I was 17 years old when I first told someone I was trans.
It was my best friend, who at the time, had been suspecting something was going on.
I felt liberated to be able to tell someone, and I was so happy that my friend supported me without judgement. She helped me take some of the first steps of truly being me by simply believing me and being there for me, and for that I am eternally grateful.
Before telling her, I had become very anti-social, because I felt that I didn’t fit it at all. I had always been very effeminate growing up, and suffered name calling and bullying as a result. As puberty hit and I became a teenager, my family saw me drift into depression and social-isolation.
Everyone saw it, but no one was really able to help me because I couldn’t fully articulate who I was or how I felt. My parents didn’t know what it was to be trans, so it wasn’t like they had any inkling either.
Growing up in rural Iceland, there wasn’t any real mention of trans people. I didn’t see them at school or in popular culture, and I had to struggle with who I was for a very long time.
I had always sought out video games as a way of an escape, where I could play out characters that resembled more how I truly felt. One game in particular, called World of Warcraft, changed my life forever.
I started playing the game when I was about 13 years old. In World of Warcraft, you can play with people all across the world, and naturally I formed a friendship group. Everyone there assumed I was a girl, and somehow it felt right.
Even though I didn’t really know why, it was the first time that I felt someone understood me. Slowly, I started spending more and more time playing this game as a way to escape a world that wrongly saw me as a boy.
When I was 17 years old, these people wanted to meet up in real life, in London. It was at that time that I told my best friend that I thought I was trans, and together we planned for me to go and meet these people as me.
Knowing the people you love support you unconditionally really makes it all worthwhile
The trip was truly one of the most life-changing moments of my life, because I was able to really express myself and be seen as who I was by everyone around me, including those friends I had made online.
I was able to truly figure out who I was and what I wanted from life. It was there that I truly got to explore who I was, and gain the confidence to live my truth.
About six months after this trip,I took the plunge and told all my friends, family and loved ones that I was going to start transitioning, going by a new name and pronouns and was going to express myself in a way that felt most comfortable to me.
I was finally able to break free from society’s expectations of what I should or shouldn’t wear and I was able to explore my own expression freely.
I went from being a quiet, isolated and reserved person that had no zest for life, to blossoming into a social, outgoing and confident person. The people around me saw how much happier it made me, and even though it was an adjustment for everyone, they soon realised what a gift transitioning was for me and ultimately to them as well. They were finally getting to know me fully.
Finding that acceptance was definitely one of the best feelings in the world. Knowing the people you love support you unconditionally really makes it all worthwhile. There is nothing quite like it.
Even an extended family member – who was quite prejudiced towards queer people – was met with a sudden realisation and a change of heart. He saw how much happier I became, and that’s when he realised why people transition and have to be true to themselves.
He saw it with his own eyes, and all of his stigma and prejudice against trans people disappeared overnight. He was finally able to empathise with someone like me.
For me, transitioning absolutely saved my life. There’s no two ways about it.
I cannot even begin to explain the constant crushing feeling of having to live as a gender that didn’t match who I really was. It was completely unliveable, and made me miserable every single day. If I had carried on like that, it would never have been a life worth living.
I can’t stress enough the importance of trans people having access to good health care and mental health care services
But I wanted to thrive; I wanted a life that was worth living. So I stopped thinking of what everyone else was going to think or say, and started living my life for me, and me alone.
This feeling of being constantly out of place was just one of the things that made me realise who I am, but I think what was even stronger for me was the feeling of gender euphoria that I felt after telling everyone who I was; it was when I finally felt at ease with my body and saw changes in my physical traits or social interactions.
It was things like finally being seen by others as who I really am. Having people use the right name and pronouns. Physical changes via hormones and, later on, surgery. Wearing clothes that I felt comfortable wearing. Just finally being me.
I can’t stress enough the importance of trans people having access to good health care and mental health care services.
Trans people are faced with a lot when they come out, from rejection, to losing their jobs to facing increased stigma and violence. Even now, hate crimes against trans people have never been more prevalent in the UK.
Transitioning isn’t a magical solution to all your problems, because a lot the problems trans people face in society are barriers placed by others – and discrimination and stigma keeps us from living our lives without judgement. Many of us still have trauma from having to conform to gendered expectations, and are subjected to even more trauma by those around us when we come out.
But transitioning sure does make things a hell of a lot easier. Being able to deal with your life without hiding who you truly are makes a massive difference. You’re able to deal with your trauma, your mental health and your life so much better as yourself.
This is supported by a wealth of research that shows accepting trans people and giving them access to health care has huge benefits for their mental health. It seems blatantly obvious to me that believing people and supporting them in being true to themselves reaps positive rewards, but unfortunately it still needs to be said.
I am incredibly fortunate to be able to transition quite early in life and have support from those around me.
Even with the statistic of being at disproportionate risk of stigma and violence by coming out, I don’t regret a thing. The only thing I regret is letting society hold me back and not being able to speak my truth sooner.
So for this Mental Health Awareness week, I want to ask you to remember transgender people too.
Be there for us, and stick up for us where you can. It will make a difference — and together we can create a society where no one has to feel ashamed of who they are.
Metro.co.uk MHAW Takeover
This year, to mark Mental Health Awareness Week, Metro.co.uk has invited eight well-known mental health advocates to take over our site.
With a brilliant team that includes Alex Beresford, Russell Kane, Frankie Bridge, Anton Ferdinand, Sam Thompson, Scarlett Moffatt, Katie Piper and Joe Tracini, each of our guest editors have worked closely with us to share their own stories, and also educate, support and engage with our readers.
If you need help or advice for any mental health matter, here are just some of the organisations that were vital in helping us put together our MHAW Takeover:
- Mental Health Foundation
- Rethink Mental Illness
To contact any of the charities mentioned in the Metro.co.uk MHAW Takeover click here
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