1987 is proving to be a pretty action-packed year. I have left Titan. I have joined QMW (OK, pretty dull job but some great colleagues). I am still part of Acme Press and will get to have dinner with Alan Moore and Will Eisner (more on this later). My crossdressing wings are clipped, but I won’t have to have lodgers forever, and at least I have managed to get out on the scene a little bit. I have had a lead role in a KDC production and have made new friends there.
As the year progresses my relationship with Beth changes from friendship to romance. Me being me, this is a slightly clunky and unconventional process – apart from anything else she is only my second relationship – but it quickly turns into a blissful time, and another reason for turning up late for work (they barely notice, particularly after Sue Hindley is headhunted by ICL and leaves – my new line manager barely knows I work there). We have a pretty happy summer, and I spend increasing amounts of time at the flat in Maida Vale, giving me a breathing space from the current lodger. My cats find the experience rather stressful, as they are never entirely sure when I will turn up.
I feel positive about the fact that I came out as a crossdresser before we started the relationship – as it makes me hopeful that I am with someone who will be accepting. Unfortunately things come unstuck in that regard rather quickly. From this distance the order of events is rather blurry, and in any case this is no-one’s fault exactly. While visiting her parents in North Wales, Beth tells them she is dating a transvestite. They are not entirely thrilled I think. While it is unfortunate that she shared this information with them, my own reaction is weighed down with years of the ingrained conviction that I am no damn good, and that crossdressing brings others nothing but pain, and that people will only like me and treat me like a normal human being if they don’t know.
I realize in retrospect that it might be difficult for anyone to deal positively with my transness so long as I was unable to deal positively with it myself. To extent that I was able to share it with people at all I would tend to be sharing it (at least subconsciously) as a “problem” I felt bad/guilty/ashamed about. Given that, and the limited public understanding (even more so in the 1980s), it’s completely understandable that anyone I told would struggle to understand or empathise, particularly someone in a relationship with me.
The result is that my plans to share my feminine side with her are put on hold, and quickly begin to seem like something that can never happen. It doesn’t make me want to end the relationship with her, which is otherwise great: it just means that once again I troop meekly into the closeted prison I made for myself all those years ago. Given time for everyone to digest the situation, I might have tentatively emerged from my cell again. However life has something much nastier in store for me and I will be living with the consequences for many years to come …
My GP has referred me to hospital because of my non-standard physical development. I don’t quite see it like that at the time – I am focused on the botched surgery I went through at thirteen. I will never know why that operation was not successful but I guess there are two distinct scenarios. Incompetence and negligence is one scenario – that the surgeon screwed things up and then never told anyone, relying on my timidity and my parents’ ignorance. The other possibility is that my development was sufficiently unusual that he could not put it right – he would still have been negligent for not telling us, but possibly not incompetent if the situation was genuinely unfixable. The medical records (which in any case might not be detailed enough) are long gone. Given everything else that has happened since, I lean towards the second explanation, but I will never know.
In due course my appointment comes up, and I see the consultant, who operates out of Wanstead Hospital. This hospital, apparently used to film exterior scenes for the sitcom Doctor in the House I now discover, closes a couple of years later and is later turned in to luxury flats. I think the consultant is also the surgeon – certainly by the time I am admitted to hospital later in the year I have already met him. He examines me and makes some suggestions. The main requirement is to have a fertility test – the results of that will determine the best course of action. So in due course I march along to a local clinic and provide what is necessary.
When the results come back they are in the normal range. For many years I have understood that my situation may result in infertility, and in all the years I have been to scared to seek help the situation has been preying on my mind. I remember walking down the hill towards the tube station, relieved and thankful for the news. I have no idea what lies in store for me within a few short months.
In due course I receive a letter telling me I will be admitted to hospital for corrective surgery in October 1987. And so it begins …