Transgender children: 3 British case studies

I was recently asked to speak at the NSPCC about the issues trans children face. As part of my talk I read out three case studies, published below. All names have been changed.

(IMAGE: Young trans campaigner Livvy james)

Livvy James


Despite presenting as a girl and being known as a girl by most of the children in her class, 6-year-old Naomi, who attended a small church school in a village in East Anglia, was constantly referred to as a boy by her class teacher and her headteacher. The class teacher said she had to be called her boy’s name because that was on her official documentation.

Even when her parents got her name changed by deed poll the teacher continued to do this. The head consistently failed to attend meetings with her parents and failed to return correspondence. All the children in her class were OK with her expressing real gender but a few boys aged 10 and 11 in another class started to bully her in the playground. When her parents complained, the school did nothing about it. After seeing her daughter become more and more depressed her mother reluctantly took her out of school, she has not been to school for 3 years.


Aysha, aged 5 was completely open about wanting to be a girl. She would plait the hair of the girl in front of her while she sat on the carpet like all the other girls, she would always head for the dressing up box first thing during the day and emerge a princess or a fairy. This despite being sent to school in the most masculine clothes her parents could find. An only child, her parents did not want her to be a girl and applied a large amount of pressure to make her masculine.

A couple of times she was sent to her uncle in south Asia who would let her wear a sari and then beat her very hard with a stick. She would then be kept there until the bruises had gone before coming back to the UK. Social services did not want to know about this. Another parent complained to the head that she didn’t want her daughter to be touched by Aysha, with regard to the hair plaiting. The head told the class teacher to ‘stop him’ from doing this. The class teacher made all the children stop doing this, and a few of the other girls then got told off for doing so. Some parents complained about this happening and the head told the teacher only to enforce this on Aysha. She refused to do this and shortly after the end of that school year resigned in protest at being effectively told by school management to bully Aysha.


Zara was 10 when she decided she could no longer be a boy. Attending a primary school in South-West London she already had long hair, wore androgynous clothes and most of her friends were girls. Her parents took a lot of time to find out about being trans and supported her fully, discussing things in depth with the head and class teacher. Her transition was organized for a weekend and she left school early one Friday afternoon and the class teacher and head told the class that on Monday morning she was going to come back as the girl she had always known she was. They only told her class and the parents of children in the class. She came back on Monday and the only thing about her that changed was her name. She had very few problems; whenever a child, or parent of another child, tried to bully her, her classmates or staff would support her 100%. She stayed in school, did well in her SATs and continued to do very well at secondary school.



It might be when Mark’s gone to sleep, or perhaps I’m home alone, but I only really feel safe when I’ve tidied the house, washed and dried the dishes, popped the laundry on, locked both locks on the front door and closed the kitchen one, with me inside. I’ll have the big light on and sit with my back to the wall, knees bent and the washing machine to my left. I like watching it go round, and I think the people who make washing machine’s understand this because they always come with a window, don’t they? So I can’t be alone, there must be more people like me. I like it because it’s the only window in the house that no one can look at you through.


My favourite part is when the clothes have been through the first cycle, where they get all soapy, and it fills with clean water and the dirt comes out. How simple it all is! No knuckles rubbed raw like our grandmothers’ – no heaving buckets of water from the fire. You just sit there and the bad things are washed away behind that solid glass screen. It never leaks. You wait for your clean clothes and the potential they represent: another day they can be worn.

People often tell me I’m intimidating but that makes me laugh. I don’t know why my heart beats faster, sometimes, and that dark unease washes through me like a cold wave of sexual pleasure. I don’t know why I jump at the doorbell or why my eyes fill with tears when the phone rings and I don’t know who’s calling; why I panic and worry and obsess over the smallest of problems. When I think of all the things I have dealt with – and there’s been so much – I tell myself, you know, you really should be stronger. The truth though is that I just don’t think I can cope with any more devastation… yet it lurks around every corner. I listen out for it, sometimes, the sound of guns, or sirens, maybe, shouting and screaming, buildings crashing down. Because there’ll be noise, won’t there, when the world crumbles? When the washing machine’s on, though, all I hear is that whirr, that sea-like slosh.

Sometimes I’m inside the washing machine, tossed around as floral scented water fills my lungs.

I always worry when I’m in public. Perhaps someone will shout, “You’re not a woman, who do you think you are?” like they have before. It hasn’t happened for a while but the fear that it will again, that I’ll be humiliated, do you suppose that ever goes away? So I feel safer at home, yes – but even then there are threats. What if the gas leaks and I have to go outside? What if there’s a fire and nowhere to return? What if people knock on the door, what if they want something and say, Quick, come on, come outside because it’s not safe here anymore? Maybe they’ll come and do that, one day, throw my mattress out the window and me after it. It’s not safe to put your trust in houses. They get blown down.

But if someone knocks on the door while the washing machine’s on you can say, “Oh, I wasn’t expecting anyone. I’m just waiting for the washing machine to finish before I go to bed,” and everything’s all right then. You can’t leave before the cycle ends, can you? You’re not a man or a woman either: you’re just someone who’s waiting for the washing machine to finish. You’re a legitimate person. It’s allowed.

People don’t usually knock on the door late at night, on Sunday, while you’re sitting on the kitchen floor watching the washing machine go round. Sometimes, when I see the water drain, I reach up to a button at the top that says “Extra rinse” and a light comes on to let me know I’ve pressed it properly. They’re good, those little lights.


I remember the day I was sent to prison, waiting in front of Nottingham Crown Court, which faces the Broadmarsh Bus Centre. Smoking cigarettes. It’s funny, but even as I type this, my heart starts racing. I was terrified. Borstal was not something I thought I could cope with. It was an unknown and hostile land I might be sent to, alone. A feminine boy, as I appeared to the world at the time, the last sort of person you’d expect to survive prison unharmed.


I don’t think I will ever look at buses with such longing as I did that day, except, perhaps, if my mum was on one and I knew that I would never see her again. I wanted to cross the road, join a queue and step inside. A bus. Any bus. No one would stop me. No one was guarding me. I could have sat down with all those other people and let the bus roll me further away from the courthouse; I could have got off somewhere, where no one would expect me to be; I could have bought a sandwich and sat on a bench and planned which bus I would catch next. I could have caught buses all day, had I chosen to, and landed far, far away. I looked at those buses with fresh, fearful, tear-filled eyes and saw nothing but freedom.

I was sent to prison for two years that day, just weeks after my 18th birthday. 18, for me, was a cell. I’ll never get that back. It’s why I’m not ashamed to talk about my past. I paid for my crime. I didn’t catch the bus.

That was 7 years ago.

There’ve been ups and downs since then, lows I cannot describe, times I’ve wanted to end my story, but didn’t. So how, then, can I look back on 2012 with anything but pure gratitude? This year has been the best of my life. No doubt. It has been an emotional rollercoaster, if you’ll excuse the cliché, and filled with experiences that have both shocked and intrigued with their sheer intensity.


Things have shifted… my face has shape-shifted. I’ve been moved, I’ve moved, I’ve travelled. I’ve pulled back from Trans Media Watch, to focus on the excitement of Trans Media Action and META; I’ve prioritised paid work, to survive. I haven’t, sadly, been able to respond to everyone who has contacted me. I haven’t had time.

I’ve been tired and busy and guilty and disappointed, and disappointing, and angry and afraid, and betrayed, and hopeless – and I’ve cried, all the time; I’ve said hello to all those negative feelings that have visited me, again, as they do every year, and yet I have never been more fulfilled. I didn’t know it was possible to be this happy.

And I tell you this: it has made me even more determined to make things better for people like me, and by that I mean anyone in a dark place who hopes for life improved. Now I’ve tasted the prize, I want us all to win. It’s good stuff, people. It’s worth hanging on for. It gets better.

Work. Play. Persevere. Chase your dreams. Never, ever give up. You’ll be dead, one day. Don’t get there without experiencing a year like I have. 2012 may not have been the time for you, and maybe next year won’t be so fun for me, but hold on tight, folks. The big wheel keeps on turning.


META magazine – the world’s only publication that celebrates gender diversity – releases its raunchy debut sex issue.

COVER STAR: Isis King, shot by Cory Malcolm exclusively for META

Cover star, model and fashion designer Isis King, describes masturbating for the first time since her genital surgery:

“I was over at my ex fiancé’s house, I was there all alone, and I was just like what do I do, err, I’ll just start touching my… I just remember I started screaming and not knowing what was going on!”

King on the controversy around Glaad’s “Legalize Gay” campaign:

“It was just a silly way of for those people trying to get their message, their bigger message or their names out there… it’s all about the fame-game.”

Big Brother UK winner Luke Anderson and runner up Adam Kelly jump into bed with Editor Paris. Luke said:

“For me, a sexy woman is someone who is sexy on the outside but who is a nice person on the inside and who knows who they are and who is confident… and feisty!”

Author, poet and literary critic Roz Kaveney opens up about her former years as a sex worker:

“Being a good whore is only partly about being available sexually available and a lot of it is about sitting with a not-obviously fixed smile on your face, listening to johns go on about stuff.”

Issue four also features interviews with trans advocate and adult filmmaker Tobi Hill-Meyer and Ashlyn River Rose, who made headlines when her school tried to stop her from sitting her exams in “female” clothing. This taboo-busting issue also asks whether so-called “tranny porn” is good for the trans community.

Plus, Jane Fae investigates the legal implications for pre-op and non op trans people on the dating scene and Jennie Kermode looks at new research into gender and the nature/nurture debate.

META is a unique magazine that celebrates gender diversity. The sex issue is on sale 12 October – and costs £1.99. As iPad and iPhone users will need to pay a one-off fee for the META App (£1.50), they will receive one issue free.

META’s sex issue features: Isis King, Luke Anderson, Adam Kelly, Ashlyn River Rose, Roz Kaveney, Tobi Hill-Meyer, CN Lester, Jane Fae and Leng Montgomery.


META is the world’s first magazine aimed at the whole of the trans community and people interested in gender. It is published by Millivres Prowler Group.

META is on sale through digital distribution via, for Android, PC & Mac computers, iPad and iPhone devices here.

MPG is the UK’s largest gay and lesbian business, and is celebrating 35 years in business.

For over 35 years, MPG’s core principle has been that gay men, lesbians and transgender people should enjoy the same full human and civil rights as other sectors of the population.

Our media brands include the most famous and well established gay and lesbian publications in the UK: GT (Gay Times) and DIVA.

For more information please contact:

Stu Hurford
Marketing and Communications Executive
Tel: 020 7424 7483


Sex without love is an empty experience, but as empty experiences go it’s one of the best.
Woody Allen

Sex. Are you getting enough of it? Perhaps you don’t want it? Perhaps you’ve had too much? Sex is all around us; we are constantly bombarded with images of heteronormative sex, straight, cisgender men and women and, increasingly, lesbian and gay imagery. But, aside from the “ladyboy” porn shelves, where are the trans people? Sadly, though trans people are often seen as fetishists or perverts, we are in fact more likely to fall victim to sexual harassment.

COVER STAR: Isis King, shot by Cory Malcolm exclusively for META

Our virgin sex issue is all about owning our sexualities – we’re celebrating all things erotic and we got more than we bargained for when we spoke to our sizzling cover star Isis King. She’s come a long way since America’s Next Top Model and we’re thrilled she chose META to reveal her confident, sexy new look. Find out what she finds sexy in a man, her embarrassing sexual episodes and why she texted her mother following her first post-surgery orgasm on pages 20-25.

We debate the pros and cons of the porn industry and if traditional “tranny” porn has helped the community (pages 6-7) and I jump into bed with Big Brother winner Luke Anderson for a Paula- Yates-style catch up. And we were having so much fun that the show’s runner up, Adam Kelly, decided to join us for a threesome. Check out our exclusive original film content on Page 13.

There’s a serious side to sex too, particularly for those of us with cross-gender identities. Take Gemma Barker, a young woman who was sent to prison earlier this year after she adopted a male identity and deceived several female friends into having sex with her. Could you too go to prison for failing to tell a lover about your birth gender and/or genital status? Find out in Jane Fae’s investigation on pages 32-33.

We’re also very proud that Roz Kaveney has chosen now, and META, to bravely and frankly discuss her years as a sex worker (pages 34-36), and Terrence Higgins Trust tells us what it’s been doing to help trans people enjoy sex safely and access sexual health services (Pages 30-31). Finally, we look at masturbation – and why it’s just too good to leave to cisgender men. Let us know what you think on our Facebook page, by tweeting @META_mag or by emailing

Now, lay back and think of META…

Paris Lees


DOCUMENTARY: Indonesia’s Transsexual Muslims

Love this. Impressive documentary from VICE, about Indonesian trans people, or Warias, as they are known. The narrator uses “transvestite” and “transsexual” interchangeably and I’d be interested to know if this is down to culturally-specific notions of gender identity or just shit translation. That aside, it’s a sympathetic piece and there’s a real sense of wanting to learn about the women’s lives. Keep an eye out, though, for the presenter’s well-meaning but cringe-inducingly patronising comment, to a trans woman: “You do your eye makeup better than I do!”

Honey, a lot of people do.


I don’t usually do reblogs, but I have fond memories of making this short film for issue 1 of META and there are two important messages that Lewis makes. Firstly, one person can’t represent everyone. Secondly, one person may not even be able to represent themselves as well as they’d like, as documentary makers have their own stories to tell. Bear it in mind, trans people.


Lewis Hancox won over the nation’s hearts following his appearance on Channel 4’s My Transsexual Summer, with stars such as Stephen Fry contributing to his fund for chest surgery. But he also faced severe criticism from sections of the trans community, who accused him of setting a bad example by raising the money himself. Lewis tells us why he made his decision – and the pressures of representing a whole community on national television…

For more original video content, plus news, lifestyle features and events listings, buy META here.

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