Coming out letter
Feeling: apprehensive

(Trigger Warning! Severe self-harm, dysphoria, suicidality, media misrepresentation, menstruation, forced compliance to gender norms):

Dear Mom, 

I'm not a lesbian, but I am gay. My short hair is not a marker of my sexuality, but of my gender. My attraction to gay men is no coincidence, but a direct consequence of who I am. I am a transgender man. I always have been.

The discomfort I have felt around the feminine has been there, omnipresent in the back of my mind. Dressed so frequently in drag - as a female - I have spent years afraid to be myself.

The denial years.

From age 13 to 24 I held myself in a deep denial. Suffocated and suicidal, I pushed myself away from the truth. The only representation of the transmasculine to which I had been exposed was in a Discovery Channel documentary. He had taken razors to his chest, mutilating himself with scar tissue in an attempt to divest himself of the burden of breasts. While I too did not like my breasts, I did not have it in me to self-mutilate or attempt self-surgery. So I pushed it to the back of my mind, consoling myself with the thought of a someday-breast-reduction.

I concluded that due to my lack of desire for DIY surgery, I must not truly be transgender, and put it out of my mind. I pretended, in the following years, that my discomfort with my body was due to being overweight. I pretended that my desire to be included in male friendship circles was the boy-crazy antics of a teenage girl. I pretended to be comfortable talking about menstruation.

One Christmas at (aunt's) house, I had awful period cramps, and after hours of suffering confided this to her in the hopes of getting some pharmaceutical relief. She told everyone. (Her sister-in-law) came up to me and sympathized, and I wanted to die. Completely mortified, I withdrew into my thoughts. Internally, I screamed, "but you're a WOMAN! You're SUPPOSED to have periods!" And I thought to myself, "If she's a woman, then by contrast, who am I?" I pretended it was that I felt I was still a child.

 

In my dreams, I was always disconnected from my body - unless in those dreams I was male. In my daydreams, I pictured my future - as a rock star, a comedian, or an actor -  all male. I saw myself shirtless, singing to a crowd in a deep voice.

In choir, I tried to get Mr. (Choir Director) to let me sing tenor with the boys. I would sometimes do it on a whim if I felt I could get away with it. I wanted to be in the men's chorus. I wanted to wear a tuxedo. I didn't use the word transgender for myself, but I longed to be one of the boys. In all-state jazz choir I desperately tried to fit in with the boys. I told myself it was because we shared interests, like classic rock and raunchy humor.

Way back in elementary school, I did the same thing. I wanted to play kickball, but I never got picked. I spent my bus rides telling dirty jokes with the boys.

I only liked books with male protagonists, and usually male authors. I felt more at home in those stories than in my own skin.

Every time my hair was forcibly put into a ponytail, I hated it. For evidence, see my 4th (or 5th?) grade school picture. The previous year I had taken my hair down, so this time my grandmother shellacked it into place with great gobs of hair gel, so that none of it would move from its place. I tried to remove it, but it was too physically painful. I requested a gray background to match my mood, and gave the camera a death-glare.

In high school, I cut my hair (just the part that one might consider "bangs") to look like Chris Klein from American Pie. I wanted to be him. I wanted to be Steven Tyler and Freddie Mercury and ZZ Top.

I was always so afraid to express myself, because every expression I liked was looked down upon by my family - goth fashion, writing out my demons, dark music... So I wore the clothes that were given to me. I wore eyeliner, but only that. I took comfort in the "emo" trend, which had a number of boys wearing eyeliner during that period. 

Whenever (aunt) took me clothes shopping, she would stop at the dress section and relentlessly pick things that she thought were cute. Every time, I ended up trying on a couple, and eventually saying I liked one so we could leave the store. Then it would rot in my closet.

When I was 19, I went to a friend's wedding. As I assumed was appropriate, I tried to "dress up" nice for the occasion. I wore my homecoming dress, with full makeup. The entire time, I felt like I was in drag, inappropriately, an exhibitionist flaunting my false facade. I was complimented on my appearance and found myself at a loss for words. All I could think about was how wrong I looked, how much I was a liar and a fake and begging for attention with my looks (while my mind begged for my looks to be ignored).

I tried to make friends in college, but found that I couldn't relate to anyone. The girls all had their "girly" things, and the boys their "manly" things. And here was I, stuck in the middle. At (university), my fellow psych majors all felt somehow distant and different from me. I couldn't figure out who I was - I think that's what made me different from them.

For so many years, I had defined myself by the external. In those get-to-know-you games that ask "what's one interesting thing about you?" I would answer that my mother has a mental illness. And I was drawn to the abnormal mind - I told myself it was because my mom had one.

I had worn my disguise so long and so thoroughly that I had lost myself in it.

It wasn't until I met a collegiate trans man that the sparks of self-actualization began to coalesce. I applied for and got a job at his workplace, to see if I could learn anything from him. At this job, meetings began with everyone stating their name and preferred personal pronouns. This was the first time since a brief mention on a late-night TV show (non-mom readers: it was The L-Word, hahaha) that I had heard anyone use gender-neutral pronouns. 

When I worked at Dairy Queen, I confirmed a customer's order to him, and he said, "Yessir! ... I mean, ma'am. Yes ma'am. Sorry." And my thoughts were, "Sir is fine! Sir is great!" It was the best moment of working at DQ I ever had.

Every time someone has called me a girl, or said, "What's up, girl?!" I have felt uncomfortable. For my whole life. 

I have felt uncomfortable for my whole life.

I can't listen to the sound of my own voice recorded. It sounds wrong. It takes constantly talking out loud to myself to keep me used to the sound of my voice, so that it doesn't startle me into a spiraling depression.

I know now what I never knew before: there are resources for me. There are ways to become who I've always wanted to be, who I've always seen myself as. It is not impossible to ever be happy. It is hard. But not impossible. 

"Can anybody hear me?I just want to be... meAnd when I can, I will."~ Smashing Pumpkins, Mayonaise

 

 

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