Sketch 4

Abstraction with reference to a flowering tree, Klee, lightOn your seventieth birthday, Dad bought you a dozen roses, and placed them in a vase on the window sill. He thought, after, he should have bought them earlier, as he did not think you noticed them, but they were for him rather than for you. He sat downstairs or busied himself, and I sat by you reading- The Guns of August, Barbara Tuchman, about how von Kluck catastrophically turned away from Schlieffen’s projected encirclement of Paris. I sat there, and you lay on your back, with your arms above the covers. Perhaps I misremember that detail.

The day after, you were unconscious, and I sat beside you, reading. You started to foam at the mouth in the evening. Dad came in, got distressed, and tried to wipe the foam away. Then you stopped breathing.

Elaine came over and the GP visited to check details for the death certificate. I thought I should be upset, but it seemed I was not: I was unconscious of feeling anything.

Around that time I decided “I do not want to be a sad, lonely pervert- I want to be a happy, gregarious pervert,” joined the transvestite club, and met other trans women. Before, I had felt such disgust for myself that I would buy clothes and soon after throw them away- I sought aversion therapy because either trying to make a man of myself, or cross-dressing, would be bearable but rapid shifting between the two was not. Four years later, though sure I would be sacked on some pretext, I realised that I could not bear not to transition.

More than once I lay curled up on the bathroom floor weeping “I am Not a man” and it was your voice I heard The Carpers. From the back of my head on the left, they said,

Stop this.
You are play-acting.
Stop being so childish.

Abstraction with reference to a flowering tree, Klee, darkI kept my job, and in April 2002 I left the office in a shirt and tie and went to have my ears pierced. The following Monday I went in to work as Clare.

A year after that I went to the week-long Quaker “Summer Gathering” in Loughborough. We Quakers are an odd lot: we like to imagine ourselves as calm and wise, so we do not manage conflict well.

[How much build-up to do? How much detail? Lots of feeling in that week- man says “You’re having a sex change aren’t you,” people tell me how quickly they read me, I go Playford dancing and am confused dancing female and distressed dancing male, desperate to make the moves absolutely correctly and angry when others go the wrong way. What and where to expand into scenes, when to conflate disparate material in my journal into single scenes, how to show feeling with dialogue or description…]

and while there went to Leicester to see a psychiatrist: I wanted a second opinion, recommending that I have a vaginoplasty. The psychiatrist told me I should wait, but then saw my distress, and when I opened his letter weeks after receiving it I found he recommended the operation. When I talked in the small group at the Summer Gathering about how I felt, I did not realise that one of the others in my group was the daughter of a trans woman. She told me much later that she had not come to terms with her father’s transition, perhaps because her father had not either.

I sought out Anthea, a healer, and we went to the deserted Hazlerigg ballroom. I am quite happy opening my chakras now, but was not, then.

I imagined you on your deathbed, and walked around it, screaming my rage and hatred at you.

3 thoughts on “Sketch 4

  1. Wow … well done, powerful, honest and real … I was there with you. What a difficult journey to take. And SUCH a hard decision to make, I admire you immensely, Clare, on many levels, not the least of which is your ability to do the right thing even in the fact of anxiety, inner demons shouting “No, no,” and the public opinions that always accompany actions. You’re something special.


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