Ben Hodge, a 20-year-old university student in the United Kingdom, always knew he was different. “I wasn’t comfortable being a girl, so I would spend a lot of time in front of the mirror just wondering what was wrong with me? Why am I not happy,” he said.
Hodge is a transgender man and spoke of his transition to the Liverpool Echo. He said he only felt comfortable beginning his transition when he started attending Carmel College, a Catholic school in St. Helens, England.
In the U.K., “college” refers to the two years of study between high school and university. And unlike many Catholic schools, Hodge says the way the staff and faculty of Carmel College handled his transition was “brilliant” and he “never faced any issues.”
Hodge’s journey started at the age of 14 when he came out as non-binary. However, he says by the time he got to the college level (around 16 in the U.K.) he felt differently:
“When I left high school and went to a different college, I saw it as a fresh start and was ready to come out. I realised I’m a lot more masculine and identified more as a male than I did as non-binary. In my new college I came out as a trans man and changed my name to Ben and asked people to start referring to me as ‘he’ instead of ‘they/them’ pronouns.”
Hodges continues to describe how he was affirmed in his identity by the staff of Carmel, including the Chaplaincy:
“Our Chaplain was very supportive and allowed the LGBT group to meet in the Chaplaincy and was happy for me when different things happened with my transition.”
Pink News underlined how important the support for family, friends, teachers, and mentors is to a transgender youth’s development and safety:
“Consistently using the correct name and pronouns for trans people can reduce their rates of anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts to almost the same levels as their cisgender counterparts.”
Indeed, Hodge’s parents continue to be supportive. He said although it took some time for his family to adjust, they accepted him, his mother even offering to help him with the £8,000 (about $9,267) cost of top surgery, which involves removing breast tissue in order to make him look more male. Hodge, who has wanted top surgery since the age of 15, was thrilled:
“Two days after I had my surgery, the day before I was going to get discharged, I just looked at my mum and said ‘I can live my life’ and I just cried. Because for six years I was just waiting for the next step. I’m not waiting for a next step anymore.”
Hodge is now a student at Salford University, the first in his family to go for higher education. He is focusing on media studies, and created a short film about his first year on testosterone.
Ben Hodge is an example of how a young LGBTQ person can thrive if they receive adequate medical care and emotional support from family and educators. It is important to see a Catholic institution support a student going through such an intense personal journey, no matter the official stance of the Church. Other Catholic schools can learn from their example.
—Melissa Feito, New Ways Ministry, March 21, 2020