Beau Reed, 30, Smithville, Tennessee
I prefer gender-neutral pronouns: they, them, their. I identify as trans masculine — not as a “man.” It took me a while to figure this out. Some people find out they’re trans when they’re in elementary school, and some people find out when they’re 60 or 70. For me, it was kind of an incremental process. It took me a while to come to terms with what I wanted to do with my life, and with who I am as a human being.
I was raised Southern Baptist Fundamentalist and I was homeschooled. As a kid and teenager, my only contact with other people was either at church or at Chick-fil-A, which is where I worked from the age of 14 to 18. I never felt like I fit anywhere. It’s hard for me to explain, but I just knew something wasn’t right. But, I was dealing with so much family stuff that I put my own happiness on the back burner. As a Southern Baptist kid, I had to struggle for permission to do little things, like going to movies with friends or listening to music.
My half-sister, who’s 38, ended up outing me to my family — they knew I identified as queer, but I wasn’t prepared to tell them about the trans thing. I had gone out into the woods for a couple of weeks, to stay at my friend’s place in Tennessee, with no Internet access or anything. When I came back home, I checked my email, and there was a note from my family. It was clear that my sister had said something while I was away, because the email said that I was born a girl, that I’ll always be a girl. My parents were trying to be dramatic about the day I was born — what it had meant to them and to me and to God.
I had spent my whole life denying everything my family asked me about, so I figured it was time for an actual response. I told them this was a decision that I had been thinking about for a long time, and a step that was really important to me. I told them I needed to start looking for my happiness and prioritizing it.
Eventually, I decided that communicating with my family was putting me in a toxic environment. Even just talking to them on the phone wasn’t good for my journey or my process. I had to cut them off, and that was really, really hard for me. I’ve been struggling with it for, like, 12 years. I haven’t seen them since June of 2012. I tried to see them this past summer; I brought a friend with me to Memphis because I needed a support system. I didn’t feel comfortable going alone. But, my parents said they wouldn’t have dinner with me because I wasn’t alone, so that never happened. They send me a text every now and then, with some Bible verses, saying they love me. I know they do love me; they love me the only way they know how, which is a way I can’t relate to.
My brother, he’s the good ol’ southern boy. He rides broncos in the rodeo, dresses like Keith Urban — that hip-cowboy look. I would call him simplistic, but I almost appreciate the simplicity; the way he looks at me, I know he doesn’t get it at all, but he loves me just the same. And, he always says that. “I don’t get it, but I love you. Whatever.”
I had top surgery pretty much exactly a year ago — January 21 of 2014. I started hormones five months before that. I was definitely set on the fact that I was going to have top surgery, but I wasn’t sure about going on hormones; I knew that would be life-changing. You can’t really go back once you’ve started. I sat with that for a little bit, and eventually decided I just needed to go for it. Because the only thing holding me back was the voice of my parents, in the back of my head.
I slowly started taking steps to empower myself and to do everything that I’d always wanted to do. I started the hormones and then I had surgery. This past year has been, hands-down, the best year of my life. I’m finally making changes for myself, and I feel confident in ways that I’ve never felt before — not in my entire life.