It’s August 2004 and tears are threatening to spill over my bottom eyelashes as I stare back at my reflection in the hairdresser’s mirror. There are chunks of black hair all over me and I daren’t look at what’s on the floor. My palms are clammy and I feel weak as the hairdresser gives my hair a final brush then unhooks me from my gown. I daren’t meet my twin sister’s eyes. Her long, glossy black mane (so like Princess Jasmine’s) now seems like a cruel reminder of my former glory.

It’s hard not to draw comparisons to Jacqueline Wilson’s Double Act where twin Ruby cuts off her hair to look poles apart from Garnet. But, in my life, there was no major twin fight, no break up with a summer love or even a friendship break up. Instead, I had spent most of the summer fantasising about sashaying through the school gates looking a million times more grown up. The hot trends – yeti boots, circle belts and Baby G watches – were not going to cut it this term. I needed real change.

Then…suddenly…BAM. Flicking through a copy of Sugar magazine, I noticed a model with a black bob and pink highlights. This would be it. MY MOMENT. This would be my America’s (or let’s face it, Camden’s) Next Top Model makeover. After all, I had gone on holiday with my best mate’s family and had recently turned the big ONE-THREE so surely my new bob would prove I was officially a grown up.

But now, post-chop, school’s first day was inching closer while I was itching for my hair to miraculously grow back. I promised the Hair Gods that I would nevereverever touch my mane again and stop using that TGI hairspray every morning if only a few inches could grow back. I spent each morning checking with my pound shop ruler, dreading entering the school gates, imaging everyone’s pointed stares. I was known for the long, shiny black hair down to my back. As an identical twin with long black hair too, it was not just my marker, but ours.

During those last few weeks of summer, it felt like I had to learn who I was again. Mirrors became THE ENEMY as I no longer recognised the girl in front of me. I had massive tantrums as I realised that none of my clothes seemed to match my awkward bob, each time swearing at the evil page of Sugar magazine. But the girl with the bob kept winking back.

Looking back though, my bob forced me to confront my fears now that I was no longer hiding underneath a mop of black hair. I inherited a newfound confidence – after all, surely I could face nothing worse as a just-turned teen. As I realised I was visible in public, I threw myself into after-school activities from gym classes to being part of the Greek chorus in the school play. I no longer cared if my bum jiggled too much in front of the dance class mirrors or if I had to sing in public. I even became a regular member of the Pink Police for the school’s charity fundraising team, ‘arresting’ anyone who wasn’t wearing pink on Pink Day and asking the girls in higher forms to cough up some pounds and pennies – all the things that the former me would have been too scared to try.

This new-found confidence led me to talk to people I normally wouldn’t have bothered with. At dance class, I met Imogen, who would later become my best friend. I met a few other pals from theatre club too who, twelve years later, are still part of my solid friendship group.

Having my hair chopped off helped me mature into the bolshy teenager and adult who was able to cope with any type of change. I learnt to be brave about fashion choices and meeting new people but it also allowed me to think openly about new experiences – even if they initially scared me. I even ended up living in Miami for five months!

When I finally hit the growing-out stage of my awkward bob, I didn’t use it as an excuse to retreat back into the background. While I never did take a trip back to the same hairdresser for another chop, I was still dancing at gym class and fundraising for charity.

And whenever adult me is scared of something, I try to think about how it felt that day in the hairdresser’s chair – and how it ended up being the making of me. I guess I have my awkward bob to thank.

@layla_haidrani

It’s time you started celebrating your period, guys. Sign up to bettybox RN and get all your tampons and pads, beauty products, sweet treats and loads more cool stuff delivered to your door, every single month. We know. It’s totally awesome. 

Elijah, 26, was born in a biologically female body but identifies as a man. He began his physical transition just over two years ago.

I was 13 when I got my first period. Most people at school had already started and my mum had prepped me quite well, so I knew what was on the horizon, but that didn’t make it any easier. I hated them from the word go.

At the time, I was a long way off understanding myself like I do now. I was dressing as a tomboy and was struggling with my sexuality because I was finding myself attracted to girls, but I hadn’t yet realised I was transgender.

I remember my periods being a great source of great pain and distress, and looking back, I think that was linked to general feelings of being uncomfortable in my body. I now know that what I was probably experiencing was something called gender dysphoria [where a person experiences distress because there’s a mismatch between their biological sex and gender identity] but I didn’t understand that at the time, or have the language to articulate it.

As I got older, the distress my periods caused me became more and more tied to my gender identity. And once I’d decided to transition, having periods became even more frustrating. I had to live as my ‘desired gender’ for a while before the doctors would give me the hormones I needed to start making my body change. So I was using male toilets and asking everyone to call me these new male pronouns like ‘he’ and ‘him’, but I wasn’t visibly changing. That was really tough and at that point having periods started to feel really hurtful. The best way I can describe it is that it was like a personal insult every month. I’d made these decisions and announcements but my body wasn’t keeping up with things. I was trying my best to change but they were undermining everything.

When I started hormone therapy, my periods stopped relatively quickly but I had to up my dose a couple of times because I was getting period pains and bloating and things like that. That was really hard because I felt like I was past having periods and then some of the feelings came back again.

There are a few things that helped me cope, and which might help you if you’re transgender and are struggling with your periods. The first is to try not to give your periods power. My dad used to say the same thing when I had panic attacks – if you give the anxiety power then you’re not in control. It’s the same with periods. Remember that it’s your body and you’re in control.

You can take back control by giving yourself time, space, love and care. If you know that your period is going make you feel extra rubbish (or maybe there are a couple of days of your period that are particularly bad) then take care of yourself all the more on those days. Eat ice cream, exercise if that helps you feel good (it’s always helped me), and just do what you need to do.

Try to be open as well. I think I would have had an easier time if I’d been more open about what I was experiencing. Once I’d learnt how to communicate about it a bit with my mum, I could say “I feel really bad because of my period” and I think that was one of the things that helped me to take the power away from it. Not talking about my periods and suffering in silence gave them all the power in the world.

The good news is that young trans people today are having a very different experience to the one I had. There’s so much more awareness then when I was young. And the internet has really helped, too. You can find information and support and other trans people to talk to.

And things have moved on medically, too. These days, lots of young people have the opportunity to put female puberty on hold so they can try testosterone as soon as they turn eighteen. You obviously have to see psychotherapists and other specialists and jump through various hoops but, generally speaking, it’s much easier nowadays to start some sort of treatment before puberty hits and your periods start.

But if you are having periods and hating them because you’re transgender, just know that it won’t be forever. Keep telling yourself that. If you decide to transition, your body will move past this tricky time eventually. You just have to give it time and be patient.

As told to @LucindaEverett.

It’s time you started celebrating your period, guys. Sign up to bettybox RN and get all your tampons and pads, beauty products, sweet treats and loads more cool stuff delivered to your door, every single month. We know. It’s totally awesome. 

Image: Hailey Hamilton