Our Different Journey

Just like real life, so in trans life, people come and go. This may be doubly true when you're lucky enough to be involved in blogs, or a support group, such as Nottingham Chameleons.

People arrive, their eyes lit with fear and for a time, they struggle. Give them a few months and they find who they are. A little more time, and sometimes, you get to see them bloom. So, the group is a bit of a revolving door: there are plenty of new people, and sometimes, the older ones, drift away, happy with who they are and on to new things.

Speaking personally, I find this somewhat bitter-sweet. It's great that people have grown and can feel they no longer need the group, or that their blog runs it's course; as they achieve whichever goal they were pursuing. I do, of course, miss some of those people.


To that end, I started up a blog project to keep a bit of this secret history. That's where the name Our Different Journey came from. Maddie was kind enough to sort out the artwork and after I penned a few standard questions (below), a number of people where kind enough to offer their stories for the project.

A cynic could argue that this is all look at me egotism, but that's missing the point. The thoughts behind this were to a) capture a moment in time of trans people and their journey, and b) when I was struggling with being trans, reading about people who coped just fine, was, to me at least, very inspiring.

A few words of advice

The images and content provided to the Our Different Journey project are the kind donation of the respective authors. Please do not copy their image, nor reproduce any of the text without my and their permission. Good, now on with the show.... ;-)

The Questions

Every journey followed the eight question theme:
  1. Awareness:
    When did you first feel trans? How did it make you feel? Did you embrace or run from it?
  2. Adolescent Coping:
    How did you cope with growing up? What about puberty? How was school, or teenage life?
  3. Early Life / University / College:
    Having grown up – at least physically, how was life? Did you fit in or fall out? Did you stay home, work away or go to University, college or work?
  4. Career:
    What you do and how you think it has shaped you (for better or worse). Is there something you long to do?
  5. Relationships:
    Single, married, long term relationship, divorced, happy to be single? How is family life?
  6. Coming Out:
    Have you? Would you? If so, how was it? If not, why not?
  7. The Way Forward:
    What’s next for you? What are your hopes – trans, or otherwise?
  8. Words of Wisdom:
    Anything you’d like to share to a younger you or to other trans people?
Journeys


Amanda

(c) Our Different Journey
AWARENESS: When did you first feel trans? How did it make you feel? Did you embrace or run from it?

I guess I always felt a bit different. No, not “trapped in the wrong body“, just wondering if this was all that there is. Being mildly mystified at the person looking at me in the mirror and not associating how I feel with what I saw. When I realised that this was something I felt at home with, I felt so relieved to have found where I belonged, but this was only in my late 30s. I became aware that I could be more “me” with a previous girlfriend who pushed me to experiment in what felt right and we dug Amanda out of the shapeless stone like a sculptor produces a Venus out of a slab.

ADOLESCENT COPING: How did you cope with growing up? What about puberty? How was school, or teenage life?

Puberty was odd, as a good looking lad (as I was told) and mildly femme (as I look back at old photos with the benefit of hindsight) I realise why I was rubbish with girls: I looked girlie and had no idea what a guy should do and say. I put this down to being shy and collected stamps instead because my dad said it was a healthy hobby for a young lad. So school was rubbish, I hated the football and the communal showers and aggressive lad culture. In contrast I joined the St John’s Ambulance and planned to be a male nurse.

EARLY LIFE/ UNIVERSITY / COLLEGE: Having grown up – at least physically, how was life? Did you fit in or fall out? Did you stay home, work away or go to University, college or work?

Early life was odd, by-passing the sixth form college even after getting eight O levels (good grades too) because my mum wouldn’t let me go, I slid into YTS schemes and other pointless killers of time and morale and ended up designing signs in a workshop in Liverpool. Where, again, I was persecuted for being a bit different  But I was living in a flat with a mate in Waterloo in Liverpool and failed dismally in attracting girls there for any kind of shenanigans. University was something other people did.

CAREER: What you do and how you think it has shaped you (for better or worse). Is there something you long to do?

I joined up (RAF) because my dad had been in and I guess I wanted to belong to a team. I loved it: the camaraderie  the laughs, but this was short-lived after I married my girlfriend of the time and had three children very quickly and very young. But, I excelled in this I thought and loved the “mumsy” bit where my wife would be in work and I’d be home between shifts and push them in prams. My colleagues were too busy drinking! But I had three gorgeous children to show for it, rather than an enraged liver and regret. This was where I became very comfortable in the female aspect of my character where Id do all the house stuff, cook and be mum while the wife was at work. I loved it.

RELATIONSHIPS: Single, married, long term relationship, divorced, happy to be single? How is family life?

Since divorcing ten years ago – to things unrelated to trans issues – I have been in a handful of relationships where I have made mistakes in being much of a doormat simply to compensate for being trans. I was discovered buying thing on-line to wear and be myself, secretly at home. The girlfriend I was living with didn’t understand and chucked me out, and I have stumbled from one dead end to another. I either have had to keep it quiet, or be completely transparent and watch things dissolve because I’m a bit different.

At the moment I’m comfy being single, though my last girlfriend lied completely about being divorced and that left its mark on me: not trusting relationships and not wanting to commit even though I may be missing out on something very special. My daughters know and one even wants me to take her to the village after finding out on Twitter by accident.

COMING OUT: Have you? Would you? If so, how was it? If not, why not?

I plucked up the courage to go out in Blackpool where I thought I’d blend in. Looking back, I was dressed like one of the Monty Python Team. Later, an ex-girlfriend outed me to all her friends in a malicious way as we split, threatening to tell my kids and work colleagues. In being up front with my children and colleagues, I’ve found no one can hurt me if its not a secret. My neighbours seem okay with it too, though I don’t mince about the village or ram it in peoples faces in the pub.

THE WAY FORWARD: What’s next for you? What are your hopes – trans, or otherwise?

I wont transition I wouldn’t get the results id like, but I wish luck and offer support to whoever chooses to. It’s the usual “if there was a pill” conundrum: yes I would, but I’d rather settle for looking as good as I can, with what I have, than falling a mile short of what I’d aim for. Life is a compromise.

WORDS OF WISDOM: Anything you’d like to share to a younger you or to other trans people?

There are a many many people out there to support you. I am one of them, be who you want to be, do what feels right.

Angela

(c) Our Different Journey
AWARENESS: When did you first feel trans? How did it make you feel? Did you embrace or run from it?

I knew at my very first school, at the age of 5, that I found little girls clothing was SO attractive, and specifically (at the time) their little ballet costumes and ballet shoes, and I was irresistibly drawn to it. I would have ‘borrowed’ a complete outfit, but I think that I must have seen how difficult it would be to conceal all of it, so I contented myself with trying a pair of ballet shoes. Unfortunately they weren’t big enough and, much to my frustration, none of the other pairs that I tried on fitted either. Ultimately I was caught (I can’t recall what ‘explanation’ I offered, if any), and the shoes returned to their rightful owners, but that was the beginning of a lifelong fascination with female clothing, and particularly shoes, for which I developed a fetish almost from the start.

I think it’s fair to say that I was more at the cross-dresser end of the spectrum initially, using the clothes as a vehicle to enter a world of fantasy, rather than seeing them as having a value in their own right. That situation only changed slowly, beginning in my late teens, and it would be difficult to say when they assumed their present position and importance in my mind, and I became truly a transvestite who dressed for no other reason than love of the clothes. I knew to keep quiet about my interest, even at just five years old. But how is it that we all seem to know that we should conceal this??

I think that some background is appropriate, which might be useful in understanding my state of mind. My Father had a tremendous effect on me, to my detriment as I now see it, but I was in no position to judge at that age. From my earliest memories he was always withdrawn and distant, and I never had what I now regard as a normal Father/son relationship with him; we never had discussions, conversations, shared laughter, there was no bond, we were just two people, strangers, under the same roof. As a consequence of that lack of any relationship with my Father, I went to my first school with absolutely no idea how to form a relationship with any of these strangers who surrounded me either, and became instantly a loner. That led to constant bullying, which continued right up until the first time that I actually fought back against a bully at the age of 19.

I’ll never know, for sure, whether I would still have been a TV anyway, had I had a happier childhood. It’s possible, but it’s equally possible that what may have happened is that I used daydreaming about being attractive, as I saw the little girls, as a means of escape from a very long period of intense misery for me. Many times I remember feeling almost as though I was invisible, unwanted, unloved, but surviving for reasons which I never considered or questioned until years later; why would I, when I had no idea then how different life could and should have been? What IS clear is that fantasies of becoming a beautiful little girl in lovely clothes rapidly became my means of escape from a world that I hated; a world without friends, boys who wanted only to bully, dull and shapeless boy clothes I couldn’t bear, and no-one I could share anything with. My fantasy world continued to exist for many years, growing stronger and maturing as I too matured, and it’s only in perhaps the last ten years that I have begun to live my fantasy; I feel lucky indeed that my fantasy has become my reality. I have so much fun!

ADOLESCENT COPING: How did you cope with growing up? What about puberty? How was school, or teenage life?

There was very little of growing up that I enjoyed, and I would happily have skipped my entire childhood.

With hindsight, it’s plain that I spent a huge amount of my time trying to gain my Father’s attention and approval, and always failing. He was completely incapable of giving of himself, of taking a real interest in me, of ever giving me anything but criticism, no matter how hard I tried, or how well I did.

So I stopped trying to gain his approval, I stopped trying to do anything positive at all, and instead proceeded to get into as much trouble as I could, and as often as I could, for the whole time I was at school and almost up until I joined the Army at the age of 18. It got his attention, even though it wasn’t the attention that I wanted, or that I think I deserved. He wouldn’t give me his time, so I ‘stole’ it anyway, and that ‘theft’ of his time rapidly became the theft of anything else that I wanted – money, a bicycle, help with my homework; what I wanted, I took. Inevitably that led to trouble with the police, and other authorities, and I was in my twenties before I finally began to get my life together a little.

One major consequence of my Father’s constant criticism of me, and failure to give me praise for anything, was that I had absolutely no self confidence in my abilities. This was despite having an IQ which put me in the top half percent of the population, and plenty of undoubted potential which I was almost powerless to realise; I have achieved a little, but nothing close to what was once possible. For a long time I hated my Father for the lasting effect that he’d had on me, and it’s only in the last few years that I have had the maturity to wonder how bad HIS childhood had been, that he could not treat me better. It must have been awful, but I will never know.

At the onset of puberty my interest in female clothing intensified, and became very much a part of my sexual awakening. Wearing any items of female clothing aroused intense sexual feelings in me, and those feelings around female clothing only slowly ebbed during my teens, and only finally disappeared when I was in my twenties. About the age of fifteen I also began raiding washing lines for items of female apparel, and was fortunate never to be caught before I stopped again: it’s not something that I’m proud of, and I have no idea how I would have explained what I was doing, or why, if I had been caught.

It was also about this time that I heard the word ‘transvestite’ for the first time, and realised that I was not alone in the world; there were other people like me too! It was a revelation but, at the same time, frightening too. I had been a loner for so long that, even though I wanted to find these people, I was also afraid that they would reject me as my Father had done. I didn’t know it then, but it would be something like another 20 years before I actually found the courage to speak to another transvestite.

EARLY LIFE/ UNIVERSITY / COLLEGE: Having grown up – at least physically, how was life? Did you fit in or fall out? Did you stay home, work away or go to University, college or work?

After taking my final school exams at the age of seventeen, and leaving school with only one GCE, I spent several months drifting from job to job without finding anything that really caught my imagination. I needed to get away, to escape the prison that I felt my Father made my home, and eventually I found a way. My younger brother had joined the RAF, and I decided that I would join the Army, both as a way of escaping and seeing the world, and also as a way of competing with him.

I was moderately successful in my working life, but my personal life was still a mess for many years. I was afraid of people, of what they would find out about me, and how they would treat me as a consequence, so I shunned any close relationships. I didn’t have friends, I had acquaintances, that was all.

CAREER: What you do and how you think it has shaped you (for better or worse). Is there something you long to do?

I signed up to the Army on the 10th June 1960, and it was probably the best decision that I had ever made, up until that point. There were a couple of difficult years initially – I was still very undisciplined – but being posted to Aden (now South Yemen) in 1964, towards the end of the conflict out there, finally helped me to begin to face adversity, and to establish a solid work ethic and enjoy what I was doing. I was also, by this time, courting the girl who was to become my first wife, and we were married when I returned home at the end of my tour in 1966. My hard work had also paid off, with two promotions already, and in December 1966 I was again promoted, this time to Sergeant.

I always worked hard from then on, both in and (later) out of the Army, and was seldom out of work for any length of time. I would take any job that I could get; I simply never saw sitting at home and drawing dole money as an option. There was ALWAYS work of some sort available, even if it wasn’t what I really wanted to do, and I wasn’t too proud to turn my hand to anything.

My career began in office work in the Army, and I soon concentrated on Buying and Stock Control, which was to keep me in employment for 25 years. However redundancy in the mid 1980’s during a period of recession, combined with my age, made it very difficult to establish a new career in the same field; I was competing against much younger men who were less experienced, but who also happily settled for smaller salaries. There were a number of short-term jobs, and the longest single periods of employment between redundancy and final retirement in 2005 were a little over eight years as a milkman, and three years as a bus driver – strange jobs for someone who hates being cold as much as I do!!

RELATIONSHIPS: Single, married, long term relationship, divorced, happy to be single? How is family life?

One of my better decisions had always been to tell any prospective partner that I was a transvestite, and it only ever cost me one embryonic relationship. Although the news was never warmly received, and my activities kept very low key, at least it never became a bone of contention.

My reluctance to form attachments made life very difficult, and I was in my 20’s before I had my first serious relationship with a girl in early 1963. There had been two brief relationships beforehand with married women, which had at least established that I liked women – and much preferred them to men – and that a serious long-term relationship might be possible.

That first serious relationship culminated in marriage in 1966, after my return from Aden, but I also had tremendous doubts about my masculinity, as a direct consequence of my childhood, and spent most of the next 35 years bed-hopping; I had to keep ‘proving’ that I was a man, and that I had what it took. In the end that insecurity cost me four marriages and divorces, and my five children, who are now scattered I-know-not-where. I always knew that neither my wives, nor my children, deserved the treatment that they got at my hands, and it would have been better by far if I had remained single and childless. Nevertheless wife number three also became wife number five, largely because of the changes I made in myself between 2001 and 2006, and we were together again until her death in December 2007.

I had reached rock bottom by the beginning of 2001, unable to distinguish the wood from the trees any longer, and I had no choice but to take drastic and positive steps to alter my life. At the end of 2001 I began a series of group therapy sessions to get my head and my life in order, and those continued (with intervals for adjustment and assimilation) into early 2006. The problem was my fear of people, and the worry that they might find out I was a TV, so I kept everyone at a distance. I wasn’t a nice person either, very selfish, thought only of myself, and had no respect for anyone, but that has all changed now. The key was to gain respect for myself first, and that meant that I had to face a lot of painful facts about myself that I’d spent most of my life ignoring.

It was hard, and there were some really low points, but it has been worth it. People now tell me that they think of me as a friend, that they like me and respect me, just as I have learned to like and respect them too. Yet it still comes as a surprise sometimes, and it will be a long time before I feel really at ease with being liked and regarded as a friend. It’s rather like a pair of new shoes – they need to be worn for a while before they become really comfortable as well.

I would still like some sort of ‘long term’ (Hah!) relationship, and I’m looking, but not desperately. I’m realistic enough to realise that it may never happen, and I refuse to make too much of an issue of it.

COMING OUT: Have you? Would you? If so, how was it? If not, why not?

At the end of the seventies, I established contact for the first time with other members of the TG Community, and my involvement has slowly expanded since, to the point now that I have been a regular member of the Angels website since late 2005, and openly out and about since the 5th November 2008 – a particularly appropriate day if there were to be any fireworks as a consequence, but there never were.

Nor has it made life as difficult as it could have been. The neighbours are used to me now, and surprisingly tolerant on the whole, for which I’m grateful. I think that my change of clothing is now seen as nothing more than exactly that, and I’m otherwise the same person as I was before. Nor have I had any real problems when away from home; I get the odd startled look, perhaps a stupid comment, and sometimes silly little girls trailing me and laughing at me (for which I have a remedy), but most people appear to be quite comfortable with me. The secret seems to be just to act “normally.”

Recently two members of the nearby village community invited me to attend a pub quiz night at our local, as part of their team, and I’ve since been to another quiz night with them, and I am now regarded as regular member of the team for future quizzes.

That acceptance is so precious: I feel as though I belong at last.

THE WAY FORWARD: What’s next for you? What are your hopes – trans, or otherwise?

I considered, for a long time, whether I actually wanted to BE a woman, and I think the clue is in ‘wanted’. There has never been any doubt in my mind that I would LIKE to have been born a woman, but that’s an entirely different matter. I certainly ‘wanted’ to be a woman, but I never felt that I was in the wrong body, so to have taken matters further would have been an indulgence and not out of necessity; I didn’t feel that I could justify GRS on such a flimsy basis. At my age – 71 – there are in any case increased and obvious risks from surgery, and from the drug regime that would follow.

I also considered having some sort of breast augmentation but, again, there are increased risks at my age. I could make do with breast forms.

All in all, I think that I’m pretty content with where I am now. My only regret is that I didn’t get here any sooner, but at least I’m here NOW, and enjoying it hugely.

WORDS OF WISDOM: Anything you’d like to share to a younger you or to other trans people?

There has never been a better time to be openly a member of the Trans Community, and things are getting better all the time. Start off as you would like to go on, which gives you the maximum amount of time to be the person you WANT to be, and not necessarily the person the rest of the world expects you to be.

The world may be your oyster, but you still have to open the damned thing first!

Always, ALWAYS, be honest with your partner about being trans, just as I did – nobody likes to be deceived. I’ve had five serious relationships, four of which became marriages; you work out the maths. Honesty really does pay.


Becca

(c) Our Different Journey
AWARENESS: When did you first feel trans? How did it make you feel? Did you embrace or run from it?

I always struggle with this question as I would like to be able to pin it down to a specific age but the best guess is about six or so. What I do recall is exactly where I was and what I was doing when I really understood that I wanted to be a girl. Before this there are a number of memory snippets the first is of me being in the bath with my sisters and noticing I had something extra. Perception is that the ‘difference’ was pointed out and the memory is not entirely comfortable to this day. I didn’t bathe with them again so the upset must have been fairly significant for my parents to split us. I am not sure what I expected but I did go through quite a period of squeezing the offending items hard to see if I could get rid of them …..

Having two older sisters I had ample opportunity to wear girls clothes and the first was a pair of red knickers. I knew at that time it wasn’t something I was supposed to be doing but at the same time I couldn’t resist. I expected something to happen when I put them on, the same the first time I wore a dress, as though the event itself would cause some sort of magical conversion. It clearly didn’t and I know I felt crushed that I still looked like a boy when I looked in the mirror – something which continues to this day!

Interwoven with these memories are the ones of being in school and the heartache there. The routine division by gender held disappointment but much clearer is the reaction caused by my class mates. My parents never did girlie girl so seeing how differently the girls were dressed and treated was fascinating. I obviously knew I wasn’t a girl but something changed one day when we were in a gym lesson. We were split up to get changed and as I saw the girls come out one by one in leotards it hit me for the first time that something really was wrong, The feelings were profound and I just knew that I really really really wanted to be a girl. The school is still there but not sure about the gym. If it is I would love to complete the circle one day and go back as me and stand in the same place and exorcise that ghost.

My parents don’t seem to recall me pushing any gender boundaries but there are two things that stick out for me. The first was a birthday request for a clear umbrella that I had seen many girls using – something I was swiftly told wasn’t for boys. The second were my thoughts that if I slept in a nightie I would wake up a girl – I didn’t get that far though as an unexpected ‘good night’ visit from my Dad caught me out. I recall only an ‘oh’ and nothing else but when my dad left the room his reaction filled me with a lot of shame.

My chances to dress after these events were few and far between as I had developed into a bit of a terror. My mum had learned that if everything ‘went quiet’ then I was up to something and this coupled with my childish concept that all of this was ‘wrong’ often stopped me when the chance was available. My resolve didn’t always hold and when the compunction was overpowering and I succumbed it raised a hugely confusing mixture of emotions. Therapy in my late thirties picked over this period for quite a while and my adult eyes see how on a number of levels I was very unhappy. Anger, low level (?) theft and fire starting (in my defence it was in a tin although granted bedrooms and fire aren’t the best bedfellows …..) clearly suggested that something was wrong but as a child, when asked, I clammed up tighter than a drum. I had one further moment of clarity when my father, after a stash of nicked food was found in my room, sat me down for a chat. At the age of 10 or so he told me that this couldn’t go on and I had to be a man. The inward denials came later but at that point in time the instant feelings were that I wasn’t and never would be.

ADOLESCENT COPING: How did you cope with growing up? What about puberty? How was school, or teenage life?

Starting secondary school complicated life further. Arriving a year early (through a miracle and a teacher mother who enjoyed teaching at home) I struggled – the youngest in the class, immaturity and an accident at school (a fairly mangled arm courtesy of a power drill) seemed to single me out for some bullying. After a spate of detentions and a discussion between my parents and the school I had a very uncomfortable meeting with the Deputy Head who wanted to understand what was happening. He spoke for a while and then there was silence … a lot of silence … and after squirming in my seat for an eternity I opened my mouth to speak ….. and like a scene from a movie the silence was broken by the shrill ring of his desk phone. He got up and answered, talking away whilst I sat and resolved to tell him how desperately wrong I felt when he returned I got ready to speak and then got dismissed with scarcely another word. I regret many things in my life but that one moment in time, that missed chance at 11 years old I regret more than any other. It took just shy of 25 more years before I finally told anyone. 25 years … what a waste.

We moved the next year and I joined a new school – a Church School – entry achieved as I had attended Sunday School all of my life. It was Ok, I did Ok … mostly staying out of the way of bullies and making a few friends along the way. Whilst intense feelings of confusion continued (not helped by pages in the good book) I rationalised that they were things that everyone else felt (and hence didn’t need to be discussed) an inner tension that living brought, always wanting to be the opposite of what you are. There was also the perception that part of puberty, beyond physical changes, was about achieving the maturity to deal with this (which is what I was constantly told I lacked) and embracing all that ‘manhood’ was about.

The little I knew of anything ‘trans” was learned from sensationalist and trashy tabloids ‘outting’ some poor soul and whilst I desperately wanted to have been born female I didn’t relate the consistent narrative they all told. My physical attributes meant I was male, I believed I was male, I was interested in girls (beyond wanting to be one) how could I be a female trapped in a male body? There was however a strong and unwavering discord around the expectations of me as a ‘male’ child. Everything I saw on the other side of the fence I wanted to have or wanted to try – all denied by a twist of fate.

EARLY LIFE/ UNIVERSITY / COLLEGE: Having grown up – at least physically, how was life? Did you fit in or fall out? Did you stay home, work away or go to University, college or work?

Fitting in – for me its all about perceptions. I would say I never did but that’s because everything I said or did had to be filtered to ensure not one hint of the real me would be exposed. I guess I was taken at face value though – a teenager/young man who was a bit shy, bit of a loner, sometimes prickly, occasionally showing a nasty temper but with a quick response to most situations. Dancing, ducking and deflecting. Whilst I am sure that my underlying issue was so very different from everybody else’s in my year I presume there were numerous others with teenage angst who thought that their every action or word would be judged poorly by others and subject to ridicule

CAREER: What you do and how you think it has shaped you (for better or worse). Is there something you long to do?

I left school at 16 for-swerving any further education – something I bitterly regret. My ‘troubled’ times had continued and there was a lot on anger in me so when a job came up in a local bank I went for it with my parents full support. I got it and did that bank thing – if you had been in Cardiff around September 1985 you would have seen a very young looking person, pinstripe suit and an umbrella walking to work. I cringe at the thought – I was so so young – but I thought maybe going to work would help the confusion. It didn’t but it did introduce me to hard work (albeit monotonous) and that’s something that I have used to this day. There is a real drive in me to work very hard – the less thinking time the better so it could really be said that ‘Trans’ attributes helped me focus.

I stayed in the various guises of front line banking for about 12 years which traversed my move from home to London but the writing was on the wall for that type of work and I drifted into IT 1997 and I have stayed ever since. I worked for myself for over a decade and its only in the last 18 months I have returned to permanent work again. There are a few good reasons why I have gone back – but I can’t deny the main one is T related.

In later years, as HRT has changed me, there has been a big shift in my outlook and I find myself relaxing more – the drive to do something well is still there but there is a greater balance. Working as a freelancer appealed to me – kind of a loner against the machine and I just didn’t seem very good at the softer skills required for management. This has changed completely and my recent experience has been managing teams and its brought a lot of satisfaction.

My lack of higher education meant I missed out on a lot – personally and professionally. If I hadn’t had the constant noise in my head I like to think I might have made a lawyer or something along those lines. I can’t complain though, my drive and application has given me a good income and a nice place to live. Maybe when the time comes I might look for another career – we have talked about B&B’s in a nice part of the world with maybe some cooking alongside. We could do this – we are both at the stage in our lives where the city life is starting to pale a little and with a strong interest in food we could really make a go of something along those lines. Odd to think that after living alone for so long out of choice, that I am married and thinking about running a business that invites people into our home.

RELATIONSHIPS: Single, married, long term relationship, divorced, happy to be single? How is family life?

I have managed three relationships in my life, starting very late at 21 years old. We lived in the same Halls of Residence and it was easy for a while but as I look back now I am not sure whether how much I loved or much I loved the thought of being her. Either way I enjoyed being with her even though aspects of the relationship weren’t how I expected them to be. It was common theme in my life that there was always be going to be ‘something’ that I needed to find or achieve that would cure me. There was only one thing left though at this point – intimacy – but this kind of re-in forced my view that what bits I had wasn’t really what I wanted. We finished messily in the end after about 18 months or so. She was the one however who finally put to bed my thoughts that everyone in the world wanted to be the opposite sex. When I tentatively asked whether she ever thought about wanting to be a man she said . ‘Uh, why would I want to be a man’. Quite.

When I moved out of Halls life was very hard – I was extremely lonely having bought somewhere quite a bit out of town, almost on a whim. It gave me a lot of time to dress (every night) but never outside. As others moved out of Halls though, friends I had made seem to gravitate back together and my house, having quite a bit of space, became the meeting point. Its sad for me to say though that during that time my occasional ‘pot’ habit became entrenched. I can’t deny I had a blast on it when friends were round – late night chats about nothing were huge fun but on my own it was a way to compartmentalise my ‘T’ feelings and allowed me to blot out any thoughts that the issue went far far beyond dressing. I stayed in that rut for a long while – even managing to maintain a relationship with a lady who I worked with (and who was happy to stay at home with her parents). She was lovely but I kept everything at arms length which was poor of me. The reality was though it was nice to be with someone even though I expected her (or anyone else really) to have serious issues with my dressing. When she eventually found some clothes one weekend that was it … kaput. It was fine though – we had been bumping along for almost 6 years going nowhere and it was easier for her to finish with me than the other way round. Cowardly for sure but a girlfriend lent credence to my disguise.

After getting the boot I told myself that my increased dressing over the previous years was because of her (totally unfair) but I chucked the drugs, purged everything (and I had some seriously expensive things) and spent the next year going fitness crazy. Swimming a mile every day, cycling to and from work and taking all day road trips on the weekend. It kept me busy, kept me away from dressing but it couldn’t last. It took a year or so before I it started again … underwear, clothes, shoes …… Can’t really say if there was a trigger, maybe the easing back on the exercise front gave me more time. Whatever the trigger I knew then that this blessing was never going to go away.

I have now been with my partner for over 12 years and married for over 7. She has known for a long time and I was very honest when we first had ‘that discussion’ saying that it wasn’t just a dressing thing, it went far deeper and transition couldn’t be ruled out. We had met on a dating site, quite a bold step for me, but I knew that I didn’t want to live alone anymore. The telling when it came was not easy and was partially prompted by something she found on the computer – unrelated but close enough to raise some questions. She was surprised but not surprised – she tells me that she always knew there was something. Thankfully she found she could deal with my need to dress at home and also with the risk of what I might end doing in the future and at that point we moved in together. Almost 10 years of living on my own came to an end and we lived together for the next 5 years. I had told her that I could never get married – the words troubled me … but something changed one day and I felt that I wanted to make a commitment in front of our friends and family. It was the best decision I ever made and the day itself will remain the highlight of my life. She made such an effort to shield me from so many of the things that would cause me upset and whilst I would have loved to have worn the dress it was such a happy day for me.

Our relationship has obviously changed considerably since then – I was proud to be a husband and am very proud to be with her now but ‘partner’ seems more appropriate these days if the world is asking. If the question has come from someone closer to home I would say she was my soul mate.

COMING OUT: Have you? Would you? If so, how was it? If not, why not?

I didn’t tell anyone until my girlfriend found some clothes in my mid thirties and that didn’t go so well so I clammed up again. It was a few months into my next relationship before I found the words but other than endless medical staff the secret stayed between us. It was only in 2012 that we have made a concious effort to tell others. Telling my parents wasn’t easy but it was an important step – allowing me to explain why I was so unhappy at times and setting aside the guilt I carried for giving them such a hard time.

Most of our immediate family now know and we have also told the majority of friends. Everyone has been surprised but we have yet to find any that have not expressed support.

I have yet to dress in front of anyone else yet and that is daunting but there is no rush here – it will happen when it needs to.

Peeling away the defences I had built up over years and years was not an easy thing to contemplate but I can’t deny the massive relief I feel. I have taken a step into the light and it feels amazing.

THE WAY FORWARD: What’s next for you? What are your hopes – trans, or otherwise?

For many years I struggled with so many questions around my identity – who was I, how can I live with these feelings and what did I really want. If I am honest I probably understood the answer for many many years but couldn’t quite believe there wasn’t more than one and certainly didn’t want to accept the answer.

In my mid thirties an unrelated visit to the Doctors found me unexpectedly unloading my story and I subsequently found myself in therapy … a lot of therapy … 2 1/2 years worth. It was hard at times but I welcomed the chance to talk and I gradually came to see that things had to change. The anger and self hatred was eating me up and whilst I didn’t acknowledge the likely end point I had to take steps in that direction. HRT without full time living wasn’t exactly welcomed but with my therapists help it was the direction I took, happily with the support of my partner. The first year was a little emotional with many ups and downs but as I pass my 5th year on HRT/Blockers I will say it was a really good decision to have made.

So onwards ….

Transition …. such a simple word but it was such a nightmare to contemplate for so so long. Time however has changed so much for me and I suppose the reality is that I have been transitioning for many years. The question is now only ‘When will I take the final step’ and the answer is that we are working towards this now. It’s going to be one of slow and steady progress to give our relationship the best chance to survive but that’s fine as there is much to be done to prepare. Having resisted stepping out for years I have found growing confidence and whilst still relatively new to all this I have started to relax. Having reasons for going out, not just at night, makes a big difference and new therapy sessions and voice coaching are helping me along the way.

The will to push forward came late for me but when I finally acknowledged that there was no other answer the need just grew. I now look forward to the time when I can really set myself free.

WORDS OF WISDOM: Anything you’d like to share to a younger you or to other trans people?

I will shamelessly steal the following line from Sue although I would personally remove the word ‘male’. This lady has my greatest respect for just going out and being her. Many could learn from her attitude to life …. so to quote…

‘If I had my life over again I would wish it was all different. And not trans, just plain male or female’

The reality is though you can only deal with what we are given and just get on with it. This blessing cannot be ignored, it will never leave and those feelings of sorrow will just get stronger. You have a chance to change the course of your life and your years ahead will be free of the ever increasing burden and distress of carrying this secret.

So be brave now and find those words, find someone to tell – the first step is very hard and people will be shocked, family will be worried but you know what – they WILL get over it. You will find strength from your courage and like a snowball rolling on a slope, it will grow. It’s frightening to say that you are different but so what – there is nothing shameful about being different.

To nick a further quote from elsewhere (and I wish I could recall from which blog it came) -

‘You have one life, be selfish with it’.

Don’t waste time hiding in the shadows, painting on layers to a façade that sucks out the essence of who you are. Be true to yourself, be truthful to others and live your life in the light.


Bobby

(c) Our Different Journey
AWARENESS: When did you first feel trans? How did it make you feel? Did you embrace or run from it?

I don’t know about feeling trans. I have always thought I was different. Always preferred female conversation and being around girls. Playing girlie games and dressing up.

I used to get clothes pegs and put fabric around them and make dolls. My mum used to say they were pretty

My first school was an inner city primary school. From the day I started I preferred being with the girls. After a very short time this caused some of the boys to pick on me. Usually ending with me having a bloody nose and crying. I didn’t fight back it never entered my head all I felt was sadness. Giving me a nose bleed seemed to be a game to these few boys. It didn’t help that my two older brothers didn’t want me around either. Both of them would tell me that I did things like a girl.

My Dad used to be a boxer, he tried to teach me to box. I enjoyed playing with him and learning to duck and weave but I just couldn’t hit anyone or to get angry. Dad started trying to make me angry by slapping the side of my face as we were sparing but it just made me cry. His advice, like all males was to fight back or get the first punch in.

I don’t know if this teaching had a bearing on what happened later. I was at school one day, the class was doing art and that day we were painting. The class bully came behind me and tipped the water, I was using all over my work. Before I could think I turned around and punched him he fell over onto his back and I grabbed him by his neck and started to throttle him. The teacher had to pull me off. I can only remember starting to throw the punch and then being pulled off. I can’t remember anything in between. It was my first taste of anger. Needless to say my Dad supported what I did and it did stop this particular bully.

This was the start of me creating my alpha male exterior coat. Inside my mind I wanted to wear pink and play hopscotch.

I was seven, we moved house. It was a new start I made friends with two girls on our street.’ The twins’ as everyone called them, loved dressing up. Their mum worked at home making lace garments and we used to play being prince and princesses. The twins wanted me to be the prince but I always wanted to be a princess too. One occasion in particular we all made ourselves into princesses one of the girls ‘borrowed’ one of her mums lipsticks and did my lips It felt great. But their Mum was not impressed, the lipstick was ruined. When I got home I still had the lipstick on which my mum wiped off and told me that only girls wore lipstick …… oops.

Not long after starting the new school I won a skipping competition. I beat everyone including all the girls.

It wasn’t long after we had moved to the new area that the bullying and name calling resumed and so the aggressiveness I had learned came back. I would react to any small derogatory comment and it would get me into lots of trouble.

ADOLESCENT COPING: How did you cope with growing up? What about puberty? How was school, or teenage life?

For a boy I started puberty quite young I became tall and my voice broke not long after starting the big school. It helped being bigger than most the other boys and I was picked for both rugby and football teams. The sport helped with getting rid of my aggression. It was at this point that the compulsion to put girls clothes on started to make me feel guilty and unhappy. It felt great doing it but after wards I felt lucky that no one else had seen me.

There was also a problem, Buy this time I had four brothers two older and two younger. I had no one to get clothes from. So it had to be my mums…..

I couldn’t wear these clothes very often with another six people in the house the chances were very few far and in between.

The comprehensive I went to was an all boys school so for a couple of years I lost touch with the twins. But I met up with them when I was out riding my bike. We chatted lots but one was very red and blushed a lot this was Debbie I didn’t understand why but I remember thinking she was the nicest of the two.

Couple of weeks later I was cycling home from school and Debbie was walking back too. So we stopped and chatted.

Debbie became my young teen sweetheart. We used to dress up and would kiss and just hang out together and sometimes her sister would join in too.

Problem was her parents didn’t like me and once our school days were over we just drifted apart.

Thing is I never felt guilty when I wore her clothes and dressed up with her, most didn’t fit properly but it seemed nice and the right thing to do.

EARLY LIFE/ UNIVERSITY / COLLEGE: Having grown up – at least physically, how was life? Did you fit in or fall out? Did you stay home, work away or go to University, college or work?

I went to college to do my A levels, but I didn’t feel that I fitted in so soon got a job and dropped out. I found the joys of alcohol and its ability to blot out the feelings I had. I was also quite successful with girls, I knew what they wanted and I used to buy them nice things. Or I should say, if I was that girl I knew the type of things I would like.

It was about this time when I started to be able to contain my urges a bit. I Imagined I was in a big room full of clothes and make up. I would enter this room when I got into bed and just imagined I was putting clothes and make up on and being different types of girls.

When I was eighteen I met a fabulous girl on a blind date. She became my best friend and soul mate. But it took me a long time to tell her about me.

CAREER: What you do and how you think it has shaped you (for better or worse). Is there something you long to do?

When I was 21 I got a promotion and I worked long hours and hard. I slowly made my way around a few companies and eventually became a production director at 32. Being busy at work and then going out and drinking heavily pushed the urge to dress back into the room in my head. Sometimes seeing girls in nice outfits brought it all crashing back, it did make me regret where my life had gone. But I just tried to push the thoughts back which made me a little difficult to live with sometimes.

RELATIONSHIPS: Single, married, long term relationship, divorced, happy to be single? How is family life?

I married my best friend and soul mate when I was 21. We had met when I was 18 years old. We have one son who is now at University.

It took me until I was nearly 45 to come out to her. But still my son doesn’t know.

COMING OUT: Have you? Would you? If so, how was it? If not, why not?

I came out to my wife nearly 3 years ago. I was struggling to suppress my urge to dress. I read an article on the net somewhere on the internet, about a t girls wife finding the clothes after she had passed away. The article made my mind up to come clean. I did try and let her know gently but to her I was an aggressive alpha male.

It was very difficult for her to come to terms with it at first. In the end we are now closer than ever. We share clothes and swop hand bags. She comes along on nights out and we have a great time shopping together.

She does say I am a nicer person when I have the dress and make-up on.

WORDS OF WISDOM: Anything you’d like to share to a younger you or to other trans people?

I do wish I had come to terms with the way I am years ago. As you get older, people you are close to invest their happiness and future in you and if you have lied to yourself and the people around you, it is more difficult and traumatic to tell them. If you are with the right person who loves the way you are they will stay with you, just be honest to yourself.




Caroline

(c) Our Different Journey
AWARENESS: When did you first feel trans? How did it make you feel? Did you embrace or run from it?

Before my sisters were born and they arrived the day before my third birthday. For three years I had the attention of my mother and three of her sisters so got to see a fair bit of life as they shared and passed me around. People kept calling me a boy but I just did not understand, they had surely made a mistake and I was sure that the mysterious process of transforming a small child into an adult would make me like these women…

My sisters arrived and they were already different! We moved out to the edge of the city and life slowed down. I was born with TV, my youngest aunt was my babysitter and we had an hour of children’s B & W TV every day! When I was 4 ½ years old babysitter had emigrated but left us the TV which now had two channels, one with ads. My strongest early memory is etched into my brain, an glamorous actress was luxuriating in bubbles of Camay soap and my brain was in overdrive. I wanted to be her, I wanted to be with her as I knew girls could live together, I wanted those soft fragrant bubbles instead of Lifebouy soap! I was in turmoil, this ad was causing an emotional response which I just knew I could never let anyone else see. From that moment on I knew that I had to hide my emotions and tears to hide my secret self which was waiting for nature to do its thing.

Boy part I never played nor did I play the girl part and the first day at school the class divided into two sets neither wanted me to join. If I had arrived with scarlet skin they would not have found it easier to point me out. I was generally ignored, upside though, I was never chosen to be in a team, thank goodness!

I had already learned to be alone so being alone in a crowded school was not much change. I hated being forced to spend my life with these children, the idea of school had been sold as something wonderful but children en mass are hell, they are smelly, noisy and misbehave non stop. I could not have joined in even if I had not been trans…

ADOLESCENT COPING: How did you cope with growing up? What about puberty? How was school, or teenage life?

I was brought up in a city which had been devastated by German bombing during the Blitz and much of my first three years were spent watching my parents build a bungalow on the edge of town using whatever materials could be found, often from the bomb sites, born to recycle…

Physically I was more comfortable than most people at the time and we ate well from a large vegetable garden, but it was a strict emotional desert. Parents lived for themselves and time drinking in pubs, there was nothing but tedious middle of the road music and smoke in the air and hardly a book in the house except a children’s encyclopaedia  I tried to be invisible and it seemed to work. The only fun I had was teaching one of my sisters everything I had learned at school which put her three years ahead of all her friends!

Aged eleven I suddenly found myself being interviewed for a place in the local grammar school having passed an entrance exam. I said that I wanted to be an architect when asked and nobody asked how I had passed without ever having tried at school…

Having won a supporting grant I was in, but also in for a great disappointment. For a start it was a damn boys school! I was a cute kid in a wildlife park and soon found myself startled by a heavy thump from an unpleasant bully whilst I stood alone daydreaming. I had overheard rumours about bullying and had arrived with trepidation unsure what would happen and this seemed like the start of hell. Once I recovered my breath I took my fury at this attack, walked straight up to the thug surrounded by his mates and hit him on the neck with the side of my hand, another rumour said this could kill and he fell to the ground and was turning a strange colour as I calmly walked away. I have never lifted a hand since.

I had a very quiet time at that school…

Naturally nobody took a blind bit of notice about me wanting to be an architect and taught me nothing which might help me head that way. They did have music aversion therapy and the most pathetic art classes as anyone like me who lived in the local museum and art gallery each lunchtime knew.

What they did teach me was some biology as a means of getting to the facts of life. Nothing about life skills and relationships in those days, just male plugs into female like so, eggs flow down here once each month, sperm swims up to meet it and baby is delivered to a married couple nine months later. No other options exist! I was convinced that I was a very rare if not even unique biological mutation and had better stay quiet and keep my head down but could see no viable future for someone like me.

I was an all white piece of jigsaw in an all black puzzle. A girl who is attracted to girls trapped in a body which will never be attractive to any girl of that persuasion even if I could find her. Again I was going to be the last one on earth to ever be chosen in that game!

This was turning out to be some kind of nightmare, there was no place for one such as me in that strict post war world, I had no idea what possible future could be out there for me. I kept my head down, did all my homework during French lessons, who needed to learn French? I aimed to get by and no more. I did read chemistry books from the city library like others read their James Bond thrillers, otherwise I rode my bike built from scrap parts ( did I mention my father’s extreme meanness? ), for thousands and thousands of miles slipstreaming inches behind buses and trucks hoping for a sudden and painless death…

Younger years I had spent many hours hiding in the large closet where my mothers dresses, fur coat and shoes lived, the smell and touch was heaven. I took rare chances to wear them but quickly grew too large. I had to wear a suit to school and just replaced the jacket for a black polo neck pullover at most other times. My sister tells me that I was moody as a teenager, but I had very few friends, strict rules, no clothes I had ever chosen for myself or money to go out with. Anyway I had no interest in drinking which seemed to be what everyone else did and they did it in smoky pubs! I spent a lot of time in the local library and working in a large department store at weekends and holidays.

When I sensed a voice change coming I stopped talking as much as possible and then only quietly, puberty seemed to be slow thankfully with facial hair only arriving in my twenties. I somehow missed my teenage years, no posters on the wall, no girl friends, not many friends, few possessions other than a tinny radio and my camera and some old darkroom equipment in the roof space of the garage where I was teaching myself to print.

Final exams arrived and without ever having tried I got a place on a course in a Scottish university, I only applied because it was expected by the school and it was a way of escape.

Nobody had ever worked out that I was dyslexic! An odd form where reading was no problem, but give me a blank piece of paper and terror sets in, as I know that words I have read ten thousand times will come out like scrabble pieces and I will have no way of working out what is wrong. It meant that I had to decline writing answers where I knew I could not spell certain necessary words to gain any marks. Seems that I could have lost a few marks for bad spelling! Why risk looking stupid, even to someone you would never meet? Stupid I know… I had to do science…

EARLY LIFE/ UNIVERSITY / COLLEGE: Having grown up – at least physically, how was life? Did you fit in or fall out? Did you stay home, work away or go to University, college or work?

I stepped on the train north to another country with a few clothes I hated and which I would junk at the first opportunity and a bag with my camera and lenses. I had stopped having my hair cut whilst still at school thanks to the arrival of the Beatles and would not see a hairdresser again for over forty years.

I shared lodgings in the town with a medical student, just thrown together at random. He soon had a gorgeous girlfriend after getting the dear John letter from his under age girlfriend back home, I spent my evenings at the cinema to give them some privacy. It pains me that both their names have been unrecoverable for decades now.

Quickly I became a late flowering Hippie spending the little money I had on soft bright clothing though because of my moods of deepest gloom I never dared risk damaging my mind and fragile hold on life with imbibing interesting substances…

Could I find anything interesting and useful in a huge university library? NO! Did nobody know and write about my condition? An alchemists secret formula for turning lead into gold would be easier to find than a few paragraphs about transsexualism…

One day I got a familiar pain, the last time has been at the top of a mountain, storm bound in the Lake District a few months before. I knew it was my appendix and had hoped that it would one day burst and kill me off, I had waited years and was getting impatient! This day it was excruciating and I cold not hide it and was forced to go and sign on with my landladies doctor. He worked from his home, I said that I wished to join his practice, he said I looked unwell, I diagnosed appendix about to burst and we were in his car on the way to the hospital in under two minutes! It took over twenty years for the scar to start to fade! I filed this under “inability to heal well”. I took an age to recover and when finally able to get about for walks returned to the cinemas. One day I visited one which I had only ever visited to see Fellini films, it was called the Tivoli, the only place where skin flicks were shown to a strange clientèle and that day they were showing a Christine Jorgensen biopic. One which seems to have vanished from most film histories. Can’t say that it was any good as a film but it left me physically shaking and in shock.

The whole world had been shown that transsexuals were a fact and how the condition could be treated at about the time I was born! Everything I had worked out about myself was true but the world had conspired hide all the facts. I was surely in a good position to get help, universities are supposed to be full of bright people, surely the student medical service would be able to help me stem the testosterone poisoning before too much more damage was done. People on the street took me to be a tall girl so this was the time to act.

I was wrong, “no help in my lifetime” I was told followed by a lecture by an angry doctor about duty as a bright member of the population to mate with another bright thing and make more bright babies for the fatherland!! Or was it motherland!!?

What little interest in life I had evaporated, I got to the end of the year’s course paying hardly any attention and having missed half of one term with the operation to be told that being in the top group in each subject I could clear off without bothering to waste their time having to mark exam papers.

By the next year I was a gibbering mess but nobody noticed and I scraped through but by the third year I was in a deep depression and crashed and burned…

CAREER: What you do and how you think it has shaped you (for better or worse). Is there something you long to do?

Unemployed on minimum benefit payments living in an unheated, cold water, two room apartment but with our own loo. The stairwell was lit by gaslight! Thank goodness I was brought up when rationing was still in force and ice was common on the insides of windows, this was not so bad… I was sharing with a girl, don’t know how, she had been attracted by my incredibly long fingernails! She was quite boyish in looks and seemed to find me attractive. The virginity which I thought I would never loose was lost but it was not as in the movies… She had chased me and got great pleasure from my boy bits since I could hang on for ever or until she said we had to stop. When you are only interested in the female orgasm, it does not matter if it is someone else’s… It took a long while before she fully realised that she would never get full on male lust from me but that was after I had supported here for years in a comfortable apartment by working a shift work factory job.

Once she left overnight for a job at the other end of the country there was little to hold me, I had been told that I was “overqualified” to work in the factory but since I had “no qualifications” I could never get any of the decent daytime jobs especially in the labs! One night while checking on the work of one of the technicians and making small talk I asked him why he was so glum and it was the trouble of finding an apartment to buy and wasting money and time on each attempt so I sold him mine for a small profit, took five minutes including checking the machine! He wanted in quickly so I quit the job and have never been employed since…

I exhibited my photographic work in galleries and soon artists were asking me to photograph their work. You would be hard pushed to find a better service and certainly not at anything like my prices. Thought that I would have cornered the market and made a reasonable living and perhaps I would have done if I had not chosen to move out of the city and live an ultra low profile life. It sort of counts as a career though. I stopped exhibiting much when I started to become fairly well recognised under that fake male identity. Did not help that I did not like the direction photography had gone in galleries by then.

RELATIONSHIPS: Single, married, long term relationship, divorced, happy to be single? How is family life?

Half a lifetime ago another woman was attracted to me and asked me to move in. She was living in her old family house and soon arranged to buy out her sister’s half share once she realised that she had a way of catching up on decades of neglected repairs.

I had told myself that I would never marry, I had always refused to enter churches especially at weddings even as a small child I would be left outside.

Income tax was 33% and if we signed a form in a registry office we would get more than enough to feed and clothe me and do house repairs, I signed and the government immediately started withdrawing all our tax advantages! Housewife was how I always answered questions about what I did, people thought I was joking. I wore androgynous or women’s clothing and nobody seemed to notice or care, my hair was worn as long as it would grow and my nails were painted and long, only my beard was a little incongruous. I had tried shaving when the fuzz started in my early twenties but it was all blood and pain since I had finally got a few spots, I gave up. I was going to try electrolysis at that time to kill the hair as it started and thought I would be able to keep up with it’s development but a friend had a hairy upper lip and came back with tales of expense and pain, I could have paid for it then!

Thirty years married and we are still together. One promise to myself I kept was to never have children. In an ideal world they would be a joy but this world is far from ideal.Your dreams of what you would like for your child will count for nothing once they interact with others, fall prey to peer pressure and the vicious nature of society. I have always loved interacting with children of friends and family much to their amazement failing to see the real me… thankfully my partner did not have children as a priority and I can’t really see her taking a motherly role, loved her work too much to have time for children.

Someone else wrote that their partner declared that they had no lesbian feelings, mine is the same, we are close but more like sisters…

COMING OUT: Have you? Would you? If so, how was it? If not, why not?

I was never really in. Why I could not fit in was because I could not conform to a falsehood. If a job had required shorn hair or they had objected to non male attire or long painted nails nothing could have made me take it. I might have superficially seemed male to some but I never played the male role. The way many interacted with me I thought that there was some sort of understanding, I was quite practical so would be given screwdriver as a present but it would have a flower decorated handle for example, but when it came to it most said they had no idea. They said my feminine style clothing they accepted as just me!

When I finally decided to tell everyone I was well on into my transition, then again that transition started an age ago with removing some of the facial hair on cheeks and neck only then did I clear round my mouth. After thirty five years it surprised many and they thought I shaved really close, nobody noticed that I never had stubble! Change was so long and gradual few noticed. Once on HRT it was time to tell face to face starting with sisters, then close friends who came to an exhibition opening I was having in France then others as we met. I told each one without a script, spontaneous and tailored to each individual. Not once did I use any “T” words.

Almost without exception everyone has been marvellous and understanding. Those closest to you often seem to have some trouble understanding or reprogramming the pronouns but give it time.

THE WAY FORWARD: What’s next for you? What are your hopes – trans, or otherwise?

After forty years since first trying I really thought that my chance to fully transition had passed but it is almost a year ago exactly that I woke reborn. Having had an orchiectomy some time ago I thought that was as far as I would get and was resigned to living out my life almost transformed. After all who could see with so little left, what more could looking completely right make?

I was astonished at just how different it made me feel. Never any feeling of “being wrong”, no fear of ever being found out now that everything looked and felt right. I sometimes glance down and find it unbelievable that there could ever have been anything else down there, it must have been a very realistic bad dream because there is absolutely no evidence…

Life goes on. We now have bus passes and live on one pension as best we can. To some it might seem crazy to do this so late but to wake up and just be your true self is priceless and only those who have lived that false life and been able to change will ever fully understand.

Just hope to live out a quiet simple life…

WORDS OF WISDOM: Anything you’d like to share to a younger you or to other trans people?

You can see that I made a mess of my life, learn from my mistakes and don’t waste yours.

There has never been a better time to transition, things are not perfect but slowly they are improving. If you are fairly young you could be through the process in a few years and have a lifetime ahead of you and probably nobody will ever know. If you are older like me don’t think that it is too late and not worth it, you have no idea what you are missing.

It seems from your perspective that there is a long hard process to go through but the time flies quicker than you can imagine and a it quicker than it does if you are feeling depressed and your head is full of what if dreams and pent up frustration and anger. Perhaps you have just decided to make the best of the life you were given, get a macho job if born with a male body, get married and have kids to take your mind off it. You have a better chance of willing your eyes to change colour and you are going to subject yourself to a lifetime of dissatisfaction which may breakdown at some point anyway with a lot of casualties to share your pain… The hardest parts of transition are being honest with yourself and seeking help and secondly trying to deal with partner and children…

On the few occasions I looked at myself in the mirror I used to think that it would be impossible after a lifetime of male body chemistry to ever look right as a woman. I am very much a wash and go woman but with a bit of moisturiser I get away with it, so will you

It is never too early to deal with facial hair, do not put off starting for a moment. The same goes for your voice.

If possible find someone you can share the journey with or join a group, you do not want to be alone and shared experiences help us all along…

It still helps if you get enough training or education to earn a decent living and if that can be something where you are not under others control so much the better, That was my biggest mistake!



Chrissy

(c) Our Different Journey
AWARENESS: When did you first feel trans? How did it make you feel? Did you embrace or run from it?

Feeling ‘trans’ ? That’s something new for me, it’s certainly no longer than eight years or so. Feeling ‘trans’ has replaced ‘being one of those weird cross-dressers’ … something I was for a lot longer than those eight years.

Now, cross-dressing … (I never called myself a transvestite, it’s always seemed too clinical and fetishistic) … that’s brought me some intense periods of pleasure together with long sessions of guilt and worry, too much of the latter to justify the former in fact. But there you go; if people worked out the consequences of all they did, nothing would ever be done.

I liked dressing up, it was my little secret (and we’re very good at secrets in my family, we put the Illuminati to shame), I liked the transformations I could achieve, and it was something I vaguely looked forward to – I spent many Saturday afternoons at home, with the rest of my family out shopping, turning my bedroom into some dishevelled fashion parade.

Moving out of the family home didn’t change this attitude, it was still my little secret – the only difference was, I had more money to spend on it.

ADOLESCENT COPING: How did you cope with growing up? What about puberty? How was school, or teenage life?

I had an entirely normal and uneventful youth, well, normal for the estate I lived on, anyway. We climbed trees, played soldiers in the woods, fought each other in our gangs, rode our bikes everywhere, went shoplifting occasionally and generally behaved as we were destined to be – working class lads. We didn’t read books or see French films, we didn’t even have a cinema in our town… All my friends were boys my own age and that was how it should have been.

I can’t claim to have had a cross-dressing childhood. I didn’t start till I was thirteen or so, when I was at High School, and I don’t recall a specific trigger moment, I’m afraid! The best I can offer you were the times in my teens that my mother gave me her old jeans to wear out, me being a lanky strip of pish and her being much my size, and in truth there wasn’t any difference between her jeans and my own, except the placing of the zip… did that make me a cross-dresser? I do hope not.

Now puberty, on the other hand… by this time I was established as a cross-dresser and I was fully aware that it wasn’t something to be talked about – the Sunday papers of the time (which I delivered to half my estate) made it quite clear that it was a shameful and sordid act, especially if it was a vicar doing it… I was boisterous and a ‘class clown’ as a child but with puberty I became shy and introverted, and with my friends at other schools I found myself spending a lot of time in the school library with its collection of history books. Swapping AJP Taylor for some medical textbook or other, helped me work out that I wasn’t alone in this… desire, shall we say? And, more importantly, it was probably an aspect of overt homosexuality – something I hadn’t considered.

Was I gay? I honestly hadn’t considered it it. I’d seen porn at school – delivered it, too, on Fridays – and had been interested enough in the female form, but being a poofter was a sure way to lose your teeth, especially if you admitted to it, which no-one did. But the textbook said I was homosexual, so that’s what I became, for a week anyway. I tried really hard to be attracted to another male – pupils, teachers, the man in the street – and nothing happened, absolutely nothing. Well, that was that. I could put ‘Not A Poof’ on my list of achievements.

That just left ‘that vexed question’ of why I did what I did. A lot more research later revealed the existence of (shock! horror!) transsexuals, which were (of course!) a logical extension to What I Did On Saturdays – wear a pair of lace panties one day, a year later you’re on the operating table saying ta-ta to your spuds. That didn’t sound very promising, and not at all what I had in mind for the future.

So it was all very confusing and I decided to forget all about it. Transsexuals existed and were scary, surgically-enhanced famous people with tragic private lives, cross-dressers existed and were sexual deviants who didn’t deserve to live. I had a name for what I did and that was all I cared to know. The guilt came free.

EARLY LIFE/ UNIVERSITY / COLLEGE: Having grown up – at least physically, how was life? Did you fit in or fall out? Did you stay home, work away or go to University, college or work?

I did okay at school, with seven solid GCSE passes in practical subjects. I wanted to join the Royal Air Force as an airframe technician, and intended to do the required A-levels in the Sixth Form at school. However, I was rumbled! My stash of clothes was discovered by my parents, and this revelation and my subsequent interrogation was quite unpleasant, to put it mildly. I was asked if I was gay, which I denied, threatened with psychiatric attention, and ultimately told that my parents wouldn’t be supporting a pervert in any Sixth Form, and that I’d better get a job, toot bloody sweet.

Shortly after this incident, there was an open day at a local engineering works and I was taken there by my father, being told to make a good impression along the way. Since the company offered me an apprenticeship almost on the spot, I think I did a good job, and in all honesty I think my father’s insistence in me going to work at that time was probably the best thing he’s ever done for me, because I learnt so much and had a great time.

I lived at home, paid housekeeping to my mother, studied at college two days a week and worked another four days, overtime being plentiful at the time. I bought my first motorbike and made new friends. And I kept my ‘habit’ so far underground, Jules Verne’s Professor Lidenbrock couldn’t have found it.

CAREER: What you do and how you think it has shaped you (for better or worse). Is there something you long to do?

I’ve worked in a wide variety of industries, usually as a labourer or in a semi-skilled role, and until 2009 (when I became unfit for work through intense stress and clinical depression) I hadn’t been unemployed for longer than a month or two, for which I’m quite grateful. Something’s always come up when I needed it. I have several qualifications in vocational subjects and I’m good with my hands; I’m a natural engineer, for which I grudgingly thank my father for revealing in me. I build and fix motorcycles, build bicycles to order and do building maintenance and improvements for my partner and neighbours.

I’m currently studying motorcycle mechanics at college and I am considering additional training as a Further Education tutor in the same subject. I have a wealth of first-hand, hard-won experience and it’s about the best idea I’ve had, regarding any future work prospects. It’s been suggested that I set up in business as a mechanic but I think there’s far too many chances of failure. I don’t like the possibility of failure, I get it right first time or I don’t attempt it.

RELATIONSHIPS: Single, married, long term relationship, divorced, happy to be single? How is family life?

It’s been a long and strange journey to the place I’m in now. Like I said above, I’ve tried really hard to be attracted to the male of the species, and so far all I’ve achieved was a slight crush on a short-haired Bruce Dickinson (circa 2005) which, let’s face it, isn’t gonna go anywhere.

I lost my virginity at seventeen, to a woman much older than myself (three times older in fact) and enjoyed it quite a lot, so much so that I carried on down that path, and I’m a confirmed female-fancier. Which makes my engagement of a few years, to a gender-queer-identified, female-bodied, sometimes-masculine person, so much more unusual I suppose. But it works, and we love each other and we’re very happy together. We intend to get married sometime in the next couple of years, under our old names, just to confound and confuse people.

I had a few casual relationships, some one-night-stands, nothing really serious – it’s just what lads my age did, and I wasn’t any different. I knew what I could say and what to keep to myself, I didn’t get anyone pregnant or diseased and we didn’t keep in touch.

The first person I told about my cross-dressing was the mother of my children, referred to hereafter as ‘the ex’. This would have been in about 2004 and I was thirty years old. We’d been together for about three years and I came out to her as the result of a dare, of all things; I’d commented that I could look better than some Doris on the telly and I was told to prove it. I never could resist a dare so I did just that.

After the initial surprise the ex was OK with it, saying I could be ‘myself’ at home so long as I wasn’t too outrageous, but as I became more confident in my presentation she became more unhappy. Eventually we did nothing but fight; she had post-natal depression after the birth of our youngest child, I was quite badly depressed through a developing gender dissonance, and it was even money as to who’d murder the other one dark night. We split up by mutual consent, she kept the house and I got another flat on the other side of town. Freedom, of a sort, and part of the reason I felt it safe to think about transition and who I really wanted to be.

After the ex, I met a girl by accident. We were in a gay pub, she was new to the area and I just wanted a quiet drink whilst presenting as Chrissy; I was still part-time at this point. She noticed my genuine, well-worn motorcycle jacket and we talked about bikes for a long time. She was a ‘soft-butch’ dyke and we had a lesbian relationship for almost two years, but it didn’t work out; I was still too masculine, too ‘blokey’ for her, sex was always going to be a compromise between us, and in the end she moved away.

She broke my heart and I wanted to die, it was so painful. By then I was firmly on the transition path and I seriously believed I’d end my days as a lonely post-op transsexual, surrounded by cats and wondering just what the hell happened to my life.

As far as parenting goes, I’m a father to two happy, healthy pre-teens, one boy, one girl. They know all about their unusual daddy who has a girls name, boobies and who wears ladies’ clothes and make-up. They’ve grown up with it and haven’t known me do anything different. Living in a different city to them can be problematic but I have regular contact with them. Nothing will change the fact that I’m their daddy, I’m very proud to be so and I don’t insist than my kids call me anything different – I’m not their mother, they already have a mother who dotes on them. If anyone thinks this is a problem, then it’s their problem, not ours.

COMING OUT: Have you? Would you? If so, how was it? If not, why not?

I’m out to everyone who needs to know, and that’s a surprisingly small number of people. I’ve learnt the hard way that blithely telling anyone who cares to listen about the tranny in their midst can lead to anger, violence, pain and blood, the latter two usually being mine. I don’t have a pretty face but I’d like its features to stay where they are, ta.

My parents knew about Chrissy through word of mouth, I suppose they’d expected it wasn’t going to go away though nothing was ever said. I’d been learning about make-up techniques through a college night-class and sometimes the previous night’s experiments were still visible when I got to work the next day. I formally told them of my intention to transition a week before I told my employer, because at the time I worked with my father at the same company. I showed my parents the best photos I had of myself and said, this is who I want to be all the time.

It didn’t go well. My father thought I was mentally ill and needed help, my mother was ashamed (what will the neighbours say?) and banned me from coming to visit again, presumably thinking I’d turn up as some demented Lily Savage lookalike. I haven’t seen much of my parents since that time, I have to say.

I came out at work because it was required of me, as part of my transition. I went to see the site manager (I worked in a satellite unit of a major manufacturing company, as a welder fabricator) and he was cool, said he’d suspected such a thing was going to happen (see? make-up again) but the rest of the workforce weren’t too happy and essentially I was ostracised from the team. Again, I was expected to flounce into work like some drag queen but all that really happened was I’d paint my nails and wear nicer T-shirts under my overalls.

Since then I’ve learnt not to mention the ‘T’ word when looking for work or when starting at a new company. Employers think I’ll bring trouble their way, I’ll demand ‘rights’ and time off to have my hair done, or some other rubbish. If people ask me outright – are you trans? – then I have to think whether this person actually needs to know, and most times they don’t. People can think what they like, I can’t control that, but I won’t have what I tell people thrown back in my face by way of graffiti, rudeness or violence. That’s happened before.

I came out, and then I went back in. I used to be proud of who I was. I even printed and wore the t-shirt ‘Transgender and Proud’ and I was, in a very small way, an activist or at least a visible part of the gender spectrum. I don’t do that any more because I don’t really care any more. I’ve withdrawn from large parts of Modern Life through illness and a jaded disillusionment with the rest of society, and I don’t care to return just yet.

THE WAY FORWARD: What’s next for you? What are your hopes – trans, or otherwise?

As I write this, I’m recovering from GRS – gender reassignment surgery, or genital reconstruction surgery, take your pick – and I suppose that’s the end of the line as far as medical intervention and my transition goes. I’m angling for breast augmentation to create a better-looking torso but that’s sometime in the future- whenever I can afford to pay for it, really.

I’m as integrated into my neighbourhood and community as I want to be (a foul-mouthed shaven-headed lout in female clothes and make-up who makes surprisingly many friends!) and I don’t really have anything left to prove. As I mentioned above, I’d quite like to be a further-education tutor in motorcycle mechanics, something I think is quite possible for me to achieve by the time I’m forty-three, and I think that’s Quite Something for a person of my particular history.

WORDS OF WISDOM: Anything you’d like to share to a younger you or to other trans people?

Um. Dunno, really. I don’t think I’m a very good role model for other trans people. Hell, I’m not a good role model for homo sapiens. But here are a few tips.

Don’t believe everything you read on the Internet, in fact don’t believe at least 70% of it, probably more. Very few people post anything purely out of the goodness of their heart, there’s usually a selfish reason behind it.

In fact, the best use of the Internet is to find people and groups that can support, socialise and help you along, and then you can forget the Internet altogether, apart from buying clothes. A real life friend is worth any two Internet forums.

You don’t have to be a slave to growing your hair.

Short hair is cool. No hair is cooler, but harder to get right.

Don’t dress up, go to the pub and sing, ‘I Am Who I Am’ because it will end in tears.

Gender euphoria – the feeling of liberation from realising who you want to be – is intoxicating. It makes you tell people things that they don’t need to know. Will your postman appreciate hearing about last night’s exploits as Fifi LaMouche? No. Don’t do it.

And don’t go to post a letter at 3am. No-one remotely normal does that.



Gabrielle
(c) Our Different Journey
AWARENESS: When did you first feel trans? How did it make you feel? Did you embrace or run from it?

At a very young age – around the time I was able to identify visible differences between boys and girls. This is also when I first realized that my options were limited to “traditional boy” clothes and appearances. I clearly remember admiring how women/girls looked and dressed before even starting school. They were feminine and I wanted to be feminine, too. What “feminine” is differs greatly from one opinion to the next, but in my case, at a young age, it was long hair, make-up, dresses and skirts.

Roughly 3 or 4 years of age is my earliest memory of actually looking through my mother’s closet in search of a skirt to try on. One particular instance around this age stands out in memory because I was almost caught by my father while in the walk-in closet, wearing one of mom’s skirts. I’m not sure if he actually peaked in the closet or not, but when I was aware he was looking for me, I remember asking him, “Don’t look!”, as I quickly tried to remove the skirt. Even at such a young age, I understood this was taboo and just not allowed. I can’t remember if I ever actually asked my father, “Why aren’t boys allowed to wear dresses and have long hair?” I remember my “options” (or lack there of) being explained to me, so I may have asked, or my father may have simply picked up on what I was doing. Thankfully, this was before my “guilt” and “self-conscious” emotional responses had matured enough to start wreaking havoc me.

ADOLESCENT COPING: How did you cope with growing up? What about puberty? How was school, or teenage life?

With a lack of female clothes to sample, I used to place both my legs into a t-shirt neck hole, and carefully pull it up over my waist to simulate a skirt. This was around age 4 or 5. It looked kind of ridiculous with the short sleeves hanging off the sides, which I later figured out to invert, and turn into pseudo “pockets”. Of course, t-shirt neck-holes were designed big enough to allow a head to bass through, not a waist. Doing this stretched out my t-shirt neck-holes considerably, to which my mom took notice of.

I remember her asking why the neck-holes on a couple of my t-shirts were really stretched out. Knowing I couldn’t tell her the truth, I quickly came up with, “I don’t like the way they brush against my face when I pull them over my head, so I stretch them out to make the holes bigger.” She told me to stop doing that. I have no idea if she actually bought the story or not and wasn’t very concerned at the time.

My need to experience femininity through dressing in clothes reserved for “women only” was rather confusing to me as I entered school and started getting older. Why was I like this? What’s wrong with me? How come no one else is like this? I believed I was the only person in the world like this back then. There was no free-flow of information and parents, schools, peers, and society in general, seemed to collectively work together to make sure gender lines (and options) were strictly drawn down the middle, based on one’s reproductive organs.

One fateful night while my parents were out, I decided to indulge my need to feel feminine and “girly”. I was 12 years old at the time and was wearing one of my mom’s skirts. Out of nowhere, I heard my mother’s voice say, “What are you doing?” My heart sank. Somehow my parents arrived home, entered the house, and my mother walked up the stairs, all without me hearing a noise. There I was, wearing her skirt while mom looked at me with a very surprised look on her face, and an even more surprised look on mine. She told me to change back into my own clothes and then had a “talk” with me. The talk was pretty brief, but seemed like a painfully long eternity to me at the time. That evening was probably the single most traumatic event of my youth. It was the day I learned to hate myself and marked the beginning of my slow, painful spiral downward into my teenage years.

I had a pretty rough time during my high school years (age 15-18). I was socially retarded, didn’t fit in with any particular group, didn’t have many friends, had a very low self-esteem, and found myself frequently being “corrected” for not being “manly enough” – from my mannerisms to the way I talked and walked. It was hard finding girls interested in dating me, in part because I was so severely socially awkward, and many of them just thought I was gay (picking up on the wrong vibe).

Romantic relationships in my teen years were pretty turbulent. Not believing I had any other options than being and looking like a “boy”, I lived vicariously through my girlfriends, always trying to get them to dress and look the way I wanted to dress and look. This wasn’t exactly fair to them and caused a lot of friction, but I didn’t quite understand that at the time. Getting dumped was always a double-whammy. It wasn’t just loosing a love interest for me – it was much like a forced “purge” of sorts. My only feminine pseudo-outlet would be taken away, leaving me with… just my boy-self, which I hated.

Feeling worthless and hating myself, I attempted suicide a handful of times. My last attempt landed me in a psychiatric hospital for 4 long months, many miles away from home and the few remaining friends I had left. Strange that even now, so many years later, I tear up as I reflect upon this time in my life.

EARLY LIFE/ UNIVERSITY / COLLEGE: Having grown up – at least physically, how was life? Did you fit in or fall out? Did you stay home, work away or go to University, college or work?

Shortly after returning home from my summer spent in a psychiatric hospital, my parents told me I had to move out. I was still filled with self-hate, miserable, and growing increasingly difficult to live with. At the age of 18, I was living on my own.

For several years I lived below the poverty level, but it wasn’t all bad. I had my own apartment. It was small and not much to look at, but it was my own, *private* place. I slowly started acquiring my own of female clothing items, and could finally dress up without the fear of being busted by family.

At this point in my life, dressing up in women’s clothes was very arousing and often lead to “self gratification”. Still believing “something was wrong with me”, the act of dressing up was always accompanied by a hefty load of guilt. The arousal thing faded away years later.

Into my 20’s, I was finally starting get better mimicking “manly behaviours”. People had been “correcting” me since my single-digit years. All that social programming was finally paying off. With much effort invested, I was able fool most people and put forth a more “masculine” presentation. Everything from the way I walked, talked, sat, mannerisms, etc. had all been practised and modified. I started working out to bulk up and grew facial hair to better hide my (then) shameful secret from the world. I started fitting in better, socially. People were buying my “man act”. The cost of “fitting in better” was mentally and physically exhausting. I was literally putting on an act and pretending everywhere I went, all the time, without a break. Living this was was so very empty.

CAREER: What you do and how you think it has shaped you (for better or worse). Is there something you long to do?

I’ve worked for the same company for many years now. Starting out as an entry level grunt, I slowly made my mark on the company and worked my way up to management. I’m not doing what I thought I’d be doing when I “grew up”, but my technical skills and “outside the box” approach to things has served my employer well. Likewise, it’s been a very interesting opportunity for me to learn how many aspects of “office life” work and how to survive in an often trying environment.

I’m not “out” to anyone at work, and not sure it would go so well for me if anyone knew. It takes a lot to get under my skin these days, and I’m often curious about what it might be like to work at the office as Gabrielle. I’d like to arrive at a place in my life when I could work as Gabrielle, but I don’t have much interest doing so at my current job.

RELATIONSHIPS: Single, married, long term relationship, divorced, happy to be single? How is family life?

As of writing this, I’ve been married for 18 years to a beautiful, loving woman – “The Fabulous Mrs. H.” She’s amazing and I can’t imagine life without her. We come from very different upbringings and cultural backgrounds. For all our differences, there is much we have in common, too. Our similarities include a love of ultra-feminine style, we’re both very open-minded and accepting of differences in people, and both rather stubborn. Sometimes we joke about being a blessing to each other, and being each other’s punishment at the same time. I’d say it’s been far more of a blessing, though, both ways, to which Mrs. H. agrees. We have a beautiful, happy marriage and love the life we share together.

COMING OUT: Have you? Would you? If so, how was it? If not, why not?

I’m out of the closet in many ways, and yet not quite all the way. The first person I came out to was my wife. It wasn’t until after thirteen years of marriage, though. I still wasn’t quite sure what being trans was all about at the time we got married, and I naively believed that it would just “go away” after living with a beautiful, ultra-feminine woman. Of course, it didn’t, and I’m very thankful for that, now that I understand things.

Coming out to my wife was a process and not something I covered in a single sit-down conversation, or two or three. I had reached a point in my life where I couldn’t keep this in any more. It was no longer something that confused or haunted me. I needed to be myself and needed to be honest with my wife of 13 years (at the time). If she didn’t accept me as I am after learning the truth, I felt my marriage would soon come to an end.

Over the course of a year, I slowly painted the big picture of who I am, one stroke at a time, until my wife understood. To my delight, not only did she still love me with all her heart, she also played an active role in helping me evolve as Gabrielle. Coming out strengthened our marriage in ways I could not have predicted. It isn’t perfect, but we share a very happy marriage together and I count my blessings every day for having her beautiful, loving presence in my life.

In 2009, I attended my high school reunion as Gabrielle, effectively coming out to much of my high school class. My intent wasn’t actually to “come out” to anyone that night, though. Although aware my high school reunion was taking place, I didn’t have much interest in attending. I did however, have much interest in getting out of the house as Gabrielle, and felt that the reunion would be a safe place to visit. I walked into the reunion feeling very nervous, self-conscious, and rather unprepared. I walked out feeling absolutely amazing, after connecting with a handful of old friends, who were very cool and accepting of me as Gabrielle. Many eyes were upon me that night. Some people called out to me, poking fun, pointing, laughing and being jerks. This kind of childish behaviour used to bother me back in my school days but didn’t phase me at all that night. They had no power over me whatsoever. I felt way too good about myself for anyone to bring me down. It was a beautiful night for me, and cracked open the door for seemingly limitless possibilities.

From 2012 to present, I’ve come out to several people I’ve met, including a few open-minded strangers whom I felt comfortable enough sharing, after conversing with for a while.

With the growing number of people who know be as both Gabe and Gabrielle, it might almost seem absurd that I have yet to tell a single member of my biological family, but I have not, and do not have any plans to for the foreseeable future. With the exception of maybe one or two, I don’t think many would be very accepting of this aspect of my life and don’t feel like dealing with the friction I’d likely face from the more religious (read “judgemental”) members of my family. For the record, I’m not close to anyone in my biological family and don’t see them more than a few times a year, and prefer it that way.

THE WAY FORWARD: What’s next for you? What are your hopes, trans, or otherwise?

Life has been an interesting journey so far. I went from hating myself, to accepting myself as a crossdresser, to learning what being transgender is all about (at least in how it works in my own life), to very much disliking the term “crossdresser” and preferring the term “part-time t-girl” or “part-time trans woman”.

It wasn’t long ago that I mistakenly thought that being “Gabrielle” part-time was enough for me. That is no longer the case. Going full-time isn’t currently an option, but I’m slowly working toward changing that.

I never felt like a “man”, at least not in the traditional sense. I can’t say I’ve ever felt like a “woman”, either, but exploring life as Gabrielle certainly feels more like my *true* self.

There are no deadlines or formal time table laid out for my future. I don’t have plans to transition (undergo the SRS process), and I’m not closed to the idea, either. Putting on my man-act has grown very tiresome over the years, and “Gabe” is very much a man-act, as in, I’m “acting like a man” when in the presence of others. “Gabrielle” isn’t someone I get to “dress up like from time to time”, but rather a window of opportunity to just truly be myself, if only for a while. I’m looking forward to a day when that window need not be closed any more.

WORDS OF WISDOM: Anything you’d like to share to a younger you or to other trans people?

Perhaps it may sound cliché, but it is also true: It gets better. It gets a lot better. It really does!

We all grew up subjected to and heavily influenced by the social conditioning, misinformation, bullsh*t and lies. The beautiful thing is, once you know what being trans is *really* about, things get a whole lot easier. ALL of the guilt, insecurity and embarrassment – 100% of it, is simply our ego’s reaction to all that social programming. There was never anything wrong (with us) to begin with, other than we grew up being taught the wrong things… and unfortunately, we believed them.

Many times I have fantasized about going back in time and being able to mentor my child-self. How different life might have been if there was someone I could have looked up to and believed in – someone who was truthful, and not just trying to force this square peg through a round hole, consequently ruining the square peg in the process…

There’s nothing wrong with you for having feminine tendencies. The real problem is that you’ve been lied to. You’ve grown up in a society that attempts to limit your options based on which reproductive organs you were born with. In reality, there are many aspects of humanity they won’t teach you in school. Being transgender is absolutely normal. Transgender individuals have existed as long as there have been any definable “gender roles”.

If you’re transgender, then you’re transgender. It’s not something you do, but rather who you are. To deny and resist being yourself will only lead to pain and suffering. Just roll with it. Be your beautiful transgender self! Be what the universe intended you to be. “God” (the universe) doesn’t make mistakes and you are trans for a reason. Only manipulative liars, “sheeple”, and those who live in fear will try to convince you otherwise, and that’s the truth. As I write these words, being transgender isn’t very popular in society. Even so, there is nothing more beautiful in being human, than being blessed with the gift of being a transgender human.

I’m going to close with three very meaningful quotes by Dr. Wayne Dyer. They aren’t transgender-specific, but rather hold truths that are universal.

“The highest form of ignorance is when you reject something you don’t know anything about.”

Remember this the next time anyone tries to insist that being transgender is anything other than perfectly natural, or attempts to disparage you for having the courage to be who you are.

“Love is the ability and willingness to allow those that you care for to be what they choose for themselves without any insistence that they satisfy you.”

If you’re experiencing friction and/or some form of rejection or ultimatum from someone who “loves” you, it’s time to understand the difference between real love, and **conditional** love. The latter has nothing to do with “love” at all. If you run into “conditional love”, understand that this person is not in love with you, but rather they are in love with their desired “concept of you”, and may try to manipulate you into lowering yourself to the level of “concept”. You’re not a “concept”, though. You’re a person; a human being, who deserves better.

“When you judge another, you do not define them, you define yourself.”

Remember this the next time someone passes judgement on you. Remember it the next time you pass judgement on another, too.



Justine

(c) Our Different Journey
AWARENESS: When did you first feel trans? How did it make you feel? Did you embrace or run from it?

I can’t remember the first time I felt trans, but I have very vivid recollections of the following: Playing a game called ‘The Ladies’ Department’ in my cousin’s bedroom when I was 7 or 8 years old. He invented the game, and living a short distance down the road meant our parents often babysat for each another.

On my stay overs at my cousin’s house, he often started to play his game. The basic premise was that there was a department store, which had a ‘ladies department’ where (get this) men could become women by going down a slide to successive lower floors. Each descent involved another stage of the transformation. I found his game a puzzle, but it involved a slide so was great fun regardless.

ADOLESCENT COPING: How did you cope with growing up? What about puberty? How was school, or teenage life?

At junior school I was very bright by all accounts, which turned to abject boredom when I had to change schools to a “God is love, God is love” C of E school. Cue lots of disruptiveness, thrown chairs & tables.. and lots of meeting with a child psychologist when the rest of the class were out learning to swim. Apparently. I remember finding a knitted toy was coming apart & discovering it’d been stuffed with tights, and pulling out the pieces to put them together.. and wearing them in bed. My cache was eventually found & my mother gave me the ‘it’s not right. It’s just not what boys do’
talk. “But they just feel so NICE. That’s all”, I remember saying. I was busted for this more than once, on & on.

Secondary school was pretty uneventful. I wasn’t cool or sporty or very academic (the C of E school knocked that out of me, thanks). I blended in until one day when somehow somebody got virtually the whole of my year to completely ignore me for about a month. Then one day while being pushed around a tennis court I snapped, won a fight by ‘going psycho’ & as if by magic it was as if nothing had ever happened. It was never clear why I was bullied, or what the kid who stated it all had against me. Outside school I used to go for long treks on my trusty Grifter bike, sometimes encountering discarded items of clothing on the way (“tights by the roadside? WOW!” I’d think.. but EEW!), and dreaming of a time when I could get away with buying my own.

Some time later I set up a pirate radio station at home. A small transmitter by any standards, on 107 FM I WAS COOL, and then some. Kids would congregate on the grass verge by the side of our house, ghetto-blasters blaring out my ramblings. Not that the station didn’t have considerable range. In those days there were gaps on the FM dial & my signal could be heard at a factory over 2 miles away (so I was told). I was certainly no ‘Hard Harry’ but I was a legend in my village. I had mixed feelings about my fame/infamy – I loved being the DJ, but couldn’t stand the adulation, especially from my sister’s friend Linda… shudder.

EARLY LIFE/ UNIVERSITY / COLLEGE: Having grown up – at least physically, how was life? Did you fit in or fall out? Did you stay home, work away or go to University, college or work?

Nothing really happened t-wise until I’d left school & I stumbled upon a Transformations advert in my Dad’s Exchange & Mart. ‘From He to She’ the ad said, with one of those half man / half woman pictures presumably depicting the same person. Interesting? You bet! I rolled up at Teesside Polytechnic after barely scraping a B/Tec at college. I was the only person on my course in the whole halls of residence, which didn’t exactly help me bond with my coursemates. My hall mates though, were a great bunch. Fun, and we mostly got on like a bunch of geeks on fire.

After a few months something started dragging me down. I started skiving away from lectures & taking the bus to Newcastle, and eventually ended up in a certain shop I’d seen advertised in Exchange & Mart. My first change away was a watershed & I treasured the picture of me looking like a bad 1980s American soap extra. It’s me, but as a woman! The skiving got worse & I’d do anything rather than study. My mind was somewhere else entirely – saving myself for another trip to Newcastle. I failed the first year of my degree & decided not to go back.

CAREER: What you do and how you think it has shaped you (for better or worse). Is there something you long to do?

If work has taught me anything it’s that very few people get to do things they genuinely enjoy and get paid for it.

My need for work brought me to Manchester, a place I still have mixed feelings about since I moved here in 1998. I still miss the North East, especially Newcastle dearly. I’m still trying to find a job up there I can tolerate enough which will still pay the bills. DJing, which saw me rise from mobile disco jock to perochial town pub/bar DJ, to swanky bit city bar/club DJ often took me away from my beloved special hobby, so as much I enjoyed it sometimes I deeply resented it.

Still, it was VERY well paid. £40 an hour, for standing there playing music? Yes please! Oh, I have to meet drunk people on hen nights? Blah.

RELATIONSHIPS: Single, married, long term relationship, divorced, happy to be single? How is family life?

My first proper girlfriend didn’t come around until I was in my early 20s. She was told of my ‘hobby’ before I even asked her out. I didn’t want her to hear it second hand from the idiot who was spreading rumours. We didn’t end up together until we’d coincided with each other at various parties & I’d taught her how to DJ. One night when her mother was away she’d had too much to drink, so she asked me to drive her car to a nearby picnic spot in the dead of night where we would put an end to her virginity. After both initially putting that night down as a bit of a mistake we went out for ten intense months. The best thing though, was that she helped me learn to accept myself. The guilt I felt for wasting money on Changeaways(TM) was needless. My crossdressing may have had causes, but she helped me learn I was wasting time & energy trying to find them.

She went away to university to study architecture which left me somewhat lost, but a chance encounter inspired me to take a leap forwards. Every month ‘DJ’ mag featured pictures from London clubs like The Wag, Kinky Gerlinky etc, with all kinds of amazing people pictured including absolutely stunning ‘trannies’. I would pore over the pages, trying to imagine how it would feel to wear a dress, heels (and my still beloved tights) and DANCE. Anyway, to cut a long story short I was inspired to go for it, and once I learned of the Trannies With Attitude DJs appearing on the decks at Planet Earth nightclub in Newcastle I made my hesitant way there. Ultimately, it was the watershed moment of my entire life at that point.

I had a picture taken in the Transformation shop down the road before I went to the club. I sent the picture and a very long letter detailing the whole night to my ex. By return of post, the photo was sent back attached to an A3 sheet of paper with “YOU COMPLETE BABE!!” written in orange highlighter pen. I took this as meaning she approved.

Things got messy over time. Our relationship was already officially over, but I could never say no. To her I think it was just one more time for old times’ sake but despite my best intentions I was still dangerously attached. I became a bit of a wreck, unable to form a relationship with anybody else. I didn’t actually get any kind of ‘closure’ until she’d properly moved on – with an old work friend of mine as things turned out. She messed him up pretty good too, he said at my wedding. Her ‘type’.. not emotionally mature enough to deal with her.. complexity? Something like that. It’s kinder than saying she’s a bitch, which I don’t (now) believe she ever was.

From there I was happy to be a singleton, with nary even a one night stand for many a year. Then when I moved to Manchester I ended up with a DJ job back in the North East, which is how I met my wife… We went on one date, on the fourth of July in a Whitley Bay pub – the day before I was going to the South of France for three weeks. Such luck! I called her every night, but one day I felt an overwhelming need to get something off my chest. I told her about me being a transvestite. When she stopped laughing, it dawned on her I’d just bared my soul to her & after a long Q&A session I promised to take her some pictures of my ‘other half’. We ended up living together, we used to go out on ‘girly’ nights out together, we got married.. her acceptance of everything transgender has waxed & waned over the years but she still ultimately takes it as part of me which has to be accounted for. There’s been times when I’ve let things get out of hand but we’ve made it through them all.

And then there was a son…. and a daughter… and definitely no more. Gawd no! Two is enough trouble for anybody. How we’re going to address the ‘what Dad sometimes likes to do’ subject when the time comes we don’t know. I’d like to be ‘out’ to my children at some point but only as long as it doesn’t affect them in a negative way. That might be complicated.

I had a really good trans friend I got very close to a few years ago. We met in an online chatroom when I was looking for somebody to go to Pride with, and formed a strong friendship. Until that is, it emerged she’d been covering up the fact she was married with kids – when she cried on my shoulder about her wife finding out! I still can’t forgive her for that, though I tried sweeping it under the carpet it never went away. Looking at it objectively it should never really have been an issue. What real difference does a t-friend’s marital status make? We were friends who occasionally met up & went causing mayhem on dancefloors til stupid o’ clock in the morning and nothing else. Que?

COMING OUT: Have you? Would you? If so, how was it? If not, why not?

The majority of my friends know. One didn’t believe me despite being shown the same pictures as everybody else. I don’t tell anybody ‘because if I don’t I’ll burst’ any more  though. Nobody really gave a damn either way (apart from the women – one of my wife’s friends knows & she has a morbid fascination which makes me feel uncomfortable around her). Both my sisters have at times treated me like the sister they never knew they had, which I find a little weird. My parents.. I’m not 100% sure they know but I think hints have been dropped – think ‘Stand by your man’ by Tammy Wynette on a TV advert, when the lyric went “sometimes it’s hard to be a woman” my mother piped up “I bet it is when you’re a man”. Then my Dad, on learning I was to move to Manchester said “from what my mates at work have said, you’ll be right in your element there”. I didn’t ask for an explanation in either case.

Work… by sheer bad luck I’ve been out at work twice – in different jobs in different parts of the country. The first time resulted in mickey taking for about a week then no further comment – and the second resulted in my boss telling me how worried about me he was & that the company would support me every step of the way.

Oh, and I came out to my cousin too. The one I played the ‘Ladies’ Department’ game with in his bedroom, after he turned up in Newcastle’s Transformation shop one Friday afternoon while I was.. transformed. I hid away, and phoned him later that day to arrange a meeting where I confronted him about it. He steadfastly denied it, but I knew he was lying & he knew I knew he was lying. So sad, we could’ve cut up a few dance floors & had a right old laugh.

THE WAY FORWARD: What’s next for you? What are your hopes – trans, or otherwise?

More of the same I’ll wager, taking care to balance my own needs with those of people around me. A girl I used to work & share a house with once asked if I could see myself as a crossdresser in my 50s or 60s. I remember saying “God NO! But I’d rather have a bolt put through my head than have to go out in twinset & pearls!”. Anyway, hopefully that is *not* the call of the lamb costume I can hear in the distance.

WORDS OF WISDOM: Anything you’d like to share to a younger you or to other trans people?

Don’t over-think. You can pick things apart until you go insane & still not know the reason something is the way it is. At best over analysing is just a big waste of time. At worst it can set you back & hurt you.

THINK! No, really think! That trip around the block / to the post box / whatever you’re planning to take, in whatever state of (un)dress you’re considering. Is that really wise, as exciting as it seems in your imagination? It may not be, you know. Be careful! Life really is too short & one day those heels really will be too high.

SLEEP. It’s important. Particularly before driving home after an intimate all-night involvement. ECG sensor pads do not stick too well to skin which had copious amounts of baby oil applied the night before (see above)



Jonathan

(c) Our Different Journey
AWARENESS: When did you first feel trans? How did it make you feel? Did you embrace or run from it?

The “when” part of that is a bit difficult. I was trying on my sister’s clothes as early as 3 or 4, but I hardly had a conception of being trans (or, more precisely, femme) at that age. I can’t remember how it made me feel either, only that I felt compelled to do it. I suppose you could say I embraced it, in that I never tried or wanted to stop (with one brief exception mentioned below), but I quickly understood that it was something for a young boy to do secretly – and especially, whenever I wore girls’ knickers to school, that no one should ever find out.

ADOLESCENT COPING: How did you cope with growing up? What about puberty? How was school, or teenage life?

Teenage life was mostly “new wave” music, left-wing politics, hanging out. Trans-wise, I was still wearing my sister’s and mother’s clothes in private. I started buying my own around 14, when I ventured into Stockport from my Gran’s and spent my Christmas money on varied lingerie. It boggles me now that I ever found the nerve to do that. G*d knows what the women at the counter thought (okay, one might hazard a guess), but they served me without saying anything that I can remember and I got away unscathed, relieved and happy.

At 18 I had my first serious relationship, with a bisexual girl of the same age. After a while I told her about my cross-dressing – I actually (bless) wrote her a letter – and she was very nice about it. I was crazy in love with her; but I was inexperienced and immature and consequently rather a jerk. She ended it after about six months. The cross-dressing was, I think, partly the reason, as I’d gotten carried away with the sudden freedom and inflicted it all on her (though the jerk factor certainly figured too). The rejection I took extremely badly, which included “giving up” cross-dressing and throwing all my stuff away. Stupid. Before too long I’d started again and have never made the (expensive!) mistake of purging since.

EARLY LIFE / UNIVERSITY / COLLEGE: Having grown up – at least physically – how was life? Did you fit in or fall out? Did you stay home, work away or go to University, college or work?

Mostly I stayed home. I was unemployed (by choice) for several years after leaving school. Eventually I went away to study architecture in London (coincidentally my ex-girlfriend’s sister was there as well), but dropped out after a term and came back to “study maths” at Sheffield instead, travelling in from Mansfield every day. The inverted commas are because I actually spent most of the time studying chess. (I later scraped a third by memorizing key formulas and proofs in the days before each exam and applying them at the table, thus learning that you can get a degree with very little work, just not a very good one – unless you’re John Nunn or someone perhaps.)

CAREER: What you do and how you think it has shaped you (for better or worse). Is there something you long to do?

I edit chess books (so the time spent studying chess instead of maths did come to some good), which involves me sitting at home at the computer all day. This has sheltered me from trials and tribulations to a large extent, though whether that’s for better or worse, I’m not sure: it’s lessened the effects of a probable personality disorder, but at the cost of never needing to deal with it properly.

No, there’s nothing I really long to do… although if there was an Open University course in gender theory available, I’d be quite interested in doing that, seeing as I know so much about this stuff already.

RELATIONSHIPS: Single, married, long-term relationship, divorced, happy to be single? How is family life?

Single. I live with my mother (my father died seven years ago) in a house owned by my uncle. For me the essence of singledom was best expressed in an episode of Inspector Morse, where he was asked whether he minded never having married, and he replied: “sometimes I mind”. And that’s about it: I’m happy being single; I like being single; except for sometimes, when I don’t.

COMING OUT: Have you? Would you? If so, how was it? If not, why not?

Yes and no. I was deeply in the closet for a long time, albeit more in my head than in reality – in that, although a lot of my friends knew, and I knew they knew, and they knew I knew (etc), it wasn’t something I wanted to talk about at all. So I was in the closet with the door open as it were. (Think of a young child with their eyes tightly closed and their fingers in their ears, going “you can’t see me, you can’t see me”.) That’s not because I felt any shame or guilt – I never really have – it’s due more to an almost pathological dislike of being laughed at. (If you want me to blow up in your face, that’s the way to do it.)

Nowadays, with family and older friends… well… I did think the silence was mutual: that we never talked about it because to do so might change something between us somehow. However, I actually came out to my mother a few months ago and she said she’d had no idea. My sister (who followed two days later) had some idea but nothing exactly clear either. (Bizarre! I’d thought the evidence was both blatant and conclusive – but seemingly not.) Anyway, they were both supportive, and interested (reading my blog from start to finish), and not at all judgmental  The things we worry about, eh? And, most important of all, they didn’t laugh.

As for friends, I’m still working on the “mutual silence” basis. I don’t hide anything online (for instance, everything is visible in my Facebook account, and this post is under my own name), so it’s very possible for people to find out, either inadvertently or deliberately (should they go looking). Other than that, I’m not intending to come out publicly – in the village, that is. You don’t know how people will react and, given that “badly” is one possibility and I don’t live by myself, it can’t just be my decision. In any case, it’s not something I feel any particular need to do right now.

THE WAY FORWARD: What’s next for you? What are your hopes – trans, or otherwise?

What’s next: I don’t know.
Hopes (trans): To be completely open about who I am and not regret it. (But see the previous answer regarding the “completely” bit.)
Hopes (otherwise): That my sister’s illness won’t finish her off any time soon.
Dreams: To live in a world whose rules of gender are far less rigid.

WORDS OF WISDOM: Anything you’d like to share to a younger you or to other trans people?

If that means advice: Embrace who you are as soon as you possibly can.



Lynn

(c) Our Different Journey
AWARENESS: When did you first feel trans? How did it make you feel? Did you embrace or run from it?

I remember feeling curious about my mum’s and sister’s clothes when I was in the third year of primary school. I guess I’d be about six or seven. I can’t put my finger on an exact memory, although I do remember taking a pair of tights from the laundry pile and trying them on in my room. They felt, kinda right, in some odd way. I remember wearing a pair under my trousers at school, although I didn’t repeat that for many years…. not that I got caught doing it. That didn’t come to much later.

I didn’t know the word trans or any other ones. As far as I knew, this was just something I did. Ego? Perhaps, but I had no other frame of reference as a young kid. The one thing I did know, I wasn’t rough and tumble like the other boys. I preferred books to football, Bananarama to Adam Ant and I normally had one close friend, rather than a gang of mates. One thing I did learn, as a boy, it wasn’t good to cry and you didn’t talk about dressing up.

I didn’t exactly embrace being trans, but I dabbled enough through my younger years to realise that I’d keep coming back to it. Sometimes the guilt would get to me, sometimes it wouldn’t. I do remember reading a teenage problem page about it – my sister bought a lot of teen magazines (plus, fab make-up tips!) – and I remember thinking, “OMG, that’s me. There are other kids who do this.” That made a big difference. I didn’t feel like such a freak.

ADOLESCENT COPING: How did you cope with growing up? What about puberty? How was school, or teenage life?

I had a pretty easy childhood all things considered. My parents were good to me and I got off lightly in the long swing of things. I wasn’t picked on per se, although I didn’t enjoy going to an all boys grammar school. Funny, maybe it really is better to reign in Hell than server in Heaven? Still, no point in regretting that; if I could change time, I wouldn’t be where I am now and I think I’d be worse off.

So to answer your question, I didn’t like puberty. The spots, the greasy hair and of course, body hair. Ugh. Perhaps ironically, or perhaps more accurately, I hoped that I’d man up. It was a sort of spinning coin. On one side, I wanted to stay small and unhairy, on the other, I wanted to be tall and mainly like my mates. Go figure.

Looking back, I think I had my first dose of depression as I turned 17. I didn’t know what that word was back then and I do remember just lying across the bed, just staring at the floor, pretty much unable to do anything. Eventually, I went to see the doctor about it. It was also about that time that I came out to my Mum. That could have gone better. Honestly, I felt so ashamed of who I was. We were both in tears by the end of my confession. She asked if it was drugs, bullying or that I didn’t like girls. I’m not sure if the order of those things is a good or a bad thing! :-) Pile on gender identity issues with the heady teenage brew of beer, exams and typical puberty related guff, something was bound to go off pop. I had a few sessions of counselling and while it was helpful to talk to someone, I still had a lot of work to do to get myself back into shape mentally.

EARLY LIFE/ UNIVERSITY / COLLEGE: Having grown up – at least physically, how was life? Did you fit in or fall out? Did you stay home, work away or go to University, college or work?

The village where I lived was okay, but getting a job meant working in a town that I really didn’t like. It felt – at least to the teenage misanthrope that I was – that all there was to do was drink, watch TV, fight and try to cop off with one of the local girls. Looking back, I was probably being unfair as as a mate said, a Saturday night is what you make it.

I drifted into the idea of going to polytechnic. Back in the 80s / early 90s, we still had polys. :-) I failed most of my exams through not trying very hard (except in computing), but I scraped enough to get me into a course at Nottingham. I had thought about London – because that’s where all the trans stuff seemed to be, but Mum was fearful of me going down to the capital for some reason. I guess I was still a naive country boy at heart. :-)

I’d been to Nottingham many times, so it sort of felt like a home away from home. Plus, there was Rock City and as I was well into my late teen Indie / Industrial phase, I was quids in. Ahh, discovering the joy of dancing. Rave on. :-)

I guess going helped me break the ties from home and after a mate outed me for being trans, that pretty much made me hideaway…. either at my parent’s, or by staying at Nottingham. In a way, he did me a favour. I think it was the kick I needed to make a new start.

CAREER: What you do and how you think it has shaped you (for better or worse). Is there something you long to do?

I work in IT for my sins. :-) I wouldn’t say I’m an out and out expert as there’s always something new to learn. Most of the stuff I do relates to Microsoft products and much as I admire Unix, I’ve never really made the time to learn that much about it. Odd, considering how much command line stuff I do as part of my job. I guess in the last 10 years, I’ve honed my skills and my talent seem to lie in a very technical aspects. I’m not so good at the management thing – or so I’m told – which is frustrating, because if I want to move on, that’s where the next step is. So, lose a good techie and gain a crap manager? :-)

I don’t think my trans nature has had that much impact on my working life. Well, other than being a bit more open / relaxed around folk with different sexualities. Now, I help out with HR by offering career / personal issue support to staff. I’ve always liked to help people and I guess that fits in with the need. I don’t see a lot of people, but enough to make it feel like I am making a difference for someone.

As to longing to do? Hmm…. I don’t think about the future too much. I used to think that getting better pay would make me happy, but since working my way to to what I think’s a pretty good salary, it’s no longer about the dosh; it’s about value, making a difference and feeling like I’ve achieved something. I have written a few short stories over the years and despite sending them off, they’re not quite hitting the mark. I guess I’d like to be published one day, or even just have people read my stories. I know Rhiannon continues to politely cajole me over doing stand-up, which went really well once and then I completely tanked the second time around. But it is little more than whimsy. Perhaps I should spend less time on Facebook and more time writing. ;-)

RELATIONSHIPS: Single, married, long term relationship, divorced, happy to be single? How is family life?

Married… and very happily married at that. The Ever Lovely Mrs Jones and I were married in the late 90s and we’re very happy together. Sure, the trans gig puts a strain on things every now and again, but we work through it. I think we’ve reached a compromise for us both. We can joke and laugh in a pleasant way, so it is by far and away better than I’d hoped for. In my teenage years, I wondered if I’d ever meet such a lovely girl, and if she found out about who I really was, would she stand by me? The answer to that is yes.

We also have two young children: Wee Man (nearly 10) and Little Miss (half his age). I wasn’t sure what I expected in being a parent, but honestly, it’s been great. Sure, it can be hard work and yes, some old hobbies or activities (namely expensive holidays, posh meals out, etc) have to take a back seat; but having two new people come into the world and being able to help them grow, I find that amazing and very rewarding.

COMING OUT: Have you? Would you? If so, how was it? If not, why not?

I came out to my Mum when I was 17. We were both in floods of tears about it. I guess…. I felt so very confused over who I was. Ah, if only there’d been the Internet, life would have been different. Or more accurately, perhaps if I’d been calmer, life would have been different :-)

As to Mrs J, when we met, I told her it was something I used to do and at that time, that was true. What little clothes I had, I’d given away to charity. I stopped shaving my legs and I was going my best to ‘go straight’ – to coin a phrase. Funny thing was, while I’d thrown things away, the interest in wanting to feel pretty didn’t go away. I hesitate to use the word ‘desire’ because it has a sexual connotation and it’s more complicated than that.

Skip on a few years – around the 1999ish – and after a bad choice of job, I was buying clothes and dressing up. Mrs J was working shifts, so that fitted in easily enough. It all came to a head after I lied to her – yes, that’s very bad – and went to a Chameleons meeting. I must have looked a sight: no make-up, no bra, just a top, long skirt and heels from BHS. Still, you’ve got to start somewhere! :-) I came clean to her a week later and she was understandably upset by it all. I felt so bad for what I’d done – not the dressing up, but the lying. That was the worst part. But, we worked through it and I remember her borrowing some shoes for an interview. “At least I know you’ve got good taste in shoes,” she joked. I felt like it was a little step towards her being okay with it. I still get that wondering warm feeling when I lend her something, or she asks for my advice when she’s shopping.

THE WAY FORWARD: What’s next for you? What are your hopes – trans, or otherwise?

Wow, that’s a tough one. I’d like to have a little more freedom over the leg hair issue. I don’t like having fully carpeted legs, but equally, I’d rather not freak Mrs J out either. It’s not the end of the world, but it would give me a little more flexibility over clothing choices and in the past, when I did it, having smooth legs just felt right somehow. Trans folk eh? We’re a funny bunch :-) On the positive, I've now got both ears pierced and I find that having the choice of earrings makes me happier and more relaxed in bloke mode.

Outside of the trans stuff, I’d like to progress a little further in my career, but at the same time, my current employer is very good in terms of working around my family commitments. Funny, as the kids have gotten older, I think less about my job, and more about them and Mrs J. Having done more project management, rather than the hands on stuff, I've rather enjoyed the organising part of this job. I guess we'll see. I find work a means to an end, I certainly don't live to work :-)

WORDS OF WISDOM: Anything you’d like to share to a younger you or to other trans people?

That’s a tougher question that the last one….. Okay.

For other trans folk :

Don’t panic. You’re not alone and there are lots of people out there like you. Talk to them. Make friends, even if it’s social media or something. Get out if you can and push yourself. Somehow I managed it, so you can too. Don’t worry about passing; just dress well and have fun. There are worse things in life than being trans. It can be cool too.

For the younger me:

It will get better. You will meet someone who’ll understand and she will love you, just as you love her. You will make new friends: people who care about you. There is nothing wrong with being a geek. Drink isn’t the answer. Exercise when you can – walking is great for body, mind and soul. Learn to love dancing; it will be the most fun you’ll have with your kit on – be they male or female clothes.



Maddy

(c) Our Different Journey
AWARENESS: When did you first feel trans? How did it make you feel? Did you embrace or run from it?

Looking back, it was around the age of 6. I can remember dreaming about being a girl, and innocently raiding dressing up boxes for dresses, skirts and shoes.

it wasn’t long though before a neighbour spotted me dressed up like this, daintily tottering around in heels. She thought this was hilarious, and called my Mum over to see her eldest dressed as a girl. I felt pretty humiliated, and from that moment I started to associate cross dressing with a guilt and shame.

I don’t know if it was as a direct result of this, but I buried any trans thoughts and adopted a very boyish nature, which was the perfect cover for what was bubbling underneath.

ADOLESCENT COPING: How did you cope with growing up? What about puberty? How was school, or teenage life?

Secondary school saw me start to explore my trans nature a little. Between the ages of 12 and 15 I must have tried on every item in my sister’s wardrobe, and then progressed to my mum’s, taking insane risks around the house just to get my fix, or to feel ‘right’.

I was naturally extrovert, and I used this to my advantage, manipulating circumstances (via bets and dares) for any chance to swap clothing with girls etc. My piece d’resistance was getting the lead role in Cinderella, and wearing a bridesmaid dress belonging to the girl who was to play Prince Charming (whom I fancied). It felt amazing and right! I was surprised at how this endeared me to some of the girls in class, in part because I played the ‘coy but up-for-a-laugh’ card to perfection.

When I could afford, I bought clothes and shoes, and stashed them at the bottom of my wardrobe. Inevitably, my mum stumbled upon part of my collection, and encouraged my sister to approach me about it, in the most transparent of manners. I somehow denied it, panicked and binned the lot at the earliest opportunity.

Moving on a couple of years, I met my wife-to-be. Early on in our relationship she caught me trying on her skirt after sex, and when I coloured up, she encouraged me to try it on. She seemed nonplussed, but the depth of my gender confusion came out in a drunken self-pitying rant about a month or so later. I insisted that I could control it, that I would never EVER go out dressed, and that I could ultimately switch it on and off at will.

It was around this time I first noticed ads for dressing services in the back of the Sunday papers, and faced the fact that I had a label – ‘transvestite’. This didn’t sit well with me, and the little research I did seemed to suggest it was a mental illness – a ‘psychosexual disorder’ as one journal called it. I resolved to never let it surface publicly.

EARLY LIFE/ UNIVERSITY / COLLEGE: Having grown up – at least physically, how was life? Did you fit in or fall out? Did you stay home, work away or go to University, college or work?

I went to University. I fitted in. Made great friends. Outwardly there were no real signs that I was in any way different, apart from an ability to drink an unhealthy amount of alcohol. I’d built up a small stash of clothes (usually from charity shops) at my student digs, and had a collection of nighties at my girlfriends house. I used to sneak into some of my house mates rooms and borrow outfits too, but this soon started to feel a bit perverted. However, during this period of my life I did tell a couple of friends I cross-dressed, and they were actually rather cool about it.

If ever there was a fancy dress party, folk would mock surprise that I was going dressed as a woman, such was the frequency I would engineer it… a schoolgirl… a nurse… Frank N Furter… I covered the whole gamut of clichés. As a result I had some great nights out, but I was becoming ever more confused, ever more curious and freakishly envious of anyone who happened to be born female.

CAREER: What you do and how you think it has shaped you (for better or worse). Is there something you long to do?

I’ve always been artistic, so I think I would have ended up in the creative industry regardless of whether I was born male or female. My gender-blur has occasionally been explored creatively, including a couple of insightful pieces during my college years. In my current line of work I find it easier than some of my peers to tap into a more feminine style of artwork should the subject require it.

As for something I’d long to do, it would be great to experience working life from a female perspective, in pretty much any job, but know that it’s unlikely to happen again. I managed to do this for a day once when I worked part time in a cake shop during college, it was fantastic, and I’d jump at the chance to do it for a longer period… the next 30 years perhaps???

RELATIONSHIPS: Single, married, long term relationship, divorced, happy to be single? How is family life?

I’m married, and happily so, with two great kids. I was fortunate to meet my soul mate at a young age, whom after 20 odd years, still engages me, loves me, and supports me. I have little doubt she will be my lifelong companion. Since I’ve come out, she has been unwavering in her support, has been out with me as Maddy (although not as much as we’d like for childcare reasons), and we enjoy good banter, communication, and shopping expeditions!

COMING OUT: Have you? Would you? If so, how was it? If not, why not?

Well, I’m about half way out. By that I mean I enjoy a healthy trans-social life, and have made some great friends in the community. I feel comfortable going out in public, despite not passing to the degree I would like. My wife obviously knows, as do a good proportion of our friends and some of my family.

My next obstacle is to tell my parents, as while I left a trail of breadcrumbs through my teens, and I suspect they know as it feels like a white elephant in the room. Most importantly, I want to tell my kids, and that’s the main reason that I’m not as ‘out’ as I’d like to be – in a vain attempt to protect them. They deserve to be the next to know, and ultimately, I think they’ll be good about it.

THE WAY FORWARD: What’s next for you? What are your hopes – trans, or otherwise?

I’d like to paint and draw more – for the love, rather than as a source of income. I want to see my kids grow up into balanced, healthy individuals who feel loved for being just who they are. I want to grow old disgracefully with my wife, and cross the finish line with smiles on our faces.

From a Trans point of view, I don’t know. I’m currently working on the presumption that I’ll never be full time, will never be female. While that does make me feel sad, I don’t believe transitioning would bring me a greater degree of happiness. I don’t believe I was born in the wrong body. I simply feel as though someone has played a cruel joke with my gender identity, and positioned me somewhere in the gap between the two. What I have to do now is make the best of what I’ve got, who I am, embrace both the male and female from what is quite a unique perspective, and enjoy it. And y’know, I think I do. Most of the time…

WORDS OF WISDOM: Anything you’d like to share to a younger you or to other trans people?

I don’t feel qualified to give advice to anyone else, but I would say that whether full time, part time, pre-op, post-op, closeted, or whatever – try and be respectful to your trans-siblings. They feel pain, anguish and rejection the same as you, so try not to judge unfairly – we’ve all got our crosses to bear. Some of the ‘elitism’ that occurs within our community sometimes really makes my p1ss boil.

To a younger ‘me’, I would encourage to have come out of the closet earlier, to not lacquer the problem with booze, to not be paranoid about getting in touch with people on-line in the first place, and to trust people more. I would also tell the younger me that trying on my sister’s turquoise summer dress is a bad idea as you’ll get stuck in it for about an hour, panic profusely, making it smell sweaty and look suspiciously crumpled ;-)


Petra

(c) Our Different Journey
AWARENESS: When did you first feel trans? How did it make you feel? Did you embrace or run from it?

Before the age of reason. Before the onset of puberty for certain. Long before I could knit the concepts of gender, femininity and sexuality together, and much longer before I could tease them apart. I would pick age 8. The Sears catalog, all the pages of long-line girdles and thigh-high stockings seemed to be a gateway drug for the imagination. Did it feel trans? It felt transgressive. I knew that I was curious about things that were not staples of polite conversation. I embraced it all, but stuffed it pretty deep in my pocket.

ADOLESCENT COPING: How did you cope with growing up? What about puberty? How was school, or teenage life?

Adolescence is a gale force multivariate storm in any event. In the middle of that funnel cloud of hormones and insecurities, my curiosities did not stand out then as defining elements of my life. Measured against people who were bullied by peers, ignored by teachers, left alone by parents, my adolescence was trauma free and really quite a doddle. Smart enough in class, tough enough outdoors, cool enough to hang out with the cool kids, youth was easy.

I was a champion wanker. There. I said it. It was hereabouts that concepts of gender, femininity and sexuality together got co-mingled.

EARLY LIFE/ UNIVERSITY / COLLEGE: Having grown up – at least physically, how was life? Did you fit in or fall out? Did you stay home, work away or go to University, college or work?

All of the above. College disappointed me in part because of misshapen expectations. All the dull minded louts I was in high school with wound up at Uni. I looked around for the Elysian lounges of like-minded aesthetes arguing JP Sartre and JD Salinger over brandy and bongs, shagging each other senseless in the flickering minutes before we were plunged into a long nuclear darkness. Couldn’t quite find that society but did make some lovely friends.

There, in the intimate company of women, I felt as though the universe was endowing me with an extravagant gift. I could never get enough. It was, early 80’s darlings, a kinkier time. Frankfurter was in fishnets. David Sylvain wore eye makeup. Why not me? With a little bravado and a gentle hint here and there, one might find oneself in tights getting a makeover from the girlfriend.

There was furtive under-dressing here and there, and the odd visit to a dressing service. It was all very much on the surface and fetishy. Gender and femininity went into the service of sexuality, rather concretely by this point. I felt, still, as though I was in the grip of a phase and that naturally, these things would go away, quietly, when bidden.

CAREER: What you do and how you think it has shaped you (for better or worse). Is there something you long to do?

Career(s) have shaped so much. I am on my 6th now I think. Likely to have a couple left. Changing things radically the moment I get comfy with what I am doing is the general recipe. A desire to get out to and beyond my comfort frontiers is key to career happiness, and a key element of my gender discoveries.

Something I long to do? Bubble bath and fourteen dresses tossed on the bed before finding the right one. Then lunch. Get bombed with Sylvia Path or Dorothy Parker, go shopping with Audrey or Jackie and keep a diary. Nap. Rinse and repeat.

All that being quite unlikely, I suppose writing a line or two now and then, playing my piano and travel will do. I would not mind getting to understand food better. I so like to eat, I suspect that cooking would please me.

RELATIONSHIPS: Single, married, long term relationship, divorced, happy to be single? How is family life?

Seventeen enormously privileged years married. No kids. Issues of gender do not dominate things here, they seem to be a sub-plot in our lives. Mrs. B cheerfully, but insistently said a funny thing not long after I shared my Petra-ness with her:

“you realize of course that I have no lesbian tendencies … right?”

Petra is therefore held at arm’s length. We all three of us (or 2 ½ ??) are patient souls though.

COMING OUT: Have you? Would you? If so, how was it? If not, why not?

Outside of Mrs. B, there are only of couple of people who know both halves of me. At least, that I know of. I suppose that being relatively out there, there is always the risk of being “outed”, and I maintain a dignified “I don’t care” attitude on the matter. Thing is though, I do care.

I have managed over the years to tease apart the threads of gender, femininity and sexuality, weave them back together evenly, and normalize the joy I find in the discovery of the whole me. Exposing these facets of myself is so wildly life giving, so educational, so wonderful, and as great a gift I have found in life outside of the love that a few remarkable people shower on me.

But these discoveries, and the process of exposing them is a private, guarded thing.

My non-Petra life is good and full, and easy for the world around me to digest and respond to. A more broadly known Petra would add layers of complexity that I do not have the appetite to manage. I will not be broadly “out”, by my own hand in any case.

THE WAY FORWARD: What’s next for you? What are your hopes – trans, or otherwise?

No real plans. I have a generalized hope that myself and Mrs. B can find a place where Petra is a little less vexatious a presence.

WORDS OF WISDOM: Anything you’d like to share to a younger you or to other trans people?

Be honest. Trust the people that love you. Breaking that trust is a far greater foul than any propensity you have for self-discovery. If you are in a relationship that means something to you, find a way to share your feelings.

Know that you are not alone. You already know somebody who feels the same way as you. There is another boy in your class, or another man at work who revels in the same delights, and wrestles with the same compulsions and confusions as you do. You just do not know who that boy or man is, and they do not suspect much of you either.

Get a grip. This is not a fever that will pass. It will return. Sorry to break the news, but you have a gift that you cannot return. If you do not care for it, unhappiness will be your inheritance.

Find a place to safely be you and share your differences. Like it or not, if you are under 30, yours is the vanguard generation. You are at the cutting edge of change, the continuance of an age old civil rights battle. You will face lower barriers to change than all of us a little older and grayer met. Your individual voice has a larger chorus to join. You know how to Google up your scene. Do it, and for goodness sake, graduate from virtual experience, get a little real life experience with other complex and beautiful people in while your complexion is still that good.

Dress appropriately. Divide your age by 2 and add 7 years when dressing. This formula will get you to age appropriate. Dress for your setting. Fishnets, short skirts and strappy sandals are not commonly sited Saturday afternoon at the mall. Be spectacular, do not be a spectacle.


Rachel

(c) Our Different Journey
AWARENESS:  When did you first feel trans? How did it make you feel? Did you embrace or run from it?

I'm not sure I've ever 'felt' trans because I've never felt any different than I do now. I remember being very young and me and my sister would put on my mums tights and stuff teddy bears down them until we could hardly walk?! (It seemed like a good idea at the time) I would just pass this off as a childhood game but it's one of my earliest memories and seems significant somehow. I wasn't a girly kid although I've always been the quieter sort and I never liked sports such as football mainly due to the competitiveness of it and the importance people attach to it, which I still just don’t get at all.

I guess my first notions that I was trans was around age 12 maybe when I started getting a real urge to wear my sisters clothes. I don't why I wanted to do this but one day I just did it and after the first time I'd do it whenever I got the chance. It didn't amount to much more than putting on a skirt and looking at myself in the bedroom mirror. I can only say I enjoyed it, it was very exciting but at the same time I felt I was being naughty in some way. It wasn’t at this point something that worried me in anyway but I never would have told anyone about it.

ADOLESCENT COPING: How did you cope with growing up? What about puberty? How was school, or teenage life?

As I got a bit older and entered puberty my feelings towards dressing changed from simply being fun and exciting and became more sexual. My dressing was still only limited to sneakily wearing a undies, a pair of tights or stockings and maybe a skirt.

As I got to my mid teens the feelings started to become a mix of exhilaration followed by more negative feelings such as guilt and worrying that I wasn't normal. At the same time I remember being very jealous of the girls at school and wishing I could dress like them and even be one of them. I used to have a lot of dreams in which I was dressed as a girl at school and no one would notice. (I still dream quite a lot now about being dressed and no one noticing).

The feelings of not being normal persisted and this led me to being very shy especially and ironically around girls. I barely spoke to a girl until well into my twenties. I did my best to deny my need to dress but I'd eventually end up slipping on a pair of tights and then feeling bad about myself. Still this was all a complete secret, to everyone else I was a regular if rather bookish, nerdy, creative  guy into sci-fi and fantasy and all that sort of stuff. The New Romantics were around at the time and this would have been an ideal excuse to be at the very least more androgynous but my feelings of denial and low self esteem stopped me taking advantage of it.

EARLY LIFE/ UNIVERSITY / COLLEGE: Having grown up – at least physically, how was life? Did you fit in or fall out? Did you stay home, work away or go to University, college or work?

I was always going to be going to university, although I didn’t have a burning desire to do anything in particular. It was a toss up between doing art or sciences. Everyone advised me to go the science route because 'you'll never get a job if you do art!',  terrible advice which I of course took. By this point I'd been into Heavy Metal, I'd been a Goth and I was currently a rockabilly. I always looked the part but I never felt like I fitted in, this has continued no matter what group of people I've associated with and whatever group I was trying fit into I would always be dreaming of being the girl (I've always loved the look of Goth and alternative sort of girls).

By now I’d started buying some clothes of my own, usually from charity or cheapo shops that sold women’s clothes, although I loved browsing the clothes in more expensive shops. I'd wear them whenever I found myself alone in the house and I'd sometimes wear lingerie under my male clothes. At night I'd walk around my back garden it was so thrilling to feel the cold night air on my nylon covered legs, but I was still experiencing feelings of shame, guilt and self loathing and would often throw my small collections of clothes away and then not dress for several months at a time. The dreaded Purge!

CAREER: What you do and how you think it has shaped you (for better or worse). Is there something you long to do?

After university I moved back home,  it was a bad time for getting a job and I was unemployed for a couple of years. I was still going through periods of occasionally dressing (still no makeup or wig) purging, hating myself, thinking I was going mad, then being 'normal' for several months and then starting the cycle all over again. I still had the idea that I wasn't 'normal' and that there was something seriously wrong with me. I guess I knew about transvestites by this time and had probably started to suspect I was one but I certainly didn’t want to be.

Eventually after two years of applying for jobs I got offered a job in the IT industry. This wasn’t what I'd studied at university but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. The job was in my home town which was strange as I'd applied for jobs all over the country and even abroad by this time. After a couple of years I was able to get my own place. You would think this would be the ideal time for me to come to terms with myself but if anything I tried to deny my feelings even more and spent most of my weekends going out and getting drunk. This wasn’t as bad as it sounds, I had fun but for about ten years there wasn't much time between work and drunken weekends for much else.

My job was just a job, I disliked it more than I liked it but it paid the bills. I still do the same job now and I pretty much hate it these days. My biggest regret is not trying doing something more artistic or creative, I guess I got into a rut and never did anything about it.

RELATIONSHIPS: Single, married, long term relationship, divorced, happy to be single? How is family life?

Over the years I've probably had fewer than average relationships and I definitely think being trans has had a negative effect on me regarding this, I have very little confidence and deep down I think it's because I don't much like myself so how could anyone else.

Somehow though I find myself currently living with my partner and we have two young children. None of them know my big secret. Deep down I feel I should never have gotten into this serious relationship as I'm still not sorted out in my own head but I do love my family. My relationship with my partner is probably more like a friendship than anything else these days, somehow I do think my secret is partly to blame.  With my first serious girlfriend although I never told her I did end up dressing with her and she even helped me buy some clothes but I could tell she didn’t really like it so I stopped, I think she thought it was a 'phase' I was going through as we never discussed it. I never told any of the girlfriends I had since.

For several years before I met my current partner I had managed to suppress my feelings and I naively thought I would never need do it again. Of course that wasn't the case.

COMING OUT: Have you? Would you? If so, how was it? If not, why not?

Coming out is something I think about almost every day. I consider myself 90% in the closet. None of my family or friends know. The only people who really know are the staff in my favourite local makeup shop, some girls I went on a makeup course with and a counsellor I once chatted to about it. (and of course the friends I've met in real life through face book, but some of these only know the femme me).

I'm more out than I was three years ago. Up till then I still had never really tried makeup properly or worn a decent wig. I decided I had to see how I looked fully 'en femme' so I visited a dressing service in Blackpool. I had a great time just chatting to the gurl who ran it, it was such a release talking to a real person for the first time in 40 years! I was quite surprised how I looked and from then on my feelings towards dressing have changed to be more slightly positive. I started to think about my femme side more than ever especially with the discovery of the huge online community. Suddenly I didn't feel quite so alone. Since then I've tried really hard to improve my look and eventually plucked up the courage to venture out. I can only thank the friends I’ve made online enough for this, I would never have done it without them. I know I would have regretted it terribly if I'd never done it.

I would love to come out to everyone, but I guess I'm still too insecure about the whole thing, Part of me still wouldn't want my family to see me as Rachel. The counsellor I spoke to wanted me to tell my GP so as I could chat further to someone about it as she felt it had had a big effect on my life. I haven't felt able to do that. At this time I still don't know if I will ever be able to tell my family or friends.

THE WAY FORWARD: What’s next for you? What are your hopes – trans, or otherwise?

I don't think I have a clear way forward but I hope one day to be more at peace with myself, I've made some progress in the last few years but still a fair way to go. My days of purging are certainly over and I'd dearly like to tell my partner but still fear the consequences too much. As I've got older the feelings have become much less of a sexual kind and now it just feels somehow right when I dress and going out into the real world is a different kind of thrill altogether. Nowadays its more about the transformation and being myself more than anything else. I still feel guilty sometimes but mostly now about the guilt is about having a secret and keeping it from people I care about.

I'm finding it easier to tell 'strangers' which I guess is also progress of some kind.
I'd like to find a more creative job, I've done a small amount of illustration work which I enjoy and I've been doing some training to be a makeup artist, I'm not sure how realistic this is as everyone seems to be a lot younger than me but I'm giving it a go. I've a hope that being a makeup artist may help me come to terms more with my female side.

WORDS OF WISDOM: Anything you’d like to share to a younger you or to other trans people?

I think if I could talk to my younger self I'd have a few things to say;
  1. It's ok to be trans, you shouldn't feel bad about yourself, if you do then talk to someone about your feelings, its easier than ever these days especially with the internet.
  2. Try to come to terms with it early on and if you can embrace it, its who you are and you can run from it but it'll catch up eventually. One of my regrets about the whole thing is I didn’t get out in my early twenties or even earlier when I could have been totally gorgeous and fabulous lol. (I think I probably dress too young for my age now and part of that is definitely because I'm trying to make up for lost time.)
  3. Don't even think about getting  into a serious relationship without coming clean early on, in fact let people know as early on as you can, your partner has to be totally ok with it or you'll be in for a bumpy ride.
  4. Have fun! Seek out others like yourself especially if you need support, the internet makes it easy now.



Samantha

(c) Our Different Journey
AWARENESS: When did you first feel trans? How did it make you feel? Did you embrace or run from it?

I remember four year old me, sitting at the bottom of my staircase trying on my mums high heels, I also remember my two year old sister looking at me strangely, or so I thought at the time.

Its amazing isn’t it, Four years old and I already felt ‘wrong’ to be female, I wonder if today’s four year old trans-kids feel the same?

ADOLESCENT COPING: How did you cope with growing up? What about puberty? How was school, or teenage life?

For the longest time, I successfully hid being trans. I thought it was ‘wrong’ because it seemed that none of my friends felt the same way. I never asked them, but you get an idea don’t you? You know your friends.

I was brought up to believe that being femme was a weakness, my dad was an ex-miner and would regularly threaten me (and my sister) with his pit-belt if we were naughty, Although these were just threats I sensed that dressing female would be deemed naughty and I would be smacked for it.

So I hid it, Very well too (if I do say so myself!), I became a teenager and managed to get by every night by shutting myself in my room and wearing clothes I’d stolen from my school’s lost property room, or by saving my dinner money for days and buying new clothes or shoes.

One of my teenage memories was after school I would sometimes walk home on my own and I used to find an empty classroom and get changed and walk home in my treasured outfit, Black low heeled shoes, with thick black tights, my school skirt and my shirt was always kind of unisex anyway.

I must have looked a right sight with my boy’s haircut but I didn’t care, for the next 30 minutes I felt happy.

EARLY LIFE/ UNIVERSITY / COLLEGE: Having grown up – at least physically, how was life? Did you fit in or fall out? Did you stay home, work away or go to University, college or work?

My Young-Adult era, 17-20 years old, Went ok actually. I know a lot of transgender people often say “I hated being male” but honestly there were a lot of times when I enjoyed life.

Being transgendered played a back-seat to a lot of other things in my life such as college and forging a career in the music industry.

I fitted in at college, I had many friends (or should that read ‘He’ had many friends?)
One of the most positive things to come out of college was finding this new thing called “The Internet”. I was so amazed I made sure we had it at home.

I would log on and search newsgroups and other random websites, scouring anything to do with trans stuff. It was only then I knew I wasn’t on my own feeling transgendered.

I started going out a lot more, I still lived at home with my mum and sister, I kept myself hidden until quite recently and when I asked them if they suspected I was transgendered when I was younger, they both told me they really had no idea.

I stopped feeling guilty for dressing and every bit of my spare time I would practice my make-up and clothing etc. I would go out as much as possible and try to push my own boundaries.

CAREER: What you do and how you think it has shaped you (for better or worse). Is there something you long to do?

So I actually formed my career before I did any ‘coming out’. I started on the bottom rung of the music industry, mostly working for experience and pocket change. Ten years later I travel the world as a sought-after freelance Sound Engineer, Something I have been earning a living from since 2008.

In 2011 I came out to everybody. I gained a lot of closer friendships, Mostly female colleagues and friends, All quoted as saying they felt a lot closer to me now they understand me. For every friendship that has become closer though there are friendships that I feel have grown more ‘distant’.

Mostly male colleagues and friends, I did actually expect this to some degree. I expected some to feel ‘threatened’ or ‘ weirded out’. Only one relationship has been catastrophically ended, Sadly this was the one I had with my father.

RELATIONSHIPS: Single, married, long term relationship, divorced, happy to be single? How is family life?

As of 2012 I am newly single. My long term relationship ended reluctantly on both sides. I couldn’t live being part-time and needed to transition. My ex couldn’t identify as lesbian, nor being in a lesbian relationship, Sadly we both felt our core beliefs could not be compromised on, and so we felt it better to split up amicably.

I’m not sure how single life is to be honest, I’ ve never actually been ‘Single’ so I’m still figuring things out. I miss human contact, You know the sort where you are sat there and you feel someone’s fingers sliding up the back of your neck and into your hair. Or when you are in bed and the space at the side of you feels cold and empty. I’m coping though and luckily I have a lot of fantastic friends and my family around me most of the time (apart from dad!)

COMING OUT: Have you? Would you? If so, how was it? If not, why not?

So I officially came out in 2005 to my ex, but then didn’t tell anybody else until 2011, When I went round to talk to my mum. A couple of days later I had a chat with my sister and then a week later I came out to a bunch of people I worked with.

The reason I came out is because I knew that I needed to change certain things in my life to cure myself of a slow depression that over a few years had started to gnaw away at me day and night. I knew I was going to need to be ‘me’ and that certain people around me needed to know in order to come out properly.

Had I thought I was only ever going to be a part-timer then I don’t think I would have told my work colleagues, But as I knew it would be a full-time thing then I felt it was only right that they should know.

My dad once confided in my mum, He said that he was worried I would become ‘unemployable’ if I ‘dressed in a frock’. Well sorry dad but you were wrong, I’ve been very busy work wise and last summer (my first officially full-time summer) was very hectic and I didn’t stop for more than a couple of days total. A lot of the artistes I work with have expressed their happiness to me and have supported me throughout.

There have been several work positives though. A few people were initially worried at what I might look like. I guess they had an image in their heads of a ‘builder in drag’ or something equally as stereotypical. However I’m pleased to reveal that once I showed up and got on with things, they soon realised that absolutely nothing had changed.

On top of this, they also realised that not only did I look convincing, but that I looked good too. Never raising any eyebrows, always passing in any situation. I think that being passable helps me immensely, I am so happy that I had so much preparation before transitioning. Three years of laser hair removal and I had grown my hair to shoulder length and had it styled very femme!

There have been a few work negatives though. I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t mention that a few people have had ‘issues’ with me. Some of these are ongoing and deal with typical female prejudices in any ‘male-oriented’ environment.

I get ‘read’ as a female, and so therefore often find that guys don’t listen to what I have to say. Luckily on most shows I am one of two people in charge, also I have many years experience in my field. So I find convincing people that ‘my way’ is the best way usually isn’t too hard to argue.

Then there are the people I don’t work with often, Some of them have stayed in touch, some have grown distant. I’m okay with this, I’m sure that someday we will work on a tour together again and they will get chance to talk to me and overcome any issues they might have had or have.

THE WAY FORWARD: What’s next for you? What are your hopes – trans, or otherwise?

One of my strongest beliefs being an Atheist  Is that there ultimately is no god. I think this makes me a more level-headed person. Because I have no ‘Faith’ I don’t believe in “Fate’, And so I try to make my own opportunities in life. 

I am adapting to being single and finding new ways to fill the time, which used to be spent on the sofa watching television together as a couple. Mostly this involves a lot of partying and being a lot more social with my friends both new and old.

My sister had her first child last year, making me Aunty Samantha. Although I’m incredibly childlike myself, I sometimes find myself nervous around little baby. I’m trying to be supportive of my sister because I find similarities in her situation and mine. She is taking care of baby on her own and embarking on a new life of motherhood (prior to this she was a career girl, driven in business development). We are both facing some degree of uncertainty and we are both taking some days as they come, But mostly we are focused towards our own end goals. Her end goal to raise a healthy child, Mine being total surgery.

WORDS OF WISDOM: Anything you’d like to share to a younger you or to other trans people?

There is a lot of advice on the Internet. Lots of opinions… Some valid. Some not. 

My advice would be to try and identify yourself as early as possible.

Are you really trapped in the wrong body or are you simply trying to escape from something?

Are you happy being part-time? Great, stick with it. If not, have the courage to change.

Every journey is different.

What is right for me might not be right for you.


Stella

(c) Our Different Journey
AWARENESS: When did you first feel trans? How did it make you feel? Did you embrace or run from it?

I had the first inklings at a very early age – about 2 or 3 I think – which I know is about right because I remember the room in the house where the memory happened, and we moved from there shortly after. I saw a photo of a little girl in a newspaper, all dressed up for a fancy dress do I think, and I remember REALLY wanting to be her, or like her. A strong, memorable, electric tingle of desire I can still recall to this day. I neither ran nor embraced it – but it stuck with me until a few years later, when I started to experiment with my mum’s earrings.. guess that was the embracing bit?

ADOLESCENT COPING: How did you cope with growing up? What about puberty? How was school, or teenage life?

After mum’s earrings and a few dress-up fantasies around the age of 5, it all went to sleep until puberty – then BANG! It lit up with a vengeance. One night, I saw a stripper on the telly and though ‘wow, that’s hot, how powerful, look at all the men watching, I wish I could do that!’ Within days I was raiding poor mum’s stocking drawer (I remember thinking they would be 10 times too big for me but discovering that not only did they actually fit, but my legs looked fab in them!)

Around the age of 13, I gradually acquired a wig, makeup, underwear, nylons, shoes and a skirt suit (all bought with pocket money – resourceful little bugger!) and eventually I crept out for a walk late one night, thinking ‘wow, this’s hot’ and within yards, (and completely hands-free!) experiencing my 1st orgasm simply at the thrill of it. I was deeply puzzled as to what on earth was going on, but throughout my teens, and whenever my parents went out for their weekly pub jaunt, I kept on doing it. It always made me extremely aroused despite the intense shame & fear of discovery. I had huge guilt/euphoria swings, and I thought I was gay. I also suspect that the sexual arousal was starting to get linked to fear, and I remained a risk junkie for years afterwards.

At the age of 15, I heard term “Transvestite” for the first time. Revelation! There’s an actual word for it! You mean I’m not the only one? I still kept it very secret though.
A little later on, I went out with girls, and even allowed myself to be pushed into an early marriage at 20, purging the femme wardrobe, and thinking it would help me give it up and go straight. (Hah!)

All I discovered was that dressing was MUCH MUCH sexier than sexual intercourse though. I got unbearably frustrated.. and started to secrete a couple of items again, as you do. But as I had almost no chance to use them, the internal pressure was becoming unbearable. There was no way I could tell my wife – I just knew in my bones she would hate it.

EARLY LIFE/ UNIVERSITY / COLLEGE: Having grown up – at least physically, how was life? Did you fit in or fall out? Did you stay home, work away or go to University, college or work?

I didn’t do uni until much later – I was working. My daft parents had insisted I left school at 16 and get a job, and pushed me into the early marriage so that they could retire and move out of London. I tried to carry on with the marriage, but we were young and different and in the end, became so different we divorced, although quite amicably. My wife never did find out about my little habit. I thought ‘well, it looks like I’m one of those transvestites then..’ and gave in to dressing, which was easy as I lived alone after the divorce. However, the secrecy and shame were as strong as ever, and no-one but NO-ONE knew I did it. I developed my female wardrobe a bit, but it was a few years until I admitted its existence enough to get it out of permanent hiding and into a wardrobe! It remained an indoor treat for a long time though.

Time passed a little, and I found a girlfriend. Two years into the relationship, I knew I should try to tell her. She was the first person I ever told. Sadly, the relationship wasn’t that strong, and though she tolerated my dressing – in her absence, she was generally averse to it. In the end we split up, and she insisted it was not due to the dressing, but it didn’t help.

A year on, I found a little TV group – my first run-in with others! I drove across London twice to the meetings, which were in a private house. On the third, when everyone had gone, I allowed myself to be seduced by the owner (another TV) mainly to see if I was gay. I discovered I’m not! Oddly, my body worked, but my mind ran off over horizon! But it solved THAT mystery. A milestone..

I developed my wardrobe further, and acquired another girlfriend. I loved her very, very deeply but again, I didn’t tell her about me. This became a severe problem once more, which solved itself when she ran off with another bloke anyway. I started to wonder what the ‘tranny thing’ was actually doing to me – was it me or was it ‘it’ that kept returning me to the starting line of life?

Dressing now became a sex substitute. Still secret in a major way, still lots of lust and shame attached. I knew I had to change. But how?

People, it seems, were the answer. I knew I had to get out more! Somehow (no internet!), I found the newly-formed TVTS group in London’s Shoreditch. Saved up the nerve and went. One of the best things I ever did! It provided me with exposure to many other kindred souls which gave me the perspective I needed. It let an awful lot of gas out of the bag, and I felt a whole lot better about the whole thing. (Don’t we beat ourselves up over it?) It helped me to stop doing that, big time. And 30 years on, I still have many of the friends I met there.

And the arousal thing? Well, it seems that this has been connected with the forbidden. As Stella has steadily progressed away from that forbidden, closeted and rather cardboard entity whose main ‘raison d’être’ was sex, arousal has been steadily replaced by a much deeper and more satisfying feeling of simply being a real person in her own right. Well, when she’s around, anyway!

CAREER: What you do and how you think it has shaped you (for better or worse). Is there something you long to do?

I ‘caught’ an addiction to photography at an early age and I’ve almost always worked in it professionally. Dressing has had no affect on my career, but I do have a nice visual record of Stella’s life stages!

RELATIONSHIPS: Single, married, long term relationship, divorced, happy to be single? How is family life?

A confirmed heterosexual, I married again at 38. This time, I’d vowed not to live without the lady knowing the Big Secret – so well before we married, I told her. I knew I might lose her, but I also knew there was no other way. I did it carefully and let her digest it in bits. She asked me questions – Was I gay? No. Did I want The Op? No. Could I give it up? No. Was there anything else I should tell her? Yes – I quite like rabbits.. but I didn’t want to be one.

She thought it over for a few days. Pondered it. Asked a few more questions. Wanted to see me dressed, which I did for her (bloody scary too!) but she was fine – interested, and though not exactly jubilant, very non-judgemental. A couple of days later, she’d washed and ironed my entire wardrobe – and added to it quite considerably! I was gob-smacked!

It wasn’t long before she ventured out to the TVTS meetings with me, and then on to Ron Storme’s famous soirées  These days, she’s well known on the ‘scene’ and very respected. Pretty lucky, aren’t I?

We did try for kids, but it didn’t happen and it’s too late now. Personally, I’m relieved, as I don’t think the arrival of kids would have helped my hard-won freedom, and in any case, the last thing the world needs is more humans.

COMING OUT: Have you? Would you? If so, how was it? If not, why not?

With family and ‘vanilla’ friends and neighbours, no-one knows to this day, (apart from my best mate, who I’ve told but never shown. He’s fine about it, but there it will stay I reckon.) I’m not afraid, but I KNOW it would change things if I tell people – some for better and some for worse, but I like things as they are, so it’s a need-to-know only basis.

Away from home I don’t give a hoot. I’m lucky in that I’m quite presentable, and I spend days in town, I go on the tube, I stay in ‘straight’ hotels, I visit pubs and museums and shops and concerts, and if people don’t like it, that’s their problem – I have the right to be me. It’s taken a long time for me to believe that, and I’ve come a long way. That happened because I was brave enough to allow it and try to guide it, and lucky enough by so doing to gain support from T friends and my wife. Seems we can make our own luck if we try.. and that includes being sensible about where I go, what I wear, and how I behave, as would any woman.

THE WAY FORWARD: What’s next for you? What are your hopes – trans, or otherwise?

I’m moving house soon and I’d like to be even more open. I’d like to be known there and accepted for what I do and who I am. I’d like my wife to not have to worry about the neighbours finding out, as she still does now!

WORDS OF WISDOM: Anything you’d like to share to a younger you or to other trans people?

To a younger me:

Relax. It’s not an illness, or a condition, or a sin. I’ve discovered that it’s a really positive way of having an extra life.

YOU own your life, no one else does. DO NOT EVER beat yourself up AT ALL! There’s no need whatsoever, and it just makes you feel worse. You have the right to be you, it’s just FINE to be you, and the sooner you find the bravery to accept this and live it, the happier you will become. People will accept you in their droves. We pass this way but once. Enjoy it all!

It doesn’t go away – but it does keep improving. Yes, you WILL walk the West End of London by day in the lichen green skirt suit of your dreams – and ordinary people will smile at you and treat you as a woman. Really. I know this to be true. I’ve just done it!

To other trans people:

Because of our ‘both sides of the fence’ position, we see things in ways others do not, and this makes us people with a unique insight as to how the world works. I think we are honoured.


Sue

(c) Our Different Journey
AWARENESS: When did you first feel trans? How did it make you feel? Did you embrace or run from it?

My story will be familiar to many trans people as it follows a well-documented pattern. I first wanted to be treated as a girl (admittedly just an honorary one in my mind) at a very early age, probably from about 5 or 6 years old. I would often dream of a kindly woman, known or fictitious, who would invite me to select suitable girl’s clothes from her wardrobe and, having dressed me, would invite me to join her in her plans for the rest of the day, however mundane they were.

It wasn’t until two or three years later that I first realised that I didn’t just have to think about being treated as a girl but that I could come a little closer to being one by dressing as one. I distinctly remember putting on a sister’s red skirt and blue woollen tights the first time I tried crossdressing. It felt strange, yet wonderful and somehow right. Dressing as a girl became an activity so regular throughout my childhood that it almost became second nature but, like so many other trans people, I was sometimes told (and it was generally understood) that it was wrong, so I kept it secret. My stashes of girl’s clothes were discovered on more than one occasion, though no direct accusations were ever made. I became adept at hiding stuff in very unusual places around the house.

Naturally, I tried on my mother’s and sisters’ clothes but, from about the age of 11, I began to buy my own, starting with simple pocket-money items like sheer tights, and would ‘rescue’ old items destined for reinvention as dusters or cushion stuffing.

ADOLESCENT COPING: How did you cope with growing up? What about puberty? How was school, or teenage life?

OK, so boyhood wasn’t so bad. Toy cars, soldiers, football, space stuff … it was all good. But I liked the idea of playing with dolls and skipping ropes, too, and often did in secret. I just wished there’d been a Barbie or a Cindy in the house that you could dress in pretty clothes rather than the masses of plastic babies that my sisters kept being given. But when out with my boyhood friends, I’d frequently dress in knickers and tights under my trousers. I was so tempted to dress like that at school, but I realised that, when you are sent to an all-boy school, there are certain things that will get you killed, and being discovered with girly kit on was definitely one of them.

And so I grew up a transvestite – I think I first came across the word when I was about 12. It had a certain grown-up frisson. I loved being a transvestite, loved how I looked, loved how the clothes felt on my body, and loved how I felt more like a girl. Between the ages of about 6 and 12 most children regard the opposite sex with suspicion and contempt. So I had to pretend I did too, but secretly admiring the life of the girls around me and wanting to be part of it.

Generally speaking, I perceived adolescence at the time as not too bad (though with hindsight I realise that my upbringing was unconventional and repressive). I survived without too many apparent scars, but without huge enthusiasm either. And being trans had to be a total secret. Whoever said that childhood represents the best years of your life is talking nonsense; being an adult is much better as you have more choices, more freedom, more money and more control over your destiny.

Religion was important in the house I grew up in. And, as far as transness goes, the god that they told me about wanted only boys or girls and anyone that had pretensions to be the opposite of that appointed, or neither one nor the other, was so abominable that hideous punishments awaited those who did not conform to the dictated norm. I spent my teens and 20s trying to justify who I felt I was to this brutal deity who was evidently wracked with hatred for his creation. I tried thinking that some kinds of behaviours and some kinds of clothes might fall below the god’s Damnation Radar. “Surely the Scots proudly wear kilts?” I said to Him (definitely a him). “Look at King Louis XIV in this history textbook of mine. He’s got high-heeled shoes on. And those acrobats at the circus were definitely wearing tights. A pleated skirt, a pair of tights and a nice pair of heels is near enough to the costume of any Franco-Scottish king who lives in a circus, surely?”

Nothing doing. Guilt wracked me all the time, as did fear of discovery and punishment.

EARLY LIFE/ UNIVERSITY / COLLEGE: Having grown up – at least physically, how was life? Did you fit in or fall out? Did you stay home, work away or go to University, college or work?

University was great, but the religion was there very strongly, only it was now becoming clear that the version I had been brought up with was at odds with the mainstream and so it was a struggle to be myself and please the deity, a sort of Orwellian Big Brother. Like many in their late teens and twenties I purged my stuff, i.e. got rid of all those clothes I had accumulated, and lived like the man I was required to be. But relapses into femininity and crossdressing were frequent and the god would thunder angrily. I once managed whole year without dressing as a woman and consciously banished all thoughts and desires of being a woman whenever they arose. It was the hardest thing I have ever done.

But I managed in the end to work through the theology of this awful religion that hated me and cast it off altogether. I was 29.

CAREER: What you do and how you think it has shaped you (for better or worse). Is there something you long to do?

I started a career in the public sector. Initially with enthusiasm, but then things started to go wrong not long after I had dumped my religion and embraced my transness in private. Workplace bullying, corruption and physical injury kept me busy with the help of the union and lawyers. After nearly 18 years, because of cutbacks, I was made an offer I couldn’t refuse and left with sufficient funds to take time out to study successfully for professional qualifications and accreditation, write a book, take on a new part-time and wonderful little job in a shop, and now I work primarily for myself. It also means that I live how I like, mainly as a woman. I have had the opportunity to try some periods of “real life experience” to see if living as a woman full-time is a good course of action. The future looks a contented one, at last.

RELATIONSHIPS: Single, married, long term relationship, divorced, happy to be single? How is family life?

I am currently single and OK with it as it has its advantages, but I have had two delightful if ultimately unsuccessful relationships (with women). I like being one of a couple and am quietly looking to find another partner, hopefully for good. My partner would have to be very OK with my being trans, which has been a sticking point in the past with girlfriends. So it’s limiting.

Sadly, I have had to make a conscious decision not to have children for a number of reasons – a painful decision, but one has sometimes to realise that some bad things may be for the best.

COMING OUT: Have you? Would you? If so, how was it? If not, why not?

Yes, it’s been a gentle, gradual process. I’m not one to rush major things.

I started by going to a dressing service (the Boudoir) in 2004. After a hiatus caused by being in a relationship, I returned there in 2008, twice, and made real progress on my look and understanding of hair, make-up and other things. In 2009 I first went out dressed with women’s outer garments on, though presenting as male – just jeans or leggings, sweater and flat shoes, though it did raise some comments. In January 2010 I had my first ever night out fully en femme and from that summer started going out from home, outings which soon became frequent. Towards the end of that year I started carefully telling all my closest and oldest friends, one at a time.

My long-term close friends, with a couple of exceptions, now know me as both male and female and have been very supportive and encouraging, even enthusiastic. Several have been out with me in female mode and have met several of my trans friends. This is fantastically positive and I am happy and thankful to have so many wonderful people in my life. I have also made dozens of friends in the trans community, who delight me.

THE WAY FORWARD: What’s next for you? What are your hopes – trans, or otherwise?

Carry on as at present. I think I’ve found a good balance. And I’m finding much happiness, at last. I won’t be going full-time female for a while (it was good to have extended periods to see how I felt about it) and have decided to keep my male name, at least for a time, and enjoy a few aspects of maleness that I find OK. But I have dressed at some point during every single day for over 16 years now and I can appear femme most of the time, pretty much whenever I want. The lack of tension over my femininity now is the best thing about my current situation. Let’s try to keep that.

Let’s just make it clear, though. I haven’t been lucky. I’ve actually worked damned hard to create a situation that works for me.

WORDS OF WISDOM: Anything you’d like to share to a younger you or to other trans people?

If I had my life over again I would wish it was all different. And not trans, just plain male or female.

I wish that I had known earlier how to question the absolutism in which I was brought up.

My philosophy of life now is Epicurean: avoid needless pain, seek what gives you lasting satisfaction, think things through, don’t let gods or ideologies interfere in your life, don’t worry about the fact you’ll die one day.

To other trans people I would say:-

You are not alone. In fact, there’s a lot of us. The variety is immense, but your kind is found somewhere within that variety.

Although you may stop expressing your gender difference, even for years, it will never go away, it will return; be prepared for that.

Although you may get episodes when your hormones or thoughts go mad and you feel you must live as your chosen gender or explode, try to hold it, try to approach things and people rationally. The fiercer episodes pass. It’s like the ebb and flow of the tide.

The world is generally tolerant and accepting, or else indifferent; only a very few people are nasty and bigoted. Some trans people are bigoted also.

No one can convince you that going out dressed is generally safe, fun and acceptable; you have to overcome your fears for yourself. When you have pushed your comfort zone, you won’t believe what you are capable of.

Smile. It shows people that you aren’t a threat and that you’re confident and maybe someone worth getting to know.

There are lots of ways of living a trans life. No one way is better or more right than another.


Zosimus

(c) Our Different Journey
AWARENESS: When did you first feel trans? How did it make you feel? Did you embrace or run from it?

Ah, that’s a very good question! Looking back on my childhood, I’d have to say that being trans (in the particular flavour of that that I am) was either something that I only became aware of quite gradually, or something that I was aware of all along, just very slow to recognize for what it was. One of my earliest possible trans-related memories was having a girl as a best friend during my first couple of years at school, and wanting to wear her clothes on at least one occasion (although I don’t think I ever asked her if I could). While this could well have been a very early example of me wanting to CD, it really happened too long ago for me to be sure.

Anyway, a few years later, a bit more of my feminine side emerged when I found myself trying on some of my mother’s lipsticks on the odd occasion (something that did not impress her when she found out), and also found myself becoming quite attracted to some of the more flamboyant costumes I’d see on old episodes on Doctor Who, a show I became a big fan of once it finally stopped giving me nightmares! I was particularly fond of anything silver: notable examples being a jumpsuit in that colour worn by the main (male) villain of The Monster of Peladon, and some similar-looking radiation suits worn by the Thals in the classic Genesis of the Daleks (I was appalled when the Doctor and one of his companions in that one, Harry Sullivan, each donned one of these as a disguise at one point during that story, and then just threw it away once it’d served its purpose. Wha…?!). Without a doubt, though, the piece of silver apparel I really fell in love with was a dress worn by Chessene, the arch-villainess of The Two Doctors (come to think of it, I fell pretty much head-over-heels in love with Chessene as well!). I first saw that story when I was twelve, and remember fantasizing about wearing a version of Chessene’s costume myself, albeit a “male” one, however that would’ve looked (I was never quite sure myself). I think I was still in a bit of denial at that stage!

Moving away from the subject of clothing, I also recall feeling just generally “girly” from a relatively young age, certainly some years before I’d hit puberty. Like most kids, I suppose, I’d often find myself imagining I was some character from a movie or TV show I’d seen; it was just that, a goodly amount of the time, the character in question would be female. At other times, I’d find myself feeling quite down about the fact that I hadn’t been born a girl (those feelings of depression becoming sufficiently intense to make me cry on at least one occasion), although I don’t recall those feelings being anything like a constant source of torment for me. While I’d occasionally be mortified by my apparent femininity, for the most part I was surprisingly unfazed by it – I don’t think it even occurred to me that there might be anything overly unusual about it, in fact.

By the time I was twelve (again), I’d become sufficiently secure in myself to, at the very least, reject macho masculinity as “dumb”, and also revel in many of my more gender-neutral eccentricities and oddities. Some residual discomfort and denial persisted for a few more years, however – I still tried to convince myself that I just liked flamboyant clothing, rather than women’s apparel; and also (for reasons I don’t recall) tried to suppress for a time all desire to be feminine by focussing, to the point of obsession, on all the awesome things about being a stereotypically manly man. Of course, the latter thing would end up failing abysmally, while any last desire to limit my fashion choices to male clothing went out the window when I saw the most beautiful dress (guess what colour it was!) in the window of a local boutique. Of course, given that I saw this dress during the tail end of the ’80s, it was probably the embodiment of tackiness in retrospect, but at the time, it was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen and I found myself instantly coveting it (not that actually getting it was a feasible proposition with my finances at the time, of course!). Shortly thereafter I had a dream in which I saw another dress – some pink, frilly creation – in one of the local department stores, and decided to wear it, thinking, “Well why shouldn’t I?” Oddly enough, this seemed to be the confirmation I needed that there really was nothing wrong with CDing, and, really, I never looked back!

ADOLESCENT COPING: How did you cope with growing up? What about puberty? How was school, or teenage life?

I can’t help feeling that, growing up, I probably fit every silly fundamentalist stereotype of the “pre-homosexual boy” (seriously, does anyone who’s not a rabid fundie actually use that phrase?), even though, as it turned out, I wasn’t so much gay as trans (although my mother tells me now that she and my father often wondered if I was destined to be the first thing). I was a small, skinny kid with a baby face (that used to get me out of a lot of trouble!), sensitive temperament, and, apparently, very expressive body language, who preferred reading books (many of them featuring girls as protagonists) to playing sport (which I was usually rubbish at), and who also had an embarrassing tendency to cry a lot. I was also scared of pretty much everything, the things I was afraid of while growing up (largely during the ’80s) ranging from the preposterous – such as the prospect of our planet being invaded by hostile aliens, against whom our puny Earth weaponry would prove useless (no, seriously); or poltergeists and other malevolent supernatural phenomena (because, like, that shit once happened for real in a place called Amityville (except, I later learned, it didn’t)) – to the all-too-plausible (for example, like many people during that decade, I lived in dread of nuclear war). A couple of my most serious fears while growing up were ones of going to Hell (mainly because I’d been silly enough to read large parts of the Bible, as well as a bunch of truly messed up Catholic literature, without any adult guidance whatsoever), and AIDS, which admittedly didn’t get the most level-headed coverage in the media during that decade. One consequence of that last fear was that I also came to fear (and hate) gay people – I even started parroting all that nonsense about AIDS being “God’s punishment” for them – although thankfully those feelings of intolerance would go away just a few years later.

As you can probably guess from the above, childhood wasn’t the easiest time for me although, to be fair, it was by no means a time of unremitting misery either. One thing that definitely didn’t help when I was growing up, though, was the fact that my father changed jobs a lot, which meant that my family and I spent a lot of time moving all around my home state of South Australia (by the time I’d turned eighteen, I’d probably spent about half my life living in Adelaide, the state capital, and half my life living in the country). One of the earliest places I lived was Snowtown (a place everyone reading this should know about now, regardless of where in the world they come from!), although, as I often quip, when I was living there, the local bank was still being used for actually storing money, rather than barrels full of decomposing body parts! Seriously, though, moving around all the time made growing up a lot harder for me than it probably should’ve been, as anyone reading this who’s had similar experiences will undoubtedly be able to relate. You know how it is: you get settled in one place and finally make a few friends there, only to find yourself getting whisked off somewhere else. All that said, the experience of moving around a lot did have its upsides, enabling me to see many interesting and beautiful parts of my home state, and also giving me insights into what it’s like living in both the city and country.

Not surprisingly, one thing that made moving around particularly challenging for me was my aforementioned personality, which would occasionally make me a target of unpleasant treatment from other kids. That said, I don’t think I was ever really bullied, at least not in a sustained fashion, and wherever I went, I ended up being more-or-less accepted eventually. I did get heartily sick of being hopeless at sport, however, so attempted to find something athletic I might be good at. This led to me trying distance running, which I seemed to be at least half-decent at and also found most enjoyable. Indeed, so much did I enjoy it that I began to entertain dreams of being a world famous marathon runner when I grew up. Sadly, I ended up letting those dreams go down the toilet, something that didn’t bother me overly much until, by the time it was really too late to start pursuing them again, I’d be watching the marathons during the Olympics; seeing the race leader limping along, looking as though he or she were about to drop dead; and thinking, “Wah! That could have been meeeeeeeeeeee!” (Seriously, after watching the men’s marathon at the 2008 Olympics and reflecting on What Could Have Been, I found myself being sent into the most soul-crushing depressive funk, one that ended up lasting well over a year. In light of my trans nature, there seemed to be something most ironic about that: after all, could there be a more stereotypically masculine source of depression than regret at the fact one’s childhood dreams of sporting glory had come to naught?)

Anyhow, things sort of settled down for me during my final years of school when my parents decided that, for the sake of my education, I needed to finish school at a Catholic private school (public school for you British readers) in Adelaide that I’d already attended some years earlier (and to which my own father had gone when he’d been growing up). My father therefore stayed at the place he was working at the time while my mother brought my two brothers and I back to Adelaide. Unfortunately, while I at least didn’t have to worry too much about making new friends at this school, things there weren’t quite as good as they’d been the first time around, and matters weren’t helped by the fact that every freaking school holidays my mother would take my brothers and I back to whichever country town my father was working in, to spend the break with him. While this wasn’t a problem initially – indeed it was a welcome chance to catch up with the friends I’d made in the country – about a year after we’d come back to the city to finish our schooling, he’d gotten a new job in a place called Roxby Downs, a newly-established mining town in the heart of the Australian Outback (ie the middle of freaking nowhere). This meant that, come every school holidays, while my friends would all be making plans to do cool and interesting things together, I’d be looking forward to the prospect of being dragged off to a town where I knew no-one and where there was almost nothing to do (even worse, during summer, the place turned into a veritable inferno). As a result, I was probably the only kid in the school who actually looked forward to the end of the school holidays, which was pretty fucking sad.

Adolescence for me proved an interesting time, as it was around then that I stopped being the studious, well-behaved person I’d largely been up till then. I should mention here that, as a child, I’d always been a good student – the “smart kid”, the “teacher’s pet”, that sort of thing – and during my first couple of years of secondary education, nothing changed there. Soon after starting Year Ten (the same year I saw That Dress in the window of my local boutique, incidentally), though, I went completely off the rails. Maybe it was because of puberty (I was fourteen at the time), maybe it was because I’d simply gotten sick of being a goody two shoes all the freaking time, maybe it was something else entirely, I don’t know – whatever the reason, though, I started acting seriously out of character. One of the first things I did there was start spreading the rumour around school that I was a Satanist: something that, not surprisingly, caused many of my teachers to start being Very Concerned about me, and many of my fellow students to start thinking I was either seriously weird or seriously seeking attention (though one of them did later tell me that he and his friends swore I always had an unusually large number of seagulls following me around the schoolyard during my “demonic phase”, so make of that what you will!). I also began to slack off in my studies, which led in turn to me failing a string of tests and essays in various subjects, and getting my first-ever D on my report card. While all of this would have doubtless horrified the “old me”, I found myself surprisingly indifferent to it – indeed, I just couldn’t seem to bring myself to care about the fact I was slacking off and paying the consequences for that. It was an attitude I found surprisingly liberating.

Perhaps the most monumental thing I did to try and tarnish my “goody-goody” reputation that year, though, was start getting into heavy metal, the most “evil” form of music I could think of. When I’d first heard of this musical genre, and the sorts of things that the bands which played it tended to sing about, I’d been appalled, but now decided that its evil reputation meant it was exactly the sort of thing I should be listening to. Anyway, the first metal release I bought – a four-tape compilation called ‘Masters of Metal’ – was pretty tame in retrospect, but that probably made it the perfect introduction to the genre, much of the music on it coming across as not much heavier or scarier than regular rock ‘n roll. Certainly, it made me keen to listen to more metal bands, and it didn’t take me long to start getting into some of the big names in the genre – groups I remain a fan of to this day.

Anyway, as surprisingly satisfying as being a slackarse when it came to my studies was, the thought of failing and having to repeat the year didn’t really appeal, so I forced myself to get serious as the end of the year approached, and managed to pass. Come the next year, though, I was back to some of my old bad habits, and discovering a delightful new one: wagging school! The first time I did this was at the suggestion of an irresponsible friend of mine, and although I was terrified we’d be caught by someone, we got away with it. Despite vowing to myself never to do anything like it again, it didn’t take long for the thought of not only repeating the experience, but also being the one to suggest to my friend we do it the next time, to start to hold a strange and growing appeal for me. Eventually, that was indeed just what I did, and once again, we got away with it. At that stage, I was hooked, and wagged school again just a few days later. This time, I did it on my own, which would be how I’d do it most of the remainder of the times I played hooky. Usually I’d just go into the city for a couple of hours, wander around a bit, and play video games in one of the arcades that were still around back then. While I was still there, it was surprisingly easy to play truant at my old school – so long as you got there by recess, you could simply tell the woman at reception you’d “missed the bus”, get a late slip from her, hand it to the teacher at whichever class you were in time to rock up for, and that was it – no more questions asked! (Unfortunately, by the time my youngest brother started school there, the rules about this sort of thing had been tightened considerably, any student who turned up late having to take a note home to their parents to sign or some fascist thing like that. My brother was none too happy about this, blaming students like me who’d abused the old system for bringing about such an unwelcome change in the rules!)

On a more positive note, my final years of school, particularly the very last one, were a time when I also started becoming interested in a lot of new religious and political ideas. During one lot of holidays in Roxby Downs, for example, I borrowed a copy of the Koran from the town library, read it from cover to cover (admittedly a bit of a struggle), and then decided that I’d like to learn more about Islam. To that end, I actually sent letters to the leaders of a number of Middle Eastern nations, heaping praise on their faith and countries, and asking them if they’d be kind enough to send me some material on either things. While I heard nothing from most of the people I contacted (who included Saddam Hussein, Hafez al-Assad of Syria, and the Kuwaiti royal family (this was actually only a few months before the first individual declared war on the last ones)), the government of one of the countries I sent a letter to, the United Arab Emirates, were actually kind enough to respond with a very nice letter of their own, as well as a box of Islamic literature and a few books on their country.

Around the same time as the above, I also developed an interest in, and fervour for, Marxism, deciding it was the solution to every world problem I was concerned about at the time (this was actually several months after the Berlin Wall had come down – go figure). At the opposite end of the political spectrum, I also became interested (actually, “morbidly fascinated” would probably be the more correct way of putting it) in some of the local reactionary “family values” groups, having heard that they had some rather… interesting views on feminism and gender roles (two topics that, not surprisingly, were important ones to a trans person like me). I ended up paying several visits to the headquarters of one of the more notorious of these groups – a mob called the Festival of Light (or Festival of Lies, as a gay guy I once knew preferred to call them) – even spending three full days there on one occasion so that I could read one of the books in their library, a simultaneously fascinating and horrifying piece of literature entitled ‘Sex Roles and the Christian Family’.

Getting back to trans-related stuff, adolescence was the time that I really started to explore this side of myself and give it some expression. During my last year of school, I made my first few purchases of women’s clothing – just sets of satin pyjamas that I actually slept in – and am happy to say that I didn’t find it too hard buying any of the items in question (although I did experience a moment of cowardice the very first time, when I mumbled some nonsense to the woman serving me about the pyjamas I was getting being a “present”). I also began shaving my body hair that year, doing my armpits and legs (there probably wasn’t anywhere else save my face that I needed to shave back then!), and, in so doing, starting a grooming habit that I’ve continued to this day.

As interesting as it was in so many other respects, adolescence was actually rather dull for me when it came to sex, as, for some reason, I’ve always been pretty indifferent to the idea of having sex, even though I do find the opposite sex attractive. To be sure, there were times when I found the hormonal onslaught of puberty all rather thrilling, but I tended to channel my nascent sex drive into a bunch of fetishes I can remember having even as a small child, and never felt much need to try and get a girlfriend. I did have one for a time (some girl I’d met at an interschool dance), but it was a very strange relationship – not least because she lived on the other side of the city, and we hardly ever saw each other – and we eventually had an acrimonious breakup. Much more interestingly, I also indulged in a bit of “experimentation” with my best friend at the time, a very pretty, very effeminate boy who’d confided in me, a few years earlier, that he thought he might be gay. Somewhat surprisingly, I took this all in my stride (indeed, his admission of his possible homosexuality was probably what made me start to question my earlier negative attitudes towards gay people), and by the time we were in our final year of school, I was starting to feel some serious attraction to him. Seriously, he was gorgeous. Anyway, he seemed to feel the same way about me, so for a glorious (but sadly far too brief) period, we engaged in all manner of delightful shenanigans with each other. Although he had no interest in CDing himself, being more concerned with simply dressing in the latest male fashions in his own case, I did manage to persuade him once or twice to try on a pair of my satin PJs, and found that they made him look even more drop dead gorgeous than he already did (really, it’s a crying shame he never had any desire to wear women’s clothing as he would’ve looked stunning in it). Surprisingly, given my earlier homophobia, my flirtation with homosexuality didn’t trouble me in the slightest, in large part, I suspect, because I’d read a bit about Alfred Kinsey and his controversial studies of human sexuality by then, and figured that making out with other boys was something pretty much every adolescent male did (I’ve since discovered that that’s not the case, but am still not really bothered).

EARLY LIFE/ UNIVERSITY / COLLEGE: Having grown up – at least physically, how was life? Did you fit in or fall out? Did you stay home, work away or go to University, college or work?

Once I left school, my life continued to follow the wonderfully weird trajectory I’d set it on during my final years at school. Like many of my peers, I went to university, albeit largely because I’d been led to believe it was something I should do if I wanted to maximize my chances of success in life. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my degree once I’d obtained it, or even what sort of degree I wanted to get, but I eventually decided on science. Luckily, I’d gotten high enough grades in my final year at school to do this, although I’d been a little worried I mightn’t as – surprise, surprise – I’d spent much of that final year at school being just as much of a slackarse as I had been both of the two years prior – unfortunately, the bad habits I’d established in Year Ten had become pretty well ingrained by then. Anyway, even though I’d decided on a degree, I still wasn’t sure what I should do with it once I’d gotten it. I remember a hippy-type I once bumped into telling me I should use it to “make acid”, which, in retrospect, probably would have been a surer path to riches than most of the legitimate career paths my degree would’ve led into. As it happened, though, I never ended up getting the damned thing as it once again didn’t take long for me to start slacking off, things not helped by the fact that university was a lot more lax when it came to little matters like class attendance – if you figured you had something better to do with your time than go to lectures, no-one was forcing you to show up for them. You did pay for it at the end of the semester, though… Anyway after spending five years there trying to obtain a degree that should’ve only taken me three, and with no concrete idea of just how many more points I’d need to graduate (the system for determining that could get a bit confusing), I finally decided, “Screw this for a joke!” and just dropped out. I’ve really no regrets about doing that, and despite occasionally having people tell me I should consider going back, I’ve no desire to do so.

With regards to life in general, after I’d left school I maintained the non-conformist lifestyle I’d begun to develop during my final years there. I got more into metal, checking out groups in more extreme and scary sub-genres of that such as death metal and black metal (I used to joke that these sub-genres were the metal equivalent of cocaine and heroin – once you start dabbling in them, you’re pretty much doomed); got my ears and nipples pierced (my decision to get the latter kind of piercing was motivated by, of all things, The Silence of the Lambs; somehow I’d gotten it into my misguided little head that the cross-dressing serial killer from that movie – the guy who’d been sporting the nipple piercing in it – was a positive role model for CDers); grew interested in other extreme political, religious and social groups (unlike many other CDers, I’m actually glad I didn’t have the Internet growing up – who knows what kinds of fruitcakes I would’ve let myself get involved with if I had?!); and got a little more involved in political issues. I was a member of Amnesty International for a time (though let my membership lapse for reasons I don’t recall), and also got involved in some protests against the US-led war against Iraq over Kuwait, a couple of these protests involving macabre bits of street theatre which had me and a few other people lying in the middle of Rundle Mall – one of the main shopping precincts here – with fake blood all over us to represent the civilian casualties of the war. Good stuff!

On the trans front, I began to take things a little further, beginning to wear (admittedly rather unisex-looking) women’s garments in public, and in 1999, starting to have laser hair removal done on my face. Unfortunately, despite being so “underdeveloped” in so many other areas, I’d long had a very prominent five o’clockshadow, and was getting heartily sick of seeing what appeared to be a dirty great smudge on the lower part of my face every time I looked in a mirror or had my picture taken. I therefore started getting the aforementioned treatment (which I recall being all very new and revolutionary at the time), and after a lot of time and expenditure (and pain!) managed to get rid of most of my facial hair, something I’ve not regretted having done for the most part. I also started meeting a lot of LGBT folk, hanging out with the university’s LGBT club during my years at the place, and also encountering two male-to-female transsexuals, one of them a local fashion designer who’d been featured in an article in the local rag. Her story had intrigued me sufficiently to have me going to the company she worked for and asking if I could speak to her (I may’ve told them I thought I might be trans myself), whereupon I was asked to leave my details with them. Doing so but figuring nothing would come of it, I was astonished to have her ringing me that very night. Unfortunately the rest of the family were in close proximity, which meant I had to conduct much of our conversation in hushed tones and also wrap it up far too quickly. I did tell her I’d been surprised that her colleagues had actually passed my details on to her, and she told me that they wouldn’t have if they hadn’t thought I’d been sincere. Interesting!

On a less positive note, around the same time as the above, I also had my first (and thankfully last) purge. The impetus for this had been building up for quite a few months beforehand; basically, I’d ingested a lot of fundamentalist Christian crap (much of it from God-botherers at university who’d come up to me being all suspiciously friendly, and who I’d been too polite to say, “Fuck off!” to) that had begun to make me wonder what sort of unpleasant place my “deviant” lifestyle might be leading me to. I remembered the Old Testament being against cross-dressing, and while I hadn’t felt terribly bound by that prohibition when I’d first stumbled upon it (in no small part because it came from the same part of the Bible that mandated death by stoning for those caught working on the Sabbath), I was now wondering if I might be ignoring it at my peril (matters weren’t helped by the fact that a couple of items in my “women’s wardrobe” had become unfit to wear – one had had a sizeable part of it just disintegrate, while the other had begun haemorrhaging dye – and my gullible young mind had interpreted that as a sign of divine displeasure in what I was doing). Anyway, to cut a long story short, I ended up purging not only the (thankfully few) pieces of women’s clothing I had at the time (mainly just sleepwear), but also every heavy metal album in my possession that I deemed “Satanic”; I also got rid of my nipple rings, having had quite a few people be grossed out by them and tell me how sick they thought they were. Thankfully, most of my feminine apparel didn’t go to waste, as I gave it to my mother, who in turn gave me some money for it (which I promptly blew on lollies and tattoo magazines, the latter things glorifying something else that’s banned in the Bible, ironically enough). She seemed quite happy by my purge, seeing it as a hopeful sign that a “new me” was emerging, but I regretted it pretty much as soon as I’d done it, not least because I didn’t actually think I’d been doing anything wrong CDing, having nipple piercings and all the rest – I was just being forced to give up all that stuff because some killjoy of a god was making me. Anyway, I eventually got over my various religious hang-ups, replaced pretty much everything I’d gotten rid of (including the nipple piercings, to which I added a belly button piercing, and then, some years later, a hafada (look it up!)), and resolved not to do anything so silly again!

Finally, to answer the question about living arrangements after I’d left school, I stayed at home for a surprisingly long time, thanks, in no small part, to the fact I had fairly cool parents, who in turn didn’t seem to mind having me around the place. My brothers, both of whom are younger than me, moved out long before I did, and as my father was still living and working elsewhere in the state for the most part, he was seldom around, so for a long time it was just me and my mother. Since we tended to keep radically different hours, we’d often only see each for a few hours each day, which in turn probably helped our living arrangement last as long as it did – we weren’t constantly in each other’s face. Eventually, even she moved out, sort of. Actually, she retired from the job she’d held in Adelaide, went to live with my father in the place where he was working, and planning to do so for a couple more years before he retired himself (a city called Port Pirie), and left me to look after the house, for which I’d pay a minimal rent to stay in. Not a bad deal! Eventually that arrangement came to an end, unfortunately because my father fell ill with cancer (a disease that, sadly, would take his life just a year or so after he’d been diagnosed with it). As he’d be quitting his job, coming back down to Adelaide for treatment, and bringing all the stuff he’d accumulated while living in another house, it was decided it was finally time for me to take that final, scary step into independent adulthood and move out. While I ended up being glad I did, I’d have to say I would’ve rather done it under more pleasant circumstances.

CAREER: What you do and how you think it has shaped you (for better or worse). Is there something you long to do?

For most of the time since I’d left university, I’ve been working in the kitchen of an aged care facility, a job I sort of just fell into. Upon dropping out of university, I needed to find some paid employment, so, at the advice of my mother, cold-canvassed every aged care facility within a reasonable distance of home, expressing an interest in working for them in a domestic capacity, and finally landing a job with one of them. While my job is never likely to appear in any of those silly newspaper or magazine articles about dream jobs (you know the sort I’m talking about: chocolate taster, travel writer, contract killer…), I derive a surprising amount of satisfaction from it, not least because it’s a job that enables me to leave work at work, and because it doesn’t leave me so mentally drained at the end of the day that I have no energy left to indulge in various creative pursuits I have, when I get home. On a somewhat more negative note, however, it’s left me with little patience for the silly platitudes that many people utter about ageing because, really, the last thing’s not kind to a lot of people, and I think it’s ridiculous to romanticize it. I’ve also become very cynical about all that New-Agey twaddle you seem to hear nowadays about how “death-denying” our society’s become; how it’s a positive scandal that a lot of people go through life nowadays without ever seeing a dead body; and how, should a person finally do so, they usually realize that death isn’t so scary after all. Codswallop! Having seen a few deceased folk during my time working where I have been (and even been present to witness one gentleman expire in the dining room one night), I can say that there’s nothing terribly uplifting about seeing a human corpse. It certainly hasn’t diminished my own terror of death.

On a more cheerful note, for nearly as long as I’ve been working at the above facility, I’ve had an unofficial “career” writing articles for one of the local street rags. Most of my work there has consisted of doing reviews and interviews (mainly related to music, and mainly metal music at that), and while it hasn’t ever paid anything, it’s given me loads of free CDs and show tickets over the years, made me a lot of friends (people really appreciate it when you give their band a bit of publicity), and also given me the privilege to speak to many of my idols, musical and otherwise (which is something you really can’t put a price tag on). One of my most memorable interviews was one I did with Eddie Izzard back in 2003, to promote a tour he was doing here then, while another was one with Matti Kärki, the front-man of a (sadly now defunct) Swedish death metal outfit called Dismember. The latter stands out because when I first saw one of this group’s records – an album called Like an Everflowing Stream that had rather demonic-looking cover art on the front, and a photo of the band members drenched in blood (and one also sporting a large inverted crucifix) on the back – I thought they looked way too evil for me, the most extreme thing I’d listened to up to that point probably being Slayer. Since then, though, I’d overcome my initial aversion to them and really gotten into their stuff, so when I heard they were coming out here for their first-ever Australian tour, some fourteen years after I’d first learnt of their existence, I jumped at the chance to talk to one of them. Funny how life turns out sometimes!

As satisfied as I’ve been with the way my career path has gone, however, I keep getting the nagging feeling I should be doing something a little more ambitious, as I feel I’ve a lot of talents that I’m letting go to waste. I’ve had no shortage of people give me careers advice over the years, the jobs they suggest I look into tending to be ones in female-dominated industries, interestingly enough (some have even used the fact that there aren’t many men in them as one of their selling points). I’ve had more than one person suggest I go into nursing while other jobs that have been recommended to me have been radiography, fashion design, and teaching (the last one I’m definitely not interested in, though, not least because, if you’re a guy, it seems you can’t even look at other people’s children these days without someone accusing you of being a paedophile). I’ve also had people suggest I should go into acting, which I’m also not terribly interested in, not unless I’d be playing characters I’d created myself (otherwise I fear that I’d be spending my career playing a bunch of people I hated). Perhaps the weirdest job anyone has ever envisioned me in, however, has been that of Catholic priest! One of my grandfathers was convinced I’d become one – he just hoped he’d live long enough to see the day. Sadly, he’d die way back in 1986 – just a week or two after his 64th birthday – and the prospects of me joining the priesthood now are probably even dimmer than they were back then (let’s just say that my current feelings towards the faith I was brought up in are… complicated).

Ideally, though, what I’d really like to do for a living is write, specifically books featuring transgender protagonists. Not “coming out” stories or anything like that, though – while I’m sure there’s potential for stuff like that to be well-written and engaging, it strikes me as a little too dreary myself: the kind of stuff that risks ending up the literary equivalent of a great big serving of boiled vegetables ie something you consume not because you really want to, but because you’ve been told It’ll Be Very Good For You. I want to write stories in which transgender characters engage in wild, far-out adventures (adventures that enable me to give my often-hallucinogenic imagination free rein), adventures in which they’ll doubtless cop a bit of crap over their unusual sartorial choices and androgynous natures, but in which their main concerns will be things like fighting off hordes of deranged cyborg bikers, hunting down Balkan war criminals and terrorists in a futuristic version of the Roman Empire during its most delightfully decadent period, or trying to escape some creepy hotel after discovering that its equally creepy staff are actually man-eating reptiles that use black magic to disguise themselves as humans. Far-out! Awesome!

RELATIONSHIPS: Single, married, long term relationship, divorced, happy to be single? How is family life?

I’m happily single, having decided at the ripe old age of thirteen that I never wanted to get married or have children, and having stuck to that decision with no regrets. I’ve always been more comfortable in my own company than that of others (although I’ve always been mindful of the importance of maintaining a healthy social life), and figure I’ve become too neurotic, eccentric and antisocial to ever consider settling down with anyone now! (Being effectively asexual has also helped here; while I may be missing out on something wonderful by having no interest in sex, I can’t help feeling that that’s also made my life a lot less complicated than it otherwise could’ve been.) In the highly improbable event that that all changed and I did find someone who made me seriously reconsider the way I’ve been living my life, though, she’d have to be totally on board with my CDing because, honey, after being out and proud about that side of myself for so many years now, I ain’t climbing back in the closet for no-one! (Having a disapproving partner would make me feel like a little kid again, in fact – just having someone constantly saying to me, “There is no way you are leaving the house dressed like that!”)

Funnily enough, though, I’ve had a lots of people tell me over the years that they think I’d make a wonderful husband and father, and while I think they must all be suffering profound brain damage to think such a thing, part of me can’t help wondering if they might actually be right. Part of me also wonders to what extent my feminine side has led them to make this assessment, as I’ve often heard that, ironically enough, a lot of people consider more “feminine” men to make better husbands, fathers and long-term partners than more macho types (this has led me to wonder, in turn, if marriages in which the husband is trans (closeted or not) are actually more common than most people think). Anyway! Yes, I do sometimes have the odd moment of doubt when I wonder if I may be squandering the chance to make some lucky woman very happy, or bless the world with wonderful children (one of my female co-workers, who’s had ample opportunity to see my girly side, actually once told me that she thought I’d have “cute kids” if I had any); that said, I really can’t see myself being happy giving up my solitude and independence. Truth be told, it sort of annoys me sometimes – having this apparently great potential to be a good husband and father, yet no desire to be either thing.

On the family front, I’ve always had a reasonably loving and supportive family. When my brothers and I were growing up, our parents were usually fairly tolerant when it came to us doing more “girly” things, though not always. Reading my mother’s women’s magazines (as well as books in general), growing little plots of flowers in the garden, collecting little glass animals, and doing arty things were all allowed (though with regards to the last thing, my father would occasionally put his foot down and tell us we weren’t allowed to spend all of our pocket money on stationery!), although crying at sad movies and television shows wasn’t (although, in hindsight, I’m not sure if that was so much a case of “Boys don’t cry” as “You shouldn’t be watching that if it’s upsetting you so much!”). (I also seemed to receive constant exhortations to smile more – usually delivered in a tone-of-voice that made me feel like doing anything but! – which is something I’ve often heard women complain they cop a lot as well.) With regards to the clothes I wore while I was growing up, I also got some conflicting messages. For example, my father adamantly refused to allow me to wear anything in silver, my favourite colour, yet seemed to have no problem with me wearing pink. It was all a bit odd.

Both my brothers are pretty cool too (we’ve certainly gotten along with one another a lot better since we grew up and stopped spending every minute of the day trying to kill one another!), although I suspect that they find my transgenderism all a little embarrassing sometimes. They definitely did one time years ago when a picture appeared in the social pages of the local paper showing me at an annual event called The Desperate and Dateless Ball (which I went to a few times for a bit of a laugh) dressed like the King (or Queen!) of the Pixies (no, really). From what I heard, there were a good many conversations between each of them and his respective friends which went along the lines of “Hey, isn’t that your brother in the paper?” “Shut up!”

COMING OUT: Have you? Would you? If so, how was it? If not, why not?

I have indeed. Probably the earliest instance in which I came out was at a school camp in my final year at school, at which I wore one of my new sets of satin pyjamas. Surprisingly, everyone else was really cool about it and I don’t think I ever suffered any fallout at school as a result of it. I think I’d just developed such a reputation as an oddball by then that no-one was really shocked by anything I did any more! The first piece of women’s clothing I wore publicly was a satiny gold jacket I’d found at a (long since closed down) second-hand boutique called ‘The Little House of Treasure’ (which all my friends promptly rechristened ‘The Little Shop of Horrors’ when they saw what I’d bought from it!). While my first impulse was to simply wear this in the privacy of my own home, I remembered that line from the movie Dead Poets’ Society (which I’d seen just a few weeks earlier) about most men living lives of quiet desperation, and decided I didn’t want to do that myself by essentially going back into the closet (or, maybe more accurately, leaving only one foot poking out of it!). I therefore wore it to a protest against the Gulf War, and again, found myself suffering no negative consequences as a result of my actions. I therefore started wearing it on a regular basis, along with a couple of other items: a silver parka that I’d bought after seeing it advertised in a magazine for teen girls called Dolly, and a metallic green shirt that was another lucky find at a second-hand clothing shop. The parka earned me the nickname “Space” (short for spaceman, obviously) at university, and while I initially felt a bit self-conscious about that, I soon got over myself and accepted it for the harmless and humorous nickname it was (which was just as well, as it sure did stick!).

One important detail about my CDing that may be relevant here is that, for the most part, I’ve been content to present myself as a bloke in women’s clothes. I gather that there’s something of an eternal debate in the CDing community about which approach makes acceptance easier – passing as a woman as much as possible, or simply sending out the message, “I’m a guy who likes wearing women’s clothing – deal with it!” – and without wanting to get involved in that, all I can say is that for me personally, the approach I’ve taken seems to have worked pretty well. I think things that have helped me gain acceptance have been my aforementioned reputation as a bit of a (harmless) weirdo in general, the confident attitude I try to project when dressing the way I do, the fact that women’s clothing actually suits me for the most part (judging from comments I’ve received while wearing it), and the fact that much (though by no means all) of what I wear seems to lie in that grey area between very flamboyant menswear (ie the sort of stuff worn by, for example, rock stars, gangsta rappers and the futuristic street punks ofPredator 2) and womenswear. I’ve also been very fortunate to have had a lot of cool friends of both sexes over the years who’ve accepted me for who I am. Even the local metal community, which is the main group of people I hang out with, don’t seem to have much of a problem with the way I dress (or if they do, they keep quiet about it), the few negative reactions I’ve gotten there having come mainly from interstate metalheads. A lot of those individuals would turn up for this big annual extreme metal festival that used to be held here, and were never shy about making their disgust towards a “fag” like me known (seriously, some of those guys were fucking scary, coming across as neo-Nazis in everything but name!).

I’ve also encountered the odd bit of crap from other idiots, either sleazes who feel they can come up to me and rub their hands all over me (yuck!), or cowards who scream abuse at me from the safety of fast-moving cars. I try not to let that shit get to me too much, not least because I’ve also copped it when I haven’t been wearing anything remotely feminine (so there’s pretty much no way of avoiding it altogether save becoming a prisoner in my own home), and also because appeasing morons isn’t something I generally place a high priority on. That said, most of the reactions I’ve gotten have been positive – I’ve gotten compliments from some of the most unlikely quarters, and for a time even developed a bit of a fan following among the students at a primary school across the road from my old place! That one was sweet.

THE WAY FORWARD: What’s next for you? What are your hopes – trans, or otherwise?

On the trans front, I’m probably just going to continue the way I am right now. My own transgenderism has been remarkably stable (for want of a better term) over the last couple of decades or so; about the only thing that’s changed is that I’ve gone from limiting myself to more unisex items of women’s clothing to more unambiguously girly ones, or to stuff my younger self would’ve considered too embarrassingly “dorky” to be seen in (while some would no doubt see this as a sign that my transgenderism is getting more “serious”, to me it’s really no different from the way women have gone from seeing bloomers as shockingly masculine to feeling free to wear pretty much any item of male attire they want to, all in the space of just over a century). But, no, I don’t feel any need to “take things further”, nor do I see myself giving up CDing anytime soon. Indeed, even if I did become totally indifferent to it, I think I’d keep doing it just on principle! (Over the years, I’ve come across a bunch of reasonably liberal psychological theories on CDing that while certainly better than those theories which see it as a purely pathological activity, still annoy me because they treat it as something that a healthy person will eventually “grow out of”. Nuts to that!)

Although I’ve had some people tell me that transition is something I should consider, I don’t think it’d work for me – my gender identity just seems too fluid or “on the fence”. I can’t relate to a lot of stereotypically male stuff, but I can’t relate to a lot of stereotypically female stuff either – I often feel either like a member of both sexes, or a member of neither! In my own case, I think I need to simply not dwell on gender too much, but rather just find productive ways to channel all my virtues and talents, without caring too much about how “masculine” or “feminine” the end results might be. And again, the main thing I really want to do with my life is become a published author, hopefully a successful one! (In my more evil moments, I often fantasize about writing unspeakable books that drive all who read them insane! MUHAHAHAHA! Sorry, that’s what you get when you read too much H.P. Lovecraft at a young and impressionable age!)

WORDS OF WISDOM: Anything you’d like to share to a younger you or to other trans people?

Smoke your own body weight in crystal meth every day for a long, happy and healthy life! Oh wait, you mean serious advice, don’t you? Stuff that’s not going to lead to a short and miserable life of violent crime, irreversible psychosis and bad teeth if people actually follow it? Well shit, you’re no fun! Oh very well – sigh! Let’s try that again.

I think the first and most important piece of advice I could give to anyone reading this is to just be out and proud. Sure, that probably won’t be practical for everyone, but you really should consider it, particularly if you’re still young enough to not have invested too much time and effort into building up an image of yourself as a stereotypical manly man. Being out is a decision I’ve never regretted myself although admittedly I’ve benefited greatly from the fact that, for some odd reason (and barring the very occasional exception), I’ve never seen anything remotely wrong with my own CDing (at the risk of sounding a little like a serial killer, I feel no remorse and I’m never going to stop! Bwahaha!). As that lovable walking cadaver, Iggy Pop, once said, “I’m not ashamed to dress ‘like a woman’ because I don’t think it’s shameful to be a woman.”

Secondly, while passing and adopting a femme persona may well be an important part of your transgender expression, don’t feel you need to do either thing if you really don’t want to. In fact, don’t feel pressured to do anything you don’t want to, just because you fear your trans card will be revoked if you don’t. One thing I’ve noticed is that a lot of non-conformist subcultures unfortunately have a tendency to become even more conformist than mainstream society (for a prime example of that, just look at outlaw biker gangs), so be careful not to get sucked into that.

Also, don’t over-think all the trans stuff. While a little introspection can be good, endless navel-gazing isn’t, as I found out myself about a decade ago now when I stupidly read too many depressing conservative psychological theories on CDing and transgenderism in general, and stupidly listened to too many bigots pushing the tired old “trans people are just deluded” line. Before then, my CDing was just “what I did” and my transgenderism just “who I was”, and both of those attitudes worked very well for me. Now, however, I found myself obsessing about whether I was mentally ill or not, matters made even worse when I stumbled upon that whole lovely autogynephilia “theory” of transgenderism. Since my CDing occasionally had a – gasp! – erotic component to it, that meant that not only was I mentally ill, I was a freaking pervert as well! Oh, the endless psychoanalysis and rationalizations all that led to – a complete waste of time in the end!

Next, and this is an important one, try to have other, non-trans-related stuff going in on your life. Not only will it help keep you grounded, it’ll also help keep you from falling into the aforementioned trap of endless navel-gazing. As a bonus, if those other interests involve something you’re good at and/or something that others appreciate, it can probably also help your chances of being accepted (to give just one example, I’m sure that one of the reasons Eddie Izzard has been so widely accepted is because he’s developed the reputation he has as a brilliant stand-up comedian).

Also, as far as possible, avoid negative people. While those who blatantly hate the transgendered are an obvious group to avoid, negative people, I’ve found, are a far more insidious danger, and unfortunately there seem to be a lot of them in the trans community. Like a cold or bout of the flu that can lay a person low even when they’re in otherwise rude health, other people’s negativity can erode even the healthiest self-confidence and self-esteem, so the endless misery-mongers are best avoided, I’ve found. It can be hard to know where to draw the line, of course, as society still isn’t the most tolerant place for trans individuals, and the last thing I’m sure any of us wants is for the trans community to become a place where everyone’s forced to constantly smile, be happy and otherwise behave as though they’ve just stepped out of a North Korean propaganda poster! That said, if you find yourself interacting, in whatever capacity, with someone who goes on about the guilt and shame their transgenderism brings them so much that you start to suspect they’re actually wallowing in those emotions, who consistently brushes off any advice you might try to give them to help them improve their situation, or who refuses to see their transgenderism as anything other than a curse, ask yourself if continuing to hang around them is really doing you any good.

Finally, if you can, try to find some good role models. This can admittedly be difficult, with so many trans people still in the closet today, but it’s not impossible, even if you have to look up to people who aren’t trans in exactly the way you are, or aren’t even trans at all (just people who may be a little different, but who make no apologies for being who they are). Just be careful not to place the role models you choose, whoever they may end up being, on a pedestal, as they’ll invariably let you down if you do – they’re still only human, after all. Oh, and no matter how inspiring the role models you choose might be, don’t end up trying to live vicariously through them. You’ve your own life to lead, your own wonderfully unique personality to show the world.

Oh, and one last thing. As Charles Manson once said, “Have fun, but be careful!” (Whaddya mean, he never said that?! Do you mean to tell me that the irreverent undergraduate publication in which I found the above quote was just making that shit up?!)