Interview with Olly, a transgender male youth. 

Olly took time out from study to talk about himself and his transition.

olly nowHow old are you now?

Just turned 20

How do you identify yourself sexuality, gender or otherwise?

I identify as a straight, transgender male.

Many of the readers won’t know the area you were born in so could you describe it, especially the attitudes towards LGBT members, if any;

I grew up in Norfolk, England, in quite a tight-knit community where most people tend to know most people- everyone had mutual friends and it was hard to walk down the street without recognizing someone, or being recognised. I lived there until I was 18 when I moved to Lincoln for university, and have not returned home for more than a few days since moving, two years ago. Although not strictly religious, I would describe my family as traditional.

When did you first discover that you may be Transgender?

I was 5 or 6 years old, I began wearing boys clothes, and my parents allowed this. My friends were all boys, and my Christmas presents consisted of Action Men and cars. But this was always me being a ‘tomboy’, even though I began writing the name Oliver on my colouring books and worksheets at school, this was all shrugged off, and I think this was essentially because no one understood what was going on. In the middle of secondary school I came out as a lesbian, and was still dressing ‘boyish’ but has long hair and was living as a girl. I had a lot of struggles with mental health from the age of 14 onwards, taking anti-depressants and generally struggling a lot with my self-confidence. It wasn’t until university when I realised that passing as male was making me feel good, and although I had always worn clothes from mens sections, it wasn’t until then that I began strapping down my chest, shaving my face and getting regular haircuts to avoid any kind of pixie-crop situation. I identify as a guy at work now and my colleages are great, and although I am still studying for my Fine Art degree I am also a practicing artist, focusing on gendered performance and ideas of social gender.

Who did you tell first and how did they react?

It was my girlfriend, Jess that I first spoke to about how I was feeling. It was extremely hard for her at first, being as she identified as a lesbian, and was worried she would lose me completely. However, I think it was quite clear that something was ‘up’ with me for a little while, and so I think she was most concerned about my happiness. It took us a few months to adjust to the situation, but she now calls me her boyfriend and uses male pronouns all the time and her support has been absolutely amazing.

Did you find any support out there from your partner or even a friend?

My friends have also been brilliant, but I’ve only been able to talk to them about things very recently. Having just had my first birthday ‘out’ as a guy, I received so many good wishes and messages from friends using the correct pronouns and it was great.

 Below : before transitioning at 15 years of age.

olly thenWhat was the reaction from your family?

My sister has been amazing- she’s 17 but understands me more than anyone. Although she still lives in Norwich we text everyday, and when I spoke to her about how I was feeling, she said “good job best friend is gender neutral!” and that she did’t care if I was her sister or her brother, which was the best thing to hear seeing as she’s known me for all of her life as her big sister. Shes really supportive and I wish I could see her more often.

Although my mum and dad are still together, and obviously live with my sister, they have been fine with my transition but have not spoken to me about it. In fairness, I don’t really wish to speak to them because I know that they will not understand. My mum recently informed me that she will still use my female name in family cards and left it at that. I know they wish the best of me but we don’t have a close relationship and that’s ok.

Did you anticipate a good or bad reaction?

I anticipated and am still anticipating a bad reaction from my extended family. I only ever came out to a few as having a girlfriend, and whilst I know they just want the best for me, my apparent “lifestyle” doesn’t agree with the values they have grown up with.

How did you deal with it?

I’ve only just entered the first adult years of my life, and to be honest I see myself as really lucky to have supportive friends and an incredible girlfriend who are always there for me. I’ve never been close to my extended family so I don’t feel like I’m particularly missing out on anything, and I know my parents will always be there for me.

Tell us a little more about the transformation from who you were back then and where you are now;

The biggest change for my life as a male happened when I cut my hair short when I was 16. Before this I had really long The biggest change for my hair because I never wanted to get it cut, and my mum never permitted me to get anything shorter than a bob when I was younger. I was lucky enough to be able to pass as a young boy to many elderly customers when working in a newsagents in Norfolk, having a slim figure and small natural chest anyway.

Now I am living as a guy I am so so much more confident and happy, healthier, and have a lot more ambition for my life- hopefully making it as a practicing artist and trans advocate.

So what happens next, regarding to treatment?

I am currently pre-testosterone and will remain this way for a while longer, after being put on a 2 year long waiting list for referral to a gender clinic. Two years just for an appointment with a consultant who can help me start to get what I need to live in my body, which is really hard but I am getting to terms with the wait and making active changes the best I can, such as going to the gym and getting my tattoo sleeve done.

I understand this is costly, do you want to talk about the financial implications?

I have no money, as a student with a part-time job in retail I’m already in a lot of debt. But at the moment not going ahead with my medical, physical transition isn’t an option- it’s the thing that keeps me going. All I can say is that I hope I can have a stable enough job after I graduate to support myself!

What about work, were they ok about the situation?

I work at a game store, and although there are only about 10 of us at my particular store, a few people are out as gay or lesbian and we’re generally a really accepting and friendly group, so I’m super lucky to have such a good workplace environment. When customers automatically address me as ‘the man’ to their children, or call be ‘mate’ I often get supportive nudges from my colleagues on tills like- result! It’s all good.

Do you get any transphobia issues from any other people who fall in the LGBT window?

There hasn’t been any issues involving a direct confrontation, but I’m generally quite a shy and non-confrontational person, so if anyone was ever trying to ‘start’ something with me I would probably leave it and walk away. But there’s never been anything from anyone who I know of being in the LGBT window.

What about when people don’t know how to react or speak to you, how do you deal with that?

Its extremely uncomfortable to me. For quite a long time I’ve felt guilty about asking people to use male pronouns, or use a different name for me, and I know I shouldn’t feel like this but it feels like a big ask. When people have asked me what’s going on and I’ve informed them and they don’t have a response, I’ve now learned not to take it to heart. I guess the only solution is more public knowledge of general transgender issues.

How do you now feel at this moment about where you are?

In all honestly I do wish that I could medically transition sooner. Being 20 years old and not being in my ideal body, still looking like a young teenager and having to deal with being either misgendered or ID’d constantly is hard, but I’m learning to accept being who I am. Without support from my girlfriend, friends and sister everything would be a lot harder, and I’m happy with the changes I’m making. Using gender theory and ideas of artificial gender within my artwork is also a really great release for me, and I’m making good work which I’m proud of.

game store olly.pngFirst got my hair cut short:

Do you think being visual about yourself actually helps or educates anyone out there?

Yes I do- and this is why I’d really like to move into transadvocasy. ‘FTM’ Youtube bloggers in particular have really helped me in my transition- it helps to know you’re not alone, and it informs people who are not knowledgeable about LGBT issues as well, which is super important.

So are you involved with any LGBT right groups, or others, at all?

I’m not at the moment, but there is an LGBT society at my university which I’m thinking of joining in my final year.

Do you think talking about gender and sexuality helps people became more aware than they are at the moment?

Yes definitely. I have been involved in a number of interviews for journalism students, Contemporary Lens Media students and Media Production students and been open about my gender- I think it’s important to talk about.

game stoire 2 olly.pngHow I look now, working at a game store:

I like to end on a topical question, what are your feelings about the so called bathroom laws in some states in America at the moment, in your view as an English man?

As someone who frequently used to get physically pushed or shouted out of female toilets in nightclubs, but too afraid to use a male bathroom full of drunken men and with myself being pre-testosterone, I think it’s nuts. I have permission from my university to use the disabled toilets to avoid problems, but at the end of the day I’m not disabled- I’m a man and I deserve the right to use a toilet for men. Especially at the gym, I do not want to be in a changing room full of women who are changing into their sports bras- it’s not fair on them for me to be there. I’m very thankful for living in the United Kingdom, but I think the answer for America is gender neutral bathrooms, when non-gender conforming and transgender people can go without harassment or questions.

Thank you very much for taking time out for me, do you have anything else to add?

Thank you for asking me to do this interview!

 

 

 

 

Interview with a transgender male

image3.PNG

I recently spoke to Rae about his transitioning and living in America as a straight transgender male

How old are you now?

 I’m 30.

 How do you identify yourself sexuality or otherwise?

 I’m a straight male. (Transgender Male)

Many of the readers won’t know the area you was born in so could you describe it, especially the attitudes towards LGBT members, if any;

Well, Medina, Ohio is pretty “country” and moderately conservative. There aren’t many LGBT people or “activities” in the area. They don’t really shun us, they just kind of shrug it off like they don’t notice us. There aren’t many openly LGBT people in the area.

When did you first discover that you may be Transgender?

I realized at an early age that I didn’t quite fit my gender roles. I didn’t do the same things as other little girls. So I think I’ve known my whole life, but it wasn’t until my mid to late 20’s that I realized why I hadn’t ever really fit my gender. I had some help figuring it out also from online chats and support groups for LGBT people.

Tell us a little about your early adult life?

I spent most of my early adult life as an openly lesbian individual. I took pride in being out. I made my sexuality known to all friends, family and employers to keep myself as free to be myself as possible.

Who did you tell first and how did they react?

When I first realized I was interested in women, my mother was the first person I told. She pretty much replied to me coming out with “oh sweetie, I’ve always known. Thank you for telling me though.”

image4.PNGDid you find any support out there from your partner or even a friend?

All of my friends were very supportive when I came out as lesbian and even more supportive when I came out as Transgender. It was almost like everyone knew I wasn’t really a girl. They all welcomed my transition with open arms. My family did as well. I’ve had a fantastic support system. My girlfriend is my main support. She has been there to give me my Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) shots. She’s been wonderful to me during my transition.

image1.PNGWhat was the reaction from your family?

My mother was supportive but very hesitant. She of course didn’t want to lose her “baby girl”. I was the youngest and she always saw me as her little girl, but she has been very good at supporting me and accepting the changes as they come.

Did you anticipate a good or bad reaction?

I honestly didn’t know what to expect. I had prepared for the worst, but hoped for the best. To be honest, I don’t think I couldn’t have asked for a better reaction from anyone I told.

How did you deal with it?

I told everyone in stages. I started with my immediate family, then slowly started to span out from there.

Tell us a little more about the transformation from who you were back then and where you are now;

Well, I’ve always been rather “masculine” so there wasn’t much of a drastic change. I always dressed like a boy, acted like a boy, had the mindset of a boy. So in transitioning, all that has really changed between then and now were my pronouns.

So what happens next, regarding to treatment?

Well, I’m currently doing HRT. That’s the first step I was able to take. Money is a huge part of transitioning, that I wasn’t anticipating. The next step would be top surgery, if the money is ever there, and then of course bottom surgery, but only when the science for that is further along than it is right now.

I understand this is costly, do you want to talk about the financial implications?

It is so much more expensive than I ever expected. The costs of the testosterone, the syringes, as well as doctor fees and cost. It’s endless! To secure myself with everything that I need, I’m looking at needing between $7,000 and $9,000. I’m currently working two jobs and trying to save the money I need, and because of that I don’t get much assistance from the government with medical or otherwise, so the costs are mostly out of pocket. That’s why I’ve started a fundraiser, to try and get help with my financial steps towards transitioning.

The fundraiser is located online at; https://www.crowdrise.com/becomingray-atransgenderstory/fundraiser/raypaulovich/setup_success/personal

What about work, were they ok about the situation?

My work was actually very understanding and accepting. The majority of the people there were able to go from “her” to “him” with little to no struggle. There are, of course, some who still struggle and can’t quite get the hang of the pronouns.

Do you get any transphobia issues from any other people who fall in the LGBT window?

I don’t honestly have very many LGBT friends or family. I’m kind of a loner when it comes to things like that. My girlfriend is the only LGBT woman who is really any large part of my life, and she loves being part of my transition. She’s even given me a couple of my doses of testosterone.

What about when people don’t know how to react or speak to you, how do you deal with that?

Today at work actually, a co-worker, when referring to me said “she”, which he quickly followed up with “he”. Then he was already so nervous and flustered that he said “it” in reference to me. He panicked and “it” seemed like an icebreaker for him, I guess. It was moderately offensive, but I knew he wasn’t being malicious. He just freaked and that’s what he came up with. Most days when something “transphobic” occurs, I just brush it off. I can’t change people any more than they can change me.

How do you now feel at this moment about where you are?

At the moment, I’m good with where I’m at. I would like to keep advancing, but without financial help and support, I may not get much further than I am right now, and even though I am content for the moment, I won’t always be content with living as a man.

Do you think talking about it in general helps others became more aware?

Oh, the more knowledge people have the less likely they are to “fear the unknown”. Awareness is the best gift you can give someone.

Do you think being visual about yourself actually helps or educates anyone out there?

Very much! People have been so sheltered around me for so long, that when I came out as Transgender, it opened up so many people. They started talking to me more about it and asking questions. They wanted more education on it.

So are you involved with any LGBT right groups, or others, at all?

I’m not. I have a few groups I follow on Facebook, but nothing that I’m active in on a daily basis. That’s probably something I should look into. The more support, the better, right?

Interview with a mother of a transgender teen.

Interviewer by @pridematters1

This is an amazing journey of not only a trans male, but his wonderful supportive mother and family too. It shows us all the courage and support of everyone who is effected in some way, showing support is essential to the people you truly love.

First of all tell me about yourself and your family?

I am a single mum of five, divorced almost two years ago, 42 years old and feeling every one of them some days. My children are 14, 12, 12, 10 and 7

Cathedral_and_Castle_Square_-_geograph_org_uk_-_134108Many of the readers won’t know the area you were born in so could you describe it, especially the attitudes towards LGBT, if any.

We live in Lincoln, a beautiful university city with, to the best of my knowledge, a pretty good attitude to all things LGBT. There are various support groups, for both young people and adults, as well as social groups.

Tell me about Cas.

Cas, my eldest, who is FTM trans (Female To Male), was never a girly girl, totally uninterested in things remotely feminine. A real tomboy and from a very young age his hobbies were fishing, golf and super bikes. I know that doesn’t necessarily mean much these days in the UK, but in Cas’ case it has significance.

How did Cas first approach you?

At the age of 11, shortly after my ex-husband and I separated, Cas came out to me as bisexual. I don’t doubt that he was anything other than honest back then, but I also think that it was maybe a bit of a test to see how I stood on things LGBT wise.

cv0FFz82How do you think Cas felt in approaching you and leading up to it?

I don’t actually believe that he really had any doubt as to what my reaction would be, as his uncle is out and proud, plus I have a number of gay friends both male and female.

I think he was maybe approaching 12 when he began loudly grumbling that being a girl sucked! For a while prior to that the clothes had become very much “boy uniform”…..t-shirts, football shirts, hoodies, trackies and trainers. All girl clothing stayed in the wardrobe and drawers. Shortly after his 12th birthday, my sister got married and I consider her wedding to be the last big hurrah for “Megan”. That is to say, she had the bridesmaid dress, heels, fabulous hairdo, jewellery, and even a touch of lipstick. Within a week of the big day, 16 inches was cut off the hair, clothes that he never wore were turned out and bagged up for the charity shop, and he has never looked back.

So how did Cas actually approach you?

One evening we were sat on the landing at the top of the stairs, not even sure why now, and he said “I don’t want to be a girl”.  I asked what he meant by that, and he said “I’m supposed to be a boy!”

What was your reaction?

I think I said “Oh, ok”. Although I wasn’t expecting him to come out with that, I wasn’t completely surprised. He hadn’t been his usual funny, happy, full of life self for quite a while, and it was obviously more than just a “mood”.  He’s not much of a talker, so it’s necessary to allow him to open up in his own time. Yes, it would have been great had he got there earlier, we would have maybe avoided the depression, the self-harm, and the hermit-like life he seemed to create for himself. However, the fact that he hit such a low means that the differences in him now are so significant and so incredible to see.

So what happened next?

Several things happened fairly rapidly, we saw the nurse at our surgery who recommended seeing a counsellor, I read article after article online searching for other Transgender stories. I also spoke at length to a good friend who is a sex therapist, and has a number of Transgender clients. Cas and I began seeing a wonderful lady at Relate (Relate is a mediation counselling service available in the UK) and the difference in him was noticeable after the first couple of appointments. Having someone there, whose only purpose was to listen to him, and who wasn’t his Mum, was exactly what he needed. There were no huge breakthroughs or life-changing decisions, there was just an outlet for feelings and emotions, and encouragement to be more open with other people. We saw her for about four months, and she was absolutely a lifeline for both of us.

I understand that Cas was ready to come out further?

A year ago Cas came to me and told me that he wanted to come out at school, as he felt that he was living two different lives, home and school. I made an appointment to see the SENCo (Special Education Needs Coordinator) at the school in order to discuss what we needed to do to start the ball rolling.

What reaction did you get?

Unfortunately, that initial meeting yielded very little in the way of results, and a couple of months later we tried again with a different member of staff. By this point, Cas has expressed his need to go public with his life, so it was essential that we had his school on board. Maybe it was going in and telling the school, this is what is happening, that made the difference, but within two weeks, administrative changes had been made.

What changes did the school make in that time period?

The whole staff had been informed, and a date had been set to share with the rest of the pupils. Cas now has access to gender-neutral toilets and changing facilities, and is currently given a choice when groups are split male / female. Obviously he has distinct physical disadvantages compared to many of his male peers.

I understand at this point it was time to go public?

Yes. The rest of the family was told that we were taking the next step, and we finally went public in February 2015, with the help of Facebook and Twitter.

What about name change?

Earlier this year, Cas had his name changed legally, by deed poll. Megan Sarah is a wonderful memory, Cas Evan is my sons’ true identity.

Cas chose his own name, of which I approve.

gukv06ljWhat response have you had?

The response we have had has been phenomenal, and in some instances overwhelming. The love and support we have received, from family, friends, our churches and the general population (via the Internet) has been incredible.

Have you had any negative feedback?

There have been one or two dissenting voices, fuelled, I believe, by a lack of understanding, a lack of education, and, in a couple of cases, a “generational” refusal to accept something that they don’t “approve” of. In those cases, I have had to accept that you just can’t win them all

We have been so fortunate in the response we have had, and we haven’t had to deal with any real unpleasantness. There have been one or two people that have had questions and I have done my best to answer them, also encouraged them to speak to Cas too. He is far more eloquent on the subject than I am, and he would much rather people talk to him than avoid him. The only thing that either of us can do is be honest. People will either accept my son or they won’t, but if they choose not to, at least they will make that decision informed.

Did you have any concerns about the process?

Cas and I both had concerns about his coming out. It’s only natural to worry when you have no clue as to how people will react, but as it turned out, our worries were completely unnecessary. I understand how fortunate we have been, and know that it could have been so very different.

Did you receive support from your immediate family?

My immediate family, my brother, sister and brother-in-law, have been with us at every stage, my sister being my total rock throughout

What happens next?

We are currently waiting for an appointment to come through at Tavistock which is the UK gender clinic that treats under 18s. That should happen within the next month or so. Cas is very clear on what he does and doesn’t want, and when he wants it. He is well-versed on what treatment is available, the effects and side-effects, and whilst he is wanting to wait a while before beginning medical treatment, he is keen to begin with the counselling and evaluations that we know will have to take place before any more steps can be taken.

What about support from within the LGBT family?

At this point, support from the LGBT community has been great, and although I am aware that there are some who have real issues with Transgender people, it is not something that we have comes across personally. Cas is a member of a fairly new LGBT youth group here in Lincoln, and has nothing but good experiences of that, and we both sit on an NHS LGBT patient user group panel, which has a variety of LGBT members.

 

What advice would you give others?

 

Talking, sharing, answering questions and general being open and forthcoming about Cas’ situation, and our family, is important to both of us. Sadly, recent publicity about Trans-youth in particular, has been largely negative, so many deaths, so much violence. If Cas’ story can help to show that you can be accepted for who you are, that there are people who love unconditionally, then that can only be for the good.

And…..your final thoughts?

Bottom line, I love my son. He is bright, beautiful inside and out, and brave beyond measure. He makes me laugh a lot, he has been known to make me cry on occasion, and he is my hero. He, and every young person who has the courage to be true to themselves no matter what.

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