Fifty Shades of Gender podcast graphic with Harri Elouise

A conversation with Harri Elouise-Edward Nellar

TRANS-FEMININE, NON-BINARY

Recorded on 26 January 2019. Duration 58 mins approx.

Harri’s pronouns are they/them, and they identify as trans-feminine and non-binary. Find out what that means to Harri in this episode.

We also talk about the difference between gender identity/expression and sex, gender clinics and the medical transition process, use singular ’they’ and getting pronouns right, coming out to family, friendships, being a shy kid, and fitting in versus belonging.

“I never felt wrong-bodied, but looking back at things there were clearly signs that I wasn’t happy with how my body was.”

Listen on Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Google Podcasts or in your favourite podcast app

TRANSCRIPT [click to expand]

Esther: Hello, welcome!

Harri: Hi!

Esther: What’s your name?

Harri: Hi! I am Harri Elouise-Edward Nellar.

Esther: I was going to say ‘nice to meet you’ {laughing} but we have met.

Harri: And you are?

Esther: I’m Esther, nice to meet you! {Both laughing} So, how do you identify?

Harri: Well, ideally, none of us would use labels, in my view; but, as the world is, a bunch of labels are in place. For me, I use trans-feminine, non-binary, for my gender identity. In terms of sex, I would identify as being inter-sex, but I suppose by most technical definitions as standing I am male.

Esther: Okay,this is really interesting because, maybe we can elaborate on this a little bit, one of the things that I have learned in the last few years of meeting lots of gender-diverse people, is the difference between, obviously, sexuality and gender, gender-identity, but there is the other level which is physical sex, so that is yet again something different, isn’t it?

Harri: Yeah, and there seems to be a lot of misconceptions and a lot of misunderstanding in official documentation, they will ask for your gender, but they will only give you male and female, which, to me, are sex-describing words, not gender-describing words.

Esther: Yes, that is such a good point.

Harri: To me gender is the internal sense of…gender, is short for gender-identity, and there are lots of things like gender expression and that has lots of cultural implications of what it means to be masculine, what it means to be feminine, what it means to be androgynous. Yeah, of course there are lots of different categories, whole spectrums, but we are kind of in a society which forces a binary based on what sex, what biology, you are seen to have in the most basic sense, the seen biology seems to define everything from birth in our society.

Esther: Yes, it certainly does doesn’t it. So the sort of labels you just used there, did you say trans-feminine?

Harri: Yes, so, trans-feminine, non-binary.

Esther: Yes, so what does that mean to you?

Harri: To me, non-binary is another gender identity like man, or like woman, it is third option to encompass those outside of being a man or a women, but because there are so many different ways, it is a spectrum, either use trans-feminine to further describe that, or trans just meaning obviously what I was assigned with at birth; and, feminine, I present and express myself, I feel more womanly, close to a woman, but obviously I don’t identify as a woman, otherwise I wouldn’t be non-binary. So, without wanting to enforce stereotypes, because what does a woman look like? For me, it is really difficult, because I don’t want to use language that enforces a stereotype but, as things stand, it is the easiest ways to describe…

Esther: So that others understand?

Harri: So that others understand, exactly! So, trans-feminine, I love having long hair, I have always had my hair long, I have hated going to the hairdresser before I came out, because it was kind of put on me to have my hair cut short and I just didn’t like that.

Esther: I think this is a good time to talk about how you express yourself or how you express your gender identity in your daily life and in a visual presentation sort of way?

Harri: So, for me, I heavily express to match my identity. So, part of my identity means that I express what might be seen more typically as woman: I wear breast-forms because I can’t yet grow my own breasts; I wear a long-haired wig, because being male, and my genes and hormones mean I suffer from androgenic alopecia – male pattern baldness. So, I can’t, my hair has got to a state where I don’t feel comfortable being my authentic self without my wig now. My “natural” hair, as some would have it, is not naturally me, my me is the wig, it is the breast-forms, they are integral to who I am until I am in a position to fund surgeries and treatments to change those things.

Esther: Okay, yeah.

Harri: Because I live in hope that with hormone therapy, and potentially a hair transplant, from my own head to sort out the hairline so that I can grow a full head of hair, naturally again, as natural as it would be from procedure.

Esther: Okay then, and do you, I was going to say, are you starting hormone therapy, or have you started; or will you start?

Harri: Yeah, so I want to start hormone therapy to get rid of my testosterone, or reduce that, and have high oestrogen levels and the rest of the typical female hormone balance. At present, obviously, I am not at that stage, I am on a waiting list to go to a gender-identity clinic.

Esther: How long does it take? You are in the system, as it were, right?

Harri: I have been on the waiting list now 14 months, which was originally what I was told my waiting list time would be, but…

Esther: Has it changed now?

Harri: It has got longer while I have been on it but I wasn’t informed, I only found out when I contacted them to update my address moving about in life {laughing}.

Esther: As you do.

Harri: As you do – yeah, I changed my address with them and found out that my waiting list time had extended by 6-8 months. So, current time, it is January 2019 at the moment, and I expect to hopefully be seen around November time this year.

Esther: That’s a long wait!

Harri: It is.

Esther: And especially if you are thinking about this time, if you are looking forward to it would have been around this time to actually make progress.

Harri: To see the specialists, to get my current hormone levels examined and be assessed to see what can be done.

Esther: So that appointment was just an assessment, you don’t leave with a packet of hormones, right? You just get …

Harri: Not NHS, no, as the system currently stands, you have two consultation appointments: one with the doctor, specialising on your physical health; and one to assess your mental state, from my understanding of things. And once you have both consultations, then they will evaluate whether you eligible to even receive hormone therapy and work out a treatment plan.

Esther: It sounds crazy, though, it is like so much depends on their, well, I am not going to call it an opinion obviously, their professional opinion, it must be quite daunting in a way?

Harri: Yes, that my future depends on the perspective of a couple of other individual’s views on what I am doing and how I should be able to be. Whereas I know truly, in myself now, well I am 23-years-old, but it has only been over the last two years that I have been questioning and working out my gender identity.

Esther: Okay.

Harri: And so by the time I get to this consultation I will be just over two years of me working for my gender identity. If these professionals don’t think that maybe I have come far enough, if my name change, and change in presentation, and being out at work, if all of those things aren’t enough for them to give me access to the hormones I feel I need to make my life easier, to live a more typical life, where I am not going to extra effort just to feel comfortable in the way I look and, in the way, I am perceived. Because, at the end of the day, I think the effort I go to for my comfort, but that comfort is directly physical, but it is also a social comfort of how I am perceived. And, so, from my perspective, and my identity, some of my expressions maybe are exaggerated, I have had comments from people who are less accepting of me to begin with I was, I forgot the word, how camp men walk, where you sort of not strut, I can’t think of the word that was used against me now.

Esther: Oh right, oh I am not sure, the word strut would come to mind, but if that was not what it was? Ah I don’t know.

Harri: Never mind, it will probably come to me in a little while. I have had comments to assess how I have been progressing and they are not constructive, it has made me think that I am just being seen as a man presenting a caricature of a woman, as opposed to just being seen as a feminine person and that hurts. So, evaluating the balance between exaggerating characteristics and feeling natural so that you have a social comfort that you get seen the way you are, when people don’t see you as you are that hurts; and, yeah, I don’t know what more to say on that. If you say you have told me you are Esther, if I continually called you George, you would feel maybe uncomfortable, upset, confused.

Esther: Definitely confused!

Harri: Like: you are not talking to me, who are you talking to?

Esther: It is just disrespectful, really, isn’t it?

Harri: It is.

Esther: That is all there is to it to be fair, yeah. It is a crappy experience to go through and I think a lot of the I don’t know if it is misunderstandings and stuff, for a lot of people it just comes from ignorance and not malice, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be hurtful, how they react and what they say, yeah, and I mean, what pronouns do you use?

Harri: So they/them are my pronouns, if I get ‘she’d’, or ‘her’d’, that’s okay; but if I get referred to as ‘he’, ‘him’, ‘fella’, ‘lad’, all these words, they are hurtful to me, I am not those things and being referred to as such just makes me feel like I am not seen as who I am, I am being seen as…

Esther: Who they are, who the perceiver is, what they…

Harri: Yeah, it is like you say, sometimes, it is just coming from a place of ignorance and not understanding. Sometimes, obviously, maybe things aren’t clear, maybe I have not presented as feminine as I want to on a day, because I am maybe having a bad day because my make is not great, and my natural skin tone and complexion comes through and maybe I do look more like a man in makeup. But it is like if I have explained to someone how I feel, I can’t see it is that difficult to just listen and try and internalise that. You don’t have to remember, you already know how to use the language, using other pronouns, you can use them, you have used them plenty of times before for various people. If I changed my name, okay, sometimes we slip up, we call people the wrong name it happens even without trans, for cisgender people.

Esther: Oh yeah, totally, I get pronouns wrong sometimes and I spend a lot of time in the presence of gender diverse people. I think, to me, it feels like almost like people kind of make a decision, as it were, and it is like a sum of all these different elements, like maybe physical characteristics, sound of voice, you know, and all that stuff. Then, even though we might not be sure, we sometimes lean towards one or the other automatically, I think that maybe that happens automatically in your head. I think it is kind of like if someone has a…if a woman gets married, takes a married name, you have to learn that name and address them by that name because that is their name. If that’s how they want to be referred to then you do that because that is the done thing, really, that’s what they have expressed and that’s kind of their identity now.

Harri: Yes, that’s their new name, you don’t go round referring to their maiden name.

Esther: Just because that was what they were born with, you know what I mean? To me it is kind of no different than that.

Harri: Along the same lines, pronouns, I have observed it many times with dogwalkers, someone can say: Oh that’s a lovely dog, what’s her name? It is like: My dog is a boy. Oh sorry, he. They will correct themselves and move on.

Esther: If people can do it with a dog, they can definitely do it with people, right?

Harri: Yes! I have said: No, I am not a he, to someone, my pronouns are they; no apology, okay and then proceed to mis-gender in the future. You can correct yourself for an animal.

Esther: Who has no real feelings about it anyway…

Harri: The whole concept of gender probably means nothing in the perspective of an animal, we are putting that on our animals. But, a person, suddenly it is: No, I know what I see, what I think and I am going to enforce that on you, regardless of how you feel; and that’s what I don’t get, that’s not coming from a place of ignorance at that stage, I don’t think.

Esther: No, it doesn’t sound like it, no. I think, to me, it is kind of like you are just learning. When you meet someone you learn their name, they have a first name, they have a last name, and sometimes there is more to it, but it is also about, you learn their pronouns it is just one more thing. It is not a big deal, really, but I think maybe because of what our brain does, what I perceive the brain to do, is kind of make an assessment, or a judgement, as a sum of all these characteristics. And it does still happen to me, I have known, some non-binary people that I know, and I have sometimes referred to them as she, and I have thought: Oh that’s not right! And it just sometimes comes out of my mouth sometimes.

Harri: Yeah, I totally get that it is a natural human thing to do.

Esther: It is just so binary, the stuff we are used to.

Harri: It is like we are assessed on basic things, but I suppose there is, in some sense, a learning, an identifying, ‘this is based on a prejudice or a stereotyped perspective’. Realise that, and then stop and take a moment before saying anything. I have been among a group of people, people I have just met some non-binary, some binary-gendered, and it is like: okay, I go to use a pronoun, no, stop, I don’t really know this person what pronoun do I use? So, ask.

Esther: What would you recommend, you either go, would it be helpful if people went with a gender-neutral pronoun to begin with, or would you rather be asked? How would you feel about that?

Harri: That’s the thing, sometimes, because, depending on the people who you are with, if there are sort of some people maybe don’t want to be asked their pronoun and want you just to use, but other people…it is really difficult to work out the situation where you stop and you ask, “sorry, I’d don’t know your pronoun, what do you use? What do you prefer and what do you use?”

Esther: There is a subtlety there, one is kind of okay and one is kind of not. What I have been told is that it is like “what pronoun do you prefer?” Is kind of like…

Harri: …implying that it is not your actual pronoun, it is just.

Esther: Yeah it is just: maybe you are confused and what you are using right now, that’s kind of the vibe. What would be a good way to ask for pronouns?

Harri: What pronoun do you use? If I asked you: what pronouns do you prefer I use? It is like I have got no obligation to refer to you as she.

Esther: Yes.

Harri: It is like: you prefer she, so if I refer to you as he, would that be a problem?

Esther: Well, you know, it wouldn’t be quite accurate. {laughing}

Harri: If there was someone else with us and I was referring about you to the person and said ‘he’ and they seemed to think of you as a she, that’s just going to cause another step of confusion.

Esther: True, yes, totally – a minefield of pronouns.

Harri: Human interactions are difficult is what I have learned. {Both: laughing}

Esther: I mean, the ‘they’ thing, it is a…I know that confuses people as well because it is used in plural, but still it is quite…

Harri: It has been in the English language for at least 300 years.

Esther: It is a known…

Harri: …singular pronoun. Like I’m referring to, at this moment a fictional third person I don’t know their gender, it is one person, I have used a neutral pronoun. It is not like there is an imaginary person, he is not ‘he’d’ or ‘she’d’, there isn’t a person, it doesn’t matter what their gender is, you would use a neutral for someone you don’t know, if you are unsure, you can use a neutral pronoun. Why can’t you use it singularly for someone who you do know who tells you they use neutral language for themselves.

Esther: Yeah, yeah, totally, totally.

Harri: Gendered language can cause pain, it can cause upset, it can cause lasting harm to some people because if you are not in a strong position of mind to deal with that, if you are really struggling with various dysphoria about your gender, and then someone then refers to you, in a way that is not right, it can lead to you just feeling invalidated, dehumanised, like what you are saying has no meaning to that person. What you feel has no…it just doesn’t have any weight in their view and when that person is family, it is really, really, difficult.

Esther: Yes, I’ll bet. How long ago did you actually come out, as it were?

Harri: So, I have come out a number of times, and in various ways {laughing}, now. So, it would have been about March-time last year, I think.

Esther: Okay, that is not very long ago, so I mean you just mentioned family, so have you had a difficult time with your family, with this?

Harri: So, yeah, no, it will be longer than that, I can’t recall now, because I have done two Prides. Pride is in summer and I came out a few months before Pride two years ago.

Esther: So it might be just under two years ago?

Harri: Anyway…

Esther: Still, not very long ago, in the bigger scheme of things.

Harri: Relatively late. I was 21 at the time, and I am 23 at the moment, so, initially, I came out to my, I refer to her as my stepmother, my father and her are not married, but, for convenience sake, and that wasn’t really planned as such, me coming out.

Esther: It kind of just happened?

Harri: Yeah, so the night before, I was washing up and, again, my not really step-sister, was drying up, and I think we had some music on, and I expressed that the singer, Brendon Urie, was rather attractive. And of course this step sister, being who she is, at some point between then and the following evening, speaks to my step mother about thinking that I am gay.

Esther: Okay, yeah.

Harri: Because the stepsister just likes to tattle-tale about whatever and cause chaos. {laughing} And, so, that then, brought up the discussion about sexuality and from that I was like: Well, I am not really a sexual person, I am not sexually attracted, I can find people attractive and that just led onto me saying that I am not a man, I am not a woman, kind of… I can’t, like I say, it was nearly two years ago now, so details are hazy of how it went but it was not a fun experience because the stepmother it was completely new to her: It is outside the binary, that has go to be a made-up thing, that’s not real, you are just seeking attention, or whatever it was.

Esther: They, maybe, even if they have heard of it, they then assume they know what it means, but they don’t realise that it means something different to every person?

Harri: Yeah, yeah, it is like: I have explained how I feel, and they were just like: No, this is what that means. I was like: You have literally never heard this word before, and you are already forcing your own perspective onto it. you are seeing it from a certain way. And then, the following day, because my father worked shift work, he wasn’t about that evening, and then so the following day, while I was at work, the stepmother and father would obviously talk, and I had to do the whole coming out to my father thing that following evening.

Esther: Kind of because you were forced to.

Harri: Yeah, the way things panned out, things get spoken about to each other without the presence of others and so you are kind of forced through situations. And at that time I was still questioning, and learning, I hadn’t really had room to experiment and find what I meant. At that point I don’t think I even had any typically women’s clothes, I had no makeup, I hadn’t really even played with my expression, I had only worked things out in my head, looking back through the early years of my childhood, things that I did, which I might elaborate on later. {laughing} I was, I suppose when I came out, it had only been really a month or so that I had been learning words, reading things up online after seeing the BBC3 documentary, Queer Britain, of which the sixth and final episode in that had non-binary people, from Norwich {laughing}, shown.

Esther: That’s right.

Harri: I was introduced to these new words and kind of connected.

Esther: Something clicked.

 

Harri: Something felt right when I thought: hang on, that’s kind of how I feel. I need to understand more, what’s going on? This is weird.

Esther: Tell me more about this magical non-binary {laughing}.

Harri: Yeah, obviously that did lead to me looking things up online and looking at forums and stuff and so when I was trying to argue, argue my case as it happened to be with my coming out…

Esther: Literally.

Harri: My coming out to begin with was arguments: this is my gender! And it was like: Ah, you are just reading things online, you are being persuaded by the Internet and you are just talking nonsense and making things up for attention. And it is like: No! I know how I feel, just listen to me! But, no, the parent figures are not the kind that are accepting and explore, I know my mum would have been but, unfortunately, she had passed away about, it would have been, about six months before, I think.

Esther: Oh, wow.

Harri: Yeah, so, also, I think my father and step-father maybe were thinking maybe this is part of an emotional response to my losing my mum, that I am now wanting to be her in a sense, saying I am feminine, but I don’t know, this is now speculation on their thoughts.

Esther: There were making assumptions, right? Even though you are saying: This is how I feel. They would be like: No, no, this is what you are doing. It is like: What the hell!?

Harri: Yes, very much. So that was difficult, not having support, and me really not knowing what to do. So then I was just reading things online and then found out, I re-watched the last episode of ‘Queer Britain’ and realised that that’s a group, they are meeting up in Norwich, how do I contact this group of non-binary people? But then also courage to do, I struggled without being particular sociable for most of my childhood, I was always one to stay shut away in my room, probably because I didn’t feel like connected to my peers at High School and things, because I didn’t fit in with the boys, I didn’t fit in with the girls; I wanted to fit in with the girls, but to an extent, friendship groups were very gender-binary-segregated, in my High School experience.

Esther: Yep.

Harri: And obviously there were friends that were both the binary genders interacting as well, but I very much didn’t feel I ever properly fitted in. I was a very nerdy type and I liked my schooling and I always thought that I didn’t fit in because I was just really into my studying and that I was just a shy person.  

Esther: I can relate to that story a lot. I felt like I was quite an awkward child, you know? Always wanting to…well, I thought I wanted to fit in, but I think what I really wanted was to belong somewhere and there is a difference there, isn’t there? Because, fitting in, a lot of that depends on other people, and their perception of you, and maybe you trying to please them and changing yourself. Whereas belonging is being who you are and finding weirdos like yourself – you know? From my point of view, do you know what I mean? Because I felt like a weirdo, totally!

Harri: That was it, I kind of identified with being just a shy person, as a younger child, and through my teen years.

Esther: You never made the connection with gender, you just thought you were shy?

Harri: This is what I had been told, through family parties and stuff; things that you kind of don’t have a choice to avoid, when you are a child, you “like it and lump it”, that is a phrased used a number of times…it is like my parents apologising to other families: Sorry about me, … just shy. And so that was the only thing I kind of knew, I was told I was shy, this is my experience.

Esther: That is how you were perceived by others…the thing is why would you have to apologies for someone being shy, what is wrong with being shy? I’m sorry, but nothing! You know, for one, that side, but still.

Harri: That was mainly my father, rather than my mum. I think, yeah, it is just more of a general lack of confidence that I wasn’t myself, I didn’t know who I was, I just kind of felt that I had to be. It is like: I don’t know who I am, I am just going to go along with the me that I am experiencing at the time and that was shut in my room, playing computer games, a lot of escapism, listening to trance-music, and fantasy-games and puzzle-games, just to not interact with people. I wouldn’t play multi-player games, I would always play single-player adventures where I can just escape, it was not thinking about me and what is really going on.

Esther: Okay yeah.

Harri: And then, looking back through puberty and that, when I would get washed in the bathroom, pressing my chest to form a cleavage and tucking genitals between my legs so I couldn’t see what I have {laughing}.

Esther: Yeah, how old were you then?

Harri: I am guessing that this would probably have been through early puberty and puberty hit me early, so I was 11, 12, end of Primary School and beginning of High School. My voice broke by the end of the first year of High School, I got nicknamed “Voice of God”, because of my deep voice. In PE, the uniform, I wore shorts and I had really hairy legs, so whenever the rest of my class, at my High School the PE groups were sorted, at the beginning of the year, by running a lap around the main field and the first fastest 30 boys were in a group; the first fastest 30 girls were in a group; the second faster of each of those were sorted and then everyone left was in a mixed group.

Esther: Oh right! {laughing}

Harri: And I was in the mixed group, which was nice, because why did there have to be the segregation in the things?

Esther: Certainly! What was puberty like for you then, did you not make the connection?  I don’t want to say: Did you think you were in the wrong body? Because that doesn’t always apply, does it? How was that?

Harri: No, like I said, I didn’t know my gender, really. I don’t think…I feel, looking back, there were definitely times when I thought: I am not a boy, I am not a girl.

Esther: So you knew that you didn’t quite fit?

Harri: And I kind of knew that I was not a girl, but I didn’t have any language to express what I was. Non-binary might have not been in use, I don’t know when that actually {Esther: I don’t know actually!} was coined by someone to describe their gender identity. But, yeah, as a sort of argument that I had to deal with when I was coming out to my parents is that: It is a made up thing! Well all language is made up at some point!

Esther: Yeah! {laughing}

Harri: But that’s a whole other argument part of things that I didn’t want to deal with. So I kind of, I guess, just went along with the idea, that I was a boy, but that I was a sensitive, and shy, boy. I didn’t feel that, I felt sensitive, I felt shy. I don’t think I ever really felt a boy, I just kind of got on and accepted things. Thankfully I enjoyed Lego sets and things, the presents I was given, I just enjoyed, I didn’t feel a sort of affinity towards wanting barbies, and dresses, but I don’t think I had any objection to that. Most of my friends when I was a child were girls, my mum and my father split up when I was five and so I lived mostly with my mum and then her partner at the time had two daughters of his own who were a year, or a year-and-half, or two years younger than me. For a certain time of year we would be consecutive ages and then there would be a gap of a year at different points, but they would only come at weekends. But me and, I call them sisters, not step-sisters, even though they never really were my mum and this man never got married. I did consider him actually I considered him a stepdad, I considered the two girls my sisters, and we got on and had fun and played together. I guess things were probably a bit gendered for us at that point, but we just got on and didn’t really care or have any thoughts about it; we would all climb trees, we would all play with Lego together and we just had fun.

Esther: Yep.

Harri: But then, we had grown older, and puberty comes along. I never felt wrong-bodied but looking back at things there were clearly signs that I wasn’t happy with how my body was. Like, the “voice of God” thing, I kind of went along and it felt like a funny thing at the time, everyone was kind of laughing at it, and I don’t know if they were laughing at me. They were kind of people I considered my friends, even though I never felt they considered me their friends, and this is an experience I definitely had, people I considered friends, I never felt that they considered me friends.

Esther: Interesting.

Harri: Because it felt like that, they had meetups and get-together and I wouldn’t be invited.

Esther: Okay.

Harri: At school we would all hang out together, and it would be okay, but then things outside of school, they would talk about things they had done outside of school, and I was like I am not there! But I couldn’t vocalise that, I was just internalising for so long because I was just awkward, and shy, and I didn’t know how to address these things and my concerns. And, so, I got on with a very quiet childhood, not really socialising outside the forced interactions of the educational system {laughing}.

Esther: Yeah. So things have obviously changed since you found the non-binary and everything. I mean, what is your home situation like now?

Harri: About a year ago, I left my father and the step-mother, because there was no sign that things were getting any better in accepting me there. They had various, what I call excuses, which they would call reasons; my half-brother, who was eight at the time and who is on the autistic spectrum, and struggles socially, the parents were very much like: I can’t present authentically because that will confuse and scare my half-brother.

Esther: Mm okay, yep.

Harri: And…I don’t think it will have done.

Esther: I think of anything he would probably have been more accepting than anyone, to be honest. Obviously, we don’t know, and every autistic person is different as well, but that’s what I think.

Harri: For the bits of toying with my expression that I managed while I was there, like having earnings in, my nails painted, and wearing a headscarf, when Jack saw those things he just laughed and said that I looked like a pirate.

Esther: Aw!

Harri: He wasn’t scared, or offended, but as soon as the stepmother saw me I was instructed to: go upstairs and take all that off immediately, or stay in your room.

Esther: Oh wow.

Harri: At that point, at 21 years old, I was basically told: If I want to be myself you have to stay in your room, and you were saying about the non-binary group. I eventually got in contact with them after I went to see a GP, I found out about a gender clinic, and so I was like I need to get on the waiting list.

Esther: Yeah, get in the system.

Harri: So I went to the GP and like: What else can I do in the meantime? And my GP was like: I don’t know anything about being non-binary, it is all new to me, let’s do a Google search together.

Esther: Aw.

Harri: {laughing} So my GP spent a bit of time, and looked online, and found exactly the same thing I found online which was a list of trans-related support material, in the Norfolk area. And listed on that was various contacts of the non-binary groups, that were actually a Facebook-bound thing, but I sort of, because I think I mentioned that to the GP – I can’t remember this was now over a year ago and a lot has happened in the last year.

Esther: Yeah, I bet.

Harri: So, I kind of got the confidence, or the desperation…

Esther: A bit of both!

Harri: to send a message to =say: Hey, I think I am non-binary, can I meet up with you people to discuss that? And so yeah, I got accepted into the group without really any questions asked.

Esther: Oh lovely.

Harri: And made it to a meetup and it just felt, like you said earlier, a welcome, you fit, you are not having to make do to get acceptance you are just accepted.   

Esther: Yep, yep.

Harri: It was so nice, and I felt just really happy.

Esther: Cool! That’s great I love that!

Harri: So, that monthly meetup has been, I have not missed one since, without exception.

Esther: Yeah, yeah! I think it is really great that you have found a place where you feel like you can be yourself, you know?

Harri: And it has let me re-evaluate things, I am not an introverted person. I always thought that I was shy, and that I was an introvert, but, no, I just wasn’t me.

Esther: Right, and then how can you connect with others when you are not you? It is kind of, there is a disconnect there, isn’t there, so that makes sense.

Harri: It has been odd to to see that, and then reconnecting with sort of friends that I grew up with, through my mum’s sort of friends; and then reconnecting since my mum passed away with those people, and them seeing such a dramatic change, like: Yeah you seem so much happier and alive…I wasn’t living before, I was existing. Since I worked out my identity I get to live and…

Esther: Yay!

Harri: The funny thing is, bringing it back to my father, is that when I was younger and I was living with my mum and I was seeing my father on a pattern of weekends because of the shift work, every time I would see my father there would always be nags: You need to socialise more, you need to get a life, get a hobby. And, when I came out, and I was like: Hey, I have got this group of people that I can hang out with and feel like I fit, suddenly that was the issue, because these people are going to further your…

Esther: They are going to corrupt you!

Harri: Yeah, and make you believe.

Esther: Make you even more confused {laughing}.

Harri: And make you believe this thing that isn’t real. Well it is real, it is not just my experience, there is a bunch of other wonderful people who are all saying that’s their experience.

Esther: But it probably if someone is not open to that, you could show up at the front door with a whole group of you and he would still be like: No, there is no one here, I don’t want to see anything. So, besides your family, which is obviously not very helpful in the phase which you are going through, which sucks, but how have your friends been, how has it been at work, what has that been like?

Harri: So, reconnecting with High School friends was kind of important thing when I first starting coming out. Some of the girls I was more close [to], the ones that I thought were more my friends than the ones I didn’t consider were friends, I reconnected with them. We met up after like five years of not seeing each other, we had done Sixth Form and they had started doing Uni, I had been at work. And we finally all sort of met up again, and I was presenting more, I don’t know if I did present closer to authentic the first time we met up because I think at that point I still didn’t really have much, I think I might have had my breast and wig and some clothes, but I wasn’t able, because at that time I would still have been living with the parents, father and what not.

Esther: So you didn’t really have a chance to get…

Harri: I wasn’t able to leave…

Esther: To get dressed as you wanted and put the makeup on at home to then go out.

Harri: I wasn’t allowed out of my room in being myself. I could only leave my room if I was pretending to be the person that I should and was.

Esther: Yeah, yeah, okay.

Harri: Obviously meeting up you can’t really get changed and get ready elsewhere.

Esther: Yeah, yeah.

Harri: I think. So we met up, I expressed how I felt, and they were all really lovely and like: Okay cool, you are one of us girls now {laughing}. And that was really nice but because they were only back for the summer holidays, I think it would have been summer holidays, essentially, but, yeah, they are back at Uni, and I work so I can’t meet up in the summer holidays because I work a full time job Monday to Friday, kind of thing, so I didn’t get to seem them that much and then everyone busy with lives and so.

Esther: Yes.

Harri: I never, or we haven’t really had that close friendship that I kind of need. I have got obviously, at this point, the various, so the non-binary, once a month, meetup to start making friends but it is just chatting to people you don’t really know at that point.

Esther: Yeah, yeah.

Harri: And it takes obviously a while to build friendships and things and, there has not really been anyone that I can just hang out with on a frequent basis sort of outside of work time because everyone has busy lives, we are adults now. It is difficult, and that’s kind of the thing I feel I need at times, to be able to meet up with people and hang out more frequently and people want to spend time with me, so that I’m not the one that makes the effort. That has always been the case and another thing, why I never felt like I was considered a friend to the people I considered friends, is because I would always have to instigate everything, if I wanted to be involved, I would have to make the effort to do that. And it is like: Why am I not invited along when they are instigating things, why am I not getting messages to start things? And, so, I did feel very sort of outcast and it still, sort of thinking that introvert at the time, it is really exhausting to try and make connections with people who don’t make the same effort, so there would be prolonged periods of time where I would feel isolated. My only social interactions were those sort of forced upon me through routine, work interactions and outside of that I just had an existence there wasn’t a life.

Esther: Yep.

Harri: That’s definitely changed considerable over the past year, but there are still remnants of that.

Esther: Of course, it is a process though, isn’t it?

Harri: Yeah.

Esther: I think, do you feel like as you become yourself, it all becomes easier and you made connections with the right people who then involve you, rather than, like you say, that old pattern of you having to organise stuff and reaching out and things.

Harri: Yeah.

Esther: So, yeah.

Harri: I think it does help and I think friendships can be more genuine when you are yourself. {laughing}

Esther: Absolutely!

Harri: It is not going to be a genuine friendship if you are kind of just living a life that isn’t right. Whether that is by choice, because of the circumstances, or whether it is unknowingly because of not realising what was going on. It is a weird one, but, yeah, it makes a difference just being able to be yourself, the two sides of comfort, there is the internal comfort with that, then there is the external comfort of socialising with people where your expression, whatever it is, isn’t an issue, it is a non-issue, it is not even a thing that is considered, it is just: hey. I think that is the most important thing, being with people, especially when you are working things out, is spending time with people where it is a non-issue because then you can just enjoy yourself thinking about other things. Like I was saying about me and my sisters, we would just get on and play and do things whatever was going on. {Esther: climb trees} Yeah, climb trees, or build Lego sets, or just play with the Lego figurines almost as if it was a doll’s house, but we built it first, and then created stories and things playing with the figurines. So, whatever these activity that would have been gendered by some people seeing their children do these things: Well, that’s a gendered activity and that’s a gendered activity, it was like: No we are not thinking about that…

Esther: Well children are definitely not thinking about that, unless they get told to, right?

Harri: Yes, that’s the thing, a lot of…the room to explore, I didn’t explore my gender before because, when I was living with my mum and that side of thing I didn’t need to, my gender wasn’t ever made an issue. So I never, it would have been actually in some way better, if there had of been a bit more gender enforced, for me to realise who I was sooner.

Esther: Mm hm.

Harri: I am happy for how things have gone, I am grateful for the past I had because that shaped me for who I am now. I wouldn’t want to change any of that, but looking at it, how things can go, it is kind of, there are a lot of things that I am struggling with now which would have been better if I had been able to address them sooner.

Esther: Yes, yes, I bet.

Harri: Like puberty, okay, that happened, and it didn’t feel wrong for the most part, but looking at it now, actually, that wasn’t right.

Esther: That wasn’t right either.

Harri: Like most things, they don’t have to be black and white, it can be not right and not wrong and still be a thing, there are people who are not men, and not women, they have a gender identity. There are all these things, it is not black and white, but when people think and are so regimented in black and white and force that upon you, it is exhausting, because you either have to fight the oppression, or have the strength to ignore it and not let it affect you. Or, I don’t know what other options there are, really, you either try and fight it and get the, I hesitantly say truth, across, because even this experience is still subjective. I don’t think there is any necessarily objective truth, we all make our own experience, we all live lives and the whole thing to be, to have meaning. I don’t necessarily want to delve into that philosophical side that could end up a bit deep. {Both: laughing}

Esther: That’s another episode. So do you have any, to sort of finish up our conversation, do you have any advice for people who maybe are in the position that you were in, or maybe who have friends or relatives that are in a position that you were in.

Harri: Yeah, it is difficult to give advice, because I have only got my experience to go and everyone’s experience is different, the people you interact with shape things greatly and it is hard to judge what the right thing, or the best thing, or what to do anyway, regardless whether it is the right — or best thing — at that time for you. Stay true to what you believe, I think, and you have to take care of yourself before you can really properly consider what other people…if you end up allowing yourself to get really distressed, or you are not going to be able to make the differences you might want to see, focus on what makes you happy to begin with, and then work out the rest later {laughing} once you are better equipped. Because, things will work out, and I have become a very firm believer that things do work out the way they are supposed to, I haven’t touched on my year of homelessness in London at all through the talk today and, that isn’t an experience I would wish on any 15-year-old.

Esther: Wow, no.

Harri: But it happened to me because I was running away from taking responsibility and I ended up in a situation where I had to take responsibility, for my own actions, and for a bit for what was going on around me. My mum was struggling with various things at that time, as well, and we looked out for each other, but it was shaped by looking out for ourselves first to be able to help each other.

Esther: That makes sense, yes.

Harri: That was something mum really struggled to do, she was always looking out for other people first, and she was getting herself in a worse and worse state and I knew I was in an okay position, I had looked out for myself, so I was able to look out for my mum when she wasn’t looking out for herself. That led the situation to an extent, but then when she was looking out for herself, she was then able to look out for me again, when I needed her. Things have worked out, okay, not everything worked out, but we all make our way.

Esther: Absolutely, thank you so much.

 

 

Resources & useful links

Wanna hear more?