INT: If you would like to introduce yourself?

D: Yeah, my name is Darcy, I’m 28 years old, a trans man living in Brighton.

INT: Brilliant. So, what brought you to Brighton to start with? Why Brighton?

D: Why Brighton? That’s a good question. So, I moved to Brighton just over six years ago, from Oxford originally, which I’d lived in my whole life up till then. There was no particular reason why Brighton, to be honest, I’d never actually been to Brighton up until a year before I moved here and I came down and visited a couple of people that I’d met and stayed with them for the weekend, and just really liked it here, compared to Oxford, you know, it was a really nice place. I mean we didn’t get to really do much because it was only a couple of days that we were here, but we – me and my partner, Rosa – just decided we just needed to leave Oxford and we wanted to be anywhere but Oxford, basically. So, and the natural thing for us was we were thinking about London, prior to that, but there’s loads of things I don’t really like about London, I like to visit and then just leave. I like to be able to leave London basically and not have to stay there. So, it’s nice to visit but Brighton, you know, it’s close to London, there’s a lot of more going on basically, than where we were from.

So, there was nothing in particular that kind of made us come here. I didn’t know anyone really, apart from those couple of people who then moved out of Brighton, like a month after I arrived, so I didn’t actually know anyone, I didn’t have a job here or anything like that, it was just literally “I want to leave Oxford, Brighton seems nice, let’s move there”, basically, which I’m glad that I did because we’ve been here since. It’s one of those places that it took a while I think for me to really settle here, though, even though it’s really friendly and it’s a really nice place. I think it’s only actually been in the last, realistically the last year that I’ve really felt that I’ve fallen in love in Brighton. Like a lot of people talk about how much they love this place and loads of people have a time when they fall in love with Brighton and yes, to some extent I kind of did when I first come here to make me move here, there was a lot of that light but really now, it’s only been particularly recently that I’ve really felt like this is my home and I actually want to stay here.

INT: Do you think that Brighton has made it easier to be trans or was being trans a factor in your decision to come to Brighton?

D: Being trans wasn’t any factor about my decision, initially, to come here. I think it’s been really mixed in some ways, it’s a lot easier for me personally to have transitioned here, partly because there is a community here and a visible community as well, and people who are active in the trans community, and obviously a lot of support groups even though I’ve never actually accessed those myself. I know that they’re there, so that’s kind of nice that if I ever did need, you know, extra support or whatever, I know that there are places that I can go. So, in that sense yeah, you know, it’s been good in terms of various services here, but at the same time, I have found it difficult in a sense because there is a large LGB community in Brighton. When you’re – well, from my experience – when you’re a trans man, before you get to the point of being read male, as there are a lot of masculine identified women in Brighton, so it seems to take longer to pass here than other places. Like a while back, I’d be in Brighton and I’d be finding it really difficult to actually be seen as male, but then as soon I’d leave Brighton, it was absolutely fine. So, it’s kind of frustrating in that way, because it’s a great city and everyone’s, you know, a lot more open-minded than a lot of other places in the UK, but because of that open-mindedness you can bend your gender to quite an extreme and still be like considered to be your birth gender, to still be accepted as that, despite the fact that obviously not what you’re trying to do. But that’s the frustrating part, that’s what I did find really difficult being here, which has changed a lot recently, but up until now that was the one bad point, I think, about transitioning in Brighton, but apart from that I think everything else has been made a lot easier here, personally.

INT: Yeah. It’s just like over-accepting, like the way the whole city is set up, people expect trans people…

D: Definitely, yeah. I think so, and I always forget about this until I leave Brighton and realise that it’s so not like that in other places. And quite regularly, you know, even just walking around Brighton and stuff, there’s a lot of people that I do bump into who I know who are trans, so it’s like visible, people are out there living their lives, and obviously there’s a lot of people that [stealth] as well, in Brighton, but it’s nice that we’ve got that option, I think, to be more open and still feel relatively safe. I’m not saying that Brighton’s obviously a safe place for everyone; it’s not, but compared to a lot of other places it’s just nice to know that we are able to kind of just go about our business and just lead a normal life without everything, you know, being about the fact that we’re trans as well, which is nice.

INT: So, tell me about your transition, if you want to. Kind of like a time-line or, you know, the milestones in your own transition.

D: Where shall we go back to, because I actually, from…

INT: How about the first time you came out to yourself and realised that you had to transition.

D: You see it’s interesting, because it was quite a long process for me and it went through different stages, because from a young age, going back to when I was about 14/15 I did actually openly at that point identify as genderqueer, just because I knew that I wasn’t comfortable in my birth gender, but at that time I didn’t necessarily consider myself to be male, I just went through this kind of discovery time for years where basically that label did fit for that period of time for me and that was something that was known to friends at the time and to my girlfriend, but then as time went on my gender dysphoria really got worse and worse to where, because even though back then when identified as genderqueer, I knew I wanted to have top surgery. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to start taking testosterone or if I wanted bottom surgery at the time and I was kind of in two minds about a lot of things back then, but over time that changed; I don’t know what it was that changed, just over the years it just got stronger and stronger to where I knew that I needed to medically transition. The one particular point that I can always kind of refer to when it comes to thinking about the stage that I got to when I knew that I needed to actually go and actively seek out, you know, support and actually start transitioning was about 3 years ago; and the reason for it was, up until that time I was getting more into that frame of mind of knowing that I needed to do that, but it got to a point that I was questioning how much of that was because I wasn’t accepted as male just without the hormones and how much of it was kind of society’s pressure on me to kind of conform to what’s expected of me to be a man and be seen as that, but then when I went to India and Thailand and, this is pre-T, obviously pre-surgery and everything and I got read as male the whole time that I was there, okay, which was amazing and it felt so good to actually finally be seen as that person, but I realised that even though I was getting seen as that person I still needed to transition, even though everyone was accepting me as male there, despite not having… not looking right – whatever that means, I still knew that physically I wasn’t happy and I needed to make those changes.

So, when I came back from there was when I went to my doctor and basically said I’m transsexual, I need to get on the path of transitioning. And they were really fine, but they were realistic about how long it was going to actually take, for anything to come of that and by that point I think my dysphoria had got so bad that I had been out of work for like a few months, I had completely shut off from everyone, I had just completely closed down as a person and I just couldn’t wait that long. I was already at that point that I needed to actually have treatment, you know what I mean it was like needed intervention, not like going on a waiting list for x amount of months and then however many years later, being at the point that I got just in a couple of months by going private, which is what really pissed me off, you know, that it’s one extreme to the other, to where I appreciated that my doctor was really upfront, they’d had trans patients and they still do to where they were a lot more clued up than a lot of people have had with their GPs.

INT: Was this a Brighton doctor?

D: This was a Brighton doctor, yeah. So, they basically just told me how it was and I was like “I just can’t do that, I’m going to have to go private”, even though I know I couldn’t financially really afford to do so. I knew anyway that I was going to be funding my own top surgery, just because I had chosen a surgeon abroad, so already kind of did realise that there was going to be some expense with my transition, but with obviously accessing hormones and things like that, I was hoping to just, yeah, go down the NHS route and not have to pay for all of the appointments in London as well, just an hour, you know, first appointment £240 or whatever it was, just for literally like sitting in a room for 20 minutes, it’s just bullshit. But I’m glad I did, you know, I’m not trying to be negative about it because my actual experience, transitioning privately, was amazing because it was so quick, straight-forward, I went to the trans health clinic, Dr Curtis in London. At that point was when they were bringing some more kind of restrictions on how quickly you could access hormones, so I had to go and see James Caspian in Hastings who’s a gender therapist who was great, and I had to see him just once and then he signed me off, saying yes, you know who you are, it’s all fine. And then yeah, then I got hormones a month later.

So, I was lucky enough as well that even though up until that point obviously I’d had to pay to see Dr Curtis, my hormones got taken over by my GP, they prescribed them, so I didn’t have to pay privately for my testosterone, she basically took that on to where it was NHS cost for that. It’s more just the cost of actually obtaining those and having to go back every three months to have, you know, have a blood test monitored and things like that. But luckily also my GP surgery paid for my – well, not paid for them, but I didn’t have to pay for my blood tests basically, which seems to really vary from person to person. I know loads of people who have had to pay for their hormones privately and all the blood tests and just everything which would have been really difficult for me to be able to do. But I’m glad that, like I say, I’m glad that I did go privately, because it was a great experience and it was so, I don’t know, just compared to a lot of the things that I’ve heard other people have to go through on the NHS, with not just waiting times, but the treatment that they’ve received as well. I feel quite thankful that I’ve managed to bypass Charing Cross and anywhere else, even…

That’s what it feels like, because I knew that a few people have had great experiences but then so many people I know have had terrible experiences there, which is really, really horrible, you know, when you’re already really stressed out and it’s bad enough, you don’t need anyone to make you feel worse, when you’re trying to access support and medical help.

INT: Exactly, yeah, yeah. So, tell me a bit more about your life. What do you do for work, if you don’t mind me asking?

D: Work. Work’s a touchy subject, really bad. I actually work for a company that works on behalf of different charities fund-raising and administration. It’s really not exciting and I’ve been there for six years since I moved to Brighton. It was a job that I got straight away because it was flexible, allows me to do other stuff and I was only planning on being there for like a year, at the most, and I’m there six years later and I hate myself for it [LAUGHS] like I just want to leave. But it’s got its benefits, it is really flexible and I do sometimes enjoy it. There’s a lot worse jobs that I could be doing. So it’s not the worse thing in the world, but at the same time I’m not the sort of person that likes to do something for so long that I don’t really enjoy.

So I do need a change and that’s something that now that I’m more comfortable in myself, I think that it’s time to move on in ways like that. I do, honestly believe that part of the reason that I haven’t left my job is because of transition being such a centre point of my life and I didn’t really… I wanted to also go to a new job and be able to start a new job as me, basically, and not have to go through all of the process of constantly having to keep explaining to everyone. I just wanted to kind of tie things up in that way, and then start afresh to where I can just get to know people and they don’t know about my history and they don’t, you know, it’s not that I’m someone who wants to completely, at this time in my life anyway, I don’t feel that I want to be stealth, but I want to choose when and where obviously I provide that information rather than everyone just knowing and that being something about me all the time.

But my work place has been really supportive, however, okay, my work place have been great in the way that when I told them they were all fantastic, they changed all my records really quickly, they did everything that they were meant to do, they sent out a message to everyone it was relevant to and basically saying “this is just how it is, if you’ve got any problems come to me,” which was my manager at the time. But, over time I think they gave the rest of the staff too much credit with getting it right and still it’s like I changed my details with them two years ago, maybe a bit longer, 2½ years ago, and there are still a few people who are just still misgendering me at work, and I just found out as well that there’s still loads of stuff on their records that has my previous details and yeah, they need to sort their shit out, they really do. I’ve just had a meeting with them to where they realise how bad it is, especially now, because I’m going to apply for my gender recognition certificate, so I can get my birth certificate and things all changed and I think they realise how much trouble they can get in, obviously for the privacy thing and they are really trying to sort it out. But it’s just so awkward, because I’m having situations where there’s loads of new people starting at our company who are correctly gendering me and then suddenly someone, who knew me before at work, a manager, will come along and say the wrong thing, and then I have to explain, it’s like it happened recently, where this guy turned round to me and was just like “Why, dude, why is that guy calling you she?” And I was like, “Oh my fucking God!” Like I can’t believe I’ve got to sit here now and actually out myself to someone, it’s just so like, yeah.

So, I mean, yeah, the job apart from that is like I say, it’s not a job I want to do forever, but while I’m there I want to be treated with some respect, you know, to where I think it will get sorted out. I think I let it go on for too long, as well, because I think in my early stages, not to kind of put any blame on myself because I know that it’s their fucking fault, but at the same time I feel that in those early stages I didn’t expect them to get it right, like I had this really low self-esteem; I thought well, yeah, of course you’re not going to call me “he”, I don’t look like a he, you know, and that just had really kind of issues with that, and I just felt really ridiculous asking them to get it right and that’s really bad. That’s obviously awful because I don’t see it with other people that way, it’s just about myself. And so I kind of let things slip for a long time and I think it then created that culture of them, you know, kind of basically not taking it seriously enough and now that I’ve become a lot more like confident in myself, and I’m like “It’s just not okay”, they’re finally, I think, realising how much of a big deal it is to get misgendered; and it’s so horrible, it’s like the worst thing, you know, for me it’s like the most triggering thing when someone, someone does that, so I don’t think my company really appreciated that, I don’t think they saw that as really a massive thing, you know.

INT: Yeah, where do you think that confidence has come from?

D: I think a lot of it just has come from being more comfortable with myself now I’m further along, that my testosterone, since I’ve started on the T, has really stopped a lot of my anxiety and just made me feel a lot better; and I think the confidence though has come from a lot of things, because once I started feeling better within myself, I started getting more socially confident again and going out and meeting new people and building kind of new friendships which were less toxic than previous people that I knew and stuff like that. So, I think that that helped in itself, just to meet people that are more respectful of you as a person and realise, yeah, it’s not okay that other people are getting it wrong, if these people can get it right and these people can treat me with respect, then everything should be able to do that, you know, and it just helped in so many ways, generally feeling better within myself, kind of physically, mentally, and socially, all of those things combined I think have just made me just stand up for myself a lot more, which I needed to do. And it does feel good to do that and it does feel good to kind of put people in their place about stuff like that, because it’s just horrible that so many of us feel like that we can’t do that, you know, that we can’t speak out and tell people that it’s not okay to do those things. We live in such a sexist society where people don’t even understand how so many things that they do are problematic, you know, things that they say to you, like even when people think that they’re something nice, it’s just totally not when people try and give you tips on how you can be like accepted more and it’s all crap and yeah, I see that a lot more now. So a lot has changed over the last couple of years since getting on that path. It’s definitely improved my life tremendously on every level.

INT: Amazing! I’ve heard a few people talk about Brighton being kind of in a trans bubble where people are more accepting of gender variant people. How do you feel about the trans bubble?

D: I think that is really true, in some ways. It’s interesting actually because I think that yeah, there are a lot of people that are more accepting like that, and because there are visibly a lot more trans people out and about here, who are actually like I say active in the community and obviously in the wider LGBT community here as well, that’s a different topic that we shouldn’t touch on. But, they…

INT: No, go ahead if you want to talk about it, talk about it.

D: That’s just another thing and I’ve got mixed feelings because my experience in the kind of, I would say like more mainstream LGBT community in Brighton has not been very good at all, to the point that that’s where I – because back in Oxford, that was the one part of Oxford that I did tend to associate myself with a lot more at that time, because that was the only place that people felt relatively like was a safer space than everywhere else. On reflection, I don’t believe it was, now when I actually look back and look at my experiences in the places I used to go back there, and the same thing happened in Brighton, my natural thing when I first got here was to kind of, yeah, go towards the whole LGBT… well, I say LGBT but it’s LG to be quite honest, from my experience with the part of the community that I’m talking about anyway, I know Brighton’s really diverse, there are a lot of great sub-groups of that where I’ve found a lot more people now, who do identify as LG or B, that are very inclusive of the T in the community. But from when I first got here I didn’t really know anyone, so I started going out a lot and kind of went more towards a kind of LGBT venues, in a sense, and groups and things like that, and I just found that from my experience that was where I got the most transphobia. I don’t know why, I don’t know whether I was just unlucky, I’ve heard mixed things; I’ve heard about some people being really accepted and seeming like that that’s their real safe space; and then other people like myself are just like “no”. Especially because, like I say, from my experience as a transman getting considered to be a lesbian, wherever you go. Like there’s no such thing as a transman; it seems to be either you’re a lesbian or suddenly you’re a passable man. There doesn’t seem to be so much of an inbetween kind of stages for people, to where, when I was going to places like that I was then gendered as masculine female, which made me feel really uncomfortable, especially when I wasn’t getting that in non kind of LGBT venues. And then even when I was correcting people, they weren’t respecting that and weren’t getting it. And also because I wasn’t being read as trans at the time, the amount of trans phobia that I heard in places was really uncomfortable and it made me really just, yeah, it’s not what you want from a community that obviously in some ways does overlap so I’m still unsure about how I feel about the LGBT thing being a collective thing like that and obviously how much we should kind of work together as a community and how much then we should kind of focus separately on trans, because obviously there’s a lot of different issues.

But yeah, I think it’s just a shame because I think that you kind of expect, I don’t know, it’s not that people have the same experiences as you, but obviously there are certain ways that it overlaps, we do face some of the same discrimination, because a lot of people who identify as LGB are the more visible members of the community, so therefore it’s actually more because of their gender expression that a lot of people do face homophobia and lesbophobia and various other types of phobias, to where I just kind of felt really quite upset really that it was not a community that I felt a part of based on my experiences like that, which put me off kind of including myself in that way, which also didn’t help, and that was another factor, I think, that then made me kind of switch, you know, kind of cut off from everyone. Because when I first moved to Brighton a lot of people that I met were through places like that or through my workplace, just because it was just a natural thing, just to, you know, fall in with whoever, because I didn’t know anyone. And that was kind of problematic in itself, because a lot of the people that I first got to know weren’t very healthy relationships in the sense that you had the lack of the respect again and the lack of realising how hurtful it is when you’re misgendered and yeah, just things along those lines basically, to where I think all of that contributed to me kind of just having a cut off point where I was like “I can’t know any of these people any more, I can’t go to any of these places, I need to kind of take some time out”, self care time, and just kind of focus on myself and transition, which I’m really glad that I did, because I think taking that time out, although it’s really shit that I had to do it and I felt like I had to do that, it, I come out the other side I think in a really positive way. And then when we had Trans Pride last year, it was an amazing feeling because that was at a time when I’d started to feel, because I’d already accessed treatment and stuff, so I felt like “Oh this is so nice, that I can kind of be part of…” because I hadn’t really been part of the trans community in Brighton up until then as well, I don’t know why. I think it’s just because I was so kind of self-absorbed for so long about my own stuff that I didn’t even feel really comfortable accessing trans spaces. I think that was also like a comparison thing, like I don’t want to see people who are further along transition than me and make me feel even worse, you know. It’s horrible to say, but that’s how you feel. I don’t mind it now, because I’m happier now in myself.

But yeah, I think that also in the trans community in Brighton, it’s interesting because I do identify now, as my gender is kind of shifted over time, I’m more comfortable in the binary, so I do identify as a binary transman. I don’t see the world as a binary place, but I am comfortable, you know, in that kind of role that is what people expect, which is also interesting because that brings up a lot of things as well, people who identify as binary and non-binary and the kind of differences there is; quite interesting in the way in how some things as well kind of come to like that to where a lot of people don’t understand both sides of that, like some people seem to get both of those identities and some people seem to be able to kind of grasp the idea more of someone who is binary and just completely that idea of what they think a transsexual is literally from you’re born a woman and you act like this till you become a man and you act like this and even though I’m comfortable with that, myself, with my identity, I don’t like how everyone views transition in that way. That’s the narrative that everyone has been exposed to I guess and even though it fits for me, obviously it doesn’t fit for a lot of people, to where it’s quite nice how Brighton’s quite diverse in that sense, that I’m meeting people who identify so at different points along the spectrum, which I really like. I think that’s nice as well, because then I think it breaks down people’s ideas of what it means to be trans as well, like I think a lot of people in Brighton, because they’re meeting different sorts of trans people and understanding that not everyone has the same experiences and not everyone feels the same about their bodies and not everyone feels the same about their identity is a really positive thing and I guess there might not so much of that in some other places where there’s a smaller minority of trans people that people are exposed to.

INT: Yeah, I mean you touched on it before about how your gender identity has kind of evolved as you’ve kind of grown up and got older. Do you think that Brighton has kind of given you the space to experiment with your gender identity and somewhere to maybe to make some mistakes and not to be judged by it?

D: I think so. I think because of that more diverse experiences of people here, or people being open about that anyway, I think it did give me a lot of freedom to kind of explore and be more comfortable in just knowing that there is no right or wrong thing, and to be able to find my place then naturally rather than being pushed in one direction, which is interesting as well, because of how my identity has kind of ended up in a place that a lot of people feel pushed into. It’s quite strange really that even though I feel that there is the freedom to be obviously how I want to be, I have still ended up at that kind of other end basically, which is fine, because that’s fine, it works, I’m happy with that. But yeah, it has been really nice in order to get to that place, though that I didn’t feel that I had to get there, that is just something that’s just obviously, for whatever reason, how it’s meant to be for me, but I do really appreciate that it’s just nice to know that I don’t have to have this kind of binary identity, that there’s so much more. And it’s nice to know that at whatever kind of point that you feel comfortable you can remain there or you can shift around as well and your identity can change. And I think that there’s a huge element of a lot more people here being more comfortable in that and that just makes it nicer for everyone because even people who don’t identify as trans as well, you know, just not to be so rigid in how we’re meant to be, because there does seem to be – I’m not saying everyone again, because I don’t like generalising – but a lot of people with an identity like me, often I realise, do like to go stealth and a lot of people do like to kind of not necessarily be an active part of the trans community, because a lot of people who I’ve personally met who, yeah, basically identify in the same way that I do, aren’t part of the trans community and even though they do like to sometimes actually kind of engage with others who have had some of the experiences they don’t really like to be active and obviously like to just keep that. I’m looking at my transition now as way more medical than I used to. When I was discovering who I was it wasn’t so focused on that, but now I do feel that I don’t like using the term “I’m fixing myself”, because I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being trans and being me, but my dysphoria was so intense that it’s so important to me that the medical side of transition – and it is, in a sense, fixing that, because it’s fixing obviously something that I feel is wrong about my body, and something that I’m just so uncomfortable with that but it’s weird for me, because even though I do identify as a trans man, and well, just as male, I just identify as male, obviously in binary, I still, at this time in my life do still have a trans identity as well though and I don’t know whether that will change. I don’t know like on the subject of stealth and things like that, I know people who said that they’d never be stealth and then they, at some point, just feel that then the time has come that they do actually want that.

So I’ve just started realising that I don’t ever know for sure anything, because so much has changed, things that I was adamant about ten years ago, well at one point I even remember actually saying “I’m never taking testosterone, I don’t need that, I don’t think [LAUGHS] that it’s necessary” and blah, blah, blah, you know, and then that’s just not true now. So therefore I just don’t really think that anything’s that set, not with me, you know. I’ve been kind of more consistent in how I feel and how I’m comfortable over the last couple of years, but who’s to say that won’t be different again in the future, that my identity might shift more again to not being so binary? I don’t know.

INT: Yeah, it is important to be open to it.

D: Definitely.

INT: So, changing tack a little bit, more about where you’ve come from, if you want, can you tell me about your family?

D: I can. [LAUGHS] My family.

INT: Feel free to say no at any time.

D: No, no, I wouldn’t you know, the family thing, okay. Growing up, I got on really well with my parents, and I’ve got one brother, who’s a few years younger than me. We were really close for years and years and then when I was 15 and started a relationship with my partner – who I’m still with, Rosa – I, at that time, identified like I mentioned earlier, as genderqueer. She identified as heterosexual, and we got together just because I don’t know really how we got together, it just kind of happened, we were at school together and my partner had been coming round to my parents’ house anyway, quite a lot, because we were friends before we started seeing each other, and then I never came out to my parents, as gay, I never said those words because I didn’t identify as that, I actually said “This is my girlfriend”, okay, that was the actual words that I said and my parents, my mum really over-reacted to such an… she just had such a terrible reaction to it that, she just didn’t want to hear it, because as I was trying to say, she was like screaming, basically, she was physically screaming, just saying, I don’t know, just shouting that she didn’t want to hear it, and I was like “You don’t even know what I’m going to say, and she obviously did, and I confirmed that and she didn’t want me to live – because I was living with my parents, obviously I was 15 still – she basically said “I don’t want you to live here any more, you’re going to have to go and stay with someone else in the family” and all this other crap, and my dad, who was so dominated by my mother, basically just said nothing, he just kept out of it. So he just didn’t feel like that, but he was too weak to say anything. They’ve always had problems between themselves as well, so it’s just a really awkward situation. But anyway to cut a long story short about that part, I’ve been with my partner now for 13 years, it took my mother 10 years to actually get over the fact that that was my girlfriend. She denied it for ages and she didn’t want the neighbours to know, and it was all that kind of… oh, it’s just, even thinking about it is really stressful. She just thought “Oh, no one’s going to know, we don’t have to tell anyone,” and kind of buried her head in the sand about it, and just didn’t want to discuss it ever.

And, I left home, of course, and my mother got a bit more used to it when she would come down and see us in Brighton, because she had to, because we were living together, in a one-bedroom apartment, like you can’t just come down and say “Oh yeah, I’m going to see…” I’m not even going to say, you know, obviously she does not say “my son, and their friend”. So she got a bit more used to it in that sense, of realising that it’s not any different. I don’t know what she was expecting our relationship to be like, I don’t know whether she just had all these misconceptions about what our lifestyle was going to be now, you know, and what kind of people we were going to be. But she still didn’t acknowledge it, she would just come and stay with us and be all normal, but she would never actually like ever refer to Rosa as my girlfriend, it was just so ridiculous, and again this goes back to what I was saying earlier of just not having the confidence to really be assertive and actually say what I wanted. I was just so upset all the time, and whenever she left it took me days to just “Oh god” get over the trauma of having a situation that there’s lack of respect for not only your gender expression, but also your partner, you know what I mean.

So, this went on for ages and because of her reaction about that, I was really concerned about coming out as trans to her, to the point of when I was cutting off from friends and everything else in my life before I started the medical transition, I also pretty much cut off from my parents as well. They knew something was up, I think, because I was speaking to them less and less on the phone, I wasn’t visiting them in Oxford, not inviting them down here, and then it got to a really ridiculous point that I – when I was contacting my parents and stuff, I was speaking to them on the phone and they kept thinking I had a cold, and I kept saying “Yeah, I’ve got a cold still,” for like a year, it’s ridiculous, and I just thought I’ve got to grow the fuck up and I’ve just got to tell them and I wasn’t seeing them anyway, what was I going to lose? You know, I didn’t really have a relationship with them any more, it had broken down over the course of the years, to where I thought, well, if they react badly, so what? Like it’s not going to have any negative impact on my life, I just won’t have to deal with their shit any more, basically, I won’t have to see them. So, I felt like I’ve just got to do it. But it still took me ages, because I was still going through so much other stuff in my life, that I didn’t really want to add another element into, do you know what I mean, because even though, like I say, I didn’t feel like I was going to lose much, I just didn’t really want to even address it, because I was having so much stress with work at the time, with friends’ friends, I say very loosely that they weren’t friends obviously, because I’m cut off from them now, and so many different things like that, that I didn’t want to have another stress factor, so I just avoided it.

And then I went for surgery and thought, “Oh my God! I’m going for surgery, and I’ve not even told my parents, it’s just really ridiculous.” So, I came back from Florida, which is actually last September, I had my top surgery, and I came back and then it was weird because a while before that I’d tried to bring it up on the phone once, and did it in this most ridiculous way, that just confused my mother, completely, I should have just said, but I started going on about – I can’t even remember now, I even confused myself, I didn’t know what I was talking about, I was talking about me in her womb for God’s sake, like I don’t even know how I manage to even do something ridiculous and I was talking about hormones and I was just skirting, well, not even just round the edges, I was way off, I was just nowhere near the point and just going on about random crap and she knew that I was trying to say something, she did even though it was so ridiculous, how I was trying to say it, I think she knew that I was trying to get to a point and she had her screaming reaction again, and so that kind of put me off for ages. But when I came back from Florida, I thought “Right, she’s not going to have a conversation about it, because she can’t address anything, I’m going to have to write to her.” So, I wrote her a letter, and my dad as well, because they’ve split up since – when was that? – like last year some time. I wrote them both a letter and as I was writing it I realised how ridiculously far it had gone, because I was like “Just to let you know, not only do I identify as this, but I am on hormones, I’ve been diagnosed as this, I’ve had surgery, I’ve got a new passport. It’s all legal, and medical professionals agree with me, so don’t try and say that’s a phase, or whatever, it’s not, it’s all legit,” and I just kind of wrote all this in a letter and said, “This is not something – like how you reacted before, when you thought I was coming out to you about sexuality was so outrageous and ridiculous, I don’t want that reaction again. I know it’s going to take time to get used to it and obviously use the right pronouns and stuff like, but if you don’t start trying, I can’t be in your life” and I gave this ultimatum, but I felt like it had been building up for years, like that where I felt like it was all stuff that I’d wanted to say anyway, just about the previous situation, and they both received the letter, I got a really nice email back from my dad, basically that it did come as a big surprise to him, but at the same time he’ll get used to having a son and stuff like that. So it was the stuff that I wanted to hear, yeah, of course I don’t expect them to be like, “Yeah, that’s great!” And I know they’re not going to understand it enough to realise that it is okay, you know, they’re Daily Mail readers, so all of their perceptions of trans people is obviously very skewered and not good, which I wrote in my letter. I actually said, “Everything that you’ve read in the Daily Mail about trans people, just ignore it, okay. I’ll talk to you about it”.

So, my dad wrote this really nice email back and yeah, that was all fine. We still haven’t really had a big discussion about it, yet, because I’ve still not seen him, because it’s only back, just before Christmas, but we’re in contact more frequently now, because of that, because I just feel more comfortable talking to him, but he hasn’t really addressed me. I got my Christmas card to “Mr Darcy Heston”, so that was nice, from my dad, but my mum has done what I expected. Firstly, because I did give her an ultimatum she did actually call me on the phone, and said “I still love you, I don’t think anything differently of you,” and all this stuff, fine, but then from then head in the sand again, not acknowledging it. Constantly. I’m sure my gender gets mentioned more now, I’m sure I get “she’d” and “her’d” more than ever. I don’t know whether my senses are heightened to it, but seriously, on the phone, it just feels like constantly, and I actually just spoke to her last night and she did it again, where she was… and I was just like “Can you just stop doing this?” And she just can’t handle being kind of called out about anything. So, it’s really just in a really awkward position with them, and I just feel like, I think I can have a relationship with my dad now, even though, like I say, I’ve not seen him for 2½ years, 3 years, I feel like we can actually build a relationship now, but with my mum I just don’t see it. Basically the ball’s in her court, because I have done everything that I can, so unless she’s willing to meet me somewhere in the middle and actually just acknowledge it, just discuss it, but unless she’s going to do that I don’t feel that we can’t go anywhere from here, because I’m just so triggered by speaking to her; and I can never go back to Oxford, well, I can, obviously, but not to see my parents, I just can’t do it. I think because I’m so used to my life here, now, and everyone accepting me here, I’d find it really hard to then step out of this comfort zone and go there, which is probably the most awful situation I can imagine myself in, just being around family, it’s just awkward, because I think I’ve realised how much my mother, even though I thought she had changed a lot over the years, because of how she had become better about other stuff, no, I don’t think she has, you know, I think I gave her too much credit in that way, I think she just hasn’t changed a bit to when I actually did come out to her, towards the end of last year.

One of the other factors that kind of pushed me to do that, is because my grandfather was really ill, and he’d got told that he only had a few months to live and I was like, shit, there’s gonna be a funeral, I want to go and see my granddad anyway, before he passes away, I’ve got to tell my mum, I can’t just like show up and just like, I don’t want to have the confrontation at a time that I knew that she was really upset. So, that’s partly why I came out as well, it was just another push to make me do it, but then she didn’t want me to go back and see my granddad or go to the funeral because of, she said, it would really distress him and it would be really horrible, and… yeah. So all of these things are just making me think, you know, whatever, there’s nothing I can do about it, we don’t choose our families, do we, I wish I had a family that I felt more connected to, because I knew that some of my friends had got such great relationships with their parents and their siblings, and I’m just like “That’s nice, but yeah, that’s not my situation” and I’m kind of over that now. I’m 28, I’ve got past that thing of really caring much. People think, “Oh yeah, you must care, you must care” because it’s your parents. I did at one point, but I just don’t now, it seems to be this really taboo subject that you just don’t really give a shit about wanting to know your parents, they’re just people, it doesn’t mean anything. There’s people who mean so much more.

INT: I think over time it just kind of grinds you down, doesn’t it?

D: Yeah, it’s just not worth it, it’s not worth the stress, you know. Why should I stress myself out about it, trying to maintain some connection to my parents and I go see them at Christmas, I don’t care, I’ve got so much more in my life, if they’re not willing to kind of be a part of my life, then I just don’t want to keep feeling so negative about stuff like that. I’d just rather them just kind of cut off from me and just say “Yeah, okay, we… you know, just believe it” I don’t want to kind of keep trying any more, I think I’ve done all the trying I can actually do.

INT: Let’s talk about something positive then. [LAUGHTER]

D: Please.

INT: Tell me about some good things in your life? Tell me about Rosa?

D: Yeah, Rosa’s the best thing in my life [LAUGHS]. That’s the expected thing to say isn’t it? No, but she really is. Yeah…

INT: How long have you been together?

D: 13 years. It’s actually our anniversary in a week, yeah. Actually, even closer, next Wednesday. Yeah, I still can’t believe she’s actually with me after all this time, because we were really young, obviously when we got together. I mean we knew each other from when we were 13 I think, and when we got together I was 15, she was 14, and that just kind of happened and I didn’t really expect anything to actually come of it, like thought we’d be together a few weeks, have a bit of fun, that’s it, it’s all over. No! She’s still there. She’s amazing, it is really nice to have had someone. In some ways I kind of wish like she was just getting to know me now, because I hate that she’s seen all of the sides of the me that I kind of want to forget about and all the stressful times, but at the same time, it’s kind of nice that she has and that she totally gets it, you know what I mean, that she’s actually been there from the start. But I’m just so happy that she is still here because I would have hated if we’d broken up like a couple of years ago, which we’d have all the shit for like 11 years, and then we broke up and now at least there’s been a couple of really nice years where things have been really improved. We’ve had ups and downs, we’ve been together for so long that it’s expected, but I think our relationship is so much more solid now and so much more grounded because I’m just happier and naturally then that extends to people around you, especially in relationships, it just it’s made both of us so much more comfortable and she’s just so pleased that I’m happier, because even though she saw me as the person that I am prior to anything, I couldn’t see that. So, obviously my negative kind of self-image did grind her down as well, because constantly having to reassure me, all the time, but she’s the most patient person in the world, I would not have been able to have been with me throughout this time. [LAUGHS] Seriously, it’s just such a challenge that she’s had, because even when things have become more positive, like the first year of like medical transition, was so “me, me, me, me” all the time, like everything was about me, constantly, I couldn’t think about anything else, I was so self-absorbed and I really neglected our relationship and neglected so much stuff, and she had to put up with all of the highs and lows of that, you know. And the annoying highs as well, like “Oh, look, I’ve got an extra hair on my knee” that kind of really pointless stuff, that she just had to put up with, you know, it’s been weird for her, because she’s the same age as me, she’s 28, yet I’m like going through such a young, teenage boy phase, that it’s kind of a weird adjustment for her to have to be in a relationship with someone who’s 14, in the way that they are, so unacceptable.

That’s the really awkward thing as well, which is funny, it’s not actually a bad thing, it’s just difficult, I think, for her to constantly have to tell me that my behaviour is unacceptable and my moods, and stuff like that. But, on the whole, it’s just really positive and it’s just really great to have her and the more people that I’m getting in my life now, all the friends that I have, have been so amazing, which has all been, once again, in the last year. People that I met through Trans Pride actually, was quite a lot of people and other groups and different things that I’ve been involved with since, like Brighton Feminist Collective as well, has been another really positive thing that I’ve been involved with, since the last Reclaim the Night that they did in Brighton, which was back in, was it November, I should know this. Yeah, I think it was November. And that’s been really nice to actually be in a space that you feel, a space that’s really trans inclusive, and just full of such great people. And I think that’s really been the most positive thing over the last year, is just having everyone in my life just not be toxic, you know, just having people that you don’t have to keep calling out on everything and constantly have to keep correcting. I think it’s bad when you get to a point in your life that you get invited out and you just actually would rather just never go out with those people that you’ve got to know, and you’re actually like “I’d rather go out on my own, I don’t even want to be in your company” and I think when you’ve reached that point, and then you get over it, and you really start to appreciate the people in your life that are a really positive impact, you know, and I think that this last year has, I can honestly say, has actually been the best year of my life in such simple ways like that, just about friendships and just about not allowing people to treat me like shit, basically.

So, there’s so much positive stuff in my life right now, I mean there’s a lot of stuff that I’m unhappy about, just stuff that everyone’s unhappy about, though, it’s not a trans thing, it’s just I’m unhappy about my job, it’s just about my job, it’s all just really minor stuff like that, you know, everything else is amazing, and like I say I’m so much happier in Brighton as well, finding a community here that I am comfortable with now, and who I do feel get me and, you know, make me feel included and this is why I’m really looking forward to summer as well, it’s going to be my first summer, post-surgery, so that’s going to be a huge, huge thing, you know, “Yeah!” That’s going to be just amazing. So just little positive things like that now, I’m just happy about everything, whereas rewind two years, or a year even, not in a good place, and the difference now that I feel is just, yeah. I don’t think I can even really remember how I felt before, because it’s gone, it’s completely flipped in the other direction that I’m kind of forgetting it was really bad, maybe I blocked it out it was so bad, I don’t know.

INT: I think once you’ve solved that one big problem in your life, everything else kind of pales into insignificance.

D: I think so, I think that’s what’s happened for definite.

INT: So, what are your plans for the future then? Where’s the next five years going to take you?

D: Next five years. I talk about this a lot at the moment, because I’m really conscious. This is ridiculous, I’m really conscious like I’m getting towards 30, and I’m one of those people that is like – everyone I seem to have got to know is younger than me as well, at the moment. People at like 19 and 20 and 23 and these ages, and I’m like “Oh God! I really need to like start thinking about what I want to do with my life”. But I’m trying not to do that as well, though, because I’ve realised that I used to be really set all the time on like “By this age I’m going to do this” and “I’m going to be a success in this way”, and I’ve realised that things that we measure success on is crap, again, you know. At the moment I might not be in a position that I have a great job, or I have a lot of money and stuff like that. But those things mean nothing, in comparison obviously to having good friendships and having good relationships and yeah, just being happy in yourself.

But I do know that I want a new job, that is a definite thing. I want to do something that I love, I would like to stay in the charity sector. I don’t know what part I want to play, though, and what kind of organisation I’d want to work for, but I know I want to work with people, that’s one thing, just because I do really like engaging with people, but I’m not really sure. I mean I think that up until I’d had my surgery, I was so focused on that that I hadn’t really thought about a lot else, and then when I’d had my surgery I was like “Oh my God! My mind’s like completely free to think about other stuff,” like it’s been overwhelming, so I’m just trying to relax and just not stress out too much about the future, but at the same time, have certain things that I obviously want to kind of start moving towards. I do want to start thinking about bottom surgery as well, which is a stressful thing to think about, top surgery was so much more simple, just like “Yeah, I know what I want, and what it’s going to look like and what surgeon I want to go to” and I knew that years ago. Bottom surgery’s a little bit more complicated than that for me, I know that I need to have it, in some form or another, but I don’t really want to think about it. That is going to be the next five years, if I have any say in it, but at the same time, I know it’s a bit more out of my hands, because I cannot afford to pay for my bottom surgery, that is going to have to be NHS, but it’s so necessary for me to have it, but I don’t want to think about surgery too soon, as well, because I’ve only just had surgery, so I don’t want to be like “Oh, it’s surgery again” and then that’s going to really be annoying for Rosa. I want her to have a break from my transition-related stuff for a while. Also, I think I am going to stay in Brighton, I wasn’t sure about that. Me and Rosa both love Berlin, so much, and we were thinking about, at some point, going over there, not necessarily indefinitely, but at least for a pro-longed period of time, we know quite a lot of people out there, a lot of people we know have moved there as well, but I don’t see myself wanting to do that, because I feel like I’ve only just found my life in Brighton, Brighton’s new to me now, it feels like I’ve just arrived here, but it’s all good, I just kind of landed in this spot and I’m just seeing it through refreshed eyes, I guess in a way that because I’m now enjoying my life here, I want to just take it easy and just get over the stressful time of my life and enjoy things.

But with regards to any other plans, I don’t know, I’m just going to see how things just kind of pan out. There’s loads of stuff I want to get involved in, because I’m starting to realise how much there is going on in Brighton, but when you look for it, or when you know where to look, that’s the thing. But, there’s so much stuff that I’m interested in and I want to help Rosa as well, get a lot of stuff of her because she wants to be fully self-employed, she is part self-employed but she’s so creative and I want to help her with stuff like that as well, that would be amazing. We both want to travel a lot, in my workplace I’m really flexible, with my ability to be able to just take off and come back. Rosa used to work there and we used to be able to do that, now she’s got more restricted hours and it’s really frustrating, but, I do want us to, you know, we’ve talked about whether we want to, throughout the year, go to different places or whether we do just want to literally take out a year or two and just go. So everything’s kind of up in the air, but everything’s positive up in the air, so it’s all exciting stuff to think about, it’s not really stressful, you know, which is nice. So, whatever we do, over the next few years I’m just feeling really good about what my life is kind of like. Well, we don’t know what’s around the corner, it could all just go wrong, but I can deal with that thing, because I’m just in a better space, foundations and everything have kind of been set now, to where I just feel like I can, even if things don’t work out how I want them to, I feel like I’m over such a bad point that I’ve become more resilient I think and just more able to cope and deal with stuff, just because I’m happier.

INT: Cool, brilliant! Last question, unless you’ve got anything you want to talk about. If you go back in time to you as any period in your life, what would you tell yourself?

D: [LAUGHS] That’s a really hard question. These are the sort of questions that I get asked and I never know what to say, and then I think of really great things after [LAUGHTER] which is going to be exactly what happens now. What would I tell myself? That’s so difficult, there’s so much stuff I would want to tell myself. Are we talking in terms of like – okay, I guess I would just tell myself that – because if we tell ourselves something, then obviously it’s something that then you would later on, obviously it’s kind of ingrained in you and obviously your beliefs, so I guess I would say to myself, just, you know, no matter how fucking bad you feel it never actually lasts, and it always does get better, and even though you do fall in and out of times like that, it’s not like things get better, then it’s better forever. I just really would like to remember that, because that, at that really bad time in my life is what I kind of needed to have kind of implanted in my brain at the time, just to really know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, because I felt like there was not, for so long. I’m going to think of something better later, but then the microphone’s not going to be here.

INT: No, that’s a really good thing to say, actually, I quite like that. Is there anything that you want to mention? Anything you want to talk about?

D: I think we covered pretty much everything. There can’t be anything that pressing,I think we touched on everything, I think we’re pretty good.

INT: Brilliant! Okay, cool. Well, thank you very much.