- Jenny Sheanon spent most of her life hiding her trans identity – now she helps others who want to be themselves and achieve their goals.
When I was born in the 60s, being gay and in a relationship with someone of the same sex was illegal.
Even when England decriminalized homosexuality, social acceptance was still a long way off. Meanwhile, transgender understanding and acceptance were even further away.
I grew up in the era when boys were meant to act in a certain way. That meant playing out on the streets and only being home for dinner.
This created a rough and tumble world for little boys. And if the other boys perceived you to be different there was every chance they would give you a kicking.
So I very quickly became streetwise, learning how to do the act and blend into the background. Throughout my school years, I outwardly acted as boys were meant to act. But inwardly I felt so different, unhappy and confused.
This continued into adulthood. I discovered the London gay scene and began to indulge in it. However, I kept this side of my life a total secret. I also found ways to indulge in my female side without anyone else’s knowledge.
However, I was petrified of ever being found out. I would go back home still doing the same act. To the outside world I was 100% male and straight. And I thought this was how my life was going to be.
Coming out as trans
At this time I met a woman, we married at the age of 23 and, together, had three children.
I thoroughly enjoyed watching my children grow up and don’t regret this part of my life in the slightest.
I accepted that I was unusual, but life wasn’t perfect for most people. My sexuality and yearning to be female was going to be my secret that was going to go to the grave with me.
What really changed my life was the internet. It opened up a new world to me. Finally I discovered there were other people like me. I wasn’t quite as unusual as I thought I was.
My marriage broke up and so did a subsequent relationship. That made me really sit down and think about what I needed to do to make myself happy.
From that came the realisation that I could no longer do the male act. I could no longer keep suppressing my desire to be female. It was from this point that I was able to release my shackles and become a more confident and happy person.
Specialist financial advice for LGBT+ people
I found my career as a financial adviser by chance. I had worked in IT, programming and software engineering for most of my career. When an unexpected redundancy came along I took a job (as a stopgap) delivering mail for Royal Mail and just loved working in a stress-free atmosphere; so much so it became my permanent job.
However, coming out as transgender in a laddish, ‘football banter’ environment just wasn’t feasible.
That’s when I discovered wealth management firm St James’s Place. Initially I applied for an admin job in Bristol. But one of the senior people encouraged me to apply to St James’s Place Academy to train as an advisor.
This opened up a new world for me. I’ve been able to build a specialist practice supporting LGBT+ people – in particular the transgender community.
This has allowed me to build a specialist practice supporting the LGBT and in particular the transgender community.
Yes, things have improved greatly for LGBT+ people in the UK.
Even trans people enjoy more acceptance than we used to – although we still some way behind gay and lesbian people, let alone everyone else. Indeed, parts of social media can be quite alarmingly toxic at times.
But despite our progress, people in our community will always have particular needs.
And, as one of the very few transgender financial advisers in the UK, I am better placed to understand those needs.
I know what it’s like to have to come out and that not all LGBT+ people’s lives have followed a simple path. Certainly, nobody who comes to see me needs to worry about ‘what does this adviser really think about me?’
That breaks down a big barrier when you are helping people achieve their significant life goals.
Understanding trans people’s unique financial needs
Moreover, the trans community very often have specific financial issues.
Our co-workers don’t always accept us, and that can make transitioning stressful. In Britain, we are lucky to have legal protection but the reality of gaining acceptance in the workplace can take a long time. Many feel they can’t stay in the same job after transition.
At the same time, more and more trans people are having to access the private sector to aid transitioning.
Waiting times to access NHS transgender services run into years and continue to grow. For example, the Exeter Clinic has a waiting time of over five years before treatment commences.
But, of course, getting private care costs money.
Those trans people who have gender reaffirming surgery need a minimum of three months off work.
So they have to plan if they have enough capital to survive three months without an income. Will their employer support them? Similarly, if they are self-employed or run a business, can they and the business survive?
Meanwhile, many marriages break down when one of the couple comes out as trans. Divorce very often has significant financial implications. And it requires further planning, such as retirement planning.
Likewise, trans people often move house when they’ve transitioned so they can start their lives afresh. Again, that can be costly and requires planning.
And those are just the start of the things trans people may need to plan. So it’s hardly surprising most financial advisers would struggle to understand. But as I’ve gone through this journey, I can help others with theirs – and am passionate about doing so.
Jenny is part of LGBT+ specialists Equality Wealth which works exclusively with St James’s Place. If you’d like to talk to Jenny or register for a webinar on issues facing the transgender community contact us here.
Equality Wealth is a GSN client.