I remember the day I was sent to prison, waiting in front of Nottingham Crown Court, which faces the Broadmarsh Bus Centre. Smoking cigarettes. It’s funny, but even as I type this, my heart starts racing. I was terrified. Borstal was not something I thought I could cope with. It was an unknown and hostile land I might be sent to, alone. A feminine boy, as I appeared to the world at the time, the last sort of person you’d expect to survive prison unharmed.
I don’t think I will ever look at buses with such longing as I did that day, except, perhaps, if my mum was on one and I knew that I would never see her again. I wanted to cross the road, join a queue and step inside. A bus. Any bus. No one would stop me. No one was guarding me. I could have sat down with all those other people and let the bus roll me further away from the courthouse; I could have got off somewhere, where no one would expect me to be; I could have bought a sandwich and sat on a bench and planned which bus I would catch next. I could have caught buses all day, had I chosen to, and landed far, far away. I looked at those buses with fresh, fearful, tear-filled eyes and saw nothing but freedom.
I was sent to prison for two years that day, just weeks after my 18th birthday. 18, for me, was a cell. I’ll never get that back. It’s why I’m not ashamed to talk about my past. I paid for my crime. I didn’t catch the bus.
That was 7 years ago.
There’ve been ups and downs since then, lows I cannot describe, times I’ve wanted to end my story, but didn’t. So how, then, can I look back on 2012 with anything but pure gratitude? This year has been the best of my life. No doubt. It has been an emotional rollercoaster, if you’ll excuse the cliché, and filled with experiences that have both shocked and intrigued with their sheer intensity.
Things have shifted… my face has shape-shifted. I’ve been moved, I’ve moved, I’ve travelled. I’ve pulled back from Trans Media Watch, to focus on the excitement of Trans Media Action and META; I’ve prioritised paid work, to survive. I haven’t, sadly, been able to respond to everyone who has contacted me. I haven’t had time.
I’ve been tired and busy and guilty and disappointed, and disappointing, and angry and afraid, and betrayed, and hopeless – and I’ve cried, all the time; I’ve said hello to all those negative feelings that have visited me, again, as they do every year, and yet I have never been more fulfilled. I didn’t know it was possible to be this happy.
And I tell you this: it has made me even more determined to make things better for people like me, and by that I mean anyone in a dark place who hopes for life improved. Now I’ve tasted the prize, I want us all to win. It’s good stuff, people. It’s worth hanging on for. It gets better.
Work. Play. Persevere. Chase your dreams. Never, ever give up. You’ll be dead, one day. Don’t get there without experiencing a year like I have. 2012 may not have been the time for you, and maybe next year won’t be so fun for me, but hold on tight, folks. The big wheel keeps on turning.