“It’s not a new chapter, it’s a new book” is the message from Matthew Andersen, a trans man who is approaching what he calls his first ‘manniversary’.
The 30-year-old clinical coder at our Trust came out as transgender to his family, friends and colleagues two years ago.
Matthew, who does not like to publicly 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.
An interview with Matthew Andersen
An interview with Matthew Andersen
Interviewer: Hi Matthew, are you happy to introduce yourself?
Matthew: My name’s Matthew Andersen, I’m a clinical coder here at North Tees.
Interviewer: Your past year has been a little bit different. Could you walk us through what’s changed?
Matthew: Two years ago I was a completely different person.
I was going by a different name and I didn’t realise that I was actually a man.
All of my life before that I thought I was female.
Interviewer: So when did you realise you were trans? How old were you?
Matthew: I was a bit of a late-bloomer, I was actually 28 when I realised that I was transgender. Looking back at my life and my childhood, all the signs were there. I just didn’t piece them together to realise.
Interviewer: When did you begin your physical transition?
Matthew: My physical transition began when I started testosterone. That brought about physical changes.
I started that just under a year ago in July 2020. I’m coming up to my one year anniversary quite soon.
Interviewer: Have you got anything planned for the anniversary?
Matthew: I’m actually having a party. I’m calling my my manniversary.
Interviewer: It’s such a big change – what was it like leading upto that moment?
Matthew: When puberty came and I was developing a chest, I always knew I didn’t like it.
The fact that it was growing bigger and it wasn’t something I could hide used to always cause me distress.
It always made me feel uncomfortable but I didn’t know why.
When I came to that realisation that I was living in the wrong body, it was a glass-shattering moment.
It very quickly became unbearable because I knew what the problem was and I knew I felt wrong but it felt like there was nothing I could do about it.
You feel trapped and looking in the mirror I felt there was something wrong.
Now when I look at photos of myself pre-transition, I recognise that person in those photos but that person isn’t me.
Interviewer: Sort of like a second life?
Yes, I do feel like my life has started. Especially after getting top surgery I felt like I can start my life now.
Pre-transition was like a prequel. Now it’s not just a new chapter, it’s a new book and it’s the start of my story.
Everything before transition helped me to become the person I am today.
Interviewer: We understand that trans people prefer not to talk about their past name. Could you talk us through why this is?
Matthew: My birth name was a unisex name so there was some thoughts about whether I would change my name because I could still go by that name and that and that would be appropriate for me.
Even though I had no problems with my former name, it didn’t feel like it reflected me. For a lot of trans people, it represents a time in their life that was difficult and traumatic. Having that reminder is very difficult.
It would be like changing your name because you got married and that was a harmful relationship for you and after that relationship ends and you change your name people start calling you by the first name, it will remind you of that difficult time in your life.
Interviewer: What was it like when you started telling people you’re Matthew?
Matthew: Because my name was unisex I didn’t start going by Matthew straight away. I told people I was transgender and that I was using he and him pronouns first.
Then I wrote a letter to my immediate family and sent it by post. I wanted to tell my mam in person and once I sent the letters I knew I had a deadline
And I think that helped because I couldn’t put it off. I adjusted my letter to post to Facebook because everything’s official once it’s on Facebook. That’s how you tell a lot of people at once.
I also asked my manager to forward the post on to my colleagues. I took the day off and told people to take the time to talk about it I wanted it to be something we could talk about. And I think that’s important.
Something non-trans people worry about is saying the wrong thing. I wanted people to know that asking anything is all right and if it’s not I’ll let you know.
Interviewer: Your team mates have been very supportive. How is the rest of the Trust supporting you? Do you feel you’re being treated equally?
Matthew: I definitely feel I’m treated equally. The fact that I’m transgender has never been an issue at work.
The first person I told was somebody at work. It was our inclusion lead for gender reassignment and sexuality – Stuart Harper-Reynolds. I spoke to him because I was interested in knowing what support I would have in the Trust and he was so supportive and helpful.
I had to go to HR to change my name, IT to change my email and logins and security to change the photo on my ID badge.
Everybody I’ve ever encountered has not batted an eyelid which has normalised it.
Trans people are in more media now and it’s a widely talked about issue.
Interviewer: What would you like people to understand about being trans?
Matthew: The first and most important thing I would say is trans people are just people like everybody else. We’ve got the same wants. Like everybody else, ultimately we just want to be loved, respected and accepted.
It’s okay to ask questions that are genuine.
Some questions might just be curiosity but they can be disrespectful. Things like asking trans people about their genitals or how they have sex or asking what their birth name is.
Things like that aren’t relevant – it’s not something you’d ask a cis-gendered person. There’s no reason to ask those questions about a transgendered person.
Despite trans people being much more visible now, there is still a lot of discrimination.
Interviewer: Do you have any key messages for people who are bigoted?
Matthew: I would ask them to question why they have this prejudice because for me, it makes no sense.
I think it comes from fear of the unknown and a lot of it is misinformation.
Even if you don’t know any trans people, just being supportiveand being seen to be supportive can change somebody’s life.
Just respecting somebody’s pronouns in passing can make the world of a difference.
I can still remember the first time that a stranger gendered me correctly. It was just a bloke behind a stall saying ‘thanks mate’ but I remember it so vividly but that made me smile for the rest of the day.
Interviewer: Why do you think it’s important that our Trust as a healthcare provider is supportive of trans people?
Matthew: A lot of transgender people are afraid to access healthcare because they are worried about discrimination.
Something as simple as making sure we have safe spaces and people they feel like they can talk to could save lives.
Interviewer: And what are your ambitions for the future?
Matthew: Transition-wise, bottom surgery is not something I’m entirely sure I want yet.
At the moment I’m quite comfortable but it could be on the horizon some point down the line. I’ve got no immediate plans for that.
I want to keep talking about my experience. Hopefully that will help somebody. Even if it helps one person for one minute, then it’s all worth it.
Like everybody else, I want to grow up and find someone who I love and who loves me and I do want to be a dad.
A lot of people assumed when I transitioned that I don’t want to have kids. But I do. I would like to be a dad. I would like to be a parent, I just don’t want to give birth to them myself. But I would still like to have a child I think.
Interviewer: Thank you very much for speaking with me today, Matthew. It’s been very insightful.
How has your past year changed?
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.”
What was it like when you started telling people about your transition?
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.”
What would you like people to understand about being trans?
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!”
“A new person come to life”
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.”