Shame, fear and bright red lipstick

We can change. But it takes bravery to go out and display yourself

Growing up in the seventies and eighties, in a working-class area far, far away from the cosmopolitan cities which were to gradually radiate change, I accepted my role without question. I didn’t know any other alternative was possible. I had heard about ‘trannies’ but never seen one. Everyone said they were freaks and laughed at them. So I conformed without hesitation, sometimes not quite getting my role spot on, but hey, practice makes perfect. I wasn’t particularly effeminate, and any tendencies towards that were quickly clamped down on. I had no doubts about my sex. no doubts about my manhood. I just sort of doubted that I liked being a man. I was very confused, too confused to notice such inconsistencies of thought.

I have hidden many things from myself for a long time but, so as far as I am aware, my first obvious signs of being transgender didn’t happen until I was in my forties. It was simple enough: I chose to be the female character in computer games. And I started fantasising about being the heroine instead of the hero in the books I read, the films I watched.

When I started back to writing, I adopted a female persona as my identify and name, the one I still use today. But it was a few years after that, with the effects of growing doubt and frustration, that I had that day, the day where everything clicked together and I stopped just pretending I was female on social media: I realised I actually was a woman and that I wanted to be one in real life.

There followed a terribly hard conversation with my wonderful nearest and dearest, the woman I’ve been married to since the late eighties. She has been beyond brilliant. I was lucky too that a truly great friend was there for me.

After that there was a slow, progressive level of escalation.  I have now reached the point where I am made up and dressed as a woman all day, every day, only adopting a male persona again when dealing with the authorities necessitates it. It’s been a couple of months since I have done that, and I know I will deeply resent the next time.

Being a man? I am done with it. It isn’t me anymore. It is simply bad circumstances and social expectations forcing me to dress against my gender. But since it is only occasional, I will tolerate it because the alternative is just too damn much to deal with at the moment.

Maybe many of you feel you are on a stable trajectory, just like I did. Your life sort of makes sense, things are working out. You are, everyone would swear ‘quite happy’. Yes? Now get a mixing bowl and stir in added desired chromosomes. Deep breath. I want you to imagine that you have just put on lipstick for the first time and gone out. You are petrified that someone will laugh at you. You don’t want to be noticed. You just want to get this ordeal over with. Why are you even doing it? Well, you are doing it because you know you must. You know that you can’t hide any longer. You are doing it to be you.

It will be a long time before you have the confidence to go out wearing a skirt. But it will come.

It will be a while longer before you feel comfortable letting people see you. But that too will come.

People like us are braver than you think.

And there will come a point where you feel uncomfortable and disgusted with yourself for going out pretending to be a man. That is the point that, no matter what you have or haven’t done with your body, you have transitioned. You have made that switch within yourself.

It is the point where any feelings of shame you might have carried with you on the journey have started to fade. You might even sort of like people noticing you. And you most definitely layer on that bright red lipstick.