INT: This is my Brighton Transformed oral history project with my friend, can you give me your name please?
R: My name is Rory Finn.
INT: And could you give me your age?
R: I’m 30 years old.
INT: And your gender?
R: Gender queer.
INT: Excellent. Now I want to talk a bit about the project itself. Why are you taking part in this project?
R: I’m taking part in this project because our trans histories as a community often get sort of mis – ignored, not recorded or misinterpreted by mainstream press and I guess to be fair, a little bit egotistical, I want to make sure that I get remembered. So yeah, that’s why I’m taking part.
INT: Excellent. And why is this project important to you?
R: It’s important because I really care about the trans community locally. I’ve been really involved in activism in the community for some time, maybe sort of five plus years and I just, I think it’s a really great idea. There’s been so much mis-reporting of trans histories throughout time and particularly in the press in the last few years, now is the time to record us and have a snapshot in time of the trans community here in Brighton.
INT: And do you think it is a particularly good time for trans people at the moment, I mean with various events?
R: I think that they always says that trans activism is about 20 years behind that of the gay rights movement and I think there is an element of truth in that and there certainly has been more support towards trans courses in the past few years. So I think it’s a sort of natural progression from that and I think we’ve enjoyed much more sort of support and we’re becoming more visible and we’re getting more rights and people are actually beginning to take notice of us and sort of giving us space we need, but I mean there’s still a lot of inequality and so things like this project really help bring some sort of substance, some reality, some human angle to that that’s going with it. So I think it’s going to be really interesting to look back on this in about 50 or a 100 years time or maybe even further into the future than that because I know that I would be really interested to know what happened 50 years ago about gay rights and things like that. If that answers that question?
INT: Yes, very good. And going on to talk about Brighton because obviously this is Brighton Transformed, what brought you to Brighton in the first place?
R: I came to Brighton when I was 18 to do a degree in music and I came to Brighton purely because they…it was an accident that the Brighton University got put down on my UCAS form, I had one more space to fill and my mother suggested what about this course in Brighton so I put it in and then they called me to an interview and because they called me for an interview I was like, oh, this is exciting. So I went along to the interview, first time I had ever been to Brighton and I fell in love with the place, thought it was amazing just from this one afternoon in Brighton. When they offered me a place I said yes because they had actually bothered to see me and so that’s how I ended up in Brighton doing a degree in music and I just never left.
INT: Well you’ve just spoken about obviously coming to Brighton, how did you find, where did you say you lived before Brighton?
R: I was born and grew up in Devon.
INT: So how did it differ being a trans person, if you realised you were a trans person at that point, how do you feel that differed in Devon to how it is in Brighton?
R: I don’t really know to be honest. I just remember when I was a kid, maybe a teenager, seeing a documentary on sort of, I think it was BBC Spotlight, the local news, about a trans woman who was a bus driver near Exeter and being quite fascinated by that clearly she was having a really hard time and a lot of my mates were gay or bi or lesbian and my mum’s gay, so I enjoyed a bit of sort of pink enclave within where I was living at the time but…and in remember my best friend when I was 16 sort of expressing trans feelings and wanting to explore maybe being a woman and I was actually a little bit transphobic back then and I was like no, no, this is madness, don’t do it and so I think it’s really ironic that 10 years later I go back and see him and he’s still he and I’m now he when I was she.
INT: But do you feel there was a difference actually…I mean do you feel as comfortable, if you go back there do you feel comfortable in Devon as you do in Brighton, do you feel there’s a difference in the sort of communities?
R: Yeah, I mean it’s different now. When I go back to Devon they just see me as a bloke and I’m okay with that, no one knows I’m trans.
INT: You didn’t experience any kind of particular prejudice or notice any prejudice when you go back there?
R: No, not really and actually it’s a bit of a surprise because this is the thing, because I just present as male, and I’m fine for people to assume my gender is male, that’s how I survive in life is pretending to be male and pretending to be a bloke and for the most part it works, is that people just see me as a straight bloke, you know I’ve got a female partner so that’s what people see. What was surprising though I just recently went on holiday, back down to Devon, and I saw my godmother who essentially was my second mother when I was growing up and I went round for dinner with her and her husband and I was really nervous about it because it was the first time I’d seen her since the transition. She knew that I had changed my name because we have very sort of sporadic contact over email and I couldn’t remember if I had explained that I was trans and I was sort of undergoing transition but not only was she like my second mum she was also round the Sunday School and I grew up in quite a Christian household and very sort of Christian community so there was a sort of double worry about the Christian aspect of that but it was amazing, it was really good to see her. There was no questions asked about my gender identity, about transition, they just accepted me as Rory. She was even calling me he, there was no issue whatsoever and I don’t know if that’s just because they’re very, sort of they have that very upper class English politeness where they don’t ask or whether it’s just generally it’s not an issue. They can see that I’m more comfortable, more happy and a bit more sorted than perhaps I was before.
I don’t perceive any prejudice post sort of the big part of transition when I go back to Devon and I don’t really perceive much prejudice in Brighton, when essentially I’ve assumed quite a lot of privileges just being seen as a straight bloke even though that is not the case whatsoever and I quite enjoy that sort of “hee, hee, if only you knew…”
INT: So now you’re in Brighton, what communities do you feel a part of in Brighton?
R: I…it’s a good question. I was really part of the queer community but I’m not so connected to that anymore. I guess the trans community, mostly the sort of trans masculine community. Yeah, and I think, yeah the sort of trans masculine queer communities are the ones I’m still part of in my social life and in my professional life just the LGBT community as a whole and pretty well known because of my job and unfortunately I’m not really part of any other communities. There’s loads to be part of in Brighton, like music communities and all sorts of different things I guess so I kind of wanted to try out different social enclaves but yeah, I think just the trans community really.
INT: You mentioned your job, did you want to talk about that a bit or is it not something…?
R: I’m happy to touch on it briefly. I’m the civilian LGBT liaison officer for Brighton police so my role is to sort of be the liaison between the police service and the LGBT community in Brighton and Hove, supporting Sussex Police to do the right thing for the LGBT communities and also supporting the community in any interaction particularly regarding hate crimes and things like that with the police. So facilitating a two way conversation and that’s why I’m quite well known in the community as a whole because I’m that point of contact that people go to. I think I’m the first trans person doing my particular job and I’m certainly the only out trans person in Sussex Police that I know of so I guess that makes it that I am. Yeah, so I’m doing loads of trans work in the police. Yeah, not quite sure what more to say about that really.
INT: Okay, well I could ask you more about that but you might want to keep it to the bare minimum. I’m presuming if it’s that kind of job you don’t really want to talk about anything in detail.
R: It’s an interesting job and actually to be fair it’s worth touching on because I only got the job because of my trans activism or… no, it’s not only that but that’s how I came about it in that a few years ago when FTM Brighton started up, I think that was in 2011, I wasn’t the initial, I wasn’t one of the first people to set it up but I got on board very quickly so within the first couple of months of it running and very soon got very involved on the management committee and within a few months ended up being the chair, just by accident, I’m not a megalomaniac that wants all the jobs, and through that I ended up, because of my previous job, I used to work for the Gender Trust, which a national trans charity, and I used to do trans awareness training with the Gender Trust and also with a LGBT project in town called MindOut. So I was doing trans awareness training and had a bit of a reputation because of that, a good reputation not a bad one, and so Sussex, the LGBT liaison team of Sussex Police wanted to do more to support trans people and wanted to develop their understanding of the trans community and spread that developed understanding wider into the police service so felt their colleagues actually do right by trans people. So they approached us at FTM Brighton to take part in a trans awareness training video and because of my experience of doing trans awareness training I got very involved and basically ended up being filmed delivering training directly to PC Rachel Piggott. So it was a really fun project but out of that I ended up getting quite a few contacts within the police and I was doing some other bits and bobs with them, about stop and search policies again all through FTM Brighton. So when my predecessor was moving on to a different post she just gave me a call to say that the job’s up and that maybe I should apply for it and I was unemployed at the time so I took that as a hint and I was very lucky to actually get it. So that’s…it’s directly related to trans work.
INT: It must be very interesting job to have.
R: Yes, it’s very interesting. It beats other jobs that I’ve had in the past.
INT: Yes, I can imagine. Going back to what you were saying before I so rudely interrupted you about the police work, what place do you feel, I think you touched on it slightly, what place do you feel trans people have in the broader LGBTQI community or in general?
R: Yeah, I mean it’s a really tricky one because I think there’s a real split in the community between those who identify as part of the LGBTQI rest of the alphabet community and those who don’t, who might come from more sort of straight background or may have transitioned and don’t feel part of the community anymore because they’re identified as straight, you know, whatever but I think at the end of the day sex gender and sexuality and gender identity and all these things are actually very inter-linked and although they’re quite distinct and different they are inter-linked. So I think trans T is very much part of the LGBT acronym and I think it’s kind of foolish of LGB activists to kind of think that gender doesn’t have anything to play in their sub, you know, being sort of trodden on by the rest of the world. So it’s all inter-linked and it all comes, in my humble opinion, it all comes down to sexism at the end of the day. So yeah, I think trans is very much part of the LGBT community, it always has been and it always will be in different ways and in different hues and things like that. Yeah, I don’t know what more to say on that.
INT: That’s fine. You’ve already mentioned I think, you’ve probably already touched on this, there is a trans community and my question is how do you find it, do you want to elaborate a bit more on what you’ve said before about it?
R: How do I find it?
INT: I mean as being part of…you said you were part of the trans masculine community more than the mixed, do you…
R: I think I just feel that I’m part of the trans masculine community a bit more just because I tend to access that area more for support networks and for socialising but that’s not completely true because I have plenty of trans feminine friends and acquaintances and gender queer acquaintances and lots of just generally queer acquaintances but I kind of, I think I know more people in the sort of F to M spectrum on a more personal basis just because they’re the people that I tend to see for support and you build up friendships from that but it was…and it was through FTM Brighton that I really sort of started to make more trans friends in the city but I have always known people because of Gender Trust and because of stuff that had happened in London like there was things like the Bar Wotever in London, the Club Wotever, which I used to be really involved in. When it came to Brighton I used to run these sort of spin off nights called West Hill Wotever, that me and my friends used to organise and that was very trans inclusive space, a lot of trans people came there and also Trans Fabulous which was a trans performance art festival that happened in London, you go up there for the weekend and end up meeting people. So I remember meeting Juliet Jacques there for the first time just before she started her transition and Juliet’s well into her football and it was a Sunday afternoon and they were basically having a little kickabout 5-aside football, trans people, and it was quite a funny thing because all the trans women were amazing at the football and all the trans boys were just rubbish but luckily Juliet was on my team so we totally kicked everyone else’s arses but that’s how I met Juliet and it was a great way to meet someone actually playing a game of football because I swear to god that must be the second time in my life I had ever played football at the age of 27 or something. I think finding the trans communities is, kind of happens by accident a lot of the time.
INT: Do you feel it would be good to have more of those events because from my perspective I have not been to many things like that. Do you think it would be a good idea to have more?
R: Yeah, I think they’re brilliant. I think they’re a really good way of meeting new people, exploring different sides about what it is to be trans. I mean like for Trans Fabulous that really stuck in my mind, it was quite a pivotal point for me I think. I remember seeing this guy who, I don’t even know how to explain it, he was an acrobat basically and he was just doing these amazing things with his body just lifting himself up with his finger, his little finger and he’s just like, you could see every muscle in his body and he was just wearing pants and not only was he just amazing with his body but you are also thinking oh my god you’re F to M, you’ve had all your surgery, you can’t tell and not only have you had all your surgery but you’re now performing half naked with the most amazing body that you’ve toned every single muscle there, you have this amazing strength and realising that actually if I was so inclined and trained as hard as he probably did, which is never going to happen, there’s still that potential that I could do that with my body.
So it kind of made me think further out of the box. I think it’s quite easy for us to think that oh, we’ve been dealt a really bad set of cards about our bodies. We’re never going to ever achieve stuff with them and for whatever reason we don’t, maybe it’s because we don’t want to, maybe because we can’t be bothered, maybe we just, actually we’re not quite built that way, but the point is is that it’s not the gender issue that’s the reason why we can’t do these things and that to me was quite powerful thing to learn. I’m never going to be an acrobat but that’s not because of my gender and the sex, the chromosomes that I have in my body, that’s just because I’m never going to work out like that.
INT: When, obviously you just touched upon meeting Juliet Jacques, this kind of leads on to my, the next area, I was wanting to talk about activism. What does activism mean to you?
R: Activism for me is about basically you know this really clichéd thing of be the change you want to see in the world but that to me is what activism is. It’s getting up and doing something because you want things to be changed and you might not necessarily have a definite goal of what you want changing but you know that something needs changing somehow and by doing something you figure out a bit more what needs changing and then you end up somehow changing it by meeting other people and it’s a strange sort of thing.
So I think I started off by just being really interested in LGBT rights in general and then I was working at the Gender Trust and that made me more interested in trans stuff and then I figured out I was trans and started to deal with that transition and when I… and then I got really into queer activism as well and queer activism is quite important, quite distinct to gay rights activism in that it’s, it’s sort of freedom from these labels but it’s also very much about the mixing of the sexuality and the gender stuff as well. There is quite a lot of feminism in that as well. So that’s sort of my background to it all.
So it was about doing club nights, educating people, educating people at different levels whether it’s just grass roots, teaching people top tips about being a trans ally or going into classroom and training professionals into best practice, a whole range of things, and one thing has led to another, you meet people, opportunities arise. I ended up doing stuff with the police, talking to them about their stop and search policy, giving them training. I’ve ended up kicking Brighton & Hove City Council up the butt and getting them to do something about trans stuff which has led on to this amazing massive bit of work about the trans scrutiny panel and so on… and it’s not just me doing this on my own but it’s getting involved in little bits and then opportunities come together and you meet people who help and together you get things done.
So activism is just as much part of being a community as it is sort of having a bit of crusade. It’s a bit of both. It’s a sort of strange thing to sort of, I don’t know, talk about but it’s…
INT: It was interesting what you said, this is slightly veering off for a second but I’ll come back in a minute, but it’s interesting that you said you were interested in LGBT rights and you got into queer rights and activism and so on and your transition came along kind of…you said you disc…that’s when you realised you were trans, it’s interesting you got involved with those before you realised you were trans, do you think there was something underlying there and that’s why you were interested in it?
R: I don’t really know because my sort of little journey when it comes to coming out is quite a strange one in that I always knew I was different and I definitely had a sexuality as a 5 year old and I also, I remember crying to my mother when I was about 5, 6 years old, be like why haven’t I been born a boy because I had a big sister, then a brother and then a sister and in my head I had to be a boy because of the sort of, the balancing out of the genders or something like that and I remember my mum comforting me and said don’t worry, when I was your age I felt the same, which I find really interesting.
So that made me feel okay, well it’s just normal for girls to feel that way and then at school for some reason I must have said something but I used to have kids come up to me in the playground saying oh, you’re the girl that wants to be a boy and that used to really upset me and the teacher would have to take me aside or put me in a classroom or do whatever, that happened for quite some while, and then I kind of forgot about it a bit or something, I don’t know, but I was quite a tomboy, I used to play Lego, not that that’s a boyish thing but climb trees, just be quite a rough and tumble sort of kid and then teenage years came, I just got more and more odd and different to everyone else and when I was about 14 my mum came out as gay and I got quite homophobic at that but I think that’s mostly just because it was my mother and I was 14 and then a couple of years later my sister, who is closest in age to me and we were always quite close, she came out as being bi-sexual and was in a relationship with a slightly older woman and I remember at that time, point, thinking well my god, I can’t be gay, like this is silly but I was definitely struggling with stuff and I remember trying to come out as bi-sexual when I was 19 and certainly with my friend, my best friend when I was 16 was talking about, thinking about being a woman, I was very like no, no, no, that’s just silly, that’s just weird and stuff like that.
So it took me until I was about 21 to actually really properly come out and that was when I was visiting my sister in Edinburgh and she… the night before I was meant to come back to Brighton she pinned me up against the wall of a nightclub and said oh, you’re bi-sexual aren’t you and I was drunk and I was like well yeah, I think so, probably and I fancied her best friend at the time so that probably added to it. So I came back to Brighton and I was like okay, I’m bi-sexual now, that means I can have sex with girls and ended up having sex with men instead which was a bit of a disappointment and then on my 21st birthday I finally got lucky and I met a girl and that was all a bit of a disaster! But I thought it was wonderful and then sort of threw myself into being gay for a bit because I soon discovered that you couldn’t really be bi because there was just so much biphobia that people wanted to know either way whether you are straight or gay so I was like well I’m going to go gay and so sort of tried to be a lesbian for a couple of years and over the following years I sort of experimented with being a drag king and I met my partner for several years and with her got involved in the Sussex University Gender Society and she was a student at the time or something, I can’t really remember, and I ended up forming a drag king troupe, not to do with the university at all but just it sort of came out of it somehow and it was through this drag kinging that I started to explore my gender much more because we would be dressing up in drag and I would be putting on a fake moustache and I became Rory Raven, the drag king, and all my friends started calling me Rory and I was like I want everyone to call me he now too and so I started really exploring it that way.
Eventually my partner at the time, for my birthday, gave me a binder to help with the drag kinging but once I got it on, finally when I managed to squeeze myself into it, I just, I loved it, I just loved the fact that suddenly the chest had disappeared, not that I had a massive chest in the first place but just that flatness was really wonderful and I was just like what’s the difference between Rory Raven on stage and Rory in real life and I was like well it’s just the fake moustache really. So I kind of gave up the drag kinging and took off the fake moustache and just started living as Rory and so it was kind of weird that I was… I had been working for a trans charity for a couple of years before I actually started really figuring out that maybe I was trans, maybe that’s why I got particularly interested in this job, it wasn’t just because it was a job that was vaguely to do with LGBT but there was something else going on with that and so yeah, it’s just developed on from then and I guess when you start transition you get more sort of aware of the prejudice and the barriers that are out there and it makes you a bit more sort of shouty about things need to change and I’m kind of slowly getting a bit sick of it, still going strong for the time being.
INT: I’ll come back to that when we talk about being trans, that’s my later topic. So we’ll just cut back to the activism for a minute. Obviously you would describe yourself as an activist then?
INT: In what way would you describe, you’ve touched on it a bit so far but in what way do you feel that you have been active? Obviously there’s your job.
R: Well I’ve been involved with quite a few bits and bobs so not quite sure what to highlight really. I think the main thing for me that’s been quite an achievement is a couple of years ago…so every year there’s the trans day of remembrance and every year we do a Sunday service at Dorset Gardens Methodist Church as a community and commemorate the dead and as with most LGBT events in the city it’s quite standard to invite politicians to come and pay their respects and speak and things like that only this year every single politician failed to turn up, this was back in 2011 I think it was, and we quite rightly got a bit upset about that and Nick Douglas, Steph Scott and I were sort of meeting on a fairly regular basis to talk about various trans things in the city basically because I was the chair of FTM Brighton, Steph in her capacity as chair of Clare Project and Nick in his capacity as the co-ordinator of LGBT Hip. We were meeting regularly anyway and we wrote a letter, and me and Steph were the signatories of this letter, to all the political parties, an open letter as well, it wasn’t G Scene, saying where the hell were you? Obviously a much more fleshed out thing than that and out of that came a few sort of the dog ate my homework kind of responses from some political parties but at the time the Greens were in power and Phelim McCafferty who is the Green’s LGBT rep or something invited us to a meeting with him and Bill Randall who at the time was the Leader of the Council. So Nick, Steph and I went along, met with Phelim and Bill and had a chat about what the issues were for trans people and they were like well maybe we could do a trans scrutiny and we were like what’s that and they explained what it was and a few months later the ball started rolling and out of it we’ve had this massive investigation into inequalities faced by trans people in the city and the recommendations got released in January 2013 and there’s ongoing work now where statutory services, the police, the NHS, the council and others are having to get together and talk about trans people and it’s basically completely changed the playing field. Trans people are now being included and mandated inclusion and things are changing for trans people in the city in a really substantial way, not just in a slight way as a result of that and that makes me very proud that I was part of that process and that as a community we’ve been able to affect quite a lot of change.
So I think to me that’s the biggest thing but, you know, there’s all sorts of other little things such as training people, getting people to think about gender differently, getting people to understand trans issues but yeah, I think it was the Scrutiny that’s going to be my personal achievement in activism.
INT: So that kind of answers my next question in do you think it’s better to be loud or quiet when it comes to activism? In your case I’m presuming it kind of gradually built up but you’re very much out there with your activism aren’t you?
R: Yeah. I mean I wouldn’t describe myself as a shouty activist. I’ve been to a fair few demos in my life but that’s not the kind of activism that appeals to me. Banging drums and shouting whatever slogan they have on the day is, I don’t know, I think I’m just…I don’t want to be out in the elements. I prefer the much more sort of actually changing things and sometimes that means cosying up to people you don’t particularly like, not necessarily in the nasty sort of cosying up of people you don’t like but just actually sort of changing the hearts and the minds by sort of those who are pulling the levers of power rather than just shouting at them. So in a way that’s sort of quiet activism but I find it’s more affective. I think it’s better to change people’s minds by persuading them and making them feel like it was there idea rather than shouting at them and carrying them into changing. So that’s me, it’s my preferred method and every method has its pros and cons and I’m not saying that be it protesting, shouting with banners is wrong, it’s perfectly valid and it has its uses and it can be very useful but for me I much prefer the sort of, the much more quieter activism of doing this, that and other and that seems to be quite effective but certainly in the kind of stuff I’ve been doing it’s been a slow build up. You don’t just suddenly go bam, straight into getting involved in the machinations of city councils and things like that because you have to make friends and get known, well not get known in a big social sort of way but just, I don’t know, does that make sense?
INT: It does make sense, yes. Okay, well I will go back to now what you were talking about with being trans, what would you say is the best thing about being trans?
R: For me the best thing about being trans is being a bit of a spy in that if people don’t know you’re trans then…no, not even that really, I think it’s just more having a bit of an overview, is that by becoming male I’ve obviously taken on quite a lot of male privilege but I’ve never ceased being a feminist and I remember what it was like being a female albeit a trans person pretending to be female rather than something actively identified as female but I remember that experience of being perceived as female and I very much remember the transition point from being perceived as female to being perceived as male and noticing that change in the way that people are receiving me and noticing how sexism is working very differently. So in a way that’s why I feel a bit of a spy not that … I’m always spying on men and their sexism a lot of the time and I mean that in a sense of the conversations men have when women aren’t there are completely different and that’s been a real eye opener. So in that way that’s what I really like is actually seeing two sides of the coin and it kind of makes me feel like I’ve got a much more rounded view of different, sort of how gender affects people differently. There’s probably other things that’s really good about being trans but I’m not entirely sure what they are.
INT: Too many to mention.
R: Yes, exactly.
INT: What does transitioning mean to you?
R: Transitioning means to me just the mostly actually the social change from one gender to another or one perception to another, I guess. So for me my transition was the point between me being my former self, my former name, to being Rory, from being a drag king Rory to being Rory who’s sort of queer boy to now being Rory that’s just seen as a bloke. That to me was the transition. Although there were elements of a physical transition in there to me it was mostly the social change, getting to know people differently, making new relationships, some relationships coming to an end so that to me was transition, sort of second puberty in that way.
INT: It’s interesting because a lot of people, trans people, I guess I know more trans men but I find that a lot of trans men, we tend to be not exactly reliving our puberty but you get to have the chance to have that male puberty. Is that something you sort of enjoyed, did you celebrate that?
R: Oh I hated it. The thing is though because when I started testosterone it was 2000…I was about 27 and it was a really difficult year, 2 years, from the point of just before starting T to settling into it and oh god, turning into a teenage boy when you’ve…because it’s kind of about 25 you actually finally grow up so I was kind of used to being a grown up and all adult and then suddenly I’ve been thrown back into being a teenager again and being moody and spotty and croaky voice and all of that crap. So I didn’t especially enjoy being a teenager again and life was made better when I got an X-box, that certainly helps, but yeah, I don’t know, I mean it’s obviously, it’s great to have the physical changes but it’s really tough, I don’t want to have to go through that again.
INT: So you feel that you went through it and it ended and now you’re back being an adult again, it’s not ongoing?
R: It’s ongoing but it’s a sort of fading out. It’s like a song fading out at an end and I’ve got to the bit where it’s properly beginning to fade out now. I’m still a bit boyish but I’ve definitely got the old man back again which is good. I just still unfortunately look like a teenager, which is irritating as hell because the thing is, the reason why it’s so irritating and I have arguments with my colleagues at work because they’re like oh, shut up, stop complaining about looking young, but I turned 30 this year and that’s one of those ages that you kind of start having a crisis about turning so I suddenly feel really old and I know it’s not really that old but I feel really old because of that and then to look like a teenage, like a 19 year old boy, and feel like I’m actually 60 because that’s what it actually feels like turning 30 not because it’s, you know, that to me is the real contrast and the fact that some people at work who don’t me, because I work for an organisation that’s quite large so I quite often encounter new colleagues, they see a young man and don’t see a 30 something and treat me like a young man and some of them who maybe are a little bit rude will treat me with the lack of respect that you probably would afford a teenage or young man which I find infuriating to say the least and so whilst, you know, it sometimes is a privilege to have that youthful thing and that can be one of the best things about being trans is that we’re always going to look youthful, you never age if you’re trans, and I can look forward to an old age looking young. At the same time it really has its flipside of just being a pain in the arse.
INT: You did touch on this slightly earlier but what does a gender mean to you?
R: I don’t really know anymore. I used to know but I don’t really know any more. I think gender, you know, is meant to be the internal sense of self and I guess I just always wanted to be a boy so I guess that made me think well maybe I’m sort of male but that’s why ID as gender queer because I just don’t really know. I quite happy have very female identity feelings and sometimes quite male ones and also kind of my trans status although I do have some dysphoria about my body it’s…my sort of transiness isn’t all about my body. A lot of it is just about my place in society like the reason why I made a decision to make a physical transition. I had done a social transition for some time, a couple of years at least, living as Rory before taking testosterone and I was okay with that but I got a bit fed up of having to explain to people that that I was trans all the time and also I just really wanted a deep voice and the only way that was going to happen was through testosterone. So it was all these different things that made me decide to do a physical one but it wasn’t the sort of compelling reason to transition whereas for a lot of people it can be that they need to physically change whereas for me it was more about a social change. So that’s why gender queer is where my identity is at because actually I don’t feel it’s black and white in me whether I’m male or female. I don’t really know and the queer word for me is about liberation, it’s about saying you know what I don’t want a label and I don’t need a label and so my gender I can’t label it so that’s why gender queer works for me.
INT: You said just now that you’re happy, you feel now a lot of people obviously don’t know you and don’t know about your trans history, just identify you as being male so you don’t feel that you don’t go round sort of setting them right, you’re quite happy for people to think of you as male or do you want to say no, I’m gender queer?
R: Well I don’t mind people seeing me as male because to be fair I look, sound, present as male and that’s absolutely fine. I’d rather they do that than see me as female and I think the only time I get a bit annoyed about it is when I’m with trans people who assume I’m male mostly because I think well actually you should know better. There’s plenty of people that are gender queer and gender queer doesn’t have to mean that you look androgynous, it’s a different identity. So for the most part it’s when people make assumptions about my gender that I get annoyed rather than a a cis-gender person seeing me as just male, I don’t mind that. I know that sounds a bit of a kind of contradiction but I think for people who should be a bit more open minded that’s why I’m a bit like stop putting me in a box but for people who, I don’t really know, I don’t want to have a discussion about my gender and that’s another reason why I transitioned because my gender identity is personal to me, I’m happy to talk about it with my partner, my friends and things like that, that’s a sort of more philosophical point but it’s not a conversation I want to be having with people I don’t really know.
So yeah, that’s why I don’t mind and curiously actually since physical transition and through my job actually, because I’m in more contact with gay men than I have been for some time, there’s quite a culture amongst some gay men to call each other she and I knew I had kind of made it to the other side when some people started calling me she because they thought I was a gay man and suddenly for the first time being called she didn’t feel painful because it actually meant recognition of the masculinity in me. So I’ve got to this flip point where actually I quite like being called she sometimes whether it’s because they see me as a gay man or just because of the queering it up a bit and quite often at FTMB meetings we ask, we always say what our preferred pronoun is and I’m quite happy for people to call me whatever. As long as they’re being respectful about it I don’t mind if people call me she or it even or Z or he, I don’t really mind, as long as that respect is there because for me it’s not a painful thing anymore. It used to be painful to be she’d when I was trying to be seen as he but now that I get that I have that privilege of being called, seen as he all the time, the sting has been taken out of it. My gender identity is a little bit complicated I guess.
INT: Well that kind of leads me on, one of my questions is what are the aspects of your gender that you enjoy? I mean I’m interested in knowing more about being, your gender queer identity what do you enjoy most about that if you see yourself as that?
R: I think what I enjoy most about it is that I just feel the freedom to be…if I feel safe that is I feel the freedom to just be however I want to be so I really like it for example when I’m at home with my partner and she’s being all butch and I’m just being camp as hell and that feels normal and it’s not being affected. It’s just I’m expressing my more feminine side not that necessarily camp is equal to femininity but I guess what I’m trying to say with that I’m trying to, I feel free to express femininity much more now because it’s part of me and it doesn’t feel like it’s anything forced. So I think yeah, that’s what I enjoy about my identity and in coupling with my physical transition is that I have a freedom to express myself however I feel.
INT: And what do you wish you’d known before actually transitioning? Is there anything?
R: I don’t know if there is anything that I wished I’d known because I kind of was pretty well informed. I was working for the Gender Trust for about 4, maybe 5 years, and I kind of knew a lot about trans life and transition prior to even coming out because I was advising people on the telephone about trans issues so I think I had as much informed consent as possible about any of it. I think, I don’t know, I don’t know if there is anything I wish I had known.
INT: And how closely do your experiences match…I mean if you say you were well informed how close did your experience match your expectations, what you sort of knew before you went into it? Is there anything you wished you had known before?
R: Not that I can think of. No. I mean I think the only thing that’s been a bit sort of sad during my physical transition is sort of realising that I’m probably not going to have kids in a biological way but I just guess, it’s not like I didn’t know that, I just…I didn’t really think about it. So I guess that’s the only thing. I think known is the wrong word, I think there’s things I wish I had thought about a bit more deeply but having said that I wouldn’t have changed my decision. So no, I don’t have any sort of wishes in that way.
INT: Well I might lead on, that kind of leads on us to family and relationships. How has your transition affected your relationships past and present?
R: I don’t think it’s…well I don’t know…I broke up with my last long term relationship 6 months prior starting testosterone. So I don’t think that relationship was affected by trans status and actually my past partner was really supportive of my transition socially within our relationship so that didn’t seem to get affected too much. I’ve had a couple of girlfriends when I started taking T and they were just disasters basically and then now I’m in another long term happy relationship and being trans is just a sort of interesting medical fact to be quite honest and most of the time my girlfriend forgets I‘m trans and sometimes has a little bit of a shock when we have sex and she’s like oh yeah, that isn’t there is it? But it doesn’t feel like it really affects my sort of relationships in that way and I’ve been quite lucky in dating and relationships and that because I’ve been quite part of the queer community. Everyone’s known me as being trans and I’ve been just socialising around the kind of girls that don’t really care about trans in that way.
INT: So you’ve never found that it’s been an issue that you have been…obviously you said about your girlfriend forgets sometimes, has that ever been an issue that you’re not the same as a biological male in that way?
R: No, not at all and I think all my girlfriends, recently, recent girlfriends, have preferred the fact that I don’t have certain bits of anatomy. So no, it’s not been an issue me being trans at all. I mean I had a girlfriend that was a bit trans phobic, didn’t really get it and said some quite hurtful things, needless to say that relationship didn’t last but yeah, it’s not really been an issue for me.
INT: And you talk about being part, you’ve always been part of the queer community, how have you found or looked for partners or have they sort of come from being friends?
R: Mostly it’s come through friends. I mean my current partner curiously I met the week after my ex, my long term ex and I broke up. I walked into the Marlborough which was always our local pub and she was sat there talking to my partner. So my ex partner was talking to this girl and I was like thinking oh, who’s that because we had this open relationship before we broke up and so I walked in and it was like well she’s been keeping that one up her sleeve, she’s very good looking girl, and because my ex and I stayed friends I got to know this girl and then after, our friendship developed and after 2 years of friendship we finally got together. So it’s a bit weird that my current partner I met through my ex partner and that they’re still friends. So yeah, I’ve met girlfriends and partners just through the social groups that I weave which has come in handy because they’ve known who I am and by virtue of the reason for them being in this sort of social sphere is because they’re not bothered about gender.
INT: So you haven’t ever had that experience of someone, a partner, whether it’s just a sexual partner or a long term partner, they haven’t known about you beforehand?
R: No, I’ve never had to come out to anyone.
INT: And you’ve obviously talked about your sexuality as you were growing up but do you feel that your actual transition has affected your sexuality?
R: Yeah, a little bit actually. Mostly about how I relate to my body so that’s changed quite a bit but in terms of who I’m attracted to that’s not really changed. I’ve always been really…I mean to mirror my agenda my sexuality is queer as well so that’s always given scope for liking all kinds of people regardless of their gender and liking all kinds of activity regardless of the bodies involved in it. So I don’t feel like my sexuality has really changed. Certainly my interest in sex has changed, it has increased with testosterone and I think when you’ve got more interest in sex you start exploring different ways of having sex or different things about sex but I don’t feel like it’s fundamentally changed. At times I’m more attracted to men and at times I’m more attracted to women, that’s not really changed.
INT: Well we will go back and I am going to touch on briefly on your sort of, the medical side of transitioning, how did you come to make decisions regarding your medical transitioning?
R: See I was holding off because I didn’t really want to do it, because I just didn’t feel that bothered, because I always felt there was that narrative of, you know, the whole thing about being born in the wrong body and I was like well I’m just my body, I’m just, you know, I never felt a really huge dysphoria like I imagined other people to have it but through the course of my job with the Gender Trust lots of trans women kept asking me oh when you are going to start taking T and I was like I don’t know, I don’t care, stop asking me and so it made me quite like I don’t want to take it now but over time I started getting a bit bored of having to out myself to people and all of that and just because life was getting really tricky to be honest with you because when you look really androgynous, when you look like an even younger teenage boy and you’re getting older life was getting really hard being trans and not transitioning.
So I decided to go and see the doctor to get a referral to Charing Cross Gender Identity Clinic because I knew by the time I’d get there I’d hopefully be closer to working out what I want because I knew it was going to be a long time coming. So I went to see the GP in October and I ended up having my first appointment at the Gender Clinic in March, which ended up being much quicker than I expected because they had cancellations and they bumped me up the list and I ended up getting testosterone the following July. So in less than a year actually from seeing my GP I was on T which was way quicker than I expected but luckily for me come about a month before I had my, the second appointment when I got approved for testosterone I knew at that point I wanted it and because I had had all those years of living as Rory I did get prescribed testosterone on the second appointment because I had already done 2/3 years of real life experience so it wasn’t like they had to then put me through all those hoops that a lot of people have to jump through. So I am really glad in that respect I held off because it made that final journey much quicker.
Then once I started taking T my relationship to my body changed and I was sick to death of bindings so getting top surgery was brilliant and my relationship to other parts of my body has changed but I still can’t make a decision on what I want because it’s not just about my body, it’s about my feelings towards do I want to undergo more major surgery, do I want to take all this much time off work, I’m worried about recuperation times and stuff like that, is this what I want for my life? So I feel like I’ve got to a point in my transition where I’ve achieved what I wanted out of it in terms of social presentation, my voice changing was the key thing, that sort of getting stronger is the main thing. I can go swimming in the sea, I can be topless publicly, I can go to the gym without worrying too much, you know, the lack of other parts I can deal with. It does get me down sometimes but…
INT: You don’t feel you need it to complete anything?
R: Exactly and I think that’s in hand with being gender queer is that because I can imagine for other people if you’ve got a very strong male identity then having the genitals and having and not having reproductive organs of the other sex is going to be a really key part in that whereas for me I’m just not that bothered. So I’m really lucky in that respect.
INT: Could you tell me about any…I mean first of all how long was it between starting your testosterone and having your chest…because this was through the NHS wasn’t it?
R: Yeah, I had everything through the NHS and I was super lucky. I think I managed to get in at the time before whilst it was still good and before it got completely screwed up by the Tories and I managed to get through Charing Cross really quickly because they had a bunch of cancellations and I think they took on a new physician or something like that so I got my appointments relatively quickly for Charing Cross and I got the thumbs up for top surgery sort of a year later or something, there did start to be delays after a while, and I’m not quite sure how but I ended up seeing the surgeon of my choice who happened to be the local surgeon anyway so that was fine, there were no issues with the funding there, but I also managed to get it at the Nuffield Hospital rather than having to go to a NHS hospital. So I don’t know how I managed to get that one so I ended up…
INT: The Nuffield is where?
R: It’s in Woodingdean in Brighton.
INT: So it is local, yeah?
R: Yeah but it’s a private hospital and normally you get sent to Haywards Heath at the Princess Royal, and I really don’t know why but they did it at the private hospital which meant I could have the appointment, the surgery when I wanted it rather than having waiting months on end for a place which is always subject to cancellations because the surgeon also does mastectomies for cancer patients. So obviously if you’ve got a very vigorous cancer that’s going to take priority but when it’s private you are the priority so I was really lucky. I really to this day don’t know how I managed that.
INT: And who was the surgeon if you don’t mind?
R: It was Andrew Yelland who’s just a lovely bloke and he did a surgery, he’d never done on a trans person before and basically just sucked it out. So I’ve ended up with really, I don’t have scars which is amazing and I’ve still got the original parts that still sort of work, which is amazing.
INT: So you’re very pleased with the top surgery?
R: Yeah, I’m really pleased. I know that I’m a jammy bastard basically. I don’t know how I managed to get it so lucky.
INT: So you haven’t obviously had any negative experience with the surgery?
R: No. I mean like I think most people have things they don’t like about the results of their surgery. I still have, unfortunately because of the type of surgery I had I don’t have a flat chest, I’ve got a chest that any bloke my size and shape is going to have which means I’ve got a little bit of boobs.
INT: What was the actual chest surgery that he did that was different?
R: I basically got a live suction, it’s not peri…I basically had keyhole surgery, a tiny little incision below, just sort of about 2 inches, 3 inches below the nipple and 2 to 3 inches at the side of the nipple where the keyhole sucky things go in and they just sucked out the fats which has flattened my chest so moob surgery basically is what I had.
INT: And is there anything that you wish you’d known both before the hormones and the surgery at all?
R: No, I don’t have any regrets on that. I kind of knew that I would probably get hairy so I just wish I could make it stop because it’s not my face.
INT: Well we’ve not got much time left so I’m going to cover, do you think, if you could just touch one, do you think that your trans status had affected your education, your career or your sort of creativity in any way? All very separate subjects.
R: Yeah, hasn’t affected my education, well I don’t know. I mean I guess I suppose to take it holistically I do feel like I am 10 years behind everyone else in terms of my personal development in…well no, I think I’ve developed more maybe than others but I feel like I’ve almost wasted 10 years of just being a bit lost, having lots of depression and anxiety over the years, lots of issues, not taking…I’ve spent a lot of time unemployed because I just didn’t know what I was doing with my life and I was quite lost and I think if I weren’t trans I would have been a bit more on it. I think I would have studied better at school, I think I would have been a bit more driven with a potential career and so I think it’s hindered me the bit prior to transition and post transition things have just got…I’ve had, the first couple of years were really tricky, I was unemployed for a year of it as well and it was really hard with sort of getting used to hormones and my life sort of got tipped upside down a little bit but then I got this great job in the police and things have just got, worked their way out now and I actually feel like I’ve got a job that could be a career and I feel like I’ve got prospects and my life has improved through physical transition in that way.
Creativity, I just don’t have time to do music anymore, unfortunately and also I have to be quite moody and lost and depressed to make good music.
INT: Perhaps that’s something that was better before transition?
R: Well yeah, exactly.
INT: Well there is something good about that time then, something came out of that.
R: No, it’s not all bad.
INT: Is the music something you’d like to do again in the future?
R: Yeah, definitely. I mean I was so obsessed about it and I was hell bent that was going to be my career.
INT: Because that’s what you did for your degree wasn’t it?
R: Yeah, it was 3 years…it wasn’t just a bog standard music degree, it was composition, it was writing music and sound art, stuff like that, so I really miss, I’m a bit sad that I don’t have a career in music. I really wanted to write music for film and I’m kind of sad that’s I’m not doing that but that doesn’t mean it’s not possible in the future. So I’m just doing the police stuff for the time being, I won’t be doing that for the rest of my life.
INT: But it must be, as you said you enjoy it and it’s a very worthwhile thing to do.
R: And I’ve got a pension with it as well.
INT: You are old.
R: Told you.
INT: So I mean this, as you say, you’re not really into music at the moment but do you think it’s something that you could see yourself using your trans status for material? Is that something you’ve thought about at all?
R: It’s nothing I’ve ever thought about because I think when I was writing music I was usually writing music that was about feeling quite lost and I don’t feel lost. In fact actually my music name that I was writing music under was actually Rachel Lost and when I changed my name a friend of mine made a cake and wrote on it Rory Found and so that was quite touching and I think that’s the thing is I need to find something new to inspire me and I don’t know if gender ever really came into it but I do need to find another sort of muse and that mystery that I think was making me feel quite lost has sort of gone. So I need to find something else that makes me a bit lost.
INT: Well I think we’re going to end, it’s a lovely note to end on the Rory Found, I like that. Well thank you very much, Rory.
R: Thank you.
INT: So this has been Ben Pritchard interviewing Rory Finn. Friday 11th October 2013.