Monday, 15 July 2013

My Weekend At Sparkle 2013

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.

On Saturday we had breakfast in drab so we could see Nancy off, and then went to get ready to go to the Sparkle in the Park event. I settled on my brown and blue stripey dress and decided that since it was such a nice day I would have my legs out, and this was a decision I did not regret. It felt amazing to feel the breeze flowing around me wearing a dress, its definitely something I could get used too! One mistake I made was to take a leather handbag, those things can heat up quickly in the sun and can make you sweat! After getting ready we made our way down to the park which was actually situated near the end of Canal Street, so we really didnt have far to go to get there. The event was made up of stalls along one end of the park, selling clothes and wigs, and promoting TG social and support groups. And then at the other end was the stage with all sorts of music, drag, and dancing acts on. I will be honest, I thought the majority of the entertainment was pretty poor. Im not a fan of cabaret, as often it is very amateurish and far too camp for my liking. Also, im not a fan of drag queens either, I think they help perpetuate the comedic image that we are often associated with. There was one act on though that was actually really good though, a lone female singer and acoustic guitarist, although I forgot their name unfortunately. It was the most 'normal' act that I saw while I was there and they were definitely talented. One irritation though were the amount of cameras there, a lot of people were taking sly photos as well without the subjects knowledge, myself included. No doubt my face is now plastered across a few corners of the internet although I suppose im not really too bothered by that, im more bothered about if I looked good or not! Plus, I want copies!

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!

Ponderous Thoughts

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 easier!

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!

Social Anxiety

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!

Final Thoughts

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?


  1. Hard House eh ? That brings back memories of some wild nights in the past. They were a lot of fun !

    I have a feeling I might have seen you at one stage but it was a maelstrom of ladies and I wasn't sure!

    I avoided the clubbing, way too old for that but we found a lovely bar on a platform on the canal (Eden?) and had a lovely evening chatting to three or four others we met earlier in the evening. I think I managed to get in at 1am, there weren't many left in there when we went home.

    You have no need to apologise to me, I fully understand and its certainly not in anyway a problem. I think you should forgive yourself Aimee, it was a big step and you did yourself proud just getting on with it. Good on you !

    As for your comments on being not feminine enough and such. There are so many things I could say but the most important would be that we all have to start somewhere. Comparing yourself to others is unavoidable, I know I did but you gradually leave all that behind. Yes there are things you can learn by copying others but for me is not about acting, its just showing the world who you are inside - whatever or whoever that might be. 31 is no age, relax a little if you can and don't leave it too long before you get out again.


    PS If you drop me a note of your email I will share some thoughts not really relevant for here.

    1. Hi Becca! :)

      Yes, I used to enjoy the sounds of Tony De Vit (although slightly before my time), BK & Andy Farley among others back in the day. Ive got loads of records too from about 99 onwards to about 2005, I love dipping into them from time to time and having a good mix. They were good times indeed!

      It was really busy so would have been easy to miss people, plus sometimes people can look so different when you see them in the flesh for the first time.

      I kind of wished I could have avoided the clubbing too, but couldnt find anywhere else worth going to really. The bar sounds really good, its a shame we couldnt find it. We tried to look for alternative nights but couldnt find anything nearby, not helped by the fact we didnt know the lay of the land outside of Canal Street. 1am? Hey, thats good going!

      Thank you, I still feel bad for not meeting. I mean it wasnt the fact that I was dressed up that was compounding my thoughts, it was the social situation I was in. Its not the girls fault I was with at all, and I was glad I went with them, but being with them just made it difficult for me. Ha, they will probably read this now and have a joke about me or something! Ah well!

      I agree, it is not about acting. I want to express the side of me I have to hide when I have the space to do so, and acting the part is a part of that too. Seeing all those people throughout the weekend made me feel a little, I dont know, inadequate? I could compare myself to them and realise that I wasnt quite where I wanted to be, but something is stopping me. I think I have some mental block that gets in the way of doing it, 31 years of being a man are getting in the way of what I want. I dont want to be all hyper-feminine like some of the people I came across, but I at least want to loosen up, soften up, lighten up and let go a little, rather than just be a man in girls clothes.

      And I dont intend to leave it too long till my next night out. It was almost a year since my first and only night out before Sparkle, I definitely need to change that!

      Aimee x

  2. Hi Aimee, I loved your write up and your Blog also. It is great that you share your experiences with others. Kind Regards Paige.