Archive for October 1st, 2011


Grief and the transwoman.

On Wednesday morning my grandfather died. He was in his mid-80’s and was in his third year after a diagnosis of vascular dementia. And I hadn’t seen him since I was 16. And now I never will. I loved my grandfather, I thought of him most days. Wondered how he and my grandmother were doing. Wondered if they were happy, and well. Wondered if he had a new calf being built up for sale. Wondered if he’d gotten into any new fight with some random member of the family. But mostly I wondered if I was ever going to get to show him what I grew up into.

Some of you must be wondering how do you go from 16 to 33 without seeing a grandparent. Well it’s surprisingly easy if you have a dysfunctional family, and change gender. Here’s the story.

When I was 16 my uncle got married. It was a typical west of Ireland wedding, church, food, enough drink to lay out an entire marine corp. It was also the first time the wheels came visibly off the wagon of my parents marriage. My wonderful father (wonderful to be read in a tone of seething anger) spent the week we were up there cracking on to every younger woman he could find. He even went so far as to feel up one in the back seat of a car, while my mother sat in the front passenger seat chatting with one of my uncles. That was the first time I ever punched someone, I was so angry at him.

Anyway, something happened at the after’s of the wedding. I’ve never found out what, but my brother and I were sent back to the family home early. And the following day we all went home to Cork, with my father in the blackest mood I think I’ve ever seen anyone in. I assume he tried it on with he wrong girl and she…made issue of it.

This led to a coldness between my father and his parents. So that accounts for the first 10 years of their absence from my life.

Then in the same year I came out as transsexual, my parents split up for good. And my father refused to tell his parents either piece of news. He went as far as to threaten me with serious violence if I contacted them myself. Because and I quote “They’re old, they wouldn’t understand.”

So now I sit  here writing this seething at my father’s cowardice, his philandering, his lack of everything I find valuable in life. Honour, duty, dedication to family, honesty. Seething also at his brothers who warn me through him that I wasn’t to show my face in Mayo. Furious that I never got to see my granddad again before we lost him first to dementia and then finally to who knows what. Furious that I never got to see my nan again before a stroke robbed her of her memory of me in any form.

I never got to show them that I had managed to survive. That I had become a better person than even they had hoped I could have been. I never got to show them the novel I’ve written, the first person in my family for at least three generations to achieve something so profound. I never got to show them that I had grown into someone they could be proud of. And now I never will.

Some people say you choose to be gay, or transsexual. Would anyone ever choose to lose their family like this? To be cut off, even threatened to keep their silence, to keep away?

I always believed my grandparents were under-sold by their own children. I agree they might never have understood why, but I believe they would have accepted what I’ve become. And while I sit here crying for my granddad, I can’t help wondering what he would have said to me if he could have just once met his granddaughter, instead of the miserable the girl who was just pretending to be his grandson.

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