I was wrong about transitioning. So wrong. This is how it happened for me, and only me, as every trans person has their own experience, good and bad.
I was a child of the 80's, the coolest decade of them all. Breakdancing, BMX and Back to the Future. Collecting Mexico '86 football stickers, watching the A-Team on telly with my nan every Saturday. Nike trainers and Tacchini tracksuits. Aaah, those were the days. From a kid's point of view they were the best days, but let's face it, the 80's were crap if you were trans and being a youngster I absorbed what I was told.
Learning 'being transgender is wrong' in the 80's
Fishnets, short skirts, stilettos. Bad fashion. Deep voices. Truck drivers. Builders. Dave, Barry, Sid. This is how I remember the headlines in the 'Red Tops' when they talked about trans women in the 80's. Weirdos, mentally ill freaks, men who thought they were women but still talked and walked like men. Still men. With bad hair. My parent’s generation wrote those articles and I saw them lying around the house, I heard people laughing about those trans women and that seeped into my consciousness. I know that now.
Being told I should hate being trans in the 90's
I always knew I was different as a child, but I couldn't put my finger on it. I had a typical family – two parents, two brothers, friends to play with. All good, but something didn't quite fit. I went to secondary school and the feelings persisted. It was a boys’ school and I felt awkward, I missed my old friends and there were no girls to hang out with. Gay was used as a term to poke fun at each other. I was too busy singing along to Madonna and Kylie to talk about snogging girls, play rugby and go to raves. I still had friends during the school day, but outside I was isolated and spent my time playing video games, watching films and wishing to fit in.
After I left school, I became depressed and ended up in counselling where I was diagnosed with gender dysphoria. They told me I was a trans woman. Worst thing ever! Although this was the mid 90's and attitudes were changing, society had become more diverse, yet no-one knew a trans person, they were still weird. Watching Jerry Springer told me that. Usually portrayed us deceitful, home wrecking prostitutes. Unbalanced people to poke fun at, curiosities. Okay, the odd show was sympathetic, but you know what I'm saying, right? The agenda was obvious.
Being trans but not transitioning for 15 years
I spent the next 15 years hiding my real self. My trans self. Yep, 15 long years. The fear was too much to bear. The thought of telling the people around me made me feel sick. Every day. Seeing other women loving life, in our 20's, the decade we spent partying, spending everything we earned on discovery. I was yearning to be like them, but I couldn't. Sure, I was going out, had loads of friends, but I was slowly self-destructing. Binge drinking, binge eating. It didn't matter. Life didn't matter. I distracted myself in every way possible to avoid being trans. Work, University (twice), travelling. I became obsessive, from binging on excess to binging on exercise and self-control. But the fear didn't go. The self-loathing got worse. I remembered those Red Tops from the 80's, my school friends ridiculing gay people; it was always there in my mind. If I came out everyone would leave me.
A few years back, I had become a nervous wreck. Anxiety, depression, panic, sick leave from work. I was worn out by fear, exhausted. I decided to kill myself, just like that. No drama, I woke up one day and decided to give up. But, in a moment of clarity, I had the realisation that I may as well be myself then, and if it didn't work I could always come back to plan A.
Coming to terms with being trans
I was scared. Terrified. But I was used to that. So, from that day I started the ball rolling. I got in touch with a gender counsellor and started unpicking all the prejudice and transphobia I had grown up with. To cut to the chase, here I am now. Megan. Woman. Trans. Proud. That's me. I say it loud. I spent some very difficult years learning to accept my identity, being patient with friends and family who were just beginning to understand the real me I hid for decades. Of course, I've had to walk through my fears hundreds of times to get here. I've taken more deep breaths than I can count. Setbacks, losses, mistakes – all par for the course. But I'm still here. When I get the fear I face it head on. It rarely happens these days, I see it for what it is. It's just emotion.
Becoming proud of who I am
I was wrong about transitioning. I have a fantastic career, loving family, the best friends in the world. Most importantly, I am myself and I feel liberated. Free. Society is moving on. Trans people are moving out of the shadows. I am proud of who I am, I am proud of who we are. And our time is coming, you can feel the buzz. If you are scared to be yourself, there are people ready to support you, there are people who love you. You just need to take that deep breath and embrace it.
[This blog was originally posted in February 2015]
Diversity Role Models actively welcomes trans people and trans allies to train as Volunteer Role Models. If you're interested in telling your story in schools and having a positive impact on the next generation, you can find out more here.