“For me, transitioning was an act of self-love.”
BY JENNIFER HAKIM
22 February 2021
This is the second instalment of My Coming Out, a monthly interview series sharing the unique stories of people all over the world, who came out as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual or questioning.
Coming out stories are as diverse as people. This series may inspire you, make you laugh or even cry at times. They also offer guidance for effective allyship of the LGBTQIA+ community. We hope they help you and your loved ones. To share your own coming out story, please contact our editor here.
This month we chat with Felix, a 19-year-old transguy in the UK, who shared his transitioning journey with us.
The first thing we always ask, because everyone has a different way of ‘knowing’, is: When did you know?
Growing up in a small town had a lot of downsides. A lack of diversity throughout the community, support and equality. People were used to what it had always been like. No one understood “different” or knew anyone who was “different”. I knew I was in the wrong body from the moment I could think for myself. At such a young age, you can't understand much but I was sure about this. Something wasn't right, and it wasn't just about the clothes or the pronouns. It was more. It was my body.
When did you come out, and let people know you were transitioning?
I came out as transgender in early 2017. I was due to sit my GCSEs and had to start thinking about growing up and going to college. I knew I couldn't go on much longer as a female and something needed to be done. On my second session with a therapist, I came out as transgender. When I showed up at the session, I never planned to come out, but I had been battling with my gender dysphoria for so long and I had an opportunity to tell someone who was really going to listen to me and not judge me. It was the best decision I’ve ever made.
credit: Felix/Fleastein Instagram
Why did you make the decision to start your transition and tell people around you at that specific time in your life?
In June 2017, I had finished my exams and applied for college. I knew exactly what I wanted to do next and that was to be myself. So I got my first “guy” haircut and everyone who was there to witness it cried with happiness. It was a lot more emotional than expected! I wasn't on hormone blockers or Testosterone, but I knew my foot was in the door and it was just the beginning of my new life. After four sessions with my therapist, she referred me to a Gender Identity Clinic in Leeds. This meant I could take the next step in my transition. The wait was 9 months, which isn't long compared to the waiting times now - there is currently a wait of a minimum of 3 years!
Who did you tell first? How did you tell them?
The first person I told was myself. I had to come to terms with something that wasn't going to get any easier and that a lot of people were not going to like or agree with. Anything could have happened when I came out, and I had to be ready for it. Fortunately, I was blessed with an amazing, open-minded family, and each one in their own way accepted me for who I am.
The hardest person to tell was my girlfriend. We have been together since 18 December 2015! We both identified as lesbian at the time. So when I came to terms with being trans, my main fear was that she would leave me as she wasn’t attracted to men. I held it off for so long until she started picking up pieces (which I didn't leave for her to find intentionally.) For example, all my online game avatars were guys, any usernames I made never involved my former name and always had masculine undertones. Plus I was a very “masculine female”.
One night she was over at my house and saw my Xbox character was male, and so was the name. I saw she saw and went silent, and I knew what was coming next. She was gonna ask me the one thing I'd been avoiding: “Are you transgender?” I was quiet for a few seconds because I had no idea what to say. So I just cried and said yes. The best part of all of this is that in that same moment she came out as bisexual. All the stress and worries about her leaving me had been lifted off my shoulders. She has stuck with me through absolutely everything and been one of my biggest supporters. We’re still going strong now!
How did people react when you told them? Have you felt accepted and understood, and how is it now?
I didn't really know how my family and friends would respond. Before I transitioned I was presenting as a gay female which everyone was okay with, but I knew coming out as transgender would be a whole new thing, and sexuality and gender are two completely different things. I knew my mum especially would support me 100%, and she has done exactly that. Buying me my first “guy clothes'', getting me to my appointments in Leeds, and helping me emotionally. I’m not too sure where I’d be without her! Now, my dad, he was old fashioned. I rang him drunk at a highschool party and just told him and he didn't understand, he didn't sound mad or upset, just confused. He really made an effort to use the correct name and pronouns and I have always appreciated that. He even called me son a few times. Unfortunately, he passed away in early 2017 and I lost the father figure that I needed more than ever. No one to show me how to be a good man, fix a car, have a beer with, or any of those fun stereotypical male things that I wanted to do with him. It was a very difficult time as you can imagine, for myself and my family. Feeling accepted and having that support bubble around me was something I needed early on in my transition, as not only was it nice for my family to love and accept me, but it gave me the confidence to go out as Felix, especially as I probably didn't pass as male (or I felt I didn't pass as male) due to not being on hormones - and being in public or with strangers was always quite awkward or scary because I didn't know how they would identify me.
What were your fears or concerns before you told them?
I knew that my family would be okay with it but I also knew they may not understand it. I needed to have a lot of patience because it was also a big change for them.
When did you officially start your transition? What was the first step for you?
I started my medical transition in late 2018. I started hormone blockers, which you have to be on for a year before taking testosterone. Put simply, the blockers stop the signal in your brain that tells your body to produce hormones. Being without hormones was a very intense and difficult experience. Dealing with the heavy mood swings, and the intense hot flushes, and everything else that came with it, was not an easy ride but I knew the outcome was 100% worth it. On 22 November 2019, I started testosterone. I had so many complications and setbacks and I thought it would genuinely never happen. One night, my mum had my two sisters on facetime and there was a note on the side left for me. The letter wrote: “As a family we received this news” and it was something I'll never forget. My mum had surprised me with this and I was getting testosterone the next day! I didn't sleep that night from excitement and also because of how emotional I was. I've been on hormones for one year and two months, as of January 2021. I have experienced many drastic changes, not only physically but mentally. I’m more confident, happier within my body, more comfortable talking to people. I could go on forever.
For those that need motivation:
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What were your fears or concerns before starting your transition?
Something we all say about the things we want is “I'll never do it” or “it’ll never happen”, and that's what I thought about coming out and starting a medical transition. I felt like it would never happen right up until the day it did. It almost didn't feel real at first, and it didn’t sink in straight away. When the effects of testosterone started to take place that's when I could believe that I was transitioning and that I was heading in the right direction. I was scared because I didn't know what my future would hold. Was I going to be a female or a male in the next five years? Would have I come out by then? Uncertainty scared me, but I knew what I wanted. I just needed someone to guide me and help me get my foot in the door, which my therapist and family helped me pursue.
How is your transition going? How do you feel physically and mentally?
My transition has been a rocky road. There were a lot of setbacks and complications due to blood tests, physical examinations, and waiting times that are necessary for the road ahead. I really thought I’d never start any sort of medical transition. I almost gave up hope. But I'm here today, and my journey isn't over yet. This gives me the motivation to carry on and get to where I want to be, as I now know that it is possible. I've seen others do it, and now I’ve done it myself. It is possible, but patience is one of the biggest things that you have to learn with this kind of process. It may take you two months or two years, but when you get that first injection, everything changes for the better. Being trans isn't something I think about on a day-to-day basis, sometimes I even forget. I never wanted my personality to be about me being trans, or when people thought of me that they remembered me as that transguy. I only ever think about being trans if someone brings it up, or I'm at an appointment. I am very much Felix, and I've learnt that not everyone is going to agree with the things you do and say, so take everything on the chin and do what feels right to you!
As all transitions are different, how does transitioning look like for you? What steps are you taking in your transition?
Transitioning for me is changing myself into what it should have originally been: a male’s body. The steps I took in short were therapy, a referral to a gender clinic, going to the gender clinic, blockers, and testosterone. For surgeries, I’m hoping to go private - I've saved £1000 so far, and it will likely cost me around £5000-£7000, depending on which surgeon I go to.
What does the end goal look like for you?
I hope to have fully transitioned by the time I’m 30 so that I can live the rest of my life in the right body. It's one more thing to tick off the checklist, and a massive weight off my shoulders. All trans people's ideas of fully transitioning are different. For me personally, it would be being on testosterone long enough that I don't need it anymore, top surgery and bottom surgery, which also requires a hysterectomy. But it sounds easier said than done. Overall, it would cost me around £100K or more. This depends on the surgeons and the location.
Do you have some sort of timeline in your head, whether set by your doctor or yourself, or are you going with the flow?
I think a lot of people wish they could, as most of us would just transition right away! But it involves therapy, time and money. It's a whirlwind. In my case, I had to go with the flow. I couldn't just pay for T or surgeries, and get them within a few months. I waited 9 months for my first appointment at the GIC in Leeds. Then I waited 6 or 7 months to start hormone blockers, which I was on for a year and a month before I started testosterone. On the other hand, I think having to be patient with the process is a good thing, because it's a lot of emotional distress to deal with all at once, and it gave me the opportunity to think about what I really wanted and how I felt.
Did you prepare in any way (research, counselling, or anything else) before you started your transition, and if you did, how did you do it?
I’d been looking into transitioning since around the age of twelve, and could access the internet. Being able to listen and watch other people who felt the same and were sharing their journeys helped me a lot mentally, but also helped prepare me for what I was going to experience, within the clinic and medically transitioning.
Is your transition going the way you imagined it would, or are you experiencing setbacks?
Things are casual at the moment, as I’m just taking testosterone every month and a hormone blocker every 3 months, which I’m soon to come off. I have been referred to an adult clinic in Leeds but the waiting lists are much longer, which I don't mind as long as I can keep having my injections.
Are you documenting your transition in any way, whether just for yourself or others?
In May 2019, I started an Instagram called “Fleastein”. I used the platform to document my transition and my emotions. Since 2019, it has grown a following of over 5000 people, which I did not expect! I met so many new people, and people in the same situation as me, and I turned my Instagram into a safe space where I could chat with other trans people, offer them advice and support, and motivate them to do the things they want in life, showing them they’re not alone.
How does social media impact your transitioning experience?
It opens a community and a lot of support, which is perfect for when you're dealing with something that makes you feel so alone. I learnt about what being transgender was from YouTube after it appeared on my suggestions page. When I saw it, I just felt instantly connected, and that I had finally found someone feeling the same way I do.
How is your experience with the health system here, and how is your relationship with your doctor?
The UK health system (NHS) has been one of the main reasons I could transition. If they didn't provide free healthcare and provide gender clinics, hormones and surgeries, I don’t think a lot of trans people would be able to transition. Going private can be very expensive, but it is the faster option. Unfortunately, not many people get the privilege of doing so. Considering the circumstances with the NHS during the Covid-19 pandemic, they are doing an amazing job at dealing with all the other parts of their services. I also appreciate the relationship I have with my nurse as she is very open-minded, and we always have a good chat!
Were you part of the LGBTQIA+ community before your transition, and do you feel part of it now?
I was pretty involved in the LGBT community when I identified as a gay female. I went to pride parades and support groups, but when I transitioned to male, being male felt so natural to me I don’t realise I’m trans most of the time. I’m just a guy who’s trying to get on with life and be happy like everyone else. I am stealth (not out as transgender) at work and most new places I encounter, and I like it that way because I’m just a normal guy. I don't want special treatment or anything like that. So I would say no, I don't feel part of the community, but that is through choice. Personally, I just want to fully transition and then never have to think about it again. I also think it's very brave of those people who do wear their gender identity like a badge, and show others that it's possible and you're not alone, because this community needs that.
What are you the most grateful for, now that your transition is underway?
I am grateful for absolutely everything I have experienced, encountered, felt, seen, heard. It has made me who I am today. For my therapist, my mum, my family, my girlfriend, the stranger who refused to call me Felix, the people that laughed at me, bullied me and made me feel small. I wouldn’t have the courage to stand up for myself, love myself, do what was right for me, and most importantly - be alive.
What would you tell your younger self, before you made the decision to transition? Is there anything you wish you had known?
Honestly, I'd say - life is always going to throw obstacles at you, even when things are going good. Don't get ahead of yourself and take things step by step. Always take care of your mental health, and learn to manage it, as those bad days will not be as bad and you’ll feel more positive about dealing with your demons. It isn't something to be ashamed of, or hide, because you’re not alone. It's less lonely than you realise, even if the only person you have is yourself.
What advice would you give people going through this, whether they are scared of telling people and starting the process, going through this alone, or unsure of how to do it?
Come to terms with your reality. What do you want in life? Who are the people closest to you? Anything is possible. Realise that not everyone you meet or know will be okay with who you are or what you're doing, but it's your life. Don't spend time on people that wouldn’t give you a second of theirs. Focus on working hard and being happy. Surround yourself with good people, and things will start to change for the better.
How do you practice self love and self care? Do you think transitioning, or making the decision to transition, is an act of self love?
When the dysphoria hits, there are two things you can do - accept it or avoid it. I listened to what my mind and body had to tell me. and I tried to understand myself more. Where things could be fixed, where things couldn't be fixed. It gave me a clearer idea of what I would be capable of doing in order to change my life for the better, or fix something about myself that made me dysphoric. I realised that some things can't be changed and some things can be. So, I focused on what I could change. Before transitioning, I hated myself completely. I couldn't name one thing I liked about myself. Because everything I was portraying was an act or a lie. I tried to fit in, be someone I wasn't, and that would make anyone unhappy.
For me, transitioning was an act of self-love, because it was what it took to improve my mental health and overall life.
What are your hopes for the future, or projects that are meaningful to you?
Besides being fully transitioned by the time I'm 30 so I can move on in life, I have a few things I want to do, like start my own business. I'm currently in the process of learning & designing.
What do you wish people knew about transitioning?
That not one experience is the same. You will hit barriers where you feel like giving up because it has become too much or too much keeps going wrong. But there is no feeling like going through all that struggle and still making it out on the other side, or even half way through. No matter how far you are in your transition right now, keep pushing boundaries, loving and learning about yourself, and if you want something in life, go get it! There is always a way, even if you can't see that right this second. I overcame so many barriers during the process of starting hormones. Blood test issues, travel issues, paperwork problems. Every time I got close to starting T, something would set me back. But once I got that first testosterone injection, everything changed and I knew what I wanted to do was possible, and I just needed to stay patient and trust the process.
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