A ladylike member of the Garrick

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The Independent Online
Warning: the ingredients of today's story include sex, politics, feminism, and the petty workings of the London gentlemen's club scene. Readers of a sensitive disposition are advised to turn to the news from Yugoslavia instead.

WHEN George, after an expensive and tiring series of operations, was turned into a woman after having been a man for many years, his wife was very understanding. Relieved, almost.

'I'm just coming to the period in my life,' she said, 'when I feel I have had quite enough of men, and what I really need is a best female friend.'

'Thanks,' said George, though he was not sure that this was exactly what he wanted just yet. 'But things are going to be difficult to begin with.'

'They certainly are,' said his wife. 'For a start, you're going to start wanting to wear my clothes, and I'm not going to be too keen on that. For another thing, it's going to make the tax situation rather confusing - I wonder if both sides in a marriage can be taxed as a married woman? Well, I expect my accountant will know.'

'Things shouldn't be too horrific once people get used to me being a different gender,' said George.

'You're starting to change character already,' said his wife. 'Before the operation you never used the word 'gender'. Do you find 'sex' harder to say now that you're a woman?'

'Another thing,' said George, ignoring this, 'is that I shall have to resign from the Garrick Club.'

'What on earth for?'

'Because of the rules.'

'Good heavens. Is it against the rules of the Garrick Club to change sex?'

'No, but . . .'

'I can see that it might be against the rules to change sex on the premises, for fear of alarming Kingsley Amis or something, but surely it's all right to do it elsewhere?'

'I don't think they have anything against changing gender, as long as you don't change to being a woman. It's just against the rules to be a woman. I'll be asked to resign once they notice I'm wearing dresses.'

The more George's wife thought about this, the more she thought George should stay a member of the Garrick. Not that she approved of the place, but she felt that George was in a unique position to make a stand.

'You're a woman now, dear,' she said to him, 'so you have to stand up for women's rights. As the only female member of the Garrick, a club that has always voted to exclude women from its male portals, you have an unparalleled chance to get some publicity for the cause.'

'How?'

'By going there and defying them to stop you having lunch.'

George had never thought of having lunch at the Garrick as much of a battle before, but he had always worn trousers on previous occasions. The next time he turned up, he was in a skirt and jumper.

'No unaccompanied women allowed in, I'm afraid,' said the man at the door.

'I'm a member.'

'Impossible, madam. There are no woman members.'

'Do you know a member called George Amberley-Bois?'

'Certainly, sir.'

'I am that member,' said George. The man looked closer at him and started. By the Lord Harriet, he muttered under his breath.

'Some trouble here?' said a smooth new arrival, looking official, as indeed he was, being one of the Garrick Club membership committee.

'This lady claims to be a member,' said the man at the door, happy to hand over the case to someone else.

'Impossible,' said Mr Smooth. 'It is against the rules for a woman to be a member. I looked it up before you arrived, Mr Amberley-Bois, as we expected some sort of bother like this.'

'I also looked it up before I arrived,' said George. 'I am afraid you are wrong. The rules do not say that women can't be members. They only say that women cannot join as members. I was a man when I joined. I have become a woman after joining. There is no rule against that. Now let me pass.'

'Look here . . .' said Mr Smooth, barring his path.

'I hope you are not going to offer violence to a lady,' said George, pushing him aside with the ease of one who had once played rugby for the Army.

(TV and film offers invited for the continuation of this exciting yarn. Men carrying writs from the Garrick Club need not apply.)

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