• Stephanie Ashton

Comfortably Numb


Scissor Sisters, 2004


It is time for some new words of wisdom from Stephanie and failing that, a lot of silliness and a host of pictures to hopefully keep you interested through to the end of this blog.


This post is a return to writing after an extended and necessary break. The truth is that since Christmas my life has not exactly been filled with the sort of adventures and news that I normally like to share. So, it was necessary to wait three months until I had enough points of interest to cobble together this blog. Life in lockdown is simply not that exciting.


I suspect like many dear readers my feelings towards lockdown Two have been very different to lockdown One. Surely with a vaccine on the way and the prospect of more freedom, I was happier in lockdown Two, right? Wrong. Lockdown Two in Scotland has been in place since mid-December and has in every sense been an exercise in endurance in the dark. With less contact with loved ones, and all the 'cool' parts of lockdown One having long since worn thin it has been tedious. These past months have been a hard mental slog and it would have been perfectly apt had Gandalf appeared on boxing day 2020 and lighting his staff pronounced “and now we must endure the long dark of winter lockdown." Because indeed, these past few months have been about as much fun as a trip through Moria.


As a generally happy soul, I do create moments of happiness in my day-to-day life, and I shall write about some of them in this blog. I am employed and have kept myself fit and healthy during lockdown so really have nothing to complain about; I am comfortable. Yet, there is no escaping the overriding emptiness that many now feel having been isolated at home with none of the escapes in life that we enjoyed so much. For people unable to see loved ones and away from the life we enjoyed, this whole lockdown business has turned into an ordeal that has left many just feeling numb and worn out. Okay many of us are sitting at home, so you could say we are comfortably numb. For my part, as someone who enjoys living a big social life, it has been mentally draining being isolated alone with myself. You know something...that Stephanie is really starting to annoy me!


It amused me recently when I saw that my cat was even showing signs of lockdown weariness. I never imagined that a cat could express a sense of boredom with life but I think Freddie just about pulled it off in this picture. Naughty Pushkin.


All jesting aside, in strange little ways I have noticed differences in my own behaviour. Once the fastest person on four wheels, I recently got into my car and felt uncertain driving 12 miles into the big smoke. My god…has anyone ever driven so far? Will I come to the end of the Tarmac and simply fall off the end? Am I safe to drive that far alone or should I have a co-driver? All these important questions need to be answered before I exceed 20mph.


I cannot believe we moved back here from Denmark...I now have to lie on hot radiators to keep warm!

In the past year I have also experienced some very positive changes in my behaviour which are interesting to share. So, it is a little known secret that shortly before leaving Denmark I managed to damage my car, a fact I did not share with anyone mainly because it was so embarrassing. Why was that? Well, I was pulling out of a space and as I was driving along the road trying to reapply lippy in the main mirror, I side swiped a very sturdy metal stanchion and knocked my wing mirror. It was a very solid post and I am not talking about a little bit of damage; the wing mirror was knocked clean off the car in one go and hurled down the pavement.


On reflection what is so interesting about this event was the softness, almost female reaction, to this incident. 15 years ago, boy-me would have jumped out of the car and kicked the mirror down the road whilst shouting, swearing and making a big scene. But my reaction as a female? As I heard the huge bang and saw my wing mirror disappear, I calmly thought "oh, that's unfortunate." I was genuinely more annoyed that my lipstick application had been interrupted than the damage to my vehicle. Yes, it was the atypical female reaction to things happening that are the property of the male world. I simply cared more about reapplying make-up than I did about a car.


Fresh Starts


In terms of personal development, I have come to regard 2020 as a big flop in terms of pretty much any life metric you can mention. It was definitely time for a fresh start in 2021. My big failure was of course the complete inability to progress very far with my transition activities due to the suspension of many health services and the draconian travel bans imposed in Scotland for pretty much most of the year. At first these constraints did not bother me very much as I had a new job to focus on and the total joy of being able to present as a female full time. This was a wonderful aspect of 2020. So, along with my creative pursuits, this new found freedom helped to keep me feeling quite happy.


But I would hardly claim that 2020 was a very productive year for me overall. Now, I really need to put this comment in context as many of my dear readers may perceive that I am always busy with cosplay, writing, planning photoshoots and shopping whenever I get the opportunity. Well, that is true, in part. Last year I went to my comfortable place of planning and being creative, and so finished four cosplay costumes and a host of props for upcoming shoots. I did go for nice days out shopping so far as I could and tried to maintain some level of normalcy, if such a thing applies to me.



Yet, after a while I just got tired of being creative and just wanted a break. At this point a holiday in sunny Italy or Spain would not have gone amiss but last year this was not a good idea, even during the small window in which it was possible to travel. So, I looked for other outlets.


Now despite being a bit old for getting involved in online gaming (i.e. not being aged 10) I started spending quite a lot of hours on my PS4 because it was a way of at least having some fun with my friends. As a result, when I think back on 2020, I would have to admit that I did not excel myself, not unless playing Fallout 76 for 40 hours a week throughout September can be classed as exceptional.


Yes, there were some seriously exciting and hilariously funny late-night gaming sessions, often in the company of my other half as we conquered the wasteland together. But as with all novelties, the gaming soon got to be tiresome plus, I don’t think my bff ever recovered from the embarrassment of clearing the Asylum whilst having his dress tucked in his knickers. I did think that the ghouls looked somewhat taken aback as we charged half naked through the building! In the bug ridden world of Besthesda games this is a classic... I swear I nearly wet myself laughing.


As we ventured into 2021 it was clear that I needed to get back onto a more productive and positive footing. Despite having the joy of presenting as a female full time, at the turn of the year I was suffering from huge anxiety over my lack of progress with transition. So, I decided to deal with this anxiety by going to a place of acceptance that there would, in all likelihood, be little progress in 2021 either. I set this worst-case expectation simply to take the issue off my mind and avoid disappointment later. Of course, I have lots of appointments arranged for the end of lockdown, but who knows when that will happen plus, many others are also waiting and have equally pressing needs for non-Covid related medical attention. So, with this new acceptance of my environment I merrily got on with work and life in general.


Interestingly, a dear friend got a real lift from revamping their home office space so I decided I would do the same in February. I am slightly embarrassed to report how ridiculously happy I now am with my new office set-up. All the old furniture went to the tip, the room got painted, new curtains were bought and hung, new desk and other furniture installed, whole new PC set-up, and finally new pictures hung on the walls. I have to admit I am really enjoying this ‘new’ space I have created and hence so many pictures in this blog of me in the new office.


The house improvements effort did not end there either. I now felt motivated to continue improving my living space. Every room in my house has now been painted, everything broken has been repaired, many new furnishings installed, and in general I have made my house a very comfortable home. It seems quite an obvious win but improving my home environment really has lifted my spirits and boosted my motivation for “getting things done.”


Having done so many exciting things in the house it was at this point that my cat sprang into action. No…he didn't did he! That’s not right at all, and in fact he became an even lazier mog! Last year I bought Freddie kits three new beds so he could sleep in different locations but now he just moves from one to the other throughout the day. The final insult was when my cat took to sleeping in an Amazon delivery box rather than sit with me at night. What is it about cats and boxes? Are they bonded together at a Quantum level?!


Transgender Views


Another interesting change over the past year has been my views towards transgender liberation. I would admit that until this point I have been something of a passive observer as I never felt these issues were my own. However, as I think more and more daily about being a trans woman I feel increasingly compelled to pick up the trans liberation banner and charge the bigots head on.


Drawn increasingly towards the views of strong transwomen online, I have found myself becoming increasingly interested in transgender activism. I understand perfectly what has happened to me; without proper discussion and good friends to help keep my views in balance, I have gone to the Communist end of transgender identity. Oh yes, if there was a revolution to overthrow the country and force everyone to be equally genderless, there is a high chance I would be first over the barricades in my “no labels” t-shirt.


Joking aside, I do have a good reason for this new wave of enthusiasm for trans liberation. It is the stifling feeling that anti-trans groups have been using lockdown to busy themselves undermining the public and political view of transgender people. But before being accused of being all ‘woke’ I have asked myself many times, is there truthfully a real anti-trans movement or not?

Well, I have concluded that the anti-trans movement is most definitely “a thing.” Close to home in Scotland, the SNP Women’s Alliance consisting of a group of 120 women, wrote to the First Minister to protest that transwomen should never have equal rights to female spaces, regardless of their medical gender classification. Thankfully, this frightening request was repelled by the FM publicly on social media, encouraged largely I suspect by a wave of angry responses from the LGBT and younger elements of the party. This is an FM driven by the potential number of independence votes after all, and she desperately needs the young voters on her side to become Queen Nicola.


In England, the anti-trans messaging is not so direct being more subtle in nature. However, for those of us with an awareness of the types of red flags for anti-trans bigotry, there are lots of concerning trends both in the press and media. On the BBC, every positive trans media article is always being “balanced” with the views of a Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist or making reference to outdated anti-trans material. Yet, when poor JKR is attacked by the nasty left wing trans community, no transgender person is invited to explain why her words have caused so much offence. Hardly fair and unbiased journalism.


Now for joe public the common view is that the “woke” lefty snowflakes are making a lot of noise about respected comedians and writers; the attempts of these minorities to cancel our beloved celebrities on social media is unacceptable. Well, I would respond to this comment by saying that I agree in part; there is no place for cancelling debate and people are entitled to their views, something I strongly believe in; even when they disagree with my own.

Transgender and Proud

Yet, the term ‘infuriated’ does not even get close to my reaction when I discovered that the BBC had awarded JKR the Russell Prize for her writings on “Speaking Out on Sex and Gender Issues.” This is the same writer whose openly anti-LGBT views as expressed in the "Transgender Question" are so transparent they are worse than the plots of one of her awful Strike novels. Books, which I may add, she writes under the name of the founder of gay conversion therapy showing openly that her disdain does not end with the transgender community.


In truth, I really do not care if JKR wants her long-term reputation thrown on the bonfire of intolerance and disrespect because she is undoubtedly on the wrong side of history. The younger generations want a world that is fair, tolerant, and respectful. All the security briefs I see in my day job are indicating that there is a high risk of youth uprisings across Europe post lockdown, so it is reasonable that we should expect a period of continuing social change. As such, JKRs relevance and popularity will inevitably pass as her intolerant and misaligned views become increasingly distasteful. However, why on earth would the supposedly impartial BBC support and promote someone with such intolerant views, citing that “Awarding the Russell prize to JKR was valid” and “the BBC take no views on the content of her writing.”


Really?! So, would the BBC also take no view on text containing racism, bigotry or hate so long as the writer is popular and presents their vile words with a sprinkling of wizards and fairies? I simply could not believe what I was reading. This rapidly led to me signing all the “bin the BBC” petitions online and I have become a passionate advocate that they be forced to become a paid subscription channel, no different to Sky or Netflix. Why? Because under commercial pressure it will force the horrid state mouthpiece to either change it ways or be consigned to history. An institution that still thinks it is acceptable to represent men dressing as woman as comedy figures to be mocked in the likes of Mrs Browns Boy simply has no right to continue. Am I being woke again? Not at all; the continued projection in society of men in dresses as comedy figures to be mocked only serves to make it more difficult for young transgender and non-binary people to find acceptance both with themselves and others in their communities.

Sooo....I really feel quite relieved to have vented my spleen on my new found passion for transgender liberation. Of course, words are all well and good, but it is action that changes the world so I am looking forward to trans pride and other opportunities to get out and express our rights. I never imagined myself as an activist but at the same time, please do not be expecting any V for Vendetta moments…I’m just not the Guy Fawkes type.


Creative Stuff


There have been some other nice little changes in my life that are worth a quick report. I have taken to reading instead of playing PS4, quit drinking possibly for good, got back on my road bike which is great, and have finally completed several cosplay costumes that are ready to photoshoot or wear to events like Comic-Con. I am really hoping that the London Cosplay events will go ahead this year as interestingly, these type of events are really open and welcoming to transgender people turning up in crossplay. Can't wait!


As a brief update on my Fallout cosplay, this labour of love spanning three years in planning is now finally complete. I am the proud owner of four different fallout styles and 5 boxes of fallout “stuff.” I am now ready for the big photoshoot as soon as lockdown lifts which is something I am really looking forward too.



In addition to my own costumes, I also recently received my first ever order to help with making props for someone else. So in January and February I have been busy making all sorts of weird and wonderful weapons for a futuristic cosplay style that I half wish was my own. This renewed interest in cosplay has started to get me interested in 3d printing again and I can see that being an avenue I will explore more in the coming year.


Finally, with the continuing training and improvement in my female voice range, I have bought a new camera with a view to doing vlogging in the future. This is a big change as I have always shied away from video recordings; whilst my movement and actions are feminine, my voice was just not good enough. However, as a result of doing hours and hours of exercises each day I have managed to find my female voice which is exciting. It is no longer difficult to find and I can sustain it over long durations without any difficulty. There is still a long way to go but I am past the thin Mickey Mouse voice which is great. Actually…I cannot believe I just wrote above that I have found my voice, I mean where was it? Down the back of the sofa? Sorry dear readers...a bad writing moment :D


Final Remarks


As for so many people, these past months have been challenging. Yet for myself, I am getting back to a positive place and the girl is ready to burst back into main stream life again. Yes, the experiences of lockdown have been numbing but I am happy to be healthy and am now waiting eagerly for the restrictions to be lifted so I can do all the things I love. So many friends to see, shops to visit, photoshoots to do, pride events to attend…how will I fit it all in? Honestly I am not sure, but I am certain it will be fun finding out!


Take care and stay well everyone,


Steffie

xx


Legs...always popular in a closing shot :D