Saturday, April 6, 2013

Summer of '76

Yesterday I compared this time just before surgery with that time between High School and College. Back then I had no confidence in myself and chose a self indulgent summer of hanging out with the friends I loved and counting the moments until I had to say goodbye to them, especially to Ian and Steve two of the guys I fancied. The summer of '76 here in the UK was one of the hottest on record and folks still talk about it now. It was one long blast of playing little coffee house gigs, lazing and playing in the sun and feeling on top of the world because I graduated with high grades against all odds. Honestly, I felt at that point as though things might actually work out. All of that abuse/gay sex/asymmetric relationship with GS was over and I felt like I had a chance of moving on. Girls found me interesting and fun to be with and it seemed as though I at last had a chance to 'make' myself normal like everybody else in my circle. In reality I was missing the sex even though I felt burned, guilty and shameful about it all. I also hated the idea of going off to Manchester University all on my own. With friends around me I could pretend I was normal. Once I was alone, the doubts set in.

It was that summer that my friendship with P became something more. It wasn't what I wanted. I wanted a friend to talk books with and a fake girlfriend so I could fit in. She wanted commitment and a relationship. I had known her for a good few years and was impressed at how alternative and independent spirited she was. Far off in London, Punk was just beginning to hit the headlines and change people's lives. All my friends were talking about The Clash and the Sex Pistols. I was unashamedly into the Runaways. Joan Jett was the epitome of what I would have liked to be as a girl...instead I ended up sitting on bar stools with my six string acoustic playing Joni Mitchell, Cohen and James was what people liked hearing, most of my own songs were too hard, self indulgent and depressing.

I went away on holiday with P, though in reality I would have loved one with Ian again. He had other plans. We went on holiday to.....'here' as it happens. My grandparents were from North Wales and when I introduced P to the breathtaking mountain backed coastline, she fell in love with it all immediately. I found myself drawn into a much deeper relationship and by the end of summer we were having sex, of a sort. It worked but left me feeling really weird; just like I had done something wrong on every level. By the time we got to the last few days I mentioned in my last blogpost I was packing for Manchester and she for Leicester in the UK's Midlands. She desperately wanted to stay together and because I felt so afraid about my future, I agreed. The thought of coming out somehow in Manchester and being myself got shelved but oh so tearfully and reluctantly. I traded what I really wanted for the safety of someone who seemed to deeply love me but I also knew I was imprisoning myself by doing so. It was quite deliberate; an attempt to normalize myself out of being a transgendered teen: What an idiot I was!

To complicate matters further, Steve, another tall blond haired crush from High School got into Manchester's Institute of Science and Technology. I really didn't know. The first thing I knew was my first night in Halls. When I brought my tray out to the dining hall to sit down to eat that first night, he was there; all gorgeous blue eyes and blond hair. He was really pleased to see me and I him :) We started to hang out together of course and maybe more would have come of it had I not had a girlfriend...why are events so cruel?

Fall '76 in Manchester was least during the week. I loved the City, I thrived on it. There was an underground Gay scene but it was really clamped down on by the authorities and the police force. It centered around Canal Street. A short walk from Piccadilly Station. It was a sordid area then. Now it's the vibrant heart of one of Europe's most exciting Gay quarters and 'The Village' is where most people want to party. The Gay officers of Manchester City's Police Force are now there on hand smiling to keep us all safe not to run us in! In those days the police cruised the canal in boats looking out for gay couples making out in dark corners so they could arrest them for indecency!

In Manchester in Fall '76 I realize now that I was beginning to get the confidence in myself to come out but I still felt so incredibly scared. I had taken a load of my girl clothes to Manchester but I only wore them occasionally. I spent hours late at night either drawing pictures of myself as a girl then ripping them up in shame or fantasizing about having (girl) sex with Steve, Ian, name it I thought about it, every which way.

It was different at the weekends. I went to see P in Leicester or she came to me. It was like leading a double life, I should have called an end to it right there but I didn't, I was afraid to face the world as a girl, I needed more time. I didn't get it.

Can you imagine how it ended? Perhaps. I just couldn't stand it and in the end I dropped out of college in Manchester without completing my degree, it was a big mistake I know but we all make those. I said goodbye to Steve and to the City I loved so much, crying inside and all the time wanting to tell him how I felt. I've never seen him since. He hasn't come to any High School reunions, perhaps that is just as well.

That was the start of a painful 30 years of denying who I was. I completed my degree here in North Wales at Bangor getting myself into awful hot water again by really crushing on another guy. This time his name was Ed. He was a South African studying in North Wales, a fascinating guy; tall, dark haired and with such a gorgeous accent. P even asked me if I felt anything for him? Why didn't I say? Self Protection maybe or probably just heading on down that highway to nowhere of trying to fit in. I've spent the last seven years with the pedal pressed to the metal trying to speed back up to where I was in the Fall of '76.

Here I am now; a Trans Woman on the verge of actually completing my transition and ironically being a 'virgin' again. I'm back to songwriting, singing, writing, being myself and being Miss Jane Ward as I always imagined I might grow up to be. Okay, so it's thirty seven years later than I imagined and I'm not really a virgin: I have all the emotional baggage and scarring of having tried Gay Sex, Straight Sex, every which way imaginable to try and convince myself that I was either a Gay Guy, Bi or plain straight Vanilla. I'm not Cis, I'm not Gay, I'm Trans, out and Proud. It has been one long awful journey that I've felt compelled to keep re-running through my head like a very bad movie. My dreams have been full of it for the last two weeks. It's no surprise that it's ended up in my Blog. Maybe one day I need to put it in a book, for keeps and for all to see.

Hugs, Jane xox


  1. The symbol of the American Bicentennial. The Summer of my 7th grade. I found the whole thing to be rather tedious. I was 13, and so many thing were new and strange. I felt like an alien in the suburbs of the Metro NYC area. So much was happening in The Lower East Side, but I was a little too young to have experienced it. So close, but so far. My mother's father died that August, I think. Born in 1895, he was a bridge to a far gone area, a brooding old man, who I never really knew. I guess it was hard enough coming to know the world I was growing into...

  2. Wow, it's fascinating to have your insights into what that Summer meant to you. One time you'll have to tell me a little more about your Summer of '81..

  3. I was only 8 but recall it well. It was a really hot one and I can recall my parents buying a paddling pool that I was allowed to use only on the basis that I helped to use the water later to water their precious garden. Same with bath water

    Sorry to have such flippant comments !!

    1. Becca, Flippant is good, I need MORE flippant in my blog and in my life, the best boyfriends I have ever had the lighter side uppermost