When you decided to tell those around you that you were going to live your life as a boy, what was the first reaction of a) your carers b) family c) friends?
My carers were probably a little mindful when I first told them – to no ill intention. It’s a big change after all, and so it’s understandable. They wanted to make sure I was doing the right thing, for me. However, they were incredibly supportive of my decision once they understood that I was very serious about it.
My two older brothers and sister followed on in support. Although one of them perhaps didn’t understand completely, he still accepted me as his brother. Not everybody in your life will understand or accept such a change as easily as others. Hopefully, it’s in one of those “question everything,” mindsets, in which case, they may just be overly concerned with your decision. I believe that was his thought process. However, unfortunately, you may have people around you who just don’t agree with the idea of being transgender – whether that’s due to religion or personal belief. It can sometimes be difficult to persuade or educate these people differently.
My friends were the first people I told, even when I was just questioning myself months before I came out. And, although I’ve lost and gained new friends since then, I feel lucky that I was surrounded by people who were as accepting and open to change as they were. When I eventually did come out, they adapted incredibly quickly to calling me my name, and different pronouns. I believe that our generation is one of the most socially and politically aware generations for our age, so basically, we’re all quite accepting and progressive. If you’re reading this, you’ve probably surrounded yourself with the right people.
What would you say to people who might say things like ‘they are just trying to work out who they are’ or ‘well they just don’t know what their identity is’?
To be honest, young adolescence is a time of ‘working out who we are’. Figuring out our personalities, passions, interests, political ideas, beliefs, potential job careers, what we look for in friendships or romantic partners. And for some of us - our gender identity and sexuality. However, statements such as these are often said in a patronizing manner; “You’re going through a phase, all kids do!” and “Oh, he’s just confused,”
I say that it’s alright to be confused. It’s natural to question yourself or to question the world in general. Sometimes things just don’t feel right, and we’re not always sure why. That’s what it was like for me for pretty much my whole life until I found out what being transgender was. Then it just all sort of clicked into place. Nobody can know how you feel, apart from you.
Growing up, when you were young, did you ever feel like you would be able to truly be yourself and how did those around you make you feel like that?
As I said before, when I was young, I just knew something was wrong. I was always a ‘tomboy’ growing up – which a lot of people were so I, nor nobody thought too much into it. My much younger childhood was quite turbulent, to say the least. So that ate up quite a lot of my life even after coming into foster care. I felt as though I had to get over it, and a lot of my behaviours and thoughts were pinned on the things that had happened in the past as if it was the answer to everything I felt or did - it was quite constricting. The thought of me being transgender didn’t really exist until quite recently (2018). In fact, I came out probably only a few months after I even began looking into it. It was quite a quick process.
Going to school & college, for the first time after deciding to show on the outside how you felt inside, what did you do/what did other people do, to support you?
For me, this was probably the hardest part. I live in quite a conservative city, and a lot of the schools in my area follow closer to some more conservative values, (a lot of schools around here are religious). However, my school is under a decade old, and not religious. And so, I tend to believe it’s adopted more modern, liberal values. I’d heard stories from other schools, of transgender kids getting bullied by students and teachers alike. Though, I’m not sure to what extent and it was all rumours. So I was definitely a little nervous.
I knew that a lot of people were in support, and that word had most definitely gone around my year. It was awkward for a time, but I quickly warmed up and found that I was the most confident I had ever been at school. My friends, as I said, adapted quickly, and so did the whole year it seemed. Present day and I don’t think anybody even thinks twice.
My teachers, on the whole, were supportive. Some went out of their way to make me feel more comfortable in coming back to school: correcting people, giving me places to go and someone to talk to, or sometimes just small actions that went a long way. However, for some people, it seemed like calling me my new name and pronouns was more of an ‘occupational hazard,’. Though, on the good side, I’ve never really felt left out or alienated in a lesson.
Overall, it was a good thing. After I got over the hardest hill of going back to school, I probably had never been happier than I was. My confidence went up, and I really began to feel more like myself. And while it opened me up to some casual bullying and ignorance from other students, I had, and have some very good friends by my side – even people I’m just general classmates with have stuck up for me in school before. And perhaps I just go to a good school for things like this, but those who are truly looking out for your best interest will stick around and be there for you after a change like this.
Some people might be of the opinion that when you are part of the LGBTQ+ community you have to fully engage with everything that happens, but obviously this isn’t the case, so what advice would you give to young people from your perspective that want to live their life but as you said (or similar) are not wanting to really be part of ‘the scene’?
Getting involved with the community can be highly beneficial. Knowing that you always have a place to go and people to talk to is a great thing for a lot of people. Although, there are plenty of people who don’t get as involved – such as myself. For me, I don’t want to confide in or follow any particular group. I don’t want to make friends with people just because they’re also in the LGBTQ+ community. If I meet a new friend, and we get along, none of that really matters.
The way I see it, it’s nobody’s choice to be gay or transgender. I won’t get into the science behind it, but it’s not a choice. At the end of the day, If you’re a trans guy – then you’re just like any other guy. And therefore, you are not obliged to be involved with anything. It’s the same with homosexuality, a partner is a partner and marriage is marriage. The gender of those involved shouldn’t matter. There’s no rule book on being gay, transgender, or even straight.
Obviously, LGBTQ+ related things may directly affect my life, and I also emphasize with others in the community. Personally, I just tend to be quieter about the fact that I’m transgender. I just want people to see me how they see any other boy in school, or town, or wherever.
If you could talk to yourself as a young kid (and other young kids) what advice would you give them about making sure they are true to themselves about who they are?
I think I can go back to what I was saying before; about how sometimes things just don’t feel right. Nobody else can know exactly how you feel, other than yourself. And sometimes it takes time to work out how you feel. I can say that there are things that I still don’t understand about myself, but it never hurts to carry on looking for those answers.
People won’t always agree with you, but don’t let other people’s agendas lead you. We all have our rudimentary ideas, morals, and sense of right and wrong – some, that I hope every human being on planet Earth follows (except, not everyone does). However, on top of that, we all have our own individual ideas. Things we learn from personal experience, or ideas and beliefs that we just gravitate towards. The mind is a complex place, even as a kid.
I know that when I was younger, I was confused. Living in a bad home, with bad people makes you think a certain way. I wasn’t exactly conscious of it but looking back I know my mind was in the right place - somewhere in my head, I knew something was wrong. I was just so young that I couldn’t understand my thoughts and feelings very well – but they were very real. So, I guess what I’m trying to say is, sometimes it just takes time to understand yourself, and the way you think. And that’s okay.
Especially with gender identity and sexuality, it can be extremely confusing. Even more so when you’re heavily influenced by the people around you. When you’re young, it’s sometimes difficult to find your own voice. Adults may not give you space to develop your own ideas and beliefs. Try to give yourself that space, that might sound weird. But don’t overload yourself or believe that you must think a certain way because that’s what you’ve been taught. Obviously, follow basic morals and don’t stray too far from the facts, but always question authority.
Why is it potentially a good thing to share your stories with other people, in your opinion?
Stories are fundamental ideas for greater things. We learn through experience, and real stories from real people have the potential to inspire and educate people to further lengths. It can show people that they aren’t alone. We all have wildly different experiences, generally. And so, I don’t think one can truly speak for all. If someone else was asked to write this, I’m sure our responses would vary greatly. It doesn’t mean that one of us would be right or wrong, it just shows that experiences are personal and different.
What does the future look like for you?
That’s hard to say, really. In terms of my personal future, I want to be happy. I want to make the medical changes necessary to live my life out as a man. I want to contribute the same amount to society as anybody else, and I sometimes feel it’s unfair that some people won’t even give me that chance, for a reason that I can’t help. I know it might be harder for me to do certain things like find a partner, get a job, or start a family. And sometimes that bothers me, but I guess all I can do is take it day by day.