Young trans people on their experiences of transitioning

‘I’m just happier in every single aspect’

Joel is a 26-year-old trans man who was assigned female at birth. He always knew he was different, but never fully had the language to express himself. That all changed when, aged 21, he met another trans man by chance and struck up conversation.

“All of a sudden I had answers,” Joel said.  “I knew there was a term for the things that I was feeling, and that I wasn’t weird or alone in feeling like this.”

Not long after, Joel came out as trans, before beginning to take testosterone and medically transitioning. “I have so much more confidence,” Joel said. “I like the face I see when I look in the mirror. I no longer feel a pang of ‘that’s not right’ when someone uses my pronouns.”

Joel is currently waiting for a double mastectomy to “make his chest more masculine.” He got his first referral in 2018 but doesn’t expect an appointment to get an all-important signature giving him the go-ahead for surgery until 2024.


Joel, 26

‘Not one process looks the same, which is the beauty of the non-cis experience’

Transitioning is an intensely personal experience, holding different meanings for different members of the trans community.

Social transitioning can involve changing your name and your pronouns, as well as presenting yourself in a different way. Medical transitioning often involves undergoing hormone replacement therapy, while surgical transitioning involves surgically altering your body. Crucially, a trans person doesn’t have to do any of the above to qualify as trans.

Jaime Prada, the Trans and Non-Binary Liberation Officer at Edinburgh University Students’ Union puts it best: “Not one process looks the same, which is the beauty of the non-cis experience.”

The Tab caught up with several members of the trans community to talk about what transitioning means to them.

‘Before I transitioned I was just a shaking nervous disaster’

Prior to beginning his medical transition, Merlin, now 21, was constantly focused on how he was perceived. Merlin was assigned female at birth, experiencing intense gender dysphoria at school which led him to “overcompensate” and try and present as the “perfect girl.”

His intense preoccupation with how he looked led him to severe isolation, before he eventually dropped out of school and cut off contact with everyone he knew. “Before I transitioned I was just a shaking nervous disaster, like one of those neurotic rescue chihuahuas that scream at everything,” Merlin told The Tab.

Joel also had a tough time of it at school and became an easy target for bullies. “I was already confused about my gender and being bullied for it wasn’t helping,” Joel said. “On top of that, I think most teenagers long to fit in and the fact I felt like I had to force myself to meet these feminine expectations to have friends to sit with at lunch time was so draining.”

Joel’s parents were well-intentioned, but would often slip into saying things like: “It’s okay for girls to wear boys clothes.” This inadvertently added to Joel’s gender dysphoria.

“I knew from a very young age that I wasn’t the little girl everyone was telling me that I was, but I didn’t have the language or knowledge to know what that meant,” Joel told The Tab.


Jorden, 21

Jorden, an editing student at Ravensbourne College, London was also bullied to the point where he attempted to end his life when he was just 11 years old.

While his family weren’t overly supportive, his friends have got him through the tough times and he’s since been diagnosed with gender dysphoria and is looking to get top surgery and a hysterectomy.

“Finally getting the process started makes me cry of joy each time I think about becoming me!” Jorden told The Tab.


Merlin, 21

When Merlin transitioned, the first thing he did was get a haircut. He was told by an NHS Doctor that it would take three years to get a consultation for gender dysphoria.

The sad truth for many trans people is that waiting times for a consultation at an NHS Gender Identity Clinic can take years, meaning that those who can’t afford to go private are finding it difficult to embark on their transitioning journey.

‘I’m just happier in every single aspect’

Merlin started self-medicating on testosterone until he saved up enough for his first assessment at a private clinic. Since then, he’s changed his name and is in the process of getting a gender recognition certificate.

“I don’t even pass yet, but I’m out to everyone and feeling a lot better for it,” Merlin said. “I’m just happier in every single aspect – I have a completely different disposition, and my mental state isn’t dependant on controlling my image anymore.”

Joel has also been on testosterone since March 2019, telling The Tab: “There is no right or wrong way to be a man, but my deeper voice and more masculine facial structure make me feel so much more confident, and it’s much less often that I’m misgendered now.”

Reflecting on his experiences of transitioning, Joel adds: “I really want to stress how important education and the normalisation of trans identities are. If my parents had known the word transgender they might have spotted I was struggling with dysphoria sooner.

“If I had heard the word transgender before I was 21 I might have understood who I was and wouldn’t have struggled for so long with confusion.”

The Tab’s Pride reporting series is putting a focus on highlighting LGBTQ+ issues and celebrating queer voices across UK campuses.

If you or someone you know has been affected by this story you can contact Switchboard, the LGBTQ+ helpline, on 0300 330 0630 or visit their website. You can also find help through The Mix

If you’ve got a story you’d like to tell us – whether it’s an incident of homophobia on campus, an experience you’d like to share, or anything you think we should hear, get in touch in confidence by emailing [email protected]

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