Walking In Their Shoes

In case you haven’t figured out from a previous blog post: I am a man. I am a trans man, if you count the pre-qualifier.

I’ve been asked how I knew I was (I am) trans many times. The answer isn’t that I always knew I was trans but that I always knew I was a man. Well, maybe. I always knew I wasn’t like other girls. I say that more easily now that I have become so much more comfortable with myself. But can I really say that I was a girl?

The trans handbook says things like:

I have always been a man/woman. I was never really a woman/man. My outsides never matched my insides. I was always a man/woman on the inside or in my head and heart and soul.

If I have always been a man or boy, can I really say that I was a woman or a little girl? Well, I was certainly raised as one and lived as one. Was I just pretending?

If you’re looking for the answers to these questions I don’t really have them. From my lens of perspective, I think it is a little bit of both.

I have always been a boy. I was raised as a little girl so that made it really hard for me but I think I can confidently say I know what it is like to be a little girl. Even if I was only going through the motions because it was how I was being raised. But gender is fairly meaningless to children until they are taught otherwise. I don’t think I was a boy pretending to be a girl. I was a kid pretending to be an astronaut.

I have always been a man. That made puberty and early adulthood even harder. I don’t know that I can really say that I was a woman. I have had female experiences but I didn’t think in the same head space that women do. I’m not generalizing that all women are the same so I’m hoping that you’re sticking with my thought process and not critiquing every statement. I know that I didn’t quite think or feel the way a woman does. I did experience the same fears a woman can feel for safety reasons, but to be fair a male identity doesn’t really stop a trans man from living with some of those same fears.

Sidebar: Socially, there is a lot of discussion about men not understanding the constant fear that many women live in. I understand where those statements come from having lived as a physical female. That said, I think there is another side to these arguments: men can experience emotions, such as fear, too. Men are taught and conditioned to bury and hide those feelings to the point that it becomes too easy to forget that they have them at all. Ironically, it’s gender stereotyping on both sides that is perpetuating the issues. There are so many powerful, public speeches coming out about the gender inequality that is good for creating a dialogue for change but not when it turns into an attack on men that are being accused of being beyond understanding. Unless you are a sociopath, we all have the ability to emphasize and learn so no one is beyond understanding if we come from a place of education and not accusation.

Back on topic….

By the time I was old enough to be physically considered a ‘woman’ my head and my heart and my soul finally knew I was a man. I lived as an out lesbian for so long that I know what it is to be a lesbian but I don’t know what it is to be a woman, not really. It would even feel strange to say, ‘I was a woman.’ But I was a little girl… and a little boy.

Maybe I can at least say that I have walked in a woman’s shoes (literally, heels suck). I know that my ‘past life’ as a female made me the man I am today. Maybe that’s why I had an easier time with my transition than others. Yes, it was awkward (sooo awkward) but I wouldn’t be who I am now without that time. It’s not easy being a woman and not many men can know what that feels like but maybe a few of us can at least empathize on a deeper level.

Life gets better for all of us when we try to understand other lenses of perspective. That’s why I share all of this. Maybe by sharing I can help someone else understand a different lens from their own without them having to walk in some awful heels. At the very least I think I will make a great father to my as-of-yet unborn little girl because I can empathize with her more than she will realize.

Loss of Identity Post-Transition

It’s not what you think.

I have never been more myself than I was until after I transitioned (as previously stated.) However, before I transitioned I had worked very hard to become comfortable with being an out lesbian. In Texas — that isn’t easy and it certainly wasn’t for me. Even in the last 10 years, from when I was probably the most out, it was common to be known as the one lesbian in whatever social circle I was participating in. In college, I was part of a group of students that started the first LGBT student organization. Things felt a little better but there were many struggles within and outside of the organization. It seems odd to say, ‘it was a different time,’ but we have had so many social shifts that the taboo of LGB (intentionally left out the T) has dwindled to a norm. All things change in time.

THEN to NOW

My Post-Transition Loss of Identity is not about who I am but who I was as a part of the LGBT community. (Yes, the T is back from my previous omission.) When I first began to transition, I still had a place in my small LGBT community. I wasn’t the first transition but I’m pretty sure I was the second and the first didn’t really come around much. I wasn’t regarded any differently and my transitional stage still made me telegraph to people that I wasn’t just another guy. Whether it was my voice that sounded more like my mother or pre-op chesticles, I was still a card carrying member of the rainbow flying LGBT community.

The more time (yes, time) went on, the more my transition shifted how my gender expression was received by people I encountered. They weren’t seeing who I used to be anymore. It caught me off guard when I realized for the first time that I was talking to someone who didn’t know I was (I am) trans because to him I had become just another guy. I think it further surprised me because it was a young man advocating safety for women on college campuses. It clicked to me because he said, “You don’t know what it’s like for a woman. You can’t possibly understand.” I had known this young man for months and I just assumed that he knew, because it felt like everyone knew, that I was ‘the trans guy.’ How could he possibly say that I don’t know what it is like to be a woman? I was one!

[Well, that’s debatable and a trivialized thing to say. Please see this future blog.]

It’s not his fault that he didn’t know. He saw me exactly as the person I wanted him to see. I believe that most transgender female-to-male or male-to-female hope to hit a point in their transition where new people they meet don’t look at them and wonder, ‘are they or aren’t they?’ I hated when someone would meet me, be prepared to address me as a man, but then I would speak and my voice would telegraph female to them. Almost on cue they would turn down from my face to look at my chest and do a boobie check to confirm their suspicions from the higher tones in my voice than immediately start addressing me as a woman. It was a great feeling to meet new people and not have to go through the looks and questions anymore. My passing privilege (the ability to pass as another gender without being seen as your former gender) was in full force.

There was a trade off I hadn’t anticipated.

There is a cool thing about being LGBT — that moment when you meet someone else that is LGBT and you know that they know that you’re in the cool kids club and they know that you know that they are too. There’s a camaraderie in the minority. When the world started treating me like I was just a regular guy, I noticed that there was a small group of people that did start treating me differently: the LGBT community. I didn’t know that by gaining passing privilege my rainbow card had expired or in some cases, flat out revoked. The same LGBT mentorship or advocacy I had done before was being met with questions of ‘why are you here? you don’t belong.’

Imagine that? I no longer belonged to something that had become such a huge part of my life. To make matters worse, I wasn’t just seen as a guy but I was seen as a conservative christian white man of privilege. While all of those adjectives about me are true, it is not true that I am automatically the bad guy because I’m a white guy. I don’t normally talk about race, but it is significant for this blog.

When you start delving into LGBT issues, intersectionality always comes up and race is just one of the intersections. It’s such a hot topic right now. It makes it difficult to say that it is hard to be a white guy right now. Don’t start hating me yet, hear me out first. Everyone hates the white guy right now because it’s his fault that the world is so messed up. He’s spent centuries making it about his needs that I guess it’s time to pay the piper. I’m all for accountability but my issue is that I’m in my 30s and I haven’t even been a white guy for a decade, what did I do?! I didn’t do any of the things that I am generally held culpable for just by being a white guy. The irony is that I’m the bad guy for attaining privilege but in reality I’ve been ostracized. I’ve sat at lectures and attended conferences where white privilege is a major topic but most of the discussions revolve around calling everyone out for their white privilege and telling everyone who was born white and can’t control their race that it is their fault and they are all bad because of it. (By the way, that is the definition of racism and yes people can be racist against white people too — I see it every day.)

I know it seems off topic but let me refocus it so you understand.

I was born female, half Hispanic and raised by a poor, single parent and lived that for over 25 years, with 10 years of that as an out lesbian and active member of the LGBT community. That is not all that I was but that was the identity I lived and that was my lens of perspective.

Now…

All the world sees is that I’m a straight, white man with a college education. It is assumed that I have had no struggles in my life and I couldn’t possibly understand what it is like to not be accepted for who I am.

I’m still coming to terms with this loss of identity. Sorry if this post isn’t as funny or snarky as others. I try to focus on something a friend of mine who works with diversity issues said, “I believe in celebrating all people, even if some people have been celebrated more than others — historically.”

I want to celebrate everyone! I really want to help others with their transition and let them know that just by being themselves they are a cause for celebration. My membership card is gone but I still taste the rainbow every day.

Making of this Non-profit

I did not plan to make a non-profit organization. As it is, I post on this site completely anonymously for the protection of myself and my family. However, I have been very blessed or just plain lucky throughout my transition and have always felt the need to pass on that blessing by offering mentorship or educational resources whenever I can.

ABOUT ME

First disclosure: I am a transgender man (female-to-male) and I have lived fully transitioned for 5 years.

Second disclosure: I have been on HRT (hormone replacement therapy) for 5 years and had top surgery (bilateral mastectomy) 4 years ago. I have not chosen to have bottom surgery (more on that later).

Third disclosure: I live in Texas so most of the resources I am referencing are specific to my state but that does not mean that they are not applicable elsewhere. I hope that with time I will be able to offer the same resources about other states as well.

MY STORY

I did not start my transition until I was in college. Before I transitioned, I lived as an out lesbian. I come from a conservative family who had been loving and supportive of my sexuality even when there were times of struggle. This is just one of the many reasons I say that I am very blessed. Though I had long felt the need to transition, I pushed those feelings aside and wouldn’t allow myself to consider the possibility that I might be transgender because I felt like I had already put my family through enough. It wasn’t until I was dating the woman who would later become my Wife that I was finally able to truly accept myself. I have never been more comfortable or confident with myself than I was until I transitioned to become the man I am today.

As a further blessing, my family was even more supportive and were the encouragement behind starting How To Trans. Whether or not it grows to be more than a resource website at least it will be my contribution. I was able to journey through my transition from a place of education and it made all the difference. I hope I can offer that to you.

NOTE TO PARENTS AND OTHERS

These resources are not only for transgender people. I will include many posts and pages for allies, people who are unsure how they feel about trans issues, and yes — Parents. I’m specifically making a note for parents because:

A) I wouldn’t be anywhere without mine. They are a dependable constant in my life. I know that isn’t the same experience for everyone but I can only speak from my own experiences. I wish others had the kind of parents that I do but you can’t have mine — because they’re mine.

B) It isn’t always easy to be a parent to a transgender child, no matter their age. Scratch that, it isn’t easy to be a parent at all but sometimes transitioning can be or seem to be a self-involved process and people forget that parents and loved ones are transitioning as well. Parents, I promise I won’t forget about you.

I will be sharing resources that helped my parents and loved ones over the years. Again, I hope they help you as much as they did us.

Disclaimer: I am not now, nor will I ever be, speaking for anyone but myself and through my lens of perspective. I am not the transgender poster child, nor do I intend to be. There are probably many things I will say or points that I will make that are from my opinion, based on my experiences. While I do not mean to provoke or trigger anyone, I have in the past offended other transgender people (seriously, one misunderstood text conversation and you’d think I was a transphobic tranny) – case in point, I use the word ‘tranny’ comfortably while others find it extremely offensive. I am not a representative of all transgender or LGBT(I’m not typing the whole alphabet, it’s confusing) people. I am not politically correct. I am human and my lens of perspective is that many LGBT are overly sensitive and unsympathetic for others who don’t oppose or oppress but still struggle with aspects of humanity, such as the LGBT, that they have not had the exposure or education to better understand (which is a major focal point for providing these resources). If you don’t like or agree with something I have said or shared feel free to tell your best friend, but don’t tell me or ask me to change it or tell me to ‘check my privilege’. I find it offensive and it triggers me in my ‘safe space’ of free speech. That is my truth and I’m living it the best I can.

Anonymously.

On the interweb.

Signed,

HTT