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I was three or perhaps four years old when I realized that I had been born into the wrong body, and should really be a girl (AS: I don't share that part of her feelings fully). I remember the moment well, and it is the earliest memory of my life.”
Artsnight: Michael Palin Meets Jan Morris". BBC two. BBC. 8 October 2016. Archived from the original on 17 April 2019 . Retrieved 21 December 2019.There is no one trans story: Morris’s memoir remains one of many. It’s a fine lesson about her life alone, but an iffy guide to trans lives more generally. Many of us don’t need surgery, many of us need it but don’t get it, and many of us do want it very much, but do not regard it as the climax of anything—hormones, social transition, and outward appearance can all be more important. So can meeting other trans folks: only in Casablanca, after “the operation,” did Morris “set eyes for the first time on others like me.” Morris was “emotionally in thrall to Welshness” and wrote of it, notably in The Matter of Wales (1984); she had steadied from “a wandering swank”, she said, into a matron who came home to a sure core of warmth.
Naturally one of the questions readers of Conundrum have asked is ‘What about sex?’ Jan is perhaps a little evasive about this, and understandably so. Her desire to be a woman was not about wanting to have sexual relations with men, though she does rather charmingly describe the pleasures of being flirted with. A marriage that produces four children must be to some extent sexually healthy. But it is to Jan’s credit as a writer that the reader does not dwell on this for long. We accept that for her, sex was not so much a physical as a spiritual matter. Now nearly all the mysteries have gone, and there is scarcely an unknown country left to peer at.)”
James - as she was then - Morris knew from a very young age both that he was in the wrong body and that he wanted to be a writer. Through a combination of self-confidence, determination and what Jan herself describes as her ‘insufferable ambition’, she achieved what she set out to, becoming one of the most successful journalists of her generation and then a world-famous author of books about places like Venice, Oxford, Trieste and Manhattan, which re-invented travel writing. Morris went on to receive praise for her immersive travel writing, with Venice and Trieste among the favored locations, and for her “Pax Britannica” histories about the British empire, a trilogy begun as James Morris and concluded as Jan Morris. In 1985, she was a Booker Prize finalist for an imagined travelogue and political thriller, “Last Letters from Hav,” about a Mediterranean city-state that was a stopping point for the author’s globe-spanning knowledge and adventures, where visitors ranged from Saint Paul and Marco Polo to Ernest Hemingway and Sigmund Freud.
I think I was probably the last journalist to ask a version of what became known as the “Jan Morris Memorial Question”, when I interviewed her a few months before she died. Did she have a sense of a before and after, I wondered, writing as a man and a woman? It certainly does! I can’t fathom it. My tendency has been to jump in and tell stories. I had forgotten all of this.”He slipped into journalism at 16 on the Western Daily Press in Bristol. Colour blindness prevented him from joining the navy during the second world war, so he signed for the 9th Queen’s Royal Lancers and a commission as intelligence officer, celebrating his 21st birthday onboard a troop train from Egypt to Palestine. “I knew life was going to be OK. At last, in the army of all places, I felt I was free.” After demob, he worked in Cairo for a news agency, read English at Christ Church, Oxford, and edited Cherwell magazine. Johns, Derek (2 October 2016). "Jan Morris at 90: she has shown us the world". The Guardian . Retrieved 24 March 2018.