Sunday, 6 October 2019

Human Library and Human Books

The Human Book experience happened yesterday (5 October 2019).

I prepared some notes ... see below ... though I didn't actually use them on the day. But a lot of the things that I shared are included in the notes.

Sally and I arrived at about 10:30 and spent a while drinking coffee, chatting with other human books, librarians and organisers and hearing about how things had been organised.

The book borrowing began at 11:00,

I was first borrowed at about 11:15 and made it back to the human book shelf at about 14:10, so it was quite busy. Each borrower had about 10 minutes ... though it was often a bit longer than that because there were always a few questions.

Mostly I was on loan to one or two borrowers at any one time, though there were three at the very end.

I found it to be a very positive experience.

Questions that I was asked included things like:
  • How much of my time is spent as Andrea / Andy and what influences it?
  • When am I at my most comfortable?
  • What about work?
And people said things like:
  • Thank you
  • You are welcome here
  • You've helped me see beyond the confines of what I've seen before
And here are the notes:

Gender Fluidity: My life as Andy and Andrea

  • My life began in the mid 1950’s as Andrew
  • Over the years the name morphed into Andy
  • But my mum always called me Andrew.
  • I grew up as a normal kind of boy whatever normal means.
  • At the age of maybe 12 I would sometimes secretly try on my mum’s clothing
  • One day disaster seemed to strike, and I was caught in the act by my brother.
  • But I don’t think he ever actually told anyone about it
  • Today he doesn’t remember it.
  • But I’ve never forgotten.
  • I had no idea why I did this.
  • But when I was caught, I stopped.
  • Time passed and I became a student
  • I became a Christian and started to go to church.
  • I remember as a student writing a letter to the student union magazine about why a group of marginalised people were wrong in the way that they lived. Even though I’d never taken the trouble to talk with any of them about it or find out the truth
  • I graduated, got a job, met Sally and we married
  • I would sometimes buy ladies clothing and wear it secretly.
  • I would feel guilty and get rid of the clothing.
  • Then buy more
  • We had children
  • Buying, wearing and disposing of the clothing continued.
  • I didn’t really know why.
  • It was a secret associated with a sense of fear of being discovered by my wife, by my church
  • And, in a way, with feelings of shame and of guilt
  • Roll forwards to 2007
  • My involvement with the church had more or less ended
  • I began to buy more clothing. A wig. Cosmetics. I tried lipstick, but it was a disaster.
  • And still I had no idea why
  • But to me, the whole thing was somehow getting to be more significant
  • I had a growing need to be rid of this secret
  • The secrecy was hurting.
  • One day I allowed my wife to find out.
  • She was more than surprised, but she listened
  • There were challenges. It’s not easy explaining something when you don’t understand it yourself.
  • She was hurt that I’d never told her
  • But in the end, she took it in her stride and allowed me to wear dresses and skirts and blouses.
  • She noticed that it changed me. We got along better. I was less stressful. Less angry
  • I looked online and found Fiona Floyd who provided a makeover, dressing and photography service
  • And I went along.
  • I felt another name was needed; I chose the name Andrea.
  • It was at Fiona’s that I discovered that makeup could involve more brushes than painting a house.
  • On that day I remember looking into the mirror and feeling that I was meeting a part of myself for the first time.
  • In a way, Andrea was born on May 6th 2007
  • But in another way Andrea had always existed – but had been hidden away
  • Later that day, when removing the makeup, it was a little like washing a part of myself down the sink.
  • I still didn’t know why. But it made me feel more complete somehow.
  • At that time, I used the word transvestite.
  • I practiced doing makeup as my wife watched football.
  • Time passed
  • I met other trans people
  • I told my daughters.
  • We’ve told friends and family members.
  • I went out
  • Andrea stopped being a secret.
  • These days I choose the term genderfluid rather than transvestite.
  • It’s more an expression of my sense of gender than just about the clothes that I wear.
  • At times I feel more Andrea than Andy and vice-versa
  • Even now I don’t know what that means
  • But I don’t feel a need to understand it.
  • It’s more just about being who I am.
  • As time passes, I’ve learned that I’m not defined by the clothes that I wear nor by my gender.
  • The truth is that I just am who I am.
  • Just a person.
  • I think that it’s true of everyone – those that identify as trans and those who don’t
  • Each one is different with a unique set of experiences, thoughts, feelings and needs.
  • But each one is a person.
  • The person that is me, is sometimes expressed as Andrea and sometimes as Andy.
  • But really, I’m just me
  • There’s just the one person with different expressions of that personality.
  • Maybe a bit like being a parent, or a child, an uncle or a nephew, a grandparent or a grandchild.
  • I am all those things.
  • But none of them fully defines who I am
  • I’m just me.

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