“There’s been a tectonic shift in attitudes, but I’d like to help stop even just one more kid going through the mental and physical trauma that I had to”
Transgender businesswoman Tina Haynes tells her personal story and why she is opening a cabaret bar with the support of Muslim drag queen Asifa Lahore, drag king Adam All and transgender singer of The Voice Jordan Gray.
From a young age Tina knew she was different but was too young to understand why and what it was and despite her parents sending her to a string of psychiatrists, she knew that was never going to be the solution.
School was a living nightmare as other kids picked up on her differences and bullied, then physically abused her. She was then publicly ‘outed’ there.
“Going through puberty felt like hell. Looking in the mirror and seeing myself becoming a man was pure misery. I burnt my face with hair remover constantly trying to get rid of it.
“But back in the 70s there was no help or support for transgender people, it was very much taboo, under the radar,” she said.
So conforming, she left school as soon as she could and went into electrical engineering and surveying – very much a man’s world.
‘Normal’ relationships followed, she got married and had a son.
“I knew I was living a lie and I knew I would have to leave, but I fumbled along burying myself in work, not wanting to go home or take time off. In the end the conclusion was obvious.”
After the split she then met another woman with whom she fell in love. Because of this she couldn’t hide who she was and the woman couldn’t cope with it and broke her heart.
“That was when the genie was well and truly out of the bottle,” Tina explained.
“I couldn’t go back, I had to move forward and deal with who I really was. The stress – mainly mental – also made me seriously ill and depressed so I decided to go through transition.”
Realising that NHS treatment back then could take many years, she went private and began hormone treatment which affected her emotional issues even more.
That was when she hit rock bottom.Credit: Adam All
“I’d distanced myself from my friends and was in a vacuous state – both physically and mentally. I ran the bath, had a few drinks and put a plugged in electric fire next to it and got in. The next thing I remember is being dragged out by a close friend’s partner who she had alerted after I didn’t answer her calls,” Tina said.
The whole process, with all the surgery and electrolysis sessions took four years and left her about £30k out of pocket. So she started managing a contact’s property portfolio and then worked for a large leisure firm near Preston, eventually becoming the director of operations.
Her mother then suffered from COPD, a pulmonary illness, so she came back home to look after her, working in the pub and club industry and in property development.
After her mother died, Tina felt she could truly be herself without upsetting her parents who were no longer with her and now she feels happy and healthy in her own skin.
She was then approached to help manage a local Pride event and became aware of a little known gay bar in Luton which was up for sale. She has just bought it, securing Muslim drag queen, Asifa Lahore, Drag King Adam and Jordan Gray, a transgender singer from The Voice to perform at the launch in July.
She will be promoting the venue as a cabaret bar for all, reflecting her journey with the décor being like Alice Thought the Looking Glass where nothing in life is black and white.
Which it isn’t for most of us.
She will also be supporting Mermaids, a charity which offers support to children, young people and their families in the face of great adversity and works to raise awareness of gender issues and gender dysphoria.
The launch party for The California Inn is on the 15th July 2016. See website for details