Since I was a kid, it has truly felt as though I was born into the wrong body.
Certain parts feel more foreign than others, such as my breasts and vagina. And then on some days, I feel good about the feminine parts of my body, even if they do look feminine to me.
This constant and complicated flipping back and forth is something that most cisgender folks fail to understand about the trans experience. I know this because when I come out to friends and colleagues, I’m asked “male to female or female to male?” As if there’s no in between. As if surgery is a goal for every trans person.
Personally, I’m very interested in gender affirmative procedures. I want to start taking testosterone at some point in the near future. And I fantasize constantly about having a flat chest and my very own flesh dick. But the reality is this: I’m just not sure enough at this point to do any of these things.
I don’t mean that I’m not sure whether or not I’m a man, that is something that I know and believe deeply. What I don’t know is if I will need to get rid of certain body parts in order to feel like a man (at least when I’m alone with myself). Generally speaking, I feel dysphoric regarding my breasts, but about a quarter of the time, I love my chest. It’s scary to imagine them not being there on the days that I love them, as well as on the days where I’ve already gotten used to putting up with them. I feel very strongly about wanting my vagina gone, but I fear compromising my sexual health and ability to orgasm. As someone who treasures sex and orgasms so deeply, it would be a huge sacrifice if I had to choose a penis over the ability to climax.
And then there are the costs. There are the concerns about how the hormones will affect my mood disorder. There is the fear that our new president will make it very difficult to transition and make it harder to be a visibly trans man in America. And of course, there’s the fear of permanence with these procedures. I know people who have gotten top or bottom surgery and then changed their mind. What if that happens to me?
So for now, I’ve shelved my medical transition. But every day, I’m reminded of something I don’t normally factor into my decision making with this: what everyone else thinks. Because in order to accept me as a trans man, folks around me need to know I’m actively transitioning.
I get asked constantly if I plan to transition, a question that folks don’t seem to realize is so very personal and uncomfortable. It’s made very obvious to me that I don’t look like the man I am, with the way I’m constantly referred to with “she” and as “Miss.” And so when people find out I’m not transitioning at the moment, the topic gets dropped and, as a result, so do I. Despite the fact that I tell people I’m a trans man, there are no questions about my pronouns. Right back to “she,” “girl,” “miss”: business as usual.
Being erased like this because of how I look makes me feel helpless. More than anything, it makes me feel cornered into speeding up my transition process just so I can finally be treated as and seen as the man that I am. It seems silly, to want to change parts of your body and appearance to seek the validation of others. But when so much of trans people’s survival relies on acknowledgment and acceptance (something that is often few and far between for trans folks with and without mental illness), it seems imperative, even medically necessary, to medically transition. Deconstructing society and your body and stripping them of their gendered meanings is virtually useless in the end when the majority still sees things as black and white, man and woman.