* Any views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.
I thought people would understand me being transgender and that waiting was the right thing to do, but looking back I wish I hadn’t.
Charlie Harris is a young trans man living in Wales. His Snapchat handle is @sadboi_theo.
I always knew I was a bit different from the other girls. I never felt quite like myself but couldn’t explain it. I just didn’t feel like I was really a woman. I struggled to do the things women would do, like shopping for bras and other personal items.
When I was 13, I had a crush on my best friend, so I questioned whether I was a lesbian, or maybe bisexual, or even pansexual. It was a confusing time for me – until I came across transgender people.
I couldn’t believe my luck – I knew that I was trans. But I was 14 or 15 at the time, still in school and around people who I thought wouldn’t understand. The reaction I had from my classmates when I thought I was pansexual was ignorant, so I couldn’t imagine what they’d think of me being trans. So I decided to wait and not say anything.
I lived my life for years as a woman. I put off telling people who I really was and how I wanted to live, through fear of judgement and a general lack of understanding about how to move forward with my transition.
After a relationship breakdown I moved to Wales to live with my mum and siblings. I came out to my mum and, to my relief, she was so happy. She said she always knew I was different but couldn’t put her finger on it.
We have a great relationship and she’s supportive, but living all together under one roof was so difficult. To make sure our relationship didn’t become damaged, we sought the help of homelessness charity, Llamau.
My support worker helped me move into my own home, providing the independence I needed. The charity also ran an LGBT+ peer support group, which I joined, along with another one. Both groups together helped me see that I didn’t need to hide who I am and it’s OK to be me. So I came out as trans – just before the coronavirus pandemic hit.
The pandemic has caused so many problems. It made finding an organisation to help with my transition hard. When I eventually found one and was given a support worker, they had to leave their post within a couple of months. I was told a new one would be allocated to me, but two months on I’m still waiting.
I’ve been told it’ll be about two and a half years before I can have an appointment with the Welsh Gender Service. I know from that point on there will still be many years ahead of me before I’ll be able to be me. Knowing I’ll likely be in my thirties before my transition is complete has had a huge impact on my mental health.
I’ve broken down many times, feeling like I’m getting nowhere and thinking that maybe I should give up and carry on living as a woman. Luckily, I have a very supportive boyfriend and family who are helping me stay on track and not give up.
Still, transitioning during the pandemic has been a real struggle. Making new friends has been almost impossible. Most days I don’t feel like I’m going anywhere, because it feels like I’m making no progress.
But the reality is that I am making progress every day – just slower than I’d like.
Being 22 and trans, my only regret is that I waited so long to do anything. If I’d done something when I first knew, then I’d be further into my journey now. My advice to anyone reading this would be don’t wait to be who you know you are. Start now.