Autobiography

Allison by Allison James

For anyone curious, I recently came out as transgender. This wasn't a decision made with haste - it was one made through a lifetime of wonder and years of knowing. This will be a blog post to detail everything I remember as I see, plan, and experienced. (Skip to "Realisation" for just the actual meat of this, everything prior is piecemeal older memories.)

First Experiences

I had a number of early life experiences that made me suspect early on.Perhaps my earliest was of running around the playground in primary school at maybe 5 or 6. I tasked one of my friends at the time with making me follow her around, scalding me wearily with "Come on, Alice." every time I stopped. I remember little else other than that, I just know it was profoundly stupid.When the Pokémon craze first hit its stride in 1999 or 2000 or so, I was swept away by it. I bought the cards. I watched the animé. I screamed with delight when my parents bought me a copy of Pokémon Yellow, and I played it to death. But I remember having an admiration for Sabrina. Any time I fantasised about living in a Pokémon world or pretending it with friends, I wanted to be Sabrina. She was really mysterious and interesting as a character - far more to me than anyone else in the show.Speaking of wanting to be animé characters, Pokémon brought with it a number of other, similar animé TV shows. One of those I watched Cardcaptors/Cardcaptor Sakura, and yep, she was another one I always wanted to be.

Enter Videogames

When games started to be more inclusive of women and specifically when character creation or just choice allowed you to pick your gender, I always swayed female.Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 and 3 are my earliest memories of this. I would always pick Elissa Steamer as my character - I had a male friend that was also explorative of playing as females at the time and would use the games' character creator to create her a sister. I can still visualise how Stephanie Steamer looked - I had THPS3 for PS2 and didn't own a memory card for a while, so he would have to recreate her every time we played the game together. We didn't play the actual career mode, we literally just role played in Free Ride.In Pokémon Ruby/Sapphire, I picked May. My excuse to others was simply that I was born in May so she seemed fitting, which was convenient, but she felt like the correct choice. Brendan looked stupid anyway.I've blogged about a decade ago about my experience with PlayStation Home, a PS3-native free online game where you could socialise with people. I was a girl in that, as is tradition. But there's a small twist to that one - I was asked for my name once, and with my username on that account being NAL-USA (my main friend at the time had a US account, so I played on one myself), I used the AL of NAL to conjure the name "Allie". As far as I can remember, that is my first use of Allie or Allison as a name.Home was one of numerous games with in-depth clothing options though, and I've always been terrible for sinking hours and hours into virtual fashion. I grinded in newer Pokémon games with dressing mechanics (X, Y, Gen 7) to get the most expensive stuff I liked, then ground again when I needed new colours. I experienced actual anger when a game like Elder Scrolls or Fallout forced me to choose between dressing how I wanted and being armoured enough to actually be alright in the game.The strongest gaming memories were immersive ones - games where I could feel like I was in them, as a girl. Fallout 4 has been the strongest to date. When I started playing it, I made myself - that's the Allison version of myself - with the intentions of playing the game in a very specific way. And... I couldn't. I was so into the game, I became her. Every single choice I made was literally just exactly what I would have done in her shoes. I couldn't finish the game any other way until I made a guy with a man bun called Boobies.But plenty of others captured that too. Animal Crossing was great for it. Far Cry 5 was as well. VR has been incredible for it.

Daydreaming

For quite some time (a decade or more), I generated a female persona I daydreamt about, mostly between closing my eyes and actually sleeping, to let out more feminine steam. This is an exceptionally deep rabbit hole so I'll skip the details now and perhaps go into it in the future via the medium of blog or game or something, but long story short, it's how I suppressed my feelings.The persona drifted wildly and started separating into two - the unrealistic persona there is no chance I could ever be, and then a more realistic one that I could. The former's name is Lara; the latter, unsurprisingly, was called Allison. Anything ridiculous like film-making, athletics etc went to Lara, but game ideas went to Allison - because they are realistic, and she is me. Many of those ideas still exist in my mind, perhaps to be created one day or at least to be written down and turned into something.

Realisation

Perhaps four years ago, I worked out that an actual transition was the route I was going to have to take. Fantastical feelings became almost a sense of claustrophobia, uses of my old name incorrect.I started off slow. I stopped getting haircuts and started growing my hair long. I removed as many uses of my old name as possible, changing simply to NAL. Any account I could make gender neutral easily, I did. But it wasn't enough.Through the late end of 2015 and most of 2016, when work with Chequered Ink was picking up, I started researching properly. I worked out what to expect in terms of time from initial contact with a psychiatrist to getting hormones and to getting surgery far beyond that. I worked out what would be covered by NHS and what I'd have to pay for. I also worked out how much I'd expect to pay if I went private, and what advantages might make it worth it. I also joined a couple of support forums.I nearly actually came out two years ago this month, but felt eventually like I needed more time to be absolutely, 100% sure it was the right move. Minuscule shades of doubt still glossed over me now and then - I didn't want to execute the start of a full transition until I knew that everything it entailed was something I could handle, from the physical changes, to the mental ones, and also to the kinks of the transition itself.In the meantime, I created Soundproof Cell. It was a free, narrative game that, although largely fictional, did cover a lot of how I was feeling. Focusing on a transgender woman called (by birth) Emilio, who wanted to be Emily, it covered my feeling of claustrophobia, my anger at my genetics, my desire to release my feminine side and wear it proud. I called her that because she was often referred to as "Em", which is "Me" backwards, and ended the story with "This is my key". It wasn't my key (to escape from my own "cell"), it was a little too fictional and disconnected. But it did help me.Throughout most of 2017, I felt like I had stabilised. I was more and more certain it was the way to go, although still not quite ready to come out. I was wearing gender neutral clothing since 2016, my hair was becoming very long, uses of my name were rare so I didn't get much in the way of dysphoria. I felt feminine. There were certainly pangs of emotions though. I think a key one was when I had given my hair a particularly thorough wash, and later that day my mum, for a laugh, plaited it, joking "I always wanted a daughter!" I feigned embarrassment, but I got insane butterflies from that moment - a glimpse of the future.2018 has been a crazy year. Me and Dan (the guy I live with, who I've been friends with five years since we met at YoYo Games, and who I formed our company with), at about the start of October 2017, were looking at our Chequered Ink earnings and realising that, if we were sustaining the income we were getting, we could finally afford to rent our own house. We made a simple pact - if the last three months of the year were stable and didn't drop off, we would start the year by househunting. And that is what we did.It took us three months of frequent searches for affordable, pleasing Newport houses on Rightmove and Zoopla, and a good few unsuccessful viewings from Dan (who lives far closer to there than I did), for us to finally secure one, which we moved into in mid-April. In those three months, my mind was largely focused on the move, but I did still think about my gender - especially with the fact that Dan was already fairly aware of it. Living in a house with just him would (and did) mean that I could get more and more comfortable with it.However, the more time went on in the new house, the more the feelings bubbled. And to me, the more I felt ready. My immediate company was okay with it, and I knew most if not all of my friends would be fine with it, but I had a proper first step into the true beginning of the transition that I knew I needed to take, which's outcome I had no actual idea what the result would be of.In this time, I named a lot of Chequered Ink's fonts after small subtle and not-so-subtle hints at transgenderism and my emotions:

(And a few since have been references to stuff too:)

Coming Out

Dan has been immensely supportive the entire time, and I figured he would always be accepting of me. He wasn't the one that worried me.My parents were. Not because I figured they would be against it, purely because I didn't know. Being transgender is such a foreign concept in the eyes of most still, and to them, it certainly is - nobody close to our family had gone through it, Mum only had characters in soap operas and Dad didn't even have that. But I spent years trying and failing to work out an approach to them, to no avail.September 22nd, 2018. I had no plans to come out. But I was on my second alcoholic drink of the night. Dan had gone out for a walk, and I was sitting at the dining table, my phone resting infront of me beside a copy of the i newspaper open on the weekend crossword. And I wondered. What if I just did it? Today. Right now. No script planned, no answers beyond what I'd worked out through years of research. Just good old Dutch courage. I pushed each of the eleven numbers of their landline phone in, but couldn't hit call. I just stared at it, penned in, one touch away from communication.I stared at it for a full other drink, and I poured my fourth. With a shaking hand, one finger outstretched, I switched my brain, which was generating a forcefield around the call button, off. And I pushed it.I heard the dialtone lightly as my shaking hand picked up the phone, nervously pushing it to one ear as my other hand found solace through running through my hair. Eventually, mum picked up. I was a wreck. She picked up on it fast - I could hear her getting worried. Maybe I was in jail, maybe I was in hospital, maybe something had happened to Dan - I could tell I was worrying her. It helped me say the words."Mum, I- I think I'm transgender."I had to say it twice, she couldn't hear it the first time. My voice was too stuttery and sporadic. After the second, though, she gave me an instant reply."That's fine!"I was crying. Really, really badly. But at the same time, I felt an absolutely insane feeling of relief. Over the next 25 minutes or so, me and mum talked. Not just about my gender, but my plans as well. I calmed down. I felt happy.At the end of it, she told me she'd break the news to dad as well. 15 minutes passed. Dan returned shortly before the call ended, quipped right after "Well, that sounded like it went well!" (presumably sussing what it was about, despite me not even knowing I was doing it when he left), and then went upstairs to shower and change.Then my phone rang again, it was Dad. He expressed surprise, but gave me my full support. It was a shorter phone call, but a positive one.Once that phone call ended too, I felt a catharsis stronger than any I have ever felt before. I ran around the house, happily screaming, walking with a swagger in my step, feeling like I could take on the fucking world. Allie was free. Allie became me.Over the rest of the evening and the day after, I spread the word elsewhere. First to my closest friends, then to the internet world. All I ever got was support - and the occasional "you were shit at hiding it", which made me smile. Everything made me smile.

Present & future

So now I'm here. I've spent the last couple of weeks removing my old name from everything left - I had gone exclusively by NAL for years. Now I get to go by Allison or Allie JJ - that is my name, along with my new second initials - my parents' first names, in dedication of their support of me. Not just through this; through everything.Updating 219 fonts on DaFont is a pain in the arse, but every single little change to take my dead name out felt like a fresh, tiny release of a lifetime of hiding. It was an absolute joy to do.Next steps? I'm awaiting a second witness so I can get a deed poll to officially execute my name change. I've already changed my name on most things, but when I can tell the world, with official backing, that I am Allison Janice James, I'm going to be a happy bunny. I'm also initialising contact with official specialists so I can get the actual body transition kicked off. Depending on how much spare money I accumulate, I will also likely get laser hair removal done at some point.Already wearing the clothes and the nail varnish and living female full time, though. (Fuck, why are armwarmers and leggings so comfortable?!)

To finalise...

To anyone reading this, I do not mind what your opinion of me was or is, and whether this has changed anything at all. I don't believe it should if you only know me through fonts or games - my gender bears no relevance on them. I am happy with people referring to me as NAL - NAL is a pseudonym I have used for over a decade and will likely continue to forever, and does not need to be associated with a gender. (References to me as Allie or Allison, and uses of she and her, do make me smile like a child though.)To those of you that have shown me support though - it means the fucking world to me. I'm not always articulate enough to express it, but I love you all. Every use of my soon-to-be-official name and gender fills me with glee. Every kind message gets put in a little mental vault I keep to crack open any time I need a fresh smile.I will also readily answer any questions you may have. I am not easily offended and plan to be an open book on this - if you want to know something, I will probably just tell you!I don't, however, want any special treatment or any further articles done about this, really. In my eyes, I would be a terrible role model for anyone else going through similar feelings - I'm sure there are better ways about this. (Soundproof Cell actually covered this feeling accurately.)I'm just NAL.And Allie.[There is now a Part 2 to this post with up to date information and happenings!]

An Autobiography, In One Blog by Allison James

Okay, so this is my unexciting life as it stands. Eighteen years, compressed into what I'm sure will be a depressingly short, unexciting bit of text. I won't edit this being said, so if it turns out to be super-long then I guess that's stopped that.I was born on May 15th 1991, at about 10am, in Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge. According to my parents, during my birth a radio was playing Nessun Dorma, as performed by the late Pavarotti, and the doctor was singing along to it. I guess now would be a good time to make note that everything I say in this entry will be 100% true, with no fabrication.My earliest memory is a tiny snippet when I was around one, in my father's arms, who thanks to his lack of parenting ability was taking me to a toilet. My mum began shouting at him due to my wearing of a nappy.I was able to write my full name unhelped before I hit two years of age. Furthermore I could interpret basic signs and was considered by many at the time to be a genius in the making.In those days, a very popular gameshow in the UK was "Bullseye". As a youngster I was scared of the bull in the programme - it would start me crying if the TV was running in the background with it on and it showed up.We moved out of that house when I was three and a half due to ongoing wildlife somehow getting in. Despite being so young I still remember the layout of about half of the house, including the living room and the spare room (though not my bedroom, oddly). I also have a couple of very sketchy other memories such as me and my cousin using the spare bed as a trampoline, and a home-built piece of outdoor goodness dubbed "Swingboat", which, as suggested, was a boat-like item attached to a swing system. The house we moved into is the one in which we remain today.In nursery or whatever it was (playgroup or something, I believe), I remember several activities like playing with Stickle bricks, making pizza and learning how to writeI remember thinking, prior to the beginning of primary school, that I would have to move and sleep there. The prospect frightened me and I became rather scared of it. My mum set my mind right, however. I also remember standing against the kitchen door in newly-clad school uniform (including a dull burgundy jumper) just before I was to go to school for the first time, for a quick photography session.I was told off in my first year for use of relatively profane language. Amusingly, the person I'd learnt it from was caught quickly because he had a strong Northern accent and I'd learnt to say one of the words his way (we say bar-stard, he said bAH-stard, with the "ba" from "ban").I was sworn at by a teacher when I was five or six because I wanted a go with the "end of lunch break" bell (a literal metal bell), so went ahead and pilfered/rang it. She was not best pleased, but I later learnt she was told off for the swearing part.(Please understand with this point that at a young age I had no idea of the acceptable boundaries when doing stuff) I was once dared by a "friend" to drop my trousers in the playground. I was strongly punished by one of the wanderers of the playground, who was incidentally the guy that dared me's mother.I did very well in some subjects - English and Maths, in lower years, even taking a Year 9 SATS paper in Year 6. But I despised, and was bad at, both History and Handwriting (which, back in those days, had its own lesson). The former, I was actually stood up infront of the entire class at one point as the teacher read out what I'd written, with the opportunity for anyone in the class to point out when something read out was false. The latter, I just sucked at. I can't join up letters for the life of me and really, even back then, saw no point whatsoever when my normal handwriting was perfectly legible.People often joked about putting others' shoes in the school toilets. I, of course, was the goon that went and did it. I had to apologise to the poor pupil's mother in person after school for doing it. I actually got in trouble with the headmaster a lot - due to my outcast status even at that age I guess I was just destined to f*ck about.However, I was often regarded as being kind. A friend's eardrum burst once at primary school, leaving him in tears. I went, gave him a big hug and went to call the nearest dinner lady to help him out. On a separate occasion (about the same age though - we were probably 8-9) I noticed someone who I wasn't massive friends with, sitting on the allotment opposite our house, crying. I actually went out to have a chat and shared some of my sweets with him. I actually distinctly remember the sweets, down to their very taste - a small box containing a large amount of miniature candy letters, that tasted rather sickly but were still nice. Bought in a shop in Bury St Edmunds about 200 metres away from the bus shelter that later folded.Throughout Year 5 and 6, there was a chap called Karl. The oddest thing about him was that we were great friends outside school... and bitter enemies IN school. I can't recall how many times we were confined throughout lunchtimes due to misbehaviour over arguments. During either Y5 or 6 I was actually given control of the small library, including its box of K*Nex, due to my trustworthiness. The trouble I had with Karl meant I was demoted from the position.Year 6 held a four day excursion to a grotty little village called Aylmerton. I won't go into that because I despised it - it was basically a foray of bullying, depression and, in a slightly more positive twist, losing my scarf then finding it wrapped around a tree the day after, having been really upset about its disappearance (my mum had hand-knitted it and I was distraught it was gone).I was tipped to win the Best of the Year award at the end of Y6 (the final year of primary school). Two days before that we (the Year 6s) were, as a going-away fun thing, put into groups and "sold" as slaves to other years. The group I was in were bought by the Nursery, so while other groups were doing work, we were constructing a play area out of giant Meccano-esque pieces. That was superb fun. The day after, however, was disappointing. Having spent my entire primary school years at that school, with rather a nice collection of achievements, not to mention some of the best SATS scores in the year, I actually lost the award to a girl who had joined in Year 5. Dang.The prospect of high school was scary. I'm sure most of the people reading this will know how daunting it is to go from being the oldest in school to the youngest in the space of a couple months. I didn't fare well. Three days into Year 7 I lost a tooth. I basically spent the entire of that year being a living joke due to an odd noise I could make (prompting so, so many people to shout "Do the thing!"). It took until Year 8 for the "laughing at you, not with you" philosophy to sink in, so I stopped doing it, much to the disappointment and resulting insults from older students. One thing good did come out of Year 7 though. In January 2003, a new program popped up on the PCs... a little program called "Game Maker 5.0". Though that discovery itself was good, it was supposed to be, but was never, taught during ICT lessons. My best achievement for about half a year was a clone of the Asteroids game it comes bundled with, albeit with all the asteroids turned into swears.In Year 8 I went abroad for the first, and currently only, time in my life... of all places, to Normandy, France... for around a week. It was mildly interesting, and I have plenty of memories from it. The kid that retorted to the teachers offering him ratatouille with "Rats? I don't want RATS!", followed by his being kicked out of the cafeteria with no food and an angry old cow of a teacher I still don't like. My purchase of a French-language-only copy of Pokémon Gold for €10. The photographs I took, including an amazingly-timed one of a friend jumping off his top bunk (caught him in mid-air). Infact, the four guys I shared the dorm with remain friends to date. I also remember the evenings playing football, and the guy that was urinating on the side of the mall I got Pokémon Gold in. He reacted to the sight of a class of tweens/young teens by simply returning his head to face the wall. The whole bloody town stank - I'm not kidding. Seriously unpleasant. Must've been worse for Matt White, who, being a vegetarian, was furious when all the vegetarian packed lunches contained fish.Year 9 was mostly uneventful. A trip to Swansea (I think), with the opportunity to climb a wind turbine from the inside and see what it was like about 200 metres up. That was a flight of stairs I'm enemies for life with - my poor, unexcercised legs were like jelly when we got to the top, so the should've-been-easy descent needed mastery of the technique of not falling forwards and plummeting to certain death. It also featured the final SATS tests, which I did fairly well on (Maths - Level 8, English - Level 6 (killed by literature), Science - Level 7). It was also Year 8 or 9 in which I hit the limit for a spelling test which determines your age, by getting an unprecedented 100% on it.Year 10 was just a bit boring. Plain and simple. However, its end signalled the start of what would be the most up-and-down six months of my life... starting in June 2006. Work experience. Those ten days of doing what my father does were the slowest of my life. I spent two nights in tears and I very frequently passed the time while doing it by calculating how many thousands of seconds were left before the end of the work day... then counting down. You can't squeeze saying "7,213" into one second so after a hundred or so I'd recalculate and express pleasant surprise that the number of seconds that had actually elapsed was about double those I'd counted. Please, please take note that this was MORE FUN than doing the job. Only three things good came out of doing this stuff - it's where my love of Bovril began, I got £80 for doing it (I was never told about this beforehand so there was no "ooh, I'll get paid" motivation for it), and I now know never, ever to enter the mechanical industry. I'd also mention having Mr Hewitt, the high school headmaster that was leaving that year making it the last time I ever saw him, as a high point, but it was kinda saddening really. He was an amazing bloke.The summer holidays made up for the woe of that lot. I was invited to spend a week on holiday with a friend. This was amazing fun and once again spawned a nice little handful of anecdotes. The time when we were both hungry at 11pm so jumped out of the caravan window and ran to the nearest 24/7. The swimming pool, which contained a very spoilt brat that wasn't getting anything she wanted (yay for sadism). The actual getting to the resort and the going to ASDA on the way there, in which it rained so, so horrifically ASDA was evacuated due to flooding and my parents had to give me £20 to buy myself a cheap new pair of shoes for the holiday to make up for the newly ruined pair I was wearing. The time we accidentally spent our bus fare on rides at Pleasurebeach and had to walk the five miles back to the resort, with no money for drinks (it was a scorching day). The time we walked to some of his relatives, another multiple-mile trek, had KFC there, watched Dora the Explorer, then tarted about in a nearby playground like a pair of thugs. The list goes on. Sadly, later that year, I lost contact with him. My only hope in reaching him again is his sister's Netlog account. I'm not a stalker, I promise.So this is now January 2007. Put into GM perspective, YoYo Games was a splash screen, Game Maker was newly 7.0, and I was a dipshit. My best game was a boring (but quite long) maze/platformer hybrid with substandard racing and flying levels about 70 levels in. (It's called "Gamanstake" if you want to get hold of it.) Skipping several months because I didn't release much noteworthy bar Elemence Gold, the predecessor to AuX which is still on YYG today, and schoolwise nothing happened other than awkward encounters with my ex in corridors and the GCSEs, which I frankly didn't revise for and passed all ten anyway. That was basically where I should have said "okay, that's enough. Education, I'm done with you.". But I didn't.And, in the single most regrettable thing I've ever done, I spent two years in Sixth Form. Two years I could have used to actually be productive. But nope, I threw away two years of my life, which is probably about 1/40 of my entire life (less if I'm being pessimistic, given the amount I've been sick lately and how unhealthy I am anyway), when as little as the first week in I knew it was a massive mistake. The only subject I passed (and it was a poor pass) was in design & technology, which Hartismere basically used for "woodwork". I will never do woodwork in my life. I did do a computering course but it was utterly leftfield to what I WANTED from a computering course, and I ended up failing it due to my inability to work the devil's own PC program, Microsoft Access.Since leaving, I've been very lazy but also a lot happier. Two years of shite, proceeded by what is now nearly 11 months of actual productivity. It was a non-starter to begin with - my mum went into hospital for two weeks in June '09, leaving my drunken father with the opportunity to basically degrade me in every way physically possible and put me into a genuine depression that took about a week of my mum returning to start going away. What did keep me a little cheery during those tough few weeks was that I'd just released Innoquous 3, probably one of my best, if not my best, game to date. Since then, I've basically had the ups (madnessMADNESSmadness), the downs (1n23g4r), and the centrals (It Only Takes A Second).Now, I'm hoping that I can get this job with YoYo Games, move to Dundee and give my life a little kick up the arse. It's what I've been needing for a long time.That's by no means comprehensive. I've left hundreds of details out, either accidentally, non-notability, or in a couple of cases secrecy. But I hope it's been enjoyable to see my rather banal life, with all its points fit quite easily into a single box. Anyway, I'll see y'all in the next blog!