Just one year ago many of you first were introduced to me through a GCN interview, and I am thankful again to them for allowing me a space to say goodbye. As many of you know at this time, I have resigned my position as CEO with TENI, and I have struggled for months to find the right words to say goodbye. It is my hope that this will highlight why I am leaving, and inspire wider change across the country.
Just over a year and a half ago I was preparing to embark on a new journey and a promising future. I was utterly thrilled to move to Dublin and join such important work. I could not wait to get started, this was a once-in-a-lifetime chance, and a chance to move to a country I had loved my entire life. I had to find a flat online, and figure out how to pack my entire life into three luggage trunks and start again.
However, I faced daily challenges that continued to impact my own mental health. In moving abroad, many of us could not imagine the way Covid would utterly dismantle our sense of normal. But more than Covid I would face evermounting pressure and unbeatable challenges in health, harassment, and isolation that have led me to move back to the United States to just regroup and heal.
Last summer as I landed I was prepared for the 14-day quarantine, but cases seemed to be dropping and a return to working in person, and meeting new friends seemed just two weeks away. But that wasn’t the case. After I made it out of quarantine cases continued to rise, and I had two days of normal to meet for coffee, and to get to venture to Penny Lane. Then we went into an extended lockdown that lasted until Christmas and then all the way to June 2021. Between my arrival and Christmas, I only saw three people in person other than trips to Aldi or Tesco. Going through the cold and dark days alone was a serious challenge, restrictions were crushing my mental health, especially as I navigated the holidays completely alone. But the hope was by January we would have more opportunity to mix, and I could get to work building a friend group and even meeting colleagues in person! We know that was not the case, the variant strains continued to tax our healthcare system and therefore continued to impact all our lives. Life in isolation was just life.
Within this loneliness, more challenges would present themselves and leave their mark. I quickly became accustomed to the daily harassment Trans people face in Dublin. I was living on Parnell Square and every day when I would leave my building, I would be met with insults hurled from bus stops, scooters, and passersby. At first, like many of us in the Trans community do, I tried to ignore them. I tried to find new ways to get places and tried to avoid times when more people would be out. But it didn’t get better, the words got worse, and as I became known to live in the area the harassment because more targeted. I remember going to pick up a package I was shipped for my birthday and being surrounded by teens and men that began shouting slurs at me to get others to laugh nearby. I began crying, and with a package under my arm ran home. I broke down for hours, I hadn’t seen anyone in months, just Zoom for work, alone, with the heat broken in my apartment, I fell apart.
I was also facing my own struggle with Trans healthcare. As someone who has been out for years, the National Gender Service treated me like I wasn’t really Trans, and even tried to deny me hormones from my first appointment because, in the endocrinologist’s words, “At 34, you’re just a baby” and I couldn’t be sure of my decision. They ignored my printed years of bloodwork, my doctor’s letters from the US and sought to deny me care. Even what was prescribed was such a low level it felt as if my entire body had no hormones at all. They couldn’t even answer my questions on what to expect from switching off injections, as that was my standard care in the United States. I asked for referral for bottom surgery and was denied because I wasn’t in their care long enough, ignoring as well that I had been publicly out since 2016. So, with my body struggling I even had to explore options for DIY healthcare and making my last vials of estradiol from the US last for as long as possible.
So alone, harassed, and without healthcare I tried to push my way into 2021. Things didn’t get better; restrictions were back in place, and it would not be until March that I saw someone in person again. It was around this time a Twitter account published a Tweet sharing my full name and podcast I did in the US, which inspired their followers to search my dead name, my extended family and even my exwife. My grandfather, father, and ex-wife had to be notified that they may be targeted as well. Later while walking home from the TENI office a man saw me outside my flat and told me, “If I see you again, it’s your last night here.”
I was forced to move again during the pandemic. Then a verified death threat was published and made its way to the Gardaí. I then spent a Friday afternoon hearing of all the ways someone could break in and harm me in my new home, and my property manager told me I was causing issues, rather than addressing the concerns. By then I had stopped going out, or even going for a walk. Even in Portobello at the Canal I had a group of men fling burning cigarettes at me, shout slurs, and then alert every person down the street to stare at me until a Portuguese woman stepped in and made them leave.
My time was filled with worry, I spent afternoons crying alone on my apartment floor and previous struggles with suicide returned. I was alone, with no medical care, no friends I was allowed to see, not even the freedom to go out. I had nothing but threats and harassment. At every turn harm and anxiety were there.
I decided I needed to visit home, and so in June I returned to visit friends and stay for an extended period to try to hold myself together. I was able to get vaccinated, go out, and was healing. In the process I realised I needed these moments to live and decided I needed to stay in the US and leave Ireland, I needed to heal in ways I couldn’t put into words.
So, Ireland, I will miss you. I will miss the new friends I was able to meet and am heartbroken it was for such a short time. It was my dream to live here, and unfortunately the timing couldn’t have been worse. Trans people face so many challenges across the country. Culturally Trans people are not accepted, and not welcomed. To go anywhere in public is to invite harassment. This harassment is continuing to be amplified by Irish media and papers and leaving a real impact on people’s daily lives. When we go online, or when we go outside, hatred is waiting to be spewed, shouted, and shoved into us. That must change.
Beyond that there is no Trans healthcare in the country. To tell someone that has been out and on HRT for years they aren’t sure of their transition, to infantilise us, to deny us basic care and surgeries is criminal. As an immigrant I should never have been forced to do DIY healthcare in a country that is supposed to have healthcare for all. Add on the continued mismanagement and phobic leadership that may see a decade-long wait and you are inviting Trans deaths. Continue to call out this failed system. As this is published it will be one full year of no Trans youth and child healthcare, because leadership simply finds it adequate to delay care, and see suicide as an acceptable outcome.
Lastly, being isolated destroyed me. I wish I could have met more of you and seen more of the country. Not having friends close by is a struggle all on its own, and the pandemic has hurt many of us this way. I simply needed people and with the work, the healthcare, the harassment and the restrictions I was cut off. I have returned to Durham to rebuild and heal. I send each of you my deep love and will continue to amplify your voices and your stories to make Ireland safe and inclusive of us all. I wish I could be with you side by side, but I will continue from afar and can’t wait to visit when it is safer.
Shoshanna Éirénne Carroll