We are not who people say we are. We are who we know ourselves to be.
Gender is given too much importance. We should be able to see humans just as humans.
When I started the idea for this blog, I knew there would be times where I’d need to invite strangers into my personal life. Initially, this scared me because I’ve been judged for things out of my control since I was four years old. However, I also believe you should never be ashamed of your story as it may just help someone else. I haven’t often spoken about certain parts of my life but I feel now that I should use my voice and tell a part of my story that might just help someone who needs it.
I am the daughter of someone who is Transgender. When I was four years old, I was gathered with my elder sisters in our living-room and our dad told us that the male they had presented as, was not the person they were born to be. I can’t remember much of the conversation, at that age my questions, when asked for them, were very simple; “Will we still see you?”. Upon the answer of “Yes of course!”, I then said something along the lines of, “Okay. Mum, what’s for dinner?”. A life altering moment of my life and I wish I had known better to ask something on a deeper level but apparently my stomach interjected with it’s own agenda. One thing I learned early on is that Transgender is not a choice but Transphobia definitely is. Transphobia is engrained. The fear and hatred towards the Trans community are most certainly learned behaviours, they are learned at home and at a young age. I cannot begin to imagine how it feels to be a Trans person. I am wholeheartedly open to understanding more and hearing and advocating the trans community’s voice because I think most of us have been there, Transgender or not, we’ve all gotten to a point in our lives where we can no longer lie to ourselves.
Before I continue giving my experience, I need to make something very clear; The person who was Transgender was never the main issue for me and that is usually the case in most stories, it was Transphobia that made my life and the life of my family hellish. This part of my story began in 1991 in a small town in Scotland where everybody knew you and wanted to have their pound of flesh. I was a pretty quiet kid, even before this and I wasn’t the most social. I struggled to find friends and when I look back on my childhood a lot of it was me being alone. It was easier that way for me, I didn’t have to struggle trying to keep someone interested in me or my conversation and I didn’t have the anxiety of thinking I’m not like them. I believe I was just about to start school when I was told about the change happening in my family. I will admit that it is all quite hazy when I try to think back and the timeline of the thoughts I have don’t always make sense, I remember isolated incidents and the general feeling of my peers towards me. Most of the kids only talked about me behind my back but tried to pretend to my face, there were a couple of girls who were as friendly as they could be at the ages of 5-10 years old and as far as I know, they didn’t really care about what was deemed my “situation”.
I mostly got verbally bullied; I was a quiet, introverted young girl, who, later in my primary school career was chubby and wore glasses. I was already a target for the cruelty of children but then they got the jackpot, a nice juicy morsel of gossip that they never let me forget. It didn’t help that a Scottish tabloid newspaper got wind of our story and interviewed gossiping neighbours who fed them a whole lot of small town lies and they even put the names of me, my mum and my sisters in the paper. They had followed us and Fiona (the name of the person my dad was always meant to be) while we did a food shop and snapped a photo of us all coming out the supermarket. The names and opinions hurt, I was just a kid and to face this every single day was agony but what always hurt me more was that, the thing they were using against me to single me out was the the hardest thing in my life to deal with for me personally. I was being punished and bullied for something that hurt me day and night, I was seeing my mother and sisters crying and angry and acting out, I stayed quiet most of the time because I felt like the burden of the family. My young child thought process had subconsciously kicked in and the only thought I could muster was “This is my fault, everything was fine until I came along”. I tried hard most of my childhood and teenage years to just keep my thoughts and feelings to myself, I saw so much that I felt was more important than what I was going through and I just decided it was my job to get me through it. I was always told I could talk to my mum, sisters or Fiona, and sometimes I did and many times I tried but my head always told me “Don’t do it, you’re not that important”.
There are a few times that stand out the most to me, things that were said or done to me just because no one took the time to understand what was happening to me and lets face it, it was better to make me look imperfect and weird so that they didn’t have to take the same because of their drug filled parents who aired their dirty laundry at 1am every Saturday and Sunday morning while they were steaming drunk. I got snow balls thrown at me every winter along with the names of “Fatty”, “Weirdo”, “Your dad’s a faggot”, “Your dad’s a Paedo” etc but this one girl in particular made sure to make it extra fun for herself and put glass and stones in her snowballs and one hit me in the back of the head. I was rushed to the nurse’s office, I had concussion and a bad cut on the back of my head, all I thought was “Please don’t phone my mum, she’s going to be so mad, I don’t want to bother her with this”. Of course the person who did it never got in trouble because everyone else said they didn’t know who had done it. The same girl a few weeks later kicked a football at my head and made me hit my face and head off a jagged, stone wall which burst my nose and once again the school had to phone my mum. In high school, I only remember two very prominent situations;
1. I used to walk to school with a girl who pretended to be my friend since primary school. This one particular day Fiona was visiting and offered to take us to school, I asked this girl if it was okay and she accepted. We got in the car, a 1985 Thunderbird, a classic and Fiona dropped us off outside the school. I thanked her and said I’d see her later and went off. Then during registration, I heard the girl whispering to others about how embarrassing it was and how she was cringing the whole time.
2. The school we had had little outbuilding huts for things like drama and R.E lessons and they were knocking them down to build a better sports complex. Our drama teacher, Mr Newlands, was a quirky, older man and I thought he was brilliant. He was unapologetically himself. On this day they gave us spray paints to spray the hut as it was being demolished the next week, something creative for us. Well, it was all going well, everyone having fun and then the girl from primary school decided to take it one step too far and spray painted “Roz’s dad is a Paedo” (Actually she tried to write Transvestite but couldn’t spell it so had Trans and crossed it out and then wrote Paedo…Pedo more to the point!) for everyone to see. That was the last straw. I was never the same after that. I went into a dark spiral for weeks, pretending to go to school and not going. I went to the local library a few times and did my school work in there and one time I tried to get to the hospital where my gran was at the time after having a stroke but I got caught. I never wanted to worry my mum but the hurt and anger I felt was overwhelming. I eventually saw out the rest of the school year and then when I went back to school I owned my weirdness loudly and proudly. I died my hair black as it now matched my heart. I was done with it all. I was done trying to fit in. I never did again after that.
I’m now 34 years old and I will be honest, I had to stop while writing parts of this because I started crying, it still makes me angry, not just for me but for my whole family. I have been having counselling for almost 18 months now and I feel like I’m a very different person. I have learned a lot about it all, I still uphold a lot of the views I have always had; So many would go straight to “This is your Dad’s fault you are like this, he should’ve known better” but I don’t feel this. Fiona has always been Fiona, she presented as a male and I can’t even imagine how that must’ve felt. I know 100% fact that Fiona protected us from so much worse than we already faced, she got death threats, things thrown at her walking down the street, names shouted at her everywhere she went whether I was with her or not and I know there is probably so much that she hid from us. It should never be that hard to be the person you are. My husband is neurodiverse, it happened to him without his say so, yet, he would never get death threats being who he is and being Transgender is similar. A lot of biological studies have shown it to be something in the brain structure of Transgender people and with that, I do not at all mean that it psychosamatic. It is not about becoming a new person, it is simply becoming who you are.
I’m not going to sugar coat anything, I have learned during counselling that I have endured more than I realised. I never knew Fiona as the male she presented as, therefore, I never knew my Dad and missing out on that has been very difficult. It has also made me realise some of the issues and insecurities I have had in the past, always feeling like the “What’s the catch?”, “When ‘s the bomb going to drop here?” type of feelings in relationships because it happened to my mum. It has also made me realise more than ever just how incredible my mum is. I can’t imagine how I would feel if my husband told me all that she had to hear from Fiona and knowing she not only had to process and accept that but that the life she thought she would have was now gone. She had 3 girls to protect and raise as well as deal with the grief and trauma she must’ve felt. I also can’t imagine how scared and desperate Fiona would’ve felt having to tell my mum how she truly felt. There is one thing I must say to anyone who wants to judge the situation, there was and always has been a lot of love shown in our family, regardless of how dysfunctional it may be deemed.
Even though I have gone through this, I know there is still understanding and learning to do. I am proud to be an ally for the Trans community. I’ve heard a lot in my time on the subject, the questions and back handed compliments I’ve heard people ask and say to someone who is Transgender can sometimes be nothing short of appalling so I would like to help to minimise this as much as possible for the Trans community. I have done a little bit of research and found a few webpages that I feel have some great advice for anyone who isn’t sure about the subject of Transsexuality and how to conduct themselves respectfully. Showing an openness to learn along with that respect goes a long way.
Fiona also very kindly agreed to help me with this blog post and answer some questions to give an insight into the view point of someone in the Transgender community.
What kind of hardships do you feel people in the Trans community face?
Talking from an ‘Old School’ perspective, they’ve got it easy now! There is still a lot of ignorance in society on the subject and that doesn’t help. I believe it’s being discussed in the school curriculum in Scotland at least. There is a bill being discussed in the Scottish Parliament called ‘The Gender RE-Assignment Act’ (GRA for short) which looks at treatment and support for trans people in Scotland. I think the rules they are looking at are far too lenient. I mean decreasing a qualifying period for three years down the six months is ridiculous. I had to live completely in my chosen gender for at least two years before I would ever qualify for surgery. Decreasing that to six months is scandalous. Changing our birth certificates is still a pain; I’ve yet to do it but the proof I need can’t be accessed as the records are too old and the surgeon who worked on me is retired and most probably deceased.
Do you think that if people didn’t have preconceived “gender” correlations (eg: Blue for boy, pink for girls, girls don’t play with cars, boys don’t play with dolls) that this would’ve changed things for you or others in the community?
Definitely! Since I first realized I had feelings which didn’t necessarily match those expected of me by those around me and society in general, I became angry at society. Why shouldn’t a boy wear pink or a girl blue? Why did I get smacked when I sat with the girls in my street talking of cherub and angel scraps they collected? Why shouldn’t guys carry a bag to hold items, like money, keys etc in? When you think of it, pockets in men’s trousers are just a type of bag anyway. Men were wearing ‘skirts’ long before trousers were ever invented! My thinking was, and still is, we are free individuals and should be free to wear what we feel comfortable in without chastisement. If society back then was as it is now, there wouldn’t have be so many hurdles to cross for trans people.
There is slowly more acceptance happening for the Trans community since you transitioned but there is still a long way to go. Do you feel there are signs of things getting better and the Trans community having the acceptance and support they deserve?
Indeed! Things are changing but not fast enough. Education, I think, is paramount to increasing people’s knowledge and thinking and telling people that trans people are not to be feared. We’re not aliens, we don’t have a contagious disease. As for support, I wish I had the levels of support they have nowadays, but it’s still not good enough. In a perfect world, the only support trans and gay people should need should be from their families and society in general. Again, it comes down to education.
Do you remember when you had your first moment of feeling that the body you were born in was not the person you were meant to be?
Goodness, that’s a hard one. I’ll have to get the old grey cells working on this one. I think, I realised I didn’t ‘fit in’ when I started school. I was always prone to playing with the girls rather than the boys and of course, I was chastised for it, which confused me and hurt me. It didn’t help being brought up in a working class family with a very ‘manly’ domineering father. I was always frightened of him and that was pivotal in me repressing my feelings.
Do you ever miss the person you were presented as and did you ever like that person?
This is gonna be a long answer. I’m still that person, just different on the outside and a lot happier inside. I miss being a father to my children. I always wanted to be the opposite of my dad; a loving person who had kids who would look up to me and trust me. Also, when I think back, the person I was then was a very timid, scared individual, my dad saw to that. I was always very sensitive emotionally, and had a very strong feminine side but I daren’t show it. Again, society has to answer for that. I was confused as hell, but wanted to ‘do the right thing’ and make others proud of me.
You transitioned a long time ago now, are you happy that you took the steps you did to be who were always supposed to be?
In some ways, yes, in others, no. I’m happy I got rid of the war taking place inside of me and found peace. I’m happy I got rid of what was between my legs. But there is not a day that goes by that I don’t regret having to do it. I know I had to, to stop the war, but I paid a heavy price; we all did. I can only imagine what you girls and your mom went through after I left the house, and I’m so, so sorry. I failed you all and ‘sorry’ doesn’t seem strong enough. I so wanted us to be a family and do things together, to be with you growing up, to share your troubles and your triumphs. If I had the time and space I could pour my heart out. Suffice to say, I know I had to do what I did, but the price was way too high.
Did you experience any grief after you transitioned and do you think that there should be more intense counselling provided for people after transitioning?
If you term death threats and name calling grief then yes, I experienced a whole lot of that. I think that was one reason I left for London, to be more ‘accepted’. I couldn’t get work anywhere because I was Trans. The voluntary work I did didn’t turn out great either. I had to leave a job as a carer for adults with special needs because ‘it confused and disturbed the students’, as I was told. I felt like a leper. It was then I realized why so many trans people at that time committed suicide and I feared I would be one of them. I think the only thing that kept me going was having contact with you girls. If I didn’t have that, and if your mom cut me off completely, I would never be here today.
Finally, what advice would you give someone who thinks that they may be Transgender?
Talk to someone, preferably your parents, but I know that’s still something that is hard to do. A teacher, a friend or a friend’s parents maybe. There’s lots of help available online in the form of chat groups etc and LGBTQI call-in centres. Even talk to your GP who should be able to give you advice on where to find support.
I want to thank Fiona for her in-depth and poignant answers. As much as I wish I had had my dad and many times in my life I wished it wasn’t the way it was, I never regret being Fiona’s daughter. The love and lessons I’ve had in my life have made me the person I am today. I pride myself on being a strong woman because a strong woman raised me. As I said previously, I’ve always seen that woman being my mother for all she has endured but upon reflection of this post, I realised that I had 2 strong women behind me, my mum and Fiona and I’m sorry it’s taken me until now to fully realise that.
This has been a very emotional and in-depth post. I have thought about doing this for months but I wanted to make sure I could do it properly. There’s too many people ready to pounce these days on the smallest thing and I hope that the terms I have used and advice given are the preferences. It’s true what they say, every day is a school day and I want to always be open to learning and accepting the way of the world. I feel all that is left to say is this to Trans community: Your lives matter. Your voices matter. Your stories matter.
Love hard. Be fierce. Horns high.
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Absolutely wonderfully written piece. Can see where your strenght now comes from. Must have taken a lot of digging deep to write that.
You have a good way of writting things to get the message over.