Monday, October 13, 2014

Top 40 radio DJ comes out as Stephanie

I got an call this morning from James Piekos at Radio Humberside this morning asking me to have a chat on the radio about the weekend announcement by DJ Simon Hirst that he will be changing gender today and will now be known as Stephanie. The show will be available on Iplayer for the next week - My interview was at just before on 13-10-2014

If you have not heard the interview with Stephanie by Steven Nolan on Radio 5 Live,  I certainly recommend it. It is rare that someone as high profile comes out so publicly, and I was really pleased to hear just how open she has decided to be about her life experiences that have led her to this very brave decision  this weekend.

What is sad is that she felt the need to have to quit her job as a top radio presenter first and hopefully radio stations having seen the overwhelming support she has received on Twitter and Facebook this weekend will be doing their best to get her back on the radio.

However I can really understand why Stephanie felt the need to retreat to the safety of personal space before making this decision public. I remember just how much fear I felt when I did the same nearly 15 years.ago.  As a top professional speaker I knew that there was no way to come out quietly and I had seen the way the media had treated trans people in the past.

In addition to delivering Transgender Awareness Training I also coach public speaking skills which many people see as their greatest fear in life. However in my experience its not speaking that we fear - it is the humiliation or embarrassment when we get it wrong that is the real fear.  I am convinced that the greatest fear for all for humans is ridicule - humiliation, embarrassment, loss of face, making a fool of ourselves - or however you want to describe it.

This fear of ridicule is so great that people often choose to kill or attempt to kill themselves rather than suffer. Between 30% and 40% of trans people attempt suicide, especially when young, because that is easier than risking coming out. I once refused to stop for the police when I was cross dressed, because I felt it would be better to be arrested later for failing to stop than risk the humiliation of being discovered dressed as a woman.

So I will repeat the advice I gave this morning on Radio Humberside, and this is not just about coming out as trans or gay - it is about having the courage to be yourself.  Find a few people who you really trust and come out to them first - get a support structure in place and then come out.  It is far better to come out than to have to face being outed and you will be surprised at how much support you receive.

And for the people who don't or can't accept who you really are - well they are not really the friends you thought they were. I am not saying that this is going to be easy - but you will be amazed to discover that being the "real you" is a much better life than constantly hiding and living in fear of discovery.

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