Hiya all,

For someone whose username is literally Blogging Sammy I don’t do a lot of it, huh?

To be fair it’s been a wild ride at work, I’m stepping up to cover a lot of additional duties and I’m also doing my management course at the same time, so time’s been a bit tight. Hopefully we’re getting out of the other side now, but I don’t expect anything to really change before Christmas.

So what’re we doing today? I’ve recently (about a month ago) finished reading Dreadnought, by April Daniels (twitter linked). I’ve been looking for good trans positive fiction and this book has always come up at the top of the list so I’ve been intrigued. Unfortunately none of the bookshops around where I live carry it so I had to venture onto the dreaded Amazon and buy an ebook copy.

Why haven’t I reviewed it already, why wait a month? See above.

Let’s go!


A book cover, the silhouette of a women with a billowing cape looking over a city skyline, the cape is boldly coloured blue. The title is Dreadnought, subtitle Nemesis Book One, by April Daniels.
Dreadnought cover image

Dreadnought is a superhero story. It’s, at its heart, an origin story about a Superman class hero; someone whose powers are “I win”.

We’re not necessarily off to a good start here, for me personally at least. I don’t like Captain “It Means Hope On My Planet”; I think he’s bloody boring. Superman’s powers are being invincible, super strong/fast/smart/etc., can always do the thing and save the day…. Dull! Where’s the drama?

Before I get mentions full of angry fanboys; I get it. The drama and the story is best when it’s not about him, when it’s about the people around him who aren’t superheroes. I read a section in the wonderful FATE RPG series talking about how “Hit Points” for a superman-type hero aren’t the hero’s own health pool, but could be thought of more as the people around them. Take 10 damage and people are getting hurt, 20 and they’re dying, no HP left? You’ve failed; a city is blown up. Even with all that he’s still right at the bottom of the pile for superheros I give a crap about.

Dreadnought (the book not the hero) gets around that in two ways; firstly this is an origin story so the hero power set isn’t comfortable yet, there’s exploration and growth, and uncertainty. Secondly, we’ll get onto, it’s so empowering and fun.

So who is Dreadnought (the hero not the book)? Dreadnought is “The” hero. The big guy, the one who fights off planet scale problems, who is always there when the supervillains are looking to blow up everything forever. He also, spoilers, dies at the beginning (I’m not that guilty, it’s like page 5). How can he die when I’ve just told you how invincible he is? That’s a big part of the plot setup at the start of the book; how will the world and Dreadnought’s team react when the impossible happens, who did it, and how do we stop them now?

This is where our main character comes in. Danny Tozer is there when Dreadnought crashes through buildings and smacks into the ground, dying. Danny goes over to the barely-alive hero, recognising him, and tries to help. Unable to do anything Dreadnought dies, but passes on the “Mantle” of power to Danny, causing Danny to black out.

When Danny wakes up things have changed. You see Danny was assigned male at birth, and was hiding in a parking lot painting her nails to try and alleviate some of the dysphoria associated with being trans.

Painting my toes is the one way I can take control. The one way I can fight back. The one way I can give voice to this idea inside me that gets heavier every year:

I’m not supposed to be a boy.

She can’t come out to her family, she can’t begin any form of treatment, and (as we find out later) this is the safest way for her to keep sane until something changes. That is until she comes round to find she is now, for all intents and purposes, biologically a woman. She’s also a gorgeous woman, Danny’s ideal physical self made real.

This is a good time to point out that this book is endlessly quotable. There are so many passages throughout that are so uplifting and freeing, so perfectly descriptive.

Everything is wrong, but so perfectly right. I wrap my arms around my legs and rock back and forth. The last little doubts are gone, and the fear leaves with them.

I’m free. I’m finally free.

That moment passes when Danny realises that this is going to be a whole new problem. She doesn’t really know what’s happened, she’s never heard of this happening before, and she now has to go home to explain this.


I’m not going to go through a play-by-play of the rest of the book, but I’m going to highlight non-spoiler parts.

A lot of the book focuses on how Danny comes to terms with now being a superheroine, but also how everyone else comes to terms with it. There’s the local justice league who are a whole bundle of mixed feelings from distress that The Dreadnought is gone, to be replaced with this child. There’s people semi-excited at the chance to train a new Dreadnought and learn about how the mantle/powers work. There’s people looking out purely for their own good to try and get something out of this appointment, financially (yes really).

Then there’s one of the parts of the book that makes this such a hard read for a trans person.

Big ol’ Trigger Warning for Transphobia/Domestic Abuse here folks (click here to jump to the end point)

One of the members of the “Legion Pacifica” is Graywytch. She is out, loud, and proud; a TERF. For those of you who have been lucky enough to avoid them TERF is an acronym for “Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist”. The accuracy of the name (in that they tend to also be very anti-woman) is something I don’t have the words here to describe, but TERFs really focus on the first two bits; Trans Exclusionary.

Graywytch is vile, she has a personal objection to Danny being Dreadnought because Danny is trans. Nothing more, nothing less. She is of the opinion that having a trans Dreadnought will destroy woman-kind, and that Danny should immediately give up the mantle to someone more deserving. Danny, understandably, doesn’t want to do this. Partly because she’s not sure if she’ll retain her body is she does, partly because it seems the easiest way to do this is to kill herself, but also because of a strong feeling of “fuck you” (right on!).

Graywytch is a difficult character to read because, as April has said in interviews, she speaks almost entirely in actual TERF rhetoric. Some of the things she says are truly disturbing and I’m not going to repeat any of them here (go buy the book to find out) but it does make for a hard time.

The next people to worry about are Danny’s parents. Danny lives with her mother and father in a small house with a lot of problems. There’s no way to talk about her family without highlighting Danny and her mother are the victims of domestic abuse perpetrated by her father. This is also a really difficult read.

Danny’s father is manipulative, angry, and abusive. He spends most of the book trying to find ways to turn Danny back, or else control Danny, because he can’t stand the idea of having a trans daughter. I get a real feeling that if he had been born with a daughter he wouldn’t have cared, his problem is how people will view him now that his “son” is female.

Danny is painted really realistically here, and there’s a quote at one point I want to share:

Maybe it’s because your mother is always Mom to you, or maybe it’s because I was in denial, but finally it hits me: Mom is just as much his captive as I am. She’s not just the quieter parent, the more reasonable one. She’s the trustee trapped between the warden and the other prisoner.

Immediately upon the heels of this understanding is another: I must not say this out loud. To say it out loud is to name it, and to name it is to give it irresistible power. That power will mean it can no longer be ignored. The polite fictions and convenient blind spots won’t work anymore. Something will have to change.

There’s something immensely off-putting about reading the sections where the abuse is apparent. To my recollection it never becomes physical, but even as the reader you feel powerless and hopeless in the face of the rage and terrorising. Even as Danny begins to lean more into the rebelliousness and feeling of confidence (we’ll get to that in a bit too) she is bought crashing down to meek agreeing and attempting to placate her father, just waiting for it to blow over and return to normality.

If you have been a victim of domestic abuse in the past I can imagine these sections will be particularly difficult to read, but as someone who was not it has given me insight into how you can be locked in to it that I didn’t have before. And it’s heartbreaking.

“Her voice is soft and kind. “Danny, do you feel safe at home?”

No.

There it is. I don’t feel safe at home. I open my mouth to say something, and as I do I realize that like my other, I can’t give it a name. Not out loud. Not even to Valkyrja. Because if I admit it, if I call it what it is, then I can’t hide from it anymore either. It becomes real in a way I am not ready for. Might never be ready for. There will be no illusions of safety, no peaceful times alone in my room.

There will only be times when he’s not hurting me.

Trigger Warning Over

That being said, and it being so difficult to read as a trans woman, I finished it in a day. The plot is twisy enough I didn’t see the ending coming (though that might have been because I was distracted). This wasn’t a groundbreaking book, and there are no boundaries pushed from superhero literature (unless you count having a trans woman as the protagonist which bloody well shouldn’t be, but sadly is), but the sheer delight and joy of Danny realising she is powerful and she can throw off the weights holding her back is exhilarating. It may be a bit of vicarious living on my part.

I see a world that is terrified of me.

Terrified of someone who would reject manhood. Terrified of a girl who knows who she is and what she’s capable of. They are small, and they are weak, and they will not hurt me ever again.

My name is Danielle Tozer. I am a girl.

No one is strong enough to take that from me anymore.

There were moments I was grinning reading it, willing Danny on, wanting it to work out. Every time she crosses a power threshold and realises what she can do, every time she survives and comes out stronger, is wonderful and heartwarming in a way not many books manage.


So should you read it? Tricky question.

If you’re a domestic abuse survivor or trans person it might be difficult, but I think it’s still enjoyable. If you’re a trans ally; definitely. There’s something so powerful about an experience I identify with so strongly being represented in first person, it hits you right in the soul.

I’ll be back once I’ve read the second one.

With love,

Sammy

If you are feeling suicidal or are concerned about someone who might be, please consider reaching out to someone (UK link).

If you are currently in an abusive relationship or are worried about someone else who might be, please reach out to someone on this list (again, UK link).

If you are not in the UK there is help available, Google whatever local resources have been put in place to help you. You are not alone.

Hiya everyone,

Quick note on the scheduling; I’m going to change the day this posts to a Saturday and see how that impacts my views. Anyway….

It’s been a bit of an eventful week. Both life-wise and transition progress. I’m only going to talk about my transitioning progress in this post as that’s enough for now. There’s been a lot of change in my work/private life as well I’ll get into in the next post, mainly because I’m waiting on some updates next week that will hopefully feed into it and answer some ongoing worries.

So with that, let’s get into it…


What’s my Deal with GPs?

The part I started the whole blog for really. So what’s been happening?

I finally plucked up the courage while I had a day off to book an appointment with me GP. Yikes.

Bit of backstory, I’ve had really bad experiences with GPs. Generally I’ve found them to be unlikable people who are far to arrogant for the literal power they hold over people’s lives. I’ve had GPs prescribe my grandmother morphine at 1000x the potency she needed (well above what would have been fatal if a pharmacist hadn’t caught it). I’ve had one try to stop my brother’s epilepsy medication prescribed by a national expert because she didn’t think it was necessary any more (without formally reviewing). I’ve had one tell me I don’t need to see anyone about my dislocating knee because it’ll sort itself out, and lastly I’ve had one tell me to just stop taking antidepressants because I’m not on a high dose leading to a week of real hell. I might talk about that one day.

That being said I’m not a fan.

We moved surgery recently to another in the area. To be honest we didn’t have much choice, I phoned around all the surgeries we’re in the catchment area for and only a couple were accepting new patients. I asked each time if they had any doctors who either were specialised or had a special interest in womens or LGBT+ health, but nobody knew. One tried to convince me their doctors could treat all patients and were fine, what a nice world that would be.


Making the Call

So I joined the surgery and I knew eventually I would have to phone them and book to talk about this gender stuff. I had a few days off that my wife didn’t so on the first day I resolved to phone in and at least get something booked.

Goddamn that was scary.

Like, seriously. I was shaking when I dialed the number, when it said I was in a queue I was just about ready to hang up. I felt sick, my stomach was tying itself in knots, I was an unhappy girl.

I got through to reception. Always the hardest part. If you’re not from the UK you won’t understand the reputation GP surgeries have, but to put it in perspective when a spoof news site ran this article about how every appointment booked is a personal defeat, nobody really found it unbelievable.

You see in the NHS we have a shortage of GPs. Rather than try to fix that problem we’ve stuck a load of barely trained and certainly unqualified “Care Navigators” (read: secretaries) who will direct you to the most appropriate care pathway. Usually that care pathway is not seeing a GP, and if at all possible it’s “fuck off home and get better”.

In this instance she informed me I would need to see an Advanced Nurse Practitioner. I mentioned it was a referral for a gender identity referral and discussion about private care and she let me know it was fine, ANPs could do all of that. I said I didn’t think their 10 minute appointments would be long enough, she said the system wouldn’t let her book anything else. When I informed her it certainly would as I work with that system as well and all she had to do was right click on a second slot and merge-book she admitted the system would let her but she wouldn’t do it.

Didn’t really fill me with confidence.

I get a slot booked for 08:10 about a week later. I hang up and just about curl up into a ball, I’m sweating, shaking, out of breath, fuck.


The Preparation

While I’m waiting for the appointment I get everything in order. Generally I’ve learnt online from my trans-sistors (lul) that medical professionals know nothing about trans care and at best they’re just dumb, at worst actively discriminatory. I was going to make sure I went in prepared.

Going from the management training I’ve been doing (real life application, sadly cannot use as reflective practice) I set out my goals for the meeting, framing the outcomes I would like. I had 3 priorities, in order:

  1. Get a referral to the NHS Gender Clinic
  2. Get agreement from my GP to support private treatment via blood tests
  3. Get agreement from my GP to prescribe medication at private clinic instructions

I printed off a few things, and I’ve copied them here in case anyone else finds them useful to bring:

With this all done I was prepared, nothing to do but wait.


The Day

Heck was I worried. I couldn’t sleep properly the night before, and the temperature didn’t help. We had the window open, and as we live on a main road there were a lot of turds in loud cars going past. This was, at time of writing, yesterday.

I was fully awake at 05:30 (normally I’ll drag myself out of bed anywhere from 07:45 to 08:15) but determined to try and sleep some more. At 06:30 I had a serious case of terror-stomach-problems and spent a little while on a toilet regretting everything. By 07:00 I had a shower, got ready, and left the house at 07:30 ready to head to the surgery.

I got there about 07:50 and checked in, trying to keep myself distracted with cute pictures on reddit (r/eyebleach) and failed, luckily I was the only one in the waiting room to notice myself twitching.

I got called in pretty quick, maybe 07:55? 15 minutes ahead, a good sign, maybe?

The ANP I was was an older gentleman, mid fifties. He was quietly spoken but seemed nervous. When I explained what I was looking for and asked if he had any experience with trans healthcare he admitted he did not, but that he had spoken to their senior practitioner the day before to check what he should do. The senior practitioner agreed that they also didn’t know what to do, but knew enough to point out trans people knew more about their healthcare than professionals often did, so see what happened.

He listened to my goals, agreed to write the referral, and we spent a little time working through it.

Annoyingly he kept misgendering me. I don’t think there was any malicious intent, his hand did keep shaking as he was writing so I think he was as nervous as I was (big scary babby-tran that I am). He kept writing “he” on the history section, and didn’t ever think to ask wht pronouns I’d like to use, but I think that’s down to lack of understanding or training. I am considering offering myself to do a training session with them, we’ll see if I pluck up the courage.

Why didn’t I stop him though? Why didn’t I speak out and say “oi, it’s ‘she’, thank you!”? Because I was scared. I was already nervous, didn’t want to speak out too much, and was worried that he might decide to stop being helpful if I criticised him.

Once the referral form was done I moved onto talking about the private care. I outlined my needs (I’m really bad with blood tests so I need them done professionally, I can’t do them myself privately), and provided the NHS support document and hormone leaflets, and asked if the surgery would support me. He didn’t know and said he’d need to talk to the practice manager the next day.

That was it, out I went. It was now 08:25, meaning I’d spent half an hour in there. There were people in the waiting room at this point, but it was okay; I was only 5 minutes over my slot. Lucky thing I was early and the ANP could call me in, or the receptionists unwillingness to trust me would have caused a massive delay to the first appointment of the day.


Calming Down

I had to spend a little time thinking things through and letting them settle in. I went directly to work, got through the pleasantries with the people who started at 08:00, and locked myself in my office for a little bit. I did some emails, checked some reports, and let it all sink in.

This was it.

I’d come out to my GP surgery, I’d requested a referral for gender services which was now on its way, I’d started the process to begin transitioning.

Hoe-lee-fuck.

Lastly; the next day

Dateline: today. I got a call at about 12:00. I stupidly told the ANP he could phone me any time in the morning because I didn’t have any appointments, forgetting I had a literally full day booked doing group training with senior managers. I wasn’t leading the sessions, just supporting, so I let the lead know I would need to step out some time in the morning for a personal call. No problems there, but I was then spending all my time with one eye on my phone, just waiting for the call.

Eventually it came, I darted out of the room, and just about sprinted to the other side of the building to look for a spare room to hide in, stealing a clinical room briefly (privileges of having a manager’s card to open all the doors).

He said they’d support it.

HE SAID THEY’D SUPPORT IT.

They’d do all the blood tests as long as I took responsibility for passing that information to the private team. They’d do the prescribing as long as the private team were clear in taking responsibility for what was prescribed and agreed their responsibility for monitoring ongoing care.

Holy shit y’all.

I… what?!

I expected to have to fight! To persuade my case! To at the very least meet with the senior practitioner, have them sit there and judge me, reject the idea, me have to threaten to escalate to the CCG, NHS England, whoever the fuck I had to in order to get my right to timely care.

None of that.


And Now?

I’m not quite there yet. I’m still processing. I’m so happy.

I can’t quite decide if I want to grin and tapdance or bust into tears, and it’s a bit of a tricky balance between the two. It’s my birthday tomorrow (At time of writing) and I’m with my parents to celebrate. It’s going to be tricky, emotionally, as I’m not sure where my head is.

I need to just bawl my eyes out.

My next steps are to make a plan. The surgery may support it but I need to get myself in order and organise what I’m going to do. There’s a lot to do. I need to come out to a bunch more people, I need to make sure work are prepared, I need to start looking at hair removal (I’m so goddamned hairy), I need to organise getting started with GenderGP and paying their fees. I need to get ready to start living as me, and that’s a scary thought. The closet is nice and warm, and dark, and safe. Outside is loud, and scary, and dangerous.

But I’mma do it.

With love,

Sammy

Hiya all,

This one’s going to be a bit short, just some ramblings about my name.

You may guess that the name I’m leaning towards is Sammy, hence Blogging Sammy as in the Sammy of Sammy’s Blog. Makes sense?

Sammy is the feminine derivation of my legal name, Samuel. I usually go by Sam, but I’ve been going for Sammy where I can. Now that I’ve got some of the ol’ social medias the kidz love I’ve got a Blogging Sammy Twitter, Reddit, Amazon, and Google accounts. I’ve not gone for a Facebook because of the issues where Facebook will out you to relatives by suggesting your new profile to them. I do have a Facebook under my legal name that I rarely use.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Sammy, though. It’s the easy and obvious choice, Samuel to Sam to Sammy, maybe it stands for Samantha? I’ve read a lot of tips that say it’s tricky when you go by a feminine version of a name that has a masculine version because people will “guess” your deadname. This will be the case even if it wasn’t your deadname, for example if I chose Roberta people would assume my name was Robert. This may not be a big problem unless you encounter an asshat, and unfortunately so many people are asshats.

So Sammy may not be the best name to go with. It’s also difficult to convince families you’re serious if they can just keep calling you your nickname, in this case Sam.

But if I wanted to change my name what would I go with?

I’ve had a look, I’ve run some name generators, and I’ve not found anything that sticks. I’m sure there are names out there (feel free to send in suggestions!) that I will fall in love with, but I’m just too used to Sam and like Sammy enough.

Sammy does feel a bit embarrassing. It’s tough because it’s the diminutive form of my name as well, there’s a vague mocking dismissive air with it, like you’d use to condescend someone. I’ve had it used with me in that way in the past and it’s still kind of stuck around, so there are some slight negative connotations when people use it.

On the other hand changing my name is going to be a big step. Saying that when I legally transition I’ll have to change my name from Samuel to at the least Sam anyway, but getting everyone to remember a new name is a big step, and a big commitment. I’m also a massive coward and am worries I’ll fall out of love with a name as it’s used, and worse come to regret picking it.

There’s a good joke; there are 3 people who use name generators: new parents, D&D players, and trans people. It’s not far off, I’ve used them extensively for D&D characters. I’ve tried to look at names from my birth year to give me hints as to “appropriate” names I would have had if I were born the right gender. Downside is that I grew up with people born the same year as me, and a lot of the names that were popular were popular for a good 10 years either side, so I know people with those names.

When picking a name a big rule is to be careful that if you do that you’re at least aware of people who share that name with you. I feel it would be really weird if I changed my name to the same as someone I know, I feel they’d take it weirdly themselves and be thinking “Did they pick my name? Did they pick it because of me?” and that’s strange.

I also wouldn’t want to be named after someone who was a pain in the ass! I’d never be able to look myself in the mirror and call myself whole bunch of names I won’t go into for fear of insulting people who may read this one day……

That’s about all I’ve got really, questions without good answers. Should I change my name? If so then what the hell to?

With love…..

Sammy

Hiya all,

Last week was a bit of a downer. Let’s look at something more positive; Kingdom Hearts 3. I warn you, if you’ve not seen/heard of Kingdom Hearts this may not be a review for you. This series is deep, endless, convoluted, spread over dozens of games and dozens of platforms. I don’t understand half of it, so I’m sure as hell not going to be able to explain it all to you. Go read the Wiki or watch a video or something. There are some funny ones out there!

A young boy looks just off camera, he has spiky brown hair, blue eyes, and a necklace with a crown image on it. He is wearing black clothes with red trim.
Sora

My History with Kingdom Hearts

I came to the series in a really weird way. I started playing Kingdom Hearts 2 when I was much younger, on the PS2. I don’t remember why I got it and didn’t get 1. It was a confusing experience.

My main takeaway I remember was I played for hours, did a whole bunch of stuff as this character I didn’t really know or recognise, got really invested, and then the whole game flipped on its head.

You see in Kingdom Hearts 2 you start off playing as someone called Roxas in his home town of Twilight Town. He’s hanging with his buddies when stuff starts getting strange with the appearance of weird creatures called Nobodies. He eventually begins to summon a mystical weapon called the Keyblade (although he doesn’t know that), fights some off, has some conversations with someone called Axel who seems to know him, explores a haunted mansion…. All good stuff.

Then you discover a hidden chamber full of technology and discover a pod with someone very familiar to Roxas in it, though he can’t place them. The pod opens, and Roxas is disappears, merging into this person. This person is Sora, the protagonist and main character in all 3 of the mainline games.

At that point Sora is whisked away, leaving Twilight Town and the friends who can’t quite seem to remember Roxas now, heading off to another world to meet Yen Sid (from Disney’s Fantasia) along with his recently awoken buddies Donald Duck and Goofy.

At that point the title screen appeared and what I remember is thinking “Dang, this game is gonna be huge. I’ve been playing for hours and I’m just at the title screen? What the heck!”.

I was right too.

I went back to Kingdom Hearts 1 eventually, but only when it came out as “1.5” as part of a re-release. You’ll see if you look into it that Kingdom Hearts has a big problem with re-releases, i.e. KH1, 2, 1.5, 2.8 etc.


Summary in Brief

This series is weird and complicated so I’ll do my best.

You play as Sora, a young boy from a strange island in the middle of nowhere, who falls out of his world when it’s consumed by Darkness. Sora is chosen by a Keyblade, a magical weapon that is the only thing that can fight back the Dark. He goes on an adventure to find and rescue his friends and in the meantime discovers some of them have fallen to the Dark, and some of them contain pieces of light that are needed by the bad guys to assemble the namesake Kingdom Hearts, which everyone wants to assemble for various reasons.

A picture of a glowing heart floating in a starry sky.
The series namesake; Kingdom Hearts

The big selling point of the game is that it’s a combination of Square Enix and their characters from a very Final Fantasy setting, and Disney’s characters and stories. There are multiple worlds in Kingdom Hearts, each one is set in a different Disney movie. For example in the original games there was a Beauty and the Beast world, Lion King, the Little Mermaid, all the classics.

In this game we get some new worlds; Toy Story, Big Hero 6, Tangled, to name a few. The graphics on these are a real step up, what’s particularly cool to note is that the Monster’s Inc graphics to me are indistinguishable from the movie. Particularly cool when you consider the movie was rendered frame-by-frame by Pixar’s god-tier rendering cloud, and now it’s being rendered live by my PS4. Neat.


Why is this game a Big DealTM

KH3 is a big deal for the KH community because it was a long time coming. The Kingdom Hearts series has always had a tenuous relationship with timelines. There are 13 games, below is their in-universe chronological order as well as the year they were released and the console they were released on (order stolen from u/Elfdemon)

  • Kingdom Hearts χ Back Cover (2017, Film)
  • Kingdom Hearts χ[chi] (2013, Web Browser Game)
  • Kingdom Hearts Unchained χ (2015, Web Browser Game relaunch of χ[chi] )
  • Kingdom Hearts Union χ[Cross] (2017, Web Browser Game relaunch of χ[chi] )
  • Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep (2010, PSP)
  • Kingdom Hearts (2002, PS2)
  • Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days (2009, Nintendo DS)
  • Kingdom Hearts Chain of Memories (2004, Game Boy Advance)
  • Kingdom Hearts II (2005, PS2)
  • Kingdom Hearts coded (2008, Mobile Phones)
  • Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance (2012, Nintendo 3DS)
  • Kingdom Hearts III (2019, PS4)

Wow. That’s a mess. The main takeaway is that the series has been on so many consoles over the years, and that the time between the main line games (in bold above) was 3 years from 1 to 2, and then 14 years from 2 to 3.

So this was a big deal. Especially as it was announced in 2013 and took 6 more years to be ready.

So what happens in this game?

Usual story, fight of light against dark, recurring villains we thought dead were alive, everyone we killed last game was back, time travel shenanigans, the power of love triumphing all…..

A picture of a group of people standing around a boy, all the people are glowing in golden light while the boy holds up a large weapon made of two crossed keys which is the source of the light.
The power of love!

Sora has to uncover the “Power of Waking” in order to be considered a key blade master. One of his friends has done this and is working with King Micky (yes Micky Mouse) in order to fight back the dark and Sora wants to help, but isn’t considered ready.

There’s travel through all the worlds where you help everyone solve their problems and beat the baddies hovering around. As you go you piece together more and more of the story and uncover the Big Bad is working to bring Kingdom Hearts about so he can wipe all life from everywhere and start over. Typical bad guy stuff.

Spoiler for End Game Sequence!!
What was particularly interesting is that after beating the big bad there was a bit of a switcheroo where we find out he was basically a pawn of an even bigger older bad, and one of the minor bosses we’d beaten twice was actually some sort of emissary for this guy? And that there’s a plan going back thousands of years? I got a bit lost here to be honest.

The overarching massive meta plot isn’t super necessary to enjoy the game. Sure you’ll miss some bits, but the basic bits of the game are go here, enjoy a little riff on the story of the original film, kill some dudes, and rescue some people. Then there’s a fancy boss fight and you win. It’s enjoyable, but if you’re not clued in on certain things you do feel left out thinking you should find a particular moment more impactful. Worse if, like me, you know a good chunk of story but not all of it, you start getting worried about if this mysterious person is someone you should recognise from other games or someone new and genuinely mysterious!!

So what about game play?

It’s a game, it’s about the game play.

The basic core game play is built around a core set of abilities and then a thousand thins you’ll never use.

The core ability is hammer X to attack with your keyblade. This then does different things depending on what skills you have equipped. You learn new skills (or abilities) as you level and you have a point cap, so each ability costs a certain number of points and you swap them out as needed. This point cap was completely redundant to me, as I was easily able to buy enough items to increase it such that I could always have all abilities slotted at once.

Depending on what you’ve got you then have combos on the ground, in the air, slams, throws, finishers, etc.

The new gimmick of this game is that the keyblades are all much more different to prior games. Instead of giving you a boost to a certain thing each keyblade has a set of forms that are unlocked as you do combos and you can swap out to their more powerful versions as combat carries on. Keyblades have 2 main focuses; physical and magic. You generally unlock a new keyblade as you finish a world, and you can level them up with a crafting mechanic using enemy drops.

Next up are spells, you have a few basic types: fire, blizzard, thunder, air, cure. Each of these then has higher tiers which cost more but do more damage, so you start with Fire, then Fira, then Firaga. You can map these to hotkeys and they’re pretty useful.

Then you have Attractions, another new draw for the game. Certain enemies will have a trigger icon on them and if you hit them before it runs out you get to use an Attraction, all modelled off of traditional Disneyland rides. There’s the Pirate Ship, Splash Mountain, Carousel, Tea Cups, Blaster Blaze, and a Roller-coaster that’s locked to a story mission. These are mostly huge flashy high damage events that turn the tide of battle, but honestly they were a real bother after a while playing. They take so long to wind up and play out, and they’re so repetitive, I did everything possible to limit use of them.

Speaking of situational commands they’re all over the place, hitting △ will activate a contextual thing depending on the situation. Especially used in boss battles or with certain abilities slotted this can cause a big stack of contextual commends, some of which are useful and a lot of which are the bloody Carousel. They can be cycled through with L2 but it’s panicky and tricky.

Lastly there are Link Summons where you summon a Disney character to fight with you. Available (after unlocking) are “Wonder Balloon” (from a KH game I hadn’t played), Ralph from Wreck it Ralph, Simba from Lion King, Ariel from the Little Mermaid, and Stitch from Lilo and Stitch. These are the mechanic I used the least as they deplete your magic bar (which was a pain if you needed a valuable cure) and caused a long animation and bunch of effects.

What I will say about the gameplay is there’s too much of it. So many mechanics that although they were introduced in bits and pieces I never needed to use anything other than hitting things and the occasional cure when I got beat up too much. It did feel like the game was chucking mechanics at me to see what would stick, but on the positive side I was never penalised for not using one of them if I didn’t like it.

There were a few other bits thrown in for good measure. Gummi Ships were back, this has been a strange staple from the series. See most of the time you’re running around as Sora with a team of up to 2 extras, usually Donald and Goofy, but you can swap out for one of the characters form the world you’re in. Gummi ships take out out of that on the travel between worlds as you fly a space-ship made of brightly coloured blocks that you can build. Think space invaders.

There’s nothing wrong with the Gummi sections but they’ve always been a bit of an odd addition. They were definitely more annoying in earlier games where you had to fly specific routes, but once you’d flown the route you could just fast-travel to your destination. This time you’ve got an open area you can fly around freely in and there are more objectives and stuff to do, with some fun bosses and some big set pieces that are pretty cool.


Verdict

Good game! I was really eagerly awaiting this one, I’ll be honest, but I did enjoy it. It looked beautiful, it played really well, there was just enough challenge at key points (disclaimer I was on Normal mode), the stories were nicely done, mini-games were engaging. A few minor problems with the amount of stuff thrown in, but still a great game and would recommend.

That’s all for now! Stay safe, and remember to love each other!

Sammy

That’s a weird title, right? Lets dive into what I mean a bit more, and why it’s both exhausting and an impossible standard.


What do I mean by Compulsory Trans Activism?

Social media is a mixed bag, right? Understatement of the century. It’s something so big, fast, and different that nobody can really keep up. Even those on the cutting edge of memes aren’t really on the cutting edge of the technology. Facebook are creating a new cryptocurrency, executives of tech giants are frequently being called up to explain one scandal or another, all of our elections are being run by a Russian megalomaniac, it’s too big for anyone to really keep hold of.

One of the things it’s done is bring people together and make everything public that once would have been private. Every turd has come out of the woodwork spouting beliefs and attitudes they would never dare say in public because they know the reaction it would get. Some of them are now seeing the lack of consequences from their behaviour online and are taking this as implicit endorsement, pushing for their “right to free speech” to let them say this vile shit in public and get away with it. Some of those people are now president.

There’s also a lot of talk going on, always.

So what does this have to do with activism? Well trans people are held to a high standard, and you can see it in the media. If a trans person rapes someone the story that runs is “TRANS PEOPLE ARE DANGEROUS, THEY ALL NEED TO BE LOCKED AWAY”. If a cis person rapes someone the conversation is very different, “oh they deserved it, look how they dress!”, or “that person is mentally ill, they don’t represent us”.

It’s a clever way to justify the rape by someone of your “in group”. Either the rape was justified (the way the victim dressed) or you exclude the person from your group (they’re mentally ill). That way your own in-group are still okay. There’s a lot of research in Psychology in In Group and Out Group bias, how people divide the world up into groups they’re a part of and are good, and “The Other”.

This places a huge burden on trans people, we have to be perfect at all times because our behaviour doesn’t just impact on us but on every trans person ever. In the case of the above rape obviously the trans person did something horrifying and should face jail time, end of story. But the story doesn’t end with their punishment, the media whips up a storm to call for all trans people to be punished. You see this all the time in a minority, any one in it doing something bad reflects on the whole minority.

If I get attacked and fight back the story tomorrow will be along the lines of “Trans ‘Woman’ beats up critic”. If instead I don’t beat them up but I report them to the police it’ll be “Man Jailed for Misgendering Transexual”. That’s just what happens, and what has happened recently.

The other element to this is that any time a trans person talks about wanting to be accepted, validated, and just live life, they become a political statement. I can’t have an opinion about not wanting to be murdered without someone saying “I disagree and my opinion is just as valid as yours, this is all political”. My very existence is political through no fault of my own, which mean I don’t have a choice to not be an activist. If I want any kind of rights for myself I have to fight for them, and I have to be an activist.

Or do I?

What if I don’t? What if I just got on and don’t fight, don’t get involved, and don’t stand up for my fellow trans siblings? Am I a Bad TransTM? If I don’t stand up for my In Group and I don’t fight for our rights, am I abandoning them? Not doing my civic duty for the betterment of society? Leaching off of the hard work of other people without giving anything back?

And if I do fight I have to fight constantly. I have to hold down a job, I have to keep paying bills and taxes, but I also have to spend all my free time fighting the system. And if I don’t I’m part of the problem.

That’s what I mean by Compulsory Trans Activism.

There is an expectation set on me (and other trans people) by both sides. My In Group want me to support at all costs and if I don’t I’m a bad person. My Out Group expect me to support and fight at all times, and regardless of whether I do will attack and treat me like I am. There is no middle ground, there is no release, and there is no relenting.

How does this manifest?

The most common place I notice this is in social media, hence the above monologue. Especially on twitter; if I follow famous people who also happen to be trans I get a feed packed with the bad news. Every negative story about trans people has a reaction to it, an argument against it, a counter point. And every one has a comment thread full of bullshit from right-wing basement-hiding fucks (actual basement not required, it’s the basement in your heart that matters). It’s a constant deluge of stuff I have to care about.

Or I don’t. I unfollow them all, I block all the activism, I take a break. Then I feel guilty because I’m not doing my bit, there are people out there who have it worse and I’m not helping them. I’m also not helping me, after all if I’m not willing to take a stand now what will it be like when I present fully in public? Am I justified in the abuse I’ll get because I didn’t fight off the abuse people get now?

And even if I don’t engage that doesn’t stop people engaging with me. I post me agreeing with a cute trans story I get piled on by people highlighting how sick it is, how all LGBTQ+ people are perverts, how Pride should stop ramming a lifestyle choice down everyone’s throats, how if we were just less politically correct the world would be much better.

It’s exhausting.

And what’s the right answer? I don’t know if there is one.


Stay safe, and remember to love each other.

Sammy

Hi all,

It’s been a bit of a busy period for me, so I’ve not been writing much. I’ve got a few posts I want to get out, though, so I thought I’d start with why I’ve not been posting much and go from there. Off we go!!


Work

Hoo girl, this has been a biggie. I’ve been stepping up into the position my manager formerly held before leaving. I’ve been doing it with no support from her old/my new manager. I’ve also had to do it while maintaining my old role, picking up some of the extra stuff that’s developed because of service changes, and picking up extra bits my old manager did that should really have been a job on their own. I’m wearing 4 hats and while any one or even 2 at a push would be doable I’m not coping with all 4. I’ve also yet to be paid for any of this step up work (3 months in) and it’s looking like that won’t happen for some time yet either due to rubbish HR and payroll.

I’d like to think of myself as a positive person at work (usually), I’m currently studying management and I know the importance of presenting the attitude and culture you expect to see, but god damn this past week is the closest I’ve gotten to calling in sick for stress or just handing in my notice. If I didn’t have a mortgage to worry about I’d be gone.

And that’s a shame really, I used to like my job. I felt I was making a small but important difference to patient care, making sure nobody was forgotten or “lost”, and helping drive care in a positive direction. Now? I can barely get the contractual minimum requirements met, my whole life is just looking up patients who breach and writing that they breached because we didn’t have enough staff or our processes are shit, and then saying that to our commissioners whilst nobody who can actually improve the situation is present and getting told it’s not good enough.

I know it’s not good enough! I keep saying it’s not good enough! So why do neither of our respective executives do anything about it, other than posturing and writing long letters about how tragic it all is?

There’s a potential light at the end of the tunnel, eventually a new management team are due to start (end of August/beginning of September) and it’ll be up to them if my job even exists any more. From there it’ll be different one way of another, but it’s not exactly filling me with confidence as one of the outcomes is that they recognise the poor job I’ve done holding it together and decide to get someone new in.

Regardless I’ve got (most) of a week off. I’m planning on taking advantage of it by letting work go fuck itself! There’s a lot happening this week, a lot of requirements to get stuff done, and I am not in the least bit concerned that I won’t be able to.


That Tavistock Thing

I’ve not really talked about this yet as I wanted to get a bit more meat to go with before I did, but I’ve submitted a Freedom of Information Request to the Travistock and Portman trust asking for a bunch of data items around their gender identity care.

If you’re not familiar a Freedom of Information Request (or FOI) is a legal framework in the UK whereby public offices are required to respond to any request that is reasonable. A good example of this might be if I wanted to know how many children under 18 were seen by the cancer services of a trust this year, or how many every year for the past 5 years, to have a look at if there is an increase in the area. Anyone can submit a request, there is no requirement to explain what you want to use the information for, and the organisation must respond with the truth. Obviously you can’t ask for anything confidential (so I can’t ask for which people under 18 it was) but high level figures are fine.

This is frequently used by journalists to uncover evidence of improper activity, for example you might find that an organisation employs no women, or only pays women half what they pay men, or that there are no coloured people in any management positions etc. You could also use it to ask about NHS treatment pathways, how many patients are waiting, how long they wait and so on.

What I submitted to the Tavi was a list of several points asking for breakdowns in waiting lists, time waiting, number of Serious Incidents (NHS framework for cases where harm has been done to a patient either deliberately or due to negligence), number of suicides, and copies of their policies for dealing with risk in their waiting list. These are all elements from my own trust I have had to provide before, elements that are basic for NHS care.

Unsurprisingly they refused to comply and didn’t send me anything, citing one of the conditions of an FOI; time/cost. See FOI isn’t a magic spell, it could be used to interfere with an organisations work by asking for something ridiculous, so there are limits. You can request whatever you want but if it would cost more than £450 (£600 for central government) or 18 hours (24 for central government) of staff time to produce your request may be refused.

Tavi argued that what I had asked for would cost too much to produce so refused. I argued that what I had asked for was either basic business intelligence (waiting lists), information they legally must already supply (SIs) or information that must exist and just needs forwarding (policy around risk). After that I got about 3 robot responses, requested their own internal review process review it, and got no response for a month.

I then sent it to the Information Commissioner’s Office, the people who make sure public agencies obey the freedom of information act, who have the power to compel and theoretically take offices to court for not complying. They reviewed the case and have agreed it is worth further investigation, they now have 3 months to review and contact Tavi before responding. We’re about 2 months in now and I’ve not heard anything so I’ll update more when I have.

Once I do have the data I’m going to do a big blog post breaking down what it means. I’ll give Tavi a chance to respond, but I won’t be holding back. From what I do for a living I know where the weak points in a trust are, and a trust this concerned about letting out any information is made up of nothing but weak points.


My Transition

Little movement here, but there’ll be more soon. I’ve got some more comfy underwear that I’m wearing everywhere now, it’s a really nice reminder that I am making progress no matter how small. They’re also waaaaay more comfortable than guy-pants, seriously! Ironically they are boy-shorts, but so soft!

I’ve also upgraded my breast forms. The foam ones from M&S were chafing my chest so I took a risk on Wish again and got some silicon forms. Holy crap ya’ll, that’s a difference. They’ve got weight, movement, presence, and stick so they feel real. Nothing pads out a bra more than an actual boob. I got more than a little emotional looking down and seeing them, I’ll be honest.

The biggest movement is I have an appointment. I’ve been in contact with GenderGP and I’ve got an early intervention consultation booked for Tuesday the 16th by phone where one of their therapists will go through what I need to know to get started. I’m nervous as fuck, but really really excited too.

It’s probably a really common and lazy thought but I don’t want to transition, it’s a huge pain and it’s going to be difficult, dreadful at times, and painful. I want to already be transitioned, all that behind me, and living as the woman I am. I know that realistically that can’t happen though (unless that gender-changing gun from Area-51 I’ve been seeing a lot about happens??), and that the only way to be the other side of transitioning is to get started.

Knowing that I’m getting itchy to get going, I don’t want to hang around anymore, I want to start making a change. This is going to be a good starting point.


What else….

Erm….. I don’t know! I’ve been playing a bit of Cities Skyline on PS4, making the glorious bastion of civilisation that is Gaytopia. It has given me a greater appreciation for how hard designing a city or new estate actually is. America had it easy building everything new on big bloody grids, England is hard mode with all the weird little offshoots, strangely angled bits of land, nothing being in a regular pattern…. but it’s also a bit of a challenge in Cities to not build on a grid and have traffic actually flow. I’ve learnt a lot about dividing roads up and down lane sizes, junctions, and public transport. Who the hell would have thought you could have a traffic jam on your underground train line??

Since that I’ve also got the new Asscreed; Odyssey. That’s pretty fun, I skipped out on the Egyptian one because I really wasn’t on board with an RPG version of Screed, but this version works quite well. It’a real shift in thought process though, but I’ve ploughed all of my upgrades into improving my assassination so I can play it exactly like the old games. I’ll probably do a proper review once I’ve done the story.

What next?

I’ve got some ideas for blog posts. These include (in no particular order):

  • Review of Kingdom Hearts 3
  • Post on Compulsory Trans Activism
  • Critical Role State of Play
  • Review of a bunch of manga I’ve read
  • Review of Good Omens
  • Transition progress (what next after GenderGP appointment)

And whatever else I can be bothered with! A couple of these I’m going to be writing now as I already have the layout in my head. I’m going to schedule whatever I get to post weekly so hopefully there’ll be a bit more #content going forward.

Remember I do have a twitter where I generally post stupid things and make fun of Nazis and the far right.

Remember to stay safe and love each other.

Sammy

Heya all,

Been a bit quite on my front recently I’m afraid, some good reasons for that though. Sadly the thing prompting me to write isn’t so good and as such I’m going to add a Trigger Warning: Transphobia. So let’s dive into this.


The Good

I’ve been working more on my course at work, I was enrolled (if I didn’t mention) on a Chartered Management Institute course that basically teaches all the aspects of management and leadership. It was helpful for the role I’m in and I identified it as something that would help my personal development. Unfortunately for the first class I had horrible food poisoning so I didn’t go, but I did get to the second and third.

So far it’s been really interesting but it has included a bunch of coursework to do, none of it particularly hard, but it has taken up a lot of time. There’s also a reflective journal element which has to account for 1/5th of my time in work (so just 1 day a week’s worth of hours) and I have to provide evidence of applying my learning to my workplace and honestly that’s the hardest part. It’s just so much writing!!

The only annoying point is each class has those bloody exercises that you all undertake and have to learn from…. building spaghetti bridges, tapping numbers in sequence, blargh.

Still, I’m really enjoying learning and whilst the bits at the moment are a bit easy I’m looking forward to what we’ll start learning later.


The Progress

So I’ve not made much, let’s get that out of the way. I’ve bought some stuff off of Wish because it’s cheap and I thought why not, and so far what’s arrived hasn’t been bad. I wasn’t expecting the world, but what I’ve been getting is pretty solid.

I don’t have my ears pierced and I’m not sure I will eve do as I am not a fan of needles. At all. So I got magnetic earrings! I know you can get clip ons and my wife has a bunch that she let me try on, and they’re very variable. Some are way too tight and painful but some are comfortable. I decided what I wanted was upper-ear studs in the trans flag colours (for a reminder look to the left of this blog) and I found the things below.

Magnetic earrings source Wish

I’ve actually done roughly what the lady in this picture has done but might higher around the very wide of the ear in blue, silver, and pink. They pinch a little but I’m hoping I’ll get used to them, and I think they look super cute.

I also got a charm bracelet for Kingdom Hearts 3 which is so fun to jingle and play with.

Shopping!! Kingdom Hearts 2 charm bracelet

They’re minor things but it feels nice to own some jewelry, it does make me feel much more feminine, and it’s hella cute. Nice.

I’ve got some leave coming up with my wife in a week or so where we’ll be watching Avenger’s Endgame because of course we will…. We’ll also be house-sitting the weekend before but after that I’m going to try fully shaving for the first time in like 8 years? And I’m going to remove every hair on my body, paint my nails, and see how this shit goes. Feedback incoming. Eeek!!


The Ugly

We were on the way to my parents for a birthday meal for my brother and sister. One’s birthday was last week and the other’s is next week so we were going to go out this weekend when we were all free. They picked us up in the car as we live about an hour’s drive away and took us back to their town.

Important to note I am not out to my parents. You’ll see in earlier entries I’ve always been concerned about their attitudes to trans people and I wasn’t going to rush this. I was considering it being soon though, I was thinking it was tricky keeping this part of myself hidden and maybe they’d be okay. Definitely not; last warning for transphobia.

In the car we were discussing the news as we often do and go onto the subject of people in films and my dad got onto the subject of how we shouldn’t expect all black or gay roles to be played by black or gay actors because it’s “acting”. Anyone familiar with being gay or black will be well used to this argument and I’m not going to bother getting into the lists of reasons and history of why this is a stupid argument.

Form there though he made an “I identify joke”. The peak of humour. Actually quoted from Piers Morgan as well; “I identify as a thin person so I’m-” blah blah blah.

I told him this was a stupid joke and literally leads to people being murdered, and what followed was every transphobic argument from both him and my mother in a row. If it wasn’t so upsetting and infuriating it could have been a good academic exercise.

We had:

  • Unless you have surgery you’re not trans you’re a cross-dresser
    • REBUTTAL: This is bullshit; if you chose not to medically transition you’re just as valid, there is something of a distinction between transsexual (the old medicalised term) and transgender (the generic term), and transvestite being the term referring to people who dress as a gender they do not identify as.
  • 80% of trans kids are lying (direct quote)
    • Figures from an asshole, no basis in any kind of fact at all, nothing to rebuke..
  • Those lying trans kids are only doing it so that you’ll slip up and use the wrong pronouns so they can complain
    • REBUTTAL: Because the first thing on a young trans kid’s mind when they’ve hit A&E because of self harm is “tricking” some nurse into getting their pronouns wrong so they can pounce and file a complaint about them. Or, you know, maybe they’re just so used to being discriminated against and insulted they complain as a matter of course now.
  • Most trans people detransition
    • REBUTTAL: We know this is incorrect, recent statistics show the detransition rate is <1% and much of that is due to social pressures around transitioning rather than suddenly becoming cis.
  • Parents are forcing their kids to transition
    • REBUTTAL: Big ol’ nope here, kids are being forced to stay quite and put up with, rather than be treated for, gender dysphoria. That’s why we’re still having conferences to encourage awareness.
  • There are some genuine trans people but the rest are just pretending to be cool because they get special dispensation.
    • REBUTTAL: No trans person has every had any special dispensation that they didn’t have to put up with decades of abuse, bullying, violence, threats, insults, and countless explanations and justifications to get to. Nobody transitions to be cool.
  • Trans people shouldn’t be able to use their preferred bathrooms because (really not making this one up) “The bathrooms aren’t set up to allow for different biology”.
    • REBUTTAL: I mean, pardon my french, but everyone needs to shit so most bathrooms do in fact have a globally usable toilet.
  • How do you even know anyway??!? How do you know someone in the bathroom is the right gender?!
    • REBUTTAL: This is one that possibly annoys me the most, aside from the blatant bigotry above. See most of my family have various disabilities, from autism to sarcoidosis and chronic pain syndrome. We’re not a health bunch. Many times my father specifically has complained “invisible disabilities” and is a huge supporter of not criticising people who just don’t look sick enough to use, say, a disabled toilet. His own son has been challenged before and he went off the rail at the accuser. But when asked how he would be making sure everyone was legally entitled to use the right bathroom he had nothing more than “they’d just have to”. Nothing to justify that if you want to lock people to the bathroom of their assigned-at-birth gender (ignoring the difficulties there of XXY intersex individuals) someone is going to have to start checking driver’s licences and passports.

So that was a huge clusterfuck. My wife and I were countering each of the points they made but unlike some hardcore conservative christian deep south motherfuckers I’ve read about people dealing with, where they have one point (i.e. the toilet thing) and they just stick to that and can’t be moved, my parents just flitted across every argument without stopping to consider it, or listening to any evidence. As soon as a point started going bad they moved to the next crass, outdated, and harmful rhetoric.

What’s even worse is my sister is going to get married to another woman next year! And you know what; they’re fine with that! But don’t see the hypocrisy of using the same old complaints and argument rolled out for “The Gays” back in the day which they would now (hopefully, although I’ve yet to see this happen) defend their daughter against….

So after that I’ve put myself firmly back in the closet, at least in respect to my parents. I’ve read a lot of people’s experiences with parents and generally when they have these entrenched views and a complete disregard for any alternative argument the results boil down to live with it, and then when you transition put up with dead-naming, misgendering, and bullshit, or cut them out of your life for good. I don’t think I’m there yet.

They’re not bad people, an argument in a car isn’t the best place, but what do I do? My best idea has been send them a letter (or this blog) and just say: “I am trans. I am not gong to discuss or debate this with you, I am not going to put up with discriminatory bullshit as I’ve had before, you either educate yourselves and come to accept me or we part ways amicably.” It feels harsh. I don’t know.

For now I guess I keep it a secret. I’m glad I took time after this to calm down a little because I was moments away from walking out the house, getting a taxi to a train station, and going home without another word. I’m not sure if they have a clue I’m trans based on how angry I was, but if they did that’s even worse.


So for now? Not much more to report on. Work’s about to get super busy, I’m going to start transitioning a bit more, and I’m going to do another article on my learning about voice feminisation and also on the progress I’ve had getting information out of the Tavistock Trust (think blood and stones).

Stay safe everyone.

With love,

Sammy

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wandering_Son

Heya everyone,

Back to a review, this time another manga I read. I discovered this one when I was linked it from reddit as a trans positivish manga but with trigger warnings. It’s an interesting one to dive into, so let’s get going.

Technically an anime cover again but it’s cute so sue me.

Wandering son mainly follows two main characters. Shuichi Nitori is a young boy who has always been effeminate and gradually begins to experiment being a girl. Secondly is Yoshino Takatsuki who is a young tomboyish girl who begins to experiment being a boy.

The first thing to say is that the pronouns for this manga are a bit tricky as each character changes their gender identity a few times through the series as they explore what their gender means to them, their friends, and their families. I will be spoiling the ending later but will warn you when we get there. Shuichi also goes by two nicknames; Shu in boy-mode, and Nitorin in girl-mode. Shu is an easy abbreviation of their name, but Nitorin is a kind of cutesy variation that would usually be associated with a young girl. Yoshinio tends to be called Takatsuki-kun which is an honorific mainly used for boys.

The story is quite a complex one as it follows Shu mainly while they try to come to terms with their gender. They start the story as male but feminine and as they go on they explore being more and more feminine, including crossdressing. Shu is in a fairly young level of school, I believe about 10 or 11 when it starts? Shu is in year 5 of elementary school which starts at 6 years old, so that’s my math. It ends roughly when they start college so around 19.

During this time a lot happens; Shu meets friends who encourage them, and bullies who don’t. Shua nd Yoshiko keep a journal that they pass between them for a year or so until a bully in their class discovers it and parades it around the school which Shu finds especially difficult as it has writing in their about times they’ve gone out dressed as a girl.

Some of the main themes, though, are the changing and realistic personalities and emotions. Characters who start off as firm friends get hit with an emotional realisation (maybe that they’re getting excluded or left behind) and so become hostile to the confusion and sadness of those. Some of them then reconcile later, some don’t. Some of the bullies later realise the childishness of their ways and become first begrudging then firm friends in later years. It all feels very human with a the reader having a good idea of everyone’s emotions but as in real life the characters themselves not always understanding each others’ motivations.

On the left Nitorin, on the right Takatsuki-kun

Some high points, beyond the good representation of people.

During the story Nitorin’s growth is really interesting. They start with a little bit of crossdressing at home by trying on their older sister’s clothing. This begins to escalate as they start going outside and then further when they go out with people they know (as with Takatsuki-kun in the image above). This will feel very familiar to a lot of trans people going through a transition as we begin to gain more confidence and find that just loitering around the house in gender-affirming-mode (doesn’t roll off the tongue as well) isn’t enough.

There’s also moments towards the end of the series where Nitorin and one of their friends who is a bit more open about wanting to be a girl both start going through puberty. As they are both biologically male there are times when their voices begin to crack, they start getting bigger, and there’s a genuine fear in both of them that they will become too big or “manly” to be able to keep passing. Oh boy is this a mood, but really well portrayed as they try to hide the inevitable or work around it, or just wish it wouldn’t happen.

Nitorin and Takatsuki-kun also meet a post-op transsexual later in their story called Yuki. She originally meets Takatsuki-kun believing them to be a boy and takes interest in them and Nitorin when she finds out they’re biologically female/male respectively. She keeps in touch with them, providing advice, and encouraging Nitorin occasionally. What I liked about Yuki’s portrayal is that Japan doesn’t always have the best track record for dealing with representation of crossdressing, drag, or trans issues (see Haruhi’s dad in Ouran High School Host Club for an example….) but Yuki is portrayed honestly and positively. She does run a gay bar, because it’s one of the few professionals trans women are allowed in media, but even that isn’t the typical skeezy dive.

There’s a fun side story throughout where Nitorin begins dating a girl called Anna who works at a modelling agency (we’ll get more onto that in a moment). Anna is tall, beautiful, educated, sophisticated, and finds Nitorin small and cute. Their relationship has to be kept a secret as the media would quickly pick up and harrass both Anna and Nitorin were it to be discovered. During their relationship Anna eventually does find out that Nitorin crossdresses and encourages it, wanting to go on dates with them in girl-mode. This continues throughput their education and their relationship is genuinely sweet and touching.

Lastly I would be remiss if I didn’t mention some of the cover and insert art, which is a gorgeous style of hazy lines and pastel colours, I’ll leave a picture below to convince you:

Shu in the middle in yellow surrounded by other classmates

The manga in general itself was a bit hit and miss for me, but it was a style I eventually got used to. I think what put me off most was some of the expression work just coming out a bit vacant, and the strong use of thick black lines and whole black panels that make parts feel dark and claustrophobic.

Shu walking home, laughing at “that”

The last point I’ll make before I move onto negatives is a kind of middling one, the series does get a bit into sexuality and sex, but it’s not a forerunning theme. Towards the middle of the series the characters are going through puberty and begin to experiment with masturbation, but it’s not done in a gratuitous way. There are some really poignant moments when they fish and are left with a strange mixture of emotions at what they’ve done and the body they have doing it with.

So now onto the negatives, and there’s a pretty big hole in the story I’ve not filled in; Nitorin’s older sister (by 1 year) Maho Nitori. Maho and Nitorin share a room at the start of the series on a bunk bed, but eventually the room gets separated with a curtain so they can have some privacy. Maho is the one Nitorin knicks a lot of their clothing from and also the one who is all to do with the modeling agency.

Maho dreams of joining the modelling agency that Anna is part of purely because of Maiko, the “top model” in this particular agency who Maho is basically fangirling over. She attends an audition with Nitorin and they get through preliminary before Anna tells Maho her desire to join just to meet Maiko is childish and silly, which strikes a bit of a nerve. After joining and Anna softening up though the three become fast friends, fulfilling Maho’s dream of being a model with Maiko.

What’s the issue then? Maho is such a bitch. There, I said it. Throughout the whole series she belittles and insults Nitorin, and repeatedly brings it back to the main arguments made against trans people; you’re gross, you’re a pervert, you’re not a real girl so stop pretending.

There is a reason for this, towards the start of the series Maho gets a crush on a boy in her year called Seya and invites him home. Unfortunately he arrives just as everyone else is out an Nitorin is full girl-mode and he himself develops a crush on Nitorin before realising they’re biologically male. This Maho sees as an affront to her own “genuine” femininity and from here on out attacks Nitorin because she’s terrifies they’ll be seen as cuter than her. This drives her to continue at the modelling agency and to keep putting Nitorin down to prevent them presenting female.

The fact it’s coming from a genuine emotional place doesn’t help or make it better. She is truly vile through most of the series and the backup from their parents is very “oh kids will be kids”.

Spoiler for the Ending

The series does end on a definitive note and resolves everything so I’d really recommend reading before you read this bit, but at the end Nitorin realises she is a girl and begins working towards that goal. Takatsuki-kun actually joins the modelling agency as a girl and at the end of the series decides that she is happy being this way and can put up with it, but still stays very androgynous. Best of all Anna and Nitorin stay together as Anna is okay with coming to terms with her partner being a girl, and her being a lesbian.

It’s really well done and doesn’t leave anything hanging, and the ending where Nitorin presents a book that she’s been writing in detailing her life so far really echo’s back to the diary and makes everything feel nicely symmetrical.


So what’s the verdict?

It’s a good series. A good representation of the troubles that a young trans questioning person will experience in life, and unfortunately that can get a bit too real at times. The characters are relatable and realistic, and the drama feels fitting for the age groups. Definitely give it a read, though do be prepared for your blood to boil at times.

That’s all fo this time! Next up, maybe something that isn’t a manga??

With love,

Sammy

Heya everyone,

Been a little bit again, I think about 2 weeks? It’s been a bit tricky with everything that’s going on so I’m going to do a big ol’ brain dump and move on.


I’ve been on an antidepressant, Citalopram, for about 5 years now. I started midway through university after my then-girlfriend-now-wife pointed out I was a mopey useless sack of shit (my words not hers). I had a trip to the GP who did a few test, had a good chat, slapped me on medication, and told me to fuck off.

It did really help but I was never reviewed to check up after that from that GP. Four years later I’d moved county and registered with a new GP who tried to refuse to prescribe without seeing me. This didn’t go down well as they’d originally told me there would be no problem so I got down to 1 week remaining and their next appointment was 3 weeks out. Clever. They agreed to prescribe.

After I realised I was trans and started looking at hormones I also encountered a lot of gatekeeping stories about people who had been refused (only by the NHS mind) hormones or other treatment either because of made-up interactions between the drugs or worse still the old “you’re not trans you’re just sad, have more antidepressants”.

This gave me a bit of a kick in the behind to try and stop Citalopram. Being a psychology graduate I know the issues with continued medication without review and having read the side-effects I knew it wasn’t a permanent solution, but it’s also a bit scary to stop. If you’re comfortable and emotionally stables there’s a lot to be said for not fixing what ain’t broke.

Coincidentally I got a call from my new surgery about 2 months ago now saying that again they wouldn’t prescribe until I’d had a review. Being sick of this shit I agreed only to a telephone review. I wasn’t too worried as I assumed they wanted me to stop taking it to save a few quid and I wanted to stop for my future treatments.

During the call the GP was delighted and told me it was easy enough, I should just stop taking it. Now I didn’t think that was a pretty good idea based on the fact neurological medication generally shouldn’t be stopped, but she was insistent that I was on a negligible dose anyway and so it would be fine. And who am I to argue with a trained medical professional?

Apparently someone with half a brain, which is precisely 1/2 more than her.

Three days later I got home from work after struggling through the day before collapsing on the sofa and spending the next hour blearily staring at the ceiling feeling like someone had taken a literal shit on my brain. It wasn’t very fun and I took another Citalopram and a couple of hours after that began to feel a little better.

After that I decided to ignore the GP and reduce the medication myself, dropping to half for 2 weeks, then half every other day for 2 weeks, successfully using up the last of my medication and doing it properly.


So that didn’t help! What else was going on? General fugue from the state of the UK. If you’re not aware or are triggered by the dreadful shit going on against trans people at the moment probably best to stop here.

Currently there are a bunch of debates raging nationally about:

  • Which bathrooms to use (again)
  • If trans people should be allowed to compete in sports (although we already are)
  • If we should be fucking sterilized before transitioning
  • If we should let kids know trans people exist of not “expose them” to us

The fact this is churning again and that the media are quite happy to exploit and run with this because it’s a nice sensationalist headline and generates a lot of cash isn’t helping.

There was a recent tweet storm against the head of a trans charity from some sort of pervert bigot. I assume she was a pervert because all she could talk about was this charity head’s daughter’s genitals! The content of her posts was vile, I’m not going to link them or name her because I don’t want my blog associated with that filth in any way, but it was truly vile and accusatory; multiple accusations about child abuse and causing bodily harm to her own daughter. She also repeated called her daughter a boy.

Now the head of the charity sent this to the police as it was both threatening, defamatory, and revolting. This piece of human garbage then went to the papers with “oh I’m being attacked by the police just because little innocent me misgendered her child, this is political correctness gone mad!!”. And the papers ate it up. Every single one ran the story, none included her actual tweets, and the charity gained a huge amount of hate mail. Lovely.


So with all this I’ve not been in a particularly good mood to post. I feel threatened that when I start transitioning socially I’m going to be faced with bigotry from around the country, our basic institutions like the press and health service will actively work against me, and that’s not great. What does cheer me up is knowing it’s not just me, there’s a lot of other people out there who face the same and who have come out the other side stronger, better people. Happier too.

Fingers crossed.

With love,

Sammy

Hiya everyone,

Bit of an odd review this one because I’m going to be talking about the movie Alita Battle Angel but having read the manga first. Let’s dive into it!

Alita herself, mid martial-art

Alita Battle Angel is a complex story. It’s also got a couple of really good twists and turns in it that I won’t be talking about but may be alluding to.

The story centres around, unsurprisingly, Alita. Alita is a cyborg; a being with a full human brain but an entirely robotic body. She is discovered in a scrap heap as nothing more than a head and torso by Dr Ido; a medic/roboticist who operates in the city of Scrapyard. Dr Ido often helps repair other denizens of the Scrapyard for free or for food only, when he discovers what remains of Alita he is taken aback and vows to repair her.

Ido quickly finds that Alita isn’t a simple cyborg but something much more complex. Missing all of her memories Alita learns what life is like in the Scrapyard, learns bits about the history of the world, makes friends, and falls in love. She also learns about pain and betrayal.

Dr Ido and his Big Fuck’n’ Hammer1TM

She quickly finds out that Ido moonlights as a bounty hunter, using a massive rocket-propelled hammer to destroy murderers and rapists in the town, protecting people as much as he repairs them. Alita learns she has an innate skill at fighting and demands to begin fighting to protect people as well.

The story develops as Alita meets Hugo, a scrap dealer and enthusiast of the “blood sport” Motorball (I put it in quotations because everyone who plays is mostly a robot so whilst there is a lot of brutality there isn’t so much blood). She begins to fall in love with him and he tries to prioritise his feelings for her against his own lifelong dream of escaping the Scrapyard for the paradisiacal floating city above them; Tiphares.


So things about the movie that are a bit weird: Alita’s eyes. It’s the elephant in the room; they’re huge. They’re also the only ones the film that are exaggerated in this way which makes her stand out even more. See?

As with the Mona Ogg the eyes follow you around the room and all the way home.

In manga and anime eyes are generally really big and prominent, this is partially down to artistic styles but also from the development of anime and manga, used as a way of increasing the expressiveness of characters. You could write (and people have written!) tomes on the subject, but it doesn’t usually make the transition from 2D to 3D very well. Especially not when nobody else in the film have that stylistic signature.

I’m going to say it though; I don’t think they’re a problem. Especially after watching a bit of the film they just become regular. I don’t know if this is because I watch a lot of anime but they didn’t bother me. It probably also helped that Alita was cute as anything and 100% transition goals.

Next up; the look of the film in general. This was done by Weta Digital. To those in the know that’s some fine post-production pedigree, they are good at what they do. And it shows. This film is gorgeous, the effects are all stunning and rarely look artificial or out of place.

The visual design really closely mimics the manga, I was able to spot all Alita’s outfits during the film that feature in the manga and whilst they’re not identical they really are obviously based heavily and recognisably on them. The same goes for the look of the characters, especially the augmantents and robotics.

On the note of the robotics they are beautiful, especially the body Ido first gives Alita. You can see some of this in the image below but it really doesn’t do justice to the level of detail etched into the bodywork.

The fight scenes are absolutely captivating, slow motion is used effectively in places to really highlight particular moments, but mostly the action happens at full speed. This is really impactful in some of the bar fights where Alita and the other cyborgs are moving at lightning fast speeds and these aren’t slowed down for viewers, it’s literally a blur of motion and someone is in a headlock.

Now the story. How does it compare to the source material? It’s pretty close actually. They’ve moved a few bits around and cut some stuff but nothing that’s too important. The main story beats are all there and they all feel cohortent in order. The downside is the film does end on a bit of a cliffhanger and obviously wants a sequel (which it will hopefully get with its current box office performance) which is disappointing for cinemagoers. The reason I’m particularly frustrated is that all the huge twists come next and I’m really interested to see how they’ll be done because they are BIG. So we’ll have to cross our fingers and hope!


All in all I’d highly recommend it. The film is brilliant if you didn’t read the manga and close enough it shouldn’t upset you if you did read it. Fingers crossed we get the remainder of it soon. Now I leave you with a bit of art from one of my favourite artists showing you what Alita looks like in the manga (close enough at least….).

Mmmmm.

With love,

Sammy

Hiya everyone,

I was quite excited when the Switch was announced. I had a Wii back in the day but never got on the Wii U bandwagon. I wasn’t hugely into the DS landscape because it seemed every year they bought out a new one that wasn’t backwards compatible from original, XL, super XL, 3D, 3D XL etc.. The Switch looked really good though, a home console that you can just pick up and play on the go? Nice!

When it came out I didn’t exactly rush to buy it, I had a PS4 I was playing religiously and whilst there were a dozen or so games out I wanted I didn’t want any of them enough to buy a new console.

A colleague at work was a massive Zelda nut though, so she did get one with Breath of the Wild, and after finishing it let me borrow the Switch and game so I could try it. I’ll work on a review of BotW later but having had a chance to play on a Switch I was really sold.

When Pokémon Let’s Go came out, though, that was it. I got one shortly after. I’ve always liked Pikachu well enough, but I love Eevee far more, and my favourite Pokémon of all time is Umbreon. I was so happy when the store clerk told me that had literally 1 edition of Let’s Go Eevee left in stock, so grabbed it!


Pokémon Let’s Go is a modern adaption of the original Pokémon Red/Blue/Yellow games way back from Generation 1 (bearing in mind we’re just waiting for Gen 8 to come out soon). 151 (ish) Pokémon to capture, 8 gym leaders, Team Rocket, and an Elite Four waiting at the end.

This game builds more on Yellow as in Yellow you had a little follower Pikachu who would wander around behind you, in Let’s Go you get 2 follows!! Depending on which version you buy (Pikachu or Eevee) your first Pokémon is that one, you don’t get to pick from the traditional Ride/Water/Grass starter types. Your new buddy will then sit on your head/shoulder for your journey and won’t go into a Pokéball unless it’s for healing. You can then also get another Pokémon out and have them follow you too. This one you can interact with and they’ll find you berries and stuff in the grass, whereas your buddy Pokémon will just stay sat.

Amusingly for me because I got this as a bundle I got a Pokéball controller with the game, there was a gift inside the Pokéball of a free special Pokémon which turned out to be Mew, the 151st legendary. As I got this literally as soon as I started my journey I of course made Mew my follower and loved the idea of little kids challenging me to battles with their level 5 Caterpie completely uncaring of the mythical beast hovering over my shoulder.

Me, my buddy Sir Floof, and my follower Mew.

My buddy was promptly dubbed by both myself and my wife as the most adorable little bundle of fluff ever and knighted Sir Floof. She may be a girl, but she’s also a Sir. Most of the rest of the pictures in this post are just going to be of my wonderful little cuddle-ball.


The main changes between this game and the originals is the influence of Pokémon Go. You’d have to have been living under a rock for the past couple of years to have managed to miss Pokémon Go but if you have it’s a mobile game that uses GPS to let you catch the beasties in the world. It was quite popular.

A few mechanics have been carried over but it’s mostly around catching new Pokémon. In the original games you’d wander through long grass or caves or water, randomly you’d encounter a wild one of appropriate type (so grass types in grass etc.) and you’d have to battle it to weaken it, then when it was weak enough you could throw a Pokéball at them and you’d hopefully catch them. If you you could just keep throwing balls or risk damaging it a little bit more.

In Let’s Go you just pelt it with Pokéballs until it gives up.

So that’s not 100% accurate, each wild encounter has a coloured ring that shrinks until it vanishes then reappears and restarts. The goal is to flick the ball inside the circle and the smaller the circle the higher the chance you’ll catch it. Other stuff impacts your chances like what tier of ball you’re using and the strength of the Pokémon. If you’re interested you can read about the Go version of the Grand Unified Catch Theory but that’s the important bits.

Here you can see trying to catch a Golbat, the shrinking orange circle is what you want to hit the inside of.

For me this was a really positive change as I always hated trying to get things just low enough you didn’t knock them out, but not so high you weren’t going to catch them. This way you just have to have a reasonable aim and you can catch stuff. The downside is a really strong/rare Pokémon will absolutely wreck your reserves of balls. I was trying to catch a different legendary Articuno and went through all 100 Great tier balls and nearly 200 regular tier balls before I got it, mostly because I hadn’t planned to find it so didn’t bring any extra Ultra balls with me.


Aside from that there are a few quality of life changes that have carried over from other games in the series like the ability to trade your 6 strong team out with ones in your reserve from any location. There’s also a really nice change for me in the way TM’s (which are items you can use to teach special moves to your Pokémon) don’t get consumed when you use them, and also highlight which Pokémon can use them in a clear way.

Eevee can also be taught new moves by special people across the world. Moves in Pokémon are grouped by types (like fire and ice) and you can’t go teaching moves to a Pokémon that doesn’t share a type. Unless, that is, ones of these trainers teaches your Buddy these moves which can be of varied types. They’ve also all got really cute names, so my Eevee is currently rocking Baddy Bad (a dark type move), Bouncy Bubble (a water type move that heals you for some of the damage done), and Sparkly Swirl (a fairy type move, which is quite rare, and also cures status effects like burn and poison). This means your buddy Pokémon will always be able to have useful moves, which is great as you can’t remove them from your party.

The last major change I know of is that there’s now something called Catch Combo’s which weren’t in any of the previous games. To get a Catch Combo you just have to keep catching the same type of Pokémon over and over. If you accidentally get in an encounter with one you don’t want you can run away without losing your streak, but if you take too long and one runs away whilst you’re trying to catch it that does break the streak.

The benefit of having a streak is that the higher it gets the higher the chance of rarer, evolved, or more powerful version of Pokémon spawning around you. Depending on where you are you can use this to get specific ones you’re having trouble finding. The best part is you can combo on type in one place where they’re easy to get a bunch of the same one, and then go to where the rare one is to trigger the spawn. The downside is the combo’s need to be in in the 30’s range to be useful, which is a lot of time and effort!


For me the best part about the whole game is the play with buddy screen which lets you just pet them (sadly through the medium of a screen) and they make happy noises. I know it doesn’t sound like much, but oh my god is it worth it. The little happy squeaks and trills, the flopping about and wiggly ears, and sneezes and playful pats….. I love it so much!!!

The fact you can also dress up your Eevee and yourself in cute matching outfits?! Sold. Hands down.


So what’s my verdict? If you like Pokémon Go you’ll probably like this. If you like the show or movies there’s a good chance you’ll like this. If you liked the originals (or the modern versions) it might be a bit more hit/miss as it does replace some mechanics that people like, and that might not sit right with you.

But getting to play with my wonderful little girl Sir Floof more than makes up for it. Look at her little face and tell you didn’t fall in love.

With love,

Sammy

I thought I’d take a page out of my wife’s book for the next few posts. I’m going to write a few of these in bulk but might move around my scheduling depending on other stuff that happens.

I like anime and manga, I’ve read quite a lot of manga, and my YouTube “recommended” feed is currently full of “best of ” clips. One of these was cute moments from Sweetness and Lightning, or Amaama to Inazuma, by Gido Amagakure. I watched through it absentmindedly and it was adorable. A few months later it came up that I had the chance to read it, and I absolutely devoured it over a few weeks.

The video that sparked me reading the manga.

Sweetness and Lightning (I’ll start calling it S&L for brevity) follows the journey of a father and daughter; Kohei and Tsumugi Inuzuka. The series starts only a few months after Tsumugi’s mother has passed away with Kohei doing his best to work as a teacher full time at a local high school, and raising his energetic and strong-willed daughter who is in kindergarten. After Tsumugi says something about their food he realises that since his wife died they’ve been eating nothing but convenience store meals and he starts to remember how much his wife loved to cook for them, and the quality of the food she made them.

They decide to go out for food that night and end up at a restaurant he had a business card for only to find it’s closed that day, but that one of the students at his school is the daughter of the owner. Lida Kotori sees Tsumugi’s disappointment at not being able to eat something yummy and demands they stay and that she’ll cook for them.

After a little bit of panic as she leaves her mother several voicemails asking to help she struggles through and they have a simple bowl of rice. Tsumugi approves of this rice.

It’s a picture from the anime but almost identical in the manga.

After this Kohei vows to not let them eat store-bought food anymore, to make sure they eat delicious food every day, and to make sure he spends the time with Tsumugi to make that happen. They rope Lida into this (a fully willing participant) and the series follows their lives as they all learn to cook together.


There’s a lot to love about this series.

Firstly, and I cannot overstate this enough, it is so goddamned cute. Kohei is trying so hard to fill in as a single parent and is reluctant to rely on people to start, but quickly begins to rely more on his student and other friends. Tsumugi is fantastic, she’s a perfect balance of shy child unable to quite express herself, and precocious pest when she wants something. As you can see in the above picture she doesn’t have any words for how yummy something is so she just gets people to look at her face as she eats stuff.

The character who really resonates most with me, though, is Lida (or Kotori-san). She is the daughter of a famous TV chef who owns the restaurant they all end up cooking in and it’s her who grows the most. She is slightly disillusioned that her parents are divorced and she doesn’t have much time with either of them as her mother spends so much time away doing shows and interviews. She sees working with Kohei as a way of socialising a bit and getting to cook for people, which makes her happy.

She’s also afraid of knives after an accident as a child and so has been really limited in what she can cook herself, but with Kohei to help cut things for her she can expand her repertoire. After Tsumugi starts to cut things up (using a children’s knife) she also starts to push herself more to overcome her fears and eventually realise her dream.

The series is so sweet and the ending so perfect that it was with a tear in my eye I read the final pages.

The other really nice thing about this is that the cooking is covered in really good detail and nearly every chapter has them cooking something new with a recipe at the end. This was a really nice look into more Japanese cooking (which I’m fond of already) and I learned some really cool tricks and techniques for things I already cook, as well as a huge amount about stuff I don’t cook.

The recipes are really well laid out as they’re “copies” of the ones that Kotori’s mother makes for Tsumugi after she hears about her desire to cook more. They’ve got little pictures of the ingredients, helpful hints, and simple language. The translation I read was also really well done so they were perfect to just cut out/print off and use. I’ve not tried any yet, but it is only a matter of time.


Final impressions? It’s wonderful. It’s not exciting action or deep intrigue, it’s a lovely slice-of-life series that just potters along adorably and comes to a perfectly satisfying conclusion. I fully recommend it.

Until next time, with love,

Sammy

That’s a controversial headline! Lets dive right in before someone bites my head off for it….


I want to preface everything below by saying firstly that I work for the NHS. I’m not going to say anything else about my job or where I work because firstly it’s against my trust policy to talk about my work without clearing it through our communications team (and I’m not out at work), and secondly because I know if I do someone will track me down and start harassing me. That’s the world we live in.

The reason I say I work for the NHS is because I know exactly the troubles the system faces, better than most. My particular role brings me into contact with a vast amount of information, oversight of complaints and patient records, and I can see a real whole picture of a service. The NHS is struggling mainly because of a conservative government determined to sell it off in bits to their mates, and there’s nothing the country can do about that other than vote them out.

That said……


For those of you outside the UK (or inside the UK who don’t pay attention) the NHS, or National Health Service, is the UK’s healthcare system. The NHS is a “free at point of access” system meaning you will always be given your care and the cost part is worked out later. The NHS generates money from a national tax (your “NHS Contribution”) that is set based on your salary.

The way the NHS runs is that the money all goes into a big pot and is then divvied out to “Care Commissioning Groups” (CCGs) who cover a set number of GP practices across the country. These CCGs get x pounds per patient they cover and then decide how that money will be spent in their area to buy services they need, like hospitals etc. They generally employ Trusts to provide a bunch of services to their population and your local hospital is likely a Trust that does all of your acute physical needs from x-rays to surgery.

The NHS is a remarkable system and something that our country should reasonably be proud of. Universal healthcare regardless of your financial ability is one thing, but a standardisation of care that is monitored nationally and trusts are held accountable, along with the NHS’s purchasing power (meaning pharmacies can’t hold the country to ransom by increasing drug costs 1000x like they have been in America) gives us something hugely beneficial.

It’s also fundamentally broken if you want gender services.


So the crux of the matter. This is something I didn’t really know about until I realised I was trans, but if you are transgender the NHS does nothing to help you. I’m going to look at this in 2 age brackets (because that’s how the NHS does it); under 18 and over 18. Interestingly most of the NHS works to this 18 year old split despite the fact it has routinely been criticised for being a completely arbitrary cutoff point that is often actively harmful for patients transitioning from children’s service to adult services. More and more commissioners are moving to a split at 25 but this is ridiculously slow to be picked up.

If you’re under 18 and you realise you’re trans you are in for a fight. To start with you’ll need to talk to your GP, and that is going to be a battle on its own. There are some truly superb GPs across England, unfortunately there are far more who are incompetent or uncaring. Even if you get one who does care the odds are they have no idea what to do and will refer you to local mental health services, who will bounce your referral because they’re not commissioned to deal with gender identity.

So eventually your GP will get the idea they need to do something else (although GPs across the country have a catastrophic lack of clinical curiosity and if a referral comes back negative, or a test inconclusive, they’ll just stop doing anything until you the patient chase them for it). They may hit the old Google and find out that there is only one place in England they can refer you; the Tavistock Centre, the Gender Identity Development Services clinic in London. That’s it, just one place.

So eventually you get a referral made to them. GPs probably won’t like doing this either as a GP has to pay per referral, so your best bet is to go around April when they’re flush with cash as if you go at the start of the new year they’ll be broke and not want to refer anyone (true story).

Now you’re on the waiting list for gender services! Yay! Now you wait. And wait. Currently the GIDS are seeing people who were referred June 2017. That’s a wait of 20 months to be seen.


Here I would like to highlight that the NHS has a set of targets that are enshrined as what you as a person entitled to NHS care can expect. These targets are highlighted as national ones that every trust and organisation across the country must report to, and failure to meet these targets is seen as a breach of commissioning standards. There’s a handful of them, for example if you attend A&E you are expected to be seen within 4 hours of arriving at the latest. These targets can’t always be met but when they aren’t the expectation is that the trust can and will explain why they didn’t meet them as well as to outline what they’re going to do to ensure they do meet them in the future.

For non-emergency care there is a standard called “RTT” or “Referral To Treatment”, the time every patient should be seen within. This is 18 weeks, or approximately 4.5 months. Let that sink in; the NHS has set out a target that all people must be seen within and also has a service that has a waiting list 4x longer than that.

And that waiting list isn’t referral to treatment, it’s for referral to initial assessment. We’ll get on to treatment in a moment.


So you’ve now been seen by the GIDS and things are moving. What next? Well we’ll have to have a set of assessment, between 3 and 6 according to their website. Usually 6 according to people who’ve gone through it. These sessions are around an hour each, usually nowhere near where you live (remember; single team) and will be held with a variety of people present from you on your own, to you with parents, to one parent etc.

The staff you get will be a real role of the dice too. For some unknown reason the NHS has decided that mental health professionals are okay to assess people with mental health needs (fine), and that social workers are interchangeable with mental health professionals. So the person who sees you may just be a social worker who has experience working with children, that’s it. Helpful. Remember all those scandals a little while back where social care were letting children be abused and assaulted without doing anything? Those people are going to do an assessment.


So where are we? We’ve been waiting 20 months (at least), been waiting at least 6 weeks more whilst we’ve been being assessed (but likely much much longer), and through all this we’ve been constantly telling people we’re not our assigned-at-birth gender and being disbelieved, questioned, prodded, poked, and made to justify our existence over and over again to a bunch of professional social workers. Surely now we can start treatment?

Well hopefully we weren’t over 15 when this started! Because if we were we’re now getting a bit old for GIDS and there’s a reasonable chance we’re going to be discharged to the adult services with no follow up.

If we were under 15 hopefully the service managed to get everything complete before puberty for maximum effectiveness of hormonal treatment, but unlikely.

Now we might get to talk about hormonal therapy, this doesn’t get done by GIDS though! It’s a referral to an endocrinology team who have their own waiting list and we get to start all over again!


So what you can see from the above is that if everything goes right we’re looking at waiting 3 years to start treatment. Remember that 18 weeks? we’re at 156 weeks. Over 8.5x longer than the NHS has decided is acceptable. Remember that 18 week target was set by the NHS, by professionals, by the government, and held as the minimum standard patients can expect to hold the NHS to.

So what if you’re an adult? You’re looking at about the same 20 weeks to get into the service. Once you’re there it gets a bit easier as they’ll start hormonal therapy after minimum 2 appointments.

Once you’ve had that agreed you’re in for a whole other work of hurt though, back to your trusty ol’ GP!

GPs frequently actively refuse any part of transgender care, refusing to prescribe the medication under Shared Care agreements (where a GP agreed to prescribe the medication at the advice of a specialist), repeatedly denying prescriptions, denying to undertake required blood tests, and generally being arsey about the whole thing.


So what can you do? The alternative is going private. This one costs money, you’re going to be paying a really variable amount for gender services. The advantage is there waiting lists are usually much shorted, if they exist at all. The biggest problem is if you thought a GP could be ignorant about NHS Shared Care it’s got nothing on private Shared Care. Despite the fact the NHS has sent out a memo to all surgeries instructing them that they must treat people who have engaged with private clinics the same as NHS clinics they frequently won’t (by the way; if you’re in this situation feel free to take and use this letter as ammo).


So where does that leave this particularly depressing post? There is no easy service for us anywhere. Despite medical standards applying across the board these break down when it comes to our specific needs and nobody cares. Professionals are at least usually confused if not outright hostile.

What should you do? That’s a decision only you can make. Talk to your professionals and support network, complain left right and center, fight for your rights. We shouldn’t have to, but we will keep needing to.

As for me? I’ll be going private. And heaven help and GP that gets in my way.

With love,

Sammy

P.s. this is a bit of a grim blog post. If you’re in this situation remember we’re all fighting for you, you are valid, you do matter. If you’re feeling really down or suicidal you can always contact the Samaritans on 116 123 or the NHS 111 service and talk to them. Stay strong.

So my promise to have posts going up Mondays and Fridays didn’t work. I’ve always had a problem keeping up with things but I feel I’ve got a few excuses.


First off Kingdom Hearts 3 came out. I’m a bit of an odd fan of the series in that for some reason I started playing KH2. I can’t remember why I ended up playing that first but I really enjoyed it (though was thoroughly confused for a while!!). I went back to play KH1 but never finished it, played a large chunk of 368/2 but didn’t finish that, and didn’t touch any of the other weird side games.

With that said I did love the games enough that I chased the lore a lot and really enjoyed what I had played, so I was really hyped for KH3. I’ve been playing that in pretty much every spare minute and loving it, so that’s been fun!! I’m playing through to 100% completion (if I can!) because I’ve learnt that Matt Mercer and Travis Willingham are both in it, but the characters they voice only appear in the secret ending movie. No spoilers; I’m going to get there eventually!


The second reason I’ve been out was this Monday just gone I had a job interview. My current role is a deputy to a manager and I really enjoy what I do. I’ve been in this role for 2 years now and I’ve been learning a huge amount. The place I’m in, though, is starting to stagnate. Not so much in the role but the management and organisational structure is failing and I’m finding myself frequently frustrated with not being able to do anything about it.

Because of this I’ve been looking at positions that are effectively on par with my manager (the one I’m a deputy of). These positions aren’t hugely frequent as I work in the healthcare sector and most upper management positions are locked to people with clinical backgrounds.

I didn’t get the job (I won’t keep you in suspense) but in some respects I’m a little… relieved? Its complicated.

I am quite ambitious and I want to do well, I want to be able to be in a position in an organisation where I can actually do something and affect change, and I genuinely believe that some of the skills I have are beneficial to an organisation. That said I’m also not really very confrontational and I do get a bit nervous around new things…. this means once I’m doing something I’m fine but I’m not a huge fan of the first few times.

This particular position was a good hour and a half drive away from where I live, would have been taking on loads of extra responsibilities, meant managing a team of 50+ people….. It would have been a big change. I would have really relished the chance to have a go at it but I would also be vaguely worried that I would mess it all up.

So there it is; I went for it, really gave it my best, got really positive feedback (they wanted someone with more management experience) but am glad I didn’t get it. Hooray me.


Last thing I did over the past few days is come out to one of my closest friends who has recently had to move away to London for work. Boy was that terrifying.

I know that he’s friends with at least one other trans person who I used to game with back in the day, but he’s also known me for like…. 5 years now? Quite a while, and it’s a bit of a change to go “hey, I messed up, I was a girl all along!”

I did it in the most stupidly obvious way possible, I showed him the tweet I got back from Matt (squee, by the way) and when he asked what I’d shared I said “oh a blog post about how I realised I’m trans”. Damn that was cringy.

But hey! Whatevs.

He was really cool, apparently I’m the third person to come out to him, and he was super chill, and just wanted to know what pronouns/name I wanted to go by. So that was great.


That’s all I’ve got for now, hopefully I’ll come up with something more interesting to write to get back into the swing of things. For now though?

With love,

Sammy

Hiya everyone,

I was having a good long think about what I should write about this time as I’ve been making moderate progress but nothing astounding due to several weekends away with families and lots of work stuff going on. What I have been doing in the meantime, though, has been a real positive help for me, so I thought I’d talk about that.


SOCIAL MEDIA

Never before such a loaded pair of words (not literally, obviously). A force for good? For evil? For making Lord Zuk the god-king-emperor of all humanity?

I’ve never been hugely into social media. I’m usually at the cutting edge of whatever technology I can get my hands on, but I’ve found social media annoying. To set the hipster scene the social media site I most enjoyed and engaged with was Google+ because it was full of like-minded professional people posting interesting stuff. My personal Facebook on the other hand is full of turds posting rubbish. Worse still I love some of those turds and it’s too much effort sometimes to explain why that post is rubbish.

So I’ve had a Fac-e-book account for years, G+ (before it was done in), and that was about it. I didn’t have a Skype account, didn’t ever really get into Twitter (beyond a “business account” made for a domain I set up), and least of all was Reddit.

Ah Reddit. The most wretched hive of scum and villainy this side of 4Chan. I may not have had social media but I did follow a lot of news sources I followed using Feedly, and I kept constantly seeing the dreadful things that came out of Reddit.

A fully unmoderated decentralised model of “freedom of speech at any cost”, packed with racists, sexists, bigots, and the sewage of human kind. Whole boards created specifically for attacking anyone coloured, women, overweight people, anyone who someone didn’t like. Completely without consequences. Literally illegal in many places, but impossible to control. Not a stretch to say it was not my thing.


When I started coming to a realisation I Was reaching out for help, guidance, anything that could answer some of my questions. It was at that point I found a couple of the most helpful places to date, three subreddits full of awesome people:

  • AskTransGender; where my biggest questions was answered: am I valid?
  • Traaans; just a bunch of nice people in the same boat as me
  • Egg-IRL; Just dumb memes highlighting things people say to convince themselves they’re not trans

All of these were places I could find stuff I wanted to know the answers to, get tips, advice, and best of all somewhere I could ask questions freely, and of people who had been through this before.

I created an account and pulled through my username from here, Blogging_Sammy. That was a fun time, I now had an account I could really let out the bits of me I couldn’t let out with anyone other than my wife. The people there were genuinely lovely too, helpful and informative, but most of all supportive.

I saw so many topics of people asking questions that must have been posted a thousand times before; “am I trans?”, “what do I do now?”, “how do I tell people?”…. And I’ve been on forums before, I’ve been part of some of the nicest and most upstanding forums I’ve ever seen, but with all of them these questions get “old” and people start responding with at best dismissal. Not here. There were always answers, they were always kind, they were always helpful. It was really positive to see.


Looking at my WordPress engine and the things it can do I discovered twitter integration. I wasn’t super keen on it but I figured I might as well set it up and start using it, and so I created another new account under the Blogging Sammy brand. Having set that up I went and added a few people, starting with the creator of HardCoded, as mentioned in a previous post, and the Critical Role folk, as mentioned last time.

I then went and found a number of twitter feeds cater specifically to trans news and things like that, and again found myself in a positive place where I had an account that I could really represent myself on freely.


So where am I now? I’ve got these two accounts, a google account to run emails and stuff from, and an amazon/pintrest account to collect pretty things (maybe I’ll add some links to my sidebar later!). I wasn’t keen on massive social media previously, but seeing it now I like having a place that is separate from the worry about coming out, about how I’ll look and sound and feel, and I can just be Sammy for my own sake.

I highly recommend it.

With love,

Sammy

Hiya all,

So last time I talked about tabletop games and how I got hooked into them, this time I’m going to talk specifically about a show that features a bunch of nerdy-ass voice actors playing dungeons and dragons.


My wife and I discovered Critical Role years ago when browsing YouTube. We’d watched some D&D highlight videos, talks from people who made or ran the game about how they’d do things, and general jokes and memes around D&D. We kept seeing one group pop up over and over; Critical Role. As viewers of a lot of anime and cartoons as well I guess the algorithms of YouTube decided we would like them as they did D&D and their players voiced a lot of characters we love. We were curious.

They were staffed by a regular run of voice actors; Travis Willingham, Laura Bailey, Sam Riegel, Liam O’Brien, Taliesin Jaffe, and Marisha Ray. They’re all lead on their adventures by another voice actor and general legend; Matt Mercer.

When we first discovered them they were heading towards the end of their first campaign which was over 100 episodes long by that point. We liked what we saw, a few bits fans had cut out of particularly funny moments (some even animated!) but we didn’t have the time to re-watch 100+ episodes, each one around 4 hours long. So it was with a degree of sadness (but not much investment) we moved on.

Just over a year ago we read that they were starting a new campaign. We checked and, indeed, they had finished their last one! They were on a break running other random one-shot games until they were ready to run their next big thing; campaign 2!! This, we thought, was a good time to get on board! We could watch from the beginning, give it a few episodes, and see what we thought.

Oh boy…..

Let me tell you, Critical Role is big. It’s got a huge following, dedicated fans who are also generally nice people, and we didn’t realise how gripping a Critical Role campaign would be.

We started watching episode one and were introduced to a bunch of characters, the shy and stinky wizard Caleb, and his goblin compatriot with a penchant for pilfering; Nott. We met the tall southern half-orc Fjord and his recently-met ass-kicking monk associate Beau, and their joint bubbly Russian tiefling Jester. Lastly we encountered the Carnies; Yasha and Mollymauk; a half-angel Aasimar with a sword bigger than most people, and a flamboyantly, extravagantly, vibrantly enthusiastic tiefling, respectively.

Official art, going left to right; Mollymauk, Beau, Fjord, Caleb, Nott, Jester, and Yasha.

We got hooked pretty bad. It’s been just over a year now (they celebrated running for a year just a few weeks back) and we’ve seen all of them. It’s a real problem.


So what makes Critical Role special? What makes us keep watching, and keep wanting to watch more? A bit of a mixture.

To start with the actors are great. They’re trained and professional voice actors which means they bring a real sense of personality to their characters, but in different ways. Some slip into it just with voices, some with their whole body, but they are each a different person when they play. They also get on with each other, with this game springing from a home-game they all played many years ago that just got bigger.

The second point is the game is good, Matt is the dream GM and under his rule the game is brilliant. The world is detailed and immersive, the story compelling, the NPCs always brilliant1There was an interview with Travis and Marisha where they were asked who their favourite NPC was, and they both responded that the problem they had was each time they picked a favourite Matt would introduce someone else who would take over. We’ve seen 3 so far in campaign 2; Pumat Sol, Kiri, and Orley., and the combat is gruelling and deadly but always interesting. Matt has a real talent for creating sessions that are the pinnacle of what a D&D game can be.

The last thing is their characters. None of them are particularly good people (save, perhaps, Jester) but they’re all so realistic and genuine. They have skills, flaws, quirks, personality, but also really importantly they have representation. They all struggle with different things but there are issues that touch so closely on real-world issues including sexuality and identity (hint hint), and they way it’s handled is always so perfectly it feels inviting, and genuine, and kind.

The interaction between them all is wonderful as well. My favourite interactions at the moment (episode 49) are between Fjord and Beau with Fjord acting as a reluctant, amused, and exasperated teacher of social graces to Beau, someone who at best can be described as “blunt”. There’s also the interactions between Jester and Fjord where Jester seems to have more than a little crush on him, spawning this wonderful (minor spoilers) fan song about a rival love interest.

Beau and Caleb have a wary respect for each other and deep frustration with their opposing points of view, and Nott and Caleb have a mother/son relationship that early on Nott highlights isn’t Caleb looking out for her, she looks out for him.


Some of the issues the show touches on (as I’ve hinted above) are quite poignant for me. The main one that stands out is Nott who is looking for a great powerful magic to change her. There are minor spoilers to follow, so if you want to avoid them (up to episode 49) stop here.

All good? Great!

Nott used to be a halfling woman with a husband and child, but due to a great big helping of backstory was transformed into a goblin permanently and forced to carry on in a different body to the one she knows she should have. She’s now spending all her time trying to find someone or something powerful enough to break this enchantment so she can return to her correct form and continue with her life with her family. Sound familiar?

Now Sam Riegel is brilliant acting this out, and Nott’s pain is heartbreaking, but he has also mentioned that there wasn’t necessarily a trans influence to his thinking about the creation of Nott’s story. That doesn’t stop me running wild with it though!!

So we have someone trapped in a body they know they shouldn’t have, who is seeking anything possible to try and regain the body she should have. I, and I know many other trans-critters, can sympathise with this. It’s touching to see a story about regaining the form you should be handled so well and thoughtfully, and it’s so encouraging to see the other characters be so accepting of it and trying to help.

Building on this there is a lot of support from the cast who, without much of a stretch, can be called great people. How do I know? Between the Sheets….


Brian W Foster ran a season of Between the Sheets, an interview show where each of the cast were interrogated for around an hour about their past, how they got to this point, and their careers and lives. Brian is a master interviewer, lord of active listening, and coaxes the best out of his guests. It was fascinating to see how the cast got together and how fragile and random the connections were until they all pulled together into this thing.

One thing Brian does not skimp on is the tears, he pulls a good few drops out of more than one person, but the two people I want to most focus on are Matt and Marisha (true nerd love). They are one of the sweetest, kindest, and also awesomest2Shut up, it’s a word! couples around.

In their respective interviews, and I really do encourage you to watch them, it’s clear just what decent people they are, and how supportive they are of people younger than them who are going through similarly tough times. Their support of charities like 826LA and a whole bunch of different charities, along with the generosity of their community, speaks volumes, but it’s the little things as well.

The Critical Role cast are the sort of people that make you feel okay in whatever body you have, whatever gender, orientation, disability, or ethnicity, they make you feel like it’s all okay and you’re welcome. And that’s pretty powerful. And it’s thanks to people like them that I can take steps with more and more confidence, bit by bit exploring who I am and can be, knowing that no matter who out there is a douche; these folk are going to be cool with it.

I’ll also add that I’m determined, one day, to see them and tell them this. To remind them that the effect they have on their fans isn’t just providing entertaining media to consume, or creating a thriving community to be a part of, but that wherever they go they leave better than before they got there. They came to Comicon London last year and I made extra effort to go (having dislocated a knee literally days before) but the outpouring of support from their fans completely swamped what the organisers had expected and meant neither I not many thousands of their fans couldn’t even get close because of the other thousands in lines. I’ll keep waiting for my change to strike, though.

Until next time, with love,

Sammy

Hiya everyone,

I thought I’d talk a little bit about D&D, and role-playing tabletop games in general. It’s going to be really nerdy but bare with me.


So what am I talking about?

That help? I’ll go into it a bit more as we go.

A Tabletop Role Playing Game: a game where people as a group tell a collaborative story together using a framework defined by a specific system, usually involving a “leader” of some description who narrates the world, and a group of players who narrate their own actions. Dice are frequently involved.

Sammy, just now.

The core idea of the games is that you all pick a system you like, you’ll probably have heard of a few of these regardless of how interested you are. There’s the biggest; D&D or Dungeons and Dragons. There’s FATE, World of Darkness, Pathfinder, Savage Worlds, Numinera, GURPS, the list goes on for approximately forever. Helpfully most of these games also have “editions” as they’re reprinted every few years and redesigned to make them better. D&D, for example, is on 5th edition currently. Editions are rarely backwards compatible so you all have to be working from the same thing.

Each system then usually comes in several books, some designed for players to look at that have all the stuff in them to make an awesome character, then some for the person running the game that include all the rules about how to do stuff and how to build great stories to tell. There’s also usually a book or two just packed full of enemies and monsters to fight.

Everyone sits down and starts by building their character. This varies dramatically between systems, but D&D is a good place to start. You get some stats such s how strong or intelligent you are, then you pick your race, class (what you do) and some skills and stuff. From there you go off into the world with a list of things you can do well and a list of things you can’t do so well, and you adventure!!

The reason they’re called Tabletop Role Playing Games is that they generally happen around a table with not much else. Some people use maps, some don’t, but the majority of the work happens in everyone’s collective imagination. The role playing bit is that when you’re in the game your acting things out from the point of view of your character, rather than yourself. You can make all the decisions you want as them, and do pretty much anything in the game world. These games have this advantage over video games in that the only limit is what people can think of, rather than what’s been programmed.

I could write tomes about Tabletop RPGs (role playing games) and in fact many people have, so instead I’m going to have a small list of resources down below for anyone who wants to check it out, and I really hope you will.


I started gaming in year 10 of secondary school, putting me about 13-14 years old. I was invited to join an ongoing game by a bunch of people who had been playing for a while. There were two main groups of players, about 5 in each, who were in the same adventure. Both groups would split off to go do things they wanted to but we would routinely meet up to trade stories and loot, or change who went with who. The games were run by a pair of teachers who had all the books needed (Which could be a bit expensive for a student!).

The group I’d joined have been going for that whole school year (which starts in September) and this was close to the June, so I was a little behind. One of the other players helped me out by going through the creation process, helping draw up a good character who wouldn’t be killed by the first thing I met, and in the end I had a reasonable half-elf bard. I don’t remember the name I gave them, and I don’t remember much about them, but I do remember I enjoyed it a lot.1I do remember one other thing, the loot we got at the end of the school year was insane. We weren’t going to be playing anymore so we each got something that would elevate our character to ludicrous power, so I got an instrument that could take any form I wanted, had a +3 magic sword in it, and gave me +20 to perform. If this makes no sense to you TLDR: guitar with a powerful sword in it that meant I could declare anything I wanted and as long as I played a song it happened.

After that I took a break for a year or so when I moved to college but shortly after meeting my future-wife she intended me to join an ongoing game her secondary school friends had been running for a while. This one was in a different version of D&D to the one I’d started in and was really different. I was allowed to play a character class the person running the game had created called an Umbromancer who was all about shadow magic and sneaking. After playing for not very long I quickly found the problem with making your own classes, they were hilariously overpowered. I got my character to the point that by mid-level every turn I could turn invisible; all of my usual actions like move, attack, help someone etc., had a side effect of “you also turn invisible”. Invisibility could be quite overpowered and was easy to break as if you ever attack from invisibility you become visible again, but I could do it so quickly and often it didn’t matter.

The game continued for a year or so and eventually ended when we beat the “big bad” by killing a goddess (Lolth for those in the know) and stealing her power. We got to do a little bit of narrating after that with what we did with it all.


University was a good time for gaming. The uni I went to had a really big and involved RPG club where I met some of my best friends. The first year I joined a game that I can’t remember in huge detail but involved robot arms, killing a dear, and a wizard who could tell the entire history of a glass of beer.

The second year I started running some games as well, for the first time. It was quite nerve-wracking to run a game, and maybe I’ll talk more about that later, but this post is more focused on the playing.

Third year I played more games but I was always playing male characters as there was a strong idea to create characters that represented parts of yourself.

After uni I started playing more casually with friends on a weekly basis (uni was often multiple times a week with different games, got quite busy!) and played a bit more experimentally.

I quickly found again that playing female characters was more interesting to me, and at the time I didn’t really try to think about it too hard. I was vaguely embarrassed I wanted to play female characters but also really wanted to do it, and justified it to myself and others by saying it was because I wanted to play strong female characters, like some kind of feminist bastion.


Since I moved for work (and to live with my wife) we’ve both been playing in some games from a slowly changing group as people drop in and out, and I’ve been more comfortable playing female characters. My most recent character, created just before I started getting these funny ideas in my head and realising I was a woman, is a changeling; a gender-less transforming race who mimic anyone they like.

Part of designing this character did make me think back times in my childhood (and more recently) when I wished I could just change gender at will. I would agonise over thinking “if only I could just spend a day as a woman”, or when reading those wacky-gender-swap stories where they main character has to try and turn back I would just think “I’d love that, I wouldn’t ever try to turn back”.

It took me quite a while to figure out I may have been trying to tell myself something.


So there we have it, a brief introduction to my introduction to Table Top RPGs. They’re great fun, I don’t think I’ve met anyone who hasn’t started playing and utterly enjoyed it, and next time I’m going to talk about a group of people who stream their game, and why they’re awesome.

With love,

Sammy

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Hiya everyone,

How do you know when to come of out the closet? To come out and be trans? That’s a scary question.


I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately and I think it’s because I’m at a crossroads. My current gender expression is limited to hanging around the house, days we’re not going to go anywhere at the weekend. I might slip on some of my underwear under my old clothes and hang just in that. Sometimes I slip on my pads and wander around with breasts, and rarely I spend a day or part of it in my gorgeous dress with the whole getup going on.

But that’s it.

There’s a lot of questions for me about what I do next, do I keep this up? It’s okay, I can do that. Do I keep moving forwards? Pushing what I’m comfortable doing to get more towards what I want to do? Or do I back off and go back to what’s familiar and easy?

The main next steps for me to consider are (in no particular order):

  • Facial hair; I’ve got a lot of it
  • Body hair; I am so hairy everywhere
  • Head hair; do I grow mine out or buy a wig?
  • Wardrobe; expanding it, do I go dresses, skirts with existing t-shirts, new t-shirts/jeans? Secondary consideration on this point: money!
Me Currently. This will make more sense further down, but not much.

The trouble I have with wardrobe is that it’s the most expensive part, there’s only so much I can buy from amazon’s bargain section, and it’s really limiting when I can wear it so any great expense on something beautiful feels wasteful at best.

The massive issue with everything else comes back to the question at the top of the article. I have always been hairy and especially for people who I’ve worked with for the past 4 years I have been bearded and gruff. If I start shaving to confirm my gender I’m going to be asked a lot of questions. I really doubt anyone is going to go with “aha, I see you’ve shaved, transgendered are we?” but as someone who is naturally shy and doesn’t like a lot of personal questions anyway even just asking “so what made you want to do this?” is going to fluster me. Even worse is whatever I say is going to be a lie, and I’m going to know that, which will make it much harder for me.


Back to the point…. When do you tell people? And who do you tell?

My wife, obviously, knows everything. She’s my wonderful rock who tempers my excitement with calming reminders and always calls me pretty, even when I know I look at best like a hairy-potato.

What about other people? My family? I honestly don’t even know how they’d react. My sister came out as a lesbian a few years ago and they took that pretty well, she’s getting married to her partner at some point (who might also be be trans?). They don’t have a problem with this, their biggest concern is the planning. But if it was me? And they were basically forced to accept me as a woman? I don’t know.

When I was much younger we used to watch things like Fear Factor, for those who were lucky enough to miss it; contestant on a TV show would have to do gross of scary stuff to win prize money. It was pretty gross including picking up dead rats in their mouths to get a key. I do wonder now looking back how much of it was real and how much was staged. The only reason it was ever on was because it was prelude to what we really wanted to watch; Doctor Who, but we needed to put something on in the half hour or so beforehand to kill the time.

Anyway, there’s a point to this I promise…. There was a “game” my mum like to play with the contestants called “spot the man”. I’ll bet you can see where this is going? When a slim busty woman comes on try and spot if she’s actually a post-op transsexual. Big hands? A man. Prominent adams apple? A man.

At the time I didn’t really understand it, or care particularly. I didn’t get the implications of “used to be” a man, and couldn’t understand why it mattered that they used to be anything when they were clearly a woman now.

This kind of casual transphobia is something I’m most afraid of, not being shunned or ridiculed over it but just being told I’m wrong, I’m just a man and that’s that.

Don’t get me wrong, my parents are great, they’re both really caring and I couldn’t have wished for a better life growing up. They’ve had to content with 3 neurodiverse children, hosts of health issues, and they’ve come through it generally smiling and laughing.

For me personally though now wouldn’t be a good time to start pointing out the size of my adams apple or how hairy my knuckles are.


What about work colleagues? How will that go? I know that we’ve got at least a few trans individuals in my workplace (to be fair my workplace is huge, like over 3,000 people, so there’s a few everything in it) and we have a fairly prominent LGBTQ+ group as well as an equalities lead so from the discrimination point of view I’d have a lot of ammo to go with… from the personal though? I don’t know how I could handle all the questions, the sidelong glances, the whispering behind my back. To compound this I’m not going to be particularly good at “passing”, certainly not for a long time if ever.

Friends? I don’t have a large number of friends but the ones I have tend to be close. I know for a fact at least a few of them already know another trans person and they get on well, but both of them met this person after their decision and switch to full-time living as their gender. I’m not sure how things would go during that process.

There’s another question about if I actually want everyone to know. As someone who has done more than a bit of psychology and read more than a bit of Terry Pratchett I’m quite adept at what he called “second thoughts”.


In Terry’s “Wee Free Men” series the young Witch Tiffany learns about the 2 most important things a Witch needs. She needs First Sight, and Second Thoughts.

Tiffany Aching, Witch of the Chalk

First Sight is seeing what’s really there, rather than what should be there. In these books there’s a habit for people to ignore anything that shouldn’t be possible, meaning magic gets away with a lot by just going unnoticed.

Second Thoughts, meanwhile, is the ability to think about what you’ve just thought about. That’s a confusing sentence to write but thing of it this way; if you think “eww, look at that person” that’s your first thought. Your second thought might be “that’s not fair, look at this etc.”. It’s basically mentally keeping tabs on yourself. In the series Tiffany (our young Witch) takes things even further and had Third Thoughts as well, keeping tabs on what her Second Thoughts are thinking. It all gets a bit complicated.


So knowing about my own mind (lol) I wonder if this blog is an attempt to put my thoughts out in a way people can see and discover. If anyone who knows me were to read this the level of detail I’ve put would mean they’d probably guess it was me. A few things I’ve mentioned are cornerstones of my identity and would flag up to anyone who knows me even a little.

Do I want people to see this? To read about my thoughts? Would that be pushing the onus and responsibility of the thing onto them, rather than have it rest on me? Rather than telling them and letting them react I’m leaving it open for them to consume the thoughts, devise a reaction, and bring it to me? How arrogant would that be?

And I can’t really answer one way or another if that’s the case.


So my questions kind of boil down less to who do I tell and when, because I’ve happily convinced myself it’s a bad idea to tell anyone ever… but about what I should do next.

Shaving is going to be my White Whale, it’s going to completely change the way I look to myself and allow me to start exploring a lot of other stuff (wigs and makeup), but it will also open a can of worms for me in my life. It’ll be a bit of a turning point for my closer relationships as I try to decide if then it the moment I should tell people I care about, and something I’ll also have to practice lying about convincingly to those I care less about.

For now, I guess, that’s it?

With love,

Sammy

Hiya again, another post a bit out of the blue…. I’m going to chat about one of my favourite book series and favourite books ever. The Old Kingdom series by Garth Nix consisting of Sabriel, Lirael, Abhorsen, and some side stories Across The Wall, Clariel, and Goldenhand.

I’m going to focus on the core trilogy starting with Sabriel, I’ll talk a little bit about the books and then talk about what I like about them so much.


The series is set in a divided continent. To the north is the Old Kingdom; a place of magic where the dead can be called to unlife, where there are evil creatures of Free Magic fought back by Charter Mages. To the south is Ancelstierre, a country of roughly industrial era technology where the idea of magic is laughable. Dividing them is The Wall; a magical construct that prevents evil creatures from the Old Kingdom crossing south, and is manned by soldiers of Ancelstierre who prevent any crossing either way. The Wall also acts as a rough barrier for magic where the further south one goes the less potent the power becomes, quickly tailing off. Similarly the further north any Ancelstierrian technology is taken the more likely it is to malfunction, break, and eventually crumble. The more complicated the magic or technology the quicker this breakdown happens.

The story of Sabriel focuses on our heroine of the same name, daughter of someone called the Abhorsen, a kind of “good necromancer” who uses necromantic powers to return the dead to death She has been raised mainly on the southern side of the wall and doesn’t know much about the state of her home country which has fallen to hordes of dead and destabilisation with her father unable to keep up with the new creatures being summoned. Through the book she discovers more about her home country, meets a mysterious beserker, and begins to learn her role in the Old Kingdom that her bloodline dictates.

This is a running theme through the books, as the quote above says, “Does the walker choose the path, or the path the walker?”, and it’s echoed throughout the books for different characters.

The second book breaks sharply away from the first; it’s decades later, Sabriel is now a fully fledged Abhorsen, she has a family and the kingdom is beginning to recover from the events of the first book. This book is split between three characters; Lirael, Sameth, and Nicholas.

  • Sameth is Sabriel’s son and as the son of the Abhorsen it is assumed and known that he is the Abhorsen in waiting, something that terrifies him as he has trouble even entering Death.
  • Nicholas, the son of an Ancelstierrian minister and firm believer in the “silly superstitions” of the north who is turned into an unwilling vessel for a great evil.
  • Lirael, ❤, who is a Clayr; a young girl living in a glacier, part of a huge extended family who can see the future in the ice.

I’m going to focus on Lirael who is one of my favourite characters and the reason Lirael is possibly my favourite book of all time.

Lirael is born in the glacier never really knowing her parents. For the Clayr it is typical for a male to be taken briefly for pleasure or for children, but they are not allowed in the Glacier proper. The daughters of the Clayr are all dark-skinned, blond, blue eyed, and in their early years they awaken to the Sight and are able to look into the future. This power is harnessed in groups for the benefit of the kingdom.

In stark contrast to this Lirael is pale, dark haired, brown eyed, and the oldest child to have not awoken to the Sight by some years. She stands out and nobody quite knows what to do with her.

One evening Lirael decides that she can’t cope anymore, that she has no place in the family, and plans to throw herself onto the ice in a romanticised view of a death that would mean something, possibly shock the Clayr into realising how distraught she feels. It’s a very silly view of suicide and very moody-teenager, but it did speak to a part of me that didn’t have the same large friend groups of other people in my school, who didn’t like football or gossip magazines, and did feel out of place.

As she leaves the glacier onto a platform at the very top to throw herself off a pair of dignitaries arrive. She hides and burrows into a snowdrift but is spotted by one of them and the Clayr’s strongest seers haul her out. They ask her what she’s doing there, fearing she was spying on this visit, and when she reveals everything they promise her that they will find something to keep her occupied whilst she waits for her Sight, revealing they too had a very late awakening, later even than Lirael’s, and they were all the more powerful for it.

Cheered by this revelation and the promise of something in the glacier she can help with Lirael begins working in the Library of the Clayr. A twisting corridor of immense proportions with dark secrets and things best left unfound below. She explores, breaks some rules, learns some harsh lessons, and in the meantime she discovers a loyal companion; a Charter Magic dog that is more than it seems.

I could recount the entire book by memory even though it’s been years since I’ve read it, but I’ll skip that, encourage you to read it, and summarise the rest of the books, as spoiler free as possible.

Lirael eventually has to leave the glacier with a mission, she meets up with Sameth and the two of them are thrown by circumstances against a powerful evil fro the dawn of time. They draw in others, face challenges, and learn that the paths they thought were laid before them are not the ones they ultimately must walk. They also learn that what they wanted all along might not be what they needed.


Lirael as a character resonated with me in a lot of ways. She was isolated, felt different to everyone around her, and was surrounded by people who all just seemed to get it, and fit in. Some of this is typical teenager feelings, but part of it is also growing up with Asperger’s Syndrome in a neurotypical world.

Lirael found a light though, a purpose in her job which helped her overcome her troubles, and a close loyal friend who looked after her and in turn she could look after. As a dog person this also really made sense.

Lirael also embodied a lot of characteristics that I wanted to have myself. She was shy and awkward, especially when meeting new people, but when it came to it she was brave, fearless in the face of danger, she was confident and powerful. I do wonder now, knowing what I know, if it was also escapism to put myself in her place. A young nerdy girl, outcast and almost living in a library with her pet dog? That would have been a dream for me.

I did always used to make up further stories in my imagination (something that continues to this day) about new adventures for Lirael as she became a strong Abhorsen in her own right, a powerful slayer of the dead and master of her art. In these stories I always told them from my point of view, putting myself in her shoes.

It helped that the world was fascinating to me. A magic system that was carefully thought out but vague enough it ever felt constraining or overly explained. The magic of the Abhorsen focused on the ability to walk into death and use 7 bells to bind the dead to a purpose. In the Abhorsen’s case the purpose was to walk deeper into death and possibly be ushered on to the true death, but in the case of necromancers it was to walk to life and obey.

Death itself was a really interesting concept for me; death flows like a river of 7 precincts each ending in one of 7 gates. The precincts had the cold river of death flowing through them but were all treacherous in their own way, seeking to trip an unwary traveller and pull them downstream deeper into death. The gates as well were barriers between each precinct but also an obstacle on their own, some were great waterfalls, others whirlpools, and the final gate a single peaceful starry sky.

As I said I highly recommend reading the books, but also please check out this artist by the name of Laura Tolton who has drawn each of the gates; they are simply put beautiful.

The ninth and final gate of death, credit to Laura Tolton.

That’s all I’ve really got this time. I just wanted to share my passion for a series that captured my heart as a teenager and stays with me to this day.

With love,

Sammy

I’m taking a big of a diversion here to talk a out a game I’ve been playing a lot of recently. It is a bit relevant though, promise.

Solitude; seat of the Empire in Skyrim

Skyrim, for those of you who don’t know, is a large scale role playing game (RPG) set in the mythical world of Tamriel. There have been several games set here forming the Elder Scrolls series, named after important magical prophecy Scrolls in the game. Skyrim is the latest main title focusing on the snowy mountains to the north of Tamriel, an area called Skyrim, unsurprisingly.

This game was released 11/11/11 making it over 7 years old now. There’s a bit of a running joke that although it was released on PS3 and Xbox 360 it has since been ported to all consoles, PC twice, Nintendo switch, and just about everything you can buy games on (Skyrim on Samsung Fridge coming 2020).

I originally bought Skyrim on release day, I got a special edition with a statue of the games main bad guy Alduin. I played it a lot after that. I had a main character who I sunk over 300 hours into, doing quest after quest, finishing the story, doing bits of the DLC…. Since then I have accumulated Skyrim on other systems, I own 2 versions on Steam from Humble Bundles, I own a special edition on PS4 as well as my original PS3 version, so why on earth did I get another copy on VR?


I got VR as a birthday present to me from me, using all my birthday funds and a bit more. I’d played VR round a friend’s house but lacked the computer to use something like the Rift or Vive, so I went with the PS VR for the PlayStation I already owned. The first pair of games I got for it were Star Trek Bridge Crew and Playroom. It was brilliant!

When I saw Skyrim was coming to VR I was sceptical and a bit tired of the constant Skyrim re-releases, but I got a chance to try it for a half hour for free so I thought I might as well have a go.

I was pretty impressed with it, it was fun to swing swords around, it didn’t make me nauseous, and it was nice to get back to good old Skyrim.


I’ll mention at this point the problem with mods. Mods are brilliant, the Elder Scrolls community has always been good at making add-ons and changes to the core games. Some are huge enough to be whole games on their own, others just re-texture weapons to look different, some add famous items from fantasy like the One Ring, and then there’s the “all dragons are Thomas the tank engine” mod. Some of the most practical are just massive bug-fixing mods that tidy up all the work Bethesda couldn’t/didn’t do before launch.

Your nightmares made real

The trouble with mods is they’re very easy to get hooked on, installing dozens and dozens, then messing around with them. Once you start it’s hard to not install a few cheat mods to give you infinite health or invincible armour, and pretty soon you’re a Goddess amongst mortals.

That usually takes me an afternoon, then I get bored.

Sadly there are a lot of good mods, I just don’t have the self control to install them and wade through hours of content to get to the new bits.

So when I say it’s nice to get back to good old Skyrim I also mean it’s nice to play the game as it was originally made. No mods, no PC cheats, just Skyrim and the official expansions.


I let it load up and sat through the opening scene as you’re lead through a mountain pass to be executed. It was only at this point I realised just how badly done everyone’s feet were. Horrible pointy things with perfectly triangular arches.

I got to character creation and created a young Bosmer (wood elf) girl, about my height, long brown hair tied back, sleight build, a cute face with piercing violet eyes…. She may have been rendered in 2011 graphics but she was beautiful to me.

Then I got to play as her, it wasn’t a particularly powerful moment because they don’t refer to you as “her” or “she” much. You’re “The Dragonborn” to most people, but every now and then they’ll chuck in a “ma’am” or “sister” and bring a little smile to my face.

The part that really made me pause and realise I was going to get sucked into this game again was standing in one of the first cities and looking around. I caught sight of the Throat of the World, the tallest mountain in the game and important Plot Point later. You really don’t get a scale playing the game normally, but in VR… holy fuck that mountain is big.

The Throat of the World

I’ve been playing it for a few months now, I took a break but am back on it now. I’ve done a lot of the major quest lines; the Thieves, Mages, become Thane of all of the Holds and bought all the houses I can… I’ve explored the Hearthfire DLC to build a house of my own and adopted two children, and married a lovely elf lass who hangs out in my house with my bard, housecarl and children.

I’ve gone for my typical build; bow and arrow. Especially deadly in the VR version where there is no time delay as you draw your bow, meaning you can just pummel people with arrows. I like to sprint up to enemies at full speed and shoot arrows into their heads. Lockpicking is maxed, bow and arrow is maxed, and heavy armour is pretty high because I get shot a lot.

I’m currently murdering my way through the assassins quest whilst also doing the second DLC Dawnguard. I realised I never finished the third DLC when it came out so that’s something I’ll really have to do next, and I’ve not technically completed the story yet so I’ve got plenty to go. And I’ve already sunk over 100 hours in….

And I’m going to keep enjoying my pretty Bosmer, slaughtering her way through the mountains and snow.

With love,

Sammy

It had been a really long day, one of those tough ones where work doesn’t seem to stop and you get home and still have to make dinner. We’d both stayed up later than we should but were in bed cuddling just before we would head off to sleep.

I narrated to my wife, as we sometimes do to each other, “Your husband; he’s had a really long day” or words to that effect.

I paused as soon as I’d said it, and she picked up and said “you just used ‘he’, is that the pronoun you want to use?” and I panicked and said I would rather between us we used ‘she/her’ for the time being. She was accepting of this, but it caught me out… I’d just mis-gendered myself.

At that point more self-doubt hit; was I really trans if I still called myself ‘he’? Was this all just a big mistake again and I was actually just male and confused? It wasn’t a fun loop of thoughts to get caught in.


I did what came natural; research. Surely someone on the internet has had the same experience and I’ll be able to guide my thinking from that?

You may notice a common theme here, that as soon as I become doubtful I rush to find something to back up my point of view. It’s not escaped my notice and I’ll get to that a bit more down below….

Anyway, of course I found lots of stories about people doing exactly the same thing. Some people said they had trouble in their own internal narration not using the wrong pronouns, and some people just said it randomly happened when they were talking.

It boiled down to habit; most of us have been using the wrong pronouns fo r years (if not decades) and that’s a hard habit to break! It’s not easy to suddenly change what you’re referred to as in much the same way changing name is something quite hard to figure out.

I breathed a sigh of relief. Mid-gendering yourself doesn’t mean your not trans anymore.

Then I had a though…. Why was I so worried about it? Surely, as discovered back in the start of this, if I was worried enough to be questioning it then that basically answered my question anyway. In other words if I was worried that this would “prove” I wasn’t a woman that meant I wanted to be a woman.

A more pressing question for me was why I leapt for validation from rando’s on the internet for my internal thinking and processing. What was it that made this the way I decided if what I felt was right or not? And should it? If you’r reading this then you’ve been on the internet long enough to see that some dreadful things come out of it, some truly hateful people with opinions best consigned to history, so should I be trying to weigh my feelings against it?


After a lot of thought I’ve realised it’s not about whether I should or not, but more about if I can stop…. I’m in unfamiliar territory. I’ve got no real bearing to go by for what to do, everything I thought was good and solid isn’t anymore. I’m probably going to keep checking the internet and browsing the more police parts of Reddit to see if people share the same experiences but I’m going to try and stop doing it as a way to validate myself and more for solidarity.

At the end of the day my goal (and new years resolution) is to develop myself in ways that make me happy. Rather than worry if I’m trans, or trans “enough”, I’m going to keep doing the things that appeal to me. If it appeals to someone else who is in a similar situation then great! If not; too bad, it’s about making me happy, not them.

With fierce love,

Sammy

Wow that’s a big question.

So since starting this out I’ve been doing a lot more research and trying to understand and answer that question.


It’s a difficult question to ask, especially when looking at other people’s experiences. One of the biggest themes I’ve seen is that people suddenly realise that they’re not their assigned gender and it all makes sense. For where I am now there’s not as much of a click that my gender is wrong, more of a desire for my gender to be female. I’m not as much unhappy in my body as I am happier as something else.

It turns out this is the difference between Gender Dysphoria and Gender Euphoria. Gender Dysphoria is the feeling that you’re not right in your gender, whereas Euphoria is that you’re happier in a different gender. Judging by how I feel when I wear my dress and my forms (as I sit and write this) I am firmly in the latter group.

One of the articles I read did highlight that a really obvious point is that if you’re asking yourself this question to begin with then you’re probably not 100% happy with your gender. If you were happy with the gender you were assigned at birth (Cisgendered) then you wouldn’t think about being another gender.

The second article (reddit post) I read was really comprehensive. Obviously it’s been written because the /r/asktransgender was flooded with people in the same situation as me asking if they were trans and so someone write a fantastic long post about stuff to consider that might answer your question immediately.

The first point ws simple “nobody can tell you for sure”…. great.

Point 3 was asking about having fantasies about being the other gender, and I realise I have always had this. I’ve often wished I was a girl, wanted to wake up one day and a magic body-swapping spell had taken place, or that there was a pill I could take that would suddenly make me a woman (physiology and all).

Point 10 asked if you feel jealous seeing other people who look like the gender you’re not, and I’m not sure about that one to be honest. I’ve always liked looking at cute and pretty women, has that been out of a sense of desire to have, to be, or both? I’m not sure on that one.

Lastly how do you feel being called the gendered pronouns for the gender you want to be? It makes me happy. It feels right and nice.


The most important theme seems to be that nobody can tell you for sure, but that sometimes you’ll just know, and other times you’ll just wish.

I am a trans woman.

Writing that was surprisingly hard, especially the knowledge that I’m going to schedule this to automatically post in a few weeks and it’ll be out there.

I’m not sure I’ll never change my mind again, that I won’t want to be more masculine, but for now I feel that I am a woman, and I want to be more like that self.

It’s fitting that today is the first of January 2019, a new year and a new start. I’m sitting in my living room whilst my wife plays video games, wearing my dress and panties, with what I’m coming to think of more and more as my breasts, and I feel happy. Happy in a way I didn’t know I wasn’t before.

Let’s see what the new year brings.

With love,

Sammy

Where did we leave off last time then? I believe I owned a dress, some panties, tights, and a satin chemise. Over the course of 2 weeks I slipped into them more than once. It’s lucky it was over the Christmas period where I had time off and spent a whole day in my dress, and another in my pyjamas (having a lazy day) with a pair of panties underneath. I was getting bolder.

The next obvious step was my chest, but I couldn’t really do much with it. My wife, again, leant me a bra. She is many things but small-chested is something she could never be accused of being. It fit me around the chest reasonably, but the cups were sad and empty. We tried socks; pro-tip is don’t try socks. That looked even sadder.

I did some research and found the plethora of options, but boy was it confusing! The best option looked like silicon breast forms, but they were expensive with some looking around £50 each. There were whole chest-forms which were vaguely eerie looking on the mannequins and far more than I was able to spend. There were little gel pads which were mostly advertised at making women’s natural breasts more perky or bigger, which wouldn’t really have helped me.

Eventually I found my way to Oxford’s LGBTQ+ student group and their page of resources for MTF Trans people to use. Amusingly to me at the time they had Marks and Spencers on there. If you’re not from the UK you may not know the reputation M&S has, but “Trans Friendly” wasn’t what came to mind.

What they did have, though, was an avenue I hadn’t considered pursuing, and one that made me feel vaguely guilty. Their range of post-op breast forms and bras. Designed for women who have undergone a mastectomy 1A surgery to remove one or both breasts, often performed on women with breast cancer. these were foam pads and bras with pockets for holding forms. They were also within my price range and came with a wonderful guide of sizing explaining what cup size the Small, Medium, Large, and L-Large would come up as depending on chest size. This was obviously designed so that women could buy the form they needed to match the bra they already used, but for me it let me pick what cup size I wanted based on my existing chest measurement.

I bought a pair, opting for C cup, nothing too big or flashy but definitely noticeable.


Back to waiting. Far from Amazon’s 1 day shipping I had to wait 3 days for them to come! 3 days which fell nicely over the Christmas bank holidays! In the end I spent Christmas out with family and didn’t get a lot of time to dwell or fret, but it was 5 days for them to get back to my house and they arrived the day we returned from visiting relatives.

Again, I felt slightly guilty (theme of the month) that whilst I was saying goodbye to my parents all I could think was “can we hurry this up so I can try on my breasts?”…. not how I thought I’d be ending the year.

Trying on foam breast forms without a bra is tricky. They don’t naturally stick, especially when they’re made of foam and upside down. We returned to my wife’s bra but it was still to big, and only loosely held them in place. Eventually I tried my first dress which was tight enough on the chest it actually held them in place reasonably well, well enough for my wife to take my measurements and determine I was a 38C.

I hit the internet again. I needed a bra now, I had cute panties, I had a gorgeous dress, I had some breasts, just something to tie them all together. I ordered an adorable matching set of very racy lingerie in a burlesque style, tight little bra and hipster brief in red and black with lace and fake string in a crossed pattern. They were cute, sexy, and when they arrived the next day about 2 sizes smaller than me. That was disappointing.


They’d arrived on a Saturday that we both had off, so my wife suggested we go out to try and buy a bra at a shop (Yours, one she has visited in the past).

That was a big surprise, and a big step. Going into the world? Into a shop? With people?!

She rightly pointed out that if we played it safe nobody would care. She was a woman with breasts of her own who had bought bras in there before, nobody would be thinking it was for me, we just go in, have a look, and get outta there. I still wasn’t 100% sold though, but I wanted to do it.


One thing I’d read online was how people’s exploration of their gender changed over time, with people starting saying that they were only expressing their gender in their room, then that evolving into around the house. This then develops into going out at night, when it’s hard to be seen, before finally, potentially, going out in the day.

To me going and buying a bra, even through the medium of my wife, meant two things:

  1. it validated me, it was confirming that this was something I wanted to do and that I would go and do it, and
  2. it was expanding the limits of my bravery.

So that’s what we did. We drove to town, stopped off for lunch, then headed to the busiest part of town that Yours was situated in. Yikes. Clutching my wife’s hand tightly we went in, we quickly separated due to the absolutely tiny gaps between hangers, and she made a beeline for the underwear at the back. I tagged along, hoping to look the disgruntled boyfriend.

When we got there they had maybe 2 shelves of bras, a handful of designs in multiple sizes, and a few pairs of matching panties. Nothing exciting if you were assigned woman at birth, maybe even something annoying or frustrating, but exciting and desirable for me.

We had a look at a few with my wife talking about the benefits and negatives of each type (do I want underwire? Full cup?). I feel embarrassed now that I shushed her because I was worried one of the sales assistants would think it was weird.

I don’t like this about myself, but it’s something that’s been hammered into me to not be weird or out of place. This is something I’d like to work on, I don’t want to be beaten down to not being and presenting as myself. This might be a bigger hurdle than I can tackle now though.

So back to the shop, we settled on one that was a cute full-cup underwired t-shirt bra. It caught my eye being plain colours (beige and black) but was still lacy and had a cute bow on the front. Silly? Maybe, but I wanted it.

At the same time my wife picked up one for herself and took both up to the till while I loitered and tried to look like I wasn’t there to buy a bra. We left, got some more bits, and came home.

I had to try it on immediately, so I rushed upstairs, pulled it on, adjusted the straps, and slipped my forms into it. At that point I looked down again and saw (unsurprisingly) breasts. They weren’t perfect but the bra covered them enough that I couldn’t see the forms, and it was easy enough to suspend my disbelief, and believe they were real and mine.

I’m purposefully avoiding using certain words because I’ve got a post lined up with a lot of knowledge I’ve gained in. I’m trying to write these posts with what was in my mind at the time, so I won’t say “Gender Euphoria” but just say that looking down felt and looked right. I was obsessing over them, running my hands down my side to feel the curve there, looking in the mirror (carefully below the neck only), I was entranced.

I slipped on my dress and it was even better, with my tights on I was passable from the neck down, ignoring my hairy arms. I was delighted with the look, even when I took the dress off and changed back into my old clothes I kept the bra on, wearing it round the house under my t-shirt.

My wife was, I think, slightly perturbed. She certainly wasn’t used to her bearded husband having breasts, but for me it felt so natural and so nice to look down and see.

That’s all I’ve got for this time, the next post I’m going to write is me “now”, after some deep research and a lot of learning. Until then.

With love,

Sammy

The second question my wife asked me when I came out to her was “why are you telling me now?”. To put that question in a little context I was terrified that night and had been promising myself all day that I would tell her, so to stop myself weaseling out of it that’s what I said; “I’ve been promising myself all day I’d tell you this”.


As discussed last time when I now look back on my childhood and early years as an adult I can see a lot of patterns that suggested I wasn’t comfortable with my gender. What was it that finally pushed me to actually consider that gender was the common theme?

I mentioned in my very first post that the reason I’ve chosen Sammy as my username is wholeheartedly lifted from a webcomic called Raan’s Doll (very NSFW), written by Kannel (Patreon link). This webcomic starts with a young gentleman getting in an argument with his girlfriend and progresses to him understanding that he is a she, aided by her girlfriend who discovered she is more than okay with this. They continue to discover themselves with the help of a local trans/crossdressing cosplay scene.

It’s all very sweet and I originally only discovered it through some of Kannel’s *ahem* other art. Kannel is primarily a pornographic artist whose art happens to tick a lot of boxes for me, and by working through their stuff I discovered this comic and it hit a little closer to home than I was expecting.

I had also been playing through Skyrim on VR and had rolled up my previously mentioned cute Bosmer who took down everything with a well-placed arrow. Unbeknown to me then, but clearly apparent now, was that whenever everyone spoke to “me” they were using female pronouns, which felt really right and was one of the reasons I got hooked (again) on Skyrim.

Feeling this tug from Raan’s Doll, questions raised by Skyrim, getting a hint of my past experiences, I was immediately drawn in when Kotaku ran an article on Hardcoded (mildly NSFW).

A Sexy Cyberpunk Dating Sim About (And By) Trans Folk

https://kotaku.com/a-sexy-cyberpunk-dating-sim-about-and-by-trans-folk-1830309223

It sounded pretty good to me:

  • Sexy – I like sexy
  • Cyberpunk – I like cyberpunk
  • Dating Sim – I can take or leave?
  • About (and by) Trans Folk – That’s something I’m thinking about at the moment!! Win!

So I hopped over to the Patreon and had a look at it, downloaded the demo, and started playing. I ripped through it, really enjoying myself. I won’t deny that the game is a thin layer of reasoning over porn but it was also sweet and funny, cute and sexy, but most important genuine.

But it didn’t really help answer any of my personal questions, it was just another great big question hanging over my head, and I already knew I was bisexual so it didn’t uncover any great revelations. It did leave me with a cute android-avatar though…..

My HC from Hardcoded

It’s at this point I started doing research. I wasn’t even really sure what to start Googling and I certainly didn’t want to search for things like “Transsexual”, because that was too big of a step to admit to myself. So I Googled around it, I won’t repeat the searches as I think I Google’d every offensive term one after the other and was confused when I found nothing but porn.

In the end I started finding people talking about how they came to realise they were female not male. Reading these a lot of them worried me even more, a common theme seemed to be that people realised they were Trans, begun working towards their ideal self, faced abuse and bigotry, had loved ones abandon them, and came out stronger because of it. It may be pathetic, but I didn’t want to face those difficulties.


Weeks later I decided enough was enough, I had been dodging the question and doing everything possible to avoid and ignore it. In doing so I managed to make it my only thought at night for 4 weeks running. I decided to (ironically) “man up” and tell my wife, get her feedback, and see what I could do from there.

That picks up just where I started, at “So this Gender thing…. Part 1“. It also makes this the last of the 4 bulk posts I wanted to write. In writing these I’ve already got more ideas which I’ve planned out a little of, so I’ll probably keep writing these as long as I care to, and I’ve scheduled them to post automatically Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for now. I’m not sure if it’ll stick to that. Either way….

With love,

Sammy

The next two posts I’m going to make are based on two questions my wife asked me when I told her I was thinking about my gender. They were “How long have you you been thinking about this?” and “Why did you tell me now?”. I’m going to address each one in a separate post, and they’re mostly the same answers I gave her then but more considered and hopefully better written than incoherent 2am brain-farts.

So the first questions was how long have I been thinking about my gender, and the answer is a bit complicated. At the time I said a few months, but in looking on the internet and reading other people’s stories I’ve realised there’s a lot of similar themes that go back much further.


One of my earliest memories is when I was 8 or 9. I had a cabin bed which had a desk under it and a wardrobe to the side. The way it was laid out meant that if you ducked under the desk and crawled round a little there was an area behind the wardrobe that was out of sight. I remember I had taken one of my younger sisters dresses from a pile of clothes that had been cleaned and needed ironing. It was light blue and made of some sort of lycra/polyester I think?

Anyway, I snuck back into the hidden space late at night once everyone else had gone to sleep and retrieved the dress from where I’d stashed it before pulling it on. I’m not really sure why, or what I was doing, and I don’t remember much else except taking it off and scampering back to be feeling guilty.


I’ve always loved games and there will be many posts in the future about them, but my main love in games has always been escapism. I particularly love fantasy games, something sword and sorcery with lots of magic being thrown around. A close second is a dramatic about-face; hard cyberpunk dystopia games. In both of them I love games with a story, something I can really get my teeth into, and something ideally with choices that matter.

I’ve always tended to pick the female characters. One of my best gaming memories is the time spend with Commander Sheppard, a strong, kind hearted, fiery woman with a soft spot for the colour blue. I had great fun running through all 3 Mass Effects, building up a character from my choices. I don’t know why I picked FemShep to start with other than she looked cool. This, as it unsurprisingly turns out, is something I’ve noticed now as a pattern.

I’ve always loved skyrim as well, I can’t even count how many hours I’ve sunk into it, and I am indeed one of “those people” who owns it on multiple platforms. Not always by choice (I’m almost certain I’ve got 2 copies on PC from Humble Bundles) but sometimes I’m a sucker for a re-release with something new (the VR version blew me away).

Again, in Skyrim, I was a girl. A short willowy wood-elf who was moulded into a deadly beast with a bow and a flailing idiot with a greatsword.

This pattern goes back for as many games as I can remember playing where gender was a choice. I’ve always leaned into the female character. I remember that I’ve often justified it to myself as wanting to tell a more interesting story than “the hero guy does his thing as usual”, especially as some of my favourite fiction does a lot of work with strong female characters that were missing through much of my childhood.

Looking back on it now it’s another tick in a box that suddenly makes a lot more sense in a different way. I did want strong female characters but not just for the narrative, I wanted a strong female character that I could be, who could be the avatar of my ideal self.


I’ve known I was bisexual for a long time now, it’s something that’s not really impacted my life in any particularly earth-shattering way, but it’s something I’ve known about.

I came out to my wife shortly after she came out to me, I was really grateful that she, as my girlfriend at that point (some 7 or 8 years ago?), trusted me to support her and to not go through the stages of bi-anxiety; “Does this mean you’ll start dating girls?”, “Do we need an open relationship now?” and the usual ending point “Can I have a threesome with your friends?”. I like to think at the time I did support her, though I can’t remember my reaction very well, it’s not something I really cared about. She liked me and was with me, I liked her, that was it.

She was much more on-the-ball about it, though. She knew she was bi from a much younger age than I did, I only figured out just after secondary school (16/17 for my overseas readers). I was browsing the internet (and I’m going to add a much more NSFW later around this) when I realised that hey; girls are awesome and guys are awesome too. This revolution for me was less concerning than the one I’m going through because I knew some gay people and I knew a bunch of straight people, and at that point I didn’t know there was a whole specific branch of bigotry associated with being bisexual, so I just got on with things.

I’ve never actually been with a man, romantically or physically, but it’s something I know that I could have done just as easily as be with a woman. Meeting my future-wife and falling utterly in love with her didn’t put a stop on me exploring and figuring things out because I never needed to explore, it just made me not care about “trying the water” because I’d already found the perfect person, regardless of their gender.

Realising I might have something complex going on with my identity as well bought up a lot of questions I encountered about bisexuality only after the fact I had figured myself out. “How do you know?”, “Aren’t you just going through a phase?”, “You’re just doing this for attention!”…. Those last two still hurt to write.

Looking at them now with a more mature eye, the knowledge of how vile people can be and how little it matters, it’s easier again to see a pattern with how I’ve felt and how I feel: I’ve been considering who I am for many years and I probably should have started thinking about it earlier, if I’d had the emotional intelligence back when I first tried on that dress as I do now.


So when my wife asked me “how long have you been thinking about this?” I Said a few months. Turns out that was true, and not so true. I’ve been consciously thinking about it for a few months, but it looks like I’ve been unconsciously thinking about it for years, and only now am I getting a chance to do something about it.

With love,

Sammy

Where were we? Trying on my first ever dress1I’ll talk more about this in a later post coming very soon but this wasn’t quite my first ever dress.….

I’m not sure what I was expecting, if it would be momentous or there’s be thunder/rainbows/choirs? Obviously none of that happened, but it was easy to put on. A single zip running from butt to mid-back, then a pair of lovely dome buttons on the collar that do up really easily. I was shaking so much I appreciated that touch, made it possible for me to get it on by myself after I’d stepped into it.

My wife was there with me, encouraging me to put it on, and my usual habit of grinning like an idiot when I’m nervous came out.

Then it was on.


It felt nice, thick pleated skirt with a bit of weight to it, thin ad breezy top in some sort of faux-silk. It fit perfectly, draping down from my hips and hugging my neck just tight enough, and the chest looked natural lying completely flat. I remember distinctly that it swooshed when I spun around. It flared out from my hips slightly, moving gently with my motion.

It felt right. I looked down and saw it hanging off of me and it looked right. Up until that point I’d not really cared much about what I looked like, I’d never bothered to do anything with my hair other than keep it length 4 all over, and I realised that it was because I didn’t really care. Looking down at myself I realised that this is what I wanted to look like, that I was more happy with myself standing there in a dress with hairy legs and hairy feet, a full beard and a stupid grin, than I’d ever been before.


I talked to my wife after this, sat on the edge of the bed in a dress, not able to stop looking down at it, only just able to stop running my hands over it to appreciate that it was mine and I was wearing it. We talked about what this meant, and again what steps I should take next. She asked if it was something I’d ever want to do outside, I said I don’t know but that I was definitely not there yet. She asked about wigs, makeup, underwear? I was all for all of it, in stages. I hadn’t even thought about wigs.

I immediately went and ordered some panties, pictured below. I started with a lot of thinking on this one; the sites I’d browsed included information on tucking and gaffes, which I’ve still not tried yet, but I thought start simple. They arrived and they were another moment of joy, slipping them on and tucking myself out of the way as best I could, they were nice to wear. I left them on for the rest of the day (spent around the house) under my trousers.

My first panties, cheap and frilly, but so pretty.

My wife suggested I tried on a pair of her tights next, to see what I thought of them. We’re about the same size height-wise, so they fit pretty well. Comfortable, functional at hiding my hair, they were another thing to add to the list.

My tights, garter included

Buying these I got 2 things, a pair that were far from standard wear, and a nightshirt that was far more scandalous than I would have ever considered. My logic (what remained of it) decided that if I wanted to try this girl thing I should really lean into it, and the stuff I was being drawn to was the ultra-effeminate, pink and lace. Practical? No, but then I wasn’t going anywhere in it.

This comes up a lot shorter in the picture, but it feels nice enough I didn’t care

That brings us closer to today. I’ve got a small set of women’s clothes I’ve worn. I love all of them, and they make me feel more comfortable in my own skin than I ever have before.

I’m not sure what this means for me. I know I want to keep going, to keep exploring, but does this mean I’m a woman? I’m certainly not 100% happy with being male, but there’s a lot of spectrum past just “male”.

I’ve decided for this blog to go by Sammy, there’s a reason for this I’ll expand upon later, but I’ve taken it from a webcomic that inspired me to talk to my wife in the first place; Raan’s Doll by Kannel Art (warning, very NSFW). I’ve got a few more things to write about before I get to “now”, so I’ll start working on those next. I’m queuing my posts up as much as possible to be regular, but we’ll see how long that lasts!! Probably just until this buffer runs out, but my new years’ resolution is to do this better than my previous attempts so I can look back on this in a few years time and remember what journey I took. For now though?

With love,

Sammy

These first couple of posts are being written in bulk. I decided to create this about a month after things started, so I’ve got a month’s worth of writing to catch up on. I’m going to try and write them in a single go, so they’re going to follow on a bit more fluidly than can be normally expected.


So this Gender thing?

Well it’s the reason I’m here, writing this, at least. I was born male and for my life up until now I’ve identified as such. I’m also bisexual so I’ve never had an issue with fluid or queer sexuality, and this has really extended to gender as well. I couldn’t care less about what gender people are or what they have in their pants (or if they match), but that’s been something of an academic point for me as it never meant anything to me personally.

About a month ago now I told my wife, cuddling in bed at about 1am, that I was interested in crossdressing and femininity, and that I wasn’t sure about anything else. Was it just a fetish thing? Was it something I was interested in from afar but not for me? Was I trans? I couldn’t really answer.


It’s worth pointing out here that my wife is awesome. She’s amazingly supportive, bisexual herself, and a firm supporter of gender, sexuality, and neurodiversity rights. I can already feel a post just about her coming up, but for now I’ll keep it simple (so she can check what I publish before I do it!).

My wife told me that it was okay, she supported and loved me regardless, and asked me about what I thought the motivation was (I didn’t know), how long I’d been thinking about this for (that month), if there was any reason I’d told her today (I promised myself I’d tell her that day so I’d stop putting it off), and what I wanted to do about it.

That last one caught me out. I hadn’t considered I could do something about it. I felt odd and uneasy, I was terrified that I’d told her, worried what she would say, and I didn’t even want to think about what came after that. The relief that she just went “okay” was indescribable.


So what next? What could, or should, I do? As a bit of an academic the first place I started was research. I’d done research already in the month leading up to telling her but very perfunctory. I realise now that I didn’t want to admit anything to myself or make any definitive statements in case it proved true and caused me problems, but now I was able to take a moment to look around I found a lot of friendly and helpful advice. The best piece was that things take time.

As someone who has always considered themselves male by default I am about as far away from the femininity that intrigued me as possible. I’m not tall but not short, reasonably thin but with a bit of a belly developing over the past year, short hair when I remember to cut it, a thick very dark beard ranging from short to bushy, and hair on basically every other part of my body.

My wife suggested taking things slow and bit by bit. First place to start was try on some female clothing, see if that did anything for me. We might be able to work from there to see if it was purely sexual for me or if there was an element of identity in it.

But what should I get? Just start buying women’s clothing and hope? Measurements were no problem to get, we had a tailors measuring tape, but what style? What sort of clothing, even?

Again my wife was to the rescue. She suggested that she had a set of fashion books she had bought in preparation for sewing and that, although she’d not looked at them in a while, we could go through them together to see what I liked.

We spent a chilly Sunday afternoon pouring over these books before moving to the related websites full of patterns, her explaining what things were and all the components to them, what would work best for my figure (rectangle, if you were wondering), what fabrics were a good idea, what styles were flattering…. it was a lovely experience, something I smile at remembering. It made me feel utterly comfortable.

We moved to amazon for the purchase, and wrangled the sales page on the women’s dresses before I finally settled on the piece below. A simple dress, sleeveless, pretty material and a lovely coloured floral pattern. The nervousness as I hit “buy now” was almost overwhelming and I remember she had to encourage me to actually take the step and do it.

The first dress I bought

The waiting was intense. I had work the next day and spent most of it checking my phone for the live postage updates. I knew when it arrived and I was a mixture of hyper-excited and hyper-nervous at the same time. The walk home was terrifying.

There it was waiting for me. Lighter than I thought (although maybe I just expected it to weigh more from my expectations?) and smaller, but when I opened it it felt wonderful.

My wife once more reminded me to be careful, not to be too excited and not to be too disappointed if it didn’t “work”. Neither of us were sure what would happen, if anything. So I went upstairs, carrying my dress, and tried it on.


With love,

Sammy

Welcome!

Hi there! This is my first post, and I’m going to guarantee that in a few years (if this is even still here!) I’m going to look back on this and wonder what I was thinking. You’ve got to start somewhere though, and the past few months have really pushed me to start more things.

So who am I? I’m in my 20’s, English, living in England. I’m married to a wonderful wife who I can, and do, share everything with. I’m lucky enough in my generation to have the full set of “life goals”; a BSc in Psychology, a house, and a job. I’ve got a fancy job title with minimal responsibility that I actually enjoy, something that pushes me daily to do better and that in its own way helps people.

I’m a nerd; mainly games, anime, and manga. I’m also a voracious reader of sci-fi and fantasy, and future posts will no doubt linger more on those parts of me. I write a little, having succeeded at 3 NaNoWriMo’s. Despite that I’ve not managed to actually finish my first book.

I enjoy D&D, something I started in year 10 (what I was about 15). D&D is quite a big part of my life now, partially responsible for my marriage and something that binds me to some of my closest friends. On the back of that Critical Role is also a big part of the media my wife and I consume.

All of the above will probably feature more in posts, I’m already having ideas for specific posts looking at some of my favourite authors, games, etc., so I won’t go into too much more information here.


So what’s the point of this?

That’s good question, me. I’m not 100% sure yet. I’ll go into (again) more detail in my next post, but the year ended strangely for me. Something I’d been sitting on for a while started to surface and I started to question parts of me that I thought were set in stone, mainly my gender. I talked it over with my wife who encouraged me to think about it, explore, and see where it takes me.

This is going to be a diary of sorts for me, something I’ve tried to do in the past and never carried through. This time we’re going to see if I can be better with it! I’m aiming to post something at least weekly, but it might not always be a summary of the last week (as with the above ideas about one-off posts).

I don’t know what’s going to happen or what decisions I’m going to make. At time of writing this I’ve already done and tried things that I’ll be writing about next time, but I’m far from any certainty about anything. Let’s see what the next year brings.

With love,

Sammy