Section 1: Getting to know the girl.
1: What’s your full name. And why?
Janine Thomas. That’s it. Why? Well, in male mode I have what I think is a ridiculously long name (mind you, it isn’t royal baby long). Growing up, it always made me feel a little self-conscious (but then, pretty much everything did) so I always thought if I had a new name I would shorten it. And guess what, being trans you get to choose your own name – how cool is that!
So I named myself Janine Thomas – or Ms Janine T if I’m feeling flash. It’s deliberately ordinary, not drag, because I did not know when I started out how I’d turn out – good, bad, nightclub chanteuse, housewife etc – and is based on the old ‘Transformation’ (remember them?) method of naming (you know, “Barry becomes Belinda” etc). So now I’ve got you all guessing what male name I have beginning with J…
2: How long have you been dressing?
The problem with this question is it could give away my age!
I am firmly of the opinion that transgender people – wherever they are on the spectrum from occasional panty-wearer, through non-binary to jump-the-fence transitioning – are born not made. The evidence? From talking with other lay-deez like me (and isn’t it interesting that trans women can come from all walks of life and all backgrounds?) there is a common theme: one day in childhood something awoke in them leading them to realise they were different to other children. This certainly happened to me.
To use the technical gender language, I was assigned at birth as a boy but from about the age of 8 I was fascinated by changing gender – and I wanted to do this myself. Sadly, because I am a member of Generation X and knew that non-variant gender expression was strictly verboten – unless you were gay, which to my shame I even compartmentalised as something other to do with others and nothing to do with me – I was both terrified and fascinated about my transgender nature. This led to years of furtive exploration – watching anything on the television in secret about men dressing as women, phoning transvestite 0898 phone lines (yes, really), visiting Transformation supposedly out of “intellectual curiosity” (my arse!) and just gawping at the wigs, clothes, shoes, exorbitantly priced breast forms etc. Until one day, at the age of 25, I finally plucked up the courage to go to Transformation and have a ‘TV Changeaway’ (which sounds like changing your satellite television provider these days). Aaaaand… I loved it! I don’t care if I sound vain in saying this, but I looked hot! I had always wanted to do it and hoped if I ever did I would look kinda convincing. Ohmigod, this was something else! I even looked a little like a girl I used to fancy at school.
Now, I’d love to say that was the start of my fruitful and free exploration of my femininity, but it wasn’t. I’ve talked about this before in detail in writing for TV Repartee, but the short version is I went back in the closet and back to being furtive until one day after I’d been dumped by a girlfriend I decided to do this for myself. At age 31, I bought a ‘Complete Male to Female Kit’ from Transformation for £200.00 (“everything you need to go from boy to girl” – except bizarrely shoes and a bra), bought some black stillettos out of the Sunday Sport (classy!) and through a series of baby steps got to go out as Janine. In broad daylight. Well, darkest of night at first – but I was out! Yay!
3: What’s your super-heroine origin story?
See the answer to question 2. The rest is secret – that’s the point about being a super-heroine, no?
4: What was the first piece of female clothing you bought, and how scary was it to buy it?
I won’t count the Transformation Complete Male to Female kit and the black stilletos because I bought those over the phone from specialists. Yes kids, over the phone – not via soshal meejah or even the internet – over the telephone talking to a real person.
Now, as I said the Transformation Complete Male to Female kit came with no shoes. It actually contained a tight stretchy black minidress (v v short) and a tight stretchy black miniskirt (just short) both for that trademark Transformation 1980s tart look. But no bleedin’ shoes. Nothing for it but to go to Derby market (no way was I going shopping in Nottingham, in case anyone saw me – the horror!). So off I went just after Christmas to Derby. I felt so scared and so alone, like everyone could tell I was some sick pervert out to buy girls’ stuff for himself. But I managed it. Doing the old “This’ll do her” routine I bought a pink knitted Bardot top and, wait for it, clear Perspex platform heels – y’know like strippers wear (dear God). The Bardot top was almost tasteful, so naturally I wore the stripper heels out first, with the tight stretchy black minidress and the tight stretchy black miniskirt on top (I’m not that much of a tart) when I went out for the first time as Janine a couple of months later in Manchester.
5: Tranny, cross-dresser, t-girl or something else? And why?
Non-binary transgender if you please? I am a man-woman hybrid and there ain’t nothing I or anyone else can do about it. Sure, I want to be the best woman I can be. And I’ve had the long, dark nights of the soul where I thought I was going to transition. I’m not frightened to change things in the interests of femininity (since having laser treatment I can no longer grow the groovy 1970s moustache I once grew for Movember, for instance). But the bottom line is, my masculinity is part of me too. Sometimes I even make a good man…
6: Where do you see yourself in ten years? Fabulous or drab?
Always fabulous, dahling, naturally. Again, you’ll excuse me for not answering this question in detail in case I give away my age, but shall we just say that Ms Janine T will exist for as long as I exist. If that means sitting around the care home in a sequin dress, heels and with my hair done up in full on Joan Collins bouffant then so be it! (I’m a long way off the care home, though).
Section 2: Fashion, fashion, fashion.
7: Dress or separates? And why?
Now, this is a difficult one. I lurrrve frocks, but then I have some lovely outfits comprising a lovely skirt and a fabulous top. Basically I love to get the feminine figure right, which means with my stick figure ensuring that I have all the right curves in all the right places (‘cos I am all about the bass). This tends to mean foundationwear plus a tight bodycon dress, but then the same effect can be achieved with separates so I guess I swing both ways on this one.
8: Heels or flats? And why?
Heels! No contest. I can occasionally be found wearing flats in daytime but the killer feminine look for me entails heels. I know this isn’t perhaps feminist enough of me but hey, look at is a punishment for my years of enjoying male privilege. Besides, I am always careful to ensure I can walk in my heels – no Perspex platform stripper heels for me, these days.
9: Studs or hoops? For your ears, of course…. And why?
Hmm, depends on how I style my hair. I love hoops because I am that kinda girl. But they don’t work with every hairstyle, particularly if I have my hair poker straight as opposed to wavy-o. For poker straight, I prefer sparkly dangly earrings.
10: Tights or stockings? And why?
Tights. I know trans lay-deez are supposed to be stocking fillers (eh?) but with my skinny frame I find stockings, or more precisely garter belts, can slip. And looking like Nora Batty is an absolute no-no. Therefore it’s tights for me, unless it’s an extra special occasion…
11: Taffeta or leather? And why?
Mostly leather. I am at heart a rock chick, and one from a certain small town in the Midlands where goth once ruled (and I hated it back then). So for me, I love the look of tight shiny leather or pleather or faux leather or whatever the hell we’re calling it these days. Just so long as it shines and gives me all the right curves in all the right places (again, I am all about that bass).
That said, I can do taffeta – provided it’s a wedding dress. Because I am one of those former Transformation lay-deez I still have a thing for wedding dresses. Or beneath the hard rock exterior I am just a simpering girl at heart who just wants to get taken up the aisle. You decide.
12: Tight bodycon just down to the mid-thigh, or full circle skirt and a petticoat? And why?
I’d say see the answer to question 7. However, occasionally I like to spread my wings (or my skirts) and put on a full circle skirt and I am keen at some point to explore my inner Sandra Dee. Basically, I am Olivia Newton-John in Grease in reverse.
13: Baby doll nightie or pink satin pyjamas? And why?
Ha, what is this – Jackie magazine? Ok, I’m going to say baby doll nightie just ‘cos it’s ridiculously Mad Men (a show I love, apart from the racism, sexism and homophobia it portrays of course). Yeah, a baby doll nightie twinned with some of those silly fluffy mules that women apparently wore in the bedroom to entertain the Rat Pack. In comparison to that pink satin pyjamas sound, well, dull. Why look like the daughter in kindergarten, dahling, when you can look like her racy mother or her glamorous aunty?
Section 3: Gay abandon and naughtiness. Remember you have three ‘bugger off’ cards.
14: A boy, a girl and a t-girl walk into a bar. Who do you make a pass at? And why?
I never make a pass at anyone, dahling. People make passes at me.
15: Wine tasting – spit or swallow? And why?
Well, seeing as we’re in that bar you’re on about, I’ll have a glass of champagne please.
16: Assuming you don’t mind admirers, a rich one whisks you away and offers you a million ‘whatever currency you use’ to either have extensive facial cosmetic surgery or gender re-assignment. Which would you take, or would you just steal the money and go on a clothing shopping bender?
None of the above. Here’s a good life lesson: Never owe an admirer anything. Oh yeah, and crime does not pay.
Section 4: The scent of perfume, a history truth or fib. Remember you have three ‘bugger-off’ cards, unless you answered none of the naughty ones.
17: When you’ve been dressed, which toilet have you used? If you haven’t, which toilet would you use?
Ladies’ loos every time. Ev-er-y time. Why? Because in this dress and in these shoes I’m a lady that’s why. Why do I want to be going in the gents with its urinals and blokes and no nice plastic flowers in little vases, dammit?
18: What’s the most embarrassing moment you can share?
Buying Perspex platform stripper heels in Derby market. Next!
19: What’s the most amusing moment you can share?
Flying into New York City back in 2005, to go on holiday. I was in male mode, but I had decided to take some accoutrements with me to go out as Janine in the Big Apple. Walking through the airport, I was called over by security (this was close to 9/11 and in male mode I am sometimes mistaken for someone from the Middle East or Latin America, despite having no heritage I know from either region – call this mistake racial profiling, or just plain racism).
The US Customs & Immigration officer asked me to open my suitcase on a table in front of him, then proceeded to rummage around in my suitcase whilst idly talking to me about what I do for a living. This was clearly some bullshit training thing supposedly designed to keep me at ease. Thing was I knew what was in that suitcase and back then I was barely out of the closet, so I was terrified. This probably did not help me not look like either a terrorist or a drug smuggler.
I was particularly on edge when the gentleman brought his hands up out of my suitcase with my black wig in both hands. He must have noticed the look of terror on my face as he then looked down to his hands and equally horrified asked: “What’s this?” To my shame rather than announce loudly in the style of Pose, “I am transgender, sir, and puh-lease get your hands off my weave!”, I just stammered out: “Err, I do fancy dress”.
Still, it did lead to the officer quickly dumping the wig back in the suitcase, closing it, handing it back to me and sending me on my way without so much as a “You have a nice day now”, so I guess it was a result.
20: No guilt, no repercussions – if you could have an intimate night with one celebrity, who would it be and why?
Now honey, you know better than to ask me that (she said in the style of Elizabeth Taylor in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof).
Section 5: Free form femininity.
In less than 100 words, describe your feminine self.
Afro-Saxon Warrior-Witch made by the River Nene, sums it up nicely.
In less than 100 words, describe your ultimate femm fantasy
Why, a session at the fabulous Boys Will Be Girls with the lovely Ms Sarah Lewis, of course! Dressing in a fabulous range of outfits from 1920s flappers through 1950s starlets and 1960s pop princesses through to rock chicks before heading out for a night on the town. It would be such fun to finally meet up and get glammed up!
Final comments for the Bitchfinder General.
When, oh when, is the lovely Ms Sarah Lewis going to be released from her Rapunzel castle, let down her hair and play?