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New Me – Talking Transgender With Felix

FROM a young age, Felix Mufti-Wright felt different from the other kids in the class — and especially all the other girls. And when Felix took the decision to transition to male, he was regularly chastised by the very people who were supposed to encourage him to be himself.
At first, the 19-year-old thought he could be gay. But when he realised that he also fancied boys, he knew that the way he felt was something much more than just a matter of sexuality.
And when he eventually became familiar with the term transgender, it became apparent to Felix that it was gender that was causing his identity crisis.

“It wasn’t like I saw the word transgender and it clicked straight away — that I was like: ‘Oh, that’s me.’ It was more of a gradual thing,” Felix explains. “I didn’t know that that was what I identified as at that point.

“I never wore a skirt or anything. The first time I did that was when I went to secondary school. I went to an all-girls school, so that was a bit of a nightmare. But I think that’s why I realised I was trans at a young age. With being called a girl constantly, and having to over-feminise myself, I had to face up to myself a lot earlier.”

When Felix decided to come out — aged 13 — his decision was criticised by his school, Belvedere Academy. Teachers told him he was too young and forced him to apologise for writing his male name on textbooks.

A report from the Equalities Review has found that 64% of young trans men experience harassment from both teachers and fellow pupils.

“In my school there was always this thing of everyone wanting to be a Belvedere girl,” says Felix. “So when you are already not one of them, that had already set me apart. Teachers realised they couldn’t control me in the way they could control the others.”

Even after having his name changed officially, on his passport, teachers would continue to call Felix by his birth name. Shockingly, Felix revealed that any teachers who supported him were told by his head of year that they could not do so. He was told this was down to a “safeguarding issue,” but Felix believes this was simply the school attempting to protect its reputation. 

“They kept using the word safeguarding, but really they were endangering my safeguarding by not letting me express my identity,” adds Felix. “That was just a bit of a mare, to be honest. It’s a nightmare when you’re coming to terms with this stuff and you’re met with the worst reaction ever.”

“It’s the same with a lot of LGBT people. No matter what age you come out, you must have a stronger sense of self. Because it is not most people’s normality, you have to answer a lot of questions about yourself. So you have to make sure you know that, if anyone has a problem with it, they are the ones who are messed up — not you.”

At home, although some of his family couldn’t understand why Felix wanted to become a man, his parents were a lot more accepting. But their son’s decision did confuse them at first. 

“I think I experienced a lot of anxiety at a younger age than most people would, and that confused my parents a lot. They were like: ‘How can you be so young yet so uncomfortable within yourself’?”

A report by Stonewall and YouGov says one in four trans people say family members — who know they are trans — are supportive. But more than one in 10 trans people aren’t supported by family.

“I think my mum was just scared more than anything,” says Felix. “She was worried about the social implications rather than any prejudices. It was never that she was not OK with trans people — she just knew how hard it would be for me.

“She failed to grasp the idea that it would be harder not to come out. It’s harder to lie to yourself than to everyone around you. I knew the longer I didn’t come out, the harder it would get.

“It’s the same with a lot of LGBT people. No matter what age you come out, you must have a stronger sense of self. Because it is not most people’s normality, you have to answer a lot of questions about yourself. So you have to make sure you know that, if anyone has a problem with it, they are the ones who are messed up — not you.”

Felix felt attitudes changing by the time he had left secondary school, perhaps due to the fact he was making more friends in the LGBTQ+ community, which meant he was surrounded by people going through similar experiences.

Felix then decided to audition for LIPA Sixth Form College, where a teacher told him it would be difficult to be successful in the theatre industry as a transgender man. But rather than allow this to knock his confidence, it inspired Felix to set up his own theatre company — Transcend — with friends Christy Mather and Ailís Lord.

“The teacher said it would be a problem, but it’s been an advantage in a lot of ways,” Felix adds. “It’s made me know what’s important and has given me the motivation to make sure I’m making all-inclusive theatre for everyone.

“I’d never want anyone else to be told: ‘You do know it’s going to be hard for you in this industry,’ — because that might discourage some people. But for me, it really pushed me. It’s a really toxic mind-set to have regarding the arts, because the arts are there to make people feel included.

“They are for people to express themselves — so why should only a portion of the population be allowed to express themselves?”

It was around this time that Felix had an appointment with Tavistock, an NHS-run gender clinic for children and young people, after waiting for three years. But by the time he was seen, it was too late. Felix was told that he was too old to use their services and would have to find the male hormone testosterone by other means.

The number of referrals for under-18s at Tavistock has increased from 68 in 2015 to 2,590 in 2019. And the number of people assigned female at birth who are waiting for appointments at Tavistock is almost three times that of people assigned male.

Since taking testosterone — which involves injections every 12 weeks for the rest of Felix’s life — he has described it as “being like having a second puberty”. He has witnessed a number of changes to his mental and physical health, including gaining muscle mass, greasier skin, thickening of the vocal cords and mood swings.

“I’ve never been an angry person, but now I’m just like wanting to pick things up from the floor and smash them,” jokes Felix. He is now hoping to have top surgery, a surgical procedure to remove breast tissue.

But with the NHS under massive strain, Felix may have to wait five years before getting surgery. He feels that GPs don’t necessarily understand the importance of transgender issues and that more specialists are needed.

“It is ridiculously underfunded,” says Felix. “They get more than 100 referrals a month and can only see 10 people. Then my GP didn’t send my referral off as soon as he got it. They don’t really understand the importance — so they kind of just disregard it. The only specialists are at transgender clinics. They need more.”

After waiting so long to become a man, Felix has set up a GoFundMe page to raise money to have his top surgery done in a private clinic. This will cost around £7,000 and he has so far received £1,353 in donations since setting up the page in November last year. A fundraising event will also be held at Tusk Baltic on March 21, with live music and Felix-inspired cocktails such as the Boobless Bellini.

One gender-affirming surgery that Felix does not want is bottom surgery, which would involve grafting skin — usually from the arm, thigh, back or abdomen — to form a “neopenis”. Although this cannot become erect on its own, after a period of recovery, a person can have a penile implant to enable him to have erections and allow for penetrative sex.

“GPs are a bit confused when I tell them I don’t want that, because they are very normative in the way they think,” says Felix. “I want a hysterectomy, where you get rid of the womb, so I never have to carry on with the implant or I never get periods again.

“But the way they do bottom surgery is just not for me.”

If you would like to support Felix’s journey, you can donate at gofundme.com/f/help-felix-will-his-gender-transition — if you are transgender, or know anyone who is considering becoming trans, you can find support and advice at the Young Person’s Advisory Service on Bolton Street, L3 5LX. Or call the LGBT Foundation helpline on 0345 330 3030.