customers would like to be addressed before starting and offering positive support and tips to help them improve their make up technique. 
Sophie was really happy with her results and asked a lot of questions from the beautician, then bought some of the products used, so a ‘win-win’ situation.
I suggested to the manager that this may be something that the store may seek to offer annually at their Manchester branch, and possibly have a similar service available for Trans people to book in other stores nationwide, and offer the same standards in a safe and sensitive environment. 


Sophie having her makeover 

The weather for the weekend was truly wonderful, so much so we had to spend some time in the shade to keep cool and out of the sun! We had bought tickets for the VIP area, which was there for this purpose and we made good use of it during the day.    
By now it was getting late and we needed to get ready for our evening meal, so a quick pop back to the hotel and freshen up and change to hit the town for dinner.

We had arranged to stay in an IBIS hotel on Charles street, which was about a four minute totter in heels to Canal street, and very central for the city. There was also cheap undercover parking very close by and the rooms were clean and simple. However we have noticed that the prices are creeping up each year and it is becoming increasingly expensive to stay there, so maybe we will find a more cost effective venue in the future. 

As the weather was still very warm, I chose to wear a lovely pale green and blue monsoon dress that my sister helped me choose from a charity shop, with matching bag and wedge shoes. The dress was mid calf and had small crystals embroidered on the bodice and fit very well. 
The park area in the town center was full of people relaxing and enjoying the warm weather, children were playing in the fountain. We sat outside eating another lovely pizza, however one of the waiters became a little flustered and mis-gendered one of our party, so Ginny went and had a little chat with him and he was most apologetic.  

Dinner in the sun  - in Monsoon ! 

Back in canal street, and the whole street was full with hundreds of people eating, drinking and socialising as well as dancing in the clubs. We made our way to the famous New York New York show bar that had three separate areas, so as we could sit and chat, dance the night away or watch the Drag Queen DJ strut her stuff to the crowd. 

Like many of the venues over the Sparkle weekend, entry was free to members of the Trans community, and the dance floor showed how popular it was! 
From speaking to many of the vendors it seems that Sparkle is seen as the major event for Canal Street now as it is over several days and not a single or half day event such as pride. The sparkle goers tend to spend a large part of their weekend on the street and visit several establishments over a night, spreading their spending rather than staying in one location. 

Nicky and Myself in the Shade! 

The police enjoy the sparkle event too, as they say that there is very little trouble from the attendees, and most of the time they have the same issues as they would on any night in the city. This year we had some officers requesting to police the sparkle event and even had the Assistant Chief Constable of Greater Manchester spend a few hours in the park chatting to lots of attendees. The police had stalls and their rainbow police car on site to push home their visible diversity inclusion message. 

We danced and partied till late then made our way back to the hotel were we sat and chatted to some others staying there for a while before de-princessing for bed. 

Sunday – The park (part 2!) 
After our usual morning routine of breakfast and meander round town and made our way back to the park. As is our custom on a Sparkle Sunday, we took a few minutes to visit the Transgender Memorial in the park, and paid our respects to one of our good friends, Steffi, who we sadly lost a few years ago, and remembered all the fun things we did together. I noticed that there were several other names added to the list and recognized a few. This was a somber reminder that we are not invincible and to enjoy life to the full. 

Catching up with friends 

The stage was again in full swing and the fine weather continued with clear skies and high temperatures. Today saw more talent contests and the annual Miss and Mr Sparkle, and Golden Sparkle events that the talented Vicky Lee hosted in her normal relaxed and professional style. 
The park had an area set aside for the Mermaids charity, which supports children and young adults, and importantly their families when coming out as transgender. This is a very hard working group and is often quoted on national media and involved in guiding government bodies when dealing with children who are transgender. 
During the day I found the Marks and Spencer area where they had set up to provide advice on dressing style and offer bra fitting services . While I was chatting to the team one of the ladies disclosed to us that her daughter was born with an intersexed condition and all the struggles that she had in bringing her up. 
She had volunteered to work at the sparkle event as a way of supporting others as she had no support and knew nothing about the condition or options and managed to fight against all the barriers that were put in her way. She said her daughter was getting married the next week and how proud she was of her success. 
I mentioned to her about the Mermaids group and what they did, and later I found that she had been over to them and offered to be a support worker with the charity. 

All white on the night ! 


That evening we ate our last dinner in a fantastic Indian restaurant just outside the Gay Village, and it was one of the best meals I have had in a long time! It was full of Indian families who looked like they were visiting the area, and they all seemed to be enjoying the atmosphere. I had on my lovely white linen suit with my favorite Irregular Choice heels for the evening and had lots of nice comments about the outfit. 

Well - Its not Kansas any more !  

After diner we hit the street for the last time ending up dancing to great music in Velvet where there was a team of drag queens taking turns to sing and dance and tell jokes as only drag queens can do, all in the best possible taste! 

3 Queens of Disco 
It was after one am that saw me back in my room packing my bags in readiness for the return drive south in the morning. 

Monday Morning Blues … 
I loaded the car at about 8am and then waited for Sophie, saying good by to Nicky and Ginny at about 8:30. 
We eventually hit the road at 9am in the shinny discovery with Sophie and I discussing the weekend all the way home. Mainly about what she felt she had learnt, her feelings, emotions and how to manage her own ‘Pandora’ now that she was out of the box!  


The traffic was good and kept us moving and saw us safely back in Taunton about 4pm after a nice restful drive south negotiating the miles of road works en route,  and in enough time to see my little defender sitting in the dealers car park still waiting to be fixed. Ho hum! 

I was a quick drop off of Sophie at Nicky’s and then back to return the borrowed car and start my way back north and off to work ! 

Many thanks to my fellow SW girls  - Nicky, Ginny, and Sophie for a fabulous time; to all the organisers acts and volunteers in providing a great event again; and to my wonderful partner who encouraged me to have a fun weekend away with the girls! 
Role on next time! (and please can we have the same weather !!) 
Hugs 
Dawn 

Laughter - the best medicine ! 



www.sparkle.org.uk

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