Life loves to shake things up between point A and point B. For me, point A was my existence as Katherine, a 13-year-old girl entering my freshman year of high school in the suburbs. Point B is where I am now, a 24-year-old man living in Boston who has been medically transitioning for over seven years and, for whatever genetic mishap of a reason, still can't grow any facial hair. So it goes, I suppose.
I am still in transition. Along this journey, there have been many moments and realizations that have made me who I am now, some of which were unexpected when I set off from point A.
1. I have been bullied by members of the transgender community more frequently than I have been by the cisgender population.
When I was a bit younger, especially in high school seeking support, it was devastating to have my identity challenged or ridiculed by other transgender people. Many would push back on things like the age at which “we knew, or would challenge others’ choice to take hormones or have surgery. If I chose to present as feminine at times, I was at risk for being thought of as inauthentic.
Learning that we often regurgitate the hate we are fed, I can empathize. After being told for our entire lives, "You are less than human," many transgender people seek to define what it means to be a transgender person, and hold on tightly to that definition; once we are dehumanized, we only have what we create for ourselves. As a result, many react strongly when there are deviations; if one does not fit that definition, they become a threat to the whole community's humanity.
However, what it means to be transgender is astoundingly different for everyone; learning and embracing this has led me to safer spaces.
2. Peeing standing up is both fun and hard.
I decided to learn when I was a junior in college, right before heading off to be a counselor at a wilderness summer camp. Bless my cisgender housemates for dealing with that steep learning curve.
3. Depression does not have a simple cause.
Leaving my first therapy appointment with a counselor who was well-versed with gender issues, I felt a huge sense of relief. This is the beginning to alleviating this pain that has always stabbed me.
The day I began on hormone therapy, I danced through the halls of my high school. In college, when I had top surgery, I celebrated the biggest relief of my life and felt complete…
And then, somehow, depression crept back in. What? Why? Where? My goals were being met, I was living out as a transgender man and had a partner who loved my past, present and future. Shouldn't I just be happy? However, transitioning was not a magical switch; whereas I had previously blamed my depression on lack of transitioning, it clearly was not the cause of my problems. I am thankful my transition helped me become the person I needed to be to admit I was depressed and seek help for it.
4. I smell a lot worse.
Goodness, these hormones control more than I expected. My scent changed almost immediately when I began on testosterone therapy. I ended up being THAT guy who douses himself in body sprays (except I was 18 and it was inexcusable). I've learned to recognize and love my new sweaty scents, but most other people do not.
5. Becoming a fist-bumping bro-man comes with a lot of expectations.
There are still some jar lids I can't open, and while I haven't grown any taller, women now ask me for help in the grocery store getting down objects, which I still often can't do. The first time a cisgender male friend (who did not know I was trans) fist bumped me? Painful. My hands are a lot stronger now, my handshake has been guided by countless older men offering their advice and perfecting my technique, and while a one armed, bounce-off-of-each other hug is considered more appropriate in the gym – redefining masculinity by grabbing my guy friends in a big bear hug is more my jam.
As I continue to move in the direction of my dreams, I’m not sure where this next path will lead me. I look forward to adding to this list over time, to the adventures, to learning.