A year after Jamie Raines told his family that he was transgender, he began hormone therapy to help him transition. The testosterone treatments were sure to change him beyond all recognition, so he took a selfie each day to mark his progress. Then, three years into the process, he decided to put all the pictures together in a video – and the result was incredible.
Raines, who is from Colchester in Essex, England, was just four years old when he started to realize that he was male rather than female. Recalling that confusing time of his life, he told the Daily Mail in 2015, “I remember thinking I was just like any other boy. Then as I grew older, I realized more and more that I was different.”
However, while Raines had always felt male, he didn’t tell his family he was trans until his late teenage years. He told the Daily Mail, “I told my mum first just after turning 17 and she helped me tell my dad and brother. She said that it made a lot of sense because of how I had dressed and acted when I was younger.”
Raines’ mom, Christine, later revealed her reaction to her son telling her that he was trans in a 2015 video posted to Raines’ YouTube channel, Jammidodger. In the clip, she says, “It was a bit of a puzzle really because I don’t think I knew what transgender was. I had a lot of concerns about your life and, you know, how that would all play out.”
Raines’ mother continues in the video, “I really didn’t know how to deal with it. We talked a lot, we talked day in and day out about it really, and I suppose you hope it goes away. Then the kind of shock/horror of it subsides, then you have to listen to your child and what would make them happy.”
With that in mind, Raines’ mom Christine helped her son to tell his dad and brother that he was trans. And they too were supportive of him; in another video posted to Raines’ YouTube channel in 2016, his father revealed how he took the news. He admits in the clip, “It came as a bit of a surprise, [a] bit of a shock, but not terribly much of a shock because it was gradually going that way. You could see that things were happening.”
In his interview with the Daily Mail, Raines then revealed his sibling’s reaction to the fact that he was trans. He said, “The first thing my brother did after he knew was call me ‘Jamie,’ my new male name.” Referring to his whole family, Raines added, “Obviously, they had some concerns, but only about me being happy and potentially being treated negatively for being transgender.”
As we explored earlier, Raines had told his family that he was trans at the age of 17. However, it would be another year before he started the testosterone treatment that would help him transition. And at the time, he was experiencing intense gender dysphoria, where the person he saw in the mirror didn’t match with who he felt that he was inside.
In 2015 Raines revealed to BuzzFeed how he felt when he saw his reflection back then. He explained, “I didn’t really see myself. I got my hair cut really short and that made things a bit better, but it was a very awkward time. I didn’t like looking in the mirror.” Consequently, Raines was eager to start his testosterone treatment.
Raines’ first port of call was a doctor with the U.K’s National Health Service (NHS). However, he was told that there was a two-year wait for an appointment with the gender clinic. So Raines decided that he couldn’t wait that long and opted to go private with his transition. Before long, he was on testosterone and after six months he’d had top surgery.
The effects of the top surgery were of course more immediate in reshaping Raines’ chest. But he would have a longer wait to see how hormone treatment would change his physicality. The major changes associated with testosterone tend to fall within four categories: sexual, physical, emotional and reproductive.
Some of the physical changes that testosterone can bring about include vocal cord thickening, the redistribution of weight and a change in muscle mass and definition. Furthermore, body hair may become thicker and darker – including on the face.
Testosterone treatment can be compared to going through a second puberty. The therapy can impact on the range of emotions an individual experiences and even change their interests and behavior. Sexual changes can also alter a person’s libido and change the way that they experience and approach sex.
Lastly, hormone therapy impacts the reproductive system. On testosterone, a user’s periods will change in length and volume before stopping altogether. Testosterone greatly lowers the chances of becoming pregnant, but it does not eliminate the risk completely. As a result, the use of birth control is still recommended.
Testosterone treatment can of course bring about a lot of changes for trans men and Raines couldn’t wait to see how the therapy would affect him. So he decided to document his transition by taking a selfie every single day for three years. That way, he could flick through the resulting images and watch his face change before his eyes.
Raines later revealed to Buzzfeed exactly why he’d decided to document his transition is such a way. He explained, “It was to see how testosterone can change the face… I thought I’d take a photo every day so when I strung it all together you could see the changes. Within the first six months you didn’t see that much, but as time went on it became more and more rewarding.”
Throughout the three years, Raines decided to trust the process and didn’t think too far ahead to what he might look like in the future. He continued, “When I first started, I tried not to have an image in my mind – I was taking testosterone so I could go through the correct puberty for me – and I tried not to have expectations…”
Raines, added, “… Testosterone affects everyone differently and different changes come in at different points. Some people get loads of facial hair within the first six months, and some people never get it. I didn’t pin too many hopes on [testosterone] changing me drastically and just took the changes as they came.”
But after three years of Raines being on testosterone, there were many changes to his overall appearance. By that point, he was 21 years old and studying psychology at the University of Essex in England. Raines finally looked like the person he always knew he was – and he was happy to share his results with the world.
Consequently, Raines put three years of daily selfie pictures together to create a timelapse video that would follow the journey of his transition. There were around 1,400 photos in total forming the fascinating clip, and every single one of them told the story of Raines’ quest to become his true self.
The amazing video lasts for just 26 seconds, but as each picture morphs into the next it’s clear to see that Raines’ face is changing. Namely, his features become more angular, his brow becomes more pronounced, and facial hair begins to sprout on his upper lip, chin and jawline. However, it seems that one of the biggest change that Raines experienced was how he felt about himself.
Thanks to his transition, Raines felt more confident and comfortable in his skin than even before. He later explained to the Daily Mail, “Growing in confidence and feeling more and more comfortable in myself has been a hugely exciting experience. The changes in how I feel about myself have been amazing.”
Raines’ transition was surely made slightly easier by the support of his loved ones, including his girlfriend Shaaba Lotun. He’d always been attracted to females and had met Lotun prior to transitioning at 16, when they were both still at school. Raines told the Daily Mail, “We were best friends for about a year before I came out as trans.”
However, as Raines started to transition, the feelings that he and Lotun had for each other started to develop. In 2018 he told Cosmopolitan, “After I started transitioning, [Lotun] and I grew closer in a different way, and [we] started talking about how it could be more than a friendship.”
Explaining the relationship from her perspective, Lotun added, “When Jamie came out it brought out a more confident version of him. We didn’t want to label what we were, but in the November we said, ‘Okay, maybe we’re a little bit more than friends.’” But while Lotun accepted Raines as himself, some of her family were not so understanding.
Lotun’s mom in particular apparently struggled to accept her daughter’s burgeoning relationship with Raines. And when she learned that the two were dating, she had thought that made Lotun a lesbian. The latter told Cosmopolitan, “My parents didn’t have an understanding of trans issues at all. And the frustrating thing was they weren’t willing to learn and understand more.”
Things got even worse for Lotun when her mom asked her to leave home and banned her from seeing her siblings. She subsequently moved in with Raines and his family. But though these times were hard for the young couple, the challenges they faced ultimately brought them closer together.
Then finally, Lotun was invited back home for Christmas in 2014. And when she arrived at the house, her family wanted to know where Raines was. She explained to Cosmopolitan, “I told them, ‘Of course I wasn’t going to bring him because you all hate him.’ And then everyone just broke down in tears, and mum told me to bring Jamie over. It was this weird Christmas miracle.”
After that initial meeting, Lotun’s mom and step-dad finally started to accept her relationship with Raines. It was a long and slow process, but all parties finally got to a place where they could respect each other’s point of view. Lotun continued, “The only way that you can try and make people understand is to be kind and to be patient, and wait for them to come to you.”
As the years passed, Raines and Lotun’s relationship continued to flourish. So in September 2017, after much careful planning, Raines decided to ask Lotun if she’d marry him. Naturally, he wanted everything about the proposal to be perfect. So he had the ring made specially and picked a date and location that meant something to both of them.
Raines later told Cosmopolitan, “[Lotun] has a thing for the number 17. Her birthday is on the 17th and the number seems to follow her. So, I wanted to propose in 2017, and at the beginning of the year I started planning and picked the date of September 2017. I wanted to make it really special.”
Furthermore, Raines decided that the perfect setting for his proposal was the University of Essex, where both he and Lotun went to school. He explained, “It’s a special place to us, and there’s a really pretty lake. I wanted to make it even more special, and decided to have all of [Lotun’s] immediate family there – even though her parents are split up and haven’t been in the same room for years.”
Recalling the run-up to her romantic proposal, Lotun told Cosmopolitan, “On the 17th of each month leading up to the proposal, Jamie was doing really cute things like giving me a present, or a list of 17 things he loved about me. I know, this sounds puke-inducing. On September 17 he took me to different places and gave me a new explanation each time…”
Some of the places that the couple stopped by included a train station and a post box where they used to meet and the college they attended. However, they finally wound up at their university; and it was there that Raines bent down on one knee and popped the question to Lotun.
Lotun later told Cosmopolitan, “I ugly cried like crazy. And then across the lake I saw my mum, stepdad and three sisters. And on the other side of the lake was my dad, my stepmom and my two sisters. There were so many tears and happy times – it was the best day of my life so far.”
Lotun said yes to Raines’ proposal, and they plan to tie the knot in the late summer of 2020. However, the latter would first have to obtain a Gender Recognition Certificate so that he could marry as a male, rather than a female. Put simply, the document means that Raines would be legally recognized as a man.
In the meantime, Raines continues to keep his followers updated with his life’s happenings on his YouTube channel. He first joined the site in 2011 and has since amassed 323,000 subscribers and over 34 million video views. Furthermore, Raines often vlogs about his experiences as a trans man, covering topics like gender dysphoria, bottom surgery and transphobia.
In November 2019 Raines posted a very special video on YouTube – one that marked the end of his transition. He had finally received his Gender Recognition Certificate; this meant he was now legally recognized as male and could therefore marry Lotun officially as man and wife.
In the emotional video, Raines bursts into tears upon realizing that he is finally recognized as male in the eyes of the law. Explaining his reaction, he says, “I finished the physical side of my transition, which was emotional, and this kind of ties up that last loose end… Like, this is done.”
Now that Raines is out of the other side of his transition, he can look back at his journey with clarity. And he has some invaluable advice to other trans guys, telling BuzzFeed, “… Patience is your best friend with transitioning… It feels like it takes ages for things to start happening but then when it does start everything changes really quickly.”