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Diversity, Equality and Inclusion

Ash Palmisciano: Being Trans in Britain Today

Last year, Emmerdale star and ITV Pride member, Ash Palmisciano shared his personal view of what it’s like to be trans in Britain today.  Ash’s story is so inspiring and we are excited to be sharing it with you again today.

Ash Palmisciano has played Matty Barton,  Emmerdale’s first transgender character - since June 2018. We’re also proud to say Ash is an incredibly supportive member of ITV Pride and all the network does.

I’m Ash. I'm an actor, an uncle, I love a Chinese takeaway and just so happen to be a trans man. Basically, I'm your regular kind of guy who just took the scenic route to get here. Becoming my authentic self, gave me the confidence and headspace to pursue what I really wanted to do with my life. In 2018 I was lucky enough to land the part of Matty Barton, the first ever trans character in Emmerdale.  

Growing up was all a bit confusing but one thing I knew for sure was that I wanted to become an actor. I grew up in a small town in the midlands called Leamington Spa, where there weren't a lot of job opportunities for actors, especially those from working class backgrounds. After a disappointing knock back from my Careers Adviser who told me, “it’s unrealistic to become an actor” and after a few failed drama school auditions, I started to give up hope. I was also secretly struggling with the fact that I wasn't really being myself in my everyday life. From a young age I knew I was different, I just didn’t know what that difference was because there was nothing out there about being transgender.

Growing up I’d come to the conclusion that I might be transgender, but the fear of telling anyone had become so huge that it didn’t seem like a possibility. So I kept it to myself and carried on playing the part of a girl, as I didn’t want to be different or seen as a weirdo. Although, as discovered, keeping things hidden will always find a way to rise to the surface and in 2012 I had no choice but to open up to my family.

I grew up in a lovely family, who had fun Christmases, nice summer holidays and I was always surrounded by love but to say this news came as a bit of a shock is an understatement. We didn’t know anything about what it meant it to be transgender. My parents were confused, scared for my future and unsure how to support me. It wasn’t easy by any means but we stuck together as a family through love, and all ventured into the unknown together.   

After taking the steps to become myself and a lot of awkward and uncomfortable moments, I finally had the headspace to get back on track with my life. I decided to head back to acting, joining a summer acting school for trans people led by the fantastic charity Gendered Intelligence at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama.

Full of confidence I threw myself into auditions, theatre jobs, part time work, and unfortunately being a short, cheeky chappy meant I’d always land the role of an elf at Christmas. 

There were lots of failures but I didn't want to give up. I was determined to prove that being transgender wasn’t going to stop me pursuing my original dreams and creating a nice life. Through a twist of fate and just as I was contemplating applying for a factory job, Emmerdale invited me to a workshop. I helped advise them on possible ideas for a trans character and was lucky enough to grab an audition. A few stages and a screen test later I was given the part of Matty Barton. I’ve accidentally become the person I very much needed to see when I was younger. 

I was lucky enough to come from a very supportive family, although that isn’t always the case for many unfortunately, and there are currently many struggles for trans people right now. 

Playing this part in the mainstream has been incredible. From the thank you letters from young trans people and their parents, to the questions from people on the street wanting to learn more. Seeing positive representation gives young trans people some hope, that they can grow up and be accepted just like everyone else and that they aren’t alone. 

This difficult time has taught me that there is plenty more that needs to be done right now. We can make huge changes if we continue to learn, support and spread LGBT+ positivity online. We all have our beautiful differences but now we really need to stand together against discrimination more than ever.

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