“It’s not a new chapter, it’s a new book” is the message from Matthew Andersen, a transgender man who is approaching what he calls his first ‘manniversary’.
The 30-year-old clinical coder at North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust came out as transgender to his family, friends and colleagues two years ago.
Matthew, who does not like to publically refer to his birth name, was confident in the support he would receive from those in his life, especially his Trust colleagues.
Matthew, from Norton, took part in a filmed interview as part of Pride month.
He said: “I didn’t even realise I was a man. All of my life I thought I was female.
“I was a bit of a late bloomer, I was 28 when I realised I was transgender. Looking back at my life and childhood, all the signs were there – I just didn’t piece them all together.
“When I came to the realisation that I was living in the wrong body it was a glass shattering moment. Very quickly it became unbearable. It felt wrong, but at the time I felt there was nothing I can do about it. When I look at photos of myself pre-transition, I recognise that person but it’s not me.
“My physical transition began when I started testosterone. That brought about the physical changes. I started that about a year ago.
“I’m having party for it – I call it my ‘manniversary’!
“Pre-transition is like a prequel, this is my life now. It’s not a new chapter, it’s a new book. It’s the start of my story.”
Matthew was supported by his family, colleagues and the Trust during his transition. He said: “I wrote a letter to my immediate family and sent it out in the post. Once I’d done that, I knew I wanted to tell my mam who I’m really close with, I wanted to tell her in person. I knew once I posted those letters, I had a deadline.
“I adjusted my letter and put it on Facebook – everything is official once you put it on Facebook! I also asked my manager to forward my post to my colleagues and told them all that I wanted it to be something we could talk about.
“I would definitely say I’ve been treated equally. The fact that I’m trans has never been an issue at work. The very first person I spoke to about it, the first person I said the words “I’m trans” to, was a person at work. He was so supportive and helpful.
“I had to go to HR to change my name, ICT for a new email and log in and security for a new ID badge and stuff like that. No one I went to batted an eyelid. They just normalised it, they didn’t make a fuss or draw attention to it.”
Asked what message he would like to leave people with, Matthew said: “I think the first, most important thing is that trans people are just people like everyone else. Ultimately, we just want to be loved and respected.
“It’s alright to ask questions, genuine questions, but some questions can be a bit disrespectful.
“I ask some people to question why they have this prejudice towards to trans people. Because logically it makes no sense. Just being supportive can change someone’s life. Even just respecting someone’s pronouns can make the world of difference.
“I still remember the first time someone correctly gendered me. A guy behind a stall called me ‘mate’ and I just grinned all day!”
Stuart Harper-Reynolds, Trust adult safeguarding nurse and chair of the Trust’s LGBTQ+ staff network was the first person Matthew confided in about his realisation he was trans. Stuart said: “Matthew is a terrific colleague and a great friend. I was flattered that he felt he could speak to me about such a personal issue and I was happy to be a sympathetic ear and listen to him.
“It’s difficult to offer advice under those circumstances, but I encouraged him to be himself and to be open about who he was.
“Seeing him change has been like seeing a new person come to life, a happy, friendly and confident person.
“He’s a young man with a great future ahead of him.”