When Jacqueline Wilde came out as trans at the age of 68 she had a lifetime of suppressing who she truly was. Last year, during the pandemic, she reached out to the Glasgow Trans Support Programme to finally get the support that’s helped her find her true authentic self.
I chatted to Jacqueline, a retired graphic designer and guardian and carer for her daughter, to find out how this National Lottery funded project is replacing isolation and loneliness with acceptance and belonging.
Jacqueline, whose pronouns are she/her, can’t remember a time when she didn’t feel a mismatch between her body and gender identity.
“I was just six years old when I remember secretly trying on clothes from my mum’s wardrobe” she recalls. “I kept thinking I’ve got this body, but I don’t feel like my true self. I felt ashamed and really confused.
“Although I was always a bit different looking, I wasn’t a feminine boy. My parents knew something wasn’t quite right although they never brought it up with me.
“Back then growing up Trans was a no-no. I only knew of one high-profile person who had come out as trans and it was considered a scandal. I just kept thinking, once I get to high school this nonsense will stop. I’ll not want to be female anymore.”
But as Jacqueline found out, denying her true self for years to come would lead to mental health issues. Two failed marriages and long periods of depression ensued. “I did what was expected of me”, she says. “While I dressed up in women’s clothes at different times in my life, everything was done surreptitiously and all that led me to were periods of dark depression.”
Support during lockdown
Last year Jacqueline contacted the Glasgow Trans Support Programme, a group of people who accepted her without question. Run by LGBT Health and Wellbeing, the project received £190,000 of National Lottery funding to help tackle the loneliness and isolation faced by those identifying as transgender and non-binary.
“Lockdown was the turning point for me”, says Jacqueline. “I decided it’s now or never.
“The Glasgow Trans Support Programme was a lifeline. I found the practical, social and psychological support of the trans community so empowering.
“Through online meet ups I made friends and realised I didn’t have to be on my own. Some of us set up our own chat night and grew close talking about anything and everything from deep sea diving to cooking. Since restrictions have eased, I’ve also met up with some of them in person.”
And, the support from the team behind the project has also been invaluable. “From one to one chats and confidence building workshops through to how to change my name or speak to my doctor, my main advisor was incredibly supportive”, says Jacqueline.
Coming out to her friends, Jacqueline was apprehensive. “I just wanted them to accept me for me”, she says. “And they didn’t disappoint. They were all supportive, but I know some people aren’t so lucky.
“Being trans can be a lonely and isolating experience when you are hiding your true self. Talking to people through the Glasgow Trans Support Programme you realise that there would be a lot more suicides if the support they offer wasn’t there.”
Reflecting on her relationship with her daughter, Jacqueline says, “When I told her I was becoming Jacqueline, she took it in her stride and was completely accepting of me. She was just happy that I was happy, and that confirmed I had made the right decision.”
Happy in the here and now, Jacqueline adds: “Looking back, I’ve had an unhappy and chaotic life, so this feels like the end of a long, hard journey. That moment when I decided to come out, I can only describe as a feeling of pure joy.
“Now that I wear feminine clothes with confidence, I am very rarely misgendered and I’m finally the person I was meant to be. I’m truly thankful to the Glasgow Trans Support Programme and the trans community for helping me reach this place of acceptance. Even at 68, it never too late.”
Find out more about the Glasgow Trans Support programme on the LGBT Health and Wellbeing website.