WARNING: This post contains frank discussion of suicidal thoughts.
Today is the first anniversary of my very fast coming out as transgender, but that was only part of a life long story. Here’s some of that story.
PART ONE: PUBERTY
Puberty is difficult for all of us, but being trans turned the entire process into something like hell. I saw myself changing in ways that made me sick to my stomach and had no idea why. Surely, it’s normal to wish you could be a girl instead? Surely, it’s normal to not want to be associated with other boys and to feel like an outsider in the changing rooms before PE lessons? Apparently not!
As most of you who know me will know, I had significant trouble with Generalised Anxiety Disorder in school and spent a lot of time alone on trains and at home instead of at school. I used the time not taken up by constant debilitating fear to learn. I read about politics, I read about literature, I read about social issues. I read about social issues. I read about social issues. I read about social issues.
Gender is a social issue, and in 2014 some great steps were made in the trans liberation movement that brought information into the public consciousness like never before. So… it turned out there was an explanation for why my totally flat chest made me uneasy and any association with maleness made me feel alienated and generally weirded-out. I remember reading about what being trans was, and that gender doesn’t always fit neatly into one of the two options given by contemporary western society. Apparently, it’s actually quite normal and we know trans/nonbinary people have existed throughout history. Many cultures actually ascribe certain spiritual properties to trans people.
PART TWO: THE GOLDEN ANCHOR
The summer of 2015 played host to one of those moments we look back on as ‘coming of age’ moments, a five-day school trip to Naples. This was a regular thing at my school, we’d have a week abroad every year and those of us who either couldn’t or didn’t want to stayed back and school days were replaced by school trips. I had always done the latter, but me and my mum knew that my mental state meant this would likely be my last opportunity to do something like this for a long time. It ended up being a much-needed break from life and a chance to start working out exactly who I was.
One night, myself and two people I was sharing a room with were out in the town and I had a realisation. I lost my earring! Being worried about the piercing closing up, I decided to find somewhere to get a replacement. We ended up outside what is essentially Italian Claire’s Accessories, where my two masc-y friends stayed, and I went inside.
This was liberation. I had free choice, truly free choice to decide how I want to present myself without fearing judgement or having to perform plastic masculinity. I found a pair of sparkly gold anchors amongst a wall of cheap mass-produced jewellery, picked them up and bought them. I don’t know whether the shopkeeper looked at me funny out of prejudice for my gender expression or my being a tourist. Probably a bit of both. Either way, nothing could shake me from the euphoria of this moment of genuine self expression.
A teacher who came on this holiday took a photo of my two friends outside that shop because she thought they looked funny standing outside a women’s accessory shop. I thought it was funny that she thought it was funny, it is just a shop after all! I haven’t seen that photo since that holiday and I’m not sure anyone else has. I hope one day I’ll get to see it again. I do still have one of those earrings though and it remains a constant source of happiness and comfort.
This was the first time I started expressing my gender, as subtly as it was. It also confirmed to me that I never was male. When the euphoria wares off, the dysphoria plummets.
PART THREE: TRANSGENDER DYSPHORIA BLUES
2016 to early 2018 were the years that coming to terms with my gender in detail became a necessity, a process that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemies (I use that phrase despite not having any ‘enemies’, at least I don’t think I do!). Going into yourself and deconstructing your deepest insecurities and measuring each and every gender related feeling against the euphoria brought on by a tiny expression of femininity is one of the most difficult things I’ve had to do, and I did it whilst also juggling mental illness and doing my GCSEs in not just a new school, but a school in a hospital just for those of us unable to attend traditional schools.
I knew I was nonbinary since around the summer of 2014, but a trip to my childhood oasis on the 7th of May 2017 radically changed my understanding of gender. I was on the bus when the realisation began to bubble up inside me but wasn’t able to describe it. The dysphoria was different and highlighted a lack of femininity, whereas I previously had only noticed trouble with too much masculinity.
I was messaging my then partner as I found my way through the gates of Kensington Gardens, talking about it in vague terms. What if I wasn’t nonbinary… what if I was actually a girl? The question sparked a spiral of panic in me, and I knew this wasn’t the first time I’d asked myself this question. The walk lasted some time and involved a lot of quiet inward reflection. What terms are comfortable? I liked neutrality, I liked femininity… I wasn’t sure. The conclusion I came to then was that I was slightly feminine of centre.
I decided not to delve any further into it and, instead of having the confidence to tell my partner I might like to experiment with neutral pronouns, repressed it all.
PART 4: NOW IS THE WINTER OF OUR DYSPHORIA, MADE GLORIOUS SUMMER BY THIS DAUGHTER OF LUNDON
Later in 2017, in the Autumn, I went to an LGBT youth group for the first time and it was the first time that everyone in the room knew I was nonbinary. We went to the park afterwards and shared names and pronouns in a circle, and I said I liked they/them but was fine with he/him because that’s what I was used to. They weren’t having that and insisted that they’ll use what I like rather than what I’m used to. It was the first time anyone had done something like this for me in person. I wasn’t used to my identity being so explicitly celebrated and I desperately wish I could express how it felt. In the train station on our way home, I heard myself referred to with a neutral pronoun for the first time. From that moment onwards I felt empowered to use the pronouns that fit instead of just putting up with ones that don’t for the sake of simplicity.
On my way home from the youth group I had a moment while crossing a bridge. I’d never felt so accepted in my life, I was feeling like myself for the first time. I couldn’t conceive of a time or place where I’d feel so free again. I was so happy then, but the thought was heart-breaking. I thought about stepping over the barrier and into the darkness of the river below, about going out happy instead of having to suffer any more. I thought of the hatred that would come with coming out and I didn’t see a future where I could be happy. I didn’t jump.
Around then, I also came to realise that my name was always going to be associated with maleness, and the fact that I liked the name made getting rid of it exceptionally difficult. I couldn’t bare the thought of someone looking at my name and an image of a man appearing in their head.
One night I was out walking through Covent Garden with my then boyfriend, and while walking down the dimply lit alleyway beside the London Transport Museum, he became the first person to speak my name aloud. I was dabbling with the name Florian, but everyone who knew about it went with flori as a nickname and it was that nickname that he used. I still smile thinking of that moment. I soon discovered the name Floria and have used that name since.
One thing a lot of trans people do is refer to ourselves in the third person, because when nobody around you uses the right name or pronouns even your own usage of them can be a big help. I was in bed one night texting the same boyfriend mentioned above, and took the plunge I’d built up in my head since that day in Kensington Gardens. I called myself a girl. He asked no questions and instantly started using she/her pronouns and I cried my fucking eyes out. I cried the happiest tears I’ve ever cried. I later explained to him that my experience of gender seems to fade between almost nothing at all and about 90% female, something that’s not easy to understand unless you yourself have similar experiences.
In that winter I came to these conclusions:
- My name is Floria Lundon (I had used the surname Lundon since April 2017 as an expression of being identified with the city that shaped my worldview and my personality, drawing on the Anglo-Saxon city Lundenwic, now called Aldwych, rather than one or both of my parents’ families.)
- My pronouns are they/she
- I am transfeminine (female end of the gender spectrum) and nonbinary (neither entirely male nor entirely female)
PART FIVE: SOAPBOX BLUNDER IN THE PALACE
In November 2017 I was having a meeting in Kensington Palace with the other Heritage Lottery Fund Dust Kickers, putting down the initial plans for a heritage sector networking event designed to teach the sector about how to do worthwhile and effective youth stuff. We decided to go with the idea of a soapbox as our stage and that led to the event being laundry themed! “Airing heritage’s dirty laundry” was the phrase if my memory serves me right.
I suggested that if we had name badges, then we should have pronouns on them too. The following is a paraphrased piece of my internal monologue immediately following the suggestion.
“Fuck. Oh GOD that was bad what the FUCK am I going to do?”
I wasn’t out!!! There would be cameras there to capture a name badge with my deadname and the wrong pronouns on it and I’d spend the rest of my life terrified that someone might see any photos of me at an event I consider one of my proudest achievements! I spent a lot of time thinking about what I might do, and decided I had to come out earlier than I wanted to.
PART SIX: COMING OUT… AGAIN
I knew I couldn’t come out to everyone in person because that would result in huge travel costs and more emotional turmoil than I can cope with. I decided I’d have to come out to the people I see the most in person and then do the next best thing. On the 13th of May, a friend of mine came over as I needed her to force me to record a video I could use to almost simulate an in-person coming out.
After putting it off for quite a while, we recorded it. Later that day, I watched the video and almost cried. I was visibly petrified. All of my anxious tics came out, my eyes were darting all over the place and I was stumbling over my words constantly. I then thought… “Well, if I can’t do a video I’ll just have to do a text post. It’s not perfect but it’ll have to do because I need to be out in time for the soapbox event.”
On the 17th of March, after trying to build up the courage all day, I came out to my mum as she was about to go to bed. I had planned to do it that day so that the next day I could tell other family. She accepted it instantly, not a beat was missed. Step one complete.
On the 18th of March, I spoke to the family I see the most and had a similar reaction. Acceptance. Admittance that adjusting would be difficult, but acceptance nonetheless. I went home and checked a text post I’d drafted in the days leading up to it. I sent it to the Dust Kickers group chat and posted it on all of my social media. I was out, no going back now!
PART SEVEN: THE TEXT POST
One thing you might notice about it is its simplicity. Coming out is hard, but harder when most people don’t already understand how nonbinary genders work. I only included the neutral pronouns here because I was afraid of confusing anybody. I also said I fall near the middle of the gender spectrum, a sly way of saying I’m not agender.
I won’t use any names, but I know there are people who didn’t take me seriously because it was a Facebook post. To these people, I say that it was impossible for me to come out to you in person and I wish I could have. I would also like to ask that you ask me about it instead of pretending it didn’t happen, because every time someone does that it feels like a dagger plunged through my chest and trust me, I wish I was exaggerating. The very core of who I am is not something you can brush off, it’s not trivial and your avoidance of it hurts. I am open to questions, I always have been. Please talk to me, I don’t bite. Send me a message, ask to meet me for a chat. We don’t need to be close, I just want us to be on the same page.
PART EIGHT: THE LAST YAER
My life has been far better since coming out a year ago. I’ve met new people, had new experiences and been happier than I thought I ever could be. I’m thankful for everyone who’s been there for me on my journey, past and present. No matter how situations change, I know the things I’ve written here are things I’ll never forget and will treasure for the rest of my life.
Life only gets better.
“I’ve decided it’s better to live as my true self than pretend I am what I was led to think I should be. I am Floria, my pronouns are they/them and theirs [also she/her/hers] and I am transgender. All I ask is for this to be respected. Thank you.
– Final note on my coming out post, amended.
GLOSSARY OF RELEVENT TERMS:
GENDER: Gender develops at around age three and is largely rooted in brain development in utero and then how environmental factors influence that in early childhood.
SEX: The physical and genetic characteristics used to divide a species into male, female, intersex categories. These include chromosomes, gonads, levels of oestrogen and testosterone produced in the body and secondary sex characteristics like vocal range, distribution and thickness of body hair, breasts etc.
GENDER DYSPHORIA: The feeling of disconnect between one’s gender and the gender assigned to you by others. Often leads to serious emotional turmoil.
BODY DYSPHORIA: The feeling of disconnect between one’s physical sex and gender. Often leads to serious emotional turmoil. Often but not always treated by hormone replacement therapy and/or any number of gender-affirming surgeries.