From the outside, coming out as bisexual and divulging that I desired to transition from Male to Female seemingly happened overnight. However, from my perspective it was a process that took me decades to come to terms with and act upon.
Growing up questioning
Growing up in the 90s, in the shadow of section 28, being gay was the thing you were teased about. I had no clue what I was; short of what people had told me I was: I was a boy, my name was Samuel, I was 6 years old.
That being said, society made it very clear that cis-hetero was considered ‘normal’ and anything else was a bit weird and wrong. It was apparent to me that I wasn’t like the other boys from an early age, and other than being good at football, I had very little in common with them.
I remember once saying, around that time, that I didn’t want to be Samuel anymore. l actually low-key wanted to be Kimberly, the pink power ranger, although I panicked when asked what I would instead like to be called, and said: “Jason”, after the red power ranger. Even at this age I was conciously making ‘boy choices’ to try to blend in.
Maybe I was gay? It had first occured to me by the time I was probably 8 years old. By then I had already started thinking about how much more I would prefer to be a girl. I was acutely aware that I was a male, and that being a boy felt weird and I didn’t like the internal conflict. I was on the lookout for anything I could liken myself to… but there were no transsexuals or transgender people that I was aware of. I didn’t even know what a transsexual was! I knew about men who dressed up as women – but I didn’t want to dress up. I wanted to be. I didn’t know what was wrong with me?
I had only seen guys acting femininely being attributed towards their sexuality – So, maybe I was gay? I mean, I did find some guys attractive. The problem was that I also found girls attractive. I wasn’t aware that bisexuality was a thing either.
This confusion continued into my early teens, although I had settled on the fact I was bisexual by then, even if I didn’t dare make it public. In 2004, Nadia went on Big Brother and I first saw a trans woman. I had spent years worrying about why I felt the way I did and now, at 14, I had found someone that closely aligned with me. It was the first time I considered that I could be ‘one of those’. Then a few years later, a friend of a friend started transitioning and it dawned on me that this was something ‘normal people’ did. I learned about hormones and the process of transitioning and suddenly it wasnt just for exotic foreigners on trashy television. It suddenly seemed within reach for someone like me.
The thing is – I still didnt want to be the sensationalised weirdo and I was scared to be made fun of. What if I just looked ridiculous? What if it ruined my life? I really hoped this would just go away. What was wrong with me?
Well, looking back, nothing was wrong with me. I wrongly attributed my desire to be female, as potential homosexuality. As my exposure to life increased, so did the accuracy of my sense of self. I was just a kid trying to make sense of some pretty complicated feelings with limited resources and some pretty intense societal attitudes.
I didn’t know what to do and so I sought an escape from my miserable reality as my body became more and more masculine. I stopped playing football and drug and alcohol addiction plagued my late teens and early 20s. I eventually got my act together somewhat and I fully committed to giving ‘being normal’ my best shot. I thought I could trap myself. Maybe how I felt would go away if I validated my masculinity?
I really settled on the idea of transitioning in my teens, but it wasn’t something I felt I could properly explore until my mid-late 20s after my marraige collapsed. I had got married to the prettiest girl I knew at 23, had beautiful children and a comfortable home. I should have felt on top of the world – But I was really struggling. Our marraige would slowly decay as my mental health declined. I knew I would lose them through living my truth or through suicide eventually.
Coming out to my Uncle
In the end, I never had to come out to my wife. We split a year before I came out as I was threatening to end my life. I don’t blame her, and still carry a lot of guilt for deceiving her about who I was, and dragging her and my children into my grand lie. I wish I had done things differently. I wish I had been braver when I was younger.
I started trying to present as female as regularly as I could, the person I was staying with regularly commenting that “it looked like I was wearing makeup“. I probably was, and regularly hurried to remove it when I heard them enter the property. Luckily the fashion at the time was less gendered and you could easily find mens clothes that wouldn’t look out of place on a female rail. Tight jeans and baggy jumpers were my go to. The more I explored the more it felt right. I was going to do this.
I needed to tell my family but I didn’t know where to start. I felt like I needed to start with my best bet of being accepted – so I called my Uncle and asked him to pick me up so we could talk.
“Those jeans are a bit tight,” joked my Uncle, as I awkwardly slid out the passenger side of his work van. I had avoided making eye contact with him so far, so he hadn’t noticed or commented on the mascara I was wearing. I offered a pained smile; I think he could tell I had changed a bit since I last saw him at my Nan & Grandad’s anniversary party, a year or so earlier.
To be honest, I had always struggled – I didn’t know what it was like to be an adult and not depressed. I had been on and off a variety of tablets since I was a teenager, which never seemed to make anything subside. They didn’t make the turmoil go away. Ever. I hated my body. I hated that I had to pretend to be the person people expected me to be. I wanted to die.
I had plucked up the courage to visit the Dr’s to seek help and was met with a disapproving glare. I was told about the long wait and procedure to get referred for transitional treatment. It was longer – and far more difficult than I anticipated. My depression got progressively worse, the realisation of the daunting task that lay ahead of me. This led me to drunkenly making an attempt on my own life; leaping into the darkness from an overpass in Milton Keynes.
Obviously, I didn’t die. I just really hurt my knee when I landed awkwardly on the grass verge, but I jumped thinking it would be the end. In hindsight, I didn’t want to die. I just didn’t want to carry on living like that. I didn’t know if I could deal with what I knew I had to do. However, surviving the jump did make me feel like I had another chance at life – but this time, after over a quarter of a century living a lie, an authentic one.
We walked, me with a slight limp, across the car-park towards a well known fried chicken restaurant in silence. I tugged at the neck of my oversize jumper – I felt hot. It was probaly only 10°C but I was perspiring as I fought off a panic attack.
This was it: I was about to vocalise what had become my deepest, darkest secret, for the first time ever.
The restaurant was busy. I pointlessly looked at the ever-changing advertising boards behind the tills. I knew what I wanted, but concentrating intently on the menu gave me an opportunity to calm myself before the ‘big reveal’.
I ordered and suggested that I find us a table while He collected the food. I scanned the restaurant and found a table which offered some degree of privacy. I gathered my thoughts and a few minutes later my Uncle joined me, setting the tray down on the table and looking at me quizzically,
“So what’s been going on?”
I took a deep breath.
“I’ve always felt… different. As you know I have struggled with my mental health for most of my life and I have always known why, but never known how to put it into words.” I said, gearing myself up to actually say it for the first time.
Another deep breath.
“I think I might be transgender – I think I would be happier if I transitioned“
His suprise was palpable, but it came as no suprise to me that he probably wasn’t expecting it. I had learnt that the best cover for my internalised struggle was to be outwardly masculine. It hurt me every day to act that way, but it allowed me to ‘be normal’.
He didn’t say anything at first, and I fumbled at my phone as I awaited his response.
I nervously explained how I had felt this way since I had started school, how this had been the thing that I had always been running away from, and how I had reached the point where it was be myself or end it.
I was still presenting as male in public but had a ‘secret’ instagram account that I had been using to test the water and slowly get peoples responses to how I looked presenting as female. It had blown up pretty quickly, and at the time I was approaching 50,000 followers. I think he was taken aback when I showed him; by his own admission my Uncle has since said that the person sat in front of him in that moment, didn’t seem to bare a resemblance to the woman on Instagram and it was hard to correlate the two. I think he was also worried that this was just another thing for me to contend with, on top of my mental health difficulties – without realising that this was the cause of most of them!
“Well, if that is what it will take for you to be happy… then do it!” said my Uncle.
I was so relieved. I chose to tell my Uncle first because we had always had a good relationship, and I knew he was probably my best bet at getting a positive response. I had been forced to move back in with my Father to avoid homelessness, a massive bigot who openly mocked the trans women that occasionally congregated in the local pub. I was terrified to tell him. I guess telling my Uncle was a trial run.
“I am really scared to tell Dad…” I said, “I dunno how he is going to react“
“Well, you have my number, I will be there if it all goes south” my Uncle said, reassuringly.
‘The ones the matter, don’t mind; the ones that mind, don’t matter.’
Telling my Father didn’t go so well. We ended up arguing, and I ended up with a black eye. I rang my Uncle, crying down the phone and begging him to get me out of the house. He obliged, and within 45 minutes he was at the front door helping me pack my things into the back of his van.
He and my Aunt weren’t really in a position to help me, they have 5 children between them and live in a 3 bedroom house, yet they put me up for a little over 6 months while I got myself together and gave me a safe and loving space for me to properly come to terms with who I am. My cousins embraced the real me immediately, my confidence grew and my depression slowly ebbed away. They all started using the correct pronouns. They all accepted me.
Some relationships were never going to work post-transition. I don’t really speak to my parents or one of my siblings, and most of the people I counted as my friends are no longer part of my life. I knew that would happen. It was exactly the rejection I feared but the ones that stayed are the realest. When it comes to coming out – The ones the matter, don’t mind; the ones that mind, don’t matter.
The journey continues
I started presenting more and more femininely, growing my hair and once I had sourced hormones – I felt SO MUCH better. I felt like me for the first time in my life.
Things have continued to improve for me as I progress through my transition. In the last 3 years, I have had some amazing experiences and opportunities, and I am happier than ever with who I am. That isn’t to say life is perfect! All my problems haven’t magically gone away – but I am finally able to process things. I still have my demons, I still have thoughts of depression, I still get anxious. I am also confident in who I am, increasingly comfortable in my body and way closer than I ever thought possible to achieve my goals. I am a work in progress.
But the real issue here is despite all the heartache, the depression, the drug addiction, the abandonment, and the stress – I am one of the lucky ones. I had support even if it was limited to a small group. My Aunt and Uncle were and still are, heroes to me. They were instrumental and without their support – I doubt I would be here today to tell this story.
An Article by Sammy Walker
Writer, Media Contributor and Footballer based in the South-West of England. I am passionate about Sport, Education, Inclusion and Diversity. She/Her.