"In a way, I got exactly what everyone hopes for out of the Gender Identity Service – to find the you that fits you."
Not all transition stories end with hormones and surgery, and some journeys have different destinations altogether. Here, Adrienne looks back on her time in the trans community, reflects on her journey to feeling comfortable in her own skin and tells us why she is glad that she changed her pronouns and name more times in a few years than most people do in a lifetime!
When I was first referred to the Gender Identity Service (GIDS), I was just a young girl who was confused, miserable, couldn’t fit in with her peers and was desperate to put a label on the awful feelings that plagued her. Every doctor I spoke to agreed whole-heartedly that I was transgender.
The diagnosis didn’t come as much of a shock. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d felt truly feminine and being told that I had a diagnosis was a huge relief. I remember when my mother and I began reminiscing moments from my childhood, excitedly pointing out every little moment where I acted even slightly ‘boyish’ and using those tiny little details to prove that we were right. I was always meant to be a boy, I’d always known, I’d just never been able to put it into words before.
I began my transition around late 2013 to early 2014. I changed my name to Austin and cut my hair short. I rid my wardrobe of anything even slightly feminine and replaced it with baggy t-shirts and thick coats, determined to hide the wide hips and large chest that every woman in my family has.
My experience had been quite easy, especially when compared to the struggles of those who attended the weekly trans group meetings with me. In fact, it was sometimes difficult to relate, as I seemed to have been dealt an unfair winning hand. My school was more than accepting; if anything, they were actually excited to have me. It started to feel like I was the beacon of diversity in my school. We had people of different sexualities but I was the first to come out as trans. My transition moved along smoothly. I started hormone blockers (and got over my fear of needles) and there was some serious talk about getting referred for the surgery that would rid me of my cursed double-ds.
Then I went to college, and the bullying I experienced in just one day was enough to convince me that I wasn’t welcome there. With my head hung low and my tail between my legs, I returned to my high school just in time to become a member of the sixth form there.
Return of my depression
During college, the depression that had inspired my visit to the GP to talk about gender almost two years ago came roaring back. I was once again completely miserable. I felt out of place, though I couldn’t understand why. After all, I was doing everything I was supposed to; I was taking the hormone blockers, I was going by Austin and using male pronouns, I was attending therapy and saving up to pay for a private double mastectomy.
I was forced to drop out in February 2015. My depression had taken a toll on my work, and I was regularly missing class, forgetting homework and snapping at the people I went to school with. I was a terror, I will admit to that, and it’s no surprise that they didn’t want me there anymore.
Still, I carried on with my transition, determined to immerse myself in the one thing that was going right for me. I looked for jobs and kept going to therapy, unaware that my depression was drawing me further away from my friends and family, locking me in my room away from the world, and causing me to comfort-eat to the point that I gained so much weight I ballooned up from overweight to clinically obese.
A year after I dropped out of school, a month after my eighteenth birthday, mere days before I was scheduled for the last hormone blocker before I moved onto testosterone, I realised what my problem was. I’d been misdiagnosed.
Lost in the honeymoon stage of having a name for the horrible sensation of feeling trapped in my body, I hadn’t even stopped to question it. I’d trekked on through the doubts, sure of myself and the diagnoses from so many doctors.
I tried to lie to myself. I started to feel like I was doing something wrong, like I was betraying myself, giving my whole identity up. I felt like I was sullying the good transgender name, like I was letting down everyone I’d met on my journey.
In the end, I realised there was nothing for it. I didn’t have gender dysphoria, I have body dysmorphia. I don’t have an issue with my gender, I have an issue with my self-image, brought on by my weight. Speaking to GIDS about it confirmed it.
I decided to end my transition before I did something irreversible and instead began to focus on my weight. I let my hair grow out again, I started wearing make-up (it’s still not really my thing, but damn if I wasn’t going to try) and pink cardigans. And you know what, I feel great! I can’t describe how freeing it was to finally drop under two hundred and thirty pounds after spending so long feeling like my body was just something that had happened to me.
In a way, I’m incredibly thankful for the brief period of depression that forced me out of school and nearly ended my life. Had that not happened, I might still be going by the name Austin. I might still have the military-cropped hair that I’d adopted during my transition. I might still be dressing in extra-large, dark blue and grey t-shirts, deepening my voice and crying myself to sleep should someone refer to me as ‘miss’ or ‘lady’.
A new start
My story is an unusual one. Usually, when multiple doctors and therapists tell you that you have gender dysphoria, you do have gender dysphoria. For me, my journey has only just begun. I still have a lot of weight to lose, a lot of therapy to go through and a lot of hair to grow back. I have a lot of self-reflection to do before I’m truly happy with myself. My time in the trans community ended differently to most, but I’m happy it did.
To the friends and acquaintances I met during my time in the trans group, I wish you good luck. I bet you’ll all look wonderful in the bodies you were meant to have and I wish you all the best. To the staff at GIDS, you have my deepest thanks. You made me feel normal in a world that felt alien to me, and even though it was all for naught, I appreciate it all the same.
My message to you
If there’s anything to learn from my story, it’s that you should never be afraid to question yourself. There’s a lot of pressure on the road to gender-reassignment. Some will tell you to reconsider, to remain in the body you were born in. Others might urge you to ‘go all the way’, despite the fact that you’re actually pretty okay with the way your chest looks, or the way your voice sounds. That’s fine! You do you, and let no one tell you otherwise. You speak only for yourself, so don’t be afraid to take risks or challenge what people think is ‘acceptable’.
My trip through the world of gender-reassignment was eye-opening and for that reason, I don’t see it as a waste. I don’t feel guilty for changing my pronouns and name more times in a few years than most do in their whole lives. I didn’t feel guilty when the tired looking receptionist of my GP’s office asked me what my name was changing to now.
In a way, I got exactly what everyone hopes for out of the Gender Identity Service; to find the you that fits you. The new me rocks, and I don’t regret any of the decisions that led me to where I am today. I wish for everyone who’s going through the transition to one day feel the same way I do, no matter what it takes to get them there. Feeling comfortable in your own skin is something of a new feeling for me, but it’s heaven, and I owe it all to the wonderful people who’ve helped me get this far.