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LGBT+ History Month: A letter from Emily*

Posted Thursday 25 February 2021

LGBT+ History Month: A letter from Emily* Artwork created by Kingston School of Art illustration animation student Joy Julius around identification and pronouns for LGBT+ History Month.

As part of LGBT+ History Month, students, staff and alumni of Kingston University have been providing personal stories, views, and creative expressions. Trans member of staff Emily* shares her account of identifying as a female since being a child, after being born male, and how this has impacted her life.

Assigned male at birth, I have identified as a girl or a woman since the age of 10 or before. I do not fully understand why this happened, although assume it emerged from a complex soup of biology, psychology and sexuality. It was never a choice and, whilst a cliché, I have always been a girl or a woman in a male body.

Having suppressed my identity through the ensuing years with significant waves of discomfort, approaching my 60th birthday this became an unbearable mental pain and I came out at home and at work.

This has led to a difficult compromise at home in being true to myself, my marriage and my family, so I hold who I am inside and it is largely unspoken.

In the University and other work settings, I am known as a woman by many and referred to by my preferred name and pronouns by some, but have very limited expression of myself. I do not wear very noticeable makeup or dress comfortably on the outside and feel that, to do so, would be a betrayal of trust.

Confident as a woman on the inside, it is difficult not to live fully and be seen by all others as a woman. When more able to express myself, this feels incredibly vital and life affirming, whilst at the same time so natural and comfortable. I am at ease with myself and it seems that others have noticed my feminine energy and soft, caring nature radiating more clearly.

I am learning to simply accept myself as a woman, without feeling the necessity to continually analyse and prove who I am to myself and others, which becomes a stifling academic and impersonal labour.

Coming out in this limited way is a difficult compromise, but it is affirming to know that others can recognise and relate to me as a woman; to have had the trusting space to reveal who I am and complete acceptance thereafter. 

In the following paragraph I have tried to find words to express my experience in coming out as a woman, revealing the nebulous and very real nature of my identity.

"Emily imagines peering into a well as a shaft of sunlight momentarily illuminates the dark stillness, reaching in and cupping her smooth hands to hold the soft, warm, life-giving water as it slips through her fingers. There and not there. Everything and nothing. Falling in and thrashing her arms and legs about wildly, then surfacing, exhausted and alone. Coming out. Peering into the well over and over, and falling in over and over, and coming out over and over, and on and on and so on, until someday there will be no more on."

Emily, with love.

 *Emily is the staff member's preferred name and has had her identity protected due to the personal nature of the story.

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