There is currently a lack of information available regarding the specific needs of young transgender men, and the barriers that they face. This can lead to professionals having to give generic advice, which may not be appropriate for the situation. Written to address this shortfall, Matt Waites’ new book provides professionals with the guidance they need to effectively and supportively work with young transgender men. We spoke to him about his reasons for writing it.
What led you to start writing Supporting Young Transgender Men?
Through my personal experience of being trans and my professional experience of working with young people, I found that there was a huge gap in knowledge and understanding in terms of processes of transition and issues that trans men face, due to a lack of specialised training and availability of information. I conducted some research which found 50% of professionals surveyed felt they did not have enough knowledge or confidence to support a transgender young man through their transition. Frontline professionals are best placed to serve the transgender community because the social and medical transition processes are not holistic in practice. There is a lack of available support for trans people in general, therefore by ensuring that frontline professionals in a variety of sectors have access to the right knowledge and information, they can improve outcomes for transgender men, reduce suicide rates and ensure that trans men are given quality support when they need it the most. These issues led me to write Supporting Young Transgender men because it is an area that I feel very passionate about. If professionals have the right knowledge when supporting their service users, young people will be more like to be able to reach their full potential.
At the end of last year, the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) issued new guidance on how to ensure that schools are friendly and inclusive places for gender diverse students and staff. Backed by leading LGBTQ campaign group Stonewall, the government and Ofsted, the guidance is the first of its kind in the UK, and covers key issues including harassment, discrimination, bullying and lack of visibility, and underlines the role and responsibilities of key leaders.
In order to make gender diverse students, teachers and pupils with trans relatives feel welcomed and positively represented, the guidance suggests that: “Primary school leaders may want to ensure books featuring trans parents or celebrating gender identity and difference are included in the curriculum.”
We have a collection of books that feature trans and non-binary characters, perfect for use with primary school pupils in the classroom.
This book introduces children to gender as a spectrum and shows how people can bend and break the gender binary and stereotypes. It includes an interactive wheel, clearly showing the difference between our body, expression and identity, and is an effective tool to help children 5+ understand and celebrate diversity. Read more.
‘A much-needed non-fiction children’s book exploring gender. Who Are You? will benefit every child!’
– Pamela Wool, Director of Family Services, Gender Spectrum
Sabrina Symington is an illustrator, graphic novelist and blogger from Vancouver, working to normalise transgender issues. First Year Out is based on her own personal experiences and those of her friends. The graphic novel follows Lily, a trans woman, as she navigates the ups and downs of transition. From laser hair removal to dating and gender reassignment surgery, the comic tackles difficult issues with honesty and intimacy. We talked to Sabrina about her reasons for creating First Year Out.
What made you decide to explore the process of transition in graphic novel form?
I initially started drawing autobiographical webcomics as a way of working through the rollercoaster of emotions I had in the early days of my transition. But as I progressed in my transition, I realized how much misinformation there is out there about trans people. Since I believe in the power of narrative to change people’s views on controversial subjects, I felt what was needed was a humanizing trans story – most importantly one written by a transgender author, as opposed to a cis author translating their view of trans experiences through their own lens. I wanted to not only present accurate information about trans people’s lives and experiences, but also to present trans people as real people, rather than the stereotypes that we are usually portrayed as. One thing I will say is that I changed and grew immensely over the course of writing First Year Out. Transition is an ongoing process. It doesn’t “end” when you get a surgery. It goes much deeper than that and can last a lifetime. And while much of the story reflects my views and experiences during my own first year out as a trans woman, if I were to write “Second Year Out”, the story and Lily’s character would be *very* different. For I, too, am a completely different woman now.
We publish a range of books for therapists, counsellors and healthcare practitioners who work with gender variant individuals. From informative guides to personal memoirs, our books offer support and promote greater understanding of gender identity and expression. This collection includes books that address themes of gender identity, sexuality, relationships, transitioning and mental health. For more information on new books and to receive a copy of our new catalogue, join our mailing list here.
Matthew Mills and Gillie Stoneham
Written by two specialist speech and language therapists, this book explains how voice and communication therapy can help transgender and non-binary people to find their authentic voice. It gives a thorough account of the process, from understanding the vocal mechanism through to assimilating new vocal skills and new vocal identity into everyday situations, and includes exercises to change pitch, resonance and intonation. Each chapter features insider accounts from trans and gender diverse individuals who have explored or are exploring voice and communication related to their gender expression, describing key aspects of their experience of creating and maintaining a voice that feels true to them.
‘This pithy, practical guide is a treasure trove of rare and wonderful gems – particularly the exercises for trans men and non-binary people, often neglected but vulnerable to crippling self-consciousness and even phobia around speaking. Clinicians and clients alike, I unreservedly recommend The Voice Book to anyone looking to feminise, masculinise, neutralise or just explore the potential of voice.’ – Dr Stuart Lorimer, Consultant Psychiatrist
Who is this book for? Speech and language therapists, healthcare practitioners, counsellors, gender variant individuals
Charlie Craggs is an award-winning trans activist…and now author, apparently.
She is the founder of Nail Transphobia and has been travelling all over the UK nailing transphobia since 2013 and has just gone global, taking her campaign stateside in 2017. She uses the proceeds from her campaign to run free self-defence classes for trans and non-binary femmes. Charlie topped the Observer’s New Radicals list of social innovators in Britain, was awarded a Marie Claire Future Shaper Award in 2017 and has been called one of the most influential and inspirational LGBTQ people in the UK by both The Guardian and the Independent. She has starred in campaigns for Selfridges, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, and Stonewall, and has written and spoken about trans issues on the news (BBC, ITV and Sky), for numerous publications (Vogue, Dazed and Confused and The Guardian) and at the Houses of Parliament.
Read Charlie’s letter from her new book, To My Trans Sisters, here.
For more information on the book or to buy a copy, click here.
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Jo Green, founder of Distinction Trans Partner Support and the author of The Trans Partner Handbook, explores the importance of talking openly about mental health when you are in a relationship with a trans individual.
As Jo notes in the extract below, trans people are more likely than cis people to experience mental health issues, but communication is key for both parties to feel fully supported throughout transition. In this extract, we hear from the partners of trans people on their experiences of dealing with mental health issues.
Trans people are more likely than the cis population to have mental health issues, which are caused by a long history of gender dysphoria and/or chronic minority stress rather than by being trans (World Professional Association for Transgender Health, 2011). Minority stress is the increased stress of being part of a minority group, and it is due to the lack of awareness in the general population and consequent discrimination faced by people in a minority.
“I think the worst of this aspect was when my partner was growing up and the times when she contemplated suicide. This was at a time when there was no internet or groups visibly available. I feel very fortunate that my partner confided in me very early in our relationship, and the past 15 years, it has been a journey we have made together. I do have to reassure her that [I] will always be there for her, which I will be, and have given it lots of thought to be sure that this is a situation I can cope with and am happy to be in.” (Avril)
According to the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH), trans people can present with a number of mental health concerns, such as depression, anxiety and self-harm. They also present with compulsivity, substance abuse or sexual concerns, as well as being more likely to have suffered a history of abuse or neglect. Trans people are also more likely to suffer personality disorders, eating disorders or psychotic disorders. WPATH also notes that trans people are more likely to present with autistic spectrum disorders.
“I have learned to work with my partner’s mental health needs. [I] have learned cues that help me know when he is feeling anxious or stressed, and [I] encourage him to talk if he needs to or to seek medical assistance if there’s a need for that kind of support. It’s definitely not something to be ignored or avoided, and in most cases, it’s a requirement for the transition process.” (Julia)
You’re in a relationship and your partner tells you that they want to transition. How do you feel? You want to support your partner’s choice, but you’re worried it will change what you have with them. Is it fair to feel anxious and uncertain?
Realising the need for a support network for the partners of trans people, Jo Green set up Distinction Trans Partner Support Group. Here, Jo explains how you may feel as the partner of a trans person, and how important it is for trans partners to find their voice and be supported throughout their partner’s transition too.
Despite the common narratives in the media, most relationships survive one person transitioning. From working with partners for years, I’ve found that transition means that you need to start communicating much more. And it’s this communication that becomes the key. We went from the average couple to a cohesive unit. Watching my partner transition meant watching her grow into a much better, happier human being. Just being able to witness someone grow from someone quite isolated and unhappy, into someone who glows with confidence and joy is an honour. It’s given me the courage to explore my own gender issues and come out as non-binary. Trans people teach us that nothing is set in stone and there is no such thing as doing something just because you should. It’s all about doing what you feel is right for you, which for me is a wonderful approach to take.
Finding Out Your Partner Is Trans
Finding out that your partner is trans can be quite confusing for people, and the responses can vary greatly depending on loads of different factors. The first factor is how far into the relationship you discover this.
For people who know their partner is trans before they get together, managing transition and their identity as a partner of a trans person can be easier.
“I found out when my wife and I got together. She was still living as a man and spent most of the evening trying to convince me that her being trans was a reason for us to not be together. She felt that being trans meant that she could never be in a successful relationship because her transness would always get in the way. I, of course, spent most of the evening convincing her that she was worthy of love and that we could make it work together. To be completely honest, I had no idea what being trans meant, other than being a huge fan of the Rocky Horror Picture Show when I was a teenager (I now recognise how massively problematic Rocky Horror is for many people). I sometimes think that it was this fact, asserting that trans people deserve love just like everyone else without any idea what the practicalities would be, that kept us together. No matter how hard things got, no matter what we went through, it always came back down to the fact that she is deserving of love, and I took it upon myself to prove to her that I was right about that.” (Jo)
Read an exclusive extract from Straight Expectations
Chapter 13: The Transition (2004—2006)
“I did my own research to get clear about what we were dealing with. I wanted to understand the process of transitioning. I realized we needed professional help. There weren’t a lot of resources at that time. The only one who seemed perfectly clear was Julia herself. She was completely confident. She knew who she was now and insisted we had to figure out what to do so she could be the person she knew she was inside. It wasn’t about sexual preference. She was transgender and wanted her brain to be congruent with her body.”
Ever since they were young, Peggy Cryden noticed her children’s gender expression did not correspond with society’s expectations of their biological gender. In this moving and honest memoir, Peggy details the experiences and challenges of raising both a gay son and a gay, transgender son and shares her family’s journey of adversity and growth, which has helped inform her work as a psychotherapist.
Beginning with her own unconventional upbringing and personal relationships, the second half of the book follows her children from birth to adulthood and through their numerous experiences including coming out, depression, hate crime, relationships, school and various aspects to do with transitioning (legal, physical, medical, social) as well as their appearances in the media as a family. This book is insightful, charming and thought-provoking, and through levity and humor, offers a positive approach to parenting outside of convention.
To learn more about Straight Expectations or to purchase a copy, click here. You can also view the full range of JKP’s gender diversity books here, join our mailing list, or follow us on Facebook.
Fox Fisher is an illustrator, non-binary Trans campaigner, co-founder of Trans Pride Brighton and runs the My Genderation film project. He is the co-author of children’s book, Are You a Boy or Are You a Girl.
Click here to watch Fox’s message to his younger self.
Trans Day of Visibility is an important day to raise awareness that not all trans people have the opportunity to be out and proud about who they are. Trans people still have to hide away parts of their identity out of fear, because of stigma and because discrimination. This day serves as a reminder that everyone should be able to be themselves, regardless of gender identity. We cannot truly live in an equal and just society if certain people have to hide away parts of themselves and do not have the freedom to be who they are.
When I was growing up there was no visibility of trans people and I had no one to look up. I didn’t know of anyone who was trans and I think that if representation and visibility had been at the same point it is now, I would have come out much sooner and saved myself from years of self-hate and depression. Thankfully, today things have taken a huge shift and trans people are able to come out sooner and live as their true selves.
This is why I felt it so important to co-create a children’s book where we never find out if the central character, Tiny, is a girl or a boy, because it shouldn’t matter and everyone should be treated with respect regardless of their gender.
Fox’s new book, Are You a Boy or Are You a Girl, is out in May. Click here to find out more.
Follow Fox on Twitter and YouTube.