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'The most important thing is to talk about it': Trans couple open up in intimate new documentary

Victoria and Max are a trans couple who are hoping that speaking about their experiences will help others in a similar position.

rpt Victoria (l) and Max (r) Source: Midas Productions

THE FEAR WAS absolutely paralysing. I read so many stories and heard so many stories of trans people coming out and being completely abandoned by pretty much everyone they know – parents, friends, everybody.

Victoria van der Spek was 18 years old when, with the support of her boyfriend Max, she came out as a trans woman.

After discovering early in her teenage years that she did not identify with the gender assigned to her at birth, she spent the subsequent years trying to find out where she fitted in.

“I knew I was going to come out but I wasn’t sure what I was going to come out as, and during the Leaving Cert. I was visibly depressed and my parents noticed it. I met max that year, and he was very supportive both of me and the LGBT stuff in general,” the now 22-year-old film and media student said. 

Max, who is now 21, was 19 years old before he fully came out as transgender – similarly negotiating his own gender identity for a number of years before he was comfortable enough to open up. 

The pair have been in a relationship for four years, navigating the challenges faced by the trans community together, and documenting those in the documentary TABU: Tras airing on TG4 tonight. 

The couple hope that by making their stories public it will help other trans people who feel isolated or alone. 

“I was very depressed and I’m still very depressed, but I was extraordinarily depressed in several parts of college and there was a lot going through my head,” van der Spek explained in an interview with TheJournal.ie. 

“Going up to people, you never know how they’re going to react and in college you just want to do normal college things but you’re not sure how well you will pass. When you go out with friends, there are slurs thrown your way, and having friends there is helpful but when you’re cycling home you get slurs thrown at you then too.

“When I was growing up. the only example I had of trans people was on the Jeremy Kyle Show and Ace Ventura, they were always the villain or the sideshow to be mocked, and the way this [TG4] documentary was portrayed it looked like a very positive take on trans people. 

“The struggles are highlighted but it’s a personal look at people who are trans. And I just hope it adds to positive media coverage for trans people… If I can help even one or two trans people then that will be good.”

While coming to terms with their gender identity is one element that the couple speak openly about, one of the greatest challenges faced by the trans community is access to healthcare. 

Max was first referred for hormone therapy back in 2016 and has been on a waiting list since.

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He began privately funding his own treatment in Belfast but with a change in financial circumstances and now being in his final year of college, he is relying on the public healthcare system to support him. 

“When I started taking testosterone I had a part-time job and was able to save up and go private in Belfast to get the process rolling because I felt that I would be waiting forever,” he said.

“I’ve told doctors that I’ve known from 2016 that I was a trans man and that this is what I wanted to do. The waiting list is 25 months long but it’s February 2020 and they still haven’t told me when I’ll be seen again, and my prescription is already overdue.”

On allowing the cameras in on his relationship with Victoria, Max said: “Until I was confronted with Victoria coming out as trans, I didn’t really know much about being trans and had to do my own research.”

“But the most important thing we can do on any topic is to talk about it and that’s what this is about.”

Tras, from Midas Productions, is airing on TG4 at 9.30pm tonight, in both English and Irish with subtitles.

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