We caught up with JoJo McClay who is a valued volunteer here at LGBT Foundation with our Befriending scheme. This service seeks to combat isolation through providing individuals with regular one to one contact with a supportive person. It helps individuals build confidence, self-esteem and motivation while offering support in finding social networks through local groups and organisations.
Can you introduce yourself and share a bit about your background?
My name's Joanne, JoJo for short. I was born in Canada, raised in Scotland and I’m 44 years old. I am a post op' male-to-female transsexual now living in Salford. I didn't know I was female inside until I was 28 but at the age of 6, all I knew is that I wanted to be someone else. School was a washout and my lack of attendance in the last 2 years of secondary school could've been an entry in the Guinness Book of Records! I didn’t attend because all the boys were going through puberty around me, I didn't know that then. I hit puberty around 16 and things were pretty shitty for a spell but it was at the age of 20 when my facial hair kicked in and I started shaving that all hell broke loose inside of me. As soon as I came out at 28, I gave up smoking straight away and lost interest in drinking so problematically (this killed my belief in chemical addiction). I started the long process of realigning my body with my psyche. I'm at the tail end of the transition with just a small percentage of facial hair left to kill with electrolysis.
How did you find out about LGBT Foundation?
I was looking to do something with my time whilst I finished the electrolysis and the name came up in a Google search!
As a LGBT Foundation befriender, what does your role involve?
It varies from person to person depending on their needs. In my experience, some people just needed helping back into voluntary work or making friends, and other people had a particular interest and wanted some help finding relevant groups.
Can you tell us your hopes for the new LGBT Foundation Trans Programme?
That ultimately, there will be a transgendered Bill & Ted and they will rock the world so that the world gets comfortable with transgender people and stops throwing rocks at it.
What advice would you offer someone questioning their gender identity or recently out as trans?
Some of your loved ones will grieve for your old persona and they can't let go whilst the ‘physical ghost’ of the person is still around. Your eyes are the same. People might not be able to be around you while they’re grieving for you and you might lose some loved ones along the way. If they can't face you, take it as a compliment about how they feel about you. They love you.
If you REALLY want to blend in with women then wear what they usually wear...Hoodies, jeans and trainers (but not at a funeral unless it's all black and you're an Emo!).
Hair and beauty departments in colleges always need people to practice on for electrolysis students. It'll save you a fortune and I advise you to get it underway from the get-go because facial hair removal takes the longest.
Remember, in some cultures around the world there is documentation of trans people being revered as spiritual leaders. In those places, it's not YOU who's wrong; it's the world around you.