Coming out as transgender helped my stammer

The article's author, Jenny Sheanon

Having a covert stammer, Jenny was used to hiding away. Here she explains how meeting others online helped her to transition, and how portraying herself differently built her confidence.

Nowadays my stammer doesn’t rule my life and is relatively mild and occasionally non-existent. However, it has dominated most of my life. 

I have stammered for as long as I can remember and, for the vast majority of that time, was deeply embarrassed of this. When I was eleven my mother decided to seek help for my stammer. It was arranged for me to see, what I now presume to be, a child psychologist. I remember being so happy about this; it didn’t matter whether I stammered here because I thought it was going to be cured. So without any embarrassment about it I went along with my mother for what turned out to be a few minutes’ assessment. The child psychologist asked me to repeat several single words, which I did flawlessly; after which she turned to my mother and reassuringly told her that I didn’t have a speech impediment and just probably got nervous. Nervous! of course I got nervous about speaking, I had a stammer.

Having a stammer became much more of an issue when I started secondary school. Kids can be unbelievably and unknowingly cruel and have a pack mentality in picking out weaknesses in other children. Like so many schoolchild stammerers, I was mocked and mimicked on a regular basis with my self-esteem taking a battering. The best day of school for me was 25th June 1979, the day I finished.

Career

Career-wise I drifted into IT and worked there for 17 years. As I grew older my self-confidence and self-esteem slowly grew and my stammer slowly became less prevalent. However, I was not stammer-free and was still very embarrassed of it; I was the archetypal covert stammerer and would do whatever I could do to avoid stammering (unsuccessfully). My work involved a lot of telephone use, which I found very stressful and would do what I could do to avoid using it. I was always the withdrawn person in the office. 

Being a covert stammerer was one thing but being transgendered, I was completely buried out of sight. 

In the Spring of 2001 I suddenly found myself being made redundant and as a short-term stopgap measure I joined Royal Mail and became a postman. I was quite looking forward to a Summer of being out in the fresh air, working in a stress-free environment. This proved to be the case, except I ended up staying there for 16 years.

Transitioning

As well as having a stammer (and completely unconnected) I was also an in-the-closet transgender female. Being a covert stammerer was one thing but being transgendered, I was completely buried out of sight. When the internet came along I suddenly found that there were other transgender people around (and far more than I ever realised). 

As the world changed and being transgender not being quite the taboo that it once was, I began the long path of transitioning. I saw my GP in May 2015 and explained how I felt, at which point I was put on the waiting list for the Nottingham gender clinic. I contacted HR at work, with regards to my wishing to transition, in April 2016 and a plan was formulated for me. I then started on hormone therapy in September 2016, before unleashing myself on the public in January 2017 as Jenny.

Previously I was an expert at blending into the background and could be almost invisible. Such things weren't possible being trans.

The sense of relief on my part cannot be understated. I’d had a lifetime of being a person that I had no affinity with and no longer had to put on the 'blokey' act. Previously I was an expert at blending into the background and could be almost invisible. Such things weren’t possible being trans, so I found myself putting on a front and portraying this confident outgoing person. I became popular, easily able to connect with people; this did wonders for my self-confidence.

A new chapter

I met my now partner (who’s also trans) in 2015. Unfortunately I lived in Peterborough and she lived in Bristol. So in January 2018 I took a year’s sabbatical and moved to the Bristol area to live with my partner and to try and find work there. During this time I was approached by a local finance company who asked me whether I’d be interested in pursuing a new career and encouraged me to become a financial adviser. I spent the next year getting my qualifications and now am talking to people face-to-face for a living in a way that, not too many years before, would have been impossible for me. 

Yes, I still have a stammer (which is very mild now) but I can communicate very well. For me, confidence and not letting my stammer control my life was key.

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