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This Trans Awareness Week, let’s celebrate gender euphoria, says Lucy Rose 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. 

Lucy found herself at university

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.

Lucy Rose Shaftain-Fenner (she/her) 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.

Lui Asquith (they/them), Director of Legal and Policy at Mermaids, with an important and timely reminder this Trans Awareness Week

Trans Awareness Week was introduced as an opportunity to platform our lives and raise awareness; it’s an opportunity for anyone to understand what it means to be trans from people that are trans and non-binary.

This year’s TAW is particularly crucial.

It must be a moment to remind everyone – and in some instances, ourselves – who we are as people (not as headlines) and that we are worthy of celebration and respect.

I know first-hand that sadly many of us have had to emotionally disconnect from our identities at points to protect ourselves from another year of public ridicule and having our rights and existence questioned.

When I first remembered it was soon to be TAW, I honestly didn’t really feel anything – that made me feel sad when I realised this. I reflected and reminded myself and my colleagues that there are moments when we have to give ourselves the opportunity and permission to embrace ourselves: TAW is one of those times.

When you are working in this sector and within this era, it is so easy to swept along in the whirlwind and get distracted from the most important thing: trans joy”

Don’t get me wrong, we should be able to do this every, single day and we work to make this a reality, but I know that sometimes it feels impossible. Underneath TAW’s potentially clinical surface there’s me and there’s you: there’s us, there’s our community – our lives and stories to tell.

Mermaids is an organisation that is made up of trans binary people, trans non-binary people, non-binary people, gender queer people, gender exploring people, queer people, parents of trans young people as well as a few amazing cisgender allies. We were talking about TAW the other day, I got distracted looking around the room just taking in how many wonderful, diverse experiences we have even just within our small little unit.

Then I thought about the young people we support and the family members we support and had a moment of fully absorbing how many lives we are so privileged to be privy to. When you are working in this sector and within this era, it is so easy to be swept along in the whirlwind and get distracted from the most important thing: trans joy.

And there’s so much of it. Mine comes from remembering that the binary is a system that can be dismantled and we can (and are in the process of) creating a new way of living whereby everyone is embraced and respected.

Where does your joy come from?

This year, TAW is not only an opportunity to reject – and speak out against – the atrocious abuse that this community has been subject to over the past few years from the mainstream media. But it – above all else – must be used to remember and platform our stories and lives. So people can learn, yes, but also so we can be celebrated.

If you have had a tough time lately, I really hope TAW can give you a moment to share some trans joy with your friends and family. If you don’t have the energy to educate – don’t. TAW isn’t there to demand anything from you, but to simply be yourself.  

I am so proud of every single member of staff at Mermaids and the wider LGBTQIA+ sector – we are working in uniquely difficult times and yet we are still as wonderful as ever. This week is yours and all of our trans siblings.

Sending my solidarity to you all – happy Trans Awareness Week.

Find out more about how Mermaids is marking Trans Awareness Week here.