celebrating and creating our own LGBTQ+ history in honour of Sheila McWattie

day four

Whose choice is it anyway?


I took a towel into the hotel bathroom. You were standing at the sink, leaning, head bowed as if searching for answers. I walked over, gave you the towel and ran my fingers across your cheek, then, playfully down your back. You looked at me, with a strange expression I couldn’t place. “What’s wrong, baby?” I asked, gently.

“What the fuck are you?” The words were spat, accusingly, reproachfully.

I stood, rooted to the spot, dumbfounded. Where the fuck had this come from? I thought back to the night we had just spent together, close, intimate, sweaty, hearts pounding. There was no doubt in your eyes then.

“What the fuck are you?” You repeated the words, slower this time, more menacing.

“What do you mean?” I replied, meekly, knowing full well what you were asking. I had heard this question a thousand times before. I had asked myself the self-same question a thousand times before. I still ask the same question. What the fuck am I? I still go to sleep with the question rolling round my head, like a poison, creeping out of the dark.

“Are you a Transvestite, Transgendered?” Again, the venom was undisguised, the words raw and barbed.

“I’m a woman,” I proffered, almost in a whisper. I wanted to be anywhere but here. I didn’t want to be having this conversation. “I’m a woman,” I repeated, far less sure of myself than I wished I was. Suddenly my nakedness was painful. I felt the usual sense of betrayal as I looked down at myself. I turned to go back to the bedroom.

You turned to face me as I moved and said “Were you born a man?” I couldn’t lie. I had promised myself, when I had the surgery, that I wouldn’t have to lie about who I am anymore.

“Yes, but I am the woman that you see in front of you now.” I tried to brazen it out, but it just sounded weak. I heard the familiar roar of emotion in my ears, which always preceded crying. I felt the tears on my cheeks like acid. The look on your face hurt almost as much as the words, a mixture of bewilderment, accusation and revulsion, telegraphing your inner emotions nearly as effectively as your body language and anything you said.

“You aren’t a woman. You’re a man. You can’t change from one to the other. It just ain’t right. How could you do this to me?”

Wait, what? Do this TO you? I haven’t done anything to you. We have just spent hours fucking. I have given you the most intimate elements of myself to you and you took them enthusiastically, willingly. And now you say that I have wronged you? With this statement, you completely unravel me. You unpick the delicate stitches that I have put in place to hold myself together, each time I am called a name, mis-gendered, looked at askance and whispered about behind my back. Each time my daughter tells me about the bullies at her school, or I hear people scoff about “Trannies”. Each of these stitches holds together a wound, in the hope that it is worth the fight.

I wish I could say this to you. But I can’t.

Weakly, I said that I have done nothing, that I am a woman. I left and went to the bedroom, wrapping myself in a duvet as I got there, shamed by my naked vulnerability.

Then the knife twisted in the wound. I heard you retching, and then vomiting. The thought disgusted you so much that it made you sick. But what thought was that? Was it your conviction that I was still a man, or was it the realisation that you had enjoyed it? Or maybe it was what others would say?

My friends tell me that you’re not worth worrying about. That I should ‘let it go’. Others sympathise and commiserate. “You’re better than this baby”, “He doesn’t know what he’s talking about”, “He’s a wanker”.

But this isn’t about just you anymore. You were only ever a one night stand, my chance to exercise my right to express my sexual being as I wish.

No, now you represent that homogenous mass that is masculinity. You represent their pervading, misogynist belief that I have ‘lowered myself to join the ranks of women’ as if women are simply inferior. You represent the uneducated and naïve, or simply bigoted, phalanx that believe they have a right to decide who I am, without listening to me.

And right now, with my heart ripped out and strewn across that hotel bedroom floor, I simply don’t have the strength to fight back. I have fought, all of my life, to understand me and to be understood in return and it leads me to this, to have all my belief and sense of self torn to shreds in front of my eyes. To you I will never be who I believe myself to be, because I simply believe that I am a woman.

Instead, to the likes of you, I will always be, at best, a Trans Woman, a woman with Trans history, a Transsexual. At worst, I will always be a man.

Is my belief enough to make me what I believe?





Kelly Tonks, 42, Folkestone

Comments on: "day four" (5)

  1. well crafted short story, gnawingly painful, thanks Kelly

  2. Kelly Tonks said:

    It looks quite stark on the page! 😳

  3. Anonymous said:

    When I was very young, in the early 1980s, I met and fell in love with with a beautiful teenage boy who became my husband for 3 years. He was gentle, kind and sensitive. On our honeymoon he brought with him another suitcase and in that suitcase was his female clothes, shoes and false breasts. This suitcase allowed ‘Paul’ to become ‘Mandy’. Mandy was Paul’s true self. When Paul was dressed as Paul and trying to be Paul and speak like Paul and think like Paul, he felt sad and confused because he was just acting the part, eventually he lost all his self confidence and self esteem and he began to loathe his body and started to harm himself because he knew he was not being true. Paul knew he had been born in the wrong body and that really he was a woman trapped in a man’s body. By the time we were divorced in April 1984, Paul was living all the time as her true self Mandy. She was getting more and more confident and more and more beautiful every single day. She started to have counselling and hormone treatment and electrolysis. The doctors promised that if Paul could completely leave Paul behind and live as Mandy permanently for a year, then Mandy would be offered surgery to complete the transformation and then the mind and the body would be as one, completely in tune and female. I watched the broken Paul become the amazing, confident and fun-loving Mandy. We could not live as man and wife, but I knew that I could not hold her back and stand in the way of this person becoming whole. If you truly love someone, you sometimes have to set them free.

    Your story moved me Kelly Tonks, because my life with Mandy/Paul enabled me to understand the pain and suffering that you must have endured to get you to where you are today. Continue to be strong and to be proud because you are a courageous woman with a beautiful soul. ❤️ XX

  4. Kelly Tonks said:

    Thank you for such a lovely, considerate response. I’m glad my story resonated. It’s been a couple of years since this happened and it was painful at the time, but it was really cathartic to write it out and see it in print.
    It’s good to see that Mandy had such a considerate friend in you, though I’m sure there was pain involved. Your attitude to what is a very emotionally charged situation is heartwarming. Thank you for sharing!

  5. Anonymous said:

    Kelly, thank you for your kind words. Yes, it was very painful for both Mandy and me, (I changed the names by the way for privacy). What I learned from this experience is that one has to be true to oneself and as this life is the only one that we KNOW for absolute sure that we have, we must live it as we want and need to do, because it is not a dress rehearsal!

    Thank you for your courage and bravery. You have my deepest respect and very good wishes.

    And ONE DAY, if we ever meet, I will quietly say to you that I liked your piece for “Febulous February” and wrote a reply about Paul and Mandy.

    Take care of yourself.


    Anonymous. ❤️ XX

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