Tuesday, 22 October 2013


In nineteen eighty nine I wrote a song called ‘PWA’.
It was in part inspired by American playwright and activist Larry Kramer and his efforts to get the then POTUS George Bush Senior to release plant based drugs without the hold up of trials to people who were dying from HIV and AIDS.

Instead of tackling this problem head on people in power began to talk instead of God’s biblical wrath against homosexuals, and in Britain a series of government TV commercials were produced showing commandment like tablets crashing to the ground in slow motion, espousing safe sex.

Bush memorably referred to ‘the giggle factor’ when he thought about gay men as many lay emaciated at death’s door.
I still don’t get the joke.

Thirty years on we as a species have come a long way, but unfortunately not always in the right direction.
Here in Britain, since adopting and repealing the notorious Clause 28 which made illegal the promotion of homosexuality, we have passed same sex marriage into law whereas in Russia, a short hop away, buggery obsessed men with self-imposed ignorance would have homosexuality made illegal or, as in Iran, punishable by death.

They see a queer conspiracy lead by packs of limp-wristed nancy boys who lurk around school playgrounds luring children into lives of butt-fucked depravity.
Feel sorry for these poor fools, their heads filled with all this hogwash.

Homosexuality equals emasculation, they’ll say.
Oh how could there be anything worse for a man than to be in touch with his emotions?

Men are strong, hit things with hammers, blow stuff up, are kings of the castle, whereas women are chattel, here to give birth to and look after their spawn, while in desperation pop valium washed down with gin in Tupperware cups, having “walked into another door”.

The traditional roles.
How people love to waffle on about tradition.
Men destroy while women cower, that’s tradition.

In Nazi Germany, in living memory, homosexual men were rounded up and murdered, although some high ranking male officers were indeed homosexual themselves.
They hypocritically didn’t see themselves as such, they were ‘real men’ who just happened to like a spot of sword swallowing, taking warm showers, riding the top deck of the bus.

Lesbians were deemed first and foremost asocial as their predilections fostered ideas outside of bondage, but were also slain after men tried and failed to fuck the perversion out of them.

Pink for a boy, black for a girl, triangles that is.

The concentration camp, another Great British invention.
Long before Hitler cottoned on we had them in South Africa during the Boer War.

I was born just 14 years after the end of WW2 and it would be another 8 years before homosexuality in Britain became legal, when we entered the age of enlightenment.

Sadly a leap forward is often followed by a backlash.
HIV and AIDS were like manna from heaven to the unreconstructed bigots amongst us.

At the time of writing ‘PWA’ it was predicted that 5,000,000 Africans would be dead from HIV and AIDS by 1991.
This was roundly ignored.

That figure today is 30,000,000 and rising.

You see so long as it was blacks and gays dying we were fine with it.

It's as much a black disease or gay plague as measles.

There is a hangover from white Christian Missionary in Africa that gives vent to the absurd idea that homosexuality is against God, is not natural, brings nothing but misery and disease, and that sodomy, intrinsically connected in the minds of the vacuous, is the work of the Devil.

With over 400 animal species known to have homosexual behavior, what’s natural?
There is more anal sex amongst heterosexual couples that homosexual.
As for all that religious hokum, there is no God.

We in Britain are responsible for much of the backward thinking in the world as we once spread ignorance and hate throughout the Empire.
Now we know better we must continue to lead by example.

In India they have thrown off those shackles, though their treatment of transgender people leaves much to be desired.

America, land of the free, home of the brave, shelterer of huddled masses, has categorically rejected the stupidity of uptight short sighted pig headed politicians and their wish to drag us all into to the mire.

Stephen Fry’s TV documentary ‘Out There’ recently showed us where we are at globally and where we are in danger of going if we allow the most dim witted control.

The awake and aware people of the world know that sexual orientation is something we are born with, that it is not black or white but a rainbow, a beautiful multicolored rainbow.

Ignorance and fear are inexcusable in this day and age, and the perpetration of those two states of being on mass populations by spiteful God Botherers is abhorrent.

As both the L and the T in LGBT I feel it keenly.

If you think that these issues have nothing to do with you, think again.
Ignore the knocks on doors at your peril as one day the knock will be on yours.

We are your sons and we are your daughters,
All we bring is love, don’t turn your backs on us.

Julia Brightly 
October 22nd, 2013

Link to the song ‘PWA’

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

What It Feels like For A Girl

I was born in the wrong body.
This is my earliest memory.
I lived with all the wrong people.
This is a close second.

When Doctor Who came along in 1963 I was four years old and knew both those things to be true.
I wished I was his granddaughter and he’d whisk me away, not to go fight monsters but to get as far away as possible from the horror of home, a home full of abuse, physical, mental, sexual.

Fortunately The Beatles came along. 
They were like beautiful creatures from another planet and for the next few years saved me.
The abuse didn’t stop but they were always there, smiling, shaking their mop tops, twanging their guitars, being sane.

Eventually though they had to go but joy of joys along came Marc Bolan.
Suddenly boys wore girls clothes and make-up, and I embraced it.
My father had other ideas.
One day I came home from school to find he’d covered up the pictures of Marc that adorned my walls with heterosexual soft core porn.
I was 12.

For four long miserable years I endured hell on earth, not helped at all by the likes of Gary Glitter and Jonathan King, though fortunately Jim didn’t get to Fix It for me in his own special way.

At 16, with all the hutzpah I could muster, I reinvented myself as a would be pop star and blasted my way out of there as far as possible.
After a bumpy ride I landed in The Passions, fell in love with a German Film Star, and started on the path to discovery.
It took another 34 years till I saw the signpost and took the right fork.

In July 2009 I was living in New York City.
I called Callen-Lorde, the LGBT clinic in the West Village of Manhattan and booked an appointment to talk about becoming a woman.
They said sure, October.

I wondered why it would take so long.
Were there really that many big girls blouses out there?

Making that initial call was euphoric.
Something that had been on my mind my whole life, that I had pushed back and back and back was now out in the open, and I had at last taken the first step in making what I had dreamed about become reality.
I figured they’d given me a three month cooling down period, and that if I was serious I would wait.

October came around and I was a bag of nerves.
Although for the past year I had been living as a woman it had been in private.
Now there I was in a dress and make-up opening the door to a new life.

I went to the receptionist and barely able to speak conveyed that I was there for gender reassignment.
No one turned to me, pointed and laughed.
No one screamed I was sick.
No one tried to pummel me to the ground.
Instead very matter of fact she gave me a few forms to fill out and sent me forth to the fourth floor.

Coming out of the elevator I expected to find myself surrounded by a gaggle of overly made-up men in twin sets and pearls sitting pinched but no, it was a waiting room like another, just a few ordinary people peering into their devices.
No-one looked up when I entered.

I was taken to a nurse to get my blood tested.
Then, after all those years of inner turmoil, there right in front of me was The Doctor who was about to change my life.

He was gentle, kind, open, warm, asked me the same questions any medic would ask a new patient, told me I would need to see a psychiatrist and if that went OK would start me on hormone treatment straight away.

Within two weeks I got the green light and on November 2nd 2009 received my first scrip.

For 50 years I had tried to live in the gender my body said I was and failed miserably.
I felt like an alien.
But I had to survive and back then there was no possibility at all of doing anything other than invent a male persona.

Transitioning is not a matter of becoming a woman, it is becoming ones true self, and fifty years of living as a man, living a lie, took a lot of stripping away.

Many things had to be unlearned, like walking.
As a child I watched other boys and copied them, settling on something they accepted.

I’d developed a deep voice and it took me a year of consciously training it to be in a higher register with a different resonance.
I thought I’d never manage it but with perseverance I did.
The phone is hardest.
“Hi can I get room service?” I’d enquire in my best female voice.
“Certainly sir.”
The first time someone said madam I jumped up and down on the bed whooping.

Other things too take a while to adjust, things you wouldn’t immediately think of.
Clothes buttoning, for example.

Before I started transitioning if someone would call unexpectedly I would be like a whirling dervish getting out of make-up.
After I started transitioning and someone called I would be like a whirling dervish getting into make-up.

Now, four years on, I feel I’ve made it, at last, finally, hurray, deep breath, and relax.
However, nothing fully prepared me for misogyny.

I have been a lifelong feminist, ever since I witnessed my father beating seven bells of hell out of my mother.
But unless you are a woman you cannot fully comprehend how a man can hate you for being who you are.

We see sexism everywhere, from the myriad photoshopped magazines to Page Three, from billboards to plastic pop stars, treating women as disposable objects, male fantasy meat, cum sluts.

In my work as a touring sound engineer I have come up against much discrimination, mostly from trolls sporting mullet hair cuts, dubious metal band tour T-shirts, and homemade tape holders strapped to utility belts, posture perpetually at a slant due to the copious rolls of gaffa hanging off them.
When they see its me, a middle aged woman, come to mix a band at their venue, they grunt and shuffle away, knuckles dragging the floor, cursing.

More insidious is the outright hatred that can rear it’s ugly head when a woman dares stand up for herself.

Once a man employed to help me screamed in my ear that I was a fucking bitch and he was going to fuck me up, this during a song I was endeavoring to mix.

Then there are the comments men write on social media sites, in anonymity of course.
Lauren Mayberry is the latest victim.

Lauren is the singer in pop group Chvrches, friends of mine, and she has men posting on Twitter threatening to rape her, saying things like they will find out where she lives and fuck her anally, and she would love it, or that, being Scottish, they’d fuck the accent out of her.
I shit you not.

Who are these people, what makes them sink to these depths of human depravity?
Would they be so bold if their mothers found out?

The man screaming in my ear was a bully and clearly extremely unhappy with me being there, doing what I know he considered men’s work.

What made it worse was denying it  when confronted with what he had done in front of another man, my boss.
He fully expected some kind of secret male bonding to occur where they would both raise their eyes, snigger, and go get a beer together.

I felt sorry for him, the poor insecure frightened fool.
Fortunately my boss was a decent human being having none of it and stuck up for me.

Should I have to put up with this as I try to do my job?
Should women like Lauren Mayberry accept filth smeared all over their lives because they are in the public eye?

It’s abuse.
Stop it.

We are the other half of the sky.

I spent last year with a touring group of twelve in which there were five women, a rare and wonderful thing.
I was privileged and honored to be included as one of the five, and I thank the men for that too.

We talked about anything and everything with openness and love, yet there were some topics I could not fully engage in.
I’ve never menstruated so cannot say what it was like to get my first period; I went straight to menopause.
I don’t know what it would be like to be able to give birth, to be a mother.
I missed out on so much.

I was born in the wrong body.
I knew that from the very start.
Parents, if you have a child who knows this too help them as soon as possible, preferably before puberty.
You will never regret it.
That I have become a woman, albeit at this late stage of my life, is the best thing that ever happened to me, because I am finally me, happy in my skin.

People have said oh you are so brave.
Well, yes, coming out was terrifying, but once it was done the feeling of wellness was overwhelming.
What was hardest, I now know, was for 50 years staying trapped in that body, cold and alone.

Boys, it is not weak to be loving, open, compassionate, kind.
It is essential.
Don’t hate what you don’t understand.
There’s no need to be afraid.

Do I know what it feels like for a girl?
I am figuring that out more and more each day.
I’m on a wonderful adventure, and now my feet are firmly on the ground.

Julia Brightly
October 9th 2013