Friday, 2 May 2014

Victoria and Treva Askey

Trevor Askey met Victoria in high school and they were sweethearts for a short time. Then they left school. Trevor joined the British Army, and served for 23 years. They each had other relationships. Nonetheless, they kept in touch throughout.

In 2006, Trevor told Victoria his lifelong secret: that he should have been a woman. Victoria was not only supportive, she performed his first makeover, and even proposed marriage. They married as Victoria and Trevor, but Trevor is now Treva (say it Tree-Vah), and is undergoing full transition with Victoria's full support.

Victoria and Treva
They were kind enough to take the time to answer my interview questions. Victoria sent their replies in colour, which is an elegant way to keep their answers distinct. I have adopted Victoria's colours in their replies which follow.

Tell me a bit about what you remember about each other from meeting in school. Did you have a relationship then? How old were you when you first met each other?
 
Victoria: I remember seeing Trevor ride past me on his push bike and I couldn't keep my eye off him. It was like I knew him and wanted to seriously get to know this person. He was seen as a school bully because he wouldn't allow anyone to get close, including friends, but that wasn't going to put me off. I was nicknamed "Trevor's little stalker". It was in 1986 and I was 13. He was my first serious crush; I even remember being in my maths class and staring at him running in PE. He was a runner for the school and he was so gorgeous, I was totally smitten. We dated for about 4 weeks and I think I got too close so he finished it. I was devastated.
 
Treva: I was 15 and two years above Victoria. I remember her watching me all the time and various school mates telling me she liked me. I remember my first line to her was "your parka is not as good as mine", as I had an old M65 US-Army fishtail parka and she had one of those blue parkas with the orange inside.

I remember those parkas! I had a green one with the orange inside. Is it true you wouldn't let anyone get close to you in school? Can you explain why?
 
Treva: Yes it is true, I was unsure of what I was going through or what I was feeling and I didn't want anyone else to see who I really was, because they may have seen something I didn't want them to see.
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier: Trevor

What made you choose a career in the Army? Were you thinking of any other career?
 
Treva: I chose a career in the Army because being confused I didn't know what to do, so as I lived in a rural area I had little else to choose but the Army. On top of this I thought that going into the Army and choosing a masculine career (Engineer) would make me into a man. As for another career, there really wasn't anything else I could choose due to my location and the lack of opportunities available.

Did you join the Army knowing you had a feminine side, and expecting (or hoping) the Army to knock it out of you?
 
Treva: No. I joined the Army unsure of what I was going through. I just joined the Army to do the man thing, and with living in a rural area there was no other option in the job front. And on top of that I wanted to prove people wrong: various teachers had told me that I wouldn't be able to do it because of my disruptive nature.
 
What was it like serving as a soldier knowing there was a woman trapped inside you?
 
Treva: It was frustrating, difficult. I used my chosen career to keep my mind off things, keeping myself occupied to keep my mind off everything else.

You left the Army before announcing your transition. Did it ever cross your mind to consider remaining? Lieutenant Colonel Cate McGregor has remained in the Australian army and transitioned, with the support of her commanding officer.
 
Treva: No. I am a stubborn old fool, I signed on the dotted line as Trevor so I was going to complete my time as Trevor.
In civvies

How many other members of the armed forces do you think are affected by gender dysphoria?
 
Treva: I know of a few others that have gone through transition whilst still being in the forces.

You say your Army mates have been supportive. Does this differ from what seems to be a very homophobic and transphobic environment in the military?

Treva: As for the homophobic or transphobic, I personally believe that's more of a sheep following: one person says something negative, then the others follow. But some do stand up and won't follow and are accepting.

I have written about Jan Hamilton. To what extent do you think your story parallels hers? Is there anything you would say that is different between you?
 
Treva: We are two totally different people. Every trans story has some similarities, but are any two the same? And I was a Royal Engineer, not a Para.

What advice would you give to someone in the armed forces struggling with their gender identity?
 
Treva: There is a lot more in place within the forces now to assist you through your transition. Yeah, you may get a bit of hassle, but you have to be strong no matter what, to get through Transition. Don't wait and try later in life, say something and go for it.

I understand the British Army now allows serving soldiers to transition and remain in the Army. Is this right? Or am I misunderstanding?
 
Treva: No, that is correct. There was a lass at my last unit that was going through transition. They now help in any way that they can.

What are you doing for a living now?
 
Treva: I am retarded-- I mean retired! (laughs) But if you wanted to put a job title to my name, I would be the house wife. I look after my step kids, with packed lunches, take them to school, push them with homework, do all the cooking as my wife hates cooking, make sure my youngest step son has all his medication as he has health problems. Vicky spends most of her time typing for various book projects.

The press reports that you are taking hormones you have bought off the Internet. Please tell me this isn't true!
 
Treva: This is no longer true. I was getting my meds off the internet after months of research and seeing reports from a private GID [Gender Identity Disorder] doctor. I started self medicating on a very low dose and gradually worked my way up to a higher dose. But I wouldn't recommend this. After deciding to tell my GP and getting referred to a GIC [Gender Identity Clinic] I was then asked to stop my blockers, this was to get my hormone levels as close to my before-medication levels. This then shocked my system, making me lose weight, lose hair and lose all the other bits you get on hormones. After a few months on the NHS [National Health Service] I am finally getting the hormones on an even keel, I think!
Accepting: Victoria

Victoria, there was clearly a lifelong friendship (chemistry?) between you and Trevor. Looking back, did you see any hints of Trevor's gender dysphoria?
 
Victoria: I didn't see any hints as such, but when I looked into his eyes I thought there was a sadness I couldn't put my finger on. Every time I met up, I would ask what it was that he was keeping from me. At one point I was sent a random email from Trevor that had details of a Trans website. I was going to ask him outright but chickened out-- I mean how on earth do I ask someone that's a manly soldier if he is trans? We then lost contact for a little time.

How did Trevor first tell you about wanting to transition? What were your feelings at that time?
 
Victoria: We were emailing each other, something we did every now and then, touching base and seeing how each of us was doing. He said that he wanted to tell me something, so whilst on MSN instant messaging each other, about 2006-7 he just told me straight out. I can't remember exactly what was said and I didn't save the messages but it was along the lines of "I should have been a woman".

I cried like a baby, not because I was gutted that he was going to at some point be a she, but he could have told me years ago. I was at the time training to be a psychologist and wanted to help those who felt this way, I also worked for a photographic company that made people over to bring out their feminine side, and Trevor knew this but still didn't say anything.

Then it hit me that my sweetheart was suffering, and I desperately wanted to hold Trevor and tell him I will be there for him through this. I realised that this explained so much about how he was during his teenage years, why he always looked sad. I felt like I needed to be with Trevor even more from that point on.

You say you worked for a company doing trans makeovers. Can you tell me a bit more about that?
 
Victoria: It wasn't a company that just did trans makeovers, it was a photographic studio that was willing to do trans makeovers, so we had a few customers but not many as we didn't advertise this. The first makeover I did, it took the customer two attempts to go through with the full makeover and then they became very emotional when shown the end result. I think, along with my psychotherapy, that this has given me the opportunity to not fear what Treva is going through, but to empathise and want to understand more.

How did you first get introduced to Treva? How did you feel?
 
Victoria: Well Treva wasn't Treva to begin with: she was Clare, and I made her over. I really wanted to do this and it was an amazing moment. I was so nervous and so was Treva, mainly because I wanted her to feel special and she was showing me this side to her that she had never shown to another soul. She had never told anyone. I felt privileged. That same night I asked her to marry me with a big blue diamond ring. She said yes (smiles).  

Treva, being made up by the woman you love and then being proposed to must be close to heaven for some of us. Can you tell us a bit about your feelings at that point?
 
Treva: I was just full of nerves. Nobody had seen me dressed, never mind making me over. And when Victoria proposed I was overcome with joy and happiness and every other happy emotion that you could think of.

Victoria, you say you proposed to Treva. What made you take this decision? Didn't you think that marrying a trans person might create a heap of problems?
 
Victoria: Treva asked me to marry her in 1993, but due to other fears I said no. She told me that she would not ask me again and it was my turn to ask her. Many years later, she tells me about who she truly is and I didn't want to run a mile, I just wanted to be close to her so she wasn't alone. I had to wait years again to get any chance of asking her to marry me. As far as I am concerned, I love the person, and if Treva was born trans then so be it. I often wonder why a person wouldn't still love someone just because they are born this way. I don't totally understand why anyone would run a mile. I am not saying it isn't full of difficult situations but it has made us both very open and close to each other, a lot more so than most marriages.
 
Was getting used to the idea of Treva a quick thing, or did it take you a while to come around?
 
Victoria: Her transition has been so gradual that I don't feel like I had to get used to anything. We spoke about what she wanted at length before we moved in together, so there was no real "getting used to". For me it was more like getting used to living with a woman, having never had to live with a woman before and being a bit of a tomboy myself, I do get a little annoyed with her beautifying herself. But then I look at her and want to thank her for allowing me to be part of her life, she is so beautiful.
Treva

Is Treva a different person from Trevor?

Victoria: Hell yes! She is totally different, because Trevor acted the big man and yet she is shy and reserved and sweet. Trevor is more football and scooters (1960's Lambretta scooters) and Treva still likes her football and scooters but just a milder version. It's difficult to explain really.

Question to both of you. You got married as a man and a woman. Did you contemplate getting married while both wearing dresses?
 
Victoria: I wanted her to but no one knew about her.
 
Treva: We even thought about doing it as a joke (according to others) but we decided not to in the end. Victoria is currently pestering me to marry her again and I have to wear a "heavy, can't breathe, need at least two people to take me to the loo", full-on dress. I am trying to convince her otherwise.
 
Victoria: She will wear a wedding dress. I am a very determined person.

Victoria, tell me about your book.
 
Victoria: I wrote a book about what it has been like so far living with Treva as she transitions. It's my diary. You can find it on Amazon, in either paperback or for the Kindle. It's called Too Deep.

I also have a website. You can find a link to my book via my website. I currently have a survey on my website that I am looking for people who are going through and have been through Transition to fill in for me. It's about 18 questions long and I need as many different accounts as possible.

I am currently writing my next two books. One is Too Deep Two; this is the next part as we enter the NHS, and the other is a book about other people's experiences. I have found that trawling through the internet when Treva was first starting her transition, there was no single place for honest accounts of other experiences, and we had read so much negative stuff it was depressing. I would like to show people that it's not all bad; doom and gloom.

I also have two children's books: My Special Step-mum Angelina, about a step-daddy who becomes step-mummy, and My Two Daddies, about a young boy adopted by a same-sex couple. I will be writing more children's books in the future.

What's the most difficult thing about having a transgender husband?
 
Victoria: The lack of testosterone causes a lack of libido. I find her so attractive and that's difficult. Having to think about what we are doing, who we will see and were we are going, and having to look for suitable toilets. And not being able to be spontaneous, due to the fact she still has to shave (we can't afford electrolysis and laser doesn't work on blond hair), we have to make sure her hair is good, etc. etc. Some days I do wish it was all done and we didn't have to think this way.

What's the best thing about having a transgender husband?
 
Victoria: Although it's bad for our purse, I do enjoy clothes shopping. At the moment it's getting a little difficult seeing the good things but hopefully it will get easier-- then perhaps I could answer this question a little better.

"It's getting a little difficult seeing the good things". What do you mean by that?

Victoria: It's not that Treva and I are unhappy together. It's more the fact that we have to go through so much. I hate the fact that she has to go through years of "real life experience" just to get to the point of surgery referral; getting hormones wrong and things going pear shaped because of this; the fear of going to new places; the wondering which toilets she can use without causing problems.

I mean, use the men's and get beaten up, use the women's and get some female complaining, use the disabled and get someone complaining, and this can all be in front of my children. Some people don't seem to think before reacting. I hate the fact we are stared at. What happens if we go some place and she needs to use the toilet but there is no option to her? Then we have to come home just so she can pee.

We have to think about whether we can stay out before facial hair starts showing through. We have to think about how the children are at school: are they being picked on? Does anyone make comments to them at school? Are they happy? We have few friends and worry about what other parents say to their children if asked about Treva.

Then Treva is so down about how she looks and that is difficult to watch. It does take some strength to stay positive. It is by no means easy and you have to have a very strong and open relationship. You have to be able to talk to each other. I must admit I find it difficult to talk to Treva about how I am feeling because I keep thinking that it's nothing in comparison to how she must be feeling. Treva tells me off for this. But, after all that we are both close, we hold on to each other through each step and hoop-jump Treva has to do, and we always tell each other how much we love each other every single day. So, given time, it will get better-- I hope.

We both have our fears of the future but we try not to dwell on that as we don't know what's around the corner. At the moment we are struggling a little due to hormones not being right, but we take each day as it comes. And yes: everything Treva goes through is referred to as a "we" thing.    
 
What advice would you give to another woman who finds out her husband has a feminine side?
 
Victoria: To take into account that it's taken a lot for your husband to have told you this. There could be various reasons he didn't tell you, from not wanting to admit it himself to the fear of losing everything.

Telling someone you love is difficult. Take a deep breath and listen to your husband; and talk: don't blame and don't shout. Don't reply with anger. I get that it can be difficult to understand why your husband hasn't told you before, but please listen first before making any decisions, and don't be swayed by any negativity, You may find that you will become far closer than you could have ever imagined if you talk. And if you decide that you love your husband enough to stay, then hold on: it's gonna be one hell of a rollercoaster ride. You will cry, you will grieve, but to see the happiness can be equally overwhelming.

Question to both of you. What famous person would you most like to meet, and why?
 
Victoria: Angelina Jolie, because she has done exactly what I would do if I had her money: I would adopt. I find her fascinating and she comes across like a person you could really sit down and have a chat to. Either that or Tom Hanks, so I can tell him that he is the single best actor ever to grace this planet.
Dishy: Gino D'Acampo
 
Treva: Gino D'Acampo. Not sure you know who he is! He is an Italian chef and I would love to have cooking lessons with him.

===

This has been one of my longer interviews, but I thought it was worth including all of Victoria's and Treva's replies because I thought they were interesting and revealing.

There are two things about this couple which are especially worthy of interest. First, Victoria is a woman who not only accepted Treva's transition, she completely embraced it. This is no everyday occurrence. It seems to me that Victoria's acceptance of Treva was immediate and complete: no period of hesitation, of negotiating boundaries, of coming to terms with it. Nonetheless, by her own admission, it hasn't been easy by any means, and Victoria has faced (indeed, they both continue to face) some very difficult situations in their daily lives.

But Treva is fortunate indeed: few relationships seem to survive transition unscathed, and finding someone special post-transition seems to be a difficult road for many. This, at least, is one obstacle Treva doesn't have to face.

Second, Treva survived two decades in the Army, an environment which has a reputation for being profoundly transphobic and homophobic. Jan Hamilton spoke of joining the Army as a means to "prove" her masculinity. I think there are quite a lot of transgender people in careers such as the military, the police, and other "masculine" professions, and I think the reason for this is that some, at least, deliberately sign up for those careers in the hope that it will "make a man out of them".

For Treva, this seems not to be the case. From this interview, it seems Trevor was a troubled youth, and was seen to be such by his peers and teachers. I wonder if this was because Trevor knew at that age he felt he carried a secret he could not bear to share with others. In any case, it seems that Trevor joined the Army because he felt he had few other options open.

I do wonder about the armed forces. There has been a spate of transgender soldiers telling their stories lately: Jan Hamilton, Cate McGregor, Kristin Beck (and I am aware of some transgender stories from much older people who served in conflicts long finished). I suspect that this is the small tip of a very large iceberg, and I wonder both about how many military people are already transgender, and what the armed forces (of any country) would do if they all came out at once! I have collected material for another blog post about this topic.

Meanwhile, my thanks to Victoria and Treva for their patience with my questions, and for providing photographs from their personal collection to illustrate this blog post. Victoria promises to let me know if they renew their vows in wedding dresses. I close with a reminder to check out Victoria's book or to read her blog.

For my exclusive interview with Jan Hamilton, now Abigail Austen, click here.
 

8 comments:

  1. Thank you for this wonderful interview! I will definitely start following her blog and check out her book. Such a beautiful story.

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    1. Thanks for being the first to post a comment! Vivienne.

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  2. Enjoyed the interview! So thankful for both Victoria & Treva to share with us all. I also will be adding her blog to my growing list of reading. It always tugs on my heart strings to read of a couple so much in love especially in the case of accepting of each other without question or hesitation. I wish only the very best to both Victoria & Treva

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    1. Thanks for posting those kind sentiments, Janice!

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  3. Vivienne,

    I really enjoyed this interview. Thanks for bringing it to us.

    Hugs,

    Sally

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    1. You're welcome Sally. Glad you enjoyed it. V.

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  4. You seem to be judge and jury over the Armed Forces perception of Transgender, gay and lesbian personnel. The armed forces from the top down to the common soldier are extremely supportive. They only care that you can do the job. Stop portraying us as mindless trhugs.

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    1. Thanks for posting your comment. I don't consider all military people to be mindless thugs, and (as it happens) actually have quite a lot of admiration for some of them.

      However, your description is too rosy. I am simply quoting from others such as Cate McGregor and Jan Hamilton who report serious levels of personal abuse from within the military. In addition, Barry Winchell was bullied and eventually murdered by his comrades, not for being trans but simply for dating a trans person.

      You might also like to read my article Big Brave Soldier, which follows this one, for a fuller discussion of this subject.

      If you want to continue this discussion, please give some sort of name to differentiate you from other anonymous posters.

      Vivienne.

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