Whenever I tried to empathize with transgender people, my mind always went to the only place it’d been taught to go: drag queens. I barely knew the difference between “transvestite” and “transgender”, hearing the two words used interchangeably. So I would picture myself in a male body and try to think how wrong that would feel, and how I would absolutely NEED to switch into a female identity. This empathy was always perplexingly difficult to come by. “Wait….what’s wrong with having a flat chest again?” I’d start pondering gender as a whole (what IS it that makes me a girl?), and become so tangled with confusion that I’d have to think about something else. Like taking my Dachshund for a jog.
Whenever I felt a lump on one of my breasts, I would become ecstatic with hope. I had once seen a commercial of a shirtless female breast cancer survivor, and this seemed to be my only possible escape route from biological destiny. Whenever the lump turned out to be symmetrical– which was every time– I would slip back into my ancient, familiar dismay. It’s something I’ve grownup taking for granted. A quiet, domestic despair. I can be a part of my family, but there’s a catch: I have to be “Sarah”.
I can be loved, but only as a daughter, sister, or niece. I can exist, but only as a girl. And yes, girls are condemned to wear bras. Immediately after graduating high school, I became severely disabled by chronic daily migraine, which forced me to spend all day every day within my own mind. My dog and I could now relate on an entirely new level, as she had endured a spinal injury the year before. Neither of us could
walk anymore, much less jog together. My body could not speak, read, exert itself, or have any input or output. I immersed myself in “writing” and memorizing a novel about a gay boy, trying to convince myself that I wasn’t jealous of his identity. But subconsciously, I yearned for nothing else. I did not even want to regain physical health anymore, because to do so would be to invest myself in Sarah again, rather than the life of this boy.
The illusion shattered when I was nineteen and a half, and I finally solved that ages-old riddle of my own gender identity. Suddenly, my isolated existence became unbearably difficult, now that I’d realized I could indeed live out a real boyhood. I’d been doing it all along, although it sure didn’t feel like it, when I thought back to all those blouses and dresses forced upon me! As I lay helplessly in a recliner, paralyzed by insurmountable pain, the muscle I’d built during adolescence steadily dissolved. One of my doctor’s miracle migraine-preventing drugs caused a side effect of breast enlargement. Without strenuous exercise, my body resumed menstruation after four blissful years in dormancy. I now finally understood why all of these changes felt like clouts, far more excruciating than any headache. I had zero power over my own body. It was flesh. And it was repugnant. “Hey guys,” I’d quip to the inner walls of my skull, “I think I’m gonna get everything except my brain surgically removed. Organs are just breeding grounds for cancer, anyways.” (No one laughed)
But after coming out to family nearly one year later, my mental state gradually improved from reduction of stress. As a result, the migraines dwindled concomitant. It was unbelievable, but it’s exactly as my neurologist predicted: internalized depression was the root of my ridiculous severity. I can employ my eyes again, and aural sensitivity has decreased so that I’ve graduated from a whisper to a human voice. A somewhat deeper voice (rejoice!). I am now as active as I can be in my local community, plunging headfirst into PFLAG-this and volunteer-that. Okay, not quite “headfirst”…I still need to be careful with this fragile head of mine. Migraines still permeate my life, but in a much more manageable way. I am currently recovering from a bilateral mastectomy, and am endlessly grateful to say this from the safety of an accepting household.
Dachshund pack leader, ball python feeder, migraine defeater, apple cake eater.
Gay transgender male, he/him/his
Age : 21
Location : Grass Valley, CA