Who Am I: The Importance of Being YourselfWritten by Justine Smithies
From the very beginning of my life I knew there was something wrong. A feeling I wasn’t sure of until around the age of eleven. I could never relate to people of the gender of which my body developed and I really hated myself. If I ever got a chance to play with dolls etc I’d be there. But on the other hand, I always felt I had to act how my body developed, the way society said it had to be. So I always over-compensated and came across as the big strong typical male stereotype which I hated. But who could I tell? Because in my head and from what little information I had heard pre-internet, my family and people around me would have had me locked up or given me electric shock therapy or just had me thrown out onto the streets.
I went through life knowing I was female but always putting it to the back of my head and trying to never think about it, which I can tell you is extremely difficult as something always made me think about who I really was and how could I ever possibly be me?
I got a job as a marine electronics engineer, met the love of my life Julie and we got married and had three amazing children. Life was good but I always had that nagging voice in the back of my head telling me I wasn’t being true to myself or to others. So by the time I was thirty-six in 2008 I could no longer hide who I was. I kept having the same dream where I had died and, although I am not religious, I was stood in front of God who always said ‘Well how do you think your life went?’ Truthfully, the only answer I could ever give was that I’d wasted it by not being myself and lying to others.
So one evening, knowing that telling my wife Julie would result in me being thrown out into the street, being called disgusting and losing all access to my children and my job, I sat her down and tried to explain to her through floods of tears. I did this even though I really loved Julie and my children and didn’t want to lose them at all. It was just something I really had to do.
To my surprise and through many weeks of tears, questions and conversations about ‘Can we really get through this?’ we both decided that we have come this far together and still loved each other. We would get through this together, just like in our wedding vows.
We also told the children and tried to explain it to them and informed their schools in case of any issues of bullying. They were absolutely amazing about it and even decided to call me Mummy and Julie Mum.
I wasn’t so lucky with my mum and her partner or my dad and stepmother, as they could not get their heads around it and we have since lost contact. But, hey! I have Julie and the kids and her family have been amazing.
Julie took me to see my doctor who, although he didn’t understand and wondered why I would want to stay in the area I live in due to his views of how he thought people would react, did go out of his way to book appointments for me to see the relevant psychiatrists/psychologists and surgeons, and even read up on the condition itself. I also started taking hormones and up until August 2011 I had not told my work for fear of losing my job, but had to, as I needed to change my name legally by deed poll. I am still working for the same company to this day (that’s another story that I will tell another time.)
In May 2012 I had my first visit to Brighton to visit my surgeon who would be conducting my gender reassignment surgery. In January 2013 I had my facial feminisation surgery at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, followed close by in May 2013 when I was back in Brighton for my gender reassignment surgery.
Life was looking amazing; finally I was becoming me. But only two weeks after my surgery – whilst recuperating at home and still unable to drive or leave the house – our son Cameron, just days from his sixteenth birthday, fell from cliffs near our home and passed away. That was the worst time in our lives. It put everything on hold and made us think about what was important and what was not. I cannot describe it and hope that no one else ever has to go through a situation like that during their lives.
It was only last October that I had my final surgery: breast augmentation. Finally all this upheaval in our lives was at an end.
I can say with all honesty that I am glad I found the strength to be myself and not what society thought I should be. Just live your lives and be who you want to be, have absolutely no regrets.
I now live by this quote by Mae West: ‘You only live once but if you do it right, once is enough.’
Justine Smithies is a Marine Electronics Engineer and Mum of two teenagers in Aberdeenshire. She’d like to help others through her own experiences by starting an LGBT group North of Edinburgh & Glasgow. Her message to young women is “Just be yourselves & remember you are only here once so make the most of it.”
Tweet Justine @JustineSmithies