I am pleased to have Leslie Tate as my guest author, poet, and blogger. In his book, Heaven's Rage he shares in depth his journey as a transvestite. Please give Leslie a warm welcome and ask questions or make comments.
There is a longer version to this blog at https://leslietate.com/2018/03/5748/
INTRODUCING LESLIE TATE
As a transvestite I used to believe in ‘the woman within’. I felt, when I cross-dressed, closer to my ‘feminine side’ – though what I experienced was more a release of pressure, a kind of pleasurable lift as if I was walking out after being indoors for a month. ‘Relief dressing’ was good for me; it increased my sensitivity, making me softer, calmer and more alive. And to dress in front of others required a special kind of ‘tuning out’, a deliberately-willed blindness where I didn’t ask questions. I was on display but chose not to know it. Though, of course, I was vulnerable. It was as if I’d been turned inside out, with all my feelings on show. And it was that exposure that both set me apart and made me strong.
My position was simple. I believed I was being more honest than the other men, the straight guys, who had the same feelings but were afraid to show them. In my private imaginings they were the stern men of action who kept at a distance and always wore a mask. But my attempts to pull rank didn’t get far. The men I had in mind simply shrugged their shoulders and carried on with their business, remarking casually that it didn’t bother them. Perhaps I wanted a reaction, a kind of reverse validation where they showed their dislike, or told me I was being stupid.
Nowadays I’m out in public. I go to the supermarket on my own wearing women’s clothes and everyone can see I’m a man because I don’t wear a wig or make-up. It’s the result of writing a memoir about my cross-dressing and having to live up to it. And I’m lucky because I live in a liberal-ish town where people don’t want to fight me. So it feels particularly good to be myself and behave naturally without being on show, even though no one else looks much like me.
Heaven’s Rage is not a confessional, and although it contains my trans story, it aims to cover a full range of experience. To quote ajh, a reviewer on Amazon:
‘Heaven’s Rage is autobiographical yet touches the universal. It has ambitious scope. There are sections on music and gardens, but the author really strikes his form on vulnerability, cross-dressing, illness, alcoholism, relationships. This could be depressing, yet it is uplifting.
We enter the author’s life and live it through with him, feeling the hurts and the awkward compensations of vulnerability, the separateness of difference. We almost touch the quality of the cross-dressing feeling. As we do this, quietly, quietly, an alchemy is turning the iron of our heart to gold. In a microcosm of his own life experience, we end up as he does with a quiet, complex understanding of many of the issues. Walking through them our attitude softens, becomes more nuanced. I want to use the word love, yet this is never spelt out.
I sense that the author could only have written this book now, after a long assimilation and integration of the many subtle aspects. I look forward very much to reading a novel from someone who has done this level of inner work.’
In fact writing a memoir involves turning complex experience into a single point of view, which meant I had to simplify my memories into discrete incidents, creating a clear, consistent self-image. Of course, fitting the real person to an image isn’t always easy, and words narrow life, but it gave me a framed space where people can look in and ask questions – and they do, in their heads. It’s a safe place I go back to where I’m in the picture as both subject and object. The world’s out there, people are walking back and forth, sometimes they’re staring or waving, but I’m quite comfortable. They’re guests at my party, seeing me as I am, and if they don’t like it, the loss is theirs.
And the men?
I understand now their jokes and resistance, their willingness to do. For most men, what I wear doesn’t matter, they’re direct and fair-minded and life’s more important. And I’ve been cross-dressed in toilets and on trains with football supporters and had lots of support from caring men who act independently without fear or favour. Admittedly, there are still a few blokey blokes whose looks scare me. But I tell myself to keep walking and look the other way because I can feel my hot-and-shaky male anger bubbling up – and that’s not how I want to be. But of course, if I’m honest, there’s always a macho somewhere inside. I can swear and shout like the next man, the only difference is that for me it’s more important to recognise the man and the woman inside, to talk about them and know them, and not be in denial.
If you would like to read a longer and more detailed version of this blog, please go to https://leslietate.com/2018/03/5748/
Heaven’s Rage is an imaginative autobiography. Reporting on feelings people don’t usually own up to, Leslie Tate explores addiction, cross-dressing and the hidden sides of families. Writing lyrically, he brings together stories of bullying, childhood dreams, thwarted creativity and late-life illness, discovering at their core the transformative power of words to rewire the brain and reconnect with life.
Buying Heaven’s Rage:
Signed copies can be bought in the UK at https://leslietate.com/shop/heavens-rage/
Amazon UK has paperback and ebook copies at https://www.amazon.co.uk/Heavens-Rage-Leslie-Tate-ebook/dp/B01N9EA5RP/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1515679913&sr=8-1&keywords=heaven%27s+Rage+Leslie+Tate
Leslie Tate studied Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia and has been shortlisted for the Bridport, Geoff Stevens and Wivenhoe Prizes. He’s the author of the trilogy of novels ‘Purple’, ‘Blue’ and ‘Violet’, as well as his trans memoir ‘Heaven’s Rage’, which has been turned into a film. Leslie runs a mixed arts show in Berkhamsted, UK, where he lives with his wife, multi-talented author Sue Hampton. On his website https://leslietate.com/ he posts up weekly creative interviews and guest blogs showing how people use their imagination in life, in many different ways.
Other books by Leslie Tate: