Trans 101: It’s Not Choice, Part 3 – Time to Get Personal

In a way, this should be the most important argument.  In many ways, people consider it the least.  People are trans because they say they are trans.  After all, who would know better than us?

Will this lead to adolescent boys pretending to be trans to get into girls’ locker rooms, as the right persistently fear-mongers?  It’s doubtful, for two reasons: 1.  No-one wants to self-identify as trans.  It’s social death.  Trust me and anyone else who has transitioned.  Not worth the risk to gain a view of something most middle-school students could find on the internet in five minutes.  2.  It really isn’t hard to tell who is faking and who is for real.  I can’t believe for one minute that teachers, coaches, etc, couldn’t sniff out a weisenhiemer without even trying.  It’s literally their stock and trade.

Is it so hard, really, to take gender minorities at their word?  Are we really ready to classify a full 1%, or more, of the population as liars and manipulators?  I expect the percentage of liars and manipulators is much higher than that, actually, but I can’t see why they would ply their machinations to lose half their family, their friends, and their career hopes.  What benefit would there be to someone?  The only reason people transition, often at great material and social cost to themselves, is to find happiness in their appropriate gender or lack thereof.  People come out and live as trans because they have to.  Instead of dismissing the countless personal testimonies and lives of trans and non-binary people throughout history as all being crazy or possessed by demons,  how about we actually listen to trans people?  Seriously, is it really so freaking hard to take our word?  Are people’s worldviews so absolutely inviolable that there can be NO ACCOMMODATION WHATSOEVER for someone who doesn’t fit neatly into the checked boxes we’ve been brought up to view as sacred?  What actual harm is done by this?  And, no, being asked to question one’s black and white view of gender doesn’t actually harm anyone.  Accepting someone different into our lives may actually enrich our experiences.  Discomfort is not harm.  Exclusion, homelessness, marginalization, and violence actually harm people.  Those are common experiences people in the trans community often have, and they are killing us.

So, below is my story.  Or at least the parts of it which I believe demonstrate how hard-wired being trans – in my case having a feminized brain and male-seeming body – is in me.  It was never a choice for me, and I nearly killed myself multiple times trying to ‘choose’ to be cis.  Repression damages.  The only thing that ‘cured’ me was transition.

One of my first memories that something was different about me was when I was 8 or 9.  Back then, many suburban households got a Sears catalog in the mail early every December.  Hundreds of pages of glorified consumerism, geared to start us off with covetous hearts for the season of spending.

When we were younger, of course, we would spend hours looking over the toy section, trying not to drool over the choices.  Sometime in pre-pubescence, however, a few of my friends discovered the women’s clothing section.  Underwear models were the closest many of us had been to porn in this sterilized environment, so my friends eyes’ popped out over hints of buttocks and breasts.

Not me.  I noticed the dress and shoe section nearby, and felt myself drawn inexplicably to that area.  Yes, at the young, tender age of 9, I was already literally on a different page from my friends.

Advertising is subtle and subliminal.  Anyone who thinks that they are unaffected by advertising either 1. consumes none at all, or 2. is deluded.  Corporations spend billions of dollars learning how to manipulate people subconsciously, and they don’t strike me as the type of people to go throwing money down the drain, mandated profit motive and all.  It affects us all, and often in ways we don’t even perceive.

Advertising geared towards women has always affected me.  Advertising geared towards men never has.  If something so subconscious called out to me as female, even while the rest of the world called me male, it seems likely that there is something to it.  Please explain how subconscious leanings to identify as the ‘opposite’ gender could ever constitute a choice.

To  clarify: there was never anything weird or fetish-like about why advertising oriented towards women affected me, while male-oriented advertising did not.  Some part of me simply reacted as if I were naturally part of the audience the advertisers were trying to capture.  I suppose I am.

A few years later, the same friends got their hands on some real porn.  Safely in my basement, we’d sneak glances at what we weren’t supposed to.  It never interested me, really.  But in the back of one magazine was a serious story about a professor (at Yale!  Right near where I grew up!) who transitioned from male to female.  The article was surprisingly matter-of-fact and down to earth, not the sensational junk we see so much of these days.

The second I read the word, ‘transsexual,’ my life was changed.  Bells and whistles started screaming in my head.  There’s a word for what I am.  There are others like me.  Maybe, just maybe, all was not lost.  Others have transitioned, maybe someday….

I doubt many of the other boys had a similar reaction, had they been the least bit impelled to tear their eyes off the naked, forbidden bodies in the first place.

Once again, I was literally on a different page from my peers.

Others at this point might argue that this was the transgender lobby, corrupting young minds and convincing me and others to identify as something they were not.  It was the first step off the straight and narrow, onto a path to the devil, or Sodom, or whatever.

What a load of carp.

Did I choose to react in this way to the article?  Did I choose, somehow, to rebel against my parents and society by violating their precious gender norms?

No, I did not.  I have struggled with trying to accept this difference within myself.  I went through years of repression, drugs, alcohol and other bad life choices, just to avoid being trans, to try to ‘choose’ to be a nice, white, cis boy like everyone thought I was, like everyone assumed I always was, like everyone assumed I always would be.  Like everyone in my life, it seemed, somehow needed  me to be and remain.  In-freaking-violable, after all.

Oh, I made my tries.

No matter what, the trans thing was always there.  Always.  Perhaps one can label the following incidents as choices.  They aren’t choices anyone not trans would consider, however, and they didn’t feel much like choices at the time.

Yes, it was my choice to try and castrate myself at 13.  Thirty years later, I can still remember the chain of logic that went through my head.  I knew puberty was coming, and what it would entail, and how absolutely wrong it would be, and how it would ruin everything for me.  I knew which organs would be responsible for this.  And I was so absolutely desperate for it not to happen.  The deepening voice, the facial hair, the lack of breasts…

I couldn’t do much about the last item on the list.  I knew cross-hormones existed, but in my nice, suburban Catholic home, I dared not name that demon.  I could, however, do something about the rest.

So, early in my teens I began wrapping my testicles tightly with string and elastic bands.  I had read that ranchers in the historical Southwest used to castrate bulls that way.  I left them on for hours, as long as I could take it.  Any damage, any loss of circulation there would be a benefit, or so I reasoned.  Was it a choice? I suppose so, but it seemed like the only reasonable choice available to me at the time, all things considered.  I couldn’t tell anyone.  (Side note here – societal pressure or ‘prayer’ doesn’t make it go away.  It only makes individuals repress themselves for others’ comfort, often at great damage to the lgbtqia+person in question.)  The feelings were clearly intrinsic to my being.  I never chose feeling as if I were female in spirit, in mind, if not in body.  I could only choose to accept it and become it.  This was a first attempt.

To my dismay, it didn’t work, despite many attempts.  I couldn’t take the pain required to go all the way.  So, eventually, puberty did hit, albeit delayed.

Puberty was devastating, for all the reasons I predicted.  Still feeling backed into a corner, being forced into a body and a life that was clearly wrong for me, I made another ‘choice.’  I made my first suicide attempt.  I knew that my life would be either incurable sadness at not being who I was meant to be, or unending hate and bigotry.  All the hate, ignorance, treating us as subhuman made very clear how society felt about people like me, as much then as now.  And children, even from a young age, know.

I walked to the medicine cabinet, and swallowed every aspirin I could find.  I had heard somewhere that this would do it.  I left my short note (“Don’t blame yourselves.”  My last words were to be a lie.  I wanted my parents to blame themselves for the rest of their lives.  I was angry, and I didn’t know how to direct it.)

Half an hour later, I chickened out and told my mom.  I was 17.

Emergency room, stomach pumped, and a well-meaning orderly leaning over me saying, “Don’t worry.  Whatever it is, it isn’t that bad.”

At that moment in time, I did not think it possible that there was a more ignorant person on earth.  I expect my expression said as much.

Why?  Because it is, in fact, that bad.  And it was even worse in the mid eighties than it is now.

My ‘choice’?  Become who I was, make some attempt at happiness, sanity even in this life, and risk losing my family, my friends, and any chance at making a living.  If I were lucky, I could survive my own homelessness and whatever else came.  Not too many other options back then.

Except repression and misery.  Which is how I lived much of the rest of my life, more or less.  The drugs and alcohol helped deaden the pain of repression, and I was never fully repressed, anyhow.  I always had long hair, or long nails, or shaved legs, or earrings, or something, ANYTHING.  I would hoard women’s clothes whenever I could, dress up in private, feel guilty and try to ‘reform’ every few years by purging my wardrobe and cutting my hair, but it never worked, and it was never enough.  I worked in  caregiver jobs, I was the primary caregiver for all three of my children when they were young.  It was a joy, but never enough.

This, some people call a choice.

I did finally transition, and I did finally find some joy and peace in myself.

And I lost family, I lost friends, I lost a career, just as I had always feared my whole life.

I do not believe I would still be alive had I not become my true self and taken the courage to live authentically.

It was still the right choice, despite the loss and growing pains that transition entails.  If ever it was a choice at all.  I think not.



I AM CAM (she/her)



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