During a quite remarkable session on Messenger this afternoon (I’d write ‘chat’, but while I wish it was actual physical talking, it isn’t), my splendid correspondent reminded me of a regular day/dream I used to have in the early 80s.
In common with quite a lot of other early 80s post-apocalyptica, I was wandering the deserted and windswept Cheltenham of my youth. However, rather than pillaging the ‘new in’ bin in Driftin' Records or ditto in Harding’s Electronics, I made a bee-line for, er, Chelsea Girl.
It’s easy for me to write this now, having mostly dealt with the accumulation of guilt and internalised transphobia, but back then? Boy howdy, no. Don’t think about it. Don’t acknowledge the part of you that is looking longingly at those windows, but doesn’t know how to articulate any of that because You Don’t Have Those Words Yet.
Later in that decade, when Chelsea Girl had mutated into River Island (thank you, internets) and they’d built A Shopping Arcade opposite where the Chelsea Girl shop had been, that arcade had a ‘market’ section at the back, at the top/And in my hands/No lager cans, since I never did buy a copy of Kicker Conspiracy at the time.
In that market section, there was the sort of record shop that was run by people who very quickly understood their clientele, to the extent of (in my case) keeping back a copy of Big Black’s ‘Sound of Impact’ LP. However, to get to that record shop from the high street, you had to walk the busy and echoing length of the arcade (Cheltenham being far too posh for a ‘mall’ back then) past Etam and River Island and Monsoon and…
… And I could rarely bring myself to even look at those places. In the back of my head was the thought that if I did, the entire place would grind to a halt and emulate Donald Sutherland at the end of the remake of ‘Invasion of the bodysnatchers’.
It is very weird to think about that now, because most of my head is going ‘You could have gone in and looked at the clothes. It wouldn’t have been out of the ordinary… Oh. Yes. Nevermind.’ Because of course it would have been.
Time and memory and arbitrary notions of gender are weird and mutable.
Oh. And. On one of those Saturday loops, I encountered someone else from the lower sixth lurking on the bus back out. She had been to the shop like a normal person, and was pleased to show off her purchases. A mint green A-line mini and suede pixie boots. Which I obviously still remember because interactions like that Did Not Happen for me then. And from a distance of oh-god-how-many years, I suspect I desperately wanted them to, but we’re right back in Not Having The Words to explain how/what/why.
The thing that is/has been happening is that when older and older memories like that surface, it seems obvious that yes I was a trans girl back then, too.
There’s a companion piece that I forgot/did not write because that one was quite long enough, about the absolute awkwardness of buying bloke-clothes. Maybe later, but not today.
Also: A conclusion!
So if there’s a point to any of that, it is not that those were/should have been either/or experience-sets, because that would be pretty damn reductive and sexist. It’s that I would have liked to be able to slot that extra set of things in As Well As: Fall, Three Johns, and Sisters 12"; BC108s, 555s, and Veroboard; Goth AF LBD, knockoff raybans, and a studded belt.