When I was young, a researcher came to our house and asked me lots of questions about my influences. One thing I remember her asking was which public figure I most looked up to. I replied ‘Margaret Thatcher’. Really, Past Me? Really?? If you have any idea about my politics these days, this is a very good example of how we change as we grow up!

Remembering this did get me thinking about the people who have influenced me  and people who have had an impact on my ideas of masculinity. In no particular order, here they are:

Mr Norris:

I was at primary school in the 70s, and Mr Norris was my teacher around the age of nine. He had a big beard, wore hairy jumpers and played the guitar. He taught us how to sing ‘War is Over’ in two parts and gave us spelling tests with words like “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”. He didn’t smile much, and could be pretty grumpy, but he was kind, and I remember thinking that he was unlike any man I’d ever seen. Last time I heard, Mr Norris is still going strong, playing in a folk band. He was lovely.

Judd Nelson/John Bender:

I nearly wore out a VHS tape watching The Breakfast Club over and over. I’d sneak 10 minutes of John Bender in whilst eating my breakfast, before leaving for school with memories of his rebellious scowl etched on my brain. How I wanted to be him, to possess that casual sexuality and disregard for authority. I was a stickler for doing what I was told as a youngster, and the thought of being someone who could flaunt the rules with smouldering eyes and a hint of stubble was almost too powerful. I hope he really did wear Molly Ringwald’s earring. Maybe he just pawned it…

Terry Pratchett:

I have always loved Pratchett’s books, working my way through them all in order, then starting again, over and over. I enjoy his sense of humour and the way he plays with words like juggling balls. His recent books are darker and far more difficult to read. I was devastated when I first heard of his Alzheimer’s diagnosis, as I couldn’t bear the thought of his beautiful mind starting to defy him. The reason he has been such an influence on me,  has little to do with his actual writing. I admire the openness and honesty with which he is facing his condition, and the frank way in which he has brought the issue of euthanasia to people who may never have considered it relevant to them. Whether you agree with his views or not, he is willing to share them and have them dissected in the public arena.

Nick Krieger:

Nick is a writer, and also transgender. I first came across his writing when he guest blogged for a transmasculine lifestyle magazine’s website. In an attempt to understand what I am feeling and doing, I have trawled all sorts of literature, from psychology-lite, to heavy gender treatises, to blogs. Through all of this, I found it hard to relate what I was reading to my actual feelings and self-perception. Nick Krieger is one of a very small handful of people who has been able to articulate his feelings about gender and transitioning in a way to which I can relate, writing without the black and white thinking so often associated with these issues. He has recently published Nina Here Nor There: My Journey Beyond Gender, a very accessible and honest account of his experiences of being transgender. At the risk of sounding like I’m on commission, it’s well worth a look if you or anyone you love is questioning their gender identity.

Stephen Fry:

Fry has a lot of critics, as well as a burgeoning fan-base full of people who relish his word-wrangling and sharp tongue. Although I enjoy his humour, I admire him primarily for the honesty he shows over his bipolar disorder. I too am bipolar, and there’s relatively few positive role-models for us manic-depressives. The media is full of sensational stories about celebrities who have the condition, or claim to, and the world awaits with bated breath what weird and wacky thing they will do next. I like that Stephen Fry does not claim to be in some sort of magical super-control of his bipolar, and is honest enough to talk about how he manages it, without making it sound like the end of the world.

Lucas Silveira:

If you have ever visited my YouTube channel, you’ll see a selection of videos by Lucas Silveira. He is a singer I could listen to all day, has some very cool tattoos, and also happens to be transgender. I discovered him really early on in my transquest, and was bowled over to find a transman who is approximately my age and looks great. I also love the way he has managed his singing voice whilst taking testosterone. I know I’m unlikely to ever look or sound like him, but you know, we all need our poster-boys, and Lucas is mine.

Dr Curtis:

How many of us will ever have the privilege of being treated by a doctor who really knows what we are going through? I am lucky enough to have been referred to Dr Curtis by my PCT (Primary Care Trust) and he is the man in charge of my ongoing treatment. He makes no secret of the fact that he is transgender, but as far as my memory serves me, he has never actually brought it up in a consultation. There  is just the unspoken knowledge that when we’re talking feelings, symptoms or how others are reacting, he has a pretty good idea about what I’m saying, and isn’t backward in telling me when I’m fussing about nothing. Dr Curtis is a success in his field, dresses sharper than a knife, and gives me hope that one day I’ll be able to squeeze my girlcurves into an Italian suit.

Last but never least:

The greatest male influence in my life is my Dad. I have always been quietly like him, but this has become more apparent since I started identifying as male. If I end up half the man that he is, I’ll be happy.