my story

Some background

It was a surprise to most when I came out as trans. I was 36, bearded, muscular, and fairly butch (for a scientist). For many years I worked hard to present a masculine persona. The word overcompensation jumps to mind. I had been tearing myself up about gender identity for decades, and a masculine identity wasn't possible for me any longer. 

There were certainly indications in my childhood. I wore dresses and panties as much as possible, avoided any typically masculine activities, and vigorously pursued activities that I perceived as feminine. I understand the web of stereotypes that are inherent in a young person's perception of gender, but that's how it was. While other boys were playing sports, I took cooking and choir. I would have been the only boy in the choir class had not a very good friend of mine decided to join with me, I think to make sure that I wasn’t the only boy. He was a very good friend.

Throughout these early years I often questioned my sexuality, conflating sexuality and gender. I pursued cross-dressing (really same gender dressing) as much as I thought safe, purchasing articles of clothing as much as I felt comfortable in the pre-internet days. There were times when the only time I felt like myself was when I put make-up on in the privacy of my apartment. It was a source of friction in every youthful relationship, and at twenty-five I decided to seek help. 

I was referred by the college counselor to a psychiatrist who diagnosed me with gender dysphoria, the first time I had heard the term. It took her about ten minutes to make the diagnosis. She recommended that we worked on building a strong male identity structure to remove the delusion that I was female. This sounds barbaric now, but in 2004 the world was still very unfamiliar with trans. I spent over a year working with her, and at the end of our time together I felt more confident in my masculinity than ever before. By 2006 I had thrown away all of my female clothing and make-up, and I was ready to pursue graduate school with a solidly male presentation. 

Graduate school changed my life. I met wonderful, intelligent, warm people who supported me as a researcher and as a person. I know this is very different than many of peers experiences in grad school, but I had a truly fantastic experience. Towards the end of graduate school I tried on some make-up with a friend, and it felt as though I had re-connected with a giant piece of myself, the portion of the iceberg under the sea! The therapy hadn't worked at all; it had merely reduced my awareness of myself to the most superficial piece. It was the catalyst for coming out and begging the transition.