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Pride 2023: "My journey started from a young age”

Noah Bliss

“I would say that my journey started from a young age” 

When I was young, I was always into typical ‘boy’ stuff. I wanted to wear boys’ clothes, play football and hang out with the boys at school. My family described me as a bit of a ‘tomboy’ and I didn’t think much of it. But looking back at that age, I think I always knew deep down that there was something to it. 

I remember saying to mum, “I want to be like my brother” and I know now that what I really meant was that I wanted to be a boy, like him. I think that I always had a level of awareness that I identified as a boy but at that age, I didn’t know how to vocalise it. 

I was bullied at school for being interested in boyish things and coming up to my teenage years, I suddenly had expectations from everyone around me to be more ‘girly’. I had to wear a skirt at school up until year 9 because of the uniform policy and suddenly felt the pressure to be more feminine. This made it a lot harder for me to express myself and as a result, I was very unhappy. I went through a very difficult period of low self-confidence and dysphoria as I never felt comfortable in my own skin.

“I had a lot to figure out during this time”

Once I finished my GCSEs and A levels, I moved to London to study midwifery at Kings College. I ended up leaving the course after a year for a multitude of reasons, one being that I wasn’t quite sure if midwifery was for me. After leaving the course, I became a maternity care assistant in Tunbridge Wells to gain experience and make sure that this was the career I really wanted.

At the same time, I was figuring out a lot about my identity. With the experience of moving away from home came, for the first time ever, a feeling of freedom to truly explore my true self. I initially came out as a lesbian and met my wife shortly after. I’ve been very grateful to have her support and understanding over the years in helping me navigate the challenges I faced during this time. My wife and I got married in 2017 and just after I finished university and I became a qualified midwife. Turns out, it was the right career for me!

With my career moving forwards, I still had a lot on my mind about my identity. It was at this time, 2018, that I realised I was non-binary – I felt at times I was male, and sometimes felt that I had no gender, so the term felt like the right one for me. I did continue to explore gender identity though, and what this meant for me through talking therapy. Through this, I really challenged my beliefs of what gender is and began to consider that maybe I truly identified as something else – a transman. 

I came to the realisation that I was a transman on a random morning walking back from the gym. I immediately called my wife to tell her. I’ve had many conversations with her over the years about gender identity and how this could potentially impact our relationship, but she’s always been incredibly supportive and encouraged me to be my true self no matter what. I’m eternally grateful for her support. 

“I felt very nervous about transitioning”

Of course, I felt very nervous about transitioning. There’s a lot of negativity and transphobia in the media which made me worry that the process was going to be very difficult, and that people wouldn’t be open to it, to me being who I am. But I’m very grateful that the experience on the whole has been quite positive both inside and outside of work. 

When I told my manager January last year that I thought I might be transgender, she didn’t hesitate to make sure that she was doing everything she can to make me feel supported and accepted at work. Together, we made a plan alongside the trust’s LGBTQ+ network lead to make sure that the transition journey was as comfortable as possible for me. I felt really supported. 

I’m also grateful that I’ve been encouraged to be a Governance Lead Midwife. There are many health inequalities that exist for transpeople – for example, 70% of transpeople have experienced transphobia from their primary care provider. Being a patient advocate means my work can have a direct impact to improve the experiences of people in the trans community in Newham and beyond.

In this role I work closely with the hospital midwifery teams to ensure that we are doing what we can to create an inclusive place for those we care for, including using inclusive language in our forms and guidelines. There’s a lot more to be done, but these small steps really do make a big difference, and I’m glad I can do this work.

“What’s important is that I’m accepted for who I am”

Midwifery is traditionally seen a very female dominated profession, which comes with its own set of challenges. I provide a lot of one-to-one support to people and their families, and sometimes they use the wrong pronouns for me or don’t feel comfortable having a male midwife care for them. While it can be upsetting, I knew there would be challenges, including people – colleagues and those who use our services – not fully understanding what it means to be a transman. I know that many people also worry that that they don’t know much about transpeople or transitioning and that they might get things wrong. 

I’ve tried to combat this, and any fears people might have, by being very open with my journey and who I am, and by accepting that not everybody will “get it”. We all make mistakes, and we won’t always get it right. Whether that’s accidentally referring someone by the wrong pronouns or making assumptions about someone’s identity, at the end of the day, acknowledging, learning from these mistakes and moving forward is the most important thing.

What’s important is that I’m accepted for who I am, that people ask me any questions they have, and that ultimately, others in a similar position can feel just as welcomed as I have been, including in work. 

“I'm happy and comfortable with my true self”

I spent many years feeling torn with my identity and feeling like I had to look, think and act a certain way – because of the environment I was brought up in and expectations from society on what a man or woman should be. But I can say now that, although I started my transition as a transman aged 29 (a lot later than the ‘typical’ age for most transpeople), I would say that my journey started from a young age and after many years of struggling with my identity, I’m in a position where I'm happy and comfortable with my true self.

My biggest piece of advice for anyone struggling with their identity is to simply talk about it. Seek out support from people you trust and feel safe trusting sooner rather than later. Don’t be afraid to explore the thoughts and feelings you may have about your gender identity – whatever the outcome, you haven’t done anything wrong to the community by being who you are. 

Noah Bliss, governance lead midwife at Newham Hospital

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