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Hiding Behind Femininity – My Trans Journey

I am a trans guy. In my 24 years, I feel like I have lived a million lives. If I had given up hope, then I might have died a proud LGBTQ+ ally in high school, a bisexual college freshman, or a gender-fluid lesbian. I have experienced many gender identities, gender expressions, and sexualities that were authentic to me during that time of life.

There are many misconceptions about trans identity and the majority are leveraged against trans women. Yet while trans women are portrayed as predators, trans men are portrayed as victims. According to famous transphobe JK Rowling, the trans agenda gets pushed on young women who grew up being tomboys. There is another popular narrative that trans men decided to transition because they were victims of sexual assault and no longer want to be seen as desirable to men. 

Neither of these stereotypes are true about me or are what started my trans journey.

As a child, I ran fast, climbed trees, and played with LEGOs. But I also loved fancy dresses, tea parties, fairies and dress up. Fashion has been a huge source of creative expression and escapism in my life.

My style in preschool was a genderfluid range of clothes to sprint around and dream in, I would wear shorts and a t-shirt with a tissue paper skirt. A tutu with a jacket and a fireman hat. I was uniquely my own.

It’s funny how purity culture impacts personal identity. My need to be praised for being “perfect” and “good” outweighed my personal desires.

My favorite color was red until I put it on my nails and my mom rubbed it off and told me that red was “for bad girls.” That was when I decided to be a good girl and changed my favorite color to pink.

I started to figure out my identity in college in Burlington, Vermont. Maybe it helped to be over 2,000 miles away from my parents. I stopped worrying so much about the judgment of others. In 2018, I realized that I was attracted to women. In 2021, I started wearing binders and identifying as non-binary. For the majority of 2022, I identified as a genderfluid lesbian. In May of 2022, I graduated college and moved to New York.

SUMMER AND FALL 2022

When I got to NYC, I quickly found myself immersed in the lesbian scene. Every Friday was spent sipping Dirty Shirleys at Cubbyhole followed by dancing at Henrietta Hudson. This was my clubbing era. My favorite outfit was a purple gingham bustier with a mesh long sleeve star top from Vermont costume store Old Gold, paired with pastel pink cropped flare pants from the Beacon’s Closet in Greenwich Village. I accessorized with a pair of gold safety pin earrings with pearls on the ends and dusted my cheeks with Slayfire glitter. I dressed very femme and kissed many beautiful women. I started going by they/them pronouns instead of he/they pronouns (as I had done in Vermont) because I wanted lesbians to like me.

My labels got re-configured in late November when I went to see a burlesque show at The Stonewall Inn. He was sitting in the front row with a bar piercing at the arch of his left eyebrow and wearing a dark blue long-sleeved button up shirt and gray skinny jeans. He was seated next to a man that I assumed was his boyfriend. Soon enough, we opened up to each other about anxiety, depression, and our mutual admiration of burlesque. We flirted a bit. I got his instagram and we had a 12 hour date two days later.

When I got home, my head was reeling. My experience with him was gay. I had him address me as a guy the whole time, and it felt right.

I set my glasses down and couldn’t find them for three days. I didn’t leave the apartment again until the end of December.

WINTER 2022

After being involved in nightlife and writing for No Kill Magazine, I had to take a break because I caught COVID followed by the flu. This was also the time I was processing my trans identity and experiencing gender dysphoria.

sammie wilhoit photo collage

After I had physically recovered, a friend I had made on Hinge suggested that I go with them to a trans event at Nowadays called Body Hack. I patiently applied black lipstick, dark eye shadow, and chose a plain but well-coordinated outfit. When I arrived, there were campfires out back surrounded by huddles of people who quickly invited me into their conversations which were thoughtful and genuine. I shared all my thoughts and feelings that had left me feeling so isolated. They understood.

SPRING 2023

I spent the Spring exploring NYC’s  flourishing trans social scene which has both weekly and monthly events.

There are also some incredible trans musicians in the area, many of whom frequent the weekly trans open mic night Gender Experts. My favorite local punk bands are The Bum Babies, The Dilators, and Crush Fund. Trans folk singer Mya Bryne was recently on NPR promoting her music. She is a regular at Gender Experts. She makes time to check in with people about their lives, and how she can assist them whether it is going to grab a slice of pizza or going with them for moral support as they schedule their first appointment to receive gender-affirming care.

I am so grateful to the trans community in NYC. They provide me with empathy, advice, and support. In return, I provide company and support after their gender-affirming surgeries and help them move heavy boxes into their new apartments.

SUMMER 2023

I am exploring masculinity now. I was scared and insecure before. I am giving myself time and space to explore it. Once I get top surgery and feel more comfortable in my masculinity, I want to present more as a fem queer man.

I want to wear mesh crop tops and lots of jewelry and tight men’s shorts. I admire my peers when they look handsome like that.

While my path to discovering my gender identity may be unusual it is valid and real. I feel very fortunate to live in a state where I can access gender affirming care and be part of the trans community. 

Reader, if you are trans or questioning your gender identity you are valid. You didn’t have to be a tomboy or girly girl growing up. You didn’t have to choose Barbie over GI Joe. If you love your body and feel comfortable with it, but you feel like your label doesn’t fit you are valid. Your identity is real. If you live in a place where you feel outcast or alone, know that there are others like you.

If you have to disguise yourself as a gender that you feel dysphoric in and wait to transition or flee, then know that your identity is still there whether you are forced back in the closet or not.

Harvey Milk said that for queer youth, “You gotta give ‘em hope.”

My mother does not understand or accept my identity. She has consistently misgendered me since I came out as non-binary the summer of 2021. She says that I cannot be a man because I have never had masculine qualities. It must be a result of sexual trauma. She asked me why I would want to be a man if I am scared of men.

I don’t want to be a man. I am not trying to be a man. I am a man. Just like I am attracted to all genders. I am a man like I am a writer with blue eyes and great eyebrows.

The question is not “why;” the response is not “but.”

Allies: listen to trans people and accept us. You might not understand us, but hear us speak about what our community needs and do your part to speak up in everyday conversations, call lawmakers, and vote for legislation that protects queer and trans people.

Clothing does not dictate gender. Drag is not evil. Anti-drag laws are anti-trans laws. People are more than their genitals. Any unsolicited dick pic should remind you of that much.

To my trans peers: I love you. I know that this year’s Pride might not feel celebratory, but I am proud of you for being brave enough to explore who you are and keep breathing every day in spite of the people who wish we didn’t exist.

I am a trans guy. I have been on testosterone for over two months now.

My voice is starting to drop, my facial hair is starting to grow, and my skin is getting oily and acne ridden. I am warmer than I used to be, and often sweaty. I am feeling calmer and more comfortable in my body. But most of all, I am happy and I am proud.

–By Sammie Lee Wilhoit


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