Story as published in the Press & Journal by Joshua King.
A north-east gender equality campaigner has paid tribute to her inspirational son who died in a tragic clifftop fall.
Justine Smithies, who has raised thousands of pounds for gender and sexuality equality charity Stonewall Scotland, said the loss of her son two years ago has encouraged her to fight for equality.
Mrs Smithies was recovering from male to female transitional surgery when 15-year-old Cameron died after falling more than 100ft from the cliffs at Slain’s Castle, near their Cruden Bay home.
His death in June 2013 has spurred the 43-year-old to do the “crazy things” she is sure her son would have enjoyed as he got older, and to live her life to the fullest.
Now the marine electronics engineers has braved a tandem parachute jump to raise money for Stonewall Scotland. The majority of her sponsorship so far has come from Peterhead’s fishing community.
“Having been through everything I’ve been through – my transition and losing my son at the same time – you realise you’re only here once and have to do everything while you can”, Mrs Smithies said.
“I work alongside all the fishermen in Peterhead, some of them are my best pals. When I came out, my daughter said people in the town wouldn’t accept me – even my doctor suggested moving away – but they have been great.
“That’s where a lot of my sponsorship has come from. It’s come from these fisherman who nobody thought would accept me. It’s all about awareness and education.”
Now the Cruden Bay resident is reaching out to other people struggling with their gender identity. Her Just Be Yourself voluntary group is working to raise awareness and offer support in the area.
She added: “What happened to Cameron has spurred me on to live my life. I know he would do lots of crazy things because he was so strong. He was really supportive of me, and now that he’s gone you realise that you do only get one chance.”
Last night Daniel Aldridge, Stonewall Scotland’s programmes manager, said he was thrilled about the work Mrs Smithies is doing.
“The money raised will support our work to eradicate homophonia, biphobia and transphobia in our classrooms, workplaces and communities across Scotland,” he said.