In the People UNTAGGED -series, we talk to individuals about their gender identity. The aim is to share their story in a positive way. So that with their voice, they will inspire others within the LGBTQIA+ community and beyond.
First in this series is Taylor, a 27-year-old from Brabant, who has just graduated as a science teacher. A language person with a love for Cosplay and Anime. They talk about the moment when they realized that they identified as a trans boy, the road to acceptance and the small steps that make the process worthwhile.
You’ve just finished your studies to become a science teacher, what motivated you to become a teacher?
Well, I've always liked science. I first studied something with a very long name, molecular life sciences, in Nijmegen. I loved it. But once I worked in the lab, I started longing for a profession where you have social contact. I also noticed that I found it a lot easier to talk to younger people. As a young adult, I missed certain points of support and help. Therefore I would also like students in my class to have the time, in addition to science, to think about: “Who am I? What is my position in the world? Where am I going?”
What did you actually miss as a young adult?
I grew up in an environment with very old-fashioned parents. They had certain views on how to raise a child. This did not match at all with the country we live in, the time in which we live and with my own values. So this caused a lot of friction. In the end I knew I was completely stuck. I cried a lot, but I could never say why and I didn't know what to do about it. I absolutely dislike it when I can't exactly say what causes something, because I'm a scientist. So, I kind of lived between two worlds. I had the feeling that something wasn't right. I've actually had that for as long as I can remember. I only found out very late that trans people exist, I just hadn’t heard about this before.
So, when did you find out about this?
When I was 25, I ran into a friend while I was doing sports. When we started to chat online, he told me that he was actually transgender. I was like: "oh...that word, I’ve heard that before". But I really had to Google what it meant! When we met at his place, he told me how he felt and what he had felt all those years. So many things that he mentioned, for example about his appearance, I recognized and had also experienced myself. However, I did not immediately draw the conclusion “yes, this is also me”.
“The realization 'okay, I'm trans' felt like I could give myself a big hug.”
But was it a turning point? Was this the moment where some of the pieces of the puzzle started to fall into place?
Yes, it was a turning point. I was still living with my parents at the time and soon after that I left home. I kept postponing the question of whether I was trans, but within three months it was like, "Okay, yes that's it, I'm trans". That was very nice to realize. It finally felt like I could give myself a nice hug. Then I asked that friend, "What’s next?" He told me where he bought his binders and that's how I ended up at Trans-Missie (red.: now UNTAG). I'm really glad I found out about this now. It just really calms me down.
How would you like to identify yourself now?
That is a quite complex question. I grew up as a girl with clear expectations. So, I was very much pushed into that box. I think it was truly unhealthy for me as a kid. So intense that I've always felt like only half a person. I can't say I'm a trans man now. Then it sounds like I’ve skipped the boy phase and I wasn't allowed to express that after all. So as a trans person, I would indeed like to call myself a trans boy. I also don't like to say that I'm completely non-binary, because I'm not. My gender therapist recently mentioned the term ‘gender variant’. With this, psychologists indicate how a child views their own gender. I could really relate to that. But I don't want to make it a LGBTQIA+ letter. I don't need boxes or labels. I just feel good the way I am, so "they" or "them".
Sounds good. And if you would imagine a future, what would that look like?
Well, I do have an ideal image in mind. I have a super nice boyfriend. So, I do want children eventually. But I don't want hormones. Being trans is just really a part of who I am, of my mind and of my body. But I find that very difficult to put into words. I know that at times I can just experience myself as beautiful. I can just put on a binder, then put on my boy clothes and look in the mirror. Then I think I'm really beautiful. I don't have to think of myself as the most beautiful of the most beautiful every day. For me it's more than that. Hey, sometimes I do find a good pair of trousers at the girl's department that actually makes me look cool, that's a win too.
Of course, your vision of the future does not have to be different from how you are now.
So, my vision for the future is that later, in the simplest sense, I'll just be happy with the way I look. That if I want to, I can wear a dress. But I can also when I feel like it, just throw a binder in my bag and put it on in the bathroom. This is something I do now quite often. Maybe it will all change later, but I would love it if I could eventually have children.
It's good to hear that you're really happy with the way you are now.
Yes, but that is also because I have lived so long without knowing it.
What actually helped you through difficult times?
There are actually two things, I really like the Luisterlijn*. The people working there are very kind. When I call or chat with them, I can sort things out. I can be really sad. Very stressed, frustrated or even angry. After talking to the Luisterlijn, I always come out differently. Sometimes I have really gathered my thoughts after that. Of course, you can't expect to get advice from a pro, those people are there to just listen. But still, often something meaningful comes along. That really gives me a lot of support.
(Ed. De Luisterlijn is there for anyone who is troubled by something and wants to talk about it. They can share what’s on their minds anonymously, in a personal and confidential conversation, let off steam and if they need it, be referred to other aid agencies)
And second, perhaps a guilty pleasure that I don’t share often, but I really enjoyed watching the 'Magical Girl' serie. It is something that used to give me a lot of joy and now it functions as a nice memory. I can now just watch an episode and I'm happy right away! You can simply save it on your phone and then you will always have it with you.
And have there been happy moments in difficult times?
I think the greatest happy moment is when you know you're having trouble with this right now, because you want to go to something more beautiful. Putting on the binder for the first time, for example, was such an event. I was literally hundreds of thousands of times happier than I ever imagined. Because I didn't really know beforehand what I could expect. All those small steps are true moments of happiness.
So actually, it's the small steps and the realization that you slowly work towards something beautiful that can make you very happy?
Yeah, just the idea that you've finally found yourself. But you can't quite see it yet. It is like a gift that is wrapped, or something that is slowly being unwrapped.
What are you most proud of right now?
I find it difficult to be proud of myself and to really express it. I’ve learned from my parent’s culture that you cannot easily be proud of yourself. So, I actually have a hard time being truly proud of something I've achieved.
It sounds so simple, but I can imagine it's not an easy question to answer.
I can be proud of other people and other things but proud of myself, well I don't know. Everything in the culture I grew up in says that you can't be proud of yourself. I think that's a shame, because I would really like to learn that.
"I think it's worth having the guts to take the first steps."
What would you like to tell people who are reading your story right now?
I found out really late that I am trans. Even though it has been quite difficult to admit it at a later age, to look up information about it and to investigate who you want to be. Still, despite the bad experiences you will probably have, I thought everything was worth doing. I think it's never really too late. That is not only for gender identity, but also in general. It can be terrifying, for me it was really scary. But in the end, there is always something beautiful on the horizon. Maybe you just haven't seen it yet. I think it was worth it that I had the guts to take the first steps. I'm very happy with that.
What I would like to say is that you don't have to do anything, that you can always set your own pace. Maybe there are things that push you back. One of those things, for example, are the waiting lists. But the waiting lists shouldn't stop you from joining the list and step into the process.
And I also really want to say that you have to be a bit patient with your parents. Sometimes they just don't understand the concept of being trans just yet. Then you need to try to be a little softer, take it a bit slower, so that they get the time and space to understand.
Sometimes you need to educate your parents a little.