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
Chase, 19, Brooklyn, NY
I got my first tattoo on my 18th birthday. I’ve gotten seven since I’ve moved to New York. Tattoos are a showcase of my art and my passion. They’re so addicting.
The tattoo on my arm is my transition tattoo. I was blossoming into the person I am becoming, so I thought of orchid flowers. Pink and blue are symbolic colors for gender. The blue flower is bigger than the pink one, because it will never go away that I was a girl, but this is who I am now.
For a few weeks I wanted to go to the LGBT club at school. But I can’t. I can’t bring myself to do it. I don’t want to be out. I feel like if I come out, there will be stigma attached to me. Like, “Oh, there’s Chase, the guy who used to be a girl.” Since moving to the city, I’ve been 100-percent stealth. I live with a few kids from high school and another trans guy. They’re the only ones who know, other than my trans friends. I don’t mind people knowing. I just don’t advertise it.
For most people, realizing they’re transgender takes a lifetime. For me it only took a year. Once I have an idea in my head, I run with it. I’ve never wanted to slow down with this.
A little bit over a year ago, I was in a relationship with a girl who introduced me to a world of gender I had never known before. It was interesting to see that transgender people aren’t the freaks everyone makes them out to be. I started experimenting with ideas in my head. Once I thought about it, the idea that I was transgender made so much sense. Dating back to when I was 10 years old and had such strange feelings, I had just never been comfortable being a girl. I identified as a lesbian for four years, from 8th grade to right before senior year. I identify as straight now.
I’ve had plenty of girlfriends. Sex is different now that I identify as trans. My girlfriend said when I started identifying as transgender I took a much more physical, masculine role. And since going on T my sex drive has changed. It’s increased. A lot.
Also, all sorts of things are changing down there. My clit has grown a lot. A lot lot. The sensitivity is a little much sometimes, but it’s cool. I wasn’t expecting this much growth. I think it’s a little abnormal. Everyone grows but I don’t think everyone grows two inches in four months.
The more it grows the better for bottom surgery. I’m planning on seeking lower surgery but not for another 10 years, because that shit’s expensive. But I want a penis.
I’m having top surgery in two months. My insurance covers 80 percent of it. I have really great insurance. I’m excited to not have to bind, and be able to wear tank tops and low-cut shirts. I don’t have to hide anymore.
Top surgery will make my life 1000 times better, but I’m not even that uncomfortable with my body. I’ve never had a confidence issue, which is kind of strange; I feel like most trans guys have a confidence issue. I bind for a reason, but I’m not uncomfortable. I’m just able to accept my body for what it is, and know I won’t have tits in two months.
As told to Diana Scholl.
Photo by Laurel Golio, taken in Brooklyn, NY, 2011
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