Following on from Jemma’s Diary published earlier this week, we now have her mother’s view of the last few years. This is an incredibly powerful and emotional piece from the parent of a son who transitioned into a daughter. Read about how she first coped on finding out and how she has supported and been with Jemma throughout every stage of her journey.
A mother’s view of her transdaughter’s journey.
When Jemma first came out and told me of her gender issues I was just so shocked. Her father and I just did not see this coming.
Jemma has an older brother and sister and as a child had just played with a ball, never really interested in either boys’ or girls’ toys. Sport has always been her main interest…so no clues there. She had never been happy at school but enjoyed life at home with the family. Although in her early twenties, as she retreated more and more to a lonely existence in her room at home, rarely venturing out, other than to go to work, both her father and I felt something was most definitely wrong…but we had no inclination as to what was to come.
It was my mother’s death in 2006 which triggered something in Jemma and enabled her to finally pluck up the courage to tell me. Jemma had been extremely close to her Nan, particularly as my mother had lived with us for the last five years of her life.
I was stunned; Jemma was using words which I didn’t understand. She explained some of them to me and I tried to help her there and then by finding some of my clothes for her until we could address this later. Thinking back she did say to me on that very first night, ‘I want to live as a girl, for a year’. Baring in mind she had just come out to me as a transvestite.
I was speechless and worried about what family, friends and neighbours might say. My one greatest sadness, even now, is that Jemma thought that we might ‘throw her out’, when she first told me. I was so upset that she didn’t know, hadn’t realised just how much we all loved her and didn’t care who or what she was. I had thought that we were such a close knit family but obviously Jemma felt uncertain of our response. Having watched so many transpeople on American television and over the Internet for years her vision of reality, here in our world, had been clouded and she assumed, wrongly that we, her family, our neighbours, friends and her work colleagues would treat her like so many transpeople have been treated rather than we all just wanting to help her in the situation in which she found herself.
As a family, my husband and I have shed many tears over Jemma’s situation, not for ourselves but for what the future was to hold for her. Just as most parents, we wanted her to live a happy and fulfilled life like her brother and sister. Now, this was in jeopardy, we could not visualise a future for her. Her brother, sister, their partners and their children all accepted her coming out, they were surprised but wanted her to be happy and to be herself. Our grandchildren all took it in their stride with total acceptance.
It appears to be adults who have all of the difficulties in accepting other human beings who are different for one reason or another. We would all do well to learn some tolerance and be non-judgmental…and to heed the old saying, ”You need to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes before criticising them”.
Thankfully now society here in England has moved on even in a relatively short space of time, the last 5 – 10 years and we are more accepting of ‘difference’…whatever that difference might be.
One of the first things Jemma said to me on that first evening was that she was the same person inside. That it was only the outer cover that was changing to the rest of the world. This helped me to try and understand how it was for her and in some ways, to feel that she was still that same person we had always known and loved, was comforting.
Jemma has struggled to come to terms with being transgendered even contemplating suicide in her late teens. She has been full of anguish for most of her life and I didn’t know. Thankfully, following her surgeries and seeing therapists she has now fully come to terms with who she is and who she should have been all along.
We all tried to help Jemma, to be there for her, to try to understand what she was telling us, to try to understand what problems life was now going to throw at her. We were all very protective of her. It was a very difficult situation for my husband, being the male, the father he wanted to protect all of us but here was a situation in which he couldn’t protect Jemma from the life she was going to have to lead.
My husband and I also found it very hard when people would ask what family we have and we used to reply, ‘Two sons and a daughter’ but now we were having to say, ‘ A son and two daughters’ and we would be upset by this and I really don’t know why it affected us so much, other than it was possibly the attitude of society in general. This in turn, was hard for Jemma because the last thing she wanted was to hurt us both and yet she knew that this was exactly what was happening.
I have to say that we are now fine when asked. Time is a great healer.
However, we have struggled over the years to come to terms with what has befallen our youngest child and we have taken professional help, both of us. Consciously we thought we were accepting of the situation and all it brought but we learnt that unconsciously we were not. We learnt that we needed to ‘let our son go’. We both felt that this was impossible; nor did we want to, even with our ‘new’ daughter in front of us. However, we learnt that we needed to let him go…for Jemma…she could not move forward…until we did.
Jemma and I have spent hundreds of hours over the past 11 years just talking and talking, to help her try and sort out her own mind. I feel that she had created this person, this male, who she thought we all wanted to have in our family, who her colleagues wanted….so she became this person that we all grew to love as we all thought that is who she was. In so doing she created a double life, putting on a ‘mask’, almost a false identity both at home and at work and outside. In so doing she totally confused herself and didn’t allow the young woman, who she truly was to emerge, through fear of being found out. I found it very hard to ‘read’ her face and would always need to ask her how she felt and the answer was always quite different to what I could see in her face, in her eyes to what her whole demeanour was saying to me.
As a mother I do feel sad, very sad that I have ‘lost’ the son whom I adored and I am also very sad that the daughter I now have was not able to be the little girl who I could have enjoyed as a child and growing up into an adult. However, I am fortunate in that I do have a son and daughter and so have been able to enjoy both of them as children and as adults…other parents may not be so fortunate if they have only sons or only daughters.
I content myself that the ‘son’ I had is “inside” Jemma, part of her and I have to say that I do find it hard to talk about our early life as a family as I can only refer to Jemma by her birth name. This is difficult for Jemma but I find it very difficult to refer to her as ‘Jemma’ when photos are of a small boy.
As time passes it now feels as if Jemma’s early life was that of another person, so hopefully in the future our memories will be of the ‘other’ member of the family.
When Jemma changed her name and started to live full time as a female we decided to keep her male clothes and male possessions for six months…just in case she changed her mind. This was extended to a year and then after that time, it appeared to be the right time and she gave them all away.
I have accompanied Jemma to every appointment she has needed, for companionship and initially for protection, too. Jemma feared the outside world, feared violence towards her. She still does but gradually I am beginning to help her to change her thoughts more to those of any woman, whereby we would not put ourselves in a vulnerable position and we are always aware of where we are and who is about. I hope she will not live her life in the future through fear.
I have to applaud Jemma, she has shown tremendous strength of character and courage to go to work on her own, without anyone to travel with or specifically to talk to whilst going through her transition.
I have always fully supported all of her decisions…and still do.
Jemma decided that her first operation should be to feminise her face to help her to look more female. I was very concerned that she wouldn’t look like she had, like I was use to and that I wouldn’t recognise her but in actual fact I need not have worried as once the bruising and swelling had gone down she looked just like a female version of her former self…she was and still is very pretty. Interestingly, before the operation, her male face looked like my husband’s side of the family and after the operation, she now resembles my side of the family, I can see looks of myself when I was younger.
After this facial surgery, I felt less need to protect her when we were out…I sensed that people were now looking at her less and less. All in all this had been a huge success, I cannot stress this enough.
Jemma was so right to have the operations in the order in which she did because her face is what people, work colleagues, friends etc. see…not what is under her clothes. It was lovely to see her as she felt she should have been from the beginning.
Her breast surgery came next and was the easiest one to recover from. I could see just how delighted she was with her new shape from her own body…no longer needing false breasts or padded bras.
She was now well on the way to fulfilling the dream of having a body which was right for her, for who she really was.
As she recovered she started to prepare for GCS, travelling up to London every few weeks for lazer hair removal/electrolysis. During these journeys we had many, many deep conversations as to where Jemma was with everything, how she was feeling mentally and whether she was absolutely certain that this was the way for her to go and whether she wanted to continue with the operation…saying that she could always change her mind…but she was always 100% certain that this was the right way for her.
As the operation approached Jemma was given a list of things to do; I helped here by taking over times etc and what was to be done when. Jemma seemed so wrapped up in what was to come.
As Jemma was very concerned about being in hospital for 8 days with total bed rest for the majority of the stay then I decided to stay up in London so that I could visit all of the time.
However I need not have worried as the staff were all so kind and caring; they were in and out constantly, stopping to talk to Jemma should she want to chat.
Had I not been able to stay and visit so much then Jemma would have been just fine with all of the staff at Weymouth Street Hospital.
Since the operation she has been so happy. There have been a few incidents where people have referred to her as ‘he’ at work and Jemma has been quite annoyed that she has gone through all of these operations and people still refer to her as ‘he’. Whereas my take is that these people probably feel so comfortable in Jemma’s company that they forget and slip up, after all most have known Jemma for many years as a male…yet only 2 ½ years as the young lady that she has become.
Jemma is blossoming into a very beautiful young woman and with her mental health improving; her hair has started to grow back. The one thing that she cannot wait to do is to go swimming, with her new beautiful body…and her own hair. Such a simple desire.
We have spent hours and hours talking through how Jemma is feeling/coping with her own perception of the people she comes into contact with and life is improving for her as the weeks and months go by.
Jemma has learnt over the years to mask her true feelings and it has been hard to read how she feels. Now since the operation when I ask her how she is feeling inside, at last the look on her face and her feelings inside are mirroring each other, which is wonderful.
I may have a ‘blinkered’ vision of Jemma and her future life . I do try to look at the way she is viewing her life moving forward along with the potential problems that she feels she may encounter. I am however, full of hope for her.
Mr Inglefield is a genius an absolute genius, what he has been able to achieve in her Gender Confirmation Surgery, with so little ‘material’ is quite incredible. Jemma’s body is now that of a ‘real’ girl. She looks as she should have been all along.
Jemma is a beautiful person on the inside and Mr Inglefield has made her just so beautiful on the outside. He has sculptured a most beautiful, perfect female form/body.
We will all be forever in his debt for the unquestionable help he has given to Jemma. The kindness and compassion he has shown towards her and to me and my husband, too.
Through his expertise Jemma has everything she needs with which she can move forward and begin to experience all that this life offers…just like any other young woman.
Thank you so much Mr Inglefield.