The Blog

Waiting and Hoping Is Not Just About Football- It's About Life

The last couple of years have seen me lose my livelihood, be forced to leave my home, leave behind most of my friends and a lot of my extended family. You can say that it has been a challenge, and continues to be so.

Our lives have a habit of throwing up little moments that seem to neatly encapsulate all that is right or wrong for us at any given time. More often than not, they pass unnoticed as we get on with the daily grind.

There was one such moment for me the other day. We were watching Aston Villa, the team I have followed since...well, there was never a "before Villa" epoch. It was a joyous Sunday as we cast off the shackles of a miserable season, to reach the FA Cup final- a trophy we have not managed to win in my lifetime- yet.

I was with the one person who has been with me through the tumult of the last couple of years. She has been there always, sometimes sad, even angry- but never questioning or doubting, and never, for one moment, lacking love or support. I could not have wanted to share those moments of beer-fuelled ecstasy with anyone else.

Except that there were others who should have been there.

The last couple of years have seen me lose my livelihood, be forced to leave my home, leave behind most of my friends and a lot of my extended family. You can say that it has been a challenge, and continues to be so. We are coming through it, day by day- and, like so many others, it was not by choice that our lives were cast into such disarray, it was because I had to finally admit to myself that I could not continue to live my life as the person the rest of the world saw.

That moment though, those 90, tension- filled minutes, was ultimately a trigger for an outpouring of emotion; all that had gone before, every tear I have shed passed through my mind as I could not help thinking that this was a time that I needed the other people I love most in the world with me.

Ordinarily, they would have been. Typically, I would have been the organiser, the provider of tickets, the maker of the sandwiches, the appointed driver. You see, I was Dad. I am not Dad now; I am still a loving parent, I don't know exactly what to call myself, and neither do they. Hugely respectful though they are, a credit, you might say, to their upbringing, they don't yet quite know how to deal with me- and how the hell could they? It's not every day that Dad, football-loving, rugby- playing Dad, turns out to be not like that at all. Except I was exactly like that. All that was me, just that I was wearing the wrong body. Because of this, the constant thought that I have driven a wedge, maybe even a lasting one, between our relationship, is sometimes too much to bear.

It takes time though, I keep saying to myself. Of course it does. Young men are also notoriously, uncommunicative centres of their own respective universes, so I should not take anything too personally should I? Of course not. I generally don't, except for moments like on Sunday, where the pain of their absence outweighed the general happiness of the occasion.

We are able to cope with adversity. The past couple of years are behind me now. What makes things continually hard is the thought that their love for me has changed, even if mine for them has not budged.

I have tried desperately over the past couple of years, to articulate how I feel and to try to find an outlet and an audience. I need an audience, not because of ego, but because I want to share what it's like to be me, in the hope that it might increase understanding- and I don't just mean theirs. After all, I often wonder why me? Why was I one of those people who had the damned inconvenience to have a gaping incongruence between brain and body?

I am getting depressingly used to being a non-person, starting again from the bottom of the employment pile, and dealing with the fact that people regarded me more importantly when I was, outwardly, someone I was not. That is particularly difficult to deal with; I find myself wondering what is so wrong with the "new" me that was equally right with the earlier model. I am starting to think of myself as a disastrous British Leyland car from the 1970s where so-called improvements included a square steering wheel and hideous brown paintwork that would have done credit to a Maze prison dirty protest. The difference is that, inside, I know that I am a 100% better model- now that I am finally and permanently, real.

Still, I waited a long time to finally be myself; I am still waiting for Villa to win the FA Cup, as I am to enjoy a normal relationship with the people I love most. All good things come in time though- don't they?