On the Spectrum of Gender

Becoming Me

“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”
― C.G. Jung

Do you think you might be transgender but you aren’t sure?  It is okay to be unsure. 

If there is one thing, I wish someone had told me while I was trying to figure out my gender identity, it’s this – Having a different narrative from most other transgender people does not invalidate your transgender experience or mean that you don’t exist somewhere on the transgender spectrum. 

My mom dressed me in hand-made dresses that she and my grandma had spent hours sewing.  I never tried to take them off, rather, I climbed trees and played in the mud in lace and pretty slippers.  Getting my hair braided was my favorite thing and I regularly attended slumber parties with the girls.  As a teenager, I remember wanting to get my period so bad because it meant that I was growing up; when I did, I was proud.  Unlike most kids I knew, my childhood held some of my most precious memories and I was truly a happy kid.  In fact, I can’t think of a single thing I’d go back and change.  I still turned out transgender. 

Much of figuring out who you are has to do with breaking down gender stereotypes. 

You don’t have to identify as a man in order to not be a woman.  Gender is on a spectrum and falling outside a binary is perfectly valid.  You don’t have to take hormones or you can take them for a while and then stop.  Every day is a new day in your gender journey and every day you get to wake up, reflect on your decisions, your identity, and your state of being and make a choice as to which path to take.  You wake up every day and determine who you are and who you want to be.  Nothing in life is written in stone, and the transgender journey whether a medical one or not, is as changeable as you want it to be.

Below are excerpts from my journals and you will see that my timeline was not a clear and concise one, nor was it linear. 


Oh my god, these [masculine] bodies! I had been trying to get my body to look like this through countless hours at the gym for so many years I could not count.  For as long as I could remember, I had longed for broad shoulders and narrow hips and a muscular shape.  I identified with so much of what I was seeing!  I was overcome by jealousy.  I wanted what they had.  But, how could I be transgender?  I’d never thought about wanting a beard.  I had been a happy kid.  I had played with Barbies and dolls and had even been obsessed with Laura Ingalls from Little House on the Prairie and had dressed up as her in hand-made pioneer costumes, complete with bonnets and long braids.  How could I possibly be a boy?

January 23, 2013

I don’t know if I necessarily want to be a “he” but “she” does not seem fitting either.  Every time I think of something to say in my head, it just sounds stupid to me.  I resent the fact that I have to just choose one gender or the other, like anything in life is that black and white? 


The thing is, all these years of researching this transgender thing has brought me to the conclusion that gender is a spectrum; there are all kinds of gender variant people and I fall somewhere on that spectrum.  Exactly where, I am not sure. Perhaps I’ll always be figuring it out; perhaps it’s fluid; perhaps I’ll be ever-changing, transforming and maybe that’s okay?  Maybe it will be liberating to not know exactly and therefore, not have to fit an exact definition?  Somewhere along the line, somebody just solidified these definitions – boy or girl and I was forced into a category.  Well I want out.  These definitions and rules have been socially constructed and seem arbitrary for me.  

August 25, 2016

I realize that I feel like I never really had the correct puberty.  I never had the excitement of hearing my voice drop and everyone’s comments acknowledging the change. I never got to shave for the first time and brag about getting facial hair as a rite of passage in becoming a man.  I never got a less-than-proud moment brushed off with the comment, “Boys will be boys”.  Girls don’t have a saying like that- a saying that is mindlessly ingrained in our culture, asserting that there is some way you can be, by nature, and it’s just okay.  I am stuck in time – a 34-year-old in a pre-pubescent body, a boy that has yet to grow, a boy that masquerades as a female.

September 6, 2016

I am so afraid to take testosterone but I crave it.  Would I be starting a process that would never really be finished?

September 19. 2017

Why would I want to be a person or live a life that nobody is excited of- someone or something that everyone tolerates at best?  They wouldn’t approve of me.  They wouldn’t understand the changes or be excited to see me change.  I could lose people.  My relationships could deteriorate.  I could have a hard time finding a job or fitting in.  Who would want to live like that?

November 15, 2017

When I put everybody else out of my mind, hormones seem completely reasonable – becoming the person I want to be.  It can’t hurt to try right?  What IS a mistake anyways?  What IS a regret?  Is it a venture away from the person you thought you were?  I am not convinced that following a journey to discover yourself could ever be a mistake.  I feel like I owe myself every opportunity to transform every day.  There are so many norms, judgement, fears, and mental blocks that keep people from exploring and discovering themselves.  People are hard-wired to walk this earth avoiding judgement and discomfort.  Every day I must face discomfort.  I feel it and I walk through it and I’ve never let it side-line me from my own life.  How can other people define who I am? 

I have to do this. 

I have to trust the person I know I am under everything.

“The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.”

-Friedrich Nietzsche

Coloring Outside the Lines

Beautiful butterfly emerging from my cocoon and you act blind. 

Precious sense of sight you waste; powerful gift of speech, decays.

I feel invisible.  Challenges and triumphs go unnoticed. 

I am not the butterfly; I am the elephant in the room. 

I miss being a child – all I had to do was exist and you oozed with pride.  

Unrecognizable stick figures and illegible letters and you beamed in amazement 

Santa Claus, Knights in Shinning Armor, fairy tales – that’s what I thought life was. 

Become an adult and the rug is pulled out from under me. 

I want crayons and glitter markers to draw myself back into that fairy tale.

Disappointed by the extent to which you protect your own comfort at the expense of asking me how I am doing.

Will you look back and wish you had been more courageous?

I wish we lived in a world where love meant that we would sacrifice our own comforts in order to stay deeply close to somebody.


Maybe my eyes must learn to see through yours,

To silent courage that still sees me with glitter markers.

Only, I’m coloring outside of the lines now.

Within the infinite space of your silence,

I discover,

There is no distance so great that you lose sight of me.

You know I am a reflection of you, right? 

Reflecting back at you is not embarrassment or discomfort, but the strength you instilled in me.

I couldn’t have accomplished this without that strength.

“What if you were born and the doctor assigned you the wrong gender?” – Jessica Soukup

Jessica Soukup is a Texas-based advocate and educator, working to bring equal rights and social justice for transgender and non-binary people to the forefront of our social consciousness. Jessica is a frequent keynote speaker and educator on women’s empowerment, transgender rights, and LGBTQIA allyship. In 2017, she published her first book He/She/They – Us: Essential information, vocabulary, and concepts to help you become a better ally to the transgender and gender diverse people in your life. Jessica currently serves as vice-chair on the board of the Transgender Education Network of Texas (TENT) and is a co-chair for Austin Pride.

I was inspired and moved by Jessica Soukup’s TED talk so I included it here. Every child just wants to be unconditionally accepted and Jessica has bravely articulated what so many transgender people want their parents and loved ones to understand. Understanding is the first step to unconditionally loving another human being in the way they want to be loved.

Suicide With a Cat’s Perspective

I see the woman in you and this is what I learned from her. Thank you, Beautiful Woman.

I stumbled upon the goodbye letter of another writer a week ago which made excruciatingly clear, an all too common reality for transgender people – suicide.  Pieces of the six-page letter are written below (her blog was open to the public but has since been taken down):

Goodbye (final blog entry and end of my painful journey)

If you are reading this, it means that hopefully I’ve been successful at taking my own life and thereby, ending a lifetime of pain and cowardice.  I plan on walking in front of a train here in Scotland.  It isn’t as if I’ve ever been particularly good at hiding my pain or expressing my desire to be gone from this world and my desire to be freed from this hideously ugly body that has been nothing but a curse for as long as I can remember.  I hope that you will understand that there are simply too many things to ‘fix’ to make my life bearable and for me to be somewhat comfortable in my own skin and most of these things aren’t even fixable at all.

Transition was the ‘last chance’ as far as saving my own life was concerned, but it was a complete and utter failure.  After 6 years of being on hormones and presenting completely female, I am still getting misgendered far too frequently, and as the years have gone by, the sheer hopelessness of it all has finally sunk in, after seeing my ugly, manly face in the mirror far too many times.  I’m far to ugly and far too tall to be a woman and I’m past the age where anything beyond expensive facial reconstructive surgery will ever be effective.   I would honestly rather be dead than seen as ‘a man in a dress’.  Transition has proven to be nothing more than switching one unbearable prison for another and has made me a target again in the process.  I don’t want to go back but I don’t want to go on existing like this, marginalized and living in fear.  This isn’t about ‘haters’ either- the only real hater is me, as I hate myself more than anybody else could.  This is the power of my dysphoria; the war between my inner self and outer body that can never be won sufficiently for me to blend in and at least be somewhat comfortable in my own skin.

I ordered Chinese takeaway earlier and ate it under a bus shelter.  This is fucking depressing, in itself.  Tomorrow is Valentine’s day and I just want it to be over already.  I think I want to go and just stare death in the face, as it can be comforting to know that with a bit more of a push, I could make it all stop.  At least I made a new cat friend but I miss all the other cats I’ve met and owned over the past few years.  I can’t stand people but I love cats.  I spent a few minutes stroking him as he rolled around on the floor.

Peace, love, and goodbye – I hope that the world will become a less hateful place someday so that no one needs to go through what I went through.

At the end of the letter was a photo of the Cat.

Every time I read the letter, I felt her suffering coursing through my veins and let it absorb into my being as my own – my heart’s tribute to hers – a gift of understanding.  Over and over I imagined her jumping in front of a train – heels then toes leaving the pavement, the split second of weightlessness in air and I wonder: Was that the most freedom she had ever felt?  Even then, I imagine the immense pain it would take in order for the mind to tell feet to leave the ground for the last time ever.  Being born into the wrong physical body is a monumental emotional and mental struggle that sometimes even transition cannot ameliorate but she tried against all odds and the only thing I see in trying is courage.

Burned in my mind is the Cat.  It wasn’t just a cat- it was the acceptance the Cat represented.

Somewhere on the other side of the world, that Cat still sits alone at the train station in Scotland.  For those few minutes that night, that Cat had somebody.  She had made that Cat’s world a better place.  She was not a burden; she was not ugly and whether or not she fit society’s ideal version of what a woman is supposed to look like, did not matter.

No matter how fleeting the moment, the Cat meant something to her and she meant something to the Cat; she loved and felt love.  She felt a connection worthy of consciously and intentionally taking out her camera, snapping a photo and taking time to upload the photo to her blog to share with others.  Within those six pages life fraught with pain, I saw a moment of peace.

Let this Cat be our teacher- absolute failure does not exist.  There is nothing inherently beautiful or ugly about this world.  We can decide how we want to see ourselves; we can decide whether or not we want to listen to the status quo and become exactly what people think of us. 

You are not a failure.

Just because you are transgender, does not make you broken- you do not need fixing.  There is nothing wrong with you.  You are a human in the wrong physical body, but with the strongest, most precious soul and I see you and you are beautiful.

You are not your thoughts and you are not other people’s thoughts.  They can tell you that you are crazy; they can tell you that you are wrong.  You can tell yourself that this is too hard or that you are not worthy of being the person you desire to be.  Or, you can practice watching these thoughts come in and go out and let yourself be worthy of life. 

Be impeccable with the words you speak about yourself and others because those words become the general consciousness of society; every time you define, judge, criticize and belittle yourself, you are contributing to the creation of the same world that hurts you so much.

Perhaps we can not only have more compassion for other people but for ourselves.  Today, tomorrow, and every day thereafter, that you wake up and decide to continue your existence, be gentle with yourself because you are brave.  Be the Cat.

This society has an obsession with gender and they’ve got it all wrong.  Hate is just a by-product of society’s obsession to force gender into a strict binary.  Your physical body serves to carry your soul.  Your soul has no gender.  Energy has no gender.  Your higher self has no gender.  Your existence is paving the way to less rigid, more accepting standards of gender and our culture just hasn’t caught up yet; you are ‘ahead of the times’ and people just need more time to grasp an understanding.  This world needs you to be different.  Otherwise, who is going to change the world?

Somebody out there needs you.  Be the person you needed when you had nobody-for someone else.  Love yourself unconditionally so that this world can be a less hateful place.

“Animals are like little Angels sent to earth to teach us how to love.”

– Whitney Mandel

Brightest Bird of the Flock

“In nature, a flock will attack any bird that is more colorful than the others because being different is seen as a threat,” – Wrabel

Like my photography? Email me at christianJCoach@gmail.com or visit chrisjcoach.com for commissions.

The greatest gift a mother could have – a daughter, and I’m stealing that gift away.  I feel her heart breaking- everyone’s heart breaking as I am transforming, evolving, reinventing relationships, re-writing language and re-conceptualizing existence and I feel my heart crack for them.  It seems as though the person they knew for 36 years is dying and all I can do is watch them mourn.

All this emotion is re-birth in disguise…

An enormous amount of courage this takes to face the firing line and still put one foot in front of the other but that has made me a better version of myself.  I have learned to not judge.  I follow an intense curiosity to learn the world beyond what we see on the surface and see pain in hollow eyes and pursed lips clearer than before so I no longer see labels; I see human beings. 

The strength I found in myself through this journey will carry me through the rest of my life and I am not afraid of change.  If I can change my gender, I can change anything in my life.

I discovered an abundance of patience within myself through which I have learned to live in the moment.

I refuse to let judgement or conformity get me so far down that I cannot feel the collective pulse of this world.  You may be seeing the loss of a daughter but the person you gain is so much more than just a label.  I will defy all obstacles to explore my true self, and never stop peeling back layers to discover the undiscovered.

All these undiscovered souls walking this earth and I refuse to be one of them.

And with this plenitude of knowledge I gain, I will confidently teach others that they too are worthy. 

I will make “mistakes” but I won’t have regrets.  I will be living consciously and authentically, and with the greatest amount of courage, strength, and compassion.  Maybe having a daughter is the greatest gift in the whole entire world; or perhaps, raising a human being brave enough to unapologetically live their authentic self in this world so full of hate and judgement, is an even greater gift.

Watch Wrabel’s video here:

All the Answers Inside

Thoughts on Being Transgender From a More Spiritual Perspective

I admit, I’ve had trouble writing lately.  More specifically, I’ve had trouble writing about the material world, the physical body and matters of the ego.  I’ve been on a more spiritual journey for a while now – getting into yoga, meditation, ecstatic dance, astrology and getting closer to a group of inspiring, spiritual people. 

The past three years (or more) have been defined by massive preoccupation with the outer, physical body, gender and ego and the next curve in my journey of transformation, is reducing my attachment to those identifications.  The past six months have been defined by inner transformation, during which I peeled back layers upon layers of subconscious motivations, limiting value systems, and attachment to my identity, to reveal a more soul level existence.  Below I delve into this introspection on an emotional level:

I feel naked- my soul is naked, bare- reinvented for all the world to see, tiny expanding cracks that make ripples of uncomfortable change- vibrations through the rest of my body.  I’ve been turned inside out and the parts of me I hid from the world- subconscious and ineffective behavior patterns, every emotion that I directed outward that had tiny strings attached to the deepest inner workings of the soul, are now pushed under a glaring spotlight- ironically, my spotlight, the one I pretended to dance under, like everything was ‘fine’ as the person they wanted to see.  Now my ego crumbles in slow motion. 

City of me pulverized by quaking earth.  My whole body quakes.  Cloaked in vulnerability.  Pull the sash and unravel further, my rubble.

Pieces of skin and its shell, sloughing off and all I see is my skeleton now.  Going deep inside myself, traveling, traveling, and the air is getting thinner and must remember to just breathe.  I don’t know who I am anymore but maybe I never did- maybe we aren’t so tangible or definable as to “be known”.  I’m tripping over the tiniest stones in that means-to-an -end.  I’m missing them, the sparkling ones that would have reflected back to me what I truly look like and the dull, jagged ones that would have made me look even harder.  Maybe I don’t want to find the boundaries of what separates me from everything else because it’s a misleading construction.

I’m facing myself and I feel alive.  And it’s OK that I feel infinite emotion.

Relinquish control.

Detach myself from labels.

Decipher the person from the persona.

Let go of the person to feel energy as a part of others.

Connection to everything around me.

So raw, I perceive this world with x-ray vision into the consciousness of humanity.

Underneath these false structures that kept us categorized, competing, contrasted, belief systems are decomposing.

I see embarrassing facades – false concrete upon which society felt secure in kidding themselves.  Superficial connections, insecurity, and comfort zones have dissolved and I’m balancing on only one toe but learning to feel every cell grounded in the earth.  World, I won’t protect you anymore, at least not by weaving you a false safety net.   I’m giving myself fully to you –and in raw, unrefined form, embracing spirituality with trembling feelings, I invite you to walk, not behind me, not in front of me, but beside me…

As a transgender person, I am grateful for these opportunities to examine the existence of my inner and outer body- all the superficial characteristics that make up sex and gender – facial hair, hips, genitalia, muscles and body shape, but now, it is time to examine where my soul is going – the soul that has no sex and no gender.  I am just energy; we are all energy and all this energy is connected.  

I will continue to post writing from the past few years because I believe it could help others in all phases of their journey.  By no means, am I invalidating the transgender existence by rendering the physical body or gender irrelevant; rather, I believe that connecting to a higher version of ourselves (beyond the physical body) can enable us to be more content in any stage of the transgender journey despite perceived physical limitations.


I want to change the collective consciousness.  Here in the west, we define, validate and value ourselves in terms of how we look on the outside as opposed to contemplating the spirit or the soul.  We are obsessed with a maligned materialistic view which emphasizes the differences between things – humans are separate and therefore unequal to animals; humans are separate and therefore unequal to nature; “male” is separate and therefore unequal to “female”.  Here, differences are the defining factor and as a transgender person, thus far, my entire existence has revolved around these limiting views – I am either male or female or somewhere in between (but still a definable point on a spectrum as if male/female energy are even tangible); I either “pass” as the correct gender, or I don’t; my body does or does not conform to stereotypical “male” characteristics; trans people are different and separate from non-trans people; my genitalia makes me one of only two sexes – male or female; my ego expects people to reinforce how I see myself and that is how I validate myself.  Alienation is the result.

When we follow outward appearances back to the source, we see that everything is connected and born from the same consciousness.  If we can veer our sense of identity away from the ego which perceives itself as separate from the soul that sees only unity, we can exist with less suffering (which is the natural order of the universe) and realize that we are inherently enough just as we are in this moment.

What is Success Anyway?

Unraveling the Expectations of Hormone Replacement Therapy

A great deal of time had to pass after starting testosterone before I was able to feel content with my transition.  Guys around me who had been on testosterone for half the time, sported tons of facial hair and a deep voice.  My voice did eventually drop more, bolstering my confidence but up until that point, I felt discouraged – changes felt painfully slow, barely noticeable.  I realized the nagging discontent that plagued me for the past half a year was this:  my transition felt unsuccessful; my transition felt like a failure. 

But then I contemplate: can any kind of transition be a failure while still in progress?  Can I even determine something to be a success or failure until it is complete?  But, is it even completion that determines success?  If a subjective idea of “completion” determines something’s worth, wouldn’t that render meaningless, the process of change?

An even more important question:  what does failure mean to me and by what criteria do I judge failure?  There are many criteria upon which my transition could be judged:

Do I pass in public as a guy?  Have I noticeably changed?  Is my voice deep enough for people to gender me as male over the phone?  Do I have facial hair and how much?  Am I happier?  Am I experiencing the expected changes?

I could answer yes to all these questions but I still felt as though I should be further along – I should have more hair, my voice should be deeper, my body shape should be more visibly changed.   But wait.  Says who?  Or, compared to what? 

I realized I had been comparing myself to those individuals experiencing exceptionally fast changes and basing my worth off people’s reactions to me.  Furthermore, the fact that nobody talked about my transition or commented on my changes was something that confused me.  I had no idea how I appeared to others so it felt as though my transition was not happening, that I was not appearing “more male” to those around me, that I wasn’t progressing. 

Whether we admit it or not, how we view ourselves is at least partially created according to others’ perception of us and perhaps I had been judging my progress on people’s verbal responses (or lack of).  But why did I need the reassurance of other people so bad?  Perhaps years of not being recognized as a guy made me desperate for that validation.

But, could I re-evaluate what success and failure mean to me?  If we all re-evaluated how we define success and failure, could we render the concept of failure non-existent?

Stop caring about what people think.  Stop defining the self by the reactions of others.  Better yet, I can exist forever changing without defining myself.   Can I just be a constantly evolving, transforming energy?

I had the courage to change and to me, there is no greater success.

Failure is when we let fear hold us back completely.  Failure is when we don’t try, when we think we won’t be good enough so we don’t start.  If we try all the things we want to try, we could never fail because we live in the moment and never let anything hold us back.  By keeping ourselves in a safe spot, holding onto comfort by avoiding embarrassment or vulnerability, we limit ourselves and will never know our true capabilities. 

Be bad at something but have fun anyways.  By not knowing what to say, but staying in that silence, we might hear each other better.  Allow others to be everything but perfect; show weakness and let it teach us to not create ourselves by reacting. 

Maybe this will allow us to connect on a deeper level.  In this case there is no such thing as failure, just a deeper existence.

The beginning of transition seems excruciatingly slow, in fact, a point in time existed where changes seemed so slow that I entertained the possibility of testosterone not even working, but changes do happen; hormones absolutely do their job.

Many small changes add up to a big, noticeable change in appearance and 1 day I realized I was being gendered as male 100% of the time.  Days that crept by in between these two time points allowed numerous moments of introspection and perseverance.  Those days of painfully slow changes allowed me to develop a gentler definition of success and failure and now I possess more confidence in exploring the world around me.

Scars We Bare Forever

Like my photography? Email me at christianJCoach@gmail.com or visit chrisjcoach.com for commissions.

It’s 2:30 in the morning and I can’t get back to sleep.  I woke up with a sinking feeling as if I’d just emerged from a nightmare.  I’m feeling smothered by an unusually low feeling, uncharacteristic of the past weeks where I’d been overtaken by gratitude and positivity for everything and anything.

Yesterday all the flesh colored tape that had been covering and protecting my two incisions had come off, enabling me to see the scars in their entirety for the first time.  For almost six weeks, flesh-colored “steri-tape” and band aids created an illusion that I had never been cut open and had no scars to bare.  Somewhere in my mind, maybe I’d been pretending to be born with this flat, male chest.  But now, here were the bright red scars I was to live with for the rest of my life, revealing the full extent of what I had done.

Staring in the mirror, I couldn’t look away.  I have read that it is normal to go through a critical, “nit-picky” stage in recovery so I assume that is where I am stuck like tar right now.  My scars were symmetrical and smooth, my nipples even and well-placed but still, the scars felt too curved, too feminine?  Were my nipples too big?  Had the incisions been made too high?  Would the scar end up laying at the correct location just below the pec muscles once I built up some muscle? 

So yes, I think I am just in that critical phase but I just kept critiquing my new reflection in the mirror trying to “eyeball” the symmetry, placement, and aesthetic appeal, mentally measuring with precision, every detail with hyper awareness, transposing the mental image of a male- born chest over my chest in the mirror to assess success.  The curved scars were like a train wreck I could not look away from. 

I still saw breasts. 

The scars were an outline of where they had been, highlighting their previous existence as if to keep me from being truly free of them.  The scars were the skeleton remains of my past body parts and they were haunting me.

I looked like I’d been chopped up and sewn back together.  What happened was exactly that!  Even through the excruciating pain and discomfort (that remains even until now, only transforming in sensation but not remitting), and recovery, I hadn’t thought about it like that.  What happened in that 3-hour operation was time lost forever.  But now, the bright red scars and hauntingly curvy lines shoved reality in my face in full force.

These scars are to follow me for the rest of my life.  There is no way to change or tinker with their placement.  I wasn’t expecting to be this shocked.

Begging for patience is where I’m at once again which is pretty much my default existence these days.

Surely one day I will be proud of these scars.  Surely, they will serve as a reminder of my bravery and patience.  Just like everything else in life, they will fade.  It’s way too early to start contemplating “final results”.  If they don’t turn out perfect, I’ll just be imperfect like everybody else, allowing the freedom of refusing to hold onto a perfect ideal.  Perfection is fiction.  What a futile effort it would be to hang onto something so fictitious!

But right now, I lay back on my floor as the light from one candle flickers over my chest.  My chest is still so tight, feeling like it might burst open at the incisions at any moment.  Sore nipples, tender scars, split second zaps of pain, numb but hyper sensitive skin and one big cloud of UNKNOWN bearing down on me, testing my strength and ability to forgo reassurance.  Longing for respite.  

Looking at myself hurts. 

Then finally, after almost 6 weeks of waiting for them, two tears fall, one after the other, sliding ever so gracefully, and with the slightest hesitation they pause at the edge of my skin then disappear forever into the darkness of my room, and I cry.  

Has one insecurity just morphed in a subtle Kafkaesque kind-of-way, into another?



A Reflection that Matches My Mind’s Eye

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.

Going Under the Knife

My decision to have “top surgery”

March 2019. 1 year and 3 months on testosterone and 4 months post-Op. It takes a year for scars to lighten up. Over time, scars will fade but will always remain.

I know people secretly wonder:

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.

Lost in Translation?

How to Come Out to a 96-Year-Old Grandmother

“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 am not. 

……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 disowns me? 

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 secrets.

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 risk. 

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 you.

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 rang.

“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.

So many more people out there need a hero.

What Does it Mean to Live a Good Life?

Take a Walk in Someone Else’s Shoes

Austin, TX The homeless man above just found out he has cancer and little time to live.

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.

Austin, TX. A couple resting under the I-35 bridge, listening to “Church Under the Bridge” Sunday mass.

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.

“You sometimes think you want to disappear, but all you really want is to be found.” – Kid Cudi

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. 

Don’t look away.

The soul, fortunately, has an interpreter – often an unconscious but still a faithful interpreter – in the eye.” Charlotte Brontë

The Overrated Idea of Being “Man Enough”

Contemplating the nuances of what is means to be a man

Every person undergoing hormone replacement therapy goes through an “in between” or “androgynous” stage where they get gendered as male half of the time and female the other half. It’s a fascinating, uncomfortable stage where children and adults alike inevitably wonder, “Are you a boy or a girl?” The following post came from a journal entry written when I was around 6 months on testosterone.

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 one stands on the top of the world. Not you, not me, not even gods. But the unbearable vacancy of the throne in the sky is over. From now on… I will be sitting on it.” -Tite Kubo

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?

Dear Dad, I Still Need You.

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 believed you. 

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?

Dear Dad,

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.

My favorite photo of me and my dad. Watching the rain from the porch was one of our favorite things.

So Do You Wish You had a Penis?

A secret is a kind of promise…. It can also be a prison. – Jennifer Lee Carrell

“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 .

Nothing makes us so lonely as our secrets. – Paul Tournier

The What-Ifs of Starting Testosterone

I crave it but I’m scared…

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.

A weekly injection of testosterone keeps my testosterone and estrogen levels in male range.

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.

My Body, The Cage

Like my photography? Email me at christianJCoach@gmail.com or visit chrisjcoach.com for commissions.

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.

Being transgender before fully medically transitioning feels like wearing a costume that you are unable to take off.

Am I Transgender?

Cramming my Gender Journey into a Nutshell

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.

For me, trying to figure out where i fell on the transgender spectrum was like being trapped in a dream, unable to decipher my own thoughts from the collective concious and norms of society.

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 blog post.

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, grew.

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. 

As a kid, I was obsessed with being Laura Ingalls Wilder from Little House on the Praire and dressed in homemade costumes sewn by my mom (I thought I was the luckiest kid on the planet). How could I be a boy if I liked to dress up so much in girly costumes? Well, boys can dress up as praire girls too.

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.