Real Lives

Free to be me!

Michael was born in 1939 – sometimes he can be quiet and shy but when relaxed, has a cheeky sense of humour and is softly spoken.

As a young man growing up in the 1950s and 60s, Michael always felt he was different from other people. He knew that he liked women, but also that he was attracted to men as well.

Michael dated women and men throughout his life but learnt that as much as he enjoyed female company, he was often interested in their clothing and makeup. Picking out an outfit for a woman was exciting to him, but he felt like he was ‘living his dream through someone else’.

After some time, Michael started to dress in feminine clothing in private. He soon found himself being more comfortable wearing dresses, wigs and perfume. He admired women for their scent, demeanour and characteristics. This is when Michelle was ‘born’.

Michael unfortunately had to keep this side of his life a secret, as in the 1950s it was a crime. If found out, a person could be taken for ‘treatment’ to change one’s sexual orientation or desires.

In 1972, Michael was referred to a doctor for advice, who diagnosed him with Schizophrenia – a mental health condition that may cause ‘confused thinking’. This is a diagnosis that Michael and the people around him still question to this day.

From 1980 to 2018, Michael lived in a flat with his partner – in a comfortable relationship that allowed him to present both his gender preferences.

Michael enjoyed this period of his life, but after his health began to decline in 2018, he moved into Okeley Care Home.

When Michael arrived, he came with only male clothing and there was no indication of Michelle being a part of his life.

He was often quiet and enjoyed time to himself. He was encouraged to take part in activities with the other residents but would often decline and opt for an afternoon watching television.

In November 2020, Michael was moved to a different suite at the home, where he would benefit from a change in schedule and more dedicated support. Within just one week, Michael showed more signs of being happier there; smiling and interacting with others more during mealtimes.

On this suite, the team were supported by a Senior Carer and the Home Manager to have a conversation with Michael and ask some questions about Michelle.

Michael expressed his desire to wear feminine clothes. He said he felt beautiful, loved and free. The team responded positively and said it is something they would completely support him to do, which made him quite emotional, as no one, aside from his partner, had ever acknowledged and supported this side of him before.

After this conversation, Michael was supported with some online shopping so he could pick out some items that he liked. This included women’s clothes, shoes, jewellery, undergarments and accessories. The joy and excitement in his face made the team feel young and it was delightful to see him looking so happy!

Michael was excited to try these clothes on and once again, become Michelle. Dressed in his new attire, Michelle walked around the home with confidence and ready to be a part of the community at Okeley.

Michelle was beaming with joy and began accepting help with her personal care, which included shaving her legs, getting her hair washed and styled, and asking the team to make her feel ‘pretty’.

The other people living at Okeley also support Michael and Michelle as part of their family, welcoming them to activities and social sessions.

Edel Harris

WAGS NOMINATION

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