Quite by coincidence, yesterday I mentioned to some female friends of mine in the pub that the previous occupant of the loo had left the seat up. You can accept that at home if you share with a bloke, but in a place where only women go? I was quite taken aback by the response: someone immediately started looking round the pub to identify the “ladyman” and jokes flew all night about the unfortunate thus identified. Someone asked which loo you’d use if you were “having a sex change” which caused great debate. What surprised me the most was the contributions from a young woman who earlier was explaining hegemonic masculinity and femininity and how important it is not to pander to stereotypes.
In my previous post, I mentioned about how I feel out-of-sorts with the usual crowds. This was an example of it. It made me uncomfortable and nervous and I didn’t know how to go about bringing a halt to the ribaldry in a gracious way. I think I’m a little bit more aware than most about conversations like this because, being on the periphery of that wonderfully useless word ‘normality’, a) I perceive how easily the joking could be about me; and b) I’ve met quite a few people who define themselves in all kinds of different ways and have (I hope) much more of an open mind about such things.
I first met a ‘proper TG’ woman in 1989; the lead singer of a local band, she was a source of puzzlement and curiosity by many. By this point I’d already decided to be as open-minded as I could possibly be, so I just took it in my stride. I know I’ve met many more over the years, but in 2007, in my brother’s last days, his close friend Sharon introduced me to her partner, Jackie. It was only about a week later, when we were chatting about hospitals in general, that Sharon referred to Jackie’s ‘surgery’. I was so confused I actually had to ask her what she meant! My first reaction when the penny dropped was to be jealous.
Why? She had made the choice, and acted on it. She knew what she was, and sorted the problem. Yes, I know, I know, that’s woefully naïve and almost certainly rather insulting. But I’m trying to be honest here about the thoughts which ran – run – through my head. Bear in mind I was 23 before I realised that the choice of having children or not was mine to make, not society’s… that always flummoxes people who know me very well as I’m such an outspoken person on people’s rights to live the way they want to. So, thinking within that framework, I’d already grown a pair of tits and hips so huge I have to do a three point turn to get out of the bath and assumed that being female was something I was going to have to get used to. So by the time I realised that I didn’t have to have accepted this body, I then assumed it was too late.
I nominally call myself bi, but I haven’t had a girlfriend in years. I gave up when I realised that lesbians don’t tend to want a man, not even a female-shaped one. I found it tough to come to terms with the fact that I go in. I like my body, sometimes, and do actually have female bits of me that I’m quite proud of, but I do feel like I should go out instead. When I was three, I clearly remember telling my brother: “On my fourth birthday, I’m going to be a boy.” I have no idea how my parents reacted to this, but I do know that my mother was so fed up of people commenting about her ‘sons’ that she had my ears pierced when I was five.
So who am I? A boy, a girl, or a Gray?