My name is Finn, my pronouns are they/them, and I’m a Peer Support Worker with Leeds Mental Wellbeing Service (LMWS) and the Community Pain Service. I also happen to be transgender and non-binary (meaning my gender identity doesn’t fit within the binary categories of man and woman). When I came into this role in 2019 I had decided that – despite my fear of what it might entail – I wanted to be “out” at work. I was tired of hiding such an integral part of my identity, tired of being misgendered at work, and felt privileged to be working in a team that I knew would support me should I encounter any difficulties.
Being openly trans at work is both a burden and a relief. It means that I am more comfortable with those who respect and support me, it means I can bring all that I’ve learnt through being trans to the job, and use that experience both to support my clients and to – hopefully – make LMWS a more positive place for trans people to work, and to use. By being visibly trans at work I open myself up to the possibility of discrimination and harassment. I open myself up to awkward conversations, intrusive questions and to the extra work of educating others. However, I feel lucky to be able to do this, to have reached a point in my life where I am confident and secure enough in myself to stare down shame and erasure and to help guide people in how best to support their trans colleagues and clients. It’s also worth noting that the security offered by my whiteness and masculine-leaning gender expression make this an easier job for me, and that it is far harder for those who experience interconnecting oppressions such as racism and misogyny.
I was recently given the opportunity to train some MA Art Therapy students in the history of trans healthcare and rights, what it feels like to be discriminated against when trying to access mental health care, and how they can support their transgender and non-binary patients. This is something that wouldn’t have come my way if I wasn’t visibly trans in LMWS and I can only hope that more people see myself and others being “out” in the world and realise the importance of learning how to battle transphobia and support the trans community, who statistically face far greater mental health challenges than their cisgender counterparts.