CJ's story, an update two years on
CJ was a GIDS service user more than two years ago. Below you can read his thoughts and experiences since he left GIDS.
What would you say were your best bits of your time in GIDS?
When I was here I really enjoyed the fact that I could come to the young people’s groups – I met a lot of people who were like-minded and knew what I was going through. They were a similar age to me – I had friends who understood what was happening in my life. I’m still good friends with one of them today – he’s my best mate, I speak to him every day. We talk about what’s been happening with our surgery, testosterone, all of that. We get each other and we see each other as much as we can.
When I was at the Tavistock I got on really well with my clinicians. It’s not often that I see someone and I feel comfortable with them and I feel comfortable talking with them. The fact that I lucked out and got two people that I felt really comfortable with and not have to worry about what I was saying. It helped a lot because it meant that I could literally just lay everything out on the table and they could tell me where to go from there.
It gave me time to think but also gave me time to grow while I was here. I was able to grow as a person before transitioning onto the next stage of my life. It gave me that little bit of extra thought and care about the world and myself that other people around me wouldn’t have had.
What about the worst bits?
I hated the fact of having to go on hormone blockers. I didn’t appreciate them, really, I was 16 when I got here so I didn’t really see the point in having to go on them because I knew I was of the legal age to go on cross-sex hormones in the UK. But, looking back, I know that the NHS has a protocol and I respect that, and although I hated them and I still don’t see the point of why I had to go on them, I respect the protocol and respect the fact that I had to do it to be able to get where I want to be. As much as I didn’t like it, it’s part of life – sometimes you have to do things you don’t like.
What would you say to your sixteen-year-old-self?
Time may go slow, but it will be worth it in the end and you will get there. As much as the time felt like it was dragging then, it gets easier because life gets busier. Back then I was in school and I didn’t really have much to worry about. Whereas now I’m in full-time uni, part-time work, so I have a lot of other things to worry about and focus my time on then just my transition. Transition isn’t everything – it’s not the be-all and end-all. Don’t put all of your time and effort worrying about transition. Worry about friends and socialising, school work – give yourself time to breathe and live rather than worrying all the time.
What are adult services like?
My experience has been really good. It took me two different referrals to two different services, but when I found one I wanted to go to I got seen within three months. Appointments are further apart than they are here, but I have been able to process stuff quickly. Because I was already on testosterone from GIDS I was referred for top surgery pretty soon after going there. The environment is just like here but in an adult setting – you have your waiting room, your clinic room. It’s not as big. It’s like a little house. It’s the same but it’s a different dynamic – I go on my own. I figured that I needed to do things for myself and couldn’t rely on my mum for everything. There are no groups here – I think some adult services do have them. It’s pretty much: go there, do what you need to do, get what you need to get and leave. But that’s fine for me and how I’ve been doing my transition.
How else has life changed since you were sixteen?
When I was sixteen I was at sixth-form college. In the second half of that year I got a job and was struggling to keep up with the school work. I dropped out of sixth form. I did a college course when I was seventeen and eighteen, and that has taken me to university.
When I was sixteen I wanted to do clinical psychology at the University of Manchester. I moved to Manchester. I was there for a week – I didn’t like it, so I came back down South. Before I even got back down South I had my new place at uni sorted – it was the college I used to go to. I had my old job back, I had my student finance sorted, I changed it all over. So that’s all different.
I’m not doing clinical psychology – I’m doing a sports science degree instead. I think there’s a misconception that trans people don’t like sport. You can do what you want to do – don’t let anyone stop you from doing something you love. There is also an aspect of psychology within sports science – when I’ve finished the degree I can choose what I want to do; a masters in psychology, or youth work, or sports science. Pathways in life change.