You first started exploring your gender identity when you went to uni in Brighton. Can you talk us through that and tell us a bit about that time?
I grew up in a very middle class, conservative, white majority area. I always stood out and never felt like I fitted in or belonged anywhere until I moved to Brighton. Going from being the only black kid in my school and the only openly queer kid also… to feeling like I’ve found ‘my people’ in a place where I felt that I could begin to discover my true self.
University was full of ups and downs, but it’s definitely a period of time that I look back on as crucial to me understanding who I was and who I wanted to be. Dressing, behaving and living without filter. It was a time of personal liberation for sure.
When you were 24 you decided to undergo hormone replacement therapy. Can you tell us a bit about this decision and what it meant for you?
I knew for sure that I wanted to transition when I was around 19, but there was also a lot of procrastination and denial that would crop up every now and then, which would stop me from taking things further. I knew that once I started HRT it would become much realer to my friends and family. But once I stopped giving so much weight to what others may think, I started medically transitioning.
What were your friends and family’s response?
I think initially there was a sense of shock or fascination with friends, depending on who they were. I’m so lucky to have such an amazing support network around me, something I haven’t always had. When you transition, not everyone will understand or appreciate how hard it is. Sometimes it’s better to cut ties with kinds of friends rather than be stuck in a friendship based on you feeling that you have to apologise for your own personal growth, which is all that a transition is, it’s growth, something that we all do.
I’m also extremely lucky to have two supportive and loving parents. Like with most families there was an adjustment phase and it took everyone a bit of getting used to, the change in pronouns, name etc. But for the most part when your loved ones see that you are happier and more like who you were always meant to be, as a result of transitioning, I think the new family dynamics just fall into place.
You’ve spoken before about the prejudice you’ve faced being transgender. How do you deal with it?
I found that no matter what someone else may think of me, what really matters is what I think of myself. As long as I’m living in an authentic, open and honest way and treating others with respect and decency why should I care about someone who can’t do me the same courtesy. In the beginning of my transition, people’s prejudice hurt me a lot more than it ever can today. Back then I felt like I had to prove my womanhood to others and to myself. Now, I know exactly who I am, I have nothing to prove to myself or others on that front, so if somebody wants to call me a man, it says more about them than it does about me.