What I am about to write I will apologise in advance to Josie our daughter for referring to her with her previous name and male pronouns. I am telling the story as it was in our belief at the time and I don’t wish to cause her or anyone reading this any offense.)
In July 2015 our lives changed beyond recognition in one single second!
We were on a family holiday in a caravan. We had just had a meal together my husband, my son Jacob aged 21 and younger daughter Ella and I.
I felt happy and relaxed. We had been looking forward to a week away all together. We couldn’t afford foreign holidays but being together was precious to me and it may be the last time we were able to have our eldest child Jacob with us.
After our meal my husband took my daughter back to the caravan while I finished my desert. Jacob stayed with me.
Jacob is at university, he has Aspergers and we are so proud of how he had grown and developed despite his difficulties. I hadn’t spent much time with him over the recent few months. He is finishing this summer and with any luck will then be working who knows where in the world and so it was very important to me that this holiday was a nice one with happy memories made. Little did I know as these thoughts passed through my mind what was afoot.
I casually asked how life was going for Jacob as we sat there together. I was so proud of the amazing young person he had become. Richard and I had recently talked and congratulated ourselves on getting one child to successful adulthood.
Jacob’s reply as to how things were for him changed everything in a split second as if I’d slammed at speed into a concrete wall. Everything around me became a blur and time seemed to halt. That single moment I will never forget for the rest of my life. You see Jacob said to me in an obviously nervous way “How would it be if I changed my name to Amy? It doesn’t have to be Amy” I laughed momentarily in confusion and then my eyes met his and that’s when time changed forever. I stopped laughing and confusion and terror filled my heart and every fibre of my body. What was my gorgeous 21 year old 6ft tall handsome son telling me? In those few seconds the realisation hit that he wasn’t joking he was telling me that he is Transgender.
I’d heard of Transgender people and I’ve known of a couple on the outskirts of my life and I certainly know and have many gay people as friends but I didn’t truly understand.
I got into my wheelchair and we set off to the caravan. My mind was reeling. I blurted out several sentences and questions which made no sense to me saying them and Jacob suddenly stopped pushing me and came around in front of me. I made a huge mistake in my confused state by saying “But you are male!” I meant that Jacob’s body is male but Jacob heard me disbelieving him. (I must apologise here that I am using the male pronouns here but up until this point I had brought up or so I believed a son and at this time there was no way my brain could cope with the change yet.)
Jacob standing there in front of me was clearly angry at me and said “Do you want to push yourself back to the van?” I was confused by his anger and hurt because surely he could understand I was struggling. How could I have heard what I just had and get it all right.
We went back to the caravan and I was in a stunned daze. Nothing in the world, my world made sense just a few minutes after I had believed I knew where I was, where we were. The strange existence I suddenly found myself in was unexplainable. I was hovering with one foot in two different worlds not knowing which foot to move to join the other or even how to do so.
I couldn’t keep this from my husband Richard it was too big to bear alone. I couldn’t pretend all was as he believed about our child and our family. I had to be in the same world as him in order to know how to move from the frozen spot betwixt realities. It was as though I had traversed an alternative universe and I was lost.
I told Richard and watched his face probably similarly to how mine had been cross over from our known existence into the place I found myself in. If I could have softened the blow for him I would have done but I had no choice but to break his world. His face confused and desperately trying to make sense and hear what I was saying to him and react in that second to be the strong rock that he is. I cried, he held me his mind reeling as mine was as to what did this new reality mean?
We both spoke to Jacob, I told him I couldn’t hold it on my own and I think that was understood. I remember asking him if he couldn’t just be a feminine man? I asked if he was gay? I asked if he wanted to be a mother! The questions poured out from me amongst my tears of confusion and anguish. Jacob replied to each question and it was clear from his responses that he wasn’t joking with us as my poor mind and heart was still desperately hanging on to.
He was visibly shaking and I knew I had to somehow pull myself together and be who he needed me to be. I held him trying to be the mother I now wasn’t even sure I knew how to be. I was no longer the mother of a son and a daughter but in an instant a mother of two daughters. I didn’t know how to get my head around the fact that this was not the role I thought I’d had for 21 years.
I had no memories or photos of my daughter, my firstborn growing up. Everything felt wrong. Of course I know now that my child was always my child irrespective of what she wore on the outside. I hadn’t lost my child but in that moment everything just felt wrong.
We asked Jacob to speak to his sister. We were in a caravan with very thin walls and she had heard my tears and our talking. Ella reacted as many children do with a simple “Oh I’ll always love you, what’s for tea?” She traversed into our new world almost instantaneously. Ella is Autistic and has a progressive brain mobility condition and is younger than her chronological age in emotional and mental development.
How could we have not known that our child was struggling with something as huge as this since a young child. There had been absolutely no clues as to this growing up.
The next few weeks and months were beyond painful. The guilt of not knowing my child was so unhappy when I had done everything in my power to make life stable and secure and happy.
The reactions from family and some friends were painful and in some cases extremely heartless and damaging. I won’t discuss this but suffice to say the hurt we were struggling to cope with was increased tenfold by some people. Damage caused irreparably.
We are now 8 months down the line and we are learning to accept that we have a new daughter and that we never actually had a son.
We know now that Josie was never actually a boy. At 5 weeks of pregnancy the fetus’ body is flooded with the hormones to determine the sex of the baby. There occurs a genetic fault in Trans people where the brain doesn’t receive the same hormones as the body. Josie always knew she was female just as I know I’m female.
If I’d never seen my body I would know I’m female because my brain is female. Josie was always my daughter.
I am still struggling. I’m still feeling extreme guilt that I didn’t know this of my child. I thought my relationship with her was close and that I truly knew and understood her. I still can’t look at my photos of my precious Jacob because even though my child was always there she wasn’t how she should be.
I feel I’ve failed her so badly. I’ll never truly forgive myself.
I miss my Jacob so desperately, my heart aches for Jacob to walk through the door and put his arms around me as I lean on his chest towering above me my heart bursting with pride.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Josie with all my heart. I am even more proud of her for being brave enough to come out to us. I am learning to cope and accept that I have a 6ft tall beautiful daughter.
There is a long and at times very difficult journey ahead for Josie facing treatment and eventual surgery and all the physical and emotional anguish to cope with.
All Richard and I and dear Ella want is to be able to travel with Josie along the road ahead. I want to take her in my arms and shield her from as much of the pain and difficulty as I possibly can because I am a mum and whatever her age I will always be her mum.
I want to help her in any way that I can along the way. I want her to know we are here for her. I want her to know how proud we are and how much we love her. I love her until my heart aches.
The hardest part now is that despite how much I want to support her and be there for her I can only do that if she lets me.
What I can do unconditionally is to love her. Love her with all my heart.
I just hope and pray that Josie can forgive me for not seeing or hearing or understanding her pain. For not being the good mum I truly believed I was. I worked so hard to be a good mum but feel I got it so wrong. I can only hope that she can put her beautiful arms around me one day and not only tell me but feel that I am a good mum and that I did my absolute best. That’s all I can hope for now.
Josie, I love you so much my beautiful brave girl!