By Laura P.
People fascinate me. They fascinate me because I know that they’ve all done something that would make another person howl with laughter or gasp with disgust. We’ve all done very ordinary yet extraordinary things. With that in mind, let me introduce myself.
My name is Laura. I’m 38 years old, Welsh, a writer, a Goth, a freelance writer. I’ve been married for 15 years to the love of my life, I have a penis, love traveling and in my spare time, I love to take flying lessons.
Right. I’m assuming you’ve noticed the standout item on the page, and you’re right. I lied. I’m not a Goth, I just like wearing Black. I kid, you’ve noticed the reference to my penis. Perhaps I should explain. Everything you read above is true, with the exception of my name, and that’s solely to protect myself. You see, not everyone knows I was born a boy. So let’s fill in some of the blanks.
I was born in 1976, in a tiny old Welsh mining town, deep within the Welsh Valleys. The Valleys are known these days as areas of deprivation. They’re considered socially conservative. For American readers: the Welsh Valleys are a bit the stereotypical boondocks mixed with the judgmental attitude of Southern Baptists. And in the 1970s, this attitude was much, much worse. So being born a transsexual here usually means there’ll be trouble ahead.
My father was a rather quiet man, happy to work then come home and watch an old Bugs Bunny cartoon or two before dozing off to sleep in his chair. My mother however had issues. Racism was deemed acceptable to her, as was homophobia. Growing up, I was introduced to phrases like ‘arse bandit’ in reference to an actor who’d recently been outed. Jungle bunny was used to refer to black people. Hearing these headed tossed around was normal do me, but somehow I knew these words were right up there with the best curse words a child could imagine. This was not an environment you want to discover you’re the wrong gender. It’s what I had though. There was nothing I could do to change that.
I knew little about myself and who or what I was. In 1979, I was joined by a sister, and while my my early memories are spotty at best, by the age of 10, I had been caught more than once wearing her clothes. This didn’t go down well. My mother never hit me, but she was the queen of mental abuse. Words like ‘disgusted’ and ‘wrong’ were thrown at me whenever I was discovered or ratted out by my sister, who had leant the art of sucking up. I didn’t really understand. At the time, the girls at school all wore skirts or dresses, white knee high socks with delicate lace style patterning, and black patent Mary Jane’s. On the other, I hand had to wear trousers, normals shoes and plain black socks. I hated it. I craved my own pair of Mary Jane’s and white socks. That meant that although I knew the risks, I would often be found wearing the socks if I thought I couldn’t get caught.
Getting caught was taking its toll though, and it wasn’t long before my mother’s brand of mental torture began to kick in. Each time I stole a moment to dress as a girl, even if it was just a single item, like a pair of knickers, I felt immensely guilty. It felt right to me, but I’d been told that society knew it was wrong. Time and again I’d hear my mother’s voice in my head shouting ‘You’re a boy, not a girl’. I tried to be good, but things never stayed hidden for long. Having a sister was handy. For one thing, she had toys that I wouldn’t get had I been an only child. I had an Action man doll, but played with a Sindy doll given the chance. Lego meant I built houses, gardens and picket fences, rather than building machines or guns. I played like a girl, but got away with it.
School didn’t help. Children spot differences in other children so easily, and I stood out like a sore thumb. My time at Junior or Elementary school was peppered with merciless teasing and the odd beating from school bullies. I got a reputation for fighting like a girl, choosing to claw and kick over punching. And while the boys may have been physically cruel, even the girls noticed my lack of masculinity. One took to calling me a girl at any given opportunity. Another girl taunted me with accusations of ‘being a girl.’ They weren’t being kind, but I almost revelled in the thought of being like them. At just 11, I began to fantasize that they would drag me to the girls toilets, then force me to dress up like the girls and have to go to my classes.
We moved house just before my 10th birthday and for the first time ever, I had my own room. It offered hope of privacy—at last a place I could be alone with my thoughts. I’d gotten better at hiding my proclivities. Then puberty hit. And hit it did. Almost overnight, I lost weight, gained four inches of height and began to look at girls differently. My sense of guilt over all things feminine was getting worse. One night, I got caught in my mother’s black satin underwear. Now understanding much more than when I was little, my mother laid into me. For twenty minutes she yelled at me, describing her disgust, her disappointment and her shame. Then she moved on to how it would effect everyone in my family. How they’d hate me, even disown me. After she left I went to my room and felt sick, then I cried. Her words stung like a hornet’s sting and I resolved to never dress again. The thing is, I couldn’t hide from it.
A family holiday to Spain brought the whole situation back to the forefront of my mind. Spain was a great place to go if you liked sun. But if you didn’t drink—and my family didn’t—there was precious little to do. My sister and I would find ourselves sat in a room most evenings and I escaped into any book I could find. Away from all things feminine, my parents discovered that I was showing signs of being smarter than the average (the average being my sister). In an effort to encourage this, I was often given adult books in place of an Enid Blyton novel to read. This was a bloody relief to be honest as the world of the Famous Five was as dull as dishwater.
This particular holiday, my dad (a man who enjoyed a book or two) gave me a thick book filled with the most useless information you could imagine. Called The Book of Lists 2 (yes there had been a previous book), it held lists for almost everything, from the 25 Safest Cities in the USA to Survive A Nuclear War Through to 25 Surprising Things That Have Fallen From the Sky. The Book of Lists 2 was a fantastic tomb of useless facts. I loved it. Included was a section on sex, with as expected, lists of all things connected to sex. One list caught my eye. The 10 Most Famous Transsexuals of All Time jumped off the page and in an instant, my entire world changed. The first person on the list went from being a young sailor to a beautiful woman in lingerie thanks to an operation in Sweden. I read more. She described how in school, the boys had been sat on one side of the class, and the girls sat on the other. She said, ‘I wanted to get from one side to the other.’ For the first time in my life, I was seeing someone who understood what I wanted. I was a transsexual. That one book opened up my world, and to this day (some 30 years later) I still have The Book of Lists 2. That book changed everything for me, although at the time, I had no idea of what lay ahead.
Laura P. is a pseudonym. Stay tuned for future installments of her story.