Fifty Shades of Gender podcast graphic with Katy Jon Went

Episode 16

A conversation with Katy Jon Went


1 hr 12 min. Recorded on 19 October 2020.

Katy’s pronouns are they/them or she/her. They are transgender and identify as non-binary and asexual. Find out what that means to Katy in this episode.

We also talk about adolescence and development, religion, conversion therapy, crossdressing, being outed, depression, aesthetics, sex workshops, hormone therapy, being a reluctant transsexual, gender reassignment surgery, going on a journey towards authenticity, and freedom of expression.

“…the nature of suppressing these things makes you ill, and not being myself made me ill. So my depression was strongly rooted in denial of who I was and repressing myself.”

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TRANSCRIPT [expand to read]

Esther: So hello and welcome! What’s your name?

Katy: Katy Jon Went.

Esther: And how do you identify, Katy? What other labels do you like to use?

Katy: Oh I am glad you added the labels bit in, because just asking me how I identify is a deep, existential question that I think from time-to-time I have conquered and then, on every second day of the week, or every third month, I realise, ‘oh, I am still thinking about it’. So I guess the easiest label for me to say that I can be 100% affirmative about, is I identify as human and ailurophile (everyone can go and google that one, it means cat lover), those are the two things that are definitely true of me, as to the rest it is a movable feast, sticky labels and all the rest, so I like labels, but I also recognise that they inhibit and slap them on a delivery box and get shipped off somewhere. So yes I am non-binary currently, but I have been other things. I am asexual and I have also said at times, in my past when people say, ‘how do you identify?’, I say, ‘well I am, or have been, every letter of L-G-B-T-I-Q-A and P, and some of those letters even have double meanings.

So, I guess, at a relationship level, you know I guess I have to put my hand in the air here and say that I know you intimately and I am poly-flirtatious, but the asexuality means I don’t want to do anything with it. I am kind a- or grey-romantic, I have kind of grown out of romance, if that makes any sense. And I have been in open relationships for about a decade, but again the asexuality means I am not really doing anything with it, so I have got a very outside-of-the-box attitude to relating. And I guess I will probably find more labels in the future to come, but those roughly describe me now, but I can’t guarantee whether they will be true in a years time.

Esther: So it is very much a journey?

Katy: Yes, I think that is the best description of my whole life. I have used, often, the analogy of a train journey, even in knowing you, I have described it as, sometimes our tracks will converge, sometimes I will go into a tunnel and you will go over a mountain, or we might go to different countries (and we certainly might arrive at them separately because I am such a pain to travel with!). {Both: laughing} You know, I think a journey is a very good analogy, and I like the train journey idea, or the cruise idea, in the sense that there are different ports and stations I am getting off at, and I spend time at them, and I explore them and see how they feel and I go, ‘well, that was interesting, I spent some time there, I spent some time sexual, I spent some time trans, I spent some time straight, I spent some time Christian, I spent some time doing various things thinking and trying to see if I enjoyed visiting that country’. But, very often, it is not that I get bored of them, but I find I have exhausted the possibility of them actually working for me, and then I move on. So journeys and stations; and countries and ports, are a very good geographical analogy to my world and my world has consisted of, you know, more than two genders and more than two sexualities, there are several continents to explore and I still think there is probably more to explore but I don’t know what they are yet —because I thought I had done them all.

Esther: So how was that for you, when you were young, did you have any ideas about…how did your identity, and you maybe questioning your identity, what did that look like?

Katy: Well I guess that I have to out the fact that I am 53, so I think, going back, the earliest I can really remember is being three and really it is only, I could probably count on both hands, and possibly even only one hand, the number of instants I can even remember under the age of 10. So it is scattered memory, it is not complete. And within that, I can remember being three or four, and just feeling like a child. I identified as ‘kid’, I identified as ‘child’, and no one told me that there was a gender box to go with it, really. I guess I knew I was ‘boy’, you know, and that I came second in my family’s hierarchy after the family cat. My parents went and got cats thinking having children was not going to happen, and then I came along as an accident, or a miracle, or a curse, or a blessing (or some such thing!). I remember playing with the kids in my street and playing with them because they were ‘the kids’, and I played with them because, here is another label I haven’t used, I probably would say that I am sapiosexual, or sapio-sensual, or something like that, because I am not interested in being sexual with a brain, but brains, or interesting personalities, are the things that interest me most about another person: I am attracted to an interesting person. I can aesthetically appreciate a beautiful person, in different forms of beauty, (I don’t mean just the world’s idea, or the glossy magazine’s idea of it).  But, even as a kid, I was attracted to the interesting people, it wasn’t about gender, but, at the time, most of the other boys were boring and most of the other girls were interesting. And it wasn’t that I was attracted to a feminine body, or a male body. I wanted to play with the interesting people – and that meant that if the girl wanted to play football, or wanted to climb a tree, I would play football or climb a tree with the girls. I didn’t think that was a gendered right-or-wrong thing to do: I remember making rose petal perfume with a girl a few doors up and playing football with the girl next door and then getting dirty in the mud with a boy and, vaguely, have some memories of playing football with a boy a couple of doors down, but generally speaking really didn’t love sport, but I loved tree climbing and playing war games and also some girly pursuits as well. I didn’t really put the into a girly-boy box.

I think the first time I encountered the division between, ‘there are two boxes, boy and girl, and you are going to kind of have to choose’ — or rather, there was no choice you are in one, whether you like it or not, which I think is what I felt – was at primary school. And again I think the first year or so, we were treated as kids, like we are all doing this together, we are all doing that together, and everything was all together. Partly because I guess at that age there is no real physical development issues that means that boys eventually become stronger and therefore would outpace most of the girls in sport, if they were playing in the same year groups, but until puberty, girls and boys can perform at sports quite equally and, again, there was no kind of sexual threat or anything like that.

So I think maybe at five, or six, my recollection is that things were still uniform at school but there came a point where I have this strong memory of a teacher one day saying, ‘okay boys sit here, girls sit here’. I don’t know what year I was in,(probably I was aged five, six or seven), and I just suddenly thought ‘oh seriously, I have to choose?’. I don’t think that I felt there was a choice, I just thought, ‘well I guess I have to sit with the boys, because I am fairly certain, I know that I look like them, I know I am one’. I didn’t think at that young age, ‘I am a girl trapped in a boy’s body’, or vice versa. I have never really felt that actually, which is a stereotype of people who are trans and go through this journey, that’s not something that was overtly real for me, but I did think, internally, ‘I don’t fit into the boy’s camp’.

It felt from an early age though that the girls were my tribe more than anything else and I remember in the end I actually sat at girls’ tables in class, more often than boys, from an early age, all the way through up to about age 10 actually I think, and one of the reasons I did was, one, I enjoyed their company better and two, they were better at communication and emotional sharing, which boys have zero interest in – if you emotionally shared to another boy you got beaten up or they didn’t understand what you just said. They weren’t interested, they wanted to play top trumps, British bulldog and discuss sport, and none of those things was I interested in. But the girls wanted to talk about how they were feeling and that was something that I always was open to from the earliest age I can always remember talking about feelings, but I did used to sit at the girls table and allow lots of them to copy my spelling answers, so I think the girls embraced me because I was good at spelling more than anything else! — I thought it was because of my emotional sharing, but it was down to my spelling!. {laughing}

Those years were, I guess, additionally difficult, I had a sister who was two-and-a-half-years younger than me – I saw her as a sister and she saw me as a brother – I think those categories at the time were clear, but around age five (plus or minus a year, I can’t be exact) I also had an operation on my genitals and, up until that point, I think my sister, who was a couple of years younger (maybe three at the time) was saying, ‘I want a winkie too!’. {Both: laughing} And then after I had this operation and had to have my ‘winkie’ bathed in the bath every night and things like that and she suddenly thought: okay I don’t want one anymore!

The things that stick in your mind from when you are young are strange! My sister had dolls called Gregor and something else, they were these Swedish dolls, she had a boy doll and a girl doll, and I had an action man and, what I can distinctly remember is that all of those dolls, when you pulled their pants down, none of them had any working parts. So if you wanted to know what, I guess, corrupted me, or most inspired my non-binary identity I guess it was the fact that all the dolls I played with were non-binary, even though they weren’t made that way, they were accidentally that way because no one wanted to give any dolls working parts. So that remains a facet of my young exploration and things like that. And I was one of those kids that never played ‘doctors and nurses’ with some other kid down the street, which I always thought was a weird thing, it is meant to be one of those body part discovery things and so I never discovered what was meant to be in a girls’ or a boys’ pants anyway – the only thing I had to go on was mine. I didn’t particularly like it, didn’t hate it, it was there.

So yeah, I think my childhood in that sense was confusing. I thought deeply but didn’t have the vocabulary, or the language, or the psychology, or the role models external to myself, to think: what am I? Who am I? All I know is I didn’t fit, and I didn’t feel like there was anywhere to fit.

Esther: So there is the gender journey vs the sexuality journey. So was that in any way confusing? Because I have talked to… so in episode 11, I believe it was, when I talked to Charlie — Charlie is a gay transman — but obviously there is sexual orientation vs the whole gender identity thing. So there are two separate things going on and I think, maybe, especially years ago, it was not clear that there was maybe a difference between the two, or people might not have known that there was a difference between the two, and that might have adding extra confusion to someone’s journey, if that makes sense?

Katy: And having listened to Allan’s podcast with you, talking about Havelock Ellis, going back into the late 19th century, and also going back into ancient cultures: if you differed from heterosexuality, or cisgender, in any way shape or form, or if you differed in sexual biology from male and female, i.e. some version of intersex (it used to be called hermaphrodite), then you were lumped into this third, other, category, that in some cultures is simply called ‘third gender’, that Havelock Ellis and others described as an ‘invert’. And very many of the people they were looking at as inverts, in the late 19th century, and the early 20th century, were either distinctly, or indistinctly, some combination of being gay, intersex, or trans. And for many of the early cases that were studied around this, these people, it wasn’t a case that you were one or the other, but you could be a blend of all three. And that basically sex, gender and sexuality were things that you might have an ‘othered’ identity as, within all of them. I think I don’t see it as distinctly separate, as perhaps Charlie did, because, when you ask me: gender, sex, and sexuality?, I see all three of them as interlocking circles like a Venn diagram and not as discrete circles or boxes.

So if you ask me my gender, I think it relates to my sexuality. If you ask me my sexuality, I think it relates to my sex. We experience gender embodied and I have always found that confusing, because it didn’t really embody in me. So I chose, because I wanted a good education and I was given the offer by my, you know, white, working class dad, who saved up, and also sacrificed massively, because he believed massively in education, to go to a public school, to an all-male public school, which I thought for educational purposes would be great! (No distractions with girls and all the rest!) And I do remember my last memory probably of primary school being of us all playing kiss chase in the school playground and the teachers coming round and stopping us and banning it and I do have a distinct memory of you would line up at either end of a netball court at school sort of thing, and the boys would line up at one end, and the girls would line up at the other end, and we would all run towards the middle and try and grab someone and kiss them. Of course that would be really wrong in #metoo era, it would also be really, really, straight in this much more LGBT inclusive era, the assumption being that all ten-year-ol children only have a heterosexuality, what happens if you were the boy that wanted to chase a boy, or a girl that wanted to chase a girl? And I guess my memory from that was that I did, a little bit, feel like the girl inside the boy that wanted to chase a girl, although that is reducing it to this binary aspect, I also overthink things so massively that I thought: well, if I feel like a girl and want to chase the girls, I think I am attracted to girls but I think I feel more like the girls, but I didn’t want to be unfair, or to cheat, so I thought ‘well, I still better go and stand with the boys because it would be unfair if I stood with the girls and was much closer to them and was able to grab one immediately!’. {laughing}

I end up in an all-boys school which would have progressed normally except for the fact that but I didn’t progress normally. And, from the age of 11, I was under a paediatrician actually for orthodontics and dental work because my jaw was out of alignment and I had to wear a brace and things, but they kept saying ‘well, your jaw isn’t moving’ and they did some tests and they said, ‘well, yeah, you don’t seem to be growing in the way that you are meant to, you don’t seem to be progressing according to the standard charts for a child of your age’. And, you know, at around 11/12/13, they were recording me as being at least two years below the normal age and height ratios that were mean to exist. They kept saying that I had a bone age that was two-and-a-bit years less than my real age. (I didn’t know what that meant really at the time.) But I guess I should have, if I had had better understanding and we had had the internet back then, I might have googled it, but the dilemma was that when the other boys aged 13/14/15 hit puberty, I didn’t, because I had this bone age that was two years — or more — lower. And in fact it got worse, the gap grew bigger between me and my peer group. I was not only the shortest kid in my year, I was the shortest kid in the year below my year and when everyone else, when I was playing rugby, in the rugby showers with the boys afterwards they were these towering giants, developing muscles, beginning to shave, voices beginning to break; and I was this terrified creature on the other side of the shower basically scared for my safety, because everyone was bigger, stronger, more confident, and becoming more manly, and was nothing was happening, zero was happening in the becoming manly stakes for me. I wasn’t gay in that sense either because I had zero attraction to these half naked males in the shower. That didn’t stop my first relationship being with a boy! {laughing}, but I think I was looking for love, and affection and touch, and I wasn’t looking necessarily for homosexuality, I was just looking for the aesthetics of being loved, cared for, touched, caressed, and I found that in the only contact available in a boy’s school – another boy. And again, someone the same age as me, but far more mature than me and far more developed than me.

And so, throughout my school years, I felt incredibly confused by gender because puberty wasn’t happening. In the end it did fire, but it didn’t fire until my sixth form and carried on through university to the point where I didn’t stop growing until I was 21, because by then it was several years out of sync. So I felt totally, not only did I feel confused as to whether, or how, I was meant to be a boy, I didn’t fit into my age group, or my peer group, in any way either. So I felt out of sync with sex, gender, sexuality, and age, which left me feeling…when I was a child I was very comfortable, and confident, and would talk to strangers quite happily, to to the point of talking too much (as you can tell by my long answers to any of your simple questions!). I think it was that crashing realisation that I didn’t fit that started to make me go inward, and from my late teens, all the way through to my late 30s, I became very, very, introspective in my thoughts, and started bottling things up, and had nowhere to go with them because I couldn’t find any language that existed, or any people out there that existed, that could show me that there was anything outside of the binary norm.

Esther: So do you think that is kind of also what brought you to religion?

Katy: Well, I grew up in kind of what I would call traditional Anglicanism, and the Church of England is a broad church, meaning that it kind of accepts everyone (and what you actually believe isn’t that important! {laughing}) and in that sense I was definitely looking for something to believe in, something to belong to, and so I actually went in search of a stronger religion and I joined a bible class, an evangelical church, and at university and discovered charismatic, evangelical, Christianity. And I deep-dived into that, I deep-dived into theology and started studying Hebrew, Greek and eventually Arabic. I studied for a degree in theology and things, studied archaeology, and eventually spent 15 years doing a lot of travel in the Middle East and a couple of years working as a missionary. I kind of, I did want to believe in something, but I think deep-diving into Christian belief was also a way of avoiding deep-diving into myself and it became a wonderful, divine, distraction. And also I was looking for acceptance and obviously the basic tenant of Christianity is meant to be acceptance, you know: ‘love your neighbour as yourself’ and ‘God loves you and died to save you’, and all that kind of thing, which doesn’t ring so true when you find some Christians then rejecting LGBT people. As someone who studied and taught Hebrew for a while, I loved the non-binary-ness of the bible, the fact that Adam was created hermaphrodite in many ancient versions of the biblical tales; the fact that God was described as using language that is male and female, described as having big breasts…

Esther: That’s fascinating!

Katy: …gathering his children as a mother and a father and, yeah, we are created in God’s image, in God’s image he created them, male and female, the image of God is male and female. And, as I say, I am agnostic now so I am not preaching but that was a journey I went through, and again, the binary version of the bible, as it were, I found didn’t fit but it was something that I tried to lock myself in because then I didn’t have to deal with the pandora inside. And the idea that I didn’t feel like I fitted, again, into sex, gender, sexuality, age, or even religion – I didn’t fit the religious box…but I tried it on. I tried, really, really, hard to make it work! Becoming very believable in the point of that, and able to persuade others to take on my belief that, deep down inside, I felt didn’t really fit either.  So it was both a hard time and a hidden time.

Esther: Mm yeah, so what happened in the end? — because obviously you are out now, so when did that all happen? When did you come out?

Katy: Well I think I nearly came out in my mid-20s, as I said my first relationship was with a guy at school for about six months. My next relationship was my final year of university when I overheard my mum and my sister saying, ‘do you think Jonathan is gay?’, and so literally the next weekend I brought a girl home to prove I wasn’t, we didn’t do anything together, but we spent the whole night in my bedroom just talking (and she have a nice bum as well!, she had a nice brain and a nice bum – perfect combination). But we basically stayed up talking all night and then emerged from my bedroom into breakfast and the very fact that a girl emerged from my bedroom obviously set the fears, or just the possibilities, straight for a while (literally). And that was aged 21. Then it was about aged 22, through to 25, I dated this girl who became a doctor, became a psychiatrist in fact, and we broke on and off two or three times, but again, I couldn’t believe that someone could love me, and I think that was why again I dated a guy at school, and then dated my wife in some respects. I didn’t not love them back, but I was in love with the idea of being loved, because I couldn’t believe that anyone could, because I couldn’t love me, so why would anyone else. And also, if anyone really knew me, they wouldn’t want to date me, because inside of me was this person…

Esther: Like you felt like you were hiding part of who you were?

Katy: Oh yeah, I felt a fraud, in so many ways. I felt the version of me that I was projecting to the world was a fake, and that the true me, under me, I didn’t know what it was, so I couldn’t even show the truth, because I didn’t have a vocabulary for the truth. You know, like many kids experiment, I had experimented and played with borrowing my sisters or my mothers’ clothes, or buying clothes from a charity shop and I cross-dressed in secret, you know, and that was something, because of my faith again, I kept thinking: that must be wrong, that’s dirty, that’s sinful, that’s whatever and you are crossing some boundaries there. (Well I was crossing the boundaries because I was borrowing other people’s clothes.) But I was crossing the boundaries of gender presentation shouldn’t be a thing to be honest, and many kids when they are young play dress up. Just for me I didn’t start until later and when I did start, every time when I felt terrible, and a sinner, and tried to stop it, two or three years later it would come back, and I would try again. So it was something that I start, stopped, continually, and I remember, as not really as a teen, but in my young 20s even, buying a pornography magazine and looking at the women in it, and looking at them and thinking, particularly if there was a scene for example, with a guy and a girl, or a scene with two girls in it, I would always prefer the two girls scene, because I could identify as one of the girls in the picture. But if there was a guy and a girl scene, I would think, would the guy just get out of the picture please, because you are ruining it for me. So I knew that I wasn’t attracted to guys, and I also knew I didn’t identify as the guy relating to the girl in it (obviously it wasn’t a real relationship it was porn and also being a Christian I hated myself for looking at the porn). But I felt conflicted looking at it, the fact that I identified as one of the characters in the photos, but it was always a female character that I identified as in that sense and again, growing up, this was pre-internet and pre a lot of computer games, where you can have a second personality and go off and explore the world in a different gender in that sense.

Just prior to getting married, I actually thought I better clear out my dirty closet, so to speak. So, as part of getting married, I went into some pre-martial counselling with my fiancé, and I confessed to having done things like cross-dressed and being confused about gender, and this, that, and the other. I was also completely thrown by the fact that, even before I had said half of this, the guy who was offering to pray for us, who was actually an obstetrician and gynaecologist as a medical profession, but also a Christian missionary who believed in prophecy, and divine knowledge, and prayer and healing – so an eclectic mix! And he said, ‘I am hearing this word from God about you’, and I thinking, ‘oh here we go…something deep and dark is going to come out about me’. And he said, ‘I have a picture of you with your gender twisted in the womb’. I am thinking, ‘what? How does he know that!?’, and I hadn’t, at that point, said much.  All I had said was that I wanted to clear out my closet before getting married and have no skeletons in it. Well, actually, when I was born, it took them an hour or so to work out which gender I was, so his description of me having my genders ‘crossed in the womb’ wasn’t entirely inaccurate and he didn’t know that! My chromosomes were XY, because I subsequently had them tested, but I was designated female for the first hour of my life — probably because I had a small winkie! {laughing} which was not obvious to anyone checking for the first hour of my life. Again probably due to this slow puberty that I had as a teenager, which turns out to be related to having very, very, low testosterone and low hormones, and also receptors that don’t really know what to do with my hormones.

And so I willingly therefore underwent Christian prayer to try and stop being trans, and also confessing to a relationship with a guy, so basically I had conversion therapy by choice for, at the time, being gay and trans, or gay and a cross-dresser, or something like that. And the prayer and the counselling lasted pretty much the whole weekend, by day two of it I felt so battered by the prayer (and when they were casting out my gay and trans demons), I was basically saying, ‘yeah, they are gone now!’, thinking: ‘no they haven’t!’. And I used to wear kind of bangles, you know those leather thongs around your wrist type thing, and I had a little metal necklace with a small coke can on it, of all things, for fuck’s sake, nothing girly, but I had a necklace round my neck, but these particular Christians felt that guys shouldn’t do jewellery, so again one of the things they did as part of my therapy and prayer was they made me cut off all my jewellery and they literally took a pair of scissors and went at my wrist and cut all my bangles off and made me destroy my necklace, so…

Esther: That’s just wasteful!

Katy: In some respects I felt okay with it at the time because that is what I did to myself, every time I would cross-dress or do something like that, I would destroy what I was exploring. I would go through something that is very common amongst cross-dressers of a certain age, including me I guess at the time, was this purge and burn cycle. So you buy things or collect a stash of clothes, makeup, expressions, jewellery, whatever, to express yourself, and then you would feel guilty, and then you would trash the lot and crash and burn them. So I went through that cycle quite a lot from time-to-time, but then I just deep-dived into…having kind of pretended to some extent — but felt like it was a fait accompli and that I didn’t have much choice — I just accepted that this was going to be me, and I became the good Christian husband. And very much what people were describing as ‘the new man’ character-type, because I was very happy doing the cooking at home, doing most of the shopping, my wife went out to work as a psychiatrist and I had a part-time job teaching at a Bible college, also writing and teaching a Hebrew course, and the rest of the time being a house husband — and I was very content in that role, it wasn’t anything that I felt awkward about. I didn’t feel like I was being emasculated by it. I mean at school I spent three years in the army cadets because I thought I should ‘man up’ you know, but I find gender roles confusing and therefore I was quite happy to break out of them. So yeah, from 25 through-to 39 I hid in a Christian marriage and a Christian church and became the dutiful son and the dutiful husband and friends that I met, including an intersex friend (I didn’t discover they were intersex until much later) they said that in all that time that they had known me, that I had gradually got greyer and greyer as a person. The multi-coloured personality, the three-dimensionally of who I was, became two dimensional and grey and I was clearly getting depressed.

Esther: Yeah, because you were denying who you were I suppose. Yeah, yeah (go on…)

Katy: No I was going to say, you can repress that for so long before it bursts out and that is essentially what happens it is like essentially. I mentioned with the labels, I don’t really like boxes (except to play in like a cat and jump in them from time to time and shake it about and shred it!). In this analogy I guess I am like the jack-in-the-box and and putting pandora back in – you can’t. And as much as I had allowed the Christian worldview to repress me, willingly at the time, as I say, I put the jack back in the box and, at around age 37/38, out popped Jill! But in secret, I experimented with cross-dressing again in my late 30s and I would occasionally take photographs of myself looking more feminine and thinking, ‘is that me too?’’ — I was both disgusted by it and I guess not attracted to the idea of it, but I felt actually comfortable and calm doing it, until the guilt came back. And you know I still had that Christian guilt conscious, judgement, thing, going on so I felt bad but, when I was cross-dressed, I felt calm and comfortable and I found I was most comfortable and creative, writing, creating, producing stuff, when I could do that. And very often I was writing a couple of articles a week for other websites and things and a column about Hebrew and theology of all things and I found the best time to write was to write at 4 o’clock in the morning. And I would get up at 4am and go out to my study in the garden, put on female clothing and then sit down and write a theology article! One because that was where I was hiding my stash of clothes was outside in my garden office; and two, once I then transformed I felt comfortable and creative and things flowed. I felt more present with myself.

And it is strange, because when I was this child growing up there was this children’s TV series called Mr Ben, and Mr Ben was this cartoon character who would go down the street and he would go along to the local kind of dressing-up shop, or fancy dress hire outfit shop, and he would go in there and he would go in there and select an outfit to try it. And go into the changing rooms to try it and as soon as he went into the changing room to try it, he would become that character for that episode. Or I feel like it was like Narnia and I would go through the wardrobe, after spending a considerably long time in the wardrobe, enjoying the wardrobe, and putting on the clothes and the fur coats and all the rest, I would then go into Narnia, and I would enjoy being the character. I think as a child when I read fiction and fantasy novels, I could so empathetically place myself within the character of the protagonist in a  novel that I was reading that I was there. So I found becoming someone else, even hidden inside my marriage, was actually a safe place for me. And then one day, I left my computer open (I didn’t protect my computer with passwords for some reason, I didn’t think there was anything to protect and completely forgot that I had photographs of myself on there cross-dressed) and one day my wife was looking to look up some information on my computer and she found them. And absolutely horrified, understandably so I guess, (the shock anyway), she had a quick scream at me and then drove off in her car and left! {laughing} And we had a two week negotiation as to who I was and I was given an ultimatum I guess, essentially, ‘I had to stop doing this or we would get divorced’. And I was torn, because again, at the time, I was still Christian and divorce was a sin and being trans, and having a sexual fetish, or whatever was going on, that was also a sin.

Esther: You can’t win then can you?

Katy: Exactly, whatever I did I was a sinner, I could not win! I also realised that I am 39 now, and I have been doing this since I was 9, or whatever, 30 years, and I haven’t been able to stop it, the Christian ministry and deliverance team hadn’t been able to stop it (and {joking voice} if God can’t stop it who am I to stop it, because I am not God and if I was God I would stop it!) and I couldn’t. And so, I just suddenly thought for the first time in my life, that I need to find out what this is and explore it a little bit more in the open and a little bit less in the dark. And so I said to my wife, ‘I am sorry, I don’t think I can, I think I need to explore it and maybe I will get it out of my system’. That was what my thought was at the time, ‘look I just need to play with this’, maybe I feel like [when] I was a kid I wasn’t given the freedom to cross-dress or play in the dressing up box or whatever, I probably was, I just can’t remember it. And I thought, ‘maybe if, as an adult, if I get to play in the dressing-up box for a bit I will be able to get it out of my system’, and I thought that and ({joking} that was 14 years ago and I am still struggling to get out of my system — no, I am not struggling at all to get out of my system now, but that was what I thought at the time, ‘maybe if I embrace it, I can get rid of it’.

Esther: Yeah!

Katy: And that resulted in divorce. I guess I bear no ill-feeling about that, in the end it was a favour because being called on it I had to face up to the thing that I couldn’t face and having somebody else’s anger directed at me was an alternative to me finding the courage to actually come out. So I was outed, and I guess it was a case of, at that point, thinking ‘well, it is sink or swim’.

Esther: Yeah, what consequences did that have?

Katy: Well it meant being outed to my family, to my church, to our friends. I lost probably two-thirds of my friends in that moment, but most of them were Christian evangelical charismatics who all thought I was a sinner so that was kind of standard, I guess. The Christians who didn’t reject me, I discovered half of them were secretly also LGBT or something like that so {laughing} actually that is the reason. And I would contact come old Christian friends from university and say, ‘by the way, I don’t know who I am yet, but I know I am not a standard cis-het person, I maybe trans I don’t know, and this may be what I am currently exploring’. And the one I spoke to suddenly said, ‘oh I came out as lesbian at 25’, and ‘I came out as this’ and I suddenly realised my so-called cis-het Christian friends from university, weren’t also cis-het, and many were actually queer themselves. But they had all lost touch with me, or not connected with me, because they thought I was a cis-het evangelical judger of them, and we had all kept our secrets.

But yeah, it resulted obviously in divorce, being asked to leave my church. It resulted in, I guess, me taking my eye off the ball in my business and made my business struggle, which resulted in huge debts. So it was a very, very, difficult period, and I had been kind of diagnosed as depressed several years earlier by my GP and had not realised the nature of suppressing these things makes you ill – and not being myself made me ill. So my depression was strongly rooted in being in denial of who I was and repressing myself.

And, at the time, my then wife – she was a psychiatrist by then and was also training to become a psychotherapist — she loved the concept of therapy and was in therapy herself and I used to argue as to the point of therapy, I didn’t believe in it. And then suddenly I was thinking, ‘shit I might need it!’ And being a Christian, still at the time I was debating with myself as to whether I should go for healing or therapy and I thought, ‘well I have tried the healing thing and it didn’t work, so I will try the therapy this time’. I don’t even remember how I found the therapist, but I certainly remember the first session of therapy I had, I was really analysing my therapist to decide whether or not they were going to work for me and literally my first question was, ‘I think I might be trans, and I would like to find a way not to be, can you help me?’. And my therapist said, ‘no I can’t’, and I said, ‘oh okay then’, and she said, ‘but I can help you on your journey to discover who you are’.

To this day she remains a friend and she was incredibly helpful about simply helping me unpack…in the end I spent 18 months in therapy mostly trying to sort out the effects of marriage, which was the effects of denial, really, it was the effects of not being yourself and having to unpack all of that, but in-between I was beginning to explore gender and it was only about half-way through therapy that I felt comfortable to present to my therapist as Katy and not as John and to start showing up to therapy sessions cross-dressed, in quite effeminate ways (and anyone who knows me know now knows that I don’t dress in an effeminate way, I live in jeans and Dr Martens and if I like flowery blouses it is only because they match my flowery docs), so I don’t necessarily choose clothes anymore because they are male or female, or because they are flouncy, or functional, I choose because I have a very, very, strong attraction to aesthetics that work and things that match and…

Esther: What makes clothes male or female anyway, it is a piece of fabric in the end right?

Katy: It is how much room there is in the crotch, and… {laughing}

Esther: And if there is pockets…?

Katy: Oh and if there is pockets, yes exactly, that is the worst thing about transition is losing pockets generally speaking and that is the first thing I look for when I buy clothes now, ‘do they have fucking pockets?!”. I am increasingly buying boiler suits now, the world of boiler suits (you know jumpsuits, onesies those kind of things) because they have lots of pockets, because I have three phones you need somewhere to stick them all!

So I now see clothes as functional again, but I also see them as things of aesthetic beauty and I am attracted to aesthetically beautiful clothes, but then even when I was presenting as male, everyone complemented me on my dress sense, because even as male I always went for aesthetically pleasing clothing. So I have always found clothing as part of the expression of gender, but I don’t even know if I am expressing gender through clothing, or am I expressing a love of aesthetics? And, for me, how I dress is an artful expression rather than a gender expression. Many people have heard of the illustration of the gender-bred man, or the gender-bred person, and the idea that there is an external gender expression, there is a sexual biology in a genital area, there is a romanticism in the heart, and then there is a gender in the brain. Well I think that kind of four-way matrix for who we are isn’t enough to describe all the things that I feel and how I express myself. I definitely think that clothes, for me, are part of my artistic expression and not just my gender expression and it is the way I relate to the world.

Esther: Yes.

Katy: And my house is kind colour coded, it is very full my house, but it is colour coded, aesthetics mean a lot to me and I find that having the right aesthetics calm me, because I am bipolar as well, so my mood is far more calm, if my aesthetics are right. And in the same way that, from the age of 9 to 39, when I was cross-dressing, I thought it was then, actually what I was doing was aesthetically dressing and finding calmness and comfort in my surroundings to be at one with myself. You know, I am totally with these campaigns, ‘let toys be toys and let clothes be clothes’. You know, why should one gender have all the best outfits? So I don’t really see clothes as gendered in that sense anymore. Definitely for a while I tried them on thinking that that is what they were about.

And I was, both in therapy, and also eventually going to see a psychiatrist, I thought that the cross-dressing would be a thing; I remember watching loads of Eddie Izzard stuff and loving Eddie Izzard’s comfortableness with (and Eddie Izzard doesn’t say he wears women’s clothes, he says he wear’s Eddie’s clothes), you know? And I remember thinking, ‘God if only I could be that comfortable with being an executive transvestite’ (as he called himself), an open cross-dresser, rather than a secret cross dresser, and able to be comfortable with mix and matching that as well, you know wearing males clothes and lipstick, or wearing female clothes and not wearing makeup and things like that, and not changing his voice and being obviously still Eddie.

Esther: Yeah.

Katy: I thought actually that would be so much easier, if only I had the confidence to be an Eddie Izzard I wouldn’t need to be a transsexual. The thing I was most afraid of was not being gay, or a cross-dresser, was being a transsexual, because I am petrified of pain, didn’t want an operation, and didn’t want to make this permanent change from male to female (or so I thought anyway). So when I went to my psychiatrist I spent ages arguing with him, for months, in all of our sessions, and he used to deal with probably 50 to 100 transpeople a year (and inadvertently he was also my ex-wife’s first boss, which made it very strange having to come out to him and then seek his help for gender dysphoria when I already knew him).

He did say to me after a couple of years, ‘you know Katy you are the most reluctant transsexual I have ever met, (which has to be the name of my autobiography really, ‘The Reluctant Transexual’, there is one called, ‘The Reluctant Fundamentalist’, and I was probably a reluctant fundamentalist as well!) And I think I have tried on many things reluctantly and tried to identify with many things reluctantly. I think I reluctantly identified as sexual for a while, for quite some while. As part of my gender journey I also thought, ‘well, if it is about sexuality then that will be a relief, because then it isn’t about gender’, which is the exact opposite way round of the stereotype in the arguments by gender critical feminists, that you know that trans-people, trans-rights activists, they are all kind of a men’s sexuality movement and they are basically being trans to avoid being gay, because they are secretly and inwardly homophobic in fact. Well I was actually at this stage, by my early forties, thinking, ‘if I was gay that would be a relief’, because I did not…I was terrified by the idea of being trans.

So I, again, did everything to avoid it: I thought, ‘well maybe I have got a sexual fetish, I will explore that and see if that is true, so I tried that. I thought, ‘well, maybe I just like having sex while cross-dressed’, so I tried that (and it is surprising how many women were actually up for that, you know, attracted to the queer-do in the corner, the queer weirdo!). And I remember saying in therapy, to my therapist, if I go down the line of actually expressing this gender identity, whatever it is, cross-gender, somewhere-on-the-spectrum, I don’t believe that I will ever have another relationship again, because I wouldn’t date me, so why would anybody else. Well that was the same attitude I had when I ended up dating a boy and then marrying a woman, both of them I thought, ‘well, why would anyone date me?’, and so I still felt that.

And yet surprisingly I didn’t have, I think probably not, I have been in relationship of some kind or another (because I do open relationships sometimes and more than one), continually since coming out. I tried to take a year off after coming out, to say ‘it is best I don’t do any relationships for a year while I go on a journey of self-discovery’, and then this psychologist wanted to come home and have sex with me all round my house and found me fascinating. And she broke that year of my kind of not drinking, or rather not-having-sex year very quickly — and I had only had sex with one woman, my wife. And so that was a bit different, a bit new. From then on it was uninterrupted relationships, and sex until about four or five years ago, on a journey of exploring via sex, but not realising actually that I was exploring gender. I ended up going to a sex club in London with another trans friend and going on sex and body workshops in the UK, and in California. And I made a decision internally that I wouldn’t change my body unless I could accept it at first, which again is fairly weird, it is like saying {joking voice} ‘hey I can heal myself of gender dysphoria and then once I have done that I am going to become trans’.

Esther: Yeah!

Katy: But I made a decision that I would accept my body before I would change it, because I didn’t want to do it from a position of dysphoria, or hatred, or something like that( and I overthink everything as I said, the reluctant transexual). So doing these workshops, I entered and did these body-relationship, sexual confidence, sexual discovery, workshops in California and I did them as Katy, but as Katy with a fully male body — no hormones, no sex change, no surgeries, nothing. And obviously, since most of the workshops were carried out naked, you couldn’t even cross-dress to express your gender, so it was basically, you know, me with a dick saying, ‘I am called Katy’. And actually finding 80 other Californians and other Americans, and people from round the world in the room, all accepting that and taking me on face value and people not being particularly perturbed by it, which was a radical form of acceptance (it must just be hippy culture, I don’t know!). But it was lovely to be in a place where people weren’t judging, which I hadn’t encountered, and certainly hadn’t found in Christianity, or in medicine. So that was liberating, and I eventually got to a place of saying, ‘oh okay, there is this body, and I am also allowed to be Katy and still have this body. So maybe I have arrived.’ (I didn’t realise that actually maybe I was just at another station and had got off for a while and was exploring the station and exploring the little village and town beyond it, but actually eventually got back on the train to keep on my journey.)

During that time I met this wonderful girl in America, who herself was a therapist — I tended to only date therapists but that was entirely an accident, and I don’t think that was deliberate I think — I find therapists fascinating because they were interested in the soul, and the psychology, and the mind (and so was I, mine!). And I met this girl and she was…she was like an angel almost, it felt like during the workshops, and I was so afraid of how beautiful she was, and how interesting she appeared to be; both strong and delicate combined at the same time, both feminine and fierce, and vulnerable and something else (I can’t remember what I was thinking at the time but I was probably deliriously in love with her but…).

Esther: A beautiful combination!

Katy: Yes! And yet at the same time I didn’t speak to her for the entire workshop because I was so afraid that, ‘why would she speak to me? She is stunning!’, you know? And then, at the end of the workshop, I was queuing up to book the following workshop which meant coming back to California six weeks later or something and she was in the queue behind me. I don’t know, I think it was accident, I just leant into her and touched her or something like that and it just started a conversation and we both admitted that we had been avoiding each other all weekend and hadn’t spoken to each other, because we both thought the other one wouldn’t be interested in speaking to us…and then we started dating for a year.

But during that year I was increasingly moving towards the place of, actually some version of interior happiness, she challenged me on a word that… she brought a word into my vocabulary, I guess, during that year and that word was authenticity, and also trust. She said that she couldn’t trust that I knew who I was — and that was true I still didn’t know. So our relationship in that sense was doomed because it still wasn’t based on honesty, and my marriage wasn’t based on honesty, no relationship I had ever had, was based on total honesty, because I didn’t know who I was! (And you can’t really do sexuality if you can’t do gender.)

So I continued on the journey to discover who I was, and I was um-ing and ah-ing and thinking while I was going out with her, do I want to take hormones? I wasn’t really thinking about surgery, but I was certainly thinking, do I or don’t I want to take hormones? And she wanted a family and I thought, ‘well if I take hormones that will destroy my fertility and so I won’t be able to give her children’. Or ‘maybe I could give her children and then I could have a sex change’ sort of thing. What I didn’t know was, after I broke up, I thought, ‘now we have broken up and I have got nothing to lose I thought I might as well explore the possibility of hormones’. By then I had started dating someone else who was very supportive of me getting hormones. I then got blood tests to take hormones and they said, ‘well the oestrogen will have no problem taking in your body’, and I said, ‘why is that?’, and they said, ‘well because you have got barely traceable testosterone’. And now, to the average bloke, blue-blooded bloke, if you are told that you have got low testosterone, they will be thinking, ‘well, where do I get more?’. And I am thinking, ‘what a bloody relief, everything makes sense now, I have got low testosterone, yay!’. And it just suddenly explained the last 45 years of my life, or 43 years of my life at that stage, and I thought, ‘fuck it, I am going to take them!’. And I was told that if you stopped them in three to six months it is not huge amounts of changes, from male to female there aren’t that many changes in the first few months; female to male, your voice breaks quite quickly so there are some less reversible changes there. But I was told that if I decided that they didn’t fit in the first few months I could stop, and things would settle down again and I could always take extra ‘t’ to make sure they did resettle.

And for the first couple of months I ended up eating a lot of cheesecake, watching romcoms and crying and I thought, ‘ah that’s what it is like to be a girl!’ (absolute tosh, nothing what it is like to be a girl), but that was the emotional reaction of having a hormonal change, like multiple times of the month all come at once from a huge intake of oestrogen and also not having this testosterone to block it meant it did cascade into my body. I remember thinking, though, after a couple of months, ‘I have got the interior feeling that I was getting from when I was cross-dressing externally, I suddenly feel comfortable with myself’. Why was oestrogen making me feel comfortable and confident? I mean if anything testosterone is usually the one that is meant to be the ‘confidence building’ hormone, but I felt more comfortable and confident with myself with increased oestrogen. And I remember after three or four months though, instead of actually weeping at romcoms (I still cry at lots of things really easily, but I think I always had done nothing to do with the oestrogen), but I remember after a while I started to think, ‘oh I fancy watching Formula One’. I thought, ‘why? I don’t like sport, why do I want to watch Formula One?’.  I started liking Dr Martens rather than high heels, you know. I started becoming very lazy in my gender expression and I thought, ‘ah this is what it is like to be a girl, I like this!’. No, this is what it is like to be comfortable with yourself!

So I was beginning to lose the labels of male/female, boy/girl, I guess, but I was being very comfortable with having the oestrogen, but I thought, ‘maybe that is enough’, and again, like before, I was thinking, ‘if only I could be a comfortable transvestite like Eddie Izzard’. Now I am thinking, ‘if only I could be a comfortable hybrid, part-male, part-female’, I will gain the oestrogen and the oestrogen will give me breasts, whatever, neither here nor there, don’t mind them at all, (don’t get me wrong they are lovely). But I am still thinking: I have come to accept the lower half of my body, my genitals, I don’t hate them, I don’t like them, but I don’t hate them. I like the feeling they give when I am inside another person because it is interior touch, actually I realised I don’t actually like sex that much, but I do like interior touch (which probably no one has ever heard sex described as). I always had a sensual, tactile, enjoyment of, partially at least, of sex. So at that point I was just saying, ‘I am going to accept the hormones, but I am not going to have surgery’, and then hey what, I met you! (That is out of the bag now!)! {Esther: laughing} And you met this hybrid person when we were both working on a festival together…

Esther: That’s right, obviously when I did meet you… actually it is interesting, at the time I thought, ‘oh I wonder if this person is a man or a woman?’, and I mean, now, I would ask a completely different question, I wouldn’t actually ask that question you see, because that is very binary again, that reaffirms the binary. So now I think I would just be curious about how you do identify, and what your identity is, and what labels you use, like we are talking about now. Because at the time you were using she/her pronouns, right? And you were identifying more as female I guess, weren’t you?

Katy: I think ironically, at the time, I had a hybrid car (you know part-electric/part-fuel…part-breast/part-penis) and identified though with a binary pronoun. Now, I am actually post-surgery and have, to all extents and purposes to the outside world, the female body, but identify now with the non-binary pronoun. So when I had the non-binary body I identified as a binary pronoun and now I have switched it.

Also, and this reminds me of this car analogy, and I know nothing about cars (so just the fact that I am using them isn’t particularly masculine, or understanding of engineering), but I do remember thinking when I started taking oestrogen, ‘I finally feel like I have got the right fuel in the car’. Because (I remember back in the old days, pre-electric cars, when the issue was whether you put leaded or unleaded fuel in the car) and I suddenly thought, ‘oh my god I have now got unleaded in my veins and it works!’. Or another way of putting it is, ‘my French brain is now talking to my German body and we now have an entente cordial, and we are now all speaking Italian together’. And it fitted.

Certainly when I met you I was this kind of mishmash, I was becoming increasingly comfortable with myself, and I had learned from my partner in America to be on a journey towards authenticity. Since coming out, or being outed, I had made a decision, ‘I need to be honest about everything’, and up until the point I met you I had been on a journey of increasing honesty, but I hadn’t got to full honesty. But I thought I had made it in terms of the honesty thing, even with you, and I hadn’t because I will still being dishonest about the fact that… well no, we discussed quite openly, and out loud, throughout our relating — I don’t like the word relationship I like the word relating, it is a verb, we are doing a verb, you know? It means there is plenty of room for evolution in that, it is not a noun, it is not a static state, it is not trapped. As we openly talked to each other about it, who want to be in a container? When you know, containers contain, and they restrict, you know? And you starve them of oxygen and things like that. (I know we do it to stop them going mouldy, but I think it is the adverse thing that happens, it actually makes them go mouldy, I would rather take the lid off and see what happens and see how the gas expands! – god, I can come up with some rubbish analogies!)

The point being, I think what I am trying to express is, whilst we talked openly about whether should I or shouldn’t I have an operation, and you were the first person I have been out with…various partners had said, ‘I am very comfortable with you having the operation, Katy’, others saying, ‘We really want you to have the operation’ — because if you got out with a lesbian they kind of end up insisting on it a little bit, which is kind of understandable. If you go out with a bisexual person they are going, ‘I don’t really mind’. Or if you go out with a straight person they are thinking, ‘I would rather you didn’t, because I would quite like you to keep the penis’, sort of thing. And I found that everyone I had gone out with almost had an opinion on my genitals and the only person who didn’t really have an opinion was me. Or I had a say, but I wasn’t really sure what my opinion was, and I was taking too much influence from who I was currently dating each time, but you were the first person who openly pretty much said, ‘I am bi, I don’t particularly mind’, (I know you are more pan now), ‘so I am bi I don’t particularly mind, I kind of like penis, and I kind of like the other, it is fine’. And I think it was the sweetest thing you ever said to me (–because you are really quite nasty, no you are not you are lovely! {Esther: laughing}. It has taken 15 episodes of this podcast to have the courage to be interviewed by you!) You said, ‘I think a pussy would look good on you’, and I was thinking, ‘what?’.

Esther: I did say that yeah.

Katy: …that is really sweet thing to say and it didn’t make my mind up for me. It was the fact that you said, ‘I didn’t mind which way you go’ and no one had ever said, ‘I don’t mind’. And I suddenly thought, ‘oh my god I have got to choose for myself’, because everything else I had done, in every other relationship I had always done something for the person I was with, I always adjusted and accommodated and bent my choices to theirs and became who they wanted me to be. I guess I felt liberated with you to be me, and to continually discover what that is and that led to two things, it led to: one, making the decision to go ahead with surgery and also the freedom within that surgery, at around the same time, to realise that I wasn’t that into sex. And people can’t see on a podcast obviously how beautiful you are, but if I were going to have sex with anyone it would be with you, but I realised that it just didn’t do it for me. Also I felt really afraid to say that to anyone but again I felt safe with you, to discuss whether I should or shouldn’t have an operation, and I also felt safe with you to say, ‘should I or shouldn’t I have sex?’. And those two decisions were kind of a pivot-point half way through the eight years I have known you, to actually make that decision to go ahead with surgery and to think ‘well if I do have sex again it is going to be different coming out of surgery anyway, because I am going to have different working parts’, but it also made a rather radical decision for a trans-person to ask my surgeon for a low maintenance version of surgery.

Esther: {laughing} Designer, designer vagina.

Katy: Designer vagina. Actually I don’t have a vagina that is the whole point.

Esther: Exactly.

Katy: I have labia and a vagina that is as deep as my surgeon’s thumb, as he said. (I didn’t realise what big thumbs he had until later). He gave me what is called a labiaplasty and not a vaginoplasty which I basically said to him in our pre-op consult, you know when you offered your part as a model for mine, and he said he had to work with the available material (and I thought, ‘you bastard, although actually I quite like you because you are so honest’), so he dissed any possibility that I would have stunning lips. In the end what he actually…I said, actually can he just get rid of it all. So my gender surgery was me asking him to get rid of it all. He said, ‘I can’t just get rid of it all, I have got to put something there’. He said, ‘well I can craft a set of labia out of testicle material’, which to be honest is the weirdest correlation one can imagine, but the fact that they were originally the same material in the womb is a little hard to think, because, to me, testicles are the most ugly things on the planet and labia are rather beautiful and yet they are the same tissue originally, in the same way that a penis and a clitoris are the same and the vagina is the whole extra bit that only women have in that sense. So I didn’t have a vagina added, I had the testicles turned into labia. And then he said, ‘well, what do you want me to do with the penis?’ And I said, ‘not much’. Other than the fact that he turned down my request to keep my bollocks which I wanted to preserve in a jar. I thought well, I definitely don’t want the penis.

Esther: For standup comedy purposes, yeah.

Katy: I know, I know, I wanted to be able to keep a jar and put my pair of testicles in it, and have them in a little pocket jar, in my pocket at all times (which again is the reason for the need to keep pockets!). So if someone stood up to me in the street and said, ‘well you are not much of a man, are you? You haven’t got any balls?’ I would always be able to say, ‘Well I actually do have but they are not attached’ and just bring them out in this jar {Both: laughing}. A lovely lesbian friend who actually, once she realised that I wasn’t going to be allowed to keep a pair of testicles, she pickled a couple of walnuts for me and put them in a jar and she wrote ‘Katy’s nuts’ on them — which for me works in both senses of the word!

So I went ahead with this labiaplasty and I pretty much said to the surgeon ‘knock yourself out’, ‘if you want to make a clitoris, make a clitoris, and if it doesn’t work we can always turn it off’, sort of thing – disengage the nerve endings and I didn’t realise, until six months later, that I could actually turn it on and that it actually worked. And actually, as someone who had anorgasmia, which meant I always struggled to come as a male, because again the low testosterone meant that I was: 1) infertile, and 2) found sex very difficult to achieve in its conventional, int hat you have a climatic outcome. Sex obviously isn’t that – that is just one interpretation of what sex is. I found in fact everything else involved in sex wonderful, except for the climate bit, because the climate hardly ever happened anyway, and I also had very sensitive tissue which meant that actual penetration was painful.

But what I, when he gave me the clitoris, and I kind of totally ignored the fact that he had given me a clitoris until several months later and I accidentally played with it and discovered it worked, and then I tried again a week later, and it worked again and then I tried again a week later and discovered it still worked. I thought, ‘hold on, my penis never worked like this, how come the clitoris works?’ So after some re-plumbing I actually had functional sexual organs, which functioned twenty times better than the previous ones, but it didn’t make me want to have sex, still. I thought, ‘well I have now got functioning sexual organs that have been switched out and I am still not interested in sex, shit, what am I going to do?’ And to this day, no one has ever been near my parts, only me, and I only go there when I have a headache, because they are a wonderful kind of hormone-release when you are stressed! So again it defies the argument that is sometimes made by gender-critical feminists (so-called turfs and other things) that people who transition are in it for a sexual purpose and things. As an asexual I am a living proof that that is not true. As someone who was the reluctant transexual it is a living truth that I haven’t leapt into it as part of a fad, I spent ten years trying to avoid being trans (well not ten, forty-five).

So, yeah, four years ago, so each year on February 6th, I have a ‘fanniversary’ party, which you and six of my best girlfriends each year come and celebrate and take the piss out of me –and it is great. And I have learned to self deprecate my gender journey and realise, ‘god I am the worst case of someone trying to work out who I am on the planet!’, but I am enjoying the journey and the more I think about it the more I realise there are still steps but I have arrived at a 95% happy-with-myself position. And as people sometimes say to me now, ‘Katy you don’t have gender dysphoria, you have gender euphoria’, because, at times, I enjoy the play that is gender, I gender the reality that is both a political and perforative act in society to be gender, but not to be one or two but to be one of many, because I strongly think that everybody on the planet has a gender. This is a fifty shades of gender podcast, but I think there are seven billion shades (sorry, do we have to change the title now?).

Esther: Oh no!

Katy: There is one for everybody on the planet. You know, and if people ask me how many sexes there are I will go, ‘at least two’, because the intersex variations that exist, the twenty-two chromosome combinations, the levels of hormone, the varieties of genitals that can exist — all of these things exist on multiple spectra and are not ‘either/ors’, so as far as I am concerned fuck the binary (except that I am asexual so I can’t fuck anything anymore!).

Esther: So is there anything else that you want to add before we wrap up?

Katy: Yeah I guess this goes back to my faith, to some extent, I think that the most important thing I believe in now, is expression rather than repression. Liberation. And I do believe in deliverance but not necessarily the Christian form of deliverance and conversion therapy and things like that. I don’t have any demons to expel, I have made friends with my demons and they all live within me and we are a big happy family now! So in that sense I think we should be, it is a human right, and I identify mostly as non-binary now and as a human being with masculine and feminine; male and female expressions, and I hate the idea that both of them are still binary versions of expression. Some of them can be attributed to hormones, some of them can be attributed to gender roles, some of them can be attributed to nature and nurture and things like that. I would rather say that ‘hey I feel more like x, and more like y, and more like z’, and plot myself in a three dimensional space, not a binary space. But within that space, everybody who is plotted on that x, y, z, and time as well if you add an extra fourth dimensional access to it, because it is a journey like I said. Wherever you plot yourself and wherever you move within that space, whichever quadrant you are in, (a bit of Trek-y stuff for you), you are still human. I have yet to realise that my journey might become another species (I think I identify as part-volc and part something else I have no idea).

Esther: Feline perhaps?

Katy: (Oh god is there a feline creature in Star Trek? I don’t know!) But I identify as human, but the depth and the expression of that humanity are a continual work in progress, a continual evolution, and it is a human right, established in the world, that we should have freedom of expression. Now a lot of people interpret that as freedoms of belief, or freedoms of speech, but I think it should also be about freedom of gender and freedom of sexuality and freedom of romance and freedom of relationship constraints, or constructs (in others words how two or more people choose to be in a relationship with each other, or choose to be relating to each other, shouldn’t be confined with again the monogamous marital boxes that we have). So, how I started out, I don’t like boxes and I don’t mind labels, so long as they are sticky, and they come off easily (unlike the ones from some charity shops you spend two hours peeling them off).

Esther: Like removable adhesive, yeah.

Katy: Exactly. So I think I will acquire more labels in the future, and I will un-peel existing ones, but humanity is my journey even though it started as a gender and sexuality one.

Esther: See that is beautiful because I think we are always becoming more of who we are, whether that includes gender or… well it includes everything, you know, everything that makes us human.

Katy: Well it just makes you more beautiful, and I have used this as a kind of quip in the past that I spell beautiful, b-u-to-the-full, and that is all I am trying to be more of.

Esther: Yeah, absolutely. Lovely, well thank you so much Katy, we finally got around to doing this! {laughing} It is so funny isn’t it!

Katy: {laughing} The reluctant interviewee!

Esther: Yes {laughing}

About Katy

Katy Jon Went is a public speaker and educator on gender, identity, sexuality, mental health, human rights, diversity and inclusion. They have taught on the history and variety of gender expression as a guest lecturer at various universities and regularly appear on LGBT+ discussion panels.

They’ve been the subject of BBC and independent documentaries and interviews and have spoken at arts and WOW festivals, and TEDx [watch below]. They were part of the Queer Britain TV series [watch below] and have been filmed for the Queer Britain Museum project.

For many years they served on their local Pride committee, LGBT History Month, and were part of Stonewall’s engagement with identities beyond LGB. For many years via GenderAgenda they have trained on gender diversity and founded support groups for trans and non-binary people and their families.

They are the UK Coordinator of the Human Library which creates safe spaces to ask curious and engaging questions of diverse people and they chair the Respectful Conversations series on toxic and taboo topics (gender, Brexit, free speech, the planet, representation etc) and try to keep an even hand moderating panels and difficult discussions. Their rare spare time is devoted to cooking, gardening, books, cats and Dr Martens.

You can find out more about Katy on their website and on Facebook, Twitter @katyjon, Instagram @katyjonwent, or LinkedIn.

Katy’s TEDx talk ‘To do different, be different’

‘What Katy Did’ (2012) by Gussy Sakula-Barry and Tanja Wol Sorensen

Queer Britain episode 6 ‘Queer and Proud’

Wanna hear more?