Paul is also Sadie. He’s a retired builder who came out publicly as a transvestite in his 60s. He runs the support group, Tawe Butterflies and organises Swansea Sparkle - Wales’ biggest transgender event.
I was first approached by the production company, Telesgop, last year - they wanted to do a programme for the BBC about the Trans community.
When we heard BBC Wales wanted to go ahead and make the programme, it came as a bit of a surprise to me really. But I didn’t have any doubts about going ahead as it was a BBC programme. I’d been approached on several occasions by other broadcasters, but I wouldn’t do it with them because I thought they might sensationalise things. The one thing I didn’t want was the wrong impression going out.
I started Tawe Butterflies to offer support and guidance to members of the Trans community and their families around six years ago, but I never expected it to be as successful as it has been. Over those years I’ve had over 500 people coming through my door. And every week I get enquiries from people who’ve known about the group for some time but who’ve only now found the courage to contact me about joining.
The “T” in LGBT - the Trans group - is a massive umbrella. The general public mainly sees the transsexuals but for every 100 members we’ve got, there’s only around three or four transsexuals and a similar number of transgender. The majority are transvestites.
It’s very rare to get a support group that’s run by a transvestite because the vast majority of transvestites want to remain anonymous. 99% of my life is as a male and I love being a male, but there are certain times when I feel I have to be my feminine self. And I think every male’s got a feminine side, but we show it in different ways.
The Trans spectrum is extremely broad; you could say that the transsexual is at one end of it and the transvestite at the other, and there are many variations in-between depending on the individual.
I think society’s becoming more open and accepting of people. Just five years ago there’s no way I would have taken a group of transvestites to Swansea for a night out. It just wouldn’t have been safe. Now it happens every weekend and I get no reports of problems at all. You will get the odd snide remark now and again, but it depends how you deal with it.
Another reason for our success is that we teach them how to deal with it and the power of humour - if you can get back to someone with a humorous reply quicker than they get to you, it kills the situation straight away.
Being filmed for the programme was challenging at times, particularly letting the cameras film me when I was getting dressed and made-up as Sadie, but overall it was a very positive experience. I actually learnt a lot about myself as a transvestite and I have gained confidence.
Swansea Sparkle: A Transgender Story
Tuesday, March 22, BBC One Wales, 10.40pm