Latest Student Journeys 2018-2020 Alison's Student Journey To celebrate Transgender Awareness Week we would like to share with you the heartfelt story of one of our transgender students, Alison. About Alison Alison first came out as transgender publicly in 2016 after hiding her feeling of being a different gender since she was 6 years old. Alison had a difficult childhood and spent a lot of time in various care homes and because of this she had a very limited amount of education. Alison always knew from a young age that the gender she was born in was not who she truly wanted to be. In the 1980s she joined the army running transport and became a maintenance and driving instructor. It was after encouragement from her peers that she wore her first dress publicly. “Back then things weren’t as open as they are now. I had to go bars away from where we were stationed if I wanted to dress like Alison”. After leaving the army in 1987 she started her career as a truck driver which involved frequent nights away from home travelling. It was during this time that she started living her life as Alison secretly. “My wife knew I was dressing (as a woman), however, I was becoming more and more depressed by hiding it. I then had 2 knee replacements which left me unable to do the job I loved.” At the age of 60, Alison decided to seek help and contacted a support group which gave her life-changing assistance. They encouraged her to get back into education and she enrolled at Dudley college studying IT, English and Maths. Alison wanted to get more involved in helping other transgender students and joined their LGBTQ Student Union Group and became their Transgender Officer. Alison also works part-time for Dudley Mind helping other people within the Transgender community. Why Fircroft? Alison achieved her entry-level in English, however, she was unable to finish the qualifications that she wanted. It was then she was recommended to come to Fircroft. “Fircroft’s objective is ‘YOU’RE GOING TO PASS’ and they will do everything within their power to ensure that you pass” says Alison. Alison has dyslexia and really valued the extra support she received from staff to further develop her learning. Previously she had always secured manual jobs and really valued developing her skills through education. Coming to Fircroft really improved Alison’s confidence as she was able to meet new people and socialise in a way she hadn’t been able to do for a long time. “I’ve met a lot of new friends. Even though we might have been on a different course we still got on well together. I’ve managed to help students there who have a family member who is transgender. I am there to learn but I am still able to help others which I love”. Alison’s advice to people struggling with their gender Alison advises that finding people who will support you is the key for anyone questioning their gender. Alison visited peer support groups that were dedicated to listening and providing helpful information. She had a difficult experience with certain family members and friends accepting the changes she has made and suffered from guilt, anxiety and depression. “This can be a scary experience and not everyone will be accepting but you have to start thinking of yourself as you end up hurting yourself more than if you were honest with the people closest to you. It does get easier. Taking this step was the best thing I have ever done as I am a lot happier and more outgoing”. She also warns about the dangers that exist for transgender people. “There are a lot of Facebook groups out there for various age groups, but I never recommend anyone meeting someone from the internet alone and always make sure you’re in a public place”. The Future Alison’s next step is to secure her Level 2 In Maths and English. She has also enrolled onto a number of courses at Fircroft including our Train the Trainer course as she hopes to get into teaching. “Transgender Awareness Week is important as it helps us to raise awareness about the needs and resources available to the transgender community”. Alison’s next stage is to explore the option of surgery. “I just want to feel complete as at the moment I’m not, but I am still a lot happier and have so much more confidence. There are 2 parts of me, there always will be, but I am Alison".