I was born your average kid, 9lbs 3oz and the fattest legs you’ve ever seen. Born the only child to my parents in Staten Island, New York, I grew up in New Jersey from the age of 2. I was named after a story on the front page of a newspaper my father saw – a young girl in a car accident with her grandfather. She made it, but he didn’t. Thinking back now, even to some of my first memories, one thing they all have in common is that I always remember feeling different, unlike anybody around me. Most of the time I felt that something just wasn’t quite right.
I knew I was a boy from the time I could walk. I can describe it as a “feeling” to someone who has never experienced this before. But to me, it was just a fact. I was a boy. No questions. Even though to my parents and to society I was a girl. When I was 3, I attended pre-school. While playing with the other kids, I always took on the male role, no matter what game was being played. I was old enough to know the “difference” between “boys” and “girls,” but even at this age I never saw myself as a “girl.”
One day while I was playing house with some of my friends, the teacher grabbed me and took me aside. She must have been watching while we were playing and she began to speak to me: “Jacey, you can’t be the daddy because you’re a girl.” That fucked me all up. My heart sank. I thought to myself, “Why can’t I just be who I want to be?” I wasn’t thinking about society or fuckin’ “gender roles,” I just wanted to be me; and if that meant being the daddy when I played house, so be it. I’ve had this mentality since I was a small child and I firmly believe it is that mentality alone that has gotten me to where I am today. What being the “daddy” meant to me at this age is difficult to express and to understand.
We all have these innate instincts inside of us that tell us when something feels right or wrong. The only way I can describe it is that being the daddy just felt right. I saw the other girls being mommies and that didn’t fit me. I don’t believe I fully understood gender roles at the age of 3. I just did what felt natural to me. However, the older I got and the more society shaped me into being “female” – the more I started to feel uncomfortable being or playing a role that wasn’t “correct” in society’s eyes.
Fast-forward 2 years later to my first day of kindergarten. Separate bathrooms for “boys” and for “girls.” I wasn’t used to that. At my preschool everyone went in together and was chaperoned by a teacher. Now I’m stuck going in on my own. I go into the “boys” bathroom to do my thing. Surprise. There’s another “boy” in there. The teacher tells me I’m in the wrong bathroom and gives me a “red card.” (She would give us colored cards to reflect our behavior for that day. Red was clearly bad.) That was the beginning of many years of people telling me I was in the wrong place.
For my entire life following these early moments, I felt alone, confused, weird… the list goes on and on. In high school I tried so hard to fit in. I donned tighter fitting clothing and wore my hair long in an attempt to look and feel more feminine. That didn’t last. At that time in my life I was very confused. I was trying to be what everyone else wanted me to be, but it was so uncomfortable and it never felt right. It is clear to me now, post-transition, that even though I presented as female at the time, in no way did it make me any less male.
There are folks that don’t identify 100% with being male and folks that don’t identify 100% with being female. Gender is all fluid and it is all one; like the Earth. It wasn’t that being female wasn’t “enough” for me. It was that being female wasn’t ME. I respect individuals that do not feel the need to medically transition. Some folks are comfortable in the body they were born in, but still identify either more male or female. There are also folks who don’t identify with any gender at all. Either way, everyone deserves RESPECT for who they are and how they choose to express that.
At age 20, I actually took a step back and realized I was being viewed in society as “female,” and always had been. I sounded female and I looked female. Every time I looked in the mirror I was disgusted with what I saw. Nothing matched. No matter what clothes I wore or how short my hair was, nothing ever made me feel better or made me feel whole. The pain and anger grew worse as I got older. Seeing myself naked and having to wash myself in the shower became more and more of a challenge. By the time I hit 21; I was a train wreck. Mentally, emotionally, and physically. I could no longer fight whatever had been inside me since birth.
I specifically remember the day I looked in the mirror and had a panic attack in my bathroom. My skin went completely pale and I stood there and shook like a leaf for a couple of minutes. My friend, Nina, was at my apartment waiting for me to finish getting ready so that we could go out. At this time I was binding my chest with a compression binder because I was having such an agonizing dysphoria with my body. Specifically my chest. I remember my mother coming home from work and hugging me hello at the door. She must have felt the binder through my shirt and since she didn’t know what it was, she said “Is this thing you’re wearing a bra?” The word bra triggered immediate anxiety. I began to sweat profusely. That’s when I found myself in the bathroom trying to recompose. After I got my shit back together I walked out of the bathroom and back to my friend. She knew something was wrong. Two weeks later I came out to my mom.
In the depths of my research on Transgender folks, I stumbled upon a group of people on the Internet taking Testosterone to change their bodies to match their minds. I was in awe. I didn’t know one could do that. I watched videos and did research for months on end. I contacted people via MySpace and blogs/forums online. Finally I made an appointment for myself in Philadelphia to speak with a doctor who could possibly get me started on HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy.) My first appointment was in the beginning of July 2010. I traveled from my apartment in New Jersey to Philadelphia twice a month for the next 3 months getting blood work, having tests done, and being psychoanalyzed. I was finally granted a script for Testosterone in late September. My first shot of HRT was September 18th, 2010.
I have now been on Testosterone for almost 5 years. The first year and a half was the hardest. Continuing to be mis-gendered, waiting for the hormones to do their thing and take course. I was chased out of bathrooms, laughed and pointed at. Year 2 was a little easier. But I still felt as though my body didn’t match my mind. I knew it would take more time. At the end of year 2 I had chest reconstruction surgery with Dr. John Taylor in Long Branch, NJ. I stumbled upon him last minute even after settling for Dr. Medalie in Cleveland, OH. Having chest reconstruction, or “top” surgery, completed my entire being. I always had a lot of dysphoria around my chest and once it was done, it was almost like it had never looked any other way. Even without “bottom” surgery, I eventually became comfortable with my body and in my body because of my top surgery.
Now that I am almost 5 years on HRT, my body has filled out and my voice has dropped considerably. I have also had an insane amount of hair growth. It has been a slow and steady medical transition for me. Transitioning quite literally saved my life. Before I came out as *trans I didn’t think I would make it through another year. I contemplated suicide. What hormones and surgery did for me is indescribable. What these things did for me though, may not be right for another individual. *Trans encompasses all sorts of identities and expressions. It just so happened that for me, staying in a female body wasn’t my destiny. I was destined to cross over and smash down barriers to help other folks struggling with their gender identity.
I know that there are so many more positive things to come in my future now. I am one of the few lucky trans men that come from a loving family and a good support system. Over 50% of Transgender people have made at least one suicide attempt by their 20th birthday. I want to make it clear that by telling my story, it is in hopes that this number will go down.
Whenever I tell people I’m transgender I almost always start off with, “I was born into a female existence.” On occasion the question that follows, “so does that mean you like boys or girls?” Fucking human beings always wanting and needing to put everything in a box or a category. So anxious to define every little thing. People trying to define me FOR me because they think I’m “confused.”
So how do I identify? I’m just me. I always have been me; this person you see before you today. Yes, I am transgender. Yes, I am masculine. But I also have a feminine side. No, I don’t need something in my pants to feel “solidified” or “justified” as a man.
Pre-Transition I suppose I was viewed as a “tomboy.” I was treated like a girl because society viewed me as such. I was ignored by men, and not seen or viewed as “competition.” Pre-Transition other men would try to pick me up and throw me around. Which was something I absolutely despised. It made me feel inferior; as if I was less than. Hetero-normative egos trying to conquer and needing to be the best. I was never included in conversations if I was out or around a group of men. Post-Transition I am viewed as a man. Every day and in every situation. Society views me as “male.” I am expected to hold open doors for women and other men never hesitate to trash talk women either to me or in front of me.
It is now a completely different world. Gender roles and stereotyping have shaped and brainwashed this country into thinking things are either “Black” or “White.” There is no room for an existing “Grey” area. Unbeknownst to many, this Grey area is very real. And these people are expected to behave in such a way depending on what they have between their legs. As humans, we are intelligent enough to recognize that every Being that walks this Earth is different. No two souls are exactly the same. So shouldn’t that also hold true for gender? There are other species on this planet, for example, that are at times ”female” and at other times, “male.”
Societal adjustments have been some of the hardest over the past 5 years of my transition. Gender stereotyping has everything to do with it. Pre-transition versus Post-transition I have not changed. I am still the same person; only a happier version. With that said, I am who I am and I don’t have one single apology for it. No one can ever take that away from me. I’ll admit that the world has cracked me a bit as I’ve gotten older; and from time to time the coldness seeps through those cracks. However, I will never let another human being break my soul and tell me I can’t be someone or do something.