'Oh, you'll grow out of it…'

Helen recalls how her gender identity as a child in the 1950s wasn't understood by her parents and how there was the threat of the 'mental hospital'.

Duration 02:12


Um, so I am a trans woman but I’ve always been a woman, the whole of my life I’ve been a woman. Er, it’s very difficult to explain, but, I’ve always felt I was female, from childhood. [telephone rings] Sorry. Um, so in childhood this is how I felt. When I got to about 14, maybe - yeah about 14, I said to my parents this is how I felt, and this is in the 1950s, and er, my parents said, ‘Oh you’ll grow out of it, you know, you’ve got a sister you’ve got brothers, we know about these things, you’ll grow out of it’. So I got to 15 and um - bit more than 15, and I said ‘Look, this is how I feel. I’m not growing out of it.’ And, my parents obviously didn’t know much, well, in the fift- you didn’t know much about those things and um, they said, ‘Look, if you keep saying these things, we’ll probably have to take you to the doctor’s. The doctor will refer you to a’ – they used to call them mental hospitals, you know the psychiatric hospitals – ‘mental hospital’ – particularly working class people, you know I’m from a working class background, said ‘We’ll have to take you to the doctor’s, the doctor will probably refer you to a mental hospital, and, what’s gonna happen then is you’ll get electric shock treatment – now is that what you want? Is that what you really want?’ Well at that age I got really very scared. Nobody wants that. And the way that – I don’t think they did it out of any, I don’t think it was a bad thought on their part, I think it was just the way that things were.