Josie first noticed she was different at about the age of 7. She wanted to play with her sister’s dolls and there were some in the toy box under the stairs. So she did. She took out a big baby doll and a smaller fashion doll, and sat them on the sofa next to her. They were visiting, she thought, from out of town sharing exciting stories of their glamorous travels. They sipped tea from a bone china tea set, delicate pinkies raised, like ladies.
Josie played happily for a while, and then her Dad arrived home. He thundered into the room, face contorting as he said “What the hell are you doing? Those are girls’ toys, not for you. Just because your sister left them out doesn’t mean you can touch them.” He swept the dolls onto the floor then cuffed Josie across the head. “Up to your room. Now.”
That was the first time Josie had any idea she wasn’t like other boys. She didn’t mind playing with a train set or building blocks but she was useless at sports and hated football. Her Dad wanted her to play for the school and then maybe the town, but Josie spent more time falling over than she did kicking the ball. She could see the disappointment in his eyes when he watched her play.
By senior school, Josie knew she was very different. She learnt how to hide what she thought and disguise the way she wanted to behave. Fitting in was hard enough for a teenage boy anyway, where the wrong hairstyle or accent could spell social isolation. Admitting to the wrong set of genitals would probably lead to regular, severe beatings.
Josie left school as soon as she could and moved to London within weeks. Via chatrooms she had found there were some other people like her. People trapped in the wrong body, although Josie preferred to think of it in more gentle terms. She’d chosen the wrong birthday suit, she would say.
By her mid-twenties Josie lived openly as a woman and never used the name Wayne except on the form applying for a sex change. By 30 she had completed her operations and had a boyfriend who loved her exactly as she was. By 40 she missed her family and took a visit home.
“Try to help me understand,” said her Dad.
“It was like playing football with a medicine ball, wearing ballet shoes and nobody explaining the rules,” said Josie.
“It’s like being really alive for the very first time.”
Inspired by “It’s like being switched off”