Tomboy Daze 1.
That the first person to mistake me for a boy was my preschool teacher, Miss Watson. (To my mind this I all the more remarkable because Miss Watson, a lovely grey-haired lady with a dimpled smile, was the lifetime companion of a certain Miss Bird. She was the Infants Mistress at the local Primary school and later became my second grade teacher).
I was dressed sensibly in home made shorts and a t-shirt. My mother was a seamstress but the clothing she made for us was run up in a couple of minutes, without a pattern, and was usually fairly shapeless, so the clothes I was wearing did not resemble girls clothes, but nor did they resemble boys clothes. I always felt very special wearing mum’s creations, often crafted from old sheets or curtain fabric offcuts.
Miss Watson called to me, “Boy, Boy! come over here!”
I was startled, looked around me and behind me, then sauntered over to Miss Watson, smiling.
She gave me some pails of water and big paintbrushes to hand out to the other children, which I did with manly pride. Unfortunately Miss Watson learnt her mistake that afternoon when my mother came to pick me up and asked for her daughter.
My next great transgender recognition occurred when I was about five years of age. My grandmother was an actress and had a large house in the city. I had got used to being around all kinds of queer people from an early age. I remember one such person, a middle aged to elderly American with pronounced cheek pouches, who looked a lot like Winston Churchill, and in fact puffed on a cigar after dinner.
From the moment I laid eyes on this person I knew that this was somone who was somehow both a man and a woman. I guess that he/she was actually a woman by sex as she wore loose fitting velvet culottes, and had dainty little feet in patent leather slippers.
The man/woman backoned to me.
“What’s your name son?”
“Jo.” I answered.
It was the first time I’d used the name.
My grandmother swiftly disavowed this. The American smiled at me, eyes twinkling and lifted me onto her lap.
“I shall call you Joe.” she said.
I managed to balance on her knee for the next half hour while the adults talked about plays and actors and performances, costumes, designers. A tall and very camp gentleman by the name of Noel Rubie spoke to me. I was IN, these were my people and they recognised me.
No-one and nothing has ever been able to take that away from me. The joy of knowing that there’s a secret army of people like me out there.
We’re here and we’re queer.