(Mirror) The typical transgender narrative is that the person knew they were in the wrong body since they were young. They were certain and they never wavered in their truth. However, there are a lot of trans people like myself whose story isn’t quite so clear cut.
The short version of my story is that I was a tomboy growing up. In middle school and high school I tried to be feminine sometimes but often I wore jeans and t-shirts and chalked up my look to being a 4-sport athlete.
Then I was caught as a lesbian right before senior year of high school started. Literally. I was caught kissing another girl in my bedroom walk-in closet, no less. Word got out of course and by the time I came back for my senior year, everybody knew I was a lesbian. I lost all my friends and it was a really low point in my life. I kept my head down and focused on my sports and my books. I finally graduated high school, moved across the state for college, and finally came out to myself as a lesbian a few weeks later. I publicly came out a month after that.
Throughout college I started wearing exclusively male clothing and then cut my hair short when I was 21. When I moved from my home state of Pennsylvania to Florida to start graduate school is when I really started to question my gender identity. I was a women, gender, and sexuality Studies student. My first semester I took a queer theory class. For my final paper, I decided to write about prosthetic penises, which are penises that trans men can use to pee standing up, pack, and to engage in intercourse. I theorized that if this penis was real to the wearer, it was therefore real. After the semester ended, I bought myself one of these penises and started to wear it. Soon, I felt weird without it.
I started asking my friends to use he/him/his pronouns only around other friends. Then I came across the name Atticus and asked my friends to use that name, but again, only around other friends. This was getting serious so I decided to go to therapy to see if I really wanted to transition. After reaching the 9-session limit of the counseling department on campus, I was told they weren’t equipped to handle “cases like mine” and I was referred to a non-profit social service agency about 30 minutes south of campus.
In therapy we discovered that almost all of my hesitations were based on my fear around my family’s reactions and my preconceived notions about what it meant to be a man.
I had my “aha” moment when I was in the grocery store and the clerk referred to me as “ma’am.” I knew then that I didn’t want to be seen as female any longer. I needed to be seen as a man. I started medically transitioning just a few weeks later.
Gender is complicated. While I’m sure of my identity as male now, I wasn’t always, and that’s okay. My identity as a man and as a trans man isn’t any less valid because I had questions. You don’t have to justify your identity to anyone or pretend you’ve always known with 100 percent certainty. Your identity is valid.