[00:00:00] Josephine: Hi, I’m Josephine Hughes and I’m the mum of two transgender young women who came out in their teens and early twenties. I tell the story of what that was like for me as a mother in my first series of the podcast, but so many people have asked me for my daughter’s side of the story. They want to hear what it was like for them to come out and what it’s like to be living as transgender women.
And so my beautiful daughters have been the inspiration for this second series of Gloriously Unready
Because what is it like to be transgender in a world that in many ways is not ready for you? And how can you ever be ready to tell the people that you love, that you are not what they think you are?
Each of my six guests in this series share their own stories of coming out both to themselves and to others.
You’ll hear them describe the impact on them and their families and their thoughts on the decision they made to be honest with themselves and with their loved ones.
And along the way you’ll also hear how their perspective on gender is something that challenges us all to think more deeply about the assumptions we make about each other. So first, here’s one of my daughters telling her story in her own words.
[00:01:27] Daughter: It’s great to be here and it is great to have a chance to offer an alternate kind of positive narrative to everything that’s kinda going on at the moment.
[00:01:37] Josephine: That’s right. And that’s what it’s about. And that’s what I hope this whole series is going to be around, is to be able to present, the real sort of true side of the story and not what we read about. So we’re gonna, we’re go through the kickoff basically with I think what quite a lot of people are always really interested in, which is how did you know that you were transgender and
[00:02:06] Daughter: Oh, going,
[00:02:07] Josephine: , going in there straight away.
[00:02:09] Daughter: Starting with the big one. I think it’s an interesting question and I’ve thought about this quite a lot recently just because of it’s all in the news constantly. Do you think to yourself how did I know I was trans and when did my journey begin? Was it when I first had thoughts of being slightly different when I was younger?
Or is it when it actually coalesced into something that I could recognise as being, being able to point at myself and go, I’m trans. So the question of when did I know I was trans is hard for me. And there is two answers. First of all, I wouldn’t say I’m one of those people who knew immediately from very young that they were a girl or that they were a boy or that they were a non-binary.
It took me a long time to realise that that’s who I was. But from young age I did know that I was different and that a lot of the stereotypically boy things didn’t really suit me at all, and that when it came to gendered spaces and the identity, it didn’t quite fit. But then the feeling of why it didn’t feel right, I couldn’t put my finger on for the longest time PE and stuff.
Physical education being put in the boys group with the ruffians on the football field and in the rugby field. It never felt right. I dunno how things are for everyone else at school, but our social groups were quite segregated as well. It felt like it fell into there were groups of boys who hung out together and there were groups of girls that hung out together.
And I always felt like I’d rather be playing with the girls who were, playing make-believe on the swing sets or whatever, rather than the boys who were playing bulldog and trying to punch each other and tried to skirt the rules on that as much as they could. So for me, that’s the earliest point where I now can look back and say, those are my feelings on being trans was probably when I was sitting there, not quite feeling right.
Feeling like I identify with those elements more strongly than perhaps someone who was cisgender would. But from there, it took me until I was about 16, 17, for it to truly start to coalesce into something that was like, no, there is something. This is more than just a gentle feeling of being different.
At that point, I started to realise that I had a sense of depression, which I now know was dysphoria and it’s terrifying at that time growing up in the kind of 2010s when trans rights were on the rise, but weren’t really a discussed topic until the latter half of the decade. It’s a terrifying feeling because it’s, at that time it was a feeling I had no words for.
And had no language to describe adequately, which when you are young and you are already working through so much is really quite scary because I was waking up when and I was feeling horrible about things and about the way I looked and about how I would act and what I would do, but there was no way for me to action on them at the time.
What is this? You can’t get over the most basic hurdle. You’ve gotta know your enemy before you can defeat it. I didn’t know my enemy. I didn’t even have a name for it. It was nebulous. And a dark cloud over me basically. Which sounds very dramatic!
So at that point I was in a very high school relationship with a girl and this was when it started to coalesce into something much more. I was 17, 18 at the time maybe I started to realise and we started to have discussions around it and feeling different.
And then cuz this is the moment I can always point to like exactly then at the time when I can go, oh, that, that was when I knew was we had a discussion and I think she literally ended the conversation with “well as long as you’re not transgender”, at which point, it was the first time in my life I’d ever taken that word.
Which you knew was a thing at that point in, in culture, a background thing. But it was the first time I’d taken that word and put it in front of myself and thought, This is me, I’m trans. It was a light bulb moment when you suddenly have the language to describe it and to apply to yourself, and you look it up online and you start to realise what that all means.
Up until that point, I’d had all those feelings, and then suddenly in a single day, it was contextualized into that’s you feeling trans. That’s you feeling dysphoria and not feeling like a boy, but feeling like a girl instead. So that was when exactly I knew, I think it was January, I don’t think it was long after my birthday or something at the start of the year.
And then I went, oh crap, I’ve done it. Well done. You’ve put this word in front of you now, what the fuck do you do? Basically? . There is some euphoria to it of knowing, , that’s me, I’m trans. Then you realise how much that means. Especially when you look it up online and especially at that time, there wasn’t as many transgender resources and stuff online.
You look up and you realise just how difficult it’s gonna be. You get scared of how people are gonna react. That initial rush of okay, I know let’s go and you do want to go because you, with that clarity that you suddenly have and that I had immediately, I wanted to take action. I’ve sat on these for so long not knowing what to do or how to solve these feelings.
Suddenly I know what these feelings are and I know how I can change them so I can move forward. So immediately you want to start moving forward. But that’s difficult.
[00:08:39] Josephine: , I was gonna say there’s a but there isn’t there because it’s such a massive thing.
[00:08:46] Daughter: I feel for the people who are growing up today who unlike when I was growing up where it was oh, you were aware of it, but it wasn’t a big thing. There are gonna be a lot of people growing up now who are gonna have the language from a lot earlier age, and for a lot of people, they’re gonna see that word and they’re gonna think, no, that’s not me.
But for a lot of people, suddenly they do have the tools from a much younger age and from a much, apart to start exploring and start understanding whether that language applies to them. And for the vast majority, for 99% of people, you’re gonna look at those words and you’re gonna think, no, that doesn’t really describe me.
But then for the people who it does describe, having that language is a tool in its own right. Before you can do anything, you have to know what you’re up against and what you need to do. How’s to define yourself?
[00:09:38] Josephine: . So let’s fast forward a little bit. So I can remember distinctly when you came out, you were 16, it was just before your birthday.
It was literally days before your birthday. So tell me, how did you feel before you, you came out when you were thinking about coming out? Cause obviously, did you come out to your girlfriend first and then .
[00:10:02] Daughter: ,
that was the thing was. And I think you knew, must have known something was up at the time.
I don’t know how much you knew, but that relationship ended because of that. Because I came out as trans and honestly as someone who’s just come out as trans to your girlfriend at the time, it was perhaps the most amicable and affirming breakup I could have had. Because she recognised well you are a woman. I’m a straight woman, it’s not gonna work.
Which is a very strong affirmation of you’re a woman, but very difficult at the time as well. We’d be going out for two years, I think, and suddenly that ended. So it was difficult cuz at that point I felt I had to explain to you why we’d broken up.
And I think I, I can’t remember exactly what the excuse I gave was. I think it was just, it didn’t work out, which is about as vague as you can get .
[00:10:57] Josephine: I said to you, Oh, is there something going on with you and your girlfriend? And there was a very long silence And that’s when you
[00:11:06] Daughter: . . How could I explain otherwise? . That, . She can’t go out with me anymore cuz she’s straight and I’m a woman. It was really difficult at that time, I think because, so much of what I’d known and so much of what had been stable had suddenly been thrown into upheaval. Basically this relationship I’ve had with her for two years, even though it’s just a high school relationship, it was a big part of my identity at that time, and was suddenly just ended just like that.
Everything I knew was gonna change and I knew that. I knew that I was gonna have to tell you and I was gonna have to tell my friends. And it was really difficult. It was, I had a lot of dread at the time. You’re entering a brave new world basically, and this is the difficult thing for trans people is that your identity is changing so much at the time and you’re telling people about this new side of your identity when it’s not entirely settled, so you’re combining the fact that your social and home life might somehow massively change alongside the fact that your core identity has changed as well.
Nothing feels solid at that time, and for me especially. I did think you guys were gonna be supportive, but I didn’t know how long it would take and how much I would have to insist, no, I am trans, I’m a woman.
. Before it’s settled basically. And that’s the difficulty is knowing you will be supportive, but how long will it take before you actually see me for who I am. I like to masquerade as a writer. Sometimes I like to think I’m very good at writing dialogue, but suddenly I’m thinking of the words I’m gonna be saying to you.
In the moment, and maybe I’ve planned for days. I think I spent at least three days each time thinking today’s gonna be the morning, today’s the day. I know for sure. And then going downstairs and having breakfast, and then running out the door like, so the finally, I got the chance. I said, and that’s the thing I remember distinctly, I said, mum, I’ve gotta, I’ve gotta tell you something.
And then freeze because at that point, you know the threshold is gonna be crossed. Oh crap, you’re gonna do it. You’re gonna say, here it comes. Here it comes. Here it comes. Here it comes. And then I finally managed to do it. There was some initial shock on your side definitely. Because I think I came out before my sister that I distinctly remember.
This is very funny. And there was a bit of quiet. Okay. , I remember. And you were like, I’ll give you a lift to school. I was like, Yes. See it’s going well already. I’m already winning. I’ve skipped the 20 minute walk to school. At which point we go in the car, we’re driving along, we go down, we drive the long road to school, at which point there’s a silence.
As soon as you say, are you sure you are not a really feminine man?
I was like, and sometimes it takes those outside questioning to reaffirm. And it is no, that doesn’t suit me. That doesn’t fit. No, I am definitely a woman. Like I, I’m a trans woman. It, I always think back to that memory. It does always make me laugh cuz it does think no. , I know what I am now. Maybe before I was unsure, but when the, you hear it repeated back at you. Helps you reaffirm that even though I’m all in flux, this is the thing that’s guiding me right now. It’s that feeling that I have language for that I can describe .Hold onto that.
[00:14:55] Josephine: . It’s really interesting, isn’t it?
Sometimes that’s, it’s in conversation with people that you know, you know yourself when people perhaps put up objections. . As you can actually think no, I know that’s not true of me.
[00:15:10] Daughter: For me, it’s because I’d spent so much with these feelings in my head internally debating them. And internal debates are really boring because you’re just talking to yourself about it and you are hearing the same points repeatedly back and forth.
So hearing you say those things is a breath of fresh air. Hello, someone else has something to say and that helps me like explore around it. And figure out. And the truth was that I say that, I knew I was a trans woman and all that. That was definitely the start of my journey by so much. And it took me so long to ever be comfortable with that label and to actually fully embrace it. Like I knew I wasn’t a very feminine guy. And I knew that I was a woman, but what that meant for me took so long to settle and to grow. And to be honest, I’m still not finished and I don’t think I ever will be.
As a lot of people never are when it comes to identity.
[00:16:14] Josephine: Because for you it’s quite a sort of gradual transition, I think.
[00:16:20] Daughter: Especially socially. It’s that classic thing of looking back now, I think, God, I was young. At the time I felt like the most adult person in the room.
But looking back, I think , but I knew, and I did know, and it never wavered. I never felt. At any point, even though I might have questioned what it meant to me. . And what being a woman was. That the very base level never wavered. And I never went back on that. And I never thought, actually, no, I am just a guy.
[00:16:57] Josephine: So there’s this sense of you didn’t have the words for it, you had the feelings, but being able to find the words for it enabled you to recognise what was true for you and having recognised that it was true for you. It’s a very enduring sense of this is me.
[00:17:16] Daughter: It’s connection is the thing. I remember particularly because I think this was around the time of Caitlyn Jenner first coming out.
And obviously can’t say I’m a huge fan of Caitlyn Jenner. But that connection of there’s someone who used to be a man and is now a trans woman. That sense of connection to the idea and the language anchored me. And kept me firm whenever I felt people questioned or when people asked or like no, remember that feeling?
Remember how it felt when the light switched on? . And had clarity. That’s why I can still look back and quote that incident exactly when I was in my bedroom and I heard the word and I applied it to myself. Cuz that’s always how I can push away all the fists because I know you just, you do just know when it connects and when it’s deep inside you, like you can’t get rid of it really, no matter what happens. Like I could have pushed it away, and I could have perhaps denied it for the sake of the relationship. I could have confined it in some other label, but I couldn’t switch the light switch back off, basically.
[00:18:44] Josephine: . I always remember you saying to me that, the moment where you knew it was , I know. And once you know, and it’s as simple as that.
[00:18:56] Daughter: . It’s, like I said earlier about recontextualising, everything it’s having the language it’s basically a lens that now when I look back at everything, I think, oh , of course. Watching Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo, and Juliet. And there’s a scene where Mercutio comes out and is in full drag. And of course at that age I’m like, people can do that? He can wear a skirt and a bra. And it’s silver and glittery! And look at the time, I’m 14 or whatever and I don’t think anything of it. And I look back and I’m like, you should have known then you really should have you idiot. There will never be a set age when people know it’s not like people are gonna get to puberty and then decide.
For me, it was a post puberty thing. For other people, they know when they’re like five. Some people they have been through, decades. And then realise later in their life. I think it’s so important to recognise that , our identities are fluid. And that discovering them is never gonna happen at certain times or is gonna require certain things to happen.
Like it’s not like I held up a dress to myself or went, oh my God, this is it. Like I had to have all these things building up and then have the language as a lens to realise.
[00:20:32] Josephine: Because I think one of the things that I don’t remember saying it to you, but I certainly said it to your sister who told me that they felt like this as a young child.
And I said, but I’ve never seen any indication of this. You never said anything. You never did the archetypal girls things. We had dolls in the house and nobody played with them. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And I think that sometimes parents can think that, oh, they haven’t shown any signs of it.
There’s this silly phrase, rapid onset dysphoria, and that just doesn’t really exist because, listening to you and what you are saying, it’s just being able to find the words and that can be a process that takes time
[00:21:16] Daughter: For someone whose child has come out as trans.
You might reflexively look for evidence of the opposite. This big change has happened, so you fall back on what you feel like proves that actually maybe this is just a mistake, because that’s a narrative that’s easier for you to see. And then it suits it. You know, of course they can’t be a girl they’re into computers. That’s gendered male. And I remember when they were really into digging around in the dirt and construction gear, so you know, they have to be a boy. And because we look for what’s familiar and we turn to those kind of traditional gender ideas.
Actually I can look back now. I was always terrified when I was younger with two older siblings. I was always terrified of listening to the music I actually like because I was scared that it was gonna be seen as feminine. And so I didn’t listen to it. Pointedly. So maybe if I’d been playing that music full blast, it would’ve been more obvious, playing Katy Perry on the speakers, like perhaps.
But it’s not just the things that people do, it’s also the absence of things. And so a lot of it’s gonna be internal.
[00:22:39] Josephine: . And , as you say, it’s about this sort of, gendered roles and the way that we assign people their gender according to what they do. And I think this would be a really lovely point to bring in what we’ve been talking about recently with the voice therapy that you’ve been having.
What you were telling me about your voice workshops was fascinating because it, it breaks it this idea of a gender binary down. So I dunno if you can remember what you were saying, but it was when you were learning about the voice, wasn’t it?
[00:23:12] Daughter: Everyone can tell I have a pretty traditionally male voice.
Voice therapy is still ongoing for me, but I can switch into it at times when I’m comfortable. Other times I don’t. And the beautiful thing learning about voice therapy is it makes you realise that you think it’s set in stone and you go to voice therapy and you are scared because, you know, my voice is never gonna be good enough to be feminine.
I’m never gonna, I, maybe I can make a falsetto and then you actually get into the science of it and the practicality of the voice, and you realise how much of that is false. We have the pitch and that’s what people think voice is they just think it’s pitch.
They think that when I’m going through voice therapy, what I’m learning to do is just turning up the pitch. But then you also have the resonance. The brightness, the how the vocal folds combine to make the voice. And as you go through it, you realise that the voice isn’t feminine or masculine, it’s a bunch of muscles hitting each other to generate noise. And when we go through voice therapy, what we learned to do is we just take the sliders and play around with them. And by changing how our muscles slap into each other, we can become more feminine. But I’m not becoming feminine. I’m just turning up the brightness of the pitch slightly, or I’m making the vocal chords hit each other at a different angle. And the beauty of that is realising how constructed the femininity and the masculinity is. You have a feminine voice, but that’s just because it hits certain frequencies. That in itself isn’t a womanly thing.
That’s just frequencies and what we’ve come to associate those frequencies with. Or how they combine. And it’s really freeing. Because who cares if my voice is slightly lower or whatever. It’s really eyeopening for me because it makes me realise how much of the gendered stuff that we worry about, it’s just invented.
It’s how we perceive things. It always reminds me of the fact that to people who want to stop trans people. A man wearing a skirt, what a horrible thing. And then you remember that the skirt is a piece of cloth and it’s not that different from a kilt. But a kilt is acceptable. And a man wearing a skirt is, a horrifying crossing of the gender norms. It’s a piece of cloth. And we assign it to be a woman’s piece of cloth for some reason.
It’s not to say that people who enjoy these things as an expression of their gender are wrong. I love dressing femininely. I love wearing dresses and skirts and expressing my femininity. I find such joy in it.
But, I’d be as much as a woman if I never wore a skirt again in my life. Or a dress. Or I wore baggy jeans. And a blue jumper for the rest of my life. Or it’s blue, it’s masculine. No, it’s a blue jumper.
[00:26:26] Josephine: That’s what you’re saying isn’t it, from the outside it’s how people perceive, isn’t it?
And the meaning that they apply.
[00:26:34] Daughter: It’s been built up over centuries of culture. But that doesn’t mean that it’s set in stone and that it’s how the universe designed it. If it’s a cultural thing, that’s means it’s a thing that can change. Our culture is always in flux. Our perceptions of gender are always in flux
[00:26:53] Josephine: For some people I think it, it might be a sort of sense of security and safety, the way the world works and this is the way the world works.
[00:27:00] Daughter: Yes. And I, yes, and it’s not to deny people what they might get from that expression. Absolutely. Nobody, I think, is gonna succeed in erasing the concept of gender in itself. But what we can aim towards is a much freer form of gender expression. And one which doesn’t, it doesn’t limit people, but instead supports them and makes them feel freer. It’s about freedom of expression for me. And I feel this so strongly that this is why I will never understand the argument of the transphobes essentially. Because if you side with the transphobes, you are arguing against the freedom of expression, of gender expression, of being able to wear whatever you want and to be able to express yourself in any form that you’d like.
Go wear makeup and be a man. Go be born a man where, wake up and be a woman. Be free to do that in a society that lets us express that. It’s just the most beautiful thing, I think. Like why wouldn’t we want people to be freer and happier? To be safer in their expression. .
And to know that. I don’t know, it’s just a beautiful thing, I think.
[00:28:24] Josephine: So what we are beginning to touch on, I think is something else that we’ve talked about together. And I think from my perspective as a parent is seeing you growing into more fully yourself and what a really freeing and joyful process that is, and the same for your sister as well. I believe it’s so important for people to be who they are and that is what brings joy when you’re really being authentic to your true self. So it would be really lovely to hear what you think, having made this transition.
Cause, because so many people think that, oh God, it’s gonna be really hard. Certainly as a parent, that sort of question about are you sure you’re not a feminine man? Is coming from that place of, I don’t really want you to be transgender cuz I think that might be too difficult.
[00:29:14] Daughter: It’d be, it might be really difficult. . And I think first of all it is difficult and this for me, reaffirms the fact that I’m transgender and the fact that other people are transgender because why would you choose all the pain and the difficult parts And the awkward conversations. If that really wasn’t how you felt, if it was all a show. It was all fetish. You would not choose such a public and difficult process, but in that process there is so much fun and joy and you get to re-experience life again in a way you, you previously didn’t think was possible.
I never once had a connection with my wardrobe when I was a man.
I never gave it any thought beyond that I’ve got four to five blue black hoodies. And I’m going to wear them every day for the rest of my life. And as soon as I started transitioning, the entire thing was this new joy for me. I learned and I still learn so much about fashion. . And how I dress myself every single day.
And it’s scary. And it is difficult. Oh my God. I’m gonna go into the woman’s section of H&M. I’m gonna stand there. I’m gonna pull out a dress and it’s clearly not gonna be for my girlfriend. It’s gonna be for me. What are people gonna think of that? Oh my God you’re a socially anxious person in their twenties. This is the worst thing in the world. But then you try, you go to the changing room and they’re not paid enough to care really. . So you go in and you try it on and you’re like, oh my God, I’ve never felt a piece of clothing like this before in my life. And it’s amazing. And you go to house parties and you introduce yourself by your actual name, and people are like Yeah alright cool. And they move on with the conversation. And you get that feeling of freedom again. And joy. That’s me. They’re using my name. We’re not talking about me. We’re talking about some random, what happened at university this week. But that’s me. They’re addressing me by my right name.
I’m gonna go out into the world. We went to America recently. And I’m gonna be in the line for the TSA and the lady’s gonna say, all right, come on through, baby. And I’m gonna be like, that’s amazing. I’m a woman. The conversation gets so caught on the difficult side of things, naturally it goes towards the kind of life-changing decisions and it gets so focused on those. And so focused on the end point and you forget that the entire thing is a journey and it’s a process and you are learning. And you should be allowed to learn. It is essentially a second puberty. Except you’re learning it by yourself and maybe not completely by yourself, but it’s on you to learn and to come up to speed with what it means to be a woman or a man or anything else as quickly as possible. We expect people to reach the end point as fast as possible. Okay. You’re trans go. Be
[00:32:17] Josephine: passing!
And people are so judgmental, I think of people. Of transgender people who are in transition.
I can remember when you first came out and I was out walking with a group of women and they were talking about someone who’d come out as transgender, and they said did they look like a woman? And the other person said no, they don’t really look like a woman, they just look like a bloke in a dress, you know, didn’t look feminine at all. You just think you’ve got no idea.
[00:32:44] Daughter: And I think that robs people of the ability to just stop, just slow down and just really take joy in what you’re currently doing. And I do think it is a case of focusing so much on the destination and not the journey.
And I think that anyone who has trans children or someone they might know who’s trans is to take joy in that process with them. You can have so much fun with someone, you’ll find that people are looking to enjoy it as well. If you have a trans child, you can make memories that you’ll never forget.
And some of it will be ridiculous. And some of it you will laugh at cause it’s so silly. I remember when we were choosing my name. And I hadn’t chosen my lady name for so long. It wasn’t my sister. She just chose the name that she would’ve had if she’d been a girl. But we didn’t have the same for me.
So I’m stuck here without a name. And I remember we sat down and we’re like, today’s the day we pick the name with God as my witness today is the day and we sit down and we go to baby names.org or something. Or feminine names are us. And we have a list. It was triple digits for sure.
[00:34:00] Josephine: Yeah it was the top 100 names for the year of your birth.
[00:34:03] Daughter: Rose, Emily? No, maybe Emily. Yes, Charlotte. . No.
[00:34:10] Josephine: You didn’t like any of them, did you?
[00:34:14] Daughter: The short list was roughly three names out of a hundred.
[00:34:18] Josephine: I don’t even think we got, we even managed to get three. I think it was just,
[00:34:21] Daughter: I think it was two. I think it was two. I distinctly remember there being a choice in there at the end, and you can’t say that many other people have had that experience. If you had shut that out, you wouldn’t have had that experience. Then we would’ve been robbed of such a joyous memory.
[00:34:40] Josephine: I’m gonna interrupt here and say, but you didn’t choose from any of those names!
[00:34:50] Daughter: Did I not? I thought that’s where we got my name from.
[00:34:53] Josephine: No, you said you’d like any of those.
[00:34:54] Daughter: That makes it even better. Even better. We went through a hundred names
[00:35:00] Josephine: And we couldn’t find one! And then you came back and told me what, and it wasn’t for a while, I think it was a couple of months later that you said, no, I think it’s gonna be this.
[00:35:09] Daughter: I swear I was on.
[00:35:11] Josephine: It’s amazing how your memories differ, isn’t it?
[00:35:16] Daughter: But brilliant. Let’s go through a hundred names and not choose one. Imagine if you had shut it out and instead we wouldn’t have had that journey together. And instead of years of building those memories, it’s small things like you panic asking if I knew how to put on tights. And that’s oh god, what if she doesn’t know. And we would’ve lost all of that. . And instead just had arguments. How much do we really wanna argue with each other?
We’re quite strong-willed arguers I imagine it would’ve been terrible. I’m so glad that instead we’ve had seven, eight years of just joy and discovering and knowing I’m gonna take both my outfits for this wedding because I know you’ll be able to tell me which one works . And which one I should avoid doing.
[00:36:09] Josephine: And I always show you now, don’t I, when I’ve got something new or I can’t decide on something. Give it the approval. And that’s been one of the fun aspects of…
[00:36:20] Daughter: Of transitioning. . And I think. I think there will be difficulty. There will always be difficulty.
I know we did have arguments put each other in tears talking about stuff like infertility and the likes of that. Just because we had joy doesn’t mean we didn’t have difficulties, but if I didn’t have those difficulties, I don’t think I’d be aware of how good I have it.
[00:36:44] Josephine: But I mean it’s funny isn’t it?
Cause you look back and you think. Oh, some of these conversations we would probably never have had, things like before you went on hormones, talking about whether, you’d want to freeze gametes or, those sort of conversations that you don’t expect to have with your child, but, and talking about adoption and all the sort of different things that are available and the sort of part of you thinks, what am I doing here? I never imagined that we’d be in this place where we’d be having these discussions, but then also I think we are actually very close as a result as well.
Well, I think we’re close.
[00:37:25] Daughter: I know at this point there is no subject I can’t talk to you about. Because I feel like when I had come out to you what more difficult conversation could I ever have after that? We’ve talked more about infertility and adoption than I ever want to talk about again in my life.
So at that point, what can’t I talk to you about? And I genuinely feel that way. If it had been pushed away, I don’t know how I could have trusted again. How could I have had the strength to come to you with other issues? Difficulties at university or with accommodation or, renting and stuff like that.
These are things that could be embarrassing and difficult. And in that moment, because I was reaffirmed, now our relationship has come out stronger and I know when it comes to the wire, you’re gonna have my back.
[00:38:20] Josephine: I think this is what I always find so hard when I do hear about parents rejecting their children because their children are transgender.
Because you think it’s basically people have had societal prejudice, so ingrained and pushed on them that it’s difficult for them to be able to get beyond that, to be able to really find that connection with their child, because the way society’s brought us up to think about gender means that people can be deeply prejudicial and that causes them to actually go against what’s almost natural, which is your love for your child.
[00:39:03] Daughter: The reason people come out to their families first is because they need that affirmation from the people who matter most to them I think. I didn’t come out to my friends first. I had to come out to my girlfriend first but not through choice. And the first person I turned to was my family.
Because when your identity is so in flux and everything has changed so much, you really just need what you’ve known to be the same. That’s what I wanted more than anything when I came out to you. Cause I just wanted things to be the same. I just wanted to know that I was still gonna be able to come back after school.
And just be able to talk to you basically. And my siblings. I knew I just wanted to be me with a different name and different interests. But I didn’t wanna tear everything apart. And I think. I think that’s the thing. I’d say to any parent is your child doesn’t want things to be different. They just want things to be, as they’ve always known.
[00:40:18] Josephine: To still have that love, still have that stability and to know that they’re loved. Which you are.
What you’ve just said is so, so important that for parents whose children are coming out, obviously for me it was just completely and utterly out of the blue.
It was so unexpected. You could have told me anything. I would never have imagined in a hundred years it would be that you were going to be transgender. Yet the thing that kept me going when I was in that sort of shocked phase, and like you said, You expected it? How long is it gonna take for them to accept me?
And I think the thing that really absolutely was my guiding light was knowing that you needed us.
[00:40:57] Daughter: You don’t have to understand everything. You just need to say that it’s okay. You don’t need to come out being the strongest trans ally and person who understands it from day one. Okay. This is new to me, but the second you give that support, we’re still
[00:41:18] Josephine: here for you. That’s what you need to hear, isn’t it? . We’re still here for you. One of the things that I think for parents, but that’s so hard, is the worry about do they truly know, is this a phase? . There’s all that sort of stuff that comes out and you read a lot about all, social contagion, that sort of stuff.
And I can imagine, if you’ve got teenagers and stuff, you might think, oh, all their friends are coming out. They’re just coming out in it’s like solidarity. But as you say, I think, one of the things that was really helpful to me was someone who said it’s the hardest thing is coming out.
So for someone to come out, it means they’ve really thought about it. And I found that really helpful. So I think the thing about parents is they think, oh, they might change their mind. It was a while before you actually decided to embark on getting treatment, but did you ever think to yourself, oh God, what if I’m wrong?
And what if I, I’d do all this and then I change my mind.
[00:42:21] Daughter: Like I say about it being a journey and being a constant journey, I don’t think you’re ever complete on it. So you do ask yourself, I constantly reevaluate, am I a woman? It’s almost like imposter syndrome. In a way, I might go to my group voice therapy and see how fantastic and beautiful everyone’s voice is, and then suddenly think, am I really?
Is that me? And I think that’s really important and I think that’s not unnatural. And I think it helps reaffirm that I am on the right path. And so I can’t say that I’ve never thought to myself, oh my God, am I doing the right thing? You know, is this a massive mistake? But if, I’d be more concerned if I’d never questioned that and I’d just sailed on through basically.
It’s perfectly natural so for someone’s identity to grow and change in many aspects. I’ve had friends who have been lesbian and have then been bisexual and of them been lesbian again. Or have then have been asexual. I think it’s really important to remember that if it is a phase and it is perhaps not their true identity and what they’ll eventually be happy with.
That perhaps they’ll get through that phase quicker if you let them explore. And if we let that be a phase. Is it a terrible thing if that person tries for a little bit and doesn’t like it? When it comes to transitioning and stuff? It is a constant journey. It is literally every day I am transitioning.
I am doing different things. I’m relearning what I knew. So some of it I do transition and some of it I don’t transition. You pick and you choose and you learn what your identity is. It is a phase in the fact of my definition of what I thought a woman was and what I was going to be at the time is so radically different to what I think it is now.
It has changed. And it has morphed and don’t be completely afraid of that change. I’d say that to both the parents and the trans person themselves. Let that kind of go through you and you’ll be at such a more zen state of life.
[00:44:53] Josephine: So I think we’ve covered the bases, haven’t we? .
Was there anything else you wanted people to know?
[00:45:00] Daughter: I think it’s difficult, especially in the current debate around trans, rights it feels to show even the most basic empathy towards trans people puts you in the eyes of the people who are against it puts you as a supporter of, mutilation and such like that.
And it makes it difficult because it makes it really hard for people who are allies and who are learning and growing alongside the people in their life who are transitioning makes it really hard for them, cuz you’re thrown into the fire immediately by these people. And so I think it’s important to remind.
Everyone that they’re growing and that they’re learning. You might have someone who’s transitioning, who uses he, him pronouns, and you yeah, you might slip up. And maybe it feels a bit weird and unnatural. That’s fine. We are not born perfect. We’re not made perfect. And you’re not going to adapt to the change instantly, and you’re not gonna be the best ally.
You’re not gonna be the best trans person either. So important to remember that it’s so important to remember how much we’re allowed to fuck up. And to be a bit shitty to each other. Without being, without denying each other. The empathy and the kindness. If you do that, you are already doing better than they want to allow you.
. If I’m at a house party and I’m talking to you and I say my name and maybe my pronouns. And you go, okay. Anyway, we were talking about what pizza we want to get. You’ve already, you’re five steps ahead. To trans people. You’re doing great, basically. It’s so difficult. You can take it as slow or as quick as you want.
Don’t let other people influence that and influence you. . Don’t feel like you have to come out before you are ready, because if I don’t do it now, then you know what’s gonna happen. You have to ground yourself. I love all you trans people out there. That’s all I’m gonna add. You’re doing great.
Keep it up.
[00:47:28] Josephine: And I love you and it’s lovely to hear you come from that place of, being grounded yourself and the wisdom that you’ve gained.
[00:47:37] Daughter: It’s the most beautiful journey I’ve ever had. And it has reaffirmed everything I love about life. Twofold. Being trans. I know myself so much better than I ever did beforehand. I’m so much happier. I can truly say that I am myself. Every day now. I don’t have that dark cloud over me, and I don’t have the uncertainty. It’s just joyful. It’s just amazing. I’m gonna cut myself off there before I start crying again, which I know is good for ratings, but boy is it intense.
[00:48:10] Josephine: And I was gonna say in, in closing, just how I’m just so proud of you. God, how can I put it? For one so young to be so wise.
[00:48:19] Daughter: I think that’s important to add is I’m not wise. I fuck up so much. I do so much stupid things, that’s the thing.
[00:48:32] Josephine: As long as you don’t tell me about it that I don’t have to worry about it.
[00:48:34] Daughter: No, but a lot of it’s, a lot of, it’s completely harmless.
[00:48:38] Josephine: Thank you so much for coming along and I’m sure everybody will really enjoy.
[00:48:43] Daughter: Thank you for having me. Thanks for letting me speak.
[00:48:46] Josephine: Thank you. Thank you, sweetheart.
When the first of my daughters came out to me, I’d just finished a course of therapy and so I phoned my counselor, told her something unexpected had happened to one of the kids and arranged to see her again.
She thought perhaps it was about an unwanted pregnancy. But when I told her my situation, I still remember her genuine cry of pain as she disclosed that a very similar situation had just happened to her. In her case, her grandchild had come out and she was experiencing deep pain at the thought her grandchild had borne the burden of working it all out in isolation without family support.
That day came back to me when I listened to my own daughter’s experience of how prior to coming out she hadn’t felt right, but I’d had no idea of what she’d been going through. And then when she came out in my own shock, I didn’t realise or understand the process that it took for her to reach the point of telling me. I wish I’d known. What parent doesn’t want to protect their child from pain.
We’ve talked about it since the interview and she observed that for me as a parent, my journey of transition started when she told me, her transition story started at a much earlier point. It took and is still taking a while for this cisgender heteronormative mother to catch up. I’m glad I’ve been able to be a supportive parent since. My guiding light in those early days even when I didn’t really understand what was happening was to remind myself that the number one things my kids needed was to be supported in their exploration and to know that they are loved no matter what. Because the journey of discovering another person is a lifelong exploration. Just as we don’t fully know ourselves, I don’t think we fully know our children either.
It’s one of life’s great pleasures to discover both those things that you recognise within yourself and your loved ones. And those things that are new to you and unique to them, especially as they learn and grow as people. It’s a delight to watch their personalities unfold. And so as a family, we all continue to discover more about each other and ourselves as we see ourselves reflected in our relationships.