So where does that leave me? The labels I use to identify myself vary from day to day, but there's always one constant: I am a Transman. I am a man of my own making, a man with a female past. This is not something I can or choose to deny. Those experiences shaped the way I see the world, the way I walk in the world. I cannot unlearn the things that only women are taught growing up in a male-centered society.
But I embrace the things I learned about men by watching those around me. I was fortunate to have an amazing male role model as I grew up. My father never felt the need to teach me, his daughter, about what it meant to be a "real" man. Instead, he unknowingly taught me everything I needed to know by example. In fact, he still does.
The same week I began testosterone injections (and 4 months before my chest surgery), I got a tattoo. I went to 3 different tattoo parlors before I found the right artist; a self-identified "gender f***er" who was thrilled at the prospect of helping me put a large symbol of my pride on my arm. Ze spent 2 hours drawing up the design, a celtic maze for the round part, celtic knots filling the merged male/female section. Ze spent 4 1/2 more hours actually putting it on me. It was exciting, cathartic, and a real physical acknowledgement of the journey I was beginning.
This tattoo is my symbol of rebirth, as well as a chance to teach. Every time I show it to someone who does not recognize the symbol, I explain what it means. It is a Transgender symbol, a merged male and female symbol, a sign of who I was and who I have become.
This is what it means to me to be a real man- to be comfortable in your own skin, to know what it means to feel loss and to rise above it with grace and compassion, to always remember where I have been, and to look forward to the future with my head held high.
Like my scars, I wear this tattoo with pride.