Lydia Foy recalls hell of being transgender during childhood and school

Lydia Foy, the woman who led a landmark legal challenge for transgender people, has spoken of the hell she endured from early childhood because of ignorance of her plight.

Ms Foy, 67, said her national school years were very tough, but became worse in secondary school when she was taunted by bullies who glued the pages of her schoolbooks together and destroyed her clothes.

At least two other transgender children were in school with her at the time and also suffered abuse. One did not survive the experience and later died by suicide. She said she almost didn’t survive herself, suffering a major breakdown in adult life when she was married and a father of two, but knew that she could not go on pretending to be a man.

Ms Foy, a dentist from Athy, Co Kildare, was identified as male when she was born, but always felt female. In 1992, she finally had gender reassignment surgery and the following year, she applied for a new birth certificate recognising her true gender but was refused.

Her 21-year legal battle ended last week with the State giving a commitment in the High Court to enact legislation next year that will give people the right to have a new birth cert issued if the original one did not reflect their true gender.

She told RTÉ’s Miriam O’Callaghan that she knew from early childhood she should be seen as a girl. “My sister came along and she was getting lovely dresses. They were beautiful ballet dresses, embroidered for her, and I was green with envy.”

Her time in primary school was very difficult and as early as her First Communion, she felt ill with the pain of seeing the girls putting on white dresses.

At boarding school later, she suffered serious bullying and had to toughen up, but another pupil who was less able to hide his femininity was very badly treated and later took his own life.

“There was another that I spoke to and she told me she had been subjected to aversion therapy and shock therapy,” she revealed.

Ms Foy said some of her toughest times came before her surgery when she had to spend two years living outwardly as a woman and she was ridiculed and portrayed as a deviant by some media.

She still suffers from depression after her experiences and says while she has great neighbours and good friends, she has been unable to find love again.

“I have been pretty lonely. People would still think it’s a stigma to be with somebody like me. They might not in time to come. For the next generation I don’t think it will be any hassle at all.”

Ms Foy said she was left delighted but exhausted after the conclusion of her court battle and stressed she still didn’t have her new birth cert. “It’s wonderful in that we have such a solid commitment to tidy things up,” she said, but added: “I feel I can’t relax until everything is totally tidied up.”


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