Assuming Gender Pronouns

2006. Fifteen and binding my chest for one of the first times.

2006. Fifteen and binding my chest for one of the first times.

When I was fifteen, had cut my hair short, wearing an oversized black hoodie and was out to breakfast with my dad, the waitress greeted us with “Hello, Gentleman!”

            I’ve been thinking about this a lot as I reflect on this moment in my upcoming memoir, both with excitement at that time that I had been read as male and with fear, as I hadn’t told my dad my developing feelings. My dad lowered his head, not ashamed, but clearly bothered. This waitress had just assumed my dad’s relationship – father and son. I was still questioning my identity, but currently, I was a sister to my brother, a daughter to my father, and a girl when it came to which bathroom I used at my high school.

            It is okay to be bothered when someone assumes your gender, whether it is right or it is wrong or it is confusing. The reason being that it is assumptive. A lot of assumptions bother many people.

            Growing up, I used to hear “girls can’t play baseball.” They assumed girls weren’t good enough to play baseball. I heard “boy’s can’t play with make up because then they are gay.” Which assumes that a boy wearing make up is gay. Eventually, I heard “transgender people are mentally ill.” That was what my ex girlfriend in high school told me as she broke up with me, ten months after we began a relationship, knowing I was transgender from the moment we had begun dating.

1997. Playing little league with boys and girls.

1997. Playing little league with boys and girls.

 

            At the same time, I went into a bathroom at a Tegan and Sara concert when I was sixteen, binding my chest, half out of the closet, but not on hormones. I felt safer in there since I knew there were stalls. As I came out of my stall with my best friend (THANKFULLY) by my side, a giant woman with a very masculine appearance accosted me, forcing me out of the bathroom and asking why I was in there. She had assumed I was a man, and although I had come out to some people as a transgender man, she had assumed I was a man and I was a predator and I was making other people uncomfortable.

            I cried myself to sleep that night. I was learning to love myself, but was being shown that this world may not love me.

            Assuming a persons gender pronoun, whether it is greeting a group of appearingly feminine folks as “ladies” or not asking someone’s pronouns upon meeting them, does bother many people. When I was misgendered, I did not yell in anyone’s faces. I silently went home and internalized a feeling of being disrespected. Of being invisible. I was fourteen, fifteen, sixteen years old.

            I am twenty five, almost twenty six, now. I have words to confront these situations, but I did not have that language then.

            Yes, I have overreacted to situations. I have yelled a few times. But the majority of the time, I kept quiet and reaffirmed myself to myself or crawled into my supportive friend’s arms to remind me that it just simply doesn’t matter. But not everyone has that support.

            Now a days, I am less bothered by being misgendered but only because I am a grown adult who is respected when I explain gender identity and pronouns to others. When I was fifteen, no one listened. They simply oppressed me more, by saying “You’re too young, you don’t know anything.”

            Being bothered by being misgendered doesn’t mean we are insecure. It doesn’t mean we aren’t confident in who we are.

            Perhaps it means that we are bothered by assumptions. Assumptions that have long plagued and oppressed many communities, especially for LGBT folks and other minorities.

            And that is okay. One of the best side effects of being bothered is that it can lead to action. So trans youth – trans adults – anyone who is bothered by how you are being treated – wage on in whatever form you feel is best.

October 2014 - a still from a video talking about comparing transitions.

October 2014 - a still from a video talking about comparing transitions.

 

 

Hey World, I Have An STI

*note: this is not transcribed word for word*

Hey mom, hey dad, hey future mother of my children, hey parents of the future mother of my children, hey children, hey brother, hey great aunt, hey next door neighbor, hey boss, hey ex lover, hey old professor, hey tiger

I have an STI. It’s been breaking my heart and confidence for almost two months now. I don’t know how I got it, I don’t know when it is going away. I have felt hopeless, scared, disgusting, and worried since I was diagnosed with Molluscum Contagiousum in June. How could I bring up a sexually transmitted infection when I hardly even talk about sex. I don’t think I ever have on my channel. I too am part of the problem!

So yes, I do have sex, it is always consensual and with people I trust or love. Our choice to have or to not have sex should be easier to talk about, but currently, it simply is not. Thus, STIs are left silenced and either spread or cause emotional and physical isolation.

Anyway, look, it’s so hard. I’ve looked online, in media, everywhere for some form of optimism or support. but among all of these, I’ve seen the same hesitation to talk about it. The shame. The horrible things people have assumed about others bodies and lives and choices. It is debilitating, it is what kept me away from the internet and youtube for the past 6 weeks. Through reaching out to you all on facebook, I knew that I could be vulnerable about this. I knew I could I could announce this to the world, because I knew that I had at the support of hundreds of people who wouldn’t judge me or make me feel bad in my skin. Not everyone has this – now that I feel comfortable with it, I want to share with you my thoughts on the stigmas involved with STIs.

Did I get this because I had a lot of unprotected sex? I have had four different sexual partners in four years. I can count the people I’ve been sexually intimate with on two hands. I have never gotten drunk and had sex with someone I wasn’t already dating. I have had many steamy make out sesh’s in my life but only one “hook-up” that ended in sex, and that was with someone I had known for several years and trusted. In general, I’m a monogamist. I’ve loved having communicative sexual relationships, and I will continue to do so after this heals. I get tested regularly.

So it hit me like a surprise. DANG. Let’s start the blame game - How did I get this thing? From who?! Did they infect me on purpose?! I contacted an old partner who I still maintain a healthy relationship with – only because I was worried she gave it to me and maybe didn’t even know she had it. She doesn’t. I can guess where it came from, but it doesn’t matter. It is mine now, and my responsibility to take care of.

This leads me to the main point that I realized when I got this dang thing. I am sick. This is an infection, a virus, and I’m sick. And here’s what it comes down to: society is all messed up on thinking about STIs. It’s because we’re messed up when thinking about sex. If we could all accept that as of a certain age, we all experience sexual desire or we don’t – perhaps we could create a world where communication about sex is simple. For example: my friend comes home with a terrible cold. She rode the train to work that day and says “some guy kept coughing, but I didn’t think anything of it – maybe that’s where I got it from!” and most people will react with a “oh no! i’m so sorry you got sick. Do you want me to make you some soup?” or something nice and supportive. When I came home with an STI, society said “well that’s YOUR fault for having SEX with someone who wasn’t CLEAN and now you’re contagious and GROSS and stay the heck away from me EWWWW i don’t want to catch it.” Both people are sick – my friend with the cold and me with the virus. How ridiculous would it sound if when my friend came home sick, I said to her “well, that’s YOUR fault because you decided to take the TRAIN and that man was coughing so you should have covered your mouth or left IMMEDIATELY so deal with it.” If society could see that we all either have sex or we don’t, just like some of us take the train to work and some of us don’t, then it would be a simple transition. “Oh no, Sky, I’m so sorry. I imagine you saw their papers before you had sex and they were clean? Wait… you mean this one isn’t able to be tested in an STI screen? Ugh that is so frustrating! What sort of treatments are there for it for you to get better?”

I have met so many people over the past six weeks who have had this or another STI and I feel so much less alone. So know – you are not alone. Everything I read online felt so lonely, so soaked in shame and fear. I want you to see me here, with an STI of all things, to know it is okay to be angry, upset, sad. It is also okay to laugh at it, to feel confident about moving toward health, to feel empowered over your body. If you have any stories yourself, please feel free to share below. I know this world can’t always be a safe place to talk about these things, but I feel so much better just letting this out there, thank you so much. Check out this other video I made if you want to hear more specifically about my STI and the intersections of it with my transgender identity.

On Being Transgender & Having an STI

*note: this is not transcribed word for word*

So in June, I found out I have an STI. It is called Molluscum Contagiosum, sort of like chicken pox but for your genital area. Typically this virus occurs in young children and almost all adults are immune to it, but for those who do get it as adults, it is considered an STI simply due to it being most commonly transmitted through skin to skin contact and for adults, that is often sex. There is a smaaaalllll chance I could have gotten it from gym benches, swimming, and so on, so it honestly may not even have come from having sex, but for all intensive purposes, it is an STI.

Nice thing is that Molluscum Contagiosum is benign and produces small, painless little brain-shaped bumps, let’s call mine mollusks. The not so nice thing is that they are highly contagious and there’s no cure. It goes away on its own within 2 months to a year or in worse cases, it can take 3-5 years depending on immune system. The virus can only be spread when bumps are present, once they are gone, one is considered immune and cured, lalala.. Now, my body image is down, and I am physically infected with a virus that may or may not go away in 2 months to 5 years. Oh and hi I’m 24 and transgender so let’s hope and pray these doctors are chill.

I’ve read stories online that have made me feel optimistic about the healing process being quick, as well as the trials and tribulations of a now-celibate 26 year old man who has had it for 7 years of his life. That’s pretty horrifying. I mean, this whole thing is somewhat of an emotional rollercoaster.

One HUGE blessing is that all the doctors I’ve seen have been extremely trans friendly. No one, not even the folks drawing my blood in the lab, has acted like my gender identity is anything out of the ordinary. And as I was standing in front of an older, Russian woman, dropping my boxers to show her 50 bumps on my crotch, she didn’t even flinch or make any note of my body being different than other men. I had asked the nurse when making the appointments if they were trans friendly – she had told me “oh don’t even worry about that. They are all incredibly friendly to the LGBT communities.” The doctor recommended me to a dermatologist, I was able to go the next day, and find that she also didn’t mind at all about my trans status. It felt like such a comfortable environment as well, and that was necessary – because the treatment she was doing, with the hopes it would help the healing process, was essentially spraying liquid nitrogen on each individual bump. Down there. Very cold. Not fun. And just a fun fact, this was about 24 hours before I was at the White House. Oh life ;)

So there is no cure to mine specifically and it is benign. I’ve also had a more successful acid treatment done on them, but the whole situation is extremely painful and my skin is not happy and a whole slew of gnarly things happened because of that. This isn’t the STD Olympics, I’m not going to say I wish I had chlamydia or anything else so that I could have one treatment and be done with it – but this is a waiting game full of anxiety, anger, and misplaced distrust. I will have to refrain from sex until it is healed. I like having sex. I actually just started dating this really truly incredible girl, like I can’t even describe her to you she is so cool, but anyway the symptoms of this appeared about a month after her and I started seeing each other. This virus can appear weeks or up to 6 months after exposure, and since she didn’t and still doesn’t have the virus after we found out I did, it’s for sure that I didn’t get it from her. But anyway, it was kind of a silly situation to begin dating and then have an STI in the picture. she was really fine with me being transgender, I mean, it was all over my OK cupid profile mkay, but then I remember after finding out about the mollusks saying to her that I understand if she wanted to leave me because of them. I mean, what a crappy situation right? She’s still around. I’ll introduce you soon.

So I feel super lucky in some cases, but there’s this part of me that is just so mad. It’s like I should put up a craigslist ad “Transgender man w/ STI seeks magical dysphoria lessening potion!” I feel like it’s two hits against me being lovable by other people. What if this sticks around for 3 years? My immune system seems fine but other people seem to kick this in two weeks so is there something wrong with me? I have finally, finally, finally found a healthy relationship with my body, more specifically a part of my body that used to give me more panic than joy, and also build a solid, positive association with sex.. goodness it’s taken years and it’s been hard and it’s been uncomfortable.. and now I’ve got these chicken pox like scars all over the place, and it hurts and burns sometimes when they’re healing, and I just feel so darn negative about it. I don’t like feeling negative about it after working so hard to feel positive about it. I know that after it passes, I still have that core positive association with my body, but it definitely will need some recovery after this storm. It bums me out. I guess it just doesn’t feel fair.

That’s all it really is. At the end of the day, even if I feel pessimistic or optimistic about it or if it’s been a whole rollercoaster of a day, there are so many things I love to do that I can still do. This is such a small part of my life, even if it feels like it affects many aspects of it. Life is still really wonderful. I don’t need to choose to feel negative about something that I can’t control – what I can control is what I learn from this and what I do to get myself back to great health. Part of that is not letting it sit inside me all bottled up – so thank you so much for letting me share this with you.

"You're So Lucky Your Transition Was So Easy."

Picture links to the spoken version - or check out the video here: http://youtu.be/oWF3iQKpiyA

Picture links to the spoken version - or check out the video here: http://youtu.be/oWF3iQKpiyA

Lately, I've been trying to find the root of why this comment makes me uncomfortable. Most of the reasons are pretty clear – first, I don’t consider my transition to have been anything close to easy but can see why my happiness and optimism now make it appear that way. Simultaneously, when things were easy it was not due to luck – most of it was careful preparation, learning to communicate effectively even in the face of adversity, and resilience when confronted with defeat. My biggest example will be my relationship with my mom – "you're so lucky your mom supports you" is a comment that makes me smile – yes it is fantastic that she supports me – but let us remember that on the day I told her I was transgender, her response was that she would not help me financially by any means and that I was on my own for everything; it was not luck - it was through communicating with her extensively and bringing her to therapy with me that she began to change her mind about that over the following few years.

Most of the definably negative aspects of my transition happened before I began my physical transition, before I began documenting my life on the internet and while I've shared some of the past, I tend to share the present and thus haven't talked about the past extensively – when I do, it tends to be about the good or relevant things. There isn't a tumblr post about how I used to starve myself going through puberty in hopes that my hips and breasts wouldn't grow. There aren’t videos of me weeping after long days early on in high school, getting shot down and mispronouned and made fun of. There isn't a facebook note recounting the day I had to get an emergency ultrasound of my abdomen and the nurse objectified me and my body to the point where I had a panic attack and left. There just simply isn't much I've put online that details the lowest of lows, even the semi lows, even just the hard days.

Some may know that I am writing a book about my transitional life so far - while many more intimate details of my past will show up in there than in my videos, there are still some things I cannot yet talk about. You all may never know many huge parts of my life that shaped me into the person I am now. And that is absolutely okay. I have not been fed love and happiness by the spoonfuls and popped out the way I am today in a rainbow of glory and confidence – if that were the case, then call me lucky and call it easy. Life is hard in general. It just simply hasn't been easy, but I've done it and through documenting my existence, have wanted to show that no matter what is in your way – you can do it too.

But that isn't what this note is about, I don't feel a need to detail and prove the hardships I've faced. Even just listing those few examples above seems silly unless I'm talking with someone who is going through something similar and it can help them. I no longer need support for things that happened in the past. I've lived these, I know them, I've grown carrying them. I do not feel a need to go into the past and tell you about every day i have wished to leave this world; I want you to know the reasons why I am happy I stuck around. (Does this sum up my existence? Perhaps.)

So what bothers me most about the comment "you're so lucky your transition was so easy" is that it is a comparison. My transition was so easy… compared to making it through four year of college? My transition was so easy… compared to my friend Aydian's? My transition was so easy… in comparison to having bipolar disorder?

Every transition is different. Every human experience is different. The root of what unnerves me about this comment is not that it paints over my struggles as 'easy' and 'lucky' but that it shows a side of the human experience that I simply cannot comprehend – that of comparing our lives as if they are a competition and believing that our worth is based on our relative position next to others.

I don't know how we ended up in a culture of comparison... but I am displeased with it, scared of it. To be the change – let me tell you for a second about my thought process. Bad is bad. Good is good. Hard is hard. Easy is easy. Simple is simple. Life is not simple like this, but I choose to validate others rather than compare their experiences to others or my own. A friend's grandmother recently passed and she was devastated. A friend's cat recently passed and he was devastated. I did not think to myself 'her feelings are legitimate, but his devastation is not because it is only a cat.' Hurt is hurt. Sadness is sadness. They both exist on personal spectrums but there exists no spectrum that has my sadness on one end and yours on the other, where we need to compare and negotiate where the bullet point will fall.

This is just my opinion, my thought process. I've been talking about a lot of negativity, but the same goes for happiness. People compare happiness all the time – and this ultimately makes us less happy! Just like compassion - happiness is not meant to be compared, it is meant to be shared.

I want you to share your existence with me, never compare it to mine. I invite you to end the emotional competition or at least be conscious of it. I invite you to consider what it means when you say "I wish my life could be as great as Skylar's" because I wish your life could be as great as you can make it. I hope your life is better today than it was yesterday. I wish that you will no longer wish for the things you do not have, that you will no longer wish for a life that you are not living, that you will look at all that you have within and surrounding you and realize that that is beautiful, that is enough, that is extraordinary, that is real - so that when you are standing alone, with nothing in comparison, you know that you are worthy of all of this.

How Being "Selfish" Taught Me to be Selfless

This past May, Time Magazine’s cover explained to me that I am part of the “me, me, me” generation. Of course, the main culprit is social media and our need to document the importance of our lives through Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, blogs, comment sections and all other sites into an endless soup of information about our collective individuality and experiences. Although not surprised by Time’s declaration, I was a bit taken aback at the overwhelming negativity they had towards certain types of selfishness.

I know I have been selfish, but I have also learned to not feel guilty for instances of selfishness which do not hurt other beings. For example – sometimes I need a night of being alone (or a day – like today where I am taking a moment to write this.) I used to feel bad asking my partner or friends for that, but I quickly realized that this moment of selfishness was just my honest expression of a need. A need to rejuvenate, to get more in touch with myself, to accomplish something on my own.

Ah, so – what about selfish moments that I feel guilty for? There are a handful including – when I have hurt someone else, either due to my putting my needs above others’ needs or any other reason. When I have lied. When I have ignored. When I haven’t explained. When I haven’t communicated. When I have run away.

Four years ago, I was pulling my hair out trying to figure out how I could possibly afford top surgery. I worked all throughout high school, saving every penny that was not spent on gifts for friends and family for my physical transition from female to male. At that point, I had been sharing my story on YouTube for six months since I had begun hormones in January of 2009. I had gained a following by then, and many kind folks let me know that if I wanted to start a fundraiser for my top surgery, they would gladly donate. Scared of accepting monetary support and the guilt that that sort of selfishness would bring to me, I never thought much into starting that. I would see so many other top surgery fundraisers out there – and more so today than back then – with folks desperate, having such bad body dysphoria, with no money saved, and just this one wish. Why would I want to take away from those folks’ needs? Why should my fundraiser be any more important than theirs, or worse, compete with theirs? While I wanted top surgery more than anything in the world, I knew I could live without ittechnically. I was not suicidal, and I did not hate my body to a degree that would impair my ability to still smile and laugh even with a chest binder squeezing my lungs. My eighteen-year-old self was willing to wait rather than accept monetary help, which I thought I would feel guilty for. Thankfully, I was able to have my top surgery shortly before my one year anniversary on testosterone and did not have to wait long.

However, less than two years later, I started a donation page to raise the funds for an emergency hysterectomy. Having been on the brink of suicide for over six months due to major hormone problems that could not be solved by increasing testosterone, birth control, or any other non-invasive procedures, my health insurance let me know that they wouldn’t cover a total hysterectomy in a “19-year-old female” with the recommendation that “she stop testosterone treatment and begin on birth control.” My mom was retiring due to disabilities caused by her cancer, and I was in the midst of obtaining my bachelor’s degree in college with an income of barely $100 a week. It felt life or death, and to a certain degree, it could have been. I raised over six thousand dollars and was able to get a hysterectomy only eight months after I had to cancel the first surgery appointment due to not being able to afford it. I had never been more grateful for such generosity in my entire life. I didn’t know how to thank those who contributed, I didn’t know how to thank those who stood by my side while I went through that process, I didn’t know how to not feel guilty about accepting the money even though I had desperately needed it. I had always felt guilt involving money, and I still cannot pinpoint why. Yet, that was my first experience fundraising, and in the height of making the “choice” at 19 years of age to never have biological children, a “choice” that broke my heart, my bones for years, I am glad that I did reach out. One stranger donated $1,111 to my hysterectomy because he knew that 11 was my favorite number. It still brings me to tears when I read his emails.

A bit of selfishness there. A lot of guilt. Not much selflessness. Fast-forward a few years.

I have grown.

The day before my birthday this year, on May 18, 2013, I graduated from Skidmore College with a degree in studio art. I felt happy, ready, lost, but hopeful. I had no idea what I wanted to do for a job, had a general idea of graduate school in the future, and moved into my mum’s house until I figured it all out. I had put my music on the back burner in school, but knew that this summer I really wanted to make quality recordings of the songs I had written throughout my transition and life. A music producer had contacted me about making a complete project, but when the figure came down to a campaign for $16,000, I had to politely decline. No way was I going to try make $16,000 worth of music when there were still so many friends of mine working to pay for school, or pay for therapy, or pay for top surgery or hysterectomies or whatever else they needed to survive. Nuh uh.

So I decided to go the do-it-yourself route. I set a goal of $2,500 which would cover exactly the costs of getting my new recordings professionally mastered, press the CDs, get T-Shirts as part of the campaign and then ship them internationally to all the friends I have made along this transitional journey. The simple positivity and encouragement of the thousands of folks who view my videos is more than enough to be thankful for. The premise for my album was to give a piece of myself to those folks. To you. A tangible piece, and not just the crumbly basement recordings of my tunes that were currently up on my Bandcamp site. I felt a bit selfish, that’s for sure. A little selfish shellfish learning selflessness who wanted to make something to hold in his hands and give to others. “Thank You,” the album, would be the first physical piece of work that contained more of my life, my dreams, my hopes, and my journey than my YouTube videos ever could. And I wanted to share that more than anything in the world. 

To my surprise, within one week, I had reached my goal. With each notification I got, from anywhere between $1 to a lot more, I realized how much each bit meant to me. A $5 pledge from a stranger meant so much more to me seeing it come from them towards making this dream of mine real than seeing a $5 bill in my wallet. That’s what really hit me, woke me up, shook my mindset from selfish to supportive to selfless. I began giving dollar bills to street musicians. I wrote a new, good friend a large check towards his top surgery fund. I began tipping more in restaurants and cafes. I began contributing toward causes I believed in. I began spending my money on others, much more than ever before in my life. When I got my first $1 bill in my guitar case when playing on the streets, it filled me with such hope. And I want to do that for others more than anything in this world.

At the end of the month, 141 folks, mostly strangers, had pledged over $4,000 toward my album. I was – and still am – blown away by this, and continued to be motivated to make this project the best it could be. In these past two months, I finished the album, the t-shirts, the art, the songs and everything is set to be released this coming Tuesday, December 3rd.

I took that leap to do something for me, not realizing that it was also for others. I could have perceived my asking for pledges as selfish – and I surely did at some moments – but what running my first campaign taught me was how much it means when someone supports someone else’s dreams. That’s what this whole project has come down to for me – a wake up call into how much one can take from giving. In my younger years, I took asking for help as being selfish, never once realizing that on the other side, helping another who needs or wants or dreams toward that goal, whether it be an arm around a shoulder or a monetary donation, is one of the best, most rewarding feelings in this life. To those who pledged toward my album, you helped me create something I am incredibly proud of, and I cannot wait to give it away to you. To those who could not, and to all who have spoken to me, written to me, supported me in any other way, I cannot wait to give you a bit of my heart and soul as well.

To anyone who would like a digital copy of the album – feel free to contact me for a free download code if you cannot afford it.

( The album will be available here: http://skylarkergil.bandcamp.com )

On Becoming a 'Real Man'

Becoming a man could be so simple; there are religious ceremonies, puberty, and father-to-son heart to hearts than can instantly propel a boy, like myself, into manhood. Or possibly it will be the moment I get a real job, get married, and have a kid. Or perhaps it was earlier, when I signed that line to register for the selective service. But where and when does the “real” come into play? Regardless, I seemed to have chosen the most unconventional way of asserting my manhood (God bless my Mom and Dad at the time). Real or not, here I come.

“So when did you know?” I am asked frequently. “How did you know?” Another popular one as well. “When did you come out?” As if there was only one time (the most recent of which is right now!). “If you could have chosen, would you have been born a cisgender male?” This one always makes me linger a second longer each time; I am perfectly happy being transgender, and I am unbelievably content being a self-made man. So unbelievably, in fact, that others will tell me what I want, who I am, who I was, and if they think I qualify, in their eyes, as a man.

I have found that these qualifications do not exist. They vary from person to person in such a plethora of ways that it would be impossible for any person to fit the definition of being a man, cisgender or transgender, “real” or “fake.” The beard, the height, the six-pack, the beer belly, the bald spot, the sex, the walk, the talk, the cockiness, the humble brag- this checklist of requirements exists as a part of the trivial soup of our Men’s Health and Viagra-ridden culture. If no concrete definition exists for being a man, which is beautiful and freeing in many ways, I cannot imagine how to think of becoming a man. Without knowing this first, it would be akin to building a bridge over miles of ocean without land on the other side to connect to. Now I picture bridges like veins or tree roots, reaching out in a million directions and connecting back to the same initial blood or water source. We are not dissimilar to the natural patterns of this life which we try so hard to control. I feel less real the more I try to be “real.”

This Wednesday morning, when I stuck a small needle full of testosterone into the side of my hip, I felt awakened, relaxed, and way too giddy considering this was 220th time I have performed this ritual. Next Wednesday, I will still be just as excited – but why? The day after President Obama was inaugurated, I had injected my first dose of male hormones prescribed by a balding Harvard Professor whom I aspired to become. Later that day, I delightfully declared in a YouTube video that I was an Obama baby. At the age of seventeen, I was proud to announce my male infancy; yet, I don’t consider that first injection moment the turning point of me becoming a man. I had come out as identifying as a man two years prior – the male pronouns and “Hey man!”s still didn’t quite feel up to par to reaffirm my becoming a “real man.” Nor did I feel like I became a man when I removed my breasts, or two years later, when I had my reproductive organs sucked out of my belly button, though others will often say that did the trick. So when do I get to become a man and, hopefully soon after, feel like I am a “real man?”

What a “real man” entails is not easily answered by internet research. One blogger on a site dedicated to “The Art of Manliness” wrote an article titled “Becoming a Man.” He states that he has “come up with the following traits that truly define what it means to be a man;” selflessness, consistency, and humility.  Selflessness because only “real men” can serve someone or something greater than themselves. Consistency because “real men are people others can count on.” And, of course, humility because “real men are secure in their abilities and do not find it necessary to place themselves in higher esteem than those around them.” First, none of these highlight the action of “becoming;” more importantly, if these signify “real men,” I know many selfless, consistent, and humble women who are “real men” too.

My only conclusion is that there is no such thing as a “real man.” Gender is a social construct; we have developed it over the past thousands of years as a means to create order within our relationships. These days, gender is highly based in stereotypes, as is anything created socially. I may have transcended the gender lines, but since realizing that gender is not real, defining my transgender identity sometimes seems impossible. Selfless or selfish, consistent or contradictory, humble or arrogant, all I know is that I have felt like a man on the inside since I was three years old. But how does it feel to be a man? And even if there were a set feeling, how would I, as a female-born individual, be able to recognize it?

In the end, I am the manliest flowerpot embodying a steroid-hogging, scarred body, but I wake and know being a man feels right for now. I don’t know how others see me, but I see myself whole. Awkward patches of stubble, a hairy stomach, greasy skin and a voice that won’t stop getting lower even at the age of twenty-two. There is no defined way to become a real man, but I know how I became one.

I became a man the day I sat my parents down and said, “I want to let you know that, although I have been your daughter for the past sixteen years, I am a man and I want to transition socially and medically to become your son.” I became a man again the day my brother, after two years of resistance, recognized my pronouns and, at long last, told me “I’ve always wanted a little brother, and out of all the transgender little brothers I could ask for you, you’re perfect.” Real or not, I became a man when I consciously decided it was time to become one.