To celebrate LGBT History Month, MM talk to LGBT figures from across Greater Manchester about their experiences of coming out and what progress they think the city still has to make towards equality.
Yesterday was the turn of Jackie Crozier, an events specialist based in Manchester and former Manchester Pride director.
Today we complete the series with a powerful and evocative interview from Dawn Pomfret, who runs TransForum Manchester, on life as a ‘freak’ and a ‘pervert’.
Dawn Pomfret has always felt ugly and wrong. She has spent most her life pretending to be a man – a man terrified of letting anyone find out he is a pervert. A man, who when it all got too much, would dress in women’s clothing and all of a sudden feel relaxed and utterly normal.
She completed a degree in electronics, has been a good soldier, an electrician, and an electronics engineer. She has also played music semi-professionally.
How old were you when you first realised you were L/G/B or T?
I was four and I was just sure there was something wrong with my body. It felt like something should not have been there.
My mother took me to the doctor and said that I had told her my body was wrong. The doctor said everything was okay and it was left at that. I did not realise I was Trans. That realisation came in 2010 and was a huge shock – mostly because I found out I was not ill or sick in my head.
Could you tell us your ‘coming out’ story?
My life can be seen in episodes. When I was a child I became aware I was not right, I felt wrong. When puberty started I was so miserable and realised that I needed help. All I knew I was I felt utterly female.
I went to see my GP and blurted out how I felt. It was 1966, I was a wide-eyed, confused teenager and I told the truth. I asked for help and maybe deliverance from my feelings.
My GP Dr M leaned over and looked happy.
He said: “I can help you and I know what’s wrong with you .You are a pervert – a typical case.”
My head exploded and I was in utter turmoil as I heard the treatment options. These are eversion therapy, drug treatments and electro convulsive therapy. I completely shut off at this point.
The doctor called my father – he is a brute and my belly turned to water – and he was there in five minutes.
I was pushed into the waiting room and as he followed me out he gave me a look that sent chills through me. He dragged me to his work car. That smell of leather still sticks with me when I get into any car.
We arrived home and I looked at this man – I was in fear of him and his unpredictability. He pushed me into the middle room and sat on the settee. It was plastic with a leatherette covering and steel legs at both ends. He told me not to look at him.
‘So you think you are a girl’. With a dry throat I nodded. My head exploded, I saw white light and my eyesight dimmed. Before I knew it I was on the floor, then picked up and dropped, shaking, back onto the settee.
‘Still feel like a girl?’. I nodded – I am so bloody minded. There was the same white light as I was hit on my right ear.
I knew how the rest of the morning would go now. I tried not to give in and deny my feelings but eventually I just heard a voice, my voice, say ‘NO’. The abuse stopped and I was left – I had wet myself, been slapped, kicked and stamped on.
That one day taught me two things – to shut my big mouth and that I was unclean and sick. My life then became another act in my play.
Before I knew it I was 54, I had lost my right leg after an accident and I had for years tried to be a father and a husband. I realised I could no longer stay as I was.
I decided that I could take no more. I was going to take my life.
I went to put transport into Google. I was going to go somewhere quiet and remote because there was some small part of me that did not want to die. Instead I would go as far from people as I could.
I hit the ‘g’ by accident and up came the word ‘Transgender’. I clicked on it and as I read more and more, I noticed everything matched how I felt.
For the first time since 14 I was unsure of who I was. Looking further I heard about support groups.There on the page I found a place called TransForum in Manchester. I went three times. Twice I came home too scared to go in the door.
On the third I went into the LGF expecting a dirty dingy hole with horrible people. What I saw was 30 to 40 women sat talking and I realised I was not alone and certainly not sick or perverted. I felt everything drop away from me – all my fears and self-loathing. I was not alone or a freak.
From coming out to now, what are lessons you have learnt about yourself with regards to you and your sexuality?
My sexuality has stayed the same. I am in love with the most incredible woman. I will be until the day I die. I am now classed as a lesbian. I have gone from hetro to gay. That’s a real mind blower.
What are the biggest challenges still to overcome in the UK for the LGBT community?
Integrating and not losing sight of the past. What has been hard won can be lost. We are as in need of help as are the other protected groups and minorities. We need the LGB to help us.
And what about for the rest of the world?
I am passionate about TDOR (Trangender Day of Rememberance). It really does scare me when I hear of young Trans people being murdered for being who they are. There is one that stood out for me. She was skinned alive and then shot. I don’t understand why we scare people so much.
What would you say to your young self or a young LGBT person with the knowledge you have now about coming out?
Do it now. Enjoy your life as the person you should be. You are not ill, the only freak is nature not you. Just be comfortable with you.
How does being gay impact on your job/career?
It would have done. I am retired now but I would have struggled as most Trans girls do. I would have kicked ass though, that’s so for sure.
What are your thoughts on Manchester’s LGBT scene? Is the Village still the heart of it in your mind?
The village is safe… well safer than most places. I know most of the owners and get on well with them. I can relax there and just be myself. You do have to keep yourself safe as in all places.
What makes Manchester a good place to live in for members of the LGBT community?
It’s HOME… and we have the LGF. Might seem silly but it’s a place of safety if needed. A place you can just drop into and have a tea or ask for help. We all need to be less judgemental and accepting. All our differences make us stronger.
Image courtesy of the LGF Online, via YouTube, with thanks.