Well here’s a newsflash everyone, I’m Trans. Might as well get that one out of the way before I start. Chances are if you’re reading this you already knew that about me but anyway, this is about how I got there and looking back at all sorts in my life that now I’m looking back made that little fact about me rather more obvious.
Over the past few months I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about a number of things and feel ready to talk about them. This is going to take some time to go through so feel free to get comfy or think ‘I ain’t got time for this’ and do something else. I should put in some warnings here as I’m going to be bringing up memories of homophobic and transphobic themes. Mental health themes crop up too.
As I realised the other day at 3 am and thinking about this instead of getting some sleep before work, it’s like I had all the pieces of the puzzle there, but it’s only now I have the picture on the box to help put everything together, so here goes. 31 years of various memories that now are no longer a confusing mess and make sense to me now.
So when did I know I was trans? That’s the first question most people have asked me when I’ve come out to them. It’s a good question, one I’m not sure I really have an answer for. Could have been when I was 4 years old and running around quite happily with a girly bob cut, in one of mum’s aprons and pretending to cook on the oven? I certainly looked (and remembered being) very happy in the pictures mum or dad got of me doing this, and aside from that there’s not too much I remember from that age, aside from early birthday cakes, watching Bullseye on what was then our only colour TV, dad driving around with me on his lap and holding the steering wheel, and Uncle Jim once sitting me on his motorbike and going for a slow ride to the end of our road. Yeah, you could get away with this crazy stuff in the eighties.
At that age and a little bit older, yeah, I was into boy things. I played football (badly), charged around screaming ‘I have the power!’ because He-Man was a thing then and I spent a lot of time hooning around on the first of many push bikes I’d ride into oblivion.
I also liked my sisters toys. I’d often borrow her Barbie dolls and I watched my fair share of Care Bears and My Little Pony among others with her (and my other sister when she came along). Mum and dad didn’t seem to mind, I remember them asking me if I was having fun, none of the ‘Why are you playing with girls toys for?’ Knowing them they were glad if I was sitting still and quiet for more than two minutes so who cars what I was doing at the time. As a kid I was extremely restless and an allergy to e-numbers in a number of foods was found to be causing this. At some point around here I ended up with a pink skateboard for my birthday, not that I could skate for crap, but I did enjoy the fact it was pink.
School became a thing and became a long standing hate/hate relationship between myself and it. The uniforms were always utter crap and I wasn’t one who made that many friends, the awkward outsider who’d take time to open up and warm up to people. Bullying was a thing too because let’s pick on the kid who was different, or the boy who spent months at 8 years old desperately wanting to be called Chrissy and signing their name as such without really knowing why this was so at the time.
Cue long talks by adults explaining that it was a girl’s name and I was a boy. Nowadays I’d like to think people are more educated and more supportive but early nineties was a whole different ball game. Section 28 was firmly in place and there was no way in hell anyone was going to suggest anything that wasn’t straight cis male to me at the time. Needless to say being escorted from the main doors at school by mum on a daily basis to avoid being jumped by bullies did a world of good to my self esteem at the time. The only highlight of junior school was passing the eleven plus and getting into the local grammar school. This meant escaping from the bullies. At best this was a mixed blessing as it would turn out.
Grammar school was another 7 years of hell, and an all boys school at that. Once again I quickly found myself very much on the outside looking in as far as popularity went and then puberty came and slapped me in the face. I also learned I was developing some serious issues with my body. Body hair appeared and I soon began making efforts to get rid of this. Looking back I now have a name for the feelings I had back then but had no name: Gender dysphoria. P.E was a no go zone in the end, choosing detention once a month rather than dressing and undressing in front of other people due to how bad my anxiety became around this.
I also remember it was around now that whenever I sat down on the toilet, I’d sit so I’d tuck things away and have this curious sense of satisfaction of not seeing them, not that I had a clue what any of this meant because education for transgender issues was non existent and the whole internet/social media thing wasn’t really around yet for me to go find out for myself, like I’ve done in later years.
Same with being gay as it was also around now being attracted to men was a thing. Again, thanks to Section 28 there was nothing there to help come to terms that I was different, that I was attracted to men when everyone else in class weren’t. At least that only took a mere three years to come to terms with and finally be comfortable enough with the fact before coming out. Thankfully we had a computer at home, internet and I’d figured out the black art of deleting the browsing history. I’d also had time to myself to read up on things (as family had gone to Spain for a fortnight and I wanted to stay home). I came out to my nan first (mum’s mum) as I’d never heard her say a cross word about anything or anyone and I just had a feeling I’d be safe telling her, a feeling that turned out to be spot on. She also gave me a safe space if I needed it, in case my parents weren’t happy with my revelation. I actually set things up so when I told my parents and things went badly I had the patio door behind me unlocked so I could bail and get over to nan’s. Sad that I had to prepare for such an eventuality and even more sad that the best part of 20 years on people still have to think like this for fear of not being accepted for who they are. As it turns out I had no reason to be worried. Mum and dad asked for time to get used to things but were happy for me.
When I was 17 I finally managed to get myself excluded from school? How? You ask. Massive mental breakdown? Doing some outrageous act of vandalism or violence? Finally calling my year head all the things I desperately wanted to call him? Nope, wrong on all counts, though the first was a close run thing. I got kicked out for …. drum roll … having long hair. Yup, I had hair, pretty well down to my shoulders then, mainly to be rebellions (I had been introduced to several forms of heavy metal by then and engaged in a love affair with music that continues to this day), but something else about it also felt right. I’d spend most of my time in lessons playing around with it, curling it in my fingers rather than doing actual work. I was rather fond of my long locks.
I received several warnings and at least three rambling monologues from teachers about how long hair isn’t a boy thing. Boys don’t have long hair, long hair is for girls, end of story. I ignored them, declaring their backward thinking the bullshit that it was and eventually turned up one morning only to be told not to come back until I had it cut.
By then I’d started A-levels (big mistake/waste of two years as I spent most of it fighting stuff like this and teachers treating us like kids instead of young adults) and mentally I was at a very low ebb. I gave in after four days and lopped it off simply so I could see the few friends I did have as they were about all that were keeping me going some days. Looking back I wish I’d told them to stuff it and dropped out. As it was my final year at school I barely turned up for, but you don’t often think right when you’re not feeling too good and I gave in, something that still irks me now.
The whole gay thing came out into the open at school soon after, which made my last year at school really interesting. Being 17, not feeling right about your body, dealing with rather repressive teachers who treated you like you were six AND a bucket load of homophobia? What could be better? A boyfriend who I met, gave me mixed signals then dumped me on a whim (probably because I didn’t want to rush in and fuck on our first date).
My already shaky mental health plummeted, as did my weight (pro tip, being 5′ 10” and eight and a half stone isn’t a good look) and the antidepressants I was prescribed seemed to only aggravate things to a point where I took a pretty good whack at taking my own life. Thankfully I didn’t do as good a job as I intended and soon took myself off of the damn happy pills.
On the plus side, thanks to one of my school friends, I started getting into the Goth scene, mainly because it was a valid excuse for men to wear make-up and nail varnish (though I never did black lipstick, not my style) and not get as much grief about it. I felt a little happier when I was wearing make-up and had my nails done, though I wasn’t sure why.
I also went around charity shops, picking up clothing that was interesting to me. Weather or not they were stylish was another matter, but I felt happy wearing them. Some of what I picked up and wore were clearly women’s clothing. Nothing too outrageous, but again I felt a little better about myself when I did this. It was also around then that I began to find that whenever I saw adverts for women’s clothes I found myself thinking ‘I wish I was a woman just so I could wear such nice things’. Not knowing that gender reassignment surgery was a thing back then I had no idea there was anything I could have done regarding these nagging feelings that popped up like this.
Mum then gave me a wonderful speech about how being gay didn’t mean going around wearing women’s clothing, not unless I was a woman. Still not really aware of what being transgender was this pretty well killed this avenue of expression off as my self confidence was pretty low and on top of all the petty arguments and hassle I was getting whenever I bothered to go into school I couldn’t handle any more stress at home as well. I gave in and the more feminine clothing disappeared.
I can’t blame her for this, again education was the key here, or lack of it, for both of us. That’s one reason why I’m writing all this out now.
I lurched through the tail end of my last year at school, deriving entertainment by eluding all attempts by my teachers to figure out where the hell I was (tip, if you’re going to skive off school, go somewhere not local, especially when most of those looking for you don’t know the surrounding area too well) and got introduced to a guy who I had a fling with for a couple of months, but he wanted a more casual relationship (read fuck buddies) and I wanted more. Needless to say this ended well, but he did introduce me to his ex, a man called Richard, and that’s where I’m going to leave things for today.