Written by Mel Mason
The other day I was talking to my friend about going to get a pedicure (yes, I’m bougie) now that I’ve decided to stop shaving my legs. As a trans man, I feel like it’s socially acceptable and I’m lazy… also, who has $20 for a 4-pack of razors these days? HARD PASS. Anyway, I was simply sharing the fact that this would be a new experience for me, to which she responded with a noticeable face cringe before saying, “Oh that’s a little gross, no?” I have worked pretty hard to control my immediate reactions to statements like these since I’ve been going through my transition, so instead of visibly face palming, I did so internally and responded by simply stating that men get pedicures all the time, ESPECIALLY in this bougie town. She thought about it for a moment before admitting that I was right and that she’s still getting used to thinking of me as a man.
It was an honest mistake. Until later, when we were on the topic of my gender presentation yet again (it’s new and exciting… sort of… so naturally it’s the first thing people want to talk about with me) when she said she was glad I had decided to shave my face for dinner because I, “Still have boobs and my gender presentation confuses people” and makes her feel uncomfortable.
MY gender presentation, makes HER uncomfortable.
Ahem. *Breathes in, breathes out.*
In that moment, it took all the will inside of me not to unleash a fire storm of rebuttal to that emotionless and without-a-thought-to-my-feelings remark.
Unless it’s happening to you, you won’t understand to the full extent what these types of comments can do to someone in between a transition. Ever since I was little, I had always felt this excessive need to become something that I wasn’t. I was always working towards being comfortable in an identity, but I just didn’t know what that identity was. I thought growing up, if only I was skinnier, I would be able to feel more comfortable in girl clothes. If I styled my hair differently, I would feel more comfortable with having it long. It was always something about myself that I was trying to change to fit in – but I didn’t even know where I was trying to fit in.
As I entered college I realized it was way more than my weight or my hair or learning how to use makeup. I started feeling more confident when I started embracing a more masculine fashion sense. Especially bow ties. Bow ties are cool. When I started going out to bars or restaurants or clubs, I found myself searching for “appropriate attire” by looking at what the men were wearing and that’s when I started realizing I identified more with being outwardly masculine. It’s much more than clothing, obviously, but it did help me find myself and helped me realize what I was actually interested in rather than just taking in interest in what was expected of me.
Making these changes to my style and appearance, I still I never thought transitioning was an option for me. Then I started looking into the process more while I was dating my last girlfriend. Believe it or not, being in a relationship with someone who I felt filled the role of a woman in the traditional sense made me realize that I wanted to fulfill the role of a man in the traditional sense in a heterosexual relationship.
Explaining everything to my family once I made the decision to transition was, and is, exhausting because they ask a lot of questions… especially my mom. I know she means well. Her #1 concern is that I am happy and safe but sometimes she says things that make my blood boil. She’s a big part of why I am so calm and collected when dealing with insensitive questions from other people – I’ve had lots of practice (#SorryMa). I have consciously chosen to refrain from telling certain members of my family because I knew after all this, I’d probably never see or talk to them again. And it’s slowly been happening. I was recently uninvited to my cousin’s birthday party and had a really frustrating phone conversation about how I’ll ,“always be Melanie” to her. I’m not Melanie anymore. That’s not my name. Literally – because I legally changed it (but that’s another story).
In terms of religion, I am not religious. At all. I never was, mainly because I think it’s boring but also because my mom forced me to go to church my entire life. I am however, very interested in learning about different cultures and religions. It’s just not a part of my identity. I think coming out as trans has solidified my distaste for religion, specifically my own. Obviously things like “this” are deemed as sinful and not accepted. And that just doesn’t make sense to me. How is me trying to be happy in my own skin, trying to become someone who – it took me years to discover I was, a sin?
… I think it’s safe to say that pretty much all of us at one point or another has felt uncomfortable in the body that we were born in…
I can’t speak for all trans people, obviously, but I think it’s safe to say that pretty much all of us at one point or another has felt uncomfortable in the body that we were born in and trying to adhere to societal gender norms – be they community or religious standards – for much of our lives only made it more uncomfortable. In my personal experience through my transition, every small bit of masculinity that starts to develop once on hormones, whether it be a 1/2 step voice drop, a bit of facial hair, or the slightest increase in upper body strength, feels like a giant leap towards the image I see myself as in the future. I know it’s “awkward” for you. But, don’t you think that I am feeling equally as uncomfortable being caught in this awkward transition myself? Or do you think that you’re the only one “going through this”? Don’t you think that I fully understand that other people are staring at me trying to figure out my existence? The same way I’m trying to figure it out.
As someone who has felt uncomfortable for most of their lives, trying to fit in somewhere where they don’t belong, I do not feel bad that MY gender presentation makes YOU feel uncomfortable. That is the least of my concerns in this scary, exciting, totally new journey that I’ve been wanting to be on for a majority of my life on this planet. It is not my job to make you feel comfortable with someone else’s identity. If you take issue with someone else’s existence that is a personal problem. A personal problem that is not personal to me.
Don’t you think I want to be “done” with this transition already, too? Do you think I like having boobs as the rest of me envelops masculinity? Does that sound like a good time to you?
Life after my transition began is not necessarily happier. I gained back all of the weight I had spent $2,000 on a personal trainer and nutritionist to lose because the hormones essentially undid all of my hard work. So that’s been an annoying thing to deal with. But, I guess it’s a small price to pay in order to become who I’m supposed to be. On a real note, I’m really looking forward to getting my boobs off so that I can actually run without getting hit in the face by them anymore and hopefully that will help the weight issue I’m currently experiencing. The best thing about the transition thus far I would say is my voice. I really love it. And I like being able to sing (I’m a singer) in a lower and deeper register. At the moment, I definitely feel like I belong LESS because currently, I’m this weirdo with facial hair and big breasts, but that will all change on Tuesday*.
Overall, I am looking towards the future and I urge you all to do the same for the trans people in your life. Instead of calling attention to the discrepancy between who they are now and the image they are striving to achieve in the future, congratulate them on the progress they’ve achieved so far. Help us through this awkward time.
Please stop victimizing yourself in a process that isn’t about you. If you’re happy with who you are, great. I’m happy for you. I’m on the road to being happy with myself. You don’t have to understand it or like it. Just afford me the same respect that I give to you, and be happy for me.