I have known that I am trans since the age of 4. Shit happens and you deal with it. Unfortunately, I didn’t deal with it very well.

Many years ago, back in 1985, I was accidentally outed to my entire apprenticeship class as trans. 31 teenage boys and one woman (my best friend), were there. One of the boys found a bra in my rucksack and, rather than try and brazen it out and play the “it belongs to my girlfriend” card, I chose the truth. I told them I was trans (well, I didn’t use those words as trans wasn’t a ‘thing’ then. I used ‘transsexual’).

It didn’t go down as bad as I had feared. I received the usual ribbing but it didn’t change the relationship I had with the class. Except Julie (names changed to protect the innocent etc).

She befriended me when I felt alone, and left out, at the beginning of the appreticeship. She had managed to secure me a bedsit when I left my parent’s place. She became my guiding light and the closest to a girlfriend I had during those very troubled times.

Julie already knew I had a problem with alcohol and, I suspect, she knew there was something troubling me. She introduced me to Queen, (a lifelong musical love along with OMD), became my confidant to whom I could tell all my troubles and, for a while, was a replacement for alcohol.

Her greatest gift to me, though, was when I came out in front of the class. Instead of laughing with the boys, she simply hugged me and said “Welcome to the club”. That moment of acceptance felt so wonderful, so embracing. I wept.

Don’t get me wrong here. I was still ridiculed, laughed at and called “The Tranny” by the boys. It wasn’t easy by a long chalk but, there was no bullying, no physical hassling and no arguments over toilets.

Having come out at work, though, caused me more problems in my personal life. I so wanted to come out properly but I was afraid to. This was the mid 80’s and trans people were still a thing to be laughed at, to parade in the papers, and to be ridiculed.

I read Jan Morris’s “Conundrum”, April Ashley’s “Odyssey” and Rene Richard’s “Second Serve” and marveled how these women had come out in public life and managed to live their lives and make them their own. I despaired that I couldn’t do the same.

It took a further 26 years, several suicide attempts and a deep dive into alcoholism for me to finally come out. The person responsible for that was Tracey (yes, real name used).

She and I had met on several occasions. Her (then) husband was a philanderer and a wastrel. He eventually left her for a woman in Sheffield.

I didn’t think I was in love with her at the time but, after talking to her over MSN while I was in Spain, I realised I was. When I returned to the UK in 2011, we had a nine-hour talk where I explained to her that I was trans and needed to transition and she explained to me how she was in love with who I was, not what I was. We married in 2013.

She passed away on May 14th, 2019. That was the hardest day in my life. I’m crying now, as I write these words so, please, forgive any mistakes.

The reason I’ve written all this? It’s to show that we, trans women, are human. We are not some product of a deranged mind. We are not false. We are not predators, as some people seem to think. We are people who would like to go about our daily lives without being harrased, assaulted, mocked or being the butt of a joke.

We transition because we have to. The only other option is death and, unless you are trans or you know a trans person well, you will never understand that feeling, that abject fear, that society puts us through.

So, please, when you meet a trans person, don’t ask for their deadname, don’t ask what genitals they have and don’t ask why they transitioned, unless you are prepared to ask yourself the same questions.