We caught up with Charli to talk about her life and experiences as a intersex woman and what trans awareness means to her. Charli lives in Manchester and is a Community Leader with the Trans Programme. To find out more about the Trans Programme's community leaders, click here: http://lgbt.foundation/who-we-help/trans/volunteer...
Can you introduce yourself and share a bit about your background?
My name is Charli Darling, I live in Manchester. I was born intersex, the medical term for what I have is Klinefelters Syndrome, I have XXY chromosomes. I was one of the contestants of Miss Transgender UK last year. Coming out as intersex was tough, growing up my parents never accepted me. I hid and blocked and what I was going through and put this shield up. On the outside I was the happiest person but on the inside I was going through hell. Up until the age of 11 I was a boy, when I was 12 my breasts started growing and I knew there was something wrong and I started to get attracted to boys, it was a very confusing time. But as I was growing up I looked at my friends and saw they were growing beards, their voices were breaking and they didn’t have tits! I decided to get a girlfriend to try and fit in. But I was getting more depressed. I couldn’t tell anyone. Finally when I was 17 my Mum finally agreed to take me to the doctor. I went to the hospital and they took x-rays and blood tests. The doctors were just talking at me; I didn’t understand what was happening. My mum said just don’t say anything just nod your head. My mum and the doctors were there talking about me and my body was there but I wasn’t involved or allowed to say anything. My parents put pressure on me and I had a breast reduction but shortly after my breasts started growing back again. They tried to put me on male testosterone, I think I was on it for a week, maybe two. I hated it all and stopped the process. This caused many arguments with my parents, and I moved out. I think I was about 19 or 20 then. That is when I started being Charli. For a few years when I went back to my parents I would dress in masculine clothes and go back to being Charles, not that I was very convincing.
The turning point was when I started to be independent. It’s taken nearly 20 years for everyone in my family to be cool with me. I never believed my Mum would be ok with me but when I was in the Miss Trans UK Competition, she said she would have come and supported me; I couldn’t believe that . There is nothing they can say now because I dress how I want to and I won’t dress up and pretend to be someone I’m not.
Growing up intersex was really tough, I was suicidal growing up, but I never wanted to go back to that place again. I thank God I never succeeded in trying to take my own life. I did it all on my own, and my friends were always there for me, it was my support network of friends and self-belief that got me here and made me stronger.
How did you find out about the LGBT Foundation? How do you hope to be involved in our work?
I met Louie, the Trans Programme Coordinator, I was on That’s Manchester TV with him talking about trans and intersex people. I want to help out with the new Trans Programme and be involved as much as I can. I have never done anything like this before. I really want to help people who are coming out and transitioning. I am praying and hoping there are other intersex people in the Northwest and I hope we can connect with each other because I don’t know any!
Can you tell us about what your interests are?
I really love hair and make-up, my hairstyle is different every day. I love getting dressed up and going out. I think hair and make-up are important to me because it makes me feel amazing, when I dress up my friends call me HRH (Her Royal Highness) I think wearing make-up makes me feel a lot better, even though people tell me I don’t need make up, it makes me feel nicer. People come to me and ask for me to do their make-up and I like helping my friends and people feel good about themselves.
This week is Trans Awareness Week, what does trans awareness mean to you?
I think it’s trying to remember all the trans people who have committed suicide and the people we’ve lost because of transphobia who should still be here with us and still living our lives. I keep reading stories from around the world about trans people who have been murdered and it upsets me so much. At the end of the day we just want to live our lives; to live happy, healthy and normal lives. We aren’t hurting anyone. We need to make people aware that trans people are humans like everyone else.
What advice would you offer someone who went through what you went through and Is dealing with realizing they are Intersex?
Speak up. I did not speak, I shut everything away and stayed silent for too long. Once you speak you feel a lot better. I think that is the main reason I felt depressed because I held everything inside and did not speak out. It was eating away at me. At one point everyone knew me as ‘smiley Charli’ but on the inside I was in hell. By speaking out you are breaking free. For me, when I did that everything changed.