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Sunhill Asylum, December 6th, 1956.

‘That’s what I wanted most. To dress with other women. To pass with other women. But I knew that was impossible. Especially after I got kicked out of the changing rooms at Haraps.’

‘So you decided to visit a prostitute.’

‘Yes. I don’t know why. I thought she would understand. She said she knew lots of sissy girls. But I only succeeded in amusing her. It was very humiliating. I don’t blame her. I mean, I can’t imagine any woman wanting to treat a “man” like that – at least not without looking down on him – and certainly not without payment.’

‘Then why did you ask her to do it?’

‘I suppose I wanted permission.’

‘Permission?’

‘Permission from the female sex. Permission to be me. All I have ever known is a life of male bondage. A life of sexual frustration. I thought she could help. But as it turned out, I only frustrated myself further.’

‘Explain.’

‘I can’t.’

‘It’s all right. Take your time. Everything within these four walls is perfectly confidential.’

‘I didn’t like her. She smelt of whiskey and tobacco. I knew she was acting, see. I mean, I bared my soul to her – but she was just playing a part.’

‘What part?’

‘The saucy part you see in porno magazines. She thought I wanted that. But I didn’t. I just wanted to be dressed with her. Spend time with her. Like two ladies. To be accepted. But she was only interested in lurid games.’

‘What kind?’

‘Role play. She was the dominant aunt, and I was her male niece, forced into a frilly dress. That sort of thing.’

‘But I thought you liked frilly clothes.’

‘Of course, I do. I love girly things. Always have, ever since I can remember. Lace and ruffles; ribbons and bows; frilly skirts with puff sleeves; satin slips; and Victorian ball gowns especially…’

‘What happened next?’

‘I was put in a petticoat and tied up with washing line. Must I tell you all this?’

‘Only if you want to. But in my experience, patients often feel better after unburdening themselves. I’m interested in your experiences. I want to know all about them. You can’t shock me. I’ve heard everything under the sun. Human behaviour is my speciality, remember? So what happened next?’

‘She made me crawl around the room. And she stuffed my head in her knicker draw. I liked that part. But then she brought in a transvestite and bid us kiss. He started touching me up. Fondling me. I didn’t want to. I mean, I don’t like that sort of thing. I’m not like that, you understand?’

‘Did you ejaculate?’

‘Pardon?’

‘Did you orgasm?’

‘Certainly not!’

‘So what did you do?’

‘I got upset and threw him off. But he hit his eye on the bed post. A real shiner it was. She got very angry and told me to leave. She called me an “ugly freak” and kicked me down stairs. I ended up half-naked in the alley, tangled in stockings and suspenders. It was a complete disaster. Serves me right for paying a prostitute. A prostitute. I trusted her. But she betrayed that trust. Then I realised she wasn’t the prostitute at all, I was. She had far more dignity than me. But I had prostituted my soul. Betrayed myself. She was far more than I deserved. I felt ashamed for revealing my true colours; for thinking I might be accepted. But it was too late for all that. I mean, at eighteen I already had a five ‘o’ clock shadow. Not even a close shave and Kryolan foundation would cover it. A prostitute. I can’t believe I was so foolish. I told her at the very start that I wasn’t homosexual. I told her. I thought she of all people would understand. She said she did, but she didn’t. She said she had lots of clients like me. But she was only intent on fulfilling fantasies. Teaching sissy rules and protocols.’

‘Such as?’

‘How to curtsey. How to prepare serving trays. How to set the table. How to fold towels into animals. How to play with dollies. And how to prance around looking girly. It was so stupid.’

‘But you still like dressing up as a little girl.’

‘Yes. Why is that? Can you tell me why?’

‘There are many reasons. Possibly you were denied motherly affection as an infant.’

‘Oh please! Can’t you do any better than that? If that were true, half the bloody world would be transsexual. I thought you were a professional. Do you know anything about my disease? Does it feature in the literature? Just how abnormal am I? How common is my condition? How does it rate amongst the sexual extremities of the world? Are there any historical correlates? Did Mary Magdalene serve any Roman soldiers who claimed to be girls – burly brutes who spent their nights off dressed as Cleopatra? Well? Answer me!’

‘Calm down.’

‘God in heaven!’

‘Have you seen other prostitutes?’

‘What for? Sissy liaisons? Are you serious? They think me ridiculous. That’s the worst thing about my condition. First and foremost, it makes you ridiculous. You think I’m ridiculous, don’t you doctor Hardy? Feeble minded, that’s what you call me. The nurses think I’m ridiculous. Well, to be perfectly honest, I find them a bit brutish.’

‘They’re strict, that’s all.’

‘Vindictive, more like. If you don’t do what they say, you get put in the padded cell. And I get put in the padded cell a lot. I didn’t sign up for this place, you know. It’s worse than Borstal. There’s no privacy. When I bathe, the nurses stand over me and pass remarks about my body. Or they get a dirty towel, put it under the cold tap, twist it, and flog me black and blue. Did you hear what I just said? I said the nurses flog me – with a wet towel. Well what are you going to do about it?’

‘I’ll speak with Matron.’

‘That old battle axe? She puts them up to it! She’s a bare-knuckle boxer, she is. She kicks my chamber pot – and my tin plate. Sometimes I have to eat off the floor. You should release me. Let me go home.’

‘I’m afraid I can’t do that. You’re not well enough.’

‘I’ll do a runner. Hop on a bus to Blackpool. I like the seaside. But I can’t go out in the sun because I burn to buggery. I balloon up. Get a moon face and everything.’

‘What will you do in Blackpool? You can’t manage on your own. You’ll end up on the streets. You have no money, no friends.’

‘All my friends are dead; all my gods are dead; the Old World has crumbled into dust; but the figure of Death remains untouched; He looms as large as He ever did.’

‘Tell me Jack, do you know where you’ve been this past year?’

‘Locked up in a loony bin.’

‘Hospital.’

‘Call it what you like. It makes no odds. The place is full of loonies.’

‘But do you remember?’

‘Remember what?’

‘Your time here.’

‘No. I can’t say that I do. Is that so bad? Perhaps it’s best that I don’t remember. I mean, who’d want to remember this place?’

‘You’re suffering from manic depression.’

‘Well I’m better now, see?’

‘What about those cuts on your arms. Can you tell me how you got those?’

‘I fell over.’

‘No Jack. You tried slitting your wrists with a bread knife.’

‘What knife?’

‘The knife you stole from the kitchens. The priest found you bleeding on the altar.’

‘Priest? He’s no priest. He’s the devil incarnate, he is.’

‘Why do you say that?’

‘He’s an atheist.’

‘How do you know?’

‘Do you take me for a fool? That priest has no business dishing out the Sacraments. What a sham. I’d rather take the Host from a pig.’

‘What is your religion? Catholic?’

‘What’s that got to do with it?’

‘You believe in Transubstantiation? I only ask because when you first came to us, you arrived in a state of demonomania. You spoke confusedly about the Devil, God and supernatural enemies. And when I asked why you wore a corset you began ranting about the Apocalypse. Do you remember that?’

‘Let me out of this hell hole! You’re completely useless! And where is my corset? Give it back!’

‘I can’t do that. It’s detrimental to your moral therapy.’

‘But you don’t understand!’

‘What don’t I understand?’

‘Everything. You’re a complete ignoramus!’

‘Well, if you can explain why you like dressing up as a girl, please enlighten me.’

‘Because I’m female.’

That’s biologically impossible.’

‘But true. My soul was given the wrong body at birth. I was put inside a male vessel. But I belong in a female vessel. I don’t need pills. I don’t need psychiatry. I need a sex change. You should assign me a plastic surgeon before it’s too late. If you don’t, I cannot be held responsible for what will happen.’

‘Is that a threat?’

‘Fool! If you don’t let me go, this madhouse will burn to the ground!’

Copyright © Nicholas Shea 1992-2020.