Magazine article The Spectator

My Transsexual Flirtation

Magazine article The Spectator

My Transsexual Flirtation

Article excerpt

My top-deck encounter with a flamboyant stranger

I had just sat down on the top deck of a number 38 London bus when I saw him looking at me. He was black and wore a fake-fur coat and orange leggings. There were glittering rings on his fingers, fake diamonds around his neck and bright red lipstick on his lips. In his large hands, a mauve purse. He looked like the kind of Andy Warhol drag-queen who wiggled on the wild side of life back in the 1970s.

He made strange chirping sounds and he batted his heavy eyelashes my way. I couldn't tell if he was a touch crazy or just over-the-top camp. Then he smiled at me. Uh-oh, I thought. But I decided to be brave, so I gave him one of my big, anxious chimp smiles back. He then came over and plopped himself next to me.

'Hi,' he said, with a soft, low American purr. 'My name is Melissa.'

Gulp. What do I do now? I could just stare out of the window until my stop arrived. But no, I told myself, I will not take the coward's way out. As an open-minded liberal who celebrates diversity and pluralism, especially in sexuality and gender, I should take the chance to engage with my fellow traveller. After all, there's a brave new world of trans-this and bi-that emerging and we uptight straight men must learn to deal with it. So I will stay calm. I will be cool. I will be convivial.

And then he opened his coat and showed me his tits. My first reaction? Oh! My! God! My second reaction? Help!

So much for liberal tolerance.

Look, I must make this clear. These were not man boobs. These were woman boobs. Big woman boobs, jutting out of a man. I've seen this sort of thing in films and documentaries and I have known cross-dressers and drag queens. But I've never had the up-close, in-your-face experience before.

Naturally, as a good liberal I will defend to the death any man's right to bear women's boobs, but I have to admit I found it freaky.

And then I realised: I was having my first encounter with a transgendered person. These days the transgendered are every-where in the media, in soaps, films, fiction and conversations But despite their cultural ubiquity, you rarely meet one. That's not surprising considering that such people make up a tiny percentage of the UK population. One estimate puts the figure as low as 5,000.

Now back to those boobs. It was the way he flashed them, with his big 'Ooh naughty me' smile, that made me wonder: was he just having some fun with me? …

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