The Road to My Home: Four Years On

On the 17th of April, 2014, my life changed forever. That day was the end of a long and hard battle to buy my first home. I had plenty of challenges along the way and for many, buying your first home is a true cause of celebration. However, for me there was a very deep and personal dimension to gaining a roof of my own to live under and this is something I tend not to talk about on my Instagram, until now.

On the 5th of November, 2005, I came out to my dad as transgender, having known about it since before the age of 10. Aged 15 then, I sent him an email containing nothing but a single link to a trans-related website, as it was all I could bring myself to do. The response I had from him was completely positive, though he warned me that my mum would not be so positive. He said that for now I need to try my best not to worry too much about it and just focus on getting the best grades I could in my GCSEs so that I could set myself up for a bright future where I could get a decent job and gain my independence where I could live my life the way I feel I need to. I was very unhappy in school, mainly because I went to one that had a very strong gender polarity with things like uniforms, expectations and sports lessons. The night before going back to school after the school holidays I used to get badly depressed and would always be in tears as I could barely face going back. The disgust I used to feel dressing up in a boy’s uniform and my hair cut short was unreal. I especially found PE lessons difficult as they were gender-segregated and changing rooms were a nightmare. In spite of all this though, I kept my head down and kept my ultimate objective in mind, and got four A*s, three As, a B and a C.

However, there came a point where I couldn’t keep it a secret anymore. I came out to my mum in February 2007 with disastrous results. This marked the start of an emotional battle with my mum that still continues today. My mum was convinced that I had read things online and convinced myself I was something I’m not. I was constantly guilt-tripped and my relationship with my mum turned emotionally abusive as she just wouldn’t accept something that wasn’t my fault. The remainder of my school years continued to be a struggle and I purposely missed my school prom as I would rather not experience it at all than as a boy.

And the waiting continued… GCSEs became A-levels, A-levels became getting a degree…

I actually took a gap year before I went to uni in the hope that I could have transitioned before going in and experience university as my true self. Doing this is, and probably always will be, the biggest regret of my life. While living with my mum, I had to play by her rules. I couldn’t cope with the emotional blackmail and resigned myself to having to wait until my grandparents had both died as my mum said that, with my grandad having been through cancer, they couldn’t take another big thing like this. It formed the basis of a lot of the conversations:

“Have you ever thought about how it’s wrecking me and dad?”

“When was the last time you even saw your grandad anyway?”

“It’s your life, you can ruin it how you want.”

It’s funny how in spite of all this we still have a laugh and good times together. Everything’s fine as long as the T-word doesn’t come up.

When university finally came, I had the freedom to explore myself a little bit more and started accessing support groups for young trans people. However, two days after starting university, my grandmother passed away. This was very sudden and unexpected and it was something that rocked me and my family to the core. I already found the adjustment to university life very difficult to deal with and this on top almost made me drop out. Some time later, I inherited what my grandmother left behind for me. I chose to hang on to it all the way to graduation in 2013 and beyond.

I had some friends in university, but none of them really felt “real”. It’s probably because I felt as if I wasn’t real. All my life I wanted to be part of that typical “girl gang”, if you know what I mean.

As is often the case in student years, I was still heavily reliant on my parents. Wanting to secure a decent future for myself to gain the independence I needed, I worked myself into the ground to get the first class honours degree I had set my sights on. I worked so hard in fact that I had pretty much a continuous repetitive strain injury from working on my laptop. My mental health at the time wasn’t great, given the ongoing difficulties with my identity, and my struggles and the stress from uni work went round in a vicious cycle. What’s more, I was friends with a transgender lecturer but in my second year she tragically died of a brain tumour. Against all the odds though, I made it through and got the first class that I so desperately wanted.

By this point, almost eight years had passed since I first came out to my dad.

Unfortunately, after graduation and the end of my student loan, I had to move back with my parents, which was the last place I wanted to be. I began the difficult process of getting my first full-time job. After many failed applications and interviews, I eventually succeeded in the December of 2013.

My dad was aware of my deteriorating mental health and how I desperately needed to gain full independence from my mum in order to start my transition. I remember one night where I had an interesting conversation with him…

Dad: “You know, with what your nan left behind, you might actually be able to put a deposit down on somewhere”.

Me: “Don’t be ridiculous, nobody buys a house at my age these days”.

Dad: “It’s true. And I know you need your independence so that you can be yourself. I am happy to help you look for somewhere and to guide you through the process. I think it’s something you need to give serious consideration, especially as the market is really going to step up a gear soon and this might be the best chance you’ll have for a long time”.

With great skepticism, I looked around with my dad at houses in the area. We approached mortgage lenders and knew what my limits were. We found a flat for sale in a nearby town, which we looked at. We then found a two-bedroom coach house on the same street. I immediately expressed my interest in it. We knew we had to act quickly though as a prospective buyer arrived at the property to view it right after us. It was a battle, especially as I got gazumped and had to put in a higher offer after my original offer was accepted. Luckily, the other buyer backed off and I won. Knowing the significance and importance of what I was playing for, I wasn’t going down without a fight.

My mum was really not happy with this. She felt it was too soon for me to be doing this and insisted that I waited until my job was more secure. Maybe she had a point. Here I was in the probationary period of my first ever full-time job and yet I was already buying a house. I agree, in ordinary circumstances it wouldn’t have been sensible. But these were no ordinary circumstances. By this point, I was losing my mind with depression and just had to get out. I felt like life was passing me by and I would never have the fulfilling life I knew I always would have had if only I had the acceptance and support as a trans person all those years ago.

Twelve weeks passed, and I found it well nigh impossible to keep it together at work. I just had to get out from under my parents’ roof. The stress of that, making sure I did a good job at work and the ordeal of buying a home almost broke me. I finally exchanged contracts on the 17th of April, 2014. I had become a homeowner.

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The result of all my struggles.

I still wasn’t done yet though, as the place was in a state. The carpets needed replacing, some cladding was falling off, the rooms needed a total refurbishment and there was some redecorating work to do. Me, my dad and my reluctant mum worked tirelessly on a small-scale renovation to get the place good enough to realistically live in. I didn’t have that much of an opinion on home interiors at this time and I wasn’t on Instagram either. I was still trapped in an emotionally abusive relationship with my mum, living by her rules as I was still a tenant in her house. A pretty hard reality to accept when you’re 23. I just wanted to move in as quickly as possible as my mental health was about to collapse. I eventually moved in properly in the June and began to start this exciting new chapter of my life.

It took some time to adjust to this seismic shift in my life, but during this time I set about creating a support network for myself by attending social groups for trans people and building up a wardrobe (a far cry from the locked safe that I used to have in my bedroom wardrobe when I lived with my parents). During the February of 2015 I went to the GP to indicate that I am transgender and would like to be referred to the Nottingham Centre for Transgender Health so that I could start the medical side of my transition, which included hormone therapy and testosterone blockers. My dad came with me for moral support. It took ages to get through the waiting list, but the wait came to an end in the December of that year. However, things did not go according to plan during this time…

There came a point where I noticed some difficulty with walking down the stairs. This was minor to begin with, but as time went on I began to get more and more unwell and could barely even make it into work. It took a lot of to-ing and fro-ing between about a dozen doctors, but I was eventually diagnosed with an autoimmune condition that meant my body was attacking itself. I had lots of blood tests and a few X-rays too. I had a dangerously high level of inflammation that needed urgent attention. I was signed off work for two months and had to move back with my parents during this time. Before I got ill, my dad had spoken to my mum once more about me being trans and it obviously caused tension between them. I couldn’t believe this twist of fate. Once more I found myself catapulted back to my mum and despite being on death’s door, my mum still had some difficult conversations with me that always led to us both getting upset. At this moment in time, I honestly thought I’d never get to live in my own house again. I thought my life was finished.

Fortunately, I responded well to treatment. I think this is a genetic disposition that some people just randomly have and certain things like stress and trauma turn it on. I’d been through a lot in my life so it’s no wonder. It’s not something I’ll ever be cured of but thanks to the wonders of today’s medical science, I am able to live a completely normal life and it’s so well controlled that it doesn’t affect me at all. It took time but I eventually made a full recovery and I once again moved back into my house to hit the restart button on my life.

In the September of 2015, I came out to my manager. I requested a meeting between the two of us and it was a really difficult conversation for me to have, but I got total support from him and that is something that I will be eternally grateful for. I spent hours on the internet trying to find out whatever I could about the company I work for and their stance towards transgender people, but found nothing. I was incredibly anxious. But with his support, February 25th 2016 I came out to the whole company. I took the day off and a staff meeting was called in my absence, where my manager announced my transition. At the same time, an email that I had written about me and my trans identity was sent to the whole company and I included my email address so people could write back with words of encouragement. Within minutes, I was inundated with all positive messages, so much so that some even went to my junk folder. I was overwhelmed.

The following morning, after about two hours sleep, I got up at 3am and got myself ready for work. I wanted to get to work before too many other people did. But, I sat in my car for ages, petrified. Eventually, someone came out to meet me and we walked in together. This was my first working day as Laura and it was such a happy day that it will be etched in my memory forever. I can’t believe how supportive the company I work for has been and it is something I will always be grateful for, especially as so many trans people have had it so much worse. Four years on and I feel like such a valued member of the workforce, which means its weight in gold.

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Getting ready for work was interesting!

Ever since then, I have lived a much more fulfilling life. Throughout 2016 I progressed with my transition and changed my name and title by deed poll. I am much happier in my job and a lot more productive too. My assessment at Nottingham came to an end in July 2016 and I began taking the hormones in the September, which is going really well. I was also having facial hair removal by electrolysis, but I stopped having this done due to the extreme cost of it. 2016 was a remarkable year for me filled with positivity, which was the polar opposite of 2015 – a year that nearly killed me. This is why I believe that every day is a gift. Tomorrow is never promised and you never know what is going to happen.

Perhaps one of the greatest highlights of 2016 was when my dad came round my house and finally met the true me after a decade of hiding it! I didn’t think I’d ever stop crying after he left. I don’t think I would be here today if it wasn’t for the support he has given me.

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My dad meeting me post-transition for the first time

In 2017 I began to drift away from transgender communities. They had served their purpose for me and I just wanted to do things that regular, everyday people do. I discovered the interior design community on Instagram in 2017 and created the lauraslittlehome Insta page on the 1st of May that year to join in. I was inspired to truly make my house a home and really put my own stamp on it. It’s a pretty expensive hobby, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. There really is no other feeling like living in a house that you have styled yourself and I really enjoy taking a visual diary of it all. I’ve made so many great connections on Insta and although I’ll never meet the vast majority in person, it’s always a pleasure to speak to them and share ideas with them.

Of course, I won’t live here forever. There will come a point, maybe about three or four years from now, when I will move on naturally. But, I can truly say that this house has served me well and has seen me through many bad times. Without a roof of my own, my life would have been very different. I’ve had four great years living here and here’s to a few more yet.

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I hope that by sharing my story I can inspire and help others in similar predicaments. If I help one person, then my job is done. This was not easy for me to write and it’s taken many hours over multiple sittings.

Maybe my mum was worried that I would wreck my life. That is simply not true. I have a great job, a home that is coming on beautifully and a bright future. The only thing that is more difficult I guess is relationships. But like other things in my life, that will come along when it’s meant to.

My home has clearly enabled and empowered me to make lots of positive changes in my life. Also, by doing what I am doing now and developing it to be the best it can be, I know I am preserving a very important part of my late grandmother’s legacy.

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Lots of love,

Laura

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