Warning: this post talks about some of my dysphoria, however I don’t go into a lot of detail.
A quick timeline as an overview:
- 2015 - 2018: got meeting trans people at university, realised being trans is a thing
- 2019: seeing trans people share their transitions on social media, realising that, hey actually, this is something attainable and something I’d want!
- March 2020: start of lockdown, move home. shave off beard and really love how it looks. start having a proper gender crisis
- July 2020: pretty much accepted I’m trans but terrified. no support network
- August 2020: came out to my partner
- January 2021: came out to closest friends
- Early March 2021: came out out to more and more people, began wearing even more feminine clothes outside
- End of March 2021: came out to everyone else and updated social media
Working out I was trans was quite a multi year, reflective process for me. It turned out, really, that there were so many obvious signs in front of me the whole time that I just never noticed. It was only when I started examining my history for patterns or things that didn’t seem right, that I realised how oblivious I’d been. But, in my defence, I didn’t actually realise trans people existed for the majority of my childhood, which we’ll come back to towards the end of this story.
Probably the best way to start telling my story is to look at my late university years. Moving to London from my quiet home town in South England meant I was suddenly exposed to so much more of the world than I’d ever been my entire life, and this included meeting and making new friends, some of whom were trans.
Up until this point, to be quite honest, I had nearly zero representation of trans people in my life, both in real life and online. The only one mention was in a very transphobic episode of a TV comedy which I won’t name, and transphobic memes about “Tumblr SJWs”. I think this had a really negative impact on me working things out for myself honestly. Not knowing any trans people and their stories meant that I felt incredibly isolated and alone in my feelings and thoughts, I felt like an outcast and weird, and didn’t necessarily know why.
Being at university, I finally began to be confronted by my confusing gender feelings that I’d felt for a long time. I had a lot of internalised transphobia to work through, constantly thinking things like, “yeah sure I wish I was a girl, but I’m not like them”. I was able to finally realise and come out as bisexual, after years of feeling shame and confusion about my feelings.
Towards the end of my time at university, I was interacting more with the LGBTQ+ community at my university and within tech spaces. Being able to hear stories and see how people were thriving in their industry was really inspiring. I think that a big blocker for me to not think about gender any further was that I was convinced being trans and pursuing transition would completely ruin my life, and seeing folks do amazing things in tech completely disproved that for me.
Through meeting and befriending more trans people, I began to find out about things like hormone therapies and so on, and how much they can do for a person (with mileage varying). Another reason I stayed in denial for so long was that I was really worried that I wouldn’t “pass” as a cis woman. Again, there was so much internalised transphobia here to unpack, and to be honest now I don’t really care how I am perceived so much, I just like what I see in the mirror.
Throughout 2019 through to mid 2020, I spent a lot of time trying to work out even more what my feelings were. So often, I would convince myself “hey no, I’m not trans, I’ve never really felt dysphoria and never felt uncomfortable about my gender”. Turned out, that firstly you don’t need dysphoria to be trans and want to transition; and secondly, I actually did have a tonne of dysphoric signs and symptoms throughout my life, I just didn’t know what I was looking for.
A lot of the time growing up, I was repeatedly daydreaming and wishing that I would just be taken away and turned into a girl. I’d go to bed at night hoping that I would just wake up as a girl and my life be otherwise unchanged. I got kind of sad when it was a hot day out, and I had to wear trousers or shorts instead of skirts and dresses. I felt an incredible sense of jealousy towards my friends who were girls, and felt intrinsically different or like an outsider to my friends who were boys, but didn’t really know why. I felt like I was missing something, that I didn’t know how to be a boy properly.
I spent a lot of my teenage years feeling weirdly repulsed by my beard growing in, but I never really knew why? I also felt a dislike towards my adam’s apple, to me it felt like my neck was distorted and out of shape. I still feel like this, to be honest. And I spent a lot of the time consuming myself in studies, and when I wasn’t studying, I’d be losing myself with video games or messing around with computers and Linux and the like.
Amongst other things, these were all clear signals that, while I wasn’t strictly unhappy with my life, I wasn’t happy with how things were. And at the start of lockdown, when I shaved off my beard which I grew out in some vain attempt to try and feel a bit more masculine, I had the realisation that oh shit, I think I might be trans.
I spent a lot of time in lockdown researching things, reading articles and listening to trans people’s stories. I was panicking, and honestly spiralling often and despairing about my future. How will my friends, family, partner react? Will I lose my job? Do I want hormones and surgeries, and if so, how do I get over my needle and medical anxieties? It was a lot, and at a time where I could have been starting to explore and experiment with my identity, I was at home, feeling incredibly alone, and incredibly sad and scared.
This changed when I was back with my partner again, in late August 2020. Finally the pandemic eased enough for us to move back home together, and literally the first night back, I confided that I didn’t “think I was a man, I don’t know but I think I’m a woman”. And she took it incredibly well, and although it took her a little while to understand and come to terms, she’s been extremely supportive and proud of me throughout my transition.
Telling her, and hearing the words come out of my own mouth, were a really big step in making me feel a little more sure about things. I was able to experiment with my gender expression and start trying out names and pronouns in the privacy of our flat, as well as trying different clothes, makeup and even nail polish. I also confided in a close friend who’s also trans, and they were able to be a confidant for me and give me some advice as I navigated this questioning phase of my life.
Even when I started coming out to more close friends in January and February, I was still really doubtful about things and kept using words and phrases like “I think” and “probably”, constantly referring to my name, Maisie, as a “work in progress that may not stay”. Obviously, that turned out to not be the case! But that feeling of doubt and not being 100% sure stayed with me for a while, even beyond starting hormone therapy. And to be fair, while I’m more certain on a lot of my choices, a lot of future decisions I’m still rather uncertain about, and just guiding myself with vibes and gut feel.
During March 2021, I came out progressively to more and more people, including my workplace, and on the 31st March, on Trans Day Of Remembrance, I came out to everyone else who didn’t already knew and updated my name online and on social media. And at this point, any feeling of doubt was very much nullified by seeing so many people from my life, past and present, reach out and wish me well and say nice things and call me by my new name. It was really quite wonderful.
I feel like sharing my story is rather therapeutic, in a sense. I’ve had to explain these feelings to multiple psychiatrists in the last year, and every time it’s felt so clinical, and I feel so judged doing so. Sharing here, my personal thoughts and feelings, is a lot nicer and more comfortable, no matter who reads it.
Growing up outside of a big city in the UK meant that I really wasn’t exposed to any visible trans people at all, let alone any LGBTQ+ role models. I think this had a profound impact on my development and not knowing and understanding my feelings as I grew up, and to be honest, if I knew even one trans person as a teenager, I feel like my life may have run a completely different course, as I begin hitting those realisations a lot sooner than I did.
Do I regret the path my life’s taken, and transitioning at the age I have? Absolutely not. My life so far has led me to some fantastic experiences, going to university in London, meeting my wonderful partner, being able to travel the world for hackathons and eventually working at one of the most exciting technology companies in the world? I’m incredibly happy and grateful for life turning out this way and wouldn’t change a thing, even if things are hard sometimes. Like, really really hard.
But this is a whole reason I try to be as visible online as I can and share my experiences. If it helps someone with their own journey, however small, then I am really glad. Being trans is a gift and I love to share that joy with the world. 💖