Ryan, 17, Long Island, NY
I feel like this isn’t my body. In my mind right now, walking around my room, I feel like a boy. Then I know when I walk in the shower I’m going to totally freak out. I try to shower in the morning when I’ve just woke up, because I’m focused on what’s going to happen in the day and my eyes aren’t really open yet.
Once I get my top surgery I don’t think I’ll feel that way. Bottom surgery isn’t the top priority for me right now. Everyone has to wear pants. It’s not like it’s hard to hide, and right now bottom surgery is really terrible and expensive. Technology is always advancing, so maybe I’ll have bottom surgery some day when it’s better.
I’m starting hormone blocker treatments next week, so after I have top surgery I’ll stop having female development. I was supposed to get top surgery in June and then I found out I couldn’t get it until August. I got really upset about it, because I’m going to miss the whole summer and not be able to go to the gym or swim. It’s just a pain, swimming with a binder and everything.
Because I’m not 18 yet, I have to get my parents’ permission to have top surgery. My dad signed the paperwork, but the other day he asked me, “Are you 100 percent sure?” And I’m like, “Duh.”
I don’t know if I’ll go on testosterone. I’m really nervous about how it would affect my singing voice. I’m waiting to see what happens with my music career. If I were to go on T, it probably would be later on in my life. If I have a totally different voice, I might lose fans or I wouldn’t be as good. It would kind of be like starting a whole new career. But when I picture myself in three years, I’m on T and I have a really awesome beard.
Being transgender and being a musician go together for me. I’ve been doing a lot of speaking gigs. I just spoke at the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards, and then I sold 40 CDs afterwards. I’m recording an album, which is coming out in May. This summer’s going to be big for me. In June I’m playing at Milwaukee Pridefest with my studio band in front of 10,000 people.
When people find me through my music, a lot of them know I’m transgender and some of them don’t know. But when they friend me on Facebook, they find out. I don’t think they know while they’re watching me perform.
I love playing solo, and also love playing with my studio band. The energy is bigger and better with a band. I’ve played almost 200 shows. I’ve been on tour a few times. Everything’s DIY, which is “do it yourself.” The music industry is dying. You don’t make much money these days. I book everything myself. I do all my promotion myself. My mom drives. Usually I’m supposed to pay for gas on tours, but on the last trip she was like, “It feels like a vacation. You don’t have to pay for gas.” She’s that rock ‘n roll.
When I first started performing, a lot of girls would hit on me after the shows. One girl wrote my name all over her notebooks at school. Another girl pretended I was going out with her. Some really weird things happen when you’re performing.
Photo by Laurel Golio, taken in Long Island, NY, 2010
My guidance counselor is probably my best friend in the entire world. This year it’s uncomfortable for me to sit in classes where there’s a substitute who’ll call out my entire birth name. So if there’s a substitute teacher, I’ll just go to my guidance counselor’s office and sit there the entire period. We’ll talk about our weekends. I told her I was starting testosterone, and she’s like “Oh my God, I’m so excited for you!”
I’m three months on T. It’s going great. I just think my body’s reacting really well. The changes are awesome. Whenever I go to school, people will say “Your voice is changing. Your face is changing.” It’s easier for me to talk to new people. Before I was very self-conscious about not passing. (more…)
Nel, 17, NJ
I feel like I’m really lucky to be where I am. My parents, my friends, my teachers — everyone’s accepting. I haven’t lost any friends; I’ve gained friends. All my teachers are cool with it. They mess up pronouns, obviously. My English teacher messed up once, then emailed me to apologize.
My guidance counselor is probably my best friend in the entire world. This year it’s uncomfortable for me to sit in classes where there’s a substitute who’ll call out my entire birth name. So if there’s a substitute teacher, I’ll just go to my guidance counselor’s office and sit there the entire period. We’ll talk about our weekends. I told her I was starting testosterone, and she was like, “Oh my God, I’m so excited for you!”
I’m three months on T. It’s going great. I just think my body’s reacting really well. The changes are awesome. Whenever I go to school, people will say, “Your voice is changing. Your face is changing.” It’s easier for me to talk to new people. Before, I was very self-conscious about not passing.
I just shaved my blonde creeper-stache. It was getting nasty. I’m not that into facial hair. When my trans guy friends would talk about wanting facial hair, it wasn’t something I wanted. I mostly just want to pass. It’s more my upper body that I’m concerned about.
Before, I used to just wear sweatpants every day. I didn’t want to have to get up and get dressed. I thought girls dressed like girls and guys dress as guys. I was never a lesbian. I didn’t want to walk down the street and have people see me as a girl with another girl. Obviously there’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s just not me.
I thought a lot about what other people thought of me. After freshman year, I’m like, “I don’t enjoy this anymore.” I didn’t want to have to get up and get dressed. Since learning what transgender was, everything changed.
I used to hate going shopping. Now I love it. I’m always begging my mom to order more clothes for me. I waste all my money on clothes and food. I really like PacSun. I like skinny jeans, but they tend to show off your curves. I like the PacSun jeans that are straight-legged, and they completely make your hips go away.
I don’t need bottom surgery. It’s at least 30 grand. I could spend that money on something completely different. If I had $30,000 to spend, I’d probably buy a car. My dream car is the Maserati GranTurismo, but that’s way, way above 30 grand.
I do want to make a lot of money someday so I’m financially stable. My parents moved here from Sweden, and they’ve done well. I don’t want to spoil my future kids completely, but I want to give them at least what I have now.
I have no idea what I want to do. My mom talks to me about it every day. I don’t think my mom’s gone a day without mentioning college. I’m like, “Uh huh.” I think she’s just worried that I’m gonna end up as a nobody. I think if she knows that I have a career in mind it will ease her worries. She says, “You’re going to end up working at Burger King or the laundromat.” It doesn’t stress me out that she keeps bugging me. It’s just annoying.
As told to Diana Scholl.
Photo by Laurel Golio, taken in NJ, 2011
To tell your story, email firstname.lastname@example.org