Closet Days: An article about being transgender in Hull

As you can imagine I’ve always felt like a bit of an outcast as a trans man. Nothing of that is down to Hull specifically but more of a reflection of society as a whole.

In the closet days (e.g. pre-coming out), I was socially conditioned to behave like a ‘girl’, whatever that means. I was told to sit a certain way, to be ‘ladylike’, not take up much space, be quiet and do as I’m told. Even forced myself to wear a dress one time, the result was reminiscent of spongebob in drag. I was only making a mockery of myself.

My biggest fear when I came out was acceptance. Growing up, I longed to be accepted as one of the guys by my male peers. In primary school, I played football, spent my spare time playing with cars and I was never seen in anything but a tracksuit outside of school. Unfortunately, it got harder to be seen as male when I began high school at an all girls school. In high school people had this habit of saying my full name constantly to get my attention which only engrained the fact I wasn’t male into my head, at least that was how it felt to me. People in high school knew I was different, I refused to wear the typical teenage girl clothes like crop tops, skirts, dresses and when my school uniform changed, I wore jumpers and my blazer to hide my body. Now don’t get me wrong, everybody struggles with body image issues, which rise to the surface in our teenage years but these problems ran deeper.

I came out as transgender via a YouTube video that I posted the link to on my Facebook page. Even now, the dread I had when I posted that is still familiar to me. The type of feeling that you get when you’re in a car coming down a hill and your stomach flips. But the acceptance helped me release those breaths I’d been holding in and a lot of tears too. My parents who initially thought it was a phase were extremely supportive and my Dad’s comment on my video saying, ‘that’s my girl’, still makes me laugh. He was so clueless back then, but really trying. I know I’ve opened people’s minds by coming out and being myself so openly. I recently had a double mastectomy to give me a flat chest. During this time, a friend reached out to me, told me they were trans and that I had inspired them. Those words meant everything to me considering the battles I had to face in order to become who I was. Little words of encouragement assured me I’d won the war against myself.

That is not to exclude the ignorance of others, including a relative who told me I was wrong in the head for being trans and having slurs thrown at me. The words rooted deeper than those of strangers, a connection between them and I, fused by blood, made the words a much more personal attack than a general one. To get over those words was one of the harder parts of my journey, to accept people’s opinions of you are not facts takes a lot of mental work to overcome and acknowledge that what matters is that you are happy, which is all that should matter, providing you are not harming anyone. The best thing I did was to allow myself to be open about my identity, proud and dare I say it, happy. Medically transitioning causes enough worry without adding the burden of other people’s opinions into the mix.

What I’ve learnt from coming out as trans is that there is a lot of fear mongering out there. But there are many people that will accept you unconditionally. It is very easy to get mad about the waiting times of the gender clinics, the misgendering and transphobia. It is equally as easy to get lost in all that and think everybody is against you. Of course there are people who won’t like you due to your identity, hate crime is still around but support is out there. Whether that is your school friends, work colleagues or other young people like myself at places like The Warren or other LGBT+ support groups around Hull.

You are not alone and you can get through this. The best advice I can give is to go to your doctor and get referred to a gender clinic, the sooner the better as the waiting times are only getting longer. There is no harm is getting referred but there is harm in not as being stuck in a body that doesn’t feel like home can have a big impact on your mental health.

Words: Liam Jamie Harrison