My Outing, Part 5 – MY STORY

Illustration to Theophile Gautier’s Romance Mademoiselle de Maupin by Aubrey Beardsley, 1898

When the British press ‘outed’ me they chose not to cover my real story. They could have asked about my childhood or the years in the closet, they could have invited me to explain or quoted my article, they could even have taken an interest in how I’d changed and who I’d become; instead they lampooned me as a ‘self-confessed transvestite’ and ‘Labour loony’, who shouldn’t be teaching in a school.

Of course, a human-interest story wouldn’t have suited their purposes. They wanted a cautionary tale about people in left-wing groups to amuse and scare their readers. ‘Don’t go there!’ they were saying, pointing at me. I was their shadow side, the enemy within, an example of why it was better to project, act tough and not let down the barriers. Because, of course, to understand yourself you have to accept that we’re all on the spectrum. Continue reading My Outing, Part 5 – MY STORY

My Outing Part 4 – DRESSING UP

“By thy long grey beard and glittering eye,. Now wherefore stopp’st thou me?” Gustave Doré.

In the Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner, the mariner touches the shoulder of the wedding guest, beginning his story with “There was a ship.” When the wedding guest objects, the mariner hypnotises his unwilling subject with a fixed and glittering stare.

Using a similar but much lighter technique, the great master of hypnotherapy, Milton H Erickson, developed the ‘handshake induction’ designed to produce a gentle trance. Erickson would distract his client at the start of a consultation by gradually withdrawing his hand and touching the wrist so gently that his subject couldn’t quite tell when the contact ended.

In both cases the goal was for the subject to pay attention to hints and suggestions normally passed over, and focus uncritically on a single train of thought. In the process, the subject would discover hidden truths about the self or personal experience.

The story of my cross-dressing was similar. Continue reading My Outing Part 4 – DRESSING UP

My Outing, Part 3 – INCOGNITO

In the Danse du Kabuki the portrayal of female characters by men is known as onnagata.

I kept my cross-dressing secret, and didn’t tell anyone. I’d read about cat burglars who came and went in silence and removed a photo or a ring or page from a diary, and like them I tiptoed into bedrooms and sneaked things out of drawers in a house that wasn’t mine. I was on high alert, rehearsing my lines. If anyone found me, I’d tell them my intentions were good, that I’d fought back my urges and kept myself intact for as long as I could. In any case, I’d say, I’d been curious and not really meant it, this was my first time, a once-only trial.

My head was full of stories where I held out on my own, playing for time. I’d cast myself as a loner, a survivor, moving through darkness while outwardly I was the shy boy who smiled and waved from the window. Continue reading My Outing, Part 3 – INCOGNITO

My Outing, Part 1 – Why?

Detail of The Twelve Labours Roman mosaic from Llíria (Valencia, Spain). It shows Hercules wearing women’s clothing and holding a ball of wool (left), and Omphale wearing the skin of the Nemean Lion and carrying Hercules’ olive-wood club (right).

During the 1983 Bermondsey by-election, the British press, tiring of their daily homophobic attacks on Peter Tatchell, picked up an article I wrote in the sexual politics section of a small but influential left-wing Labour journal. The article was about how I believed that cross-dressing challenged conventional ideas of masculinity. It included a picture of me in a dress.

The journalists seized on my story, passing it around and featuring me on the inside page of nearly every single newspaper, printing my name, the street I lived in and where I worked. The ‘family friendly’ Daily Mail reporter went further, ringing up my house, pretending to be a social worker, and asking my first wife how she felt about the damage I was supposedly doing to our children. Continue reading My Outing, Part 1 – Why?


Katie Willis Student Dancer

Katie Willis is an author, former ballerina and ME survivor. Recently shortlisted for the Kit de Waal Scholarship, she won second prize in Spread The Word London Short Story Competition, has been successful in the Bristol Short Story Prize, the Puffin Review Fairy Tale Competition and her short story The Passenger has been anthologised in Flamingo Land: And Other Stories. Katie is now editing a novel that was shortlisted for the Brit Writers awards and working on a body of short stories. Katie’s guest blog describes how her powerful creative urge to dance was redirected by illness into writing ‘grown-up fairy tales’.

‘I craved rhythm from the outset but my home was never a musical one. I had songs in my head, from school and from Sunday school, and songs that I was born with and I had no choice but to set them free in dance. Continue reading KATIE WILLIS WRITES ABOUT M.E. & DANCING IN THE DARK


David Guest

I invited David Guest to write about the media and creativity. As a lifetime journalist and editor, David knows the field well having ‘worked for every publishing company in London once’. His piece is satirical, literary and full of critical insights. In 2002 David: ‘bought into a small, local publishing company, and found to my surprise that it was an ideal introduction to the online world and social media’. He is currently editing his first novel.

Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work – Flaubert

David Writes: Continue reading Guest Blog: HOW CREATIVE IS THE MEDIA?


Kelly 1
Kelly Moneymaker

I interviewed Alaskan singer/songwriter Kelly Moneymaker.  Kelly is a deeply musical soul, having shared stages and collaborated with Todd Rundgren, Diana Ross, George Clinton, Keith Urban and Ringo Starr. Her band ‘In the Black’ have similar musical CVs, having played with Tower of Power, Hugh Laurie, Macy Gray and Tom Jones

Leslie: What were the key stages in developing and maturing your voice?

Kelly: When I was two years old, my mom thought she’d left the radio on and then discovered I was singing. Music was my natural form of expression, which is good because I can’t draw a decent stick-person. I think the best way to develop your style is to just get out there and do it. You learn the do’s and don’ts along the way. Continue reading GETTING YOUR YA-YAS OUT WITH KELLY MONEYMAKER


Melanie Whipman

I interviewed author, editor and teacher Melanie Whipman about short stories and writing. Melanie lectures at Chichester University, judges fiction competitions and is commissioning editor for The Story Player. Her short stories, which have been broadcast on Radio 4 and published in numerous magazines, are now appearing as a collection called Llama Sutra. She is currently editing her novel, written during her MA in Creative Writing, that was awarded the Kate Betts Prize.

Leslie: In your view, who are the great, classic short story writers? Why them? Continue reading MELANIE WHIPMAN – SHORT STORIES: THE BIG PICTURE

Author and Poet