Written by River M.
I’m not really one to do things like this; vulnerability isn’t exactly a strong suit of mine. I generally like to keep more to myself, but I figure that everyone probably has questions they wish they could ask me or misconceptions about my existence that perhaps I could help resolve, although, then again, I don’t live to educate the cisgendered.
That’s not my job. You have computers, and Google exists. Watch some YouTube videos, and leave me alone. However, I probably am one of the few openly trangendered people you know or at the very least have heard of, perhaps in whispers of people confusedly trying to figure out why my name is River now. So, what’s it like? What’s it like to be transgender in the world we live in and in Princeton High School? A loaded question, no doubt, but to help some of the cisgendered people out there have a better understanding so they can be a little more aware in their lives, I will try and answer this as best as I can.
To start off: I love being trans. It can be absolute hell, but as a whole, underneath all the hell and the days when I wish everything was different, I love who I am and who I will become. I just wanted to say that so you don’t think all transgender people are rolling around in their own self-loathing.
Secondly, being trans in high school is also one of the hardest things I’ve ever experienced. Transitioning halfway through your junior year of high school is something people very rarely have to deal with; I guess I’m just special. There were things I never had to think about before that suddenly became pressing and terrifying. So here it is. Here are the things you never really have to think about unless you’re trans:
1. Using the bathroom
Who would’ve ever thought it’d take me 10 minutes of mental prep work just to walk into a bathroom to pee? I mean, it’s gotten better; I’ve narrowed down those 10 minutes into that one or two minute walk to the bathroom, but still. Still, I pray every time I head through that door with that little stick figure man on the plaque outside that the room will be empty. Not to mention, it can oftentimes be found filled with cis white boys thinking they’re hard listening to trap and smoking their juuls. But that’s none of my business.
2. Getting dressed
Never in my life have I taken as long to get dressed as I do now. Most of this is due to dysphoria. For those of you who don’t know, dysphoria is a term commonly used to refer to gender dysphoria, which is when your body doesn’t match your brain, and it causes you a lot of mental anguish. Some days it’s not too bad, and then some days it’s so bad I can’t get out of bed because the thought of looking at myself or anyone else looking at me/knowing I exist is physically painful.
Anyway, it takes me at least a half an hour of rifling through t-shirts and hoping to find one that makes my chest look flat enough because even with my chest binder, my stupid titties is too big. It takes me almost the entire morning of convincing myself my hips don’t look too wide or my legs too scrawny to be able to walk out that door and head to school.
3. Warm weather
For many people, warm weather is a wonderful thing with a promise of hazy summer nights and drowning the stress of the school year in pools and ocean waves; for me, warm weather is the bane of my existence. Most of how I, and many trans people, battle dysphoria is through layers. The more layers the better, because the harder it is for anyone to see what’s going on with your body.
I usually like to wear my binder, then a tank top or even two, then a t-shirt, then an overshirt, and then maybe a jacket. Hot weather makes this impossible, especially because your binder makes you sweat more than you thought possible, to the point where passing out is a real struggle you face many days. I used to love warm weather and the clothes that came with it, but since realizing I was trans, the idea of showing skin is near evil. I despise shorts, and I despise short sleeves, but warm weather forces me to wear both.
However, this all depends on the environment I’m in. When I’m with people I’m very close to, like my siblings, I have no problem running shirtless with a sports bra on and even enjoying it, filling myself with love and forgiveness towards my body for what it simply can’t be at the moment. It’s complicated, but for the most part, you should understand that warm weather is very difficult for trans people and you should be respectful of what they want or don’t want to do; especially with swimming. I love swimming but I have yet to find the confidence to head down to any pool in my binder and splash on in.
Obviously, most people worry about relationships and intimacy, but it’s much different when you’re transgender. While I was coming to terms with myself, one very present thought was that if I came out as trans, no one would ever find me attractive or want to date me, or, conversely, that they would fetishize the fact that I’m trans because that’s a very real thing as well. Dating can be terrifying when trans; you constantly feel like you can’t be enough for your partner simply because your body isn’t cisgendered. When a girl says she likes boys, what she usually means is she likes a boy with a dick, not in the sense that all they want is to get it on with someone, but that most view only boys with dicks as being real boys. I’ll be damned if I ever measure my worth up against some cis boy’s dick, but it does make you realize the very cis-centered society we live in. It’s painful every time someone says something about “girls and their periods” or “pussy power to my ladies!” because guess what? I get my period, I got a pussy, and I am in no way a girl. However, returning to my original point, these things all make me very insecure when it comes to dating or any type of intimacy. It feels like what people want is someone whose body matches their brain, and that no matter what, I can’t be good enough. There’s also a certain element of shame when you’re misgendered or misnamed in front of your partner or someone you like. I remember recently when I was misnamed in front of the girl I like. Being misnamed very rarely happens for me anymore. I felt my heart drop because in that moment, I felt like I was lying to this girl, I felt like I wasn’t boy enough for her and I wanted only to melt away and never be seen again. But hey, I’m still alive, I’m still a boy, that moment passed quickly, and I had a good night with her, so it’s all good. And no, me dating a girl is not gay. It never will be, because I am a boy.
This is a big one, and also the last one I am going to talk about. Before realizing I was trans, I had no problem effortlessly sliding between my masculine and feminine qualities and loving them equally. My whole life, I expressed much more stereotypically masculine characteristics, ranging from the way I dressed to my naturally low voice to loving sports and yada yada. Yet, I also embraced the feminine in me, and I still very much do. My main point of talking about masculinity is that there’s much more pressure for a straight trans man to be hyper-masculine in order to prove himself to….well that’s the thing. To whom?? Cis boys? Listen trans boys, the minute we start genuinely seeking cis approval is the day we die, okay? My stance on masculinity is that although for a while it was something I thought about a lot and wasn’t sure how to express after coming out, I since have found a lot of clarity. The way I see my whole journey is that nothing is about me wishes I was a cisgendered boy. I love being trans. I love that I can completely understand the female experience because I literally lived it. I love that I get to know that world entirely. Truthfully, I don’t even want to look cisgendered. I just want to look like me, and who “me” is just happens to coincide with what most cisgendered boys look like. My masculinity will never be cis masculinity, and I would never want it to be. My masculinity is mine, and I love my feminine qualities. All boys have feminine qualities; most just suppress them beyond belief because of the society we live in. I am honored and happy that I had years to indulge in, shape, and love my feminine qualities before realizing I was trans because now I can be confident in these qualities without toxic masculinity slithering its way into my head.
So there it is. A glimpse of the real trans experience. There’s a lot more I could talk about, but I’ve already taken up many pages. I’ll conclude by saying this: Give your local transgender person a break, listen to them if they want to speak, but don’t force them to. No one is obligated to be a shining role model for an entire group of people. I choose to be visible and open, but that still doesn’t mean I always like the pressure put on me or that I’m willing to answer every question. Transgender people aren’t your walking Google. Unless you know them personally and well, I’d say you’re both better off if you just leave them alone and treat them like a human being and not “that trans person.” Everyone has their big thing and their journey to finding themselves; mine just happens to be the journey of being transgender. It’s different than most people, but it doesn’t inherently make me “other” because it’s not all that there is to me. I am a person who is transgendered, not a transgender.