Written by Rachel Hargreaves from Sky's LGBT+@Sky Network

I knew that something was not quite right as my gorgeous cousin had not had a romantic relationship for as long as I can remember.

We never heard him talk of girlfriends or boyfriends and we had stopped asking. One Christmas day, I could tell he was trying to pluck up the courage to tell me something…. I have to admit I wasn’t expecting him to tell me he was transgender, liked to dress as a woman and liked to be called Sophie. Then it made sense and we had a big hug and chat.

It was surprising to me that “Sophie” had never left the house. So a few weeks later I went over to meet Sophie in the comfort of her own home; she looked amazing with a figure to die for. That night I learnt that my cousin wanted to become a woman and change gender. We bonded on a whole new level and arranged for Sophie’s first outing. We got dolled up together and went to my local pub (a very accepting and relaxed place). We all had a great time. We started to do it fairly regularly and in December 2016 we went to MAC at Selfridges for a makeover. Sophie learnt great tips and her make-up is even better now, giving her more confidence.

At this point, it was still just Sophie’s mum, my husband and me in the family that had met Sophie. We introduced Sophie to my children, and while my son, 5, laughed and was totally accepting of Auntie Sophie, my daughter, 6 at the time, was horrified and ran away. Over the coming months we chatted and it turned out my daughter just didn't want to lose her Uncle. I explained Sophie was still the same amazing person and now they are as thick as thieves and you can find them in a corner doing their nails! Everyone in the family has now met Sophie and accepted her for the way she is and offer lots of love and support.

Sadly not everyone is as accepting and sometimes, when we are out, people's reactions can be shocking and upsetting; that said there are lots of very lovely, accepting people too. So far, we've been lucky but I know that there will be a few incidents in the near future that will really shake Sophie. Hence I want to help spread the word, educate and assist with people's understanding that we should all be who we want to be.
Sophie is only at the beginning of her transition, she has lived as a woman now for four months and looking to start hormone treatment in August 2018. 

I am so very proud of my trans cousin who is going through so much. It is a very, very difficult time for her. It is also a very difficult time for her mother, who is losing a son, yet gaining a daughter. At the end of the day, all we want is for my cousin to be happy. Sophie is so much more dynamic and outgoing than ever before and it just shows that we need to be comfortable in ourselves and who we really are to get the most out of life.

So together, let’s just be.

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