As Pride month gets underway one of our colleagues share their story about the importance of Pride and the positive impact it had on them and their family.
My family have had more than their fair share of difficult times, but 2018 totally took any biscuit going.
To focus on my youngest, as they turned 13 in December, they had already been through a year of severe anxiety and depression, missing school, losing friends, pretty much staying in bed feeling ill the majority of the time, and this developed into self-harming and suicidal thoughts.
They were hanging around to see Christmas they told me, but I wasn't to expect them to be around much longer into the New Year. We had support from our doctors, from Child and Adolescent Mental Health (CAMHS) but it was bleak and it was difficult and it was truly, truly, scary.
And then in January, they found a way to tell us they are gender fluid, meaning sometimes they feel female, sometimes male, sometimes neither and sometimes both. Sometimes they feel like they can't be anything but the gender they were born as and other times things switch without warning and they suddenly feel male, hating their body, their hair, their chest, their hips and engulfed in depression.
In a way I wasn't totally surprised, I had wondered a couple of years previously if there might have been something related to gender going on for them. But it did mean a lot of other things suddenly made sense; why they hated their birth name, why some days were too much of a struggle to leave bed, why they feared we didn't love them as much as their sisters, why they thought we might have wanted another ‘easier’ child…
All myself and my husband could do was reassure them that we'd never loved them more, that we were proud of them and that they were still the same wonderful, funny, loving child we'd always seen them as.
Their sisters embraced and supported their sibling. We went out and purchased male clothes to help with the dysphoria, told other close friends and family and adopted they/them pronouns. Through their own internal strength, my child had gradually stopped self-harming and now we also saw the suicidal thoughts lessening as my child started re-emerging happier into the world as the person they are, not that they'd pretended to be. There were more positive days that gave us all something to hold on to.
Soon after we received word that my child had an opportunity to trial a fresh start at a new smaller school in the area. Having met the staff and had a tour, they were excited to attend, feeling more able to cope with the smaller classes and that this could help them back to education. They were open about being gender fluid and registered in a shorter, more gender neutral version of their birth name (though others are currently being test driven!), which was supported by the school. Despite battling tiredness and anxiety, things went well initially – they were loving learning again, making friends and getting positive referrals from teachers. We felt hopeful of the new positive start we all craved.
Then in week five there was an incident in their favourite class, where several boys were loudly and crudely discussing what genitals my child had. Then something similar in another class. They were upset and embarrassed but asked us not to report anything saying they would deal with this themselves.
Week six, they were about to enter the first class of the day when they were pulled aside and told by a classmate that someone had tracked down a social media account they had (one they used for fun videos they liked to make) and this link had then been circulated via Snapchat to around 100 other pupils, around half of which had been leaving comments.
Panicked and feeling ill, my child headed off to the medical room where they spent the next hour or so desperately deleting comments which ranged from the nicer fat and ugly ones, to attention seeking claims, to your gender is what's in your pants, to calling them a faggot and all the way to death threats.
They came home distraught and there were no more classes that week. They wondered if everyone within school and out actually felt that way about them. We spoke to the Police for some advice and it was recorded as a hate crime, but there was little more that could be done as my child didn't want to name names and the posts had been deleted in a haze of panic and upset.
We had always planned that week to go to Trans Pride Scotland on the Saturday in Dundee (Trans being the bracket that gender fluid falls under). Despite everything, they were still keen to go and they made a banner to take with them which read:
I exist. I am trans. I am proud.
On the day however, walking through shopping centres to the meet-up point for the march taking place through town centre, they were scared and anxious and the sign was hidden from view. We arrived early, and with only a few people milling around their anxiety upped and upped. We took a seat on a bench and the sign remained hidden.
But then more and more people arrived – people of all ages, all genders, all labels, wrapped up in flags and holding banners high. I watched my child visibly relax and saw the sign being slowly turned around to come more into view, gradually creeping higher and higher towards the sky and the emerging sunshine. People noticed and smiled, photographers came and asked to take pictures and my child obliged.
By the time we started to march through Dundee to the sound of the drummers, the sign was well and truly aloft. The vast majority of bystanders were smiling and taking pictures, and we all walked proudly to the university where amongst others, there were stalls and performance art and workshops. My child took it all in, seeing people similar to them who believed in their reality and supported them in their need to be themselves.
They mouthed to me "I am so happy" and there were tears for both of us (but good ones!). The events of the last week were not gone or forgotten by any means, but my child had had a vital injection of love and support that showed them that the whole world was not full of hate and ignorance and there could be a place for them to just be and feel safe.
We need events like Pride. We need them so others like my child can see they are not alone when they feel despised and desperate. That there are others like them too and that its worth them continuing to fight on for the right to be exactly who they are.
That there are so many, whether straight, gay or any other label you choose, willing to stand with them and provide love and support. That for all the transphobia and homophobia, hate will not win.
So in summary, I’m very grateful that the company has chosen to support Pride. I hope you will show your support too.
My child exists. They are trans. I am proud.