Hey everyone It was with more than a passing degree of interest I watched a BBC documentary on transwomen on Monday night. The programme which was first shown in 2012 tackled this difficult issue with dignity as it explored the lives of five such women of various ages and stages of the transition process from different geographical areas of Scotland.
The women had a broad range of backgrounds and jobs from bus drivers to beauticians and came from cities, towns, and villages all over the country. Yes it is true I am not the only transwoman in the village let alone Scotland.
The programme started with Ann a bus driver from Perth. In a very honest and revealing piece Ann said that the decision had to be made though it did cause consternation at the beginning of her journey. Speaking openly in support of their co-worker colleagues admitted they felt shame at the beginning of her story as none of them knew what transgender actually was. However they resolved to research it and find out what they needed to know to be able to support their colleague on her journey to womanhood.
Asked if transition had changed her in any way her colleagues said that in some ways she had as she was happier but overall she was still the same colleague and friend they had known for years. It was however when they were talking to one of her regular passengers that the reporter got a slight insight in to the differences transition can make.
The passenger a female says that Ann is nicer than her former male self and states that before her change of gender she was always a bit on the dour side and you would always think she had got out of the wrong side of the bed in the morning. In contrast nowadays she is more chatty and approachable and generally just happier with her life.
The next transwoman under the microscope was Carla a year old 40 Linwood. Carla sums up her transition by saying before embarking on her journey she was at war with herself as she tried to suppress her true identity to fit in to society. This is a common problem particularly I would say among transwoman who are in the age range of late 30’s and above it is something with which I can all too easily identify.
The youngest transwoman featured in the programme was 17 year old Bea from Alloa. works as make up artist. Faced hostility from some locals. Knowing she wanted to be a girl from a very early age she told her parents that she wanted to transition at the age of 14 and her parents fully supported her decision. Unfortunately she did receive some bullying and verbal abuse in her local community and this when combined with the impact of hormone therapy was making her moody and depressed and when she disappeared from her home her parents feared the worst. Fortunately Bea was found later sitting at the side of the road but as this story illustrates the road to transitioning can be a long and bumpy one. Now Bea is more settled in her real gender and is working as a make up artist she remains very close to her parents and her dad who workers as a builder is very close to his daughter and very protective of her.
As for her mother, well the biggest compliment which any mother of a trans daughter can pay her is that she is just like other girls and more like her mum than she thinks and that is exactly what her mum said about her.
In a small mining town in Midlothian we met Jan and I really liked her explanation of her trans identity. You see said what I as a transwoman know which is though she was physically born male she was mentally and emotionally a woman. Like many transwoman in our 40’s and 50’s and certainly those who came before us Jan married and had a family and in a very revealing moment she admitted that she was jealous of her wife giving birth and wished it had been her who had been in that position. Eventually, fed up with living a lie she came out to her wife and family.
Unfortunately this did not go down well and she now has a son who doesn’t talk to her. This is something I can identify with as I have lost touch with family members and some people I considered friends since making my decision to live as the woman I have always known myself to be. Whilst I regret this and wish things had turned out differently I am happy being me and if they don’t want to be happy they are worth my smile nor my time. Whilst I accept that they may seem just a tad harsh to some people it is a lesson all transwomen will learn at some stage on our journeys. Jan learned this, when at her most depressed overwhelmed by everything around her she tried to take her life. With a full bottle of alcohol I think she is was vodka, Jan attempted suicide by taking as many paracetamol as possible but luckily she was too drunk to pull it off and just as she was about to take the pills her dog realising something was not right knocked the pills out of her hands and ultimately saved her life.
Since that dark day Jan has done her bit in educating others as to some of the barriers transwoman and has never shirked a question no matter how challenging they might be. Jan has also taken her message to the stage and performed a comedy set at the Stand in Edinburgh. As an out and proud trans poet I know how tough performing can be, so this something which has to be admired and to be honest it’s something I would quite like to do myself at some time.
Last but not least we met Gladys Paterson who when she transitioned in 2005 at the age of 69 was the oldest women in Scotland and indeed Britain to undergo full gender reassignment surgery. In fact though I wouldn’t state this with any degree of authority I think Gladys may have been the oldest person in the world to have undergone this procedure. In. Her previous life Gladys had been a respected local antique dealer and had been married for 43 years. It was only her wife died Gladys felt able to live as a woman enjoying a new of life as she did so. This however came at a cost and she was estranged from certain friends and family who were unable to cope with her decision. To me that was their loss as I always to have a pleasant easy going demeanour even if could at times have the bawdy humour of Mrs Brown. As regular readers of this blog will know Gladys died just under two months ago and the world is a poorer, duller, less entertaining place for her passing.
As the programme ended I reflected on my own journey and how happy was to be able to make it. For though there have been setbacks I am a happier person living as a woman than I could have been had I remained in my birth gender. On declaring my intention I was asked by well meaning friends if I was sure this was the right thing to do. I think they were amazed at the fact I had never been more certain of anything in my life. It was something I knew I had to do and I knew when the time was right to do it. Now almost seven years later I can truthfully say I have never regretted my change and have never once looked back in anger or in sadness at what society thinks I may have lost.
Truth be told not only have I lost nothing I have gained respect not only amongst my creative peers I have been involved in the arts for over 20 years as a poet and occasional comedienne and am as regular a supporter of the Scottish and Irish traditional music scene as time and finances allow. I have gained credibility as a political activist as both a member of the SNP and perhaps even more importantly Women For Independence and also within my local community for just being me and that is I could ask for. After all, when it comes right down to it I am just another woman and sometimes ordinary woman have extraordinary stories and you know what, I am happy about that.
Love And Best Wishes