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Eccentric Style, the Internet, and Gender Dysphoria: Genevieve’s Transition Story

Eccentric Style, the Internet, and Gender Dysphoria: Genevieve’s Transition Story

Eccentric Style, the Internet, and Gender Dysphoria: Genevieve’s Transition Story | Mimi Nadia Chenyao | Fake & Basic

This is a guest post from a friend and fellow computer scientist about her experience as a transgender woman. Genevieve is currently raising funds for facial feminization surgery, an expensive procedure that will drastically improve her quality of life.

My name is Genevieve Liberte, and I’m a 20 year old trans woman from Florida.

When writing introductions like this, I tend to question whether or not to include the fact that I’m a trans woman in the first sentence — couldn’t I just as easily say I’m a woman and leave it at that, no modifiers needed? Sometimes it feels dishonest to leave it out — either to myself, or to others. At other times, it seems pertinent to include. Still, I don’t exactly understand why I choose to include that bit of intensely personal information but forego so many others; I suppose I might as well balance things out by including lots of other personal information, too.

My backstory

Some people call me Evie, but I prefer the long form of my name. While I mentioned I’m from Florida, that’s not exactly accurate — I spent the first ten years of my life living in a suburb of Chicago. I was a pretty happy child; one who, on the surface, felt mostly comfortable with himself. I had normal interests for a little boy: playing outside, video games, Star Wars, soccer, Legos, singing.

At the same time, I played with Barbies, watched lots of TV shows for little girls, and was fascinated by makeup and fashion. All my best friends when I was little were girls. My parents didn’t really think much of these interests, though — they are pretty liberal and believed in letting their children express themselves without gendering anything too heavily.

Despite this, my parents insist that I showed no signs of being transgender when I was a child. When I came out to them as a woman at 15 years old, they were shocked because they hadn’t seen it coming. I, too, am hard-pressed to find evidence of my transness in my childhood. However, I remember two very important details: the first, that the earliest memory I have is inquiring whether it was possible to change your gender, and being subsequently dismissed; the second, that the only thing I knew about trans people growing up were impressions I’d gained from transphobic tropes in the media I consumed. Jokes about men in dresses or people almost sleeping with a woman before realizing she had a penis colored my impression of gender roles to a great degree.

I was a pretty intuitive, intelligent child, and I quickly gathered that society thought of trans people as freaks or predators. In fact, I didn’t really have a concept of trans people separate from my concept of crossdressers or drag queens — all things I had been taught by the media to scorn. As a result, I buried any gender feelings I had down deep, and tried my absolute hardest to cling to the male role thought I was destined to play. As a child, this worked out fine. Whether you’re a boy or a girl makes little difference besides talk of cooties in elementary school, so I didn’t find playing the role of a boy so uncomfortable.

When I was ten years old, my family moved to Sebring, Florida, a smallish town that, like most of Florida, could be described as being in the middle of Butt-Fuck Nowhere. I was very sad to move, but also excited to start a new chapter in my life. There, for the first time in my life, I had mostly male friends.

In which I discover the Internet

By the time I was eleven, though, I was starting to develop social anxiety and a general shyness. I was quickly approaching puberty — that time where the differences between boys and girls first start to really matter — I began to feel more and more uncomfortable with myself. For a long time I stifled those feelings and continued trying to play the role of a pubescent boy. I was heading towards a point where my perception of myself no longer matched others’ perception of me.

I felt like I couldn’t be myself or say the things that I wanted to, nor act the way that I wanted to around certain people. I had a great group of friends in middle school, and I loved being with them, but this general feeling of discomfort caused me to turn to the Internet for solace. Online, I was introduced to so many different communities and people with specialized interests — it felt like there was so much to discover and love! The Internet felt was an opportunity for me to finally discover who I really was for the first time.

The time I spent online during these formative years informed my interests for the rest of my life — this is where I developed my love for technology that led to me becoming a computer scientist, and where I realized that I had the capability for music production at my fingertips. During this period, I was still happy and enthusiastic for the most part, although still acted like the boy I felt I had to be. I loved to learn and find out new things, so I spent a lot of time online learning about different communities, fandoms, and the like.

Realizing that I was female, not non-binary

At fifteen, I realized that I was bisexual. This realization was actually pretty peaceful and easy. All of my friends were emo, scene, and alternative kids like me, and we were the type to be pretty open about different sexualities. I simply realized that I liked boys in addition to girls, and felt happy to be able to include this fact in my overall identity. Being online at this period in time meant being exposed to a lot of social justice and self-acceptance.

Several months after I realized I was bisexual, I learned about the transgender community for the first time. The very concept was new to me — transgender sounded like an entirely different thing than the other word I associated with these people, transsexual.

During this time, social activism was becoming more mainstream. A lot of emphasis was placed on the idea that biological sex and gender identity were two discrete, separate entities, and that it was possible for a person to be non-binary. Consequently, I toyed with the idea of identifying as androgynous for a while. I realized that the voice in my head and my own concept of myself were not male, so I insisted that they must simply be androgynous. I tried to be fine with thinking of my mental gender as androgynous, but not letting that influence my outward presentation at all. However, this never felt quite right.

I remember the moment that I realized that I was really a woman and not a genderless, androgynous being. I was so scared. I was so ashamed. All of the transmisogynistic tropes I was scarred by when I was younger came rushing back into my head. I am a freak, I thought. I can never be normal. But as I ruminated on these feelings a little more, I felt right for the first time in my life. Realizing that I was a girl was like coming up with the correct answer for a calculus problem you’ve been working on for hours. It was so exciting! I was ecstatic to understand that I was a girl, not some man who liked to wear stockings and heels for kicks. Recognizing who I actually was completely changed my perception of transgender people, and from then on, despite the negative attitude toward trans people in our society, I was determined to live my life as a girl. I was willing to go through anything to become who I was destined to be.

Unfortunately, life got much harder after that. The years between the ages of fifteen and seventeen were fraught with depression and hopelessness. My body was being poisoned with testosterone every day and there was nothing I could do about it. As I continued to go through puberty, I felt less and less like myself.

My transition: the beginning

It took two years and threatening suicide to get my parents to realize that I was serious about transitioning. It wasn’t an empty threat, nor was I looking for attention. Transitioning was life or death for me, especially at a time when I was heartbreakingly aware that the longer I waited, the more difficult it would be. Eventually, my parents realized that I really was a woman, and agreed to help me transition. The day they first began to use she/her pronouns for me and helped me pick out a new name is one of the happiest days of my entire life.

There are so many barriers to trans people getting the medical care that they need. Even with my parents’ support, the process of starting my transition was difficult and frustrating, and it was so upsetting thinking that every day I waited, my body was becoming more and more “male”.

Exactly a month after my eighteenth birthday, I finally started hormone replacement therapy. As far as transitions go, I am actually pretty lucky that I started hormones this early in my life, but at the time it still felt like I had waited far too long.

The process of transitioning from male to female is pretty complicated. The first step is usually to begin hormone replacement therapy, which involves taking testosterone blockers and a synthesized version of estrogen called estradiol. The goal is to replace testosterone as the dominant hormone in your body. HRT causes a great many things to happen: breast growth, fat redistribution, changes in mood and libido, hip growth (provided that an individual’s bones have not already fused together). But the breast growth caused by HRT is not as significant as breast growth in cis women, and HRT does not stop facial hair growth nor the deepening of the voice. Hormones alone can really only take a trans woman so far, which is why many trans women elect for further surgeries like breast augmentation and facial feminization surgery, all with the goal of helping the individual to appear more unquestionably female to the general public.

Why I’m transitioning

Passing as a woman has always been my ultimate goal. My appearance has always been stylishly eccentric. I like to express myself through the things I wear and the way I do my makeup, but I have never wanted to call attention to the fact that I’m trans. If I’m going to be weird, it’ll be because I’m a weird girl, not because I look a little too much like a man.

For some trans women, being trans is an important part of their identities. For me, it’s not really such a big deal. I want to be free to be the girl I am, and to live my life as if I had been born a girl from the very beginning. In fact, at this point in my life I am more comfortable using the term transsexual to describe myself than the word transgender. I feel that it better reflects that it’s my biological sex I am trying to alter — not my gender.

My goal of transitioning is to minimize dysphoria. [1] For trans people, self-acceptance can only do so much. Even if I have made peace with the things about myself that cause me dysphoria, those awful feelings won’t go away completely until I change them.

In the past three years since I started hormone replacement therapy, my life has improved significantly. My own dysphoria has certainly minimized; now, I see a woman when I look in the mirror. It’s been over a year since the last time I was mistaken for a man in public. Every time I go out, I am treated like a lady – I’m not sure whether to take this as a sign that I pass as a female now, or that people can simply tell I’m transgender and are nice enough to humor me, but either way it has greatly improved my quality of life. I am finally reaching a point where I feel like I can be my real self — a unique girl who is her own person as an individual. For a lot of time during my transition, I was convinced that I had to adhere as closely as possible to the stereotypical idea of what a woman looks like, at the cost of my own individuality. Now that I am able to pass as female, I’m finally learning how to be me — my own me — for the first time.

However, this by no means means that my dysphoria is gone, or that I feel like I’m “done” transitioning. There are still many things about myself that keep me from effectively passing as female. I’ve learned to accept my flaws and things I can’t change, and to see the difference between things I don’t like about myself and things that make me dysphoric. For example, I don’t like my nose, and would love to get a nose job someday, but I recognize that my nose isn’t making me look any more male and isn’t causing me dysphoria, so I have learned to accept it. Consequently, I’m able to identify the things about myself that do cause me dysphoria, and that I will end up changing as a part of my transition.

Transition surgery is much more than surface-level

Unfortunately, medical care for trans people is both expensive and difficult to acquire. Most insurance companies do not see these medically necessary surgeries as medically necessary — they don’t realize that for trans women, these surgeries are much more than cosmetic. They can cure gender dysphoria.

Although I have been on HRT for three years, I still feel dysphoric on a regular basis. The sense of urgency is still here; I can’t wait until I’m out of college and financially secure to start thinking about my next move. I definitely feel that it is life or death to do as much as I can to pass as female as soon as possible, and this includes undergoing some major surgeries. It also includes getting my name changed, updating my passport and identification, and getting my legal gender changed.

I feel like there is so much I still have to do to catch up with the non-trans population, so much I have to go through just to get to the point that most people are born at. I want to be able to live my life pursuing my passions of cybersecurity, music, and fashion never feeling like anyone less than the woman I know I am. ♚

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Fake and Basic. 

Notes

[1] Gender dysphoria is basically the sum of all discomfort that comes with having your biological sex not match the person you feel that you are. Dysphoria can be about certain aspects of your appearance, or about the way people treat you, etc. Altering the things that make one feel dysphoric is proven to be the best, most surefire way to make that dysphoria go away.

Genevieve is currently a college student and unable to cover costs of facial feminization surgery and legal name change on her own. Donating to her cause, or simply sharing this fundraiser with your social network, would mean so much. Your support is greatly appreciated!

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