The Beaumont Trustline.
Trustee, Beaumont Trust. BT Trustliner, GEMS and Seahorse Society
Many of us will have started our journey out of the closet by phoning the Trustline. I did. Rather nervously, I dialled the number and a bluff voice with a slight northern accent responded cheerfully. It was Jean and, in no time at all, I was put at ease and recruited.
2. JEAN FERRIS
Now this paper should have been Jean's. She set up, she organised, and she ran the Trustline. It was her's, through and through. The Trustline was Jean. She was forthright, honest and had a lovely warm heart. Over the years she has helped countless hundreds, probably thousands, and many of us owe her a huge debt of gratitude. Her sad death in May this year robbed our world and many of us of a warm, kind, true friend. She is greatly missed. Of your charity I would ask you to say a little prayer for her.
3. THE TRUSTLINE
What is the Trustline? What does it do? In a nutshell it is a helpline available to all transvestites and transexuals and their partners, families, friends and advisers. It is run by The Beaumont Trust, a charity whose aim is to eliminate the suffering and distress that these conditions can cause. It does not offer detailed counselling but is a first point of call that gives friendly advice, reassurance, information and contact into the world of societies, groups and greater self knowledge. Sounds high faluting! We talk to them when they have probably never talked to anyone in this way before. We accept them for what they think they are. We don't judge and we don't dictate. We listen and, out of our collective experience, give whatever help we can.
It's a wonderful experience. To talk to anyone at such a deep level of feeling is a privilege. To talk to so many is riches beyond the dreams of avarice. It's humbling and it's exalting, I find it so rewarding and I have learned enormously from all these people.
How does it work? The basic number is 071 730 7453. (NB: See note) It is trailed round the Samaritans, agony aunts, magazines, wherever we can. On Tuesday and Thursday evenings one of our volunteers logs on. We have nine, all with their own individual experience to bring.
I would like to pay my tribute to our volunteers. Without their dedicated help, the system could not work. Some have been working the line for years, some are newcomers but all are cheerful, helpful, willing to stand in, in case of difficulty. They are unsung heros, heroines who put themselves out for the benefit of others. Our community is richer for them. How do they operate? Each volunteer is in her/his own home and by voice controlled computer response, turns the system on to that particular telephone. The caller rings the base number. The call is then diverted to the volunteer's telephone.
The advantage is that the volunteer can do this at home. When you think about it, this is the only practical way. You can't expect an unpaid volunteer to journey to London and then return after 11 o'clock. They have livings to earn, families to worry about or whatever. However the disadvantage is that the Trust has to pay the cost of the call from London to the volunteer. What you might reasonably think of as a relatively cheap service provided by the Trust is quite costly. The effect is that we have a heavy drain on our finances. I pass round the begging bowl!
We are examining other ways of operating to minimise costs but all the ideas so far have some disadvantage which prevents us from changing our methods.
5. BEAUMONT SOCIETY
Here I must mention the Beaumont Society who support us very generously indeed. They give a handsome contribution each and every year. Without it, we would be in deep trouble and we really are very grateful to them.
Do they get value for money? "Yes" is my answer but then it would be, wouldn't it? They don't have to organise anything, they have no responsibility, they have a fixed budget and we always recommend the Beaumont Society wherever appropriate. An independent recommendation must be a good thing. They get a good flow of recruits and have the enormous satisfaction of helping something really worthwhile. A bargain.
The other society that provides funds is the Seahorse and again we are so very grateful.
6. THE CALLS
What sort of calls do we get? Mostly very serious but some are unintentionally funny. There was the delightful TV who confided to me that what he really liked above all was to strip to knickers and bra and then run through the woods at night. My first thought was "I wonder what he wears on his feet".
You do get the odd joker who thinks it is funny but they are very rare. It's unusual to get asked the colour of your knickers although it does happen. The odd one does want to know what you are wearing and my reply of polo shirt and slacks seems to leave them amazed.
Seriously, the calls cover a vast array of people and problems. We don't ask for names and we don't keep records. Therefore it is hard to be precise. However just for my own curiosity, I keep of my calls and I analysed those for 1991. Please accept the analysis as highly subjective and not precise but good enough to give a flavour. I have not included Christmas to which I shall come back.
The number of callers who rang off is interesting because it does indicate the people whose nerve failed at the last minute. Business calls were other Trustliners etc with problems. Repeats are callers who rang back again the same evening.
This is a very simple analysis. Many want to talk about a number of issues and I have basically put them under main headings. For example "Want contacts" includes all those lonely people who have the need to actually talk to someone about what is their best kept secret. Sex does crop up and quite a lot in discussion. It is not all the vicarage tea party image some like to project!
So you can see we deal with a considerable array of problems, and help a lot of individuals with nowhere else to turn. It is a vital service in which I believe passionately. They all need help. Many are desperate to actually talk to someone. There all sorts of people, some you can identify with, some you cannot understand. All you can do is love them, listen to them, let them know that you understand and that you care, and that they are not alone, and give them what help you can.
Most are perfectly reasonable and desperately grateful for the chance to talk and the help that is given. It is a pleasure to help. The rare highly emotional one is more difficult and you do sometimes get very odd ones. One TV rambled on for ages, finishing with the classic remark that, if he were to be convinced that he was doing the right thing, he would shave his beard off!
I should like to end with Christmas, as promised. I love Christmas. It's a marvellous time of year. The high spot for me is midnight mass on Christmas Eve. We get there about 10.45 as there is a lot of preparation work to be done. The church fills to overflowing. All the regulars are there, and many more, and it is a lovely family gathering. It's special because of what it is and that it is at dead of night. And when it's all over and everyone is gone, with lots of hugging and kissing and "Merry Christmas", we tidy up, count the cash and lock up. Coming out in the moonlight about 2 o'clock, it feels like magic. I love it.
However for many people, Christmas is a hard time. The Trustline normally does not operate then but this year Christmas Eve was a Tuesday. My intuition, good reliable woman's intuition, said "Do it!" So I switched on. I got only four calls in the whole evening but the last was a young TV who was suicidal. Twenty minutes talking and he was much happier. There was hope and life was opening up. My Christmas was even better than usual.
Thank you. God bless Jean for getting all this going and you for help and support.
Postscript: I would ask all groups, services etc. who would like their contact telephone number to be on our list to write to me c/o Beaumont Trust, BM CHARITY, London WC1N 3XX. Please let me have whatever details you would like to be given out. We do have great difficulty in keeping our contact lists up to dateand all help is welcome.
Citation: Walmsley, J., (1992), The Beaumont Trustline, GENDYS II, The Second International Gender Dysphoria Conference, Manchester England.
Web page copyright GENDYS Network. Text copyright of the author. 30.06.06 Last amended 09.07.06