This Trans Awareness Week, let’s celebrate gender euphoria, says Frankie Shaftain-Fenner
Happy Transgender Awareness Week! And when I say “happy”, I mean it.
Recently, I have been editing my documentary film, Pronouns In Bio, about my gender journey. It has been a cathartic process, allowing me to reflect on the past few years.
In 2018 I moved away from my family into university accommodation and started to experiment with my gender presentation. I began painting my nails black, wearing eyeliner and sometimes skirts as well. After a couple years, this went from just something I did in my room to something I did all the time. I was finally wearing what made me comfortable.
I found myself feeling betrayed that from the six different schools, colleges and unis I have attended in my life, I first discovered that transgender people existed from a “femboy” meme on Twitter when I was at uni.
Me being transgender made sense of so many of my past thoughts and experiences.
- The reason I never related to the other boys’ changing room “banter” and “macho masculinity” at school.
- The reason I was so confused about my sexuality from a young age.
- The reason I wanted so badly to try makeup or “feminine” clothes.
- The reason I never felt comfortable dating anyone while I was perceived as “a man”.
- The reason I had always felt attracted to women but as a confused teenager had forced myself to be attracted to men – compulsory heterosexuality.
As a 13-year-old “boy”, I had questioned my sexuality over and over, flipping between straight and gay on an almost daily basis.
Perhaps if I had talked to someone back then, I would have discovered identities like bisexual or pansexual, but sexuality was a joke at school.
“Gay” was an insult, “banter” was an excuse for anything, and the kids using slurs at school never got told off.
There was the PE teacher who explained sex positions to students, laughing the whole time. And then another who played a video of genitals swinging around for the class, as part of a PSHE lesson. She laughed at our embarrassment.
Is this what passes for education?
In a world that is so binary – straight or gay, man or woman – I felt forced to pick a side and stick to it.
Luckily, university helped me realise that there are other people out there like me – transgender people. From making friends at the LGBTQIA+ Society, researching trans meme Reddits and meeting trans people in real life, I started to understand what it was that had quite literally been staring me in the face for years: gender dysphoria.
At school, I didn’t learn anything about trans people, and prior to university I hadn’t, to my knowledge, met a single trans person, so it was incredibly validating to finally see that we do exist and we can be happy.
So despite past bullying, despite gender dysphoria, despite transphobia and despite medical gatekeeping, I finally feel like I have found who I am. I know I still have a long journey ahead, but at least now I realise that, like others before me, I too will be happy someday.
This Transgender Awareness Week, I hope we can all celebrate our gender euphoria instead of focusing on dysphoria, accept the happiness of being ourselves, and love who we want to love.
Frankie Shaftain-Fenner (she/her/they) is a trans woman from Colchester, Essex. Recently graduating from Digital Film Production, she is currently working on a documentary about her gender journey while working part time. Updates about the project can be seen at instagram.com/pronounsinbiofilm. Many topics discussed in this article are expanded upon in the film, which is aiming for release in late 2022. You can also follow Frankie at instagram.com/frankiehtml or visit her website, frankiefilm.com.