"It's Christmas time, and there's no need to be afraid".
Paul Young sang that at the start of the ageless but somewhat patronising "Do They Know Its Christmas".
Well, Paul. Yes, l do know it's Christmas, but this Christmas is a stranger time than most for myriad reasons, so I will tell you why l reckon there might be some reasons to be afraid, and that's ok.
Going back home at Christmas can be a tricky set of situations to navigate. We tend to see people we don't see at any other time. We often have to deal with people we would rather not, and for a trans person or someone who has recently 'come out', this could present a real fear of rejection or even confrontation.
Everyone has an uncle who believes the Daily Mail who might, unfortunately, venture a misguided opinion after too many shandies! Or Aunt Whatsherface from god-knows-where might get blotto on the ever-flowing Lambrini and start going on about the 'Woke Brigade' changing the Christmas TV schedule.
It's tiresome, but we get through it.
If you have been following my blog, you will know it's just over 15 months since l fully came out as Freda. I changed my name, all my ID, and endeavoured on a path of gender re-assignment. I haven't got far with that for reasons out of my control, but I won't make this about the failings of NHS trans healthcare, suffice it to say, the waiting lists are long, and I am not a priority. It's been stressful, and not something l want anyone asking me about.
I have had to pay for my treatment privately, which meant my own place in Manchester was not a viable option on top of everything.
Woe is me!
So, I've moved back home to Bolton. Last Christmas I didn't stay over. I just popped in because of the excellent excuse that was the Pandemic and its restrictions. This year I didn't get off so lightly.
Now, I'm here in Christmas past.
I call it that because my mother likes to reminisce about old times, getting out old photos and the same decorations she has had for decades. It's strange for me to look at photos of me in my old identity, part of me wants to erase them, but the more sentimental part knows it is comfort for Mother.
Not because she can't accept me as Freda, but rather because if Christmas is about anything, for her, it is about when the family was less fragmented, less caught up in the madness of life. I don't want to pretend l wasn't ever Freddy, but l wish l could have been the girl in those photos for a lot of the time.
I can almost see the sadness in my eyes when I see the old me looking back, like a ghostly apparition.
I prefer photos of me before I was in my teenage years, likely because I didn't think about my identity then quite so much then. There are many photos of my older half-sister and me, who was more of a babysitter to me and indulged my dressing up and dancing around to Top of The Pops, and generally being a little gobshite.
Life always seems more straightforward in the past. Probably because our brains delete or bury the bad stuff by virtue of self-preservation.
Much like rabbits forget the last Hawk, for they would never the burrow. I know Mother feels this need more than most.
Every time there is a knock on the door, I come over with anxiety akin to the moments before a free fall, just in case it's someone I might have to explain my new identity too.
People from the past who want to enter my space seem to do so through a revolving door, which is how it often feels. I know it's irrational because even people as patient or kind as my parent's church friends bringing cards gives me a sense of dread. Partly I'm worried it might fall on my mum to explain things, and then l feel a pang of potent guilt about expecting her to do that.
What if people are avoiding the issue?
You know they are curious but they say nothing and kind of look like everything they ever thought was right is crumbling before their very eyes. In any other situation, I would enjoy challenging those perceptions but it's not the same with family or friends of my parents. You cant have the same philosophical arguments you would with a friend or colleague. Some folk have only heard about trans people from the media, is it my job to educate them or reassure them.
What do you?
Well, you just act as lovely as you can and keep still, much like you would if a wasp was sitting on your nose. Otherwise, the only other option is to flap around and open up the hive. All the while I'm just thinking of the best ways not to upset Mother, whose regular phrase now is 'listen, Freda, don't get into one of your states if someone says the wrong thing''.
My Father is dying.
I can't think of any other way to say that. He was diagnosed with cancer of the brain in September last year. It’s fast-moving and Mother is nursing him at home with my help.
He can talk to me when he is lucid between the Morphine but often cannot make sense of my words. I joke to Mother that I rarely did make sense to him, and perhaps that's just a sad fact I will never resolve with him now.
Being back here, in Bolton, looking out of this window it does feel like regression. The garden below is still very much the same, one in which my dad used to set a camera up to take photos of the moon. There must have been a lot of moons we missed but the moon will still come around. At least he knows I am happy now and unlike the moon, my changing wasn't just a 'phase'.
l have bought an adapter from Amazon for the laptop which connects to a telescope so my dad can see its phases from his bed.
Now that's the future!