My entire life, I have forged a path for my sense of self without clear road markers.
I wish I could say that this lack of reflection of myself out in the world meant that I learned to trust only myself and my own truth, but if I said that I’d be lying. Instead, somewhere along the way I internalized a sense of not trusting my own truth, I accepted the invalidation of my experience, I felt inherently wrong, misfit, untrue.
I am only at the beginning of the journey to reclaim myself as worthy and my truth about myself as true.
But as soon as my peers started to have language for how things should be, all that changed. Suddenly there were different rules for girls and boys—rules that everyone in my life seemed to understand except me. I was taught not to trust what felt right to me, because it would only lead to trouble.
If I maintained my primary friendships with boys, I would be teased mercilessly. If I wore princess dresses every day, I would suffer similarly. So too if I liked watching TV shows like 321 Contact, Star Trek, and Nova and had no idea who New Kids on the Block were. The rules didn’t make any sense, so the only logical conclusion was that there was just something inherently wrong with me. Being me was no longer simple or effortless, it was painful and isolating.
By the time I was a teenager and the words we use to describe ourselves really started to matter, I just couldn’t trust myself to know what words were mine to claim. I knew I wasn’t gay but I didn’t really think I was straight. I didn’t trust myself to claim the word bisexual because I didn’t feel like I could “prove” my sexuality.
Flash forward another several years, and I found myself similarly unable to claim my felt sense of self in terms of gender. I knew I wasn’t a man but the idea that I was a woman was becoming an increasingly bad fit. I was sure that the only people who were trans were the devastatingly handsome rugby players on campus whose masculinity was unquestionable.
Without some sort of “proof” of who I was that fit into a societally recognized narrative, I couldn’t trust my own truth or give voice to who I was. Nothing fit right, but I was convinced that there was just something about me that was inherently ill-fitting.
And it wasn’t just about claiming language. I also felt unable to make choices that would help me feel more myself for fear of being perceived as claiming an identity that wasn’t mine. I was desperately afraid of changing my name and my pronouns because I didn’t want people to think that I was “transitioning” in a world that understands that word to mean only one thing: that I identified as a man and was taking steps to be seen as such by those around me. I didn’t feel able to trust that I deserved to have a name that felt like mine, and pronouns that didn’t make me cringe when people used them to describe me, regardless of my gender.
It took years to take that step. First I suffered under the weight of picking the “right” and best name for myself, fearing that I would only have one shot at it. Then I was wracked with anxiety over whether to go through with it. Then I lived for more than six months with two names—my new, real name that my partner and friends now called me, and the old, ill-fitting name that I continued to labor under at work and with my family.
I felt as though I wasn’t worthy of the trouble. My sense of self wasn’t strong enough to call out and demand what it needed in order to survive and thrive. It was buried under the weight of my fears that my choice to change my name would be misunderstood; that I would be judged and mocked and that my internalized sense of being invalid and wrong would be confirmed.
I’m not doing that again. I’m staking my claim. I’m working to see myself as worthy, as real, and as deserving of whatever choices bring me a greater sense of ease and help me feel more myself. Full stop.
So the choice that I am making right now is to start taking testosterone.
My hope is to blog about the experience, and this is my first post as I wait for the insurance circus to finish with their hula hoop act so that I can successfully pick up my prescription from the pharmacy for the first time. If you’re interested in hearing more, do stick around.
This post is part of a series. Read Day 1 (next post).