What am I?By Michelle Steele
PHOTOGRAPH by Sharon Kilgannon, Alonglines.com
I’d lived in Brighton for twenty years, but in a relationship and I’d eventually married and had children.
Then last year I found myself questioning what was going on in my head. I’d met some cross-dressing people and some people that were ambiguous and androgynous and things. I was very pro androgyny, and I was very pro feminism, and very pro queer, and lots of things that weren’t typically heterosexual male-orientated things. Yet I couldn’t grasp my sexuality because I didn’t know if I was gay or not. I didn’t think I was, so the whole thing was very puzzling in my mind.
I’d never really understood transgender and never really thought I would be transgender but I started feeling very much like I needed to wake up. I looked up at the sky, and I looked at the stars, and said, “What am I? Someone tell me.” And at that moment I saw a shooting star go past, incredible. I don’t know how much of that was subconsciously that I wanted to do something. People talk about the choice, and there isn’t a definite moment of me choosing, there was just a waking up.
My first avenue was The Clare Project in Brighton. I felt that I needed to talk to someone, and find someone like me just to get my head around it. But I was very wary about going because I didn’t want to get influenced in any way. I wanted it to be my journey and to work out myself exactly what’s going on. It was such a huge thing to do and I was in this limbo of deciding whether to keep on trying to repress for other people’s supposed benefit or to be real and true to myself, and for my family to find out exactly who I was. I think my relationships with people now are a bit better. I feel much more true to people and much more interested in other people. So that’s good. I feel I’ve got better bonds with some of my closer relatives, and that’s purely because I feel I’m being myself to them. I don’t have to lie, so that’s great. I think that’s really important for all of us, to actually have some involvement in changing people’s minds and perspectives, and their seeing how important it is for everyone that we are ourselves, and we’re diverse and we’re creative and that we contribute. We’re all such beautiful people. It would be a shame to hide us.
This is Michelle's testimony in Chapter Four (Coming out, self acceptance, bravery, visibility, style) of the ground-breaking Brighton Trans*formed book.
To read more intimate, heart-breaking and heart-warming stories from transgender people, click here.
This page was amended on 19/12/2014