As a transgender man, I am very used to questions. As a disempowered minority, I am just as good at answering them.
Yes, I have a girlfriend and no, she’s not actually a lesbian. Yes, I’ve had my breasts removed and yes, those scars will look like that forever. No, that won’t help them fade. Yes, I will be on hormones for the rest of my life. No, I don’t get my period and yes, I know that you’re jealous of me because ‘periods suck’.
No, for the love of god no, you can’t ask me a ‘kinda personal question’. Thank you so much for attempting to mask your blatant disappointment when I won’t tell you if I use a strap-on or if people in my life accepted me for ‘who I am’.
There was once a time in my life where I often found myself answering almost any question I was hit with – as if feeling accepted in a social circle felt more like needing to have a secret password to enter an 8 year old’s secret schoolyard club. There was almost this expectation hanging above my head that I needed to prove I was ‘cool’ by allowing anyone, with or without filters, to ask whatever they liked about my sex life, personal life and opinions on controversial LGBTI+ members of society. In a desperate attempt to fit in at a point in my life where I felt rather detached from most things around me, I happily took on the role of being that ‘transgender friend,’ people I knew could refer to directly before they made a vaguely transphobic comment on Facebook. I mean, sure, I do have hobbies and interests other than the fact that I have a vagina, but I’m totally chill about it if that’s what you wanna talk about, you know?
One day I realised I did not need to earn the right to exist in the same places as other people. I did not need to excuse myself as if I was a student caught in an out-of-bounds zone at school.
Everyday, I stand in front of my bathroom mirror and inspect my top surgery scars that streak across my chest like two flowing brush strokes. Initially, the idea of covering my scars with clothing and then going along with my day as just a ‘regular guy’ was terrifying. My gender appeared to be the most interesting part of me for others, so I slowly came to assume that it must have been the most integral point of my identity. When I stopped allowing everyone to participate in this strange treasure hunt for miscellaneous and personal facts about me, people finally began asking questions about other stuff. People learned more about where I go to university, where I worked, what my family was like. I began to remember why I was worthy of respect and decency. I let more people into my life and removed the ones that were toxic. I met someone who taught me to love all the parts of myself that I hated and, finally, I created my own safe spaces instead of desperately trying to make myself comfortable in places where I was not.
As I creep towards the big 2-1, I’m still just over five foot tall. I know my facial hair is patchy at best and I have a decent amount of pimples along a not-so-defined jawline. Although people still ask a lot of questions and make their fair share of comments, I work hard to remind myself that my opinion on my transition and my body is the only one that matters. I’m not a search engine or an online forum, I am a person. I worked hard to fall in love with who I am after fighting against it for so long, and I am defined by more than just the fact that I am trans.
I am an uncle, and a brother, and a son. I am a loving boyfriend and an aspiring educator. I get really big crinkles in the corners of my eyes when I laugh and often find myself in awkward situations that make for great stories later. I build myself up when life or people try to bring me down.
I have come a long way to be who I am today. If there is anything I have learned from a confusing journey, it is that you should never sacrifice your happiness for acceptance – you must instead accept yourself first.
Art by Kayley Woods
IG – @kayleydesigns