Growing up trans: Roan's story

My name hasn't always been Roan. I wasn't lucky enough to get a gender neutral name at birth. I thought I had a normal growing up, which involved lots of playing, eating chocolate and maybe even torturing my younger brother - but only once or twice. I was very lucky that my parents never cared what toys I played with, from Thomas the Tank Engine to dolls. I was allowed to make my choices regardless of whether they were 'meant' for boys or girls.

A young Roan dressed in an astronaut costume

Then I hit school and that all changed. Girls were to be girls and boys to be boys. I often felt like I needed to change who I was to try to fit in. I wanted to be one of the boys and yet I was repeatedly told that I had to be one of the girls. I could play football as well as any of the boys, so would often opt to play them rather than sit and chat with the girls. I didn't blend in. Outside of school, though, I was still the happy-go-lucky kid full of energy that my parents had always known. My shorter haircut and my 'boy' clothes meant that I was often confused with a boy. This seemed to bother some around me, but not me.

Then puberty hit, and that got me confused. My clothes started to fit differently and my skinny boyish looks were no more. Luckily for me, brightly coloured branded hoodies were on trend. That was a look I could get behind!

As my teenage years progressed I tried my hardest to fit in. I grew my hair out, and the clothes I wore became more typically female (but never skirts or dresses). I had a nagging feeling that something was wrong. But I didn't have the right words to describe it.

To the outside world I was female, but the insults kept coming. 'Gay' and 'tranny' were words thrown at me. These words hurt, made me think that there was something wrong with me. All I wanted to do was to prove these people wrong.

So what did I do? I do wore a dress to prom. I thought people were staring at me; that they could see through the disguise. I was on edge all night, waiting for someone to call me out or to spot how uncomfortable I was. But, for some reason, I got compliments. The feeling persisted though; it felt wrong. All I could do was count down until it was all over and I could change back.

It all came to a head in 2015, the end of formal education. I ended up in hospital. This gave me time away from the social pressure of school, and so I started to experiment with my identity. Everyone was talking about how much they wanted a gay best friend. I thought "perfect!" so I came out as gay. Then, after a lot of watching YouTube, I came out as non-binary knowing that I didn't want to be female but not wanting to commit to being male quite yet this. (There are many non-binary people who aren't on a journey to identifying as something else, but I wasn't one of them.) I cut my hair short again. I no longer had to spend time trying to work out what to do with my hair; now I could just get up, stick my head under a tap and get on with my day.

I went into the world of work, at Legoland. To say we had fun might have been an understatement. The team became like family. In late 2017, I acquired a blank name badge at work, on which I started to write different names. For the others it was a joke, For me, it was an opportuniy to process what I would want people to call me. I asked those closest to me for names that they thought would suit me. I decided on my mum's favourite, Roan. It's the name I felt most comfortable with.

I couldn't care less about how most colleagues would react to my coming out. I got asked a lot of questions about everything to do with transition. This didn't bother me: I would alway prefer to inform than to let the rumours fly. But this is not true for all LGBT+ people.

The person I was most scared to come out to was Dee. She had been my rock over the two years I had spent at Legoland. Dee being on my side meant so much to me that I thought about quitting if it didn't go well. To say I was terrified was an understatement.

Luckily, I didn't have to quit. Her reply was that she could never see me as anyone other than Roan. Waves of relief washed over me, like a weight had been lifted. For the rest of that evening, the smile couldn't be wiped off my face.

I couldn't be further from the person I was at school, but I couldn't be happier who I am.

Roan is a Just Like Us LGBT+ ambassador based in London.

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