Disclaimer: This article contains language that some transgender individuals may find triggering. I am writing this from my personal experience, and I do not speak for the entire transgender community.
As far back as I can remember, around the age of three or so, I’ve viewed myself as male. I couldn’t understand when my grandmother tried to explain that I wasn’t a boy, until I accidentally walked in on one going to the bathroom. However, even faced with that fact, I still preferred wearing boy’s clothes and keeping my hair short. Knowing how disappointed I was, my grandmother allowed it, although she kept trying to get me to wear skirts and blouses with big flouncy bows for special occasions. (I hated those bows!)
Transitioning was not a widely known option when I was younger. I had no choice but to shove myself into being female and ultimately embracing the identity of being a tomboy. I don’t even recall how old I was when I first heard the term, but from my perspective it fit well enough, however imperfectly.
As I grew older, I didn’t always present myself as butch. On occasion I did enjoy growing my hair long. I never was a big fan of wearing dresses or skirts, but sometimes they were fun. I learned to wear minimal makeup because when I didn’t, I’d get concerned questions regarding my health (as many women do).
The idea of being able to transition from female-to-male didn’t come to my consciousness until Chaz Bono came out as transgender, around 2009. I remember watching him with his parents on TV back in the 1970s. However, the idea of transitioning didn’t resonate with me at the time, for various reasons.
First, Chaz had come out as lesbian before coming out as transgender. He was attracted to women, and I was not. At the time I didn’t understand that gender identity and sexuality are not linked together. Second, I knew Chaz came from a wealthy family, and I assumed that transitioning would be prohibitively expensive. Third, I was about three years into my relationship with my now late husband. I didn’t want to do anything to ruin that relationship. Finally, my life was in a great upheaval at the time. In 2008, I was laid off from the company I had worked at for over 11 years, and I was having to rediscover who and what I was professionally.
My gender identity was shoved away into a box, stored in the attic to gather dust. Every now and again I’d pull it out and amuse my friends with it. Isn’t it funny, when I was a kid, I thought I was a boy! It certainly always got some laughs. Then I’d pack it back up, stashed it away, and got on with my life.
So, what about my dysphoria? I largely ignored it. I do remember being horrified when I hit puberty and my formerly androgynous body became curvy. I hated my breasts, my widening hips, my curvaceous thighs. Puberty hit me fast, and my new body developed so quickly, it left me with stretch marks that I still have to this day.
Sadly, I quickly realized that no amount of starving myself or exercise was going to bring back my formerly lanky, beanpole body. The curves were here to stay, and I had too much else going on in my life to fret over them. I would always cringe when I saw my curves in the mirror, and it took a long time for me to figure out how to dress in a way that made me feel comfortable with my body. Eventually, I gravitated towards baggy hoodies and jeans as my primary fashion choice.
While the idea of transitioning didn’t take root for me while my husband was still alive, he and I often talked about our desires to experience being the other gender. He and I were very open with each other, so we often talked at length about what it was like to live with our bodies. I’m not saying my husband was transgender, but he did have a very healthy curiosity. If he could have spent a day in a female body, he would have jumped at the chance. He was also bisexual, so I honestly believe he would have been okay with my transition, if I had seriously been considering it before he passed.
Transitioning didn’t come into my consciousness again until I started coming across trans YouTubers. I followed Gigi Gorgeous for a long time, back before she even changed her name and began her medical transition. Eventually, I found transgender men on YouTube as well and I was fascinated. I started to learn that transitioning wasn’t nearly as outrageously expensive as I had thought, and that most of the changes I wanted to happen to my body could be done by just taking testosterone.
However, all the transgender men I watched were straight, and dating or married to women. That made me question if I could be trans, since I was only attracted to men. Yet, I kept watching and finding more trans YouTubers. During this time is when my husband passed, in early 2016. While I grieved, I packed my gender identity box back up and stored it again, as I focused on just trying to learn how to live day-to-day (sometimes minute-to-minute) without him.
It took another year-and-a-half before I was ready to explore my transgender side again. I finally found some gay trans guys on YouTube, which gave me hope that this was something I could do as well. I kept playing around with the idea in my head before I bought my first binder. As soon as I put it on, I loved how I looked. The binder turned my breasts into pecs, and when I slipped a hoodie on over it, it finally fit right.
That’s when I started to consider that I was transgender. It took a few more months, watching more educational videos, and doing research before I decided to come out. I first came out to my friends and family. Thankfully, they have all been remarkably supportive. Then I came out to my gynecologist, who then referred me to a psychiatrist. I began the process of therapy, spending numerous sessions, before I received my diagnosis of gender dysphoria.
With my diagnosis in hand, I came out to my GP (general practitioner) and she referred me to an endocrinologist who has been helping me with the first stage of my medical transition: taking testosterone. As of my writing this, I am nearly 11 months on testosterone. For the most part I love all the changes happening to my body, and for the first time I feel really comfortable in my skin.
As I discussed in a previous article, I have come across one downside. I have developed fibroids on my uterus, which will necessitate my having a hysterectomy. While I am not a fan of having surgery, this is one that I have begged for since I was in my early 20s. The fact it took my transitioning to male in order to get approval for it is somewhat frustrating (all hail the patriarchy!), but I’m taking it in stride.
Looking towards the future, I have only one other surgery I really want, and that is to have my breasts removed so I can have a flat chest without wearing a binder. I love my binders, but they do make my back ache a bit if I wear them all day (which I shouldn’t, but sometimes I don’t have a choice). I have decided to forego any bottom surgery as I’ve never had genital dysphoria. My transition is more about being accepted as a man in society. Yes, I know not everyone will, but once I have been on testosterone for several years, my being transgender will not be obvious anymore.
My journey has taken decades, but I am very happy I can be who and what I really am, regardless of how society may judge me for it.