Trans Stories From My Childhood

 

I got the idea for this blog post from Ashton Daniel’s video on YouTube called ‘trans kid stories’. In the video, he spoke about how, upon reflecting on his childhood, he can see early signs of his trans identity in many of the choices he made and the things he did. So, here I have compiled a list of some of the stories which I think show that I was aware of my trans identity from early childhood.

[I might do a part two for this as I think there are some more stories I could write about, let me know if you would be interested in reading a second part to this].

1. I refused to wear a bikini top when I was a little kid on holiday

I refused to believe that my body was that of a female because I knew in my head that I didn’t feel like a female. Also, I knew that if I wore a bikini top, that would mark me out to other people as definitely being a girl. So, I fought my mum and refused to wear a bikini top and just ran about the beach topless. I hadn’t grown a chest by that point and my mum (and social expectations) put a stop to this before too long and soon I would just opt to wear a t-shirt and shorts to the beach or be in my wetsuit to go bodyboarding (we always went on holiday to Cornwall, so the sea wasn’t that warm anyway).

2. I stood-up to pee

I didn’t want to pee like a girl, so I would stand-up to pee. I feel sorry for the person (probably my mum) who would have to clear-up the mess I made later but this is another story that, with the benefit of reflection, tells me that I was already questioning my gender by the time I was old enough to go to the toilet on my own.

3. Little Ryan: ‘I have a willy too!’

I refused to believe that I had female genitalia and convinced myself that I, like my brothers, had a willy. One day, I said something about this and my brothers corrected me. Then ensued a shouting match between me and my brothers in which I adamantly told them that ‘I have a willy too!’. I was probably about 4 years old when I said this and I found it very frustrating that nobody took me seriously.

4. Wearing trousers to school

Every girl at school, with only one or two exceptions, wore a skirt as part of their school uniform, so the option to wear trousers was mostly ignored by the female pupils. I hated wearing skirts which I saw as marking myself out as a ‘girl’, so I decided to wear trousers instead. This may not seem like a big deal but at 11 years old, I was very self-concious and I knew that people would do a double-take when they saw me wearing trousers because barely any other ‘girls’ did the same.

5. Wearing boys’ school shoes

Following-on from the last story, when my mum and I went shopping for school shoes (which was a trip we both dreaded every year), I told the man at the shoe shop that I resolutely wanted boys’ shoes. I think I was around 13 years old and, out of exasperation and wanting desperately to get out of the shop which was rammed with stroppy kids, my mum didn’t really try to convince me otherwise. So, for the next school year I went around wearing what looked like clown shoes on my little feet but I felt so happy that I didn’t have to wear the flowery school shoes which the other ‘girls’ wore!

6. Wanting to change primary schools

From the ages of 4 to 11, I attended an all-girls’ school whilst my brothers attended an all-boys school. I vividly remember dreaming at night during this period about being able to attend my brothers’ school instead and being treated as a boy. I longed to have a place in their school, which evidently did not happen.

7. Playing in boys’ sport teams

I used to play cricket when I was younger and, up until around 12 years old, I would play in an all-boys’ team. Up to this age, there were no regulations against it and considering that cricket is a non-contact sport and there weren’t many girls’ teams in existence, my parents and the coaches did not have a problem with it. I enjoyed this experience, except for that opposition teams would always make a fuss about wanting to ‘get the girl out’ (me) and it was deemed especially shameful if you were gotten-out by ‘the girl’ (for some reason they never addressed me by my then-name, they only called me ‘the girl’!).

8. Asking to play rugby

At about six years old I mustered all my courage and asked my parents if I could play rugby. I knew that, in their eyes, it was essentially a male sport (it is quite a rough contact sport) but I so desperately wanted to play. They said ‘no’ because playing rugby ‘wasn’t feminine’ and I felt angry and frustrated. I had hoped that they would take the same position as they had with me playing cricket with the boys, but no such luck.

9. Showing-off my strength and anger

At times as a child (and probably still now), I attempted to over-compensate in shows of my masculinity to convince people that I wasn’t ‘girly’. I saw anger, aggression and strength as typical male traits. At about 5 years old, I remember throwing a stool across my bedroom in a bid to appear masculine and impress people with my strength. All it resulted in was me breaking my stool and getting a big telling-off from my mum!

10. Screaming about and hiding clothes

I detested the clothes my mum bought for me. Going clothes shopping was an ordeal as I would walk miserably around every girls’ clothing section, trailing after my mum, and grow more and more angry as she put clothes she saw as ‘pretty’ into her arms to buy for me. Sometimes, when we got home, I would hide the clothes she had bought for me, stuffing them behind bits of furniture or at the bottom of wardrobes under all sorts of clutter. My reasoning was that, if she couldn’t find the clothes, then she couldn’t dress me in them! I remember the tears I cried and the tantrums I had about being made to wear dresses for family occasions and I now see these as examples of my trans identity already being prominent in my youth.

11. Playing ‘dad’ or ‘son’

At my all-girls primary school, my friends enjoyed playing ‘families’. I would always immediately volunteer to play the dad or son and would be angry at the mere suggestion of me playing a female character. For the most part, people welcomed my willingness to play the dad or son because they always wanted the female roles to themselves.

 

Here are some resources for trans, non-binary and gender non-conforming/questioning people:

Mermaids UK

The Stonewall Blog

A list of organisations over at All About Trans

 

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The 12 Questions of Christmas Tag

I saw this post over on Northumberland Mam’s site and thought this tag looked really fun (plus I thought my blog needed some more festive content on it!).

Go see her post here.

1. When does your Christmas tree go up? Who will decorate it?

My Christmas tree went up on the weekend, at my brother’s insistence! One of my brothers is very into Christmas and loves having the lights, tree and decorations up around the house, so I just helped him when he asked. It was odd actually taking part a little bit in decorating the tree this year because I have sat that activity out for so long. Christmas is often one of the toughest times of the year for me mental health wise, so in recent years I have tried to live in denial that it was approaching.

2. Christmas Eve or Christmas Day?

I prefer Christmas Day, mostly because Christmas Eve consists of a lot of tension in my house as we are all convinced that we must have forgotten something! Also, when it’s Christmas Day, I can see the end of the festive period in sight which is often a relief when I have spent about a month feeling low and anxious in my Christmassy surroundings.

3. What is your favourite Christmas advert this year?

The John Lewis one with Elton John at its centre. I grew-up listening to a lot of Elton John, so his music and story always makes me feel nostalgic and a bit sentimental!

4. Is there anywhere you would love to visit at Christmas?

Hogwarts! Jokes aside, I have never been to the Hogwarts in the Snow feature at the Warner Brothers’ Studio Tour in London and I think that would be an amazing spectacle to go and see, especially for a Potterhead like me.

5. What traditions are you looking forward to most this year?

Probably seeing my dogs open their presents on Christmas morning! Their excitement is hilarious and seeing their tails wagging fast is really sweet!

6. What are some food and treats you can count on having every Christmas?

There aren’t many staples that I insist on having every Christmas. Especially as the only vegan in my family (everyone else eats meat and dairy), I don’t join in much with the food-aspect of Christmas like everyone else does. However, seeing as I will be alone for most of Christmas Day this year, I can tuck into all my favourites (which probably means having cereal for lunch!) without feeling awkward. 

7. When did you stop believing in Santa?

I can’t remember what age I was exactly but it was pretty early because I had older siblings who didn’t believe in him. To be honest, I think I was quite relieved as I didn’t like the idea of a stranger coming into my house at night, even if he was delivering presents!

8. As a kid, did a sibling or friend ever receive a present that you wished was for you?

Being given girls’ clothes when I was kid was obviously quite problematic for me being a trans person, so I think I was always jealous of the clothes my brothers were given and wished that I could receive similar things too.

9. Do you like giving gifts or receiving them better?

I prefer giving gifts because the attention is less on me at that point.

10. Are you guilty of peeking at your presents or do you like the surprise?

The reason I have never peeked at my gifts is that my mum would have been completely outraged if she had ever found out! Also, my paranoia plays into this one quite a lot because if I’ve convinced myself for a long time that if you know you are going to be given a gift then you will jinx yourself and never be able to receive it (I know this doesn’t really make sense, it is one of my irrational thoughts which comes with my mental health issues).

11. If you could be in any Christmas movie what would it be?

The Polar Express! For some reason I find trains magical and it beats being in ‘The Grinch’ and being accosted by a green, furry man who lives on a mountain. 

12. What would you like to find under your tree this year?

I don’t get too invested in what presents I want for Christmas anymore. However, if someone buys me a book, I will be more than pleased!

 

If you want to see my daily ramblings, follow me on Twitter – @RyanBInNature.

Find some of my other Christmas-related posts below:

Anxiety At Christmas

The Christmas Tag

Unpopular Opinions – Christmas Edition

 

Unpopular Opinions – Christmas Edition

I don’t know why but I love writing ‘Unpopular Opinion’ posts so much! Sorry if you are sick of all the different versions I have done by now but I cannot get enough of creating them, so here’s another one all to do with the festive season and Christmas itself.

1. There is too much pressure put on giving someone the perfect present

It feels like people view the presents they are given as a signifier of how much they are valued by the giver. However, presents should be all about the sentiment, not the price tag or what designer label it comes from. Giving presents these days feels like you are having to prove to the person how much you cherish them but that feels impossible to encompass in an item or two, so it ends-up simply being an unnecessarily pressurising process.

2. Opening presents in front of the person who gifted them to you is tense

When I am opening presents, I am way too aware of my facial expression! I worry that I’m either looking unimpressed or that I’m making too much of an effort to look happy with the present which means that I end-up looking like I’m faking my reaction. There is no satisfactory way to open a present and I wish people would accept that I am being truthful when I tell them that I am really grateful for their present rather than seeing the look on my face as the real signifier of truth.

3. Crackers are a disaster waiting to happen

Who thought that having multiple contests of strength occurring at the same time around a dinner table loaded with glasses, plates and drinks was a good idea? The males in my family especially really like to muscle-in on the crackers, so much so that their arms end-up flying back when they break and I live in worry that a glass of wine is going to go flying!

4. Flashing Christmas lights are too intense

I much prefer the softer type of lights where they either fade in and out or just stay the same. Some of the flashing Christmas lights around where I live look they are trying to replicate a secondary school rave more than be festive!

5. There are no Christmas-specific films that I love to watch

To be fair, I’m not really a big film fan anyway (except for the in the case of the Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts films!). Although, I distinctly remember the Grinch absolutely terrifying me when I was a child to the point where I would simply avoid watching it when it inevitably came on every year. It wasn’t even the fact that he was trying to steal people’s Christmas presents from their own houses which scared me, it was more about the way he walked around and his creepy fingers!

6. People who put cold cream on top of their Christmas pudding are going too far!

Every single year at Christmas, I will look around me as people tuck into their Christmas pudding and see people pouring cold cream (fresh from the fridge) onto their hot puddings and it continues to make no sense to me!

7. The expectations people have for Christmas Day are too high and put an unfair amount of stress on the host

Every year people stress about making Christmas Day absolutely flawless. People get so caught-up in trying to make everything look picture-perfect and ensure that everything goes off without a hitch that they forget to enjoy the moment. I feel sorry for all of the people who run around their kitchens, boiling hot and flustered, on Christmas Day and miss out simply relaxing with everyone else and enjoying the day for what it is. 

 

Find my other ‘Unpopular Opinions’ posts below:

Unpopular Opinions – University Edition

Unpopular Opinions – Harry Potter Edition

Unpopular Opinions – USA Travel Edition

Unpopular Opinions Part 2

Unpopular Opinions

 

If you want to hear more of my daily ramblings, follow me on Twitter – @RyanBInNature

 

My Relationship With Alcohol

TRIGGER WARNING: if talking about alcohol/alcohol abuse triggers you, please do not read this.

My relationship with alcohol is complex. In all honesty, I’m not supposed to consume alcohol at all because of the medication I am on but that is a rule I have ignored repeatedly, especially in this semester at University.

I think it is important to make clear that I am not a social drinker, meaning that I only ever drink alone. So, you might think it is completely normal for a 19 year old to use alcohol as a release, however many 19 year olds drink in friendship groups on nights-out as a way of having fun. I, on the other hand, drink for the sole purpose of getting drunk in my flat at night so that I do not have to grapple with the thoughts and feelings swirling around my mind. This is where I believe my relationship with alcohol becomes unhealthy.

When I make the decision to drink alcohol, it is because I want to forget about the things that are weighing me down. So, I drink strong spirits until I cannot think straight anymore. So, really I view drinking as a crutch; a way of getting through the night when I am too emotionally spent to deal with my own emotions any longer.

The buzz I get from drinking, the way it makes me feel light and removed from the person I spend the rest of my time being is difficult to ignore. A niggling voice remains at the back of my head every time I feel myself spiralling into a dark realm of thinking. It tells me to ‘just have a drink, it will make everything feel better’. That voice becomes stronger at night, especially if I’m craving sleep.

As I am writing this, a drop of alcohol has not crossed my lips for the past two weeks. I have been making a conscious effort to exert control over my impulse to drink away my thoughts. Although, it has left me wondering why I bother because avoiding alcohol has, if anything, just made me feel worse. Being sober has not brought any great epiphany to my life which the idealistic side of my personality so hoped it would.

Alcohol is a part of my life I keep secret from many people. My support worker at University knows that drinking carries a heavy amount of temptation for me and continues to warn me against it because of the conflict it holds with my medication. I was also honest about it at my last mental health assessment, not that I felt it had any effect on the outcome of my assessment. However, I keep my drinking very separate from my family, it is a part of my life that they have little insight into. Whilst they know that I drink, I have never told them the thoughts and behaviours which go alongside my alcohol intake.

One thing my destructive behaviours have taught me over the years is how to keep secrets.

 

Poems about my relationship with alcohol:

Finding Comfort In A Bottle

Finding Comfort In A Bottle – Part Two

 

If you want to see more daily ramblings from me, follow me on Twitter – @RyanBInNature

 

Resources for help with alcohol-related issues:

Recreational drugs and alcohol – Mind, the mental health charity

Drugs, alcohol and the links with mental health – Rethink Mental Illness

Alcohol and mental health – Drinkaware

Is The Internet Poisoning My Mind?

Life takes on a different sense of touch
When my eyes are not grazed,
Or pricked by poisoned pixels
Invading my mind via osmosis
From a scarily familiar screen.

Do not live and die by the judgement of others

Day by day I am noticing how much I constrain myself and tailor my behaviour through fear of how other people will judge me. I toe a line, telling myself that I am free and do not care about people’s irrelevant opinions when really everything I do, even down to what clothes I wear, is decided through the lens of what I know other people will find acceptable.

It is easy to pre-empt what other people will think and say. As long as you fall into line; dress, think and act like them, they will have no complaints. Do not challenge their view of the world and do not scare them by stepping out of place and becoming an unknown quantity. Do all these things and you will be safe. However, you will never be fully happy.

“Unexpressed emotions will never die. They are buried alive and will come forth later in uglier ways.”

– Sigmund Freud

Only as I am growing older, learning about new things, experiencing things outside of my small bubble am I realising the compromises I make in my daily life. The little decisions I make so as not to cause to ripples whilst telling myself that I am doing those things because I truly want to. Lie after lie legitimates my never reaching my full potential.

“None of us will ever accomplish anything excellent or commanding except when he listens to this whisper which is heard by him alone.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Being purposefully inauthentic is so boring though. When you look at the person next to you and realise that you have morphed into a similarly brainwashed creature who has followed the pattern of other people’s beliefs without question or issue. You have fallen into line so quickly and easily you never saw it happening. The most exciting thing you can do now is be fully and unashamedly yourself. Follow your intuition and impulses which are intrinsically unique to you. Express yourself in the brightest ways you can think of no matter what. Indulge in whatever interests you, no matter if no-one else you know cares about the same things. More than anything, become someone you can be proud of, not only now but years down the line when you are reminiscing about your life. Did you do your unique nature justice? Did you follow your passions? Did you take a stand for the things you believe in?

“Expression is survival”

– Hayley Williams

 

Beauty is a Myth and Other Ugly Confessions

I have acne.

My head is unevenly shaved.

My lips are flaky from the time I’ve spent chewing them.

I am a permanent sweaty mess because of anxiety.

I pull out my eyebrows.

There is a scar where my nose piercing used to be.

At 19 I already have worry lines.

I wear glasses too big for my face.

My teeth are coffee stained.

These are all just facts – things I am supposed to be ashamed of and try desperately to hide. I have whittled away hours of my life fretting over everything that makes me ‘ugly’, all of the features which dump me in the category of the unappealing. Then, I began to wonder, why do I care? Who is it I am trying to impress? It certainly wasn’t myself. I know that my acne amongst my wild variety of other flaws are all natural pitfalls that accumulate along the journey of living. If it doesn’t offend me to see a scruffy so-and-so looking back at me in the mirror, then why am I wasting all of this energy worrying about the implications of my so-called ‘ugliness’?

If someone looks at me on the street and thinks to themselves ‘wow, they’re ugly’ or ‘I wouldn’t date them in a million years’, frankly I never have to speak to them or see them ever again and they are not going to make any impact on my life. They are as irrelevant as the crisp packet being blown by the wind down the pavement.

Absence Makes The Heart Grow Fonder

Having been away from the place where I grew-up, my heart is now starting to crave a return to that place which I once took for granted. I thought my hometown was simply run-of-the-mill, boring and easy to forget, little did I know that one day I would look back over my shoulder at it and get a little misty-eyed in missing that place. Sure, it looks grey and typical from an outsiders’ perspective but once you lace the town with your own memories, it takes a hold over you for life. Nothing about it special per se but hindsight tells me that it formed a basis for my life and gave me a springboard to jump forward into the place I live now.

I love my home county in the autumn and winter. I miss walking with my dogs through the dense woods where the trees block out the rest of the world, I miss seeing my dogs kick through the neat piles of autumnal leaves as we made our way through the posh streets in town and I miss shivering in my bed at night with no heating on. It’s funny the things which cling to your heart when you look backwards at your past life. The things you would have assumed that ‘adult’ you could forget in a heartbeat come back as fresh and clear as ever. Small things which seemed inconvenient or too small to notice at the time take on a different hue when you put your rose-tinted glasses on.

Sure, I can still appreciate that it’s not perfect. People there are discontented and suspicious of each other. No-one proudly proclaims that they live there; it is not a picture postcard town. Actually, if anything, the heart of it is pretty ugly. Perhaps it is the bubble which I inhabited there for a time that I want to return to – I can take or leave the rest of it. It’s the walks I took when the air was so cold that it burned the back of my throat, it’s the journeys we took in the car after rugby matches and it’s the times I saw my doggies run around the house together in synchronised mischief. Those are the little bubbles of emotion and experience I look back at with tears in my eyes. Maybe, it’s not the place that I cherish, just the memories it provokes in me. My hometown can still be seen as my fairytale though; the place where I lived when I wanted to die and the place where I learned to breathe again when I was scared to go outside.

 

CONTACT ME:

Twitter – @RyanBInNature

Instagram – @awalkwithnature00

Why Anxiety Sufferers Are Misunderstood As Rude

During my course of CBT a couple of years ago, my therapist warned me that I probably come across as rude to other people whilst I am fighting off my anxiety in a social situation. In fact, she said that it’s likely I put people off and make them wary of me because they will view me as cold and distant. To a certain extent I can understand what she was saying, however I also maintain that people with anxiety should not be blamed for the way they appear during social interactions.

People who do not have experience of social anxiety can often misunderstand the internal workings of anxiety sufferers. For example, I fidget quite often during conversations and constantly try to avoid eye contact, so others can perceive me to be disinterested and aloof when really I am just battling to keep control over my mind as anxiety increasingly eats away at me. At other times, I have difficulty vocalising what I want to say; the words may be begging to be said at the front of my mind but they feel like they get stuck in my throat. As I panic more and more, I am unable to speak, my throat constricts further and the waiting words get squeezed so much that there is no hope of me getting them out in the air. Whilst all this is going on for me internally, the person awaiting my response in conversation may misunderstand me and think that I have nothing to say or believe that I have abandoned the interaction. Again, this situation ends-up in me being viewed as rude when really I am trying desperately hard to stay in the social situation whilst all my impulses scream at me to run away immediately.

I cannot blame other people for wrongly perceiving me as rude or distant because I display all of the normal signs of being exactly those characteristics. People judge each other on first impressions and keep those judgements in their minds for a very long time. The problem is that when I meet someone for the first time, my anxiety symptoms are often at their most extreme and pronounced. As a result, I come across as the most rude I can possibly be and, after that, I am condemned to glares across the lecture hall for the rest of the academic year all because of the disastrous first interaction I had with someone.

It’s difficult to conclude this post. If general society was more aware of the effects anxiety can have on the whole of people’s lives, then maybe these misunderstandings could be avoided and the pressure on sufferers to act okay when they are not could be eased. However, everyone has some measure of insecurities during social interactions, so we cannot pile all of the blame on people who become offended when they see the person they are talking to start to shuffle and look away into the distance.

I would love to know everyone’s thoughts about this topic and what people think can be done to ease the pressure on anxious people when they are in social situations.

Here is a link for information about anxiety and panic attacks if anyone wants to read-up on this further:

Mind – Anxiety and Panic Attacks

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