Becoming A Man…
By my mid- to late- teens I’d come across the term ‘transvestite’, mainly from the back pages of the Exchange & Mart; so at least I now knew that I wasn’t the only male that preferred to wear women’s clothes.
I shaved my legs for the first time, and I can still remember sitting in the bath feeling extraordinarily anxious about removing the hairs from my legs; what would my parents say? What if my friends found out? I did it anyway, and no-one knew, but it felt better to me.
I have a few very vivid memories of this time… it was the first time I ventured outside, I came out to my mother, I had a sudden realisation that I wanted to live as a woman.
And I joined the Army.
Let’s just take a couple of steps backwards first to see how I ended up serving in HM Forces. At the time that all of these things happened we were living in a small market town on the western edges of Norfolk. I’ve no idea what Swaffham is like now, but then there was a real underclass, an almost gang-like mentality that resulted in bloody fights almost any evening of the week. I can recall with vivid clarity one guy that I knew punching another man down on a T-junction (actually in the road) and then proceeding to kick him senseless; at which point he calmly walked back into the wine bar and carried on as normal. This sort of brutality wasn’t uncommon, and a number of other lads took against me for no particular reason that I could see. I was 13 when my parents moved to Norfolk, and I was only too happy to leave after I finished college.
My time in Swaffham did, at least, teach me a few things about walking away from threatening situations, like the time at the disco, one particular lad (we’ll call him Nick, as that was his name) smashed a beer glass and threatened me with the jagged remains. I have absolutely no idea why he was moved to such a state of violence, but Nick seemed to enjoy going out of his way to threaten me.
And so it was that I found myself indoors, alone, one day after having shaved my legs and not exactly wanting to venture outside. I gathered together some clothes, taken from my mothers wardrobe, and got dressed. With the addition of a little bit of lipstick, and a red belt around the waist of the white dress, I looked into the mirror and my legs nearly crumpled beneath me. I had butterflies in my tummy. Why? Because at that point I knew that this was going to be my life. I knew that I really wasn’t like ‘normal’ men, and that I wanted to live as a woman.
Coming to the end of my studies in electrical and electronic engineering at college in Kings Lynn, I started to think about I could get away from Norfolk. And so it was that I found myself sitting in the Army careers office agreeing to do 6 years as a radar technician. Before I left to start my basic training, I wrote my mother a short letter explaining that I preferred to wear women’s clothes and present as female; I left it for her to find whilst I had a bath. When I came out there was no big scene, but just a comment along the lines of “it’s just a phase, the Army will knock it out of you”.
Three years later I bought myself out of the Army for £275 as I couldn’t stand the stress of hiding my dresses and underwear during room inspections, the stress of shaving my legs and somehow hoping that I wouldn’t get found out, the macho culture, and the chance that I’d be given a dishonourable discharge if I had been discovered to be trans*.
During my journeys home from my base near Salisbury, to go and see my parents in Norfolk, I would get changed into a skirt and top. It would all be planned, I’d wear women’s underwear during the day and stash the skirt, top, makeup, etc. in the car; as soon as we were allowed to go I’d be off in the car and stop at the first possible opportunity to complete getting changed. Getting fuel for the car was always an anxious time, and I certainly got some odd looks! Although, not as odd as the time when I ended up with a flat tyre and had to retrieve the spare wheel from the boot of the car; some poor chap stopped to help after noticing the tyre, and me leaning into the boot wearing a black pencil skirt and heels. He asked if I would like some assistance, and couldn’t get away quick enough when he heard my voice and realised that all was not as it first appeared!
Life went on in a strange mixture of presenting as a man, and then hiding away as a female. I became aware that there were two sides to my life, and I had to watch just how much I told others when they asked where I had been, or what I had been doing over the weekend.
Something had to give at some point and it did… just as I was about to get married. But that’s for the next article. If you would like to contact me to discuss anything regarding this series, or about being transgendered, then please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
All the best,
National Diversity Award Winner, David E. Watters, is a teacher, motivational speaker and writer; a passionate equality advocate, committed to enhancing the lives of young people and adults who may feel marginalised or limited by labels.
As a teacher, he is committed to developing the whole person through creatively challenging students to embrace their unique value, and that of others, to encourage them to fulfill their full potential. He was nominated for an Excellence in Diversity Award 2015, for his contribution to enhancing the diversity agenda within education and for two European Diversity Awards because of his work with the Give ’em Hope Campaign.
Since graduating from The Institute of Education, University of London, David has gone on to train as a mediator, and is a qualified facilitator for The Pacific Institute.
As Director of NBI Associates, David devises and delivers engaging, enjoyable and interactive Diversity and Cultural Enhancement workshops utilizing Cognitive Behavioural and Performing Arts strategies for individual, corporate and academic clients.
Watters is also the founder and coordinator of the inclusive, inspirational and international Give ‘em Hope Campaign; an online initiative which utilises all available social networks to encourage and uplift those who doubt their validity, feel isolated or limited by labels, through the sharing of written and video testimonies. The campaign was honoured at the National Diversity Awards 2014 when it won the Community Organisation Award (Multi-Strand).
Watters was a key player in the Equal Love Campaign UK; taking the British Government to the European Court of Human Rights in 2010 and successfully achieving Marriage Equality for same-sex couples in the United Kingdom.
His passion and expertise has brought many opportunities to write and speak on social change and his book, NEVER BLEND IN, brings together this wealth of experience and the voices of those whom he has met along the way.
TWITTER: @NEVER_BLEND_IN (FOR NEWS ABOUT THE BOOK AND THE GIVE ‘EM HOPE CAMPAIGN)
BOOK WEBPAGE: https://www.facebook.com/groups/106980051654/
GIVE ‘EM HOPE CAMPAIGN PLAYLIST: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL2D507F373FE6BC7D