Yes, People Point at Me in the Street and Giggle. This Is My Life as a Trans-Sexual

Daily Post (Liverpool, England), November 13, 2002 | Go to article overview

Yes, People Point at Me in the Street and Giggle. This Is My Life as a Trans-Sexual


Byline: EXCLUSIVE by Ian Parri

DIANE Richards-Hughes chats animatedly with the farmer who has pulled up in his Land Rover outside Cn y Gwynt, the smallholding she keeps with partner Caroline and 14-year-old son Gareth, her arms folded defensively and her gait somewhat masculine.

She explains, in an accent which only slightly betrays her Wrexham roots, that the farmer was arranging to take one of the pigs to the abattoir for her. This is how things are done in rural Ireland, a neighbour just doing a favour in that friendly way the Irish have.

The sign on the edge of town quirkily announces that Macroom is ``host town to Iran''. This is all to do with next year's Special Olympics, which are to be held in Ireland, with towns up and down the Republic adopting competitors from one of the nations taking part as their own sons and daughters for the duration.

It evokes traditional images of jolly, jigging leprechauns and pubs full of people enjoying the craic as much as the black stuff. Yet Diane, 46, has also experienced the darker side of the nation's psyche in this bustling little town in the rural backwaters of County Cork.

Not that she for one minute believes that things would have been much easier had she stayed in her native Wales, where she worked as a fruit machine engineer and, latterly, a telecoms engineer. Life never is easy for people who undergo sex change treatments, like her; and it's probably even more difficult for their partners and children.

Uncomfortable as it may be to admit, there are still certain medical conditions which, to this day, draw on a reactionary bigotry reminiscent of medieval times. Trans-sexuality is one of them, a taboo which has transcended into the 21st century. Burning at the stake might have gone out of fashion, but the attitude survives.

``I haven't come across malice, per se; it tends to be more about people pointing in the street, and being a***holes, or writing notes to their friends, and giggling,'' she says.

``Childish stuff, really. Bloody hell, people should be more mature about it; it's a medical condition that you're born with, not a sexual deviation or a mental illness. It really annoys me, because there's no need for it. Sometimes I'll just ignore it, but on an off day I'll say something, really loud, so that everyone can hear it. I'll say 'look at that a***hole over there'.

``I know there was this (trans-sexual) in Snowdonia who had petrol poured through her letter-box. There's not that sort of malice here, although we have a lesbian friend who lives just up the road who's had people turning up there with guns, and turning her car over. She had to go to the garda to put a stop to it.''

As a youngster growing up in Ruabon, Diane always knew that somehow she was different from the other kids. On the face of it a boy, going by the name of Richard, and with all the physical attributes society deems requisite to being described as male, she nonetheless never felt comfortable with her gender.

Even in later life as a married man, and a father, she felt trapped within her own body. To change one's gender is not a decision to be taken lightly, yet she just knew that she would have to undergo a sex-change.

Having in 1994 moved with the family from their home in Ponciau, Wrexham, to Ireland to pursue a dream of living the Good Life of self-sufficiency, the need for her to address the problems she had hitherto suppressed became urgent.

``We couldn't find the right property that was affordable in Wales; we had been looking at moving to the Bala or Corwen area, but there was nothing there in our price range,'' she says.

``So it was going to be either Ireland or France, and we basically chose Ireland because of the language barrier in France. We came over here and found this place for pounds 19,000.

``It had woodworm in the floors, and was pretty well rotten all through, but we got it sorted. …

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