For me then, how did it all start? When did I first have feelings of wanting to be a girl and/or wear female clothing? I could perhaps go back even further, and ask when did I first realise that I wasn’t a girl, and that I wanted to be a girl (or at least to dress and be treated as a girl)?  How did I discover that the world was apparently divided between two sorts of human beings, who wore two different types of clothing, and appeared to exhibit different sorts of behaviour? Some things were apparently okay for girls to do, but apparently not for boys, and vice-versa.  Likewise with clothing – girls could wear dresses, have long hair with pretty ribbons in it, but boys couldn’t. Why?  (Why indeed!)

Like a lot of people who became aware of their need to cross-dress in the 60’s and 70’s, the most important aspect of my transgenderism was initially focused on wanting to wear female clothing and adopt a female persona.  From a fairly young age, I started to carry this out in reality, raiding the washing basket for my sister’s bras and panty-hose, which I would put on in secret in the bathroom or down in the garden shed!

I avidly read any sensational exposés in the Sunday gutter press about people who had changed sex or were transvestites or drag queens.  I recognised myself in some of the stories, which I had to read secretly. As a young child, I was small, blond, fair-skinned and slightly built; if I’d had longer hair, I would have looked more like a girl than my sister.

I can remember, at the age of about four, begging my mother to let me put on one of my sister’s dresses.  On that occasion the most she would do was to put a hair clip in my hair, saying disparagingly:  ‘What would your father say?’

My father was a VERY masculine man; as a boy, he had been captain of his school football and cricket teams, and a champion boxer – he went to the same school as Henry Cooper, on the Bellingham Estate in South London (Henry Cooper was a heavyweight champion who fought Mumammed Ali, incidentally).  My father was very muscular, very hairy, very swarthy, and a bit of a bully. He expected me to be good at sports – which I wasn’t – I was in fact pretty pathetic at all sports. He must have wondered how he managed to produce a little blond squirt like me. In my father’s eyes, just about the worst thing to be was a sissy, or homosexual.

This was the late 50’s and early 60’s, before homosexuality was legalised in the U.K., so you can imagine the pressure on me to conform, in spite of whatever feelings I had inside.  I was intelligent enough to know that if I appeared in any way to be a sissy, or said that I wanted to wear dresses, my father would give me a good hiding, and I would have been bullied mercilessly at school.

So simply for survival, I pretended to be a ‘normal’ little boy and supressed any girlish urges and tendencies.

My mother was (- is, although she is somewhat frail now, at 87) a very strong-willed woman who did not like males very much. My mother has no idea that I am transgendered, and have been all my life!  I do wonder if her contempt for men and obvious preference for girls and the female sex had any effect on me – young children want to please their mothers, don’t they?  And my mother’s attitude to men must have been obvious to me from a very young age.  A few years ago, I found a photo (below) of me as a toddler.  I appear to be dressed as a girl, in a girl’s bathing costume, don’t I?  Was this a ‘one-off’ occurrence or had I already been dressed as a girl on other occasions previously?  I can’t remember, and there’s no way my mother would remember or admit to anything now.

boy dresses as girl

Baby 'Keith' dressed as a girl - the future Kate Lesley (Amber Goth) as a toddler

Another odd thing – I can remember my paternal grandmother saying to me, more than once, ‘Come here and let me cut your tail off and sew a button on.’  My father’s mother was a tiny, but hard and formidable woman who had borne nine children, seven of whom had survived; my father (the champion boxer) was her youngest boy.  So what was she doing saying things like this to me?  Was I so girlish and effeminate that it was just the obvious thing to say?  Was she trying to undermine my fledgling masculinity? What was going on?  And does any of this, on the part of two powerful women in my early life, explain my later transgenderism?

Or did something happen to me while I was still in the womb?  Maybe my brain got an accidental blast of female hormones from my mother while I was still in utero? Is that the explanation for my female brain gender and brain sex?

Or perhaps none of this is relevant?  No one really knows the answer to these questions, although recent research indicates the importance of biological factors relating to hormones, brain chemistry and brain structure – suggesting that trangendered people are born that way.  Certainly no one in their right mind would choose to be transgendered, in view of the discrimination we face and the difficult medical, social and cultural path that we follow if we decide to transition completely.

As a young child, I remember hoping and praying, as I went to sleep, that I would wake up a girl.  It never happened.  and then puberty hit, and I woke up one morning and saw that all was lost. There was a stranger emerging in the mirror – my dear little snub nose was growing and widening; my face was losing its childish features and becoming masculine. My voice started to break. I played with my hair, trying to brush it into a girlish style, but I was fighting a losing battle.  (This horror story will be continued…)

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