INT: Okay, so could you just start by telling me your name and your age and how you identify in terms of gender?
L: Okay, my name is Ludo, and Ludo is short for Ludovic, and I’m 38 years old, and I identify as a transman and I also kind of relate very much as well to sort of genderqueer kind of a genderqueer identity as well, but very much on that transmasculine spectrum.
INT: Okay, that’s great. We’ll pause there for a moment.
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INT: So, thanks for that, Ludo. So you sort of mentioned that you identify as a transman but also very strongly with genderqueer, can you just explain, you know, what those terms mean to you?
L: Ultimately I suppose it’s been a kind of a process which has gone along as well, with my kind of, you know, coming out as trans. It’s… I feel very strongly that gender is very much the spectrum and I don’t… I’ve never really felt sort of gone very much towards a binary kind of identity, you know, sort of I’ve never felt sort of, certainly obviously never felt strongly female, even though I was socialised as female. But I very much always felt like I’ve gone more towards male, but very comfortable in that kind of fluid, you know, kind of position really, but very comfortable with masculinity as well, and in its many forms, you know. I feel these things are not fixed at all and this, this is where I feel comfortable, you know, and since discovering as well, I mean I wasn’t really brought up, as I say I’m 38 years old, so I wasn’t brought up at a time when we would hear a lot about these thing, you know, it was very much male or female and, you know, there were no real choices, or there didn’t seem to be and certainly not where I was brought up and when I was brought up.
So, since discovering these things, it’s been really interesting to explore these and to realise what a spectrum there is really and that there is a place for so many different forms of femininity or masculinity. So, for me it’s a constant kind of fluid learning space really, you know, sort of my gender identity and so I feel, even though I feel very much male I’m also very sort of comfortable with some of my sort of, sort of some of the female socialisation that I’ve had, that’s sort of given me this… opened up a kind of female kind of dimension as well within me in the way of maybe communication and sort of maybe the way I can connect to people as well emotionally and things like that. So that kind of is a good fit for me, so that’s my kind of relation, I guess to genderqueer, in that sense.
INT: Sure, and you sort of mentioned about your kind of early life, can you tell me a bit about your background.
L: Yes, yes. Well, I was the oldest child of three, I’ve got a sister and a brother, and we’re all very close in age and I was brought up in south Wales, a place called Tredegar, which is a little valley town, quite a few miles outside of Cardiff, near places like Merthyr Tydfil, and I was brought up there in the 1980s, and the early 1990s, that’s where I grew up and, yes, I was brought up, my mother brought us up, and – on her own, she was a single parent – and yes, it was just that kind of… that small town life really, you know, sort of… and you know, which was I mean okay, you know, there were ups and downs, you know, sort of, you know, financially and things like that, but it was okay, but I was very much always a tomboy, you know, sort of when it comes to how I related gender-wise from I guess about the age of – and this certainly isn’t the same necessarily for every trans person – but for me, I kind of, even at maybe the age of 3, I would protest about wearing dresses and things like that, I sort of instinctively wasn’t very keen on that kind of thing and I was very drawn towards… I guess this would connect to my sort of non-binary sort of genderqueer identity, because I very much enjoyed boys, stereotypically boys toys, such as cars and things like that, but I also… I would have sort of cuddly toys and things like that as well, so there was that kind of element to me and I was quite a sensitive tomboy, I suppose. I enjoyed the kind of climbing trees and playing football and things like with the boys, but at the same time I really enjoyed sort of art and creative things, and I went on actually to study art as well, at art college then some years later. But I was sort of always drawing, sketching and sort of making my own comics and things like that.
So I very much lived in that kind of sort of creative, sort of imaginative space when I was growing up, loved comics and gender-neutral things really, quite a lot of the time, that’s what I often gravitated towards, even though I loved football and, you know, sort of sport and, you know, some sports, I wasn’t super-sporty, but some sort of sporty activities and riding my bike, but at the same time I loved creative things as well, so I was very much a sort of… and I had free rein to do that actually, and I was quite lucky that my mother never really forced me, for instance, with clothes. So, as I say, I didn’t like dresses and things, and she wouldn’t really… there came a time when she did accept that and she wouldn’t… she would allow me to obviously wear tracksuits and whatever the kind of… anything like that really, in the same way that my brother dressed. Whereas my sister was more a stereotypically girly girl, I suppose and she enjoyed, you know, she had longer hair and she loved her Barbies and dolls and things like that. And yet she was very feisty actually in her personality.
So again, I don’t… I wasn’t brought up to sort of… to feel that there were these restrictions really, my mother, for instance, didn’t like cooking, whereas my gran, my maternal grandmother, who was a huge influence in my life, she was the stereotypical kind of gran, she loved cooking and nurturing and things like that. Whereas my mother, you know, even today she would say she isn’t that interested in cooking and she’s not ridiculously maternal, but she’s very loving. So I wasn’t really brought up with those stereotypes and also I was also not brought up with any kind of dominant sort of masculine stereotypes as well, I was brought up in quite a feminine environment I suppose with my mother and my gran as a kind of matriarch, things like that. So, I didn’t have… and my grandfather was one of my big male role models, my maternal grandfather and he was born – he’s passed away now, quite a long time ago – but he was born in 1903, so he had that kind of working class, sort of gentlemanly quality, actually, he was a working class guy, but very open minded and he loved classical music, so he’d worked for years sort of in the steel works, the local steel works, but at the same time he was, you know, he loved his classical music and kind of he had quite refined tastes I suppose, but could also get on with lots of different people as well. So he kind of went against a lot of those stereotypes in a lot of ways, and you know.
So I was lucky in a sense to be brought up, you know, sort of in my family environment in a space where there weren’t these stereotypes, but obviously in the wider community there certainly were, and in school, for instance, especially in the secondary school, people – this is kind of I guess the mid- to late-1980s, and people were actually… there wasn’t the option then actually, if you were viewed as female you had to wear a skirt to comprehensive school, and that was actually an issue for me, that was a point where I felt that social pressure to dress in a way I certainly didn’t feel comfortable and there weren’t any other options at that point.
INT: Could I just ask about how that felt? I was very struck by what you were saying about growing up in this environment where perhaps there weren’t some of those restrictions, but then coming to secondary school and you starting to feel some of those restrictions. Can you say a bit more about how that felt; what those restrictions kind of felt like?
L: Yes, it was quite strange because, as I say, I lived in this space where I was – even though your school uniform was optional, actually, when I was in primary school, so I always opted out and just, even though a lot of people did wear uniform and it made me stand out a bit, you know, I could wear what I wanted then, you know, jumper and trousers, I was very comfortable with that and I remember my mother was actually really concerned about the comprehensive, because she worried that I would sort of not conform, you know, to this rule and then sort of stand out. So she actually wrote to like an Agony Aunt, or something, which was very unusual actually for her to do something like that, just so she could find out how to, you know, sort of deal with this situation. But as it happened, I did conform and I did wear the uniform and I didn’t feel comfortable and… but I felt I had no other option, I think it was the kind of child I was at this point, you know, there was no, as far as I was aware, there was very little awareness, even… there didn’t seem to be any real awareness, even about sort of lesbian, gay and bisexual identities, there certainly wasn’t any kind… so there were no conversations about that and no kind of education about that in school, when I went to school. So, there certainly wasn’t any talk about gender at all, there didn’t seem to be any kind of option at all, so, and I didn’t know anything about that. So, I just went along with it, and I actually I wore a skirt to school, and I felt very uncomfortable.
And I think at that point in my sort of adolescence, because obviously puberty as well is going on, and you’re going through those physical changes, and it felt like a time when I actually kind of was cut off from myself, you know, in the social sense, whereas at home I was obviously still able to be myself, but I look at that as a point where I was quite lost in a lot of ways, you know, for those few years. But I did leave school… I opted out… I opted to leave school actually when I was about 15/16, on the cusp of 16, and then I went to a college after that to do A-Levels and that was… I sort of was able to become myself again, in the sense that I suppose anyway around about the age of 14/15 and maybe 13, I started to kind of become really passionate about music. So again I started to be able to live in that kind of creative space, you know, so I was able to sort of have that private place where I could come home from school, take off the uniform and just listen to my music and kind of immerse myself in what was really… I was lucky because me and my brother are very close in age, there’s just a year between us, and we had very similar music tastes, so we would sort of share that together. So I was almost able to have a… in hindsight it felt like a kind of almost like a teenage boyhood to a certain extent, in the sense of, you know, sort of trying to play the guitar, listening to rock music, heavy metal, and just being immersed in that really, and just being very… seeing that as very separate from a school life that I didn’t relate to anyway, increasingly. A lot of my friends and things like that, we began to have very different interests and things, so I suppose I felt very distanced from myself when I had to kind of wear the skirt and things like that, you know, I didn’t feel… I hid it I suppose, pretty well, in the sense that I just seem to get on with it. But I see that as a point where I lost a little bit of my identity in having to do that I think.
INT: Sure. And I was really struck by what you said, that your mum wrote to an Agony Aunt…
L: Yes, it was really strange.
INT: … do you know what the Agony Aunt said?
L: I don’t, I think it might have been Claire Raynor, but I don’t know, I just remember finding the letter, she’d hidden it under the bed, you know. But it was such a long time again, I can’t remember, it was probably just some, you know, some common sense advice, you know, about being supportive, probably and things like that. But it’s just really strange because it’s very much not like my mother to do something quite like that, you know. But as it happened, anyway, I did just, you know, get on with it and, you know, wear the skirt for that time, but yes, but it was quite a strange thing to do, you know, and obviously it was back, I don’t know if that was the kind of heyday of like agony aunts, you know, it was kind of the eighties where people would write to magazines, you wouldn’t go online then, you know, which obviously now she could do that and there’d be more support for her. But yeah, that was quite a bizarre thing really.
INT: And you mentioned that you then went on to art college, is that right?
L: I did… well, I went to like a sixth form college, a sort of tertiary college, at sort of 17/18 to do A-Levels, and then at 19 I moved away actually to Cardiff. I would have moved earlier actually, I was quite keen to leave home as soon as possible, but I left home at about, I think it was about 19, 18/19, and I went to live in Cardiff and I did a foundation in art and design, which was great and as I said before I’d always loved art anyway and this was a way to kind of just take things further with that and learn a lot more about the history and things like that. And yes, I just immersed myself in that. I went to Cardiff, which was a big, at time, a big move from a small sort of valley town, to the big city, and yes, just got on there and obviously had more freedom to, you know, just in general, you know, just access to more things and yet at that time still not… I didn’t… this again was before – I’m dating myself – but again this was before the internet or before it became very popular and there still wasn’t… I still wasn’t very aware of, I guess, transgender identities, you know, or gender in that sense, you know. So, it was always a kind of interest, but I didn’t really have the words, you know, for the interest really at that time, so I suppose a lot of it just went into… a lot of my interests just went into art and discovering, you know, sort of… was very interested, you know, in reading about the different artists, the different lifestyles they’d led and, you know, it kind of opened up that sort of quite a bohemian, you know, sort of a world of people that maybe were able to defy gender and, even though a lot of the artists at that time, that we were being taught about were male, I guess, but I was able then to go on and, you know, discover more artists for myself as well.
So that was really an important time for me actually.
INT: You said, you know, there was a time when you didn’t have the words, can you sort of… is there a time that you can think of when you started to discover about gender issues, or trans issues?
L: Yes. I would say it was, I guess it was late teens, sort of, and into my twenties. When I started… I suppose as well, and thinking about kind of background, things that were in the background, you would see the occasional programme about… usually it would be… always actually it would be, you know, a transwoman maybe going through sort of a medical kind of, you know, sort of an intervention of some sort during the process of, you know, sort of medical transition. But I just remember being very interested, you know, in these kind of stories, but not… and actually again I remember quite early on, I probably would have been in my late teens, and I do remember hearing about Brandon Teena, you know, and sort of it must have been the time that documentary maybe came out, and I remember again finding that very interesting, you know, sort of… but not really sort of relating at certain points, but at the same time there was a lot of stigma, that’s one of the things I seem to remember. Actually I remember there was someone locally, a transwoman who was from somewhere called Ebbw Vale, which was the next little local valley town to me and I just remember she would be… I heard about her because her story was often in the local paper and it was usually a negative, she was being harassed and things like that. She was trying to work as a taxi driver from what I remember and we would be updated every now and again in this local paper, the Gazette, about her being harassed, terrible things actually. And she eventually, I think left that town and moved, you know, to a bigger place, maybe Cardiff I’m not quite sure, or somewhere like that. But I just remember at the time, thinking this seemed to be, you know, a fearful thing, you know, I wouldn’t really… I can’t remember – maybe there was some chat shows and things, maybe they would talk to transwomen but I remember it always did seem to be, apart from obviously Brandon Teena, it would always be transwomen, so I didn’t actually know about trans… you know, sort of that it was possible actually, to you know, to identify as a transman, you know, that wasn’t kind of out there in the mainstream from what I remember growing up.
So, I think for me it was more a gradual process of, I saw myself, and I didn’t have… I didn’t know of the word “queer” actually then, but I did identify as kind of a queer… or gravitated towards a kind of a lesbian kind of identity, sort of, I guess more so in my twenties, you know, and that was a very private, very gradual process. But again, I see that as maybe connecting more with issues of gender and what I perceive to be more of a freedom maybe to express this kind of androgynous… because I was really, you know, I was certainly an androgynous child, and I was always mis-gendered a lot… well, not mis-gendered, I was actually gendered correctly, as male, as a child, but that was kind of… that felt strange and I’ve heard other trans guys saying the same thing, you know, some trans guys, that it felt like a critical thing when people would be like that, you know, obviously now I see it as they were getting it right, you know, but it was often sort of as if I’d confused people, I was made to feel to a certain extent. So, it felt like an embarrassing thing, you know, that I was going to be… I’d be out with my sister and people would be saying “Oh, that’s your brother,” you know, and I’d feel a bit like, you know, sort of strange about that. But in hindsight obviously it was good in that sense, but I didn’t know… you know, maybe it would have been better if I’d understood, you know, sort of about sort of trans issues at that younger age and that this was okay.
But yeah, so I did identify kind of in a quite a private way, sort of throughout my twenties and thirties, I gravitated towards a sort of queer lesbian identity, you know, but it was kind of a very private kind of… I never really, you know, sort of had a big kind of coming out or anything like that, you know, it was more, you know, just a private thing and, you know, so people could presume what they wanted really. But I always pretty much presented in a, you know, in a sort of very, you know, kind of androgynous way, you know, usually short hair, apart from a period in my teens when I was into the heavy metal and stuff like that, but usually short hair and… I was quite cut off actually from kind of my gender identity in the sense because I couldn’t easily access information, you know, so it was very much for me, when I got into my sort of late twenties and thirties that I, you know, and obviously being online, getting online, onto the internet and that obviously transformed things for me, and I was able to, you know, to discover a lot, you know, sort of a lot more.
And I went on actually to do my Degree and my MA in Fine Art and one of the things I was always… I became really interested in exploring in different types of ways, was gender… that was always a big interest, and actually even when I… even as a child, as I said, I was always interested in comics and sort of… I would always draw actually, I kept written diaries, but I would also sort of keep like visual… every day I would sort of draw sort of like cartoon figures and things like that, and very often I, if not always actually, I would always draw male figures, you know, so there was almost like this living out this little private sort of cartoon, sort of world of being a boy, and sort of giving the character a name and I would often do that. So, I lived in my head quite a lot and that was a good escape sort of good way to escape I suppose.
INT: And you talked a bit about the internet coming along, can you sort of just say a bit more about what that meant in terms of your understanding of gender and yourself?
L: Yes, well for me it was a huge… it was really a big thing, you know, when I first got online, I was… I wasn’t that young actually, I was in my mid-twenties, but I was very excited, sort of to get on, I had a feeling it would help me access all kinds of things, at the time, it was to do with music really and sort of to further my kind of interest in just connecting with people on a big scale I suppose, I was… because obviously I was brought up in quite a small, small situation, but I always had a great sense of there being a big wide world out there and it felt like the internet was a way to really, you know, to be able to do that, you know, and it really did live up to that for me, actually and even though I did go through a few years where I didn’t really, you know, it was kind of early days for me, so it took me a while to discover, you know, this was obviously before things like Facebook and things like that. So it did take a while to, you know, discover that kind of opportunity to, you know, to explore the gender side of things. But that did happen. You know, for me it was things like being able to access certain books, you know, this was one of maybe one of the first things to do with gender and sexuality for me was the opportunity to be able to get books that I couldn’t just, you know, pick up in the shop, you know, and things like that and discover, you know, new authors, queer kind of writers and just to discover about, the possibility to identify as queer for instance, which for me was a big… that made great sense to me, I think the first time I heard mention of the possibility of be queer actually, was… it wasn’t an internet thing, but I seem to remember, the singer Michael Stype had… when he came out, he came out, I think, as queer and, you know, the whole… that whole possibility sort of really clicked with me and made great sense actually.
And, yeah, so for me the internet, to begin with was the opportunity to access books and music, you know, that did relate, you know, sort of to a queer identity and to be able to… I think as well at a later date, obviously there were the things like, you know, Facebook and I was able to sort of gravitate to… as well, I did identify, as I say, for a time, sort of as a queer… I guess as a lesbian to an extent, and I was able to kind of go on online dating sites, and sort of that were geared to that as well online and to get to know people in that kind of way and get a little, you know, a little sense of community as well and it’s been an ongoing thing, you know, as I’ve kind of sort of more so in my thirties I supposed I’ve embraced my kind of trans identity, so it’s very much later really.
But actually, thinking about the invisibility – I’m going maybe off the point a little bit – of a transmale identity, for me even though there were a lot of programmes, as I said before, that focused on almost exclusively, you know, on the experience of transwomen, usually in kind of medically… you know, sort of usually kind of medicalising their stories, but there was, I remember a documentary that I really related to a lot and it was about transmen, it was, I think, Channel 4, and I think it might have been Make Me a Man and I heard about it later on, and I think this might have been before I went online actually, and before, you know, but I just remember thinking this does exist, and this actually was a revolutionary thing for me, just to know, there is a possibility for this. So I still didn’t quite think this is totally… you know, I still had maybe some sort of, you know, concerns about saying “This is me”, because it was something so different from what I was generally hearing about, but I did think, this felt really positive, and I thought it was quite a positive representation, you know, of the guys that were involved as well, quite a few different backgrounds and things like that and different age groups.
So that, for me, was another… so I think going online as well, did then allow me to sort of find out more about these programmes and YouTube as well was a big, you know, and this was maybe just a few years ago actually, I sort of… and that did change a lot of things for me, when I discovered a lot of trans guys were making videos about their experiences and about their journeys and that… it just clicked then, very much so, and I started to identify more as genderqueer, and to have the confidence to do that and to actually hear about genderqueer actually as a possibility. And just to see the huge variety of different narratives, different stories and expressions, you know, that genderqueer or trans people and transmen could have and that was incredibly positive for me, it really… and it really helped me to… and again it was a slow process, you know, because this whole thing has been kind of relatively slow I suppose and I am coming out, quite a bit older really than I would have done if I’d known about all this sort of thing when I was much younger. But, it was really, it was a huge help to be able to see videos and to, you know, just to get information and advice and to hear people talking about their emotional experiences and their family experiences. And it was useful as well, because I was able then to, when I decided that I felt ready to actually come out to my family, which has been recent for me, even though to friends and things like that, I’ve kind of been out in a kind of, I’ve kind of emerged, you know, sort of like I didn’t come out in a quick way, but emerged in quite a slow way I suppose. But the videos were useful to give to my sister, for instance, I could send her some links, because she said, “Well, how can you… you know, how does this…” to her this felt like it was coming slightly out of the blue, even though she’d always known I was very much the tomboy and things like that. She couldn’t put me together with, you know, what I could transition into becoming. So I was able to show her some videos and just show her other guys, you know, that are identifying in different kinds of ways and that… she got it, you know, she got it immediately then, and she’s actually watched a few, she was interested then to, you know, to discover this whole world, you know, of videos and things.
But for me it’s been a great… a real support and in recent, maybe the last 18 months things like Facebook, sort of private groups as well, you know, for trans guys, they’ve been a big sort of support as well, because I think the anonymity of it, because I’m not making videos and things like that myself, but I do love being able to connect to people through, you know, sort of giving advice if I’ve got any advice to give or being able to sort of to get advice, you know, and that level of anonymity, but also the level of friendships as well, you know, has been really a positive and empowering thing, because obviously it’s something I can do, you know, sort of my own in private and, you know, sort of at my own pace as well. So for me, you know, it’s been a great thing, in that sense.
INT: Just to ask a bit about the experience, you mentioned about coming out to your family…
INT: Maybe if I can ask sort of ask you to reflect how you thought that would be before you told them and then perhaps, or before you were thinking about coming out to them and then comparing that perhaps with your experience afterwards. How have the two things been?
L: Yes, well, as I say for me, it was a slow… the whole issue of coming out for me is, it’s sort of a strange thing in the sense that because of the way I was brought up, we… I never felt that restricted, I was really lucky actually in that sense. I was always pretty certain that my mother, you know, sort of wasn’t that, you know, sort of massively judgemental, she’s worked as a nurse, she’s worked in hospitals and things like that and worked in nursing homes as well, later in her career and she’s worked very, you know, sort of around a lot of people that have been, you know, sort of queer identified, lesbian/gay identified and she’s, you know, it’s never been an issue to her, she goes to the local chapel, she is a Christian, but she’s never been… so even though… she’s very much against any kind of, you know, sort of judgements and, you know, in that sense. So I always felt, you know, sort… I didn’t feel she’d ever reject me, actually, I was pretty certain that wouldn’t happen. And I’m from quite a small family, like my grandmother passed away some years ago and – my maternal grandmother, she was 96 – and my auntie actually passed away, she was quite young, in her sixties. So we didn’t have… it was just really my mother, my brother, sister and, you know, sort of and a few close relatives.
So, I didn’t think she would judge but it was still a strange thing for me to think of, you know, it took a long time actually for me to put it into words, so I started to… I did things, I guess I did it in a very much a roundabout kind of way, which is my way maybe of doing a lot of these types of things. I don’t like to be tied down to something very definite always. So I changed my name, that was sort of… I thought this would be a very overt sign, you know, something’s happening, I’m, you know, Ludovic now, I’m Ludo and, you know, this is very obviously, you know, Ludovic, you know, very clearly a male name I guess, and so I did that and, you know, she thought this was a bit strange, and but she was okay with it, ultimately, you know, sort of it did tie in as well, actually with the name I was given at birth, so I was… I said very clearly… because I didn’t want my mother to feel this was a rejection and so I suppose before really kind of coming out I did these little subtle things, such as changing my name, I begun, as well, the kind of the medical side of things. I’d sort of mentioned it to her, but I didn’t put it on to her… this was something I was pursuing kind of, you know, quite privately, you know and sort of getting that sort of under way, going to the hospital, the gender clinic, Charing Cross, and, you know, just doing that. I didn’t have to have permission obviously, you know, from my family to be doing any of those things, so I just did these things privately and it was when… it was during sort of my last… one of my later sort of medical appointments that I decided just to kind of tell people, because I thought well, it’s happening now, it’s all, you know, in more overt way and my brother… I kind of, yeah, I kind of just told them all really, that this is what was happening and my sister, at first, said “Well, I can’t really see, you know, I can’t really equate you,” I think it was when Chaz Bono had come out and, you know, so that was a reference that my sister had a that time. And she said “Well, I can’t,”… and Chaz obviously had gone through, you know, sort of his… he was quite a long way into his particular transition and don’t know if he had a beard and things like that, and my sister couldn’t put me together with that. And I said, well, you know, I told her about genderqueer and, you know, there’s just the variety of different sort of identities and different ways that people can, you know, sort of, express their gender identity.
And I said I’d send her these videos, which I did and she did understand then, she watched the videos. I actually sent them to a couple of friends as well, who were interested to learn more. And it seemed to be a really good way to… for people that were interested, you know, if they were willing to sit down and watch the selection of videos that I’d sent, maybe 3 or 4, of particular people that I’d been following and kind of relating to. It did seem to be a good way for people to understand that, you know, there were different ways and, you know, sort of different parts of a transition, and not everybody goes through, you know, these things in the same kind of ways. Not everybody goes through a medical transition, but this is what I wanted and, you know, this is how this could look and how it could be expressed.
And, yes, that seemed to be a good way and I think it was good in the sense that, you know, I didn’t just come out, it was a very slow process, but I’d learnt beforehand from watching some of these videos, that it is… you know, and I am very close to my family and I love them and I didn’t think they would reject me and they didn’t and I know that’s not the case obviously for everyone, so I’ve been really, really lucky about that.
But they… yes, they didn’t reject me, but I understood as well, it was something they were going to need time with, you know, such as sort of with the pronouns and even my name it took a while, obviously to, you know, you know, for them to get it, and but they seem to have got, you know, have got it, you know, and they really try actually and that, for me, is enough that they are trying, you know, and my mother has been brilliant, even with things like birthday cards, you know, she, you know, she’s getting male cards now, she got me, you know, a male – not that it always needs to be gendered anyway – but, you know, just… I think it was just for her just to show that she’s really, you know, kind of getting… she’s really open with this and she doesn’t always get it, you know, she isn’t from that kind of… you know, that’s not been her experience, you know, she’s not immersed in any kind of queer community or anything like that. But she really is trying and it’s only been very recently that I felt confident enough as well to tell other members of the family, but again it’s that easing them in, because obviously I’m comfortable with who I am, I see myself as male and, you know, comfortable with everything I’m doing, pretty much but… so I need to ease, you know, sort of, you know, the people that I love, I need to ease them into it, you know, by, you know, giving them little bits of information, not bombarding them immediately, and just telling them they don’t have to worry about me, you know, this is something that I’m, you know, sort of, you know, really comfortable with and this is how I see myself and this what I’m doing.
And, yes, it’s been positive I think, because of the way that I’ve done this in a really, you know, sort of quite gradual way, I’ve not kind of just said, well, you know, I’m transman, I’m a man get on with… you know, get over it, you know, deal with it, this is my name now, this is my pronoun, you know, I’ve given them leeway, you know, to sort of, you know, make the little mistakes that they will, but then they’ll correct themselves. And my… I’ve got a step… is it a half-brother, that I’ve recently been back in touch with, and it’s meant sort of embracing a whole new, sort of, side of my family, and he’s married and he’s got a little, very young daughter, and a… he married… he’s got his wife as well, and I’ve been chatting with them and getting to know them. So obviously I’ve had to tell them them this, you know, because he knew me, you know, like as a sister, you know, like a half-sister. And, yeah, so I thought how am I going to, you know, put this on to them, you know, we’ve just got to know each other again.
But I spoke with his… with my sister-in-law, you know, recently and yes, I again eased her into… you know, she’s kind of got the signs anyway, she knew I was queer in some respect, she just didn’t quite know and I post… she knows I post loads of trans-related… this is another way that I inform people, I suppose in my kind of roundabout way, is by kind of… I feel that I don’t want to censure myself, like if I’m online or on Facebook. I need to be able to talk about this part of my life, so people know that, well, this is something I’m heavily, you know, invested in, very interested in. Yeah, so it didn’t really come as a massive surprise to her, and she was fine and she’d been calling me “auntie” before that, you know, the little girl and she said “Well, now you’re Uncle Ludo”, you know, so… and, yeah, that felt great actually, and that was a fairly recent development.
So, it’s for me, so far, you know, coming out to loved ones anyway has been pretty positive, you know, sort of so far, but I’m not out… for me it’s a continual thing, I’m not necessarily out to, you know, to everyone, but I think it’s important to me to be out to the people that really, you know, are a big part of my life, and certainly with friends as well. I’ve had, you know, my friends have been just, you know, really good about it, you know. They don’t all… they’re not all… a lot of my friends are in the kind of queer community, so for them it’s something they’re familiar with. But a lot of my friends, as well, are not, you know, so for them it’s been something new and yes, they’ve been really open, you know, and, you know, they’ve been very supportive and that’s been really important to me as well, you know.
INT: Okay, can I just sort of step back a bit and you talked about the process of choosing your name…
INT: … can you just say a bit more about how you came to choose that name?
L: Yes, yes, well, for me it was the first tangible part of my kind of… my transition, you know, and the way that I was, sort of going into that, it was the first sort of thing I did in that… in a sense of putting my gender out there, my expression out there into the world and yes, I wanted… I didn’t feel, and I know this is really different for everyone, but I never disliked, you know, my given name, actually, it was given to me because my maternal great-grandmother had a version of the same name, and my mother’s second name was the same name and I think her… my second cousin, her cousin, had the same second name as well. Yes, so for me there was nothing negative in that sense, it was just it was a very feminine name, so it would always, you know, get me, you know, sort of read as female really. And so I decided it took a lot of personal, you know, sort of thought really, I thought I didn’t want to totally get rid of it. So I looked up for male sort of variations on that particular name and there was some really obvious ones, I could have gone for – obviously this’ll give away, you know, the birth name – but there were things like Louis and, you know, Lewie, and things like that – and but I didn’t really, you know, particularly want those, and so I’d seen a… I don’t know if it was particularly because of this film, but there was a film about a trans person some years ago, and the central character was Ludo, Ludovic, and I just remember really kind of liking the name, thinking it was really, you know, quite appealing. So, I thought, for me it came down to… and it had the same meaning actually as well, when I looked up the meaning. You know, my birth name actually meant something like “maid that goes to war” and Ludovic actually still had that association, I think it was like “man that goes to war” or something like that, which wasn’t that important that it meant that, to do with war, but it had the same, sort of meaning, and yes, so there were lots of variations on this name, and so for me it came down to either Ludwig, or Ludovic, and yeah, it just appealed more, the sound of it, you know, it just felt like me and the fact I could shorten it to Ludo as well, it just seemed to be a really good fit and I changed my… you were able, when I did the Deed Poll thing and kind of made it sort of, you know, had it sort of authenticated, and had it done officially I did change my… I was about to change my pro… you know, sort of the, you know, your gender… what do they call it? You know, sort of… think I went for Mx, you know, at that point, by now I go between Mx and Mr, I’m really comfortable with both those things actually, Mx is the gender neutral title. And yeah, so then I changed everything then, sort of driving licence and that just felt really good, just to have it out there and people have been pretty good with getting on board with it actually, friends and things like that. If they’ve not got it they’ve picked themselves up on quite often, if they’ve made little slips which, obviously, that does happen. But yeah, people have got pretty much on board with it and it feels great when I hear, particularly like my family, you know, sort of calling me, like Ludo, even… because I know it’s not necessarily totally comfortable for them, you know, so they are making this big effort and obviously a lot of people as well, sort of that I’ve got to know over the last, I don’t know, couple of years, they’ve not known me as anything else. So it’s just, you know, this is how they see me, so yeah, it feels it was a really positive and quite easy, actually, part of, my particular transition, changing my name.
And, yes, still to keep that positive energy because I certainly didn’t want personally… I didn’t want to reject, you know, the name I was given at birth, because it did mean a lot when my mother had named me. And my second names I kept… well, I’ve gone for Stanley actually as one, so it’s Ludo Stanley, and then Eilah is the last and Eilah… Stanley I just kind of liked it, there wasn’t any deep meaning necessarily to that, it just kind of felt right, I sort of thought it was kind of old mannish, you know, which was really appealing to me, and then I went to Eilah, which connected actually with one of the second names I’d had, the same first couple of letters. So again I wanted to tie it in, you know, with the names my mother given me. Still have that positive energy, I know some people talk of… and this is the way some people feel obviously, you know, they maybe talk of a dead name and things like that, but I don’t really see it, you know, I want to keep the positive, you know, personally, just those… you know, like because I didn’t have those negative feelings around the name I suppose, you know, so just wanted a more, a name that I felt was a better fit with me and you know, had that masculine, what I saw as a masculine connotation and I love it, I think it’s a Latin name, I think, in origin, not that that, you know, particularly mattered, I think a lot of French… I found out a lot of French footballers bizarrely, have got that, you know, Ludovic. So, yes, I really like it, so it was good for me.
INT: Sure. And I think you said that you’ve decided that you did want to have some medical interventions…
INT: … is that correct?
L: Yes, this is what I’m going… I’m sort of in the really early stages, actually, of sort of going through testosterone therapy at the moment and yes, I started September 24th 2013, last year, and yeah, it’s just been a little way over… I think I’m coming towards seven months, now, which is… it’s gone really quickly and I’ll also… yes, and for me that was again a process, you know, quite a long process, I had to give it a lot of thought and do a lot of research into that and I started off actually wanting top surgery more so, you know, both… I was very open to both, but that felt like the… I felt very definite about wanting top surgery and very quickly, but I’ve not had that yet, I’m actually… I’m going through an NHS sort of pathway, I couldn’t… you know, that was the only option, actually for me to do it that way and obviously it takes quite a long time, and you know, sort of you need to be incredibly patient and you have been on the hormones for at least six months before you can have the top surgery, and I’ve got my next appointment in September. But I’ve discovered I actually… once I committed and it was a lot of thought, you know, sort of I went through a lot of thought and consideration around the process, but once I’d committed to sort of starting the hormones I’ve really… and obviously the way it affects people is very different, very personal, depending on your genetics, it’s been a total learning curve for me. I did think, even when I started it was such a huge deal, it was the summer last year, when I had the phone call from Charing Cross to say I’d been given then thumbs up to start and that was amazing, that was a real, you know, sort of like a huge thing, you know, and I remember thinking then, when I started in the September that a lot of these, even though I had seen, you know, quite a few videos, I was sort of aware of the process, I did think well a lot of these things would happen very quickly. So it’s been a learning curve for me to know it’s a really relatively gradual process and obviously it’s different… I mean I’ve got a friend, actually, who started at a similar time, I think a couple of months before me and his voice broke very quickly. But for me mine is starting to break more so now, actually, sort of, as I come up for about seven months on, so it’s all really kind of individual and the changes are not maybe as quick as I thought, but really it’s sort of enjoying a process, and learning a lot actually, as I kind of go along and it is definitely something for me, and actually the top surgery for me, personally, even though it is something I certainly want, and as soon as possible, but I’ve surprised myself by… you know, I’ve not been as desperate for it actually, now I’ve started the hormones. It didn’t feel like something I needed as quickly as possible, but I think that’s because as well, I’m a smaller guy and, you know, I’ve had some of those, you know, some of the privileges that go with that, you know, and I’ve… I’m dysphoric in that sense, but the dysphoria has become a little less since I started the hormones, I suppose, for me personally.
INT: Sure. And can I just ask about that experience of dysphoria, if you were perhaps trying to explain that to someone who hadn’t experienced that, is there a way that you can describe it, or characterise it?
L: Yes, yes.
INT: Okay, so I just ask that question again, so you mentioned about the feeling of dysphoria, is there a way that you can kind of characterise that or describe, perhaps, for someone who hadn’t experienced that?
L: Yes, I think dysphoria as well, you know, it’s different I think for different people and they experience, you know, sort of people will feel… trans people will feel this dysphoria in different… you know, very individual kind of ways. And I think for me the dysphoria was very much around my body, especially as I went through puberty, it was a sense of a disconnection, this is how I felt it personally, I didn’t have the words, I didn’t know at that point, you know, at the age of 12, 13, and so on, I didn’t know it was dysphoria at that point. I just remember feeling a great disconnect, sort of from this developing body, especially the chest area and I tried to sort of, to deal with it and I would say it’s a sense of disconnect, this is how I would describe it for me, a feeling of this instinctively not feeling right… the way that my body was developing through puberty, and sort of… it didn’t feel right for me, it didn’t feel like my body basically, you know, it didn’t feel I’d be comfortable in this kind of pubescent kind of, you know, sort of boyish, sort of body, or relatively boyish. So the sort of the development with the chest area, was really distressing actually, and became even more so the older I got, it didn’t seem to be something that did lessen and I didn’t get over and it surfaced, sometimes I would find ways to distract or to cut myself off from thinking about my body at all, which I’ve done actually through a great period of my life, just, cutting out and, you know, not thinking about my body. But or trying not to. But… and I didn’t know as well about things like binding, you know, sort of in my teens I wasn’t really aware of the ability to sort of… to sort of bind your chest, to sort of hide the kind of breast area and to make that flat, I didn’t know about that. So as I got older I would wear layers and things, and I still feel, like that.
No, I think it really does impact upon things, a sort of a body dysphoria. I was talking with someone the other day and we were talking about trans sort… being trans and doing sports, for instance, and for me it kind of… it inhibited, me personally it inhibited, you know, sort of my ability to take part in certain sports, I wouldn’t, as I got older, I wouldn’t swim for instance, and it was only last year that I kind of went and just it was we had a really nice summer and for the first time in absolute years I decided to just find a way to go and sort of go into the sea and I’d looked up a little bit online, as to the kinds of things people could wear if they want to kind of, you know, sort of go swimming, you know, without revealing, you know, their body too much, and I found a way to kind of wear shorts and like a t-shirt, and I felt okay with that, I know a lot of people wouldn’t, but it was very kind of private and as I say, I’m relatively small anyway, so I was okay and comfortable to do that.
But, that was a big thing, but certainly it’s very… for me the feeling of dysphoria has been a very inhibiting thing, it’s inhibited, even now it inhibits, you know, sort of some things I can wear, it’s inhibited… it’s had a knock-on effect as well, in the sense that you know it’s caused depression, you know, sort of… a lot of things where I didn’t necessarily know what had caused this, but it’s made sense now of periods of my life when I’ve experienced depression and really struggled. I always did feel a sense of having to kind of live in my imagination more so, and kind of escape, because of this disconnect with my body and one of the ways I would do that, for instance was alcohol actually, when I was sort of, in my very late teens and early twenties, I did struggle, I think that’s quite a common thing for some trans people to, you know, sort of… it was an easy option, it was close at hand and I didn’t know that… and this was before, you know, I did learn, you know, about sort of transgender identities and this is what, you know, sort of… this was what I was really, and what I was experiencing.
And another thing that’s been quite a private thing, but I do think it’s actually quite important to say it really, is that I’ve sort of experienced as well, and this was one of the knock on effects of the dysphoria, it kind of as well as sort of drinking to not, you know, to forget my body and things like that, I also struggled quite a lot with my eating, you know, sort of disorders and things like that, which again is quite difficult sort of if you’re a transman I would say, you know, sort of in my case, because it’s a very gendered condition, so it’s quite difficult and it’s never presumed that you might be experiencing this because of your struggles with your body, it took me a long time to make sense of that and it was really helpful to understand that this eating disorder was… obviously eating disorders anyway are often very much about control and things like that. And for me, it was certainly about controlling, you know, my body and particularly the kind of chest area, you know, it was almost like a kind of binding but in a kind of eating disordered way, you know. And I think that this isn’t that uncommon I’ve discovered, you know, sort of over the last few years, you know, people would talk about this kind of thing, you know, privately and certainly, you know, kind of online and maybe in small groups, but I think there’s a great amount of stigma, you know, even in trans circles I think to be talking about this, I think it is a big issue, as a mental health issue actually and I have, you know, sort of struggled and felt quite isolated with these things, and it’s only been in the last few years really that I’ve kind of tried to, you know, work at shaking off some of these personal bits as well. I think it’s quite common as well, if you’re a trans person, to struggle with, you know, you are brought up in a kind of a society that is a transphobic society, you know, sort of, even now, very much so and certainly, depending on where you live and sort of things like that, this can, you know, sort of be different depending on where you live, but it is generally, there’s not always a lot of positive representations of how to be trans and, you know. So I think there can be a lot of internalised transphobia and I think this is something that I still work on, but I think it’s something that you, you know, something I’ve struggled with… and this has fed in again to, you know, sort of an embarrassment about things like mental health issues and eating disorders and I think it’s important, not to be… I’m learning not to be, you know, to try shake off, you know, because these things can isolate, shame about these things can allow people to feel isolated, and I felt that isolation quite often and I’m trying to shake that off and I think it’s, you know, it’s good for people to know, that, you know, that they aren’t necessarily on their own with these things, because it’s the isolation I think that can be the negative thing, just to know a few people, you know, sort of are in a similar position and that there are ways to reach out and retain your anonymity as well, you know, I think that that can be really important because I know as well, you know, as a trans person it isn’t always necessarily even safe to come out and things like that, it’s not… it’s quite a privilege to be able to come out, because you have to take into account personal safety and things like that and your own personal situation and it’s not always appropriate as well, I think to be coming out to people, you know, necessarily you don’t want to have to be coming out all the time either, necessarily.
And, so I think that it’s important, yes for people to know, they’re not on their own, if they are struggling with dysphoria, and things like that, you know, and yes.
INT: And I just wanted to sort of ask a bit about how you’ve… so you came forward for some of the medical interventions that you described, how have you found the process of accessing that? I wonder if you can perhaps say a bit more about that.
L: Yes, yes, definitely. It’s been a learning, a steep learning curve, a real learning curve. I’d heard other people talking, you know, sort of, you know, about these different processes, and as I say, I’ve watched quite a few of these YouTube videos, so you get a good sense of how this kind of thing operates, sort of in an international sense, you know, you get American guys, Canadian guys, guys, different parts of the world talking about, you know… and in the UK obviously, we… the NHS is a potential pathway as well as private and for me private wasn’t option actually at this point in my life, and I wasn’t sure actually, how to even go about, in the very early days of this process how to even begin, I kind of almost fell into the… I just remember in quite a haphazard way actually, I remember going to my doctor and I’m lucky, and have been lucky to have quite a good local doctor, local surgery, and it… so I was able to talk and feel comfortable about my… even though I was still kind of awkward at that point I wasn’t really out as such, so I just remember talking to my doctor and saying about I had these kind of gender issues, and she actually then suggested that I go and see, I think it was a psychologist, I’m not quite sure but somewhere called the Hove Poly Clinic, and so I had an appointment, I had to wait quite a while for that, and I went for this kind of, sort of informal assessment I suppose. I talked about how I felt about my gender, and I was quite, still at that time felt quite awkward about talking, you know, about these things. But I spoke with a really nice, I think she was a psychiatrist, or psychologist and she seem to really, you know, to understand and she kind of wrote a little assessment and she recommended actually, when she wrote this assessment that I be seen at the gender clinic, and this was Charing Cross, and I’d heard people speaking about Charing Cross but I didn’t really have any sense of, you know, of what… it was just a name to me really at that point. And so I just kind of went with the flow of that, I thought, well, if she’s made this recommendation, I’ll kind of go along with it. I didn’t really quite know, you know, what any of that was going to entail at the time.
So, while all that was happening, just sort of… this was… I had changed my name, but this wasn’t… I wasn’t told to change my name and I didn’t actually hear from Charing Cross for quite a long time, and I discovered this is quite common, I didn’t know at that time. So I wasn’t waiting for a letter because it was all just, you know, I was just… all I knew was that my… this psychologist had sent off this assessment, you know, for a referral. So, it was many months later I had a kind of pack sent from Charing Cross, just giving me some sort of information and a lot of it was really kind of I wasn’t that familiar, you know, with a lot of these things, but I’d already changed my name, so I think this was one of the recommendations that actually made, the people, maybe had to have changed their name, before going forward. And I remember filling in the form and sending it back and, yes, they sent me an appointment and it was many months actually after this kind of initial pack was sent to me. I think the pack was sent to me in the summer, and I had my first appointment in the December, in the winter, early December, which, you know, I just thought this was standard procedure, so I didn’t really mind waiting, but I know, now in hindsight that a lot of people are, you know, sort of find this waiting, you know, sort of period, you know, quite a long, long time and quite a stressful time, but I had other things kind of on the go at that time, so I didn’t… it didn’t bother me at that time, but in hindsight it was a very long time, actually, and when I saw the doctor in Charing Cross, even he commented on that, you know. But yes, I was very nervous before my first appointment in London, I’d never been to Charing Cross the hospital before, so I wasn’t quite sure, you know, sort of… but I got the train up there, I was very anxious, but excited at the same time. It was winter, and I got the tube to… and just sort of ask directions then, sort of… I think I caught from a bus from the tube station, in Hammersmith and I went to the main hospital, which is probably maybe something other people do as well, and I was told that Charing Cross itself is sort of a little sort of separate clinic a little further away from the main hospital.
And, yes, I went there and there was this little door and yeah, just a lot of nerves, a lot of, you know, trepidation, and anxiety. Yes, went in and gave my details, information, and yes, I saw… actually it was really positive because when I got there the doctor I saw was Dr Lorimer, he called… he kind of called me in, and said “Mr Foster” and I’d not really expected… I was at a point where I wasn’t used to being addressed, you know, sort of in that way, as I’d only changed my name really, you know, sort of not long, you know, sort of maybe, I don’t know, seven months, you know, six or seven months before that and so I was still getting used to that and I went in and the appointment was really positive actually, it was quite brief, very much to the point, I just had to give a brief overview of, you know, sort of my childhood and how I’d experienced my gender and things like that, and he was actually… I felt very comfortable actually talking to this Dr Lorimer, he was very respectful and it was a really positive first experience and I went away, yeah, excited, thinking well, I’ve done… you know, I’d taken this first step and, you know, sort of this feels, quite tangible. And my next appointment then was for… it was actually only last year that next appointment, strange how time goes quickly really, it was in the April, and this is where things got a little bit and I started to understand that the NHS process is one where you have to learn… you know, it takes a long time and you’re having to learn this kind of patience really, because something happened on that April, I wasn’t able to attend, because there was some disruption on the train and it meant, even though I was on the train, I couldn’t get to the appointment, I had to go to London anyway, and anyway they gave me an appointment then for the May, but it was with a different doctor.
So, anyway, I thought this is going to take a while, but I went anyway, because it was the only available appointment they had. So, this was from the December to the May, and I… the May was the second appointment and I saw this doctor who was a different doctor, and the experience was completely the opposite actually of the first appointment. I got to the clinic and when he called me in, he didn’t call me Mr, he didn’t use any name, I don’t think. He had a completely different approach, which completely knocked me, in hindsight now I’m aware because people do share information about, you know, the doctors and the process, and I would have been aware of this doctor’s particular way of dealing with people. But I’d expected it will be, you know, like the first one and yes, it was completely different. He… it was quite negative actually and very traumatic. If I’d gone with more information I might have found it different, I would have maybe had a different approach.
But I was really open, actually, about that I was male, very comfortable and confident in my male identity, but I was also really comfortable in a non-binary identity, and I mentioned that and he… this particular doctor didn’t believe in non-binary identities, he thought it was just a phase and a nonsense really. And this just surprised me, you know, I’d not really expected that, but apparently this isn’t uncommon. And, yes, I went away… he said he didn’t feel he could put me forward for, you know, treatment because he felt there was a doubt and he’d need me to see, you know, another doctor.
And I just came away from the whole experience, because obviously then you have to make the journey from the clinic, you know, back, you know, and it’s only a short journey, obviously, from London back to Sussex, but, you know, it feels like a long… it felt like a long time, that journey and I just felt it was kind of a really traumatic experience and for me personally, or the way that I… I just felt really upset and kind of as if someone had cast doubt, on you know my identity and my masculinity and yeah, so I kind of had an evening of feeling just really traumatised and then I decided to become, if there was any positive that came out of quite a negative actually, it was that I decided to become very proactive quite immediately, because I thought well, because the appointment, the next appointment felt like quite a long way off, even though it wasn’t really, it felt, you know, every month now felt like a long wait, and I think maybe I had another 2, 2½ months to wait, which in hindsight wasn’t that long.
But yeah, so I immediately then started to sort of access any information I could online, I contacted something called Press for Change, and got some really great immediate sort of written support from them, which was such a help actually, it was from Professor Stephen Whittle, and he was just sort of empathising with my experience and sharing his own experience, which wasn’t that different actually, and that gave me a great amount of hope. And it was written, you know, it was just having that kind of written support meant an awful lot actually and gave me a real boost and yes, I just became really proactive. One of the things I remember, actually, that doctor that I’d seen had said to me was the fact that my driving licence, even though the name and everything had been changed, apparently there was a code or some kind of number on there that is either male or female but isn’t written on the licence, but is down on some official documentation as being male and I wasn’t, at the time, aware of that, but I immediately changed it, found out and it kind of kick-started actually that appointment me becoming a lot more overt, I suppose, even though I was very much comfortable in my own identity, I’d not necessarily… I still found it really awkward to sort of tell a lot of people, but after that, I just kind of… well, I’m at the University of Sussex and I was able to sort of, you know, just to kind of clarify things with them and make sure I was down as male on… you know, there’s a lot of bureaucracy to deal with as well as part of this sort of medical sort of side of things. So, it just meant sort of… you know, I’d already changed my name on, you know, sort of at my local surgery, but I made sure it was changed on medical documentation, sort of local council documentation and all that kind of local sort of bureaucratic kind of stuff. And it wasn’t… I didn’t find it that difficult actually, I changed things with the bank as well, and I was really lucky actually with my own local surgery that they were even really accommodating and I think this is relatively rare, I made a point of kind of… because I was more non-binary in the sense of overtly so at the time, and they were really comfortable with putting me down as Mx for instance, on the medical system even, and even now I’m comfortable with both Mr and Mx but I decided just to leave the Mx because it comes up on the system and I think if there are any other people, you know, it’s kind of quite positive as well, you know, sort of to see that, you know, it wasn’t a big issue with them, they put me down that I’m able to be male on their computer system, so there are a lot of technical kind of things and my local surgery have been, you know, pretty good with all that stuff, and changing it.
But yes, certainly the NHS medical route has… it takes time, I went back after that negative appointment, I had a more positive appointment and I went in having… I had some dealings with, I think it was Brighton MindOut, I’m not sure, or one of the services, and I was able to have an appointment with someone to talk about the negative gender clinic appointment that I’d had and this was just a little bit of positive affirmation really, when I met with this person, just to tell me how to… you know, just to give a few suggestions as to how I could approach this next appointment. And it was really helpful just to get a bit of feedback and this person seemed to think that everything I said, really, was very reasonable and that all I had to do was just go on really confident, be myself and that was it. So, that’s exactly what I did basically.
But I did find that I… this next appointment, because of what I’d learnt I didn’t talk so much about non-binary which I did feel did show that when you are going this NHS route, that you are kind of coerced in some ways to not disclosing if you don’t necessarily fit incredibly strictly into, you know, sort of male or female, you know, if you’re a trans person. And I know from, you know, my group of friends and, sort of in life and online, you know, that a lot of people have had to fit themselves, even if they don’t identify in these ways really strictly, even their sexualities for instance, a lot of people have felt if they identify as, you know, a trans guy who is bisexual or a gay guy, you know, not heterosexual, they’ve maybe felt a little coerced into maybe not talking about that, you know, maybe, you know, depending on the doctor they see. So it almost becomes a kind of… yes, and I think as a patient as well, a transgender patient and going through the NHS pathway, you discover that there is a great lack of funding as well, and you are made aware of that as a patient, because, for instance, it’s very oversubscribed I think as well, because there’s a lot of people wanting to access this, especially sort of, you know, as people become more, you know, aware and more confident about, you know, sort of expressing themselves as a transgender person, you know, they want to access these things, some people. And I think that, yes, it’s very oversubscribed and you get a sense of that, you know, for instance maybe you get used to a certain, you know, sort of nurse and then you’ll find that that person isn’t there or, you know, because of the funding or because of the… yes, and this affects the waiting times, you know, as well, and this is incredibly stressful.
To begin with with for me I didn’t… because I was quite new to the whole process, it was okay, but I found it at times as well, quite taxing, you know, quite difficult, you know, these periods of waiting, for instance, with things like top surgery, you have to almost, you know, sort of learn a kind of patience and I know for some people, you know, for instance trans guys that might be bigger guys, you know, and maybe binding for them is more of a health issue where they’re feeling constant physical pain and discomfort from binding. So, to have to wait a long period of time to have top surgery for instance is, you know, is emotionally and, you know, and sort of and physically, you know, traumatic for them. So I think that… but I’m lucky actually, I feel… not that I’m lucky, but I feel that… I feel lucky that in the UK at least, you know, that we do have the NHS, you know, as well, because obviously I’m aware that guys for instance in America, maybe there’s certain surgeries they can’t have if they want them because they can’t afford to pay for them, you know. So I think… I’m willing to kind of be patient and to wait, but I do also know a lot of guys that somehow manage, you know, either have the money or try to get the money together and will do things like, you know, sort of go to something called Gender Care, where they’re able to access sort of the private sort of… where the whole process is a lot quicker actually, which kind of makes you think, you know, the whole process then becomes, you know, a matter of months instead of, you know, sort of, you know, years.
But for myself, my whole experience has been, even though there have been long stretches of waiting, and there was that terribly negative experience, maybe because… I don’t know if it’s because I’m a little bit older than some of the, you know, some of the younger guys, I am able to, you know, to, to be patient and, you know, and my wait hasn’t been as long as some people who have gone this route, you know.
INT: Do you mind me asking how long you’ve been going through the process?
L: It’s not long, it feels like a long time, because I think once you start this it starts to, you know, sort of every day feels like a long time, but actually it was December… that first appointment was December 2012. So that was very much the end of that year, so really it was… you know, so it’s not been a massive amount of time, I’ve known some guys, for instance, that, depending on which clinic they’ve gone to, because I think ever clinic in the UK is, you know, slightly different in their process, and I’ve known some people that have waited maybe, you know, in some cases… because as well it depends… things have changed actually, where you can now be referred by a doctor I think, your GP, if they’re aware of this, they can actually refer you straight away. But I know some guys that have had to wait long periods of time just to be referred for instance, you know, by a… you know, so maybe that will change now and maybe depending on their mental health at the time as well. I’ve known some people maybe wait a few years, you know, to go through the process, you know, so I think it’s, it’s different obviously depending on your situation.
But for me it’s not been, you know, thinking of it philosophically it’s not been a huge amount of time but, you know, it can feel that way sometimes, you know.
INT: And what would sort of feel like… do you have a sort of idea in mind about what would be the end of the medical intervention process for you, or is it perhaps a bit more open for you?
L: It is quite open, actually, and, you know, and there a lot of changes, even since starting the testosterone and I started with the gel, which was a preference at the time, and I’ve now gone on to… with the gel it’s something you apply every day, and… which was fine for me, I didn’t have, you know, I know for some people that would be a, you know, a bit of a hassle, but it wasn’t a big deal to me to be doing that really.
But, I decided, after a certain amount of time, I prefer to go on to injections because I’ve not got any needle phobias or anything like that, so I, I have something called Nebido, which is an injection you have. I think… when I did… I’m on what they call the loading phase of that, and I had my injection of that, I think it was February I started on that. But… and that’s fine, that’s just one kind of big injection you have every few months.
But I think, for me the top surgery is certainly something that I definitely want, I definitely want that, and that would… I would hope for that to be, in Sussex, there’s a local doctor that does that and I also know a lot of guys sort of, kind of gone through this doctor, Dr Yelland, in the Nuffield Hospital I think it is, and he seems to have had some really positive results and it also feels like a really practical kind of thing as well, because there wouldn’t be a lot of travelling involved, because obviously travelling can be quite awkward. So that would be quite ideal for me really.
So definitely for me, top surgery would be something I would be really keen. And I think in the sense of finishing, I’m not… I don’t, I don’t really see a real end, you know, in any sense, but I guess that’s my attitude to things in general anyway. I don’t always necessarily think in the way of, you know, just an end, you know, goal. But I suppose in a tangible sense it would… obviously having the, you know, sort of becoming more masculinised, you know, through the hormones obviously and begin read more consistently as male as well, would be something that I’m wanting to gain through, you know, through the hormones, but obviously it’s again patience seems to be very much needed.
But, yeah, so for me the top surgery and I’m leaving things open then, you know, as to what… I know a lot of guys seems to feel the same way, you know. As I say a lot of my thoughts and feelings about things have shifted a little bit anyway since starting the hormones and I’m not quite sure about bottom surgery, for instance, but I know a lot of guys that are pursuing that and I’m keeping an open mind, which is something that surprised me because I didn’t initially think that I would feel that way, but I definitely am keeping an open mind and trying to just find out more about, you know, what’s available basically, you know, to people.
But I’m not really seeing any great sort of sense of this is finished, you know, it’s kind of maybe an ongoing sort of quite fluid process for me, you know. I would find it quite stressful to think of an end goal and everything was done, you know. But I guess maybe in the sense of something more tangible as well, thought, maybe just being finished with having to, you know, sort of, you know, go to Charing Cross for instance, that would seem like that something has finished there, you know, that’s some kind of an end point, you know, but, you know, that would be it really at the moment, so.
INT: Okay, is it all right just to ask a few more questions?
L: Absolutely, definitely.
INT: So, obviously our project is called Brighton Trans*formed. So I guess I was going to ask you what brought you to Brighton?
L: Right, right, I’ve been here a few years now actually, in Hove, actually, and but, I came here to study, this was the thing I… I got onto a PhD course at Sussex University and I’m doing gender studies and this was one of… I always had a feeling that I wanted to live, you know, sort of in the Brighton area, and I was aware that Brighton was, you know, just well known for being, you know, a bit queer kind of place really and, you know, quite an open-minded place in a lot of different ways, and a great place to do gender studies. And, yes, so I got onto this PhD and I thought well, why not move… I didn’t have any particular ties anywhere else. I was living in Winchester at the time, and yeah, so I moved from Winchester to Brighton, I think it was about five years ago now, maybe four and a half years maybe, four and a half years probably, and yes… yes, I moved to do this course, the PhD and I went from full time to part time, and it’s quite a long sort of process actually and that in itself has been quite a learning curve, because in recent years I’ve been doing a fair amount of travel as well, with this PhD, sort of attending conferences and things like that.
And, yeah, so for me coming to Brighton the appeal of it was that I just knew it as a kind of… and I’ve never been here actually before moving… you know, before coming and looking at accommodation to live, to move up here. I just knew it as a place that seemed to be very kind of queer-friendly, I suppose, that was the image I had of the place, you know, quite an open-minded… I’d never really lived in places like that before. I’d lived, quite often for various reasons, I’d lived in quite small, you know, decent places, but never with any kind of noticeable kind of queer scene or, you know, in any sense and I just really wanted to be somewhere, you know, where that… where I could access that type of thing, you know, so that was the appeal to me.
INT: And how did it kind of match up in terms of, you know, you’re wanting to come to this place that has this kind of queer aspect? How did it match up in reality when you came?
L: Well, this is the thing, I came because I’d lived in places that really were the opposite, the absolute opposite. Winchester was a great place but it was a small place and, you know, kind of, you know, kind of middle England, I suppose, you know, so you wouldn’t even… you know, you didn’t often see sort of say same sex couples walking holding hands and things. So when I first came to Brighton I guess I came, you know, quite naïve kind of way, quite wide-eyed and so I did, you know… it was great just to be in a place where you would see, you know, sort of… where that kind of thing wasn’t an issue, you know, and that was my initial kind of sort of, you know, these things were there, you know, you would sort of see, you know, you know, you know, same sex couples holding hands, you know, those kind of very noticeable kind of things really, and there did seem to be, you know, sort of various pubs or bars that were kind of very overtly, you know, sort of kind of more queer-friendly, and clubs and things like that, events and social things. That did seem to be here and the Pride event, at that time I was only really aware of… you know, so I saw more the commercial side, I think, when I first moved here, that this was the kind of initial, you know, sort of certain venues, and kind of the more mainstream sort of things.
And, then when I’d been here a little bit longer, I got more of a sense of the things maybe that were a little, you know, sort of… I mean the initial things, I think, were more kind of LGB, sort of lesbian, gay, bisexual, kind of more geared towards, you know, you know, that kind of crowd, you know, sort of certain kind of bars and things like that. And yes, and the same with the Pride even as well, it seemed to be very much, you know, sort of… when I first moved here and I wasn’t out as trans and not really… you know, I was more identifying kind of as lesbian, I suppose, in that sense, but more queer really, than anything else. But I didn’t get a huge sense initially of a trans presence, that was my initial kind of, you know, when I was first going out and about in Brighton, I didn’t… I wasn’t being… I wasn’t alerted to these things, you know, at that point but that was a couple of years ago now, and I don’t know if it’s just because, you know, my own… I’ve changed and I’m much more aware, but I am more aware of that. I go to… I’m not interested now, I’m quite cynical actually about that kind of… for all kinds of reasons, but about that, you know, the more commercial aspects of what is available in Brighton and I think that is the public face of the kind of the queerness of Brighton, is that sort of more mainstream sort of clubs and sort of more lesbian/gay kind of, particularly, kind of, things aimed at maybe gay, your sort of gay guys more so. I think that’s the popular face of that kind of the commercial side of the LGB sort of T kind of scene in Brighton.
But I’m more aware I think now, I think, yeah, became quite… a little bit more cynical and little bit more jaded, as time when by, and more aware maybe of the commercial kind of… the same with the Pride event, you know, sort of I became more aware of… and I think it’s the same for a lot of Prides maybe, maybe globally I don’t know, but certainly, maybe, in this country where they are kind of… there’s a lot of sponsorship and, you know, you become aware… and I’ve, you know, and listening to other trans people speak, actually, and discovering some, you know, quite a few people don’t find, for instance, this Pride event, you know, the more commercial Pride event even a safe space, you know, sort of… I think I’ve learnt I’ve got a very different outlook I think on Brighton and these kinds of scenes and the queerness, you know, since kind of identifying myself more overtly as trans, and also, you know, maybe to do with my study as well, you know, I’m studying, you know, gender, so I’m also kind of, you know, sort of… and I’ve done a little bit of travel, so I sort of know other queer people, you know, sort of throughout the world, but certainly in Europe and there’s a very particular… I’m more interested I guess in a queer scene that is more, maybe, you know, more sort of more conscious, you know, sort of more sort of inclusive and things like that, you know, in really a wide sense.
But when I first came I was more just… it was… I was just relieved to be anywhere where you could just be queer in any way, and just more out. And I think it’s definitely possible, Brighton is quite… is really different I would say, from other places in that you do, I think, have quite, you know, quite a lot of leeway to, you know, to be queer and to identify in different ways and, you know, and to find things, but at the same time it’s far from perfect, you know, I think a lot of people might see it as a kind of utopia, but it’s very far from that I think, I’ve learnt that, you know.
INT: Would you say there was a trans community in Brighton and Hove?
L: I would say there is, you know, in different kinds of ways. Since kind of I’ve looked for it myself, and I’ve never really aligned myself too strongly anyway with any kind of… I’d never been at the heart, I don’t think, of any community just by nature anyway, you know, I’ve… and I’m doing what I’m doing, so I don’t always have time to, you know, be immersed in… but I think there is a community that I’ve noticed more so, you know, sort of in recent years, obviously there was the big Trans Pride event, and I thought that had… I went to that last year, and I thought that had… I did have a sense of community, actually, in that, you know, in the sense that it felt it was quite a, you know, small, smallish event, and quite an intimate event, and I think there’s an emerging maybe kind of community but there’s also maybe a lot of well established, long term projects as well, you know. I remember going and one of the first things, because I didn’t know where to go when I first kind of started to question my gender in a more kind of open way, and one of the first things I went to was something called the Clare Project, and I only went a couple of times, but I’m sure if it’s geared more towards transwomen, but I think it’s inclusive of anyone who wants to kind of go there. I think there was maybe one or two other trans guys when I went and I only went a couple of times, but I found that to be, you know, welcoming. You know, I’ve always found the trans situations and groups that I’ve gone into, have got to FTM Brighton a couple of times as well, and… because it’s an awkward time I think as well, when you are coming out, because you can feel a little bit socially awkward in yourself, you know, and I certainly felt that way, so kind of sometimes going into groups and social situations under the banner of a trans group, sometimes felt… I was quite self-conscious. But I’ve gained something I think from going to… you know, I made friends and connections, you know, sort of… and people that I can connect with outside of the groups and things like that then.
So I wouldn’t say there’s a massive, you know, sort of trans scene really, but there’s an emerging kind of, you know, sort of… there are some established groups, some emerging things, such as Trans Pride and also a kind of, an emerging kind of like queer kind of sort of thing as well, where I think people are kind of getting together across, you know, maybe people that don’t always necessarily want to, you know, just get involved in the more commercial Pride events or go to the, you know, more commercial clubs, but maybe people that want to go to events where, you know, there will be interesting, you know, sort of fun and fun things, you know, music and things like that, but also kind of discussions and, you know, sort of… and inclusive, you know, more inclusive things, you know, especially, you know, safer spaces as well, especially I think that can sometimes be an issue for transwomen for instance who maybe feel quite unwelcome and unsafe in certain, such as the commercial Pride and things like that, I’ve had some sort of trans female friends that have told me that, you know, that they felt, you know, threatened actually at some events.
So, I think there are emerging certain club nights and things now, I know there’s something called FemRock, that is kind of very kind of inclusive, and but also quite political as well, you know, sort of quite feminist, kind of quite, in a quite intersectional way, which means that it’s sort of… I know people are hearing a lot about intersectionality, but it’s just basically that, being intersectional just means being aware of people that are experiencing sort of, you know, sort of maybe a marginalised identity, but across different things, such as, you know, sort of maybe disability, race, sexuality, you know, and sort of, you know, how people move between, you know, sort of how people can, you know, be marginalised in a lot of different ways, you know.
So, I think something like FemRock, for instance, is trying to kind of, you know, to hold a kind of a Club night with an awareness of that, you know, an inclusive, you know. So I think there’s more of that now, this is what I’m… so I’m sensing anyway, there’s more people working to kind of get these kind of events and inclusive groups. There’s also a group for queer people of colour as well, queer and intersex people of colour, that is very open as well, to people that identify, you know, sort of under the umbrella, you know, of you know, sort of of colour and that could be from any particular background as long as you identify in that way, I’m from a mixed background myself and this also is a good space to cover, I feel it kind of… I can connect with other queer people, it’s not just trans people, but other queer people, you know, from different kind of cultural backgrounds and different ethnicities and, you know, who identify in different ways, you know, so… and that’s, that feels good as well, you know.
INT: Wanted to sort of ask a bit about your kind of personal experience of that, because you were sort of talking about kind of safe spaces and inclusive spaces, and we’ve talked a bit about, you know, the trans aspect of your identity, and I just wondered how you’d experienced Brighton as a place that’s perhaps inclusive of other aspects of your identity?
L: Well, for me, my own experience is I was brought up, you know, and it’s a very particular experience, a lot of people maybe wouldn’t necessarily connect with this at all, but my own particular experience, I’m mixed race is how I identify myself, and I was brought up in a very much a white environment, you know, sort of… so this is what I knew. I’m brown myself, a person of colour and I was brought up in, in a small valley town in south Wales, so there wasn’t a lot of, you know, sort of, you know, sort off cultural or, you know, sort of ethnic diversity. But I again, as with gender I suppose, my own personal family situation, it was relatively positive, you know, sort of, you know, I experienced, you know that was quite positive, but I did sense, certainly as I got older, that, you know, I wanted to be in a place that, you know, did reflect, you know, sort of a variety of different people from different backgrounds and, but I did often end up, apart from Cardiff, which is pretty, you know, sort of diverse actually, it’s got quite a history of that, and I felt very comfortable in Cardiff, and I feel comfortable actually in my home town, but Cardiff was great in the sense that it was, you know, you got people from different religious… I mean I’m myself a spiritual person but not partly affiliated to any particular religion, but you could walk and, you know, sort of see, you know, sort of mosques and, you know, sort of different types of, you know, sort of, places where people could go, you know, sort of things like that and, you know, so the different groups of people, you know, people from mixed backgrounds, it’s quite a mixed, you know, place in the sense it’s got quite a history of mixing as well, Cardiff, so it’s sort of… you know, it’s good for that.
But I often ended up, after that, living in places that were quite sort of very much less diverse actually, which was okay for me, you know, I didn’t, you know, I’d been kind of used to that I suppose, but I did, you know, you know, for all kinds of reasons really obviously want to be somewhere where there was much more, you know, it’s nice to have yourself reflected. And for me, I, initially, as with the queer scene I suppose, Brighton did seem quite diverse to me because I’d been so used to the extreme opposite. But I know that quite a lot of people who identify as people of colour, who have maybe come from big cities and things like that, don’t actually find Brighton to be quite so diverse, you know.
So, for me, it was… but I personally, on a personal level, I’m comfortable but I think that it’s got some ways to go actually, I think and I think it’s getting, you know, it’s not even getting there, but I don’t necessarily know there is always… and I don’t just say this in the racial sense, actually, but I think there isn’t always an awareness, it could be in a cultural sense as well, you know of the nuance and, you know, of people, you know, sort of… and the different possibilities, for instance I’m from Wales and, you know, a lot of people associate being, you know, Welsh with, you know, looking white and so people are maybe surprised when they hear my accent, and, you know, sort of you will get… I don’t actually… you know, I don’t necessarily encounter a lot of people, you know, prejudging my in that sense, but I sometimes get even in certain spaces, where people maybe are trying to make you feel comfortable and it can be, maybe making certain presumptions, you know, and… but I think that that can work again across, you know, many different levels, you know, but I do generally, I find Brighton, you know, for me it’s not, it’s not been a difficult, and this is my particular experience, I have heard of other people and other people of colour saying differently, but I’ve found it to be, you know, pretty okay, you know, and I live in Hove, you know, myself, which obviously is again slightly differently from Brighton, but I, you know, as a mixed race person, I do… you know, I am… I do see myself… you know, there’s quite a lot of mixed families around, so I see that kind of my particular mixed raced experience, you know, sort of reflected, but it certainly obviously isn’t as diverse as somewhere like London for instance, but more diverse than, you know, a small valley town.
But, you know, so I feel… my own experience is I can’t complain, you know, about it really, but I think there’s always huge improvements to be made and I know there’s, you know, quite a lot of people, you know, are putting in that work, you know, myself at this point, I’m studying quite a lot, so I can’t always, but I do try to support, you know, if there’s any kind of… any of these kind of groups going on and I have a friend that is doing, you know, amazing work, like I said, they’ve set up this kind of, this group for queer people of colour in Brighton, queer and intersex people of colour, and a lot of people, just on the Facebook group, actually, quite a lot of people from quite a diverse, you know, cultures and backgrounds have joined this group, it’s very inclusive, so there was obviously a need for that, you know, and I think that’s… I think it was set up before actually and, you know, so there’s always been people doing this great work and… but it’s kind of been, you know, the baton has been passed to this particular person and I’ve they’ve set this group up again, and I think it’s very much well needed and you know, it’s very inclusive and, you know, it should be, you know, supported I think, you know. So I find it a good… another positive outlet, just to be able… but again it’s people, you know, connected in one way, but again from a diverse, you know, it’s, you know, you can maybe have one thing in common with people it doesn’t mean you necessarily going to have everything in common.
So, I think this is the interesting thing about being aware of, you know, sort of yeah, the nuance, I guess, you know, and I’m really acutely aware as well of disability for instance, you know, and the access issues maybe when it comes to certain venues and things like that within the queer community, you know, and sort of… so you know, I’m becoming… this has been the positive thing for me, actually, about kind of fully embracing the, you know, sort of like my queer identity and my trans identity. I feel I’ve become more engaged, you know, I was always very interested, you know, politically and things like that, but I’ve become even more engaged actually, because we are such a small group, you know, the trans community and it feels, even though we’re quite a small group, that we’ve had some amazing kind of forerunners, you know, sort of even thinking in a global sense, and some kind of heroes and heroines, you know, and whatever, you know, sort of that have, you know, sort of done, you know, some amazing work and have been there right at the kind of forefront of LGBT rights, you know, as well, you know, and LGBTQ rights and that kind of thing, learning these stories, because we have to almost kind of go out of our way to seek out these people, you know, because they maybe, you know, a little bit more marginalised. So we seek out, we can go and seek out, you know, these kind of… these kind of forerunners, and so I feel that for me personally that’s helped me to kind of just become more, more conscious, you know, sort of just across the board and obviously I am doing gender studies, so I’m kind of in a rarefied, you know, kind of world in that sense as well, you know, so I’m aware not everybody would, you know… but I do find that… for me it is like with last years Trans Pride, for instance I did really enjoy that kind of… there was that kind of… they didn’t shy away, it wasn’t completely dumbed down, you know, there was that… you know, it was really fun, you know, there was music and dancing and, you know, and things like that, and I love that side of it, but there was also kind of like spoken word stuff, and you know, sort of people making a point, you know, and kind of being creative and there seems to be quite a lot of creative kind of things coming out of, you know, the trans community as well, you know, people expressing themselves and making the point, you know, in some really kind of creative, you know, sort of, you know, kind of ways, tangible kind of ways, obviously not everybody, maybe, you know, wants to take part in those kind of things, but I find, you know, some of that, that that’s really interesting and to me it was one of the great things about Trans Pride actually, the fact there was, you know, there was comedy and sort of spoken word, sort of stuff, and there wasn’t a shying away from that, you know, sort of.
INT: Sure. And I guess a kind of final question from me really would be, I guess if you were kind of looking forward and thinking about kind of future historians looking back and listening to these interviews that we’re doing and from this project, what would you think would be the kind of one key thing you’d really want them to know and understand about these experience of trans people in our contemporary period?
L: Right, right. Well, I think, one of the things that immediately comes to mind is that it is, you know, it’s changing time, things have changed, actually, for trans people, I mean in my life time I’ve seen a lot of changes, actually, from my own experience being that there was a great invisibility actually of, you know, sort of the trans experience in popular culture, for instance, mainstream culture and I think now, and it’s only, you know, gradually there have been a lot of people doing a lot of great work over time, so this sort of… these things aren’t happening by magic, it’s because we’ve had people like Professor, you know, Stephen Whittle, to, you know, to name but one person, that I think there are… and in a contemporary sense we’ve got people like CN Lester, and Paris Lees, and obviously in a global sense, people like Laverne Cox for instance and Janet Mock, transwomen, American transwomen and activists, I think that there is, there is change at this point in history, things are changing, it’s slow and it’s going to take I think a lot of things like legislation and kind of and especially when it comes to kind of the attitudes to how people are treated in a medical sense, the change can be slow, change can be very slow, but I think as people start to speak out and become more empowered, there is… visibility is happening, really slowly, but it is happening, and more positive and more nuanced and diverse representations are happening, really slowly, it’s a little too slow, in a way, because you can feel, as a trans person, that you are a little ahead of your time sometimes, that you are sort of… you can see how things could change, how things could be different, but it just doesn’t seem to be happening, you know, laws are still now, you know, laws are still a little bit behind. Like things for instance, like gender-neutral for those who want, you know, gender-neutral… you know, there’s issues with bathroom, you know, toilets and bathrooms and passports and all kinds of legal kind of things that are really important, incredibly important and obviously medical things, you know, these things… and how people treated, for instance, being transgender is still seen as a mental health issue and even though some people will want medical interventions and treatments, certainly not everyone will, and a lot of people don’t see it, you know, as a mental health issue, or even a flaw in themselves, maybe some people, you know, do for whatever reason, but a lot of people really don’t.
And I think that there will be change, and I think it is happening now, but it’s a way off and I think for instance one of the big changes could be how children are viewed and treated and understood, gender nonconforming children, I think there’s the beginnings of that, you know, but it’s… people still, there’s still an education needed of parent and openness, and there needs to be a lack of stigma and shame, you know, and also an understanding as well, because a lot of people don’t necessarily want to live, you know, as out, you know, or, you know, and so there needs to be an awareness of the nuance and a respecting, you know, sort of… so I’m hoping… this is my hope for the future that there will be… I’m by nature, I’m kind of an optimist I suppose, so I am hoping, you know… sort of the optimistic side of me hoping that these things will happen, that the human rights, you know, basic human rights and certainly as well, and I think it’s fundamental, you know, that the most marginalised as well, in any community, need to be the most, you know, sort of elevated and, you know, appreciated and respected and within the trans community quite often some of the most marginalised people, people who are, you know, often talked about at Trans Day of Remembrance, you know, some of this… I would like to think there’d be a time when we wouldn’t need, you know, to have a Trans Day of Remembrance, you know, sort of kind of feel emotional kind of saying that, but, you know, that would be a hope for the future actually, and you know, that there wouldn’t be a need, you know, sort of that we have elevated some of the most marginalised people, that they aren’t the ones disposed of the quickest, you know, and that they are respected and that, you know, and I suppose I’m thinking about thinking about things like sex workers, people who are in, you know, sort of those positions that they aren’t marginalised and stigmatised and certainly transwomen and the attitudes towards femininity as well, I feel that very strongly and I know a lot of trans people do and a lot of trans guys absolutely do as well.
So, I’d like to think there’d be a time when, you know, there will be so much more understanding, or, you know, a lot of those kinds of positive things really, you know, and that trans people are able to ascend into, you know, positions where they have got more, you know, sort of more power, you know, and that you will have your trans… you know, there are trans doctors now, but, you know, there’ll be more people, and there’ll be more education and understanding. So they would be my… you know, that would be my, yeah, so of my hopes really, sort of, you know, for the future and yes, it’s… because it isn’t like that at the moment, but there are… they have been some inroads, you know, and it’s… and I’m hoping to, myself, to, you know, get… this is why I like to, you know, to speak out and to be open, so that, you know, I can do my bit as well, you know, and sort of be included in that sense. Someone can know that I feel my own identity is quite nuanced and, you know, and kind of marginalised because of the nuance of it, you know, I don’t think it’s that unusual really to be mixed race and to be whatever, you know, we’ve been around… you know, people… you know mixed race trans people have probably been around since the dawning of time, but we’ve not always been included in the history books, for example, and I’m a big believer in, you know, sort of that’s really important, it’s important for identities that can seem marginalised to, you know to be out there, you know, and to see them documented and, you know, sort of remembered, because there’s, you know, a lot of people would, you know.
So, you know, that is really important and I think that’s beginning now, we’ve got these projects going on and hopefully there’ll be more of them, and you know, I’m doing my bit really, that’s my… I think.
INT: Well, we’ve had a really wide-ranging discussion. I just wondered if there was anything else that you wanted to add, any final comments that you wanted to add, that you wanted to contribute to the project.
L: Just that I’m… I think that any project, you know, this is a great project, you know, and I feel, you know, good about it, and yes, just that I’m just really supportive of this and very glad to have the opportunity, you know, as well, to kind of… and just hope, I mean, you know, if this can kind of, you know, offer anyone else any kind of support, you know, because I know for me, anything like that can mean so much, you know, so sort of what when Stephen Whittle took the time to send me that email for instance and it was… you know, that meant so much to me, so I know that if you’re a trans person, even if you feel really isolated and, sort of misunderstood, and if you don’t feel you can take part in any particular thing, for whatever reason, either you don’t want to, or you feel you don’t want… you want your anonymity, obviously, you know, I think it’s important that people know that, that they don’t have to be totally isolated, and that, you know, they’re not completely… I think that’s really valuable, because we can struggle such a lot I think, with… you know, there’s so many positives, sort of to how things can be for us, but we can struggle quite often and hopefully this will be something that’ll change in the future. But we can struggle a lot in isolation, you know, sort of an invisibility, you know, because, you know, sort of, of the way that, you know, society is structured, yes, and that’s it really, you know, just that I think that anything, anything like this, for me, would seem to be a really good thing, you know.
INT: Okay, thank you, Ludo, it’s been a real pleasure talking with you, thank you very much.
L: It’s been a pleasure, talking with you as well. Thank you.