Transitioning has helped my mental health
Aitan blogs about how stigma and stereotypes around being transgender has impacted on his mental health.
Warning: this article contains mentions of suicide and self-harm.
Ever since I was a child I struggled with my gender and mental health. I was born in the eighties in Italy to a very traditional family.
As a child I was hyperactive, always on the move, incredibly sporty and very competitive.
Rather than getting praised for my sports ability, kids and adults would point at me and say ‘‘Are you a girl or what??”
I hated those girly things that mum and grandma tried to make me wear till I was 20.
I was rejected by both girls and boys and I always felt like an outsider. Boyfriends just seemed to want me for sex. My fellow students called me terrible names at school, and parents and other children said I was a bad influence on them. Not surprisingly, I hated myself.
Mother was ashamed
I would play princes and princesses with my girl friends and kiss the girls. Parents hated that. I was also the best football player in my neighbourhood and the boys were upset to be beaten by a girl.
My mother was ashamed of me. She repeatedly told me: “I have made a girl, not a boy, you disgust me!” She said I was the reason for her heart disease and did not leave her bed for days.
When I was 20 I ended up in conversion therapy. I had tried to express my sexuality openly when living abroad and having a one-year relationship with my first and still only official girlfriend. But I trusted my parent's judgement more than my own and so I attended conversion therapy for three years. I had zero confidence, felt guilty for the pain of everyone around me and believed I was unlovable.
College was hell for me, I changed four classes and three institutes. I had my knee broken three times in sports injuries, and after the surgery, I got very depressed about gaining weight and developed bulimia.
Eating disorders continued for more than 10 years. Drugs, alcohol problems and self harm followed. I was trapped in a vortex of pain without being able to feel or understand what was going on. Psychologists and psychiatrists did not know what to do with me and I struggled to explain how I felt.
Wanting to kill myself
I felt suicidal. I thought that things would never change, and I couldn’t cope with the pain of it all. I ended up in a psychiatric hospital, because, during a crisis, I was screaming: “I want to kill myself’’ and neighbours called the police.
That was my lowest point. I struggled with panic attacks, self-harm and felt alone for many years.
I eventually came to the UK with my ex-partner who had got a job in Cambridge. And it was here that things finally started to look up.
First of all, I attended workshops and support groups for panic attacks, anxiety and depression and then slowly and gradually found the right LGBTIQ+ friendly services and support.
“I changed my name. I finally realised how alien it was for me to identify as a woman.”
Then I changed my name. I started to feel hopeful at last.
I travelled to India and Argentina and finally realised how alien it was for me to identify as a woman. In India, I was in an Ashram where I had to wear a traditional saree and sleep in the girls’ room. I was not able to eat for three days.
Transitioning has had a huge impact on my mental health – for the better. After five years of talking therapies, medications and support groups and getting into T gel daily, I am learning to be gentle on myself and have patience with my ups and downs. I have also learnt to respect myself while respecting the boundaries of others too!
“I am still at the beginning of my journey and I know I need to keep going forward.”
Before I was just getting sucked down into a spiral of auto destruction. I would cheat on my male partner with women and infuriate him by wearing his clothes and underwear. Now I am happier wearing what I want and being true to myself.
I am still at the beginning of my journey and I know I need to keep going forward to see my new me and start to live my life.
I am lucky to be in London.
I am lucky to be with TransPlus, the first integrated Gender, Sexual Health and HIV service commissioned by NHS England.
And I am lucky to be a trans non-binary person because I can appreciate even the smallest achievements, as I know how hard it has been to arrive at the point I am now!
Information & Support
When you’re living with a mental health problem, or supporting someone who is, having access to the right information - about a condition, treatment options, or practical issues - is vital. Visit our information pages to find out more.
Share your story with others
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.