Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honour to interview Kelly Grice, an inspirational woman from Manchester, England, happy wife, the author of the biographical book titled “My journey from He to She and how to transition” (2017). Hello Kelly!
Kelly: Hi Monika and thank you for interviewing me.
Monika: You grew up on the same housing estate as the Gallagher brothers from the famous band Oasis! D0 you know each other?
Kelly: Yes, I grew up in Burnage in Manchester. I knew all three brothers Noel, Liam and Paul. I fell out with Liam after we had a fight, which I won as children. Noel and Liam now live in London but I would still see their mother Peggy around in Burnage, where she still lives and we would have a chat.
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Kelly: I see myself as honest, reliable and trustworthy. I also see myself as very tall, especially for a female, as I am 6ft4.
Monika: You published your biography this year. Why did you decide to write the book?
Kelly: During my transition, I had always kept notes of changes on hormones but also psychiatry assessments and laser treatments and other aspects of transition, as in the future I wanted to write a book to help others who were thinking of transitioning but also to see if they could relate their feelings to some of my own.
When I began to transition, I looked for books which could have been of help to me but mostly they were American, so I thought that I could write my experience of transitioning within the NHS system. Then in the summer of this year 2017, I found I had some free time before returning to university, so I decided to spend it, writing my book at last.
Monika: Which aspects of your experience can be useful for other transwomen?
Kelly: I think the book covers lots of different things we come across when transitioning from deed poll name change to gender recognition certificates, laser treatment, telling others your transsexual and coming out but also it gives advice on how to be yourself, not to be judgmental and hard on yourself too, as many trans people are and to enjoy the experience and see it as a whole new you.
I think the best advice I can give is to stay positive, as there will be days when you wonder, if you had done the right thing and if it was all worth the stress and hassle, these are usually only minor set backs but to a trans woman at the time seem to be the end of the world.
Monika: At what age did you transition into woman yourself? Was it a difficult process?
Kelly: I came out to my family when I was 36 years old, as I just could not go on any longer living a lie. They took it rather well and much better than I expected, friends were fine too. I was in a much easier position to lots of other trans women having never married nor had children and I feel for them and the angst it caused.
Transitioning was a different matter, even though I came out to everyone at the age of 36, due to long waiting times for a gender identity clinic appointment with the NHS.
I was 39 before I met a Psychiatrist at Charing Cross in London. After living full time as a female for a number of years, I finally had my operation when I was 42. I found transitioning was relatively easy and work colleagues accepted me too.
Monika: At that time of your transition, did you have any transgender role models that you followed?
Kelly: Not really. The role models I did admire were normal transgender people who had taken my path years before and lived true to themselves. Seeing them far more happier now, spurred me on to be myself too and their hard work being seen daily in public and work places, made it far more easy for myself to transition years later.
Monika: Are there are any transgender ladies that you admire and respect now?
Kelly: Only the ones who show guts and determination to do this, it takes a thick skin and courage you probably never thought you had.
Monika: We all pay the highest price for the fulfilment of our dreams to be ourselves. As a result, many trans women lose their families, friends, jobs, and social positions. Did you pay such a high price as well? What was the hardest thing about your coming out?
Kelly: Luckily I did not lose any and where I worked for the Royal Mail was fine too. I gave them advanced warning of name change and what I was planning to do, so it worked out fine. I do know some girls showed up to work dressed without prior notice though and were shown the door. I planned everything well in advance so this did not happen.
Other transgender friends were not so lucky and found themselves cut off from family and friends and suddenly they were surplus to requirements at work too. I count my blessings.
Monika: The transgender community is said to be thriving now. As Laverne Cox announced “Trans is beautiful.” Teenage girls become models and dancers, talented ladies become writers, singers, and actresses. Those ladies with interest in politics, science, and business become successful politicians, academics, and businesswomen. What do you think in general about the present situation of transgender women in the contemporary society? Are we just scratching the surface or the change is really happening?
Kelly: I think the transgender position has moved on in leaps and bounds over the past few years but lots still need to be done. Friends overseas cannot change their birth certificates even when post op, they are ostracized in their community and seen as freaks, I feel lucky to live in the UK.
Transgender awareness is seen far more in TV series and soaps and a lot more people know someone close to them who is transgender. I feel we are still years behind the gay and lesbian community’s in way of acceptance but it is improving.
Monika: On the other hand, the restroom war is raging on and transgender women are killed on the streets…
Kelly: In America especially, the number of trans people killed per year is numerous, especially among trans women of colour. Also the bathroom bill needs addressing for the sake of using a toilet you face a fine and threat of imprisonment.
Even in the UK at times I have met animosity towards myself when using the bathroom, one woman shouting,” there is a man in here”, as I sat in a cubicle, this being when post op with a female birth certificate.
Also at work I was told without a new birth certificate I would have to use the disabled toilets, which I did for two years, as when I looked into this, they were within their legal rights by providing an alternate toilet facility.
Monika: The transgender cause is usually manifested together with the other LGBTQ communities. Being the penultimate letter in this abbreviation, is the transgender community able to promote its own cause within the LGBTQ group?
Kelly: No it is not and I have always said, the others are about sexuality, ours is about gender totally different and with so many types of transgender under the same umbrella, we really could do with breaking away and having an individual group of our own and one which looks into our needs more and can concentrate on that only. There are a lot of issues with being transgender in regards legal rights and bathroom laws which would be better addressed by a group focused solely on Transgender individuals. Call me a rebel.
Monika: What do you think in general about transgender news stories or characters which have been featured in films, newspapers or books so far?
Kelly: I think it has made life harder, especially growing up, as comedy shows and films often had a cross dresser or transsexual, as the butt of jokes and sketches, because of this most people see us as something to laugh at rather than being taken seriously. Things are moving on, with shows and books portraying transgender people in a much more positive way but to older generations who grew up on trans people being a joke subject, it is hard to change their minds.
Monika: Do you participate in any lobbying campaigns? Do you think transgender women can make a difference in politics?
Kelly: I stay out of politics as my husband was a politician. I do think others better suited can do a far better job than I. Their are many transgender women in politics now and I hope they can make a difference but it also shows how times have changed for the general public to vote for someone who is transgender and I think that is great and shows development.
Monika: Do you like fashion? What kind of outfits do you usually wear? Any special fashion brands, colours or trends?
Kelly: I am colour blind like my mother, so I tend to wear black or white to make sure I am not wearing something that is truly hideous. I am not a fashion stalwart, I tend to wear what I like and find snazzy but mostly when out I wear jeggings or leggings, you will seldom see me in a dress for instance, only at my step daughters recent wedding and my own, have I ever worn a dress. I dress for comfort mostly.
Monika: I have read somewhere that cisgender women were liberated thanks to the development of contraceptive pill whereas transgender women are free now thanks to the development of cosmetic surgery, so they are no longer prisoners of passing or non-passing syndrome …
Kelly: I think cosmetic surgery is great and can help you to pass far more easily, some of my friends look perfect with their changes to the facial area, some sadly went too far over the top and now resemble Joan Rivers, I say do it but in moderation.
Monika: Your marriage with Darren Grice, the former Conservative leader of City of Lincoln Council, is such a romantic story! Could you tell me about the importance of love in your life?
Kelly: I met Darren one year into living full time and without his love and guidance, I think transitioning would have been far harder for myself. He had to put up with the early hormone imbalances as my body adjusted and some irrational behaviour but he still stood by me, when others would have called it a day. We both feel blessed that we found one another, as we get on so well.
Monika: By the way, I saw your beautiful wedding dress…
Kelly: My dress was soft pink in colour and I chose a slender long dress, as with being very tall a puff ball type of dress just made me look very strange. I wore the dress the entire day including evening function too.
The first thing I did on arriving home was take it off, it had been a very hot summer’s day in June and the dress was heavy, it felt so good to get out of it. Since then it has been back to leggings and boots for me.
Monika: What do you think about transgender beauty pageants?
Kelly: I know one transgender woman who enters them and does quite well too, as for myself you would have to pay for the wild horses to drag me there but if that is what you want to do and you enjoy it, then good luck to you, is what I think.
Monika: Are you working on any new projects now?
Kelly: Yes, I am currently working on a new novel based on Alexander the Great. I have qualifications in ancient history and thought, write about what you know. I am finding a novel a lot harder to write than my first book though but I am getting there. It will be out next year sometime but in-between.
I am also doing my degree in Psychology here in Lincoln to hopefully in future help Transgender individuals to transition.
Monika: What would you recommend to all transgender girls struggling with gender dysphoria?
Kelly: I would say, if your in the closet still, when your ready come out, there is a big wide world waiting for you and it doesn’t bite but if your already out and feel like things are getting too much, stick with it, it seems like transitioning is endless but you will soon be out the other side of it and living the life you wanted to live.
Monika: My pen friend Gina Grahame wrote to me once that we should not limit our potential because of how we were born or by what we see other transsexuals and transgender people doing. Our dreams should not end on an operating table; that’s where they begin. Do you agree with this?
Kelly: I totally agree, do not focus solely on transitioning, as when you have finished, what you have left to do, quite often transgenders find themselves at a loss, as to what to do next because they were totally focused on transition alone.
Being transgender should not hold you back in any way. I have done far more as a female the last few years, as I ever did as male. I married, I am a step mother of three grown up children, I wrote my first book and I am doing my first degree.
Whatever you choose to put your mind to, you can do and achieve anything you wish, do not let self doubt hold you back especially being transgender and do not let being transgender be your only attribute.
Monika: Kelly, thank you for the interview!
All the photos: courtesy of Kelly Grice.
Done on 26 December 2017
© 2017 – Monika Kowalska