What first brought you to GIDS?
I'd realised that I was trans in some capacity (although it took me a while to ascertain that what I am is FtM transgender) and I'd recently been diagnosed with gender identity disorder. Also, my dysphoria was at an all time high so I was fairly desperate for some treatment or some way to make the constant discomfort go away. Mostly, I felt incredibly alone in the whole experience and the situation with my family had gotten tumultuous after coming out so the idea that there was somewhere I could go to feel like less of a freak was pretty life-saving, so I had to go.
What did you hope to get out of coming to the service?
Ironically (due to my now very opposite wishes), testosterone. Also, I wanted to have someone experienced with and equipped to deal with this whole thing to talk to because, as I'm sure most people reading this know, it is completely and utterly overwhelming. One other thing that was a major motivating factor for going to GIDS is that I felt like it was going to validate my experience and identity as a transgender male to me and especially my family to make it feel legitimate and 'official' because I was so confused and insecure in my identity.
Can you remember your first appointment?
Vividly; I was extremely excited but dreading the fact that I was going to have to talk about my feelings in front of my mother (it got easier eventually). The professionals who saw me were brilliant and friendly, so it went well. I felt like I'd finally done something I'd been waiting to for a very long time.
What has happened since?
Oh boy. A lot. Both GIDS and an extremely difficult, life-altering personal experience made me realise some hard truths about the way I truly see myself and my trans identity. What I realised was that I'd (subconsciously) been lying to myself about what I wanted for my future in terms of physical transition. I think is largely attributed to the fact that as trans guys we are expected to follow this cookie-cutter mould for transition of testosterone, surgery, and then boom! you're a Real Man. But I realised that this is complete nonsense and a very unhealthy mindset for young trans teens to be indoctrinated with. Just because my brain has this particular defect does not mean I should be condemned to make permanent decisions that I don't want to about my body. No one should.
What has been the most helpful about coming to GIDS?
The clinicians' frankness about the gravity of physical transition paths like hormones and surgery. They were very adamant and open about the effects of physical transition and its seriousness and, initially, this would make me feel confused and terrible as though they didn't 'believe' that I was trans so they didn't want to give me treatment. But I now realise that they were trying to fully explain the consequences of a very serious decision and to make sure that I actually understood those consequences. They didn't shield me from any information and made me explain myself and explain my reasons fully. And for that, I am thoroughly grateful.
What has been the least helpful?
Apart from the lengthy waiting list which is not at all the fault of the service, I can think of absolutely nothing. GIDS has had one of the most positive impacts on my self-image and mental health of any help I have ever received.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Calm down. Which probably sounds incredibly patronising but I really needed to have had understood that figuring out who you are and learning how to deal with that is a life-long process and patience is an excellent virtue to have. Also, try to develop a thicker skin; some people aren't going to see you as male. Some people aren't going to respect your pronouns. Some people are going to give you weird looks. Some people are going to disagree. And that's okay! The world isn't completely accepting yet and, frankly, it doesn't owe you anything. The sooner you let go of that expectation and get more grounded in reality, the sooner it will get a whole lot easier to manoeuvre in the world as a trans person. Concerning yourself with the intricacies of how people see you and their philosophy on transgenderism is futile, ineffective, and exhausting. Trust me. I know. Know what is true to you and get on with your life.
What advice would you give to others coming to GIDS?
What I would say to my younger self in addition to this: your transition is exactly that. Yours. Do not feel like you have to follow a certain, socially expected path when embarking on physical transition. Listen to what the clinicians say about the effects of transition and take it seriously. They are an excellent resource and very experienced with cases exactly like yours so trust what they say and trust that they understand you. Furthermore, please do not underestimate the power of therapy and just talking; discussing your struggles with the clinicians is an excellent tool. Lastly, it gets easier with time, I promise.
What are your hopes for the future?
In terms of transition, I hope to hear back from the adult gender clinic and eventually get top surgery. I do not want to go through HRT for various reasons, although I am open to that changing at some point in the future. I also hope to legally transition at some point.