Coming out and blowing my whole world up
This post is written with 20 years hindsight and more than a cup of wry laughter at my younger self. For those who know me personally I was not exactly the easiest of teenagers, especially once I hit fifteen. My all-boys grammar school was a seething hot bed of boys being boys, and my weird arse self was the very definition of round hole/square peg. Add in a dash of evangelical Christianity, social awkwardness, and never really fitting in, and it was obvious why I was bullied. Knowing that I was trans and waiting for the right time was something that cleaved to me, though not as a comfort blanket, more like fixed point on my compass.
Things started to change when I took a trip to Guernsey in 1997 to visit a long-distance girlfriend, and not surprisingly I pretty much put my foot in it within hours of arriving. I was naive and just plain lacked any real self-awareness, so what should have been two weeks of chilling turned into a week of oh fuck what have I just done and after a friendly “pull yourself together” talk a week of self-reflection. On returning to school in Year 11 things felt different, like I had made peace with a part of myself. And the bullying pretty much stopped.
Fast forward to 1999, and I was now at college an hour’s bus ride away. Oh boy. It was night and day compare to the Grammar School, and while I made friends due to the travel it was next-to-impossible to actually do much. Awkward me started writing really bad poetry and trying to get people to read. Like, seriously, me in a navy fleece asking other teenagers who were simply in the café enjoying a coffee to read not quite Vogon bad poetry. That was how weird ass I had got.
Unlike most rational folk, I had no real conception of the implications of transitioning. I laid the groundwork throughout late 1999 by telling friends at college, having honest conversations and really trying to square things away. 2000 rolled around with me on the family doorstep watching fireworks and miss roll in, unknowingly on the verge of a mental breakdown that would blow the bloody doors off all my carefully laid plans.
My mental health was never the best of things, especially when puberty, lack of sleep, and general anxiety crept into the mix in early 2000. Nothing wakes the gender demons than an offhand comment in the middle of history class when you are running on mental fumes, and within two weeks I had finally come out to everyone, except my parents. It was a rush, as in the best serotonin money can buy, but it was a mess because essentially spiralled into a rushed coming out that blew up everything.
My A-Levels, which should have been a triumph, pancaked into utter chaos. The gender euphoria distracted me from applying myself, while continued lack of sleep, mental health issues, and general lack of self-understanding cratered what should have been a glorious summer. Added to this, I was trying to find my feet within the trans community, and I just about made a mess of every friendship I made that summer. Nothing was deliberate, but I managed to pretty much alienate every person in my life, to the point that by the time I arrived at university in the September I was isolated and spinning like a top.
Not that I was aware of just how profound this would be, as I managed to walk may through nearly £9000 by the end of the year trying to chase highs. It was a real hot mess, and by the time I attempted to commit suicide in the spring of 2001 it was not even the lowest point for me. It took me twelve years to really pull my head out of this place, through busted job, broken relationships, and having to account for my own flaws. My transition, which on paper has been very easy and medically straight forward, was built on a teenager who had no fucking clue.
I am able to laugh at my younger self more in empathy than horror partly because I still have the same anxieties, awkwardness, and sense of self. What he had, and what I became, was tempered in fires that were fortunately passed through, quenched by the inordinate kindness of strangers. As one ex described me, I was a stray alley cat in need of a good shower and TLC, and sometimes I still feel like that.
Yes, I very much blew up my life when I transitioned, and I take full ownership for the wreckage. However, the woman I am today is the more than the sum-total of those tribulations. The worst, or weirdest, of starts does not telegraph how the journey will end; the hardest part was finding ways to cope with the dark edges and construct a life that I am comfortable with. By blowing the bloody doors off I did find my pile of gold, and I just about kept the bus from careening off the side of the mountain.