Forward To The Past

Forward To The Past 

Bearded Lady1There are four main characteristics that define me. Firstly, I am a woman, not your normal run-of the mill housewife but a rather special case. I have a full beard. This is the second characteristic in my list of four. Thirdly, by a peculiar quirk of male sexual behaviour, I am, or at least was, a whore. And finally, to complete my list of defining points, I have an IQ of 145.

*****

I suppose the best place to begin my story is with my short childhood. I was the seventh of eleven children, all boys except me. My parents were rarely present, at least not in a state of sobriety which would have made their presence a positive experience. We children mostly brought ourselves up. There was little to eat at home and we nourished ourselves from wild fruits or scrumping at neighbouring farms. How we all managed to survive and remain free of rickets was, years later, still a puzzle to me, and could only possibly be explained by our mongrel mix of breeding. My parents originated from different villages, which was quite unusual at the end of the nineteenth century in such a remote part of Scotland.

The boys daily used their only sister for their pleasure. They had me cleaning, cooking and minding the little ones from as long as I can remember. During the later years of my childhood a further service to my brothers was included, but I would prefer not to go into this at the moment, especially as two of them are still living today.

My real adventure began shortly after puberty. I remember well my first period. I ran screaming from the barn with blood all over my hands and between my legs. My father, fulfilling one of his seldom parental duties, called my mother for help. “Mable, get your arse out here and sort Gabby out. Her tomato soup is on the boil.”

Mum came stumbling out, slapped me hard across the face and told me to get cleaned up sharpish. Dinner would be late. As a later afterthought of parental compassion she added, “Didn’t you know that all girls bleed once a month? Now if I catch you with any of them boys from the village you’ll wish you was never born.”

Shortly after that I began to notice light hair on my face. Josh, my eldest brother was first to notice.

“Hey Gabby, what’s going on? You’ve got more damned bum fluff than Bob here.” He slapped Bob on the back in jest. All of the boys were laughing as they went off about their business for the day. I waited until it was quiet and slipped into the boy’s bedroom, took Josh’s razor and removed all of the hair. I did this every few days for the next two or three months until one day Josh came back as he had forgotten his sheath knife. He caught me leaving the room with his razor in my hand. All hell broke loose. The conclusion of this was that I was beaten and threatened that if I used a razor again it would be used to cut off my toes.

My beard grew dark and thick. Within a month I was the laughing stock of the village. I rarely left the house and threw myself into working at the domestic duties, which kept me out of trouble. One good side effect from the beard was that my brothers all lost interest in me. Not one of them wanted to be caught with a bearded lover. My hair growth protected me from their leering eyes and physical needs.

In time I became quite content to live in this way. I worked hard which gave my parents more freedom to drink away their lives and my brothers were all well fed and watered. I began to accept this as my lot in life until one day a strange looking, plump little man in a striped black and grey suit and bowler hat knocked at the door. As usual I answered the door ready to explain that my parents were not available and would be away until the next day. The little man said in an unusually loud voice,” Well that’s a pity young man. I have an offer for them which could be very lucrative.”

In no time at all my father appeared, still holding onto a bottle of single malt and blurted,” What is that? Lucrative? Please step inside and tell me more. Would you like a drink?”

“Dear Sir, your ahem.. daughter is the talk of the county. People say that you have a daughter who sports a full and very masculine beard. I would like to meet her.”

My father almost fell over with laughter. “Haha, you already have. She is here.”

The man looked at me with an expression of such astonishment that he couldn’t speak. Finally he just managed to murmur, “Good grief. Really?”

My father didn’t hesitate for a second. He could smell money a mile off and promptly ripped open my blouse to reveal my petite breasts. “Here, see for yourself.”

I am not sure who was most embarrassed by the situation, but our visitor took some moments to pull himself together while I fumbled with my torn blouse to recover some form of dignity.

“My name is Joseph Pimplebottom, from Pimplebottom’s Circus. I am here to offer your daughter a contract of employment working as a bearded lady on show daily from 5pm to 9pm. As I said, it would be quite lucrative. In France a similar freak ..er..unusual  bearded lady brought in huge crowds. Tell my young lady, how would you feel about appearing in my circus as an unusual turn of nature?”

My father jumped in very quickly. “Never mind how she feels. How do I feel? I am her father and will decide if and when she appears in your freak show or not. And she will do what I bloody well tell her to. Now, how much are you prepared to offer for her?”

Pimplebottom was ready for the question. A slight twitch of a smile appeared in the corners of his mouth. “Two guineas a month and ten percent of the takings, which could add another two pounds that sum if my expectations turn out to be correct.”

The eyes met, nods and handshakes were completed and I was on my way to Pimplebottom’s circus the following day.

*****

The little man had been right of course. The hordes turned up as promised. The fascination with my beard was the main attraction, but of course the other attraction of my bare bosom completed the show. I was told that it was necessary to bare myself to the customers in order to demonstrate the genuine nature of the claim that I really was a bearded phenomenon.

For two years I appeared in a side stall of Pimplebottom’s circus, with my flowing black beard and by still developing breasts. Any sense of personal dignity soon left me. I stared down at the sickening faces of those crowds, ogling me for all they were worth, laughing, pointing and joking between themselves. I became immune to the comments and the ridicule and began to derive some pleasure from creating a jealousy amongst the female visitors. I would look a gentleman in the eye, slip my tongue between my lips in erotic implication and smile knowingly. The wives of these gentlemen would sometimes become uncomfortable, as if they knew what their husbands would be thinking. This gave me such satisfaction, a feeling of sweet revenge.

In time my arrogant eroticism began to backfire. Some of the wealthier gentry wanted more from me. I was required to entertain some of them in the tent after the evening show was over. Initially I was only required to allow them to touch me. “To check for themselves that I was a real woman, and not some artificial imitation,“ as I was told.

The evolution from ‘touching’ to ‘caressing’ and then finally to the full performance was rapid. These men were wealthy and wanted something different to fulfil their dull lives. I was a freak but a beautiful one: And a beard to boot. They loved me.

I spent the next couple of years as a bearded lady during the daytime and a whore during the night. The circus became my prison and my life.

One of the advantages of being around rich men is that they are cocky and careless. A cuff link here, a guinea there and a few treats from the grateful ones and I was slowly able to put a comfortable sum together.  One night I slipped out of the circus with a purse of twenty eight pounds, a change of clothes and a brand new razor.

*****

The following morning was August 1st 1914. Germany declared war on Russia and Britain was sure to follow. I needed a safe haven and where better than the British Red Cross?

Many men and women were being inspired to train to help sick and wounded. I joined the huge band of women who were urgently trained in basic nursing and hygiene. Few questions were asked about my background. As long as I was willing and in a reasonable health I was swept up on a wind of desperate need to care for the sick and wounded.

It was during the next four years that I learned about my high intelligence. The training came very easy to me. I picked up the medical terms very quickly and found that I would often begin to question in my mind the treatments that the doctors were administering. To question a doctor was unthinkable. Nurses were to be seen and not heard. We were the lowest of the low, which until this point had been the story of my life.

By the time the war ended I was a highly trained nurse but with a medical knowledge well above that of the average doctor. I was frustrated with my nursing role. I wanted to do more.

In 1919, after my discharge from the Red Cross I decided to study to be a doctor. After  many attempts under my real name of Gabriele Bowerman and repeated rejections for various reasons, which all boiled down to the fact that I was a woman, I decided to let my beard grow again and for an ambitious young man, Gabriel Bowerman to arrive on the scene. For three months I spent my time practicing male mannerisms while allowing my beard to grow to a mature state.

Due to the shortage of trained doctors I gained entry into medical school at my first attempt. I sailed through the courses and examinations. With so much experience in wartime injuries I decided to specialise in accident and amputation surgery. I qualified with a first grade PhD in Medicine with specialism in amputation. A position in Harley Street came very soon after.

*****

For twelve years, from 1926 until 1938 all went well. I enjoyed the responsibility of my position and felt comfortable with my role as a man in this male dominated field. I was truly following my vocation in life. I was able to anonymously provide financial assistance to my surviving brothers. My parents had both died during the war from liver disease. The old farm was still surviving especially with the help of the unknown benefactor. I was as happy during this time as I had ever been.

One day I was attending a patient at the hospital. He had been in a motorcycle accident and I had removed both of his legs a week earlier. The fellow was chirpy and positive about his future life despite his terrible injuries. His father was present when I arrived. I didn’t recognise him until he spoke my name.

“Nurse Bowermann? Is it really you? But..but..your beard.”

I was slow to respond, too slow. “Who is nurse Bowermann?” I half-heartedly responded as I saw him looking at my name badge on my lapel. Dr. Gabriel Bowermann.

I tried to cover it up. To make a stupid excuse that I had a twin sister named Gabrielle. It was all in vane. My patient’s father was Professor James McMillan, senior consultant at Great Ormond Street and the only doctor that I had given a piece of my mind to in 1917. My outburst had almost cost me my job and I could see by the look in McMillan’s face that he had not forgotten.

Two days later I was attending the hospital administration investigation into the real identity of Dr, Gabriel Bowermann. I had been accused of being an imposter and upon threat of a personal search to determine my true sex I broke down. I would not allow myself to be put through the humiliating examination only to be found guilty. I resigned immediately and was told that I would be struck off from the medical profession. Any further attempts at posing as nurse or doctor would bring a prosecution and probable prison sentence.

*****

It is now 1963. Mr Pimplebottom has long since died. His son, another short plump man in striped suit and bowler, has taken over the running of the circus. He still remembered me from his childhood when I re-applied for a job as an old bearded lady. One can easily see that I am female these days. It is no longer necessary to reveal my assets in order to appear genuine. My name goes before me as husbands, wives and children come to see the old lady with the beard who tried to cheat the system by posing as a male doctor. This was a great scandal all those years ago. Today it would not even cause a ripple. So is the change of the times.

The reader may be drawn into a sense of being sympathetic towards me. Please don’t be. I am content about my life. For twelve years I was able to fulfil my dreams to become a doctor of the highest regard and have experienced many wonderful moments when I was able to bring people with terrible injuries back to a state of health and hope for the future.

Because of this, I have had a good life.

Roll up, Roll up, see the Great Gabby: Our very own bearded lady. Roll up, Roll up.