I have been in this sport twice now. The first time was early in ths century when I bought myself a Webley Nemesis .177 pistol and a Walther Winchester CO2 rifle. I was a member of a club just outside of Swanley in Kent but my other main hobby of motorsport got in the way as I was a senior official at Rockingham Motor Speedway when that was in it’s heyday from 2001 until 2005. I surrendered my air guns when I moved in 2010 as I didn’t have a back garden in my new home and had no where to shoot and I left the Swanley club when I was spending time between here in the UK and the US doing motorsport officiating as well as courting my late fiancée who lived in Texas. I suppose I’d better introduce myself. My name is Kate, but it hasn’t always been Kate you see I am a male to female transsexual and currently undergoing treatment in London. I have written a couple of posts in this blog, my first was about the IOC ban of transsexuals competing in shooting sports. I am also behind the Trans Equality in Shooting Sports page on Facebook.
Back to my involvement in shooting. In 2005 I took up the hobby of Living History and joined an Old West group based at Deadwood Old West Town near Horsham in West Sussex. I was still hiding who I really was at this time and I spent a lot of money on the clothing, boots and of course the guns. Everything I had was as authentic to the period as possible. My starter gun that I carried was made a Bruni, an Italian company, and was a Colt Single Action Army M1873 aka The Peacemaker that used 9mm blanks. It was a simple gun to maintain and was a sideblaster i.e. when you fired a blank the gases and the flame from the round came out of the side of the cylinder as the barrel was completely blocked. I also found that Bruni made a 8mm Winchester 94 rifle which I also bought early on in my Western career. I soon upgraded to a Pietta made Remington New Model Army 1858 for my six shooter. Almost as soon as I bought that then the holy grail of Old West guns came on to the market from Pietta. A forward venting Peacemaker. This was in 2007 just after my mother had lost her fight with cancer. I used part of my inheritance to purchase one of these beautiful guns. I bought the Calvary version with a 7 ½ inch barrel. As far as shooting sport was concerned I did a little Fast Draw at Western events but as this wasn’t strictly Living History despite what Hollywood wants us to believe I didn’t really take it seriously even though some did and were very quick to draw and fire.
In 2008 I went back to the US and visited the Mecca for anyone involved with or loved the Old West, Tombstone in Arizona. I took all my authentic clothing with me and spent a great few days in the Town to Tough to Die. Once the owners of the infamous OK Corral realised I was a re-enactor from the UK I was escorted to the Town Marshals office and issued with a real peacemaker (after some background checks which were done very quickly) and some blank ammunition to use in the official re-enactment of the Gunfight at OK Corral. I was also authorised to carry in all building in town as I was part of the official re-enactment team in town. When I got back to the UK my role in the Western Town changed as I became the town gambler and ran the towns Faro table in the saloon as I had learnt the game in Tombstone.
Over the winter of 2008/09 I was very ill with dangerously high blood pressure and was old that I might not live to see Xmas. This was in November. I survived thanks to medication but it scared me like there was no tomorrow. I sat at home, scared to death as I knew what a major part of the problem was, but scared to do anything. In May 2009 I plucked up courage visited the doctors and requested Gender Reassignment and I transitioned then. Until 2012 I battled with depression as I fought to get treatment for my gender issues. It was also in this year that I switched from Old West Living History to WW2 and started my interest in Bletchley Park. I now portray a code breaker from BP as we call Bletchley and travel all over the UK going to events.
Then in early 2012 I heard that the local council wanted volunteers to help with the London 2012 Torch relay and the Paralympic Road Cycling which was happening in my village. I was chosen to be a Team Leader and led teams throughout the events in my area. It was through watching the shooting during the Olympic Games that my interest in shooting was rekindled. I soon found a nice friendly club at Paddock Wood in Kent. The South East Airgun Club or SEAC. The first day I went there I was scared as to the reception I would get but I was welcomed with open arms. My first gun that I bought was a heavy Walther CP88 CO2 pistol which I enjoyed shooting and got on well with. I tried a couple of rifles (a Stoeger X20 and later on a Weihrauch HW57. Both were springer’s with a recoil) but I couldn’t get on with them at all. I couldn’t a barn door at one yard so I sold those rifles. For me the real break threw in shooting came when I bought a Beeman P17 single stroke pneumatic pistol and started to take part in the clubs Pistol Field Target League.
I was really enjoying myself even though I was propping up the table but my scores were improving slowly. In August I bought a new FT pistol and this time it was the best for FT shooting a Brocock Grand Prix PCP pistol that was just under the UK legal limit for pistols. In the September I shot a personal best for the season of 72 points out of a possible 120 and came third in the round. The next month I won both rounds and ended up 5th in the league. I have also bought a Rohm Twinmaster Action CO2 Precision Pistol for 6 and 10 meter competitions (once I am allowed to enter them!!! But that is a different story and has already been covered in my first post on this blog) and a Walther PPQ CO2 pistol for Iron Plate Action Shooting or IPAS ( I have my first competition on 6th April) which I will have a go at within the next few weeks and is trans friendly as well. My expectations for my performance is low as it will be the first time at this type of event but we all have to start at the bottom.
How has this wonderful sport affected me and my health? Well it has given me a lot more confidence which has taken several knocks over the years thanks to hate crimes committed against myself and my flat. I suppose my Living History activities have also played a part in rebuilding my confidence but most of it has to be down to shooting. The biggest benefit shooting has had is very definitely related to my health. As I previously mentioned I was very ill with dangerously blood pressure which is controlled by medication and shooting. Before I took up the sport my BP was still high but no where near the 200+/130+ it was at the end of 2008. When I attended the Gender Clinic in London back in July 2013 my BP was taken as routine. This was the first time that my BP had been taken since I started shooting. I was expecting it to be around 140/100 as I don’t like hospitals at the best of times and this was a big day. Imagine my shock when the readings came back at 110/70 the lower part of normal. I nearly fell of my chair in shock. I asked the Sister who took the BP whether my shooting could be factor in the drop and she answered in the affirmative as the sport requires concentration and the ability to remain calm whilst taking the shot. I wonder if we can get shooting prescribed on the NHS!!!!! It certainly has been the perfect medication for me.
Whilst I’ll be on the cocktail of medication for the rest of my life I do know that it is shooting that has basically saved my life. I love the sport and the friends I have made directly through the sport including those in Firearms UK. I will not give up the sport again unless they are nailing down the lid on my coffin and even then I will be hammering to get out and go shooting. The sport has given me a lot of enjoyment so far and will continue to do so. The social aspect is fun as well as the buzz of competition and trying to beat the person in the next lane as well as the good natured heckling in a club event.
I have been involved in top level sport as an official for many years but actually taking part is the biggest thrill I can get and on top that it has positive health benefits. I am always nervous when I go to a new venue but unfortunately that goes with the territory of being trans but I have not had a problem within the shooting community apart from the previously mentioned ban of trans competitors outside of club events. Another unexpected effect that shooting has had on me shouldn’t really have been unexpected and that is that my ability to estimate distances has really improved and that is an important skill in FT shooting. I have also started to notice nature more since I have been back in shooting. I don’t hunt but last year during a particularly boring day at Brands Hatch (one of my places of work (I am on the Safety Team)) I noticed some rabbits nearby and I started to estimate the range and started to stalk them and go within 10 yards. Not a bad effort considering there was little cover and I was wearing bright orange overalls!!! I would love to own a couple of live fire handguns namely a real Colt SAA M1873 Peacemaker or a Browning Hi Power but the crazy UK gun laws that were a knee-jerk reaction to a tragic incident in 1997 makes that impossible (while I am at it please visit the Unity Campaign page and please sign the petition which is accessible through the link at the bottom of the campaign page or click on this link which takes you straight to the petition ). I hope and believe that those laws will someday be repealed. When I have had my operation (which I hope will be late next year) I will start the process of getting my FAC. I already have a safe in which my airguns are kept since they are my babies. If you see me on the airgun circuit (look for the woman wearing a white Davies & Co polo shirt with a Firearms UK patch) and come and say hello.