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15 August 2018

Helen Savage (1955 - ) vicar, archeologist, wine columnist

Part I: Life
Part II: PhD thesis

Mark Savage was born in Barrow, Cumbria, one of three children of a Baptist minister, and was raised in various parts of Lancashire. Despite a happy family home, Mark was thinking “I didn’t understand why I wasn’t a girl” by the start of school.

After graduating from Birmingham University Savage became an archaeologist: He co-directed the first modern, complete excavation of a Roman milecastle – Milecastle 35 at Sewingshields on Hadrian’s Wall.

In his mid-20s he decided to follow his father into the church and became a Church of England (CofE) curate in Heaton, on the outskirts of Newcastle. He completed a theology degree at Durham University, and a masters in adult learning. He became an adult education advisor for the diocese of Newcastle.

He married in 1979, and they had two children. He was ordained in 1983. After ten years of teaching, Savage became the vicar in the parish of St Cuthbert’s in Bedlington, Northumberland.

From 1990 Savage was also the wine writer for the Newcastle Journal. From 1991 he owned a house in France. Being fluent in the language, was able to visit hundreds of small vineyards across the country.

However he still felt that he was living a lie. In his 40s he contacted the Beaumont Society, but quickly realised that he was not a transvestite. He saw doctors at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, and was approved for NHS surgery.

Savage also began a PhD on gender dysphoria and Christian theology at the University of Durham, which draws upon the experiences of seven trans Christians who were interviewed over a period of eight months from 2002-3.

In 2004, with the support of the Bishop of Newcastle, Savage stepped down as vicar so that she could transition to Helen. While Helen is not the only trans CofE vicar, the news of her transition became national news and the press camped on her doorstep for a while.

She has stayed with her wife, and her now adult children have stood by her.
“Neither am I the least bit girly, but as a female I just feel so at ease. It fits with the way my brain works, and I now feel grateful for every new day. It may not be easy for those who know and love me, but before I was so bound up in misery and so obsessed. Now I don't have those feelings anymore. I am just getting on with my life."
She is still a CofE priest, and still a wine writer. Helen completed her PhD in 2006. (see discussion in Part II).

While Savage had wanted to return to being a parish vicar, she encountered more problems as a
woman than as a trans person in that some parishes would not take a woman priest, and she wished to remain in the north. Finally in 2015 she took the Moorland group of seven parishes around Hexham in Northumberland, and the Hexham Courant acquired its first ever wine columnist.

She also has become a Master of Wine (one of only 300 or so worldwide). She is a member of both the Association of Wine Educators and the Circle of Wine Writers; she has twice been short-listed for the coveted Louis Roederer International Wine Writers’ Award.

* Not Helen Savage the movie actor/director, nor the Library of Congress classifier, nor the jazz singer.
* Not any of the other writers called Mark Savage
  • Mark Savage. Excavations on Hadrian's Wall at Sewingshields: Interim Report 1979. Peter Robson, 1979.
  • Mark Savage. Master of Wine Study Bursary: Reports on Visits to Italian Wine-Producing Regions, 1983. The Institute of Masters of Wine, 1985.
  • Mark Savage. The Red Wines of Burgundy. Octopus, 1988.
  • Mark Savage & Claude Dovaz. Bourgogne rouge. Gründ, 1988
  • “Vicar quits to change sex”. Evening Chronicle, 21 Mar 2004. Online.
  • “’Sex Change’ vicar quits parish”. BBC News 22 March 2004. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/tyne/wear/3555221.stm.
  • “Anguish of sex change vicar”. The Journal, 22 Mar 2004. Online.
  • Jane Hall interviews Helen Savage. “This is who I am, and I am proud of it”. The Journal, 13 Oct 2005. Online.
  • Helen Savage. Changing Sex?: Transsexuality and Christian Theology. University of Durham PhD Thesis, 2006. Online. Review.
  • Helen Savage. L’Histoire du vin de France. Fetjaine, 2011.
  • “Multi-talented vicar welcomed to Slaley”. Hexham Courant, 22 April 2015. Online.
helensavage.com    twitter     WineEducators
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Several newspaper articles quote Helen to the effect that there are 5,000 transsexuals in Britain. This is surely a serious under-estimate.

The Hexham Courant mentions that Savage has written a book on music. I was unable to find it.

I have updated my Non-Fiction Books on other topics by trans authors to include Helen Savage.


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