Fiction by Johnny Cumlately
I was born on 5th March 1932, christened Joseph Stanley and my birth was registered as Joseph Stanley Marples, son of William and Anne Marples.
My parents already had two girls and were delighted when I turned out to be a boy. My sisters were Alice and Ruth who were then four and two years old. We lived in a small village in the middle of England.
I had a normal sort of childhood in a happy and caring family. Our parents were strict and were not well off but made sure we didn't lack for the essentials. I was very much under the influence of Alice and Ruth and joined in their games in preference to boy's games with my school friends. We played Mummies and Daddies and Doctors and Nurses and dressing up games in which I was invariably dressed as a girl.
I went to the local primary school and later I moved to the grammar school in the nearby town. I was 15 when I first noticed that I seemed different from the other boys. In most cases, their voices had broken and some of them even started to shave. My voice remained a light falsetto and my face showed no sign of starting a beard. But what really concerned me was that my breasts started to grow and I knew enough to know that that was not normal. Girls had breasts - boys didn't. I was afraid to tell my parents who were highly religious and regarded any sort of abnormality as a mortal sin. I told Alice and Ruth, who by then were budding beauties with lovely curves and nice breasts. Their response was simple. "We always knew you were really one of us!" They kept my secret for a time but I soon reached a stage when my parents noticed. Their reaction was predictable bearing in mind their religious convictions and our doctor was told in no uncertain terms that he must "do something about it". A few days later, I went into the local hospital "for minor surgery" and emerged a few days later with small scars on each side of my now flat chest.
I returned home completely traumatised. Subconsciously, I knew that an essential part of me had been cut off but was totally unable to explain how I felt - least of all to Mum and Dad. It was only years later that I discovered that I had undergone a full double mastectomy and that it would really upset me for the rest of my life. For several days I refused food and stayed in my bedroom. Mum and Dad were concerned and tried hard to discover what had upset me and with their loving care I got back to some sort of normal life although they never understood what was the real reason for my reaction. My sisters smothered me with sympathy but their help probably made me feel even worse as I realised that I would never actually look remotely like them.
Back at school, I tried to blot out my depression with hard work so that by the time I left school at 17, I had obtained excellent exam results and won a place at a major university to read chemistry. I had little idea then what sort of career I wanted but it was my favourite subject and seemed to offer plenty of possibilities.
Going to college was the first time I had been away from home for more than the occasional day or two. Rather than being homesick, I found the life refreshingly easy now I was away from my parents' strict influence although I missed day to day contact with my sisters.
Student dress, then as now, tended to be pretty much unisex - tee shirts, old jeans and trainers. Boys wore their hair long. My voice still had not broken and I still had a smooth complexion and soft fair hair, so that I was often mistaken for a girl, albeit a flat-chested one. By then I had also put on weight on my hips and thighs so that I was a bit pear-shaped.
During a visit home in my first term, I compared notes with Ruth. "If they think you are a girl, why don't you pretend to be one? You might find life easier. After all, Alice and I have said all along we thought you were really one of us! Call yourself Josephine, or just Jo for short instead of Joe. We'll find you a bra - you won't need much more." I made a spur of the moment decision to do just that. Before I returned to college, we experimented a little while our parents were out. The girls did my hair slightly differently and applied a tiny amount of make up, showing me how to do it for myself. They stuffed the bra with tissues temporarily and promised to get some proper breast forms for me.
Josephine arrived back in college feeling slightly apprehensive but need not have worried. One or two girls said that I looked a bit different but they called me Jo anyway - not concerned whether it had an "e"! A discreet parcel arrived a few days later and I just loved the feel of having breasts again, even modest false ones.
There were inevitably a few complications but no one seemed to notice, least of all the university authorities. Maybe I was not the first student to change sex! Of course, I had to revert sometimes and always when I went home. I worked hard and after three years emerged with a "first" degree. Mum and Dad insisted on coming to my degree ceremony. I guess they were justifiably proud of me. Unfortunately that meant I had to be Joseph again and that caused more confusion.
In those days, compulsory National Service was still the norm for all males over 18. I had had a deferment while I completed my studies but soon after leaving college, I received a letter addressed to Joseph Stanley Marples containing official notice of call up. The three weeks notice went by quickly. I had a very perfunctory medical exam and was passed A1. After all, I was perfectly healthy. I duly reported to the reception centre for new recruits, was issued with standard (uncomfortable) uniform and all the usual bits of kit, including heavy boots and kit bag and was given a very "short back and sides" haircut.
I was then moved to another camp for three months basic training ("Square Bashing") which really was hell on earth. Because of my soft voice and girlish looks I was picked on regularly by the NCOs and teased by some of my fellow trainees. I found the training physically exhausting but knew I had to get through it somehow and managed to find the strength to cope. By the end, I think I was able to pretend to be a reasonable soldier!
With typical army efficiency, I was then posted to a unit of the Service Corps and given a pen pushing job in the stores on the basis that as I had a university degree, I should at least be able to read and write. Life suddenly became a lot easier. The main problem threatened to be boredom. There was little to do, but at least I was left alone most of the time.
Then fate finally intervened. I went down with a severe case of 'flu and had to report to the sick quarters where I was examined very thoroughly by the young Medical Officer, Lieutenant Tony Barker. There were only two other soldiers in the sick bay and the MO had time on his hands. He asked about the scars on each side of my chest and commented on the tiny size of my genitals. He was far more interested in learning about me and my background than my 'flu symptoms. Over a couple of days, we spent several hours talking in which I found myself telling him about how I had had a double mastectomy when I was only 15 and my parents attitude to any form of abnormality and how I had lived as a girl at college without their knowledge. By then we were on first name terms (but strictly only while off duty). He told me that his uncle James was an acknowledged expert on transsexuals and gender reassignment and that he wanted me to go and see him for a private consultation. It was duly arranged that he would personally drive me to the clinic (it was in a large teaching hospital 100 miles away) and that the army would pay any necessary fees.
James had set aside half a day and in addition to a long and very intimate consultation, I was given a number of tests, blood samples taken, etc. Tony was with me throughout and finally I was asked to wait outside while he talked to his uncle.
We went back to the car, but before Tony started the engine he turned to me with a smile and said "Josephine, you shouldn't be in the army at all. I'm going to arrange for your discharge on medical grounds." I couldn't reply. As the full impact of his words and calling me Josephine sank in, tears welled up and I just sat and sobbed for several minutes. Tony thoughtfully reached into the glove box for a packet of tissues.
As we drove back, I managed to collect my thoughts and told him that I was afraid of my parents reaction. Tony had already worked that out. "I would like to go and meet them. I'm sure that I can get them to understand your problem. And I would also like to meet your sisters, particularly as you say they will be so supportive."
I remained in the sick bay while Tony arranged all the formalities. He returned from his visit to my home to tell me that Mum and Dad had been persuaded that they should rejoice to have another daughter and how Alice and Ruth had both spoken of their previous convictions that I was more sister than brother to them. He had arranged for Alice, who had a car by then, to collect me as soon as the necessary papers had been signed.
Three days later, Alice arrived with a suitcase full of clothes. She had thought of everything I could possibly need to make sure that I arrived home looking like the girl she knew I was. We spent a couple of hours that afternoon trying things on and me having some lessons in using the makeup kit. Since the end of square bashing, I had been able to allow my hair to grow back to something approaching its usual length and Alice was able to style it slightly. She had arranged to stay overnight at a local hotel before we set off for home the next day. I overheard Tony ask whether she would join him for a meal that evening.
My last night in the army passed very slowly. I was far too excited to sleep much and couldn't wait to leave the camp for the last time already dressed for my new life in a floral summer dress and strappy sandals. Alice checked my makeup and hair. As Tony (and several of the medical staff) waved us off he said "Wow! You are both as pretty as a picture and very obviously sisters. Good luck, Josephine. I'm sure you'll be very happy." And he gave each of us a hug and kiss.
Homecoming was an emotional moment. All my apprehensions vanished as Mum and Dad both hugged and kissed me. "Can we still call you Jo, then?" "Of course, it's short for Josephine."
There is little more to tell. I returned to college to do a masters degree and then won a research fellowship. I retired a few years ago and am now in my 70s - an elderly spinster!
Tony and Alice were married and he left the army and joined a busy doctor's general practice quite close to the family home so we saw a lot of them and their growing family.
I paid a number of visits to see James who, of course, became my "uncle-in-law" - and had surgery to remove my diminutive male genitals. Unfortunately, he was unable due to my lack of development to create a passable vagina, so I just have a bare crotch and a little "pee hole".
Over the years I've been very happy and comfortable in my new gender, but there are lots of times when I have regretted that I never had proper boobs or proper equipment down below. Mum and Dad both died a few years ago and before they died, I forgave them for the original operation - they had tried to act in my best interests but got it wrong!
Fiction by Johnny Cumlately.
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