I first needed the words. I’d always known something was different for me. I never fit in my own body. I never wanted the role assigned to me. I didn’t have the words to understand these feelings until grad school. By then it felt too late. I felt like I’d wasted my twenties being someone I wasn’t. I danced around the topic and took a ridiculous amount of time to discover the ideas I was pursuing were about me. Gender, embodiment, feminist, masculinity. I read Judith Butler and Jack Halberstam and applied it to texts, but it took longer to apply it to myself.
Many argue that the humanities serve no function. I deeply disagree. Studying all these topics gave me words to describe myself and come to terms with my identity. For instance, I knew trans women existed through media, but I didn’t know about trans men until I happened to attend a talk by a trans man at a gender conference at my university. It changed my life. I had all these words floating in my head, but until that moment, I didn’t embrace them. Sitting, listening to him talk about bathroom bills and the murders of trans women of color, I couldn’t help but think, Am I trans? His descriptions matched my experience. I’d never considered it before. I grew up around the LGBT movement, but I never felt I was a part of it. I didn’t date. I didn’t talk about my attractions. I felt I couldn’t express myself in that way. I bottled it up and locked that bottle away.
The idea took time to percolate. I talked to a dear friend about it and tried to understand all my thoughts and emotions. I talked to a close cousin who had always been out and proud when I was growing up. I didn’t follow up for two more years.
It wasn’t until I started getting fit that I saw how my body could change. I’d always felt trapped in it, weighed down by it. I didn’t exercise after puberty and I ate very badly. It took a toll. When I moved after grad school, I set a goal to talk to a personal trainer and sign up. I couldn’t go on in this body, in this way, and not hate myself.
I worked hard. I started lifting weights and my diet became so much better. I felt amazing in my smaller, fitter body. Then it dawned on me. I don’t have to consider this body a trap. I can change it, through hard work, and through medical surgery. I felt inspired to come out and come clean about my whole being. I told everyone. Sometimes it was very awkward, but I didn’t hide myself. I announced it on social media and felt a weight lift. I told my longtime therapist and she felt so happy for me that I was living as my true self.
Shortly after I posted, Elliot Page came out as trans. My heart soared. Here was a successful trans masculine person coming out at 35. We had both lived our 20s not fully being ourselves and here was our chance to change things.
To backtrack, I took me months to pluck up the courage to talk to my doctor about HRT. Then it took longer to follow up on it. I finally started testosterone on June 1, 2020. At first, I couldn’t give myself the shots, but I eventually did it and it wasn’t too bad. I started growing hair and experienced second puberty. I’m still in the middle of it, discovering a whole new world. Binders don’t really work for me, so I can’t wait for my top surgery. I’m eager to be myself now. I have been very lucky with coming out to my friends and family, who have all been so loving and adapted quickly.
I don’t plan to change my name, but I will go by a different name online, to avoid gender confusion. I really love my name because it comes from a mix of a few family members. To honor another family member, I’m going by Jack on the web. I will use male pronouns, but I’ll be forgiving for a while. I expect people to be confused or not know how to respond. We can all learn and grow together. I will not accept hate; you don’t need to stick around if that’s how you feel. Hopefully soon you will see me out and about town, expressing my true self.