Quickest Ever “Plausible” Result

Not even ten minutes.  I told you this research thing was getting stupidly simple.

Google Docs brought up this analysis of poaching in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Some quotes:

Archer, Hopkins and Thompson have followed some contemporary observers in
rejecting the view that urban poaching was a response to poverty, and maintained that
it was driven by a thriving commercial market for game which was at its height during
times of prosperity rather than depression. (p. 204)

We were certainly not desperate.  Based on the neighborhoods the Harris family lived in, we weren’t terribly rich but we were far from broke; we were solidly lower middle-class, father was a skilled laborer and had the means to move himself and his family from Somerset to Hereford.  I think buying the occasional pheasant on the sly to make us feel richer than we really were would be a luxury we could have afforded.

Pheasants are mentioned too:

…the expansion of artificial rearing of pheasants and partridges meant that it was increasingly difficult for both offenders and the wider community to claim that these birds were wild and consequently ‘fair game’. (P. 207)

I think we can label this one “plausible.”  The young man in tweed may have dressed like a titled lord, but it was probably us upwardly-mobile working families who made him rich.

Brief Memory

In one of the towns I lived in back in England (I don’t remember which so I can’t tell you how long ago this was), There was a fellow in a tweed cap and a green jacket and breeches, sort of youngish (in his 20s I assume), and with a pipe forever on his lip and a gun forever on his shoulder.

We used to buy pheasants from him; somehow, I think he may have been a poacher, but I’m not certain.  And yet as I remember, it was quite ordinary to buy from him at least once in a while.

There wasn’t much meat on a pheasant, and if not for the luxury of eating pheasant I doubt we’d have bothered; a goose was a far better value.

Now this would be interesting to look into.  Was poaching ordinary, or were there channels through which you could legitimately pay a hunter to shoot pheasants perhaps?

By the way I remember him being dressed, my guess is that this was later on, perhaps on into the Edwardian era, but could have been Victorian.

Myths about Transgender Women

Some of you may remember I came out transgender a while ago, and while I’ve shied away from the label elsewhere (instead just calling myself a woman because that’s the role I fit best), I thought I’d talk about some very hurtful and untrue myths I have encountered.

1. Transgender women are selfish people who are never satisfied- It’s easy to write someone off as a grumbling malcontent, isn’t it?  Makes it a lot easier to understand extreme behavior.  And yes, even I will admit that SRS is an extreme measure for what is essentially a condition of the mind.  But unless you’ve experienced what it’s actually like, you can’t fathom the kind of inner torment that goes into a decision like that.  I certainly didn’t want to be transgender, in fact I spent two years of my life trying to weasel out of it.  

2. Transgender women are gay men with internalized homophobia- I have heard this accusation leveled from both people with Freudian outlooks on psychology, and from radical feminists.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  In fact, internalized homophobia is a disqualifying factor from any doctor who follows the standards of care.  In my case, I had plenty of friends, the acceptance of my family, and a lot of respect as a gay man.  I didn’t want to give it up.  

3. Gender dysphoria is just a sign of underlying mental illness; it’s not a real condition- Now, first I must say that I did have some psych issues- mostly anxiety, depression, and anger- for most of my life.  But only when I started an androgen blocker did I really see how much of my problems came from my female-structured brain reacting badly to testosterone.  I spent 21 years of my life- from Kindergarten to this past January- constantly on the verge of rage or tears.  I could rarely think, I was anxious, my mind raced, and I became defensive and paranoid.  At this point, 23 days after starting spironolactone, my body is starting to resemble that of a eunuch, but my mind and soul have been at peace.  This is a common story!  I’d heard it from other girls but only when I experienced it myself did I really believe it.  If a change in brain chemistry that alleviates psych symptoms results from simply removing androgens, that’s proof that this is a biological incompatibility with one’s natal sex, isn’t it?  It should be considered a physical condition.

4. Transwomen are promiscuous sex addicts who like to fool straight men- The origin of this myth is the sad fact that for many transwomen, prostitution has been the full extent of the careers they could actually hope to keep.  It’s certainly not as bad now as it was a decade ago, but it’s still pretty bad and a lot of transwomen are sucked into the sex trade and forced to compete with natal women.  It’s a harsh truth that seems to get glossed over in the media, or turned into the punch line of crude frat boy jokes.  The fact is, most transwomen who have the freedom from having to work the sex trade don’t want to sleep around, for their safety and for the fact that HRT really does lower the libido.  Straight guys, you really have no reason to worry…  Unless you’re soliciting prostitutes. But really, you shouldn’t be doing that anyway, should you?

5. Transwomen are easy to spot because they always dress like old women and wear too much makeup- I think the origin of this myth isn’t so much that a lot of transwomen dress like old ladies; I think it’s the fact that a good many are old ladies.  Many transwomen delay their transition for many years due to social pressures, and a good swath of the community waits until they’ve retired or become widowed or the kids are all grown up before they start their transition. Sadly, for those who wait that long, the results of hormone therapy and surgery are minimally effective, and they often have the hardest time passing.  But the social pressure to put off major lifestyle changes until retirement or near-retirement is tremendous, and a trap many women fall into.  An increasing number of us are transitioning before 30 because transitioning early gives you the best chance of becoming fully integrated as your identified gender; those who start early enough could be standing right next to you and you would never know.

6. Doctors and counselors don’t screen very well and are giving hormones and surgery to those who shouldn’t have them- Truth is, most doctors and counselors are so strict about how they follow the guidelines that very few of us can even get approved for these things if we go through the proper procedures.  There will always be those who know how to lie their way through to surgery and then end up regretting it, but they don’t represent the whole group by a long shot.  Most of those who transition and then end up regretting it are those who self-medicate and who go around the complicated approval processes and the cost by going to a cheap doctor overseas (note that not all overseas doctors are bad; Dr. Suporn in Thailand gets good reviews).  But the rest of us?  It’s waiting, and answering questions, and dealing with doctors who aren’t sure if you’re dysphoric or psychotic.  It’s hell, and that’s why so many women go around it, but I decided to do it the right way.

Maybe if I can think of some others I’ll bring them up.  Just wanted to get this off my chest because I feel like a lot of the obstacles to transitioning are just the stupid myths surrounding the process.

War Movies

The singular thing about war movies is that no matter how accurate they try to be, they always forget something… or that they necessarily have to sanitize what happened because the truth would be unwatchable.

Sometimes it’s small details that get left out.  You see soldiers with uniforms that are too clean, or hear an explosion that sounds too much like an old recording and doesn’t have the same nuance or depth of character.

Sometimes it’s big things.  Soldiers get shot and fall in comically exaggerated convulsions, screaming and staggering and making a big spectacle.  Or a scene set in 1915 will have steel helmets (If only we’d had those!), or the jargon will seem a little off, like they just poured over resources on trench slang and smattered it liberally with no regard to how we actually talked.

But the biggest difference between war movies and the actual experience is in the obvious: there’s always a level of detachment and unreality there.  The nature of the medium won’t allow you to experience the horror fully.  But also, if some director were somehow capable of using every psychological trick to pull you in as effectively as possible, the film would be so intense that grown men would leave the cinema in tears and shaking.

Even the actual battle footage can’t fully convey the horrors.  You certainly can’t hear the din of constant shell fire, or the frantic yells of sergeants barking out orders (their voices were the loudest; the dying were astonishingly quiet as I recall), and you can’t really see the rotten pools of red kicked up by so many explosions.  Many of the films of the day, such as the footage from the Battle of the Somme, were actually re-enactments performed by soldiers under controlled circumstances; that’s why they look so calm and confident.  You know the real footage by the looks on the men’s faces, from wide-eyed fear to forced gallows grins, but you can’t hear them complaining about the food or singing the songs that kept them going.

I have maybe a minute or two of actual memories from the trenches of the Western Front, but those two minutes or so loom large over my life because they carry a lifetime of intensity.  They were seared white-hot into my being and are still with me.

I have yet to find a movie that really shows the war as intense as I remember it, and I don’t think I want to.

Can’t Hide Forever

Sooner or later, I think I’m going to have to talk openly- without the benefit of relative anonymity- about my experiences.

Maybe it will be just a stage of catharsis.  I find that talking about these things and discussing them privately with friends really leaves me feeling very good.

Maybe it will be desperation for something to write about.  I may be under the gun to write something and have to rely on my experiences on the Western Front for inspiration, and I’ll reveal something that gives people the hint that I’m the one who’s been posting in this blog.

Or maybe it will be an exercise in overcoming my fears of ridicule and letting go of my tendency to take questions about my sanity personally.  This whole exercise has been about letting go and learning not to worry so much about things that I have no control over.  I know, rationally, that anyone who thinks I’m unhinged will probably think so whether I tell them I’ve experienced reincarnation or not.

Or maybe someone I’ve told will expose the whole thing, or someone will figure out that it’s me posting this and will actually tell people about it.

Sooner or later, it’ll come out.  I may be caught having to apologize for going back on my earlier statements about not revealing my identity or not using my experiences for a story, but I don’t think I can keep this a secret forever.


The sound of a baby crying on the train home from class today reminded me of an unsettling event.

I don’t remember where we were on the front, very probably at Ypres.  I heard a baby crying and went to investigate.  I found that one of the other soldiers had found a baby abandoned and had taken it with him.  “This is no place for a baby,” I told him, but I knew as well as he did that there was no safe place to take the child, only a dugout that provided some measure of safety.

It seems like the baby’s cries actually led to a fire fight, or at least seemed to.  I remember heavy small arms fire coming shortly after.

I don’t know if that baby survived, but I don’t have much hope.  Even in the dugouts, the likelihood of a child that young surviving more than a day or two is nearly nothing; bullets and shells were only the start of what could happen.  Rats, disease, starvation…  I can’t imagine a baby would last very long at all.  Just knowing that a baby was there in the trenches carries a certain sense of horror with it, and if it was at Ypres, there almost certainly wouldn’t have been enough gas masks to spare one for a child who couldn’t fight.

I feel a bit shaken by this, actually.  I find as I deal with the easier things, these difficult memories start coming to the surface and they’re often really heartbreaking.