Over the past few months I've been slowly getting over a relationship that ended in quite a horrible way. It's been difficult because I'd developed such strong feelings in just a short time, and suddenly I felt like a lot of my hope for the future had been stripped away. It's taken me a while to even accept the reality that we're not together any more, and we're not getting back together, but I think, although I do still get sad about it occasionally, I am feeling that it was for the best.
It also hasn't helped that I've been on my own quite a lot over the past few weeks, working and studying instead of socialising as much as I do during the uni term. Semester two started on Monday so I have been rudely thrust back into lectures, with 9am lectures everyday except for Wednesdays. Since become a student 9am lectures have become a struggle! So far, although it is tiring, it has been good. We have a lot of new lecturers to get used to, but as I have such a good group of friends on my course, I don't seem to have any tutorial classes on my own, and there's always someone to sit and talk to during breaks.
Another thing the start of the semester has brought with it has been the relaunch of LGBT socials, which are usually great, especially now I have a lot of friends there, and it feels like such a lovely community.
I know that it is much better for me to be going out and doing things, but I think that's one of those things I needed to realise for myself. When someone tells me I need to go out and do more it seems like an impossible task, and something I don't want to do. It's hard to motivate myself to go out if there isn't really anything I need to go out for, so having uni as the motivating reason to get me out of bed, and out of the flat, is really helpful.
Last night I went out with the intention of just having a nice night out with my friends, I wasn't looking for anything more. Then I started speaking to this girl, and we got on so well and seemed to have quite a bit in common, which was really lovely. I wasn't sure if she was interested in me or just being friendly, but as the evening went on it became clear she was interested. When she left she asked for my number, and I will be seeing her again on another night out tomorrow, so I'm quite looking forward to getting to know her better.
I do worry that people will have an issue with me being trans in a relationship, and I have noticed that a couple of recent experiences have affected me somewhat badly. I try not to give up hope though, and continue to hold on to the fact that there are people who find me attractive and want to be around me. I'm not a failure or too broken to be loved.
I was 15 when I first came out. I was on MSN with my best friend at the time, and I typed the words 'I think I'm gay... or bi'. I anxiously hit send, hoping her reply wasn't laced with any of the thinly veiled homophobia I'd grown up with.
I grew up in a Catholic family, and the word gay wasn't mentioned very much at all. If it was, it was never positively and left behind it a rather oppressive atmosphere. I never questioned my sexuality until I was 15. I had assumed I was straight, and I had dated boys to try to fit in, in the strange way under 11s do.
I remember being confused when I was 12 and having sexual dreams involving girls. I tried to convince myself that it didn't mean anything and that I was interested in boys, and I managed to squash it for over 3 more years. I was aware that I liked boobs, so I banned myself from ever looking, because I thought it was wrong and dirty.
During that time I threw myself into my faith, which said that being gay was 'disordered' and that I could never have a relationship with a girl. I read books, and went to church religiously, I thought I knew so much, but I was missing the key, the heart. I had all the head knowledge but my heart was not allowed to get involved, because there was this part of my heart that I had been squashing for so long.
Although the feelings had already begun surfacing, my desire to have a relationship with a girl really came to a head when I started my first summer job at the age of 15. The person who employed me is gay, and I believe it was the first time I had ever knowingly met a gay couple. They were so normal, and it made me actually properly ask myself the question for the first time, could I?
Could I be gay? Could I have a relationship with a girl? How did lesbians even have sex? Then at this point I was overwhelmed with guilt. I felt bad and sinful for even having thoughts about having a relationship with a girl, let alone sex, and I turned to self-harm as a way to relieve that guilt.
I had watched my brother struggle with my parents on the issue of his sexuality, they had not been accepting at all, and my overall impression is of them being very angry and controlling. I had very little desire to come out to them.
I came out to a couple of other school friends, and eventually my whole friendship group knew. On the whole, I received so much love and support from them, for which I will always be so grateful.
I never intended to come out to my parents, and it was not my choice to. When I was 16, my dad sat me down and pretty much forced it out of me. He knew about my self-harming, and wanted to know why, he lulled me into thinking he was going to be supportive, and started guessing. He hit the nail on the head and guessed that I was gay, and my non-answer gave it away. Initially, to his credit, my dad seemed quite accepting, but it didn't take long before the façade slipped away.
He told me that I wasn't gay, that I was confused, that I hadn't met the right boy, that I was too young to make such a decision. His favourite argument of all is that he dislikes labels, and doesn't think I should label myself. He was also convinced that somehow my brother, or someone else had influenced me and turned me gay.
It's taken me years to reduce the guilt, and I am still not sure I'm fully there yet. It has been difficult to reconcile my Catholic faith, with my experience and convictions surrounding sexuality. Now however, I could never go back behind those barriers of shame, I fall in love with who I love, and there is nothing broken about me.
you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up (Psalm 71:20)
During my daily Bible reading this was part of the Psalm that really stood out to me. I've been experiencing a lot of ups and downs in my mood lately and today has been a bit of a low day so this made me feel like God was reaching down to me and promising that things will get better again.
Today we had a very fraught catholic university chaplaincy/society meeting. There was a lot of emotion and the whole atmosphere felt quite awkward. People obviously had strong feelings on a few subjects that were being discussed, and a few members were brought to tears, and some got up and left at various points.
I don't pretend to fully understand all the tensions and the connection some of these people have with the chaplaincy, as I've only been there a few months, and these are just some of my thoughts on what I took away from today.
The meeting was called to discuss the chaplaincy retreat that we had voted on in the first society meeting of the year, back in September. It was rather ominously stated that the chaplaincy could not support the retreat, initially with no further explanation given. The committee of the society looked very awkward as they talked about this, and didn't feel they could expand on it without our priest being there.
Once we'd located him, he explained his reasons for not feeling like he could support the retreat that had been planned. One reason, which I think should have been the main reason, was that the retreat centre we were planning to go to was not wheelchair accessible, and especially now we have someone who uses a wheelchair attending chaplaincy it would not be appropriate for the chaplaincy to support a non-accessible event. His other reason was specifically to do with the community who were going to be running part of the retreat, and I think this was based more on personal reasoning.
Understandably there were people with a close connection to the community in question who were offended by his comments on the nature of the community. I think they had wished to be able to compromise and discuss the issues, coming up with solutions rather than taking the decision to cancel the retreat altogether.
There were also some other issues which came up in the discussion and I think too much of the dialogue seemed quite accusatory. Some things probably weren't appropriate to be discussed with the entire society present, and there seemed to be a lot of underlying emotion, a lot of which I didn't quite follow, probably because I haven't been a part of the chaplaincy that long.
The end result of the meeting was that the retreat is to be cancelled and another retreat will be run in its place. We voted on some options for an alternative retreat, and although it was a close call between the number of people abstaining and the number who voted for one of the alternatives, we have chosen an alternative retreat. I think this is a positive outcome, but I can see that not everyone will think that, and may not be happy with it. I don't think the situation was dealt with very well on the whole, and there could have been better communication.
Personally, I think that cancelling the retreat on the accessibility issue alone, would have been valid. The chaplaincy has links with the university and as such has to follow their policy on accessibility, and from what I gathered they had sought advice from the university and had been told that if possible an alternative retreat should be run. However, regardless of university policy, and whether or not we perceive that we currently have disabled members, I believe that we can hardly consider ourselves Christian, or indeed good human beings, if we are not inclusive and accessible to all.
The chaplaincy has suddenly had to consider members with disabilities as we had a wheelchair user unexpectedly arrive, and have been scrambling to make adjustments ever since. In my opinion this isn't really good enough, we should try to be proactive and have suitable adjustments or resources already in place to accommodate those with different needs, rather than reacting when someone comes through the door.
Of course it's good that there has been a reaction, and movements have been made towards change, but I think it's indicative of a huge problem that needs to be addressed at the root, rather than trying to plug the gaps. We need to consider inclusivity as a whole, in advance, and then be prepared to continue to make adjustments.
I have my own personal concerns about the retreat, as being trans I don't really know how they will deal with me. I spoke to someone after the meeting today who assured me that it had been considered. I wasn't entirely sure whether everyone at the chaplaincy were that aware of me being trans so I was actually somewhat relieved to find out the people who I wanted to know were aware. I would like to be treated just like any other guy, but I can never be certain how exactly it will play out, especially as the accommodation will probably be arranged by gender.
I was diagnosed with depression about 4 years ago. It made sense, I was feeling very low, self harming and had been having suicidal thoughts. If anything, I was happy to have the diagnosis, as I felt it legitimised the difficulties I was having, when my parents were telling me it wasn't a big deal.
I recently found out that I may have a borderline personality disorder. I haven't been officially diagnosed as far as I know, but my mental health nurse listed some of the symptoms and asked me if I thought they applied to me, and gave me some information on it. He thinks that the bpd support group and therapy they run would be helpful for me.
Now, I have to admit when I first heard him say bpd I was terrified. It made me feel broken in a completely different way to simply having depression. It felt like I was reaching a whole new level of mental illness, and it scared me. I think the name itself is very intimidating, and also the connotations a 'personality disorder' seems to come with. It feels like an attack on your very personhood.
I spent the rest of the day reading about bpd, and crying. Crying because of how some of the symptoms have been affecting my life without me even realising it. I never knew that my relationship difficulties could be part of a disorder. It made me feel so broken, and yet now I can see that actually this can give me hope. Hope that it is possible for me to change my life, learn how to live with who I am, and my flaws, and learn the skills to be able to do life more successfully.
A revolutionary thing I learnt around this time last year, was that recovery isn't about becoming like everyone else, or reaching a point where you're 'cured'. It's about embracing your differences and learning to live with your illness. Recovery means you learn more skills to cope, and are able to live life fully.
It's just over two weeks until my next appointment with my mental health nurse, but I have decided that I think DBT, the type of therapy I'm being offered, could be helpful for me and I would like to try it. I also think that bpd fits, with many of the symptoms applying to me.
One aspect I think is slightly tricky though, and has made me have a good think, is the identity aspect. A bpd can cause a person's identity to be unstable, with them not knowing who they are, or it changing frequently. Being trans, this initially worried me, making me question whether it is as a result of having a bpd. I have come to the conclusion that I don't think it is, because some aspects of my identity do change from time to time, but my gender identity has remained steady for a couple of years now. It has been constant when so many other things in my life have changed. Also I have been seen by many mental health professionals, including one gender specialist and none of them have ever linked the two.