Sunhill Asylum 1960

Hardy scratches his head in puzzlement. Then he sighs and says:

‘Jack, are you heterosexual or homosexual?’

‘You bloody Freudians are all the same: you want to pathologize every human urge under the sun; turn us all into compliant little robots; make us all conform to the same model of the mind—a heterosexual ideal best fitted to serving society and the state.’

‘Well, are you heterosexual?’

‘Keep your nose out.’

‘I only ask because you see yourself as a woman—which logically implies you are attracted to men.’

‘Implies? I’ve never been attracted to men; and I’ve never taken it up the bottom. Is that all right with you?’

‘So, you’re attracted to women then?’

‘I’m not equipped for that sort of thing… You know—down there. Besides the sight of it makes me sick.’

‘Excuse me?’

‘My itty bitty clitty.’

‘So you’ve never had sex with a woman?’

‘Once. But it was a total disaster.’

‘In what respect?’

‘Do I have to spell it out?’

‘Yes. Spell it out.’

‘I don’t want to talk about it. What about you doctor? Have you ever been with woman?’

‘That’s beside the point.’

‘No it’s not.’
‘I find the whole thing very contradictory Jack; it flies in the face of Nature—of Bios; you were born with a penis, but identify only with the female gender. I mean, if you were female, you’d have a clitoris.’

‘How perceptive of you. But my genitals and gender are nothing to do with you: they are a private matter. Shall we talk about your cock instead? How big is it?’

‘There’s no need to be impertinent Jack. When the police searched your home, they found amongst your personal effects, several pornographic pamphlets—sadomasochistic magazines of Betty Page.’

‘Oh my God, she’s so adorable! I wish I looked like her.’

‘Do you want to tie women up? And spank them?’


Hardy throws a magazine on the desk and asks:

‘Then why are you stimulated by this sort of material? Let me read you some titles: “Disciplined Male Changed to Female”… “The Art of Female Impersonation Vols 1 & 2” … “Femme Mimic Tied by Dominant Woman” … “Dominating Woman Turns Man into Girl” … and here is a small précis: “Tells about the strange and unique experience of a man who was kidnapped and subjugated by a band of revengeful high-heeled and corseted women. When he rebels he is placed in tight bondage and punishment helmet until he agrees to act as a maid in girl’s clothes.” … “Betty Page in Bondage Volumes 1, 2 & 3” … “Female Impersonators on Parade, Volumes 1, 2 & 3” … “Explains in detail the art of cross-dressing by men by the amateur and professional female impersonators themselves. The ‘girls’ look more like girls than the real girls do. Volume Two contains 45 real photos and sells for $3.75 plus 20c postage, while Volume One contains 37 actual photographs of glamour girls who are men and sells also for $3.75 plus 20c for postage.” … “Inquisition at the Les Slaves Club” …(i) And so it goes on. That’s an expensive habit you’ve got there. You order a lot of pornography from America don’t you Jack? Do you know this sort of thing is illegal in this country? Haven’t you heard of the Obscene Publications Act?’

‘What’s obscene about it? It’s all consensual, you know. It’s just a game. A bit if fun.’

‘But it arouses you sexually?’

Jack shrugs:

‘It pushes my buttons, I suppose.’

‘Can you tell me why?’

‘Because I want to be like them.’

‘Who exactly?’

‘The girls in the pictures.’

‘Which one? The submissive or the dominant?’

‘The submissive. Always the submissive. But it must be with another woman, or it won’t work. And I must be dressed like them especially.’

‘I see. And when did you first fantasize about this sort of behaviour?’

‘When I was seven – in my grandmother’s garage. She didn’t own a car, so it was empty except for a lawn mower and a few antiques from her farm. It got very warm in there on summer afternoons. Everything smelt of motor oil and leather. There was an old bridle hanging on a hook. I liked to put the bit in my mouth and pretend to be a pony. I don’t know why, I just did. I’d trot round the garage for hours, pulling the reins with one hand and rubbing myself with the other. Well, I didn’t know what I was doing, not really. It was purely instinctual.’

Hardy starts writing furiously on his clipboard whilst Jack gloats morosely at the floor tiles. After a minute, Hardy looks up and says:

‘We found other magazines.’

‘Well, I like to collect pictures.’

‘Of girls in rubber mackintoshes?’

Hardy puts another magazine on the desk. The cover shows a land-girl wearing a rubber lined trench coat tied at the waist; she stands in rubber boots beside a Massey Ferguson 35 tractor, with one hand on her hips, and the other on the bonnet.

‘Tell me Jack, why does this excite you?’

Jack shrugs again, his faced flushed with shame. Hardy puts another magazine on the desk:

‘…And we found this Bridal catalogue in your bedside cabinet. Are you planning on getting married?’

‘Ha, ha, very funny. I like to look at the dresses, that’s all.’

‘But you’d look a bit silly in one of those.’

‘I find them soothing to look at. Very soothing. What’s wrong with that? What do you like doctor Hardy? What gets you off? You miserable old codger!’

‘Well, when I was serving in the war, I used to like Vera Lynn. But then, so did most of the British forces.’

‘I hope your body police didn’t raid my wardrobe! Oh! Please tell me they didn’t! All my Late-day-into-evening-wear—in silk print and voile! … My softly pleated skirts have a slight barrel effect which accentuate the hips. I’m the woman who just misses being beautiful (Vogue January 1, 1959). There’s an art to remaking yourself, but I know what it takes to turn on chic… which colours, shapes and changes count – and what’s on the skip list. After all, a girl’s public appearance begins in private: a lace-lovely nylon slip that brings lasting luxury with a washable quick-drying nature. What about my collection of Spring hats? Thirty hats to please the men—all for double-duty lives. (Vogue Spring Hat Issue, February 1942). Well, they better be there when I get back, or else.’

‘Is that a threat?’

‘No. It’s my private property, that’s all. You’ve picked out a handful of saucy magazines, as if that’s all I’m about. But what about my collection of Vogue that goes back to the 1940’s? Doesn’t that count?’

‘And where did you get all those magazines?’

‘Here and there. I found some in a bin. I can’t imagine why a girl would want to throw herself away like that. I know I’m not normal. But there are others like me out there. Many others. We live in hiding because of men like you.’

‘Indeed. The literature is full of such cases.’

‘So what’s my particular psycho-sexual pathology?’

‘We’ll come to that later. Tell me, when did you first think of yourself as a girl?’

‘Oh, I was very young. I was overcome by an irrepressible urge to wear my sister’s Christening gown. When I was six, I had two girl cousins with whom I used to play; we were just like sisters, for they always treated me as a girl. They use to dress me as their dolly and change my nappy. It never embarrassed me to be thought of as a girl. Then one day, when my foster-mother came to pick me up, my aunt said: “He is not intended for a boy.” You see, I was on the road to becoming a girl very early in life.’

‘I want to put you on a course of androgens. They will make you feel more masculine and kill your desire to dress in female apparel.’

‘If you do that, I’ll kill myself.’

‘I want to help you Jack.’

‘Then give me some oestrogen instead.’

‘Don’t be ridiculous. That’s completely out of the question.’

Jack breaks down in tears:

‘Why are you the gatekeeper of my body?’

‘Because I can see things you can’t see. Your desire to be female is simply an extended paraphilia of your auto-erotic fetishism.’

‘That’s bollocks! It’s got nothing to do with it!’

‘Well, collecting sado-masochistic magazines is hardly normal is it?’

‘What about Mary Magdalene? She was the favourite of Christ, and a former prostitute. She must have tied up a few girls in her time.’

‘That’s blasphemy Jack.’

‘Blasphemy? That’s a bit rich coming from an atheist. Don’t confuse my fetishism with my need to change sex. That’s not a fetish: it’s a necessity. Have you no pity? Look at me: I am such a wretched fallen creature.’

‘That does not mean you can live beyond the state’s chaste laws. Life is a constant battle between the animal instincts and morality. I believe these sexual aberrations are the root cause of your religious mania.’

‘Christ knows, I can’t help myself. God made me this way.’

‘God made you a man.’


‘I mean Nature. But you defy Nature and want to be a woman. Mainly because you have a fetish for female undergarments.’

‘You’d have a fetish for something if it was denied you from the day you were born.’

‘So, you admit that you’re a fetishist?’

‘I don’t know. What is a fetish exactly? I mean where does the word come from. Do you even know?’

‘Well yes, as a matter of fact I do. The term fetish first appeared in a Parisian book entitled “Du Culte des dieux-fitishi” published in 1769. It dealt with the worship of many bizarre things that were the focus of sexual attraction. You idolize women in bridal gowns; women in corsets; women in lingerie; women in states of undress and bondage; indeed, everything about your sexual constellation is fetishistic by nature. You cannot deny Jack.’

‘I might be a fetishist. But so are lots of “normal” people. Some men like to polish their cars all weekend, whilst their wives shop for shoes. A girl can never have enough shoes; you can have closets and closets of shoes, and you’d still want more. Is that not fetishism in disguise?’

‘Do you like women’s shoes Jack?’

‘Oh, I know all there is to know about shoes. I know all about this summer’s playclothes, and a new method of painless childbirth (Harper’s Bazaar, June 1957). I know how to look good at night, and make an asset of my shortcomings (Vogue July 1957). Yes, I would like very much to wear a pair of women’s high heels. It would give me so much pleasure; I’d get some peace if you let me wear them. In fact, I find it does me more harm to think of them than to wear them. To dress is a desire stronger than I am able to resist: it torments me into such a nervous state. Don’t you see? Please doctor Hardy, let me dress as a girl, and I’ll be no trouble at all.’

‘No Jack. This is psychiatric hospital, not a brothel.’

‘At least let me wear my silk chemise. Otherwise my psoriasis will flare up. Do you want me covered in scabs and scales?’

‘We’ve got some coal-tar cream for that.’

‘Why can’t you treat me as a whole person? Why must you focus on my fetishes? You use them to define every pathological condition you can find. Anything to comply with your Freudian preconceptions. I think your own particular fetish is anti-fetishism.’

‘Tell me, what excites you most about these pornographic pictures?’

‘Pornographic? They’re hardly explicit, are they?’

‘But what excites you most? The female apparel? Or the bondage?

‘It’s the faces. The faces excite me most. The expressions of desire. I want someone to take control of me. I can’t do it by myself. I don’t like pictures of explicit sex: they turn me off. Like I said, I’m not equipped for that sort of thing.’

‘So tell me, what would you do if you were woman? I mean, how would you fulfil your role in society? After all, you’re not attracted to men. And you don’t have a womb. So what would you do? Marry a wife?’

‘Not all women have children, you know. Some can’t. To speak is to be condemned. If I’m a homosexual, I’m a deviant and should be hanged. If I’m transsexual, in theory I should marry a man and fulfill my role as a woman. Either way, I’d get lynched by the mob. A womb! Chance would be a fine thing! But then I’d be denied a child on the grounds that as a psycho-sexual deviant, I might damage its emotional development. And because I do none of these things, but live quietly alone, I am viewed as a criminal psychopath who auto-erotises my own body!’

‘But you are a criminal Jack. You’ve stolen over £50.00 worth of female undergarments; not to mention, lipstick, wigs and goodness know what else you haven’t told us about. So don’t play the innocent.’

‘Why don’t you arrest all the other recluses living in shame? We could have a big fancy dress party on the bowling green. The Perverts Ball—with free oestrogen on tap. And we could summon all the witches in Preston to turn us into girls. Trans Sex You All.’

‘Don’t be flippant.’

‘Don’t you believe in witches? Of course not. I was a witch once – long ago in the Old World. I was very beautiful. Just you wait, one day I’ll fly out of here on a broomstick.’

‘There’s only one way you’re leaving this asylum, and that’s by the front door. And that day won’t come until I consider you mentally fit.’

‘This place is no better than it was in Victorian times!’

‘And you were a patient then were you?’

‘Yes. I’ve been imprisoned here for centuries. Reasons for admission, 1864-1869… Intemperance and Business Trouble. Kicked in The head by A Horse. Hereditary Predisposition. Ill Treatment by Husband. Imaginary Female Trouble. Hysteria. Immoral Life. Imprisonment. Jealousy and Religion. Laziness. Marriage of Son. Masturbation and Syphilis. Masturbation for 30 Years. Medicine to Prevent Conception. Menstrual Deranged. Mental Excitement. Novel Reading. Nymphomania. Opium Habit. Over Action of The Mind. Over Study of Religion. Over Taxing Mental Powers. Parents were Cousins. Periodical Fits. Tobacco and Masturbation. Political Excitement. Politics. Religious Enthusiasm. Fever and Loss of Law Suit. Fits and Desertion of Husband. Asthma. Bad Company. Bad Habits and Political Excitement. Bad Whisky. Bloody Flux. Brain Fever. Business Nerves. Carbonic Acid Gas. Congestion of The Brain. Death of Sons in War. Decoyed into The Army. Deranged Masturbation. Desertion by Husband. Dissolute Habits. Domestic Affliction. Domestic Trouble. Dropsy. Egotism. Epileptic Fits. Excessive Sexual Abuse. Excitement as Officer. Exposure and Heredity. Exposure and Quackery. Exposure in Army. Fever and Jealousy. Fighting Fire. Flooded House. Excessive Masturbation. Suppression of Menses. The War. Time of Life. Uterine Derangement. Venereal Disease. Vicious Vices. Women Trouble. Superstition. Shooting of Daughter. Small Pox. Snuff Eating for 2 Years. Spinal Irritation. Gathering in The Head. Greediness. Grief. Lust. Gunshot Wound. Hard Study. Rumour of Husband Murder. Salvation Army. Scarlatina. Seduction and Disappointment. Self Abuse. Sexual Abuse and Stimulants. Sexual Derangement. Foreign Legion. False Confinement. Feebleness of Intellect. Fell from Horse. Dissipation of Nerves. Female Disease…’ (ii)

‘Yes, yes, very clever Jack. You needn’t go on.’

‘Listen, I never asked to be put in this body. Don’t you get it? I’m dying day by day, just pretending to be a man. Dying! Do you hear me?’

‘Well trying to be a woman is not the answer.’

‘I’m sick to death of you Freudian dick-heads! You don’t know the first thing about it! I’m not trying to be a woman. I’m not trespassing on the female gender. I simply want to be me!’

‘But you are you.’

At this, Jack’s eyes roll in their sockets; he leans back on his chair then throws his head on the desk with such force that he knocks himself out and falls on the tiles. Hardy jumps up and cries:

‘Nurse! Nurse!’

Two attendants burst in and prize Jack from the floor. Hardy mutters gravely:

‘He knocked himself out, the bloody fool. You’d better give his head an X-Ray. He might have incurred a fracture. And keep a close eye on him. Watch out for signs of concussion. I want him in isolation from now on. I’m afraid he might try something stupid…’

Copyright (c) Nicholas Shea 2008

i. Advert extracts from “Men Tamed to Submission by Tame-Azons”. Published by Nutrix Co. 35 Montgomery Street, Jersey City 2, New Jersey. U.S.A. 1960.

ii. Reasons For Admission, 1864-1869. Allegheny Lunatic Asylum (adapted).