Why Did I Choose to be Transgender?

Transgender Equality Rally 10/22/2018

First, off, I didn’t. I figured this title may hopefully grab the attention of someone wondering what it means to be transgender after the week of atrocious news from the regime in charge of the United States. I wanted to take a few minutes of your time to describe what being trans is like to me, from my earliest memories, to today. It is my hope that in reading this you will be enlightened and understand more about what life is like for someone who identifies as transgender.

I want to begin by talking about gender dysphoria. It is someone that I have lived with for as long as I can remember, but the way it has manifested itself has changed over time. As a child, gender dysphoria was pretty low. However, I will always remember day I was four years old, and my Mother caught me wearing her pantyhose, slip and a shirt on my head like a wig. She was mortified. The look on her face said it all, this was not how her oldest son was supposed to be acting. That was the first time I remember feeling distress about who I was, and what the world saw. Up until that point I didn’t know there was a difference between me and my Mom. I believed wholeheartedly that is what I would look like when I grew up. From then on this challenge became a hidden one. I did not want my Mom to feel the same way so I would do what I needed to keep her happy. I would say at the age of five I began to really engage with being imaginative it was the escape that allowed me to daydream as myself. Also, I started a habit of taking a nap dress as a girl to ease my discomfort with the world. My Grandmother would babysit me and during the hours of 12:30pm and 3:00pm while she watched her soaps, my brother and I were set down for naps. Since we had a two story house, nap time was unsupervised. So I would raid my Mom’s clothes, and put them on, and snuggle happily into bed unknown to the world. These were some of the earliest memories I have of fighting this battle with who the world saw me as, and who I knew I was.

As I grew older I felt ashamed of these urges. So I continued to push them down, remembering the words of the church, and family, this was wrong. So I went to prayer. Every single night I would say the same prayer, pleading, with tears in my eyes, “God make me a girl, and let Mom and Dad understand it all.” All I wanted was to be me. But that prayer would not be answered yet. So as I progressed through grade school, I developed a greater disassociation with my own body and life. I don’t remember much about the day to day of Grades 1–8, all I remember is anger, crying, and disappointment. Overall, it felt like I was watching my life pass by, and not the active participant within it. As the years went by, the prayers were longer, and met with more dismay. It was around 6th grade that I first heard the term transgender on a talk show and my jaw dropped. However, the reaction of the crowds, and the fear of what it would mean in my own life I said nothing. Continuing to pile more and more onto an already distraught soul. By the time I was in Middle School I was a loner during the day, and took out aggression at night. I would do my school work, come home, do homework and either go to football or basketball practice. In sports, I could hide who I was behind a number, and in football, all I was was pads, and a number. I was faceless. I latched on. By eighth grade my rage found an outlet and by high school football was my drug of choice.

It wasn’t that I necessarily liked football. I would be hurt a lot, bruises, broken bones, etc., but my God was there an outlet for the pain. I could inflict my pain onto someone else, and loved that ability. I was #48, nothing else. My dysphoria was masked by this sport, and this anger. The thoughts of suicide still continued, as I saw my body changing into a monster. I never let anyone see me without being fully dressed. At an all boys high school, I was the first one in the locker room, and changed, and the last one out after. I protected and hid everything on my body.

At the same time I tried to find more answers, but there weren’t any available. I still prayed fervently for a miracle, to no avail. I prayed also to be freed of the burden. I started to hang on to a verse from youth group, about a thorn in the flesh. I talked to a youth leader about transgender people, and was met with devilish laughter, and the words, they are sinners, full of the demonic, and irredeemable. To this man, unbeknownst to him, I was not worthy of God’s love.

Have you ever felt that before? To be made into something unlovable? The pain stung, it still stings me to this day when I hear the echo of the pastor compare people like me to pedophiles, and those who practice bestiality. I was put into a class of untouchables.

By the time I was in college I needed answers. Luckily we had a free psychologist on campus and I set up an appointment at 19. I told him my life story, my history, these secrets I had carried. He looked at me and said, Sean, “You are experiencing gender dysphoria, and need to come to grips with what you want to do next to alleviate that.” He meant learn more about the trans community, join the one LGBT group on campus, and hear their stories, and decide. But the words of that pastor haunted me. I went to my room. Grabbed a lanyard tied it triple knotted to my neck and to looped it to the ceiling light in my dorm. I kicked the chair out from under me, and hung. For 1…2….3…4….5….. knock knock at the door, and the lanyard snapped. I would’ve been dead if a friend hadn’t stopped by because she said God had put me on her heart. I didn’t tell her what happened, but for the first time knew I wanted to live.

For the rest of college this diagnosis stuck. I never lived it out, or pursued it, but it sat there beneath the surface. I got married and still prayed for a way to share this struggle with my wife. Finally at 29 the floodgates opened. My wife approached me and said she had some questions about me, and my current state of mind. I let loose everything that I had held in since I was four years old. I hurt her. I saw it. I was broken by it as well. But the truth was out.

The same month I saw two more psychologists, with the same recommendations from ten years earlier. At that point we both did some soul searching, and research and began our own new journey, as a trans couple.

Two years later I am happier, and more secure than I have ever been. My personality is in full swing and I can boldly be myself. I didn’t choose to be trans. I was born this way. I choose many wrong things up to this point. Suicide, hate, anger and isolation. I tried to pray the trans away. It didn’t happen. I actually prayed again at 29, and the next day came out. Faith was reclaimed and my trans identity verified.

The years of struggle were verified, were made worth it. I was valid. I am valid. Nothing about my past was delusional, confused, or sin. It was the world that sought to impose bad science, and even worse theology onto a tenuous situation that made the struggle at times unbearable. But that no longer has to be the case. There is a myriad of journal articles on trans lives, trans brains, and the gender spectrum. We are a diverse people. Gender should no longer need to be static and molded to outdated systems. We are each unique. So is our gender. So is our gender expression. The greatest failure is that it took me so long to be free, and now I see a world in the same battle. We do not need to hold onto a past understanding of what makes a man, or what makes a woman. We are all HUMAN. And this is the only life we have, why not make it unique and exciting?

Being trans is one of the hardest journeys in this world. You have to be brave to express your medical condition. You have to be brave to begin HRT, and to risk losing everyone. Yet this country continues to heap more and more burdens upon us. As I have written, nothing about this journey would be the one that I would pick. It is a life made more burdensome by the ignorant. Thankfully, nothing the US government says about my gender identity will matter. I will vote, march, and protest and live my truth. Trump and a memo can stop none of that. What I hope is that those people reading this will understand this struggle, and that they will choose to welcome diversity, rather than run from it. No one should be made to feel unlovable because of how they were born. But that is the current plight we face. We must do all that we can from sharing our stories, to demanding our rights; until one day, all people realize we are here, we are loved, and we are never going anywhere.

“woman holding her hair in white wall paint room” by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash