Taking on a new name is one of the most important steps in transition. But naming oneself is a strange activity. Most people inherit their names and take them for granted–that’s just what they’ve always been called. How on earth does a grown person choose a new name for themself? Here are some ideas about how to select a new moniker.
1. Narrow it down. With zillions of names out there in the world, it’s pretty tough to settle on one. So a good place to start is by narrowing the field. Think about what’s important to you in a name, and come up with a few criteria. Some trans people want a name with a certain meaning, a name from their religious tradition, a family name, a name that was common the year they were born, or a name that is unique or unconventional.
When I was changing my name, I chose two criteria that helped narrow it down. I decided I wanted to keep my initials–so my new first and middle names would start with the same letters as my given first and middle names. I also decided I wanted to keep the format in terms of the significance of my names. My first name is a Hebrew name, and my middle name was given to honor a dear friend of my mother’s who died. So I knew I wanted a Hebrew male name beginning with the letter R and then a male name beginning with the letter P (not my real initials but you get the idea).
This was so helpful. Instead of wading through thousands and thousands of possibilities, I was dealing with a much smaller field. I came up with a rather short list of male Hebrew names beginning with R and quickly settled on one that fit. My mom suggested a male name beginning with P to be my new middle name, and I really liked it, so I went with that.
If you know a few things you want in a name, you can cut down the options from nearly infinite to a manageable range.
2. Try it out. Find some safe spaces to try on your new name and see how it feels. This could be at home with your partner, with a few close friends, in one organization you belong to, or on the internet. It’s a good idea to test-drive the name, see if it feels right, and get a taste of what it will be like to be called that name for the rest of your life. Don’t be afraid to try out a few different options.
3. What does the name say? Give some thought to what the name will communicate to others. For example, I have a very ethnically marked first name. People are often confused at first, many people mispronounce it, and I constantly get comments like “So are you Jewish?” and “What does your name mean?” This is totally fine by me–but it’s important to consider how this new name will affect your experience of the world. Do you care about having a name others find easy to spell and pronounce? How do you feel about what the name might say about your ethnic, racial or religious background?
Another thing to consider is what a name suggests about your age. We’re in the odd position of naming ourselves at the age of 20, 30, 50 or beyond–decades after our first name was selected. So we make our choice in a different cultural climate than our parents did. Do you care about whether your name creates any kind of anachronism?
4. Just pick something. There is no one true perfect name. There are a range of names that fit, some better than others. At the end of the day, you just have to pick one. A name is like a pair of jeans–you break it in over time. We grow into our names; they shape us and we shape them. We’ve probably all known a few people who share the same name, yet wear it very differently. Over time, you’ll grow into your name and your name will grow on you.
So take your time, think it through, try on different names. But at some point, give yourself permission to just choose one. Trust yourself to make a good call. Allow the name to settle in over time.
5. Have fun with the paperwork. A legal name change is a pretty serious pain in the ass. Depending on where you live, your name change may involve numerous packets of paperwork, hundreds of dollars in fees, notices in legal papers, appearances before a judge, and updating records at your job, school, bank, with various government agencies, etc.
In my state, I picked up a packet from the courthouse to fill out, took out an ad in a legal notices paper, and appeared once before a judge. Then, I took my name change order to the Social Security office, MVD, bank, university, and so on. All in all it cost about $150 for the name change itself, plus the costs to get a new ID. Google the process in your jurisdiction to find details.
Give yourself rewards and incentives to make this process enjoyable. If you’re intimated by the paperwork, break it into very small chunks and do a tiny bit each day, followed by something you enjoy. Acknowledge your progress along the way. When you’re finally finished, celebrate! A new name is a happy occasion and a major accomplishment
Readers–how did you settle on a new name? If you’re currently changing your name, what’s challenging about the process?
If women could be as manly as a Harlan Coben hero or John Wayne character, without everyday sexism and micro-aggressions claiming she is “bossy and aggressive” rather than “commanding and assertive”; and if men could be as feminine as Marianne Dashwood- if you have not read Jane Austen, pick another character, you know what I mean; would any of us need physically to transition?
This questions crops up, in one form or another, in so many places. So I thought I’d give it a proper treatment. This post is not a response to Clare specifically–she is simply the most recent person to voice the question in my presence. Short answer: I think people would still transition in utopia. Onto the longer answer.
First, gender expression is not gender identity. I do not believe that people transition primarily because their gender expression is devalued. This is born out by the many gender-nonconforming people who have no wish to transition and by the many trans people who are visibly gender-nonconforming after transition. Rather, people transition primarily because their gender identity and deepest sense of self are incompatible with their gender role and physical sex traits.
Being the manliest woman is different from being a man, and being the most ladylike dude is a different from being a woman. Cisgender readers may find it helpful to imagine whether living as a feminine man (if you are a woman) or a masculine woman (if you are a man) would be a trivial change, assuming you were shown respect and acceptance, or whether anything important would be lost.
I think something very important indeed is lost, and I would know, because I tried living as a masculine woman for as long as possible. This experience would undoubtedly have been nicer if I were in a society that truly valued gender-variant people. But it’s worth noting that I was in a tolerant environment and had the full support of family and friends. Yet I could not manage it. Even with the enthusiastic support of the wider world, I don’t think I could have managed it. I find it intolerable to live as some special type of woman. I still felt intense alienation from my body, and I still saw myself as “one of the guys” and wanted to be recognized as such. In fact, the more I allowed myself to expressed my masculinity, the more it became clear that I saw myself as a guy and wanted others to see me that way, too. No amount of support had any perceptible effect on that.
The body issues are important. Dysphoria caused by a subconscious sex/apparent sex mismatch is real and acutely painful. Wherever the technology is available, there will probably always be some people who seek out medical treatment to alleviate this pain.
The question also contains the implication that by transitioning, we are somehow attempting to be more socially acceptable or fit into gender norms. Stigma may be a factor motivating transition for some people. But it’s important to note that transitioning people are not spared by the gender system–far from it. Rather, in going from visibly nonconforming people to more conforming people post-transition–if that does indeed happen for a given person, as it did for me–we merely swap one type of marginalization for another. For example, I no longer get harassed on the street, but now I have to deal with a healthcare system that ignores the existence of bodies like mine. At the same time, a huge portion of trans people don’t look gender normative after transition; they may appear just as non-normative as before, or may trade the appearance of conformity in their assigned sex for visible variance in their congruent sex. Either way, transsexual people are among the most marginalized members of our society. I don’t believe large numbers of people are fleeing into that category to escape stigma.
The aspect of the question I find most troubling is the value judgment against transition. Not only does the question misjudge the motivations for transition, it implies that transition is somehow undesirable. If some way of living is perfectly fine, would one raise the question of whether it would exist in a perfect world? I don’t think so. For example, people often wonder whether we can achieve a society in which there is no poverty, child abuse or war. I never hear people wonder whether we can achieve a society in which there is, say, no friendship. To ask the question–would people transition in a better world–implies that there is something wrong with transition itself, like it’s a symptom of a sick society. It suggests that we should be working towards a world in which transition disappears.
I am not on board with that. I suggest, instead, that we work towards a world in which injustice disappears.
Creating space and acceptance for masculine women and feminine men is an essential project. But it is no substitute for transition and for engendering respect and safety for transitioning people. In any gender egalitarian world worthy of the name, trans people must be respected, including transsexual and other transitioning people.
None of this is to say that transition might not look very different in an egalitarian world. Here are a few ways that gender equality and acceptance of diversity might change transition.
- More diversity in transition paths. With widespread acceptance of gender variance, it would be a lot more feasible and safe for a person to have a mix of male and female traits. We would probably see more nonbinary transitions as well as more people taking unique paths in their transition to male or female.
- Different people might transition. There may be some folks who have transitioned today, who would prefer to live as a gender-variant member of their assigned sex if given the option. On the other hand, there are probably also some people who are too scared to transition today, who would do so in a more open-minded world. So the group of people who pursue transition might be different.
- Fewer people would be “stealth.” Many people are private about their trans status. This includes me. Most transsexual folks I’ve encountered are open with a small circle of people, but don’t discuss being trans at work, in certain social groups, etc. In a more accepting world, people could be more open about their transition history.
What do you think? Would people transition in a perfect world? Would you?
Theeegreatdane laments that so many trans guys are hyper-focused on “passing”:
It really saddens me that many of these young trans* guys only care about “passing.” They post a multitude of photos of themselves asking other guys if the world will read them as being a cis-male. To me, only caring about “passing” degrades a lot of what it means to be a trans* person. But I also recognize that this is my personal experience being a queer trans* person who doesn’t identify as being a man. […]
All of this is fine except when it’s not. It’s not okay when these guys get depressed and angry (and sometimes worse) that someone in the group does not think that they “pass.” It’s not okay that a majority of the FTM community wants to live stealthily and not make their identity as being a transgender person known to the world. I understand the stigma, ostracization and rejection associated with being transgender. Only a few states in the US have anti-transgender discrimination laws that protect transgender people’s rights and jobs. Wanting to be seen as cis is defensive and protective for these guys, so in this respect it is not their state of mind, but the institution (and this it universal, not just in the US) that needs changing.
I appreciate theeegreatdane’s take on this. Discrimination and second-class-citizen status are huge parts of the motivation to “pass,” and it is very sad when trans people feel like shit because they don’t look a certain way. I share their hope that someday, “passing” will be unnecessary.
I’d like to add a few observations from my vantage point as someone who keeps my trans status relatively private. Just for the record, I am not trying to refute any of what theeegreatdane says; I just want to add another perspective.
The problem isn’t just that we may be fired or worse for being out as trans. It’s also that our ability to inhabit a male role is conditional on passing (being read as cis men). There is simply no space in our communities to be read as men and as trans at the same time. The gender binary works under a logic of opposites–categories are mutually exclusive. The extent to which we are viewed as male is the extent to which we are not viewed as female or a third gender. The reverse is true for trans women; being viewed as female depends directly on not being viewed as male. In the logic of the binary, “not female” and “male” are near synonyms, as are “female” and “not male.”
This is why I usually put scare-quotes around the word “pass.” Like many trans folks, I feel the term implies some kind of duplicity or deceit–passing for something you’re not. We’re not doing that; we’re living openly in our true genders. It not our fault that others demand we conceal our trans histories or forfeit our gender identities.
I also think “passing” implies more action on our parts than it actually entails. Yes, most trans guys deliberately cultivate a male appearance and worry about how they look and whether others can see they are male. Can you imagine how freaked out most cis men would be if they thought being read as female were a serious possibility?
However, as a stealth-ish guy myself, one thing we don’t typically do is go around actively trying to convince people we are cis. “Hi guys, I’m Josh, and just fyi, I was totally not raised as a girl”? Not so much, except perhaps for the safety reasons theeegreatdane notes. What we are doing is trying to convince others we are male. “Hi guys, I’m Josh.” It’s everybody else who figures that if we appear male, we have XY chromosomes, were declared a boy at birth, etc. The flipside is that therefor, in order to be viewed as male, we must look like we have XY chromosomes, etc. (Not that you can actually tell by looking, of course.) If you accept that trans men are indeed men, their is no “passing” going on here, just the wish to be gendered correctly–a wish we share with most of our species. Guys who are early in transition tend to be highly anxious about this, while those of us who’ve lived as men for years tend to mellow out about it.
I’d like to note that I don’t stop being a vocal advocate just because I don’t share my trans status at work, with all my friends, etc. I continue to call bullshit when I smell bullshit, and I bring up trans issues as often as I can. For example, during a recent workplace training on diversity, I asked my 150+ coworkers and supervisors to be aware of transgender issues, since the training made no mention of us. Coming out as trans would have been one powerful way to do that, but I didn’t want to–it just didn’t feel right. Speaking out from my position as a straight dude (presumed to be cis) is another powerful way to do it. People responded very well to my comments, and a few made a point to thank me for bringing trans issues up. I think my comments on transphobia, homphobia and sexism are especially effective in reaching other men. Too often, only women and visibly queer folks speak up. This story is just to illustrate that “passing,” including an intense desire to be viewed as any other guy, need not be at odds with trans pride and advocacy.
I hope for a world where where we can be trans and men or women at the same time, no contradictions. I do think trans folks coming out and sharing our histories is a key part of this. That lets people get to know us, and people who know us don’t hate us. However, we can’t embrace a part of our identities that isn’t there. For some of us, myself included, being trans feels above all like an unjust political circumstance. It is a core part of who I am–but it’s not a core part of my gender identity or expression.
A reader writes,
How do people know what gender they really are? What does gender feel like?
Thanks for the interesting questions. Let’s look at them one at a time.
How do people know what gender they really are? The short answer is, it depends. Most people never wonder–they’re raised as a girl or boy and never give it much thought. The trouble arises when a person senses some kind of mismatch from the gender they were assigned. This opens up a lot of questions: Am I trans? Am I the “opposite” gender? Am I a nonbinary gender? Am I uncomfortable with my assigned gender for some other reason?
There is no formula for finding an answer. Each person has to walk their own journey. There are some things one can do to facilitate that journey.
- Be curious. There is a great deal of stigma against gender variance, so just asking these questions can be terrifying and laden with shame. On the other hand, when you ask the questions, you are opening up the possibility of new kinds of happiness, peace and self-knowledge. That is pretty awesome! Can you get in touch with the part of you that is curious about your true gender?
- Experiment. Try on elements of different roles. Describe yourself with different words. Change your clothing or your haircut. As you experiment, listen carefully to the feedback you get from yourself. Notice thoughts, emotions, sensations, the way your body feels, the way you behave. When do you feel the worst? The best? When do you feel most like yourself? By trying things out and observing how you feel, you can find what is right for you.
- Be pragmatic. Find what works and do it. You don’t have to know why, have the perfect label, or fall inside a certain box. You don’t have to have all the answers. All you have to do is be good to yourself and others.
- Have hope. This may be the most important thing. Believing that things can get better, even a little bit better, is essential. Figuring out your gender issues is possible. Living a life you love is possible. You can do this.
I turned a corner in my gender journey when I was able to approach it with curiosity, pragmatism, and a willingness to experiment. I knew I was unhappy in a female role. I had a sense that I wanted to express masculinity. But I had no idea what that would mean in real terms. I was able to acknowledge this to myself and feel hopeful. I thought I might never be really comfortable, but there had to be something I could do to make things better. I thought to myself, I am going to hack the gender system.
Then, I tried things, and I noticed how they made me feel. I slowly cultivated a more and more masculine presentation. The more I expressed my masculinity, the better I felt. I felt happier, more comfortable, more confident, more myself. I continued to follow that thread. I eventually made the choice to transition to male.
What does gender feel like? This is a much trickier question. Gender is social–I know I’m a man because it feels right when I interact with others as a man. Gender is spiritual–I perceive that I have masculine essence, for reasons I don’t fully understand. Gender is psychological–my sense of myself as male is deeply rooted in my mind.
But maybe those answers obscure more than they reveal. The truth is, I don’t really know what gender feels like, in and of itself. It’s an experience and a mystery, shifting across times, places, situations.
I do know what authenticity feels like. I know what health feels like. I know what peace feels like. I know, through trial and error, I feel authentic, healthy and peaceful living my life as a man.
I hope this answers your questions.
Another dream that has stuck with me over the years. I was 7 or 8 then. In the dream, it was evening, and I was at home. A person came into the house. They looked like my mother, by they had a shaved head and were wearing a red flannel shirt. I was frightened and confused; I ran to the person, and they held me in their arms. I was crying. “This is who I am now,” the person said.
A few years later, my mom came out as a lesbian, and my parents got divorced. I chalked the dream up to a premonition about what my mom was going through.
Something didn’t sit right with me, though. As I grew up and started addressing my own gender and sexuality issues, it bugged me even more. What did it mean, and what did it have to do with my own identity? Did my mom’s sexuality somehow confuse me about gender? I didn’t think so, but the dream seemed to imply otherwise.
Last night, the dream came to mind again. I suddenly saw its true meaning. My mom never started wearing men’s clothes or acting masculine; she is comfortable as a woman. The person in my dream, I now see, looks exactly like me around age 19. That androgynous figure was never my mother–he was me. He came with a message I wasn’t ready to hear yet.
I even own that red flannel shirt.
“He was always so… Manly.”
These were the words I’d been waiting to hear my whole life. Said by the person I’d always wanted to say them. Unfortunately, when my mother finally spoke those words, I wasn’t there to hear it. I was a hundred yards away and under general anesthesia.
My girlfriend, now fiancée, was the one who heard them. She told me later, back in our hotel room. While my chest was being reconstructed, the two women in my life had gotten to know each other better.
Alma and I had only been together for six months. It seemed perfectly natural she’d accompany us to Cleveland to help take care of me after my surgery. My mom cooked; Alma cleaned my drains full of blood and pus. Her tender care and steel stomach made quite an impression on both my mother and me.
While I was in surgery, Alma was overcome with worry. True to form, my mother tried to feed her. And she told her things about me–some she’d told me before, and some she never had.
Things I already knew: That there was always something different about me. That they’d been really worried about me and were relieved I was doing so well since starting transition.
Things I didn’t know: That she noticed I was masculine from the time I was a tiny child. That I always had a masculine look. Square jaw, muscular limbs, broad shoulders. She said I looked like a little linebacker. She said she knew there was something there, and it seems so obvious now–but at the time, she just didn’t connect the dots. Remorse ran off her voice, rainwater in a gutter.
It was a great gift to get this information, no matter how indirectly. Some thunderstorm in my heart finally went quiet, a temper tantrum I’d been waging for twenty years resolved at last. Like when the heater turns off and you’re suddenly aware it had been humming in your head for hours. Like the first day you wake up feeling better from the flu. You remember what it’s like to feel good.
Then I understood why she’d never told me. My parents bit their tongues on the very words I needed to hear the most. They thought those words would crush me. They thought they’d be calling me ugly. Now they know they were wrong.
They had probably never met a transgender person. They’d certainly never been parents before. This year I’ll be as old as my father was when I was born.
I forgive them.
I thought my male identity came out of nowhere. I couldn’t put my finger on any thread of maleness that ran through my whole life. I couldn’t remember ever saying I was a boy. All I remembered was a thick uneasiness, a sense of something wrong, a sense of being different.
This really bothered me at first–I wanted to find the proof, the sign, the memory. I wanted to know I’d been trans my whole life.
It happened slowly. A shadow here, a twinkle there. Onionskin layers of pain and non-comprehension fell away from my life. And it happened. The memories came flooding in to me. One of the sweetest gifts of my transition.
It was nothing I had actually forgotten–more like misfiled. Early hints of my maleness lost in folders labeled Birthday Parties, birth to age 9 and Summer evenings, childhood. I deciphered their secret language, and suddenly they all came rushing out, together for the first time. Only together was their meaning revealed.
Here are two of them.
I was about seven. I was at a friend’s house; it was a hot afternoon. We were playing in an inflatable kiddie pool in her front yard. I had forgotten my bathing suit–I have some dull sense that maybe I wanted to forget it. So I asked if I could swim in the shorts I was wearing. My friend’s mother looked at me kindly, with mild concern. “Sure, if you want to,” she said. I did want to! I remember how I looked and felt, standing in just shorts with the water up to my knees.
“You aren’t embarrassed?” the mother said to me quietly, gesturing at a group of men doing construction across the street. It hadn’t occurred to me to be embarrassed. “No,” I said, with what strength I could muster, but her question made my face feel hot and most of the fun was over.
I was about twelve. It was one those end-of-year camping trips we used to do at my school. I was on a hike with a small a group of students and teachers. Making conversation, I remember that one teacher asked, “If you could live in any historical time period, which would you choose?”
I found the question irritating at first. I don’t remember what anyone else said. But when my turn came, I couldn’t resist answering. An image filled my mind, complete and wonderful. Quickly, with the purity of conviction of early adolescence, I said, “The Renaissance. Then I could live as a man and be a painter!” I was charmed by a vision of myself in fancy, puffy clothing, painting portraits of important people and consorting with women. It was the most comfortable, natural image of myself I had known.
I was so happy with my idea, I barely noticed the moments of silence, the look of confusion on the face of the teacher.
Of course, we transition because we are transgender and/or transsexual. We have a subconscious sex or gender expression that contradicts the sex/gender we were assigned. By transitioning–which can take a great variety of forms, social, medical, and otherwise–we bring our bodies and social roles into alignment with ourselves, alleviating the pain of gender dysphoria. But that doesn’t completely explain it, does it?
Not transitioning is certainly an option. We could simply live with dysphoria and spend our lives laboring under the burden of its heavy, aching fog. We could find ways to dull or reduce the agony, perhaps with medication, therapy, lifestyle changes, and private expressions of the inner self.
A lot of people go this route–some for better, some for worse. In certain cases, transition is so dangerous that this option is clearly preferable. For some, transition isn’t a possibility at all. In other situations, dysphoria may be mild enough that it simply isn’t worth the risks and costs associated with transition. These include very real possibilities of violence, loss of relationships, medical complications, financial burdens, sterility, discrimination, marginalization, and more. There are good ways and bad ways for a trans person to choose not to transition; it certainly isn’t for everybody.
Denial is another alternative. Countless–indeed, uncountable–people take this path.
It is terrifying to realize that you are transgender. It comes with a certain disbelief at first. Me? one thinks. But I’m so normal! Of course, trans people are normal. But nobody tells you that.
Oh my God. I am one of those people I’ve heard about.
I don’t blame anyone who isn’t able to face these realities. It is a lonely road, and though maps exist, most of us feel lost regardless. This is true of most people, actually. Accepting that you’re trans just forces you to acknowledge it. When you can’t or won’t acknowledge it, drugs and alcohol are often used to kill these thoughts. Sometimes they kill the thinker, too.
Suicide is another alternative, one that most of us probably at least consider. This is the tragedy, the one that breaks my heart. It is a horrible loss for the person, who may have had the chance to feel better, to experience something worthwhile in life. It is, of course, a devastation for all those who knew and loved them. And it’s a loss for the whole world, which will never know what this special person might have had to offer. I think we were made this way for a reason, and I doubt it is for our own sake.
Why transition? Ultimately, at the very bottom, to fully experience life–our life, the only one we were given. To walk the strange and incredible path before us. To make the journey, take the risk, ask the question, encounter the mystery.To be exactly who we are.
We transition because life is short.
Skye83 expresses frustration as a genderless person in the trans* community, which is often dominated by trans men and women. (The way they explain this might be bothersome for some trans folks.) They also describe themself as nonbeliever in gender who would like to see gender eradicated. They ask,
What do femininity and masculinity mean? I wish someone would give me an answer to that question… but no one does!!
I have actually said this myself, numerous times, verbatim. Reading it in skye83’s words made me realize I now have an answer. Below is an improved and expanded version of the answer I gave in the linked thread.
Femininity is the set of behaviors and attributes associated with women in a given cultural and historical context. Masculinity is the set of behaviors and attributes associated with men in a given cultural and historical context. Androgyny refers to a blending of these culturally specific feminine and masculine behaviors and attributes. It is also possible for behaviors and attributes to be neutral or associated with some other gender.
Masculinity and femininity are social constructs that vary across place and time. The categories of “men” and “women”–and any other genders recognized in a given society–are also social constructs that vary a great deal. Looking at the historical and anthropological records, I notice that the vast majority of human communities (all, as far as I know) make use of these constructs in some way.
The content of the constructs varies widely. What is considered “feminine” or “masculine” may be very different, even opposite, from one society to another. We can also see changes in gender norms and roles in the same society across generations.
What doesn’t vary so much is that gender exists in some form. People make meanings from the human body, sexuality, personality, reproduction, work, and related social roles. I would call this combination gender.
I see gender as similar to language. It’s a tool for meaning, communication and social organization that is part of the expressive repertoire of our species. Just like languages vary tremendously among groups, so does gender. People from different communities may be as confused by one another’s gender norms as they are by one another’s speech. Nonetheless, each is likely to have and use an idiom. Perhaps we are born prepared to learn gender norms, just like we’re born prepared to acquire language. The fact that it is so widespread suggest that, like language, gender is probably doing something pretty important for us. People seem to have strong intrinsic inclinations that pull them toward particular ways of being in the world, which they express through these culturally specific channels.
This view of gender has several implications. One is that gender is probably not going anywhere. Another is that, while we may be stuck with gender, we’re not stuck with the status quo. It follows that we are obliged to seek a gender system that is as egalitarian and nonviolent as possible.
If gender is part of how we communicate as humans, I think this suggests that everyone has a right to use this language. Therefore, we should seek a gender system that maximizes expressive opportunity. A good gender system doesn’t just avoid singling out some people for oppression, marginalization and punishment. Violence is a huge, terrifying problem with most gender systems, and it’s still the most pressing issue we face. But it’s not the only one. A good gender system gives as many people as possible the chance to truly express ourselves–to inhabit our bodies, relationships, and communities in an authentic way, to live in alignment with our deepest selves.
What do femininity and masculinity mean to you?
Image: Caroline’s Cakes
I have a unique personal style.
Growing up, wearing the clothes I really wanted to wasn’t an option. I remember feeling strange, powerful emotions walking past the boys’ section or seeing ads for suits on TV. I felt chronically uncomfortable in my clothing. As a young teenager, I experimented and tried to find ways to feel okay. I remember looking in the mirror and thinking, “When am I going to look like myself?” I felt a deep melancholy.
I got a glimpse of myself the first time I shaved my head. I was about sixteen, and I’d had short hair for awhile. One night, I grabbed my dad’s buzzers and cropped my hair to a 1/4 inch or so. When I saw myself in the mirror after, I thought, “I am beautiful.”
Now, I can dress and groom myself as I please. I love the feeling of a new haircut, a fresh shave, an old pair of jeans. I have a distinctive style, and I think that’s in part because of my unusual development. Over a few months when I was 19 and 20, I got rid of every piece of clothing I had ever owned and started from scratch. Transition gave me the chance to make a lot of choices and do exactly what I want. Since I never took it for granted, my personal appearance is another little thing in life that I truly enjoy.
What are some good things about being trans*? Send your answers to firstname.lastname@example.org or submit anonymously.
In this series, I highlight individuals’ positive experiences. You probably won’t relate to every entry, but maybe some will resonate with you.