Meet our New Marketing and Communications Officer Ruben!

Why is Our Transgender and Non-Binary Specialism So Important to Him?

 

Sussex Empowered Living are pleased to announce the newest addition to the team, our new marketing and communications officer Ruben! Ruben is a student currently studying for his master’s degree at The University of Brighton. The role at Sussex Empowered Living was of particular interest to him due to the company’s transgender and non-binary specialism, and he would like to introduce himself and explain why pursuing this role was so important to him!

“Hello and a big thank you for appointing me as your new marketing and communications officer. I am incredibly excited to be working with such a fantastic team of people, and a company with values that really align with my own. I feel incredibly passionately about inclusivity for all, and I am really hoping to make some purposeful impact for our service users. Brighton has always been a special place to me also. I felt it was really important that I write a piece about myself and why this role was so important to me. In any other employment circumstance, I do not feel I would be able to be so open about my situation, but the team at Sussex Empowered Living have made me feel so safe and unjudged. Sussex Empowered Living has really created a welcoming, safe, and inclusive space for both service users and staff.

So, my name is Ruben (he/him), but it has not always been. In 2017 and I legally changed my name to Ruben as part of my medical transition to become male. I am transgender. It has been an eventful 4 years and by no means a linear process at all. It has been 4 years of tears – tears of upset, pain, happiness and joy. When I say it has not been linear, I mean in both terms of the medical process as well as the emotional journey, and that is what is has been, a journey. I understand the struggles that our transgender and non-binary service users face in the medical process to transitioning, and I can only imagine how these are intensified, as well as services being made less accessible if you are autistic, and/or have a learning disability. I personally have suffered with poor mental health in the past, both before and during my medical transition, and it is only now that I live in a body that feels like home has it begun to stabilise, and I have been able to see how beautiful life can truly be. I can see and understand how being autistic, having mental health conditions, and/or a learning disability can complicate the medical process, due to some people misunderstanding, and poor judgement from some medical professionals.

In 2016 after struggling with gender and body dysphoria for many years I finally felt strong enough to confront these demons and seek medical help from my GP. My GP at the time had no prior experience with gender transitioning but did have an extensive list of my previous mental health issues. I expressed my desire to medically transition from female to male to my GP, who then informed me that he had ‘referred me to the appropriate services’. Elated at the fact I had finally confronted my gender and body dysphoria issues, I walked away trusting that I was now in safe hands and that all would soon be okay. I could not have been more wrong. I patiently waited 3 months for my first appointment with regards to my gender transition and the day finally came, I cannot tell you how emotionally demanding this was to prepare for such an appointment. It turned out that in actual fact I had been referred to the mental health department at my local hospital. They asked why I was there and instantly they turned me away as they could not help me with my situation. The system had failed me as a transgender man, my GP had assumed that my gender dysphoria was because I was not mentally well, because I held a diagnosis of a mental health condition. Three emotions that I can remember feeling walking away from this appointment were frustration, devastation and anger. At this point I felt I would always be in the wrong body, unhappy and unfulfilled. 5 years on and I can now gladly and proudly say that I am receiving hormone therapy and have had the surgeries I felt I required to feel at peace with myself and body. I have been lucky enough to have seen some amazing specialists at the gender identity clinic (GIC) who could see my struggles and the remedy for these. The help and support from the transgender and non-binary community in guiding me through this was also invaluable. My life has gone from strength to strength, and my mental health has improved dramatically. This is just my journey; everybody’s journey is beautiful and unique.

Even after I was put on to the right track and put in contact with the gender identity clinic (GIC), it was still not an easy ride. The waiting times for gender services are currently excessive and this can be incredibly difficult and impact a transgender or non-binary individual’s mental health hugely. This is why I feel so passionately about my position at Sussex empowered Living, I understand how our transgender or non-binary service users may be misdiagnosed or potentially have their gender dysphoria assigned to their autism, mental health, and/or learning disability. I understand the daily struggles they my face because they are living in a body that does not reflect who they truly are. I am determined to help such users with any additional challenges they may face due to their complex needs, to further enhance the already exceptional service that Sussex Empowered Living provide. Ultimately this will help to create a safer and more fulfilled life for these individuals. This is an underrepresented group of people who can be misunderstood and failed by the system if we as a community do not stand up and help.”

 

Together we can strengthen the community and improve the accessibility of services for individuals who autistic, have mental health conditions, and/or a learning disability, who are transgender or identify as non-binary.

If you would like to get in contact with Ruben or Sussex Empowered Living to collaborate with them on the social change surrounding neurodiversity and being transgender or non-binary, please feel free to email Ruben: rforbes@sussexempoweredliving.co.uk

 

Read more about our transgender and non-binary specialism here:

https://sussexempoweredliving.co.uk/transgender-specialism-2/

Find helpful resources and support for transgender and non-binary individuals here:

https://sussexempoweredliving.co.uk/support-services-and-resources/

 

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