“So, is it me, or is there something in the air?” said Lucy Kendrick as she sat by herself after three weeks of reckless drinking and chain smoking without actually lighting up herself. She had fallen head over heel in love with a soft butch just slightly under half her age. She could see the weight on her but she wasn’t bothered as much as the twenty-somethings around Terry’s age group were; all super fit and sex crazed. At age 46 and a half, weightiness was the least of her worries. At her age, Lucy found herself completely out of contention but she had never looked her age. The only problem she had was, she never hid it either. “22nd of October, 1963,” she would say leaving those half her age to work it out. What she found was chilling. One year above or below these people and you stood the chance of being branded a coffin dodger. Age, as far as she was concerned but how did she square the fact that she loved every single inch of Terry Harrison as soon as she met her at a lesbian tea party thrown by a group they both attended? She wasn’t aware that secretly Lucy saw her as her own Terry’s chocolate despite her being white. She didn’t plan it but she knew that she’d love sex with Terry’s cushiony persona. Was she dreaming? Or was this just another infatuation gone wrong? Did Terry Love her too? Or were they just two pawns on the chess board of friendship?
“I can never be in a relationship with a transsexual woman that identifies as a lesbian,” Terry had said and meant it.
“Would anyone here consider going out with a transsexual women?” Lucy had asked. Since seeing an article in one of the premier lesbian flicks she had burned to ask the same question of those she felt she speak to without being judged. However much Terry’s response knawed at her she couldn’t but ask the question. She expected it. She knew that lesbians were very possessive of their identity to the point that they would linch her at any suggestion that she was a translesbian but to hide behind complicit silence would have robbed her of her own unique place in the world.
The allowed the lead weight of Terry’s reply to take on the form of discrimination as it would before introducing her next bombshell.
“I can never be in a relationship with a transsexual woman that identifies as a lesbian,” were the words Terry had spoken with such venom. Although the question came in the wake of Lucy’s affront to the group, it had come as a result of the silence of members in the face of Lucy’s striking appearance. The attraction was astounding to Terry. She would have given anything to look like Lucy but she had so many ailments that it would have taken her the better part of the next twenty something years and regular gym attendance to look anything like the frame of this woman. Terry felt herself colour up every time she found herself in close proximity with Lucy but she put a stop to her feelings immediately. She could not enter a relationship with another butch woman soft butch or not. The idea repulsed her. Yes she admired her feminine masculinity but she was not ready for a relationship with someone she loved to be.
The situation went deeper than that for Florence Bradshaw. The very first time she saw Lucy she had no questions about her womanhood. She attracted to Lucy purposely because of her feminine masculinity, so attracted that at first sight she coloured up in that crimson hew of pink that gave her away from the first.. Since then she shimmered every time anything about Lucy or even her name was mentioned. She felt her regular pattern. Transgenderism held her spellbound at every encounter with it. She had met it before in different hews and meeting Lucy felt different but she couldn’t tell why. “Whatever the reason,” she thought to herself, “I cannot miss out on the opportunity of a date with a woman like Lucy”. No sooner had the words taken form in her mind Florence felt herself go. She felt so hot that she couldn’t help but remember her previous encounters with transgenderism. She squirmed as she felt a moistness gather between her legs. She couldn’t take her eyes off Lucy for a moment even though she knew all the other women were aware of her shameless flirtatious demeanour towards Lucy.
“I’m a translesbian!” Lucy Kendrick had said without thinking about the consequences of her admission to this group of like minded women. “By this, I mean that, I am a transsexual woman, a male to female transsexual, who identifies with women. In short, I am a lesbian”.
In the proceeding silence, a dropped needle would have made a mega sonic din, it was so quiet. All 15 women present shook at Lucy’s self exposure. She outed herself as a matter of some importance to her. She didn’t want to hide but she was only too aware of the down side of self exposure.
“Besides,” according to Terry Harrison, “You are just being honest with the rest of us and that can be very costly”.
And costly it turned out to be. Due to what seemed to be a relaxed air at the lesbian, bisexual and transgender women only group Lucy had gambled with her own emotional wellbeing not for personal reasons. She never thought that she would find Ms. Right in one of the hubs of lesbianism. She was confident enough to sacrifice mere personal pride for a better LGBTI future and hoped these women would see beyond their own selfish demands or expectation.
For three weeks or perhaps four Lucy and Terry struck up a friendship that puzzled other user participants of the group. Every week they returned with news of their forays to Soho’s GAY Bar, Late and Heaven respectively where they drank and checked the places out for available freshly recreation or “potential wives” as Shane-like, Terry would say.
Terry made a thing of introducing Lucy to as many of her friends as possible. However on occasion, she couldn’t help but pull ranks against Lucy.
One of the many weekends a friend of Terry’s and her partner joined them for Sunday lunch. Due to rising late Lucy jumped off the bed and rushed to go and have a bath. The two doors. One to the living room of the bedsit flat and the other to the toilet and bathroom suit weren’t enough to contain quietly spoken disclosures. Lucy had heard Terry talking to one of the guests about in the most unfriendly and undermining terms as, “my flat guest is one of those men who think that they are lesbians” but she discounted the idea suggesting that she might have been too sensitised or even jealous at the prospect of a possible rival for Terry’s hand or something like that. Consequently, without thinking about it with Terry, Lucy decided she would not ask her about the incident.
She had her bath. As she bathed, she heard her “platonic wife,” one of Terry’s appellations for herself and Lucy discussing how they met. Lucy smiled to herself wondering what else was being imparted. Just then, she remembered an incident on one of the local Wanstead High Street when without warning Terry looked at two girls and began shouting abuse.
“Look at yourselves,” she shouted as they walked along the street. “Why would you want to wear make up with all that acne. You look ridiculous. Go wash and cleanse your face before you can talk about me or my friend.”
Terry continued walking away from the girls in question and for a moment Lucy thought the girls were just being used by her friend to cover some latent issues of her own. Even the approaching pedestrians seemed to more than she did but they couldn’t be certain given the fact that Lucy was laughing and had to pretend to laugh at the said girls. Personally she felt her friend had as much as put her on the spot. She half wondered what this friendship was about. She couldn’t miss how Terry had indirectly turned her into a sort of personal slave of some sort. She was astonished to hear Terry calling herself, “the master” in that harsh South African accent of hers.
If all that wasn’t enough, “how,” she wondered, “could I place the subtle miss-gendering that Terry engaged in whenever we were in public places?” Lucy tried to convince herself that those things happened because of Terry’s mental health condition but she also noticed how it was used by her to shield rampant bad behaviour. She was astonished to hear Terry say that, “I am near the end of my tether. At times honestly, I feel like causing someone some serious bodily damage. Do you know that I have never felt as worse as I do right now? If I’m being honest, you make me feel a hundred times more on edge because I can see similar symptons as I have in you”. Lucy could have collapsed on the spot. The reason given for the outburst was that Lucy had provoked far too much tension in her.
For Lucy, Terry seemed determined to out her to anyone with half a brain. She wondered why Terry would do that? She even confronted her with how much like a Nazi her behaviour was becoming. She Felt drained by Terry’s demands on her. When Terry used, “Better than Chocolate” as an example of what could happen to Lucy as a transsexual woman Lucy heard the first glimpse of what Terry really felt. She wondered if all the talk about how Terry was willing to fight her corner were just put ons; just more slights cloaked as friendly defence tactics where no real friendship really existed. “If this were friendship,” she found herself saying to herself once she might prefer to have enemies instead.
She found Terry was objectifying her. She became a conduit in Terry’s prowling overtures; a mere smokescreen to seduce the end product. Terry saw Lucy as part of some selfish public image project but found her impossible to understand even when they were at Petals. Lucy had always been monogamous so a prowler was hardly her cup of coffee but she swallowed personal opinions for love’s sake. How could she have allowed herself to fall in love with a facsimile of a transphobe? She thought banishing the idea from her mind before an unaccommodating response could lodge itself inside her head.
She loved Terry so much that when she came face to face with her own love at Pout she couldn’t control herself. When her assumed “friend” moved in on her and planted a kiss firmly on her lips she felt herself squirm. The kiss was a very public affair. She willed it to go further but Terry’s, “don’t tell anyone this kiss happen between us!” made her feel even more towards this would be transphobe that was showing her love in this most public of places. Afterwards every time she passed Brown Sugar public house; the only thought on her mind was of Terry’s strong arms seizing her, pulling her close and planting that kiss on her. She even remembered how for seconds afterwards she had slid into a sort of dream landscape with sexual overtones. Later that day as they left the venue of Pout a French kiss passed between them that left her wondering, how could she hate such a person? She put it all down to Terry’s condition. She even pushed the feeling that she was a collaborator with the enemy out of her mind.
Suddenly, although Florence maintained an even deeper attraction for Lucy’s physical presence and she still coloured up as much as she did from the offset, something changed in her disposition. She seemed to need an excuse, any excuse to distance herself from Lucy whose self exposure in the group had turned her into a femme fatale. How far that particular fiasco went was obvious to Florence herself until, out of the ordinary Lucy said something like, “I want to talk to you” or at least that was what Florence had heard. Rather Lucy had said, “they need to talk!” At the time, she was talking about a potential relationship between Terry and Petra Southall; an amateur actor who also worked during the day as a solicitor in a overly busy chamber in the city. Although she was a busy woman, she loved Terry bone deep if it could be measured but she suffered from a paralysing shyness which she shared with her potential partner. She loved Terry’s butchness to fever pitch but she dreaded the prospect of talking openly about it. Somehow Florence had heard about this and chosen to elect herself as a sort of gopher between the love birds. It was during her role as an agony aunt that she suffered the slip of tongue and Lucy happened upon it. She spoke timidly at first and almost gave up on the ghost of an idea. At the first opportunity, she somehow dragged, Florence away.
“By now, I’m certain you know how I feel about you?” said Lucy still shaken by her own effrontery. “I am not doing this because Terry mentioned it but because I cannot hold back any more. Do you know that I have been attracted to you from the first day I lay eyes on you. Perhaps hearing that you feel the same way might have something to do with me coming out with this but I cannot sit down quietly any more without saying something.
“You know all this isn’t easy for me,” said Florence in the usual register -a sort of front of confidence that masked her fear of open confrontation with potential dates. She neither spoke of her emotion or attraction to the subject of those feelings first. “I’d rather die than speak openly about how I feel,” she offered looking sideways for an escape route or something like that as she silently regrouped trying to catch her breadth. “I’m still puzzled as to why you waited until I had gone to the toilet before outing yourself. I wondered as to why you did that? Was it because you felt uncomfortable or was it something to do with a lack of confidence in your transition? Honestly I can’t think of any reason why you should have done that self exposure thing you did while I was away. About my partner, I still remain very loyal to her. She is a gem if ever there was one and that is my staying power whether she accepts it or not. I’m still in love with her and I cannot consider how someone else at the moment. This is nothing to do with you personally. Trust me, I am still attracted to you physically and at times I will still flirt with you in the way I do but that’s as far as it will ever go. That’s my decision. If you hadn’t spoken to me about how you feel I would just carry on in silence. I will always be attracted to you but that’s as far as we, if there was a we? Will ever go,” she continued.
“That’s fine by me. How I feel about you cannot change. I am attracted to you but I’m also aware that you’ve still got very strong feeling for Tom Gatwick. I expect I have to give you the space to either come to terms with this your own way. I respect your decision but I will keep you in mind perhaps as friends; or someone to talk about transgender or more so transsexual issues with as a sort of help.
Everyone knew something had passed between both Lucy and Florence. Despite the pretence in their voices Lucy knew that the stakes had just been raised when she took a momentary glance of the game at hand.
Later that evening when dealing with the fall out of talking to Florence about how she felt and the mutuality of feeling between them, Lucy caught a private smile on Terry’s face. For the first time, she understood that Terry was trying desperately to save other from her while secretly toying with her affections at the same time. Meanwhile her love grew. She couldn’t control herself any more. She was attracted to Florence but how did she reconcile that love with the sexual attraction for Terry.
“Who am I playing?” she asked herself that night before falling asleep. Her eyes flickered somewhat as she felt Terry’s breathe on her neck. Even this is better then Terry’s chocolate, Terry’s chocolate? She wondered where that came from bearing in mind she knew Terry only too well, and as she drifted away she thought of Terry’s chocolate and its tangy temptation, she thought about it even as she fell asleep that morning as always.
Mia Nikasimo © April 2010