Lewis Hancox, a 24-year-old Digital Film and Video student tells Matt Peake about what it was like to appear in Channel 4’s ‘My Transsexual Summer’, his plans for the future and about the love of his life, Sophie.
Can you explain the process of how Channel 4 initially approached you?
I made video blogs on YouTube ever since I first started my transition to see how I changed. Twenty Twenty, the production company, found me on YouTube and emailed saying ‘we found your videos and we think you’d be good for this programme. Can we give you a call?’ They came round to film an audition tape then rung me up saying we’d like you to be part of the show.
During the show you lived in a house with all the other Trans people? How was it meeting everyone?
Yes, it was a big massive house in Bedford and we stayed there every other weekend during the summer. That was really fun. I’d never met anyone else transgender before and I was really excited to meet other people in my position and really nervous because I knew cameras were going to be on us. Straight away me and Drew just clicked because I think she’s my age and she’s a northerner and we just had loads in common. That would have never happened if it wasn’t for the show.
I find it interesting that the representation of trans people in the show was so varied from people only weeks into their transition and others who were years into theirs.
Yes, we were all at different stages in our transition. At the time I hadn’t had my chest surgery. The show helped me raise the money as St. Helen’s wouldn’t fund the chest surgery saying it wasn’t part of the gender reassignment process, which is ridiculous. Within the time that the show was filmed people really transformed.
Obviously having the support for the chest surgery funding. What was the general reaction from the public?
I was a bit worried and almost dropped out of the show at the last minute because I didn’t want to reveal to everyone that I was transgender. I felt it was something to be ashamed of and I was embarrassed by it but I literally didn’t get a single negative reaction.
The most unlikely people in St. Helen’s, like the chavs, were shouting at me saying ‘oh, it’s that guy off the telly! Well done!’. In terms of transitioning, some people don’t even want to be classed as male or female and would rather be called ‘genderqueer’. Personally, I just see that being transgender for me is a medical thing. I feel like I’m just a guy that happens to be born a bit differently. It doesn’t not make me feel ashamed or embarrassed because I don’t mind telling people I was born a bit different. It’s a condition that I have or had. I have to put it behind me and I’m just me.
You said you’re still in contact with Drew and Fox but have you met the others since the show?
After the show came out we did a UK club tour. We got to be in the VIP sections and basically live the high life for a year. So that was amazing. I now live down south and am moving to Brighton in April with my girlfriend. Sarah lives in Brighton so I’ll probably see her a lot more.
You met your girlfriend after the tour didn’t you?
Yes, basically it worked out quite well. Sophie saw the show and messaged me on Facebook saying ‘Congratulations on getting the money for your surgery!’ or something along those lines. I messaged her back and checked out her pictures because I thought she was hot. I never actually thought that I would meet someone online but we just got on straightaway. We live in Buckinghamshire now. Everything just flowed really “I feel like I’m just a guy that happens to be born a bit differently. It doesn’t not make me feel ashamed or embarrassed because I don’t mind telling people I was born a bit different” naturally.
What are you up to at the moment?
I’m studying Digital Film and Video. It’s the one time when I’m actually doing well at Uni because I’ve dropped out of other Uni’s in the past. I’ve also been doing loads of work on the side with Fox so I’m building up a really big portfolio.
How was it coming out to your parents?
I told my mum first and she completely understood because when I was a kid I used to say that I was a boy all the time so I don’t think it was really a shock for her. She was still concerned but only because she thought that I would have a hard life. We both didn’t know anything about it so we did research and watched shows about it. We were both learning together.
My dad was the one who was a little bit weird about things. When I told him, it was like the news had just been sprung on him. I think he felt that I should have discussed it with him, rather than saying ‘I am going to transition’. Maybe he felt that he wanted to be a part of that decision. I think the real issue was that we didn’t see each other enough. On ‘My Transsexual Summer’, they wanted me and my dad to talk and we became closer, with him beginning to accept it. He’s completely cool with it now. He wanted me and Drew to get married at one point. I actually came out as liking girls before coming out as Trans so I suppose that I’ve sort of had two coming outs.
So what is your ultimate ambition?
I really want to write a comedy drama based on my life about being Trans with me as the person going through college having to experience that but making light of it and turning it into comedy.
How do you feel about the representation of transsexuals in the media?
I think that slowly it’s getting better but what I’d like to see is more Trans people in the media, but not about them being Trans. For example, if I’m a filmmaker, I want to be known as the filmmaker who happens to be trans. I think that would help people recognise that we’re all normal, and that we’ve all got ambitions, hopes and dreams. There is still prejudice and it needs to be tackled directly. Also there are not many Trans men in the media. I know that there are a lot of people that don’t think Trans guys exist, like my girlfriend thought, before she watched ‘My Transsexual Summer’, that a Transgendered person was a man changing into a woman, she didn’t realise that it could be the other way round.
How do you feel about the gay media’s representation of transsexuals?
I think in the media that there is too much focus on surgery and things like that and it’s good to educate people but it’s not good if someone were to ask someone if they’ve had surgery or not, to just be nosey. It’s not like people who aren’t Trans are going around ask others what their bits are like. Why should that matter?
How do you feel about the representation of the Trans community within the supposedly ‘LGBT’ organisations?
There is the debate that the T shouldn’t be with the LGBT because LGB refers to sexuality and transgender isn’t sexuality. I’ve never been involved or been to an LGBT group for support because I’ve never needed it. I tell a lie, in fact I’ve been to an LGBT group once when I was at Salford Uni and everyone just assumed I was a gay guy when I was there. I think there’s still work to be done with people realising that LGBT isn’t just about being gay. I’ve never felt the need to be part of that though as I don’t see myself as any different. I’m a straight guy and I don’t feel the need to go to LGBT groups.
Could you explain more about the surgery that you’ve had?
Well before the surgery, you have to have had your name changed and have been living a whole year as the new gender. It sounds weird to say as I’ve been living my whole life as this gender, except for that time in high school, as a guy. I then got on the hormones for a few years before I had the chest surgery because I had to raise the money myself. I applied for the lower surgery and everything was straight forward and within a few weeks they said did I want to come in for my first stage. There are two different types of surgery. There’s the phalloplasty, which was featured in the show with the guy who had the skin graft from his arm, but I’ve gone with a different type of surgery called the metoidioplasty.
This interview is from our Feb 2014 Issue – available from iTunes and Android.