"I dunno why I did it now. I mean, who picks a muddy field in the middle of the Isle of Wight as the best place to come out?" Trevor sat back against the bench, the memory of that day still bright and clear in his head.
"You were high, that's how. What did you expect was going to happen? Sunshine and roses? Mate, you were lucky you didn't go to gaol," Bev said. "Though I suspect you'd have loved that at the time."
Trevor offered a wry smile. "I woulda milked it for all it was worth. Nothing gave you cred back then like a prison term. It's a shame we never bothered to contest that Wilson thing properly. I'd have loved my day in court back then. I don't know if I'd do it again, though."
Bev shook his head, unconvinced. "Of course you'd do it again. You're not one for subtlety, and I daresay Secunda would've goaded you into coming out sooner or later. You know how much he loved publicity."
"And notoriety. I'm not sure we really pushed all the boundaries of that at the time, even if we did half burn down the Marquee several times," Trevor conceded.
He spent a moment gazing at the man sitting opposite him. It was hard to believe it was all so long ago that it happened. They'd grown old together, in spite of everything that had happened. Trevor sometimes wondered how he'd managed to keep a relationship going for so long, given the mess he was in for the first four years.
"I never understood why you stayed with me. I mean, no one bloody cares anymore, but back then, man, we were bloody dangerous. Me, a queer, and you, one of them terrifying trannies. How the hell did we make it out alive? I can't fathom that, I really can't," Trevor said.
Bev shrugged. "We were young and stupid, that's what. But we didn't care. I stayed because I knew you'd need me eventually. You never seemed like the kind of guy who'd end up as a fucked up junkie when he was fifty, y'know? I just waited til you'd got all that madness out of your system. Then we were fine."
Trevor smiled fondly at the memory. "All the excitement of youth, and I was the youngest of 'em all. Y'know me and Ace nearly tore each other apart because of them drugs. It was years before I found out he was still alive after he left us. He refused to speak to me for years, though I don't hardly blame him. I was as bad for him as he was for me. I can't imagine it ending any other way."
"Don't be so hard on yourself. He had other problems we couldn't have known about, and you were hardly going to save him yourself. But he's alright. He got out of all that eventually. Did you know he ended up with Charlie?" Bev said.
Trevor raised an eyebrow. "With Charlie? Really? Well, I am surprised. I thought he'd never speak to any of us again after we sacked him."
"Nah, Charlie kept writing to him, and as far as he's told me, it eventually ended up more than that. But he's happy, so I can't much complain. Charlie's good for him, anyway," Bev said.
They fell silent for a moment. Trevor couldn't help thinking about all the trouble he'd got in with Ace. He'd been a transsexual like Bev, and before things had gone bad, Trevor had genuinely loved the man in spite of all his imperfections. They'd fucked around, got stoned, and generally kept each other company. It wasn't meant to last, but Trevor was still sad when it ended.
Over the years, he had often wondered what had happened to Ace, but had never felt brave enough to chase him down. But he'd had Bev, anyway, and he felt if Ace wanted to track him down, he knew where to find him. There was still a part of him that wondered what might have been, though, if Ace had been alright, and the five of them had stayed together. Maybe they'd have ended up taking over the whole world. Perhaps it would've made coming out different, but Trevor wasn't so sure it would have changed much.
Trevor had always felt like he'd been able to cope, anyway. He had enough friends to keep him safe, and anyway, fame had protected him from the worst of it. By the time his fame had faded during the mid-70s, and no one really remembered who he was anymore, he was going to gay clubs without worrying about being discovered. No one cared, then.
It was always harder for Bev, though. It had been that, more than anything else, that had made Trevor get clean and come back to him. He'd become too worried that, on his own, Bev was too vulnerable if he ran into someone who wanted to kill him. Trevor had been to enough queer clubs to know transsexuals were in more danger than he was.
And Bev was just becoming more famous by the day. Roy's new band, the Electric Light Orchestra, had become Jeff's band, and they were beginning to make a name for themselves in a way that The Move had never managed to achieve. Trevor wasn't sure fame would protect him, or if it would lead to ruin. The gigs were getting bigger; scrutiny was harder to avoid. Trevor found it all intensely uncomfortable, particularly as he was never sure how out he could be when he was with Bev. Neither knew how it would be received, so they decided to play it safe. Maybe no one would remember. Maybe they would.
"D'you think if you knew what you know now, that you'd do it all again? Like, transitioning and all. I often wondered about it, and how much easier it is now. Maybe I'd have waited. I dunno," Trevor said.
Bev shrugged. "If it's offered to you, you take it, even if it's not much. At least, that was my view. You don't know how hard it was living like that, with a body that's so utterly wrong you can't bear to look at yourself naked because it makes you ill to see you've got the wrong bits. It's not something you can live with, not if you have the dysphoria as bad as I did. So, when I was offered testosterone and chest surgery, I took it. Anything to make this body look less like a woman's."
"I never thought you looked very feminine, if that helps, and I know no one ever seemed to twig. You still worried about it, though, didn't you?" Trevor said.
"It's always a worry. I never told anyone. Once we began to get famous, I never told anyone who didn't already know. I just couldn't trust anyone. And you know the kind of world we lived in back then. All those bloody parties and press everywhere. There were some days when I couldn't walk down the street without someone recognising me. That they knew I was gay was enough. I didn't want them to know the rest," Bev said.
Trevor shook his head sadly. "See, this is why I regret what I did back then, coming out like I did. I shouldn't have outed you as well as me. That was a mistake. I shouldn't have put your life in danger like that."
Bev brushed him off. "I can't change it now. Anyway, I doubt I'd have had the courage to come out at any other time. It did feel good to know that wasn't a secret anymore, y'know? The girls left me alone. You know how bad they got, and I know you felt that relief when they all stopped bothering us."
Trevor knew that was true enough. "I didn't miss them, that's for sure. God, they could scream. Nearly bloody deafened me, they did. I still sometimes think Ace should've come out back then, saved himself the bother of all them girls chasing after him."
"Nah, he'd have never come out, not like that," Bev said. "He wasn't strong enough for that kind of thing. Coming out. It wasn't his thing, and anyway, I felt he preferred to keep it to himself. He was too scared to trust anyone, more than I ever was. No way would he have trusted the general public with that kind of secret. He was far too paranoid."
"Yeah, that's true. Maybe if he'd left the drugs alone, maybe he'd have had more courage. Yer right, they made him paranoid, they did, like, worse than it was before. He was a mess, though, right before we sacked him. Couldn't cope with the transitioning, couldn't cope with the attention, couldn't cope with anything. I only know that because I spent enough time with him to recognise it. I saw him falling apart, but I wasn't able to save him. I barely had the sanity to save myself back then," Trevor said.
"Yeah, well, transitioning is fucking hard, particularly back then when it was not as easy as it is now. Maybe it would've been easier for me if I'd waited, since there are therapists out there now who know what to do with someone like me." Bev shrugged, unsure. "But maybe I'd have killed myself by now if I hadn't. I'm not sure anymore."
"Would you really have killed yourself if you couldn't transition?" Trevor asked.
Bev sat back as he thought a moment. "I thought about it, sure. I won't lie to you about that. I had some dark days where it's all I thought about. I don't know if I'd have done it, but I did seriously think about it for a while when things felt like they were about to cave in around me."
Trevor felt a shiver run down his spine. He didn't like hearing that Bev had thought about suicide. If truth be known, he'd also considered it when he was lying in hospital after being beaten after a gig by some particularly homophobic bastards. It was a moment where he'd said the wrong thing, baited them because he thought they wouldn't dare, and when they did lay into him and gave him a lampin', he was so shocked, he lost his courage to fight back. The only reason it didn't end up with him dead on the streets is because the band's fame ensured the fight was soon broken up and he was rushed off to hospital.
Fame had protected him in some strange ways back then. It failed him in many other ways, but at least it could be relied upon to stop him being killed, and at least it had stopped the hoards of girls chasing after him. That was blessed relief, and Trevor smiled softly at the memory of Ace complaining once that he should've come out as queer too, so he could get all the bloody girls to stop trying to touch his hair. Ace always hated the girls touching his hair.
Fame was different now, though. He still had it to a certain extent, and so did Bev, but they were old men now, and the world was a different place. Being queer wasn't the rebellious thing it was back in the 60s. It wasn't dangerous in the same sort of ways anymore, but people still got killed and hurt, and there was still discrimination, but it wasn't quite as oppressively dangerous as it had been back when they were kids. Slowly, things were getting better for people like them.
Hell, the two of them had even got married a few years back when civil partnerships were legalised for same-sex couples. They didn't do it for anyone but themselves, though it was splashed about in the press as if they'd been doing something brave and marvellous. They hadn't even had the privilege of being first, because they'd had to wait another year or so before they made it properly legal for Bev to change his gender, and only then, could they get married, some thirty seven odd years after they'd got together.
They hadn't planned to tell anyone, nor get any publicity for it, because what would be the point?, but somehow, it had got out, and it had resulted in some awkward interviews that Bev still wasn't entirely comfortable with. In some ways, he understood the reasons for them and why he was being asked to speak about his experiences. He was happy, now, to try and offer some comfort to other queer people who were still struggling, but he hadn't been entirely thrilled to be given the dubious honour of being some sort of transgendered trailblazer. Bev knew very well he hadn't been the first female-to-male transsexual, but he was one of the most well-known, and that, apparently, meant more than being first. Suddenly, he was expected to be the queer musician for the very first time, but it wasn't a role he felt naturally inclined towards.
Bev still wasn't sure how he felt, now that everyone knew he was a queer trannie. Neither of them had suffered for all the press they did, given their fame and the public way they'd managed to come out again, long after everyone else had forgotten about it. There hadn't been any negative press, as far as he'd been able to find. Everyone was willing to support them and tell them - constantly! - how brave they were for coming out. It all felt so very different to how it had happened in 1968 when Trevor had first come out. The press had hounded them for weeks, as had the bastards who wanted to bash them for being queer, and there'd been a real threat of danger that was no longer present, at least not to the same degree, not to them. Still, it wasn't how Bev thought he'd be remembered.
Trevor reached across the table and held Bev's hand. "I still remember that first kiss. It was like dynamite, being up there and snogging you in front of all them stoners. It never felt as good as that."
Bev smiled at the memory. "I don't think I'd have done it if I wasn't half stoned like you, though. I'd always been too scared to come out. I was always afraid they'd kill me. I always thought you'd be alright, though. You looked like you could cope. I needed your strength probably more than you realised at the time. I worried about you, I worried about me mum, I worried about everything. I'd worry about any man who looked at me if I was walking down the street. Did he remember what I'd done? Did he want to hurt me because of it? Would he rape me because I still looked like a woman? And with ELO, we went to so many cities, and I drank too much, but somehow, I kept out of strife. I was always so frightened, but I learnt to hide it well. I don't think anyone ever picked up on it. I don't care anymore, but back then, I was terrified."
"Yeah, I hear you." Trevor gently caressed his hand with his thumb. "I never quite knew how to reassure you, because I never saw you the way you thought everyone else did. And I know I never needed to worry about passing like you did. They never judged me for that, but I know they judged you. I dunno if I did as much as I could've though. And then you went away with the band, and I was left making my own fun. I couldn't protect you then."
"You didn't need to. I had Kelly with me. No one was going to get anywhere near me if he was around. Gentlest soul in the world, unless you threatened anyone he gave a shit about. Then he was a right little brawler. Now he got me out of a few near-misses, I can tell you. Saved my arse more than one, and for that, I am forever grateful." Bev sighed. "I'll miss him, the bastard. It hardly seems like three years since he died, does it? But time flies, or so they say."
Trevor offered a sympathetic smile. "Yeah, true. I'm glad he was there for you. It stopped me worrying while you were away. I don't know if he ever knew that, though. I never knew him as well as you did."
Bev reassured him. "He knew. I made sure of that. It was scary, coming out to him, but by then, I knew I could trust him. Apart from Roy, he was the only one in that bloody band I ever told. No one else knew."
Trevor raised an eyebrow. "Really? I mean, I can understand not telling anyone, but man, I thought you might've told a few of 'em, at least."
Bev shook his head. "Nah, I didn't want to risk it, and some of them didn't even stay long, so what would've been the point? I never even told Jeff, and I was the last to leave. I don't know if Roy ever told him, but I don't think he did. If he knows at all, he probably read it in the papers like everyone else. God knows what he thinks about it, though."
"Jeff was a pretty terrible mate, anyway. I don't blame you for not trusting him with that," Trevor said.
Bev wasn't so sure. "It wasn't that, not really. He was just too caught up with it all, like we all were. You never experienced how that kind of fame changes you. I'm kind of glad you didn't. He was awful. I haven't spoken to him in over twenty years."
Trevor stared down at the table, taking a slow breath. "I sometimes think we lost too many bloody good mates because of the bands, and the fame. Fame changes you, you're not wrong about that. But that's easy to see now, when we're older. It was just too much fun back then."
Bev gently stroked his hand with his thumb, and caught Trevor's gaze. "I've still got you, Trev. That's really all I care about, now."
Trevor offered a smile. "Shall we get out of here? Those dogs won't walk themselves, and you did promise once we got back."
Bev nodded, stifling a laugh. "Yeah, I did. Come on, then."
Trevor happily wrapped an arm around his shoulder as they left the café, quietly glad they had managed to survive all these years. No one noticed them leave, and they went on with their day, just like any couple would.