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When I was a child, my favourite film was Rocky.

I admired the protagonists’ resilience. No matter how many times he fell on the canvas, he got back up again. The punches inflicted on him by his opponent, far from deterring him, actually seemed to spur him on.

I have a plethora of faults. For the last 7 years, I have recognised them, and endeavoured to ameliorate myself. But I also have some qualities. Resilience is one of them. Which is why I think I identified so strongly with Sylvester Stallone’s character in Rocky.

On 13th October 2021 I moved into my own flat, having been homeless for 12 months and 2 weeks.

I was euphoric, I was extremely sleep deprived, and I was alone. I wanted to share my emotions and my gratitude with the people who mattered to me. The people who had been there for me during my difficult times.

Ewa, from Together in a Crisis, was one of those people.

I made a video to say thank you. I made one for Ewa. For my support workers from a previous hostel. For my closest friends, I may be resilient. But I’m also very lucky and very grateful, because I have people who care about me.

I wanted to tell those people how happy I was. Happiness, an emotion that I’d forgotten, was engulfing me at a breathtaking pace.

I’d like to tell you some of my story. To explain my journey a little bit.

My name is Jon. It used to be Jen. I was born biologically female. I’m 47. Until the age of 40, I identified as a gay woman. In the last 7 years, I’ve realised that I’m a heterosexual man. I was born with the wrong body.

When I was 22, I told my parents that I was a gay woman.

My mother said I needed to see a psychiatrist. She also asked me if my brother had “interfered” with me, and that had made me a lesbian. My father put his head in his hands and sobbed. The only other time I saw my father cry was at his mother’s funeral.

Upon hearing about my sexuality, my brother physically assaulted me.

The worst bit wasn’t the way he squeezed my throat so hard that I couldn’t breathe. It was the anger in his eyes. The way he held his face, inches from mine, and spat derogatory, homophobic words at me.

When I was 24, I met a girl. I was with her for 16 years.

In 2014, the UK government made marriage equal. In June 2014, after 16 years together, we got legally married. Three weeks after the ceremony, she left me. She was in love with someone else.

I first self-harmed in 2015. First suicide attempt the same year.

In 2017, a brief interlude of happiness. A relationship with a girl. In 2019, she finished the relationship. She was in love with someone else.

In 2019, I had nowhere to live. My Grandad was in a care home. I had no relationship with my family, other than my aunties, who said I could stay in my Grandad’s bungalow. I lived there for just over a year.

In December 2019, I came out as Jon. I told my friends and changed my name legally.

Not of my own volition, I told my mother that I was a heterosexual man. She refused to accept this. In April 2020, she stopped all communication with me.

I expedited my diagnosis of gender incongruence with private appointments.

The waiting list for gender reassignment surgery on the NHS in England is 10 years.

Meanwhile, my Grandad had passed away. His house was sold, and I had to leave. I had been applying for a council flat but to no avail. I had nowhere to go.

On 30 September 2020, I was homeless. And I was in debt due to the private gender psychologist appointments.

I lived in a homeless hostel for six months. During this period, I had to call the police four times, due to transphobic abuse.

In March 2021, I had my fourth nervous breakdown in six years. I managed to get a room in supported housing. I lived there for seven months.

On 13th October 2021, I got my own council flat.

Depression is a horrible, silent disease. In my experience, it makes you suicidal. It makes you reach levels of anger that frighten you. The longest I ever had to wait for therapy was 20 months. That was after a suicide attempt.

Services like Together in a Crisis, are, for me, the difference between life and death.

I’ve written a short piece.

Something to try to encapsulate my feelings, and to explain what a difference services like Together in a Crisis make.

Metaphorically, you are drowning.
You have been dropped into the Atlantic Ocean. It’s dark, it’s cold.
Everything that might have helped you feel safe, everything that was familiar to you, has been ripped from you.
You’re scared.
You feel very alone.
You feel abandoned, forgotten.
Like you don’t matter.
Like if you gave in to the waves and disappeared, no one would notice, or care.
Then a service like Together in a Crisis comes along.
Metaphorically, it’s a lifeboat.
They encourage you to speak, even though you thought your mouth didn’t work anymore.
They listen, even though you don’t know if what you’re saying makes any sense.
They give pragmatic support, which is imperative, because you feel as helpless as a 4-year-old child.
They are empathetic and kind.
You had stopped believing you were worthy of receiving empathy and kindness.
You’re still scared, you’re still crying.
But you know you’re not on your own anymore.
You feel the antithesis of being on your own, in fact,
You have help. Help is here.
Without services like Together in a Crisis, you’d just let yourself sink into that cold, dark, deep water.

Thank you, Together in a Crisis, for being one of my lifeboats.

With love

Jon xx

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