Finlay Games, 44, from Eastbourne, is studying with The Open University (OU) for an Open Degree. As a transgender man with a history of mental health issues, his recovery experience and gender transition awoke a passion to inspire and support others to make changes in their own lives, in order to overcome personal obstacles to succeed. Finlay appears in the OU’s national advertising campaign with Channel 4 in addition to sharing his story online in the OU’s series of Open Diaries – which lift the lid on what it’s like to study with the OU.
Finlay spent the majority of his adult life struggling with mental health problems and anxiety. As a result, he developed issues with alcohol and drugs which he endured well into his late thirties. At the age of 37, after experiencing what he describes as a continuous ‘Groundhog Day’, Finlay turned his life around, enrolled on an AA programme and a degree with the OU, and has since been clean and sober for over 8 years.
Finlay explains: “When I found the OU, in 2010, I’d just entered a recovery programme with the AA. I had been very unwell for a number of years and suffered from mental health problems. From as young as I can remember, I just didn’t feel right. I explained it to my dad as a homesick feeling – I just felt like something was wrong inside of me. I was constantly anxious and didn’t know why. As I grew up, it got worse and I did the silliest thing in the world – which was to start drinking and taking drugs to numb my feelings.
“In recovery, suddenly all of these opportunities were available to me. I could see a future for myself and I really wanted to make something of myself. I knew for the first time that I wasn’t the daft, useless person that I thought I was – and so I started looking at some of the courses that the OU had to offer.”
Flexibility was essential
During this time, Finlay’s mother was also diagnosed with Vascular Dementia, which came on suddenly, meaning that he had to move back to his hometown of Eastbourne. Needing to care for his mother and being at the start of a wider personal journey, Finlay had to ensure that his studies would fit around his life and give him the flexibility he needed to succeed.
“A big reason for choosing to study at the Open University was because my mother is quite ill, so I am required to look after her. Recently I have gone through so many major events which meant that I have needed a lot of flexibility in my life.
“Initially, I had a look into The Open University, thought about it for a couple of months and spoke to several advisors online to ensure it was the right match for me.
“I was worried about being able to handle the work load as I had not studied for a while. Thankfully, they held taster sessions for potential students to see if they could manage the course and this definitely encouraged me to sign up for a full degree.”
Support to succeed
Finlay continues, “I also could not have gone to a traditional red brick university, because of the drinking culture. As a recovering alcoholic, my personal well-being and transition had to remain as my number one priority. I have a number of transgender friends who are currently attending a brick university, however, they don’t have anywhere near the amount of support that I do.”
Although Finlay’s journey did not come without its obstacles, whilst transitioning he has been able to progress and succeed as a result of the support of his tutors and the confidence boost that came with his studies.
“From the beginning, I told my OU tutors about my mental health problems and the fact that I was a little concerned about studying. Then I came out as trans as well, which meant that I would need time off for surgery and appointments. The OU has been incredible, I have a personal advisor – who is amazing. Whenever I have a hospital appointment, I just let her know and there’s never any judgement or questions asked!”
“My confidence is now amazing too – my OU journey has really helped me transition and helped me to rewrite all of the negative stuff that I’ve told myself over the years.”
Since embarking on his journey of sobriety, Finlay acknowledged that his gender insecurities were at the root of his anxieties and has since transitioned to a trans man. As a result of this realisation, combined with his OU studies, Finlay now has the confidence to openly share his story and in future, hopes to support others facing similar issues via his blog and YouTube channel.
“As a transgender man, my recovery experience, mental health issues and gender transition ignited a passion in me to inspire and support others to make changes in their own lives, in order to succeed. Since 2012 I have hosted a YouTube channel and accompanying blog, under the name ‘Finntheinfinncible’. Here, I share openly in film and in writing, about my personal experiences. I am also currently working on a memoir, as well as beginning to write short fiction stories.
“In the future, I am really interested in completing further study and going on to study for a Masters or an MBA with the OU, as my experience so far has been wonderful and I really enjoy learning new things every day.”
It’s never too late
On appearing in the OU’s advertising campaign, Finlay says:
“The Open University gave me the support and flexibility that I needed to follow my passion, so I’m delighted to be involved in promoting them. The OU has definitely changed my life for the better. I can’t wait to share my story – and show people from all walks of life that it’s never too late to pursue their passion and career aspirations.”
Watch Finlay’s story: