Monthly Archives: November 2014

Suicide was such a friend of mine…

[Editors note: Part of wellness and recovery is about talking about our pain, and people listening with compassion and empathy, we’re aware that this isn’t a particularly positive experiene, but the process of writing things down is healing and cathartic.  Sometimes things are difficult and life is hard.  Suicidal ideation is surprisingly common, but it’s also a sign that you need help.  The Samaritans 08457 90 90 90 and Mind 0300 123 3393 (open 9am to 6pm, Monday to Friday (except for bank holidays).) can help you to make sense of things if you’re feeling suicidal, low, or distressed about things.]

It’s funny how even these days I always find myself referring back to this moment of my life time and time again, that moment when everything in my life seemed so lost and completely out of reach. The silent tears that I cried that no one could listen to, or even if it were possible that silent tears could make a sound, would they still listen?

The story starts In my teenage years, I never had the best that the world had to offer me, as a child my parents went through a tough time when I was 11, at school I was still painfully shy to the point I was taunted and bullied almost every day, and later when I was about 13 my parents finally decided to eventually split. Torn between the two I never knew which way to go, in the end I chose my dad. I guess seeing him there at my nans house, watching a grown man reduced to nothing but a quivering wreck and a cascade of tears as I heard him trying to tell my nan and uncle that my mom had said she was leaving him really brought reality home to me. I really felt for him that day, in all my short years I’d never seen this big strong man I called my dad, cry a single tear.

The following year was another life lesson for me, Bob Geldof was in the news raising awareness for the famine that raged through Ethiopia, Band Aid, and of course Live Aid ensued, the rest we know as history. I was sickened by all of this but realized there was very little I could do but be sympathetic towards it all, my dad felt the same way too as we watched it together on the news.

Sadly my dad died the following summer, I was only 15, and at 43 he was only a year younger than I am myself right now. It was me who found him, stone cold and face down, he’d died in his sleep. From that moment my world came crashing down, I was distraught beyond belief but I’d also become destroyed by it all too. Life seemed so pointless at that moment, I was forced to stay with my older brother, who just like the kids at school, used to bully me and push me around, we’d fight a lot too. I never spent much time in school after that moment, and of course this resulted in me not taking any exams and failing. My art teacher caught up with me though and constantly bestowed his faith in me that I could do this, needless to say through his efforts I passed my art exam. The only thing that really got me through these tough times were remembering the troubles in Ethiopia, which of course by now were still continuing. I realized that as tough as it might be for me right now, there are children out there in the world that are far worst off than I was. Maybe in relation to that, I was still very much, one of the lucky ones.

I’ll jump a few years now, if not to ease the burden of reading a story that has now extended to over a 2000 words.

I was 19, I’d lost my flat through not being able to find sufficient work to pay the bills, I guess leaving school without exams makes finding quality jobs a real tough one. I’d already hiked to the bright lights of the big city, and back again. I guess I was never going to find my fortune there was I? I’d also had a brush with the law too, quite a few times really and this resulted in a short spell in prison for my sins. I was really down and so deeply depressed with nowhere to turn, or even anyone I could really talk to. It seems that even over the four years that had passed since my dad had died I was still grieving for him in a real big way, The scars that still exist on my wrists to this day are a testament to the deep depression I’d gone through in my late teens, a reminder of how dark those days were for me. Later after the visual scars had finally healed, I turned to my mom as a means to find somewhere to stay, but she turned me away, not just once but quite a few times. I remember on two separate occasions I had to sleep under a tree in a park as I had nowhere else to go, on a clear cold night you could look up and see the stars shining really brightly. I went for help from other close family members too but they all told me the same story, no room at the Inn. I was so desperate for help but also so depressed from it all too and there seemed very little point in continuing. I took the small amount of cash I had with me and walked into a shop to buy paracetamol, they came in packs of 25 back then. I went to another shop to buy some too, and then another but this time I also bought myself a can of coke. I got on the bus to go to my moms, I sat on the top deck throughout the long journey, I was on my own up there as it was late at night. A few at a time I took those tablets and washed it down with coke, the first packet was empty so I moved on to the next, then the next until I’d taken all 75 of them, I felt fine for a while. I turned up at my moms front door, her boyfriend answered and let me in. He told me my mom was in the bath and that I should just go straight upstairs quietly so she wouldn’t hear me. all I wanted to do that night was die, or was I really crying out for help? There was nothing left in this world to live for, everything I tried to do for myself had failed so life for me just had no meaning anymore. I got into bed and slowly faded off to sleep, somehow hoping that I’d never wake up again and this whole nightmare would at last be over.

The following morning I woke from my sleep, I had the most enormous headache you could ever imagine and it was obvious that my attempted overdose had failed. In fact I failed at suicide just as much as I’d failed at life and it just seemed that I couldn’t get anything right. My life did improve after that though, not straight away, but things did get better. I later looked back at that darkest moment of my life and realized how disgraceful those actions were. Who was I to decide when I should die and what right did I have to think I could just end it all?

Moving forward to the next 23 years we end up in June 2013 and I’m already 12 months into transitioning after coming out again for the second time as transsexual. Times had been tough over the previous 12 months but June 2013 had been my worst month yet. I was battling with my own demons in my head, always trying to do the right thing, doing what I needed to do for myself, but also trying to please everyone around me that I loved so much. I’d heard so many negative comments from others, you don’t look like a woman, you don’t act like a woman, oh and yeah, you don’t talk like one either whilst at the same time being told that I’m ugly. I was doing some decorating work for a friend at the time, most days I couldn’t even concentrate enough to do a full days work, getting more and more depressed as the days went by to the point where I just wanted to just end it all there and then and get it over with, to cure my own and everyone else’s misery. I got chatting with my good friend Rebecca, she talked me through a lot of stuff and helped a lot to put my mind at ease, and yes it really did help.

The following week though depression set in even deeper and there just seemed no turning back from it all. I was going through the thoughts in my head over and over, planning every detail down to the last bit. I started by wondering how much paracetamol I could buy with the £16 I had left in my pocket, but then thinking about the slow and painful death that might occur from it all as my body slowly shuts itself down. Then there was the craft knife I was holding in my hand, how deep could I go with the blade to cause sufficient damage that I’d just bleed to death. Then I realized what a mess that might make on the lovely cream coloured carpet and that someone would be left behind to clear it up after me. Also, seeing the scars on my wrist was a reminder that I’d tried this once before, and like everything else I’d failed. So I stood at the top of the stairs and wondered if I could throw myself down them violently enough that my neck would be broken by the time I reached the bottom, but then I was worried about all the pain I might be in if I never managed to do it right. It seemed that throughout my life I’d never done anything right, I failed at being a husband, a father but also the two suicide attempts when I was a teenager. I was a failure full stop! But was I?

I’d survived suicide and depression when I was younger, I’d even survived a very serious illness when I was 21, being told by the doctor that you only have 24hrs left to live because they don’t know how to treat your illness makes you have a very different viewpoint on life. But it was that week in June 2013 that really did it for me though. Chrisie Edkins had already taken her own life 2 weeks previous, I was adamant that like her I wasn’t going to become another statistic but the reality was that through all of this, what the hell did I have left to live for? Everyone I loved was quite rightfully against me living my new life as Reena, my kids needed their dad and my wife who I loved so much just wanted her big hairy man back, the one who was as tough as old boots and not scared of anything, the very same person who by now had become crippled by severe depression and nothing to live for.

There were two distinct things that that saved me from taking my life that day, my failed suicide attempts when I was much younger along with the realization that suicide really is a wast of time and life, and music. Two days after my deep depression there was a major open air gig that myself and my band were performing at in Birmingham. In my own mind it seems I’d let everyone else down, these guys had back me all the way and I suppose in my last attempts to get things right.

I guess the real moral of this story is that whatever the reason appears to be that suicide is your very last option, it really isn’t. No matter how dark your world may appear, there is always a light in the distance waiting for you, that no matter how much hurt you may be feeling, the pain always goes away. There is always a better day waiting for you around the corner, there is always hope, and above all there is always going to be a day and a life you can claim and call your own. Suicide is never, ever, the final option. If you’ve got through to this part of the story then you’ll already know that I talk from experience, that in essence, it really does get better.

The song below was written by myself in 2010 and it’s now performed at every gig that myself and my band attend. Yes It’s a constant reminder of the bad times when I was younger, but it’s also a celebration of the good times since then as I live to take center stage one more time, and do things my way.

Reena xx

Don’t Tell Me (A World Without You)

I found myself in a different place
So sick and tired of the human race
Being down on your luck
Is always so tough

Walking down the street with no name
It’s kinda funny, we’re both the same
Stuck in the middle
With no place to go

Don’t tell me that you understand
If you’ve never walked in my shoes
There’s a price I paid for someone’s mistake
And it’s got me left in the blues
Don’t tell me, Cos you don’t know
The pain that I’ve been through
Every time I came, you closed the door to your heart
And left me, In a world without you…

Found me a place to stay for the night
It wasn’t pretty but those stars were bright
Left out in the cold
With only the cloths I had on

Suicide was such a friend of mine
I know I tried it, from time to time
To find a way out of this place
But what a disgrace…

One Year On.

This week sees the anniversary of when I irrevocably changed my name for ever.
I did it with an on-line Deed Poll company and will always remember savouring the moment by holding my finger over the send button for a few seconds before finally doing it.
Of course I will tell you that I didn’t change my name, I merely corrected a mistake that my parents had made. I knew from a very young age what my real name was, it just took me a lifetime to tell everyone.
I’m sure that anyone who has done the same will tell you about the thrill when your new drivers licence and bank cards and other official documents come through. I even enjoyed getting my Council Tax bill, and when my first wage slip came I showed everyone at work ‘look it’s in MY name!’

Six months, almost to the day, after getting my Deed Poll I got my HRT prescription. Of course it’s still early days but I feel so much better, Validated is the word I use to describe how I feel, and I think I’m getting a few tell tale pains in my breast that say I’m beginning to change physically as well. This morning I pulled my dressing gown on a bit too quickly and got a sharp pain when I brushed against a nipple. I never thought that I would be looking forward to that happening.

Probably the most important thing that has happened though was coming out to my daughter at long last.
My ex had been aware of my transition for a couple of years but had always asked not to tell our daughter ‘just yet’. This had been a source of conflict between us as I was becoming increasingly dysphoric at the thought of even wearing gender neutral clothes. I was scared that my emotional pain would be mistaken by my girl as anger at her, so I told her the truth.
She was great and took the news so well, I hugged her and told her how proud she makes me.
In one of those twists of fate she was accepted into Edinburgh University at the same time as I had to move flat. She coincidentally moved into student accommodation about three hundred yards away from where I now live!

Of course life ain’t always a bowl of cherries, but I can say without a moments hesitation that transition has been an entirely positive thing for me. I can’t think of a single thing that I regret about it, apart from not doing it sooner. But even that isn’t a real regret, I might not have had the same relationship with my daughter if things had been done differently.

And the future? Well, I’m going to start nagging the GIC to put me forward for surgery. I know that that’s a way down the line, but I know in my heart that I am ready. Like changing my name it’s a mistake that needs to be corrected.

Silent T – Harry Taylor

Silent T

Harry1
Making a film is hard work. From script to screen, the process consumes you; How are you going to shoot it? What lights do we need? Is thisscene necessary? Will people like it? Throughout my years making films I have never made a film as difficult as this one, and this is a film I said I’d never make.
It wasn’t until I came to university in London where I found my courage to be who I truly am. To put the situation into context, I had only come out to my parents as FTM transgender a few months previously. To say they were dealing with it would be an overstatement. Things were and are still, very difficult, but we’re getting through.

I wasn’t suHarry3re how university would go, as to be expected, my anxiety had been very high – I had no idea who I’d be sharing a flat with, what their opinions would be on LGBTI issues and whether I’d have to suppress myself for even longer. Luckily, I have the best flat mates I could wish for. One flat mate in particular, Ross, is a YouTuber and is passionate about equality. After many long, deep conversations explaining my anxieties, experiences and gender expression with him, I started to build confidence within myself.

As we are both film-makers and passionate about LGBTI issues, we decided we wanted to make a film. The perfect excuse came along in the form of Campus Movie Fest, the world’s largest student  film festival where we had to make a short film under five minutes about any subject.

harry2This was an incredibly difficult film to make. For someone who is extremely conscious of body image and their voice, it still surprises me that I’ve managed to put this film on the internet to share with the world, because five weeks ago, I wouldn’t have thought that would be possible of myself. Ross and LGBTI society at Westminster have been incredible supports, and I owe this film to them really, it wouldn’t have been made otherwise.
Whilst looking at short films on trans* issues, I noticed that a lot were very vague. I guess this is mainly because a lot of trans* people don’t want to discuss their inner turmoil, which I completely understand. Being a film maker though, I wanted to speak the truth in a way that wasn’t too abstract, that cis people could relate to and understand. We wanted to speak to the people who didn’t understand gender, to help them accept and understand trans* people. Changing the stereotypes of trans* people in the media is what I’m passionate about and sometimes, great art comes from great sadness.

Not only was the script difficult to write, but everything about this film was emotionally draining. For  a lot of the time in the edit I made odd hand waving motions and hid behind my laptop at the noise of my own voice. It was not the deep, and strong voice I have been craving for my lifetime. It must have taken about an hour for me to even take my shirt off to reveal my binder for the mirror shots. I was so close to stopping the film there and then, but I’m glad I didn’t. In hindsight, I realise that the more honest I am about my troubles, the more this speaks to the audience. If this film has helped, inspired, or has related to individual, then Ross and I have done our job.

The amount of positivity that has come out of this film has been staggering. It’s so satisfying to know that this film speaks and changes some of the opinions of cis people. It helps them to understand gender identity and by prHarry4esenting this crucial issue in an alternative way, it exposes the trans* community in a positive way. Although this is was a difficult film, it’s increased my confidence. It’s important for trans* people to share their stories, as there’s so many scared and vulnerable individuals out there suffering, thinking they’re alone. If this film reached just one of those people, to let them know there are people out there, willing to aid them, it would make us very happy.

Harry.

 

I Want You

I’m Reena Leigh Gibson, a songwriter and lead singer ofReena Leigh Gibson - Milestone Road
the Birmingham rock band Milestone Road. Yeah I’m a 44 year old mtf transsexual and I sing in a rock band, how cool is that?

As a songwriter, I tend to find that all of the songs I write are about truth, and about life. To me the idea of connecting with a song and being able to perform it to the best of my ability is all about having lived through it, whether the experience was good or bad, being able to tell a story and deliver it in the best way possible to the audience before me, that’s just the way that I connect with songs and it’s lyrical content. And yes, I’ve performed many songs in the past by other artists but I just never get that connection as I do with singing my own songs with the band.

Well moving on, as any transsexual will tell you, being trans for a lot of us, isn’t the easiest thing in the world. And sometimes, for those of us who have partners, we can get so wrapped up in our own issues and how we have to learn to deal with them, that we can sometimes forget about the ones closest to us that we love so much too.

It was in June 2014, and as an effort to write even more songs for the band,  that I came up with our latest track “I Want You”. It tells the story of being trans from the other perspective, from the point of view of the partner who in their own way has to go through their own pain, loss and suffering. Most of the time they have to go through it alone, in the silence and in the darkness, with the tears from the pain that is very rarely seen by those around them and closest to their hearts. They can’t in many aspects turn to their loving partner, how can they when they’re so wrapped in their own emotions of coming out and dealing with the ups/downs and pitfalls that transition brings? It’s a sometimes scary world that just like parenting doesn’t come with a guidebook or a map telling you which way you should turn next. On both sides of the emotional fence you have to try and figure things out for yourself, and a lot of the time you’re very much alone.

For the trans person like myself you’re left with a do or die situation, for the partner however, they just want things back to being “normal”, whatever normal may be these days. It’s learning to cope with that ever present lack of “normal” that tends to be the most heartbreaking moment of all, realizing that everything you had built, hoped and dreamed of for so long has now been torn from under you. As much as you might wish and pray that things were different than what they are right now, you finally start to realize and try to come to terms with the idea that what is, just simply is…

The version of the song you’re about to read and hear below is the demo that was recorded by myself and put forward to the band, I was lucky enough that they loved it from the start and it wasn’t cast aside to be forgotten about. As a band we’ve performed it live on 4 separate occasions now, the first time ever though was at Derby Pride on the 13th September 2014. In my own admission I’d never been to a Pride event before, but being able to perform this song at such an event was one of my proudest moments ever.

Reena xx

 I Want You

It’s been hell since you left
Since you walked away
It’s left a hole in my heart
And it’s tearing me apart

Not a second chance
To fix this broken romance
Oh what am I to do
I was so in love with you

I want you to hold me, love me
If it’s just one more kiss
It’s you I really miss
So please touch me, and tease me
The way you used to do
All the ways you used to

Now it’s faded and grey
And the pain’s here to stay
Thought I’d never know
This heartache that hurts me so

All the pleasure and pain
Caused by our silly games
And all those words that you said
Oh that I misread