I Was Never A Girl

When people learn that I am an FTM, one of the first things I hear is “so, you used to be a girl?’ or some variation of that question. I can understand why you might ask a Trans* person that, given the stereotypes and terminology that go along with us. There are even a few Trans* people who might answer yes to that question depending on how they see their past. But I am not one of those people and a lot of other Trans* folks fit right in with me on this. So let this be your first lesson. Don’t EVER ask anyone if they “used to be *insert gender*” I was NEVER a girl. EVER. My parents may have tried to raise me as one, even put me in dresses…like this:

3 years old

but that didn’t stop me from stripping them off at my earliest convenience. I was a very lucky child though (at least in regard to freedom of expression…) and my mom was happy to buy me whatever clothes I wanted to wear once I was old enough to speak up about it. I was allowed to choose my hair style, I was allowed to play with whatever “genders” toys I wanted. Chances are, if you give a 7-year-old girl COMPLETE freedom to pick her own clothes at the store, she is still going to pick out some girl clothes….What did I pick? Well, lets take a look…

7 yrs old

Now, I’ll admit that I may have picked a bad hair cut, and that shirt isn’t going to win me any fashion awards, but I was damn comfortable. Anyone see a little “girl” in this picture? Nobody seemed to notice I was a girl; I was a boy to nearly everyone when they met me…Until they heard my name of course but that’s a different story that I will not be telling. I was repeatedly pulled out of the school bathroom because “That’s for little girls! you don’t belong in there” and they were right, but I was told by the other grown ups in my life that I had to use the girls bathroom. Two trips to the principals office and a phone call from my mom verifying I was in fact the student I claimed to be, meant that I could finally go pee. But of course, that wasn’t the last time it happened. I got really good at holding my bladder over the years, I also got really good at being dehydrated. I wonder if there is a connection there…

My friends knew my name, so I was “she” to them, but they didn’t know any better and neither did I. They never really treated me like a girl despite the pronouns. I didn’t feel like a girl, I didn’t act like all the girls I knew, I was pretty sure that when the magic of puberty started, my penis would grow in while all the girls got their ever so coveted boobs. I was just a bit behind the other boys, that was all. So I let the “she” and “her” continue because one day everyone would see that they had made a mistake and it would all be fixed when that pesky penis grew in. So I waited…and continued to dress myself…

10 yrs old

10 years old and still no penis!?!?! What was happening?! Was it supposed to grow on its own? Did I need to do something to make it happen?! Did the stork just forget to attach it before he dropped me off? Questions were everywhere but there wasn’t a single answer to be found… Things were getting troubling… Why was my chest starting to hurt? and what are these bumps?! I remember very vividly the day I noticed the painful budding breasts on my chest. I started crying, sobbing really. I ran full speed to my mom and told her that I MUST have cancer because these “two little lumps hurt a lot!” After a brief physical exam performed by Dr. Mom, I was diagnosed with the unthinkable…BREASTS! But.. They were just small lumps, maybe my testicles got stuck up there or something! That can happen right? Or maybe it’s just muscle growing really fast! It can’t be breasts!!! I’m a boy! On that day, I had started rooting for the idea of cancer instead. I remember having my first panic attack around this age. I was standing in the middle of a store, looking at toys. A woman brushed past me and said something like “excuse me young lady” and I froze in panic. Suddenly the realization that I wasn’t going to magically be a boy set in. I stood there, unable to breathe, shaking, trying to figure out how to find my mom with blurred vision. I had no idea what a panic attack was, and I had no real way of defining the feeling inside that told me I was a boy…So when my mom found me standing there, looking pale and confused, I told her I didn’t feel well. I imagine when your 10-year-old looks colorless and complains about an upset stomach and feeling cold, you just figure they are sick… Of course, I couldn’t explain what I was truly feeling, I didn’t know how. Things started changing like crazy and as I got older, the people around me were less supportive. Suddenly I was no longer the care free boy who just happened to be called a girl…I couldn’t be that anymore, I was slowly forced by schoolmates, by society as a whole, into this box perfectly fitted for a female. It was dark and tight in there, it was the start of my anxiety and depression…I would have to try to be a girl, I figured. There wasn’t anything else I could do…so I tried, and even me in “girl mode” failed at being female…

14 yrs old

I was 14, I tried to let my hair grow, but that resulted in me not washing it because I couldn’t stand it on my head like that. I wanted short hair like all the other guys. I wore T-shirts way too big to hide my “cancer” breasts, but I bought the shirts in the woman’s department so that counts right? and jeans…always always always jeans. You are looking at a picture of the same person as before…but can you see the missing sparkle? can you see the dimmed light? The depression hiding under that poorly crafted “girl” mask?

 16 yrs

How about now? Do you see any bit of that happy little boy from a few pictures up? He has been stuffed inside and hidden, but he is still there. At 16, depression really set in. I no longer felt in control of myself. I was constantly hiding, pretending to be this girl, and it was too much. I started harming myself. If I rolled up those sweater sleeves you’d see my arms sliced to hell and my hands and wrists burned in various spots. It was easier to deal with the distraction of physical pain than to think about being trapped as a girl forever. I decided I was probably just a lesbian, that must be it! I was attracted to women and the whole world kept telling me I was a woman too, so lesbian was the answer! At least then no one really questioned why I stopped dressing in feminine attire…but if being a lesbian was an answer to all the horror I felt inside, why was I still depressed? Why was I still cutting? Because a lesbian is a woman and I am not…

Picture 200

When I was 18, I learned about Trans* people. Prior to that, I only knew that there were a few “men” in the world that “decided” to get “sex changes” and be women. I only knew what I saw on trashy talk shows like Jerry Springer. These “men” were always portrayed as freaks, as deceivers, as sub-par humans who didn’t belong in society. I had never seen any “women” on these shows “trying” to be men though. FTM’s seemed to be oddly invisible. When I finally understood that Mr. Springer and all of his talk show host friends had only perpetuated lies and hate toward a legitimate group of people, when I learned that there were others who felt exactly like me, when I realized that Trans* people were real people, my life changed dramatically. I could finally let myself out of that tightly wrapped “girl” package and be me. Or so I thought. It’s one thing to tell people you are a homosexual. It’s quite another to tell them you are Trans*. How was I going to tell people?! How was I going to get people to refer to me with male pronouns?! How would I be able to get people to remember a new name? Would my friends and family accept this new revelation?

Slowly I started telling people… My mom was first. She didn’t understand, she wanted to but she just didn’t. I was very lucky though, she never said anything negative to me about it, she just didn’t understand why a “woman” would “want” to be a man. She was worried for my safety, for my future love life. Then she did something amazing… When I sought counseling (in an effort to begin my transition) she asked to come with me. She seemed to understand that I needed to do this, and she wanted to learn. She wanted to be supportive despite her fears and inability to understand why I wanted to transition. At least I had one person in my corner! One by one, I told more people. And for the most part, I got support! It’s odd to me that the few people who chose to not support me were members of the LGBTQ* community but I’ll save that rant for another day. Lets fast forward a bit…

Picture 059

In my early twenties, I started seeking HRT (Hormone replacement therapy). I had just moved to a very small town in the middle of nowhere, and though most of the people I knew personally called me by my new name and used proper pronouns, I definitely didn’t pass as male and strangers still called me ma’am. Each time I was referred to as female, my stomach turned. I couldn’t handle it. Something had to be done. I made an appointment at the small clinic in town and explained my situation. I am Trans* and would like to start taking testosterone to further my transition. Simple enough right? Nope! This doctor…this health care professional, this woman who committed her career to helping people, looked me in the eye and said, word for word “You are in the wrong county for that! If that’s what you want to do, you should move to San Francisco where its accepted.” That was the end of the conversation. I was devastated. I was so crushed that I didn’t even have the will to fight back. I just nodded and left. In hindsight, I should have stood up for myself, I should have made a scene, I should have done a lot of things. But in that moment, her words echoing in my head. I felt helpless. I felt like a freak who didn’t belong out in the world and I didn’t have the words to fight. There were no other doctors to turn to, I was clearly not going to get the help I desperately needed. So what does one do when they are denied access to medication they need? Eventually you find a way to get it. And I did. I won’t name my source, nor will I give advice about dosages, but I got my testosterone, albeit illegally. It took years to get there, and it took desperation to do it the way I did…Right before my first injection, at the age of 29, I took some pictures….

IMG_4055

 Do you know what happens to a person when they take testosterone without medical supervision? Yeah, neither did I… It turns out, if your dose is not right, you risk your health in a lot of ways. Two months after starting testosterone, I escaped the small desert town and moved to Humboldt County, California. I found a doctor and once again explained the situation, adding that I was taking testosterone with or without his help. Thankfully he was willing to provide the care I needed. But not before I had (mildly) damaged my liver by using testosterone unsupervised. You see, people will find a way to be themselves, no matter the cost. If I had stayed in the desert without a supportive medical professional, I probably wouldn’t be alive to type this right now. Access to proper care is imperative. I’ve heard the arguments about the cost of such “unnecessary” medical care but I wonder…what is more costly, a prescription for hormones and some regular blood work or a liver transplant. It seems pretty straight forward to me.

It’s been 6 years since my first testosterone shot, its been 5 years since my hysterectomy, and its been 8 months since I had chest surgery. And guess what? That little boy with a smile and a sparkle in his eye is back!

10407704_10204954546357579_538719784506182436_n

When people learn that I am an FTM, one of the first things I hear is “so, you used to be a girl?’

No. I was NEVER a girl.

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2 thoughts on “I Was Never A Girl

  1. I like this post! Thanks for sharing this. I’ve never felt like a “girl” either, even though I allow myself to be female identified, I’ve always felt somewhere in between, thus “Butch” is my identity. I blur that gender line all the time. I’ve been told more than once that I should “stop acting like a man”…they don’t get that being myself in not an “act”, it’s just me being authentic. Keep writing, I enjoy your perspectives here! Rock on! ~MB

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