Choose your gender
by Kenny Stanford (he/him)
Haydn Nixon (he/him)
A question people like to ask me is, "How did you discover you were trans?" On some level, people are expecting some big "aha!" moment where you finally figure out the answer to the unsolvable puzzle of your life. This is a complete contrast to the embarrassing answer I choke out every time: an online quiz.
One of my friends introduced it to me during media studies in my final year of high school. We all gathered around the table, laughing quietly to ourselves about how shallow and stereotypical the questions were. We laughed even harder at the answers, which revealed the percentage of each gender we were. Mine was 11% female, 22% male - casually masculine. I bragged to my friends about how I had the least gender out of all of us. I rode that high for the entire day, unable to get that stupid quiz out of my head. I woke up the next day, still happy. Then the next, and the next.
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that this isn't how most people think. Long after my friends had moved on to the next new thing to keep themselves entertained, it was still on my mind. I tried to forget about it, but I couldn't. I'm not sure why it was so enticing, but it must have been the idea of feeling empowered to change my identity, and the label that I had identified with my entire life. All in all, to have less gender.
A couple of days later I distinctly remember when it just clicked. The thought of being more masculine-presenting made me feel an emotion I wouldn't be able to name for another few years - euphoria. That night, I asked my friends to address me with a more masculine name. They willingly agreed. I woke up the next day embarrassed. I didn't want to be a boy. I must have just been confused last night.
If you want to be a man, who's going to stop you? In a day and age where hormone replacement therapy and surgery are available, why would you deny yourself a chance of being happy?
Why would I throw away a good thing, something I already knew how to do? I knew what was expected of me as a woman, and I acted as closely to that expectation as possible.
I had spent my entire life trying to fulfil my idea of an ideal woman. I let my parents pick out clothes for me like a doll. I tried to learn to cook and sew. I spent all of my free time seeking validation from other people. I had this idea of the perfect girl, and my whole life was spent trying to replicate that as closely as possible. Other girls became competition. I grew jealous of the ones who wore floral perfumes, had cute outfits and were always nice to everyone around them. As much as I tried, as many times as I changed my style, I couldn't catch up. The clothes that looked cute on others fell flat when I put them on. I lacked a passion for cooking, and still can’t quite get the hang of it. I couldn’t keep up with their conversations. I didn't understand why I didn't fit in and couldn't relate to them. There had to be something wrong with me. I was doing everything right, but nothing was working. I blamed everyone around me as if it was their fault and not mine.
And yet, I couldn't stop thinking about what it would be like to be a boy. I often grew jealous of the men around me: their hair, their clothes, their voices, everything reminded me of what I didn't have. At some point, it even made its way into my dreams, and every day I woke up wishing it had been real. I wished I had been born a boy.
I started to identify as gender fluid, but I was embarrassed to say that publicly. Sometimes I wanted to be a man, and sometimes I wanted to be a girl, so that must have been what I was. Looking back on it now, that was never how I felt. Some days I wanted to be a man, and some days I was better at suppressing that desire.
So, I started to pay more attention to the trans people around me, all of a sudden, my Twitter and TikTok feeds were all about trans people. They all told the same story about how they had always known they were trans (which is incredibly valid). They dressed like boys, they referred to themselves in a masculine way, and they felt that they were men. This is the same thing I had heard my entire life. That if I were trans I would have known sooner. But I didn't. Up until this point I had no problems with being a girl. I wore dresses, played with Barbies and had long hair. I never had a problem picturing myself as a girl. There wasn't a single sign. I didn't feel it deep inside – I didn't feel the urge to change my name, or my life. I just wanted to be a man. I would’ve felt so much happier if I was born a man. I knew plenty of people who felt the same – they told me that they couldn't be a man and neither could I, simply because I wanted to.
That, my friends, is a huge lie. One day, after years of stressing over the way I was feeling, I finally voiced all of my concerns to a fellow transmasculine person, to which he responded, "Why not?" Suddenly, my whole way of thinking shifted. Why isn't wanting to be a man enough? There isn't some secret test that you have to pass to be deemed trans enough. If you want to be a man, who's going to stop you? In a day and age where hormone replacement therapy and surgery are available, why would you deny yourself a chance of being happy? Even after that revelation, it took me another two years to come to terms with the idea. It came to me suddenly after months of endless thinking and frustration. Lying in bed one night, I whispered to myself, "I am a boy." In that moment, I let myself entertain the thought that it could be true. Then I was like, "Oh." Honestly, how cool is it to have this body that you can customise any way you want? You can dye your hair bright colours, get permanent doodles etched into your skin, put holes in it to hang shiny gems out of. I became so much happier when I stopped taking everything so seriously and instead thought of myself as a blank canvas. There's no penalty if you get it wrong. Do whatever you want.