trans.cafe

Coming Out

Supporting Your Transgender Students: 6 Tips For Teachers And Administrators From A Trans Student

Community + Allies, Work + School, Stories, Coming OutSabian Mignone

When I began my transition from female to male in high school, I was prepared for the worst. Horror stories of rampant bullying, hostile teachers, and bigoted administrators filled my head. Why would I expect anything else? All I had ever heard was that being trans in school was hell.  When the school year began, I headed into the classroom anticipating a war.

 


#NotTransEnough

Stories, Coming Out, Female-To-Male, Family, For Kids + TeenagersKonner Jebb
Image by Kajdi Szabolcs

Image by Kajdi Szabolcs

By Konner Jebb

Most people in the trans community have heard of the idea of #nottransenough, but we all likely have our own definitions of what it means to us. This is because one trans person’s experience is rarely the same as another’s. While we may share transgender identity, it’s not as though each of us identifies with the standard, “x-gender trapped in a y-gender body,” knowing our true self from a young age and being able to recognize that. We’re also not all white, straight, and able-bodied. Being trans may push up against normative cis media in and of itself, but it’s not as though there is a homogenous and single thing that transgender identity is, or means.

And yet this same, singular story told of us in the media and even by doctors promotes another idea that there is only one way of being transgender. In some places, doctors still assess transgender and questioning patients as to whether they are “trans enough” to go on hormones or other transition necessities that require medical attention. If they are not “trans enough” for the doctor, they can be denied access to any of these transition needs. This is called gatekeeping.

They’ve been ignoring my transness in hopes that it will just fade away.

Gatekeeping is now not just a problem when facing doctors, but within our own community. Fights about trans people not experiencing enough dysphoria to be trans, not presenting feminine enough to be trans, or masculine enough to be trans, non-binary enough to be trans; the list goes on. That has led many to worry that if their own diverse transgender experiences are valid.

I think and worry about this a lot with my own unique transgender experience. Despite the transgender community’s support of trans siblings with families who are not accepting, it often seems like the voices most loudly heard are the ones of those who were accepted or are now accepted. Those of us who haven’t been accepted are less visible. Being transgender in a family that doesn’t accept you comes with a lot of different emotions and experiences, all of which have made me feel more alone, more isolated. Quite frankly, I often get the sense I’m made to feel #nottransenough.

I experience more doubt about my trans identity than is #transenough. I’ve effectively been told by my parents time and time again that they know me better than I know myself. Therefore, they imply, how can I possibly be transgender? Since they aren’t able to see my identity, why and how should I be able to be so sure about it? They refuse to use my pronouns and use my birth name. They don’t even bat an eye when my friends use “Konner” or “he” around them. They’ve been ignoring my transness in hopes that it will just fade away. (It’s been five years—and guess what? I’m still trans!) I feel invisible at my old home, and often confused more than anything else. Confusion because, after all, these people are still my parents, right? I’m tempted to rationalize their behavior—they must just be looking out for my best interests. And that kind of thinking sends me into a spiral of doubt: how can my parents possibly be wrong? I know I am transgender. But what if they’re right?

My life is trudging ahead of me and I’m not there to enjoy it. I’m always paranoid. My brain hasn’t slept in five years: Can I trust what I’m feeling?

From there, more negativity arises. I feel guilty. I used to love getting gendered correctly, marching proudly into the men’s department, placing “Konner” in the heading of all my college papers, until over time it began to feel like betrayal. Gender dysphoria feels wrong. Yet gender euphoria feels worse. If my parents knew how being transgender made me feel, it would disappoint them. I fight them every day. Sometimes I feel I’ve developed a severe case of internalized transphobia because I’ve internalized my parents’ own transphobia.

I describe this lack of acceptance as a grey area because I often feel stuck. My life is trudging ahead of me and I’m not there to enjoy it. I’m always paranoid. My brain hasn’t slept in five years: Can I trust what I’m feeling? I need to go on T, but what if they’re right and I am making a mistake? Could I be financially and emotionally stable if I transitioned without their permission? Am I ruining my life? The answer is this: now I am 23, living on my own and in graduate school. I’m in a place where they can’t take my undergraduate degree away from me if I went on T, or my ability to support myself if I went on T, nor would I be homeless if I went on T and yet, I still worry. I deeply, sincerely, and painfully know transitioning is the absolute right choice for me. It’s just getting the courage to accept that permission to be myself does not have to be granted, and that parents don’t always know what’s best for you.

What’s most harmful about a parent’s lack of acceptance of their transgender child are the thoughts that hold us back. As a community, I wish we would engage with these experiences more and have a discussion on how we can help anyone else who feels like this. More importantly, I want to hear the voices of trans people who come from unaccepting backgrounds so that we can feel #transenough, too.

 

 

Konner Jebb is currently receiving his MFA with hopes of using his poetry and other writings to become an activist for the transgender and LGBT community as a whole. He plans on sharing his transition and experiences on YouTube, blogs and articles so he can contribute to the same community that helped him. For now, you can follow @trainersarecoolest on Instagram and kawnerwithak on Tumblr.


Modeling As Activism: An Interview With Dezjorn Ray Gauthier

Female-To-Male, Coming Out, Men's Style, In Transition, Coming Out @ WorkPaula Gilovich

With the most recent announcement that James Charles is the new CoverGirl, modeling is quickly becoming the queerest landscape for the un-queer mainstream.

Of course, it is titillating. And of course, they are doing it for a story. But, the story inside the appropriation is that modeling can be a radical act for those who are gender nonconforming.


The Best Days Of Transition

Stories, Coming Out, Female-To-MaleAri Utria

The first step I took towards self-discovery was coming out as a gay female. When I was able to do that, I felt myself consciously letting go of conventional ideas of how a female should present herself—clothing, hair, makeup, etcetera. It was liberating. I started to change my style and progressively moved towards androgyny—choosing an unconventional way to show my identity gender-wise, incorporating both feminine and masculine elements into my self-presentation. 


"How Do You Know I'm a Boy?": A Mother On Her Child’s Gender Quest

Stories, Coming Out, Male-To-Female, Family, For Kids + Teenagers, Community + Allies, Work + SchoolJulie Tarney

Twenty-four years ago, in 1992, my son, Harry, told me, “Inside my head I’m a girl.” He was two years old. I had no idea what that meant. I felt disoriented even trying to process it. The internet was no help, because there was no internet. Books didn’t exist on how to raise children who didn’t fit neatly inside a box that was either pink or blue. And terms like transgendergender nonconforming, and gender fluid were rare or nonexistent.


Coming Out As Trans? Here's What You'll Need For The Journey

Coming OutSkylar Kergil
Illustration by trans.cafe

Illustration by trans.cafe

More often than not, “coming out” is referred to as a finite event. Yet when I came out as transgender, it certainly didn’t unfold in a single instance. Coming out became a journey, and a long one at that. In fact, the trip that I embarked upon in early 2006 still continues to this day.

As I continue along this path, which I believe will be lifelong, I want to share recommendations of essential tools and insights to bring on your coming out “trip,” and to explain from my own experience how they’ve helped me along my way!

1. Prepare a map.

I know that I have found myself unprepared in coming out conversations because I didn’t know what I wanted or needed out of a given conversation. My lack of preparation made me panic, which definitely didn’t make this already-challenging situation any easier.

Coming out can be made a lot less anxiety-producing with just a little planning. I recommend preparing a metaphorical “map” for yourself so that you can navigate the tricky waters of coming out to different people and communities.

If you’re wondering what I mean by “a map,” there isn’t one right answer. Maybe it means knowing your particular goal(s). Maybe it means that you want to prepare a series of potential steps: do you want the people to whom you are coming out to simply be aware of your pronouns and name? Do you want to announce that you are transgender, and then explain what that means—or would you rather have some resources handy so they can educate themselves after your conversation? Every coming out situation will be different.

2. Get cozy with your journal.

There’s a reason travelogues are a popular genre—both to write and read. Keeping a log of your experiences when traveling can help preserve vivid memories and track growth over time.

The same is true for the “journey” of coming out. Writing down notes either before or after you come out, including what you want to say or how it went, can help alleviate the anxiety that may come with making each announcement. A journal may also help you document your growth, so that you can reflect on how you have changed during this process, and what you have learned from these communications.

3. Realize the power of patience.

I love hiking, so I am all too familiar with the phenomenon of getting upset over a gloomy forecast days before leaving the house for the trip. Sure, it’s human nature to become intolerant of discomfort. But sometimes challenging that habit is one of the most productive choices we can make.

The most valuable thing I have learned in life so far has been that I can only control my actions and reactions. Everything else is up to others, or luck, or random fate. Coming out to others is an important instance in which patience is especially powerful. The reactions of others won’t change who you are, as validating or disappointing  as they may be. Some may need time to process what you’ve told them; others may welcome you with open arms right away; and unfortunately, some may never come along. Patience is what will allow you to continue on in your journey with resilience, so that you won’t allow more difficult moments to taint all the beautiful progress you have made.

4.  Don’t forget your other identities.

When coming out, it may be valuable to remind those around you that you are more than just your gender. Certainly, your gender identity is important and may be the most important at the time, but as you're coming out to your recovery group, for example, you can also remind them that while your gender may be changing, your commitment to their principles and your ability to offer support and be a mentor is not changing. As you're coming out to your engineering team, letting them know that even while your gender is changing to them, your infatuation for fireworks and building new ones is ignited once again. There are so many identities that we inhabit, and oftentimes when I was coming out, people feared that I was about to become an "entirely different person." That's not the case at all and reminding those around us that we are not just one thing can help them understand us better.

5. Create a back-up plan.

Sometimes, maps get lost—and navigating your way to a destination gets complicated . Or other times, plans change and courses are altered. In any of these cases, coming up with a back-up plan is a good idea—especially to fend off anxiety. Similarly, it’s helpful to identify a supportive “home base” to which you can retreat if anxiety crops up. In my case, I always call my mom or my partner in the midst of tough circumstances.  And before I had them on my team, I always knew I could call my therapist when in a bind. And even before that, when I felt like no one could understand what I was feeling, I found a home online, through YouTube, a place where I felt safe to ask questions and find support.

Folks may not always accept you coming out. And while you can only control your actions and reactions, it’s also OK to recognize that others’ reactions may take a toll on your well-being. For this and other reasons, having a source of support to affirm your course of action and offer love is invaluable.

Coming out can be a lifelong experience or a series of isolated events and conversations in your life. These are just some tools and skills that I have found useful in many aspects my life, which of course has included the challenging yet rewarding experiences of my coming out journey. If you have any tips of what to “pack” on your coming out journey, please share with us!


Hello, My Name Is Natalie. I Am Transgender And I Am Proud

Questioning, Gender Fluid, Coming Out, Stories, Female-To-Male, Fitness + Diet, Mind + Spirit, Medicine, Confirmation Procedures, In Transition, Men's Style, For Kids + Teenagers, Work + School, Community + Allies, Social, Personal Branding, Continuing Education, Job Boards, Know Your Rights, Suicide Prevention, Intervention Support, Allies + Volunteering, CommunityNatalie Egan
NatalieJaneEgan

As many of you know, and as many of you do not know, I don’t go by Nathan anymore. My full name is Natalie Jane Egan and today is kind of a big day.

Besides coming out “online” as Natalie and now being openly transgender on the Internet, I am also announcing my new company: trans.cafe (more on the biz in a bit).

I realize many of you know me for different reasons. Some of you are my brothers and sisters; others are friends, professional colleagues, or acquaintances at some level and for some reason. If you’re getting this message, chances are we somehow know each other, or know friends in common, and I want to thank you in advance for your support. And, if I don’t know you at all, I hope my message helps you or someone you know find their true identity.

So yeah, I am transgender. Oddly enough, I really didn’t even know this until pretty recently. But before you jump to any conclusions, let me answer some commonly asked questions, and address some reactions I anticipate:

What does being transgender mean? To me, being transgender is a matter of my identity. Despite the fact that I was biologically born a boy named Nathan, my gender identity, the way I want to express myself, is female. This has been a profoundly personal realization for me and shouldn’t matter to anyone. I want to live my life as me—not as the person society wants me to be. Don’t we all deserve that right? I am not hurting anyone. If anything, I am setting people free. If you have a problem with me being “me,” you should really think about why that is the case.

“But Nathan was so manly!” Well... sort-of. You’re right that my outward appearance was “manly.” You may remember me as a rather large, hairy, OCD / hyper-controlling alpha-male that at times could be quite uncouth. But if you really knew me, you knew that inside I was a very nurturing, sensitive, open, and colorful person that loves shopping and art and flowers and doing “feminine” things like going to the spa. I also always wished I was pretty and that I could be a mom. If you are confused, imagine how I felt! Until recently, I never even knew I had a choice to express my true self, nor did I realize anyone else felt similarly to me… I’m grateful that I do now, so I am going to live the rest of my life like it is the only one I have got!

So, how do I identify? To be clear, I identify completely as a woman. Genetically, I was not born as a woman and yet I have the right to identify as one. Please use the pronouns “she and her” with me. I also don’t mind words like babe, girl, girlfriend, sister, and woman as long as you have a little class in your delivery.

What bathroom am I using? When I look like I do in the middle picture above (which, for now, is still about 80% of the time), I simply try and avoid using public bathrooms. It really sucks. But the good news is that I am making great progress with my transition, and eventually I will look much more like the Natalie on the right! Hopefully, by the time that happens (about 12-18 months), this whole bathroom debate will be over and no one else, no matter how they identify or what they look like, will have to suffer from not peeing.

How could I not know I was transgender? The truth is I always knew I was “different.” But I didn’t yet have the vocabulary to pinpoint why exactly. I didn’t know why I wanted to be pretty or why I was drawn to the color pink when I was younger. I just did. And no one readily used the word “transgender” when I was growing up—and don’t forget, there was no internet. So I felt totally alone, which left me feeling alienated and unsure of what was “wrong” with me. It was only about 9 months ago that I finally accepted that I was transgender and not just a “crossdresser” (although that took a very long time for me to accept, too).

Do I think I was born in the wrong body? No! But I definitely went through a phase where I thought that was the case. I now truly believe that I was born in the right body and all of this was meant to happen. I was meant to meet Nancy and make our kids. I was meant to start trans.cafe and you were meant to read this. Together we will change the world.

What about my kids? Van, Brook, and Teddy are all fine! Seriously. If they were older, it would be harder for them to process for sure. This a transition for them too. But they are all at a good age for acceptance, and as a family we love each other totally unconditionally. So while all of this isn’t easy, what my kids “get” is a happier more loving parent who is more present and connected than ever before. That is all that matters.

What about Nancy? This has been really hard for everyone, especially Nancy. And through it all, she has been unbelievably supportive of me and the kids and I love her so much for it. We are deeply committed to helping one another live happy and healthy lives, but again, that doesn’t make this easy. The bottom line is that we have a foundation of mutual respect, love and support. Every day, we look forward to helping each other be the best versions of ourselves, and to being great co-moms for our kids.

What happened with PeopleLinx? As many of you know, PeopleLinx is the software company I started in my basement in 2008. As CEO for six years, we put more than $8M to work in the US economy, and created 35+ full-time jobs in Philadelphia. In mid-2015, I voluntarily resigned for personal reasons (which may be clearer to you now - haha), and today the team is being led by my good friend and our former Chief Operating Officer, Kevin O’Nell. So to answer the question, PeopleLinx is doing great and I am still an active member of the Board of Directors.

Where am I in my transition and how far will I go? Let me start with a friendly reminder that this is not really an appropriate question to ask a trans person, especially if you don’t know them well. Everyone expresses their gender identity differently, and is a matter so personal it just isn’t other people’s business. That said, I don’t mind sharing. I have started hormones, which is amazing, and is connecting me with my body and humanity and the earth in ways I never knew possible (BTW: I love to talk about the hormones part, so always happy to chat about that one). I am also currently doing hair removal procedures, which are super painful but I love the way they make me feel afterwards. Other than that, I am taking all of this very slowly and my only basic expectation is to feel a sense of progress towards being my real self.

Am I happy? Healthy? OMG yes! In fact, I am both the happiest and the healthiest I’ve ever been. I have lost 40+ lbs in the last nine months, simply by becoming more mindful of what I put in my body (regular exercise helped too). I also quit smoking cigarettes completely (I was smoking a full-pack-per-day!), and cut my drinking and any other unhealthy activities by at least 80%. I am also no longer dealing with depression, or the suicidal thoughts that plagued me over the last year. Those dark days were especially hard as I lived in fear of being outed or blackmailed and ultimately rejected by society because someone “knew” I like to do things that women do (which is totally ridiculous now in retrospect). Today, I have a ton of energy, am super focused, and I know I am making a real difference in the world. I also know that I am a great parent for these kids. What else could I ask for? Well sure, there are a lot of other things I want, but you get my point.

So what is my new business? trans.cafe is an information hub for both consumer and institutional audiences related to a broad range of transgender issues. I started trans.cafe because I myself really struggled to find good, up-to-date information about being transgender. It was even harder for my friends and family, all of whom immediately Googled the word “transgender” when I first said it, and still felt in the dark about the nuances of what I was going through. Furthermore, I found corporations have no tools, language, or metrics to handle the growing number of both employees and customers that identify as transgender. That fact is that everyone deserves access to current, high quality information about trans issues and that is what we are doing. Our vision is to change the way the world thinks about identity and being who you want to be.

*Please note, I don’t claim to be an expert on being transgender or plan on being the authoritative voice of transgender people. That’s an impossible feat, as there’s no such thing as a homogenous “transgender community.” I am, however, an expert in building digital platforms and connecting communities so they can share their experiences and self-identify with what matters to them.

So what else? What can you expect? To be honest, I don’t know really know. I am learning more and more about myself and my transition everyday and it is super exciting. Please know that you will probably keep seeing subtle changes in me and I will try and keep you in the loop on important matters. Most importantly, know that I am working really hard to support my family as best I can.

How can you help? All I really need is your love and support and ask that you respect my right to identify with who it is I really am. My family needs your support too. It means so much to me and to them to know you care, please show you do by sharing this article with your friends and loved ones! It would also be super helpful if could spread the word about trans.cafe as a resource for consumers and corporations on trans related issues.

In closing, remember this: being transgender is about more than gender. It is about identifying with who you want to be—not who others want or expect you to be. If you want to change your life: DO IT!

Big love to all of you. Thank you again for your support. There is so much more to come!

XOXOX

-Natalie

PS: Please remember to call me Natalie (or Nat, or even Natty) if / when you respond or comment. Also, please also use the pronouns she / her and try to avoid declarations like DUDE and bro! If you make a mistake that is fine but just keep trying. You will get it!

* Note - we intentionally keep comments “off” for trans.cafe because of the broad range of readers (from kids to parents to corporate professionals) and encourage you to continue an authentic conversation on your social media networks. You can also reach out to me or the company directly if you want to chat!