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The More Things Change . . . ?

Lance Hayman

 
GENDYS JOURNAL

Issue 46
Summer 2009

 
Whilst researching for my monograph on Femiphobia I came across a review of a drama celebrating the 40th anniversary of the 1967 Act where Kevin Elyot was telling us "The more evident and accepted Gay people are, or seem to be, the more we get up people's noses who didn't like us in the first place" and a Radio 4 recording of an interview with Anthony Gray the former Secretary of the Albany Trust (the leading campaigner for law reform in the early 1960s), a sage elderly gentleman, warning "… it's very important people should remember how it was. And how it could be again in the future" That we should not forget that "… the price of Liberty is eternal Vigilance." And looking at my 'Queen's Diaries' made up in my youth I discovered amongst the many recorded happenings a very sad entry, redolent of hopelessness …

'Leicester, 1962. And a group of League of Empire Loyalists (neo Nazis) indistinguishable from anyone you knew, anyhow. Anywhere. Witnessed in a pub one lunchtime boasting to locals how they were "… going to find one of those fairies" Present him with an exotic flower, and "Help him on his way. Help him end it all."

Before the 67 Act most sexual and gender outsiders were isolated, in hiding. The lucky few, lucky enough to find 'someone like me' … haunted by official reports of 'suicides' and 'accidents' that didn't add up in anyone's book … tried very, very hard to find all the sisters, Trans & Gay, we knew. And those we didn't … but 'recognised'.

Unrelentingly night after night cycling out into the back streets to warn them … in anonymous pubs. Quiet little corner cafes no one heard about; and 'safe' Espresso Bars … simply because they were unpopular … anywhere our sisters might go to stave off loneliness.

At our wits' end, unable to rest. Anxious we'd missed someone somewhere. Nagged by "shouldn't we go back there … they could've turned up after we left" Painfully aware that we'd be no use nor ornament to the sisters who needed us if we asked the Police for help. That all they'd be interested in was fitting us up and throwing as many of us as they could, in the cells.

I don't think I or any of us fully understood the real reason (apart from an Act of Parliament) for our oppression. We did know, that the great unwashed saw Trans and out-femme Gay queens as one and the same. We were aware that one couldn't just go to any doctor for medical attention after say, being attacked in the street … that most hospitals treating a sister for any ailment for that matter, would inform the Constabulary if our presentation or body-language was gender-atypical. A doctor at one was overheard on the 'phone telling the local CID "It's about X. We thought you'd like to know. He's not committed indecency we're aware of. But we wouldn't be surprised if he had". What we weren't aware of was that practitioner's texts in those pre-Wolfenden days told Doctors that people who were 'really' male but looked female must want sex with other males. That girls who looked masculine would wish for sex with other women. Had we been, we would have undoubtably realised that we were victims of not just Transphobia, but Homophobia too. Simply because the root of Homophobia was not 'sex', but 'gender'. That society was basically Femiphobic. Which would have explained to us why on occasions straight-acting butch Gays were 'tolerated': because the Gay man in question was, outside his private life, no different to any other male. Because he 'passed' for a 'real' man. The consolation then in '62 was that the average Homophobic or Femiphobic couldn't tell you what a real man was. But he sure could tell you what he wasn't … after a few pints.

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