My name is Quinn*. I am a transgender young person and I use they/them pronouns.
I was 12 when I officially came out to my parents, and only a couple months later, to the primary school I was attending.
Coming out to my school was the biggest step, because it meant everyone knew. It wasn’t just in the house anymore.
I remember that night so clearly: Mam and I, sitting on the couch, typing an email that was going to change my life. In it, I talked about my name and gender change, and explained what being transgender really meant.
That email was sent at around 7pm, well outside school hours, but we received a response three and a half hours later. At 10.30 that night That’s proof of a good teacher, right?
A few days later, after a terrifying but amazing meeting with the school to discuss next steps, the day came where my teacher was going to tell the class about me. About who I really was. Me and two friends, who I had already come out to, went into a separate room while the class was split in two, to avoid any “negative reactions”.
After the most anxiety-filled half an hour of my life, I was walking up the steps to the top pitch, where my class graciously awaited my arrival. A few friends immediately hugged and congratulated me, while some other just stared - shocked, confused, some even with disgusted expressions.
But to counteract my fears, a friend of mine, as though nothing had happened, called me over to where a group were playing a game and said, “Hey, Quinn. Do you want to come join?” And at that moment, after that simple sentence, I was actually comfortable in my identity, more than I ever had been before.
I graduated with my real name in the yearbook and made the transition from school life to summer.
Coming out of the lockdown, my parents were still working from home, and usually, having the entire house home 95 percent of the time gets really annoying, but add a struggling, transitioning teenager to the mix and all hell breaks loose.
It was a struggle to find supports that summer, and even though everyone close to me was trying their hardest, there was nowhere. No useful tips or handbook for how to deal with something like this.
At the time, I was attending a youth group in my village, and one day, one of the workers handed me a flyer for the LGBTQ School Climate Survey. Once I had brought it home and completed the questionnaire, I vividly remember going to throw the sheet out, when at the very bottom of the page, in teeny-tiny yellow writing, I saw a credited website. Belongto.org It was something I had come across in past research, but never had enough information to know if it was worth checking out or not.
When I went to the website, in the navigation bar, I saw three words; “LGBTQ youth groups”.
Safe to say I was ecstatic. That entire month and a half leading to that moment was spent answering endless questions about who I was, and not just from friends or peers, but from family and adults, too. And I had been alone in that fight, until I walked into that youth group.
I always knew there was a community. Sure, it’s in the name, but I didn’t have anyone in my position or [someone who had] gone through it. I didn’t have anyone who didn’t need to ask questions or got confused when I introduced myself.
Again, until that group. I walked into the space and introduced myself with my name and pronouns. And that was it. No questions, no confusion. Just, “Hi Quinn, nice to meet you”. And, for the first time, it was who I was. Not what I identified as.
Soon after I was starting secondary school. Walking into my tutor class was daunting enough, as I only knew a handful of faces, but the realisation that the strangers had no idea who I was, and all assumed me to be a girl, hit me like a fist to the gut.
I realised that I was going to have to come out all over again. Have to go through that confusion, those questions again.
When the school journals were handed out, I saw a name on the sticker that I hadn’t heard, outside of slipups, in months. It wasn’t my real name. Not anymore. The locker sheet had the same name, and I was terrified that maybe the school hadn’t received the crucial email explaining my situation. I was so confused, so scared in those first moments. My real name, Quinn, being called out for the roll was the only assurance I got that they knew who I was.
It was a few weeks later when the issue arose again, when I ran for student council. That was when I found out my email wasn’t the correct name. And, if any of you are familiar with Teams, my profile did not have the correct name either. Something everyone could see. And I soon found out that my entire year had been exposed to that name on the voting form.
Questions began then. Familiar ones, yes. But they still provided the same impact.
Questions like, “What’s your real name?”, “Are you a girl or a boy?”, and the worst one, “What’s between your legs?”
The terrible part was these people didn’t even know how wrong, how insensitive, those words were.
A year later, I am still being asked those things, almost on a daily basis.
So, my story may not be the hardest coming out story you’ve ever heard, but that’s because I had supports, that I found. That I fought to find. So just imagine what young trans kids that don’t have supportive families, schools, or access to the information I happened to notice on that flyer, have to go through.
In conclusion, the Ireland I want to live in is an Ireland where no trans kid has to figure things out alone, where resources are easily accessible.
I hope you all have gained something from hearing my story today.
Thank you for listening and for attending, enjoy the rest of the day.
*Name has been changed to protect the identity of the author.
Belong To is the national organisation for LGBTQ+ youth in Ireland. Belong To provides a safe space for LGBTQ+ young people from 14-23 to make friends, have fun, learn about LGBTQ+ identities and get support. Visit www.belongto.org to find an LGBTQ+ youth group close to home, link in with one of our Youth Workers, sign up for Crisis Counselling with Pieta, or learn more about LGBTQ+ topics.