This week was the commemoration of D-Day, 75 years ago. I am sure that for many youngsters it is as much ancient history as the Battle of Waterloo or the Battle of Agincourt. Perhaps not. Memories (or rather imagined scenes) of WW2 are kept alive by films, TV programmes, and books. They maintain attitudes that may have existed during and immediately after the war i.e. anti-German feelings and overblown pride at what plucky Britain achieved. Those ideas maybe fed the Brexit fever and given some (many) people the impression that the UK can stand (and prosper) on its own. The truth is that was never possible. The UK survived the war only because of assistance from the USA and by calling on the dominions of the Empire. The USA is calling in its favours now and the dominions have got their own issues to deal with.
Is the commemoration, therefore, a diversion or a digression? No, I don’t think so, so long as the full story is presented. It’s not just about what happened on that “longest day” but the events that finally lead to the end of the war nearly a year later (more than a year if the war against Japan is considered). Many more servicemen were involved than the 130,000 involved on D day itself and from many parts of the world. The war was not won by the UK alone. Survivors of the war often said nothing about their involvement until they reached great old age so the truth about the horrors and tribulations have perhaps been forgotten. The issues the war was fought over – freedom from tyranny and invasion – need to be remembered and considered in today’s political climate.
The Brexit party has no policies but its vision for the UK can be gauged from the words of its leaders. Ann Widdicombe hopes scientists will find a “cure” for being gay. Whether science identifies a genetic explanation for, and hence the possibility of altering, sexual orientation, autism, ginger hair or whatever is irrelevant. What is important is whether the right to be what one perceives oneself to be is honoured. As soon as a minority group is identified as needing a cure or treatment imposed on them they can be removed from society and eliminated. That is what these so-called-Christian populists want.
This week’s bit of writing needs some explanation. It was written, perhaps foolishly, to meet two different writing groups’ topics for the week. One was “the road not taken” and the other was “jealousy.” Having got an idea I think that the execution has ended up not really meeting either of those themes. The jealousy has become mild envy or covetousness and the road not taken, which was supposed to be a well signposted route, has become lost amongst the bushes. Also the last section got a bit rushed. Another thing is that I feel that the story may give the wrong impression of my views as it concerns gender identity. It is a story about one fictional character. May I make it clear that I feel that children and teenagers can be very certain of their gender identity and if it does not match their assigned gender then they should transition when they wish, perhaps be prescribed puberty blockers and go on to gender confirmation surgery once they have arrived at adulthood (currently age 16) if they feel it suits them. On the other hand I don’t think everyone has to choose to be male or female. Non-binary/gender fluid/gender queer is another option.
My sister has beautiful long, fair hair with just a hint of curl. It feels so silky and shines in light. I wanted hair like it. More than that I wanted her blue eyes, whipped cream skin and infectious giggle. I wanted to be my sister.
With Dad at work all the time and Mum busy around the house and so on, I was left in the care of my sister when I was little. Four years older than me, she viewed me as her plaything, her living doll. She dressed me in her cast-off princess dresses, painted my nails, put on lipstick and blusher on my cheeks. She combed my mousy brown hair and wheeled me around in the pushchair.
More and more as we grew older, I wanted to be like her, to be her. One day when she was dozing, I snipped off some of her curls. Why? Who knows? Perhaps I intended sticking them on my head or maybe I just wanted a bit of her to keep. I followed her everywhere. When she began dance lessons, so did I.
She came out of her bedroom to find me standing on the landing. I was wearing the pink satin dress, the last one I had. She’d moved on from princesses so there were no more hand-me-downs, and this was the only one that still fitted. I had brushed my hair and put ribbons in it. I’d put on bright pink lipstick that matched the dress.
“What are you doing?” she said.
“I wanted to tell you something,” I replied.
“What? I haven’t got time now. I’m meeting Milly and Saffron.”
“No. Please. I just wanted to say. . .”
“I want to be a girl.” I paused. That hadn’t come out as I intended. “I mean, I am a girl. I know I’m a girl.”
“Don’t be silly. You’re a boy. You’ve got a willy.” She pushed me out of her way and hurried to the stairs. She paused and looked back at me.
“Oh, god. It’s my fault. All those years of dressing you and making you up. I’ve turned you into a freaking tranny.” She fled down the stairs. A moment later the front door slammed. I went back to my room, threw myself on the bed and cried.
It was after bedtime when I heard footsteps on the stairs. They were too light for Mum or Dad. Anyway, they’d be asleep on the sofa supposedly watching TV. My door opened and I recognised the silhouette.
“Are you awake?” she whispered. I turned over to show her I was. “What you said earlier; did you mean it?”
I pushed myself up in the bed eager to try again.
“I want you and Mum and Dad and everyone to know I’m a girl, to let me be a girl when I start high school.”
She shook her head, “I gave you these stupid ideas, didn’t I? All that dressing up.” Her face crinkled.
“No, no. I loved all that stuff. I enjoyed the dressing up, the make-up. Do you think I’d have let you do it if I didn’t want it?”
She stood up, backed away. “You were so little back then. I wasn’t thinking. We’re older now. You do your own thing, dancing and stuff.”
I grabbed her hand and dragged her back to me.
“I started dancing because you did.”
“But you’re so much better than me. You could do it for a job.”
I shrugged. “Perhaps. I’ll be a girl dancer.”
“But you’re a boy!”
I shook my head. “I can have my willy taken away. Doctors can do that. Then I’ll be a girl like you.”
“You really think you want to go through all that. The bullies will have a field day if you turn up at school in a skirt. Then there’s the drugs and the surgery. I’ve seen it on Youtube. It’s awful.”
“It’s what I want. Will you help me get Mum and Dad sorted?”
She looked at me with large sad eyes and didn’t say anything for a while.
“OK, but don’t say anything yet. Let me think about it.”
Next day a letter arrived saying I’d won a scholarship at Performing Arts school. After that there wasn’t time to think about anything except getting prepared for going away. At school I met musicians, actors and dancers, boys as well as girls. I loved it. The year passed in a blur of hard work and fantastic experiences. Back home for the summer holiday I noticed that I was now taller than my sister. Only her bust, another cause for envy, had grown in the last couple of years. She spent more time with her boyfriend than me while waiting for her exam results.
I continued to get taller. My shoulders widened, hairs grew in various places, my voice dropped, and I discovered what a willy can do. My hair was still long and I wore makeup, not only on stage. I pulled on a dress from time to time too. I took shit from some screwed-up people, but most couldn’t give a hoot. I didn’t know if I was a boy or a girl and didn’t care. I was me. But I still wish I had my sister’s hair.