From School to College: A Transman’s Perspective

In Commentary, HOME, LIFE by Sam Prance

I am a 19 year old transman, who has been living as male for around seven months.

I came out at school by writing an article for our school magazine on gender stereotyping, identity and conforming. I had previously come out as gay at the age of 14, but felt this label didn’t correctly describe me. I hadn’t yet found the answer to my identity and the inner turmoil I felt for the body in which I was living and the gender role with which I’d been assigned at birth.

1653280_10202569716715594_1340470021_nConforming to the gender role I’d been assigned at birth at school was incredibly hard. I was never ‘girly’. Looking back on my childhood I was, what can only be described as a straight up in your face stereotypical transboy. I liked football and playing with the lads.

However, at school it was essential for me to effectively be a ‘girl’. The school system was and still is very gender split, which for any cisgendered person isn’t an issue, but for me and many others was and can be torture. I had to spend the majority of my social time in a single sexed house in a tartan skirt and tights(?!). Imagine forcing your average 13-16 year old boy to do the same. In theory it might sound quite amusing but day in day out it is anything but.

Puberty was hell for me from start to finish actually and the only way I felt I could cope with this feeling of being trapped was by trying to conform to the gender I was assigned at birth. I grew my hair long; I started to board in a girls’ house. I started to pretend to be a gender I wasn’t and this just resulted in me feeling even more depressed than I did before and I didn’t feel I could go on any longer without telling someone what was going on in my head. The feeling that I was simply trapped in the wrong body and knew I was a boy.

In fact the only thing which I found comfort in then was a transgender storyline on Hollyoaks. I enjoy a good soap but I think there’s something wrong with society if the best comfort a transboy can find with regards to their gender is in Hollyoaks.

Things started to get better when I started having counseling and actually telling people about my situation and not hiding things anymore. It’s amazing what you feel you can tell a stranger that you can’t tell a friend. Whoever it is though – I find it gets 100% better once you tell that first person, the burden is lifted and the soul has a chance to breathe.

I was allowed to wear trousers and a boy’s suit at school and gradually started to wear ties and just look and dress like the young man I was when I moved into sixth form. There was no cover up at school, I never really saw the point of denying it to peers when in fact they were all unspeakably kind and supportive. But it was just one step too many to start transitioning at school. I’d have had to move to a boys’ house and the chances are that that would have made some people feel uncomfortable. I never wanted to make people feel uncomfortable.

I changed my name via Deed Poll the day after I left school with all my friends around me. The headmaster and a teacher were my witnesses and even though I had left school that link was still there and I felt I had opened the door to other LGBT+ students who maybe were finding it difficult to come out in a private, evangelical school with a very close-knit community.

Name changed and ID changed meant I was ready to start Music College in Birmingham as myself. It felt right. No one knew me here, why couldn’t I have a new beginning?

Pictures6The hardest thing I have found being at college whilst transitioning isn’t the people or the lecturers or the toilets (though this is bloody hard) but the emotional, mental and physical exhaustion I have felt. Finding myself, learning what it is to be a man (if that even is a thing?) and moving away from my parents all at the same time is really hard.

I have tried to explain the exhaustion in this way: it’s almost like playing a character in a play, you have to learn who the character is not just on the outside but on the inside too. You have to figure out a character’s subtext. In this circumstance it’s actually the complete opposite; I’m not playing a part, I’m actually becoming and embracing my true self. However, acting and becoming are so opposite that they actually end up being very similar on a deeper level.

I have had no issues with college or the people in college, the hardest things are everyday happenings that many people take for granted. Clubbing – I hate clubbing anyway, but many a time now I have been harassed and jeered at for being in the ‘wrong’ toilets. Luckily I don’t make it a habit of mine to spend any prolonged time in a club toilet but it’s still a problem.

Taxi rides too – as soon as I open my mouth to speak, I out myself to the driver. I am pre-hormones at the moment so my voice is still high. There is nothing more disheartening then hearing: ‘That’ll be £5, ladies’. It merely confirms that my transition is not complete.

1800340_10202632638848608_838487036_nCollege has given me the freedom to be who I am in a way that school never could. But that was on my own terms, I decided not to transition at school for the sheer logistics of it, which means I was totally ready to be and become me when I moved to college.

I would say if you were questioning your gender identity make sure you talk to people, inform them. Humans can be horrible sometimes but it’s usually not in their nature to be so, more often than not they’re just ignorant. In my experience – if they can, they will always help – even if they don’t understand.

‘Be yourself, everybody else is taken’ – Oscar Wilde

Harrison Williams

Harrison Williams studies music at the Birmingham Conservatoire. He loves musicals (who doesn’t?!) and enjoys even more playing for them. One day he hopes to work in them. He is also the son of two priests and has lived in Gloucestershire since the age of 7. He’s tried to make the music the focus of his life and not his trans status. After all – he’s just a boy. 

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