Today, March 31, is International Transgender Day of Visibility, a day dedicated to celebrating transgender people and raising awareness. That’s why I’ve decided today is the day I’m stepping out of the closet.
I am a trans woman. My name is Stefanie (Stef is a-okay too) and I use she/her/hers pronouns.
Some of you may have caught on to the progressively less subtle hints I’ve been dropping in my recent social posts, selfies, and even the BGM on my yoyo videos. But, I’m sure a lot of you are caught off guard and might not even believe it.
You might be thinking there were never any signs and/or wondering, “Why now?” And that’s not necessarily the easiest question to answer. In hindsight, I wonder how I didn’t realize 15 years ago; there were actually plenty of signs even though they took me until I was 30 to finally see them.
I don’t fit into The Narrative™. As far as I remember, I didn’t consciously know since I was 4, I didn’t always want to play with girl’s toys, I didn’t have more friends who were girls than boys, I wasn’t hyper-feminine, etc. The thing is, while this is the one everyone knows, not only is it not the only narrative—it’s not even the most common one. When you grow up thinking that is the only narrative and you don’t fit it, you don’t really think to question it.
On the other hand, cis guys don’t grow up envious of girls in literally every facet; they don’t frequently wonder what life would be like being female; they don’t internalize the societal expectations of women while failing to live up to those of men; they don’t see a stranger in the mirror and get uncomfortable when that man stares at them; most won’t nearly exclusively use female characters in games; and while it is common for anyone to not like aspects of their body, the list of things cis guys don’t like about themselves aren’t the features that make others instantly recognize them as male.
Further, it’s not something I talk about often publicly, but I’ve dealt with depression and (to a lesser extent) DPDR for about half my life that only seemed to get worse as with each passing year. It’s left me numb. Alongside that was incidents of self harm and I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been suicidal over the years (don’t worry, I’m doing pretty well now). It was always weird that I could never find a cause for it, especially the DPDR since that’s usually caused by trauma.
I never realized those were signs (and those are only some of mine). I knew something was off, but I could never put my finger on what. It was like wearing a crooked sock and feeling the seam with every step; or wearing a glove a few sizes too big, your fingers fit into the digits but your dexterity suffers. I’ve always felt the need to ‘fix’ myself, but never knew what was broken. And, in the moment, it was easy to mistakenly rationalize away all of that as something more ‘common’. The envy was just attraction (that’s not how attraction works); everyone constantly wonders what it’s like to be the other sex (they may wonder, but not constantly); I’m failure of a person (I mean maybe, but guy is just not the right role for me); I’m just ugly and depressed; if I’m going to spend hours playing the game, I might as well enjoy looking at the character (spending more time playing dress up or in the character creator than the actual game is pretty suspicious); I just hated my body because I was fat (yet getting down to half my original weight didn’t fix it); name someone in my generation who isn’t depressed. With all the rationalization, those feelings just kind of got tuned out and became a kind of ‘background radiation’ of life; like a tinnitus sufferer who can mostly ignore the constant ringing.
Last year, for reasons I’m not getting into here, all of these thoughts and feelings became unrepressed and flooded back pretty much at once and brought to the foreground of my mind. I suddenly felt as though I absolutely had to explore my gender, that I somehow owed it to myself—like a debt coming due.
As I started dipping my toes into the water, exploring, questioning, and experimenting, I noticed that I started to feel better overall and about myself—better than I have in a very long time. First, it was playing with small changes in gender expression; things like painted nails and wearing small amounts of makeup; I hadn’t done that since high school. Then I started exploring progressively larger changes in expression, getting rid of body hair, letting my hair grow out (not that my natural hair has gotten very long yet), dying my hair an unnatural color, going from 1 ear piercing to 4 and a nostril piercing, wearing progressively more women’s clothing (first at home and eventually in public), trimming and eventually ditching the beard, taking lessons on vocal feminization and using facets of that trained voice in daily life, etc. Online I played with different pronouns and eventually a new name. The feeling the first time someone called me Stefanie and referred to me as she; I can’t even explain how good it felt, but it was enough to completely eclipse what had started as an extremely shitty day.
It was only with the joy of relief that I began to understand just how much I was actually hurting. In experiencing bright daylight it became harder to crawl back into the darkness I had always lived in.
In some ways, you could say I’d begun social transition before I was even fully out to myself and if that’s not a sign…
With each step I got more comfortable; I felt more right. Slowly the ability to actually experience emotions has started coming back. My baseline mood has been steadily improving. I’ve become more optimistic. I even smile now—a lot actually. The first time I went out presenting fully as a female, I instantly knew that this is me—this is who I am. It was just so right and I wanted it to never end. Two guys had even made a sexist comment about me that night and instead of being pissed about it, my brain hyper-fixated on the fact that they’d referred to me as a girl, and thank god for covid masks since I was walking around with an ear to ear grin at that point.
Quick aside: This is the fundamental and most important aspect of this. Many trans people define themselves through pain, they emphasize the things that cause their suffering—gender dysphoria. And sure, that helps gain sympathy from people who can’t imagine something so intrinsic to their sense of self being out of whack. That said, I and many many other trans people prefer to define ourselves through joy, we emphasize the things that bring us closer to this feeling of correctness—gender euphoria. If you start questioning, you’re likely to come across the phrase, “You don’t need dysphoria to be trans.” The meaning behind this phrase is to get the person questioning to focus on things that make them feel better. Sometimes you can’t see the pain you’re in until you find relief from it. That relief is what causes gender euphoria and is why euphoria is a much better sign than dysphoria.
It was around this time that I began seeing a therapist who specializes in gender issues. About a month or 2 later, I was diagnosed with Gender Dysphoria (ICD F64.0) and was given my WPATH letter approving me for feminizing HRT (hormone replacement therapy). About another month after that I had my first appointment with my PCP to discuss actually beginning HRT. Having done the required labs in advance and with no issues in them, I was fortunate enough to take my first dose that same night. That was just under a month ago on March 8th and beginning male-to-female (MtF) medical transition was a pretty solid way to celebrate International Women’s Day if I do say so myself.
I feel like it should go without saying, but I’m saying it anyways. This isn’t a joke or stunt. This isn’t a performance, it’s not drag, it doesn’t come off when I get home. It’s not just some kink or fetish. It’s not a mid-life crisis. It’s not about feeling special or standing out—in fact, blending in with other women would be amazing. I wasn’t ‘transed’ (that’s literally not even possible) and it’s not just a trend to follow. This isn’t a ‘lifestyle’ and it sure as hell isn’t a choice—the only choice I’ve made was to be myself.
To those around me I was already out to, I thank you for your love and support as well as keeping my secret for me. It’s not a secret anymore! I just get to be me and that’s awesome. Sure, in some ways life is going to be harder now, but you know what?
I’ve never felt more equipped to handle it.
I’m sure some of you have questions and I have no problems answering them in a comment as long as everyone stays civil / respectful. That said, for anyone thinking about asking about The Surgery™, first stop and consider if our relationship is such that you would be comfortable chatting about the length / depth / width / aesthetic / shape / wetness / firmness / function / satisfaction / etc of your junk with me.
For anyone looking for more information, either to be a better ally, just to understand more, or because something I said resonated with you and now you might be questioning:
THE BEST single resource. An amazing starting point. If you only read/watch one of these, it should be this one. It touches on dysphoria, euphoria, biology, history, and the current medical system in a way that speaks equally to cis and gender-questioning people.
Covers a very small part of the Gender Dysphoria Bible in fun video form.
A very in-depth video on the biology of sex, gender, and sexuality
Part 1 covers what it even means to be trans. Part 2 covers some basic etiquette and helpful pointers on being supportive.
Philosophy Tube video exploring the philosophy of gender, being trans as well as the author’s public coming out as a trans woman.
Brandon Boulware (self-identified Christian and son of a Methodist minister), a father of a transgender daughter in Missouri, gave wonderful heartfelt testimony about his evolution on the issue of trans people and trans rights.
A Q&A subreddit for anyone (cis, trans, or questioning) to ask trans related questions.
A memes only subreddit for trans people in denial and those who are questioning. If you find these memes relatable, I have some news for you…
A subreddit for trans people making fun of themselves, others, and the situations they find themselves in with memes and gifs.
A safe subreddit for AMAB transfeminine people
A safe subreddit for AFAB transmasculine people
A safe subreddit for trans people who find themselves somewhere in the middle of the gender spectrum.
A safe subreddit for trans people who aren’t spring chickens anymore.
A subreddit for trans/LGBT+/questioning people to try names and pronouns.
A helpful guide for trans people plan out transition and for cis allies.
A Twitter thread about things that aren’t immediately obvious that they’re a sign of discomfort with your gender.
An essay on the author discovering she’s trans later in life, things she didn’t realize were signs, and how dysphoria can get worse after realizing.
An essay outlining how being cis gendered is not the null hypothesis and should be treated with the same scrutiny as being trans gendered
Is desire the same as identity? Exploring other trans narratives.