Unlike many people, I had no realization in my teenage years that I was transgendered. If I was honest, I probably wouldn’t have realised at that time of life that such people existed in society. All through my teenage years, I was racing about kicking footballs, chasing girls (at least I got it the right way around) before settling into a routine with work and college and enjoying what most of society would call a “normal life”.
In my experience, what you consider “normal” though changes with perspective. To illustrate what I mean, consider yourself in a room of transgendered people – “Normal” people in this instance would be transgendered – if you were non-transgendered – you would be in a minority !!! How does that feel ?
It was kind of that way for me. I got married when I was 20 and lived for five years with my wife, doing all the things that society expects couples to do, we bought a house, furnished it, lived our lives, even began planning a family. I busied myself with all the macho activities that men do, rock climbing, cave diving, potholing, you name it I did it. We decided to move to a larger house for our larger family plans right at the time of the recession though and carried a large amount of negative equity to our new house, which meant our life style took a bit of a crimping. We both decided to go contracting so that we could pay off the negative equity and rebuild our new house to support our dreams and plans. Things started to go wrong at this point for us, we could never get contracting jobs in the same part of the country – or even the same country. We would literally ring each other on a Wednesday and ask each other which country we wanted to meet in for the weekend. It sounds exciting, but you try it, it’s awful.
Then, one Friday, I flew into Munich Airport to meet her for a weekend in Germany and everything seemed to fall apart. When I met her in arrivals, she was standing there with her new “friend” who she had started seeing while we were working apart and after a short private talk, it became clear that he was her boyfriend and there was no future for us together. As I struggled to take it in and organize a flight back home, the anger and loss I felt where almost indescribable. It didn’t get any better with time in the short term though and in an effort to drag myself back from thoughts of suicide, I started seeing a counselor to try and get myself back to more balanced state of mind from which I could start rebuilding my life from. While I was doing this, I retreated into my shell as I took the time to heal, going on various retreats at a fantastic facility in Cambridge, which really helped me rebuild myself and get a sense of perspective. In time, when I was ready to rejoin society, I found that in the ensuing break-up, my ex had “got all the friends” in our breakup and that I had to almost completely rebuild my social life as well.
I still had no idea that I was transgendered at this stage, but after beginning to socialize and meet people, I met someone who turned out to have a profound influence on my life. “David” (not his real name) was a researcher at Cambridge University who was studying a PHd and someone who I shared a common computer programming interest. One Saturday, after a whole day of programming at his computer, I was looking forward to going out for a drink at a local bar, when he told me that he had a “prior appointment” which he had to get ready to go to. Given our friendship, I found that explanation a bit odd, and asked why I couldn’t go also and after repeated pressing and questioning, I eventually got him to say that he was a cross-dresser and that he was going to a party as his alter ego “Sam”. I was stunned, but having made such a pain of myself and such a big deal of finding out what he was upto, I felt I had no choice but to go out into Cambridge and get myself a dress, makeup, shoes etc and join in. I can remember the evening at the town and gown as clearly now as if it were yesterday. I was 27 and felt that I had discovered a missing piece of me that I had never realised wasn’t there.</p><p> </p><p>The people there were so genuine, and friendly. Even though I probably looked a right mess, I had no wig, makeup probably looked like it had been trowelled on and I just spoke to everyone in my normal male voice. But none of that mattered everyone accepted me and offered no judgement at all. I went with the intention of blending into the background and fading away, but once there, found that I couldn’t and ended up chatting to almost everyone and staying the whole night – ending it trying to dance in high heels for the first time…….
Looking back, this is one of the things that I found strange about the evening and continue to find strange. Given so many of us live in secret from our partners and the outside world, carefully hiding this side of our personality from those who are close to us, it’s amazing how open, genuine and friendly we can be with people who are in some cases, complete strangers, who we only see occasionally.
With that evening and the natural high behind me I started to look at myself in more detail and I realised that Joanna was a real part of me – although it was great to have those “Cinderella moments” where I got dressed up and had a great night out, increasingly I was spending more time as Joanna and becoming more and more comfortable with this identity. At this point, I begun to wonder about who I was and started to see a counselor about this change that was happening – surely something was wrong with me ? My counselor disagreed completely and made me realise I was just being me, that there was nothing wrong with being transgendered and I should just be happy I had found this side of me so easy to integrate into my life, which so many people struggled with. Encouraged by our sessions, I began to explore my sexuality, and started seeing a boyfriend “Steve” (again not his real name)
The next three years of my life saw Joanna increasingly integrate into my life, “Steve” moved in, I took temping jobs rather than go on holiday, so that I would have a job to move into as a woman when I transitioned and progressed along the path towards transition. “Steve” attended my sessions too – he was as keen that I transition as I was at that time. Everything was really coming together and seemed to be so easy – it was obviously meant to be, why should I judge or beat myself up over it ? I began taking hormones, growing my hair, going to body shaping classes at the gym – if I was going to do this – I was going to do it as well as I could. I even told my elder sister of my plans. Although she was accepting of it – she told me to wait a while before telling my mum and younger sister, as she was as sure as I was that they wouldn’t accept this new me.</p><p> </p><p>I didn’t though – I wanted everything to happen on my agenda, this was who I wanted to be, they had to accept it surely ? How wrong I was. To the point where now, 18 years later – we still don’t speak – neither can accept me.
This is one of the most important lessons I have learned in my life. Just because I had lived with this for so long – and had managed to come to terms with it, through help and support from the wonderful “David”, my boyfriend and my counsellor, they didn’t. It was an instant shock to them, there had been no warning not even a hint of my plans. All of a sudden I went from being married, to divorced, to gay and transsexual within about an hours conversation. They were angry, I was angry. we all shouted at one another and stopped listening. I stormed out from there with “Steve” and have never been back out of sense of self preservation. Please learn from this and don’t repeat this mistake !!! Communication is a two way process, you have to listen as well as speak, think about what the other person is saying and understand that they may not be at the same point as you, but that if you want their acceptance and love, then you have to move at a pace that is comfortable for them. Sure, it will be frustrating for you sometimes and you will have to answer questions with better answers than “its just the way I feel”. If you can do this, you will bring more people along with you in your journey, with less damage. Coming out is a difficult thing to do well – but honest, open communication is much an essential part of it as learning to apply make-up !!!</p><p> </p><p>Pretty much at the same time, I was “outed” at work, someone had seen “Steve” and I pull up in a car park in Cambridge (Of all places) recognised my car license plate and come over to say hello, only to see me jump out the drivers side and give him a kiss before going off to the cinema. The resulting story spread like wildfire through work – mob mentality ruled, everyone seemed to turn in on me and want the chance to tell another joke or take the mickey. Forced into a corner, I went home, got fully made up, changed into a blue rubber skating dress, pony shoes, fishnets and with a tiny corset style handbag, walked through the town centre to were I worked and sat at my desk.
Everyone was stunned. Absolutely stunned, I had taken away their opportunity to have fun at my expense. But why not ? I wasn’t doing anything wrong – I was the same person I was yesterday – what was the problem ? I was asked to go onto the shop floor to fix a machine and refused. After the mistake telling my family, it was my next biggest mistake. I simply stated that I couldn’t wear my boiler suit over my skirt and needed a lab-coat and lady style safety shoes. I felt genuinely sorry for my manager at the time – we spoke about it afterwards – he simply hadn’t been through any training that would equip him for this type of scene – he simply didn’t know what to do. I was sent to HR, where the HR manager sat me down and said ” while I respect what you are doing and have sympathy for your condition – there are basic health and safety guidelines for working on the shop floor which you have to adhere to for your own protection and we feel that this doesn’t allow the wearing of high heels or fishnets. For this reason, we suggest you go home and take a few weeks off to think about your walldrobe choices before returning” I’ve never heard being transgendered or Joanna described as a health and safety risk since – but hey – three weeks of work to go shopping – what girl could resist ?
Slowly over these three years, something began to bother me, I began to realise I was happy being both genders – I liked being male and female – I didn’t need to pick one gender. I chatted with “Steve” about how I felt, he wasn’t happy !!! He wanted me to be female. It seemed to strike a nerve for him, by seeing me as a woman, dressing me as a woman, it made it easier for him to have sex, because in a way, he didn’t have to admit he was gay or bisexual – he was having sex with a woman.</p><p> </p><p>After we spoke, if anything, we became even closer, I would come home from work he would have dinner ready for me, make me tea during the evening – it didn’t seem to affect us at all. But one day at work, something trivial happened and I completely broke down in floods of tears, I was inconsolable – to the point where I had to take the rest of the day off. I went home and showered and noticed that that my skin was still soft, I seemed to still have my breast tissue from the hormones that I had taken, even though I had stopped. If anything, it looked as if it was becoming larger. When “Steve” got home that evening, I told him what happened and we chatted about it over a cup of tea and I began to feel a little better about myself.
Steve” popped out to the kitchen to give me another cup of tea and after a short while, I went out to give him a kiss for being there for me and I caught him putting hormone pills in it – I was incensed how could he take such a risk with my body ?
That day had already been a complete roller coaster of emotions for me. Now I had come home to this. The row that developed was immense – first with words which I ran away from into the safety of our bedroom. He came up and tried to cuddle me, I shook him off and then it became physical – of all things, he started to force himself on me – thrashing about, I was being assaulted, on the brink of being raped and then, I got the luckiest break of my life – either then or now, I managed to push him off me and he hit his head on the metal frame of our bed, stunning him for a moment. I picked some handcuffs up, locked one hand to the frame and called the police.
The officer that came was just the most wonderful person I have ever met – I will be forever grateful to Jill (her real name) and the rest of the huntingdon police force I met that night. Not only for how they treated and cared for me, but the way she listened to me, without judgement – accepting me as a woman that had endured a terrifying attack and now needed protection.</p><p> </p><p>I moved away from Huntingdon shortly afterwards, my confidence in who I was badly shaken. Unbelievably, some of the people who I told about that night thought that it was my fault, I was a transvestite wasn’t I ? What was the point of dressing like that if I didn’t want sex ? It’s just incredible how people think – being transgendered for me has little to do with sex, I love to be female and male – and sure, I enjoy sex, but it isn’t WHY I cross-dress. I dress in the style of the gender identity I want to be known as – not because I want to be known and treated as a prostitute.
It took a little while for me to recover from this attack, partly because of the time it took for the police to prepare a case. But with their support I eventually overcame that fear and began being me again. At first in private, then when my confidence improved – out in public. I began to meet people at social groups, make friends again do all those things that I had enjoyed previously, before “Steve” had taken them away from me.
In time, I came to realise that I wanted to give more to our community and I joined the Beaumont Society – the so called “Blue rinse” brigade of the transgendered scene. It always makes me smile when people say that about us, maybe its because the group has been around for so long, maybe its because some of the people involved in running it are retired (volunteer organizations need a lot of time to run effectively) whatever you think the reason is for calling us that – I would encourage you to come along to a local meeting – you’ll realise nothing is further from the truth !!! You’ll meet people like me, people who know what its like to be transgendered – we haven’t seen and done everything in our journies, but someone will be able to empathise with what you are going through. Give it a go and make a contribution – the blue rinse is optional !!!
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