Here I sit, three months from the first time I published an article about the struggles of coming out as transgender and what being transgender is. Since that piece was published, I have had 15 self-injected shots of testosterone into my system. My voice has changed entirely, my body has begun to catch up. My hips, stomach, and neck have all started to gain more masculine patterns, I am developing an Adam’s apple, I am growing some hair on my face -- hell, even my eyebrows have filled in -- and I am in a totally different place from the last time I wrote about this aspect of my life. I track the weekly and monthly changes with comparison pictures and videos, I try my best to use my voice and be proud as I can be of my gender.
However, the strangest thing that has occurred since then is a sudden popularity of an app called Flipagram. Yes, that video app generally used to put together pictures and videos of you and your friends just to put them on Instagram. Apparently, they have their own community and it’s been interesting to watch the views rise and the comments flood in, but with all comments presents the downfall of encountering closed minded individuals.
I am thankful for the vast majority of people who are so amazingly supportive of me and my transition, but now with this community, I have been exposed to my first real set of challenges with opposing viewpoints and common misconceptions. As hard as that was at first, there are some things that my recent pseudo-popularity has taught me:
- I cannot help everyone understand what being transgender is no matter how much I try to educate them. I have found that close-minded people cannot be educated because they do not want to hear any opinions but their own.
- The attempts of emasculating me by calling me a girl, a lesbian, a freak -- though hurtful -- are not a reflection of myself or my own masculinity. Overall, what makes me a man is how I define and present/carry myself and no one else can take that away from me.
- The challenges associated with being given a podium to speak on Trans-related issues are demanding and often come with copious amounts of stress. I do not mind answering questions and educating people to the best of my ability, but to be given such a responsibility while gaining acknowledgment from a small community who award you compliments like "you're amazing” and “an inspiration,” is an insane level of leadership I don’t think anyone is exactly prepared to handle because it comes with the burden of guiding/educating by example.
That being said, my experiences as a transman are limited and scattered. I have only been transitioning for a short period of time and though I am educated and speak to a lot of my trans friends on a regular basis, I have done my best to make sure that when I share my story I reiterate that I am just one guy and my experiences/personal trials and tribulations as a man who is transgender do not by any means represent or mirror those of any other transgender male. I am only living life through my own personal lens and therefore cannot speak for anyone other than myself, but it is strange to have that responsibility given to me by a select group of curious and excited individuals.
From my personal experiences -- though I am proud of being transgender -- sometimes it is just nice to pass*. The further I progress in my transition and the more my voice changes, the less I am misgendered. Nevertheless, I constantly struggle with passing in my daily life because it forces me to grapple with difficult concepts; does the desire to pass take away from the pride I have as a transgender individual or does it make it seem like I am ashamed of being transgender?
The fact remains that regardless of if I pass or not I am still a man and I am proud that I am able to live my life authentically and genuinely. Passing and the desire to pass are not wrong, and they shouldn't make you ashamed of who you are. While I do not hide the fact that I am transgender, I don’t think it is necessary to disclose that information every time someone refers to me and perceives me as my proper pronouns. This goes to say that there is nothing wrong with not passing or not wanting to pass while still having pride in being transgender, and it also doesn’t make someone any less their preferred/authentic gender.
I have learned that no matter what, if you are transgender, people you don't know will go out of their way to ask you the rudest and most inappropriate questions that they could possibly come up with. "How do you have sex?" "What's between your legs?" "What bathroom do you use?" "Did you get the surgery?" I have tried my best to be patient and not over-analyze these questions, but you just have to wonder why someone would ask another human anything that degrading. I would like to make it explicitly clear to anyone venturing into reading my content that asking any transgender person what they have between their legs is rude, inappropriate, degrading, and makes them feel lesser/subhuman. It is also not okay to ask a transgender person what their dead name* is or to see pictures of them before their transition. If they wanted you to have that information, they would share it with you; I promise. Basically, if you would find the question you are asking a transgender person extremely uncomfortable or rude if a stranger came up to you and asked it, then don’t ask that question. Transgender people will share with you whatever they feel comfortable or would like to share. We are human; being different does not constitute the right to ask rude questions or make rude comments about how other humans live or express themselves. Though I am open to answering most -- not all -- questions, there are many transgender individuals who have had traumatic experiences that may hinder their comfort with the same questions.
Another thing I have noticed is that I am more protective of my masculinity than some of my friends. I don’t do certain things because I don’t want to be perceived as female, and I think some of my cisgender* (cis) friends fail to comprehend that. I am more guarded because I feel that I need to be. We are protective of our masculinity and femininity because we do not want to be misgendered. I don’t care how deep my voice gets, I still will not cross-dress as a female “for fun”, and I will not let you paint my nails because that is something trademarked with femininity and though I see no issue with it I am more uneasy and cautious about my presentation of gender. Asking someone to do these things can cause fits of dysphoria* for some transgendered individuals. It is a concept that even some transgender people struggle with. Though I do not speak for every transgender person, I do find these things normal and totally fine and could care less if my guy friends are wearing makeup, nail polish, high heels and dresses. I care if I do because not only does the general idea of it make me uncomfortable, it is also something I am more protective of as a transgender male.
I have learned that people are very rigid about what I do and how I express myself as a man. I am not a guy who is into sports, I am not a guy who cares much for cars, I am not a guy who cares about any other male’s expression. I am a guy who cares deeply about writing, music, politics, and art. I care about making sure as a male, I am still being respectful and polite while trying to navigate and be sensitive to women’s feelings, rights, and empowerment, adjusting how I act as needed. I am not a guy’s guy, and though I have male friends, I am closer to females and that is okay, it doesn’t make me less of a man -- it just means that my friends happen to be girls and though other men will take that small factor and try to emasculate me for it and suggest that I am not trans, I am still a man and not all men (Wow, a phrase I’d never thought I’d say) are required to be friends with or identify with every man they encounter. I am not the only man who struggles with making connections with other men because frankly, we are all shitty and don’t always share the same interests or points of view. Recently I went to a comedy show, where another man (who is cisgender) stated that even he has trouble being friends with other men because he doesn’t really identify with them either and that reassured me that I am not the only man that struggles with this problem and therefore, does not take away from me being a man. At one point my father told me I still do “girl things” because I have customized shampoo/conditioner and acne medication, but being cleanly and wanting to take care of my hair and skin isn’t something “girly”; it's just part of regular hygiene and caring about how I look. People will question your masculinity if you’re sensitive, nurturing, or caring. My grandmother -- though a fantastic supporter and conductor of copious amounts of research so as to better understand me -- took my nurturing and caring nature and said I would make a better mother than a father, but in 2017 fathers are trying to revamp how fatherhood is practiced and perceived; besides, I would make one terrible mother. The gender expectations of being a man are rigid and I am learning the struggles of trying to battle toxic masculinity while trying to assert my position and expression of my own masculinity because I am no different from any cis guy who shares the same traits and values that I possess.
When it comes to how trans men are expressing themselves, it is frustrating to consistently have to defend yourself and affirm your gender with individuals who do their best to take their version of what being a man is, and try to pick apart the man that you are. I do not believe that people do this inherently, but I believe that society has taught us that the rules of stature and expression of one gender or another are so rigid that in turn, anyone who is transgender must fit that stereotypical version of being male/female or else their gender is not valid, or they are just confused. People cannot continue to place men and women in uniform boxes, but especially need to stop expecting transgender men/women to fit into those boxes as well. We cannot constantly ask people to affirm their gender just because their expression is different from our own -- not only for transgender people but for cisgender people as well.
I have ultimately learned through this process of transition that I am who I am without excuse, apology, or shame, and continue to make it my mission to do my best to change perceptions about what being transgender is and in the long run how we perceive masculinity and femininity. I want to encourage taking a moment of pause before casting judgments and making comments about how one individual lives, presents themselves or chooses to be happy in their own skin. I am glad to be continuing my journey because it has made me the man I am today and I am proud of the person I am evolving into every day. Just because some people may not understand or do not want to understand who I am and what makes me the way I am, doesn’t take away from the fact that I am happier living as my genuine self than needing to play dress up as someone I am not. The people we become or discover ourselves to be -- no matter the process -- is a journey we take alone and it is deeply personal. It is no one’s job to tell another individual how they think or feel is wrong, and as humans, we should do our best to understand each other and educate ourselves on the different versions and variations of individuals out there instead of casting our judgments. I do not mind the criticism and resistance -- they have always been part of the deal when it came to coming out and living as my true self -- because others do not and should not have a say in how I live or what I do with my own body.
I am glad to continue sharing my experiences and journey with others who dare to ask or take interest in it. I am proud to be someone others look to when trying to educate themselves or gain a perspective they hadn’t previously known or understood and will continue to do my best to shed light on the issues that come with this complicated and complex process of transition. I will continue to not live my life by the desires and standards of others, and navigate the trials of being the man I want to be when masculinity is full of toxic notions and pitfalls. The nuance of humanity that I am exploring through my transition is endlessly fascinating and I do not intend on stopping my process or journey anytime soon; I am Beckett and I am here to stay.
* Pass in the transgender community is defined as a transgender individual's ability to be correctly perceived as the gender they identify as and beyond that, not being perceived as transgender at all.
* Cisgender is defined as an individual whose biological sex at birth and gender are the same (i.e. someone who is born with a penis and whose gender is male, or someone who is born with a vagina and whose gender is female).
* Dysphoria is defined within the transgender community as an extreme feeling of unease that can lead to extreme states of anxiety and depression related to one’s own perceptions of their gender and how others perceive them.
* Dead name is the name a transgender person was legally given or went by prior to their transition.