I have great pleasure in introducing Claire and Cas Potterton today. Claire is Cas’s mum, and she and Cas have a heart-warming, extraordinary tale to tell about making a life changing decision.
Cas Potterton was born Megan Potterton and at fourteen years old, he’s made the decision he wants to become a male instead of the female he was born. We all hope that this story will help others perhaps facing the same challenges, parents and children alike, and that in this interview, you find the message of hope and acceptance that we all wish was more prolific in the world around us.
First, a little bit about the whole family as you are facing this together as I think it’s important to see who else in Cas’ life is affected by this decision.
Bear in mind this interview is unscripted, un- edited (apart from the occasional spelling mistake when perhaps passion overtook reason) and come straight from the mouths of the people who are so intimately involved in this story – the family you see in the picture below.
Claire explains a bit about them all….
Cas is the oldest of five. Ollie and Daniel are eleven and a half, fraternal twins. Both have cerebral palsy, ADHD and hyperprolinemia, Dan also has ASD. Daniel’s physical symptoms are much worse than Ollie’s, but they are both very mobile and don’t like to let anything slow them down! The boys’ thought processes, and slightly limited social skills, are what give me the greatest concern when it comes to dealing with any fallout from school.
Phoebe is nine, a very girly girl, and a total diva. If she doesn’t end up on stage I will be very surprised. She is a super singer and has confidence by the bucket load.
Alfie is my baby although he regularly points out that he’s not a baby anymore. He’s a very grown up six. I guess that comes from having older siblings. He’s the best at remembering the right pronouns and name, and doesn’t hold back from correcting the rest of us. He also takes after Cas in the mathematical genius department…
One other person who needs a mention is my sister Sarah. She is my rock, always has been. Superwoman in cords and a cardy! We lost our mum eighteen years ago, and Sarah kind of took over. Although I was twenty two, our little brother was only twelve. She raised him beautifully, and it wasn’t always easy, and she has always been there for me, more so than anyone else ever. I wouldn’t have survived the boys illnesses or medical procedures without her. She was my one constant through the last few miserable years of my marriage and my divorce, and I would be in the nuthouse if it hadn’t been for her these last couple of years. She is my children’s favourite person in the world too.
Sue : Wow. You sound as if you have a lot on your plate, Claire. *waves at the siblings* Look after your mum for me!
Claire, when did you know that Megan was not happy with who she was? It’s a tough thing to grips with as a parent, so I can only imagine what Megan was going through at such a young age. There’s a lot of labels thrown about like autogynephilia, transgendered,autoandrophilia, transkid and it all looks very confusing. How did you and of course Cas decide what was actually the situation and where he fitted in?
It’s very difficult to put a time frame on when Cas knew that he should have been born a boy, because I think the feelings have always been there in some form or another, but he wasn’t in a position, maturity or knowledge wise to actually voice them. He was never a ‘girly’ girl.(I apologise for the stereotyping here.) He was never interested in clothes, hair, make up; he never played with dolls or particularly enjoyed the company of other girls. I know these things can apply to a lot of girls who really are girls, but in Cas’ case I believe it is of importance. DJ-ing, golf, fishing and Superbikes were his hobbies of choice from a very early age. He could set up a full disco and karaoke rig, without a miss step by the age of 9 or 10.
Sue: Was the change a gradual process? Did all of you accept that in reality, she wanted to be male, and how did you guide her towards making her decision?
Shortly after his dad and I separated, about two and a half years ago, he told me that he was bisexual, something that, although true, I think was also a little bit of a test to see how I would react and a tentative step towards where we are now. It was a non-issue for me……sexual orientation is what it is and always has been in my eyes. Two years ago, my sister got married, and Cas pulled off a super human feat of love for his Auntie Sarah by wearing a fabulous dress, heels, jewellery, and having an amazing hair do. A matter of only a few weeks later, the waist length hair became a short bob, and a few weeks after that, a pixie cut. I have all 18 inches of it, braided and saved…..
Tracksuit bottoms, t shirts, men’s shirts and baseball boots became the uniform and have remained ever since. It was around that time that the ‘I hate being a girl’, and ‘being a girl sucks’, comments started, and probably four or five months after that was the first time the word transgender was used. By this point, two of his brothers and his younger sister were already referring to him as their bro! As a result I spoke to a friend who is a sex therapist and has a number of trans clients, as well as becoming intimately acquainted with Google. I read, and learned, and waited for him to tell me what he wanted.
The defining moment happened, sat at the top of the stairs, a little over a year ago, when after listening to moans , groans and snarky comments about his gender, I asked him if he wanted to be a boy or whether he was supposed to be a boy and he said ‘I’m supposed to be a boy!’
Cas is not a talker,( which can perhaps been attributed to his tentative diagnosis of high functioning Aspergers), and cutting became his way of dealing with feelings and emotions that he didn’t know how to express. That scared me, a lot, and I was a bit lost, not knowing what to do. Having spoken to the nurse at our doctors, I made an appointment, with Cas’ agreement, to see a councillor at our local Relate office. She was fantastic and a real life line for both of us. After the very first session the difference in Cas was noticeable, and after our second visit other people were seeing the changes too. He was smiling more, back to cracking jokes, sleeping better, just more contented. Having another person in his life, who was there purely to listen to him and to help him make sense of what was going on in his own head was the best thing that could have happened.
I can’t tell you what was said or discussed in the sessions I didn’t attend, because I don’t know, and actually, I don’t want to know. What I do know is that I got my kid back. I’m not sure that I/he/we ever made a conscious decision to label the situation or him, or to put him in a particular box…it just was what it was. He knew what he wanted, and whatever steps he decided to take next would be of his choosing and on his timetable. He knew his options and that he just had to tell me what he needed me to do for him. As much as I have wanted to say ‘Ok, what’s next’ over the last year, i have been very conscious that every step, no matter how big or small has to be his choice, at his pace.
As frustrating as it has been on occasion, particularly when he has refused to engage in conversation, it has definitely been the right route to take. Every decision has come from him, each step has been his to make, from telling family and close friends, to his appearance, to choosing not to seek medical intervention just yet. I will continue to ask from time to time if he wants to go further, he will answer and we will go from there.
A few months or so ago, he began to get more vocal about feeling as though he were living two different lives. Home life and school life were beginning to feel like two different people and the depression was beginning to creep back in a little, so I went to speak to the school to try to find out where the school stood on the subject, and what, if anything, could be done to make Cas more comfortable. Unfortunately, I can’t honestly say that very much came from that initial meeting, other than a proposed photo change on the school computer system. Part of me feels that maybe I should have pushed them a bit harder back then, but a bigger part think that the timing wasn’t quite right for Cas, which is why he didn’t push it either. Almost three weeks ago, Cas finally let me know that he had had enough, he wanted out, and he wanted out now! This was the only time I have made a unanimous, no discussion will be accepted decision but before going public, he had to tell his dad. Regardless of our family situation, this was not something that his father could hear second hand, and it was right that it came from him. (I would have done it for him, if push came to shove, but he is beautifully eloquent when he needs to be, and was in a much better position to get his feeling across than I would have been!)
Deep breath, gritted teeth…
Sue: Of course as much as we want to view the world through rose tinted glasses, we all know that sometimes people, especially children, can be cruel. Was this something you and your family and of course, Cas, encountered on the journey?
The response was a pleasant surprise, if lacking a little in enthusiasm. That same evening I made another appointment at their school, with another member of staff, for the following day, and we haven’t looked back since. The whole staff were informed last week that Cas is now known as Cas and will be treated as a boy, and this coming week, when they return to school after the half term break, his year group will be told the same.
As he will be starting his exam years in September, we are in the process of having his name legally changed, primarily for the purpose of having exam registrations, results etc in his name rather than Megan. We are only a few weeks into Cas living as a boy full time, and only a matter of days since it became public knowledge, (thank you Facebook), but the positive response we have had so far has been incredible. At this point there has been no verbal or written negativity, although the lack of any kind of response from one or two people has spoken volumes.. This has sadly been predominantly family members, but I have my words prepared for if they decide to say anything to me.
Your approval is not required, your understanding is not expected, but your acceptance is very necessary.
Cas’ friends have been brilliant from the very beginning. Acceptance from them seems to have been as natural as breathing. We are prepared as anyone ever can be for the potential nasty comments, bitchiness and general unpleasantness that will no doubt come from some people. Sadly, the nasty comments and bitchiness aren’t anything new as Cas has been a target for some since starting high school. My boy is clever, very clever, having been on the gifted and Talented register since infant school; he is artistic and musical, which combined with his height (and his quite frankly sickening figure lol) has made him somewhat unpopular with a number of his peers, particularly some of the girls.
Over the last couple of years of school, he has reached to point where he knows that actually, this is entirely their problem, and has become somewhat immune to the bitchy comment and the snarky digs .I’m not under any illusion that it is going to be easy, but I believe Cas is in a good place emotionally, to deal with whatever may get thrown at him. He knows that the school won’t tolerate bullying of any kind, and that his Mum will take on the world on his behalf, if she has to!
As much as I worry for Cas at school, I also have concerns over the effect it may have on his twin brothers who started at the school last September. They are very supportive of their big brother, but they both have medical issues of their own which make them a little more vulnerable than most, and I do worry that they may find any unpleasantness a little more difficult to deal with. Life in our house is going to consist of a lot of talking, taking notice and watching each other’s backs, in the coming weeks.
Sue: This is a tough one and probably one for both you and Cas. How does it feel to have the body of a woman but feel like a man inside? I cannot imagine the heartache and longing that might occur. Are there plans to make any physical changes, or is Cas still to young for such a challenging and difficult transition?
I have thought really hard about your question regarding how it feels to have a woman’s body but be male on the inside, and I really can’t answer it. I can’t even think of a situation that I could experience that could even compare. What I can say is that, once a month, Cas withdraws a little bit, becomes not quite his fabulous self for a few days. It’s frustrating for me, because there is nothing that I personally can do about it. When he asked me to write an excuse note for swimming and I asked why, he replied ‘My body is being a girl!’ Cas is choosing his options this year, and has to pick two out of the three Sciences to study at GCSE level. He is taking Physics and Chemistry because, and I quote, “Biology has already screwed me over once!”
We haven’t discussed physical changes for a while now, as much as anything because it’s not something that can happen for a good while yet. Cas is very well informed of the options available to him as far as medical treatment is concerned, (I am getting there), and although his ultimate destination is to be a man, at the moment he is much happier just being accepted for who he is and being able to live the way he knows he was always meant to.
Sue: Thanks Claire, this frank and quite simply amazing account of how you as his mum and as a family are supporting Cas through this transition is awe inspiring. I take my hat off to you all.
And now for the man himself…introducing Cas
Cas, you are one tough and brave soul to have made a decision like this and I am in awe of you. I love the fact you got to pick your own name and recreate yourself 🙂 Tell me what it felt like when you first realised something was different with you.
I never really had a ‘Eureka’ moment. I’ve just never really been a girl. I hang around with boys, I’m a Scout, I wear suits to formal occasions and I play video games. I hate dresses, make up and pink things. I guess I was just the tomboy extremist who didn’t sign up for a sports team in Year 8 after the horror when I discovered that we were required to wear skorts to matches. I wouldn’t say I was different as much as I was just one of the boys from day one. The only big discovery was when I was on Facebook and saw a link to a post about a Trans* kid on George Takei’s page. From there I did some research, watched some YouTube videos and fell in love with Alex Bertie. I finally had a term for what I was feeling and I was ecstatic.
Sue :Thank heavens for good old George Takei. How did your peers and friends both at school and at home, deal with it?
Because of how many out of school clubs and groups I’m in, I’ve had to ‘come out’ multiple times. My small group of friends were super cool with it, and have been for months; my siblings see it as nothing but a change of name and pronouns; my Scout and Beaver groups have been more than happy to change things and use my correct name and pronouns almost instantly as well. My school have gone about the issue extremely professionally. A message went round to all of my year letting people know what was going on, I was put straight into the boys’ PE group and a unisex toilet is now available. So far all the students are very supportive and the teachers are too.
Sue: It looks like your parents are very supportive and 100% behind you. You are fortunate to have had that, and I hope it made things easier for you. How did you first approach the subject with them?
Again, there was no defining moment in which it all came out. (No pun intended.) My mum picks things up very easily so always knew there was something different. I’ve never been amazing at talking about how I’m feeling, but when your parent is psychic all is good. With my dad, I simply sent him a Facebook message as I didn’t want to wait and talk to him in person.
Sue: I can’t even begin to understand how you feel inside, or what you’ve been through. Whatever the future holds, I have no doubt you will see it through. What kind of things worry you in seeing the way forward? If you had to pick a couple of things that are on your mind, what would they be?
There are a few things I worry about concerning my future. With some of the terrifying statistics regarding Trans* youth I have reason to be uncertain. I specifically worry about way further in the future when I delve into higher education and work, and the many complications that can bring; as well as the possibility of a relationship later on too. Other than that I worry about the same things as other people my age. I try not to think forward in too much detail or I end up trapped in existential crisis…
Sue: Have you any advice for other young people who might be going through the same things you are? What helped you to cope and is there anything you want to share to help them?
Do the opposite of everything I did. If I had talked about how I was feeling and trusted people then my transition could’ve begun far quicker. I was expecting the worst and was surprised by the positive response of everyone. Just talk to people!
More than anything it’s frustrating. Yeah dysphoria is a pain in the ass and there will always be people who hate you for who you are, but it’s just annoying. That’s the only way I can explain it.
Sue: I think you are a remarkable young man and I know this sounds like a cliché, but to me you are a role model for all those teens and people out there who need a story of hope and positivity. I admire you immensely and I think anyone who reads your story will have the same feeling of awe that someone so young can be so mature. I wish you all the best for the future, Cas, and I hope you continue to keep in touch. I know we’re Facebook friends J
So you can see just how this transition has taken place, here’s Megan and Cas together
I’m hoping that Cas is going to be a regular contributor to Divine Magazine in a new Youth segment we’re setting up.
Watch this space for more on that news….
Here are some helpful links to anyone who wants to read more on the subject: