Monday, 14 March 2016

Pay it Forward - Dignity Dreams

I met Daniella Argento on FB a couple of months ago and the more we communicate the more I like her. There are 2 reasons I asked Dani if I could share this post; firstly because even though I have met many trans people I have never really felt comfortable asking questions to help me understand the trans community and the daily challenges they face because one always worries that the questions will be stupid insulting arbitrary. Dani has answered all my questions with absolute grace and I feel a lot more educated now. I have become an avid follower of her blog and I feel it's important for anyone who is trans or cisgender as well as those who love and support them to head on over to Daniella's Ramblings  and/or find her on Twitter: @DaniArgTG Daniella writes with compassion as well as a healthy dose of humour, which is right up my alley.  The second reason is because I am a big believer in charity and this particular charity is one that resonates. Thank you again to Daniella for allowing me to use her piece.

Live well, love much, laugh often and always remember to dance!
GeeGee x

Living the Dream, Dignity Assured
By Daniella Argento
I came across an amazing charity about a year ago. The charity is called Dignity Dreams and they do amazing work for underprivileged girls and women in South Africa. The charity recently turned three years old and we went to their birthday party. I will tell you all about it, but first a bit about Dignity Dreams.
As you may know South Africa has one of the worst Gini coefficients in the world and we have very real issues with poverty in South Africa. Many girls (and women) simply have no access to sanitary pads and therefore miss days of school and work every month. This ensures that they do not excel at school, fall behind their peers (entrenching inequality) and that women earn less and lack job security. Some people are unable to afford underwear let alone disposable sanitary pads. Here is where Dignity Dreams comes in.
Founded by the amazing Sandra Millar, Dignity Dreams believes that 'entering womanhood should be a time of joy and celebration – not a time of shame. No Girl should have to use newspaper, socks, rags,or simply miss school during her menstrual cycle.' Dignity Dreams also believes in empowering women through skills development and economic activity. They have therefore set up an amazing programme whereby women are trained to make washable and reusable pads which are then bought by donors and then distributed to needy children. Each pack comes with a few sets of pads and panties ensuring that there is always one in use, one being laundered and one ready for use. This sets up a wonderful system of training, entrepreneurship and positive results for the beneficiaries. It also ensures that manufacturing resources meet the needs of people in an efficient manner with little wastage, ensuring efficiency through out the value chain.
Each set is actually really cheap at just R150 (less than US$10) per pack so if you want to do some good in the world please feel free to donate to Dignity Dreams. Details can be found on their webpage. Or you can get details from the image below:

I am fortunate enough to know one of the Dignity Dreams board members, Sharon Gordon. She knows that we are always on the lookout for different, safe and accepting places to go and she also knows (I think) that I am a firm believer in what Dignity Dreams stands for. She therefore invited me to Dignity Dreams' third birthday party. I discussed with my wife and she said that it would be great to attend. She is also a big fan of Dignity Dreams and we were eager to support them. We also thought it would be good to let the rest of the transgender community know that there was a group of people who were very supportive and accepting of us (people do not usually invite you to their events if they do not want you there and I know Sharon is very supportive of our community) so I publicised the event as I could through my social media networks*. Sadly, only one other friend (Jenny Elwood) could make it on the night but we did not let that deter us.
The party was billed as a 'pub nite' and was held at a venue called Journeys. we had never been there before so were a little unsure of how to dress. I decided that it would be best to dress down a little and not be too glam so I went with my red butterfly blouse, black skater girl skirt and black platforms. My wife went with a black mini, stilettos and  a black blouse. I did wonder exactly who was the tranny in the relationship!

Sadly I only realised the label shining through the skirt when we were already at the venue... Oh well you live and learn.
We set off for the venue a little early as we were unsure of exactly how long it would take to get there. As it turned out we arrived about twenty minutes early. But Sandra and a few of her fellow board members were already there. They were very friendly and welcomed us and invited us to join them straight away. Sandra made sure we had no problems with the reception (we had pre-paid for our tickets) and generally ensured we felt at ease. All the people at the party thus far were women and we were chatting away asking about each other and it felt really good to be accepted as one of the girls. One of the women quickly ascertained that she and my wife had attended the same high school (though not at the same time) and they had a good laugh about some of the teachers they recalled.
I was glad I had gone with the outfit I had chosen. Most of the other guests were casually dressed and the venue was very nice, but a touch on the informal side.
By now, some more guests had arrived but we frankly felt very comfortable sitting and talking to our new acquaintances. I honestly cannot say whether I was 'passing'  or not, but frankly I did not care. A man came up to our table and asked how we were, if we needed anything etc. He was very charming and helpful. He addressed us as 'ladies' and I truly could not fault his behaviour: he did not misgender, he was polite and seemed genuinely concerned for our well being. A real gentleman. I later ascertained that he was the drummer in the band that was performing that  night. He also serves on the board of Dignity Dreams.
After some more chatting we decided we should go inside to the main venue as we did not want Jenny to not be able to find us. We found a table as far away from the speakers as possible and we had a few drinks. Jenny arrived and we had some time to catch up on events since we had last seen her. We then ordered some food. Jenny and my wife had the chicken nuggets, I had the chicken schnitzel. It was very good and plentiful (I could not finish mine).
Then the entertainment started. The band is called 60 Shades of Grey and they were rather good. They specialise in doing cover versions of music from the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s but they did throw in a few of their own songs as well (I think). The women we met on arrival turned out to be the party animals of the evening. They were on the dance floor very quickly and it wasn't long before I joined them. The venue was good but it was very hot and dancing made me 'glow'. We took regular breaks to replenish liquids and we also strolled outside for a bit as well to cool down. Jenny was quite the hit on the dance floor and we seemed to help keep the party going.
After the raffle and lucky dip prizes were dished out (yours truly won a compact disc, yes we still have those down here), we decided to leave as the music was tending towards slow songs and we simply feel unsure about public displays of affection when out we are out and I am dressed. It is actually quite ironic, in gay clubs we feel awkward because well, at our core we are a heterosexual couple and showing affection in a gay club may not go down well with some people who may feel that we are invading their 'safe' place. At 'straight' or vanilla events we are similarly anxious as the sight of two women slow dancing could be badly received and this may not be alleviated by knowing that one of them is a transgender woman. Please note, I am not saying that we would have been unwelcome dancing together, but this is just not something we want to test. We tend to prefer to err on the side of caution and generally believe that it is better to be more rather than less discrete. It is interesting that a lot of people who are not 'straight' feel this way. My good Twitter friend Darren Marples recently polled his followers. He asked 'as a member of the #lgbt family do you feel comfortable holding hands in public?' More than half (52%) of the respondents replied that they in fact do not feel comfortable holding hands in public. It is really quite sad that so many people feel unable to publicly express their affection (in even this very innocuous way) for their loved ones. We are fortunate in that most of the time holding hands, hugging etc in public is no problem for us, but this incident really opened our eyes to this issue. This link provides some interesting insight into this issue if you are interested in reading more. It would be nice if it were possible to just be yourself and people accepted you for who you were regardless of time and place, but we all know that no such Utopia truly exists.
Anyway we had a lovely time and really enjoyed the party. True, we did not win the handbag in the raffle (a travesty of justice if ever there was one), but we had a lovely time meeting new people, catching up with our friend and dancing to some lovely tunes. Please consider supporting Dignity Dreams, they do amazing work keeping girls in school and making a real difference in the fight against inequality in one of the world's most unequal societies. Also, if you need a band for a function consider 60 Shades of Grey. They are good musicians, entertaining, engaging and funny.
*All Gauteng based transgender people reading this, mark the date for next year. This was a very fun evening out and I firmly believe we need to get out and about in safe environments where we can destigmatise 'being transgender'. So many people are terribly uneducated about us. They seem to think that we are either all drag queens or the fetishistic crossdresser (not that there is anything wrong with either categorisation), but the truth is more varied and people revert to the stereotype in the absence of information. By getting out, meeting people and actually talking to them we spread the word of who we really are, show the world some truth and make being transgender increasingly 'normal'. Here endeth the lesson.

Monday, 7 March 2016

Monday blues, the black dog and being bummed out for days.

I think the 21st century should be renamed the "Great Depression". Not just because it seems that every country in the world is experiencing an economic melt down of sorts. No, the world is filled with sadness, the kind that sucks you into a black hole. It seems our only rescue is liking that post on Facebook. You know, the one where a baby has been boiled by her parents and covered with 90% burns on her little pink body and YOUR like will give her 1000 prayers. Now type "amen" or you are a heartless cruel bitch.
Life itself is filled with hate and cruelty. Its not new but the age of Digital has made it all the more accessible. A thousand years ago, when slaves were beaten, animals were starved and children were boiled, we all just carried on with our lives. We were oblivious to the anger and rage that fed the masters of abuse and cruelty.
Now every day my Facebook wall is filled with requests to type "amen" and ignore if you are heartless. Pictures of starving children, animals, abuse, horror, buildings being torched and people being murdered flood my eyes. Does it help to let people know just how fucked up your fellow man can be? I will let you be the judge of that. For me....not so much.

The age of Digital has vastly enhanced our lives. Or has it really? Where is the "off" switch?
We work harder than we ever used to. We are available 24/7, hunched over our smartphones. Can we bear to miss anything? 10 years ago I worked my normal hours. I was available for 9 hours, then I went home and did my own thing. I switched off. Fast forward 10 years and I am now expected to be online for my company from 6am to 10pm. I do not get over time and the world might fold in on itself if I do not acknowledge a customer within an hour between 6am and 10pm. My life revolves around work. I dream about angry customers and not helping them manage their expectations.
In-between the masses of visuals where the cruelty of mankind is highlighted, angry customers, constantly working and people speaking badly of others; there is my life. No wonder I need chemicals to try and lift the foot on top of my head trying to drown me in the excrement that is SOCIETY.
Yes, it is a bad day serotonin wise. Is it a bad life? No. Because there is happiness and some kind of hope in it all.
I just hope the switch can get flipped to "off" soon. I hope all the posts on Social Media can be scrolled past without much feelings bubbling to the top. I hope, I hope, I hope.
I guess thats what keeps us going, the hope that things will change and your fellow man is not always a monster in disguise.

Thursday, 3 March 2016

No, I don't want to friend your cock

I have been on Facebook since 25 June 2007.  That is like a really serious commitment or relationship in the cyber world.  I have been on Facebook longer than most people’s relationships last; longer than what most people, including myself, stay at the same job.  Through the last nine years I had my fair share of dramas on and with Facebook. It's like having a really needy lover. I have also learned that there are seriously unstable people on Facebook who desperately need to be fucking medicated and in therapy.  They make me lean toward being a misanthropic person as I don't like to deal with fucked up people in real life nor do I want to in the cyber world. Reflecting back on my, sometimes tumultuous, relationship with Facebook I could not help but wonder, are people really as fucked up in real life as they seem to be on the internet.
During the last nine years I have been banned from Facebook twice.  Yes banned! Twice!  Coincidentally, both times were preceded by some rather disturbing hate mail I received from some fanatical religious freaks who took great umbrage at my mere existence.  These were the same assholes who, in all probability, reported me to the gods at Facebook who in return, instead of investigating the “complaints”, rather opted to disable my account.  Both times it took weeks and a torrent of emails for the Facebook gatekeepers to come to their senses and to reinstate.  It was much like being broken up with. It was horribly emotional. The most recent time they threatened to banish me was because I had too many friends.

You see, Facebook has a 5000 friend limit.  I have reached that limit a couple of times at which point I was instructed by a faceless bot message to clean up my friend list OR ELSE.  Facebook can sometimes be a very mean and domineering lover. Do you know how long it took me to scrutinize my entire friend list?  It did not take days – it took weeks!  The last time I was threatened to clean up my friend list was last year and it took me a whole week to delete just over 2000 people.  My criteria was simple:  If you don’t have a profile picture of yourself, you were unfriended.  If your name is “Gay Love”, “iFuck a Lot” or “BJ King” or anything ridiculous like that you were deleted.  And if you have your private parts as your profile picture you were unfriended.  And this leads me to my next point.  Why do some people think you are primarily on Facebook for sex?

My Facebook profile clearly states “married” under my relationship status.  Surely the people who inbox me on Facebook can’t be illiterate?  I have gotten countless messages over the years ranging from people who were soliciting sex from me, wanting to know if hubby and I were into gang bangs, asking how big my dick is, what fetishes I am into and the best ones were “ASL” (age sex location).  Now if you need to ask me that on Facebook you are either just fucking retarded or super lazy!  I mean honestly, don’t these people read your profile before sending you profanities and wanting to have carnal knowledge of your body?  If I don’t know you chances are good that I also don’t want to play occupy the anus with you especially if we are not even on the same continent. Have these people never heard about fucking Grindr?

And then there are the people on Facebook who firmly believe that their dicks are their best physical attribute.  They are so very proud of their penises that they prominently display it as their profile pictures.  Now if you invite me as a friend and all I can see is your erection that is pointing the wrong way which barely disguises your unkept bush and hairy balls, chances are good that I will not accept your request.  Chances are even better that I will report your profile to Facebook and the message you will get in your inbox from me will read “No, I don’t want to friend your cock!”  I mean seriously, would you walk around in public with your crown jewels hanging out of your pants?  Doing it on Facebook is pretty much the same thing, don’t you think? You should be ashamed of yourself and possibly be arrested or lewd and lascivious conduct. There should really be a law about stuff like this. Just saying.

But Facebook don’t just have overly horny folks on it, they also have the spammers.  You know who I am talking about.  Those people who like to post products on their timelines, obsessively tag you in photos of brands, inbox 50 people at a time with “You can win an iPhone 6S” and those folks who troll groups and pages and post links to websites ranging from pornography to dating sites.  I believe there is a special place in hell for these fucktards right next to telemarketers, homophobes, Hitler and Robert Mugabe.  I don’t know why Facebook doesn’t ban them.  Most of their profiles are fake anyway and this is why I never accept friend request from girls posing in sexy positions that have a lot of friends but never post anything on their timelines except for spam. Spam like dildos and cock rings. The latter making the song "If you like it you shoulda put a ring on it" pretty indecent. Shame on you Beyonce. Shame. On. You.

The other crowd of the people who occasionally annoy me on Facebook are the folks who clearly need to be in therapy and who are always airing all of their dirty laundry in public.  Sure sometimes it is entertaining reading their status updates in my news feed.  Following their mental meltdowns during the course of eight hours or reading how they are trying to get rid of their one night stands the next morning is quite entertaining.  But have these folks no shame?  Are they not aware that their friends are reading these status updates and are judging them?  Some days while reading my news feed on Facebook I feel so much more normal and mentally stable in comparison to some of my internet friends.  Watching their shit go down in real time feels a little voyeuristic, but hey if they post it who am I not to read it. The little melodramas is like watching a soap on television the only difference being that you can comment and engage with the characters. Not that I do that but I have been very tempted to.

Lastly, I have a certain group on Facebook which I have been trying to close down now for well over three years but with little success.  Apparently winning a war in Iraq is easier than closing down a group on Facebook.  I decided to close the group down due to spam, people using it as their personal sex hookup spot, endless “add me” posts and a few other unsavory reasons.  I have closed the wall, banned hundreds of folks and outright threatened people.  Yet, the group continues to grow and currently have well over 22 000 members.  It boggles the mind.  Why would people stay in a group where they can’t do anything?  Moreover, why the hell would anyone want to join the group either?  The group is called “Gaywarfare” but it should be called “Whores, Orgies & Spam” instead.

Yes, Facebook is filled to its cyber brim with some fucked up people.  Perhaps some folks on Facebook think that I am fucked up as well, the lord knows I too have my moments. The internet and Facebook is the one place where you can truly embrace how fucked up you really are. You can confess all your secrets to your lover called Facebook. You can tell him about all your problems and have a meltdown in front of your laptop and Facebook will comfort you. You can be a hot mess and Facebook will love you anyway. And we will all read about it and secretly judge you while liking your posts. Facebook never said he was the monogamous type. You should really have read his terms and conditions. I think all relationships should have them. If I had terms and conditions which you accepted you cannot later be all like "I did not sign up for this" because you did.

*mental note: start writing my terms and conditions*

Till next time.

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

What's the worst part of eating vegetables?

I recently saw something on Facebook that seriously triggered my current roid rage (don't ask). In the comments on one of those 'name and shame' posts where someone who works for Herbalife was parked over 2 disabled bays, there was a war broiling. A war between this other stupid woman in the comments and everyone else who was posting.
This woman, who, FYI is not disabled, was parroting that selfish fuck who is the CEO of the Quadriplegic Association of South Africa:
"It's not a disabled bay, It's a WHEELCHAIR bay. Get your facts straight!"

No, Mr "QASA" Seirlis and Mrs Herbalife, you bigots, it's a disabled bay. Just because it has a picture of a wheelchair on it doesn't mean it's only for wheelchairs.

Then this woman tells one person who pointed out in the comments and actually knows how the system works to "check her facts with the authorities."

Listen here, sweetheart, a) your hero Mr QASA is not an authority on parking bays in South Africa and cannot overrule the current traffic law, which allows anyone who's proved they have a disability, whether they use a chair or not, to use a legally obtained permit to park in your precious "WHEELCHAIR" parkings, and b) how dare you tell me someone doesn't deserve to use a closer, more accessible parking when they are clearly impaired somehow? Who the hell do you think you are, deciding who's more disabled than who?

I know someone who has been dragged through hell and back several times over and has damn well earned the right to a more "convenient" parking. The panel of doctors and people at the relevant authorities (who aren't affiliated with QASA) gave this person explicit permission to use the parking even though they try their damndest to endure the pain and not use a wheelchair. Just because you got sloshed one day and decided to swan dive into a kiddie pool for a few laughs, breaking your neck, Mr QASA, does not make you more disabled than someone who endured years of borderline torture and effectively lost both legs fighting for their life. Being paralysed from the neck down and not being able to feel pain does not give you the right to scoff at someone who lives with chronic pain just because you don't understand it. As for you, Mrs Herbalife, I really hope you wake up one day and realise the only disability you have is that you don't have a leg to stand on. Where the fuck is your WHEELCHAIR? Quit whining when you have no idea what you're on about.

I had a lot of mean things to say, actually, but I decided it's not worth it. We all feel that our own stories are the most important ones and that the only truth that matters is ours, but this is really getting out of hand.

I don't understand why we all have to point fingers at each other and scream "privilege!" when it's really not a contest.

This privilege-checking, tattle-taling, easily-offended society we've become is dragging us into a real World War III. Whether it's disabled people arguing who's more disabled, students arguing who's more educated, races arguing who's opressing who, or childish comments being slung back and forth across Facebook, we're all just going to go down in flames.

Except me. I'll be parking my friend in the disabled bay at the mall and leaving old Ari in the far end of the parking lot to see how long it takes him to admit that the disabled parkings are indeed closer to the entrances as a matter of more than just convenience.

"We're not here to relieve your pain" -  QASA, 2014