(Video and photo: Ioan Hiliuta)
By Jennifer Betts
JACK Murphy is a loving father, fiance and a hard worker – who has only been living as a man for a year-and-a-half.
He takes pride in his job and is content with the love of a good woman and an end- of-day cuddle from his daughter.
Jack doesn’t want much from life. He has one dream – to forever say goodbye to Rebecca, the name he was born with.
The 25-year-old is only for the first time feeling comfortable in his own skin. He is an example of a new, more tolerant Ireland.
“I was never a girly girl, I was always tom boyish,” Jack said, referring to his former life.
“I always knew in my heart I was in the wrong body. Growing up, I knew something just wasn’t right.”
But the freedom many of us take for granted – came after a long, hard struggle.
“I suffered from anxiety from a young age, which I later discovered was due to me suppressing the fact that I’m transgender and not knowing how to deal with it.
“I was 12 when I had my first really bad panic attack. I was anxious leaving a room, to go to the shop, I felt crazy, like an alien.
“I would ask myself, would I ever get better? What was wrong with me? Thinking back, it all makes sense now.
“Eventually after a trip to the doctor, I was prescribed medication for anxiety, which I was happy to take, thinking it would make me better.
“I tried everything, including homeopathy, but nothing I tried worked.
“There was just something inside of me trying to burst its way out, it was like it was trying to urge its way out.
“Every time I had a panic attack it was like something was trying to come out of me and I didn’t know what was going on. I still suffer from anxiety but not nearly as bad.”
Jack was lucky he had a lot of support when he realised he was transgender. And Ireland has come a long way in accepting people like Jack with the marriage equality law and legal recognition of transgender people.
But despite Irish society becoming more accepting in general, Jack still suffered online bullying.
“Being outspoken about being trans, I’ve met hostility and was bullied on social media, people generally giving me a hard time. Some people knew me, some didn’t.
“In town I’ve been called dyke and lesbian. I feel that some people just don’t understand. Maybe it’s down to their upbringing or people they share their time with, but to me, it’s definitely a lack of understanding.
“I try not to let it bother me. I’m a pretty calm person so tend not to get angry.”
Despite Ireland becoming more open minded towards transgender recognition, Jack has still been faced with ignorance.
Jack has been asked before, if he was ‘just a gay woman?’ but now that he has embraced being a man, he feels true happiness. It’s the closest for him to a lottery win, he said.
“At 17 or 18 I attended a hypnotist and we worked on my childhood. During my treatment there was a moment. I said hold on a second, there’s something inside me trying to come out.
“I was realising it slowly, then at 19 I came out to my parents. I told them I thought at first I was a gay woman but I’m not, I’m male on the inside. I’m transgender, this is me.
“My family and friends were great. I became very close to my mam. She kind of became my safety blanket. The area I live in can be old fashioned, even younger kids are not so accepting, but all round my area is fine.”
He felt “afraid” to reveal his true identity as a man in his former job – a feeling many transgender have.
“In the last job I had I was afraid to come out as Jack. I was afraid that people wouldn’t accept me. I mentioned it a few times, but it was taken lightly.
“I kept it in and kept it to myself. My current job is very accepting and couldn’t be more supportive, even allowing me use the men’s toilets, which I feel is an incredible feat for trans people.”
Jack has been taking testosterone, a hormone replacement therapy, for seven months.
He attends Loughlinstown Hospital, in Co Dublin, for appointments to monitor his progression and to receive prescriptions.
“I started on testosterone gel, which was just an application every day. It was a slow, gradual build up, but now I’m on injections.
“I had my first injection six weeks ago, and had my last one about a week ago. My next one will be in twelve weeks, so I think the doctors are trying to space it out, for the time being to see how I get on.”
For the first time in his life, Jack is beginning to feel he is living and breathing his true identity – as a man, thanks to the treatment.
“Seven months in and my voice has dropped a hell of a lot and my body and face have become more masculine and sharper.
“Not only that but I feel masculine, inside and outside, I didn’t before. I’ve never had that feeling before. Now I’m starting to become me.
“The first day I started testosterone was the best day of my life, it was like winning the lotto.”
It seems that Jack can for the first time leave behind the ghost of Rebecca and live life as a man.
“If someone calls me Rebecca, which still happens, by accident or whatever, it’s a little annoying, but I don’t get angry, I just think, they don’t understand, they’re not used to it or maybe don’t know about it.
“It doesn’t have an effect on me anymore; I don’t relate to it, I’ve been living as Jack for a year-and-a half now. I don’t hear the name as me. I just think it’s a nice name.”
For any transgender person, the gender reassignment surgery is the final and all-important piece in a jigsaw to a new beginning.
“Currently I’m on the waiting list for chest, or top, surgery, but there is only one surgeon in Ireland available, who has only worked with breast cancer patients, so I am a bit hesitant that they haven’t worked with transgender people before,” Jack said.
“I know people who have gone to Belgium and Poland and I’ve seen good results. The way I see it is, this is my chest and I’m going to have it for the rest of my life.
“I want to go all the way and have bottom surgery too one day. I’ve even set up a donation page on Gofundme. My target for chest surgery is €7,000. Currently it’s at €125, which is fantastic and I’m grateful to those who have already donated. But I’m also saving hard.”
It has been a long road and Jack will never forget the life he is leaving behind – and the loneliness and struggles that came with that reality.
He said for those going through the same issues right now they should think carefully, how they accept their identity – choosing the right time to make and announce decisions.
“I would say wait until you’re ready to say it, as you might cause yourself hurt. But you do need to get it out and there are great supports out there such as Teni (Transgender Equality Network of Ireland) and Belong To, for younger people, so you’re not alone.”
Post the Marriage Referendum – which has offered a new equality to gay and same sex couples who wish to get married – a newly engaged Jack – feels life has never been better.
“Having recently got engaged I’m over the moon. With the marriage referendum the transgender community has become more in the spotlight.
“It’s not as much as a taboo with being gay, lesbian or trans anymore – it’s becoming more accepted.
“Some people won’t, but the majority are accepting. I’m also thrilled the Gender Recognition Bill has been passed, which will allow me to change the gender on my passport and birth certificate, which is great.”
Jack has a YouTube Channel, which follows his transitioning journey – Jack Murphy, firefighterj90
You can donate towards Jack’s gender reassignment op on his Gofundme page – www.gofundme.com/655lfc