Friday, 3 March 2017

February 2017 and Who We Are

The meeting on February 26th was, as always, a really lovely time. It was a chance to meet up with long-standing friends and also some newer ones.

It was especially good to begin to get to know six newcomers and one person that had been along just once before several years ago.

Towards the end of last year a friend asked me if I could write something about Surrey Swans for her web site, The Imagination Acts.

The article has been published here: http://theimaginationacts.co.uk/stories/ – it’s the story with the title: Who We Are.

This is what it says:

Who We Are

One day social norms will no longer result in people feeling ashamed or guilty about the way that they dress, and we’ll understand that a person is more than the clothing that they choose to wear.

In 2003 a group of people began to meet at the function room of the Lion Brewery in Ash, Surrey. They adopted the name Surrey Swans. People have met there 11 or 12 times a year since then.

Those that come long are transgender or the friends or partners of people that are transgender.

I first went along in 2007 and began organising the meetings in 2011.

Why did the meetings begin? And why do they continue?

For me, the story runs something like this.

I was born a boy in the 1950’s. As a teenager, and then as I grew older, I occasionally dressed in clothing that’s generally classified as being ladies.

It was a secret. It resulted in mixed feelings. Pleasure. Guilt. Shame. Sometimes I would buy things. Other times I would throw them away.

In the nineties and noughties things were changing. Trans-related issues began to be discussed openly on WEB sites.

In 2007 I booked a makeover. It felt a bit like meeting myself for the first time. In a way, Andrea was born.

And then Surrey Swans began to make a big difference in my life. To be more precise, people at Surrey Swans made a big difference.

No longer alone. No longer a total secret. Guilt and shame giving way to self-acceptance, wellbeing and healing.

So began a journey.

Today, Surrey Swans matters to me because of the people.

It’s a place where I spend time with friends.

It’s also a place of safety, acceptance and friendship where people who are in the process of discovering themselves can meet other people that are travelling in a similar direction. People who are able to pay attention, to listen, to care, to take seriously and to empathise.

I believe that love is a kind of giving of attention, and of listening. And so, in its way, Surrey Swans is a place where people receive love.

It may be that one day there will be no need of places like Surrey Swans. That our perceived social norms will no longer result in people feeling ashamed or guilty about the way that they dress. That we won’t jump to conclusions about who people are based on stereotyped images projected by the media. We’ll understand that a person is more than the clothing that they choose to wear.

As transgendered people are empowered and encouraged by each other they are more able to go about their daily lives in a way that better reflects who they really are. Able to celebrate rather than self-recriminate.

As people and groups of people that once stigmatised, chastised and criticised learn to tolerate the transgendered. And then to accept them simply as people. And to welcome them.

Until one day, no one even notices.

And little by little this is happening. Right at this very moment.

And some footnotes:

The term transgender is broad. It conjures up other words like transsexual, transvestite and crossdresser. And more modern terms such as genderqueer, gender dysphoric and non-binary.

The same word can mean different things to different people. Different things in different countries. A word that one transgendered person identifies with can sometimes profoundly offend another person.

Here isn’t the place to discuss the precise meaning of these terms. If you’re interested in the meaning you could try here as a beginning: http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/Transhealth/Pages/Transhealthhome.aspx

In truth, as with many collective nouns, the words are open to stereotypical abuse.

The only way to begin to find out what the term means to a particular trans person is to spend some time talking with and listening to that particular person. Everyone has a unique and special story. And not everyone fits into a specially predefined category.

Having said that, of the people that I know, each in our own uniqueness, we all agree that our trans-ness isn’t about any label that tries to attach itself to us. Really, it’s just who we are.

andrea.wright@hotmail.co.uk

http://surreyswans.blogspot.co.uk/p/introducing-surrey-swans.html

Monday, 12 December 2016

Pre-Christmas Swans

The Surrey Swans pre-Christmas buffet happened last night. We had a really nice time. Always good to see people and catch up with what’s happening in their lives.

From the top left we have:

Emma, Laura, Adele, Clara, Mia, Chelle, Gina
Vickie, Tina, Adrienne, Rachel, Chloe, Susan, Chloe
Andrea, Sally

Group

Monday, 13 June 2016

June 2016

We had a good meeting on Sunday June 5th. It was even warm (and dry) enough to sit outside for a while.

Jo came to visit along with a display of products, with an opportunity to take a look at things and try them out along with helpful hint;,s tips and advice.

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Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Pictures that illustrate life isn’t just black and white

Back in November 2015 we had a visit from Ernielson Limbo.

As I mentioned then,Ernielson is a second year  BA Photography student at the University for the Creative Arts in Farnham. Ernielson has been working on a project on The Third Gender. Part of this involves merging portrait photographs of people with the text of things they have said to produce abstract representations.

I said that I’d post a link to the images that Ernielson created one he had completed them. So here is Ernielson’s Facebook page and here is a link to the album of pictures.

They are great!

As Ernielson says:

This body of work attemps to destroy the socially constructed boundaries of gender in the contemporary world. By the own words of those photographed, the images are manipulated and corrupted. Symbolising the refusual to be categorised and challenges the binary concept of gender as well as expressing gender freedom.
A special Thank You to the Surrey Swans

Thank you Ernielson, it was great to meet you. And, of course, you are welcome to visit the Swans any time at all.

December special

December 2015 was an unusual month for Surrey Swans.
Usually there is no meeting in December, but in 2015 we had a pre-Christmas buffet.
The food was provided by the Lion Brewery, where our meetings take place.
It was a fun, relaxing time.
Here are a few pictures:
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Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Sunday November 29 2015–Speech and Portrait Modification

We had a really pleasant evening at the Surrey Swans this week.

Louise Milner-Smith who is a Voice and Speech Coach, Qualified Speech and Language Therapist visited us and talked about the work that she has done and continues to do in the area of voice modification, particularly in relation to transgender people.

 

The kind of topics that Louise covered included:

Introduction

-        Who am I

-        What do I do

-        Background & relevant experience

Getting help – what matters most?

-        Qualifications

-        Experience

-        Cost

-        Location – hospital / clinic or private setting

-        Length of initial appointment & follow-up appointment

-        Group or One to One

-        Face to face or online (including video consultation)

Which voice for you – how to decide?

How to look after your voice – general tips

Open forum questions & answers

It was really interesting and helpful.

Louise has a strong personal commitment to helping Transgender people. It was great to meet her and spend some time talking with her.

There are contact details for Louise here if you’d like to find out more.

After speaking with us Louise stayed for the rest of the evening chatting with people.

Here’s Louise with Linda and Adele.

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We also had a visit from Ernielson Limbo. Ernielson is a second year  BA Photography student at the University for the Creative Arts in Farnham. Ernielson is working on a project on The Third Gender. Part of this involves merging portrait photographs of people with the text of things they have said to produce abstract representations.

Once the images are available I’ll post a link to them.

It was great to meet Ernielson, and once he had the portraits and text that he needed he stayed around and chatted with people.

Here’s Gina, Mia and Laura with Ernielson.

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We had a visit from a film crew of students way back in November 2013 as described here.

Monday, 26 October 2015

October 2015

There were about 16 of us at the meeting this past Sunday, with 2 girls visiting us for the first time.It’s always a real pleasure to meet new people.

We also had a visit from Michelle who told us a bit about the work that she does. It was lovely to meet her and listen to her. She is a stylist who is keen on helping people to have a positive mind-set and to realise their own beauty and greatness. We really hope that she will be able to visit us again sometime soon.