Earlier today I was pondering what to write about. I had thought about doing a version of Desert Island Discs, a favourite radio show of mine. Yes, you know my keenness with music, but truth by told, it is as much the story of the person behind the tracks that interests me. Well, some interviewees, I should add. Sportsfolk don’t interest me so much, so those episodes I tend to overlook. Perhaps it’s because I don’t look into their world so much. Maybe if I did, I’d take more of an interest. Anyhoo, that will have to wait for a little while as I consider a few tracks.
Some weeks (Ed: months?) ago, I talked about the Our Different Journey project. Due to various issues over hosting, resourcing and Real Life getting in the way, the work has not gone as easily as I’d hoped. I did have a go at setting up a test site and after Tanya posted her answers to the questions, I wondered about resurrecting the idea.
Perhaps this time, I’ll spin it a little differently. I think what I’ll try is running the questions here and then going for a meme-tag idea. So, if your name pops up below, please consider cutting & pasting the questions (and later your answers) to your own blog. Likewise, if anyone without a blog would like a go (via Facebook or here in the comments section), that would be very cool too. If we get enough replies, maybe you’d let me upload a few to the Our Different Journey site.
Anyway, on with the show!
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 and I normally had one close friend, rather than a gang of mates. One thing I did learn, as a boy, it wasn’t cool to cry and you didn’t talk about dressing up.
I didn’t exactly embrace being trans, but I dabbled enough 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 was a real acceptance moment.
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 wouldn’t want to change it either.
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 going 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. 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 as from my teenage years, I’m not a computer guru, but I know my way around an operating system. 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. I do think about the latter, I really do. But it is little more than whimsy at the mo. 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 once in a while, 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?
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, I think 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 – near 2000 – 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 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 🙂
Outside of the trans stuff, I’d like to stop taking anti-depressants. I’ve been taking them for a couple of years now and they’ve really helped. I suppose I don’t want to stay on them forever, but if they keep me ticking over, I’m not going to ditch them without some serious thought.
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.
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.
End of Line
Okay. That’s my prattling on done for another night. For the meme tag, I’d like to pick seven bloggers to keep the home fires burning and if they could nominate another magnificent seven, that would be top stuff.
[ Today’s lyric: Castaway by Greenday…. I really must get my finger out and buy the last album ]