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I would describe myself as a bisexual, gender non-conforming trans man and a polyamorous relationship anarchist who values a strong sense of community and friendship from others. Growing up queer and trans has thrown many obstacles my way in terms of claiming my sexual confidence, knowing myself and embracing my uniqueness. Other people’s perception of you and the fetishization of trans people online and in the media makes it hard to think about yourself as a human being sometimes. Always questioning why people might be interacting with you, feeling like you have to reveal very personal information about yourself to be accepted, catering towards the insecurities of others rather than thinking about what you want and need from a situation. Essentially losing yourself. I’ve never braved things like dating apps or casual dating for these very reasons, I only ever feel able to initiate relationships and intimacies with established friends who I’ve learned to trust already. Getting to the point I’m at now has not been easy and I’d like to say I value every hardship I went through because of what it taught me, but some things definitely didn’t need to happen for me to know my worth.
Being queer and/or a woman is no reason to have your autonomy taken away from you, but it nearly always means you will. I knew from as young as five years old that I was transgender, I just didn’t have the language to explain myself. Not knowing what separates ‘boys’ from ‘girls’ was confusing as a child, because I couldn’t understand what it was about me that made others think I was a girl when that’s not how I felt on the inside. In my head, I was just like all the other boys. I was a child so, of course, I accepted that the adults knew exactly what they were talking about when referring to me as a girl, so I tried to believe it too. I spent so much of my childhood confused but thinking that everything would make sense as I got older.
The idea of sex education sounds like it should be something that would have really helped a child like me to understand themself better but that, unfortunately, couldn’t be further from the truth. The education we received was so geared towards the cis-het, able-bodied experience, it really left no room for other options. Nobody talked about girls having sex with girls, or boys with boys, or trans bodies, or intersex bodies, or disabled bodies. The lack of representation was astounding really, so much so that every lesson kind of felt fake to me, like none of what I was learning could ever apply to real life. Also, I will never forget the torture of watching all the boys play football outside while we had to sit indoors learning about menstruation. They should have been in those lessons too, in my opinion!
The lack of education at school is one thing that has impacted my sexual confidence but being a young teen at church is most definitely another. I remember being told that sex is the closest you can get to another person, so it should be ‘saved’ until you know you want to build an entire life with someone. As if no one deserves to spend time exploring themselves to find out what they like and don’t, as if sex is something for someone else and not yourself, as if the only option is a cis-het marriage. They didn’t say those words exactly but that is how it felt.
I was definitely desensitised to a lot of stuff as an older teenager. The lack of proper education led people to learning all they knew about sex from the internet, which meant a lot of things were considered ‘normal’ that most definitely were not. I don’t ever remember learning about consent at school. Things happened back then that I now have a zero-tolerance policy for and it pains me to think about the way some people treated each other. There was an extremely strict, yet somehow unspoken, idea of what sex between two people should look like and, again, it was a very cis-het idea that left no room for other options, options that would have fitted me better. I remember queer kids at school hiding their relationships for literal months out of fear of coming out. I hid myself, too. I felt so much shame and denial about my attraction to women and my transness, which in turn led to problems in my relationships with straight guys, and of course my relationship with myself. The internal homophobia and transphobia I’ve had to unlearn to fully accept who I am, has taken years. I’m lucky to have had other LGBT+ people around who helped me come out to the world and to start living authentically. But it’s really hard to imagine how life could have been different with education. I feel a huge amount of grief for the childhood and adolescence I would have had if queer sex and lifestyles had been normalised and talked about at school, at church, at home.
It took me a long time to get to a point where I could properly communicate my needs, desires and dislikes when it comes to sex because I had such one-track idea of how it should be and I witnessed so much violation of consent and abusive behaviours from peers growing up. Claiming my sexual confidence is, and always will be, an ongoing process because I am forever changing and evolving. I’m so thankful to have access to gender-affirming treatment and surgeries so that I can work towards a positive relationship with my body. Even though I’m not exactly where I want to be yet, at least I know it’s possible.
My advice for young LGBTQ+ people:
Don’t try to tone yourself down or hide any parts of yourself, especially when you feel a genuine connection with someone. There’s nothing more painful than falling in love and knowing that person is only in love with a version of you. You will never be too much, too weird, or too queer. Something I wish I had heard as a teenager is that other people’s perception of you is theirs to deal with, it’s really nothing to do with you at all. This is something I tell myself constantly now.
As hard as it can be, staying true to yourself is the most important thing. Only by doing this will you attract the ‘right’ kind of people. Always honour your boundaries and don’t let anyone convince you that you have to break them to be loved and/or desired. Have patience with yourself. Allow yourself to be confused. There are going to be really hard times on this journey but I would encourage you to really sit with all the feelings that come your way, good and bad, and try to let them shape you and teach you things about yourself. It’s okay if your wants, needs and desires change over time - that’s just a part of being human, life is constant change!
If you feel lost, turn to your community. This could be online or in person - there are LGBT+ people everywhere that want nothing more than to help young queer people and to be the representation they never saw. There are charities and organisations and online groups overflowing with information you may not get from school.
Know that, as a queer person, you hold so much love, power and light. Nobody can ever take that from you.