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Let's Talk: Finding yourself as a teenager

Let’s Talk: “If people are going to be bad in accepting you, that’s just going to happen. That’s not your fault,” May says. Photo by Megan Fisher

At 16 years of age, there’s a multitude of worries in life.

Life is changing at a rapid pace; friendships are made, friendships are broken — fitting in and becoming your own person are steps on the way to adulthood.

It was only a couple of weeks after turning 16 that May* realised she was transgender.

While also dealing with a difficult home life, May’s struggle in becoming herself was hard, but filled with relief.

She had endured years of feeling she didn’t completely fit in, but after learning more about LGBTQIA+, suddenly the puzzle pieces started to slot into place.

“It was many small things, looking back on it,” she said.

“But I was very like, under the rock, I didn't know what the word ‘gay’ meant until 2020.

“I didn’t have internet until then so that might have been it, but also I don’t know, it didn’t really matter to me at the time.

“But now that I’ve gone through and talked to people, looked at a lot of the different sexualities to see what fits me and experimented, I’ve learned who I like and stuff like that, I’ve experienced life.

“I am a transgender, pansexual, demisexual.”

May identified as non-binary for several months before coming to terms with being transgender this year — she now goes by She/Her pronouns and has changed her name.

Although she remained closeted for several months, she said the process for her “progressed quite fast”.

“It got to a point where I was like, no I can’t — I want to be out, I am sick of being a guy,” she said.

“But I really needed to wait because it was a big step to come out to my friends; I had no idea how they were going to react.”

Pronoun pin: May wears a She/Her pin to let people know her pronouns. Photo by Megan Fisher

She said after coming out the response shocked her, but in a positive way.

“I've only had one friend who wasn't supportive but everybody else was great, all the teachers are fine with it,” she said.

“And then like, the occasional comment walking through school, but everything seems quite fine, the only bad place is probably buses ... these people come to school with the mindset, ‘I’m going to piss people off’.

“But pretty much everyone I know has been accepting, or at the very least just still sees me as a person.”

At school, May began to experience barriers in transitioning into herself.

May’s home life was at times tumultuous, her parents weren’t accepting of who she was. She didn’t have access to any signatory permission nor her birth certificate.

May understood the process to change her first name on the school’s online management system — for marking rolls, connecting students with teachers — might be difficult without these documents.

It was.

Instead, she opted to change the “preferred name” section, but even this needed a parental signature.

“I understand it's a school and they are still like working out all the protocols and stuff, but I think they just really need to have rules that aren’t just so — just think about them before implementing them,” she said.

“Like who sat down and said, ‘okay, they need parental signature to change their nickname’, not even their name, it's just what's in brackets following as preferred name, and preferred name should be something that you're able to choose.”

Meanwhile, May had no problems changing her emergency contacts on her own.

“I feel like it's really inconsistent with how much I have to give in order to get things changed,” she said.

A moment many trans community members are confronted and daunted by is using a public bathroom. May said her worries had been eased at school with the implementation of individual toilets.

“There’s male, female and unisex toilets, all in individual facilities not the traditional gendered blocks,” she said.

“Although it’s only small, it is really nice to be able to use unisex or female toilets without having to worry.

“Even though they’re all the same, I’ll tend to use them just because it makes me happy to use them, to have that option, but at the end of the day, a toilet is a toilet.“

May’s anxiety over coming out was fuelled with premonitions of worst-case scenarios.

But as she came out to her friends and certain family members she was met with support and love, and even had some people disclose their own gender dysphoric feelings.

“Don't rush yourself is a main thing, and just make sure you're ready for it, but at the same time, you're never going to be ready for it,” she said.

“Because I was mentally prepared — like people might call me slurs, I might lose a lot of friends or something, but even that one friend I lost, that really shocked me.

“I wasn't prepared for that, as much as I tried to, there's nothing you can do to prepare for that. If people are going to be bad in accepting you, that’s just going to happen. That’s not your fault.“

* Names have been changed to protect those in the story.

∎ This story was the finale in Caitlyn Grant and Megan Fisher’s Pride Month series as part of their weekly column, Let’s Talk. Opening the conversation on all things from mental health to young success stories, we want to hear from you. If you or someone you know has a story, contact caitlyn.grant@mmg.com.au or megan.fisher@sheppnews.com.au