Since coming back on the trans scene (that’s another story) I’ve heard a few trans women mention their flirtations with the world of goth, which as a self-proclaimed ageing goth has pleased me greatly. You see the Goth scene is very important to me and looking back I consider myself extremely fortunate to have grown up in the mid-eighties during its birth; with one thing & another I’ve been thinking about these times a fair bit recently.
During my late teens my early twenties I frequented many goth nightclubs, some of the more notable being the Batcave in London, Le Phono in Leeds and the wonderfully named Pink Toothbrush in Rayleigh, Essex. The thing about the goth scene, aside from the classic look you may be familiar with e.g. black clothes, big hair and pallid complexion is it has always been a place where people can express themselves, it has also been particularly welcoming of all sexualities and encouraging of gender expression. So these clubs were wondrous places filled with some truly fantastic people and as a teenager frequenting places like the Batcave and mixing with their clientèle such as the extraordinary Jonny (slut) Melton from Specimen any gender stereotypes I might have had where quickly blown apart.
I was soon exploring my own gender expression and whilst I am the first to state that clothes shouldn’t be gendered I remember to this day the feeling of dancing in the Pink Toothbrush in a skirt as an 18-year-old. It was like I was alive for the first time – however I had no idea about trans. Sometime later my best friend from home Helen (not her real name) was seeing a guy called Alice (Slack Alice Aftermath to give him his full title) who ran a club night in London that we used to go to. Alice had a friend who had the most amazing feminine hips and I remember him lying on the floor of their flat and thinking “I wish I had hips like that”. This first time I wanted to change my body to be more feminine, I now find it interesting that it was a boy who sparked this thought in me – I still had no idea about trans. Alice’s signature tune at the time was “Alice” by the Sisters of Mercy, I think of those days whenever I hear it. I developed my own look, which generally consisted of skirts/dresses, rather dramatic make-up, black/red hair sometimes with ribbons and occasionally coloured pipe cleaners – a look I wore both day-time & night-time. The nightclubs I went to certainly didn’t employ any bathroom laws so I only ever used the women’s toilets – I still didn’t know about trans. I felt wonderfully at home in these places however it wasn’t for everyone, I once took a “normal” friend of mine & his partner to one of the London nightclubs & they couldn’t cope & left early. With the way I looked it goes without saying that people stared, I would go shopping with my uni friends & they would say “how do you deal with people staring at you” – honestly you stop noticing. When out with my Goth friends people would occasionally ask to take our picture & we sometimes charged them.
I’m struggling to recall the point that I did learn what trans was, I think it may have been from Forum magazine (a spin off from Penthouse for you young ’uns) if you can believe that! No internet back in those days. What is clear is that by discovering the goth scene the genie had been let out of the bottle, in essence I had transitioned before I knew what transitioning was. To reinforce this feeling since the age of 14 I had been known by a non-gender specific nick-name and everyone except officialdom & my parents knew me by this. I did meet one trans woman later on, she was somewhat wild and took backstreet hormones on and off. If I’m painting a rosy picture it’s because I know I’m very lucky, but obviously there were bad times. There was the time I was beaten around the head in a nightclub because a guy (not a goth) chatted me up and I wasn’t what he was expecting. The times me and my friends ran for our lives because the local “straights” caught us in the wrong part of town. And then Helen, who first took me to the Pink Toothbrush in a skirt, didn’t agree with my transitioning and we never spoke again. I also know that when I walked into the GP at the age of 21 (I was mis-informed that you had to be this age) I was nearly 3 stone underweight because I wanted to stop growing. Fortunately, the GP referred me to the local GIC and the Psych put me on hormones fairly quickly, he was one of the better ones that then retired & I had to endure the horrors of Charing Cross. The rest as they say is history.
Ultimately I had to stop dying my hair as it was being destroyed and breaking off so my outer Gothness faded. But I have always been and will always remain a Goth at heart, after all it made me who I am.
by Victoria (@Divine_Goth)