There has been a lot of stuff about trans-gender on the airwaves this week, culminating in a program about an NHS unit set up specifically to help people who feel as though they are trapped in the wrong body.
Like most people, I find it difficult to get my head round the subject, although I do understand that it has nothing to do with homosexuality or even transvestism, but I suppose the clue is in the name.
Quite often men who know they should have been born women are extremely butch to start off with (one of the people on the radio was six foot four), so that cannot help their state of mind in society. I have a friend who was a very man's man outwardly, but one day he turned up to the pub in a sleeveless Summer frock with his biceps still bulging away and his full beard still untouched on his face.
I had heard from his wife that he had suddenly - or maybe gradually - decided to outwardly take on the persona of his inner self, so I had been forewarned as to what to expect when someone told me, 'Johnny's in the garden,' but I was still a little nervous about involuntarily laughing, or generally showing a complete lack of understanding or respect. As it turned out, we had a perfectly ordinary conversation under the shadow of the enormous elephant in the room.
"How have you been keeping?" I eventually asked him.
"Oh fine," he said, "But it's been a bit of a roller-coaster over the last few months."
"I'm not surprised!" This was the only time I actually laughed.
In the 1970s, I spent a lot of time with Henry Morris, the son of Jan Morris, the well-known travel writer who famously underwent a trans-gender program chronicled in her book, 'Conundrum'.
I went into a cafe with Henry one day, and he took me over to introduce me to a well-dressed, middle-aged woman who he referred to as his father. She was very nice and polite, and we had a bit of a chat over tea. At the time, Jan lived in Bath and was a familiar figure in the social scene, at a time when Bath was probably at its most trendy.
Henry had already told me some of the more sensitive details as to how the news was broken to him that his father was now a woman, and this amounted to one simple fact of omission - the news was never broken to him.
As a very young child, he had gone downstairs for breakfast one morning to find his mother sitting at the table with another woman of the same sort of age, and it took him quite a long time to realise that this person was his father. Not a word was said about it, and he was left to his own devices to work it all out on his own.
This would have been a lot to ask of an adult, let alone a child, and - needless to say - he was still trying to work it out when I knew him.
Most other people get some sort of warning it seems, but I think in that household they must have had the notion that children are much more understanding than adults. This may well be true, but I think you should at least pay them the respect of actually talking to them about things.
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