Friday, 22 January 2016


I notice there's been a lot of talk of trans issues lately. It's not a new subject, people have been cross dressing for centuries, men living as women and vice versa for myriad reasons. 
Lou Reed sang about it, as did the Kinks and The Beatles and who can forget Freddie Mercury doing the hoovering in his mini skirt?

People now talk about being gender neutral. We are learning that not everyone wants to identify as just male or female. 
I loved the film The Danish Girl which beautifully portrayed that overwhelming feeling of having been born in the wrong body. Not every cross dresser wants to change their sex but for people who do want to change, medical advances mean it's a more achievable goal than it was in the days of Lili Elbe.

I cannot comprehend how it must feel to be born in the 'wrong' body but I do understand how it feels to have spent a lifetime hating my body and wishing it had been different.

I remember as a young girl telling my Mum 'I wish I was a boy'. I don't remember exactly what led me to express that thought but I do remember her reaction. She lost her temper, screaming and shouting at me in the street.

She'd had a son who she'd given up for adoption and got pregnant soon afterwards in order to replace the boy she'd lost. I wasn't the boy and she never tired of telling me the many ways in which I disappointed her. My childhood was tainted with a permanent feeling of not being good enough.

When I was a teen she hacked all my hair off, apparently because I was getting 'too much attention' from men. So whilst other girls at school were preening, learning to wear make up and attract boys, I was being mistaken for a boy. This wasn't helped by the fact that we were 'poor' and I wore cast offs from my boy cousins.

I was never the girl that all the boys fancied. I wore odd clothes, I had never fitted in before  and suddenly I'd lost my femininity as well. I didn't know who I was supposed to be.

I've learned in later life that a lot of the things I hated about my appearance are common factors in people with joint hypermobility syndrome and in those with scoliosis. My body shape was unusual as different muscles kicked in to compensate for those which didn't work as well, super huge muscles in places I didn't want them and no definition in places where I really wanted it. 

I used to watch girls at school, they all seemed to have the right look, the right mannerisms and the right body. My attitude, my body shape, my face, my hands, my clothes, everything was wrong. 
As I grew up I watched certain women, marvelling at how they could seemingly have men eating out of their hands, men falling over themselves to help them out and to do jobs for them. Unlike other friends, I didn't have a dad or uncle or even brothers to help out. I was uber independent, did everything myself and what I couldn't do didn't get done as I had no money. 

Succumbing to ill health has been a massive shock in many ways, but relying on others for so many things is hard, especially when it seems that most of the tradespeople in my locality are men. Some of them make me feel uncomfortable with flirty 'banter' or inappropriate comments. I don't always have the strength or energy to challenge them so am often gritting my teeth praying for them to just hurry up and go.

In of one of my favourite films, Tootsie, the divine Dustin Hoffman plays an out of work actor masquerading as a woman (Tootsie) in order to get a job.
'Tootsie' is horrified at how differently from men women are to be treated. Most of the comedy moments are him/her reacting strongly against chauvinists and everyday sexism. 

Years later Dustin said that he'd been disappointed when he first saw himself dressed as a woman, he was hoping he'd be more attractive. He then broke down, crying about the women in his life that he hadn't considered getting to know because they didn't meet his shallow beauty standards.
For decades Dustin was my dream man, if we'd met, would he have overlooked me because I don't meet the classic Western beauty standards? Pretty sure I will never find out!

I have a beautiful daughter who, like Calamity Jane, is happier in traditionally 'masculine' clothes. She hates having her hair done and refuses to wear dresses.
Because of my past, this used to really bother me. I didn't want her to feel isolated and different from her peers but she's adamant that at the moment this is how she wants to be.
Now, instead of nagging and trying to change her, I've decided to let her get on with it. She's choosing how to present herself. As a child I had no choice and it has had a long lasting impact on my self image.

The beauty of trans issues coming out into the open means that our young people can feel empowered to openly express themselves, to feel safe and secure in the knowledge that whatever or whoever they choose to be they are still loved and valued by our society.

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