I didn’t want to play footballBy Joanna Rowland-Stuart
PHOTOGRAPH by Sharon Kilgannon, Alonglines.com
School anyway was difficult because I’m deaf. I have been since birth and although I had a hearing aid and could hear some things, it didn’t help.
My teacher had no idea how to educate a deaf child and put me right at the back of the class. So I couldn’t hear anybody. I could barely see anybody and I felt completely isolated. I was very unhappy there, it became pretty obvious. I started being bullied by the boys and after about one or two months of it my parents said, “Well, that’s enough”. They took me out of the school and decided to look for a school for the deaf. The one they decided upon was in Brighton.
I just gravitated towards chatting more with the girls than chatting with the boys. A lot of my friends were girls and that got a bit of teasing from the boys but it wasn’t serious. But the crunch came when
they asked me to play football with the other boys. I didn’t want to play football. I hated football because it was rough, a contact sport. I said to the teachers, “I’m not going to play football”, and they said, “Why?”. “Because it’s a rough sport”. “Oh no, you’re a sissy,” said my PE teacher. So, that sort of cry of sissy has followed me down through the years. When I was adamant I wasn’t going to play football they said, “Okay. If you want to be a sissy, play rounders with the girls” and I thought, “Result”, because I wanted to do that. Well, really, it was an attempt to humiliate me into conforming. This wasn’t done out of the kindness of their hearts.
Next Wednesday the PE teachers came up to me and said, “If you want to play with the girls, you’ve got to wear girls’ PE kit”. And they presented me with a pile of girls PE kit complete with infamous green flannel knickers. They made me dress in that in the boys changing room, in front of the other boys, who were told to mock me. Now some of the boys did, some didn’t, they were quite embarrassed about the affair. By that time I was so angry with the teachers, that I went ahead. I came out onto the playing field dressed as a girl and the other girls were giggling. But the teachers were saying, “Go on boys, look at the sissy”. And the girls thought, “ We’re not having that”, and they closed ranks and stood up for me.
The next week, I avoided the humiliation by changing into these clothes in the boys common room which was empty at the time, then I came out onto the field ready and the teachers plan was foiled. They couldn’t really do anything more. That went on for another six weeks, then the headmaster found out. He went utterly nuclear, not so much with me, but with the teachers. So, he called me into his study, and I thought, “Oh I’m in for it”. And the first question he said to me, “Is this true you’ve been playing rounders in girls’ kit with the girls?” I said, “Yes”. “Have you told your parents?” And I said, “No”. He breathed a sigh of relief and said, Okay, forget about this, you’re not playing rounders any more. For PE just do some extra study.” I was excused PE with the boys for that year. I never told my parents.
This is Joanna's testimony in Chapter Two (Background, childhood, family, parenting, friends, school) of the ground-breaking Brighton Trans*formed book.
To read more intimate, heart-breaking and heart-warming stories from transgender people, click here.
This page was amended on 19/12/2014