“What’s it Like Living Trans?”
Having someone close to you come out as gay, or lesbian, or even bi is almost* commonplace enough these days. Many people — especially in my area of Bellingham, WA — are starting to feel comforted enough by social media’s stories proclaiming “It Gets Better”, or by television’s inclusion of gay and lesbian characters. It’s starting* to become more and more okay to be openly gay. (*Notice I say “almost” and “starting”; this is obviously not the case everywhere in the US, let alone the world.)
But what if you come out as something else? What if you come out as trans? It is a lot scarier to do so, because it is a concept that seems a lot more foreign to a lot more people.
How many people do you know who are trans? It may be more than you think. In a liberal community such as Bellingham, people are definitely more willing to talk about their situations. Yet there are so many people throughout the US who still feel trapped by their communities, unable to express who they really are. Notice that I will not say that trans people feel “trapped in the wrong body”. I will not say this because I have never met a trans person who has described the experience as such. Many public figures in the community actually take issue with this cliche, as it leads we cisgendered people to believe that all trans stories are the same, when in fact these stories are as varying as anyone’s childhood compared to the next. To take a quote from Janet Mock, author, writer, tv host, culture commentator, and trans woman,
“Why don’t I like it? Because it places me in the role of victim, and to those who take mainstream media depictions as truth I’m seen as a human to be pitied because I’m someone who needs to be saved, rather than a self-determined woman with agency and choice and the ability to define who I am in this society and who I will become in spite of it.”
So what do you, the every-man (or every-woman) — what should you know about living life trans? I honestly couldn’t tell you on a personal note. I do not identify as such. BUT. I was able to interview a trans man on the subject of growing up and being trans…
He is college age, and has been on testosterone for 3 years. As such, I was surprised to learn he was not born with male genitalia. In fact, I thought the person who informed me of this at first was joking.
His childhood was a lot like anyone else’s, except as a child, he would always play games “as a boy”, with friends or by himself. He “threw fits for not having male parts”.
When he grew into adolescence, he tried to be a girl for his family’s sake. “That didn’t last long.” And while he was “playing” the part of girl in his real life, he retreated to “playing” a boy online for ten years of his young adult life. Even when he tried to fit society’s image of what he should be, he operated as who he really was in the ever shifting reality of the internet.
It wasn’t until he was 18 that he realized the truth. That’s when a teacher showed a documentary on Transgender Identity in class.
“I felt my whole world shift. I was in denial; I was furious that no one ever told me about it; I was scared because I could finally be happy… But who knew what it would cost? So I battled with that for a while, kind of ignoring it as best I could. Until I couldn’t…”
After that, he told his parents that he was a man. It took some evidence and some convincing (in the form of other people on YouTube who have faced this same realization) for his mother to be supportive, but eventually she understood. And by his 20th birthday, he was on testosterone, and starting to outwardly become the man he knew he was his whole life.
So what does this all mean to the Average Joe? What does this have to do with you, or your life?
Well, you can learn from this experience, so willingly shared by a complete stranger, and know that people are people, regardless of how they label themselves.
And you can ask the questions I did. “What was it like growing up? What pronouns would you prefer I used? How can I make the world suck a little less for you?”
This person’s story has a happy ending. He is healthy and happy living in Bellingham, and is living proof that it is a possibility to live as the man he always was. But what about those people who wanted the same thing, to be who they knew they were, and were killed for it?
Brandon Teena. Rita Hester. Or any of the other countless names listed here on the website for the International Transgender Day of Remembrance — or worse, the unnamed people listed.
Why were their deaths necessary? Because they wanted to be who they knew inside they were? Because they didn’t want to live as someone they were not?
This is my call to anyone reading this; if you expect to have the right to grow up into the man or woman you always wanted to be, if you expect the privilege to work in the field you trained and want to work in, and if you want to not be killed for wanting that — then whenever you can, help to make it so that everyone can do the same.