So this is going to be quite a lengthy post about my weekend at Sparkle, I think overall I had a good time but am having difficulty justifying going again. There were definitely pros and cons but im having difficulty deciding which one tips the scales.
The Weekends Events
I spent the whole weekend in the company of my friends ML and CP who live near me, and who I have met once or twice before. Ive actually been out with ML before when we went to BNO in Milton Keynes last year. We journeyed up to Manchester by train and met one of their friends Nancy at Piccadilly Station. Nancy knew Canal Street and was sharing a room with CP for the first night but had to go home Saturday lunch time. She walked with us to the hotel, we checked in, and then we made our way to our rooms. Myself and ML were on the third floor in separate rooms although just across the hall from each other, and CP and Nancy were on the first.
For the first night I thought I would dress a little more casual so I wore my new blue dress with spots on it, leggings and sandals. When I was ready, I met Maya and then we made our way down to CP and Nancys room to meet them. When we were all ready we then made our way towards the hotel lobby which was down a flight of stairs just around the corner from their room.
It was quite a feeling hearing the roar of the hotel lobby getting louder knowing I was dressed as a woman, it was broad daylight and that there were a lot of people down there. We were all lined up walking down the stairs, then carried on out of the building, and I was at the back of the line. I was a tiny bit nervous but for some reason I was feeling really confident and just went for it. We were making our way across the lobby and there was no fuss or anything, but my first time in public in daylight was never going to be so easy. As we got to the door there was a massive gang of teenage girls just hanging around outside the door who saw us, and we were greeted by laughing, giggling, squealing and more. There was no escape, we just had to push through them and keep walking! The thing is though is that it never really bothered me, I actually found the whole situation quite entertaining to be honest! Its just my luck that this would happen!
So we then made our way to the famous Canal Street which conveniently happened to be just around the corner from our hotel. Its basically just one massive long street which has tons of gay bars, clubs, restaurants and hotels and it was very busy with all sorts of people, gay men, lesbian women, straight people just passing through and t-girls in all shapes, sizes, and different degrees of gender expression. It was definitely a sight to behold! We managed to get a seat at a table outside a restaurant and had food out in the sun. It was really nice to be able to do something normal and enjoy being outdoors the way that I was. While chatting and eating I was quite happy just watching the world go by, and taking in the variety of people. Afterwards then we spent the evening checking out a few of the bars and clubs along Canal Street, before finally ending up in Napoleons where Nancy was meeting a friend of hers. The only problem with the bars and clubs on Canal Street is that they all seem to play the same music, which seems to be the campier the better, and always loud! A bit of choice would have been nice, im sure not all people in the LGBT community only like music like that, and having somewhere quieter to go would have been nice too.
Something I was surprised to see there though was quite a lot Furries dotted about the place. Ive got nothing against them at all, ive worked with a few over the years and got to know one of them quite well too, and he was a really nice guy. They are harmless, I was just surprised to see them there. Will we see LGBT becoming LGBTF in the near future? ; )
Later on in the afternoon we then made our way back to the hotel via a restaurant on Canal Street and proceeded to get ready for the evening. After stressing over what to wear I decided on my new Numph grey and black dress and decided I wanted my bare legs out again I reapplied my makeup and then we made our way back to Canal Street for another night of drinking and dancing. I actually quite liked a club called View, it was definitely less camp than most places on Canal Street and had on some dance music I felt I could put up with, but I felt very old in there! For the first time that weekend I had a little go at trying to dance and think I did ok, it turns out that if I tone down how I used to dance when going to Hard House events many years ago the footwork is very similar, I just had to do less with my arms. After a while though we ended up in Napoleons again since its fairly quiet in the downstairs room, and we had a few drinks before heading back to the hotel. We almost had a quick drink in the hotel bar but it looked a little busy and I dont think ML or CP were too keen on the idea.
All over the weekend, the people there were really nice and friendly.
Staff in every bar and restaurant always used female pronouns when
addressing us, and didnt look at us any differently than they would
their other patrons. It was a nice feeling to be accepted this way at face value. On the flip side of this however are the 'admirers'. I was told by CP on Saturday that on our first night in Napoleons I was getting a lot of stares from men who were there, and at one point she deliberately stood in the way of someone who was trying to make a beeline for me. Im not sure what to think of this really but I suppose it is to be expected that at some point I am going to have to deal with men. I just hope that they accept that no means no.
On Sunday we checked out an hour early so we could grab some breakfast on the way, but then we had some major travel issues getting back. We were meant to change twice, with 15 mins at each stop to find the next train, however there were some complications. After our first change, there was a problem with the line in the middle of nowhere and we were stranded for about 20-25 minutes, then when we got to the next stop the train was so late that they just cancelled it, by this point we had missed the connection we were meant to have made. We then had to wait for another train to take us to where we were meant to change to get our final train to our destination. When we got there, we were in an unfamiliar station and when we finally found a board with the train times we found we had 5 minutes to catch the next train going our way! Just to complicate things, the platform number was not signposted anywhere apart from round a corner above a lift with a queue in front of it, which was apparently the only way to get to the platform! By the time we got down to the platform the doors were just closing but someone on the train kindly opened them for us, phew! What a nightmare!
So over the course of the weekend I had a lot of time to ponder about my take on the trans scene, the people in it, and my place in it too as a straight part timer. On the one hand, its difficult for me to see myself as a regular on the scene because of the inextricable link to the gay scene. Just because im dressed as a woman doesnt suddenly make me want to dance round my handbag to high camp disco classics like 'its raining men'! But this seems to be what some (most?) t-girls want to do for entertainment.
I suppose in some ways though I think there is still some inner turmoil around what I am trying to get out of this too. Some of the t-girls I saw over the course of the weekend were stunning, and I dont just mean in looks, but in movement and speech too. Then there were the natal females too who were out on their girls nights out drinking and dancing, and next to them was me, who certainly looked the part but wasnt in the same frame of mind as them. I couldnt help but compare myself to the girls around me, I want to be like them in body and mind but it is a futile struggle to try and achieve that, I just cant seem to make myself 'femme' enough to get anywhere
near that level, and I dont think this is just a physical thing, but a
mental thing too. The thing is, a lot of the other t-girls seemed to be having no problems with this. They looked the part, acted the part, and were really getting into being their feminine selves but I just dont think I am feminine enough. My male mind seems to only want to go so far and it rebels at the
thought of acting and thinking femininely. I suspect this might have
been because of the company I was with, some kind of silly male pride in
front of people I know. If I was alone I may have found it a lot
So what is the point of dressing up if in the back of my mind I dont want to be feminine? The thing is, im not sure this is entirely the case. Some of these people have years and years of experience, maybe I just need to keep doing it and practice? After all, ive got 31 years of being a man to try and and unravel a little. Practicing isnt going to change my taste in music (thankfully) but I might be able to at least get myself in a more feminine state of mind, and loosen up a little. Something to try on my next outing perhaps? It just feels a little fake to camp up my act a bit, although im sure this would get easier with time.
One positive realisation I had afterwards was how normal it felt to be out like this. Being out in public dressed up didnt bother me at all. Even though the majority of the time it was in the safe haven of the gay village, we still had to walk down a few busy roads to get there and I wasnt fazed at all!
I knew this weekend was going to test my social anxiety, and I wasnt wrong. Being dressed up in the middle of the day on a busy Manchester high street, no problem. Talking to people? A bigger challenge apparently! Over the weekend I met Nancy who was someone new, and also bumped into AP who I have chatted to on Angels and Flickr in the past, and also Davina who I chat to occasionally on tvChix.
In all 3 cases I found conversing really difficult. If we were chatting one on one I dont think I would have had much of a problem but being in a group made me hyper aware of what I was saying because of the audience. Because my brain was over-analysing everything I found myself mixing words up or saying the wrong thing, which then just made me feel stupid even if I knew it was just a minor thing and this caused me to just over-analyse even more. More often than not I just avoided conversation all together. This was easier with Nancy since she knew ML and CP already so I could leave the conversation to them. However, with AP it would have been rude not to try and make conversation with her but with the audience I found it quite difficult to engage brain. Davina I was meant to be meeting over the weekend anyway but I randomly bumped into her twice on Saturday. She was someone that only I knew out of our group, which was even worse because all I could think of was ML and CP standing there listening to what I was saying. I just felt on the spot and was over conscious of every single word that fell out of my mouth. After a quick chat I made excuses and we went on our way, I probably came across as a little rude (and if you ever read this im sorry!) but I was really struggling!
I do want to take this opportunity to apologise to Becca, who takes the time to comment on here and give me advice when im struggling, and who was at Sparkle as well and would have liked to meet up. I could have made more of an effort to meet with you and I really would have liked to as well, but I just wasnt comfortable with the social circumstances I was in over the weekend. I just felt awkward and I didnt want to leave you with any kind of negative impression of me like I probably had with others I had met over the course of the weekend.
Ah, being mental is fun!
Well, Sparkle is an amazing event to go to if you ever want to finally leave the safety of your own home dressed as your female self. Its safe, accommodating and friendly. You dont need to worry if you look good or bad, since there are many people there with varying degrees of style and convincing-ness, and you will be accepted as the person you are presenting as. As long as your are comfortable that is all that matters.
Since I dont really feel a part of 'the scene' and dont have many people I would use it as an excuse to meet up with, im not sure I would make the effort to go again. But it has definitely filled me with the confidence to go elsewhere. The only questions now is, where?