May 17th is International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia – their link is: http://dayagainsthomophobia.org/ – and I am very proud to be taking part in this hop as I’m convinced that every little show of support helps.
I’m lucky to work for an employer that is inclusive and supportive of all staff and takes the time to produce educational literature on supporting gay and trans colleagues. I thought I’d share a story that is part of that literature.
Transsexualism was something I’d never heard of when I was young. My early life was lived in confusion and ignorance, my thoughts on why my body did not match my brain were a mystery to myself and a secret from everyone else.
I grew up in the 1950s and 60s – but they were still the Dark Ages for people like me. Did everyone live with the same secret problems and did they go away when you got older? But on the other hand I felt different. I felt ‘wrong’. But I never really spoke to anyone about this until I was 28 years old despite a desperate need.
So I’m married with children by the time I realise that what’s inside me is the real me and is a permanent state of affairs. By day the Civil Servant, by evening the rock guitar-toting long hair trying to blast away the angst, trying to accept that the life I should be leading will only ever exist in my dream world.
And, after separation, I never missed a day’s access or a maintenance payment –and still don’t understand those that do. And that responsibility meant I must go on as things were. I lied to the Court Welfare Officer in denying my ‘transgenderism’. I was terrified I might not be allowed to be with my own children. And as I aged I tried to accept that I would just have to make the best of life as I could, although by doing so I was living a lie.
My subsequent partner tolerated to some extent my transgender side but I could never be totally open, even with her. And I could never be what she needed. How can a man be a man when he isn’t one to start with?
I silently and inwardly pleaded to swap lives with women, whether I knew them or not. My mind was swamped, as I could think of nothing else than being female. And I felt cheated. What had I done not to be born like other girls?
So I live a sort of part-time trans lifestyle. When not in the office or on stage with the band, it’s the London club scene and the real me ‘came out to play’ for a few hours. I circulate in the transvestite world but become increasingly aware of the differences between them and me. I can’t put the real me back in a wardrobe till next week. It lives in my head all the time driving me crazy.
Just one or two trusted colleagues know why there’s a scrap of nail varnish that I missed removing, but others apparently don’t notice or comment on the shaped eyebrows. Much is made nowadays of transsexual people in the workplace but rarely do thoughts dwell on those who for whatever reason have not transitioned, maybe never will, to their core ‘gender identity’. A pressure cooker is what immediately comes to mind. Work, particularly if you enjoy it, can be a welcome distracting release but only momentarily. More likely you alternate between frustratingly imagining yourself carrying out the same tasks, but openly as the woman you know yourself to be and being terrified of people knowing. Potential derision, humiliation, harassment and, in those days, the sack as either a security risk or just because you are transgender.
My youngest reaches 21 and I feel I can hold my head up in that I did my best for my children. And / but with no one dependent on me any more I can no longer cope with the fact that I hate myself, my body and my life. Guitar amp volume set at eleven for medicinal reasons no longer helps. I get more and more depressed, focusing on the next high, perhaps a weekend in the Manchester ‘Village’, to get me through the present but after each high I reach a deeper low. I became a lone drinker, at home with my bottles of Budweiser. Where that would have led me I’m not sure. Suicide? Quite possibly. That would have been ironic seeing that suicide was used as a threat against me when someone I cared about learned of my gender dysphoria.
But now, increasingly I began to think more and more that it was MY life. Chris Rea sang “You can waste a whole lifetime; trying to be; what you think is expected of you; but you’ll never be free”. I became more aware that I could, and had to do what had always been dismissed as impossible. I confided more in true friends, ceased worrying what others thought of me and started to believe that I was not perhaps too old to take action to realize my true self.
My neighbour told me about a retired doctor who is transsexual. I called to see her, then to my GP. That led to a psychiatrist and then Charing Cross Hospital Gender Clinic. I remember so clearly coming out of my first meeting with the consultant there, the first person I had ever spoken to who could really do something to help me, and hugging my friend amidst tears of happiness.
Local management had little idea what to do when I informed a senior manager of my situation – but we both knew that it was no longer possible to dismiss someone just because they were transsexual. I wouldn’t have cared if they could – except that I needed to show Charing Cross that the real me could exist in the real world. I have. Just months after that chat with the retired doctor I transitioned gender identity and ultimately progressed through surgery. Nowadays I no longer turn away in disgust from the bedroom mirror reflection of my body.
But how was work? Before that first day I had already met a fair few colleagues as my female self. Perhaps, surprisingly no nerves, just an overwhelming sense of contentment. I had put in a lot of groundwork in explaining to one and all beforehand but I still bless a certain character who, instead of saying, “You look good” said “Get your arse downstairs girl, there’s work to be done”. The very first acceptance of me as a working woman.
But not everyone adjusted as easily as that guy. And some clearly never will although harassment policies generally seem to stop them from saying to my face what their eyes betray. Transsexual people have a well-developed radar system born out of self-preservation in a world that too often judges on appearance and labels ‘Pass’ well and live on a knife edge of discovery and potential accusations of deception. ‘Pass’ poorly and face sniggers, pointed fingers and be all too well aware as to why International Transgender Remembrance Day is held. I pass adequately and can work in a public facing role without shredded nerves or needing skin as thick as that of a rhinoceros.
But I still have to live with the nudge, nudge wink, wink brigade. I still cannot be sure who I will be next forced to explain my gender history to as record mismatches are shown up. I have to accept that people will always find me a curiosity. I can handle that but resent being regarded as public property and fair game for judgement. So many assume the moral right to condemn those like me merely for existing yet know so very little about what makes us tick. Do they really think we take this course because of some silly whim? On the other hand, I get sick of people telling me how brave I am. Bravery is the soldier in battle – all people like me have done is face up to what we had to do. We cannot choose whether to enlist or not. It was inside us at birth.
I am so proud of my parents who are wonderful and with whom I’ve found a depth of love that perhaps was never there before. Maybe one day I will get to see my children again. Nothing’s free you see, a price tag on even partial happiness is unavoidable.
Someone special in my life would be nice but maybe that’s being greedy! I can cope with my own company and besides, I’ve got some lovely friends. I no longer cry Bud- flavoured tears at bedtime as I gaze longingly at the pictures of Alice Cooper on the wall. I knew he would understand and never desert me even if the rest of the world did. I have idolized him for over thirty years and it really doesn’t matter that he doesn’t know I exist as he has walked with me through those Dark Ages.
There is so much more to this story – enough to fill a book: Tales of self rejection, Personal relationships, Depths of thought and feeling. But maybe as a side swipe to those who feel the right to hold my life up to public scrutiny, the full story will only ever be known to me.
Since the day I actually embarked on my transsexual journey I have truthfully not once had second thoughts. I have no regrets; except fifty years of living a lie. Fifty years of hiding the truth from the world; fifty lost years, I can never get them back.
I’m offering a signed copy of my MM Romance, Rasputin’s Kiss as my prize for the hop. All you need to do is leave a comment on this post or any page on my website or blog. They will all be thrown in the hat at the end of the hop and I will post anywhere in the world.
Enjoy the rest of the hop – here’s the link back to the site where you can find the full list of participants.