Due to a dreaded Health & Safety audit - apologies for any shock or distress, this may have caused UK readers - at the Chameleons venue, we had to dispose of an old stereo. I say old, it had a CD and possibly a tape deck. I guess it's my age, because that feels quite fancy. :-) Hmm.... I'm now wondering how many years ago, the Jones family recycled by old stereo separates. It may well have been before Little Miss was born, and she'll be 10 this year.
So, while I was in town, I dropped said stereo system off at British Heart Foundation. They're one of the few charities I know of, which, admittedly, isn't many, that will accept and sell on old electrical goods. Hopefully someone will snap it up, and it'll be a few more quid in the charity's bank.
Talking of banks, I paid the subs in and as I did so, the cashier spotted the title on the paying in slip. To keep things safe at home for me, and our other signatories, we picked a vague name. It's not 'social group', but for t'Interwebs, that's what we'll call it. "So," she asked, "What do you get up to at your social group?"
I could have lied, I could have been economical with the truth. It wouldn't have been outrageous to have said, "chat, drink tea and look after each other." But, no, I said we were a social and support group for transgender people, hence the vague community account name. "Do you get many visiting?" and we had a short chat about it, while the cash machine argued with the new five pound note. The new fivers won, should you be curious ;-)
While I was handing over the old stereo, I noticed an old CD in there. Erasure's Pop, no less. I remember them fondly from the 80s, and certainly Clarke's twinkly electropop, coupled with Bell's sometimes coded lyrics. Why coded? Well, much as Gay Rights were on the move in the 80s, our dear old Tory government oh-so-kindly responded with Clause 28.
For those of you overseas, or too young - and let's be honest, too lazy to use Google right now ;-) - this lovely bit of discrimination forbade teachers from 'promoting homosexuality'. Despite a few numpties, the UK has moved on from such, well... frankly, shite.
So Mssrs Bell & Clarke would cast their tunes and songs about love, regret and not-quite-fitting-in across the airwaves. All four channels, as that's all we had back then. Yes, kids - shock! horror! - no TV on demand, no YouTube nor Spotify. :-) Clearly, the not-quite-fitting-in struck the proverbial chord, and despite me hiding behind the front of heavy metal and rap, I always enjoyed Erasure.
So, how does this fit in with being out? Well, by happy circumstance, the BBC ran a news story about a teacher, Daniel Gray, who decided to come out to his school. Given some teenagers' (and parents') lack of empathy around the subject, I thought this was incredibly brave. The story is here, BTW and this is the bit that brought a tear to me eye:
One student came up to me after the assembly who I didn't know. I have never taught him before. He looked very nervous and a little shy. But he had something to say.
"Sir, your assembly has changed my life."
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Like Mr Hanks' comments about solitude against loneliness, those simple words from that student went through my soul. What an incredible thing, as a young kid, to have a teacher like you.
Sure, there's people in the paper, in the news, or - being modern - on the Internet. But, they are remote and don't always match the normality of your existence. Perhaps, I'm really typing about my history, rather than speculating what the student felt. Apologies.
So, yeah, the normality of existence. Normal, much as it's another word for average. To me, normality is something else. It's the day-to-day, it's the regular and routine. No drama. No excitement. No, you can just be you and dare I say, people accept you without any fuss or bother.
That, for me, is what I hope being out is. To just be part of the every day.
I've said it before and I'll say it again, if just one person reads these prattlings of mine and thinks that there is hope, that things will get better, I'm good.
Do I think of the false platitude around "hang on in there?" No, because I do believe that things get better, if you do hang on. If I look back at the fear - yes, fear - that I had at school about what it meant to be trans, I can say, that I couldn't wish for more. I have a dear wife, the Ever Lovely Mrs Jones, who loves me, two incredible kids and I have the good fortune to be part of Nottingham Chameleons. A group of people who 'get' who am I and as there for me, as much as I'm there for them.
So, yeah, things did get better.