Jacquiline Leaonna Turner experienced her ex-wife’s pregnancy as a man in search of her true identity. For many families, pregnancy is a time of joy and sweet expectations. For Jacqui, it was a time which made her all too aware of the profound experiences she was missing out on.
Jacqui speaks with Dreaming of Baby about her journey of finding her true self, and the impact pregnancy and parenthood left on her deep search for identity.
Charles: Hello and welcome! Jacquiline Leaonna Turner is with us here today to discuss a very special journey to parenthood. Thank you for joining us today.
Jacqui Leaonna Turner: You are so very welcome. Thank you for having me.
Charles: It is our pleasure. For our readers to get a better understanding of who you are and your journey, can you tell us a little about yourself?
Jacquiline Leaonna Turner: I’m a 38 year old transgender male-to-female. I started physically transitioning in August 2015; I’ve also just had bottom surgery. My goals and plans in life or to marry my beautiful wife Kara Marie Ramesey on March 31st, the ‘transgender day of visibility’.
Charles: Dear Jacquiline, it is my understanding that since a very young age you were aware of your transgender identity but did not have a name for it?
Jacquiline Leaonna Turner: That is correct… I always felt different, like I just wasn’t me.
Charles: Even though this was the case you still lived as a male and got married in a heterosexual relationship?
Jacquiline Leaonna Turner: I did… I felt this is what I was supposed to do so I wouldn’t be a disappointment in life. I was always trying to do the right thing and be what society wanted me to be.
Charles: I know that this will take you back to a long time ago but I think it may help other transgender people with their own journey to parenthood and maybe even help others accept themselves earlier on in the journey. Can you share with us the moments leading up to your first child, before your wife got pregnant and once you found out you were to be a father?
Jacquiline Leaonna Turner: Yes… In 2007, after being married for 3 years, we had our first child. I remember it like yesterday: the excitement and the beautiful energy that came with the fact that we were going to be given a miracle. I was at the time feeling jealousy though and didn’t know why. Being our first child, I wanted to be there for everything. Watching my wife at the time give birth to this wonderful miracle of life had me wondering what it was like to be her at that moment. To have that special bond between child and mother: a peace I felt I was only given a small portion of.
Charles: Before the birth, at the beginning of the pregnancy, did you ever feel you were in the wrong place? Did the knowledge of your wife being pregnant make you more or less in tune with your true self?
Jacquiline Leaonna Turner: Yes… yes, I did. I wished that everyone that was excited for us and more so for my wife at the time, was about me. To see how the other women were so happy for her knowing what she was going to go through and bring into the world. But I wrote it off as just being jealousy, that I was being selfish at the time. It was at this time though that my gender dysphoria was really taking a strong grip on me mentally.
Charles: Did you seek any outside help at the time or was the journey to parenthood too time-consuming?
Jacquiline Leaonna Turner: I didn’t seek any help at the time. Being the so-called father, everyone told me I now have a huge responsibility and that is to provide for the family. I was falling extremely depressed. Again, something that from the time I was a small child, my father used to tell me that depression is just a feeling and you have to learn how to deal with that feeling.
As the depression grew… I thought it would make me better as a person and stronger in our marriage if we had another child.
Charles: So what was meant to be a joyous time was counter balanced not just with the fear of looming responsibility as a parent but of course by your identity concerns? Looking back, what advice would you give to someone that desires more than anything to be a parent but has not yet made their identity a public part of their life?
Jacquiline Leaonna Turner: Absolutely… don’t stuff and hide your feelings. Communication is what everyone says makes for a successful relationship and it’s absolutely true. At the time though, I thought I was making things better by doing all the things I was told to do. The one thing I never did was to be completely honest of the female feelings I was having, all in fear of hurting others. All that this did was turn me into a constant liar. My whole life turned into a giant lie.
Seek the help that you would need and if nothing more, just be honest with yourself… In the end, that’s who you have to answer to.
Charles: On that note, what kind of help is available? What helped you the most?
Jacquiline Leaonna Turner: There is so much more available out there now … from therapy to social media groups for support. In the end, I did seek help from a therapist for depression and substance abuse. She helped me find out that I did in fact have gender dysphoria.
Charles: What was it like finding out about your gender dysphoria, or to be more precise getting a confirmation and a professional diagnosis of it? How did it re-frame your journey to parenthood for you?
Jacquiline Leaonna Turner: When I finally accepted me for me, it was like this giant mental weight lifted off my soul. I couldn’t be happier and because of it I’m a happier person. My children are also very happy. We are a much stronger happier family today. No more hiding who I am as a person. No more pretending to be something I’m not… and all in the name of society and labeling.
Charles: That is great to hear, so if I understand correctly, the most powerful thing that happened was finally accepting yourself as you are. I assume you always had fear in your heart that kept you from being your true self, this is a fear I am certain many share. Was the reaction of those around you as bad as you expected?
Jacquiline Leaonna Turner: Yes… accepting me for me. Knowing that there are things I cannot change, but knowing what things I can change. Coming out was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life… but it’s also been my biggest reward.
Charles: I would like to thank you for your time and for sharing your story with us. If you had to give one piece of advice or share an important insight for transgender people thinking of having children; what would it be?
Jacquiline Leaonna Turner: Absolutely and again thank you for speaking with me… I would tell people that yes “Love Is Love” and to find love and be in love… is to love yourself first. Don’t let fear and doubt stop you… and if you do have children, they are our biggest gift and sometimes we need to take the moment to listen to their needs and wants, for they are our future.