Shake your chains to Earth like dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you
Ye are many, they are few.
I read these lines, like many kids my age, in the winter of 1980, on the back of The Jam’s ‘Sound Affects’ album. Unlike most pre-teens, I suspect, I admired the cadence and scoffed at the sentiment. I knew different: they were not – and are not – few, at all.
I was at the time twelve years old, and prostitute to Peter Hayman. I attended his private apartment weekly to fellate his anal prolapse – this was his personal peccadillo – and to be brutally raped and abused for his entertainment by guests like Harvey Proctor and Derek Laud. I had a dozen other regular ‘privates’, and was required to attend rape-parties at Dolphin Square and elsewhere in Pimlico, London, and around southern England, weekly too. I remember buying Start! that autumn, the big single from Sound Affects, in Woolworth’s: I got the bright cerise glossy cover, but it had no middle. I half-inched one from a dopey John Lennon single and paid my 85p.
I played Start! for the first time in my room, on an old mono dansette knock-off from the 1960s: even through the tin-can speaker, the neural spikes of Weller’s cut-off power-chords and his raucous distorted solo made me writhe with delight. Even hope: this was the opposite of chart pop, the creepy Stringfellow’s grind of Yes Sir I Can Boogie, or the happy-hooker fantasy-confessional I’ve Never Been To Me, or any of the sleazy-listening soft-porn favoured by Saville and pals at Radio 1. The Jam felt real, in 1980, when little else did.
It seems a strange time, with hindsight, though was not so perhaps. In 1978, the hit musical Grease’s pussy-and-cum spattered lyrics were marketed aggressively to pre-pubescents; its Hollywood follow-up, Bugsy Malone, had for a showstopper an astonishingly uncomfortable child-prostitute song – Talulla had a training/In North Carolina – which remained a school-panto favourite until recently. Bill Wyman was yet to score his “wild child”, Mandy Smith, to the ogling delight of the British press, but underage ‘groupies’ had been standard fare at rockstar and ‘elite’ parties for decades already: this was common knowledge.
It was also personal knowledge, for me, for I was a ‘groupie’ too: but not to a rock band. When I was ten, eleven and twelve, I wore high heels and lingerie and makeup – in real life I was a boy who liked skateboarding, and racing pigeons with my grandfather – to service a cabal composed of what with hindsight seems like half of the Privy Council and the Monday Club, many if not most political big names of the period, plus a smattering of MI6 and Special Branch, plus the odd regional police chief, or chief-criminal, or both, in town for a jolly.
At fourteen I was too old for the market. I took O-levels and A-levels, kept myself going with Bensons and books. Kids who’d been abused next to me started dying: car crashes on lonely roads, or out drinking in London and just keeling after the first pint. I kept my head down, worked shifts to earn cash, got myself out of that town and to a radical poly, to equip myself.
A few years later, I was internationally respected in my chosen profession and earning well. I began to seek help for the insomnia and depression which had wrecked my week-to-week life since mid childhood. This led to specialist help for sexual abuse, and then to heavy-duty NHS help for the serious mental illnesses with which I was diagnosed. I kept working, internationally, just, but ultimately, as I relived more and more horrors in therapy, my sleep was too disturbed/nonexistent to be productive at my old rate of knots, and I went on benefits. My wife had recently had breast cancer, and a double-mastectomy, following which we had a series of miscarriages: it felt like the sensible thing to do at the time, as did giving evidence to the police about the sexual abuse and exploitation in my childhood. The CPS did nothing, but this was pre-Saville and par for the course.
All of these things did not seem wise when, first thing on February 2nd this year, I was speaking to a senior Metropolitan Police officer about child prostitution when the call was cut off. This happened repeatedly, and strange threats flashed up on my computer screen. Then suddenly there was a hammering at the door: uniformed police who, when I asked for ID, showed me a plastic shield. When I asked for photo-ID, they told me I’d been shown ID. They said they were responding to a complaint of a man in a dress: I am transgender, have received NHS treatment for gender transition for a year now, and legally changed my name to a female one last autumn.
A condition of receiving treatment is that you live as a woman, twenty-four seven. So back there on my doorstep, in my nightdress and pom-pom slippers, the first Monday morning in February, after a couple of hours of trying to put off the inevitable, I was raped by a uniformed officer, and detained in a violent and dangerous psychiatric lockdown ward for six days, on a section. This had been easy for the police to obtain due to my history of mental health treatment and long-term benefit dependence. During this detainment I was denied clothing – I was barefoot all week, in a nightshirt and nothing else, with heavy snow outside, and the heater in my room out of order; I was also denied soap and prescription medicine and a razor, until the penultimate day.
When released, the police visited me again, claiming to be following up another absurd complaint about me (someone was apparently worried that I had spoken of an upcoming visit to Moscow on Facebook; I have had a Moscow business partner since 2001). I summoned burly friends to protect me, and fled my home county that afternoon. One of those burly friends’ daughter, a new mum with first grandchild, was followed in an aggressive and intimidating manner by one of the police officers concerned the next day, for the duration of a shopping trip to the High Street of the local town.
My wife and I decided, immediately, to leave the country for our own safety. Multiple serious attempts on our lives were made as we left our home town, and on the motorway to the airport, by large white Audi’s and BMW’s with non-standard registrations (we were driving a tiny Kia, laden with all our possessions). I remain in hiding overseas, with no idea of when it might be safe to return – or what that safety could even look like.
So I don’t regret my lack of support for the “we are the 99%” protests of a few years back. That slogan made me feel the same kneejerk oh for christ’s sake as the Shelley poem on the Jam album. “They” are not 1%; they are not few. They never have been. You can’t hold power that way, unless you use castles and boiling-oil, and they’ve had a whole millennium to work on the British system.
And everyone knows this. The open secret of what “Rank Has Its Privileges” really means in Britain is now the subject of major police and judicial investigations, so far as the Establishment permit. Meanwhile, as on every other day since the abuse began for me, I hear scattered howls of outrage – overwhelmed, now, by crashing silence.
1st April 2015