Laylah Beattie, formerly known as David Beattie is an author of two books, Just Saying and Who Cares? Both memoirs document her world view and her gender transition. Laylah has modeled for numerous brands and has worked as an activist for the LGBT community. She has appeared on the Late Late Show and most recently was the first transgender person to appear on First Dates, Ireland. I catch up with this inspirational lady to see what makes her tick.
What is your inspiration in life?
I’ve done a lot of escaping in my lifetime. Escaping into books or television or magazines. I had a lot of time before my transition to think about the kind of person I want to be and I think I formed ideas about that through the different characters that I was interacting with during my escapism. I’ve always been a big fan of storytelling and it is my main form of inspiration.
Where does your inspiration for your writing come from?
I’m inspired by many things. But my main inspiration, as strange as it may sound, is adversity. I’m at an age where myself and many of the people around me are really struggling and that definitely inspires me to work hard and try to do meaningful things with my life. I think if you’re not happy with the world your living in, then it’s your responsibility to do your bit to change it.
What age were you when you realized you were in the wrong body?
I seemed to know that I should have been a girl from the moment I was born. My earliest memories are of me going to bed and begging with some higher power to let me wake up as a female the next morning. I used to worry that my family wouldn’t recognize me if I came downstairs with long hair but I thought they wouldn’t be that surprised that my being a boy had been a mistake and they’d love me anyway.
How has the transition been so far?
My medical transition has been tough. It’s been really tough. Don’t get me wrong, it’s definitely what I was supposed to do and every month I feel more like myself but going through hormone therapy has really affected my mental health. I’ve suffered from depression and anorexia for years but adjusting to the hormones really brought these issues to the forefront. So much so that I ended up an inpatient in a psychiatric hospital for months.
There would be no other option for me than to transition. I’m so sure that it’s what I’m meant to do.
You were the first transgender person to appear on First Dates, How was that?
Being the first transgender dater in the First Dates restaurant was somewhat nerve-racking, but I thought “why not?” I do a lot of dating in my personal life and I’ve always enjoyed First Dates so I chanced my arm. They were incredibly accommodating and so sensitive towards my needs. They really worked with me and we were on the same page about how we wanted my story to be portrayed. I was delighted with the experience. I don’t think I’ll be seeing the guy again. Although we enjoyed the date, we just weren’t a good match and I think we both knew that.
Do you feel that you have a responsibility to raise awareness for the LGBT community?
The only responsibility I feel is to tell my story in an open and honest way. I try not to get too caught up with how it will be received once I put it out there. But I definitely recognize that telling my story is in turn paving the way for other transgender people to feel more comfortable in themselves and I feel very satisfied about that.
If you could give any advice to yourself, what would it be?
I don’t think I’d give myself any advice about the process.
The negative parts about my medical transition were nothing I could have prepared myself for and the positive parts have been everything I hoped for.
What does it feel like to finish a book?
When I’m sitting with a finished book in my hands, it’s one of the best feelings. I always feel surprised that I had so much to say that it filled a whole book, but telling my story is my favourite thing to do and knowing that there are books out there with all of my thoughts written down in them brings me comfort.
What advice would you have for writers starting out?
Leave your ego at the door. Maybe that’s a very cynical thing to say but I think we often act like our writing is our identity. When people criticize our writing, it often feels like they’re criticizing us.
There are always going to be people who don’t like the way you express yourself and the sooner you accept that, the better.
What are your plans for the future?
I’m still recovering from my nervous breakdown last year so it’s hard for me to think about the future. My hope is that I continue to express myself and tell my story in the same ways that I have been. Representing my own life through my writing and videos has been the main thing that’s kept me grounded this far and I hope I continue to get satisfaction from those things.
What words do you live by?
Follow your instincts. I know it sounds like a simple thing to do but it’s actually incredibly hard to trust yourself enough to be completely lead by your own intuition.