Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Becoming Jen (Part 5)

Taking stock...Taking Steps

I’ve fairly raced through an account 30 years of gender confusion. So where was I up to.

I was 34, married and so far back in the closet I would have to dig my way out ( not sure this metaphor makes any sense. Anyway at that, time Jenny only really existed in the depths of a chat room night. I was still dressing in secret as a way of managing my condition. I was under no illusions about ever living as a woman. I wanted to make a success of marriage and built like a prop row forward, how could I possibly ever step out. Being quite pragmatic about these points, I endeavoured to make the best of my lot. No one would ever have suspected my secret. I was the second scruffiest man I knew. I cared not a jot about my appearance. I was overweight (lets not mince words I was, and still am fat). I owned 1 pair of shoes (God how that has changed) and hardly any clothes. Back then I would have been absolutely last on anyone’s list of a possible Transperson. I guess my gender unhappiness led to an overall low self esteem. I had amassed my own collection of clothes and shoes, hidden in the cellar. Caroline never went down there. As I mentioned before, I had no idea about fashion. I recently dug them all out, and couldn’t imagine me wearing any of them now, mind you it would be fun to wear the brown pvc miniskirt to work!! When I say fun I mean for me and no-one else!
Purging – Just a mention of this common behavioural pattern amongst closeted Transpeople (weren’t Transpeople a Top of The Pops dance group of the 70s!) is purging. At various points in life the feelings of guilt and shame get too much. On several occasions I decided never again. I would stop dressing ant get on with life and try to be a proper man. Hence I would chuck out all my stash of clothes. This could never last though and pretty soon I would always return to my dressing.
How did I move on from my stagnant state of affairs. Well sadly my marriage was falling apart. This was not directly due to my gender issues, as Caroline had no idea. However I have to reflect that my unhappiness about living as a man would obviously have had an effect. I was genuinely sad that it failed. Although much happier as myself now, I had really happy times being married and I miss that companionship, that I’m afraid I will never experience again. I do not blame Caroline for the breakdown. There are two sides to every marriage and I certainly played my part in it’s demise. Anyway by now we were pretty much going our own ways and staying together for practical purposes. I got sloppy about hiding my secret. One night Caroline was on the PC and I hadn’t closed down the chat room properly. My T-girl pal Joanne’s name popped up. Obviously surprised, Caroline apparently kept a conversation going by pretending to be me (Jenny). When I next chatted to Joanne she told me that she thought Caroline had rumbled me. Oh My Absolute God!!! I felt like every drop of blood in me had drained to my feet! I went straight to Caroline and said “So you now know about me”. She was quiet and understandably upset. She wasn’t upset about the effect it would have on our already dead marriage, but the realisation that I had lied and deceived all through our time together. She had every right to be upset. I unreservedly apologised to her then and do so again.
I made a decision!! Almost a first for me. My marriage was broken and she knew about me. I didn’t have much to lose. I decided to buy a wig and see what I could make of myself if I put some effort in. At this same time we had moved to new stand alone offices. After hours I would be alone and could try things out. I ordered a wig from Contrast Wigs online. It was a brown medium length bob and only cost me 30 quid!. I would come to use this for the next few years (Its the one in the pic under the “Welcome To My Blog”.) until it fell apart! So one Friday evening about 8pm I was in my office getting ready properly for the first time. I had bought some sensible clothes. Long black plain skirt, dark coloured blouse, a stuffed bra, medium heel court shoes and a black plain jacket. I dressed, then tried my makeup. I had not ever taken makeup seriously. I smeared some foundation and lipstick. I tried mascara, but kept poking my eye, so I gave that up. Reflecting back I must have looked a mess, but I was oddly impressed with my efforts at the time. I then went for the wig. Took about 5 attempts to get it to fit, then looked in the mirror. I nearly sobbed with joy at what I saw. For the first time in my life I looked like a woman! By no means perfect or even passable (see Transwottsit? for passing) but in my eyes the image was definitely female.
Buoyed by a surge in confidence and the fact it was dark I decided to go for a drive. For the next hour I drove around the city as Jen. I even went to McDonald’s drive through. Not for the food (yeh right!!) but to see what reaction I got. I do remember noticing someone giggling at me, but it really didn’t bother me. After all at least I wasn’t working at McDonalds! I then felt I needed a stiffer test. Caroline had requested I brought some fags home so I decided to buy them as Jenny. I stopped outside the Bucknall branch of Bargain Booze (fine name for a wine merchant!) waited till all customers had left, took the deepest of breaths and tottered in. The poor assistant didn’t notice me at first, as she was engrossed in a magazine or something. I stood there and asked for 20 Benson’s. She looked up and I still remember the startled look in her eyes. I towered over her. The fluorescent light of the shop did my makeup no favours. She was a star however and never passed a comment. She was polite and said thanks Luv when I handed my money. Whoever that person was I thank you. A bad reaction could have scared me off forever. I got back to the car. What an absolute buzz. All you men out there, kick the alcohol and drugs. There is no better high that walking outside in a skirt and heels for the first time (It doesn't last though. Nowadays my legs are cold and my feet hurt)!! I drove back to the office and changed back to drab. Jenny was no longer virtual, she lived!!!


Billy Whizz said...

Wow, very moving. Strangley reflects many moments I've had in my life.

Nothing transgender just having the guts to change the status quo, the fear of the unknown, how it's easier to stay than run away and start again, how you end up with every empty moment turning to the issues you're hiding from and then they become an all consuming argument between the rational and irrational, you can't talk to anyone as you fear their reaction and how this will damage the people around you.

I feel it becomes almost self flagelation as it's easier to hurt yourself than the ones you believe bring normality to your life.

Right I'll stop now.

Jenny Harvey said...

Wow, great stuff
Where did that come from?
When did you come to express yourself like that. What have I done to you!!

Billy Whizz said...

I'm much deeper than you'd give me credit as I think you've just discovered, after all we have the same parents.

I could have gone on for a lot longer, it must be this web anonynity lark that brings it out.

I'm begining to think that I should have studied psychology as opposed to physics. Will tell you about how I scared the hell out of a young lass in our hockey club by figuring out her entire family life (particularly her brother) just from the way she holds her head in conversation