How my wonderful parents saved my life and busted some stereotypes along the way

I was recently home for Christmas with my parents. My parents are probably my favourite people in the world. In fact I said to my mum that if my parents were cats then they would be on a par with Mr Kitty in terms of my love and Mr Kitty was the person (albeit a cat person) who I cared about more than anyone. 

So why do I love my parents so much? Well you wouldn’t think I wold love them. When I was a kid they were members of the Christadelphian church, a conservative church which disagrees with most of the things about me that I am proud of. As a teen I joined the socialists and argued with my dad pretty much every day. I moved out of home at 17, became a criminal and drug addict and did some dreadful things. I spent the years 1994-2000 basically in and out of psychiatric hospital, jail and residential services. At the time I did not like my parents. I was embarrassed by them and thought they were conservative and responsible for my issues. This was in fact a long way from the truth. My parents were simply always there. They visited me every month when I was in prison. When I finally decided to turn my life around they were supportive. When I was released from prison for the final time they were very visibly there for me.

I remember my mum saying that the first time I went to jail in 1994, when they were extremely shocked about what happened that they stayed with my mum’s step mum and her mother. My mum’s step grandma apparently said if her child had given to jail she would move to Peru! My mum’s step mum said ‘She actually would have!’ Thankfully there were no movements to South America and instead there was lots of kindness and support for errant – and at the time very defiant – Yennski. 

In 2000 I made some major changes in my life. I started seeing my parents differently. I noticed how caring and supportive they were. From February – September 2000 I was living in residential care for people with mental illness. I went there straight from prison. My mum and dad took me from the prison to the new place which took a couple of hours. Everything I owned was in a cardboard box and a plastic garbage bag. Over the next few months my life got better. I learned some mental health strategies and decided I wanted to change my life. My parents went overseas in about June and came back with so many gifts for me. I was overwhelmed. 

I retained some negative thoughts about my family for some years, mostly embarrassment – a hang on from my teen years and early adulthood but mostly I started to see my parents for what they were.

So what are my parents? They are still very Christian. As a transgender person who has received a lot of bigotry from Christians I can be wary but my parents are not in any way bigoted or judgemental. I said to my mum yesterday that a lot of transgender people struggle with Christmas because their families are hostile and bigoted and she was genuinely horrified. My mum says I have educated her about gender identity and sexuality and that this is a good thing. Even when I came out as a lesbian at the age of 16 in 1991 my parents weren’t hostile. More surprised I think. I like the idea that my mum finds me educational and is willing and receptive to being educated on such matters. 

I see my parents as being one of the key elements in my own change from desperate prisoner to who I am now. They went through a lot of trauma because of what was happening in my life but they kept coming back for more and stood by me at a time when pretty much everyone else had given up on me. My parents are largely responsible for my survival and now they get to brag about all my accomplishments. There is nothing quite like seeing my parents proudly telling friends about my various achievements – not so much for the reason of self-congratulation but because for many years there were no Yennski accomplishments. Any conversation about me was probably very sad and negative. It has been a difficult road to get where we are now but my relationship with both my parents is very positive and comes from a place of mutual love and admiration.

So thank you Yennski’s mum and dad. You are the absolute best and thank you for helping me to change my life and standing by me when nobody else was. I owe you the life I have now and that is a good thing.

Photo credit to my dad. This is us having lunch at a winery

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