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On one of the first dates I had with my girlfriend, she asked me “do you ever wish you were born a boy?” It was a simple question to me. “Yeah of course, I wish I had been born a boy because my life would have been easier as I’m already attracted to women (and would fit into society better) and I would say my personality and hobbies are quite masculine". But I would never change my gender now, it would be too difficult and scary.” At the age of 23 I had almost no knowledge on Trans and Non-Binary people, and had never had an open conversation with anyone about how I feel in relation to this. I don’t think at the time I had really thought deeply about how the answer was there right in front of me.

All my life I had been a tom-boy, interested in sports, cars and doing DIY with my dad. In primary school when I had to start wearing a bra, I detested it. I would wear it as I left the house so my mum would see and then take it off at school. I sobbed when I got my first period. When I hit high school I was made fun of by other students calling me a “man” because of my mannerisms and how I looked, which made me try harder to be more feminine. I would put on make-up and dress like how my female friends dressed. Even though I felt uncomfortable on the inside, at least I fit in on the outside.

I struggled at the age of 13 with my sexuality. I would look at older boys and like the way they looked, but it wasn’t a sense of attraction. When I look back now, I know it was because I wanted to be them, not be with them. I soon realised I was attracted to girls but my entire friend group were female and I felt if I told anyone they would be disgusted by me. I feared they wouldn’t want to be near me in changing rooms before PE and I wouldn’t get invited to sleepovers anymore. I managed to push these thoughts to the back of my mind and distract myself enough to not think about it. I told my sister in a flood of tears one night, and we didn’t speak of it again until I was 17 when I had managed to accept my sexuality and started to tell friends.

By the time I started university, I had found a good friend group who made me feel easy in myself. I felt proud of my new sexual identity and met my first girlfriend. There were a couple of other gay people in my group who I could relate to and I felt much more comfortable existing the way I wanted to.  There was always some sense of dissatisfaction though. I didn’t like how I didn’t have a distinct jawline, how I wasn’t muscular enough, how men’s clothes didn’t fit me the way I wanted them to. I started going to the gym religiously 5 times a week, but even then I couldn’t build up enough muscle to look the way I wanted. Socially, I hated how I was categorised because I was female. In my previous jobs in retail, I was put on the tills or shop floor because “girls are friendlier” while the men got to be in the warehouse away from customers, lifting boxes and listening to music.

When COVID hit and the world stopped, I spent many days alone with my own thoughts. I replayed the conversation with my girlfriend over and over in my head and couldn’t find a way to stop these thoughts. I so desperately wanted to find a reason for me not to be trans so I could move on with my life. I couldn’t stop thinking about how I would be made fun of, how people may find me weird or want to distance themselves from me. I was terrified what my parents and sister would think of me. I had pretty much shut my partner out of this internal dilemma I had going on inside my brain. I wasn’t ready to speak about it as I felt like this would be admitting that I was trans I and really did not want that.

I deleted all my social media and shut myself off from my already small friend group during COVID. I created new anonymous accounts so I could join Trans communities online to read other people’s posts as well as create my own, asking nameless strangers from the internet questions to see if what I was thinking was “normal”. Then something an individual wrote stuck with me; “cis people do not question their gender for hours on end”.

I eventually summoned up the courage to tell my girlfriend I thought I was transgender. She has been the back bone of my support and has helped me immensely.  I asked her if she would call me Ben and change my pronouns to he/him, just between us at first. After a while of living like this with my girlfriend, I felt it was the right time to come out to my family and close friends. It was a horrible experience at the time, full of anxiety and vulnerability (as I’m sure most coming out stories are). It took a short while for people to process the new information but luckily I was fully supported and I couldn’t have asked for better. I am extremely grateful to the people around me and fully understand how privileged I have been knowing others are not as fortunate during their own coming out.

I came out to my department and other areas at work, which to me was the most terrifying of all the people I had to come out to. I spend 8 hours a day, 5 days a week with these people so it was of the utmost importance to me that I was accepted. Thinking all of this, I was putting a huge amount of pressure on myself. I wrote out a letter with what I wanted to say and asked my manager to read it out for me when I was on annual leave. Thankfully, my office responded so supportively to the news. I received texts from my colleagues and emails from other departments applauding my bravery and welcomed me with my new name and pronouns.

I decided I wanted to speak to a professional to see if a psychologist could help me understand what I was feeling. Unfortunately I found out after phoning my GP that the waiting list for NHS gender services was around 5 years long. This absolutely shocked me. I couldn’t believe I would have to wait another 5 years feeling the way I did just to speak to someone for an hour. It seemed impossible to wait even another month without finding serenity within myself. This meant by the time I get my first appointment I would be 30 years old. I couldn’t live my life for the next 5 years this way, so although it will cost me a lot of money I decided I had to go to a private GP.

After an 8 month wait I was seen by a private practice in Edinburgh. I had 3 appointments, where a doctor and a psychologist both confirmed I had gender dysphoria as well as being prescribed Testosterone so my body would finally match my mind. This is just the start of a very long series of appointments, which for these 3 alone cost me over £1000. I had no idea the struggle of trans people before I realised I was one myself. Imagine something huge in your life that has happened to you but having no-one who has been through something similar. Whether that be a divorce, a death of someone close, losing a friend. It is a huge part of my life that I did, and sometimes still do, feel completely alone in.  Despite this, I am so glad I had the support of my friends and family to help me through.

I have now been on hormones for around 2 months, and although changes are slow I have felt a lot better. There is still some anxiety around changing and how others (and myself) perceive me now. I saw something online that I repeat to myself when I need reassurance – “do I want to be this way in 5 years’ time?” The answer is simply no. I wish to pass as male and live my life not being gendered female.

I wanted to write a piece about myself because I know how helpful it has been for me seeing other people’s stories. I truly believe that by increasing society’s knowledge surrounding trans people, this will in turn bring growing acceptance of trans people. Hopefully, the more people who are educated the easier it will be for trans people to exist in society.

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