Regan blogs about her experience of transitioning and how she struggled to find the acceptance and support she desperately needed.
My name’s Regan. I’m a volunteer for Mind Out which is an LGBT project in Brighton. I’m a male to female transsexual and I’ve been suffering from mental health issues for about six years – since I transitioned. I’ve not got mental health issues because I’m a transsexual, it’s because of a lack of understanding and awareness that I’ve got mental health issues. Especially in the workplace.
"I suffer from depression, anxiety and stress."
I used to be a custodial officer, I was in the custodial industry for 10 years. I decided to transition in 2010 and to officially go to work as a woman in 2011, working in a cellblock. On a daily basis, I would face abuse from prisoners, verbal and physical, and indirect discrimination from the management team of the private company that I worked for.
People would never get my pronouns right, they wouldn’t even make the effort. They’d just say “Oh well, we’ve known you for so long we can’t get used to it. You’re just going to have to lump it. We’re going to call you he and Mr. It doesn’t matter.”
I told my manager I was on hormones and that, from time to time, I could be getting very emotional because transitioning is like going through the menopause. I also told her I may have to go outside from time to time as I didn’t want to break down in front of everyone. My manager threatened me with suspension.
I just couldn’t take it anymore, I couldn’t take the abuse and inappropriate questions. Eventually I collapsed on the floor at my work station. I didn’t have any support. The duty inspector at the custody centre had to give me a lift home and I didn’t go back after that.
"I wasn’t fit enough to work for about two years."
When it came to going on benefits, I was labelled as a ‘special case’ because I was a transsexual. Every time I phoned up the benefits office to ask for information about my benefits, they would have to contact a manager to get special permission to access my details. This would take all day and added to my stress levels even more.
By this time, I didn’t have any friends. I couldn’t get to a trans support group in Brighton because I couldn’t afford to go there. I couldn’t afford the basics and couldn’t even afford to eat. I could just about afford my rent because I was on housing benefit.
Read about types of mental health problems
Christmas last year, everything came to a head. I was feeling alone. I was isolated. I didn’t have anyone to talk to. I didn’t think anybody cared about me. So I tried to end it all. A friend happened to turn up on the door, just out of the blue. He called an ambulance and I ended up in hospital.
"That’s been my life for the past five years. All because I wanted to be myself. I’ve always thought about other people with little thought for myself."
All transsexuals want is understanding and awareness – especially in the workplace because that’s where a lot problems arise for us. Also, government agencies like the DWP. Why should I be labelled a ‘special case’ just because I’m a transsexual? And it’s the same for every transsexual whether female to male or male to female.
There’s a saying “Just accept me, don’t try and understand me.” If we can all do that, we can cut mental health problems down in the trans community by a significant amount.
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Blogs and stories can show that people with mental health problems are cared about, understood and listened to. We can use it to challenge the status quo and change attitudes.