Life is an interesting set of temporal points that we, in the present, continually replay rather than live in the moment. I’ve yet to meet any human being who isn’t either stuck in the groove (apology for those who grew up after the decline of the record player) of historical rose-tinted repeats, or yearning to be somewhere two weeks hence.
I’m the same, which makes me a hypocrite for pointing it out or just a normal person (*cough*, normal in the sense that I have two distinct personalities, one a cynical bastard and the other a giddy-headed 50s throwback femm-fatale, so my definition of normal may, as Wikipedia says, require a citation). And as such I spend a lot of time looking back instead of looking forward.
And some of the stuff I see makes me smile. I’ve only recently re-emerged from the masculine cocoon and rediscovered my love of the frock.
For a long while I had Sarah locked in a very comfortable cell somewhere deep in the recesses of my mind. She had an infinite closet, instant hair-changes and make-up she could change with a blink of her lashes, so she was happy. I wasn’t, but that’s a situation normal for men nowadays.
But before I put her in her high tower, that was a different story.
I grew up in the poor/lower-middle-class bit of Bristol. I was born in the 60s (yeah, I know, makes me ancient), had my formative years in the 70s (you will notice that none of my styles reflect that era – there’s a damn good reason for that), discovered my self (male and female) in the 80s (if you didn’t grow up in the 80s there’s a lot of things you’ll never understand, yuppies, shoulder-pads you could take people’s eyes out with, girls going to night-clubs dressed like the executives of the 2010s, heavy metal, huge prosperity followed by massive poverty, it was a hoot) and ended up living and working in Deutschland in the 90s. So a varied upbringing, not entirely helped by the addition of…..her.
Most trans people have a similar origin story. Mine is a little more fun.
I was a Cub Scout, which was the entry point for scouting for kids around 7-8 years old. I was also precocious (stupidly high IQ and stupidly low social skills makes for a little bastard) and *obsessed* with the stage. Plus, as my tackle had yet to properly descend, I had what could be termed as a lovely singing voice. High doesn’t start to describe it.
The Scouts in England have the tradition of a ‘Gang Show’. It’s kind of like the army entertainers in the second world war, a sketch show, singing, lots of drag (see Monty Python for details) and no girls. I managed to get myself through three rounds of auditions into the Avon Gang Show, a production that was staged in a very large venue in Bristol. I did it three years running, 79, 80 and 81, but 79 was the interesting one.
I was ten years old and yet to hit any form of growth spurt (see previous blog posts for interesting medical discussions). It was decided, because I was small, that I was one of the ‘girls’ for the show, which meant I got a lot of costume changes and a lot of weird situations for someone going through a definition period.
For instance – we had a song number that was set in the 30s. Ten little Scouts were the girls, ten bigger scouts were the men. The girls had to wear an orange flapper dress, which was satin and came down to just above the knee, orange heels and a page-boy wig with an orange satin head band. The boys had to wear suits. We had to dance and sing a number about ‘When you’re dancing with the one you love’.
Yeah, I didn’t have much of a chance to develop a masculine attitude to life when I was 10 🙂
So it’s opening night. It’s hot. We’re under the stage – the dressing room and makeup areas were right under the performance area and you had to go up a tight staircase to get to the stage.
I cannot describe the fear you have when you are ten years old, frocked up in a flappers outfit, full makeup, tottering on heels, about to dance with a kid slightly older than you, standing queued on the stairs and made to hold hands with your ‘partner’.
The lights dropped on the main stage, the staircase was lit with red light, the kid I was dancing with told me good luck and squeezed my hand, which was really messages I couldn’t process, and then I was tottering up the steps in my heels, led by my partner out into the bright lights in front of 2000 people, where I danced, hugged and mock kissed my partner.
Hellfire, where do you even begin with that?
As an origin story it’s a humdinger. I’m sat here smiling as I type because if I wasn’t trans before that moment I sure as hell was after.
Cue a number of years of sneaking clothes from my sister and mother, a 17 year relationship and marriage with someone who actively wanted to spend time with Sarah, sadly more than she wanted to spend time with me (hint – she wasn’t entirely hetero), 15 years of wilderness where Sarah lived in the aforementioned cage in my head, and then, now, second marriage, soul mate, a secret kept and then revealed entirely accidentally (hint – if you live a second life don’t expect Amazon to be discrete with their packaging) and the here and now.
I’ve been in and out of the closet more time than a favourite frock. I’ve purged and re-acquired countless times (my credit-card company thanks me for that).
And here we are. 2016. 47 years young. 37 years since the Gang Show. In my head I’m still a teenager, the world is still a scary place and being grown up is about as attractive as an unwanted dentist appointment.
But the best thing? Sarah is out of her cage.
Anyway, tonight’s mental purge brought to you courtesy of a *very* good bottle of Cabernet (Endeavour for anyone seeking a subtle, fruity, reveal-your-trans past palate pleasing red).
Stay beautiful, sweeties. You have one life, live it in a way that makes you smile uncontrollably.
4 thoughts on “T-Evolution – the origin story”
that is one hell of a story! i don’t remember cub scouts that way at all – it was mostly building pinewood derby racers and learning how to use a pocketknife. how could an adult have possibly thought that was a good idea? i mean, not that the outcome was ‘bad’, but jesus, talk about playing with fire! (that said, a flapper outfit sounds delightful). hypothetically, do you think that, had it not been for that experience, it would have been something else?
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Good question. To be honest, not a clue. The Flapper was one of a number of scenes involving cross-dressing, it was a different time (and if you follow UK court-cases, the 1970s seem rampant with sexual deviancy). I think it was a combination of latent potential, the urge to be on stage and also the urge to get into character. Makes sense when you look at Sarah, she’s a poseur. 🙂
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Hi Sarah, Just found your blog. Wow – so many resonances with the way I feel. I am still well and truly in the closet, though, with my wife not knowing a thing (I hope!) My first experience of girl’s clothes was in a school production where I had to wear a pair of tights under some bloomers (medieval look). I must have been 10 or so.
I really do love the way you look and your outlook on life.
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Oh my! I hear echoes of my story here. What is the deal with boys camps in the 70s and pageants?!
While I was nominated to represent our cabin in the show, I fear I protested too much and missed the opportunity. I watched from the hard green benches at the back of the recreation hall that night. I was so jealous as my mates performed. I stood backstage the next day when nobody was around, smelling the powder and makeup, holding an empty lipstick tube, crying.
Scarred for life.
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