With improvement in healthcare and regulations have the transgender millennial found their place in Cardiff or do they still struggle to make their voices heard?
Young Billy, she had long, golden locks; dimple chin and a smile so vibrant it could brighten up anyone’s day. Her birth certificate said that she was a girl; her parents told her she was a girl and when she looked into the mirror, she saw a girl. But she didn’t feel like a girl.
There wasn’t a moment of realisation, the feelings crept into Billy when she was as little as four-year-old and while everything around her proved otherwise she knew she was a boy.
“People assume that I had a moment where I thought I was a boy, it wasn’t like that. I always thought that I was a boy but people around me kept emphasising I was female so I was forced to live life as a little girl.”
Billy Joe Newington is a 29-year-old transgender man who has been transitioning for thirteen years. He gained recognition on YouTube and Facebook for documenting his transition from a young woman to a man. A journey that he embarked in his teenage changed his life forever, as he became the voice of transgender millennial in Wales.
Transitioning into a man after being forced to live in a girl’s body for his entire childhood and pre-teens, was not easy for Billy. Along with the physical and mental hardships that he had to face during the period of his transitioning, travelling to London for each consultation session and operation made the situation all the more difficult for Billy as there were no clinics tending to transgender people in Wales.
Billy says “It was very difficult, to say the least. There were days when I thought that I wasn’t going to make it.”
However, this tale is not unique to one person. An action plan issued by the Welsh Government to further promote equality for transgender people suggests that gender variance can be identified in children as young as two.
Another research conducted by Gender Identity Research and Education society shows that at least ten students in a school of 1000 students are expected to be gender variant.
Additionally, according to the Home Office “70% of children who are uncertain about their gender are subject to bullying.”
It is reported that 66% of transgender girls and 91% of trans boys have been victims of harassment and bullying in school.
While Billy specifies that there isn’t much of a transgender community in Cardiff and that it is mostly London based, he also says “Thirteen years ago when I first came out as a transgender it was very different, even my closest friends didn’t support me because they didn’t know what I was talking about.
“I have noticed that in such a short time, in the big picture, it’s come on leaps and bounds. It’s very different for the youngsters in Cardiff, it is much more accepting and the general community has a better understanding.”
In recent times the Welsh Government has been taking actions through launching campaigns such as Tackling Hate Crimes and Incidents: Framework for Action, to create a safe environment for the transgender.
One of the biggest achievements for the government with regards to providing for the transgender in Wales has been the establishment of a clinic in Cardiff, which was inaugurated in 2017. The clinic is going to tend specifically to transgender people and provide aid for gender dysphoria, which is commonly known as gender identity disorder.
Most Wales based trans individuals had to travel to London’s Gender Identity Clinic previously. Now, with the opening of a similar healthcare service in Cardiff, it has become easer and more feasible for transgender, young and old, to receive medical aid closer to home.
The Policy and Campaign Officer for an equality charity working towards aiding gender diaspora: Stonewall Cymru, Crash Wigley has said in one of her interviews that “Before this there was no provision of gender identity services in Wales, so in order to access the care that people needed they had to go through a complicated referral procedure.
“You are talking about having to wait over a year in order to get your referral made.”
She expresses that the long wait and insufficient healthcare has lead to disruption of mental and psychological wellbeing of many members of the trans community.
The Welsh Government has also formed a Welsh Gender Team that is working towards launching an interim service in the autumn this year that is going to accept new referrals starting at the end of March.
Progress can also be measured as yet another organisation: All Wales Gender Identity Partnership Group commences its work towards providing a pathway for referrals as well as services to help those with mental and physical issues related to gender identity.
Organisations such as Youth Cymru are also enlightening and training transgender children and their teachers about what it means to be transgender and how to better support transgender children.
It is evident with the amount of efforts being put into researching and providing aid to the transgender community in Wales, by the government and non-governmental organisations, that the Welsh population is has become more accepting towards transgender people. It is easier than ever before for people with any kind of gender orientation to live their lives in south Wales as they please, be supported and receive the help and care they need. Yet, there is much more work to be done.
A transgender man like Billy has become a social media celebrity and a role model for many youngsters. Louie Greenwood who is a Swansea based trans girl, voicing her opinions about the need for gender-neutral toilets, are both example that go on to show that the slow but steady improvements in the quality of lives of the transgender youth are paving the way for a better tomorrow.
“As underrated as the stamen may be,” in his message for transgender youngsters Billy says, “Stay strong. There have been times I wanted to give up but I’m here, I’ve got one operation to go and I’m done.
It is important to stress that I was there too and I’m stood here now, and I will tell you that you will get through this. Even when it seems the absolute hardest, you just have to push through.”
Here is Billy’s experience of transitioning and this is what he has to say to the young transgender community in Wales: