Helen: Trans People are People who happen to be Trans

Credit: Alex Drummond

Helen was born in Reading in 1963, to a university lecturer father and a scientist mother (who gave up work when she was born). One of Helen’s earliest memories was hoping that, when her mother was pregnant, the new baby would be a girl so “I could have seen what I would have been like”. By the time she was seven, Helen dreamed about waking up as a girl. Helen went to boarding school which was ‘horrendous’ because she was picked on for being young and not sporty.  By the third form Helen was feigning illness so as not to return to school.  Around this she discovered Evangelical Christianity The school was Christian but in a very ‘formalised regimented way and something that you sort of suffered rather than worshipped’.

“The being a girl thing hadn’t gone away, it wasn’t huge, but it wasn’t minor either, it wasn’t something I could ignore.“

Helen started going to a youth group at a Baptist church once a week. “All I picked up really, was that I couldn’t really open up there and be honest in that environment… So you just built another shell around you…”.  Years later, one of Helen’s primary school friends said to her:  “When other people are learning how to interact with the world, you were learning how to hide from it.  And actually that’s very true, I was learning how not to reveal things, how to act in a particular way.”

Helen found the physical changes of puberty very confusing but learned to ‘just deal with it’.  “You kind of know the wishing and the dreams and the magic isn’t really going to happen.  But I would retreat into the headspace where it might.” The changes were tied up with sexual development: “It never occurred to me that sexual attraction was something different from wanting to be that person…So when I looked at women I would look at them and want to be like them and that would trigger something that would then be sexually arousing and that would then make feel guilty… it was a terribly, terribly confusing time.”

Helen had no one she could speak to about her feelings either at school or at the church.  But this also drove her deeper into trying to know God and a desire to ‘purify myself in some way’ because she thought that if she knew God she would have the strength to overcome her feelings.


“If church had no space for me then I needed to maintain my Christianity outside of my church environment.  And in order to do that I needed to be sure of what exactly I believed.”  Helen started questioning, and eventually decided  “This whole God thing, I can’t make sense of it, I can understand why people might need it, but it doesn’t make any sense to me anymore.”


Transitioning was rooted in the need to be authentic and whole.  The GP referred Helen to mental health services and then to Charing Cross.  During this process Helen realised that ‘taking female off’ emotionally hurt.  Her doctor prescribed hormones and in late spring and Helen remembers rubbing oestroedial on her hand to see what effect it had.  On the M4 her hand started tingling and she remembers the world coming alive, and seeing different shades of colours.  “It was rather like going through life at a slight angle, and taking oestrogen suddenly made me straight with the world.” 

Helen says it is easy to frame trans lives as drama.  But it’s wrong to force trans people to have that kind of drama.  Why should we force people to breaking point to reveal who they are?

“When you see trans people don’t see tragedy.  See beauty, see fulfillment, see completion, see wholeness.”

There is currently a lot of focus on the law and religious communities and how they treat trans people.  “In our society we have a very rigid, binary model of gender which is not reflected in a lot of other societies.  So the question is why do we have such a rigid definition of gender, what are we afraid of… and sadly I think religious groups and judges tend to be a the forefront of trying to police those gender boundaries, which is why they’re coming under huge scrutiny at the moment.”