My life as an actor, part one
By Simon Barget
Soon I started to get messages from well-wishers, genuine expressions of support, praise for my ‘act of courage’, and some were even in the form of letters, hand-written letters in my cubby-hole downstairs, the likes of which I hadn’t received for years. The messages were of the same general tenor: you’ve done something you stand for in the face of all the misgivings, and the courage you’ve shown etc, etc. and to actually go through with it rather than just talk; incomparably refreshing. There was the odd Neanderthal rant but they were sporadic.
And though I found it quaint to start with, I soon got fed up with the same messages touting me as some totem for women’s rights or men’s rights or equal rights when all I was doing was no bigger than say going for a trim when your hair gets a bit long.
I didn’t want people to misconstrue it to misunderstand me.
At the very beginning, just after the op, people seemed to act as if there was nothing different, they'd completely ignore it, or they’d have this instant look of shock but try manically to dissemble it, stumbling, desperately trying to get something out to overcome the obvious look of total disbelief that not only was the notion of Martin Morris as a woman ridiculous, but that I’d also had the gall to go ahead and was standing before them with the goods.
But then at some point it started to sink in and they saw I made a pretty decent-looking woman and try as they might they couldn’t deny it. And then later on they all started crawling out of the woodwork, I’d unlocked a door in their soul and basically all the desperate middle-aged men I knew were going round getting sex changes.
That’s all very well.
Then THE letter came, word-processed, from a person claiming they knew me very well, in fact it will be easier if I just type it out verbatim:
What you’ve done is nothing short of miraculous. I wanted so much to tell you to your face but I couldn’t. I don’t want to say my name but maybe you’ll know? If I’d said this to your face, you wouldn’t accept it, you’d shrug it off like you do, because you tend to talk yourself down. But I want you to know you’ve changed people’s lives. I’m booked in at a clinic next week. I could never have imagined I was a woman before you; I feel it now, and can’t stand the waiting but they didn’t have a time until Tuesday. When you next see me, you’ll know. I’ll make it a surprise. How wonderful to have joy back in my life, because this is the thing, this is the very thing. How cynical I’d gotten, how harsh and judgmental. I’ll be in touch.
What fucking thing?
Every time I read these letters I do a double-take in the mirror. I just don’t see myself either way, one or the other. I have to remind myself I am in fact what they say I am, a woman. And then all these people telling me I’m this and that, so I go and look and for an instant and I see the womanly curves, the eye-liner, the very subtle thing that does make me look feminine, yes I admit it, I look good, but I never intended it as some demonstration of principal.
Obviously the first person I asked was Robin and he denied it. I wondered who it was then. But my overriding reaction to it now, to this letter, this overwrought paean dripping with admiration, full of zeal, well it has squat to do with me with, with my feelings, my process, my motives, I mean the decision was so much more off the cuff than people realised, so spur of the moment, a bit arbitrary if you like, and then all these people I knew making into some sort of statement on what is wrong with the world was starting to piss me off.
People using me to make their own confused point, bastardising it, seeing something in mere shadows so that the only way I actually found out who this prissy letter was from was when he (she) physically turned up at my door one last week expecting a mammoth show of sisterhood, I just looked straight at her, at which point -- and this couldn’t prove my point any better -- I’d just had another spur of the notion inclination, and this time it was to become a man again, maybe not the man I was, I mean it’s complicated, a man as the woman I am, and I’d had the counter-op, so that when this anonymous person turned up at my front door, he/she looked at me as if I’d done the very worst thing possible, I’d deceived her, pulled the rug etc, I’ve never seen a look so pathetic, almost as shameful as the looks from people when they saw me for the first time, this look was so confused, so full of shock and confusion, not even disbelief, and then just the plain hurt like a five year-old about to burst into tears, teetering but not quite sure if something’ll come in at the last moment to make everything better, and then a hint of sheepishness to boot, all whilst trying to process whether she had a genuine complaint or not, my duty to my female converts etc., and it’s at those moments that you realise that basically everyone’s on a personal flight of fancy, yes we talk to each other, but no one hears what the other one’s saying, we think we do but we’re just going through the motions, maybe we can never truly be heard, but all I know is that I’ve done what I needed and I owe nothing to no one, including myself.