ShoutOut to my teenage self is a series of letters from inspiring figures in the LGBT community and allies to themselves as teenagers. Our first contributor is Aoife Martin.
Aoife is an IT professional and outspoken advocate for trans rights. She trended on Twitter once and has been dining off the glory of that ever since. In her spare time Aoife enjoys wrestling her unwieldy book collection into shape and having opinions on film. She can be found babbling away on Twitter where her handle is @aoifemrtn.
Is it okay if I call you Aoife? I know that's not your name at the moment and you haven't even thought of it as a name, but maybe when you read this letter you'll consider it. I think of you often, you know. Especially during those troubled years - the dreaded teenage years, as mam liked to call them. They're never much fun, are they? I probably shouldn't tell you then that you're going to have to do it all over again - only this time instead of testosterone coursing its way through your body it's going to be oestrogen. Maybe that makes it easier. It's not everyone who gets a second chance at puberty but at least this time it'll be the correct hormones.
I know it’s not easy being at an all-boys’ school and having to wear those bland scratchy grey trousers and bland woollen grey jumper that makes sure you’re not seen as an individual. Nor is it easy for you to fit in. You don’t want people to realise. You make jokes and you laugh so that people don’t realise. You act the eejit so that people don’t realise. You talk the talk so that people don’t realise. Your body is changing but not in the way that it should but you don’t want people to realise.
If I tell you that you’ll get past this will it make it easier? If I tell you that one day you won’t have to sneak around stealing chances where you can to try on a skirt or a dress or some makeup will you believe me? That one day you’ll be out and proud of who you are and not embarrassed or ashamed to be you? That you’ll be able to go out in broad daylight and not be terrified that people are laughing at you or worse? That you’ll have friends who will accept that you are a woman and treat you as such? Or that one day, you will refer to yourself as trans woman and be proud of that fact? What? Sorry, yes, trans woman. That’s a word you won’t have heard yet. It’s a nice word. Much nicer than transvestite or transsexual, those clinical words that do their very best to obscure the person underneath. We are so much more than our labels, aren’t we?
If I could tell you two things, other than buy shares in Apple, is first of all that it’s okay to be transgender. That’s important and worth repeating. It’s okay to be transgender. I know you might think you’re the only person who feels this but you’re not. How do I know? Wait until you discover the internet, Kiddo. The internet? It’s too hard to explain but it will open your world. You’ll meet people who love you and accept you for who you are and you’ll have a grand old time.
The second thing I’d say to you, and I hope I’m not going all preachy on you here, is talk to people. People who love you. People you can trust. I know it’s not easy because what you’re hiding inside feels so shameful and embarrassing but it’s not. I repeat again: it’s okay to be transgender. Trans people are awesome. How do I know? Because I’m one, you’re one and you, Aoife (I really like that name you know), are amazing. You belong to a unique group of pioneering people who have been around since time immemorial and who challenge the status quo. That makes people uneasy. People don’t like to be challenged. But this is your life, not theirs. They can’t tell you to be someone who you’re not. Be you. Be strong. Be awesome.
I won’t lie and tell you that it’s going to be easy. It’s a bumpy road ahead and you’ll take many wrong turns, but that’s life isn’t it? In that respect you’re no different to anyone else. We all make mistakes and sometimes we even learn from those mistakes. But remember this, it’s those mistakes that make us who we are. Try not to beat yourself up over the ifs and the buts and the what-could-have-beens. Someone wiser than me once said that which does not kill us makes us stronger. And it’s true.
You have a long and difficult journey ahead but you will get there. How do I know? Because I did. We did.
PS It’s okay to be transgender.