The number of children and adolescents receiving treatment because they believe they were born the wrong gender has risen by almost 1,000 per cent in the last five years. Ray from the seaside town of Exmouth in Devon, is one them.
The 17-year-old is tall with crew-cut hair and a cool lip piercing and chooses tops that don’t accentuate his chest area. He’s handsome, bright, eloquent and frank and goes for the gender fluid label, Mx.
Ray knew he wanted to be boy since he was about the age of 10, when he was Bekah. His teens have been plagued with the spite of school bullies and their “tranny-boy” and “woman with a penis” slurs – as if adolescence isn’t hard enough without the added uncertainty and confusion of not knowing whether you should be a boy or a girl.
From time to time he encounters disgraceful acts of discrimination and misunderstanding, and his recollection of a particular instance of discrimination – where he was turned away from two barbers in his home town – highlights the level of intolerance and ignorance transgender people have to put up with, and makes for cringeworthy listening. To avoid confrontation, he avoids men’s toilets and men’s changing rooms.
Despite the defiant way he recalls being treated like a subhuman, just for being human, things did get to him. Such was his identity crisis, that depression and self-harming set in soon after starting secondary school and he was referred for therapy. A year later, aged 13, he was referred to a gender therapist.
The psychological and emotional side of gender dysphoria has proved unyielding. The physical side of things has not been easy either. He calls his menstrual cycle (contraception measures haven’t eliminated his periods completely) the “bane of my life”, not least because you can’t wear sanitary towels with boxer shorts. And he’s been binding his breasts since he was 14.
Ray now faces an indefinite wait for physical intervention as the swap from child to adult care plays out. He says testosterone could be on the cards, and eventually, top, then maybe bottom, surgery.
“It kinda all started properly towards the end of primary school. Although up until that point, occasionally I would think to myself, what would life be like if I was a guy? Which turned into, what if I’m meant to be a guy?
“I’d never enjoyed playing with girls toys. I never had Barbies or My Little Ponies or anything. I’d much rather sit and read. And I never connected with my female friends on a feminine level, so it was difficult to socialise as a kid.
“I’ve never taken the stance of ‘oh poor me’ – I actually feel bad for people who are so closed minded and ignorant that they go out of their way to make someone’s life, which is already difficult, even more difficult; that they’re such arseholes!
“I just want people to understand that it’s not easy.
“I would much rather people ask me about gender and talk to me about it, and learn about what it means, rather than judge me in silent ignorance.
“They say ignorance is bliss, but it’s not when it’s affecting someone else’s life.
“You have to look after yourself and surround yourself with supporters who love you regardless of the haters – whether they’re online or in person. Keep yourself safe, with people who love you.”
Read the full interview with Ray here: