The queer role model I wish I had

BA (Hons) Comics and Graphic Novels student Allison Rosewood was the winner of Teesside University’s creative writing competition during LGBTQ+ History Month. We’re delighted to share this important and insightful piece, where Allison emotionally recounts her own transgender experiences and highlights the lack of transgender role models during her journey and the impact this had.

Guest blog: Allison Rosewood, BA (Hons) Comics and Graphic Novels student at Teesside University

A personifying Figure

To think about a fictional Queer role model that I’d wished that I would have possessed while growing up, I will be honest seemed like a notion more Sisyphean than anything else, Pointless.

I did not have one, and to muse and idly imagine a fictitious one felt like a futile endeavour that would serve no point. That being said, however, the topic stuck with me throughout the past week, and as I found myself sitting outside of a waiting room to receive support and guidance after eight years of trauma, and furthermore, childhood as I have previously stated, free from a role model I could aspire.

I saw the poster once more.

And it was there that the reason had finally dawned on me, at least in a personal sense. As a trans woman, I had no role model. Even throughout the 2000s and 2010s, there were the appearance of Bisexual and even Gay role models, characters in fiction, and a few celebrities that had made their sexuality known. And indeed, many of my other queer friends took comfort in those role models. I had none, and through those eight years, I began to think about what if I indeed had one back then.

When I realised I was trans I was thrust into a world of confusion and uncertainty, I didn’t know who to talk to, if I could talk about it, or if it was even normal.

Many people mistakenly use fiction as a frame of reference, but there was no media, no person no public figure that I’d known of at the time. Besides a member of the Kardashian family and a fictional criminal, which truth be told aren’t exactly an appropriate frame of reference. But I realised that if I did have one when I came out to my parents, I would have had something or someone to look towards, a vision in my mind of someone that made it to where I had no idea which way I was going.

And instead, I was left with these six words to echo through my mind:

“It stays within these four walls.”

A gift from my mother that I will not soon forget.

Through every moment, to have such a figure to idolize and place reverence in, the idea that ‘this person has made it, I can too’ would have saved me much pain when I was younger, it would have given me something to put my faith in, to hold hope to when my family began to search my room when I was away. Disposing of the clothes that I’d saved for, or the makeup I’d acquired.

And as childish as the notion seems, I’d quite like to have had a Transgender role model while I was growing up.

I think they’d have been an artist. A painter, someone who expressed their journey through their artwork. Showed people what was inside them and
display their humanity through elegant brush strokes.

Perhaps they would have been a graphic novelist. An artist and a story smith, able to portray and evoke emotion. Show people the story of their life, coming out, displaying their troubles with transitioning and showing their humanity to others, fighting against their relentless demonization that’s become so prevalent today. I took my first name from a graphic novel, it was the one that made me begin to realise that I wasn’t cis or straight, so I’d think this would have been an appropriate one for them to have been.

Throughout all of it, however, I’d want them to be able to speak about themselves. Someone who could speak about their journey, speak about what they went through to help me feel like I wasn’t alone when I was curled up under my covers, bawling my eyes with each moment I was kicked down, and left in emotional disarray.

Writing about this, makes me wish that I could have dreamt of such a figure way back then. Wished that I could even imagine the possibility of such an influential and defining figure in my life existing. A concept that now seems quite common with the prevalence of Queer culture, was unimaginable for me when I was Fourteen and filled with fear and anxiety, the absolute agony and pain that I felt when I didn’t know what was wrong with me. Why barely as a teenager, I would look in the mirror and hate what I saw, my skin feeling alien to my mind. Seeing someone that didn’t look right, that wasn’t me, yet was a constant companion and riding partner to my life. To have had a role model then famous or a friend would have been a much welcome traveller on the journey I found myself on just a year later.

I would have liked someone that would have shown me what to do. Someone ahead of the process that could have helped me. I’m surrounded by other trans people today, most of which are my best friends, some of which I’ve shown how to access gender-affirming care. But back then, my only trans friend was my best friend, and we hadn’t come out to each other then. Our lives were running parallel for a time without us even realising it. If either of us had known someone, someone who showed us the way, instead of figuring it out step by step, not knowing what is ahead. Maybe I wouldn’t have made so many mistakes.

I would have liked that very much.

It’s with this, back in that waiting room, a final thing had come to mind. A revelation once more that became quite an ironic twist, one that I had not noticed.

I’m the role model that I wish I’d had when I was growing up. A graphic novelist that wants to show people her humanity, and outlines the troubles that occur with transitioning; the heavy, and the mundane. A person that can speak about what they went through and tell people they aren’t alone. A person that shows people what to do to help them become who they want to be.

I realise that I have become the role model that I’d wanted all those years ago, when I walked into the youth centre, broke down in front of the youth worker, crying harder than I’d ever had before, and said:

“I think I’m Trans. And I have no idea what to do.”

And I hope I can be that person, for as many people as I can.

Coming out is a very personal experience, and a number of services exist across the North East to help. Whether you’re on your own journey or want advice on how to be an active LGBTQ+ ally, friendly and practical support and information is available:

Hart Gables

Middlesbrough and Stockton Mind

LGBT+ North East

TU Proud

Author: Narelle

After graduating with a Marketing degree at Teesside, Narelle joined the University's Communications and Development team as a Social Media Coordinator.