Friday, August 04, 2017

History

Hi,

Each week Auntie Beeb* runs a radio show called Book of the Week over on Radio Four. Oddly, and speaking personally, for someone who was very into music in my 20s, I pretty much only listen to talk radio. Perhaps, looking at it a bit more, I never listened to music radio, because they very rarely played stuff I liked. Not much has changed :-)

[ * For you overseas readers, that's a nickname for the BBC, our state broadcaster. ]

So, Book of the Week; and back in July, it was the turn of self-described "executive transvestite", Eddie Izzard. In order to keep my Trans License current, you have to listen to at least one of his performances a year. Gah, always read the small print! :-) With five episodes of about 20 minutes, there's a lot to cram in. I guess the idea is to give you both a performance and a flavour of the book. If you've yet to have the pleasure, I would try to have a listen (iPlayer), as while every trans person's journey is different, I think many of them have some wisdom to share.

One bit that jumped out was Eddie's visit to a trans support group: TV/TS. There's a name from the past. Oh, how I wanted to go back when I was a confused teen! Back when I was a teenager, my family had gone off on a long weekend, and, well, trans people do what trans people do when left alone... No, the other thing, you dirty minded so-and-so. :-) By sheer dumb luck, I caught a late night talk show, Hodson Confidential, which just happened to be about trans people. Or, back in the early 90s, we were called "transvestites". They do things differently back in the past :-D It may well have been the first time I'd heard from other trans people, so it was both an eye opener, and made me feel less.... well, freakish and alone. Who says good telly can't help people? :-)

Cue a few short interviews of trans* people - we didn't have the term transgender or gender fluid back then! Regular, everyday folk, who just happened to be that way. I remember my heart rushing, as I felt there were others like me! When you come from a small market town, trans stuff didn't happen. Well, not unless it was coke, sex games, and a Tory MP. Yeah, those stories really help your self-esteem, don't they? :-/

I remember a short video piece talking about TV/TS. They were a group in London who met fairly regularly, and not had a place to be themselves but were okay about it too. Perhaps understandably, and given my loneliness, I too wanted to go. Thing is, when you're not quite 18 without a job, you don't just hop on the train and pop down to the Big Smoke. So, no, I didn't get to go. Perhaps, this is a good thing. After all, moving to Nottingham meant I met the Ever Lovely Mrs J, and I'd not have my family, friends, or trans* friends that I do now. Funny how life works out.

So, back to Mr Izzard. Part of his talk, if you can call it that, covered his first time out, and a number of visits to TV/TS. For me, I found it fascinating to hear a first-hand account of what went on (not too dissimilar to Chams). The whole making friends, getting more confidence, etc. It seems a now familiar pattern. I remembered the Hodson Confidential talk about TV/TS running a helpline, and my hands shaking as I called them from the village telephone box. They were, bless them, as helpful as they could be to a late teen hundreds of miles away.

When one of our original founders - Jayne - wasn't well, she brought in a briefcase full of documents. Some were about the group, some were newspaper cuttings, and some were leaflets from support groups of yesteryear. There was a TV/TS leaflet, in all it's 90s desktop-publishing glory. The Internet boom hadn't really happened, so printing and post ruled the day. It was very much a world apart from where we are now. No instant messaging, or email; it was post and wait.

As I listened to Eddie's words, much of the above came back to me, and also the teenage want to belong. Just now, I've had a look to see what happened to TV/TS. I know from 'coming out' in the 2000s, that the group didn't have a web site, and that it may have folded. So it often goes if there's not a core group to keep things going. I've seen one or two trans support groups fold due to a lack of push. Understandably, I was very keen not to let Chameleons go the same way; hence the volunteering.

But, after a bit of using dear old Google, I found some web pages by a lady called Yvonne Sinclair. I've no idea who she is, other than she had something to do with TV/TS, and she's written down some history of the group and what happened.

I can only hope that with care and help, that Chameleons keeps on going. Not just for purely selfish reasons, but that it really is a community. A place for many trans people who aren't yet out, to be themselves and, ultimately, to learn that it's okay to be who they are. That does, to me at least, seem like something worth fighting for.

Take care,
Lynn



8 comments:

  1. Certainly hope Chameleons does have a long term future. But I do always feel a concern that, as it's easier for more of us to get out and about more easily nowadays that it can lead to a gradual reduction in demand for such a group. Which is a huge shame if it does come to that as it's such a vital lifeline to regulars there.

    For me I must admit that I do tend to just pop in from time to time to catch up with folk as I am one of those who is out and about. That being the case, when I've been out and about shopping, eating out, to a concert etc as Claire - then the twice monthly fix isn't as vital to me as it once was.

    But I certainly never forget that it is Chameleons that made it all possible for me and long may it continue.

    Claire x

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    1. All very true, Claire.

      I think the group will carry on for some time yet. So long as there's a need for people to hide away, for whatever reason, there's a need. Sometimes it's about beginning, sometimes it's about getting help, and sometimes it's about maintaining a facade between family/work.

      IMHO, that's all okay. Not everyone can be out, or even wants to be. But, I think many want acceptance. I know it took me a while to understand who I was, and learn it was okay to be me.

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  2. I don't know if there was ever anything like TV/TS or Chameleons in my part of the world when I was first exploring this aspect of myself (like you, in the early '90s) - although there are a number of groups with the title "Seahorse"* in them catering to transfolk here (one of which I first heard of way back in 1998), they seem to be based in states other than my own. If I had heard of one operating in my own city, would I have checked it out, though? Hard to say. As it was, I was content to just muddle along, and try to work things out for myself (nothing much has really changed there!), so I may have still done that.

    *No doubt inspired by the titular sea creature's fascinating method of reproduction. Talking of seahorses, there's a school here whose crest features three of these animals, and whose colours are purple and white. A school basketball team I played in competed against them once, and I had to admit I was most envious of the pretty purple shorts they got to wear. :-)

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    1. So if you're not doing the group thing, may I ask how, or even if, you keep in touch with the trans community?

      Rebecca - one of our irregular regulars - has lived in Nottingham longer than me. She said that 60s/70s, she'd heard of a secret house where trans folk would meet up. Given that being gay was illegal for a time in the UK, and yes, being trans doesn't make you gay or straight, I wonder who went to that house as who they were. Secret history eh?

      PS: purple shorts sound fabulous :-)

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    2. (Apologies for being so tardy with this response)

      I have to confess I've never really had much to do with my local trans community, and wouldn't even be able to tell you large it is. Indeed, back when I used to post on the messageboard Crossdressers.com on a reasonably regular basis, I'd always find it a real revelation whenever I found out another member was from my neck of the woods (all of the individuals in question were a lot older than me, though, so I always assumed I wouldn't have had that much in common with them beyond the CDing). That said, I did hang out with my university's LGBT club a lot back when I was a student, and had a lot of gay friends at the time (obviously not quite the same thing, though I'd imagine there would've been at least some overlap between the two groups). Through that group, I did actually meet a young transwoman once, who took a shine to me for whatever reason, and invited me to a party at her place the very next night. Unfortunately, however, when I showed up to that party, she chatted to me for only a few minutes, before disappearing into her bedroom with an old flame, and not re-emerging for the rest of the time I was there. I mingled a bit with the other guests, partook of some strange green cake that tasted absolutely disgusting, and eventually decided it was time to go (while all the other guests were perfectly nice, I felt a bit out of place as I didn't know anyone else there). I then decided to walk into the city, which wasn't that far away, only to discover, just a few minutes after leaving, that the cake I'd had must have had dope in it as I got completely stoned. Good times (sort of)! Um... yes. Right, where was I?

      Around the same time, I also used to hang out with a crowd of Goths and other "theatrical" types (actually, a lot of them really were into acting), who I always found very accepting of my androgynous dress. Sadly, all of those friendships (both the Goths and the gays) have sort of fallen by the wayside over the years, which is a shame!

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    3. Twas worth the wait :-)

      Friends come and go in your life, I think. Someone once said to me that the ones that stay with you, agree the ones that grow in the same direction as you. That and one party isn't doing all the running.

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  3. "Trans License"......Didn't Becky issue those? I have one. Probably still do....somewhere. Geez, I hope it didn't expire. I'd hate to be caught by the Trans Police for dressing without a license...

    Nice post, especially the last paragraph (substituting Chameleons for Gems here).

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    1. I think Becky may well have done, yes. Psst: knickers to rules. Dress when you can and how you like :-)

      Thanks for the kind words re the post. Yes, may Gems continue as long as it's needed.

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