APRIL Fitchett, 23, is a transgender person who recently spoke out about hate crime after Stonewall reported that many LGBT people were at risk of violent abuse and intimidation. April lives in Liden and is a response steward, greeting and assisting visitors to sports grounds

LIKE many little girls, April Fitchett liked playing with dolls. Unfortunately for April, this left her open to ridicule and ignorance. The boy’s body she’d been born with didn’t tally with the girl she knew she really was even in infancy. “It was probably around the age of four or five,” she said. “You feel you’re not right, in a way. “I preferred feminine things to masculine things and I was sometimes told off for that – that it was wrong for boys to play in that way. But for me it was a case of, ‘Why not – I’m happy playing with these things.’ “It was dolls, Barbies, that sort of thing.” April was born in Wroughton and has a sister. Her father works as an admin manager in local government. She prefers not to reveal her old Christian name. Her friends and loved ones have been supportive of her decision to transition, but she’s had her share of prejudice over her femininity. “It’s being told you’re wrong or you’re sick for liking these sorts of things, being called gay. It’s having your confidence destroyed in a way, and it’s getting more and more depressed about it.” April attended Ridgeway School and began working in shops as a Saturday person at 14. On leaving school she chose retail as her first career. By the age of 21 she knew she had to take action to match her physical body with her gender. “I was getting more and more depressed about it. Eventually it got to the point where I could not bring myself to continue to live with the old details. “I made the decision to speak to a GP and start transitioning.” The process involves a course of medication, which will eventually be followed by surgery. “I told a few close friends what I was doing, that I was going to transition on this date, sort of thing. I was really panicking over telling friends and family.” As things turned out, she needn’t have worried quite so much, as the friends and family she told were supportive. Not everybody in society at large is supportive, though, which is one of the reasons why April is keen to highlight the continuing problems detailed in the Stonewall report. “Reactions have been quite mixed. A lot of people have been very positive, and close friends and family have been really supportive. It’s great to meet new people who have no issues with transpeople. “I’ve had abuse thrown at me in the street, though, and I’ve been threatened. I was just walking home one afternoon and a small group of people hanging out at a bus stop just started catcalling. I ignored them. “One of them came up to me and said, ‘You’re a man, aren’t you? I’m going to kick your head in if I see you again.’” April realises that there will always be people like that, but as she puts it: “They’re outnumbered a lot.” She would like to see more general awareness of what being a transperson entails. It is not, for example, a sexual orientation: a transperson’s sexuality, just like that of a non-transperson’s, is completely separate from their gender. In spite of this distinction, April and many other transpeople stand shoulder to shoulder with the lesbian, gay and bisexual communities when it comes to dealing with prejudice and dispelling ignorance. As she points out, Stonewall, the organisation behind the report into bigoted violence, was named in honour of an American bar whose patrons, many of them transpeople, revolted against police harassment. Another misconception about transgendered people sees them sometimes confused with transvestites and vice versa. “It’s important to stress the difference,” said April. “Transvestites are happy in their born gender but enjoy dressing up as a woman, whereas transgender people are born as one gender and want to transition to the gender they feel they were supposed to be born in.” April is looking forward to the future and whatever challenges it brings. “I just take each day as it comes. There’s no point in worrying about what can happen in the future – it’s what’s happening now that’s the important thing. The Swindon Transgender Group website is at swindon-tg-group.yolasite.com, and Mermaids, an organisation offering family and individual support for young people with gender identity issues, is at www.mermaidsuk.org.uk