Rites of Passage by Claire Parker

Breasts

When your growing up, everyone around you has a position of privilege that you as the subject are insulated from. Either by your lack of years or because your level of cognitive awareness has not yet developed to the point where you can appreciate your own journey. OK, so you may have a recollection of those important memories, but not the emotional breadth that wiser eyes can only fathom. Those first tentative steps from a crawl to continuous perambulation, what do they mean for you? I suspect it’s the adulation of adults using strange garbled English and the ability to explore on a whole new level, because now you can see even more interesting stuff to put in your mouth.

To your parents this moment means so much more. It means freedom, independence and a confirmation that you are moving away from that baby stage, and the promise of all those new phases to come.

I am of course talking about rites of passage, those ritual events that marks a person’s transition from one status to another. Now while the act of walking is non gender specific, there’s are whole gaggle of events that marks progress in the young that are specifically unique to either girls or boys. For instance a Bar Mitzvah for a Jewish boy or that wonderful celebration of woman hood, the trip to M&S with your mother for your first bra fitting.

Image then if you will the impact that being re-born middle aged in a different gender by considering those rites of passage for people who are transitioning and you are set for some amazing stories and self discovery.

This being my last blog entry and with just over a week left to get your entries in on the 28th of February to the BBC Writers Room for the Trans Comedy Award, I thought I would drop in on a few of my own personal rites of passage. All with a sense of achievement as well as a sideways look at  transition.

Before I ramble on though, I would like to thank all the people who have gone on their own journeys of discovery in writing scripts. We even had a writer from Iran who started writing a script about an Iranian immigrant moving to the UK. While they would not be able to move here if they won, they still felt inspired to write about the experience. Here is an extract from her experience by kind permission – name withheld.

I have started some research about transgenders and writing a script about a transgender Iranian who has immigrated to UK and by living in a free country finds the opportunity to express his real identity…. Therefore, it is very important for me to write about the things some people experience everyday but can not talk about it easily…

Closer to home we have posted on-line 3 examples of script writers personal journeys in approaching writing a script for the Trans Comedy Award. Catch them here;

A Script Writers Journey Part 1
A Script Writers Journey Part 2
A Script Writers Journey Part 3

Please note that I am not qualified to discus female to male rites of passage even though these are just as relevant. So if you are a trans man and have any experiences that may be useful to writers just drop us a line at info@transcomedyaward.org and we will add them to the Trans Comedy Award website.

There are many events during my own transition that I would love to have shared with you all. However they would fill a cupboard (now it’s empty), so I thought I would just touch on the ones that made me smile the most as I was bullet pointing them for this blog. I have also (as you may have noticed) left off any discussion on certain operations, as maybe that’s a little too personal. So please don’t expect me to discuss the “Sneeze, the vaginal stent and the sinking of the Belgrano incident”, although I am sure you can approximate that in your minds.

The Language of Luv

So off we go and right from the start I need to make it quite clear at this point that I do not approve of misogyny and would advocate to all the practice of philogyny till the cows come home (no bovine related puns intended there). The language of misogyny is both demeaning and often sexist. Consider for a moment you were called “luv” or “darlin”. You would be right to be upset and feel somewhat objectivised. The first time I heard it aimed at myself It was a surreal, affirming and my most ironic rite of passage. I was acknowledged as woman, albeit in a roundabout way. I smiled at him and just walked away. These days they would get an invective sandwich to chew on.

Up Front and Personal

Apart from a perfect symmetrical, beautifully formed female face, nothing says more about the outward expression of femininity than what Frank Zapper once playfully called “mammalian protuberances”. Armed only with a bucket full of hormones and a large tube of oestragel. I patiently waited everyday for those little buds of wonder to grow. After 2 years I had attained an AA cup and while not average they made me smile. Not that you would have noticed really. The point is, I did, and while they only cast the smallest hint of a shadow (standing side-on to standard lamp) they actually sold bras in my size and who am I to argue with facts.

However, after two years, nature had decided that would be my limit. So I took myself off to a surgeon to see what he could do. Now we should remember here that most men are fond of breasts and while he may be a surgeon he was most definitely a man. I was measured up and he presented me with two huge enclosed parcels of silicon. He asked me if I “liked them” to which I replied “I have no idea”. He then stated “I’m sorry but these are the largest we do”. I explained, some what perturbed that I wanted just enough to create a cleavage in my clothing and that I didn’t want to be a caricature of a women. Not so big that Peter Andre starts stalking me.

Fast forward a couple of months and with all the medical elements behind me I was the proud owner of low cut maxi dress that didn’t require chicken fillets to announce to the world “I’m here people and I’m all woman”. I was in, as Kryton from Red Dwarf would say “silicon heaven”.  So yes, you guessed it, it was time to hang up that training bra and to start to train those new puppies the Barbara Woodhouse way (for those who remember her) by buying a properly fitting bra.

Armed only with a credit card and a bemused mother we headed off towards M&S, the mecca for all burgeoning bra consumers. There is something special about the relationship between a mother and daughter when it comes to shopping and after a little trepidation on my mother’s part as we entered the store she took to it with authority and gusto. “Right, lets try some on” she announced. We were a well oiled team, running through the process with alacrity, until my mother called into the changing room “What size did you say your breasts were now David?”. Now, this was of course very awkward, especially when your 42. Thanks mum for a great rite of passage and probably the quickest evacuation of a changing room ever.

First Among Equals

Before I move onto the last memory. I thought I would share with you all a summary of those rites that I don’t have time to elaborate on here but which still deserve a mention. So here goes.

  • My first pee sitting down “arrrrhhhhh” thats better. Not to be confused with the first half asleep midnight trip to the toilet. Standing over the bowl in a state of confusion knowing something was not quite right. Isn’t muscle memory amazing. That wears off after a few years so don’t panic people.
  • My first female orgasm (yes, we get them and yes it’s real before you ask). That’s all I’m saying on that topic.
  • My first over priced quote to get my car fixed. I usually drop my voice these days and the price comes tumbling down.
  • My first passport with the correct details and the obligatory photo that the passport office seemed to convert into miss whiplash, the personification of a female offenders prison guard for who hadn’t slept in months.
  • My first experience of being chatted up in the Candy Bar, Brighton. We were unmatched however as I couldn’t see myself joining in with her hobby of collecting animal skulls (no really).
  • My first purchase of control pants that were not 4 sizes too small for me. (I’ll let you all work that one out for your yourselves)
  • My first queue jump in the loos to share a cubicle with a girl friend without that crushing paranoia that men have when other men stand within their personal gay proximity exclusion zone.

Engaged

Mirror Mirror

Now I don’t know if the last memory is a traditional rite of passage in a collective sense but it had all the hall marks of inclusivity into the female domain and a real sense of acceptance. I was at a bar in Farringdon with some ex work colleagues at a very early stage in transition where I passed bad had not trained my voice yet. We were all a bit juiced and after a short mass migration to the toilets (another rite of passage as I have just this moment realised) we found ourselves in front of the mirror fixing our faces and hair. I have no recollection of how the thing that happened next started but someone had started what I can only describe as a Boob Off. My friend from Nigeria kicked it off by raising her top in front of the mirror and announcing her “double F babies”. This went down the line of mirrors getting progressively smaller as it got to me. I had nothing. Zip. Not even enough to know which way round I was facing as all you could see was a torso. Of course also being highly juiced this was not going to stop me from my moment in the spotlight. “Take a look at these beauties” I declared. As the laughter faded away, a faint voice could be heard from one of the cubicles. “Is there a man in here?”.  Lots of sniggering ensued as the person came out and surveyed the room in confusion. Needless to say I kept my mouth shut till we were back in the bar. My thanks go out to you ladies wherever you are now. As I look back on that evening I realise just how much you took my womanhood for granted. The memories of that lifted me high and sustained me right through my transition.

While I am many years down the line now, so to speak, I am still experiencing firsts in my life. I guess they never stop. So what is a rite of passage for trans person really? In its simplest form it’s an acknowledgement of change and progression in a life that should have been from day one. For myself it has been a hard earned privilege to be accepted into a world of normality. To all who made my journey possible I say thank you. To all those who stood in my way through ignorance, just set your video recorders for comedy because who knows, in a years time you may just be having your misconceptions flayed one by one from your crumbling resolution of how you thought the world was.

It just remains for me to wish you all good luck in your submissions and I look forward to seeing some amazing stories that open up the trans experience to the world like never before.

Oh and just for the record my name wasn’t David.

Claire

© - This article and extracts of Claire Parker’s stand-up are copyrighted and cannot be reproduced in any form without prior consent. Follow Claire on twitter @ItsClaireParker

Part of an original article written for the Writers Room and reprinted here by permission

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