by Tristan Paylor
Recently a friend of mine summoned the courage to write a coming out post in time for Pride Week. I debated with myself for a long time about coming out publicly on Facebook, but when I read her words, I decided it was time to speak up on my own behalf. I certainly haven’t been hiding, and most of you know this already, or have figured it out for yourselves. Still, I want an opportunity to define myself and my experiences, to come out once and for all, in my own words, and possibly clear up any misconceptions that people may have.
So here goes. I started to experience intense gender dysphoria last year. By fall it became unbearable. I started taking steps to ease my distress — binding, buying new clothes, changing my name and pronouns because I could no longer tolerate the pain of being addressed as a woman. I called my boss, shaking, to tell him I intended to transition. I came out to all of my co-workers, one by one. I came out to my parents, and also to my partners, although I knew it would change my relationships irreversibly. I keep doing things that terrify me every day, and I have gained some small and hopeful victories. There are a few of you who already see the person I truly am, and when I am with you, I feel something I have never felt before. I feel whole.
Some of you may find it confusing or shocking that I realized this in my mid-twenties, after living for a few years as a fairly feminine woman. I don’t need to justify anything to anyone, but nonetheless, I’ll open up about things I’ve kept to myself for a long time. Most of you don’t know that the seed of these feelings was planted in my teen years. I was always androgynous, and happily so. But when I wore men’s clothes, or stopped shaving, or adopted a “male” posture (which felt more natural), or buzzed off my hair, I was bullied relentlessly. I secretly had a male alter-ego, whom I named Jack. No one, except my father, knew anything about my identity. I felt that if I shared the male part of myself with the world, I would never be loved, and I would never have a normal life. I also love femininity, and on some level I knew I might have to give up some of my self-expression to live as male. Growing up, I found no narratives like mine, of trans people who don’t fit neatly and clearly into the gender binary, to help me understand myself. For a while I succeeded at living as a woman, at fitting in, which I desperately wanted. If any contrary feelings arose, I wrote them off as internalized misogyny, or some unrelated issue. I never called it for what it really was.
I don’t know why the dysphoria took so many years to manifest as vividly as it has recently, but it doesn’t really matter. It drove me into a confrontation with my deepest self, and now I’m able to tell you, finally, who I am. I’m not the gender I was assigned at birth. I’m somewhere on a spectrum between non-binary and male, but in a binary world, I’m comfortably living as a man. Hearing myself referred to by female titles or pronouns hits me like a knife in the heart, and I ask you all to respect me by referring to me as “he” and by male or gender-neutral titles.
Today is Trans Pride in New York, and this morning I’ll be off to a particularly relevant doctor’s appointment in the Village. I’ll be looking out over Church Street and thinking about all of the people who were brave enough to share their stories before me. Happy Pride, everyone. Today I am proud to be bisexual and trans.
Tristan Paylor is an aspiring writer and visual artist living in Toronto, Ontario. His work is published on his blog at http://theharlotandtheholyone.tumblr.com (be forewarned it is NSFW).