feature by Alice Facchini

“It’s actually funny how those things work out. In the beginning I thought I was a lesbian, then I found out that I’m not a lady who likes ladies, I’m a man who likes men.”

Camille Schroeder was born as a girl, 24 years ago in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and went through the transitioning process. At the time, he calls himself just Schroeder, because “my real name, Camille, doesn’t fit me anymore”, he says chuckling. “If I grow enough beard, I could definitely be called Camille again, it will be hilarious.”

Schroeder explains the long journey of being both trans and gay.

On 31 March, activists celebrate the International Transgender Day of Visibility, a day for everyone to show support with trans people. It was created in 2009 by the activist Rachel Crandall Crocker, who refused to be marginalised and wanted the trans people to have their voices heard.

At present, there is no official estimate of the trans population. According to the Gender Identity Research & Education Society, the number of trans people in the UK is between 300,000 and 500,000.

A HAPPY CHILDHOOD

Schroeder had a very happy childhood, although there were times when he thought that there was something wrong in that little girl’s body. “I wore bows in my hair, I did ballet class, I enjoyed myself.”

Camille Schroeder as a child.

Then, when he was 12, he got to an age when he stopped enjoy feminine things. “I stopped wearing pink, I stopped liking anything that was sparkles, I quit ballet class, and I stopped listening to pop music. I thought those things were too feminine and I wanted to distance myself from that, even if I love them now. I started going through puberty and I started thinking: ‘This really doesn’t feel right’.”

BEING A GAY TRANSGENDER

When Schroeder was 18, he went to university and he explored his sexuality. At first, he thought he was a lesbian, then he realised he was trans and liked men. “People don’t think that a trans person can be gay. Many people asked me: ‘So then why did you even do a transition?» And I’m like: ‘That’s so not the point’.”

And then he decided to come out with his parents:

This wasn’t a good time for Schroeder to go to college, and he did have to drop out. “I had to go back home, which was weird, getting to live freely for a whole year and then having to go back to your parents.”

Camille Schroeder with old friends.

There have been times when Schroeder was also forced to wear women’s clothes:

MOVING TO LONDON

When Schroeder was 21, he moved to London to go to college. “I’m very sensitive and my first year in London was rough, with the capital R. It was brutal. Actually, I never experienced physical violence, it’s the physiological violence that affected me more.”

In 2017, more than a third of trans people have reported hate crimes against them in the UK, but campaigners believe the statistics could be just the “tip of the iceberg”, with four in five of victims not feeling safe in reporting their experiences to the authorities. Also, more than a quarter of trans people in relationships have faced domestic abuse from their partner.

Before moving to London, Schroeder called his university and asked to be put in a male dorm, where nobody knew he was trans. But this didn’t prevent problems from occurring: “My roommate was kicked out of the dorm about two months of us living together, and now he has an order of no contact with me through the school.”

 HORMONE THERAPY

A few days after his 22nd birthday, Schroeder started the hormone therapy. He did his first testosterone shot with one of his friends and her parents: “My parents didn’t want to be a part of this. Instead, my friend’s parents have been with me through the whole thing, they’ve been a sort of a second set of parents. It was nice to have older people, like parental figures, telling me: ‘I’m proud of you for doing this’.”

Testosterone hormone therapy have four effects: physical changes (i.e. growing hair, voice deepening); emotional state (mood changes); change in the libido and disappearance of periods.

When Schroeder started taking testosterone, his body changed massively: “Now it’s puberty 2.0. The first puberty was just horrible – nobody like getting their period, I didn’t like growing boobs… it was all just so weird. But this one was fun, ‘cause now I grow facial hair, and I have chest hair, and my belly is covered in hair and I just really love how hairy I am. These changes aren’t reversible by the way, testosterone is permanent.”

FRIENDS AND LOVE

Schroeder has friends from all different points of his life, and for the majority of them, his transitioning process didn’t create any problems. “I’ve been losing a few friends but looking back I’m not sad because they are actually terrible people, so I’m not worried.”

On the contrary, his love life became more difficult and Schroeder hasn’t been on a date since he was 18. “You can be ok with your body, but for some reasons the rest of the world won’t be.

I feel very behind all of my friends. A lot of them back home are getting married, while I haven’t even been on a date. All of my friends are like: ‘It’s just because you haven’t find the right person’, but I’m not stupid, I know it’s because things are more difficult now because I’m trans.”

Schroeder working for Westside Radio in London.

PLASTIC SURGERY

Transitioning process commonly involves sex reassignment surgery. “If I had money, I would definitely get rid of my breast, here surgery is about 5,500 pounds. There was one point when I did have the money, but then I thought: ‘You know what?! I should probably do college instead first’.”

Schroeder is absolutely not interested in getting genital reassignment. “It’s very expensive, around 100,000 dollars, and it’s very traumatising. They take a lot of skin off of you to create a new penis. If I was feeling weird about my body before, I would then feel even worse.”

DREAMS FOR THE FUTURE

Many trans people suffer from anxiety. To deal with that, Schroeder expresses his creativity by doing a lot of trans-centred art work: “I draw and I do a lot of acting and writing, creating small short films. It’s very therapeutic to get it out there and share a story. When I act, I don’t have to worry about being too open or being too vulnerable, because you’re technically telling somebody else’s story.”

His desires for the future are not significantly different from the majority of people: “In the future, my main priority is to… my main priority is to get married. I do want to be married, I want a husband, I want to be a husband, and I want to adopt a bunch of kids. I just want a normal life. Many trans friends told me that’s an old feminine idea, and I’m like: ‘I’m allowed to have my own ideas, and if they are feminine so be it, I was raise as a woman for 21 years’.”