“No man is an island,” wrote the poet John Donne almost 300 years ago. OK, he left women and non-binary people out of the equation, but these were “different times” and “no man, woman or non-binary person is an island” doesn’t scan so well.
What he meant was that people don’t thrive when they’re isolated – they depend on one another. I’d go further than that and say that having friendship is absolutely vital.
Everyone needs friends – people to share the laughter with during the good times and people on whose shoulder they can cry in the bad times.
But being someone transgender, non-binary and transfeminine – a minority within a minority within a minority – means that, to me, friends are even more important.
The first people I told about my trans side (back in the good old, far-more-simple, crossdresser days) were three female university students just over 20 years ago.
I met them all on the same day and we instantly all bonded and became best mates. I told them all at different times, and every one of them was accepting and thought the whole thing was cool.
The first girl – let’s call her Janet – used to give me her clothes when she’d finished with them, and loads of her makeup. We sadly lost touch a few years ago.
The second – we’ll call her Helena – was equally accepting. We once went to a gay club, me in a white blouse and black skirt. I might write about that another time. She only blotted her copybook when she told her friends (who I didn’t know) about my secret. That annoyed me massively, but it’s water under the bridge now.
And the third -“Natasha” – was my rock in those early days, when I didn’t know who or what I was and was questioning my sexuality, gender and everything else. I ended up in counselling. Twice.
I remember she bought me a little pink tin, containing five lip glosses, for Christmas back then. It was only from Boots and probably not expensive, but it meant the world to me, and I still have it to this day. I shall treasure it always.
Over the next couple of decades, I didn’t tell many more people. Yes, I always told girlfriends after a fortnight or so of dating – I can’t imagine being one of those people whose partner doesn’t know about such a massive part of their lives.
But in terms of friends, I told barely anyone. One exception is Diane, a girl I met on a date a few years back. There was no spark – but we’ve stayed great friends all this time. The trans thing was water off a duck’s back to her – though she teased me like a sister would about it.
I’m not sure why I told so few people. The only thing I can think of is that being trans wasn’t such a big thing for me – I might go for months without wearing women’s clothing or shaving my legs.
I just got on with being a bloke. Now I feel repulsed if I go a week without shaving, 90% of my clothes are women’s, I have my eyebrows waxed regularly, I have my nails done and there’s the small matter of a referral to Nottingham Centre for Gender Dysphoria.
So, I think that as my “journey” has developed and I’ve felt more and more comfortable in my new skin, I’ve wanted to celebrate that and tell more people.
At the end of the day, I think my trans identity is a beautiful gift. So if I have something that I think is beautiful, why would I want to keep it secret?
Well, we all know that, don’t we? Because, sadly, many people out there are bigoted idiots who’ve not got round to the idea of accepting gay people yet, let alone trans people.
And I don’t really want my head kicked in down the pub or at the football, hence being careful who I tell.
But over the past year or so, I’ve told more people. Most of these have been women – and there were a couple of guys, too.
I’ve always been afraid of telling male friends. The first was a pal I’ve known since 1985 – and I only told him on New Year’s Eve 2016. The other was Natasha’s husband.
Both have been great about the whole thing, as have the girls. Especially the girls – they think me being trans is great – different in a good way.
One, Sophia, joined me shopping in the January sales a few days ago as I bought everything from heels to jewellery, clothes and a wig.
Another, Michelle, is coming on a Mac makeup course with me – it’s time I learn how to do this stuff properly! It’s going to be a room full of girls and me. Scary – but hopefully fun.
Emily has also offered to help me with my makeup and share a girly afternoon together. She’s also been to ballet with me in the past.
Jan and Carol have been another pair of rocks to me, and we’ve had many a Facebook chat and natter over coffees or beers about my trans journey.
Then there are my ballet teachers, Miss Sarah, Miss Joanne and Miss Anna. You know all about them!
And then girls I’ve told more recently. People like Liza, Kathy, Wanda, the other Sophia and Racquel. Some I’ve told about this blog – others are yet to be told. If you recognise your name, albeit tweaked a little, you know who you are.
So the point of this rambling post is that I want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart to each and every one of you for all your love and support, whether you’ve known my little secret for decades or just days.
I’ve read countless posts online from trans people who have no-one they can talk to about all this, apart from the virtual friends they meet online.
Many of these are MtF people in their 50s and 60s who may have been divorced when their trans identity became stronger – and they feel they can’t tell the fellas they’ve known all these years because being trans is generally less acceptable to older generations (I think I’m right in saying that).
I can’t imagine how they must feel, having this wonderful, colourful, vibrant gift that they have to keep hidden away in the dark shadows, even from those closest to them, just because of a lack of understanding.
Even though I see being trans as a gift, I appreciate it could be a massive burden if I had to carry this secret alone.
My beautiful friends mean I don’t have to do that. If you’re one of the select few people I’ve told, I can’t thank you enough for being there for me. You’re amazing, and the world needs more people like you.
I love you.