Remembering The Summer Of 2018

Sometimes we let moments pass before us without thinking much of them then, before we know it, a whole season has passed and it’s easy to forget what was achieved during that time. Summer always seems to be chock-full of events, experiences and memories, probably by virtue of it being a long period of freedom from University, for me at least. In retrospect, things that happened have taken on a different perspective in my mind and I have come to realise that a lot of things which occurred this summer were either things that I should be proud of or memories I should treasure. So, I thought I would record some of the highlights of summer 2018 on here!

1. I saw my brother graduate from University

My brother is now officially making his way in the ‘real’ world. It was surreal hearing his name called-out and watching walk along the stage in his swishy gown that he was so embarrassed to wear. I thought of how much he had changed over the four years of his degree, the new passions he had taken-up whilst at University and all of the future opportunities waiting for him in the big wide world.

2. I visited America for the first time

I’ve grown-up watching American films and TV shows, listening to American music, reading American books and studying American literature and history, yet I had never been to the United States. So, this summer I went to the US for a whirlwind week of sightseeing and walking for miles and miles. I started off with two days in Washington DC, then I took an 8 hour train journey all the way up to Boston where I spent the rest of my week. Then, after flight delays, I started my flight back to the UK at just after midnight, arriving at 10 am UK time. Then I had half a day to pack my life into boxes and suitcases before moving into a new place for Uni to start again. So, when I say it was a whirlwind, it really was a whirlwind!

3. I prioritised my writing

Throughout the summer, I made sure that I valued the time I had to write. For once, it wasn’t just a few scrawled sentences at the end of the day. Instead, I set apart actual chunks of time for me to invest in my writing. From poetry to fiction to opinion pieces, I made my way through many pieces of paper and developed my craft along the way. Taking writing seriously rather than discarding it as frivolous past time was definitely something I now feel vindicated in doing.

4. I came out online as trans

This was the most nerve-wracking blog post I have ever written to date but it was also so worth it. The reaction and feelings of validation I got from publishing The Gender Tag  is still having an impact on my daily life to this day. Taking the step to come out online has given me the confidence I needed to return to University using my real name, Ryan, rather than my birth name. Now, when I assert my identity, I feel proud of myself rather than ashamed which was a process of emotional development started by that blog post.

5. I started learning to drive

My goodness, this was an experience! Every time I got behind that wheel I felt either like I was going to die or be physically sick (or both)! A year or even six months before I would not have believed anyone who would have told me that I would be cruising along a busy A roads at 60mph but I did it. Every moment of feeling scared out of my wits and like I just wanted to give-up was worth it for the pride I feel now knowing that I felt the fear but did it anyway. I proved to myself that I could be brave and that perseverance is the key to learning any new skill.

6. I began baking

An overarching theme of the summer was learning how to come to terms with my body. As a trans guy, my body is most often associated with self-loathing for me, so the process of starting to nourish it was both a trial and a milestone in my life. Baking myself healthy snacks and allowing myself the time to consider the different nutritional components my body needed went some way to shifting the relationship I have with my body even though this shift was only limited. Progress is progress.

 

CONTACT ME:

Twitter – @RyanBInNature

Instagram – @awalkwithnature00

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Why I Shaved My Head

Today is my first day of classes back at Uni. So, naturally this morning I decided to make a big physical, aesthetic change by shaving my head! Full disclosure: my hair has not been long for a good year and a bit, I have had it cropped for a while but nowhere near shaved. I’ve always kept it long enough to style with gel and give me a little something to hide behind.

My relationship with my hair has long been a love/hate one. When I was younger I had long blond hair down to my hips before I accepted that I was trans. People would always remark on my ‘pretty’ hair and often I would be moved to either tears or anger by the word ‘pretty’ being used to describe me because I adamantly did not want to be girly but I couldn’t express or understand why this was. As long as my I left my long blond hair flowing people would put up with me wearing jeans, t-shirts and trainers all the time rather than dresses and skirts because at least my hair kept me looking feminine. There starts my feelings of resentment towards my hair.

As I grew up, I began to tie my hair back into a ponytail everyday without fail but the long shock of blond which ran down my back was never far from my mind. I was torn about my hair, whilst it kept me looking socially respectable as a little girl and earned me the attention and compliments of people around me, I certainly felt a disconnect from the way it made me look.

Fast forward to me as a 16 year old who had just finished secondary school and was about to embark on the new-found freedom of sixth-form college for two years. I decided to get an undercut, meaning that I shaved the underneath of my hair. This was an interesting compromise because it meant that I kept the look of long hair on the top of my head but if I tied my hair up I could show something different through my shaved hear underneath. However, I still felt that I was hiding a big part of my identity and couldn’t find the confidence to go fully short with my hair.

At 18 I dyed my hair from blond to black. I was a very sad, confused and isolated figure at this age and I craved to express what I was feeling on the inside on the outside of me. My hair was still pretty long but I stopped being defined by the ‘pretty’ blondness of my hair. Then, I snapped. I’d had enough with not being true to myself and selling myself short to please other people. So, I got my hair chopped into a black pixie cut.

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Whilst this look was still layered and ‘feminine’ to an extent, I felt a lot less like I was lying to myself and the world when I presented myself this way.

Now, back to the present day and I have just given myself a buzz cut in my new accommodation that I moved into on the weekend! I feel like I have finally found the courage to be unapologetic in the way I look. There is no longer any hairstyle for me to hide behind which is a significant development for me as I have been so ashamed of the full face of acne I have had for the past 8 years. I have always looked to become invisible and fade into the background because of the level of disgust I have felt towards myself whenever I’ve seen my reflection. The disconnect between my mind and my body has weighed me down with the burden of self-loathing which was an unsustainable way to live my daily life.

I feel like buzzing my hair signifies to me a fresh start. No more hiding or trying to please others. I no longer feel the need to be seen as attractive by anyone, I prefer to make myself happy first. I want to abandon the shame I feel about the reflection which glares at me from the bathroom mirror. I will not live my life by anyone else’s rules any longer.

 

CONTACT ME:

TWITTER: @RyanBInNature

INSTAGRAM: @awalkwithnature00

Gratitude List #3

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This week has been a bit all over the place. From coming out to riding a rollercoaster of dips and jumps in self-confidence, I’ve felt a lot of emotions during the last 7 days (when don’t I?). However, to put this week into perspective, I have decided to write-out a gratitude list to emphasise to myself the positive things I can take away from this week and to share the intention of shifting to a perspective of gratitude when life seems to overwhelm you. So, without further ado, here is a list of things I am grateful for which have appeared, surfaced or been re-emphasised in my life this week:

  1. My ability to get myself new glasses which can support my eyesight and make me feel comfortable whilst wearing them.
  2. The abundance of dried fruit and nuts I have to make delicious vegan fruit loaves with.
  3. The supportive and welcoming LGBTQ community online which offers me a place to feel safe and be myself even when I feel rejected in my personal life.
  4. My bullet planner which makes me feel in control of the events in my life by allowing me to become organised.
  5. The person who cut my hair yesterday and made me feel good about myself whilst she got creative with shaving my hair!
  6. Ted, the dog I got to look after earlier in the week who is such a sweetheart, never fails to make me smile and tolerates the playfulness of my other dogs even when he just wants to have a sleep.
  7. The album After Laughter by Paramore which lifts my mood and evokes great memories from the last couple of years.
  8. The people who leave comments on my blog posts, these interactions make my day and I love reading and replying to them.
  9. My morning coffees – they are a short period in my day where I can just focus on doing one thing, relax and prepare for the rest of my day.

 

CONTACT ME:

Twitter: @RyanBInNature

Instagram: @awalkwithnature00

Am I Safe? The Fear of Prejudice

Some days I catch myself mid-thought,
Contemptuous in my assumptions
About the cruel masks people use to smile.
I think, ‘if they knew who I am really am,
They would cast their eyes the other way
Shake their head to rid themselves of my contagion’.
For, they do not know the cogs my mind is turning,
How my brain does not mirror my shell;
I am outsider to my own body,
A figure of revolted confusion, mingling,
Turning tables in their midst, under cover
Of darkness or the approach of a raging storm.
I am exactly as I seem if you know where to look.

Some poets and songwriters advise against describing exactly what it is that you have written about. They say that readers and listeners should come to their own conclusions about the contents of your art and that they should interpret it subjectively, adapting it to their own unique perspective. However, I always feel impelled to know what writers are thinking as they craft their pieces of work together, so I am going to break the rules and explain to you, as best I can, what this poem I wrote is about:

When people meet me in public, cross me in the street, glance at me across a supermarket aisle, they have no idea what is going on in my life. Some assume that I am female, especially if they hear my soft and quite highly pitched voice. Others assume that I am male because of the way I dress and attempt to present myself. As someone who is trans, I sometimes catch myself thinking about that stranger in the supermarket or in the street and asking myself ‘I wonder if they would hate me/be confused by me/judge me negatively if they knew that I was transgender’. Essentially, I wonder whether they would still glance at me nonchalantly or walk past me casually if they knew about my identity and who I truly am.

This is one aspect of how societal prejudice works. It sows seeds of doubt and fear in people’s mind. We question whether we would face repercussions from strangers in the street if they knew about our identity whether that be regarding our sexuality, faith, gender or many other things. Our worries about facing prejudice, which stems from the abuse we have seen online or experienced ourselves before, causes us to build walls around ourselves, as we divide ourselves away from people we cannot be sure are safe to be around. Being part of an oppressed group can, for this reason, be an isolating and anxious experience. Feeling safe is of the upmost importance but when you do not know who you can trust or you cannot gauge the reactions of people to your identity, it is difficult not to seal yourself off from the outside world simply as a precaution.

 

As ever feel free to reach out to me on my social accounts or drop a comment below if you are going through something similar or have any questions.

TWITTER: @RyanBInNature

INSTAGRAM: @awalkwithnature00

The Gender Tag / Coming Out

This is a really big post for me to publish, it feels like I am revealing a massive part of my identity to you guys which, up to this point, I have felt too scared to admit to because I was worried about what other people would think and being rejected. I thought that using a tag to do this would be an easy and simple way to ‘come out’ because it will break down my experiences into little chunks and make it easier for other people to understand me (hopefully). So, without further ado, here is my take on the Gender Tag (please be nice in the comments and if you have something judgemental to say keep it to yourself).

1. How do you self-identify your gender, and what does that definition mean to you?

I am transgender, female to male to be specific. Being a trans man means that I have felt suffocated in the body I was born into, everyday I have got up in the morning knowing that I have to live and function in a body which does not feel like it belongs to me and which I often feel repulsed by. The definition ‘transgender man’ does not however equal to me the criteria of toxic masculinity we see in society these days. Whilst I am a man, I will refuse to conform to the hyper-masculine stereotypes which are so emphasised in the media. Refusing to cry and suppressing vital emotions is not what being a trans man means to me. Personally, identifying as a trans man means that I finally have the freedom to be who I truly am without imposing boundaries and limits on my character.

2. What pronouns honour you?

He/him is music to my ears. Whereas I cannot be referred to as she/her without flinching. However, being referred to as they/them does not offend me, especially if someone does not know me and isn’t prepared to ask me my pronouns outright. Hedging your bets on they/them in my personal case is much better for me than risking misgendering me.

3. Describe the style of clothing you most often wear.

Quite literally every day I wear jogging bottoms, a baggy t-shirt (most likely Harry Potters  themed) and a hoodie unless it’s warm in which I case I drop the hoodie. On a daily basis, I wear clothing which doesn’t show my figure, meaning that I feel loads more comfortable in oversized items.

4. Talk about your choices with body hair. How do you style your hair? Do you have facial hair? What do you choose to shave, or choose not to shave?

In regards to the hair on my head, it is very short and I do the bare minimum with it. I literally just wash it in the morning, run a comb through it and let it dry naturally which does not take long at all. I do not shave, although I used to when I was at school because otherwise the other girls would have stared at me like I was a foreign species and the boys would have undoubtedly have had something/a lot to say about it (the atmosphere of my school was literally that petty).

5. Talk about cosmetics. Do you chose to wear make-up? Do you paint your nails? What types of soaps and perfumes do you use if any?

I never wear make-up. I used to wear it occasionally when I was younger because I thought it would make me feel more confident by allowing me to fit-in more but, in reality, it just made me feel more uncomfortable and like I was only doing it for everyone else around me rather than myself. I do not paint my nails, however this is more down to me being lazy and impatient because I can never be bothered for nail varnish to actually dry properly. I also do not use perfume because I am very sensitive to smells, so overpowering scents tend to just annoy me during the day. The types of soaps I use are usually quite neutral fragrances which do not linger long after using them.

6. Have you experienced being misgendered? If so, how often?

Yes, for the vast majority of my life I have been misgendered because I have not been comfortable enough in my identity to come out as trans, even though I purposely dressed in a androgynous way and attempted to present myself as masculine. On the occasional times that I have been referred to as a guy, it has made me really happy, although once I have spoken in my high to the person they become horrified for ‘mistaking’ me for not being a girl and I have to repeatedly assure them that I am really not offended.

7. Do you experience dysphoria? How does that affect you?

Yes, dysphoria is a daily sledge hammer which attacks my self-confidence. Sometimes it prevents me from leaving the house because I cannot bear being seen by other people and feeling their eyes on me. Dysphoria is very damaging to my mental health and general mood because it makes me feel disgusted by my own body and plunges me into self-loathing.

8. Talk about children. Are you interested in having children? Would you want to carry a child if that was an option for you? Do you want to be the primary caretaker for any children you have?

In all honesty, the idea of having children really does not interest me and it never has, I’m just not a child-orientated person and it has taken me a long time to not feel bad about myself for being this way. The idea of carrying a child is also not for me, especially as I would wish to to have a hysterectomy in the future.

9. Talk about money. Is it important to you to provide for a family financially if you choose to have one? Is it important to you that you earn more than any partner you may have? Do you prefer to pay for things like dates? Are you uncomfortable when others pay for you or offer to pay for you?

This question makes me cringe because it just screams to me of outdated tropes of nuclear families and gender stereotypes. Concern about money and paying for things just seems to me to be ways of enforcing your own power and dominance in a relationship which is an uncomfortable and weird thought. I really think that it can only be an insecure relationship in which someone feels the need to earn more than the other.

10. Anything else you want to share about your experience with gender?

It has taken me a very long time to come to a place in my life in which I feel even remotely comfortable with myself and my gender. I have experienced years of confusion and self-hatred but now there is a positive at the end of the story. I am proud that I have given myself the freedom and licence to be the person I know I am rather than self-imposing constraints upon my character and personality or following the caricature of male and female characteristics portrayed in the media.

 

If you have any questions or are struggling with anything gender related, although I am not an expert, feel free to contact me via the links below or drop me a comment.

TWITTER: @RyanBInNature (I recently changed my Twitter handle by the way)

INSTAGRAM: @awalkwithnature00

Labels Are For Clothes

Labels are strange. It’s almost like they bring a competitive edge with them – you have to prove yourself worthy and cleave fully to every facet of your label. These terms, they leave no room for grey areas, expecting human beings to fall into cemented categories and know exactly who we are. But two people standing under the same label are never the same and they never experience that label the same either. We all have baggage and unique parts that make-up our whole and there’s no room for those things in one clean-cut word.

Then comes the temptation to model ourselves on the word that speaks to us the most. We become a caricature of ourselves as we contort and morph into a warped perception of what we ‘should’ be. The sickened feeling in the pit of your stomach doesn’t go away though, not until you stop measuring yourself against a typecast character which other people have placed in your mind. You shouldn’t model yourself on the stereotypes of a word so far removed from the complexities of humanity that it seems to define and confine you for the comfort of others. We are all messes, so why put yourself in a labelled prison of your own making unless it feels right and natural to you? Just do what you want, don’t hurt others, then your position as a good person will matter one hundred times more than any category you can squeeze yourself into when you feel forced by society but reluctant in yourself.

It’s interesting that us humans love labels so much. We are infatuated with the ideals of kinship and belonging, so much so that we can lose ourselves in the rush of our identity crises. Having a label you can relate to is nice, stabilising even, as long as you possess it rather than it possessing you.

I think back to my 15 year-old self, desperate to understand who I was, willing myself to have a discernible identity to meet others with. In many ways, my confidence rested on finding a label even though I knew at heart that my search wasn’t stemming from my own desire but instead it came from social pressure to associate myself with a category which others could judge me on. I worried about the implications of every decision, action or thought, self-policing myself until any comfort I had in my own skin was gone. I just wish that life didn’t have to seem like such a rush, a sprint race to every milestone, full of competition and aggravation along the way.

Comparison is scary, we should stop that.

AM I A SNOWFLAKE?

Disclaimer: I hate the term ‘snowflake’. The media and, on reflection, a whole lot of the general public use the word ‘snowflake’ as a by-word for millennials or really any young person who does not agree with the socially accepted agenda or public discourse which another generation have grown-up with and cleave to. Essentially, people use the word ‘snowflake’ to undermine people who challenge the order which they so dearly love to protect for the safety and comfort it affords them. So, if you want to ask me if I am a ‘snowflake’, then yes, I am.

It’s ironic that the people who wish to embarrass or discredit others by using the label of ‘snowflake’ do not see how this term can be used to their opponent’s advantage. What is supposedly so wrong with someone that they are considered to be a snowflake? Well, they are deemed sensitive, overly so in the eyes of the accuser. However, being sensitive can be a very positive personal attribute. It gives you the ability to empathise, to understand and befriend others as well as be in tune with rather than ashamed of your own emotions. Also, snowflakes are deemed to be too ‘politically correct’. I don’t know whether this appears ridiculous to you but it certainly does to me because I view political correctness as being synonymous with human decency, the desire to not hurt other people’s feelings and the ability to agree to disagree with someone but never to disrespect them. In other words, sensitivity and being politically correct are emotions and abilities which allow people to treat others as they would like to be treated.

So-called ‘snowflakes’ have also been saddled with the blame of being overly pedantic when classifying which terms have the potential to offend, as well as suppressing freedom of speech. Think of how many individuals from minorities have been and continue to be silenced and have no part in public debate because of the readiness of other people shame them and degrade them for being who they are whether this be because of ethnicity, sexuality, gender…the list goes on. So excuse me if I think it is laughable when people complain about their freedom of speech being impinged on when they are attempting to undermine the safety and identity of those people who are repeatedly denied a seat at the table in every sphere of society. Nobody is saying that these people cannot have an opinion, I am saying that they do not have a right to plague society with hate speech which is markedly different from having an opinion which you can put forward with respect.

If people want to use the term ‘snowflake’ to eradicate young people from the public sphere and put a stop to societal change then they are delusional. We may be so-called ‘keyboard warriors’ but a public discourse which prioritises compassion and empathy over outdated norms and the use of division is a hell of a lot more sustainable. Also, with all the judgement and constant undermining and belittling which people have barraged us with whenever we have voiced our concerns over issues of social justice, most of us have developed a pretty thick skin and will not be as easily deterred as you may wish.

I obviously recognise that it is not the whole of the older generation who takes this stance and uses the term ‘snowflake’ as a silencing machine. In addition, I understand the need for people to be encouraging when others are attempting to understand social issues but may take longer in the process than we wish they would. I am directing this at people who use the word ‘snowflake’ to push and legitimise their own hateful agenda with the express purpose of demeaning others, as I see a lot throughout the media.