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'I got a lot of abuse on Twitter after Dole Life, but there's so much more to my story'

Jake Gartland, who you may recognise as Shauna from RTE’s Dole Life, says you should never judge a book by its cover.

MY NAME IS JAKE and I am proof that you should never judge a book its cover.

You may recognise me as Shauna, 21 years old and unemployed, from RTÉ2’s show Dole Life. I made my television debut last Sunday night and the response on Twitter was incredibly negative.

Some people were annoyed with me because I was late four days running and lost my job. I was foolish, I accept that.

But that was a job that I really loved so nobody is more annoyed with me than myself and I’ve learned from the experience. Nobody is perfect when they start working, I am no different.

I would never turn down work

Other people took offence at me going out with my friends and having a good time, but I don’t drink alcohol, I’m not going out on the lash with the dole money. Some were annoyed that I wanted to have my weekends to myself, but what I really meant is that I would prefer that – who wouldn’t? – and I promise you I would never turn down work.

Then there were people who seemed to dislike me because I look different – I have tattoos and lots of piercings and I have the kind of personality where I am not going to change who I am for a job.

I took part in Dole Life because I hoped that it would help me broaden my horizons and find work. I didn’t expect to be abused like I was on Twitter on Sunday night. I genuinely felt attacked for being myself.

What people couldn’t have known when they were watching the show on Sunday night is that while it was being filmed there were other huge issues going on in the background. I was finally accepting that I am transgender.


Since I was about 12, I have been having an identity crisis. I came out to my mother around then. After that I hid it for about six years before I came out fully. I got the short hair and I got the piercings because I thought that was the lesbian thing to do.

Accepting who I am 

Things came to a head after filming started on Dole Life and I began to accept who I am. After I came out as trans, me and my girlfriend broke up. I took that really hard which might be the reason why I was going out all the time. I hated having to hide the person who I was inside.

It is not a very easy thing to do. It is actually horrible.

For me, it was 10 times harder to come out as trans than it is to come out as gay. I know what I want, I know who I am now and I know where I want to be but at that time I was so confused. I had just gotten my job and then lost it, I had a load of family stuff going on and then I had the trans thing and lost my girlfriend. There was a really dark patch while filming. I felt like I had lost everything and I broke down a lot.

That lifted for me when I found friends who accept me for who I am – and, in fact, the piercings and tattoos helped – and I started to accept myself too. I came out as trans to family and friends on Facebook on the day of the marriage referendum results after a few comments about my appearance.

Support of family and friends 

It wasn’t the best way to do it, but I feel blessed because almost everyone I know has been very supportive. Anyone who is negative in my life, I have managed to block out and my life is actually so much better for that. If anyone is going to comment on the whole trans thing, it is just them belittling themselves. There is no point in getting upset over people’s closed minds.

The smallest things help build me back up, like being called Jake or using male pronouns. It makes me feel happier because I am on the road to being who I feel I should be. It is a very long process and a lot of people ask me if I’m scared.

Yes, it is scary, but at the end of the day, it is me. If I didn’t feel like I needed it, I wouldn’t say who I am.

To be fair to the people who watched Dole Life on Sunday night, they wouldn’t have known all of this. In fact, it isn’t until later in the series that I come out as trans. But that shouldn’t matter.

I have changed an awful lot since filming and I have built on myself. For everyone to give out about me so much after seeing it was horrible. It was soul-destroying.

People have a tendency to make their minds up before knowing the full story. It is not the right way to do things. I hope when people see the entire series and see my journey they’ll understand why you really shouldn’t rush to judgement.

Everyone’s story is different and some people’s stories just take longer to tell.

Jake Gartland, whose ideal job is being a barber, is featured in RTÉ2’s Dole Life, the second episode is on Sunday, November 8th at 9.30pm.

RTÉ2 / YouTube

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