Bruce Anderson

Gender in fluid form

The two Pichons have been locked in sexual rivalry since 1855

I have lost faith in British boyhood. In mixed schools, young males have failed to seize an opportunity that previous generations would have killed for. Imagine the scene, and to add piquancy, let us locate it in a headmistress’s study. Some hulking youth, a pillar of the rugger scrum, who already needs to shave almost every day, sidles in looking embarrassed. If the headmistress had any gumption — a big ‘if’ these days — she would already be on the alert. But these days that might avail her naught. The lad would have the spirit of the age on his side.

‘Please miss: I don’t know how to put this, but I have been so anxious. I’ve decided that I’m really a girl. Obviously, I can’t go on using the boys’ dressing rooms and showers, but I’m sure it’ll be OK if I change with the girls.’

How is she meant to reply? The pickle would be even worse if she were in a Church of England school, where common sense has been virtually criminalised. So why are the boys waiting?

That said, transgender is not always nonsense. In Bordeaux, it has been practised most successfully in a great Pauillac vineyard, where cross-dressing and sexual ambivalence add to the allure. The Pichon-Longueville estate was divided in 1850. The proprietors’ sons inherited one portion, which became Pichon Baron. The daughters had their share: Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande. In the 1855 classification both won second-growth status and they have since been locked in sexual rivalry: a French version of Beatrice and Benedick.

The Baron is four-square Pauillac, drawing its strength from Cabernet Sauvignon, most masculine of grapes. At Comtesse, which borders on Saint-Julien, they have always used more Merlot than is customary in Pauillac.

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