I’m not ignorant and I am aware that there is an exception to the rule, I’m sure some transgender person out there has managed to have a perfect and smooth transition depression free. But why is it that I have yet to meet another trans person who has not had depression of some kind. 27% of Trans young people in the UK have attempted suicide and a massive 89% have suicidal thoughts (Stonewall). Question is why is depression so prevalent in the transgender community?
I can only speak of my own experiences; I grew up in a rural part of North Wales, the type of place where if you had witnessed a car crash on the opposite side of the village from your home, your family would know about it before you arrived home. Issue with such a small community like that is that coming out doesn’t just mean your family would know, but everyone would. Ignorance was also an issue; a small community knows little about the outside world let alone about the LGBTQ+ Community. The word transgender had not even yet been coined and the idea of changing gender was a new concept to most of the community, coming out to my family seemed like an impossibility.
My only outlet was an understanding friend and her family, I’d often have ‘sleep-overs’ at her house where we would spend the night putting on make-up and trying on clothes. She showed me a level of love and support I had not received off anyone before, which fills me with joy that someone so supportive I can now call my sister-in-law, I even named my middle name after her as a thank you for what she did.
It took until I attended university before I could actually “come-out” to a group of close supportive friends. I moved to student accommodation despite not living far from the university in order to be away from my parents and to transition in my own time. I would often walk around my flat in a skirt or a dress despite having one disapproving flat-mate; My other flat-mates were very supportive and would often help in pushing me to venture outside wearing women’s clothing and makeup. I started going on nights out with friends as the female version of myself ‘Stacy’ but my friends would often push me to go out during the day. The first day I did decide to go out during the day as ‘Stacy’ was unfortunately met with aggression, a couple of men eating some chips stood outside a white van loudly shouted “tranny” and wolf-whistled at me… it took me months before I had the confidence to come out during the day again.
Eventually I grew in confidence as ‘Stacy’ and knew the time would have to come where I got rid of my ‘Male’ life and became ‘Stacy’ full time. The thought of doing this was daunting and due to some negative reactions I had from some people I felt as if I would loose my family by coming-out to them, I always considered myself to have a low mood, and possibly depression but it was at this point I really started to feel it. I would often contemplate suicide and was regularly self-harming. I knew I had to trick myself into telling my parents about the real me, I met up with my brother who already knew about me and told him that I would tell our parents before the end of November. This gave me an unnecessary amount of pressure, and as the end of November drew closer my depression and anxiety grew even more, I began to drink alcohol more regularly and often had a bottle of vodka by the side of my bed. One day I decided that I could not tell them, but I had also come to the realisation that I could not be “male” anymore, so I attempted to take my own life. Luckily it was an unsuccessful attempt, the following morning was a Saturday and I often would go and see my parents every other Sunday for a Sunday dinner and a catch-up. I spent the day contemplating on whether I should “finish myself off” or tell my parents, I came to the realization that if I were to come out to my parents and they didn’t accept me… I could kill myself anyway.
I asked a few friends to come over to witness me tell my mum over the phone that tomorrow, over Sunday dinner I needed to tell her something. I needed them to witness it so that it would put pressure on me to tell my mum I needed to tell her something, which in turn would put pressure on me actually coming out to my mum and dad when I see them. Following the phone call, I burst into tears thinking I had signed my own death sentence, I phoned another friend and arranged for him to give me a lift back to the flat if my parents did indeed disapprove.
But I also wanted to believe there was a possibility they would approve and had arranged with another friend to make the following day my first day of being Stacy, where we would go clothes shopping, get me a haircut and get our eyebrows shaped and waxed.
The day came, the 1st of December 2013. My mum picked me up knowing I had “something” to tell her, she gave me chocolate (which I was too nervous to eat) and told me everything would be fine. We arrived at my parents’ house, sat at the table and I nervously tried to speak. I first mentioned how I’d seen a psychiatrist about this and how I’ve known for years so it’s not a “phase” and then told them I was a transsexual (an outdated term, but the term transgender had yet to be coined). Which their reaction was “What’s one of them?” So, I had to explain that I wanted to undergo surgical procedures to become a Woman. The reaction was mixed, they said they would support me no matter what but are going to find it hard to accept me as female. Although this is true over-time, they came to accept me, and now the thought of me being anything other than female to them is stranger than me coming out to begin with.
But this did not end my depression, the issue with being transgender is that you find yourself trying to mask the ‘male-ness’ of yourself which can aggravate and irritate you those days where you feel as if you do look like a man; you are constantly scared of your own reflection and can never look at yourself naked. You have this inner need to change everything you can about yourself, which is only exemplified further by reactions from the public. Often, I would walk down the street and get so many people staring at me, a few confronting me.
•“You’re a man, aren’t you”
•“You say your Female, but what’s it say on your birth certificate!”
•“You set a bad example for my kids”
•“If you have a penis, just be a man! Why is that so difficult!”
•“So if you can identify as a woman, can I just identify as a dog?”
•“Oh My God! Look, That’s a man! HA HA HA”
The reaction from the public makes things more difficult and increase that level of depression and anxiety I had, I eventually sought counselling and was put on anti-depressants. What also doesn’t help is the frustrating process for Welsh Transgender patients to be given these life-changing operations. The fact we’re Welsh means that we must go through additional steps to receive any treatment, the length of waiting lists and the frustrating process means some struggle to get the treatment they truly deserve. Myself, I have been on the NHS system for six years and still have not been put on the waiting list for surgery.
Which leads to the reason’s life is so hard for trans people, why so many commit suicide or at least have suicidal thoughts. But that doesn’t mean we have to live a life of depression; I have found myself dragged out of the depths of depression. My anxiety has disappeared, despite being prone to panic-attacks I have not had one for years now, and my general outlook on life is much happier. My solace came from acceptance, understanding, community and finally not caring about what others think.
Last year I met a wonderful lady, we began dating both of us being depressives. She showed me that I can find love despite being transgender, that people will accept me and with the right community behind me I could achieve anything. We unfortunately broke up but remain great friends and support each other whenever we need it, and although I am still struggling with my transition, I remain optimistic and know that although it may take a while, I will be the true me. I fight opinions of people with help of the LGBTQ+ community and start listening more to the people who accept me more than the few who wish to insult me.
And for those still sceptical about transgender people this stems from ignorance. Many believe that being transgender is a choice and that one day I just woke up and said, “I am done with being a man, I’ll try being a woman for a while”. But there is scientific evidence on transgenderism and that it’s not just a simple decision. Bill Nye addresses in his Netflix show, The Sexual Spectrum that although we are taught to see Male and Female as binary, it’s not that simple, we are used to the idea that the XY chromosome was for males and XX for females but there are many more combinations than just those, there are people with XXY, XXXY etc. There are hypothesis on sexual differentiation of the genitals and how it occurs separately from that of the brain and evidence that a transgender persons brain closer resembles that of which they identify as.
I think it’s just important to remember that no matter what life throws at you it really does get better, stick close to your friends and those who do want to support you. Find a community who accepts you and can be a shoulder to cry on when needed and tell all those who oppose who you are that this is the true you and nothing will stop you from being who you truly are, teach them about the science of Transgenderism and to stop being so ignorant.
Welsh version translated by: Chloe Anne Jones