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. 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.
“Those who make it happen will tell you it wasn’t easy. Those who think it should be easy won’t make it happen.”-Will Craig