COLUMN | Life before and after ‘My Transsexual Summer’ – LEWIS HANCOX
So I’m sat here in bed, sore, swollen and slightly nauseous from all the painkillers. I have various tubes coming out of me for various reasons and just thinking about them makes me lose my appetite. I’ll be honest, I’m not always an optimistic person and I often take things in life for granted (who doesn’t?) but as I use my seemingly endless spare time to reflect, I start to think about how fortunate I am… how I’m surrounded by loving people… how I have a whole future of opportunities… and how far I’ve come in the past three years. Three years ago I could only dream of being in the position I am now – and by that I don’t mean bed bound, sporting surgical stockings, willing on the day I can eventually take a shower – I’m talking about the much bigger picture.
I entered 2011 with no particular expectations or hopes. I wouldn’t say I was content but I’d accepted my life for what it was. I’d already dropped out of uni so I wasn’t destined for greatness. The dreams I had as a kid of working for Disney, making it big in Hollywood – probably not gonna happen without a B.A, right? I was working part-time at an arts and crafts shop so at least it was a vaguely creative area… ish. I loved my co-workers though, they became like family. They were so supporting of my transition from female to male and I owe most of my confidence to them. I needed their support even more so since the local Primary Care Trust turned down my request to fund my chest surgery – the next vital step in my transition.
I appealed, I spoke with the woman in charge personally, I sent suicide threats, I did everything I could think of. It didn’t matter. They said a double mastectomy was not a part of the gender reassignment process the PCT consider funding. Lower surgery is funded however. Trust St. Helens to be the one town in the whole country who have things totally backwards. Now it wasn’t only my dreams that had come to a standstill… it was my transition. It’s easy to see why I predicted 2011 was going to be a pretty uneventful year… I predicted wrongly.
It all started with an email around Spring time titled ‘Channel 4’. That sure caught my attention. A TV producer had found my awkward vlogs on YouTube and apparently decided I was fitting for an upcoming reality show all about transgender people. I phoned her and the next thing I knew I had a TV crew in my living room, then I was on route to a huge mill house in Bedford where I met six other trans folk, some of whom became my best friends! I’d never knowingly met another trans person before – partly the reason I wanted to be involved in the show. I also had an urge to prove wrong all the prejudiced people out there and spread awareness of trans issues. I can’t pretend it was solely for unselfish reasons though… I had always been fascinated by the media and I revelled in the opportunity to become a TV personality. Who knew what could come of it? Maybe it wasn’t too late to make something of myself after all.
‘My Transsexual Summer’ had much more of an impact than myself and the other contributors could ever imagine. Since it aired in Autumn of that year we were being recognised left, right and centre by people of all ages, backgrounds and identities! Even the most unlikely viewers would come up to me in my small-minded hometown and congratulate me as though they knew me personally. People I’d never met before seemed genuinely touched by how open and honest I’d been on national television. I had a lot of ‘wow, I’d never be able to tell you were born a girl’ and a shed full of beard compliments. Then there were the people that approached me not because of their disbelief that I was trans but because I’d inspired them to live an authentic life, or even just because they liked my personality. Whether I inspired or entertained people, it still meant I affected them one way or another and there’s no better feeling.
The amazingly generous public contributed towards my chest surgery fund and in only two weeks after the fourth and final episode aired I had a whopping £6000! Stephen Fry and Graham Norton donated online – I love telling people that, it never gets old (to me). I began 2012 with a new chest and a new found self esteem. A UK club tour awaited me… ‘BRING IT ON!’ would sum up my attitude. Let me tell you, having bouncers shuffle you from the club entrance to the VIP section to try avoid fans mobbing you is a very surreal experience. Free drinks, dancing the night away, feeling like you’re somebody… if I could go back and do it all again, I would in a heartbeat.
Like the domino effect, one good thing led to another and I met my soon-to-be girlfriend in the Summer. Sophie Moore was like no other. It began with a Facebook message – Sophie had watched My Transsexual Summer and wanted to get in touch with a few kind words. A few kind words led to back and forth, essay-style messages and a few months later we met up in London. Despite Sophie living down South while I was all the way up in the North West, I knew from the start this was vastly different to my previous flings. I have many a terrifying tale to tell about ex-girlfriends and if I was still the bitter lemon I once was I’d probably divulge… but a year and a half in with Sophie and I feel like I’ve never known anything but her.
With what seemed like pure miracles finding me over the course of two years, I started to believe anything was possible. I started to believe in myself again. I don’t often consider myself a brave person but there are a few plunges I’ve taken in my life that remind me I can be. Deciding to finally leave St. Helens and pursue my dreams is one of them. I applied to university again and got onto a film making course! I left my Mum’s house, quit my job at the art shop and moved in with Sophie in Buckinghamshire. In a year I’ve made films to be proud of and I’m doing well at uni for once – I’m as ambitious as when I was a kid again. I have a passion for story telling and entertaining. I’ve been writing comedy films and pushing my filmmaking to new limits, confidently contacting people within the industry as though I’m worthy of a reply. It’s all about confidence and a positive outlook, believing the universe can be good to you and not spending your time mulling over mishaps and regrets.
In combining my creativity with my status as a transgender advocate, I teamed up with Raphael Fox (who I met on the set of My Transsexual Summer) and together we have created the ‘My Genderation’ film project that won us a place on the Independent On Sunday’s Pink List. The series of short films explore transgender and gender variant people in a way that the mainstream media has never before – with sensitivity, creativity and most of all, empathy. We’ve had one film endorsed by the BBC and have some upcoming work that will potentially air on Channel 4. See, I could be all ‘woe is me’ about being born transgender, I mean, it certainly isn’t an easy ride… but without having starred in My Transsexual Summer I would have never been given such a platform to showcase my films and get them recognised. Fox and I have received many messages from My Genderation viewers telling us how inspirational and helpful the films have been in one way or another – we couldn’t ask for a better response.
So there you have it. A summary of the past three years of my life. Three years that shocked and surprised me with every twist and turn. It’s so easy to lose hope when your life appears to be moving backwards, or moving nowhere at all… but I’ve learned that in reality we’re always moving forwards and there’s always the unexpected waiting for you around that next corner. As I type this I’m reminding myself it’s true. I don’t want to be forever knows as ‘that transman from My Transsexual Summer’. I want to be a writer, an actor and a director. I know I’m aiming pretty high, some people tell me too high. However, I think I’ve already proved anything is possible and I’m slowly making a name for myself in the filmmaking world. I was walking down a corridor in uni last month and was greeted with my own face on a massive poster hanging on the wall! I was in the ‘London South Bank spotlight’ for having one of the My Genderation films recognised by the BBC before even entering my second year. It’s moments like that I realise I must be doing something right.
I’ve not yet explained the reason I’m bed bound and full of tubes… kinda sounds like I’ve been abducted by aliens for experimentation. Well that just isn’t the case, although I have felt pretty spaced out since I went in for my lower surgery seven days ago! That’s right, I’ve done it – I’ve completed my medical transition! I opted for a type of surgery called metoidioplasty. With that I had a full hysterectomy plus removal of the other ‘female’ parts inside me. It feels surreal that those organs are all gone. Then again, it feels surreal that they were even there in the first place. I can’t see the benefits of the surgery just yet because everything is so swollen and painful but I know in a few months time when I’m as right as rain I’ll be so thankful I got it over and done with. There’ll be no more surgery to get in the way of my ambitions. I’m entering 2014 with a lust for life and more determination to achieve my filmmaking dreams than ever before.
Visit Lewis’s Website: http://www.lewishancox.com
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Opinions expressed in this article may not reflect those of THEGAYUK, its management or editorial teams. If you'd like to comment or write a comment, opinion or blog piece, please click here.