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Ireland’s transgender children: Luna’s story – ‘I knew I had to transition’

Luna: “I never looked masculine. I had soft features and long hair and was very often mistaken for a girl.” Photograph: Dave Meehan

Luna, who is 18, is an only child. Her mother is a single parent. They lived in Poland until Luna was 10. “From my earliest memory, I didn’t understand why I wasn’t allowed wear girl’s clothes. I always wanted to, and I made it very clear to my mum that I wanted to. She was gentle with me, and she didn’t get cross, but I never understood why she wouldn’t let me.”

Until she was seven or eight she told her friends that she wanted to be a girl. It was a time when boys and girls played together at school, and she always played a female in make-believe games. “I expressed myself and I made it clear. I didn’t, at the time, understand the notion of someone not being accepted because of their gender or who they liked. Speaking it now, I understand that I wanted to be heard.”

But she stopped saying it when she realised how socially unacceptable it was. The bullying began when she started fifth class in Ireland, with barely a word of English.

“I never looked masculine. I had soft features and long hair and was very often mistaken for a girl. I tried to blame my difference on the fact that I was gay, so I came out. I was so feminine and everyone knew, so I didn’t have to confirm it.”

Living in New Ross, Co Wexford, there were few sources of support. Luna is particularly feminine, and her true gender was breaking through. “It happened gradually and subconsciously. Puberty wasn’t too harsh on me, and my body was androgynous all along, so I didn’t fully realise. I knew the hardship and consequences of social transition.

“But it eventually reached a point where I knew I had to transition. I started make-up at 15. By 16 I refused to shop in the male section any more. Then I felt I needed to go on hormones, and that is when I finally understood that I am a woman.”

In sixth year Luna spoke to a school counsellor. She was already wearing feminine clothes and had long hair. Luna says that, although the school was supportive, name and pronoun changes would have been awkward.

She was prepared to wait five months – until the end of school – to fully transition socially. There was a lot of staring, isolation and distance from other students.

Her mother didn’t really understand at first, but she has become a huge support, and the two women have grown closer.

Luna is now a first-year student at Dublin City University, studying international relations. She’s charismatic, extremely mature and intelligent, and, by her own admission, a little intense.

Luna was, initially, the only young trans person willing to be identified and photographed for this series. A week after being interviewed, Daniel approached us with a willingness to be photographed, saying that, although he understands why trans people are often unwilling to go public, he is now ready to put himself forward.

Luna says that she wants to change society. “I know that there will be people who mock me and who are oblivious to what I say, but, for all that, there will be at least one person who will find me helpful. It’s that one person who I want to help.”