At their Saturday daytime festival, National Student Pride hosted a panel of individuals, each who discussed their journey in their gender identity as well as societal barriers they have faced, with aims to help others overcome theirs. The panel included author Juno Dawson (she/her), RuPaul’s Drag Race UK’s Dakota Schiffer (she/her), content creator and TikToker Bel Priestley (she/her) and trans, non-binary emergency medicine doctor Dr Ronx (they/them).
Juno Dawson introduced the panel, identifying that for the first time at National Student Pride, everybody on the stage was trans or non-binary. Juno described her experience of being a trans woman as something she is proud of, explaining that by living authentically she has had more joy in her life, whilst simultaneously recognising that “the UK is a steaming bin fire of trans rights.” The panel were asked a series of questions around their experience as trans and non-binary individuals, the first being when they first realised that they were not cisgender.
“The day I came through from surgery was probably the best day of my life.” – Dr Ronx
Dakota stated “for as long as I can remember, I subverted gender expectations for myself before I could even grasp what they were… it was always a struggle to try and present male. It wasn’t a part of me naturally”. Bel revealed that her younger self did not know what being transgender was, but she came out as trans the day after she discovered its meaning. “I always describe it as a puzzle piece fitting.” Dr. Ronx highlighted the challenging experience of intersectionality, describing how for trans, non-binary people of colour, “coming into our existence takes a while. We’re already struggling with our other intersections.”
For Dr Ronx, their catalyst for no longer being in the dark about their gender identity was “the extreme unhappiness that [they] were existing within.” They stated that they stopped going to the gym because of the sexualisation of cis men, and eventually stopped going out completely. “The day I came through from surgery was probably the best day of my life.”
Surgery and healthcare is a topic which the panel continued to discuss, and the correlation between societal validation as a trans person and the presence of medical procedures. Juno spoke about her experience of only being seen my cisgender male doctors and the lack of understanding. Dr Ronx said, “medicalisation doesn’t validate transness.” Dakota disclosed that she has been on the waiting list for gender reassignment surgery for three years. “I’ve learned to love this version of myself because of the long wait for health care”. She additionally said that if she could go back five years and tell herself something, she would tell herself how long she has waited for surgery so that she could love herself sooner.
The panel unanimously agreed that if they could go back five years and tell themselves something, it would be that “it gets better”, emphasising to those that may be struggling with their own gender identity that it can only get better, and to keep pushing through hard times with self-acceptance.
As trans and non-binary people in the public eye, the panel discussed how the publicity has affected their individual journeys, and where they are today. Dakota spoke about feeling insecure on RuPaul’s Drag Race UK, but went on to describe being the first trans woman on Drag Race UK as a group euphoria moment, as people felt represented. Bel said she is “so used to sharing [her] life online,” and that she chooses what she puts out for the public to see. She additionally mentioned her upcoming role as Naomi in Netflix series two of Heartstopper, celebrating Netflix’s commitment to “breaking the boundaries” and reaching new audiences.
As a last piece of advice to individuals potentially struggling with their gender identity or sexuality, Dr Ronx said, “for every five steps forwards, there are two backwards. But the sum of everything is forward motion.”
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