Below, you will find some information on Juliet Jacques; born Redhill, Surrey in 1981; British journalist, critic and writer of short fiction, known for her work on the transgender experience, including her transition as a trans woman.
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Writes for The Guardian, New Statesman, TimeOut and various other publications and websites. Orwell Prize long list 2011, journalists’ section of The Independent on Sunday’s Pink List 2012, Justin Campaign co-founder. Ex-footballer, DJ and musician.
She grew up in Horley, and attended Reigate Grammar School for two years before her parents moved her to a local comprehensive school followed by the College of Richard Collyer in Horsham, West Sussex, studying History at the University of Manchester and then Literature and Film at the University of Sussex.
In 2007, she published a book on English avant-garde author Rayner Heppenstall for Dalkey Archive Press, and her memoir, entitled Trans, will appear on Verso Books in 2015. She has written regular columns for The Guardian, on gender identity and The New Statesman, on literature, film, art and football, and published extensively on film inFilmwaves, Vertigo and Cineaste. She began writing a chronicle of her gender reassignment in 2010, which was widely praised. She contributed a section in Sheila Heti’s book, “Women in Clothes” in 2014.
She was longlisted for The Orwell Prize in 2011 for her series on gender reassignment. In 2012 she was selected as one of The Independent on Sunday Pink List’s most influential journalists, and was also included in the 2013 list.
Jacques is also an enthusiastic footballer, and won the Shield with the Brighton Bandits at the 2008 IGLFA World Cup.
For several years Jacques worked for the NHS, during the period Andrew Lansley’s reform were implemented. She was made redundant in 2014. She wrote about this period of the NHS in a personal essay for the New Statesman.
Juliet Jacques charts the progress of her gender reassignment process.
I’m a transgender writer, musician and (occasional) footballer from south-east England. I’ve published extensively on film (in Filmwaves, Vertigo and Cineaste) and gender issues, as well as on literature, football, music and art. I’m involved in local LGBT groups, run a post-punk night with a friend, play synthesisers and sing in a Brighton band called Standards of Care and won the Shield with the Brighton Bandits at the 2008 IGLFA World Cup.
§ A transgender journey: part one
I decided my name should be Juliet when I was 10. It took a further 17 years to let it rise from the back of my mind, where I had swiftly buried it, and become my identity. Don’t ask my “real” name: it’s not polite.
Changing my name was easy – a deed poll costs about £30. Changing my body is far harder. In Britain, there are two gender reassignment routes: expensive (private) or slow (NHS). Having declined the terms by which I could raise £30,000 for private treatment, I’ve chosen slow – which some people feel shouldn’t exist. Without it, though, I’d face a lifetime in a body I loathe, being asked to meet social expectations which feel alien to me, creating mental health problems that would require (state-funded) treatment for years, even decades.
Beginning the gender reassignment process is the next, admittedly huge, stage in managing my lifelong gender dysphoria. Fulfilling the classical transsexual narrative – the one that gender clinics like to hear – I knew I was “different” as a child. My first indication of how came at primary school, when a friend said: “We’ve got to make you more masculine.”
Why? I didn’t consider myself predominantly masculine or feminine: I liked violent toys (particularly Transformers – the irony had not yet become apparent) AND fluffy kittens. I hadn’t realised the fundamental role gender plays in most children’s development: how it provides both a group to belong to and something to define themselves against, and a base for all future personal development. And all this before most are old enough to question why girls should do X and boys should do Y (or, more often, in both cases, not do).
Unlike most of my contemporaries, I had reason to question gender stereotypes. Aged 10, I saw two men cross-dressing on television (I’d love to say it was these two, but it wasn’t), and I felt an irresistible urge to copy them.
Putting on a dress, I was floored by a surge of energy. Momentarily, I felt completely at ease: then total confusion. Why was I turned on? Was I a “transvestite”? Did I want a “sex change”? Then fear: what if my family caught me? What if my classmates found out? Nobody must ever know, I told myself, cross-dressing behind closed curtains, panicking when my parents’ car pulled up the drive before I’d covered my tracks.
Publicly, I struggled to present a convincing masculine persona. First, I became misogynistic, resenting the girls at school who I imagined had an easy, fun relationship between their gender identities and their bodies (little did I realise, aged 13, how utterly absurd that was). Soon, I learned to respect women: I turned my rage on myself, and my inability to feel comfortable in my body, let alone fit in with my peers.
I never joined my classmates when they waxed fantastical about who was “fit”. I didn’t dare admit, even to myself, that I enjoyed cross-dressing and found transgender people attractive (not that I knew the word “transgender” then). I channelled my frustration into football (which became my main concession to masculinity) and fronting a punk band.
Isolated, I scoured the mainstream media for like-minded individuals, but it seemed the closest people to me in the public eye were objects of ridicule: Lily Savage or Pauline Calf. I knew I wasn’t a drag queen, or a transvestite, but I didn’t know what I was.
I refused to admit how drawn I was whenever I saw the word “transsexual” – usually in my parents’ Daily Mail.
Their coverage tended towards stories about greedy transsexuals milking the state or their employers, usually accompanied by cartoons of burly men in floral dresses with stubbly legs (little has changed – note the pronouns).
Then I discovered Eddie Izzard, who hilariously normalised cross-dressing, and The Smiths, with their sublime glorification of the outsider. I felt less alone – but I still knew nobody like me in suburban Surrey.
The internet was a godsend: at last, I found men who dressed as, or had become, women. Finally, I accepted myself. Moving to college, I was ready to come out – but as what?
I declared myself gay and a cross-dresser: “gay” because although I felt attracted to males who were somehow female, I still considered them men; and “cross-dresser” because it seemed the most innocuous term. I picked a male image off the post-punk peg – spiky hair, raincoat, DM boots and Joy Division T-shirts – and started cross-dressing with female friends, periodically scandalising the people of Horsham (it wasn’t difficult) by wearing makeup and women’s clothes around town. Mostly, though, I kept my femaleness private: I didn’t want my gender to become sensational (at least, not all the time), and presenting as male seemed the easiest option.
After two idyllic years, I went to university in Manchester. Now, the city has a vivid transgender scene – including Sparkle, Britain’s only national transgender celebration – but I arrived too early. In turn-of-the-millennium Manchester, as elsewhere, trans culture was struggling to achieve visibility within, let alone a distinct identity from, the gay scene made famous by Queer As Folk.
I soon realised that men-only clubs weren’t for me, gravitating towards Manhattan’s, with its cross-dressing barmaids and bizarre opening times, and the Hollywood Showbar. Both featured drag acts, but I rarely saw transgender people there: when I did, they were a small number, often huddled in a corner, nearly always at least 20 years older than me. I created my own spaces, cross-dressing at club nights I organised: I felt accepted by my friends, but lonely, still knowing no trans people.
In Brighton one summer, I went out as Juliet for the first time, aged 20. A friend took me to Harlequins, where trans people were made especially welcome (its toilets were designated ‘Gents’ and ‘Ladies/TV/TS’). Its music and decor resembled the campest gay clubs – there were drag acts followed by a hyper-cheese disco. Although I hated the playlist (OK, apart from the numerous guilty pleasures), I loved the atmosphere, and the liberation it provided: I’d never felt so myself.
After graduating, I took a postgraduate course at the University of Sussex. Feeling more comfortable, I became more open about my ‘cross-dressing’, but I was only just discovering the deliberately vague, all-encompassing transgender identity theorised in the 90s by Leslie Feinberg, Kate Bornstein and others – all cornerstones of Sussex’s Gender Studies MA programme (which I neglected in favour of Literature and Visual Culture).
Feeling more at home in Brighton, I finally acted on my belief that I was a gay man. I had two brief relationships with men, both of which foundered on their sexual disinclination towards my irrepressible femininity. I realised that the reason I didn’t fit into the gay scene was because I was not a gay man. Instead, I finally admitted to myself that I must fit somewhere on the daunting, ill-defined CD/TV/TS spectrum. But where?
§ ‘I was looking for a trans counter-culture’
§ ‘Are you a bird or a bloke?’
§ How do you tell your family you are transgender?
§ ‘Confidence is the key to passing – or at least to silencing the hecklers’
§ ‘I wanted to become a woman – but did I really want to become Juliet?’
§ ‘No wonder many transsexual people end up in sex work’
§ ‘I’d always hated my facial hair’
§ ‘They are the gatekeepers of my physical transition’
§ ‘I’d hoped that coming out as transsexual might temper my anxiety’
§ Juliet Jacques’ blog – At home she’s a tourist.
§ Juliet Jacques on Twitter
§ A transgender journey
§ Juliet Jacques: The Connecting Door – Rayner Heppenstall (3:AM Magazine)
Jump up^ Juliet Jacques (2 June 2012). “A transgender journey: part one”. The Guardian (London). Retrieved 12 January 2013.
Jump up^ Jacques, Juliet. “On the dispute between the trans community and radical feminism”. New Statesman. Retrieved21 September 2014.
Jump up^ “A transgender journey | Life and style”. The Guardian (London). 2 June 2010. Retrieved 12 January 2013.
Jump up^ “Juliet Jacques”. Newstatesman.com. Retrieved 12 January 2013.
Jump up^ “Long Lists”. The Orwell Prize. Retrieved 12 January 2013.
Jump up^ “IoS Pink List 2012: Journalists – News – People”. The Independent (London). 4 November 2012. Retrieved 12 January2013.
Jump up^ “The Independent on Sunday’s Pink List 2013”. The Independent (London). 13 October 2013.
Jump up^ “Juliet Jacques”. The Orwell Prize. Retrieved 12 January 2013.
Jump up^ Jacques, Juliet. “Goodbye to the NHS: a personal story of a public service”. New Statesman. Retrieved 21 September2014.