Each week Auntie Beeb* runs a radio show called Book of the Week over on Radio Four. Oddly, and speaking personally, for someone who was very into music in my 20s, I pretty much only listen to talk radio. Perhaps, looking at it a bit more, I never listened to music radio, because they very rarely played stuff I liked. Not much has changed 🙂
[ * For you overseas readers, that’s a nickname for the BBC, our state broadcaster. ]
So, Book of the Week; and back in July, it was the turn of self-described “executive transvestite”, Eddie Izzard. In order to keep my Trans License current, you have to listen to at least one of his performances a year. Gah, always read the small print! 🙂 With five episodes of about 20 minutes, there’s a lot to cram in. I guess the idea is to give you both a performance and a flavour of the book. If you’ve yet to have the pleasure, I would try to have a listen (iPlayer), as while every trans person’s journey is different, I think many of them have some wisdom to share.
One bit that jumped out was Eddie’s visit to a trans support group: TV/TS. There’s a name from the past. Oh, how I wanted to go back when I was a confused teen! Back when I was a teenager, my family had gone off on a long weekend, and, well, trans people do what trans people do when left alone… No, the other thing, you dirty minded so-and-so. 🙂 By sheer dumb luck, I caught a late night talk show, Hodson Confidential, which just happened to be about trans people. Or, back in the early 90s, we were called “transvestites”. They do things differently back in the past 😀 It may well have been the first time I’d heard from other trans people, so it was both an eye opener, and made me feel less…. well, freakish and alone. Who says good telly can’t help people? 🙂
Cue a few short interviews of trans* people – we didn’t have the term transgender or gender fluid back then! Regular, everyday folk, who just happened to be that way. I remember my heart rushing, as I felt there were others like me! When you come from a small market town, trans stuff didn’t happen. Well, not unless it was coke, sex games, and a Tory MP. Yeah, those stories really help your self-esteem, don’t they? :-/
I remember a short video piece talking about TV/TS. They were a group in London who met fairly regularly, and not had a place to be themselves but were okay about it too. Perhaps understandably, and given my loneliness, I too wanted to go. Thing is, when you’re not quite 18 without a job, you don’t just hop on the train and pop down to the Big Smoke. So, no, I didn’t get to go. Perhaps, this is a good thing. After all, moving to Nottingham meant I met the Ever Lovely Mrs J, and I’d not have my family, friends, or trans* friends that I do now. Funny how life works out.
So, back to Mr Izzard. Part of his talk, if you can call it that, covered his first time out, and a number of visits to TV/TS. For me, I found it fascinating to hear a first-hand account of what went on (not too dissimilar to Chams). The whole making friends, getting more confidence, etc. It seems a now familiar pattern. I remembered the Hodson Confidential talk about TV/TS running a helpline, and my hands shaking as I called them from the village telephone box. They were, bless them, as helpful as they could be to a late teen hundreds of miles away.
When one of our original founders – Jayne – wasn’t well, she brought in a briefcase full of documents. Some were about the group, some were newspaper cuttings, and some were leaflets from support groups of yesteryear. There was a TV/TS leaflet, in all it’s 90s desktop-publishing glory. The Internet boom hadn’t really happened, so printing and post ruled the day. It was very much a world apart from where we are now. No instant messaging, or email; it was post and wait.
As I listened to Eddie’s words, much of the above came back to me, and also the teenage want to belong. Just now, I’ve had a look to see what happened to TV/TS. I know from ‘coming out’ in the 2000s, that the group didn’t have a web site, and that it may have folded. So it often goes if there’s not a core group to keep things going. I’ve seen one or two trans support groups fold due to a lack of push. Understandably, I was very keen not to let Chameleons go the same way; hence the volunteering.
But, after a bit of using dear old Google, I found some web pages by a lady called Yvonne Sinclair. I’ve no idea who she is, other than she had something to do with TV/TS, and she’s written down some history of the group and what happened.
I can only hope that with care and help, that Chameleons keeps on going. Not just for purely selfish reasons, but that it really is a community. A place for many trans people who aren’t yet out, to be themselves and, ultimately, to learn that it’s okay to be who they are. That does, to me at least, seem like something worth fighting for.