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Toronto, Canada

312 Adelaide Street West, Suite 301
Toronto, Ontario - M5V 1R2
Canada
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What It Feels Like To Come Out As A Transgender University Student

Written by McCol D. Iles

My parents’ son in law will be queer. This is not because of who he is, but because of who I am. This I know.

I wore a waistcoat for the first time at the start of Grade 11, age 15. The buttons fit seamlessly and the fabric hugged to my torso.  My hips were straight, my shoulders broad.  I felt like steam screaming from a kettle, feeling aggressively — and subtly, so masculine. Grinning ear to ear, I went to the bathroom, winged my eyeliner, painted my lips, and conquered the day. For once, nothing was wrong with me.

I remember teaching myself how to be a girl, mimicking how they they tucked their legs and flicked their wrists and trilled their laughter, soft and light and small.

Briefly. I contemplated the intersectionality of gender, but it was too soon. For then, I was just a girl. That was it, end of story, finito. My indistinct cross-dressing was simply an expansion on my femininity.  I was claiming my body.

I distinctly remember in Grade 7 watching the other girls. I remember teaching myself how to be a girl, mimicking how they they tucked their legs and flicked their wrists and trilled their laughter, soft and light and small. Because that’s what being feminine was. I trained myself. I ignored myself. I became numb to myself  to fit in and blend in. I became afraid to be me. Because I was neither soft nor light nor small. I tired, but I never could be. I could never be small. That just wasn’t me.

In school, I was known for my ‘obsession’ with men, because I was open and crude about my attraction.

I love men. I love masculinity. I love the hard lines of their muscle, tight tuck of their hips, pelvis pushed out. Watching men, I would vibrate in my veins. In school, I was known for my ‘obsession’ with men, because I was open and crude about my attraction. Truth is, I loved everything about men. But it was sexual attraction, it had to be. What else could it be?

One night, almost two years ago, in a small dip of depression, I discovered Brendon Urie of the band, Panic! At the Disco. He radiated the masculinity I adored.  Sleek, loud, pelvis out with his waistcoat buttoned snug, v-line peaking out from beneath his leather pants.  He was my trigger. The vibrating in my veins became louder.

My graduating year, I walked into the room of my school’s LGBTQ+ club and I felt so wrong. I was tight in my button-down, and so desperately aware of my then cisgender, white, female ‘ally’ presence. I felt like I was playing pretend.

My hips were wide and chest larger, face round and soft.  At the end of the day, I should have my face cradled and kissed, not the reverse.

I ignored every signal, turned away from what I knew made me feel good. I refused to translate the vibrating of my veins. It wasn’t that hard, at the time. Truly. I liked being a girl. I still do, actually. It feels good, it feels sensual. But it hadn’t been a choice. My hips were wide and chest larger, face round and soft.   At the end of the day, I should have my face cradled and kissed, not the reverse.

But, ah fuck, how I wanted to cradle faces in my hands. How I wanted to look like the dominance I felt. I look out of my eyes as a man. But saying that, I dream of walking down the aisle to my husband in a lace dress.

I wasn’t aware of gender in Grade 12. In fact, I had no awareness for the society-ingrained concept.  I’d been wanting to chop off my two feet of hair for 2 years, and staring at Brendon Urie, I had a picture of what I’d wanted.

All of a sudden, cutting my hair was like a little key that started fiddling with my perception of gender. I cut my hair after I graduated. Shaved the sides, dyed it black.  It felt so right. Nothing else was right, but that hair sure was.

Nothing but hips, boobs, abs, and legs. Strong, yes, but soft and small and light. I wasn’t small.  But I was supposed to be.  I was a girl, wasn’t I? Wasn’t I?

Still, I was a girl. I flipped through Instagram and, as an equestrian, watched the epitome of femininity strut through showgrounds. Nothing but hips, boobs, abs, and legs. Strong, yes, but soft and small and light. I wasn’t small. But I was supposed to be. I was a girl, wasn’t I? Wasn’t I?

I grew out my hair almost the moment I cut it. I hate to admit. That didn’t feel right. I stopped wearing waistcoats. I tried to make myself feminine, tried to make myself more of what I thought a girl was supposed to look like. It didn’t feel good, it didn’t look good.  But I was desperate to be softer, and lighter, and smaller. I ended up doing the reverse. I continued to train myself into being a girl. But everything hurt, and nothing was right.  My veins knew that regardless of what I was telling myself, I wasn’t just a girl, and I shouldn’t try to be. But I didn’t know that.  I didn’t know why all my role models were men, and why I sang deep, and why I felt so great in waistcoats and strange in dresses. I was in denial.

I was a girl, and I was a boy, but I didn’t know.

Coming to terms with the fact that I was Bi-gender was painful and terrifying. Being bi-gendered means that I am both a man and a woman, sometimes at the same time, sometimes separately. I am a son, and a daughter, and a child.

I realized, staring at it, that my attraction wasn’t just sexual.  I wanted to be that.

I’ve been on this journey for four years without knowing, and I have to admit that the story itself of coming out to myself is… funny. I’d been looking at a drawing of Captain America’s friend Bucky Barnes (AKA The Winter Solider), pervertedly zooming in on the impressive dent of the man’s v-line, and I stopped breathing.  I realized, staring at it, that my attraction wasn’t just sexual.  I wanted to be that.

Was I sick? Was I a freak? I was, wasn’t I? Disgusting. I spent the next day in a chronic state of anxiety. I stumbled about in vertigo, nausea, and paranoia. Nothing could ease the pain until I texted one of my best friends;

“Even if I choose to be someone who we didn’t think or know I was for all this time?  You still wouldn’t care?”

I cried when she texted back, “I don’t care who you are as long as you are kind, which I already know to be true.”

Looking back, trying to force myself into my assigned gender was a punishment. My phobia at the time, I know, was internalized. It took a long while for me to understand that gender, sex, and sexuality, though like cousins, are not the same thing.

But I know now that I will never be small, and I will always be me — be that in a suit or a dress. And I love it.

I mess up sometimes. Call people the wrong pronouns, call myself the wrong pronouns. But I know now that I will never be small, and I will always be me — be that in a suit or a dress. And I love it.

There is more than one way to be transgendered, and there are many ways to get there.  Not everyone feels or wants or can afford transitional surgeries/therapies. Not everyone needs them. Everyone is on a different path, and are in different stages of their journey.

The feeling of being transgender doesn’t go away.  It’s that desire to scream into the night.  It’s staring at your parents as they sit on the couch, wondering if they could ever call you ‘son’/’daughter’. Wondering how hard it would be for them, how they would tell their friends about it. It’s wanting to throw up as you sit in silence with your best friend. It’s sighing and leaning into them when they tell you how proud they are of you.

Your gender and contemplation of it never goes away. It is a presence, a constant, a source — be it of anxiety or excitement. But it’s you, no matter what. And you are right, just as you are, however that is.  Don’t let even yourself tell you otherwise.

This I know.

*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Student Life Network or their partners.