‘What if I’m a boy?’ I felt a tremble shoot down my spine. The thought was petrifying… because it was the truth.’: Transgender man says ‘it takes courage to be who you are’

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“At a young age, I knew there was something different about me. Gender and sexuality aren’t typical topics for children to think about, but I always found myself fighting against femininity. I never wore dresses, I wanted to play with the boys, I was always the boy in imaginary play, and I think my inner child always knew I was truly a boy on the inside. Although I was literally bullied for being a ‘wannabe boy,’ I was just too young to understand my body did not match my mind.

kid in pumpkin costume
Courtesy of August Vranizan

Obviously, middle school didn’t make things any easier. Middle school was when people started talking about relationships, and that’s when I really realized there was something… off. It didn’t take me long (a week of dating one boy to be exact) to realize I liked girls. Although the thought of being gay was terrifying, I still found comfort knowing I finally figured out why I felt so uncomfortable all this time. There was no way I was going to tell anyone out of pure fear of being bullied even more than I already was, having to face my family or the pure wrath of homophobes that surrounded the area I lived at the time.

As a hormonal teenager, that certainly didn’t stop me from having crushes though. My first crush was one of my good friends at the time, and unfortunately for me, she was a typical boy-crazy teenage girl. After crushing hard for months, I thought that maybe appearing more masculine when I spent time with her outside of school would make her like me. My crush and I would always sneak out at night to sit on this abnormally ginormous hill in our neighborhood, and I decided that it was time to take a gander at what clothes my brother had in his closet. I grabbed a hoodie and some jeans and continued my apparently perfectly normal plan to look like a boy. I wrapped my hair up in the hoodie so my hair appeared shorter, used mascara to make it looked like I had stubble on my face (even though I swear not one boy in my class had one hair on their face at the time), and rolled up my brother’s jeans that were so long on me I tripped over them at least eight times before I was actually able to get them on. That night, I unknowingly took the very first steps towards transitioning to who I really was.

kid in spiderman costume
Courtesy of August Vranizan

For many people reading this, I can see how my plan may have been viewed as a total failure. Why would my crush like me because I dressed up as a dude? Well, it totally worked. Looking back on it, I’m pretty sure she was either in the closet or somehow also knew me being a boy just made a lot more sense for whatever reason. Eventually, our parents found out we were in a relationship, and her extremely homophobic father was not going to let that happen. He made sure everyone at my school knew I was an evil lesbian preying on his daughter. My parents really didn’t acknowledge anything other than the fact the bullying had gotten severe. They understood this in more depth when realizing I was no longer going to school and spent most of my days watching movies in my parents’ closet. My parents were fed up with the entire situation at that point, and they decided to homeschool me for the next 2 years as we moved to another part of the state.

The summer before going back to high school as a sophomore, I was able to start putting the pieces together. I liked girls, but I wasn’t gay. If I’m not gay, then what does that make me? Then, I thought to myself, ‘What if I’m a boy?’ and I felt a tremble shoot down my spine. That thought was petrifying… because it was the truth. I had absolutely no idea what that meant. Did it mean I was crazy? If I tell my parents, am I just going to end up locked away for the rest of my life? I didn’t know where to go from there.

Fortunately, despite being absolutely clueless as to what my next steps were, I had an incredible best friend, Kris, who supported me when I was too afraid to come out to anyone else. I met Kris on Tumblr when it was popular back in 2010, and we have been inseparable ever since. Despite living in two different states, I have never felt closer to anyone in my entire life. She helped me talk through what I was feeling, and she truly helped me get the courage to tell my parents I wanted to see a therapist. I searched the internet to hopefully find out I wasn’t alone, and I eventually stumbled upon the word ‘transgender.’ I read the definition aloud to myself, ‘a person whose sense of personal identity and gender does not correspond with their birth sex,’ and I immediately felt a sense of relief. I wasn’t alone. A few weeks later, I told my mom that I didn’t feel comfortable in my skin and I felt like I’m a boy. While she was clearly in shock, she agreed to find me a therapist and help me explain everything to my dad. After starting high school and meeting some new friends, I decided it was time to come out as transgender.

young man with glasses
Courtesy of August Vranizan

Back when I was in high school, people weren’t that knowledgeable about people who are transgender. I was almost always met with confusion, invasive questions, or laughter when trying to explain myself to someone. I was thrown into lockers, hit with textbooks, tripped in the hallways, and left alone crying on the floor of the boy’s bathroom after being attacked by a group of boys hoping I’d ‘learn’ I didn’t belong in there. The majority of my friends and even the only two girlfriends I had in high school used me for clout. They considered themselves better than others for hanging out with the trans kid, but behind the scenes, many of them often discouraged me from transitioning or being happy with myself.

Throughout high school, I was known as the only openly trans kid in the county. Every school in the county heard of me, and I constantly felt like my life was in danger. I avoided joining school clubs or events in fear of being bullied in front of a larger audience, and I focused primarily on working and saving up money for hormones and top surgery. While this evidently destroyed my self-esteem, the trauma caused by the incessant bullying and lack of acceptance led to something I still battle to this day.

At 16 years old, I began to alter my relationship with food. Often times I felt isolated, lonely, and desperate for comfort. Considering most of my relationships were incredibly toxic or who were with people who couldn’t understand how to support me, my solution was to eat my favorite foods. When I ate food, I didn’t have to talk. I could simply put my feelings into what I was eating, and I could comfort myself with whatever I was craving at the time. Eventually, I noticed a substantial amount of weight gain. With the weight gain lowering my self-esteem even more, I would begin to starve myself during the day in order to lose weight. At the end of every day, I would feel like I lost control of my body, and it would involuntarily consume as much food as possible even if I felt sick. I wouldn’t be able to sleep because I felt so guilty about how much food I ate, and I would feel unbelievably nauseous until the next morning. This dangerous cycle would continue until I was finally diagnosed with binge eating disorder at 22 years old.

man in "gender" shirt
Courtesy of August Vranizan

I know you may be looking for a point where I mention how my life completely turns around and I’m suddenly the happiest person alive, but that is not my story. Throughout high school and college, I was incredibly depressed, scared, and lonely. I was always focusing on how I looked and what other people thought of me. There were moments where I felt like life wasn’t worth living because I couldn’t see how I could live a happy life in a society where the majority of people don’t accept who I am. There were times where receiving death threats was normal, and I decided to go to community college because I thought I’d end up being murdered at a large college campus. I attended therapy for years, tried multiple psychiatric drugs, and I felt there were points in my life where I was living just to please other people. I broke every promise to myself when it came to getting better, and I didn’t know if I was going to make it.

man with his dogs, smiling
Courtesy of August Vranizan

When I turned 18 years old, I started hormone replacement therapy. My voice started dropping, my body was appearing more masculine, and I started to see real stubble on my face in just a few months. After those few months, a stranger called me ‘sir’ for the first time. There was no hesitation, and the confidence in his voice is something I will remember for the rest of my life. I felt a surge of confidence, and at that moment, I felt safe.

About a year later, I traveled down to Florida to get my top surgery. Originally, only my closest friends came with me, but my mom came down unexpectedly and told me she couldn’t even think about me doing this without a parent with me. When I woke up after surgery, I remember my chest feeling so tight it was hard to breathe. When I looked down, I immediately began to cry as I noticed my flat chest. After a week of pretty much sleeping, my surgeon took the bandages off my chest and revealed my chest for the first time. I stared completely silent into the mirror for what felt like hours. I felt tears streaming down my face, and I was in complete disbelief as to what I was seeing. The first thing I thought to myself was, ‘You made it.’ For the first time in a long time, I felt like I was living my life for me.

man with top surgery scars
Courtesy of August Vranizan

Fast forward to now, where I am 25 years old. A few months ago, my binge eating disorder was at its worse, and after continuously believing I could recover on my own, I decided to seek help and join an outpatient program. I am on the road to recovery, where I am battling both my eating disorder and revisiting some unresolved traumas. An eating disorder can be a silent killer. It has convinced me numerous times to be secretive with my eating, to push away loved ones, to isolate myself from the world, to give in to my negative emotions, and to convince myself my behavior is acceptable. Many of my loved ones didn’t know I had an eating disorder, and those that tried to help would be met with my anger and frustration.

Although the endless cycle of binge eating had become exhausting, it wasn’t the trigger that made me finally seek the help I needed. It was actually my best friend, Kris, I mentioned earlier. Almost 5 years ago, she and I realized we wanted to be more than friends. I have never been in a more healthy, loving relationship. Truthfully, I never thought a type of relationship like that could ever exist. With my eating disorder becoming worse within the years of us being together, my low self-esteem and dependency were becoming an issue. I had to look to her to feel any sort of confidence or comfort because I was unable to find it within myself. I would try to seek help and get better, but I was never tackling the true issue hiding behind a mask. My eating disorder was consuming me, and it was destroying the relationship with the love of my life and everyone else around me. One day, I looked in the mirror, and I decided it was time to love myself. The same day, I picked up the phone, and I called the local treatment center to seek the help I desperately needed.

couple at Universal with butterbeer drinks
Courtesy of August Vranizan

Although my life hasn’t completely turned around, it has certainly changed for the better. I am unbelievably proud to be transgender, and I use my experiences to connect with other people within the community that are in need of support. I am on the road to recovery from my eating disorder, and I have never felt more comfortable and connected with who I am.

If there’s anything I want you to learn from my story, it’s you have always been enough. There are going to be so many moments in your life where it feels like everything in the world is telling you that you are not good enough, but the only person who can tell you your worth is you. It takes courage to be who you are and to seek help when you need it.

Coming out as transgender or admitting you’re struggling with an eating disorder is nothing but inspirational and brave. If you are struggling, remember it is not selfish to take care of yourself. Your happiness should be a priority, and we as humans often think too much about how things affect other people and not enough about how things affect ourselves. Think about the person you love the most and how you talk to them and realize that you should talk to yourself with that same kind of love. Where you start does not have to be where you end. You can get better, and I’m proof of it.”

photo of friends- protect trans kids, rainbow apparel
Courtesy of August Vranizan

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by August Vranizan from Orlando, Florida. You can follow his journey on InstagramDo 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.

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‘Who’s that boy?’ I wore boys’ clothes and refused makeup. My body didn’t match what was in my head.’: Transgender man shares journey, ‘Coming out can be scary but freeing’

‘She said, ‘I am a girl in my heart and brain.’ She had to be physically restrained for haircuts. I felt guilty.’: Mom advocates for transgender daughter, ‘She blossomed before our eyes’

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