By Natasha Wilding, Team Leader at Preston Road Food store, Weymouth
My name is Nat, short for Natasha. I’m married with two kids, eight dogs, eight cats and I’m transgender.
Today is Trans Day of Remembrance, a day held annually on 20 November to memorialise those individuals who’ve been murdered as a result of transphobia. It also aims to draw attention to the violence that’s carried out towards many in the transgender community.
I can’t recall a time when I didn’t know I was trans. I didn’t always have a name for it but when I was growing up I just knew something wasn’t right. Being referred to as He and Him made me feel slightly uncomfortable. No-one seemed to talk about feeling the same, so I thought it was just me. I kept quiet because I didn’t want to be different.
As I got older, I hit puberty and started my journey into depression. My body was changing in ways that I didn’t want it to. By this time I had had some exposure to the trans community, but it was through sensationalist news stories in tabloids and women’s lifestyle magazines. I didn’t feel that the world would accept someone like me, so I continued to deny my feelings.
When I reached my late 20’s I realised that I had to be honest with myself. I came out to a few close friends and they were fine! It felt like a huge weight had been, at least partially, lifted from my shoulders.
Just after I turned 30, I had a major turning point when I met the girl who would become my wife, Amanda. I told her everything, and she was amazing. We quickly became friends and started dating about four months later. She let me be me when we were together and, when the time came, stood by me as I started my transition.
After I spoke to my doctor, the process began. This included regular appointments with two specialist psychiatrists in London. This part of the transition was extremely challenging – mentally and financially. Gender clinics in the UK are woefully underfunded, meaning it gradually got harder to get appointments, I was waiting up to seven months between appointments. The waiting list now is currently 33-36 months long.
It took a few years for me to finally come out to my family and whilst they all accepted me, my Dad and brother struggled a little.
I announced on Facebook that I was Natasha the day before my 39th birthday, and nearly everyone was supportive. My employers at the time were understanding and supportive but had very little knowledge around my situation, which made things a little awkward at times but.everything went more smoothly than I could imagine.
Unfortunately, the world is a flawed place. I got a lot of stares. Some people see me, nudge their friends and point me out. Customers have passed me to ask another colleague something. Some have left the store rather than have me serve them on a checkout. I’ve overheard comments, “It’s a man in a dress”, “Is that a man or a woman?!”.
Over the last nine years, I have grown immune to a lot of it. The stares probably happen, but I don’t notice. The comments are probably shared, but I’m not listening anymore. I get misgendered all the time, but that’s their issue, not mine. I’ve risen above it, but it doesn’t mean that it’s gone away.
I consider myself lucky. I’m lucky to live where I live, where there’s few problems. I’m lucky that I have an accepting family and friends. I’m lucky that my employers have all been open to diversity and employed me for being a capable person, and seen past my trans identity. However, there are so many people who don’t have that luck.
In a 2012 study, it was found that 65% of UK trans people have been discriminated against. 41% had been attacked or threatened. 70% avoided certain places for fear of assault, threat, or harassment. 48% had attempted suicide. 55% had experienced negative comments or behaviour at work because of being trans and 44% hadn’t disclosed they were trans at work. I would hope that eight years on, these numbers would be improved but I fear that they may actually be worse.
I have never been I’m so proud to work for the Co-op, I’ve got so much admiration for the support it lends. I’m also thrilled to be working with Respect the Co-op’s LGBTQ+ network.
I hope that by sharing my story you’ve had an insight into the things the transgender community faces into. For me, everyone deserves to be happy – in future I hope what you identify as is no longer an issue.
You aren’t alone. There is lots of support available to you as a Co-op colleague on anything from mental wellbeing to financial support – you can find out more here. You can always find support by calling LifeWorks from a UK landline or a mobile for free on 0800 069 8854. For online support, you can visit the LifeWorks website, the conversation will be totally confidential. Register here if you’ve not already.