Welcome to my online journal, which I started in December 2002 after several very persuasive hints from friends. Although I obviously don't write about everything that happens in my life here, I hope it'll provide an insight into who I am and what's happening in my life - whether good, bad, happy or sad.

Halloween = Another excuse to wear black (as if I needed one!)

Posted by Anna at 16:37 on Sunday, October 31, 2004
If you're wondering where the new picture at the top left hand corner of the journal pages came from it was taken at a halloween party we went to last night.

It's been absolutely ages since I've been to a party, let along a student run one (yes, I know I'm 38, but I certainly don't feel it!). It was good to meet some new faces, and just for a change I wasn't the only one wearing black.

I wore "that black dress". The last time I wore it was in Thailand earlier this year, and it looks more and more stunning each time.

The picture on the right was the result of me playing with long exposures and the timer on my now well used Canon Powershot A40. The more I use that camera, the more I like it, even though it's resolution is a little low by todays standards.

Perhaps surprisingly I didn't wake up with a hangover this morning, although according to the scales I am a little heavier than usual (just under 138 lbs) as a result of late night munchies!

It could be Ireland's turn next

Posted by Anna at 11:11 on Sunday, October 17, 2004
Those of you who have been following the progress of the Gender Recognition Bill (now established in Law as the Gender Recognition Act) in the UK may know that the Government was forced to change UK Law as a result of two rulings in the European Court of Human Rights - Goodwin v. The United Kingdom and I v. The United Kingdom.

It could soon be the Republic of Ireland's turn to bow to the inevitable and grant us equality. According to an article in the Observer today, a Russian businessman living in Ireland is taking legal action under the European Human Rights Act to ask for his marriage to be recognised:

    Sex-change husband fights Irish state ban

    Russian businessman born a woman battles to overcome official 'prejudice' in Ireland which refuses to recognise his marriage.

    Henry McDonald, Ireland editor
    Sunday October 17, 2004
    The Observer

    Because Nicholas used to be Nadia, the Irish state refuses to recognise his marriage. Now the 32-year-old Russian businessman who was born a woman is taking legal action to force the government to accept that his birth certificate can be changed.

    Ireland is the last of only three countries in the Council of Europe which does not treat transgender people equally. Like Albania and Andorra, the Republic does not allow post-operative transsexuals to alter their birth certificates.

    A successful entrepreneur in the import/export business, Nicholas Krivenko says he and his German wife, Sybille Hintze, will be forced to leave Ireland if the state continues to deny them residency on the basis of not recognising their marriage. The couple live in Quin, Co Clare and married legally and in full knowledge of the registrar in a civil ceremony in Limerick City five years ago.

    'Nowhere on the marriage form did it say "Have you changed your sex?" But I gave the registrar my old birth certificate as a girl, my new one and a translation of them from Russian into English at the ceremony. I did not hide my past. I gave them the opportunity to find out.'

    The Krivenkos problems started when he applied for residency and the right to apply for jobs in Ireland.

    'A member of the gardai [police] said he couldn't sign our application because he knew I had changed sex. When our application was processed, the state objected to the validity of the marriage. They said "We can't accept Nadia to Nicholas." '

    Nicholas fought a legal battle to gain full residency status, which if the couple moved to Germany would have been automatic. The Federal Republic recognises the marriages of transgender people. Nicholas had his sex change at a private clinic in Germany ten years ago.

    'We want to stay in Ireland because we have no problems with ordinary Irish people. When our problems started, people rallied around. Even the local butcher in our village came around to the house with his wife and a couple of bottles of wine. They said they came over to give us our support. As the evening went on, the butcher's wife said to me "Now, I know you are a man because you've left the toilet seat up." The only prejudice we get is from central government.'

    The next step in the battle for legal recognition is for Nicholas to apply for unconditional residency. Following that, he will seek full Irish citizenship.

    'I think I have made something of a contribution to Irish society. When I arrived here in 1995 from Germany I was in charge of exporting 10 per cent of all Irish butter to Russia, over 120,000 tonnes. All my wife and I want is to be given full legal status because once they recognise the marriage I am entitled to apply for work as Sybille is an EU citizen.

    But if this doesn't work, we might resettle in Germany as there is no problem there.'

    Fluent in English and French as well as having a working knowledge of Japanese, Nicholas has lived all over the world. His father used to work for a state-owned trading company in the former Soviet Union.

    'We want to stay in Ireland if we can, but that will depend on getting the law changed that will allow me to apply for jobs. I'm entitled to work as self-employed but not to seek jobs in the employment market. Now we are still in limbo.'

    Nicholas is co-chair of the recently founded Transgender Equality Network Ireland (Temi). Sarah Duffy, 40, the network's co-founder, says it wants legislation similar to that introduced into the British parliament in July, which gave legal recognition in the UK to those who alter their gender.

    The Dublin-born pre-op transsexual says that the Dail and Senate should follow suit.

    'You change your name by deed poll in Ireland. You can change your gender on passports and drivers licences, even your social security documents. But in Ireland you still can't alter a birth certificate, even though being born in the wrong sex is a recognised medical condition. '

    Sarah, who was only out in public as a woman for the second time in her life last Friday, adds that Temi will be using the European Human Rights Act as a means of forcing the Irish state to change the law regarding birth certificates. The Southern Health Board has recently granted Temi 5,000 euros to help build up a national network of the Irish transgender community.

    'In the 1970s and 80s, women fought for equality. In the 1990s, gays and lesbians won their struggle for equal rights with the ending of the decriminalisation of homosexuality. In the 21st century, we are the last group of people fighting the battle for personal freedom.'

    Nicholas meanwhile is adamant that he will not give up the fight to change Irish law for the transgendered.

    'Even Iran, in certain circumstances, allows for people to change their sex and all official documents changed thereafter. Why can't Ireland do the same?'

If he is successful, Ireland - like the UK before it - could be forced to change its Law to allow transpeople to correct their birth certificates.

I for one hope he succeeds.

Bourne Free Day

Posted by Anna at 23:10 on Saturday, October 16, 2004
The flyer for the Bourne Free EventToday was a first - we attended an LGBT demonstration! The event was "Bourne Free" - a celebration of diversity by LGBT people in the Bournemouth area. Although I believe the event was originally intended to be just an afternoon of music and entertainment in the park in the centre of town, it took an entirely new twist when it was discovered that an evangelical Christian organisation called Christian Voice were planning to mount an anti-gay protestin the town on the same day.

They were billing their protest as "Harry Hammond Day", in memory of a street preacher who three years ago was arrested after preaching against homosexuality and lesbianism in Bournemouth town centre. If the events described in the Times online article Preacher fined for anti-gay sermon are representative of the events of that day, the incident did nobody any favours. Despite the fact that Hammond was elderly and suffered from Aspergers syndrome, he was abused by people disagreeing with his views rather than being ignored. He should have been left alone...after all, his views belong to the past, and he was no threat to anyone.

Nevertheless, Christian Voice seized on this sorry incident to spread their own rather more sinister message. One look at their newletter confirms that as well as condemning the gay ommunity they are equally dismissive of transpeople. To quote:

    "The Gender Recognition Bill has received royal assent and it is now the law of the land that if a man dresses up as a woman for two years, he can apply for his birth certificate to state that he is one."

As a Christian trans woman, I find the views expressed by groups such as Christian Voice highly insulting and very upsetting, and want to do whatever I can to counter them.

Interestingly enough, Harry Hammond's family dissassociated themselves from Christian Voice's "event". According to Hammond family in anti-gay march plea :

    ...but his Bournemouth granddaughter, who did not wish to be named, said the planned march had upset his whole family.

    She said: "None of us condone what he did but he was not of sound mind and it's very upsetting to think that people who are of sound mind are planning to use his name to promote their own bigotry.

    "It just gives Christianity a bad name and the fact that my grandad's name is also being dragged into it makes it even worse."

Not surprisingly, news of this protest resulted in the organisation of a counter demonstration by the LGBT community. Central to this effort were the local Metropolitan Community Church, who organised a "Special Ministry to the GLBT Community" on the same day. It's notable that while the Bourne Free event and march were given formal approval by the local council, they refused to authorise the anti-gay protest organised by Christian Voice. I find that a sign of real hope.

On to the day itself. As we arrived in town slightly early, after a quick hello to the people from MCC (who had set up a stand in the town square) we went for a coffee at the nearby Legends cafe before walking up towards the Triangle to the car park behind the Branksome Arms where everyone taking part in the march was meeting. The atmosphere was relaxed and casual, with no sign of extremists who could all too easily have turned a peaceful protest into an ugly incident. Members of MCC mingled with the crowd handing out "God Made Me Gay" stickers to anyone who wanted one.

Representatives of the Dorset police were of course very much in evidence. Like the marchers they were relaxed and friendly, passing time by chatting with us and sharing jokes. Although they made it clear that they were not there to take sides, but to ensure that everything ran smoothly, I got the distinct impression that they were sympathetic.

After a quick briefing from the police and the leaders of the march we were off (with a police escort of course!) on our way to the town centre. As we marched through the town people stopped to watch us pass...some bemused, some openly supportive, but none hostile. Although there was no sign of Christian Voice, representatives of the media were very much in evidence.

The march winds its way through Bournemouth, with the MCC contingent singing hymns as they marched.

The march eventually concluded at a car park just outside the square. From there we wandered into the park to watch proceedings for a while, before leaving when the British weather started to make its prescence felt.

It was then we finally encountered Christian Voice, and what a sorry bunch they were. They'd gathered in the square preaching a message of doom and condemnation which was notably lacking in any sign of God's Love. Immediately in front of them a group of people from the march - carrying the rainbow flags of the LGBT movement - had gathered:

Christian Voice being ignored by the local LGBT community

MCC were a far better advert for the Christian Faith. They'd gathered opposite (just out of shot in on the left in the picture above), and unlike the Christian Voice crowd, were all smiles and laughter. I imagine they were as disgusted as I with the hateful rhetoric Christian Voice were spouting, and eventually they responded - by singing hymns, and walking slowly towards the Christian Voice representatives.

It was certainly good to hear the sounds of Faith drowning out the rhetoric.

In the news report Gay Campaigners face off in town the BCC quite astonishingly refered to this "incident" as a "clash":

    Christian anti-gay campaigners have clashed with pro-gay rights group in Bournemouth.

    Up to 30 preachers gathered in memory of Bournemouth preacher Harry Hammond who was convicted of harassment for waving calling homosexuality a sin.

    They were opposed by around 200 members of the town's gay community and members of the group, Bourne Free.

    A Bourne Free spokesman later called the preachers' actions "sad", but there were no arrests.

That's the media though. Laughable, isn't it?

I'll close this rather long entry with a rather appropriate quote from Archbishop Desmond Tutu:

    "Nobody who was true to the teachings of Christ could condemn people on the basis of their sexual orientation. Yet, all over the world lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are persecuted. We treat them as pariahs and push them outside our communities. We make them doubt that they too are children of God - and this must be nearly the ultimate blasphemy."

It's good to see that the people of Bournemouth seem to share that view.

On the sofa, no one can hear you squeal....

Posted by Anna at 23:52 on Sunday, October 10, 2004
This weekend was another busy one. On Saturday morning Beth and I drove up to Stoke on Trent in the Midlands to visit my friend Elaine. She's been down to visit me twice so far and we thought it was about time we returned the favour!.

On the way up we took the scenic route, and while it was maddeningly slow, it was beautiful....something we don't appreciate anywhere as often as we should in our busy lives. Regardless of which routes we travel, one issue we always face is the difficulty of finding places on the journey offering healthy food. I have to say that each time I have the misfourtune to encounter it I find the junk food culture which is rife in service stations and their ilk more and more appalling. Often it's difficult enough to find a sandwich made with wholemeal bread at these places, let alone a healthy balanced meal free from dangerous ingredients such as hydrogenated vegetable oil.

Whatever you find you'll pay through the nose for it too. It's enough to make a sane person turn activist!

That's exactly what we encountered when we stopped at a service station on the M4 yesterday. After looking despairingly at the meagre selection they had on offer we eventually settled for sharing an overpriced wholemeal egg sandwich and a prawn and pasta salad. There really wasn't much else, but at least they did fruit smoothies. I must admit I'm getting to rather like them.

It's always good to see friends, and this weekend was no exception. Beth and I would like to say a big thank you to Elaine for putting up with us all weekend - especially our random tickling attacks and my terrible sense of humour! We stayed in yesterday night, and as Elaine's DVD player wasn't co-operating we ended up using my laptop to watch a movie instead - Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. Beth's never seen it, but given how much she was laughing I've got a feeling that particular movie is now on her Christmas list.

Stoke on Trent is only an hour or so's drive from Burton on Trent where my brother Mike lives, so after we left we headed in that direction to hopefully meet up with him. Unfortunately, during the night he'd sent us a txt to say that he wouldn't be in until 4pm, and we couldn't stay in the area that late, so we didn't expect to find him in. Sadly we were right, but we left a note to let him know we'd called.

A real pity...I was really looking forward to seeing him again. It's been far too long, but at least I know where he lives now. Sometime soon, I hope.

Driving through Burton was strange. It's not my home town (I'm a Northern Lass, after all!) but it is familiar because of my family (my parents live nearby too). Personally, I'm glad I don't live's just not a place I would ever feel comfortable. After leaving there at 2:30pm we headed home - down the long and rather dull M40 this time. It's been a long weekend, and by the time we got back at 6:30pm we were both exhausted.

So what has all this got to do with the title of this post? To answer that question, you'll have to ask Beth about her experiences on the sofa with Bombay the Duck...