'Always Knew'


Jan 1, 2022

When I started questioning my gender, I didn't know much about what it means to be transgender, so I started doing some research. And I mostly found stories from folks saying they "always knew" since a very young age that they were a different gender than the one assigned at birth. And it's great that these stories are out there, but these experiences are different from what I experienced. And I found very few stories similar to mine.

I know I'm not special, it's just that the "always knew" stories seem to draw more attention. I know a lot of folks who did not always know.

I had no idea. Literally none. Despite being relatively well informed about trans rights and experiences, I was totally oblivious. And the lack of similar stories delayed and made my self-acceptance harder.

So here I am sharing my story, in hopes that someone will find this useful.

My story

It was almost a year ago. I was 36, had a wife, a 2 year old daughter, a good job... and something was missing. I didn't even consciously think about it, I always blamed some other factors (it's normal to be tired/stressed with a baby, it's just the pandemic, it's this or that). I was never able to conjure the question "Am I transgender?".

And yet, a lot of things were off. I always felt weird or different. I never quite fit in like the others. It wasn't extreme, and it wasn't obvious. It was easy to read as something else, such as introversion, shyness, being a bit weird or closed off, etc.

It was my ex-wife who asked me, one evening, as if it was nothing, whether I am trans (she recalls asking me whether I was in some way part of the LGBTQ+ community, so maybe I just heard what I needed to hear? not sure).

And my initial reaction was, "Of course I'm not!". I would know, right? I'm 36. There's no way I would not know this about myself. I could have passed a polygraph test saying I am a cis man.

I pushed the thought away, but it came back a few weeks later. What if I am transgender? Those first few days are very fuzzy. I started looking up as much as I could online.

One thing which stood out is something you'll find a lot online: "most cis people don't question their gender". And that sounds reasonable enough to at least give me the fuel I needed to dig deeper.

The next thing I remember is finding out about FaceApp and trying it out. I didn't even have a selfie I could use, so I had to take a selfie. I proceeded to launch the app, play with the sliders and hit the gender swap button. AND HOLY FUCK DID MY JAW DROP. Could I actually be attractive?

That thought alone would ring all the alarm bells now, but hindsight doesn't help past me.

I have no idea how I managed to sleep that night, but it wasn't great. The next day, I started reading about HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy) and surgeries because that's what a lot of the discourse is, at least what you can easily find through searching. And it's such a shame, because there's an implicit idea being thrown, which is, medically transitioning is mandatory or implicit.

Am I really trans?

There's really no test, question, or anything that can tell someone whether they are transgender or not. Having said that, there seem to be some thoughts, experiences, things in common for a lot of us. None of them are exclusive to transgender folks, but reading them helped me realise some of the things I've been repressing.

Keep in mind you live in your body 24/7. And we humans are really good at adapting to adverse situations. We learn coping mechanisms, we do mental gymnastics, we make the best out of what we have.

Body

I have always hated my body. I would hate looking in the mirror or having my picture taken. I would not take care of it at all, dress in baggy clothes, etc. In retrospect, it turns out I was in the wrong kind of body.

I hated having to dress up for occasions, so I hated them and made a discourse on how they are silly: a waste of time.

Actually, I was even a little bit proud of my lack of vanity. I didn't waste time on grooming, picking clothes or taking care of myself.

I almost always had long hair and I hated when I cut it short (only did it a couple of times and hated it every time).

I had what I later found out is sometimes called a "dysphoria beard". It's when you don't groom or shave your beard because you hate it, and having to tend to it daily/on a regular basis is annoying, painful, something you avoid.

I almost always chose female avatars in games. My mental gymnastics reasoning was, I'd rather look at a female if I was going to spend hours playing, but at least some of them were first person so that was not it.

Feelings

I used to repress my feelings a lot. I very rarely cried, or had any strong (positive) emotions, especially when it came to me and my life. In retrospect, it is fairly obvious it was a coping mechanism from repressed thoughts, but I did not realise what it was until recently.

I did, however, cry a lot at movies (or other kinds of media). I would always cry at I'll Make A Man Out Of You. I had no idea why it made me cry, but now it's pretty clear to me that it's because it's about a woman being forced to pretend she's a man.

There were also a lot of things that were not obvious until I read them. For example, a sense of detachment or enstrangement from my own feelings and body. Feeling I am going through the motions of participating in my day-to-day life and observing rather than actively experiencing and taking part.

It's worth mentioning that once I started accepting, being more active in queer spaces, and reflecting on my past, I started remembering a lot of other things. For example, how back in my teens I had this burning wish to wake up as a girl and experience how that feels like, at least for a while. However, I brushed that off and figured, surely, everybody is curious and would like to experience being the "other gender".

Social

I've always had very few male friends, and avoided alpha male/overly masculine presenting type of people. On the other hand, I've always had female friends, and could easily open up to them.

I've always defended and talked about trans issues in conversations with my family and group of friends. I always found it weird people had a hard time understanding the difference between sex, gender, and sexual orientation, all the while it was easy for me to understand.

Positivity

There were some positive milestones as well. The first time I saw "her" in the mirror (that's how I, and a lot of transgender folks say when we mean "I saw myself in the mirror and I thought I looked like the gender I feel") was incredible.

It almost always felt amazing to try gendered stuff like clothes, make-up, nail polish, etc, for the first time. However, they relatively quickly become the norm (and that's awesome too!).

It's worth mentioning that, on most occasions when trying something from the list above, I got an erection. That is quite common the first (few) time(s). It doesn't mean it's "just a fetish" or that there's anything wrong with you.

Dysphoria

I recall the first time I felt dysphoria. It was about a few weeks after I started questioning. I was doing the dishes, while thinking about random things. And then I looked at my hands and I noticed the hair on my arms, and I totally freaked out. I wanted to pluck it out hair by hair, burn it, do ANYTHING to remove it RIGHT THEN.

I was able to stop and relax, but it was pretty awful. And then a funny thing happened: I realised I just experienced gender dysphoria. And that made me very happy, because it means an extra data point, more validation that I am indeed transgender.

I don't experience genital dysphoria, and as such, I am not planning to have THE (or breast augmentation/facial feminization) surgery. I honestly don't care much about what kind of floppy bits I (or my partner) has. And while I haven't experienced all possible combinations, I am fairly certain they're all fun and interesting.

Gatekeeping

There are a lot of terrible guides out there for psychiatrists gatepeeking us from the medical care we need. There are places where you don't qualify as transgender unless you suffer from gender dysphoria, or you need to socially live as the gender you identify as for some time (ranges from 6 months to 2 years from what I've heard) before you can get diagnosed and get the treatment you need.

It took me less than a couple of months to be certain enough to want to begin medically transitioning, and I only had a couple of intense dysphoric events.

How I feel now

All of these thoughts and lists of reasons and trans checklists already seem ancient, despite being less than a year old.

I went from taking half an hour of explaining to people that I am trans, and how I prefer feminine pronouns, and what that means and essentially apologising for being a burdain, to just waving and saying my name.

Now I know I don't need a reason (let alone multiple reasons) to be a woman. I just feel like one, and I enjoy being seen as one. And that is enough.

I've learned to take care of my body, to use make-up, to dress up, to walk in high heels. I am now able to look in the mirror and usually like what I see. I even have a few pictures of myself that I love and think I look hot!

I'm not less of a woman for being attracted to women. I'm not less of a woman for having a penis, a beard (or a shadow), or a deep voice. And whether I decide to do something about any of the above is entirely my own personal decision (which may be influenced by dysphoria, preferences, etc.).

I used to not be able to go out or turn on my webcam unless I shaved, dressed girly, wore make-up and all of that. Nowdays, none of that bothers me much at all. I think it's due to multiple reasons, such as feeling more comfortable with myself, my gender expression, and trusting the people around me more.

On that subject, I did lose some friends, and grew apart from most of my family. And that's on them. I tried my best, I gave them all I could, but it shouldn't all be on me. They shouldn't make me feel as if something is wrong with me. They shouldn't make me feel as if I had some reason to be ashamed or apologise. They should be happy that I found myself and that I am happy.

I don't hate them or feel resentment, and if they ever want to get back in touch or try to repair the relationship, I'd be happy to try. I'm usually also happy to educate, but I am rarely in the mood to debate the validity of my identity.

I feel happy, I feel I am slowly finding out how I like to express my gender. And while I am fundamentally the same person, I am finally allowing myself to live, be happy, and enjoy life, and even love myself a tiny bit.

Closing thoughts

I said that one of the things that helped me was finding this meme about how most cis people don't question their gender. And I wish that wasn't true.

I think everybody should question their gender. Sure, most will find they are aligned with their assigned gender at birth, but they would learn a lot in the process. They would have a better understanding of their gender expression, have a better understanding of the other genders experiences, and probably have a little bit more empathy towards transgender people.

What would my advice be? Just try stuff out. I'm not going to pretend I understand the transmasc experience, but if you're questioning whether you might be transfemme: get your nails done, put on some make-up, try out some feminine clothes. See if it feels right. Try a feminine name for size, ask some people to use feminine pronouns when addressing you. I think that's the only way to really find out.



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