August 23, 2017
Please read this entire letter through and don't skip around; read this before opening the email I sent you. Please keep an open mind. I love you!
As a child, I never liked girly things. I hated wearing dresses and skin-tight clothing, instead choosing to don a simple t-shirt and shorts to play in the mud, picking up frogs and fish and lizards and bugs. In Kindergarten, in 1st grade, in 2nd grade, many of my friends were boys. At this age, I couldn't really relate to girls, all dolled up in bright pink clothes and perfect long hair. While I did play with dolls, I loved Pokémon, mini skateboards, and dinosaurs more.
Fast-forward to 5th grade. A girl I barely knew told me I needed to wear a bra, and I thought, why? I ignored her advice, but it made me self-conscious about my body.
In 6th grade, you bought me my first bras and expected I'd wear them. I did, and I hated every minute of it- I still do. I never wanted boobs, so when they started to grow, I prayed they'd somehow go away. Girls my age embraced this new femininity, but I despised it- and I still do.
In 7th grade, you told me I would soon get my period. I tuned you out: that will never happen to me. Soon, I began to hate my voice. Whenever I heard a recording of it, I would cringe and try to block out the sound. I just despised it- I still do.
In 8th grade, I got my period, but I didn't tell you until after a few cycles. You wanted to celebrate while I wanted to keep it secret; it was an embarrassment to me and I longed for it to go away. Girls my age embraced this journey to womanhood. I loathed it, believed it to be useless- I never wanted to be pregnant. The exact same thought holds true today.
In 9th grade, I still hated my voice and boobs and period and soon, I started to hate my body. I especially despised the fat on my hips and thighs and the roundness of my face. I wanted these areas of fat gone, so I tried starving myself, even though compared to the average woman’s body I was the correct size and weight. I now realize the fat deposits I abhorred so much make up a woman’s curves, so by hating my “fat body” I really hated the body parts that made me look feminine. Over the course of the year, I lost so much weight that I developed a severe heart condition and made you bring me to the doctor. I was 83 pounds, on death’s doorstep, and finally my curves were gone- but so was the rest of my body, and quite honestly my brain, too. I now knew I had a major problem, so I became vegetarian to gain weight in a healthy way. Upon eating more, my hips were the first to return. Although I hated them, I knew it was for the best, for my health and sanity, to keep eating more food. Thankfully, the heart condition resolved itself, and I weigh about the same as I did before the weight loss.
In 10th grade, I still hated all the feminine parts of my body, but I refused to lose weight again because I knew how dangerous my actions were last time. My period finally returned, a positive update on my physical health but a blow to my mental health, a hassle I’d have to struggle living with again. Early in the fall, a friend asked if I was gay. I truthfully answered, “No, I’m straight.” I got my hair cut short in February 2016. Why? I wasn’t so sure myself at the time. I can’t describe the feeling as anything but liberating. By the end of the year, still hating my hips and thighs and boobs and round face and period and voice, I began to realize, I think I am gay. Before this moment, I never really had a crush on anyone, but near the end of tenth grade, I fell for one of my best friends. I never told her I liked her, but she was the first person I came out to as gay.
In 11th grade, I still despised my body and voice, but I shoved the feelings to the back of my mind and didn’t consciously think about it as much. I started to shop in the men’s sections of clothing stores, and I accepted that I was gay, yet I didn’t tell anyone else the entire year. I was so stressed that school was pretty much the only thing on my mind. And then came January 2017.
I dressed solely in men’s shirts at this point and although I felt uncomfortable in skin-tight pants, I forced myself to wear leggings and the two pairs of women’s skinny jeans I owned. In February, around the time of the Doodle 4 Google ceremony, I no longer felt I was completely a girl. I had no word for myself, for my gender. “Non-binary” was the term I settled on (for a mere few days), meaning I was neither male nor female. I remember when we ate at Natraj with Aunt Amy, around March perhaps. The waiter addressed me as “sir”, and for the first time in my life I felt this crazy good sensation- it was a happy emotion, it just felt right- and you could tell. After dinner, you commented that I liked when people thought I was a boy, and you were absolutely correct. I wouldn’t admit it at the time, but you were absolutely correct.
Around April 2017, I started to suppress my gender identity; I wanted to fit in with the girls at school again, be like my friends again. By May, I believed I was 100% a girl, yet my hips and thighs and boobs and round face and period and voice made me ashamed, self-conscious, and just plain sad and angry at myself. And yet, I still couldn’t grasp why.
This past summer, I still hated all my feminine features. At the Visual Art's camp, my group’s counselor, Nadyah, ran a “Safe Zone Training” seminar to teach people about the LGBTQ+ community. She and the 40+ attendees, myself included, in the lecture hall learned many different terms for sexualities and gender identities. At the time, I had believed myself to be female, to be “cisgender”, meaning you identify as the same gender you were assigned at birth. I decided to attend the Safe Zone seminar because 1) I thought I was gay and wanted to see other gay people, and 2) my counselor was a fun person to be around. As the Safe Zone meetings continued, I started to question my gender like I had back in February and March. Am I really a girl? Am I non-binary? I just couldn't figure it out. I also felt extreme jealously toward the one female-to-male transgender guy in the visual art program. I envied how he was allowed transition, to be on testosterone, how he had a masculine appearance. Yet I still couldn't figure out my own gender. Not until now.
Before the start of 12th grade, around the end of July, I was struck by a massive wave of dysphoria. Gender dysphoria describes the typically negative physical and mental effects that come with feeling that my true gender and my birth sex do not match up. At the very beginning of August, I had a very sudden and life-changing realization: hating all my feminine body parts and functions my entire life was gender dysphoria. My entire life- and only now do I have the term dysphoria to describe what I’ve been going through. I was never meant to be a girl, never meant to grow up a woman, I realized. I am, and always have been, a guy. I am transgender.
Although I just recently became aware that I was trans, I felt this burning desire to let it all out, felt like I couldn't hold it in any longer, like I was going to explode from all this secrecy; that’s why I wrote you this letter. I never came out to you as gay because something within me always felt “off” about it. I now know it’s because I’m not a gay girl at all; I am a guy who mainly likes girls. Sexuality (gay, bi, straight, etc.) is separate from gender, so I don’t automatically like men now because I know I’m male inside. Because I mostly am attracted to girls and some non-binary people, and perhaps a guy in the future. I identify as queer. This sexuality is a broader label for people who aren’t straight but don't necessarily fall under more precise, traditional labels. It doesn’t matter who they’re attracted to because every queer person is unique, as is their sexuality.
The term used to describe people of my gender experience is female-to-male transgender, or just ftm for short. It means I am a guy trapped in a “woman’s” body. I wish to be perceived as male and to eventually transition. I already wear men’s clothing and act in a masculine manner- for example, constantly trying to speak in a lower voice, walking with my feet spread farther apart, and sitting with my legs open instead of crossed. It brings me almost physical pain when I am addressed as Miss or Ma’am, as a woman or lady or girl, as daughter, as she, as her. My teachers do it, my classmates do it, my friends do it, my relatives do it, strangers do it; I feel dejected. When Dad and you do it, I feel utterly saddened and lost; I feel like I don’t belong.
I also know it’s not any of these people’s faults for using the wrong pronouns (she/her) and wrong gendered language (ma’am, girl, etc.) to refer to me. I'm still “in the closet” about being transgender to everyone except you and my best friend. It would bring me so much happiness and feelings of acceptance for you and everyone else I already know or have yet to meet to refer to me with male pronouns (he/him/his). I am not Ms.; I am Mr. I am not Ma’am; I am Sir. I am not she; I am he. I am no one’s granddaughter or niece or sister. I am their grandson, I am their nephew, and I am their brother. I am not, nor have I ever been, your daughter; I am, always have been, and always will be your son.
I respect that you may not understand this right away. I respect that you will have to adjust to my new pronouns, to saying son instead of daughter. I respect that this is new to you; it’s new to me, too, and it’s beautiful. I understand this is difficult for you; it’s difficult for me, too. Realizing I'm a guy, ftm transgender, was as difficult as it is wonderful and freeing. Writing this letter is nerve-wracking because I can't see your immediate reaction, but it also finally lifts the weight of the world off my shoulders, allowing me to live as who I really am. I want you to know the real me, and I hope you love your son as much as or more than you loved your daughter. I will love you no matter what, until the end of time.
I also know you will be worried about me. You'll worry for my safety, my health, and my future, but I'm here to tell you everything will be alright. I will keep myself safe from this transphobic world, I will make both my physical and mental health my top priority, and I will create my own future: going to art school, finding an amazing job, dating wonderful people, perhaps getting married on top of it all. It’s all possible; being trans will not hinder any of it. If people have a problem with me, I don't need them or their negativity in my life.
I want you to remember I am still your kid. I still love to make art, I still love riding my bike, still love kayaking, still love watermelon and peaches and white rice, still love listening to music with that same set of red earbuds. I still love school and learning, I love all my friends, and I love life even more now that I’ve come out to you and plan on coming out to many more. Most importantly, however, I love you and Dad and the rest of the family. I always will, and nothing will ever change that.
In total, this is letter is me coming out to you as female-to-male transgender (ftm). I want you and everyone else to use he/him/his and son when talking about me. I only recently realized this important truth about myself, but my experiences and feelings from before Kindergarten to today all support my gender identity. So really, I have known my entire life I am trans, I just didn’t have the vocabulary to describe it. I have experienced terrible dysphoria about every feminine aspect of my being since day 1 of puberty, and I never understood this rage until now; I am a boy born into a “girl’s” body. I envy almost every cisgender guy at school. Why can't I look like him or him or him or him or him or him or him? This is the reason you found me crying on the floor of my bedroom in 9th grade, sobbing miserably about my “fat” hips and “fat” thighs and “fat” chest. I know now that I hated having a female body; I didn't hate being “fat.”
I'm not going to apologize for being trans, but I am sorry for coming out to you through a letter instead of directly in person. I wrote this because I absolutely hate breaking news to you or telling you my personal decisions. Remember how I made you guess that I wanted to be a vegetarian, how I made you guess I wanted to quit my STEM program? Yeah, it would’ve been like that but way worse and way more stressful. I hope you don’t feel hurt by this letter taking the place of a coming out conversation.
To wrap it all up, I want you to know that I love you. Feel free to text me after you read this, but you don't have to. If you do message me, I'll see it during lunch. I will send you an email around noon with links to great articles and informative YouTube videos about being transgender. Again, I love you!!!!! Please keep this letter between us until you talk to me later tonight.