Luchia, a HouseProud customer forum member is sharing her story as part of Transgender Day of Remembrance to honour her friend Toni’s memory.
Back in the 60’s, life was hard for people like me. I was 16 and after my family found out I’m a lesbian I ran away and ended up on the streets of Manchester.
My luck started to change after meeting a person I knew in the end, as Toni. I won’t tell you Toni’s birth name, I use a chosen name out of respect. It’s important to remember that we didn’t have the language to describe different sexualities and gender identities that we have today, even the word gay was brand new to us! We just accepted each other for who we were.
Our community was criminalised, the police raided our bars, the men were arrested and the women were beaten in the street, especially the women who dressed like men. This type of oppression meant we looked out for each other. Toni took me off the streets giving me a place to stay when I was in need.
Toni was a successful nurse and later a sister at the hospital. Disaster struck when Toni was outed by a colleague after being seen dressed in men’s clothing. Toni lost everything, was sacked on the spot and spiralled into a terrible depression. Suicide attempts were prevalent in the community and we lost people frequently this way. Toni broke into a chemists shop in an effort to steal enough medication to attempt suicide, however, got caught and sent to jail for three years.
While inside Toni started using drugs to dull the pain. I was working in the women’s centre when Toni got out and came by needing a place to stay. It was clear that Toni had given up on life and after being assessed by a doctor, we knew Toni didn’t have long left to live. Toni chose not to go into hospital after being treated so badly and stayed at the centre to get the support that was needed, until one summer night, Toni left, went over to the meadow land opposite and passed away under the stars.
We were devastated but knew that Toni had died on Toni’s own terms. Back then we didn’t have the knowledge or terminology, but now I see that Toni was very likely trans. I want to honour my friends’ memory on trans day of remembrance to highlight a history of trans folk who are often forgotten and to show just how far our community has come in understanding diversity.