* Any views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.
When I came out as trans I lost my home and parents - but my friends became my family
Robyn is a Young Ambassador for Albert Kennedy Trust, a LGBT+ youth charity, and a young trans woman from Birmingham, who had grown up in an abusive family before coming out as LGBT+. She did not want to disclose her surname.
I had quite a difficult upbringing in a strict, religious household, which wasn’t very welcoming to people who were different, whether that was in terms of their religion or sexuality.
I started to have thoughts that I couldn’t really make sense of when I was about 11 and by the time I was 17 or 18, I was sure that I was in the wrong body.
I remember thinking, “I really don’t feel comfortable in my own body. I don’t think I’m male, I really don’t think I’m a man.”
But growing up, I had to keep this to myself and it would be another few years until I was able to say or do anything.
In the meantime, it was killing me not to able to come out and says who I was.
When I was 19, I moved to Manchester to attend university to read media studies and started to meet new and different people. That’s where I started to feel that I could be different from what my upbringing had taught me.
And that was the point when I first felt able to tell someone my true gender identity. I told one of my closest friends, and she was brilliant about everything. It was the most perfect reaction I could have hoped for.
I remember, just before I told her, how terrified I was; I just felt like I’d be an outcast forever. And if this didn’t go well, I didn’t think I’d be able to tell anyone else.
I’d made the decision to come out as having this secret so personal to who I was, was really weighing on my mental health.
At one point, there were times in the middle of the night when I was living in a student house that I thought about sitting on the ledge of a very high building or about jumping into a canal.
I struggled at university due to my mental health and made the decision to drop out – but that meant I either had to move back home to Birmingham and risk being outed or become homeless.
That’s where the (LGBT+ youth charity) Albert Kennedy Trust (AKT) were able to help me. They were incredible, and I managed to move in briefly with a very lovely married gay couple for a couple of months.
Eventually, I managed to get my own flat, but my mental health was still bad and I ended up moving back in with my parents for the worst couple of months of my life.
But that breathing space did allow me to research how to transition – and talk to others like me online. That year, however, I suffered a huge mental health breakdown, which saw me attempt to kill myself because I was so scared of coming out as who I truly was.
So I mustered up the courage and sent a text to my family, explaining everything. And they cut me out of their lives, saying my “condition” was a sexual fetish or something bizarre that wasn’t real.
Every now and then I try to get back in touch, but the overwhelming sense at the time was one of relief. I already knew what their reaction would be, but now it was done, over with and I don’t have to hide any more.
This was about five years ago, and since then my life has improved immeasurably; I’ve made so many friends and have been welcomed into this community of people who are just like me.
I’ve since gained full-time employment at an energy company in Birmingham and also work as an ambassador for the AKT.
But I’ve learnt many lessons through my experience – not least that I wished I’d come out earlier to my family, moved out and just gone into a job without going to university.
My friends are my family now – and I am proof that even when you go through the hardest times in terms of your mental health, you can come out on top.