Spring Celebration interview of the week, a brief chat with the exciting and enticing Chris Burrows. Chris is a part-time author, working full time in the banking industry, who has demonstrated an honest passion for sharing the true stories of the tantalizing transvestites and lovely ladyboys he has met, loved, and befriended during his travels across Asia. Oh, and he's a sometime crossdresser himself, so he knows a little of what he's talking about when it comes to TG matters!
Yes, that is Chris on the left . . . he does make an absolutely stunning woman!
Chris has graciously agreed to stop by for a chat as part of our Spring Celebration, and to help support our Gender Identity & Expression reading challenge. His latest release is Porn's Stars, which completes his first quintet of stories from Asian Transgenderland:
Porn’s in hospital after a minor motorcycle accident; with time to kill, she and Chris sit and recount and regale each other with almost a dozen new stories about people they’ve known down the years; people of a certain persuasion, people who don’t quite fit into any particular sexual ‘compartment’—Ladyboys, Ladygirls, cross dressers, transvestites, bi-men, bi-girls and so on—just some of the eclectic inhabitants of ‘Transgenderland’—her ‘Stars’ as she so aptly calls them. With Porn’s long history of being involved with the TG world, she certainly has enough stories to fill several books and her stories contain more than few surprises; needless to say, Chris finds himself surprised, maybe at times astonished, at the depth of Porn’s knowledge about her ‘Stars’ ‘sexploits’ and ‘sexperiences’.
Now, without further ado, let's learn a little bit about the storyteller behind the stories, the friend behind the friendships, and the advocate for those so often without a voice. Oh, and be sure to comment below for your chance to enter this week's giveaways!
♥ For starters, especially for those who may be new to your writing, please tell us a little about yourself.
A rather lengthy bio is below but, essentially, I am professional in the banking industry with a penchant for writing books, stories and articles (first book published some 20 years ago) and a serious interest in Transgender and cross dressing issues. My writings on TG matters try to encapsulate my experiences but also try to highlight the fact that there is a ‘third sex’, all of whom have been born with a high level of male and female characteristics, and who can enjoy seeing gender from both sides.
♥ Rather than coming from inside yourself, your first exposure to the transgender community came about through your travels and the friends you met. What was it about the community that so fascinated you?
Really the fact that some people can be both male or female, at different times, as they choose and without anyone else realising their true gender. It’s certainly a gift and history records evidence of such people from time immemorial. Although, as you mentioned, I’m sort of coming from outside of the TG community, if I’m really honest, I think I am latent TG; sure, I present most of the time as male (by necessity) but I do feel comfortable as a female – the ‘lady’ on the cover of my last three books is, in fact, me!
♥ I love that idea of gender fluidity. Tell me, having travelled extensively, how different have you found cultural attitudes to be towards sexuality in general, and the transgender community specifically, and how much do you think those shifts impacted your own attitudes?
Oh, people in Asia are so much more relaxed about sexual orientation and gender. Sure, there are homophobic people everywhere but there’s little of the aggression towards TG people as one sees in the West; Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines, Korea, Japan and now China – all essentially TG friendly and with huge gay and TG communities. I’m forever grateful I live in Asia!
♥ You published your first work, City of Angels, almost a year ago now. Looking back, how did you feel when you first saw it in print?
Really great! It’s was my first TG book although I’ve written regularly for around 2-3 years for Roses Repartee CD/TG Magazine, Frock Magazine, Transliving, and several other TG magazines – it was really writing for those magazines which inspired me to put the stories and experiences I’ve had together in one place.
♥ I read your "Wrestling" article in the latest issue of Frock but had no idea it was you - what a lovely little coincidence! Since City of Angels, you've published three other titles, all based upon the real-life stories you've encountered. Which of those stories did you, personally, find most satisfying to explore?
Hard to say but, possibly, Confessions of a Transvestite Prostitute as you have to admire the determination of the ‘lady’ in question plus reflect deeply on the fact that that most of her customers were ‘normal’ guys who claim to be straight but are fascinated by the delights of a Transvestite or Transsexual; there’s definitely a double standard there somewhere as many of these guys, given the chance, will decry gays and other such gender variants as abnormal, yet they go out of their way to be with them.
♥ Did any of the books surprise you, and perhaps take a different approach or have a different feel than you originally anticipated?
Can I say all of the books surprised me? I didn’t really know I knew so many people in the community who’d had so many experiences. Like many authors I set out to write one book on the topic and now there are four (with Porn's Stars just published) plus book 5 in the ‘series’ under way.
♥ For some authors, it's coming up with a title, and for others it's writing that first paragraph - what have you found to be the most difficult aspect of writing a new work?
Deciding which ‘sexperiences’ to include and which not to! I guess I’ve been lucky but, along the way, I have had some incredible experiences, or things happen to me quite unexpectedly, which, when I look back I find hard to believe myself. In fact, some of my stories, I daren’t relate as people would just think I was making things up!
♥ Truth is sometimes stranger than fiction! Now, I realise being asked to pick a favourite book is like being asked to pick a favourite child, but is there a particular story or scene from your work that you feel particularly fond of?
The more I write in the ‘series’ the more I realise, subconsciously, that I am trying to get the message across that being TG is a fact of life, not a perversion, not something shaped by social or family matters – it’s within people, they are simply ‘hard wired’ that way from birth and it’s something to be proud of, not detested. I know this is not a particular scene or story from a book but it’s a recurring theme when I write.
♥ For me, it's always interesting to find out who an author would cast in the leading role, supposing they had total control over filming one of their books. Given that your stories started out with real people, could you see yourself casting a celebrity, or would you look to the original stars?
Hmm, casting a celebrity, in my opinion, would detract from the realism the books try to create/portray. I’d love to be in any film but am not sure about the others, as many of the TG community are still very secretive!
♥ When writing, do you ever consider how a reader or reviewer will react, or do you write primarily for your own satisfaction?
Yes, I try to read my work as if another person was the reader, hopefully injecting some sort of realism into the thoughts and spoken words of the characters. You know, when writing books that deal with sexual issues, it’s hard to find speech that might be classed as ‘intellectual’ as I feel that when most of us get sexual urges in mind, our actions and words become outside of our normal behaviour, and we over indulge in trite phrases like ‘ Oh my god, oh my god’ for example….
♥ Yes, rational thought tends to succumb to the emotions at those times, doesn't it? What has been the strangest or most surprising reaction to your work that you've encountered so far, either from a reader or from the girls themselves?
My books have been well received by the TG community although I did have some concerns initially that they might be seen as simply ‘sex books’. I’ve also have quite a few readers write and tell me that the books are quite unlike others in the market as they are based on true ‘sexperiences’ and deal with TG issues in a way others do not. Sales have been very pleasing too, so I guess the buying public views the books positively.
♥ I think that's the first thing that struck me about your work - it is very sexy, but it's also very encouraging and empowering. I know the stories are inspired by those around you, but is there a particular author who has influenced or inspired your writing style? Somebody who either made you want to write in the first place, or who refreshes your literary batteries?
No, I can honestly say not – I used to be an avid reader but regrettably have let this slip as am so busy with my work, books, blogs etc. My inspiration comes from the people I know or have met.
♥ All other considerations aside, when you're looking to escape into a really good book (the kind that makes you miss appointments, forget about dinner, and stay up way too late), which authors do you generally reach for, and why?
If I have time, I actually like Peter James (author of the Grace detective series), he tells it like it is, realistic dialogue, great attention to detail and great plots; quite a contrast to my own writing.
♥ When you're not writing (or reading), what are some of the hobbies and passions that keep you happy?
Has to be Cross Dressing (a passion not a hobby!); anything arty, photography, exercise, keeping fit (so as I can still fit a size 10 dress if I have to!)
♥ Size 10? I am so jealous . . . Before I let you go, what can we look forward to from you next? Is there a project on the horizon that you're really excited about?
Yes, Book 5 in the series, which I have not yet titled, and which I hope will be available late June/July time. I’ve also just become co-editor of Frock Magazine and am getting more involved in TG issues in Hong Kong where I currently live, plus we have been looking at some other projects in the LGBT sphere; all in all a lot going on. There’s definitely more awareness of TG matters in Asia and I hope we can capitalise on my experiences to help some of the other ‘girls’ in the TG community in some way. The whole TG community is so diverse that it is almost worthy of its own book trying to unravel the different types of people who frequent it….
Twenty or so years ago, Hong Kong was an ‘eye-opener’ for a young graduate and, initially, Chris struggled to balance the hard working, dynamic, ‘no-holds barred’ environment of Hong Kong’s business world with the burgeoning, eclectic, erotic lifestyle of the night – on the face of it, certainly to a young graduate, far racier compared with some of the tamer things he’d seen in London and elsewhere on his travels.
Chris was always particularly fascinated by the lesser known aspects of Hong Kong’s nightlife – he went exploring some of the ‘underground’ cabaret type clubs and bars, seeing drag queens and transgender persons and also the less salubrious bars and clubs frequented by many of the young, female Filipinas and Indonesian expats, usually working as domestic helpers. The American military, with their extensive R&R leave in Hong Kong were beginning to be a thing of the past and bars and clubs were evolving to compensate for the reduction in service personnel visiting the British Colony (as it was then).
Around this time, in view of his enduring love of writing, Chris developed a keen interest in documenting what he was seeing and penned a few articles and short stories – mainly relating to ladies of the night and other creatures who inhabit the twilight world that many suburban people never know about or, when they do, understand.
Chris had also maintained his penchant for travel and, over his early years in Hong Kong, had taken trips to, amongst other places, Manila, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur plus, of course, Bangkok. To a young man with an established, serious fascination with Asian ladies (and other ‘varieties’ thereof), Asia was the place to be and, after one particularly exciting trip to Manila, Chris made a mental promise to himself that he was not, under any circumstances, going to live or work back in The West.
The young, relatively established business professional that he, by now was, had also realised that he was becoming more and more mesmerised by the ‘third sex’ and undertook extensive research into the matter, learning about transgender people in India, Indonesia, The Philippines and several other main countries in the region. He was continually surprised at how the roots of transgenderism could be traced back centuries into ‘old’ societies and how liberal many of the Asian countries were about the idea of gender being non-specific, especially when compared with views held in Europe and the West.
Like many other, Chris had always known that homosexuality had been widely practiced and accepted in ancient China, for example, but the extent of transgenderism and its tolerance was still revealing to him.
After a couple of years in Hong Kong, (and many visits to Asian capitals seeing firsthand the diversity of the various gender societies), Chris was given the opportunity by the bank for whom he had worked since first arriving in Asia to relocate to Bangkok – he was asked to undertake a regional role which meant, of course, that he could also continue his travel adventures.
The decision was ‘no contest’ in Chris’ mind and he made his mind up instantly - probably quicker than any other candidate had made a decision in the Bank’s history - primarily to make sure that no-one else had the chance to get the posting instead of him.
A few months before this opportunity had come along, during one of his regular visits to Bangkok, Chris had met Porn - who was later to become his close friend, flat mate and, to an extent, his mentor on transgender issues. Porn and Chris had literally bumped into each other in Pattaya, one of Thailand’s top resort destinations, on a fine spring day. Chris had been standing outside the premises of one of Pattaya’s largest cabaret, and best known, transvestite (or ladyboy) shows admiring some of the billboards, advertising one of the new stars, when Porn had physically collided with him. As usual, she was late for her regular make up sessions with several of the ‘girls’, was talking animatedly on her mobile phone and, generally, not watching where she was heading.
After that auspicious start, they had quickly become firm friends and, on one or two occasions, Porn had introduced Chris to some of the real ‘superstars’ of the transvestite cabaret world – and real stars they were, far more sensuous and beautiful than any other women the banker had ever seen. Chris, needless to say, was enthralled and became friends with a number of the girls, even though his spoken Thai was not fluent at that time.
According to Chris, he has never really been that comfortable being cross dressed, although occasionally still indulges, especially when Porn is instigating it. He views it as ancillary to his fascination and empathy with ladyboys.
Despite spending many years meeting and becoming close friends with a large number of members of the ‘third sex’ Chris has never tired of his drive for knowledge and understanding of this, oft misunderstood, ‘species’. Even now, he still finds many ladyboys unbelievably attractive (in his view, physical perfection personified) a view he shares with thousands upon thousands, if not millions, of other males around the world.
Chris has continued his interest in writing and recently penned a series of short stories concerning some of his experiences with ladyboys in Thailand. Needless to say, there are dozens of other stories still to be told, all drawn from his own adventures in Asia.
You can find out more about Chris on his blog (http://www.chrisburrowsbooks.blogspot.com/), and purchase his books directly from his publisher at www.clublighthousepublishing.com.
Spring Celebration, it's also time for you - the readers - to do your part by stopping by, saying hello, and hopefully even sharing a few thoughts on any of his stories that you may have read . . . or are looking forward to. If you haven't previously had the chance to enjoy his work, then you are in for a treat!
Don't forget, this is also your chance to become eligible for this week's giveaways, so be sure to include your email address in your comment. You don't have to be a follower to win, but it will earn you a bonus entry for the week (just let me know if you're a new follower or an old favourite).