I thought I would have to get used to not having breasts. After surgery, I kept waiting for it to “sink in” or to be overwhelmed with emotion at some point. Perhaps I’d feel like a different, newly reinvented person, or maybe even mourn the loss of part of my body?
Realizations never set in. Intense feelings of being “changed” never came. For weeks, I asked myself, “Shouldn’t I feel some emotion over this?”
The lack of emotion or even lack of thought about the entire process was unnerving. To undergo surgery and suffer through pain and recovery, to have a body part removed and look physically different, yet feel as if nothing had happened, seemed eerily unnatural. My objective mind had always known that surgery was a huge deal – inherent risks, long recovery times, high costs, but for the past year, surgery floated around in my head only as a means to an end. In the mirror, that end was my reflection rather than a new mental construct of my physical appearance.
After surgery, I was almost void of feelings. In fact, near impossible it was to envision having ever looked any other way than this. Now my reflection in the mirror looked how it was supposed to look; in my dreams, fantasy and stream of consciousness, I had always looked like this image. Finally, everything matched up.
Suddenly it made sense – I had been waiting to feel intensely changed but in a deeper sense, there was no change.
It was as-if they put me under that day and I started a new life in a new body but paradoxically I’d already been living that life in that body and there was no disconnect.In a world of spotless mirrors, reflective windows and constant photographs that tell no lies, now, I just felt peacefully further from the nagging disorientation of being trapped in distortion of fun house mazes and mirrors.
So why did you do it? Why did you have surgery to remove your breasts?
The deeper answer is that I wanted my body to match how I have always seen myself in my mind. I feel like a male who removed a defect that should not have been there in the first place.
Every time I hear that question in my mind – “Why did you do it?”, only one short answer comes to mind:
I did it because I could.
Life is amazingly full of opportunities and decisions. There are few reasons to NOT do something. As far as safety goes, after careful, objective research, I felt confident that the inherent risk of surgery was minimal. I figured I was more likely to die in a car crash driving to work than undergoing a routine surgery and people don’t quit their jobs and stop driving to work to avoid that risk.
Safety aside, I could only think of two reasons not to do something: fear and judgement.
Of course, surgery was scary! What if something went wrong? What if there were complications? What if the results looked awful? How would my body react to anesthesia? What if I got a hematoma or a blood clot and ended up in the emergency room? What if I was blindsided by thousands of dollars of “unforeseen” costs? Would this be a mistake I couldn’t take back? Finally, I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t asked the question: what if I died?
And of course, I hypothesized about what others would think of me and my decision. Would people think I was crazy? Would they look down on me? Would I forever live with stigma I couldn’t erase? Would everybody have the misconception that I must have been utterly depressed, filled with absolute hated for my body in order to do something so “extreme”?
Would I exist without getting weird looks ever again? If I could not tell what people were thinking, would I ever get passed the horrors of what I thought they were thinking? Was I a freak? Would I be a freak?
Surgery was the scariest thing I’d ever lived through – to be at the mercy of medicine, the invisible inner workings of my body, and the hands of a doctor. Accepting bodily processes that can’t be seen and their reactions to extraordinary amounts of pharmaceuticals, being cut by a knife, giving up all control to survival mechanisms of the body, is the ultimate relinquishing of control. With minimal understanding of the unconscious body while begging for patience through sickening pain, never ending discomfort, and debilitating nausea; I lived through fear every second.
Fear is just fear.
There is something so liberating about going straight through fear instead of around it or away from it. Fear in not a reason to forgo authenticity. In fact, fear is just something that empowers us and for that opportunity, I have gratitude.
Maybe none of “being trans” has been easy but it has given me the opportunity to look Fear head on and by going through fear, when seconds feel like an eternity, I was forced to live in the moment. I could not exert control to reduce discomfort; I could only exist in fear. That was the freest I’ve ever felt.
As far as the fear of judgment goes: let people judge; they will anyways. Their understanding (or misunderstanding) of me does not define me and never will. I own my understanding of myself. Furthermore, I proudly own that which I don’t understand. Maybe I am crazy. Maybe I am incomplete. Maybe I am always changing and growing. I never want to be perfect. All people’s judgment just fuels my introspection and curiosity of myself.
So yes, I did it because I could.
All I have is this one life and only this one body walks me through that life. Nobody can dictate the steps I take through life or shape my footprints in the sand as I travel through it. They sure can’t control how my body looks and under no circumstance, can they tell me who I am. Hopefully I can inspire others to walk through their fear too.
“Coming out” to family members proved most difficult, seemed surreal and caused me to second guess myself – Am I sure this is really me? Do I really want to open up this can of worms? Am I delusional and making this all up? Is this a mistake?
The only existence I’ve known for 36 years is that of being
female, an existence that seemed to be permanent in the forever fabric of our
lives. The collective belief that I was
a girl, the granddaughter, the niece, the daughter, or the sister – made me
feel like I actually was all those things.
In other words, my family’s perception of me, fostered my incorrect
existence as a girl.
I feel crazy to change the unchangeable. This seemingly irrefutable “fact” that I had
always been a girl, now dissolving, makes me feel shaky. All these labels and definitions we put in
place to make our lives feel stable and unmoving, no longer provide me safety
and my feet wobble on quaky ground of a world that is no longer what it appears
to be. Everyone including myself
probably thought I’d always be a daughter, a granddaughter, a sister, a niece,
forever. What is constant if this
isn’t? Perhaps that question is society
talking. Nonetheless, removing those
“constants” and redefining myself is an uneasy, foggy feeling – vulnerability
in a naked silhouette; and for a fleeting second, I contemplate if it would
just be worth keeping my comfort and security by pretending to be the gender I
……No, it wouldn’t.
I picture what I hope to look like once testosterone has
worked it’s magic and living as a guy just feels right. My lips awaken in a smile at the thought but
my heart wants to hide and check out of the awkwardness that lays ahead of
me. People judge. People assume. People wonder. People ask.
People react and get scared as the ground under their feet
wobbles too and we are forced to deal with life. We spend so much time and energy avoiding
discomfort, but we are mercifully being forced into it now and it’s a reminder
that humans are not that different; we are all in this together.
It’s 4:00 and time keeps ticking by. All day I contemplate calling my Nana to convey
to her that I am in fact, a boy. I have
stopped calling her because I can’t stand talking to her knowing something
existed, in hiding that I couldn’t tell her.
Every time I spoke to her, I felt like a fraud.
How on earth to tell my 96-year-old grandma that I was transgender
was something I had not yet wrapped my head around.
I miss her. I miss
our painting parties. I feel
anticipatory loss in the pit of my stomach as I am bombarded with memories of beautiful
paints and talent on canvas, Luby’s iced tea, coffee cups on porcelain saucers,
and smells of chocolate cookies and tiny muffins from a box, and the silence of
being deep in creation. A travesty it would have been to fill that silence with
words. It was in that silence that I
discovered how to hang onto a moment and trust I’d never slip through its grip
and fall to the ground.
The thought of her being one of the people who accepts me
and sees me as her grandson makes me want to spend every second with her, yet I
am avoiding her now.
I put away the groceries and sit in silence. Just the thought of calling her makes my
heart pound out of my chest. What if she
What if she passes away and the chance to share my real self
is lost forever? Or, what if I pass
away? From their perspective, surely,
they’d prefer to have me in their lives as a man rather than not have me at
all? Tomorrow is guaranteed for
nobody. I don’t want to die with
How am I supposed to tell her? Maybe I could just tell her over Facebook? No, too impersonal and unreliable. Could I tell my Aunt and have them rely to
her, the news? No, she needs to hear
this from me! I don’t trust the phone;
the reception is always unpredictable as is her hearing aid; it’s too much of a
I sit here in the silence of this house and I feel frozen. I am desperate to tell people, to have them
know who I really am and to move forward, but right now I feel paralyzed and
stuck to this couch.
Then that silence reminds me of the wisdom it has to offer.
I love her. My desire
to see and be close to her outweighs the discomfort I will get from having to
tell her. Would an old-fashioned letter
work? It could give her time to process
and let the news sink in.
Bravery is the only way.
Honesty is the only way. Come
what may, you have to be simply honest.
Some fears you can’t go around; you can only go through.
Silence, don’t let me come crashing to the ground. I trust
Dear Nana, I am writing because I have something very important to tell you that I have been putting off for a long time. As you know, I recently changed my name and after many years of thinking and processing this, I realize that I am transgender. I identify as a guy, not a girl. I feel like a grandson and people have started calling me “he”, “him”, and “Chris”. After careful thought, I have decided to begin hormone replacement therapy which means I have been taking testosterone to eventually look like a guy. Basically, this will align my body with how I see myself. I didn’t know how to tell you but I realize that I have been pulling away and ultimately, I really miss you. Staying close to you in worth more to me than the avoidance of the discomfort I would feel in having to deal with this. Take all the time and space that you need to understand and process this and know that it is OK to feel confused. Call me anytime and feel free to ask questions. I hope you still see me as the same person on the inside and I look forward to more of our painting get-togethers and hopefully getting even closer to you. Love, Chris
Stamp. Lick envelope. Drop in mailbox. No going back.
Two days later, the phone
“I want you to do what makes
you feel right as you. I love
you”, she said.
That’s when I knew my grandma was my 96-year-old hero.
For years I’ve intermittently worked on a personal photography project of homeless people. I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for the downtrodden and being transgender, I realize we have a lot in common which gives me a sense of solidarity. People don’t understand us. We introduce discomfort into the ideals that make people comfortable. Our existence makes people question themselves. We want visibility.
My personal journey has enabled me to radiate even more compassion toward human beings who suffer, hidden in the shadows of a society so prone to judgement.
As I sit on this street corner and watch the homeless going
about their daily survival, panhandling under the streetlights, I think:
I see how they look at you.
But even more often, I see how they don’t.
Passersby look away, pretending they don’t see you. Commuters suddenly get caught up on their phones, only looking down, or inch their car forward, strategically placing themselves out of view. They avoid eye contact as if that will save them from the discomfort, annoyance, or guilt, they feel in your presence. The light turns green and another group of forward-lookers, safe and secluded behind closed windows and locked doors, pulls up, stops, and pretends not to see you.
You were just like them – had a job and a family. There was a time when you were somebody’s innocent child and I wonder what your laugh sounded like when you were deep in play. People with homes are all just one step away from being you. What’s worse than the dirt that cakes your face, the trembling in your stomach and the sour taste in your mouth that never goes away, the thought of another night on the hard concrete, as strangers watch you sleep, is perhaps the unrelenting, nagging thought that you have ceased to be anybody at all.
Drivers divert their gaze and your shadow is personification of a human being rendered invisible. You’re just an unfinished story that everyone has stopped thinking about.
That group of forward-lookers speeds off in relief at the first instance of a green light. The next group of forward-lookers pulls up, stops, and pretends not to see you. Then suddenly as if you crossed over to an alternate life, someone looks up at you, compassionately meets your eyes, and smiles. And in that moment, you exist. And maybe, even, you are somebody.
Sometimes people don’t understand our existence. Sometimes people don’t want to hear us. We challenge the status quo and untidy their tidy ideals. Capturing a moment of emotion through photography sometimes tells the best story. I don’t consider myself that different from the people I photograph. Whether someone is transgender, gay, homeless, black or white doesn’t erase the fact we all yearn to matter. We all just want to be accepted and you can see it in a person’s eyes.
Contemplating the nuances of what is means to be a man
Today was one of the best days of my life; I played pick up soccer with the guys, AS a guy. “Hey dude”, “hey man”, “he”, they all said. They saw me as one of them, as one of the guys. It was the best feeling in the world. Living as I was meant to live, I felt on top of the world. How well I played! Being slightly older, I still kept up with them. I scored the most beautiful goal and as I watched in disbelief as the ball flew into the back of the net. It was like a god had come down from the heavens and handed me this most perfect moment in the correct gender, so perfect in fact, that it completely outweighed any sadness or struggle I’d ever experienced as trans. The guys high fived me and continued to marvel my goal even as the game died out and we parted ways. Drunk on a high that no drug could even begin to touch, I basked in the glow of this gift wrapped in rare golden ribbon.
Somehow in the back of my mind, I still doubted myself. I kept thinking, any second now, something would give me away as a girl. That had been more exhausting than the game itself. My mind was fatigued from being hyper aware of how they interacted with me – trying to figure out how I was being gendered, and being tensely on guard in case I was misgendered. Then, this whole beautiful experience would have been shattered into a million little pieces. Inside I would have been crushed as my expanding yet flimsy identity dissolved into mere memories forever. Had the hormones worked enough? Was I passing as male? Sometimes I couldn’t tell!
I realized that I had no idea how to be a guy.
I feel like a guy inside. I see myself as a guy in my mind’s eye.
Thing is, I am a guy who has only ever been socialized as a girl.
What do guys talk about? How do they speak? What kinds of expressions do they make with their faces? What kind of gestures are made with their hands? What inflection do they use in their voices? How do they posture their bodies and in what circumstances do they make eye contact or avoid it all together?
What are the nuances of the social code by which men live amongst each other?
I’m starting to consistently be gendered as male but I’m afraid of being “found out”. Being trans in the “androgynous” stage is like constantly living undercover and every moment being afraid to get called out as a fraud- “You are really a girl!” That fear hangs over my head in every social interaction. I’m constantly afraid to say or do something wrong, breaching the social code of men -laugh at the wrong time, speak in too excited of a voice, apologize or say too much, and someone is going to realize I was born a girl, then think I AM a girl.
I contemplate this for a while and reason with that irksome inner voice. I AM trans. I WAS born a girl. Stop feeling like an imposter! Am I a guy? Yes. Am I a cis-guy? No. So why worry as passing like a cis-guy? Over time, I have no doubt I’ll be given the opportunity to be socialized into the male world but that is just that – an opportunity – bits and pieces of which I am entitled to take or leave. Living as female, I shunned social norms, gender norms and any aspect of socialization I did not agree with.
On top of the world as the person I was meant to be
No doubt there will be small socializations like greetings and speech mannerisms that I’ll pick up and no doubt, there will be aspects of male culture and masculinity that I’ll reject completely. I’ve always chosen to be unapologetically ME in life and gender will not change that. In fact, I’m in a unique position to be so beautifully free and walk both sides (and in between) of gender and grow exponentially. Maybe I’ll be an odd, slightly off, different, unique guy and I want to embrace that. I am becoming more ME every day and I’m doing that for myself, not to perpetuate a specific male stereotype and certainly not to further toxic masculinity or unrealistic expectations of what it means to be a man! I’ll analyze and question everything just as I always have.
I’ll just be transforming, changing, redefining, and every day this happens, I’m less attached to a concrete, definitive version of “I”. What can be more liberating that that?
It’s lonely being transgender and feeling estranged from
your parents. I want to feel accepted
and loved unconditionally. I wish you
could see that I am still the same human you have always known. I might look different but inside I am still
your little child.
I realize that I sit here listening to music every night through headphones, just like you always have. Rocking chair. Your favorite cat. Your cigar. This is how I always see you in my mind’s eye. What you are thinking, I wonder. Even though you don’t say much, I know that you know -the world, and see right through it. Your intuition transcendes words and this is where our minds meet.
Stood by me, you always did. You understood the inner me, even when others did not and held my hand when I cried and held it even when I pretended that cut didn’t hurt. No matter from which height I fell, you caught me.
While fishing, you told me fish didn’t have feelings and I
No matter the exterior, the shield, the wall that I put up,
you saw clear through to the core – always that little child on the inside that
wore grown-up shoes and a smile.
Did I lose this when I stopped being daddy’s little girl?
Little girls aren’t the only ones that need you to hold
their hand and promise that everything will be ok.
You always came to my rescue.
Please don’t let me disappoint you.
Please still be the person who tells me everything will be ok.
Always felt like YOU thought I hung the moon in your sky. I hope you still think that.
I am that daughter. I
am the son. I am the adult that feels like a child that still thinks YOU hung
the moon and all my bright stars,
In my entire universe. Maybe I am the son that still needs you like a daughter, the son that still needs you to worry about me, the son that needs you to teach me how to be a great man like you.
“So, do you wish you had a penis?” my therapist of a year asked me.
“I don’t know.”
“So, you don’t want a penis?” she pressed further with a slight re-wording of her question as if semantics would make me crumble and admit my most buried of secrets.
As her question hung in the air, suffocating me like a deep fog, I cringed at the word – Penis. In a matter of seconds, my entire gender identity in question had been reduced to genitalia. I couldn’t even look at her. My palms throbbed and prickled with sweat despite being in a notoriously bone-chilling cold room that was now starting to cave in on me. I was in too deep. I wasn’t ready for this. The most intimate of parts that had in secret, infiltrated in controversy, my every fantasy, was now the word by which my identity hung in the balance.
This was my first attempt to get help in understanding my gender identity and who I truly was. I saw this opportunity to test the waters and bring up an issue that had, for over a year, been plaguing my mind- a stream of consciousness that had proliferated a confusing maze of circles in my head, a web of denial, fear, and confusion that at times made me question reality.
“Sometimes I feel more like a boy than a girl, “I had confided
reluctantly to her, starting the conversation.
I was stunned by how forthright countless hours of unproductive, fragmented questioning had slipped out of my mouth as such a direct statement and instantly I was drowning in vulnerability. So many hours I had nurtured this secret and as it emerged, I felt as if my insides and their mysteries that I had not yet figured out, were painfully exposed.
“So, are you a
boy?” she interrogated.
“I don’t know. Maybe I feel like a boy,” I stammered.
“So, you think you are a boy?”
“I mean, I’m not sure. I look like girl.”
“So, you are a girl?”
“Yes, I think I am a girl, “I whispered. And just like that,
I backtracked my way out of my own existence.
I couldn’t believe how silly it all sounded. Totally mortified, I mentally descended back
into my cave yet I felt a hint of relief that these few minutes could serve as
motivation to push this issue so far down inside me that there was perhaps a
chance that it would disappear out of existence for all eternity.
At the time, I vowed to never make mention of my gender
identity confusion ever again.
Looking back on this interaction, I realize how much we all
still have to learn about transcending labels and definitions and I’d like to
impart my knowledge to others who desperately seek answers.
Four years passed after this initial experience before I “came out” as a transgender male. Gender is so much more than what is between your legs or fitting into a binary system. My path to knowing was not a straight forward one; I did not grow up knowing that I was a boy inside. After countless hours of research and sifting through videos on YouTube, introspection and fumbling through awkward conversations, I untangled the web of confusion and those insights, I want to share with you. This blog isn’t just about being transgender, it’s about gaining profound compassion and understanding for anyone that is different from us and connecting to something larger than the self. Humans are all really more alike than different .
The decision to start hormone replacement therapy which
entails weekly intramuscular testosterone injections into the thigh, was the
hardest decision I’ve ever had to make.
It also remains the best decision I’ve ever made. Testosterone makes me feel like my body and
mind are running on the correct fuel.
Explaining to people how, as a transgender person, I feel
like I acquired the wrong hormone at puberty and had been operating off the
wrong hormone ever since, has been no easy task. The best way to explain it is: If your body were a bicycle with a series of
gears, having the wrong hormone is like trudging up a hill in the wrong
gear. The bike is moving forward, the wheels
are spinning, but without the gears being perfectly aligned, the ride is bumpy,
jagged, slightly askew. You move through
life yet something is just always “off”.
A foggy resentment towards estrogen pestered my subconscious for years, an elusive feeling that was hard to put my finger on in the beginning. Everything estrogen did to my mind and body, I hated. Breasts, womanly hips and fat in the wrong places, periods, emotions and crying that were hard to control. I watched trans guys who had started testosterone develop deeper voices, grow facial hair, undergo body fat redistribution to a more “male pattern”, and gain muscle. These changes, I craved.
The decision to start testosterone was one interwoven with excitement and longing, fear, reservation, and uncertainty. When facing a huge decision, a hint of uncertainty will probably always exist. If you wait for the moment to feel 100% sure, that moment may never come. Uncertainty about taking a risk, does not make it a wrong decision. Rather, blindly taking the leap into the unknown brings the greatest reward.
It’s impressive how capable the mind is at concocting a million reasons not to do something. I worried about regretting my decision. I deluded myself into worrying, what if I regretted the changes testosterone made to my body but there was no turning back? Aside from a few changes like voice, to some extent, hair, and any balding, upon cessation the effects of testosterone are reversible. Of course, at that point, I’d have to admit to everybody that I had made the wrong decision, only reassuring them in their original disapproval, an utterly unbearable apprehension.
Always a highly emotional, intuitive and compassionate
person, possessing an emotional depth through which I perceived this world, I
feared Testosterone could steal that life force from me, reducing my ability to
feel. Testosterone has in no way
reduced my ability to feel emotion. I
still save wounded birds and feed stray cats.
I smile at homeless people on the corner just to make them feel
human. I cry when nobody is
looking. The suffering of the world continues
to affect me on the deepest emotional level and in fact, the challenges I’ve
faced being transgender, have created an even deeper sense of compassion. Testosterone only makes it easier to
not cry or shove down emotions if preferred.
On a similar note, I feared testosterone would turn me into a totally different person, either I’d look into the mirror and not recognize myself or my personality would undergo metaphorphosis.
Would I become an aggressive, macho mutant, who was unable to feel? I wanted my body to transform, but not beyond recognition. I wanted to exist as a son instead of a daughter, a brother instead of a sister, a boyfriend instead of a girlfriend, a man instead of a woman; I did not want to lose the essence of what made up my unique personality. What a terrifying unknown it was to think of my mind and body mutating in awkward distortion instead of becoming more refined but every change has been immensely worth it.
I am undeniably the same me, just paradoxically a more authentic version. No, none of these fears ever manifested as reality. In the end, I knew if I did not try testosterone, the idea would plague me for the rest of my life. That potential burden weighed greater on my heart than any list of fears that my mind invented up to that point.
I grew facial hair, gained muscle, developed a deeper voice, my facial shape has changed, my Adam’s apple became more prominent, I am consistently gendered as male and I am able to show up in this world, confident that people see the real me, metaphorically skipping rather than treading water. I feel like a whole person as my outside matches my insides. Most importantly, my mind feels at peace. Perhaps testosterone re-wired my brain in the correct way but my genuine self is no longer hiding.
I want my body to change so bad that my soul hurts. Screaming inside, I feel helpless, inside this body that is my cage. Stranded at a loss; I can’t move. I don’t want to talk. All I can do is exist – an existence that seems like it is not mine to be had at all. I cover things up. I hide things, I walk through life, the world seeing what I am not.
Wake up in a costume.
Go to bed without out taking it off.
This Body– my outward appearance – it is not me but I’m hopelessly attached to it. Rather, it is attached to me. This costume: You’ve been fastened to my insides with tiny staples that pierce my skin and slowly bleed me out, painfully reminding me that you are not mine. You itch, and prick, and rub my skin raw, yet keep my insides just barely living. Escape, I cannot. Comfortable, you never are. Tiny beads of blood fall from the corner of my eye, tears that nobody sees.
It is as if there has been some huge cosmic mix-up and the
difference between my image in the mirror and my image in my mind’s eye, is a
glitch in quantum existence, and I’m looking at myself through a parallel
universe. And this is how I walk through
life – a breach in perception, a fluke in human comprehension.
Take me away from this. It hurts too much. You trap me, BODY and I am suffocating! Tears, take me away. It hurts too much. BODY, you grow on my soul like a cancer and you’re killing me. BODY, you are a liar, a fraud, a delusion that makes me feel crazy.
Music, take me away…
BODY, you generic, ambiguous, meaninglessly, meaningful word!
BODY, you are just my outer shell.
You might be the first thing that everyone sees, the thing by which they judge and gender me.
EARS, you let me hear this beautiful music and for that, the rest of my body is forever indebted to you. All these beautiful, musical moments of intensity, that music shared with my heart; BODY, you can’t take these from me.
LEGS, you have walked me through many adventures, making me feel ALIVE in this world. Millions of footprints towards my dreams.
BREATH, you have breathed into me, life. Through you, I have felt kisses that pulsated through my body, my senses making my body irrelevant.
HEART, through you, I felt love and gave love to those who had none, and felt compassion and empathy that persevered through fear.
HANDS, because of you, I was able to reach out and shake the hands of those who were invisible to everyone but me.
EYES, thanks to you, this beautiful and hideously flawed world, I see through. I notice everything, and through you, I paint a world that is unique to me and I see beauty in everyone. I see tiny ants moving mountains then I feel the existential existence of all humanity.
MIND, you have given me the power of thought, decision, reflection, and introspection and through you, I can choose to inspire others, choose love over hate and imagination over stagnation. BODY, you are not my cage; you are a subjective vehicle by which I travel this world and you will not stop me from rising above.
The world needs my EYES, my BREATH, my LEGS, my MIND, my HANDS, and above all else, it needs my HEART.
Follow my journey and continue to read my posts to discover how the answer became clear. Forthcoming blog posts may be fragmented, confusing, surprising, and empowering but that rollercoaster is exactly what transition is like.
People usually think of “coming out” as an external thing –
having to tell family and friends, but for me, “coming out” to myself was by
far the hardest and most confusing battle and can’t be summarized in a single
Growing up, my brother and I lacked strict gender expectations
from our parents. I was a tomboy and
played with barbies as well as Ninja turtles and GI Joes. My brother played with dolls and sported long
hair. There was never anything I
couldn’t do because I was a girl and there was nothing he couldn’t do because
he was a boy. The fact that I was not
raised to rigidly “be a girl”, and therefore did not suffer the discomfort of
not being able to do boy things, was probably the most significant reason that
kept me from realizing sooner that I was transgender. As I got older, it became clear to me that, no
matter how tomboyish, butch, or masculine I was, I did not want people relating
and referring to me as female; I wanted people to interact with me as male.
Learning that every transgender person has an individual and
unique path, cleared my head of the misconception that in order to be
transgender, I had to fit a certain stereotype.
So many people knew they were trans from childhood, plagued their whole
life by the certainty on being born into the wrong body. Most people felt like outsiders in groups of
the same sex. I’d heard uncountable
stories of sad childhoods, suicide and life-long discontent. My life had not mirrored these same
experiences. Once I opened my mind to
the idea that one could be transgender without having the same history as all
other transgender people, my confidence in my new identity as a transmale,
Always obsessed with weight lifting, wanting muscles, broad
shoulders and more narrow hips, I chased this physique for decades which was an
unrealistic dream for as long as my body ran on the incorrect hormone. In my mind, I saw my body as male-looking and
in that body, I made love in fantasies, endowed with correct “male parts”. The masculine bodies and deep voices of men,
made me jealous. Browsing the men’s
underwear isles and seeing beautifully full crotches made me envious. For a
long time, presenting myself as male in society seemed daunting and even
awkward but there was never a time in my mind’s eye that I did not appear male. For 30 years of my life, I did not truly know
what being transgender even meant. The
more I learned about it, the more I identified with the concept. Having new mental constructs developed from
the experiences of other transgender people and research into the medical
process of hormone replacement therapy, allowed me to expand my understanding
of who I was.
Cis people- people who identify with the body/ gender into
which they were born do not question their gender. Everyone has insecurities about their bodies,
but cis people do not have insecurities about their gender.
Confidence in feeling male was a series of baby steps and
experimentation – playing with pronouns and name changes and seeing how those changes
made me feel inside. As a transgender
guy when someone called me sir and my heart sparkled inside, those immediate
reactions were gold. Pay attention to
them as something that immediate can’t be reasoned with or analyzed out of
existence! I used to say to myself,
“There is no way I am trans. I loved
dolls, dress up and putting on make-up with friends.” Our minds can always rationalize our way out
of something, especially when the implications of that something are
monumental! But when someone calls you the right pronoun and your heart smiles because
you feel as though your true self has been seen, how can you deny the
authenticity of that heart feeling? As
time went on, the discomfort of being called “she”, “lady”, or ma’am” became
more apparent to me. “She” felt like a
different person, someone other than me. “He” just felt genuine.
Sometimes the golden moment is not figuring out who you are,
but who you aren’t. I knew I was not a
girl nor could I live the rest of my life as one. Wary of existing on the opposite end of the
binary, subject to negative male stereotypes and gender expectations, I
hesitated for a long time to identify as a transman. Over time, I accepted my transgender identity
but that did not mean that I had to adopt any gender norm that I did not value.
I truly believe there is a nagging voice in all of us that admits to ourselves exactly who we are, but layers upon layers of societal expectations, fear, and denial, distort that voice. It’s a matter of peeling away those layers and deciphering what you want by filtering out the bombardment of expectations of who others push you to be.
And fear, this is the true enemy.
Fear masquerades as uncertainty towards change and reassurance in current comforts. No matter how unhappy I was with my current body or existence as female, at least I was adapted to the current situation, at least there was safety in the known as opposed to the unknown which made no such promise. Days, months, years passed as everyday life marches on but I never could completely get rid of the sense that something was “off”. GIRL felt like a definition, imposed upon me by my own body and by the general consensus of society. I set out to create my own definition of what it means to be ME.