Episode 3 Transcript

EPISODE THREE: THE TRANS TAPES

Written by Jason Barker. Directed by Krishna Istha – October 2020

♪ Here is the beginning of our adventure ♪

♪ You and I, we’re a story ♪

♪ We turn time around, it’s our time ♪

Episode Three: The Trans Tapes

NARRATOR: Hello and welcome back. This is the third and final part of Adventures in Time and Gender.

In Episode One we went in search of ancient trans people and discovered how tricky language can be.

SUITCASE: And in Episode Two, we started out looking at the history of labels and that led us to explore categorisation and diagnosis.

NARRATOR: And that was tricky too, wasn’t it?

SUITCASE: Mmm.

NARRATOR: There’s this ongoing tension between diagnosis and self ID. Think back to the warrior of Episode One. Just living her life, rejecting our labels. She said that we know trans people have always existed, she said people are people, so who do we need to prove it to anyway?

And why? It’s like, as trans people, we’re always having to prove something to

someone.

SUITCASE: So what do you fancy this week? We could talk to some of the doctors who are continuing Harry Benjamin’s work if you like?

I thought we could go back to 1966 when Charing Cross Gender Identity Clinic was opened.

NARRATOR: Oh, no thanks Suitcase. Suitcase! I’ve already got something planned.

Actually, I want to hear what trans people have to say. I’m going to play some clips of interviews that I’ve made. With trans people who are alive. Older trans people. Well, older than me, not older than you probably.

Um, oh yes! And remember  last time we ended by talking about possibility models?

Something that we only dreamed of and then they find out it can actually happen. Well! My first interview is with someone who remembers the effect hearing about Christine Jorgensen had on her back in 1952.

[A click and whirr of a tape recorder]

NARRATOR: Okay, great. And starting again. One, two, tone, two. Yeah, that looks fine, so we’re five seconds in. You’ve read the information sheet?

BLAIR: I have.

NARRATOR: And you know that you can talk about whatever you want, and anything you don’t want to talk about, that’s absolutely fine.

BLAIR: The year was 1952. And Christine Jorgensen, who was one of the first transgender women… back in those days, she was called a transsexual woman. She had her operation. And the news of this was… the headlines were sort of inches deep, you know… it was the first time, there were other people before her but they’d flown under the radar to a large ex-tent. Christine Jorgensen was the first one where it was really really sort of, broke the head-lines. And I remember my father reading this story out to my mum, and I can remember it to this day. And it’s sort of, 67 years later. And I was lying on the floor reading a comic, like children do, and my father read this story out, and my ears were sort of pricking up and burning. Because by this time, I was identifying internally as a girl. But I was also a little bit odd about it. And then my father, at the end of this story, turned to mum and said ‘perverts like that should be locked away in the looney bin and the key thrown away’. And initially, all the hopes, there was somebody else out there like me, were dashed. And that was my first real feeling of shame, of who I was, of how I identified.

NARRATOR: And can I ask as well – sorry to interrupt…but can I ask, did you have any other experiences, did you have a word in your head for what you were?

BLAIR: No, there was no word.

NARRATOR: Right.

BLAIR: No, there was no word. I just knew that I wasn’t a boy and I identified more with girls. I knew that there were people in the world who had started off as boys and then they’d actu-ally become women. Because of the case of Christine Jorgensen. Christine Jorgensen was the only one I knew about

[Tape recorder clicks off]

SUITCASE: Wow, that really shows how powerful a possibility model can be.

NARRATOR: Yeah! But she already felt differently. She knew she wasn’t a boy but didn’t have any words to describe that. So seeing Christine Jorgensen was massive for her, but didn’t change who she was. You know what I mean?

SUITCASE: It’s making me think about how some people worry that if you so much as talk about gender identity then someone will “be transed.”

NARRATOR: Don’t you mean “Transgendered”?

SUITCASE: Transgenderified!

NARRATOR: Transgenderificationed! [laughs]

I bet even then in the 1950s there were people saying “they were perfectly normal until they saw that Christine Jorgensen in the paper”.

SUITCASE: It is a sad story too though, isn’t it?

NARRATOR: Yeah. I’ve got another clip here of someone else who had complicated feelings around a possibility model.

[The sound of the tape recorder starting up]

FISH: And then there was another key moment when there was a documentary on the television, and I’ve heard other, particularly trans men, talk about it. It was called, I think, ‘Make Me a Man’. And that was another one of those lightbulb moments of at least feeling, there are people out there who are struggling with something that feels very similar to myself. But it wasn’t just pure relief, it was also linked with shock, that the phase would end if I faced up to ‘this is not a phase, this is for real, this is my life. I am one of those freaks on Kilroy-Silk’s morning interviews’. That I possibly could do something, but it would involve surgery and hormones. And it all felt really terrible.

[Tape recorder clicks off]

NARRATOR: There’ve been a few positive representations but, for the most part, when you think about how trans people are portrayed on TV. I’m not surprised the prospect of being trans felt terrifying to them.

SUITCASE: To be honest, I am surprised sometimes that anyone is trans. I mean, take these interviews. It doesn’t sound like something a person would particularly want to be.

NARRATOR: Well no, but these are two people talking about the very difficult time that they had before they come out.

You know, it’s obviously not all bleak. Trans people are amazing!

SUITCASE: You humans find ways of being yourselves against he odds. Reminds me of Magnus…

NARRATOR: That’s Magnus Hirschfeld, Suitcase’s favourite sexologist, for any listeners just tuning in.

SUITCASE: [Laughs] Thank you.

Yes, Magnus Hirschfeld chronicled all sorts of violence committed against gay men and lesbians, you know from Oscar Wilde’s trial to the stories he heard from his own

patients.

And I’ve sometimes thought, wouldn’t that have put people off?

NARRATOR: What? Put them off being gay?

SUITCASE: Well yes. Listen, you have to remember that I am a piece of luggage. I don’t have a sexuality or a gender.

NARRATOR: Alright so, let’s just get this straight.

You can’t put people off being gay or trans any more than you can make them become gay or trans. You can make someone very miserable by not letting them be themselves.

I’ve got some clips to play you that I think will illustrate this perfectly.

But, just to warn you, there are some mentions of offensive words that have been used against LGBTIQ+ people.

[The tape recorder clicks on]

JA1: Well, from about 4 years old, I had this feeling I ought to have been like my sister, because I couldn’t get into my head that I had to be a boy and not a girl, and being a Catholic, I used to in my prayers each night, pray to God that I’d wake up in the morning, and my body would be more like my sister’s. And my parents would say ‘Oh, we had a girl and not a boy’, and I’d just be able to be myself, And I was reasonably open about it, and then I got caught going to school wearing some of my mum’s clothes, because I was practising for the per-son I knew I’d grow up to be. Er, my school were cross, my parents were even crosser, and because it was a church school, the church was very cross. I got sent to see the school psychologist, who bearing in mind it was 1952 when I was 6 years old, was amazingly advanced and said to my parents ‘Don’t worry, it’s a child exploring their own identity’. Can you believe that? Just amazing. But my parents just told me no, it was wicked, and I mustn’t do it. So of course I hid it. It didn’t stop me being myself when nobody was around! And I remember as a – a youngster, my parents had central heating put into our house, and the builders left a whole load of hemp, which I made into a wig! [laughs] And I used to hide it under the floor in the loft where my model railway was.

[The tape whirrs fast forwarding and then plays]

DAN: When I was 10, 11 and that we had a Victorian day at school where all the kids dressed up as Victorian children and went in. And there was absolutely no way that I would have been going in some frilly dress or whatever, so I went as, like, a street urchin lad, just like all the other boys did really. And you know my mum – I mean my dad wouldn’t have had anything to do with those decisions actually! – but my mum was fine about that, didn’t bat an eyelid really, and neither did anyone at the school back then. But for me it was like I remember that day at school being just fantastic because I was just one of the boys, and then feeling really gutted when I had to go back again like in blinking skirt!

[The tape whirrs fast forwarding and then plays]

BLAIR: Because you feel shame. There’s something inside you that you want to do, that you need to do, but you know it’s going to hurt people around you. And you also, you’ve got to over-come that shame. Because this was still years before even the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality, which happened in 1967. So it was years before that even happened. So you struggle on, and try to make what you can of your life. So like I say, I was at university, and to make a little bit more money I used to work at a pub. Quite a big pub, it was a great place to work. And I’d been there for about four, five, six months, and they used to have what was called a ‘mother and pram race’, for charity. Except it wasn’t a mother and baby, it was people in the pub, it was generally the males. One would dress up as a woman, and the other would sort of dress up as a baby and go in a pram. And so I said to a friend of mine ‘do you want to go in for it?’ And he said ‘why not? But I’m not going as a woman.’

NARRATOR: And how did that make you feel?

BLAIR: That made me feel great. Because for the first time, I could actually present as a girl. Because to me, that gave me the opportunity to say ‘oh, I was going to go as a baby but… okay, if that’s the only way you’ll go in for it, then I’ll be the woman’. And of course, all the girls in the pub, the waitresses, the bar staff etcetera, they thought it was a great idea. So they were there, they supplied the clothes, they did all my make-up. Shoes, the lot. And funnily enough, we came first. Which was great. I’d got changed at the pub. It was quite a big pub, a very modern one. and I got back, went to get changed, and the landlady had hid my clothes. The landlady, she’d hidden my clothes.

NARRATOR: Hidden them? Okay.

BLAIR: Because she said ‘you’re going to the night shift, the evening shift, as you are’. So I’d spent basically the whole of day as a woman. It was in an atmosphere where people thought it was fun, it was raising money for charity and everything else. And so in the evening, she said ‘right, you can keep on going round occasionally all the customers, with your bucket, to get more donations’. Which was fine. I was able to sit on the guys’ knees and sort of flirt with them, and everything else like this. And they were fine with it. So it was a great liberat-ing experience for me. But then of course, she gave me my clothes back. And back to drab. Back to prison. But that sort of experience had shown me that it was possible.

NARRATOR: Can I ask, what labels and words were going through your head when you were questioning who you were?

BLAIR: Well, back in the day it was ‘homosexual’ or ‘homo’ or ‘queer’ or ‘poofter’ or ‘faggot’ or… I don’t think, ‘gay’ might have just been about entering the lexicon. But like I say, most people referred to gay people with the insulting phrases. So you sort of then start identifying your-self with those phrases. And you’re trying to work out in your head where you fit in to this world. Which is very very difficult. So it was a very, very, very confusing time.

[The tape recorder is stopped]

SUITCASE: The hemp wig hidden under the train set!

NARRATOR: I know, right? Did you hear what she was saying about words and labels?

SUITCASE: Yes, that struck me when she said that you start identifying yourself with the insults.

NARRATOR: Mmm. See I hadn’t thought of that, that we might not have our own words to describe ourselves but the people who don’t like us certainly do.

SUITCASE: Did you get any more interviews about labels and words?

NARRATOR: Yeah, I’ll play you some

[The tape recorder starts]

NARRATOR: Was being trans the first sort of identity thing that you had?

Because I know a lot of people sort of think ‘maybe I’m a lesbian, maybe I’m this’ and then sort of come to the conclusion of being trans.

Did you just go… this is it?

FISH: The first thing would have been ‘I’m a boy’. So the minute I realised a word like ‘trans’ exis-ted, then that would have been my first. When I transitioned, the word ‘transgender’ was starting to be used, but it was not common. Most people probably would refer to themselves as ‘transsexual’. So I know that word is now totally out of fashion. But actually, it’s the word that I discovered first. And that reason in itself, just because that was the word that I kind of grew up with, to me weirdly feels more comfortable than ‘transgender’. So with the word ‘transgender’ I don’t identify at all.

[The tape whirrs fast forwarding and then plays]

JA1: Well, before I transitioned, I saw myself as a cross-dresser, or a transvestite, because back in those days, in the 70s 80s, transvestite was quite widely used. And it’s only more recently it seems to have become more stigmatised. Which I think in a way is a pity, because well, it may be be linked to the way it’s described diagnostic manuals as fetishistic transvestitism, which I don’t think I have, and I was suppose – I always held people who transitioned a little bit in awe. Because I couldn’t do that.

[The tape whirrs fast forwarding and then plays]

JOSEPH: When I first realised I was trans, I felt like I had to really conform to masculinity and conform to a desire to be a cis man. And as I’ve sort of gone through… and one of the main things is spending a lot of time with other trans people, and specifically trans masculine, non-binary or assigned female at birth people. I don’t know what… there’s no easy encompassing lan-guage that gets to what I’m meaning, but… spending time with other people like me, basic-ally, kind of helped me realise that I don’t have any desire to be, like, a cis man. My identity is actually just ‘not female’, and I assumed that ‘not female’ meant therefore male. And it’s only through kind of… I mean, non-binary as a term wasn’t around when I realised I was trans. It didn’t exist. In fact, when I first realised I was trans was only because I’d finally realised that there could be trans men. I’d only ever heard of trans women. And never in good terms.

[The tape whirrs, fast forwarding and then plays]

NARRATOR: Cool. So ah, how would you describe your gender?

SARA: Uhm… trans female, I guess, er… yeah. I don’t know, I’m not all that up on all the terminology or anything, I mean… so that’s how I feel to myself and I know people say, some people sort of say like ‘I am a woman with a – a gender history’, or ‘I am a trans woman’, or ‘I am a trans female’ or whatever.

But I am any kind of that, really, anything that’s sort of… uhm, not male? [laughs]

NARRATOR: Yeah [laughs]

[The tape whirrs fast forwarding and then plays]

YOXI: Yeah. Probably like, non… non-binary’s the easiest way for me to… shorthand communicate myself to people. Cause… for some reason, I’ve never been, like… I’ve never been comfortable

with agender as a label for the same reason that I’m not comfortable with atheist. It feels like I’m taking a stance… against this thing, and…  I’d rather call myself a non theist. [laughs]

I like genderless ’cause it’s just like, saying “Oh, there’s that thing, and I haven’t got it.”

[The tape whirrs fast forwarding and then plays]

NATIOUS: I actually like… well I struggle with this really, probably more genderqueer. But I’m not quite sure about the ‘queer’ bit, so I’m always a bit like, ‘not sure about the queer bit’. For me personally, in my life.

But gender is a bit of a problem for me in terms of, I don’t quite know what

that might mean. So if I say ‘agender’ or I say ‘gender-variant’ or… even that’s a bit…

But ‘genderqueer’ probably gives me a bit of landscape to move around in. And not have to define so narrowly, you know. And also can I just say, also because I have a partner who’s female, who identified, when we got together, got together, identified more as lesbian.

And that relationship… you’re often defined by the other, aren’t you?

So in a way my partner has, I think, struggled with the idea of going ‘what does this relationship mean then? And what does it mean for you to say that you’re genderqueer and to have these pronouns? What does it mean about who I’m in a partnership with?”

And I thought, that’s actually quite an interesting question. I’m just me, but these meanings alter the meaning of who I am for somebody else. And then they’re not sure about what I might mean, about who I am.

And I just think this sort of like, you know, it’s quite interesting, about… well, who are we then? What does that mean? Anyway so, there we go.

[The tape whirrs fast forwarding and then plays]

NARRATOR: You said that you transitioned quite late. Did you… when did you first sort of realise that you weren’t cis?

FISH: [Laughs] I think the word ‘cis’ was probably one of the last words I learnt. So…

NARRATOR: [Laughs]

FISH: If you ask that question, it might only have been about ten years ago. But I know what you’re asking, I think.

I remember, it would now be about 19 years ago, first starting to Google around gender identity. And there really wasn’t that much on the web. But I came across a website which

spoke about female-bodied male-identified individuals, and for the first time in my life, I felt I

had found language which helped me understand myself.

And all the years before that, the only way I could think about this was using words like feeling weird, not fitting in, being odd…

[The tape whirrs fast forwarding and then plays]

RED: And I just think, we’re in a day and age where I’d just like there to not be labels. I know we need words to describe things, but you know, I think today we’re too quick to be like ‘right, you need to be in that box, you need to be in that box’.

Just so everyone feels happy, because we’re all in, lined up in little boxes. But I just don’t like boxes, because I think it gives people power to discriminate, you know.

[The stop button is pressed on the tape recorder]

SUITCASE: Crikey..some people wanting labels, some people not wanting them!

NARRATOR: Hmm, it’s almost as though trans people are individuals, aye Suitcase?

SUITCASE: You know what I mean.

NARRATOR: [Laughs] I’m going to quote CN Lester here from their book Trans Like Me: “Listening taught me that the labels that confined me could liberate others.That the right answer for one person could become the wrong answer for another, and that all we could do was lend support in our shared individuality.”

SUITCASE: Wow!

NARRATOR: It’s brilliant, right?

Okay! Next I’m going to play you some interviews about diagnosis and medical intervention.

SUITCASE: Can I just say though that I really like the way you’ve taken charge of this episode. You’ve come into your own, Narrator.

NARRATOR: Well, thank you very much! I think I just feel more comfortable in my own time, you know?

And these are my people. I mean, even though some of them are much older than me. And it’s funny because when we spoke to Harry Benjamin and Alfred Kinsey, they seemed like people from long, long ago to me and then I’m chatting to these trans people and realise there’s an overlap, you know?

I mean the work that Benjamin was doing is still impacting on lives nowadays. Remember when we met them in that pub and Harry Benjamin was talking about his scale?

SUITCASE: And the profiteroles. But yes, I remember.

NARRATOR: Of course, the profiteroles.

But remember how I asked him if he ever thought people just said what they thought he needed to hear in order to diagnose them? Well listen to this… but first a content note for people’s stories about psychiatric treatments and attempted suicide.

[The tape recorder starts]

SARA: uhm… yeah, so obviously I’m dealing with the whole medical thing, that’s another side of it. I kind of went in on day one, that was it, before you…get your first consultation there was a kind of an open day, where you’re invited to go to the clinic, and meet people.

They do a talk on how lovely it all is, and I went in not really feeling it? It was like, you know, I know you’re not going to treat me properly and… by lunchtime I kind of thought ‘OK, if I’m gonna get what I want here, I’ve got to jump through their hoops.’

And I went in with the attitude that I’m gonna  [exhales loudly]

I just, I was gonna fight it. In any system. And by lunchtime I changed my mind and thought, no! It’s just like… okay, no, just give me the drugs. Let’s just do it.

I’ll conform to your binary narratives or whatever. And I’ll say all the right things, as long as you treat me… because people are presenting in the way that they’re creating an expectation. And they’re feeding, they’re feeding that expectation, and it’s just… Some sort of, I d… feedback loop?

[The tape whirrs fast forwarding and then plays]

JOSEPH: I know if someone’s trans enough. If they say ‘I’m trans’. Because noone signs up for this shit willy-nilly. You know? : If you go ‘I’m trans… oh, I’m not sure if I want to take hormones’, that’s a totally different thing. But whether or not you’re trans enough, that’s entirely yours.

I don’t get to own that. Noone gets to own that. And nobody goes “do you know what I really love? A bit of gender dysphoria. That’s the best fucking thing.”

And nobody thinks they have gender dysphoria and then go “oh no, hold on! It turned out to be cramps.”

[Laughs] There’s no false thing here. Where your gender identity falls can vary. But at the point you question whether you’re cis, you’re probably not fucking cis, you know. Because no cis person is sitting there wondering: “I wonder if I’m cis or not.”

Because it’s so ingrained in us to like, to be that way. It may be that somebody goes “oh, okay, maybe I’m non-binary. Actually, it’s easier for me to live as cis, I’m not bothered.”

That isn’t the same thing, you know. So…[big sigh]

[The tape whirrs fast forwarding and then plays]

BLAIR: I finally plucked up the courage to actually go and talk to my GP about it. He referred me immediately to the local psychiatric institute, the local hospital. He was an old guy I saw. Back in the day, the actual waiting lists were nowhere near as what they were like today. I saw the psychiatrist within about a month. Like I say, he was an old guy. And he’s been brought up in a different era. And the first thing he offered me electro-convulsive shock therapy. And I’d read about this, and I realised it didn’t do anything and it wasn’t for me. So I politely refused. The next thing he offered me was male hormones, because he would make a man of me. And that to me was the furthest point that I ever wanted to approach. I’d had enough of be-ing this pseudo-man. I just couldn’t bear this… I tried to commit suicide to get away from it, why would I want to even go there? So he said ‘well you know, think about it’. About the same time, again there was a series of events that seemed to conspire to actually help me.

Because a new gender identity clinic had opened up and I’d heard about it, so I said ‘there might be salvation there’. So I asked him whether he could refer me through to this gender identity clinic. And I think he was just glad to get rid of me, so he referred me on. So I got an appointment at this gender identity clinic. And again, it was nothing like it was today, because I got an appointment within about six weeks. I went to see them, I was in there for a full day, asessment. They asked me to come back the following week. They wanted to sort of run all the… through all the tests, the results of all the tests.

They just said ‘you’re on the trans-sexual scale, would you like to start hormones?’

NARRATOR: So what were those tests? What tests did you have to go through?

BLAIR: Oh, there were Rorschach, psychological tests, sort of mind-play test scenarios. It just went on and on and on.

NARRATOR: And what were you feeling during that time?

BLAIR: I was excited. Because I was… to me, I identified as a woman. So why wouldn’t I pass

these tests? So I didn’t fear them. You had to give all your history as well. Anyway, I went back, a few weeks later and they said ‘you identify on the transsexual scale, would you like to start the hormone therapy?’

Wow, yes! I mean, it was that easy. Within sort of two months, I was diagnosed and being offered treatment. And so, yes, I was overjoyed. So this  was sort of slowly happening.

[The tape whirrs, fast forwarding]

DAN: Because once I had made that decision then it was like “Right, I’ve got to do this as quick as I can because I’m 42, I haven’t got any time to be hanging about”. I realised that it was going to be really difficult because at that stage you had to, as an adult and that, you got referred to adult mental health services first; they were the gatekeepers to get you the gender clinic and that. And my GP, the first GP I went to to tell them about this and what I wanted to do was “Well you can’t do that on the NHS. We don’t do cosmetic surgery”. Once I became aware that that’s who I was, I then started reaching out to find information and community, which I did online. So I was then able to sort of, like “OK, there’s this GP, private GP who I can… if I can get £250 together I can get started on hormones”. So I did that. And because the effects of T come really quickly as well, and they did for me: my voice started changing within a couple of weeks and that, you know. So I started physically chan-ging quite quickly, which was wonderful for me. That whole thing… I was like every other trans person and I started doing the Youtube vids and “Here’s my squeaky voice” and “Week One…”, “Week Two…” [laughter].

[The tape whirrs, fast forwarding]

SARA: I really…uhm… within two days of starting oestrogen it’s just like… I’ll try to describe it.

It’s like some horrible noise in my head had been turned off. Like some horrible background. It’s like when you’re sitting in somewhere, right? And there’s like a really loud radio or something, and it’s been there forever. Or, like a fly buzzing in a room or something, you know? You’re kind of aware of it subconsciously, and suddenly you become really aware of it then suddenly it’s really pissing you off and you have to stop it. It’s like, it was there and then it was gone.

[The tape whirrs, fast forwarding]

NARRATOR: Okay so, a bit of a change of tack, because I remember you talking about  this. I’d like to come back to it. You said you identify as a bear now?

JOSEPH: [Laughs] Yes.

NARRATOR: When did that word that come in to your life?

JOSEPH: Um I think when I… because I got quite hairy quite early on. I described starting testosterone as ‘pulling on hairy leggings.’

Because it literally just like it started from my ankles. Not from my feet, like weirdly I have completely hairless feet. But from my ankles, and I just watched this wave of hair go up my body. And then it got to my chin and like kind of stopped for a long time. Or… You know, longer than I wanted it to take, do you know what I mean?

You know, the beard wait is just hell. It was just hell. And I”m sat here with a full beard, so I do realise that. My moustache took so long to come in. But I think, so at that point… I mean I had this lush full head of hair and this hairy chest. And I think I needed a word for… because I am overweight and I’ve always been overweight.

And I wanted something that just acknowledged that it was okay. And so I fell in to the kind of ‘cub’ category. Only really… I don’t know because I couldn’t really  claim it because I was in a relationship with a woman.

And it’s only since being on testosterone that I’ve really had like this attraction to men.

[The tape whirrs, fast forwarding]

NARRATOR: So um, aside from you know the physical effects, how do you feel about your kind of, relationship with oestrogen in terms of how you feel in your body?

YOXI: Um, well my experience with starting to take it was like… imagine I had to hold my bum above my chair using all the strength of my arms. When I felt like I’d spent my entire life like that and then suddenly I got to sit down for the first time. And to kind of sit in myself.

Which is why I spent the first month crying all the time. Which, I mean, partly it’s just hormone emotional stuff. But also…

NARRATOR: Being present.

YOXI: Mmm, and relief and grief.

[The tape whirrs, fast forwarding]

BLAIR: When I was transitioning… not very many people knew about it. It was, like I was saying, there was only eight or nine operations per annum for the whole of the UK. It was a tiny number of people actually going through it. And therefore, it didn’t get the attention that it gets these days. Every day in the papers, there’s stories about transgender people. Back then, it was virtually unheard of. because a lot of trans people, they kept themselves well below the parapet. And because it was… they knew that they would by pilloried. And so they didn’t volunteer themselves. So there wasn’t the articles, and therefore also there wasn’t the public perception. I remember when I first started working in London, there was this article in the Sun about a transgender woman. And I remember sitting there. I was really frightened because they had this sort of box thing inserted in to the story, ‘Ten ways to recognise a transgender woman’.

[The tape whirrs, fast forwarding]

FISH: You know, I had been wearing a binder for years. One that fastened underneath my left arm with this very thick velcro patch, which I was proper uncomfortable with, and fearful also that people would touch it. So I always had my left arm kind of clamped down, and I hated hugs, and I

didn’t want anybody to touch that seam.

So having that off allowed me to breath in a very very different way. And that allowed me to connect with others. So after that, I felt able to be touched and to be hugged. And able to consider having a relationship. And sexual relations. Which before was an absolute taboo. And that is also then what happened.

So for me, all of that was a very liberating experience. But you know, at huge cost.

[The tape recorder stops]

NARRATOR: But the “huge cost” is mostly from the outside. From other people. From the newspaper with its 10 ways to spot a trans woman. I read something like that online just the other day!

It’s 2020! That’s what I don’t get. A few years ago we had this thing called The Transgender Tipping point, remember that? But what have we tipped into?

It feels like we’ve gone back in time… well, not even that…

Back in time, as I’ve found out, doesn’t necessarily mean worse for us but it’s like we’ve taken one step forward and two steps back. Thinking about Hirschfeld and the Institute. We were so close.

But it feels like we’re on a constant cycle of nearly getting there, nearly getting to where things are alright for us and then back we go again.

I mean look, if we try to just get on with our lives we’re accused of reinforcing stereotypes.

They say “all the young people are changing their bodies because they’ve got internalised homophobia.” Ignoring the fact that loads of us are trans as well as queer. And we say “we might not want to change our bodies, that’s our choice. We’re just asking that people call us by the name and pronoun we are”

And they say “we won’t do that unless you change your body and maybe not even then because we don’t believe you can change sex and don’t even think about going to the toilet unless you don’t look trans.”

And it’s like…[exasperated]

NARRATOR: it feels impossible to… [deep breath]

SUITCASE: Hey, hey, hey Are you okay, kid?

NARRATOR: I’m just exhausted. I feel worn out. All the stories, the historical ones and then the ones I’ve recorded.

Whatever names people found for themselves, it’s just people trying to live their lives, just people trying to be themselves. In a world that just…

SUITCASE: Always has been, always will be. Did you ever wonder why I like you lot so much?

NARRATOR: “You lot” as in humans?

SUITCASE: No, ”you lot” as in the trans and non-binary and gendery whatnots.

NARRATOR: Okay Suitcase, tell me. Why do you like us so much?

SUITCASE: Because you play with time. If you ask a trans person, “if you could go back in time what would you say to yourself as a child?” They don’t miss a beat because they’ve had that conversation back and forth so many times. They’ve imagined their future selves so hard that they can see them, just ahead. And I hear what they’re saying, it echoes through time. And It’s always simply “you’re alright.”

And that resilience that you have, that you think you don’t have but that you sometimes need a dashing piece of luggage to point out to you that you do totally have it, you know?

That, remember I said how the responsibility of time travel was to makethe times you are living in better? To send messages of hope out so that they might reach people from the future who need them? The trans people you interviewed…

NARRATOR: Yeah?

SUITCASE: They left messages of hope in those recordings. I know they did. I know that they did because they wanted to say, to you recording them, to anyone listening, they wanted to say “you’re alright.”

NARRATOR: Right, thanks Suitcase.

[The tape player starts]

DAN: I mean, you know, I see nature and life as being diverse in gender and sex. It is, it’s out there within animals, within plants, within the rest of life, so why are we any different? And I would be – if I was a parent and that – I would be talking to kids (obviously in age-appropriate ways and that).. that that’s just how life is, you know, and we’re all different and…

Because I think that’s not just important for trans and gender diverse people, but when you think of all the hang ups and that that cisgendered girls and boys have about their bodies and that because of what they see to be idealised, particularly genitals and things, you know, it’s so important that we do stress how everyone is equally valid. It doesn’t matter… and all of our bits are very different! You know. So I feel really, really privileged now that I am trans; I find that it’s a beautiful thing.

To have had the opportunity to experience living in different genders and experience sort of like the world through those different lenses – very different lenses – is a real privilege actually, and a strength. And that brings me back then sort of like that first exploration on the internet for finding who I was and, you know, back to those cultures that are embracing of different genders, that that’s just normal, and where gender diverse people were actually more honoured in indigenous societies where we were seen to have a special place in those societies because of our experience. And that feels really spiritually very important to me now as well and that this is just being alive, it’s not actually anything more than that – I’m just being alive and true to me and I want that for other people as well.

NARRATOR: Yeah, I agree with you actually. I really understand what you mean. I think being trans does give you this knowledge into the fact that gender roles are really Western society created.

DAN: Absolutely. It’s colonialism. It’s colonialism of people’s bodies, isn’t it?

[The tape whirrs, fast forwarding]

ARY: I was thinking when I get old, I want to retire back home to the country I grew up in. But if I’m going to get married with my partner, obviously we’re not going to be acknowledged.

We’ll not have this recognition. So I’m quite worried about that. And… yeah. We’ll still keep on fighting.

NARRATOR: I’d like to think, and I’m quite similar to you, I’m quite optimistic about things. I like to think that one day we will get there. Everybody.

ARY: We’re going to get there. It might be slowly, but surely. We’re going to get there. And yeah, we just have to be strong together.

NARRATOR: Exactly!

ARY: We just have to be strong together.

[The tape whirrs, fast forwarding]

NATIOUS: Really, it’s a political moment we need, a political zeitgeist where we just go on the street, you know? Just go on the bloody street. That’s what lesbian strength was about, you know? People sat down in Piccadilly, wouldn’t move. It was great. No car could get past. They sat down, it was like… there was I, like one of the stewards, I was going

“you can’t sit down!”

“Well, we’re not moving, that’s it. We’re not moving. We don’t agree with

lesbians being treated like shit and we’re not moving.”

“But you have to move.” But then I thought, actually, you don’t have to move. This is our society, that’s your street. Sit on it. Sit on your street.

So we went “alright then, let’s all sit down.” And the whole of central London was completely stuffed with lesbians. I have to say, it was a vision. You know what I mean?

Just lesbians everywhere, just stopping the whole traffic. And that’s what we need to do. I keep saying it, I think we all need to go on the streets. Stuff the lot of them. Anyway, look, that might be my ending shot.

NARRATOR: I think that finish is perfect. And can I say, what a relief it is to hear that from you.cEspecially, like, I am so so tired of people who are older than me telling me to quieten down.

NATIOUS: Oh, never quieten down. Be louder! Be loud. Fuck quiet. Quiet you die with. When you’re dead, you’re quiet, right?cUntil then, stay loud.

[The tape player stops]

NARRATOR: I’d like to say a massive thank you to all the people who allowed me to interview them and who shared their stories.

SUITCASE: Yes, thank you to all the contributors. So how did we do? Did we prove that trans people have always existed?

NARRATOR: Turns out we didn’t need to.

SUITCASE: Who did we think we needed to prove it to and why?

NARRATOR: Well, that’s an interesting one. I think, at the start of this, I’d hoped that we’d find these historical

figures and be able to kind of, lay them on the table like a winning hand in a game of cards.

And be like, there! You can’t deny our existence or, I don’t know, say that

trans people were invented on the internet in 2015 because we have always been here throughout time. But… people have done that before.

SUITCASE: Magnus Hirschfeld did just that with his collection of artefacts, with the stories from his patients.

NARRATOR: Exactly. It was all there and then it was burnt.

SUITCASE: Not all. Some things were saved. And of course his death mask and papers that I told you about were found years later inside me, thank goodness! [laughs]

I dread to think what would have happened if I wasn’t rescued from the rubbish chute.

NARRATOR: What rubbish chute Suitcase?

SUITCASE: They were clearing out Magnus’ lovers’ flat in Vancouver, after he’d died. Years later. They just put me out with the rubbish.

NARRATOR: Suitcase that’s terrible!

SUITCASE: Well, nobody knew! They didn’t know. We’d been forgotten. No one cared.

Our warrior asked us back in episode one, “Why have people in the West chosen to erase us?” Why do you think?

NARRATOR: Um… Wanting to control people? I mean, if you look around the world, when the people in charge want to tighten controls on a population, one of the first things that seems to go is LGBTIQ+ rights, right?

British Colonialism is an example of that happening. Rich and nuanced experiences of gender wiped out and replaced with the bloody binary. But you can also see it happening in oppressive regimes today too. And then we never get a chance to establish ourselves because we’re assumed to not have been around in all of history. As if!

Suitcase, I can’t stop thinking about you and Magnus Hirschfeld’s death mask on a rubbish heap.

Queer history is so precious and precarious. We need to find the stories from other cultures too because we have even less documentation of queer and trans people of colour.

We need to go back in time, finding people like ourselves in the stories but… we also need to think about the future. We need to tell our own stories, in our own words, for future time travellers.

SUITCASE: It sounds like my work here is done, Narrator.

NARRATOR: Thank you, Suitcase.

SUITCASE: No, thank you! I mean it. I can’t wait to see what you’re gonna do next.

NARRATOR: You don’t have to wait though.

SUITCASE: Oh no, I’m going to take it easy for a while. Maybe I’ll go back and I’ll hang out with Ulrichs in his corn cockles.

NARRATOR: [Laughs]

SUITCASE: I haven’t decided yet. But you however should keep exploring.

NARRATOR: But how am I go-

SUITCASE: [Interrupts] Look, it’s not hard.

And you can start by going to the website of this very podcast! Adventures in Time and Gender dot org.

And there are some alternative wormholes to travel through where you can find out more about some of the people and themes we’ve looked at. And you can also set off on further adventures, exploring non-western trans history. See where it takes you!

Remember, this is your history! Keep asking questions, this is your time!

[Sounds of a suitcase fastening]

NARRATOR: Goodbye Suitcase!

SUITCASE: [Muffled voice] Goodbye Narrator, take care!

[Time travel whoosh]

NARRATOR: And goodbye and a big big thank you to all of our listeners.

Thank you so much for tuning in and for joining us on our journey through time, gender and Ikea.

♪ We turn time around ♪

♪ It’s our time ♪

Adventures in Time and Gender was developed with trans and non-binary young people.

Written by Jason Barker, with additional dialogue by the cast and crew.

Directed by Krishna Istha.

Sound by Jo Jackson.

Music and lyrics by The Mollusc Dimension.

In episode three of Adventures in Time and Gender, Sam Crerar was the Narrator and Emma Frankland was the Suitcase.

In the summer of 2019, trans and non-binary young people involved in this project interviewed older trans and non-binary people in the community. The interviews in this episode are anonymised transcriptions and the recordings have been re-performed by:

Jenet Le Lacheur

Felix Mufti Wright

Shay Patten-Walker

Ugla Stefanía Kristjönudóttir Jónsdóttir

Fox Fisher

Tink Flaherty

Aliya Grace

Katayoun Jalilipour

Emrys/Kallian and Kamari Romeo.

The Foley Mixer was Sophia Hardman.

The Foley Artist was Oli Ferris.

The re-recorded mixer was Candela Palencia.

Backing vocals and harmony by Wild.

This podcast is funded by the Wellcome Trust and was made in collaboration with the Rethinking Sexology Team at the University of Exeter and Gendered Intelligence.

For further adventures and more wormholes to explore, please visit AdventuresInTimeandGender.org

Or join the conversation on #TRANSTHRUTIME

[Time travel whoosh]