I was ten years old the first time I learned the name of what I am — transgender. An aged documentary was playing on the television, and it spoke about trans and intersex people as strange anomalies, using grotesque photos to drive its point home.
At age ten, I already believed that society would never accept me.
So even now, as a twenty-five year old who has been out for several years and long since accepted myself as male, I still squirm when a group of new friends begins to pass around their phones to find each other on social media.
As a very well 'passing' male, it's not obvious that I'm transgender, especially to new groups of people.
I never hesitate to share details of my life on social media. After all, that's exactly what it is — my life. At what point do you tell friends about your gay husband, your father's cancer or the dog you just adopted?
Sure I live openly, but like those other details, it's not always guaranteed to come up in a live conversation. It doesn't have to be a secret for it to be unknown.
Yet in the back of my mind, being transgender still feels like taboo. There are politicians fighting as we speak to put me in the women's room (whether or not they realize that's what they're fighting for).
Every visit to the doctor is a nightmare, and there's not a week that goes by that I don't hear hate speech towards transgender people in one way or another, whether in person or online.
For that reason, in situations like this where we pass our cellphones around, I feel the need to 'come clean' as trans before they've accepted me into their online life.
Often times I get shock and awe, while now and again I get a bigoted comment that warns me to change the subject before they even know my full name. Yet the last few times this has happened, I've gotten a surprising new reply.
In both situations, I've been left speechless for a number of reasons.
After all these years of walking a tightrope, hiding my true identity because I feared the slurs and hatred of those around me, I can't help but wonder which one has changed more — me, or society.
On one hand, I've considered being disappointed. My transgender journey is something I'm proud to have survived. Even as trans kids are being chased out of their homes with fists waving, the trans movement has done an incredible job of spreading a message of pride among our younger transgender generation especially using the Internet.
After decades of struggle, our community is facing a transition of its own as we translate pain into pride, and I'm no exception — pride is an incredible motivator to share our stories and further normalize our lives.
But what shocks me is how quickly that has already coaxed society from "you're a what?" into an off-handed "so what?"
I might argue that this is the best reaction one could possibly receive. Sure, it doesn't leave a lot of room for further discussion on gender diversity, but at that point, what really is there left to discuss? I'm a man; nothing has changed.
It doesn't matter that I wore a dress to my senior prom, that I'm a proud former Girl Scout troop leader, or that I went from being an only daughter to an only son.
I suppose it also doesn't matter that there's still an epidemic of murder, sickness, and suicide smudging itself across the trans community, fueled by conservative politicians who have used us to replace the lost war on gay marriage.
In that moment, all that matters is that as I handed my new friends a cellphone to add me on Facebook, there was no doubt in their eyes as they typed the name 'Brendon' into the Facebook search bar.
After a lifetime of constantly needing to prove either to myself or to other people that I'm normal, I think an occasional "so what" is a reminder that the times have truly changed — perhaps even more quickly than I have.
I suppose the point to remember is that no matter how you identify, it's your life — so what. And the more that trans people like myself are open, the more that casual acceptance will be possible.