Transgender teen Jasper reveals bullying hell

Jasper Williams has endured hate crimes relating to transgender. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
Jasper Williams has endured hate crimes relating to transgender. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
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Jasper Williams is just 16 but his confidence and eloquence belie his years.

Just a few months ago, he was known to pupils and teachers at Drummond Community High School as Emily.

Jasper Williams. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

Jasper Williams. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

Last week he returned to classes after announcing that he had made the decision to live as a boy.

He has cut his hair and wears baggy hoodies, and while he hasn’t yet undergone any surgery, he may consider doing so in the future.

Brave Jasper today opened up about his transition – telling how he had been subjected to constant insults from some of his peers and how he feared being assaulted on a bus by fellow teenagers who cruelly taunted him.

Speaking to the Evening News, he revealed that he had never been drawn to 
traditional “girlie” pastimes or clothing while he was growing up – and that his decision 
had the full support of his family.

“You kind of know, even when you’re little, that something isn’t right,” Jasper said,

“People would say ‘why don’t you play with the princesses, why don’t you wear a skirt?’, and I thought, ‘I don’t want to, but I don’t know why’. As you get older, you find ways of articulating that better and it all comes together, and for some people it will take longer.”

Towards the end of last term, he plucked up the courage to approach his guidance teacher to request that his teachers and peers addressed him as Jasper, rather than Emily, in class.

The school gave him their backing – but the months since then have not been easy.

Some classmates have insisted on still calling him Emily and using the pronoun “she”.

And he told how he faced a “terrifying” experience while travelling on a double-decker bus when a gang branded him “it”.

His tormentors even followed him upstairs as he tried to escape them – leaving him fearing he was going to be attacked.

He was so shaken by the incident that police are now trawling CCTV in an effort to identify the culprits.

Jasper said: “They were completely out of line. Being on public transport, making somebody uncomfortable and honestly a bit scared. You don’t expect to get harassed when you’re on the bus, in such a public space.

“When it does happen, it completely catches you off-guard.

“There were three of them, I don’t think anyone [other passengers] wanted to get involved.”

He decided to speak publicly about the experience as part of a new police awareness campaign focusing on hate crime in the hope it would give others suffering in the way he has the confidence to report it.

“When I reported it to the police they were wonderful, they were better than some of my friends,” Jasper said.

“I think people are worried that they won’t be understanding.

“You’re worried that they’re going to completely dismiss you, or not going to understand what it’s like. It’s actually worth it when you think about it.

“If you’re bullied all the time, it’s going to get to you. Then to have people coming to you and saying ‘get over it’, it makes you start thinking it’s insignificant, and you think that it’s your fault that it’s affecting you.

“It’s a horrible thing. It gets into a cycle when you can’t stop them, which is a very scary place to be.”

As Jasper looks ahead to his future, he says he is grateful to his school for making his transition as smooth as possible.

“My school have been amazing,” he said.

“They do things that seem little – like they let me wear my hoodie some days.

“People may think that seems a bit strange, but it can make a huge difference if you’re not feeling good about how you look physically.

“People don’t understand how horrendous it can feel some days when you’re transgender and your body isn’t what you want it to be.”

Jasper took a friend for moral support when he went to see his guidance teacher Michael Paley in June – and Mr Paley said that the school had welcomed Jasper and his new identity.

“It was very matter of fact. With Jasper sitting beside me, we composed a message that we could put out to staff,” he said.

“His friendship circle were supportive. This is just one dimension of Jasper’s life.”

But Jasper admitted that it can be tough when classmates call him by his former name – and he feels that this undermines his new identity.

He said: “[Some people] are like, ‘until you get your hair cut and until you’re an actual biological man, you’re not going to be a man and I’m not going to address you as one’. That’s extremely horrible.

“That might not be something you want or something you can have for some time, so knowing that they’re not going to acknowledge who you are or a huge part of your identity, for possibly a few years, is a bit horrendous.

“It’s just unpleasant. Some days you feel more confident in yourself anyway, some people have good days and bad days. If they catch you on a bad day it makes you feel 
rubbish.

“It kind of counteracts how you feel about people validating you. You get people who decidedly go by your old pronouns and your old name, that’s disrespectful.

“[If it was you] that would upset you – it would be completely dehumanising.

“For them to think it’s okay because you’re trans, you’re not actually a boy, you’re not actually a girl, is disgusting.

“Because you’re slightly different, people seem to think it’s a justification to know really personal things. It can completely destroy your mood and day.”

Jasper is receiving support from Nigel Chipps, a youth and community development officer at LGBT Youth Scotland, who has worked closely with the youngster.

Mr Chipps, pictured left, said: “It can be more insidious – the daily drip, drip of that negative stuff that’s being said can be worse than a punch.”

Jasper revealed that the support of the charity had been a cornerstone for him as he goes through his transition.

He said: “LGBT Youth Scotland has a group called ‘beyond gender’ that runs on Tuesdays – everyone there is lovely.

“It creates a very nice atmosphere and it creates a space for people to relax that otherwise they wouldn’t have and it’s wonderful.

“People there have the same problems.”

‘You are never too old to get rid of your prejudices’

Jasper’s brave interview marks the second week of Police Scotland’s month-long hate crime campaign.

Incidents of that nature are historically under-reported and can range from violent physical attacks to verbal abuse, criminal damage or even online bullying.

Each week of the campaign focuses on a different minority group – and from today, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community comes under the spotlight.

A total of 455 hate crimes were committed in city between April and July this year – 70 of which were targeted at people in the LGBT community.

The majority of victims were aged between 25 and 45, and trends show that a third of all hate-crime incidents involving female victims are associated with LGBT.

Officers hope that the campaign will lead to a spike in reports and an increased awareness about hate crime.

Constable Greig Stephen, who last week became the first LGBT liaison officer across the national force, said he wanted people to have more trust and confidence in the police.

Pc Stephen, pictured, has been worked closely with charities LGBT Youth and Stonewall in the past, and also carried out extensive community liaison work in local secondaries.

Basic education around these sensitive issues is also recommended for children of pre-school and primary age.

Pc Stephen said: “We live in a world where we should really respect each other. You are never too old to get rid of your prejudices. Education is key.”

More than 30 third-party reporting sites have been set up across the city to give victims an alternative way to report crimes if they feel uncomfortable going directly to police.

These range from faith centres to charities and community centres.

There is also a hate crime reporting form on the Police Scotland website, or victims can take the traditional route of dialling 101.

Nigel Chipps, youth and community development officer at LGBT Youth Scotland, said: “It is often the case that people are quite vulnerable and anxious about speaking to adults. They will come to us. It’s about making these relationships with adults you can trust. There might be challenges in the home environment or the community where they live. It’s about being inclusive.”

Edinburgh police boss Chief Superintendent Mark Williams said: “We have got a lot of diverse communities in Edinburgh, and the LGBT community is very much one of those. We want to encourage people from the community to have trust and confidence in us. We want them to know that we will listen and respond to any cases of incidents.”

He added: “Being different isn’t a crime but being victimised is.”

LGBT Youth Scotland, which has offices based in Leith, hosts a variety of groups and offers a range of support for young LGBT people aged between 12 and 26.

The charity is keen to help organisations ensure that LGBT people feel included, valued and supported and it awards a charter mark for those who have achieved that equality.

As part of this week’s events, a police surgery is being held at The Street at Picardy Place between noon and 2pm today.

Officers will be on hand to chat to anyone who wants to discuss LGBT issues and third-party reporting. People are invited to get involved in the campaign by following Police Scotland on Twitter and Facebook, using #HateCrime and #ReportIt.