Friday, 4 January 2019

Reminiscing .....

I was browsing the internet today and found a post by a newly ‘out’ girl who had just set up a new website for trans women to chat on and pass on information as she said she couldn’t find anything on the web. A 30second search found 50 sites for new TG’s in the UK and 3 in her local area. 

This lead me to think about my early days and the information vacuum at that time compared to the deluge of information available at any time from any place with an internet or mobile phone connection. 
OK, I’m going back to the BC times (before computers and mobile phones) and everything I knew about my ‘dressing hobby’ came from the tabloid newspapers or off the telly. In those days we only had BBC and ITV (BBC2 and Channel 4 came later). 

There where only two categories in those days, TV or TS, with TV’s being crossdressers, part time, non-op and the bulk of the numbers and TS being for those who were actively looking for medical intervention to have hormones and surgery. The TS group shunned the non-op full timers as not being serious about their transition. I’m glad to say things have moved on a lot since then and we are much better understood. 

I kept a little diary with all my phone contacts in and had to make use of the public call boxes to contact friends and family as we didn’t have a phone at home, and when we did I was paranoid that my parents would catch me using it . 
I found the last version of my written phone list recently and remembered all the lovely people who helped me on my way over the years. 

Letters – we used to write letters to people, with a pen and no spell check (my spelling was awful – and still is!!) Then sat for days hoping for a reply, dreading that my mother would open it before I did and read the contents.  

So where did we go for this ‘information’

The daily newspapers had ‘agony aunts’ who would sometimes give tidbits of information on the various support groups – such as the Beaumont Society, and contact details for the gay switchboards who would then give you a number of someone who may have been a TV/TS and was willing to help.   Often it was a dead end and you could spend days trying to call the number with no answer. 

I was lucky in that I called the Bristol gay switch board one day and was given a number of a lovely TS lady who met me and took me to a meeting at the Bristol Beaumont group, which in those days was strictly ‘heterosexual crossdressers’ only, but that was mostly ignored as there was nowhere else to go. 
Being very young and passable at that time I was soon invited out to other groups in the area and even up to London to the gay pubs where drag queens performed. My life took off in an amazing direction and am still benefiting from that meeting today. 

The main other area of information was the telly. 
There were very few factual based programs dealing with transgender at that time, but we did have the odd gem. 

The late Julia Grant. 
The BBC ran a series of fly on the wall type documentaries based on Julia Grant, who had phoned up the BBC to complain about the BBC calling a Transsexual a Transvestite, and after speaking on the phone was enlisted to be the subject of a documentary following her progression through her transition.  
I was glued to the telly the night the first one was broadcast (you only had on chance to catch it as there was no +1 channels !) and was in awe, I wanted to find out more, have my multitude of questions answered, but became frustrated at the lack of information about services or guidance. 
Sadly Julia passed away in January 2019 after a short illness. I had the honor to meet her a few times when I visited Manchester and thanked her for allowing the documentary to be made, explaining its profound affect on someone in a small farming town deep in the South West of the UK. 

Other landmarks in my past were the stories about April Ashley, Christine Jorgensen, Renee Richards, Roberta Cowell, and later Caroline Crosby (Tula) that occasionally grace the newspapers of that time. The reporting was slightly more factual than todays interpretation of the facts, and - like now - often made errors in the accounts, however it was an oasis in a desert for people like me. 

Roberta Cowell 
Music had its share of crossdressing, with Sylvester being an in your face drag queen who took the disco dance scene by storm in the 80’s with her glamorous costumes and high energy dance routines.  Amada Lear came to the fore in the 80’s about the same time as Boy George, Peter Burns and the new romantic movement set forth and androgyny, glam rock and punk hit the world. 

So, where is this going … 

I stated with my concern for a poor sole who thought that they had no information that was suitable for them. It may be that the vast amount of information is diluting the quality, like the 200+ telly channels that we can view at the touch of a button, or the variety of sites that you can pull up on the internet with a simple search. 

Online you have the likes of YouTube where you can see how to make Boobs, do your hair, fit eyelashes and learn makeup skills; Face Book, Twitter, Snap Chat where you can post a message and have support in a few seconds; Numerous chat sites that cater for all tastes world wide, support sites that have links to other support sites, personal stories and blogs (like mine and others on here).  

The choice is endless.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not criticising these in any way, my concerns are sorting the chaff from the wheat – where the quality sites are drowned in misinformation. 

As a nurse I often come in contact with patients who have looked up their symptoms on the web and made a profound diagnosis of their condition, requesting a particular type of treatment that ‘they have seen used in America’  This was countered by a college of mine who quoted ‘Don’t confuse your five minute Google search with my five years Masters Degree’ and that made me think – have we lost something over the years with the over availability of information? 

So perhaps Quality not Quantity is what is needed – The truth is out there - it just needs to be found. 

Just my thoughts. 
Hugs and Heath 

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