Monday, 25 May 2009

HALF A LIFETIME

Being free of the treadmill of the factory which had given very little free time to myself for about seven years was pure joy.

Homelessness gave me the freedom to wander about visiting family and friends but the orbit of my travels often included Julie who I had got close to after my Gallery exhibition. She had started to corrupt me away from my ascetic ways, after teaching me that wine was not just for giving headaches but could be enjoyable, food could be more than just fuel (cooking for one is not fun), and finally I was taught to drink coffee. The reward for passing this course was a week together in Paris in May with the chestnut trees in flower, this is probably the trigger which caused me to shatter my old life.

In the spring we drove together through Europe to Greece for a month and we were not too long back when her sister got married deep in rural France, two unforgettable weeks, I was starting to enjoy the gypsy life. Meanwhile Julie was deciding that she really wanted us to be together. She had returned to the old family home when she started a new job nearby, this helped her mother with the running costs of the house which was getting too much to look after. They knew how useful I could be repairing almost anything so encouraged me to spend ever more time there until I just seemed to have moved in! Nobody would ever describe our household as conventional, more like a small commune. There was more than enough work to repair house and garden much neglected while the mother worked on her pottery. A “five year plan” was started and sorry to say after nearly thirty years is not yet finished, natures depredations are always just ahead of me while running costs often left little money for repairs but we hang on, just.

A year after Julie’s sister’s wedding conversations kept coming round to our long term relationship. Many arguments were put forward, embarrassment in her professional life when receiving invitations was foremost. I had never wanted to enter a marriage which from my point of view went against everything I had ever stood for and from the standpoint of someone with my gender outlook was absurd. At this time income tax was 33%! My income was zero but it was pointed out that by signing the contract the government would allow me to give my personal and the married couples allowances to Julie and we would save more than enough for me to be fed and clothed with money left over!

At this point in my life I had given up any hope of ever having enough saved to deal with my gender problem and had no means of supporting myself if I did. My life in our little commune was quite comfortable and was very quiet on the edge of civilization. Eventually I gave in and accepted the proposal.

Since it was a private contract we decided to sneak off for a quiet civil ceremony with witnesses found at the last moment only letting the knowledge out at some latter date in a matter of fact way. If Julie had not been grinning so much at this victory her cousin would never have guessed and started to interfere. Now it was a huge affaire, cousin and mother got to join us as the witnesses with the consolation of lunch at a Michelin starred restaurant to follow. I wore off white, this was after all technically a lesbian event I could hardly be expected to start presenting in a conventional male mode. The birthday party later that evening was a big surprise for a lot of people when halfway through Julie’s mother proposed a toast to the happy couple.

The government must have to wind of what we did because the rules on allowances quickly eroded and are now all gone!

We have been together now for nearly thirty years. There has been enough to keep me occupied with occasional work photographing artists work for books and catalogues and exhibiting my own work. I have fallen out of normal society and since presenting as male has never been an option I would have considered a conventional job was always going to be out of the question. My life as a semi hermit has been as much as I could have hoped for.

Until the turn of the century living in my gender limbo was all that I thought I could do but times change and transitioned people started to become more regularly seen by the general public and were reasonably well accepted, who would have guessed that this could happen! Now there was an ache to become more visible. Two totally unconnected things happened, laser hair removal was invented making beard removal feasible and in Afghanistan the Taliban both terrorised women who did something as simple as paint their nails then they demolished the cliff carved Buddhas of Bamyan in March 2001.

My passport photograph is of a sad looking Taliban terrorist!

I started to paint my nails again and found someone who did IPL hair removal and started to spend “all” my disposable income for years to come. Testicles have been jettisoned and the lack of testosterone has left me with a calmness I never dreamed possible. All self destructive thoughts which were such a constant part of the old life stopped instantly the T stopped. That was only forty years of waiting!! From first asking for help.

It is said that it is easier to pass as you get older and that does seem to be what is happening though I am not trying to present as passable female, too large and too ugly to ever blend in but have no problem being “myself”. I can’t remember the last time I bought any clothing specifically male, the easy days of unisex fashions are sorely missed…

Nobody has ever openly confronted me with the “question” though it is obvious that many do not feel they have to ask.

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Many thanks to all who ever joined in the conversation and to those who took the time to follow my zig zag to a new life..

I can be contacted on the email found on my profile page.