When I was 8 or 9 years old, I decided I wanted to be a boy. I loved the way my undeveloped chest looked. Being a boy felt more correct to me. I asked my father one weekend, “Dad, can I be a boy for the weekend?” He said no, and we didn’t talk about it further. I wanted him to ask me what my plan was. Because I had a plan! I had decided I could mold a plastic prosthetic penis for myself that I could tie on with a string. It would have a hole I could pee through and would be basically 100 percent functional. Case closed! thought second-grade me. When my plans were quashed, I considered another plan. I’d fake my own death and run away. My parents would be very sad. I’d cut my hair and don my (as yet uncreated) prosthetic and sit in a cold bundle by the side of the road. My sad parents would find me and, to console themselves, they would adopt me as their son. Perfect!
I was pretty determined about this plan. A neighbor boy (unrelatedly, a real douchebag) and I made a plot to acquire some matches– Everyone knows you need survival tools in the wilds of Alaska. He stole the matches from his mom, and we went out together in the woods one day and set a fire. It was a tiny fire in the middle of the be-mossed forest floor. I knew about fire and I knew about safety. I don’t think my co-conspirator cared at all, but I made sure to properly put the fire out. Making the fire scared me. Doing something bad scared me.
The good kid in me was so overcome by guilt and worry that not long after, I confessed to my mom about what we’d done. I don’t think I explained why. I didn’t want to concern her. I realized I couldn’t run away. I couldn’t scare or hurt my family like that. And I was too scared myself. I gave up my plan.
Fear is a disciplined master. Fear has endurance; fear smiles as you determine to defy it. Fear never goes away.
You know what kind of sucks? Coming out.
I thought I was all done coming out long ago when I told the world I was gay. Brushed my hands together and said YAY done with that. (Also went through the obligatory ups and downs of existential crisis, but mostly just about how I bucked society… The gayness was 100% all the time.)
So when I figured out– admitted to myself– understood– two years ago that I am trans, my main reaction was… fuuuuuuuuuck. Also, duuuuhhhhh.
Society is so good at tricking us. No no no those feelings of wanting to be a boy you experienced from about the time you could talk, that’s nothing. It’s not real or it’s not important even if it is real! Just put that away. I wrote a novel when I was a kid, a full blown, 400 page + novel. The main thrust of the novel was this: “You are what you are made.”
What did I think that meant? My main character was a girl who dressed, acted, moved through the world as a boy. She is accepted by her immediate friends and family as the oddity she is, but when she moves into the larger world she is traumatically exposed. I played out my reality and my fears. To me “You are what you are made” meant the girl could move through the world as a boy, but had to accept she was female.
I also moved through my world in many ways as a boy growing up. I was mistaken for a boy, I played with the boys. There was a name for me: I was a tomboy. In fourth grade, per general request, I gave “tomboy lessons” to my female classmates.
When puberty and all its horrors hit, I was mostly able to ignore it. I honed my body to functionality, to muscle, to what I saw as masculine– all without thinking about it very much.
Except that when my breasts grew, I was disgusted. I hated them. I tried to ignore them like the rest of my femaleness. When that didn’t work, I wanted to cut them off my body. They felt alien and wrong to me. At last, instead, I used bras as binders, buying the tightest, smallest sports bras I could, hiding the part of me that didn’t fit with me.
At some point, I went through a “makeover” phase in high school. The girls dressed me up, made me “pretty.” Whenever I put on this look, it was like putting on a costume. I liked it– don’t get me wrong. I liked to strut my stuff, I liked how heels made me walk. But, as someone I respected a lot once said to me when I was in my feminine finest– I looked like I was in drag.
I have always been a “good kid.” I have always tried to conform. I am not very good at conforming, I think, or maybe I’m sort of obtuse. Because I don’t think I ever really conformed that well. I was always different and looked and acted different than my female peers. But, maybe because I conformed in many other ways, my deviation was largely accepted. I never went through the traumatic exposure. I was never hiding anything, I thought. I was just this tomboy. There was a name for me. So that was okay.
My time in Minneapolis (the queerest of cities in the US, according to some report I read once) taught me that there were many different, wonderful ways to be different– to be deviant. And that deviance itself could be glorious. And one of those ways was transness.
I observed transness with an outsider’s awe and curiosity. I had one trans friend, and I talked with him a lot about gender queerness. I told him that I opted to stay in the gray area, between either binary. But that was a lie. I was lying to myself. I didn’t want to stay in the gray area. It was just the only way I thought I could sort of be myself and also not upset people. That was my greatest fear– upsetting people.
My dad has said to me before that I need to develop my “cork-you button.” To learn to brush off what others thingk. I spend, and have spent, much time worrying what others think. I am driven by fear, not of things like dying (well, obviously that, but no more than usual), but of being cast out, being labeled as bad or wrong.
So for 33 years I rejected myself day after day. I was not allowed to be this societally upsetting thing, and so I was not. I was as close as I could come without crossing that line.
Two years ago, I finally began spending a lot time with trans folks. I got to see how transition happens, how it looks and works and goes. And a little seed of longing, which had been sitting dormant for a while, sprouted.
I tried to reject it again. I tried to say I liked being in the middle, that I liked expressing myself in all genders, that I didn’t mind which pronouns people used for me. For some people, this is entirely true. Some folks identify as all genders, or neither gender. But for me, it was all a desperate form of back peddling away from the sprouted seed. It was like I saw it and wildly flung myself away. No no, that can’t be right, I seemed to stutter loudly and to anyone who could hear. I was not trans, I was just a tomboy.
But to love my friends, I had to actively love their transness, in its full and many gradated forms; and if I loved their transness, then transness could not be, as I seemed to feel very deep down, wrong. In fact, I could see that for each of them, in expressing their various transness, it was so very much the opposite. It was a glorious cracking open, a freedom. A simple, truthful joy.
At some point– at a point I don’t really remember– I stopped back peddling away from myself. I stopped excusing how I felt and what I wanted. I turned towards the seed, and I said: cork.
I reasoned with myself, like someone negotiating with death. In a way, what I looked at was a death. It was the death of who I had told the world I was. It was the death of conforming and therefor being safe in society. It was the possible death of many relationships in my life. It was the end of the performance I’d been putting on for 33 years, and after the curtain call, I did not know what would happen. So I negotiated. “I’ll transition,” I said, “But not til after my parents are gone.” I was terrified of what they would think. If they would still love me. (Spoiler: they do.) I fantasized about faking my death to the world, relocating, being who I really felt I was somewhere far away (a theme that threaded my life).
There was a particular trans guy I’d met, who had an easy warmth about him. We were really barely friends, had probably only hung out a handful of times, but one day, in turmoil, I reached out to him. I asked him about his experience with transness, about coming out. He described to me his thoughts, and the fear he’d felt telling his parent. He told me how much confidence he’d gained once he had transitioned. He was kind.
The seed grew, and my depression did as well. As I got closer to seeing myself for myself, I resisted all the more.
A facet of transness, for some people, is dysphoria. I understood dysphoria to be a feeling of disgust with one’s own body when it did not align with the person’s gender. The youthful hatred of my breasts was dysphoria. They were out of alignment with who I felt I was, even if I didn’t know how to express it.
But as a 30-something-year-old, I had spent so much time telling the world that I was cool with my female self that I had convinced myself of that. In short– I didn’t feel dysphoria. I’d come to like my breasts. They were attractive to some people and I liked being liked. I had heard trans and genderqueer folks talk about their dysphoria. It was deeply stressful for them. I didn’t feel that stress. I was fine. This was fine. But really, I was fine, I didn’t care much about my body. Not enough to buck society, for god’s sake!
Then I read something that blew my world open. On social media, a trans woman I follow said something strange: you don’t have to have dysphoria to be trans.
Some people, instead, have gender euphoria. In other words, once they transition, they feel suddenly right, correct, good, aligned.
I thought about the times I’d dressed even more masculinely than usual. I thought about the one time I’d given myself a beard with mascara and taken pictures of myself. I thought about when I am in my best shape and muscular, and how I like when my jaw looks square. I thought about the idea of my chest actually being flat and manish, and I felt something shift in my mind. In just that imagining I touched something like happiness.
I imagined myself having those things forever.
And oddly, I thought about old women. I had been wondering forever what I would be like as an old woman. I just couldn’t imagine it. Everything about the idea perturbed me.
But when I imagined being an old man, this fit. It seemed right.
So. Maybe I didn’t have gender dysphoria (according to my colloquial understanding of it)… But maybe I still could be trans.
And with my final argument against myself gone, I, like an irritated parent, told myself: fine! We’ll go talk to a doctor about it. Have it your way! The conformist and fearful part of me perhaps smugly thought this would take forever or get shot down or wouldn’t work, or my application to be trans would fail. (I mean what if you decide to break from society and then the small group you’re trying to be part of ALSO rejects you???)
I began talking with a psychiatrist about meds. I started a year long experiment to figure out which anti depressants and anti anxiety meds would work for me. All along, I was talking about my gender queerness as well, but not… with much push.
So when I told that psychiatrist I wanted to learn more about going on T (testosterone), and she said, “Well, it doesn’t seem like that’s very important to you, you haven’t talked about it too much,” I laughed to myself.
I said, “Well maybe I’ve been repressing it.”
And she said, “Well, you can say that about anything! I don’t think you are.”
And I got pissed.
I was shocked. For maybe the first time ever, I had said the truth aloud (not just that I was trans, but that I have been hiding that forever), and the person I told didn’t believe me. I wanted to yell at her, “NO I AM TELLING YOU I HAVE BEEN REPRESSING IT.” But of course I did not, for I am most excellent at repressing everything. Instead I quietly smiled and left and looked up a different clinic. I found a doctor who specifically worked with queer and gender queer people. I arranged an appointment. I began working with a therapist. And suddenly, I had a prescription to T.
I had testosterone, in my hand. A magic serum that could allow me to finally align myself.
I was afraid of the shot. That was another argument I’d had against myself. But all the arguments were long gone now. I had crested all the depression and anxiety and fear. I had come to the other side, and the seed was more than planted– It was grown. There was no going back after these realizations. The only way out was onward.
With shaking hands, I administered the first tiny dose. It was easy! I was so overjoyed; it was so easy.
And I was so, so filled with a pure happiness to be moving towards this sense of right. With even just that one shot, I felt– elevated. Lifted. As though I’d been ground into the dirt for my whole life, and finally I could look up, even just a little. Not because of the testosterone itself (the effects take some time), but because it symbolized motion, truth, transition. It was time.
I never wanted to ask people to use specific pronouns for me. Especially when I didn’t appear truly masculine (in my own eyes). I always said– Any pronouns are fine. But that’s not how I actually felt. I just didn’t want to be a bother. I didn’t want to impose. I didn’t want to create conflict.
The truth, though, is that I am trans.
I have been on T for a month and a half now, and I’ve never felt such relief. I’ve never felt– So okay. It is like I was a machine, churning away, but my gears were misaligned. And now every day, another tooth of the gear slots in place, where it’s meant to be.
“You are what you are made,” said my story. I thought that was about accepting my femaleness. But what I am made is trans. A glorious and complicated amalgamation. Masculine born of feminine. Complicated as cork.
It is time to not be scared any more. To not let fear rule my choices. It’s time to not give a cork any more (to push that cork-you button) about imposing on people by asking them to see me for who I am– to respect that and acknowledge it.
I’d like to re-introduce myself. I know it’s been 33 years of getting used to who you thought I was. (And in many ways, I will always be that person too. The best performances are mostly truth.) I’m not fundamentally changing– I’m just finally showing who I fully am.
My name is Will. Will Francis Troshynski.
I prefer he/him pronouns.
I’ll be going through some changes over the next months and years, becoming more physically masculine.
If this is too much for you, or too different, or too confusing– If you don’t want to know me now, I am truly sorry and saddened to hear– And I am also willing to let you go. I was dying there, ground in the dirt. I’m tired of dying. I’m tired of not being honest. I want to live, and I want to live true.
I hope you’ll see that.
Here we go.