Now that I’ve made my ebook “Who Cares? Life for an Irish Transgender Teen” free to the public (you can download the full thing here), I’ve decided to publish the chapters here on my website. Below is a chapter from this book which was published in April 2016.
I feel like this chapter might offend many people and that really isn’t my intention. When I speak about the countryside please keep in mind that I saw a very ugly side to the place that I lived during my time there. I’m not trying to make a generalisation about country people or country towns. I encountered many people that I adored and continue to adore during my time in Wexford. I still enjoy my visits home but in this chapter I am going to be honest about my past experiences. I can’t change the fact that I didn’t fit in in the countryside. I can’t change the fact that I had some bad experiences and have been left a little traumatised from living there. I can only be honest about all of it and say that none of it matters to me anymore. We move on from things like that but that doesn’t make any of it right.
When I was seven we moved from Dublin to Wexford. Up until then we’d owned a caravan down there. We spent our Summers on the beach generally, enjoying the sunny South East. When Emma was approaching the start of secondary school my parents decided to move there full time, so we packed up our house on a busy road in Dublin and moved to a massive house in Wexford that looked as if it had been dropped from a height in the middle of a field. Instead of traffic and people we were surrounded by cows and cow poo. Our house was extremely private, surrounded by a large green field and we couldn’t see any other houses from our garden. We didn’t know anyone else within a close proximity to us. Suddenly we had room to get a large trampoline and some outdoor cats.
I loved every second of this. I thought that I would never see a poor day again when we moved into this house. I was given a huge room with a walk-in wardrobe and I could choose to paint it any colour I wanted! I chose blue. My parents gave each of us a massive comfortable double bed that I still adore to this day. I spent my days exploring the garden and my nights exploring the house. I started attending a small, mixed primary school in our nearest village and I made many friends there. People liked me and I liked them. Suddenly I was in a class with girls and I could stop feeling slightly uncomfortable like I had in my last boys school. I spent many happy years at this school and had a relatively normal primary school experience. The teachers let me sing and act in our numerous shows and ceremonies and I did well academically. In 6th class I told everyone that I was gay. No one really seemed to care and neither did I. I didn’t wear it as a badge of honour or anything. It was just a fact that we all got on with.
As I left primary school to attend Coláiste an Átha, a small secondary school in the seaside town of Kilmuckridge, I began to notice some odd things. Older people stopped finding me cute and refreshing. They seemed to want me to suddenly act masculine as if I had been putting on a show all of this time for their benefit. I was never an extremely camp and showy child although I’ve probably given that impression up until now. Rather, I was just feminine and loud. I was an intelligent, intuitive child and I could feel many adults’ discomfort when I spoke or acted in a certain way. This was confusing for me although I didn’t think of it that often. I didn’t try to change anything about myself thank god but just came to the conclusion that whatever it was, it was their problem. This was the correct attitude and continues to be correct.
I started secondary school and everyone in my year was great. If anyone had an issue with me or my personality, they didn’t express it to me. I was popular and busy and fun. But over time certain people in older years began to harass me. They would have made my life hell, had I not recognised how pathetic they were. I got accosted and harassed while walking down the corridors, especially alone. I was spit on once or twice and had countless disgusting things said to me. This only triggered that intense determination that I’ve previously mentioned. I held my head higher to spite them. I smiled patronisingly when they tried to bother me. I would not give in to terrorists. I continued to walk alone if I needed to, never begging my friends to accompany me out of fear or anxiety. I walked every inch of the school during lunchtime, never intimidated by assholes.
It was hard for me to admit that I was being bullied. I saw my tormentors as very inferior and to admit such a thing felt like admitting that they had won somehow. The thing that I noticed most was how broken these people were. They each had something that society labelled as a disadvantage. They were fat, or had an unfortunate set of teeth, they smelled, one of them was even gay (he eventually came out to me and I couldn’t have cared less). They were unhappy in themselves which is one of the worst things that a person could be and so they targeted me, a clearly secure and confident person who in their eyes shouldn’t have been. But of course their harassment had an effect on me. Some people would be of the belief that if I didn’t like this discrimination, I should have tried to fit in more. You’re wrong. You’re so, so wrong. The main comfort to me at this time was that I liked myself, a lot. If I had tried to change, this wouldn’t have been the case.
This harassment had a dark effect on me which I’ve mentioned, probably because I didn’t confide in anyone about it. When I began to attend counselling, I realised that I needed to put a stop to it. I went to the school officials each time and they handled it for me perfectly. I realised that I didn’t need to carry that burden on my shoulders and had it sorted. It didn’t stop for good but with the combined efforts of myself and the school it was stopped. This wasn’t a particularly easy thing for me to do but I did it anyway. I never regretted doing it. My advice to you if you’re being bullied is to tell someone. I know that everyone says that but just tell someone. If you don’t think they’ll listen tell someone who will. We need to abolish this opinion that bullying is the victim’s fault too. We are quite good at blaming the bully but we all can’t seem to help but wonder what’s wrong with the victim in order for them to get bullied. Repeat after me people. There is nothing wrong with most individuals, the problem is with society! Adopt this mantra and suddenly you start to be able to accept many people that you may have struggled to understand before.
School wasn’t the only place that I encountered the ugly side of human nature. I grew my hair out and began to carry handbags. I wore bright colours and interesting outfits. This began to attract a lot of unwanted attention, and yes this attention was unwanted. It’s ridiculous to suggest that I was doing any of this for attention. I was a child who wanted to express himself and I did. Who cares? I would walk down the street and be screamed at. Called numerous names. I heard some of the most idiotic insults and cat-calls during this time. I left the house wearing earphones most of the time so that I wouldn’t have to hear these disgusting remarks. I became accustomed to stares and even pointing at times. So much so that to this day I have no problem feeling someone’s gaze look me up and down. I began to feel as if I was under the microscope at all times. This wasn’t me being conceited, I genuinely couldn’t look up without seeing numerous gazes staring blatantly at me. Campaigning for the marriage equality referendum then began which actually had nothing to do with me. Not only was I seventeen and not thinking about marriage at all but I was also trans. I experienced the strangest things during this time. People began to shout “vote yes” or “vote no” at me. This honestly did used to make me laugh. It was nothing short of ridiculous.
If I was a sensitive person, I would have hidden in my house. I would have not left the house alone or maybe even at all. The voice in my head would try and convince me that they were staring at me because I was a freak but I never listened to him. Instead I began to play a little game with myself. When I caught someone staring at me, I’d find a positive reason for them to be doing so. I’d tell myself that “she is admiring your hair,” or “he thinks you have nice skin.” Instead of harsh gazes burning into my flesh, they began to feel warm. I enjoyed feeling eyes on me. It didn’t matter what they were thinking, I told myself that it was good. In my last year of school, as I’ve mentioned, I had an extremely difficult heartbreak. I found myself leaving the house and going to get coffee at the local Costa, just to feel these gazes while I wrote in my journal. I still don’t completely understand the desire that then compelled me to do this. Maybe it was attention-seeking. It made me feel good so I did it. I wasn’t harming anyone. Who cares?
By the end of secondary school, I was rather sick of the country. I sat in my graduation ready to leave. I didn’t dislike school, I rather enjoyed it in fact, but by the end I was so done. Wexford had served me well but I knew that I was done with it. Wherever life was leading me I knew that it was straight out of there. I keep in touch with those who I want to and there are loads more that I’d love to still keep in touch with. But the truth is that you can’t keep everyone happy. I miss people sometimes, but change is something that we must embrace in life. I learned that loss is inevitable a long time ago. I can appreciate the country. There are many beautiful things to be found there. I can envision myself holidaying there often in the future and who knows? When I’m older I might go to live there again. But for now and for the next while, my life needs to be in the city.
Read more Who Cares? here.
Buy Who Cares? here.
Listen to my interview with Catherine Devane about rural Ireland below: