I honestly never thought I’d write about this anywhere but in the privacy of my own diary. It’s obvious from the title what the content of this blog will be and I know even before I’ve written anything substantial, that this could be seen as controversial and some people might not like what I have to say.
To those people I have to say, I really don’t care. This blog post is based on MY experiences and MY life and anything you can say to the contrary really doesn’t matter to me. I’m writing this because I feel as though I have harboured these feelings for too long and I feel as though people who have experienced similar things may benefit from what I have to say. So here we go.
Right from being a very young child I knew there was something different about my dad. It even feels weird to type that word as I honestly feel as though I never had a father, which I guess in a way I didn’t. Biologically, I WAS fathered but that’s where the similarities to any “normal” family stop.
You see, my dad was transgendered. And it changed the way I look at my whole world.
From now on in this blog I will refer to my “dad” as she, Mum or Emmie, as that’s who she was to me my entire life. I don’t have a recollection of ever calling her ‘Daddy,’ I actually vividly remember her asking me to not shout that word in public or call it in supermarkets; it made her uncomfortable. It was this discomfort that allowed her to let me choose her name. She wanted it to be something that we decided together. She picked my name, so I picked hers.
Emma Claire. A sweet name for the sweetest of people.
She was my Emmie. My guardian. My mum/dad hybrid. And let’s just say it led to not the most normal of childhoods for me.
Eventually, when I was four or five, it led to the break down of my parents’ marriage. It’s not something I blame either of my parents for; I understand how such a decision can lead to such huge differences and I feel as though if the same were ever to happen with my future husband, I would make the same decision as my birth mum did.
Circumstances were as such that I ended up living with Emmie while my little sister stayed with my birth mum. I was around seven years old when we moved to a different town so that I could be in the catchment area for a better high school. My sister stayed put. So it was just us two.
Me and my Emmie. She never hid anything from me. She never lied. She encouraged me to ask questions and she was happy to settle any confusion her situation brought to my young mind. In that way, I can only thank her for making me look at the world in a different way, to never judge anybody for who they are and how they choose to live. I cannot ever thank her enough for helping my mind love the quirks and unique nature of humanity. She taught me to love people for who they are, not who they pretend to be.
It was me and her against the world. I was with her when she started hormone therapy. I was there when she felt afraid of the stares she endured. I supported her always. Through all of the heartache, difficulties and surgeries. And likewise she was there for me. She helped me understand that she was still my dad... she was just my mum now too.
Despite the fluffy, happy times, there were also difficulties. Obviously, there was bullying from my peers; “Your dad’s a tranny,” is one slur I’ll never forget. I knew that wasn’t the case but it hurt that other people didn’t understand. Puberty was hard for me also as she didn’t know how to properly help me go through the changes that her body never had. I had to figure out periods, bras and boys all on my own. Friends helped, but they were just muddling through the same as I and my mum couldn’t quite understand.
I developed a loving, friendly supportive friend network who were all aware and adored Emmie as much as me, if not more. They accepted her for who she was and loved me for who she’d made me into. My teachers and school staff were aware of her and she was a very active part in my school life. Part of the PTA and a member of the board of governors, they accepted her and school became better. She owned who she was by this point, so how could I feel any different? I was proud of her for living the life she had always felt was natural for her and I fitted into it nicely. In fact, I attended the school that she herself had attended as a boy decades earlier and some of the teachers I had had taught her and welcomed the new her back with open arms.
I never worried about introducing boys I liked to her, if they didn’t accept her, they weren’t the type of people I wanted to have a relationship with. Closed minded individuals who cannot see that living this life made her a happier, more compassionate person, didn’t fit into our world. Luckily, none of the boys I have ever dated have ever expressed disgust or disdain for my Emmie. I feel so fortunate to have fallen for similar souls who can see that this made her happy and made me the person I am.
Despite the deep respect and love I will always feel for her, there will forever be a part of my mind that longs for the nuclear family dynamic that I experienced in my friends’ homes. I longed for a conventional mum and dad who played those roles where each had their own different impact on their child. I wished for a dad who I could rely on to interrogate the boys I brought to the house and tut at my skirt being too short before nights out. Similarly I wished for a mum who could teach me about periods and play with my hair. She was both to me but she was never a complete parental unit. I suppose you could say the same for all children of divorce but I feel as though my situation is even more unique than those and I both love and hate that fact.
Hate is probably too strong of a word. I never hated her or her decision. I knew that it was Emmie or suicide for her. So Emmie she was. Resentment is probably the best word for what I feel. I know that the day she decided to go through with her world altering change was the day my “dad” died.
Having said all of this, I know I didn’t have a deprived childhood. She gave me everything I asked for, emotionally and physically and the rest I figured out on my own. I had my granny too, who accepted Emmie, and although she had lost a son, she had also gained a daughter, which made them close. My granny helped me to deal with the confusing emotions I was feeling and understood that sometimes I just needed to cry and scream and say that it wasn’t fair. The day my granny died, we held each other for hours and sobbed. We’d lost the person who understood us and loved us unconditionally.
Unfortunately, my Emmie was also very poorly. She had many illnesses and was in and out of hospital from the time I was about 11. I got used to seeing her in a hospital bed; as such I hate the places as they bring all of those memories back. Stepping into a hospital is a source of great anxiety for me as I spent so much of my time in there wondering if she was going to come out or not. She was also in hospitals for the reasons that made her special. Her breast augmentation and ultimately her “bottom” surgery were two positive hospital stays for her as they contributed to make her the person she had always felt inside.
The operations she went through were hard fought for and there was once a time when it looked as though her final op was never going to happen. This scared me more than any time in my life. She was quickly admitted into hospital with another illness and the doctors had to take her medication away just in case she decided to end her life because she couldn’t be the woman she needed to be. Eventually she received a date for the surgery she desired. After years of waiting, she finally had a hope of feeling complete. Her exterior was finally going to match the way her brain had always told her she felt and we celebrated this fully. She even showed me. She was immensely proud that she finally had the body she felt she should have been born with and I knew I wasn’t going to lose her anymore. We both felt an immense relief and as though a dark cloud had passed and the sun was shining.
For the last six years, she was the happiest I have ever seen her. She had a partner. They met online. He was somebody who understood her: mind, body and soul. He loved me also, taking me in as the daughter he never had; we quickly became a family unit. He even relocated from Leicester to Holmfirth so that they could have a life together. We worked.
The day Emmie died, 1st January 2017, was the worst day of my life. I lost my mum and my dad in one fell swoop. It wasn’t fair. The night of New Year’s Day, I was surrounded by support. Paramedics, police, family friends, family and my long term boyfriend flocked to me to dry my tears but the one person I wanted more than anything was lying cold and not breathing on the bathroom floor. I apologise if that is a bit graphic but I can never forget just how cold and stiff my full-of-life mum/dad had been for 22 years of my life. It shattered my heart into tiny pieces.
She had been there for every significant event in my life, from starting school to my graduation, from starting my periods to the times I got drunk in a field with my friends. She knew every little detail of my life and to not have her there to share in my heartbreak, like when my granny died, was unbearable. I lost my major pillar of support and needed to rebuild.
I’m not going to talk anymore about the grief I felt, because if I’m honest, it destroyed me and I would like to write another blog post about this specifically. Losing one parent is hard enough but when you feel as though they are both wrapped up into one human body, losing that person is a type of heartache I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.
So here I am, a year on, and I feel strong enough to write about my Emmie. What she meant to me, how she shaped my life and made me into the person I am today.
I cannot thank her enough for giving me everything and allowing me to mature and become the person I am today. I cannot even imagine who I would be if I had had the nuclear family I so often longed for. To be honest, despite the mild resentment, I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
I will proudly tell my children about their Granny Emmie and what a brave soul she was. I know that her teachings and the way that she raised me will allow me to make my children as accepting of people as I am. It saddens me that they’ll never meet her and learn about how funny and caring and unique she was.
I only hope I can do her justice.
I love you Emmie. Always will.