It’s not often I do a blog post of a more ‘personal’ nature. But from time to time, it’s nice to put a little human soul into the process. It’s been an incredible year for me and my family, and back in January, I could not have foreseen the way both my personal or professional journies have panned out. It should be noted, that it is a testament to my renewed confidence and sense of self-worth that I am happy to disclose some context about the personal changes in particular.
The catalyst of change was certainly my time in California. While my placement at NOAA Boulder in Colorado was amazing in itself, I was already looking ahead to spending time in San Francisco as 2017 came to a close. I was ready to do some soul-searching and strike-out on my own for a bit. The prospect of working at a prestigious, fun and inclusive not-for-profit educational establishment with a beloved family member (on my wife’s side), in a conurbation awash with diverse cultures and communities, was exciting.
Before setting foot on the west coast I was already questioning my identity. I had a lifetime so far of not feeling quite ‘right’, or not quite ‘fitting in’. Others seemed to pick up that I wasn’t ‘typical’ or ‘usual’… some used it as a way to insult or bully me, some saw as a positive thing. All it did was leave me confused without any real grasp of why it was going on. So, in ignorance I just got on with things. Becoming a teacher was helpful. While it didn’t provide answers, it did prove a distraction – so buried and dedicated I was to that job I hardly had the opportunity to focus on myself.
Then, I had my chance. Out on my own in a place where the culture and the wealth of places and opportunities provided one great big resource for me to maybe figure things out.
The Exploratorium itself was a marvel. The staff and volunteers were of all shapes, sizes and colours. There was a basket of gender pronoun badges (“HE”, “SHE”, “THEY”) in one of the employee areas, and a nail polish station set up in honour of a late Exploratorium scientist who dressed in drag to perform energetic public science shows.
Working at the Exploratorium, and getting involved in parts of the LGBT+ community during my spare time allowed me to explore my identity. The more I talked to people and went to events, things about my own life started to make more sense. Only half-way through my time in the Bay Area, I realised I was genderfluid.
This was the first label I had ever attached to myself that felt right… that felt ‘me’. But that wasn’t the end of the discovery – not by a long-shot. I was going to say it was the start of a new chapter, but it’s more appropriate to say that was the end of book in a series, and I was about to start another full of chapters itself.
The latter half of my time in San Francisco was spent figuring out how I was going to present the real-me to the world. Being away well away from home on a temporary basis supported by wonderful people gave me some anonymity, safety and freedom.
Leaving San Francisco was hard. Very hard. I knew I had only just opened the door to my true self and I had so much more to discover and explore. But, it did give me renewed confidence and resilience to keep pushing forward. I was determined not to recoil or retract, but to continue when returning to the UK. And that’s what I tried to do. It’s been a challenge to deal with so much change all at once. When your internal and external worlds are in a state of flux it can be overwhelming.
Now at the end of the year, not only do I recognise that I am a person under the transgender umbrella identifying as a non-binary, but I’m proud of it too. When leaving the teaching profession to take on a new job, I came-out on my first day (and the people there have been wonderful). I’ve changed my name and pronouns. Everyone I care about knows and are at various levels of getting to grips with it – we’ll all get there eventually and I’m lucky to have a very accepting group of family and friends. I try to use this privileged position to raise awareness for the issues and challenges that transgender people face.
Above: My current LinkedIn (L) and WEMC (R) profile pictures. It’s important to me to be genuine in all aspects of my life, and not lock that away at home. In fact, work has been one of my safe-spaces so far… for which I am incredibly grateful.
I’m very excited for what 2019 will bring, rather than feeling cowed by the potential obstacles I may face as I expose more of my gender identity in public. I’ve finally found myself, and I’m not letting go of that.
I wish everyone out there a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. I hope you can surround yourself with loving, caring people during the holiday period – people who accept and celebrate you for who you are – the best gift anyone can receive in my opinion.
If you are a transgender person who is anxious this time of year, the LGBT foundation offers some advice.
The very best of wishes, and I’ll see you in the new year.
P.S. Educating yourself is a great way to understand and support transgender people. While there are people like me who are willing and able to educate others, no single trans person is a fountain of knowledge, nor can speak for other people’s experiences. It can also be quite emotionally and mentally exhausting to be expected to try and explain everything, all the time – especially as the topic is very personal. Below are a handful of resources that you may find handy and interesting:
- YouTube Video (for non-readers 😉) What is ‘non-binary’? https://youtu.be/ruST0GPi68s
- Life Outside The Binary (a really good list of resources) http://lifeoutsidethebinary.com/allies
- National Geographic https://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2017/01/how-science-helps-us-understand-gender-identity/
- Plot me genderfluid (one for you geeks and lovers of spreadsheets like me, a humourous data-driven look at someone’s genderfluidity) https://www.gaytascience.com/plot-me-genderfluid/