Category Archives: Self acceptance

Of Dandelions and Eurekas

My family is very open-minded

I live in a bigoted country, one of the worst in Western Europe for LGBTQIA* people. This forced me to grow up in ignorance regarding the LGBT world. I used to think ‘fag’ would be an insult and that ‘transgender men’ were cisgender men who were cross dressers. My family is very open-minded and they never taught me so but unfortunateley, my parents are not that knowledgable of transgender issues. However, I soon learnt that fag wasn’t really an insult, yet I remained with my ideas about transgender men.

I really wanted to be a boy

I didn’t know I was a transgender boy, deep down. I didn’t experience dysphoria before going through adolescence since my dysphoria is direct to chest, hips, and all those things that teenage girls experience. Yet I really wanted to be a boy. Not because I thought it was ‘better’ but because I felt so. I used to blow on dandelions and when the seeds all flew away and I had to make a wish, I would wish to become a boy. I sometimes went to sleep wishing I’d wake up a boy.

I was normal

With adolescence came dysphoria and I started to feel very bad. I was really sad and thought of suicide too. I still was ignorant about transgender people. But when I was in middle school, in the second year (twelve years old), I got in this group against homophobia. This brought me into the community, even if I didn’t identify as gay. I heard about FtMs and I googled them. I swear, I don’t know why didn’t I shout: “Eureka!” out loud. It really was a eureka moment as I discovered something I had being looking for since I was a young boy. It immediately fit. I understood, then, who I was, that I was normal. That other people were like me.

But I also heard horrible stories. I asked myself: “do I really want to live that life?” I wondered if by any chance I could just be a tomboy. But I couldn’t, I really couldn’t. I technically had already “came out”, crying that I wanted to be a boy, not understanding that I already was.

My acceptance was easy

I have now answered myself that question: “yes, I do want to. And I want to make it easier for who’ll experience this after me”. My acceptance was easy, or so it seems.

But really, my acceptance was when I stated that I was different from tomboys. My acceptance was when I asked my mother why couldn’t I have been a boy. You surely have heard stories that seem like mine, and mine surely is just one of the many. But I still wanted to share it.

And I’d like to add, friends accepted me. There’s hope in bigoted countries, too.

Jenny the Worrier Princess

I’d always been a tomboy growing up. My mum often recalls that, for my first birthday, I was brought a doll and pram and my response was to throw the doll out, load the pram with building blocks and pretend it was a car.

Aged six, I asked my mum one day ‘Mummy do you mind if I am a boy type girl?’ and of course being the understanding woman she is she didn’t mind one bit.

I chose to bury my feelings and carry on trying to be like everyone else

As I progressed through school I realized my friends were nearly all boys and my crushes were almost always on girls (and Wonder Woman). At the time the only representations of gay men in popular culture were camp stereotypes and lesbians were nonexistent so I felt very, very different from the norm. Knowing I wasn’t like the other girls around me, I chose to bury my feelings and carry on trying to be like everyone else.

At secondary school the only thing we were taught sexuality wise was reproduction in a very clinical way. In the late 80’s the government, then led by Margaret Thatcher, brought in a law to prevent the promotion of homosexuality (Section 28). This meant that it could not be taught in schools and you couldn’t go to a teacher for help or advice.

I had a series of boyfriends

Ironically quite a lot of my school friends were also gay but we were all deeply in the closet, partly because it was a small town and partly because we didn’t know what people’s reactions would be.

I had a series of boyfriends that were, in fact, friends that had asked me out, as I probably would never have dreamed of thinking of them in that way otherwise. The few boys that I was attracted to were usually quite feminine looking.

Then one day, when I was 18, I got a call from my best friend needing help. Her girlfriend’s parents had found the secret love letters that she had written to her (this was the pre-internet age so emails or text messages were not a possibility) and had banned them from ever seeing each other again. I felt really stupid, having a best friend for all these years and not even realizing she was gay too. As I had a boyfriend at the time I chose to keep quiet about my confusion and help her through her situation the best I could.

I continued to have long term relationships with men, again because they made the first move and it was easier to go along with it. I loved them not for their gender but for them as people. However, throughout these relationships I continued to have secret, painful crushes, on female friends and again I chose to bury them.

I didn’t have much chance to explore my sexuality

On occasion I used to frequent gay bars in Soho, with one of my close gay male friends, but didn’t have much chance to explore my sexuality as there were hardly any places to meet women.

Things started to change once I began studying part-time for a technology qualification in London. I got my first PC and internet connection and looked for an online place to be myself.

I really was very gay and couldn’t go hiding this part of myself

Then one day I had an epiphany. It was 1997 and I saw an advert for a new television channel (at this point in time we only had four TV channels in the UK) Channel 5 was being launched very ceremoniously by The Spice Girls and the channel was showing a promo for a new series called Xena Warrior Princess. I looked at Xena and her sidekick Gabrielle and over to my boyfriend and the penny dropped. I really was very gay and couldn’t go on hiding this part of myself indefinitely or I would never be truly happy. I watched the programme avidly, savouring every subtext reference to their relationship, and I joined a Xena group on AOL. From there I met a straight girl (my first ally I suppose!) who invited me to a regular Xena night in a sci-fi bar in Westminster. I had never been around so many gay girls and my friend even tried to match make me with someone at the group but I was too shy and I still had a boyfriend to contend with.

I plucked up the courage to end my long term relationship

I was still in the closet at the company I worked at but plucked up the courage to end my long term relationship and decided I really needed to explore my sexuality at last. We had a new temp receptionist at work and one day, as we went for lunch, she advised me that if I wanted to come out and didn’t know how to do it, then telling everyone I was bisexual may be the way to go because of my history of long term relationships with men. I was shocked; I couldn’t work out how she had picked up on my sexuality as I had tried to hide it so carefully. She then said that her gay flat mate was moving out and she had a spare room in her flat on Charing Cross Road in Soho If I wanted it. I snapped up the room and finally began to explore my sexuality. It wasn’t easy as there were no real places to meet women (and sadly that is still the case) so the majority of my dating adventures began online. Eventually I began to build up a network of friends and in the end met my current partner Claire. We have been together for thirteen years now, my longest relationship to date.

I have now gone from quietly in the closet to a new member of the global leadership team for my current companies LGBTF network. I present and educate on LGBT issues whenever I can and I was also one of the mentors for this application!

Coming To Terms With Being Me

I had always felt different. It’s such a cliché, I know, but I just KNEW there was something staring me right in the face – I just didn’t know what I was looking for. I was upset a lot of the time for a reason I didn’t understand, but now I can see how blindingly obvious it was: I wasn’t a girl, but everyone kept calling me one.

I felt so wrong and alone.

PE was always difficult. I would loathe every second of the girls’ changing rooms, always leaving them in a bad mood or with tears brimming. The worst part about it was that no one, not even me, understood. We’re raised in binaries, as either male or female depending on what you were born with, and this is reinforced so heavily in our society that transgender or gender variant youth can feel so cut-off and isolated from the rest of the world. I hated my long hair. I hated the feminine school uniform trousers. I hated how people called me “she” or “dear” or “young lady”. I felt so wrong and alone.

It was probably in Year 9 when I first typed “I feel like a boy” into a search engine, and the results confused me. There was a whole universe of genders out there that I’d never heard of. I thought you could only be a girl or a boy, and that for me to be a boy, I had to like girls (which I didn’t!) – I couldn’t have been more wrong. I learnt about non-binary, two-spirit, genderfluid, to name but a few, and I also learnt that to be transgender there is no requirement for your sexuality. So, a person of any gender can have any sexuality. It was an eye-opening experience.

I was so desperate for me to make my mind up

I spent a lot of time after my internet discoveries thinking. I would go to secluded places at school and think. Think about the label I should use for my gender, about the label I should use for my sexuality. I was in a phase of confusion, which was honestly one of the most agonising times of my life. I hated seeing everyone so happy with their identity around me, so happy to be divided into male or female, when I was so desperate for me to make my mind up about this thing that’s deemed so important in our culture. I’d wake up one day and announce: “I’m a boy! I’m definitely male – I’ve finally decided!” only to then realise within a few hours that I was in fact genderless again, or sometimes even female. I would venture to YouTube and watch trans videos which definitely helped, but it drained me: they all seemed so sure in themselves, talking about how they’d always played with boys and action figures. Although I considered myself masculine, I didn’t really do those things, and that seemed to contradict what I was feeling at the time.

I came out to my parents as being confused about my gender, and to my luck, they were 100% accepting. We tried different names and pronouns at home – one day I was Liam, the next I was Phoenix – but nothing quite felt right and this made me more confused. “They” pronouns made me feel awkward, and “he” pronouns felt sort of forced.

I just had to accept that my identity would take time

This continued for a long time and it took me equally as long to realise: I was trying too hard to label myself. I was forcing feelings and thoughts before allowing them to surface naturally, and I was smothering my femininity because I felt it contradicted the male identity I wanted to have. I finally realised that I just had to accept that my identity would take time and I slowly began to embrace every part of myself. I accepted that I was sometimes feminine, sometimes masculine, and although I wasn’t happy about it, I accepted that I might always be genderfluid. And that’s okay.

It’s true what they say: things do get better. Feelings take time to understand. It was the summer of 2014 when I came out publicly after years of confusion and waiting for my feelings to settle – and since then, I haven’t looked back. I waited until I was certain that this was what I wanted, and coming out over the summer was just perfect for me. Some days I’m feminine, other days I’m masculine, and I like men – but I am male. This is me, and although it took a while to get here, I’ve finally found myself.

Take your time

So, if there’s any moral to learn from my story, I guess it would be this: take your time. Don’t rush so much to give yourself a label, because sometimes, it takes feelings a while to settle, and are often far too complicated to define by a single word. But, most important of all: don’t try to suppress parts of yourself because society dictates that you should feel a certain way. This is something I wish I’d realised soon.

Now that I’ve learnt this, I am me, and I couldn’t be happier.

Realising you’re not who you thought you were…

Very few people’s coming out stories are easy. Those whose are are the incredibly lucky ones. I always knew my parents would have absolutely no problem with my sexuality, but that didn’t stop it being incredibly difficult to actually tell them. There was always there tiny thought in the back of my head that my parents would kick their then 14 year old son out of the house when he told them he liked boys and girls. I probably wouldn’t have told them until some years later, had they not noticed I’d been self-harming because of homophobic bullying at my school and online.

I was always more attracted to boys

At the time, I identified as bisexual. I was told by near countless people that “bi people don’t exist” and that “bisexuals are just in denial of being gay”. For such a long time I was determined to prove them wrong, and I was attracted to girls for some time after coming out. I was always more attracted to boys, the ratio being around 80:20 boys to girls. I only dated two more girls after coming out, and have exclusively dated boys since 2010 or thereabouts.

The people who told me that bisexuality didn’t exist did almost as much damage as those who told me I was a freak of nature and that I should die for being bisexual in the first place. Whilst I overcame those who bullied me with help from my parents and teachers, the unwillingness to change the definition of my sexual identity remained with me right up until June 2014, aged 19. I’d known I was gay for a long time before this, but denied it to myself and others, instead saying “I could have a sexual relationship with a woman, but not an intimate/emotional one”. I knew this was rubbish, the ratio of my attractions was now more like 99:1 boys to girls, but I didn’t want those who didn’t respect my sexuality to win. It was a very big deal to start openly identifying as gay, even something as simple as unticking women from my ‘interested in’ on my facebook profile took some doing.

It’s okay to change your definition

I live very happily as an openly gay man, and even just after being bullied I started doing charity work to combat homophobia. I didn’t have a problem accepting myself until people starting making me believe I was wrong, but the one thing I did have to learn was that it’s okay to change your definition of your sexual identity. At 14-16 years old I was terrified that changing said definition was to give in, but I’ve now learned that very few people care if you change it – as long as you’re happy with who you are and how you define yourself, that’s all that matters. I know it sounds massively clichéd, but it’s an absolute truth.

A Long Wait

Coming out was a very natural process for me – everyone already knew I wanted to be a boy. I’d been telling my mum so for years. We just didn’t think there was anything to be done about it.

Then, by chance, I saw a Channel 4 documentary called The Boy Who Was Born A Girl. I saw a boy my own age having testosterone injections and shopping for packers. I sat and watched in awe until my mum came home and I started sobbing uncontrollably. I told her, “You need to watch this. That’s me. That’s what I want.”

What came next, that was the hard part.

So the coming out was easy . What came next, that was the hard part. First I went to my GP, then to the local Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service. Then to a private psychiatrist. Then back to CAMHS. Then I went to the only Gender Identity Clinic for under-18s in the country. I went to an endocrinologist. I spent a year taking monthly injections to block my natural sex hormones and I still felt like my blood was poison. I thought I would die if I didn’t get testosterone; I said so. But I still didn’t get it, and somehow I didn’t die.

When I hit eighteen, I was finally referred to an adult GIC willing to prescribe testosterone. After years of yearning and impotent rage at the system and outright begging for hormones I urgently needed, I got my wish.

That sense of community is a wonderful feeling.

I’ve been on testosterone for over a year now. The changes are pretty subtle, but I’ve never been happier with my body or how I’m perceived by others. I’ve stopped measuring myself against impossible standards of masculinity. I’m taking some time to think about surgery – if, when, and how I want it done. I’ve met loads of other trans people, and that sense of community is a wonderful feeling.

It’s been a long journey, and it’s not really over, but I’m finally able to enjoy it.

My friends were becoming sexually aware but I felt nothing

We were talking about sex. I was telling her how I found the idea of it funny and weird, and was asking her how she felt about it. She nodded along with some of what I said but she clearly still thought that sex sounded great.

It was her who suggested the idea that I might be asexual.  At the time it was like a diagnosis to a problem that I was in denial of. I was completely against the idea; it felt too real and too different.

I noticed my friends becoming sexually aware and have been mildly repulsed hearing them talk about sex. When some came out to me as gay and pansexual I assumed that idea of sex with girls just sounded slightly better than sex with guys.

I still feel absolutely nothing sexually but  I have sensual attraction, like having a desire to kiss, cuddle, hug or hand hold.  I sometimes wonder if maybe once in a relationship I’ll feel different.

Right now I identify as asexual.  Cuddles and kisses are great, but please, leave the underpants on!

I had only ever heard ‘bisexual’ in a negative context

I realised I wasn’t completely like my other female friends when I was 10, just before starting secondary school. My eyes were always drawn to women, and I was confused.

I had always gone to an all-girls Christian school and although my parents were really accepting of gay people, they didn’t talk about it. So I never fully understood different types of sexuality.

Part of me hated myself for my feelings. I pushed them to the back of my mind and continued life as normal.

It felt better knowing that there were other people like me

When I was 13 I came across a definition of the term lesbian on the internet and read a few personal stories. I decided that I must be a lesbian. I didn’t tell anyone, but part of me felt better knowing that there were other people like me.

I really hated myself

But I still hadn’t got to the heart of it. I was still really confused, because I realised that I still liked boys even though I liked girls better. I had rarely heard the word ‘bisexual’, and only ever with a negative context: ‘bisexuals are sluts”, ‘bisexuals are greedy’ and ‘bisexuals need to make up their mind’.  Hearing these things felt horrible and was eating away at me inside.

Then one day, when I was about 15, I was taking a long bath and thinking. What if bisexuals aren’t horrible, what if I actually am a bisexual, am I okay with that? And I was.

The moment I said to myself out loud, ‘I am a bisexual’, was the happiest I have ever been.

 

It’s easier once you’ve come out

I didn’t really care for crushes in primary school. Everyone seemed to care about that sort of thing, I just held the opinion that it was stupid. Then in year 6, I began to hold this girl in really high opinion. She was pretty, kind and could sing (this obviously mattered to ten-year-old me). But I just thought it was a deserved appreciation, because of course girls couldn’t get crushes on girls. I never really knew LGBF sexualities were as common as I now know they are. I would say I actually started questioning when I hit high school. I go to an all girls school so I realised that these people were attractive to me. I was suddenly aware that sexualities other than gay and straight existed (mainly thanks to extensive exposure to internet).

I was 13 when I actually started using bisexual to describe myself to myself. It was also around then I began to believe that my parents’ attitudes to LGBT people weren’t exactly positive. I started to talk about sexualities and gay rights more. I read as much as I could, learnt as much as I could. I guess that I’ve probably changed some of my parents opinions.

I started self harming as a distraction

But sometimes my parents would actively say things against gay people (nothing big, just small things that I spun out of control in my head) or my brother would tell me he thought homosexuality was wrong and he thinks it’d be weird to have a gay sister. Having been surrounded by fairly accepting peers at school, I realised that a lot of people still were against it. I started to become sad and worried. I started self harming as a distraction, and that continued for a few months.

Then I saw that my family’s attitudes were changing – they said they’d be fine with their children being gay, as long as they were happy. They spoke out against bigotry in the news. I realised that I had been so insecure about my sexuality and their reaction I failed to notice that damn, they were pretty open minded. I got myself off self harming, and told my best friend that I had realised that I liked girls and I thought I was bisexual. I was happier than I had been in ages.

It became common knowledge and it was fine

At 14 I came out to my class. I say come out, it was completely unplanned and just sort of happened. How it played out was more than a bit weird. A group of classmates around me were talking about how me and my best friend should “totally get together”. A friend of mine (who knew) then said “aren’t you bisexual?” It could have gone either way really. I could have denied it, or I could use this to come out. So I said, “yes”. And that was that. It spread, it became common knowledge and it was fine.

I told my mum soon after, although she didn’t quite believe me. She thought I was too young to have any idea. A few months later I said I was serious, and she told me it wasn’t what she wanted for me, but she wasn’t going to make a fuss because it would be stupid to push me away for something so (comparatively) small. She has since become more accepting than I could ever have hoped.

I try to talk as openly about it as I can

For my dad, I couldn’t pluck up the courage to say anything. I just asked my mum to tell him so he could deal with it without me being involved. He did, and while I don’t think he particularly likes it deep down, he hasn’t said anything negative about LGBT people for a while apart from a slip of the tongue. My brother knows too, mostly because I try to talk as openly about it as I can.

At 15, I started use ‘queer’ now as a label, simply not knowing anymore (I don’t use that now due to issues to do with it being a reclaimed slur). I often felt that I may be gay, as men didn’t actually seem that appealing, but then I’d just end up confused. Now, in my opinion, you can use whatever label you want, or none at all – and if you come out as one thing, you can come out again as another if you realise something later on. I also dated someone at my school now, who was pretty, kind and could sing (which I don’t think matters as much to me anymore), and although we’ve broken up now I am still good friends with her. I’m openly LGB at school. People who know don’t care. I think a lot of things I picked up in what my parents said were minute things that I highlighted and was just the result of paranoia. I don’t worry about it anymore. I’m 16, love girls and am just going with it.

The internet is good when your family isn’t

I think my grand revelation happened after watching that one episode of the X files when Dana Scully goes to Africa and spends the whole time wearing a tank top and henley wielding a machete and, well, I had to take a cold shower afterwards.

I was terrified. I’d always believed that attraction to the same sex was a bad thing, and here I was clearly infatuated. I locked the door and opened an incognito window on my laptop, just in case. “Signs you’re a lesbian.” I took quizzes, read blogs, I did them all. Some of them said yes and some said no, but none of it helped. I looked up pictures of attractive men to “make sure” I wasn’t gay. I wasn’t. I stumbled across a quiz that told me I was bisexual. I’d only ever pictured bisexual as a thing that teenage girls say when they want to be more attractive to guys. I was really wrong. I looked it up. “Bisexuality” “What is bisexual” “Am I bisexual”. Well, I guess I was queer.

I told myself I was bisexual for the first time

It was months later when a really pretty girl complimented my shirt and I got so flustered that I told myself I was bisexual for the first time. It was only a few weeks after that that I accidentally came out at school when during a discussion about dress code I said I liked girls but didn’t get distracted by their yoga pants. I was ignored, because it’s high school,  but the people around me heard and it spread around.

I came out to my family on April fool’s day (just in case) and got three responses: NO, it’s a phase, sexual orientations aren’t a real thing, people just sleep with who they like. None of them are exactly positive. My brothers are still dicks about it, and my dad likes to pretend I’m his heterosexual daughter, but no one has disowned me for which I’m lucky.

I found several internet communities which were super cool about sexuality and gender, and yeah, there’s always assholes out there, but sometimes it’s easier to find acceptance in online anonymity. Fantasy is also great for that, and one thing I learned from fantasy is that family isn’t about blood relation, it’s about love. Any family that doesn’t accept you is just shit. You’ll find your real family, trust me.

Even after coming out, confusion is normal

I always knew I was gay. I pretended I wasn’t until I was 14, but I always knew. I enjoyed behaving like the girls and not having to conform. I was confident in myself and enjoyed the attention of being different. At 14 or 15, I came out properly to my parents and any friends that didn’t already know and was immediately filled with excitement and a sense of freedom.

I couldn’t talk to my parents or teachers because I was embarrassed

I had always known that I fancied boys and wanted more than anything to have a boyfriend, who I could kiss and hold, be with and who would love me. I was terrified of sex. I didn’t know anything about it! The little I did know about gay sex scared the life out of me and I didn’t want to have anything to do with it. What made this even more difficult was that when I came out some people presumed that I knew everything that gay men did, both in and out of the bedroom. I found this difficult and didn’t have anyone to talk to about it. I couldn’t talk to my parents or teachers because I was embarrassed and my friends knew even less than me so they weren’t going to be helpful. Obviously the internet exists now to chat to other gay teens but that presents its own problems as well.

As I’ve got older I have realised that everyone felt like this for a while. Yes, gay teens have much less information and support but the truth is a lot of young people are scared of sex. Very few people know what they want or what they like when they are young. I realised this doesn’t make you any less gay or less valid in your feelings or your desires. I became scared of physical relationships, even though I wanted them, as I was worried I would be rejected for not knowing how to have sex and this subsequently stopped me exploring my sexuality for years.

Coming out doesn’t happen overnight

Now, I have realised the importance of being proud in your sexuality and your decisions and to never feel the need to be pressured into anything that you’re not comfortable with. Coming out doesn’t happen overnight. Just because you have told people you fancy boys, doesn’t mean you don’t still have questions and confusions about what having a same-sex relationship might mean. The most important thing is is that you do what makes you happy and comfortable and trust that others will be accepting of this.