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In the second episode of our Young Voices podcast special, Leo shares his experiences of coming out age 11, how his family responded to the news and his experience of accessing care via the Tavistock. As he approaches his 17th birthday, Leo chats to Dr Helen and Marianne about the challenges he has faced and his excitement about the next phase of his journey.

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The GenderGP Podcast

Young Voices: Being a trans youth

 

Hello, this is Dr Helen Webberley. Welcome to our GenderGP Podcast, where we will be discussing some of the issues affecting the trans and non-binary community in the world today, together with my co-host Marianne Oakes, a trans woman herself, and our head of therapy.

 

Dr Helen Webberley:
Hey, hi everybody. I’ve got another exciting young guest with us today. I’m with Marianne as usual, and I’m also with a young man called Leo who’s very kindly agreed to come on and talk to us and tell us all about himself and life, the universe, and everything else. But pre-warning, we’re not going to talk about geography because Leo and I have both admitted that that is not our strong point. So anyway, Leo, lovely, lovely, lovely to meet you and lovely to have you here today. I’m just going to do a really awful grown-up thing and say, Leo, tell us all about yourself, tell us anything you want us to know. And just go for it.

Leo:
So, my name is Leo. I’m 16, I live in Bedford, I came out as trans when I was about 11. So I’ve been living as myself for quite a while now, about five years, which is exciting. And I’m coming up to a year on testosterone, which is very cool. Those are the basics.

Dr Helen Webberley:
Your life, your life milestones, aren’t they?

Leo:
Yeah. Pretty much.

Marianne Oakes:
I’m loving the pondering because it just, to me, it’s like you ask any 16-year-old, say about, tell you about themselves and nothing seems remarkable, does it?

Leo:
It’s quite hard. I was just trying to think of what is most important to me right now. And those are the things, really.

Marianne Oakes:
What, if you don’t mind, tell us a little bit about what kinds of things you like, what hobbies, if any?

Leo:
Well, I’m really into fitness, so I work out. Now it’s less so, now the gyms are closed, but again, a normal scene. So yeah, I work out quite a lot of biking, so my friends like to bike on a regular basis. Quite a lot of music, the acting, I like dancing, I like all the things, I should have mentioned that.

Dr Helen Webberley:
So, you say you came out at 11. What are you able to remember that? Tell us what that was like for you. What does that mean for you and your family and those around you? What, what happened?

Leo:
Yeah, I remember very well. At that time, it was near my 12th birthday, but it was a few months off. And I, I remember ever since I was young, I was what people would call a tomboy, I suppose. So as soon as I could, as soon as my parents started letting me pick my clothes, that’d be boys, things made for boys. Uh yeah, I was just tomboy. It was sort of an inside joke, my family. And as the older I got, and actually around the time I started puberty, I realized that it wasn’t just that, there was something more to it. And obviously, I was quite young and things like this no one ever spoken about. So first of all, I thought is it my sexuality and I’m like gay or something like that? And I wish I remembered how, but I came across the word transgender and people always ask me how and it’s quite, and I don’t remember, well, I just remember hearing it and knowing that it fitted. And I did some research, and I found some people online, some of which I still know to this day. And after a while, I just knew that if I was ever going to be able to grow up and come across people how I want it to come across, and be able to be a boy and a man I knew, I would have to tell my parents. And it took quite a few attempts because I feel like the first time transgender issues were ever discussed in the media was around the time Kaitlynn Jenner came out. So my parents, even though knew what the word meant, so it took me three or four times of trying to explain to them how I felt for them to even really realize it was serious. But yeah, it took my family a lot of getting used to like a good year or so. Year, two years.

Dr Helen Webberley:
Wow. That’s amazing. And so you said a couple of things there, and if I didn’t know what I knew now, and you know, if I was to rewind, say, 10 years when I didn’t know as much about transgender people as I do now, I would say things like, well, what’s the difference between being a tomboy or being transgender. And what’s the difference between being just gay or being transgender?

Leo:
Yeah. Well, for me, people always describe me as a tomboy because people knew me as a girl, but I presented as and came across like a boy, which was because that’s what I am, and the difference between sexuality and gender is something I actually didn’t come to terms with until I was a bit older until after I came out. And when I first came out, I knew that I was attracted to females and males. I didn’t think that I could be, I didn’t think I could be trans and bi, I didn’t know how that’s how things worked. But the difference is in who you’re attracted to. And the people you want to be with. Your gender is how you feel. I’m surprised it took me so long to realize goodness, but these things just weren’t discussed when I was younger. So how was I supposed to know about it? That’s the difference. That gender is who you are.

Dr Helen Webberley:
Thank you.

Marianne Oakes:
I was just going to ask you there, when you look now on your life before you realized transgender was even a thing, do you see that there was gender incongruence, at least, or gender dysphoria present in your life?

Leo:
Yeah, definitely. Because even the simplest things, like I felt more of myself when I was there, I was hanging out my male friends, and I felt most comfortable when I was dressing as a male and people—I had short hair, my parents let me cut my hair quite short from when I was about nine. But even given as a kid when I had longer hair, people would probably always mistake me for a boy. And these made me so happy, and my parents would go, “Oh, no, no, no, you’re wrong”. But these would be like, made my day when it’s all happened. And then it was when I hit puberty that the real physical dysphoria started affecting me. And I didn’t know where it was really. I didn’t know where it wasn’t until—I suppose it took me quite a while to find things out because there’s just nothing out there. So I had to find the online presence of trans people and trans males to understand what this feeling was and why I felt so uncomfortable in the body I was in.

Marianne Oakes:
You were quite young for research in that as well, weren’t you? If you look in a broader sense, cause I’ve searched in transgender and I know I can be uncomfortable with some of the things I find.

Leo:
Yeah.

Marianne Oakes:
How was it for you?

Leo:
It was okay. I think, luckily enough, to be honest, I’m not sure how I came across all the stuff I did, but I know that there are YouTube channels or Instagram profiles that I’ve found and seen how people identify identifying that say they’re a trans man. And then when I look into their transition and how they feel, and I thought that’s what I am. And I’m just glad people, some people are so open about it because otherwise, I wouldn’t have been able to understand myself until I got to a much later date when I started to kind of go to the Tavistock and whatnot. But yeah, luckily I didn’t come across anything that scared me too much as a child.

Dr Helen Webberley:
And some people, again, I’m going to, I’m just going to kind of put that aside. And some people say that by doing that research, it makes you think that you’re trans instead of being a tomboy. So what would you say to people who, who would say things like, well, think, well, one of the things like that?

Leo:
I’d say that it’s the same goes on when people (unclear 8:27) confusing them. It’s just ridiculous because I know I’m transgender because that’s how I feel. And dysphoria is a feeling which describes the immense discomfort someone feels with the point they’ll willing to—if someone’s a tomboy, obviously in most cases, it just means that they just prefer dressing a certain way or just little things like that or play with different toys. And it’s usually always attached to children, and there are some people grow out of, but those people, if they are just a tomboy, don’t have gender dysphoria that out that, that feeling of, I want to become more, I feel as if I am the opposite, the opposite sex. So there is an immense difference.

Dr Helen Webberley:
Yeah. Thank you. So good at explaining it. Thanks.

Leo:
Glad to do it.

Dr Helen Webberley:
Um, so you said that your family found it difficult. Are you able to tell us a little bit about that?

Leo:
Yeah, so well with my dad—I’ve two older half-brothers, so he has two male children with a different woman. And then he has me and my little brother. So I, when I was born, he’s said, and I know that it was the happiest day of his life. So I know that it really hit him hard when I came out as trans. And he’s typically not a man who likes to talk about his feelings or really express them in any way, shape, or form. So it was basically with my dad the first year, or so after I came now, it was just him trying to adjust to things the way he could. And I know in the first year or so, he really, really struggled, and he could barely speak to my mom about it. And he on a few occasions wrote my mom letters explaining that he thought he couldn’t cope. He felt like he was losing his daughter, which I know the thing of losing your daughter or your son is in a way a lot of parents described it. And there was a, there was a point in my life when I was about 12 or 13. I think 13 when I was being called four different names and nicknames by everyone, I knew some of my friends called me, Leo. My dad at one point is still calling me the old name. And yeah, it was very difficult. And there was a point where my dad just would call me Muppet. And he still now, but more as a nickname than the alternative for a name and he would use no pronouns. You would just say, this is Muppet. A name. Cause it was his way of dealing with this. And yeah, but my mom, she didn’t take quite as long to become fully accustomed to how I felt, but I know she really struggled and we’d often have arguments about silly things. Like we’d be out in the town, and she’d always let me dress more masculine. I was little cause she didn’t think it meant anything. She just believed that it gets you out to wherever they want, but then I’d want to, I want her to talk them out, and I want to buy things, and she’ll just find it really difficult because she now, she knew the meaning behind it. And she found it again. She felt like she was losing her daughter and she, she just didn’t want to deal with it. And I remember there’s been a few times when I was about that age, you know, 12, 13, when my mom would like just, just cry in front of me about it and say, I just don’t know what to do. And she didn’t know if she’d done something wrong, but she just felt like she was losing her child. I had to tell her, I had to explain to both of them you’re not losing your daughter. I’m the same person. When someone transitions, they’re the same person. They’re just more comfortable with themselves. And the really, the only thing that’s changing is I’m happy they are. And in some cases their body. And I think that, when I explained that to my parents, it would be something suddenly switched. And I remember my mom went away for a work trip and she was away for two weeks, and she came back and then I was hoping on—and she said, “Oh, I’ve realized now that you’re my son and you’re just in a wrong body.” And that was like a choker moment, obviously. But yeah, my parents, my parents did struggle for quite a while with that.

Dr Helen Webberley:
That’s a huge thing, Marianne, isn’t it for a young person to take, have to take that responsibility, isn’t it? And I can almost hear you saying it, you know, finding that strength and courage and the wisdom to say, “Look, mom, look, dad, just sit down, understand it. This is what it is. You’re not losing me as a daughter. I’m still here. I am.” What? I don’t know what you think. I’ve got goosebumps on me just thinking about it.

Marianne Oakes:
There are two things going through my mind right now, that I kind of understand the magnitude, the bravery that it needed to do that. Cause I never did it. And my generation probably wouldn’t, and we didn’t have access to the information, but even so, the bravery it takes to, you know, at that age. And it’s interesting how you would just speaking there, Helen, and that as adults using adult words, and we sat talking to a 16-year-old now, not an 11-year-old who’s—and you really are articulate, I have to say. So that the first thing that—yeah, I just, I just don’t know where you find that in it, but I can only assume it’s driven by a need. But the other thing I noticed when you were talking there, and I see this a lot, at no point did you say your parents didn’t believe you in all of that little chat you gave us there, that actually this wasn’t about whether they believed you or not. It was about them going through their process, and it took about two years-ish. But at no point did they, that they could see that this was not right for you. Am I understanding that correctly?

Leo:
Yeah, there was about, when I the very, very first came out. It was actually to my dad, and it was, it was late at night, and I’d come downstairs. Cause I’d already been put to bed, I suppose, and get really upset about it. Cause I was trying to get up the courage to tell him and I came downstairs, and he was watching TV, and I said, “Dad, do you know what a transgender person is?” And you said yeah, yes, I think so. And I said, that’s what I am, and I was crying, and he just thought, don’t be silly. You know, you’re not one of those people. And he just hugged me and put me to bed. And, but when they could tell how, when they could tell, I kept, I kept pushing. I kept trying to get them to understand. I think they believed me. They just, they were in denial. They just didn’t want to accept that, that I was going through such a thing. And they knew it’d be hard to deal with. I think they just tried to put it off. But I know that when I started to hit puberty and my parents could see how much pain that caused, and I think that’s when they tried to really try to push through and try to help me whilst getting terms with themselves.

Dr Helen Webberley:
Yeah. What about your brothers, Leo? How did they react or take the news?

Leo:
Funnily enough, my little brother, he was about eight when I came out. Well, he was about eight, when we told him, which was, I suppose, maybe like half a year after I came out. I don’t remember how we explained it to him. I think my mum explained it to him. And then the next time I saw him, he called me Leo. It’s so odd. We’ve had a conversation about too, and he knows exactly how I feel, and he’s exactly what I want, but he was just bang on with it. And it’s funny. I had a conversation with him the other day in the night and letting them know how it came up. I asked him, is it weird, or how do you feel about it? And we spoke to him before. I know it’s not an issue, but he said, which I found really interesting, He said it doesn’t bother me because now you’ve been my brother longer than you are my sister. So I’m just, I’m just used to that. And yeah, I just think it is amazing, really. And that just proves that kids are so much more open and he didn’t even think about ages. That’s how my brother feels and that how I’m going to treat him. And my older brothers are the exact same. Just amazing. They’re supportive. One of my older brothers is gay, and he’s now 24, but he didn’t come out till a few years ago. And he said that being close to me and seeing how I’ve been supported and what I’ve gone through, I think helped him come out. Which, which is great. And I know he can relate to me about a lot of things about to go through, which is really nice.

Dr Helen Webberley:
Oh, that’s really, it’s really lovely. Really. I honestly think that, that these words that you’re saying now are going to not just help your older brother, but help so many people who are listening to you because you know, the way you were describing the last few years of your life and the earlier years, it’s just, honestly, it’s honestly amazing. It’s, it’s so lovely to hear you speak so well done. And lucky to have such lovely brothers and you know, high five to all of your brothers and your parents. It’s tricky, isn’t it? You know, because we parents, we want, we want our children to be happy. That’s the only thing we want, if they are going to do something so, so unknown and so scary. We just, all we think is, Oh my goodness, is my child going to be happy? So high five to your brothers and high five to your parents, too.

Leo:
I’ll tell them.

Dr Helen Webberley:
Marianne, I don’t know whether you wanted to say anything.

Marianne Oakes:
I suppose I just wanted to ask now because we’ve spoken about the last five years, I think it is, I’m kind of wondering what’s the next five years going to be holding for you? Do you have plans? What are your aspirations?

Leo:
Yeah, in terms of my transition, my birthday, my 17th, it’s early September and a few days after I have got my consultation for top surgery, which I’m ecstatic about. I am very, very excited by that. So, and I know that I’ve wanted to, I know that I’ve wanted, I’ve always wanted to fully transitions it’s I knew I could. And I know some people they don’t, and I understand that, but for me, I just think, I just think that is, that is when I’ll be at my happiest, and I’m a very happy guy now. I just know that that, I will feel almost completed when I, when I have fully transitioned. So I’m very excited about that. And I’m doing A-levels in September at the school I went to school at. So that’ll be nice. Cause I know everyone there and. After that, the next few years in terms of job aspirations, I’m always a bit unsure. I’ve got a few things and what I might want to do, but yeah, that’s about it, really.

Dr Helen Webberley:
You’re going to be coy about those, are you?

Leo:
Just because I’m not really sure. One thing I have been quite interested in for, I suppose, I suppose about a year or so is the, is the army, which, I found a lot of people when I tell them that, and that was, they don’t like the idea for various reasons, but a few people, because I thought, well, the reason I’m trans, a lot of people say, well, why would you want to go? Is it a safe environment and stuff like this? Which I understand, but I think I kind of really enjoy that. Actually, we’ve been in touch with the army because we were wondering how things would work if I was there ever join. And I’ve seen, I’ve seen that whole, as the policy for transgender soldiers and whatnot. It seems good, but that’s something I’m going to–I’m not going to think about it till after A-levels. It’s just an option out there.

Dr Helen Webberley:
Good. Well, good luck to you if that’s what you, if that’s what you do. And I’m sure that you’ll carry on doing your educating and your equality there as well. Leo, you know, you mentioned at the beginning that you’d been a year on T and you also mentioned the Tavistock. I just, just how was it for you accessing medical care? What happened, you know, when did you go to your GP? What happened? When did, did they, how did it go? Did they refer you? What happened?

Leo:
So the first one went to–they always say, you should go to your GP first. So we, my mom took me to our GP. I think actually only about a few weeks or a month or so after I came out because I just think she didn’t know what to do really. And she didn’t know who we should talk to. She just had no clue. And my GP referred us to CAMHS, and I was on a waiting list for CAMHS for about seven months. But my first appointment was a, it was, it was booked as an emergency appointment. Cause I think my parents were very worried about me. That was, that was quite a low place for me because I knew everything was so far away. And I knew my parents were struggling a lot, but I went to CAMHS for about, we had family sessions because I felt that would be most beneficial. And it means that we could all talk in a space and everyone would have to listen, and I went there for about a year before I was put on the, (unclear 21:52) waiting list. And I know the waiting list is ridiculous. I had to wait again for about seven months before my first appointment. And I got to the Tavistock when I was 13. So obviously I couldn’t, you know, they say you have six months of like assessments and meetings before they can consider you for if it’s blockers you want. And for me that lasted a bit, a bit more than six months, let’s say just under a year before I got on hormone blockers. And then I started testosterone when I was 16, right on my birthday. And yeah, so the whole, the whole process of getting on testosterone took, took them almost three years, but I was due to my age. So you cannot, you can’t start until you’re 16, but it, it was, I think my experience with the Tavistock has been brilliant and it really saddens me seeing the stuff that’s come out and about them in the press and all this because it’s just the complete polar opposite. My experience, my clinicians were amazing. The people I know of have said the exact same. So actually it was quite upsetting how, what people are saying about it, but I suppose if they’ve had negative experiences with them, but me getting it was relatively straightforward. I’d say apart from just general waiting times.

Dr Helen Webberley:
Yeah. Well, I’m really, really pleased to hear that. And I think it is really important that you know, stories that people say out there in the big wide world are often the worst stories. Do you know what I mean? And that’s why they’re telling them, what’s the point of telling a nice cheerful story. So I’m really, really pleased that you had a good experience and that, that worked for you. And what was it like starting T then? Like leading up to that bit. And so the kind of, when you were 15 and waiting for that, what, what was that like?

Leo:
It was exciting because a lot of my best friends and my girlfriend I’ve known since year seven, and that was when I joined the school I am at now. And when I joined, I hadn’t changed my name. I was come out, but it was all at the very, very beginning of even my social transition. And it’s so crazy to think that they would have seen me, they’re going to see me from then and, you know, having top surgery maybe next year, which is, which is amazing. But yeah, testosterone is very exciting. My girlfriend came with me and my first injection in London, and that was a brilliant day. I was very excited. I was constantly looking for hairs and that stuff, and I realized it doesn’t come that quickly, sadly. But yeah, it was very, very exciting. I’m still excited about it now because changes are still coming.

Dr Helen Webberley:
So did that, did that give you a kind of puberty alongside your school friends or where you were a bit late really? Or what, what was it like?

Leo:
I suppose? I suppose it would have been a bit later because I have a few, there are a few boys in my year who already start growing beards and stuff when I’ve been only a few months on T. But the way when you’re 16, the way, the way UCLH do your injections is you start off in a smaller dose to emulate you starting puberty. And then you get on a full dose. I’m on a full dose now. And because when you’ve been on almost a year, you can come off blockers where we’d kind of do a blood test to see if I can, and I’m gonna ask to be moved to more regular injections, so my T level stays the same. But yeah, I think I was only slightly behind, but never to the point where really bothered me or depressed me because I knew it was coming and didn’t really care. To be honest, I only cared it was happening to me. I was never too jealous. So I knew it was on the way.

Dr Helen Webberley:
That’s really good. I’m so pleased that you had a good experience there. It makes such a difference, doesn’t it, Marianne, to have a kind of structure that you can understand? So, you know, I understand that I’m going to be able to start T at 16, and I understand I can have my top surgery consultation when I’m 17. You know, that’s really important to hold on to isn’t it, Marianne?

Marianne Oakes:
I’m always saying about the black holes that, that some picks parents that people have not just with the Tavistock but with other GICs, where you turn up, and nobody really explains what’s going to happen, but it sounds like you always knew that, assuming this criteria is met, that you were going to get what you needed and that, that gave you hope all the time. I’d never heard that you were losing hope despite the waiting time.

Leo:
No, I never did. Cause I always knew. I always knew what would happen. So yeah, and basically from, I knew from my own research when I would be allowed to start some things, but from my first appointment at Tavistock, they, how things were going to work and what would be available to me at certain ages, but they always enforced the fact that this is a place to explore and to think, and to explore how you feel. So, even though I was really excited about the future, I knew that I still had to go through this process before it was really certain.

Marianne Oakes:
I feel compelled to ask this question. So if you don’t want to answer it, you don’t have to. But when you read in the paper or on social media or wherever, and people say that the children who go to the Tavistock have been fast-tracked on to medication, how does that make you feel?

Leo:
Really annoys me, really annoys me because my clinicians knew that the, I was adamant I was going to go on T and I was adamant as well. I wanted, and obviously, I’ve remained for the whole time, but it really annoys me because my, my clinicians always told me that it is not always, they always challenge me in some different areas of our field that helped me move so much. They’d give me tactics to deal with dysphoria. That always made me question things to think about because, but just to make sure I was certain about how I felt, because I knew, and they told me that, you know, something’s irreversible. So I have to be sure and ask to be sure that these are the right options for me. And it really annoys me when people say things are fast-tracked or the kids are pressured because I know certainly from my experiences and experience with my friends we’re not. And the waiting list and the waiting and the time where they assess you and talk to you before you can go anything it’s so important because it’s a time to make sure you’re sure. So you’ve had that waiting time of seven months you’ve had, or God knows what it is now. You’ve had all these things, and even if you’re not sure, they still tell you that it’s okay. And yeah, I know because the person is slow and I just can’t imagine how, how does, how conditions could pressure kids into, to fast track them because it was the complete opposite of my experience and annoys me quite a bit. I’m sure you can tell.

Dr Helen Webberley:
I certainly can hear you being annoyed there. And I think you’re right. And what’s important is to take every person individually. Some people want to go really, really fast. Some people are really, really sure. Some people are not so sure, and they need to take it slower. And I think, you know, it sounds like your clinicians did a really good job with you just working with you and explain your things and going, okay, maybe, maybe slow, but, you know, telling you why it was important to have that time. So that’s really important. So they’re going to get a high five from me as well.

Leo:
That’s brilliant.

Dr Helen Webberley:
High five for the Tavistock clinicians that looked after you so well. So, anything else? This is your chance now to talk to mums and dads who are listening, school teachers who are listening, grannies and grandpas, and aunties and uncles, and sisters, and doctors and anyone. Is there anything else before we leave that you would like to say to those kinds of people?

Leo:
One thing I would say as a general message is that, I believe that–I know from my experience at school, people only knew what transgender meant or things that they have to go through because of me. And I was the first trans person that my school ever had to deal with. I was the first trans person that ever came out at school. And I knew that for them, it was a shock to the system. And for good year or two, my teachers didn’t know what to do or how to support me. And they always asked me, I had to inform them. And as a child, especially a child that if you’re trans, you are probably going in for a lot. And there should be systems in place and already implemented so children know that they can inform their schools, they can inform, you know places around them. And there’s something that is safe that they don’t have to explain. Because I don’t think a child should have to tell the teacher or tell a worker how to support them. I just think-I wish there was a system, more, more systems in place. And I remember me and my friend–my best friend’s gay, and we had to push and push and push for our PSHE sessions to be more inclusive about the LGBT community. And one time we spent a whole day of timetable with our teacher cause he was head of PSHE and we spent a whole time making things more inclusive, and adding in documents we had provided him with. And we knew that that was going to be rolled out to the younger kids and whatnot. And I just think there should be, all kids, all schools should teach this because it’s something that people need to know about. And it’s not, it’s not trying to make kids change their minds or pressuring them. It’s just so they know how to be respectful or how to deal with trans or LGBT people around them. So I’d say to educate yourself, and for education to be in place is something that I definitely think it should happen more.

Dr Helen Webberley:
Brilliant.

Marianne Oakes:
You had to teach the teacher if that makes sense. How could a teacher get to that position?

Leo:
Dunno.

Marianne Oakes:
That tells you all we need to know about the education system, really.

Leo:
Well, cause we’re not–when I told them I was trans that they didn’t, I expected them to (unclear 32:14), but they didn’t know where to support me. So for example, I asked, could I have a separate area for changing if you’re in the loo and whatnot. And they did. And when they started getting the hang of it, but I just think, because they didn’t even know what transgender meant or was, because there was just nothing in the media a few years ago that I have had to educate them. So I think now I’d say the majority of people have heard of the word transgender and have an idea of what it means, but that’s just because it’s more talked about whether it’s good or bad in the media. Annoying. But yeah, I think there should be systems in schools, especially to support trans kids so that the children don’t have to educate teachers.

Dr Helen Webberley:
Yeah. So what about the school children that you went to school with? Was it a bit like at home where your brothers understood it quicker than your parents?

Leo:
Not really. So, all my friends are very supportive. Well, I’ve never had a friend who, a friend of mine who I’ve came out to and hasn’t been supportive. But, I think, because at my school, I was the only trans person there, it was a school of about quite a few hundred. It was a good-sized school, but I knew that every year all the new students that came in would hear about me and I would get kids younger than me, kids older than me asking me things like, “Are you trans? Did you, did he used to be a girl? Or you’re a boy or a girl?” And I get it, at some points very regular basis because I knew at one point everyone in the school had had rumours about me, whether they knew it solidly or not, but there was a point when I was in year 10. So, last academic year. And there was a point a few months where there were some sixth formers, and those are year elevens. I’d get really nasty comments of them. I’ll be walking past them. And they’d like, whisper, “Tranny”. There are these things like this. And I’ll get okay, “Shout it at me”. And it was really weird because I never, some reason I never had when that was the first time I’ve experienced transphobia firsthand, like really abusive transphobia. So it was half and half. I never had a teacher, I never had a friend do this. I get the occasional question, which I don’t mind because I’d rather someone ask me a question and I educate them about it than them be clueless. But I did experience some points, my fair share of the nasty reactions.

Dr Helen Webberley:
Yeah, I think school is it’s a scary place, isn’t it? And we’ve all heard of, you know, the school bullying. And if you’re in even a slightly, a little bit different, someone’s going to kind of pick up on it. But I’m, it doesn’t sound like it, it doesn’t sound to me sound like it was a massive part of your life. And I’m, I’m very, very pleased about that. I really am.

Leo:
Yeah, I was just gonna say it wasn’t a massive problem because it didn’t, it didn’t bother me cause I just knew it was ignorance. But what I think is important to mention is that my school were really amazing at dealing with it. I’ve reported to a teacher I knew. And that kid would have to spend like a few hours off, you know, sometimes a day off timetable and they go through this like the teachers would educate them on that. There was a certain presentation they used to use, and teachers would sit down one on one with this kid and educate on why they shouldn’t use language like this and how, how they’re being transphobic and stuff, which is brilliant. And again, nothing that is essentially what should always be put in place, but it’s just ignorance. And education is what those people need. I don’t think half the time there’s any hate behind it. I just think it’s confusion, to be honest.

Dr Helen Webberley:
Yeah. Well, Leo, thank you so much. My second to last high five goes to those teachers who looked after you. And, you know, you’re such an inspiration. And I know that I can see the comments from this podcast are going to be so amazing because the education is what you’ve done in this, in this last 40 minutes is, is to really tell it from the heart how it is for you, what it feels like for you, and the advice that you’ve given to parents and teachers and educators is amazing. So, I don’t know about you Marianne, but if you want to join me in a massive high five for Leo, and thank you so much for being with us and whatever you do, whether you go to the army or whoever is lucky enough to have you in love and in life, you know, well done. Well done.

Leo:
Thank you so much.

Dr Helen Webberley:
Marianne, I don’t know whether you wanted to say goodbye.

Marianne Oakes:
I’ll just have to say, I just want to check your age because you’re so mature. The way you’ve spoken about this, but yeah, it’s been a true pleasure meeting you today, Leo. Really has.

Leo:
Thank you. Thank you very much.

Dr Helen Webberley:
Okay, bye-bye. Bye-bye, everybody.

Leo:
Bye.

 

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