Fifty Shades of Gender podcast graphic with Sophie James

Episode 18

A conversation with Sophie James


23 min. Recorded on 2 November 2020.

Sophie’s pronouns are she/her. She uses the words transsexual and transvestite of herself, but considers herself to be a work in progress and very much Sophie. Find out what that means to her in this episode.

We also talk about finding the balance in family dynamics, having two different personas, and being yourself no matter what labels you use.

“I’d rather live a part life and have my wife and kids, which means so much to me, than lose everything.”

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TRANSCRIPT [expand to read]

Esther: Hello and welcome! What’s your name?

Sophie: Hi. My name is Sophie, it is very nice to speak to you!

Esther: You too yeah! So Sophie, how do you identify?

Sophie: I identity mostly as female, but for most of my life in fact male.

Esther: Right, so what does it mean to you to identify as female?

Sophie: To me, I believe I am actually transexual but, as of the moment, it is kind of possible to continue further on my journey. For years I have been a cross dresser, a transvestite, but it has always been more, it has always needed more, it is very difficult even for me to understand. I have spoken to my wife and my doctor about it, and my doctor is absolutely no problem at all, very open to the idea. My wife however is a different story. {laughing}

Esther: Right

Sophie: Being that I have three children, I have to spend most of my life as male: I look after my kids, I do the trusty husband thing. It is my life, I can’t change the thing now but deep down I have this want, I guess, this need to be Sophie and it is not the easiest thing in the world!

Esther: Yeah, yeah, so how did that show up for you, growing up? I mean, have you felt that way since you were young?

Sophie: Since I was probably five, or six, I guess. I had female friends, cis-girls if you like, who had much cooler clothes than me, much more…I kind of felt slightly jealous, I guess. I always felt like I was one of the girls, right up until I was probably 16/17 all my best friends were girls, and of course this all pre-dates the internet before I even realised that maybe there were other people like me! It was a strange time I guess, I remember going back many, many, years ago and a friend of mine had a pair of shoes and I asked my mum for the same pair and I actually kind of through a head fit and eventually got the same pair, but I wasn’t allowed to wear them out. You know, it was… So I have had girlfriends and I got married and it is has all worked out perfectly but at, the end of the day, it is still not quite my life, I am still not living the full me.

Esther: So how did it go when you eventually told your wife? What made you tell her? What was the deciding factor?

Sophie: I have suffered with anxiety, and depression, for a few years, should we say and last year it all became too much and I spoke to my better half and I eventually said: I believe that my transvestism, cross-dresser-ism (whatever), is much more than that. I believe that I am actually am so where in the female, if it is a small part of me or a big part of me I am not sure, but at the moment, I don’t really feel that the transvestite, the cross-dresser, really kind of suits me. I would like to go further but I can’t at the moment, it is kind of impossible. If I did then already my wife has said to me that, as far as she is concerned, our relationship is over. She is not a lesbian, she doesn’t fancy girls, and it is a difficult situation. So I would rather, because I love my wife deeply, I would rather live a part-life and have my wife and kids, which means so much to me, than lose everything.

Esther: Wow.

Sophie: Deep I know but! {laughing}

Esther: Yeah, it must be so tough to have to choose, I suppose, yeah.

Sophie: I am not necessarily choosing but I managed to find a nice balance where I have made some great friends, I go out with them, and I have got a great friend I go and see regularly. So I get my one night a week as Sophie and occasionally the odd weekend, occasionally the odd trip to wherever — a little holiday. And, for me, at the moment, that is enough to just keep me slightly sane. I guess that my kids would be okay with the idea of me being female, but my wife is not. When we were younger, before children, she was quite happy to go out with me and we would go and have an evening out and that sort of thing, until the children came along and then, after that, it changed her view on the subject and, consequently, she then became anti-Sophie than for-Sophie which made life difficult for a few years.

Esther: So what do you think caused that change of, well not change of heart necessarily, but it sounds like she was okay up to a certain level but no more, right?

Sophie: She was, absolutely. I just believe that she is more protective of the children, even though they are probably absolutely fine. She worries about everyone’s opinions, myself included. She doesn’t want anything to change with our life, which I completely understand, which is why I have arrived at this point now where I can be me, when I can, rather than lose our wonderful life we already have. I don’t know if in the future that will change I certainly hope not, but there is always that possibility.

Esther: Yeah, wow. So I just wondered about, you kind of are no your one-night-a-week at the moment where you are Sophie, so how does it feel? How are you dressed and how does that feel?

Sophie: Well this evening you have already seen me, so, I am wearing a black top, a nice skirt, a pair of boots, hopefully my makeup is on point, and my hair is perfect, {laughing} but it makes me feel a million dollars and it completely alleviates any stress in my life which I feel. I just feel content and happy, I just feel complete.

Esther: That’s beautiful, I love that. So you mention your kids don’t know about your identity, I suppose?

Sophie: No.

Esther: Do you think you might one day tell them, what are you thinking about that?

Sophie: Oh I have considered telling the children many times. My wife has constantly said no, she knows that my daughter in fact, who is 14, she is a massive fan of drag, cross-dressing, you name it, makeup, she is there. She is constantly ask me to maybe take her to drag-com and that kind of thing. My friend just wrote a little note saying how my daughter is constantly asking me to put on makeup and she is quite often painting my toes! {laughing}

Esther: Really, how funny!

Sophie: She is a super little 14 year old, she is absolutely fantastic, she has always been very protective of anybody who is slightly different, for instance (I am going  off on a tangent but…), one day there was a trans woman who was in a market and my mother-in-law just happened to say, ‘look at him, he is dressed like that, oh my word, blah, blah, blah’, and my daughter went, ‘Nan you can’t say that, it is her!’.  And I was completely and utterly astonished – and so proud – and I actually took her side and said to her, ‘that was amazing that you called your Nan on that and you are such an amazing individual’.  And she said, ‘well, dad I have no choice’. And I kind of wondered what that meant at the time, but I do believe on one part she kind of knows who I am and what I am. We have always said that I am particularly feminine, I guess, in the house, and at home. But the kids, I would love to tell my kids one day but, at the moment, until I decide that, or we decide, myself and my wife, that I need to go further, then we will stop there.

Esther: And how old are your other kids?

Sophie: My other kids, my son is seventeen and my little one is six. He is an absolute diamond, well both of them are. They are fantastic kids, they are very well-rounded individuals and we have always said to them, ‘if you have any problems and issues please tell us and we will do our best to help out’.  We like to think that we are kind of a little bit open.

Esther: Yeah. In an ideal situation what would your life look like?

Sophie: In an ideal situation I would love to run some kind of accommodation, or some kind of business, which welcomes girls or guys who want to be girls, to come and have a bit of time, just being themselves. It has always been a dream of mine, whether it be a weekend away, or an evening away, or just something like that would be wonderful for me, something where I could be myself and then just to speak to other people as well, I find people so interesting from all different walks of life, and backgrounds, and stuff like that. I think that would be fantastic, somewhere I could be myself and in it, I guess really – in my ideal world – I could be myself around my wife and my children all the time and whether it means that I transition completely or whether it means that I am just 50:50 or even 60:40, that would be amazing.

Esther: Yeah, yeah. So what label – I mean, I know we talked at the beginning a little bit about how you identify and you mentioned the words, there was transexual and cross-dresser, transvestite I suppose…?

Sophie: Yes.

Esther: So are they all…they are like names for things that you consider yourself to be, perhaps? I don’t know, do those labels resonate with you, do they feel like you, or is there something else?

Sophie: I am basically me, I don’t really like labels, that’s the thing. I believe that it is too difficult because, if you say your are trans, then you have to be trans, you have to be 100%. If you are a transvestite, they are old words, it is just an old way of pigeonholing people, and I think, really, the best thing is that you are you and you can’t be anybody else. I guess really, I am Sophie when I am Sophie and, when I am not, I am the other person. I definitely have two outlooks on life, two different personas, completely.

Esther: One of the reasons I ask that is because, in the title of the podcast, I usually include the name and the identity labels I guess about how people identify, I mean which ones would you be happy for me to include? All the ones you mentioned or…?

Sophie: Why not? You can include, ‘I am me’, ‘I am Sophie’, and ‘I am trans’ and, I guess, anything else you prefer to. I am not against being put into any kind of pigeonhole, I just feel that pigeonholes don’t really suit me, because…

Esther: No, of course not. That’s the thing with labels, isn’t it? They can be useful for communication but they can also be putting you in a box, which is obviously not ideal. Do you feel like you are pretty much female, or you were meant to be female, or?

Sophie: I believe so, yes. I have arrived at a point where…do I believe I am female? I know that I am not female, because I have all the other attributes that prove that I am not. I feel definitely part-female without a doubt. It is a very difficult scale, if you like. To be 100% female, I could probably never be, but to be myself who I believe when I am in my female guise, I feel as female as anybody else. I am not afraid of who I am, and I am not scared of who I am, I just like to go around my every day normal life like I am, if I can; if I can’t, then I will just be my other self.

Esther: Yeah, that makes sense.

Sophie: I hope so, because it makes sense to me.

Esther: As far as it can for me, because I always start my podcast saying, ‘I am a cisgender woman, and that is kind of where I am at, and, for me, I will never fully understand what it is like to have an experience that differs from that’, of course.

Sophie: No, it can’t be easy. It is very difficult, I do feel that I am, I suppose: am I 100% transgender? No. But I am definitely on the scale, if you like. I am very happy in my relationship, it is not a sexual thing, it is deep down, it is for my wellbeing, it is just to feel content.

Esther: Yeah, like you would say it is an identity thing?

Sophie: Completely an identity thing, I just… it is so difficult to explain. When you don’t understand 100% yourself it is so difficult to explain. Please more questions! {laughing}

Esther: Is there anything you would like to add, or would like people to know?

Sophie: I guess really everybody is different. You can be whoever you want to be basically. I think if you feel slightly feminine, or more than slightly feminine, then just for yourself there is no reason that you can’t be the married man with a few kids who feels very comfortable spending time in a female role. There is no reason why you have to feel that that’s wrong, there is no reason why you can’t do that, there is no reason why you can’t be further or not quite as far along. There is no real rules about, I guess, transgenderism, I believe that I am trans and okay, so I may not be 100% there, but maybe I never will be, maybe I am just myself and off on my end of the natural way of life and there is nothing wrong with that, I think everybody should find their happiness. And, as far as I am concerned, it is better to be happy in yourself, than to be pushed into any kind of situation that you don’t feel happy [in]. I have had appointments with my doctor and I have got an appointment reserved for a psychiatrist, and I have put my appointment off with the psychiatrist, because I wouldn’t like a psychiatrist just to agree with the fact, ‘you like dressing as a woman, hence you are a woman, hence you need to transition’. It is not as simple as that, there are so many things to consider.

Esther: That’s so fascinating because, in a way, you have found a balance, it sounds like…

Sophie: I hope so.

Esther: It sounds like you have found a balance between being who you are, and being maybe more of who you are, but also your life being in balance with your family and what your partner needs and it is part of a journey, I suppose, because you say you don’t know where it is going to go, it might change, you maybe don’t know how long you are going to be happy perhaps in the arrangement that you have got at the moment, but at the moment it suits you, basically, is that what you are saying?

Sophie: Exactly, that’s exactly what I am saying, it suits me, and it suits my partner, and it suits my children, and that is the most important thing. As the children grow up it is getting more and more difficult to explain where I am going, and what I am doing, sometimes my kids ask, ‘can we come along?’, and I have to say, ‘No, it is not possible’. But, who knows? Maybe one of these days I can take my kids along with me, who knows? But I feel we are very far away from that, it is a difficult situation, but I have made the best of it and that is the important thing.

Esther: Absolutely, I love that and I think that is a beautiful way to wrap it up really. Is there anything you would like to add, or are you happy with that as it is?

Sophie: I am quite honestly happy with that, thank you so much for taking some time to speak with me, and talk about another possible way of life and it has been an absolute pleasure, thank you.

Esther: Well thank you so much for talking to me about all this, that is really great!

About Sophie

“Somewhere on the trans spectrum. Forty-something married parent of three kids. Trying to find a balance!”

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