Tuesday, 17 June 2008

The snip

I was fortunate to meet Kerry Whybrow last year. Kerry is one of the people I interviewed for my book about prejudice, 'I Know Someone Like That', which will be published early in October.

Kerry was born a man and has led a fascinating, at times tragic life. Unlike so many transgender people, she is quite happy to speak out and seek publicity if it helps challenge people to understand the increadible journey she and many others feel compelled to make.

I spoke to her this morning. She's in Charing Cross Hospital and as of yesterday is now physically a woman too. Never slow in coming forward, she described her surgery to me in great detail, proudly telling me that she is now very well equipped to satisfy any man who comes into her life.

People often accuse me of 'collecting' unusual people. I don't think that's strictly true. What I can admit to is a fascination with people who have the courage to be themselves in the face of opposition. They can be entrepreneurs, activists or in the case of Kerry, people who take the largest steps to become the person they truly want to be.

I learn so much from people like Kerry. They help me realise how important it is to be yourself, whatever others might say.

Saturday, 7 June 2008

You know when your kids are truly adult when . .

. . . they decide to make journeys you're not sure you'd enjoy yourself!

Both of our kids are currently preparing for 'advanced foreign travel' by subjecting themselves to spooky vaccination programmes. I hate needles and so theprospect of protecting myself from rabies, yellow fever and all the other nasty diseases that seem to be lurking around outside Europe would not be something I'd enjoy.

However, when you're in your early 20s and determined to see something of the world, it's perhaps no big deal. This summer sees our son Tom driving to Mongolia with three friends in an old Land Rover and our daughter Ruth working in Uganda on a malaria project.

As we enjoy a quiet summer in Norfolk, with a week in La Rochelle to break the routine, two rather alarming thoughts keeps coming back to me. First, my kids are grown up and braver than me. Second, middle age seems to have arrived unnoticed!

Oh dear . . .

Sunday, 1 June 2008

Living Library

Yesterday I spent five hours in the library at Whitechapel being a 'living library book'.

Along with some 20 other people, I was there to represent a prejudice that others might have and feel moved to explore to me. I was there as a Bodyworlds body donor, someone who has signed up to a deal that will see my corpse plastinated, posed and put on public display when I die. Others represented homelessness, humanism, trans-gender, a medium and many, many more.

I was most affected myself by meeting Vikki Lucas. I spent all day plucking up the courage to recognise what was clearly a hang up about appearance. I was dying to ask Vikki lots, but we ended up just chatting. The thing is, she doesn't see her appearance (a rare genetic condition) as a problem - it's simply the way she is. My perceptions of how it must affect her, were my problem and for me to deal with.

I went to help people visiting the library understand me, but ended up being challenged myself. Meeting Vikki and realising that she's just an ordinary person with an unusual face was somehow deeply significant. Do I really judge people by how they look? Am I prejudiced? Curious? Drawn to the extreme? And if so, why?

The beach and a day of quiet contemplation beckons . . . .