Columnist for ELLE UK. Author at Headline Books. Performance artist. Face of The Body Shop Stand UP Stand OUT makeup campaign.
THE NEW GIRL: A TRANS GIRL TELLS IT LIKE IT IS
The transgender memoir you won’t stop hearing about. Rhyannon Styles will do for transgender what Matt Haig did for mental health. Elle columnist Rhyannon Styles tells her unforgettable life story in THE NEW GIRL, charting her incredible journey from male to female. A powerful book about being true to ourselves, for anyone who’s ever felt a little lost.
Imagine feeling lost in your own body. Imagine spending years living a lie, denying what makes you ‘you’. This was Ryan’s reality. He had to choose: die as a man or live as a woman.
In 2012, Ryan chose Rhyannon. At the age of thirty Rhyannon began her transition, taking the first steps on the long road to her true self, and the emotional, physical and psychological journey that would change her for ever. In a time when the world is finally waking up to transgender people, Rhyannon opens up to us, holding nothing back in this heartbreakingly honest telling of her life. Through her catastrophic lows and incredible highs, Rhyannon paints a picture of what it’s like to be transgender in glorious technicolor. From cabaret drag acts, brushes with celebrity and Parisian clown school and crippling depression, Rhyannon’s story is like nothing you’ve read before.
PRAISE FOR THE NEW GIRL
“I watched Rhyannon Styles begin as the most inspiring and heart-wrenching cocoon I ever saw and now she is a glorious butterfly”
“Love Rhyannon. Love this book. Everything you’ve ever wondered about transition, cocooned in an epic tale of fleeing suburbia and big city fabulousness”
“I loved this book – Rhyannon doesn’t just shine a light on this subject, she sets off a bloody fireworks display”
“I am changed for having read this – congratulations, Rhyannon, on a bold life that inspires and lifts – the world needed this truth”
Laura Jane Williams, author and blogger
“A story that will make you smile and sob in equal measure, and challenge everything you thought you knew about gender, sex, and fashion. Once read, never forgotten”
“A wonderful asset to our community”
Caroline Tula, Trans icon, model and Bond girl
“Proud to be holding this book … The best and worst of times in a wonderful memoir”
Lorraine Candy, Sunday Times
“Rhyannon is such a great ambassador for the trans community. She writes with such class while also keeping it super real. I’ve got a book coming out later this year and all I’m saying is I’m glad my book isn’t a memoir, because I’d hate to have to compete with this”
“Rhyannon Styles journey of transition is fraught with the unique issues of her generation. Honest and unflinching, she walks the tightrope of uncertainty with confidence in the unknowing. A modern Artemis in the queer wilderness, midwifing her own becoming”
Q & A’s
What are you most excited about now that The New Girl is almost out in the world?
I’m excited that people will be able to engage with the process of transitioning, and see how I navigated the world in a way that feels comfortable.
You’ve been photographed by David Bailey. What was this like?
Daunting, intimidating and exciting. I was completely naked and had just begun my transition, so I was very nervous about revealing my body. Before the shoot David came up to me, lifted up my fringe and slapped me on the forehead, saying ‘Tell me one successful woman that has a fringe?’ I immediately grew it out. I think it was his way of defusing the situation – it definitely changed the atmosphere!
It’s incredibly brave to share your life story in The New Girl, especially given how deeply personal it is. What were you most nervous about while writing it?
I was very nervous about sharing information around my physical body, especially knowing my family are going to read it!
You are very honest in The New Girl – is there anything you had to think twice about sharing?
Definitely. I had to carefully consider what stories to include when it came to my substance abuse. It’s not a period of my life I’m proud of and it was painful to relieve those memories.
You’re Elle magazine’s transgender columnist. Did you find the process of writing a book very different from your journalism?
It was harder than I imagined, and it took some dedication to get up each morning and write – especially when sharing the juicy, embarrassing stories.
While you were writing The New Girl, did you turn to any other books for inspiration?
I referred to Viv Albertine’s Clothes, Clothes, Clothes, Music, Music, Music, Boys, Boys, Boys and Take It Like a Man by Boy George. I appreciated the level of honesty they brought to their stories and that encouraged me to share my truths.
Would you say there is a strong feminist message to The New Girl?
In the sense that every woman matters, definitely.
What’s the one thing you want readers to take away from your memoir?
I can only narrow it down to three things: self-love, self-respect and self-acceptance. Yes, I’m selfish but aren’t we all?!
Who are your role models?
Anyone who breaks the rules, lives beyond the binary, and stands out!
What’s the nicest response you’ve ever had to your Elle column?
Recently a trans woman from Nottingham reached out to me on Facebook. She said my column and my story was ‘inspirational’. I was so happy The New Girl had reached her.
You’re a performance artist, a musician and a writer. Which art is your favourite?
Right now I’m enjoying writing – it’s a new skill I’m enjoying refining. Without any art, I’d be completely lost.
How big a part does appearance play in trans identities?
For me, it’s incredibly important. I use my appearance and female presentation as a way of saying to the world ‘I’m female’.
How did you find vlogging for Elle magazine?
I loved it. It felt like a great way of bringing my columns to life, using a different medium to share my story. One of the videos has notched up over 90,000 views!
Trans has now gone mainstream. How much further do we have to go?
There is much further to go to reduce the stigma and death rates of trans people. We’re getting there, and The New Girl will definitely help with that. But we’re not there yet!
EXTRACTS FROM ‘THE NEW GIRL’
Letter to a Lost Boy:
I want to write you a letter to reassure you that everything will be OK. Let me tell you that once you come into alignment and embrace who you truly are, you will never look back. At times, this journey will be difficult and you will want to escape it any way you can – but you must not give up. You will need to summon all the strength you can find to accept who you really are and live your life. Your transformation will require an endless supply of determination, willpower and patience. You are going to need courage, more courage than you can ever imagine. You will face obstacles and challenges that will shake you to your core. Don’t be afraid of who you are, don’t let fear suffocate you forever. My dear friend, don’t let these trivial circumstances get in your way. You should take comfort in knowing that all this pain will be temporary. You have the potential to be so much more than what you are right now. Amidst the confusion and the turmoil, you will need to find clarity, composure and grace to move towards a greater and higher place of being. By doing so you will grow in more ways than you can ever imagine and life will be delicious. Focus on what you want and keep moving towards it. You will succeed.
Whenever you’re ready, I will be here for you.
I love you.
Letter to my Future Self:
For many years I have thought about who you are and how you will appear. I have wondered where you are and how I am going to find you. I have sculpted you in my mind and in my performances, hoping that this momentary realisation would last forever. I’m sorry that I often dismissed you and tried to escape you in every way possible. I sought shelter, safety and salvation in the wrong places. I wanted to deny your existence because I was scared of the truth. I continually pushed you further away and convinced myself you weren’t real. I don’t want to live in shame or denial any longer. I’ve reached the point where living as Ryan makes no sense any more, no matter how hard I try. I can’t pretend any more. It has taken me thirty years to accept this truth, but now I am ready, I am ready to transition. Rhyannon, my dear companion, now is your time. I hope I have served you well.
I don’t think of myself as someone who is between two opposites, because I don’t regard my male and female ‘genders’ at opposite ends of a spectrum. It’s the end of 2016 as I write this and I’m throwing out the labels, the assumptions and the rulebook. I won’t let anyone else reduce my gender to either female or male; my identity is an energy that is unique to me. I feel that as my transition has progressed, my male and female self have actually become one. Ryan and Rhyannon have become one. However this is labelled, and regardless of how uncomfortable this might be for others, I see it as a spiral of two equal parts circling around a central point of love and acceptance. For now, I want to continue my transitioning journey to the undefined space that exists beyond my vision.
My childhood wasn’t like everyone else’s, unless you are trans too, in which case you will probably relate to nearly everything. But for everyone else, this is what it is like growing up and not knowing who you are or the person you want to be – I often switched between the roles of girl and boy in my head, unsure which one felt more secure. These memories are tough and painful to recollect. I dodged flying potatoes and collected butterflies as I tried to navigate and understand my gender, and find a place where I felt comfortable. Quite often the only place of comfort was to be found in my own head. Within this safe space I indulged in fantasy. The only escape from the reality of my life. The voice in my head told me one thing and then society told me another. I was constantly watching over my shoulder and lived in fear.
My name is Rhyannon Styles and I identify as a transgender woman. For those of you who don’t know, trans, transgender and transsexual means identifying as a different gender than your assigned sex at birth. In many cases, some trans people don’t identify or conform to a particular gender at all. (High five!) Are you with me? Let’s start at the beginning. When I was born, I was assigned ‘male’ because of my anatomy. Then, it was presumed my gender would follow suit. Growing up, the labels of ‘male/boy/man’ didn’t always feel accurate. Yes, I had a penis, but did my body have to dictate how I lived my life? I didn’t think so. In 2012, I’d had enough of pretending and started living. I changed roles to become the person I’d always wanted to be and I let Rhyannon enjoy the limelight at last. It was a decision that had taken years to understand and the consequences were massive! Today I use the terms ‘girl’, ‘she’ and ‘her’ to define who I am. I proudly use these words to clarify my identity.