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Being Transgender Is Perfectly Normal

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By , 19, Contributor Originally Published: March 30, 2016 Revised: June 6, 2016

Living openly as a transgender person is NOT easy. For me, it always feels like someone is judging me and looking at me. I get questions like, “Are you a boy or a girl?” and “What are you?” because I do not identify with the sex I was assigned at birth. These weird and intrusive questions may phase me temporarily, but as a trans person, I know that I am a boy, regardless of what I wear or what others think of me. I remind myself that my gender identity is real and valid, even though we live in a society that makes it difficult for me to feel good about my body.

Like anyone else, there are days when I love and embrace my body and there are days when I absolutely loathe looking in the mirror because it does not reflect what I want to see. Personally, I am still on my journey to loving and accepting my body.

Presenting Me

I believe self expression is an extremely important part of surviving our teenage years. Sadly, we live in a culture organized around a strict gender binary, where clothes are labeled “boys’ clothes” or “girls’ clothes,” and this can both harm and help trans kids. We get bullied if we wear clothes that match our gender identity but not society’s expectations. We can use clothes as a positive way to play with society’s concepts of masculinity, femininity and androgyny. Clothes are a way to mold and change our presentations and also to communicate our gender identity as we see it.

Carter, an 18-year-old trans guy from Redwood City, CA, shares how he uses clothes to present in a way that reflects his gender.

“I began questioning my gender identity my sophomore year of high school, so that’s when I started to be uncomfortable with my chest. To hide my chest, I started wearing sports bras and layering.”

Some people use clothes to play with gender and dress up for fun, but for others, like 18-year-old Zhenya from the Bay Area of California, not being able to dress or present in a way that is consistent with their gender identity can be very painful.

Sometimes, we just have to give ourselves a friendly reminder that our bodies do not define us as a whole person. We are so much more than our bodies.

“I’ve been insecure about various aspects of my body at different times. Most of my body-related issues, however, were related to my trans identity. I came out as genderqueer/non-binary at 15 and became extremely self-conscious and dysphoric about my chest. I was never comfortable with puberty-induced chest growth, but I initially assumed all teenagers feel weird about their changing bodies. I was constantly aware of my chest because it felt like I was wearing a neon sign that let everyone know that I was female. I didn’t understand how being trans is compatible with living a fulfilling life because of how much discomfort my chest caused me. During this time, I slouched a lot and tried to make myself invisible. Needless to say, this was not a pleasant time in my life.”

Binding the chest is a way for people like Zhenya who feel uncomfortable about their chests to feel better and more connected to their bodies.

Carter also binds his chest. Here is what he says about how binding helped him: “It made a huge difference and makes me comfortable and I’m able not to worry about my chest and I can focus on what I’m doing…. Even with the binder though, time to time I still feel self-conscious about my chest. I just want people to see me for who I am.”

More Than My Body

Feeling good about our bodies, regardless of our gender identities, isn’t always easy. But we are all creative people who possess special qualities and personalities. Several of the people I spoke with found their own unique ways of appreciating and accepting themselves.

“It has helped me feel more comfortable in my body when I learned to stop thinking of it as a ‘female body’ and instead think of it as my body,” says Zhenya. “It might not exactly match my idea of what it should be, but it’s mine.”

Carter has also found ways to feel better about his body.

“I wouldn’t say I love my body, but I’m much more comfortable with it than I was say a year ago. And the only changes I’ve made are my dress presentation and getting a haircut. Another thing is rejecting the traditional idea of masculinity and making my own definition of it. I have to remind myself just because I don’t fit into the traditional boxes of gender doesn’t mean that my body is unlovable. All and all, right now, I am at an OK place with my body.”

Sometimes, we just have to give ourselves a friendly reminder that our bodies do not define us as a whole person. We are so much more than our bodies.

“My body is not all that I am,” explains Carter. “I’m this whole unique person and gender is only a part of it. There’s so much more to us than our bodies, and it’s slightly disappointing that that’s what the media tends to focus on. Are you on hormones? Have you had the surgery? My body is a part of who I am, but it does not define my gender.”

Sometimes simply appreciating our physical abilities and talents can go a long way in making us feel good about our bodies.

“I use my body to ride a unicycle, which is something most people can’t do,” says Zhenya. “I’m largely a kinesthetic learner, so I use my body to doodle and dance and climb. There are things I don’t like about my body, but there are also a lot of amazing things that I can do with it that I have learned to appreciate.”

Luna, 17, of Riverside, CA, discusses how she came to accept herself:

“To feel more comfortable in my body, I have started dressing the way I want to, being who I am supposed to be no matter what others say about me. I came to this space of loving my body by figuring things out in my life, then telling a few people to see how they reacted, then finally coming full out and being myself. This is one of the best decisions I’ve made for me to be happy because I am really happy finally being me and being in my skin because I know who I am and who I was meant to be.”

I relate to many of these experiences. I recognize the ways people learn to feel good about their bodies, like acknowledging all the amazing things one’s body can do like Zhenya has and just making the decision to be happy like Luna. I feel like we all have the opportunity to heal and truly learn to accept ourselves if we look inward, find support from our communities and listen to each other.

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