SINGER Darragh McGann has opened up about her journey in discovering who she really is and the decision to transition into the woman she was “born to be” after 47 years.
The Cobh singer has been known for the past 47 years as Darragh McGann and now, after years of battling with her true identity, Darragh has begun the process of transitioning from male to female, starting with hormone replacement therapy which began last week.
However, the decision has been a long time coming for Darragh, who hopes to legally change her name to Dara in the coming weeks.
“My story goes back to when I was seven or eight. I always knew I was different.
“In school, I used to be as bullied a lot. I was called ‘sissy’ and I always knew that I was different, and sometimes I would dress up at home secretly because I just knew something was wrong.
“But that was back in the 1980’s and I didn’t have brothers and sisters, so I had nobody to talk to. All I knew was that I only felt comfortable with the girls and not with the boys at all.”
Growing up in Cobh was tough for Darragh as she struggled to deal with what she would later discover was gender dysphoria and with puberty, things became more difficult.
“I knew something was wrong, I knew I wasn’t right, and I left school and went to train to be a priest and that didn’t work out.”
Well known for appearances on Britain’s Got Talent and the Voice of Ireland, Darragh’s love and passion for music played a vital role in her life and will be a major part of her new album, A New Horizon.
“Music saved my life. I suppose I always knew something was wrong and I always tried to hide it and I did a good job of hiding it. For the next 20 years, I just worked, I kept my head down, I built my music career and I was very lucky with TV appearances, radio, concerts but it came to a point this year.”
After the opportunity to take part in ‘Drag in Dublin’, Darragh realised her true identity and was officially diagnosed with gender dysphoria by a psychologist in Cork seven years ago.
However, it was not until this year that Darragh made the decision to transition.
After a lot of thought and fear about opening up to her 86-year-old mother, Darragh decided that it was time to finally tell her, and despite 47 years of living with her mother in Cobh, Darragh was shocked, but relieved by her reaction.
“Last year was a particularly tough year for my mum. I live with my mum and I’m her carer.And she had a couple of health issues last year and it frightened me… and I was like, I’d love to be honest with her and tell her what was going on.
“But we were down in Kerry in August this year ‘staycationing’, and we were relaxed, and we were chilled with not a care in the world and I thought; ‘you know what? I think my mum is strong enough to deal with this’ and shortly after we came home, I went to see my GP first and I was so nervous about talking with him - but he knew.”
After years of worrying about how her mother would react, Darragh was relieved to have her support, which she says is a reminder to anyone else who is afraid of opening up to the people they love, and of her life motto: ‘Those who mind, don’t matter and those who matter, don’t mind.’
“She admitted that she had a fair idea since I was a child but we were living in a different world back then in the 1980s, 1990s, even the early 2000s and she said: ‘who could I talk to?’
“I thought I knew my mum. I’m living with her 47 years, you would think I know her by now but, honest to God I can say that I didn’t know her at all because I always had this fear of how she might react.
“I’m very aware that there are a lot of other people out there like me, that are thinking about having the conversation and I just want to put a light on the whole thing and say: don’t be afraid as you think.
“We grew up in a very religious family but the way she has reacted and she has embraced it - there have been a few speed bumps along the way - and she said to me it’s like a bereavement and it’s like losing her son but I said: ‘No, mum you’re not. You’re gaining his twin sister.’”
After 47 years of battling unknown feelings and mental health, Dara feels relieved to be beginning her journey to living as the woman she was born to be.
Last week, she took the step to have her gender formally recognised and now, she wants to shine a light on her story for those who may be dealing with similar emotions or living in fear of how the rest of the world might react.
“I’m in a very happy, relaxed place where finally, after all these years, I’m free to be the true me,” she said.
“My mum always said to me growing up that all she wants is for me to be happy. The only way I can truly be happy is to transition fully into the woman that I have always been and to not live a lie anymore.
“I can only be me when I’m the woman I was born to be.”