Travelling to America
I asked the Goddess Tarot one last question, a simple one, direct so it was easy to focus upon. Will America make me happy, will America still love me. I am of course thinking of him. It is a simple question, I am not asking too much of this simple phone application, am I?
Am I putting my future in safe hands? Certainly I have faith in the idea of the Goddess circle determining my fate, but to be honest I want to see a facial reaction to my question, to my needs. Still I persist; it is all I have on this very comfortable flight. An old lady in a sari sits next to me. She is going to see her son, this she told me as we were sitting down. I smiled politely and put on head phones. They stayed on for the flight; I need space, quiet to build my own history, my own future.
I touch the screen once and focus on my question, which is epic to be frank I struggled to not ask will I be rich, beautiful. No focus on love, on him. Touch the screen, the cards twice and my card, my single card answer is revealed. Diana, the Moon, upright.
Diana rules over wild animals, hunting and the moon.
What will I wear at night?
Diana symbolises the Divine Feminine’s ability to provide nurturing for all it creatures even in the darkest winter.
Again, something luminous in ivory; a wedding?
Maybe a dress from Ghost; that doyenne of the middle age float.
Is it premature to plan a wedding?
As a Goddess of the moon Diana ruled over the light that influenced the crops and pregnancy in women.
Maybe something from Gaps pregnancy range, for surely as Diana I could become pregnant?
But then the readings bombshell, Diana chose to live her life without men, alone in the woods, with only nymphs and wild animals for company.
No, no and no again!
The women in the sari, a golden sari looks at me, does she sense my negative energy, or is she a Goddess who is offering a ‘feminine’ support?
I look away, out of the small pressured window to the expanse of blue, bright blue sky, which for me was already Californian despite being over the Irish Sea. A tear rolled down my freshly shaved cheek. I reached up and stroked it away and felt the tiniest amount of stubble coming through. My struggles as Diana were minuscule compared to the ones becoming Sy.
Diana apparently wore a lunar- shaped crown upon her brow. I will never find one like that in Gap or Ghost.
The journey of my tear, which deviates around the stubble, defines me, my struggle at the present time. My sadness, my emotions are shaped by feeling one thing and in reality looking another. I want the tear to fall elegantly from the corner of my eye to the edge of my mouth. My full luscious lips. Instead the tear meanders around from side to side blocked by hard male stubble still to be removed by hours of painful electrolysis. Nothing is elegant about me now, nothing is straightforward but at least I no longer feel clumsy, tripping through life as I did when a child. A small girl in my mind, a small clumsy boy to the rest of the world.
Being a Clumsy Boy
I cannot bear the thought of writing, no scratching a ‘tell all tale’ of my sad, harrowing childhood so I am going to tell it in a abbreviated form, almost a set of bullet points that could at one point in the future be placed into a power point to be shown at a university somewhere; maybe Berkeley? Obviously my future will be filled with lectures, talks and presentations on my struggles, my bravery, my brilliance.
So here goes; little girl born trapped in a boys body, until going to primary school little girl enjoys playing in the sun, making perfume, sitting with her mother, grows hair long, it is the sixties so no one cares, loves the sun on her face, adores her father, finds it odd that boys want to play football with her, but remains happy, goes on to primary school, enjoys sitting by the fish pond looking for myths and legends, sends a valentines card to Scottish boy with dark mop of hair, parents complain, little girl does not understand why they keep calling her an odd boy, things change, people force little girl to act in a different way, hears father saying he is embarrassed about her, the end.
Learning that I, despite the way I clearly felt, looked like a boy made my inside disconnect from its shell. The female, Sy trapped in the male shell, Simon. The whole became clumsy, clumsy and shy. Clumsy and angry at the world that a few months before I had loved and roamed freely through. The sun, flowers, the sounds of life just made me feel isolated. I learned to exist invisibly, never being seen. I watched films starring Audie Murphy and James Dean, and understood how this boy Simon should move, dress and react. I unfortunately grow up with the affected mannerisms of a cowboy. I imagined I must be gay; it seemed to make everyone happy. I could be boxed. Inside I screamed silently I want to be a young mum. That was all I wanted, dreamed about. Pushing a pram; buying baby clothes and watching my child grow; I hated anal sex.
I wanted to emulate my mother, following in a long line of women, of mothers doing an ‘alright job’. It would take me forty years to begin to become my mothers daughter, forty years wasted trying to make my father happy as I walked, talked, swaggered like a cowboy.
Arriving in California
The plane touched down in the gardens of the Oakland Museum of Modern Art and History on a beautiful day. Perfectly manicured lawns with sharp edges and very green grass. A real green, an animated Disney green. I lean back and feel the sun on my face, Sy breaths, sucks air in deep filling her lungs with crisp, warm Californian air. Could I risk a further spin on the Goddess Tarot? I take out my phone and look at the application, the icon splendid with the Goddess of all Goddess’s looking out at me, imploring me to touch the screen. Goddess, I say in my head, quietly, I cannot call on you now.
I turn my phone off, look up and feel the warmth flood my face, my skin and enter each and every tiny tight pore. I should describe these gardens it seems selfish to keep their beauty for myself. The sky is, as always here, blue, a blue formed out of a mornings cool fog, the pines stand tall, aged bronze trunks sway sexily in the ‘almost there’ breeze. Agapanthus crowd together as they should, a plant that likes company, likes to whisper sweet nothings down the line, between them tall grasses brush past. A hard yellow steel shape poses as a work of art, look at me it demands, I am yellow, I am steel and I am made by man. I look down at my skinny pink jeans and wonder has that ship past? How do I dress anymore? Do I shriek or blend in with this my chosen environment?
My therapist told me to push the envelope, to feel uncomfortable at the edges as it is here that I would grow. I look down at skinny pink jeans and wonder about the envelope, my comfort and my growth. They would look great with a pair of Chloe wedges, but I know my body is not yet ready for Chloe anything; shame. My mind races to the end of summer, to the dreaded return to the classroom, the grey suit, the over-sized shirt to hide my growing nipples and the black work shoes. Why spend anytime worrying about Chloe wedges when this vision lies in store. I fight the fog that rolls in and begins to cool my Californian dream. The fear of a grey suit; muted and booted.
The end of an era
If I could say ‘OH MY GOD’ I would but it seems after years of seeing OMG in text form it would seem trite to use it to explain how I currently feel. I have contacted the Union, the HR department and I am almost ending this part of my career with something called a compromise agreement. I will get full pay until the end of December and a good reference. Then I am alone, cast out in my new transgender role. OMG! OMG! Scared and excited, terrified and proud of my strength.
I have dealt with my upbringing, my addictions, my HIV and my being transgendered. I am strong but I am alone. The promise of a return home, to the ‘family’ seems scary, shaky and slightly more daunting than genital surgery. How can I return to that place and become intact or remain intact? I need time to breathe in and out, deep relaxed breaths that allow me to have a rationale. Some time, just a little.
A day later, a day to reflect and my focus, my energy came to rest on the length of my hair, the wave of my hair and whether or not I should have my jaw done prior to my genitals. To be honest I had never considered my jaw problematic; my Sister mentioned it in passing. One of those in passing comments that is really meant to stick. Is my jaw manly? I look in the mirror. Yes with stubble, I must start electrolysis, but without stubble it seems fine, quite sharp actually. But my eyes, my eye lids are heavy they could be lifted and my cheekbones could be higher, my teeth whiter, my hair lighter, my eyebrows thinner, my patchy skin blended. On and on and on and on the list grows. I am going to need every minute of every day to become Sy. I have no time for fear, to consider any ‘action or reaction’ big, important, meaningful or lasting. All that matters now is transforming from this place; empty, to being real, filled, being me. It seems like it is surface but in truth the changes are allowing me to breath, to smile from within, to smile with my eyes; yes Tyra I always listen, learn. I really do think a bob would suit my face and my jaw.
Dear goddess is this the right thing? I ask this with more sincerity than I have ever asked the goddesses before. Am I right to take a compromise solution to my honourable career, my teaching, the one true love of my life. I close my eyes, and with absolute feeling tap the screen whilst calmly speaking the question in my head. Am I doing the right thing? A second tap and the single card is revealed. How much like an episode of Star Trek is my life. All my decisions, my information, my future, my past contained in one beautiful slim glass sliver like an interactive phaser. I should be wearing something fitted, something in mustard and some Sweet Charity boots.
I open my eyes and look down upon my goddess card; The Queen of Pentacles reversed. A single line stands out, white on blue.
Where can you create peace and beauty right now?
Where can I create peace and beauty right now? I repeat the line in my mind, no really, come on think where can you create peace and beauty right now? The Queen of Pentacles reversed suggests that something needs grounding. Me, I know I need grounding, to feel my feet solid, bare feet solid on red soil, stained. I am right at the point where fear collects at the edge of my world. I teeter, totter and titter at the edge of my world. Nervous laughter fills the air, there’s no one around for me. I need to be solid, strong now, I need to pick a name and own it. Sy, Sy, Juno?
A flash of light, a moment of calm and the name is clear, Ms Sy Juno Roche. And just like that the mother of a star is born.
An outfit to travel in
Beige linen, grey cashmere, white cotton; I have a look in mind. An ‘Out of Africa’ business class look. But horrifyingly I am discovering that the top of me is a size 14 to16!! I didn’t bargain for this, I planned to look like Kate, Kate Moss, slim, skinny, rock n’ roll, not middle age and finding it hard to find ‘cool’ looks. What am I to do about this, diet? I have decided to cut out the gym; the shoulders that work for a cross channel swimmer are not working for me. No I must shrink down. I add liposuction to my ever growing list of surgery to become, as I told my therapist, the best I can become. Like hell! I want to look like KM. I am even considering taking up smoking; well after the surgery.
For now I trawl the aisles of M&S searching for my beige cashmere cover up. Something baggy, loose, I tell my Mum who is frankly enjoying this shared shopping experience far too much. I cannot complain, it’s nice, comforting. And then she says it.
“We could share clothes!”
“We could share clothes”.
I look in the mirror, holding up a beige linen shirt dress, the colour drained from my face, the horror that yes I am truly middle aged, the gradual acceptance that I look nothing like Kate Moss.
I notice some women look at me as they pass, I realise what they see.
“It’s for my Mum”, I say.
Yes we could share clothes.
Wine or anti-depressants? Which one allows me to feel like I am on top of it all, coping? Which one is acceptable, to whom? Who can see, there is no one watching, seeing this part of my life, no one is part of my domestic bliss, my domestic mess. I worry that my writing has to be funny; no one wants to read about a sad transsexual, I should be fun, strong and witty; capturing all of my emerging nuances in short snappy sound bites. Instead I feel bleak, down and very unattractive.
I do not mean to sound shallow but when considering changing your gender feeling attractive is something one literally has to grab at, occasionally, fleetingly. I need to not feel like a freak but sitting here in this house, my Victorian dream full of period features, I feel like a freak; at least a freak of nature. Born fundamentally wrong, wishing only for a very simple life where I would meet a man, fall in love, cook lovely food, make a home, get pregnant and be an ‘ok’ mum. Instead here I am at forty-six changing my name, growing my hair, growing breasts, quite frankly going through a form of puberty no one should go through beyond the age of sixteen. Thirty years too late, as usual I am doing it too late. I tried very badly to make clothes out of muslin way beyond John Galliano’s rich forays.
Mine were merely hankies sewn badly and worn by no one.
Come to think of it for years I hankered after a Victorian pile full of features and for years I had to make do with modern double glazed boxes, flats with no souls. Well now I have one; fireplaces, tiles, picture rails, hollyhocks, and I could not feel emptier and more alone.
I should just walk away, find a sunset, the horizon and just let go of all of this. I know somewhere deep down that I can do this, that I am strong enough to become Sy Juno Roche but not here and not alone. I need to change my life before I complete the change to me. I have to walk away from, well rent out, my Victorian dream and potentially move in with family. Will it kill me or allow me to grow, to breath. I left so many years ago, at such a young age because they drove me mad, and I wanted to be somebody, not just anybody. How ironic that I have to return home to become ‘me’, to be reborn.
Will he love me?
Will anybody ever love me?
I know it is a big question and one I could ask the tarot but I am putting it out there or here.
I understand that up to now it would have been hard for any man to have fallen in love with me because ‘me’ was a strange concept. I mean what were they falling in love with? All the gay men I had relationships with told me it was impossible to be faithful to me, well in truth not all of them told me directly, some just slept around. But one or two were honest, man enough, to tell me outright. I, they would say, just find it impossible to be faithful to you; I need something you just don’t give. Well that was an easy question to answer; I could not give them anything remotely male, no thrusting ‘jockery’ from me. I would watch gay porn with them in some vain attempt to keep the relationship going and just switch off. It was all very one sided, bless they did try and love me. But I could not be present because I was hiding the true nugget of me deep under my duvet. Oblique my finest qualities hidden beneath layers of a clumsy, self conscious male shell.
I was impenetrable, even to the most loving or the most sexual. Over time I added to the layers, hiding. Drugs’, being skinny, anorexic, drink, a career, the list goes on. A million wafer thin layers which together formed a hard carapace over forty odd years. Still that was then this is now, I am an emerging work, that very nugget starting to catch the light, occasionally glimmering, glinting reflecting for somebody?
Named and shamed
What, or who I have always felt inside now has the name, the deed poll documents have arrived. Once it is witnessed I will legally be Ms Sy Juno Roche. I have yet to practise my signature, yet to say my name in public, in a queue, at the airport, at a job interview, on a date. It is one thing to have always felt this person inside but choosing a name is such an abstract endeavour. We are always named by our parents and to a certain extent I allowed my mother to commandeer this act. She said she could not call me Sarah, my preferred option and that it would be easier all round to go from Simon to Sy. I was allowed Juno as a middle name. I know this sounds fairly non committal of me to not choose my own name but we never do. At birth we are named, we stick with it or develop a nick name or an abbreviated version but essentially we keep it or work on the name we are given. It is so hard to, in middle age, pick a name for yourself. I hadn’t spent years dreaming of me as a Sy, Jane, Mary, Molly or Polly. I just dreamt I had hips and breasts and the ability to bear children and wear flattering maternity clothes. I was happy to not be stuck on a name, happy for my mother to take ownership of the part of the process that was really always rightfully hers. So she named me. As it happens I like the name, it rolls off the tongue with ease but now I have the hideous process of telling everyone but the maker of the kitchen sink that I am transgendered and now am Ms rather than Mr. My therapist and actually my mother have told me to make a list of everyone I need to tell; the bank, mortgage, bills, credit cards. Maybe I should leave the credit cards? And then to add two columns, one for letter sent and one for reply received. But every single entry on that list is an emotional journey, a potential confrontation with prejudice, a fear. My morbid fear of rejection, which in turn hides the fear that the world will find out I am not really Simon the he, the Mr, the Sir; at work. Now I know I want this journey and that in many ways I am ready for this journey; strong, determined, able to self medicate with Pinot and Sauvignon and becoming happy; for god sake I am wearing comfortable sloggis! But still it is daunting to know that from now on everyone I encounter will have the question in their minds; what are you? Even when I get to the point of passing, of truly looking like Sy; Hunters, skinny jeans, cashmere, the question will sometimes be present. Why did you leave that job? What have you been doing for the past forty years? No kids? Or that unexpected bit of paperwork or person that springs up. Friends reunited or Facebook. A tenuous connection that’s been long forgotten. A future full, packed full of bleak encounters. I am not being negative merely honest. I have a future that will partially be defined by the prejudice and acceptance of others. Me, the one who has always been so in control, just waiting, not passively, but still waiting to be named and shamed.
I tried really hard to desire heels, lacy thongs and outfits that men would like. I am trying to look like Carrie, I can, and I know I can. I can look like Carrie, sparkly heels, skinny old Levis, slouchy cardigans, tousled hair Californian blonde. But it takes work, lots of work, waxing, plucking, skin bronzing, shining, protecting, make up, hair serum, endless products. Danni of the Minogue fame, states quite clearly that when you are happy you glow and attract good things to you. I need to try and be like one of the Minogue sisters, perky, manicured, preened and importantly happy. Smiling and giggling in sparkly heels. But it takes work, a stylist, lots of money, rest, a loving husband, a make up artist, hairdresser, a book deal, a perfume, an extensive wardrobe etc. I look up to my Victorian mantle and notice that my orchid is wilting, do they live forever? Can you re-pot an orchid? Prune an orchid? Then it becomes clear I can never look like Carrie or Danni or anyone else with ‘i’ or ‘ie’ name not because of money or people to help but because I am middle aged and slightly sensible; I like wearing flat shoes and baggy linen trousers, I struggle to shave my legs, I love the idea of wearing make up but unless it is tattooed on……If I had done this, transformed, twenty or even ten years ago I promise I would have endeavoured to have made much more effort but now I look more like Ellen than Carrie, more like Miranda than Danni. I ordered a linen shirt dress form M&S online, in the realistic size options fourteen and sixteen. Colour taupe, beige. I could wear it over skinny jeans, narrow jeans, or wide jeans with heels, clogs, wedges, Birkenstocks, Converse. Obviously wearing wide jeans with Converse is my preferred option. I do at least have the hair, not by design but by birth my hair is a mess; I say messy, tousled, Californian. Orchid is spelt with an ‘id’.
What did I once imagine?
I remember lying back on the skinny wall that separated our house from the large detached house over the back and looking up at the sun that was so bright; phosphorous yellow. So bright it hummed, zinged, throbbed in the sky. I looked up directly into the sun ignoring all tales that I would go blind. I knew in that moment that I always needed to live my life being able to do this. I loved balancing, looking up at the sun, smelling the summer; cut grass, flowers and roses. I loved the smell of roses. I knew that when I grew up I wanted my own brick wall to separate me from the outside world; I wanted the suns warmth and the smell of pastel pink roses. I already knew at this age I was in the wrong body, I didn’t know I had a technical name, or that there was a way out of it. I just accepted being trapped, feeling wrong and knew that everything felt better when I was away from people balanced on a wall with my eyes closed, feeling the sun and smelling roses. When ever I came down from the wall I became clumsy, I never pleased anyone, especially my Father, the teachers at school, the boys at school, the football team, the neighbours, my brothers. I always got it wrong for them. Never being believable, being accepted. I worked hard for the crumbs of acceptance I did get. I saw the film Cleopatra when I was about thirteen and was transfixed, stunned by her entrance into Rome on the black Sphinx. I knew it was a film, a set, an extravagance and I didn’t want to be part of it but had a dream that I was there in the set, in Rome, all the actors including Richard and Liz were frozen, not statues just frozen still, allowing me to run around the set and climb the stairs of the Sphinx, lay back and feel the sun on my face. It was silent when I lay there feeling the sun so close; I was on a gods chariot. A gentle breeze slide across my cheek. I always loved California even before I know it had a name. I once remade my own Cleopatra. All my family, brothers, cousins, aunts, uncles supported West Ham football club, I didn’t really care. But they all wore the outfits, strips, when all I wanted to do was lay in the sun, the Californian sun. But one day they gave me a West Ham scarf to wear. There is one photograph of me from the 1970’s standing in front of our fireplace, flanked by my brothers and some artistic pasta sprayed gold. I am wearing the scarf tied loosely around my waist, the ends neatly trailing down to the floor. An exact copy of Cleopatra’s outfit when she entered Rome. What did I once imagine? I imagined it would always be sunny, I would always smell roses and I could run around California dressed as Cleopatra. All I needed to do was keep my eyes closed tight and this would all happen.
Being an activist
I have paid thirty pounds to attend a conference. An NUT conference on LGBT issues in education. Am I an activist? Am I a voyeur? I really need to understand why I am attending. Am I going to make LGBT or more specifically T friends? As usual I have convinced myself that from this will emerge a career, a path, a meaning. And knowing my ability to blurt out my feelings at meetings, at conferences it could very well be the start of something; but what? Do I have anger or an angle that rages inside me, that despises the prejudice I, we face? Not sure so maybe not. Do I have a bill or an idea for a bill I wish to drive through parliament, something centred on education? Not really, school lunches could always be improved but I am finding it hard to see the LGBT angle on that issue. Is being an activist a job? Does it have earning potential? It has just struck me that I have to replace a fifty grand salary; with what? Breathe in and out, slowly and deeply, don’t panic. It can be done, maybe not as an activist. Note to self attending a conference does not ensure a career. I am not an activist. Activist who have money have made the money in films playing activists, I am no Erin Brockovich. And we know how far my acting abilities have taken me; nowhere. I have always ended up on the cutting room floor, show me a camera and I freeze. Action equals inaction. So I am no activist, no actor. I do not have the thespian bug. There is something in education; I am very good at that. If I can find somewhere to become a woman and not teach kids then education would be a fine fit. Maybe writing policies, coming up with strategies, structures, new initiatives; I should contact the coalition. Transgender learning lines, schemes of work with a diffusion of role definition. Sounding confusion, and very unlikely to be taken up by any party even one as disparate as the coalition. I will enrol on a gardening course; I will do my upmost to complete that RHS one I started a few years ago at night school. I stopped because the tutor spent an ordinate amount of time talking to us about soil structure, I realise it is important but I was aiming for the Chelsea Flower Show and could not see the relevance. I made it to the Chelsea Flower Show a couple of years ago making plasticine flowers with a group of willing pupils from the school unaware it was my dream, actually shamefully I think I admitted it on camera; which ended up on the cutting room floor. It has always been my dream to make a garden at Chelsea, it has always been my dream to be able to change a light switch, I really need a husband, a capable handy husband who has an innate desire to make our nest a practical working space. A safe happy, lined nest, lined with beautiful delicate wallpaper from Osborne and Little or a regency style from Sanderson’s. With dimmer switches that work and roof tiles that are in place and dogs that do as they are told and invoke the wrath of the neighbours. He is such a small dog, I say describing Harry, the angriest of all Terriers. Little man syndrome! Have I adopted womanhood to find a man? Well yes, if I can, I know it is a hopeless endeavour so please do not take my whining seriously. What man would want a woman who cannot change a light switch or control her terrier?
Is autumn here already?
The leaves have started to fall on the deck; I was hoping I would have rented out this place before that happened. What a Karen Carpenter moment, the drama, the symbolism. I wanted a neat ending with my lovely Victorian dream. I wanted to leave it in the summer, to leave while the flowers still breezed, swayed and shone crimson through orange to agapanthus blue, with hints of lavender lingering. But no for almost twenty four hours torrid rain fell and cold winds blew and the leaves began to fall. I pictured I would hand over my flat to the prospective tenants, professionals, wrapped in a Cath Kidson type glove, they would imagine I was going off on some mid life adventure, teaching in Mumbai or Kenya. Climbing in the Andes, rafting in the American west and somehow the Cath Kidson glove would allow me to walk away from this dream into another under a veil of romance. The truth, which hurts, is far bleaker. I need to let my flat to save some money for gender reassignment surgery. I am not sure if even doing this will amount to enough. I may have to do one nipple at a time, an inch of electrolysis, a simple line drawing of a vagina. A quick calculation reveals that to have my whole face cleared of hair will cost me a couple of thousand and I am not that hairy, seriously I am not. There is a connection between my leaves and the stubble on my face, I’m sure. Or maybe that’s too neat. I have a lot of work to do how ever you dress it up and autumn is the time when the work starts, in the garden, around the house, paintwork, stubble, saving. I cannot say I have ever liked or enjoyed the autumn months and apart from Christmas day I can do without winter. Cold slushy dim days and long dark inky nights only make me desperate for the suns warmth and flowers. Tulips aside when May arrives I smile again and like a lizard defrost on a warm rock. Then plant seeds and small plants, dahlias, grasses, things that whistle in the breeze, flowers that smell of far off places and sweet perfumes I have yet to find. If the summer is all about longings is the cold dark autumn and winter about acceptance. Should I embrace the falling leaves, sweep and collect them with joy, love and contentment? I have to accept messy, unclear transitions; the space between autumn and summer; winter and spring.
The sound of drums
Every process has a rhythm, every adventure its own pace. I need to find mine. My rhythm and pace through this transition. Sometimes I run with absolute freedom and glee filled with optimistic joy at becoming me. And then I stop dead, terrified, panicking, and hardly able to breath. My stop start journey needs a pace, a rhythm. I need to allow doors to be open, even a little; ajar. I need to allow myself to peek around doors rather than flinging them open. This is a process that ironically needs not to be fed by emotion but by calm rational understanding of each and every step. I have not taken the prescribed anti depressants, I know I need to face each step without even the slightest of fogs, veils or illusions. I have started to mix the pinot with mineral water; I am taking back my middle ground, that space where we hold firm. That space that is not defined by what we wear or do or who we know. That space that we have a definite understanding of within ourselves. Mine is like a small rocky desert in Nevada, a space where I can walk or ride a horse. A space without houses or buildings, a silent space and a space only I ever find. That space would be taken by drugs, too much wine and delusion. I have to keep that space sacred, clear. Maybe I could try and meditate and whilst there I could clear the desert of rocks, maybe arrange the rocks into a Richard Long type construction. Create an altar at which I could kneel and pray to the goddess circle. Moving the rocks and stones could provide the rhythm, close my eyes go to that place and begin to create my altar. I have just heard that my Head teacher has accepted I can not go back to her school. I will find out by tomorrow morning. Tomorrow will be the first day of moving rocks, building an altar, learning to breathe, and accepting this pace. Thank you whoever you are for looking out for me despite everything I consider my existence to have been blessed.
Monday 23rd August 18.18
It feels right to acknowledge the moment when this became fact. I know that for me this has always been my obscure reality but now it is public, everything I can be I can now become, every dream can be sought, every fear faced. I can shout it now I am transsexual. I didn’t shout just typed fairly quietly but with a smile on my face. I am so proud that somehow the real ‘me’, that tenuous little being inside my hinterland, survived long enough to be given life. I do not mean to be dramatic but for me this moment is monumental. Telling people I know will be hostile towards whom and what I am is a huge step. And I just feel relieved, like a flood, and I hate to use the word flood when so many are causing catastrophes around the world. But the flood that is rushing out of me is made up of all the fears built up over 46 years, fears based on keeping me hidden, hidden behind a male front I had to acquire, like a costume, a veneer. But now I can sit here and for the first time feel proud that whatever else I have told them what and who I am. I own me now. That’s a funny concept to own oneself. At least it seems funny to me. The notion that now finally I am in control of my own destiny of being me of being authentic. I will now type a word and I will mean it, no bullshit, I truly mean what I say. I think I am happy, I know I am happier than yesterday, I know I was right to not muddy my core with prescribed drugs. I am brave, braver than I ever thought I could be. As brave as Cleopatra when she entered Rome? Yes. I am finally a pioneer crossing my own mountain range, discovering the plains within, seeing the ocean for the first time. I must drive to Brighton and stand on the pebbles, sway, open my eyes and be thankful for this opportunity. To all the women who have and are now supporting this journey I thank you. This is my epic moment.
The day after the event
It’s quiet, very quiet. Still there is no one else around; most are off on summer holidays as I have these milestone moments. I know the world should and does carry on; I am but a speck, a colourful speck but a speck all the same in a vast wilderness of people, strangers. I cannot sleep, every morning, or night I wake at around 3am. This morning I just lay there trying to rationalise my fear. I have given up my job, how will I live? How will I pay the mortgage, have electrolysis, pay, pay, pay, do, do, do! Then I realised that it was all taking place anyway, it had a slight beat now, a pulse, a life outside and beyond my fear. I just lay there and planned outfits, haircuts, hair colour, shoes, boots, I closed my eyes and for the first time there I was standing in front of me looking just fine. Like a proud forty plus woman who had a career, style and would soon have a vagina. I watched me walk through my life, teaching, shopping, and laughing. I realised that as long as I kept breathing it would be fine, the morning would come, I would be tired and I would get up and face the day and be one step closer to me. Breathing allows the pulse of this thing to beat with a newly acquired regularity, my transformation has calmed down; relaxed I slept.
A dizzying whirl of celebrity
There is now, by luck, fate or by design enough money coming my way to allow me to try and arrange surgery sometime this year. I have a timescale now of a year to change the physical attribute I was mistakenly given in my mothers’ womb. Firstly I have to be in ‘role’. Being in ‘role’ means proving to a male doctor that you are a woman, their idea of a woman. It is not enough to turn up looking comfortable and at ease, you should be all accounts arrive at your intended doctors office looking like an over made stripper; make up, hair extensions, tight fitting clothes and stripper heels, the complete sexual fantasy. Tap ‘transgender’ into the internet and you will be taken to a million porn sites featuring Brazilian ‘she males’ that earn a living having fake breasts and real working penises. Strangely it is their model I have to follow, beauty, beauty and more beauty. Breasts please and large ones I need double D’s. I sat next to Ulrika Johnson a couple of days ago in a Lebanese café and I love the way she looks, dresses. She is so unlike a Brazilian ‘she male’. I will have to model myself on her for the doctors. She is on Big Brother so I can take notes. How odd that again I have to dress to impress a man. I shouldn’t blow it out of proportion it is just one of many hurdles this next year will throw up. Writing today is odd, stilted, exciting then flat, impossible then easy. Maybe I am looking too far inwards, maybe I need to look out, to the media, to politics, the arts, culture. Maybe this is just a very healthy block. Maybe I have nothing to say right now. I look tired, black eyes from anxious nights of worry. Sleep may be easier now I know I have the money to finance this year. I make a promise to myself that over this year I will look after me.
Why oh why?
I once worked in Harrods, in the food halls, specifically caviar and then fine German meats. It was around the time I discovered that taking copious amounts of speed allowed you to party all night and then take the tube straight to work, to Harrods. It was never going to last. I was sacked in front of the beluga counter trying desperately to insult a woman buying food for a party. I once worked for a paint manufacturer in East London. I would deliver paint, industrial paint all over London and the South of England. One day a Nigerian man asked me if I wanted some chicken to eat. I said yes please. He then broke the neck of a chicken that had escaped from the slaughter house next door. He handed it to me and I held it whilst it shook. I left shortly after. I once worked as a life guard in a very old swimming pool which still had public baths, rows of them full of cockroaches. A horrible, spiteful old man found out that roaches were my phobia and put them in my locker. I left. I once worked as a photographer’s assistant and we shot models in swimwear in Trafalgar Square in winter. It was very cold, I left. I once worked in museum and stole a very tiny thing, a silver thing. No one missed. I still love it, obviously I left that day. I once worked in an agency that supplied dancers for pop videos, the accounts got out of hand and I was sleeping with the director. I left. I once worked in a supermarket with punk hair, they said dye it regulation brown, I said no and left. I once worked as a gardener in a celebrity garden and knocked over a statue, the head came off. I left. I once worked delivering furniture in Hackney, cheap furniture; plastic painted to look like brass. I delivered a bedroom suite to a family in a really run down block of flats. It consisted of a bed, two bedside cabinets and a shelving unit all for the princely sum of twenty five pounds. A week later the lady of the house called up and complained that the brass was coming off. I said for twenty five pounds did she really think it was brass? Depressed by cheap furniture I left. I once went to university to take a degree, got HIV and left. I once went to work with my Dad for the day, I was young. I hated it and vowed never to do it again. I love my Dad but not where he works. I once designed a flyer for a deaf theatre company. The play bombed, I left. I once worked as a teacher and found it entirely nourishing but knew I had to have gender reassignment and left. I can’t make a movie out of my life.
Diary, dear diary
Seventy three days ago I made a list of must do promises to myself on the advice of my therapist. The date was the 17th June. The promises were small steps to my ultimate goal of being a successful woman. The promises were set out in a very fashionable timeline; luckily no graphics. It went as follows; approach union, leave work with a deal, rent out flat, move in with willing family member, save money, change name to Sy, have electrolysis, buy new wardrobe and have surgery. In seventy three days I have tackled and completed most of my list. The surgery and electrolysis are still outstanding and the wardrobe could only ever be a work in progress. Diary, dear diary I have completed much that I set myself, what list do I need to make now? See, dear diary, I now have the money and the time to expand my hopes and dreams. How far can I push the boundaries of my journey and how soon can I reach the boundary edge?
- Have electrolysis by December clear face of all hair.
- Find husband who looks the lead in Mad Men.
- Make sure husband has a good income, car, and house and has open mind about my in-between body.
- Have surgery in June slash July.
- Return to work and proceed to become a Head teacher as soon as possible.
- Become an activist and political animal representing beautiful, slim transgender women across the whole world.
- Enter Parliament.
- Grow older gracefully, like Elle Macpherson.
- Have chat show on Radio 4.
- Present Desert Island Discs.
The timeline is approximately ten years. By fifty five I should be sitting comfortably in where ever the BBC have relocated to; possibly Emeryville, and presenting my own version of DID. Diary dear diary, please hold me to this, make it happen.
Part twenty one
Roman women called their souls ‘juno’ in honour of their Goddess Juno; the goddess of traditional rites of passage, marriage, transition, reassignment and other such things. To this day many people consider June; after Juno, to be the most favourable time to marry. I consider it the most favourable time to have my surgery. Just as summer unfolds and the gardens are at their best, the colours are rich and deep, the foliage green and the sky blue. Wherever I am it will be California time, pilgrim time, pioneer time. Another tradition scared to Juno is the Matronalia festival.
Judith Hallett, Classics Professor at the University of Maryland, describes the Matronalia as a love devotional from husband to wife. “On that day husbands would pray for the health of their wives and give them presents, and wives would dress up….” Wives dressed up by dressing down: undoing their belts, leaving not a single knot in their robes, and loosening their braided hair, thereby encouraging Juno to loosen their wombs and bring forth their “children into the light” — a phrase attributed to Juno as the patron goddess of childbirth.
I need to ensure that my surgeon is aware of this festival and brings me a present, a set of dilators, some swabbing? And I for my part will let loose my hair, no braids, no belts, just a diaphanous M&S nightgown. It is strange how I was drawn to this name, it really does have meaning, okay I really don’t have a husband and maybe never will but I am giving birth to myself, giving myself permission to exist. And I needed a god, a goddess to guide me through. Never once have I sought an image of Juno, never once did she become an idol. I just fell in love with the notion of needing a god or a person to guide you through transition, through passage and through change.
Part twenty two
In case tomorrow never comes
In one of the Saturday or Sunday supplements there is a column by a woman who broke her back in a riding accident. At first I wondered how far this could travel. But this week you made me cry, I am so sorry you broke your back, you sound like a wonderfully funny, bright person to go riding with. I love riding horses but it is one of those things that are so far away from the day to day activities of my life that I only get to do it on the odd holiday to Tunisia or West Africa. I once stayed on a lesbian ranch in Nevada where all the women looked like Tammy Wynette or Dolly Parton. Big hair, set hard like candy, tight jeans, cowboy boots and dirty brown belts. God they were sexy! Every morning we would wake in their upmarket trailer and smoke cigarettes, drink coffee and then ride horses across the desert, every night we would drink beer in a lonesome Jacuzzi and look up at the starry sky. It was idyllic. If only I was a lesbian it would have been perfect.
I know what it feels like to ride a horse across the desert wearing a tee shirt and jeans, feeling the suns heat build, and feeling completely free. Laughing as your biker friend screams an awkward butch scream because her horse bolts. The quiet peace of the desert belies the danger that hides lizard like, under the sand. The head honcho of the ranch tells us, one night in the Jacuzzi, that she has had three cats taken by jackals, are they real? I ask. They look at me like I am vaguely silly and from the city and then look up at the stars. Yes of course they’re real. We left the ranch hurriedly having crashed their golf cart hysterically laughing. It was no way to return their hospitality but accidents happen. Now if that accident had left me paralysed would I have your ability, your finesse to document my different life? Your anger and frustration at not being able to move written like a passage from Moby Dick. You make me feel clumsy, I know that’s not your intention, it is your brilliance, your innate ability to make words speak. You are another woman I look up to.
Part Twenty three
It is the last day of my work contract, my beautiful relationship, my honourable relationship with education, with teaching ended for this part of my life, ended as Mr Kelly. If I return it will be as Ms Roche. No one apart from me is mourning today, not for Mr Kelly but for all that I achieved despite struggling with my gender realignment, despite struggling with the ever changing HIV medications. I became a really good teacher, a really nice effective manager. I worked so hard to build my career, four days off in six years. Getting up at five forty five, walking the dogs, dashing to work to ensure my room and then later my department was ready for pupils and staff alike. I adored my classroom; it was and still is my favourite place to organise, to decorate. My classroom, my pupils, lessons made my brain come alive, dance, sing and struggle to find the right way to share information with growing minds. For now I must accept letting go, accept that this stage of my life cannot happen or grow whilst I work as a teacher. I must not be sad but brave, I must believe that this is just a day or two out of my life and that one day I will have my own classroom again and that then I will laugh and smile as pupils learn, as they make mistakes encourage, as they moan listen, as they succeed smile. This is just my day trip away.
Part Twenty four
The surgeons’ knife
SRS, sexual reassignment surgery seems to be my only reason for existing at present. My every waking moment is spent researching; I should be looking for a job, SRS, the right surgeon; the right price, the best results. I want it to look real, decent, pleasing, beautiful, honest, and authentic. I want an authentic vagina, is that asking for too much? The exchange rate with the Thai Baht is great so it is not too much to ask for. So it works out like this: $16,055 equals £10,452 which equals 498.454406 THB. This will pay for a new vagina, which they describe as realistic and very passable and new pert breasts, a five day stay with aftercare and two dilators to increase width and depth should I ever by chance have sex. It all seems like quite the reasonable package.
Part Twenty five
Am I unemployed?
Day ten and I am not really sure what to do with myself, I am struggling to not feel useless, used up, middle aged. I had to give up my career to become me, but becoming me is a slow process and I cannot quite work out what I am supposed to do whilst on my journey. I am realising that very few employers will employ me in role; that very few agencies will look favourably upon my epic struggle. That filling out job applications, passport forms has become a minefield, a treacherous piece of timing. I need a life coach, a gender life coach, someone to talk me through this. For the first time in my whole life I feel very alone. The Transgender, Transsexual Suicide rate is 31%. That’s high, really high. Before today I never really understood why it would be that way. But transitioning is a lonely process that does not promise a pot of gold, just a very fragile crystal rainbow. I am too strong to attempt suicide, too positive that I can make this work but honestly today is a bleak, dark and empty day. I do not smoke or drink, have refused anti depressants, sleeping pills and all other deadening medications. It is right to really feel this head on, to gain the strength to walk out the door in role, dressed in clothes I chose rather than clothes I use to hide in. I will join a crisis forum. There are forums for everything now, god willing one will help.