I first came out as transgender at the age of twelve. It was during a phone call with one of my closest friends, on a dark December evening in 2014.
I paced up and down in the spare room of my house during that terrifying call. But the first ten minutes were spent babbling anxiously about some exaggerated stories of something kids at my school had done, or odd facts I had heard from some forgotten source — all in a desperate attempt to delay the revelation. Despite my friend being one of the kindest people I know, a few months’ worth of research into the trans community had alerted me to the fact that there were a lot of people in the world who hated those like me. I was terrified.
My terror in this case proved unnecessary; his response, a calm, unhesitant ‘ok’, is still in my mind. Those were the most relieving two syllables I’ve heard in my life.
There have been two major definable periods of my existence in public life as a trans person: pre and post Caitlyn Jenner’s coming out. When I first tried to seek online acceptance within Britain, at a time during which I could not receive it in real life, I was distressed to notice a lack of people outside the community, who appeared to know, never mind care, about trans people. After the suicide of transgender primary school teacher Lucy Meadows in 2013, following organised harassment from the press, an overall editorial decision had been made to lose interest in us. I scoured the media for support, but found only a hole where a transgender face should have been.
After she came out, people seemed to take notice, and things started to get better. A few supportive articles were written. That didn’t last long.
For the last few years trans people have been subject to incessant harassment from all facets of the media. Most stories are heavily distorted, many entirely fabricated. The writer of an article entitled ‘children sacrificed to appease trans lobby’ won an award for ‘prompting debate about difficult-to-tackle issues’. Five articles were also published within two weeks by the Times, directed at then 19-year-old Labour activist, Lily Madigan, around the time she was elected Women’s Officer for Rochester and Strood. These attacked her for the crime of being trans and criticised her in a way which would never have been done to her cis (non-trans) counterparts. This type of coverage not only impacts the emotional state of trans people directly, but influences cis people’s perception of us. This, at a time in which one in three employers wouldn’t hire a trans person, the number of transphobic hate crimes have skyrocketed, and almost half of all transgender youth have attempted suicide — a dangerous and saddening reality.
However, with the bad comes good, and the only way to combat negative representation is through positive representation. Many people’s attitudes towards trans people seem to have improved. When I mention transness, where before I may have gotten glares or laughs, I increasingly now get indifference or respectful comments. That’s no small improvement. But that’s not enough.
My experiences as a transgender man no longer differ too much from what they would be were I cis. I don’t use male changing rooms at school, but I do use male bathrooms. My transness makes strangers misjudge my age, but they very rarely misjudge my pronouns. However, there are many trans men who look older than their years. No group is monolithic. Our differences cause us to thrive, as it is in them that we can learn what it is to be human. I hope more people would realise this, and I trust they will. I am no longer terrified.
M, Age 17