* Any views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Coming out as transgender was complicated, but on National Coming Out Day I am now empowered to take ownership of my story
Isaac S is a volunteer with Just Like Us, which sends LGBT+ ambassadors into schools in the UK to tell their stories
Some say that in an ideal world, no one would have to come out as LGBT+. There would be no assumptions, no preconceptions and ultimately no deterrent to living authentically. I agree on principle, but coming out in practice can be more complicated.
For many, it’s not an emotional release or a bold declaration of the self, but more so a practical measure taken based on necessity and even with considered strategy.
The first time I ever came out, I was 13 or 14 and I told some friends at a sleepover that I was gay. They thought I was joking for a second but, after a short silence, collectively agreed that it was no surprise. I didn’t speak about it much after that.
My sexuality genuinely didn’t feel like a pressing issue at the time. But there was something else I was yet to figure out.
The thing about being transgender that makes it different to any sexuality-related experience is that – contained within a long list of other things – coming out becomes necessary.
No one will know that I never want to be called ‘she’ again and never want to hear my old name again, unless I tell them that and give them a new name and set of pronouns to use instead.
So, I dropped a few casual coming outs to individual friends, almost entirely over text. Most were unsurprised and all were supportive. Are we sensing a theme here?
Coming out went sort of okay with my dad and really badly with my mum. She doesn’t speak to me anymore, but I still bring it up with my dad periodically. Several years on, neither of them call me Isaac or ‘he’.
I could spend a lot more time agonising over this, but my honest perspective is that I know that there is nothing wrong with being trans. Instead of exhausting my energy trying to prove this to people who don’t want to listen, I’ll focus on myself instead.
Because of my parents, I never properly came out at school. But, again, I think most had a clue. If not, they certainly do now. And those from school who did find out later have all been so fantastic about it.
Living in a world in which assumptions about my gender and sexuality are never made would be wonderful. But my reality is that in my early social transition at around fifteen, I needed every person I met to assume that I was male, otherwise I'd feel horrible about myself.
Truthfully, this partly came down to my own deep personal insecurity, rooted in the fear that I would never be comfortable or happy because I was trans. But I didn’t know that I’d make it to university, or immerse myself in a vibrant LGBT+ community and volunteer for some amazing charities.
For example, I’ve told my story to hundreds of school pupils in London, and in the process, I’ve found an incredible community of other young LGBT+ volunteers who share my values of openness, kindness, and respect.
It’s opportunities like these that have empowered me to take ownership of my story and come to terms with its most difficult elements. This has ultimately been the key factor for me in learning self-love and compassion.
So, if I could go back and say anything to a younger Isaac, I wouldn’t tell him to think or act any differently, because I understand how he felt.
I would just let him know that so many more people will one day understand too and those people will mean absolutely everything to him. All it takes is having the patience to find them.