Oliver on how living as a transgender male has transformed his life

Oliver on how living as a transgender male has transformed his life

22 August 2018

OLIVER Crothers can honestly say that he has completely changed over the last five years.

At the age of 22, he’s living independently, happily dating a girl and aiming for a career in engineering.

The Crossgar man is achieving all the milestones that parents hope for as their child matures into a contented and settled adult.

Yet five years ago, Oliver made the most momentous decision of his young life when he announced to everyone that he was in fact a transgender male.

Born Emma Crothers, Oliver was going into his final A-Level year at Assumption Grammar School in Ballynahinch when he officially identified himself as male, changed his Christian name  and dressed accordingly in trousers.

Without the support and love of his family, friends and school, Oliver knows only too well that his transition may not have been as successful as it has been.

“I really don’t think I could have done it with the support of everyone around me,” said Oliver.

“If I hadn’t have become trans, I probably wouldn’t be in a good place now.

“My mother, Joanne, was great and my dad, Stephen, never batted an eye when I told them.

“My granny Teresa was particularly supportive and even paid for my appointments to see a consultant in the gender clinic in London. The rest of my family have also been brilliant.”

As Emma, Oliver says he was a tomboyish girl who felt that he never really fitted in, particularly when he attended grammar school.

Social media photographs from Oliver’s mid-teens show him as Emma, an attractive brunette laughing and larking around, surrounded by friends. 

But the pictures do not show the real picture of who Oliver was then.

The idea that he was uncomfortable with his body and gender gradually took its toll. 

“I felt hopeless at one stage and had really bad depression between 14 and 18. But I had support and when I wanted help, I got help,” said Oliver. 

“I attended the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) and the woman I was seeing really helped me understand who I was.

“I was never girlie. I put off wearing a bra for as long as I could. It was completely out of my comfort zone. 

“I always used to hang out with boys as well and always dressed tomboyish. But I never 

associated that with thinking that maybe I should be a boy until I went to high school.”

The stress of trying to be someone he was not left Emma, as he was then, feeling angry and disconnected, he said.

“I really tried to fit in and I remember saying to my mum when I was around 15 that I had gender dysphoria, which means that I felt I was meant to be a boy,” said Oliver.

“It’s not common here so it’s not something that really clicked with me straightaway. But I know when I was younger, I used to say to my dad, ‘You were expecting a boy, weren’t you?’  And Dad would say to me, ‘Where did you get that from?’”

For Oliver cutting his long dark brown hair at the age of 16 was the first outward sign of 

his transition. 

“I literally come home one day with my hair all cut off and my mum was like, ‘What have you done?’ She was really shocked. I had told her I was going to do it but she didn’t believe me,” he added.

“I hated my hair anyway and one day a friend and I went into Belfast and I got my hair all cut off.

“She kind of forced me to do it as she knew I would feel better afterwards and she was right.”

Oliver came out as lesbian initially but instinctively knew that this was not the end of his journey. 

“I tried to be really girlie at one point in school and then I went completely back to being me and that’s when I came out as a lesbian,” said Oliver.

“But as soon as I came out as lesbian, I knew it didn’t feel right at all. Then a few months later I came out as trans.”

Oliver now resembles his father in looks and says he feels more at ease in the world as a man.

“It just feels right. I couldn’t imagine being a girl now. Nothing now seems unnatural to me but I’m not that good at talking to men who are straight,” said Oliver.

“I don’t know why. I don’t know if I feel intimidated or what it is. It could be that I’m so small and that I never want them to know that I am trans. I’m friends with people who don’t know and if they find out, well then they find out.”

Oliver’s transition has not been plain-sailing though. He has received extensive counselling and support and takes anti-depressants.

He has been trolled and denounced as a freak on social media and an incident at university left him feeling very uneasy.

“When I was in uni, I had a few people who liked to make rape jokes to me as they knew I was born female but no one ever acted on anything,” says Oliver.

“One guy in particular thought he was being funny. I don’t think he meant any harm but it was still a bit uncomfortable for me. Well, very uncomfortable.

“I’ve had a few people write stuff to me on social media or say stuff to me but it goes over my head. It doesn’t really bother me anymore.”

Oliver has been taking testosterone, the male hormone, for over two years and it has had dramatic physical effects. 

“I got a beard quite quickly but the only thing is that it won’t grow higher on my cheeks,” he explains. “My body has changed quite a bit too. I used to have a really thin waist but that has widened out now and my shoulders have got bigger as well. 

“My strength has changed too as I gained more muscle nearly right away. 

“My hair on my head also changed. The hairdresser that I had gone to from the start noticed my hairline changing and the texture of my hair changing. It’s receding a bit which is why I have this mop on my head.”

Oliver is on the NHS waiting list to have ‘top’ surgery within the next year or so, which means the removal of breast tissue. 

In 2015, he tried to crowd-fund £7,000 needed for the operation but failed to reach the total.

However, he used the money to pay for his testosterone privately before getting it supplied on preion. 

He explained: “The surgeons prefer you to be on hormones as your muscle tone is better. Whenever you get surgery, you tend to heal better once you are on testosterone because it builds up your muscle mass.”

Oliver is uncertain whether he will ever go for genital surgery to complete the physical transformation as a man.

While he credits having a happy childhood with his older sister, Claire-Marie, younger 

sisters Charlotte and Holly, and his “fourth sister”, best friend Natalie McKee, Oliver knows that things could have been very different for me.

“A lot of trans people aren’t as lucky as me. I have a friend who is very far along on his journey and looks great but his mum is still so mean to him. He tries to let her back into his life but she turns around and tells him he’s going to go to hell for this. But you would walk past him in the street and wouldn’t give him a thought.”

Oliver realises that many people do not understand or approve of trans people or how today’s young people are more fluid when it comes to expressing their gender or sexual preference.

“I know that it’s confusing. But if somebody didn’t get it, I’m not the type of person who would lash out at someone,” he said.

“I know that if someone is going to lash out at you at something you don’t understand, then you’re not going to like them or like other trans people. 

“I now know I’m not going to get angry because people don’t understand. They shouldn’t have to understand as it’s a new thing.

“All I can say to other young people it to be brave and be you. And to parents and others around the person, just accept and support them”.

Lifeline is a regional helpline for anyone who is experiencing distress or despair and can be contacted 24 hours a day on 0808 808 8000. Childline also offers 24 hour support and can be contacted on is 0800 1111.