By Wendy Cole
“Gender dysphoria alert! Childhood equated to me: a boy. Yet, how can that be true? I am a woman; those memories should be of a girl. What had gone wrong? What would my father think if he knew? Was I dishonouring my father by not being the son he knew? The truth of the past jarred and fought the truth of today.”
Had 2020 pursued its correct course, I would have:
Continued attending Evolve Trans. (my local trans group) face-to-face;
Spent a week or more visiting my recently widowed mother;
Written a good deal more poetry to work out a whole host of thoughts and feelings;
Turned the image of my throne that I had created during therapy into a sculpture and completed designing the rest of the room wherein that throne ought to reside;
Took that first major step: my first appointment with the Gender Identity Clinic (G.I.C.) in July.
But, as probably everybody knows, the biggest nuclear explosion (the Covid pandemic) shattered the world. One minute I was trying my best to enjoy my birthday (Can I really say ‘enjoy’? I cannot. It sounds heartless; feels guilty; as this was the first without my father), and the next I was being told to take my laptop with me and work from home.Whilst other colleagues struggled with balancing laptops on knees and even ironing-boards, I had an extra room that I could use as my study. I had often worked from home since November.
My father had died in May 2019, so Yuletide 2019 was unbearable; I couldn’t mix with the frivolity of Christmas shoppers. Thoughts of Father constantly sent me back to my childhood; that childhood I was a boy. I could not reconcile that with the woman I now am. Due to gender dysphoria and depression I couldn’t face people, so I worked at home. So, for me, when the world was suddenly turned upside down and put on hold, little had changed.
Or so I thought.
Trans in lockdown? Like this devastating plague, isolation had also mutated. When I needed it, isolation was reassurance. A pulling up of the drawbridge and curling up in that throne (or bed, if I ever get round to drawing it); close my eyes tight and view the mental image of me: the woman I am: much much shorter; slight of frame and long raven hair.
Isolation is nuanced now. It is sometimes a reassurance; other times a torture of a multitude of thoughts.
In lockdown, May 2020 was the first year’s anniversary of my father’s death; June the anniversary of his interment.
My sister, and a number of friends and colleagues say that I over-think things. I analyse something from its obvious black and white state, and instead find anxiety from the multitude of shades I seem to create. Between May and long past June, that analysis focused on memories of childhood with my now-lost father. Gender dysphoria alert! Childhood equated to me: a boy. Yet, how can that be true? I am a woman; those memories should be of a girl. What had gone wrong? What would my father think if he knew? Was I dishonouring my father by not being the son he knew? The truth of the past jarred and fought the truth of today.
But, due to past therapies and bereavement counselling (that I was now able to pursue on the telephone – which, I feel, was actually better; I tended to have to really focus hard), I have illumined confidence to say that was the past. It is not my present. I do not need to allow it to become my future.
Easier said than done, but the experience of presenting myself as the true woman I am at home (yes, full make-up even in lock-down) and in town, is the constant beacon that I am me only as a woman; so much confidence; ability to speak out. The beacon has a stable foundation: it is what others (not me) have said to me. Some call me Miss Sassy.
But, isolation causes me to overthink. Watching “RuPaul’s Drag Race” makes me question: am I a male in drag? Oh, thank goodness and God bless Emily (Trans. Evolve) for her one-to-ones during lockdown. She put me straight (though I am still pan-romantic – there’s a joke there if you look for it, reader). She emphasised that I am a woman: clothes and make-up are skillfully placed to pass and not be noticed; not a panto-dame or drag.
Writing this, it is a year on from a hate crime that I experienced. And history repeats. Recently, in Tesco, I experienced it again. I was amazed at how resolute I was this time. (I wanted to ask sympathetically: “What is making you afraid?”). Sassy? No, now that incident gnaws away at me. Stepping outside, I am more anxious (though I know I will be great when I meet those who know me. Tesco staff call: “Hello, Wendy,” or “Are you making trouble again?” for example).
But I feel prevented from fully being me. It’s like in lockdown I – the real me – is locked away. I cannot change my name, and the G.I.C. is on hold; that major step in becoming me is prevented. Also, nurture: to grow, I need to be around other women.
Finally, my mother. She does not know. My sister says not to tell, as mother is still frail over the death. I am a bad daughter as I do not telephone as much as I should. I am in tears after every banal chit-chat; forcing myself not to say what I need. And I totally despise myself for not being me. Horrible of me, I know, but I partially long for a second wave, so I cannot go home to mother. How can I endure even a single day in male drag? How can I say anything that is not real?
Not Sassy, but I am ‘sowing the ground’ of her realisation. Recently, I suggested she watch ‘Glow up’; that I’d love to take a make-up course (she thinks it’s down to my theatre love). I told her I have dyed my hair red. We chatted briefly about “Sewing Bee” – though I couldn’t say how cute the male models were.
But it lays the groundwork.
The future is female.
Wendy Cole spent four years in banking, thirteen years as a teacher and seven as a deputy head, before working for the government, but the real her is a poet, photographer, historian and chef. Kylie, Daniel Craig and Wendy have the same thing in common … they were born in the same year!
Read all Of Wendy’s Trans in Lockdown posts
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