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Growing Up Transgender In North Carolina

My experiences growing up and transitioning from female to male in North Carolina.

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North Carolina Pioneers / Via northcarolinapioneers.com

I grew up in a farm town where the only time people spoke about LGBT people was during a church sermon about how homosexuality is a sin or when slurs were used to make fun of someone. My family was Southern Baptist, and I was raised in the same small church where my father was raised. I remember being a young child, in a frilly dress and patent leather shoes, struggling to sit through church services like a proper young Southern lady. My mother continuously tried teaching me how to sit with my legs crossed just right, back straight, and hands folded daintily over my King James Bible that sat on my lap. I spent many Sundays uncomfortably trying to fit into that overly feminine mold.

Even early on I preferred playing with my male cousins over my female cousins, and I didn't enjoy helping prepare Sunday lunch with the ladies in my family. Much to my family's dismay, I preferred playing in the creek and climbing trees. I remember desperately wanting to play football on the local team with my cousin, but I wasn't allowed. In an attempt to make me feel better, my father put me in old football gear leftover from his coaching days and played with me. My mother signed me up for the cheerleading squad associated with my cousin's football team and I just stood on the sideline and stared out onto the field longingly.

When I was five I started riding dirtbikes, something that had always been a hobby of my father’s. I hopped on that bike every chance I got, and when I was finally good enough my parents agreed to let me start racing. My weekends were quickly filled with time spent at the motocross track. As I started growing older I realized that one of the things I loved about riding was that no one could tell who I was beneath the helmet and safety gear.

Via cafemom.com

School was one of the biggest challenges for me. My middle school teachers got together and called my parents for a conference where they told them that they needed to get me help. They said that my clothes, which were typically loose fitting t-shirts and boys’ jeans, were inappropriate for a young lady. My parents were told that if they weren’t careful I would fall into a life of sin. Luckily, my parents were supportive over letting me wear what I wanted to wear, even though that meant I spent many days in middle and high school suspended for wearing clothes that didn't match the gender on my birth certificate. I was bullied daily and it was encouraged by the teachers and administration at my schools, an assistant principal even telling me that I was asking for it. My high school French teacher refused to teach me and called my father in for a meeting where she told him that he needed to have me drop out of school.

I remember being fourteen years old and desperately searching for answers. There was no denying that I was boyish, but what did that mean? Everyone was making fun of me and saying that I was a lesbian, was that true? I didn’t entirely come out of any closet, but I did begin dating girls. After all, I could recognize beauty in women and proclaimed that my celebrity crush was Gwen Stefani. Though I was still continuously the victim of schoolyard bullying, I felt better having some kind of label or identity that explained why I was different. The only problem was that it didn’t quite feel like the right fit.

Like many young lesbians, I obsessively watched The L Word. Seeing a show that represented lesbians was the closest that I could get to the community from my tiny town. The introduction of the character Max, a transgender man, hit me hard. It was the first time I had ever identified so closely with a character. I desperately searched the internet for more information. I felt both relief and fear when I realized that I was transgender. All of a sudden the recurring dream of chopping off my chest with a kitchen knife made more sense. I had never identified with my body and hid it beneath baggy clothes, but I assumed I was just insecure. What I thought was just intense insecurity was actually dysphoria.

Via ww2.kqed.org

My depression worsened as I struggled with the decision of whether or not to transition. I was already tirelessly bullied, and I knew that there was a chance of me losing my life if I medically transitioned and started presenting to the world as a man. I kept my gender identity a secret for a long time, going to therapy and conversation therapy, even trying to pray everything away. I eventually recognized that I wasn’t living a happy life and asked myself if I was willing to die to live as my authentic self; the answer was yes, so I began the process of searching for the proper healthcare.

I began transitioning in my early twenties. There were many times people would refuse service to me or my family. I was regularly attacked and lived in fear. I found myself so miserable that I needed to get away. To this day I still have fear when I travel home to visit family. I sought refuge in San Francisco, moving to the city with just a suitcase. For the first time in my life, I had easy access to healthcare and was welcomed in public spaces. So many of the people I met were open and accepting. I felt like I deserved to live a happy life, which was not something I felt while living in North Carolina.

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