22 June, 2016

Christine, Customer Assistant

“Pride is a way of celebrating ourselves and making new friends and allies. It shows people that we are human beings, just like them. We breathe, we have emotions, we have family and friends, and we live and work just like everyone else. It’s also a time of reflection for the history and sacrifices of those who have suffered just because they love a different way. Above all, for me, it’s a time of forgiveness and inclusiveness; an opportunity to promote the talent that is prevalent in our community.”

Based in Bradford, Christine is a Customer Assistant in our Food Hall. Christine initially joined us over our peak Christmas period, before applying for a permanent role with us. When she joined M&S, it was the first time she’d worked full time in her correct gender. We caught up with her to find out more about transitioning, her journey to acceptance and how Pride has been such an important source of support.  

“I’d been unemployed for about nine months, not getting any responses as ‘him’. Then, the day after I legally changed my name, I applied on a chance to M&S for a temporary job over the Christmas season. I got the job! I really enjoyed it and so I applied for a full-time post within the business and felt extremely fortunate to get it. Even though, initially, it meant travelling for nearly two hours each way on a daily basis to go to work, renting a room in a house share.

“I greedily identify with both B&T – but the journey hasn’t been easy. When I left school in 1975, I joined the Army. I’d attempted to tell my parents I was different, but it didn’t go well.  At that time, there weren’t any joined up services; no way to get any gender-related medical support. Indeed, it was very much a dirty dark secret that no one would admit was happening, even then. Back then, it was a criminal offence in the army so one learnt very quickly to act straight. I had to go on leave in order to be myself, which led to the breakdown of my first marriage after my wife found out. My second marriage lasted 30 years before I finally had the courage to be myself and seek medical help. On the plus side, I’ve found my sister through Facebook. We've met up and she is accepting of the fact she now has a sister. I've also recently found a lovely partner, and he is fully supportive of me. 

“I believe that most people still ignore the fact we are there until they’re confronted with it, or someone in their family comes out as gay. But Pride helps to address that. I've been to Brighton Pride on numerous occasions, even taking part on a float. It took us just over four hours to travel two miles. I was dressed as an airline stewardess doing synchronised dancing on the back of the float. At the time, I was not transitioning on a full-time basis. The day was beautiful, the sun was shining and the tans were coming. Unfortunately, at the end of the day when I removed my watch there was a lovely piece of white skin, with a beautiful impression of a feminine watch. I was a local sub-postmaster back then and of course, after that, the whole village knew. But for a small community, there was almost total acceptance.

“For me, Pride is both a celebration and a time for reflection”

“When I joined M&S, I found all the staff and management to be totally supportive. They respect people’s right to be themselves. I love people, putting a smile on their faces and exceeding their expectations is paramount to me. I think with regard to the LGB community, the M&S approach is good. But the Transgender community are changing their bodies to match their brains. The tablets we take are not only changing our bodies but our emotions as well. As it’s becomes more widely recognised, I’m keen that our employees and line managers have access to the right support; we’ve already started work on this and I’m involved in shaping our policy approach with our central team which is really exciting.

“Living my life in the open as myself is the most important decision I ever made – or ever will.”

Inside M&S