Yesterday, I spent the evening with a young trans woman who joined our family for some food, wine and chat. I have worked exclusively with trans people since 2015 and I never cease to be inspired and humbled by the stories I hear and the journeys that I am invited to join.
This trans woman did not have a long or relentless history of gender dysphoria, and she hadn’t waited for years to transition. But at the age of 37 something clicked into place and she realised that she needed to live her life authentically.
She showed me photos of her a few years ago. She was then sporting an impressive, thick wiry beard, and bushy eyebrows. But when I looked at the woman sitting beside me, I saw soft fine skin and prettily shaped brows, with highlighted cheek bones and manicured fingernails. I had no doubt that she was a woman.
When she presented male to the world she had married twice, had had a varied career in journalism, video game design and social media, seemingly fitting every expectation of a male role. Yet, despite her success, she knew that she should live her life as a woman. Now, looking back, she has never been happier.
She told me how she left her very successful YouTube channel because, to her, her voice let her down. She shared with me how her family had reacted to her different identity. How she enjoys shopping for dresses with her mother, how her grandmother with early dementia did not raise an eyebrow, how her younger brother enjoys his older sister.
I watched the dynamics in my dining room as we drank wine, ate Christmas food, laughed at jokes and played games. My 20 year old son related to her with ease, he had not initially known that her gender was anything other than female, and he joked and laughed with her as he would with any other young woman. When she started sharing stories of her transition, he got an insight into his mother’s work in real time.
She told me how her sexuality has changed and she wonders whether she will ever be able to find a man to share her life with. I know what an amazing wife she has the potential to be – funny, caring, interesting – but I know she still has one potential disadvantage, something that might put men off. That breaks my heart.
This afternoon and evening spent in the company of this young lady, her openness and generosity in sharing her experiences once again brought home the privilege I feel to be involved with the trans community.
No two humans are the same, our gender identity, our sexuality, the colour of our skin. We have different personalities, experiences, assets and skills. We all wear our identity differently, and that is what makes us so uniquely human.
My Christmas message to those who judge those whose gender does not match the one they were assigned at birth is simple: Open your eyes, reach out and listen and learn. To shun or hurt this community of people who have already been dealt a challenging hand, does nothing but cause further pain. Embracing them on the other hand is incredibly enriching.
My Christmas message to anyone who is questioning their gender is: Listen to your heart, look in the mirror and see past the person staring back, past the version of you that you present to the world to the true you. Whoever that is, is OK.
My Christmas message to anyone who has the honour to be in a role that cares for, or enables people to live their life more happily by embracing their gender is simply: believe and support them. Use your position of power, knowledge or expertise to assist them, and learn all you can from them, so you can go on to understand more about the deep diversity of humans.
So, I raise my morning cup of tea to the lovely young woman who shared our family home last night, and I wish her a very Merry Christmas.