Chris Interview #6, June 2018

This is the last interview with Chris. It concludes the year in which Chris worked as a leader in the High Desert Center, the gap-year wilderness program he had attended the previous year.

“I feel that my outer self represents my inner self well. I was hard for a while before I realized I was trans. It was like, ‘oh my god, this is too hard, how am I going to figure it out?’ But since I started not caring so much, I know I can trust myself. Who cares what other people think? I have really focused on what I want to do so I feel much more like me.

Do I miss anything physically about my former self? That’s a good question. One thing I really miss is my singing voice. I used to have a high-pitched singing voice. I could really belt out a song. But I have had to relearn how to sing. I also miss how I used to be able to cry really easily. When I am sad now, I feel numb; when I was sad before I would feel more emotional.

It is a little hard to fully accept myself as a man because I am not a cis-man. Sometimes I feel like I am not manly or masculine enough, like when I am around other cis-gender men. I feel like I don’t fit in. I am not as macho; I am not as unattached from my emotions like many of the men I might hang out with are. But when I meet really awesome men, I think, yes, I am just like that.

All the people I worked with this past year in the program knew that I am transgender, because we would always do things together including skinny-dipping. It was nerve-wracking at first because I would take my clothes off and they would stare for a second. Eventually we would talk about it. And there was one person who came up to me—he was about 18 and came from a traditional schooling, macho friends background—and said, ‘so, I know you are trans, and I am just starting to get used to people being LGBT. I just wanted to see if its okay if I ask you some questions, since I don’t really understand a lot about it and I want to.’ I was like, what, are you kidding me? I had no idea that he had those thoughts because he doesn’t present that outwardly.

Mostly I hate having male privilege. I hate being treated differently. Here’s the thing. Before I transitioned, I had no privilege, and when I wanted to talk to someone, I’d want to be heard but I’d feel like what I said didn’t matter. Now that I have this male privilege, I feel like people listen to me more. But I pretty much surround myself with women, and because I don’t want to step on their toes, I let them have the spotlight. Now that I present as male and have the privilege, I want to let the women talk because I know how it feels to be oppressed by a very male-centric society. But at the same time I never got that chance so I want to have my opinion out there too. But I am normally not in a place where I am surrounded by people who would give me the male privilege, so I don’t get it at all.

I think that when I go back to work it will be difficult. I present masculine, but I am also pretty comfortable with my feminine side, and I show that a lot, so I think I am often perceived as a gay man. So my male privilege sometimes goes away when straight cis-men see me as a gay man. We are probably both misinterpreting each other.

I know one transman who was originally a tough woman and now presents as a hyper-masculine, macho persona. I don’t like this person at all. But I do understand it because when you are raised in a way that doesn’t fit you, you develop a certain personality and macho quality to combat that. And then when you transition it’s the same thing, where you don’t feel man enough. The society around you tells you that men should be this way, so it just gets amplified and it is the worst combination. It makes me so sad because I want transmen to know that to be a man you don’t have to be that way, you don’t have to be an ass.

I don’t know if I mentioned this before but when I was working, all I heard about was how men hated their wives. One day the subject of my girlfriend came up, and the guy I was talking to said ‘Let me see a picture.’ I said ‘I don’t want to.’ He said ‘c’mon man, I want to see a picture. She must be young, she must be hot.’ And now I’m really not going to show him a picture! So I definitely see a lot more extremes of how you would imagine men talking to each other. And I hate it; it’s so uncomfortable. And you can tell it’s not real; when they get together they just amp each other up. They will say, ‘well you said that so I can say this.’

I have definitely met a lot of great cisgender men. But the majority of men I have met and instantly love are either queer men, or transgender men, who in some way have experienced pain of being ‘other.’

Do I miss any aspects of being a woman? Sometimes I miss my chest. Especially now, wanting to do drag. I put on a dress and think, wow, I look terrible! Before I transitioned I would sometimes wear nail polish, sometimes not. It wasn’t anything I really thought about. Now I worry that if I put nail polish on people will think I am gay. I have definitely picked up a lot of fear around presenting as a gay man. When I get around men they sometimes shy away from me if they think that I am gay. Its like, calm down, I’m not trying to do anything.

Do I ever regret my decision? I have definitely thought about it…was this right, should I really have done this? But its not like ‘holy shit, I shouldn’t have done that’; its more like kind of up in the air. Sometimes I want to be more masculine, sometimes I want to be more feminine, but I always go back to the way I felt before I transitioned--I feel like a very feminine man, not a butch woman. I want to present with facial hair, I like my shape now, and sometimes I want to feel a little more feminine, but I would rather look how I look now and sometimes change to look a little more feminine than always look more feminine and change to look more masculine.

Sometimes I am in an angry mindset about certain reactions from other people, but I think to myself, ‘no one is ever going to learn anything if I am hostile and shutting them down all the time.’

I stopped taking testosterone for a few weeks because I was feeling anxious about actually giving myself my shot. I had been struggling with not being able to cry for a long time. I felt the testosterone was blocking me emotionally. But stopping it didn’t feel right either so I started taking it again. I am glad I had that thought process and actually let myself think about it instead of just shutting it down. Like in the past that kind of question would come up and I would immediately shut it down. I would l think, well, if I am thinking this then I’m not really trans and I shouldn’t be doing this.”