Tyler Turner, 18, Siloam Springs, Arkansas
I grew up in Arkansas, which is a very conservative state, in a pretty religious family; we went to church every Sunday and Wednesday. I was taught the typical Bible Belt spiel: "Being gay is wrong." As a little kid, I was always into very typical boy stuff. I liked soccer and basketball, I had a Spider-Man backpack and lunchbox...that's how I always was. My older sister was so girly; we were polar opposites.
As I grew up, I tried to repress my gender expression, but I always came back to it. I wore boxers and shopped in the guys' section. I never felt comfortable as a girl. When I was around 14, I found out, through YouTube, about trans men who went on testosterone to transition. That kind of clicked in my mind, but at the same time, it was very scary for me — because I knew this was something that a lot of people wouldn't accept, especially where I live.
So, I pushed it aside. But, when when I was in 10th grade, I moved to Hawaii with my mom and sister. Out there, nobody knew me, so I could do what I wanted. I started dressing like a guy and I cut my hair. If people didn't know me, they would all me "sir," and I liked it.
Eventually, we moved back to Arkansas. I tried really hard to be more girly and play the role I was "supposed" to, but the gender dysphoria was really hard on me. I was struggling with depression and anxiety. As I watched guys going through their transitions on YouTube and heard their stories, I knew that was what I wanted to do. I decided to tell my mom, who was super supportive. After that, I gradually told each of my family members, and I started going by a new name. I wasn't on testosterone yet, but I was starting to live as a guy.
I remember telling my mom, "You know, I saw this stuff on the Internet about these trans guys who get on testosterone and go from being female to 100% male. It really works. And, I think that's what I want to do." She was like, "Well, that's awesome. We need to just research it and find out what we need to do to get you there." I was so thankful. My mom is amazing.
I started going to a local support group for trans people. It was an eye-opening experience, because I was able to meet other trans people — other guys who had already been on testosterone for quite a long time. It gave me a lot of hope and inspiration. Through that support group, I found a local therapist who was also an FTM. He gave me a referral for my doctor to put me on testosterone. I've been on it for a year now, and I've been documenting all the changes on YouTube. The day I went on testosterone, I didn't have a party or anything, but I felt really great. I texted everyone and sent them all the video from the hospital, of me getting my first shot. It was a big deal.
I think the most annoying thing is that though I was really tall for a girl, I'm actually pretty short for a guy. Other than that, I can't think of anything I don't like about being a dude. My biggest role models are Chase Ross and Skylar Kergil — they're also YouTubers. Also, my buddy Scotty, whom I met through the support group. He was probably the first guy I ever saw in real life who was a year on testosterone. He had the voice and the facial hair. I thought, Whoa — this is crazy.
The beginning is the hardest. But, once you get past the initial coming-out and acceptance, it gets so much easier, and you're so much happier. It's like turning a light on; you live in the dark for so long, and then finally you turn the light on — and everything is different.