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Stuart Barette

Transformation Specialist

I am one of the lucky ones. I have my health and my employment has not been affected, allowing me to work from home without issue. My achievements and challenges during 2020 have been minor, in the big scheme of things, but still important to me.

One of my favourite parts about the year has been growing a beard. This may not seem like a big deal, but as I am a transgender man, who was assigned female at birth, it is most definitely another step along my journey to being my authentic self. I have keenly monitored my facial hair growth since starting on testosterone injections, watching as each individual hair grew, hoping one day to have enough to grow a beard. It takes up to ten years to get full facial hair cover and even then, it is not always enough for a beard. It seems that patience is a virtue you need to have if you are a transgender person. Will I keep the beard? Who knows? But I am glad to have finally been able to grow one.

A surprising thing that happened during lockdown was that I began to find joy in the simple things in life that I had forgotten, having previously taken things for granted during my busy life. The excitement of the food order delivery, especially when it contained cake, reminded me of the same excitement I had as a child when I heard the tune of the ice cream van.

The wonder of watching the vegetables and herbs grow that my wife had planted and then being able to eat them. The delight of my guinea pigs when they realised that us being home more meant that they could get more cuddles as a result. My life has become so much richer as a result of these simple things, so I hope that I never lose that again.

One of the challenges I encountered this year was related to my hidden disability; autism. It wasn’t the unexpected change of lockdown that was the problem. It was that the ‘unwritten social rules’ that I had to learn through effort, need constant practice to remember them and to apply them in the right situations. These rules also needed updating around Covid safety, like wearing a mask and keeping apart. The social rules are confusing at the best of times, even when you are practising regularly, so please be kind and patient with me if I get confused or make a social faux pas. This is a time of unexpected change for everyone and we are all trying to find our ‘new normal’ in the best way we can.