Last week I read about Daniel Ortberg (the author formerly known as Mallory) transitioning to male. It was the first time I read an account of a trans man that felt so familiar, it quite literally pushed me out of the closet— a person who spent the first 34 years of my life having not a single clue that transitioning was a viable solution to my incessant feeling of being a ‘fish out of water.’ I didn’t know I was trans when I was a little kid. I knew I was a tomboy who was happiest playing outside, scuffing my knees up, sweating and bleeding and winning at whatever sport was being served up that day. I also knew that I was great at babysitting and truly enjoyed nurturing little kids. I was artistic, poetic and idealistic, and a total math nerd. Go fig! It never once occurred to me that my masculine and feminine qualities could be mashed together into one little Orange County trans boy. I just thought I was a rare breed of a girl. So I went with it. I learned the makeup, the clothes, the mannerisms (albeit, I spent an inordinate amount of time thinking about my how to present myself as feminine). I tried *really* hard to fit in and do ‘girling’ well. I now know that I lost a lot of years living doing this not very well and suffering in silence.
Q: How long have you known you were Ethan?
A: I’ve known for about a year now that this was something I had to do. But I’ve known since I was a little kid that something was off about me. Ethan is just one of about 10 names I tried on. But I resisted coming out socially because, although I felt pretty confident about feeling more masculine than feminine, I still had nagging doubts. And, frankly, Trump had just been elected, and who would ever think that coming out in 2017 was a good idea? Not. A. Single. Soul. It wasn’t until I was about to get pregnant that I realized there was no way in hell I would be able to exercise my right to grow a baby in my uterus if I was going to be viewed as a woman, and touched and coddled as a pregnant woman (you know how we do in this society. Ewww.). I would rather stab myself in the eye with an entire box of #2 pencils.
I was also coincidentally on the tale end of grieving my wife’s transition from male to female. I was going through a lot at the time. And I read the fairytales about the little boy who cried wolf far too many times. It didn’t end well for that little boy. So I sat on it, until I was certain. Because, why put friends, family and co-workers through that if I wasn’t sure, or was just going to revert back in two weeks? I care about how my transition impacts those I care about and the work I do. I may have cared too much.
Q: Why are you transitioning now at 35?
A: It may sound odd, but once you realize you don’t have to be stuck in the gender box you were assigned at birth, it’s really hard to ‘unknow’ that information. It only becomes more and more distressing to stay in the wrong gender and be called by pronouns that no longer feel right. Here’s the thing. It’s not enough to be trans in secret. It’s simply not enough, in times like these, to be anything but the most authentic version of yourself.
Q: What should I call you? My preferred pronouns are he/him, and my preferred name is Ethan. If you call me Ashley I will probably turn around and look behind me, assuming you are addressing someone else. I kid! If you mess up the first few times, don’t worry. I won’t be a jerk about it.
Q: Anymore surprises we should know about? Nope. I will continue leading a government affairs firm that focuses on building the future, fighting for issues I believe in, being a feminist, and wanting to give birth. Frankly, I just dress better. Because I care about how I look now. I’m excited to be seen as my true self, and my obsession with men’s shoes has already taken hold — Lord help my budget.
So, if you want to keep in touch or send me coupon codes for Cole Haan, email me at email@example.com or hit me up on Twitter @ethanjclift