Like many transgender people, Richard's journey to self-acceptance was anything but easy. Today, and for the past 3 years, he is dedicated to his YouTube channel, ‘Richard Thunder’, in helping others understand what it means to be transgender.
You started an association for transgender people, correct?
Yes, I started ‘Azzione Trans’, which means ‘trans action’, when I was 20 years old. I wanted to have a place to go for transgender people because we didn’t have one when i was smaller and we didn’t have other LGBT associations that truly represented transgender people. I believed we had the right to one, to have our own, and be represented. We deserved a place of our own to talk about these subjects.
Did you always feel like you were transgender?
Being transgender is when your gender identity doesn’t match the one you were assigned at birth. It’s a gender dysphoria, a body dysphoria. I always knew something wasn’t right, probably from kindergarten, but I didn’t know how to explain it.
When I was in the first year of elementary school, our teacher asked us what we wanted to do when we were older, and I told her “il politizioto” (male version of a police officer). But she told me that I could only be a ‘poliziota’, which is a female police officer. I got angry at her and told her if I couldn’t be a ‘polizioto’, I wouldn’t do that job. I didn’t know about it because… I don’t know. They don’t talk to you about transgender people, in cartoons.
How did you feel growing up?
I was always the angry kid that didn’t want to be with anyone. I only watched Pokemon, Manga, and other animes. I just had 3 people I could speak to. I only wore jumpers, even in August, to hide my chest, so that was strange. And I stopped going to the gym or even to the sea, when I started puberty.
But I didn’t know how to explain everything, I didn’t know if it was even possible to transition. I always thought that if I had to ask a genie for 3 wishes I would have asked to become a guy.
How did you find out about being transgender?
I discovered what transgender was when I was 14 years old, when I had my first laptop and had access to Internet, and I started Googling stuff. As soon as I discovered what transgender was I knew that that was the term I was looking for.
I told my Mom when I was 16, even though I started telling her from elementary school that I wanted to be a boy, but she never listened to me. She thought it was just a phase. And she got angry - she hated me till now. She started calling me ‘Richard’ only last November, and I was already 2 years and a half on testosterone, with a beard and everything. She starting accepting me for being a transgender guy when I brought my girlfriend home last November.
I told my Dad when I was, maybe 19. He lives in Panama. He didn’t reject me but rather, he helped me financially. He payed for my psychologist and everything else, but aside from money, he didn’t offer much support.
You have your own YouTube channel, ‘Richard Thunder’, to help other transgender people. Talk to us about that.
I started YouTube when I was 2 months under testosterone, in June 2015, and I mostly did it because I had a friend who had her YouTube channel to talk about LGBT issues. She made me realize I could help so many people doing it. When I was transitioning, I watched a lot of YouTube videos about transgenders, and it really helped me. I wanted to give back to the community what they had given me growing up. Also, living in Italy and being Italian, we don’t have much information in Italian - everything is in English. So I wanted all Italians who need it to understand what I was saying.
My girlfriend was one of my subscribers. She wrote to me on Facebook, and we started hanging out. At the beginning i didn’t respond every time, because I was going through top surgery and I didn’t want to talk to people. But afterwards I agreed to meet her, and we started going out.
Talk to us about the feedback you’ve been getting from your YouTube videos.
A lot of people write to me, to congratulate me, to thank me, or simply for help. They ask me for guidance, what they should or should not do. Some say that watching me was a way to feel more accepted for them, and that they were going to continue doing so because it gives them a lot of strength.
What advice would you give to trans children?
I would tell transgender people that are younger than me that they should talk to their parents if they think their parents can accept it, or their doctor to see if he/she can refer them to a psychologist. They should get informed as to what it means, what they should do and how to do it.
What would you say to your younger self?
I would say to my younger me that life definitely gets better and that even if my parents weren’t accepting, I would still transition. That I’m going to be surrounded by friends and no one is going to go away.