My name is Leo Telford and I’m a 16 year old trans guy. I recently featured on the GenderGP podcast as part of the Trans Youth Special which is all about young trans people and our experiences in life.
I’ve been asked by the wonderful team at GenderGP to write a short update every month about my life and thoughts on some of the issues affecting the trans community, from my perspective. Things that I’ve been thinking about that would be interesting to discuss.
March 2021: TDOV 2021
Transgender Day of Visibility is a monumental day for trans people all around the world. First celebrated globally in 2009, the day allows the opportunity for people to openly express their identities and pride together.
Though I see my identity as a private matter, I still believe the existence of the day is a benchmark for the progression of trans rights and visibility. It is incredibly important for those yet to come out, or find themselves – as well as serving as a reminder to those who have done so, how far they have come, giving them a moment to reflect on their previous struggles and progress.
The annual event also means that cisgender and non LGBTQ people can recognise the challenges and the struggles facing the transgender community – and how to be a good ally.
Though we have come far as a community we must continue to strive for more. The development of our rights, visibility and education are an excellent starting point. Let’s use this TDOV as the perfect excuse to remind ourselves, just how amazing we are.
February 2021: A sense of optimism
Spring is my favourite time of the year, not just because the sun is out and it’s no longer freezing outside, but because the transition into spring is so enthralling. It isn’t just going from cold to hot, there are notable changes everywhere that will begin to emerge over the coming weeks as the planet lets us know spring is coming.
As a child I used to go for walks with my mum and grandma when it was sunny, often by the river, and when I found flower buds and trees blossoming I would call them ‘signs of spring.’
This spring more than ever I’m seeing those signs more clearly. Last year was shrouded in disarray and fear. We were trapped indoors for majority of the spring months but maybe, thanks to the vaccine, this spring will be altogether more positive.
I am looking forward to a return to normality so we can start to resume our day to day activities and we can all come out of hiding. By summer, (hopefully!) normality will be completely restored and our lives will be our own again.
When I go for walks and bike rides these next few weeks, I’ll be looking for signs of spring to get me through the final push of lockdown.
January 2021: Lockdown whirlwind
The past month has been a bit of a whirlwind of lockdown, good news and bad news. For me, this lockdown has meant my college education becoming remote. I know I, along with many other kids my age, find this pretty difficult. Being a year 12 means starting three new courses, to then have to learn half of it by yourself is not what I was expecting. What I’m remembering to help get me through these uncertain and troubling times is that the end is in sight.
Everyone is struggling in some way or has been affected somehow by the events of the past year. While this has been incredibly tough it also brings a sense of solidarity, something I see evidence of now more than ever.
Unfortunately, the recent court ruling regarding the Tavistock & Portman clinic has affected thousands of young trans people all over the UK. It not only means that the journey of thousands on the waiting list has been postponed, but that those about to start treatment and those undergoing treatment no longer have access to the care they need. Without getting too passionate on that matter, I feel incredibly sorry for those affected and wholeheartedly hope the appeal put in place by Tavistock reverses the ruling.
For the upcoming months I’m choosing to be unbearably positive in the face of everything, for not just my sanity but because I believe things will and are improving.
December 2020: Leo My Christmas wish for the trans community
Seasonal holidays, though they are a time for relaxation and fun with family and friends, aren’t always the easiest time of year for some people. Especially with the new COVID regulations, and some areas being in Tier 4. Christmas this year could end up being quite lonely and isolating, which many will struggle with.
My wish for the trans community at this time is that we can begin to focus more on self-appreciation and improvement. Of course, there are things we may desire that are currently out of our reach; but that shouldn’t mean we give up on loving ourselves and finding things, small or not, to be proud of. I hope that as time goes on, we can progress in our endeavours towards greater visibility, education and personal development.
I wish everyone a very merry Christmas and an even better new year!
November 2020: Exciting news!
This month I wanted to discuss a huge piece of news in my life and transition. Very recently I spoke with a surgeon about my desire to have what’s usually referred to as ‘top surgery’ in the trans community. For those that don’t know about the procedure – top surgery is a surgery that involves the removal of breast tissue and reconstruction of a female chest to make it more masculine. It is a very common operation for trans guys and usually happens as the next step after starting hormones in an FTM transition.
I’ve known I wanted to have top surgery from before I knew it existed but seeing as I came out rather young, it’s always been a prospect that has been very far away for me, for a very long time. In the weeks and days before my consultation I felt excited but also nervous, which is something I did not expect to feel. I believe the reason I felt like this was because I knew it meant I would actually be having my surgery soon. This idea felt slightly alien to me as it had always seemed so far away it felt as if it would never happen.
When I spoke to the doctor, over a Skype call with my mum, and after we had discussed all the details of the operation, recovery and possibilities, he presented me with the option to set a date. I was ecstatic and so taken aback as I had no idea I would leave the meeting knowing my surgery date. My answer of course was a rather enthusiastic “yes!”. The date we have set is August 3rd, 2021.
When he first told me, to my surprise, my initial feeling was disappointment. I’d always imagined that when I finally got my top surgery date, the only thing I would feel is excitement and contentment, but that wasn’t my immediate reaction.
I felt disappointed because that date still felt so far away. As a time period, it is nothing compared to the years I’ve been waiting for it, but part of me just felt let down because it was still months and months of waiting.
After expressing this to my mum and talking it through I realised; yes I had to wait a little longer, but then it would be over. Just a few more months and that will be it. I will have actually had top surgery, and that will be amazing.
Having gotten over the initial shock, now all I feel is excitement. There was a time in my life when these changes felt like they would never happen or even be possible – and now not only are they possible but I have a date to work towards.
To any young trans people reading this, know that, although it sounds cliche, things will get better. You will not always be in the position you’re in now and you will not always be waiting. Whatever you’re going through now is temporary.
October 2020: Trans and proud
Since before I came out as trans, things were hard. Before I knew how to put it into words, I had a feeling there was going to be something in my life I would struggle with. My childhood was confusing and frustrating, both before and after I knew how I felt about my gender.
Trans people face difficulties in many aspects of life, from school and work to dating. Being trans can even affect our relationships with those closest to us.
What is easy to forget is how amazing it is. The trans people I know are among the strongest, most resilient humans I know.
Though we have struggles and have to deal with ignorance on a regular basis, there are so many reasons I am proud to be trans.
Among these things is the incredible resilience we – and our LGBQ+ family – have built up by having to fight to get us to where we are today. In no way are we where we should be, in terms of protective legislation, equality and not being the odd ones out in society, but we have come so far.
People often ask me, if I had the choice, would I choose to be cisgender? My answer has always been no. I know for a fact that if I was not transgender I would not be the same person. The things I’ve experienced, the things I have had to go through because I’m trans have moulded me into the person I am today and I could not be more proud.
So my message this month is short and sweet: be proud of who you are.
September 2020: Sex Education
Sex education is something everyone finds a bit awkward at school. There’s always a lot of giggles in classroom when the words are even mentioned; which is to be expected I guess when sex itself is generally thought of as a bit of a taboo topic, especially if it’s your teacher talking about it! What is even more awkward – the ultimate taboo – is when people talk about is sex that isn’t between a cis man and woman.
In my experience, schools cover different sex and relationship related topics in different years. Usually, and this is the case in most schools it seems, the actual ‘sex’ part isn’t covered until students enter year 11; when they reach the age of consent.
This assumes that students aren’t sexually active prior to turning 16, when of course many of them are. So you end up in a situation where teenagers aren’t taught how to practice safe sex prior to any sexual experiences, leaving them unsure and more likely to put themselves in risky situations.
I feel this is a complete failure which leaves kids vulnerable and uneducated, often having to learn about sex from unreliable/undesirable sources on the internet – and this is especially true for the non straight or non-cis kids.
In schools across the UK, and many more across the globe, we are taught how a cis man a woman have sex, about their body parts, reproductive organs, and about things like pregnancy and how to prevent it, as well as stopping the spread of STIs. That is the extent of ‘sex education.’
The reality is that these days, when it comes to sex, no real rules apply. Sex doesn’t have to be a certain way for anyone. Despite everyone being brought up with a certain ideals about sex: how it should be performed, how people should act about it and who it should be between.
Sex education must be more inclusive about many things like gay sex, but also about how exploration is okay and feeling safe and informed in a sexual scenario is vital. It should always be said that as long as the participants are consenting, sex can be whatever people want.
There are many charities and organisations that offer resource packs and lesson plans for schools about inclusive sex education and advice on how to not make queer students feel uncomfortable in such important conversations and these must be utilised.
August 2020: Leo
In this month’s edition, I’ve chosen to write about something more personal; in the hope that readers of this newsletter can get to know me a little better, and because it may be something people can relate to.
This month, I reached an immensely exciting milestone in my transition and life – one year on testosterone. I started HRT (hormone replacement therapy) just before my 16th birthday last year and it came after a long, long wait.
During that period of waiting, there were times I felt I couldn’t wait any longer, times when I felt the thing I was waiting for might never come. Days and weeks and months which passed so slowly. Until finally the wait was over.
When I first started testosterone I would check every day for new hairs sprouting on my legs, darker, spiky additions to my face. I would convince myself that my voice had definitely gotten lower since yesterday, because it was all so new and exciting for me. As time went on, I learned to relax a little, to stop counting the days and weeks, as I did so, I soon learned that when something did occur or change, it was even more exciting.
This is how I felt hitting one year on T. Even though I knew the day was coming, it felt so surreal. I celebrated with my family. My girlfriend came over for dinner and they congratulated me and told me how happy they were for me; all the while I could hardly believe it was happening. I was so happy yet in a state of, I suppose – shock. I say this because there was a time in my life when I was doubtful I would ever reach this day and although it sounds odd, that made it all the more special.
If someone is reading this now who is waiting for something to happen, I want to remind you: whatever it is you are waiting for, you will get there. Even though it feels so far in the future. This specific period of your life will pass, so try to use it as a time to focus on what you are going to achieve and allow yourself to get excited.
I’m not suggesting counting down the days like you would before a birthday or Christmas – as I assume that would create quite the opposite effect to the one I’m trying to inspire – but remind yourself every day you’re one step closer. Be happy you’re not in the place you were a year or a month or even a day ago. Time only ever moves forward.
Thank you for taking the time to read this today. I’m excited to carry on writing these brief – but hopefully not boring – installations in these newsletters and I hope it was interesting and at least a tad helpful.