Photo by Miki Vargas from The Handsome Revolution Project.

Photo by Miki Vargas from The Handsome Revolution Project.

It seems like, almost since conception, my gender nonconforming behavior was no secret; my brother discovering his clothes missing and finding them stashed away in my room, my father teaching me how to play hockey, soccer, baseball, and basketball with the neighborhood boys, and my mother comforting my fragile self after I’d run home from the bus crying because of the torture and teasing I’d received for wearing baggy clothes. It was also never openly discussed or acknowledged as actually being an important part of me, a cherished expression of my humanity; but rather treated as growing pains, or that I was ‘just going through a phase’. Before I knew what it meant to be transgender, I had to understand what it meant to be a masculine presenting woman.

I will never forget my mom’s initial reaction of sheer disappointment and utter devastation when I came out to her as a dyke having graduated high school in 2005. After an eternal minute of apocalyptic silence, she finally spoke.

“So, what then? Does this mean you want to be a boy?”

I immediately denied it.

“No, no, of course not,” I told her. “I’m just a more masculine, woman-loving woman!!”

But my heart sank into a shameful abyss.

My mom looked deep inside me and saw what I had truly felt. Well actually, I thought, but was way too terrified to say was: I AM a boy, and want nothing more than to be realized, accepted, and loved as one.

If I could have transformed into a boy starting at that very moment, I would have. At the time though, I had no idea how that would even be possible, given my limited understanding of all things LGBTQ, having grown up in conservative Phoenix, Arizona.

Besides, how could I betray my mother and the womanhood that she had given me and cherished so much? The shock of being gay was more than either of us could handle, so I took the safest way out and suppressed that part of me to save us all the trouble.

At that time I definitely did not fully understand the workings of my sexuality, let alone my gender, but coming out as a dyke gave a kind of validity to my masculine ways and allowed me to escape the confines of what biology and society had deemed essential to who I was from birth. It also seemed the most logical place for me to start understanding the complex ways in which gender, sex, and sexuality function separately, intricately, and as a whole.

Through my queer studies in college, I acquired an immensely valuable academic and scientific understanding of the social construction of our identities. Feminist philosophizing led me to question the stability and permanence of our sex, gender, and sexuality. It was in those intimate Women and Gender Studies classrooms that I learned about the T and Q, and how it was possible to lead a happy, healthy life, outside of the gender binary.

After living five years under an adopted pseudo-identity to please those around me, I had finally had enough. I was not a woman who liked looking and acting in masculine ways. I was a man. I was cheated out of manhood being given to me de facto, and in turn, had to accept the arduous task of discovering and fighting for it myself.

In my last course, on my last day, I spoke publicly about my feelings of wanting to transition to living and identifying as a male. Even though my diploma doesn’t officially state it, in my mind, I graduated as Braedyn Ezra.

In March 2011, I started testosterone under the informed consent model, and brought my mother along with me to my first doctor’s appointment to have a professional back me up and explain things as a neutral party. In May of that same year, I changed my name. I kept my parents in mind while choosing a name because I knew how hard this was going to be on them.

A year later I moved out to Seattle. This move gave those I loved some space to help them understand things better, because they weren’t getting it no matter how hard I tried. I was suffocating under their ignorance.

Due to the overwhelming support of an incredibly generous community out here, and even with the well wishes of my father and mother, I had chest reconstructive surgery a little more than six months ago. My Washington State ID now also reflects my accurate identity with a magnificent M under sex.

Transitioning is a lifelong process with no definitive beginning or end. It’s a process where you are consistently made aware of the implications that your body and your being have on the world. In the ten years since making that initial disclosure, I have relentlessly dissected and openly discussed my perspective gender and sexuality and, in turn, released myself from a complex prison of feelings that could have been a death sentence.

I am transgender. This body is mine, and I am free to do with it what I please. My full disclosure is power. By embracing my dyke womanhood as an integral part of my her/his-story, I was, and am, able to completely extend my true self into the world and claim a manhood that is both uniquely valued and respectably valid.