Because much of my work revolves around gender and transness, I’m often asked a lot of personal questions about my own transition from female to male. I love answering these questions! Which is why I’ve written this very simplified personal history. Here you will also find my top six tips for transitioning.
I spent the first 20 or so years of my life as a butch dyke. It was a fraught time during which I understood myself as a woman who was redefining what it meant to be a woman. But by the age of 24 something had changed. My body was beginning to feel like a dead end and as a result I became depressed.
Coming Out as Trans
Coming out to myself was a difficult process in and of itself. One of the biggest challenges trans people face is their own fear, uncertainty and lack of knowledge. While just as excruciating as coming out as gay, coming out as trans felt terrifying in a whole new way. As part of my coming out process, I used art and writing to reflect deeply on masculinity and gender roles in my family and culture. This deep reflection gave me the tools to better understand what I was going through. Because I understood myself better, I became better at asserting myself to a world that is often hostile to people who fall outside the categories of male or female.
Although my transition began well before, I began transitioning medically in 2011 when I began taking testosterone treatments. I was scared. Many misleading myths about how T “makes you a different person” had made me worried about the irreversible changes that I was about to undergo. I’ve been on T for 6 years as of 2016. While I have undergone many positive changes emotionally and physically, I am still the same person I’ve always been. T did not make me a different person, it just made me a happier person.
In 2012 I had a bi-lateral mastectomy, or what I like to call the “tits-away.” The operation was performed by Dr. Michael Brownstein (Carrie Brownstein’s uncle). The results, augmented with regular exercise, have been fantastic. I worked very hard to pay off this surgery but it was completely worth it. I now enjoy a freedom of bodily expression that I never thought possible.
The most harassment I experienced as a transperson happened during my most androgynous period. People who are visibly genderqueer are most likely to receive hostile treatment in public. This is because society fears the people it cannot easily categorize. Now that I have side-burns and a deep voice people rarely harass me, even if I’m wearing earrings or a pink coat. While this is great for me, it makes me reflect on the things men are allowed to get away with that women and genderqueer people are constantly punished for doing, even if all they are doing is being themselves.
It Didn’t Get Better . . .
. . . BUT I got tougher, smarter and more in-sync with my own body. “It” never gets better, but you have to remember that this isn’t about “it,” it’s about you. My transition is a never-ending process that has been both challenging and rewarding. I have experienced profound changes on a mental, emotional and physical level. It’s kind of like discovering you have a superpower and then learning how to use it. I used to wake up every morning wishing I was dead. This morning I woke up, looked in the mirror and said, “Hey, sexy. How’s it going?”
Are you thinking about transitioning?
Here are my top six tips:
- Be yourself. You might find that you have nothing in common with other transgender people. THIS IS OK! You do not need to act a certain way, hold certain beliefs or belong to a particular kind of community. Think for yourself and be yourself.
- Research. Research not only the physical part of transitioning, but also research things like the history of transgender people, biographies of people who went through similar processes and read creative writing by trans people. When you do research medical transitioning make sure that your sources are reliable.
- Get to know yourself. I mean really get to know yourself. Who are you at your deepest core? What are your greatest fears and your greatest desires? Get comfortable with these things about yourself. Have weaknesses? Find solutions to these. It will make all the other challenges you face easier.
- Get exercise. Exercise is the key to a great transition. Whether you want to transition medically or not (which depends entirely on what you want), gender is about performing the body. So perform your body all the way to the gym or a hiking trail! You’ll find that the more you understand your body, the more you’ll be able to tell it what you want from it.
- If you’re pee-shy, get over it. This will change your life. I used to have paralyzing bathroom anxiety. Today, I can take a shit in a public park with no door on the toilet stall. The more confident you become about who you are the easier it is to live life. When people abuse you it’s because they want to demonstrate their power over you by altering your behavior. When you are sure of yourself it’s much harder for people to do this. My public bathroom mantra is “Well, they can kill me if they want to, but at least I’ll die being true to myself . . . and with an empty bladder.” And for some reason saying this to myself makes peeing in public a breeze!
- Got bad habits? End them. My biggest bad habit was getting drunk to excuse emotionally immature behavior. As I began transitioning I slowly cut back on my drinking and began working on my anger, lack of assertiveness and immaturity. As a result, my health and relationships have improved immensely. Have integrity! It might be hard, but you’ll feel really good about it at the end of the day.
- Don’t kill yourself. Or, if you must kill yourself, realize that you will only transition from being a living person to being a dead person.* Transitioning across genders is a monumental task. It may be the hardest thing you ever do in your life. Trust me, it’s worth working through that deep pain and immobilizing fear. What each person finds on the other side of their hero’s journey is different. But I can promise you that it will change you in a way that even death cannot change you.
*My partner adds that as a dead person you will definitely look worse, whereas, with a sex-change there is at least a 50% chance that you will look better.
If you have questions or comments, don’t hesitate to email me!
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