I sat down with a trans student here at the University of Oklahoma who was open to answering a few questions for me. A lot of the questions are relating to his journey and to his struggles in all aspects of life. Many of the questions we both collaborated on to formulate and only questions he approved beforehand were used.
He is an FTM (female-to-male) transgender, meaning he was assigned female at birth and identifies as male. He began his journey when coming out just after his 14th birthday and starting hormones just before his 15th birthday. Now, over three years on testosterone, he lives stealth and believes that there are many misconceptions about his life.
Same terms, different article
Cis-gender: When someone's sex assigned at birth aligns with the gender they align with.
Pass: In general terms, the ability of a trans person to be perceived as the gender they identify with fluidly.
Stealth: Being stealth is passing nearly, if not all the time. The individual may also choose to withhold their trans identity with the public, where only a few people know. They present as their identity most of the time.
FTM: Female-to-male, assigned female at birth but identifies as a male.
Binder: Used to bind the chest for a more masculine appearance.
Top surgery: For FTM individuals, this is a breast removal surgery. Although it is required in many states to change the gender markers on birth certificates and drivers' licenses, it is considered a cosmetic surgery and not covered by most health insurance plans.
What struggles did you expect to have coming out, in comparison to now?
Looking back, I think I expected more backlash from coming out. I expected more people to exclude me from their lives or even harass me in person or online. I got this idea from doing my research before making my identity public back when I first came out. I saw numerous stories of people losing friends, getting harassed, and even being disowned by their parents. I couldn't handle the thought of any of it coming true but I had to be realistic and expect all outcomes. I also never expected to go stealth, which has been the best thing for me. I believe it's up to a person's own preference, but for me, things could not go so smoothly in my everyday life. I can have no worries, no fear of hatred because not many know my identity that I'm around now. I get to be my true self without anyone knowing the struggle I had getting here. Overall, I'm happy with where I'm at and where I'm headed, never knowing that would be something I would have said.
What were your worries coming into college life?
I never thought for the longest time that I'd make it to 16, or even get my high school diploma. Now, I'm an 18-year-old college student at a rather large and challenging university, at least by my standards. Getting here, I had so many worries with housing, making friends, and even how I was going to manage the stress academically as well as my other stressors that remain. I'm not doing so bad, and it's not all that hard if you put the work in. Housing is a weird situation, but I spoke with a person over housing about my situation and they placed me in the best possible environment for my comfort and we did what we could under the university's housing policy. Making friends, not as hard as I thought. I've always been one to prefer a few close friends than many friends who aren't so close, and I think I have that. I know that will change with every year or even semester, but I know with the friendliness of the OU community, it's not hard to find others if you're looking. Managing stress? Very difficult at first, but knowing my school has endless opportunities to take advantage of relating to stress alone has helped me tremendously. I thought I was going to be involved in LGBT+ clubs or organizations but having gone to an event sponsored by the Gender + Equality Center here on campus, I was assumed to be a gay man. By no means was I offended, but I found it rather amusing because when I was involved in the community last, I was not passing fully so it wasn't really hard to tell I was trans. Guess that means I'm passing well now? I ultimately found myself in a group related to my major in some fashion and am sitting comfortably in my role there. I am happy I don't have such a busy schedule with fundraising every which way and doing a million things at once. I can rest easy, or at least as easy as a college student can, knowing I have more free time to explore campus, enjoy time with the people closest to me, and focus on my academics.
Do you wish for acceptance in others?
I hope that I can be accepted by everyone, but I know that isn't reasonable to wish for. I hope people can have open minds, open hearts, and the ability to learn and understand with every aspect of my life and the journey I have had in getting to where I am today. If people don't accept me with all of that being said, then I can't be angered by it. It's the ignorance of people who don't try to understand, who don't try to relate, that pushes me to feel there is no hope for some. I say that, but I know there is always hope. I've come out to people individually, even recently, who never would have thought they would associate with a trans person, much less be in a relationship with one. Not that some wouldn't have accepted me right off the bat if my information was out there for everyone, but coming from more conservative areas, they heard only bad things and what's shown in the media. I get the opportunity to be a face hidden in the shadows with much larger of a backstory than the 'Average Joe'. I think with that, I have the power to help facilitate open-mindedness regarding the trans community and LGBT+ community as a whole. After advocating and giving as much information as possible, there is not much else for me to do than listen. Beyond that, acceptance is their choice. I've done all I can.
What is your experience being trans in a conservative, southern state?
As mentioned in the last article, I live stealth, and I think that also plays into my experiences. Being stealth, not much is directed at me, but if it is brought up in conversation, I will always hear negative remarks by uninformed people who know nothing about people like me. They try their hardest to make the case for the opposite side, saying things that are so bizarre and incorrect, that I can't believe my own ears sometimes. I think the bliss in moments like these is knowing that if they only knew who they were talking to, they would bite their tongue just a bit more. I think my role in a conversation like that is just an advocate. I am a pretty average guy, so my opinions in a conversation come off pretty reasonable, I would assume. I think hearing someone make the case for what they assume is a topic they don't directly relate to, they can open their minds a bit more, and I have no objection to that at any time. In terms of hearing things, you hear about rape, physical violence, exposure, and much more. It can be anywhere from the locker-room talk of sorts like "If a man dressed like a dude came on to me, I would bash his brains in," to "Did you hear that Susie's son thinks he's a girl? Poor Susie, may God help her."
What is your approach in relationships?
I hope the other can accept me of course, but that doesn't always come in a way that still validates me as a man. I hope the other person can see me as I am, the total man that I wish to be perceived as. My wish, as horrible sounding as it may pan out to be, is to be with a cis-gendered straight woman. I am attracted to women, but one thing that would validate me the most is being with a woman who was only attracted to men. I feel that if someone is open to being romantic with someone with the same biological anatomy as me who is feminine, that 1. Their other experiences with individuals with the same genitalia as me are with a person with feminine characteristics that I do not have and 2. That they accept me BECAUSE and see me as a transgender person, not because and see me as a man. The trick is finding one that will accept my body the way it is, biologically.
Do you have daily worries?
One thing that always sits on the back of my mind is if some people would drop me as a friend or friendly acquaintance if they found out I was trans. I would hope I could at least change their perception of the trans community, but we can't all get what we want. I know it's not as common as I believe it to be, but knowing I'm not open with everyone about my identity does make it hard for me to believe that everyone would be accepting. Don't get me wrong, I don't think ill of the people around me, but held hostage for this long would cause some to lose trust in me as a friend.
Do you have any inspirations?
One inspiration that will always be a strong role for me is my dad. He never failed to show kindness, patience, and the willingness to listen. For this, he is of course not an inspiration on a trans-related level, but his insight has given me the opportunity to grow with each and every reaction to my identity and in learning how to be patient with others who are willing to listen. I will forever do my best to reach the same standards he has set.
Other inspirations that come from the online community are Aydian Dowling, Skylar Kergil, Chase Ross, Ty Turner, and Alex Bertie. They have all found their niches in their YouTube channels, but I think watching each grow in their journey or talking about issues frequent to them really helped me become more comfortable in myself and be as confident as possible.
I thank these people for the roles they had in providing a model as a better, stronger person. They all were integral in some way to the person I am today in my journey.
What would you tell yourself four years in the past?
Keep pushing, keep paving your way to who you want to be. Things might be rough now, but it all pays off in some way. Every struggle becomes a lesson learned and another thing accomplished. You have it in you to keep going and let nothing stop you. Also, be patient, man. You've got a lot of great things headed your way, but it all comes in time.
What would you ask yourself four years in the future?
Have you made it to where you wanted to be? Are you happy? Are you still pushing for greatness? Did you make this eight-year journey worth it?
What would you like to tell others?
I am just like any other guy. What's in my pants may differ, yes, but I expect to be treated the same. Hell, you may already be treating me the same as I could be right around the corner. I believe I have a better understanding of my place, and what I can do to better the world around me. Another, I do listen to others talk about trans people when they don't realize one is right in front of them. Sometimes I'm even a part of the conversation, positive or negative. I never hold back from giving some words of wisdom, of course. One last thing, male privilege is a thing, I'm very mindful of that. I have it now and I never asked for it. You can take it back if you want it.