‘I called my grandmother. ‘Oh and by the way, I am a woman.’ My biggest shame suddenly became my biggest strength.’: Transgender woman shares self-acceptance journey

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Trigger Warning: This story contains mention of suicidal thoughts that may be triggering to some.

“As a writer, it’s always funny. You have a story, you have many ideas, but you never know where to start. It’s odd, you know. For once, I’m not writing on my blog. But for someone else’s, especially, across the Atlantic. Yeah, because, I am not based in the US.

A week ago, I was contacted on my Instagram after I mentioned in a post I was a trans woman. It’s the first time I mentioned this. Ever. Even, this is not something I like to talk about. I think this is something intimate, but I felt the need to share it with my community of followers since, well, I had kind of a long break on social media. I am recusant of all those Instagram, Facebook, Twitter (especially Twitter, since we are in the great hours of the cancel culture nowadays and nothing stops me from thinking Twitter is the biggest open-sky scrapyard humankind has ever had)… but I guess we have to live with our times.

So, my name is Taylor Harding-Jenkins. I am a British anonymous writer, who has published her book, Free Expensive Lies: Prologue last March, available worldwide. As a British person, I live in the UK, of course. I live in London, and I’ve been in transition for the past 3 years. Now is the moment where you wonder, ‘then why the he*l does she says she’s an anonymous writer?’ Yeah, many of my readers wonder the same. And guess what, this is closely linked to the fact I am transgender.

book cover "Free Expensive Lies"
Courtesy of Taylor Harding-Jenkins

But I’m not here to talk about my writer’s activities. I was born in France. During my childhood, in the Mediterranean sea, I used to go to the beach, the river, I was very lucky, the place where I was born has lovely countryside. You have an amazing seaside, and just a few kilometers away, you have mountains and rivers and nature. Trust me, this is lovely. It’s a very touristy place. In the summer, a lot of people come from Paris to spend their holidays. Unfortunately, although this area isn’t rural, I mean, not entirely rural, it remains the town where I’m from is really small, and… obviously, very conservative. Not open to the new LGBT ideas, if you know what I mean.

woman in nature
Courtesy of Taylor Harding-Jenkins

As far as I recall, when I was at school, especially in high school (named College in France), there used to be a lot of bullying. Said in French, the words ‘fa**ots,’ ‘tran*ies’ and other slurs used to be very common once out of the mouth of those teenagers. Usually said to someone who was just different, who generally wasn’t gay or trans. Moreover, when I was young, in my mind, just like I have been taught by the common imagination of my schoolmates, trans people used to be sex workers. But, meanwhile…

woman on a train
Courtesy of Taylor Harding-Jenkins

Meanwhile, this was a fact I didn’t know yet, I was born with a genetic accident. I was born as a guy, but they found this out only days before my birth, during her entire pregnancy, my mother was expecting a girl. This was something I didn’t know, but I was born with XX sexual chromosome. But I didn’t know this. No one knew this. So, I was born.

woman in fancy clothing
Courtesy of Taylor Harding-Jenkins

As a kid, I was fairly isolated, you know, the kind of nerd with his glasses who spends time reading books and trying to know everything about everything. It got me the privilege of being bullied. At my level, you know, when you’re a kid, you have a high-pitched voice, I had short hair but my hair used to grow up fast and it was curly (they used to call me ‘the sheep’ because of this). I had to face that stupidity. In the meantime, my mother was depressed, my father was an alcoholic, also depressed, and… If I had to talk about my childhood memories, trust me, we could start writing a book. I mean, another.

Deep down, as a kid, before my puberty, I felt like I would remain this way. Like, having no beard just like every man used to grow once they grow up, my voice would never change… I knew this was due to happen, but, it was not easy for this to happen. I heard by some doctors this was the very first step of what is called ‘gender dysphoria,’ the ‘disease’ (I won’t enter this debate here, I use the word disease as this was something I truly suffered from, but, of course, we all have a different opinion on this) trans people have.

transgender woman in a suit
Courtesy of Taylor Harding-Jenkins

And, then, my puberty. My voice changed, my beard started to grow, and… my parents still fighting, speaking of divorce, my father drank more and more, and, as a result of that, I needed to vent on my writings. I had this problem. I knew there was something wrong, but I couldn’t place words on this, I couldn’t explain what the problem was. At the same time, I needed to wear woman outfits, so I stole some clothes, I crossdressed myself (this was the name it was called) and of course, this was my biggest shame. I needed to do that, it was like, something vital for me, but in the meantime, I was taught that a guy cannot wear women’s clothing, this is a shame. A man has to be a man. And cannot have his weaknesses.

transgender woman in a dress
Courtesy of Taylor Harding-Jenkins

I did my best to keep this a secret, and hopefully, I had the chance to be witty, and never get caught. They probably had suspicions, but… they were too busy to fight with one another. As I grew up, I started writing a story, and I needed to escape in the stories I created. I started writing long stories, and I started writing the story of Eleanor, one of my characters. In the meantime, once I was back into reality, I still had this problem, this big problem of depression, this need to cross-dress once my parents were away, but deep down in my brain, I couldn’t associate the ideas, I couldn’t link them. Once I was done with crossdressing, depression was back, hard, striking me. And I thought, at first, my depression was caused by my parents. So, I started hating them. I starting revolting.

woman shopping
Courtesy of Taylor Harding-Jenkins

In France, they have (pretty much like in the UK) free healthcare. You can go to the shrink for free. So they sent me to one. Still, in my mind, I focused my problems on my parents, rather than on my crossdressing shame issue. This thing was my deepest secret, I never spoke about it to anyone. No one knew. Redirecting the problem to something else did not help. It was just, closing my eyes on this. Turning a blind eye on what was the real problem, the problem I couldn’t talk to anyone about because, you know… ‘tran*ies…’

My depression took over when I turned 16. I isolated myself, I dropped school, was more and more focused on my writings, and I was definitely out of reality. As my parents divorced and got kicked out of my house because my parents fuc*ed up their parenting and I lived at my grandmother’s place instead. I didn’t have the crossdressing escape. Instead, I had my writings. This was, by far, one of the toughest periods of my life (one of them, but it was not the worst compared to what I lived after). I had my friends; they all had girlfriends, playing consoles, going out with friends, drinking alcohol, whilst… I was isolated in a house, barely going out, in depression, single. I had no life. I was isolated and didn’t have anyone, and was desperate. I considered for the first time killing myself, but… But, I turned 18.

I still had no money, no life, nothing, but at least, I had something new: Charlotte. Charlotte is my character, she is, yeah, with my wife now, the second woman of my life. Since I turned 18, I worked on this book, Free Expensive Lies. On this series, shall I say. It is now published. I sometimes tend to believe Charlotte was far more than a character, she was more than that. She opened my eyes. She changed my life, she taught me what the true problem was.

book cover of Free Expensive Lies
Courtesy of Taylor Harding-Jenkins

Things changed in 2017. I was 22. And, after so many fights and, like Churchill said, blood, toil, sweat and tears, I managed to find a job, move to London, then the Brexit referendum occurred and I decided as a consequence of that to move to Ireland, Dublin precisely, when… everything went wrong there. I messed up there, and it cost me all my savings. My father called me and, as he was annoyed I moved abroad, he managed to offer me a job in France. And, and then this happened.

As I said, Charlotte opened my eyes. As I was writing the tenth chapter of the first opus (I mean, rerere-writing this chapter… Even today, it is completely different), something happened in my brain. I thought back about my teenage years when I was cross-dressing, and, I was thinking about my depression. For the first time in my life, I had my cousin on the phone. She called me unexpectedly because I told her I’d be flying back to France in about 2 weeks, I was just enjoying some holidays in Dublin. For the very first time of my life, because I was morally exhausted, and she was speaking to me about a friend that started to transition… I realized it could be possible I may have the same problem. Perhaps, crossdressing was the key. Perhaps, it was the thing that made me realize it was what was wrong with me. So, I told her. Believe it or not, but when I spoke about it, I have never been so relieved in my life. I realized after that phone call the problem wasn’t the divorce of my parents, it wasn’t my school dropout, it wasn’t my situation in France, my isolation, the fact I was single and it pissed me off, no. The problem was… I was a woman. I just… My biggest shame, my biggest secret, my biggest unsaid problem… Suddenly became my biggest strength.

woman outside wearing a scarf
Courtesy of Taylor Harding-Jenkins

As I spoke with my cousin, I chose my new name. First of all, I always hated my previous name, my male name, and all the time, when I used to sign my books, I always used different pen names. I never used my official name. I chose my new name (that I will not disclose here). And, the next day, I had to call my grandmother to inform her about what time my plane was due to land in 2 weeks, so she could come to pick me up. And, during the call, I told her, ‘Oh, yeah, and, by the way, I am a woman.’

My grandmother has always been my greatest ally in this journey. Her reaction was, ‘Come on, you’ve always been a woman anyway, so I’m not surprised… Wait, you’re serious?’ My grandmother has always been open on this, she used to have a gay brother who died 2 years before my birth, so, over transgender things… She was okay. She asked me under what name I wanted to be called from now on, and I told her this name. However, she told me, until I told my parents, she would call me under this name only in private. But that was the thing, I needed to tell my parents, and…

woman taking a selfie
Courtesy of Taylor Harding-Jenkins

I am a really brave person. I mean, courage is something I do have. So, about a month later, as I came back to France, as I signed for this job, (it wasn’t the job of my dreams but at least it allowed me to have savings), the secret of my new identity went harsher. It was hard to carry again. I went for a weekend to my cousin’s place, who lives in the Savoy region. Instead of saying this face to face, I decided to take my phone instead. And called them. And told my parents. My father first, and then my mother.

I learned afterwards that on this day, afterwards, my father drank to forget this. My mother insulted me and told me to get the he*l out of her life. The other thing I completely ignored was also, at the same time, (we were in July 2017), my father had 7 months left to live before to die. He had no disease, as you may think, but…

Towards the end of July, I started the final medical process of my transition, so talking to psychiatrists about this issue, to get a certification, I was okay to start a transition. I had this magic paper on the 24th of September 2017, and started my transition on the 27th, after an appointment with an endocrinologist.

woman on a stage
Courtesy of Taylor Harding-Jenkins

So you may say, a happy ending, yeah? Okay, I didn’t talk about my father yet. Following my coming out to my parents, I published a picture of me on Facebook, showing I am trans and formalizing the thing. And, you remember, I told you about my job? At first, it was a 3 months contract that was due to become a permanent place within the company. As the news of my transition leaked, I have been requested to explain myself with the big boss, and, as a result of this, it ended up as a prolongation of a 1-month contract, only. This was to allow me to get unemployment benefits. Because, of course, you know, who wants to have a trans employee?

As my transition started on the 27th of September 2017, we had a conversation with my father regarding this. At least, unlike my mother, he tried to have a serious conversation with me. In the end, I have no idea whether he accepted me as a woman, as his daughter. In January, following the final stage of his depression, he ended up in prison and died in February 2018. This left me with PTSD.

transgender woman in blouse
Courtesy of Taylor Harding-Jenkins

At the same time, I had a boyfriend. It doesn’t end up well. And I won’t extend myself on this point, because if my depression was a coffin, he placed the very last screw on the lid.

Then I met my wife. My one and only. Together, after this sh*tstorm, we moved back to London. 3 years on, now, I am licking my wounds, I guess I am paying the hefty price for my transition, but, this was the price of my liberty. I never really felt any regret for what I did. Even though it cost me the price of severe depression.

So, this is my declassified story. I am very thankful to Amanda, to have contacted me and allowed me to speak about this with you guys. To whoever is passing through the same I passed through years ago, just remember, you guys are not alone. It may take time, it may take a while, but one day, someone will love you again, and, like my wife, will give you a hand and will pull you to a more stable life. If you pass through the same sh*t I passed through, then… Good luck. It may take a while for people to be aware of us, to understand that becoming a woman when we are born in the opposite gender or otherwise isn’t following the trends; it’s because there is a real pain behind. Let’s stand united, guys. Let’s stand united.”

Courtesy of Taylor Harding-Jenkins

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Taylor Harding-Jenkins. You can follow Taylor’s journey on Instagram, Facebook, and her website. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.

Read more stories about the transgender community here:

‘Who’s that boy?’ I wore boys’ clothes and refused makeup. My body didn’t match what was in my head.’: Transgender man shares journey, ‘Coming out can be scary but freeing’

‘She said, ‘I am a girl in my heart and brain.’ She had to be physically restrained for haircuts. I felt guilty.’: Mom advocates for transgender daughter, ‘She blossomed before our eyes’

‘Please give me a miracle. Turn me into a girl overnight.’ I kept it a secret. I was on a train headed for a dead end.’: Transgender teen embraces identity after life-long battle, ‘I am finally me’

‘My mom is a THEY, not a boy or a girl.’: Nonbinary parent celebrates Trans Day of Visibility

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