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Antonia Filmer

Paula Wren: Transforming transgender in UK

Paula Wren has crossed her last frontier, in that she has written to the Barbershop Choir in California, who she sings bass harmony for, to let them know she spends her time in UK as a woman and not as Paul Wren, the man they are familiar with.

Paula spends every three months alternatively in the Bay Area of San Francisco and a quiet rural village in South West England.

Originally Paula named her transvestite self Samantha Stevens as she wanted to separate her womanly persona from Paul Wren. Now-days Paula says there is no 'cure' if you're a transvestite (TV), more often called Transgender (TG), then it's with you for life but there are horrible misconceptions. TG's are usually thought of as effeminate or gay, even perverted oras child molesters; these are the irrational fears of people who have not met transvestism before — to them it is behaviour that is not 'normal'. This leads to the TG's feeling isolated and a deep seated fear of hostility from the outside world, therefore many TG's prefer to remain underground.

Paula recognised early that she was transgender, she explains that a typical TG is married with the usual average of 2.4 children, heterosexual, in a job perceived as a 'male' occupation, there is strong correlation with engineers and a TG is usually well educated and intelligent. A TG is not effeminate, but can be feminine. A TG frequently enjoys 'macho' pursuits and will seem outwardly aggressive yet he is invariably capable of great gentleness, and when dressed is completely non-aggressive.

At fourteen she longed for the texture and sensation of women's clothes and makeup, with this came agonising feelings of guilt and the typical paranoia that TG's feel about being found out.After school Paula joined the army in an attempt to suppress and correct her feelings. During her first two marriages Paula kept her cross dressing under wrapsbut she only burnt her wardrobe once; then she fell really in love, tragically to lose her partner to terminal cancer. The acceptance of her late lover gave her the confidence to find a support group in London. Now she realised she was not the only person in the world to feel like this and that the world would not end if people "found out". The effect was liberatingand when Paula came out she organised a barbecue for her neighbours, transgender friends and the local police, everyone had a blast.

It is not possible to know who will give you a good reception in life, suggests Paula, referring to the Communist Party's First Secretary Nikita Khrushchev and Soviet Premier Nikolai Bulganin's visit to UK in 1956. Prime Minister Anthony Eden and the Conservative government received them politely, whereas they got a cool reception from the British "proletariat" and a hostile reception from the Labour party, from whom they would have expected a warm welcome.

Paula recognised early that she was transgender (TG). She explains that a typical TG is married with the usual average of 2.4 children, heterosexual, in a job perceived as a ‘male’ occupation, there is strong correlation with engineers and a TG is usually well educated and intelligent.

Paula has many theories of why men are TG and the underlying motivations, since coming out she has been dedicated to supporting this rather secretive community. Paula founded a help group in her local city to mentor other unsure TG's and has given lectures to mental health nurses sharing her personal insights. She is careful to distinguish between TG's and transsexuals (TS), who want to be the opposite gender irreversibly. Paula is very sceptical about the success of hormone treatmentsand surgical changes, believing it creates as many problems as it might solve, apparently TS's have a high post-operative suicide rate.

Elegant and engaging, despite being tall and manly Paula is feminine with lovely manicured gel nails and stylish clothes, she says that her totally relaxed,open and honest policy is reflected back at her. A popular member of her local Conservative Party Association she goes boldly to Ladies Luncheons and is absolutely comfortable in her own skin, Paula is completely accepted by her adult son and in her community in UK.

The UK Parliament have just launched a Transgender Equality Inquiry into how well the current The Gender Recognition Act 2004 and the Equality Act 2010 are working vis-à-vis employment and workplace issues — transphobia and hate crime — trans people in the criminal justice system — NHS services for trans people and issues affecting trans youth, Paula is in an excellent position to provide some useful feedback. 

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