Pig Male Ian - Fair Lady
It is so much easier when there are people who can help you change a pig into a worthwhile replacement. Some do it by chopping the poor pig into meat, trotters, leather and tail - but there are alternatives. Ian and others are having to learn that you can use silk to make a pig's purse.
Ian used to be a pig, a male pig. Now he and others were learning another 50% of life’s complexities. And, boy, is it complicated for them. And, yes, it’s because they are boys that it is so much extra difficult for them to learn these new lessons. We couldn’t have done it without the held and guidance of the BigSisters people. Or at least, it wouldn’t have been as straightforward, we wouldn’t have had the assistance to get past the hiccups and to keep Ina on the right track without their help. And now, Ina was being asked to be a BigSister herself. In my mind, when Ina was doing her best, she was indeed a ‘Fair Lady’.
It was nearly a year since I had started Ina’s re-orientation. My son, Ian, had been a right handful, horrid, sneering, impolite, generally unkind to all the girls in his class and locally.
Several local ladies had spoken to me about the change in his/her demeanour. I hadn’t been secretive about it but nor had I been loud and public. But to those who had known the local terror that Ian had become – to see the demure and diffident damsel or to see the equally controlled and composed boy was to observe a remarkable change.
It wasn’t too surprising that, gradually, other mothers came to talk to me about their children. In two cases they came to talk to me about their daughters and how they had been thinking that some re-training might benefit the daughters and their whole household. I wasn’t sure how far to push my views.
Boys who needed help were much more evident – both in number and in the amount of help they needed. I was very firm about this. The process was not in any way an attempt to make the boys into girls; nor was it to make the boys girly or sissy. My aim had always been that the teenage overload of testosterone needed to be balanced by learning and understanding sufficient feminine attitudes that the child had Control.
We had spoken about the change – me, Ian, Melissa and Wendy. And we had all, including Ina, been emphatic that the changes were for the better. Ian was more popular even though some friends had gone and been replaced by more; Ina too was popular and had made new friends. Ian was doing better at school – and on occasions Ina went to school instead; and nobody made a fuss. Melissa and Ian were known as a pair to everyone – even if Ina was sometimes there instead. Ina had been offered a job at a local nail salon and Ian had been offered a job at the local cinema. Obviously both were part-time and it was only at the cinema that both Ian and Ina were included. But what a transformation from less than a year before.
We had begun these assessments after about three months. I had begun by congratulating Ian/Ina and this had the extra benefit of reinforcing the work that we had done.
Ina was wearing a pretty sundress, pale green with yellow and purple flowers down the side, so I called her by her dressed-name as usual. “Ina, dear, you have to know that we’re all very pleased at how much you have learnt and absorbed the role and camouflage of Ina. It’s so satisfactory to see that there has been some overflow of the quieter, more patient, more understanding Ina into Ian’s daily behaviour.” I smiled. “Don’t you agree.”
Ina, who had grown up several years in the last few months, paused. “I didn’t like the new system – I can’t deny that. But, sadly, I have to confess that I think the old me was undoubtedly on the wrong path – and even though I had to be forced very much against my will into this new style of behaviour …… I think that I am better for it and, erm, I think I am happier too. I’m back with Melissa. She understands me in a way I could never have predicted – and both Ina and Ian have a relationship with Melissa that old-Ian certainly didn’t deserve.”
As on some previous occasions, I noted that Ian was able to talk about three separate components of his personality – old-Ian, Ina and by implication new-Ian.
“That’s such an improvement on a year ago. I don’t think any of us expected things to change. But I’m so happy – for everyone really – that there has been a change. It’s gratifying, no that’s the wrong word but it’ll do for the moment, I makes me more than happy that both new-Ian and Ina are glad that they went through what must have been a stressful ordeal and come out the other end ….. and are happy with the result.”
“I won’t argue about it being stressful, mother. But I can’t argue that old-Ian was on a downward spiral to unemployed, unemployable and being an antisocial embarrassment and without a worthwhile friend let alone a lovely girlfriend.”
Melissa blushed like a beetroot. We all smiled.
“And I wouldn’t have my new improved Ian as a boyfriend nor the delightful Ina as a girlfriend,” she chirped. If anything she blushed a little more.
“But I have news for all of you,” I said. “I’ve had a lengthy series of conversations with a group that calls itself BigSisters. Apparently they used to be called SisterDom as in Kingdom. That was because one of the founders was called King and the name seemed to fit nicely. But too many people thought it was about Domination – and they decided that was the wrong emphasis. They’re a group of ladies who, well, I’ll read from their web-page.
BigSisters - Helping Males
The primary aim of BigSisters is to ensure that the male is able to access his female component; the dot of his Yin-Yang. The belief is that this will reduce the likelihood of macho ‘powergames’ from which we see so much damage, abuse, wrongness and evil resulting.
The key aim is to help boys and men to learn restraint. Learning how to control their own behaviour will reduce the risk of abusing others by their macho testosterone-driven behaviour. Training is designed to show them how behaving in a feminine way is helpful and supportive and actually re-directs the trainee to behave in a non-damaging way while still attaining their personal objectives.
As regards the FeMale spectrum – which we always write in this way so as to emphasise the close linkage of the two aspects –we believe in the yin-yang approach. That is to say, within even the most macho man is a speck of femininity and likewise within the most femme woman there are macho values able to be asserted. And the size of the yin-yang dot is not relevant – some are bigger, some are smaller, some are nearly 50%, some are nigh-on invisible.
The aim of BigSisters is to help males understand that it is not possible to be 100% masculine nor 100% feminine but rather that there is a spectrum of gender. BigSisters is equally firm that there is a spectrum of sexuality from heterosexual to homosexual but they are less concerned with that issue.
BigSisters is a network of women who know that it is important to help men to access their inner girlhood. These women are willing to train and transition their new-girls using a variety of simple techniques. Our website includes several examples of the process.
For the Sisters, abuse of power is one of the worst sins. This puts them into a difficult position because some of their membership do put considerable pressure on trainees ‘in order to reach their femme-core’. And pressure is easily seen as abuse – as it is the trainee-target who must decide whether their treatment is abusive or enlightening. The intention of the trainer is not relevant as to whether the physical or emotional treatment is abusive or not. Generally, any trainer who is found to have behaved improperly is required to stop doing so andBigSisters has found ways to maintain such discipline.
Trainees can be called new-girls, girlies, ex-boys, pretty-boys or sometimes-sisters or gurrls. The technique has variously been called girling, femming, pink-blueing or girlhood. In other centres, the BigSisters is called GirlWirld or TransFemmation.
The “Glorious Comrades of the BigSisters Revolution” [exaggerating a little] know what it is to release the inner man. They have learnt that men are better if their inner-woman has the opportunity for display. They know how men blossom and bloom as the inner bud is cultivated. But it is crucial to accept that the BigSisters solution is not the same for any man nor can it be learnt in just one way. It is essential that all participants accept that our Miss-Direction scheme will be done differently for every new-girl.
Religion has it right when it says, as many do, that no single person is like any other. But this does also mean that to do the best for and with any single person – so that best may differ from what any other person might need – and that any differing combination of helper and helpee will also require a different package. Counsellors are right in that any true change must come from within the changee; and that any change that is forced from outside is likely to fail. But there is a deep truth that a change that is encouraged and endorsed and welcomed has a better chance of success.
BigSisters endorses and encourages males to access, accept and enjoy their female component. For some the learning will be short-term but the results will be long-term; a few others will appreciate and need to follow their feminine side often, even permanently, into the future.
“Gosh. Are these people for real,” was the reaction from Melissa. From their expressions Wendy and Ina clearly thought much the same but said nothing.
“Well, I’ve spoken with some of them. One of their group moved here recently. They’re gradually spreading their approach across the UK. Their evidence for success is mostly in the reduction of domestic abuse, the reduction of rape and other testosterone-triggered behaviours. They’ve been going for over fifteen years now. They have some evidence that marriages last longer and that partnerships are more stable. But perhaps Ina and Melissa would have some input into that later.”
“The fact is that this lady, Leonie, has opened a new clothes shop in town and came to hear about what we’ve been doing. Her feeling is that what we have done is so similar to what they do that we should talk and maybe push forward with encouraging some of the other boys in this town who need the sort of help that Ian needed.”
“I’ve already been to one of their meetings and I was very impressed. At first glance it was over 80% women and girls – but I soon realized that a considerable number of the participants were extremely passable boys and men. Their confidence was amazing – and as we have said before, it is Ina’s confidence that so well deflects disapproval and intolerance. I will be going again. Do any of the three of you want to come with me.”
Melissa answered first, “Well, I want to come – but if Ina comes with me does she come as one of these new-girls as you’ve called them or as the confident Ina that we have helped grow in the last months. Personally, I’m not sure – do you have any plans?”
“I think it’s more up to Ina herself. Darling, do you think you want to go as a trainee or as a real girl?”
“Isn’t that a strange question to ask, mother? I am only a new-girl. I know that you’re proud of how well I do but if we went to one of their events, well the people there would be rather skilled in detecting. My feeling is that I’d like to go and just not have a label at all. If anyone detects me – then I need more help. If nobody asks if I am one of these new-girls, then we can move onward with a feeling of real assurance. Does anyone want to persuade me in either direction. I’m certainly not going as Ian – that’s for sure. There’s a really pretty white, grey and green jersey dress I want to wear.”
Melissa joined in, “What, the one you bought last week. And you said I should get the one in white, grey and blue. We’d look lovely. And I know just what hairstyle to give you.”
The two girls giggled. And, for me, it really was two pretty teenage girls sitting together on the sofa.
As things turned out, we all went to the next meeting about a fortnight later. As I expected, Ina had decided, with Melissa, that she would just be uninformative about her status. Nobody seemed too fussed.
There were about thirty to thirty-five people there; almost all dressed as women. There were about five girls aged 10 or 12 wearing the prettiest sundresses, although three had floaty petticoats making the dresses froth and frou-frou nicely. One girl saw me watching and did the sweetest pirouette and then smirked at me with a giggle and a little wave.
We split off in different directions – Melissa and Ina and myself and Wendy. I took Wendy to introduce her to Leonie. We didn’t see the girls for some time as we were busy talking, comparing notes and making suggestions for how Leonie could expand her Miss-Direction range of clothes and accessories.
It must have been an hour later before I noticed that Melissa and Ina had split up. Ina was talking to a girl, well actually clearly a boy-girl in the far corner by the staircase.
Later I asked what they had been talking so earnestly about.
Ina said, Melissa wanted to go off with some other girls and I found myself talking with just one girl called Roberta. I said my name was Ina. And she said, “My name’s Robert but my mum wants me to dress like a girl. It’s all very complicated. I don’t know what she’s trying to do to me. She alternates between being kind and gentle and being quite brutally unkind. The kids at school aren’t any help. I hate school anyway. They hate me and I hate them back. They hurt me so I try to hurt them back. I’m always being accused of starting things when things go wrong – and it isn’t always me. But I’m so angry all the time. I don’t know how to get back to an even keel – mum tells me that this petticoat-discipline system is going to help but I can’t see when this is going to, er, so magically, happen. I can’t even how, I don’t understand anything -= except mum wants to change me into something that I’m just not capable of. It’s wrong.”
Roberta paused, “I don’t know why I’m opening up to you like this. It’s not as if you’re a boy being forced to dress up – unless you’ve got top be so good at it that I can’t tell. I just need to talk to someone – and then to hope that someone will give me some idea of what to do, how to do it and how to arrange things so that in the future I can get out of these horrid clothes and go back to being an ordinary boy.”
“But, Roberta, or do you want me to call you Robbie or something different – you’re not completely ordinary if you hate everything and everybody and you go around wanting to hurt other people. …….. Well, that’s not ordinary is it. So, in some way, isn’t your mum right to want to make a change in you.”
Roberta started to cry when I said that. “Mum has sort of said what you’ve just said – but the way you say it makes me hurt more. It makes me seem like a cruel, unkind, nasty and, just, horrid. And I’m really not.”
Ina decided to adapt the truth a little – and she talked about some of the stories we had heard as if she knew the people directly. “I used to have a friend very like you. And he learned to be an actor – not on the stage – but in his real day-to-day life. Robert’A’ - perhaps you can guess what he acted as?”
“James acted as a GIRL. His mother and his aunt sat down with him one weekend and said, “James darling, we can tell you’re having a hard time. And we can tell that you are trying to deal with it by being rougher and tougher. Every week we hear more and more about how you’re upsetting people. Annoying the teachers, even some of your friends are getting fed up with you. So – a simple question – do you like that you’re doing? And a second one, do you think the approach you’re using is actually helping you?”
“As Jamie told me some while later, there wasn’t much flexibility in his answers. “No I don’t like what I’m doing and anyway it isn’t working. I’m pretty useless. I’m not a nice person. Everybody hates me. I didn’t realize that even my friends were talking behind my back and slagging me off. I don’t know what to do. I’d probably be better off dead.”
Fortunately his mother and his aunt both stopped him right then and there His mother did most of the speaking after his aunt just gasped and looked worried. “Now, that’s a horrid thing to say, it’s a horrid thing to think and it’s a horrid thing to lay on your listeners. We’ve done some thinking about your situation – and we want you to not-react for a while. We’ll talk about this idea – and you can comment. But you mustn’t say NO and you mustn’t say YES for at least a day or so. I expect we’ll talk about this quite a bit more before you actually make a yes-no decision. All I will say, isn’t almost any inconvenience better for you than being dead. I had no idea that you had reached that depth of self-hatred and self-disapproval. I am your mother and I am absolutely confident that the child I bore is stronger and tougher and nicer and kinder than wanting to hurt himself or anybody else. I refuse to accept that you think being dead is better than being loved. I refuse to accept that there is no way forward.”
“I’m going to change what I was going to say – I’m going to write three things down and I want these to be stuck on your bedroom mirror and I want you to say them out loud every morning and every evening. Number One – I can be loved only if I am alive. Two – I am loveable, I am kind, I am nice, I am strong. Three – There is a wonderful life ahead of me. Oh, and Four – I can ask for help and help will come.”
Auntie said “Can you try them out right now, darling. We love you and we hate to see you hurting.”
“Jamie said, “I wasn’t quite a blubbering heap when she asked me. But nearly.”
Apparently, Auntie continued “We can show you a way to hide from the world that you hate and that you say hates you. It might startle you greatly, but in my own way, I used to be like you. I was angry, confused. Then I was given some help to relax and set aside my bad behaviour. And I think that some sort of setting-aside is exactly what you need. You need to stop being you for a while – and perhaps you can learn enough new behaviours and attitudes that you’ll never go back to who you are now. And you’ll never get back on that downward spiral that was going to land you in the gutter.”
“What’s a woman like you know about how boys behave?” Jamie snarled.
“For now, we don’t need to go into details. My suggestion is that if you don’t look anything like the boy who everyone round here is beginning to really really dislike – then first – they’ll not be expecting James’ normal ugly behaviour and secondly – it will perhaps be more difficult for you to indulge yourself in ugly behaviour.”
“I mean, dear, what methods can you think of to get yourself out of the hole that you’ve put yourself in. In your more intelligent moments, you have to agree that nobody made you dig a pit for yourself, nobody made you behave badly. Yes, perhaps some of what you’ve done is a reaction to what others do – but actually you’ve always had choices. And too often, you have chosen the brash, brutal, coarse bad-solution rather than actually thinking – what do I want and how do I make it happen?”
“So – what is this ‘interesting but unusual plan?”
“You have to learn how a girl behaves! The plan is that if people see a girl behaving as a James might – then they’ll be so appalled that James-girl will realize that what she is doing is wrong. And that what she has done is not wrong because girls don’t do it – it’s wrong because reasonable human beings don’t behave like that.”
“What. You think that putting me in a dress will suddenly make me behave better. You’re nuts. Do I call the doctors or do you self-medicate?”
“Don’t be silly, dear. I never said this was a quick or an easy process. You’ve got years of bad habits deeply ingrained – it’s not going to take a few days or even weeks to get you to make even the smallest change. But, yes. After some time wearing a dress and presenting as a girl, you’ll realize that the costume is a form of moral and mental restriction on your behaviour. Nobody wants to be thought of as ‘different’ or ‘wrong’, let alone ‘strange or freaky’.
“There is no intention to make you be a girl, or turn into a girl. What we have to show you is that the boy version of you can be changed. If the change is begun by us until the point where the change is inside you growing like a seed – then new-you is on the march. Perhaps you can view it that you are too-much-boy at the moment and we need to dilute this down to a normal human level. You have to be aware that most human attitudes and behaviours are on a spectrum – well we think that is true about masculine-feminine traits too. You are too far over on the masculine scale and it makes you unattractive and you behave badly. It would be stupid of us or anyone to try to make you average or 50/50 male-female. We just need to introduce you to some feminine skills and attributes which will improve your balance.”
“Don’t you think that some of what you’re doing to yourself and those around you is just trying to be a man’s man, a super-man, a man better than the rest. Isn’t that a bit over the top. Well, perhaps I mean, I’m telling you that that approach is so far over-the-top that it is massively out of balance. And this imbalance is causing you hurt, great hurt, and is spilling over onto other people. It’s time for this to stop.”
“If you can identify a different way to make these changes, then I’ll always be ready to say that there is more than one solution. Or perhaps I mean there is always more than one way to get to a good solution. Again, I’ll press you a little. What evidence do you have that future that you want is likely to come true based on your current path and with your current skills? I and your mother are offering you a different path to a solution which is far richer and more exciting and that we have seen proof of it working for others who were in a worse state than you are now. Boys who had been in Borstal, or been brutalised in care homes or were just battered by the system or who were seen as out of control.”
Roberta interrupted “So what was the big deal, eh? Why did he have to wait 24 hours before agreeing to ……. Oh. You don’t mean.”
“Roberta, dear, what’s going through your head now.”
“Er, you’re not saying that they lied and did actually make her into a girl?”
“Certainly not. I said it was all about acting. Not about being turned into a girl – what a silly idea.” Oh really??
“No, it’s exactly as I was about to tell you and it is close to what you were guessing. The idea was for Jamie to dress as a girl in the hope and expectation that he would be unable to act a s a boy when in frills. He was going to have to act as a ‘nice demure quiet girl’ even when he wanted to explode. The plan was to guide him in how to do this so that eventually he learnt control over his explosions. Learnt control over his willingness to hurt others. Learnt how not to be hurt by mere comments and nastiness from others who were ugly and intolerant and nasty. All in all – how to be a nicer person. …… If you were given that choice, how would you deal with it? Hold on, that is exactly the choice you’ve been given.”
Roberta sat there – stunned for a moment. “You mean that is what mum is trying to teach me? I didn’t understand. She didn’t make it clear what this was all about. It’s just a game then.”
“No, no, no. Not a game of any sort in any way. Your life is not a game. You only get one life – and that is it – and this is what you’ve got right now. You’ve just said your life is going all wrong – and you have a chance to re-direct yourself, with help, and get straight again. Isn’t it worth taking a bit of a risk for a chance that big?”
Roberta sighed tiredly “ooooooh yes, it must be. I’ve got to take this chance now that I know what’s going on. Ooh, yessss. So, you’ll be able to help me – and all the people here are people who can help me too. Just like mum has been saying – even though I couldn’t hear her properly.”
“Yes, dear. But not everybody here is going to be able to help you as much as you expect or as much as you might need. There’s quite o few of the girls here, and women too, who are trainees like you. New-girls, you might have heard them called – or Little Sisters.”
“Oh. Oh. OH. That’s what Mum meant when she said that. I couldn’t understand. I thought it was some silly sort of label. But it means boys and men who are getting the sort of training you’re talking about. But, you – you’re a real girl aren’t you?”
“Rule number 37 – dear – or something like that – that’s a question you never ask. You might get told by some girls – about themselves or about their trainees. But not many will answer that question when asked straight out like that. My answer is that I am ME. I have picked up some guidance from the lessons I have seen others getting – but that still doesn’t answer your question. I love being me – and I love dressing up for these events too.”
Roberta sat silent for a while.
“Do you really think that this strange dressing-up routine is a way for me to hide away from my anger? Will I really be able to learn to be another person?”
“Truly. If you wish to become a new shinier, better version of the boy even you say you don’t like very much – then, yes indeed, this dressing-up routine is part of the way that you can get there. You’re going to learn how to separate the old unattractive uncontrolled and uncontrollable Rob from the very different, calm and confident Roberta. But I won’t deny that from everything I have seen and learnt – it will be hard work. Are you up for this, darling?”
Again – the silence went on for some moments.
“Yes. I have to be ready, don’t I? I have to be willing to take the risk or the degrading idea of self-elimination will come round again. And I don’t mean killing myself. If I don’t make changes then I will be watching myself slide down the hell-hole of getting less and less worthwhile in my own eyes and in the eyes of anyone who ever cared for me. They may try to love me at that point – but there won’t be much of me that will be loveable. Time to be bold and brave and ….. Let’s do it. Will you be there some of the time to help me?”
“I can’t make promises about something as important as this. If the people who are going to help you think that me being involved will help in any way – then I’ll not say no. But it would be wrong of me to force myself into the situation. I hope what I’ve said to you will help. If I’ve said something before you are ready and prepared to hear me – then perhaps I haven’t been as kind and helpful as I intended. But – like I say – if I can help then I will try to do so. Within reasonable limits, of course.”
“Yes, we must always be reasonable, mustn’t we. Thanks Ina. I’ll try to remember what you say. I won’t ask for your number – but, if necessary, can I contact you through someone in this group.”
“That’s very sensible; and yes you should be able to. One last tip. If you are going to start this new path, this new regime – then you should be calling your mum, ‘mummy’. It will demonstrate that you are trying to make a change. I’ve just seen my own mother signalling me – so imust say goodbye and see what she wants to tell me. Goodbye and good luck.”
“Thank you so much and I do so hope we can meet again and you can tell me if it looks as if I’m trying as hard as I need to. I don’t want to be the ugly boy any more.”
“Bye Roberta.” And I kissed his/her cheek.
As I might have expected, Ina and Roberta often met up in the next few months. Equally often, Melissa and, later, another girl Amber were with them. Amber was a cute five foot three bubblehead with a blonde page-boy cut – and not a clue that her friends were anything other than girls. Although it was a very long time before Roberta realized that Ina was actually only a year ahead in training.
Of course I met with Alison, Roberta’s mother, in order to make a better judgement about whether Ina and Roberta should be encouraged to meet and share. For me, just one chat at the BigSisters club wasn’t a good enough basis for a significant friendship. Alison said she had been at her wit’s end about what to do. Robbie had been getting increasingly nasty to everyone, his work at school had been getting steadily worse. He was making new friends who were just awful – loud-mouthed, aggressive, greedy and all the rest of it. He had got himself a tattoo; fortunately it was quite small and out of sight – but unfortunately for Robbie it had got infected. That had been almost the last straw. Then in one single weekend, Robbie had been seen shoplifting, smoking roll-ups which did not smell of pure nicotine, coming home sick with drink and then puking on the front doorstep and, finally, actually knocking over Alison by pushing past to get in the house. ‘How many last straws does a boy deserve – this is not going to continue’ Alison said she shouted.
The fact that Rob was insensible, barely aware and stupid with the drink didn’t matter. Alison said she spent the night glued to the computer looking for options about what to do. Money was tight – isn’t it for everyone – so any solution would have to be home-grown. She said the breakthrough for her came when she typed in on a chat-site ‘Why is my son becoming so vile and over-macho’. Another webster had answered ‘perhaps he is overloading on man-chemicals. One solution is to teach him the opposite.’
Not surprisingly, this was another of the BigSisters group. In fact a new-girl called Joy Firth who was a grown man now and in the day-time a computer expert. Of an evening, she kept an eye on a number of chat-sites looking for key phrases and words such as Alison had written. Needless to say, the two of them were soon communicating direct and Joy got some other sisters to talk about the Miss-direction techniques and what would be suitable for Roberta.
Rob was beginning his A levels when he accelerated down his slippery slope. He had been allowed to stay on even though his GCSE results had plummeted from the expected scores of eighteen months before to a few barely scraped Bs and Cs and just one A. The teachers did all agree that there were brains available to Robbie provided he decided to use them. And so it had proved. He was now in the upper half of most of his classes and much better was expected of him. After all, each time there was a bad report – his clothing became more little-girlish. It was Roberta who had eventually suggested this approach.
By the beginning of the next summer, Ina and Melissa both had a job. Ina worked at the restaurant as a waitress while Melissa worked at Leonie’s shop.
The girls came home one evening giggling about the day’s events. I couldn’t see anything boyish about them at all. There was Ina and Melissa of course with Amber, Roberta (mostly now known as Bobbi, Virginia, Susie and a more recent arrival, Louise.
Melissa was saying “I have to tell you about today. A mother came in with her son and asked for a moment with Leonie. I was busy but I saw the boss’s expression and thought ‘what’s up – something doesn’t seem right’. You could have knocked me over with a feather when Leonie called me over later.”
Ell said, “Melissa dear, I want you to go with Mrs Farge and Olivia. You’re to fit Olivia with a full range of the Miss-Direction outfits.
I raised an eyebrow – I wouldn’t dare question the boss in public. Olivia was about fifteen by my guesstimate, five foot three inches tall, quite squarely built and with minimal breasts, short cropped hair and no make-up. ‘Quite evidently deep in a tomboy phase’ I smirked to myself. ‘Well, the new regime was going to be a bit of a surprise.’
I took Olivia and her mother into one of the larger changing rooms – where there was room for the client as well as any attendants and the cheque-mistress. “So, do I need to have any extra information or shall I leave you alone while I get the first selection of underwear. Of course, it is a basic principle that we have to ensure a proper fit before we move on to outerwear.”
To say that Olivia was unwilling was to place a whole new meaning of the word. I suspect that she was startled and amazed by the whole new experience. Clearly nobody had even threatened her self-belief. She was visibly not eager to demonstrate any feminine style. She wore jeans with not a sequin, pattern or cut that was in any way feminine. She was wearing a rugby shirt – with a small tear in it – as if it had been in action! This was not a girly girl in any way. And in contrast to the huge majority of our trainees – it appeared that nothing had been done to prepare her for her new life-style.
She did not approve and was willing to let everyone know.
“Dear, you may think your behaviour is demonstrating style and panache and colourful dissent. I have to tell you that you are failing. You are coming across as a brat. A spoiled brat. A squealing, arrogant, over-proud, intolerant, aggressive brat. I could ask if you are proud of yourself – but I fear that you are stupid enough to say ‘yes’.
Clearly, nobody had ever spoken to her like that. Her eyes nearly popped and she was suddenly silent. To my pleasure, she began to think – and that was a good sign.
“For now, don’t think. Don’t overcomplicate. Just be cool and calm. Watch what other people do and how they behave. Watch the ones who make things happen. Watch the people who get others to do things. Learn who has control. Don’t you want to be one of the people who has control. If you do – then what we are trying to teach you is that the very first thing to control is yourself’. And what you just did was – rather quickly and very obviously – demonstrate that you are not in control of yourself. Be a good human – and learn.”
I saw Olivia blink when I said ‘human’ rather than ‘girl’ or ‘child’. More evidence of brain useage. Good.
Unfortunately, her ability to think was overridden by her anger, aggression, animosity and unwillingness. It didn’t help that her mother was not skilled at dealing with a girl so much more intelligent and determined than she was.
I saw Olivia several times over the next month. Eventually, I asked Leonie if I could speak with Olivia and give her some insight into the aims of the project. After all, she was already and originally a genuine girl – and therefore a marked exception to the usual trainees.
Olivia came in on the pretext that she was to be getting some extra-frilly undies, rumba panties in fact – with as many as six layers of frills. Mrs Farge left saying that she was going to look at the options for this specialist underwear for her daughter. “And I don’t want you making any fuss, Olivia dear. Or you will learn from the bottom up, so to speak, what the effects are of an unsuitable reaction.”
I asked if we could set it up so that Olivia had no idea that I was speaking to her and that I was breaking some of the basic new-girl routines.
I could sense that Olivia was scowling. “What’s up, dear. You’re either going to have a really bad and uncomfortable time if you continue to fight the system or you can relax and get with the regime. If you’re willing to trust me – what you learn is really worthwhile and once you graduate it is you and only you who decides how you are going to run your life.”
This was clearly not what she was expecting to hear. “What do you mean?”
“Look around you. What sort of a shop is this? What sort of clientele do we cater for? Do you think we would have staff here who were not, at least, knowledgeable about the products sold here and the requirements of those who buy our speciality clothing?”
“What! So are you another girl who has been forced into this ghastly antiquated system. It’s absolutely monstrous. I am allowed to do nothing, wear nothing that is not ‘approved’. And, according to what I’ve been told and threatened with, the limits are very strict.
“Now, I think it’s obvious that I am not now under any visible restriction on what I may wear- apart from the obvious. That is that I am a shop assistant at a smart clothes emporium – therefore I must dress and behave in accordance with what the clients should expect. It is not a hardship as I can reconcile these rules with the happiness of the customers buying more and thereby giving me a better bonus. It is indeed a win-win situation. In addition, the arrangement with the network of local boutiques gives me excellent opportunities to use my staff discount for almost any feminine and dainty item that I desire. And please note carefully, I said ‘that I desire’ – I am at the neck and call of nobody as regards my clothing, behaviour, attitudes and actions.
“You, Olivia dear, need to learn where the win-win balance occurs for you. How situations can be negotiated so that the balance moves closer to your aims. On occasion, you may, actually no, you need to bend somewhat for one scenario in order to gain elsewhere. Unless you are either genuinely stupid, immensely arrogant or unable to think – then it should be obvious to you that your first task is to accept the situation and then look to improve your state.”
“I’ve been subjected to these stupid and illogical rules for two weeks now. And you are the first to suggest that this is a preconceived project. The first to say clearly that there will be an end to it. And the first to give me any helpful advice. Thank you for that. So, I think, you are suggesting that I accept these revoltingly girlish items in order to comply with the project. And that I keep my aim fixed firmly on survival and later moving on to aim at my own targets.”
“I might suggest that your language is on the macho-boy side rather than the feminine. I strongly suggest that you watch strong women and see how they arrange and manipulate others. Such women can be immensely feminine even while they outmanoeuvre the macho male.”
As a guide into some of the background for the BigSisters’s efforts – I suggested that she read the Tales of the Season / Aunt Jane [Tiger & Brandy deWinter] stories. I was not alone in finding them really useful in guiding some of our trainees. There was such undoubted kindness and love behind what was done to and with and for each of the trainees. The concept of ‘tough love’ is, to my recollection, almost never mentioned. But the underlying concept that (almost) every man can benefit if shown that he has a useful and useable feminine component – that is key to how the BigSisters operates.
The alteration in Olivia’s attitude from that moment on – or rather after she had read a few of the stories – was quite startling. She realized that she wasn’t wanting to be a boyish-girl. She wasn’t wanting to be a pretend-man. She was wanting to have control of her own life. And when the time came for a job or marriage – to have a genuine share in the decision-making and in the control of herself and those around her. At least, that is how she expressed it a while later.
By this time, she was beginning to relax into the requirements of a trainee. The frills, silks, satins and so on. As a girl all these had been available to her – but she had not learnt that undies are merely a weapon in the game of Balance. Not, of course, that wearing silk and lace is unpleasurable – but pleasure is not the main characteristic.
It took time – but gradually Olivia changed as she learnt the lessons of our Miss-Direction system. She became extremely skilled as a watcher. In fact, she eventually decided that she was going to get her act together at school so she could go to college and university to become a psychotherapist. And her speciality was going to be gender studies. She wasn’t actually the first of our new-sisters who had gone that route. And indeed some of the big-sisters had done the same.
As time went on, and I got to know more of Olivia’s background, the reasons for her behaviour did become more clear. It would have been hard to say she had actually been abused in the usual meaning of the word but she had been subjected to a great deal of pressure, of expectation and demand – which in itself is indeed a form of abuse.
“I am good at a few things, actually I’m really good at gymnastics and similar ultra-flexible sports – y’know, diving, trampolining, even some bits of martial arts. But I have no control over when, where, how often or anything. You’re doing this so you must wear that; you’re doing that so you must be ready for this next. On and on. No time, no relaxation. And while I’m proud of my skills – I’m very tired of the demand. Even top sportsmen say that it’s really important that they have fun – and I’m not. And, you might have noticed, this makes me right pissed off.”
“Oh, really, as if you didn’t make THAT obvious. But sit quiet for a minute and I’ll remind you of what we can teach you so that you are aiming at a win-win outcome. You clearly don’t want to waste your skills, but we can help you focus better. Instead of using your currently known skills in too many different ways – we will find the best way to use your skills and if there are any others hidden beneath what you already do. It is important that you understand and accept that we only want you to become the best you can be. We love you because we care – and we care because we love you. It’s what we do.”
Olivia nodded, “I do have some brain, y’know, I can see that you’re trying to re-direct me into a genuine and worthwhile role in society, “She smiled. “and that’s not just because that’s a quote from your leaflet. I do believe that you’re trying to help.”
“And I have noticed that you’re beginning to listen to my comments – which also makes me feel more worthwhile. So, thanks for that.”
The next time we met, Olivia was angry again and not at all interested in what or why or how we were doing anything. Overflowing with anger.
“Olivia, dear, why are you reacting like this? What does the nice girl I met last week have to say to the angry girl stomping around right now? Why is there an angry girl here right now? What happened to make you so angry so much of the time? You’ve said you used to be pretty calm until about 2 years ago – what happened then and what has happened now to get you all fired up? I know you have a good reason to be exploding – but perhaps I can help nice-Olivia look at it from the side so that angry-Olivia can calm down and help.”
I am not going into details of what she said – but yes, abuse and powergames by one of her relatives was at the root of it. He had screwed things up by pushing too hard 2 years before. “You must …; you will ….; why didn’t you do better, you’re useless; why do we waste money; ….. Hateful accusations delivered with adult venom to a young girl trying her best.
And this allegedly well-meaning (in the eyes of the other adults) uncle had come back on the scene this week. No wonder, Olivia was seething and unwilling.
I took Olivia aside, “I’m going to do something unusual. We need to meet in about an hour in the coffee bar. I’ll bring Petra, who has some experience of inner talent versus outer pressure. You should get some good suggestions from her.”
We met and Petra was completely up front with Olivia. “Hi, Olivia, My name’s Petra and I have a brother called Peter. I gather you’re in a squeeze between what you can do, what you do do, what you could do and what ‘they’ want you to do. Does that sound right.”
“I hadn’t seen it like that but, yes, that’s a fair summary.” Olivia almost giggled ‘that’s four so it’s a lot worse than a dilemma.”
“Well, when I have my boy-brain in action – I tend to look at facts rather than emotions. I can do emotions better, when I try and when I’m aware. But today, I think, you need some facts for Olivia to look at as if you were a temporary-Oliver. Yes, no?”
“Well, I’m not a boy but perhaps, yuk, (she sort-of-smiled) I can pretend a little so that I can learn a little.”
“Question 1 – and turn ALL your emotions off, please. When your Uncle Steve hassled you last time, had you delivered a top-class performance; - pause - were you proud of your efforts; - another pause - were you on the edge of exhaustion mentally and physically?”
Olivia’s expression had gone pale as each question struck home.
“That’s pretty brutal – but, yeah, I probably only gave a 90% effort. There were too many events close together, I was extra-tired after sleeping badly, Uncle was already harassing me …”
Petra held her hand up, fingernails glistening with glitter and a little picture of a horse on her thumb. “Enough, Miss O. You’re touching on an emotion or two. But your first answer was excellent and very rewardingly self-critical.”
“So – what do we do about this, eh. First off, we have to get you to be just as open with Uncle Steve and the other adults who are still pushing you. You need a script with some six to ten key phrases.”
After another half an hour or so, we had the draft of a list for Olivia to present in the near future. Not immediately, while she was coming down from being angry – but soon. The people involved, parents especially, interfering relatives, coaches and the rest needed to accept that their little girl was growing up.
………..I have a real talent – but I do not think I always have a good focus on using it.
………..I use my talent in too many related but different ways – I need new guidance and one new coach.
………..I did not do my best and therefore did not do well 2 years ago. I deserved some criticism for that by someone who knew what they were saying. The way that Uncle Steve treated me then was beyond acceptability and was in no way helpful or supportive or encouraging.
………..Unless Uncle Steve can prove that he is useful to developing my skills – I do not need his involvement, his alleged support and definitely not the downward pressure he delivers.
………..I am good – and I can and shall do better. I and my team will set targets.
………..In six months time, maybe a year, I and my team will assess how far I can go and what the cost is to me and those around me. Nothing is worth complete sacrifice.
………..I am not mature or old enough enough to have complete control of my life and progress. But I am mature enough to be consulted, involved and to participate in decisions.
………..I deserve respect because it is my skill which is the focus of so many people’s interest – and it is only me who can be on stage showing that skill.
Petra leant back and looked at Olivia – “anything missing, d’y think?”
“It’s now quite simple. Sitting here and talking it through has given me a much clearer perspective. I suppose when I first blew up I eventually felt that they were being unfair. Perhaps then it was as a childish reaction to their comments, but now it is a considered assessment of what they did and said and how they did and said things to me. To them, much of the time, I was only a thing to be manipulated. I’ll agree, with a bit of a push, that they never meant it to get that way – and if they realized they were doing so – they’d probably have been horrified.”
“There’s quite enough girls being unkind to girls and boys being unkind to boys as well as kids just being vile to each other for no good reason – but when adults start to be unfair and unreasonable – that’s too much. And when the likes of Uncle Steve put their oar in – too much – wayyy too much. So it’s time for me to stand up and prove I’m worthy of consideration. And, I have to say, I think that I could not have begun to say this when you first met me and then made me change and learn about my feminine powers.”
We gave each other a hug and a group-handshake to recognise we had done well.
The alteration in Olivia’s demeanour from that moment was astounding. This Olivia had almost no need of the Sisters assistance. She was so much more confident, proud, determined and indeed everything that one would want from a graduate of the Miss-Direction scheme. The fact that she was actually a girl already was (almost) insignificant. She had learnt the control and useful attitudes of her boy-core to set alongside her girl-core and girl-appearance.
It was going to be interesting to see how her team and hangers-on reacted when she gave them her document. We had all agreed that she would choose a ‘good’ moment in the next week or ten days and that she would simply say ‘I’ve prepared this document for you all to read and then for us to talk about. If I start by talking it through then it would be too easy to go off at a tangent and miss what I am trying to say – so here it is in writing. Thankyou and I am going out for a walk which will bring me back here in one hour. Please don’t be angry or try to be clever or manipulative when I come back.”
And, lo, verily it worketh like a charm. Every one of the people who was incolved saw the value of what they could do and some of where they had done poorly or not helped in the right direction.
To our amazement, we saw a poster that was recognisably based on what we had put together being used at my brother’s swim club within the year. It was labelled ‘One Guideline to Aiming High’.
Some days later, in the evening, a group of us set up a meeting, a forum really, where some of the older ladies could talk about the Miss-Direction system and how it had begun and where it was going, as far as anyone can predict the future. We decided that we wanted to focus both on the success stories as well as looking at why certain situations had been a failure. Some of us thought that the failures were quite probably more important than the successes as a guide to what we did do and what we should do.
For the first meeting, we invited four people who were immensely influential in the success of the BigSisters’s trainees. Mrs Sterling who owned the locally famous corseterie and Jane Brand, who owned the chain of shops where I worked; Mrs Perry who ran a small selective girls school and Mrs Vandermeer who originally gave all the new girls their speech training. But the majority of the original BigSisters were people like Angela Winters, the Goodfellow sisters, and my boss, Leonie.
They had been young girls then in their late teens or early twenties so none of them was even 40 yet. And due to the work they did – encouraging girls to do their best – they had adopted much the same style as well. They were so evidently ultra-feminine but strong. It was easy to see why they adopted such an image – it made the real girls look up to an ideal which was provably valid and worthwhile – and it made the new-girls realize that not everything tough had to be macho.
About 50 of us came to the meeting – all in pretty frocks as per the dress-code for the event. We swarmed like butterflies, chatting, mingling, flitting and drifting. Angela Winters spoke first.
“I have calculated that we now have BigSisters groups in 15 towns, and that we have helped nearly 5,000 trainees in the 16 years since we had begun. That means that we have had over 2,000 Big sisters too – as most really only help with one or perhaps two new-sisters. My friendly statistician tells me that our ‘reach’ of some 80 miles gives us a target population of 6 million. If our target clients were the 1% of these who are transgender and the 2% who are transvestite that is approaching 200,000 people – and we would never and do never refuse these as customers. And, don’t quibble with my numbers as they’re a guessy as anybody else’s. The pro-people give higher and the anti go lower. I’m happy with these estimates.”
“But in the BigSisters, our targets are actually not so much the trans-community as the over-macho community who need the alteration of view so that the macho is reduced – and the only viable replacement is femme-ness. The data on abuse is ghastly but too much of it is anecdata – anecdotes and stories that are expanded inappropriately into data. What there is no doubt about is that men can be vile to women and that is the largest number of abusive events but about 20% - and the number is even more vague because most men won’t admit to being abused – are women being vile to their men. Abuse is not gender-neutral. Abuse is not class-neutral. Abuse is not age-neutral, colour-neutral. Abuse is about the misuse of power. And that happens in any community in any time-period and anywhere on the planet. We must be amazed and amazingly proud that we have made a small improvement in our area in our time in our community. Yeh for us.”
“So, everyone here knows about abuse – it is a core part of our system on how to recognise it and how to avoid it. Physical, sexual, mental, financial, social – all the rest of it in its many vile forms. In theBigSisters we are proud of our achievements.”
“But we have begun to talk about being more open in this part of the campaign. Some of you will want us to do even more – some of you will want us to just keep going on our Miss-Direction system. But, you have to agree that things change. We have changed things. What else could we change? What else should we try to change?”
“I – and my willing helpers – have put together a draft for a new project. I am NOT going to go into details today. I want to do that in a month’s time when you have thought about my ideas, put together arguments, objections, amendments, alternatives and so on. I want to get this done right – in just one town to start with. We have our Miss-Direction scheme – at the moment my plan for this second approach is Re-Direction. I want to re-direct the incompetent use of emotions which makes people abusive and do even more to reduce the amount of damage caused to the abuse and indeed to many abusers. I have to accept that some abusers are far beyond our competence to find a wedge such that leverage will cause any change to their behaviour and attitudes.”
With that – she put a slide on the screen
…………….. “Do you know what abuse is?
……………Perhaps your friend abuses people?
……………..Abuse can be violent – or tiny
…..…………Abuse can be public or hidden
…………….If at any time you feel bullied or beaten
.……………or betrayed or battered or hurt or pained or damaged
…….……….then someone close to you is abusing their power.
…..…………….Do you ever demand control ?
……………rather than consulting, sharing, loving?
…………..Ask here about getting help – Re-Direct.
…………… …….. tel no; email etc
“This is ONE of the posters we have designed to go into every one of the shops and establishments and even companies which support us. Please please criticise it and improve it. As is one of our slogans – if we can make one improvement today then that is better than none.
“Going back to my more general overview. It takes about 3 to 6 months, even a year for most trainees to come through our Miss-Direction system. And we can call it a system, because even though it is not actually documented, the knowledge that we have all gained as girls and new-girls ensures that we know who will benefit from our efforts – and when we do choose someone or they select themselves – that we guide them well and we help them right.”
“I never thought as a girl at school that I would be doing work like this. And it is work because it takes times and effort. But the pleasureor rather pride I get is fantastic. Each time I talk with the police or the schools or any of the other ‘authority’ groups and learn that their figures for abuse, in whatever form, are steadily improving – I feel fantastic. Their feedback is a major drive in the Re-Direct scheme I have just mentioned.
“But we do have failures – and we should always expect some. Some trainees have issues more complicated than can be helped by our ying-yang methods. We should be pleased that we have failures because they are a key indicator that we have more to learn. The very few girls that come through our system are another indicator that we are contributing to the welfare of the local population.”
She smiled, “and the acceptance of our girls into the local community with barely a ripple has meant that our shops, salons and femme-friendly establishments both have a wider clientele and can, carefully, circulate our literature and encourage new trainees to come to us – or be brought to us.”
“I am aware that not every trainee is willing and eager to join our scheme. But it is the underlying core of our work that we do not force, pressurise, demand any of our new-girls into any permanent change. Our only certainty is that many many people will gain if they can get in touch with both elements of their ying-yang wholeness. The males need to be able to access and use the female elements – which would appear to be emotions, caring, interest, avoidance of power-games and so on. And there are undoubtedly girls who can benefit. Some, I feel, are not so much needing the maleness of factuality or un-emotionality, power-use and the like but they have lost touch with some of the female talents. They’re drifting – in a sort of limbo. And I believe we have helped some of them too.”
“To digress for a moment, I have already said that our aim is at the misalignment and misbehaviour of the over-male rather than with the body-dysmorphic transgender. I do not have the knowledge, skill or practice to deal with them. I have enough concerns about my own body and just being female to deal with the true transgender. I accept that a very few of our new-girls may go down the cross-dressing route – but that is a style of dress rather than a full-blown transgender need.”
“We need to be determined to avoid, or at least keep to a minimum, any suggestion that our techniques are coercive or improper. WE know and I am confident that our trainees accept this point – but there are all the people who know a little bit about us – and it is all too apparent that some of them have the wrong end of the stick. I want ideas on how to correct this – and part of it we have begun to address by changing our name from ‘The SisterDom’ to ‘BigSisters’. But even this is getting some criticism for being too vague. Uh, it seems it’s difficult to win this name game.”
“But on with the motley – for now, the meeting is open to discussion and for the next half hour I want groups of three-four or up to eight to talk about what they like and dislike about all sorts of aspects of the BigSisters and the Miss-Direction system and, pretty nearly, anything else.”
Time has passed – Ian and Melissa got married after they had both been to University. Ian studied Psychology with a special option in Gender Studies (no surprise) while Melissa aimed higher looking for anything that would give her political skills so that she could make real changes in the laws of the land.
The BigSisters involvement was great fun. To our surprise it built up and up until one or other of us was involved almost every day of the week. It was a wonderful meeting place where any mistake by a new-girl was dealt with in the most supportive way possible. Most of the time, except for the very newest trainees, it was impossible to tell which was which.
The new Ina was a complete transformation, friendly, helpful, popular, - all the characteristics which I thought had become impossible for Old-Ian to get anywhere near.
Last week, we went to the theatre. It was a performance of George Bernard Shaw’s Major Barbara. The program gave a thorough biography of the writer and when she read about Pygmalion, Ina chirped up with ‘that’s too much like me – I was a Pig Male called Ian’.
I smirked, “I never actually thought of you in quite that way, but soon after we began your re-direction, I noticed that there was a performance of Pygmalion in Bristol, and I did notice the play on words. So I’ll share an alternative with you – instead of Pig Male Ian you can try ‘Me, a Fair Lady’. And that’s true now just as much as Pig Male was true back then.
All of us roared with laughter – well actually we giggled prettily with our fingers to our lips. ‘We’re all good girls, we washed our face and hands before we came, we did’. [thanks Audrey].
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