Loki’s Joke is Penny Blackwell’s autobiography. Written in the style of a novel, it shows how she spent the first sixty years of her life fighting to be happy inside the male body she was born with. It follows her journey from rejection of her true identity through to its final acceptance and resolution. More
Loki’s Joke is Penny Blackwell’s autobiography. Written in the style of a novel, it shows how she spent the first sixty years of her life fighting to be happy inside the male body she was born with. It follows her journey from rejection of her true identity through to its final acceptance and resolution.
Loki’s Joke is much more than just another transgender or sex-change story. Certainly that influence runs throughout, but the story shows how only slowly did the author realise how the identity problem was influencing every decision and every aspect of her life.
Penny, who started life as Paul Blackwell, was born in Croydon, South London, England. The story begins with his upbringing in a string of orphanages and homes for the children who had been orphaned by World War Two. There was the converted army barracks in Reading where corporal punishment was accepted, and the orphanage in Hastings where he met a person who was to influence, in absentia, a good part of his life. (Penny’s second book, the novella The Hermit and the Ivory Box, describes this person more fully.) There was Fegan’s Homes in Stony Stratford, where he met his ‘most memorable parents’, and The Oaks in Thornton Heath where he was nearly adopted, only to be dropped mercilessly when the prospective mother became pregnant with twins.
With adulthood came international wandering. In 1959, at the age of 17, he went to Oshawa, Winnipeg, then spent two years fruit picking in The Okanagan Valley in Canada. Then, at the age of 22, he went to the mining town of Mount Isa in Australia, where women were forbidden to go down the mines because they were bad luck. He then hitch hiked around the world a couple of times, always seeking something but unsure what it might be.
His first true love occurred in Singapore in the early 1960s. Clare was a UK born girl of African descent who was touring with a cabaret. She and Paul became engaged. Back in Croydon, England, colour proved a problem. Skin colour and racial tension were big issues in Britain in the 1960–70s. The real issue for the author, though, was not colour but sexual identity; but he was not prepared to recognise that.
Back in Australia, after having broken off the engagement, Paul resolved to become educated. To this end he gained his School Certificate and HSC at TAFE in Ultimo, Sydney, and then went to Armidale Teachers College. A short time at teaching followed before he returned to The University of New England to obtain an arts degree. More teaching followed before he went to The University of Sydney for TESOL and linguistics qualifications, followed by more teaching, this time with adult migrants.
Paul married in 1977 and inherited four children. Frances, his wife, knew about his gender dysphoria but accepted it, assuring him of her support at all times, even if he changed. An exciting life then of house and home building, of travel, of meditation and political protests, and yet even more travel, followed.
But then began a period of Frances’ mental and physical decline, starting when she and Paul volunteered as English teachers in Poland. Back in Australia Frances declined further and was hospitalised. She recovered for a while and she and Paul enjoyed further adventures, to Iran, Turkey, Italy and walking Hadrian’s Wall, before Paul finally changed sex, with Frances’ love and support, in 2003. All went well for a while until Frances endured three more breakdowns. She finally died of a heart condition.
Penny began writing the story in her late twenties in an effort to come to some understanding of her predicament. Thirty-five years later, following its resolution and the death of Frances, she was free to continue the story in an effort to show the world that people in her predicament are not alien, but fellow humans trying to live a normal, full and natural life.