November is Transgender Awareness Month and we're celebrating Transgender Awareness Week, where transgender people and their allies bring attention to the trans community by educating others about who transgender people are, and sharing stories and their experiences.
Our colleague James has worked at SGN for almost two years in our metering team and has shared his transgender journey.
I started transitioning when I was 42 – I am almost 50 now.
I knew growing up that I was different from my peers. I didn’t know anyone who was trans and it certainly wasn’t a topic we talked about at school. Back then it was illegal for our teachers to talk about being gay, never mind being trans. I had no one to identify with, no one to talk to about how I felt.
It wasn’t until I was in my 30s that I met another openly trans man, thanks to an equality training course at the place I worked at the time. That was my light bulb moment when everything clicked into place and I understood what I had been struggling with all my life.
It wasn’t for another 12 years that I finally knew that I had to do something about those feelings.
When I made the decision to approach my doctor to start the process, he was wonderful and so supportive and he made that first nerve-wracking appointment a great experience. Unfortunately, the process to get gender-affirming treatment on the NHS is a very long one and I struggled so much with gender dysphoria.
This is where someone feels an unease because of the mismatch between their biological sex and their gender identity. For some people, this unease or dissatisfaction can be so intense that it can lead to depression and anxiety, and end up having a harmful impact on daily life.
My family have been amazing. When I told my parents they were surprised but not entirely shocked. My mum’s first question was why had I waited so long, why had I not told them or done anything about this sooner?
There is no simple answer, so many reasons looking back – shame, fear of others’ reactions, lack of understanding, hatred, ignorance. So many things that hold you back, all of which are to do with other people’s reactions.
I had to be myself and I wanted my outside to match who I was on the inside.
This job is the first role I have held as James (I was self-employed before) and I remember being so incredibly nervous about going for my interview and then starting work with new people who hadn’t known me “before”. My team are amazing, always supportive, always cheering me on; but mostly they just see me, as me. I couldn’t ask for more.
For me, being open, being visible, is incredibly important. I didn’t have that growing up, no one to identify with, no one to look up to. It's so isolating and I never want anyone to feel like I did then.
This journey has been hard, physically, mentally and emotionally but ultimately, it has saved my life.
My community, the people who have supported me, have saved my life. I am grateful every single day. Even when you think you can’t get through, just take each day at a time and always know…that you are never alone.
Happy Trans Awareness Week!