[sticky entry] Sticky: Writing history

Sep. 4th, 2010 12:01 pm
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They say that history is written by the victorious, at least when it comes to the state of the world after a war is over. Well though my life has felt like I've been in the wars at times it has in most ways actually been quite 'normal' by most people's standards.

But not everything in life is 'normal'. Or at least when it all kicked off it wasn't anything like expected or typical or understood in any way.

Today I - finally - watched a film I've known of for years but hadn't seen previously. Called "A Girl like Me: the Gwen Araujo Story" it was the story of Gwen from her early years until she was beaten to death in Newark, California, by a group of men aged only 17 in 2002.

I tried watching it all, but parts of it kept making my memories well up and, in the end, I had to turn it off half-way through.

So, yes, this is the anonymous journal of someone whose life history isn't quite as 'normal' as most other peoples. "Scenes from a life", if you will.

I'll jump back and forth rather than try to write chronologically as that will probably be simpler that trying to set things in order from the getgo.

So .. welcome. Why don't you sit down quietly just there and let me tell you a story. A true life story, in fact, though I don't know yet how it will end. Maybe we'll find out together.
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Once my doctor got used to the idea I was referred to the Gender Identity Clinic at Charing Cross hospital in Hammersmith, London, where I became a patient of Dr Russell Reid.

You've probably read some of the press coverage about Russell in the years since, as he wasn't exactly someone who did things 'by the book', but I found him mostly helpful though doubting of me sometimes too. I didn't "play the game" as he wanted it played. I've heard it said many times since that there are set phrases and mannerisms which if you said them to him in the 'correct' way he would sign you off very fast and almost rush you through 'the system'.

I wasn't like that.

I acknowledged my basic bisexual'ness with a strong bias towards being a lesbian; interested in other women and not in a 'straight' way. He didn't like that much.

I would even - shock horror - wear jeans to the clinic sometimes, much to his expectation that MTF must *always* wear a skirt or dress it they were 'really' TS.

The funniest event though was when I went to one of my quarterly clinic appointments with my then girlfriend. Now she was quite butch; jeans, white t-shirt, leather jacket, short-but-not-boyish haircut.

The clinic assistant came out to the waiting area to call me in. She looked around first and spotted the person she thought was the likely mtf candidate - and picked on my girlfriend.
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I was, quite naturally, the target of the school bullies. Anyone who was a little but different (read: not a skinhead from the nearby estate) was, to some extent.

Mostly it was having my bag snatched and thrown around or hidden out of my reach, sometimes it was more physical with being punched or pushed to the ground.

Something that always shook me as quite odd though by the time I was in maybe my third year there, was that two of the worst bullies started *protecting* me instead from the attentions of others. Actually making sure I was ok.

Weird that.


Sep. 5th, 2010 12:06 pm
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"You can't be a little bit pregnant" the saying goes, pointing out that it is an 'all or nothing' state of being.

So is declaring yourself to have a 'different' life history, I believe.

Like many in my situation, I started out by being open about things; believing that 'educating the masses' was the right thing to do and not trying to 'hide' things. But I slowly came to realise that not only this was entirely illogical but it was also the stupidest thing to do *ever*.

Let me ask you: Have you had your appendix out? or your tonsils? Do you tell everyone you meet that you have done so? As soon as you meet them? Of course you don't. It isn't a relevant part of who you are *now*, just as much as what your hairstyle (or hair colour) was two years ago it is past and immaterial to the 'now'.

A one-time friend of mine (in the public eye and known to be TS) once pointed out "I wasn't born a 'man' - or a 'woman'. I was born a baby."

Not only is this self-evident it is also genetically true! All babies (zygotes) start out female and may or may not be changed in the womb by androgen and other hormones into a baby boy or a baby girl. Visually, at least; I can't speak to genotypes for me or you so 'visual' is what people usually go by.

So since that realisation I have never confirmed to anyone any suggestion that I am not what I appear to be, so far as I have been able to do so. I'm pretty certain that some former lovers may have an inkling; some friends too. But I take the view that if there is some doubt in their minds then that is way better than confirming anything, for once there is confirmation there is publicity and you can never again escape your past; it will always be discussed by others and held against you, rightly or wrongly.

And, over everything else, escaping one's past is what being 'of a different history' is all about. And if you push that 'possible' over the tipping point into 'definite' you will never be treated the same again.

Imagine if the world was divided not by genitalia and chromosomes, but by whether or not you have tonsils. Would you gladly show you still have yours if that meant you were treated as a second-class citizen? Or maybe it would be their absence that gave rise to such treatment. Either way it wouldn't be something that was immediately apparent to someone on the street walking past you so why would you scream about it if there was no appropriate or necessary reason to do so?

And I see personal history in the same light. I want, nay expect, people to treat me for who I am now. not for being a little bit pregnant in the dim and distant and *irrelevant* past.
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For my third school (11-18) I had to travel to the nearest large town each day. There was a school bus which picked up in the local area and took us the 12-15 miles to the different schools in that town. Naturally I got on the bus at the start of its route and my school was the final destination, so for all those years I spent two hours a day en route and being force-fed with a daily diet of Radio 1.

Initially I was sat at the front of the bus ("the wheels on the bus go round and round!") but slowly moved towards the back row over the following years. The one advantage of being bussed there and back was that there wasn't an alternative public transport option; if I missed the bus in either direction it was walk or don't travel. This meant I missed out on any after-school class detentions if they were imposed by teachers. Result!

It also meant that I couldn't really get involved in any other after-school activities though. No school groups, no visiting other pupil's homes and making friends. Instead I had to go home and sit in my room, reading or listening to the radio or playing quietly by myself.

There were a few other pupils at my school who I had been at junior school with, but I'd never really made close friends during that brief time so we didn't continue that in the new venue anyway. So, very slowly, I made some friends amongst my new classmates.

It is at this point I need to explain something about age. And clothes. Now I'm not saying that one caused the other - it most definitely didn't - but I can't help thinking that there is some connection there.

If you look on the street nowadays trousers are de rigeur for all ages and sexes. Even a five year old will be wearing "long trousers" for school and play. Yet in my day this wasn't the case for all, and my parents were quite old-fashioned in that respect; I was made to wear shorts. "Short trousers", as they were officially called, meant that my legs were on show to all just as much as if I'd been wearing a short skirt. Indeed I would often stretch my jumper down towards my knees to try and cover the shorts when I could.

So until I was well into my second year of senior school I was in these short trousers every single day, whatever the weather. And every day I was embarrassed about it. During the earliest months there two other boys were also in short trousers, but soon enough I was the only one and, no matter my protestations to my mother, she refused to let me 'grow up'.

Not surprisingly, I was ridiculed by the other children. "Only little boys wear shorts" was almost a truism, yet I was forced into them and, whilst I knew about myself I was also very aware that this wasn't something one could let on about or visibly quietly accept.

I'm not sure if it was related, but it seemed related to the nickname I eventually went through school with. It started with "rubber lips" as I (allegedly) had big lips and so Mick Jagger's handle got applied to me. That didn't last long though and after a few non-starters I ended up with a name.

A female name.

A name that, thankfully, is quite old-fashioned and not that common. And whilst for the first month or two it was said antagonistically (in a "you're a sissy" tone) it soon ceased being that at all and just became the name everyone knew me by.

And I mean everyone. Though on principle I made out to hate it even some of the teachers used it.

Now I never let on to the other kids about what I knew about myself they seemed to have realised it nonetheless, and so my life for most of my seven years at that school was pretty much female-identified.

I did 'domestic science' (aka cooking) as well as the woodwork and metalwork which everyone did (girls as well as boys - I've often thought that that school was very advanced for its time in being non-gender-stereotyped about most things). When it came to the very few 'sex education' lectures we were given I went in the girl's group and the boys.

So, while I can't claim to have been physically female throughout my life I would claim to a certain degree to have been socialised as a girl during my teenage years.

What am I?

Sep. 4th, 2010 12:04 pm
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Yes, a question that I'm told many in my situation have asked themselves. I was about to add "at one time or another" there, but then realised that I've never actually stopped asking myself that question.

When I was too young to understand what 'gender' was; when I did have a vague idea but was already certain that I 'didn't fit'; when I first tried to come to terms with it despite the complete lack of information I could find on the matter (it was the days before the internet was the fount of all knowledge); after I'd changed all the documentation; once I'd had "the op"; when age started itself known; when my mental and physical states before much more of an issue; even today I wonder what I am.

I'd like to think I had a working hypothesis on the subject, but then I realise I actually don't, and I'm back at square one again.

[Yes, this memoire is going to have quite a bit of introspection I expect. Possibly it is the reason I've started writing it]

The only conclusions I can reach at this moment are:
1. Fat/frumpy/forty
2. 'White' (or rather olive-pink)
3. Visually female
4. with some physical disabilities
5. and some mental 'issues'
6. who is presently single (and doesn't like it) but
7. who doesn't like going out her home that often
8. but finds an online existence slightly easier.
9. And who sometimes wishes she could talk honestly about her history to someone(s) else she trusted but it all too aware that "you can't be a little bit pregnant"


Sep. 4th, 2010 12:03 pm
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I mentioned in my first post about the film about Gwen, and I can recall seeing quite a few others over the years, from "I want what I want" to "Boys don't cry" you, cher reader, will find that there are as many histories about girls (and boys) like me as there are people everywhere. We aren't all alike and our stories are all different.

Though there are similar events in our past - revelations, meetings, surprises, disappointments - they happen differently for each individual, so to say that something is "how it is for every xxx person" just isn't ever the case.

Take me, for example.
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One summer I went to visit a friend where she was working that season. She was at a university and although not on the academic staff she had an apartment on the college campus.

That year there was a summer school running for a few weeks and each week this included a 'disco' each Thursday night, So her, another mutual friend who happened to be around, and myself all went along to see what we could find.

It was all quite enjoyable and each of us girls received quite a bit of male attention, indeed we were each smooching with someone before the party was over, and left the event with our beau's.

Mine, I recall, was a very nice and fanciable Yorkshireman and after a walk around the grounds in the moonlight he manoeuvred us back to his room. Which left me with a quandary: I really liked him but I was still "pre-op" and so there was no way that the PIV he clearly anticipated could happen.

Rather than make things really complicated I made excuses and left. I rushed back to my friend's room in another building and tried not to feel as sad as I was actually feeling. Eventually I fell asleep.

It was only the next day that I found out what had happened later in the night...

The other two had - not surprisingly - copped off with their guys and, for whatever reason, the mutual 'friend' post coitus thought it would be funny to tell her bloke about my history (some people know, most didn't, and I was never 'read'). Yes, she was stupid in the extreme, and yes I haven't seen or talked to her since.

So after she told him, he thought he just *had* to tell the other blokes about what 'my man' had gone off with. Yes, it was clearly the free-running alcohol earlier in the evening shedding the sensitivities and sensibilities of all concerned, but hindsight does that to you.

So 'my' guy felt really hurt by this news. Where I'd tried to let him down ever so gently he now went off the deep end.

That next day I was told that all five of them had been on the roof, with the one I had tried to be kind to threatening to throw himself off. The blocks were five or six stories high, so it could have been fatal.

In the end - very thankfully - my friend talked him down. But didn't tell me about it all until the summer school people had all left.

I've often wondered about that guy since then and whether I did the right thing.


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September 2010

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