At my catholic school we had this lay chaplain, he wasn't a priest but just a fairly ordinary catholic guy who was there to organise religious services and events and also, to some extent, to provide spiritual support to students.

I ended up coming out to him after he walked in on me crying in the chapel one day. I'd been struggling quite a bit with reconciling my sexuality with my faith, as well as with my mood generally, and by lower 6th (age 17) the chapel had become the place where I would go to hide away when school got too much. It was basically just a tiny room with an altar and a couple of pews in it, but hardly anyone ever used it, so you were usually guaranteed a private space.

I don't remember all that much about the specific day in question, except that I was sitting in there in tears talking to God about what He wanted me to do in terms of relationships. At this point I was exclusively attracted to girls, and I wanted to know whether it would be okay for me to consider pursuing a relationship, or whether I should remain celibate, but I kept going round in circles without getting anywhere and getting quite upset.

When the chaplain walked in to the chapel it was quite awkward; there I was in floods of tears, not exactly expecting to have to talk to anyone. He sat with me for a few moments and then said that if I wanted to talk then I could come find him in his office. This gave me some time to collect myself and decide whether or not I wanted to go to see him.

I had struggled over the past year and a half with finding someone to talk to about my sexuality who also could see where I was coming from with my struggle to reconcile it with my faith. Nonreligious support workers or mental health professionals I had spoken to could not quite understand the specific religious conflicts I was having and religious people often seemed judgemental.

I found it quite hard to actually talk to people about topics that were important to me so I wasn't sure that I would be able to say what I wanted to say to the chaplain if I did meet with him. However, when it came to it I found him one of the easiest people to talk to and I managed to come out to him almost straight away. He was the first person who had really seemed to understand why I was struggling.

Over the next few months we discussed and explored sexuality and faith. It was a really open and honest discussion, and I think it helped that it was one of the first times the chaplain had fully considered homosexuality in a faith context so we were able to explore it together.

We also started speaking about gender and I realised that that was something I wanted to discuss. A year previously I had come to the conclusion that I wasn't a girl, but that realisation terrified me so much that I didn't feel I could do anything about it, so I promptly squashed it. Over the year that followed I continued to learn more about being trans from the internet, but I was still too scared to say anything to anyone.

When my discussion with the chaplain turned to gender, I finally felt able to express how I'd been feeling. After I'd told him that I thought I was a guy, he simply told me that it would be possible for me to transition in school, if that was what I wanted. For the first time I started to consider that I could, that it didn't have to be that scary and that the school wouldn't have a problem with it. I suddenly felt empowered and confident and knew that I at least had to give living as a guy a go. He helped me talk through some of the practical aspects and it became so much less scary. He didn't know very much about being trans but still managed to provide a space for me to talk about it, and was so understanding and receptive.

Within about a week I had gone in to see my headmaster and spoken to him about transitioning at school. He was somewhat surprised, but immediately supportive. He spoke to other members of staff and we agreed that I could come back to school after the half term holiday as Zac.

The only issue I had was over which toilets I was supposed to use, as they originally thought I should use the disabled toilet. I didn't think this was appropriate so they suggested I use the staff toilets, which I reluctantly agreed to. They didn't want me using the boys toilets because they had this idea other students might complain that there was a 'girl' in there. I ignored their directive however and used the boys toilets, and as far as I'm aware there were never any complaints.

I continued to meet with the chaplain weekly for the remainder of my time at the school, and he was one of my biggest supporters. I really don't know how I'd have got through school without him.

Tags: catholic school trans