Please introduce yourself!
Hi, my name is Mark and I am Sasha's dad. We live in Norfolk and we are a family of 4: Sasha who is 17; his younger brother, 14; my wife/the boys mum Alex; and me (along with our dog and a few chickens).
What first brought you to the gender identity service?
It was a bit of a journey to eventually get here. It started in September 2012 when Sasha wrote a letter to his mum and asked her to open it when she was travelling on a train to London. It said how Sasha felt – that he had been born in a female body but felt male and believed that he may be Trans. After lots of explanation from Sasha – and a crash course on what Trans meant – Sasha and I headed to our local GP, a really open and helpful person who unfortunately also knew very little about Trans. But she has stayed fully engaged with us and after a few false starts we discovered Evolve in Norwich, a monthly meeting group for young gender dysphoric people. The brilliant leader of that group recommended GIDS to us and we went back to our GP who kindly referred us. About 12 months after Sasha wrote that letter we turned up for our first meeting at the Tavi.
What were your hopes from the service?
As a parent I was looking for guidance and support for Sasha and our family and an understanding of what it meant to be a Trans person.
Can you remember your first appointment? What were you thinking or feeling beforehand, and how did it go?
Yes, I remember the journey really clearly but the meeting is a bit of a blur. We traveled to London by train and I was trying to stay calm but was quite emotional and nervous about how it would go. We met Sasha's psychologists and I think they asked Sasha to talk through how he felt as a person and could he remember when he first had those feelings. Sasha was quiet and shy in meetings in those days so it was a slow process. I was asked some questions about our family and Sasha and our home life and I think I waffled and yabbered on a bit. But I remember a feeling of relief when we left after that first meeting, and thinking 'these people know what they are talking about' and I just hoped that Sasha would be taken-on by the Tavi. Thankfully he was.
What has happened since?
The first year seemed to pass slowly as Sasha was absolutely certain that he was gender dysphoric and the 12 month assessment point could not come quickly enough. The following year – when Sasha was prescribed blockers – was a real step forward and substantially changed his life. He started to attend school regularly and grew substantially in confidence. When T was prescribed we saw really big changes and after 12 months Sasha has been able to grow a beard, his voice has dropped substantially and his body shape has changed. We took the decision to go outside GIDS for Sasha to have top half surgery but we have continued to be supported brilliantly by GIDS. This open and flexible ongoing support has given us and Sasha huge comfort and confidence.
What has been most helpful about the service?
The huge amount of support and knowledge, plus the no-pressure approach to the transition process.
What has been least helpful?
The location – it is a long way to travel but at least once a year Sasha's clinicians have travelled to meet at his school.
What are your hopes for the future?
That the transition to the adult service will go smoothly and that Sasha will lead a full and happy life.
Is there anything else you would like other young people or families to know?
Through the process we have met some really wonderful and inspiring people and there really is a great opportunity for young trans people to express who they are and to feel proud about themselves.