‘I’ve read your letter. Don’t worry, we’ll get through this.’ It actually meant, we’ll try to ‘fix’ you.’: Young trans man finds ‘strength’ and ‘identity’ while transitioning from female to male

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“Usually one of the first things people ask when you tell them you are trans is ‘So when did you know?’ For me, it wasn’t one of those ‘oh I’ve always known’ kind of things.

The majority of my childhood was spent focusing on gymnastics, so I just saw myself as a gymnast rather than a boy or a girl. Gender wasn’t something I thought much about. I watched wrestling with my stepbrothers, we made a ring in the garden out of mattresses and ladders and it always bothered me when Dad would tell them to be careful with me, especially because I was just as strong as they were. I did go through a few random girly phases where I wore skirts, did my hair, and made a half-assed attempt at make-up. This was mainly around the later secondary school years as I was trying to blend in.

Courtesy of Adam

Fast forward to university. I was excited but terrified, on my own and 7 hours away at that. I knew something was up with me so one day my mate and I wanted to meet more LGBTQ people, so we went to the uni’s LGBTQ society event. There was a team quiz, so we joined a couple of other people to create a team that was wonderfully named ‘Kate’s Bush.’ There was one person there that I remember well who introduced themselves when we went in. He was a trans guy. I’d never knowingly met a trans person before, and in all honesty being very naive at the time I didn’t even really know anything about trans people at all.

Courtesy of Adam

Suddenly something clicked in my mind, I didn’t know where it came from, but I felt different and I felt like I could relate to this guy. It’s hard to explain because, well, I couldn’t really understand it myself. I’d been getting increasingly masculine with my appearance in the previous few years, had cut my hair short, wore men’s clothes, but I figured I was just a masculine female. I wasn’t happy with my body, but who really is? When I went back to my room later than day, I did a lot of researching, I found YouTube channels of trans guys talking about their transition, including hormones and surgery and I watched for hours. I learnt the word ‘Dysphoria’, which means ‘a state of unease or generalized dissatisfaction with life.’ I ended up very overwhelmed and just feeling generally confused and emotional.

How was I suddenly so unhappy? Had I just been suppressing these feelings for years and now after randomly meeting this guy it all came to the surface? I don’t know, and I’ll probably never really understand it all. But I did know I needed to speak to him again. He later explained testosterone, binders, and surgery. He gave me details about support groups online, and in person. I nervously went along to a group. You wouldn’t think introducing yourself with your name and pronouns could be so hard. But my mind was racing, do I give my current name and pronouns, and do I even know a male name I want to use!? I said my current name but following that with an uncertain statement of ‘I actually have no idea about pronouns or even my name right now.’ They were all great and said that’s normal, that they often have people come back to later groups using different names and pronouns. I felt better.

However, away from the groups and the internet, university was still continuing around me and I was falling terribly behind. My dysphoria was escalating very quickly, and within a few months it completely consumed me. I didn’t want to go to lectures, I couldn’t even bring myself to leave my house or room because I just wouldn’t be able to handle people seeing me as I was.

*Content Warning Self Harm/Suicide*

I started self-harming, cutting my chest and places no one could see. The pain served as sort of a distraction I guess and to gave me control over my body. It wasn’t very often at first, but then turned into almost daily. I didn’t know what else to do with myself, I just hated the body I was in and wanted to attack it. I thought about ways I could kill myself, and how I could come back as someone else. The thought of transitioning just completely filled me; it felt like there was nothing else important in the world. I got to the stage of feeling like I had no future as who I was, and I’d rather die than continue to live my life as ‘female’. So, I made the decision. I felt like I couldn’t transition at university, so I left and went back home.

Next, I had to navigate coming out to family. I decided writing everything down in a letter would be the best way to do it. That way I’d be able to get everything out I wanted to say without being interrupted or getting upset. I started with my stepdad who took it well, he asked about telling my Mom, and we decided the best thing to do would be for him to give her a letter the next day. This way she would have the chance to properly read and process it before talking to me about it.

New Year’s Eve, 2011, I was heading over to my Dad’s to begin the celebrations before heading out in town with my step-brothers. I told them that night about the transition. Their reactions were shockingly, ‘okay, that makes sense, cool.’ What a relief! While we’re out I get a text from my Mom saying, ‘I have read your letter, don’t worry, we’ll get through this together.’ Wow, I thought, was she really okay with it? I was so happy thinking this is how she felt. However, when I returned to Mom’s the next day, I discovered that ‘we’ll get through this together’ didn’t mean she was supportive, it meant we will try and ‘fix’ you so you can remain female.

My stepmom took it well and told my Dad, apparently, he didn’t take it too well, but mostly it was because he was worried about what his friends would think. But after a while he was okay, the main thing he told me was, ‘I am upset I won’t be able to walk my daughter down the aisle like I’d always hoped.’ I get that.

I told the majority of the rest of my family via email as they live all over the place. There was a varied response. There were some difficult comments, but these mostly sounded bad due to the lack of understanding rather than intentionally being offensive. They asked, ‘why can’t you just be a butch lesbian?’

Courtesy of Adam

The aunt and uncle I were closest to have two kids who were 9 at the time. His response was, ‘You are too young to know this is who you are.’ He also didn’t want to tell the kids, which basically meant I wouldn’t be able to see them anymore which was devastating. I didn’t see them for about 5 years which was tough. People don’t give kids enough credit when it comes to talking about gender and sexuality, I was working as a gymnastics coach at the time and had to tell over a hundred kids and their parents about transitioning, and we had no big issues with any of the kids.

Courtesy of Adam

My family decided they didn’t want my great-grandmother to know because it would upset her. Being in her 90’s and a Christian, they figured she would be very against the whole thing. This was the worst for me as she was the family member I was closest to. I stopped visiting her for about a year as she was later very upset about this and she obviously didn’t know why I’d suddenly vanished. I finally got to see her again when I’d been on testosterone for about 5 months and had a date for my chest surgery as the family felt we couldn’t keep it from her anymore. Her response when I walked in was, ‘Oh isn’t he handsome!’ and all she wanted was to make sure I was happy, I can’t tell you how much that meant to me.

Courtesy of Adam

I’m now over 7 years on testosterone and 4 years post op from my final stage of surgery. My feelings around my trans identity have changed so much through the years. I’ve gone from absolutely hating being trans and being ashamed to being proud. I wouldn’t be where I am today, surrounded by amazing and inspiring people if I hadn’t gone through this. I would likely not be as open minded about things; I wouldn’t know the vast majority of my friends and I wouldn’t have met my girlfriend. The trans community can be quite a toxic place at times, with so many conflicting opinions, jealousy, confusion, misunderstandings and personal struggles, but it can also be a beautifully supportive and inspiring community to be a part of.

If I could say anything to my 19-year-old self it would be, ‘Push through this, you’re stronger than you think. I know you’ll never have a cis male body, but you’ll come to terms with this. You’ll accept your trans identity and learn to appreciate the different outlook it gives you on life and it will bring you so many amazing friends.’

Courtesy of Adam

‘Things will be tough for a while and the family you thought would support you won’t accept you, but others will surprise you. Your relationship with your Mom will suck for about 2 years. This will be hard but understand that she just needs time. Keep transitioning for YOU and eventually Mom will help you and your relationship will come back and be stronger than before. People change and grow…they’ll catch up just wait.’

‘Surgery will be a long, difficult time. It won’t be straight forward, recovery will feel like it’s taking forever, but you’ll get through it and it’ll make you stronger. Your body will eventually line up with your mind so much better, and those difficult years will suddenly feel like a blink of an eye, I promise.’

Courtesy of Adam

‘You’ll stop spending days counting down to appointments/surgeries and start making life plans years ahead, you’ll plan on having a family and you’ll really start looking forward to the future and wanting to be around to make these plans happen. It’ll get better, you got this.'”

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Adam of Brighton, UK. You can follow him on Instagram. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

Read more inspiring stories about coming out here: 

‘I was given a choice. ‘Be yourself or be a teacher. You can’t do both.’ I’d been outed by my coworker.’: Transgender teacher ‘stays positive’ despite criticism, says transition ‘doesn’t change who I am’

‘It was right after the Pulse Nightclub Shooting. We both rolled over in bed. Me: ‘I’m gay.’ Her: ‘I’m transgender.’ Silence. Now what? I’m married. HAPPILY married!’

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