I was a 53 year old grandmother when I started my PhD in the Department of Sociology at Essex University and was privileged to have Professor Ken Plummer as my supervisor. My research topic raised a few eyebrows: the transgender phenomenon in Britain and Thailand. This involved me spending a year teaching myself the Thai language and spending the equivalent of an academic year (two fieldwork trips) in Thailand, talking to Ladyboys! I also carried out extensive fieldwork in the UK, interviewing male-to-female transsexual women. I started my PhD part-time in 2001 and the following year was awarded full ESRC funding. I will be eternally grateful for that.
My time at Essex University, and in particular, the Department of Sociology, holds wonderful memories for me. I have a lot to thank many people at Essex for: Professor Ken Plummer; Professor Colin Samson (second supervisor); Professor Diane Elson; Professor Joan Busfield; Rowena Macaulay; Chrissie Rogers; Berenice Rivera Macias; the staff in the Department of Sociology general office; the staff in the Graduate Office in the Department of Sociology; the staff in the Student Support Office, and many more.
I was 58 when I graduated in 2007 and had no idea that I had a career ahead of me. I thought I would be retiring! However, retirement was not what the universe had in mind for me. I am an Associate Lecturer teaching a Level 1 Social Sciences course for the Open University (OU), and loving it. I am also working as a dyslexia support tutor for the OU as well as a mental health mentor for OU students. I am also a regular visitor to local HM prisons, tutoring OU students serving lengthy sentences. All of this is highly satisfying and fulfilling work which I thoroughly enjoy. Just goes to show, you are never too old!! I am in the final stages of revising my PhD thesis into a book for publication.
I miss Thailand a lot and plan on returning when time allows. These days the only chance I get to speak Thai is in my favourite Thai restaurant in Wymondham, Norfolk, where I live now.
I would not have missed my time at Essex for the world and it certainly was a life-changing experience! I am now undertaking a Creative Writing course with The Open University and transsexual characters occasionally slip into my stories. Watch this space for racy little novels by Anne Beaumont!