Trigger Warning for suicidal thoughts, isolation, loneliness and self harm.
Primary School had its ups and downs, some good things and some challenges. But Secondary school was awful. I wasn’t just unhappy like everyone claims to be in Secondary Schools. Rather I was extremely dysphoric and depressed. At times I would even self harm and was suicidal. But I didn’t talk about any of this for a long time. I internalized everything I was going through and everything I was feeling. Why didn’t I seek help? Because I had no way to say what was inside me.
I knew what the word transgender was by now but it wasn’t something I had applied to myself yet. Well without further a do lets start from the start. Which is in the way starting from the end: Leaving Primary School. When starting at Secondary School I remember thinking it was time for a new start. I remember being excited at first. But the first thing that went wrong was when I learned sports were compulsory. I felt shocked when I heard that. I had said I didn’t want to go to a school where I had to play sports. Secondly while I hadn’t wanted to go to an all boy school I had gone along with it because I was told I was going to a good school.
The second time I can remember of experiencing real and strong dislike for my body become more and more masculine after my voice changing happened after P.E. class. I was thirteen and one of the boys in the class saw that I had started to grow a facial hair. He thought it was cool, they all did. But I freaked out. I ran into the bathroom and pulled the hair out with a pair of tweezers. Every other boy in my school enjoyed the idea of getting taller, bigger and more hairy. I hated it but didn’t know why. In the end I suppressed such feelings deep down. I buried them. I didn’t know what else to do with them.
To be fair in many ways the school was a good but it was not the right school for me. I hated sports of any kind as a kid and as a teenager. By the end of my first year I had stopped being part of the sport and the school had stopped trying to make me. I spent six year at that school. Why that particular school? Because it was good for people with learning disabilities. That’s the only reason. So this is where I ended up. I became reclusive and isolated very fast. I disliked the people in the school and would often spend large amounts of time in my room. I would be reading or else I would be on the internet.
Books became my escape. Through them I visited many different worlds and mate many different characters. I read books on every topic and any genre I could get my hands on. It was through books and the internet that I first came across the label bisexual and applied it to myself but later on would redefine my sexuality as gay. The reason for this being that I could never see myself as being with a girl as a guy. I couldn’t see myself taking on that masculine heterosexual role that was well established in my mind. There was also the matter that there was a lot of biphobia both within my school and otherwise. People doubted bisexuals existed especially bisexual boys. So by that strange set of thought patterns I must be gay. To me this explained everything, why I was different to my classmates and felt so isolated. I was the only gay boy in my year. That was why I was so lonely.
The first person I approached about this topic was my school guidance counselor. When I was in third year. It was just after a SPHE class on being gay. We talked about it for a while in her office during which she made me feel a tiny bit better about the subject. It was her who first gave me the idea to ring a gay hotline. So when one afternoon I sat down and called Gay Switchboard Ireland. For the second time I started talking to someone about my feelings around my sexuality. I also started going to an LGBT youth group where I mate other LGBT teenagers and was supported. So a happy ever after right? No, alas things turned out to be more complicated then that.
On meeting gay guys my own age I felt like I wasn’t really one of them either. But alas I kept going to the group. I’m glad I did because it was there I mate other transgender people for the first time. Trans guys, trans girls and non binary people. I also started to make friends at the groups. For the first time since Primary school I was able to function socially.
So where does the word transgender fit into this? I knew what transgender meant by before I went to the youth group so why did I never apply it to myself? The reason for that is actually rather simply. I only had one image of a transgender person in my mind. That being a trans woman who felt like a man trapped in a woman’s body (I really hate that expression). Before transitioning/coming out this woman would have worn women’s cloths in secret, she would have had feminine mannerism, loved the color pink. I didn’t start wearing cloths from the women’s section until I was nineteen after I decided to transition. I certainly wasn’t camp or effeminate. My hair had always been cropped short.
But when I began to meet other trans people I learned that the above story does not fit everyone. Sure it might be true for another trans woman and that’s fine but it wasn’t true for me. From meeting and learning other trans women I learned they could femme, butch, tomboys, writers, hairdressers and mma fighters. That we come from all backgrounds and many different cultures. Two books I read that also helped me along were Whipping Girl by the before mentioned Julia Serano and In Search of Eve by Anne Bolin. I learned the experiences of hating my male development was something known as gender dysphoria and that there was a way out of it: by transitioning.
I came out to my friends and took a new name and pronouns for myself in the youth group.
What did this mean for my sexuality? One of my friends asked me if transitioning now made into a straight girl. All I could say was that I didn’t know. Well at the time I wasn’t really sure but then I met this girl and had my first crush on a girl. This didn’t make me feel like I had to fit into a position I wasn’t. For once. So you might think that I would now identify as bi? No would the answer. I had friends who were bisexual and would often say I was an ally for bi people but not one myself. I instead said I was a lesbian (keeping my past attractions to boys as belonging to a time before I came into my own). Why did I do this? Because I had absorbed a lot of biphobia from a lot of places. I learned these ideas from people in school, my own home and even from other queer people. I just didn’t want to be something that didn’t exist and it took until I was twenty one to realize that it didn’t matter society thought of my existence. My own happiness was more important.
So that is how I knew I am transgender and bisexual and a woman. How old was I ? Seventeen for figuring out I was a trans girl and twenty one for accepting my bisexuality. I hope that answers the question.