…in which I speak!

Just a minor note, rather than a full-blown blog post this time…

As Colin Firth once stammered, “I have a voice!” I did an interview for a podcast regarding my 2015 talk on Photoshop fakery, and you can hear me spout off at this link.

The interview lasts about 12 minutes. One question was kinda-sorta repeated (but not deleted), so I repeat myself a little. Anyway, this is the voice I use as both Twist and as me, which explains a lot of the funny looks I get….


Gendered agenda addenda

During Edinburgh’s 2016 Science Festival I got to introduce a talk on world cultures which recognise more than two genders, by Professor William Naphy. It’s a topic I’ve briefly alluded to in a previous blog, but this seems like as good a time as any to go a bit more in-depth.

Update 13 April 2016: you can listen to the talk via the Edinburgh Skeptics podcast, starting 4m30s in. (Warning: if you do listen to the first few minutes you can hear me erm-ing, um-ing and ahh-ing through an intro to a poet and to the speaker…)

The talk was really excellent – densely packed with information, yet presented in a very clear and accessible way. I won’t regurgitate the talk verbatim, but the significant take-away messages were these:

  1. There are cultures around the world and throughout history which recognise three, four, or even five genders. From their point of view, they don’t ‘have’ three (or more) genders – there are three (or more) genders.
  2. ‘Genders’ and ‘gender roles’ seem to be inextricably linked – for example, in certain cultures if a woman wants to run a business, she will be seen as a ‘businessman’, and is not allowed to become pregnant (because ‘businessmen’ do not get pregnant). These are entirely separate from matters of sexuality.
  3. Just because a culture recognises more than two genders, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s open, tolerant and socially liberal – sometimes there can be very strict rules about what each gender is allowed to do, and the jobs they can take on.
  4. Following on from the last point, people in these cultures are likely to be disinclined to talk about genders; it would be as impolite as asking complete strangers about their sex lives.
  5. Generally speaking, across the world, there appears to be a bigger deal made about men adopting female gender roles than women adopting male roles.
  6. The influence of gender-binary cultures is adversely affecting the ones which recognise more than two – a culture which might celebrate a third gender could now start describing people in binary terms  – ‘gay’ or ‘trans’, rather than whatever words they have to describe a concept which we don’t have the words (or even concept) to describe in English.
  7. The cultures with more than two genders could be said to have more than two labels or pigeonholes to stick people into. Sure, it’s better than limiting it to two, but it can still be an inflexible system.
  8. I suspect the model we’re moving towards in ‘Westernised’ cultures is one which doesn’t see people as one thing, or another, or yet another, but rather has us occupying different points on ranges: a range of sex; a range of gender identities; a range of sexualities.

2016-ScienceFestivalAfter the talk I spoke to some of the audience in the bar afterwards. As you might expect, it drew a lot of interest from people who are, or have been through, transitioning (m-to-f and f-to-m), or otherwise gender non-conforming in various ways. I don’t really get involved with communities or support groups (because reasons), but I really enjoyed hanging out with other people who’ve had to come to terms with being at odds with what society considers ‘normal’.

If anything, I came away thinking more strongly than ever that each of us has to act as an ambassador for everyone else. We probably need to learn as much as we can about sex, gender and sexuality, even if we don’t think it applies to us, because there’s always the chance that someone somewhere will latch on to us as their ‘token’ expert in these matters.

If we want to live in a more enlightened culture, that means sometimes fielding questions from other people which might be crude, or insensitive, or blithely ignorant and we’ll have to reply openly and honestly. To borrow a phrase from Jim Jeffries‘ stand-up routine about gun control:

…we have to play to the one per cent of society who are such fuckwits they ruin it for the rest of us. We have to move as slow as the slowest person to keep society moving…

Anyway… we all agreed that Professor Naphy’s talk was an eye-opener, and he did an excellent job of presenting other viewpoints we simply aren’t used to. It’s not often you can come out of a talk having to rethink certain bits of how you think the world works, but this was one of those times.


Well, shoot!

Expressing an early desire to do cheesy secret agent poses. Or something.

Expressing an early desire to do cheesy secret agent poses. Or something.

I’m trying something new for the blog.

Instead of sticking so many piccies on Facebook, where only friends could see them, I’m going to add more to the gallery here.

I thought I’d add extra posts to say a little bit about some of the photoshoots I’ve done.

One of the first was in 2010 for Edinburgh Skeptics.

At that point, I was the sole feminine face in the group (things have improved since then!), and got together with the others one evening in May to take pictures of us in the city centre, mucking about around the statues of local enlightenment philosophers David Hume and Adam Smith.

This was still an early-ish outing for me as Twist, and hadn’t quite pinned down my ‘look’ or really gotten to grips with makeup.

If philosopher David Hume knew people would rub the toe of his statue for luck, he'd turn in his grave...

If philosopher David Hume knew people would rub the toe of his statue for luck, he’d turn in his grave…

It also meant walking through crowds of office workers on their way home – but I’d already jumped that hurdle two or three times, so I wasn’t nearly so nervous about it.

However, up to this point, I’d only ever dressed to blend in. I hadn’t really tried to draw attention to myself. (Well… ehm… not that much…)

Standing around striking silly poses in public in broad daylight was  kind of new.

It was also the first time the guys had seen me as Twist. Rather flatteringly, they didn’t recognise me at first. (Nor did their girlfriends, when they turned up; but they did say that I looked the part, which was the main thing.)

Footsore from high heels? Find something to lean on...

Footsore from high heels? Find something to lean on…

I got honked at by a couple of passing cars. I suppose I should’ve been offended or upset by this, but I was actually quite flattered. If I was honk-worthy (that is so a phrase! And it might sound rude, but it isn’t. Not in my head, anyway…), then I must’ve been doing something right.

We ended up filming short, improvised sketches (presumably in the hope they’d go viral; thankfully they never did). One featured the camera panning up yours truly, and me saying ‘Don’t trust your eyes! Be skeptical!” which turned into a catchphrase for us during our run at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. (Every time I see it, a little bit of me dies inside.)

But for me, it was just great to be out in public, mucking around with friends, and finding some sort of purpose for dressing up.

As some of my friends later remarked, I seem to have developed a sixth sense for cameras in a room, and instantly start posing and mugging. This is where it began, I guess…

How short is that skirt?! ...just short enough.

How short is that skirt?! …just short enough.

Photoshop and the art of self delusion

Talking about 'Lies, Damned Lies, and Photoshop'...

Talking about ‘Lies, Damned Lies, and Photoshop’…

Is it okay to Photoshop yourself? Or rather, when is it okay? The photo above shows me giving a talk for this year’s Skeptics on the Fringe. It has been Photoshopped. The lighting in the original had me glowing vivid magenta under the stage lights, so I figured a more human-coloured skin tone might suit me better. Does this make me a dirty, dirty liar?

I won’t repeat the contents of the talk here, apart from a few notes which relate (however faintly) to cross-dressing. (Treat any mention of “Photoshop” as referring to that program, or an almost-as-good-but-free alternative.)

A while back I mentioned one of the old blogs which inspired this is one. If I recall correctly, a few of the posts there took a dim view of cross-dressers who shared pictures of their faces badly Photoshopped onto female models. For a dated, famous non-crossdressing example, Oprah Winfrey was once photoshopped onto another actress’s body for the cover of TV Guide. It might have worked, too, if her head wasn’t sized too big in proportion to the rest of the body, making her look like she’s suffering from’Bloaty Head’ in the old Theme Hospital game.


I can understand the desire to see a picture of oneself on a perfectly-formed body (one which has almost certainly been Photoshopped itself), especially if you feel you can’t physically indulge in the fashions you want to. But if you’re going to share them online, you have to make sure you’ve done a decent job and that you’re honest about it, or you’ll end up being called out on your bullshit (which can be surprisingly easy to do).


It’s incredibly tempting to take one of your photos and tweak it before posting it online. Even if you don’t go to the ridiculous lengths that fashion, beauty and magazines do to thin out, stretch and smooth their subjects to barely-human degrees, you can still bugger it all up with a few misconceived tweaks. In the examples above, the ‘Liquify‘ tool was used to enlarge breasts, or to reshape hips and thighs without squeezing a Thighmaster. The unfortunate Photoshoppers seem to have forgotten that warping the bodies will also involve warping wrists, and the backgrounds, too…


(Ignoring the background of a picture can be the downfall of many an unwary Photoshopper…)

My own take on Photoshopping yourself is: why bother?

Seriously, what is the point? Your friends will see what you really look like when they meet you. You might be able to fake your photos until you look slimmer, plump-breasted, slender-thighed and wrinkle-free, but you can’t Photoshop yourself.  Far better to work with what you’ve got and make the most of it. You could learn to take better pictures, or which poses and expressions look good for you. There are all sorts of ways you can glam up without touching a computer. And that’s before you even think about changing your diet and lifestyle to something healthier…

Is Photoshopping ever okay?


During the talk I conducted a highly unscientific straw poll of the audience. Under what circumstances was Photoshopping acceptable? For example, is it okay to crop out bits of the background you don’t want, to focus on you as the subject? (Everyone agreed it was.) Was it okay to adjust the levels (let’s just say brightness and contrast) to brighten the image? (Everyone agreed it was.) But what if you left your coat and handbag in the scene and removed them? (Most people thought it was okay; a few thought it wasn’t.)

So it seems you should only Photoshop your pictures with a limited set of honest intentions; don’t change the way you look.

I like to give myself another excuse: for my own artistic amusement…

If you're going to Photoshop your selfies, at least make it worthwhile...

If you’re going to Photoshop your selfies, at least make it worthwhile…


Your Crossdressing Horoscope

Back in 2013 I did a talk for Edinburgh Skeptics on how astrology works (spoiler: it doesn’t). So what better way to kick off a new year than by casting your horoscope for the next twelve months? (Actually, there are plenty, but what the hell.) Rather than use the system of twelve signs we’re familiar with (which dates back to about 600BC), I’ll use the zodiac as it actually appears today

Sagittarius (The Archer)



If you decide to go out en femme this year for crying out loud don’t forget your keys. Getting home will seem a bit of an adventure at first until you realise you aren’t really in control of much.

Capricorn (The Goat)

Acting the goat?

Acting the goat?

Just because you meet someone with a beard who says they’re horny, it doesn’t mean it’s because of the way you’re dressed. And if you meet someone with a beard and two horns, it means they’re a goat (the four hairy legs will be a giveaway).

Aquarius (The Water Bearer)

Watered down?

Watered down?

You’ll need something a damn sight stronger than water to get that makeup off your face! Whatever you use, try not to turn up at work looking like a panda.

Pisces (The Fish)

A bit fishy?

A bit fishy?

Depending on when and where you go out this year, you may end up cold and extremely wet. Unless that’s what you’re hoping for, in which case, party on!

Aries (The Ram)

Feeling sheepish?

Feeling sheepish?

Wool could be a good fabric for this year; so don’t underestimate it. Especially if you’ve stolen it from another mammal. Oh, wait…

Taurus (The Bull)

Load of bull?

Load of bull?

Someone may have a beef with the way you dress. They may milk it for all it’s worth. Ignore them; they’re just cattle.

Gemini (The Twins)

Double trouble?

Double trouble?

Why see yourself as others see you, when you can make others see you the way you see yourself? To do this, part your hair on the other side of your head and write with your other hand.

Cancer (The Crab)

Big pile of crab?

Big pile of crab?

Tell yourself that this is the year you come out of your shell. Expand your wardrobe! Be adventurous! And try not to wear too-tight clothes that pinch.

Leo (The Lion)

Lion liars and the lies they tell?

Lion liars and the lies they tell?

If someone thinks you’re being deceitful by cross-dressing, tell them you’re not lyin’, this is part of who you truly are. Don’t take it lyin’ down!

Virgo (The Virgin)

Cherry-picked evidence?

Cherry-picked evidence?

This year you will do something for the very first time. You’ll be nervous, but exhilarated when it’s done. (And get your mind out of the gutter.)

Libra (The Scales)

Unbalanced views?

Unbalanced views?

Don’t shove too much padding into one half of your bra. Achieve balance in all things, as always.

Scorpio (The Scorpion)

Sting in the tale?

Sting in the tale?

There are relatively few Scorpios; there are relatively few cross-dressers. The number of Scorpio cross-dressers is tiny, so console yourself with the fact that you already stand out.

Ophiuchus (The Serpent Bearer)



Watch out! At some point this year, some legless reptile may try to plunge his head between your tits…

Normal blogging service will resume shortly…

In the meantime, if none of those horoscopes sound appealing, you could try this one instead (click to embiggen):