Chris Interview #1, September 2015

This is the first painting and interview in this series, depicting Chris’s transition from female to male over an approximately three-year period. It took place just before Chris began his transition.

“As a kid, things were kind of crappy. My parents got divorced when I was 12, and I don’t feel like I mattered a lot to them. I know they loved me, but growing up I didn’t really have a sense of self. I just kind of went along with everything. I never really had friends that I stuck with. I have one sister who is six years older than me. Her being so much older made it hard because I feel like we didn’t connect a lot. I grew up a little too fast because she was older. I am now 21. I was a good student; I was very smart. I was good at test taking and that sort of stuff, but I never did homework so I had pretty crappy grades. I started working straight out of high school. I thought I wanted to be a chef so I started working in a restaurant. But I then realized that I wanted to learn to build things, so I applied to an apprenticeship in carpentry.

My dad was a union plumber so I knew a lot about the union trades. He built a lot of things in my backyard so perhaps that influenced me.
My mom is a bookkeeper. Its great that my family is so supportive but it also makes me feel sometimes that I have to go through with my transition. If I don’t do it I will let them down. It’s hard to do this in some ways because I have always worried about other people more than myself, and its weird making these decisions and focusing on myself. I think that’s exactly why I am realizing all this now, because I am figuring out myself.

I really didn’t think about my gender as a kid. I didn’t really think about myself as being anything, especially as a younger kid. But then going through puberty, and going through school as a young woman, it was hard because I felt like I had to try really hard. I liked wearing makeup sometimes and liked looking feminine sometimes, but on a daily basis I didn’t want to do it, and when I would wear makeup or dress up I felt like I was playing a part. I think that is the hard part about going through a transition right now, because I am not extremely uncomfortable with myself. I guess I feel like I am in between gender, not really one or the other. But I want to present more masculine and I want to transition.

I have always felt like I didn’t belong to any gender, and it was kind of confusing. I think I just grew up with that, kind of confused. I never really felt like a girl, never really felt like a guy. I am still debating how I feel, but I don’t feel comfortable in between. I feel like I want to have the opportunity to express my masculinity. But I also know that when I do transition I may still feel androgynous. They call that gender queer and I think I fit in with that.

When I was in high school I would watch YouTube videos with people transitioning and I thought it was so cool. Looking back on it now I thought is was so cool because I kind of resonated with it. But I never allowed myself to think that that could be me. After I watched my first video I always wanted to watch them. I got obsessed with them but it didn’t really click at the time.

I have been seeing a gender therapist for two months. I wanted to talk to someone first to understand my feelings better; I wanted to have everything in place before I started. The other day my therapist kind of just asked me a question. ‘Why don’t you just make an appointment?’ I was like, I don’t know, and I got nervous but I was also kind of excited. So, I think I’ve got to just go for it. Yesterday I made an appointment for taking hormones. I feel pretty confident that once I take hormones and go through the transition I am going to be happy.

My support system is good. My girlfriend is very supportive. I just told my mom recently and she is also very supportive. My girlfriend’s family is really great about it too. I have a good group of people I can go to and understanding friends. They respect that I want to be called Chris; that I want to use neutral or male pronouns. In every way they are accepting of my decision. My dad doesn’t really get it though. For instance I recently told him I want to be called Chris and he said, ‘Okay, Christina.’ I can see him accepting it in the end.

I think the biggest thing I’m scared of is getting treated more roughly when I transition. I think being in the world of women I have been treated more sensitively. But I don’t want male privilege either. I always identified as a feminist and in transitioning to being a male I feel like I will kind of be betraying that part of me. But I know I can still be a feminist and a man and still be me. I am also scared in regard to my relationship. My girlfriend is bisexual so she doesn’t care either way. But I am concerned about how it might change our relationship.

Do I see any other downside to being male? No, I am pretty sure I want all of the physical differences between being male and female. Some people get bottom surgery; I am pretty comfortable with what I have. I definitely want more endurance, to be stronger. What appeals to me most about being male is strength, having facial hair, a flat chest, and increased sex drive. I’m not looking forward to possibly thinning hair! Also, I will have the usual downsides of being a man; the possibility of dying five years earlier than women. You have to make sure your hormone levels are right because your liver can get messed up. You also have a higher risk of cardiovascular disease. So it’s about making sure you go to the doctor often enough. I am also concerned about being at work in construction. They say I am doing a great job but maybe its because I’m a girl. I am a good worker and I pay a lot of attention to detail. They are really impressed with me, that a girl can do what I do, but I’m scared that when I’m a guy I won’t get such good feedback.

I will have to be on hormones for the rest of my life. It is different for everybody, but usually within two years of being on hormones, hair growth and the lowering of the voice drops off. But in nine, ten, twenty years, the fat around your body is still redistributing.

I always wear men’s clothes. I used to work at Home Depot and when I had my head down people would go, ‘Hey buddy.’ When I looked up they saw I was looking very feminine. When they did see my face and recognize me as a girl they always felt so bad about it. I am not presenting in a really feminine way but I don’t look too masculine yet either so I am not expecting to be called a guy necessarily.

The transition is about how I want to be seen in the world and that I don’t feel comfortable the way I am now.”