Knowing me, Knowing you
I was born in 1946 in Carshalton, Surrey.
At what age did you realise that you were transgendered?
From the age of 3-4 I always wanted to be a girl, and would always play with the girls and dress female whenever I could. I guess it was at University in London in the mid sixties that I started to understand better about being Transgendered, but the term was not in use then. I guess I wasn't sure whether I was TV or TS at that time.
Did you act upon these feelings at all?
I've been dressing as long as I can remember, and came out to my wife in the first year of my marriage. Initially she was supportive, and I had my first outing as Jenny-Anne in 1971. I've been in various help and support groups ever since and have been to many TG events in the last 34-35 years. Also I've been Jenny-Anne in France and South Africa, met the Lady Boys in Thailand and the UK, and visited the She-Males in Rome and Rio de Janeiro. I was eventually diagnosed TS in 1980 by the infamous Dr. John Randall, but have only been openly TS for about 7-8 years due to Family & Work pressures.
Who was the first person to know/find out about you and how was their reaction?
I told my Wife, who initially was very supportive and helped me to learn how to be a woman properly. She initially taught me about developing a female style, how to do my make-up and my hair/wigs effectively, and how to behave as a woman.
I think she thought it was a big game we were playing and eventually we'd move on to something else! When she found out it wasn't just a phase, it made her very depressed and nearly wreaked our marriage, but we were married for 31 years before getting divorced for other reasons. We survived by my having specific times to be Jenny-Anne and being male all the rest of the time for her.
Presumably your family know, what was their reaction, and has it changed over time?
My whole family know now, because in 1979 my wife told everyone in both our families. My parents were against it and sent me to see John Randall, who decided I was probably TS, this made them even more against it, and they refused to even discuss it again. Neither of my parents ever met the female me. My Children also know but don't want to meet me, and that's why I still have to occasionally be the other way to meet them.
Has your TG'ism interfered with work at all?
Yes, I was outed several times at work, and as a result I've been made redundant three times now, and lost promotion several times. It means I have lost a lot of my occupational pension, and I have only a small terraced house, as my wife got the family home when we were divorced. On the other hand I work in Sales and travel extensively which gives me opportunities to meet other Trans people and to buy clothes for Jenny-Anne from all around the world.
Your faith is very important to you, if called upon, could you choose between God and living the life you do?
I believe that God created me the way I am, although it took me nearly 50 years to come to terms with this. Now I believe I can serve God better as Jenny-Anne because I.m truly being myself and helping others to be true to themselves as well.
I go to an LBGT church (MCC) which is completely accepting of transpeople and even encourages me to be involved in the Church. I'm on the church board as Jenny-Anne, and I'm sometimes asked to lead the service or even celebrate communion. So I don't need to choose anymore. I simply don't go to any church that discriminates against TG people. In the main I find that if I dress reasonably (my style is elegant and smart), and behave in a friendly way, I'm normally accepted and treated as a woman, even though I'm sure most people know I'm a Trans woman. Also a lot of churches at grass-roots level are changing and being more accepting and inclusive. There is now a network of UK churches called www.inclusivechurch2.net ,where all the churches are LBGTI friendly.
In your writings you say that you felt for a long time that you could not even pray to God as Jenny, do you feel that this was because of Society or your own conscience, as it were?
This was because of the way I brought up as a strict Roman Catholic. I was taught never to question what the Church said about almost anything to do with religion and human relationships. I now understand that this is only our interpretation of what God might or might not have said. Jesus made friends with everyone, often people that society rejected, and he valued them for the people they were, and not how society saw them.
I think the church has often misinterpreted the scriptures and these in themselves may be miswritten or misinterpreted in all the various languages over the years. I believe in a very simple Christianity, of learning to love yourself as you were created and the treating all without prejudice and as you would want to be treated. As an illustration, when the Pope went to heaven he asked to look at the Original words of God , and was somewhat distressed to find the Word was Celebrate and not Celibate! I also believe that Women had a much greater part and status in the early church and it's only men who have changed that, not God. It's great to see women being more involved in the running of the churches and taking central roles in some churches, alongside the men.
Would you say now, with hind sight, that God accepts your soul, Jenny-Anne's soul, and that physicality's are inconsequential?
Yes, that's exactly as I see it. God just wants me to be myself, as he created me, and not worry how that appears to other people. Of course you shouldn't behave or dress inappropriately so as to deliberately upset others. But God is only really interested in how your heart behaves to others, and how you open yourself to his Spirit.
Do you feel that the church as a whole has a fairly antiquated view?
Yes, many church leaders don't understand the physical reasons for people being Transgendered, although this is changing and they are trying in many churches to learn. Recently I addressed a conference of Catholic Priests in Manchester about being Trans, and how the Churches attitude has affected me, and if it has changed more recently
Many in the TG experience depression; do you feel this is a fault of Society's lack of acceptance, or just our own inner turmoil?
I think the depression is caused by both aspects. A more accepting society would ease the burden of being Transgendered, but also I think it's up to us to learn to accept the way we are and then to gain the confidence to be ourselves, often with the help and support of the Trans-community and in some cases a caring and understanding church.
I know from personnel experience that if you go about confidently with a smile for everyone and dress reasonably, you mainly get acceptance everywhere. I think some of the problems are more in the mind than real, or are self generated. I do think it's up to us to be the best TG woman & TG Men we each can be, and be tolerant to others.
Having met you, you come across as a very feminine, gentle soul, so what on earth possessed you to take part in Miss Golden Sparkle?
Thank you, that's exactly the image I want to portray, along with being a very friendly and elegant woman. I want to be noticed and seen as an attractive and friendly middle aged woman with a bit of charisma about her. I work in Sales and Marketing, so I've learnt to be assertive and focused in what I want to achieve. I really wanted to be Miss Golden Sparkle both for myself and for promoting the Girls in the NW.
I felt Sparkle 2005 was very much conceived, organised and planned from a London point of view and did not really involve the local people in Manchester or exploit their talents fully. I've been in Support groups in Manchester since 1973 and the village since its accidental creation by John Anderton, who was Chief Constable at the time.
I know Manchester has so much to offer to Trans-people, so I wanted to wave the flag for us Northern Girls, even though I come from London originally, I very much regard myself as a NW Girl now having spent a large part of the last 32 years in and around Manchester. Why was Manchester chosen to hold Sparkle? Because for the Trans-community, it is a much more friendly and fully integrated town than London. This is a large part of the reason why I live in the NW. I don't believe any other city in the UK could have made Sparkle work so well either last year (2005) or particularly this year (2006), and that it.ll be even better in 2007.
Having walked the boards myself now, I appreciate the 'buzz' what was it like to actually win?
I agree, it's a real buzz to be up there in front of the audience, and it.s a huge high to win, much better than alcohol, and with a terrific adrenalin rush. Although I have to say, my partner, Elen, who helped me prepare for the competition was even more excited than I was, when I won last year. She has been with me at all the events I went to and helped make it a truly thrilling year.
How do you think this experience has helped you?
The experience of winning, boosted my self confidence, and helped me to live much more openly as Jenny-Anne in ordinary life. I have been to the local festivals as Miss Golden Sparkle and also appeared in last years Manchester Pride Festival.
I believe it has strengthened my resolve to transition fully when I retire in about two years time, by showing me I can live full time as Jenny-Anne, and be widely accepted. I believe that being Miss Sparkle 2005 has helped Steffi in similar way; she looks so complete as a woman this year, and has lots of self confidence.
I told my story of being Miss Golden Sparkle in Repartee Magazine and several girls have written to say that my story is like theirs, and that if I can do it, they feel inspired to progress further. It has also made me more contacts in the TG world where I help run four support groups and moderate on several e-groups. These contacts allow better networking and being able to reach out to other's who need help and support.
What has the last year been like for you?
Fantastically busy, I don't seem to have a moment of spare time either at work or in my personal life. So many events to be involved in and so many people contacting me. I do feel I've neglected my partner Elen a bit over the last year, with all the calls I have on my time from others. One of the best moments was Tea at the Ritz in London as part of my prize for winning the competition. I got a full makeover by Jodie Lynn and then we went together for tea. I didn't feel at all nervous and really enjoyed the whole experience, I think Jodie and I were easily the best dressed and most elegant ladies there. People kept treating us like celebrities and we had to be quite cautious not to overstep the mark! That experience was something I.d probably never have done for myself, but now I'm so glad I did it.
How much of that is down to being Miss Golden Sparkle?
Probably only a small amount, once the momentum was established, I was able to branch out in many directions. However I don't think either I or the Sparkle Organisation exploited the Title enough. especially in the cause of making Trans People more acceptable and publicising the Sparkle event...
Was it nice to go back as a judge, or was that just as nerve-wracking?
It was a terrific experience; I didn't feel at all nervous. I loved being back up on the stage in front of all the Girls again, and only wished I could do it all over again. I was very interested in doing the judging properly and was really puzzled and surprised by the outcome. I would certainly like to do it again.
What are your involvements in the TG community?
That's a tough one as about 70% of my life in involvement with the Trans community: I do Diversity training with North Wales, Cheshire and Greater Manchester Police, I'm the Trans Ministry co-ordinator at our Church and run the MCC Manchester Trans Discussion Group, and organise social events for the Church and several groups. I help run three other TG support groups, & I'm on the committee for Sibyls (National Group for Christian TG people), Unique (North Wales & West Cheshire), Inner Enigma (Manchester TS Support Group), Deputy Chair person of our local LBGT group, help organise weekends away for TG people, I'm part of the UKTA, and run an e-group for our Manchester TG Discussion Group, I'm also a help liner with the Beaumont trust and a listener for Sibyls. I also help moderate several national e-groups for TG people I've been on National Television and on the Local Radio and work at various local events to show that Trans People are good citizens and can contribute well to local life. So you can see why I'm so busy all the time.
What are your present and future ventures?
Currently I'm involved in organising some Trans weekends, and trying to get funding for a Transgender outreach worker for our group to work with all the NW TG groups and offer training to various local faith groups. Were also trying to get the UK Trans Alliance to function as a national clearing house for all the groups so that we can network resources and information... (http://www.uktransalliance.org.uk/) We're in the midst of trying for funding for the Unique Group in North Wales to allow us to produce better publicity and further mail shots, and to fund more useful speakers at the meetings.
I'm also setting up the Manchester MCC TG Discussion group as a separate entity to the Church, so that we can apply for funding in our own right, instead of having to rely on Church support. The group does not function as a Church group, but is supported by it. Some of the members come to church regularly, and many see it as a safe group because of its association with the Church, so I don't want to loose the link completely. I'm also very interested in furthering the work that GWRB Manchester does to support couples and partners of Trans people. Also they are planning a Grand Ball in Mid November to support Children in Need http://www.gwrb.net/ When I retire I hope to be able to put more into helping the NW groups and have a bit more time to spend helping individual girls... I'm hoping to take a course in counselling so that I can be a better listener and be able to give more professional assistance. This should also improve the professional standards of training we give to various organisations and it.s an area I like to expand further to enable many more to understand diversity and come to accept the great rainbow of people.
Personal hopes for the future?
I'm expecting to retire in around 18 months to two years time, unless I can persuade my employer to let me work as Jenny-Anne. In the past being TG lead to me being made redundant 3 times and sidelined for promotion several times. So not sure they would accept me as myself. I will transition completely in early 2008 and live the last part of my life as the Trans-woman I am. I'm also expecting to form a civil partnership with my T-girlfriend Elen, and move to Rhyl in North Wales where she lives.
General hopes for the future?
That the progress that Trans-People have made over the last few years will continue to accelerate and we will get rid of prejudice against us. That we achieve much better health care and support in the NHS, including proper joined-up health care & support with all the ancillary services (voice Training, Facial Cosmetic surgery, breast augmentation, Hair removal , deportment, make and style skills etc) all being part of the care for Trans-People, rather as Dr. Richard Curtiss is attempting to do privately. This can be via outside agencies and support groups, but should be co-ordinated by the NHS. That we can all collaborate amongst ourselves throughout all the separate TG groups to achieve much better use of our limited resources, as together we're so much stronger. That we continue to learn the lessons of how the Gay and Lesbian community achieved its rights and acceptance. That soon, being a Trans-person will be as ordinary as being from an ethnic minority or being Gay.
Words of wisdom... (no less than 1000 words hehehehehe)
I think I've said most of it in the proceeding paragraphs, but what I can offer is to learn just to accept yourself and to be positive in your presentation as a Trans-person, you'll be surprised how often you're not only accepted, but how often you pass too. Just be the Best T-girl you can be and face the World with a positive attitude, you'll be surprised where it gets you to! Interestingly, I found that once I changed from Blonde to Brunette I got better acceptance both from both the Male and Female sides of the general population. It seemed like they observed me as a more serious or committed Trans-woman. But I had to go back to being Blonde to win Miss Golden Sparkle!! Thanks for reading my Interview, if I can help you or you have any questions, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or feel free to contact our group at http://www.mccmanchester.co.uk/trans.htm
Love & Hugs