‘You’ve landed the role as Emmerdale’s first ever transgender character’.
It was a sentence my younger self would have never imagined hearing – not just because it was my dream job, but also because I never thought I would have the courage to come out as transgender.
I came to the conclusion pretty early on in my life that I might be trans, however there were no characters or role models for reference. I didn’t even really have the words to explain how I was feeling.
I kept it to myself, worried that I might be rejected or seen as ‘weird’ or not ‘normal’ (whatever that even is).
The fear of telling anyone had become so huge that it didn’t seem like a possibility. However, the longer time went on, I knew I was going to have to be open.
We all know that keeping things to yourself and bottling pressing issues up can affect your mental health, and as terrifying as it was, just saying out loud how I was feeling was such a huge relief.
For some people it might be too dangerous to come out and I would say to anyone considering it, make sure you are in a safe environment.
I was very lucky and had a very supportive sister who I was able to speak with. Getting out of my head and being able to explore my thoughts in a supportive space was life changing.
With fantastic support I soon realised that being my true self was so much easier; I was no longer having to act a role in my everyday life.
Being yourself allows you to be authentic and can lead to amazing relationships and opportunities. After coming out I could pursue being an actor and I became an uncle, who just happened to be a trans man, too.
Basically, I’m just a guy who took the scenic route to get here.
Knowing what I do now, I’d want my younger self to know that it’s completely possible to be transgender and have a successful career and a beautiful life.
You really shouldn’t need permission to be yourself.
I would tell myself that although there certainly will be hard days ahead, there is nothing that can’t be handled. I would say that the differences I feared are actually what makes me shine.
And I would finish off by relaying that my careers advisor was wrong! You can definitely be an actor from a small town.
Playing the part of Matty Barton has given me an opportunity to help others feel less alone and also be who I needed to see when I was younger. I hope we continue to see a lot more positive LGBT+ representation in the media, as we are changed by what we see.
This difficult time has taught me that there is plenty more that needs to be done right now. We can make huge changes if we continue to learn, support and spread LGBT+ positivity.
We all have our unique differences but now we really need to stand together against discrimination.
If you think you might need to talk to someone about your identity or sexuality, always pick a close friend, or someone you feel close to and can trust, if that isn’t possible you can speak with some amazing LGBT+ helplines.
Trangender youth charity Mermaids can be reached on 0808 801 0400 or at [email protected]. You can also turn to Gendered Intelligence http://genderedintelligence.co.uk or the incredible text line Shout 85258.
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