Monday, 28 November 2011

School Days

For my third school (11-18) I had to travel to the nearest large town each day. There was a school bus which picked up around the local district and took us the 12-15 miles to the different schools in the town. As it happened, the bus route started in my village so I had to be up early every day. Not only did I have to catch the bus at the start of its route but my school was the final destination, so for all those years I spent two hours a day en route and being force-fed with a daily diet of Radio 1. Tony Blackburn is forever etched in my memory.

Initially I would sit right at the front of the bus (I didn't travel well by bus then or now) but slowly moved towards the back row over the suceeding years. The real advantage of being bussed there and back though was there was no public transport option; if I missed the bus in either direction it was walk or don't travel. This meant I missed out on any after-school class detentions if they were imposed by teachers. Result!

But it also meant that I couldn't really get involved in any most after-school activities. No school groups, no visiting other pupil's homes or making friends. Instead I had to go home and sit in my room, reading or listening to the radio or playing quietly by myself.

There were a couple of other pupils at my school whom I had been at junior school with, but we'd not been close friends there either, but very slowly, I made some friends amongst my new classmates.

It is at this point I need to explain something about age. And clothes. Now I'm not saying that one caused the other - it most definitely didn't - but I can't help thinking that there is some connection there.

If you look on the street nowadays trousers are de rigeur for all ages and sexes. Even a five year old will be wearing "long trousers" for school and play. Yet in my day - the late 1960s - this wasn't the case for all, and my parents were quite old-fashioned in that respect. I was made to wear shorts. "Short trousers", as they were officially called, meant that my legs were on show to all just as much as if I'd been wearing a short skirt. Indeed I would often stretch my jumper down towards my knees to try and cover the shorts when I could.

So until well into my second year of senior school I was in these short trousers every single day, whatever the weather. And every day I was embarrassed about it. During the earliest months of my first year there two other boys were also in short trousers, but soon enough I was the only one and, no matter my protestations to my mother, she refused to let me 'grow up'.

Not surprisingly, I was ridiculed by the other children. "Only little boys wear shorts" was almost a truism, yet I was forced into them and, whilst I knew about myself I was also very aware that this wasn't something one could let on about or visibly quietly accept, indeed 'trans' wasn't a subject one could discuss as, in point of fact, it didn't "exist" back then!

I'm not sure if it was related, but it seems related to the nickname I eventually went through school with. It started with "rubber lips" as I (allegedly) had big lips and so Mick Jagger's handle got applied to me. That didn't last long though and after a few non-starters I ended up being given a nickname by the other kids.

female name.

A name that, thankfully, is quite old-fashioned and not that common. And whilst for the first month or two it was said antagonistically (in a "you're such a sissy" tone) it soon ceased being that at all and just became the name everyone knew me by.

And I mean everyone. Though on principle I made out to hate it even some of the teachers used it.

Now I never let on to the other kids about what I knew about myself they seemed to have realised it nonetheless, and so my life for most of my seven years at that school was pretty much female-identified and was part of the group of girls who would get together to chat every lunch hour after we'd all eaten, discussing boys, clothes, going out, and life in general.

I did 'domestic science' (aka cooking) as well as the woodwork and metalwork which everyone did (girls as well as boys - I've often thought that that school was very advanced for its time in being non-gender-stereotyped about most things). When it came to the very few 'sex education' lectures we were given I went in the girl's group and the boys.

So, while I can't claim to have been physically female throughout my life I will lay claim to a certain degree of being socialised as a girl during my teenage years.



I mentioned in an earlier post about the film about Gwen, and I can recall seeing quite a few other movies over the years, from I want what I want to Boys Don't Cry. Many of them (like those three) have a strong biographical element to them, though there are a few where the trans-ness history of a person is almost immaterial to the storyline.

But what these go to show it that you will find that there are as many histories about girls (and boys) like me as there are people everywhere. We aren't all the same and every life stories is different. 

Yes, there will have been similar events in our past - revelations, meetings, surprises, disappointments - just as they happen differently for each and every individual human being, so to say that something is "how it is for every xxx person" just isn't ever the case.

What I write here about my history may resonate with the life history of others who have been through a similar life process, but it isn't cause & effect.

That word.

The Channel 4 series My Transsexual Summer - which sadly reaches its final episode this week - brought a particular word to the fore and sparked a lot of discussion and, frankly, argument on twitter and elsewhere about its use. Some argue - as in the show - to be "reclaiming" the word, much as "queer" has been.

Others, including myself, cannot forget the usage by people wanting to attack us verbally, and who were often members of minorities themselves.

That word is "Tranny".

I'm now a forty-something and sadly recall when 'tranny' was the term used for transvestites. To call someone who defined and declared themselves as transsexual was to intentionally seek to hurt them, the implication being that TVs were obviously people trying to display a fake persona as a member of the opposite gender, rather than a TS who was trying to just 'blend in' with their cis sisters or brothers.

So, for me, if I were to now get called a 'tranny' I would feel extraordinarily hurt just as much as back then, and I cannot help but feel that same hurt on behalf of other folks, and the attempt to reclaim the term, even if only used with the TS circle, feels self-derogatory and completely wrong.

"Your mileage may vary" is one of those internet phrases that we each take our own view on ideas and language, but I still can't help feeling that this is one attempt of language reclaiming that I really want to see die as quickly as possible.

A Yorkshire Lad

One summer I went to visit a friend where she was working that season. She was at a university and although not on the academic staff she had an apartment on the college campus. 

That year there was an Open University summer school running for a few weeks and each week this included a 'disco' each Thursday night, so her, another mutual friend who happened to be around, and myself all went along to see what we could find.

It was all quite enjoyable and each of us girls received quite a bit of male attention, indeed we were each smooching with someone before the party was over, and left the event with our beaus.

Mine, I recall, was a very nice and fanciable Yorkshireman and after a walk around the grounds in the moonlight he manoeuvred us back to his room. Which left me with a quandary: I really liked him but I was still new into transition and very much "pre-op", so there was no way that the PIV he clearly anticipated could happen.

Rather than make things really complicated I made excuses and left. I rushed back to my friend's room in another building and tried not to feel as sad as I was actually feeling. Eventually I fell asleep.

It was only the next day that I found out what had happened later in the night.

The other two had - not surprisingly - copped off with their guys and, for whatever reason, the mutual 'friend' post coitus thought it would be funny to tell her bloke about my history (some people know, most didn't, and I was never 'read'). Yes, she was stupid in the extreme, albeit drunk, and yes I haven't seen or talked to her since.

So after she told him, he thought he just *had* to tell the other blokes about what 'my man' had gone off with. Yes, it was clearly the free-running alcohol earlier in the evening shedding the sensitivities and sensibilities of all concerned, but hindsight does that to you.

So 'my' guy felt really hurt by this news. Where I'd tried to let him down ever so gently he now went off the deep end.

That next day I was told that all five of them had been on the roof, with the one I had tried to be kind to threatening to throw himself off. The blocks were five or six stories high, so it could have been fatal.

In the end - very thankfully - my friend talked him down. But didn't tell me about it all until the summer school people had all left.

I've often wondered about that guy since then and whether I did the right thing.


Writing history

They say that history is written by the victorious, at least when it comes to the state of the world after a war is over. Well though my life has felt like I've been in the wars at times it has in most ways actually been quite 'normal' by most people's standards.

But not everything in life is 'normal'. Or at least when it all kicked off it wasn't anything like expected or typical or understood in any way.

Today I - finally - watched a film I've known of for years but hadn't seen previously. Called "A Girl like Me: the Gwen Araujo Story" it was the story of Gwen from her early years until she was beaten to death in Newark, California, by a group of men aged only 17 in 2002.

I tried watching it all, but parts of it kept making my memories well up and, in the end, I had to turn it off half-way through.

So, yes, this is the anonymous journal of someone whose life history isn't quite as 'normal' as most other peoples. "Scenes from a life", if you will.

I'll jump back and forth rather than try to write chronologically as that will probably be simpler that trying to set things in order from the getgo.

So .. welcome. Why don't you sit down quietly just there and let me tell you a story. A true life story, in fact, though I don't know yet how it will end. Maybe we'll find out together.

(written for an earlier blog, about a year ago)

The Libby Long Lifetime Achievement Award

This is something I had never heard of until recently when I signed up to twitter using this nom de plume. Another user (@TheCraftyTracy) asked whether I was connected to the city of Bristol as she'd heard the name used there for an award.

This sounded interesting - I have absolutely no connection with Bristol - so I asked for some information.

"The Libby Lifetime Achievement Long Award" was awarded (ahem) by someone who was post-operative transsexual (in either 'direction') and who had engaged in sex with others in all of the four possible boy-girl modes, ie with one or more men and one or more women before transition, and then again afterwards.

I had a think about this - having found the very concept rather amusing! - and realised I could give the award to myself. Indeed I can actually tick three out of the four options with one person! I wasn't sure about whether to include 'girl mode' lesbian sex pre-op where my partner never knew, but I can still get my award anyway ;-P

Of course, it isn't an "award" I can ever tell anyone about outside this blog or on twitter!


Sunday, 27 November 2011

A matter of identification

So let's start this thing off with a few simple statements. Well, maybe simple in intention but not necessarily in the way they can get received by others.

I am a woman.

I have always been a woman, except when I was a girl (and before that when I was a baby).


For the early part of my life I was an "out-y" not an "in-y" 'down there'. It didn't change who I am or, in many ways, how people responded to me or I to them, but some people seem to think that sort of thing matters. I'm not sure I do, but there you have it. And anyway, for many of those early years I didn't know what "sex" or "gender" were. The sixties were a far simpler time!

'Male' is what some people will call the sex I was assigned at birth - the birth certificate actually said "Boy" which isn't quite the same thing - but 'female' is what it says on my passport, driving licence, indeed everywhere that matters. (There may be some government records somewhere that differ, but I've no idea what information they keep!)

There is also the issue of the word "transsexual". I see it much like "transfer", "transubstantiation", "transcribe" etc where the "trans-" means it is a temporary state between two others. I had a period in the past when I was "transsexual" - not clearly one or the other, in the process of changing my body - 'correcting' it, if you will, until at the end of the process I was complete. I see 'trans' as part of my past, not of my present nor of my future.


Now I will admit the second (obvious) thing. My name is not actually Libby Long. She is actually one of my favourite fictional characters though, appearing in Robert Heinlein's Time Enough for Love, to where I'll refer you for more information. And why am I using this nom de plume?

Because one can't be a little bit pregnant. Once your life history is a matter of public record it generally can't be rescinded. Although some people do 'know' about me most don't and, frankly, I see no reason that they should; there is no good reason for people to know. Same as if I'd had an abortion, an appendectomy, married an axe-murderer, gone on holiday to the Antilles, or had a heart transplant, being 'trans' is only relevant to a very very few people under restricted circumstance, so I don't tell anyone. Indeed if asked I will deny it.

Sometimes this gets called "stealth" or "wooden" (as in 'fading into the') and some 'out' trans people say that they think everyone who is trans should be 'out and proud' about it. "To each their own" is and can be the only response to this. As I shall write later I have been very out in the past, so much so that I am probably the first trans person many people knew.

So, I'm Libby. Welcome to my thought processing.