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.


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