Internet has of course changed many things; without internet I would not be where I am today, at ease with me, myself & I! The discovery that you are far from alone, not a complete freak and that you can actually enjoy life without feeling that you’re a bit odd is due to the ease of contact on the net and in my case due to my nearest and dearest who may not all want to meet Christine but who let me get on with me! It is highly dubious that I would want them all to meet Christine anyway; need to know basis is one thing, need to see, meet and spend time with, is another!
August 1955, aged five and a half
It was a Saturday and a fancy dress party was programmed for my brother’s 9th birthday; I was nearly 6. My mother had this cedarwood chest in the cellar stuffed with costumes; most of which were far too big for me, however she disappeared down the cellar stairs and shortly afterwards came up with a pale blue outfit; a silk and lace dress, not quite a princess, more ‘Alice in Wonderland’ and I was in wonderland! I didn’t know quite what to think; a part of me thinking that I couldn’t possibly wear that and another me regretting that I had not known that this joy existed in the depths of the cellar!
The invited children arrived for three o’clock; they were of course my brother’s friends, so older and crueller! There I was in heaven but being laughed and jeered at by about eight older boys. I recall it as if it was yesterday, my brother saying: «Leave him alone, it’s not his fault!» However he soon came round to join his pals in male mocking!
It was only later that he admitted to me: «I pity you, I had to wear that 3 or 4 years ago, awful». I couldn’t answer because despite the horrors of the afternoon I had felt wonderful in this little blue dress; when young you soon learn when it’s best to shut up and keep secrets secret.If that was my first trip into girlieness I don’t know but it is the memory that stays the clearest. Walking with my mother I was often taken (or mis-taken) for a girl, which to start with I had hated, but with the discovery of me, myself & I, now loved! Then I would be hurried off to the hairdresser to get my curls cut before the start of school term. (Pictured: Christine at home in Oxford)
My mother lived with her sister in a semi-detached three storey house in north Oxford; neither of them had married and the sister had adopted a boy in late 1946, the plan was a sort of shared adoption between the two sisters. However the sharing became non-existant so my mother adopted me in early 1950, I was four months old and apparently a beautiful baby or so my mum liked to say! Adoption by single women was very rare, even at this time of post-war necessity, but my mother’s younger sister was highly-placed in social services and the two sisters were both loyal catholic church goers; I was adopted from an Oxford convent having been conceived somewhere in the south of Ireland (on Saint Patrick’s Day in 1949; or so I was told!). Life for my mum was tricky, somehow she paid private school by sacrificing everything else; she spent nothing on herself, took in undergraduate lodgers, did charity work and I adored her. I was in a state of total admiration. Perhaps this very feminine household had it’s effect on me; it had none on my brother (or cousin as he really was) however, he was male, end of story (as far as I know)!
Summer 1962, aged 12
School, not one of my favourite places, was always a bit of an assault course for me! I was not physically assaulted but verbal cruelty from children can be very poisonous. I was a bit of a «sissy» I suppose; not physically advanced, slim, legs of a girl and protruding nipples to hide from others on a beach or in the shower, but not outwardly effeminate and I had no leanings towards boys; they on the other hand often had towards me. I enjoyed sport, rugby, football & cricket so I was accepted by most, those who «fancied» me tended to protect me a little; tennis was a favourite and in the school holidays I even started to play as a girl in mixed doubles!
and reading out loud in class was just a nightmare; if I could get through one sentence it was a record. The more the class laughed the more I stammered; why teachers picked on me to read is difficult to fathom but it was a different era. Later at school in Scotland I was never asked to read aloud and being on stage helped enormously; for some reason I didn’t stammer when acting; so much so that once when I had to act a person who stammers, in Goldsmith’s «She stoops to conquer» I really struggled. Being someone else meant I didn’t stammer and when Christine, I barely stammered and no longer stammer at all as her, but still do from time to time as a man!
Being a late developer and having a choir boy singing voice I was, at twelve years old, one of the three little maids from school in The Mikado; at last a reason to be as feminine as possible in an open way, with make-up done properly. Five nights of performances with two on the Saturday, the happiest day of my life at the time, with no reason and little time to change between performances. I felt very pretty and I knew that I was; boys looking, staring and wondering why they liked me;so pretty that I got fan mail from a group of girls who had come in a school party from the girl’s school down the road; strangely the school my mother had been to some fifty years earlier! Fan mail indeed! They wanted to meet me so we met, but as a boy I suspect I disappointed the three of them; I was a young twelve and they were blossoming young girls way ahead of me, but I adored them and loved all the attention!! Little attention seeker me or rather her! I suppose being a fairly non-descript looking boy explains how I was surprised by the attention and interest I got as a girl. It intrigued me a lot, this power that one could conjure over people with charm, being a little shy and coy.
Summer 1963 aged 13
School summer holidays were long and Sundays were for cycling around finding Rosemary, a fifteen year old who delivered the Sunday papers, with supplements and colour magazines so she was always glad of my help! I worshiped her and like most girls I just wanted to be like her! One day she returned from delivering a big house on the Woodstock Road and said «Come on Christine on we go»! «What do you mean, Christine?» I asked rather taken aback. She explained that the people in the house had given her two sweets, one for her and one for her sister who was helping her; mis-taken identity again! We both laughed, the sweet was a Mars bar, she always called me Christine after that and so that is how Christine got her name.
My mother’s wardrobe was a treasure trove, with in a cardboard box some black strappy high-heeled open sandals that she must have worn in her singing days and which I wore with great joy if a little unsteadily if not in practice. One day she caught me changing; she was horrified and obviously disgusted. The guilt I felt was enormous, but not enough, however, to never dress as a girl again; despite my promises to my mother that it was the first time and of course the last. I didn’t feel disgusted by my behaviour but I was shocked by my mother’s very strong reaction. It was a different era! (Pictured left: Christine on holiday near Barnstable aged 11)
Headscarves were still in fashion and as long as my hair was not too short my dark curls just fell onto my forehead from under a scarf giving a simple but pretty look. But all in all thinking back it was all total madness, especially the going to the cinema! I could have got myself in all sorts of trouble.I suppose I didn’t look too bad because I was never accosted but I don’t think that I looked that pretty either, again because I was never accosted; no wig just a headscarf; make-up: lipstick and what my mother called ‘rouge’ and well I didn’t even know how to use make-up; but being young there is little need, probably better to look ordinary and non-descript when you basically have little idea of what you are doing!
Summer 1965, aged 15
Coming home from school on holiday was always strange, friends had moved on in all senses and it was often that I seemed to,at last, make new friends just a day before going back to school. In the same road my closest chum had also moved on but I was good friends with his sister Clare. She was very sweet and she and her friend Linda treated me as a girlfriend and I spent more and more time with them. The local Youth Club was open on Thursdays and Saturdays and we would go as a threesome; a bottle of Coke and bag of crisps with soggy salt, and the latest pop music, what more could a young girl want?!
One Thursday night they persauded me to go as a girl (not that I needed much persuasion) however my voice was changing and although my curly hair was longer I didn’t feel too comfortable about it. Once there though my worries disappeared and we laughed, danced and just had fun. The safest place was the dance floor, which suited me, I loved dancing. The boys present didn’t seem to want to dance but just scrutinise what was on offer on the floor, no wonder girls are gigglers. Time flies and we had to be home at ten, and in my case home and changed! Leaving the club was tricky, several boys waiting in ambush outside so we had to run up the hill giggling our heads off. The Saturday we returned but this time I was dressed as a boy (mistake!). Straightaway one of the boy gang leaders came up and asked Clare where her friend of Thursday night was; I felt like a startled rabbit in the lights but flattered all the same as Clare explained that Christine couldn’t be there that night but would be coming the following week, much to my horror and enormous joy mixed with fear.
Thursday came and Clare and Linda made huge efforts to make me look good and off we went to be met at the door by Steve the boy in question! No escape but I spent a lovely evening in his company, he didn’t want to dance but kept plying me with Coca-Cola and crisps, he wasn’t a geat conversationalist but I could tell he really liked me, watching me nearly all the time, so I kept on dancing. Time to leave, so hand-in-hand he took me round the side of the church hall where the club was and we spent ten minutes hugging and kissing; it felt as if life was complete, I melted into his embrace, my mouth opening without question.
Oh the innocence of youth, I was barely fifteen and Steve I suppose was sixteen/seventeen-ish; I wonder if he ever learnt who or what I was! I decided to stay clear of the club as Christine but went a few times as a boy, becoming quite accepted by Steve and his cronies. Then September came and back to school, far, far away from Oxford and the temptations of trying to look pretty to please Steve. I knew that I was not attracted to Steve, but what I liked was being attractive to somebody as a girl or even as a girlfriend.
It was at this time that I first really appreciated and experienced the joy of air on legs; the feeling of lightness with a skirt gently moving, drifting, floating with the wind, the sheer joy of feeling, of being. This was to make me both sad and happy throughout my life; it is only recently that I have managed to accomodate the two within one. Talking to other «girls» I have found that many share this air on legs syndrome!!
1966-1969, 16 to 19 years old
Anyway on we go, back to school in Scotland, miles from anywhere. Passing exams, learning to drive, acting in school plays and then at the local theatre and meeting all sorts of people. (Pictured: Romeo in Edinburgh in 1969)
Christine didn’t exist but was present in an invisible mental role. At least with the theatre I learned a lot about make-up and met a lot of real girls, I was quite good-looking and I suspect there wasn’t much competition but I certainly was often surrounded by girls backstage. Playing Romeo on stage was quite fun but I suspect I would have preferred to play the rôle of Juliet.
Then leaving school at the age of 18 was perhaps the first real moment when I could have changed my life, a moment to break out, but as on other occasions there was always something which held me back. I was working as a trainee cutter at Mary Quant in London, in the fashion business and very happy; however I had a girlfriend and it was decided that I would leave London and move back to Oxford to be with her, my soul-mate; we were both young, confused, both adopted and very similar and so we got married; not a mistake because we did some great things but maybe not the best plan! Perhaps staying in London, working in the fashion trade would have been the thing to do and who knows I might be a grandmother by now!
Now a proud father but feeling much more father than husband; life does that to couples with all the chores and duties involved. Gradually my wife and I were disintegrating as a couple and I was not being a great husband. Christine started to come to the fore and as often when life was bit tricky I found solace in the pleasure of being her more and more.
The double life of being a transvestite is difficult enough to balance out without having to hide it from one’s partner; the concealment is in many ways worse than the actual fact of being a TV. If I was a wife I think I would be hurt more by the concealment as an act of betrayal as a lack of confidence rather than the fact that my man liked playing at being a woman from time to time. Women are far more sensitive than men and most of the time they must suspect or sense that something very feminine is involved somewhere, somehow!
Christine started to re-appear at fancy-dress parties, (see photo) intentionally trying not to look too good in case people twigged, then after finding some contacts in magazines I started going out in various clubs in Yorkshire; and later got involved in drag shows in Huddersfield, Nottingham and Sheffield.
I was more the girl next door look than a glamorous Drag Queen style but it suited the style of music that I mimed to. The occasional visit to London was fun, trips to the Porchester Balls, visits to restaurants in groups of TV, transgender and all sorts of folk.
One night I had taken my male bag with me and forgot it in the restaurant. Drama, how was I to leave the hotel in the morning ? So out I went to get a taxi to drag me across London to get back my bag from a friend’s flat in Stoke Newington. Not easy to get a cab in Queensway (an apt name) at midnight and I was twice accosted for business, even going back to the hotel on one occasion with a gentleman, who had promised to help me get a taxi afterwards. Like hell did he, but anyway I eventually got a cab and was so tired I stopped pretending being a girl and told the cabbie all about it. Bag back and safely back in the hotel at 4 in the morning, not to be repeated!In a club in Huddersfield I remember doing Sandie Shaw, barefoot, miming to «Puppet on a String» and bouncing around to an oldie by Dusty Springfield «I only want to be with you»!!! I was a great Dusty fan and even tried to do my mascara like her! At last divorce was decided and I found myself being a ladies hairdresser; no experience but in the North of England at the time you took whatever job you could get.I even got involved in male modelling at the time doing fashion shows, even one as Christine. (Pictured: Cavalaire, France 1985, a rare night out)
At the same time I was helping to run a plumbing and heating company and a ladies fashion boutique. Wonder of wonders, designer fashion galore and I started to build up a substantial wardrobe. Living on my own gave Christine the chance to really express herself. This again was a moment when I could have easily gone down the road of changing identity; however being a Dad held me back and then later I was redundant and the need to find work also held me back. Finding work in the now miners’ strike infected North of England was well-nigh impossible and I found gainful employment at last in 1983 but in France. So thanks to Margaret Thatcher and her heartless politics I found myself in France where I still am! Thanks Maggie!
I didn’t exist as Christine for several years, even throwing away my wardrobe and accessories in 1984; total elimination of a part of me but I was convinced that I no longer needed her. Wrong as usual but for quite a few years she was completely out of my life.
Re-married with two daughters, life was very full and there was no space for Christine and I didn’t feel the need for her and it was only years later after a second divorce that Christine at last re-appeared; however only in secret at home, no going out, no shopping trips. A sad time and a depressing way to express my female side; but life and work meant that that was how it was. Gradually I bought a few dresses but Christine was basically locked up in the cupboard or
suitcase rather and seldom got out. I was drinking fairly heavily at this time and looking back I can see the unhappiness inside me, the inability to open the pressure valve. When Christine I always felt an immense inner calm and this from an early age; the benefits of a period as Christine lasted for a couple of weeks, even one hour at home as a girl led to two or three weeks of inner peace, better work, happier days and more important happier nights with less alcohol, all linked of course.Then in 2002 I got married again. This time talking about the existence of Christine before marriage. (Pictured: Renaissance of Christine in 2013)
Christine shared our life occasionally and sometimes if I was being a bit grumpy or shirty my wife would ask when was the last time Christine had appeared and often said do your Christine and open your safety valve! But only at home, no trips out.
In 2009 I went through another period of the male in me wanting to destroy Christine; to assert my masclunity! So all photos were burned, all clothes given away to charity shops, false breasts sliced up and binned. There, that’s got shot of her, for once and for all; Well that’s that I thought. Like a bad penny, or like a good dog, Christine was to return; only this time bigger and stronger than before and certainly here to stay.
The good side of the Big C or cancer, and the severe treatment it entailed for me in 2009 and 2010, is that it changes how you look at life and once I was back on my feet, as it were, in 2012, I was determined to enjoy every minute there was. An enormous gamechanger. My wife’s daughter was aware of the other me and even encouraged me to express myself, so much so that for my birthday in 2013 she had organised a make-up session in the morning, a day’s shopping in Lyon, restaurant for lunch etc. This was my first trip out as Christine in 30 years, a wonderful day which propelled me onto the net and Facebook to find a whole new existance. I was almost unable to undress that evening, wanting the moment to continue for as long as possible, but come the morning the usual stubble had started on the chin and that is a very effective way of making me feel completely un-feminine!
Another trip out with my daughter-in-law was to change wig and bravely try blonde. So I enquired in a wig shop if they accepted transvestites, the reply: ‘Wait a minute, I’ll go and get my husband’. I nearly left the shop, but courage took the upper hand and I made an appointment for the week after.So off we went to try out 4 or 5 blonde looks. It was decided that from now on Christine should be blonde! As a return present I had booked her in to have her nails done, I accomanied her of course! (Pictured: Christine, trying out a blonde wig in February 2014)
However my daughter-in-law had opened a new episode which is turning to be the best yet; I have no idea as to when I shall at last put Christine to bed or in a grave more like, but I can’t imagine wanting to be Christine if I felt that I looked really ridiculous and/or ugly. But as I am my own judge and hardly independant I shall hope that my wife will one day tell me gently to hang up my stilettos, put away the make-up and get outside and cut some wood for the fire!
A new wardrobe beckoned,a change of hair colour and with age it’s difficult to look 25 when you are 65; I love the vintage look as well as floral and traditional summer dresses. I have a sewing machine and make or adjust all sorts of clothes found in charity shops or vintage stands.
Vintage dresses are usually very feminine and allow one to wear a hat and go for the whole, total look; I often wish that Christine lived in central Paris, able to dress as a 1950’s sophisticated model wandering aimlessly around the Place Vendome or any where in fact. The movement and fluidity of flared vintage dresses make me feel feminine, even pretty, certainly light and often frivolous.Wiggle dresses are also a favourite but the look is different as is the feeling and perhaps a more sophisticated Christine than the frivolous one! As Christine I am very pernikety with my look, matching colours, accessories etc; my wife laughs because as a man i can wear the same jeans for a century! (Pictured: Christine’s summer look, 2017)
Winter is different with different styles and different outings. Now I go out as Christine twice a month, dress fairly frequently as her if only for morning coffee but feel at last balanced with little or no inner tensions, accepting the other me and sometimes not really knowing which me is the other me and which me is me and the great thing is that I don’t really care, I have stopped asking all these questions, I am like that, I didn’t choose to be me, I am what I am and though perhaps not proud of being me I am no longer ashamed of myself, me & I.
No more sad, lonely sessions of being a girl but celebration. Happy days!
The internet and digital cameras have revolutionalised everyday life. Quite apart from being able to contact people the world over, we can find out about events, organisations, help-lines etc. For photos it is no longer the nightmare of taking your 36 or 24 exposure film to the shop to get the photos printed, dreading the moment when collecting and the shop assistant would rifle through the packet doing a quality check. Then came mail order developing which helped; now of course we know what the photo is like the moment it is taken, we can bin it straightaway if need be, we only print perhaps 1 in 50, at my age 1 in 100.Photos are very important to me, to reassure myself that SHE exists; but I only seem to look at them when I am Christine. (Pictured: Christine blonde for 2017)
I really enjoy myself, while not taking myself too seriously; I still have problems when changing person; if I have been in Grandad role for a few days the mental jump is too much and I need a cooling-off period! The reverse role change does not have the same effect but the change is often after a good night’s sleep.
Going out is great fun, but I tend to favour gay-friendly places for safety reasons; I ‘pass’ in theory but being tall not always in practice!!
An evening of chatting, aperitifs, followed by a show is the ideal. A quick flirt is also welcome though very rare in gay-friendly places; obviously a gay man wants a man and a gay girl wants a girl so flirting is usually in borderline bars, sometimes well-dodgy borderline.
There are no regrets about what might have been because I wouldn’t want to miss what has happened in my life or lives; children and now grand-children; I have been lucky with my wives.
I don’t know how I would react if my wife wanted to dress as a man! I have been lucky to have been a simple basic transvestite and to have missed all the inner turmoils of being a woman trapped in the wrong body.
There is, like in India, a certain snobbism or caste system among the T’s of the LGBT people! Strange, when we should be amongst the most tolerant of people; basic transvestites, like myself, find themselves on the bottom rung of the ladder and are often seen as not really worthy of consideration by real changed transgender girls!
‘Tolerant’ is not really the right word here, coming from the verb ‘to tolerate’, meaning ‘to accept with a certain reluctance or little enthusiasm’; when in fact we are talking about ‘respect’ and it is as simple as that.
Not all T-girls are like this by any means I hasten to add; but the few…..! We are what we are, we didn’t choose.
There are enough inner turmoils being a TV so I can only imagine the battles and frustrations of being transgender; I can only hope that we all have enough courage and force to do what we need or don’t need to do but most of all to be what we need to be.
Happy at last, 2017
Born would like to thank Christine for sharing her story with us and our friends. We hope this story helps you to find happiness. If you have a story to share please send it in to Paul Heaton on firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you.