Twenty-one-year-old Zahra Cooper was born biologically female. She began the process of transitioning to male, but less than a year later stopped and chose instead to revert back to her gender of birth.
Speaking to The New Zealand Herald’s Kirsty Johnson, she explains that being diagnosed with borderline Asperger’s syndrome helped her come to terms with her gender dysphoria. It also compelled her to put a stop to the transitioning process.
Zahra, born in Kaitaia, a town in the Far North District of New Zealand, first felt “different” at the age of 14. She despised her body. In the beginning, Zahra thought she was gay, but research on the internet led her to conclude that she felt trapped in the wrong body.
There are, according to the NHS, no physical symptoms of gender dysphoria, but people who suffer from it may experience feelings of “extreme distress” related to physical changes brought about by puberty, and in many cases a feeling of a “mismatch between biological sex and gender identity”.
At the age of 18, this led her to adopt the name ‘Zane’, and use male pronouns. The first doctor she saw with the intention of taking male hormones to formally start her transition, refused to discuss the issue with her. She began seeing a councillor, who referred her to a second GP. By the end of the year 2015, a psychiatrist diagnosed her with gender dysphoria, she met with an endocrinologist, and was prescribed testosterone.
She said: "I started getting really angry from the testosterone, which is a side effect. But then I started getting depressed. I was like, why am I depressed? I should be happy."
Zahra isn't the first person to experience this confusion. Actor and model Ruby Rose revealed to Access Hollywood that though she had decided on transitioning, and “changed the way [she] dressed and talked”, in the end she chose not to pursue it. She said: “I just wanted to be comfortable in my own skin”.
Zahra was growing facial hair, her voice became deep (an aspect of her transition that remains with her to this day) and she often struggled with anger.
Eight months later, her grandfather Victor Rakich – whom she had been living with at the time – found her after an attempted suicide.
She attempted to take her own life twice, and eventually saw another mental health specialist, who diagnosed her with a mild form of autism.
She said: "That's when everything clicked. And that's when I started doing some deep thinking."According to Stonewall, 48 per cent of Trans people under the age of 26 said they attempted suicide.
After some time, Zahra decided to stop taking testosterone, delete all photographic evidence of Zane and be a woman again. Her partner Tyson Kay, a transgender man who had begun seeing Zahra when she was in the midst of transitioning, supported her decision, although at first it did upset him.
"Being transgender you go through a lot of struggles to be who you are today, and then someone switches back and people think you're going to do that”. The duo have moved past it, and are currently living together.
If you would like to talk to someone about gender identity issues, you can call the Gender Trust on 01527 894 838.
If you are experiencing feelings of distress or are having thoughts of suicide, you can call the Samaritans helpline on 116 123.