There are some aspects of my life that I like to keep quiet. Not least is the fact that I am a landlord. Not the landlord of "The Red Lion" or "Ye Olde Bull's Head" but a domestic landlord. I achieved this position, not through ambition but by default, when our son departed the city of his birth to live in the den of iniquity we call London. We took over his house.
For the past year the house has been occupied by two young men. They have been perfect tenants - even though they refused to doff their baseball caps to their landlord. They have kept the house nice and tidy and paid their rent on time every month.
Yesterday they reached the end of their tenancy so I went over to check out the house and collect the keys. No problem whatsoever.
One of the young men said he was moving back to his parents' house. Twice he muttered something about a medical procedure for which he'd need a lot of cash.After his third reference I lowered my voice an octave and asked what his problem was. Well, you could have struck me down with a feather when he replied he was hoping to change his gender! In other words, a sex change operation!
Growing up in East Yorkshire, I had never even heard of people opting to change gender and the idea of a sex change operation would have seemed like a notion from some twisted science fiction novel.
Immediately, I felt a wave of pity for this pleasant and well-mannered young man. Of course all of us want happiness in our lives and need to feel comfortable within our own skins. But is a sex change operation with all of the associated medicines, gradual physical changes and counselling sessions really going to lead him to the gates of happiness? I very much doubt it. And what will his grandparents think... and his old schoolmates? I rather fear there'll be hell to pay.
Long ago, on my South Pacific island, I taught a teenage boy called Susau. He lived in the westernmost village - Lopta. He had never seen a television or any media images of transvestites or cross-dressers. and I am sure he had never read a word about blurred gender boundaries or ladyboys.
In the school, Susau only mixed with girls. He had a strong and funny personality and was popular with all his classmates. You couldn't miss him. Back in Lopta, he spent much of his time playing with the small children or giggling with the womenfolk while other teenage boys went off into the bush with machetes or clambered into dugout canoes with fishing spears.
Susau was accepted for who he was. How this latent femininity arose in him, I have no idea but he certainly wasn't imitating anyone else. He was just being Susau.
With our young tenant I cannot say where the drastic notion of a sex change operation came from. Such medical procedures arrived pretty recently in the great span of human history so I think it is worth considering how gender-confused people got on in the past - people like Susau. Surely they learnt to live within the bodies they had been given, allowing their hidden female or male qualities to emerge naturally or suppressing them.
It's hard to know what to think. I just know that my gut reaction was to feel very sorry for the tenant when he broke the news. Poor lad. I hope he finds happiness...one day.