I’m the black sheep, and I’m OK with it

Ah, the notorious black sheep. The outsider, the odd one out, the third wheel; whatever you want to call it.

I feel that being the black sheep of ones’ family can often be perceived as a terrible thing; that you don’t have a good relationship with your family, that you don’t want one, and you’re just “too different to work”.

black sheep

But, I’ve come to the revelation that being the black sheep doesn’t always have to be a bad thing. Firstly, I do firmly believe that the majority of families have black sheep. But, there is a sliding scale of black sheep. On the bottom, you have the cuckoo, estranged black sheep whom everyone can conclude is unhinged in some way. On the top, you have a black sheep whose only contrasting trait could be something as trivial as different likes and dislikes. And then there’s somewhere in the middle; where I, and many black sheep, lie.

I come from a very close family. Over the years we’ve shared everything with one another. We support each other, we try not to judge one another, and most importantly, we all love each other. Sadly though, over the years, I’ve realised that not all families are quite as fortunate as us Kellehers.

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I have a loving mother and father, a younger brother and an older sister. That’s right; I’m the middle child *gasp*. And truthfully, although it has become somewhat of a satirical stereotype, I can tell you that there are problems associated with being the middle child.

I think that for me, having an older sister meant that I was unfortunately compared to her quite frequently in childhood in terms of progression, achievements, interests and personality. I dealt with this just fine as a child; it was never completely over the top, but it did exist in my upbringing. On the other side of this, my younger brother, being the “only boy”, was often seen as a unique entity from my perspective. As the three of us grew up, my brother and I shared similar talents and attributes; most notably, my brother and I loved to write stories and “novels” from a young age, but I sadly felt in my brother’s shadow.

My brother was much more confident and upfront about his writing abilities; whereas I, for some reason, felt shy and secretive about mine. My brother was proud of his writing and happily exclaimed to others his desire to become a novelist when he grew up. I strongly admire my brother’s childhood confidence, and am not trying to undermine him and his strong abilities as a child. However, to sum up, I felt throughout my upbringing as the middle child that I was simultaneously in my older sister’s shadow and my younger brothers’.

middle chid

 

As children, my siblings and I weren’t noticeably different to one another. The three of us were actually incredibly similar. However, as we grew into our teenage years, and our personalities began to progress, it became evident from my perspective that I was quite different to my siblings in a lot of ways.

This is by no means any shade on my siblings. I truthfully adore the two of them with my whole heart. My brother and my sister began to develop the same ideologies, ways of thinking, interest in arts and personality traits as the three of us grew up. At this point, I did not even consider the possibility of being a “black sheep”.

However, as the three of us further developed into young adulthood, it became apparent to me that my siblings not only shared extremely similar viewpoints on things, but they also responded very similarly to distress, and in times of discomfort, my brother and sister tended to come to the same or a similar conclusion.

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My brother and sister, now as grown adults in their twenties, are remarkably similar individuals. Not only do they look alike; they think alike. I find a new similarity between the two of them almost on a daily basis. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. I believe that these similarities are entirely transparent. I do not see them as pretentious. I genuinely do believe that my siblings are just, by nature and/or nurture, extremely alike.

I’ve realised in recent years that I am different. But more importantly, I’ve realised that this is a good thing. I am quite happy to be my authentic self whenever I can; and if that’s “different”, I am happy to embrace it.

So yes, I am a black sheep of sorts. If my siblings and I express our opinions about a situation, my brother and sister will almost always express the same or similar beliefs. I, however, tend to think in a different way.

I am not only a black sheep in my family; but I’ve come to the conclusion that I may in fact be a black sheep of society. I find more and more over the years that I’m on a different wavelength to my colleagues and peers in many regards. And truthfully, I think that is largely due to the fact that I am naturally such a daydreamer.

But, I will no longer feel bad about being different. And, I have decided instead to embrace it.

Being the “black sheep” can, and does, of course lead to various trials and tribulations at times. But, what’s the alternative? Try to fit in? Become agreeable just for the sake of it? For me, I have no interest in that anymore.

To fellow black sheep, you’re perfect the way you are. You don’t have to be the same as your family. That’s the beauty of humankind; we are all different. And in some regards, we are all black sheep.

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Is not dating a trans person transphobic?

It’s come to my awareness that in this modern world, there are many otherwise open-minded and compassionate individuals who do not understand or stereotype the transgender community. There have been occasions where I’ve heard friends and acquaintances refer to the transgender community as “hermaphrodite”, “trannie“, “gay” or “someone who had a sex change”. To be clear, in the vast majority of circumstances, these comments have not had any callous intent. From my perspective, these comments are the result of fetishisation from the porn industry, misinformation about the trans community spread through the media and/or an inherent physiological need to identify people as either male or female. In fact, I really do think that many people in this modern world cannot wrap their heads around the sheer idea of being transgender.

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And really, I understand how the vast majority of the public cannot understand the idea of being transgender. We’ve seen the exact same reaction when it came to the gay community, women in the workforce and black people living among white people in our history. History has shown us that human beings, when faced with an alien situation or concept, are quite literally fearful of it. Subconsciously, we think to ourselves that men are the polar opposite to women. The media has reinforced this with the idea that men and women have certain personality traits, ambitions and responsibilities.

For instance, I have lost count of the amount of cis-gendered men and women alike who have made the generalised statement that “women aren’t funny”, and refuse to give female comedians a chance because of this. But really, if we think about it, how could half the Earth’s population be born unfunny? Making jokes and making people laugh is something that most of us have done at some point or another. When people make this statement, I truly believe it comes from our subconsciousness telling us to reject and be fearful of an alien concept or situation. Men have always and continue to dominate the comedy genre, so when we are faced with a female attempting to do the same, our reaction is almost defensive and fearful that the norm could possibly be compromised.

women funny

What we see now with the transgender community is the same we saw with the gay and lesbian communities of our past. I’m not denying that homophobia is still prevalent in society, but in the past twenty years we have made leaps and bounds. The taboo that once existed has nearly disappeared.

I can admit that I haven’t had a close friendship with a person who I was aware was transgender in my entire life. I have met trans people, but that’s it. There has been no particular reason for this. Truthfully it’s understandable that a trans person might not disclose the fact that they are transgender with people they barely know. I’m sure this is especially true in Ireland, specifically so in my very small rural hometown.

However, I have been watching and keeping up to date with YouTube vloggers since I was about 17 now. I have watched several transgender vloggers and YouTube documentaries discussing and exploring transgender issues. I have also taken it upon myself to watch a myriad of documentaries following the lives of transgender people.

Educating myself on the transgender community has broadened my mind, and truthfully I at one point knew nothing about the transgender community also. My teenage self may well have used terms such as “trannie”, “transvestite” or “hermaphrodite”. This is what happens when you know nothing about a community.

ignorance

In the past few years, many of the transgender or cis-gendered allies I’ve kept up to date with through social media, have referred to the disinterest in dating a transgender individual as transphobic.

When I initially stumbled upon this idea, I agreed. I thought to myself that refusing to date a transgender person was also a stem of an ignorant and close-minded society. But upon further reflection, I think that the summary “transphobic” may be an over simplification. Let’s look at some reasons why a cis-gendered person may be disinterested in dating a trans person.

1. Reproduction

Many of us desire to reproduce and have a family. Although there are clearly alternatives to the traditional route, including artificial insemination, adoption and surrogacy, many of us would still ideally prefer to reproduce the old fashioned way. I cannot explain why this is the case; but I can assume it is linked to animalistic instincts and the innate desire to pass on our genetics.

Transgender people, unfortunately, can no longer reproduce post-operation the natural way. This means that if a cis-gendered person settles down with a transgender person and both wish to start a family, they will have to go down alternative, often very expensive means to do so. Many of us cannot even contemplate the idea of forking out thousands and thousands for reproductive treatment. Many people work for low to mid wage salaries and do not even have the means to do so if desired.

Personally, I think this is a valid concern for people in not wanting to date and settle down with a transgender person.

2. Masculine and feminine traits 

Many men have expressed attraction to younger women with hourglass figures. Many women have expressed attraction to men with body and facial hair or a muscular physique.

While most transgender people will take hormone treatment, obtain breast surgery and even undergo facial surgery to appear more masculine/feminine, many cis-gendered individuals seek out naturally occurring secondary masculine or feminine traits in finding a mate. Some people even find the idea of cosmetic surgery a turn-off in a romantic partner.

We must understand that these attractions are not inherently transphobic; but are linked to our animalistic instincts and turn-ons.

3. Social pressure and mental illness

Whether we like it or not, we all care to an extent what our friends and family members think of us and our lifestyles. We all fear social ridicule for being different. Many cis-gendered individuals are scared of what people will think if they date a transgender person. I am not one of these people; but I do know that these concerns exist for many.

The transgender community are also more prone to developing mental illness than cis-gendered people. This is due to a systematic ignorance and intolerance of the transgender community. Is it any wonder that transgender people may feel vulnerable, ridiculed or less than for just being themselves? The fact that the transgender community are more prone to developing mental illness is no fault of their own; but the fault of our intolerant society. However, for a cis-gendered individual who has had no history of mental illness, the thought of dating a person who has mental illness or is predisposed to it may be an intimidating concept.

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I will never tolerate offensive remarks, hate crime and social exclusion of the transgender community. I will not tolerate or engage in transphobic behaviour from anybody, even people I barely know. However, I do genuinely think that the blanket statement of not dating a transgender person is transphobic is over simplified and does not take into account the factors I have just mentioned.

I think for many people, although they go into the dating scene seeking out a cis-gendered individual who can naturally reproduce, they may at times be surprised with who they fall in love with. Anybody could unexpectedly fall in love with a person who just so happens to be transgender, and the previously mentioned factors just wouldn’t hold weight anymore.

However, this is a very complex issue, and one I am sure I have yet to learn a lot more about. From my perspective now though, I think the above mentioned factors are valid in not actively pursuing a transgender person to settle down with.

However, if a cis-gendered individual has no desire to reproduce, has no issue with hormone therapy or cosmetic surgery etc, I think there can be transphobic reasons for refusing to date a transgender person. If you truly will refuse to date a transgender person for no other reason than the fact they are transgender, I do think that this is transphobic.

We must consider these factors though, for the rest of the cis-gendered population.

If you are transgender, I love you. I accept you. I respect you. And if you are a single transgender person, someone will most definitely love and respect you for exactly who you are. Don’t settle, and don’t allow yourself to be disrespected or fetishised.

 

My Past & Me

None of us are ever capable of really understanding the struggles of others.  Unless you’ve lived someone else’s life, you can’t judge.  So, no-one can judge anyone.  Especially if they don’t know the first thing about said person’s past.  It’s very easy to look at someone, see that they’re fun, funny, giggly & easy going, and decide that their life has been easy.  But, how do you know that for a fact?
I have always been a bit eccentric.  I laugh a lot, have a weird sense of humour & I have always struggled to make (and ultimately, keep) friends.  Friends, and acquaintances alike, see me as a happy person.  I do try to be happy, & I am happy a lot of the time.  But I firmly believe that happiness isn’t guaranteed, it’s something you have to work on for your whole life.
I grew up hating myself more than I could possibly explain.  I never did well in school, I never did well with friendships, and ultimately, I felt like the most physically ugly girl in all of the world.  As a child, I didn’t fit in.  I did my own thing.  I always had a great family life, though – & I still do today.  This was such a huge comfort to me as a child.
As I went into secondary school, my mental health became worse.  I hated being there, but I wasn’t the type of student to break the rules, be disruptive in class or even skip class the odd time.  I followed the rules, the routine, but I despised it.  Unfortunately, I had a few teachers throughout my second level education who, I feel, bullied me.  I can’t really use a different word, as bullied is so fitting.  They saw that I was under-confident & uninterested, and they played on it.  I dreaded some classes as I knew being publicly humiliated by my teacher was always a possibility.
In school, I hung out with whoever would be my friend.  I went through a lot of friends in secondary school, but none of them are still my friends today.  Unfortunately, I didn’t understand at the time that friends were meant to be kind & respectful to one another.  A lot of my friends spent most of the time taking the piss out of me and I was the butt of all jokes.  In hindsight, they weren’t really friends at all – but, at the time, I was convinced they were.
As secondary school came to a close, I was excited & happy I’d made it to the finishing line.  There was just one problem – I didn’t have the faintest idea what was next in The Aisling Kelleher Adventures.  I passed my exams, & my results were a bit under the average.  It was enough Leaving Cert points to study something, but not enough to study anything I really wanted to in third level.
I ended up in a PLC course an hour from home, in Print Journalism.  It was during this year that I had a mental breakdown.  It was partly due to an incident that happened at the time, but mainly to do with a lifetime of covered up depression, self-loathing and heartbreak from just being me.  The whole world around me crumbled.  I became suicidal – but, there was a flicker of hope inside of me.  I knew how to love, & who I loved, & I knew that people loved me.  My family.  How could I selfishly end my life, & destroy theirs in the process?  If it wasn’t for them, I dread to think what might’ve happened to me…
I spent the next few months in recovery.  I took anti-depressants, and moved back home where my parents took care of me.  I was self harming at the time – the guilt I still feel from this is overwhelming.  It is so painful to look into the eyes of a loved one, & to realise that your own self-loathing is actually causing their heart to break, too.
Those few months weren’t easy.  Sometimes, I spent the whole day in bed.  Sometimes, I found myself crying & I didn’t even know why.  Ultimately though, I found a new passion in photography, vlogging & all of the media.  I wanted to be a journalist, TV presenter/producer, or a photographer.
Every day was a struggle.  A struggle to not cut myself, a struggle to get out of bed, a struggle to do anything productive or worthwhile.  If it wasn’t for my family’s supervision & support, those everyday struggles would have been so much harder.
I fell into the same routine of making friends with people who treated me badly.  Again, I was the butt of all jokes.  I don’t fully know what happened though, but it was like one day I woke up, & I thought to myself that I don’t deserve this.  I deserve good people. I deserve good people. I deserve good people…  It suddenly made sense to me.  The reason that unkind people found me in the first place was because I sought them out.  My own insecurities and self-loathing wouldn’t allow good people to come into my life.  I needed to work on tearing down the wall that I had had up my whole entire life.  If I could do that, good people could become part of it.
I cut off contact permanently with emotionally abusive people, & I told myself that I’d rather be a loner in preference to spending time with them.
To this day, there are still people who see that I am not confident, & they play on it.  But I have something now that I didn’t have with the teachers & the abusive friends.  I have the ability to stand up for myself.  My main interest in this life is the interest of other people – the people I care for.  I would do anything to ensure their happiness.  But something they never tell you is that you also need to make yourself happy.  If you do not work on being happy, taking care of yourself to a certain degree, how can you ever show love & support to other people?
I am now twenty one years old, & I am trying to make my dreams come true every single day.  And you should, too.  Every day is a struggle to be happy.  There are times that all I want to do is go back to doing nothing, & living a meaningless, lazy & unmotivated lifestyle.  But when that happens, I need to look inside of my soul & find that strength, that push, that courage, to get back up after being knocked out, to love again after getting a broken heart.
There is no magic potion for happiness.  It is something you need to find yourself.  What makes you happy?
My past & me have a love/hate relationship.  I hate being reminded of Past, but I love how Past motivates me to have a better future.  What’s done is done.  Messes have been made, milk has been spilt, hearts have been broken & heads have been wrecked.  But every single day is a fresh new canvas we can all work on.  Every single day is a day that can never be repeated.  Today, I am going to try to be happy.  Are you?