Binders

Did I used to bind? If so, with what kind of binder? What company?

Yes, I used to bind. I initially bought an Underworks binder which I wore for less than a week because not only did it not make me any flatter than a sports bra did, it was also so uncomfortable that wearing it was not worth it. Thankfully, someone recommended gc2b binders (gc2b.co) to me and I used those up until my top surgery. I 100% recommend using these binders. They are comfortable and they work incredibly well. As I’ve said in previous posts and sections of this, I had a relatively large (36DD) chest, pre-op. Yet I passed quite often wearing the gc2b binder.

Binder sizing?

Gc2b has a page on their website calling “Sizing” (http://www.gc2b.co/#!sizing/c113j) which explains how to measure your chest correctly. Follow those directions and you should be good! For reference, I wore a large.

What color if I want it not be seen in a white T-shirt?

I only bought the grey ones and they were invisible under my white T-shirts.

1580

Where do I get my clothes?

I shop mainly at Urban Outfitters and Pacsun for clothes that are style appropriate. Some of my jackets and plaid come from American Eagle. My jeans are all Levi’s 511 slim fits but I buy them at UO, typically. Bland/simple stuff like plain white t-shirts or v-necks I get from Walmart or Gap or Old Navy.

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Top Surgery

Who did my top surgery? Where?

I got surgery with Dr. Charles Garramone in Davie, FL (right outside of Ft. Lauderdale in South Florida.)

Do I recommend the surgeon I went to? How was the staff and the experience?

Dr. Garramone’s specialty is the double incision surgery and I would definitely recommend him for that. I can’t speak for other kinds because I haven’t seen any of his peri-areolar results, and I did not get peri-areolar. I also love that he does 500 surgeries a year; he clearly knows what he’s doing and the process is methodical and clean cut. The staff was great, super accommodating and used the correct pronouns. They were respectful and time efficient.

Cost? Insurance?

The total cost of surgery was &7,800 — $6,500 for Garramone and $1,300 for the hospital fees. My parents paid out of pocket.

What kind of surgery did I get?

I got the FTM double incision mastectomy. I had a large chest (36DD) so Dr. Garramone had to join the incisions in the center of my chest to remove the excess skin and to prevent puckering and cleavage.

Alrighty guys. First chest pic! I know it's not Tuesday…but still. #TransformationTuesday, dammit! #FUCKYEA

A post shared by Schuyler Bailar (@pinkmantaray) on

Where did I stay? Does the hospital provide a place to stay?

I stayed at a place called New Beginnings Retreat (http://www.newbeginningsretreat.com/) which is a place designed for FTM transgender individuals recovering from surgery. I really enjoyed the experience. The sense of community was really nice and I bonded with another guy who got surgery the same day as me. The hospital does not ‘provide’ a place to stay. Garramone’s website suggests some places to stay, as well under the “before surgery info” section — http://drgarramone.com/.

How long did I have to wait from the time that I called to schedule the surgery and the actual date of surgery? How did I go about setting up the surgery?

When you first contact the Garramone Center (on his website http://drgarramone.com/schedule/ or by phone) you will schedule a consultation, which is done over the phone. You will have to send in pictures of your exposed chest beforehand so Dr. Garramone can tell you what type of surgery (double incision or peri-areolar) he will do. At this point, you can ask him questions about the surgery and such. Afterwards, he transfers you over to his assistants with whom you can then schedule your actual surgery with. Before surgery, you’ll need to send in financial agreements and payment, a letter of recommendation from your therapist or physician, and medical clearance and labs.

So I initially tried to schedule my surgery back in November of 2014 and there was a date available two weeks after and in January. I scheduled it for January but I had to cancel it mainly because I did not have a supportive therapist. Once I got a therapist to sign my letter, I called and scheduled my surgery for two weeks after I called. But the time you have to wait for the actual surgery all depends on what openings Garramone has and when you are available.

Again, all the details for this can be found on his Dr. Garramone’s website (http://drgarramone.com/).

I’m not on T (testosterone) so how was I able to get surgery?

Garramone does not require a person to be on testosterone to undergo surgery. He just needs a letter of recommendation.

——————————————-

Update: for more (current) information, visit my page on top surgery recovery and care.

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Dear Mom: A Letter Before Surgery

2015.03.07

Take a look at the video of the poem!

https://youtu.be/OAonYkBw5Ug 

Dear mom.

I know that a lot has been going on.

I just got out of rehab, I ‘m asking you to call me your son, and I want to move out.

And it seems like a lot is about to happen.

I know that surgery is scary and I know most people don’t understand why I would voluntarily undergo a double mastectomy to remove a part of my body of which most of my female friends are jealous.

And I’m not going to lie and tell you that I’m not a little bit scared, and a little bit sad.

Even though I’ve never wanted them, my breasts are a part of me.

Last week I made a video of myself for myself for later, with my bare chest exposed. And as I did so, I felt this strange surge of pride in my body – a love of every bit of me.

I haven’t ever felt like that…

There’s always been something I’ve hated or wanted to change. Some part of my body that I picked out to pick on.

But that day, even though I saw things I didn’t like, even though I saw things I really do want to change, for some reason, I still felt love and pride for everything. Including my breasts.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing that’s making me doubt my decision to get them removed, but I felt a sort of strange sadness that they’ll finally be gone – kind of like getting rid of a bad habit or something.

And I can’t say I’m going to miss them. Because I’m not.

But it still feels surreal.

My body will be cut open, the fat sucked out of me, my mammary glands thrown out along with my ability to ever nurture a child.

I’ll be patched back up, and wake up probably 10 pounds lighter…

And I will be whole, yet some of me will be missing.

And I will always love that part of me, in a peculiar way. I will always be thankful for the strength and courage they demanded I show as they grew (and grew and grew and grew) to declare to the world this was not me. I am not boobs. I am not woman. I am Schuyler.

But back to how you’re involved.

I like to believe that this body is just as much yours as it is mine.

My little brain, my little arms, my brown eyes with green flecks, my little fingers all grew in your body from your body.

And my body, though it has a separate consciousness than yours, is an extension of yours.

And I want you to know something as I move forwards in my transition: I do not hate the body you gave me.

People talk about transgender individuals being “born in the wrong body.”

As if being born is just something that happens.

As if there were not people and love and care and pain and happiness and joy and terror involved.

Born. Given life. Brought into the world. There is nothing wrong in that process. There is no “wrong” in birth.

I was not born wrong at all; I was not born with the wrong mind; I was not born into the wrong body,

In fact, you did not birth a body at all.

You birthed me; a whole and entire person.

A person with teeny little finger nails, tiny eyes and tiny hands, little itty bitty feet, and a huge heart… a whole person all the same.

A lot of trans people talk about how their bodies betray them and how they hate their hips or lack thereof, their breasts or lack thereof, their femininity or their masculinity…

But I don’t…anymore, at least. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had my days of raging, of self-harming, body-hating… I’ve written a good deal of poems angry at my body — some on my body.

But these days, I do not hate my body.

In fact, I have worked hard learning to love every bit of myself – every part of my body that you gave me to love.

And I am proud of it all.

Because you birthed me whole; I arrived an entire person.

And through the past year of treatment and travel and just plain old life experiences, I’ve learned a love that I will always have

For this body of mine.

For the parts that I don’t agree with.

For the parts that I have always agreed with.

For the parts that are invisible…

For this body of mine.

Because no matter how life changes it, this body will always be beautiful, this body will always be something you created.

So.

Dear mom.

Thank you.

I love you.

© S. Bailar 2015

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What is Transitioning?

You’ve probably heard the terms “top surgery” or “transition” or “T” if you’re interacting with trans* people. So if you’re trying to educate yourself on a transmasculine experience, you’ve come to the right place!

Lots of transgender people feel something called “gender dysphoria,” which is a discomfort of varying intensities with one’s body, physical attributes, behaviors, etc., due to a disconcordance of biological sex and gender identity. So, basically, it’s when your mind tells you your body should look one way, but your body looks another. (In my case, my mind believes I’m male and therefore my body is as well, but when I look down and don’t have a penis, have 36DD boobs, and a curvy body, I get upset and I feel like my body is somehow wrong.) Trans* people experience dysphoria in all kinds of ways. Some people feel dysphoric about their voice, about their emotional reactions to life events, about their hips, about their chest, etc.

Transitioning comes in two main forms:

  1. Social transitioning
  2. Medical transitioning

Social transitioning involves telling people that you want to be referred to with different pronouns or a different name. It can involve a wardrobe change — for me, social transitioning meant buying men’s jeans, ties instead of dresses, buying a binder, and asking people to refer to me with he/him/his pronouns.

Medical transitioning for transmasculine individuals can involve any or all of the following: (I am comparatively quite ignorant on male-to-female transitioning but I’m working on educating myself and so hopefully sometime in the near future there will be a section here about MTF transitioning. My apologies for now.)

  1. Hormone Treatment: this entails taking testosterone (commonly abbreviated as “T”) in various forms (see below) which causes a person to essentially go through male puberty — your voice drops, muscle growth is enhanced, hair growth increases, acne increases for the first year or so, etc.
    1. Topical — comes in either gels or creams that you spread on your body, typically daily. The main risk is that it’ll get on someone else (ex. a female partner) and most other people don’t want excess testosterone, especially women. The results are also slower, typically, and so you can ease into it.
    2. Injections — probably the most common form of testosterone usage. Injections can be weekly or bimonthly or even (with a more recently developed long-lasting shot) every few months.
    3. Pellets — a doctor surgically inserts a few pellets of testosterone every 5 or so months that slowly dissolve in your body, releasing testosterone over time. It seems that people typically start this after having been on injections for a while.
  2. Top Surgery: a double mastectomy and chest masculinization
    1. Double Incision — this type of mastectomy involves two incisions generally along the line of the pectorialis major muscle, as well as two free nipple grafts taken from the patient’s original areola and nipples. The surgeon removes all breast tissue and most of the excess fat from the chest. Nipple sensation post-surgery can come back in full but pleasurable sensation is physiologically impossible, although some people claim to experience it. The scars along the pec line will never disappear completely.
    2. Keyhole — the surgeon makes semi-circle incisions along the base of each areola and removes breast tissue and fat through liposuction. Sometimes, the areolas are resized. This procedure is for smaller chested individuals, (typically A-cup or smaller,) and it preserves the nipple nerve stem, therefore preserving pleasurable nipple sensation.
    3. Peri-Areolar — incisions are made surrounding the areola so the surgeon can resize the areola and nipple

      Keyhole vs. Peri-Areolar

    4. Every surgeon has a slightly different technique but these are the two main ones. There is also the T-anchor surgery which includes a vertical scar extending down an inch or so under each nipple. This preserve nipple sensation when paired with the Double Incision technique. On it’s own, as a similar surgery to Peri-Areolar, it can aid in getting rid of excess skin and fat that gathers under the nipples.

      T-Anchor Double Incision vs. just Double Incision

  3. Middle Surgery: essentially a hysterectomy; the removal of one’s reproductive organs. Many people undergo this because it is a sort of spiritual release of one’s original assigned sex, but it also can chemically aid in one’s medical transition because female reproductive organs produce estrogen that competes with the prescribed testosterone. So some people experience better results from the testosterone once their reproductive organs are removed.
  4. Bottom Surgery: the reassignment of one’s genitalia, can include a vaginectomy (removal and sealing of the vaginal cavity), addition of a penis, and testicular implants. One of the leading bottom surgery surgeons is Dr. Curtis Crane in San Francisco so check out his website for more information: http://brownsteincrane.com/ftm-surgery/
    1. Metoidioplasty — creates a phallus from a hormone-enlarged clitoris, the urethra is lengthened so one can pee standing up, some people have testicular implants using the vaginal labia. The penis is small and will not be able to penetrate.
    2. Phalloplasty — the construction of a penis using a large skin graft from the patient’s forearm, thigh, or abdomen. This can be a lengthy series of surgeries that are pretty risky, as well. It is not uncommon for infections to occur and parts could die or have to be removed. It is also very expensive.

IMPORTANT: Medically transitioning isn’t something everyone chooses to do. And those that do choose to medically transition don’t all choose to go through every part. For transmasculine people, it is very common to take testosterone and get top surgery and never undergo bottom surgery. A trans* identified person who hasn’t gone through any or all of the surgeries or isn’t on hormones is not any less of the gender they identify with. Surgery and hormones are a personal choice and do not define one’s gender.

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Top surgery recovery

2016.02.25

DISCLAIMER: I am not a doctor and therefore I am also not a professional so my answers are gleaned from my own experience  – my interaction with my doctors, my friends and their own experiences, and of course my own chest and it’s healing process.

How long does it take for the scars to heal?

My scars have been steadily healing since I got surgery last March (2015). The wounds took about 2-4 weeks to close up completely but I remained inactive for as long as Dr. Garramone recommended which was 6 weeks.

What did you use on the scars?

Dr. Garramone recommended the use of Scarguard which I used for about 8-10 weeks after surgery. (Dr. Garramone recommends starting to use it about 2 weeks after surgery when the silicone strips fell off.)

Since then I’ve sporadically used a post-pardum oil mixture (Vitamin E, cocoa, etc.) that I spread along the scar and massage. The massaging was probably the most important for me because I got a pretty good about of scar tissue build up over the first several months after surgery. That build up has all died down, though, and my scars are flat now.

I have used little to nothing on them since about July or August of last year (2015) so that’s nothing after 5-6 months post op.

When did you start exercising again?

Dr. Garramone strongly suggests that you do no absolutely no exercise for 6 weeks after surgery so I did exactly that. I started swimming on the 52nd day post op. If you are concerned about stretching of the scars, I would hold off for a few more weeks — perhaps 8-12 (depending on how safe you want to be) — to prevent it. I didn’t care a whole lot about the stretching and getting back into the pool before college was more important to me. But like I said, if it’s a priority for you not to stretch the scars, hold off on anything that requires much hands-over-head movement for a few more weeks.

Are you happy with your results?

Unequivocally, yes.

How does it look? How have they faded?

This question is much better answered through looking through my Instagram, namely these posts:

You can also check out my YouTube top surgery updates. 

 

For how to schedule surgery, what type of surgery I got, etc., see my other page on my top surgery

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New posts!

Hi everyone! Happy February 🙂

I’ve been blogging – check out some of my new posts:

My Transition: Parents and Coming Out

FAQ: Food and Diet

FAQ: Testosterone and the NCAA

Let me know what requests y’all have for more posts!

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Food and diet

“What’s your workout routine?”

“Do you just swim? Or do you do other kinds of cardio too? Do you lift?

“What do you eat? How do I lose weight like you?”

“What exercises do you do for you [insert muscle group here]?”

Okay, everyone! Time to address these questions all together. Here are the quick and easy answers:

  1. I DO NOT DIET. I do NOT eat any specific way at all, ever.
  2. We (my swim team, Harvard Men’s Swimming and Diving) have nine practices a week for two hours each. Seven are all swimming, two are half swimming and half lifting.
  3. I lift twice a week (see above.)
  4. I don’t do any exercises for aesthetic reasons. All our exercises (weights and dryland) are designed to better our performance in the pool.

Now for a bit longer explanation, starting with the questions about food: it is really important to me to express that I DO NOT ENDORSE DIETING OR RESTRICTING OF ANY KIND. I don’t believe in calorie counting. I don’t believe in iifym or whatever it’s called. I don’t believe in reverse dieting, in low carb diets whatever, in weight watchers – you get the idea. I don’t agree with the concept of restricting food.

I believe in wholesome intuitive eating – which is something that is seemingly guided against in this society. But in summary, intuitive eating means giving your body what it is asking for. Our bodies know what we need and if we give them what they ask for, they will calibrate and you’ll want things in moderation. That is, if some foods are “bad” or “junk” then they become forbidden foods. Yes, some foods aren’t nutritionally great for you. But in moderation, your body is very able (thanks to evolution) to adjust and stay healthy. If some foods aren’t forbidden, you won’t get crazy cravings for them. You eat dessert every now and then and it becomes normal – not overly desired. And then salads become interesting and desired appropriately, too. (Salad is just an example I’m using because people tend to categorize it as the “Healthy” person’s food.) Read more about the science and practice of “intuitive eating” here.

My point is that I don’t think that dieting or restricting is good for you unless you have food allergies or some other real medical reason. It’s obsessive, it leads to disordered eating and sometimes eating disorders, and, in my opinion, it degrades quality of life. So I do not subscribe to that culture nor do I promote it. I eat whatever I want. The only thing I try to do is make sure I have a good balance of protein and some sort of carbs but when I say that I mean it incredibly loosely – I try to have some sort of meat and some sort of rice or bread or something on my plate at every meal. And sometimes that doesn’t happen. Maybe we have pasta night or maybe I have a huge steak or whatever; sometimes I don’t have a balanced meal and the world doesn’t end. In fact sometimes it gets a little brighter because who doesn’t love a giant bowl of hot ramen??

Okay on to working out: I don’t do much other cardio other than swimming. Occasionally I run in place of swimming (if I miss a practice or am traveling and don’t have access to a pool) but that’s a rare occasion and I avoid it like the plague. I hate running. I bike and skateboard around but that’s just for fun and transportation and I wouldn’t consider it cardio. In terms of strengthening exercises and weights, like I said before, we lift twice a week. We do lots of plyometrics and core-stabilizing exercises on the TRX. Push-ups, rows, weighted split squats, pull-ups, etc.

I’m not a personal trainer or a nutritionist so I’m not sure how much advice I could give you on these topics, but if you have more questions, want my opinion on something or more specifics about our routine, feel free to contact me.

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Testosterone and the NCAA

“But… you’re taking testosterone… and you’re allowed to compete??? Doesn’t that give you an advantage??”

“Wait, but aren’t female athletes, like… not as good as male athletes? Aren’t you way slower than all the other guys? Or are you just crazy fast?”

Okay. Let’s talk about these frequently asked questions…

First, let me say that I am not a doctor and do not speak for the NCAA. These comments are my interpretations. But suffice it to say that I have done a fair bit of research through the process of being fully authorized by the NCAA as a D1 athlete with a waiver for testosterone therapy.

So, let’s start out with rules and regulations. I am currently competing on Harvard Men’s Swimming and Diving team in the NCAA Division 1 where the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) sets the guildines. They have a policy for transgender people called the “NCAA Inclusion of Transgender Student-Athletes” published in 2011 shortly after Kye Allums, the first openly transgender collegiate athlete in the NCAA, came out in 2010. The policy has two parts: one for transmen, and the other for transwomen. (See my page regarding trans* related vocabulary/trans-related terminology.)

If you are a transman, you can do one of three things:

  1. You may compete as ‘female’ (you are allowed to be openly trans) on the women’s team and refrain from taking testosterone – this is what Kye Allums did;
  2. You may compete as male on a men’s or co-ed team and refrain from taking testosterone; and lastly,
  3. You may take testosterone and therefore must compete as male on the men’s team. (This is what I’m doing.) You may NOT take testosterone and compete as a woman. (See later discussion for reasoning.)

If you are a transwoman, you may do one of two things:

  1. You may compete as male on the men’s team and take whatever transitional treatments you wish to take (for transwomen, hormones do not include testosterone), or
  2. You may compete as female after undergoing at least one year of documented hormone treatment (either estrogen or testosterone-suppression therapy.) You may NOT compete as female without undergoing at least one year of testosterone suppression therapy.

The NCAA has created this policy to make competition as fair and as inclusive as possible. Testosterone has many effects on the body – but athletically these are the important changes:

  • Increases your red blood cell count; theoretically increasing oxygen capacity and therefore stamina/endurance
  • Increases the ability for your body to create muscle. (There is a huge misconception that taking testosterone simply creates muscle on its own; THIS IS FALSE. You must exercise the muscles to build them. Testosterone aids in the building – it doesn’t create muscle out of nothing. Many people also believe it will cause one to lose weight. This is also FALSE. On its own, testosterone will actually greatly facilitate weight gain.)

That’s really it. So taking testosterone as a female to male transgender person is not like taking some sort of super power drug that’s supposed to make you better, stronger, faster, etc. For me, as a female-born person, it just brings my testosterone levels up to the level of an average guy. Me taking testosterone also has nothing to do with my athletics. I did not take it in order to be competitive with other men in the pool. I chose to take testosterone because I wanted to feel more comfortable in my body – it’s purpose was internal; self-discovery oriented.

(Note: when I refer to levels, I’m not referring to a specific number – it’s a range. Typically adult males have a testosterone count anywhere from 300 to 1000 ng/dL, but most males my age stay between 500-700ng/dL (whereas the adult female has less than 100.)

Conversely, the purpose of estrogen and/or testosterone-suppression therapy for transwomen is to reduce testosterone levels to a normal female range – because transwomen without these treatments will most likely have much higher testosterone levels (those of a biological male), theoretically providing her with a biological advantage over ciswomen.

That brings us to the competition part: I have no advantage over any cisgender male. As aforementioned, my testosterone medication is not designed to make me have more testosterone than an average man. It is designed to raise my total testosterone level to that of an average guy (which might actually be lower than that of the typical elite male athlete) – at least biochemically. And of course, all of this is theoretical; there are next to no studies on trans athletes. Which leads to the question of my position on a men’s team: right now, I have a pretty large disadvantage to most of the guys I swim against. While I’ve always identified as male and I’ve always been me, I’ve only been physically transitioning for eight months – I’ve only been biochemically male for ¾ of a year. In the grand scheme of things, that’s a really, really short period of time. The cisguys I compete against have lived in their biochemically male bodies their entire lives. They’ve effectively ‘been on testosterone’ for 5-9 years – which is substantially more than my eight months. I’m just starting puberty; they’ve all but finished.

Other trans athletes that I know of:

  • Jay Pulitano (first openly transgender swimmer to compete as the gender with which he identifies)
  • Chris Mosier (first transgender athlete on Team USA; also ftm)

I hope this explains a bit more about sports and being trans and my experience with both!

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Coming out to my Parents – long version

My “Coming Out” Story and My Parents

A lot of people ask me how I came out to my parents and how that process has been since I came out. There are two parts of this process because I first came out as a gay woman. Anyways, here is the story!

Part I: “Mom, Dad, I’m gay.”

When I was 11, I developed a crush on a close friend who was a girl. I knew that I was supposed to be a girl, so I concluded that this made me gay. I went to a very liberal school, so we’d been educated about gay and lesbian people since kindergarten. However, we knew very little about transgender people. The ‘T’ of LGBT was often left off. I wrote on a little piece of paper “Found out I’m gay. – 2007.” I stuffed this little slip in the back of my mementos drawer and proceeded to “forget” about it. I refused to think about girls in that way. When people asked me about crushes I avoided the question with a lot of anxiety.

I’d been presenting as male for most of my conscious life (I say “conscious” life because I’m referring to the ages when I’d developed a personality and was able to make my own decisions for real – so about 8 years and up) but when I entered high school, sick of being stared at in the girls’ bathrooms and being asked why I was there in the first place, I desperately tried to conform. I grew my hair long and bought tighter clothing. For the first time since I could remember, I shopped in the girls’ section. I forced myself to engage in conversation about boys and I tried very hard to understand what it meant to be a girl. It was during this time that I began developing a lot of my mental health problems.

The summer (of 2012) before my junior year in high school, the inauthenticity was killing me (quite literally) and in the short span of about a week, I decided I had to come out as gay. That had to be it, I thought to myself; that had to be the thing I was hiding. It was a Tuesday and I thought I’d tell them together but my mom left on a business trip that morning so I had to tell them one by one. I chose her first because I figured over the phone would be easier. I crushed myself into my closet, shut the door, and called her.

“Mom, I have something to tell you.” She was calm, but sounded a little worried.

“Okay, what’s the matter?”

And it took me a while but eventually I said, “Mom, I’m gay.”

I think she was more surprised at the circumstances than the declaration itself. She was more worried that I was so upset about it. She said all of the right things – the I love you no matter whats, the you’re okays, the don’t worries. In later conversation, she’s told me that she was more confused that I had to tell her in the first place. She said, “If you just came home with a girl one day, I would have asked you what her name was. No more.”

I told my dad in a similar, hurried manner. He didn’t seem surprised at the fact itself but rather in the way I had to tell him – rushing to swim practice…

This declaration provided some relief as I was then able to participate in typical teenager conversation about crushes and I began exploring my sexuality a bit more. I joined my school’s LGBT club and was pretty active in our community. But something still felt incredibly wrong and I never felt like a “lesbian.” There was a lesbian-affinity group at my high school and this was the most uncomfortable place for me in the entire school. I remember telling my best friend and girlfriend at the time that this group left me feeling an intense inward disgust, so much so that all I wanted to do was vomit.

Part II: “I think I’m transgender”

Fast forwards a few months after my high school graduation in 2014: I was in residential treatment for eating disorder rehabilitation. I began learning more and more about myself – the way my brain works, the way my emotions manifest themselves, why I am the way I am, etc. And through this thorough process of self-discovery, I began consciously questioning my gender identity for the first time. I realized that a lot of my body discomfort was related to gender and the way I experienced my body’s gender.

In a few agonizing months, I realized that the word “transgender” fit my experience nearly perfectly. But everything during that time was so much of a process – everything was changing constantly and I knew very little about the person I would emerge as when the process ended. So when my mom visited with my brother, I told her, “Mom, I think I’m transgender.” She nodded and said, “Okay,” un-phased. By this time, not much seemed to phase her. However, when I mentioned physical transition and the possibility of not being able to swim anymore, she was a bit more hesitant. “Okay, well we’ll have to talk about that more,” was her response. It was a short conversation. In passing. Not a big deal. When I told my brother, he just said, “Okay. Well, you’ve always wanted to be a boy!” and that was it.

My dad came to visit a month or so later and he, coincidentally, arrived and then immediately was supposed to pick me up from this gender workshop I’d just attended. When he got there, I ran out to him sobbing. He just pulled me into a hug and held me tightly as I cried. When the sobs lessened he asked me, “What’s wrong?” And I choked out, “Daddy, I think I’m transgender.” And he said something about already knowing that and then that everything was going to be okay.

My parents have always been my biggest supporters and I have never doubted the love they feel for me.  I’ve never felt like they don’t accept me or don’t like who I am. The only real conflict that spurred because of my being transgender throughout this process came with the conversation of physical change. My parents were completely supportive of my identity, however, the idea of surgeries and hormones was very scary to them. My mom, especially, was hesitant when I seriously brought up top surgery (because this was the first physical transition process I wanted to undergo) and resisted my hurry to schedule it. To her credit, I had literally just been discharged from the treatment center and everything in my life (including my perceptions of my own life and desires and life goals, etc.) were all changing rapidly and without reason. So it made a lot of sense that she was nervous when I asked her for permission to cut off a body part of mine.

I think time was essential to helping my parents understand my desire for physical changes – and also my persistence. I repeatedly explained how I was feeling and I think the more logical, assertive, and calm I was about it, the better they understood.

Grieving is also a part of this process. I think that both my parents and my brother felt (and perhaps still feel at times) they’ve lost their daughter or his sister. Gender, while it may be just a social construct, is incredibly socially and societally important and I think that when I switched labels – sister to brother, daughter to son – my loved ones felt a sense of loss. I understand this and I support them in their grieving because I, too, feel it at times. I am not any different as a human – I’m still me, I’m still Schuyler – and that’s been something that I’ve been absolutely adamant about through everything. But labels are not meaningless, even if I wish them to be. And often times I do feel a loss of a piece of myself. But the reality is dialectic; that is, two seemingly conflicting things are true at the same time. I am not lost, and I have not been lost. In fact, I am more ‘here’ and ‘present’ than I have ever been. But there are pieces of me that are no longer expressed the same way. I am called sir, not ma’am. I am brother not sister. I am son not daughter. But the reality is I have always been brother, and son. And a part of me will always be sister, and daughter. (For more on this sadness/grieving, see this poem.)

At the point of this blog post (January, 2016) I can say that my parents support me in every way possible. They even say that they wish they could have found a way to let me transition earlier in life (specifically before I went through female puberty) so as to have prevented all of the strife that this process has brought. But I don’t blame them for that at all. I never told them how I felt when I was younger, and being transgender wasn’t even a social conversation at the time, at least not the way it is now. They didn’t know and they didn’t have any references. And even though I hate this process sometimes, I don’t think I would go back and change it if I could because I really appreciate the experiences I’ve had and the person I am today.

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Advice on Coming Out

In general…

Be confident, be assertive, be kind. You are presenting yourself to others and the intent is not that they understand everything about you but that they accept you and treat you with respect.

Be frank and direct: “I am transgender which means that I was born one gender, and I identify as another. Please call me [insert preferred pronouns and name]! Thanks!”

And if you want to invite them to ask you questions, you can do that, too. (I always do.) I think that this can often helpful. It allows people to feel like this isn’t something strange or a “red-zone”/dangerous topic – it’s just another conversation. But if you do open up the floor for questions, you must be aware that people don’t always understand. They are ignorant – a lot of people have absolutely no prior reason to understand or know anything about trans* people or related topics. So you might have to educate them and realize they’re not always (although, sometimes they might be) trying to be rude or mean. They just don’t get it. And with that, maintaining a kind and assertive attitude is crucial (at least in my experience.) If you start attacking them or getting super angry or defensive, they’re going to shut down and not hear you and you’ll lose the opportunity to educate them. Of course if you don’t want to let them ask questions, you have every right to refuse to answer or ask them not to ask you.

Lastly, time is key. People need time to process information you give them, especially if it conflicts with their previous view of you and of the world. You have taken (most likely) a long time to think about your gender and your own identity and how you see yourself, so give them some time to think and to process. Yes, some people will never understand and some people are just straight up assholes, excuse my language. And you can’t change everyone. But time does heal a lot of wounds and it helps a lot of people understand.

With parents…

I don’t have a ton of advice here because I’ve always been really upfront with my parents and I pretty much tell them everything, but here’s something I learned from a trans support group. For parents who are testy or not completely supportive, tell them that this is something big in your life. Present it with confidence and security and happiness – you have discovered a part of your identity and that is really fantastic. Knowing yourself is really incredible and you trust them enough to share it with them. Tell them this – tell them that you are sharing this pivotal moment in your life with them and you really want them to be a part of your life, to share this amazing piece of your life with you. Parents don’t typically like to miss out on the good things in their kid’s life. So presentation can be key.

At school and with teachers…

I would recommend sitting down with a principal or head teacher or someone of that sort to help you talk through possible options. I think broad information dispersal is best – either by email or a teacher meeting. And in either of those, being frank and direct and asking for respect (by calling you the right pronouns and name) is crucial. See “In general” above.

With younger kids….

Be simple. Little kids don’t really care much about gender. At some ages (5-8 or so) they are testing boundaries and might try to push your buttons at first because some little kids like to make fun of everything and do everything they’re told not to. But for the most part, kids are quick to understand. They don’t have much reality and experience to go off of and so that benefits you because you get to create some of that for them. When I told my little cousins (5 and 10) I told them that some girls were born with boy bodies and some boys were born with girls bodies (yes, not entirely politically correct but bear with me) and I was a boy born with a girl body, that’s all. And they were like “Okay. Wanna play minecraft?”

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