Hello there, welcome to the first edition of my monthly column. I was kindly asked by Rebecca Williams to provide and maintain a column for the transgender community, of which promotes and instils empowerment, support and hope. I aim for my column to provide advice, guidance and support during all situations and topics transgender related. I was initially hesitant about committing to this project due to my reserved nature regarding my own transition, however over time, and through a previous article I had published in a transgender magazine (Transliving Magazine), I have come to realise that speaking about my own experiences can be of support and use to other individuals undergoing gender transition, have gone through, are planning to, or are unsure. I drew strength from the experiences of other individuals, and still do, during my transition, so this column is my way of giving something back to a community that has aided and supported me dearly. This column is more of an introduction about me, and what to expect, and just get the column rolling. Thank you for your time. Take care. Mina 🙂 x
What do I hope to achieve during the writing of the column?
– Provide an outlet for support, empowerment and encouragement.
– Extensively cover the medical fact surrounding transgender.
– Provide guidance and advice for individuals in this situation.
– Ensure the importance of goals during the transition process.
– Be very realistic and honest, but with humour and a light-heart.
– Signposting/support networks/how to build a support network.
Why the title ”Heart, Dreams and Pursuit”?
I chose to call my column this, as I originally used it with an article I had published in Transliving Magazine, however for me, it is a trilogy of words that have been essential to the transition process. I am a believer in pursuing your goals, using your heart as a navigator to fulfil your dreams. Only you know what you want to do with your life. I grew up with considerable difficulty in regards to schooling, and I was a victim of bullying for being who I was, and had very little friendship or social interaction with people. This alienation caused me to feel it was me that was the problem, so I grew up wishing I was normal and like everybody else. I had dreams when I was in school however they were often laughed at, and I was very discouraged and made to feel without potential. However, the more people that did this to me, and told me my dreams were impossible, the more it added fuel to the fire of my drive to meet my goals. The more people who told me I would not achieve anything, the more I pushed myself and my boundaries to ensure I did.
How can being creative help during the transition process?
The transition process is a lot of give and take, and a lot of experimenting, exploring and seeing what works and what does not work. Make the process creative to ensure it is exciting, and to allow you to develop your own style and identity that works for you. Make it fun, take it as seriously as you wish, but remember to try and have a light heart at times during the process. It can make it easier in social situations if people are curious but are afraid to ask, demonstrate that confidence. I will cover this in a future column.
Perhaps you could make your own clothes, make additions to clothes, and just experiment and experiment until you begin to zero and channel in on what it is you feel is a self expression of who you are, the person you feel you are inside.
It can provide an outlet to express feelings and emotions, as I understand sometimes a support network can be difficult to obtain depending on circumstances. For me personally, using instruments, art and writing to express my inner frustrations and energies was very cathartic, and was essentially pivotal in sustaining my strength and drive. It felt like an outlet where I could be myself and say how I felt, without being judged. It can be healthy to take up a creative hobby, as it can sometimes prevent self destructive behaviours and also give you something to be proud of. The transition process can be a very emotional process, so creativity can be of great use. You may find yourself in great pools of inspiration from coming out, and creating music, poems, art etc can give you constructive reminders of your early days and give you something to look back on. Perhaps you could write a journal of your experiences, as I find with myself, although I am only writing it on a pad that only my eyes will see, to just get it out of my head, can allow myself to feel I have had some weight taken off my shoulders.
The Transliving Publication
Here is the text of the article I written for Transliving Magazine last year. I unfortunately do not have a copy of the physical magazine yet.
Mina: Heart, Dreams & Courage: The Pursuit of True Happiness.
Throughout the process of gender reassignment, I have hit obstacles and achieved goals I felt impossible, taking a lesson from every moment during my transition so far. The highs have been of a euphoric nature, and the lows have been at times terrifying, and left me wondering how I will ultimately feel at the end of transitioning. I chose to write about my experiences as I want to share my happiness and joy at becoming the female I feel I should have been, and to share my thoughts and feelings with the transgender community. Reading testimonies from this community has given me hope, courage and a sense of pride in being who I am.
My gender dysphoria did not initially manifest itself to a great degree until my late teenage years, mostly after I left home to pursue a degree at university, but from primary school age, I always had this inner sense that I was different to the peers around me, but I could not figure out why this could be the case, as I behaved like any ordinary child, with typical childhood interests, but something inside never felt content with this life. The first few years of my life went smoothly and I was a very playful child with no sign of anything being wrong. I can recall in my primary school years, finding it very difficult to connect to my peers, because I felt clueless as to how to present myself, as I never quite knew who I was personally. I distracted myself from this identity crisis through creative outlets such as art and music. I never could quite find the words to express this very intense feeling of unease, so I would turn to creativity and relieve the tensions that way.
These problems eventually spiralled into a very intense depression that developed shortly before my teenage years and worsened as I aged, which lead to self-harm, and other mental health difficulties such as paranoia and anxiety. During this period of my life, I saw many counsellors and psychiatrists, none of which picked up on my issues with identity. Shortly after turning 18, I began to get uncontrollable urges to wear make-up, and slowly, female clothing began seeping into my wardrobe. At this point, it was merely eye shadow, lip gloss and the occasional girl’s pair of jeans and was not anything too extreme. University was where my cross-dressing really began to take on a life of it’s own, as I had all this new found freedom that comes with leaving home and it felt liberating to be able to do this. Prior to my second university year, I attended Brighton Pride 2011, and this was the first time I had worn skirt and tights in public, and I was amazed at how great I felt, and it was a feeling of being content on a deep level that I had never experienced before. I explored this further, however due to confidence problems, I abandoned my female clothing, and had the idea of taking up intense weightlifting and exercise, as at the time, my mind told me if I gained muscles and became broad, I would feel male and these feminine feelings would diminish. I was very wrong, for the feelings got more intense, and in hindsight I feel foolish for attempting to flush them out, however this was the turning point where I realised I needed to speak to a professional.
I followed the necessary doctor appointments and explored my feelings and thoughts, and the decision was made to refer me to a gender clinic. I chose to get my chest measured for a bra, and the moment I had that first bra on in the store was ethereal, for I felt like I had just had a missing limb reattached and I felt absolutely complete. I knew I needed to pursue this, so continued to experiment with cosmetics and fashion, and found the more I experimented, the happier I felt, and it seemed, the more female I behaved and presented myself, the more happier I felt internally. I knew this was what I had to do, so in the midst of waiting for appointments at the clinic to come through, I told friends and family my plans to transition, as well as university and work.
The therapy only made me feel more an even greater degree of gender dysphoria, and as the sessions went on, the real me slowly began to emerge, and at first this was frightening to see in the mirror, as I had repressed it for so long in my mind, but I felt like a huge weight had been lifted off my back. I legally changed my name after the second therapy session, and this is when it really felt like progress was happening. I had accepted myself and allowed myself to evolve naturally. I joined a number of support groups, and it felt great to connect to other transgendered individuals, and share stories and tips, and meeting people at the gender clinic made me feel I have the strength within me to do this.
I noticed from the day I publicly announced my plans to transition from male to female, there has been a domino effect of recovery within my life, particularly where substance abuse is concerned, my university grades have got higher, I became better at my role within work, bettered my relationships with those close to me, and most importantly of all, achieved a full mental health recovery. At this stage, I have also started electrolysis on my facial hair, and despite how frustrating it can be at times feeling trapped, every step taken, no matter how big or small is vital as it is one step closer to my goal. The mental transition I have experienced so far has changed my life, and ultimately saved it, and I look forward to starting hormones and physically growing into Mina.
The purpose of this article, was a personal need to sum up the ups and downs in the early days of my gender transition, pre-hormones, and to allow me to gain closure from that period of my life. I look at it now as a passage in time, a snapshot of who I used to be, and I am proud and happy with the way the article came out as it those experiences were what made me who I am today. The confidence boost was very noticeable, as I knew my material was being read by other people in a similar situation, and I felt if I can find hope in the work of which I was reading, contributed by others, then I felt at rest in the hope that perhaps somebody else out there, may too find hope in my material. It allowed me to feel part of a community, and whilst I am not in favour of distributing labels, just knowing I was a part of something, of a shared experience with people with something in common with me, felt very rewarding.
The photos I had taken, were done by a professional photographer and were based on a photography direction I had devised during the writing of the article. I wanted to symbolise the past, the present and the future, and at the time, I lived close to a cemetery and that place meant a great deal to me. When I was first experimenting with gender, I had gone out to a gay club in denim skirt, tights, pink converse, a female top and did my hair and make up, and the liberation and freedom I felt become overwhelming, and upon leaving the club, I knew I needed personal time, so my shared house was not an option.
I went to the graveyard in the early hours of the morning, and sat there until sunrise, just processing the emotions I had been feeling that night. To go back there two years later, in more or less the same spot, felt very spiritual for me. I had chosen to stand with my back to a gravestone, as that symbolised the past, as due to my personal issues, I know this is where I would have ended up had I not come out. I understand not everybody feels this way, and I must remind the reader that these are my own experiences and every individual has their own experience.
I am looking forward to the distance, with a smile on my face, to symbolise the future, and with me in the middle demonstrating the present, with the grave behind me being the past. It was a fairly difficult photography shoot to be able to get away with, as the magazine itself is not really an outlet for this stream of material. Although I was at the time overweight and I knew I was in really bad shape, I was very happy with how the photos came out. It was the first time I could see, what I saw in my head, on the camera lens, in regards to photography. I often come up with concepts quite regularly, but by no means am I an expert in art or photography, so for the photographer to capture my vision, is an event I still think about on a regular basis. This is what I was saying with being creative, in the sense that that photo-shoot was built on a foundation of years of bitter memories, frustration, shunning and ridicule, but I took that energy and invested it into something positive, and walked away with some good photos and an invaluable spiritual experience in the process.
More photos to come with the next column 🙂
This brings me to the end of my introductory column, the next column will be specifically based on social situations, pronouns, what to expect, society, what can happen out and about if your dressing and living by your gender role, how to deal with judgement, shopping, confidence, toilets and I will be drawing from my own experiences. I had a lot of fun writing that one!
Thanks for reading 🙂
Feel free to leave suggestions, what you would like to see discussed about, or to talk about your own experiences etc. I would like this column to be something I write for the community, with the community.