A Sudden death and a Black dress: T-girl takes the plunge in a small town.

Carpe diem. Today’s the day, Mary.

Fiona Evangeline Leigh
Prism & Pen
7 min readJul 26, 2023


July 2019 to July 2023. 4 years. Makes a girl think.

Last weekend it happened again.

I went arse over tit, back down into the doldrums.

Wouldn’t you know it? A fit of dysphoria so intense my life withered suddenly. Why was this happening again? I’ve never been the most grounded of people, I’ll admit, but since the 12th of December last, when I received my Gender Recognition Certificate, I’d never been so focussed. A simple three-day weekend from work had stirred a mother and father of an existential crisis.

I sat over my morning coffee suddenly without a hope in the world, still that neither-here-nor-there person I’d always been. My own mind turned Iago on me, whispering its withering asides louder than ever, like it had found the magic spot in my skull. Beyond all the glitter scattered by my current antic disposition, I was, when all was said and done, a man in a dress.

The folks at home always said I tried to be different.

That I hungered for attention and was always going tooth and nail to get it. They had a point. I like to be seen a little bit too much. All this talk of being on a journey was yet another figary in a thick volume of them. It had never occurred to them that I was different. That their distaste of it had damaged me in my formative years. Yet still Iago held court despite this truth. The glumness gathered in the pit of my stomach and the glitter factory closed with no hope of ever opening again. I no longer felt like taking on the world on my own terms. I had felt pride in myself all along, without even knowing it. Pride is the essential ingredient in maintaining the will to carry on. I knew I’d felt it, or was on the right road to getting it because now it wasn’t there anymore.

You don’t know what you got til it’s gone.

Lana took me out to our favorite café and the gloom refused to lift. I kept my sunglasses on the entire time. I had all the joie de vivre of Anna Wintour at a fashion show. Sure, I could even hear the dull drone in my voice and, hilariously, caught myself thinking about Sylvia Plath’s poetry.

I’d idolized her in my early twenties. I’d lived an isolated existence in my deceased Granduncle’s house in Cork city. When I should have been out and about exploring life, I was bogged down with identity issues and found solace in Plath’s lines. That arctic expedition to find my core was a dry ol hooley. I thought it an extended adolescent fit as my navel filled with grit and wasted time. There was no core to be found so I turned to the drink. Poor Lana, she’d unwittingly invited a disenfranchised beatnik out for lunch.

It just goes to show how fickle pride can be, transgender or otherwise. We are our own greatest enemy. If we don’t form some sort of a grip on ourselves we are liable to become tempest tossed hermits. I didn’t want to go out. I tried to shun the limelight of existence. I got up Wednesday morning and I was still miserable. I still took my hormones and tablets and discovered, yet again, I derive such comfort from ritual.

The pills were still popped and the hormone gun coughed up its daily three shots. I realized all this dark night of the soul stuff had come from being off work for so long. It has become such a major part of my identity. Left to my own devices I’d begun to bully myself. I realised how important my job is in giving me context and turning theory into action. I was no longer a marginal figure hiding in the shadows of my apartment. I was a human being with a future.

Regardless of my accoutrements, I am what I am. I’ve given voice and form to an aspect of me that was bricked up for aeons like Antigone in the pit. My core recalibrated itself. Action speaks louder than words. Sometimes we must show ourselves that what we are doing is right. To arrange a cluster of bombs beneath our keesters and blow ourselves clear of our self-created wreckage.

Today, I’m going to wear a dress.

I’m going to cross the square outside, with its concretion of toxic, sniggering taxi drivers, and go to the shop to buy cigarettes. Then I’m going to walk through town to the train station and go to work. Everyone with an ounce of grey matter neath their wigs know I’m trans at this point. I’ve been wearing short shorts all summer. This is just a minor upgrade is all. I never thought I’d see the day I’d have the self-possession to do it.

Carpe diem. Today’s the day, Mary.

I got myself together. I took videos of different ensembles. I sized up my strut wearing them, curiously modest and un-Parisian in the face of reality. I fixed that sharpish. Once I was happy with my overall presentation, I opened the door and left my apartment. All going well I would leave a blur and come back a proud trans woman.

And with that I hit the street.

I was off on my way through the stale rhythms of the town. Not so long ago, the thought of walking through the place in this get-up was an impossible scenario. Now I swung my handbag in amongst the cars and locals with their cackling eyes. There didn’t seem to be much amiss as I made my entrance into the local shop and got my customary spritzes of goodwill from the ladies behind the counter.

A war raged in my head, a war I felt I was winning. I was finding victory in the small things, warding off the old demons with the flaming torch of my desire TO BE. The town was dwarfed by the looming presence of a cruise ship in the harbor and tourists with open quizzical faces wandered aimlessly about in a quest for distraction. And there I was, passing the promenade on a promenade of my own. Finally I’d brought a sliver of my private life into the public domain, copyrighting my style on my way to the train. The ancient ulcers stopped throbbing and I felt as fresh as the breeze that tousled my hair.

I felt strong, visible and slightly sheepish. I made this all so difficult for myself. I wasn’t looking for approval, I was firm in this decision. I flooded the locker-room at work with my achievement. My friend and stylist La Bomba was sitting, red-eyed and abstracted looking, as I declared my achievement to the rafters.

Bomba’s voice was flat as she launched into her story and my sails weren’t long deflating.

It turned out that a colleague of ours was on life support.

That morning she had been getting herself ready for work as usual and she just…….collapsed. She’d had a massive stroke and would never regain consciousness. She passed away a week later.

The sense of grief robbed the shop floor of its usual bustling energy. I felt like a bit of a maroon. My struggles of the morning seemed trivial in the face of death. As I folded the licensed pjs it occurred to me that awful as that lady’s death was, it couldn’t diminish how important that move was for me. As another friend pointed out, it should have underscored how important it is to live your life no matter what. And she was right.

The shop ground to a halt as the assistant manager’s voice announced one minute’s silence for our deceased co-worker. It was a powerful moment. I took the hand of one of my girlies and thought about her. I couldn’t place the woman they were talking about. All week long, as both management and staff collectively struggled to digest the shock, I’d sympathized with them as a matter of form.

It was only when a picture of her was placed in the canteen that I discovered who had died. And it was a shock. I recognised her immediately. I stood like an idiot in the middle of the floor studying the serenity of a smile no-one would ever see again. I’ve been lucky to have had a life that hasn’t had much contact with death. She’d worked there for 35 years. Her going had brought the family aspect of the place to the fore. To a person who has none, this was profound stuff. I’m more than happy to be part of it.

A family that accepts you for who you are?




Fiona Evangeline Leigh
Prism & Pen

An Irish writer, transgender woman and singer currently living in the Republic. Has just completed a memoir Marabou Barbie.