My name is Oscar Vila Ferreiro and I am from Spain. I arrived to Leicester on the 25th of July to do a four-month internship at the LGB&T Centre. Some weeks later I started to volunteer for the T Party, the weekly social and support group of the Youth Transgender of Excellence, a project run by Lisa Vine and Becky Harris.
The Young Transgender Centre of Excellence Project is the only project of its kind in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland, and almost the only one in the country, that’s why the opportunity to collaborate with this project felt so unique. To be part of a team which supports transgender people aged 0-18 years old and their families looked like a great opportunity, not only on a professional level, but on a personal one.
It was one of my first times working with teenagers and the very first time working with transgender people, so I was quite anxious about it, but definitely enthusiastic. I felt anxious because, even if I am part of the LGB&T community myself, my knowledge about transgender identities was limited. I certainly didn’t want to accidentally say something I shouldn’t such as using the wrong pronoun or name. Furthermore, as I am in the Centre for a limited period of time, I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to build a good relationship with them. Also, as my first language is not English, especially at the beginning of the internship, I didn’t feel confident to chat with them and I was afraid of, for example, mis-gendering someone by accident and hurting their feelings.
However, as the time went by, I started to learn more about transgender identities and I realised that the most important thing is to be natural and respectful. During these weeks I was able to see how more than twenty young people grew up, coping with the challenges that the transgender community faces and how the project developed and grew next to them in order to not only improve their lives, but also to improve the transgender community, increasing the awareness of transgender issues with training for all sorts of different organisations.
For most of the users of the project this is not an additional support in their lives, but the only support they have, because they don’t always receive the support they should from other environments like school, heath services and family.
That’s why this project is so important. Being a teenager is not easy. Being transgender is not easy. But being both and experiencing it alone seems terrifying, almost dangerous. I am grateful to be able to be what I am. But I am more grateful to have the opportunity of being part of a team which try to be better each day to help those who aren’t always accepted or supported to be themselves in order to make their life less difficult. Because every child deserves to grow up as the person they are and want to be. Well done Young Transgender Centre of Excellence for all you’ve achieved and keep up the excellent work!