When the lovely editors of Full-On Monets told me they were starting a blog for and by women and wanted me to contribute, I had to write up a complicated response to their simple question. I had to tell them, basically, “I’d love to contribute, but I’m not really a woman.”
My life has been full of those kinds of awkward interactions ever since I decided to get serious about transitioning into being a man. I’m no stranger to coming out — I’ve known I was bisexual from an early age, then thought I was a lesbian for a bit, then went back to identifying as bisexual, then thought I was on the asexual spectrum. When you’ve had a different orientation every time you go home for the holidays during college, you start to feel like a damn coming-out expert. But what’s distinctly different about changing gender identities is the sheer number of people you have to tell. For instance, I never talk about anything personal at work, but today I had to basically tell my boss, “Hey, I’m a dude, so… do I call tech support to have my name changed on the email server or…”
Even weirder is thinking about how the baristas at the Starbucks I frequent, who have my name and order memorized, will react the first time I walk in with my hair cut short and my chest binded up. I’ve been through life changes that were a big deal before, sure, but with this every single person in my life will have some sort of reaction. As someone whose goal in life is to get as little attention as possible, it’s a bit of a nightmare scenario. Being looked at and being asked questions are basically my two least favorite things, and I’m about to subject myself to a crapload of both. But that just confirms for me how serious I am about this.
I also know I’m serious because I told my mom. That’s the highest level of seriousness you can have about anything. Because if you back down, every future decision you make will be met with: “Well, is this real? Or is it like the time you thought you were a man?”
I’m being unfair to my mom for the sake of a joke. She’s been very understanding about it. In fact, she had the same reaction a lot of the people I’ve told have: “Not surprising at all.” That reaction is weird to me because I’ve never been butch, and I know I won’t be a “manly” guy. So the fact that people aren’t surprised to hear that I’m a man means that on some level everyone who’s seen me has thought, “Well, that dude’s a sissy.”
I’m okay with that. In a lot of ways I think it’s fortunate that I waited until now to actually do this, even though I’ve wished I was a boy since early childhood. I think if I were any younger, any less comfortable with who I am, I’d really feel the pressure to prove that I’m a “real man.” If I transitioned in high school or college, I would probably get Diet-Soda-Commercial Level Defensive about my masculinity. But now I have enough understanding to know that some guys, trans or not, can be wimpy and “girly” as hell, and that’s just fine. I’m not gonna pretend that beer tastes good or Demi Lovato doesn’t rock just to prove I’m a man.
So, those are my initial thoughts on this early stage of transitioning, which has mostly consisted of sending people emails in which I awkwardly try to be assertive about something for the first time in my life. I’ll keep writing new entries for this column as I go through my change. I’d like to end by just saying how happy I am that Full-On Monets made an exception to their all-women writing staff so I could bring my perspective. I know writing this will be helpful to me, and I hope it’ll also be helpful to anyone else who’s transitioning, considering transitioning, or knows someone who is. After all, it’s hard out here for a trans man. I mean, our big mainstream movie is Boys Don’t Cry. It’s a great movie, but the plot synopsis can be boiled down to, “Being a trans man is the worst thing that could possibly happen to you.” And while people need to educate themselves on all the hardships and discrimination that trans people go through, I also think it’s important for everyone to remember that we are full human beings, which means we also experience joy and fun and writing silly humor columns for Tumblr blogs. In that spirit, I would like to end on a stupid poop joke: If any other guys using the bathroom at work don’t know that I’m trans, they’ll probably think I’m just taking a really liquid-y shit. Ew.
Lenny watches an amount of TV that has been described as “impressive” and “a problem.” You can talk to him about TV and cute boys on Twitter @lennyburnham.