‘Everything Is Music’ project

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Nov 302020

Magazine cover with head and shoulders image of KylieWere you in the Bristol music scene in the 1970s to 1990s?

Jack Lettis is working on an exciting project called Everything Is Music that is being developed by the team behind Bristol based Crack Magazine. Everything Is Music will bring together the most important people and stories in Bristol’s musical cultural history through an interactive map that will launch in April next year. Audiences will go the relevant locations to find stories and music that link to that place, a musical and cultural historic digital treasure hunt! Of course it’s important to include Bristol’s incredible Queer scene history.

Jack wants to talk to people present in Bristol’s queer scene circa 1970-1995: artists/venue owners/promoters/punters/bar staff/entertainers/club workers to present their memories from historic queer moments in time such as the Moulin Rouge, the Scarlet Coat, the Oasis ClubClub Leo and Chantelle’s, to explain their story of the location and if at all possible provide any visual content (photos, flyers, video footage) and/or audio content (could be a favourite track from the club, or he would conduct an audio interview if willing). The user of the app would then experience and listen to that content at the location on their smartphone.

They are currently looking at placing over a 150 pins across the city in order to make the hunt as rich and varied as possible. These pins will form the jigsaw of Bristol’s musical history. This project is going to be a huge cultural event for the city and will be the first of its kind in the UK, we’re also hoping it will provide some much-needed musical adventure in the absence of live events.

If you can help, contact Jack at jack@jacklettis.com.

Daryn Carter awarded an MBE

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Nov 012020
Young man with quiff of bright blue hair looks at a pencil portrait of himself

Daryn Carter, director of Pride Bristol, with his portrait by Malcolm Ashman

Director of Bristol Pride Daryn Carter was awarded a MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list for services to the LGBTQ+ community in Bristol.

As well as being a principal organiser of Bristol Pride, Daryn has campaigned tirelessly for equality in the LGBTQ+ community. He does lots of schools engagement work talking about being LGBTQ+, works with local businesses across the region to support diversity and inclusion and sits on a number of diversity advisory panels.

You can read more about Daryn on this UWE Bristol blog page.

Your group’s story wanted

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Oct 172020

An assortment of flyers and posters on a tableBristol Archives holds almost two million documents which record the history of the City of Bristol and the surrounding area from the 12th century to the present day. These include minutes, accounts, letters, diaries, maps, photographs and films created by many types of organisations and people.

They have an online catalogue of their collections. Click on ‘Browse Collections’ and you will see an LGBT collection.  Many local organisations have already donated records including Gay West, Freedom Youth and the University of the West of England LGBT+ Society.

Are you involved with a local group?  Bristol Archives want your records to preserve the diverse story of the city and its people. You can donate directly – contact them at archives@bristol.gov.uk. Alternatively give them to us and we will pass them on. Most of the LGBT Collection were collated by us. Click here to send a message to OutStories Bristol.

Oct 072020

It’s Black History Month and we’re starting with a home-grown contribution.

Performance artist and poet Travis Alabanza was born and grew up in Bristol and returns to talk to Sharifa Whitney James and writer and historian Edson Burton, co-founders of Kiki – Bristol’s first visible community for QTIPOC (Queer, Transgender and Intersex People of Colour).

Examining blackness and gender non-conformity in the context of growing up in Bristol, Travis discusses the importance of oppressed people archiving their own communities so that they are recorded in history in all their complexity.

Director, DOP: Shivani Hassard
Producer, Researcher: Joanna Boateng
gal-dem magazine

Aisha Sanyang-Meek wrote this interview with Travis for Rife Magazine, an online platform for Bristol’s young people.

Sep 152020

Lockdown is a very weird time for all of us. My lockdown story begins a week or so before it started: I had recently lost my job, and I was searching – unsuccessfully – for a new one. Even then, the Crisis was beginning to creep up on us.

And then my grandmother Whatsapped me asking me to come and stay with her. She’d been having heart palpitations and feeling weak, and my parents thought that a strong young unemployed grandchild was the perfect candidate to lend her a hand. I’m a dutiful grandchild, so off I went with my laptop, some books and some clothes.

So far, so Little Red Riding Hood. She even has a Big Bad Wolf: his name is Gus. He likes to have balls thrown for him and play tug-o-war with frisbees. He’s more likely to lick my feet than gobble me up; in fact, Granny (whose eyes and ears and teeth are perfectly fine, thank you) has deemed him a complete traitorous creep who barely pays any attention to her except for food.

Then there’s the amusing matter of Mrs. Blackbird. Somehow she has decided to build a nest in Granny’s shed behind the greenhouse; in fact, she has several times flown straight past us to get to it. I was not previously aware that I live in a Disney movie, but apparently I talk to animals now. I’ve also caught myself saying hello to various butterflies, bees, and even the occasional frog that I find in the garden. Next thing you know I’ll be kissing one, and then where will we be? Any prince that emerges will have to contend with the fact that I’m probably not who he was expecting. He’d have to be attracted to men, for a start.

The thing is, I’m not a very good fit for this kind of semi-magical life. I’m not a delightful soprano princess, nor am I a sweet little Red Riding Hood. My name is Neil, although not many people know that about me (I’m transitioning from female to male very slowly indeed). I consider myself lower-middle-class, a man who’s becoming more of the soil and who’s really getting into this gardening stuff. More of a Samwise Gamgee type than a lord, really. Hobbit feet included.

Honestly? I don’t mind that so much. I don’t mind it at all. I’m getting more sun and exercise these days. And perhaps, when everyone in my life knows me as Neil, and when my body takes its rightful shape, I’ll be able to take up the mantle of a fairy tale hero more easily.

Assuming the Big Bad Wolf doesn’t get me first.

I think I’ll just throw him another frisbee…

Neil M

Sep 152020
Dale Wakefield, founder of Bristol Gay Switchboard

Dale Wakefield

OutStories have received the following message:

I am a Humanist Funeral Celebrant and will be leading the funeral of Dale (Billie) Wakefield next week. I know she started the Gay Switchboard from her Hill Street Totterdown home in !975, was a founder of Bristol Pride in 1977, and that her work is represented at M-Shed (which re-opens this week, and I hope to visit). She was clearly a legend! Is there anything you more you can tell me? I would of course check with her family, with whom I am working to create her ceremony.
Many thanks,
Chrissie Hackett

Please respond direct to Chrissie at chrissiehackett@gmail.com.

Sep 112020

Dale Wakefield, founder of Bristol Gay SwitchboardIt is with great sadness we learn that Dale Wakefield died in Bristol Royal Infirmary on Saturday 5th September 2020. Her family were at her side. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s she was a prominent figure in lesbian and women’s rights in Bristol.

Dale was born in Bristol in 1941, started her working life in insurance firms and subsequently worked as a teacher, a nurse and in later years in accounts. She married and had two children but the marriage broke up when the youngest was only months old. Dale went to London to work as a prison officer at Holloway women’s prison and it was there she first fell in love with a woman although no relationship ensued.

She returned to Bristol in the early 1970s and came out first on the gay scene. Soon she was active in the second-wave Women’s Movement and with Monica Sjöö and two others started the Gay Women’s Group and a collective that produced ‘Move’ magazine for about three years.

Attending a Gay Women’s Group meeting in Clifton, the constant phone calls received at the premises (from gay men and lesbians alike) alerted her to the enormous need for information and a friendly ear. Bristol Lesbian & Gay Switchboard was founded at Dale’s home in Hill Street, Totterdown on 1st February 1975, using her private phone line.

For over three years it ran from her house, with volunteers taking phone calls during the advertised hours and Dale answering at all other times, often during the night. In 1978 Switchboard moved to new premises at Bristol Gay Centre, however Dale remained involved until the early 1980s. She later helped organise Bristol Lesbian Line, and was active in Women’s Aid providing refuge provision for women fleeing domestic violence.

Dale remained a resolute advocate of women and men working together at a time when there was a lesbian-separatist trend within the movement in Bristol.  A believer in collective approaches to action, she was critical of the hierarchies that characterised orthodox and male-oriented ways of organising. Her quiet authority, clear focus and belief in the power of collective action made her one of the most significant figures in the story of LGBT rights in Bristol.

In the words of Tim Manning, a fellow founder of Bristol Gay Switchboard: “Because of her, lives were saved, closets opened, and she helped us change our world for the better”.

We send our thoughts to her son Shaun, daughter Teraza, and four grandchildren.


Dale in 2013 beside her portrait by Malcolm Ashman; now displayed in Bristol’s M Shed Museum. Copyright: Matt Seow.

Aug 282020

Text 'Lost Spaces' in a blue rectangle overlaying an inverted pink triangleJamie Jamal, the Bristol-based lead singer of electronic pick n mix duo This Human Condition remembers Bristol nightclub Just in this delightful and amusing podcast from Lost Spaces, a queer podcast about lost gay venues. He also talks about gay club music, growing up gay, coming out and ‘guncles’ (gay uncles).

Listen to Jamie on Spotify, Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts or Anchor.

Lost Spaces explores queer experiences as told through now-closed bars and clubs. Every episode singer/songwriter K Anderson interviews a different member of the community to find out about a venue from their past, the memories they created there and the people that they used to know.

Meet St Wilgefortis

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Aug 212020
Wooden statue of a bearded lady with a floral dress being crucified

St Wilgefortis statue in the Church of Saint Nicholas in Pas-de-Calais, near Wissant, France (Wikimedia Commons)

Saint who, you may well ask? She was the patron saint of Unhappily Married Women and the ruined St Mary le Port church in Bristol’s Castle Park had a chapel dedicated to her.

The legend is that her father arranged for her to marry someone she did not like, so she prayed that she might be made repulsive so that he would reject her. When she woke up the next morning she had a full beard. That put paid to the marriage, but her angry father had her crucified as a punishment.

Our Cheryl Morgan has written a delightful article on her Cheryl’s Mewsings blog and refers to speculation that Wilgefortis may have been intersex.

‘Bristol Magazine’ article on Michael Dillon

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Jul 272020

The Bristol Magazine has published an excellent article on Michael Dillon, the world’s first person known to have successfully transitioned both hormonally and surgically from female to male.

Whilst living in Bristol in 1939, Michael was given hormone treatment by Dr George Lush Foss, a doctor who had encountered the masculinising side-effects of hormone treatments in several diseases. Dr Foss’s father had practised as a GP from Cloud’s Hill House in St George. Whilst attending the Bristol Royal Infirmary in 1942 Michael met a surgeon who subsequently performed a double mastectomy.

The article is on pages 42 to 44.



Jul 262020

For Christmas, I was given a Q&A a day diary, that asks you one question every day for the whole year and has space for a one sentence reply.

On the 22nd of March, it said, “Jot down a news story from today,”
I wrote, “Those at risk are to be sent a letter asking them to stay inside. Death toll rises, survival rate no longer 99%.”

On the 23rd of March, it asked “Are you country or rock n roll?”
I wrote “I don’t know what I am.”

I’ll admit, my first few weeks of lockdown were really rough, as I’m sure they were for everyone. But I did, eventually, come to peace with the fact that I’d just have to relax, and spend some time with myself.

On the 6th of April, my diary asked me, “What was the last take-out meal you ordered?”
I wrote, “Domino’s pizza, before the world ended, on a lazy hungover morning. When we got it, things were tense, but after we ate our spirits were high again.”

It took me a while to accept that I would have to spend the majority of this year inside. I’ve just finished my first year of university, which has boosted my confidence and love for life in so many ways.

As a bisexual girl that’s dating a boy, I often felt like I wasn’t included in LGBTQ spaces. And I understand and acknowledge that I have more privilege than most. I can quite easily pass as straight. But I spent a long while feeling inadequate, like I couldn’t really call myself a part of the community. All that changed because of university. At university, I made a solid friend group. None of us are entirely straight, one of us is a lesbian. But we don’t talk about it as much as I thought we would. It wasn’t the stereotypical gay friend group I had come to expect. And that was ok. We all belonged. Everything felt right. Now that I’m back home, that sense of belonging has gone away, and it took me so long to acclimatise to being back in my childhood space. It felt like I’d finally taken a step forward, and coronavirus forced me to take 2 steps back.

On the 12th of May, I was asked, “What are you exploring?”
I responded with, “My confidence, especially in my voice.”

My first year was simultaneously the worst and best of my life. Emotions were high, and I found out that extreme happiness and extreme sadness aren’t really all that far apart. But I knew one thing. I could never go back to the quiet, scared, dull girl that I was before. The quarantine was a huge blow, I’ll admit that. I also admit that I spent an unhealthy amount of time crying over the fact that I couldn’t hug my boyfriend. And then, very gradually, I got over it. I cried less. I started working my creativity as hard as I could. I want to be an author one day, and this is the perfect time to be writing, ruminating on ideas, creating. Over the last month and a half, I’ve explored sewing, baking, and gardening, and I intend to keep up with all of them. I’ve realised that life is too short to spend it worrying over things I can’t change. Whatever happens will happen. (Of course, I am still immensely angry at the government and am ready to bust out the guillotine whenever everyone else is).

So, on the 5th of July, when asked “What is your motto?”
I felt no shame in answering truthfully, “If you can see an amount of ants, there’s always at least double that amount that you can’t see,”
I came up with this gem when I was about ten years old, and it has literally never failed me. I see one ant? No big deal, only a couple ants nearby. But if I see three ants? Well that means there’s six nearby and nine in total. Time to think about moving. If you see ten ants? You’d better run.

Frivolities aside, due to the quarantine my mental health right now is the best it’s been since before I started A levels. I feel like I’ve been through a metamorphosis that never would have happened otherwise. Obviously, if I had one wish, it would be to instantly eradicate coronavirus, as it has been since February. But I am grateful that I have managed to survive the quarantine and come out happier. And if there is a second wave? I will survive.

On the 23rd of July, my diary is going to ask me, “What is the last thing you baked or cooked?”
I will be honoured to inform it of the 10pm baking spree I had last week. Life is just one damn thing after another right now. But hopefully, at the end of all of this, we will have things to be thankful for.

Rosie Bowers

Jul 262020

The moulding power of tights,
Should never go understated.
The embracing comfort around my legs,
Oh, how this was made for me!

The cute looseness of a skirt
Should never go understated.
The freeing comfort it brings me,
Oh, how this was made for me!

The creative power of make-up
Should never go understated.
The enigmatic comfort it brings me,
Oh, how these were made for me!
I stand before you,
Looking, seeking
Am I who I say I am?
Or merely just a trender?
Were these made for me?

All that love I poured into you,
And you cannot return the favour.
Don’t stare at me with those deep blue eyes,
You’ve made your point.
Chain me to the denim,
I surrender!
These were never made for me!

The anger lets go.
The hatred dies.
The love floods back.

I stand here, queer.
Adorned in the mismatched fabrics
Of femme and masc.
And I think to myself:
“Oh, how I was made for these.”

Sonny Rhoey Liverod-Griffin

Jul 262020

Living with a Generalised Anxiety Disorder I am never far from one form of intense suffering or another. I saw the lockdown coming from a way off. A looming growing surreal threat that I could feel viscerally would be coming to the UK. At first, an overwhelming sense that life will never be the same again and some relief that I was being told to isolate. I’ve spent a great deal of my life peering at life from the glove compartment through a periscope. Being alone holds few fears for me. I am very self-contained. As a child, I had no friends as an effeminate, awkward child in deep and unresolved grief at the constant bullying and death of my parents when I was young. I know the brutality of life. I know that all may not end well. My nervous system constantly takes me to terror and despite years of therapy and medication, I am stuck with Agoraphobia, Social Anxiety, and Generalised Anxiety. Sometimes the worry feels like it can almost pre-empt the next wave of unbearable things that life is throwing at me.

At first, I made lists for things to achieve in the day and ticking them off no matter how small the achievement felt like a forward going process. Two saints of the LGBT+ community did shopping for me and they were my only human live contact. A brief, distanced meeting at the door step…

Facebook has been my saviour and tormentor. It gives attention when I need it least and floods me with likes when I feel self-contained, content and solid. I’m cynical enough to assume that some grotesque algorithm is playing out some AI programme to be used in the future when we are subjects of the six people who own the world and they need these insights to control the unwashed masses.

In some ways, my life is very similar to how it was… except for many weeks, I did not venture outside the flat. The first day I did it felt like a voyage into the surreal. The streets mostly deserted. A peace and freshness and timelessness drenched the streets. The frenzy had gone. This was something disturbing. The nightmare beneath the surface felt tangible. The aftermath of the mothballing of capitalism. This of course will be felt most by the poor.

What with Climate change, a government that seems to have enchanted people into believing its constant gaslighting, I long ago gave up the belief that the crowd is wise. I have always felt opposition to anything that is believed en-masse…

The descent of the UK into the jaws of Brexit has exhausted me. From hope, to disbelief to now a weary anger turning to ennui.

I have been doing a lot of self-harm. Addictive compelling skin picking. Ripping bits of flesh and scar from various parts of my body. A digging routing psychological ridding myself of the imperfection of scars. They must be ripped off. Only to appear again. There is a silent ecstasy in the pain. A release, a control, compulsive compelled and constant…

I had great plans to achieve poetry, art, creativity. Great ideas fall into thre vacuem of my inactivity and lack of motivation. My home is not a haven (noise and neighbour issues). So to be here is also a heavy energied immersion in different levels of the unbearable.

YouTube has been a lifesaver, hour after hour learning about Co-Dependency which describes and explains a great deal of my experience in life. Also, the gradual understanding of narcissism. Co-Dependants are lunch for Narcissists. I have been consumed many times in my life. Giving and giving and giving of my life force right down to my core. Deconstructed, consumed, rejected and in the cycle of hell that these connections always bring. I didn’t learn the simple rules of interaction in my childhood and an irascible and volcanic father made the centre of my being and happiness outside myself. An appeaser and studier of other people’s happiness first, I cannot contain my own self-esteem. It is reflected back to me… Happiness in the hands of others is precarious and doomed to failure…

Some days I have dreamed of not being. Stopping. Ceasing. Stopping feeling. Stopping being. I have never been able to communicate to people the agony I feel to be outside this flat and in company. To the casual observer, I can appear as a larger than life raconteur and at times in my drinking life a bon viveour… Faces on faces on the sad faces on the deep suffering that sit on the reality of my authentic self.

I feel differently at present. Have been meeting friends outside with social distancing. The future really worries me. The fall out of all of this feels like a heavy burden that is slowly unraveling. I have limited resources, financially and personally … and the fight is dying in me. Perhaps that is the emerging entrance into old age. The redefinition from obviously sexual being to what remains when that fading charm totally falls away.

I can’t really join in with this society. I am about to be 57. I dream of a flat high up from the streets. Far away from neighbours. Far away from enforced social interaction. I dream of worlds and lives that can never be. A cottage in a field with a moat, a large dog and a placid horse and someone to do all the unbearable yet simple things. I can dream…

Today I am too frightened to go out. I feel a deep grief come over me. Another day of getting older. Perhaps I am lonely. I haven’t had physical contact with my gentlemen caller for months. Unless a herd immunity happens, unless infection gives immunity. Or an inoculation is effective. I can’t think how this is going to end satisfactorily.

The sun just came out and that makes me feel isolated. Life seems very easy for so many (I’m sure it isn’t really) and I feel very forgotten. Forgotten to myself. Forgotten by a Gay Community that I have been becoming more and more distant from. I stopped drinking about 2 years ago. Drink oiled the machinery of my social life.

I can be outspoken, odd, awkward and vocal. I feel isolated from the decisions of the community I am allegedly a member of. Part of my Co dependency is to throw my self-worth out into the hands of others and that seldom has a happy conclusion.

I am getting some telephone support. This causes me as much anxiety as it allays and the support feels perfunctory and impersonal. I have piled on the pounds. Done a lot of family history research. Sat in the chaos of my flat exhausted by the simplest thing. Paralyzed. I do the simple things which give immediate feedback. Eating, posting endless nonsense on Face Book.. Being, watching time pass and life pass. Lots of thinking and contemplating the nature of existence. Quite often wishing to disappear from consciousness and fade away. Never to have to feel anything again.

I miss my voluntary job with a mental health walk. I miss the people. I miss a drop in I used to attend. I heard they have online meetings. I wasn’t invited to be part of that. That makes me sad. It is possible to completely fall through every net. Some seem to be caught by them all. I have always fallen through nets.

A text message exchange has occured. I am meeting a friend tomorrow. The world feels brighter. I can’t get out today. The fear is too much. Yesterday I got frantic to get home. The panic built and built and snowballed and I stampede peddled up Park Street sweating profusely and unable to calm down until I turned the key in the door and the familiar half-light of my subterranean flat. Neighbours clomping around me as I sat behind the closed curtain and another lockdown day passed into grateful and medication-induced deep sleep.


Jun 132020

I’m a trans foster carer. One big change over quarantine is although I’d had new young people come to stay with me, briefly, as an emergency carer, I haven’t been able to offer them a reassuring hug or to be physically close – not even sitting together on the sofa. This new distance has made things feel different to me.

I wrote this about looking after one young person in such a strange, distant manner, in one’s own home.

1 hour ago I said goodbye. I saw you put your bags in a stranger’s car.
I saw your upset, I saw your tears, I saw your confusion.
I cried too when I got inside.

2 hours ago that stranger rang you. ‘Hi, I’m coming to pick you up soon to take you to your new carer’s home…’
I saw your tears. Big tears. Big tears infront of me, another stranger.
I can’t comfort you except with my words. You sit on my sofa, I sit on the floor.
Thinking. Worried. Distressed. Me, as well as you.

4 hours ago you got in from work. Keeping that constant was a good choice amongst the chaos.
You brought more belongings with you. ‘My whole life is in these bags’ you said.
You worked your hours waiting for a call from a social worker so they could tell you your options.
You could sign yourself into care, I remind you. You have enough years behind you.

8 hours ago I took you to the bus stop for work.
Before you left we went over what is likely to happen today.
A reminder, a reassurance, I hope.
That bruise on your face still looks sore.

16 hours ago you went to bed for the second time in a stranger’s home.
I know you didn’t sleep well and I heard your sobbing.
I heard your anguish as you chat to your boyfriend.
I can’t comfort you though, except through the door.
No comfort really.

21 hours ago you got ‘home’ from work. A brave choice to go in given your upset.
You’ve brought some belongings collected from your home, I make you wash and shower in mine.
A social worker who you’ll never meet rings you to check you have all you need.
‘How are you feeling today after last night?’
You plead with me. ‘Don’t let them send me home’. ‘I won’t’ I reassure.

29 hours ago you woke up in a new room, with bedding that smells strange to you.
With pictures and toys that aren’t yours. With cats’ bells jangling round the house.
You gingerly venture out to chat a little.
I know you didn’t sleep. I can see it in your eyes and hear it in your voice.
You’re scared.

36 hours ago in the middle of the night the police brought you to mine.
I know your ‘story’. The officer didn’t stay long.
I saw you shake. I saw you shiver. I heard the pain in your voice.
But I could not put my arm around your shoulder.
Instead, I sat. I sat and listened to your questions, your outrage, your hurt, and your solitude.
You feel let down and alone.
You’re worried about ‘coming into care’, I know, too.
I give you a set of clothes to wear to bed, toothbrush, towel, and hairbrush, but you’ve just lost everything.

36.5 hours ago I said yes to the question:
‘Can you take a girl tonight?’

Alex Taylor (He/him)
Foster carer, Bristol City Council

Jun 102020

My life in early 2020 was settled, I had a  job, a house and a family. As a transgender woman of 56 years of age I was reasonably content with how things were. There were good things and bad things in my life for sure, but I felt that my life was going in the direction I wanted.

And then it happened. A global pandemic of a deadly virus. And by early March 2020 the virus was running out of control in the UK. Before we knew it we were asked to ‘lock-down’, to practise ‘social distancing’ and to ‘stay safe’. Everyone was impacted. But here I want to give you an insight into how it affected me, a transgender woman who had only transitioned in October 2018.

LGBT history month is February and it carried on as normal,  I was fortunate to attend some wonderful events. The highlight for me was listening to a trans woman, Catherine Paige, give a talk about her life. She was in the RAF and a pioneer for trans women being more accepted in society.  I took along a friend of mine, another trans woman, who like myself was a  ‘recent transitioner’ and ex-RAF herself. We were both inspired by Catherine, who quite clearly was a fantastic role model. My friend and I went shopping at the Mall, browsing at clothes in the sale, talking over lunch. The sort of things that any other women would do!

By early March it was clear the virus, known as Covid-19, was both deadly and highly contagious. It had spread out of China and was now rampaging through countries like Italy and Spain. It was inevitable that the UK would soon be in a pandemic.  At that point I was getting drugs to reduce my testosterone and a hrt gel containing oestrogen from an online General Practitioner. I needed a top up supply and was anxious as to whether I’d be able to get it – fortunately it arrived without a problem

We all have a back story. An intrinsic part of me is a hereditary blood condition that made me very ill as a child. Aged 16, with my informed consent, I had my spleen removed. That vastly improved the quality of my life but one impact of having no spleen is that your immune system isn’t as effective. Because of this I understood the consequences of Covid-19 way before the general population. In early March I asked to be isolated from my colleagues at work and 3 of us, vulnerable in one way or another, had a large office to ourselves. Within a very short space of time things got a lot worse. I knew I couldn’t go into the office any more. So on March 19th I left and said to my boss I was taking the whole of the next week off (go into work, pick up the virus and possibly die or stay away and live – it was an easy  decision  for me to make). Things moved so rapidly that just one week later all employees were instructed NOT to go into work. The lockdown had begun.

One immediate consequence of lockdown was the closure of non-essential shops, pubs, restaurants and service providers, including dentists, hairdressers and beauticians. I had a filling fall out just before Christmas 2019 and was fortunate in that the dentist fixed it just before closing. Many others who got dental issues post the lockdown were forced to endure pain or try and sort the issue themselves. But lockdown did mean that my regular sessions at the beauticians were postponed. I was visiting a salon called Collistears run by a lovely lady called Caroline, which specialised in electrolysis for facial hair removal. It’s a very slow process and by then I had only had about 25 hours’ worth done – perhaps about ¼ of what is required. I would also go for body hair removal sessions by waxing on a less frequent basis. The cessation of these sessions didn’t impact me straight away, but as time went on would become more of a concern for me.

Not being able to go out and socialise or see people was a major blow. I had many different circles that I mixed in, some just  for the good company and conversation  and others because of causes and advocacy I was involved in. So in one fell swoop I could no longer:- meet my girlfriends for a coffee; go to a social meet up at a pub called ‘Thirsty Thursday’; go to a trans support group called ‘Crossroads’; go to any meetings of or campaign for a political party ; go to meetings of a group to represent LGBT+ voices in Bristol ; go to meetings of a Mental Health Network, for which I was a trustee. Yes, I was living a very busy life! Was.

Some  of the interactions I had moved to being online video conferencing. A computer application called ‘Zoom’ became a big thing, with people connecting with others from their homes. It became a thing to have a bookcase filled with interesting books in the background, to try and make yourself look intelligent. Whether a complete lack of a bookcase when I ‘Zoomed’ was a sign of complete stupidity or  a reflection of intelligent superiority is open for debate!

I was able to use a laptop computer to try and work from home. But this was fraught with problems. The laptop wasn’t a good one and with everybody else trying to work from home, the connection was very slow indeed. It was extremely frustrating, especially during the middle part of the day. Many people would work in the evening, myself included, just because the connection speed was better. During the day, when the connection to work was slow, I often became distracted by social media on the internet. Far too often I was using Twitter to see what other trans people were doing. But also to see what blatant transphobia was going on as well. Having lost a lot of affirmation opportunities due to the lockdown and to have this replaced by hate on social media – this made life for trans people feel much less worthwhile. I had some very depressing days;  when I felt the whole world was against me, when progress with my work was impossible and tension through being confined in home. Days when, quite frankly, it felt better to just give up.

Fortunately I am quite resilient and was able to overcome my own insecurities and low mood. I lived with my wife and two teenage children, so I had people to interact with. Many others I know lived alone and for them social media was a way of keeping in touch. That said, living with other people in a confined space can in itself be difficult, with ‘cabin fever’ setting in. There is no doubt that relationships were strained in many households.

As the death toll from Covid-19 increased the news media would often use the term ‘had an underlying health condition’ as a reason.  As somebody who comes into this category, broad as it is, this scared me even more. In time there would be so many people dying from the disease (the 1st peak was in early April 2020) that this wasn’t mentioned any more. But the Government asked ‘extremely vulnerable’ people to shield i.e. not to go out of their homes at all, not even for the allowed once daily exercise. Those in this category were contacted by phone/letter and were entitled to home support, such as delivery of food. At first I was not placed in this category. I had 4 mouths to feed, 5 including the dog. Slots for home delivery from the supermarkets were all taken up. We needed food supplies, to go to a supermarket. I decided to go myself, wearing protective equipment such as rubber gloves, a mask and goggles. I had to queue outside the supermarket, everybody was expected to stay 2m apart. Trying to read a shopping list with goggles steaming up was not fun. We were also expected to follow a one way system in the supermarket as well. And I tried to get enough supplies for 2 weeks, the trolley was full to the brim. It was hard work just to do the basic thing of getting food, but this needed to be put in perspective. There was food on the shelves (albeit some things were in short supply, such as flour) and orderly behaviour. Nobody was desperate for food.

In late April I had a phone call from my GP surgery. Because of my condition I was going to be placed in the ‘extremely vulnerable’ category. She had genuine empathy towards me and I was put on a low dose antibiotic, which would help control secondary infection if I did get Covid-19. I asked if I could have a follow up call to talk about my transition journey as well. Later that day I had really bad depression and anxiety. It was as if somebody had said to me ‘Get this disease and you will die’. Dealing with that in my mind was hard. Despite  my resilience I struggled to process what I had been told.

But another day arrived, I was still here, breathing, seeing the days get longer and life return to dormant gardens. Before the phone call from the GP I had been allowed  one piece of exercise a day, as had everyone. I would take the dog for a walk in the morning, fairly early, to avoid people. Not just because I wanted not to catch Covid-19 but because, as trans I was conscious of my appearance, the possibility of not being ‘read’ as a woman. Before the pandemic I had got to a position of reasonable confidence in my ability to ‘pass’, or at least not to be pointed out as being a ‘man’. But I found that this confidence started to wane, and as time went on became more of an issue. However, one benefit of lockdown was the distinct lack of background traffic noise. Only when it is gone do you realise what was there before. On my early morning walks in April the joys of Spring could be felt, the strengthening sun  and the birdsong. I appreciated these small things so much more.

Despite being told to shield I carried on as I had been living before and still did my daily dog walk and shopping trips. I weighed up the risk in everything I was doing and concluded that being totally confined would be bad for my mental health. It would also  have been extremely impractical, to ask others to deliver food for an entire family. A supermarket trip to get so much food requires a car and I was the only one who could drive at that point. As April turned into May things slowly got better with my work. I was given a better laptop and the connection improved. Whereas I was struggling to do ~25h a week of WFH (Working From Home) at the beginning of lockdown by the end of May I was able to do my full hours. And my regular commutes by car were a thing of the past. People talk about a ‘new normal’ as a result of Covid-19, less travel by road and air is likely to be one consequence. But along with this comes the economic impact. I work in the aviation industry and ~95% of planes have been grounded. Any recovery will take 2 or 3 years and as a result, many jobs are being lost. For me, it’s an opportunity to retire early. For many others, the impact on their lives and families will be dire.

In terms of my transition I feel that has been hit badly by what’s happened. After several weeks without electrolysis I sense that more dark hairs are appearing on my face, which needs more effort to cover up. I wait anxiously for the beauty parlours to reopen. I was referred to a Gender Identity Clinic in April 2018, all appointments were put on hold, which means the wait to get a 1st appointment will take longer. One piece of good news was that in the follow up call with my GP he agreed to prescribe the feminising drugs for me, which I had previously got online.

As we enter June 2020 who knows what lies ahead. Will I still have a job? Will I be able to go to the beauticians? Will I be able to meet people in confined spaces, at work, the pub, the coffee shop? Where am I heading with my transition? I’d like a formal diagnosis of Gender Dysphoria, should I go private?

The impact of Covid-19 has been massive on all of our lives. As an early transitioning male-to-female with an underlying health condition I have another level to deal with. But as I said before, I am resilient. I am still breathing. I still have things to do with my life.

‘Nevertheless, she persisted’.

Kaz (She/her pronouns)

7th June 2020
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Jun 052020

I live in Monmouth Wales, in my flat alone, but I have a very friendly bunch of other residents here. We have a large garden to see each other & have bought plants which need attention. One neighbour knitted me a lovely pullover as a surprise gift just because I told her how a previous one had gone missing.

I have a Zoom meeting with Gaywest members on Saturdays and we have a WhatsApp group too. I also have quizzes on Zoom with family members, plus lots of messages everyday from friends. My car has been virtually used, I haven’t been anywhere, I walk to town doing shopping as needed.

I spend a lot of time alone in normal times so the virus so far has had little impact on me, apart from hearing about news of its impact on others, very sadly. Life has to go on. I am fond of music & listen to my favourite organist Gert Van Hoef a lot, he does live concerts on line. I do miss seeing friends in their houses but because of this virus sadly that isn’t possible at this time.

John Y

May 302020

I am finding the situation strange, and am missing so many things, especially seeing my friends at GayWest every Saturday in Bath, I am able to do adequate food shopping locally, and notice that there are many other people out and about who are over 70.

We have had some lovely weather and have been unable to make full use of it.

Best wishes,
Ernie Everest 🙂

May 282020

In all honesty, being in lock down for the previous two or three months has hardly had any impact on my life-style at all.

I am a seventy-four-year-old, post op transsexual who owns her own house and has two other trans lodgers living with me. Basically, I go out once a day cycling, buy my food at Aldi’s about three times per week. I go to B&Q about three times per week to buy materials while I do home improvements and then the rest of the time I work at home on my computer, writing stories for Big Closet – Top Shelf.

I speak to my 2M+ neighbours across the garden fence either side of mine and generally get on with life.

My computer and my bike have been life-savers.

The only real change is that I can’t go clubbing down the Bear Bar in Old Market nor can I go down the Queen’s Shilling to go ‘bopping’.

That’s all folks,

Beverly Guinevere Taff

Film celebrating 25 years of Freedom Youth

 Blog  Comments Off on Film celebrating 25 years of Freedom Youth
May 242020

‘Freedom 25’ is a film made by members of Bristol’s Freedom Youth and local film-makers Black Bark Films
to mark 25 years of Freedom Youth, one of the longest running LGBTQ+ spaces for young people in the UK.

The film celebrates and recognises 25 reasons why @FreedomLGBTQ is as important in 2020 as it was in 1995, creating community and crafting friendships.

Watch and share Freedom 25.

#iWill   #powerofyouth   #youthvoice