Welcome to AH&HL’s first annual guest-post series for Trans Awareness Week! The “Trans People and their Laptops” series aims to share a diverse set of trans stories, histories, and celebrations. This post is by queer trans writer, Connor Ray (he/him). Read all identity posts.
I always found it painfully ironic that the people who say they love us unconditionally usually tend to have the most conditions to their love. Personally, I don’t feel that my story is all that unique when it comes to how I found my identity and figured out who I’m supposed to be in this world. I feel that, like most transgender or nonbinary people, I spent so many years feeling like a prisoner trapped within my own body—confused and distressed by all the “perfectly natural” things that it did. I feel that, like an overwhelming amount of transgender people, I grew up the black sheep of my family and schools. Usually off on my own, I desperately wished that I could fit in somewhere. I never saw myself as anything other than a boy. A boy once told me in grade school, “Get out of here, go play with the girls; you’re not a boy,” and it shook up everything that I thought I knew about myself during my childhood. Sheltered by my conservative and religious upbringing, I had no idea what a transgender person even was until I was in high school.
That specific realization of “Hey, you’re trans,” hit me hard when I was in college, thus finally putting a name to all the dysphoria, misperception, and feelings that I had felt about myself at that point in time. I have only recently begun to discover what being transgender truly means to me, and frankly, I’m still working through that with my therapist. The name Connor just sort of came to me one day and my friends who knew loved the name choice. My best friend always referred to me as Connor and “sir” since the day I told her that I thought I preferred male pronouns more. To this day she just says, “You always were him. We could feel it even before you may have known it.” It was that sort of encouragement that made me decide to begin my social transition at the beginning of this year. It was a small step in my journey towards becoming the man that I needed to be for myself. I came out to all my friends and at my job in the emergency room and have just happily been Connor ever since. I met my therapist in April and she has recently referred me on to a very similar, rough-but-in-a-good-way endocrinologist. I met Dr. Ettner in Chicago just last month, and during our first visit when this man questioned me about my gender history, he looked me straight in the eyes and actually said to me, “You will never feel euphoria without testosterone because you are a man. Anybody with half a brain cell can figure that out after hearing your story. You need this.”
So, naturally, I got my first testosterone injection on October 28th of this year. While I am absolutely ecstatic and feeling great since starting HRT, I have been aggressively slapped with plenty of backlash since coming out and even daring to mention medical transition. It is a rather disappointing reality that sometimes comes with being transgender or nonbinary. We have enough challenges in our lives in tackling all the issues that come with being transgender or nonbinary these days. Just look at your television—the proof is all right there. Governments blatantly attacking transgender rights by attempting to yank healthcare support from under us, or in trying to pass laws that would allow physicians or social workers to discriminate against us on the basis of us identifying as LGBTQ+ in any way. People standing aside and in silence while it seems as though a trans woman of color is brutally murdered every other week. I, like the rest of you, am still waiting for somebody in power to stand up and say, “Enough is enough,” and actually do something that will benefit LGBTQ+ people and stop all of this barbaric hatred that is constantly being directed towards us.
As if coming out amidst all of that chaos was not hard enough, you still sometimes find that there are just some people in your life who do not and will not love you for you. This is what I meant by conditional love. I was raised under the very vocal demonization of LGBTQ+ individuals. Unsurprisingly enough, this did not result in me somehow magically being cis and straight, but instead resulted in me being absolutely terrified of coming out to my parents as a queer and transgender man. I had this grand plan to tell my parents that went wrong almost as soon as it started. I meant to tell my parents together and when my sisters weren’t around, in the event that our parents went nuclear on me for it, but I had apparently looked so nervous sitting there on the couch that my mother actually noticed and started pressing me with “What’s wrong? You’re worrying me.”
Trembling like a leaf, I tactlessly blurted out, “I’m trans” at her. She immediately went back to playing Candy Crush on her phone, ignoring me for several minutes before finally deciding to respond in a harsh tone with, “I don’t even know what that means.” I was so upset that I left and went back home without even trying to talk to my father about it. A few days later, my youngest sister informed me that our mother had outed me to our father and he has just gone completely quiet all week. I wound up writing up this list of resources and videos for my parents to try and help them do some research on what it’s like to actually be trans or have trans kids and how to support them. I snuck that list back over to their house and left it there for my mother, who I’m positive has just ignored it since. I tried reaching out to my father on the phone to talk about this with him, but he just brushed me off with, “I don’t want to talk about this with you. I’m not ready. I’m still processing.”
He’s been this way with me for the last four months now, and I am so very tired of trying for either of them. In the meantime, my mother came into my home about a week after I tried talking to my father to absolutely raise hell. Every horrible thing that can ever possibly be said to or about a transgender or nonbinary person was said to me that day—by my own mother, no less. She started by accusing me of trying to kill my father, as if this news was going to somehow give him a heart attack that he’d drop dead with. Then the ignorant and hurtful comments ensued.
“How can you do this to us? You’re lying, you had a normal, healthy childhood that every little girl has. Your therapist doesn’t know what she’s talking about because she’s not an MD and she’ll just agree with whatever you say because you’re paying her to. You aren’t trans, you’re just really depressed and need to be on a bunch of antidepressants instead of hormones. You’re throwing away your brains and beauty that God gave you. You’ll never get into physician assistant school because they want sane people to be healthcare providers. Nate (my partner) can’t possibly love you like this and you’re selfish for denying him a normal life with marriage and children. You can make yourself into an alien and you’ll still never be happy. I had three daughters that I’m happy with. If I wanted a son, I would have had one. You are not my son. I won’t call you that name because I won’t lie to you. I’m telling you all this because I’m your mother and I love you. Only your family knows you and loves you.”
She left with the final knife twist of, “There are better ways of seeking attention than this” and she hasn’t spoken to me since. She doesn’t even acknowledge my presence anymore when I have to be around her. No more hugs, no more pleasantries, and definitely no more exchanges of “I love you.” Now, I want to make it clear that I am not talking about all of my own personal horror stories to discourage anybody from coming out or to bum anyone out. I am doing it because I truly believe and have learned through all of this that I am who I am, and that nobody is going to make me pretend to be somebody that I’m not for a single second longer. I lived a very hard 23 years of letting people push me around and into fitting whatever cookie-cutter mold that they had planned for me before I finally realized just how miserable that was. My therapist has reassured me that this is what I had to do for myself in order to reach for my own happiness, and that I’m not the bad guy here. Sometimes you have to realize that you cannot force anybody to be okay with you and the fact that you may be different from them. More importantly, though, you have to realize for the sake of yourself and your sanity that you do not need that negativity in your life.
The sad and serious part is over now, I promise. The most important thing that I now am going to express to all of you that are reading this is that there is so much good that comes from deciding to finally be that person that you need to be for yourself. Even if you feel as though you have nothing or no one supporting you, you will find where you belong once you start being true to yourself. There are people out there who will love you for you. Partners, friends, other family, coworkers. You can and will find a home for yourself where you are free to be whoever or whatever you want to be.
“I don’t care about what’s in your pants, I love you for the person that you are. I love who you used to be, who you are now, and who you will be in the future,” my wonderful nonbinary partner once told me.
My closest friend handed me a card with a banana on it that read, “Congrats on your manhood,” last week, along with a ridiculously-oversized penis statue that now sits proudly on my altar.
The overwhelming wave of support, encouragement, and good hilarity that I have recently received since my coming out is honestly carrying me through any of the more challenging problems that I am still working through. From my youngest sister and friends who have supported me since day one, to extended family that views this as something that can be learned from together, in hopes that it will bring us closer and change the dynamic of our family to something more positive, loving, and open-minded. All of this being coupled with each week that ticks by where I can give myself my testosterone injection has me finally feeling like myself in a way that I have never felt before. My head is clear, my voice keeps cracking and getting lower, and I have more energy to where I actually want to participate in life now. It feels as if I am finally living the way that I was intended to.
The moral of all of this is that there are positives and negatives to coming out or in being transgender, nonbinary, or any part of the LGBTQ+ spectrum. What matters most is you, and how you respond to those positives and negatives. You can take it with grace or healthy humor, or you can take it kicking and screaming. Regardless though, you need to be true to yourself and learn to become unapologetically yourself if you are not already. You must become the hero of your own story and reach for your own happiness. Otherwise, you’ll regret it and be stuffed into the muted world of somebody else. Stay strong, all of you. Together we can and will persevere and create positive change for this world and for ourselves.
Connor is a queer, transgender man who is currently undergoing HRT. He writes mostly poetry, dark fantasy, or horror stories, and has recently started writing essays on current affairs and issues. He works for an emergency room primarily, but also is the founder and owner of Black Cat Augury, a small business that makes organic candles, metaphysical products, and does Reiki, astrology, and divination (fortune-telling) by various methods.
Thank you for reading, being unapologetically yourself, and an ally to the LGBTQ+ community. If you want to support Connor in his future writing and business, feel free to donate via PayPal or Venmo (@ConnorRay32) or check out his business, Black Cat Augury. Your patronage and support is much appreciated. You can visit his business On Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and find his personal accounts on Instagram and Twitter.