Chloe T., 33, Rochester, New York
My first memory is praying that I would wake up as a female. Too bad it’s not that easy. Early on, I got the idea — and some hints — that people wouldn’t be okay with me being trans, so I went the other way and got heavily involved in athletics. For a long time, I thought, If I could just get a girlfriend, this would probably go away. But, it never went away.
I definitely knew in high school. But, I hated it. I did everything I could to find any other reason for feeling the way that I did. Finally, I got some help from a professional, who helped me learn that yes, I am trans. It’s not something that goes away or that can be “fixed.” I had a hard time accepting that. Even after learning I couldn’t change it, I still hated it. And, when you hate your identity, you kind of hate yourself.
I identify as male-to-female transgender, although I am not currently able to live as female. I’ve told most people I know, but I haven’t made a big announcement. I haven’t been able to have romantic relationships, either — largely because the way that I look is 100% different from the way I feel. People have said to me, “Jeez, you look like the straightest guy in America.” I look like a football player. My body is not aligned with who I want to be. And, I think that makes it harder; even if I go into a gay bar, people look at me like I walked into the wrong place by accident. It’s frustrating. I’m frustrated with the way that I look — with my body especially. It gets really lonely. Really lonely.
Being trans kind of colors everything: where you can go, where you can live, where you’re going to be safe. It’s hard. In New York state, you can be fired for being transgender. Nobody has to let you live in their apartment. Health-care professionals can decide not to treat you in non-emergency situations.
It’s not always safe. The first time I went out in public was in New York City, because I thought, Well, if I’m going to do this, I need to go to a place that’s as liberal and accepting as possible. Five guys surrounded me and tried to beat me up.
For me, there’s a lot of fear. Because I look like a guy, everybody still calls me “Mike.” It feels safer and easier for everyone to call me that, and to use “he.” Right now, if I walk down the street looking like a guy, nobody’s going to say anything.
One of my biggest worries is trying to navigate a career. I have no idea how I’m going to be able to do that. As much as people say, “It doesn’t matter what other people think about you,” it does matter. What other people think decides whether you get a job, whether you get promoted, whether you even get the money to transition.
My frustration now is more with the situation and with society in general. There are so many well-meaning people; I don’t even have the tools or the platform to help educate those people. When I do tell people, they’re like, “Well, that shouldn’t be an issue — at work, they can’t fire you for that.” Yeah, they can. You need to know that. Fortunately, after some discussions, my employer added gender identity to their non-discrimination policy. But, most employers don’t — and in most workplaces, there’s so much discrimination. Even if it’s not overt, it’s there. You never know what’s being said when you’re not in the room.
I feel like we need to call attention to depression and suicide in the trans community — because if we don’t, people won’t be educated and nothing will change. I feel like if any other group of people had the suicide rate that we do, people would be up in arms. We need people to be asking: "What do we do? How do we change this? How do we help these people?"
I just prepare for the worst and hope for the best. Maybe some good things will come out of this in the end. Maybe this will be like ripping off a Band-Aid for me. The chances of people in my town seeing this article and recognizing that it’s me are probably not that great. Even if they do see it, I guess I just have to remember why I’m doing this in the first place.