My name is J for all of you who don’t know me. I’m a transgender male, which means I was born as a female with the female anatomy, but transitioning into a male. Some of you might not know what a transgender is or why people change to become a transgender. It’s actually really important to know, even if you are not in the LGBTQ community yourself, because you will most likely come across someone who is.
I’m going to start off by telling you a little bit about my story. I grew up with all girls. It was just me, my mom and my two sisters. I never had a father, nor a father figure in my life, which is kind of weird because most people would think that since I grew up with only girls, then I would most likely stay a girl. But honestly it has nothing to do with that at all. It’s actually something called “gender dysphoria.”
Gender dysphoria is a disorder where individuals experience discomfort with their biological sex; the individual was born as a male or female but identifies as the opposite sex. An example of that is I was biologically born as a female but I identify as a male, and that’s what you call gender identity.
When I was little, I always felt like a boy. I would never wear dresses, never played with dolls, I was always trying to act tough and be a boy. While I was doing those things, my mom and sisters just thought I was a tomboy and that I was just going through a phase.
When I turned 9 years old, that’s when I knew I wanted to be a boy; however I never told anyone. I kind of just did my own thing and just wore some big sweats with a big hoodie. But up until middle school, in sixth grade, I was already getting shhh about what I wore, how I acted, the way I walked.
So I started to try to change into a girl, which is my assigned biological sex at birth. However, I felt uncomfortable with myself. So I went back to my old style, a big hoodie with some sweats. I didn’t have that much clothes to pick and choose from, and aside from that, I didn’t have any boy clothes.
My mom never really cared that I liked to dress up as a boy; she just didn’t have the money to buy us new clothes. So we would have to get our clothes from vouchers or just wear hand-me-downs. I would sometimes take my sisters’ jeans because they were bigger and older than me, so the jeans would sag on me. I also used to always take my sisters’ and my mom’s hoodies so I could wear them. At a young age, I had to learn to steal from stores, learned to make money different ways.
At this time, I was around the age of 9, going onto 10. I continued to wear what I wanted to, as mom still thought I was going through a phase.
Throughout my childhood, my mom lost custody over me and my sisters a couple of times, but at the age of 10 my mom permanently lost custody over us, so we was in and out of multiple foster homes and group homes. I was always running away from my placements to see my mom and my sisters.
I grew up fast and had to learn to be independent at an early age. I was 13 years old and in the eighth grade when I decided to cut off my hair to be short. Also, in eighth grade I was placed at a foster home in Milpitas, Calif. The foster mom enrolled me at Milpitas Middle School, which I was only there for a month. This is because I was getting bullied every day.
At first it started with the name calling, but it increased to other kids spitting on me and physically laying hands on me. It always happened in the locker rooms, bathrooms and sometimes off campus. The locker rooms and bathrooms were the two most uncomfortable places for me. I started ditching school only three weeks in and my foster mom got that call from school asking where I was.
When I got back that day, she was mad and asking me why I was ditching class. I started to tear up and got angry because she never asked how I felt or what was going on with me. So I told her what was happening and she just said, “Maybe you shouldn’t dress like a boy” and walked away like nothing happened.
So I didn’t tell anyone about it. I continued going back to that school but this time I started standing up for myself. It came to the point where my sisters found out and told my social worker and I was brought to another foster home the same exact day.
Diversity and God
The reason why I told you this story is because it ain’t easy, even nowadays, for people to be themselves. We live in a world full of discrimination and hate, going from homophobia to racism to transphobia and people who are sexist. How I see it is we’re all humans and there is always going to be that one person that just loves pointing out the differences in each and every one of us. Diversity is a beautiful creation and I just don’t understand why people won’t accept it. I also don’t understand why people trip off what doesn’t affect them.
For example, if two gay guys were to get married, what difference does it make to you? Nothing. Some people say it goes against their religion, they say it’s a sin. I’m personally a believer in God and in the Bible it says that God loves everyone. But then it talks about how homosexuality is a sin and how a man can’t be with another man, same for a woman. That’s when I started not to believe in God anymore. However, now I came to the realization that God would never have made me this way if He didn’t want me to be this way.
I’m 17 years old and I’m more than a year on testosterone. Testosterone is a male hormone that biological males at birth naturally have in their bodies. This allows a female that is transitioning into a male to get some of the masculine features, such as facial hair and a deeper voice. Testosterone also increases the sex drive in our brains and causes irritability.
Now if a biological male at birth is transitioning into a female, they would use estrogen. Estrogen is a female hormone, Biological females at birth naturally have estrogen in their bodies. This allows a male transitioning into a female to get some of the feminine features, such as a higher voice and less facial hair. Estrogen also can cause a lot of mood swings.
A lot of transgender people get surgeries to fully transition to the gender that they identify with. I currently don’t have any of the top or bottom surgeries. However, I’m getting my top surgery soon, within this year. Top surgery for a transgender man is where they take out the fat in the breast and contour a male-like chest.
I currently use something called an abdominal binder, which is like a bandage that compresses my chest down. This allows my chest to look flat. I am also fortunate that I don’t have to pay for my surgery, which is a conflict for a lot of transgender people. Transgender people in poverty with no sort of welfare services like medical suffer a lot. This is because without these services, they wouldn’t be able to provide low-income transgender people with any of the treatment, such as hormones and surgeries.
A lot of people say, “Why are you making it hard for yourself?” “Why can’t you just stay the same?” And a lot of people think it’s a choice. Well, it is but it isn’t. I know that doesn’t make sense, so put it this way: Yes, it’s a choice to transition into the gender you identify with, but having gender dysphoria is not a choice. For example, I could chose to stay as a female, which is biological sex at birth. However, I would feel really uncomfortable with myself.
This is my first time sharing some of my transition story. I appreciate those who listened and hopefully got some info out of this. I was honestly always ashamed of the LGBTQ community and hated on the rainbow (ha, I still don’t like the rainbow) but now I can openly say I’m a proud trans man!
King J, 17, is in the San Mateo County [Calif.] Juvenile Hall for first-degree robbery.
The Beat Within, a publication of writing and art from incarcerated youth, was founded by David Inocencio in San Francisco in 1996. Weekly writing and conversation workshops are held in California, six other states and Washington, D.C. Submissions and new partners are welcomed. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.