What’s it like to live in the valleys when your’re transgender
Ethan Chamberlain, 18, was just three-years-old when she realised she was transgender. She had a preference for wearing dresses from a young age. From the beginning, she was supported in her journey by her mother and father and while she experienced negative comments at times, her overall experience has been one of acceptance.
The teenager, from Caerphilly , said: “Within my family and friends and my close knit community, people have never questioned it because they just think it’s me and I’m being myself. Primark’s decision to install gender neutral changing rooms sparks debate “I have been like this since I was a child so it’s been normal. It feels strange when people are being nasty, people are so friendly and when I’m speaking to old ladies they say to me “get up and go and do what you want”. “I’m going to do that anyway because it’s my life and I want to be happy, I’m going going to be happy just to make other people happy.”
Ethan did not have the easiest of starts when it came to her schooling and she was taken out of primary school when her parents became concerned about bullying. She said: “Mum and dad took me out of school because they knew I wouldn’t be able to wear a pink dress like all the other girls so I stayed at home and carried on wearing my dress. “My mum and dad have been great role models in my life and if it wasn’t for my mum and dad I think I would be here now. “I went into secondary school because I had built up some courage by then and my mum and dad made me feel like the best person on earth so I felt like I was ready.
“People were friendly but there were also people who weren’t friendly but I brought a lot of it on myself because I started answering people back and when you do that you’re just as bad as they are. You kind of live and learn.”
After finishing school, Ethan was chosen to take part in the Channel 4 documentary Indian Summer School where she attended the all-boys The Doon School in Dehradun, described as the Eton of India. Speaking about the experience, she said: “My GCSEs weren’t very good because I had been in and out of school but then I went out to India for the TV show. “I hadn’t taken school very seriously but I needed to be taken out of my comfort zone to become a better version of myself. It was an amazing experience and it has changed me and made me a better person.”
Despite generally feeling accepted, Ethan was the victim of transphobic abuse while shopping with a friend at Primark in Cwmbran last month. While browsing the store, Ethan noticed two women looking at her and they became involved in an argument with her friend when they ridiculed the fact Ethan had a handbag. She said: “I approached them and said ‘what’s going on’. They said ‘you have got a bag’. I asked if they had seen the news where people had been going into stores and and trying to kill people with guns so having a handbag isn’t the worst thing to have.
“They said to me ‘that doesn’t matter f*****(faggot) boy’. I couldn’t believe she had just called me that like it was a normal thing to say and I told her it was pretty offensive. I just thought ‘oh leave me alone’. ‘I’m a gay teacher and it’s important to be open about it to be a role model’ Ethan said she tried to speak to the security guard and asked to speak to the manager but was told he was on a lunch break.
“I was victimised in the shop and I felt alienated. I didn’t want to hear abuse like that and I didn’t want other people in the shop with kids to have to hear it either. People were coming up to me and telling me it was out of order. “It’s wrong, something should have been put in place to prevent that. People do laugh and say things but that gives you tougher skin and you can’t stop people from saying things, but I have never felt so alienated.” “It made me feel like I wasn’t normal, like I wasn’t allowed to be on the planet and they had more right to be there than I did. We’re all equal in this life.”
“There has been no reassurance from Primark. Big companies like that should be ashamed of themselves, it’s completely disgusting.” A spokesperson from Primark said: “We are sorry to hear of this customer’s recent experience in our Cwmbran store. “We want all our customers to have an enjoyable in-store experience and we do not tolerate discrimination of any kind.” Ethan said the experience, while distressing, would not hold her back or stop her from living her life. When asked what advice she would give to young transgender people, she said: “I would say to them shine bright like a diamond and your skin will get thicker.”
Source : WalesOnline