Tomboy by Thomas McColl

8021850943_2837a10a4eLike many repressed transvestites, I don’t do boring or drab when it comes to women’s clothes, and there’s definitely nothing drab about La Senza, with its glittery purple walls and sparkling chandeliers and colourful sexy lingerie. . . or, at least, there wouldn’t be if it wasn’t for the plain and dour security guard at the door – a middle-aged grey-haired man in a black suit – who, as soon as I enter, startles me with a gruff voiced hello. I return the greeting grudgingly: I hate it that it’s policy here to acknowledge every customer.

It’s done to put off thieves, of course, but it’s putting me off as well. It’s bad enough having to enter this store on my own – as a man who knows that everyone now who sees him is wondering: Is he a tranny, or isn’t he? – but having to actually make a connection at the outset is making it so much worse.

And I can tell the guard’s suspicious: I’m now inside the shop but, out of the corner of my eye, I can see that, even though he’s busy greeting a woman as she walks in off the street, he’s not really looking at her at all, but looking still at me.

I hold his gaze: he doesn’t look away.

Shit! That confirms it.

Well, at least I know what I want, and where it is – a bra, knickers and suspenders set that’s butterfly-patterned, red, and very very sexy (I saw it advertised in More magazine, and I want to imagine myself later on tonight as the beautiful model who was wearing it) – so I walk straight across and pick out the sizes I need off the relevant racks. Then, joining the queue for the till – the only man – I think to myself: If only I was brave (or mad) enough to steal these items instead of having to go through all this hassle every time.

That’s what the Tomboys did – the now notorious gang of transvestites – who, last year, terrorised Oxford Street with daring raids on underwear shops and department stores.

If that guard there only knew how many times I fantasized about being a member of the Tomboys as I avidly followed the news reports…

…and still do, sometimes: In my living room, dressed up in women’s clothes – a twist pile tomboy – I’ll pretend I’m raiding a shop, holding in one hand a ribbed rubber dildo like a cosh (just like the Tomboys did with theirs), and holding in the other hand my pink-jewelled vanity mirror, pretending it’s a magic one (like each of the Tomboys had: a specially made spell-activated mirror, powered to stun by making a person see their own reflection as others would see it – so that, confusingly, it looks the same yet different – and, in the wake of the Tomboys’ crime spree, swiftly outlawed).

It was obviously wrong what they did but, at the same time, there really was something magical about how the Tomboys, at first, were able to get away with it.

With magic, luck, and perhaps even a dose of women’s intuition on their side, the gang – despite always targeting stores on Oxford Street – continually managed to wrong-foot the authorities, and the papers quickly picked up on the story, with the result that, over the summer, it was constantly front page news.


I can still quote lines from all the reports I’d keep on reading over and over again:

“…They hold up shops in hold-ups…” 

“…They don’t steal cash, just women’s underwear…” 

“…When faced with security guards, they’re able to fight in stilettos, corsets, dresses zipped up tight…”

“…Get in their way and expect to be stunned by magic mirrors or coshed by ribbed rubber sex toys…”

“…Six raids in as many weeks, and each time the cross-dressing crooks have managed to get away. They’ve made the police a laughing stock…”


I’ve reached the counter, where a young dimple-cheeked assistant, with long thick rippling brunette hair and wearing a pink La Senza t-shirt, greets me with a friendly smile.

She scans the barcodes. “That’s £39.50, please.” I hand her two twenties but, though she’s still smiling, I’m too shy to even bring myself to look her in the eye. Then, giving back the change, she asks me: “Would you like it gift-wrapped, sir?” Blushing slightly, I nod.

Imagine me doing what the Tomboys did: never in a million years!

To think that this branch of La Senza was the first place they raided: Maybe this lovely person serving me was present when it happened…

“And would you like a bow?”

I nod again, not saying a word.

…and maybe the guard was too. Well, if he was, I hope the Tomboys coshed him, whereas the girl – who’s now begun to wrap my purchase – surely instead was stunned by one or more of the magic mirrors. She has to have been: Though, in fact, incredibly beautiful, she looks like someone who’d never have really believed it, and I bet even now she isn’t convinced.

Whereas me, I’m different… When-ever I’m dressed at home, I’m able to convince myself that I’m the most beautiful woman in the world, but it doesn’t require a magic mirror to tell me the truth: an ordinary mirror will do for that.

And I’m certain what most people here would think if they knew I was buying this underwear for myself.

That’s why I’ve accepted the gift-wrapping service: It gives me the chance at least to appear as if I’m a man who’s buying a gift for his wife or girlfriend and, let’s face it, that is what I am, in a sense: I’m Raoul, buying a sexy gift for my “girlfriend”, Rachel.

And Rachel – going by all the clothes crammed already inside my wall-to-wall wardrobe at home – is very high maintenance.

In fact, she’s bleeding me dry.

No wonder the Tomboys turned to crime!

Though, of course, they might be regretting it now. They were finally caught, as all criminals are, when their luck ran out.

Maybe it went to their heads – all this new-found fame – but, in any event, the gang got sloppy, and no longer seemed to be working as a team. They appeared to be squabbling as they bungled a raid on a lingerie store at the eastern end of Oxford Street – the Intimissimi boutique – with first their magic mirrors malfunctioning, then they inadvertently killed a young female shop assistant who got in the way, which made their plan go completely awry, resulting in all of them being arrested outside in the street, and after a two week trial – and much sensational reporting by the press – each member was sentenced to 30 years in jail…


I can hear two women behind me whispering. I can’t quite catch what they’re saying, but hearing the word tomboy (or, at least, I think that’s what I heard) has pricked my ears: It’s obviously me they’re talking about. And they’re bound to, let’s face it, with all the crap the papers are constantly feeding people now…

…and have been since the Tomboys were caught.

I still can’t believe how quickly it happened…

The Tomboys went to jail, and that would normally have been the end of that, but the tabloids, having whipped up public anger over the young assistant’s death – and making the fabulous discovery that presenting a gang of transvestites as scapegoats for readers to vent out all their frustrations had helped to sell more papers – decided there had to be something more to it all:

…THE TOMBOYS HAVE SIMPLY LIFTED THE LID… It’s sissies out and tomboys in – as a new kind of feminism, one that’s fuelled by testosterone, transforms the transgender community…

Apparently, being a tranny was more of a daily struggle than people had previously thought:

…THE RAGE BEHIND THE ROUGE… Ex-tranny Ben Doutmann reveals -“Suppressing my masculinity just turned me into a pressure cooker, ready to explode at any time”…

And, trannies, it seemed, were now “exploding” everywhere:

…CHICKS WITH BRICKS… Militant hijra trannies riot in Pakistan…

…SAVAGE SISSY… Thai ladyboy tranny charged with brutal murder of British tourist…

…FAKE FEMALE FOILED… Bomb-hoax drag-queen tranny arrested…

…KNICKER NICKER NICKED… Tranny burglar who broke into women’s homes to steal their underwear is caught; assaults police with stiletto heel…

And the broadsheets – while more sober than the tabloids with their headlines – began to report on trannies too as if they were all now possessed by some violent force, which the Tomboys, of course, by their actions, had unleashed.

“…The Tomboys have inadvertently started a revolution…”

Even the left-leaning papers couldn’t resist, all of them taking issue with what they saw as our “problematic” sexism…

“…By the way they dress and act, it’s like most transgender people have this view of the ideal woman being nothing more than a dumb submissive sex-slave…”

“Tomboy feminism” – as it was dubbed – apparently represented a violent attempt to put back women’s rights.

It clearly wasn’t just us being turned into pressure cookers – everyone was: And, as soon as all the papers had started to prime their readers, a whole raft of “terrorist” headlines began to miraculously appear…


That’s the problem, though, with standing in a queue and then, at the counter, letting the assistant gift-wrap your underwear: There’s nothing else to do in that time but think, and overhear whispered conversations.

And let’s face it: when you’re no longer just a closet tranny, but a masculinity-suppressing-ready-to-explode-at-any-moment closet tranny who – according to all the papers now – is not just a threat, but a worldwide threat…

“… Militant hijras in Pakistan… lout-ladyboys in Thailand… pansy-punks in Poland…”

…it’s easy to get a little obsessed…

“…and, in the UK, tomboy converts: all of them ready to kill – and, if necessary, die – in the name of ‘tranny liberation’…”


It doesn’t help that my mobile vibrates and I take it out of my pocket only to find it’s simply another news alert – and yet again about this hitherto unknown group, called ‘The Army of Angry Amazons’, that’s threatening to start a bombing campaign on Oxford Street within one week if women’s clothing stores continue to bar transvestites from their changing rooms…

…a threat that will probably turn out to be a hoax like all the rest.

The only campaign which has so far actually happened was the glut of vicious tranny-bashing late last year, with rumours that some police units were actively colluding with the thugs, and even as the attacks sharply increased, the papers – with their sales now sharply increasing too – decided, instead of toning down their negative coverage, to simply step it up.


On the day an elderly tranny was brutally murdered by a gang of teenage boys, the headline in the Sun was:

TRANNY TYKES… We expose the cross-dressing dad who dresses up his little boys as little girls…

It’s weird: We’re the ones being attacked and killed, yet we’re the ones being constantly made to feel like criminals…

…and, OK, so I can’t vouch for what goes on elsewhere in the world – apparently, hijras have gone from casting curses to actually throwing grenades, and ladyboys have gone from shouting down rude tourists to burning down hotels – but I still know that most trannies, here, in this country, wouldn’t be capable of hurting a fly, let alone killing their fellow human beings…


With so-called “experts” though on the news now making out there are hundreds of “tomboy converts” preparing to strike, it’s hard to find much sympathy: The thin veneer of tolerance which was there in the past has now completely gone.

And the office-suited woman being served at the next till – who has a copy of the Daily Express folded on top of her handbag, and tightly scraped-back flaxen hair and a fierce looking face – doesn’t come across as someone who even possessed that thin veneer in the first place.

All I can see of her paper is the headline…


…and the upside-down first paragraph which I’m attempting right now to read: Police – armed with hand-held “x-ray” devices – are “randomly” selecting men to stop and scan for bombs…

…or even just “incriminating” underwear.

The woman spots me eyeing the paper. She looks down at the headline then, frowning, looks back up at me. I look away, but already I’m blushing.

Damn! Now she’s going to be suspicious too. And I wasn’t even aware that that was going on – x-rays, for fuck’s sake! – and here I am, wearing a pair of knickers and a bra beneath my suit.

But, of course, the authorities want me scared: That’ll be why they’ve fed the media this report, as a deliberate ploy to get people like me more agitated, so that we end up inadvertently revealing ourselves in public, making it easier for the police to pick us out.

And what’s daft is that there’s no real threat at all: Even after the first “conspiracy” was discovered – the infamous “Petticoat Plot” – when police raided a flat above a shop on Petticoat Lane in response to a tip-off and found a gang of transvestites in possession of bomb-making materials disguised as foundation powder in compacts, it remained very clear, to me at least, that the only real conspiracy was the one being hatched between the authorities, the media, and a scapegoat-hungry public.

“…Terrorist trannies in ricin plot…”

“…The tomboy trannies who tried to bring terror to London…” 

“…Gang only days away from detonating dirty bomb on Oxford Street…”

Certainly, by the time it was revealed that the bomb-making material found on Petticoat Lane was nothing of the sort – it actually was foundation – the idea that tranny equalled terrorist had been planted firmly in people’s minds…


I wonder what this dimple-cheeked assistant – with her kind face and gentle demeanour – thinks of all this tranny terrorist nonsense.

Chances are: the same as everyone else.

Let’s face it: the smile I get – while she struggles with an awkward bit of the wrapping – isn’t for me: it’s for the person I’m disguised as.

For me, there’s probably nothing but hatred and fear.

No wonder, though, when there’s constantly news of tomboy terrorist plots – each week, now, it seems, MI5 will announce they’ve “foiled” yet more – but I still don’t know if any of them are any more real than the “Petticoat Plot”.

All I know is that we now have the Transgender Rights and Responsibilities Act (a.k.a. the Drag Act), a ridiculous piece of legislation, which – amongst other things – effectively prohibits men (i.e. any transgender person other than a post-op transsexual) from going into shops dressed as women.

And trust Oxford Street to take it all the way, with an exclusion zone that’s strictly enforced: If a tranny is spotted on camera – even if he’s simply walking down the street – he’s immediately picked up by the police.

And, of course, the new law applies not just to trannies who are “out”, but those in the “closet” as well, like me.

By wearing women’s underwear, I’m “primarily” wearing women’s clothes: Legally, I’m no more dressed as a man than an “out” transvestite wearing a dress, wig and stiletto heels.


I read in the Daily Mail a report which claimed that all the major retail chains which sold women’s clothes were training their staff on how to spot an “undercover tomboy”:

“… A dead-giveaway is a man who buys a women’s garment in its biggest size. This man is almost certainly buying the item for himself…”  

That, apparently, is enough to mark someone out as a terrorist suspect, and it’s made me much more nervous now when going into shops to buy women’s clothes.

I wish this girl would hurry up…


“There you are, sir”.

The wrapping’s done – complete with bow – but having to wait, and all this thinking, has put me out of sorts.

I’ve just noticed the supervisor, behind the assistant, giving me a funny look. 

“. . . This man is almost certainly buying the item for himself…”

And I don’t dare even glance at the hard-faced woman at the next till – but I can sense that she too is looking at me strangely.

“Have a nice day,” smiles the friendly assistant – but something’s up, I know it is.

I turn to go and, sure enough, the security guard’s still staring at me intently.

At least looking at him means avoiding having to acknowledge the stares I’m getting from the two young women still whispering. There it is again, the word tomboy. They’re not even trying to hide their suspicion.

Just like the guard, who knows what I am but just can’t prove it.

“Goodbye, sir,” he says, pointedly, as I leave the store.


Outside, I compose myself and wonder how much more of this stress I can take…

“Excuse me, sir…”

Two men approach me – both of them dressed in sweat-shirts and jeans – one flashing a badge and the other producing a small hand-held device.

“We just need you to step to one side for a moment…”

Three uniformed police have now appeared as if out of nowhere and, just like that, I’m surrounded…



Thomas McColl has recently had short stories published in Notes from the Underground, the Alarmist and One Eye Grey. He also won second prize in 4’33” Magazine’s 60 second story contest, and will shortly be featured in a new book published by the guys behind Smoke: A London Peculiar.

Image 1 from The Lingerie Addict’s Flickr; image 2 from AndyPearsonUK’s Flickr; image 3 from Kashklick’s Flickr; image 4 from Cherry Girl77’s Flickr.

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