Today I went to interview Wendy. We had a lengthy chat, as we usually do, and I took some notes which are written up below. I took my camera, even though I thought I had got an image of Wendy already, I am so glad I did as I am really pleased with the outcome of the images. She has put LED lights in her hallway and living room, so it allowed me to play with different colours and tone which is great from an aesthetic point of view.
Bizarrely, the colours in her hallway echo the binary symbolic colours of gender (in western society) – blue and pink, in the images the two colours blend and merge to create new tones and shades. Below are two accidental shots – the blue portrait, the shutter speed was too slow and the red portrait, the shutter speed was on 1/4000! But I like the experimental tones and textures and movement that have been produced in the image.
Wendy’s facial expressions are great to work with. My plan is to print out two portraits as I have with Natasha and Jennifer and get Wendy to write a reaction of it on the photograph. I need to think about the outcome of this project, so the individual images need to come together and connect through the aesthetics as well as the concept. For example, they may all be black and white, or may all have to be landscape style etc etc. This is why I took some images of Wendy in a clear daylight tone, as can be seen below. I may go back and take some more under the LED lighting, but with a tripod, but I have inspected the images and they seem to be sharp.
The text below is from Wendy’s words and has been edited by myself. – incorporated with my words.
An interview with Wendy
Wendy is 48 years old and has been living as a woman for two and a half years. She has been taking hormones for just over one year, she states it has been making her a lot calmer and there are slow but noticeable changes in her physicality’s.
Wendy always noticed she was different from the age of five and it was nearly twenty years ago in 2002, when she knew for sure that she should live her life as a woman.
She used to be called Michael in her earlier life, where she had a wife and children, who she no longer is in contact with. Wendy grew up in a religious family as a jehovah’s witness. Sadly, she no longer has contact with her siblings or parents anymore either. Her mum does not accept the life Wendy wants to live and refuses to see Wendy in the flesh. Though she does talk to Wendy over the phone, “she does not want to see me… she thinks I will come to my senses one day”. Wendy looked very sad at this point, thinking about her lost family.
Growing up with religion, Wendy battled with her true feelings towards her gender. She either had to suppress her true identity or risk being extradited from the community and family she knew.
Nowadays, she lives in a very accepting area of Bristol. “I never get cisgendered – i’m always called love, darling, or miss”. The bank did on two occasions in the past refer to her as sir, which she immediately corrected them for, “it makes me feel very uptight, straight away!”.
“When you know – you know. It’s certain – i’ve always felt like a woman”. I was not won over by this statement, I do not think anything is certain so I asked her later on in our conversation if she ever had any doubts. Apparently the gender clinic asks this question a lot, – if she has any thoughts about wanting to stop the whole process. Wendy answered that occasionally she has small doubts – fleeting moments. More so because of the depression caused by waiting for the gender reversal operation.
At the moment she is waiting for a second opinion from an independent psychiatrist, to see that she is sound of mind and that her perception of herself is not dysphoria. If all goes well, she will then go to a surgeon for physical examination to assess what needs to be done to create the physical attributes of being female.
Then it is down to the waiting list.
I ask her if the non -reversal element to the whole process is something that worries her. She hesitates, but answers that no, she has had her children – she states that maybe she would be more worried when she is younger, but not now, this is something she is happy with undergoing. That is, if it gets the approval of the gender clinic. She accepts that it is not something to be taking lightly. “I’m so lucky here in the UK”, Wendy discusses how the NHS has helped her and “in another country, I would be screwed” – financially inaccessible.
I see many arguments against the priorities of gender related services under the NHS, but these services are essential to the well being of certain individuals. There is an abnormally high suicide rate within the transgender community and other mental health issues related also. Wendy has borderline personality disorder which is a behavioural disorder that causes irrational thinking, feelings of abandonment and not being able to see situations clearly. If she is alone for any length of time she starts to become anxious and feels an overbearing sense of “i’m alone in the world”.
Wendy is attracted to women, but finds dating tricky. She says many people assume because she wants to be a woman, that she likes men. In fact, Wendy was surprised that people make this assumption and she found it more natural to like women as a transgender woman. She claimed nothing had changed in her mind, it was just the exterior that was changing. When we started to discuss dating in connection to gender and sexuality, I felt Wendy’s thoughts were less concise and focused.
But that’s OK, humans are not meant to be concise narrows lines of information. Wendy does not adhere to social constructs of gender and relationships. Sometimes it is hard to understand, but with acceptance and patience comes understanding.