Posts tagged ‘death’

04/09/2012

How the Famous Five, and other influences, made me a tomboy.

It’s weird how some of the most unexpected things can catch you out. I woke up this morning after half remembering a television series from my childhood called The Owl Service. I remembered it as a really good (sort of) ghost story. Well anyway, I went online to find out about it, and actually confirm that it had existed, my having a long history of mixing up elements of lots of different shows, and thus remembering TV shows that never actually existed. Though they would have been awesome if they had.

Anyway I found it, and yay, delight ensued. I then decided to find out some of the background history of some of my favourite children’s drama programs from the 70’s, and 80’s. This of course led me to The Famous Five. And I don’t mean the sort of alright version from the 90’s.

The version released in the late 70’s is a show that has some meaning to me. It was the first time I ever saw someone with my surname acting in anything. Michelle Gallagher. Who played my very unsurprisingly favourite character from the books, George. Anyway it kind of resonated with my childhood mind, that this tomboy was played by a girl with the same name as me. It gave me this odd sense of wonder which has never quite left me, were we related in some distant way? Was she like her character in reality, or a lil girlie girl. All the usual questions that pass through a child’s mind.

So I did a little research. Wanting to find out how the show came to be made, and what the actors all did after the show. The story of the show was interesting enough I suppose, though hardly fascinating. It was produced by a studio who wanted to make money so that they could pay their staff, and make more shows. But it did interest me that the girl who played Anne went on to be a primary school, religious education teacher of all things. Then when I dug a little deeper I discovered that Michelle Gallagher was dead. That she had in fact taken her own life in 2000.

So pick out the tomboy? (Image via http://www.kidzcoolit.com)

That information just pulled me up short. I mean sure she must have been 13 or 14 in 1978 when the show was made. (That year being another reason the show resonated with me throughout my childhood, after all it’s the year I was born in.) But that would have only put her in her 30’s when she died.

But what threw me most, is that another of the “girls” who helped to shape my mind, and my view of myself is gone from the world…

George of Famous Five fame, Michelle Gallagher: I learned from her that it was okay to want to grow up to be a smart, tomboy. (bear in mind I was maybe 6 seeing that show the first time, 14 was grown up. Besides at 6 I was really unaware of the other difference between the apparently male, and women of the world.)

Sara Jane Smith, the second best of The Doctor’s companions, Elizabeth Sladen: She showed me that you know what? It’s okay to look damn good, while being smarter than the boys, a tomboy, and to generally be kicking ass good and hard while doing it. All without breaking to many nails.

One of my other two great television influences. (Image via dpaddamsels.com)

As for the third? Well as far as I know she is still very much alive and kicking. As for who she is, let’s just say that both her characters, and her reality are equally admirable and leave it at that.

So back to those who are gone. Oh the characters they made still live on in DVD’s, on the internet, and in occasional reruns. But the women who made those characters come to life, who by mixing parts of themselves with parts of people who never existed made the unreal real, at least to my young unformed mind, are gone from the world. (What I actually believe is far more complex but this is neither the time, nor the place for that particular discussion.)

That they’ve left us saddens me. Not because I knew them, but because I always wish anyone who has knowingly, or unknowingly helped me to become who I am only the best. I wish them to be happy, healthy, and to have the chance to help someone else. Many someone’s else. Still at least with actresses their bodies or work still live on, and may be able to help nudge some other lost lil transgirl on to a healthier path that doesn’t lead only to self-destruction.

And while entertaining people is a good legacy to have, maybe, just maybe even unknowingly helping even a handful of girls like me to achieve their potential is a slightly better fate?

 

 

 

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14/02/2012

Whitney Houston’s dead…Why the hell would I care?

So am I the only one who simply couldn’t give a fuck about Whitney Houston dying? Fine, she was an okay singer. But I really couldn’t give a flying fuck about her either her life, or death.

Since she died I’ve read so many Facebook comments to the tune of “It’s so sad her life ended up that way…” Yeah it’s so sad that she had a huge music, and acting career. It’s terrible that in doing so she lived what is undoubtedly the greatest dream held by millions of people around the world. It’s just awful that she was a multi-millionaire.

Now at this point someone reading this is rolling their eyes, and muttering under their breath “They mean the drugs, and the bad marriage nimrod.” Really? Did someone physically shove her face first into a pile of cocaine? I kind of doubt it. The bad marriage? Was she trapped in an abusive relationship by not having enough money to flee? Was she lacking in people she could call on to physically protect her, you know like bodyguards, hired with the millions of dollars…See where I’m going with this?

Here are the facts as I see them.

Everyday millions, probably hundreds of millions, of people live lives of quiet desperation. Lives filled with fear, filled with pain, filled with despair and hopelessness.

Everyday women with no resources to fall back on are beaten almost to death by the men (and yes sometimes the women) who they are supposed to be able to rely on the most. Their spouse.

Everyday those women despair at ever getting away from their torturous lives. Because dumb luck, stupid random chance has not bestowed upon them the means they need to be able to escape successfully.

Everyday uncountable numbers of people die of starvation, violence, disease, and neglect. They often enough die unremarked, perhaps even unnoticed.

But one rich American, who abused drugs by choice, who stayed with an abusive spouse when she could easily have just walked away dies, and the world cries.

This is not the death of a respected author who lived a normal life, then struggled for a decade with dementia before passing, all the while bringing joy to millions. Nor is it the death of an actress at a surprisingly young age, one who had only just really achieved her potential, due to a long battle with cancer. Nope this is the death of someone who had it all, and then threw it all away for some chemicals to make her brain fizz, and a man to make her ribs ache.

I guess that saying is really true, especially if the one death is someone with a global audience.

One death is a tragedy, one million is just a statistic.

So while her family has my sympathies for their loss, let’s not pretend the world has lost something extraordinary. The world lost a rich, and by some accounts a remarkably spoilt, self centered singer. That’s all.

29/11/2011

RIP Anne MacCaffrey.

As most of her fans surely know by now, Anne MacCaffrey passed away on the Monday of last week the 21st of November. As she is one of my favourite science fiction novelists of all time, as well as a literary heroine of mine I wanted to write something to mark her passing. The first book of hers I ever read was The White Dragon, the 3rd in a series. Within three chapters I was hooked, by the end of the book I had been in tears three separate times. That was Anne MacCaffrey’s strength as a writer. She had a way of reaching into your heart, and wrenching it to one side.

She was the summoner of fantastical dragons, and of powerful female characters you would aspire to be even the smallest bit like.  Whether that character was the driven, fearless Sassinak of the Planetary Pirates series, or the sensitive, Menolly of the Harper from the Pern saga, or any of the myriad of other incredible female characters, if you were a young girl you wanted to be one of them. That want sometimes even following into adulthood.

She was the mistress of intimate small-scale battles, which still managed to tell a much broader story.

And as anyone who has read either Dragonflight or DragonQuest can attest, she was the voice of romantic science fiction.

Her books where the reason I saved my lunch money to buy books. The reason I would skip school to go to my nearest city to scour the bookshops for new copies of her books at sale prices. The raw emotion of her books were the reason why while I shared a bedroom with my brother, I read in a different room. There is a good the reason I still keep tissue near me whenever I read anything she ever wrote.

Going into a bookshop will never be the same again, and while her son Todd appears to be an able heir to the story of Pern, it will never be the same for me. A Pern story without Anne’s heart and soul poured through out it is a hollow thing. But I am glad for the wonderful legacy she has left the world, and glad that I can still revisit her creations in the future.

01/10/2011

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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