Patricia Davies’ life has been more turbulent than most, serving in the British Army between 1945-1948 while concealing her identity as a trans woman. Following the death of her wife last year and legally changing her medical records to female, Ms Davies has now spoken out about hiding her identity after a life of living as Peter.
“It feels like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders,” she explains. “I was living a lie.”
Many factors kept Patricia from coming out as trans, the biggest being fear of electro-shock therapy which was frequently issued to LGBT+ populations during the 20th century.
“I was 60 when it all came pouring out to my wife, she was very sympathetic and helped me all the way but we agreed to keep it quiet. She used to buy me jewellery and she would call me Patricia. I kept it a complete secret. I have been keeping quiet. I have slowly started to tell some of my neighbours. Everybody said ‘don’t worry, as long as you’re happy’. I’ve known I was transgender since I was three-years-old. I knew a girl called Patricia and I decided I wanted to be known by that name but it didn’t stick.”
Patricia found herself gravitating towards ‘girls’ toys’ as a child. On one occasion, her mother took her to see Peter Pan and Patricia wanted to be a fairy. Her mother made her a wand and “didn’t say it was strange.”
“I have always been attracted to women but not in a sexual way. I’m not gay. My attraction to women was that I wanted to be like them. I would have liked to be like the pin-ups.”
Patricia claims she was never “totally unhappy”: “I always made the most of things and looked on the bright side of things. I’ve always had a wicked sense of humour.”
“The atmosphere [around being transgender] was not safe. People did not understand what transgender was,” she adds. “Because of the general hostility of people I kept quiet. It wasn’t until recently that I felt safe to come out and I felt an overwhelming desire that I wanted to break free. So I came out and I’ve not regretted it.”
Coming out as LGBT+ during the Second World War would often lead to punishment by firing squad. It was widely believed that homosexuality in the armed forces would somehow destroy morale between personnel. Another wartime myth concerned the inability of homosexuals to show bravery under fire.
Patricia left the army at 21 and jokes that Hitler got news she had joined in April 1945 and gave up. “You took your life in your hands in the army. I lost a couple of mates and had a close shave myself. I had to keep my mouth shut about being transgender, you couldn’t flaunt that as that would have been a disaster.”
Patricia claims she saw a documentary about a man dressing up as a girl on TV in the 70s but had never heard the term ‘transgender’ then. In fact, it was BBC trans drama Boy Meets Girl, which portrayed the lives of transgender characters, that encouraged Patricia to make the change.
Now 90, Davies is receiving hormone therapy and has officially changed her gender.