I am sure that every new blogger has the same moment that I am having right now. Sitting in front of the computer, a notebook open with all of the manic creativity you so eagerly jotted down at 3am the night before, coffee cup poised to roust yourself into a morning of productivity….and then the voice in your head asks, “Ok…but what do you say first?”
This is like the worst job interview ever.
I created Tra(n)veling Man to act as that one resource that Trans* and Cis people can come to in order to learn and grow together as a community. However, with a community so varied and HUGE, how am I supposed to begin? I am just one person in a sea of individuals who are all leading their own truths and creating their own opinions! But perhaps that’s just it: maybe I should begin with my own individuality, my own trail of breadcrumbs that lead me to this very moment. At least I made a full pot of coffee….
I identify as “a transgender man” (or transman for short) because, in my mind, it fits my situation. I was born into a perfectly healthy female body and subsequently raised in our society as a typical girl (why, yes, I did just hear the whole other blog post rattling around in that particular statement). Unlike a large part of the Trans* community, who tend to know they are”different” from childhood, I genuinely did not notice I was anything other than a typical girl until I was later into my teens. Part of this is probably due to the way I was brought up.
My mother raised me alone – my parents were only dating when I was conceived, and my father left when she told him she was pregnant – so if you can imagine the 90’s show Gilmore Girls…that was my life. And I’m very proud of that. I love being my mother’s best friend, and I have always cherished the intensity of our bond. Our life was rather solitary because my mother has no family to speak of, and I was a shy child.
I never had any qualms about being a daughter, a girl, whathaveyou. I can even remember truly wanting my breasts to develop! Puberty was kind to me and I developed a mature female body very quickly. I was always tall for my age, my limbs were long and willowy, my hips and breasts just pronounced enough to make older men question my age, and I was PROUD of it. I was aware of what I looked like and I was happy to be attractive; the type of attractive didn’t really matter to me in those days.
Here is where sexuality comes in to play. I came out as a lesbian when I was just 12 years old. This label made sense to me, Me Girl + That Girl = Me Lesbian. Simple. Luckily for me, my mother has always been the type of person who just accepts humans the way they are. Having gay/lesbian/queer friends was nothing new to her and it wasn’t anything impressive or worth a second thought. She accepted me and supported me through all my pubescent years, and who I wanted to sleep with didn’t change a damn thing.
When I was in my freshman year of high school, something started growing in me. There was this seed of frustration that I could never truly dig out, no matter what I did. I was always open with my sexuality, so I knew it wasn’t any sort of questioning in that regard. I wonderingly found myself wishing more than anything that my hair was gone. At that time, my hair was long and luxurious, ringlets of black silk so thick that I had to tie it up in winter to avoid overheating – and suddenly I wanted it gone. I went from hair almost down to my butt, all the way to an army crew cut, and suddenly the seed was quieted. But only for a moment.
This particular part of my life is hard to describe with any word other than “blank”. Most of the changes and the experiments with my appearance were done without any real questioning or analysis on my part. All I knew was that I had started to feel like I was pushing out of my own skin. My clothes itched when they pressed against my breasts, my hips suddenly began to feel like swiveling boulders, my lithe limbs felt stupidly noodle-like. I began to assert more dominance in the bedroom, feeling uncomfortable when my at-the-moment-girlfriend would pay attention to my curves and my vagina. Without a conscious thought, I stopped looking in the mirror. Then one day, I bought an ace bandage and bound down my breasts until they were as flat as possible. I buttoned up my shirt and turned to myself in the mirror for the first time in months. My breath caught in my throat and my mind was completely blank, blank, blank. The only feeling I had was an apprehensive comfort.
People began to “mistake” me for a boy. Every day, everywhere I went, it was constant “Hey bud, what do you wa -…Oh I’m sorry Miss, how can I help you?” And of course, the infamous, “OH MY GOD THERE’S A BOY IN THE BATHROOM! GET OUT OF HERE!” All of these situations made me so indescribably uncomfortable, but I was aware that my discomfort didn’t come from the mistake…it came from the necessary correction from me. I hated telling them they had made a mistake, I hated saying, “No, I’m a girl!” in the girliest voice I could manage, I hated it when my mom would say, “Um no, that’s my daughter.” It was like I could feel the words bubbling in my stomach and crawling up my throat.
The next milestone in this story is actually very blurry for me; I buried it and buried it so deeply, that I honestly did not even remember it until about a year ago. When I was 16, apparently I tried to tell my mother that something was wrong. Mind you, I didn’t know the word “transgender” existed or Trans* was a thing, but I tearfully told my mother that “I don’t think I’m exactly a girl all the time. I don’t know what’s wrong with me, but a lot of the time I think I might be a boy, too.” This was the first time that my mother ever truly screamed at me.
Her terror exploded out of her and sent me flying back into the Blank state of mind; I “forgot” any of the puzzle pieces I had slowly been putting together in my mind in regards to why I was so uncomfortable. I do not in any way have any negative feelings about this incident. My mother loved her daughter, her best friend, her confidante and partner in crime. She never wanted a boy…hell, she didn’t even like them. I will talk more about our relationship and her struggle in later posts.
Back in my Blankness, I went off to college at the age of 18. After that night with my mother, I hadn’t given my discomfort a second thought. I continued to march through life with my little lesbian head held high. I became very visible on my tiny, agricultural campus as The Out Lesbian. Then I met Steff, who quickly became a very close friend. She was involved in the Queer community on campus and had her own ideas about identity that blew my mind. People can be relaxed in labels about sexuality? People can be Queer without being gay? What is this madness?! Her confidence and kindness shown through her every word and action, and I immediately felt like some door had opened up to me.
Then, one day, she said the words that would change my life forever: “Hey, wanna see my favorite porn star?” Trust me, these words were not surprising coming from Steff.
In her dorm room, she pulled up pictures and videos of Buck Angel: The Man with a Pussy.
I sat there next to her with my eyes wide, a sudden sweat broke out over my entire body, my fingernails dug into the wood of her computer chair. I was staring at a beautiful, rugged man…and he had a vagina. Rippling biceps, callused fingers, biker mustache and five o’clock shadow…and he had a vagina. I felt like his eyes were boring into mine and every line of his body said, “you get it now, don’t you?”
I went back to my dorm room and by 2am the next morning, I had watched so many Youtube videos of transgender men on their journeys that my eyes stung and my heart ached. Everything made sense. Blankness gave way to clarity and I began repeating inside my head the word Transman. I had a word, I had an identity, I had a name.
Gender transition is something that happens in chapters, and here this one ends. Coming out, discovering the physical transition process, etc., these are all topics that deserve their own posts. Thank you so much for your interest in my story. I hope that this post and all the personal ones to follow will help you to feel connected to me in some way, and I look forward to continuing this journey with you!