In 1987 I moved to London after being made redundant in Ireland, I remember my Dad was very upset and offered to give me extra money to stay, however my mind was made up and anyway my Dad could not afford to do this and I was not prepared to take it from him. So with a sleeping bag and a bulmers cider holdall won at a competition in some bar I made my way to London.
It wasn't long before I found a job through an agency, it was as a kitchen porter and it helped me to finance my stay. At that time I was a big Arsenal fan and I travelled to Highbury every Saturday to either see the first team or second team play, at that time it really was a working person’s sport not the multi million pound unaffordable commodity that it has become unfortunately. My first real job was as porter in abbey national bank which was located in no less that 221b baker street, yes I worked in Sherlock Holmes’ residence, how posh!. Shortly however my position was moved to a clearing centre in the east of London, in fact this is where I met the person with who I was to have my first intimate relationship with although I was so so scared and felt somewhat inadequate.
However in that Bulmers bag I also carried a big secret, a secret I kept throughout childhood, into adolescence and on to my twenties, I was 23 yrs old at the time. This secret impacted on my mental health from as young as I could possibly remember and I felt like a mistake of nature and I could sweep the floor with my self-esteem. However I fell in love with an Arsenal fan no less, we both experienced amazing highs and drastic lows, we experienced the Gunners last gasp hit and run victory over Liverpool in 1989 which was truly remarkable. Those were great days and I loved my partner so much, but then there was the secret and I felt I was lying to my partner for not sharing, so share I did. It was traumatic for both of us. We went to see a counsellor and he told me it was my choice to be as I was and I needed to change this if I loved my partner, I felt dejected but I tried to change.
The relationship continued under some duress for nearly two years after, we even both returned to Ireland to live but this ended in disaster and she returned to England. It was a very difficult time, however after a short period I met the person I would marry, I explained my secret in the early stages but we went on to have two wonderful children together. Sounds great and we were very close but there was something else living in our relationship and that someone else was me, I was the secret, I was the shame, I was the mistake and I could not hide in that bulmers bag anymore. I felt the only solution was death, yes I felt the only way out was death, I mean how could my family cope with my secret, how could my partner cope, how could my poor wonderful kids, my flesh and blood, my heart and soul cope with my devastatingly shocking secret, that was it, it was over. But what kept me alive at that time was the vision of my kids, how could I do this to them, they had no choice in the matter, I disenfranchised them, I was taking away their choice. Amazingly that kept me here, life was extremely hard for all of us however after I revealed my secret, I moved out of the family home, which was so painful. I had one thing left in that bag though I had desire to live, a desire to be myself, I educated myself and discovered this secret was not my choice, I discovered myself, I accepted who I was/am, and I learned to love the person who I have become. This has enabled me to genuinely love others, no façade, no act. My wonderful inspirational children stand beside me now, as they did when I acquired my degree. I have a great relationship with them and it is incredible, life is so colourful, it is real.
I returned to London in 2013 to speak at the launch of Mind Yourself’s LGBT group, I was asked by the person who answered my call when I was so close to suicide, ironically and incredibly she worked for Mind Yourself. What a moment speaking in the Irish Embassy in London, the place where I got my first Irish passport in 1988, however this time I had in my handbag my current Irish passport which had what was my secret for many years. Yes this time my passport had the correct gender, I was in fact identified at birth as male, raised as male conformed to my parents expectations and societies expectations as male but I never was male, I never felt male. I was born Transgender, I am now a Woman, I don’t win any prizes for it, I just am what I am and what I always was, no more façade.