CLARE Champion journalist, Owen Ryan, has scooped a major journalism award for an article on how Shannon’s Jamie Walsh embraced his transgenderism after years of depression and inner torment.
“The Importance of being Jamie” outlined Jamie’s experience of being a young transgender person and the impact on his mental health.
The article won the top award in Headline’s Mental Health Journalism Local Print category for a news report or feature, published in a regional outlet, that deals with mental health issues.
The judges citation stated:
“The judges felt that the Importance of Being Jamie was a beautiful and well-written piece. It gave a voice to Jamie, a young transgender person, to share his experiences of being trans and the impact on his mental health. He did so with great openness and integrity. It felt especially important that a piece on this topic appeared in a local paper, shining a much-needed light on what can be a very dark and lonely space for other young LGBTI+ people.”
Owen, who is delighted to receive this award, is very grateful to Donna McGettigan and Jamie Walsh for outlining their story.
“They were very open when I was talking to them. It is great there is more acceptance nowadays for people who are LGBT +.
“It is an indictment on society there still can be some difficulties for young people growing up if they are a bit different from the norm. Hopefully, this is a chapter that is coming to an end.
“I hope that articles like this are helpful to young people who are LGBT+ and that it also helps and provides encouragement to families.
“It is important for people to be open about who they are and for this to be accepted. Hopefully, Jamie’s story will help people to be more open. It is important that people talk about things that may be troubling them to someone else they can trust.
“Donna’s story is good for parents if their children are LGBT + as she was very accepting and helpful to Jamie. Jamie is thriving now with his new identity,” he said.
Councillor McGettigan said it is “fantastic” this article got an award because it means that people are sitting up and listening.
The Sinn Féin councillor stressed anyone shouldn’t be afraid to come out and say what and who they are.
Donna recalled when Jamie first came out and said she was gay and later she was transgender, this was a great relief to her as a mother.
“I only have one child. But I am getting to experience both a son and a daughter through that one child. How many people are getting to experience that? It is a wonderful experience to be able to see your child growing into who they want to be without fear.
“To have this article getting an award is fantastic because it means that people are sitting up and listening. It is also making more people aware of these issues.
She believes there may be some elderly people who were transgender all their life and could never say what they were but they might now take hope from Jamie’s story so their grandchildren would be able to come forward.
She hopes that public discussion about transgender becomes the norm.
When Jamie turned 21 in May 2019, his family had a party at Wolfe Tones. Part of the celebrations included the display of a banner saying ‘Happy 20th Saoirse and 1st Jamie’, celebrating both the landmark birthday and the new identity.
Donna recalled she erected a banner with photographs of Saoirse up to the age of 20 and afterwards pictures as Jamie.
“When we explained the banner the amount of people that came up and shook our hands was amazing.
“Some people said you wouldn’t believe how much you helped my friend or how much you helped me to understand. It was such an incredible experience in the local GAA club to have that acceptance.
“I am hoping as time goes on it will become the norm and nobody will be labelled, they will be just who they are without any backlash.
Jamie Walsh said it is very important for everyone to share their feelings with someone they can trust in a safe environment as keeping feelings bottled up is not good in the long run.