The Big Idea

Changing sex is an incredibly personal experience. It was always tricky to relate – not least because for a long time, it didn’t even have a settled language or terminology. For those of us whose transition belongs to the 20th century, the process of moving between genders wasn’t easy to even admit in public, much less speak of with any sort of pride.

My adolescence gave me an instinct to somehow ‘change it all’, but it would still be the early 80’s before I understood how I might make it happen – and years more before I could turn an impossible dream into plausible reality. All I had for a manual was the sketchy, sensationalised accounts of tabloid newspapers and the odd urban myth. No internet, nothing in my library and absolutely no legal safety net.

Caroline Cossey’s ‘My Story’ was read cover-to-cover on an almost weekly basis. Yet for all the comfort it gave, my real-life heroine’s impossible beauty made the chances of such a life for me seem rather less…real. What I needed back then was a story like that of Lee Habens.

Interloper is the story of nobody special – and that’s really the key. She exists at first, only in her head. Nobody else can see her (and nobody else needs to). Lee’s survival will require her for the first time, to disturb some still waters – something for which she is ill-prepared. For how do you take a quiet life from the confines of a small town in the 1980’s and transform it into something you cannot even properly visualise?

How would somebody go about changing their sex effectively in secret? To control such a process, it must be funded. To fund such a process one cannot risk exposure – and yet the main objective is to find a way out into the light of day. The challenge for Lee is so full of impossibilities that it should defeat her before she even begins.

The title ‘Interloper’ settled after the first draft of the story. Lee passes through different communities and cultures in search of a sense of peace and home, but finds both elusive.

Some journeys are defined by a single course change and others by more complex navigation. For most of us, life feels neither easy nor simple. All too often we simply answer the big questions the best way we can – often without knowing if we’ve really got it right. Sometimes all there is to sustain you through the London rain on a Wednesday rush hour is a belief in a single, shining truth.

These days, somebody like that younger me has any number of ways to seek a future. There’s all manner of support and a level of public acceptance that I could never have imagined. But I can now also make my own contribution; a story that I hope will offer some insight and perhaps a little inspiration.

Interloper has a place to belong.