Finding support as a gay trans man from my rugby team
It can be really important for our mental health to find a place where we feel like we belong. Our guest blogger Elijah shares how he found this place in his rugby team.
There’s an awful lot going on in the world at the moment, but it’s important that we don’t forget that June is Pride month - a month to raise awareness, celebrate and be proud of who we are.
I identify as gay as well as trans. I am very open about being gay, but I still struggle with being open about my trans identity. I get worried about being treated differently or getting discriminated against. It does make me anxious. But the world is changing and it is much easier to be open about being trans these days, and there is much more support out there.
Part of me keeping my trans identity hidden is a personal choice. It took me a long time to come to terms with my identity. Deep down I always knew I was transgender, and I showed signs from a very young age, but it wasn’t easy to come out.
I didn’t exactly have the easiest of rides growing up - there was a lot going on. I started showing signs of mental health problems like anxiety and PTSD at around nine or ten years old, and started self-harming a couple years after this.
Around this time, I also started having conversations with myself and a select few people around my identity. It felt I was living a lie - both to other people and to myself. I thought coming out would help ease some of my problems, but then someone said that there was so much going on in my life; coming out would just add to this. This comment really stayed with me and consequently I didn’t come out for a while.
After having social and mental health support a few years back I started having these conversations again. A nurse commented that while coming out might not make everything drastically better, me being comfortable in myself was very important. With the right supportive environment, I slowly came out, which felt great - I never thought something as simple as pronouns would make me so happy! After been out for a few months, I changed all my documents and started receiving specific support.
Around this time, I happened to be moving to a new city - an opportunity for a fresh start. I never had a place where I felt I could be open about who I am, and I’d never met people in a similar situation to me. I also had not accessed many male-only places and was worried about this.
But by complete chance, I met some members of an inclusive rugby team called the Typhoons. After talking for a bit, asking questions and having a think, I took the plunge - with their support, I submitted a request to the Rugby Football Union (RFU) to play for a male team.
I had to submit a lot of evidence and wait for a few weeks, but eventually I got a piece of paper saying I could play. Looking back on it now, this was one of the happiest moments of my life.
I went to my first training session that day. I had so many worries (I hadn’t even played rugby in a while!), and almost didn’t go. After this first session, I left wondering what I’d let myself in for. Well, it turns out I’d let myself in for the best support network and group of mates I could have wished for - that I hope I keep for a long time.
After being added to the group chat and training with them for a few weeks, I could tell how great this group of guys was and I knew I could start being open and I wouldn’t be judged for that. With my mental health, I worried because I have certain quirks and ticks, I can get emotional quickly and I’m not always great in social situations, but they seemed to understand.
It took me a little longer to open up about my self-harm, but when I did, it felt like another weight lifted. They gave me one of the first places I had to feel safe, play rugby and socialise.
They’ve been with me through a lot of difficult times over these last few years. I’ve had people on the end of the phone late at night when I was in crisis, when I was sectioned, through hospital admissions and more. I felt like I took up so much of their time but there was always someone there who would listen and help as much as they could. They reminded me there are good people in the world.
Support can come from the most unusual of places. Joining this rugby team has changed my life and given me somewhere to turn when I was struggling. Everyone’s got a place in the world they belong, it’s just about finding it.
Where to get support
If you are struggling with your mental health, or are worried about somebody else who is, take a look at our find help page for information, tips and suggestions of where you can get help.