When I was born, my parents named me after the restaurant they had their first date at. Everyone had been expecting a boy, but my parents came up with what, at the time, was a fairly unique and feminine name. My parents were thrilled to have a "new addition" to the family and couldn't have been happier with their new baby girl.
When I was 4, my father joined the Navy as a Chaplain (he is a Methodist minister) and we moved to San Diego. I was a mild-mannered kid who liked pleasing adults. Therefore, it was more common than not to see me in dresses and behaving in a "ladylike" fashion.
My best friends were boys and we loved getting dirty- swinging shirtless from trees and sliding down muddy hills. We rode our bikes and had wars with GI Joe figures. We role-played Star Wars pretty often, too. In retrospect, I find it amusing that even though I was the only girl in the group, I never had to play the part of Princess Leia- that role was usually reserved for the more effeminate male member of the group. I was proud that I could attribute a chipped front tooth to being tackled during a football game in a friend's yard, and was convinced that when I grew up I would be Luke Skywalker, Superman, or George Michael (or maybe all three!?!).
I had numerous crushes- mostly on girls I knew, but some boys made me blush. I was jealous when my best friend started "going out" with a girl from our 4th grade class that I had a crush on. I knew there was something different about me, but I didn't know what it might be. Since it didn't seem to impede me in any way, I maintained a feminine appearance without protest.
At age ten, we moved to the Seattle area. I spent 2 years in public school, then entered a local Lutheran school in 7th grade. One day we were having "sex ed" class- which in my parochial school meant teaching us about the evils of premarital sex. During this class, it was mentioned that there were people who were attracted to other people of the same sex. This was a MAJOR "no-no" and we were told that God frowned upon it. It was like a lightbulb going off for me. All of a sudden, the crushes I had made sense to me. I mean, if I was a girl and thought other girls were cute, then I must be gay! I was relieved, but also knew that I probably shouldn't reveal myself to anyone yet.
I began a new school in the 9th grade. It was a private prep school, but not affiliated with any religion. It was a fantastic environment and I truly learned to think for myself. It was also a fairly liberal place, and I found myself surrounded by people who supported GLBT rights and issues. In my Junior year, I came out to my parents, family, and my entire school as a lesbian. Surprisingly, there was little negative reaction from anyone. My parents joined PFLAG and seemed to adjust to the big "change" in my life fairly quickly.
Then came college. College was a fairly crazy time for me. I traveled to Wheaton College, in Massachusetts, where I met a number of amazing people. I began to express myself more visibly- cutting my hair shorter and expressing myself freely as a butch lesbian. But my first year was academically disastrous and I had to take a year off from school for medical leave. I returned the following year (which would have been my junior year, had I not taken time off), and stayed for only one more semester as a student.
During this time, our campus LGBTA invited a young man to come speak to our student body about transgender issues. His name was Alex Myers (See Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore or Circle-Square).
Alex was the first openly transgendered student to attend Harvard, and his talk changed my life. Sometime during the course of explaining his theory of how gender is two overlapping circles- some people fit into the male side, some the female, and some in the crescent in between- I realized that identifying as a butch was not the answer I had been searching for. I had worked so hard to create a masculine persona for myself, without ever realizing that I did not actually want to be a butch dyke.
Don't get me wrong- this is not a decision I made in that one moment. But that moment propelled me into taking a closer look at what it means to be transgendered and whether or not there might be a place for me within that definition.
I made friends with some other people who felt the same way I did- some who were contemplating whether or not to transition, and some who already had done so. I learned that being trans does not automatically mean you want to take testosterone or have surgeries to alter your physical form. But the more I learned, the more I felt that I needed to make a major change in my life.
Around this time, I reconnected with an old friend, Kat, whom I had had a crush on for almost 3 years. We began a fast and furious courtship and, soon, I was living with her. After being together for 6 months, Kat and I drove cross country. We got engaged and settled in a small apartment in Seattle. I changed my first name to the gender ambiguous "Alex" and kept a shortened version of my birth name as my middle name, but still didn't pursue physical changes.
I came out to my family as being trans, much to their shock. This seemed like a much bigger bombshell than telling them I was gay. Everyone seemed convinced that whatever I was seeking, I was looking for answers in all the wrong places. Kat and I struggled a lot once I decided to change my physical self. It seemed impossible that our relationship could survive a change this big.
In the end, we both knew this was a decision I had to make for myself- despite what might happen in our relationship. We spent many, many nights talking and crying and making sure that nothing was left unsaid, no matter how difficult it might be to tell the truth about how we were feeling. It was scary as hell- feeling like I was making a choice between the woman I wanted to spend the rest of my life with and the desire to outwardly be the person that I felt I was inside. In the end, we agreed that postponing or simply not transitioning just wasn't an option for me and that we would take the relationship issues as they came.
My parents, believing that I was confused and unsure of whether or not to take the "next step," offered to pay for my chest surgery. They have since told me that this was an attempt to see how serious I really was about transitioning, almost a "calling of a bluff," and that they did not expect me to readily accept their generous offer!
Exactly one year after changing my name, I began testosterone injections. Four months after that, I had my chest surgery. Kat, my parents and I all flew to San Francisco and stayed at a family friends home. Everyone was still convinced that this could be a big mistake, but stoically stood by my side and supported my decision.
I will never forget the first day I saw the results of my surgery. It was the first day I was allowed to shower since the procedure, and I was excited to get truly cleaned up. As I took the binder off and saw my reflection in the mirror, I began crying. Kat was worried that I had hurt myself and rushed to see if I was alright. I said,
"This is the first time I've ever looked in the mirror and seen what I thought I should."
Kat later told me that a great weight was lifted off her shoulders, then, and she knew that I had made the right decision for myself, despite what other changes may come.
The rockiness slowly ebbed away and life became more normal. Kat and I grew even closer and got married the following year, with all of our friends and family in attendance. It was an amazing experience to be surrounded by so much love- by both people who had known us our entire lives, and by people who had welcomed us into their lives more recently. We formalized our commitment with name changes- my last name for both of us, her last name as our second middle names. And I changed my gender ambiguous first and middle names to Alexander Nicholas. Things were more settled, and we were content.
We have been extremely fortunate to be surrounded by such loving people who were willing to grow and learn with us throughout this change. That isn't to say that there haven't been any losses in this process, but we have gained far more than we have lost. Each day is a new chance to learn and grow and we look forward to the future with wonder and excitement. Transition is not a process of finite time- it is a never-ending journey that we begin anew each day.
Questions about my transition? Feel free to email me at: