One of the joys of being me is that i get to go to strange exotic places and meet even stranger more exotic people – without in any way being encouraged to kill them!
OK. The daily grind, as i put it, tends to involve interviewing politicians, lawyers and criminals – and having to guess which is which.
But writing about sex and sexuality means that the boundary between fun and professional life is just that bit laxer. I mean: who else gets to interview their subject in a jacuzzi? Or at an all-night party.
So it was on saturday night, being over in London for the weekend, i decided to find out for myself what the transgender “scene” was like. That may sound like a strange thing to do.
After all, i’m transgender: surely i know already what the scene is like.
Actually not. Because for me, this is very much about identity, rather than sex: so being transsexual is about living the gender i feel most comfortable in. Its certainly not about converting that experience into anything else.
It was therefore with some trepidation that i descended on a party in West London. Scary! At least to begin with. A great many transvestites: very few taking quite the same path as myself.
To begin with, it seemed like the old cliché applied most definitely. To wit: the transgender world is like Belgium. One country, two different languages.
But its not. Not really. Oh: there are definitely those for whom dressing seems to be mostly something to enjoy, with little further thought given. But to split the world so absolutely into serious and non-serious trannies? Nah. It doesn’t work.
I met Helen, a long-term dresser, who really, really needs to transition. One can sense it in everything she says, and wish only that she would stop making excuses for why she can’t.
I met Danielle, who is currently doing what feels like the bravest thing in the world: dressing – but not transitioning. That means she gets all the hostility, all the danger – but none of the legal protection i get. I asked her later about that. She said she probably would transition. Eventually. In her own time.
Saddest of all, i met someone who had ceased to transition and come off the hormones. Weak will? A rejector?
No. Three years into hormone treatment, she discovered a lump in her breast. No more hormones. Too risky.
I couldn’t imagine anything worse: to discover yourself – and then have everything taken away again. Very humbling.
I left the next day: tired, not quite so scared by it all, having learnt a bit more about the world of transgender.
If you want a neat country metaphor, we’re more like America. Loads of different states, all a bit different, all a bit the same. Mostly friendly.