FAQ: A Peek Into a Trans Life

Lena Balk/Unsplash

Nathan Nayor/Staff Writer

Oftentimes, we hate what we do not understand, and this often extends to minority groups, especially transgender people.  While life as a trans person involves a lot of facets and learning, the answers are not difficult, but asking can sometimes be awkward. Over the several years since I came out as transgender, I have received many questions regarding my gender identity and my life.  I have also received questions that many trans people have been made uncomfortable by.  See #13 for a glossary of terms.

  1. How did you find out?

I have been haunted by dysphoria much of my life, although I did not have a name for it as a child.  Being lumped in with girls always made me uncomfortable for reasons I could not place at the time.  I was self conscious about my physical traits and social expectations: I hated the color pink, and for a long time I stuck with the “tomboy” label until I found out that the inherent discomfort of being called a girl was not something tomboys experienced.  It was sometime in 7th grade that I realized I was transgender.  I do not recall how I found out what it meant, but I sat on it for several weeks before realizing that it described my experience.

It was not a choice. It never is a choice, I do not know who would willingly go through harsh discrimination for the “attention” that social conservatives claim we come out of the closet for.  The looming threat of murder, sexual abuse and homelessness are not worth any amount of “feeling special”: we don’t feel “special”, we are regular people.

  1. What is it like to take testosterone? 

It saved my life. I started taking it last year.  My endocrinologist prescribed me the injectable form of testosterone, since it worked fastest and had the lowest price.  The first day I took it, I could feel years of weight falling off my shoulders and relief washing over me.  I take it every two weeks through self-injection, and it works slowly. 

The effects of HRT vary by genetics.  I saw a TikTok once of a transman of Indian descent growing hair within the first week of taking testosterone.  Most transmen report rapid clitoral growth, some do not experience it at all.  

My voice was the first thing to change.  It slowly began to drop in its pitch, from high to somewhat deep.  It itched a lot at first, like a bad cold, but after some months the itching stopped.  I haven’t had any hair growth on my chest nor face, but some sections of my body have darker hair now, usually around my injection sites. My face and stomach changed shapes, slightly: My face became less round, and my stomach became rounder.  

I am constantly hungry, but it is such a nuisance.  I eat 4-6 times a day, and according to blood tests, it still isn’t enough to keep up with my metabolism.  In fact, I’m kind of sick of eating sometimes

This next part is a bit graphic. Changes in the private regions are really weird, but it truly is a blessing to not have periods anymore.  I used to have really painful and heavy periods, bordering on anemia-inducing.  My last one lasted 6 weeks due to hormone imbalances, and I was constantly fatigued from it. I still get “phantom period cramps”.  It’s unknown what causes them, but one theory is that it’s the reproductive organs shutting down. Urine has a much stronger, more unpleasant smell, and the same goes with discharge.  

  1. What about surgery?

This is one of those questions that makes transgender people uncomfortable.  It’s like asking if you or your husband are circumcised.  It is thoroughly uncomfortable for anyone to be asked about their private regions, it is pretty much sexual harassment. Furthermore, not all transgender people want or are able to have surgery.

Top surgery (chest surgery) is definitely in my plans.  There are multiple methods of doing it, and generally the smaller the chest is, the easier it is to preserve the nerves.  Not that sensation is entirely destroyed usually, but it is a possibility.  My chest is currently my biggest cause of dysphoria, since it limits my wardrobe options, and chest binders can be unbearable in Florida’s climate.    Binding hurts a lot, and in some cases can even worsen dysphoria!  

For bottom surgeries (genital reconstruction), I am unsure what I will be doing with that, and while it is not as bad as it is rumored to be, I will still be waiting for future options.  For transmasculine people, it entails a long series of procedures, varying by the method used.  I would rather not risk infection through so many procedures just yet.  As advanced as the procedures are now, I am still going to wait for more developments in this field.

  1. What was your old name?

This is a question you do not ask a transgender person under any circumstances.  There is nothing more uncomfortable than this question, as it is an easy gateway to deadnaming and harassment.  I’m currently in the process of changing my name legally in order to avoid the horrible distress.

  1. What are your pronouns?

This question is always welcome!  I use he/him, khe/khem, and ve/virs.  In spanish, I use el and elle.

  1. How do I know if I’m trans?

The easiest bet is gender dysphoria, although many argue that it is not required. In that case, some state that experiencing gender euphoria (the high from being referred to or presenting as the correct gender) is a good indicator.

It is important to note that gender dysphoria can have different forms: social dysphoria, where one gets dysphoric from being referred to or presenting as the gender that does not suit their identity; body dysphoria, where one is distressed by their body parts not aligning with their identity; and mind dysphoria, which can be caused by thought patterns “not aligning” with your identity (although this is often the result of the socialization of toxic masculinity and toxic femininity).  

The latter can be confusing, and it often helps to recall that objectively, interests cannot be “feminine” or “masculine”.  It is very important to note that your interestsa are NOT an indication of being transgender.  It is okay to be a guy who likes knitting, or a girl who enjoys hunting.  It is okay to be emotional as a man, or stoic as a woman.  Your gender does not inherently limit your access to these experiences; that is entirely a result of social gender roles, which we know are utter bullshit. This experience varies in nonbinary people, since it is an umbrella term for a wide range of gender identifications.  

A definite source of mental dysphoria is the distress of accidentally referring to yourself incorrectly.  In Spanish, I sometimes accidentally use “-a” in gendered words out of habit, which sucks, but it does go away with practice.

  1. How do I correct myself if I accidentally misgender someone?

Stop yourself, use the right pronoun, then move on.  We understand that mistakes happen, and long apologies are not necessary.  

Example: 

He was so happ– I’m sorry, she– was so happy about the announcement!”

  1. What’s in your pants?

My phone and my FIU OneCard.  

Please don’t ask a transgender person this question.  I’m not going to ask you what your genitals look like, I expect the same.  This goes back to my earlier statement about sexual harassment.

  1. Do transgender people keep their names similar to their deadname?

That’s on a case-by-case basis, we are all individuals.  I deliberately made my first name alliterate with my last name. My first name has no semblance of my deadname.  I do have a friend whose name somewhat resembles their deadname.  It usually depends on how comfortable the individual is with doing so, but it can be done for a variety of reasons.

  1. Why are transgender people offended by misgendering and deadnaming?

It’s an invalidation of our identity, plain and simple.  It’s disrespectful on a foundational level.  This can also go back to social and mental dysphoria.  This gets joked about a lot by social conservatives, but it’s a serious problem.

  1.  What’s the difference between being transgender and being gay?

Your gender has nothing to do with who you are attracted to.  A pansexual man is still pansexual, whether they are trans or cis. A transgender person can be straight.  A cisgender person can be lesbian.  A transgender person can be lesbian, too.

  1. How do I start my medical transition?

First, be absolutely sure about what processes you want to undergo, then check to see if your health insurance covers them.  Question your primary care provider if they are supportive of the queer community; if not, get a new one who does ASAP.  If you do not have insurance or your insurance does not cover medical transition, look into charities, financial aid programs and support groups that can help you cover the costs.  Planned Parenthood provides hormone replacement therapy.  Talk to your PCP or mental health professional about your transition plans so they can provide a letter for your future transition team.  A letter isn’t always required, but it will help a great deal if you do or encounter an obstacle in the medical field.

Second, seek out your medical team: endocrinologists, therapists, surgeons, the whole gang.  There are a lot of trans-supportive medical professionals in Miami, and they can help you through this process.  Talk to them, be clear with what your goals are, and go from there.  

  1. I don’t understand some of the words used here.

That’s fine.  Transgender people are often willing to define terms you are unfamiliar with, when asked respectfully.

  • Transman: A transgender person who identifies as a man.  Could be someone who was assigned female or intersex at birth.
  • Transmasc/uline: A transgender person who identifies with masculine components.  This includes transmen and masculine-leaning nonbinary people.
  • Transwoman: A transgender person who identifies as a woman. Could be someone who was assigned male or intersex at birth.
  • Transfem/minine/femme: A transgender person who identifies with feminine components.  This includes transwomen and feminine-leaning nonbinary people
  • Nonbinary: A transgender person who does not identify with strictly man or woman.  This is an umbrella term for a wide variety of identities, like demigender, pangender, agender, etc.  Could be someone assigned male, female, or intersex at birth in all cases.
  • Gender dysphoria: a strong distress caused by a misalignment between one’s gender and the sex they were assigned at birth.
  • Misgendering: Using the wrong pronouns for someone.
  • Deadname: The name a person was assigned at birth, which has since been changed.  Can apply to cisgender people who changed their name.
  • Deadnaming: Using someone’s deadname.
  • HRT/Hormone Replacement Therapy: When a person uses hormones to treat a condition.  Not only used by trans people: a cis woman might take estrogen to treat a medical condition like PCOS, as a form of birth control, etc.
  • Elle: A proposed gender neutral pronoun for the spanish language.
  • Cis/gender: People who are not trans.  People whose gender aligns with their sex assigned at birth.  
  1. What are your thoughts about trans people in sports?

This can also vary by individual, but the consensus in the trans community and its allies is that banning trans people from sports harms cis people as well as trans people, and it is usually a way to discriminate women and girls who do not appear feminine. 

It is currently unknown what makes a trans person trans, and different fields of sciences have different suggestions.  All the same, science has confirmed over and over that transgender people do exist and are honest about our experience.  Regardless of cause, if a gender identity doesn’t hurt anyone, why should people continue to discriminate against them? There is no point in hating the unknown, and there is no point in hating a person for who they are.

DISCLAIMER:

The opinions presented within this page do not represent the views of PantherNOW Editorial Board. These views are separate from editorials and reflect individual perspectives of contributing writers and/or members of the University community.

Photo by Lena Balk on Unsplash

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