(This piece will be published in the award winning Fruitcake Magazine (Issue 2))
My Mum and I used to have such a strong bond. She allowed me to create, play and explore the world in my own special way. I was supported and encouraged to always be myself even if that meant I was dressed up as a princess dancing around the living room with a t-shirt on my head pretending it was my long flowing locks, or singing bad renditions of Britney Spears classics such as (ironically) "I'm not a girl, not yet a woman".
You see my brother and I are immeasurably different. He was very boisterous and football mad. There was never any doubt of his cis and heteronormality. Whereas I, on the other hand, was too femme to function. My queerness was labelled before I even knew what being queer was. Nonetheless, I was never loved any less or forced to conform to gender stereotypes. Those early years, where I was allowed to flourish and embrace my feminity were so formative and I'm even more grateful now, knowing it was frowned upon by society and realising how much she had tried to protect me.
Although I was lucky enough to have such a supportive childhood, as I got more aware I began to be ashamed of my feminity, I couldn't understand it, I started to become introverted. I'd subtly try to hide what I was discovering and started distancing myself from my family. Embracing the world in my mind where I could be the girl I knew I was, whilst on the outside trying to hide who I was from the world. I remember asking for a David Beckham lunchbox instead of the ‘girls’ one I wanted. I knew all the other boys wanted to be just like him, whereas I only wanted to marry him. It was little things like this I used to try and trick people, but looking back the only person I was fooling was myself. My queerness was no longer a theory, it was an established fact by everyone around me. I started to feel isolated, I felt as if my mum was more focused on her new family, I felt less protected, furthermore she didn't notice the pain I was in.
This was the beginning of our relationship breakdown and me becoming an open target for people to abuse.
As I reached High school, I knew these feelings were going to intensify. I knew I needed to be honest. I knew I liked men, it was the only thing that made sense. I must be gay.
Coming out to my family was traumatic for me, I hid this by developing a bitchy persona, unapologetically gay, filled with wit, hate and shade. It was my shield, just like I'd done with the lunchbox years before except this time it had worked.
As my home life started to spiral out of control, I moved into my grandparents. I rebelled at every opportunity, I was too much and was exiled to my fathers, again I did everything I could to hide the pain, and the rejection I felt for my changing body. The next 5 years of my life were filled with drink, drugs and barebacking across my hometown looking for love and desire I didn't have for myself.
My relationship with my mum became more strained than ever before. I needed help, but I feared I was too lost to find it. My behaviour resulted in me going into care, I'd just turned 16 and was in my last year at school. It was there I finally had the ability to admit who I was, what I was denying to myself and what the repercussions of my actions were. When I came out as trans, it was the first time in my life I truly felt free. The staff where I lived were understanding and accepting but lacked knowledge. My transition was policed by social services at every turn. I told my mum via phone, I never really saw her and there was a lot of resentment from both of us. I don't know what I expected but I knew I needed to be supported and helped.
I didn't get that but more than ever I was determined. I ostracised myself even more because I needed to live my truth, I'd spent so many years undercover, I couldn't wait for other people to accept it.
There were so many pivotal moments in my transition I wished I could have shared with her, especially the silly stuff like shopping for clothes and makeup, I remember going shopping for the first time with the home manager and arguing over a see-through leopard print shirt which she said I couldn't have. The countless hospital visits alone, the figuring it all out. learning what being transgender meant to me. Over the next five years, my mum and I spoke and saw each other intermittently with it usually ending in tears. I needed her, but I also needed her to see me as her daughter.
Those times we did see each other were difficult, the silent critiques, the guilt and the overwhelming dysphoria. I'd never feel more masculine than when I saw myself in the reflection of her eyes.
It got better over time. We were able to speak a little bit about ‘it’ and we started to slowly build our relationship back up.
It was when we sat over a coffee and she explained how she felt I finally got it. The five years I was blossoming into the woman I truly was, she was grieving the loss of her son, the dreams she had for him, the fear and guilt for not being able to look past all that. I was wrapped up in living my truth I hadn’t stopped to think that she might be suffering and what she has had to sacrifice while overcoming the grief. Our relationship today is a lot better, It took a couple more years to receive that "Happy Birthday Daughter" card but I knew she loved me, I know she is proud of me and nothing else matters. I've been fortunate to have people around me to love and support me, help me grow and become the person I am today. I admire my mum for allowing me to do what I needed to do, and although she couldn't do it with me I now know she was always with me.
What I'm trying to say, is sometimes the relationship you want to have with someone isn't always what you get but it doesn't mean it's not worth having.
My transition has taught me many things over the years but the most important lesson I've learnt is that occasionally people have to love each other from a distance in order for each of them to blossom. But being true to yourself should always come first. Parents don't always get it right straight away, some might never, everybody is different, but you should never allow someone else to dictate your truth.
Love comes from within.
If you are a young person that feels at odds with their assigned gender, or you are a parent with a child who feels this way, don't despair there's support I wish I knew about back then.
Check out the charity Mermaids UK.
MERMAIDS HELPLINE: 0344 334 0550