Bel Priestley has opened up about her coming out story with hopes of inspiring other trans youth.
Since 2019, the young trans talent has cultivated a passionate fanbase on social media due to her candid and lighthearted videos about her gender identity, beauty and fashion.
In August 2023, Priestley gained more recognition when she made her acting debut as Naomi on Netflix’s wholesome coming-of-age dramedy Heartstopper.
While her star continues to rise within the industry, it hasn’t always been the easiest ride for the emerging star.
In a recent op-ed for the BBC, Priestley opened up about her coming out experience and the bullying she endured growing up.
“When I was growing up as a boy in Leighton Buzzard, I was very feminine, but being trans was not really a thing. I didn’t know it was possible,” she wrote.
“I have been bullied my whole life. I moved school at age six after punching one of my bullies in the nose, but I was bullied at my new school, too.”
After coming out as gay at the age of 12, her inner turmoil continued to get worse – with the emerging talent suffering through multiple panic attacks.
At 13, things took a positive turn for Priestley when she started to educate herself on trans identity.
“I found out what trans was on Instagram, and everything suddenly made sense. I came out as trans the next day,” she explained.
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“My parents initially thought it could be a phase, but I just knew. I decided to change my name and start wearing a skirt to school.”
While people left her alone for the most part before transitioning, Priestley revealed that she became a target of serious bullying after coming out as trans.
“I felt like my childhood ended. I would walk round the corridors too scared to go to lessons and I had to sit by myself at lunch in an isolation room,” she recalled.
“I was the first person at my school to transition. Some teachers were really nice to me and helped me, but others were horrible.”
Fortuantely, life took a turn for the better during the COVID-19 lockdown in 2020 – which resulted in her forming a stronger bond with her father and finding a close-knit community online.
Towards the end of her op-ed, the 20-year-old creative expressed her hopes of being someone that “the younger generation looks up to.”
“I know role models can make such a big difference to people and I just want to be the best role model I can. I want to be the person that I never had growing up,” she added.
Preistley’s emotional essay comes a few months after she opened up to GAY TIMES about her career aspirations following her successful debut on Heartstopper.
“There are so many roles I’d love to play. My dream would be to book a Disney Princess. That is the ultimate dream. Fingers crossed! I’m going to focus on stories I can tell,” she said.
Check out Preistley’s full interview with GAY TIMES here.