The latest episode in our Resilience Unravelled series has now been released, Resilience Unravelled – Living an authentic life.
In this episode, Dr. Russell Thackeray talks to Andi Maratos, the CEO of Chrysalis. Chrysalis is a charity based in Southampton that supports transgender and questioning people, their families and close friends across Hampshire and Dorset. As well as providing support through workshops, facilitated groups and one-to-one counselling, it also offers advocacy, training, peer mentoring and networking services.
In this podcast Andi explains what trans means. The World Health Organisation definition is that is someone who is incongruent in their gender identity. That is that their internal sense of gender identity isn’t aligned with the gender they were assigned at birth. Andi describes it more as a moving away from the gender you were assigned at birth.
Gender and sexuality are very separate things. Gender identity is something that is integral. It’s who you are whereas your sexuality is who you like. Research shows that trans children have a sense of their gender identity from a very early age. It isn’t something you choose. Rather it’s about who you are, how you relate to the world and how you relate to your body. It’s driven by our experiences, endocrine system and chromosomes.
Andi feels we need to make sure we separate gender expression and gender identity. The first is how we convey who we are and the second is our integral sense of self. Gender identity is formed from our sense of self. This continues through our lifetime. We all work on our identity as we grow and develop. We find out more about ourselves, see more aspects of who we are and how we express ourselves.
Andi thinks that the best way of understanding what its like to be transgender is not to imagine wanting to be the opposite gender but to imagine not being seen as the person you are. It’s living a life where you are not able to be yourself, are constantly living behind a mask and trying to live up to other peoples expectations. People try to not let it out. They don’t realise that it’s driving their mental distress until finally their world comes crashing down. People who come to Chrysalis the first time often feel that they’ve reached rock bottom. This has to happen. They’ve tried everything, tried living with their assigned gender and tried to believe it’s not real.
It’s difficult to get an accurate idea on the number of transgender people in the UK. Estimates range from .5% to 2-5% but the 2021 census will have two voluntary questions, one about gender identity and one about sexual identity. This will give a better idea but as the Census is completed per household, it may well not be an accurate representation.
There are statistics available that show there is a high level of suicide among the trans population. Chrysalis has collected their own self-reported statistics over the last 12 months. 70% of respondents said being trans had had a significant impact on their mental health. Over 36% had attempted suicide and over 40% were active self-harmers. Andi’s view is that the more society appears not to accept you, the harder it becomes to accept yourself. Being trans does not mean poor mental health. Judgment, discrimination and hate crime is what makes you feel bad about what is an aspect of human diversity. With support and acceptance it goes away.
Chrysalis provides training to help people become more informed. Andi feels that if someone talks to you about wanting to live a new life, the most useful response is to ask what support they want. They may just want someone to listen or they may want more practical support. In the workplace this might be something like a new email address or ID badge. Some people move forward very slowly whilst others want things done quickly with no fuss. What is most important is confidentiality and that they know they have control over what happens next.
You can listen to the podcast in full and find out further information about Andi here. Our previous podcast episodes and upcoming guest list are also available and there is an option to sign-up to receive our podcast episodes on release.
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