The Growth of Privacy; Day 19 –
Outward Signs of Our Inner Lives

FEBRUARY 24, 2020

There was a man who owned a shop in the town where I grew up who dressed as a woman.  It was an unusual thing to do at the time.

We lived in a very binary world then; the idea of gender being anything other than fixed and comprising of two categories simply hadn’t occurred to anyone, as far as I’m aware.  Certainly not where I was growing up.

His was a substantial shop in the centre of the town, and so his radically different approach was very public and open.

While I had little interest and depth of understanding of these things at the time, as far as I recall the man himself was not particularly extroverted; he didn’t seem to be wanting to make a big show, but in the place and time in which we lived then, he really did.  At least, even someone as oblivious as I was to many of these things knew of it.

I went into the shop to apply for a part-time job at one stage.  I met him and he was dressed in regular male clothing at the time.  I must confess that I was somewhat disappointed.  He was very polite and mild, he took my details as though he seemed to genuinely interested.  I never heard from him again.

I heard a story years later that he had waged an ongoing battle with the banks.  His shop was on the north side of the street and the two banks in the town at that time were on the southern side of the same main street.  I heard that he used to put the money in a bag, put it between his teeth and crawl across the street to the bank where he would deliver it like this in protest.  I have no idea if this story is true, but I hope that it is.  As someone whose business experience has led to a deep loathing of banks, I wish I’d had the balls to try something like this at some point. 

Just for my own personal satisfaction, not in the hope or expectation that it might do any good.

And of course whatever about the truth of the bank story, the way that man lived his life was just for that: his own personal satisfaction.  It must have required extraordinary bravery just to do what he wanted to do at the time; as in doing so he provided a source of endless salacious mirth and gossip to a community that was quite sure in its own mind that it was either crazy or wrong or both. 

I am not sure that he ever received any abuse, it seems quite likely that he must have done from some ignoramuses at some point.  Though I never heard of any personally.  His behaviour was certainly a kind of town oddity; something people found interesting and amusing.

The man’s choice of clothing was simply the outward manifestation of his private thoughts and feelings.  Whatever he thought privately, the choices he made publicly in terms of his dress made a statement and caused a reaction. 

The interaction between private thought and public expression has always fascinated me.  How many of us harbour a private world that we never choose to share with anyone and do not want to?  How many of us want to but can’t or won’t because of fear?

Whatever about how that interaction between public and private plays out in our lives, privacy means that the choice is a personal one for each of us to make.

Author

flor mccarthy

Flor McCarthy is one of Ireland’s leading lawyers and a recognised expert in marketing. He has particular expertise and hands-on practical experience in privacy, data protection and GDPR issues for marketers. He is certified by the Law Society of Ireland in Data Protection Practice and lectures lawyers on data protection practice and compliance. He is managing partner of a multi-award-winning niche legal practice. He has been in private practice for over 20 years and has been elected by his peers to sit on the exclusive Council of the Law Society of Ireland, the governing body for Irish lawyers.

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