One of the most common questions I receive as a trans person is “When did you know that you were trans?”. I often answer this question with “I have always known” and leave it at that. While it is technically true, it leaves out the majority of the answer and story.
This is that answer and my story of “Becoming”.
I first recognized that I was “not like other boys” when I was about seven. I had a small set of friends that I would regularly play with and we were very close. Oftentimes, we would play the classic games like: House, Cops and Robbers etc. I would always play a character that was traditionally filled by girls. I was the “Mom” or the “Damsel in Distress” and so on.
In one such instance, my parents had walked in and thought it was the best thing they had ever seen. They got us all together and took pictures. At the time, I had been wearing a dress, sun hat, costume necklaces and bracelets, and high heels that were six sizes too large. The picture was so adored, that my parents had it plastered on a coffee mug! The picture and mug have since been lost to time.
Even with all of these small affirmations of my gender, I was still very guarded with it. I was taught each Sunday that “Men being manly is godly and that they should be with a woman only. At the time, I had no idea transgender people even existed, much less that being transgender was a possibility. I just thought that I was broken, or even worse, possessed with evil.
Surrounded by Opportunity
As I got older, I internalized my feelings even more. I started creating a persona that would allow me to fit in and feel normal. I tried to fit in at church and school. I tried being the class clown, the ladies man and the reverent worshiper. Nothing stopped the feelings inside me from growing. I was in the wrong body.
The feelings inside got even worse when I discovered sexuality. A few years after the coffee mug, I had my first partner to partner sexual experience. We were both very young, awkward and unsure of what to do. I took a submissive role and that would set into motion a “structure of sexual relations” for me that would last for years.
When I was twelve, my parents decided that I needed more discipline and structure, so they arranged me schooling at a military charter school. For nine months a year of the next six years, I would be surrounded by pubescent boys in a mostly unsupervised environment. It did not take long for the experimenting to begin in earnest.
Within the first several weeks at St. John’s Military School, I had my first ongoing sexual partner. They were a few years older and treated me exactly as I imagined it would be like, if I were a woman. While we did not say anything about feelings or gender, I felt even more like a woman than ever after this intense beginning.
For the next several years I would have many different partners while at the school. None of these experiences were made public or even made it to the rumor mills. In fact, throughout my time at St John’s, I was seen as a “playboy”, always having had plenty of attention from the ladies in town. It wouldn’t be until after graduation that I finally had sex with a woman. It changed everything, again.
Sexuality and Gender
Now I was very confused. I was eighteen when I had my first sexual experience with a woman and I loved every minute of it. Now I could not tell if I was gay, straight or bisexual. I still had not even encountered the word “transgender”. So, I attributed everything to sexuality and did not differentiate my gender from my sexual preferences. Was I just a bisexual femboy?
I decided I should bury my “feminine side” even deeper. In doing so, I also altered my pesona even further. Now I had to try to be hyper-masculine, to make up for the fact that I did not feel masculine, but was attracted to women. I made many bad decisions and still felt as though I was only living a half life. So much of me was tucked away, deep inside.
I first discovered trans people when I was about twenty-one years old. I was in the military at the time and was both astounded and disturbed when it resonated with me. Could it be? I dove into the research surrounding transgender things and quickly came to an enlightening conclusion. I was most likely transgender.
I was stuck and confused. I had years left on my military contract and I was still married. I had no choice in my mind other than to bury this new knowledge, deeper than ever. So, I tried to ignore it and seek ways to “fix it”. I went on for years in the same, half alive way of life. Going through all the motions of being a “man” while quietly beginning new experiments in private.
Free to Change
After I was free of military service and my marriage, I knew it was almost time. I ramped up my experimenting and began acquiring a small collection of makeup, clothing and other feminine products. I still kept everything hidden, in fear that my partner at the time would find it and leave me.
Our relationship was very passionate and also plagued with deceit and secrets. I believe it was my very last attempt to be who everyone thought I was – My one last shot at living as a cis person. The day that I told her about my lifelong struggle with gender, the relationship was doomed. She was not okay with being with a trans person.
Coming out for me was not joyous at first. I lost a lot to begin my journey. In hindsight, I lost a lot less than I gained.
Immediately following my “coming out” conversation with my partner, our relationship ended. I went on to pack my things and I left within the week. In realizing I would need to reach out to family and friends, I made the announcement on social media that “I was transgender and needed a place to go”. The responses came quickly. Most of the responses were followed by the loss of contact with the responder. In fact, I lost more than half of my social connections within two days.
My family completely denied the fact that I was transgender and even wanted me to come home so they could take me to therapy. I had therapy with my parents before, not a fucking chance. Friends that I had served in the military with would no longer acknowledge me and some, actively harassed me. I was torn to pieces inside.
My cousin reached out and offered up her couch and home to me. I accepted and moved down to her place in Alabama. She enabled me to explore myself and make my very first friends as “Aria”. To this day, every friend I made in Alabama is still connected with me on social media.
Facebook would prove to be my salvation at one of the most vulnerable moments in my life. I was still very cautious with my transition and finding information on how to transition on my own was incredibly difficult. I reached out to LGBTQ support forums and trans specific groups. The response was deafening.
Within weeks of joining the LGBTQ and Trans communities, my “friend” list went from 300 people to 4,000. I had so much information and suggestions coming in that I was almost overwhelmed. I gobbled up the information hungrily anyways. Much of it would prove to be unhelpful, but a good portion of it would prove crucial to my transition. By the time I was ready to begin medical transition, my “support network” had grown to over 11,000 people and I felt truly prepared.
Hormone Replacement Therapy
Before I was allowed to begin any medication, I would have to see a therapist. I did not like, nor trust therapists. I almost decided that it was just not worth it. I couldn’t handle therapy again.
I reached out to my primary care doctor at the Veterans Affairs Medical Facility. He informed me that the therapy session was usually thirty minutes long, and that I would only need the one appointment to get started on medication. I debated this for several weeks before making an appointment.
The appointment went quite well and even settled some of the fears I had towards therapy. I was on my way to “womanhood” in my mind and had not been happier, ever. I made the appointment to see an Endocrinologist and begin the process of HRT. After several long discussions with my doctor, we decided on my course of treatment and he even alleviated some of my biggest fears. Side effects would be inevitable, but generally mild.
The first thing I noticed were the emotions. For most of my life I found it very difficult to cry, or feel really passionately about anything. Within the first few weeks of HRT, that all changed. I found myself weeping and it felt so good to finally have real tears. Thank you, science!
I had spent twenty-eight years in the “wrong body”. Basically what this means to me is that I had the wrong chemical balance in my brain and it was fucking horrible. With the chemical changes that HRT provided, I could finally “FEEL”. I no longer felt like I was living a half life, walking around numb. I was finally a whole person!
The euphoria of having emotions passed as frustration began to set in. I would look in the mirror almost everyday and see no change. Gender Dysphoria would plague me for the next two years before calming down and almost dissipating entirely.
Physical changes of HRT come very slowly. The first year on the medicine, I felt like it almost wasn’t worth it. I debated getting off the medicine because “why take something that isn’t helping”? I reached out to several trusted friends and they convinced me to stick with it. I am in their debt.
Right around the second year of HRT, my breast growth became very apparent to me. In fact, one day I woke up and looked down and remember smiling from ear to ear and thinking, “Oh, I have cleavage!”. All changes on HRT are also tied to our personal genetic makeups, my genes wanted breasts apparently.
The soreness in my boobs soared as they hit a massive growth spurt. I savored the pain, for the first time. I knew that it was normal and that it meant bigger boobs to come! My skin also began getting softer and my hair stopped growing quite as fast in unwanted areas of my body. Finally, the changes I needed were coming. I started to feel the dysphoria melting away and it felt good.
I am currently over four years into my medical transition. In many ways, I am still changing and getting used to being me, all over again. I relish the challenges that are still to come and the breast soreness should it return. Overall, the changes that are coming now seem subtle and graceful.
When I go out, I still feel unsafe. I still have to worry if someone that disagrees with trans people will attack me. But, I will stand my ground. I am me. I will never go back.
Be an Ally
Trans people are under attack. Our basic human rights as trans people are in danger of changing even more. The current administration would like nothing more than to see transgender people made illegal, or illegitimate. We are seen as abominations to them. The attack is also a physical one. BIPOC trans people are targeted more than any other LGBTQ category.
If you want to be an ally, be an ally publically. If you do not know how to be an ally, I can help you there! There are many resources online to use when trying to learn how to support trans and LGBTQIA people. Here a few that I would suggest to read:
When in doubt, use non-gendered terms!
I am by no means an expert in transgender life, science and theory. I do have personal experiences and perspectives that I am always willing to share. I am a dedicated and empathetic listener as well. If you are interested or just want to learn more about my experiences as a trans woman, feel free to contact me!
My contact info can be found here:
Need help now? Try reaching out to some of these if you need someone to talk to:
(If you are experiencing an emergency, please call your local emergency services.)
+1 (313) 662-8209 (THRIVE)
25 and Under
1-866-488-7386 (Trevor Lifeline)
1-877-565-8860 (Trans Lifeline)