By Laura P.

Photo by Veronica J

Let's pick up where we left off. It’s the late 80's, I've just discovered the Book of Lists 2 and the the world of Transsexualism is wide open to me. Yes, that's where we left it. Right. So, with my new found knowledge, I felt ok about myself for the first time in years. It explained so much.

The Steps Of Life

Many a Sunday afternoon was spent with my grandparents, watching Wonder Woman righting wrongs, fighting crime and generally being awesome. I loved her. More importantly, I wanted to be her. It wasn't just Wonder Woman. My home, despite its horrors, was never short on cartoons. My Dad was a huge cartoon fan and we were allowed as kids to watch as many cartoons as were available (much to my Mother's annoyance). Cartoons for me introduced me to a host of female characters I wanted to be. From Dungeons And Dragons to Scooby Doo’s Daphne, the TV was filled with female role models I wanted to be. Then the inevitable happened. Puberty.

I would challenge anyone to say their teenage years were fun. No one enjoys being a teenager. For the transsexual though, being a teenager and puberty represent a special kind of hell that few will appreciate. When puberty hit me, hit me it did. Overnight, I went from a shy, overweight eleven year old to a tall, skinny, shy eleven year old with spots. My voice deepened, hair started growing in annoying places and my hope of fitting in with the girls was dashed. By the time I reached twelve, I'd hit five-foot six-inches and was now towering above most of my classmates. I was miserable. Then the erections started. Oh dear god—how I hated that.

My transformation into a stroppy teen wasn't all bad though. I was generally well-behaved, certainly well-spoken and best of all, trustworthy. I was allowed to take the Sunday papers to bed with me each weekend. In the UK, the Sunday papers—at least the ones we got—were little more than soft core porn magazines in places. A Page Three model graced both papers we read, and I can still see the first model I got to see up close and personal. Truthfully, I couldn't tell you her name, her age or indeed the colour of her hair. What I can remember was her body. She was dressed only in a pair of pink tanga briefs, and she was beautiful. My eye wasn't drawn to her uncovered bust, but to the underwear itself. This was the first time I'd ever seen a woman in underwear, and the first time I could see what all the fuss was about. The smooth fabric clinging to the flat front imprinted on my brain. That's what I wanted to see on myself. It’s how I looked in my own head.

The paper was also filled with adverts for catalogues full of kinky lingerie. Often you could fill in a request for a catalogue and you'd receive a free playsuit. So many times I toyed with filling in the coupon, but Mother kept a tight eye on anything the postman delivered. There was no way I could get the package into the house and up to my bedroom without her noticing.

I'd started secondary school in 1989, and as expected, I'd didn't really fit in. The friends I did have were great, but make no mistake, we weren't popular. Trying as I might, I couldn't escape my slightly effeminate nature. Bullies rounded on it. I was a soft target. There weren't too many beatings, but mental abuse was ever present. I coped by trying to fit in. I joined the RAF Cadets and got to discover the other great passion in my life: flying and aviation. I became known for being quirky, witty and funny amongst my fellow cadets, though I was not (nor have I ever been) a natural leader. The character I developed though seemed to cover my issues quite well. Back at school, I was known mostly as a swat, someone whose intelligence was annoying. To this day, people still see me as some sort of 'know it all' and I still don't get it.

Academically, I was skating along doing the bare minimum and not really caring about the result. When it came to sports and Gym class, I hated it. Canadian's love ice hockey, American’s football. In Wales, we played rugby. I fucking hated rugby. I hated having my head jammed between two guys’ sweaty backsides waiting for an egg-shaped ball to appear below. I loathed the fact rugby was played in winter, and I despised how dirty I became every time I played. As much as I hated that, what I really feared was the shower after the lesson. Picture if you will, being a transsexual, knowing you’re trapped in the wrong body, then being forced to strip naked and shower with the other boys. I couldn't do it. I would wait until the showers were more or less empty and as quick as possible, wash, dry and get dressed. True, communal showering isn't fun for any gender, but when you’re in the wrong body, it feels ten times worse. Add to it the fact I was an early bloomer, possessing more pubic hair than most of my classmates and you end up with hell on earth. I began avoiding Gym class as much as I could. I'd deliberately forget my kit, forge notes from my parents and lie through my teeth all to avoid the Gym.

Inevitably, I discovered masturbation. Even this pleasurable activity often left me feeling dissatisfied. Maybe it was the fact I was often dressed in female underwear as I did it. The guilt I felt afterwards was intense and damaging. I'd often go weeks without dressing. The ever present voice of my mother still ringing in my ears, telling me I was wrong, disgusting. But the need to explore my femininity wouldn't go away though. One day, I discovered a pair of black silk stockings. Without thinking, I decided to shave my legs. This was done with a disposable razor and very little shaving foam. After an hour, I was all done and the stockings slid over my now smooth legs. I loved it. For a moment, everything in the world felt right. I felt sexy, confident, and like myself. Carefully I rolled the stockings down and the moment was over. Then I realised what I'd done. Without thinking, I'd shaved my legs and now, with the school summer holidays around the corner, I couldn't wear shorts. I spent six weeks in jogging bottoms playing football with my friends. It was a stupid thing to do, and my mental health was starting to be affected.

By fourteen, I began to notice girls. Lust and attraction are very powerful things. Throw in a shed load of hormones and we've got a hell of a party. The flat-chested girls we started school with were now blossoming out. New bras were visible behind their white shirts and their tight blue skirts were getting tighter. Sex was on my brain. It's a strange thing to look at a girl and want to both fuck her and be her at the same time. Kelly Doyle was a beautiful English girl whose family had moved to Wales the previous year. She was tall (as tall as I was) and she had fantastic legs. Couple that with naturally red cheeks, full lips and gorgeous blue eyes, and you can see why I developed quite an infatuation with her. She wore her skirt slightly looser than most of the girls, but it was her legs, finished with a pair of adorable loose fitting white socks that tugged at my heart strings. I wanted to be her some badly. We often spoke, but as I was discovering, most girls weren't interested in me. They were however, happy to look on me as a friend and confidante. I often got told things the other boys would never get told. That made school a rather lonely place for me. In my entire time in secondary school, I had just two girlfriends and like all teen relationships, they never lasted more than two months. So, school had been a tortuous place filled with pain and anxiety. About normal for most people then.

Back at home, things were getting worse. My parents’ marriage was in trouble. Mother had a volatile personality. She could go from a normal conversation to screaming banshee in a heartbeat. Contrast this with my Father, a rather gentle man, who enjoyed a sleep in the chair after an evening meal. It seemed that everything my Dad did (or didn't do) would anger my Mother. My sister was smart enough to get out of the house as soon as possible. That left me, dealing with the worst of it. I became caught in the middle. My mother would use me like a bartender, telling me things I had no business knowing. One night, she cornered me an asked me if I would move out with her if she left my Dad. I said no. The proverbial lead balloon would seem as light as a feather compared to how crestfallen she was when I said no. In truth, in that split second, I knew my dad needed me more than she did. So I said no.

My constant involvement in my parents’ affairs just drove me further into my room. I spent many an hour playing games on an old Amiga 500+. I was becoming withdrawn and depressed. But, my dressing became more bold. Anytime my mother was out of the house, I'd find something to wear. My sister’s clothes once again brought me closer to how I wanted to be. Before she left, she'd moved on to satin underwear, pretty summer dresses and opaque tights that did wonders to disguise my hairy legs show me a more feminine silhouette. With my sister dating and spending more time away from home at the weekends, I began to wear her underwear for a few hours, then for the whole day, then when I went out. I was starting to get desperate.

By eighteen, my time in the RAF Cadets was over and I needed somewhere to go to lose myself. I discovered that I could sing, and not just a little bit, I could really sing. At that age my voice was still settling, meaning I could go from a bass, through a baritone all the way to a tenor if I was warmed up. The choirs and amateur operatics came flooding forward. I joined a mixed choir and a local kids’ theatre company. This was show business, so to speak, and I loved it. It didn't hurt that when I sung, people listened. I'd topped off at five feet eight inches and weighed almost nothing. Hearing my powerful voice escape my frame made people smile. My first show was a revue with lots of kids and lots of songs. I must have learnt around twenty or so songs, lots of them solos. I discovered that being a man who could sing was like finding Camelot. From the kids’ company, I was snapped up by another local adult company and after a quick audition, I got my first starring role: Francis Fryer in Calamity Jane. For those who don't know the show, Francis Fryer is a song and dance man who's hired under the mistaken idea that he is a she. With the irony practically pouring off the stage, I make my big entrance wearing a dress, padded bra and high heels. All goes well until my wig comes off on cue, leaving poor Francis running for the bar. I had found a coping mechanism, and best of all, to would lead to some of the best times of my life, and the worst. Performing allowed me to be someone else for a few hours, and there's nothing more empowering than knowing everyone in the show is there with one purpose in mind. Get the show right, entertain the audience and have a good time. With all of us working for the good of the show you become part of something good. Scratch the surface though and you'll find not everyone is there for the same reasons. Much like the duck, the show glides along on the surface, while underneath, we're all paddling like hell.

I didn't matter though, taking that bow on the first night, hearing the audience cheer a little louder when you're on stage, it's like a drug and I was hooked.