My Trans Journey

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I’ve had a few friends ask me recently about my transgender journey. I totally get why people are asking questions. A lot of it is natural curiosity. The desire to be an ally, is also there as well.

Yet, being part of a marginalised group and having to deal with the day-to-day reality of being a three-dimensional person, in a two-dimensional world, is tiring. So, I thought writing this down would help educate others and limit the emotional labour needed to be done on my part. Writing down some kind of coherent story, feels like a healthy part of the process too.

The beginning

I have always been transgender. Looking back on my journey and my experiences as a child, I can see the indicators there. The over fascination with biology, not feeling right in my body and the particular way my identity crisis as a teenager presented itself. However, I never had a name for what I was experiencing (the 90s was not the decade for transgender role models). I am also the survivor of child sexual abuse by a family member, which led me to me to become very vulnerable. The consequences of this were further experiences of abuse in my teens and early twenties, which led to a mid-twenties diagnosis of Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The symptoms of mental illness, clouded my ability to recognise my gender dysphoria.

The middle

My queer/sexuality journey and my gender journey are intimately intertwined. I had very intense female friendships in my teens and at university. I knew I was attracted to women, but because I’d never kissed or dated anyone, I struggled to own my sexuality, for feeling like a fraud. I was in a relationship for 3 years at university with someone who made me feel secure – trauma led me to seek security in all the wrong places. Rather than seeing my bisexuality as a beautiful part of who I was, I experienced misogyny and was encouraged to only explore this part of my sexuality for the male gaze. I.e. you can kiss other women so I can watch. This only compounded my sense of isolation.

Later in my twenties I started therapy for Complex PTSD and had to sift through layers and layers and layers of trauma, including navigating two police processes for reporting abuse. I re-learnt to trust my body, my instincts and re-piece my fractured story together. Before my last long-term relationship, I did choose a dating app which gave me the options of dating men and women. But if I’m honest, I wasn’t ready to seriously engage a partner of the same sex and ended up in an opposite-sex relationship again.

During my most recent long term relationship I was open and clear about my sexuality. I now had the resilience to challenge my own internalised homophobia and the homophobia I experienced from my partner. We both went on a journey and both ended up supporting each other on our bisexual journeys. We started to watch shows like Ru Paul’s Drag Race and go to gay nightclubs. Things did end amicably. When I look back, I can see that I felt limited in being able to explore who I truly was. I also never wanted to have children. Something my partner truly desired. We are still good friends.

A fork in the road

In Spring 2021 I decided it was time to seriously give dating women a go. I had been encouraged by my housemate to use the dating app HER and I went on three dates. I ended up dating someone defined themselves as butch lesbian for a couple of months. I fell pretty hard. It was the first time I’d ever been with a romantic partner who was unapologetically themselves and encouraged me to be the same. They also embraced the masculine parts of themself. I had never seen this up close and it inspired me to try men’s clothes for the first time. I also learnt in this time that Gender Dysphoria is something that butch women can experience, as well as transgender people.

During this time I started to struggle with my body and with intimacy. I was really struggling and felt very dissociated. This led to an ending of the relationship.

Alongside this, I came out at work as queer and started to experience really severe mental distress. I had worked for religious charities and institutions for over 10 years at this point, leaving religious based employment felt necessary to give myself freedom to explore who I truly was, without feeling my livelihood or safety at work would be threatened.

Magnificent Seven broke my brain

I have always struggled with men; understandable given the level of violence I have experienced from them. Yet, two factors have pushed me towards healing and letting go. Firstly, I have always believed in the power of healing and that what seems insurmountable is possible – a strong theme in my faith journey. Secondly, I now believe that the masculine side of me has always kept pushing me along towards reconciliation.

My therapist commented that she’s never seen anyone stick with EMDR and the therapy process for so long. My personal theory is that the masculine side of myself was never going to let me be, until I learned to love it. I distinctly remember watching Magnificent Seven (the recent re-make) in summer 2021 and I just had this random thought ‘men are great, aren’t they so cool’. This may not seem that eventful, but for me, it was a massive internal shift. That night, I heard a strong click sound inside my brain (this has been known to happen with trauma survivors in therapy, when a new neural pathway has been formed) and experiencing an almighty headache. I knew it was something significant, but had no idea what it would lead to.   

Here comes the dysphoria

Leaving work, moving back home, dating women and accepting my masculine side, finally gave me the psychological safety for a part of myself to emerge; that on a conscious level, I never really knew was there. From around June 2021 my gender dysphoria grew stronger and stronger. I can only describe it as intense anxiety that you feel about situations or objects of meaning, that arrives in waves. It drives you to change the external to match the internal.

It first started with my hair. I could not wait to get it cut off. The night before my haircut, I felt that anxious, I really just wanted to hack it with the scissors, just to reduce the anxiety I felt. Luckily, I did not do this. The haircut brough such relief, I finally felt happy with the way it looked and it felt like me for the first time.

Then came the clothes (I thought I was butch pansexual at this point). I took everything feminine from my draws and dumped them in a box. I have a very simple wardrobe of mainly jeans and black t-shirts, so getting new jumpers, t-shirts, underwear, a belt and watch etc. probably cost me just over £250.

In September, my name was the next thing to change. My birth name is very obviously feminine. At this point, I was identifying as non-binary, so I chose the name August. I chose August because of the strong sound it makes. Lots of consonants. I felt stronger, like my name. I wanted it to reflect my journey and who I am now.

Which brings me to the current wave of dysphoria which has made me redecorate my entire room and urged me to change my name by deed poll. A process I’ll be doing shortly, with two close friends as witnesses.     

The good and the bad

Starting to date women and being visibly pansexual (as I now define myself as) was a rollercoaster of emotions. I had a panic attack on my first date in public with my first girlfriend. But also found immense acceptance and love.

Coming out as Trans has been a lot worse. There is a lot less understanding of Trans issues and a distinct ongoing vilification within national media. When looking up YouTube videos on trans issues for example, it was half supportive videos made by trans folks and half hateful/misinformation videos. I was told by a friend some really hurtful comments made about my journey, how I’m not going to ‘be me’ anymore and disgust expressed about people dating me. I have spoken about being trans casually on my personal social media account and immediately lost a load of followers. It’s their loss, but it still stings.

Future

In the future I will be looking at my medical options for transitions (treatment options include hormone treatment and surgery). As well as continuing to try out my pronouns, change my name on paperwork and figure my way around everything that is gendered (toilets, weddings, family, privilege, language).

All I can do is listen to my body. I now have amazing trans friends who have gone on the journey and feel comfortable with their bodies. They tell me it gets better. They encourage me that love and marriage, a good career, it’s all possible. So, I’ll leave my hope in that.