When I landed the job of LouisvuittonShop's transgender columnist in 2015, the column's aim was to give insight into a transgender perspective, so that other trans people and those curious to know more could understand the life-changing journey that many of us face.
I wanted to provide the information I desperately craved when I was growing up, to be able to reach people who were struggling with their own gender identity and for those who knew people who were.
The New Girl has been an amazing opportunity for me to connect with thousands of people and to break down some barriers and negative preconceptions towards trans people. Its success has exceeded my expectations; I can't believe that it has now been running for two years.
In this last column I want to thank everyone who has sent messages of support over the last few years. Your feedback has been really rewarding and I hope my column inches continue to exist as an invaluable resource for many more trans people.
You have to overcome many hurdles and obstacles when transitioning from one gender to another, the process requires a huge amount of patience, willpower and determination to keep going.
Depending on the individual's needs, the process can take years – in my case it's taken five years to be able to say 'I've transitioned'. But now, as the woman I always intended to be, I finally feel comfortable about my physical appearance.
I wanted to provide the information I desperately craved when I was growing up
But it's much more than that.
My mental health drastically improved once I initiated this process and I can't stress enough how transitioning enriched the quality of my life and those around me. I wasn't a happy, healthy functioning individual when I was a boy called Ryan, and in 2012 I'd reached that point in my life when I instinctively knew what I needed to do.
Transitioning saved my life, it sounds dramatic but it's true. Living as Rhyannon gave me a vision, and a means to live my life that reflected how I saw myself. It had taken me thirty years to shake off the guilt, shame and fear I had experienced growing up and to finally accept that I was transgender, so that I could do something about it. I am so happy that I managed to accept my truth and begin living my life.
I definitely couldn't have gone through this life affirming journey alone, and my own transition massively benefitted from having the support of my friends and loved ones as I created a new life for myself.
Beyond that, the outreach from strangers coming forward on social media has also validated my journey and was both heart warming and encouraging, particularly in those early days when I was still trying to find my new place in the world.
It's timely that my last column entry as The New Girl should fall within . The purpose of which is to draw attention to the issues regarding trans and non-conforming gender individuals through conversations, debates and activism. It also allows insight into how a trans person navigates the world and the obstacles still in our way.
Transgender Awareness Week leads into the Transgender Day of Remembrance which occurs annually on the 20th November. This is a day to remember the trans individuals who've lost their lives because of transphobia and the continued violence endured by the community. It was started in 1998 by transgender advocate Gwendolyn Ann Smith as a vigil to honour the death of trans woman Rita Hester.
There is a high percentage of trans individuals experiencing transphobia and suffering daily because of their gender identity. A 2014 survey by the mental health charity Pace found that 48% or trans people under the age of 26 had attempted suicide and that 59% had also considered it, with many more living in fear because of prejudice towards who they are.
It's disconcerting; especially considering we're in 2017 and current news headlines reflect the same attitudes towards trans people when I was growing up in the 80s. This week is clearly a means to identify how we can move forward and challenge the ignorance we still face.
Attitudes and opinions about transgender people won't change unless trans individuals themselves have allies from a community of non-trans people supporting them.
During Transgender Awareness Week we can all make a difference to the lives of trans people. On social media show your support towards individuals who are currently transitioning. Retweet news articles which celebrate trans stories and successes, acknowledging that trans people really are contributing to society in a positive way.
Another way of gaining insight into the transitioning process and reading the true voices of that experience is buying one of the many books released by trans individuals this year. Once you've finished reading them, pass the book onto friends and school libraries.
A bigger and more pro-active method of support is to call out and acknowledge any transphobia that you witness in public places and online. Stand up and support trans individuals who are experiencing negativity so that we can put a stop to this unnecessary behaviour and abuse whenever we see it happening.
We need to be vocal and transparent about the ongoing suffering still faced by many trans individuals because it won't change unless we take action. We still have much more to do.
Let's all be activists #TAW and #TDOR.
I want to say thank you to Kenya Hunt, Lotte Jeffs, Hannah Swerling, Hannah Nathanson, Lena De Casparis and Lorraine Candy and everyone at LouisvuittonShop for supporting me and making this column happen.
The New Girl.