I now have an aerodynamic silver carry case, with a fully functioning handle (!!), in which I cram in my camera, lens, gold light reflector, audio recording device, mic, laptop, external hard drives, chargers, leads and batteries.
On the 29th of Jan, I hopped on a London-bound train to London, specifically Elephant & Castle, to navigate its’ underground maze and a drink at one of the more downbeat Weatherspoons, while I waited for Lewis Hancox.
We hoofed it through the rain to the tube to South Woodford, where we were met by Nicky, who opened the boot of a large and elegant silvery blue saloon car, to store our equipment. We said hello to her partner in the driving seat, a trans-woman called Rebecca Sawyer, who kept the motor running. In the boot where I stashed my case, I noted folded up karate uniforms, and we discovered that Rebecca is actually a black belt (a 5th Dan!) & karate instructor.
Rebecca has developed her clairvoyant skills sufficiently to carve out an entirely new career, hosting psychic events. Our sole purpose for the evening was to film her ‘in action’, for inclusion in the first batch of short documentary films, in conjunction with All About Trans for Channel 4 and beyond.
We arrived at what seemed to be a semi-trading estate and parked, leaving Bex to have five minutes alone in the car, mentally preparing herself for her role as a psychic.
It seemed quiet and dark in the car park and I was unsure what sort of turnout there would be at the event. We rounded the corner and I was instantly blinded by neon signs emanating from one single source, our destination for the night. The few smokers parted in the middle so we could reach the glass door to Mac’s Cafe, a diner / bar.
There were bums on every seat in the room, alongside the bar and around every table (except for one table with a hand-written sign; ‘Reserved…Don’t even think about it’).
In this brightly lit space, there was an element of expectation, the static before an expected event. The main purpose here was not drinking nor socialising. There was a lack of chat, no murmers. Neat orderly people. Waiting. Some people even had their coats still on.
We gingerly set up our cameras, excited about the evening’s events.
Bex walked through the glass door and immediately held court. This was a charity event on home turf and she had loads of support. Money exchanged hands quickly and expertly, in exact amounts, three pound coins, collected by the sassy owner with the red ‘do.
After an initial segment involving tears from a couple of women right next to me, Bex said ‘Charlie’ and ‘Grandparents which died quite close together’ and then ‘Fisher-man’ — No one else seemed to really connect with this and I felt very close to all those clues —My sister is called Charlie. Our family name is Fisher. Sid my grandfather had come through.
My beloved Grandparents had both croaked when I was 14 years old, within 6 months of each other. My Grandma died first, with the entire family around her hospital bed. She had been in the process of giving up smoking and had taken a bad fall. After my Grandma died I never saw my Grandad happy again. He was a broken man. He died six months to the day of her death, on New Year’s Eve before the new year could begin. I miss them both loads. They were great people and I have fond memories of being spoilt rotten by them.
His approval, appeared unexpectedly from beyond the grave, and was one of the most wonderful things to experience. Sidney (my Grandad) was the type to light up a room and says I have the same gift. He teased Rebecca about being trans*. He said that I was ending a cycle. That things were looking up. That it’s about me for now and soon I will find my soulmate. The same closeness that he had with my grandma, Elsa. Amazing and unexpected that the man who had stormed the beaches at Normandy called me courageous.
I was reminded of my chat 6 months ago with Robin Esser (Senior Daily Mail Editor) about the older generation and their inability to understand transgender issues. Robin said ‘You can’t expect anyone over 65 to get it’ — Well my own Grandad would have been 92 if he was still alive and today he gave me his approval from beyond the grave! (Not to mention that being transgender is not a new fangled modern affliction so why would there be any age restrictions on acceptance?.)
Often I have wondered whether my lovely grandparents would have understood and supported my transition, who I am today, and now I know the undeniable truth. They are rooting for me. The love they had for me as a child, remains strong.
Here’s the incident on film. (The footage kicks in after a few minutes)
On Sunday 23rd Feb, from 1.30pm at the Jubilee Library, join Lewis and I for a special FREE film event.
Trans* comedian and actor Ben Pritchard will be introducing the following trans* based films, created in Brighton & beyond:
Trans*Symposium: Fox, Alice and E-J discuss gender binary & whether it is important to be “out” or “stealth” as a trans* person. Produced by James Marcus Tucker and Michael Urwin. (15 mins)
Filmed & edited by Raphael Fox and Lewis Hancox. We will be discussing the ‘My Genderation’ film project and showing some of our work. (25 mins)
STILL BLACK: A Portrait of Black Transmen is brought to life by the stories of six thoughtful, eloquent and diverse transmen. Each man brings a colourful and complex richness as he describes his relationship to himself, as well as others in his life. (78 minutes)
Hope to see you there! Please share this post, thanks :)
I was born in Hillingdon, near Heathrow Airport. Recently sifting through various childhood records, a certificate revealed I was actually baptised at Heathrow Airport. This would have made sense since the majority of my family worked for British Airways.
When I was three years of age, my dad accepted a job working for Saudia Airlines, and six month later we joined him in Jeddah in Saudi Arabia.
We lived in a massive compound which had a generally friendly family vibe, with modest accommodation and noisy air conditioning installed. The engulfing humidity and relentless sun were a welcome change to the grey greater London and the compound boasted a baseball field, a creepy abandoned theatre (as I was later to discover) and recreation centres dotted along every five streets.
The rec centres were usually equipped with a tennis court and a play-ground, (both of which were way too scalding to use) as well as swimming pool and a basic cafe.
Every summer, when it was SUPER SCORCHIO, all the smart families would escape to cooler climates. Often, our family would stay on and we were enrolled in SWIMMING CLUB, which meant that my sister and I, and all the other bored kids, had an hour of grueling instruction (blowing bubbles, kicking our legs and holding onto the edge of the pool) followed by a forced 30 minute *free for all session* which entailed us swimming away, in genuine fright, from the monstrous instructor who, whenever possible, would grab hold of us and bite us. Or tickle us. Scary man…
So I learned to swim quickly although I could never master the butterfly. After reading John Steinbeck’s The Pearl, I fancied myself a free-diver for pearls. In the compound there were two pools which were Olympic size and they seemed ENORMOUS.
I would chuck weighted neon sticks into the pool and dive into the warm water to collect them, holding my breath until I felt dizzy, pushing myself to the limit and thoroughly tiring myself out.
We would also snorkel in the epic Red Sea. My best friend’s family had a membership to beach club there and we would spend hours in the water, avoiding the strange spikey and jelly fish, and marveling at the colours and creatures in this cosmic under-water world.
Once puberty hit, I felt increasingly dis-connected with the shape of my changing body and no longer enjoyed swimming. Lessons during my one year at a grant-maintained boarding school felt like a chore, and I pretty much gave up swimming altogether after that. After a childhood of swimming like a fish I really missed how great swimming feels.
Last week was the first session and was attended by around 10 people. Afterwards four of us guys left the Swimming centre, and we walked together for most of the journey home. The cold outside felt envigorating. Rare to have a trans social event which doesn’t revolve around the pub.
Not everyone opted to be in the photograph, although I hope it’s a feature every week, to document the event and share our fun with the world to perhaps inspire other initiatives like this in the UK and beyond. Swimming is a great way for us to feel better about our bodies in general and to see noticeable improvement in health and wellbeing over the weeks.
A special swimming session for trans partners and friends would be interesting to trial. Perhaps we could sponsor an ally to attend, so everyone is vetted. Integration and variance in individuals makes for a more interesting group, and I would feel comfortable sharing the fun with like-minded, open-minded people.
These Trans Inclusive Swimming sessions are a direct result of Brighton Trans Scrutiny. The reduced rate (£2.55) makes it affordable for most and after the initial 10 sessions, it may be extended indefinitely, if there is enough interest.