Thursday, 4 December 2014

18 Months - The Best of My Life

Eighteen months ago tonight I came out to myself as transgender, as a woman, in a way which left no possible room for denying the truth about who I am.  That night was the end of a process of finding space, of allowing myself to explore my thoughts and feelings with an honesty which had not been possible before.  On that night I stood in front of the mirror in a skirt and blouse, for the first time able to dress in such clothes without feeling great shame.  And I recognised myself for who I am.  I spent much time talking with myself as I stood at the mirror, and welcomed Clare into her existence - I already knew my name through dreams.  Until that night I could, had I so chosen, locked everything away again and gone back to the way things were, put the recent thoughts and experiments down to an aberration, a mistake.  After that night there was no possibility of going back.

That was the end of a process of experimenting with self-honesty but it set the course for the rest of my life.  Eighteen months on I look back and can say that it has been the best time of my life.  The best.

Here are just some of the things that have happened:

  • My mother died of cancer.
  • My father became seriously ill with dementia.  He's now in a care home having spent several months in hospital.  He broke one hip while in a different care home.  He broke the other hip while in the hospital.  And being hundreds of miles away I've been able to do nothing to help him and have had to leave everything to other family members.
  • My cherished Christian faith died, very painfully, over the course of a year.
  • We've had all the usual sort of family problems here - plus a few more.  But I don't talk of those online.
  • I have been sexually assaulted.  The police couldn't find the assailant.
  • I have received much verbal abuse in the street for dressing as I dress.  Thankfully that's pretty rare now but to being with it happened pretty much every time I left the house.
  • I've spent sixteen of the eighteen months waiting for medical treatment.  That treatment has only just begun.

Yes, plenty of horrible things have happened.  Most people would say that the year in which they basically lose both their parents, their faith, and undergo abuse and assault would be among the worst in their lives.  Circumstances have indeed been pretty poor in many respects.

So how can I say that the last eighteen months have been the best of my life?  How bad must the experience of my first forty years have been if so much can have happened and it still be my best time?

It's simple.  I have lived these months as myself, free.  I have learned to love myself.  I have learned that the truth of who I am does not to be utterly crushed, despised.  I have learned that I am not a thing of shame.

And I've remembered and healed a lot of my past.  All the clues and thoughts and acts that I'd suppressed for so long.  Many painful memories and many confusing memories.  They're still coming to light now.  Just this week I remembered things from my childhood.  Words said to me by my parents - who were of course doing their best but in the 1970s couldn't see past their little boy.  But words that led me further into Hell and the long attempt at self-annihilation.  Remembering them hurt.  A lot.  But now they can be left behind and peace can be found.  Some of that language may sound over dramatic.  I promise you that it isn't.

It's been the best eighteen months of my life.  And that brings my past into sharp relief.  I knew it was bad.  For thirty years even the best of days contained the shadow of depression, ever felt.  So many episodes of mental illness.  So many years of not knowing if I'd be alive by Christmas.  So many years in which others had to suffer through that uncertainty.  Looking at photographs from my life is hard as there are very few in which I cannot see signs of that shadow.  Even on the days of many smiles those photos display pain, if you know what to look for.  Comparing my present with my past shows me just how awful my inner life was for all those years.

There are a lot of challenges involved with being transgender.  But the chance to be who I really am outweighs pretty much any rubbish that life could throw my way.  Because, accepting myself and being Clare took away the cause of that shadow of depression

I've lost friends.  But I've gained more friends.  And my wife and child stand by me giving full support for me being who I truly am.  I am truly fortunate.
I've lost that faith.  But I've gained a better faith.  And have written much about that wild journey.
I've cried many tears in the difficulties.  Many more tears for my parents.  Many more tears as the past has come to light and been grieved for and healed.  But I've also learned the meaning of crying tears of joy.
I've suffered transphobic abuse.  But I've grown stronger through battling onwards regardless.  And I've been fortunate.  The abuse has only been verbal.  I know others who have been less fortunate.
I've been sexually assaulted.  There aren't many "buts" to that.  But it could have been a lot worse than it was.  Many women are sexually assaulted.  I don't want to belittle what happened to me but so many women have suffered far worse assaults, or repeated assaults, or rape.  I count myself fortunate.
I've experienced fear as I never felt it before.  But I've overcome that fear in walking into freedom.
I've lost my mother.  But that last year was precious, to be able to share just that short time with her, knowing she was proud of her daughter.
I've lost my father - though he is of course still living.  I must admit that the silver lining is harder to find when I think of him and the sadness we all have for everything that his illness has brought to him.
I've remembered much pain from my past.  But I've been able to clean those events and words, repair wounds, and leave them behind so the future can be better.
I've waited so long for treatment - for the physical help in being who I am, having transitioned mentally and socially last year.  But the treatment has begun, just about.  I'm now on the lowest dose of oestrogen and waiting for my next appointment which should lead to increased hormonal treatment.  Waiting impatiently - as every timeline I've been given in the last eighteen months turned out to be a false expectation.  That next appointment, from what I was told, should have been this week.  It will be next year.

I know who I am.  And I accept who I am, embrace myself in love.  That in turn enables me better to receive love from others and to show love too.  The changes are immense.  I find myself doing things, frequently, that the old me wouldn't have done.  I'd either not have conceived of being able to do them or felt great shame that I couldn't do them.

I know that there is still quite a way to go.  The healing is not complete.  And without too much trouble I could make a long list of things I don't do but would be better for doing.  And a list of things I do and say that would be better left undone or unsaid.  A long way to go but the difference between now and then is to me nothing short of a miracle.

Yes.  The past year and a half has been full of the most difficult things I've ever faced.  Full of pain.  Full of challenge.

Yes.  Those months have also been the very best of my life so far.  The very best.  By a very, very long way.  Simply because they have been lived free.


  1. Beautifully put Clare. Your Mother was extremely proud of you. I for one was pleased to meet a beautiful lady with a lovely smile in August. Such a different person from the one I knew from photos who was always always looking so sad/depressed with an obvious demon on their shoulder.

    You have been on a huge learning curve, but you have come through it. Now it is onwards and upwards, and I look forward to the opportunity to meet that happy Clare again, perhaps one day in the future when you are down this way.

    In the meantime love and hugs to you and your family and wishing you a very Happy Christmas. May the New Year bring you more happiness and fulfill all your hopes and dreams.

    Mags xx

  2. What a lovely post, Clare. The world may continue to throw its problems at you, but now you have the strength, the confidence and the faith to rise above them.

    I'm not in the least surprised that verbal abuse is now rare. I only spent a few hours with you last month but what I saw - in looks, mannerisms and speech - was 100% woman.

    May love and blessings be yours, and your wonderfully family's, as you begin a new year together.

  3. I love the honesty of your post Clare. So many things in life can be hard for us to deal with and it is only the strong who can deal with it all. You are one of the strong. You have overcome so many things as we can see. I hope you can look to the future and know it can only get better. It will.
    'My cherished Christian faith died, very painfully, over the course of a year'.......I certainly hope you will regain that faith. The Lord is patient with us. He is still there, just reach out.

    Love Shirley Anne x

  4. Thanks to everyone for comments. There are still many challenges - that's just a normal life - but facing them in freedom makes all the difference.

    As for that faith, much to my shock and amazement this happened a few weeks ago:

  5. I see you didn't lose your faith Clare you found it for the first time. I have to say I was feeling sad after reading the post above for I thought you had come to believe and now you didn't. I am so happy that wasn't true. You obviously weren't ready the first time round. The question arises in my mind, 'Is it the name of the person who is being baptised or the person themselves'? God knows who we are. He only looks at the heart, not on the outward appearance or even the name. The MCC sounds like a wonderful fellowship of people. I wished there was one near to Southport! God bless

    Shirley Anne x

  6. One similar church might be which used to be part of MCC. I've never been there but have heard some good things. Then again it's 45 miles from Southport. A little closer, and the other direction, I really like the people at which I've visited on a couple of visits to the Fylde since coming out to myself. The first time was twelve days after I came out to myself. Walking in there was scary. Then again walking into MCC a week before that was very scary too.

    My demeanour must have been similar to others who have walked in since - lots of people feel that fear. But the welcome and freedom in both places was immense and just as for those other people fear turned to relaxation thanks to the people in the churches. Quite a few come in who have been deeply hurt in other churches for their sexuality or gender and their relief is almost written on their faces in ink when they find that they are welcome and won't be told that these things are evil or that they are evil for being LGB or T. (or QIA...) My own relief was massive. And to see it in others is always, always a joy.

    The second visit to Liberty Church was this summer so I was grumpy about faith at the time. Still really touched by the service, the sermon and their major openness to the Spirit and the love they have for one another and for the Divine. Hopefully I can get back there next year. Great set of people who are doing good things. I look forward to meeting them again and worshiping with them. Pretty special.

    Yep, Northern Lights MCC ( is great. A place of space, healing, family and hope. I know it's where I'm meant to be and I know there will be work for me there now that I'm not deliberately staying on the edge of things. I know, not that I can do some good, but that much good can be done if I willingly serve and offer the same kind of healing, embracing love & acceptance that I received. The next year will be very interesting in seeing how that starts to work out.

    I'm sure we bicker sometimes like anyone else and I'm sure we're far from perfect but there is such safety there for people to do all of the three things sometimes seen at the bottom of our logo. "Be Yourself, Find Meaning, Know God". For some people it's the only time in the week when they can be who they are without fear and that's an amazing thing to offer someone. Obviously I've found meaning now - I found it before but in the most unhealthy way, a meaning that bolstered the idea that I shouldn't be myself. And we'd cancel the services if we didn't want to know God better!

    Can you tell that I really love that church? I'm so glad that I never got round to leaving. Through the worst of the pain the people, the love kept me there. So did the vision of the church, the Mission Values. Even when I wasn't seeking any more than a non-theistic God in Being I could love those values.

    I firmly believe that God has put me there for the process of my own healing and for the good of others, however that works out - probably mainly by me getting out of the way and being obedient to whatever God says. I'm not meant to try to work out the future or make the plans and I know full well how easily I can muck things up completely with my own ideas. So the directions will have to come from God, Spirit, Source in whatever way El chooses to give them. It'll be revealed in time but it's obvious God hasn't put me there just to warm a pew or boost the congregation by one! And I know there will be plenty of surprises.

    But I'd better stop or I'll get rhapsodic about MCC for so long that this comment will end up longer than the original post. If that hasn't happened already.

    Love & light. Clare

  7. I think you are referring to the church in Manchester. It is about 45 miles away from me. I visited them three times in succession a few years ago but decided it wasn't for me for a couple of reasons, one of which was the distance. I won't say more than that.

    Shirley Anne x


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