Today let’s all welcome Jay Northcote to the RGR Trans Aware Event. Jay was gracious enough to answer a few questions for this event. Jay was also kind enough to provide me a RC of ‘Starting From Scratch’ for a review. So check out Jay’s wonderful interview and my review of ‘Starting From Scratch’, oh and there is a giveaway provided by Rainbows4All. Thanks for stopping by today Jay.
Thank you for welcoming me to RGR for Trans Aware week. It’s great that you’re promoting visibility of transgender books and authors.
What does Transgender mean to you?
Transgender to me is an umbrella term that encompasses anyone who doesn’t identify with the sex they were assigned at birth. So it can include people who identify as transgender, transsexual, non-binary, agender… and many more. Gender identities are incredibly complicated.
As a Trans man when did you first start feeling that you were born in the wrong body?
On some levels I knew when was very young, as soon as I understood that some people were boys and others were girls. Being a girl never felt right to me, and I told people I wanted to be a boy, I never wore girls’ clothes unless forced to, and I let people think I was a boy if they gendered me that way. But I was born in 1971 and most people were very uninformed about trans issues then. If I’d been born twenty years later I think my parents would have known something was wrong. But as it was, I was labelled a tomboy, and I didn’t know I had any option other than growing up into a woman and dealing with it.
How did your friends and family react when you told them?
I had a range of reactions from shock/surprise to people not being surprised at all. I’ve been very fortunate that almost everyone has been positive and supportive. My marriage is over, because my ex is straight and it was clear that we couldn’t make it work once I came out. But we are still close friends and we’re navigating it as well as we can. My teenage children have both been brilliant. Unconditional love and acceptance is a wonderful thing to be on the receiving end of.
What steps did you take to get to where you are today living as male?
The first step was the social transition, so coming out, and changing my name and gender marker change on official documents. In the UK that’s relatively easy to do. I changed my name in November 2016 by Deed Poll (which is free), and after that I was able to apply for a new driving license and passport. There are a few other things I can’t change yet (birth certificate for example), because I will need to wait two years for those.
The second step was the physical side of things. I started testosterone (also known as T) six months ago. I’m basically going through male puberty at the age of 46, which is bizarre. It takes about as long as puberty does for teenagers, so it will be a few years before I see all the masculinising effects but it’s already made quite a difference. I also had chest reconstruction surgery recently. That was another very important step for me and I’m thrilled with the results.
I’m not sure yet whether there will be more surgeries in my future. I’m waiting to see how I feel before I make any more decisions.
For anyone reading who might be wondering how I got on T and had surgery so quickly in the UK, I went private. The waiting lists for NHS treatment are horrendously long. I’m very fortunate that I could pay for T and surgery otherwise I would still be waiting to have even a first appointment at a gender clinic. I can only imagine how awful it is waiting years once you know what you need.
What other struggles do transgender people face, beyond discrimination and threats of violence?
I suppose it’s the small, subtle, everyday things that can be hard too. Living with gender dysphoria is draining, even when you’re some way along the road of transition. I’m constantly critical of my appearance and wondering how others perceive me. It makes for a lot of social anxiety because I never know if people are reading me as male or not. Being misgendered is always horrible. I find I get stared at a lot too. I’m quite androgynous-looking at the moment so people tend to study me while trying to categorise me which makes me really uncomfortable.
Then when you are read correctly, it’s tough to decide when/if to disclose your trans status. Many trans people prefer to not disclose, so they aren’t always know as ‘the trans man/woman’ as the first thing people think about you. However, if you transition later in life you have a whole lot of back story that doesn’t make sense unless you disclose your gender history. On holiday with my ex and kids recently, I was being read as male by some of the people we had contact with. But it was impossible to have in-depth conversations with people about our lives, unless I disclose that I am actually the kids’ biological mother. The only alternative would be making up a complicated cover story, and I’m a crap liar and don’t want to put my family in that position either. But I hate that I sometimes have to out myself in order to have a conversation with someone.
As a result, social interaction side with strangers and new acquaintances is a minefield and can be utterly exhausting—especially outside of LGBT friendly spaces.
Why did you decide to write your Trans book ‘Starting From Scratch.’ What research did you do for it?
After I came out, I thought it was about time I wrote a trans main character. I probably subconsciously avoided it before I came out because it was too close to home, and it would have made me face my own gender questioning head on when I wasn’t ready.
I’d already done most of the research while I was questioning my own gender, so there wasn’t really much extra to do. I already knew all about the process of FTM transition, and about the various types of prosthetics that are available for guys who haven’t had lower surgery.
As for the relationship/sexual side, I’ve read a lot of discussion online about how gay trans guys navigate that with their partners. Just as all people are different, all trans guys are different and enjoy different things in the bedroom. I decided to make Ben a top because I wanted to challenge the stereotype that a trans guy would be the bottom just because of his equipment and physical size.
Do you have any plans for more transgender characters for your books?
No firm plans, but I have a couple of other ideas for stories I would like to write eventually.
Has being trans changed how you write your books?
I don’t think so. One of my beta readers claimed the sex scenes were even hotter after I started testosterone, but I’m not sure I agree. I think that was just the story in question that burned up the pages (the threesome scene in Summer Heat).
I guess I’ll be interested to see if readers do notice a difference as I carry on writing. I think it’s unlikely that my style will change significantly. Some people keep teasing me and saying I’ll start writing horror now, but I highly doubt that. I’m still a romance junkie at heart!
What can an ally say to someone who says, “I just don’t get it” about being transgender.
The best answer is that you don’t have to get it. You just have to accept it. But unfortunately some people don’t want to accept. Trans people and allies can try and educate, but ultimately there are some people who will never change their minds.
I actually think it’s incredibly hard for any cisgender person to really ‘get’ what it’s like to be trans. But you don’t need to ‘get it’ to be an ally. If you’ve never walked in those shoes, you can never truly understand how it feels to be trans. But you can pay attention when people talk about the challenges they face, and try and be a better ally. That’s all any of us can do for any marginalised group, whether we’re talking about gender, race, sexuality, disability etc. If we’re not part of that group we need to listen, learn and support.
Ben is transgender and back at university after hormone treatment and chest surgery. His new housemates have no idea about his history and Ben would prefer to keep it that way. He’s starting from scratch and his life is finally on track, except in the romance department. The idea of dating guys as a guy is exhilarating but terrifying, because if Ben wants a boyfriend he’ll have to disclose his secret.
Sid is drawn to Ben from the moment they meet. He normally gets what he wants—in the short term at least. Ben’s guarded at first, and Sid’s not used to guys rejecting his advances. He eventually charms his way through Ben’s defences and helps Ben on his journey of sexual awakening.
It doesn’t matter to Sid that Ben is trans. He’s attracted to the whole person, and isn’t worried about what is—or isn’t—in Ben’s pants. They’re good together, and both of them are falling hard and fast, but Ben’s insecurities keep getting in the way. If Sid can convince Ben he’s committed, will Ben finally be able to put his heart on the line?
Although this book is part of the Housemates series, it has new main characters, a satisfying happy ending, and can be read as a standalone.
Bethany reviews ‘Starting From Scratch’ by Jay Northcote. Published by Jaybird Press on April 12th, 2017, 249 pgs.
NOTE: We were provided a copy of this in exchange for an honest review.
Why I read this book: I have enjoyed previous books by Jay and knew this would be one I wanted to review for Trans Aware Event.
When we decided to devote a week of reviews to trans books and/or trans authors I knew just the book that I wanted to review. ‘Starting From Scratch’ has been on my TBR list since I read the blurb months ago. Not just because I am a fan of Jay’s work, but also because I was intrigued to read another book with a trans character. I would like to say that we here at RGR try to represent all the letters in the LGBTQ rainbow, but I realized I personally had only read one with a trans main character. Well it was time to fix that.
Like I said before after reading the blurb for this one I knew I needed to read it. Why you ask? In the blurb is said that Sid didn’t mind that Ben was trans, so right there I know this wouldn’t be angst filled. It wasn’t going to be one where the main character had a hard time accepting that his love interest wasn’t born male. Oh don’t get me wrong, Sid still had to come to terms with a few things. But these things he asked Ben head on, he did his research, he made himself aware that being trans isn’t the same for everyone. Thank you Jay for writing Sid.
I truly adored these two and watching their journey to find happiness. It wasn’t necessarily an easy road, far from it. Even though Ben looked like a male on the outside, he still sometimes doesn’t feel 100% male on the inside. He also doesn’t trust every easily and this causes a bump in the road for him and Sid. There were times when Ben was explaining his feelings and his fears that left me bawling. It broke my heart, it just seems so unfair that people are born in the wrong body. The struggle they face just seems so unimaginable to me, but the unwavering acceptance Ben had from his family, Sid and his friends made me so happy.
So back to Ben and Sid. Well they were just so wonderful together. The easy acceptance that Sid showed Ben when he told him restores my faith in people. Yes I know this is a book, but gives me hope that one day people won’t have to come out, or be afraid to tell people they are trans. These two shined some light on what some trans people go through. Yes I know that not everyone is as wonderful as this cast but this is what I need to read for this event. I needed the happy, the ease of acceptance, the love and the happy ever after.
So while this was just my second book with a trans main character, it will most definitely will not be my last. I highly recommend this book if you are looking for a fun, sweet, hot, limited angst read. Yes it is a part of the Housemates series but it can absolutely be read as a standalone. Though I will be getting the rest of the Housemates books.
Series Information and Links
The Housemates Series is a collection of standalone stories set around a student house in Britain. This new adult series focuses on themes of self-discovery and sexual awakening.
Helping Hand (Housemates #1) ~ Check out my review for ‘Helping Hand’ here: ‘Helping Hand’
Like a Lover (Housemates #2)
Practice Makes Perfect (Housemates #3)
Watching and Wanting (Housemates #4)
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Jay lives just outside Bristol in the West of England. He comes from a family of writers, but always used to believe that the gene for fiction writing had passed him by. He spent years only ever writing emails, articles, or website content.
One day, Jay decided to try and write a short story—just to see if he could—and found it rather addictive. He hasn’t stopped writing since.
Jay writes contemporary romance about men who fall in love with other men. He has five books published by Dreamspinner Press, and also self-publishes under the imprint Jaybird Press. Many of his books are now available as audiobooks.
Jay is transgender and was formerly known as she/her.
Jay’s books: http://author.to/jaynorthcote