Lisa McIntyre was born, apparently a boy, in Dumbarton, Scotland in 1964. She grew up just outside Glasgow in a tough working-class area of Scotland. The boy ‘Ally’, like many other teenagers in that environment, discovered alcohol, drugs and violence, and became an active member of one of the many street gangs that were rife in that area of Scotland during the 1970s and 1980s. Bloody street flights, knife crime and domestic violence at home were commonplace.
This isn’t what makes Lisa’s story remarkable. The remarkable part of the story is that she knew from an early age, and during her time in the gangs that, the male body she inhabited never felt comfortable; in fact, it felt alien and completely wrong. She felt she was, contrary to her outward appearance, female.
Transfixed charts the astonishing true story of how Ally became Lisa. We follow Lisa’s journey through school and her adolescence. We see her struggle with her own identity, dressing in her sister’s clothes during snatched moments or an occasional day spent as ‘her’, while also being part of a violent street gang and trying to find acceptance as ‘him’.
All the while, Lisa was unable to tell anyone else about her situation, because of the ignorance and prejudice of those around her, especially within her own family who, in later years, would eventually disown her.
Lisa describes her many battles with self-identity, her numerous ‘transitions’, her attempts to obtain sex-change surgery through the NHS, her struggles against the prevailing establishment thinking at the time, and the self-styled so-called gender experts.
It describes her failed transition attempts, her conviction for GBH and subsequent sentence to borstal. We follow Lisa’s often comical sexual misadventures, and her brushes with celebrity in Glasgow and California. There are episodes of darkness, too: we read about her bouts of depression, her lapses into alcoholism, her self-destructive attempts to sabotage her own transition to becoming female, and her suicide attempts.
We also cover the political backdrop, living under Margaret Thatcher’s controversial homophobic Section 28 laws, and also living through the HIV/AIDS crisis of the 1980s; about how difficult it was to be taken seriously as a transsexual woman, at a time when the term was barely used outside of a few specialist clinics; and the struggle to convince others that gender identity and sexual orientation are completely separate.
After one abandoned attempt at transitioning, on the rebound, and to over-compensate for the shame of her inner femininity, Lisa gets married (as a man), becomes a parent, and even works as a Glasgow night club bouncer. But her attempt to live as a husband and father was doomed and, in order to make a fresh start, Lisa makes the city of Norwich her home in 1988, where she still lives today.
Lisa eventually finds true love with Alice, a lesbian ten years her junior and who accepts Lisa for who she is. Together they go on to have a twenty five year relationship.
Thanks to Lisa’s entrepreneurial streak and never-say-die attitude, not to mention a period of work as a sex worker, she eventually fulfils her life-long ambition of having sex change surgery at a world-renowned clinic in Thailand.
This book will shock with its backdrop of violence and darkness. It will educate readers with an honest and insightful story of a transsexual woman’s struggle with her self-identity. It will sadden with its pervasive sense of hate and prejudice from most of the people around her, from within the establishment and without. But, through it all, it will make you laugh, at the sheer absurdity of some of Lisa’s antics and experiences.
This is an uplifting story of personal struggle, of perseverance, and of redemption. If it weren’t true, it would be very difficult to believe.
This is Lisa’s story.
This is Transfixed.