* Disclaimer: the name of the story teller has been changed in order to maintain the individual’s confidentiallity
We’re back with another story time. We love hearing your stories and we know it can be inspiring to those that are wishing to come out, or even those that aren’t trans and just need to hear stories in order to understand. Here is Dan’s* story…
When did you realise you were trans and what was this journey like for you?
I realised something was ‘off’ about my feelings towards my body and gender expression at around 8 (though I obviously didn’t have the vocabulary to describe it at that age). I remember being given a book about puberty/gender/sexuality at some point, probably at about 10, and I had a bit of an ‘a-ha’ moment when reading a very basic explanation of transgender people in it. I didn’t seek to do anything with that information for a while – obviously I was very young, and it seemed I’d found myself in this situation and there was nothing I could do about it, but at least I knew what was ‘wrong’ now.
What were the first steps you took to come out?
I came out at 12 to my mother, and our first step was going to the GP. She basically did the research and told the GP what they needed to do (that being organise an appointment with a specialist), and then I got a referral to Tavistock in London. I almost think being that young was beneficial to me in this regard – I was very lonely, but I wasn’t expected to know what steps to take. My mum was great in this regard; I know there wasn’t much information on transgender people, especially children, at the time and honestly if she hadn’t taken the initiative I think the GP would have had no clue how to handle me.
In terms of just feeling slightly more normal, seeing more trans people in media/generally in life is helpful. It’s a nice reminder! People like you exist, and they can be happy.
How was the process of telling your loved ones?
I’d tried to come out to my mum before ‘successfully’ coming out by leaving a letter on her bed and disappearing to my room. I’d been dismissed by her these previous times, but I think that was probably an issue of not knowing how to express how I felt and no parent really expecting to have to deal with a transgender child. I’m not sure she even knew it was a possibility at the time. She and my step-dad were very supportive after that. She told the rest of our family eventually (those closer to us first), and I’ve been lucky in that most are respectful, and we’re not particularly close to those that aren’t.
That being said, being trans at the moment for me means I’m constantly in a state of having to tell new loved ones. I recently decided to come out at university because of a break-up, and the fact that I’d rather be upfront on e.g. Tinder than have to have that discussion with every individual that shows interest/after weeks of talking only to have it be an issue. I knew my friends would come across my profile, and that I’d just have issues with dating that it’d be nice to talk about completely openly. Again, they’re all supportive (I wouldn’t have been friends with them for a year if there was a possibility they wouldn’t be), but feeling like you have to tell people, and telling people generally, always sucks.
How has your transition affected you? Has there even been a big event in your life that’s happened as a result of you being trans?
I’m much happier. That’s the biggest change. I can’t claim I’m the most emotionally secure person I know, but each step in my physical transition (T at 16, top surgery at 18) has made me a generally happier person.
I can’t really think of a big (positive) event that’s happened as a result of my being trans. I’d have a lot of bad experiences, which I know is common to every gender non-conforming person.; luckily, there’s been nothing so huge that it’s completely changed my life.
What do you think the current state of support in uni and schools is for transgender people?
My school was decent (certainly not great), because my mum wasn’t afraid to stand up for me. I’ve heard that a trans child that has more recently been at the school has been treated awfully, and I think it’s clear how little regard there actually is for the wellbeing of trans children especially. Once no one was going to call them out on their poor behaviour, they stopped pretending to care.
There’s a Trans Association at my university, but I’ve never been to any meetings. I know people who have, and who work on its exec, and I get the idea that it’s generally a great resource and community – which is a good thing, because it’s the only resource.
My university health centre is not fantastic, similarly to my experience with GPs as a child; it certainly seems to stem from a lack of specialist knowledge. They’re too nervous to do anything with hormones without consulting my endocrinologist, which has resulted in me not having testosterone for a short while and my periods starting up again. This was very difficult for me to deal with when it started, but it’s been a year now and I’ve learnt I just have to adjust because they’re not going to do anything about it anytime soon. There’s definitely a lack of regard for the mental wellbeing of the individual patient, and maintaining consistency in my transition.
What are your methods of coping when you feel down?
I can’t say I’m very good at coping methods. A lot of my mental health issues are (at least somewhat) separate from being trans, and mostly I take naps, if I can, to clear my head; going home for a change of scenery and remove myself from a difficult headspace has been the most effective method, but less convenient.
When struggling with dysphoria, I’ve found that actually having trans friends to talk to is the only thing that helps. I know my cis friends would listen, but being able to vent to someone who understands is irreplacable. I think a sense of community, even if it’s just knowing one or two other people, is perhaps the most important thing to remind you that you’re not alone in struggling with this.
What would your advice be to a person who is coming to terms with the fact that they are transgender and aren’t sure what to do?
The NHS waiting list is long – it’s really long. Try and get on it to talk to a specialist (I HATED it but ultimately it did help me understand that I am trans, and that that’s an OK thing to be, and what my options were now I knew this). In the meantime, you are allowed to experiment with gender expression, clothing, names, whatever. This stuff is malleable, and not as rigid or precious as people seem to think it is. Obviously this is easier for some than others depending on your environment, so stay safe above all else.
Talk to other people who are trans/non-binary/gender non-conforming to any extent. Understanding the experiences and emotions of others can put your own in perspective, and also creates that community I mentioned earlier. They can also give you more specific advice if they’ve been in your place before, or you can figure it out together if you’re in similar situations.