I fucking hate that term. The prefix of ‘de’ implies that you’re moving backwards; regression to ‘return to a former or less developed state.’ To imply that my existence, body, soul & sprit have gone to a less developed state at any point would really challenge the idea of self growth. Growth is moving forwards, yes? Now don’t get me wrong – self growth isn’t necessarily linear by any means but it usually is in trajectory towards a place of harmony with ones self. Do we ever actually achieve that? Who’s to say. I personally feel like I will never stop growing but my aim is generally towards the harmony. Anyways, the idea that because I changed my gender once from what it was assigned at birth, and then changed it again, to mean that I returned to a less developed state seems counterintuitive, and like, rude.
Picture this; 16 year old me, lesbian & dyke identified at the time, scrolling on tumblr. ‘#trans man’ at the top of my searches. I was eating these peoples stories of their transitions for breakfast lunch and dinner, and wanted more, the theme of not feeling like yourself was common and oh boy did I relate.
Let’s actually take a little bit further back into being 15, the girl I was dating at the time was older than me, and had more experience in dating people who weren’t cis men. She would often say things to me like “Are you sure you’re not trans?” Not as a way of making fun at my masculine behaviour, but because she really saw that shit coming (lol). Honestly I’d never given the trans Identity much thought prior to her asking these questions of me, there was no one in my life who was out as trans so I was very ignorant to what that even meant.
Now fast forward again to me at 16 trying to figure it out on my own! After her and I broke up, I had plenty of downtime to search and read all the stories, watch all the YouTube videos, all the voice comparisons. At this point though I was far too apprehensive to ever say that I was doing these things out loud. I have been in therapy since I was 14. Trauma filled childhood!! Yeehaw! Oh and side note, my mom is also a Butch Lesbian. More on that later.
My next relationship, which started pretty soon after the last, was with another girl who happened to be bisexual. She was pretty open about how she was also attracted to dudes. She most certainly liked the masculine parts of me & I one hundred percent read into that way too much. I often felt like had a role to fit otherwise she might leave me for a guy, now this is a pretty damn biphobic narrative and I’m aware of this now. At the time though, I was terribly upset at the idea that I could ‘never be a man’ and that would be unsatisfying to her. Now was this because she gave me reason to feel this way or because of my own gender insecurities? Bingo! The second one. Since I had ‘come out’ (which was really anticlimactic, since my mom is gay… I kinda just came home with my gf and was like “hey this is my gf” and my mom was like “cool”. A great privilege I am very grateful for) I had been dressing in ‘boys clothes’ and hadn’t looked back. It was where I felt most comfortable, in brand new boxers, a tight ass Nike sports bra and a fresh white T. So as you can imagine, the mere fact that I felt more comfortable in men’s clothing obviously meant that I’m a man, right? No. But 16 year old me kinda thought it made sense and paid attention to that, in combination with the reading up on stories of trans men putting on a binder and feeling relief, lead me down a path of self reflection that often kept me up at night. Often I would think about how even as a child I would always wear boys clothes, in fact, my aunt and I would get into yelling matches because I wouldn’t wear girls clothes. I tried! I really did! I just always felt so uncomfortable and not myself. I even cut my hair super short (bowl cut, duh). I truly looked like a little boy and as confusing as it was to myself and the people around me, I loved feeling comfortable. So again you can see how 16 year old me put all of this together over time. It was always in the back of my mind, until it slowly made its way to the tip of my tongue.
One night I remember laying in bed with my girlfriend at the time and being incredibly anxious, because ya know, anxiety disorders and all. She asked me what was wrong and I just kinda blurted it out. “ I think that maybe I might be trans.” I don’t remember exactly what she said because I literally couldn’t hear anything over the pounding of my heartbeat in my ears, but it was something to the tune of “Okay, so what should we do?” And quickly followed by something like, “Do you want to change your name?” The lack of judgement that I felt calmed me down pretty quickly and I started thinking rationally. Yes I did want to change my name, and no I had no idea what I wanted to do about this realization. She accepted this as it was and we moved forward with daily life. She even went name shopping with me, we would compile names from baby name websites and save the ones we liked the most. We had a top ten and I picked my favorite, she approved and never hesitated to correct people who dead named me after I had made that decision. She called me her boyfriend, with a ring to it that made me feel seen.
I spent a lot of time in therapy dancing around the subject of gender, never really reveling how much it gnawed at me, until I finally just blurted it out again, in a very similar way. “I think I’m trans.”
It was so fucking hard to say to her for something reason. I think a part of me always was waiting to have to defend my decision, putting up a big wall while I simultaneously threw the boulder of my statement. She, like the girlfriend at the time, met me with questions but no judgement. I talked about how I was scared of saying the word ‘I’ and the word ‘trans’ in the same sentence. I spent a whole session just saying them together until I didn’t hesitate.
I never actually came out in stereotypical sit down conversation type way to family or friends; not when I came out as lesbian and not trans either. I posted a Facebook status announcing my name change and then told all my teachers at school. No mention of being trans, just the name change. I had a lot of support, and the classic line of “oh my god you’re so brave, sorry if I fuck up for a while.” I would soon learn how annoying that actually was, but it came from good intent, so I chose to be grateful. People asked if I wanted to be referred to as he/him. I didn’t really care yet, honestly. I wanted to take it slow and see what felt good. Pretty quickly after realizing just how good it felt, I knew I wanted to go on hormone replacement therapy. I had state insurance and I knew it was covered, that was a really big privilege, and after calling around to finally find a doctors office that would see a minor for hrt, I had my appointment.
The appointment was pretty anticlimactic, which is kindve a common theme in my life, things are either very overwhelming or very underwhelming. She asked questions and I gave answers. “How long have you felt this way?” “Oh ya know, like, forever.” I had read up on the things to say for her to believe me, because that’s a thing that trans people have to do a lot. Convince people to believe them. She prescribed the testosterone and a week later my best friends mom, who is a nurse, did my very first T shot.
“I’m a real boy now.”
I remember sitting in the chair watching Jill, the nurse, pull the needle out of my leg and cap it, throwing it back in the brown paper bag from the pharmacy. “Wow.” I said that like ten times in a row probably. It was a really weird and exciting moment. I didn’t expect things to change overnight, but did I spend literally every 30 minutes checking my peach fuzz on my face and smelling my armpits? (Yeah your BO changes) You bet I did. I did all the voice and face comparisons, just like I had seen before me. The changes were amazing. I felt so confident. T had a really interesting effect on my personality. Most people, and the stereotype is, that when you start T you just turn into a horny mean asshole who eats a lot and breaks out. Like, that’s kindve true, but instead of being an asshole I became extremely patient. I still had and will forever have an anxiety disorder, but being on T changed something in me that helped me be more chill when reacting to things, my behaviors became more composed, especially the more time went by. Now I’m sure some of that can be chalked up to just maturing as I was also just going though assigned gender at birth puberty but none the less. I became very chill. Oh and I was very horny, and the girlfriend at the time had a similarly obnoxious sex drive. So that was really cool and fun for 16 & 17 year old me.
Things that made me feel really gender affirmed were working out, which I was required to do as a part of my high school curriculum. I went to a small alternative high school that allowed you to go to the gym as PE. Which is where I found my love of lifting weights. My voice was getting deeper, I absolutely loved it and would talk to myself often. Marveling at how it got richer by the day. I had some facial hair, which I still can grow to this day. Everything felt so good and right and lovely. Until it didnt.
That girlfriend and I broke up. Unfortunately some of my fears were confirmed and she did in fact cheat on me with a man. A lot of trust was betrayed and we tried to make it work and it just didn’t. We spent a lot of time trying to make it work though. Young love, it does weird things. Even though that fear I had so once dreaded had actually happened I knew logically it wasn’t about how much of a man I was, but it was definitely difficult to have to remind myself of that all the time.
Another kind of heartache that I faced, was dealing with one of my close friends who didn’t quite understand why I was transitioning. She loved me and I knew that, but would often poke fun at me changing my mind one day, (lol you were right bitch) or regretting it! I know that she came from a place of care but it truly hurt to not feel support from her. The truth of the matter is, that I don’t regret being on T at all. I love my voice, and the facial hair I can grow. I love how my body composition changed and how broad my shoulders are. These changes make me who I am and I don’t regret them at all. On that some note I think that is what makes it easy to say that I didn’t ‘destransition’, I simple made another transition into I am today. That friend and I have since talked about how much that hurt me in high school and she apologized, it really meant a lot.
The turning point in which I realized that I no longer wanted to be on testosterone, was after I graduated high school and was out in the big adult world working as a caregiver. Old people are ruthless and would often ask me questions about my long hair and jewelry in my face, because I was a boy and it didn’t make sense to them. I often really felt like I had to fit into this box of what manhood looks like, I know that that’s a common theme for cis men growing up, and can really result in toxic ways of thinking. I hated this concept. Additionally the body hair that I had come to love was taking over my life and it got to a point where it felt like it was too much. I didn’t want to be seen as a cis man, I didn’t like the way that my masculinity was interpreted by the world.
It didn’t feel authentic to what my masculinity actually meant to me.
I had been wrestling with the idea of stopping T for about 6 months, and then I joined the women’s rugby team with my friend. Women’s rugby team accepted trans men on the team up to 2 years on T. I was about a year and 6 months at that point and so I was good for that season. Now watching all these bad ass dykes be so unapologetically masculine and women at the same time wasn’t a new concept to me. Remember my butch mother? How could you forget. My mom and her twin sister were both extremely masc butch lesbians that had killer mullets and leather jackets. They didn’t give a single fuck about what anyone thought and I always admired that. That’s where a lot of my confidence was learned. However, I think seeing all these young dykes around my age doing this badassery really put it into perspective that I didn’t have to be a man to be masculine. One morning I literally woke up, crusty drool on the side of my mustache, looked in the mirror and just didn’t even recognize myself.
So three years ago this fall, I made the choice to stop testosterone. The coming off of T wasn’t too bad. I weened down and slowly over time my body hair became thinner and although I’m still one hairy bitch, it’s no where near what it was, and I like it like that. My voice is still deep and sexy, not quite as deep though. Still have a chin strap that I grow out whenever I get the itch to. Over all my features softened a little bit but remain pretty masculine, it’s perfect for me. I get read as a man about 30% of the time now, which is fine by me, it usually works out in situations where male privilege is really nice. The butch dyke identity really makes me feel at home, it feels like the warmth of a leather jacket when it’s really cold outside, the weight of it just enough to make the cold world not so miserable. Thankfully the butch swagger that my mom and her twin carried so elegantly passed on down to me as well, and I look and feel damn good doing it.
I think the reason I had to go down the route of gender that I did was that I really just wanted to feel secure in my masculinity and I thought that I needed to fully transition (in a very binary way) for that to be true, then I got a point where I realized that could be celebrated as a women, or a butch I should say, and didnt have to subscribe to society’s binary. I consider my gender to be butch, but that’s a whole different article. Sometimes we just have to go through things rather than around them, and learn for ourselves what feels best.