So, it’s been a few weeks since I was sparkling up in Manchester, the dust has settled and, apart from a ‘buy a new dress to cheer myself up’ moment, life has returned pretty much to normal. Time for one of my occasional posts, partly to say what a fab time I had and share a piccie or two but also to reflect very briefly on what it all meant to me.
For those who don’t know, ‘Sparkle‘ is an annual celebration of all things transgender held in Manchester with activity centred on the Gay Village area of town. As well as the social side, (which is very significant), there’s also entertainment, stalls, events and some serious stuff as well. Click on ‘Sparkle’ at the top of this paragraph to learn more.
I arrived a wee bit later than intended but dashed straight into the shower and started the girling up process. My good friend Andie was in the same hotel a few doors down and the first job was to meet up, face to face, for the first time – we’ve known each other in a virtual sense for a couple of years now. No problems, no awkward silences – it was like we’d both known each other for ages so straight into the heels and off to Canal Street. What can I say about this place – it’s loud, brash, full of bars and on this particular Friday night, stuffed with girls like us. It felt utterly safe and normal with no strange looks, (one or two admiring ones for both of us – blush!), and a great place to be. I’m not a ‘night out’ sort of person but it was great to break free a bit. Bumped into quite a few Facebook friends who all turned out just as lovely in real life as they are on the screen and also had the pleasure of catching some live music as well.
On Saturday, Andie and I hit the shops – we thought we’d be out of our comfort zone but were amazed how little attention we attracted. A trip to Primark and other clothing emporia followed by the make-up counter in Boots where I picked out matching nail varnish and lippy for later. The afternoon saw the festivities kick off properly in a slightly soggy Sackville Gardens, (don’t forget, this is Manchester), and a browse around stalls where I picked up some very nice jewellery. In the evening, we both had tickets for the Sparkle Ball – a lovely evening and a chance to wear a long dress which felt fabulous. Another time, I’d probably give this a miss and just head for the town instead.
On Sunday, for domestic reasons, I’d arranged to leave after lunch so there wasn’t a lot of time – a little bit of shopping, a light lunch and an emotional goodbye or two. It really cut me up walking away from it all, then real life takes over and it’s back to the all too familiar business of changing back into male attire.
So, what did it all mean to me personally? Apart from a good time in a social sense, the comfort, confidence and normality I felt going around dressed convinced me, (not that I really needed it), that my femininity is a very real part of me and not just a phase or a bit of fun. The acceptance and warmth shown to all of us up there astounded me and I actually had a couple of very polite and interesting conversations with other visitors to the city, (‘New Order’ were playing there that weekend), which I felt totally comfortable with.
I think, and I could be wrong, this weekend was a milestone for me. I’m not a freak, I’m Siobhan and I’m here to stay.
PS – the new dress is fab, (at least I think it is!)