Hopefully when people see a trans-person walking down the street they see a strong and beautiful person but unfortunately there are people who will stare, harasses, laugh, and assault and possibly murder the trans-person. So it is little wonder why I spent years denying, to myself, that I am transgender.
Let me start by giving some background information. I am currently only out to a few friends and I am not living as the gender I identify as. I grew up in a divorced, white, middle class family, in a conservative town in Texas. I am the oldest “son” in my family. While I was staying with my father, I went to a Southern Baptist church. I have been lucky to find wonderful and supportive friends through this difficult process of learning what being transgender means to me. They have listened to me talk and have been a shoulder to cry on but since many of them are not trans themselves I wonder if it makes sense to them. Some have told me I just need to come out and live as I want to and the hell with everyone else. I am still in the process of unlearning all of the misconceptions, Western Society, has about gender. As children we are taught that boys have to be one way and girls another. For children that do not fit into these categories life can become a challenge.
I had two very different home environments as a child. At my mom’s house, where I lived most of the time, I was allowed to be myself. When I was around five, my best friend and neighbor was a girl my age. When we would play there was no limits. It ranged from dolls to toy guns and everything in between. While I was seen most of the time as a boy I would sometimes be gendered as a girl by others. While my mom was not bothered by this it did bother my father and the look of disappointment on his face did hurt. This lead to many hours of dad trying and failing to get me interested in sports.
While home, was hard at times, school was where I learned how different I really was. I was bullied almost every day because I was not living up to the expectations of my birth gender. Every day, during recess, I would have to make it passed the basketball court without being noticed. I would ignore them, as best I could, but sometimes I would be surrounded and be verbally and/or physically attacked. The teachers were no use, in fact, most would imply it was my fault for what happened. By the time middle school hit, I learned to shut down my emotions and would get into fights. While I was learning how to hide my emotions religion was absolutely no help. In fact the kids that would pray on Sunday were the same that would prey on me Monday.
All the while, I had the desire to be female no matter how hard I tried to be male. The media did not make these feelings any easier. My first exposure to transgender people was on day time TV. All of the horrible Jerry Springer type shows parading trans-women as freak shows. News programs were not much better, they would only show the most hyper-feminine trans-women and all had to be attracted to men and they never showed a trans-man. I did not hear about trans-men until I was twenty. Movies such as, The Crying Game, showed me that trans-women were less than human and were really gay men out to trick straight men. In the movie, when the man finds out, he beats the trans-woman. The movie tells the audience that the only way he can get back his straight male identity is by beating the woman.
After years of getting a steady diet of lies about transpeople there can be no surprise that I spent many years being suicidal. In fact it is estimated that 41% of transpeople have attempted suicide, this is more than 25 times higher than the general population rate of 1.6%.
Accepting my transgender identity has not just been about society’s transphobia but also my internalized trans-misogyny. It does share many of the same expectations as misogyny, such as having to fall within a narrow view of beauty or being attracted and attractive to men. Trans-misogyny has the added expectations that a trans-woman has to meet every societal expectation of womanhood or else they can be seen as “not really a woman.” These thoughts lead me to try and convenience myself that I can’t be trans because I am not hyper-feminine and I am only attracted to women. Over the last year and a half I have learned that you can transition into being gay, lesbian, bisexual, asexual, pansexual or any other label you identify as. The sexual diversity of transgender people is just as diverse as cisgender (someone who identifies with their birth gender) people.
I want to make clear that my experiences are not the same as other transpeople. They may have a similar past but do not assume that you know what that past is. Every person has to figure out who they are and how they fit into the world. My journey has led me to realize that I am a transgender lesbian and not a straight man.
To see some of the people who have been murdered because of transphobia go to: http://www.transgenderdor.org/