“It was about three years ago,” stated Declan Henry at the start of the launch event for his latest book Trans Voices, that I realised that I didn’t know a single transsexual person.” Declan being Declan, he then decided to write a book about it. He is a prolific writer about many of society’s lesser known communities – including a fascinating book about bipolar individuals and troubled teens, and he threw himself into his new project with great enthusiasm.
He spent two years getting involved with a transsexual community, interviewing many of its members, and trying to work out what makes them tick. Many of his interviewees were there at the launch, and the presentation centred around the lives of two of his subjects, Hilary and Janett (not a typo, in her former life, Janett’s initials had been TT).
When Declan mentioned that he had not known any transsexuals it occurred to me that I probably had, in my time on Ibiza, but that I had never really been aware that transsexuals and transvestites were two different tribes. The five page glossary in the back of his book enlightened me to the terminology in common use, and I think I agree with Declan that transsexuals are probably one of the few remaining excluded groups in modern society.
Hilary, the first guest speaker, gave us an honest account of how she moved from man to woman, but still managed to stay friends with her former wife and run a successful business.
The second speaker, Janett, gave a very humorous account of a life lived as a man, which changed after his wife died suddenly when he was 51. From this point on he became more and more involved in the transsexual community, where he told us that he finally achieved happiness. I think that even the most sceptical among his audience empathised with her in the end.
Declan deserves a lot of credit for illuminating a part of society that is still little understood and often ridiculed. He paints a fascinating picture of a set of individuals that are often maligned even by those equally on the fringes of society. His strong desire to inform the world about a group that seems to be marginalised even by other outsiders comes through very strongly. Overall I felt it to be a fascinating window into the lives of a subset of humanity that I had previously had no real knowledge of. Well done Declan, this book is a fascinating read.
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