A blog by Tom Gale 15 Jul
Two weeks ago I finally got all my worldly possessions out of storage. I did ask several friends for help. However in the end only one was able to come. I knew that it would be challenging with only the two of us but reminded myself that when I moved the stuff in I was alone. So even one more pair of hands made a real difference. It was a 75 sq ft storage space and it was full. Including the two soiled mattresses that I had excepted responsibility for moving originally. After squeezing them into the van I had hired both of us were puffed out and had to take a few moments to recover. It only took four more trips with each of us pushing a trolley to get everything into the van. It had taken us about four hours by the time we had unpacked.
I pondered later that evening the difference from when I first arrived in Manchester in 2006 and moved into my apartment in the high rise block of flats with 2 suitcases and three carrier bags.
Then began the process of unpacking all the boxes. I was determined to not procrastinate. I had done that too many times in the past. I just put myself in the mindset that the job wasn’t done until the flattened box was in the upstairs cupboard.
I haven’t quite managed to unpack every box yet as I lost a weekend. It was for a good cause though. One of my mother’s cousins, who she has been close to for a long time was retiring having been in the same company for 49 years. The only company she had worked for her entire life. Which is really something these days. This cousin is from my mother’s fathers side of the family. Which to most of the family on my grandmother’s side still carry part of the shame that my grandfather had brought upon them. As a result the invitation was only extended to my mother and I. So I drove from Salford to Edinburgh and went to the party at the bowling club at the foot of Arthur’s Seat. Then got up early the next morning to drive back again as I had arranged to meet some of my closest friends on Canal Street at around noon for an afternoon of drinking, laughing and catching up on all that had happened not only to me but to them. The weather was with us.
Coincidentally it was the weekend of Sparkle. For those who don’t know about Sparkle. Sparkle is the oldest and largest transgender event. It is held on the second weekend of July attracting thousands of trans people and their allies. It was in 2015 that the number of attendees went over 10,000. The event takes place in and around Canal Street and Sackville Gardens which has been the main sites for the Gay and Trans Communities for many years. Canal Street famously brought to national attention in the TV drama written by Russell T Davies chronicling the lives of three gay men living in Manchester’s gay village called ‘Queer as Folk’ in 1999.
The very first Sparkle weekend was way back in 2003 almost twenty years ago. When all the so called TERFs were mere twinkles in their parents eyes. I didn’t arrive in Manchester until 2006 and had never heard of Sparkle. I had been out clubbing on that weekend and was doing the ‘walk of shame’ along Canal Street when I bumped into a couple of friends who were out for a drink. It was a pleasant Sunday and as we sat drinking outside the Rem we enjoyed the company of several trans men and women. They told me their stories and I was touched deeply by them that day. They opened my eyes to the challenges and abuse they had endured over the years. Giving thanks to the City of Manchester for providing one day in the year when they can be totally themselves without fear of reprisal or hateful behaviour from transphobes.
As a first exposure to anything trans for me it was a beautiful moment. Sharing their stories in the sunshine drinking with friends whilst on a ‘come down’ from a great weekend was a magical experience for me. One that I have never forgotten and has remained an important part of my development as a human being.
It was in 2013 that Sparkle became a charity and launched the Youth Zone. The following year was the 10th anniversary year. It has grown to become a fantastic diverse celebration with a vibrant outlook on being trans. Not forgetting that access to Sparkle is FREE. Just one more thing that goes into Sparkle being something special.
I have a close friend and he taught me something valuable in regard to trans people. He is the father of two children. He and his ex wife went through a horrible divorce when the children were very young. As a consequence he hasn’t seen them since. He has gone through hell doing all in his power to change that. To no avail. One evening when he was unburdening and was being a good listener he shared this thought with me.
What if one day there is a knock on the door and one of his children is standing in front of him. What kind of man would he hope to see? He determined that he would most likely want to see a man who had love in his life. A man who wasn’t bowed down by the challenges of living in this mad world. A man who was kind, caring, thoughtful, considerate, compassionate and able to show empathy and understanding. A man who had built and maintained strong friendships and family ties. A man who smiled and laughed more than complained and bemoaned their lot. A man who thought about things with an ability to present a well thought out case for his beliefs and principles. He then told me that after thinking about all these things and listing them it formed the beginning of a kind of blueprint on how he should live his life from then on.
Then he imagined what if when having this child back in his life the child brings with them the belief that they may be trans. How would I react to that? He said he would hope that he would react in a way that would be supportive to their child. Walking the tightrope of being a loving father and special confidant of this young person’s hopes, dreams and fears.
I told him that was perhaps one of the most beautiful things that I have ever heard. So should that day ever arrive he wouldn’t be alone. He would have me to unload on.
Those children of his have no idea what an amazing father they have. I hope someday they will. Until then as his friend I will be there when he needs someone to lean on and rant to.
So if there are any young men or women who are transitioning or thinking of transitioning and live in the back of beyond. Know that on the second week of every July there will be a weekend in Manchester where you could come to and meet others experiencing the same things as you. To be surrounded by the support and love of thousands who have paved the way for you. Let the love and power of that moment be a suit of armour to provide you with protection as you make your way in the world being your authentic self.