Staff and students at Franklin College enjoyed a guest lecture celebrating the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) community from popular TV and Radio presenter and transgender icon, Stephanie Hirst.
The event took place on Friday 17th February 2017 at Franklin College and aimed to highlight the importance of accepting ourselves and others. It’s safe to say that Stephanie should know more about the importance of self-acceptance, than most. For more than three decades, Stephanie lived her life as Steven, a successful radio personality, whose passion for radio served as an outlet for the confusion she felt living in a body which didn’t reflect her true gender identity.
In 2014, Stephanie, who is best known for hosting ‘Hirsty’s Daily Dose’ on Galaxy, and later on Capital, announced that she was in the process of gender transitioning. She said: “I’d known since being as young as four or five that I was different. As a child I would find myself in my mum’s wardrobe wearing her clothes and trying on her make-up, I don’t even remember the journey from my bedroom to my parent’s room and back. I tried my hardest to do the things that boys were supposed to do and enjoy, but it just wasn’t me”.
Above: Stephanie and students at Franklin College’s Pride event.
At her lowest ebb, Stephanie described how she reached a point in her life where she felt as though her only two options were “transition or death”. Speaking about the fear she felt when it came to taking the leap and deciding to transition she said: “I was absolutely terrified. I was scared about how my friends and family would react, and the impact it would have on my career and everything that I had worked for”.
Luckily for Stephanie, her friends, family and radio listeners were very supportive and the response she received from the public was overwhelmingly positive. Last year she was awarded an honorary Doctorate from Leeds Beckett University and included in the Rainbow List 2014 – an annual celebration of the 101 lesbian, bisexual, gay, and transgender people in the UK who make a real difference.
“Some people find it difficult to understand, but for me, transitioning from a man to a woman was not a lifestyle choice, I had to do it. Sometimes it can end tragically for people and I was determined to not let that happen to me. The best way I can describe it is, before, my life was in black and white but now everything is in colour”.
Ultimately, Stephanie hopes to encourage people to celebrate their differences and not be afraid to be themselves. She said: “We want to encourage people to speak out. People might feel different but that’s fine, it’s good to be different. Difference should be celebrated. We are who we are and we all need to embrace and accept one another for who each other is.”
The event was organised by Sian Pett who works for the college’s student services, and runs an LGBT group at the college. She explained: “As far as I know, there are no other LGBT communities for under 18s in North East Lincolnshire. We meet up weekly as a group and aim to make Franklin College a safe place for students.