From as young as I can remember, I always identified with being male, mentally and physically.
I peed standing up, wore boy’s clothes and was always one of the boys. At that age, the difference between gender meant nothing to me because physically you’re almost identical, regardless as to what chromosomes you do or don’t have. My whole life I grew up being gendered male by the general public the majority of the time and I was completely fine with that. My mum didn’t even care that much either. I was always allowed to wear whatever clothes I liked, play the sports I liked and hang out with whoever. I was lucky to have not grown up with parents who tried to influence my self expression. They just let me be me.
Although I don’t remember much from my childhood, I distinctly recall the times my father asked my brother and I to pray before bed. I would pray that in the morning I’d wake up in a boy’s body. I don’t think I need to elaborate on my disappointment regarding that one.
When I started to develop a chest, I was absolutely horrified. I flat out refused to wear anything to conceal my chest because that was for girls, right? I held out until I had no choice but opt for support. Even til this day, I have never worn a proper bra or ever gone bra shopping. I was always too uncomfortable to do so. I played soccer for 12 years of my life and when it became apparent that I was no longer flat chested like the other boys on my team, I did my best to hide that. I’d run with my arms pinned down to my side so that people on the sideline wouldn’t know that I wasn’t like the other boys. I was one of the toughest kids on the team and dreaded the thought of them perceiving me as a girl.
From this point on, my chest was one of my biggest problems and something that I always had a hard time dealing with. Despite standing at approximately 5ft and having what I assume was something close to a DD chest, I was exceptional at hiding it. Whether that be beneath the five layers of clothing I wore before I discovered binding, rib crunching bandages or the life saving double front compression from Underworks. I don’t exaggerate when I say that from the day my chest wasn’t flat anymore, all I wanted was to have surgery to make it so again.
When I was unfortunate enough to get that monthly thing, I was sincerely convinced that my life was ruined from that point onward. It sounds ridiculous now I look back on it, but I was certain that one day I’d be in one of those terrible magazines that middle aged women read with life stories in them. Mine having a headline something along the lines of that horrible thing ruining my life forever. I had always wanted a hysto, even before I knew what one was. All I knew was that my mum had had some kind of surgery that mean she no longer had hers and whatever it was, I wanted it.
I’d always been into swimming and surf life saving and basically anything to do with the water. I would never wear anything other than a full piece and unless I was actually racing, I wouldn’t have been caught dead without a rashie and a pair of boardies covering myself. I never had a reason to be so uncomfortable with myself at that age and it wasn’t until I realised that my gender and body weren’t in alignment that I was able to figure out why.
During my early teens when I became aware of the fact that I was attracted to females, I had a hard time trying to explain it to people. I wasn’t able to identify with being a lesbian, purely because it didn’t feel right. I just ended up saying ‘I like girls’ whenever people asked. I replied with a stern ‘no!’ when they asked didn’t that mean I was a lesbian.
It wasn’t until I was about 15 that I finally found out what being trans meant and I only found out because I was invited to join a forum for transfolk on a social media network I was using at the time. Things started to fall into place rather quickly from that point onward, whether I was willing to accept it or not. There was no doubt in my mind that medical transition was the right thing for me. I had known it all along. The only thing holding me back now was trying to accept how I was born, because to me, it meant dealing with the fact that I was born ‘female’ which had always been an issue for me and to this day, is something I still struggle with.
Somewhere around the age of 15 or 16, I wrote a letter explaining the circumstances to my parents. I didn’t know who to turn to, what questions to ask or anything. The only other people I knew who where in the same position as me were not only older, but on the other side of the globe.
One day a few weeks down the track (I think so, anyway, the accuracy of that time frame is questionable), my mum came to me and told me she had booked me a counselling session. Naturally, I was reluctant. Why did I need counselling? There was nothing wrong with me, I just needed hormones and surgery. I was under the impression I was going to be patronised and read the Riot Act from some medical professional who was going to tell me I was too young and had no idea what I was talking about. Thankfully, I was quite wrong.
The place mum had booked me into (how she found it, I have no idea, though I don’t think she knows how grateful I am) was a place called ACON and the lady I was seeing had experience working with gender variant folk. We never spoke much about my gender, actually, it was a lot about family and things I was doing at TAFE and what not. Despite that, she gave me the contact details for an incredible psych and wrote a supporting referral which she sent off to him. In the first session with him, I had the thumbs up to start testosterone, being the youngest trans person he’d seen (I was 16). Unfortunately, I was booked on a sports tour which meant, despite having the green light for t, I had to wait another seven-ish months before I could start.
During this time, I saw an atrocious endocrinologist, who knew nothing about treating trans people, neither medically or socially. Settling for an endo closer to home was one of the biggest mistakes and something I still regret, but I’ve learnt from my mistake. I was also told by my GP at the time that I was too young to be on testosterone, despite having been cleared by a psych and been written a prescription by the endo. Because of this, I was too terrified to tell him that I’d already had my first shot and was scared shitless about seeing another endo to up my dosage so I painfully went along with being on 100mg/ml once a month for approximately five months before switching to a new endocrinologist, who was more than happy to up my dose, despite being under 18. The part I’m still kicking myself about is that he was one of the two I’d had a choice between, but I opted for the other who turned out to be a jerk.
So I started out very slowly on t at the age of 17, before having chest surgery when I was 18, falling on the same date as my first year on testosterone. I chose to have double incision without nipple grafts, performed by Dr Megan Hassall in Sydney. The reason I chose not to keep my nipples was largely because I was disgusted by the chest I had and keeping any part of it was not an option. Also I had a friend who had the same procedure and all I ever wanted was for my chest to look half as good as his did. Although all I’d ever wanted for the last nine or so years was to have a flat chest again! Surgery wasn’t a huge deal for me and I think it was because me having a flat chest was something that was always meant to happen.
Less than six months later, two months shy of my 19th birthday, I had a complete hysto with Dr Elbeaini in Campbelltown Private, which I’d definitely file under one of the most emotionally traumatic things I had experienced to this day. This was just because of the surgery. Dr Elbeaini was fine and the nursing staff were fantastic too. I was just totally uncomfortable with what having a hysto involved.
Less than another six months after that, I had my nipple reconstruction and revision again with Dr Hassall, totaling three surgeries within an 11 month time frame.
It’s probably worth noting that I finished high school after year 10 and did not continue on to year 11 and 12, because I knew I had intentions of medical transition. The school I was in was a Catholic school and insisted I wear the girl’s uniform when I asked if I was allowed to wear the boy’s. I still pursued my HSC and gave myself some wiggle room. I ended up doing my HSC over three years, as I started my second year going by a male name (though it wasn’t legally changed) having just started testosterone. I realised it was too stressful being in an environment where people are going to more or less watch you go through the physical changes of testosterone, etc. Dropping out and returning a year later was the safer option for me. I’d been on t for a year and had already had surgery, making me a much happier and comfortable person.
I don’t identify with being ‘trans’. For me, it’s purely a medical condition. A medical condition that I would never wish upon anyone! I have and will continue to always have difficulty dealing with such a condition, as it has such a large impact on every aspect of my day to day life. Despite having an amazing and incredibly understanding partner, supportive family and an exceptional circle of friends, waking up and dealing with this every day isn’t made any easier.
Disregarding those who knew me previously, I am lucky enough to work in an environment where my coworkers are unaware of my medical history. It’s nice to be seen for who I really am, no questions asked.
There are parts of this story that I have either forgotten or intentionally left out, but it’s a general outline.