BLAIR 1 TRANSCRIPT
So anyway, this was around about 1971, ’70, ’71, when I went back to university. And I’d been there for about probably eight months, and I was so lucky, because there was an organisation started off in Manchester called Nightline. And it was an organisation run by students for students. Basically, it was a counselling services, so that if anyone was having problems with the study, with accommodation, with whatever, you could phone up anonymously and actually chat about it. And students were handing out these A4 leaflets. I picked one up and I remember sticking it in my bag and thinking ‘I’ll give them a ring’. I’d never spoken to anyone about this. Never ever. And I kept it in my bag… should I phone? Should I not? Should I phone? Should I not? And then I had a breakdown. It was too much for me and I tried to commit suicide. Fortunately I failed. But that realisation about what I’d potentially just done to myself, it made me stronger. And I picked up the phone one evening and phoned up Nightline. And I was so fortunate in that I had this other girl answer the phone, and she was so understanding. She had so much empathy. And I was on the phone to her for about two hours, and I cried myself dry. I was sobbing. And in the end, no more tears would come.
INTERVIEWER: Did you open up about your gender identity to that person?
Yes. Yes. I told her about… everything, my whole life came pouring out. And she was so wonderful. And towards the end, she said ‘well, I don’t know anything about it professionally.’ I think they were all psychology or psychiatry students. She said ‘but I do know someone who might be able to help you.’ She said ‘I’m going to have to get his telephone number. If you phone me back tomorrow night and ask for me, then I should be able to give you this person’s telephone number’. So I did, and she gave me this telephone number of this guy called Jack, who was a counsellor. So I went to speak to him, and he and his wife, they were absolutely brilliant. Completely accepting, and they knew a few other people who were going through this. And after a few sessions with him, he said ‘would you like to meet somebody else who is going on the same journey?’ And so I said ‘yes’. And so he said ‘well, I can’t give you the phone number, I’m going to have to approach them first and see if it’s acceptable’. Which is fine, completely understandable. Anyway, about a week, two weeks later, he gave me her phone number. And I met up with her. And she was about the same age as me.
INTERVIEWER: How old were you at this point?
At this point, I was about 27.
And so I met up with her. Her name was Linda. I won’t say her second name, because she is not out. And we struck this instant sort of friendship and bond. She was going through everything. After I’d seen Jack the first time, he’d sort of encouraged me to also get in contact with my GP. To actually get some help. Which I did. 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.
INTERVIEWER: Right. Okay.
And that to me was the furthest point that I ever wanted to approach. I’d had enough of being 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 in Manchester at Withington Hospital, 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.
INTERVIEWER: And how had you heard of it? Did somebody tell you?
I think it was probably via Jack. He sort of mentioned it. And so like I said, I put up with this psychiatrist nonsense. And so I finally sort of said, you know, ‘please refer me on to this place who have got specialist knowledge about it’. 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, assessment. 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 transsexual scale, would you like to start hormones?’
INTERVIEWER: So what were those tests? What tests did you have to go through?
Oh, there were Rorschach, psychological tests, sort of mind-play test scenarios. It just went on and on and on.
INTERVIEWER: And what were you feeling during that time? What were you feeling when all this was happening?
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, so being that, I was diagnosed and being offered treatment. And so, yes, I was overjoyed. So this was sort of slowly happening.
INTERVIEWER: Were you out when you were on hormones? Were you out as a woman at this point, when you were on the hormones?
No, I was not on the hormones to start off with.
INTERVIEWER: You said you got offered hormones.
Yes, that’s when I started taking them.
INTERVIEWER: Right, okay. And were you out at this point, or were you just taking the hormones?
No, I was just taking the hormones. And sort of, round about six months later, because I joined an organisation called the Beaumont Society because Jack also put me in contact with them. And back in the day, the Beaumont Society was for… there were just two terms back in the day, you were either transvestite or transsexual. The Beaumont Society was just for transvestites, and if you started to identify as transsexual, you were booted out. Because they feared you would seduce other members. Yes, I know. I know. I know.
INTERVIEWER: Okay. That’s interesting.
Yeah. So I originally joined and said I was transvestite. They didn’t know I was taking hormones or anything. But it was an opportunity to meet other people. Then after a while, they sort of found I was taking hormones and so I was asked to leave.
INTERVIEWER: And how did that make you feel?
It didn’t bother me one way or the other to be honest. Because Linda and myself, by this time, she was also a member of the Beaumont Society. We decided… we didn’t fit in, so we decided to actually start out own group. The Manchester TVTS Group. And it was one of the first groups for both transsexuals and transvestites. We didn’t want to make it sort of exclusive. We wanted to actually be inclusive. And so we… that is one reason is was called the Manchester TVTS Group. We didn’t want to hide behind an anonymous name like ‘the Beaumont Society’ or ‘the Butterfly Society’ or whatever. Again, it was before the internet or anything else like that. So we decided to call it what it said on the tin, you know. So that we were upfront about it. And by this time we were actually getting a name for ourselves, as it were. The Manchester Gay Switchboard had started. We were invited to actually participate on the Gay Switchboard. And if I wasn’t on duty there, then people were actually… the other telephone operators would know of our group, and so we used to get referrals from people phoning in, to our group. And from there, other switchboards were starting up, and we were getting referrals from all over the place.
Funnily enough, there was a piece in the Manchester Evening News about it. Was it the Manchester Evening News? No, it was the Guardian. In 1975. About our group. And so, yeah, we were getting quite well-known. And at the same time, other groups were starting to spring up all around the country, who catered for both transsexuals and transvestites. We were very good friends with the Leeds group, run by a friend of mine called Caroline. She started it off. It was part of Leeds University, it was the LGBT Society, and then sort of… it split off. Well, they formed a specialist group just for transsexuals and transvestites. And like I say, all these groups springing up all around the country, there was one called ‘SHAFT’, of all names. ‘Self Help Association For Transsexuals’. And so there was this… from this one sort of exclusive group, called the Beaumont Society, all of a sudden all over the country there were these groups who were being far more inclusive starting to spring up when needed. There was a group in Birmingham, there were a couple of groups in London.
And we all knew one-another. It was quite a small society back in those days. To give you an idea, when I finally had my op, in Charing Cross, they were doing about 9 operations per year.
And that was for the whole of the UK.
INTERVIEWER: Wow. That’s…