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Eleanor

Queerability Podcast 
EPISODE 3: BECOMING ELEANOR

Eleanor's story:

"I was born as a boy. My early years were living with my grandparents and mum in a wartime corrugated asbestos prefab. They had lost everything in the blitz, so we were poor. I had trouble with understanding how people interacted, from the very beginning of life. I suffered hearing loss from infections. I had a disfiguring skin condition. I argued with everyone. I played dollies with the girls next door. I expected to dress as they did until I grew up, then I’d wear clothes like my mum and then like my nan. My dad came home from the army, no more dollies, and I felt like it was my fault.


 

I did not get the life I expected. My dad was angry and violent and often lost control when he drank, which was frequently. My education was delayed after my dad had a serious accident. I was late reading but after some help, I overtook everyone and was then held in the top class until I went to grammar school.

I started drinking and using drugs when I was 12 and used pubs regularly. I became vulnerable to predatory behaviour and was raped when I was 14. My dad was very prejudiced against the hippy kind of life to which I aspired. I spent some time on the streets, looking for adults to pay me for sex. By the time I went to university, drugs were a way of life.

My first cross-dressing experience was after a wedding when myself and a girl swopped clothes which resulted in one of the happiest days of my life. I left without a degree and dropped out, living on the festival circuit and I joined a cult. That did not work out. I found work. I was successful. I got married and had a good commercial career but could not sustain married life. We had two children but kept breaking up.

I got arrested after a drug run to Holland and my employer sent me to rehab. I have been clean since 1986. At first, I conformed to the standard wisdom, although I was recognised as being rather fluid in my identity. I was divorced but spent a lot of effort on the relationship with my children.

After 12 years with the same employer, I was made redundant and spent some time trying to earn a living. I enjoyed fixing things and did odd jobs.  But I was floundering around trying to find a direction and hating myself. I took advice and started college.

During that time, I started cross-dressing again. After qualifying as a counsellor, I worked in prison, where I started my transition 1 year after joining.

Then I worked in probation, during which time I had my gender reassignment surgery.

After a couple of brief affairs with an inter-sex woman and a pre-op trans woman, I met my current partner a year later, having pretty much given up on” relationships”. I had arranged with a couple of friends to show them the Way-Out Club. We met at a nearby lesbian club night first, and that’s where I met my partner, who tagged along with us. We had a couple of break-ups in our first year but have gone from strength to strength.

 

I had a breakdown in 2014 and stopped work. It took me two years and most of my savings to realise I was quite ill mentally, and it was an obstacle to finding work again. I sought help but that took a long time and I ran out of savings. The benefits system is a nightmare, and my mental health treatment was also a bumpy ride.

I believe I am the oldest person in UK to get a new diagnosis of Autism (Asperger’s type) which explains a lot of my difficulties."

 

Professional Career

  • Chartered Manager with qualifications, training and experience in public services, including criminal justice, homelessness and mental health, with a background in commercial and quality management of complex projects.

  • Active in PPV and IMHN groups.

  • Currently participate in the Suicide Prevention Partnership Board, the CMHTP strategic board

  • For the past 5 years, led the developments of the Independent mental Health Network

  • As an alumnus of Surrey Heartlands’ Leader 500 programme, currently engaged in regional NHS Improvement training, and the Mary Seacole improvement leadership training programme.

  • Led development of Patient and Public Voice (PPV) engagement for the London Clinical Senate.

  • Led development of the Independent Mental Health Network (IMHN) for Surrey and NE Hampshire.

  • Led IMHN participation in development of strengths-based training for Surrey County Council. Provide service user and carer experience to the Psychology department at Surrey University.

  • Led the formation of the trans caucus and helped to create the bisexual caucus, also representing disabled people at regional and national levels.

  • Led a national campaign to unify the disparate strands of Unison’s L&G group with Bi and trans into its LGBT group.

  • Worked with the NHS in London as a volunteer, leading a patient and public voice development,

  • Participated in NHS research projects as a public advisor

  • Qualified in Patient Leadership, Suicide First Aid (City and Guilds) and Mental Health First Aid (NHS).

  • Trained diversity champion, supporting and achieving diversity development at local regional and national levels.

  • Experienced in developing multi-disciplinary services.

  • Member of the equality panel in at local NHS trust.