INT: Say hello for me and tell me your name.
J: Hello, I’m Jo.
INT: Okay, fantastic. And, Jo, please could you tell me your story. You were telling me before and if we could go over it.
J: Yeah, okay. Like I said, a lot of people tend to say that their trans experience began at an early age, but I think there are sort of steps along the way. I mean at age 5, all I knew was that I was different from other children, but didn’t know why. That’s because I went to primary school, at that age, and that was my first exposure to girls. I’d only been with my brother up to then. So, when I went to school, my first day… this was a school where you had separate entrances for boys and girls, the school was gender segregated except for inside the classroom. When you came out onto the playground, the girls played on one side of playground, boys played on another and there was a big white line down the middle and I had the temerity to cross that line and go and play with the girls. Now, I think it’s only because the girls were doing stuff that I liked, I wanted to join in hopscotch, skipping rope, that sort of stuff. Boys were chasing each other around the playground and being generally stupid, I thought and rough, and so I went over and the teachers just came over to me and said “No, no, can’t do you that, you’ve got to go and play with the boys”, you know, “Ah what?” I had no idea what they were on about. So fine, I’ll go over play with the boys. But this… school anyway was difficult because I’m deaf, I have been since birth and although I had a hearing aid and could hear some things, it didn’t help, my teacher had no idea how to educate a deaf child and put me right at the back of the class. So I couldn’t hear anybody, I could barely see anybody and I felt completely isolated.
And I was very unhappy there, it became pretty obvious, and I started being bullied by the boys, and my parents said “Well, that’s enough” after about one or two months of it, they took me out of the school and they decided to look for a school for the deaf. Now they were quite insistent that if I went to a school for the deaf I would go to a school where they did not use sign language, because they felt that that would impair my speech. And, so the decision was made for me to go to a school for the deaf, which was oral education, rather than manual. And the one they decided upon was in Brighton, Ovingdean. Now, why they chose that particular one, I’m not quite sure, because there were others up up north, I think, they just wanted to get away from family as well, I mean my father’s family were in Yorkshire, my mother’s in Nottingham, so they moved down to… we moved down to Brighton, I was 5½ and so I’ve been in Brighton since 1959, which is a good long while…
INT: Longer than most people in Brighton. [LAUGHTER]
J: Probably. Brighton was then was just a seaside resort, it didn’t have the label of the gay capital of the UK and after all, me, at aged 5, now knew about it. So, I was quite happy but it took me another year and a half almost to get into school, two years because the waiting list was so long. When I finally got into school I was 7½, coming on 8, and the school was fine, I found myself happily chatting to the other children, although again, I just gravitated towards chatting more with the girls than chatting with the boys, a lot of my friends were girls and that got a bit of teasing from the boys but it wasn’t serious, but the crunch came when they asked me to play football with the other boys, I didn’t want to play football, I hated football and because it was rough, as a contact sport. And I said to the teachers, “I’m not going to play football”, they said “Why?” “Because it’s a rough sport”. “Oh no, you’re a sissy,” said my PE teacher. So, on that sort of cry of sissy has followed me down through the years. But, when I was adamant I wasn’t going to play football, they said “Okay. If you want to be a sissy, play rounders with the girls” and I thought “Result!” because I wanted to do that. So, they took me over to the girls and said “John’s playing with you”. “What? A boy, playing rounders?” “Yes, he didn’t want to play football, he’s a sissy,” and “He he he” said the girls and the boys were laughing, and I thought “Oh dear!” but I played and very quickly I realised…
INT: That’s very brave.
J: Well, really, it was obviously an attempt to humiliate me into conforming, this wasn’t done out of the kindness of their hearts, and so very quickly they realised I could run faster than most of the girls, hit the ball further and “We want you in our team” [LAUGHS] that was good, so I felt wanted and that first Wednesday we played rounders, played rounders with the girls, next Wednesday the teachers came up to me, both PE teachers and said “If you want to play with the girls, you’ve got to wear girls’ PE kit” and they presented me with a pile of girls PE kit complete with infamous green knickers, green flannel knickers. And they made me dress in that in the boys changing room, in front of the other boys, who were told to mock me. And now some of the boys did, some didn’t, they were quite embarrassed about the affair. The teachers wanted to give me the maximum possible humiliation. By that time I was so, so angry with the teachers, that I went ahead, went in, and came out onto the playing field dressed as a girl and the other girls were first giggling, but the teachers were saying “Go on, go on, boys, look, look at the sissy” and the girls just thought “We’re not having that, and they just closed ranks round me, literally and told the boys “Shove off! Go and play your bloody football” and so…
INT: They stood up for you.
J: Yeah, they stood up for me. There was still a few of them were still confused, but some of the older girls just said “Right, okay. We can’t have you… can’t call you John, because… we’ll call you Jo”. All right. And so quite happily played rounders and then next week, I avoided the humiliation by changing into these clothes in the boys common room which was empty at the time, coming out onto the field ready and the teachers were “Ohhhh”, and their plan was foiled, but they couldn’t really do anything, what could they do, anything more, they worried at that point I would complain to the headmaster. Well, complain to the headmaster, no, I was terrified my parents would find out. We carried on, that went on for another six weeks, and then the headmaster found out, he went utterly nuclear, not so much with me, but with the teachers. So, he called me into his study, and I thought “Oh I’m in for it”, and the first question he said to me, “Have you told your parents?”… no, sorry he asked me, “Is this true you’ve been playing rounders in girls’ kit with the girls?” I said “Yes”, “Have you told your parents?” And I said “No”, and he said “Ohhh!” breathed a sigh of relief and he said “Okay, forget about this, you’re not playing rounders any more, for PE you just do some extra homework, extra study.” I loved that because I was a swot, I was dreadful, and they finally decided… now, I was excused PE with the boys for that year. Never told my parents, and that sort of… it was forgotten. Next year, when it came round again, I played football with the boys. I just didn’t want to go through all that again.
But it made me angry that the headmaster’s first question was to find out whether I’d told my parents. It was quite obvious that he was terrified or being sued or the incident coming out and affecting the school’s reputation, this is in hindsight. At the time I just knew I was angry, that they weren’t bothered about me.
When I finished at Ovingdean, because you went to the 11-Plus – these were the days of when you went… chose whether you went to grammar school or secondary modern, by the 11-Plus examination. That was… that defined… almost it defined whether you were going to get a good education or whether you were just going to be with everybody else, it was very elitist that sort of thing, but I did well at school, because my parents, both teachers, I had a lot of incentive to succeed. I didn’t get help with my homework, it was more a case that if I didn’t do my homework, I got it in the ear and so I did very well and got my 11-Plus and went to a Grammar School for the Deaf.
INT: In Brighton, Jo?
J: In Newbury.
J: Newbury, so it was a boarding school. So, suddenly it was a different environment. I wouldn’t come to school every day, I was in a boarding school, separated from my home and family, coming home at half term, occasionally, but usually at the end of term. A Harry Potter experience, so to speak, but without the magic. [LAUGHTER]
INT: You were the magic. [LAUGHS]
J: Thank you so much, it would have been nice. But again, I formed friendships with the girls more easily than boys, although I had friends and at school experimented, as I got into to my teenage years, I was quite distressed to find that I was becoming hairy and the rest of that. That bothered me, I was just confused and experimenting with relationships, not physical relationships, but relationships, emotional relationships with both sexes. And the key thing though was that when I spoke to the girls, we could talk about things that girls would talk about, they were able to share confidences with me. They jokingly called me their father-confessor, but, yeah, it was somebody they could talk as if to another girl, so to speak. Whereas boys never really confided anything. They would play… the girls would play tricks on me, practical jokes, but I took them in good part. When the boys played practical jokes, I didn’t like it. I don’t understand why, even now, I was different. But it wasn’t until I was about 17 and I was caught – not caught cross dressing – I actually had… I was in possession of female clothes. So, and the balloon went up at that point, when Matron reported it to Headmaster, Headmaster called me into his study, and…
INT: What year, Jo, what’s the year now, 19…
J: 1970/71, around there. I was 17 coming onto 18, I was a Prefect. I was in line for Head Boy. Was I going to tell my Headmaster that I wanted to be a girl? I mean he was a former army Captain and his reaction would have been severe. He beat stuff out of boys, I mean he actually had a case on the wall, with canes in it, sort of thing and basically, I just tried to pass it off. He basically said “Right, you’re on report, for the rest of the term. You are no longer a Prefect, you’ll no longer be Head Boy. I am reporting this to your parents, and be lucky you are not expelled from school”. It was, well, quite serious. And so for the rest of the term every day I had to the Headmaster’s study, report like some miscreant on what I had been doing that day.
But, so my parents, when they asked me why, I just said – if I told my mum she might understand. My father would have probably struck me. But they just let it go and they thought, “Oh it’s a passing phase, a passing phase”. So, I left school, and started university, University of Sussex.
INT: What did you do, Jo?
J: I read…
J: … physics and mathematics.
J: And halfway through the first year, I realised although I had decent A-Levels in physics and maths, this was theoretical physics and maths, I could cope with it, but I was struggling. It didn’t help that I had no support at the university to help me with my communication as a deaf person. So, it was hard and I wanted to explore what I’d discovered in myself when I was at grammar school, about being female, but I was terrified of being expelled from university, disappointing my parents, and so I went quite the other way. I grew a beard, a moustache, I started wearing very male clothes, smoking a pipe, instead of cigarettes, it’s completely sort of overcompensating and I joined the Christian Union and started evangelising. It was sort of completely opposite to what I’d done. University eventually, as I changed to a course on computer science, because I went to the Dean and said “I can’t cope” and I seriously, at one point, considered ending my own life, over that, because I didn’t want to disappoint my parents, it sounds stupid, but I was also dreadfully confused over who I was.
And after I graduated from university with a degree in Applied Computer Science, my friends were basically trying to get me married off. My parents, to a certain extent were puzzled I didn’t have a girlfriend, my brother had a girlfriend. My sister had actually married and there was… and it was difficult and how could I explain to them, and now I couldn’t, it was very, very hard. So, I found… I met a girl, and hormones took over and I mean we were… well, we courting one week, engaged for 8 months, married, I mean mental, absolutely mental. And, in retrospect it was a poor decision, but then you have to conform. It wasn’t until my marriage ended for reasons unrelated to my trans identity, because I never, ever, ever told anybody at that point, not my parents, not my wife, not my children, never even explored it until, when my marriage ended I moved back to Brighton, I was living in Preston then, I moved back to Brighton, and got… I had a job with IBM as a computer programmer, but then Black Wednesday and the recession happened, IBM laid off a lot of its people, including me, and so I found myself divorced, and living in a one bedroom on benefits. And because when I went to the jobcentre, after about two months of trying to find a job, they turned round to me and said “Don’t bother signing on any more, we’ll give you your benefits. You’re obviously not going to be employed, because you’re deaf.” I’m going “What?!” It was so disappointing, so soul destroying. And I found myself in my flat, crying one weekend and thinking “What do I do? May I should just stop all this, and drive my car off Beachy Head” which I was seriously thinking of doing. Then I thought, “No, that’s not fair to my children”, because I had two children by my wife, and not fair to my parents. I thought “No, that’s a coward’s way out”, or I can carry on as I am, a failure as a man, that’s how I thought of myself, or I can just try and explore who I want to be.
And I went and spoke to a friend, Miriam, a Jewish friend, very supportive, I mean I did have a lot of my friends throughout my life, I had been Jewish, it wasn’t until I realised I had Jewish blood somewhere in the family that had been covered up, but that’s… She spoke with me, and then she encouraged me, she had heard that I had been cross dressing, coming out, but it was almost furtive, I wasn’t coming out in the day and it was… and she said “Jo, you’re coming with me to Tesco.” And she took me shopping at Tesco, in broad daylight, but I was with her, her children…
INT: She sounds wonderful.
J: Yes, nobody, nobody really made anything of it. I was terrified I would… because that was the high point. I started going out as Jo, going over to my friends, playing Bridge with them, all local, we lived on a council estate. And then one day a gang of people went round to my friend’s house and beat on the door, while were playing Bridge, and they were saying “Bring out the paedophile!” A mob, and they had baseball bats and whatever, and my friend said “What?” And they explained that I was actually transgendered and that had nothing to do with paedophilia, anything like that, and the penny dropped and most of them were going “Oh, we made a mistake”. They’d been incited to do this by one particular family on the estate who were intolerant of homosexuals, intolerant of Jews, intolerant of black people, and so I was just the next target. But I fled and this wasn’t in Brighton, this was in Lancing, and I fled from Lancing to here.
INT: Did you think Brighton was going to be safer?
J: Much. I realised that, realised that it was safer and by that time, I’d found out about the Gender Trust. I talked to my GP, but it was difficult, I mean I finally got work in Brighton, working for Lloyds Bank, through my friends, with whom I played Bridge, so, I mean after seven years’ unemployment, I had a job and I would live as Jo, at the weekends, but at work I was John. And that sort of double-life, the stress was awful, very, very difficult and we managed until one day, one Monday I came into work and had been out to a club, the night before, and I’d forgotten to take my eye make up off. I had no idea, I was just in a rush. And I saw most people look at me, just went into the loo, “Oh God!” took it off, but next day, my manager calls me into his office, and says “There’s no easy way to say this, are you having a sex change?” Now, that’s to the point, isn’t it?
J: And I was slowly getting there, been slowly getting there for, what, six years, 1994.
INT: So what year’s this then?
J: This was 1999, it was the end of 1999. And basically I had, again two options, I’d have to do what I’ve been doing all my life and lying and saying “No, no, no, this is not me, it’s a mistake”, or say “Yes, I want to become a woman”. So I thought – “Yes, I want to become a woman.” He said “Okay.” I had visions at the moment of a P45. It was like, well, I want… I was fed up of lying, he said, “I’ve been and talked with HQ, and we have a policy and we… if you go to your doctor and get a letter that says you are transitioning to being a woman and undergoing treatment, we will support you 100%.” At that point I broke down in tears and now, such a relief. Yeah, and I went to my GP, now my GP was a Christian and not sympathetic at all, didn’t know where to go and she said “I can’t do anything”, and she was a member of the same church which I was attending and she told the church pastor. That was it, I was excluded from the church.
INT: What church?
J: I’m not going to name names, but it was an evangelical, very evangelical church, and they didn’t approve of anything LGBT at all. Maybe they’ve changed their tune now, but I suspect not, this church was quite strong on their particular beliefs about sexuality and of course they treated transgender as being a sexuality thing, which of course is rubbish, but that’s not the point. I then went to the Gender Trust, which that has had offices… I don’t know if the offices are still there now, but then on Queens Road. I’d been popping in to see them, went to them and said, “Where do I find a trans-friendly doctor?” And they told me to go to Ship Street surgery. I went to see Alison to start with…
INT: Isn’t that funny, that’s my doctor. [LAUGHS]
J: Yes. This was brilliant and I got completely supported. No issue, and but they referred me first to the local mental health team, and the local mental health team, well, I saw a psychiatrist, he turned round to me and “Okay, fine. I can see that you’re serious about changing gender. Please tell me what to do, who to refer you.” I hadn’t a clue, no experience you see. So I said “Well, you’re supposed to refer me to Charing Cross hospital… Charing Cross Gender Clinic.” He did that, and so the process slowly started.
And my colleagues at work were confused, but supportive, for the most part, there were two men there who were quite homophobic and so they started making nasty remarks and but they were making more sexist remarks but they… and they upset me, but they also upset other women, because they were making sexist remarks about them. But when they started making remarks about me, they were called into Mark’s – my manager – office and they came out looking really downcast. They been given a good talking to, and Mark came up to me later and said “How did you put up with all that?” I said “Well, what am I supposed to do?” I said “Thank you for standing up for me”. He said “If they give you any trouble, tell me.”
And basically I started seeing my colleagues as Jo, in social situations, when we were out ten pin bowling night and that sort of thing. They knew that I was… that in… this was August of 1999, and in… I had discussed with my colleagues and I was coming to work from January 2000 as Jo, the turn of the millennium, new me.
J: It was good. And up to then… I think when I came out to them, came as Jo, ten pin bowling, I think they were expecting me to walk in with miniskirt, high heels and traditional ‘tranny’ image. But no, I was wearing jeans and sneakers. They were going “We thought you’d be dolled up?” I said “To play 10 pin bowling?” And the girls were laughing, just laughing at that. So, I thought “Success!” And as I went out one of my colleagues’ sons, not my colleague himself but his son – an adult – turned round to me and just said “You’re a fucking pervert! You’re fucking sick!” straight into my face and then just walked off. I was just shocked and sort of… it sort of took me from a high straight down to a low, almost immediately. But, you just have to put it to one side, you can’t let it drag you down. And things just steadily [proceeded] at work, I was eventually accepted but they told me I had to use the disabled toilet in the basement because one colleague in the entire company complained about me using the ladies and they said “When you’ve have the operation, then you can use the women’s toilet” and I didn’t realise how discriminatory it was, but I thought do I rock the boat, no. I’m accepted, I don’t want to make big waves.
In 2002, I left Lloyds Bank, because I got a job office as an Equality and Diversity Officer at the Learning and Skills Council, literally across the road, on Queens Road, at the top of Queens Road and they accepted me, in fact they actually valued me because of my experiences in diversity and what I could offer and also knew about the equality law, because I was reading up on it. And so, I’ve been with the Learning and Skills Council in one form or another, now a total of 11 years, because it’s changed from Learning and Skills Council to the Skills Funding Agency and National Apprenticeships, so there different… all the same organisation. I became a union activist when I was there because I got some poor treatment at work and I felt it was related to my gender identity; couldn’t prove it so I wanted to know who my union rep is, and my union rep then turned round and said “Well, actually I’m your union rep, but only for two weeks. I’m leaving”. And so I said “Who’s going to be the union rep?” He says “Well, you seem to be pretty… would you like the job? You’re pretty active. Would you like the job?” So we had an election at work, and they voted me in.
So, that was in 2004 and I started talking to the LGBT section of the union, as the union rep, finding out more, exploring more, going to the union meetings and they said “Do you know about PCS Proud?” PCS Proud is the LGBT section of the PCS Union, self-organising. And so, I said “Who’s your trans rep?” And they said “Well, we have a trans rep, but she’s on sick leave and would you like to join?” I said “Yes”. And so I started going along to their meetings and 2005 I went to their AGM and the previous trans rep stood down, so they were calling for people for trans rep, and the Chair turned round to me and said “Jo, do you want to be our trans rep?” So I said, “Okay.” That was 2005 and I’m still their trans rep to this day.
INT: Are you really, Jo?
INT: Oh wow!
J: It’s a long time.
INT: That’s excellent.
J: That’s 8 years.
INT: Yeah, it’s 8 years.
J: And this was something that I felt strongly about, encouraging other trans people, within the civil service to feel secure, confident knowing that they going to be supported to advising managers within the civil service, how to treat trans people. I’m also a member of A-Gender, which is the civil service staff group, and I found myself doing work for PCS, work for PCS Proud, I was a Branch Secretary for PCS for a few years and worked with local LGBT steering groups within the city, and for the council, within the city, LGBT housing and gradually getting involved with the community more and more. So here I am today.
INT: Yeah, yeah, and, Jo, the work that you were… that you do for them, tell me more about that, as your role as trans rep?
J: As trans rep? Well, my main job is to communicate with members of PCS who identify as trans, to publish articles in the magazines and try to get more people to identify as trans, there are so many trans people in the civil service who do not want to put their head above the parapet to… they’re somehow living in what we call stealth, so their trans history is to them a private issue and they just get on. But my view is that somebody has to be visible, somebody has to be seen to encourage those people who are not confident, those people still in the closet, perhaps frightened to transition, to give them confidence that they can be supported, they will be supported and to hopefully get a group of trans members together… like I mean we have a membership… PCS Proud has a membership of 1000. We have 4 or 5 trans members who are out as trans and that’s… so that’s quite low. In the civil service, it’s similar, not very many trans people in the civil service who are open about it. So, I mean it ranges from something as simple as giving teaching at our seminar, or teaching to groups, I mean I’d spoke on trans issues for example, to the LGBT group of the DWP, I had a meeting in Phoenix House, in Brighton, explaining to them what trans issues, what their rights are, what they need to do.
INT: Jo, does your representation also cover your deafness? Like do you stand up… do you have a role in the community, do you think?
J: Well, I am a member of Brighton Deaf Equality Access forum, I’m on the committee, but that’s been more or less dormant for a while, but I have been involved in the deaf community, because Brighton has a very large deaf LGBT community and… but they don’t do anything separately, they don’t have outings for deaf LGBT people or things like that. And I’ve been talking to John who is the Convenor for Deaf Studies at the University of Sussex, he’s a friend, and we’ve been looking at, with the CUPP project – I don’t know if you’ve heard of that – it’s Communities and Universities… I’ll have to look up the exact, but it’s CUPP, that’s the acronym. It’s the idea of getting universities involved with communities in promoting community activities and encouraging minority groups and communities to flourish. We had one… a deaf project, and that every month on Tuesday, I think it’s the last Tuesday in the month, we have, what we call Our Space, which is a meeting for deaf people and we have speakers and we discuss things. Now I floated the idea of a meeting for deaf LGBT people, and that I think will start with online, Facebook, and then if we need a physical get together, we’ll do that. Just want to do that…
INT: Do you think that there needs to be changes in the community around awareness or… I mean how do you feel? Do you feel that you have a place in…
J: With what the deaf community?
INT: And the trans community, both, like…
J: Both? I’m a trustee for Regard, now that’s the LGBT disabled people’s organisation charity. It’s reasonably small, but we try… we campaign against social isolation of LGBT disabled people, because the LGBT community, to a certain extent, is the “Body beautiful”, especially in the gay community, they’ve got that, that’s very strong, and if you’re disabled you find yourself excluded. Trans people are actually more likely to be disabled, this comes out from the Count Me In Too research, Count Me In Too, because trans people are more likely to have mental health issues, because, not because of them being trans, but because people harassing them and making their life difficult because their trans. And also I have noticed that quite a large number of trans people are overweight and suffer from a variety of problems associated with that, and that’s all down to the hormone treatment. A lot of people put on weight because of it.
So it’s the… there is something there that some research can be done into that. It does mean that trans people do need that support and this is something with the deaf community, a lot of the deaf community don’t identify as being disabled, they identify as a linguistic minority, to a certain extent, but some are deaf, but don’t think of it deaf culture, not everybody does. But, the deaf community certainly I found, when I transitioned that I was excluded immediately from the Deaf Christian Fellowship that I’d been attending, so I lost a couple of hundred friends who didn’t want anything to do with me, because I was a sinner, as far as they were concerned. But the general deaf community also has suspicion not so much about gay, but trans, they don’t understand it at all, so it’s a matter of education. My deaf club, in Brighton, were not sure about me at all, but Worthing I was accepted because the Chair of the club was a school friend, from Ovingdean and he remembered what I went through at Ovingdean school.
I never did tell you I was a governor at Ovingdean school from 2005 to 2010, the wheel went full circle and when my partner, Angie and I, had ourselves a partnership in 2006 we were in Closer magazine, and I was concerned that the pupils at the school would take it the wrong way, but no, no, they were fighting each other to see the article, they were so pleased. The teachers, or staff, were okay, and then they realised I’m just me, you know, I’m not some sort of scary person. And for a year I actually taught at Ovingdean, teaching Human Rights and that sort of thing. Human Rights and what they call Citizenship, just as a student teacher and just find out, there was a good response, young deaf people are much more accepting of diversity. Older deaf people are much more conservative in their thinking. That’s true of the general population.
I remember one flat where we lived, or block of flats, one gentleman wasn’t quite sure about me at all. He and his wife were just leaving the block, and the husband held the door open for his wife, walked through and let it shut in my face, and his wife turned round and gave him an earful, but he said “She’s not a woman”, “Yes, she is!” And I mean sort of glare, “Open that door for her right now!” “Very sorry, very sorry.” [LAUGHTER]
INT: Darling, do, do you think the Brighton communities, with the unions, with the deaf groups and so on, do you think Brighton is a more supportive place for someone who’s deaf within the trans and LGBT…
J: Oh yes, oh yes. I think you will find that deaf people tend to organise more and be confidence, the same with trans people, LGBT people, in what you would could a diverse population. I mean when you look at the diversity of communities, you notice Brighton is third in the UK, you’ve got London first, Manchester second, Brighton third in terms of diversity and the confidence, I mean… is different because that’s strong, it’s really everywhere. But I know branch secretaries that have been homophobic, transphobic and these tend to be more the north of England, admittedly, but it’s individual cases. You’ve had unions, I know a union where in one particular branch of that union the Chair of the black members committee was a white man. And you have to think about that, because it’s not representative, others misrepresented… Brighton’s more accepting, it’s more diverse. I mean people now are used to seeing unusual… I mean I’m walking home from work one day, and across the Old Steine, Marlborough Place, skating on the pavement is this lovely girl, head to toe in PVC, roller skating at high speed. And nobody… I’ve seen somebody walking up St James Street in gold lamee dress with gold lamee high heels, admittedly needing support, not because they were worried about being attacked, but because those 6” gold lamee platform shoes were dangerous walking up St James Street. [LAUGHTER] But people just looked and carried on.
INT: When you do your union work and your advocacy for deaf people, what social change are you trying to bring about?
J: That… awareness really, awareness-raising. I mean it’s the three Rs – Recognition: awareness that this is a person it doesn’t matter about their background, it doesn’t matter about the difference. Respect: they are entitled the same respect as you, you treat them properly, you don’t mistreat them. You support them. And you take Responsibility for noticing and supporting them in the workplace or in the community and making sure that if others don’t, you report them. It’s the three 3 Rs. You talk about the three Rs “Reading, Writing, Arithmetic”, the three Rs Recognition, Respect, Responsibility…
INT: Well that’s it, Jo. Thank you very much for sharing your story with us.
J: Okay thank you.
INT: It’s beautiful. Is there anything you’d like to add?
J: Just that now I’m 60, so just turned 60. That means…
INT: You don’t look it, love. [LAUGHS]
J: Thank you so much. But one of the things about that is that my health isn’t 100% at the moment and so my work with the union roles is steadily winding down. There is… I would like obviously to continue doing my union work, doing my advocacy work. I work in London at the moment and it’s a dreadful commute. So my interaction with the local community has been difficult, because of that. When you get home, get back into Brighton 7:30, 8 o’clock, you’re shattered. But I’m looking for work back in the community and hoping to get back into the swing of things again.
INT: You don’t want to move to London?
J: No. I don’t like London, there’s too many people. I mean this is a city, but it’s, it’s not overcrowded. Whereas as London it’s nice if you visit and working there is okay, but it’s just so busy, it’s not for everybody. And as for moving there, where? Because the rents are stupid, council rent’s stupid up there. We live in a council flat, if we moved… no. Brighton, I mean I was raised in Brighton, I might not be born in Brighton, but I was raised in Brighton, it’s my home, that’s the way I think of it, and I don’t really want… I wouldn’t want to leave.
INT: That’s a very nice way to end. Thank you.
J: Thank you.
INT: Thank you, Jo.