Autoethnography: The culture of a Transgender Male
The definitions and boundaries of culture have been pondered for centuries, but over my time on this earth I have come to define culture in a way that goes beyond more common definitions such as ethnic background. Culture helps define a person via their association with others around them, allowing for a sense of individuality and community at the same time. It is common for people to assume they belong to one culture or are defined by a singular aspect of themselves, but everyone is comprised of a variety of cultures at the same time, thus creating a tapestry of identities that harmonize one’s life experiences and views of the world. The culture that I am a part of that has drastically changed my life and personal identity is that of a transgender male. As a member of one of the most misunderstood and disliked communities in the world, I have had to struggle to come to terms with this part of myself for a very long portion of my life. Even though it was, and is, quite difficult to manage most days, my identity as a transgender male has formed not only me as a person, but has also helped mold my view of the world around me and opened my eyes to all of the social progress to be made even in modern times. I want to go beyond the stereotypes and the negative perceptions that surround my community and transcend the labels put on me and other transgender people to let other individuals learn the true nature and beauty of the transgender experience beyond just pronouns and genitalia.
The trans culture is comprised of a lot of experiences transgender people have that the average person will never have to go through such as coming out publicly, struggling with hyper femininity and masculinity before coming to terms with gender identity, and adapting to new clothing and ways of acting. As previously mentioned, one common experience a lot of transgender people go through is hyper femininity and masculinity. I have had my fair share of experience with this phenomenon especially during my middle school years when I was starting to figure myself out, and I tried to come off as feminine as possible to avoid these new feelings. I had grown my hair out super long, joined my middle school’s cheer team, and started dressing in tighter and more feminine clothing. I had thought my desire to be a boy was just due to my past tomboy phase as a child resurfacing and the fact that I had 4 brothers. As time went on, I started to realize that these feelings were not temporary, and I started digging online, like most other trans youth, and discovered a term for my experience: gender dysphoria. Gender dysphoria means that there is a disconnect between a person’s biological sex and how you identify or feel deep down. This new knowledge struck a chord in me and accurately captured how I felt about my gender identity. After this came years of contemplating who I am as a person and deciding whether or not I wanted to come out to the world instead of hiding behind a girly façade. I decided to come out to my parents, and my life hasn’t been the same ever since.
Beyond the overall discomfort and isolation that a lot of trans people feel, I’ve had to deal with hypocrisy from close-minded people and regrets. I’ve also learned, though, to love and accept myself all over again as I take the leap towards becoming my true self. One of the biggest shocks for me was the regret that followed after I came out. It wasn’t that I didn’t feel like a boy anymore, but the harsh reality that a lot of people around me didn’t understand this ‘new’ part of me. Another issue I faced was the awkward feeling after having to come out to friends and family and explain myself over and over again, as if being trans was a crime. A lot of people, even after thorough explanation, deemed me identifying as a man some sort of ‘liberal agenda’ circumstance and that I’d eventually grow out of it, especially since I was only a teenager. I understood the initial shock and the fact that people need time to adjust, but as the years went on, I realized nobody actually wanted to put in the effort to understand or accept me. This was quite difficult for me to come to terms with, but it would be a lot easier for me to change my mind set on this difficult situation instead of trying to get everyone around me to accept my identity. As much as it hurt, I had to learn how to love myself again and come to terms with just how prejudiced the world around me truly was. This caused me to have to grow up a lot faster than the other kids my age, but in the end, it served an important purpose in my development of ‘thick skin’ and resilience. Along with my own personal journey, I learned of just how many misconceptions there are surrounding the trans experience and how it feeds into hypocrisy and harmful misunderstandings.
Despite the very recent allowance of trans rights in the U.S. this community is the least represented minority in the media, so there are a variety of myths and misconceptions that can lead people astray as to what it actually means to be transgender. One of the most common issues I see are assumptions that trans people want to brainwash kids into medically transitioning. This is one of the more “out-there” accusations, but nonetheless it is one I have seen quite too often. A majority of countries and states do not even allow kids (and sometimes adults) to make the choice to medically transition, so that logic doesn’t quite make sense. Another misconception is that all trans people want to have surgery or use hormones. Although a lot of trans people need access to medically transitioning in order to feel more aligned with their identity, some trans people do not feel the need to change their genitalia, get implants, or go through the other various surgeries and procedures that are quite commonly thought of when the topic of transitioning is brought up. Along with this is the fear of just how many de-transitioners there are. De-transitioners are a rare occurrence, and typically when one does de-transition it is because of a lack of support from friends, family, and the community around them. Although there are some cases in which people thought they were trans and later realized they were not, the main cause for a person to de-transition is a lack of acceptance from others and within themselves. I definitely understand this as I have sometimes pondered de-transitioning because of how difficult it was to adjust to my new situation, the hatred, and disgusting world view on trans people. Overall, the trans experience is overwhelming and often times disheartening, and it is understandable that some people just don’t have the mental fortitude and resilience to deal with those pressures and responsibilities, so instead they decide to hide who they are because they feel it might bring them less pain.
The trans experience and culture is so much more than just pronouns, surgeries, and name changes; it is a ‘rebirth’ of one’s self and a chance to truly live. Transgender culture shows just how much personal identity and experiences play into shaping and forming a culture, and the importance of embracing one’s culture in order to survive and thrive. It is vital to understand and get to truly know what the trans experience is not only to educate current generations, but to protect future ones. I am hopeful that my experiences can help educate others to help relieve the harsh realities that a majority, if not all, trans people face on a day-to-day basis.
Amy Jerdon a transgender male HS student seeking to share his experience and insight during a time in which trans identities are under attack not only in the U.S., but around the world.