My journey growing up trans and autistic

During my years at secondary school, I struggled with depression, anxiety, bullying and social isolation. These problems are unfortunately extremely common in children who are trans, autistic, or both. I had the privilege of only attending private schools where the smaller class sizes and high level of structure provided a more autism-friendly environment. 


Even so, going to school and being surrounded by other teenagers every day was exhausting and often I would get home and go straight to bed. Homework caused me a huge amount of stress because I needed to use the time I had after school to recover from the day, but being confronted for not having done my homework seemed equally stressful.

Don’t get me wrong, I did have some wonderful human friends who I am very grateful to, but human friendships came with a whole list of social rules and expectations that I often failed to understand. The gerbils however, neither cared nor knew about such rules. They were also very likeable, mischievous characters with quite distinct personalities. It was fun to watch them play chase or use me as a climbing frame. 


After years of me asking for a dog, when I was fourteen my parents bought a puppy. An eight-week-old working cocker spaniel called Monty, who was full of energy and enthusiasm. 


I had never been more excited about anything in my life. No matter how bad my day at school was, I knew he would be ready to greet me with great eagerness and a wagging tail when I got home. His companionship was, and still is, invaluable for both my mental and physical health. 


Back in the human world, things were not going at all well for me, and I ended up asking my parents if I could move school. 


I felt too ashamed to explain why, but they could see that I was unhappy and agreed to let me move. The new school was great, it was much smaller, and I could tell that the teachers were looking out for me. 


It still struck me as a great injustice that I had to spend my days trapped in a sensory hell and forced to socialise, but this wasn’t the school’s fault. For the most part my peers were either friendly or neutral towards me and this made life so much easier. 

Following a very awkward meeting with two teachers at school, I was allowed to wear the boys’ uniform. 


I later had my hair cut short and felt much more at ease with myself. At sixteen I told my parents that I thought I was trans. Understandably, they had concerns, but it was clear that they just wanted the best for me. I had confided in a couple of friends as well, but the social implications would have been too overwhelming for me to come out at school. (I ended up waiting until I was eighteen and at university to start living as male.) 


I was still socially awkward and acutely aware of my gender dysphoria, but things felt more hopeful. After doing some research I realised that I was probably autistic and began to seek help for my mental health. 


After two weeks of taking antidepressants, it was like a switch had been flicked in my brain. I woke up one morning and instead of feeling an agonising sense of dread, I just felt normal (which ironically felt weird). 


It is worth noting that antidepressants often take weeks or months to become effective and for some people they are never effective, this is just my experience. I was also diagnosed with autism at seventeen and finally a lot of things started to make sense. It was easier to be kind to myself after I realised that I wasn’t just “bad at life”, I had challenges that other people didn’t have to face.


I am now twenty-two and have been on testosterone for over a year. I am also three months post top surgery and infinitely more comfortable in my body. In my teenage years being trans felt like a curse that I could never disclose and wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy.


 Now that I have socially and medically transitioned, I appreciate the life lessons that being trans has taught me and the connections with others that I would not have otherwise had.

Ali, 22

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