My name is Jay and this is a long, and yet still incomplete story of my life (kinda). If you have any questions, just ask.
Right now, my life is pretty good. I’m in university, in my dream city. My job is to perform and teach poetry in schools, theatres, festivals, and anywhere else people want me to. I’ve published a book of my work, won awards, and, most importantly, found amazing supportive people to be my family.
But my life hasn’t always been this good. As a child I grew up as a young carer to my disabled mother, trying to do everything that needed to be done, and failing miserably. My father was rarely there because he worked stupid hours, and when he did come home he immediately left again for the pub. My parents always drank a little too much, it got worse in the last few years and I won’t go into it, but suffice to say, I’m teetotal.
My home was never really a supportive atmosphere, and because of that I had a lot of issues at school, I acted out, got into fights, got suspended, and bullied, and generally fucked up a lot. As I got older though I decided to try and fix my shit, I stopped fighting, and with the support of a great English teacher, and some great online friends, I started writing poetry again.
Apparently, I was quite good, because within a few years I was getting paid gigs across the country, at arts centres, and theaters, and music festivals, and though my birth parents never appeared at a single one of my gigs (and even occasionally mocked my line of work) it seemed to be going ok.
Then, about a year ago now, I came out as Transgender to my birth parents.
They did not take it well. The only reason they didn’t throw me out was because if they did people would ask questions and they’d have to admit I was transgender, which was not a thing they were prepared to do.
But I had very supportive friends, and a lot of people reached out to be parental figures to me, and, oddly enough, I never realised just what parental figures really were, until those guys showed up. Some of the more notable figures were:
Kate, who besides being my online mother for years, (seriously, it’s been forever) also gave me an amazing little brother in the form of her son, who I’m slowly introducing to Firefly via skype. She has been my rock for so long I can’t imagine a life without her. I know for a fact I would not be alive and typing this if she hadn’t been there through some of my toughest times.
And, famously (in Tumblrs eyes) Tony and Sarah. These guys were amazing, Sarah is an animal behaviourist and often takes abandoned animals in, so when she found out how much of a pair of dicks my parents were she immediately decided that she would do the same with me (within the limited parameters of me having to stay in my home city and finish my exams) and that her and Tony would be my parental figures from now on. Though they are both insanely busy they always find time for coffee, or a family day out, or a fancy meal, or an evening out somewhere, or even, as once happened, a day of farm maintenance. If I ever need anywhere to go, when I was still at home and under the toxic thumb of my parents, or even now that I’ve got out, I know that I can go to their home or farm and just be at peace in the countryside. And I know they are both a message or call away, Sarah is always there for me, sending me advice and congratulations, and always, always, saying just the right thing (she’s crazy perceptive like that), and Tony is less reliable at answering, but more hilarious and his advice is generally full of dad jokes, puns and swear words, which you sometimes need. It’s lovely.
My birth parents ignored me on my eighteenth birthday. They did not say a single word to me, it was as if I didn’t exist. But Tony and Sarah sent me a cute card with penguins on it, a present of awesome DVD’s (and Sharknado) and a tonne of love. In return, on their birthdays I did the same - kind of - Tony got shit DVD’s but Sarah got a poem that made her cry. From the moment Sarah found out about that she told me that if I wanted to, I was to describe them as my parents, because they could not understand how my birth parents could be so shit. That gesture, those few words, meant more to me than anything else in the world. The next time I saw them they spent the whole day introducing me to people as their son, something I never thought I would hear, as I knew my birth parents would never introduce me as their son. But Tony and Sarah did.
Because Tony is a reasonably well known actor, when interest in my book was big enough for it to be published, I asked him to write the foreword, and he happily obliged. It’s dedicated to Kate and Sarah, because I felt that my three favourite people, the three people who supported me, and made me believe in myself enough for this insanely awesome thing to happen, deserved to have their names on my greatest achievement forever.
Then I graduated high school. Kate stayed up all night, ignoring timezones so she could be there for me when I got my results, and I got good results. I got out. Though I had to leave my dog behind, I escaped to Bristol, the city I have wanted to live in for some time, and I left my birth parents shittiness behind. I’ve not heard from them since. I’ve heard from all of my surrogate parents though. Tony and Sarah still parent me like no tomorrow, and their daughters got in on the act too. It’s like I’ve just fallen into this pool of love and support and family, and if you had told me this a year and a half ago, I’d have said it would never happen.
Recently, I won a national award for my poetry. The night before the slam (a poetry competition) I went to see Tony in a play in London, his daugher Em was there too, afterwards we went out and I was showered with so much luck it was as if I could drown in it. It must have done something because I came back home to Bristol with a winners trophy. I messaged Tony the night after the slam with a photo of the statue and the words “Your good luck wishes must have done something.” a few days later he finally checked his messages, and he FREAKED OUT. He posted the photo on his facebook and twitter pages, raving about my success, I got a phone call full of excited rambling and congratulations, and I was amazed. Because here was that thing I had never had, but always wanted, a proud Father. And he wasn’t my father by blood, but by choice, and that made it all the more special for me.
You see, I came from a fucked up, nearly expelled, often starving, kid, who lived in a filthy house with no food and parents who didn’t give a shit, and often put alcohol before everything else. And now I’m a university student, with an amazing extensive surrogate family, a published book, that has sold in twelve countries, a national award for my spoken word, and a feeling of hope for the future.
My name is Jay, and I may have come from nothing, but I will go on to greatness, with the support of my many, many parents. Because life gets better, it really does, and sometimes, when you least expect it, it gets amazing.
So if you are considering giving in, giving up, stopping pursuing your dreams, or just stopping living, think on this: So did I. But I pushed on, and now I’m happier than I could have ever envisaged. And yes I may still have depression, and night terrors, and a constant fear that I will never be good enough. But I am loved, and I am free, and I am doing what I love. You can have this too. Be brave. Be you. Live.