“I was groped in public, just to satisfy someone’s sick curiosity. I received hate mail about my gender and abuse on my doorstep. People were hammering at my door, trying to barge in and felt that they could rob me and no-one would care. I felt that was accurate.”
This is Nicola’s description of the hate crime she received as a transsexual woman living in Kirklees. Now 31, Nicola* (not her real name) was due to have gender reassignment surgery three years ago, but it was cancelled after she suffered a mental breakdown.
Nicola has suffered depression since puberty and also struggles with agoraphobia and anxiety. She feels uncomfortable leaving her flat and talking to people. She was referred to Horton Housing’s Kirklees st@y team after she stopped attending appointments at a local mental health charity. She was living in ‘squalor’ and not looking after herself or her tenancy. She wasn’t washing her clothes, or looking after her personal hygiene and often went days without eating. “I just gave up,” she said.
Her support worker, Andrew, is now helping her to re-engage with community mental health support, attend appointments and look after herself and her home.
“I am now taking much greater care of myself and my living environment. I have been able to overcome a lot of hurdles and my attitude has improved,” she said. “It takes a lot of planning but I can now get out from time to time.”
She is now back in contact with her mother after six years although still struggles to tell family and friends about the issues she has faced. When she first came out as a transsexual woman in one workplace, the manager made a point of calling her ‘young man’ every day. Even now, the vets refuse to change the details on her account and insist on addressing her as ‘Mr.’
She said: “When I feel most helpless, I have to remind myself that every day, I am getting stronger and wiser and a little bit more resilient. I need to see this through.”