When I asked Patrick to be a part of this project, I knew he’d deliver, but I had no idea how eloquently he would explain what it’s like to go through gender transition as a teenager. I don’t have to explain what a fantastic human he is, because he demonstrates it here through his words. A big thank-you to Cape Ann Animal Aid for letting us spend some time there with the pups:
When I was a little kid I never cared about gender.
I wore “boys’” clothes, I played with toys that I suppose people would label as “boys,’” but I never called them that. They were just my dinosaurs, my LEGOs, my stuffed animals. My friends were a good mix of boys and girls. In a sense, I was the picture of androgyny to an outside observer.
I remember the first time I told someone I was trans, I was around 9 years old. I didn’t know that I was coming out back then, just making conversation. I remember I was playing in my driveway with some girls on my street. I turned to the oldest one (she was probably 11 or 12) and said, “Sometimes I feel like a boy trapped in a girl’s body,” to which she responded, “EEW!” and ran away. I had idolized this girl, even though she’d always been kind of mean to me. I remember thinking that if she thought it was gross, so would everyone else. So, I carried her response with me as I walked away. The feeling would only worsen as I grew older. As I hit puberty, it started to suffocate me. But I could never tell anyone.
In fifth grade I got my period on my 11th birthday, and it was all downhill from there. I remember as my breasts developed and my hips widened that everything felt… wrong. But I remembered what that girl had said, and I decided that I needed to fix myself.
The next year was the worst year of my life. It was my first year of middle school, and I decided I needed to be as feminine as I could muster. I went to Old Navy and I bought some brand-new, brightly colored skinny jeans, deciding that I was going to be a girl. To me, there was no other option. That year I started to hate myself. School wasn’t fun or distracting. The teachers didn’t want to be there, and the students all didn’t know who they wanted to be. It was so bad, in fact, that my family found me another school.
I started at Parker the next year. I was still dressing and presenting as female, and honestly, I was miserable. People would tell me that that was just how being a teenager was, and I remember just going with it, because I assumed they were right.
Around the middle of the year I got my hair cut, and for a split second I’d look in the mirror and see a boy. I remember thinking, “Holy shit, that’s me!” It was like seeing who I really was for the first time.
It didn’t take long for me to come out after that. I remember that first I came out as genderfluid, to try to ease my family into it. However, I wasn’t satisfied with still being referred to as female. It just…didn’t work. I came out as transgender at the beginning of the summer.
My family assumed it was a phase, at first. But after watching me suffer all summer they agreed to let me change my name and pronouns. At the beginning of eighth grade I was Patrick to everyone, not just myself.
I was out then, but it didn’t change the fact that my body didn’t feel right. I had been binding my chest since coming out as genderfluid, but my hips, my small hands, my shoulders…they still felt awful. I would shower with the light off so I didn’t have to see myself in the mirror. That year was when I really started to struggle with self-harm. I would use a pair of nail scissors to scratch at my arms until they bled. I don’t know why, but I did it for the blood, not the pain. It felt like maybe I was setting some of the stress free.
I was in therapy, but not gender therapy. I managed to stop hurting myself that fall with the help of anti-depressants, and as I went through the year, I started to look forward to the next step in my transition: hormone replacement therapy. I’d read about testosterone and how it would change my body. It seemed like the answer to so many of my problems. Excluding my chest, it would change almost all of the things I wasn’t comfortable with. My voice, my shoulders, my hips, my body hair–I didn’t have to live with hating myself.
I went to gender therapy the next fall, freshman year. It’s all thanks to my therapist that I’m okay. I started to work through my body image issues, and before I knew it, I was moving towards my goal. I went to Children’s Hospital where they did a psych evaluation on my gender. By this time school was almost out.
At the follow-up in July they sat me and my parents down, and the doctor looked at me and said, “Congratulations, you’re a dude, dude.”
I already knew this, but it felt awesome to have a professional tell me that what I had been feeling was real.
That day, I started testosterone. My mom gave me my first shot when we got home, and afterwards I hugged her and cried. All the hurt I felt, it was finally going to get easier to bear.
I’ve been on HRT for six months now, and I’m feeling more comfortable with who I am every day. My voice is starting to sound like I’ve always felt it should, and I feel like I can finally be myself on the outside, not just the inside. I still feel dysphoria–I still bind, I still wish I were taller–but I can fight it. I’ve learned through all of this that I’m stronger than I thought. Here I am. I’ve gone through hell and back. I’ve been at my worst, so low that I thought I wouldn’t make it. But I did. I did make it. I am more than my dysphoria.
What do I see now that I’ve fought through this? Who am I if I’m not hurting?
I am a brother. My little sister is the sunshine in my life. She’s the reason that I fought so hard. We’re the closest siblings can be. We can sit together doing nothing for hours on end and never get bored.
I’m an artist–I love drawing. You can express things on paper that you can’t hope to say out loud, and I’ve always valued that.
I’m a musician. Music was there for me when no one else was. In the dead of night when I couldn’t sleep, I would put on music, and just let it cradle me.
I love animals. My house, at this point, is a menagerie. We have two dogs, two birds, and a hedgehog. I am a firm believer that dogs deserve their own category.
I’m a lover of dogs, specifically. My dogs are the best listeners. Mollie, the older one, is my closest companion. She sleeps next to me, a guardian. I can handle anything with her by my side.
I’m a student. I pour myself into my work with vigor, and even though the stress gets to me, I can push through.
I’m a good friend. I hate seeing my friends suffer. I try as hard as I can to be there, whether it’s for a hug or to vent to. I love my friends so much, and I’m so grateful for them.
Finally, I am transgender. It doesn’t make sense to cut that out as I cut out dysphoria. It’s part of who I am, and that’s okay. I don’t need to overcome being trans as I’ve overcome the suffering it caused. I’ve accepted that part of myself.
If I could tell that little boy playing in the driveway all those years ago anything, I would tell him that it’s going to get worse before it gets better, but it’s all going to be worth it. I would tell him that eventually, the boy won’t be trapped in his body anymore, and that he isn’t gross. He isn’t wrong. Someday he’ll look in the mirror and say, “That’s it.”
If you are in need of support or information regarding LGBTQ issues, The Trevor Project offers counseling 24 hours a day.
If you are interested in transitional apparel, Patrick recommends gc2b.
If you would like to share how you are more than your depression, grief, bipolar disorder, addiction, anxiety, PTSD, eating disorder or OCD please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for a Writing Guide.
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