There was once a time in my life where I didn’t understand whom or what I would eventually become. I also didn't know how much of the weight on my chest would truly be lifted, and how much hope I would gain. What I also didn't realize was how much support I would have throughout my journey.
I was 16 during the (ongoing) COVID-19 pandemic. When you’re all alone and confined in the four walls that are known as your room, parts of yourself don’t seem to make sense. Some of your qualities and thoughts are different in the darkness, and some parts of yourself that you never really quite enjoyed make you wish to light yourself on fire. This is as literal as it is metaphorical, and the simple truth. Maybe that’s just what I know now to be as the quiet voice of dysphoria talking. I had no idea, then. I was clueless to what the word transgender was, let alone what it really meant. This is, admittedly, the very rambly version of that story, and will contain a lot of references to gender and the ideas surrounding it.
For context, I was someone who never understood people who were different from me and anywhere far from the image of perfection in a conservative society. I don’t mean that in a bad way, but what I mean to say is that I never actually understood them. My father was, and still remains, transphobic. He taught me that the idea that what I would become – now proudly am – is wrong. I was raised on the common transphobic ideology that trans people are only trans to get away from, or to go towards masculinity; that they are the people who miserably fail to comprehend that they are just the one gender, which is the gender that they were born with. These are the people who are trans or do not identify with their biological sex in any way. I, because of my dad and heavily closeted group of friends, always understood that this wasn’t necessarily wrong, however, it was heavily frowned upon.
As I was in that bedroom (or at this point it was mostly my own personal Hell) in June, questioning my mortality. I wanted to understand what I was feeling, and wanted answers. I’ve always had some sort of problems and grudges with my chest, both physically and emotionally. I felt a sense of discomfort when looking at it. I have a giant scar there, from one of the heart operations I needed to get when I was younger, but that isn't a story I need to tell, at least not for now. I might do it at some other point, though.
At this stage, I was deep into depression, and feeling as though I was useless and unworthy. It was almost like I was cornered into a dark and claustrophobic section of a cage, filled with mirrors and a weight, thundering down onto my chest every time I looked at myself in the mirror. Trapped. At the time, I was also dealing with the ideas of gender, what I was or meant to be. I was thinking that maybe, I am just confused. That anyone dealing with whatever I was going through, and every single human on earth, was bound to feel the same way I did. That hating yourself was a normal thing to do, and it resulted in the shape shifting hormones flowing through my body. I didn’t hate the fact I was male, but I never truly embraced it. I never called myself a boy, or made an effort to try overly masculine things. I didn’t mind being called a son, but always felt uncomfortable when someone did. However, I couldn't have told my parents, because I was going through more of a self discovery phase, not wishing to have to come out. And so the battle of going back and forth into the closet and then coming back out again kept raging on. So, I made the decision to just sit on my very blue bed, wondering the same things that kept crossing my mind. I wondered what if I did become a girl? That if I was actually given the chance, would I really take it? Every time I thought about it, I pushed what I believed to be an absurd thought aside. To combat what I thought were self destructive thoughts, I decided to strip myself in front of the mirror some nights and stare at my naked chest. I thought that by doing that it would make me come to terms with it even more, and try to accept myself. “It will make me love myself,” I thought. Evidently, what my poor choice of actions ended up doing was making me more dysphoric; making that weight in my chest grow heavier, making it harder and harder to lift myself up. But I kept on doing it, and it certainly wasn't because of the great pleasure I earned doing so. It was partly because I didn't think of myself as trans; I didn't think of myself as being worthy of having that miraculous label; with all of the social stigma and hatred that comes with it. I thought that was merely for people who did not fit the stereotypical ideas presented by their gender - girls screaming when putting a dress on and the other stereotypes that emerge from those who are against the community. Countering that I tried to think of myself as a man, as a man who was straight and had a beloved girlfriend. I'd had plenty of boyfriends (mostly one or two month relationships) but I just couldn’t fathom of myself growing as a man, not being able to imagine myself as growing up to be anything like my father. Then again, people who dislike their parents tend to be the opposites of them.
I wasn’t due to go for a haircut, and all of the shops were shut. I also didn’t feel safe. Whenever the topic of brushing hair came about, I was always scared, not so scared I had a full blown anxiety attack, but more so of discomfort. Heavy discomfort. I’ve always liked longer hair, and wanted to try and grow it out, even just a little bit. Though I knew, even then, that my parents would not like a “boy with long hair” as I was called then, and that they would force me to get it cut; by doing it themselves. This, of course, the idea of having short hair, actually made me feel okay. It made me realise that I can have shorter hair. Although, the feeling of that didn’t last for as long as I hoped. I haven’t had my hair cut in months, and I’ve quite liked it. Something about having longer hair makes me happy. It makes me feel as though I'm fulfilling some sort of forbidden idea that “men can’t have long hair.” Although, as I know that I’m not a man, that I’m not a boy, that I’m nothing even remotely related to masculinity, except somewhat in my presentation - that the idea of having short but long hair makes me feel confident and euphoric. It makes me feel comfortable in my own skin.
Gender euphoria is an amazing thing, being gendered correctly and able to finally be free from the shackles of dsyphoria; locked in the cage or the cell and you're finally let out of the darkness and get to spend even a small amount of timei n the light. To help you understand gender euphoria, let me give a little bit of a side tracked analogy. Imagine you’re in a box surrounded by mirrors and you can’t get out. You have no tools, no hammer to break the glass and your skin is like thin, fragile paper. The gender euphoria is the chance that a hammer will appear and crack the mirror, or at least crack it so you have one less mirror to look at yourself. It cracks the one in front of you before it can be rebuilt.
I thought that I wanted to be someone else. I was writing my novel that I later released that year named The Burning Throne, so I decided that I would shelve the idea of becoming my true self for a couple of months, and then see if I was still keen on the idea, or even still up for it.
The end of summer came around and I entered a virtual relationship with a beautiful scottish person named Alice. She still is a beautiful person, but we have broken up and gone our separate ways since then. She eventually came out to me as a trans feminine person; which I gratefully accepted. I had many different friends that had all been some form of Queer throughout the past few years. I thought, and knew fully well that honestly, I wanted to announce it. I was thinking it over in September, still sitting in the bathroom and then going to my room to sit on the all but too familiar bed. It was broken completely now, partly because of all the books that were shoveled onto it. I snuggled into my beautiful Simba plushie and the thought of me becoming a girl popped into my head, and I decided to let it stay there. I thought that trying a new name could always be versed, and “came out” to Alice the next day and it went really well. We both were such a supportive team. Fast forward a few weeks, and I was loving using the same name I picked then. I’m still going by it now four months later. I decided on the name Erica, but didn’t want to share that information with my college for the fear of having to go back by choice and then tell them that it was completely wasted. An amazing LSA (Learning Support Adviser) just pushed me to do it, and told me that everything can always be reversed. So, taking a step at a time, I booked my first appointment with the college nurse and awaited for the day to come.
It eventually did come around and I was terrified, specifically with the idea of having to put any commitment down to what name I wanted, although it's true, I knew that Erica was an amazing choice. I had to sign some forms with my new pronouns with the college, then got issued a new ID card for the college; as well as the new name and pronouns. I was just holding what seemed like bars of gold for a few solid seconds, just staring at it, thinking something along the lines of "this is amazing! I love this. I want to keep this!" Granted I put it away In my drawer, which is now permanently closed, so I can't get in and retrieve the card itself. So I wrote my name on a bookmark instead and used that as validation. It was just fine for me, as long as I knew it.
It was during a term when the college was told about my new name and pronouns. From that day on, everyone watched me smile and became a lot more understanding and enjoyable because I was so euphoric. For the first few weeks, I was just smiling because of a name. Trans people really know the power of names and how words can make the whole difference, irreplaceable difference at that.
Whenever anyone says it and I'm euphoric, it instantly makes a difference. Calling trans people by their prefered names gives them life in the form of their eyes lighting up, or even just a smile. It makes them feel happy to feel validated and reduces their chances of ending their own lives significantly, so please continue telling trans people how amazing they are and valid and using their correct pronouns and name. It’s free and it doesn't cost anything and can change a life in the long run. Sure, it isn’t a replacement for surgery or medical (if the person wants to go down that route), but it certainly helps.
With this referral by a new set of names and pronouns, I was feeling amazing, with slight drops because of dysphoria, specifically over various things like the inability to be able to have a child biologically and my very flat chest. I eventually reasoned that I would need more support for dysphoria. With many friends abandoning me, I needed more support and assistance. That’s when the youth group came into play. I was referred to them by my college, as I was told that the support was there for me if I needed it and that I could engage with the youth group as much as I wanted. It is still an amazing service, as I’m currently receiving support, and for privacy reasons, I won’t say what one I’m receiving help from. Regardless, after the session where they informed me about what the specifics of the service were, I wanted to get involved. I decided to sign all the needed paperwork and choose to go through and use their services. They are a giant help, with the special addition of my lead youth worker, who is such an amazing person in my eyes. They all listen to what you need to say, helping provide a more rational suggestion in these times of need. I am a giant advocate for getting support when and if you need it, and it's no use if you don't admit it to yourself when you truly need the support. You are not alone, by any stretch of the word. You are not alone because the people who support you are the ones you need to be thankful for. Sadly, these people aren't paid enough for the hours and hours they put in helping young people. Hosting youth groups and responding to texts, giving 1-to-1 support wherever it is needed, in any shape and form. It’s amazing and life changing, and I will always be an advocate for having any sort of help, especially this kind.
The moral of my story, I guess, for one, although I have a better idea of who I am - who I was always meant to be,- that this isn’t particularly the end of a very long road to becoming my true self. I want to be able to one day look back and say “yes, that was me. I have a story to share with you all, about how I conquered the feeling of a weight in my chest.”
Erica J. Kingdom
Erica J. Kingdom is a bi-romantic, grey-asexual, non-binary and dual national writer, who is still exploring her sexuality and gender. She's from the United Kingdom and the author of The Burning Throne, an English teacher in training, who started writing when studying her GCSEs. Her work can be found in journals such as The paper Crane. Her books are about revenge and the importance of responsibility within society. When she isn’t writing, she loves to sing, play the piano, interact with her cat and obsesses over the latest Disney merchandise which she wishes she could afford. A trip to Walt Disney world would be lovely, but she can’t have everything. Her Favourite books are those which present some kind of adventure to life and draw them away from the reality of the world